My Mom’s a Mech Merc on Mars

I’ve been GMing a very hacked version of Lancer. Our setting has kind of a Cowboy Bebop meets Hammers Slammers meets professional sports vibe: pilots are professionals but it’s just a job. It’s not personal. And because they’re in mighty mighty mecha, even if they get wrecked in combat they are likely to walk away with minor injuries so they can have a drink at the bar with pilots from the other side and talk smack between battles.

Likewise, most pilots change outfits a lot over their careers. You do a stint with the Wolves of Ganymede, but when your contract is up maybe you sign with the Redstars, until they fire you or you get a better offer. Which means you’ve got history with a lot of different outfits. An ally today might be an enemy tomorrow. But again, it’s not personal… except when it is.

So when the players are making characters, I ask them to tell me a little story about an outfit they served with in the past, one that they had a bad experience with. Some place that threw them under the bus or treated them unfairly. An outfit they would not want to work with again and which probably wouldn’t hire them.

When everyone is done, I ask them to tell me about another outfit they had a great experience with. Someplace they really liked and would gladly work with again. And of course explain why and what happened.

Great! Now guess what? The outfit you hate is actually the same as one that someone else loved, etc. Criss-cross randomly, but make sure no two players match on both the good and bad side (or just pass to the left, etc).

Yeah, INVICTUS abandoned you in the middle of a battle, cutting a deal to end the conflict and leaving you behind enemy lines, forcing you to hide from pitchfork-wielding locals and find your own way out when your mech ran out of gas. But that’s the very same INVICTUS who was founded by another character’s mother. She taught her son everything about being a mech mercenary, and yeah she *totally* loved having him on the team but eventually every bird has to leave the nest and fly on their own…

“That piece of shit is your Mom???”

It’s a little bit shades of Western Paranoia, except in this case the players all know right from the start even if the characters don’t. Or do they? I let each pair of players decide when and how they want it to come out. Have they been bickering about their conflicting opinions of this one outfit as long as they’ve known each other? (“Naw, the Hellcats are totally cool! You probably just weren’t a good fit…”). Or is it a landmine that has never been trod upon… until our heroes find themselves on the same battlefield as that outfit. And suddenly it’s awkward.

Who’s right? Are those people terrible or awesome? Who knows??? Every point-of-view is biased, and each person only sees some slice of the story. Maybe everything happened for a good reason. Maybe it was all a big misunderstanding. Maybe.

You should totally talk this out. Forget that you’re sitting at the controls of a 50 ton wrecking ball loaded with missile racks and autocannons. Use your words.

“That piece of shit is your Mom???”

Not the words I was thinking of. Okay fine: roll for initiative.

    Ben Robbins | August 16th, 2023 | , | leave a comment