Friday, July 10, 2020

Mechs in the Survival Paradigm


The Kaiju Era is roughly comparable to the smartphone era, in terms of where we are relative to its beginning. Many remember the world before, but there's no way back.

The first kaiju attack occurred fifteen years ago. The Survival Paradigm became international law eighteen months later, marked by the first mass mech deployments. The military-industrial complex finished restructuring to a total war footing between mechs and kaiju shortly after. The international economy has never been stronger. Protections for workers and pilots have never been weaker.

The largest mech deployment occurred five years ago. Operation: OUTER GOD slew the largest kaiju to date, in orbit at the L1 Lagrange point. Debate still swirls in academic circles on whether it could be considered a Category 6. We haven't seen another one yet. We think it's only a matter of time.

The mech gig economy is not the only model of defense. However, its prevalence (backed by Pentagon contracts and the bloated mass of American taxpayer dollars spent on the final human wars) has terminally warped everyone else's strategies. They piggyback off of TacNet's satellites and early warning grid; global supply chains are all precisely tuned to build prefab small mechs in bulk; research into other solutions has been chronically underfunded in favor of "proven strategies".

Some nations marshal national defense mech fleets from a new military arm. Some fully decentralize their deployments under a more egalitarian system, where pilots are provided for by state healthcare and stipends. Those stories are worth telling, but they are not the ones told here.

This is the bleak corporate death-cult stranglehold of the United States of America, and you're one of the essential workers whose blood fuels its metastasis. Thank you for your service, hero. Here's your medal. Here's your debt.


The Eschaton Core is poorly-understood and difficult to scale, but easily replicable. When linked to a human cognitive experience, it provides clean (in conventional senses), easily-distributable, and controllable power. It obviously breaks conservation laws, yet is impractical as a civilian energy source for several reasons.

The amount of energy a core produces correlates to hundreds of factors. It seems to respond to linked pilot emotional state, surrounding energy fluctuations, kaiju proximity, *violence* and *meaning* and perhaps even *dramatic tension* (which scientists gave up on understanding a long time ago). You can't use this to power a plane or a city. It's not exclusively for mechs, but it produces exponentially more power in one than it does anywhere else.

While it's not a pollutant, it fucks up your brain. The connection's a two-way street. Prolonged exposure changes your cognition to match its use context - when all you have is a mech, every problem looks like a kaiju. Mech pilots become more combative, more self-sacrificial, more impulsive, and more heroic (according to their cultural notions of heroism). This leads them to early graves, even out of their mech.
For a pilot in the right mindset, the core will start to produce energy that can be harnessed through a dizzying array of auxiliary systems to produce seemingly magical effects. Flight. Force fields. Damaging auras of pure energy. Summoned beasts of light and fury, multiplying the destructive power of weapons tenfold. These are linked to the pilot's own predilections and combat style, as well as the stakes of the battle. In short, it takes a pilot's will, and makes it reality.
Our weapons are no longer mere wonders of science and engineering. Now the human element - meaning - translates directly into their power. Cultural context and lived experience are essential to pilot outcomes, so we've sent deeply traumatized individuals into a deeply traumatizing conflict, and expect them to carry the weight of the apocalypse on their shoulders.


There's two types of test: a Roll and Strain. Each is a d10, usually against one of the mech's stats (Chassis, Engines, or Reactor).

Rolling is just a binary success/failure. Roll equal to or less than the target number to succeed; rolling over is a failure.

Straining always succeeds, but if you don't get equal to or less than the target number, you take damage. This is usually 2, and increases by 2 every time you Strain in a round, even if you don't take damage. Your first strain roll deals 2 damage if you fail, your second deals 4, third deals 6, etc.

Rolls and strain aren't interchangeable. You can't swap one for the other at will, only if a system or the GM lets you.


On your turn, you get two actions for free. The base action types are Move, Attack, and System. You only get to do each action once.

If you want to take an extra action beyond the first two, you may strain the relevant stat. You can do this any number of times, in any order. These extra actions may be additional actions of a type you've taken.

When you Move, move to an adjacent zone. For an extra Move, strain Engines.

When you Attack, fire one of your mech's weapons at an enemy within range. Pick an ability to target, reduce the number of damage dice you roll based on the kaiju's Category, add any from weapon mods, roll damage, then remove all the dice with values equal to or less than the kaiju's Armor. For an extra Attack, strain Chassis.

System actions are based on whichever subsystem you're using. For an extra System action, strain Reactor.

Other actions exist and are up to you and the GM to adjudicate. Sheltering civilians with your chassis, picking up a new mech-scale weapon, making an impassioned plea to corporate overhead for reinforcements, pulling the body of your best friend out of the shattered carcass of their mech. Each of these would count as an action.


When a Kaiju attacks your mech, you get to Dodge. Roll Engines; on a success, you avoid the damage. On a failure, you take it and go down hard. Allocate the damage to a stat of your choice (all damage to the same stat). Excess damage goes directly to you, the pilot. Every point of overflow damage you take keeps you out of action for a week. Medical care can reduce that time, but isn't cheap (this is, of course, the American healthcare system we're talking about).

When a stat goes to 0, roll on its Breach table. When all your stats are at 0, your mech goes from a somewhat capable battle machine to just another lump of battlefield scrap.


You've got 25 points to build a mech. 1 point  = 1 in a core stat. All core stats start at 1 for free.

You can't spend more than 15 points on core stats. You can increase them through rewards and play.
A weapon is 5 points.

A system has a base cost in points and might scale for each additional point you put into it.

I encourage players to try to break this. If you do, congratulations, welcome to the big leagues. EXTERMINATE BERSERK is cutting a swathe towards Shanghai and we need all the warm bodies we can put in its way.


Chassis: A mech is only as tough as its frame. If the steel doesn't hold together, you've just got a garage of very expensive, very fragile, often explosive components. Roll Chassis for in-mech feats of strength, resisting damage, or holding together when you push your mech beyond its limits.

Engines: The joints and hydraulics and actuators that make your mech go. Sometimes includes actual rocket boosters or jet engines. Roll Engines for moving quickly and dodging attacks.

Reactor: Your mech's thrumming heart, cabled into your nervous system, beating in tandem with the rhythm of your thoughts. Roll Reactor for anything that needs its power, whether that's charging a system, unleashing raw energy, or sustaining a power drain from a parasitic kaiju.

1. Crushing Strain: Strain for 3 damage instead of 2 for the rest of the battle.
2. Immobilized: You can't move under your own power until the end of next round. Afterwards, moving always strains Engines.
3. Neural Feedback Overload: Take 2 Overflow damage as the Eschaton core's context overlays itself partially onto your mind. Gain or increase the level of your the trauma Coreshock (rules forthcoming).
4. Shattered Windshield: All damage you take from here on out inflicts half as much damage as Overflow.
5. System Shocked: Your highest-point system deactivates for the rest of the battle.
6. Weapon Jammed: One of your weapons stops working for the rest of the battle.


First, pick your weapon's core. This determines its base damage die size and other innate bonuses. All weapons by default can't attack targets outside of the zone the wielder's in. Weapon cores with lots of small damage dice have higher baseline damage output and will have leftover dice after Category resistances, but scale worse with Mods and will get negated by Armor more often. Weapon cores with few but powerful damage dice fare better against armor, but get rapidly nullified by high-Category threats.

Remember how Kaiju resistances work: Armor ignores all damage dice with results less than or equal to the armor, and the Category reduces the number of dice you get to roll by (Category-1).

1. Accelerator: 1d10 damage, range 1
2. Blade: 1d10 damage, ignores 1 armor
3. Blaster: 3d4 damage, ignores 1 armor
4. Cannon: 2d6 damage, range 1
5. Missiles: 4d4 damage
6. Mortar: 1d12 damage, can only attack at range 2 (no closer)
7. Saw: 2d8 damage
8. Impactor: 1d12 damage
9. Rifle: 2d6 damage, always attack in First Strike phase
10. Rockets: 1d10 damage, range 1, explosive (hits everyone in target area, both allies and enemies)

Every mech pilot optimizes their weapons for certain situations that they're likely to face. Modifications set circumstances in which the weapon gets extra damage dice. Each mod will only provide 1 die, so a Missile mod will increase it from 4d4 to 5d4, while a Blade mod will increase its damage from 1d10 to 2d10.

All weapons start with 1 mod. More mods can be added after you've obtained enough resources from proving yourself worthy of further investment. You can't stack the same mod twice.

Some mods' conditions are easier to achieve than others, and some work better with certain weapons. This is intentional. Eventually, when fighting against category 5s that shrug off 4 damage dice before even considering any other defenses, you'll need to stack every advantage you can get.

1. Anti-Armor: +1 die vs targets with Armor 3+.
2. Blitz: +1 die against a target that hasn't been hit yet this round.
3. Burst: +1 die vs targets who've taken 6+ damage this round.
4. Chemical: +1 die against targets suffering an ongoing debuff.
5. Combo: +1 die when fired alongside a Combo weapon on another mech. Both mechs must be in the same zone and acting in the same phase. Make both attacks simultanously.
6. Energy: +1 die when plugged into a larger, stationary power source like a Power Plant or Research Lab.
7. Fallback: +1 die if your mech's been Breached.
8. Fine-Tuned: +1 die if you haven't taken damage yet this combat.
9. Focused: +1 die vs targets that haven't moved yet this round.
10. Heavy: +1 die if you roll to Strain your Chassis as part of the attack.
11. Hunter: +1 die vs targets with Category > base damage dice.
12. Kinetic: +1 die if you've moved closer to the target this round.
13. Overcharged: +1 die if you roll to Strain your Reactor as part of the attack.
14. Rapid Fire: +1 die if you roll to Strain your Engines as part of the attack.
15. Reactive: +1 die if you've been hit by the target this round.
16. Reliable: +1 die if the damage would be reduced to 0. Roll this die after all the rest of the damage is tallied. Doesn't stack with itself.
17. Stabilized: +1 die if you burn a Move action first to aim (don't move, just expend the action).
18. Tactical: +1 die against abilities that the Kaiju used this turn.
19. Tracking: +1 die if the target's moved this round.
20. Twin-Linked: +1 die if you've fired another weapon with the same core on your mech this round.


Each system scales by (points) or by (+). (+) is the number of points spent past the base value, (points) is the total number of points in the ability. The divisions in type are arbitrary and flavorful to make the d66 table come out nice.

[1] ://
1. Auxiliary Limbs: 2. Can take any number of times. Each limb set passively reduces strain damage for either attacks (arms) or movement (legs) by 2 (minimum 1).
2. Bunker Mode: 4+. By burning a Move action, you can gain (points) damage reduction for the round if you haven't moved and don't move.
3. Hazard Plating: 3+. Reduce damage from extremes of heat, pressure, pH, radiation, etc by (points). Does not reduce kinetic damage, from things (like kaiju claws) hitting your mech really hard. Fully seals mech against fluids, gasses, etc. Can double damage reduction for the round with an action.
4. Heavy Armor: 4+. All attacks that deal (+) or less damage don't affect your mech. Can't have (+) greater than 6 (some experimental tech might increase this).
5. Stabilizer: 2. You can roll Chassis instead of Engines to Dodge. If you would be moved, you can strain Chassis to resist being moved.
6. Titan Frame: 8. Your mech is the size of a category 1 kaiju. You can always strain Chassis to reduce the number of damage dice rolled against you by 1.

[2] ://
1. Air Frame: 5. Your mech can fly. You ignore all ground-based hazards and can engage flying kaiju in melee.
2. Bore Drill: 5. Your mech can burrow. Whenever you move, you can choose if you're underground or on the surface. Underground characters can't target or be targeted by characters on the surface, and vice versa (area attacks that damage everything in a zone still harm you, as do attacks that can specifically target underground characters).
3. Grappling Array: 3. A set of high-tension cables and rocket-propelled hooks lets you grapple onto locations and targets in the same zone with a move action. If the grappled target moves, you do too. You can also use this to pull grappled targets with a strained Engines roll (large enough targets are hopeless to pull). When you take damage, you must make a strained Engines roll or choose to decouple.
4. Jump Jets: 2. Your mech has VTOL boosters. While you can't move laterally in the air, your jets will let you do vertical jumps up buildings or kaiju hide. You can engage flying kaiju in melee.
5. Lateral Thrusters: 2. When you successfully Dodge, you may move to an adjacent zone. Uses past the first strain Engines.
6. Reaction Boosters: 3. Your first Dodge each round can strain Engines instead of being an Engines roll.

[3] ://
1. Bioform: 3+. Grown from your cell culture strung over a kaiju-bone scaffold, the Eschaton Core is the raw beating heart of your meatpunk mecha. Restore (+) to a system of your choice at the start of each round. By taking an action to consume a large quantity of flesh, you can get a (+) bonus to one of your systems for the rest of the round.
2. Energy Shields: 1+. You have (points) damage resistance per round. Recharges at the start of the round. Doesn't apply to Strain.
3. Eschaton Manifest: (Points = Reactor). Pick a Kaiju ability or create an ability in a similar style. You can wield that ability by straining your Reactor. On a failure, the ability still occurs, but your core powers down until your next turn. All rolls are strained until it comes back online.
4. Gravity Hook: 3. You can roll Reactor instead of Engines to move. You can also move mech-size or smaller targets in the same zone as you with a strained Reactor roll.
5. Stealth Shroud: 4. You can disappear from the visible spectrum, making you unlikely to be targeted by the kaiju unless you're the only character within range (or it's hitting the zone you're in with an area attack). All actions while under stealth besides movement are strained, and taking damage decloaks you until the start of your next turn.
6. Teleport Beacons: 3+. As part of a move action, you can drop a Teleport Beacon in the zone you're moving from, or strain Reactor to teleport to any beacon you've set up. You get one beacon for taking this system and have (+) spares. Picking up a deployed beacon is free. Beacons are destroyed if they take any damage.

[4] ://
1. Backup Batteries: 2+ Even if your Reactor is 0, you can always treat it as if it's (points) for rolls and strain.
2. Drone Carrier: 2+. You have (points/2) drones attached to hardpoints on your mech. Each has an unmodded weapon and a single system with cost less than or equal to (+). You can use a Move action to move each of your drones instead of your mech, and an Attack action to have one of them attack. Strain for these actions can be allocated to a drone instead, though if a drone ever takes damage it's immediately destroyed.
3. Heavy Reactor: 4. Reduce Reactor strain damage by 2 (minimum 1).
4. Modular Circuitry: 2+. At the start of your turn, you can choose a stat or a system to get a (+) bonus. You can't use any other stats or systems this turn.
5. Overdrive Vents: 2. Once per round, you can strain Reactor instead of another stat.
6. Spinal Mount: 3+. Pick a weapon. You can strain Reactor to give it (points) extra damage. You can only have one Spinal Mounted weapon.

[5] ://
1. Black Box Neural Net: 2. Advanced neural nets give you advance warning of the kaiju's next move. You can take one of your actions each round immediately after the GM announces the kaiju taking an action, before the kaiju's action is resolved
2. Comptroller Matrix: 2+. You can spend an action to let an ally take a free action on your turn. They get plus (points) to one roll they make with that action.
3. Deep-Scan Suite: 2. If you can spend a whole round uninterrupted in the same zone as the kaiju doing nothing but gathering data on its capabilities, you learn one of its hidden abilities, and players can now target it.
4. Onboard AI: 4. If you get exactly the target number on a roll, you get a critical success and can do something extra (negotiated with the GM).
5. Satellite Uplink: 3. You know what the exact values of the kaiju's visible abilities are.
6. Targeting Optics: 3. When the kaiju exposes a weak point, your attacks ignore its armor as well as category resistance.

[6] ://
1. Breach Sealant: 2. Once per combat, you can negate the effects of one Breach on your mech or a mech in the same zone.
2. Creature Comforts: 1. Heated seats, air-cooled cockpit, kaiju-leather control pads. No aches and pains distracting you. You can reroll one die per combat for free.
3. Custom Paint Job: 1. You can ruin your paint job to ablate one enemy attack. Recharges when you give it a new paint job out of combat.
4. "Juice" Injectors: 2. You can always act in First Strike if you want to, regardless of initiative. Take 1 Overflow damage if you choose to activate this in combat.
5. Shock Harness: 1. Reduce all Overflow damage taken by 2 (minimum 1).
6. Streaming Rig: 1. You can make some extra cash by livestreaming your fights. Rules forthcoming for downtime and bills and repairs and the like.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Meta Prompt Generator

I've been slowly working my way out of a creative rut brought on by the general state of the world and my life in 2020. Something I've toyed with is just posting short things more often, instead of scope-creeping my way into 2000-word opuses that are both a: incredibly cool and b: take about a month to percolate and cut into something postable.

Here's a d100 list of tags to mix, match, and recombine into inspiration for your (or my) next blog post! Hit the button. Write that post. I double-dog-dare you. It doesn't have to be good, or long, or more than like (2d4*100) words. A good table can go a long way.

With whatever you roll, try to make something conceptually dense and useful immediately at the table. Practical utility > highminded theory, especially when I haven't actually run a game in a year and likely won't until it's safe to have 4-5 people in close quarters indoors again.

by Guangyuan Yu
d100 Post Tags
1. advice
2. alchemy
3. alignment
4. an adventure
5. art
6. b/x
7. campaign prompts
8. character creation
9. cities
10. class
11. clothing
12. combat
13. concise
14. crafting
15. crime
16. cultures
17. currency
18. d20 tables
19. death
20. deep time
21. dice
22. divinity
23. downtime
24. dragons
25. dungeons
26. dwarves
27. elements
28. elves
29. endings
30. environments
31. equipment
32. exploration
33. factions
34. folk
35. food
36. fountains
37. giants
38. glog
39. healing
40. hexcrawling
41. history
42. horror
43. humans
44. items
45. just write a short dungeon and post it
46. language
47. law
48. leveling up
49. light
50. machines
51. maps
52. math
53. meat
54. mechs
55. meta
56. metal
57. modern
58. monsters
59. mutations
60. narrative
61. nature
62. npcs
63. one page
64. orcs
65. outsiders
66. patronage
67. peasants
68. plague
69. plot hooks
70. pointcrawls
71. prophecies
72. prosthetics
73. psionics
74. random encounters
75. religion
76. royalty
77. sample characters
78. schools
79. sci-fi
80. ships
81. shops
82. skills
83. social
84. space
85. spells
86. stress
87. theory
88. time
89. tools
90. traps
91. treasure
92. trivia
93. undead
94. vehicles
95. villages
96. war
97. weather
98. weird shit
99. wilderness
100. worldbuilding

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