1. Frag me, it's jammed again!
One of the primary weapon systems in the mech has a very poorly designed, or overly complex ammo feed systems, and the system is prone to jamming. This can be very inconvenient, to down right disastrous. If a critical failure is scored in an attack, the afflicted weapon has jammed and not fired. The pilot can attempt to clear the jam, making a difficult piloting or repair check. If this second check is also a critical failure, the jammed ammunition goes off inside the mech. Mechs that survive ammo explosions are usually in shape for nothing more challenging than a slow limp back to the mechadrome.
Real World Example: When the M-16 was originally released to soldiers in Vietnam, considerations for the type of gunpowder being used in the shells wasn't taken into account and cleaning kits were not originally issued with the gun. The end result was the rifle struggling with jams and almost being sunk by the bad reputation it gained in the jungles. Once changes were made to the gas exhaust system, firing chamber, and cleaning kits were issued, most of this problem went away.
2. Why Don't You Save us all Some Time and Shoot Me Now?
Some mecha gain a bad reputation over time, and often this reputation is undeserved. For fill in the blank reason, the mecha has a horrible reputation. Maybe the A model had a bad habit of exploding, or there was a plasma vent under the pilots seat, or the machine was famously used to execute blind school children. The machine is functional and fully sound, but no one wants to carry parts for it, no one wants to work on it, and no one wants to pilot it.
3. We Call This One the Sauna
Mecha and heat don't get along. Heat generating components like reactors, energy weapons, capacitors, and the joints and actuators typically have cooling jackets, coolant systems and other mechanisms to help them dump waste heat. The mecha in question, one of these systems has a faulty or poorly designed coolant system. The specific system afflicted either generates more heat per use (weapons) or per turn (engine) or the non heat generating part (leg, hip, central rotator ring, etc) can be prone to seizing up from overheating and has to be broken loose by maintenance or an improvised field repair.
4. The Manual Says 'Cozy'
Most pilots are selected for being average or below average size, and mecha cockpits are built accordingly. Like an absurd compact sports car, this mech is unfortunately known for having a cockpit that is cramped, uncomfortable, and otherwise unpleasant to spend any time in. Pilots dislike spending more than a few minutes in the machine, while long term patrols are things to be dreaded. Pilots are also twice as likely to be injured during a mech fall, or being on the receiving end of melee combat.
Real World Example: Getting into a 73 Lancia Stratos
5. You Pull the Lever, Then 37 Explosive Bolts Fire...
Getting out of a damaged mech can be an important thing. A reactor collapsing in on itself, a potential ammo explosion, and a dozen other unnamed events are perfectly good reasons to abandon ship. The mech has a dangerous ejection system, and can easily harm or kill an unwary or unlucky pilot.
Real World example: There was an aircraft (F-104?) that the ejection seat had a bad habit of shooting the pilot directly into the tailfin of the aircraft.
6. Working on this one take three sets of the same tools, one metric, one imperial, and one sadist
Poor design can lead to machines that are much more difficult to work on than they should be. This can be as simple as using completely different bolts and fittings from system to system to overly complicated arrangements and lay outs, such as requiring removing major components for minor repairs.
Real world example: changing the mundane thermostat on a 1989 Pontiac Firebird requires removing the air intake, the air filter, the air intake manifold, removing the radiator intake, and then using extensions on a socket wrench to take the $3 part out and replace it.
7. EM Interference
Mecha have plenty of electronic equipment, ranging from the power generator, to the electronics suit, to most prominently high and low energy weapons. This particular flaw demonstrates that one piece of equipment (typically a weapon system) doesn't work well with the others. When activated, the system in question causes interference with other electronics in the mecha. This is common with machines that have been retrofit with high energy weapons, have poorly insulated electronic components and the like. The most common offender in this regard is the plasma accelerator and particle projector high energy cannons.
8. There is a Thermal Exhaust Vent 3 Meters wide...
Building a mecha is a balancing act between the internal superstructure, the moving internal components, and the armor shell. To make a functional machine, it is common for there to be weak points and other less than protected sections in the armor housing. But this flaw represents something more. The mecha has a glaringly obvious area that is lacking armor protection. This can be from unrepaired battle damage, using improvised parts in repair, or a shoddy job in the design process. This weak point can be exploited by anti-mecha troopers, possible hit with a called shot, and so forth,for an automatic critical hit.
Real World Example: In many WWI-WWII era warships there were gaps in the armor belts and armored sections of the ships. The HMS Hood had a gap in the armor protection around the smoke stacks in the middle of the ship, which allowed for a lucky hit to penetrate into the ammo bunker deep inside the ship. It was hit and blown to pieces.
9. Exposed Weapon
The exposed weapon is rather self-explanatory, it is not protected by the armor sheath of the mecha carrying it, and it has no integral armor protection of it's own. The weapon can be destroyed or disabled by a called shot against it. If the hit it successful, damage is applied to the exposed weapon, but not against the mecha mounting it. This is common for shoulder mounted pod systems, hand held mecha style rifles, and other bolt on, often one shot weaponry. On non-mecha vehicles this can represent equipment mounted outside of the vehicle such as roof mounted rocket launchers, laser systems, etc that are not armored. Machine guns mounted on top of a vehicle often have a ballistic shield or guard in front of them, and do not count as exposed.
10. Fragile Fuel Tank/Power Cell
Nothing ruins a mecha's day quite like having it's power supply blow out in a gout of flame and spewing coolant and burning incandescent plasma. Likewise, this is also a nightmare of tank and armored vehicle crews. One of the reasons that most military ground vehicles use diesel is because it doesn't readily ignite, unlike gasoline which turns vehicles into tinderboxes. The mecha has inadequate shielding, poor positioning, or otherwise has a power system/power cell/fuel tank that it easily hit by weapons and depending on what sort of power the mecha uses, can range from a chemical breach to a steam explosion, to a reactor critical failure. This sort of flaw is very common on industrial and commercial mecha which have easily accessed power systems for ease of maintenance. A mecha of vehicle with this flaw can only take one critical hit to the engine or power system and then it is destroyed.
The Russian BMP has it's gas tank in the rear door, so a hit there generally fills the compartment inside with flaming fuel. Gonna have a bad time.
11. 4 Gallons to the Mile
Military hardware is seldom designed to be economical and thrifty, the big machines require large amounts of power to move, and require extensive amounts of logistical support. But there is a certain expectation of range and duration that a machine in the field is expected to have. The Power Hog doesn't come close to this expectation, and falls far far below it. The power hog requires higher than average power system maintenance, and its reactor has to be conditioned much more frequently. In mecha, the most common power hogs are the machines that rely heavily on energy based weapons, and ballistic weapons like rail guns that do use electricity.
At 80 tons and mounting nothing but lasers and large particle cannons, the Awesome class assault mech is a premiere power hog. It's power plant is compact and while it can handle the load of moving the machine and keeping the guns hot, it does so by running in a power band far higher than most mecha reactors.
12. It's Like Strapping Yourself to a Bucking Bronco
One of the innate advantages of the mech is it's innate natural ability to be piloted. It looks humanoid, it feels humanoid, and it moves humanoid. Most mech training isn't so much walking and moving, its getting used to being a giant and not causing collateral damage by incident or accident. Unlike these common machines, the hard to pilot mech has glitches or design features that make it's control difficult or non-intuitive. This can range from a very specific aspect of it's design, such as non-humanoid mecha like quads or four legged mecha, to poor design or questionable functionality, such as the the hunched and often top heavy walker/pod type mecha.
The Scorpion medium mech isn't popular with pilots. It is ugly, it's squat, and it's hard to control. The mech's legs, all four of them, stick out to the side like a lizard's. This makes the mech a very stable firing platform, but it's gait is unnatural, and in the hands of an unskilled pilot, often jarring and painful.
13. Walking War Treaty Violation
War is a fickle thing, what is perfectly acceptable in one war is suddenly against the rules of war the next time things heat up. Unlike mustard gas, notched bayonets, and bombing entire cites to ash with incendiaries, the mech in question is built around a method of war, or its main weapons have been deemed unforgivable in the theatre of war. Alternately, the machine could have other features that are now functionally illegal.
Real World Example: New Zealand has a no-nuclear rule, so ships that are powered by nuclear and atomic power sources cannot legally enter Kiwi waters. In a sci-fi setting, the mech is built around a controversial weapon or power core, such as a tiberium reactor, high energy weapons that puke waste radiation, or atomic, biological, or chemical weapons.
14. Inaccurate Weapon
There are weapons that for whatever reason are inaccurate, it can be a function where the weapon doesn't have to be accurate, such as missiles designed to carry atomic warheads, or short range weapons, or by design are just not accurate. In mecha this can be an oversight of the weapon, or it's placement in the mech. A gun buried in a mech torso is going to be limited in it's functional accuracy compared to something mounted in the arm. Cheaply made, arcanotech, exotic, and other weapons can also suffer from this flaw. Cheap ammo in rail guns deform when fired, lightning lances are not accurate, flamethrowers are not precision weapons.
15. Large Size
Military hardware is generally designed to be compact to make it harder to hit. Sometimes this isn't possible, or for whatever reason the mecha in question is large, has prominent features and it otherwise easy to hit. This is and should be a common flaw for assault mecha and other superheavy vehicles. Most vehicles with this flaw tend to be very well armored.
16. No Cooling Jacket
A common flaw of energy weapons and rapid fire weapons is the potential for the weapon to overheat. Most weapons have cooling jackets, or some other method of dumping this waste heat. In the Cosmic Era, there are dimension heatsinks, laser heat dissipators, and conventional radiators. A mecha with this flaw has a weapon that isn't connected to this cooling system, and has the potential to overheat and either lock up or explode. This is a common flaw for non-mounted weapons such as mecha rifles and other carried weapons.
17. No Ejection System
Space in mecha is limited, and to save weight, space, and sometimes even cost, the mech doesn't have any sort of ejection system other than opening the hatch and jumping out. This generally makes the mech a walking coffin, and most pilots will intensely dislike riding in such machines.
Light and scout mecha, and almost all civilian and industrial mecha are not going to have ejection systems. Some cheap made mecha, and assault mecha lack ejection systems as anything powerful enough to destroy these machines isn't going to leave the pilot alive.
18. Non-Standard Parts
Every nation is going to have it's standards of manufacture and source and supply chains. The mecha or vehicle in question is outside that supply chain, being a foreign import, or an amalgam of equipment from different sources cobbled together to function. The effect is that logistic costs for supporting the machine are 25% higher than normal due to the non-standard tools and parts.
A common flaw of cars in the late 80s and early 90s was the confluence of American and Japanese car manufacturers, combining resources and technology. The resultant cars had both metric and imperial parts and required full sets of both size tools to work on.
19. Limited Mobility
One of the biggest advantages of mecha over other ground vehicles is mobility. A mech with limited mobility is a liability, and typically represents either a machine that is ponderously slow, such as artillery vehicles, poorly suited to a specific environment, like a land supremacy mech in the water, or has a strange design quirk such as having three legs. Modified civilian and commercial mecha often have this flaw as they are seldom built fot r speed and agility.
A forklift is a slower ponderous vehicle.
20. Grandpa's Guitars! (obsolete)
For being cutting machines, in most settings mecha have been in use for years. Over those years there are going to have been many small upgrades and new technologies integrated into the mech. The obsolete mech is a throwback to an earlier era of armored warfare and its systems are out of date, the chassis is showing fatigue, and parts are getting scarce. While the machine can have a good reputation, it is still functionally a dated machine, and is treated accordingly. Logistics are 10% more expensive, and pilots are unhappy when assigned to the machine.
The B-52 Stratofortress is more than 60 years old, and the only parts available for the aircraft are being cannibalized off othe stockpile of retired aircraft. While the systems and electronics are being constantly upgraded, the airframe and the engines are still the same 60 year old pieces of equipment, and while aircraft are faster, more efficient, and more stealthy, the Stratofortress is a relic of an era of the Bigger, the Better.
21. But it Sold Well on Paper
There are a variety of machines that for a variety of reasons, just don't perform well. The poor performance of the machine has been noted and while there are steps being taken to address the flaws, there are just so many of the machines in service that replacing them is just not possible at the current time. Maintenance costs are increased 10%, and deprived of logistic support the machines suffer a small increase in their chance of breaking down and having mechanical failures.
The Humvee, or Hummer is a mechanically complicated machine that performs poorly in the roles assigned to it. The excess complication makes it prone to breaking down, and the vehicle is being used for roles it was never intended for.
This is the point where the writing process was stalled out, and in the interest of getting this article completed and out of the In Work box, 22-30 lack the amount of time and energy put into the first 21 submissions.
22. Poor Sealing
The Vehicle in question has poor performance in hostile environments and is prone to springing leaks. This can be a marine/litoral/submarine mech with water leaks, or a high altitude/space mech that cannot hold atmosphere. While the majority of the vehicles with this flaw are safe, there are enough that have these slow leaks, or a preference for failing seals that the machine has a reputation for it.
Marine mechs can lose mobility and have system failures due to flooding. Space mechs can have compromised life support issues and overheating/freezing issues with loss of atmosphere in a component.
23. Poor Communications
The mech is defined as being a cutting edge weapon system. This one happens to have a reputation for being a poor communicator. For a variety of reasons, the mech doesn't communicate well, and it is easy for units to drop out of LAN combat networks, lose radio comm, etc. Some common reasons include poor antenna design, faulty radio system components, a habit of a communication line getting sheared by moving components, etc.
Mech pilots with this unit know to carry a back up mode of communication or know mech sign language. In combat, a unit cut off from information is going to be less effective and more vulnerable. On the plus side, units with bad comm systems are less likely to be hacked or taken down by electronics warfare.
24. Poor Computer
Mecha are controlled predominantly by Limited artificial intelligences, LAI computers. These machines control the movement of the vehicle, aiming the weapons, and are the limbic and sub-consciousness of the machine where the pilot is the will and ego. Not all LAIs are created equal, and the mech in question happens to have one of those less than stellar LAI unit. The LAI could have a poor response time, of move the machine with a constant lurching gait, or have the artificial personality of the Microsoft paperclip.
A -1 to -3 penalty to certain tasks would work, or an irritating personality profile. A determined LAI that talks to itself like Rain Man, or a constantly panicky LAI that seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown, etc.
25. Poor Targeting
Sometimes shooting this is hard, and typically fast moving distant objects are harder to hit than things up close. A variation on the poor computer flaw, the poor targeting flaw is a targeting computer/system that isn't very good for hitting a certain type of target. In a mech, the targeting system will lock onto a target, and then sort out which direction it is moving, how fast it is moving, correlate that data to the velocity of the weapon system, and calculate out the most likely trajectory to get the projectile/beam to meet the target. This can be as simple as the machine trying to lead a target with an energy weapon (always shooting well in front of a target) or always assigning a movement factor even to stationary objects (leading a vehicle that is stationary) or just being balls to hit anything but the broadside of a barn.
This should be a rare flaw, and if encountered should be on kit-bashed mecha, trainer machines, hard used machines that are in desperate need of overhauling and system debugging.
26. Poor Workmanship
Like the Yugo, some mechs and vehicles are just made piss poor. While the big stuff works (until it doesn't) the small parts rattle loose, switches and buttons are quirky in their function, and a good deal of percussive maintenance and verbal abuse from the pilot is required to keep the machine running.
Poor Workmanship flaw grants the machine an automatic critical hit, but rather than be destroyed, the component indicated is simply not working until it is examined, and given maintenance. This can be actuators and joints seizing up, electronic systems needing to be power cycled, weapons glitches, or even the entire LAI or power core needing to be power cycled. Nothing like striding across a battlefield with a Check Engine light blinking on the console.
A common theme in mecha design are mechs with gigantic cannons mounted asymmetrically on the chassis. These objects throw the center of mass of a mech off, as do having giant missile pods and other weapons mounted high on the torso. While walking this is no issue, but when running, firing on the move, and other piloting dexterity skills, these machines require much more deliberate skill to keep upright and not on their backs or flat on their faces.
A good standard is a -2 to piloting rolls when handling something like this (For those in know: I'm looking at the Hollander, the Hunchback, and the Longbow). For personal experience, pick up a 40 lb feed sack and go running with it.
28. Known Weak Point
Video Game bosses have flashing weak points, but mecha don't. The mech with the Known Weak Point might as well have a neon sign or flashing lights around it's weak point because everyone knows where it is, and everyone goes right for it. This is a common flaw for older machines that have been in use for a long time. When it was new, and hadn't seen heavy combat, that achilles heel wasn't known.
Called shots usually get a pretty high difficulty modifier, but against the Known Weak Point, the difficulty is lower, and if the called shot is made, it is an automatic critical hit against the known weak spot, no rolling to see what might be hit. Thermal exhausts guarantee an engine hit, weak points in armor are a certain thing for knocking out a limb, or blowing up a weapon.
29. Poor Armor
Not all armor is created the same. Sometimes the composite sandwiching has a habit of separating, or the metal used has stress and fatigue issues and just can't take a beating like similar armor. This flaw can come from either dated machines, experimental armor that failed, or just crappy quality armor.
Reduce the damage rating of the armor by a step (if using a defensive rating) or certain types of weapons do more damage, or all weapons do 1 point of extra damage (if using armor dot method). Maintenance on the armor is likewise increased 10% in cost.
It is easy for a combat vehicle to end up overweight. Supplemental armor can be added, and weapons are upgraded, and there are hardpoints and backpack systems and eventually the chassis designed to hold 40 tons of mech and 15 tons of equipment is straining under 10 to 50% more weight than it was intended to bear. Such machines suffer from chassis failure, wearing out components much more quickly and requiring more extensive maintenance to keep them up and running, Top speeds are likewise reduced by the excess weight of the machine.
Overweight mechs have their speed reduced 25%, and take double damage from critical hits against superstructure and chassis elements.
Additional Ideas (1)
1) Shadow Sigil of Insanity:
You may call it a flaw or unfortunate coincidence, others may call it a brilliant statement on the fruitlessness of war, but the designer thought it evidence of his own cleverness. And clever he was until in his hubris and pride he looked at his own piece of walking shadow art.
When light hits this mech at just the right angle and the mech is standing in the correct position the shadow cast is the sigil of the being known as Penemue. Penemue is described by those familiar with him as a fallen angel and is known as the scribe of the damned. Gazing upon this sigil instills in mortal man knowledge of life’s own futility and his own mental and physical weakness. Those who have seen it grow depressed, despondent and lethargic.
“Hey Covergirl check out this sunset its…woah. You know what? I am pushing 40 and I am still playing with these f**king mechs. What is the point? I’m going to get a calzone or ten.”
2) Small pointy feet:
The feet of this mech do not distribute the machines weight well and instead of distributing weight over the entire foot, weight is forced into three tiny prongs on each leg. This means that road ways and surfaces that would normally tolerate the number newtons per square centimeter produced by a mech of this weight walking or running along it will become broken or damaged. There are other problems as well.
“Staff Sarg-ant! How many times have I told yee to wheel dose mechs out of my hanger? Them feets on da metal floor panels…worse than biting into tin foil.”
3) It looks kind of like giant bird
The birds think so too. Specifically, Megateron Dalvus, this awakened terrestrial bird weighs in at between 20 and 30 tons and is descended from the African green pigeon. The mech design in question resembles, strongly, the female of the species. If you happen to be marching this mech through the Serengeti during mating season you will be set upon by male Megaterons and subjected to their courtship dances.
“You know when said quickly over the comms, Megatron and Megateron sound a lot the same. My bad. Can you scrub the missiles?”
4) Chiral steering
The designer of this mech’s guidance system had a little known and rarely diagnosed mental abnormality. When a normal human brain signals to move the left side of the body, it fires a set of neurons on the right side of the brain and vice versa. This designer fires the left side of his brain for the left side of his body and the right for the right. Normally people with this condition are undistinguishable from people with typical brain geography and the differences are only detected in the case of stroke or brain injury. Unfortunately the mech designer used his brain as a template for the neuro-interface. Thus, when you get into this mech for the first time, you must make every action backwards. A mech operator can learn this skill no problem, but it can really throw a pilot that wasn’t expecting it. There are can also be other side effects”
“Sweetheart, you are sleep walking backwards again.”
5) Bouncy walk
The artificial muscles fibers in this mech’s calves and feet are a little tight. The pilot will not notice any physical jostling because of the excellent gyros and the smooth neural interface of this model. But anyone watching this mech walk through a treeline will notice the profile rise and fall two meters with each step. This will also make precision foot and ankle movement with this mech difficult.
“If they told us the moon had only 0.1 Gs, we may have sent a different compliment of mechs.”