Sunday, 8 June 2014

Power Armour in PowerFrame

I've been working on PowerFrame's Vehicles section - the final bit of writing. I'm presenting some basic templates for various types of vehicles, including skates, pushbikes, motorbikes, cars, tanks, boats, planes, and power armour.

I spent today writing up Power Armour. This is the first vehicle type I've completed. Although you might think it would be easier to start with cars and bikes, there are several factors that actually make powered armour relatively straightforward.

Oddly enough, I don't have all that many pictures of power armour.
This illustration of the Amethyst Warrior from the techno-fantasy PowerQuest setting is over a decade old!

Firstly, PowerFrame is built around the human average. Pretty much everything is rated based on how it compares to human capabilities. Since power armour basically just augments the pilot's own capabilities, it's not that hard to describe in game terms. Something like a car is trickier to model because it moves so much faster than a human (thus requiring a whole new Hex scale), can't turn on a dime, and takes more than one Turn to reach top speed or slow down.

Secondly, power armour has been in the game since its inception. The original PowerQuest setting (from which the PowerFrame system takes the inspiration for its name) was a fantasy world where the technology from a crashed spaceship had become integrated into culture and legend. Finding and reassembling the components of a suit of legendary power armour was the aim of the main campaign arc. The overwhelming power of this armour set the upper limits for equipment performance, and formed the basis for high-tech gear when I detailed more generic futuristic source material.

Lastly, I'd already done a lot of work running the numbers for power armour a couple of years ago. It took me a while to get around to, because I had to calibrate the stats for armoured vehicles so they'd make sense compared to personal firearms, and because I had to simultaneously revise the stats for heavy weapons. Once I'd eyeballed the numbers and floated them past the existing armour and weapon stats, I had a reasonable range in which to define powered armour and vehicles such as tanks and mecha.

Technically a small mecha, about Size 2 in PowerFrame terms.
(From District 9, image not mine!) 

Power armour has appealed to me for a long time, and its representation in PowerFrame is inspired by anime such as BubbleGum CrisisAppleseed, and Ghost in the Shell. In live-action movies, the power armour in District 9 is one of the coolest representations I've seen in years. Despite potential real-world battlefield issues, power armour gets to be the "katana" of the future - cool, exotic, and with unrealistic performance expectations.

I ran a very short game involving powered armour to make sure the rules were functioning as expected. I actually went really in-depth and made a detailed system for describing power armour and mecha in various sizes and configurations, and with mixed component weights. It creates good output, but it's pretty complicated and really requires a spreadsheet during the construction stage, even though the output is relatively straightforward. After the test game, I decided to remove the separate Structure values for each component, and just have a single Structure total.

In the Book

Unfortunately I don't think I have the space to include full power armour construction system in the main rulebook. For starters, if I did that I'd have to write similar systems for cars, bikes, ships, planes, and spaceships, and the page count would blow out. It's a bit of a shame to fall back on the assumption that all power armour is designed around humans, but to be honest PowerFrame does get a little awkward when dealing with creatures like centaurs from a Hit Location perspective.

The book will feature two pages detailing seven different "frame" weights, from Ultra-Light to Ultra-Heavy, all at Size 0. These are basic exoskeletons, but the players or GM can equip them with various types of armour, weaponry, and other systems to create a complete suit of power armour.

The listed suits are pretty advanced models, but it's a simple matter to dial them back a bit to represent older models, or boost them to represent truly over-the-top supertech armours.

There are also rules for increasing the suit's Size, so you can easily modify the existing templates to create "landmates" and mecha. I can also use the spreadsheet to work out reasonable baselines for other large vehicles such as tanks, ships, and spaceships.