Lancer: Narrative Characters & Tactical Mechs

Lancer is a new sci-fi RPG just launched on Kickstarter with a phenomenal out-of-the-gate backing of nearly 3,500 backers. It describes itself as a "mud-and-lasers RPG" and features narrative gameplay and tactical mech combat.


The creators cite influences such as Aliens, Blade Runner, Platoon, Band of Brothers, and more, with mechanical inspiration from Shadow of the Demon Lord and Blades in the Dark.

Even better, you can download the pre-release version already. That's the full game, less the art and layout, which is what the Kickstarter is for.

You can grab the hardcover for $60 or PDF for $25.

Ten thousand years after the climate crash that ended the Anthropocene, a survivor humanity rebuilt itself and spread to the stars. Numbering now in the trillions, they are a polyglot, cosmopolitan people, organized under a central hegemon: Union. The galaxy is vast before them, and humanity is its mirror. For some, it is a golden age of post-scarcity utopia. For the rest, that golden age remains a dream to be attained.
Into this roiling galaxy the you take your role as a mech pilots — from cold-blooded mercenaries to honor-bound Baronic cuirassiers, hardscrabble Union regulars to professional Constellar Midnights, Far Field teams at the uncanny edge of known space to the ever-wandering Albatross. Operating with a wealth of licenses from one of the galaxy’s Big Five fabricators, you and your friends play a tight-knit squad of pilots on campaign — comrades together in a galaxy of danger and hope. Will you fight for Union, working to rectify the crimes of previous administrations? Will you run contracts for a corpro-state, working to advance private interests while lining your pockets? Will you fight to liberate your people from all masters, human or otherwise? Or will you fight only for yourself?

Lancer features a mix of military science fiction and mythic science fantasy. In the setting, conscript pilots mix ranks with flying aces, mercenary guns-for-hire brawl with secretive corpostate agents, and relativistic paladins cross thermal lances with causality-breaking entities.

In Lancer, there is promise in the potential, but the hard-won gains of humanity are under serious threat. From the internal: ruthless corpro-states, bitter anthrochauvinist reactionaries, and ponderous oligarchs, to the external: MONIST 1, or RA, an anoriginary being with unfathomable power and unknowable goals; the Aunic Ascendancy, the unbroken heirs of Old Humanity; and more.

Having only begun the project of recovering from its own internal political revolutions, Union now scrambles to reassert its control over a galaxy that would fall to chaos otherwise.

Who will you fight for, pilot?

Russ Morrissey



A few of my friends and I have backed it. I think this is a good example of a genre that's wide open in the TTRPG offerings space.


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I'm glad they allowed the pre-release peek at the rules. I remember being disappointed by MechWarrior, where Battletech skills for the mech combat came from the same pool as all of your out-of-mech skills. We started a campaign and two of us were well rounded characters and the rest were super-optimized on the battlefield and useless anywhere else.

Taking a look, this doesn't have that issue at all; it's separate pools between your triggers (slightly freeform pilot skills) and your mech skills.

Looks good.


Game Masticator
Would anyone like to summarize "narrative gameplay" for those of us who don't want to, um, spoil the surprise by reading the pre-release version?


I spent a couple hours last night browsing the pre-release version and I'm fairly impressed. It's like what a Battletech/Mechwarrior RPG should have been, but wasn't. I'm giving serious thought to backing the Kickstarter.

The mech rules seem to be similar in complexity and approach to D&D 5E or maybe 4E. Mechs are essentially classes--they have roles like tank, striker, controller, support/leader, etc--and as you and your mech level up new and more powerful abilities are unlocked. Mechs are produced by five major manufacturers with a unique place in the fictional world, so they look and feel distinct from each other. If you squint real hard, the manufacturers are a little bit like 4E's power sources. You can swap gear and powers between mechs, so you can essentially make your own class as you go. I'm not sure if that's balanced, but it looks like great lonely fun for those who like the char op mini-game.

Lancers (aka pilots) are more like characters from FATE or maybe Dungeon World. You do not have abilities like Strength and Intelligence. Instead, you gain triggers (skills), talents (feats), and a background (which is basically a suggested package of triggers). Triggers (skills) are things like "read a situation" or "take someone out" or "stay cool". Talents give you additional capabilities during mech combat. Examples are Brawler, Engineer, Leader, Hacker, Infiltrator, etc. Each talent has three ranks. So they're more like mini feat trees rather than standalone feats.

The setting is far future with humanity spread among thousands of stars. Earth civilization collapsed shortly after mankind began exploring the stars. Thousands of years later, Earth recovered, and it is now out making contact (and often war) with the lost colonies. The Earth government has gone through several revolutions and counter-revolutions, so it has alternated between being good guys and bad guys. The overall feel is space opera with a touch of hard sci fi. I like it, but I can't quite figure out what the default mode of play is. Liberator? Oppressor? Mercenary? Explorer? The game seems to suggest you can do all those things. Well, fine. But what's an iconic Lancer campaign like? Anyway, that's a minor quibble. It's good. I suggest people check it out.


Dances with Gnolls
Looks like something I could totally get into. I will have to think about it. Would also need to know if I am alone in interest in it as, it is hard to play such games by yourself :p

I do hope I can talk some people into it. I bet I would really love this.


The overall feel is space opera with a touch of hard sci fi. I like it, but I can't quite figure out what the default mode of play is. Liberator? Oppressor? Mercenary? Explorer? The game seems to suggest you can do all those things. Well, fine. But what's an iconic Lancer campaign like? Anyway, that's a minor quibble. It's good. I suggest people check it out.
First of all, thank you for the summary. I haven't read the pre-release version because I don't want to kickstart it (why?! because 52$ for canadian shipping is maddening) but your summary quickly put that book from the pile "Interesting" to the pile "I-want-this-book-now".

That being said, why you say "what's the default mode"? Why it would require one? It seems better to not fall into "default mode" as you said so the GM campaign can go any way he wants. Not criticizing or anything like that, I'm truly curious about what you means by that.



I took a quick look, here what I found at the beginning of the setting (pg 453 onward)

We hope that you create narratives and characters that stand against these terrible practices and
prejudices — we recommend playing as a Union DoJ/Hr Liberator team, for starters. Lancer
features no easy aliens to pass these transgressions upon, only other human beings; humanity
alone are the architects of terrible cruelties, but we can also be the architects of better, more just
futures — and presents.

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