Ah, sorry I haven't been able to read through or respond to anything yet today, but I had some unexpected social obligations pop up!
Personally I think the biggest thing is making sure that there are ways for the GM to create challenges for each mech, ideally these should also sometimes ones that they can't overcome without the help of the others.
I just wanted to single this out and say: "yes, precisely that."
For those people who have made a really strong melée mech and are stressing about how to give it some ranged ability, I say: don't.
Or you've made a mech that's perfect for fighting from range but totally weak if the enemies get to close and you're wondering how to plug that hole, I say: stop.
Same for if you've got a mech tailor-made for large, massive enemies but totally vulnerable to being swarmed by dudes in power suits... or if you've got one that can mow down dudes in power suits but would be a gnat to a really big mech. Whatever your mech is good at, embrace it, and just don't bother at all about the rest - not even minimally.
It is far better - from my perspective, as GM - to have a handful of mechs that are all really
awesome at just one thing
and total crap at everything else (yet of course, everyone's really awesome at something different), than it is to have "balanced" mechs that can handle every situation even if only in a mediocre way.
When a mech has a few well-defined strengths and a bunch of well-defined weaknesses, it is really easy for me to concoct scenarios where that one specific strength is absolutely needed
, and thus you become the star of the scene with everyone covering or supporting you.
Take the Ragnarok
for example. That big-ass beast is a walking fort, yet it could be taken down by a team of a half-dozen or Valkyrias like the one Deep is in (properly armed, of course) - all they'd need to do is race around her taking pot shots when its safe, but keeping just at the limit of its rocket range (or using countermeasures). That wild imbalance is perfect
for setting up scenarios - I can think of easily a half-dozen situations where the Ragnarok
's brute power or massive rail gun could be the critical keystone to a whole mission... and at the same time I can think of a bunch of scenarios where its size and slowness are key handicaps that force radical and crazy mission alternatives (where other specialist mechs would shine).
But when a mech is too "balanced", or has too many bases covered... what can I do? I can't create scenarios where, "guys, what we need here is a mech that can fight close range... and
long range... and
out in the open... and
stealthily... but it all has to be just one mech
- can't be two or more where each provides one of the elements really well! - and it's okay if that one mech is not really all that great at all of these things." I mean.. put yourself in my shoes. What kind of scenario would work for that mech?
If your mech has a clear strength and glaring weakness, then it will be needed and summoned by other players when that strength is a plus, and other players will come to your
side to help when your weakness is exploited. If I'm being attacked by a tank and I'm weak to tanks, I'ma calling the tank killer, not the mediocre all-round guy... if I'm being attacked by a titan mech then I'ma calling the anti-titan-mech ally, not the one who is meh at fighting titans because it's balanced. In what situation am I going to think, "well, I really need the help of that mech that's not really good at anything in particular"?
Balance is great for soloing, but not all that great for teamwork. A two-person team that had one astonishingly awesome offensive player who sucked balls at defence and another who rocks the world at defence but has no offensive sense at all would be a much
better team than one made up of two people who were both mediocre at offence and defence. And this is
a team game - I promise you I am not the least bit interested in setting up scenarios where one person takes the starring role and everyone else just watches; the scenarios I set up will highlight one or two mechs, but all
the other mechs will have necessary support roles to play.
It just makes my job harder when your mech doesn't have any clear strengths and clear weaknesses I can work from. And as this isn't a job I'm getting paid for, if it gets too hard, I ain't gonna do it. So if your mech doesn't provide me with really good hooks to work a scenario around them, I'm just not going to bother setting up scenarios for them to shine in.
So do keep that in mind when setting up your mech: If your mech has no weaknesses - and I mean glaring
weaknesses, not so-so weaknesses like "not so great at melée but still can handle itself" or "works great usually but randomly stalls" - then I can't craft scenarios around them. It is better to have a mech with one or two strong
strengths and then a bunch of weaknesses than it is to have one that is so-so all round. If your mech is capable of at least holding its own in all or most situations... well, that's exactly what's going to end up happening: it's going to holding its own a lot - ie, working alone, not playing a pivotal role in the scene. Your role in scenarios will be the "other guys", while the key strength roles are filled with the mechs that have those key strengths, and the ones with the key weakness will have the missions shaped around protecting them. There simply are no key roles for "meh, but broadly so", only broadly meh roles.
Try thinking of it from the GM perspective. What kind of scenario would require your mech's talents... and the talents of only
your mech - not the combined talents of a group who are each individually better at each thing you're so-so at? What kind of situation would be one where your mech is a star player, and not simply another body on the field? Those questions are easy to answer if your mech has one really good relevant strength - even if that means it has a bunch of weaknesses (which are a really good thing from a GM perspective). They're not so easy to answer if you spend too much effort making your mech moderately capable at every little thing.