This article originally appeared in Pyramid #23

GURPS Mecha Extras

GURPS Mecha Extras

by David Pulver

Ruskograd: a ghost town in the Siberia tundra. Officially abandoned after a Soviet nuclear accident, Ruskograd is a covert headquarters of the international defense organization known as UNISTAR. Here, top-secret battle mecha are built, repaired, and kept combat-ready to deal with the alien marauders that swarm down from the stars. For UNISTAR's elite technicians and mecha pilots, the defense of Earth is an awesome responsibility.

The girl with the wild mane of zebra striped hair leaned against the battle mecha's leg and struck a dramatic pose. "The new spring fashion from UNISTAR!" Bobbi Greenland announced. "I give you: Seraph Delta 'Heavy Armor'!"

Shocked speechless, sergeant Mara Seito ignored the young mechanic to gape at her personal mecha. What had once been her mecha. When Bobbi Greenland had said "a few minor modifications," Mara expected tinkering with the beam cannon or sensors. But not this!

Her Seraph Delta was 33 feet tall, a humanoid machine with two arms, two legs and a turret-like head. But now its former sleek, graceful lines had vanished under plates of bolted-on ceramic armor. A steel angel had become an iron ogre, heavier and more menacing.

"What have you done with my Seraph?" Mara howled.

Bobbi Greenland smiled. It was always nice to be appreciated. "Mara, don't be slow!" she scolded. "I added some armor, of course. Well, quite a lot. 25 tons, actually."

"25 tons!?!" Mara was stunned - that doubled her machine's weight. "Bobbi, what were you thinking? I can't fly with that much armor! And it's got to cut ground speed in half!"

"Only by a third," Bobbi corrected. "If you're still hitting their Antarctic fortress tomorrow, you'll need armor more than speed. Going in, anyhow. But it's not a problem. Because - "

"You're crazy! What if I have to run for it? Or they try to?"

"No problem. You explode."

That did it! Mara started forward, hunting for a weapon. That servo-wrench would do . . .

"Wait!" Bobbi shouted, ducking behind the mecha's leg. "This isn't ordinary armor!" She peeked out, confirmed that Mara had stopped advancing, then tapped the blocky hull with her screwdriver. It made a hollow sound. "It's my latest invention. An exo-armor husk: ablative ceramic plates secured by explosive bolts."

Mara's eyes widened. "Exo - explosive? So if I want speed - "

"You blow the husk off. Boom, and there goes 25 tons!"

"Instant diet! Bobbi, you're a genius."

"You know it." The teenage inventor grinned. "But speaking of diets, being a genius makes me hungry."

Mara reached for her wallet. Flattery, a double cheeseburger and a chocolate shake was a small price to pay to keep UNISTAR's best inventor happy. Even if she was an alien.

There's something uniquely compelling about the concept of a humanoid fighting vehicle. This sort of mecha is more than a combat vehicle - it's a machine that lets its operator move and act in a human fashion, but with vastly magnified size and power. But unlike a super-powered robot, cyborg or mutant, the mecha pilot retains his human vulnerability. In fact, he can be anyone, from a veteran soldier to a teenage school kid. This is one reason mecha are such popular subjects for novels, comics, games and, especially, for Japanese animation ("anime").

GURPS Mecha provides guidelines for many different styles and types of mecha-centered campaigns, from the realistic to the completely over-the-top. Mecha pilots and their supporting cast aren't stinted either, with descriptions of all kinds of mecha-using professions such as armored troopers, techno-knights and mecha cops, as well as genre archetypes like drill instructors, idol singers, exotic alien warriors and engineers.

The most enjoyable part of the project was coming up with a ready-to-use campaign background. This is the world of Cybermech Damocles, where the secret agency UNISTAR uses advanced mecha to defend today's Earth against extraterrestrial mind-slavers. One of the figures in the UNISTAR story is their alien specialist, the youthful inventor Bobbi Greenland:

Bobbi Greenland: UNISTAR Mecha-Engineer
5'6", 125 lbs., fair skin, blue eyes, zebra hair.

ST 9 (-10 points), DX 11 (10 points), IQ 14 (45 points), HT 11 (10 points).

Advantages: Attractive (5 points), Eidetic Memory I (30 points), Gadgeteer (25 points), High Technology, TL9 (50 points), Mathematical Ability (10 points), Patron: Colonel Mack of UNISTAR (20 points). Racial Advantage: she is a Del Karva, possessing a double heart. Hard to Kill +1 (5 points).

Disadvantages: Compulsive Behavior: Tinkering with Machines (-5 points), Curious (-5 points), Duty as UNISTAR advisor (-5 points), Gluttony (-5 points), Impulsive (-10 points), Secret: Alien (-5 points), Sense of Duty to children (-5 points). Racial Disadvantage: Unusual Biochemistry (-5 points).

Quirks: Dyes hair, shy with strangers, wears grease-stained coveralls, loves to tinker with machines = -5 points.

Skills: Administration-14 (1 point), Armory/TL9 (vehicular weaponry)-17 (4 points), Beam Weapons/TL9 (Lasers)-12 (1 point), Computer Operation/TL9-16 (2 points), Computer Programming/TL9-17 (2 points), Economics-13 (1 point), Electronic Operations/TL9 (Sensors)-15 (2 points), Electronics/TL9 (Sensors)-21 (6 points), Electronics/TL9 (Computers)-20 (2 points, default), Electronics/TL9 (Weapons)-20 (2 points, default), Engineering/TL9 (Robotics)-21 (6 points), First Aid/TL9-14 (1/2 point), Free Fall-10 (1 point), Guns (Pistol)/TL7-12 (1/2 point), Languages: English-14 (1 point), Del Karva-14, Mathematics-17 (2 points), Mechanic/TL9 (Robotics)-21 (7 points), Mechanic/TL7 (gasoline engine)-16 (3 points), Motorcycle-11 (1 point), Physics/TL9-15 (3 points), Piloting/TL9 (Aerospace)-10 (1 point), Vacc Suit/TL9-14 (1 point).

Point Total: 200.

Bobbi Greenland looks like the girl next door, except for her habit of dressing in greasy coveralls and a tool belt, dying her hair in odd colors, and carrying a notebook computer. But she's more than a mecha-obsessed mechanic. Bobbi's real name is Moth, and she's an alien Del Karva. Her father is the Overboss Tostog, ruthless crimelord of the interstellar syndicate known as the Gebberoth. Groomed as her father's heir, Moth's eyes were opened to the Gebberoth's evil after she learned the diabolical fate planned for the inhabitants of planet Earth. Her flight in a stolen spaceship and crash landing in Greenland came just in time to deliver a warning of the alien threat. Now under the alias "Bobbi Greenland," Moth aids her human friends in their fight against her father's sinister plans, serving as Earth's resident expert on ultra-tech alien technology.

Here's one of her recent creations:

Big Ol Mech "Seraph Delta Heavy Armor" (TL9)
This is a custom variant of a Gebberoth light battle mecha which UNISTAR captured. Bobbi repaired it for use by UNISTAR, and has recently further modified it with an exo-armor husk. The upgrade means it can't use its stealth features until the husk is dumped, but it's now far more potent in a head-to-head slugfest. Its stats are identical to the Seraph Delta design given in GURPS Mecha, except as follows:

Exo-Armor Husk: Until dumped, this serves as an extra outer layer of armor with PD 4, DR 6,000 on the front, right and left body and PD 4, DR 2,000 elsewhere. The armor is ablative, but DR is cumulative with underlying armor. The exo-armor husk weights 52,800 lbs. and costs $442,400 to replace. This isn't cheap, but is worthwhile if it helps a $6,000,000 mecha survive!

Statistics: Loaded weight 50,482 lbs. clean, or 103,282 lbs. with exo-armor. Empty weight 46,992 lbs., or 99,792 lbs. with exo-armor. Loaded mass 25.24 tons, or 51.6 tons with exo-armor. Mecha volume 716 cf. Size Modifier +4, with arms +2, turret -1, legs +3. Price $6,688,125 plus $442,400 for exo-armor. HT 9. 11.4 yards tall, 2.4 yards wide and high.

Strength and Reach: Body ST 1,800, each Arm split ST 2,400/4,000 (with reach 10, damage thr. 241d, sw 243d).

Ground Performance: Speed 40 mph, gMR 1.5, gSR 2, Move 15/20, Jump Multiplier 5. Without exo-armor: Speed 55 mph, gMR 1.5, gSR 2, Move 15/27, Jump Multiplier 10.

Aerial Performance: None. Without exo-armor: Flight-capable. Can hover. Effective motive thrust 518 lbs. Lift ST 35. Aerodynamic drag 900, speed 65 mph, aMR 3, aSR 3, Move 30/32.

Space Performance: Space-capable. sAccel 0.5 g. Without exo-armor: Space-capable. sAccel 1.01 g.

GURPS Mecha includes a set of mecha combat and design rules fully compatible with those in GURPS Vehicles, 2nd Edition and GURPS Robots. There's also lots that's new: for instance, a mecha can be built to transform from a humanoid form into a fighter plane or motorcycle, or several smaller mecha can be designed to combine into a giant machine. Other special rules cover exotica like battlesuits made of energy fields, steam-age mecha, and baroque anime-style weaponry such as energy waves, wind cannon and giant shields. One system I'm quite pleased with allows scaling up any ancient melee weapon into mecha-sized versions. It should be useful for fantasy games as well, to give giants their own huge swords or axes.

Speaking of fantasy, mecha campaigns aren't limited to alien invasions, superheroes or interstellar mercenaries! With a little effort they can become an fascinating addition to other adventure settings. Here are two examples of "cross-genre" mecha designs:

Lorica Ultima "Virgo Dragonstar" (TL3+)
Created by a secret order of thaumaturgical engineers, the Lorica Ultima are giant humanoid fighting machines. The finest of them is the Virgo Dragonstar, which is inherited by the crown prince or princess upon their coming of age.

Virgo Dragonstar resembles a 20'-tall suit of ornate plate armor, armed with a huge rune-carved bastard sword. It is no mere statue: within its torso is the mecha's powerful mana engine, a solid rune-carved sphere of Orichalium, surrounded by ectoplasmic fluids drained from the spines of dragons. The explosive expansion and contraction of these fluids powers the mecha's mighty pistons and clockwork gears, all in accordance with the will of its operator, who sits within a control throne inside the giant's body. He or she views the world through a periscopic lens that looks out the crystalline vision-slit in the head.

Virgo Dragonstar differs from lesser Lorica Ultima in its possession of the "overload booster," which can be activated to supercharge the mecha's performance at the risk of burning it out. Also, its locked and hostile mind-interface means this mecha can only be safely used by those with royal blood!

Subassemblies: Two arms, two legs, limited turret.

Drivetrains: Anachronistic drivetrain with 25 kW motive power.

Arm Motors: Two anachronistic ST 125 cheap arm motors.

Cockpit: Anachronistic cockpit with no life support. Neural Induction Field with interface only, interface lock (blood relatives of the royal family), and hostile interface options.

Built-In Weaponry, Sensors or Comsuites: None, but see below.

Sensors: 10x magnification telescope.

Power System: TL3 Mana engine with 26.25 kW output, powers all systems.

Access Space: 11.2 cf in each leg, 13.125 cf in body.

Empty Space: 5.2 cf in turret, 4 cf in each arm, 10.65 cf plus 0.6 cf in body for turret rotation.

Volumes: Turret 6 cf, body 60 cf, arms 6 cf each, legs 22.4 cf each. Areas: Turret 20, arms 20 each, body 100, legs 50 each, total area 260.

Structure: TL3 medium frame, standard materials. Hit Points: Turret 30 HPs, arms 60 HPs each, body 150 HPs, legs 75 HPs each.

Armor: TL3 metal armor has PD 4, DR 25 body and PD 4, DR 15 elsewhere.

Other Options: Overload Booster.

Statistics: Loaded Weight 8,641.25 lbs. Empty Weight 8,441.25 lbs. Loaded mass 4.3 tons. Mecha volume 122.8 cf. Size modifiers: +3; turret -2, arms 0 each, legs +1 each. Price $316,050. Health 8. Dimensions: height 6.7 yards, length and width 2.2 yards.

ST and Reach: Lower body ST 300, arm ST 125, arm reach 4, thr. damage 13d, sw. damage 15d.

Ground Performance: Speed 19 mph. gMR 2.25, gSR 1. Move 9.

The Dragonstar Blade: 11x thrusting bastard sword, weight 55 lbs., $8,250. As Broadsword: thr +22 imp., reach 7, sw +11 cut, reach 3-6; min ST 121. As Two-Handed Sword: thr +33 imp., reach 3-6, sw +22 cut, reach 6; Min ST 110, two-handed.

I gave this machine fairly light armor, so a fight with an elder dragon or huge giant isn't a forgone conclusion! Here's another "low tech" mecha, for use in GURPS Cyberworld:

Fabrique-Europa M-203 "Borgjager" (early TL8)More Mech
"The M-203 is a military powered suit designed to enable an unaugmented soldier to counter cybernetically-enhanced opponents or sustain a rapid dismounted advance under hostile fire while carrying heavy weaponry. A trooper in an M-203 is better protected than a combat cyborg of equivalent cost, although the battlesuit is a larger target and its use requires extra training and maintenance. The M-203 "Borgjager" is presently undergoing evaluation by United Europe elite units, notably the Foreign Legion. Export sales show promise, the most recent being 36 suits plus spares to ProGov's NERCC, for the urban policing mission."

- Janes' Combat Mecha, 2046 Edition.

Urban policing? Buying a Borgjager for police work's like using nerve gas for crowd control. Oops. Guess NERCC does that too, don't they? Hey, want to bet them suits be wearing arctic camo real soon? Them Alaskans better watch their behinds.

- Erica Storm, Consensual Anarchist Weekly.

The Borgjager looks like a big suit of ultra-tech combat armor. Its legs are proportionately larger than a humans, and its head is studded with various sensor and antennae arrays.

Subassemblies: Two arms, two legs, limited turret.

Drivetrain: Legged drivetrain with 1.5 kW motive power.

Arm Motors: Two cheap ST 25 arm motors.

Cockpit: Battlesuit system for pilot weight 150 lbs., pilot occupies body, arms, legs and turret. Complexity 2 suit computer in turret. NBC Kit in body. Neural interface socket in turret.

Built-In Weaponry: None, but see below.

Sensors: TL8 Passive Electromagnetic Sensor Array with 3 mile range.

Comsuite: Basic comsuite in turret.

Power: All systems require 2.1 kW. 90,720 kWS energy bank using advanced batteries ("power slugs") provides power for 12 hours.

Empty Space: Turret 0.085 cf, Body 0.12 cf for turret rotation plus 0.04 cf, each leg 0.24 cf, each arm 0.15 cf.

Volumes: Each arm 0.5 cf, turret 1.2 cf, body 3.8 cf, 1.14 cf per leg.

Areas: Arms 4 each, turret 7, body 15, legs 7 each, total 44.

Structure: Heavy, expensive. Hit Points: Arms 24 HPs each, turret 21 HPs, body 45 HPs, legs 21 HPs each.

Surface Features: Sealed. Basic Infrared Cloaking.

Armor: Body and turret has PD 4, DR 120 laminate on front, back and right, PD 4, DR 60 on other sides. Other subassemblies are PD 4, DR 45 laminate.

Statistics: Loaded weight 1,084.2 lbs., empty weight 934.2 lbs., loaded mass 0.54 tons, mecha volume 8.28 cf, size modifier 0, arms -2, turret -3, legs -1. Price $145,271. Health 12. Height 2.8 yards, length and width 0.95 yards.

Strength and Reach: Body ST 76, Arm ST 25 each, arm reach 2, damage thr. 2d+2, sw. 5d-1.

Ground Performance: Speed 13 mph, gMR 3, gSR 1, Move 6.

The M-203 relies on big hand-held weapons:

Fabrique Europa FE-99 20mm Minicannon: This oversized armored rifle is a short-barrelled automatic cannon firing finned depleted uranium ammo. Use these stats:

Type Damage SS Acc 1/2D Max Wt. RoF Shots ST Cost
Cr. 6dx4(3) 20 10 1,260 6,450 64 8* 40 20 $1,800

FE-99's Size Modifier is -2. It has PD 3, DR 15, with 8 hit points. 40-shot magazines are 19 lbs. and $490 each.

Article publication date: February 1, 1997

Copyright © 1997 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to