(MS) Design Goals – Lethality

We touched upon this briefly in the last post. One of our design goals in MechaStellar is lethality. Making it such that even a powerful suit with heavy reinforcement can still be brought down.

One area where we have always had to strike a careful balance was HP, which in this game its an abbreviation for Hull Points. Think of it as structural integrity of your suit, once it hits zero an explosion is likely to follow. The challenge was making sure that some suits had enough HP to weather a few hits while other suits would explode after being hit a few times. Both for ranged and melee combat.

Melee combat has always been one of the more lethal parts of the game. Since the beginning the fastest way to destroy a suit was to lock them in Melee combat. Since then we’ve introduced several tools to allow you to survive a few melee engagements but this still remains a rapid way to destroy the enemy. (Or be destroyed if your opponent gets off a lucky counterattack)

Ranged combat is a different beast. The first few versions of the game used an Armor Save system where you could shrug off damage. Fun, and certainly a proven system in other wargames. We shifted away from this to cut down on the number of rolls that needed to be made in order to hurt a suit.

As we tweaked HP from Version to Version we also had to carefully balance ranged weapons. If the Gouf Custom could destroy a Guntank using only a machinegun variant then we had to make sure the HP of the Guntank never exceeded the maximum damage of the machinegun. This would get us into tricky situations, for instance the Beam Spray Gun of the original GM was said to punch a hole straight through a Dom, one of Zeon’s heaviest armored suits. So how do we strike a balance between what is essentially a beam pistol and the HP of a heavily armored Mech.

We solved this problem by introducing Penetration and bringing back Armor Saves. Weapons would have a Penetration stat, a beam spray gun for instance might be PEN 3, a Giant Bazooka might be PEN 2. Whenever a Mech is hit by a penetrating weapon they make a single armor save for the entire weapon system. The target number is the weapon’s PEN, if they roll that number or higher they live, if they don’t then that unit is removed. It could be disabled or explode marvelously.

For that Beam Spray Gun with Pen 3, if at least 1 shot hit the Dom then it has to make an Armor Save, on a 1 or 2 it is instantly destroyed but on a 3+ it survives. It’s a quick system that allows for lethal shots while not always guaranteeing one. We see often that Mobile Suits when they get winged by a beam survive (and sometimes lose an arm) so we wanted Beams to cause damage but keep their lethality by a separate roll. Otherwise we’d get into a situation where beams have to be super high damage to ensure they can instantly kill heavily armored enemies. For the sake of game balance and keeping kinetic and energy weapons distinct we wanted to avoid this.

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