GearHead is a tactical roguelike game that has a focus on mecha and futuristic combat in a post-post-apocalyptic setting.
GearHead is a anime-inspired giant robot fighting roguelike made by Joseph Hewitt.
The GearHead Roleplaying Game attempts to truthfully emulate the digital game while allowing play anywhere by hand, enabling people to tell their own stories using mechanics very similar to the roguelike but modified to allow faster digital play.
In GearHead, a character is made up of a number of statistics and skills that track their current condition and their abilities.
Reflexes plays an important role in combat, and is a measure of a character's grace and accuracy.
Someone with high Reflexes would be an Olympic gymnast or marksman, while someone with low Reflexes would only endanger themselves and others by attempting physical feats of prowess or holding a gun.
Body measures a character's size, physical strength, endurance, and is used to calculate health and stamina levels.
Someone with high Body would never get sick, be resilient against injuries, and could carry a heavy load of gear for a long period of time, while someone with low Body would be sickly, frail, and complain about a ten-pound backpack.
Speed marks a character's ability to move and react to their environment.
Someone with high Speed would make a good sprinter or dancer, while someone with low Speed would lag behind other people and react slowly to events.
Perception is the gauge of a character's general awareness and spacial recognition, which assists in finding hidden objects.
Someone with high Perception would be able to spot a clue at a contaminated murder scene, while someone with low Perception would have problems finding their own television remote.
Craft measures a character's ability to use tools and other such practical technology, and is important for repairs.
Someone with high Craft could make high-quality machined parts and patch up gear, while someone with low Craft barely could keep things in one piece with a lot of duct tape.
Ego stands for a character's willpower and self-reliance, and helps with fending off exhaustion and concentrating for long periods of time.
Someone with high Ego is confident and assured, while someone with low Ego is prone to depression and anxiety.
Knowledge is a combination of intelligence and education, and is used to study complex concepts and phenomena.
Someone with high Knowledge could do complex mathematical equations and conduct a science experiment with relative ease, while some with a low Knowledge skill struggles with difficult mathematical problems and dreads science fairs.
Charm measures how good-looking and socially adjusted a character is.
Someone with high Charm looks stunning and knows how to overcome an infrequent social faux pas, while someone with a low Charm looks shabby and tends to misspeak in conversations.
Hit points measure the amount of physical damage a living creature or a can suffer before they die. The number of hit points a character has is based off of their Body and their level. Hit Points can naturally heal over time, or be returned by the use of certain pills the use of the Medicine skill.
Stamina Points are used as a fuel to allow a character to engage in physically exerting activities such as combat and running, and are based off of their Body and Ego.
The formula for calculating Stamina Points is (Body+Ego+5) divided by 2, plus twice a character's level.
Mental Points reflect a character's ability to concentrate on and perform mentally involved tasks for long periods of time, and are based off of Knowledge and Ego.
The formula for calculating Mental Points is (Knowledge+Ego+5) divided by 2, plus twice a character's level.
Weight Capacity represents how many kilograms a character can carry, and is based off of Body and character level.
A character can carry a number of kilograms equal to (Body+Level)/2+1.
For every kilogram a character attempts to carry past their Carrying Capacity they lose 2 points of Speed and 1 point of Reflexes until they get rid of enough stuff to be back under their carrying capacity.
Making a character for the GearHead Roleplaying game is simple; one can download GearHead 2 (generation methods and skills are compatible as of version 0.628) and create a character, then port that character over by copying their cash, mecha, total and free experience points, skills, stats, and talents from the Field HQ in-game, then re-calculating their HP, MP, SP, carrying capacity, and final skill ratings. Characters made with both Basic and Advanced modes can be copied over, though the manual method most closely represents the Advanced mode.
Alternatively, a character can be made by hand. The way that a character is made is somewhat simplified in the manual version, but characters are still very similar.
First, a character needs some basic biographical information; name, gender, appearance, motivation, and a personal code of conduct, as well as any interesting facts that do not necessarily directly influence his or her abilities.
Example: Jim is making a character, and decides to name him Hawkeye. He's a guy, fairly tall, and is a bit of a joker but is typically cheerful and sociable.
Second, a character's age is selected. An adventurer in GearHead is usually between 16 and 30 years old. They start with $47,000 to spend on gear if starting at age 16, but lose $3000 for every year past that. Sixteen-year-old adventurers get 25 Total (and Free) Experience, and older adventurers gain an additional 25 experience for every year past their sixteenth. This is not their final starting Total Experience and cash.
Jim decides Hawkeye is 19, a great age to go adventuring. He starts with $38,000 and 100 Total Experience to distribute between skills at the end of character creation.
Third, a character selects a hometown from the Locations section in Section 4. Some locations also allow characters to choose a faction, which gives them a source of employment and allows them more options for starter mecha. Factions can call favors, and at the Narrator's discretion all players may have to be from the same hometown and/or faction.
Jim decides that Hawkeye should come from Earth, and decides he's from a small farming town, Hogye, which catches his eye. However, Jim decides that Hawkeye is fiercely independent, and never joined a local faction, so he doesn't have a faction.
The Narrator and Jim discuss who Hawkeye's parents are; a Guardian and a Doctor. As such, he gains 400 Experience to spend after character creation, but only on personal-scale combat or scientific and medical skills.
The fifth step is choosing a job; a character gets a free level in any skill that a job has. Jobs can have up to five skills selected, giving the character a free level in each, but jobs pay $150,000 minus $25,000 for every skill they require, so a character with a job that focuses on one skill has much more money than someone with a job that boosts five skills.
Jim wants Hawkeye to be a professional performer, and chooses Conversation and Performance as his favored skills, meaning that he gets $100,000 and marks down a skill level in each of his favored skills.
The sixth step is allocating stat points. All of the character's primary stats start at 1, and may be increased up to 15 by allocating one of 82 points. Improving a stat past 15 requires two points. There is a maximum of 20 in any stat during character creation. Some talents require a high level in a stat,
Jim decides that Hawkeye has 18 Charm, so he allocates 14 points to get to 15, then 6 points to get up to 18. He spends the remaining 62 points as equally as possible between the other 7 stats, giving himself 10's in everything but Craft, which he has 9 ranks in. He's not so good with his hands, but he's pretty average otherwise, if one doesn't look at his face.
The seventh step of character creation is deciding on a character's skills. Characters get 50 points to spend, and they pay one point for the first advancement of a skill, then an additional point to upgrade it for each time they have upgraded it (basically, if you've bought a point in that skill at this stage already, you have to spend 2 points, and then you'd have to spend 3, and so forth). Skills that have been upgraded as part of the character's job do not need to be paid for at a higher rate.
Note that a character can only learn a number of skills equal to their Knowledge+2, so some characters may not be able to buy low levels in lots of skills.
Jim improves Hawkeye's social skills, focusing on his Charm-related skills; improving his Performance, Conversation, and Shopping to 6, 6, and 5 respectively at the cost of 15 points each, leaving him with 5, which he devotes to Dodge (2), Mecha Piloting (1) and Initiative (1).
Characters choose a talent from the Talents section later in this Section. This is done after gaining skills, and characters must select a talent that they meet the requirements for.
Jim decides that Hawkeye should have the talent "Idealist Blood", which gives him three stat points to distribute at random as per the instructions. He writes down the talent on his character sheet, rolls the dice three times, and improves his Ego, Knowledge, and Craft.
After choosing talents, characters may select their first mecha. It may be anything they can get based their hometown, faction, and cash. A character's mecha may be as expensive as $245,000 plus half of their current cash (minimum $250,000). Mecha that cost more than $250,000 will have their price difference subtracted from the character's cash. Characters do not receive bonus cash for choosing a cheaper mecha.
Jim wants to buy a $275,000 mecha, which is possible given that Hawkeye has $138,000; he subtracts the $25,000 he owes from his money, leaving him with $113,000.
Finally, characters may choose to take a penalty in their traits for some compensation; this must be done equally for the whole group. Characters may modify their Heroic or Lawful reputation 5 points in the negative (i.e. Villainous or Criminal), and they may lower their reputation 5 points, and will receive $100 and 20 Experience each for each point.
Jim consults with his fellow players, and they decide to play a band of do-gooders down on their luck. This means that it doesn't make sense for them to be bad guys, but they definitely have a Wangtta reputation. This means they're at the bottom of the pecking order (slightly), and will get less pay for their early missions.
Advancement in the GearHead Roleplaying Game is handled in a couple different ways.
First, at the end of each session or after a particularly important event, the narrator can choose to award experience points to characters. Some characters may begin the game with more experience points than others, to reflect their knowledge in life. When experience is awarded, whether by the narrator or by the process of character creation, it is added to both the Total and Free experience categories.
A character may then spend their Free Experience in order to advance their skills or primary statistics. Learning a new skill at level 1 costs 100 experience, and increasing a skill costs 100 experience for every level a character has in it, multiplied by itself for each sixth increase (including ones during character creation). This means that a character wanting to advance from level 5 to level 6 pays 500 Free Experience to advance, while increasing from level 6 to level 7 costs 1200 experience.
In GearHead all skills have a favored primary statistic. When a "skill rating" is called for, it calls for both the skill and a the statistic that modifies it, with a slight tweak; rather than taking the statistic directly one determines (Stat rating+2)/3, meaning that you get a minimum of +1 from a statistic (statistics cannot fall below 1), plus your skill rating, plus any bonuses or penalties.
Your Skill Rating is very important, because it determines what dice you roll (see the table below).
If your score is more than 10, then you roll a d10 and d12 per 10, and the remainder is looked up on the table as normal (see the example for Skill Rating 11). This means that you can essentially continue with skill ratings infinitely, though doing so would become prohibitively expensive for a character.
Rolls are often expressed as having a certain "Target Number", this is either a static number determined by the Narrator or a roll made by whatever the target of an action is. The goal of every roll is to have the dice come up with a total greater than the Target Number. Below are some standard Target Numbers:
Notice that it is possible for characters to begin to achieve Epic feats shortly after vanilla character creation using this scale, which means that it may not be right for all games. To counter this it may be necessary to make the in-game events more difficult or to use character creation with fewer skill points allotted, increase the cost of skills, and the like, especially for large groups of players.
Contrary to its roots, the GearHead Roleplaying Game tends to treat scale more on an abstract level. As a general rule, there are five scale factors encountered in GearHead; SF:0, which is personal scale; SF:1, which is about the equivalent of a modern car; SF:2, which most mecha fall under, is about the equivalent of major construction equipment or a medium-sized plane (think stealth bomber); SF:3, which is what most spaceships are, and would be about the size of a nautical vessel (with at least 500 passengers/crew); and then spinners, planetoids, Earth, and the like that are left free of categorization. Needless to say, this means that there are some major differences in how things are handled for different objects based on their scale, even if they are handled mostly the same way.
The very first thing that happens is that each combatant rolls their Initiative skill rating, modified by any appropriate bonuses or penalties. When this is complete, the ratings are compared (higher is better), and combatants move in this order. In the case of a tie, characters with the highest Initiative skill rating go first, or the Narrator decides who goes.
It is important to notice that each character in combat moves in order, but may take a number of attacks equal to their weapons' speed rating (with each individual weapon) and move based on their Speed (whether or not they are mecha or people, though the two are handled somewhat differently).
Movement is simple; a character can move a number of squares equal to a third of their Speed Rating, rounded down. They may also run at half their Speed Rating, rounded down, but doing so costs 1 Stamina Point and hurts their aim with any attacks.
Mecha may move at their full Speed Rating each round, without incurring penalty, and may also move at double their Speed Rating, though doing so costs 1 Mental Point to concentrate on avoiding obstacles and tracking foes, and moving so fast disrupts their aim with attacks.
Attacker declares an action
This stage is simple, the attacker's turn comes up, and he checks to make sure that he can hit the opponent with his weapon, and that he is capable of using his weapon (basically that the foe is close enough, in the right direction, and the attacker still has ammo). Then the attacker rolls for his attack. Certain weapons can modify the attack roll by a given amount, so any weapon traits are checked to ensure they are considered.
Defender declares defenses
Each defender in combat is allowed to use all of their possible defenses on a given turn. A successful defense costs 1 Stamina Point (but none if they fail), but can save the character from serious injury and avoid mecha damage. If at any time the defender's defense roll equals or beats the attacker's roll, the defender takes no damage (except potentially to gear, as noted in certain defenses).
During the defense process, it is important to record the highest roll of all, because if the rolls all fail the highest roll plays a role in factoring in the opponent's damage.
Dodging is the first roll a player makes, and uses Dodging for personal-scale combat, and Mecha Piloting for mecha-scale combat. A successful dodge means the attack missed. A mecha's MV is added to this roll. Certain talents modify Dodging further. Any Dodge versus an attack by an adjacent opponent suffers a -5 penalty. If the dodging roll succeeds, the attack misses.
Electronic Countermeasures are applied in mecha combat only, using your Electronic Warfare skill plus the ECM's rating. Electronic Countermeasures have all their defense rolls modified by -5, since even a blind projectile is still capable of hitting the user. This does not apply to weapons fired at a mecha by a character on foot, unless they are guided. Electronic Countermeasures cost Mental Points as opposed to Stamina Points if they succeed.
Blocking can be done if a character or mecha has a shield ready. This uses either Mecha Fighting or Close Combat, and is modified by the shield's Defense rating. Each individual shield can only block three times a turn, at the most. Energy-based shields do not take damage when hit, but normal shields do, and lose DP according to the attack when they are hit (but are immune to critical hits, since they have no weak spots). If blocking succeeds, the attack skips to damage calculation. The defender never takes damage on a successful block, but cannot block with a destroyed shield
Weapons can also be used to intercept incoming projectiles from weapons size DC11 or greater. This does not apply to energy weapons, but allows a defender to shoot down large projectiles. The defender fires at the incoming projectile with a weapon that has the "Intercept" value. This uses up an attack with the weapon, and can lower its ammunition. The Burst Value and Accuracy of a weapon are factored into this attack, just as they would in a normal attack. This roll uses Ranged Combat or Mecha Gunnery.
Close combat weapons can be used to parry close combat attacks. They must be capable of attacking (at the time of the opponent's attack), and gain a +3 bonus, and the weapon's Accuracy bonus, to this roll. It uses an attack like interception, and works much the same. One thing to note is that if the weapon is material and defending against an energy weapon, it takes damage, or vice versa; no damage is taken when parrying with weapons of same types. Parrying only works when fighting with a weapon of the same size scale as the opponent or a larger weapon (this refers to personal versus mecha scale, a survival knife can parry a battleaxe).
After all this, certain talents can be activated to allow another defense, but only work under certain conditions; activating a defense with a talent always costs a Stamina Point whether it succeeds or fails.
The Penetration is the degree you beat the defender's roll by, divided by 5.
For weapons that can hit multiple times, the number of hits is determined; for melee attacks, Penetration is traded for multiple hits.
Penetration is modified by talents and weapons.
Critical hits are checked against Spot Weakness; if the hit is critical, it adds more Penetration.
The Spot Weakness skill increases the DC of the attack by skill/2, at the scale of the attack. (DC 5x10 would become DC 7x10, not DC 52.)
Modifier: the Sniper talent doubles the effectiveness of Spot Weakness here.
Damage is, finally, applied to the mecha.
There's a number of options to use when fighting. One is the Stationary Defense Rating, which is a number used by the defender instead of rolling; if an incoming attack roll comes up at or below any of the defender's SDR values the attack automatically fails. The method for calculating SDR is as follows:
GearHead is the work of Joseph Hewitt, who is responsible for most of its content and programming, as well as most of the mechanics you see here.
A lot of the writing on this page is taken more or less wholesale from the GearHead wiki with some minor adjustments and expansions by myself and formatting into a single document rather than individual pages.
Unlike the rest of the stuff on my site, I don't actually own the license to GearHead. The game itself (the tabletop game is based off of GearHead 2) is licensed under GNU LGPL 2.1, while the wiki is licensed under (?- I can't find the license anywhere); I have been given written permission to undertake this project.
Here's where I'll be writing about why and how I changed stuff, just so that people know.
Level: Levels are actually, looking back at the game and how talents are assigned, a relatively intuitive step (the code goes as follows:
I'd actually decided on where and how I was going to take the level system before stumbling upon this while sitting around before a lecture, so I found it to be a sort of backup for what I'm doing. Traditionally Talents are bought for their advantages, with a free one at character creation, but I elected offering the choice of Free Experience or a Talent for each level gained allowed quicker character differentiation and built a more interesting flow in a game where points tend to be awarded in groups rather than as a gradual increment.
Levels are probably the hardest decision I made when revising personal-scale characters, since the snippet of code above (LGPL 2.1 licensed, by the way), is pretty much the closest thing I have to a concrete endorsement.
Talents: Talents should function near to the standard GearHead ones, though I'll probably mess around with them a mite in order to get an optimal loadout. Tech Vulture may be out of question because I'll probably not include rules for customization (and also because it raises questions of property ownership I don't want to have people deal with).
Experience gain: I didn't really do much to this, though I removed slow skill trickle up. Sort of like how talents are awarded with levels, the trickle-up effect is both reflected by a passive increase in HP, SP, MP, weight capacity,
Salvage and SF:2: I'm doing away with a lot of mecha customization stuff just because mecha are already way complex for the tabletop. I'm just doing them as a conversion guide; if someone wants to make a custom mecha they can make a datafile and load it into the game and then use that, or they can build it in game and convert from there. Naturally, the parts list on a mecha is still accurate, so people could mess around. Minor modifications in terms of weight shouldn't be reflected on the scale that I'm using here, though strapping on a new battery of guns and wings would probably constitute a major change.
HP, SP, MP, and Weight Capacity: I changed these based off of a jaunt through the source code (and later the wiki), where I discovered the exact formulas. All but HP are based off of a skill that's been removed. I made HP dependent on Toughness partly because I'd already written it in as such, and also because I want to keep people from dying as often, and also so that there can be "tank" style characters for non-combat characters. I also replaced all hidden skills with a blanket "character level" system, so all of those attributes are based off of level.
Mechanical Accuracy: My goal with this is to make it so that characters can be converted with just knowledge of their Skills, Stats, Talents, and current Total and Free Experience points. It's not necessarily going to be perfectly accurate, and some of the HP/MP/SP/Carrying Weight values will be off, partly because they advance through hidden variables in play. If you really were proficient, you could calculate those skills and copy them over, but you'd need to update the character sheet every time they were used for one-to-one accuracy, which quickly becomes impractical. I'm less careful about SF:2 conversions just because they're hard for people to do, in-game mecha can be moving 216.2 kilometers an hour, so I decided to just scale everything down. Combat is also a place where there will probably be some discrepancies, just to make things go faster, both in personal and definitely mecha scale stuff. Gear and mecha in and of themselves should be handled with the same degree of mechanical accuracy as in the game, and DP will still be used on armor to prevent personal scale damage, but I may lower the focus on body parts and combine armors into sets. Mecha will still go through damage exactly as in the roguelike, though maybe not in terms of how/where the damage source is determined (or in other words, the rolls to hit and to determine where the mecha is hit).
Target Numbers: I'm pulling these mostly out of thin air to present examples. The reason that the table for this is as it is, however, is to promote the feel of the original GearHead games, in which starting characters with a proper focus could become very powerful (Skill Rating 9 before spending any experience). Naturally, this doesn't necessarily lend itself to good party play, but it also promotes defined party roles, which I decided wouldn't be horrible (everyone can afford a combat skill or two, but who all has performance?).
Damage and Armor: I'm making it so that any attack hits armor first before moving in, with the exception of armorpiercing or Brutal attacks, with a very simple reason; it's easier. It's not mechanically true to GearHead, but it means that there's a lot less math in combat, and with the potential for a ton of defense rolls it's not very helpful. I'm also replacing Penetration with a simple damage scaling, so it'll go faster. I'm reducing the -1 from Damage Class damage calculations to keep combat similarly quick and deadly. The damage and armor system cooperates nicely with a decision to simplify personal scale combat (since it'll happen a lot more often) to be non-locational and simply have protection based on a "set" of armor that composites all the individual pieces of a set. This is lazy, but it also is fast. Mecha combat still has locational damage because it doesn't make sense for a mecha to die because its arm has been blown off (contrary to how such an injury affects a human). This also makes personal scale fighting more fun, and keeps it from feeling like something you need to prepare for; I'm trying to create a feel of personal combat being a casual encounter and mecha combat being something deliberate and with a certain weight attached.
Exploding Dice: I removed these because they were a lot of work and didn't really affect the game too much, especially given that you have multiple people attempting various skills, so one person's Survival can be supplemented by a second person's roll. Also, it means differentiation is slightly more important.