I just got into this game about a month ago (had never heard of it before now.) I like the speed and the interactivity of the game and was thinking about different hacks. I had originally thought about Pacific Rim as a PbtA hack, and it still could be, but it might be better as FitD. It lends itself to a smaller game, only needing two pilots and a GM really.
You could change out the Attune ability to something dealing with the Drift. Both people have to roll during stressful actions to stay connected. Obviously, there are copyright issues and what not, but I would be interested to see what people thought of this.
Yeah, copyright would be a problem if you wanted to make money, but no harm in doing a fan-hack!
I think you could use a lot of the cool Blades in the Dark tech (downtime, factions, etc) if you set the game either before the first movie, where you are in charge of building up and coordinating the military defense, or between the first and second movie, where you have to deal with infighting between the earth factions.
What made you think of having two players per mech? My assumption would be each player controls two pilots (one mech) but your version certainly has a lot more potential for interesting mechanics!
I like the thought that, just like in the movie, no two characters are alike. If one person plays two pilots, there is still the roll to connect in the drift, but if the same person is helming both players, one will come out as dominant on the table, the other just to help power the mech, oooor, the player will play them as twins with no real personality to each of them, oooor, you get someone who makes two opposites so that they can roll for just about every situation, ooor, you might actually get someone who genuinely plays two characters as complete people, but might feel slighted because others aren’t as into the game as that person.
Secondarily, think of all the extra story potential of two people sharing in each others memories. No two people have the exact same experience, including identical twins, and so the perspective shift could help tell a better story. It also allows that person who normally plays the healer or the scientist or some sort of less action oriented character to go out there in a 50 story tall robot and just have some fun.
Lastly, if you have any two people, there will be some disagreements. Being able to use the drift as a catalyst to see how it plays out in the mech would be fun. Also, there is always a bunch of things that can be done outside of the Jaeger.
If I did the hack, I would probably have things from each of the ‘generations’ including the radiation poisoning and the more bulky interfaces, to something more streamlined and agile. There is a whole lot that can be done.
So how would you “prowl” in a mecha or “coerce” a kaiju? Would the playbook be different kinds of pilots or mechs? How many factions would you have and how would your crew factor in if you’re dealing with a setting where it’s one force of mecha pilots versus one force of kaiju?
So, the idea is that all the stats are for the characters. The playbooks would be your standard archetypes, including the tough guy, the grafter, the scientist, the mastermind, whatever, and they would use the stats. So, you have two guys in a mech fighting Kaiju and stuff, but there are other things that can be done outside of the Jaeger.
The different ‘crew’ ideas would be like legit Pan Pacific Defence, corporations, mercenaries, scavengers (since kaiju blue is very toxic, you’d need specialists to go in to harvest for things, i.e. Hannibal Chow) and possibly civilians (people just trying to get by).
As it shows in the fiction, people started using Jaegers for their own fighting domes, and you have to believe that countries had their own interests at heart. The poorer countries might refurbish a Jaeger to be used for other things.
So the Jaeger/Kaiju fighting would be a secondary or even tertiary drive in the game. It is a threat, it is there, but your squad has other things to worry about. You might even run a crew that doesn’t even have a Jaeger. Attuning would be used for the drift mechanism, but everything else would be real world stuff. Anyway, I am just kind of hashing it out in my head, but that is what I am thinking so far.
Oh, okay, so this is in line with Battletech, but set in a Pacific Rim -esc setting instead of imperial scifi.
I think it’s risky to declare that a huge (literally) element of your narrative is tertiary to the fiction and mechanics. You should write a list or paragraph of core design goals that support a clearly defined fiction you intend to execute on (e.g. Harper’s core Blades in the Dark is about scoundrels building a gang). If your fiction is not about piloting a jaeger, then you need another compelling reason to adventure in that setting.
The reason I decided to go the way that I did is that, even though Jaegers and Kaiju are the big thing that happens in this world, if every run is a Kaiju fight or vs another Jaeger, it could get pretty boring fairly fast.
I have written that paragraph to give my mission statement for the game, as it were. Still, have only been working on it, dedicated, for about 3 or 4 hours (wife, kids, work, trappings of life keep me busy).
If you want to do a full Jaeger game where everyone has one (however you decide to split up the pilot system), you can still do that. There just isn’t a lot, outside of fighting, that a 50 story walking building could do. Lets break down the core skills:
Hunt - you can hunt down people, that isn’t a problem
Study - use instead of survey for an in depth analysis of a scene, trying to find something?
Survey - pretty self explanatory
Tinker - I can’t see two people piloting a jaeger try to make something outside of repairing a bridge or something
Finesse - Maybe used for combat with the more agile Jaegers?
Prowl - I dunno
Skirmish - self explanatory
Wreck - self explanatory
Attune - use to keep pilots in the drift
Command - can use the loudspeakers on the Jaeger
Consort - dancing with another jaeger?
Sway - maybe used against other jaegers, kind of iffy.
Anyway, the point is, the more social skills are pretty dead when fighting, rendering a good chunk of character ideas dead, favoring combat skills. You want to appeal to a full audience, which means you need to focus on the human aspect at least some of the time. The fear of the rift opening, the guilt or despair felt when 10s of thousands are killed, the anger, the greed, the lust. Keep punching holes. It lends fuel for creativity.
I acknowledge that opinion and counter by asking if you’ve ever played Battletech/Mechwarrior?
Speaking of Mechwarrior, why not expand to different planets? Jaegers could be used as a fighting element of colonists and planetary defense forces. You’ll still need scientists, engineers, etc, but big stompy robots.
Again, I like that you’re sticking to your guns, and it’s a great setting for a blades-esc game. I’m just making sure you aren’t overlooking the importance of big stompy robots.
I could pivot to something with a more spacefaring flavor. The problem with this universe is that when the first Kaiju attacked in 2013 and then subsequent attacks through the 2040s, the world used all of it’s resources to build mechs, therefore never having what has come to be known as the second space race we see today.
I guess if this was something I ever wanted to sell, I could go to something closer to BattleTech or RoboTech. I’d really only want to keep the drift mechanic. I was thinking, if I stayed in this universe, of adding a clock that, when triggered, would bring out a Kaiju. Maybe even a secondary clock that is much bigger to trigger category upgrade.
Potentially, I could still do that. I dunno. Maybe I will take it both ways.
Let’s talk about the drift mechanic and how it may factor into the pilot playbook. We want the mechanics to support the narrative, so before anything else, we need to define the narrative around this playbook:
Two pilots are needed (at least)
The pilots must be neuronally linked
The pilots must synergize with each other
Each pilot controls one half of the body.
We know that the pilots need to depend on attune rolls (as I believe you spoke about before), but also all of the Resolve rolls, which plays into the charismatic pilots we see in the movies. We know that the pilots need to act cooperatively in order to actually pilot the jaegers, so you’ll need a special ability that boosts group attune rolls to pilot the jaeger. A special armor against drift shock would also be beneficial.
Those’re some design pillars you can build off of for the pilot playbook. What else would you add?
Well, my first thought was that there would not be a pilot playbook. The main character in the first movie went with his brother to find out if they were drift compatible. That was it, end of story. That means that any walk of life could do it. You probably wouldn’t find an 80 year old grandmother drifting with her husband, but anyone could potentially throw a punch as long as they stayed in sync with their partner (though it would be kind of fun to see what happens when two octogenarians got into a fighting robot without a will to live).
That said, the idea was to have one special ability per playbook that would enhance Jaeger combat in one way, shape or form. What I am thinking so far is this (playbook names and classifications subject to change):
Scrapper - Fighters - Gets +1d for dice rolls when fighting in a Jaeger
Pathfinder - tracker, naturalist - Costs one less stress to push for Attunement roles dealing with the drift. Partner gets same benefit as long as they are in the drift (does not stack)
Groupie - knows the ins and outs of Kaijus - Gets an automatic upgrade to position or effect when doing something involving Kaijus
Mechanic - knows the ins and outs of Jaegers - Gets an automatic upgrade to position or effect when doing something involving Jaegers
Grifter - the smooth-talking con artist - Costs no stress to assist partner when partner is ‘chasing the white rabbit.’
Captain - the man with the plan -
Infiltrator - the stealth master -
Scientist - masters in their fields (choose field) -
The last three, I am sure I can think of something, but I really don’t want to copy the same idea for two playbooks.
I agree that expanding to other planets via space program wouldn’t make sense, but the stated plan at the end of 1 was taking the fight to the aliens, and in 2 they do intentionally open portals. So totally plausible to take the fight through the rift if that is where you want your campaign to go.
As far as Actions, 100% agree that the actions for playing thieves in Doskvol don’t fit, but you can certainly make actions appropriate to a mech game instead. I’m of the opinion that you should always customize your action list for each different Forged in the Dark game.
On Jaeger combat as primary gameplay, I think that depends a lot on if you want to ape Pacific Rim 1 or 2.
Pacific Rim 1 (which was my personal favorite) focuses a lot on the visual spectacle, and is mostly punches and grabs, with the occasional special trick. Essentially professional wrestling. However, a lot of interesting things happen outside the cockpit.
Pacific Rim 2 (which I think would make the better game) has combat in a far more tactically rich environment, with lots of things to threaten that the heroes care about, and ways for players to flashback and otherwise set up the fight scene. A great example is this scene here Gipsy Avenger vs Obsidian Fury you can practically see all the “success but with a complication” coming out of the back and forth fighting. And someone definitely did a flashback to add those coastal defense guns. However, the out of mech narrative is much less dynamic, they even do the classic “investigate this mysterious facility” scene, entirely IN their mech.
I would probably rather go with Pac Rim 1 as the reference, as that was the one Guillermo Del Toro was more involved with, and since this was his baby, I would try to draw as much inspiration from that one (not to say I didn’t like the second, but for different reasons). I actually plan on having something set up for rules in the Anteverse.
As to the actions, I do not know what I would really change. The originals give you a good umbrella
The Jaeger/Robot-suit is the Crew. You can figure out a variety of types, toss on some upgrades.
The Scoundrels can have a variety of tasks/roles/playbooks - but essentially they’re the robot’s crew. At least one (or two if you’re sticking to your attuning-trick) are going to be pilots (maybe crews can take long term projects or upgrades to make a suit hold more/less than two pilots?)
Figure out your three Resistance Traits/Qualities (Mental, Social, Physical? Tech, Magic, Athletics? Whatever). Then drop in Actions for each - Inspire (speechmaking, dramatic poses, boosting others), Command (giving orders, directing fire), etc.
Instead of Jobs that you take, Freeplay gets a Clock that’s constantly counting down (or up, whatever) and after so much drama/action during Freeplay, there’s a Kaiju attack and the crew has to work together to beat it.
But there’s only two pilots you say! Well, other crew members are doing things like analyzing maps, directing military/survivors, figuring out what the Kaiju’s weakness is, figuring out suit-boosts - give all the playbooks one additional ‘power’ that relates to boosting the suit, even if they’re not in it.
Or, if you don’t lean into it (it might not be what your table is into, perhaps?) then at least (if you’re going to file off the serial numbers and make a public download of your work) include the option of Jaeger-heavy play for the groups who want to punch monsters.
You could still easily have a lot of abilities and special abilities and what-not for not-Jaeger piloting. The crew could still get into all kinds of drama during the freeplay and downtime cycles. So, don’t cut that out.
Personally, I think I’d want both - I’d want to see how my players handled personal interactions between the crew and the world around them, but I’d also want to the opportunity to cheer them on as they did some funky wrasslin’ move on a giant squid luchador.
Maybe I should go and watch the second movie. There may be more stories in there than the Jaeger Pilots and the two scientists who make up the b-plot. You seem to be leaning into a more espionage/black-market narrative, which is very in-line with the box-standard BitD and has some Pacific Rim seasoning to give the setting a different flavor. I do like the premise, and I think I’ll be more sold on the hack once I’ve seen the crew playbooks more fleshed out and I’ve seen the second movie.
Stand by for updated opinion and suggestions. o7
[Update] Okay, so I’m watching, and there appears (to me) to be an analogue between the jaeger versus black-market narratives and classic cyberpunk “street versus chrome”, which is something you could potentially tap into by mirroring those story beats.
[Update] Alrighty, well that was kinda bad compared to the first one, but that’s fine. I definitely think there’s fertile ground for your idea,
I think this is ultimately the way to go. Everyone can do their thing outside of the jaeger, but they’re definitely the focal point of the main characters. I think the narrative works best around two-to-three pilot type characters and one to two scientists/specialists working the back-end.