2017/07/20

OSR: The Flame Pomerium Part 3: Giant Mecha Fights in LotFP and D&D 5th Edition

I'm trying to show that you don't need any specialized subsystems to run giant mecha-based games. All you need to do is change the scale. In the previous post, I tested my theory on Arnold K's GLOG system. Now it's time to take on two mainstream juggernauts: Lamentations of the Flame Princess and D&D 5th Edition.


Age of Conan Concept Art

Lamentations of the Flame Princess

I'm still going with the "One Mecha Per PC, NPC crew" idea.

1. Roll Stats
2. Pick a Class
3. Pick Alignment
4. Starting Gear

I've rolled up a usual mortal-scale character: Benta, the Specialist. I now want to roll up Benta's Bulwark.

1. Stats

No changes here.

STR: 11
DEX :13
CON: 11
INT: uses Benta's stat -> 14
WIS: uses Benta's stat -> 12
CHA: 7

2. Class

Cleric seems like the most difficult to adapt, other than Specialist, which I'd probably just ban/ignore at the Bulwark scale. Maybe there's a way to make it work really well that I'm not seeing.

HP: 5
Saves (13,11,16,12,15)
Spells: 1

3. Alignment

Doesn't really matter for giant mechas.

4. Starting Gear

The Bulwark starts with 9x10sp of "Bulwark-scale" money used to buy "Bulwark-scale" stuff. Benta's going to spend 50sp on two pistols, 10sp on two bandoliers of shot, 25sp on leather armour, and 5sp on a dagger.

Bulwark-Scale Pistol:
Damage: 1d8
Short: < 1,250'
Medium: <2,500'
Long: <5,000'

Spells:
We're going to waive the requirement to have a hand free. A mecha with two giant cannon-arms is just too cool. Most spells do not need any changes, provided target is Bulwark-scale.
1. Bless: probably scatters minor spirits and demons.
2. Command: anything not Bulwark-scale near the target (birds, peasants, etc.) will probably also obey the command.
3. Cure Light Wounds: no changes.
4. Detect Evil: no changes
5. Invisibility to Undead: no changes, but to be honest, it's a giant mecha. Hard to hide. I'd remove this one from the list.
6. Protection from Evil: no changes.
7. Purify Food & Drink: no changes, but not that useful on the Bulwark-scale. Remove this one too.
8. Remove Fear: can also be used to stop an army from routing.
9. Sanctuary: can be used to remove boarders*
10. Turn Undead. Undead not on the Bulwark-scale also flee.
*boarders use the Disease rules

Other Changes:
XP: remove the "Recovering Treasure" section, increase XP given by creatures by 10x.
 

Total Edits:
1. Remove alignment

2. Change ranges
3. Remove a few spells

Otherwise, it looks like this system scales up very smoothly. There aren't any mandatory LotFP-specific mechanics that wouldn't scale to Bulwark scale.

Benta's Bulwark

Its name is "The Cathedral That Walks." Stone bones, spires, copper and lead sheets. A marble tomb-mask. Leather plates stitched from a thousand holy oxen, painted lead-white. Both arms end in pistols the size of siege cannons. Each takes 2 NPC crew to load (deaf-mute monks, powder-scorched and irritable). The cannons fire giant stone spheres carved with the images of the saints and lines from scripture. The Cathedral That Walks is filled with icons, relics, and the raw power of prayer. Even moderately holy pilots are hauled off to heaven at inconvenient times, so Benta, a skeptic, sinner, and thoroughly un-saint-like woman, was selected to pilot it.
Ojha, GoldenDaniel

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition


I'm only using core PHB stuff. No errata; can't be bothered, probably isn't relevant anyway. This is a more hasty exercise. Feel free to stop reading.


1. Race
2. Class
3. Stats
4. Describe Character

5. Starting Equipment

1. Race

Rename the races for Bulwark scale. They are now chassis. Any subraces that boost Wisdom or Intelligence are going to be suboptimal. That's fine by me.
Dwarf -> Bastion

Elf -> Striker
Halfling -> Urbanmech

Human -> Brawler
Dragonborn -> Lancer
Gnome -> Ambusher
Half-Elf -> can't think of anything even slightly interesting, so banned.
Half-Orc -> Smasher

Tiefling -> Infernal

Oh thank goodness. We're done. Let's go with... Halfling.

So +2 Dex, about half the size of a normal Bulwark, slightly slower, Lucky (seems a little broken, but OK), Brave (not applicable), Nimble (seems handy if you're dealing with really Great Beasts). Right.

Oh wait I have to pick a subrace. Stout Halfling -> Squat Urbanmech. +1 Constitution, and resistance to poison. Since poison = boarding actions at the Bulwark scale, I guess that means the mecha is extra spiky or full  of bees. Actually, let's go with that. Bees, trained ferrets, and traps.

2. Class

The classes look like they would work without any significant edits. I'd probably ban Bard (mechanics would scale up in a very silly way) and Sorcerer (the random table... doesn't feel right at Bulwark scale).

Let's go with Ranger.

HP: 10+Con modifier
Saving Throws: Str, Dex
Skills: ignore
Equipment: scale mail, two shortswords, a longbow and 20 arrows
Favoured Enemy: no edits needed. Let's go with "undead."
Natural Explorer: no edits needed. I'm going to pick "mountains".

All the rest of this stuff doesn't kick in until higher levels, so I guess we're done?

That seems weird. Screw it. We're going to level  up this guy, because seriously, if you're going to pitch a game about heroic explorers, at least make them kind of interesting to start with. It might be interesting to have Bulwarks get Classes while the actual PCs don't get class features (or alternatively, have the Bulwarks level faster)

Level 3 Ranger

HP: 10+3xCon modifier+2d10

Saving Throws: Str, Dex
Equipment: scale mail, two shortswords, a longbow and 20 arrows
Favoured Enemy: undead
Natural Explorer: mountains
Fighting Style: Archery. No scaling issues with the others.
Spellcasting: 3 1st level spells

Ranger Archetype: the "Hunter's Prey" archetype seems pretty decent for Bulwark-scale play, but the "Beast Master" archetype is just too hilarious to pass up. I need to pick a beast no lager than Medium and has a Challenge Rating of 1/4 or lower. A hawk seems good. At this scale, it's some sort of Emperor Roc.

Spells:

Ranger Level 1 Spells
Alarm (fairly useless but not broken)

Animal Friendship (can't make friends with Great Beasts)
Cure Wounds
Detect Magic
(not applicable on this scale)

Detect Poison and Disease (not applicable on this scale)
Ensnaring Strike
Fog Cloud

Goodberry (wat)
Hail of Thorns
Hunter's Mark
Jump
Longstrider

Speak with Animals (not applicable on this scale)

Really, at this point, all the rest is irrelevant. I've learned what I needed to learn.

Total Edits

1. Rename and edit Races
2. So many edits to Classes. So many.
Actually, that's as far as I need to go, I think. You can use this system with 5E, but there's a weird issue.


5E seems to be trying really, really hard to make characters capital-I-Interesting, mechanically. Unlike in LotFP and the GLOG, just "being a giant mecha made of stone and pewter" isn't.... comparatively interesting. It feels like having a Fighter Bulwark with a Fighter pilot would be OK in LotFP, but if you did it in 5E, you'd see so many "doubled" mechanics that it would get... boring.

Somehow, making a giant robot out of a 5th Edition character feels less interesting than running one as-written. I'm not sure if that's a failure of design or a success. Imagine a magic can of spray paint that will always coat your deck furniture evenly, but can't be used for graffiti, miniatures, or getting high. Responsible, very sensible, but very carefully crafted to be one specific thing.


Plus, there are so many things to keep track of. So many possible scaling issues.

Kukulkani character concepts, Georgios Dimitriou


Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition

I'm not going to run through this idea, but it occurred to me that you could have a game where the PCs are rolled up via an OSR system, but their Bulwarks are rolled up using 4th edition. The weird mechanical hard edges of 4E are smoothed out by the increased scale and changing the people into piloted giant robots. Might be worth considering.

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