Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Giant Robot Bandwagon (Part One)

After a summer of craptacular, underwhelming summer blockbusters, it looks like we might finally have a winner in Guillermo Del Toro's PACIFIC RIM. Guillermo is a nerd who hasn't forgotten his passions, and always manages to jam a metric ton of awesome (or in this case, two thousand tons) into every movie; he seldom disappoints, notwithstanding Hellboy and Abe singing Barry Manilow.

The giant fighting robot genre is one that I've always wanted to take on in gaming, having spent my formative years watching many episodes of Robotech and Voltron. Maybe it's just us gamers of a certain vintage (and anime fans) who like this stuff; I've never had any traction with players when I tried to pitch a giant robot game. And I've certainly never played most of the actual giant robot games out there, like Heavy Gear, Mekton, or Battletech (which mostly seems like an overcomplicated Avalon Hill boardgame from yesteryear with subsystems for roleplay patched on). I did play the actual Robotech game once, and enjoyed it, although my nostalgia for Palladium games is not something I feel the need to re-examine by actually playing them again.

I have the Mecha and Manga handbook for M&M 2nd Edition, and that looks like it would work just fine. (There are certainly lots of cool ideas there, even if you don't fancy using that particular system for your giant stompy robot action.) There is also indie game designer Ben Lehman's Bliss Stage, "about teenage pilots fighting back against alien invaders with giant robots made of weaponized love. It’s about love and war and the future of humanity. It has a lot of sex parts in it." That sounds awesome to me, but I think it would be an even tougher sell for a lot of groups. I should also mention John Wick's The Aegis Project, which tells the story of a giant robot-centric war fought across three eras. It sounds super ambitious, but that's all I know about it.

My personal tastes for mecha RPG -- in the abstract, thinking-about-it-even-if-my-players-don't-give-a-shit sense -- run towards using some flavour of FATE. I know that one of the settings being developed for FATE Core, Camelot Trigger, is a big crazy mecha space opera, so clearly I'm not the only one.

I began thinking of doing mecha in FATE while reading the excellent, comprehensive (and super crunchy) science fiction sourcebook Starblazer Adventures. SBA was the first FATE game I know of that explored the possible repercussions of the "FATE Fractal" -- the idea that the simple structure of FATE characters, including Ladder-based skills, stunts, and Aspects, could be applied at various levels of magnification. So you could use it to model a starship or a galaxy-sized construct, or a corporation, or a giant stompy robot, in much the same way and use the same resolution mechanics. Pretty cool. This is an important idea if you're telling a big, sprawling space epic where little star fighters may or may not be able to find a convenient Exhaust Port aspect to exploit on the Deadly Battlemoon. In space opera, scale -- and often, ridiculously epic scale -- is everything.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about my thoughts on running a mecha game, and a little bit about the game I pitched to my group (unsuccessfully), DAISHO.

1 comment:

  1. There's another system for giant robots you might enjoy. 4chan's /tg/ has done more than just produce insane Space Marine Chapters. There's also Giant Guardian generation, which may be crunchier than you'd like, but comes highly recommended, especially for Pacific Rim style Robots vs Giant Monster style battles