|RPG published by
|Rule System||Shadow of the Demon Lord derivative|
|No. of Players||2+|
|Session Time||10+ minutes|
|Authors||Miguel Lopez and Tom Parkinson-Morgan|
- For the mounted unit and/or their primary weapon of choice, see: Lance
- For the Imperial Knight pattern, see: Cerastus Knight Lancer
"You dig giant robots!
We dig giant robots!
CHICKS dig giant robots!"
Lancer is a free-ish RPG about customizing, upgrading (and sometimes destroying) your very own mech from scratch. The player starts with a pilot, with a set of skills, stats, and talents, and a mech, composed of a CORE, which provides the base ratings of your mech ranging from HP to how good you are at aiming your massive underside cannon, and a FRAME, which is the external hardware covering the core. This can be anything from armor, weapons, and different sorts of fun systems (including a memetic virus that leaves those who see it stunned with brain damage or a gun dubbed Omnigun that is a "... piece of experimental hardware so advanced that it does not classify as any weapon...").
TL;DR: Humanity fucked itself, slept it off for about five millennia, then woke up, punched itself, and decided to form a hegemony called Union. They discovered godlike AIs on Mars and had them crunch the numbers on the best way for humanity to not fuck itself over again. 3000 years later, those AIs' thought a tech-god AI called RA unto existence, who promptly fucked off with Deimos. Picking up the pieces left behind, humans harnessed blinkgates, galactic wi-fi, and AIs. 1500 years after that, humanity discovered the first sentient alien life. Union tried to peacefully contact them, and they got cholera and everything was fucked up. So they invented a whole new type of war-machine for the sole purpose of stomping on these bugs. And thus was the birth of the mech. After everyone found out the second committee of Union was waging a war of extermination against the only other sapient lifeform ever found, humanity spent a good long while in a state internal civil war, giving birth to a handful of micro-internal factions. The current ruling group of humanity invented Post-capitalism, Plunging the core worlds into an Utopian dream, though not without struggle, and though many worlds live the dream, thousands other struggle due to factors such as piracy, slavers, and dictators. This is where the main characters come in, the exceedingly rare Lancer Pilots.
The chief classifications for the mech frames and gear are twofold in Lancer: The first is their role, which is pretty self-explanatory (Striker, Defense, Support, Controller, Artillery), and the other is their manufacturer. Each manufacturer has very distinct types of mechs with particular specialties, even within combat roles.
- GMS (General Massive Systems): All pilots start here. GMS is pretty much the generic-name manufacturer for almost everything, nationalized by Union, having built mechs since the dawn of colonization. GMS has weapons for everything to fill in the openings for your build. They also produce your starter frame, the Everest - a super-modular model that's actually quite zippy.
- IPS-N (Inter-Planetary Shipping - Northstar): One of the largest megacorps. They started with building spaceships, and function much like space amazon, horrifying exploitation of workers included. Their models tend to specialize in close-quarters Combat (CQC), and carry quite a bit of armor. Their whole frame production line is based on killing pirates and ironically, created the frames that would be most useful for said pirates.
- Smith-Shimano Corpro: One of the oldest of the megacorps, they specialize in luxury products and genetic modifications. SSC was quite quick to secure deals in subspace vessels. Their loftiest research projects involve merging man and machine into one seamless entity, but that's been mostly abandoned due to moral and legal pushback. SSC Mechs are really fast and sneaky, being made to avoid damage rather than taking it head-on. They also have plenty in the way of sniping.
- HORUS: It's not really clear what the deal is with this manufacturer. Is it a collective of master hackers who like fucking with things, or is it the product of a rogue not-AI God? Whichever the case, it's got weird mechs that use impossible technology, the models are so diverse that Union uses "Pattern Groups" named after mythical creatures and specializes in electronic warfare and AI management. Basically, if /b/ made mechs. Expect to get eldritch horrors masquerading as mecha.
- Harrison Armory: Remnants of the Second Committee, they're gung-ho, militaristic, and have a cult of personality around John Creighton Harrison, now on his Third cloned body since the fall of the regime. Originally dealt exclusively with guns, but they eventually decided to make their own mechs and embrace their own brand of imperialism. HA's mechs tend to be durable, capable of managing themselves and getting the most out of their gear and their fun guns.
- Everest: The basic bitch Frame, as mentioned before, is the standard GMS mech and may be the only frame they produce, at least in the core rulebook. Has some general benefits like being able to take an extra action once a combat/scene and some general benefits that work for all builds, but suffers from its lack of specialization. Still, do not underestimate the Everest, and it is a fantastic side piece if your main piece doesn't work for a mission. Its Core Power is Power Up, which gives +1d6 to all rolls and an extra free move per turn. Nothing spectacular, but works for anything.
- (Wallflower) Sagarmatha: A bigger and heavier forebear to the Everest. This makes a slightly more defensive generalist mech, gaining a bit more HP and a point of armor in exchange for a repair and can brace without sacrificing movement or actions once a combat/scene. Its Core Power turns to Raise the Banner, granting all allies within eyeshot resistance to heat/damage as well as +1d6 to all saving throws.
- Blackbeard: An aggressive frame focused on launching harpoons into enemy mechs and locking them down. Gains the ability to swing around using said harpoon at higher license levels, and concede direct control of the mech to a murderhobo AI in exchange for more damage. Also notable for carrying an actual chainaxe. Its Core Power is the Omni-Harpoon, which fires harpoons at everything within five spaces and pulls it in close, as well as making them prone and imobilized.
- Drake: An absolute tank of a mech that has resistance to all ranged damage from area of effect attacks, and can deploy itself like a turret. Higher levels give you access to a minigun made of Dakka, and the ability to deploy increasingly ridiculous shields, right up until a fold-up instant bunker. Its Core Power is Stabilization Protocol - turning the Drake immobile, immovable and extends your cover bonuses to anyone near you. Use this if you want to turn any and all defense deployments your GM runs into a turkey shoot.
- Lancaster: That fucking Boston robotics dog robot made into a support. Pretty much entirely dedicated to healing and buffing. It can attempt to drag around enemies with towing cables, but it's pretty fucking hard. Not completely useless in a straight fight; it can debuff enemies as well as buffing allies, like using hard setting anti-fire foam to freeze a mech. Also somewhat immune to being lit on fire, which is real nice. Its Core Power is the Supercharger, deploying a drone to an ally to make them immune to all conditions.
- Nelson: Melee-focused knight robot. It has powerful mobility options, as well as systems that enhance its formidable melee weapons, with extras that makes one feed into the other to create a very mobile and very damaging mech - but it has no armor and has very little base health. It's the classic gundam-holding-a-giant-sword archetype, except with a spear that explodes. Its Core Power is the Perpetual Motion Drive, letting Nelson swing 'n' move at an incredible for spaces without provoking reactions.
- Raleigh: Space Cowboy mech, complete with fanning the hammer at higher levels, but got replaced as the flagship frame of IPS-N because people are idiots. It specializes in weapons with the loading tag and comes with a built-in chest gun for moar shooty goodness when you're busy reloading. Its Core Power, Thunder God has the chest gun load two bullets every turn you don't fire it. If you shoot it and it has four bullets or more, it ignores and shreds your target's armor.
- Tortuga: Caliban’s very big brother, and IPS-N's flagship frame. Big, bulky, and tough as nails, the Tortuga is built to breach and clear better than the rest. With enhanced overwatch systems and solid equipment unlocks, the 'tuga will blow a hole in anything that gets too close, while its Guardian trait ensures that its allies always have a friendly wall to hide behind. Its Core Power is the Hyper-Reflex Mode, letting Tortuga do Overwatch reactions twice as often and stopping enemies dead if the reaction hits. Combo with the HMG and Heavy Gunner talents for an excellent fire support platform.
- Vlad: A very angry porcupine with a lance. Specializes in shredding armor, and throwing themselves into crowds of enemies to proc their Tormentor spines twice, then dying because getting surrounded is a death sentence in most cases. Great for people who really really, like tanking things. Its Core Power, Tormentor Spines, makes it even moar spiky and gaining resistance to all damage from close-up.
- (Long Rim) Caliban: The Doomguy mecha. Carries a big fucking shotgun and can get even more shotguns that knock back enemies on hit, and comes with the ability to relentlessly pursue any enemies you punch away from yourself. Its Core Power, Equip Autochoke, makes its standard shotgun even more fucking big.
- (Long Rim) Zheng: The result of making a Monk out of a mecha. It specializes in punching and grappling with a superheavy fist capable of flat-out obliterating everything with a falcon punch. Its Core Power, Xiaoli's Ingenuity, lets you do punch dashes around the map, not losing any charges as long as you don't punch the same thing more than once.
- (Wallflower) Kidd: So IPS-N isn't the sort of company keen on doing hacking shenanigans. This mech takes the gimmick of being the upgrader and then slaps a rusty oil-stained coat on it. It clears tech-issues by essentially slapping their allies with a wrench, gives some jury-rigged upgrades to guns, and uses a kill-sat as a Core system. It also has an upgrade that introduces a set of miniaturized drones to create a variety of tools. Its Core Power, Skull and Bones, amps your kill-sat up to the max.
- Black Witch: The mech equivalent of Magneto. The frame takes half damage from all kinetic weaponry (bullets and knives and the like). It also has a neat system that lets it throw things around and ways to protect your allies from hackers. Its Core Power, Mag Field, projects a field of magnetism that stops gunfire and enemies. Fucking magnets, how do they work???
- Death's Head: When you need to make a shot count, the Death's Head is a good call. This frame adds a bonus to all rolls to shoot and can re-roll the first shot it takes, meaning that this is when you make use of the Heavy slot it has. Its other systems are pretty much there to make sure that nothing gets in the way of you making your mark. Its Core Power, Neural Shunt, lets you mark an enemy for death to make your shot next turn do a fuckton of damage.
- Dusk Wing: Weird illusionary bullshit. While it has all the means to hide itself and the ability to hover around, it is quite fragile. More of a large mech-suit than an outright Mecha. Also among the weirdest mechs even when compared to Horus frames, as the entire frame is built around mimicking some sort of reality-warping monster, and the person in the flavor text is convinced he's not actually escaped, but he's in the monsters belly or something. Its Core Power, Hall of Mirrors, lets you leave behind an illusory copy of yourself when you move. If an enemy gets close or you choose to teleport back to one of the illusions, they all explode and deal damage to anything nearby.
- Metalmark: Rather straightforward for Smith-Shimano, but it's also able to turn invisible whenever it moves and can actually fight. Also helpful is its unique knife, which deals the ever-so-bothersome burn damage. Its Core Power, Tactical Cloak, just makes it permanently invisible. Overall a solid skirmisher mech that relies on avoiding rather than taking damage.
- Monarch: Missiles for days. If you plan on relying on launchers, this is the mech to use. All of its unique systems and weapons all ride off being missiles of some sort. Small quick missiles, big slow missiles. Its Core Power, Divine Punishment, fires off a million billion missiles at everything in a huge area.
- Mourning Cloak: The edgy loner's mech, able to teleport behind enemies like it's nothing personnel and deal bonus damage to solitary targets. Its Core Power, Stabilize Singularity, makes all of its movement teleporting. However, as anyone can tell you, the edgelords can brag all they want about studying the blade, but it won't mean much when they get their lights punched out.
- Swallowtail: The one support mech that actually supports. Can carry markerlights to help your shooty party members shoot better. Is otherwise stealthy as is signature of SSC and brings to bear a slew of support systems, including one that can turn your allies invisible. Its Core Power, Prophetic Interjection, lets you once per round let an ally either get resistance to all damage from an attack and teleport, or teleport twice the distance.
- (Wallflower) Ranger Variant: A slightly more rugged variant of the Swallowtail, gaining the ability to predict a few pieces of terrain (or just will them into existence by GM Fiat) as well as guiding allies. It can also essentially blend into soft cover, since this is the practical scouting version. Its Core Power is turned into Guerilla Warfare, letting you deploy long-lasting smoke bombs and permitting allies within sensor range to share your cover-hiding tactics.
- (Long Rim) Atlas: The cyborg ninja mech-suit with a future-katana and throwing stars. Ban at first opportunity if anyone makes even a single mention of any anime full stop - trust us, it's for everyone's good. Can get special martial arts techniques to make it even more mobile and deadly in combat, culminating in getting a super-strong space katana with stance-changing that can cut through anything and everything. Its Core Power, The Final Hunt, makes the Atlas gain the power of God and anime.
- (Expansion) White Witch: The tank for aggressive folks. Its core system allows it to harden its armor in response to physical trauma and bracing for impact makes some additional shielding. It focuses more about taking as much damage as possible as well as immobilizing both itself and allies so it cannot move. Its Core Power, Hyperactive Mode, doubles its armor gain and maximum.
- (Expansion) Emperor: Master archer and shield manipulator. That latter part is particularly important, as the Emperor frame's health practically doesn't scale like other mechs, but instead relies on its scaling overshield to survive - a resource it can also provide to any allies. Its Core Power, Xerxes Apex, causes its huge bow to deal more damage the more people it hits.
- Balor: Instead of making one big mech, the lazy potheads at Horus just programmed a nanite swarm to do everything for them. Due to this, the Balor endlessly regenerates both in and out of combat, needing heat energy or mass concentrated fire to take it down reliably. Eventually gets a bunch of systems that cloud the area around it with nanites, giving it and allies cover and damaging anything that gets close. Its Core Power, Hive Frenzy makes the nanite swarm go berserk to do all kinds of shit in close vicinity of you, including [[Cheese|allowing you to ignore structure loss on a 6+.] Abusing this mech is the fastest way to get all Horus mechs banned from the table.
- Goblin: The mech for shithead hackers. The art makes it out to be so small and so unarmored you can see the pilot inside. Is horrible at anything resembling straight-up combat and so relies on hacking and reaction fuckery to deal with enemies instead. Is capable of some absolutely amazing "fuck this one motherfucker in particular" hacking and comes with its unique Core Power, Symbiosis, allowing it to attach itself to a friendly mech to use as protection, granting that mech its own electronic hacking and defense capabilities. Take a half decent weapon, and piggyback on your big scary friend to take pot shots and hack while he stabs shit.
- Gorgon: Is listed as a "Defender", but is all about attacking. Has a billion tools that allow you to attack or penalize attackers as reactions in response to them attacking, and can do so TWICE PER TURN. Its Core Power, Extrude Basilisk, conjures a digital basilisk that scrambles everyone who sees it to make them easy pickings.
- Hydra: DRONESDRONESDRONES. The majority of the Hydra's systems are indeed drones, or systems to control drones. Core power passive is to be accompanied by a drone, choosing 1 from 4 options. Core power Active, Full Deployment is to RELEASE ALL OF THEM. If you have every other drone from this License group, this makes for a maximum of 7 DRONES AT 15HP, RESISTANT TO ALL DAMAGE, doing various things to fuck with the enemy or help the ally. The only license group among HORUS mechs that has a super-heavy weapon, which is a NEXUS super-heavy.
- Manticore: Probably the biggest tell that Horus was most likely originally intended to be the villain faction. A mech with 2 whole traits turning it into a bomb with legs. The more on fire you are, the more lightning you'll spit out. Facetank as much heat damage as you can, then run up to the BBEG then cover them in your bodily fluids... because you just exploded and your eyeballs burst onto his visor. Its Core Power, Destruction Of The Temple Of The Enemies Of RA, lets you build up charge and then violently explode. Abusing this will cause the GM to take away your backup clones.
- Minotaur: Have a second mech based around forcing you to fight a tank. Uses gravity field bullshit and l33t hax0rz to pull a you shall not pass on other mechs. Has more space inside the frames body than should be physically possible, by several orders of magnitude. Also has some pretty neat hacking systems, much like the Goblin. Its Core Power, Maze, stuns an enemy and gives them a really heavy penalty to save each round. Fun fact, RAW you can simply hide in this mech and never die if you keep the latch closed, even if the frame itself explodes.
- Pegasus: Probably the biggest example of reality-fucking in the shape of a mass-produced Eva, the Pegasus's main feature is some sort of super-gun that doesn't exist, yet can somehow still shoot, which just means it gets free damage with no saves when it fires each turn. Its other feature lets it deal consistent damage on guns with randomized damage, allowing late-game builds to automatically deal enough damage to oneshot NPC frames in one shot. Its Core Power, Unshackle USHABTI, agitates the super-gun so it hits three times per turn instead of one.
- (Long Rim) Kobold: Another small frame, but this one's focus is more on building its own terrain and controlling who approaches it. According to lore, it is produced thanks to a meta-virus that corrupts schematics for mining frames to turn them into combat frames. It wants to make as much cover as possible as well, because it can turn invisible by being near it and has a system that makes it impossible to rip away from the cover. Its Core Power, Terraform, allows it to make a bunch of cover that it can then manipulate.
- (Long Rim) Lich: The outright flimsiest frame ever, but also the most capable of time-fuckery and cheating death itself. Despite all this, its function is primarily on disabling and hampering enemies so that its allies can go about their business. Its Core Power, Glitch Time, allows Lich to glitch time and move into the place of any other character and take their place for whatever effect is applied onto them, positive and/or negative.
- Barbarossa: HELLO I'M FUCKING FAT. This is the only mech that is size 3 by default and carries a massive fucking ship-grade cannon as a core system. You’ll draw lots of fire, but since you’re tough and probably behind all your friends you’ll be fine. Its Core Power, Charge Rail, allows you to charge the aforementioned ship-grade cannon and turn it on small ground targets.
- Genghis: A walking warcrime deployed against the bug Xenos, this mechs entire thing is not robotic horseback riding like you would expect, but using a massive flamethrower. It has arguably one of the best system upgrades that allows your mech to clear all heat if you sit still, don't shoot, or be shot at that turn. Also can vent all the heat you’ll inevitably get and say “fuck you” to anyone standing next to you. Its Core Power, Expose Power Cells, allows you to instead of overheating like everyone else, just vent the heat to create a cloud of burning matter that makes everyone invisible except to you and cook while inside it until it disperses.
- (Wallflower) Mk I Worldkiller: The original Genghis, meaning that it is a lot less restrained in its predilection for mass incineration. It's bigger and loses the ability to vent when losing structure while suffering with Systems saves, but it can now ignore any resistance to Heat/Burn damage as well as exchanging a Flex mount for a Main mount (All it means is no pistols or knives). When this mech's in the danger zone, it radiates an aura of heat that grants it soft cover and prevents anyone caught next to it from taking reactions. Its Core Power is turned into A Pleasure to Burn, a power-up that increases the size of its DZ aura as well as making it melt difficult terrain. If it ever rolls Reactor Stress, the Worldkiller essentially explodes, bathing anyone in its aura in fire and potentially fusing them into the glassed ground.
- Iskander: A frame for the grenade addict. Almost every system it has helps with space control or managing the grenades and mines, giving a normally rigid concept a surprising amount of flexibility, allowing you to play a sapper and play it very effectively. Its Core Power, Death Cloud, fills a large area with micromines that cause enemies to take damage for every space they move. Absolutely excellent at limiting mobile enemies, and should not be underestimated.
- Napoleon: The tankiest manlet. Its traits allow it to minimize damage taken to a scary degree and its systems grant it a lot of defensive and tactical utility, as well as a huge gun that weaponizes blinkspace teleportation. Its Core Power, Trueblack Aegis, shrouds it in a perfectly black field that reduces damage to 1 and making you immune to all tech actions, but disallows weapons. A fantastic support mech.
- Saladin: A big force-field wielding chonker. Where the Napoleon focuses on damage mitigation and area denial, the Saladin is purely focused on tanking and negating effects. For some reason it also allows you to make one of your weapons paracausal to make it superpowerful, so even at higher levels Saladin will grant you a good amount of build variety. Its Core Power, Tachyon Shield, lets you once per round halve all damage on an attack hitting one of your allies, or redirect it at whoever you want if it misses.
- Sherman: The Sherman's weapon of choice is lasers. It's very heavily focused on managing heat, being able to constantly keep their heat levels at the Danger Zone via stabilizing and their core system is a cannon that gains charges with each stabilize action. Its most popular upgrade is the Redundant Systems Upgrade, which allows you to stabilize your mech in half the time for a few times each full repair. Its Core Power, COREBURN Protocol, amps up its in-built laser cannon to ridiculous levels and makes it burn through terrain.
- Tokugawa: The mech for pushing the limits of your mech. Has tons of special actions and weapons that deal massive amount of heat to itself to the point of reaching Exposed, but gains massive damage in return. Its Core Power, Radiance, gives all of your weapons bonus range/threat, allowing you to keep just the right amount of distance while you tear into them. Using the Tokugawa can either end with you mowing down enemies like they're nothing, or with you accomplishing nothing and blowing yourself up.
- (Wallflower) Enkidu: A variant of the Tokugawa that focuses more on glass cannon melee, gaining slight beef but sacrificing defenses, weapon slots (You're trading off two Main mounts and a Flex mount to two Flex mounts and an integrated weapon mentioned below) and tech prowess. Rather than riding off Danger Zone and Exposed, the Enkidu instead gains an extra weapon when in Danger Zone (literal plasma whips extending from the fingers) and a speed boost. Its Core Power turns into Bifurcate, enabling a special move in Danger Zone that allows it to rip lesser mechs in half. And this move can be done repeatedly during the rest of the FUCKING. FIGHT.
- (Long Rim) Sunzi: A mech that was pretty much built based on stolen tech, its central focus is on teleportation. It can set up plenty of ways to control teleportation to both teleport enemies away from your vulnerable allies, or closer to someone who's just out of range - you also have a passive bonus that means any space next to you is a valid end destination of teleportation, allowing teleporting allies to zip back to you in a pinch. Its Core Power, Art of War, gives you six uses of instant teleportation of any ally or enemy whenever they end their turn.
The core system is pretty basic; 1d20 versus a target number (10 for skill checks, and a defensive stat for attacks) with up to 3d6 (taking only the highest) as Accuracy and Difficulty penalties granted by talents, circumstances, etc. The pilot side of the game is lightweight storygame-y stuff, usually based on how you plan to get some advantages and assets for combat, while the mech side is 4E-like tactical combat on a hex grid.
As you level up, you can improve both how your pilot and mech operate, gaining talents to specialize in mech combat, skills for managing downtime, and License Levels in order to buy new wargear and frames for your mech.