25 August 2015

Thesis Draft submitted and Robotech!

  So I got my draft thesis turned in about five days early.  This allowed by professor to skip a round of golf (apparently) and grade it early to get it back to me.  I got a 90, and five things to fix.  Luckily all of them were structural to the paper and nothing to do with my research or my conclusions.  This means I am doing OK, methinks.  I finished the fixes today and re-submitted the draft for approval.  This is week thirteen of a sixteen week semester, so I'm very close to being finished with this grad school stuff for the time being.  Which is good, because apparently my psyche needs a rest.

  So, Robotech.

  Palladium Books has at long last released their United Earth Expeditionary Force Marines Sourcebook.  I scored a copy of this to congratulate myself for getting an "A" on the thesis draft, and rapidly devoured the book.  In a way, this is the Robotech book I've been waiting for since I first opened the covers of the Robotech II: The Sentinels RPG Palladium put out back in the 80s.  Why?  Well, because the original Sentinels RPG featured cyclones and Gallant H-90s and things that weren't shown in the Sentinels VHS tape to have been introduced when the expeditionary force left Earth.  Over the years, some writers have implied that SDF-3 did not leave Earth alone, as in the Jack McKinney novels.  They have also posited that SDF-3 and other Earth ships had to fumble about a bit before locating the Fantoma System and the Robotech Masters' homeworld of Tirol. 

  This sets up a very interesting space for an RPG campaign.  If there is an REF - excuse me, UEEF - fleet, and there are reconnaissance missions exploring unknown space in an effort to find the location of Tirol, then there's a lot of story to tell between the fleet leaving Earth and arriving at Tirol, as happened in a single space fold in the novel and Sentinels OVA.  This seems to be the canon according to Harmony Gold and Palladium according to the timeline in the Marines Sourcebook, giving a nice block of time and space for GMs to create their own Robotech adventures that have not already been spelled out in novels, comics or on the small screen.

The book solves the issue of what equipment the UEEF had available at what point in the mission as well.  Prototype Cyclones are here, along with the early production models, space models, and the pre-Cyclone Walker powered armor.  The REF destroids are re-artworked into the new UEEF destroids.  I am of two minds on this, I liked the original art, but I also like this new art.  The art does try very hard - perhaps a bit too hard - to be consisted with the look of the Genesis Climber Mospeada mecha that predominate during the Sentinels time period.  Alpha-style arms and shoulders are the order of the day, most of the cannon barrels look like the barrel from the GU-XX, leg styiling is also very Alpha in nature.  This does tend to give it all a very uniform look, as if the units were all designed by the same faction, but in some cases the changes don't make sense.  The Alpha shoulder, used on many of the battleoids and even on the Zentraedi Tactical Battlepod upgrade, looks nearly identical to the Alpha Fighter's missile pod shoulder, but in most cases no missiles are mounted there...  Even the Monster has become an upright bipedal mecha of huge size with very Alpha-like styling.  That said, every single mecha does look incredible.  The new Officer's Battlepod would make even the most die-hard Glaug purist go "whoa."

The Sentinels races make a return appearance in this book, at which point I started to think of it as a second edition of the original Robotech II RPG more than as a "Marines" sourcebook.  The aliens are all there, all with new art.  I actually enjoyed the more anime-style art for all the Sentinels races save the Spherisians, where I prefer the original art.  The stone men of Spheris now look a lot like Groot for some reason, instead of having smooth, curved bodies as in the old artwork.  The races are written up in the RIFTS RCC style, but most are allowed to choose normal human OCCs if they so elect.  There are a few cool race-specific RCC/OCCs, like Perytonian Energy Wizard and Karbarran Combat Laborer.  The vibro-shovel is a fun Karbarran artifact, and reminds me of the many times I was killed in Day of Defeat by a German with a shovel. (Thanks, Tony!)

Also back in this book is the Titan/GMU - the massive mobile headquarters unit from the original Sentinels RPG.  This time it's not billed as being quite as able to carry unrealistic amounts of mecha, and it's not unique, there are apparently a number of GMUs in the fleet.  The big gun on the GMU is still powerful, but I found the stats to seem not quite as powerful as I thought it aught to be at that size.  Seeing the GMU artwork reinforced my feeling that this was Robotech II 2.0, so why is this the Marine sourcebook?

  Breetai, apparently.  According to the text, Breetai felt the need for a ground-forces element in the UEEF fleet to be created on the pattern of the United States Marine Corps.  He was personally impressed with the history, fighting spirit and traditions of the USMC and lobbied for a UEEF MC to be included with the expeditionary force.  This gave many of his Zentraedi a familiar place to serve, and appealed to many humans as well.  Apparently, many Sentinels aliens and even Tirolians end up enlisting in the Corps to help fight the Regent's Invid and liberate the Sentinels worlds.  This is actually a pretty neat idea, methinks.  It gives an alternative to the Big Mecha game.  Sure, the Destroids and Veritechs are still available in their full-size glory, but now there is a viable option to play Marine grunts pulling recon missions or infiltrating hives or rescuing Karbarran hostages or what have you using their own boots, or maybe Cyclones, to get the job done.  This scale also allows the aliens to shine, as they won't be competing with the humans and their 60-missile Alpha fighters.  Now the great strength of the Karbarrans and the wizardry of the Perytonians and the fighting prowess of the Praxians can have an effect on the missions without being outclassed by the huge mecha.  On the flip side, there are a few mecha that even Marine grunts can have issued at need that will lend much-needed support fire to a dismounted squad or Cyclone squad.  Lots of options.

  All in all, I very much enjoyed the book.  Some folks have said the timeline is not quite accurate, but at this point we don't really know what accurate would look like since Harmony Gold is the only entity that is purported to know what is canon and what is not these days.  There have also been some criticisms of the material reprinted in this book, like the Condor, the Zentraedi RCC information, and a few other mecha.  Well, sure, I would have liked to see some more of the space vessels that carry the Marines and a ton of other stuff, but all in all I'm pretty pleased with what's in the book.  I think it will make a great addition to the Robotech campaign I want to run sometime in the near future.

05 August 2015

The Thesis Marches On

Greetings, Programs.

  As this post is being written, I have 11 days until my thesis draft is due and I have to see how defense works at online school.

  I'm making a lot of progress, and learning things I didn't know about gaming along the way.  Did you know William Tecumseh Sherman objected to wargaming in the American military on the basis of what we would call a lack of morale check rules?  Look it up, when Major W.R. Livermore suggested the US Army adopt Prussian-style wargaming, Sherman objected that men are not blocks of wood.  He knew no unit would stand in the line of battle until attrition destroyed it completely.  Morale breaks, men run or balk at advancing.  Sherman felt the games were not realistic.  In modern terms, he was looking for morale rules...

  Did you know we owe video games to the military?  Tennis for Two was presented on an oscilloscope, the first video game, at a national atomic laboratory.  Spacewar was written by Steve Russell on a PDP-1 that was bought and paid for by the military.  Hell, packet switching, the base technology of the modern Internet, was developed as a way to secure communications in the event of nuclear attack.  The RAND Corporation, long an atomic war think tank in the employ of the US Air Force, introduced the ubiquitous hex map for their games and simulations.  The hex map is a staple of modern tabletop.

  Most of what I've learned is that I'm ready to be DONE with the graduate school experience.  The specter of going for a PhD is still there, and possibly a requirement to find permanent employment as a professor- but I need to take a year or two off before I tackle that hurdle.  I need a break.  I need to spend my non-work, non-family time enjoying my hobbies.  I find that when you are forcing time for your hobbies in the name of staying sane, they are not as fulfilling as they are when they're not so terribly urgent.  I have blog posts to make, games to write.  I'm ready to be done with the things I have to do and get on with what I want to do - isn't that the point of finishing my college and searching for a more lucrative academic post?

  My thesis draft is due 16 August 2015.  Once it's in, we've got the defense to do, then the revision for the final draft.  By the end of September, I'll be done.  And that means more posts here, and more games we can talk about.  I want to revisit the games of TSR that weren't D&D, like Top Secret, Gamma World, Star Frontiers, Metamorphosis Alpha, Gangbusters, Marvel Superheroes...  I love all those games, and don't get to do much with them.  I also want to work on my adaptation of what Bobby and I call MechWarrior 1.5, sort of our version of what MechWarrior could have been if we'd been writing it back in the 80s.

  Stand by, the three of you out there who read the blog.  We'll be getting back to regular traffic and longer gaming-related posts soon.