For the last few rambling bits on game design I've posted, I've basically been justifying decisions I'd already made regarding design. For this next bit, I'm going to work on something I haven't touched yet - integrating pilots and mecha. And I'm going to keep a kind of stream of consciousness log as I do it. It should be interesting.
Now I already know sort of where I want to go for mechs. I statted a bunch out as I was working on the Cthulhutech setting, so I have a good grasp of what they're going to look like - a number of equipment slots for each one, with a few choices for each slot, and each mech having at least a few unique pieces of equipment. It's an arrangement inspired by Team Fortress 2, where despite having the ability to switch a lot of equipment around, characters have distinct roles and play styles.
The one part I didn't touch when statting them before, but have since figured out, was their stats. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do for the actual mecha stats before, but there was a clever solution staring me in the face. A human uses a d6. It's a nice, easy, very common die type. A mecha uses a d10. It's almost twice as large and makes for a nice distinction. I've long wanted to make a person's stats matter to the mecha, but how to do it? The obvious answer is to have the mecha not have its own stats, but rather provide a bonus to the pilot's stats. The answer to how much of a bonus lies in the die sizes used - a d10 has an average of 5.5, where a d6 has an average of 3.5. With four combat rolls, that means to have the same proportionate impact on combat rolls, mecha would need to have 8 stat points spread out over their four stats.
Anyway, currently, characters as they're built have no special abilities relating to mechs. That needs to change - they're pilots after all! But the question remains as to how to give them these abilities. I don't want them to have to spend XP for them (at least not directly). I'd sort of like to have them improve over time in their ability to pilot, too.
Now to some extent they already improve over time. Pilots can increase their stats, which improves the mecha's stats. So an option to improve mecha stats really isn't needed. What we need is more of a way to give players some abilities. But it could be overloading the characters - I don't want them to have to contend with a huge list of powers. I've been trying to minimize the number of powers that are just a bonus or remove a penalty, and make them more active. Psychic powers are a good example - they're not always on, you have to decide to use them.
Some things that might be interesting for powers are analogs to the psychic powers that already exist, maybe some additional ways to use the tactical points and options I've already got in Warhawks rules, and so forth. Any other powers should really affect mecha construction - like letting you choose components from another mech's list or have two options in one slot or something. That could be really cool.
Mechs don't get upgrades to armor, so upgrades to weapon damage would only make them glass cannons. Adding boxes would be extremely messy too, so that's also out as possible upgrades. Activated abilities like CQC and the other stuff I had in the beta test is probably the best way to go, but I really don't want a huge amount. Maybe the best option is to make people choose.
I can make abilities and equipment pull from the same pool of points. I was already planning on having equipment be somewhat point-buy so I didn't have to worry as much about balancing them perfectly. If abilities also pull from that pool of points... well that'd solve my problem.
Now the question is to decide how many points a person should get. And the answer becomes self-evident. I want it to grow over time, at the same pace as other advancement. So it should be equal to the total XP of the character. This will also let me have more powerful abilities at higher 'tiers', like how other abilities can be improved.
So now we've got a framework to start with. The next, much longer step is to write out a long list of abilities.