To orient you if you’re new to these pieces, I’m playing The Mecha Hack with my wife and son, and these are our session reports, along with my observations about the game.
This Saturday we picked up where we left off a couple of weeks ago. (GM Dad just didn’t have it in him last weekend.) In a way the break was good. The sting of defeat was but a distant memory for Xander. (Remember being 7?)
As we dove into the session our heroes, Starian and Thumper, were called to Commander Ironsides’ office, and they were ready to take a dressing down for their poor showing in the last combat. In the end I decided that we’d done such a thorough post-mortem of the debacle after it happened, that we didn’t need to do it in-game, too. (Also, part of the problem last session was just poor dice rolling, and that’s no one’s fault.)
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
They enter Ironsides’ office braced for a lecture, only to discover they’re being tasked with a sensitive diplomatic mission. Princess Ilana Acharis, the de facto head of the Neo Dominion, wants Starian and Thumper to come to her court immediately. (In the Mecha Hack setting the Terran Collective rebelled against the Dominion, so this is a little bit like barely post-revolutionary Americans getting an invitation from the Queen of England.)
Given the recent attack, by (apparently) Neo Dominion forces, Starian and Thumper decide to undertake the trip with the understanding that it’ll be under the flag of truce. (Everyone suspects some kind of trick, but the ND values honor highly, so in the end they feel like it’s worth the risk.)
A TALE OF TWO CULTURES
A ship drops them off outside of Fortress Husqvarna, the vast space station that’s home to the Neo Dominion. Since I’d never decided much about the Fortress beyond it’s big and in space, I asked Deanna and Xander to tell me what was impressive about it. Deanna came up with “bristles with guns” and Xander offered that it was a big mirror image of itself above and below. I added that its angles and bits were like battlements and towers very much in the tradition of European castles. (I’d thrown out in a previous session that Neo Dominion mechs have a “knights in shining armor” vibe.)
They are allowed into the Fortress via an enormous set of doors, finding themselves in a hangar-sized airlock. They are told to stand on a big pad in the middle. Once they’re in position the pad goes down, elevator-style, through level after level of the fortress.
It never occurred to me until we were in the moment that this would be the perfect spot to point out the differences between the Terran Collective and the Neo Dominion! So, we talked about all the things that they could see on their descent. The people on the various levels wore clothes reminiscent of serfs, lords, and ladies from Old Earth. They even saw someone dressed as a blacksmith! Of course all this was in sharp contrast to their own utility coveralls.
Eventually they find themselves descending into an enormous pleasure garden. They can see patches of forest and wetland, along with elegantly sited castles, arcades, and paths. For our heroes, hardscrabble Terran Collective laborers, it all seemed like a dream.
Duke Jev Acharis gave them a rude awakening. Tasked with greeting them, he was overflowing with warm sentiments like, “I don’t know why I was sent to get you, you should be bending the knee.” He led them over green fields until they came to a beautiful set of terraces above a lake. Once there, Princess Ilana Acharis greeted them, the sunset gleaming on her impeccably chromed mech.
(I’m not that familiar with Anime, but I felt like it would be super-themey to have everyone in their mechs for this moment of detente.)
Starian and Thumper had the sense to bow… Xander wanted to Larp his so that I’d get the full effect of all the flourishes.
Against the backdrop of a grumbling Duke Acharis, the Princess and the representatives of the Terran Collective shared their intelligence. Turns out that an ND outpost was hit by the Terran Collective, at about the same time that the Neo Dominion raided Starian and Thumper’s base. Presence rolls were successfully made, deals were agreed to, and then all hell broke loose…
THE INEVITABLE FIGHT
So, good old Duke Jev represents an ND faction that wants to see the Terran Collective whipped until they beg to come back into the fold. Unfortunately for them, the Princess doesn’t have to give a poop about their opinions. She’s on the top of the feudal heap.
Jev, having seen this coming, quite possibly having already engineered the attacks mentioned above, had one last trick up his sleeve. Just as everything looked like it was going to go swimmingly for our heroes, the renegade Duke detonated a device that created a temporary portal to the Verilian Tunnels. (That’s the place where all the kaiju-like Voidmaw critters live. Tunnels tellingly used by the sinister Aeonic Primacy!)
And just as something unwholesome started to drag itself up through the sickly glowing gateway, Jev also triggered a device that deactivated the Princess’s mech. Unfortunately for Jev, the portal technology was, apparently, jury-rigged, so it destabilized the area around him as well.
Starian fell back and unleashed a salvo of rockets on the Voidmaw Drone, managing to pull the fight away from the Princess and her deactivated mech. Duke Jev started to slip further and further into the quicksand-like void material. Thumper did everything he could to rescue Jev, but my wife’s amazing rolling luck reared its head yet again. She managed to roll two more critical failures, so Thumper was unable to reactivate the Princess’s mech or to save Duke Jev.
Remembering that he could push his mech really hard thanks to its Super Reactor, Xander got in lots of additional attacks in this fight. It’s good to know he’s been listening! (I was running the Voidmaw Drone as a boss monster which gave it additional attacks and some extra defenses.)
Starnian kept jabbing away, and Xander had much better dice luck to go along with his better tactics. The Drone never managed to score a result with its Roar, an ability that has the potential to disable a mech over time. Xander successfully saved against this every time.
When he finished off the Drone, the temporary portal closed, sucking the Duke away with it. Even though he was obviously a douchebag and conspirator, it was a poignant moment to see him vanish into the Void forever.
Thumper managed to repair the mech of a grateful Princess Alana. After wining and dining our heroes at her royal pavilion, Alana asked Starian and Thumper to join the Neo Dominion… dryly pointing out that she had an available dukedom to fill.
(I hadn’t intended to do this, but our heroes acquitted themselves so well, how could I not? Of course it occurred to me that we’d be off on a completely different trajectory if they took the Princess up on her offer, but whatever! Don’t we play to surprise ourselves?)
Starian seriously thought it over: after all Star was built by the Neo Dominion, but Thumper quickly brought him to his senses. “We can’t do this, we’d be betraying everything we believe in!” Voicing Thumper’s stray thoughts for a moment, I added, “Well, yes, of course the Neo Dominion is the height of decadence and inequality, but boy do they have nice stuff.”
We ended the session with the Princess and our heroes agreeing that they would work together to get to the bottom of this mystery as allies… for now.
⊗ ⊗ ⊗
This felt like a totally satisfying session!
Xander knows the mechanics of the game a little better than my wife, which is rather charming. We did have to stop a couple of times for an excess of enthusiasm, though. In the space of a couple of minutes X broke a pencil in half and then broke the point of his replacement pencil. So, the report above represents three short sessions spread out over the weekend.
THE GIFT OF LIMITATIONS
I wanted to be able to switch up the terrain we were using. The OGRE board is perfect as a battlefield or a blasted moonscape, but I love the look of the GEV maps, too. They’ve got a great mix of topographical features. Trying to work out how to get them into this scenario I hit on the idea of the King’s Forest inside Fortress Husqvarna. I love the vibe it helped me create. Such a vast green space in a completely constructed environment suggests the ridiculous resources the Neo Dominion still has.
In the quest for good story, a limitation can be your greatest ally.