In Lancer, Heat damage is a powerful high-risk/high-reward tool against both players' and elite NPCs' mechs. Unlike regular damage, enough Heat not only turns an opposing mech into a powerful delayed-timer bomb that can potentially oneshoot the exploding mech's allies, it also narratively removes the exploded mech for the immediate future regardless of which side wins or loses the combat.

This got me excited for a Heat-dealing character build...

...at least until I read a couple of times the Core Rulebook, Section 5 The GM's toolkit, page 281:

Some NPCs, like mechs, have a Heat Cap. By default, these characters have 1 Stress and become Exposed when they exceed their Heat Cap instead of making an overheating check. NPCs with additional Stress follow the standard rules for overheating.

If I'm reading this correctly, this means that in a typical Lancer campaign - where most NPCs mechs have 1 Stress due to having either no or the Grunt template - a PC optimised for dealing Heat damage would most of the time be unable to kill enemy mechs with their main gimmick, and instead would only serve as an unefficient debuffer depending on multiple rolls for a single debuff.

Am I missing something, or is optimising for Heat-dealing really an impractical dead end?


1 Answer 1


Heat builds have some disadvantages, but they're not absolutely impractical.

Yes, a build that focuses on Heat damage will not perform its best when against templateless NPC mechs, but all builds have strengths and weaknesses, and the GM is free to vary opposition between templateless mechs, elites, and ultras; in fact, picking opposition that challenges your players is a skill a GM has to develop:

The perfect approach to combat balance is something you will need to figure out with your players.

-- "The GM's Toolkit", Lancer Core Rulebook, p.283

If you go hard into a high-Heat tech attacking build, and can heat cap an arbitrary enemy mech most of the time, then in cases where you're only up against templateless mechs, you've basically got a niche going second in the popcorn PC initiative to overheat the enemy who went first. Unless your lancemates focus on dealing burn damage, this effectively doubles all their damage against your target of choice. Admittedly you're not as absolutely high-percentage at this as mechs who focus on damage-dealing, but from an outside perspective, anybody who has the chance at doing as much damage as the rest of the lance put together is probably not absolutely underpowered.

Note that I'm only talking about templateless NPC mechs here; you've missed something a bit important about the Grunt template.


The Grunt can never have more than 1 Structure and 1 Stress, and they are immediately destroyed whenever they take heat from a source other than their own systems and weapons.

-- "The GM's Toolkit", Lancer Core Rulebook, p.327, emphasis mine.

So any of your heat attacks are just as effective against Grunt-templated NPC mechs as your lancemates' conventional attacks, and most NPC templates have lower E-Defense than Evasion.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Fantastic answer! And yes, I only caught the thing about Grunts in the re-read. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dragomok
    Jul 29, 2023 at 11:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, Glazius, I have long loved your many eye-opening Dungeon World answer, and I'm delighted to find out you do Lancer too. ^_^ \$\endgroup\$
    – Dragomok
    Jul 29, 2023 at 11:37

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