Spooky action at a distance

Thinking About Mechs

I was thinking of how I would run giant mechanical war machines in my traveller-esque game (which I refer to as Sojourner). Technology and resources to create such titanic monsters would be rare and concentrated in the hands of the nobility; passed down from generation to generation of planetary rulers as a sign of power over their little world.

Mechs are like a knight’s shining armour, but also a tank with an atomic bomb strapped to it. Could mechs be the ultimate angels of horror?

During the 18th century European renaissance plate armour became impractical for armies as it was expansive and vulnerable to muskets. However, nobles and generals still invested in lavishly decorated plate armour sets to dazzle their social circles and boast at jousting tournaments. In Sojourner, the sprawling military-industrial complex of the Empire is buckling under its own weight. While controlling single planets via mecha invasions was the most efficient option in the past, nowadays the Imperial Fleet focuses on controlling vast sectors of planets using threats of orbital bombardment. Mechs became relics of ruling families, sustained by questionable engineering practices, customised to fit local culture and environment. As mecha ammunition runs out or breaks down, mech pilots resort to giant blades (swords, axes). An average planetside dweller would only get to see a mech during military parades, if they are lucky enough to be in the capital at the time. If the mech is not in the palace hangar, it is on an intimidation mission to a nearby moon. A rare mech combat encounter would be a great cold open to a session and/or campaign. Alternatively, characters may encounter Don Quixote the mech pilot engaged in a duel with a wind turbine. When creating noble characters, rolling on the table below will decide where their family mech is in relationship to them.

  1. The mech is destroyed in battle, act of sabotage, cataclysmic weather etc. A noble family without a mech will face dishonour and instability on their world (potential revolt against their power).
  2. Stolen by a rival family, pirates or other faction of the underworld. Rogue mech pilots will lack the finesse of life-long training of their noble counterparts.
  3. Bought out by a corporation, merchants or mercenary group. Mechs are valuable assets, but are also often resold as scrap. Talented engineers could assemble their won patchwork if they can get their hands on the right parts.
  4. In the hands of a family member, a parent, guardian, sibling etc. They may be very protective of their heirloom, and/or use it in terrible ways.
  5. Owned by the character. A jealous sibling or an opportunistic rival could have their eye on the mech.
  6. Buried and reduced to legend. The mech caused such a great suffering to the world that it was sealed for eternity. Its tale is kept alive to warn future generations of the mech’s destructive power.

Published on July 30, 2023.

Tagged: osr   sojourner   mechs  


Spooky action at a distance is a blog run by emmy verte, to muse on sci-fi, fantasy location exploration and short fiction. You can donate to support Ukraine here.