Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mecha Against the Giants Session 14: Dragonslayers

I ran another session of Mecha Against the Giants, and again, this was a sequence that I'd be waiting for. I slightly muffed up the lead-up, but the session turned out to be absolutely awesome, and that's what counts.

Setting the Stage

The session started with the pilots finishing the repairs on their mecha and having a grand review so that notable dignitaries would be reassured that the pilots were defending them and that the war against the giants would be successful. The pilots also needed to plan some logistics, which I hand-waved, but basically they needed a lot of fuel sent west so they could attack the giants major stronghold.

As part of the review, the pilots had a meeting with the local Pontiff. He beat around the bush, implicitly suggesting that the secular powers were not doing enough to support the Divine Champions (aka the pilots) and that he should lead a revolution leading to a theocracy that would support them better. +Nathan Joy played his character well here, ignoring the subtler hints while still gently tamping down on the Pontiff's schemes. Sadly, he wasn't forceful enough about it.

Later that day, there was a review of the mecha for the Consul and some other important people. I messed this up a bit, to my chagrin. My notes for this scene specifically called for the Oracle to relay a vision she'd had to the pilots, relaying a message from the Gods that they would be challenged shortly and should hold nothing back. Unfortunately, I totally forgot to do this and the players were a little hesitant in the next sequence.

So I skipped the sequence with the prophet, jumping instead to the arrival of a soot stained courier. The courier was babbling about a legendary monster known as "Downfall, the Graveyard of Nations" who apparently had destroyed the old kingdoms and was unkillable and generally horrible. According to the courier, the giants had revived Downfall and he was coming soon.

Enter Downfall, the Graveyard of Nations

At that point, the pilots spotted a giant riding a flying dragon in the sky some distance away. Not being fools, they immediately sprinted for their mecha and began powering them up.  Rangefinders showed the dragon was less than a mile away, closing rapidly, and roughly the size of B-52: SM+6 in GURPS terms, and weighing upwards of 100 tons. While the players were digesting that, Downfall slowed and spewed a cone of flame on them from half a mile away: it did a remarkable 20d damage, and penetrated everyone's armor for minor damage.

As designed, Downfall's breath weapon did 60d of damage, being a 3 MJ heat ray from GURPS Spaceships. Half damage should have been 30d, but I took pity on the PCs and decided that since they were hit at the extreme end of the cone, it was reduced to 20d. I shouldn't have done that: 20d damage averaged 6-10 injury to their mecha after armor, and that wasn't impressive. Another 35 points of injury would have panicked them properly.

Minimal damage or not, when their weapons finally came online, the PCs were motivated to take out the dragon.

Dragonslaying Done Big

I played this fast and loose, because people were aiming for multiple seconds, Downfall was closing at various rates depending on whether he was preparing to breathe fire or not, and his breath weapon had a significant travel time (it flew at 300 mph, but he was more than 1/4 a mile from his targets for most of the fight). So instead of a strict turn order and initiative, we had something closer to each person deciding whether to attack or not on any given turn and just skipping the turns when people weren't attacking. Even so, the entire fight only took about 20 seconds of game-time and maybe two hours of real time.

+Theodore Briggs started with some aimed rifle shots at Downfall's wings, hoping to drop him from the sky. Given that Downfall had DR 125 and 300 HP, he was reasonably resistant to crippling from 25mm APEX rounds - the rounds penetrated armor, but didn't have enough remaining energy to get close to 150 injury. Nate decided to use his mecha's mortar to send an explosively forged projectile in the massive giant on Downfall's back: 6dx16 damage easily put paid to the giant, but didn't have enough remaining energy to penetrate Downfall's thick hide.

+Uhuk of the Guard  started looking over her options. She'd taken over from another player who'd dropped out of the game early, and so she's even less familiar with her mecha's equipment than the other players. I noted she had the same 25mm rifled cannon that Ted wasn't doing much with, and a pair of 125mm guided anti-tank missiles on the mecha's shoulder hardpoints. That woke her up, and the only thing to do was feed one of them to Downfall.

As it turned out, even guided missiles flying at 440 mph need a couple of seconds to hit a massive dragon 1/4th of a mile away. Uhuk produced a little guided missile token for maptools, and we moved it every second as it closed while frantically looking up the rules for guided weapons. At any rate, Downfall tooks some more hits from cannon on the way in, and had lost control of his flight when the missile hit.

Roll 80 dice, please

The missile's base damage was 6dx14 (10), and after subtracting 6dx6 worth of armor, that worked out to 80 dice of damage. Now, we play with Skype voice chat but don't use cameras, so I didn't see the expression on Uhuk's face. But I could hear the glee in voice when I told her to roll that damage - that's a larger bucket of dice than I think any of physically owned, and it's certainly the largest amount I personally have ever heard of being rolled in actually play, including some stints with Warhammer, Shadowrun, and Exalted. Fortunately, MapTools has die-roller macros, and it's only one more key stroke to roll 80 dice than it is to roll 2 dice.

Downfall took 457 damage from the missile: not enough to kill him, but enough to stun him and slow him. The rest of the pilots got into the act, launching a swarm of lighter, 70mm HEDP missiles at him and firing some rifle rounds into his neck and head. Downfall had dodged some of the earlier attacks, but that wasn't possible while he was stunned and slowed. He made his death checks and stayed conscious, and I think he even managed to recover from stun and pull out of the stall, but he was taking several hundred injury every second. Fortunately, I have a spreadsheet to do the math for me, and before Downfall could breath again, his injuries totaled 1957: enough to put him below -5xHP, and therefore dead.

I went ahead and did the math for how long it would take him to hit the ground (because I enjoy physics, okay?) and he ended up crashing just outside the castle walls. Somewhere in the process, he flipped over, and the (already dead) giant king on his back was crushed into powder.

Celebration Time!

I don't know if method role-playing is a thing, but my players were giddy after fighting. And so where their characters. Ridiculous suggestions for what to do with the body were proposed and executed, and everyone had a good time. The citizens of the local town spilled out into the streets, carving up the dragon's corpse for burgers and starting a huge party.

The pilots participated. Ted's character tried to get +Kevin Smyth  character drunk, so that Ted's character could go seduce the pretty Oracle without getting cock-blocked, but Ted blew didn't do well enough on his Carousing rolls and his character ended up in bed with several daughters of the local aristocracy instead. The other pilots had their own fun.

Good Bye to that Sub-Plot

At some point in the celebrations, the Pontiff held a prayer meeting that turned briefly into a riot. I had hopes for this turn of events, but no one was particular interested in it. I asked them what they
intended to do about it, and they all felt this was a bad enough idea that they would have to step in. Given that they were already Divine Champions and heroes of the hour for having killed an unkillable monster, plus they had invincible mecha, it was pretty easy for them to quench the riot and take the pontiff into custody. No one was particularly interested in it, so we just handwaved it and moved on. And pretty much ended the night there.

What Did You Think Would Happen?

As we were saying our good-byes, Kevin asked me if I was disappointed in how the fight played out. It was rather anti-climatic: Downfall was presented as being a huge unstoppable monster, but he went down in a dozen or so attacks and did very little damage. I responded that, to the contrary, I had always intended the fight to go down pretty much exactly as it had. An unreasonably tough monster, by Iron Age standards, was simply no match for anti-tank missiles and rockets.

Staging the fight the way I did reinforced two of the campaigns themes: escapist power fantasy, and that all problems are solvable with the right tool. The escapist power fantasy element was obvious: here was a massive, unkillable monster that the PCs took down in seconds, and everyone enjoyed that, even me. And the right tool for the right job has been a theme since the game started: the locals can't meaningfully harm the giants, but the PCs slaughter them in droves because they have the right tools in the form of their mecha.

In some games, the PCs have to snatch every victory out of the jaws of defeat through clever tactics and desperate use of every resource they have. Mecha Against the Giants isn't one of those games. The threats are real, and are grave if not countered, but the PCs should have the resources to deal with them if they act promptly. It's a lot of fun for everyone involved.

What Next?

The end of Mecha Against the Giants is approaching, which is good, because I want to move on to Castle of Horrors. I still have one more sequence that I'm looking forward to, and then a relatively straightforward climax, and this campaign is over. Of course, that'll still end up taking six sessions, so I'll be lucky to be done by Christmas.

Designer Notes

This is Downfall, as I wrote him up. Use him to challenge Dungeon Fantasy delvers that think they're really cool. He's certainly unstoppable by any mundane TL1-4 society, being flat out immune to any conceivable siege engine barring a critical hit.

ST: 300 HP: 300Speed: 8.00
DX: 14 Will: 14Move: 50 flying, 28 ground
IQ: 6 Per: 14
HT: 12 FP: 20SM: +6 (20x3 hexes)
Dodge: 11 Parry: N/ADR: 125 (6dx6)
Fiery Breath (18): 6dx10 Burn. Ranged Attack with Cone (50), Acc 9, Range 100/1000. Takes 6 actions to use and has a 10 second recharge.
Claws (20): 57d Cu, Reach 10.
Traits: Fearlessness +4; Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction 2 (Explosions Only); Magic Resistance 5; Nicating Membranes (50); Arm and Leg Strikers; Winged Flight
Class: Mundane?
Notes: Surprisingly low HT and lack of High Pain Threshold mean that it goes down easy in combat, if you can do 160+ damage in a single strike.

In Spaceships terms, which is where he started, Downfall is an organic SM+6 spacecraft, with Ornithopter Wings, Arms, Legs, and a 3 MJ Fixed Forward Main Battery containing a Heat Ray. He has 3-4 locations of Organic Armor per section. You can probably recreate the rest of him
yourself if you need to.

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