Robotech, The RPG: The Macross Saga
Designer: Jeff Mechlinkski and Bryan Young
Artist: Francisco Etchart
Publisher: Strange Machine Games
Year Published: 2019
Main mechanic / Theme: d6 leveling with skills / Science fiction alternate timeline
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Robotech: The Macross Saga is a roleplaying game based on the 1980s animated series by the same name. I picked up the recent edition of the game while attending a fund-raising event for the League of Utah Writers (website) where one of the authors was in attendance.
The animated series of Robotech is an alternate timeline for Earth. It is a unique take on alien technology and the reverse engineering that technology for the defense of civilization. The technology known as robotech not only allows space travel, but powers many new creations, including fighting machines that can transform into different configurations for what can be best used. Robotech is not sentient robots, not is it a full-on war between different clans for control of space.
The story picks up after a global war has raged across the world. An alien ship has been under study since it crashed some years ago and it is now ready to launch again. It is a time for celebration. But the alien race of Zentraedi have arrived to destroy the ship that escaped their attack those years ago.
One very different aspect of Robotech from other military based roleplaying games I have experienced is this one allows for a broader range of characters that are not directly involved in the military forces.
If you are not familiar with the backstory, or even if you are, the book includes 7 scenarios to guide you through the story and how the game works. These are great inclusions to the book, and they are more than just mechanics. Included with each of them are narrative pieces to give story insight to the setting, the original characters, and the bigger picture of events.
And, yes, one of the authors has mech in his name.
Players can choose the heroic characters from the series or create their own. The main characters from the show are included. I recommend watching some of the episodes to get a better understanding of how the characters interact since there is a lot of experienced gained from handling challenges that are not combat related.
There are two races in Robotech. Depending on how you want your game to run would probably have some limitations placed on how these are introduced into your campaign.
Careers are the character classes. These are not just military based careers. Robotech has a strong influence of what is happening in other aspects of society and how that influences the war between the two races. You can play a pilot, the technician supporting them, volunteers, or even an entertainer everyone is listening to. Again, I would recommend looking at the direction you want your campaign to go. Unlike the series, players have to wait to take their actions and if you have one sitting out during most of the adventure, they might find the scenario not to their liking.
Character statistics are based on the skills selected. Skills are advanced by earning experience completing the challenges presented to the character. The choices start out limited by the career chosen. As characters advance, they can work at changing careers and adding new skill sets to choose from.
Three other aspects of the characters are what brings them to life and gives them each their uniqueness: Nature, Element, and Talents. These provide the bases of how the character works, where they perform their best, and those quirks and abilities that others just don’t seem to have.
Characters also have a level of rank and/or fame. These describe where the character fits into the military structure and how well they are known by the public.
One aspect I like is how proficiencies are group into categories allowing characters to have “complete and exhaustive training” in that area. This made it easier to keep the story moving forward.
Within the story framework the game master provides the players with Challenges. There are three types of Challenges. Combative challenges are those where a player’s character is in opposition to another character, not always needing to be a physical fight. Static challenges are to achieve an outcome presented with no physical adversary like doing repair work under a time limit. And Basic challenges, the easy to do ones that just require the time to complete.
Challenges are presented to players and a solution for resolving them is presented back to the game master. Players are encouraged to describe which skills they are using and how they are using them to address the challenge. A difficulty is determined and then the dice are rolled for successes. A dice pool is used based on the appropriate skills and the number of successes is tallied.
Players can also use Heroic Moves to ensure better success. But there is a price paid by the character. One of the options is to add Drama to the character. Adding Drama means you are accepting some level of personal or interpersonal conflict that will need to be resolved. These don’t have to happen right away but can be discussed between the player(s) and the game master to provide a stronger storyline.
If you are a fan of the original series, you are going to enjoy what they have done with the game book. The art remains in the same style as the series. I am pretty sure some of this is from the series or from earlier works, but you can’t tell where new material has been added in. This goes for the artwork and the graphic works throughout the book.
The layout of the book made everything
Robotech was inclusive when it first came out in the 1980s. This has been kept in the story. There are men and women of different national backgrounds and ethnicities throughout. These are not just filler characters in the background. They include positions of leadership. There are also relationships represented that for its time was considered progressive. A major point of the storyline was the fact Earth had gone through a major war and to create peace people from all nations had to come together to become one people—the people of Earth.
The game does not call out the need to pick an ethnicity or personal aspects of the characters, that is left to the discretion of the players involved.
I had fun working through the concept of a military roleplaying game that was focused more on the complications of living and the relationships. If you want more of strategy, there are rules for that also. We played more along the lines of the military involvement, but a group could create characters on the home front dealing with the aftermath of battles and rebuilding.
The design of Robotech feels like there is something for just about everyone. I know some who watched the series, or started to, and were turned off by the look as being too “cheesy” for them. Then again, I know people who are turned off by at least one of the major franchises of movies, books, television.
If you were a fan of the series, you will like what they have done with Robotech the Roleplaying Game: The Macross Saga. They captured the series in both look and feel. I also recommend Robotech for players who are looking for a way of doing a sci-fi space military game with the big robots who don’t want to get into the crunch aspects so many of the games in the genre focus on.
Robotech, the Roleplaying Game: The Macross Saga was written by Jeff Mechlinsky and Bryan Young. It’s published by Strange Machine Games.
About the Author
Daniel Yocom does geeky things at night because his day job wouldn't let him. This dates back to the 1960s through games, books, movies, and stranger things better shared in small groups. He's written hundreds of articles about these topics for his own blog, other websites, and magazines after extensive research along with short stories. His research includes attending conventions, sharing on panels and presentations, and road-tripping with his wife. Join him at guildmastergaming.com.