Combat in Falling Stars is performed in mobile suits, enormous robot-like weapons that are piloted from inside like fighter jets or tanks. You have three options when selecting your own mobile suit. First of all, you may take one of the ready-made mobile suits provided in the Mass-produced mobile suit list, and then purchase the weapons you want it to have. You have 20 cps to do this, which should be enough to purchase some decent weapons for just about any suit. This is quick, cheap, and easy, but there are only a few mass-produced mobile suits, and they don’t have a large selection of weapons that they can support.
Secondly, you may simply start the game without a mobile suit of your own, as your character will most likely be provided with one. Again, this is an easy way to simply get your hands on a mobile suit, but you will have even less choice about what kind of suit it is, and what kind of armaments it has.
The third option, which has proven to be the most popular, is to create a custom suit of your own. Custom suits aren’t as powerful as some mass-produced suits, but then they are more powerful than others, and you have many more options about how to equip them. Whichever you do, you should have a good working knowledge of how mobile suits work in the system.
"Eighty percent? Don't be stupid! The Zeong's at one hundred percent capability!" - Zeon soldier, Mobile Suit Gundam
Every mobile suit has its own basic statistics that determine how well it performs in combat. There are four basic attributes.
When creating your own mobile suit, you get 25 cps (character points) to spend on the four stats however you like. Keep in mind that the highest stat cannot exceed the lowest by more than four. Also, keep in mind that armor equals weight, and weight interferes with a mobile suit’s speed and agility. In game terms, if your mobile suit has an Armor stat of 7 (or in the case of a Gundam, a stat of 10) or higher, Maneuverability may not exceed the Armor rating by more than half of the suit’s Output (round down).
After you have those stats, the suit also has a number of secondary attributes.
Then, the player gets half of their Output and Maneuverability (half of the two stats put together, round down) plus eighteen additional cp to spend on weapons, accessories, and other modifiers (if Maneuverability is the suit’s lowest stat, you may substitute Precision), most of which are found in the equipment list. After all the purchases any remaining cps are doubled and become the mobile suit’s current pool of experience points.
Obviously, the most important component of any mobile suit is the pilot. Although I will avoid attaching a lot of unnecessary statistics to the characters, one stat is important, which is pilot skill. A character starts out with a pilot skill level of one, which grows as they battle and gain experience. Piloting skill is important for three reasons. First, it determines the number of aps a suit has. Secondly, and most importantly, when rolling to determine the success of an attack or defense, the player adds a bonus based on his character’s skill level. That is ½ of the pilot’s skill level for the accuracy bonus when attacking, and ¼ for the evade bonus when you are attacked (rounding down). If your pilot skill is too low to be divided by two or four, you do not get the bonus.
Thirdly, some mobile suits and systems will require a pilot to have a certain skill level to be able to operate them properly. If your character does not have the appropriate skill level for a certain mobile suit, they can still pilot it, but their pilot skill bonuses will be completely negated due to their inexperience in piloting the suit.
For four extra cp, you can give your pilot some previous training, boosting their skill level by one, to a maximum of three. This is usually a good idea if you intend to attach your pilot to a geurilla organization where you may find yourself piloting god knows what kinds of mobile suits.
"Those lights are from Lalah’s attacks! Incredible!" - Char Aznable, Mobile Suit Gundam
Newtypes are people who, by some accident of their genetic structure, are acutely aware of their surroundings and have a much greater sense of spatial awareness than the average human (people can also be artificially enhanced to gain newtype-like powers, though this is considered an amoral practice). For some reason, this makes them excellent mobile suit pilots. Thus, a newtype pilot always has a practical skill level one point greater than their actual experience for the purpose of piloting complex suits. For instance, if your pilot has a pilot skill level of two, they can still pilot a mobile suit with a piloting difficulty of three without any impairment to performance, and so on. The Newtype advantage does not effect pilot skill bonuses to weapons and evade accuracy, however. To make your pilot a newtype costs five cps.
If your character does not start out with a mobile suit, then obviously they have no cps with which to buy skill or to make them a newtype. You can still enhance your character’s skill or make them a newtype, but you must pay for the enhancement later. As you earn pilot experience through combat, you must put them towards your “debt”, and cannot increase your pilot skill until you’ve paid for the level that you’ve already reached. If you’re a newtype, you must pay for the attribute with upgrade cps, and will not be able to spend them on anything else until you’ve paid for your wacky genes.
Aces:"The instant you start thinking of this guy as a regular Zeek, we’re history!" - Shiro Amada, 08th MS Team
In the history of mechanized warfare, one type of pilot has been feared above all else. An ace pilot is a mobile suit operator who has distinguished himself by destroying five or more enemy suits. Outside of a major military organization, this distinction carries little weight, besides a formidable reputation. In a professional army however, ace pilots are the stuff of legend, not to mention few and far between. Ace pilots often find themselves gifted with special mobile suits, promotion, and sometimes the ability to act largely autonomously, due to their skill, experience, and loyalty to their organization.
Even if you aren’t a part of a large and well-funded army, in Falling Stars many mobile suits and weapons are lying about just waiting to be found, but wether a pilot finds them or not often depends on their roleplaying ability and pilot skill. Becoming an ace pilot can only help this situation.
"The Federal Forces have built a mobile suit that powerful?!" - Denim, Mobile Suit Gundam
Obviously, a Gundam-themed mecha RPG must have Gundams, but what exactly separates a Gundam from conventional mobile suits? Usually appearance is a major factor, a lot of Gundams are mostly white or light grey in color, and bear similarities in the basic shape of their bodies. Most of them also have similar faces, with helmet-shaped heads, samurai-style faceplates, two camera "eyes", v-crests, and of course the ever present beard.
Aside from that, however, Gundams are known for their power. They are always made of Gundanium (also known as Lunar Titanium), and often carry powerful and bizarre or unique weaponry. For the purpose of this mobile suit system and the accompanying RPG Gundams are either acquired as part of the storyline, or custom-built machines that meet the following requirements: Armor and Output stat of 6 or more, head guns of some kind as fixed weapons, and a height of at least 16 meters (52 feet). Also, being named a Gundam counts as a special advantage (some opponents may well wet themselves and run at the sight of you), that costs 3 cp. In addition, Gundams are not affected by the Armor/Maneuverability penalty unless the Armor stat is at 10, as detailed in the stats section. Finally, Gundams are notoriously difficult to pilot, and custom-built machines will require a level two pilot to operate them properly.
This is how to play with this system, from attacking to running. Keep in mind that every time I say "roll" it means to use a six-sided die, since just about everyone has one of those.
At the beginning of each round each player rolls a 6 die and adds it to their base aps to determine their number of aps for the round. The character who ends up with the most aps goes first, the player with the second largest number goes second, and so on. Ties are decided by comparing Pilot skill, or if it’s still a tie, the GM picks somebody at random. The characters take turns performing one action at a time until they all run out of aps, and the process starts over again.
To attack, the character first declares that they are attacking with a particular weapon. They roll the die and add their Precision, pilot skill bonus, and the Accuracy of the weapon or maneuver. The character they are attacking then rolls a die as well, adding their Maneuverability and skill bonus. If the first character rolls a higher number the attack connects, if the second character rolls a higher number then they have managed to dodge. If the numbers tie, then the defending character automatically wins.
A defending character can also choose to block if they have a shield, a set of planet defensors, or a corresponding beam/heat blade weapon (a beam sabre can block another beam sabre, and a heat blade can block another heat blade). Blocking follows the same procedure as attacking. A character must spend the aps necessary to use the shield or weapon wether the block is successful or not, and if a character does not have enough aps, they cannot block at all.
Also, if your opponent is using a melee weapon, you may choose to grab their arm to keep them from completing the blow. You suit’s Output rating must be equal to or greater than your opponent’s in order to do this. This maneuver has the same Accuracy and AP ratings as a basic punch. If an attack is successfully blocked or otherwise avoided, it does no damage.
Generic Attack Maneuvers
"You Amateur! You left me an opening!" —Gadem, Mobile Suit Gundam
These are hand-to-hand techniques that mobile suits can use in the absence of any sort of weapon, or simply for the fun of it. The use of any maneuver requires that the mobile suit have the necessary limbs.
Rattle some teeth, strap on your gundanium knuckles and make like Mike Tyson.
Kick some ass, literally.
Gun your thrusters and slam right into your opponent. This also incurs one point of nonsoakable damage to your mobile suit, but it’s still a pretty cool maneuver.
Damage: +1 per squeeze
Aps: 4 to grab, 2 to squeeze
Basically, your mobile suit grabs the other mobile suit by the head and squeezes in an attempt to crush it (in Gundam Wing at least, this seemed to be a fairly common maneuver). It works a lot like shocking someone with a heat rod, you make a successful grab, and squeeze as many times as you like (aps permitting), before letting them go. The enemy mobile suit can make an attempt to escape after each squeeze, which works just like escaping a heat rod, except they cannot attack to dislodge your suit. Obviously, this move requires your opponent to have a discernable head.
Accuracy: +1 (uses maneuverability as an presision stat)
You leap at another mobile suit, and if they don't pay 2aps to catch you, you simply knock them over, dealing the damage listed. If they do catch you a special kind of combat called grappling starts, both grapplers must have arms, otherwise the attack is just pushing the opponent. Grappling prevents the two fighters from attacking mobile suits not in the grappling match. At the begining of the turn of each grappler, they roll for pushing the opponent, adding the roll to their output and rolling against the defenders output, the defending grappler also rolls. If a suit wins the push by 3 or more, they win and knock the other suit over. You can kick and head-butt while grappling without your opponent being able to evade, they always hit. You cannot use arm or shoulder mounted weapons while grappling, but chest and head mounted weapons will always hit. Either combatant in grappling can forfeit at the price of 3ap, and if either combatant is hit by another mobile suit, they are freed from the grappling battle.
“We're going to hit that suit with a jetstream attack!” - Gaia, Mobile Suit Gundam
If you have two of the same weapon (or more) you can fire them at the same time. There are two ways to have this affect the attack: enhanced accuracy or enhanced damage. Each additional weapon can only do one or the other. This WILL drain ammo from both weapons.
Example: You're attacking with two beam sabers. You can either have the second sabre increase the accuracy of the attack or increase the damage. You're attacking with 3 gatling guns, you can have the second be one option and the third be another, or have them both be the same one. Et cetera et cera...
It's more costly than attacking with one weapon, and it doesn't do as much damage as attacking one turn and then attacking again, but it should be worth it in a desperate situation. Stats for the twin attack and twin attack options are listed on the weapon. Note: Some weapons may only allow for one of the bonuses, or not allow for twin attack at all.
If you are attacking with a rapid fire weapon, you can pay half its AP cost again and fire it again in the same turn (this does take extra ammo), though you must declare that you are making a rapid fire attack at the beginning of your turn. There are no other extra bonuses to it or disadvantages. Weapons with this capability will be listed as such.
In many anime series’ the final battle is ended with the two characters charging one another head-on. Then there’s a flash of light and a clash of steel/energy. Then both characters are standing with their backs to one another, and after a moment the villain keels over, the end. This may be performed in FS, but it follows the following rules:
Both suits must have less than one fifth (round up) over their Damage Tolerance remaining.
Both suits must have a serviceable melee weapon.
The two players agree to perform a head-on charge, and then do so. They both attack with their weapons at the same time, and the winner survives, while the losing suit is incapacitated, regardless of the actual damage done by the weapon. If there is a tie then both suits are incapacitated. A player may also choose to aim to destroy the other mobile suit, but then their attack is -1 to accuracy.
An attack that connects does damage (one hopes). Damage is determined by adding the mobile suit’s base power to the damage modifier of the weapon or maneuver they are using. Unless the damage is specified as “unsoakable” then the mobile suit on the receiving end simply subtracts their soak rate from the damage inflicted, then subtracts the resulting number from their Damage Tolerance. If this results in the inflicted damage going below one, then it’s too bad for the attacker (damage going into negative numbers will not restore a suit’s damage tolerance, however).
Oftentimes in the Gundam series’ mobile suits will toss around weaponry and then pick it back up indiscriminately as the mood strikes them. Examples of this are Amuro Ray, who tosses around the Gundam’s shield at enemy suits like some sort of discuss, and the pilot of the Gouf Custom in 08th MS team, who can use his heat rod to retrieve his suit’s big scary heat sabre.
You can attempt to knock a weapon out of your opponent’s hand simply by stating that you intend to do so. You then attack as normal with just about any weapon, or you may punch, kick, or body slam them (a body slam attack that knocks an opponent’s weapon out of their hand does no damage to your suit). The attacks is at -1 to accuracy because you are targeting their hand(s), and the attack does no damage. You may also toss a weapon aside if you want to substitute it for another weapon, say you want to use a Gundam’s beam rifle and sabre at the same time, so you throw your shield away. This costs no aps but you must pick the weapon back up before you can use it again.
To retrieve a weapon you must pick it up, which requires your suit to possess hands and articulate arms. This maneuver has the same accuracy bonus as a normal punch and +1 to the ap cost. If your suit has a heat rod you may use it, which uses the same accuracy and ap ratings as a normal attack. You may pick up an opponent’s weapon or the weapon of a fallen mobile suit and use that as well, just so long as your suit has the output rating necessary to use it. If you are piloting a custom mobile suit, you may keep a weapon that you pick up after the battle if no one else wants it back.
Guarding and saving:
You may attempt to defend another player from attack. You may do this in several ways.Shielding:
You may attempt to block for another player with either a Sabre or a Shield if you are close enough (GM and player discretion). For this, you make the roll at the same time as the defending player (after the attack is declared). Roll 1D6 and add it to your accuracy and pilot skill bonus.Saving:
If you're feeling heroic, you can shove the defending player out of the way of the attack, taking the damage for them. You must be nearby the defending mobile suit to perform this maneuver (GM and player discretion).
Roll 1D6 and add it to Maneuverability and the applicable pilot skill bonus. If the mobile suit has an Armor stat of 7 (in the case of a Gundam, 10) or greater, your output must be equal to the armor -2 (if it's a Gundam, armor-5).
Alternatively, you may leap heroically between the attack and the defending player, for this, you subtract -1 from the accuracy of the save, but you don't need the output rating.
If you have a Defensor System or shield bits, you can guard an ally with them. You make the exact same roll and calculations for if you were defending yourself.Carrying:
So, the defending suit is incapacitated you say? Well, you can pick them up (no roll needed, but you need to have real arms to do this). When you do this you must either discard or sheath all hand-held weaponry. If their armor is 7 (or in the case of a Gundam 10) or greater, your output must be equal to their armor or greater (in the case of a Gundam, armor-3 or greater).
If you do this when they are attacked, you take the blow and basically shield them with your body. After picking them up, you have -1 to maneuverability and can no longer use arm-mounted or hand-held weapons (this includes punching). When they are targeted while you carry them, you must roll to either evade or turn to shield them (make a normal evasion roll). When rolling to shield you get +1 back to maneuverability. You may put them down at any time, but they receive 1 point in unsoakable damage if you drop them out of the air onto the ground (meanie).
Movement and range:
“But no Zaku can go this fast! One of them is closing at three times normal speed!” - Oscar, Mobile Suit Gundam
Some weapons have better range than others do. Vulcans, for instance, have short range compared to most other gun-type weapons. Melee weapons will almost always have less range than guns as well. Generally, wether a suit is in range of a particular attack or not can be decided by common sense. If two mobile suits are at the opposite end of a battlefield from each other, sniping at one another with beam rifles, then one of them cannot abruptly reach over and grab the other suit’s head. They must first establish that they have gotten close enough to the other suit to pull this off, by stating that they are walking or flying across the field at the other suit. You do not need to wait for your turn to move, but you cannot attack until it is your turn, and your opponent likewise has nothing to stop them from moving away from you. Generally, a suit with flight capacity will be considered able to catch up to a suit that walks, and for suits with similar methods of locomotion and in space combat the maneuverability ratings may be compared. The GM need not be consulted for all arguments of this nature, but they have the final word.
Death and other unpleasantries:
Since players will probably want to keep playing after getting their arses handed to them, I have made mobile suits a little more durable than they are in some of the other storylines, insomuch as they will not blow up immediately upon being rendered inoperable. This allows the pilot to escape to fight another day, get captured by his victorious opponent, get saved by his buddies, or decide that he’s sick of playing this half-assed RPG and kamikaze, dragging his unfortunate enemy with him into the bowels (what a great word) of hell. However, if the enemy mobile suit uses a little overkill, or decides to take another shot at the mobile suit while it’s incapacitated, and the mobile suit’s damage threshold goes into negative numbers (as described above) then the mobile suit explodes regardless, and if the pilot’s still inside he dies anyway. However, the GM may spare a character if it is inconvenient for the plot to have them die yet.
“Don't underestimate the Big Zam! I'll take as many of you as I can down to hell with me!” - Dozle Zabi, Mobile Suit Gundam
All mobile suits have a self-destruct system. Generally this system is used to prevent a pilot from being captured by an enemy force, or to keep a powerful mobile suit from falling into enemy hands. It also works as a weapon, any mobile suit within melee range (GM discretion) will be hit by the resulting explosion, and those with less than a third (roughly) of their health remaining blow up right along with it. Those that survive are still considered to be inoperable due to heavy damage inflicted by the explosion, though a mobile suit with an armor rating of 8 or higher may be left with two health points remaining, and thus capable of combat (though not much).
Keep in mind that this is not Gundam Wing, where people get thrown clear with only some cuts and bruises when their mobile suit goes up. You self-detonate without getting away first, you die. I have it on good authority that it hurts, too.
Experience and upgrades:
“The cockpit's different, but give me three days and it'll be like my own arms and legs.” - Apolli, Zeta Gundam
For every fight, a pilot earns two types of exp. (experience points), pilot exp. and upgrade exp. Just for surviving or winning a battle, the pilot earns five pilot exp. and eight upgrade exp., but for losing they get only three pilot exp. and four upgrade exp. (hey, you lost!). This is my way of making sure that all the mobile suits and pilots gain experience at about the same rate. A character with a custom mobile suit may also “scrap” a weapon or design feature for half the weapon’s cost in cps (round up).
Pilot exp. is used to build a pilot’s skill level. To grow from level one to two costs four exp. To grow higher than that, simple add half of the last level’s cost (round down) to itself to get the next level’s cost. For instance, to go to level three costs six exp., to go to level four costs nine, level five costs fourteen, etc. A mobile suit pilot maxes out at level twelve, and does not grow anymore, ignoring pilot Exp. for the remainder of the character’s existence. I’m pretty sure noone’ll need to go higher than that anyway. Growing as a pilot gets expensive at higher levels, but doesn’t everything?
Upgrade exp. is used to upgrade the pilot’s mobile suit. You can use this exp. to buy new weapons or extras (five exp. equals one cp) or to upgrade the suit’s performance by increasing its base statistics. You may spend cp to make your character a newtype (most pilots don’t realize they are newtypes until they’ve been fighting for a while), but this costs 2 more cp than if you bought the modifier at the beginning of the game.
Increase of base stats can get expensive. To increase a stat that is less than five costs only five exp. To upgrade past five costs seven, past six costs eight, past seven costs 9, and so on until the stat hits ten. After ten, the increase grows to two, so to go past ten costs 13, past eleven costs 15, and so on. Keep in mind that the highest stat still may not exceed the lowest by four. It may take a while, but if you use the same mobile suit consistently throughout a campaign, even a Zaku can become the most devastating weapon in the game.
For 8CP you may also scrap your entire mobile suit and then build another one from scratch. In order to do this, your character must sit one game session out while their suit is being built (not very realistic I know, but hey, we’re already playing with giant robots). To create this suit, the player first scraps all their weapons and design features, then adds all their suit’s basic stats together, and then reshuffles them for the new suit. They then get eighteen cp plus whatever cps they have left over from scrapping their equipment to buy new equipment. You may NOT purchase more pilot skill. You may also leave a weapon or design feature intact and then use it on your new mobile suit if you wish to.
If you are awarded a new mobile suit at some point in the game, it comes with all the standard weaponry (and generally the optional weaponry as well). However, you may also use some of your old suit’s weaponry with it. There are some guidelines:
It cannot be a fixed weapon. Remote weapons are fixed onto a suit for storage, and cannot be used on another suit.
Your new suit must have the necessary output to support the weapon.
Your new suit must have the necessary limbs.
The main point of the Falling Stars system is that the fights are simple and fast and help develop the plot rather than hampering it. To further this purpose, some battles will be different from others. If, for some reason a player character encounters a certain NPC in a combat situation before the NPC is supposed to die, the GM may choreograph a battle with the player that allows the two characters to confront each other without either party getting accidentally killed. Such battles will ignore stats and usually provide nothing more than a backdrop against which the characters argue.
Secondly, there is the type of battle that I call “lawn mowing”, which you will see featured rather often in Gundam Wing. This scenario is simply what happens when one or a few powerful mobile suits find themselves facing a large force of smallish and insignificant mobile suits, and proceed to reduce them all into nifty bite-sized bits of flaming scrap. In this kind of situation, the players simply get to run around, freeformly beating the hell out of as many suits as they like. Such battles do not count towards Exp., since they’re only clearing out cannon fodder, but it’s fun anyway.
Finally, something that will come along less often, but be more fun, is the Boss Fight. In anime when the semi-final or final showdown is taking place between two or more characters the battle is often lengthy, the weapons more powerful, and the mecha more durable, so that when the final blow eventually comes, it will be flashier and far more dramatic. As such, the GM may invoke the “Boss Fight” rules during any fight that they consider important enough to the plot. The GM should be careful about this however (I sure as hell will be) considering these fights can take a hell of a lot longer than the normal ones.
These rules are as follows:
Each mobile suit has twice their normal amount of Damage Tolerance.
Weapons, with the exception of all types of missile launchers and atomic bazookas, have unlimited ammo, though if the weapon meets or exceeds its normal ammunition limit then it is empty after the boss fight is over.
All characters have double their normal amount of base aps.
The rage threshold of newtype pilots with bio-sensor systems is doubled, though attacks performed when enraged do +3 damage.
All characters earn twice the usual amount of exp (in the case of a character losing, they will earn twice the normal amount of pilot exp. and the usual amount of Upgrade exp. for a draw).
If a character wishes to take a moment to talk about something important to the plot, all concerned must stop and listen before attacking again.
Role-playing versus number-crunching:
There is a big difference between simply rolling dice (or hitting the roll die alias) and calculating numbers, and actually role-playing through a battle. This is an RPG, and you must justify your actions not only in terms of the system, but in terms of the plot. While you may simply say, “Zaku fires its bazooka at the Gundam”, isn’t it a lot more entertaining for all involved to say “Zaku performs a barrel roll and comes within point-blank range of the Gundam, firing it’s bazooka right in between the big schmuck’s eyes”? And please, remember that you’re not just role-playing mecha. The really good fights in any Gundam series aren’t simply the ones where the suits are big and flashy, but the battles where the two pilots know each other and argue while they fight, turning a military conflict into something much more personal and dramatic. Finally, don’t be inhibited about bringing in your own plot twists (just so long as you consult the GM first). It is just a game, but part of the fun is that we’re telling a story, and the best stories are always the ones that careen out of control…
A couple of people helped me with the creation of this game engine, and I utilized a number of other resources as well. Kudos are called for.
Thanks to Gelgameth for having the idea of adding an accuracy stat to the mobile suits, the rules for special attacks, acts of heroism, and grappling, and numerous other notes and ideas on how to improve the system. He also deserves praise for the bitching sketches of Drache, Shogutensi, and Schildknappe. A good percentage of this thing technically belongs to him.
Thanks to Max Power for criticism (not really that constructive, but criticism nonetheless), and a couple of other ideas that I can’t remember. He gets stock…
The battle system of this engine was influenced by the Thrash martial arts RPG engine by Ewen “Blackbird” Cluney. I don’t think I plagiarized, but if it wasn’t for the inspiration I got from his ideas I probably wouldn’t have come up with Falling Stars in the first place, so he deserves a little credit.
Most of the information on the various mecha, weapons, design features, etc. featured in Mobile Suit Gundam and it’s large number of spinoffs is from The Mecha Domain, created by Burke Rukes. While Gundam Wing grabbed me in its own right, this website made me determined to get my mitts on the “real” stories, and without the invaluable data on this website I would never have been able to complete this engine. Kudos.
Finally, the Gundam series itself deserves a great deal of credit for starting this whole “giant robot” thing in the first place, because I for one would be very bored if all I had to watch was martial arts anime.
Game Master Magnus
HTMLed by Gelgameth with a few minor revisions that were dictated by Game Master Magnus during play, such as the change in the increase of a boss fight DT from 3x to 2x.
Gelgameth also added the Table of Contents at the top of the page for easier reading. He plans to do this with all his revised html pages.