Monday, February 02, 2015

FATE Inspired by Battletech, Part 1

So there was a 75% off sale at the local game store. Some of those books were Battletech books. Specifically the closure-inducing "Jihad Hotspots: Terra."

So like a...let's say an "addict" who has what we'll call a "relapse," it got me thinking a lot about Battletech. Now, Battletech is a roleplaying game with an overgrown chapter for combat, which naturally make me think of FATE, a system for telling stories that barely has any combat.

That sounded better in my head.

I wouldn't make a complete transfer of Battletech; none of my friends know or care very much about the setting and Battletech has its own elements that only fit within it (jump jets? what?).

The conceptual heart of FATE are aspects, but the systemic core are the skills. How does a 'mech attack? How does it take a hit? How do you represent electronics skills? 

The best way to have a unit interact with its pilot is to give it a small handful of useful skills that match pilot skills.

Accuracy - The way to hit things. Battletech doesn't define units by their accuracy; there's only a few units that you can point at and say, "That thing is designed to drop warheads on foreheads, no matter what." But the responsiveness, targeting systems, and reliability of a unit can vary a bit. A pilot uses their Shoot skill for most ranged attacks.

Maneuver - This is a combination of straight up speed and agility. Jump jets are great conceptually because they allow a 'mech to move more slowly in exchange for the ability to ignore some types of terrain. A sufficiently agile 'mech could move across most of that terrain more effectively by simply moving in a more human metal. Battletechs 'mechs, lumbering across battlefields and lifting off like a space shuttle, work for it's super-western mecha aesthetic, but I'd rather be a bit more...loyal to the idea of battlemechs working like giant, metal soldiers. It would be the primary means to avoid weapons fire and the associated mechwarrior skill is Piloting.

Ruggedness - The concept of weight classes is a bit too quantified. In addition, a unit's durability is a big factor. Debates over hardened components, equipment designed to channel ammunition explosions, and standard versus lighter, fragile extra-large engines highlight the important ability of a 'mech to take damage. In FATE, it's also the ability of a 'mech to shrug off damage from non-weapon hits, like falls, building collisions, and some improvised weapons. It can also be used to avoid wear, protect a pilot from inclement environmental conditions, avoid having some advantages used against it, and to punch and resist being punched. Pilots use their own Physique skill for this, using their practice of moving their own bodies to leverage their own.

Some 'mechs might have a stunt allowing a pilot to use a different skill to use Ruggedness. For example, an Axman's ax might be better wielded with a pilot's Fight abilities. It could also use the ax in this way to clear or buildings to avoid the damage. A pilot could also have a stunt that lets them use Athletics for the same reason. Alternatively, a storyteller could allow either of those skills to be used at their own discretion.

Electronics - The "everything else" skill. This covers jamming, counter-jamming, sensors, and target acquisition gear. Every 'mech can perform these functions, but those with a higher electronics skill are better at it, obviously. In FATE, an Electronics skill is used to create aspects, hide, and detect hiding units. Notice is the default pilot skill for Electronics, but Stealth is used when avoiding detection.

When using a mecha, pilots' skills are limited by the mecha's corresponding skill. A pilot with a Shoot skill of 4 wouldn't be able to use more than 3 of that if they're piloting a 'mech that only has 3 Accuracy. It's restrictive because I as a player hate the phrase "use the lower of the two numbers," but I hope it will encourage roleplaying. Pilots should gravitate towards 'mechs which fit their own skill sets. New pilots can see a 'mech they like and aspire to develop the skills which allow them to use it to the best of their abilities.

It's likely that a Battletech-based, FATE mecha game would require some changes to the pilots as well, mostly for the hinky skill overlaps above (an "Athletics" skill that covers what default Athletics and Physique do would not be out of the question).

Armor, Firepower, and another thing I like to call "Crush" were call considered for skills, but ultimately, adding or subtracting damage shifts in FATE is hella strong. Like in base fate, those are elements that are added with points from a pool of Refresh/Stunt points.

Part 2: Aspects & Trouble
Part 3: FATE Points & Stunts
Canon Examples
Non-Canon Examples

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