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unipus

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A member registered Jul 14, 2020

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What a huge, ambitious project this is, and how successful in many ways! For an experienced group looking to bring a combat-centric mech RPG to the tabletop, you'd have trouble doing better. The love and care that went into the design of the world lore, the mech systems, technology, and more is obvious and there are vast pages full of details. Much of it is brilliant, and at times poetic.

However, I specifically recommend this to an "experienced" group for the same reason: it is, in many ways, an embarrassment of riches. To take in the full scope of the worldbuilding (which is an admirably unique setting and worldview!), the mech systems, and more requires a considerable undertaking. I personally have read the book essentially cover to cover twice now, and still don't feel "fluent" in it. There are a number of not-entirely-intuitive systems (in some cases just vocabulary choices) which make it seem mechanically a bit more complex than I think it actually is. At 400+ pages, I can see why the writers would want to trim wherever necessary, but this is a book that is crying for examples of gameplay, and sorely lacking them.

By a similar token, for all the scope and grandeur of the setting, there's not nearly enough material, IMO, on a more approachably human scale. I get a great picture of galactic politics, technologies, etc -- and almost none of what it's like to really live in this world (or many worlds). In a sense, I can see this is by design: the creators have left the door open to tell whatever stories you'd like under the big umbrella. But there are some fundamental questions I found myself asking again and again. What is it actually like to live in a post-scarcity world? What sorts of people exist? What motivates them/agitates them? Who thinks they actually live in utopia, who does not? You will find many oblique hints to such questions, but not a lot of solid answers. Personally, as a GM or a player, I want more firmament to stand on, especially as many of the concepts are foreign by design. More concrete adventure and character hooks would be an improvement.

As far as characters go, it's also extremely systems-light in roleplaying, at least when characters are not in their mechs. I don't have a fundamental objection to that, except that Lancer's particular approach is so light that it would seem to make mechanically distinct characters challenging to create. For example, at starting levels, a given character will be at most 10% better at a specialized task than anyone else, and mostly lacking other key traits, talents, or attributes that might make them stand out. I don't think this is a problem, if you have a group of gifted roleplayers. People who are more systems-oriented in their thinking might have problems standing out as each character, stat-wise, essentially is the same as any other! This starts to change as characters gain levels, but not by leaps and bounds -- and personality is still expressed almost exclusively via mechs.

That said, I'd gladly take this labor of love, full of beautiful prose and art to match, over many of the half-baked RPGs that seem to have proliferated everywhere these days. I'll admit I haven't gotten to any of the supplements yet, and they may well solve a number of the problems mentioned above. I would unhesitatingly recommend this game, with reservations, if that makes any sense!

(but man, would I really love a hardcover copy!)