While we were playtesting the streamlined but ultimately boring evasion system we also had a chance to play around with melee a bit. Not the mechanic per se just the values. In the original rules we had melee as a clash between two opponents, each rolls a d20 and adds their value, with the attacker getting a free reroll.
This was fun, but the variability occasionally meant that some melee focused suits would get shafted by a really poor roll. For example the Gouf with Melee +10 Vs a Guncannon with Melee +0. The Gouf rolls a 4 (14 total) and the Guncannon rolls a 19 and pulverizes the Gouf. Quite frustrating when the whole purpose of your suits is to dominate in melee combat.
Even with staggeringly high bonuses (Battlers get +7 to Melee, Gunners get +0 Melee) it simply wasn’t enough to keep up with variability. Additionally, if we make the bonus so large then we take away the option of letting non-battlers win a melee engagement, which should be possible but less common.
To this end we started experimenting with using smaller die types for melee. Since melee damage is d6 based, we decided to try using d6 as the melee die. Our initial framework went something like this. Battlers get +4 Melee, Versatile get +2 Melee, Hi-Mobility +1, Gunner is +0. So all things being equal, Battler has a roll of 5-10, Versatile 3-8, Hi-Mob 2-7, and Gunner will have 1-6.
We gave it a try with some low performance OYW suits as well as some Zeta suits. It worked well for OYW but we realized we would need to adjust how Performance level, one of the two foundation stats for a suit, would affect melee. On one hand we don’t want a high performance suit to completely eclipse a battler, on the other hand we can’t have a battler from 0079 remain undefeated when facing off an all-purpose suit almost 20 years later (0096).
While Unicorn has shown us the joys of bringing oldsmobiles into a modern fight, watching Dom, Zogock and a notorious Efreet shred through GMs, what we don’t want to have happen is a 0079 Battler mop the floor with a Jesta (high performance versatile suit) from another era. This is where the math gets tricky from a balance and verisimilitude factor.
For comparative numbers let’s assume the following (note these aren’t final set in stone numbers).
An Efreet (Battler) is Performance 4
A GM III (Versatile), as a cheap workhorse is also Performance 4
A Jegan (Versatile) is Performance 6
A Jesta (Versatile) is Performance 9
A Guncannon Detector (Gunner) is Performance 5
Now then how shall performance affect melee combat. Let’s say we give +1 Melee for every 3 levels of performance, that is 3, 6, 9, 12. With Battler as a +4 innate and Versatile as +2 we get the following.
Efreet – +5
GM III – +3
Jegan – +4
Jesta – +5
Guncannon Detector – +1
Not too bad, the Efreet and Jesta are evenly matched, while the Efreet is slightly better than the Jegan and GM III. But here’s another iconic suit to consider. Scirocco’s The O, a notoriously ruthless suit. Let’s classify “The O” as a Performance 11 Battler. His Melee is only +7. In your minds eye do you think an Efreet has a chance against a melee dominator like The O? I would argue no, the gap should be must wider when comparing Battler to Battler. Thus we need to have Performance have a faster growth.
We could look at Performance giving a bump every 2.5 performance (round down) so 3, 5, 8, 10; in essence we’re looking at +1 additional melee at Performance 10 then we had at multiples of 3. Not quite enough, let’s see what it looks like at +1 Melee for every 2 performance.
Efreet (Performance 4, Battler) – Melee +6 (1d6+6 = 7-12)
GM III (Performance 4, Versatile) – Melee +4 (1d6+4 = 5-10)
Jegan (Performance 6, Versatile) – Melee +5 (1d6+5 = 6-11)
Jesta (Performance 9, Versatile) – Melee +6 ((1d6+6 = 7-12)
Guncannon Detector (Performance 5, Gunner) – Melee +2 (1d6+2 = 3-8)
The O (Performance 11, Battler) – Melee +9 (1d6+9 = 10-15)
This looks more reasonable. The Efreet can get a lucky strike in on The O, as could a Jesta, but overall we expect The O to terrorize any melee engagement so when you see him on the field you steer clear. From a design perspective if we need The O to be even more unassailable from an Efreet, we could dial performance up to 12, making Melee 1d6+10 = 11-16, so the only scenario where Efreet is the victor is when he rolls a 6 and The O rolls a 1. Either way sounds reasonable to me, but of course this will need to be battle-tested in play before we slap the table on it.