Game: B+
From 54 reviews

Lancer

First Edition

An Extremely Popular New Giant Robot RPG
Contents

Publisher Description

Lancer imagines a future where a survivor humanity has spread to the stars after weathering terrible ecological collapse on Earth - the end of the Anthropocene as a consequence of unrestrained consumption and poor stewardship. Thousands of years later, humanity lives in the wake of a desperate revolution, one where the victorious radicals now manage the galaxy they've won.  



The setting features a mix of gritty, mud-and-lasers military science fiction and mythic science fantasy, where  conscript pilots mix ranks with flying aces, mercenary guns-for-hire brawl with secretive corpro-state agents, and relativistic paladins cross thermal lances with causality-breaking, unknowable beings. Lancer's galaxy is one where utopia exists, but is under threat, and the struggle is not yet entirely won; the revolution is not yet done. 

 

A Great Giant Robot RPG That Can Also Do Giant Monsters [ edit ]

First off, let's get one thing out of the way: Lancer is not a giant monster RPG ... it's a giant robot (ie. "mecha") RPG.  But because the two genres cross over so heavily, it's easy to create giant monsters in Lancer.  Essentially they are treated as being either "monstrous" or "biological" mecha.

So why would you want to use a non-kaiju RPG for your next kaiju campaign? Well, if that campaign features giant robots fighting kaiju, Lancer offers an extremely popular independent RPG that's focused entirely on delivering a great mecha adventures.  In only a couple years of existence it's amassed a large online fanbase, and spawned three supplements, each of which are "Field Guide" detailing various factions in the game's (far future) setting.

Lancer, First Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse

Character Creation [ edit ]

In Lancer character creation involves creating both the character (pilot) and their mecha ... and pilot creation is relatively simple.

First you select a background (eg. "Hacker" or "Super Soldier"), which provides a small bonus in related situations. Next you pick your "trigger", which is when your character shines (eg. "Charm" or "Apply Fists to Face").  After that you select the character's (non-mecha) equipment, pick two points of "Mech Skills" (Hull, Agility, Systems, or Engineering), and then select three "Talents" (ie. special piloting benefits or abilities),

Creating a mecha is similarly simple, but with a subtle amount of depth.  To create a mecha you first you select a frame, then select weapons (how many depends on your frame's "mounts"), and then finally your systems.  After that you simply have to determine your mech's statistics, based on your choices (Hit Points, Repair Cap, Evasion, Heat Cap, Armor, and Size).

I've glossed over all that quickly, but the game has a wealth of options, and they are balanced in a way that players have a wide variety of viable choices.  While the math of all those options may be a little tricky, the (free) character creation program makes it easy to play with all of your options.

All mecha-related decisions are limited by the character's "license level", which is essentially the number of missions they've successfully completed (maxing at 11).  This license level serves both as traditional "character level", and as the character's "wealth", in terms of what mecha gear they can acquire.

Core Mechanics [ edit ]

Lancer divides play into two modes: mecha and non-mecha (ie. "narrative").  Narrative play is relatively simple, utilizing only a simple D20 success mechanic, where a roll of 10 or higher is a success. Various modifiers can affect the roll, either by adding fixed bonuses (eg. from skills), or by adding or subtracting a separate d6 roll (for favorable/unfavorable conditions).

A d20 roll is also used in combat, but instead of a fixed number (10), the success roll depends on the target's defenses.  And unlike many other games , there is no initiative in Lancer: instead turns simply rotate between the players and NPCs. Player order on their turn can change from turn to turn, allowing players to work together and form combination attacks.

While the non-combat game can be played without a map, the mecha combat pretty much requires one, preferably a hex map, because of rules that depend on the mecha's facing.  Combat is very tactical, but also fairly quick and brutal. Cover is important, and abilities that do more than just damage (such as lock down enemy mecha) are valuable.

A Great RPG for Mecha vs. (Mecha-like) Monsters [ edit ]

Lancer was only released in September of 2019, by a relatively unknown author, and yet in that time it's racked up over three hundred reviews, with an average rating of 5/5 stars! It also has a very strong online presence for an independent game with its own sub-Reddit that had over 8,000 members at the time of writing (and which included several discussions of adding kaiju to the game).

Lancer also has a Discord server where you can find online games, a free character builder, and even an entirely free edition (which lacks the GM material).  So while you won't find any kaiju-specific rules in this RPG, you will find "monstrous giant robots" that act just like kaiju ... and you'll also find an extremely popular new mecha RPG.