Dungeons and Dragons and Giant Robots, part 1

Gundam Robot

Gundam Robot by kcherif on Flickr

Last weekend, Saalon and I discussed a straight conversion of D&D 4th Edition for a universe of anime-style “real robot” giant robot combat. So, more like the serious war stories of Gundam than the goofy fistfights of Gigantor.

Scales of War

The first problem is one of scale. Giant robots operate weapons that can pulverize many individual soldiers in one hit. So, let’s identify a rule:

Mecha operate on a scale 10x that of the human scale. So, mecha weapons do 10x the damage of a human weapon, mecha are about 10x bigger than humans, etc.

As a result, mecha combat cannot properly include individual human units, and mecha units are simply too large to represent accurately in human combat. Humans can be grouped into units large enough to represent at mecha scale, and mecha units may be representable as abstract forces, but for now:

Mecha combat occurs on its own grid, which does not represent individual human units.  Similarly, human-scaled combat does not show mecha units.

Okay, so you have pilots inside mecha.  Here comes our next big problem: the player controls both a pilot character and a mecha.  Do both get stats?  Do both get powers?  How does one influence the other?  Does a character’s Constitution really have any affect on piloting the mecha?  Even more, do we want to simulate reality that closely?  Should a mecha have a Will score?

First, let’s think about the six basic stats.  The three body-related stats — Strength, Constitution, and Dexterity — all make sense for a mecha.  The three mental stats — Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma — don’t.   So:

Pilot characters have all six stats, while mecha have only Strength, Constitution, and Dexterity.  Any mecha attacks targeting those three stats are assumed to be targeting the mecha’s stats, rather than the pilot’s.  All other attacks target the pilot’s stats.

For defenses, we’ll take a similar tack:

Mecha have Reflex and Fortitude defenses, but no Will defense.


How about powers?  Well, let’s think about them for a second.

At will power are everyday attacks and maneuvers.  They do a little more damage or otherwise provide a minor advantage over a straight gun shot or beam sword swing.

Encounter and daily powers are special moves, only used when the situation is dire.  Examples in anime include a Seed Break in Gundam Seed and Berserker Mode in Neon Genesis Evangelion.  Those are represented as special abilities that come from within the pilot.

So, here’s something different:

Mecha have at-will powers.  PCs have encounter and daily powers.

This actually works nicely with the standard level progression in 4E.  Mecha provide an array of first-level at-will powers; the basic stuff that this mecha is good at.  As your PC progresses, he or she picks up new maneuvers (encounters and dailies) that he or she can do regardless of the mecha piloted.

At some point, I’d like to add certain mecha encounter and daily powers that are only available to players at levels 10 or 20.  But for now, we’ll keep it simple.  Mecha only provide basic at-will powers.

More later as I think through this.

One response to “Dungeons and Dragons and Giant Robots, part 1”

  1. Brent P. Newhall's Blog » Dungeons and Dragons and Giant Robots, part 2

    […] In my previous post on this topic, I suggested a few basic rules for a giant robot RPG system using the basic D&D 4E rules. […]

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