Let's Learn LANCER

So we’ve talked about Megalos and Glaive so far, both of which held promise at first glance, but how about we look at something that doesn’t seem like it would fit the group? I bring this up for two reasons:

  1. It’s always good to double check our assumptions because we may be surprised with what we find.
  2. Even if it turns out our initial assumptions were correct, it’s good to know for certain.

So with that, we’re going to take a look at the game LANCER by Tom Parkinson Morgan (a man behind way too many projects like the comic Kill Six Billion Demons) and Miguel Lopez (who also works at Wizards of the Coast on Magic: The Gathering). Lancer is a mech combat tabletop roleplaying game that leans on tight, tactical combat with a deep system of character (and mech) customization.

All of the books for Lancer can be found on Itch.Io and, unlike a lot of roleplaying games, all the player facing rules are free. While buying the books will give you a lot of lore and a look behind the GM side of the game, everything you need as a player is available for free.

So with that overview, let’s dive into the world of Lancer…

  • Let’s Build a Pilot
  • Let’s Build a Mech
  • Our First Encounter
  • Our First Combat
  • Going Beyond
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Let’s Build a Pilot

So to build a character we have two options: we could look through the book OR we could use a free tool called Comp/Con to build our characters. Comp/Con was originally a fan project made by Kai Tave to help with the complexity of managing character creation (more on that later), but then they were hired by Massif and brought onto the team as a programmer and now they’ve even released their own adventure module through Massif called Solstice Rain (which I think is a great introduction to Lancer and probably what I would run with any new group).

So starting in Section 1 (page 18 of both the Free and Full versions of the book), we see a character is made up of 5 things:

  1. A Background
  2. Pilot Triggers (which are essentially character skills)
  3. Mech Skills
  4. Talents
  5. And Mech Licenses

So let’s dive into each of those.


So let’s figure out what sort of character we want to play. Looking through the list of sample backgrounds (pg. 20) I see Hacker, which sounds interesting but I feel I need something more to latch onto as a character hook.

After thinking about it for a minute, I come up with the idea of a Counter-Electronic Warfare Hacker. Basically someone who protects their and their comrades’ systems rather than someone who intentionally hacks others.

So I write down Counter-Electronic Warface Hacker on my Character Sheet. Backgrounds are bonuses that you can invoke when rolling Pilot Triggers, either giving you Accuracy (a bonus +1d6 to the roll) when they help—for instance, our Counter-Electronic Warfare Hacker recognizing harmful code when looking through computer files—or Difficulty (a -1d6 penalty on the roll) when it would be harmful—for instance, our Counter-Electronic Warfare Hacker trying to get chummy with a group of Anarchist Hackers.

We also are going to need a name for our character and a Callsign. Clicking random on Comp/Con for a minute, I eventually get the names Millard and Caldwell on different options and decide to smash them together to give us Millard Caldwell (Millie to his friends) and give them the Callsign JARGON (because of course this dude would rattle off techno-speak at the drop of a hat).

With that done, let’s move onto Pilot Triggers.

Pilot Triggers

Like I said before, Triggers are basically Skill bonuses from any other TTRPG. Not sure why they called them Triggers here other than they used the name Skill elsewhere and didn’t want people to be confused I guess.

As a starting character, we get Four triggers with +2 bonuses. Unlike a lot of games, all skills are player created, but we have a big list of suggestions starting on page 26. Our background also suggested some triggers for us.

Looking through the list, I eventually pick:

  • Get a Hold of Something
  • Hack or Fix
  • Investigate
  • Read a Situation

Seems like a fitting list for our pilot.

Mech Skills

Now it’s time to pick our Mech Skills. Our Mech Skills affect every mech we pilot, and each has a mechanical bonus to them on top of being a Skill we can roll: Hull increases our Mechs’ HP and how many bonus Repairs we get in the field; Agility increases our Mechs’ Speed and Evasion; Systems increased our E-Defense (used against Tech Attacks), our bonus to Tech Attacks, and how many bonus System Points (SP) we have; and Engineering gives us bonus Heat Capacity and extra uses of Limited Systems.

This is going to be an important choice for our character. I expect Tech Attacks are going to be important to our character so I’m going to put both points into Systems, giving us +2 E-Defense, +2 to Tech Attack rolls, and +1 SP.


Talents are another important choice to our character. They are the equivalent to Feats in D&D or Moves from PbtA games, giving our character new tactical bonuses and options. The list starts on page 90 and each book in Lancer introduces a couple of new ones (but remember, the player facing options are always free). We get three rank 1 talents as a starter character and as we level up we’ll be able to pick up new rank 1 talents or upgrade their existing talents to get their rank 2 or rank 3 bonuses.

Reading through the list, I decide to pick up the Grease Monkey, Hacker, and Spotter talents.

Grease Monkey doesn’t so a lot for us right now, but will eventually let us clear conditions easily and repair our friends’ mechs once per mission.

Hacker gives our basic Tech Attack Invade (pg. 70) some crowd control options and eventually gives us some extra options for it.

And Spotter lets us give our allies bonuses when they consume Lock On (a condition that we can put on enemies with the Lock On action, which eventually is going to be an important part of our kit).

Mech Licenses

That leaves use with Mech Licenses. Luckily, as a starter character this is pretty easy: we get all the options in the book listed as General Massive Systems (GMS) for free, as well as the GMS Mech Frame: the Everest. (There are additional specialized GMS frames available in other books, but we’re going to overlook them for now.)

With this done, let’s see what our character JARGON looks like:

Millard Caldwell
Electronic Warfare Hacker, LL0
GRIT:0 // H:0 A:0 S:2 E:0
[ GEAR ]

Well that was easy… Wait. We still need to build a Mech to use.

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