What is a Thunderer?
Thunderers are magically constructed vehicles designed during the Great War. Most of these heavily armed war machines were destroyed during the conflict or after the war ended. Very few ancient thunderers have survived to this day. New, smaller thunderers are secretly used by the Dragon Brigade and elite units of the Legions. These new war machines don’t have the same capabilities as ancient thunderers. Mezzenbone would love nothing more than to spread thunderers throughout known space and cause as much conflict and destruction as possible.

A thunderer is a cross between a magical construct and a vehicle. They tend to stand upright and are almost always designed in a humanoid shape. Two legs, two arms, a torso, and a head. There are exceptions where arms are little more than heavy weapons attached to the shoulder or elbow joint or where a torso is mounted on tracks. Thus, thunderers vary widely in appearance and new thunderers are rare enough to be considered somewhat unique. Ancient thunderers are very rare and for one to be destroyed is a great loss, in Mezzenbone’s eyes. He covets ancient thunderers like a child covets fancy robotic toys.

Thunderers were first built by an ancient, unknown race that is either now extinct or has left this part of the galaxy for parts unknown. Some believe that the gnomes were passed the secret of designing thunderers, which then eventually lead to the creation of the first soulmech. The Gnome Commerce Guild tried to keep the secret from falling into the hands of other races but when the dragons started to war with each other, the humanoids needed a way to fight on the same battlefield without getting slaughtered. Reluctantly, the gnomes built thunderers for the allies of the Qesemet. The outcome of the entire war could have turned completely against the Asamet if a gnome clan hadn’t betrayed the Qesemet and gave the secret of thunderer technology to the allies of the Asamet. The descendants of this gnome clan became the Dalow (spriggans) and still serve the Asamet to this day.

The war escalated and soon entire platoons of thunderers raged across the battlefields of known space. Looking back, dragons from both sides of the conflict believe it would have been better if the secret of thunderers had remained a secret. A single ancient thunderer can withstand the attacks of a dragon. Platoons of thunderers were the one thing that frightened dragons like nothing else ever had before. After the Great War ended the Qesemet and Asamet agreed that the remaining thunderers would be destroyed and that building or using a thunderer would be considered treasonous. (It was this that lead to the design of non-magical walkers.)

A pilot requires extensive training to correctly operate any sort of thunderer. The operator’s mind is directly linked to the machines magical neural network. This means the operator can sense the environment around the thunderer, as if he were the thunderer. A new feat, called Thunderer Piloting (see below), must be taken before a pilot can operate a thunderer.

Thunderer Piloting [General] *
You know how to pilot and operate thunderers (mecha).
Prerequisites: Knowledge (arcana), Pilot skill, Gearhead, Technical Proficiency.
Benefit: As per the Mecha Operation Feat from the Mecha Crusade mini-game.
Normal: Characters without this feat suffer a -6 penalty on Pilot checks and any skill checks to which an armor penalty would apply. Furthermore, they cannot run or charge.
Special: An untrained character who regularly exposes himself to the neural network of a thunderer is risking his sanity. An untrained character who operates a thunderer a number of time equal to or greater than half his Wisdom score, all within the same Earth standard week, must make a Wisdom check (DC 19) or suffer the effects of a feeblemind spell. For every operation that exceeds half the character’s Wisdom score, add 1 to the DC above.

* This feat is required in my Arcanum of the Stars Dragonstar campaign instead of the Mecha Operation feat from Polyhedron #154 (Mecha Crusade). Note that Advanced Mecha Operation (from Mecha Crusade) requires this feat as a prerequisite. Note that thunderers are harder to operate if the pilot doesn’t have this feat. This is due to the magical nature of a thunderer’s neural network.

New Mecha Crusade Component
AM-55 Shield defense system
Slots: 1 for launcher, must be hand (or arm if Large) or shoulder; 1 for each 4-missle battery
Cost: 4,000 bp for launcher, 100 bp per missile
Activation: Special (see text)
Range Increment: Special (see text)
Target: Special (see text)
Duration: Special (see text)
Saving Throw: None (or Reflex half)

This modified version of the M-55 Talon missile launcher is designed for defense purposes only. When launched, the missiles grant a +2 to your Defense (or Armor Class *) vs. ranged weapon attacks per missile fired per round. Once the system is activated (requires an attack action), the Shield defense system can defend every round that it is active and the pilot only need decide how many missiles to fire that round (doesn’t need to reactivate the system every round). This continues until the system is either destroyed or runs out of missiles.

However, the Shield defense system doesn’t have the same range increment as a Talon missile launcher (only 400 m) and isn’t an effective offensive weapon. If used to target enemy aircraft or airborne mecha the system’s specialized missiles have an attack penalty of -5 **. The missiles also don’t have the same kind of plasma yield dealing only 8d6 points of damage on a successful hit. Enemy aircraft or airborne mecha targeted by the Shield defense system may make a reflex save (DC 15) to only take half damage.

* I’m using Armor Class for my Dragonstar campaign.
** The system cannot target ground forces at all.

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