Steam and Honor

This was… intended to be a submission to the second Squishy Challenge. For a while it was about pirates shooting at one another. Then airships. Then it sort of got away from me.

Okay, it seriously and absolutely got so far away from me I can’t even see home from here. Like, I wanted a quick game of mild strategy, and this… this requires like a hundred specialty dice and isn’t even complete.  But dang, I like what I have so far.

The game: Steam and Honor.

The concept: A two-player game. You and your opponent are high-born, aristocratic lords and/or ladies of Victorian England. Somehow, one of you has dishonored the other, and the only acceptable reaction is to agree to a right proper duel in your lumbering, steam-powered battle mechs. As is only proper.

What you need: Dice! Lots of specialty dice in several flavors, all of which are six-sided (one could use regular d6s in various colors as substitutions, it would be a bit of a hassle). The only other item you need would be something you can use to prevent the opposing player from seeing how you’re arranging your dice. A little board would be helpful indeed, but because I’m stretching the bounds of the assignment by suggesting that you can use some paper to screen off your dice, I’ll say no board for now.

Oh, also you’ll want a little reference document for all the different symbols and components and whatnot. Because there are plenty.

Dice come in three broad varieties: Components, Steam, and Seconds. Also, there’s the initiative dice, which are just plain old six-siders.

Components dice represent the different attacks and maneuvers your mech has at its disposal. They come in three types: attacks (which itself breaks down into basic, melee and ranged), movement, and miscellaneous. Most components have a symbol on three to five faces, with the remaining faces being blank… the more accurate/reliable a weapon or maneuver, the fewer blank sides. A fuller list of what sorts of components exists below.

Steam dice represent, well, the steam which powers your machine. There are three varieties: white “functioning” dice, with a little puff of steam on three sides and three blank sides, yellow “leaky” dice with steam on two sides, and red “danger” dice with a puff of steam on one side. The puff of steam is considered a success, which powers components.

The essential thing to remember is this: you will roll component and steam dice together. If the component lands with its symbol up and at least one steam die rolls with the steam symbol up, that is a success, and every die that lands with a puff of steam up powers that success. For the “Punch” component, for instance, the component succeeding is a hit, doing a single damage for each puff of steam you roll with it.

Second dice represent your second, the person who’s assisting you in this due (probably a loyal valet or other trusted servant). The sides have multiple different symbols to represent what the second is doing for you: a wrench for repairing, a shovel for stoking the boiler, a steering wheel for acting as co-pilot and a teacup for serving you a refreshment. Different seconds have the symbols in different proportions (the “repairman” second has three wrenches, two shovels, one wheel and no tea, for instance).

How to play:
Each player selects, in secret, the components which make up his mech (two weapons, two movement options, and two miscellaneous components, along with all the basic attacks) and a second. They also pick up ten steam dice each, starting with the “functioning” dice, and leaving piles of the yellow and red ones and the extra whites in easy reach.

They then arrange their components in secret. They can use two attacks (one for each hand), one movement option, and up to two miscellaneous components. The components they don’t use can stay hidden, so their opponent won’t know what weapons they have until they use them. Next to each component, they put as many Steam dice as they want to use to power that component (minimum of one). They reveal their setup, then roll their second and initiative dice together; after resolving the effects of the second dice, whomever scored the higher initiative roll (re-rolling ties) goes first this round.

The first player picks any one of his components and rolls it and its steam. If the player rolls a component for an attack, and his opponent has a component that can be used as a reaction (a shield, for instance) she can roll that as well (reactions do NOT require the component to roll a success… every unit of steam rolled negates a unit of steam the attacker rolled, but some reactions have additional effects if the component is successful). Once that’s resolved, the other player may either pass or roll one component. Generally, each component can only be used once per round; the turn ends when each player is out of components or both pass.

When damage is dealt to a mech, the player who is damaged must “downshift” one steam die for each point of damage; either replacing a white die with yellow or yellow with red (or both, replacing white with red to account for two points of damage).

Players then hide their dice from one another, and once again arrange them for the next round. Play continues until one mech’s supply of steam is entirely red, at which point the machine breaks down and the other player is the winner, though both have reasserted their honor through a noble duel.

The following dice are just a sample; it’s pretty trivial to add additional components, as balancing is as simple as giving overpowered components fewer successful faces. Indeed, it would be great to have more movement options and many, many more miscellaneous bits, but my brain was running out.

Basic melee attacks. Both players have access to all of these. Most have four or five successful faces.

  • PUNCH: A successful punch is worth one damage per steam. OR can be used to block melee damage.
  • GRAPPLE: A successful grapple does no damage, but uses its steam to counter steam rolled on an opponent’s movement option.
  • HAYMAKER: A successful attack is worth two damage per steam (but this component only has three faces that succeed).
  • JAB: A successful jab only does one damage, but you may discard the failed steam dice, and the component may then be re-rolled indefinitely.

Melee weapons. More effective than basic attacks, but you have fewer options. Most have four successful faces.

  • HAMMER: Like a haymaker, but with four successful faces instead of three.
  • SHIELD: Can be used to shield bash, like a punch, or block damage from any source, melee or ranged.
  • RAPIER: Like a jab, but can also be used to block melee damage (using it to block disables it for the rest of the round).

Ranged. By an large, more powerful but less accurate, with about three successful faces.

  • CANNON: Every Cannon symbol is worth one damage for one steam, two for two, four for three, eight for four, and so on.
  • MISSILE BARRAGE: Each face has between 0 and 3 missile symbols on it. Does one damage per steam times the number of missiles.
  • PHOTONIC LANCE: A successful lance does one damage per steam. If the opponent has a reaction, it takes TWO steam to block every ONE unit of steam powering the photonic lance.
  • GRAPPLING HOOK: A successful attack divides its steam in two; half (rounded up) is damage inflicted, and half (rounded down) is used to counter movement like a standard grapple.

Movement. Tend to affect other rolls rather than accomplish anything on their own. More options here would be keen. Average of four successful faces, most likely.

  • LEGS: Used to evade, each steam can counter one steam from any ranged damage source. Additionally, used to be fast: a successful roll means your mech is moving quickly, and each success rolled counters one point of damage before it affects you.
  • JETS: Used to evade like Legs. Additionally, used to fly; a successful roll means that your mech is out of melee reach (i.e: Any hammer, grapple, etc. rolls will be useless on either side until this turn is over, though grappling hook might still counter them).
  • STABILIZING GYROS: On a successful roll, you can re-roll the component die on a ranged weapon attack once for each unit of steam you roll.

Miscellaneous. Total grab bag in terms of effects and accuracy. Would like to add a LOT more here.

  • EMERGENCY SHUNT: This component has no blank faces–it will always succeed. Successful dice can be moved to ANY component which hasn’t been rolled yet.
  • SHOULDER MOUNT: This component isn’t rolled on its own; it’s attached to any ranged weapon. It works as the weapon in the hand would, but because it’s less accurate… both the weapon and mount die must roll successfully to fire.
  • CLOCKWORK REPAIRMEN: If successful, you may upshift every steam die which rolled a success.

Seconds. There are several different options for seconds, each having different proportions of die faces. They always succeed, in that they always do something, even if it’s not something you want. A few more options for what they can do would be keen as well.

  • Repair: Upshift any one steam die.
  • Stoke the boiler: Gain two white steam dice and add them to any component (you must discard them at the end of this round).
  • Co-pilot: Re-roll any one component roll this round.
  • Tea: You feel refreshed and alert: +5 to your initiative roll this round.
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