Sunday, December 4, 2016

Titans of the Tabletop: Building a Titanfall Pilot in GURPS

The Titanfall 2 free weekend is coming to a close, and with its end comes new content. Since so much of TF|2's content applies to my ongoing mecha game, I feel like it's only appropriate to cover the mechanics of Titanfall in GURPS. There's a lot of cinematic switches flipped on here and a few dials cranked to 11, but it's totally worth it. I'm going to cover Pilots in this post; specifically, I'm going to stat out the loadout that I've been running with, a Grapple pilot geared for killing fellow Pilots.

Our hero, the Grapple Pilot.

Laying Out the Basic Assumptions

 Pilots are powerful, but not explicitly superhuman. As a result, I'm going to stay within the confines of "peak human" stats for characters. Hard statistics for Titanfall 2's movement rates aren't widely available, since the game is relatively new; movement speed figures are my own, based on the known ratios and Titanfall 1's speed figures to provide estimates. Tech Level is at least TL10 but won't matter all that much in practice.


Attributes: Building a Core

Basic Attributes are easy to figure for our pilot as long as we're staying within peak human. DX 16 is a must; as a peak- or near-peak human, we're quite mobile and quite a good shooter. HT 12 brings our Pilot up to a good chance of surviving a pistol bullet (canonically, most mid-caliber handguns or submachine guns deal about 50% to 75% damage to a Pilot per shot), plus boosts us to a full Basic Speed 7 before any points are invested. ST is harder to pin down; Pilots are capable of taking out another Pilot with a single punch or kick; to do so reliably without equipment boosts would take an ST well above 20, hardly realistic. However, they don't show all too many feats of strength otherwise. I've pinned the strength at ST 13; I'm not totally happy with the figure, but it helps mitigate the low damage of Pilot punches while also being realistic. Carrying batteries is probably pretty hard on you, after all.

Secondary Characteristics largely handle themselves. HP 12, FP 12, Per 10, and Will 10 are inherited by default. Basic Speed 7 could be boosted, but I feel it's far enough above the baseline, as represented by Grunts, to be accurate. Basic Move, on the other hand, I have an exact number for. Running (not sprinting!) Pilots run at a speed of 180 DU/second. With each DU at 0.75 inches, that comes out to an even 11.25 feet per second. However, Sprinting is handled differently in Titanfall 2 than in GURPS; whereas GURPS only increases Move by 20% during sprints, Titanfall 2 adds closer to 50% movement rate. As a result, we're instead going to pin Basic Move based on sprint speed; sprint is enough of a default in Titanfall that there's a control option to permanently enable sprinting, and no Pilot ever undergoes fatigue penalties. This comes out to a Basic Move between 5.5 and 6; both of these figures seem quite low, but I'll accept them and take Basic Move 6.

 Advantages and Disadvantages: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Jump Pack

Most important on our list, and the first thing I've opted to model, is the Jump Pack all Pilots receive. The pack enables the all-important double jump, and I've chosen to ascribe the wall-running speed boost to the pack as well. Double Jump is modeled using Super Jump 2 (before being concerned about this too much- remember that jumping without preparation, as Pilots do, halves all distances!), modified with Maneuverable to represent the ability to change direction midair. This gives us a high jump of a tad over 5.5 feet and a whopping 22.5 feet of horizontal jumping without running. (I'm a little unclear on the wording of "standing long jump" in the Jumping rules, B352, so if anyone has a correction to make please let me know!) This is a little high for Titanfall Pilots, but Super Jump 1 would have brought us significantly short of our target, so I'll accept the compromise in favor of fast motion. The second part of the Jump Pack is much simpler, and that's wallrunning; I'd implement this as Walk On Air with the Accessibility (Only While Adjacent to Vertical Surfaces) modifier. The Hangtime perk would instead merit a modified Clinging advantage. The appropriate Gadget modifier would be Can Be Stolen; jump packs appear to be robust enough to survive damage, and they're standard-issue gear that can be replaced. With these two perks, most of a Pilot's mobility is in place; they'll never be pinned down again.

Next is the Pilot's Tactical. For a Grapple Pilot, this is incredibly simple: Accessory (Grapnel), as depicted on B288. Congratulations, you're done! In a later post, I'll go over the other six Tactical abilities in some detail.

Finally, we have the Pilot's innate abilities. Perfect Balance, Catfall, and Flexibility are all necessities, as is Fit (possibly worth upgrading to Very Fit), rounding out the mobility package. Combat Reflexes and Danger Sense work well enough to represent the Pilot's radar and general situational awareness, while Gunslinger offsets penalties for firing in motion. While a talent for mobility may be justified, I'm omitting it for the time being; while Pilots are the best of the best, most of that is training. A few points of Striking ST brings us up to a respectable 1d of punching damage, and a good chance at incapacitating an enemy with a kick. Regeneration is the bulk of the points here; despite Accessibility (Must Not Be Taking Damage) and a 3-second Delayed Effect, Very Fast Regeneration still clocks in at a whopping 90 points. Gameplay contrivance? Maybe. But it's explicitly modeled even faster as a Stim Pilot, and pilots canonically have stims running through them constantly as it is. Reasonable enough, I suppose; maybe a Gadget supplying stim would be a better idea. Without more in-lore context, straight Regeneration seems most effective.

Disadvantages are relatively easy. Duty to a major faction is a must, and considering the whole "deploying into active combat zones" factor, Extremely Hazardous is almost certainly applicable here. Individual disadvantages are likely better suited to the characters themselves; Flashbacks to the brutal training regimen (98% casualty rate!) would be my best bet, and the one that I've tagged onto my creation sheet. Player preference here!

Skills: The Other Half of Victory

Mobility skills are key, so I'm going to start there. Acrobatics-16 or higher is a non-negotiable necessity; with most of the Parkour rules from Action 2 (page 19-20), you'll be rolling at a -4 at least. 16 gives you a 74% chance to pass tests at that penalty, and higher levels just improve that further; since Pilots rarely fail in their maneuvers, I'd almost find an 18 (for a 90% success rate at a -4 penalty) a necessity. Climbing, Running, and Jumping all meet similar requirements. The higher, the better. These skills should cover most cases in which you'll be performing Pilot-style parkour. With the Scaling technique, climbing walls becomes all the easier.

Combat skills are the second point of the triangle. With the sheer variety, both energy and ballistic, encompassed in all the weapons classes available to Pilots, it's best to just write this off as the Gun! wildcard skill. And, of course, we need Throwing for grenades, of which there are many. Fighting styles for Pilots seem to, basically, be Brawling; there's very little in the way of fancy melee. Karate could make a good support skill. Explosives (Demolition) would be useful for a pilot carrying satchel charges.

The third point should already be obvious: Driving (Mecha). Gun! covers all Titan weapons, but Electronics Operation (Comm), (EW), or (Sensors) are all useful dependent on Titan model (Tone, my primary mech, would use Sensors or even Sonar, for example.) With the exception of Ronin, using Broadsword, all mechs would use Brawling for their melee attacks, since they're just throwing haphazard punches.

Equipment: Tools of the Trade

Equipment is, surprisingly, the hardest part to handle. I truly despise Ultra-Tech, but its defenses actually offer a solid enough answer to the question. With a Light Infantry Helmet (UT176), Nanoweave Tactical Vest, Nanoweave Trousers, and Assault Boots (UT173), you're equipped well enough to survive pistol bullets. Heavier guns like rifles or, of course, Titan guns will still carve open your armor like butter.

My weapons of choice were the Alternator submachine gun and the Mozambique pistol. The Alternator is an overgrown machine pistol with two barrels, spitting out bullets at a RoF of 10; the Mozambique is effectively a pocket shotgun. Since gun stats are a bit more complicated to handle, I've instead left them to the sheet.

Grenades are, of course, standard fragmentation grenades by default. Special grenades like the arc grenade, firestar, and the like have very different effects, and I'll put those in a later equipment post; for the time being, our personnel-hunter is best off with an anti-personnel grenade.

Final Reflections

This was a bit of a doozy. We actually came out to 481 points, just short of my 500-point expectation. The end result, I feel, is fairly accurate; some limitations of GURPS nerfed aspects of the Pilot, while others buffed its performance. In the end, the package that we've got here is a relatively complete Pilot; there's plenty of room left to add personal skills, advantages, and disadvantages to make the Pilot your own. Or, in a straight-up combat game where none of that matters, you could run this Pilot out of the box.

I do plan on a series of follow-up posts, handling individual Titans, additional Tactical abilities for Pilots, and an expanded armory. For now, I hope that this is helpful to someone out there, or that you at least enjoyed what you've read! Below, I've linked a GCS sheet of the Grapple Pilot to give a cohesive reference for what's written above. If you have any feedback- good or bad- please leave a comment!


Update: Our good friend Slacker in the GURPS Discord server pointed out several flaws in this sheet that I've since corrected; the body of the text has been updated as needed. Unfortunately, I'm having issues with PDF export, so I only have the GCS file uploaded.


  1. Good stuff - I don't know much about the setting, but it seems neat. Any reason you selected the RADAR and Jet Pack to be Advantages rather than just a bit of Equipment? A US Navy SEAL is expected to be in the mid 200s for points, making your target double that!

  2. I set the jump pack up as a Gadget with Can Be Stolen on the sheet; did I miss that in the article? It's a key part of the Pilot's purpose, much more so than a given gun; it's core to their identity. As far as the radar goes, TF|2 radar isn't especially informative like, say, Call of Duty; direction and distance of sound, mostly. That's easily represented as just particularly good senses; it's not a real RADAR like equipment with Scanning Sense would represent, in my opinion.

    1. Oh, and as far as point value goes: yes, Pilots are dramatically higher-point than real heroes. 90 points of yhat is tied up in modeling video game regeneration, though. Overall, a low superhero level is practically necessary to effectively model one of these Pilots;they've mastered every gun, while running *on foot* at 20kph and peaking at 40, flying hundreds of feet through the air without problems, and standing on equal combat ground with 20-foot walking tanks. It's a whole different realm of effective from a SEAL.