Essence20: The New RPG System Which Powers Hasbro Licensed Games

Renegade Game Studios announced last year that it would be making official tabletop RPGs of various Hasbro properties, including Power Rangers, GI Joe, and Transformers. This week, they revealed the d20-based Essence20 game system which will power those games.


Elisa Teague from Renegade spoke to Forbes about the system.

“The Essence20 Roleplaying System is a d20 based system that uses what I call a ‘fashion plate’ system for character design, drawing from three aspects: what type of person are they, what is their function as part of the team, and what experiences have they had in their life prior to becoming a hero?”

The system has three elements: Origin, Role, and Influence, and uses different dice for different skill levels.

"When rolling Skills Tests and Attack Rolls, a player will always roll a d20 plus the applicable die for the type of roll they are making, resulting in a total that must exceed the Skill Test’s Difficulty in order to succeed. Essence20 also includes a ladder mechanic, where if a character has specialized in a particular Skill, they may roll their Skill Die plus every other die type under it, choosing the highest die result to add to their d20 roll. A critical success is made when any Skill Die shows its highest number, giving a huge chance of rolling crits, mathematically, and of course, then being able to roleplay those epic results in the most heroic way possible!"

In Power Rangers, characters don't die. They can be defeated and taken out of combat, but the threats they face are not lethal. The core book covers the period of the show when Zordon was the Power Rangers' mentor. The main villains are Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa.


This weekend, at Renegade Con, they will reveal more information.

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

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OMG, the "Deluxe Limited Edition" core rulebooks for Transformers and GI Joe are priced exactly the same as their standard versions. This seems a little pretty unconventional.

OMG, the "Deluxe Limited Edition" core rulebooks for Transformers and GI Joe are priced exactly the same as their standard versions. This seems a little pretty unconventional.

Yeah they are available direct from the RGS webstore and I think they will be like the Power Rangers ones with the dice bag symbol on the cover.

And per the announcement stream tonight, release dates are Q1 for Power Rangers/GI Joe, with Q2 for Transformers, though they were hedging their bets because of the current state of shipping.


Podcast host, 6-edition DM, and guy with a pulse.
Both the TF & GIJ games look intriguing to me. Run games of both every Saturday morning seems the best time to do so.

Any other Community fans out there besides me that would use the GI Joe game to play as Wing Man, Tight Ship, Fourth Wall, Three Kids, or Buzzkill?


Seems silly though. It's like if Sony decided to publish their own video games, but not go through Sony Interactive to put on the PlayStation, but instead create a new video game system with nothing to do with the PlayStation.
Like, why not capitalize and synergize with the largest RPG company in the world? Why not bring in D&D fans to your other properties and create cross-over appeal with those other companies to later try D&D?
It's just ... well, it makes no sense.
Maybe because as @Rune suggests, Hasbro is getting paid (license) for a game based on their IP instead of funding a new game or 5e based game. No cost to them, only profit.


With giant robots and kaiju, I’m curious how scaling interactions between giants and regular sized people go.

I assume we’ll see more genre specific rules in each game and get guidance on how to use them in cross overs?
And thank you for dropping by!

We are going to address this today at 2:30pm PST in our RPG Walkthrough panel on but a LOT of thought has been put into this, especially since we are dealing with IPs that have monsters of various (and growing!) sizes, Zords and Megazords, tanks and other heavy vehicles, and bots that change into alt-mode sizes and also combine like Megazords!

The system is designed for cross-compatible play as well, and future supplements will guide players on how to create epic games with characters from multiple worlds. ;)

My theory is MlP will use a simpler version of Essence20 system because the market target is the preteen players.

It is curious because Transformers is a franchise whith shootings but also some spectacular melee fights, at least in the cinematographic universe. I wonder about the power balance between melee and ultratech ranged weapons. Power Rangers is mainly melee fights. Now we need a reason about G.I.Joe can't use firearms against Rita Repulsa's minions.

Yes, 1d20 + 1-2nd dice sounds like Alternity.

Will Essence20 an open licence, with a SRD?

* If the fandom starts to publish homebred adaptations of famous franchises (World of Darkness, Fortnite: Save the World...) with the Essence20 then this is a good sign of the system works rightly.


Do the new games use D&D style AC and/or saves?

Do the new games use levels and level based hit points?

How mechanically similar will combat be to 5e in general?

How closely compatible is the intention for using things like bad guys from the worlds in a 5e game?

How closely compatible would starting characters from the different lines/games be mechanically? Would a starting transformer and a starting power ranger and starting etc. be generally comparable in combat or do they start at different power levels?



I'm trying to get to these questions without repeating myself too much!

Essence20 is a completely different system than D&D/5e.

There is no AC in Essence20, and instead, characters have a specific Defense tied to each Essence Score that makes up their character (Strength, Speed, Smarts, and Social). For example, Toughness is the Defense associated with Strength. If a Threat hits a character and exceeds their Toughness, damage is automatically dealt. There are no additional damage dice rolls that result in extra math in Essence20. We don't want to slow down the action! Saves are also not a thing in Essence20. There are Difficulty levels for certain Skill Tests and an occasional contested roll, but any attacks on a character (and the results of such) are determined by the Defense scores mentioned previously.

Essence20 characters do level up! However, there are no "hit points" and instead, the Essence Score Defenses go up in leveling, depending on the character build. Combat rounds work in a similar fashion to other systems like 5e, with a turn order and such, but combat itself and how damage is dealt is quite different, designed for emphasis on roleplaying, fun action with a big chance of thrilling heroics, and no drawn-out combat slogs. ;)

All of the branded RPGs under the Essence20 system are designed to be compatible, so characters from each that may find themselves in the same game session will be relatively balanced. As for questions about 5e, again, the systems are not the same, nor are the stat block builds or functions of monsters...but sure, a creative GM with a bunch of prep time can do whatever they like at their own table if they want. The Essence20 stat blocks for Threats are built on the same model as character creation, so it makes it easy for a GM to make up their own enemies to throw into their games. Be creative and have fun! :)

I thanks the answers. Now I wonder about how to design the power balance of the encounter. Maybe the PCs are in civilian outfit (and only some hidden weapons), ergo, practically "nerfed", in the classic bar in the bar asking about a suspect to continue an investigation, and there is a classic fight against a gang of thugs greaser/motorbike-aficionados type "hell angels".

Or to cause a great surprise the Game-Master uses a long-time forgotten Hasbro's IP, the inhumanoids. Maybe these are too dangerous for the G.I.Joe but not for the Power Rangers or the Transformers.

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