Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mecha Assault on the Giants: Session 2

I ran the second session of Mecha Against the Giants last week. I hadn't planned to, but our regular GM has been buried at work and decided that since I had something prepared, she'd let me take over. One of the other players had to drop, so she took over his character.

Finishing the Fight

We had the inevitable technical problems: I was running the game while staying at a hotel, and couldn't tunnel MapTools through the hotel's firewall. One of the players hosted, but it took a bit to get everyone connected properly. It wasn't a big deal, but it did eat up some time.

We then played through the rest of the fight. With their leaders down and the giants already scattered, there wasn't much of a struggle. People were getting comfortable with the idea that the challenge level was set on low, and that it was safe to experiment with off-beat moves: punching people with the stocks of their guns, drop kicking giants in the face at 40 mph, spraying fire from the anti-personnel guns to take down the weakest giants. It was a lot of fun.

And Now For Something Completely Different

I have a bunch of thoughts about this campaign, but one thing that's been coming clear is that I don't want it to be a conventional DF game. In some ways, that's obvious from the premise, but that's not really what I mean. DF games are usually challenging exercises in resource management (magical items, money, HP, FP, encumbrance, etc), with a lot of fights balanced on a razor's edge, but they're also supposed to be nearly devoid of talky bits and have Town as a safe place.

This game is not like that. Challenge in combat is fairly low, since the mecha are faster, better armed and armored, and longer ranged than the giants: even without guns, the pilots can easily disengage from from a losing fight. Instead, the goal is for everyone to have fun being awesome. Similarly, the only resource to be managed is the remaining rounds of advanced ammunition, and there's plenty of that to allow for use in emergency situations, if not all the time.

Another thing that I want to at least have the option of introducing is a strategic and political game. Town is not safe, in that the giants can follow the pilots back there and there are factions in town that might attack the pilots while they're away from their vehicles. There's also a political game, with factions among Those Poor People trying to win support for their own goals by influencing the pilots.

Finally, there's a lot of storytelling techniques like flashbacks that I haven't been able to use in my various DF games. So I want to play around with some of those.

So after the fight ended, I switched to a flashback of the planning session a few days before, when the pilots were trying to figure out what was going on. This gave everyone a chance for some role-playing, though several of the PCs are "socially awkward monomaniacally focused pilots" so that didn't work as well as I'd hoped.

The social scene was fun, for me, and not tedious for most of the players, I think. The introduction of politics and factions wasn't particularly well received, and I'm still thinking about how I want to handle it in the future. My preference would be for it to be background events that the players can interact with if they want to, but even if there are serious changes in local politics, it's nothing that affects them if they don't want it to. Nothing that happens in the background: revolution, rebellion, assassination, social unrest, or whatever, will interfere with their attempts to fight the giants. Which to me just means they'll always have fuel for their mecha and food and housing for themselves. I'm not guaranteeing that their efforts to make guncotton and fresh 25mm rounds will be unaffected, because those efforts (in my mind) are part of the political game.

I'm not sure if I'm a good enough GM to balance between "big things in the background are happening" and "those big things don't really effect you." I'm looking forward to the challenge, though.

And Now What?

I'm scheduled to run games for the next few weeks, and I have a plan. The PCs have already expressed some short term goals like improve their fuel supply and cross the river into giant territory. I can easily generate some set-pieces from that, and I have more planned.


  1. I think you can easily get into a clash of expectations. If you pitch the game as "mecha vs. giants, but their will be some politics involved" the players are going to expect the game to center on the battles between the mecha and the giants. If you then run the game as "politics, set in a world where mecha fight giants" then you'll get a different reaction to the politics. And vice-versa.

    It sounds like you were thinking more of a politics game with mecha fights as the spice, but the players were thinking more a mecha fight game with politics as the spice. Or even with no politics.

  2. I was thinking of a mecha game with a little politics as spice, but I don't think everyone got that message, unfortunately. I expect the balance to be about 85% mecha / dismount action, and 15% politics / strategizing / role-playing, which I thought would be okay.

    It's still something I'm working on.