What is Gunwave?

Aug 12 2008

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I’m developing Gunwave, a tabletop RPG for playing war with giant robots. You get to play the pilot of a giant robot in the midst of a big war.

If you’re not familiar with tabletop RPGs: Imagine a game of “Let’s pretend,” but with defined rules. The hero you play has this much strength and charisma, and that much intelligence.

You play in the traditional tabletop format: a bunch of players, and a Game Master (GM) who describes a scenario, and adjudicates the players’ responses.

Okay, now that that’s clear: Gunwave is designed for casual gamers. Folks who haven’t played tabletop RPGs before, but want to immerse themselves in a difficult era and smash up some giant robots.

As such, Gunwave uses relatively few stats to track characters and mecha (the giant robots). Characters have:

  • A few basic stats, like health and charisma
  • A race (the universe is full of mutants, psychics, and aliens, if you wish)
  • A specialty (spy, munitions, hand-to-hand combat, leader, etc.)
  • Skills (perception, diplomacy, martial arts, hacking, etc.)
  • Powers (psychic blasts, flash of insight, desperate block, etc.)

Mecha consist of a few attributes, like armor and speed, and their own powers. Plus, of course, weapons; there are 18 of them, plus various kinds of ammo.

I borrowed powers from the D&D fourth edition rules (which was a strong inspiration for Gunwave). Powers replicate the surprising spin, the leap forward to rescue a friend, the psychic blast, and the unexpected resilience of a cool mecha pilot. Some powers can be used as often as desired (they often change the rules of an attack to give you an advantage over certain foes), some can only be used once per fight, and others once per day (these usually do massive damage or provide life-saving assistance).

What’s really interesting about all this, though, is the kind of story this supports. I love Gundam because of its stance on war, and showing how powerful and destructive and tragic it is. This lets me tell those sorts of stories, but in an exciting, entertaining way.

I hope.

I’ve been playtesting the game with a bunch of friends, and thanks to all of you who’ve helped me so far. It’s not ready for a wider release yet, since I’m changing it so much. It’s a fascinating little project.

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