Despite the barely serviceable system that Palladium Games has humped from game to game since forever, they have had remarkable success landing and keeping the rights to licenses like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Robotech. They're still cranking away at new Robotech material today, having published a Shadow Chronicles tie-in book not long ago. Not long as Palladium and its publishing schedule measure time, anyway.
In honour of June being Mecha Month, I'm going to do my best to review a Robotech RPG sourcebook. Not just any sourcebook, but one that was already obscure when it was printed, one that I'm sure Siembieda and its authors (wherever they may be) would prefer to remain obscure, one titled:
Oh well. Sucks to be them, doesn't it?
A quick word on ROBOTECH
Anime's been with us on kids' TV for a very, very long time, but in the Eighties the steady trickle of shows like Gatchaman turned into a veritable tsunami of giant robots and space fortresses like Voltron and the Thundersub. Emerging from the mess was a weirdly dynastic show called Robotech, that changed art style, setting and casts as seasons progressed... because, as it turns out, they stitched three different series together.
The original series, Macross, was all about human relationships and perseverance in the face of unutterable adversity. Music is a major force through the series, boosting morale, softening the warlike hearts of the invading aliens, and good stuff like that. It's not very good music, but that's probably lousy translation and the singer's VA. This one's set mostly on Earth, and though the dubbed series says nothing about it, there are Red Commies still running around. Most of the population goes poof after aliens death-ray the planet.
Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross is still set on Earth, holding the fort while the Macross people take a few starships off in different directions to make sure humanity will survive another conflict, etc. They get invaded by the bosses of the aliens from the first series. There's still music. There's still commies in the background.
Genesis Climber Mospeada, or Invid Invasion as it was known, is still set on Earth... after the Invid have invaded, hungry for the organic superfuel that human and alien robots run on, and after an attempt to establish a counter-invasion went totally pear-shaped. The series is mainly guerrilla warfare themed with a side of the post-apocalyptic, dealing with suspicious civilians and hunting for spare ammo and parts while creeping toward the next invasion's target point.
One interesting thing about Invid Invasion is that there are two scales of transformable robots. One is the giant(ish) robot, most typically a thirty foot tall missile boat of a jet, with occasional nods to the simpler walking artillery that pop up in the earlier series. The other is the Cyclone , a collapsible motorcycle that can be broken down into pieces and combined with standard-issue body armour to make an extremely maneuverable suit of powered armor.
There are rumours that the commies are still around, collaborating with the aliens. Of course. There is a musician in the cast though! He's a fellow named Lancer, a 'retired' Military Specialist who's gone all pacifistic, and... um... he sings in the guise of a woman named Yellow Dancer.
He's also the person for whom this supplement is named.
Yeah, there's music in this. And commies.
The book is 48 pages perfectbound, slim even by the standards of the Robotech books back in the early Nineties, weighing in at eight bucks MSRP. The first eight pages are setting information, focused mainly on New Detroit, which is apparently just as much of a wrecked shithole as the older model, and on two new character classes: the REF Intelligence Agent (which isn't much different from the Military Specialist class printed in core books) and the EBSIS (commie) Military Personnel... because faceless goons really need to be statted out fully. They get mentioned as 'new character class' in the table of contents because there isn't room for an extra line.
The middle twenty pages are occupied by seven adventures of varying length. It's anyone's guess why they split them into discrete scenarios like that, because they're all part of the same damn road trip. Chapters? Scenes? Adventures? Eh, whatever. The last hunk is new mecha and NPCs, probably none of which you'll ever want to see again.
I'm going to summarize the adventure for the most part, because Palladium adventures really aren't very well or particularly interestingly written. This one actually has some thought put into it, which is noteworthy.
First and foremost, the adventure revolves around a rock group called... the Rockers. Apparently imagination is in short supply in Invid infested Earth. The first order of business is to decide whether to play the Rockers themselves, or to ride herd over them as NPCs. If the players want to be the Rockers (and c'mon, who wouldn't?) then guidelines are given for making a group of mundane characters, veterans of the earlier Macross and Southern Cross content, or military operatives that survived the failed beach head on Earth. It's surprisingly fair, and even the mundane option is a far cry from Beyond the Supernatural's Victim characters or RIFTS's Eyeball a Fella.
Any way you go, you're going to want musical skills... specifically because the GM warns you beforehand. And because of this, you're kind of fucked if you want to use an experienced PC who doesn't have those skills, aren't you? Surprisingly not! The book actually tells the GM to let the players swap out up to four skills for music-related ones. Not necessarily four instruments-- Palladium lets a player spend an extra skill slot on 'domestic' skills like instruments, raising them to 'Professional' quality. It's the only time I've seen an adventure give dispensation for that kind of sheet fiddling... probably because it's the only adventure I've seen that relies so heavily on a single gimmick.
The adventure begins in New Detroit, a haven for refugees, punks, freedom fighters and rock musicians. This being Robotech, music is held in particularly high regard, a sonic banner against the Invid overlords. The leader of the city asks the characters to stake out an area of town where people in old-fashioned EBSIS (Eastern Bloc Soviet Independent State) gear have been spotted. This is a concern, both because the EBSIS are traditionally MTCs (Moustache Twirling Commies) and splinter groups have been known to work as Invid collaborators. In this case it's true: these guys are Krugatch , a group so virulent that the Invid have actually been building mecha for them. When the PCs find them, they're about to stomp on an apparently harmless derelict with a 40' robot. The PCs pull the thing apart, but at the moment of triumph another, meaner vehicle pulls up, which the derelict scares off with a blast from an unknown sonic device, before conveniently passing out. If the PCs check his toy out, they find it looks like nothing they've ever seen before... except for the part that looks a lot like a synthesizer keyboard. It's best not to fiddle with it, because there's a 5% cumulative chance that it will go off to 'potentially devastating' effect.
Rock bands? Sonic weapons that look like musical instruments? Relax, that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach is natural.
Back at the base, it's revealed that the derelict is none other than Jeremy Alistair (PhD Robotechnology) (no, seriously), a genius with a fetish for sonology who had been working for the Krugatch because they offered him money and food to perfect his ideas for use against the Invid. Only too late did he realize that their moustache twirling wasn't just an affectation, and set out to set things aright. That led him back to his old friend
Professor Benjamin Walters, a fixture in New Detroit.
Shockingly enough, the Krugatch have taken Doctor Alistair's inventions and put them to use for the benefit of themselves and the Invid. Worse, they're gearing up to use them against a major resistance base in old California... after a quick stop by Detroit for a weapons test and some more moustache twirling.
But first, a rock concert!