Mecha-Gaming! GO! With Basic Roleplaying Mecha from Alephtar Games

With many roleplayers, enjoying anime of one kind or another is just part of the “gamer experience”. Regardless of the genre, gamers who are fans of anime often find ways to incorporate aspects of the media into their gaming, whether drawing on character elements, plot devices, or whole worlds.

The Mecha genre has a long and distinguished career in the roleplaying game community, with a host of different games and settings produced over the years for fans to enjoy. Making characters to be the pilots of giant robot warriors has a great appeal to many players, combining their love of the anime genre with their favorite hobby.

Just last year, Alephtar Games published a new roleplaying game for Mecha campaigns through Chronicle City, which uses Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying system. Basic Roleplaying Mecha offers rules and ideas to design a campaign setting for fans of Mecha - and even lets players pilot mechs from their favorite shows!

Basic Roleplaying Mecha

  • Authors: Paolo Guccione; Francesco D’Arcadia (mecha concepts)
  • Illustrators: Daniel Comerci (cover); Daniel Comerci, Francesco D’Arcadia, Mason Easley,
  • Mirko Pellicioni, Laurie Thomas (interior)
  • Publisher: Alephtar Games
  • Year: 2013
  • Media: PDF (126 pages)
  • Price: $12.90 (Available from RPGNow )


Basic Roleplaying Mecha allows players to portray the pilots and their mechs in an Mecha anime setting. Utilizing the Basic Roleplaying system from Chaosium, BR Mecha has rules for creating both pilots and their giant robot warriors, each with a wide range of abilities and powers. BR Mecha also includes combat rules for mechs in a variety of environments, including aerial and space scenarios. A Mecha setting and two scenarios are included, along with character sheets to keep track of the Mecha’s powers, weapons, and abilities during combat. A copy of Basic Roleplaying from Chaosium is required to utilize all the features and rules in this book.


Production Quality

The production quality of Basic Roleplaying Mecha is quite good, with solid writing and a user-friendly layout. The material is presented in a generally logical fashion, with white text on black sidebars for important notes about the topic being discussed. One chapter seems a bit misplaced in its order, but for the most part, the content is supplied to the GM in a decent fashion.

The PDF has both a table of contents as well as bookmarks to allow for easy navigation throughout the book. Important tables found throughout BR Mecha, particularly ones from the combat section, are reprinted in a few pages at the end of the rulebook.

The artwork in BR Mecha is quite good, and not surprisingly, all drawn in anime style. The cover is particularly well done, and in full color, while the interior art is done in black-and-white linework – and still quite good. Mechs, monsters, and other vehicles are also depicted with line art, and done very appropriately for the genre. Overall, the art definitely enhances the reading experience for the players and GMs.


Mecha Roleplaying! GO!

According to the author, Basic Roleplaying Mecha is designed rather specifically to recreate the sorts of settings, combats, and adventures that appear in Mecha TV shows from Japan. The character/mech creation rules and the combat system are detailed in the first eight chapters of the book. The ninth and tenth chapters offer a setting and some scenarios.

In the first chapter (Introduction), the author discusses the design of the book and how it works with the Basic Roleplaying system. BR Mecha rules are set up to simulate both the Super Robot and Real Robot sub-genres, with optional rule add-ons to tailor the combat and adventures to the liking of the GM and the players.

Chapter 2 delves into Mecha Design, and there is a very different design philosophy at work in BR Mecha than in other mecha-RPGs. The GM designs mechs for the campaign based upon the “stats” of mech models found on mecha TV shows and movies. As the characters in these shows are bestowed a mech and have almost no involvement in its design, so too are the mechs in BR Mecha – the players’ characters are given a mech as a plot mechanic, and have no say as to its design or upgrades. There is no point-buy system to build the mechs, but instead general guidelines to interpret the stats of mechs found on fansites and anime sites into a Basic Roleplaying stat sheet. This leaves the GM fully in charge of the game balance, and prevents min-maxing of a mech as is possible in a point-buy system where the players get to upgrade their mechs at will. In fact, mechs are rarely upgraded, but when they are, these giant robot warriors gain new weapons or abilities based upon the plot of the campaign, and handled by some all-knowing Sensei or by some military mech-tech team.

Designing the Characters is the main topic of Chapter 3, and these use a slightly modified Basic Roleplaying rules for character creation. The author offers suggestions for professions and skill levels, and adds some new skills specific to the mecha genre, such as Pilot Mecha, Artillery, and Pilot Spaceship to name a few. The character mech pilots can also be allowed to have psychic powers and even super-powers, just as they are depicted in mecha shows, but only if such things match the GMs campaign concepts. The author does add one addition character mechanic to BR Mecha not found in the BRP rules – Motivations. Players are encouraged to pick three or more motivations, and these are used typically out of combat scenes to pick up Fate points; characters can also have motivations “activate” in combat under appropriate situations to gain extra Fate points there as well. The system seems well-suited to creating good role-playing situations, and to introduce side-plots driven by the motivations of various characters.

Chapter 4 introduces other non-mech Vehicles for use in a campaign, with the author supplying stat blocks for several different types. These include military vehicles like tanks, planes, and helicoptors, as well as spacecraft, like capital ships and motherships. These vehicles are considered to be “support” craft, providing useful mechanics both in and out of combat.

Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 deal with Combat and Flight, with rule add-ons and tweaks to allow for all kinds of mech combat, whether on land, air, or in outer space. The author introduces some nifty mechanics, including hit locations, the effects of movement on targeting, and close combat options for mechs beating the heck out of enemies. The combat rules also include the use of the Fate point system from BRP, along with rules for handling a massive space or air battle centered around a capital ship or base.

The author differentiates the Sub-Genres of Mecha – Super Robots and Real Robots – with some rule options in Chapter 7. This chapter also discusses how Fate points and motivations play into the game, and how good roleplaying can generate additional Fate points to effect the outcomes of combats. In fact, players are encouraged to create battle cries for their mechs attacks and special abilities, with more immersive roleplaying reaping higher Fate point gains.

Chapter 8 covers Equipment that mechs can use in a campaign, and is tied into the Mecha Design system in Chapter 2. This content seems as though it should have been the third chapter in BR Mecha, or even part of Chapter 2, so its placement order is a bit odd. However, the various devices, weapons, and armor cover many different types of mechs from various mecha shows, and the author clearly has mined a lot of very cool tech-goodies from his knowledge of the genre. This chapter also includes design material for creating kaiju encounters, a common trope in some mecha shows.

Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 offers a campaign setting and some adventures for use with BR Mecha. The setting called Exodus depicts a fleet of colossal ships carrying the last humans away from a race of genocidal aliens. The fleet has been on the journey for so long that most of the crew have no idea where they are going or why the aliens are hunting them. It’s sort of Battlestar Galactica with mechs involved, and the author hints at all sorts of mysteries which the player-character mech pilots might discover about their spaceship world and about the reason for the war with aliens. The author include one scenario for beginning characters, called A Strange Discovery, which is both a very mysterious situation coupled to a combat scenario. Chapter 10 is a mech vs. kaiju scenario called Fukucalyse, set in Fukushima with a radioactive monstrosity destroying the city. Big super robots battling super big monster – what more would you ask for? Following the last chapter are pages of combined reference tables for combat, Mecha sheets for keeping track of the character’s mech, and an abstract battle map for use with aerial or space scenarios against a carrier base or capital ship.

Overall Score
: 3.75 out of 5.0


Conclusions

Basic Roleplaying Mecha
sets out to create a roleplaying experience with the “look” and “feel” of Mecha TV shows and movies, and seems to have accomplished that goal rather well. While at first glance, the Mecha Design section seems a bit arbitrary, it’s actually a very nice adaptation of BRP rules and incorporates the ability to use well-known robots from favorite shows as part of a roleplaying campaign. While the Equipment chapter was strangely separated from the design rules, it nevertheless contained a huge selection of gear to simulate a host of different mechs from many different shows.

And the additions of the Motivation system for the characters, when coupled with the Fate point mechanic, provides ample incentive to roleplay well and to create more interesting characters for a mecha campaign. So while the BR Mecha does not have a complete setting built into the book, it does seem to provide ample material to allow a GM to interpret or to create a mecha campaign as they choose.

Overall, there is a lot of source material and content in BR Mecha, and some fine rule tweaks to make it work with the BRP system. Given what comes in this PDF, RPG fans of Mecha should definitely check this book out, particularly if they like the idea of creating their own setting where giant robot warriors can do battle with kaiju, aliens, or other threats to mankind as yet unknown…

Editorial Note: This Reviewer received a complimentary playtest copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.
Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

  • Presentation: 3.5
  • - Design: 3.5 (Good writing; nice layout; chapter order was a bit odd in one instance)
  • - Illustrations: 3.5 (Great cover art; really lovely interior illustrations; good anime style)
  • Content: 3.75
  • - Crunch: 4.0 (Very good use of rules; solid rule additions and tweaks)
  • - Fluff: 3.5 (Good content; gamers unfamiliar with the genre might find it lacking)
  • Value: 4.0 (Tons of content for a decent price; great for a GM who loves mecha)

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