While I am not a huge fan of mech or mecha directly (I can barely point out the difference between the two and might be lucky to name a show/anime or two for them combined), I do enjoy the premise and look forward to seeing how Paizo handles it in the future, if they decide to. In the mean time, I wanted to take a look at some simple options that popped into my head as I was reading the ship building rules the other day while preparing for a game.
GM Note. The rules presented are simple suggestions that would allow for you to have starships that can become mech/mecha without a lot of modification to the rules, to ensure combat functions essentially the same between standard ships and gladiator ships. I took a few liberties for the sake of visuals and fun that I hope you will enjoy.
The Invention. WBI (World Builders Intergalactic) has managed to take sports to a new level with their Dome Pod Racing. Just when they thought they their ratings couldn’t get any better, a team managed to come up with a design that altered the sport beyond what WBI had ever envisioned. The team managed to lighten their ship’s load enough that they could provide extra parts to make it alter its shape mid flight. Due to a masterfully written clause in the WBI DPR contracts, WBI was allowed to use this new technology free of permission from the inventors. While the contract is being disputed in courts, WBI has wasted no time releasing their first batch of Gladiator Ships to those willing to pay top dollar to essentially beta test a new starship prototype.
The Gladiators. Currently, their prototype run includes 100 gladiators, all of the same specs. With the exception of the new Transformation Housing (1 Expansion Bay, 1 BP per frame size, 5 PCU per frame size), the ships are built using standard ship parts with some minor customizations to allow for Gladiator Mode. The ships themselves are simple fighter pilot builds, using an interceptor frame modified to allow for an expansion bay (Cost 8). The thrusters, power, shielding, armaments, computers, and other features are customized during the sale. Either way, they are all branded WBI Gladiator #??? (build 1 through 100).
The Transformation. Transforming a Gladiator Ship from Starship Mode to Gladiator Mode requires the use of the Transform Stunt. This does not require a check as long as no systems are glitching. If glitching, the Pilot check has a DC of 5 + Number of glitching systems + 1.5 x tier of ship. Failure by 5 or more causes another glitch.
Gladiator Mode. Once transformed into Gladiator Mode, the following changes are applied to the ship:
- Speed -2
- Piloting +1
- Short range weapons can become 1 handed pistols
- Medium and Long range weapons can become 2 handed rifles
- Short range plasma cannons can become 1 handed plasma blades
- Medium range plasma cannons can become 2 handed plasma blades
- Long range plasma cannons can become 2 handed spears
- Ranged attacks can target any non-aft arc
- All SP can be converted into a shield in an empty hand. Can face forward or side arc.
While the transformation for each of the WBI Gladiator prototypes is essentially the same, the customization of the shields and armaments will invariably cause some differences. In all cases, the thrusters become the feet, the cockpit the head, the arms come out of the port and starboard sides, holding the weapon as appropriate for weapon type and mounted location.
Gladiator Combat. For an extra fee, owners of these new WBI Gladiators can obtain one-on-one lessons with the only surviving test pilot, each lesson pertaining to one of the Stunts that functions differently when in Gladiator Mode, as well as a new Stunt.
- Back Off (No check needed to perform a Back Off stunt. A Pilot check may be attempted to allow turns during movement.)
- Flip and Burn (No check needed to perform a Flip and Burn stunt.)
- Melee Attack [NEW] (As Flyby, except that failure only allows for free attack.)
- Slide (No check needed to perform a Slide stunt.)
- Turn in Place (Clumsy only suffers -2 AC/TL, Poor suffers none.)
Gladiator Battles. It is only a matter of time before WBI begins promotion of a new form of sport involving these new gladiators. Conspiracies have it that they are relying on real world experience from these prototypes, while rumors claim that these prototypes are really the first wave of contestants in said sport. After hearing about these rumors, an ancient legend among the elves resurfaced about a group of starships built to resemble felines that were forced to endure waves of battles against similar gladiators in defense of their galaxy, perhaps even the universe. Perhaps this legend has something to do with the secrecy behind these prototypes? Let’s see what happens next time on … Terraforming!
Please join us on our Discord server https://discord.gg/Rt79BAj and let me know what you think of these ideas and rules changes!