Mech Combat, The (Complete) Rules
Mech Combat: An Overview
Mech combat follows the basic format of the Hero Games system except that it is supplemented by a number of skills and common powers that tend to complicate the system. To begin with: what’s the same?
Important Elements in Hero Combat That Don’t Change
First of all, mechs are built as characters, not vehicles. They have Con, Stun, and End. These characteristics are a little complicated by limitations that mechs tend to share in common, but they still function the same as they would in the regular game (characters who have no Stun get knockd out, powers cost End to use, etc.). The rules about character interaction (OCV v. DCV to hit, for instance) still apply.
Some Combat effects still exist, but rarely matter. For instance, there’s still knockback, but it’s unlikely to happen except with very big hits. Even the smallest mech has a lot of knockback resistance. It isn’t likely to move much. Because of some mech powers, even the most recurring of Hero’s systems may fade away or become unimportant. For instance, some mechs have enough OCV that their attack rolls fail on anything except an 18. It isn’t that hard to hit a target the size of a building with computer-aided targeting. The roll becomes nearly superfluous. Other countermeasures must be taken to make these mechs miss.
The most important thing that doesn’t change is the rule-set. Speed still determines who goes when (though often mechs have speed in ridiculous abundance. OCV v. DCV still determines if an attack hits. Damage still goes against PD or ED (the various advantages still do what they normally would). Damage continues to be taken in the form of Stun or Body, or other characteristics in the case of adjustment powers. The structure of the rules are the same for the most part, but the emphasis changes because of powers all mechs have in common, the limitations on these powers, and the sheer number of points a mech has at its disposal.
Important Things in Hero Combat that Seem to Change but Don’t
Mechs have many hundreds of points to play with. They have a lot of powers and a lot of powers with power advantages. The result is that a combat can exhibit massive variation in terms of what kinds of powers and effects are likely to come up. This variation can shift basic assumptions about how combat happens, but this variation is also at the heart of a battle between mechs.
For one thing, a Mech’s defenses tend to be as unconventional as their attacks. Most mechs have advantages on their defenses. Many have more than one. Flash Defense, extra levels with DCV, invisibility and darkness are all standard fare. Power drains are common, as are Change Environment and Mental Attacks (computer viruses). For many mechs, Endurance rather than Stun, decides how long a mech can stay in action. In General, OCV is a function of Perception; Perception, therefore, is far more important than it might otherwise be in normal battles between infantry.
It can seem that other rolls (Perception instead of OCV) override the standard rules of the combat system. The same can be said with characteristics. PD and ED may be so high that, at first glance, the mech might seem nigh-invulnerable, but being able to stop a killing attack is only part of the game. If all of the mech’s Endurance is drained, the mech is out of action all the same.
Overall, remember, while the system is Hero, while it follows those rules, massive variation can often make it perform strangely. What I’ve written here is an attempt to take some of the strangeness out of the rules.
Important Things in Hero Combat that Have Changed
Stun Multiples for killing attacks range between x1 and x3. This is the official line of Hero games but goes against the hit location chart. Simply divide the numbers given on the chart by 2 and round up. Note also, Mech Damage Reduction.
According to the normal rules, Inobvious powers can be perceived while in use with a simple perception roll. Because of a mech’s senses, this would render almost all Inobvious powers Obvious. Thus, the rules are now that Inobvious powers can be perceived at –11 (+1 per 10 Active Points in the power). Please note the new power Concealment, that may be taken for all inobvious powers and foci.
In terms of Perception definitions, all senses are considered targeting and both Radio and Vision should be considered “common.”
In terms of scale, 1 hex (or meter) now equals 10 feet. This means that mech weapons have about triple their normal range and move at about 3 times their normal speed.
Finally, because almost all mech attacks are either combined or multiple attacks, I’ve overhauled the rules for these maneuvers to better suit the needs of mech combat. This is detailed below.
The rules, as they stand, define a combined attack as shooting multiple attacks at the same target. According to the rules, there is no penalty for this attack (fire 8 cannons, all at the same time, there is no penalty to hit and it’s a half-phase action). This seems egregious given the number of weapons a mech has in its arsenal. There is, according to the rules as they stand, no reason NOT to shoot off every attack every Phase. In mech combat, then, a combined attack works differently as described in the rules.
The first thing to consider is that a character constructs a volley during their phase which they will fire at one or more opponents. The volley can include each power only once but may include multiple instance of the same power if the character purchased multiple copies (2 medium lasers, for instance). Most mech weapons are bought with lock-out so that the player, in designing the volley, must choose between two powers to determine which power will be used for that weapon in the volley. After the volley is constructed, it may be fired at as many opponents as the player wants except that it cannot be fired at the same opponent twice.
For example, a mech has a medium laser with a KA and an End Drain and a 5-pack Short Range Missile system with a KA and a Speed Drain. The character could fire the medium laser, the SRM, or both. The player could fire the KA of either gun and either the KA of the other gun or its drain. The character could not fire all four powers because of the lockout limitation. The character could not fire the drains only because of a limitation on Secondary Powers: Must Be Used With Primary Power.
Firing a volley in this way carries with it penalties to OCV and OMCV. First, for every offensive, mental, or adjustment power used in the attack (any power that requires and attack roll) after the first, the character suffers a -2 to OCV. If the attack includes Multiple Opponents, the attacker suffers a further -2 per enemy targeted after the first. If the attack varies between opponents (inclusion or exclusion of powers), it suffers a -2 penalty for each distinct volley after the first. Lastly, if the attack includes more than one attack type (mental, ranged, hand-to-hand, or area of effect), it suffers a further -2 penalty per extra attack type. If multiple targets are selected, the attack is, further, considered a multiple attack and incurs penalties as such (it takes a full phase, it cannot include Autofire attacks, and the attacker goes to ½ DCV) unless the character has skills to offset these penalties.
For Example: The Locus shoots a medium laser and two MGs. Three attacks. It takes no penalty for the first, but a -2 for attacks two and three. It is now at -4 to OCV for this volley. If the Locust decides to shoot two enemies, it takes another -2, for a total of -6. If the locust decides to shoot at one enemy and move through on another, it suffers a further -4 (-2 for including an hth attack and -2 for a new distinct volley). The locust is at -10 OCV for all the attacks. Furthermore, unless it has rapid attack, the attacks will require a full phase and reduce the Locust’s DCV by half.
There are a few notable exceptions to this rule. The first is that if the attacks are bought as a combination power, they count as a single attack. Second, autofire penalties are incurred on all other attacks used as part of the mech’s combined or multiple attack (assuming the mech has the Autofire skill to use Autofire attacks as part of a multiple attack). Called shots do not incur an additional penalty (aside from the normal penalty for calling a shot) if all attacks target the same part of the body, but suffer a -2 for every area targeted after the first (including attacks that do not target). Finally, while area of affect attacks count as a different attack type from normal attacks, if they are included in an attack with non-area attacks, they must hit DCV instead of hex.
The idea of multiple targets takes into account more than just characters as targets. A multiple attack could, for instance, include a shot at a mech’s foci or the physical manifestation of its powers. It’s perfectly feasible, for instance, for a mech to shoot two PPCs at its enemy and one small laser at a particularly vulnerable piece of the mech’s equipment. In fact, this is a fairly important tactic in mech combat, especially against mechs which are, otherwise, extremely tough.
Note: while these penalties may seem egregious, mechs tend to have OCV in surplus.
I’ve provided a summary, here, of the penalties described above.
- Each enemy after the first (-2 to OCV)
- Each attack included in the volley after the first (-2 to OCV)
- Each different kind of attack (hand-to-hand, ranged, mental, area of affect) after the first (-2 OCV)
- Each area targeted after the first (-2 OCV)
- Each variation on the initial volley (-2 OCV)
Mulipowers and Power Pools in Combined and Multiple Attacks
According to the rules, it is only possible to fire a multiple attack using the same slot in a multipower or powerpool. This rule is changed slightly as it involves mechs. Mechs may use multiple slots from a multipower to make a combined or multiple attack so long as the reserve is high enough that both powers can be active at the same time. So, for instance, a multipower with a 200 point reserve and two slots, the first costing 120 Active Points and the second costing 80 Active Points could make a multiple attack using both slots.
To a certain extent, the same is true with power pools and control costs (instead of the reserve). So long as the power pool has enough control cost to cover multiple powers, it can put those slots together to form a multiple or combined attack.
If, for instance, the Arrowhound Mech has 412 Control Points for its variable power pool, it can link together its LRM20 at 214 Active with its MRM10 at 180 Active into a single combined attack without much of a problem.
So long as the rules concerning Multipowers and Variable Power Pools aren’t violated, powers can be thrown together as parts of a multiple attack from any number of sources (powers inside frameworks, can be combined with those outside of frameworks; powers from separate frameworks can be combined; powers from the same framework can be combined).
Important: While a combined or multiple attack is considered one maneuver, all powers still have to roll to hit separately. Only attacks that are bought as combination powers roll one attack roll for the separate powers involved.
Naked Advantages and Combined Attacks
Naked Advantages can be applied to some or all parts of the volley. They cannot, however, be applied individually to each component power in the volley. So, for instance, a character with the Naked Advantage AP on 426 Active points could make up to 426 points worth of powers, total, Armor Piercing in a single phase. They could not apply Armor Piercing to each power in the volley with an Active Points total of 426 or less.
When applying multiple Naked Advantages to a volley, the player can apply them in any order they wish. However, the naked advantage is assumed to effect the Active Points of the power and its DCs (where appropriate). So, for example, a mech with 150 point Killing attack wants to apply Naked Advantge: AP and Naked Advantage: Reduced End to the power. To apply the Armor Piercing, the naked advantage must cover 150 points. Thereafter, though, the power counts as being 38 more active points than before and the Reduced Endurance Naked Advantage will have to be able to cover 188 points in order to applicable.
Order of the Phase
Phases are resolved normally for mechs that are in contact with each other. That is, characters go on the segments dictated by their speed, order of the phase is then resolved by Dex. Ties are resolved through a roll-off. Characters cannot go before a teammate with whom they do not have contact if the two characters share the same phase. At the beginning of a character’s phase, the character loses penalties and advantages from previous actions. The character is then given a full phase of action. Characters with higher Dexes may choose to re-enter the phase at a lower dex order. In case of questions about Dex order, higher dexes take precedence over lower dexes. Given common complications, turn order is further clarified here.
Step 1: Roll for a Mech Tech Skill Roll
This step is only necessitated by mechs that have been reduced to 75% of their starting body and applies only to powers that have taken the Mech Tech limitation. The limitation, however, is common enough to necessitate a distinction in phase order.
Mech Tech is a limitation for many mech powers and represents, ultimately, the mech’s ability to stay active despite damage. Mech Tech is a professional skill bought specifically for the mech, often in very large amounts to cover the crippling penalties incurred for the active points of mech equipment. The Mech Tech roll is made at the start of the player’s turn (a 0 phase action that must be taken so long as the mech is significantly damaged, but alive and conscious). It is modified by the most expensive power that the player plans on using that turn (the largest penalty). The roll suffers a further penalty of -1 per mech tech power or characteristic to be activated.
The important thing to remember for running mech tech in the game is that players control their penalties, retroactively, by choosing which mech tech powers or characteristics to turn on that phase after the roll has been made. If the character makes the roll by 10, for instance, then he or she knows that one power at -6 can be activated along with four other powers whose penalties are no more than -6 each. The degree of success or failure determines, to some extent, a damaged mech’s course of action. A power that is activated twice counts its mech tech penalty twice (with multiple attacks, for instance). If it is the largest mech tech penalty, the full penalty must be paid twice.
For instance, the Monkey Mech wants to fire its Fusion Cannon (-7), activate its Dex (-1), Int (-1), Speed (-3), Life Support (-1), Radio Sense (-6) and Enhanced Perception (-1). The penalty to the roll is -7 (for the fusion cannon, because it is the highest), and -6 for the other 6 powers (since none exceed -6). The penalty to its roll is -13. If it shoots the Fusion Cannon twice, its penalty is -20!
As previously stated, mechs need not make a mech tech roll until they are at 75% of their starting body or lower. They take a -3 to their roll if they are at or below 50%, and a further -3 if they are at or below 25%. A mech with 0 Body cannot make a mech tech roll.
If a character fails a mech tech roll three times in a row (they miss the roll to the point that they cannot activate any mech tech powers), all mech tech powers are considered off-line for the rest of the battle.
A mech tech roll always represents powers that are being activated for that phase. This means that a mech tech penalty paid for Dex affects the character’s Dex for the current phase and for determining the phase order for next phase, but not for determining phase order for the current phase.
Step 2: Move
Generally, the first half of the phase is not used up for attack. This is, of course, not always the case. Thus, occasionally step 2 and step 3 are switched (as with move throughs, move bys, and multiple attacks by characters who do not have the Rapid Attack skill). Because step 3 is a Perception roll, it ought not be made until the character is at the place on the battlefield from which it will make an attack augmented by that perception roll.
Characters may take their DCV from their characteristics or from their velocity.
Characters may go non-combat during their phase to get a movement bonus. A non-combat character’s DCV is either 0 or based on velocity. Any surprise attack made against a character moving non-combat does double damage (this includes attacks bought with the Indirect or Invisible power advantages)
Step 3: Perception Roll
This step begins with the character deciding between staying at full, half, or 0 DCV. Most mechs get bonuses to Per roll and to potential OCV levels by lowering their DCV.
Almost all mechs have OCV levels linked to a Perception roll. Generally, these levels are associated with Ranged Attacks. Often these levels are related to the success of the Perception Roll (+1 OCV per 1 the roll is made by). If a character does not plan to use these levels, they need not make a Perception roll. Assuming that the character’s Per roll would remain at 8 or less or above after range modifiers, they are aware of enemy mechs. The perception rolls are needed only for activating powers or characteristics.
Though making a perception roll is a 0 phase action, it nonetheless can only be made once per phase. Thus characters must define which sense they plan to use for targeting each phase. In the rare instance where the characters senses are changed after the character has moved and made a perception roll by outside sources, the character may choose to change targeting senses. They must, however, keep the results of their perception roll.
Finally, because the Perception roll activates powers it, necessarily, takes a penalty of -1 per 10 Active points in the power. It’s sort of standard design etiquette that powers that carry a penalty to Perception rolls should have Enhanced Perception rolls to cover the penalty.
Step 4: Declare Attack
At this point, as per usual, the attacker his attack in full. All powers must be declared if the power is a multiple attack or a combined attack. At this point, a defender should know whether any (or all) attacks are called shots, whether any (or all) attacks hit hex, and so forth. The point is that the defender should proceed from step 4 with full knowledge of what they are up against except for the result of die rolls. Only invisible or inobvious powers act as exceptions to this rule.
At this stage, the attack should declare all levels and allocate all modifiers.
If a weapon has the Lock limitation, the attacker rolls to hit at this point so that the defender knows how much DCV is required to avoid the shot (to “break lock”). For some variations of the “locks on” limitation, the attacker must also roll damage at this point and reveal it to the defender. The damage, in this case, does not happen until the attack lands.
Step 5: Defender Declares Counter-Measures
Defense generally consists only of hoping that the attack won’t hurt too much. DCV is hard to come by and comes almost unanimously with heavily regulating limitations. A defender may, however, abort their next phase or activate triggers (where appropriate) to create defense. This includes, generally, the activation of any defensive maneuvers, the use of activated speed to cover defensive powers, the activation of defensive powers, or the activation of offensive powers to counter powers with a physical manifestation.
Remember, no trigger can prevent the activation of itself. A trigger could not, for instance, dispel the power that activates it (though a trigger attached to a special sense could activate when a power is attempting to activate). Also, speed is activated at the end of phase 12. It cannot be activated in the middle of the turn.
Shooting Physical Manifestations as Defense
Because the fourth option is new(ish), it is discussed further here at some length. An offensive power with a physical manifestation can be dealt with offensively: that is, it can be shot at to take it out. The manifestation’s DCV is equal to the character’s +2, or the manifestation’s velocity, which is equal to its range to target divided by the number of segments it takes for the attack to reach the target (usually one).
Range modifiers must also be considered, though generally, the attacker can choose to shoot the Physical Manifestation anywhere along its path. The exception to this is a power that take multiple segments to land. In these cases, the power exists in equal discrete segments along its path. Powers which come at the target indirectly (most notably because of the Indirect power advantage) are always at +2 DCV.
For example, an Arrowhound shoots a Long Range Missile 1500” at its target. The Arrowhound’s speed is 4, and the physical manifestation takes an extra segment to land. The physical manifestation (the missile salvo) is going 3000”. It has a DCV of 17.
A physically manifested power that passes through a hostile environment (because of a Change Environment or Damage Shield, for instance), may be destroyed or interfered with enough that the attack will not land.
An offensive power that takes the Physical Manifestation Limitation is assumed to have one Physical Manifestation (and only one). If the power has autofire, the attack destroys or interferes with the whole salvo at once.
A physical manifestation destroyed in this way, defensively, destroys that attack, not the potential for further attack.
Step 6: Roll for Effect
Standard rules apply. Roll for damage, roll for hit location if necessary, and then roll for knockback. Keep in mind that the attacks are said to happen simultaneously. Thus, an ED drain does not help the energy killing attack to which it is linked (though it will help attacks from subsequent attackers and on subsequent phases).
If an attack was made against a focus (or the physical manifestation of a constant or persistant power), and the attack did enough Body damage to affect the focus, the focus loses a power or is, if reduced to zero powers, destroyed. There are no unbreakable or durable foci in the mech rules because they would defeat the very spirit of the rules. Mechs are meant to be chopped down.
An attack that hits an area is assumed to hit everything in that area, every enemy, every focus, and every physical manifestation of a constant or persistant power. Area affect attacks and explosions can be devastating to the various tender bits of low-active-point powers bought with the focus limitation.
Step 7: Record Damage
Characters record damage, check for impairment, disablement, Stun or knockout.
Body damage is complicated because, for mechs, a great deal depends on Body. Survival, of course, and Mech Tech Rolls but also Maximum Endurance and Recovery. Both of these characteristics are proportional to Body for mechs. Thus, taking Body lowers maximum End and Recovery.
Impairment and disablement have been outlined already in the Hero System rules. Both, however, take on larger implications because of the common mech limitation, “Allocation.” Powers that are bought with the limitation allocation are destroyed if the area to which they are allocated is impaired. Some powers disable the area in which they are allocated if the area is impaired.
A mech that has been stunned must take a phase to recover from being stunned as outlined in the regular rules. An “unconscious” mech “drops” all accessible foci. They effectively go off-line and must be reactivated. This takes a half phase per accessible foci.
Remote Control and Missile Attacks
Many rules surrounding mech defenses make a distinction between Remote Control and Missile Attacks. If an attack has the “Lock On” limitation, it is considered a missile attack. Also Remote Control attacks are also missile attacks; not all missile attacks are remote control attacks.
Any attack that maintains contact with the attacker through the length of the attack is considered a remote control attack. Generally, this involves the activation of some power with the limitation, “must maintain contact through HRRP,” but it is also includes any power that is augmented from the mech during launch (during flight). A remote control attack is always also a missile. A remote controlled attack cannot become a plain missile by not activating powers. The potential to use the powers makes it remote controlled.
Because remote control attacks can be contacted through HRRP, they can generally be targeted with HRRP attacks.
Finding and Attacking Targets with HRRP
Most mech attacks that would, in other circumstances, be considered mental attacks are actually attacks that involve invasive software that attacks the mech through Transmit senses. This is not exclusive as there any number of other, non-mental, powers that create their effect by finding an HRRP signal (like for instance, missile reflection). However, there are very few mech-based mental effects that do not require an HRRP signal.
This brings up a number of important points. First, what must be done to HRRP to get it to work so as to make it a conduit for these kinds of attacks? Second, what does it take to “find” a specific HRRP signal? Third, what kinds of defenses are there against these kinds of attacks? And third, what happens if a mech simply doesn’t have an HRRP signal or chooses to turn their signal off?
To answer most of these questions, it is necessary to think of the translation that is already started here. If “mental powers” for mechs are already “computer control powers” then HRRP is very similar to Mind Scan. This is conceptual, of course. It doesn’t take extra time to use HRRP, for instance, and HRRP, being a sense, operates on Perception rolls rather than an OMCV v. DMCV attack roll. However, there is some use to this analogy.
For one thing, using HRRP to find another HRRP singal has a difficulty based on the number of signals out there. To be fair, HRRP picks up a lot of junk. In a civilized world, one must account for wireless networks, television signals, and radio signals to name a few. On the battlefield, add in all intense magnetic fields, all laser and magnetic weapons, all radar signals, etc.. Generally, this equates to the same penalties necessary for finding a mind with mind scan. The average battlefield outside of civilization merits about a -3. A battle in a civilized area would be far more distracting.
In addition, many mechs and objects that might be affected by HRRP also buy concealment for their signals. This can become a kind of arms race between concealment and enhanced perception.
For mental attacks, HRRP, like Mind Scan, must be a targeting sense. Most Radio-Control mechs buy the Targetting adder for their sense. Without this adder, it is not possible to “find” mechs for attacks, though it is still possible to find mechs and use defensive powers against them.
There are a number of ready-made defenses against an HRRP attack. At its most basic, HRRP doesn’t work in intense magnetic fields. Thus, being in an IMF effectively makes the character immune to an will most likely suppress some of the character’s own powers too). Characters can, of course, defend against an HRRP attack in all the ways one traditionally defends against Ego-Based Attacks (Mental Defense, high OMCV, High Ego, etc.). Characters may also buy up concealment for their HRRP to make them harder to find.
One of the most obvious ways, however, for a character to protect himself against an HRRP attack is to simply turn their HRRP off. However, this leaves the mech basically without the ability to hear or speak. Most mechs lose a point of Speed because of this due to a common limitation: “must be in contact with team.” Furthermore, a mech that is cut-off from their teammates cannot go at a Dex order higher than their teammates. They are effectively watching and waiting for their teammates to make their move.
Finally, the ability to find the HRRP signal is not completely doused if the enemy turns off HRRP. They are still accepting Radar signals so long as they have their radar active. The ability to find the enemy’s radar with HRRP is at -2 to Perception rolls and -2 to OMCV.
Some mechs get around all this by using transmit senses other than HRRP. Of course, there are viruses for other communication signals as well, but they are far less common. The real problem with using IR, for instance, with Transmit is that it takes range modifiers. HRRP is unmodified for 12 miles. This means that, as long as the mech has line of “sight” with their HRRP, all mental powers working through HRRP have a 12 mile range.