You can find Darren's excellent Mecha rpg HILT//BLADE (among others) on his itch.io page here.
“Mech” is a weird word for a giant robot! According to Wiktionary, it comes to English via Japanese and is an abbreviation of the English word “mechanical.” “Robot” doesn’t even really hit correctly, you know, because often, I think, we imagine robots as autonomous — whether that is through being programmed to do something or, like, full blown, artificial intelligence. No one needs to pilot a robot! So I suppose that’s why “mech” is useful, then, since it is not really a robot and it’s certainly not a tank or jet or anything.
Really, mechs are just armor. In the same way that armored cavalry is not soldiers on horseback (anymore). We just imagine them large, very in charge and in need of a pilot—really, though, this is a sort of retrofuture imagining of mechs. At our own point of technology and certainly in science fiction/fantasy, no mech really needs a pilot. They could easily be remote piloted, which, frankly, makes far more sense than sticking a whole human in there and sending them off to do war. But where’s the drama in that?
Anyway, I’m here to talk about mechs in Trophy Gold, a dark fantasy game...that is as technologically advanced as, uh...currency. But there's magic! First I have a blurb to introduce the "mecha" into the setting and then the mechanics to make it work: a partnership roll to acquire a mecha and then a new mechanic that brings in the stakes of making this pact. Finally, a small table with suggestions for the mecha.
In groves kept in the secret places within the Crown’s purview, hedges and sorcerers work rituals over symbols carved into the trunks and branches of trees gathered from woods near and far and replanted. They labor to bring a semblance of life to the giants — something like the work done with manikins, but not so refined, not so desirous of sentience. Now, despite the number of hedges and sorcerers lost to the work, the questionably loyal Trees are ready.
When you encounter a Tree and want to enter into a partnership, gather 6-sided dice.
- Take 1 light-colored die just for approaching the Tree without malicious intent.
- Take another light die if you are willing to give up your Background for it (to be clear: you must give up your Background, but you gain an extra die if you elect to give it up).
- Add a dark-colored die if you are willing to risk your character’s mind or body to secure the partnership. You must include this die if you are using a Ritual.
Roll the dice. If your highest is a:
- 1 ~ It requires greater sacrifice.
- 2-3 ~ It is unimpressed and will take as much from you as its makers took from it. To strengthen you. Lose your Background and two of your Occupation’s skills.
- 4-5 ~ It sees promise in you, another vessel for its anger. Perhaps you will ease its burden. Lose your Background and one of your Occupation’s skills.
- 6 ~ It is pleased to find someone so competent. Perhaps you will go further than the others. Lose your Background.
If you included a dark die, it rolled equal to or higher than your highest light die and it is higher than your current Ruin, add 1 to your Ruin and work with the GM to describe how your mind or body is becoming closer to the Trees.
When you lose the Skills associated with your Background and Occupation, replace them with and equal number of the Tree's Skills.
You cannot reroll this roll for any reason.
Does your treasure-hunter enter the Tree, becoming one with it in moments of danger? Does it stalk your shadow, an extension of your will like a sword? What does it whisper to you from just out of the campfire’s light? When it says “I took this name,” does it mean by choice or force? What promises do you keep and break with it? Why hasn’t it abandoned you (or worse)?
After you make the partnership roll, you have another tracker along with Ruin, but it represents your Tree: Wrath. Wrath starts at 1. Whenever you use your Tree, anything that causes you to increase Ruin instead increases Wrath—you can, however, choose to increase your Ruin instead. There is no way to reduce Wrath.
When your Tree’s Wrath reaches 6, you Lose Yourself.
Your Tree wants and desires things. Ignoring your other half can cause you to gain Conditions.