Taedium Edax Rerum

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The Mecha Monogatari Second Edition, Playtest Report #1

Posted by Doug on June 1, 2009

Two significant issues presented themselves in the first playtest of the Mecha Monogatari RPG.

First, I had originally decided to use bell curve rolls (roll four six-sided dice, add them together, counting 6’s as zero), but this was flat-out too slow and too clunky.  I love the idea of the bell curve rolls, which makes the skill modifier more important than the dice roll (as it clusters the dice rolls around the mean, rather than spreading them out across the whole range of possibility), but it just didn’t work.  Unless I can think of a better solution, I will likely go back to just using a d20 roll instead (statistically flat, but nice, nieat and simple).

The second issue is that even though there are no classes in the Mecha Monogatari RPG, the Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition concept of roles is still there, albeit in a less defined manner.  For example, I had created four playtest characters (Seki, Tsuchiya, Ohashi, and Hatsutori), and given them mostly unique abilities that I hoped both made them interesting to play and fit their characters. Rather than leaving them vague, I need to better define these roles and their place in the Mecha Monogatari RPG.

Everybody seemed to be mainly a striker, but Seki and Ohashi were moreso than the others.  Seki also had a significant leader aspect, while Ohashi had some controller abilities.  Tsuchiya was more leader than anything.  Hatsutori was a cross between a controller and a defender, and really, he is at the root of this second issue.  Lacking a solid role, Hatsutori seemed rather ineffectual in combat…but then again, that is his character.  Still, I think that having the roles defined, so that when abilities are picked for a character, they can better fit the character’s role and/or theme (which need not be fixed, and can certainly be blended, or even conditional based on the situation).

Not all was bad, though.  The system worked: D&D 4E‘s powers-based system translates pretty well into a mecha-based setting (no surprises there).  MapTools certainly was a necessity—the system depends on position and movement, and when your map is almost 200×200 squares (and that is nowhere near as big as I intend to use eventually), using a physical battlemat is not an option.  The map was simple, but it worked.

Now the next step is building on what I learned in that playtest to tweak the system further, and continue work on my master document for the game system.  Eventually, I’m hoping the master document will be a full-service pdf, with instructions for anybody to put together a game, replete with rulesets, flavor text, prebuilt sample characters—everything save for art, because I can’t draw, and while stealing game system ideas is all right with me, stealing other people’s art for something like this seems, well, lame.

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