Remnants by Evil Mastermind
The Broken LandsOriginal SA post
I mentioned this game in passing in the Mobile Frame Zero thread, so I figured I'd cover it in a bit more detail. Plus I've got something special in the works, so I wanted to do something quick while I get that ready.
LET'S READ REMNANTS - "What is a mecha, compared to the hand that pilots it?"
Like superheroes, the "giant robot" genre is one that a lot of people have taken a swing at creating in a game based around it. Unlike superheroes, though, it seems to be a lot harder to find a good giant robot RPG.
And I can kind of understand why. A mecha-based game has to hit a rough balance between character capability and mecha capability; you don't want your giant robot to overshadow what your character's capable of since that'd shift the focus from the PC to the mech, but if you go too far in the other direction them mech just becomes a glorified piece of equipment as interesting as a +1 longsword.
Fortunately, the folks at Outrider Studios have made an attempt to find that balancing spot with their first product: Remnants , a post-apocalyptic mecha RPG. Do they succeed? Let's find out...
Chapter 1: The Broken Lands
Remnants takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, specifically in an area known as the Broken Lands. How the world wound up this way is fairly vague; there are some old tales still told about the history of the world, but the changes happened so long ago it's pretty much impossible to knwo what's truth and what's legend.
It is accepted that long ago, the part of the world now called the Broken Lands was a paradise when it was first colonized by humanity. Nobody really knows where it was colonized from (some scholars like to refer to a "gate of fire"), but it's also widely accepted that numerous cultures tried to live together in peace as one unified civilization.
There is evidence that the great civilization lasted a very long time. In the city-state of Amantin there is massive Ishi that does little more than track the date. “The Clock of Amantin” claims that it is the 6,543rd year. No one knows if the date is counting up from the founding day of the great civilization or it refers to some earlier event.
Of course, peace wouldn't last.
Again, nobody knows why the Freat Civilization turned on itself, but when it did, the weapons it brought to bear were horrifying. Giant mechanical engines of destruction clashed with bio-engineered terrors as both sides tried to get the upper hand over the other. With the help of the Clock of Amantin, it's estimated that the apocalypse occured just under 900 years ago. The only legacy the war has left the world are the Broken Lands themselves, and the weapons known as Ishi.
The Broken Lands is the term used to describe the world the game takes place on, although if the place had another name, it's lost to the sands of time now. The Broken Lands described in the book is a small part of one continent; it's hard to say how big because they deliberately didn't put measurements on it. The closest we get is that it would take a slow trade caravan 6 months or so to get from one end to the other.
The book briefly lists twenty areas on the map, such as the City-state of Mrat Kerr:
The ground in Morat Kerr is frozen nine months of the year. The summers are short, muddy, and full of parasitic insects. Morat Kerr exists because it is next to the Kerr Forest. The woods there are almost unscathed compared to the rest of the Broken Lands. About one in four trees are fit for harvest. The Morati harvest the trees in early spring and late fall and export lumber and finished products when the Caravans arrive right before the spring thaw. It is a hard place to live, and Morat Kerr is the smallest of the city-states. If the Caravans were to fail to arrive in the spring, the Morati would suffer terribly.
There's also Forest of Glass:
It might have once been a normal forest but the strip of land known as the Forest of Glass is made thousands of spires of crystal. Like the crystals in a chemistry set, the crystals grow, expand, and then shatter. There are several species of creatures adapted to live in the bizarre forest, but it is a dangerous place for humans to travel. Still, humans make the dangerous journey through the forest, searching for Ishi and valuable gems.
The closest thing the area has to a "capital" would be the City-state of Amantin.
Some call Amantin the center of civilization; others call it the deepest cesspool in the Broken Lands. Built on the bones of an Ishi ruin, Amantin is the largest city-state in the known world. It is also the dirtiest, most dangerous, and most corrupt. Its main trade is slaves, followed closely by the export of arms. Though Amantin smiths lack the individual talents of the Hill Clans, they produce huge masses of weapons that are found in warriors’ hands thousands of miles away. The Amantins do not fear the danger of arming their enemies. Their vaunted Jade Guard contains no less than 15 battle-hardened veteran Ishin.
So yeah, the world is kind of fucked up. Even after 900 years, civilization is barely operating at feudal levels, and has little to no access to real technology that isn't scavenged from ancienct Ishi ruins.
I've used the term "Ishi" a few times, but what does it mean?
The word “Ishi” means something that lasts or endures. Over the centuries, its meaning evolved so now it refers only to things that have endured since before the apocalypse. Thus, the modern translation of Ishi is “Remnant,” or a piece of the ancient world. Ishi can take any form and do almost anything.
In other words, Ishi is a blanket term for ancient technology. Of course, after 900 years, most of the ancient ruins have pretty much been picked clean of anything of use or value. Even if you do happen to find something, there's guarantee that it will do anything besides look ancient. Those devices that do work, though, are incredibly valuable. There are ishi devices that can purify water, no matter how polluted, or heal any injury. Most of the powerful tribal or city leaders control a few devices like these, and people are always on the lookout for more. There are Ishi weapons as well, strange devices capable of killing scores of men without leaving a mark. But as valuable as Ishi are, they pale in comparison to the greatest legacy of the lost age: Battle Remnants .
Battle Remnants (also called Ishin ) are humanoid suits of armor that range from ten to twenty feet tall, intended in ancient times to be self-sufficient long-rage scouts. Their designers did their job too well, however, and now the Ishin are the only devices of their type still operating (there are gigantic ruined mecha dotting the landscape, but they're so far beyond repair they're not good of anything but being landmarks).
Apart from the basic humanoid design, no two Ishin look alike. Some are so heavily armored they can't move faster than a walk, others move faster than the eye can follow. One Ishin might be bristling with weapons, while another could send out small remote devices to do its fighting for it. This is because the overall look and fighting style of an Ishin is not determined by its initial design, but by the pilot it has bound itself to: Ishin are capable of adaption, and will remake themselves in the image of their pilots.
Ishin pilots, or Ishinari , are a diverse group, because all it takes to be one is the will to climb into the cockpit and bind with the Ishin. There are no controls to learn; the "cockpit" is a small chamber that the pilot climbs into, which then closes around them. At that point, it doesn't matter if the pilot is a 10-year-old girl who's never thrown a punch in her life, or a grizzled war veteran...the Ishin will respond to that person's will, will move as the pilot instructs, and mold its appearance and abilities to match the desires of the pilot. Of course, if you can kill the pilot, then the Ishin will "reset" after a few days. It loses any abilies granted by its former owner, but it's now ready to rebuild itself to the desires of its new pilot.
Needless to say, Ishin are the rarest most highly coveted of all ancient technologies. A single Ishin can take out a platoon of foot soldiers on their own, while being almost impossible to destroy. Possession of even a single Ishin can make you a power unto yourself, and one is all it takes to be able to begin carving out an empire of your own.
tl;dr: Remnants is a cross between Gurren Lagaan and Dynasty Warriors.
NEXT TIME: Do the evolution!
Life in the Broken LandsOriginal SA post LET'S READ REMNANTS - A harsh land breeds harsh people.
Chapter 2: Life In The Broken Lands
Chapter 2 continues with the worldbuilding, but takes things to a more player-centric level. To wit, we're going to learn about the people and beasts that inhabit the Broken Lands.
The Broken Lands are a harsh place, and the inhabitants have had to adapt to survive. This seems to have been aided by another "gift" of the ancients; there's ample evidence that the evolutionary process has been sped up somehow. Evolutionary changes that normally would take thousands of years now occur within two or three generations. And that adaption isn't limited just to the myriad beasts that roam the wastes: humans are changing as well, and not always for the better.
There are six basic "categories" of creatures in Remnants:
are humans. Just like you and me...except for one or two little genetic tweaks I'll get to in a bit.
have undergone a small amount of genetic drift, just enough to make them genetically distinct from normal humans. This usually takes the form of adapting to a specific type of environment.
are those poor souls who've genetically shifted so far away from humanity they're practially beasts. While some Far Humans are still capable of interacting with the rest of humanity, the majority of them have mentally devolved to animal-level intelligence.
are, well, animals. Again, there's not much to say here, except there are a few setting-specific animals.
are those beasts who have a very dangerous ability: self-awareness. Some are animals who've evolved far above their bretheren, others are the decendents of bio-engineered monsters used to fight forgotten wars.
are those rare monstrosities who, like Far Humans, have devolved into mindless beasts. Their only concern is feeding, and their rampages can destroy whole cities.
There are still plants, of course, but with the environment the way it is, very few can be used for crops. The plants of the Broken Lands have adapted as well, and most live off the centuries of toxins that have seeped into the earth. Edible plants are at a premiuim, which makes those few areas still capable of growing them highly valuable territory.
Now, I mentioned above that even baseline humans are..."changed". There's more genetic fallout from the past at work; there are three very important things you need to know about all types of humans:
Humans are a lot tougher now. This is as much a product of the environment as genetics. The average human in the Broken Lands has inhaled more dust than you can imagine, and has to eat food with levels of poison and heavy metals that would kill you or I in a single bite. Humans can handle high levels of radiation and survive heavy wounding. They're not superhuman, just tougher.
Humanity has fractured. As stated previously, evolutionary traits can change very rapidly now. There are actually four distinct species of "Near Human", but nobody's 100% sure they weren't created through genetic engineering rather than evolution.
Humanity is immortal, but most don't get to live long enough to experience it. One thing that is widely known is that the ancients managed to figure out how to cheat death, and passed that gift down to their decendents: everyone stops aging at 40, making them effectively immortal. As a person approaches 40, their physical aging slows, and stops completely at 40. At that point, their bodies enter a state of continual regeneration. A nice side effect of this is that people can heal faster and from worse wounds than they should be able to. A bad side effect of this is the fact that when your body reaches this point, it requires twice as much food to sustain your new metabolism. While you won't age anymore, it's quite possible (and very common) to starve to death. And given how rare food is in the Broken Lands, most poor souls can barely keep themselves fed under the best of circumstances; all this does is give most people a slow death sentence when they hit 40.
Next, we learn about the nine general cultures of the setting, one for each general region of the Blasted Lands. Each region is home to dozens of different clans, and each clan is different from the next. These are more general overviews of an area than anything else; they're designed to be stepping-off points for your characters.
First up are the Hill Clans . There are somwhere in the vicinity of 1000 different clans in the Broken Hills, and they tend to have common ancestries. Most of the food comes from herding, and they have some of the best smiths in the lands, which means they tend to have the best weapons. Which is good, because they tend to be pretty warlike.
Given that most plants in the hills are poisonous to humans, their main source of survival is the herding of hullserd. The hullserd is a perfect example of the meddling of the ancients in evolution. It has wool like a sheep; milk and meat similar to a cow; and despite being only a little larger than a sheep, it has the strength and endurance of a heavy labour animal. Its stomach can digest almost any plant, no matter how poisonous, making it the perfect animal for the hills.
The Canyon Tribes have one major advantage over everyone else: they're sitting on what's really the only farmable land left. This does help with the food crunch problem, and gives them a lot of power when it comes to trading, but it also makes them a target for every wannabe warlord out there. Even with their skill at farming, crop failures are common enough that the canyon tribes will fight each other for resources when things get tight. When not at war, Ishin are used to tend to the fields.
The tribes maintain lines of communication and trade thanks to a sub-culture of “river-runners.” River-runners use canoes, boats, and even barges to travel between the tribes. They trade goods, rumours, and slaves, taking the wares of Caravaners to the many tribes that the Caravans cannot reach. Most river-runners owe no allegiance
to any one tribe and are often contracted to ferry warriors in times of war.
Marshlanders keep to themselves, and that's the way they like it. The Marshlands are a dangerous environment even by the Broken Land's standards, and while the clans that live close to the edge of the marshes will trade with other, the deeper you get into the swamps the more primitive the people get. They're probably the least hostile of all the peoples in the Lands, but that's mainly because they don't like interacting with other people much.
The Marshlands are isolated from the rest of the Broken Lands due to the inhospitable terrain. A few Caravans skirt the area, trading with the villages on the outer edge, but as one digs deeper into the heart of the marshes, one finds more and more isolated and primitive communities. Some Marshlanders do not even possess basic iron or bronze andbelieve Ishin to be otherworldly demons.
The Desert Clans fall into two categories: nomadic herders who are usually one step ahead of starvation, and oasis dwellers who are slowly but surely becoming powerful city-states. While the nomad "tribes" tend to consist of one or two families, the oasis cities have several hundred, with the most powerful of the oasis cities having about 5,000 people.
When war comes to the desert, it is clan against clan, or clan against oasis. There are also herders who have abandoned their traditional way of life, and now live as raiding clans, surviving by attacking isolated families or raiding smaller oasis towns. The deadliest of these clans possess Ishin, which are often specialized for rapid, violent ambushes.
The Caravaners are not tied to any one region, but make their living by facilitating trade between everyone else, as well as spreading news of major events to the people they encounter. While most caravans are pretty small, there are about 30 "Caravan cities" of several hundred people. At night, these caravans form up into what ammounts to a small township, resting and conducting internal business before moving on the next day.
Carvaners do not go to war but war comes to them. They travel the dangerous Wastelands and face threats from raiders, creatures, and even Grand Monstrosities. Most Caravans have at least a few Ishin for defence as well as some other Ishi weapons and items. The Caravans themselves are more fortified than they appear, and all have archery/lookout towers several stories tall dotting their massive wagons.
Wastelanders live in the worst parts of the land that are still inhabitable. For the most part, Wastelanders are outcasts and loners who've left their own clans to live on their own. Wastelanders rarely form up into clans or families; instead they live on their own, sometimes hiring themselves out as mercenaries or as guides for the caravans.
The Wastelanders have no unifying culture and do not experience war in the traditional sense. However, each is a tough survivor and a capable combatant. One has to be to survive the unforgiving Wastes.
The Ice Tribes are probably the smallest of the various groups; there are less than a hundred tribes living on the frozen wastes in the north, and ecah tribe has less than 50 members. Still, they manage to eek out a meager living; their main defense is that nobody cares enough about their land to try and take it.
War is not an option for the tribesmen; they are too few and spread out too far. No army from the south has ever tried to invade the north since there’s nothing worth taking. On the rare occasion that tribes come into conflict, they settle disputes with sacrosanct duels.
There are three City-States : Morat Kerr (located next to the only real harvestable forest), Cradle Lake (located next to a crater lake with a surprisingly triving fishing industry), and Amantin (the largest city-state, and by far the worst). All three city-states have at least 15,000 people with thousands more in villages attached to the city-state itself. These three city-states, like it or not, are the cornerstones of "civilization" in the Broken Lands.
Each of the city-states are well fortified against attack and possess powerful Ishi weapons to ward off raids and creatures. They also each boast a minimum of 10 Ishin. Ishinari in the city-states are well respected and many are powerful magistrates, generals, or members of the ruling class.
Lastly, there's The Vast , an area of scrub grass just past the Shieldstone Mountains. There are many herd animals in this area, and the Vastmen follow them to protect them from the area's predators. Nobody knows how many Vastmen there are, because nobody knows how far the Vast stretches.
The riding culture of the Vast is complex and considered sacred. There are no less than seven creatures that Vastmen use as mounts. Some are suited for speed, others for long distance running, one is stealthy, and there is one armoured creature for heavy combat. A successful Vast warrior will own one of each, while a wealthy warrior will own many more.
It's not a pretty picture, is it? On the plus side, the book doesn't beat you over the head with setting; everything I've talked about in this post and the one before it is under 25 pages; the authors have actually done a good job describing things in broad enough strokes that the GM and players have plenty of room to expand, while at the same time still having enough info provided so the reader can get a good idea of how the world it put together.
Although I suppose when most of your setting is blasted wastelands, there's not a lot of need for heavy detail.
NEXT TIME: The RapidFire system.
The RapidFire systemOriginal SA post LET'S READ REMNANTS - A harsh land breeds harsh people.
Chapter 3: The RapidFire system
Now it's time to get into the actual mechanics of the game, and here the book jumps around a little bit. We get the core system and combat mechanics before we even get into character creation, which makes things a little confusing when they refer to skills and such that we haven't seen yet.
Remnants uses the "RapidFire" system, which (at its heart) is a simple 1d6+stat+skill beat-a-number mechanic. A difficuly of 4 is "easy", an 8 is "tough", and a 14 is "epic". It's important to note that a 1 on the die isn't an automatic failure, and that a 6 on the die isn't an automatic success.
Characters are defined by three stats: Body, Mind, and Spirit. These stats are rated from -2 to +2, with 0 being human average. The stats are pretty self-explanitory (Spirit is basically your "fighting spirit"). Each character also has a bunch of skills rated from 0 (untrained) to 6 (mastery). If you're untrained in a skill, using it increases the difficulty of the task by 2.
Each character is also given a Reserve , which starts at 3 points. You can spend your Reserve to increase the result of a die roll by the amount spent; if you failed a roll by 2, you can spend 2 Reserve points and make it a success.
So how do you get Reserve back? There are three ways:
1) When the GM says so.
2) When you trigger "The Rule of Awesome"
Awesomeness should always be rewarded. When a PC attempts to do something the GM thinks is Awesome, the PC can receive a +1 bonus to the roll and 1 point back to his Reserve. They can even gain a bonus XP for the associated skill. If the PC attempts something so brilliant, so amazing, or so cool that it wows the entire table, the
GM can assign an even larger bonus, though it should not exceed +3. Awesome bonuses are important to reward creative thinking and excellent roleplaying. GMs are encouraged to be liberal on the Awesome, but beware of players hamming it up excessively to try to get the bonus.
For here we move to Combat , which is focused on fighting without your Remnant. Everyone has three derived combat stats: Defense (your ability to dodge an attack), Resist (your ability to shrug off damage), and Health. Unfortunately, we're not told how to derive these yet.
Initiative is Mind+Awareness+1d6; actions are declared lowest to highest, then go off highest to lowest. Initiative order is fixed for the whole combat, but of course you can always opt to wait and shift your place in the intiative order.
Attacking someone is Body+relevant skill, with the target number being the other guy's Defense. The amount you beat the other guy's Defense by is called the Lead , and as long as you get a 0 or better, you hit. Weapon damange works like Fate: take the number you beat the target's Defense by, add your Lead, subtract his Resist, and that's how much damage you do.
Each character has a damage track, where you mark off each point of damage you take. There are wound penalties that affect your skills and defenses, unfortunately, but on the plus side the penalty doesn't apply to your Resist. Still, I'm not a fan of wound penalties since it's easy for things to turn into a downward spiral where the more you get hurt, the harder it becomes to not get hurt more.
Next we get a bunch of situational modifiers; charging, tripping, ganging up, etc. For the most part, these are pretty basic; simple +1s or -2s with some flavor rider effects. I'm not going to get into these since we've all seen them before.
Plus, I want to get into the Armored Rules !
First off, you have to understand how Ishin work. See, they don't have "controls" in the traditional sense; there's no pilot seat with readouts and levers and shit, and likewise you don't wear it Iron Man-style. Instead, each Remnant has a chamber in the chest that the pilot crawls into. Once inside, the pilot's body enters a sort of statis while his mind controls the machine; from the pilot's perspective, he is the Ishin.
Fighting in a Remnant works a little differently than fighing normally. When you're in a Remnant, you have a new stat called Situational Awareness , which is the total of your three main stats. In addition, instead of your combat-related skills, you have three robot-fightin' skills: Assault (melee), Strike (ranged), and Motion (defense/movement). For anything not combat-related, you use the pilot's skills as normal.
Each Remnant starts with the same default stat block:
• Armour = 5
• Speed = 3
• Structure = 5
• Assault Damage = Lead +4
• Strike Damage = Lead +2
• Inspiring = 1
• Terrifying = 1
What do those numbers mean?
Well, Armour is basic damage reduction, and Structure are the Remnant's hit points.
Speed determines how far you can move in a round; just to give you an idea, the default Speed of 3 means a Remnant can run 50 meters in one round, and sprint 100 meters. Outside of combat, it can maintain a running speed of 30 meteres/hour.
Every Remnant gets a melee weapon and a ranged weapon, and the nature of these weapons is up to the pilot. Your Assault weapon might be a sword, it might be an axe-hand, it might be blades and spikes sticking out of every inch of the Remnant's surface. Remnants generate their own ammo internally, so ammo tracking isn't a concern. As an added bonus, a Remnant can't be disarmed at all; their weapons are always attached.
Inspiring and Terrifying are special stats used when in mass combat. If you take an action to rally the troops or frighten the enemy, you roll 1d6+Inspiring/Terrifying, and consult a chart to see what bonuses or penalties you gave the enemy.
Die rolling and combat modifiers work pretty much the same as normal combat; you're just rolling 1d6+Situational Awareness+Remnant Combat Skill instead of your normal stats & skills.
Some Remnant abilites require the pilot to Focus for a round or two; when you're Focusing you can't do anything else, and if you take damage or do something you lose your Focus. Again, that'll be come clearer when we get to Remnant design.
Lastly, I want to talk about what happens when a Remnant runs out of hit points.
Now, when a human runs out of Health, he's dead. But when a Remnant runs out of Structure points, it's still up, albiet reduced to a crawl. If it takes one more point of damage, it gets Wrecked , and that's when things get interesting.
When a Remnant gets Wrecked, it's powered down and the pilot is rendered unconcious and completely vulnerable. They'll remain this way for 8 hours, during which time the Remnant will repair itself. If left alone for those 8 hours, the Remant will reactivate (and wake the pilot) not only with full health, but with an extra point of Structure as teh Remnant has reinforced itself to fight better next time.
Of course, that's assuming that it's left alone for those 8 hours. If the Remnant takes twice its Structure in total damage, then it's destroyed and the pilot killed. But you really don't want to do that; instead, you can make a difficulty 6 roll with the Assault skill to try and pry the pilot out with your own Ishin (or get a mob of guys with prybars and a few hours to kill). Do that, then you can kill the pilot and take his Remnant for yourself. If the pilot is killed, then the Remnant shuts down and returns to its default state and stat block, at which point a new pilot can bond with it.
This is the most common way of dealing with a defeated enemy Remnant; why destroy it if you can take it for yourself and mold it in your own image?
NEXT TIME: Character creation!
CharactersOriginal SA post
Yeah, I was thinking of refluffing the Remnants into something akin to small biological suits of power armour issued to spec ops or commissioned by really wealthy and powerful dudes that grow with the wearer. As for the game setting, I'm kind of thinking, well, spec ops/explorers- after a few nasty trips into Tomb Worlds with my RT group, I began fantasizing about super commandos (who aren't Space Marines) doing that for a living.
There is some stuff later in the book about refluffing the setting that I'll talk about when we get there. But for now...
LET'S READ REMNANTS - Warriors are born, not made.
Chapter 4: The Characters
The character creation chapter starts out by pointing out an important consideration about the game: everyone is meant to be an Ishin pilot. But how does that work when you've got a lot of characters? It's already been established that only the big city-states have more than one or two Remnants.
Before you start building your character, take a moment to broaden your perspective and look at how your character will interacts with his companions. Remnants can be played as a solo RPG with a single PC and the GM or it can be played with 2 to 4 PCs. While the rules do not preclude larger groups, it is not recommended. The game works best with few players for a few reasons. With more Remnants, the GM has to do a lot more prep on combat encounters and it becomes harder to balance and manage battles. Also, lots of Remnants acting together stretches the internal logic of the setting. No land or area but the city-states can even afford to employ more than one or two Ishinari, let alone a half dozen.
In other words, this isn't a game for a group of 6 players unless you change some of the base setting assumptions. It really is better suited to three or fewer players; and while I don't have a problem with that, it would have been nice for the game to be a little more up front about that, instead of putting it halfway through the book.
Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about making your character.
You start out by putting together a character concept, picking a name, and putting together a background. This is all standard-issue stuff, but the book does give a few ideas for background based on the nine "regions" from before.
The Canyon Tribes
• River-Runner - You lived your entire life on the rushing waters of the canyons and know them down to every rock and eddy, and expected your children to follow in your footsteps.
• Ritualist - You grew up learning the tribe’s rituals, laws, and customs and inherited the position when the old master passed on. You then served as the tribe’s judge, priest, and records keeper.
The Ice Tribes
• Champion - You were raised to follow your father and become your tribe’s champion for the ritual duels common to the tribes. You learned your tribe’s way of war, but your father refused to hand over his position.
• Builder - A talented builder can turn snow into a home, and an ice field into a settlement. You learned how to work the ice and became an asset to your tribe.
Nothing to out there or mechanical; just some suggestions for the types of people you'd typically get in those regions.
Next, you pick your Ishin's style and your relationship to it. Is it an Ancient Find, or did your clan sieze it recently from an enemy? Again, nothing mechanical here; just layign more groundwork.
Now we get to assign stats, and this is a little odd. Remeber how you only had 3 stats: Body, Mind, and Spirit? Well, they all start at 0 (average), and you get a whopping 1 point to add to one of your stats. You can lower a stat by 1 point (down to -2) to raise another by 1, but that's all you get starting out. No matter how you adjust your points, your stats are going to sum up to +1. This also means that every character's Situational Awareness (the stat used for Remnant combat) is going to start at +1.
Next up you pick your skills. Skill rating goes from 0 (untrained) to 6 (Grand Master). You get one skill at 1 for free, based on your starting region, then get another 10 skill points to buy the rest of your skills. Skills cost their level, but you can't start with more than 2 levels in a skill. Each region except Wastelanders and The Vast get two region skills to pick from; Wastelanders have to take Survival and people from The Vast have to take Ride.
The skill list is pretty standard-issue. There are 23 skills all told, ranging from Craft to Stealth to Melee to Social Sciences. No real surprises here except for Social Sciences, which is "the catch-all skill for political science, archeology, and sociology".
At this point, you figure your derived stats: Defense, Resist, and Health.
The next part is picking your Advantages and Disadvantages. Each advantage and disadvantage has a Major and Minor version; you can take up to one Major and three Minor advantages, but you need to balance each one with a disadvantage of the same level.
There are surprisingly few ads and disads listed; there are only seven advantages and eight disadvantages.
Friends in Low Places
• Minor - You know a few criminals or rogues that can help you out of a bind.
• Major - Several criminal organizations would go out of their way to help you out.
• Minor - You have a significant other or a family to watch out for.
• Major - You family relies on you for regular protection from your many enemies.
The book does suggest making your own ads and disads, but sadly there's no advice on how to figure out what's considered major or minor. They don't even have any mechanical benefits. Not that that's a bad thing, that makes them simple roleplaying cues, but still it would have been nice to have some numbers to back them up, because without a mechanical backing they're really just character quirks that you'd probably come up with anyway. Calling the kind of character/background things players make on their own out as "advantages and disadvantages" just seems out of place.
Next up is Gear and Money. Like Apocalypse World, money is abstracted; everyone starts with 20 points of "Easy Living". One point of Easy Living buys you one day not "on the job". There are guidelines for how much a job pays out; for example, a simple caravan escort would get you 1 EL a day.
If you want to set up your own caravan or buy a plot of land for yourself, then the GM has to determine how many days of EL that would cost. A small parcel of land might cost 180 EL (which is about 6 months), whereas an actual house in the city could cost upwards of 1000 EL.
You can also opt for "Decadent Living", where you spend more EL per day to live better (ranging from 7 to 30 EL per day depending on how decadent you go), and "Frugal Living", where you spend 1 EL to last for 3 days. You can stretch that even more with a Business roll, difficulty 7, and getting the Lead in extra days. That's assumuing he has a useful trade he can live off of, though.
In addition to the 20 EL, everyone starts with a weapon or two, light armor, and a pack of basic survival gear. It's assumed that Ishinari travel light since Remnants don't really have storage space for anything except the pilot. Weapons and armor are also generalized, with weapons being classified as either light (Lead+1 damage), medium (Lead+2), or heavy (Lead+3). The only thing about heavy weapons is that you need a Body stat of at least +1 to use them. Ranged weapons are long and short bows, crossbows, and thrown weapons, and don't do more than Lead+2 damage. Well, heavy crossbows do Lead+3, but they only fire every third round so it's not really worth it.
Armor goes light-medium-heavy as well (Resist +2/+3/+4), with shields adding another +1.
Information is provided for guns, but they're considered "optional". At the GM's discression, he can decide that the city-state of Amantin has re-discovered gunpowder and has access to simple flintlock weapons. Pistols do Lead+2, muskets Lead+3, and each requires 3 rounds to reload. They also don't fire when wet and have a chance of misfiring. On the plus side, guns ignore 2 points of Armor on non-Ishi targets. So they don't do anything extra against Remnants, but they'll fuck up infantry just fine.
Once you have your gear picked, it's just a matter of finishing up your character details and you're done. All that's left to do is build your Remnant, but we have two more parts of this chapter to cover first.
There are optional rules for playing Near Humans, which really just boil down to skill packages.
Porteth - The True Wastelanders - While many Wastelanders live in the Wastes, Only the Porteth thrive there. Porteth are of average height, gangly to the point of emaciated, have ashen-gray skin, and are immune to many dangers of the Wastes. They are known for their cold demeanor, preference for silence, and brilliant shooting skills. While Wastelanders often sight small family groups of Porteth, and Porteth guides are considered some of the best, no one has ever seen Porteth in larger numbers. Persistent rumours claim that the Porteth have an entire city-state hidden in the Deep Wastes. Characters playing Porteth make the following changes:
• +2 to all Survival rolls in the Wastes.
• +2 to Body rolls versus poison.
• +1 to attack with all bows and crossbows (but not Ishin Strike weapons.)
• Immune to all known diseases and infections.
• Immune to Wasteland Sickness (See page 33 for its effects)
• -2 to all social interactions with non-Porteth.
• -2 to Awareness rolls in crowded places (cities, villages, battlefields)
• No sense of smell (but they still have noses)
The last part of this chapter is about XP. XP is earned in three ways: doing something awesome, spending Reserve, or accepting a Critical Failure. When one of these things happen, the skill you were using at the time earns an experience point. In addition, you get 1-5 XP at the end of each session to put in whatever skills you want; the only limitation is that you can't put more that 2 XP on a skill per session (which becomes no more than 1 XP when your skill hits level 4). Skills cost double their new level to improve, and can be bought up as soon as you have enough XP.
At the end of the session, you also get 1 Stat Point, which are not assigned to one of your stats. Increasing a stat costs 10 points the first increase, the next increase costs 20, and so on. The max for any stat is +2, but you can get a +3 if you give the GM a good reason.
The only real problem I have with Remnant's character creation is that the character all feel kind of same-y. Everyone has the same stat block for the most part, and there aren't a lot of mechanical ways to differentiate one character from another. It feels like when you made old D&D fighters and the only difference between Bob the Fighter and Larry the Fighter was their gear. I get that the Remnants are the focus of the game, but a little more "spread" in character creation would have been nice.
NEXT TIME: The part you've all been waiting for: building your giant fighty robot!
Battle RemnantsOriginal SA post LET'S READ REMNANTS - We love giant robots!
Chapter 5: Battle Remnants
This is the part that we've all be waiting for: how to build your custom-evolved fighting robot!
Remnant creation actually starts with a bit of leftover character creation; every character starts with one point in each of the three Remnant skills, and then you get one level on top of that. Easy enough.
Now we can start building our Remnant. Let's begin by taking another look at the "default" profile:
• Armour: 5 (Damage Resistance 1)
• Speed: 3
• Structure: 5 (Standard Structure Track: 0 0 -1 -1 -2)
• Assault Damage: Lead +4
• Strike Damage: Lead +2
• Inspiring: 1
• Terrifying: 1
This is what every character's Ishin starts with. If you want, you can shuffle a few points around; you can trade a point of Armor for Speed or vice-versa, or trade Assault and Strike the same way. Note that changing your Armor stat can affect your Structure track (i.e., your Remnant's hit points). If it goes too low, then you start taking damage penalties much earliers, whereas increasing it means you take them later.
Now we get into the meat-and-potatoes of Ishin design: Traits .
Every Ishin gets a couple of general traits automatically. Every single Ishin is environmentally protected against extreme weather conditions and can function underwater. They all have loudspeakers and com units, and transmit basic sense data to the pilot. And, of course, an Ishin will only work for its bonded pilot.
The remaining traits fall into three categories: Upgrades are your stat boosts, Powers are the Remnant's special abilities, and Drones are independant subordinate units.
At creation, you can pick one Power or Drone ability that costs 5 Duress or less (and I'll explain Duress in a minute).
The next step is to pick a Specialty, which is the fighting style your Ishin is designed for. There are eight available; half of them are about being more effective against a certain type of target, two are for focusing on either Assault or Strick combat, and one...
Thick of the Fight
Your Remnant is unfazed by being surrounded. Your Ishin ignores the first attacker when calculating extra attacker bonuses (see p. 30) when enemies gang up on it. Improved version: In addition to ignoring the first attacker, the extra attacker bonus against your Remnant never exceeds +1, no matter how many enemies it faces. Maximum version: Extra attackers get no bonus against your Remnant under any circumstances. (Exception: The perfectly coordinated attacks of Remnant Drones ignore this specialty)
This is where the "Dynasty Warriors" comparison I made when I started out came from.
At this point, all that's left is doing your calculated stats and Ishin appearance, and your done.
So that's how we build the Remnant. How do we make it better?
Well, the Remnant skills (Assault, Strike, Motion) level up like your normal skills do. And we already talked about how getting Wrecked is the only way to increase your Ishin's health (although there's a little section here on how to keep players from fighting each other just to make each other stronger).
Becoming more Inspiring or Terrifying is just a matter of doing something very inspiring or terrifying, and is pretty much a GM reward for being creative. Likewise for improving your Specialties, but with those the group has to vote on whether or not the improvement is warranted by the player's actions.
Getting Traits requires Duress . Remember how Remnants can adapt to their situations and evolve to deal with obstacles? This is how.
Duress is earned in one of five ways:
• The Remnant engages in combat with a real physical threat.
• The Remnant gets Wrecked.
• The Remnant defeats (or helps defeat) an enemy that is a real physical threat.
• The Remnant’s pilot attempts something brilliant, daring, or just plain awesome.
• The Remnant’s pilot accepts a Critical Failure during combat.
Traits cost 5 to 20 Duress each, and take 8 hours of "downtime" for the Ishin to process and modify itself. One thing that's pretty badass, though, is that you can have a Remnant learn a new Trait in one action for 5 duress on top of the costs of whatever he's buying, so you could buy a new upgrade or power in the middle of a fight.
So what're our options? Glad you asked!
The Upgrades come in three flavors; stat trade-off, flat stat increase, and "epic" stat increase. The trade-offs and stat boosts can only be bought once each per stat, and you can only take one "epic" Upgrade period. This does mean that there's an effective "hard cap" on your Remnant's upgradable stats of about 3 levels. And while I realize that Remnants works on a smaller numerical scale than most games, it still feels kinda limiting.
Powers is a pretty broad category. It includes things like special movement types,
Cost: 10 Duress
Digger Remnants have buckets, drills, and jackhammers for moving earth and stone. Most often used in mining, Digger Remnants can dig 1 meter per minute (making a Remnant-sized hole) through soft earth and clay and 1 meter per 10 minute through hardmstone. Dug-in Remnants can carry out brilliant ambushes on their enemies (+3 to Stealth rolls stacking with the improvements from the Stealth Trait) but require a com-equipped spotter or the Motion Tracker Trait to know when an enemy is vulnerable to attack from below. Diggers are also used to circumvent fortifications by digging subterranean passages, but digging makes a lot of noise and vibration, giving enemies some advance warning if the diggers are not careful.
inherent passive abilities,
Cost: 5 Duress
Essentially a short-range radar, the Motion Tracker gives the Remnant advanced warning of incoming Strikes, granting +1 Defence versus Strikes from ranges outside 100 meters.
Cost: 10 Duress, Improvable
Focus: 1; 2 for Full
After a round of Focusing, the Remnant can make a Strike roll with a +1 bonus. Spending another 10 Duress gives the Remnant the Full Precise Strike. The Focus increases to 2, but the bonus increases to +2. Having the Full Precise Strike Trait does not stop the Remnant from using the lesser version.
Cost: 5 Duress, Improvable
Focus: 1; 2 for Improved; 3 for Full
This Trait gives the Remnant an area effect melee attack. After Focusing for a round, the Remnant rolls to Assault as normal. Instead of attacking a single target, the burst hits every target in a radius equal to the Assault skill of the Remnant pilot in meters. For example, a Remnant pilot with a Assault skill of 3 attacks every enemy in a circle 6 meters wide (3 meter radius). Bursting Assaults have a -2 damage penalty. Spending 5 more Duress gives the Remnant Improved Bursting Assault. The Focus increases to 2, but the target radius doubles and the damage penalty is only -1. Spending another 10 Duress gives the Remnant Full Bursting Assault. The Focus increases to 3, but the target radius triples and there is no damage penalty. Having the Improved or Full Bursting Assault Trait does not stop the Remnant from using the lesser versions.
and improving your other abilites.
Cost: 10 Duress
Choose a Trait with a Focus rating. When using that Trait, reduce its Focus by 1. Focus can never be reduced below 1 for any Trait. If the Remnant has multiple versions of a Trait, like Breaching Strike and Full Breaching Strike, for example, this Trait affects all of the versions. This Trait can be taken multiple times. Each time it is taken, it is applied to a new Trait.
Lastly, we have Drones . Drones are remote bits that can act semi-autonimously separate from the Ishin itself. Drones are about half the size of a person, have 1 Structure, and can operate for 8 hours before having to return to the host Ishin or just dropping on the spot. Drones can operate out to a few kilometers out, but an Ishin will replace any lost Drones with the usual 8-hour recharge cycle.
Giving your drones commands takes one action, no matter how many you have. Drones can carry out simple instructions ("Attack that target", "Defend this position", "Follow that person", "Return", things like that). Once they get instructions, they'll carry them out on your turn until they either get new instructions or get Wrecked.
When you buy a drone, you have to pick the drone's basic type first: Scout, Assault, or Strike. Each type of drone has its own stat block; Assault and Strike drones can only make Assault or Strike attacks, respectively, and Scount drones can't attack at all. It costs 5 Duress to get a pair of drones of the same type, and you can buy more drone pairs up to 6 drones all told.
There aren't that many drone improvements, but given the limited nature of drones that's not surprising. Some upgrades affect all your drones at once:
Cost: 10 Duress
Add 1 to the Speed of all drones. This Trait can only be taken once.
while others upgrade one type of drone
Cost: 10 Duress, Improvable
A drone controller with the Improved Strike Trait can deploy strike drones with a Strike skill of 2 and a Strike range of 200m. Spending another 10 Duress gives the Remnant Full Strike. Drones with Full Strike have a Strike skill of 3, a Strike range of 300m, and do Lead+2 damage.
You can also get "heavy" drones that have special uses.
Cost: 10 Duress
Instead of deploying two strike drones, a Remnant may deploy one sniper drone. It has Stats as per a strike drone (including all improvements), but can employ a Far Strike as per the Remnant Trait. It can also perform a Precise Strike and combine it with the Far Strike. Two sniper drones attacking the same target still get the standard +1 bonus for drones ganging up.
I like that they kept drones simple; if I can potentially have six of these little dudes running around and acting on my turn, the less math and fiddly upgrades I'd have to deal with the better.
And that's your mech-building rules in a nutshell. It's strange seeing a mech game that doesn't have huge lists of individual weapons and attachements or Excel-level point buy stuff. It makes it easy to put your mech together quickly and get right into the game.
NEXT TIME: GMing this thing
Game MasterOriginal SA post LET'S READ REMNANTS
Chapter 6: Game Master
This is the final chapter of the game. Told you it was short.
As I usually do, I'm going to gloss over a lot of the deatils of this chapter, because a lot of it is stuff we've all seen before.
This chapter is broken down into a few different secions of GMing advice, and the first is Rewards .
There are a lot of good reasons to hand out rewards. Rewarding players gives them a sense of accomplishment. It shows them their characters are progressing and learning, and it motivates them to keep playing your game. Rewards are, for the most part, a good thing.
The trick with rewards is giving out the right amount and right kind of rewards and giving them out at the right time. Too much is just as bad as too little, so timing can be everything.
The next section is Themes , and talks abou the common ideas of the setting that should bw worked into your campaign; Discovering the Past, Survival, "Can The Lands Be Healed?", and so on.
One interesting section in the Themes is "Technology or Magic?" For the most part, the book is pretty vague on how Remnants work, where Monstrosities come from, and things like that. This is a brief table that gives some ideas on how to present the elements of the setting as part of a fantasy setting or a sci-fi one.
What Powers Ishin?
Technolgy Answer: An hydrogen-fusing micro-reactor that draws it fuel from water vapour, and the pilot’s own sweat. Its peak power can exceed 10,000 hp. It repairs itself and reloads weapons by using nano-machines that draw raw materials from the ground, air, and anything nearby.
Magic Answer: A miniature gate to the elemental plane of fire powers the machine, an earth gate provides material for repairs and ammo, and small water and air gates power special abilities.
The list is pretty short, but it's still nice to have; I like settings where the real deep-down details are up the GM, so he can adjust them to his group's preferences.
Next up are Rules Options . Only two are presented: adjusting how much Reserve characters have access to, and altering the scale of Remnants compared to everything else. Not too much here, but give how rules-lite the game is that's not surprising.
The next section is Managing Conflict , and is about how to balance enemies to the group.
Your PCs have the world’s greatest armoured war machines. It would be shame to not let them use the damn things. Remnants can be a very combat-heavy game (though it doesn’t have to be), and this section is about the construction of different types of enemies and how best to use them in combat.
The idea is that you find the "Low Man" (the person with the lowest Defense+Armor), then the "high man" (highest Defense+Armor). Then you figure each character's best attack skill ("high attack").
Once you've done all that, you have some numerical guidelines to set up different strengths of encounters. When you're figuring out enemy attacks, non-threatening enemies are ones who couldn't get past the group's low man, significant threats can do damage to the low man on a decent roll, and so on. When looking at enemy defenses, a non-threatening enemy has a lower defense than the lowest party attack skill, but a significant enemy would have Defenses about equivalent to the party's attack abilities.
This whole section has a rolling example where different enemy groups are made for a sample party, and really helps illustrate what the designers were going for. It's nice to see a game talking about how to put together fights of various challenge levels, since it seems to happen so rarely. There's also some stuff about tweaking the numbers for a little more fine-control over the challenge.
The next section is Sample Creatures . This is a short monster manual, that includes both domesticated beasts
Body 0 Mind -1 Spirit -2
Skills: Awareness 1, Dodge 1
Combat: Defence 3, Resist 0, Health 1 (0)
Initiative 1d6 +0, Attack 1d6 +0, Lead +1 damage for horns
Description: The hullserd is the only domesticated livestock left in the Broken Lands. It is a little larger than a sheep, produces more milk than a goat (but less than a cow), has wool similar to a sheep, and is known for its ability to digest almost anything. Different breeds of Hullserd in a variety of shapes and colours can be found throughout the Broken Lands.
SA: +1, Speed: 3, Armour: 6
Skills: Assault 3, Motion 3, Awareness 3
Combat: Defence 7, Resist 6, Structure 7 (0 0 0 0 -1 -1 -2)
Initiative 1d6 +4, Attack 1d6 +4, Lead +4 damage
Description: These are the Stats of a basic Ishin-sized Monstrosity. This particular Monstrosity is on the slow side, but has heavy armour and sharp claws. It is sentient enough to have desires and goals, but it is not human in mind or body. It has Battle Remnant Stats for easy comparison. However, you can split up its SA in a way that suits the creature you are creating. Feel free to customize it with Remnant Traits.
Note: Monstrosities are the most variable of all creatures. They can be almost as small as humans or larger than Gurlaks. They can be barely aware of their surroundings or so brilliant as to be beyond human comprehension. They can be strong, weak, fast, slow, or anything in-between. Some might interact with people in nonviolent ways, while others will see people as little more than food. It is even possible for groups of Monstrosities to set up tribes, clans, and cultures that mimic human developments. If there is one place where the GM is encouraged to let his imagination run wild, it is in designing Monstrosities. Go crazy and design something the PCs will remember!
There's really not a lot in this section; personally I would have liked to see a "Monstrocity design system" along the lines of Remnant design.
Anyway, we now come to Mercenaries in Remnants . This section covers players buying mercenaries, and has an option Reputation mechanic in case they want to go into business for themselves. This is really more of a fluff section than a mechanical one, though.
Artifacts are next. These are a few sample "special items" characters can run into. Like ancient weapons
The Remnant Cutter
Many tribes and clans have legends of warriors defeating Battle Remnants with nothing but a sword. Some of these legends are true, and most of these warriors possessed a Remnant Cutter. Designed by the ancients and made of an unknown metal, these swords and knives seem to bypass an Ishin’s armour. Most Remnant Cutters are lost to the chaos of history but a few are still out there. When a talented warrior finds such a blade, legends are born. A Remnant Cutter acts as a normal light or medium weapon but ignores 3-5 points of Ishin armour on a successful hit (GM’s discretion).
The Arc of Sura
There are many legends about the Ark of Sura and no two are the same. It is agreed that the Ark is a great Ishi of massive power but beyond that, the stories and clans cannot even agree if Sura is a woman, a place, or both. Most legends say that the Ark is somewhere to the north; even the Ice Tribe legends claim it to be so. While you can put the Ark wherever you want and put in it whatever you like, here is an interesting possibility: Sura is a person, she is within the Ark, and the Ark is an underground seed bank. Sura spent the last eight centuries using her vast knowledge to grow strains of plants that can filter poison and resist the harsh conditions of the surface. If the PCs could find the Ark, she could start a process that would heal the lands over the next few centuries.
Lastly, we close out with the Open Warfare rules. Here's how it works.
Each army has five stats rated from 0 to 4:
ranges from "unruly mob" (0) to elite troops (4).
. The smaller army has a Relative Size of 1, and the other army's stat is the amount they outnumber the smaller army by. So if the larger army has three men for each one of the smaller army's, then the large army has a Relative Size of 3.
is based on terrain and army composition. There's a table for each, and you total the values on the tables to get this stat. So if your army holds the high ground (1) and has special untils like calvary (2), you have a 3.
Morale and Fatigue
is pretty self-explanitory.
Leadership and Strategy
is actually an opposed roll between each army's leader. Whoever rolls higher on a Command roll gets their Lead in this stat.
All five stats are added together to get your Battle Value, and whichever army has the higher BV wins, with the Lead determining how disicive the victory was.
"Wait a second," I hear you cry, "that sounds really fucking lame." And it is. Or it would be, if the characters weren't allowd to alter the numbers a bit.
Between "add up the numbers" and "compare the numbers", each character gets one scene where he's doing something to affect the course of the battle; if they're successful they can add a point or two to their side's BV. A few examples:
Leading from the Front. The character makes a rousing speech (MAKE HIM DO THE DAMNED SPEECH!) and leads the first charge or leads a forlorn hope (google is your friend if you don’t know what it is). Give him some hectic combat rounds against multiple enemies, and if he survives or has a glorious death -- and gives a good speech -- add 1 or 2 to the army’s Battle Value.
Heavy Assault. The gutsy move of powerful Ishinari is to attack the enemy alone and unafraid in attempt to unleash chaos, destruction, and bursting assaults. They can aim to cause maximum damage to the enemy rank and file or headhunt enemy commanders. If the character is willing to wade into the enemy in such a fashion and he survives the waves of enemies enveloping him, his inspiring and crazy actions can give the army a bonus of 1 or 2 to its Battle Value.
Duel. Characters can call out enemies, especially other Ishinari, Troy style. Winning a duel in front of the troops gives a bonus of 1 or 2 to the army’s Battle Value depending on the power of the enemy defeated.
Once everyone's gotten a scene, then you compare values to see who won.
And you know what? I'm okay with this system. It's designed to handle large-scale battles without getting wrapped up in minutae, and at the same time keeps the focus where it should be: on the characters.
Then it's just the matter of the character and Remnant sheets, and we're done.
There we are: samaurai in 12' power armor, in just over 100 pages. And you know what?
I like it.
It's not the most complex system every devised, either in terms of the core mechanic or mech building, but I think that, as presented, that's a feature, not a bug. You don't have to worry about things getting ridiculously tactical, Ishin design is simple and the powers are generic enough that they're all you really need, and (most importantly), the mechanics fit the scale and feel of the game: brutal fights in a ruined world.
Make no mistake, Remnants is a deadly system; outside of their mechs most characters can be one- or two-shotted very easily. But that actually works here because it makes the Ishin more important; if you want to be a serious fighting force, you need one of these giant robots (both mechanically and fluff-wise), and if you're one of the people with the giant robots, then you are a major fighting force.
In short: This is the game for you if you want to get into your giant robot, charge through a small army killing every footsoldier you pass, and meet your opponent's mech in the middle of the battlefield in a clash of energy blades.
And let's be honest here: who wouldn't want that?
Remnants is available as a PDF and hardcopy, but Outrider Studios is currently trying to get the physical book restocked. The bundle is available through Indie Press Revolution or direct from Outrider Studio's store for $20, or as a straight PDF from RPGNow for $10; and since it's only 115 pages and light on the art, printing it at home is actually not going to take a whole ink cartridge.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get into my Ishin; the battle will start soon and I want to break Lu Bu's record.