So we’ve covered designing tools and weapons for Aliens & Asteroids, let’s talk about armor for a minute. In some ways, it’s a bit like the conversation we had about weapons. It’s important to know what it is and what it’s meant for, but the fiddly bits of the game mechanic has sometimes become a challenge.
The Armor Tech Tree
So in A&A, I deliberately put things together so we had a bit of a technology tree to deal with. It goes a bit like this:
- Wearing armor gives you a better chance to survive in combat, but you don’t necessarily know how to use it before you put it on. It just works. But the heavier it is, the more of a Disadvantage you are at for any tasks requiring fine motor skills or movement. Working on a circuit board with any sort of bulky armored suit on your hands definitely requires a bit of training. Not all armors have this limitation — an Environment Suit (AR1/AP5) has no penalty — but anything heavier (AR2 or above) puts the PC at a Disadvantage without the Armor trait.
- Armor trait – Overcomes the Disadvantage for bulkier armors.
- Exoskeleton trait – Grants training in using an exoskeleton to perform tasks or combat. An Exoskeleton (AR2/AP30) grants +2 Toughness and is useful for construction and moving heavy objects, though it has no built-in weaponry or armor. Imagine the heavy loader Ripley trains with in Aliens (1986) and you get a general idea of what this is like.
- Mechanized Armor trait – Requires Armor & Exoskeleton traits, but gives the PC training in using a combat-ready mechanized suit of armor that is built for heavy combat with solid armor and weapon hardpoints built in. I always think about the BattleTech Clan’s Elemental armor or the armored suits from Fallout 4 when I ponder mechanized armor. In A&A, Mechanized armor is AR5/AP40, grants +1 Accuracy and +2 Toughness, and generally makes you pretty tough to take down without some serious firepower on the other side.
The idea is that armor can be as much a part of your games as you want. Turn it into a mechanized armor brawl if you want!
But there’s always room for more types of specialized armor in the field.
As your PCs explore the universe, they’re going to find places, beings, and technology that they’re not sure what to do with. Maybe some aliens can control gravity. Perhaps others have psychic powers or even the ability to direct sound at opponents to achieve particular effects. For each type, they may need to design armor to combat it.
Let’s look at sonic weapons, for example. A Sonic Ray causes some physical damage (d6), but can also knock a target prone with a failed Save vs. Presence check.
An enterprising Armorer (yes, there’s a reason we included that trait) might go with any of these potential fixes:
- Construct an external sonic emitter that analyzes incoming harmful frequencies and attempts to dampen them with active noise control, generating a second sound designed to cancel the first. This could be easily mounted on an Exoskeleton or Mechanized Armor to actively cancel sonic attacks or at least reduce their effectiveness. In such a suit of armor, the wearer would gain an Advantage to any sonic-based Save vs. Presence check and on a success, avoid being knocked prone and cut the damage in half.
- Use mechanical struts to stabilize the base of an Exoskeleton or suit of Mechanized Armor to reduce the chance of being knocked over, essentially locking the armor in place as a more stationary weapons platform. It would still take damage from a sonic blast but be immune to being knocked prone.
- Use noise-cancelling technology in the helmet of a suit of Standard Combat Armor to combat the balance-affecting qualities of such an effect at the cost of being able to communicate over standard channels with their team. They would still take damage, but with the noise cancelling engaged they would be immune to being knocked prone.
These are just some ideas, but a GM could suggest them or create other solutions as needed to be available through Purchase Rolls or standard supply channels depending on the situation at hand.
Again — use common sense. If your PCs have Mechanized Armor, their opponents are going to need to up their game to combat it. They might need their own specialized armor or to design drones that could withstand such abuse and might be used to swarm or dismantle such forces. Common sense options can establish a balance where the game is still playable and fun but also a challenge.
As a GM, I’m always shocked and amazed by the creative ways that my players try to foil their opponents’ plans.
That’s part of the game, to up the ante when the stakes need to be higher. There’s always something bigger and badder out there that can be used to knock them down a peg!