Thursday, 18 April 2013

Games Night: Of Mechs & Men

Last night I joined in my second session of Pendragon of Mars (noisms' homebrew mash-up of Pendragon and Mekton on Mars) on G+. We had a lot of fun, particularly when we got out into the Martian wilderness and were hunting down a fugitive knight

The story picked up a few months after the winter phase of the previous session, at the Easter Festival. Earl Roderick tasked the noble knights - Owain (me), Xyre (Zak) and Wiglaf (Patrick) to hunt down Sir Michael, a knight who had lost his honour when he slept with another man's wife. The other man is a rival lord from the south, and if Michael is not presented to him soon he may start a war with the Pendragons as he seeks justice. Not good.

So we set off to look for Michael, after talking with a few knights who know him and the terrain, with Xyre's squire Emeric of the Isles (Mandy) coming along in one of Xyre's rouncy mechs. We head for Sir Michael's estate; all of the mechs are gone and direct questioning of the lady of the manor gets us nowhere. Emeric is able to gain the confidence of Sir Michael's teenage son, which gives us some indication of where in the wilderness he might be hiding.

In the middle of the night, while on watch, Wiglaf spots a mech silhouetted against the starlight. We all power up and pursue it across the waste, occasionally getting shot at. Emeric's rouncy is much faster and tracks the mech to a rocky range and a cave. The rouncy has already been shot at once, so waits a time for the heavier mechs to catch up.

The combat is interesting and feels like it could go either way. We change our tactics between trying to get an effective shot at Sir Michael and his mechs and rushing forward, taking damage so that we can close to melee, where our mechs are much stronger. Eventually, after taking some potshots, we're able to close in on the fugitive and his friends. Wiglaf, Xyre and Emeric are able to corner two rouncies that (presumably) hold comrades of Sir Michael, while Owain pursues Sir Michael in his family mech the Marsh-Harrier.

Sir Michael surrenders. After Sir Michael climbs out of his cockpit, Sir Owain ignites the energy blade of his mech Den Gleddyf Mawr and brings it down again and again on the cockpit and head of the Marsh-Harrier, despite the protestations of the dishonorable knight.

And that's when we had to stop.

"Yeah, you need to make a check against Arbitrary and Cruel..." - is it not justice to punish the wicked? Is it not justice to destroy their toys just in case they try to start trouble again? No - it is justice because the fugitive took out my ultra beam cannon mounted on my mech's chest plate!
Size matters - seriously. I hadn't payed too much attention to movement allowances and so on, but my mech is damn slow compared to others. The mech Mandy was in was super fast; without that speed we would have lost the bad guy I'm sure.
Role-playing - I'm enjoying Pendragon of Mars, but have to admit that it is going against some of my typical in-game character tendencies*. noisms and Patrick often joke that every character I play is the same as Chaplain, my first ever RPG character. Sir Owain has to be noble, and true, and just - he's a knight. But...My first thought when we got to Sir Michael's estate was "Disable any mechs that are here. If there are no mechs, we should probably do something to show how serious we are..." And I immediately thought "Wait, would a knight do that???" There was a suggestion later that we could kidnap and threaten Sir Michael's son to bring Sir Michael out of hiding, but after a few minutes we decided that it was probably not very knight-ly. We're strictly heroes, not anti-heroes, not people who do things at all costs.
Mounted weapons - are all very well and good, but there was a severe disadvantage when we couldn't throw a gun to the mech Mandy's character was piloting... Something to think about, especially since I still have a charger to design and stat (a secret family heirloom).

* in truth, this is probably a good thing.


  1. I am so jealous about this game.

    1. You're on GMT right? Give noisms a shout if you think you might want in; we're taking next week off, but back on G+ the week after.

  2. Great stuff!

    Pendragon (whether set on Mars or otherwise) definitely requires some rewiring of typical RPG approaches. In the past, I've had to gently steer new players away from things like hiring a band of crossbowmen to go on a hunting trip on their behalf, or from trying to go into business as salt mine impressarios.

    It's mostly about understanding that, when you start out as members of the gentry, it's not so much about enriching yourself or saving your skin (like in D&D and most RPGs) as it is about trading in the currency of what others think of you. The fact you get a Glory (i.e. XP) bonus for dying heroically communicates this pretty well, I think.

    1. Yeah - it's definitely something to adjust to, but I think that that is one of the cool things about RPGs in general - you can play around with a mindset and values system that is very different to your own.

      Even though not a lot has been said (in game) so far about the exact obligations to the Earl (and by extension Uther), there is something compelling in it. In D&D/LotFP I might go on a mission at someone's request, but I don't feel - generally - any great loyalty to them, or obligation to complete it. I'm generally doing it because I want the gold or XP or the sense of achievement.

      In Pendragon, when out on the hunt, there was a real sense that we were doing it because it was right.

  3. Looking forward to the next session. It's starting to get interesting.

    1. Yes it is. What will I have to do to get the ultra beam repaired??? ;)

      I also need to find time in the next two weeks to stat up my second charger...