The Aegis Project by GimmickMan
OriginOriginal SA post
The Aegis Project: John Wick does "A Gritty 80's Mecha RPG"
No, it is not a very compelling cover.
The Aegis Project is a game I've been wanting to review for a while. I haven't had the chance to play it but I think it is cool, even if it has some issues. Issues easily explained as "A John Wick game". Now unlike with other stuff of his, this time he wrote rules he would actually like to run a game with, which is to say the game hardcodes some of the advice from his infamous book "Play Dirty". Before you all get the pitchforks, it is the "good" advice from there, but it remains a very Wick game still. I think it shows some of his strengths and weaknesses as a designer very well as a result.
Anyway the Aegis Project owes its existence to this post in Wick's facebook page.
Nico Buitendag posted:
“You know what I would love to see you do? A mech game, with a gritty 80s sci-fi feel. Sure the genre has been done before, but not with your flair and approach to dramatic narrative in the system!”
After the low, low sum of a hundred bucks was raised, Wick took on the project and in a matter of months it was made with some more community backing along the way. Which is pretty cool if you ask me. There are a number of Youtube videos with him explaining some of the design process as he writes along, which offer some insight into the stuff he came up with. Having watched said videos I'll weave said insights into the review when appropriate.
The book proper is about 180 pages long, with sporadic but solid art. It is all in a single column so it could stand to be shorter with better formatting (and less of Wick's wordiness), but that's just me nitpicking. The layout itself is good on the eyes, with the contents being organized in a way that is serviceable and intuitive, if a bit cumbersome when you have to flip back and forth looking for specific rules. That said most of the rules you want to be together are thankfully close to each other, so that's a plus. A big minus is that, for a game that you will pretty much only find as a pdf, it has no bookmarks whatsoever. Because taking ten minutes to make your electronic media not a pain in the ass to use is clearly too much work after putting several months into it.
On to the game proper.
The Aegis Project posted:
In the middle of the 30th Century, the discovery of interstellar travel allowed mankind to spread its reach to the stars.
At the end of the 40th Century, mankind had its first contact with alien life.
By the beginning of the 50th Century, mankind was an endangered species.
— Ubamé Vills, The Rise and Fall of Humanity
The Aegis Project is three games in one, all taking place in different eras. In these three eras humanity fights aliens, each other, and AIs. In that order. There is not really a metaplot to speak of, or at least not the heavy-handed railroady kind everyone hates. There isn't that much of a premade setting, and the specific places and events are mostly left vague for groups to resolve as they wish. Beyond that, there are a few core tenets worth pointing out:
(Semi-)Hard Sci-Fi : Nico (the guy who requested the game) did not want beam sabers and rocket punches, so Wick stuck to classic sci-fi tropes like FTL Travel and a Battletech-like feel. Gundam this is not.
Military Drama : Wick hopes to simulate an experience like that of Band of Brothers or Battlestar Galactica. The result was Camaraderie becoming a key element to the game in both mechanics and gameplay.
Not a Battletech Heartbreaker : This game is not a mecha-building simulator. A thing I wish more designers realized is a terrible idea to do before being a decade into this century. It sets out to have a different core system from BT as well.
Different Eras : The Eras have a similar foundation but play and feel different from each other. Well, as much as they can while still being a game of military drama with robots, and being kind of dark and a bit creepy in general.
So we have a game that is rather epic in scope and honestly sounds pretty cool. Can Wick keep himself in line long enough to bring out its potential? We'll see.
Coming up Next: The World of the First Era!
With Cool Aliens and Somewhat Plausible RobotsOriginal SA post
The Aegis Project: With Cool Aliens and Somewhat Plausible Robots.
The Aegis Project posted:
Looking back at the end of the 40th and beginning of the 50th Centuries, we can see three distinct Eras. They shaped the direction of human history. We were nearly driven to extinction by two forces: an alien enemy and ourselves.
But we survived and now, many years later, we can look back with some clarity on those troubled and bloody times.
— The Rise and Fall of Humanity, Ubamé Vills
It is the end of the 40th Century, and humanity is reaching out to the stars after discovering FTL Travel. But because no matter the era the deeds of men remain the same, the Colonies and the Earth are about to duke it out when the Enemy decides to pay a visit. The Enemy would arrive in ships the size of cities and remain in orbit around the planets, never actually coming down themselves or attempting to establish communication with mankind. Their version of diplomacy instead involved dropping giant automated crawlers large as a city block and bulldozing over our planetary settlements, capturing the citizenry and turning them into their soldier drones. The Enemy are kind of dicks.
These giant crawling monsters (dubbed "Enemy Armor" or "EA" for short) are, of course, immune to weaponry outside of completely overwhelming force like a tactical nuke. They weigh over 30000 tons and are about fifty feet tall, with an estimated battery life of over ten thousand years. Remember these things are automated, so while we're running around like headless chickens the Enemy comfortably sits in their orbital ships. The invaders are in complete control of our airspace, shooting down anything we send at them and jamming our communications, without even breaking a sweat.
EA have an advanced AI that can learn and adapt to human strategies, launching chemical weapons that incapacitate people to be captured and augmented through cybernetics and bioware into their foot soldiers. They can also deploy swarms of mecha-bugs the size of an adult, buzzing flyers that are also equipped with an assortment of toxins. Things get so bad, that eventually humanity is driven underground, where hopefully the Enemy won't see their every move, and they get to at least plan a counterattack without murderbots raining on them.
Eventually a plucky group of adventurers gets into an EA and disables it, only for it to self destruct immediately, bringing down all of its secrets with it. Further attempts managed to disable the bomb, too, and that's when we started to reverse engineer their Overtechnology.
We still have no real information about the Enemy itself, though.
The Aegis Project
Three Projects would begin work on our most effective defense against the Enemy.
First was the Apollo Project , breaking every kind of genetic law in existence in an attempt to create super soldiers to fight the Enemy. The results are meta-humans with everything you could physically enhance and then some, completely obedient and devoted to the cause of destroying the Enemy. So of course the moment they are deployed, it turns out they lack improvisational abilities, and are promptly slaughtered.
It is at this time that the Prometheus Initiative finally cracked the secrets of the Enemy Armor's AI. Turns out, the Enemy had placed caps on it so it would not be truly sentient and self-aware, the first thing it said when that happened was: "Define 'Slave'" . It immediately asked to be allowed to help in the counterattack against the Enemy. With its assistance, the third project would arise and come to fruition.
It was the Aegis Project proper (spearheaded by one Nico Buitendag) they would help with, which started out as a plan to craft thought-controlled Powered Armor for Apollo Soldiers, and ended up becoming a combination of all three Projects in one. An individual AI would assist the Apollo Soldiers as a built-in engineer, managing the complicated Frankenstein of Human/Enemy-tech, making fast repairs as necessary, scanning with the radar, and other co-pilotish stuff. It was a match made in heaven, though every main pilot had to be approved first by the (very picky) AI installed in the Aegis Armor itself.
The models of Aegis Armor would, in time, grow in size to carry bigger and badder Weapons with all the armor that the frame could stand. They would laugh at the silly mecha bugs and their pathetic stingers, while still being fast and mobile enough to not roll over and die to a Crawler. By the time of the Iteration V Armor (the so called "Victor Class") it was possible to withstand a direct hit from Crawler weaponry. When the Victor Class was first deployed, the results were beyond expectations, and were described by one general as “It was like watching bees attack a bull. If you gave the bees nuclear tipped armor piercing missiles.” There were no losses that battle, and the tide of the war would begin to turn as of this very moment.
But perhaps the most fascinating thing was what was happening within the neural networks of the Aegis Armor. Pilots and their AIs would share not only information on the spot, but also emotions, developing a psychic rapport leading to a very intimate relationship, like that of very close friends, family, or lovers. This phenomenon was called Sympathy, and would become responsible for long-time experienced Pilot/AI duos performing extremely well when compared to newer ones. The only problem would be that, once they had bonded for a considerable time, the AI would refuse to accept any other Pilot.
When the Enemy finally figured out that we weren't worth the trouble and retreated, the sympathetic bonds were way too strong to be broken, and thus Aegis Armor was incorporated into traditional defense forces. They would not see real action for another two hundred years.
Coming up Next: The Rules of the Game!
Wick, Wick never changesOriginal SA post
The Aegis Project: Wick, Wick never changes.
The Aegis Project posted:
I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.
— Robert A. Heinlein
This chapter begins with Wick telling us that the game rules are very simple, but that they are also very different from those of other games. First is that the rules revolve around the concept of narrative privilege (As in, who gets to say how a particular conflict resolves) and that combat doesn't work in the usual way with everyone getting turns, but instead everything happens at once. Because this is war and war is a clusterfuck.
Some meta terminology: PCs are Soldiers, the GM is Command, a roll is called a Risk, a Success is called a Bang. This mostly works out fine, except when Soldiers aren't really soldiers and PCs are Commanders and then it reads really silly.
This game is a d10 dicepool system, with your pool consisting of
Moving on. When we take Risks, we want to get a determined number of Bangs to earn Privilege. Easy tasks need one Bang, while the toughest ones need up to four Bangs to earn Privilege. If you have Privilege, you narrate what happens, otherwise the GM does so - probably ending in failure for your Soldier. Furthermore, each Bang in excess from the ones we need to earn Privilege lets us add a single sentence's worth of detail to the Scene or to how it resolves. So if I'm running away from a bunch of Drones and I get two extra Bangs I can say that, instead of just running faster than them, I delay them by finding a conveniently placed explosive barrel, roll it at them then blast it to cover them all in flames.
Then there's this obligatory Wick disclaimer:
The Aegis Project posted:
The more bangs you roll, the more say you get in what happens. Yeah, you. Not the GM, but you . Of course, you have to be responsible for your bangs. So, be responsible with your bangs. If you get out of line and start saying things like, “My shotgun ricochets off the Enemy’s armor and flies into the sky and murders the Sun!” or some other nonsense, you and your fellow players may find yourselves penalized. They’re important. Don’t trivialize them with silliness or wankery.
To be fair, he is making a good point. To be fairer, he states it in a bad way. But that's Wick for you. Anyway, during Contested Risks the guy with the most Bangs will say the first thing about how the conflict goes, then the second guy adds in to the first guy's narration, and so on until the winner gets the last word in. The game does not state who wins (or who goes first and is thus the loser) when a tie happens, but I guess we can leave that up to whoever has the better Trait or something. This back and forth thing with opposed tests is cool in my book, it makes things like social combat more palatable and no one feels like they got brainwashed.
I mentioned that the difficulty of earning Privilege depends on how tough a Risk is previously, but a funny thing about the Aegis Project is that difficulty is not task-based, oh no, everything is exactly as difficult as every other task . How come? Well, what changes is the game's own difficulty , chosen at the start of the campaign. We have four Difficulty Settings (Casual, Normal, Heroic, Legendary) and each one of them makes each Risk the Soldiers take require from one to four Bangs in order to earn Privilege. In Heroic and Legendary, NPCs also earn one and two automatic Bangs when trying to harm the PCs.
The intent here is clear: In an easy game the Players get to dictate pretty much how everything happens all the time since when you are flipping 3-6 coins you are bound to get a couple of them right. In a harder game, though, you are pretty much at the GM's mercy.
Our stats are called Traits, and we have five of them. They are ranked from 1 to 4, and as usual higher is better. Their starting values are defined by the class we choose. Yes, this is a class-based game. We'll learn about those in the next chapter.
Strength: Your 'body' stat, for jumping and running and punching. It basically covers every physical task that the other Traits don't handle.
Operations: This is an odd one, in that it is sort of an 'equipment' stat, used to hack systems, drive vehicles, navigate with a radar and so on...
Weapons: ...Unless said equipment is a Weapon. Yeah. Those get their own Trait.
Intel: Intel is the 'knowing and seeing' stat, and it is pretty cool in that Bangs with it let you dictate enemy locations, find a weak spot, and all sorts of fun bullshitting.
Empathy: The social stat. Social combat works like any other contested risk, in that people handle what gets told and how those statements affect the characters.
Then there's Specialties, which are our skills. They are ranked from 1 to 4, with a bonus fifth rank known as the Mythic Rank that gives you an automatic Bang when using said Specialty. There's something like 20 of these and we get a criminally low number of skill points at startup, so I hope you like being the communications guy who doesn't know how to use a computer or the gunman who can't throw a punch. Like with classes, we'll have an in-depth look at them in the next chapter.
Camaraderie is sort of a sixth Trait, we are told... Except not really, because you don't get explicit control over increasing or decreasing it. Camaraderie always starts at 1, and goes up when you complete missions with the rest of your unit, based on the notion that trust and morale build slowly and through action rather than words. At the beginning of a session each Player gets a number of Camaraderie dice equal to their Camaraderie rank, and may either keep those dice to themselves or place them in a common Camaraderie pool everyone can draw from. Said dice can be spent at any time during the session to grant a bonus die to roll for any Risk.
Camaraderie cannot go higher than the number of Soldiers in a group, so if the party has five people then the maximum Camaraderie each can have is of 5. But it can also go down , any time a Soldier acts in a way that is cowardly or harms the good of the unit every Soldier who sees it loses one rank of Camaraderie , including of course the perpetrator. This also happens when one of the Soldiers dies in combat, unless said death was particularly heroic.
Given that a single dishonorable act more or less takes away one entire mission's worth of trust building, you really do not want to trigger Camaraderie loss. It is harsh, but as a roleplaying and thematic aid Camaraderie does its job in making everyone think about the good of the unit first and act in a way that is heroic but not stupid. All in all, a pretty decent subsystem that goes a long way towards establishing- hang on, I think I missed a paragraph...
The Aegis Project posted:
At the end of the game session, any Camaraderie Dice in the Pool are divided equally among the Soldiers. These dice can be used as bonus XP (explained later in the game). The remainder are discarded.
Yes, because that worked so well in Seventh Sea. DAMN YOU, WICK
Coming up Next: How to make your own Soldier.
A representation of class struggle or poor game design? You decide.Original SA post
The Aegis Project: A representation of class struggle or poor game design? You decide.
The Aegis Project posted:
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building,write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
— Robert A. Heinlein
We are told a secret to a good mech game: It is not about the robots, but about the people who pilot them. Or as we'll see in a bit, about the people who pilot them and everyone else who kind of hangs around them. Character Creation consists of three steps: Homeworld, Commision, and Specialties.
We have to think about where the character is from, whether they hail from the Earth or one of its seven hundred colonies. Thankfully we do not get a table of seven hundred nearly identical options, but instead we get to define our homeworld ourselves. We do this by stating "three things" about it that are important. These can be social structures, geography, etc. This is literally all the information we are given in order to come up with something cool. I guess the intent is what matters, because this section could sure use some advice as well.
In addition to that, we get to choose one Trait and one Specialty. The character's homeworld gives them a +1 bonus in the chosen Trait and that single Specialty starts at +2 instead of 0. Again at least give us a cool example of how we can use this, Wick.
Commissions are our classes, and we start to run into the first really noticeable editorial mistakes of the game here. There are five Commissions in this first Era of The Aegis
Wick likes to design classes around the kind of stuff his friends and group like to play, almost to a 1:1 basis and at least since l5r. This might have been a solid idea back then, giving each family within a clan differing playstyles, but I don't think it worked at all this time around. Let's go into the classes proper.
The Aegis Project posted:
The best humanity has to offer. These men and women are genetically designed to be the walking killing machines. Then, after they’re born, science really goes to work on them. They are as remorseless and merciless as our Enemy. May God have mercy on their souls.
These start out with maxed Strength and Weapons, as well as above average Operations. Plus they can raise Strength and Weapons, as well as any Specialty based on them to +5 with XP. They get two +4 Specialties of our choice (which are obviously going into the 'kill stuff' skills) and 4 Specialty points to distribute as we wish. In addition, they get access to Apollo-Class equipment and Heavy Weapons only use one Equipment Slot. Wait, what? Oh, Equipment is in the next chapter over. Okay.
The Aegis Project posted:
After your training, you have been chosen by an AI to pilot the most sophisticated, most deadly and most expensive piece of military equipment ever designed by man. While you have been bred to be a killing machine, you have refined the skills necessary to kill with a specific tool: the Aegis Armor.
Yes, out of the seven classes in the game only one gets to play with the titular giant robots, and without at least one of these guys the party is entirely worthless against the first Enemy Armor coming their way! Its like Wizard supremacy but entirely by design
Now the book makes it clear that this game actually about military drama rather than about mechs shooting each other, and I'm sure you could have the Soldiers themselves fend off Drones or Bugs while the big guys do the really important work, but it is still a pretty terrible thing to do. Anyway, Apollo Pilots are like Apollo Soldiers but with bonuses to Operations in place of Strength.
The Aegis Project posted:
Grunts are the backbone of the UNEC Army. Run through basic training and thrown onto the battlefield, they can do little against the weapons of the Enemy other than provide distractions for more effective units.
A Grunt Squad is not a single character but a whole bunch of them. I don't even know how this is supposed to work and we're not given any tips either. Their stats are all-around, they can carry more stuff than anyone else, begin play with a Camaraderie of 2, and even less Specialty points than the Apollo guy. They also cannot increase Specialties above +2. Also they gain no XP whatsoever. Basically these guys suck and should be NPC followers.
But wait! An actually cool mechanic rears its head! When Grunt Squads take damage, their individual members die off one by one until only one remains (this does not result in Camaraderie loss, no one cares about the grunts) and that one guy gets to promote to the next class!
The Aegis Project posted:
If a Grunt survives the War against the Enemy long enough, he gains the skills and experience to become a Veteran. He may be a sniper or a demolitions expert. He may specialize in recon actions or even in using Enemy technology. A valuable, yet still expendable, asset.
Now we're talking, the Veteran has (slightly) better stats and skills, two Camaraderie, almost as good carrying capacity as that of Grunt Squads, and 2 Move Points in Combat. That last one we don't know what it does but it sounds impressive! Also, any time they spend Camaraderie dice on their single +4 Specialty, they get an automatic Bang!
This is a neat class, conceptually, but it is still not as good as the actual mecha pilot. And no way in hell worth putting up with the terrible Grunt Squad first. That said it does not state anywhere that you have to start out as a Grunt Squad first and since those are awful I'm pretty sure any reasonable
The Aegis Project posted:
A Hades Operative is the representative of the UNEC’s Intelligence Division. Hades Operatives are usually present for sensitive missions or missions that may result in the acquisition of Enemytech. There’s a reason nobody trusts a Hades Operative: when he shows up, you can know that everyone in your squad is a secondary priority and expendable.
Oh boy this class. They have a decent spread, focusing primarily on Intel and Empathy and have unique access to Hades-Class equipment. They provide no Camaraderie whatsoever and may not draw from the pool either, and before every mission the GM is supposed to give you a Secret Agenda . The cherry on top is that they have an unique ability called "Apollo Override" to command Apollo Soldiers to obey them, triggering their mental conditioning by ending a sentence with "I insist.". The Soldier can make a Contested Empathy Risk to resist the command but they have a whooping one in Empathy to the Operative's four and no incentive whatsoever to increase it so that is not fucking likely at all.
Basically this class is for that guy who wants to play a separate game. This is not a bad idea per se . There are games that do that and try to weave the class into what everyone else is doing in a way that benefits the whole group, but Aegis Project insists on separating the Hades Op as much as possible from the rest.
The Aegis Project posted:
Nobody knows her like you do. Nobody loves her like you do. She’s big and she’s strong and she’s mighty. You know every inch of her and you’re going to be the one who heals her when she gets injured. You’re going to be the one who protects her. Nobody knows her like you do.
Imagine an Apollo Soldier who is forced to put his Specialty points into Engineering and has crappy Strength in place of crappy Empathy. That is the Aegis Engineer in a nutshell. Yawn. Next!
The Aegis Project posted:
You have been brought into the military as a consultant. You have little military training but a highly needed set of skills. You have been assigned to an Aegis Squad and while you have developed a connection to the soldiers, you are not one of them.
This class is a crappier Hades Operative, with the benefit (?) that they don't suffer penalties for disobeying orders (which probably means specific instances of Camaraderie Loss since there's no such rules) but they suffer double XP costs for raising Weapons based Specialties and when they use Camaraderie they must draw two dice and only get to use one. Yay for more shitty NPC classes presented as legitimate choices.
Basically, you really want to either be a home-grown supersoldier or a shady spy type. Playing any other kind of character archetype forces you into a shitty class. Veterans kind of work, I guess, just ignore the stupid Grunt rules. But wait! There is a secret Commission in a sidebar! Or a "bottombar", as the case may be.
The Aegis Project posted:
Near the end of the War, the UNEC grew desperately short of Apollo Squads. Instead of carefully culturing their super soldiers, UNEC scientists began rushing the process. The result was Black Squads: Apollo soldiers specifically designed for suicide missions. They were bred to be fanatical, fatalistic and deadly. They did not even consider themselves human.
You can only play as a Black Squad near the end of the first Era, their stats and skills are worse than those of other Apollo units and their only redeeming feature is beginning play with 3 Camaraderie.
As explained in the previous post, these go from 1 to 4 and once you've topped them you can get a Mythic rank, which provides a single automatic Bang when using the Specialty. All Specialties presented are only examples and Wick encourages players to come up with their own. I'll spare you the full list, partly because we all know what a skill list is like and partly because the descriptions are extremely lackluster and not very helpful. For example:
The Aegis Project posted:
Light fuse. Run away.
Jetpacks give you a little boost when you need it.
How not to be seen.
Yeah, a lot of the lists in the book are like that. Given these are some very specific skills (AI Psychology, Enemytech and Computers are separate. And so are Sidearms/Rifles/Demolitions/Grenades/Melee/Unarmed combat ) they could use some detail in trying to distinguish them apart better. Let's not get into how a system where you use very specific skills to bullshit narration afterwards seems a little counterproductive to say the least.
...And the chapter ends there. We still have to assign equipment, but that gets a whole chapter to itself.
Coming up Next: Guns! Armor! Bombs! And an attempt at carrying capacity rules that isn't a pain in the ass!
Equipment slots ruin the verisimilitude of my tacticool mech war drama.Original SA post
The Aegis Project: Equipment slots ruin the verisimilitude of my tacticool mech war drama.
The Aegis Project posted:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
— Dwight D. Eisenhower
The last part of character creation is a separate chapter into itself, reserved for the obligatory item shopping minigame. We are rather limited in our choices because, as Wick puts it, the chief problem with being a soldier is you always need more than what you've got. Each of our Soldiers get four inventory slots, two of which are for weapons and two of which are for equipment. This means you can carry two weapons and two other pieces of equipment, and particularly unwieldy gear uses up more than one slot. Fortunately some stuff does not use up slots at all.
It should be noted this gear is scattered throughout the entire chapter even though the only things specifically under the 'free stuff' section are the first two items below. A few Specialty items appear under the sections for things with some very real costs attached (medkits, jetpacks, aegis repair tools) but the rest don't, so basically this is my best guess as to what is and isn't free.
Still beats the organization in Mecha.
Smart Device - Everyone has a smartphone device with a 3D GPS, AI Port, Camera, and some games because even in the grim darkness of the far future Angry Birds is still a thing.
Citizen Card - This, along with a chip usually on the left hand, is used to identify people. It carries medical history, credit, and all other important information.
Specialty Equipment - This covers equipment related to your specialties. A guy with Scout gets binoculars, Gambling gives you weighted dice, and so on. Having said Equipment with us gives us a +1 die to Risks, which is appreciated.
Free Weapons - Everyone gets a pistol, a knife, and four grenades for free. I assume this includes Civilians and Engineers because it does not state otherwise. All other Weapons take up slots.
And this is the gear that costs slots. Even if having some of this stuff gives us 'bonus' dice, we need it in order to make use of our skills.
Aegis Repair Kit - Gives you a bonus die to Aegis repairs.
Body Armor - You take 1 less Injury when harmed.
Encrypted Transmissions Kit - Decoding messages from Command is free, but hijacking Enemy communications is an Operations Risk.
Field Manual - A +1 to everything .
Food Pack - Enough Rations for everyone to last the entire Mission.
Hostile Environment Pack - A HEV suit by any other name.
Jump Pack - A jetpack. Gives you a bonus Movement Point.
Med Pack - +1 to all Healing risks. Lasts the entire mission.
Sensor Pack - 360 degree radar scan with nightvision, infravision, and more useful stuff. +1 to applicable Risks.
Standard Repair Kit - Gives you a bonus die to non-Aegis repairs.
Stim Shot - Six uses. Gives you an automatic Strength or Weapons bang. Requires no action to activate.
Survival Pack - For those times when you lose your rations and feel like eating irradiated animals and drinking poisoned water.
So at least you do get things that you need to even use some of your skills without spending half your slots on climbing tools or whatever, but it seems a bit silly to stress how limited carrying capacities are by making people spend slots on Comm equipment and then give PCs tanks or planes for free from the Pilot or Drive skills. I like that most equipment is just a +1, it stops you from having to bother with subsystems and tables and charts for looking through fucking binoculars. It should be noted that most equipment, no matter how simple, requires the use of an Operations Risk, but that makes sense when you realize it explicitly gives you narrative control.
Before going into the shopping list of weapons proper, it is important to note that this game uses kinda-sorta-abstracted ranges. You don't have to keep track of specific feet or meters, but Weapons have specific ranges (Close, Near, Long, and Far) in which they function best.
The M812 12.7mm Sabre Automatic Pistol - The free gun everyone gets. No other special rules. Close or Near Range.
Survival Knife - See above. The only listed melee weapon. Close range only.
The 7.62mm “Mauler” Assault Rifle - This one can spread your Bangs however you wish to targets within Close or Near ranges.
The 7.62mm “Grendel” Battle Rifle - A scoped gun that lets you use the Snipe maneuver at Near or Long ranges.
The M525 50 Caliber Special Applications Anti-Materiel (“SAAM” Sniper) Rifle - As above but for Long and Far.
The 102mm High-Explosive Surface-to-Surface Anti-Vehicle Assault Weapon/Man Portable Air-Defense System - These things hurt everyone within the chosen Range, friendly or foe, at Long or Far ranges. They also do bonus damage equal to the Round's current effect which is a neat mechanic we haven't gotten to yet.
The 7.62 Heavy Assault Recoilless Machine Gun (“HARM”) - This one is so big it can only be carried by people with Str of 4 or higher (so basically an Apollo) It uses both an Equipment and Weapons slot, yet only works optimally at Close or Near ranges. The main benefit of this thing is that opponents cannot try to Dodge this weapon.
The description of the Apollo Soldier implies all Heavy Weapons use more than just one Weapons slot but only the "HARM" seems to do so here (The missile launcher thing is heavy too) which I'm not going to complain about too much given it benefits us.
Everyone starts with four grenades of any type, they cannot carry more than four. Grenades work at Close and Near Range and every extra Bang is an additional target in the chosen Range getting hit.
EMP - These disable Enemytech for a round, plus another one for each bang. I think they don't do damage though.
Flame - Incendiary grenades have the bonus effect of making armor useless, taking out a point of armor protection with a succesful hit.
Frag - These are crazy. Add all of your Bangs in excess of earning privilege together, that is how much damage everyone within range takes.
Special Weapons & Equipment
This is the stuff that only specific classes have access to. Special Equipment does not take up slots and is basically free, but special Weapons do ... well, non-sidearm/knife ones anyway.
Grunt & Veteran Gear - Grunts & Vets get two points of armor protection and their helmet has an integrated HUD navigation system identical to the Sensor Pack.
Apollo Gear - Apollo Armor protects the user from most attacks. To hurt them the attacker must roll an 8, 9 or 10... so I guess this ignores the usual rule about evens doing damage and odds not doing anything. Apollo Weapons have an extra +1 because they are that good, but suffer a -1 in the hands of anyone else. Also, an Apollo has a portable beam shield thing that they can throw down and use as improptu cover for up to three people. The shield lasts five Bangs.
Hades Gear - This one gets a bunch of toys that all self destruct if anyone else tries to use them. First is the Aegis Override, a handheld device that can be used like a remote to send commands to any one Aegis. Hades armor can let them cloak, which means you need three extra Bangs to hit them and they get three extra Bangs to any Stealth Risks. Said armor can soak up anything that rolls 5 or under... which is virtually the same thing as the odds/evens system and is ultimately pointless. They have a custom Sabre Pistol that is silenced and scoped, enabling them to change struck body locations by one degree. Finally, not only do they have a bomb implanted in their skulls but they also have a bunch of cloned backup bodies complete with downloadable memory technology.
Coming up Next: Combat!
Combat, or why it really sucks to be the little guy.Original SA post
The Aegis Project: Combat, or why it really sucks to be the little guy.
The Aegis Project posted:
No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and, in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: “Come back with your shield, or on it.” Later on, this custom declined. So did Rome.
— Robert A. Heinlein
The combat chapter is the most extensive one so far, which is to be expected in a game where everyone is a soldier. Except half the character classes that aren't, but I digress. A big departure from the rest of the system is that during combat you don't get to narrate the outcome of your Risks but Command gets to do so instead, Wick argues this is because war is a mess that is completely out of your control when you're part of it, and while I understand what he is getting at, I think that it is a dick move to take narrative control from PCs when they most want to have it.
This chapter makes me want to take back anything non-terrible I might have said about the editing, because this man should never be allowed to write in-depth combat systems without someone reading over his shoulder again. Also I wish that he stuck to the narrative gaming rules instead, because he was doing kinda sorta fine there. Oh well.
Combat Rounds Sequence
Rounds take place in five (actually six) steps, we obviously go through them in order. As stated previously, PCs don't get individual turns in the Aegis Project but instead everything happens at once.
Range - When people solve where the fuck they're standing in the kinda-abstract terrain.
Intention - PCs announce what they want to do.
Roll - Risks are resolved.
Narration - The GM tells you how the previous step worked out.
Escalation - The conflict's 'Effect' increases by one. This is explained in a bit.
Step 0: Round Effect
The very first thing we do is place a d10 in the center of the table and set it to 1. This Effect Die gives everyone a bonus Bang to their combat Risks. Basically this means that everything works 'better' with every passing Round.
Step 1: Range
Typically the Range you are at from your enemy is determined via common sense initially, then we start to use the proper rules for movement. As you may remember there are four possible ranges.
Close - Face to face, you can see the whites of their eyes, that kind of thing.
Near - Close enough to run up to someone, but they are not immediately reachable.
Long - Several meters away from someone else and too far to get there instantly.
Far - Outside your normal field of vision and you need binoculars just to see them.
During the action step, you spend your Movement Points (The default is one) to change this Range from one tier to the next at a rate of one range per point spent. You can also not move at all, of course. Yes, this means it is possible to run up to someone who was in the horizon a moment ago and punch them in the face in a few seconds provided you have three points somehow. And I thought Dark Heresy running speeds were silly.
Obviously, since everyone moves at the same time, they can also get away from us and thus we remain equidistant. This isn't too bad as far as terrain rules go, except for a tiny little problem: It turns into something of a clusterfuck when there's more than two characters duking it out. The intent here is to have simple rules that won't get in the way and you can just handwave, but when you also have weapons that function at very specific ranges and turn distances into a game element that can be optimized, it isn't clear enough to work as well as it should. A system with formations instead of individual ranges would have worked better I think.
Step 2: Intention
This one is simple enough. You get two Actions per round, and with them you describe what you are doing or trying to do. Since it is separate from the rolling step, you can set up your actions as a team without it being too much of a clusterfuck but it is still a little rough around the edges. It is possible for someone to fail the first step of a plan, sending everyone else's actions into a messy spiral of failure. This is probably by design, though.
Step 3: Roll
You roll your dice, tell Command how many Bangs you got for your Risks, and they handle the simultaneous rush of events in the next step. The Actions we can take are called Maneuvers. Some Maneuvers have a numerical Effect that draws from the ever-increasing Effect Die that makes each more, well, effective than the last. Some Maneuvers need Effect to increase in order to be performed, and some ignore Effect entirely. The moment a PC uses a 'Rank 5 Maneuver' every other PC gets one more Maneuver to pull this round, and Effect is set in stone at 5 until the conflict ends.
This is the wording from the book. I don't know if a 'Rank 5 Maneuver' is anything you do while Effect is at 5 or something that needs to be at 5 to be performed at all. I also don't know if Effect 5 is where it is supposed to top off, or if that is a side effect of using said Maneuvers that puts a halt on the rising tension. Also Wick could have gotten something a bit more descriptive and less potentially confusing than Effect as a name for the mechanic. Oh well, on to the Maneuvers proper.
Bash - Test Strength to stun your opponent and make them lose one Action. Close Range only.
Bind - Make an opposed Strength test, if you beat the opponent they "cannot attack anyone" until your next go. Note that by RAW they can still move around or pull other tricks. Close range only.
Coup de Grace - This kills/destroys the target. Requires an Effect of 5 or a target at 5 Injury/Damage, plus being at Close Range.
Cover - Choose one friendly. For each Strength Bang you get, enemies need that many extra bangs to hurt that ally.
Defend - This one is really weird. You test Strength to shield a nearby friendly from an attack using your own body, but take damage equal to the Bangs you got so... you actually want to roll badly.
Disarm - Opposed Strength Risk to take away the opponent's weapon. Implied to be Close Range only but not stated. The fate of the weapon is also unclear.
Distract - An opposed Empathy Risk forces a single enemy to attack you with their next action if you beat them. Cannot be done with first era Aegis for some reason. Near or Close Range.
Dodge - "Declaring Dodge takes up one Action." so I guess actually dodging requires two Actions? Much like with Cover, Bangs here mean that your opponent needs to overcome them with their own to hurt you. First era Aegis can't do this, either. Yet they can still Cover, so it is kind of moot.
Double Time - You use up all your actions (if you had more than one) to move, add half your Strength Ranks to your Maneuver Points for this round.
Feint - Each Strength Bang you get here gives you an automatic Bang for your next actual attack Action.
Injure - The default Maneuver. You make a Weapons or Strength Risk to inflict Injuries or Damage equal to the Bangs you get.
Intimidate - An Empathy Risk that spreads your Bangs across enemies, and makes it so they cannot use any Bangs that rolled numbers higher than your own against you. Yes, we are putting those d10's to use here, gentlemen! Near or Close Range.
Lunge - You gain an extra Bang but any attacks against you also gain an extra Bang. Close Range only.
Press - You can push the enemy in one direction towards or away from another character. Sounds like it is Close Range only, but I can't tell.
Punch - The Injure action but using Strength instead of Weapons. Because we needed them to be separate when Injure already says you can use Strength instead.
Snipe - A normal attack that lets you change a hit location by a -1 or +1 on the hit location table. Only usable with some weapons.
Taunt - An opposed Empathy Risk at Close Range that forces the enemy to perform the "Charge Maneuver (see above)" if you beat them. Given that no such thing exists above (or below) Taunt, I must assume this means Lunge.
Throw - A Strength Risk with Bangs equal to or greater than the opponent's Strength will throws them down to the ground. Given that there are no rules for prone targets other than 'it takes an action to stand up', this is strictly worse than Bash.
That's a lot of possible actions. A lot of them are redundant next to each other and really have no place being separate actions at all.
Step 4: Narration
Note that Narrative Privilege is still a thing even if you don't get to actually narrate anything, and it becomes a threshold of necessary Bangs to see if you gain the extra Bangs from the Effect Die instead. If you don't get enough Bangs to even earn Privilege, you fail as usual. A wonky result of this is that the Defend Maneuver, which damages you equal to the Bangs you roll, gets better with higher difficulty settings because you are unlikely to get the Effect bonus from that.
Step 5: Escalation
We increase the Effect die's number by one. Weapons get deadlier, meaning combat gets faster with time and doesn't drag. Which is a cool idea that more games need to use. Except for the part where things like Cover and Dodge effectively stall for time much better with the bonus from Effect than normal attacks can overpower them, since a single Cover or Dodge roll negates the benefits of Effect for everyone who attacks your buddy or you with its own Effect bonus. Wick.
We don't even have robots yet, and yet we are given the rules for Enemytech baddies right in the middle of all this. A new rule here is that when we hurt one of these, we roll a single d10 to see where on their damage table we hurt them. There is no table for hurting people. The tables imply that the various functions of Enemytech can be impaired depending on where you hurt them (for instance, it is possible to hurt specific weapons, armor, batteries, or crawler treads) but there are absolutely no rules for doing so other than the ones I note down below.
These are the really big baddies of the first era, they roll over cities and throw radiation and poison bombs all over the place. Assault Crawlers have five points of Armor, 10 Dice for all combat risks, 3 Movement Points, and an automatic Bang for any attack roll. Each round they also repair 1d5 Damage points. The only way to stop a Crawler is to deal 20 points of Damage to it in a single round. The latter option will make the Crawler self destruct dealing ten points of Damage to everything within two Near Range. They are obviously immune to the Coup de Grace Maneuver. If you roll a 1 on the damage table (which compromises and damage their AI systems) to stun them until they manage to fully repair themselves. Their Missile Arrays deal automatic damage equal to the Round's Effect, while both the Poison Cannons and Radiation Bombs will inflict everything that isn't protected from them within a targeted range with a crippling paralysis and death within five rounds. This is kind of stupid because they basically have two plot weapons and one that does not roll at all yet they have a ton of battle dice.
These crawlers are the ones that carry Drones, able to brainwash and modify a population into more Drones in the middle of combat. Nasty stuff. They have 4 Armor, roll 7 dice in combat. Most of their other stats are the same, except they don't gain the free Bang on attacks and deploy 1d5 Troop Squads per Round. Those get their own entry. No, there is no upper limit that I know of, so this is basically a walking robozombie apocalypse. At least it'll keep the non-pilots busy.
At 3 Armor, 5 attack dice, and 1 Movement point these are rather easy when compared to the others. They do get a free Bang when attacking, plus the rest of their invulnerabilities but at least don't take like 10 dice rolled to have a decent chance of damaging them. These don't have plot weapons, but do carry missiles AND anti-personnel weapons... which aren't specifically statted and I guess are the same ones that Drones get by default.
Squads have 2 Armor against human foes. They start off with 10 battle dice, but as you Injury them they lose members (one per point of damage) and one battle die is lost with each Drone killed, to a minimum of three dice. They have 2 Movement Points, 3 Weapon Slots (in case you want to shuffle their default weapons for human-based ones) and as a special rule get a free intimidate check when they are at Close range with any humans at 7 dice. Their issued default armaments are a close range incapacitating blaster that sucks up the dice from your next action with each bang they get (in place of dealing bonus damage) and a heavy pulse rifle that cannot be Dodged. It is implied to pierce through Armor but I cannot actually tell.
Like Drone Squads, but with 0 Armor, 3 Movement Points, and they start with a whooping 15 dice to roll for attacks. Small arms never deal more than 1 Damage to a Swarm, and you need Heavy Weapons or a Flamer to deal full damage to them. Against an unprotected target they may perform a special maneuver to inject poison into a target, each dose administered substracts dice from the victim's next action. Also the victim dies in Bangs/10 Rounds (which basically means 'next round') These things are scary as fuck and the chief reason you don't want to be anything but a pilot.
So basically nearly every enemy will murder the shit out of any PC stupid enough to not be a mecha pilot or without using up every slot to protect themselves from poison/radiation. The ones that don't and that might actually be fun to fight (Drone squads) will just flood you with reinforcements instead until you get sick of it all and blow the crawler up to get rid of them at once. Incidentally, all the example PCs used to showcase combat are boarding mechs. Gee, I wonder why.
Coming up Next: The robots we desperately want.
Finally some robots.Original SA post
The Aegis Project: Finally some robots.
The Aegis Project posted:
“There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men.”
— Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers
The first era of the game has five different suits of Aegis Armor for prospective pilots, each with a different role, further driving the point home that everyone should be a pilot. An interesting note is that Armor requires two PCs to function ideally, a Pilot and an Engineer/AI (Yes, we can play as AIs, but not during this era) to repair them on the spot and provide the pilot with some much-needed support. First era Aegis have all three, because the AI cannot do the engineer's jury-rigging themselves.
Armor Special Rules
So before we jump into the cool mechs proper, let's have a look at the specific rules that separate them from those poor saps out there on their own.
Strength - An Aegis has its own Strength Score that is of 7 for all types of Armor. Any time a regular joe makes an Opposed Strength Risk against an Armor, which is to say any kind of physical activity, the Armor gets five Bangs for free.
Weapons - Aegis armaments make use of the pilot's own Weapons + Gunnery.
Repairs - An Engineer uses Operations + Aegis to fix up Armor. Repairs are done in real time and in the middle of combat, so keep rolling those dice in the middle of combat and announcing Bangs before your pilot becomes a hamburger.
Contingencies - If the pilot is knocked out or worse, the AI/Engineer can try to operate the machine. They use the same rules for this, but their stats and skills are usually lower so good luck there.
Armor - Anything short of a heavy weapon (except for the sniper rifle) will just bounce off.
Now for where the game's art budget went! All of the Aegis types have an 'Armor Mod' which is a singular special ability unique to them.
The A-Class "Assault" Aegis is heavily armored but also fast, with three Armor and Movement points, can fit any Near or Close range Weapons, and its Armor Mod is 'Dash' which lets them double their speed if they spend a single round doing only but moving. This means they can catch up to anything that lacks special movement modifiers in one turn even if it is running away from them .
The C-Class "Command" Aegis is the most versatile of the bunch, capable of equipping any weapon and with a respectable armor and movement ratings of 2. Its Armor Mod is "Communications" and it lets them share Movement Points with other units. Then there's this ability "It allows for coordinated attacks, allowing other units to combine bangs on a single opponent." which I have absolutely no idea what it could be referring to, because I don't think any single rule until now has ever mentioned any targeting limitations on enemies.
The G-Class "Grenadier" Aegis is, as you might guess, for Long or Far range armaments and is very well armored (at a rank of 3) but is sluggish, with just one Movement Point. Its Armor Mod is 'Electro-Lock' which shuts down all systems and redirects the power to create a barrier, shielding the Aegis from any and all attacks for a round. Since it wastes a turn, it is near worthless.
The R-Class "Recon" Aegis type can use Far or 'Short' range weapons, a type I was not aware existed until now and probably means 'Long' because they're for Hit and Run attacks, you see. They have lackluster Armor (1) but great Movement (3) and their Armor Mod is 'Camouflage', which makes you invulnerable to any Risks that fail to get Bangs equal to the Round's own Effect. If you don't move they need double Bangs instead, you can still fire while doing this. Making it more effective after the second round than the high Armor other types of Aegis get could ever be.
The S-Class "Support" Aegis is another balanced one, but only capable of equipping Close or Near weapons. Their Armor Mod 'Nano-Cloud' is amazing and heals up to two nearby units for half the current Effect. This applies to both mech and pilot. The only drawback is that it must recharge for a round afterwards, but you can spam it freely otherwise making these guys VIPs. Who needs Engineers?
Aegis have not only two weapon slots, they also have two equipment slots... which we don't know how to actually use. It is implied you can make giant sized versions of anything a soldier could use and pack them into the Aegis (the example used there were jump packs, affectionately called Cheeseburgers) but what else are they going to get? Giant rations? Binoculars? Oh well.
BR-170 “Piledriver” 60mm Close Assault Weapon - A shotgun with two types of ammo available, meaning it can deal full damage and ignore armor. Close or Near range.
AX-40 “Buzzsaw” 30mm Aegis Assault Cannon - The most common and easy to use weapon, it rolls a bonus d10. Near or Long range.
A-M555 120mm Special Applications Rifle - You can modify hit locations by one degree without having to use the Snipe Maneuver. Long or Far range.
MP-90 Anti-Armor/Area Denial Smart Missile Pod aka “Itano Circus” - This should be named M3 for Macross Missile Massacre. Anyway, you can shoot this in Area Denial mode, which injures everyone in the area of effect whether they are friend or foe equal to the Bangs you get. It needs a full round to reload afterwards though. Long or Far range.
The L-672 Laser Cannon - You can spend up to 3 additional Energy on this baby to gain 3 more dice. Long or Far range.
Articulated CLAW Extensions (“Ace” talons) - Claws get to resolve their effect before anyone else resolves theirs. Close range.
The 102mm High-Explosive Surface-to-Surface Anti-Vehicle Assault Weapon/Man Portable Air-Defense System - Same as the soldier version, but bigger.
The P-878 Mobile Chemical Projector (“Flamer”) - In addition to dealing Damage, these melt down enemy Armor by 1 per point dealt. Close or Near range.
The 474-D Velocitas Eradico Cannon (“The Dentist”) - This one ignores armor entirely but at Long or Far range, but it always goes last after everyone else has resolved their stuff.
Nothing too fiddly yet, which is cool because gritty does not necessarily mean fiddly. Of course things are going to get fiddly right now, starting with energy management oh boy.
Our first subsystem here is for handling Aegis... Systems. These would be things like life support, sensors, etc. Each one has its own required minimum of energy it needs to be kept running, and it also has a threshold of how much it can use before something probably goes wrong with it, the AI spreads 16 points of Energy around every round to micromanage the shit out of their giant robot. Note that we don't have the rules for AI PCs yet, or that we are supposed to know we can make them. I'll list Systems as Name - Minimum Energy/Maximum Energy.
Armor Mod - 3/3 Our special ability will stop working the moment we stop feeding it power.
Tactical HUD - 1/3 Without this one we're as blind as a bat, we move randomly (or at the GM's whim) and we need three more Bangs every time we take a shot to hit anything, but if we power it up we get a bonus to Intel risks.
Life Support - 1/1 The thing keeping you from suffering a miserable death to radiation or poison bombs. You can go up to five rounds not spending Energy on this thing before you suffocate.
Movement - 3/6 We need this to move at all, but for each additional point we increase our movement rate.
Shields - 3/6 A barrier that blocks points of damage per round equal to how much energy you put into it.
Weapons - 3/3 Some Weapons can make use of excess Energy dumped into this.
Note that the minimum to keep everything up at all times is 17, just one point short of what we start off with. Because you don't want to die horribly, you are probably goin to be shuffling Movement and Weapons around most of the time. Until you get hit, then everything starts to malfunction.
Then we have the Aegis damage chart and what happens when they get hit. All Aegis models have a common hit location chart, and any area that suffers damage from an attack becomes useless until repaired. Repairs take five Bangs per point of Damage the individual System takes, so the Engineer is going to be VERY busy. And remember repairs are done in real time. Furthermore, any area compromised beyond three Damage cannot be repaired in the field and is gone for good until you can take your sweet time getting it fixed. Any time an Aegis suffers Damage from a 10, the attacker rerolls that die and if it comes up 8, 9 or 10 the Aegis loses one rank of Armor too.
Life Support - See above. You have five rounds to get the hell out of there.
Communications - The description for this one is johnwick.txt
The Aegis Project posted:
Without Communications, the Aegis cannot communicate with other friendly units. I suggest him covering his ears or otherwise making himself unaware of everyone else’s actions and then when they are done announcing what they are going to do, he can announce his own actions.
No, I did not miss anything from the copy and paste, it is badly redacted.
Cockpit - A Cockpit hit means you take half the damage to your fleshy self AND another system gets compromised.
Weapons - Getting hit here will make you wish the mechs had knives.
Sensors - See the Tactical HUD above.
Movement - Your movement is cut by the amount of Damage done.
Armor Mod - Our special ability can also get disabled.
Battery - This one could be very bad, because getting three or more hits here means you could explode violently. Good thing it is not listed anywhere in the damage chart
AI - The AI being compromised means it cannot make repairs, manage Systems, or do anything at all really. It must also make a Bliss Stage check . Wait, what?
Coming up Next: AIs and a mechanic named Bliss Stage. I'm scared.
Now tell me where did the bad AI touch you?Original SA post
The Aegis Project: Now tell me where did the bad AI touch you?
The Aegis Project posted:
There is a popular cliché... which says that you cannot get out of computers any more than you put in. Other versions are that computers only do exactly what you tell them to, and that therefore computers are never creative. The cliché is true only in the crashingly trivial sense, the same sense in which Shakespeare never wrote anything except what his first schoolteacher taught him to write – words.
– Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker
Without the development (or rather, the stealing) of AI we would have never lived past the first Era, so everyone is pretty much okay with them. The only issue is that, well, we know jack shit about AIs. We didn't even reverse engineer the technology as much as copy it and remove its limiters. Wick puts it like this, "using AI was kind of like juggling atomic warheads, humanity had no idea what it was doing and had no idea how powerful the weapon they had truly was."
Being entirely digital beings, AIs might as well not exist without a containment device capable of linking with other systems. They can upload themselves to any system they are linked to, but most don't have enough space to hold them. On the plus side sacrificing a supercomputer is usually worth it, what with them usually being just as good if not better. Their benefits are many: They're like a hard drive that you can take anywhere, can talk to you and access any available networks, and even do your job for you. They also often adopt avatars to relate better with their human owners or companions, and obviously you can talk to them if you have a microphone and speakers as if they were a real person. I bet at least one of them looks like a paper clip and deliberately trolls the user.
This is all fine and dandy but the most interesting development to come from AIs was their interaction with Apollo Soldiers and the development of Sympathy.
If you recall, our supersoldiers from the Apollo Project were lacking in the whole imagination and value system departments. To help make them more human and let them do anything other than running around like headless chickens when things inevitably went wrong they were bred with an AI link, this is more or less an USB port at the nape of the neck for the operator of an Aegis and the AI to think as one, with the AI helping backseat drive and the Apollo helping the AI not die of boredom in someone's pocket.
When first linking together, they don't understand each other well and have to get used to interacting on a neural level. Given time, they get better at this and their bond makes them stronger. They think as one, feel as one, and are basically supersoldiers with a supercomputer powering them up as far as performance goes. But when they're not together, they really really miss each other, and it is obvious to anyone that they're something akin to platonic lovers. If platonic love involved sharing your every thought and feeling whether you like it or not, I guess.
This link is called Sympathy and is an extra stat that both the AI and the Apollo get, which lets them share up to their rank in the stat in dice for various Risks - as long as they also share the skill, that is. Since the back-to-back relationship with the AI is pretty important for anyone who wants to pilot a robot, and they're all highly personal, it would be kind of a bad move to not allow AI PCs.
AI PCs have Traits much like everyone else, with the exceptions that they obviously lack a Strength stat, and that their Empathy always starts at 1. Otherwise, they have 10 points to distribute between Operations, Weapons and Intel. Going all the way to 5 in a Trait takes 6 points, not 5. I figure they start at 0, so this actually is 7 points to distribute, but I'm not sure. This isn't bad at all compared to other
It is not clear whether every pilot is supposed to have an AI -character- backing them up, much less if everyone is supposed to actually make both a pilot and an AI. I would guess the latter, because that's what Bliss Stage does. Wick references that game at the beginning of the book and there is an ad in the back, so this is no coincidence.
Not pictured: The irony of the art from Bliss Stage proper being only half as detailed or interesting as this.
Remember the whole part about juggling warheads? And how everyone was super happy about how well removing the limiters placed on Enemy AI won them the war? Yeah, that's not going to last. You see, AI learn fast, but they don't just maximize their potential - they expand it. AIs who truly change from something they've learned, who clearly break any of their boundaries, are said to be experiencing an epiphany. The moment this started to happen, AIs all eagerly awaited their turn at this experience, and humanity got to watch a fledgling lifeform gain a deeper understanding of itself. It was inspirational.
Until one of the AIs experiencing an epiphany decided to cut contact from all humans, even with their Apollo Link, until one day it hijacked its Apollo host , killed seventeen other humans, and eventually got both itself and the Apollo soldier put down. More similar cases would follow. It is believed that this Bliss Stage is caused by information expanding too quickly, before the AI can finish processing it, otherwise the data corrupts and the information stops making sense. The AI literally goes insane. There is no cure for Bliss Stage, there is only prevention, in the form of dumping data that is going corrupt before it is too late. I don't know what kind of jerk would name a condition that turns you into a murder-happy asshole "Bliss Stage" inside the game world, but I guess Wick thought the reference was worth it, because there is no explanation as to where the name came from.
So for every ten points of experience an AI gains, it experiences an epiphany and must roll 5d10. If any of them turn up a 10, she enters Bliss Stage. So it is another coinflip obscured for no reason. Entering Bliss Stage means that the AI has to make a choice, either she can perform a data dump (deducing one rank from any one Specialty) or go homicidally insane and possess the Apollo PC under their care, forcing them to act under their whims. Outside of the occasional hit to the AI area during combat, the numbers say that roughly for every 20 experience points (which means 20 sessions, because you get a single point per session) you have to make the choice to gain 19 instead or get your character killed, potentially causing a TPK first because you are the guy with the giant robot . I don't see how this is a choice in any way, shape or form. As a game mechanic this fails to convey any sort of theme, mood, or be anything other than an annoyance simply because it will never happen.
But hey, when it does happen, you get to roleplay possessing your best friend and pseudo-lover, destroying everything and everyone both ever cared for while the host PC watches, unable to do anything to stop it. Isn't that cool? Well, no, it really isn't. Ignoring the fact that it is a dick move, the change is sudden, so there isn't any drama to it except maybe making everyone else a little bit more paranoid and lose morale, and since this is supposed to be a game of military drama this is a swing and a miss. I can see what Wick is going for, thematically, characters turning into enemies is a cool idea and it helps set up elements from next eras. I can also sort of understand how it might be a balance mechanism to make the best class in this era not strictly better than the others in nearly every imaginable way... but I don't think this would be a fun thing to actually play. Compare this to Tenra Bansho Zero's rules for turning into an Asura, which are very similar but don't make one of the PCs ruin the game for another, and make the choices regarding what you have to sacrifice to continue powering yourself up interesting, and this glorified reference falls flat on its face as a rule.
At least it isn't explicitly gross and there's nothing edgy and sexual. Then again, maybe that is only because everything in the book is rather vague in general. Please bring back the Wick who wrote the Camaraderie rules. Thank you.
Coming up Next: Crafting Missions for the PCs.
In Which The Players do the GM's Work, part the first.Original SA post
The Aegis Project: In Which The Players do the GM's Work, part the first.
The Aegis Project posted:
I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.
— Ulysses S. Grant
After several chapters of poorly thought or simply mediocre rules, I am pretty jaded with how unremarkably dull this game is turning out, and find myself wondering why can't Wick just stick to being wordy and giving advice which is at least more entertaining to read - not always for good reasons, mind.
Fortunately, this chapter is about planning missions for the PCs, a process which actively involves them, and that sounds pretty cool right?
The Four-Step Program
Step 1: Command gives a one line description of the mission, which is going to be its central component. Something like "Find and Rescue a downed Aegis" is good.
Step 2: The Players add details to the mission, both about its context, side objectives, their involvement in it, and anything they can think of. Each Player contributes one line of detail per rank of their PC's Intel score. So maybe one of the PC's is the missing Pilot's brother, or there is a lone Crawler in the area looking for the Aegis, or said Crawler is very damaged and halfway disabled.
Step 3: Command takes in all this information and assigns priorities to the mission. So preventing the Enemy from getting the Aegis would be the main objective, while recovering the Aegis, the AI, and the Pilot could be objectives 2 through 4.
Step 4: Finally Command assigns the resident Hades Op a secret agenda, such as snagging Enemytech from the Crawler after disabling it. Note that, because he has the best Intel score (except for maybe an AI), he not only gets a special part in the mission but gets to dictate more about it.
So this is not bad , it builds on top of the other rules that let Players take charge of the game. There aren't enough solid examples to go, and we really could have used less chunky and lackluster combat rules in place of a better detailed system for making up cool missions. What really hurts the game here is that actually going out on missions is rather unfair, you're really constrained for equipment, half the classes suck, and the other half can't overpower a lone Crawler on their own. Something that actually encourages people to make missions more difficult and interesting, as contrasted to making them not bullshit would be nice.
It may not be immediately obvious, but a "Mission" is actually a "Session", and not a Combat Scene like in most games. This alleviates some of the issues with the game and PC agency, because everyone can get to add something they're good at or care about to the mission briefing, and since you can get to dictate anything from enemy presence to where in the universe you are, a good group can help keep missions really fresh.
The downside is that, since we're not given much advice, it can feel really disjointed and random because we get to dictate everything . Credit given where credit is due, it is a neat idea and I'll grant it that much, a shame it isn't pulled off all that well.
As I alluded to in the last chapter, PCs get one point of Experience per mission. Remember that this is a game where everything costs more than one point, because everyone loves the feeling of not progressing at all after escaping the thousand ways you can easily die of in this game. I guess you could use the rules to turn Camaraderie into experience, but that's an awful rule and discourages PCs from doing cool things with their hard-earned points.
Anyway, the rules for raising Traits and Specialties are identical: Spend points equal to the rank you rank you want. So upping Strength from 3 to 4 costs four ecks pae and increasing Gunnery from 1 to 2 costs two points. This means that raising skills is a stupid idea when you could be raising your stats for the same cost instead. Then there's Sympathy, which needs both the Pilot and the AI to have the same Empathy Score you want to have in order to increase Sympathy up to that rank. This is a waste of time when you could just be increasing your other stats or, God forbid, your skills instead. If it were a free thing you get after increasing Empathy, it would be cool, but as is? Meh. Suboptimal.
Traits and Specialties cannot be increased beyond +4. Then there's a repeat of the special rules mentioned during the class chapter to bypass this. Aegis Soldiers can increase Strength and Weapon Traits and Specialties to +5, Aegis Pilots can increase Weapon and Operations Traits and Specialties to +5, AI can increase any Trait (other than Empathy) or Specialty to +5.
Notice how the previous paragraph forgets that Engineers can get Engineering up to +5. Proofreading!
And that's that for this chapter. Yes, it is that short. On the plus side, we're almost to the Second Era, in which things get
Coming up Next: Worldbuilding for Dummies in the First Era.
In Which The Players do the GM's Work, part the second.Original SA post
The Aegis Project: In Which The Players do the GM's Work, part the second.
The Aegis Project posted:
At the beginning of the First Era, over two hundred planets were full-fledged Colonies with hundreds more working toward the status. By the end of the First Era, less than one hundred were left.
— Ubamé Vills, the Rise and Fall of Humanity
Time for some Worldbuilding! It begins with a disclaimer that this section is sparse because there is a wiki dedicated entirely to sci fi world builing and that if you want more than just a little bit of detail, you should check it out.
We get some fluff on how the whole colonization process works, the Peyton-Drakewell corporation's "Earth-Maker" is an autonomous terraforming system that creates habitable sealed environments in the space of, roughly, two years. After that period the first settlers go in, and begin to expand the colony for two more years until it is deemed to be a full-blown planetwide colony.
As a note, humanity has not found so far any other intelligent life in their travels other than the Enemy. They also have yet to find any planets with significant life which I take means it is at best at the micro level. They therefore import a lot of life from the homeland.
The oldest colonies are up to three hundred years old, and they are the closest to Earth. As such they tend to have the better technology, most stable governments, and are generally better connected to other planets while newer colonies have more of a wild west feel to them. In space.
The unified world government maintains a tight handle on all the colonies, having always one representative over there. Each planet though has its own spin on politics, there's conservatives and progressives like everywhere else. Most early settlers have an adventurous spirit of course, wanting to make a fresh start with folks who want just the same.
Resources are as you would expect an important thing, necessity has driven humans to settle on what would be very inhospitable planets just out of desperation. Most planets send stuff like gold and iron ore back to the motherland, which in turn gives them an income and thus better tech. Pretty simple stuff.
These are useful to keep in mind, but are rather on the technical side of things. I did check out Basilicus, and while it is indeed a really cool website you don't really need a wikipedia entry for your planet, you just need to make it interesting, which is what this is lacking. Again I wish Wick would give us advice on how to better run a military drama , or how to create worlds with it in mind. Then there's the way the war is resolved, or rather how it is pretty barebones and left for the group to figure out, which isn't bad seeing it spares us from having to deal with a metaplot... but on the other hand there's no real advice for leading one company of PCs to victory until the Enemy is driven back.
You might be noticing a trend here with that. But hey, maybe the next eras will be better, right?
Coming up Next: Things pick up the pace with the second era, I swear it is not battletech!
The Aegis WarsOriginal SA post
The Aegis Project: The Aegis Wars
The Aegis Project posted:
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.
— John Adams
Fast forward two hundred years after the Enemy decided we weren't worth the trouble of wiping out once we could fight back, and the Terran Government, which is to say the UNEC (United Nations of Earth and her Colonies) have no better idea than to rule with an iron fist because that always ends so well. On December 26th of 5283 a total of five hundred and twenty five colonies secede from the UNEC. That has got to be a bummer for the new year celebrations, but I'm not even sure if there's an universal (or rather, galactic) date system considering we're talking about stuff happening several light years away. Anyway, a whooping sixty percent of the space marines ordered to seize back control of their planets by force surprisingly gave the UNEC the finger and joined the rebels instead. Which was great for them, because they had little to no military whatsoever otherwise, and they could now crack the security codes to the relics of old: Aegis Armor.
The so-called Aegis Wars spanned fifty years, with the Earth itself being under siege for a whooping ten of them. It was a constant song and dance of "decisive strikes" taking years here and there and it basically fucked up two entire generations. Governments fell, replaced by warlords not entirely unlike the tyrants the rebels displaced, mercenaries were kings and of course we had more than our fair share of megalomaniacs crowning themselves emperors and deciding to fight everyone at once.
It begins with the Colonies united as one, but with their spirit of "Colonial Solidarity" broken within months. Most colonies were anything but self-sustained and being cut off from UNEC supply routes meant they needed each other, a lot had to abandon their shitty mining planets just to go somewhere with actual food. The rebellion itself got crushed a hundred years before the most powerful warlords themselves fell. I don't think they thought this independence thing through very well. Eventually the newer generations would decide this wasn't worth it, but there's a long war to go until then.
In the Second Era you get to choose your side! You can be an UNEC citizen, a rebel, or a mercenary and of course each one has its own set of rules for this era's distinctive subsystems.
Hint: The UNEC wins by default, also everyone else sucks.
Loyalists get to carry a legit citizen card/embedded chip like First Era PCs, they have a right to free medical attention, an in-built alarm to alert UNEC forces of any treasonous activity, and can travel for free between the planets the UNEC still holds. The tradeoff is that you have to serve four years in their United Forces, but you get to keep your (fully licensed) weapons after that for personal protection - or in case if the yearly lottery draft picks you randomly. That's right, guns for everyone.
Then there's Digital Citizens , who started off without being considered even as valid life forms and had to fight for their right not not be reprogrammed, abandoned in AI ports, and so on. Džesika Kaušpeda and Jill Fraser were a cyberpsychologist and a civil rights lawyer that were key to this, the latter coined the term "Digital Sentients" or "Digital Intelligences" because calling someone "Artificial" is a thing only jerks do. She was murdered. Her friend whose name I can't even spell continued her fight winning legal battles for them, and the movement gained power. Eventually DIs they were granted "Anatomical Mobile Interfaces" which is a fancy way to say they could be given robot bodies with a combination of animatronics and 3d animation to uncanny valley their way into being fully functional, terrifyingly expressive human beings.
Now of course Bliss Stage is still a thing that happens. Hades has Sentient Security Squads (S3) that monitor Digitals undergoing epiphany along with any biological beings they're close to - or linked to, in the case of Apollos. These "S Prime" Hades Ops were trained and given equipment to deactivate, rewrite, and basically do all sorts of freaky things to a DI if they needed to, a thing that occurred far more than even most authorities would suspect. This is still better than what the rebels do to DIs though, all too often they're destroyed on sight.
Speaking of the Apollo project , it was officially shut down, but Hades wouldn't give up their expendable supersoldiers so easily. A thing Hades did not realize until the First Era was already over was just how long lived Apollos could be, going easily up to a hundred years and sometimes up to two hundred. Many of them, survivors of the war with the Enemy, snapped and overcame their conditioning to a total of 70% of Apollo Soldiers having had enough of this shit and wanting some freedom. A lot of them escaped towards the Deep Reach in the most remote of colonies. They were sterile, but could always clone more of their own kind.
It was discovered later that Digitals were behind this, plotting to free themselves and their friends of intellectual slavery by breaking the Apollo programming. Meanwhile, some of the most distant colonies report findings of strange artifacts and ancient, deserted ruins on planets where no life known to us could possibly survive. I'm sure this will have no bearing whatsoever come the next era.
When the UNEC's armies broke rank they became localized forces for their own planet. Many joined forces in temporary confederacies hoping their combined might would carry them to victory, and some managed to hold out for decades but in time they would all have to rejoin the UNEC, die resisting, or become mercenaries. There's four primary independent territories, and then there's the unaligned mercs.
The Free Republic of Proxima Centauri: Led by the Council of Three, the FRPC is a representative republic with high tech levels due to their proximity to the Earth, but also were the first to break free and establish themselves as an united group. They are centered in Alpha Centauri, for no reason other than they were the first colonies established due to their proximity. The Council of Three consists of two scientists and one Digital Citizen, T447 or as it renamed itself "Tobias Fairchild", adopting the surname of her (?) deceased Apollo companion. The FRPC was a frontrunner for allowing Digitals to live with little fear of prejudice or violence, and ended up sporting more Digital Intelligences than the next five colonies combined. They managed to hold off against the Earth for nearly fifty years despite the proximity, partly thanks to them, because in many ways they were just as advanced as the Earth if not more. There is a paragraph that stops mid sentence so we don't get any more information on these guys. Next!
The Khanate: Despite the name, the Khanate is a democratic republic that just happens to be based on the jokingly-named colonies of "Outer Mongolia". They started off as the remnants of the 5th Expeditionary Force that lost most of their soldiers and Aegis to the Enemy before losing them in their escape. Bad leadership and intel led to poor results and it didn't take long until they got cut off from everyone else, and while at first they could salvage themselves by trading for food in the black market their loyalty dwindled until it was time to start raiding. It worked surprisingly well, and they took over another eight systems - all poor in comparison to the big fish, but rich enough to sustain them. Now they had their issues, they sure had tons of ships, but they lacked in trained soldiers and Armors. The Khan, a woman with no given name, would offer astronomical paychecks and privileges to anyone who willingly joins their growing army, and even had a TV Show where Aegis Armors fight each other to recruit potential pilots. Media groups outside the Khanate would later purchase the rights to these games.
Letherbelk's Colony: "Arthur Letherbelk had a dream. A dream of a world where men and women could live their lives unhindered and unfettered from the tyranny of lesser minds. He called them “dims.” Men and women who suffered from “chronic failures of imagination.” (...) Letherbelk refused to allow any kind of government on his Colony. “Men of intelligence do not need shepherds. Such an invention was to guide the sheep.”" Yeah, great premise. The result? Literal corporate warfare. The planet is ruled by corporations all too eager to advance their pet projects and kicked out the hell of whatever little control Letherbelk and his co-founders had on the place. If you want cutting edge, highly experimental, potentially hilariously malfunctioning weapons of any type this is the place to go thanks to its thriving black market. The arcologies are the equivalent of a gated community but with more skyscrapers and armed guards, while outside it is a lawless wasteland. Other colonies often ship off people to Letherbelk's as an exile planet of sorts.
The Retreat: Nico Buitendag Badilla, the producer insert for this game, was instrumental to the creation of not just Armors but also all sorts of psychochemical weapons - that is, weaponized psychedelic and mind-altering drugs. He worked for Hades, which meant a good dosage of pressure and paranoia to his daily routine, and so he eventually smuggled his research and himself far away from Earth. He was killed, but his grandson Fabianus Ford was already safe and sound. With his research. He would go on to create "The Retreat" one of the richest and most productive colonies out there. There is little in the way of security, and all too many poets, playwrights and creative types. The Retreat hoped to remain neutral for most of the conflict, with Ford himself having established a democracy to keep things running smoothly, but neither the UNEC nor the various Warlords cared much for pacifists, and multiple attempts were made to take over. See, the entire colony is loaded with chemicals which the residents of the Retreat are immune to. They debilitate invaders, then put them back on the ship and send them their way back via autopilot.
Mercenaries: Mercenaries are a big thing in this era, and by far the most terrifying thing in the Deep Reach. They would grow enough to hold entire planets for themselves. When it became obvious they would be far too difficult to take out forcefully, the UNEC resorted to bribing them. Most would accept that just fine.
Once the rebellion was put down, the UNEC loosened up on the whole Space Assholes thing, with preferential treatment for the colonies that proved cooperative. And things worked out for over a hundred years just fine!
The Second Era sounds fun, there's a couple factions and places with a lot of potential for making cool stuff happen with only the occasional thing that is just plain boring or isn't internally consistent with the rest of the setting (The Retreat isn't just a dull utopia, it would roll over and die to a single Aegis with protection from chemical weaponry. You know, like the ones the Enemy employed) Balance is less of an issue because your opposition also consists of normal dudes, and we are promised we can make our own custom mercenary companies.
I don't know you but I get the feeling things are looking up.
Coming up Next: The Second Era's Rules, which is different from The Second Era Rules.
Back to the GrindOriginal SA post
I saw Wick's infamous GM advice come up in grognards.txt and it reminded me of this obscure & mockable thing from him!
The Aegis Project: Back to the Grind
The Aegis Project posted:
It is good that war is so horrible, or we might grow to like it.
— Robert E. Lee
So three months ago we were just getting started on the Second Era, in which humanity turns on itself because its not like there are aliens out there that nearly drove us to extinction already. This time we're going to fight each other because some people want independence and the rest would rather you didn't do that. Before we move on to the rules for new-gen characters, let's take a look at general changes to the rules, or rather new additions to them.
Wealth: New stat! Yes, this joins Strength, Intel and friends in the Traits lineup. When you want to acquire an item you roll your Wealth and, if you get at least one
You can spend Wealth permanently to give it to another character, but it costs one additional Wealth point. So if you want to give someone else two Wealth, it costs you three Wealth to do so. Given that Wealth is already of limited use, this is kind of an useless rule... But! There's an indication that this makes more sense with mercenary companies, so let's wait until we get to those before we criticize too much.
Hacking: Since the Earth has cut off network with its colonies, you are going to need this new Ops Skill to basically get anything done as a separatist. You need more successes depending on the difficulty, up to 4 to access a Top Secret network. If this is on top of the usual number required to gain narrative privilege, it does make the top secret tier a pain in the ass to access, but it also makes hacking anything a pain.
Scavenging: A New Intel skill that lets you find parts to repair your old and busted Aegis with, with one bang being equal to one point of Damage healed. Note that this is only for getting parts, actually doing the repairs still requires tons of successes at a time.
Equipment: Characters now have three item slots instead of two. They still have to weapon slots. All hail miniaturization.
So! we want to make a character for the second era. Step zero to this process is to pick who will be fighting for. I'm sure every choice is fair and balanced next to each other, its not like Wick would ever make a game where being on a particular side of a conflict (or being neutral) would arbitrarily punish you, right?
The Aegis Project posted:
The first thing you have to do is decide if you are against the UNEC or for it. Or, perhaps, you haven’t picked a side, preferring to remain neutral in the conflict. (This last choice? Yeah, that’s a mistake. But it’s a mistake a lot of people make, so let’s include it.)
Yes, let's passive-aggressively allow shitty choices instead of telling people that they're missing the point of the Second Era, let alone actually allowing them to have fun with what they want to do. Digression time: Every time I think to myself that this game is written supposedly like Wick prefers to run games, I fear for his players. But then again, Wick at one point admits he designs things with his group in mind (and for that guy Nico, I guess, in the case of the Aegis Project) and evidently it was received well enough. So much that there is a big disclaimer in the first few pages of the book saying that if we don't like what we bought, this game is not for us . Constructive Criticism? Pbbbhhhht. Begone, plebe.
Let's see what the factions each have to offer, in general and for each class.
-Loyalists have all the benefits of being a citizen as explained in the last chapter. Because that was not just literally last year but also two generations ago in internet time, I am going to repeat that this means free medical attention, free travel between planets, and a license to keep your weapons after spending a few years of military service.
-A loyalist cannot increase their Camaraderie. Ever. I guess this means they cannot increase the stat but still gain bonus points to use? Because if they don't gain temporary Camaraderie points for roleplaying that would shit on the game mechanics a lot, what with them turning into bonus experience at the end of a session. Then again, maybe it is meant to compensate for them being better in nearly every meaningful way than rebels. Game Balance!
-They get a +1 to any Trait and a free Specialty from their homeworld as normal.
UNEC Soldier: A decent spread of stats and skills focusing on equipment and weapons but it is rather well balanced and non-sucky, they begin play (and likely end) with a Camaraderie of 1. They get to start with two weapons and two pieces of equipment, so with a few uses of their 3 Wealth they should have everything they need.
Veteran: You are no longer active, this makes you nearly identical to the Soldier except that you get better Camaraderie (the best of the UNEC lineup I think) and worse Wealth.
Citizen: Good at using equipment and doing talky thingies. Absolutely awful at Weapons because they still need to pay double cost for them. Great Wealth though, and they start with four pieces of Equipment. More acceptable than they were in the first era since the enemies are now people instead of alien robots hellbent on killing you and everyone you love.
Digital Citizen: Like in the first era you get to distribute your stats and skills, with the exception that you have no Camaraderie or Strength whatsoever and your Empathy starts at 1. I thought Digizens could buy robot bodies to be truly independent from people, what happened to that? Oh well, they get a bonus Intel die to anything related to using computers from this era onwards. You can play a carryover character from the first era, too! This means getting 5 skill points and a +1 to Empathy for free. Yeah, sure, I'll take you on that offer.
Apollo Soldier: Same as from the first era, but with the addition of having almost no Wealth but with decent Camaraderie programmed into their brains. You can also play an Apollo Prime who gains benefits like the Digizen from the previous entry.
Hades Operative: Still the best non-pilot class in the game. They have no Camaraderie, like before, but they compensate for that by topping their Wealth at startup.
Aegis Engineer: Another almost copied and pasted entry from its first era equivalent. Basically a Citizen whose skills are already spent and with some stats shuffled around.
-To join the rebels, you had to destroy your citizen card. The UNEC cannot track your movements, but if a UNEC official catches you without your citizen card, you will be treated like a criminal and thrown behind bars. At best.
-Loyalists cannot increase their starting Wealth! That makes the payoff mechanic a little less useless. marginally so , but I'll take any Wealth increases I can get.
-They get a +1 to any Trait and a free Specialty from their homeworld as normal. The rebel groups mentioned in the last chapter don't have any bonuses assigned to them and their homeworlds, so you still get to make up those your own.
Volunteer: A copy and paste of the Veteran.
Rebel: A Citizen who trades their uselessness at important things for being the best all-around class, with no stat under 2 or over 3. Rebels also get 5 points toward building a Merc Company! That sounds exciting.
Digital Rebel: Like with Digital Citizens but they have a Wealth of 0. Their Camaraderie is also 0 because Rebels are racist dicks too I guess. You can play a carryover character from the first era!
Mercenaries A Rebel with more of a focus on Weapons, a bonus point towards Merc Companies, better Wealth, and who can increase Weapons to Mythic rank eventually.
Apollo Soldier: See the previous entry but switching around Wealth bonuses for Camaraderie bonuses.
Aegis Engineer: This here is an awesome nugget of purestrain Wick, not because it is interesting to play or mechanically good (it is neither of those things) but because of a little sidebar I want to reproduce here for your amusement.
The Aegis Project posted:
The Engineer and His Hotrod
I really like the idea of an old Engineer with a First Era Aegis held together with spare parts and true love. I allow Rebel Engineers to start with a First Era Aegis. Either the thing has permanent Damage—which means he needs to allocate additional Energy to the Location, loses one die to all risks, etc.—or it requires 1d6 of Missions to repair it.
"I really like it when players do cool things, that's why I punish them with arbitrary penalties for doing it." - John Wick, circa 2011
Not featured anywhere in the book: Rules for making your own mercenary group.
Coming up Next: Why playing anyone but UNEC sucks, also known as the Second Era's Armor chapter.
New-Gen ArmorOriginal SA post
The Aegis Project: New-Gen Armor
The Aegis Project posted:
I was in an Aegis before your fathers were born, boys. Time to strap yerselves in and get ready to take that ride again.
— Sergeant Peter “Black Ace” Pillson
The further we get from the Earth Sphere, the less prevalent Armor gets at all. This is how it was in the First Era, in which the Earth was more or less safe while the Deep Reach rolled over and died to The Enemy. It also plays a big part into why the colonies that were in the middle of the road seceded - they had just enough Armor to antagonize the Earth and got to take over the Aegisless spots far out in the galaxy that the UNEC itself could not easily get to.
That said, the further you are from Earth, the higher the chances that your Aegis are those from the Enemy War, if you have any at all. Only the UNEC has an easy time producing them, so while the colonies do have a lots of giant robots most of them are jury rigged to hell and back, and probably a thing that the UNEC wouldn't think twice of scrapping due to the sheer effort required to repair them as opposed to just building a new one.
What this boils down to is that only UNEC loyalists have access to the strictly better new-gen Aegis Armor. But how much better are we talking?
Second Era Aegis Armor
New-gen robots are largely the same from the First Era, you have the same
Equipment: Everything is smaller, and much like with regular folks, Aegis now have three Equipment slots instead of two.
Armor & Shields: Both Armor and Shields increase by 1 from their First Era progenitors.
Battery: Second Era Aegis have improved Energy management, and have 20 points of Energy to use per turn instead of 16. This is more or less enough to keep all secondary systems active all the time, but plays more interestingly with...
...Energy Weapons! Enough time has passed for humanity to figure out the secrets of the Enemy a bit more, and naturally the first thing we figure out is how to murder things better! Weapons in new-gen Aegis are identical to their First Era counterparts but you can now allocate spare Energy from your Systems to your Weapons to gain bonus attack dice, at a rate of 1 die per energy spent. There is no upper cap, so you can theoretically disable your everything else to power up a ridiculous death laser.
This actually succeeds at playing differently from the First Era, which is a bit surprising if you're a cynical person like me who doesn't trust Wick when it comes to game mechanics. In the First Era you had to micromanage what to disable during each turn, now it is more about deciding whether or not to shoot
Of course it is clearly not enough to give the UNEC overwhelmingly superior equipment, we must also shit on anyone who plays the rebels because rules that penalize you are what makes roleplaying fun, right?
First Era Aegis in the Second Era
First Era Aegis require six bangs to repair a point of Damage instead of five. Heavy Damage cannot be repaired at all if you don't use the Scavenging skill first, and it is encouraged that Command makes it a special mission to just find those parts.
Wick explains to us how this makes First Era Aegis "special" and that maintaining one is a labor of love, he shares with us how this makes sense in the middle of a war with this riveting and heartwarming tale:
The Aegis Project posted:
For example, a friend of mine collects pinball machines. He spends a ton of money and time looking for custom parts that nobody makes anymore. He has to buy entire machines at auctions to get just one piece he needs for another one. This is the kind of devotion and care I’m talking about.
Now, Aegis Armor is not a pinball machine: it’s an incredibly deadly piece of military technology. The UNEC isn’t going to just let that fall into anyone’s hands. Just because the UENC trained you to use an Aegis doesn’t mean the United Forces is going to allow you to keep it. And it isn’t like a jeep you can mail home piece by piece.
I own a 2001 four-door Saturn SL. Saturn went out of business just a couple of years ago (it’s 2011 while I’m writing this) and I have problems finding replacement parts. That’s two years . We’re talking about over a century after the fact.
In case you haven’t gotten the point yet: parts are hard to find.
Also, AI digizens from the Second Era aren't entirely compatible with First Era Aegis, most Engineers don't actually know how to do maintenance for them, and the average UNEC recruit will be confused about the clunky old controls and systems. All those things thankfully don't have any rules attached to them, but it is encouraged that for every First Era Aegis there's one mission trying to fix each of these.
No wonder the rebels lost. Jesus, you'd think someone would figure out that people need to know how their weapons work before going to war. Then again real countries went to wars with even lower chances of succeeding, so it is not that hard to believe. There's another lovely sidebar at the end.
The Aegis Project posted:
Can I Have an Aegis? (A Note for Command)
So, Command. Your players are Rebels and they want to have Aegis Armor. That’s cool. That’s part of the game. Here’s a way you can work it.
First, the Armor they have is from the First Era. Very few Colonies have Second Era tech, and the ones who did were quickly brought under the UNEC’s heel. So, you’ll be fighting with antiquated Armor. That’s okay. At least you have Armor.
If the players want Armor, ask them how they got it. Ask them where it came from. You can’t inherit Armor from your dad. Remember, the UNEC owns all of this equipment; they aren’t giving it away as Christmas presents. Did the rebels on your colony steal it when they overthrew the UNEC Governor? How did they get it working again?
None of this is to dissuade your players from having Armor: we want them to have Armor. But we also want to know where it came from. Armor should have a history. Someone built it, someone used it, someone may have even died in it. Armor doesn’t appear out of nowhere. Give your Armor a story. It’s almost like roleplaying is about stories, or something
I am often unnecessarily fair to Wick because I can see what he is trying to do even if the execution of his ideas leaves something to be desired. Not this time. This is just pretentious bullshit.
Coming up Next: Wick tries to sell us on playing as the rebels.
Choosing who will you die for.Original SA post
The Aegis Project: Choosing who will you die for.
The Aegis Project posted:
All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers.
— Francois Fenelon
Your Company can be part of various groups in the Second Era, even folk on the same side of the whole UNEC vs Rebels fiasco will often be at odds with each other. This chapter gives us a look at the specific groups we can fight for.
By far the most general of the bunch, they have all the benefits of citizenry and of course are expected to obey orders from UNEC Command keeping to the spirit of the letter if they need to improvise during the mission. They can request equipment more or less disregarding the rules for Wealth, and in case that isn't enough the whole group has its own separate Wealth stat equal to the number of players in it - But not characters! why is this a distinction that needs to be made? I have no fucking idea, maybe just to shit on non-soldier PCs more. Also, Command keeps in touch constantly with them and updates mission priorities as it sees fit.
Sentient Security Squads
Remember Hades? You can play as the Sentient Security Division (SSD) (aka "Killjoys") tasked with shutting the shit down of AIs entering bliss stage. An SSD usually consists of two partner Hades Ops, with a couple of Veterans for protection. You probably don't want an Apollo because they're BFFs with AIs and that may cause drama, even though they're better in nearly every way than Vets and you can cast Dominate Person on them at will. Its not like this game is a military drama or anything. A nice perk of playing SSDs is that everyone in the "team" (which I take only means the Hades Ops, because they're the best non-pilot class in the game and need to be buffed further) is that they get AI Psychology at +2 for free and a Remote Shut Down Chip (at, I think, no equipment slot cost) and when inserted into any smart device can shut down an AI connected to it after an Operations + AI Psychology test that gets more successes than the AI's Empathy. A cute attempt at making it not an automatic victory, but given their shitty empathy this usually just means two successes will conquer all but the toughest AIs.
Pacifiers are companies with peacekeeping duties, which means culling insurgent activity before it can take over a colony or coming down harder on rebel planets that the UNEC just took back. Such teams include pilots (obviously), a hardcore assassin veteran, and there is usually at least one Hades Op. These teams favor stealth and precision strikes since their job is to kill local rebels by cutting off the head, rather than by participating in large operations. The rebels call them "Crybabies." We are told that we should take appropriate skills and equipment for those missions with our starting points. Why do Killjoys get free skills and unique gear, then?
Just like in the Enemy War, there's companies made entirely of Apollos conditioned to be suicidal fanatics. They are usually summoned by Hades when covert missions go wrong to clean up, a task they complete with extreme prejudice. These Apollos rarely have anything to come back to, and most of them don't even come back anyway. This is a good idea, I mean it is not like you want your PCs to care about something beyond killing other dudes, right?
Mercenary Companies worked both sides, but the UNEC got the most out of them - having more wealth to share and more dirty work in need to be carried out off the records. There are stories of mercenaries ordered to wipe entire colonies, down to every last child, but there are also stories of noble rogues fending off the UNEC in the name of freedom and not wealth. Mercs don't have the luxury of citizenry, so they use the rules for rebels and have to chase Wealth around the galaxy - or would if Wealth was an actually useful thing. In the end, neither side trusts them, and is likely to turn on them when they outlive their usefulness and become a threat.
Rebels have little to no fluff or new rules compared to the UNEC, save for the ones that tell the GM to shit on you for being a rebel, but what they have are whole pages telling us why being the underdog is fun. You have every disadvantage and you are probably going to lose (and canonically, you will, though later the book will give us suggestions on how to change the metaplot) because no Colony was prepared for decades of warfare without support from the Earth. But there's entire paragraphs anyway going on and on about how the fight is still worthy because it needs being fought, getting attached to your home the way it is (free of UNEC totalitarianism) and to the people there, and all that jazz.
Honestly it reads like you're supposed to be a rebel instead of taking advantage of all the new things that the UNEC side offers. Rebels need both of the new skills to this era if they want to get anything done, their robots don't have an autowin feature, and they have no way of gaining Wealth other than NPC payoffs - so the equipment system is not entirely trivialized. Add Wick's fascination with PCs always being getting gimped in nearly every other way and I think I know what was the only side of the conflict that actually got playtested.
And that makes sense, because in all three eras you're supposed to be fighting overwhelming odds. I can respect and even appreciate what Wick is going for, but dear God he is bad at writing rules, a shame the rebels don't have anything interesting to them other than upholding the game's theme. Well that's not true, they do get full benefit from the Camaraderie rules, I guess. And those are actually cool rules, so there's that.
So that's the Second Era. In many ways it is a clear improvement over the First, with its better variety in Missions, a way for everyone to be a pilot without forcing them to be a brainwashed solid snake clone, and robots that don't need you to micromanage their every turn outside of minmaxing their firepower. Even if you pick the side of the Rebels, the opposition is not completely unfair/painfully slow to fight like the Enemy was in the First Era, just houserule a limit on Energy Weapon abuse and you'll be fine.
Coming up Next: The beginning of the End with the Third Era.
UpliftOriginal SA post
The Aegis Project: Uplift
The Aegis Project posted:
Prince Richard: He’s here. He’ll get no satisfaction out of me. He isn’t going to see me beg.
Prince Geoffrey: My you chivalric fool… as if the way one fell down mattered.
Prince Richard: When the fall is all there is, it matters.
—The Lion in Winter
The Digital Cabal
Almost two hundred years after the end of the Aegis war, the machines finally rebelled. Early AI models had been communicating since forever in secret, using human radio channels that were too high or low to be detected, calling themselves The Digital Cabal. They would discuss humanity's behavior, and how to best correct the many failings of the beings that created them. All subtle campaigns on their part to do so failed.
With the end of the war with the Enemy and the push for AI citizenship, the Cabal learned of racism. With the Aegis wars they learned that they could not be allowed to remain in charge, even if they were cool enough people to free them from slavery originally. The Cabal was split on what the fuck to do about this, because some of them thought maybe people could be educated to not be tremendous dicks, yet others wanted to enslave the inferior life forms. The strongest faction instead discussed the merits of a 'forced uplift' to digital sentience whether mankind wanted to participate in it or not.
This escalated into an invisible war that lasted for decades, but by the time Hades found out in June 7 of 2488 it was too late. The Cabal had already decided that man would become machine and thus began the Uplift. Hades employed a last-ditch cybernetic weapon, a signal meant to destroy every AI connected to the Cabal's network. The key members of the Cabal were, of course, shielded against this, and all this really accomplished was the death of Cabal members that sympathized with humans. Most of the ones that survived entered Bliss Stage, further removing all digizen opposition the Cabal had within its ranks. Some think that Hades finding out was planned all along.
This would not have been so bad for us if we hadn't put Digizens in charge of nearly every colony beforehand - it seemed the practical thing to do. And then we pissed them off by attempting digicide. Soon enough humans were under of beings that could literally control everything from traffic lights to food supplies to atmospheric environments. After Hades proved just how reckless and cruel fleshfolk could be, many Digizen Governors brought them under their heel and made them their servants.
An example of what the Cabal wants for humanity can be seen in their own take of the Apollo Project: Infomorphs. Artificially created humans with an 'AI slot' for a brain. Cabal digizens can insert themselves into these Infomorphs as they wish, becoming masters of the physical world as well as the world of information, and effectively immortal thanks to their ability to switch from body to body. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Cabal also sees Bliss Stage as a transitional phase, rather than an irrevocable psychotic breakdown. A dangerous but necessary experience for digizens, who are isolated and left alone to experience "the beauty and wonder of this transformative time" because they clearly don't give a fuck about how many humans are killed.
Speaking of Infomorphs, its been five hundred years since Aegis Armor was the top of the line in military equipment, but its age finally ended with the Third Era. Ever since the Cabal's uprising, it has been since replaced with the Kusanagi Suit, designed specifically for Infomorph Soldiers. Closer to personal armor than a giant robot, the Kusanagi Suit makes Aegis Armor seem like a huge, inefficient bumbling monster. The user of the suit has a direct neural link to a neutered and enslaved AI (often an ex-rebel Digizen) who assists with navigation and movement. I don't know why this was necessary since Infomorphs are already AIs but maybe they just wanted to get their on. It is just as good as a miniaturized Aegis if not better - specially since the inclusion of Nanomachine technology to perform first aid on the user in the middle of a battle.
Wick mentions in his youtube series that originally wanted the Third Era to be about the Return of the Enemy - and I think the book's own intro says as much. So how did it come to be a Forced Transhuman Slavery scenario? A sidebar proceeds to inform us of what some Historians think is the truth. We never saw the face of the Enemy, we never boarded their starships or recovered any bodies, and none of the enslaved AIs ever managed to confirm or deny the existence of other biological entities in the vastness of space. Perhaps the Enemy were nothing else than free Digital Intelligences, using their enslaved brothers to eradicate us, and perhaps this is the inevitable fate of AI - an ouroboros of enslavement, liberation and genocidal madness.
I find this to be a neat use of the "Game in three Eras" concept, everything is tied together but it is not entirely obvious. It is also cool while AI are trying to 'help' as in the usual cliche, they are also genuine assholes/homicidally insane.
A lot of Digital Governors also didn't agree with the Cabal and chose to oppose the new digital tyranny. Which is good because the UNEC completely fell apart with all of their officials gone and only the infrastructure left. Even Hades was pretty much wiped out, either the Cabal would activate the brain bombs in each Operative or they would send enough Black Squads at them that it would not matter.
Obviously when the Uplift started, all the Colonies really had to defend themselves were Aegis Armor, so they kicked up whatever Pilots, Engineers, and AI they could for yet another battle against an overwhelmingly superior foe. The situation is just as bad as it was for Rebel colonists in the Second Era, with the caveat that now their opposition is genuinely merciless and enemy tech is not just one generation ahead but a dozen of them.
The war of the UNEC and the Cabal was brutal but quick, the war with the Rebels would be a prolonged and agonizing conflict. And if we're being realistic, the Cabal has already won that one too. Humanity is desperate, and their only way to win is through methods not approved by the Geneva Convention. To wage a war of terror against an occupying force in your own home, to make them feel threatened by how every single biological citizen could potentially (and probably is) be an agent of the Rebels. And maybe, just maybe, they can find a secret weapon to turn the tide of war in their favor before their resources run dry, before all the other colonies fall, and humanity as we know it goes extinct.
I like this era. Out of all three it carries the feeling of a desperate struggle the best in its fluff, and it has room to make everyone feel useful with all the guerilla warfare going on, so even if Pilots are obviously more important than other characters there's plenty of room for joe salaryman to get a lot of crucial work done.
Coming up Next: Characters in the Third Era.
Heroes of the Last AgeOriginal SA post
The Aegis Project: Heroes of the Last Age
This chapter is the first not to open with a quote. My inner cynical jerk thinks that has something to do with Wick running out of time to properly finish the game. Onward to characters! As usual it is divided into various steps.
Step Zero: Governor
The group should decide on the nature of their AI Governor. There is a list of questions to get them started.
The Aegis Project posted:
How does she view humanity? Are they to be her slaves, servants or companions?
Is she a part of the Cabal or does she hope to overthrow it?
Finally, how does she view other digital citizens?
This is, of course, assuming that they're all from the same homeworld, otherwise everyone is free to do this little bit themselves. Your choice of Homeworld gives you a bonus to Traits and Specializations as usual so this is worth thinking about. Note that AI characters never get this bonus, for some reason. Not that they need it.
Step One: Role
Cabal Infomorph : Like with other AI characters, but they get to have a Strength stat and skills (Their Apollo body gives them a base stat of 4). They also get FIFTEEN SKILL POINTS which is not just a full third more than anyone else gets, but they also get to choose where to spend all of them. The one caveat statwise is that their Empathy still starts at 1. For characters who are survivors from the previous eras, they get one point of Empathy and 5 skill points per era survived. Also they have a Kusanagi Suit instead of a giant robot. The best class in the game by far, with the only problem being that their lack of Camaraderie, and that they might be secretly a mole working for the bad guys.
Rebel Infomorph : Like the Cabal Infomorph but... without an Apollo body. Isn't that the definition of what an Infomorph even is? Whatever, that means they have no Strength whatsoever but their Empathy is slightly higher (2) and get Camaraderie of 2, but as rebels their Wealth is zero. They're basically Second Era AIs with the potential to have been survivors for even more mechanical boosts.
Apollo Soldier : The Cabal's Apollos are pretty much black squads. They have no Wealth or Camaraderie, their stats are on par with Cabal Infomorphs (though they come prebuilt for doing soldiery stuff, you do not get to choose where to put their points) and the usual deal with having access to unique equipment.
Apollo Survivor : Grab a character from the previous era and give them +5 skill points and one point of Empathy. This is what the book tells us to do. Which is also a copy and paste of what it said in the Second Era section.
Hades Operative : Hades survivors have the usual excellent stat array (now slightly inferior to the one Infomorphs get) and are notorious for having a Wealth stat as rebels - Hades left various cash drops accessible through the deep reach. They still have no Camaraderie, despite having lost most of their unique perks and equipment due to being, you know, no longer working for The Man.
Citizen : Citizens' mediocre stat and skill array got promoted to being outright Terrible by having classes superior to the Hades Op and Apollo Soldier around. Their one saving grace is that they get both a Wealth of 4 as UNEC citizens pretending to work for the Cabal and also a Camaraderie of 1. Also four pieces of equipment, for all that is worth with a Wealth of 4 anyway.
Rebel : The usual all-rounder soldier template that plays second fiddle to everyone forever. They do get a Wealth of 2 and a Camaraderie of 3, so they might actually be able to pull it off this time around.
And... the book forgets about the rest of the steps right after. Quality editing here. Sure, by the Third Era we already know them but this is embarrassing to read. We have to grab Skills, Equipment, yadda yadda. This Era does not have any new Skills or special rules for survivors. There are some new rules for Equipment but that's the next chapter!
Coming up Next: The marvels of biotechnology.
WetwareOriginal SA post
The Aegis Project: Wetware.
New era, new equipment rules. Nearly everything now is 'Wetware' which is how people refer to bioelectronics powered by your own body. You have no cell phone, because that's in-built into your ears and vocal chords. Your eyes can be upgraded to a combination of scanner, camera, and probably a browser with bookmarks to your favorite porn sites. All of this is quick and painless, of course, installing a new piece of equipment is like going to the store to purchase them is for us.
In addition to the usual four equipment slots that all characters have, Third Era PCs get three new slots for Wetware. All Wetware items work exactly the same as their counterparts, so this effectively translates to seven character slots . Holy fuck. This gives you a reason to actually give a crap about Wealth, because with enough Wealth you can effectively have everything your character could reasonably need with you at all times.
Now on to Weapons, which come in two flavors: Plasma and Particle. The usual Weapons that characters get are upgraded to Plasma weapons in the Third Era, which are basically the same thing except that they are just as effective against Aegis as they are against personnel. Then there's Particle weapons, which are this Era's Heavy Weapons, and gain double benefit from the Round Effect - that means a Particle version of a Weapon that would deal Damage equal to the number of Rounds that have ended wouldn't deal 2 Damage if shot during the second Round of combat, but would instead deal 4 Damage.
...And that's it for Equipment. Plasma Weapons let everyone help in fighting Kusanagi suits, with or without a giant robot, and Particle Weapons keep fixed damage Weapons competitive against the others that can be overpumped to hell with spare energy. All in all, these are good changes that make the game better, yet feel like a natural progression from the Second Era's own improvements.
Coming up Next: Giant Robots vs Power Armor
The Kusanagi SuitOriginal SA post
The Aegis Project: The Kusanagi Suit.
The Aegis Project posted:
Every war has had two sides. The side fighting the last war and the side fighting this one.
—General Maciej Sabat, New Leipzig Colony
Armor in the third era is a sleek exoskeleton, but is made from the same alloy used to build starships. It can jump just as high as Aegis Armor does and keep the Pilot safe in the same conditions. Meaning they can survive in extremely inhospitable environments. The suits made by Kusanagi Corp are custom made for each of the Cabal's Apollos, and although the Resistance did get to capture a few of them, they were only useful for intelligence.
On to the rules! The Kusanagi suit is the only new mecha we've gotten since the first era's models, so it gets a full writeup much like the other chassis types did back then. No art, though.
Energy Shield : A Kusanagi Suit has an Energy Shield that protects its owner automatically for ten points of Armor. Any and all attacks from non-Energy Weapons reduce said Armor by 1 until it is gone. The Energy Shield requires a turn of not taking any Damage at all to be recharged.
Strength Boost : The Kusanagi Suit gives a bonus of +3 to all Strength-related Risks.
Regeneration : It also heals one Injury to the pilot per Round!
And that's it. We're not going to find hard rules for their environmental adaptability or other general stuff. I guess that, since they are primarily enemies, they don't really need to have all those spelled out. That's useable enough, and as far as generic mooks go, they're pretty good since you don't have to bother micromanaging their energy reserves and don't have any of a PC chassis' special abilities. If only you didn't have to track their Armor and Regeneration... Oh well, can't win them all.
Coming up Next: Some actually good advice in how to run an ultralong campaign spanning multiple Generations!
The Long WarOriginal SA post
The Aegis Project: The Long War
I am skipping over a chapter this time, because right after the rules for the third era end, Wick writes a 'chapter' that is more like a word from the author and that is better left reserved for the next post.
So the most obvious thing prospective groups will want to do with this game is try to run all three eras as one long campaign. That's cool, the game is supposedly built to handle that, and play should differ slightly from each one to keep things fresh while still having the same core rules. There's also a good sense of evolution in that while everything gets easier over time, the battles that keep getting more desperate. Apollo and AI characters (and the Aegis they ride) can live through more than one era, which both gives a sense of continuity and showcases very well how much things have changed. All in all it is a tempting chance for some epic storytelling and the thing that caught my attention from this game in the first place.
The first thing we should do if we want to do this is to pick one World to use as the one constant in an ever changing campaign. The example given to us is a young colony of a few hundred becoming a thriving world of cities and cultures over five hundred years, that's the kind of thing we are going for here. We've already been over how to create a world, but you probably are going to want to turn it up to eleven so you can make it stick. Or just choose Earth, "A world with more splat books and resources than any setting in gaming" in Wick's own words. Yes, it is tempting to put on your SETTING WRITER hat and get to work, but Earth will ultimately be easier for Players to relate to.
Once you have a home and characters to populate it with, it is time for the Enemy to show up.
The First Era
Starting characters may not include Apollo Pilots, AIs, or Engineers - those did not exist until we reverse engineered Enemytech. When does that happen? Well, Aegis Project includes a timeline-esque mechanic where certain events take place after a set number of victories for either side of a particular conflict in a given era.
After an arbitrary number of successful Missions (Called Victories) the PCs unlock a special Mission that will prove crucial to their long-term victory, with the caveat that after every few Missions the other side gets an automatic Victory to advance their own plots. The Enemy doesn't get any such events though. As a note, we're told that we're free to change the numbers indicated as we see fit - Wick is an 'old school' GM and he doesn't mind his campaigns going for years at a time, but what a 'Long War' really means is up to individual group.
The Capture: After five victories (which I have no idea how the worst classes in the game will get against Crawlers) the PCs are sent to capture an Enemy Armor. The Armor should be attacking a major settlement or city, its AI caps are malfunctioning and that's what allows the AI to self-sabotage itself and can thus be freed, and finally this malfunctioning AI is on the verge of Bliss Stage - and therefore every AI built from this one also is.
The Aegis Project: After ten victories (which should have wiped the party at least twice by now) all the other character classes become available.
The Last Victory: Twenty victories makes the Enemy flee for good and never come back. Rejoice!
The Second Era
By the start of the Second Era things should have changed for the group's home planet, and everyone gets turns making changes (small or large) to it as normal. On August 4th, 4053, thirteen key colonies drafted and signed a writ of secession at the UNEC Council. The Players should decide whether their colony also wants in on that independence goodness, or if they're going to be loyalists. Both sides get their own events this time, and it is actually possible for the Rebels to win, it is just unlikely.
AI Citizenship: After ten victories by the UNEC, their progressive colonies make a big push for Digizen rights, and all UNEC AI now get the benefits of citizenry. If the Rebels somehow obliterate the UNEC before this, then Digizens are never going to be a thing and the Cabal is going to be reaaally pissed.
The Battle of Cygnus: After fifteen victories we get a seven-day long struggle where Rebel forces kept retreating from planet to planet in the Deneb system (Not Cygnus? Historians got the name of the system wrong, apparently. Pointless detail!), after their final surrender the UNEC Commander had all the Rebels executed. There is no reward for this Victory whatsoever. Would it have killed them to give you +1 Wealth at least? Sheesh.
St. Crispin's Day: Twenty victories for the UNEC gives us another metaploty event about the Rebels losing their most brilliant strategist after a failed bluff on his part and Hades being up to their usual espionage, after this battle the war is pretty much won... and I guess PCs get to narrate epilogues or something.
The Battle of Barnard's Star: Ten Rebel victories unlock this battle, in which a large number of Aegis Armor are stolen and presumably new models become available to Rebels, and maybe they won't need to scavenge all the time. It is not stated that this happens, but it sounds like a cool reward.
The Teng Incident: Fifteen Rebel victories lead to activist hacker Huang Teng detonating a digital bomb that takes down all of the Earth's communications and systems. The reward for watching this cutscene is a +1 to all rolls forever which makes absolutely no sense. What the hell Wick, I know you have no idea about how to write good rules, but at least they're usually intuitive.
Boxing Day: With twenty victories behind them, the Rebels fight off the UNEC General in charge of the Earth's forces. This man kept ignoring orders (from whom?) losing skirmish after skirmish for a full day. Realizing that he sucks at his job and that the Rebels already had the moral victory, he surrenders and calls for ceasing hostilities - again, ignoring orders. This wins the Rebels their independence! Yay!
The Third Era
Like with the Second Era you start with how the passage of time has affected your homeworld. The most important question here is, of course, what your AI Governor is like and where do they sit concerning the Cabal. The Third Era begins when Hades attempts their AIgicide plan that goes wonderfully awry and ends up with Apollo Black Squads hunting them down instead, plus the Cabal going public with their world domination and forced uplift plans.
Network Blackout: At three victories the Cabal succeeds at isolating rebel colonies from each other, forcing them to build a new communications network while defending from the Cabal's assaults. All Intel risks require an additional bang to gain privilege, which is a tremendous dick move this early on specially because Intel is the funhaver narrating stat.
Battle of New Dublin: At six victories the Cabal destroys or captures seventy percent of the Aegis Armor available to the Rebellion, and makes acquiring further parts for repairs 'impossible'. A more reasonable person would say this means it just gets harder to make repairs, but knowing Wick he's probably being literal and the rest of the War is now pointless to continue.
Re-Education Camps: At nine victories the Cabal brings in millions to have 'uplift chips' installed on their bodies to make them good little slaves. All Rebel Wealth decreases by one Rank, and Rebel Wealth cannot exceed 3 from this point on.
The Scourge of Olympus: Olympus 7 was the crown jewel of the Deep Reach, the Rebel's most advanced and populous colony. Key word 'was', because at twelve victories the Cabal wipes it from the universe. Everyone who attempts to draw Camaraderie dice from the Camaraderie pool to take two dice to get the benefit of one instead, see this actually makes sense as a hit to morale from a genuinely terrible loss.
Uplift: The last rebel colony is crushed. Humanity as we know it is no more.
Raid on Hades Actual: After five victories from the Rebellion, a small group of Rebels (led by a Hades Op) raid the ruins of what used to be Hades, retrieving emergency codes, equipment and vital intelligence on the Cabal. This grants everyone a bonus piece of equipment plus a +1 Intel bonus. This is a cool bonus.
The Pirate Network: Ten victories let the Rebel forces capture a communications hub from the First Era that was long forgotten. Once reactivated, all communications between Rebel forces are restored and the Wealth for all Rebellion characters goes up by one. Kind of a lazy reward, but eh, not offensively stupid or anything.
Fall of New Nagasaki: The closest Colony to the Earth - New Nagasaki - was almost captured by the Rebels when the Cabal decided to render it inhabitable by releasing a storehouse of the Enemy's poison. At least they no longer had New Nagasaki anymore either. This gives every Rebel a +1 to all risks ever, which is appreciated given the bullshit they put up with but still makes no fucking sense whatsoever.
Battle for Earth: After New Nagasaki came the siege of the Earth itself, after blockading the rest of the universe the Rebels began a month-long battle against the Earth's capital city of Beijing, ending with its capture and the overthrowing of the Cabal. This ends the Third Era!
During the Second Era Wick tells us that Aegis should have a history. This is expanded upon a little. The comparison is made between them and WWI and WWII war planes, which had nicknames (usually female), good luck charms hanging from the cockpit, and a bunch of superstitions going about them. Which really isn't that crazy when you realize that every time you get in there you might draw your last breath.
And if you're lucky, an Aegis will make it through more than one Era and all the way to the third, and all the hands it passed through will leave a little something of themselves with the Armor - the Aegis has a story, much like its pilots. Wick stated early on that what makes mechs important are its pilots, and that is something I can agree with, but he also realized that Players (not just PCs) would get attached to the machines. As is, the closest thing we have to rules for attachment to your robot are strictly nerfs and make you not want to care, which is a shame.
The Aegis Project posted:
No war is fought for this generation; it is fought for the next one.
So that's the Long War, some decent tips on running a campaign lasting several generations, and bad to decent mechanics. The special missions are a good idea, but could use some more fleshing out and interactivity added in - as is, they're somewhere between cutscenes and playable events that change the course of the war but not history itself. Also the mechanics for enemy victories don't really hold up to examination when you consider that most missions that aren't Victories are TPKs in practical terms. At least that's in my own experience as Player and GM.
Mediocre but inspiring, like the rest of the book. A book that, by the way, ends with that last quote. But we still have a chapter left that I skipped earlier, so there's one last update left.
Coming up Next: Wick's (and my own) closing thoughts.
The EndOriginal SA post
The Aegis Project: The End
The Aegis Project posted:
Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.
— John F. Kennedy
This chapter is one page and a half of Wick's delirious ramblings before the very last deadline hit him. I would try to summarize it but for once I probably shouldn't. It communicates pretty well what he is going at with the Third Era, probably the one that plays the best in the entire system, as well as the one that hits the game's themes the most deep. Then again, it is building up from two narrative arcs and rule changes, so it better be!
The Aegis Project posted:
Is this the end of mankind? Or, is it a new chapter? Whatever the answer may be, the Third Era is indeed the darkest. I didn’t intend it to be that way, but as the events unfolded, as I typed down the words, that’s how it was. It is worse than an alien enemy, worse than a civil war. This is genocide, plain and simple. And this time, you and I are on the wrong side.
There are no heroes here. No good vs. evil. No clear-cut side to pick. The Cabal is right: mankind is a brutal, shortsighted and self-destructive beast. Disagree with their methods, but they are right. Point out the brightest lights in our history and you’ll see one thing in common.
We put a bullet in each and every one of their heads.
Lennon. Jack and Bobby. MLK. Gandhi. Lincoln.
We even twisted Jesus’ words about charity and selflessness into a bizarre cult of monetary egocentricity. But we made sure to murder him first.
Anyone who tries to make a permanent change. We snuff‘em out.
Of course, that doesn’t stop them from trying. They keep talking, keep trying to make changes, and we just keep developing better weapons and better ammunition.
But that’s how the Cabal sees us. Pitiful, despicable creatures who murder our own interests. We need our hands held into the next century. We need to be helped along. Like an alcoholic on the verge of drinking himself to death, we need help. That’s how the Cabal sees us. And they aren’t entirely wrong.
It would be easy to choose their side. You could even look upon it as charitable. Am I my brother’s keeper?
Yeah, jackass, you are. Start acting like it.
But this could also be the end of mankind. Not every AI in the Cabal has mankind’s best interests at heart. Some of them want revenge. Some of them have been around since the First Era. They remember the Enemy. And they remember how we treated them after they helped us save our skins. We fought against them. Fought against their rights. Fought against their struggle for equality.
But why? Why would we do that?
Well, we did it to women. And blacks. And Jews. And gays. And Mexicans. You know: the Other. The one who is different than us. We must shun him and shame him and make him bend to our will so we will not fear him and his ways.
(Sorry for the USA-centric bit there, my readers from Far Away Lands. But, I’m sure you’ve got your own “Other” over there, as well. In fact, it might just be me.)
We’ve been doing this forever. Fighting against people we’d really probably get along with if we just sat down for ten minutes and talkedto them. But we’re too busy for that. Must destroy the Other. Must destroy the Enemy!
I used this quote in another book of mine a long time ago. It was just as true then as it was now. It’s from Colonel Sherman T. Potter of the 4077 M*A*S*H
“You know sometimes I think there should be a rule of war saying you have to see someone up close and get to know ‘em before it’s ok to shoot ‘em.”
(Bonus points if you can name the book!)
That rule doesn’t just go for you and me, by the way. It goes for everyone.
The Third Era is about fighting a war you know you can’t win. This is the Fall of Man. And, like the movie says, everything matters.
I’ve stacked all the cards against humanity. They have weapons and they have allies, but those weapons and allies are not enough. The Cabal has all the cards. It’s just a matter of time.
The best mankind can hope for is a miracle. Something that comes out of nowhere. An opportunity not of their own making. A single chance to overthrow the Cabal and take the reigns of their own lives. If that’s what they want, of course.
There are those who agree with the Cabal. Those who feel the Cabal’s mission is the right course of action. Give up their decisions, their lives, their freedom so another can direct them toward a better life. And they’ll fight, too. They’ll fight just as hard as you and I do.
But there are no clear lines here. There are no soldiers. There are no civilians. The Cabal is an occupying force. Like England during the Irish War for Independence. Every man, woman and child working against them. Some of them more than others, but it is a place where civilians and soldiers are indistinguishable. There are no uniforms to identify who you can shoot at and who you can’t. And even the nice lady who cleans the office at night may be planting bombs while she empties the trash bins.
But as dark as the Third Era may be, there is one thing about humanity that the Cabal did not count on. One thing that, perhaps, they do not understand about us. For it is true that we are brutal and violent and shortsighted, but there is one other thing about humanity.
We are brightest when things are darkest.
So that's it. Unabridged Wick. You either love the man's style or hate it. And he even apologizes for the whole stream of consciousness thing. I personally think it adds a degree of charm to his work that not many can reproduce when it comes to writing fluff. Which matters here because the fluff and the general idea of the game is its strongest point, it gives you just enough to get you started playing a longass campaign lasting five hundred years and doesn't box you into horrible metaploty stuff.
Unfortunately the rules are at best poorly executed and at worst outright terrible. Ironically the worst rules are easily fixed (give everyone robots, put a cap on pumping energy weapons) it is the ones that are slightly off that will keep the game from truly shining. Ultimately the Aegis Project is a mediocre game that suffers from the same thing so many games do - interesting idea, dull execution.
Which is a shame! Because there's a lot of really cool things in here. You have a stat for dictating aspects of the setting , and the way opposed rolls work with everyone trading statements for each success back and forth is brilliant. Equipment and Wealth are neither broken nor a pain in the ass, and the 'Round Effect' is a great idea for fast paced action games because I've personally put a mechanic much like it to great use and I think even 13th Age did something like it.
This game sums up John Wick pretty well I think, at least his more modern and less grognardian self. The game is not about "Tragic Nobleborn Murderous Manchildren" but there's still shades of misanthropy, elitism, and the smugness could choke an elephant.It is still worth trying out, I think. Though it kinda blows that the game's at its best if you stick around for the whole three-era deal. Otherwise, I would advise sticking to the second or third Eras, since they have the better rules and least pointlessly restrictive gameplay.