Futurist's Guide to Gadgets!
Whether it’s the Batmobile, the Quinjet, the Blackbird, or the Fantasticar, vehicles are a big part of the world of comics. Vehicles are designed like any other Gadget.
A vehicle must have a STR to represent its carrying capacity and a BODY. If the player wishes the vehicle to be immune to the 1 AP Hole rule, then he should get Hardened Defenses, unless the vehicle is a bike or other type too small to worry about it. Vehicles also require a movement power that represents how and how fast they can get around. Skin Armor is used for armor; Force Field for defensive energy shields; Sealed Systems for environment (including artificial gravity in a starship); Radar Sense (including Lidar for science fiction vessels and devices) and Sonar for sensors (other, more detailed sensory powers are possible if the GM desires); Invisibility or Thief (Stealth) for cloaking devices and stealth technology; Radio Communications for comm devices; Area Knowledge for GPS devices; Vehicles skill for autopilots; and mental attributes and Recall for onboard computers. That covers all the basic abilities of vehicles, but in comics, vehicles frequently have more and stranger traits. These can be represented with powers. The weapons of a vehicle are designed separately and considered to be attached to a vehicle.
All vehicle powers, including weaponry, are operated by the Vehicles skill. The AV is almost always the pilot’s or operator’s APs of skill, with the EV being the vehicles APs of power. For example, piloting a vehicle through a dangerous asteroid field, firing the phasers of a starship, or using the sonar or a submarine to locate an enemy vessel all rely on a character’s skill. If a power usually has an AV and is a part of a vehicle’s systems where the user’s skill is the AV, then that power should be purchased with the No AV limitation.
Large vehicles such as naval vessels and starships are called Capital Ships. A Capital Ship is essentially a mobile Headquarters. If much of the action of the campaign is to take place aboard a Capital Ship it is a better approach to design each important area aboard the vehicle (bridge, sickbay, flight deck, holodeck, bio-labs, etc) as a setting with greater detail for that area’s specific attributes and powers. For example, a sick bay may have the Medicine skill, X-Ray Vision, Life Sense, and Microscopic Vision while the bridge would have the vehicle’s movement power, comm system, and sensors (the normal set of powers for a vehicle) because that is where the control stations for those abilities are located. This is done to prevent complicated Capital Vehicles from having dozens of powers representing a myriad of functions. This is appropriate for campaigns such as Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica where the ship is in essence a mobile setting. For campaigns like Star Wars, where the ships are far less detailed and important, a regular write up is probably sufficient.
When a vehicle crashes, treat it as a Charge Attack on whatever the nearest obstacles are. The passengers inside a vehicle are attacked by the same AV/EV as the vehicle.
Mecha: Giant robots are a staple of modern comics and anime. They are a mixture of vehicle and powered armor. Design the mecha as a suit of powered armor with Hardened Defenses (see the armor section for rules on designing power armor). The mecha’s DEX, STR, and BODY are all italicized. Most mecha are humanoid and make use of the pilot’s physical abilities. Thus, the character uses his Acrobatics, Martial Arts, and Weaponry to operate the mecha. However, those skills have a limit on them: the character cannot use more APs of those skills than he has in Vehicles (Mecha). For example, if he had a Martial Artist of 10 and a Vehicles of 5, then the most APs he could use in the mecha would be 5 APs. Mecha usually offers full protection to its operator. Occasionally, it does not, leaving the operator partially exposed. In this case, the mecha should have an Attack Vulnerability against targeting the appropriate area of the mecha. Mecha generally use huge versions of normal melee and ranged weapons. To convert a normal sized weapon to a Mecha sized weapon, add +2 APs to the weapon’s BODY and attack power. If creating an original mecha sized weapon, feel free to give it any APs you wish. Mecha that are not humanoid, like AT-ATs or fuchikoma, are designed like normal vehicles. Mecha that transform, like the Veritech fighters of Robotech, or are composed of multiple mecha that combine into one, like Voltron, should be created using the Alter Ego (Controllable) rules, with the primary form being treated as the superhero identity. The R# of a mecha represents both its charge and mechanical reliability. The first failed reliability roll in a game session indicates that the mecha has run out of power and needs to be recharged. The second failed roll indicates that is has malufunction and needs to be repaired. When a mecha is out of charge, it is immobile and useless except for the italicized BODY.
FASTER-THAN-LIGHT MOVEMENT In comic books, vehicles frequently travel faster than the speed of light. This is called Faster-Than-Light (FTL for short). FTL speed is any speed over 29 APs. There are two common ways to accomplish FTL speed: Jump Drives and Warp Drives. To use any form of FTL speed a ship must be out of a planet’s gravitational pull. FTL speed is not possible in an atmosphere or in an orbit. It is also not possible in the midst of any space phenomena (see below). The GM should decide which form or forms of FTL travel are possible in the setting, if any.
If no FTL is possible, then either movement powers cap out at 28 APs or for every AP over 28, the character behaves as if he possessed the Time Travel power at a number of APs equal to the APs of movement -28.
In Frank Herbert’s Dune the ship did not have the power, but the Guild Navigators did. In this case, space was folded, allowing a stationary cargo ship to be pulled to another location.
In the television show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and the movie Stargate, the
A Jump Drive or Gate is represented by the Warp power, with the limitation that it cannot be used as an attack. The APs of power must be at least 52 in order to travel one light year.
Suspension is a limitation for many FTL drives. In this case, the characters within a ship must enter into pods that put them into suspended animation while the ship travels at FTL velocity. This has been seen in the Alien franchise and in Event Horizon. This is a -2 FC applied to the vehicle’s movement power and the ship must possess the Suspension power.