What is Mobile Engagement Chassis: Steel Hearts?
"Mobile Engagement Chassis: Steel Hearts" (normally referred to simply as "Steel Hearts") is a Tabletop Role-Playing Game, where players will step into the shoes of fearsome Mecha pilots.
What's an OSR or a Tactics Role-Playing Game?
An OSR stands for Old School Renaissance - These types of Tabletop RPGs have a heavier emphasis on player and GM improvisation, flavorful role tables and simple mechanics. One of my favorite YouTube channels Questing Beast did a fantastic intro right here.
Tactics Roleplaying-Game or
TRPG is an RPG that focuses on crunchy, specific rules for combat. Movement and positioning tend to be critical, and abilities have specific mathematical consequences.
So the follow up question is probably that
“These things sound like complete opposites, why are you trying to combine them?” Well for several reasons, firstly is that they’re actually much more similar than they seem.
Firstly, both put heavy emphasis on player choice and reward smart play and creative decision making. Secondly, both try to keep numbers low and stats clear (for completely different reasons - The OSR is trying to make things fast while the TRPG is trying to give you as much information as it can so you can make the smartest move).
Thirdly and most crucially, I’m blending these because it is simply the kind of game I want to play, and I don’t see it out there. Most OSRs lack depth in combat or in character creation, relying instead almost purely on creative storytelling (which is great fun, but often means gear and character building feels more vapid). Conversely most TRPGs get too caught up in their own mechanics and balancing enemies that it not only ends up over complicating things, but can rob themselves of narrative depth and creative solutions.
Steel Hearts attempts to find a middle ground, where building a tactically sound MEC is as much a part of the experience as using your environment to your advantage, or simply running away when outgunned.
What is Mecha? How do I learn more about it?
Mecha (originating from the shortening of the Japanese loanword "mekanikaru" from the English "mechanical") is a genre of sci-fi that focuses on giant mechanical, typically bi-pedal and human-like robots.
Its history is a rabbit hole too deep to go into for this FAQ, but some good places to start are the following:
Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: December Sky
(Animated Film) - It captures a lot of the character drama, politics and epic robot battles that Mecha has come to be known for. It's also a fantastic hook for getting into the (admittedly quite aged) Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 show, which served as a rosetta stone for a lot of Mecha to follow.
Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 (Film Trilogy) - This is where it all starts (well techincally Mazinger is where it all starts, but don't worry about that right now). Many of the tropes, ideas, weapons and themes you'll see throughout Mecha can be traced back to here. While I personally prefer the 48 Episode series, the film trilogy cuts down the total runtime drastically and gives the 40 year old show some much needed reanimation.
Zone of the Enders (Video Game) - A relatively short game that packs a serious punch. While its characters may be tropey and its plot somewhat typical for Mecha, its kinetic combat and gorgeous mech designs leave a memorable and flavorful impact.
Titanfall 2 (Video Game) - This game goes on sale all the time. If you've ever looked at big robots and wondered what it might be like to be on the grounds of a battle between them, this experience simply cannot be beaten.
Once you're hooked, some other notable favorites that take a bit more Mecha literacy to fully appreciate are as follows:
And if you need to scratch that tabletop itch and Steel Hearts isn't doing everything you need, may I refer you over to:
Amor Astir: Advent - If you're running any kind of Rebels vs Empire mecha story, please give this a read. Also has a more magically oriented
Vision of Escaflowne vibes.
Maharlika - Looking for something more galactic? Less Dragon Age more Mass Effect? I can't recommend Maharlika's setting enough to you. It's setting drips with wonder and galactic intrigue.
Blazing Hymn - A very Evangelion-esc free-form Mecha Game. Its ruleslight combat, evocative setting and focus on customization made this a fast favorite of mine.
Mobile Frame Zero: Firebrands - Is your favorite part of Mecha watching two rivals clash in their ideologies, while occasionally gazing into each others eyes pseudo-romantically in a love-hate struggle that's doomed to fail? You need to give MF0: Firebrands a read.
And there's plenty more!
Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack is a fantastically fast squad-based tactics versus game.
Lancer adapts a BattleTech-like setting and playstyle in a way that's far more narrative.
BattleTech itself is the grandparent of mecha tabletop games and is well worth a look if you enjoy tactics games that lean heavily into weapons simulation.
The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? (Film)
Neon Genesis Evangelion (24 Episodes and a Film... And 3+1 more films that you can (not) skip)
Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (50 Episodes - The Gundams are long, but often worth it)
Mobile Fighter G Gundam (50 Episodes - Please treat yourself to the English dub)
Heaven Will Be Mine (Video Game)
Sakura Wars - 2019 (Video Game / Dating Sim)
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim (Video Game)
Godzilla: Planet of Monsters Trilogy (Films)
Pacific Rim (Film)
Does this run on some pre-existing rules system?
It does not! It runs on a completely original ruleset, custom built for mecha action, team cooperation and anime bombast.
While I love Powered By The Apocalypse, Blades in the Dark and other similarly accessible RPGs, there were a lot of mechanics that I wanted to add to make Steel Hearts sing (Edge Dice, Synergy, Stratagem Cards). It became apparent early on that this'd need a fully custom, yet easy to learn and fast to teach system that blends the crunchy combat of Tactics RPGs and the creativity of OSRs.
Are there any Content Warnings I should be aware of?
The pre-built setting for Steel Hearts is intended to be a brutal, but ultimately hopeful world. It attempts to bake in political intrigue and heart wrenching choices, on top of an imaginative and sometimes alien landscape. That said, this setting will certainly not to be something that everyone feels comfortable playing in so here are some things to watch out for:
Things that will NOT feature and you should feel comfortable knowing will not be included in my official Steel Hearts works:
Depictions and descriptions of violence, war and death
General mistreatment of animals (e.g. the Monsters / Wyrms of this setting)
Themes involving the destruction of our enviornment
Factions which descend into fascist regimes
Inaccurate Science. Steel Hearts was once best described as "Hard Sci-Fi, drawing on Soft Sci-Fi, drawing on Fantasy." The setting takes liberties with science for the sake of story telling and fun.
Occasional descriptions of body horror and gore (as of right now neither will ever be depicted in art, and to the best of my ability, neither will feature in rules-only books.)
Always remember to talk with everyone at the table about what you are and aren't comfortable with before playing!
Bigotry on the basis of racial heritage, skin tone, sexuality, disabilities, gender and more. The one thing that actually worked out for humanity in this setting is that these archaic discriminations are no longer systemic. You WILL however find that there are still characters who are fiercely nationalistic to their City-State of origin and may disagree with you on other ideological matters.
Any content that is explicitly sexual in nature. Not because I dislike that stuff, it just doesn't quite fit the vibe of this work at present.
Production & Credits
Who did what artwork on this site?
The SD MECs and Wyrms are done by Steel Heart's Mechanical Designer: Daniel Dussault (www.dandussault.com)
The character art of Bastion 6's Science Team was done by Jonathan Castleman (
The evocative line arts of a MEC vs a Wyrm were done by the inspiring inker Bayleigh Underwood (
The Pilot Art on many of the WIP pages was done by Kiron Fan (
The 3D render on the Home screen, the cover concept art on the Contact screen and the mecha concept art on the About the Author & Artist screen were generously provided by Adam Ryoma Tazi (
artazi.net) and Tuncer Eren (
When can I get the completed book?
When it's ready!
Is this going to be digital only?
My goal is to finish the book and then bring it to physical print (along with affordable decks of Stratagem Cards).
In the meantime I aim to take full advantage of what can be accomplished in the digital and PDF space!