"With all of your love for these things did you ever do any kind of Mekton - Trek crossover? I'm sure there's a way to do a Mecha-Trek game."
Oh there is. And I have...
It's been a while, both in terms of writing up one of my 'Campaigns I Have Known' entries, and thinking about this particular game. However, I think it's fitting that I put this entry up now, considering my current Anime RPG obsession.
As is oft times the case, this needs a little set up...
In the early 1990's, the Iron Age of American comic books had fully set in, driving me away from the medium and fandom I'd loved all my life.
I moved toward my other interests, namely Anime, Manga, and of course tabletop RPGs. A few of my friends introduced me to other friends of theirs who shared a mutual interest in gaming, and Japanese pop culture. Before long I was gaming with a number of groups in a number of venues. One of the things all these games had in common [after a short while] was that they were all Anime influenced, inspired, or themed.
One nerdy pursuit within my nerdy pursuits became Japanese tabletop RPGs, called TRPGs in Japan (in order to differentiate them from computer or video game based RPGs). I was fascinated (and still am) by RPGs made by Japanese creators for a Japanese audience. I put quite a bit of effort into finding, or ordering them, getting translations (as I did not speak, or read Japanese very well), as well as collecting Japanese gaming magazines.
At some point I found a Japanese book store in New York City that carried Fujimi Shobo's Dragon Magazine (nicknamed 'Doramaga', or just 'DM'). I started collecting it monthly. Much like it's American counterpart, the Japanese Dragon Magazine was ostensibly a gaming magazine, covering Japanese RPGs and card games. In truth however, most issues were more focused on short stories, and manga, some of which were game-related fiction.
One very interesting, reoccurring title that caught my attention was a Science Fiction Space Opera Comedy novella, serialized over the course of numerous issues. The prose were in Japanese, and always accompanied by a few Manga style illustrations. Periodically it appeared to have game stats following the story, or in side bar boxes.
I eventually discovered that the story had started as a science fiction light novel, but fans of the series started submitting RPG rules, stat blocks, and such to the magazine using Fujimi Shobo's house system as a guide. The writer of the Paradise Fleet series, along with the editors of Dragon Magazine, eventually put all the rules together with background information, and published it as a full RPG.
Exactly when all this happened I am not entirely sure. That is to say, research and memory tell me that Paradise Fleet began sometime around 1988, but I don't think the first edition core rulebook was published until 1994. A second edition of the game, entitled 'Paradise Fleet Counterattack', came out in 2004. To my understanding, the game is currently out of print, but copies of 'Counterattack' can still be found in Japan.
I believe we played the game around 1990-1992. I know for a fact I did not have a rulebook. I never did. My friends and I were never able to get a hold of one. Instead, I used the rules and notes from Dragon Magazine, and fleshed out the missing mechanics with Mekton II, Cyberpunk 2013, and even a bit of MegaTraveller.
Campaigns I Have Known
THE LONG WAY HOME
Paradise Fleet RPG
Left - Core Rulebook 1988-1994
Right - Paradise Fleet Counterattack - 2nd Edition Core Rulebook, 2004
Title: PARADISE FLEET - THE LONG WAY HOME
System: Paradise Fleet (Fujimi Shobo - 1988-1994), Modified and Supplemented by Mekton II (R. Talsorian Games - 1987)
I was only able to obtain parts of the Paradise Fleet RPG rules due to the nature of their release at the time, and the other obstacles noted above. Like frog DNA added to missing dinosaur gene-sequences, I used Mekton II to fill in gaps, and construct the starships, starfighters, and mecha (the latter of which were not present in the official RPG).
Additional supplemental material was adapted, and added to the game from Cyberpunk 2013, and MegaTraveller.
Yeah, this one was a real Frankenstein's monster, but it worked.
Circa: Here's where things get really tricky...I seem to recall running this between 1990 and 1992, though I am not positive exactly when I ran it. I remember certain players being a part of it who couldn't have been in the game given those years. At the same time, I know I didn't play it in high school. It was definitely a campaign I ran during my college years.
Let's say is was 1990-1991.
There were two campaigns, run side-by-side and periodically crossing over into each other.
The first campaign, the Main Story if you will, was about 24 sessions in length, with each session only being about 4, or 5 hours long. Sometimes a bit more.
The second campaign, the Side Story, ran for about 12 sessions, but each session was 6-8 hours long.
Gamemaster: ME! I was about 20-21 years old.
Player Base: The Main Story had four regular players, and two players who dropped in and out fairly often. I would say that the two part-timers were there for more than half of the sessions though.
All were male, around 20-21 years old, of mixed background, and ethnicity (as were/are most of my campaigns).
The side story featured four regulars players, two male, and two female, who were older, probably about 23-25. Likewise mixed backgrounds.
Characters: Main Story
All the Player Characters in the story was around 20-25 years of age, just like the players.
Arges Bright, Corporate Alliance Cyborg Mecha Pilot (played by Pete H.)
A member of the Corporation Alliance military, Arges was a hot shot pilot paying off an unpayable debt to the CA for saving his life after a combat sortie went terribly wrong.
Now a cyborg with super-fast reflexes, and increased endurance, Lt. Commander Bright is one of the lead mecha pilots in the experimental First Combined Operations Space Fleet, aka the 'Paradise Fleet'. He begins the game as the second-in-command of his squadron, but soon replaces the commanding officer when the latter is killed in action against a group of Holy Noble Nation renegades.
Arges seemed to have had a split personality. Out of his mecha he was jovial, fun-loving, warm, and quite gregarious. Once in the pilot seat he became an unstoppable killing machine. At one point he swore vengeance upon an enemy pilot for killing his friend, only to meet that same enemy some time later in a drinking establishment on a planet. Arges bought the guy a drink, and basically told him no hard feelings. In the following episode the two pilots met in space, Giant Robot-to-Giant Robot, and Arges relentlessly hunted the dude through an asteroid field vowing to give him a painful death.
Hints were dropped that his cybernetic implants were either messing with his brain in some way, or his corporate overlords had placed some hidden programming in there on purpose.
Arges was a handsome, blonde haired male of average height, and a fit build. He usually wore either his Mecha Pilot Flight Suit (which was lightly armored), or what looked like a race car driver outfit with a flight jacket. Both sets of clothes had the same color scheme - Mostly black with smaller white areas, and red piping.
Commander Bright (after his promotion) was a decent hand-to-hand fighter, but an expert shot with his laser pistol. His cybernetic enhancements gave him an increased reaction time, a much better sense of spatial awareness, increased stamina, and inhuman endurance. He also had a cybernetic eye that could scan people, or objects for faults, or weaknesses.
He was an extremely skilled Giant Robot pilot, especially in the areas of maneuvering, and beam weapons. Only in hand-to-hand, or melee combat was he ever bested. His personal mecha was a modified transformable unit that could change from starfighter to humanoid robot, to a hybrid form similar to the Valkyries of Macross. It had low power, rapid fire lasers in the head, a beam rifle, and two powerful beam cannons on the shoulders that could only be used a few times before overheating.
Arges was the name of one of the cyclopes of Greek Mythology, a tip-of-the-hat to the character's artificial eye. His name means 'Bright'. In addition, the name is a homage to Bright Noah, a major character from the original Mobile Suit Gundam series.
Hiroto Theseus, Corporate Alliance Mecha Pilot (played by Dave C.)
Another officer and mecha pilot in the military of the Corporation Alliance, Hiroto Theseus was second-in-command under Arges Bright. He was both the less assuming of the two, and the more traditionally heroic in a Japanese cultural sense.
The consummate good guy with noble intentions, a serious demeanor, and a strong sense of personal honor, Hiroto was the perfect counterbalance to his friend Arges. Where as Arges was very friendly, and outgoing, Theseus was more subdued, stoic, even introverted to some extent.
Hiroto developed a rivalry with another mecha pilot, the renegade Raiden Nekomata (a PC from the Side Story game). The two clashed on a number of occasions, and although they did not consider each other 'mortal enemies', their differing ideologies made for one of the more interesting subplots of the campaign.
Hiroto was a dark haired, dark skinned young man of medium build. He was normally outfitted in his Mecha Pilot Flight Suit, which was primarily Blue, with smaller white sections, and red piping.
Lt. Commander Theseus was a decent hand-to-hand combatant, not bad with a firearm, but surprisingly good with a sword, and knife. He carried a Vibro-Blade, about the length of a Wakizashi.
Although not as good a pilot as Arges Bright, Hiroto was the better fighter up close and personal. His mecha was a non-transformable humanoid robot, with two energy swords (lightsaber style), that could overcharge and become 'Nova Swords'. After a single attack on Nova Sword mode, the saber would burn out. His long range weapons were a beam pistol, and missile launchers.
Hiroto is a Japanese male name that means 'to fly far' or 'to go far'. Theseus is of course the name of the Greek Mythology hero who defeated the Minotaur, and other monsters. Hiroto Theseus lived up to the name, going toe-to-toe with a number of gigantic, alien monsters during the series.
Reign Daisuki, Holy Noble Nation Mecha Pilot, and Ambassador (played by Robert I.)
The son of a Duke and Duchess of the Holy Noble Nation, Reign Daisuki (fifteenth in line to the throne I might add!) was the Ambassador of the HNN to the Combined Operations Space Fleet. When the Fleet's mission abruptly, and dramatically changed (see Synopsis), Ambassador Daisuki became our front man, negotiator, and first contact specialist.
Eccentric, egotistical, and overbearing at times, Reign was one of the most entertaining characters in the game, providing the comedic element that we might otherwise be lacking (but which was quite prevalent in the original Paradise Fleet stories). It was Reign who more often than not got us into thrilling adventures, and hot water, when the team wasn't in their mecha.
Reign was a very good looking if foppishly dressed man with a slim, though muscular build. He had black hair, dark skin, and red-brown eyes. He often wore an elaborate outfit that looked like Elizabethan meets futuristic fashion (largely inspired by the clothing of characters from the Manga Five Star Stories). Even his deep red Mecha Pilot Flight Suit was ostentatious.
Reign was not a particularly skilled fighter, although he was quite good with a sword. He possessed the ability to focus his 'Holy Noble Spirit' to generate a bright, shimmering glow about his person that filled onlookers with awe. This usually caused lesser opponents to back away, or even run.
Daisuki's mecha was very impressive. It was a huge, crimson colored humanoid robot with two shoulder mounted shields that together created a force field to protect the machine and its pilot. The robot could also project twin waves of force that would damage enemies, but more importantly knock them back and away a considerable distance. Its only weakness was that both the 'Twin Noble Force Field' and 'Twin Noble Force Wave' systems would put a heavy strain, and power drain on the mecha's powerplant. The 'Crimson Noble' was one of only two such mecha in existence, the pair having been custom made for his family as a gift (his younger sister - a Player Character in the Side Story - had the other one).
What I imagine the Crimson Noble looked like,
along with Reign sister Hime Daisuki - a PC in the Side Story
Image by Japanese artist 'Megamouth System'.
Reign is a play on words of sorts since he is a noble, but fairly far removed from his nation's 'God Emperor'. Daisuki is a Japanese term meaning 'I like you very much', but it can also mean 'I love you' in as close to a casual sense as Japanese culture would use.
Skoll Okami, Warrior of the Jinhua Kinku Empire (played by Michael M.)
Skoll Okami is a representative of the Jinhua Kinku Empire (literally, 'Golden Flourishing Wild (or 'Kinky') Empire), an interstellar power founded by genetically engineered animal-Human hybrids. He himself has wolf attributes, though he appears to be mainly humanoid (not a human with a wolf head for example).
At the start of the story Skoll is somewhat uncooperative, and aggressive towards the rest of the team, upset about how his people were treated in the past. Before long however, the other PCs form a tight relationship with him, proving that although the past was tragic, working together is the best way for them to survive now, and the only hope for the future.
Okami is nearly a head and a half taller than all the other PCs, broad shouldered, and muscular. His hair is long, resembles fur, and is light blue-gray in color, as are his eyes. Skoll's eyes are notably wolf-like, having 'too much iris'. At the top of his head are two wolf ears. His garb resembles pre-industrial Native American, and Pacific Islander clothing styles combined. He rarely wears anything on his feet. Towards the end of the campaign he gets his own, rather unique looking Mecha Pilot Suit.
Our greatest hand-to-hand fighter bar none, Skoll combines Muay Thai boxing, and wrestling moves to superb effect. He is very quick, and stronger than an average Human being. He also possesses heightened senses of smell, and hearing.
Skoll was the only character in the Main Story who did not begin the game as a Mecha Pilot. He usually remained on the command ship during mecha combat, or served as 'gunner' in Reign Daisuki's 'Crimson Noble' robot (which had a second seat for a weapons operator/passenger). Okami eventually gets one of the more unusual mechs in the entire campaign, a wolf shaped robot that could transform into a humanoid.
The name Skoll is from Norse mythology, a child of Fenrir, or Fenris, who chased the Chariot of the Sun. Okami is the Japanese word for wolf.
UPDATE: How could I forget our reoccurring guest stars/part-timers?
In order to get the feel of the campaign to be similar to the feel of the Dragon Magazine Paradise Fleet fiction, the game needed to include two important atmospheric, and thematic elements: Comedy, and Intrigue.
While Reign Daisuki provided some of the former, the latter was the domain of our two irregular regulars...
Masao Schedio, Corporation Alliance Cyborg Bureaucrat ( played by Will C.)
Director Schedio was a mid-to-upper level management bureaucrat in the Corporation Alliance government...um, company...same thing...who served as the liaison between the Combined Operations Space Fleet's command echelon, and our (PC) team of advanced scouts. It was Masao who provided us with our intel, interpreted orders where they were vague, and dealt with the results of the team's successes and failures.
Schedio was played expertly by my buddy Will, who imbued him with charm, dignity, and the put upon weariness of the classic Japanese salaryman. He wholeheartedly embraced the idea that he'd get little credit for the wins, and all the blame for the loses.
At the same time, one major, 'meta-plot' of the campaign, was that Schedio was in on a grand conspiracy that tied in to everything the story dealt with. He was both a cog in the works, and possibly a master manipulator, helping to steer things towards a mysterious end goal.
Director Schedio was one of two 'older' PCs, being described as a tanned, and weathered Japanese man in his mid-to-late thirties. He had salt, and pepper hair, gray-green eyes, and dressed like a combination samurai, and business man. He was cybernetic, but only in that he had a computer dataport/link in his neck, and could 'chip in' data chips for skills, and such.
Masao is a Japanese male name making 'correct man'. Schedio is greek for 'plan'. He is after all, the man with the plan.
Sir Aldebrand Carmichael Von Himmel, Holy Noble Nation Military Adviser
(played by ?)
(Although I can see the players face in my mind, I do not remember his name. I feel terrible. It's a fellow I haven't seen in over 25 years so, cut me some slack. ^_^; ).
Former Admiral of the Royal Holy Noble Fleet, Knight of the Holy Noble Nation Honor Guard, Heir of the House of Himmel, Sir Aldebrand Carmichael Von Himmel is the military adviser assigned to the PC unit. While Director Schedio would know the mission, its objectives, and how it fit into the big picture, he was not a combatant. If hostile engagement was expected, or discovered, Sir Aldebrand was called in to give the team advise.
Pompous, a tad pretentious, and constantly telling you about the time at the Battle of Altair, Sir Aldebrand Carmichael of the planet Himmel could easily be written off as nothing more than a self-important windbag, but that would be selling him short. First, he was extremely cultured, and knowledgeable self-important windbag. Second, his experience as a Mecha Pilot, a Naval Officer, and a commander of men was both impressive, and helpful on numerous occasions.
Like Masao, Aldebrand was involved in some beyond the scenes affair of great importance, and complexity. It was unclear at first whose 'side' he was on, and indeed the relationship between Aldebrand, and Masao seemed to imply they were at odds. Near the end of the campaign however, it was evident that they were working together, each concerned with a different aspect of the campaign's big secret.
Aldebrand was a red haired (graying at the temples), blue-eyed, Caucasian male of mixed European descent sporting a mustache, and beard. He was tall, fit for his age of nearly 40, and always wore a Holy Noble Nation Naval Uniform of excessive showiness. It has dozens of medals, epaulets, a cape, and touted a riding crop. He may have had a monocle. I can not confirm, nor deny that possibility.
Aldebrand is a Germanic name meaning 'flaming sword', or 'fire sword'. Carmichael refers to both the arch-angel Michael, and the old Scottish 'caer', or 'care' meaning fort. Von Himmel is German as well, and means 'For Heaven'. The player was going for 'Flaming Sword of Heaven', which was not coincidentally Sir Aldebrand's signature special attack in his younger days.
More to come...