Barbarians of Heavy Metal Design Diary 5

Editor’s Note: We’re trying a different approach here. Nathaniel sent me his content and I’m posting it up as a proper blog entry rather than as comments following on. Hopefully this makes things easier for everyone. The comments section below is open as usual, though. And remember, what follows is from Nathaniel, not me 🙂 -tvp-


Coming up for air from my work on the DW:AiTaS core revision layout, I thought I’d share a few notes on the main rules section. I won’t be laboring to do these in any order, preferring to hit on subjects as they coalesce in my head.

In addition, the focus here is more about what I plan to accomplish thematically and mechanically, so this is more of a look behind my conceptual goals rather than a list of hard and fast rules that you could play by using this diary alone.

That said, today’s topic concerns the Core Rules and the rules for Titan and vehicle combat.

The Core Rules
As I mentioned earlier, this book will be different from my previous BotA by having the basic rules for play included in the book so you can play without needing to buy another book beforehand. As I also mentioned, this will not be a complete set, but an expurgated set that provides you with everything you need for this setting. Including the rules for adjudicating actions, combat and so on, but not sorcery, alchemy or priests.

Of particular note, I will be using the armor rules from the Legendary Edition. I think the ‘variable armor’ rule is superior to the old set armor values. I will, however, have a couple of extra notches on the scale to account for high-tech armors and the like.

Combat will remain pretty much the same, but I will be adding a few things to make it different enough to provide something new for those who have bought the other books including: variation on Dodge and Parry that makes them more interesting/useful options; an optional Death & Dismemberment Chart (a cool idea I’ve used in my B/X D&D games) which will allow for scarring, missing limbs in combat, and other results that can occur after you hit 0 LB; and provide optional rules for map based combat based around the same system used for Titans and vehicles.

An interesting idea came up when I was thinking about Languages in BoHM. Instead of the usual languages, I thought that there would be three basic categories: Lingua Metallica, the universal language; Classical, covering all the languages spoken on Earth and now only known to the Monks, like English, Chinese, German and even Latin; and finally and most interestingly, the Tongues of Rock (with all the imagery that implies) which are specific dialects of Lingua Metallica spoken by the specific schools and which relies on a shared knowledge of the style to understand. The more knowledgeable you are in a Style, the better you understand that language that goes with it (you know your primary school’s tongue fluently, of course).

Other than these wrinkles, the basic rules remain largely the same.

Heavy Metal
BoHM will have different vehicle rules from BotA for two reason. The first is that giant robot combat requires more tactical detail than the average vehicle system in order to really get across the feel of fighting in a 60 foot walking tank that can jump, punch climb, etc. as opposed to fighting in just any old heavy vehicle.

The second is that I hate to repeat myself, and while it would be incredibly easy to just steal my own system from BotA and tweak it for giant robots, it wouldn’t be as thematic, fun, or as good a deal for the purchaser. After all, if you have two different systems in two different books, that adds value, IMO, as you now have twice the choices and don’t feel you are repurchasing the same material. Use the one you like or even combine the two (an option I will present in BoHM with appropriate rules tweaks) at your leisure.

The system won’t be as detailed as, say, BT, but it won’t be as abstract as my previous vehicle rules. Here are some basic details:

1. Hex movement is in, but the hexes are larger (we’re talking the scale of a Battleforce map rather than BT one) and represent the terrain and moving about in it on a more strategic scale, where long range fire and maneuver are important. Once Titans are in the same hex, the basic BoX combat rules will apply, shifting from a wargaming feel back to the close in mayhem only an RPG with a GM could allow without a massive tome of rules, like making strategic use of the terrain, jumping down on opponents from on high, etc.

I’m also going with a slightly different method of adjudicating movement through terrain, inspired in part by WFB 8th edition: terrain doesn’t slow down movement, it forces piloting checks instead with terrain density adding difficulty to the roll. I always thought that an elite giant robot pilot should be able to move faster through different terrains rather than be hobbled by the same penalty as the green guy in a tank, and in this case, that can happen, with the ace pilot being more likely to take the risk (i.e. make the piloting rolls) to move through dense terrain at full speed.

The style of movement I’m going with has a number of advantages. First and foremost, the ‘board’ will fit on an standard sheet of paper, not fill up a whole table. Second, the larger, more abstract scale reduces the fiddly bookkeeping for movement and allows you to have aircraft interact on the same map effortlessly. Third, you get the best of both worlds in wargame and RPG style action.

2. Titans will have enough detail to allow customization but not so much that every fiddly thing has to be kept track of. Basically, a Titan will have attributes, combat abilities that represent the various weapons systems, ‘careers’ that represent specialist equipment, a simplified damage system with similar armor rules to the main game and a Death and Dismemberment chart for their use, a simple heat scale and ammo checks ala BotA . Basically, they will be very similar to regular characters. Non-Titan vehicles will be even simpler.

By cutting down on the record keeping I hope to reduce the amount of time it takes to play a single battle between two bands of Titans, with a number of vehicles and infantry units, from the 4+ hour marathon it normally takes to 30 – 60 minutes, cut back on the amount of scribbling and erasing you’ll have to do and allow the GM to control a large number of enemies with a single sheet of paper and minimal fuss.

3. As for combat, we’re talking the same combat rules as the generic BoX system with a few tweaks to cover combat on Battlefield scales including strategic movement, weapons and vehicle/Titan damage.

Think of a level of detail between the Classic BT game and the BT Clicky game and you can see where I’m aiming for in the detail and difficulty department. Everything should be able to be handled with the sheet, a bead and the occasional recording of critical damage by checking a single box per result, but still provide enough options to make combat interesting in a strategic sense, especially for the GM who should be able to run massive conflicts in an hour or so with a single NPC record sheet and a couple of dice. That’s the goal, at any rate.

My main goal is to cleave as close to the simplicity of the BoX rules as possible, while adding crunch to them to provide variety and value in the product. I think I did a pretty good job of that with BotA and can achieve a similar result here.

In particular, I want the move from PC action to Titan action to be as seamless as possible, with few new rules to have to remember but still retaining the thematic variety the two experiences offer. By using, essentially, the same system with tweaks for a larger scale of conflict, I think this will happen. Only time and play-testing will tell…

Up Next: Warp Ships…

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0 thoughts on “Barbarians of Heavy Metal Design Diary 5

    1. the venomous pao Post author

      Hey, Dr. R! Are you getting this through their commercial stuff (Zone Alarm) or are you behind one of their extremely restrictive corporate firewall things? Just trying to figure out what’s actually up (and what I might be able to do about it). Thanks!

    1. the venomous pao Post author

      Hmm. I’ll try to figure out if there’s anything untoward afoot on my site. I don’t *think* there is, but it’s good to know what’s what. Thanks!