Monday, May 12, 2008

First Impressions: Palladium's Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles RPG Sourcebook

I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of Palladium's new RPG source book for the Robotech setting: Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. Here are my first impressions of the book, based on a few read-throughs and comparison with the previous Palladium Robotech books.

The Villians

While this source book is billed as "The Shadow Chronicles", the content seems heavier on the New Generation Secondary continuity, and lighter on many aspects of The Shadow Chronicles. Of 333 total pages, the main villains of Shadow Chronicles (the Haydenites) garner a rather anemic 6 pages of information. Important statistics for the Haydonites themselves are not given in the sourcebook at all (which means you're going to have to house-rule combat involving the main villains). The 'mech stats are there, but the book provides no numbers on to strike bonuses, number of attacks per melee, etc.

The Artwork

The color cover is gorgeous, and I love the new art for this edition. The style and linework fit this edition perfectly. What is a little disappointing, however, is seeing some recycled artwork that has appeared in other Robotech sourcebooks, going back two decades. What's particularly galling is seeing recycled artwork from other Palladium source books that aren't even Robotech books. Seriously, Kevin, how many times do we fans have to see the same RIFTS Coalition States martial arts instructor? Couldn't you have drawn up an REF instructor kung-fu just this once?

Book Organization

Most of the book is poorly organized,unfortunaly. Not all the character rules are gathered in one place. There is no index in the back of the book, which could have also reduced flipping back and forth. There does not appear to be any ship combat rules, either-- when there are signifgant portions of the movie this is based on that feature ship combat, this is a rather glaring omission. From the press releases released by Palladium before the book's release, players were going to were going to see the stats on the spaceships, and I was looking forward to seeing what the Icarus could do.

Additionally, the Invid section is mostly a word for word reprint of the original Invid Invasion sourcebook content.

Character Creation

Much appreciated is the decision to place the character sheets in the middle of the book, which makes for easy photocopying. The character creation process has also been tweaked. The MOS (Military Operational Specialty) system in Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles adds some
flexibility to the Occupational Character Class (OCC) system. In the original release of the Robotech game, making a unified squadron or unit meant everyone was pretty much the same, with little to no variation between characters since there was really just one practical OCC: Veritech Pilot. Now players can select an OCC (Vertich Pilot) and each player can select a different MOS (Alpha pilot, Beta pilot, or Recon). Another nice touch: the book has some easy to use template characters that makes pre-gen quick and easy.

The Rules

As a whole, while the game is based on the Robotech anime, the combat system doesn't feel true to its source at all. There are still no concessions by the Palladium combat system to emulate the rules of the Robotech universe. For example, there are no one shot kill attacks, except for missile volleys missile volleys. Volleys of 4 or more missiles cannot be dodged at all, which is counter to nearly every Robotech anime, ever. Hitting Invid Eyes has been made nearly impossible (it now counts as an aimed shot with -11 to strike) and not worth the effort to attempt. While the MDC (Mega-Damage Capacity) of enemy 'mechs have been increased, the damage the good guy's weapons do has not. Unless the Invid in powered armor is an important NPC, it should not take a group half an hour to destroy it.

Conversely, The Robotech source book has an interesting way of handling Palladium's MDC rule, that while not quite in the spirit of Robotech, is at least a little closer to G.I. Joe:

The last M.D.C. of any armor, be it a body suit, mecha, or vehicle, absorbs all the damage from the final blast that reduces it to zero or below, saving the character inside. This is the case even if there are only a couple of M.D.C. points left and the attack inflicts M.D. x10 or greater.
For example, if a bandit is standing there with 10 M.D.C. left on his armor, and someone strikes him with a volley of 60 missiles from an Alpha mech doing, say, 3000 MDC... the bandit only loses his armor and is now standing on the battlefield naked and unharmed.

While this sourcebook may be a tad lacking as a Shadow Chronicles RPG sim, it is small, portable, and has some welcome tweaks from the first Robotech sytem that make character generation easier and more fun. If you decide not to use the Palladium Rules system, this book still is the best you will have in North America as far as source material goes, should you decide to convert to another system.

You can buy Palladium's Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles right here.

1 comment:

Nemus Kaiser said...

Truly an excellent. complete review.

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