GIWTR 01 – A Mecha in King Arthur’s Court

What the fuck is GIWTR? I hear the world call out as the entirety of the internet voraciously consumes my latest blog post. Worry not gentle reader, the mysteries behind the acronym will be revealed in the very next sentence. It stands for “Games I want to run”. I’ve mentioned in the past how for some odd reason spending time playing/running rpg’s makes me feel weirdly guilty these days (still cant really decide what makes it stand out, its no more time consuming than my other pastimes) so thats one barrier to getting games off the ground. Though its largely a theoretical one as the main barrier is the geographic dispersal of my usual gaming group and our seeming inability to schedule a game. But I’m sick of thinking “Oh I’d like to run this game, oh but I wont get the chance or I should be thinking about something more productive”, fuck it, from now on I’m just going to throw up whatever ideas I have whenever I have them. I’m going to think about them as much as I want and spend as much time on them as I want. You hear me brain? Anyhow the idea I’m kicking around at the moment is a post-historical reskinning of the King Arthur mythos where plate armour and warhorse’s have been replaced with anachronistic pieces of super hi-technology, specifically big fucking robots. And not “Real robots”, no sir, “Super robots” all the way. Well perhaps not. Somewhere inbetween really. Functionally equivalent to real robots but treated in terms of technology as super robots would probably be the best (if slightly unweildy way) to put it.

As I am wont to do I’ve been kicking around the idea for a campaign for the last while, I wasnt sure exactly what I wanted but I did know that I wanted to include some sci-fi elements and generational play. I am in love with the concept of generational play. I’d been kicking around some Traveller stuff, immortality serums and such creating immortal merchant empires, but the focus felt like it was centered too much on the individual. While the concept payed lip service to generational play it didnt really place it front and center. I eventually put the sci-fi idea out of my head and considered just using Pendragon and straight up running its “Great Pendragon Campaign” (GPC) mega-campaign which is supposedly amazeballs and covers the entire Arthurian story arc from Uther up to Arthur getting shipped off to Avalon. But truth be told, while I used to love it, these days the Arthurian mythos doesnt really get my pants tight. I was impressed by the Pendragon system though, both the contested passions and (the main reason I was drawn to it) the generational play. The whole idea of one adventure a year interspersed with “The Winter phase” where you adjudicate your holdings, consolidate glories, try and extend your family line, etc. just sounds great. The relatively high lethality of the system (and the aging rules) all but guarantee that you’re going to end up playing your heir or some member of your extended family (much of which is generated as part of initial character generation). I could of course have ignored the GPC and kept the game in the relatively gritty “Uther era”, simply not had Arthur come along or have be more like his father. But I like the idea of Arthur coming along and shaking shit up, specifically I wanted to include all the high chivalry stuff that comes along with Arthur’s reign (though even if running it straight I’d be tempted to cut out the courtly love stuff that Gueinnivere introduces – I just dont think it would interest any of my prospective players or myself to be honest).

Then last week the answer appeared all fresh and shiny and screaming “Think me, think me!”, so I thought the shit out of it. Take the standard King Arthur mythos that Pendragon is based on and hurl it forward in time, replace the plate armour and the horses with giant mecha and bobs your uncle! Now I wasnt particularly interested in running “Sci-fi King Arthur” because a) every attempt at it I’ve seen has been cheesy as fuck and has largely poisoned the idea for me and b) by making the setting a post-apocalyptic post-historical mashup I could use a lot of the Pendragon material largely unchanged.

So the basic idea/pitch is:

“The legends tell of a time before when man had mastered the arcane uses of technology and lived as gods might. But even gods fall and an age of darkness claimed the old world. The new world eventually arose from the ashes but the knowledge and capabilities of the previous age had been lost. The only things that remained were lone artifacts of the ancient technology, the most impressive and numerous of which were the ancient suits of “Armour”. These mechanical giants could be operated only by certain individuals and while they could no longer be built (or even properly maintained) as long as their wearers/pilots lived the armour would eventually recover from any damage it incurred. The legends that spoke of the time before also spoke of distant lands across the great ocean but no-one knows what truths might lie in the old tales. The borders of the known world are enshrouded in The Mists, few who enter The Mists return and none who return are unchanged.

You are a squire, soon to be knighted, and a noble of Britain. Your homeland is beset by Saxons to the West, savage Picts to the North, raids from the barbarous Irish and petty wars between minor kings threaten to destroy it from within. You serve King Uther, the strong arm king of Logres, soon you will inherit your families ancestral Armour and become a knight ready to defend the realm under the courageous Pendragon.”

Now obviously enough Pendragon’s system isnt really set up for the construction of or fighting with mecha so the idea is to bolt on another system, off the top of my head I’m thinking using Mekton Zeta for the mech construction and combat. Just include the necessary mech piloting and fighting skills as additional/replacement skills on the Pendragon characters sheet, dividing them by 2/2.5 to get their Mekton Equivalents. Stat conversion is a little more fiddly as Pendragon has less than MZ. Maybe something like Size->Body Type, (Dex+Str)/2-> Reflexes, App->Attractiveness, Valorous->Cool, ?->Luck, again dividing by 2/2.5 to get the Mekton value.

All this is still in the kicking around ideas stage, some other thoughts were:

-> Use the Mortar Heads from FSS as the Knights Armour, use more crude looking mecha for the Saxons mecha (possibly Zaku’s, or maybe the artemis from Break Blade) – I actually ended up going a different way with this, in this setting the Saxons have a hi-tech Japanese/asian aesthetic, the Picts dont use mecha and are either some kind of weird cybernetic/mechanical race or all use human sized power armour

-> The appeal of using Pendragon is the Winter phase and the generational stuff, I think the lethalithy and long healing times are important for that. The MZ is lethal, perhaps a bit too lethal, but most conflicts are likely to involve the mecha being knackered and the pilot being fine. So I was thinking of using something like mecha healing times, essentially give the mecha the regeneration ability from MZ+, but it only works when the “bonded” pilot is sitting inside it – then just fiddle with the regeneration times so theyre similar to Pendragons healing times. Or/in addition perhaps each nobles manor comes with a “Forge” in the basement – basically a molecular assembler which can only produce a limited number of patterns (ammo, spare parts etc for the the Knights Armour)

-> The Faeries – Genetically engineered life-form that are at/beyond peak human, theyve kept a solid level of pre-fall technology “under the hill”, the lands of faerie are an odd admixture of AR/VR and “Reality”. They Fey are masters in their own domain, being something akin to “Reality sysops” (time dilation, reality shaping, etc.). In the world of man the Fey are still potent, but lessened (unless they wish to expend some of their largely irreplaceable pre-fall resources)

-> Dragons and other monsters are either the result of genetic engineering gone wrong or mechanical monstrosities, maybe the Knights Armour needs a “Dragons Heart” to operate (shades of Escaflowne) and after being knighted the first quest is to slay a young dragon to power their ancestral armour

Here’s a comparison chart I threw together showing mecha from all the major factions:

comparison

And one showing Knight’s Armour in Heavy, Medium and Light configurations:

knights

Sadly it turns out this idea isnt the super original idea I (never really) thought it was, theres an upcoming FATE game based on a similar idea – Camelot TRIGGER and a nice actual play from some guy with a similar idea here – http://monstersandmanuals.blogspot.ie/2013/04/actual-play-pendragon-of-mars-sessions.html.

If I do get this off the ground I think I’ll use the GPC as a (very) rough roadmap to plan out a campaign but I’ve no interest in having the players come second fiddle to the “real” Knights nor in playing “The Fall”, so I’ll excise or de-emphasise the more important of the knights and simply have Arthur’s reign extend as long as the game runs/it makes sense/I feel like it. Also Arthur may be a woman (I’m torn on the whole sexism thing, the actual Pendragon books addresses it well and I do like the fact it gives the always amusing “That squire is quite shapely looking…” storyline on the other hand its sort of limiting on the third hand (its robotic) its unlikely I’ll have any female players so it may never be an issue).

So the next step is to hammer down a few more details on the setting and how the two systems are going to intertwine. Then it’s the joy (honestly) of building robots using the advanced mecha creation system from the Mekton Zeta+ Technical Manual. Though I think that deserves a post all to itself.

Vent your spleen