Tag Archives: Kickstarter

The End of the Robotech RPG

Palladium’s Robotech RPG was the first RPG I ever played, and one I played extensively through middle school and high school. That’s probably why I feel the need to write about it in the wake of the news that, presumably because of the fiasco of the Robotech RPG Tactics Kickstarters, Harmony Gold decided not to renew Palladium’s license.

Robotech - Core Rulebook-1
The cover of the original Robotech RPG core rulebook.

Hindsight being 20/20, Palladium’s “Megaversal” ruleset was a very poor fit for Robotech (less so for stuff like TMNT and Rifts). On the one hand the ruleset was pretty average for 1986, but on the other hand Mike Pondsmith had published Mekton in 1984, and West End Games put out the brilliant Ghostbusters RPG in 1986, so a better Robotech RPG design clearly wasn’t impossible. The Macross Saga part of Robotech (which was a relatively straight localization of The Super Dimensional Fortress Macross) was about the power of love and music during a desperate war against an unknown enemy. Palladium essentially used a mutant D&D variant to create a sci-fi military RPG with giant robots, and didn’t make any effort to address even the basic conceit of confusing the enemy’s emotions with pop music. I don’t know that we would’ve appreciated a system that did Macross justice back in high school, but I do know that in our games Palladium’s rules didn’t contribute all that much to the experience compared to the effort that the GM and players put in.

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The DVD cover of the Macross movie, which unlike the Palladium cover, shows that it’s a story that involves characters that are human beings and not just cool transforming robots.

Of course, the Robotech RPG line was nonetheless successful, and put out a series of books with pictures of giant robots and such over the course of 30 years. I distinctly remember going to a convention panel about Robotech: Shadow Chronicles, and hearing the Harmony Gold people present saying that they were very happy with Palladium. Of course, that would’ve been in 2005 or so, and in the intervening 13 years Robotech RPG Tactics happened.

Despite a pretty profound obsession with all things Palladium overtaking our group in high school, we tried several other games (Toon, various World of Darkness games, GURPS, etc.), and moreover once out of high school everyone who stuck with RPGs found (and in my case designed) other, better games. Of course, making games that aren’t exactly top-notch design-wise isn’t a crime, and isn’t nearly as much of a liability in the industry as you might think, but even setting aside their lackluster game design chops, Palladium seems to be pretty dysfunctional as a company. They always seemed weirdly litigious and technologically backwards, and while some of the things they did to go against the prevailing trends turned out well (like doing softcover books at a time when RPG rulebooks were mostly hardcover and boxed sets), based on what Bill Coffin said about Kevin Siembieda’s approach to publishing books, it’s just not a good process creatively, business-wise, or on a basic interpersonal level. Even for weird little indie stuff, a certain amount of delegation is essential to get anything done, and a basic level of respect for your contributors is a must.

A miniatures game based on Robotech isn’t for me personally, but it’s kind of a no-brainer overall, and the Kickstarter for Robotech RPG Tactics raised $1.4 million. Of course, if you mainly produce products in the form of books, miniatures represent a massively complex undertaking that requires a great deal of expertise. That would explain why Palladium partnered with Ninja Division, which has successful games like Super Dungeon Explore and Relic Knights, but the whole thing has been a giant mess, which reached a new low with the loss of the license and a suicide attempt by the designer. Along the way there were major manufacturing issues that a company like Ninja Division with multiple miniatures games under their belt should’ve been able to avoid, which made getting manufacturing in China set up more expensive and time-consuming, and resulted in poor quality miniatures. All of this news comes to us with Kevin Siembieda’s writing, which never misses an opportunity to include a trademark symbol, and has things bolded at random. Watching from the sidelines I’m not going to try to untangle all of the blame, but it’s a pretty huge mess, and a lot of people aren’t going to get the game they paid for.

There are apparently people talking about a class-action lawsuit against Palladium, and I have to wonder if that will be the thing that finally tanks the company. I have a hard time applauding the demise of yet another RPG publisher–and one that defined my early years in this hobby no less–but then given everything we know about Palladium, it’s surprising that they’ve managed to keep shambling along this long. The Savage Worlds version of Rifts is a great illustration of how the company has a lot of wonderfully zany ideas with potential, but apparently lacks the ability to really compellingly implement them for anyone not impressed with lists of increasingly more powerful guns and robots. Savage Rifts got me excited about the story possibilities of Rifts North America in a way that Palladium’s own Rifts books never did. Their attempts to branch out beyond RPGs haven’t gone that well either, most notably when a Rifts video game got made, for the widely mocked failure that was the Nokia N-Gage.

Regardless, I hope that the talented people who’ve worked for Palladium like C.J. Carella (who created Nightbane and made some great contributions to Rifts), Kevin Long (whose art defined a lot of the look of Rifts and Palladium’s Robotech), Vince Martin (who among other things did all kinds of unique designs for the Naruni and Rifts Underseas), and Newton Ewell (who did phenomenal work for Rifts Atlantis and Pantheons of the Megaverse) have all found more and better employment. Likewise I hope that people remember Erick Wujcik’s legacy.

Of course, Harmony Gold is another company that has a pretty bad reputation, on account of being so litigious about their tenuously-held Robotech rights that they’ve gone as far as to block the sale of Macross toys manufactured in Japan, not to mention going after anyone who uses designs even vaguely similar to those seen in Robotech. HG turned the licensing issues with BattleTech into a protracted mess, and now there’s a whole thing with the “Unseen” BattleMechs. All of that probably makes Harmony Gold a worse company than Palladium, and while they too made something that defined my early years, the fact that their rights to the anime that make up Robotech expire in 2021 (and given that Tatsunoko sued Harmony Gold, they probably won’t opt to renew it) means that if nothing else we’ll go from a litigious American company to the benign neglect of the odd combination of multiple Japanese companies that hold the rights.

Anyway, that’s our dose of industry drama for today. I outgrew being angry about Palladium a while ago, but every now and then I end up seeing posts online and thinking, “What’s Kevin Siembieda done this time?” You have to be passionate and not too concerned with making money to get into RPG publishing, but then I have to wonder if the fact that I haven’t heard about similar fiascoes with, say, independent comics is just because I’m not as plugged in or what.

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Yaruki Zero Podcast #23: The Trumpet

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Yaruki Zero Podcast #23 (26 minutes, 51 seconds)

Listening to way, waaaaay too much of The Bugle (a comedy news podcast by John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman), I wound up doing a YKZ podcast that’s a weird mix of my usual blather and some weird attempts at humor. I talk in silly bullshit mode about the Super Bowl (be sure to check out the Breaking Madden Super Bowl) and some weird stuff from the news, and in normal mode about i.hate.everyone and Kickstarter stuff. (And you should totally check out The Whispering Road, Dice Empire, and Japanese: The Game.)

This podcast uses selections from the song “Click Click” by Grünemusik, available for free from Jamendo.com. If you like the song, consider buying some CDs from Nankado’s website.

Caricature of Ewen courtesy of C. Ellis.

Yaruki Zero Podcast #22: 2013 in Review

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Yaruki Zero Podcast #22 (39 minutes, 42 seconds)

2013 was quite a year for me, plus I haven’t done a proper podcast in ages (literally over 2 years…), so I decided to do an overview of my year, covering the Channel A and Golden Sky Stories Kickstarters, Maid RPG, Fate and Adventures of the Space Patrol, Destiny Dice, Beyond Otaku Dreams, and a few other odds and ends.

This podcast uses selections from the song “Click Click” by Grünemusik, available for free from Jamendo.com. If you like the song, consider buying some CDs from Nankado’s website.

Caricature of Ewen courtesy of C. Ellis.

Golden Sky Stories Update: Progress and Bonuses

I figure we’re a bit overdue for an update on what’s going on with Golden Sky Stories, so here goes. Right now the plan is to launch the GSS Kickstarter on the heels of Tenra Bansho Zero‘s Kickstarter. Assuming Andy and Luke keep on schedule, that means we should be launching the GSS Kickstarter around the end of June. That means we have a couple more months, and we’ll be using that time to get everything in order so that when we do our own Kickstarter we’ll be that much more able to get everything out to everyone without undue delay.

Slow and Steady Does the Layout
The graphic designer for Golden Sky Stories is none other than Clay Gardner. He is the designer of OVA: Open Versatile Anime, and has done graphic design work for a huge variety of projects, including several games from Minion Games. The original Japanese version of Golden Sky Stories was already a feast for the eyes, but Clay is using his graphic design skills to add another layer of polish all the same. He recently put up a blog post where he shows off what he’s doing with the power descriptions for rabbit henge. Clay’s currently about halfway done with the layout, and I’m really liking how it’s looking so far.

Something Fishy
A while ago I hit on the idea of making a new, original character type for GSS as a Kickstarter reward. Ben Lehman (who you may know from games like Polaris and Bliss Stage) stepped up and offered to try his hand. About a day later he sent me his first draft of a writeup for fish henge. We’ll be doing some refinements between now and the Kickstarter of course, but Ben’s writeup is already wonderfully whimsical and mythical. It’s a bit of an “advanced” character type that’ll be a little tricky to play.

I’ve also been working on a writeup for “pony henge,” which are indeed partly inspired by My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, albeit with plenty of elements inspired by reading up on horses on Wikipedia. Looking up idioms/cliches about an animal is a great way to come up with powers for henge by the way. I’m still working out what exactly to do with these new writeups, but at present I’m thinking of having the fish henge be a Kickstarter exclusive and having the pony henge be a freebie.

Yuuyake Koyake/Golden Sky Stories is Coming!

If you’ve been following this blog, noticing my forum posts, or talking to me in person, chances are you saw this coming.

Star Line Publishing is a joint publishing venture between me and my longtime friend Mike Stevens (with a few other people lending a hand), and I am very, very happy to announce that Star Line Publishing’s first big release will Golden Sky Stories, an English version of Yuuyake Koyake, a tabletop role-playing game by Ryo Kamiya, the designer of Maid: The Role-Playing Game.

Golden Sky Stories is a heartwarming role-playing game. Players take on the role of henge (pronounced “hen-gay,” like a chicken that’s happy, not a Celtic monument), animals with just a little bit of magical power, including the ability to temporarily take on human form. They live in a little town in rural Japan, where they help ordinary people solve problems and become friends. This is not a game that will replace all of your other games, but it’s a game you can turn to as a change of pace, to go somewhere warm and safe. It is a diceless, resource-based game, and it’s meant for game sessions to last between 45 minutes and two hours.

For Maid RPG we crammed three books worth of material into one volume, but for GSS we’re starting with a thorough and careful translation of the 120-page core rulebook. It introduces the base rules of the game, lets you play as six different kinds of henge (foxes, raccoon dogs, cats, dogs, rabbits, and birds), and includes a replay, NPCs with story hooks, two scenarios, and a guide to Hitotsuna Town. We’re aiming for a very faithful translation, and the only notable change will be the addition of several pages of cultural notes. The original Japanese version has three very excellent supplements (plus a doujin supplement for, of all things, Touhou), but the main book is wonderfully complete by itself. We very much want to put out the other material, to tell the full story of Hitotsuna Town and give you many other new kinds of characters to play and meet, but one thing at a time.

For various reasons it’s taken some considerable time to sort everything out enough to go public, so as of this announcement we’ve already been working hard on this project for some time. We aren’t yet ready to set a firm release date, but things are actually pretty far along. The actual translation and editing are already done, and our layout guy (Clay Gardner, creator of OVA) has already gotten started. We expect the book to be a little over 120 pages, and it will feature fantastic art by Ike, who has since gone on to find success with an excellent manga called Nekomusume Michikusa Nikki (Catgirl’s Wayside Grass Diary).

As with Maid RPG, I’ll be posting up previews with tantalizing details about the game and its workings leading up to the actual release. I’ll be writing about the setting, the game’s workings, and what you can expect when we do finally release the supplements in English.

If you would like to help make Golden Sky Stories a reality, we’re planning to do a Kickstarter to raise money for the first print run. We believe this is a wonderfully unique game, and we hope you’ll help us spread the word!

Retailers, distributors, and anyone else interested in this game are welcome to contact us at info@starlinepublishing.com.

News Post Trio

It turns out a bunch of news about a bunch of really neat stuff popped up all at once, so here’s a post about three different things that I think are really awesome.

Madoka Magica
The broadcast of the last two episodes of Puella Magi Madoka Magica got delayed because of the earthquake and tsunami (the relief efforts are still ongoing, and our Maid RPG charity thing is still going on for a few more days by the way), but they’ve announced that those episodes will be airing at long last on April 21st. Not a few fans, myself included, are going to be relieved to finally see the conclusion of this exceptional series.

I feel like I ought to try to get the second draft of Magical Burst done by then, but I’m not sure if I can actually pull it off. Thanks to the recent thread on /tg/ and other people offering feedback I have a laundry list of great ideas to try to implement in the game, on top of all the stuff I already wanted to do myself. (Plus I’m significantly expanding the mutation table, which means lots of time consuming brainstorming and such.)

Atarashi Games x 3
Jake and the gang at Atarashi Games have THREE new games just about to come out, all available for preorder:

  • Panty Explosion Perfect: A major revision of AG’s flagship psychic schoolgirl adventure game, full of instructional manga and other neat stuff.
  • G x B: A shoujo dating sim game for four players. One player is a shy girl named Momoko, and the other three are her potential suitors.
  • Tulip Academy’s Society for Dangerous Gentlemen: A “romantic adventure” game in the vein of Ouran Academy.

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple
Daniel Solis’ new storytelling game, Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, has launched its Kickstarter (and already met its goal!).

The game is about pilgrims, young people in a world with kind of an Avatar: The Last Airbender vibe, who get in trouble, help people, and have adventures through a fantastic world.