Lace & Steel is a full contact bloodsport-styled 'gameshow' that features armed and armored female gladiators fighting for the entertainment of television audiences. It first aired in 2022, two years after the debut of Maim TV(1). Currently it is the most popular show on television, with a market share of approximately 75% for its time slot. The show airs every other week, on Friday nights at 10:00 pm (EST), alternating this slot with Maim TV. Lace and Steel is one hour in length and usually features three 20 minute bouts per show. Bouts are between two contestants, with no time outs or breaks. The fight lasts until one of the participants is unable to continue or she surrenders (or in certain matches, is killed.)
All participants in Lace & Steel are (supposedly) volunteers, who have signed (very) binding contracts with a sponsor. The contracts are from one to five years in length and usually guarantee the fighter medical benefits, combat training, bio- or cyberware upgrades as well as anything else needed to participate. In return, the fighter must participate in any and all bouts her sponsor sets up. Also, if the fighter is killed during the show, her family has no legal basis on which to take action against the fighter's sponsor, Lace & Steel, or Channel 69 (the station that airs L&S).
Although it would seem that a Lace & Steel contract serves only to make a fighter into a virtual slave of her sponsor, this is in fact, usually not the case.
For example, Beiko, sponsored by the Daitokuji Financial Group, is entering the fourth year of her five year contract. She is one of the most popular fighters onLace & Steel and is currently tied with Mian Toris for the title of Lace & Steel champion. Her bouts are well attended and her associated promotional merchandise (holos, posters, shirts, action figures, models and so on) net the Daitokuji Financial Group huge profits. To the Daitokuji Financial Group, she represents a large investment of nuyen, an investment which needs to be kept happy if she is to continue to fight well (and thus generate a substantial return on DFG's initial investment). Thus, Beiko is allowed a large degree of personal freedom. She is allowed to take independent trips into Neo York, these trips could be shopping, dinner, or simple sightseeing. Of course, all such trips must be cleared through her manager.
A second example would be Angel. An up and coming star sponsored by the ASAF Corporation, Angel has only been fighting for about a year an a half. As with Beiko, ASAF considers Angel an investment and like Beiko, tries to keep her content. On the other hand, ASAF is not very large and would rather not loose Angel to a rival corporation. So, although Angel is allowed to take personal trips, she is always heavily guarded when she does so.
It should be noted that replicants are very popular choices for participating in Lace and Steel. Being property, none of the above information applies. A replicant fighter is usually kept participating until killed or maimed to such an extent that she can no longer continue.
Mian Toris is a prime example of this type of participant. Sponsored (ie. owned) by the Shiawase Bioware Corporation, Mian has no real personal freedoms. Unless fighting in the arena, she is kept at the Shiawase Corporate tower in upper Neo York. Granted, she is the other most popular fighter on Lace and Steel and thus does make numerous personal appearances, but other than that Mian is kept under strict control by her owners.
When a fighter's contract is up, most participants retire. Often, a sponsor will try and entice a successful fighter into extending her contract for 'just one more year'. Unsuccessful fighters may find that they are now subject to certain clauses that will force them to continue participating, at least until their sponsor's initial investment is paid off. There is a high demand among the MegaCorporations for ex-Lace & Steel fighters, especially upper-echelon officials, who desire them as bodyguards.
Characters generated for Lace & Steel may be of three types: Normal Humans, Enhanced Humans and Replicants. These characters must follow all rules pertaining to characteristic maxima for that type. All characters may use cyberware, subject to certain restrictions (see Cyberware below). All Lace and Steel characters must be 200 points (at the start).
When building a Lace & Steel fighter, several points must be kept in mind:
First is Comeliness. All fighters are expected to be attractive looking. A well defined, 'supple' physique is ideal, the extreme 'bodybuilder' look is not. Thus, a comeliness minimum of 14 is required. Replicant participants are usually 'augmented' with such features as tails or cat-like ears.
Second, is fighting ability. All fighters must have at least 20 points of martial arts maneuvers. These maneuvers must come from at least one (or more) defined styles. Lace & Steel being what it is, the more flashy arts (Tae Kwon Do, Savate, Muay Thai, Qwan Ki Do and so on) are preferred. Weapons skills are desired, but not necessary. The disadvantage Distinctive Features: Style (10pts) is required.
Third, all fighters must take certain disadvantages to reflect their contractual obligations. The disadvantage of Watched: Sponsor (Mopow, NCI) 14- (15pts) is required for all fighters. Contracted fighters must take the Physical Limitation of 'Under Contract to Sponsor'. This limitation is a base 15 points (All the time) and can be modified as slightly, greatly of fully limiting depending on the fighter's degree of 'freedom'. Replicants must take the limitation of 'Property', this is a 25 point physical limitation.
Finally, all fighters should have some sort of 'hook' to set them apart from the others. For example, Beiko has her blaster, Mian has a tail, Angel wears a feathered cloak, the Black Queen uses a whip and so on.
Lace & Steel is very restrictive regarding what types of cybersystems can be used by participants. External or obvious physical modifications are disallowed. Thus, the following systems are not allowed to be used by Lace & Steel fighters:
Coded Transmitter, Cranial Radio, Cranial Telephone, Cyberguns, Cyberlimbs, Cyber-razors (as well as all other blade implants), Hydraulic Jacks, Smartgun Link, Subdermal Bludgeon , Subdermal Plating and Trauma Editor.
Cranial Telephone and other communications devices are disallowed to prevent the fighter from receiving instruction or 'coaching' from the sidelines.
Other types of systems, such as a Vehicle Control Link, have no real use in the arena, so they not specifically regulated.
All fighters must undergo periodic MRI scans to detect any unauthorized cyberware implants.
Lace and Steel fighters usually wear specially designed and modified 'hardsuits' as armor. Typical values for this armor is from 6 to 10 DEF. The following location coverage is standard.
Torso: 9-13, Arms: 6-7, Legs: 15-18
Location 8 (bicep) may or may not be covered. Typically, a 4 DEF armor cloth sleeve is attached, although it may have the same value armor as the rest of the suit. Location 14 (thigh) must always remain bare. No armor is allowed on the head. This means no helmets. Some fighters wear heavy goggles or visors to protect the eyes. Tinted face shields are also common. These shields cover location 3 (face) and usually offer 3 DEF armor.
Variations on this theme are quite common. Armor cloth jackets reinforced with ballistic plates and other similar stylish outfits are common. Players should feel free to be creative when designing their character's 'look'.
All armor inLace & Steel suffers from two limitations, the first is "Real Armor" (-1/4), the second is "Ablative" (-1). 'Ablative' means that for every 5 points of Body damage the Armor defends against per phase, its DEF value drops by one. This DEF value reduction only affects the hit location struck by the attack.
The limitations common for a standard Lace & Steel hardsuit are as follows: "Locations" (-3/4), "OIF" (-1/2), "Real Armor" (-1/4) and "Ablative" (-1). This gives a total modifier of -2 1/2 for any suit of armor.
Players should feel free to incorporate such systems as jump jets into their armor. This sort of system is defined as (x) inches of Superleap and does require the limitation of "Requires Dex roll when landing" (-1/2). Failure of this roll results in the character landing prone in the target hex (at best).
Strength augmentation could also be incorporated into a suit of armor (minimum DEF of 9 for any suit using such a system). This would, of course, require that location 8 be armored. Maximum strength add should be no more than 10 points. Limitations such as "Does Not Affect Figured" (-1/2) are required.
All forms of hand-to-hand weapons are allowed, including swords, staves, pole weapons, whips, clubs and so on. Thrown and projectile weapons are not allowed, this includes bows, firearms, shuriken, thrown knives, and thrown spears.
Energy weapons (i.e. blasters) are allowed, but are subject to certain restrictions. These weapons are mounted on the users forearm and have a limited number of charges (typically 8 to 12 shots). Because of the barrel length and mounting, no OCV or Range Modifier bonuses are allowed to be built into the weapon. Blasters come in two basic types. High-yield weapons (ones that do 8 to 12 dice per shot) usually have a low number of shots and a recharge period between uses. This recharging period is defined as a one phase delay (-1/2), that is applied after the first shot (as opposed to the normal delay limitation which is applied before the attack is used). Low-yield weapons (doing 5-8 dice) have up to 20 shots and do not suffer any sort of recharging delay (thus, this sort of blaster can be rapid-fired!).
Fighters are broken up into four groups based on the weapons they use. These groups are HTH (no weapons at all), Club (uses normal damage weapons), Blade (uses killing damage weapons) and Energy (has a blaster weapon). Due to the fact that there are so few Energy weapon users, these types of fighters are usually matched against Blade users.
When running a Lace & Steel fight, the combat uses all of the optional combat rules from both the HERO System Rulebook (4th ed.) and from The Ultimate Martial Artist. This includes wounding, impairing, disabling, bleeding, nerve strikes, 'twisting the blade' and striking already wounded areas. Although these rules do greatly add to the complexity of the combat. the fact that only two characters are involved should smooth things out a bit.
The Lace & Steel arena is 100 meters long by 50 meters wide (50" x 25"). The structure is 25 meters deep (12.5") with a mesh roof to keep anyone from getting out (or in). The corners of the arena are angled to form a sort of stretched octagon. The floor is made of 'Astroturf' (or a reasonable imitation there of), while the walls are lined with a thin layer of padding. The walls are white, with a light gray floor and darker wall pads. Stains are removed at the end of every show (well, at least they try…).
Fighters begin 50 meters apart (25") oriented lengthwise in the arena.
Angel (ASAF Corporation): Angel is rather short, standing about 5'6", blond and busty. She wears white plate armor with a floor length feathered cloak. She's highly skilled in several martial arts, including jujitsu and karate. Although she doesn't carry any weapons, she has a set of shock gloves built into her hardsuit's gauntlets. It's uncertain whether Angel is a genetic upgrade or if she is cyber enhanced.
Beiko (Daitokuji Financial Group): Probably Lace and Steel's most popular fighter, Beiko stands about 5'10" or so with waist-length black hair. She wears black armor that covers her entire upper body. It is equipped with a jump pack and a high-yield blaster mounted on the right forearm. Beiko has demonstrated certain physical capabilities that can only be a result of strength augmentation and boosted reflexes. She fights using tae kwon do.
Black Queen, the (DF Productions): A newcomer to the arena, the Black Queen is of average height (about 5'8") with long black hair. Her armor is a merry widow made from armor cloth and set with ballistic plating (thus, her torso armor only protects locations 10-13). She also wears gloves and boots similarly reinforced. Her primary weapon is a whip, while her gloves have built in 'brass knuckles'. A genetic upgrade, her martial art is savate.
Cimmaron (Universal Omnitech ): Another newcomer to Lace and Steel, Cimmaron is proving to be rather popular. She is rather tall, standing about 6'3". She has tanned skin and deep black hair. Her costume is an armored jacket with gloves and moccasin styled boots. The whole costume is lined with extensive fringes. Cimmaron does not use any weapons when she fights, but, considering that she is a genetic upgrade who is probably as strong a Mian Toris, she doesn't seem to need any. Her excessive weight (when compared to her build) would seem to indicate level three skeletal reinforcement. Cimmaron's martial art is hapkido.
Mian Toris (Shiawase Bioware Corporation): Lace and Steel's other top contender, Mian is very tall, standing just over 6 feet in height. An obvious replicant, she has a thick mane of dark red hair and a long bushy tail to match. Mian wears gray plate armor over a white armorcloth jacket and carries a hand and a half sword. Mian is believed to be a physical match for a Puma and can certainly lift at least 800 kgs. Her martial art is a mixture of kenjutsu and aikijutsu.
Silver Fox, the (Youmex): A slightly modified Mitsumi Lynx, the 'Fox is fairly tall with long silver hair worn in waist-length braids. She wears an armored jacket with full sleeves that is styled to resemble a samurai's court dress. Vambraces and high boots complete the outfit. Her weapon is a naginata, so naturally she is trained in naginatajutsu (mixed with a little kung fu).
1) Maim TV is a no-holds-barred gladitorial combat show that pits a wide variety of humans, genetic upgrades, replicants and cyborgs against one another in single combat. There is a wide assortment of weight divisions and classes with the emphasis on violent brutal confrontations. There are no limitations as to what kind of cybernetics and bioware can be implanted into a contestant. Maim TV came about when view audiences felt that Smash TV, a live combat show, wasn't violent enough.
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