Thursday, September 27, 2012
Mecha - summing up
I like it. I think that Mecha is a interesting game and although I have some problems with it, I can see that there are solutions to be had as well. I'm pretty interested seeing what's in the Mecha: Mercenaries book if it ever comes out, because I think the game can benefit from an infusion of some Battletech type mojo. I wonder what the mercenaries book will have in it? I hope that there are some simple but interesting rules for things like campaigning and resource management (like managing your crew's fuel and ammo). In any case there's lots of opportunity for customizing this game in interesting ways.
The things I liked about the game were also the source of the biggest problems. The combat system is a lot of fun and the Tactical Waypoint is a great mechanic - but pretty easy for the players to wreck a combat if they have a lot of tactical points. I'd like to see more detailed rules on limiting how players use tactical points during setup or investigate some reasonable ways the GM could move the tactical waypoint mid combat to complicate the battle. That might partly be my unfamiliarity with the combat rules however. The other thing was the player scenes. Most RPGs I've played have had the conflict resolution occur at the action level - meaning that players would take an action and then resolve the action with a mechanic. In Mecha the player conflict resolution occurs at a higher level - the scene level. This is pretty cool but means that players are doing a lot with those scenes and if the mechanical focus of the conflict resolution is for them to get points -they will focus on doing that over story development.
Id really like to figure out how to use player scenes to encourage the players to contribute to the story instead of optimizing their characters. I understand that this can be managed by ensuring that the players understand how their scenes can drive the events, but I think that there needs to be a mechanic in place to offset the players having that total narrative control tied to a reward mechanic. I tired to tweak the system by making players use their traits to complicate their scenes in order to get advancement points, but I think that maybe instead some of the decision points in a scene need to be spread out among the whole group so that the vested interest of the group is in making the story work. In Fiasco the players have a set of objects/locations/needs to interact with and they can choose to either narrate their scene or resolve it. I think that aspects of those scene sharing mechanics could work here. Perhaps a player could state their scene type and then each other player would get to add one story element into the scene that the player would have to incorporate. So the acting player might say they are doing a Recovery scene to heal some damage and then the other players would add in turn:
1. A workout session in the gym
2. Lon Granger (the cocky wing lead of Beta Squad)
3. It's Oktoberfest!
4. Player's trait of Proud
The player would then incorporate these items into their scene like so: They are working through a physical therapy session in the ship's gym after getting hurt in the last fight with CTA forces. Lon Granger comes in to limber up for his big mission in a few days. Then Lon starts boasting how great his squadron is and how his guys would never have let that CTA pilot get a bead on him like that and the player can't ignore his goading any more. Oh yeah? Yeah! Some chest beating occurs and the PT trainer says to take it outside (which on the ship means stop right now since outside is deep space). They head out into the corridor, still arguing and then they notice the loud singing coming from the mess hall. It's the Oktoberfest party! The player calls Lon a lightweight in from of the whole room and challenges Lon to a drinking contest in the mess and so the GM adds to the difficulty of the recovery roll (since he's now cutting PT and drinking a pile of beer). He better make it or he's going to loose some face here!
I don't know exactly how this would work but I see some potential here. I do like that Scene much more than having the player say I do a Recovery scene and my objective is to heal up me and Jimbo. We read books for a bit - and I rolled two successes. I think that by having each player add story elements to the scene it's more likely that these common elements will get reused or at least come from a shared design pool instead of players constantly incorporating new story elements from their internal designs to push their personal story along and having the common story get unfocused. I have no proof that this is the case however. It also changes the tone of player scenes by introducing an element of ad-libbing which some people might enjoy but others might not.
Anyway Mecha is cool and you should check it out.