Vehicles in Hammercalled

I want to take a moment to discuss how I’m handling vehicles in Hammercalled. I generally feel that roleplaying games tend to treat vehicles poorly, and while Hammercalled isn’t going to go into great mechanical complexity with vehicles (barring the usual “highly customizable” thing that we tend to do with anything) I want to talk about some ways that Hammercalled makes vehicles feel interesting.

The first thing is a personal vehicle system. I think I’ve talked about this quickly, but I want to talk about how personal gear and vehicles work in Hammercalled.

Basically, you can get gear and vehicles authentically through play, and you’re encouraged to do so.

However, you get custom gear and vehicles that you design: personal gear/vehicles cost XP (though you get some personal gear free during the character creation process), but allow you to both customize and maintain them more quickly.

The purpose of this personal gear/vehicle system is to make sure that players have a connection to their stuff: if you want to simply make sure that players have things, you can still provide them as a GM, but these personal items go a step further in defining the characters.

I still need to hammer out the exact specifics for how vehicle types work; I have vague ideas of groundcraft, aircraft, and watercraft, with fairly easy additions for other types of vehicle. All of these may be subject to change, and I’m not going to add in anything but groundcraft for the first stage of development.

Some of this, by the way, is to avoid a sub-par one-size-fits-all mechanic, where people are building city-scale starships with the same mechanics as they would build a bicycle.

Whether or not I need to add more types per class remains to be seen, but here’s the general idea:

When designing a vehicle, you choose a type of vehicle that you want. Right now this will just be groundcraft in general, though after testing I may tweak this into various types of groundcraft (this might also change relevant to the setting a game takes place in).

Following that, you have Advances to spend, and this functions basically like gear does.

Vehicles can get Armor, Speed, and Size ratings from the Advances you spend.

I haven’t yet worked out how speed is going to be handled, or if it’s going to be in the final game at all. We don’t use distance-based combat, but it seems odd to not have some metric of a vehicle’s speed.

Basically, a personal vehicle starts as the equivalent of a “smart car”: minimal size, minimum armor, and a speed that’s better than walking but not necessarily good.

With even a lesser advance, you could build something more along the lines of a military truck. Increasing Size increases the amount of Wear that a vehicle can take, which is important because vehicles are going to be very dependent on avoiding Wear.

One difference between Gear and Vehicles is that Vehicles have hard limits on how much they can be upgraded in Size and Armor. Size only goes up to a relatively small value, and Armor is limited by Size. Each Armor rating maps to a protection value that reflects how much damage a vehicle has to suffer in a single hit to suffer Wear (as opposed to having the hit bounce off).

Vehicles also get Qualities that can modify their values. This provides a way to work around the restrictions on spending Advances that are provided by the vehicle mechanics (since things like Size do not happily scale to infinity like damage and armor do), they can allow you to upgrade a small vehicle with covert armor, or make sacrifices to gain other benefits (convert the subcompact car to a racing motorcycle, for example).

This allows a similar level of distinction between vehicles as we have between gear (I believe there are some hundred thousand options for armor right now, most of which are interesting in at least one way).

Vehicles can also have integrated Gear. Gear acquired in this way is marginally cheaper, but cannot be used outside of the vehicle and suffers penalties when the vehicle suffers Wear.

I’m hoping that the vehicles system provides more options for customization and drives storytelling, and right now I feel that it’s on track to do that.

I made a new document for the Hammercalled rules, since I wasn’t happy with how the previous one was laid out, and copied and edited through it. It’s about ten thousand words long in total. Once we finish vehicles, the only remaining goals for The Ashen King’s gameplay are advanced threats and a GM’s section (which isn’t technically a design objective, it just has to be added to the game at some point and since the system is a little bit unusual it really needs one).


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