So far we’ve talked about two of the three main components of creating a unit. Frame and Performance. Now we’ll talk about the third leg of the triad, Pilot Skill which allows you to take an outdated machine and keep it competitive.
When you look at the Units document each model will come with a default pilot, for example Gundam will start with Amuro as a pilot, the Gouf will come with Ramba Ral as a pilot.
We did this to make it easier to calculate points and assemble your army. While MechaStellar started off as a humble RPG in our group of friends the rules have since been adapted to a Wargaming base with the option to run an RPG campaign with it. As a result it’s very helpful to be able to pick and choose units instantly knowing their points cost, rather than having to develop that for each unit you pick.
Of course you can still make your own pilots or choose alternate pilots for each mech. Perhaps for the Gaplant from Zeta you’d prefer a version where Yazan pilots it. Or on a similar note, you don’t want to pay for the points for Yazan to pilot a Hambrabi (Mantaray suit) and instead drop his pilot level down to reflect one of his wingmen. The unit sheet we use is an excel file where all it takes is a few entries (highlighted light purple) to complete your unit while everything else is pre-calculated. In this case it’s as simple as copying all the rows that involve the unit (including weapons) then inserting it below, changing the pilot name and skill level and you are good to go.
In this example we’d simply copy and paste the existing Z’Gok entry showing a Z’Gok used by the spec ops Cyclops team from 0080. With the new entry we’ll change the pilot to Char, bump up the pilot skill to let’s say 7 and voila we have a new model to choose from. Naturally a red image is needed for the red comet.
Now then, I believe we’ve taken enough of a tangent. Frame dictates your overall suits resilience and action capability, Performance shows its Mobility and Targeting capability. Pilot Skill does a little bit of both. When designing MechaStellar we wanted Pilot Skill to matter considerably, but we didn’t want it to simply be a modifier to ones ATK or EVADE, since it would step on the toes of the Performance stat. Instead we use Pilot Skill as a trump card in battles.
Looking on the animation we see a number of examples of enemy aces piloting older suits, such as the Zaku II, or hard to control suits like Zechs in the Talgeese or Red Wayline piloting any of the archaic machines in MSV-R the Return of Johnny Ridden. We wanted Pilot Skill to be a way to overcome a units performance, both of the one you’re piloting and using superior tactical acumen to put your opponent in a hard spot.
For Mobile Suits we use pilot skill is used in the following ways.
#1 Automatically avoid or negate any one attack.
#2 Prevent another pilot from dodging this attack. The pilot must be an equal or lower pilot level.
#1 is how we get around Pilots in older MS with poor Evasion stats. It allows them to stay in the game completely avoiding death rays and beam rifle shots without breaking a sweat. They do however, fall prey to rapid fire weapons like missile barrages or machine guns if you get too cocky around other grunt suits.
#2 allows those skilled pilots to land a crucial shot even on a more advanced suit. This attack let’s them hit regardless of the foes Evasion, provided the one they are attacking is not a higher level pilot.
While Pilot Skill provides two very valuable outputs, it is of course limited by skill. For every pilot level you have one point of pilot skill. For example in the above examples the Cyclops Team is Pilot LVL 2 thus 2 Skill, Char is Pilot LVL 7 thus 7 skill. Each use of an auto-dodge or auto-hit uses up one pilot skill, so you need to be especially judicious when using your pilot skill.
Naturally, a high level pilot in a hi-tek mobile suit makes it even more powerful. We’ll cover how much pilot skill costs in our next post.