Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Battlechanger as Mecha

One of the things I wanted to do with Battlechangers (which is just one or two images from publication!) is to include a way to 'hack' the race creation system to build piloted, transformable mecha rather than sentient transforming robots.

I always planned to include mecha in future 'tech-oriented' Black Tokyo releases, and they fit well with my other campaign worlds. In the Battlechangers: Ironworks PDF, I'm going to stat up 3 distinct mecha designs, based on what I feel are the three most iconic robots in anime and gaming, and expect more when Battlechangers: Multiverse hits.

I doubt these three mecha designs will be illustrated in Ironworks, but I should be able to get comissioned art for at least some of them by the time Multiverse goes to press. That's a pretty unfortunate cost saving measure, but you probably already know how these mechs look anyway.

Take a look at how I built Veritech "Valkaryie" homage robot called the Cloudfire using the Battlechangers ruleset below.

Transforming Mecha: Battlechangers as Vehicles
            By hacking the Battelchanger race creation system somewhat, players and gamemasters can create piloted, transformable mecha rather than self aware alien robots. This section gives some basic rules of thumb for building Transforming Mecha.

·        Transforming Mecha are treated as Constructs of the appropriate size. Transforming Mecha gain the Battlechanger and Meca subtypes.

·        You spend Shannix as normal for a Battlechanger of the Mecha’s size to customize the Transforming Mecha. The Transforming Mecha gains an alt-mode (s) as normal, which usually must be a Vehicular alt-mode, though mechanical Primitive modes are possible with game master approval.

·        Transforming Mecha are typically mindless (but see the Mecha subtype). They might gain bonus feats by spending Shannix.

·        If the Transforming Mecha is treated as equipment, pricing and rarity are at the GM’s discresion, but usually these are extremely expensive, multi-million dollar hardware, equivalent in price to any other military vehicle and just as hard to acquire.

·        If the Transforming Mecha is intended as an opponent, assign ability scores and additional abilities as desired, keeping the monster creation guidelines in The Bestiary in mind. Usually these enemy Transforming Mecha are assigned a BAB appropriate to their challenge rating and ability scores representing an average, undistinguished pilot, with a 10 in all attributes save DEX, which is 15. The GM should modify as necessary to produce elite Mecha pilot opponents.

·        While piloting the Transforming Mecha, the pilot has total cover and cannot typically be targeted by physical affects, but remains vulnerable to magic and psionics. When the Transforming Mecha is reduced to 0 HP it is disabled and non-functional. When reduced to -20 HP or fewer, it explodes, inflicting 5d6 fire + 1d6 fire damage per Mecha Hit Dice (REF DC 20 half).

·        The Transforming Mecha’s pilot is considered to be wearing Heavy Armor for the purpose of arcane spellcasting failure.
New Subtypes

            Monstrous Humanoids with the Battlechanger subtype are powerful alien mechanoids able to alter their form into vehicles, tools and other useful shapes.

            Constructs with the Mecha subtype are vehicles designed to operate under the direct control of an intelligent pilot. Mecha have the following qualities.

·        Though the Mecha’s type is Construct, it is vulnerable to mind-influencing effects through its pilot. This weakness does not apply if the Construct is unmanned. Location: Weaknesses Format: Intelligent Pilot  
·        Piloted (EX) Some of the Mecha’s qualities, marked with an asterisk in the statblock, are replaced by the Mecha’s pilot if they are greater. The following qualities are replaced by the pilot’s when the Mecha is in action: alignment, languages, REF and WILL Saves, base attack bonus (which may modify CMB and CMD), DEX,  INT, WIS and CHA scores.
Location: Special Qualities Format: Piloted
Mecha, Cloudfire – CR 10
Huge N* Construct (Battlechanger, Mecha)
XP 9,600
Init +2 Senses Darkvision 500 ft, lowlight vision, perceive unencrypted radio/television/wifi signals, Perception +0       
Languages pilot’s languages*

AC 22 Touch 10 Flatfooted 20 (-2 size, +2 DEX, +12 natural)
HP 13d10 + 40 hp (112 HP)
FORT +4 REF +6* WILL +4*
Immune Construct Immunities
Weaknesses Cybernetic Security Risk -1, Intelligent Pilot  

Spd 40 ft Flight ft (average) alt-mode only
Melee +13/+8/+3 slam (2d8+2 bludgeoning, 20/x2)
Reach 15 ft
Ranged +15/+10/+5 Military Plasma Rifle of Distance (2d12 fire, 19-20/x2, 60 ft range increment, semi auto, 12 cell)
or +14/+9/+4 High UV Laser Pistol (2d8 fire, 20/x3, 30 ft range increment, single shot, infinite ammo)
Special Attacks Mini-Missile Flurry (4x/day)
Special Qualities Piloted, No Breath, Starflight, Unhealing

Str 15 Dex 15* Con - Int 10* Wis 10* Cha 10*
Base Atk +13 CMB +17 CMD 19
Feats Ground Walk Mode, Mini-Missile Flurry
Skills Fly +4
Gear 6x spare cells for the Military Plasma Rifle (hip carry)
Headware – Onboard Computer
Shannix Budget
Damage Reduction (1), Efficient Systems (1), Feat Programming (Ground Walk Mode, Mini-Missile Flurry) (total 4) Special Weapon (+2 Military Plasma Rifle of Distance) (3), Special Weapon (+1 High UV Laser Pistol of Infinite Ammo) (2)

Environment any land or air
Organization serves as a vehicle for a Medium pilot
Treasure none

Special Abilities
Fuelon Reserve (EX)
             The Cloudfire has 8 points in its Fuelon reserve. It can expend a point of Fuelon to achieve a number of results, described fully in Battlechangers: Ironworks.

Ground Walk Mode (EX)
            The Cloudfire can assume a hybrid robot/aircraft form. In this form, it can use all vehicle mode weapons, as well as carry and manipulate objects.

Massive Strength (EX)
            The Cloudfire’s pneumatics and artificial musculature allows it to haul enormous weights, out of proportion to her size. Its lifting, carrying and dragging limits are 100 times greater than a humanoid creature of its size. Its maximum load is 20,000 lbs.

            Mini-Missile Flurry (EX)
            As a full-round action, the Cloudfire Mecha can unleash a flurry of mini-missiles against all targets within 500 ft who do not have total cover. The Cloudfire may target up to 6 individual opponents, inflicting 10d8 damage, half of which is ballistic, half of which is fire. Targets may attempt a DC 18 REF Save for half damage. The Cloudmaster can use a mini-missile flurry four times per day.

The Cloudfire’s alt-mode is a futuristic warplane, extensively modified from the F-15 design legacy. Fast, sleek and powerful, the Cloudfire’s purpose as a finely tuned instrument of war is clear. External weapons and armor, as well as drop off fuel pods and exo-atmospheric boosters give the Cloudfire even more threatening lines. The Cloudfire Mecha can change from alt-mode to robot mode as a move equivalent action that never provokes attacks of opportunity.
Classification Huge Sky Fighter
Armor Class 24
Damage Reduction 5/-          
Spd Fly 1,000 ft (average)
Maximum Load 20,000 lbs
            The Cloudfire can carry a single passenger, aside from the pilot in the instructor’s seat.

            The Cloudfire Mecha is a standard by which transformable mil-spec vehicles are judged. Fast and sleek, in its robot configuration, this mecha is a capable giant, dominating the battlefield with heavy firepower and great dexterity. Cloudfire Mecha serve as close-in air support, strafing ground vehicles and infantry with their integral energy weapons, using the mini-missiles slung beside the cockpit either as anti-personnel or anti-armor weapons, depending on the mission.

            The Cloudfire’s cockpit becomes an armor clad control pod within the robot’s chest, as reinforced plating slides into place to protect the bullet proof polymer. The robot has slender, humanoid proportions, with its wings partially retracting into the spinal plating, while the underslung missile pods move to become part of the shoulder plating.

            Cloudfire Mecha are painted in squadron colors, often with impressive nose art or tail-fin deco identifying the best pilots and most legendary machines. Most are painted in a smoke grey with golden trim and canopy, for best concealment among the clouds.

Variant Transforming Mecha: Apache Hunter
            The Apache Hunter is a helicopter-based iteration of the Cloudfire Mecha, transforming from a robot mode similar to the Cloudfire’s into a helicopter gunship. Apache Hunters are usually a matte black with smoked canopy and dark navy trim, tuned for night operations. The mecha’s four bladed rotors fold and partially retract, becoming a back-pack like unit. The Apache Hunter is taller and thinner than a Cloudfire Mecha, with more spindly proportions. Unlike the Cloudfire, an Apache Hunter carries only a single ranged weapon, a powerful anti-tank chaingun.

            Use the Cloudfire Mecha stat-block with the following changes.

Special Qualities Remove Spaceflight
+16/+11/+6 Flaming M-60 Machine Gun (2d8 ballistic + 1d6 fire, 20/x2, 100 ft range increment, full auto, infinite ammo)
Shannix Budget
·        Replace Damage Reduction (1) with Racer (1)
·        Replace both Special Weapons with Special Weapon (+3 Flaming M-60 Machinegun of  Infinite Ammo) (5)
Feats Add Hover (alt-mode only)

The Apache Hunter’s alt-mode is a futuristic ground attack helicoptor, resembling a more advanced Apache bristling with missile pods and carrying a single chaingun firing depleted uranium rounds from a gimbaled mount slung beneath the cockpit. The Apache Hunter can change from alt-mode to robot mode as a move equivalent action that never provokes attacks of opportunity.
Classification Huge Sky Fighter
Armor Class 24
Spd Fly 1,250 ft (good)
Maximum Load 20,000 lbs
            The Apache Hunter can carry a single passenger, aside from the pilot in the instructor’s seat.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Art Preview: Ecchi Enchantments

In addition to my Battlechangers work, I'm also doing a short sequel to Enchantments of Black Tokyo, to be called Ecchi Enchantments, that focuses primarily on sex related magic items. Amanda just sent me a bunch of great work in progress shots of her illustrations for the book.

In her email to me, she referred to the first image as 'still life with gun and panties', which is such a classical title for a Black Tokyo image. I loved it. I was thinking of using something else as the cover, but I might use this image for the cover art. The other image depicts a critical hit enhancing amulet related to Lord Sharkskin, a setting villain I introduced in Black Tokyo: Electric Town, and will be following up on in future source books. This one's more violence than sex, but still a nice addition to the book.

Calling All Perverts!
I love talking to my fans, especially my freakier ones. If you've got a magic item or two you want to see appear in Ecchi Enchantments, no matter how bizarre, send me an email with Ecchi Enchantments in the subject line. You'll get credit in the book (either by real name or psuedonym, whatever you prefer) and a copy of the PDF, and your magic item will become Open Content under the OGL.

Don't send more than a couple hundred words, at most, because this is basically me thowing up the project to my existing readers and fans. I don't feel uncomfortable about asking fans to write 200 words or so worth of magic items for free, because I'm not going to be making huge money off it, and its a chance for them to see something odd and quirky and fun published. I would feel uncomfortable about somebody sending in a 12,000 word manuscript for free. So just send in one or two magic items, if you're interested.

Not sure how long I'll wait before publishing Ecchi Enchantments. I might delay its publication by a little bit if I get a big response, and if any of these items really cry out to be illustrated, there might be a short delay between receipt of the magic item idea and the PDF's publication as I commission additional artwork.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Battlechanger NPC or Two

Last night, mostly to test my Battlechangers: Ironworks manuscript to destruction, I started building some NPCs, who you'll see in the eventual Battlechangers: Multiverse. I ended up statting out three NPCs: two heroes, one villain for my two most iconic settings. So now I know that the system can handle building a Battlechanger Neo-Witch Midwife who turns into a racing bike- sorta like Prime Arcee with a ob/gyn degree (for Otherverse America), a Battlechanger sewer truck with an obsession with cute girls' panties, and a good working relationship with Black Tokyo's Akaname, and a Battlechanger general working with the Lifers after defecting from her own side. That last one, we'll meet today.

So what did I learn? Well the three characters were built at various power levels- the Motorcycle Midwife is a Cleric 6, the Sewer Truck Panty Freak a Ranger 3, and this badass you're about to meet is a Summoner 18, and an absolutely brutal fight. The stat blocks are a little longer than normal, and I debated whether doing a full vehicle stat block for each alt-mode, but eventually decided to just list the changes in a separate section, similar to how Paizo handles Barbarian Rage or other short term, in-combat transformations. I think it works okay, let me know....

Also, these guys are a bit unbalanced, power-wise, but less than I figured, and I find I really don't care too much that they've got incredibly high AC for their level at starting and low tier levels, and can haul INSANE amounts of gear. That's RIGHT for a race of giant robots- even in a high tech setting like Otherverse America, using guns against these big ass, giant metal mecha isn't going to work too well. The race's very high starting AC means that magic and psionics, or clever tactics or teamwork is required to take one down. So yeah, I doubt Battlechangers would be allowed in con games, because they're pretty powerful, but they're evocative, fun and true to the source material. To me, that's more important than pure mechanical balance.... call it a legacy of my first RPG being Rifts.

Anyway, our NPC today is Shocktread, a rather impressive homage of two of the best Decepticons- the classic Soundwave and the newer, but no less evocative, Tarn (that's the page image for today, by the way....). I decided to make her a CR 17 combat monster and place this NPC fairly high up in the Lifer command structure, just throw the Battlechangers concept right into the thick of things and see if it works. Shocktread does. She doesn't deal as much raw damage as her mentor Artemis (nowhere close!),but she's a battlefield control expert, with access to lots of summoning, buffing and teleportation spells- not to mention her own personal Ratbat/Laserbeak homage death machine- that allow a clever GM to use her to punch way outside her weight class. Basically, play her smart, and she can TPK parties at near epic levels.


Shocktread, Repentant Tyrakron Warlord – CR 17
Huge LN Monstrous Humanoid (Battlechanger) Summoner 18
XP 102,400
Init +0 Senses Darkvision 500 ft, lowlight vision, perceive unencrypted radio/television/wifi signals, Perception +19     
Languages Celestial, English, Tech-FG, Tech-SV, Tech-TY

AC 22 Touch 10 Flatfooted 22 (-2 size, +12 natural, +2 shield**)
HP 18d8 + 108 hp (193 HP)
FORT +13** REF +8** WILL +14**
Immune Fire, Suffocation, Vacuum
Weaknesses Cybernetic Security Risk -1

Spd 40 ft
Reach 15 ft
Melee +16/+11/+6 slam (2d8+5 bludgeoning, 20/x2)
Ranged +16/+11/+6 Seeking Antimatter Cannon of Distance (3d10+4 energy*, 19-20/x2, 80 ft range increment, semi auto)
Special Qualities Aspect, Eidolon, Bond Senses, Greater Aspect, Greater Shield Ally**, Life Bond, Life Link, Maker’s Call, Merge Forms, No Breath, Shield Ally, Transposition, Unhealing
            **Greater Shield Ally is already figured into AC and saving throws, above.
Spellcasting (CL 18th Concentration +23) 
Sixth – (3 slots) binding (W-DC 21), charm monster (mass) (W-DC 21), planar adaptation (mass), teleportation circle
Fifth – (5 slots) banishment (W-DC 20), greater heroism, greater rejuvenate eidolon, greater teleport
Fourth –(6 slots) hold monster (W-DC 19), mage’s faithful hound, overland flight, sending, teleport
Third – (6 slots) dimension door, dimensional anchor (W-DC 18), displacement, enlarge person (mass), fire shield, heroism, rejuvenate eidolon
Second – (6 slots) bull’s strength, cat’s grace, haste, invisibility, resist energy, see invisibility
First – (7 slots) expeditious retreat, protection from chaos, protection from good, rejuvenate eidolon (lesser), shield, unfetter
Zero –acid splash, detect magic, message, open/close, read magic, resistance
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 18th Concentration +23) 
8x/Day – Summon Monster IX (or any lower level Summon spell)

Str 23 Dex 11 Con 20 Int 13 Wis 12 Cha 20
Base Atk +13 CMB +21 CMD 31
Feats Augment Summoning, Far Shot, Improved Critical (anti-matter cannon), Legend-Grade Technomage, Summoner’s Call, Spell Focus (conjuration), Toughness, Weapon Focus (anti-matter cannon)
Skills Intimidate +23, Knowledge (religion, history, technology) all +10, Perception +19
Headware – Onboard Computer
Shannix Budget
Damage Reduction x3 (3), Energy Shielding (fire) (1), Feat Programming (Weapon Focus) (2), Special Weapon (anti-matter cannon) (3)

Environment any land
Organization solitary or accompanied by other extremely high CR Lifer operatives or a smaller squad of subordinates, sometimes accompanying Artemis, Gen. Lang or other command level staff
Treasure standard (including gear)

Special Abilities
            Alloyed Technomage (SU)
            Shocktread is the pinnacle of machine evolution- an Alloyed Battlechanger warrior with few rivals. She receives a +1 trait bonus on opposed skill checks made against Battlechangers without the Alloyed trait. She increases the Saving Throw DC of any spell she casts against Battlechangers without the Alloyed trait by +1 DC, which stacks with the effects of Spell Focus (Conjuration) when applicable.

Anti-Matter Cannon (EX)
            Shocktread’s anti-matter cannon inflicts damage of an unspecified energy type, and is not subject to energy resistance or immunity.

Fuelon Reserve (EX)
            Shocktread has 4 points in her Fuelon reserve. She can expend a point of Fuelon to achieve a number of results, described fully in Battlechangers: Ironworks.

Massive Strength (EX)
            Shocktread’s pneumatics and artificial musculature allows her to haul enormous weights, out of proportion to her size. Her lifting, carrying and dragging limits are 100 times greater than a humanoid creature of her size. Her maximum load is 60,000 lbs.

            Shocktread assumes the form of a goliath jet black, multi-tread combat tank of unknown model. In tank mode, she is as massive as a two story office building, and gouges deep canyons in the tarmac of any street she travels down. Her ani-matter cannon becomes the centerpiece of a lethal weapons array, including UAV launch tubes (which move to her upper spine in robot mode) from which she summons the robotic predator known as Life-Flight. Shocktread can change from alt-mode to robot mode as a move equivalent action that never provokes attacks of opportunity.
Classification Gargantuan Ground Fighter
Damage Reduction 15/-
Armor Class 25                     
Spd 100 ft (Slow alt-mode disadvantage)  
Maximum Load 60,000 lbs

Eidolon: Life-Flight
            Shocktread’s Eidolon takes the form of an advanced combat UAV launched from the upper turret of her tank form. When deployed, the semi-autonomous Life-Flight drone spreads batlike wings. This eerily silent, jet black mechanoid is studded with luminous crimson energy vents that glow like bloody stars in the darkness. It prefers nocturnal operations. Life-Flight displays an almost animalistic devotion to its master, often perching atop her shoulder when she is in robot mode. For her part, Shocktread treats the drone with an affection she shows for very few other beings, mechanical or organic.
Hit Dice 14d10 + 70 hp (147 HP)
Size Huge Reach 15 ft Speed 40 ft Fly 50 ft (good)
AC 19
Spell Resistance 29
Immune Critical Hits, Stunning, Fatigue and Exhaustion
Senses Darkvision 60 ft, lowlight vision
Saves FORT +9 REF +13 WILL +11
Attacks +23 bite (1d6 + 17 slashing, 20/x2), two +23 claws (1d8+11 slashing, 20/x2),  +23 wing buffet (1d8 +11 bludgeoning, 20/x2)
Ability Scores STR 33 DEX 19 CON 21 INT 8 WIS 15 CHA 11
Skills Fly +26, Intimidate +17, Perception +19, Survival +19
Feats Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Fleet x2, Fly-By Attack, Hover, Power Attack
Special Qualities Bond Senses, Devotion, Evasion, Greater Shield Ally**, Improved Evasion, Life Bond, Life Link, Maker’s Call, Merge Forms, Shield Ally, Transposition
Evolutions Bite x2, Construct Immunities, Claws, Flight, Limbs (legs), Size Increase: Huge, Skilled (fly) Wing Buffet

            The massive, somber Shocktread is one of the few xenoforms the fearsome star goddess Artemis trusted with command of the Lifer Army of God on Earth. Artemis encountered the Tyrakron general in campaigns across a ten million years, across a million solar systems. Artemis crippled the Tyrakron a thousand times or more and once, just once, Shocktread got the better of the star goddess. She commanded a meticulously planned assault that cost the lives of nearly 1,500 elite Tyrakron special forces troops and scortched the atmosphere of Robemiln-113, but nearly ended Artemis’ immortal existence. But when the thrill of conquest paled, when the glory of the Tyrakron Empire no longer held any luster, Shocktread drifted away from the armies she once proudly commanded.

            Soon after her conversion to Evangelical Lifer Christianity, Artemis made a short sojourn to the stars, eventually tracking the reclusive Shocktread. Artemis introduced the concept of maternity and femininity to the then-genderless Shocktread, forcing the Tyrakron to realize that the affection she felt for her combat partner was almost maternal, and that Shockblast was what humans could easily describe as female. Finding new purpose, resolve and identity, Shockblast accompanied Artemis into Earthspace, bringing ten million years of tactical experience to the Lifer Army of God. Along with General Lang and the Ghosts, Shocktread became one of the core commanders of the war-time Army of God.

            When Artemis fell at Boston, it was Shocktread who accompanied her body to her stellar tomb. She left Earth then, unbound by its laws and treaties, and left for the Big Black. She knew her one time rival, one time mentor would live again, and began intensive training and bio-system upgrades to be ready for her call. Her current whereabouts are unknown to humanity, but rumor of her presence beyond human explored space terrifies the Choicer military agencies tasked with tracking her.

            Shocktread is a massive Tyrakron warrior sheathed in black steel plating that gleams like oil at night. Her already massive frame is made even more imposing by the thick treads that gird her shoulder plating, upper shoulders and hips. On Earth, she redesigned her breast plate and torso cladding for a more feminine shape, and took on purple trim and Lifer rank insignia, even altered her vocal processors to give her words a smoky, feminine and determined cadence. However, she did nothing to soften the multiple layers of cranial armor protecting her facial sensors and systems. Like Artemis herself, Shocktread is armed with a single massive cannon, an anti-matter containment bottle worn on her left forearm, which glows like a dying star. 

            Shocktread is a brilliant general, using her occult and alien abilities to enhance the troops under her command, or to augment tactical maneuvering. She prefers hit and run strikes and well-planned ambushes, and is patient enough to abort a strike if conditions are not exactly right. She is lethally efficient against armed combatants, and shows no mercy and little emotion in battle. However, she has little taste for atrocity and will make a few tactical concession to minimize civilian causalities. While on Earth, she fought fully in accordance with the Geneva and Baghdad Conventions.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Upcoming: Battlechangers and Psi-Watch Bestiary

Having a full time job and 48 hours of work each week, minimum means I'm a little less dependent on RPG releases to pay my rent. That means that instead of smaller releases, I can work on bigger, more impressive books- quality over the blind grabbag of quantity. More art, more content, just better overall.

So what's in the pipeline?

Well, Battlechangers: Ironworks is just waiting on the last artwork from Amanda, Vic and Anthony. Than I'll lay it out and put it up on RPGnow. I plan to support it with Battlechangers: Multiverse, later in the year, which will be a big race-specific bestiary, focusing not only on pre-built NPC Battlechangers, but iconic characters from the non-D20 Battlechangers Quick Play RPG, as well as native bio-mechanical beasties. Also expect to see Battlechanger Iconic Characters built with specific settings in mind, like Otherverse America, Black Tokyo, Psi-Watch and Heavy Future. Eventually, probably at the end of the year, I'll recycle all these resources and more, to publish Battlechangers: Generation Two, a comprehensive second edition of the original Quick Play RPG. The mechanics for that are already finished, so e-mail me if you want a playtest packet.

I just sent a copy of Culture of Choice to my artists, so they can pick through it and select their illustrations. What Black Feats did for Black Tokyo, updating all the feats and powers fully to the Pathfinder system, Culture of Choice will do for the Choicer heroes of Otherverse America. I'll do similar sourcebooks (as yet unnamed) for the Lifers and Fed-Gov within the year.

Finally, I'm actively working on a yet-unnamed Psi-Watch Bestiary, which will be similar in size and complexity to the other monster books I've put out this year. That'll take longer. With Black Bestiary and Closed, I had a core of critters to draw upon from previous sourcebooks. I don't have as much material for Psi-Watch, and it takes a while to fill up a 200 page book with stat blocks. Expect this one in a few months.

So what art am I showing you today? A work in progress image of a Tyrakron robot from Battlechangers. I asked Anthony to make the robot look similar to the Bay Decepticons, as I've always wanted a visual distinction between the Tyrakron and Freegear factions. Freegear look very Gen 1, while Tyrakrons look very Bay-formers. Both are awesome, iconic looks, and making your factions visually distinct, as with the Lifers and Choicers in O.A. makes it easier for readers to get a handle on them.

I also asked Anthony to homage this image from Marvel Comics, wherein the Decepticon Straxxus dispenses death to a couple Autobot POWs.

Next up is a very rough sketch of Anthony's cover for the unnamed Psi-Watch monster book. As you can see, I decided to make the setting's Sentinel analouges, the Watchtower mecha the core baddies. Good choice, I think, especially with this awesome cover.

Blessed Be,

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Suprisingly Adorable

Art preview time!

First up, the inked version of the Tyrakron headshot by Vic Shane. I previewed the pencils for this a few posts ago. The inked version gives him surprisingly soulful eyes; he doesn't look like a mindless bad guy anymore, there's some depth to him, like maybe he's a reluctant soldier....

Next up, take a look at Anthony Cournoyer's illustration of a smaller Battlechanger with a 'gadget alt-mode'. I referenced the great IDW version of Rewind in my art order for this guy, and while I can still see a bit of a resemblance, Anthony has taken this cute little mech in a different and interesting direction.

Finally, take a look at the partial racial traits for the Battlechanger race itself. This preview doesn't include the "Primitive" alt-mode info nor some other crunch, as I want to keep those mechanics as a surprise for the book itself. Let me know if you think anything needs tweaking.

Battlechanger Racial Traits

            Size and Type
            Battlechangers are Monstrous Humanoids.
Though they are a mechanical race, their bodies have vital zones that can be targeted, and they are an intelligent, fully sentient species. They are treated as Monstrous Humanoids rather than Constructs for the same reason Full Conversion Cyborgs (The Polymer Path, Otherverse Games, 2014) are.

            Players choose the size of their Battlechanger at character creation. This size determines many of the robot’s physical characteristics. These include the robot’s base land speed in primary mode, reach, its massive strength multiplier, natural armor bonus, slam attack damage, the capacity of its Fueleon Reserve and the number of Shannix the robot can spend to purchase additional powers and abilities.

            Game Master Note
            The GM is free to restrict Battlechanger characters to a particular size range. Gargantuan Battlechangers are especially unbalanced compared to the organic races- nearly unstoppable physically.

            Size and Weight
            These vary wildly, even among Battlechangers of the same basic size category. Whatever their size, due to their mostly metallic construction, Battlechangers are much heavier than a comparably sized organic. For example, a human sized Battlechanger might weigh as much as 500-700 lbs, depending on configuration. The largest Battlechangers might mass as much as several thousand tons.

Robot’s Size Category
Robot’s Base Landspeed
Robot’s Reach
Robot’s Slam Attack
Natural Armor Bonus
Massive Strength Multiplier
Fuelon Reserve
Shannix Budget
10 ft
0 ft
X 0
12 Fuelon
20 ft
5 ft
X 5
10 Fuelon
30 ft
5 ft
X 10
8 Fuelon
40 ft
10 ft
X 20
6 Fuelon
40 ft
15 ft
X 100
4 Fuelon
60 ft
20 ft
X 1,000
2 Fuelon

            Massive Strength (EX)
            Battlechangers are incredibly strong by humanoid standards. Even the smallest Battlechangers, which stand ‘merely’ 6-8 ft tall are dozens of times stronger than a bipedal humanoid, thanks to their hydraulics, servos and dense, corded steel musculature.

            Battlechangers multiply their lifting, dragging and carrying limits by a multiplier determined by the robot’s size. A Battlechanger’s base landspeed, also determined by its size, is never reduced by armor or encumbrance.

            Robots in vehicular modes can haul cargo or passengers equal to the maximum drag.

            Optics (EX)
            Battlechangers have high-grade optical sensors that provide them with Darkvison with an impressive 500 ft range as well as lowlight vision.

            Communications (EX)
            Battlechangers can perceive and transmit on unencrypted radio, television, wifi and signal protocols. All Battlechangers are considered to have the Onboard Computer cybernetic implant.

            Unique Mechanical Anatomy (EX)
            Battlechangers have unique, modular and metamorphic mechanical bodies. Battlechangers may wear additional armor, but it must be custom made and fitted. Multiply the base cost of armor by the robot’s Massive Strength Multiplier to determine its cost when custom made. Battlechangers cannot transform into their alt-mode while wearing additional armor.

            Battlechangers have the No Breath racial quality. They are immune to poisons diseases that affect only organic creatures, including magical afflictions. They remain vulnerable to afflictions that specifically affect mechanical or bio-mechanical life forms.

            Battlechangers do not heal damage naturally. They must expend Fuelon to activate their Self Repair Systems (see below); alternatively, they can be repaired with Craft (mechanical) as if they were Constructs. A DC 20 Craft check requires an hour of work and restores 1d8 Hit Points.

            Alt-Mode (EX)
            All Battlechangers have an Alt-Mode which they can transform into as a move equivalent action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

If an Alt-Mode’s size is not within one step either direction of the Battlechanger’s robot mode, the robot must use Mass-Shifting to transform. Minor differences in size can be accommodated by purely physical transformations, including sliding and collapsing modular components and creative parts arranging.

Mass Shifting
            Each category of possible alt-modes has transform into a certain size of robot without requiring the strange physics of ‘mass shifting’. A cell phone can become a cat-sized robot scout, and a Honda Civic can transform into a 12 ft tall metallic warrior. Modular components slide into place, folding and arranging themselves as necessary to fill out the robot’s bulk. (Never mind how a 250 lb robot can transform into a 5 ounce iPod… that’s a question cartoons never addressed and we won’t either.)
            A few robots have more extreme size differentials between their robot and alternate forms. An Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine might transform into a robot ‘only’ twenty feet tall, or an old battered Walkman might expand out into a robot a head taller than a human. In this case, these radical alterations in scale are explained away by Technysian mass shifting technology. You don’t need to purchase a special gadget to use Mass Shifting, as this technology is fundamental to the Battlechangers.

            Anytime a robot equipped with Mass Shifting technology transforms, that robot expends a point of Fuelon. Mass Shifting gives robots greater versatility, but is expensive in terms of fuel expenditures.

            Robots that transform into handheld devices sized for normal humans can also choose not to activate their size changing circuitry when transforming. In this case, the robot remains at a scale that would allow the device to be used by any Battlechanger of Giant-Scale or larger. For example, a mini-bot that normally transforms into a pair of human sized binoculars could instead turn into a set of giant-sized goggles for use by other robots. Transforming in this manner does not expend Fuelon.

A Battlechanger’s Alt-Mode is the usually same (or almost the same) size category as its primary mode, unless the robot uses Mass Shifting (explained later) to transform.

            Most Alt-Modes provide the Battlechanger with the Freeze special quality while in that form, provided the Battlechanger is parked in a location where such a vehicle or object would be common. For instance, a Battlechanger in aircraft form could easily hide in an airfield, while a Battlechanger with the alt-mode of an SUV could hide in virtually any urban area. Other alt-modes lack the Freeze special quality entirely- after all it’s hard to hide a 30 ft tall chrome dinosaur.

            Creating an Alt-Mode is described in the next section.

            Fuelon Reserve (EX)
            Battlechangers are powered by the unique, ultra-density alien energy known as Fuelon. Fuelon recovers very slowly once expended. A Medium Battlechanger reduced to 0 Fuelon recovers 1 Fuelon in 24 hours; Large Battlechangers require 96 hours; and it requires one month for a Huge or larger Battlechanger to recover one point of Fuelon and come out of sys-stasis.

            A Battlechanger can willingly enter prolonged sys-stasis to fully recover its Fuelon Reserve. The Battlechanger remains unconscious and helpless until its energies are fully regenerated. Fuelon energy recovers at one point per time period listed above. 

            Fuelon can be expended in a variety of ways to benefit the Battlechanger. Most gadgets and innate powers require Fuelon expenditure. In addition, the Battlechanger can expend Fuelon for the following purposes. In addition, the Battlechanger must expend one point of Fuelon per 24 hours to remain operational; if this need is not met, the Battlechanger enters sys-stasis.

·        Alt-Mode Movement: A Battlechanger with an immobile alt-mode can spend a point of Fuelon to move at a flight speed equal to its base land speed (poor) by magnetic or gravitic levitation for one scene. Move equivalent action.

·        Combat Effort: Expending a point of Fuelon provides a +5 increase to damage on a successful attack. This use must be declared prior to making the check. Swift action.

·        Defensive Effort: Expend a point of Fuelon to halve the damage from an attack that will hit you. This can stack with Evasion, further halving damage (so you suffer ¼ damage on an Evaded attack with Defensive Effort). Immediate action.

·        Energetic Conversion: Expend a point of Fuelon to recover a point of Ki, Grit, or other class based expendable energy resource. Full round action.

·        Extra Effort: Expending a point of Fuelon provides a +5 competence bonus on a particular skill check or attack roll. This use must be declared prior to making the check. Free action (skill) or Swift action (attack roll).

·        Fast Transformation: Override your shift-safety limiters and transform between modes as an immediate action. Immediate action.

·        Lethal Targeting: Expend a point of Fuelon to automatically confirm a critical hit. Immediate action.

·        Mass Shift: If the robot uses Mass Shifting to transform into its alt-mode, one point of Fuelon must be expended when changing modes. No action.

·        Rescanning: Change the cosmetic details of your alt-mode. Full round action.

·        Self Repair Protocol: Expending a point of Fuelon provides the Battlechanger with Fast Healing 5 for one round; every five character levels the Fast Healing increases by an additional 5 points. Standard action.

·        Wrecker: Expend a point of Fuelon to ignore an inanimate object or structure’s Hardness when attacking with your slam for a single attack. Free action.

Ability Scores
            Battlechangers roll or purchase their six ability scores as normal for the campaign. However, by spending Shannix, Battlechangers can permanently upgrade one or more of these scores.

            Rolled and purchased ability scores are not modified by size, as the Massive Strength multiplier effectively simulates a Battlechanger’s prodigious strength without producing dramatically unbalanced combat capabilities.

Optional Castes and Ability Score Modifiers
            Battlechangers, both good and evil, have a caste-based culture. The alien robots are stratified into several social levels, which roughly determines how powerful and competent these robots are.

            The majority of the Battlechanger race are members of the Worker, Disposable or Warrior Castes. Command and Philosopher Caste robots are relatively rare. Of the three common classes, Disposables were the most common at some points in history. In the modern era, after uncounted eons of warfare, naturally Warriors are the most common caste.

            Choosing a caste limits the Battlechanger’s size, and provides ability score modifiers. This step is optional, but extremely flavorful.

            Worker Caste
            -2 DEX, +2 CON, +2 WIS
Worker Caste Battlechangers are the most common examples of the breed. They are bulky, but fuel efficient and robust, with a good grounding of common sense and core programming.

Worker Caste robots must be Large, Huge or Gargantuan. Most have vehicular alt-modes of the Hauler, Rescue or Worker classifications; Ground alt-modes are most common, but these robots are not firmly restricted to the road. Sky and Sea based Workers exist, and keep operations functioning smoothly in those environments.

Disposable Caste
-2 STR, +2 INT, +2 WIS
Disposable Caste robots were extremely common in the distant past, before the Great War, but are less common now days. These highly intelligent and skillful robots were among the physically frailest of the species, and often treated like slaves or servants by larger, more powerful robots. Disposable Caste Robots still suffer a social stigma, even in the supposedly enlightened modern era, where even after millennia of heroism in the Great War, discrimination against these small, quirky bots still exists. Disposable Caste Battlechangers who survived the Great War have become more assertive and forced their factions to acknowledge the importance of their contributions.

Disposable Caste robots must be Tiny, Small or Medium and must have either a Gadget Alt-Mode or a Primitive Alt-Mode that does not incorporate mass shifting.

            Warrior Caste
            +2 STR or +2 DEX
            Warrior Caste Battlechangers are the most common breed of robot, and form the spine of the Freegear and Tyrakron armies. They are designed with superior motive servos and articulators that enable them to excel at their preferred combat modus- either swinging a charged Fuelon axe, or blasting away with null rays.

            Warrior Caste Battlechangers must Medium sized or larger. They are not restricted in terms of alt-mode choice, but very few become Gadgets, and those few who do almost always take a weapon, armor or shield form. The Fighter or Speeder classifications are especially common for those with a vehicular alt-mode. Primitive Alt-Modes are especially common, and often quite impressive.

Command Caste
-2 DEX, +2 CON, +2 CHA   
Command Caste robots are huge, determined and imposing Battlechangers who tower over the smaller robots they command.

Command Caste Battlechangers must be size Large or even larger. They are not restricted in terms of alt-mode choice, but among Freegear the Ground Hauler or Rescue classifications are most common among the leadership. Sometimes Freegear Commanders choose Primitive alt-modes, usually giving favor to powerfully built, mammoth herbivores, dinosaur or simian forms. By contrast, Tyrakrons of the Command Caste are often Ground or Sky Fighters, or else choose an impressive Primitive Alt-Mode, often taking draconic or demonic form. Very few ever choose a Gadget Alt-Mode, but those who do almost always choose weapon forms.

Philosopher Caste
-2 DEX, +4 INT or WIS
Philosopher Caste Battlechangers are the thinkers, scientists, techno-oracles and spiritual leaders of the species. These strongwilled and keenly intelligent robots are often placed in rather bulky, slow moving hulls.

Philosopher Caste robots can assume any size, and have only a few restrictions. They cannot select the Fighter or Speeder classifications for a vehicular Alt-Mode, and rarely take combat focused Primitive Alt-Modes. Gadget Alt-Modes are incredibly common, with many taking the form of scientific devices such as microscopes, DNA centrifuges, MRI scanners, and similar investigatory devices.

            “Junker Caste”
            +4 CON, either -2 INT or -2 WIS
            Though not an officially recognized part of Technysian culture, lost “Junker” colonies and members of the Scavenger Fleet have evolved a similar set of characteristics. Junkers are tough and hardy, able to withstand the kind of damage that would off-line a pair of ordinary Battlechangers. However, their substandard neuro-programming and cultural isolation leaves many either a little dim-witted or flat out insane. These guys are hard to take down, and they dare to be stupid.

Choose Your Alt Mode
            Battlechangers can assume the form of a variety of vehicles. Regardless of their shape, they never need to make Drive or Pilot checks to maneuver themselves in their alternate form. Acrobatics checks might be required instead for spectacular maneuvers, or Swim checks for watercraft.

Vehicle Alt-Modes
            Battlechangers can assume an almost infinite variety of vehicle forms, from humble civilian vehicles like a Scion automobile to earth-shaking combat behemoths like an Abrams main battle tank, from a sleek F-22 Raptor to an archaic yet ultra far-ranging Apollo Rocket.

            While the original Battlechangers featured an extensive list of vehicle alternate modes, Battlechangers: Ironworks takes a more generic, and modular approach.

            Choose Size
First, the player simply chooses the Alt-Mode’s size. If within one step either way of robot mode size, the mech can assume that shape without expending Fuelon, by compressing parts and creatively folding internal components. Dramatically larger or smaller alt-modes require Fuelon to power mass-shifting circuitry.

            Choose Classification
            Now, decide if your Battlechanger will assume a (Ground) landbased, (Sea) aquatic or (Sky) flight capable vehicle mode. Then, decide if your alt-mode favors cargo capacity and endurance (Hauler), passenger capacity and ordinariness (Mover) sheer speed and maneuverability (Speeder), the ability to save organic lives (Rescue), hardhitting physicality (Worker) or ranged combat capability (Fighter).  T

hus you might end up with a Ground Mover, Ground Worker or Sea Fighter type alt-mode, which in game you might decide are either an ordinary SUV, a heavy industrial crane, or a swift Coast Guard cutter, respectively.

These choices determine your alt-mode’s speed and cargo capacity multiplier. Multiply the lifting, carrying and dragging limits by your vehicular cargo capacity multiplier to find your total cargo capacity in alt-mode, which might end up with a particularly brawny robot, with a well chosen alt-mode being able to haul thousands, even millions of tons! This is a huge advantage to robots with say, a starship alt-mode, if they want to carry their allies into battle on a distant planet.
            A vehicle’s speed multiplier modifies all its movement modes. If a vehicle mode provides a natural armor bonus, add this to the robot’s natural armor bonus to determine the Battlechanger’s total natural armor bonus in vehicle form.

Classification I
Base Land Speed
Base Swim Speed
Base Flight Speed 
Classification II
Cargo Multiplier
Speed Multiplier
Natural Armor
200 ft
X 2
X 10
X ½
150 ft
X 5
X ¾
30 ft (or robot mode speed, whichever is less)
500 ft (average)
Flies in Alt Mode only
X 5
X  ¼
X 5
-2 (minimum +0)
X 5
X ½

            Free Vehicle Mode Abilities
            Depending on your classification, your alt-mode gains free abilities, shown on the chart below.

Free Abilities in Alt Mode
Common Alt-Mode trait, usually Freeze
Chem Proof ; usually Freeze
Usually Freeze
One Special Weapon (ranged) worth 3 Shannix or less;  usable in both modes
Chem Proof
Common Alt-Mode Trait, Passenger Hauler feat, usually Freeze
Spell-Like Technology: stabilize usable at will ; cure light wounds
Superspeed Engine; usable in alt-mode only
One Special Weapon (melee) worth 3 Shannix or less; usable in both modes

            Alt Mode Limitations and Advantages
            While in vehicular form, Battlechangers cannot wield or manipulate objects, nor can they use many built in weapons or attack forms, unless the weapon is also logically available in vehicle mode. For example, a Freegear warrior with a tank alt-mode can probably use his built in railgun and missile pods in both vehicle and robot form. By contrast, a Tyrakron warrior with a helicopter alt-mode probably couldn’t use his energy blades in vehicle mode.

            In many cases, the Battlechanger cannot be tripped or bull-rushed in vehicle form, and depending on the GM’s judgment other combat maneuvers simply do not apply. A Battlechanger’s central hull or passenger compartment in vehicle mode occupies as many squares as a creature of its size category normally would. However, especially in the case of aircraft alt-modes, the vehicle’s wings might occupy several more squares.

            A Battlechanger in vehicle form can attempt to ram targets as a vehicle of its size and speed.
            For the sake of simplicity, a vehicles top outside-combat speed and other capabilities (such as halogen headlights, tow lines or other useful accessories) are left vauge. The player and GM should work together to decide these secondary vehicle aspects, based on common sense and real world vehicle capabilities.

Futuristic Vehicles
Some Battlechangers never take an Earth alt-mode, preferring the sleek lines and speed of a futuristic Technysian vehicle. Others consider it a matter of pride, and refuse to soil their cylinders with Earth components. If you want, your alt-mode can be Futuristic- a sleek and alien design that looks like nothing ever designed by an Earth automaker.

Futuristic vehicles do not have the Freeze special quality. Instead, increase their base speeds in all movement modes by 20%. Robots can re-scan and chose an Earth mode to remove these modifiers at any time. Alternatively, an Earth-mode vehicle can be rescanned if the robot has access to Technysian technology, regaining a lost Futuristic alt-mode. Futuristic aircraft always gain Hover as a bonus feat.

Some futuristic versions of Earth vehicles are hovercraft rather than wheeled. These fast, slippery vehicles are treated the same as wheeled vehicles by the rules- but instead of wheels, they float about a foot off the ground, buoyed up by a cushion of magnetic force, pressurized air or some other high tech force.  

Gadget Alt-Modes
            Instead of vehicles, some Battlechangers assume the form of useful devices, usable either by human allies or other robots. These devices might range from a microscope, a tape recorder, a laptop computer or a personal weapon, such as a Fuelon blade or a Walter PPK.

            Choose any technological or manufactured item of any size you wish- you transform into a device of this type. In alt-mode you are normally immobile, however you gain typically gain Freeze and the Common Alt-Mode trait.

Weapons and obviously threatening or dangerous gadget alt-modes (such as a torture-bot Tyrakron that becomes an electric chair) rarely gain the Common quality, though individual GMs might rule certain weapons gain the Common quality in especially warlike cultures where they are….common.

In alt-mode select a particular skill (such as Computer Use for a laptop robot). When used by an ally to perform that skill, both you and that ally make a skill check, and take the better result.

Alternatively, for devices not specifically ‘used’ in a skill check by an ally (such as a cassette player making a Perform (sing) check), you receive a +5 equipment bonus on that skill in alt-mode. As a final alternative, rather than providing a skill bonus, you gain a 1st or 2nd level spell of your choice, usable as a spell-like ability by expending Fuelon while in alt-mode only.

Battlechangers with a weapon alt-mode gain the Best Attack gadget instead.

Battlechangers with a shield or armor alt-mode provide the normal armor or shield bonus of an item of the particular type, but also provide their wearer with an increased armor or shield bonus equal to their CON modifier.

The Battlechanger can augment its weapon or armor/shield alt-mode by expending Shannix as usual, to purchase enhancement bonuses and abilities.