In the beginning there was Palladium

Ha, well, my beginning anyway. More specifically, Robotech, which Palladium had (shrewdly) acquired the gaming rights to. As a kid in the 80's Robotech was the shit, miles ahead of other cartoon tripe... though personally I don't think it aged all that well.

I was dimly aware of D&D and its ilk at the time, but I grew up in a crap small town and didn't know anyone who played until later school years. I also wasn't quite old enough to catch on to 1e in its heyday of the early 80's... sometimes I resent missing out on that; by the end of the decade the gaming landscape was a little different. So in 6th grade I picked up the Robotech RPG and sat down to puzzling out Palladium's system. I remember it being only slightly absurd and just wondered why insanity and the like was being covered in the first few pages. Of course having nothing to compare the system to I couldn't complain. The mega-damage concept seemed imminently reasonable to me. At first I just ran combat simulations with the dice, having no-one to game with, but convinced a friend of mine to try it out and had a reasonably good time of it, as much as you can have with two players anyway. I realize now the game is pretty one-dimensional. It's basically all about the cool mecha and really doesn't lend itself to real role-playing or character development at all. It wasn't until later I played in a proper group (AD&D) and got to enjoy the real deal, which of course was a vastly superior experience.

I look back on my first RPG with a bit of fondness still and enjoyed Palladium's quality artwork and treatment of the source material. In that respect they (well, Kevin Seimbeida) did a bang-up job. But now I know the system was just crap, and still is. It wasn't til a bit later and giving Rifts a go that I realized how unwieldy it really was. I know Palladium still has a fanbase that play it and that's great for them, but it doesn't work for me.

A little while back in my local gameshop I noticed some new Robotech RPG books. Palladium evidently acquired the license and put out some new content. Well, I say 'new' loosely because after flipping through the book for old times' sake it was evident that the content was exactly the fucking same as it was 20 years ago. I mean, there was maybe some new text that acknowledged the latest episodes but for the most part the artwork, layout, fonts, everything was exactly the same with huge chunks of stat blocks reprinted. It still baffles me that KS is unable to move into the modern era of desktop publishing.

At any rate all things Palladium quirkiness have been hashed out ad nauseum on other gaming blogs and forums; this is just my take on it. Robotech was my first introduction to the game and I'll always have a soft spot for it.


Monk said...

Much of my early gaming was with Palladium products, too. We played a lot of TMNT, which was very cool, except for the game mechanics. As you noted, the system was clunky as hell. Everybody has like 6 attacks per round and you had to write in 42 skills on your character sheet. I vividly remember spending an entire evening trying to play Robotech, with only the initial battle being completed. We never even got to the adventure!

I should play TMNT with Labyrinth Lord rules.

JD said...

No joke - I remember well all those stupid skills that never got used. I think TMNT shined through mainly because of Erick Wujcik's great design skills. If it could be ported to a better system it would be a 5-star game.