By Dimitris “Mits Giotix” Giotis
Chapter 1: Basics
A.The basics (rolls, bonuses and penalties, glossary)
The game is a simple board game using graph paper, six-sided dice (d6) and a player as a “Game Master” (GM). Most -if not all- stats and numbers are in the 1 to 5 range; 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. Some stats might be bigger than that but the main gist is rolling a d6 with 6 being an automatic failure. When someone (a player, an enemy, whatever) wants to perform an action, he rolls a die. The players/GM compare the result to the number given by the rules/stats. If the result is equal to the “target number” or lower, then the character is successful and the action is performed.
Example: Alpha tries to shoot that bastard on the other side of the room. He has a combat stat of 4, which means that he has to roll a d6 and get a result of 1,2,3 or 4. He rolls the die and he gets a 3; a success! Raising his assault rifle and quickly sighting down the aims, he takes the shot and gets the bastard.
The bastard decides to return the favor. He has a combat stat of 2. The GM rolls the die and gets a crappy 5, which is higher that the bastard’s stat. His bullet completely misses Alpha.
Sometimes, mercs and bastards will gain “bonuses” or “penalties”. A bonus is a bonus number of points in a stat, used for a particular amount of time or actions. A penalty is lowering a stat. Bonuses and penalties depend of gear, situations and special abilities.
Examples: Being on High Ground gives a 1-point bonus to mercs shooting at bastards lower than themselves. Shooting at a bastard behind heavy cover gives a 2-point penalty at the shooting merc. Various combat drugs will give bonuses on multiple stats.
Generally speaking, players create their Mercs, (stats, equipment, and backstory, along with their team’s backstory and characteristics), and they participate in missions/operations created by the GM. The GM describes what is happening during the mission and controls the bad guys (generally called “those bastards”), the non-playable characters (NPCs) and describes most events and happenings in-game.
The missions are played by using graph paper or other ways to represent creatures, the environment and anything else of importance (like lines of sight, cover and movement).
Glossary: If you’ve spent some time playing RPGs or war games, you probably understand the terms used here. For people who are just starting playing, here is a list of basic terms.
[to be added later]
Every creature in this game (mercs, robots, NPCs, you name it) have 3 basic stats: Combat, Mobility, and Endurance. There is also an “extra” stat called Specialty which works differently than the previous ones and will be described later. These stats govern almost every action that the mercs can perform during the operation; when a merc wants to do something, the player rolls a d6. If the result is equal to, or lower than, the corresponding stat, the action was a success. Otherwise, it is a failure. Sometimes, bad stuff might happen.
All stars range from 1 to 5 points. 1 is the lowest and signifies a lack of training or experience on a particular set of skills. 5 is the highest and means that the merc is one of the best in the galaxy when it comes to that area of expertise. These numbers can be modified during the game due to specialized pieces of equipment, implants, psionic abilities, etcetera.
Basic stats start at 0 points, and players have to spend at least one point on each. They get a total of 11 points which they can spend on them in any combination they like, given that all 3 stats are within the 1-5 limits. Please note that stats might get higher than 5 due to gear, bonuses, and other such situations. Even then, all rolls that have a result of 6 are automatic failures (this is mostly done to offset penalties of one kind or another).
Example: Beta has a combat stat of 5, is armed with a precision rifle (which grants a bonus of 1 on combat when using it to shoot), and she has an experimental implant grafted on her optical nerves that gives an additional bonus of 1 on combat. This means that her combat stat is equal to 7. However, she still has to roll a d6 to attack. If the roll’s result is 6, she misses. Hey, shit happens even when you are an implant-grafted space merc.
Regardless, she decides to shoot a bastard that hides behind heavy cover. This gives her a penalty of 2. That’s okay, though. Her combat stat of 7 will be lowered to 5 which means that rolling a 6 is still the only way she will miss him.
Combat(COM): The merc’s ability to defeat an opponent in armed or unarmed combat. This is used to properly attack those bastards with pistols, rifles, flamethrowers, grenades, knives, headbutts, and whatever else strikes his or her fancy. Combat might also be used in more unusual ways (arm wrestling, identifying uncommon weapons, etcetera) if the GM or the rules allow it. A Merc can attack more than once per round, as described on the Mobility details. Each attack needs a separate d6 roll.
Example: Alpha Decides to shoot the security robot three times with his assault rifle. His combat stat is equal to 4. He rolls three dice and he gets 1, 4 and 5. His first two attacks hit the ‘bot, but the third one misses.
Mobility(MOB): The merc’s agility, speed, manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination… you get the meaning. It is mainly used to calculate the number of action points, also known as AP. Each and every action a merc does costs one (and sometimes even more) AP. The most basic of these actions are:
-Using some sort of Specialty Ability
Mercs get a number of AP equal to their Mobility, and they are replenished at the start of every turn. The AP can be used in any combination the player likes, as long as there is common sense.
Moving costs one AP and the merc can move a number of tiles equal to his Mobility stat times two (MOBx2). Mercs can move more than once during their turn, as long as they have enough APs.
Attacking works the same way as moving. Some kinds of attack require more than one AP (for example, time spent bracing against a heavy weapon’s kickback). A merc can attack more than once.
Using gear or Specialty abilities depend on the piece of equipment or the ability description and details. These are described later.
Last but not least, Mobility signifies when a merc (and creatures in general) play during a round. The Highest-Mobility creatures act first, down to the lowest-Mobility ones. Creatures with equal Mobility stats roll a d6; the highest roll goes first.
Please note that unspent APs are lost once a merc finishes his/her turn. Additionally, some situations will allow a merc to spend APs even if it’s not his/her turn. In that case, during the merc’s next turn he/she will have reduced APs (the reduction obviously being equal to the “extra” APs used earlier).
Example: Alpha and Beta fight a single bastard who tries to get into a bunker. Both Alpha and Beta have Mobility 4, which means that they act before the bastard who only has Mobility 2. However, both mercs roll a d6 to see which one of them plays first. Alpha rolls a 1, while Beta rolls a 6. This means that Beta plays first, then Alpha, and finally the bastard (serves him right!). Alpha’s Mobility stat of 4 means that he can do a total of 4 single-AP actions during his turn. He decides to use one of them to move once (MOBx2=8 tiles towards the bastard), two to shoot at that bastard twice and another one to set up a man-portable automated turret to protect their flank. However, this last action costs a whooping 3 APs, so he needs a total of 6 APs. His Mobility only gives him 4 APs so he will need to choose which actions he will perform in this turn.
Next comes Beta. She has 4 APs too, and she decides to spend 2 of them to move towards the bastard. Each AP spent on moving will move her 8 tiles so she will get a total of 16 tiles. Seeing that she got right behind the bastard, she decides to knife him twice with her combat knife (which obviously means that she will need to roll two dice- one per attack- and roll under her combat stat).
Endurance(END): A merc’s ability to withstand pain (both physical and psychological), carry and use exceptionally heavy pieces of equipment, and resist the effects of toxins and psychological warfare. Endurance is also used to calculate the number of Hit points (HPs) a merc has; this is equal to (3 + Endurance stat). When a creature is successfully attacked, it loses HPs. Once they reach zero or less, the creature is in critical condition. It needs immediate medical attention. If this is not done until the creature’s next turn, the creature is dead. Giving medical attention to a wounded - either critically so or not- creature is described in Chapter 4:combat rules.
Protective gear like bulletproof vests, riot shields and power armor can help stave off gruesome death. Common sense can help too. Especially of the “get in god-damn cover!” variety.
Finally, Endurance is used to withstand various bodily and psychological “attacks” (flashbang detonations, intense fear, etcetera).
Example: Trying to get some street cred, rookie merc Charlie joins Alpha and Beta in their fight against a gang of criminals. Disregarding the obvious advantages of armor, cover or even nifty gadgets, he runs like an idiot towards a bastard, trying to shoot him with an old double-barreled shotgun. The bastard’s combat armor, though, absorbs the shot’s energy without endangering its wearer.
It’s the bastard’s turn and boy, is he angry. He switches his assault rifle to burst-fire mode and shoots him twice. Both attacks connect and deal a total of 6 points of damage. The bastard’s friend, a twitchy thin dude with more knives than common sense, runs up to him and cuts him three times. All three attacks are successful, so he deals 3 more points of damage. Charlie has an Endurance of 4, which translates into 7 HPs. The damage he sustained drops him to -2 HP, so his comrades will have to help him before the next round is over. Unfortunately for him, Alpha and Bravo have their hands full with the gang’s reinforcements… and Charlie dies stabbed and shot. So long, Charlie. You will be missed. Probably.
Specialty(SPE): Specialties work a little differently than the basic stats. First of all, you do not necessarily need to choose one. Secondly, specialties sometimes work without rolling dice, depending on what you want to do. Thirdly, you can only choose one specialty; once you write it down on your character sheet, you cannot change it (unless your merc dies and you create a new one, of course).
Specialties have the same general rules as the other stats: they range from 1 to 5, you have to roll under your stat to be successful, and you have to spend points in them in order to use them. Please note that you do not gain additional points for your specialty. You have to use the same 11 points that non-specialized mercs start with.
So why would anyone want to do that? Why voluntarily lower your basic stats that govern important things like shooting bastards, stabbing bastards, running to and from bastards, and staying alive while in the presence of bastards?
Here’s three reasons:
- Some Specialties let you use gear that no-one else can.
Example: Lockpicks can only be used by mercs who spent points in the SPE(engineer) or SPE(scout) stats. The rest of you have to kick doors down or breach them with explosives. Good luck trying to stay undetected.
-Other Specialties allow you to use common items in a more productive or effective way.
Example: Everyone knows how to use first aid kits, combat drugs and similar medical equipment. However, a medic’s abilities allows him to heal more HPs, minimize dangerous drug after effects and make the drug’s main effects last longer.
Additionally, everyone can use heavy weapons but a heavy weapons expert can use them without all those pesky penalties for reloading, aiming and other such fun activities.
-Some specialties enable you to use abilities that are otherwise impossible (or, at least, extremely hard) to replicate.
Example: A psionics user can create telepathic links between his/her fellow mercs, set bastards in fire with his/her mind, and… Uh… do magic-ish stuff. IN SPACE!
Generally speaking, in order to use a specialty you will need to have points allocated to it, have a particular item, and roll your specialty stat. Steps two and/or three might not be needed in some situations.
You can find information on the current specialties and their abilities below. Please note that items that can be used by specialized mercs are not found here; you can find them in the Equipment chapter. These will inform you of the amount of APs needed to use an ability, plus the “prerequisite” specialty stars needed to use them. Also note that all abilities use this template: [name; specialty rating needed; whether a roll is needed or not; APs needed to use the ability) ability description along with items needed].
Medic- SPE(MED): Any merc worth his/her salt knows how to patch up a wound with first aid kits or stab themselves in the heart with subcutaneous syringes filled with experimental, supersoldier-grade drugs that no sane pharmaceutical multiplanetary corporation would EVER create…But sometimes the opponents they fight can get really ornery. Enter the medic. These guys are knowledgeable when it comes to using medical equipment to save their team from death. Medic abilities are:
-Patch me up, doc! (depending on item used; roll if needed; APs depending on item used). Every time you heal yourself or another creature, you heal an additional HP.Moreover, you can roll a die under your specialty. If successful, the die result is additional HPs healed. You can also stabilize a dying creature by using the proper items without rolling a die.
-No overdose for you, pal (2; roll; APs depending on item used). You know the proper drug doses for each member of your team, based on body type, biometric scans and other variables. Every time you apply a combat drug to yourself or a member of your team, roll a die. If the result is under your specialty, the drug’s effects will last 50% more rounds and the aftereffects will be 50% weaker and last 50% less. If unsuccessful, the drug works normally.
-I’m back, you bastards! (depending on item used; roll; APs depending on item used). Every time you stabilize a member of your team, roll your specialty with a 1-point penalty. If successful, you fully heal your comrade and you also give him a bonus point in COM, MOB and END. If the roll was unsuccessful, the stabilizing attempt works normally (depending on the medical equipment used).
Techie (TEC): Engineering support has been an important part of organized military action since the times of the Roman Empire; by the time Humanity found a cost-effective and relatively cheap way to reach the stars, combat engineers have already included programming, electronic engineering and cyber-warfare in their skills. Techies combine “classical” mechanical engineering with hacking. Techie abilities are:
-Glorified Repairman (depending on tool used and armor repaired; roll if needed;APs depending on item used and armor repaired). Every time you try to repair a suit of armor by using a repair kit, you repair an additional AE point (Armor Endurance; see Chapter 3:Equipment). Moreover, you can roll your SPE if so desired. If the Roll is successful, you repair an additional amount of AE equal to your roll. You can also use repair kits to repair different types of equipment (such as computers, mechanical devices etc). This usually needs at least 2 APs and additional tools (like the Engineering tools described in Chapter 3, equipment).
-Sabotage (depending on tool used and device manipulated; roll; Depending on items used and device manipulated). You can use explosives (or just your knowledge and tools) to sabotage hardware owned by Bastards. Roll your SPE. If you are successful, the equipment is rendered useless until it is repaired by a Techie via his/her “Glorified Repairman” ability. You can use explosive devices (even normal grenades) to sabotage equipment. If you do so, your roll has a -1 modifier but it is much more difficult, or even outright impossible, to repair the damage.
-Hacking (Depending on tool used and device difficulty; roll; APs depending on tool used and device difficulty). You can hack computers. Obviously. You can also hack tablets, AI mainframes, and other electronic appliances. Successful rolls may result in gaining access to data (such as information and maps), unlocking and locking electronic locks, disabling surveillance systems, etcetera. Specialized tools are needed, especially if you try to hack alien operating systems or extremely well-protected computers and networks (such as military and megacorporation ones).
-Mechanical manipulation (depending on item used and device manipulated; roll; APs depending on item used and device manipulated). You can manipulate hardware that is found during missions; from door locking mechanisms to mining equipment to generators. Engineering tools are needed to do so. Successful rolls may result in locking and unlocking doors, turning specific machines on or off, etcetera. Machines made by non-human aliens might impose negative modifiers on your rolls due to their exotic (or outright weird) manufacture.
Heavy Weapons Expert (HWE): Mercs can use a wide variety of weapons to take down Bastards. Sometimes, however, the most powerful firearms are too bulky or have a lot of recoil. The heavy weapons experts are trained in the proper use of rocket launchers, mortars, heavy machine guns, grenade launchers, man-portable laser cannons and other such types of ordnance; they can also use vehicle-mounted weapons. Their abilities include:
-Heavy weapon specialist (2; no roll needed). All heavy weapons penalties are halved.
-No gun is too heavy (3; no roll needed). All heavy weapons penalties are negated. Have fun!
-Gun craze (4; no roll needed). You can use your SPE instead of COM when using firearms. This does not include non-firearms like knives, hand-thrown explosives, melee weapons, etcetera.
Psionics User (PSI): Sometimes the only thing you want to do, is move stuff with your brain. Or set a Bastard on fire with your brain. Or maybe make his own brain explode. Psionics Users can do all these things, and even more. After discovering psionics and experimenting with them for a few decades, organizations and governments funded the creation and management of institutions where psionically-potent people could learn how to better understand and control their abilities. Fortunately, “psi-stigma” is no longer a thing in most human colonies… Especially since psionics research is such a lucrative business. Today, humans generally look upon psi-users with a mix of awe, fear, and respect, with the occasional anti-psionic bigot. Most psi users are rather well-educated individuals; they usually work as diplomats, linguists or researchers in various fields of study. A smaller percentage work as spies or tactical advisors for governments, military organizations and powerful companies.
This specialty works a bit differently than others. Each Psi-user can use all abilities at his/her specialty rating, plus all the abilities of lower ratings.
Example: Delta has the specialty (PSI) at rating 3. He can use all rating-3 abilities, plus all rating-2 and rating-1 abilities. If he somehow raised his specialty rating to 4, he could be able to use rating-4 abilities as well.
Psi-users have an amount of “psi points” (PP) equal to 2xSPE. Each ability has a cost in PP equal to its Specialty level, along with an AP cost, a range, duration and other details. Every time the psi-user wants to use an ability, a SPE roll is needed. If the roll is successful, PPs are spent and the ability works as intended. If the roll is unsuccessful, PPs are spent but the ability has no results. At the start of the psi-user’s turn, he regains SPE/2 PPs (round up) up to his maximum of 2xSPE.
Example: Delta has a specialty(PSI) 3, which means that he starts every mission with 2x3= 6 PPs. He uses 2 rating-1 abilities (1 PP each) and 1 rating-2 ability (2PPs). His PPs are reduced to 2. Once his next turn starts, he gains 2 PPs, for a total of 4. He can either use them or wait for another round to get his PPs back to full capacity.
Next follows a list with all psionic abilities plus a short description for each. For a list with full details (AP costs, rules, etcetera) please check Appendix A: Psionic Abilities.
Psionic Networking (A.k.a. telepathy, giving one bonus AP to all mercs “networked” to you)
Mental Strike (hit the bastards… with your mind’s power!)
Kinetic Energy Manipulation (your fellow mercs’ weapons do a small amount of additional damage)
Photon Manipulation (you and your fellow mercs are easier to hide, giving bonuses to stealth.)
Neural System Detection (detects bastards that might be hiding, invisible, etcetera.)
Electric Pulse Detection (same as Neural System Detection but for robotic bastards.)
Hand-eye Coordination Block (bastards find it more difficult to act against your team, lowering their AP counts.)
Spontaneous Migraine(bastards get stat penalties due to migraines.)
Over-stimulated Regenerative Functions (a number of mercs gain HP regeneration for a small amount of time.)
Localised Pyrokinetic Blast (Fantasy geeks, think of a small fireball; the rest of you, think of a fiery mind-grenade.)
Fight-or-flight Suppression Field (bastards are filled with a sense of panic, making the most weak-willed of them run away in terror.)
Electron Manipulation (the psi-user can momentarily control or disable mechanical and electrical systems like cameras, lights, or even robots, as long as he doesn’t do anything else.)
Matter Relocation (can move particular objects around. The words “movable cover” come in mind.)
Brain lock (bastard is unable to act; only usable to living bastards,and only if the psi user can stare at the bastard’s face...even if they wear helmets.)
Bone manipulation (the psi user can break bones or move them, giving stat penalties and dealing damage to a bastard. Ouch.)
Brain hijack (A.k.a. Puppet Master, controlling a bastard for a small amount of time. The psi user can opt to “see” through the hijacked bastard’s 5 senses instead.)
Psionic Blade (the psi user’s inner strength materialises as a psionic sword, or something like that. Rather powerful melee weapon.)
Total System Shock (Unless the bastard gets some immediate medical attention, he’s gonna suffer a lot of damage and stat penalties. Can even be used against robotic bastards.)
Telekinesis (like Matter Relocation, but the psi user can move bigger objects and even bastards; a particularly skilled psi user can move himself or other mercs, as if teleporting.)
Circuit Tampering (Mechanical devices can be controlled even if the psi user does something else at the same time.)
Disruptive Field (energy shield, protecting the psi user and his friends from bastards)
Brain Explosion (Boom, headshot. You know this.)
Scout (SCO): From long-range patrol members to secret agency spies to partners of mind-reading psionic operators, scouts are the ones who know how to covertly kill (or avoid) bastards and complete objectives. And even when they are revealed, they still know how to deal some serious damage before they escape.
-Sneaky(1; roll when needed). When the team rolls their MOB-1 roll to enter stealth (see chapter 4:combat rules for more information), the scout can allow a single merc (even himself) to reroll a failed roll. This can only be used once per round and the team must accept the new roll.
-Silent killer (2;combat roll;APs used depend on weapon used). The scout can reroll one of his own failed attacks when in stealth mode (see chapter 4:combat rules for more information). This can only be used once per round.
Shadow warrior(2; combat rolls;APs used depend on weapon used). Every time the Scout uses a knife, a sniper rifle (either suppressed or not) or any firearm equipped with a suppressor mod, he can opt to use his Scout Specialty instead of his Combat stat to attack.
-Casing the joint (3; Specialty roll; 1 full round). The scout’s training and experience help him gain information about the area he’s in. By spending a full round and then successfully rolling his Specialty, the GM can give him some details about the area’s patrols, surveillance systems, traps, etc. Additional rounds and successful SPE rolls can give him even more information.
-Behind enemy lines (4; rolling depend on action; APs used depend on action). The Scout has learned how to be self-sufficient even when there is no support. He can choose one Specialty (except for Psionics User), which he will be not able to change in the future. He can now use items, and do specific actions (like hacking) as if he had the Specialty at a rating equal to half his Scout Specialty (rounded down). Please note that he can not use other Specialties’ abilities.
C. Creating a Merc
Now that the basics are explained, it is time to create a Merc. This process can also be used by GMs who want to create their own Bastards (human ones or otherwise) although there are more details about that in Chapter 6astards and Dangers.
Spend 11 points in your main Stats (Combat, Mobility, Endurance) and your Specialty (if you want to have one). You must spend a minimum of 1 point in each main Stat, and a maximum of 5. You do not need to spend points in a Specialty, but if you do, please note that it is similarly capped at 5. Finally, you cannot change it or remove it once you start playing. Please note that your GM might give you more (or less, in some cases) points, depending on the kind of game.
Calculate the secondary Stats. The first one is your Hit Points (HPs). These are equal to END+3. The second one is your Action Points (APs); you have an amount of APs equal to your MOB. Movement Points are next, and they are equal to MOBx2.
Credits and Favors. Credits are the monetary system used to buy everything. Each Merc starts with 1,000 credits. Additionally, each team starts with 2 Favors which are used for pre-mission bonuses or powerful (and rare, illegal, top-secret, or all three) equipment. For more information on credits and favors, see chapter 2:gear and chapter 3laying basics.
Buy your gear. This is described to Chapter 2:gear, along with details on the various weapons, armor suits and tools you can use.
And that’s pretty much it. You can start with a mission right away, as long as you know the basic rules and the combat rules. These are explained in chapters 3 and 4, respectively.
D. Leveling up
As Mercs complete missions, they will become better at what they do. This is signified by using a “Level” system.
Every time a Merc does something important, he gains Experience Points (XPs). Every time he gets a particular amount of XPs, he can spend them to gain a Level which will give him a bonus (like additional HPs, additional damage with a weapon type, etcetera). All starting Mercs are Level 1, unless your GM allows you to start at a higher level.
In case you are wondering, “Something important” mostly means “killing Bastards” and “Completing main and secondary mission objectives”. There are more ways to gain XPs, however. To see a full list, along with the amount of XPs needed to level up and the bonuses given at each level, see chapter 3laying basics.
Mercs Versus Bastards focuses on tactical combat that takes place in a futuristic science fiction setting. However, nothing stops you from role-playing your Merc. In fact, the game’s world/setting is left intentionally vague for this exact reason: so that the players and the GM can create a setting that they enjoy participating in. So if you want to role-play (or merely create a “background” for your team’s adventures), here are a few tips.
First of all, what kind of setting is the game taking place in? Is it a generic science fiction world where Humanity has spread throughout the galaxy? Is it a post-apocalyptic hell-hole taking place on a single planet (maybe even Earth) without space travel? Is it a horror game where the Mercs try to survive against Lovecraftian… things?
Two more questions would be, “is there space travel?” and “are there aliens?”. You can go on and add even more details from there (like politics, known nations, known alien races, etcetera).
The second subject is you team. Maybe you are a team of highly-skilled individuals who came together because they work for the same mercenary company (which in turn begs other questions: What kind of company is it? Where are its headquarters? Do they have departments in other nations or planets?). Maybe you are an independent Merc team. Then again, you might be a special squad working for a nation’s (or planet’s) armed forces… or even a lowly street gang bent on stealing banks, running protection rackets and fighting against other gangs and the police. You might even want to think of some details about your team’s Safehouse: the spot where you keep surplus equipment, relax after a mission and lay low when things go wrong. Is it an everyday apartment, a warehouse rented by your mercenary company, or something else?
Last but not least, you can flesh out your own Merc. This can be a fast process of simply naming your Merc and giving a generic description, or a detailed account of his personality, hobbies and the things that make him tick. You can think about where he/she grew up, the reasons for becoming a Merc and joining this particular team; you can give him personality or talking quirks, and think of some things that make him angry, afraid, or a noble person ready to die for a cause.
Please note that this rulebook is written in a “general science fiction” style, with space travel and aliens and interstellar politics, called “Standard”. If your team wants to play in a different setting, feel free to change the lore.