Eeeviac's GearHead Quickstart GuideEdit

From Zero To Zerosaiko In Ten Minutes


Finding yourself hopelessly lost, wandering the wastes? Overwhelmed by weapon/armour/skill selections? Confused by mech's and menus? Worried about your J-Idol being bitten in the face by a rat? Then this quick guide is for you. In no way is this meant to provide a comprehensive overview of the gameplay options provided within GearHead, but merely to give players rudimentary gameplay information so they can quickly enter a world of rebellion, conspiracy, and 60 ton violence.

This guide is written based on SDL GearHead, version .820.

Before you begin

I strongly recommend creating a file called "arena.cfg". It contains two lines :

MechaControl R

The first line stops the game from autosaving whenever you enter a town, dungeon, or wilderness area. This means that you'll have to save manually using shift-x, but you won't have the game save when you return to town after a failed mission. The second line makes the mech combat default to "rogue style" control (where you use the numberpad to move, and the "a" key to select attacks,) rather than the "menu style" of controll (where each move is selected through a menu.) This second line is merely a personal preference.

You'll need a text-editor to make this file - I used Crimson Editor - a free text editor available from - but I'm sure there are other alternatives. Notepad writes a .txt extension on the file and did not work for me. When you've made the file, place it in your Gearhead directory with the arena.exe and you're set to play.

((Editor's note: Windows Notepad is fine for this job, you just need to have Windows set up to not hide known file extensions and then specify the .cfg extension when using 'save as'.))

Your characterEdit

The pre-generated characters work fine, but if you have a totally irrational aversion to pre-generated characters (like I do,) here are some decisons to ponder. Much of the early game involves personal combat, grafting experience to bump up your skills. I prefer fast characters (high Reflexes, high Speed) that get close and use melee weapons. You don't need to reload melee weapons (or more importantly carry around ammunition, something to consider if you want to use a ranged character), most are fast and do good damage. Early on you'll be fighting four enemies at most at one time, so melee combat is an easy way to go. You'll need a few points in the Armed Combat and Dodge skills. Being able to swing a steel-pipe or chainsaw around can get you through a fair amount of the early game. Being a shotguns-akimbo ranged master might sound good in theory, but in my experience is a bit of a pain to actually play.

Apart from the mech skills (all are usefull, some I've detailed further,) skills I recommend :

  • Conversation
  • Mecha Repair (a pre-requisite for the Tech Vulture talent, which allows you to salvage more parts from encounters)
  • Intimidation (allows you to avoid some combat situations entirely, while still receiving mission completion rewards - also has a bearing on whether opposing pilots will eject in combat - whole mecha can be sold for good money)
  • Spot Weakness (increases chance of critical hits,)
  • Mecha Engineering (you need this skill if you want to modify the weapons load-out in your mecha.)

Understand that early characters will be flawed and mistakes will be made, which gives you the perfect excuse to experiment and be creative with your character build.

I often feel compelled to take some skills just because they fit with my character idea. I usually take Medicine, not because I use it with any regularity, its just that I like the fast, combat-orientated, medic archetype. I'll let you decide whether you want to spend experience points on extraneous "flavour" skills. What's most important is that you can, if you so wish.

Early gameEdit

There are four pieces of equipment that every player needs at the start of their adventure - a communication device, personal weapons, personal armour, and a mech. I'll handle each of these seperately in reverse order.


I recommend that new players go through the tutorial provided by Quentin in Hogye, after speaking to Hyolee and Megi (follow the conversation options, you can't miss it.) Not only does this provide you with a basic understanding of the movement, exploration, and combat systems of GearHead, but you emerge from the tutorial with three of the four essentials I've mentioned above - weapons, armour, and a mecha. There are numerous ways to acquire a mecha in the early game, so completing the tutorial (for the mecha) isn't necessary once you have a grasp of the gameplay mechanics. Talk to the Mecha Sporch owner about competing in the arena if you haven't done the tutorial.


Before you've earned that mecha, you'll most likely have to make some equipment decisions. These decisions are going to depend on your stat and skill choices, but in this example I'll assume you're using a melee fighter. Obviously, I recommend not going for the most expensive and heaviest armour you can find right away. Make sure you have enough funds for armour that will cover your entire body. Some bracers and leggings will have melee weapons incorporated, like the Blade Bracers / Blade Leggings (or the formidable, but probably overly expensive, Power Claw.) Not only do they have a respectable armour class, they also provide a useful back-up in the case of weapon breakage or lack of ammunition. I recommend looking for something light (overburdening yourself with weight is detrimental to a few crucial combat stats,) preferably with an AC over 10.


I should point out that I've never used a character that relied solely on the offensive capabilities of his armour. Not only are primary weapons more effective at dispatching the variety of monsters and thugs that seek to do you harm, it has the added bonus of making you feel like a big man. Key in weapon choice for me are weapons with a plus bonus to accuracy (ACC.) Especially early on, when stats aren't quite as developed, I want the opportunity to hit as often as possible. I can't tell you exactly what to use (shop inventories are random so you never know what your going to be offered,) but I've never found a melee weapon to be completely useless. Rapiers, MonoSwords / MonoScythes, Chainswords, all work well. Damage class isn't really a consideration for my early characters, the difference between 30 points of damage and 120 points of damage is fairly inconsequential to the rat with 10 health points.


The final piece of equipment you need is a communication device. These differ in variety, functionality, and form. Phones and PC's can be bought from traders, as well as helmets that offer similar functionality. Basically, depending on the "feature set" of your particular bit of kit, a phone allows you to store and access information. Pressing shift-t allows you phone anyone on the map, negating the tedium of walking up to people and talking to them personally. Pressing the m key allows you to access further functions through a menu. If your device has "Memo" it will store basic information about missions you're currently engaged in (including the name of the person who gave you the mission, very useful for collecting rewards.) If the device has "EMail" people will be able to mail you about work, which saves much of the tedium of actually talking to people at all. The final function of your communication device is "News." You can read news off monitors in stores, but devices like the Micro PC and the Internet Phone allow you to do this from in the wilderness or in the heat of battle (I like mental image of one-handing my Alba into a combat position while reading the news off the Internet Phone in my lap.) News headlines will tell you of attacks on towns (towns in trouble need combat pilots,) and broadcast your various victories and achievements.

Note that you don't actually have to buy a PCS; when you start the game you will be able to find a discarded phone lying around somewhere in Hogye; it can also store memos and receive email. You can buy a new fancy model for kicks, if you like, but this is really unnecessary.

Gaining experience and moneyEdit

Names and quests are randomized, but note that the world of GearHead has a high[sic] unemployment rate. There will always be jobs that need to be done. Hogye has some set situations where a lot of experience can be gained early. The Hogye Mine (its a small building with stone walls with stairs leading down,) is five levels of dungeon hack. Lots of experience can be gained here, as well as being a relatively safe testing ground for some of the weapon choices you made earlier. Unfortunately, rats and Iron Monkey's don't have very large purses and good equipment is expensive.

Throughout most of the game, experience and money fit together hand in glove. As mentioned above, a town in trouble is a town with work to be done. There are two ways of going about finding jobs. Reading "news" will inform you of hot-spots in the GearHead world, usually detailing the identity of the foe, and the organization dealing with the encounter. For example's sake, let's say Snake Lake is under attack by Aegis Luna.

Once we're in Snake Lake we need to talk to people to find out who's offering missions. NPCs will tell you about their buzz, the length of their hair, and occasionally, usefull information about work. Sometimes they'll give you a seemingly insignifigant piece of information about someone else. If you have a phone you can just call the person mentioned by pressing shift-t, typing their name, and finding out what information they have.

This new contact might mention that a person is looking for a combat pilot. To get the job, just contact the person and see what they have to say.

If you're having trouble getting work through Guardians, I suggest checking your character alignment by pressing the @ key. Guardians want lawful people, check that you are if you want to side with them. Renown also has a bearing on whether you get some missions. An easy way to raise your renown from the start is by competing in Mecha Tournaments. Conveniently, there's one in Hogye, just to get you started.

Once you've gained experience, press shift-l to go to the learn screen. This is where you'll increase your skill ratings. Alternately you can press shift-c and call up the character menu. This displays your character stats, as well as providing a menu for increasing skills, stats, or learning talents.

Exploring and fighting for beginners, against beginners, the personal wayEdit

When entering a town for the first time a player should familiarize themselves with their surroundings. Using the "l" key to look, placing the cursor on doors or people will reveal their name. Most shop names are self explanatory as to whether they're a restaraunt, garage, or trader. When you first enter Hogye, assuming you've completed the tutorial, take a look around at what's available. Explore the map, find where the mine is. For most players the Hogye Mine will be their introduction to personal combat.

Once in the mine you'll be faced with your first foe - most likely the eternal enemy of man throughout centuries of civilization, not to mention countless RPGs - the fearsome and blood-thirsty rat. Rats aren't too different from the neophyte adventurer, they have low hitpoints and they have a melee attack. Luckily, they aren't decked in armour and they don't wield nifty weapons with accuracy bonuses. Your basic strategy will be to close to melee range quickly. Use the (a) key to enter the attack selection menu, (.) key to cycle through attacks, space bar to confirm. You can also move into the square an enemy occupies and attack automatically. If you find yourself surrounded by enemies, a good Dodge skill will help. Otherwise, try to bottleneck enemies into narrow spaces so you can deal with them one at a time.

Fallen foes will often drop a few dollars on the ground, press the (,) key while standing in their bloody remains to search them for loot. Human opponents will drop weapons and armour as well as cash.

The mecha wayEdit

If you have a mecha, you will pilot it while exploring wildnerness areas (outside towns and caves.) The controls are basically the same as exploring on foot. If you have a mecha that has hover/skim capabilities (most mecha do), use the "." key to change gears or movement mode. Apart from being a faster mode of movement, skimming will allow you to explore over water areas, for those who have an obsessive need to explore black, unknown sections of game-map (like I do).

Inevitably you'll be attacked in the wilderness by Raiders who want your loot. If its a flat map, you might be able to use the look key (l) and gauge what you're up against (note that other enemies may be hidden in the black, unknown spaces.) You have the option of running, a good idea if you've already been through an encounter and haven't had time to repair and restock, just run off the edge of the map to leave. Or perhaps you're just a character that runs from battles a lot, its your choice. GearHead caters to cowardice and heroics alike.

Let's say that your mecha is shiny and new, though. You're ready for whatever the raiders have. Common sense will go a long way in developing your strategies for mech battles. By calling up the Field HQ with shift + (h) (you can't do this in combat, by the way, so do this in a town after you've acquired your mech) you can see the stats and strengths of your machine. If you have missile racks, you'll want to stay at range and bomb enemies from afar. If you have more close combat weapons, you'll want to use as much cover as possible (trees and mountains), to try and close that distance and get into attack range. Initially you'll be fighting two or three enemies at a time so the suicidal charge towards enemies works well. As Sun Tzu says, "know yourself, know your enemy," and you're a good ways towards being victorious in battle. While I'm at it, don't just pilot the mecha, be the mecha. A mech loaded with missile racks wouldn't want to be up to its elbows in an opponents machine parts.

When your enemies lie in rubble you should sift through the wreckage for useful pieces of salvage. Walk into the tile with the destroyed mech and press the (,) key (get). Picking up weapons adds to the weight of the mecha and can hinder its combat effectivenss. Consider running from battles subsequent to encounters where you loaded up a bellyfull of swag.

Upgrading your mechaEdit

So you've survived combat, you've patched up your ride at the local garage, and you've acquired (from the cold, dead hands of the lawless!) some weapons that you'd like to put on your mecha. Weapons can be attached to mecha in two different ways - some can be installed, some can be equiped. Equipping weapons is by far the easier route, strap them on or take them off - no skills required. Equippable weapons can be held by mecha hands or attached to mounting points. Items of this type can be assigned through the inventory key (i), while in the wilderness, or through the Field HQ, shift + (h).

To install weapons you need the mecha engineering skill, and even then there's a chance you'll break something. You can't be in your mecha while installing components so you'll have to access the Field HQ while in a town. Simply select the mecha from the Field HQ menu list, select Examine Components, select the part you wish to install, select the install option, choose the location to install the weapon, watch it go CRUNCH, then reload your save game. A high Mecha Engineering skill will reduce the chance of breaking components while installing them, and at high levels a remarkable amount of gear can be crammed into realatively tiny spaces.

Don't install every weapon you find into your mecha either, because you'll overburden your mecha to the detriment of its performance. I recommend a few key, hard-hitting, primary weapons (these will depend on the weight you can carry) with a few backups in reserve, preferably something that doesn't require ammunition. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of mecha melee weapons like the beam sword when my missiles have run out of juice. When your technology fails, bashing things with a crooked bit of metal goes a long way.

There are too many variations and strategies to list in mecha design. As with early player characters, experiment and be imaginative with your mecha design. As general advice, I'd say Gearhead is a game of two avatars - your human self and your mechanical self. The two don't necessarilly need to be congruent. As with player characters, design to optimize your strengths, without book-ending yourself into being too one-dimensional.