Sunday, March 18, 2018

Tabletop RPGs Are Not For All Things: Why Mecha Tabletop RPGs Suck

Palladium lost the Robotech license. There's been some talk about someone else picking it up. There's been talk about just getting a license for Macross. After some consideration, I think it'd be best to not pursue either property for use in publishing a tabletop RPG.


Because, as with BattleTech, the appeal is the giant robots going at it. Not being an idol singer. Not being a bridge bunny. Not being a useless twat that doesn't get to have any shot against the enemy. It's all about being a mech pilot--a literal mech pilot--and that means you want a wargame. (This is why BattleTech is best as a wargame, and the RPG is a joke.)

This is why there is far more action--and success--with videogame adaptations of various sorts than tabletop games. It's also why even the most well-known tabletop RPG examples remain obscure at best compared to Dungeons & Dragions; the combination of a narrow space for viable gameplay vs competing media alternatives shows that tabletop RPGs are a bad medium to make that happen.

All of the things you can do in a comic or anime series to make a mecha fight sequence engaging don't work in tabletop RPGs; the players don't want the bullshit storygaming fake drama, don't care, and will kick it in the kidneys until it pukes up blood and dies if forced to deal with it. Why? It's not fun. Giant robots blowing each other up with extreme violence is fun. Videogames do that better. Boardgames do that better. Miniature wargames do that better. Tabletop RPGs, despite being a wargame derivative, are shit at it by comparison, so it is not hard to figure out why they don't succeed.

You have to blend giant robots into other genres to get any traction, and even then they tend to drag things down because players want to get on with the giant robot smashing. It's that dominant of an influence, which is why you don't see many genre-blends that include them, and counter-balancing it requires equally-dominant elements. (Yes, I just explained why RIFTS can and does work, whereas Splicers does not.)

So let them go. Let all other properties where there is a similar phenomenon going on go. Tabletop RPGs, as a medium, are not for all things. Let the bad fits go and you'll be better off for it.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to play a game that does the fighter pilot/mech pilot thing, something like Space: Above & Beyond. Contrast the in-suit combat and out of suit interpersonal stuff. I remember playing Heavy Gear video game & wishing the out of suit stuff wasn't just cut scenes. But you may be right that TTRPGs aren't the best medium for this. Hmm.


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