DVD and re-watched the US edited Voltron series, purchased the soundtrack CD... yeah, I'm a fan. When Netflix launched theirVoltron: Legendary Defender series I dove in with both feet.
So... Voltron. Season one of the new series rocked. I've just begun season two. Being the gamer I am, I starting thinking about how to use some of these concepts and themes in a tabletop RPG. The colorful lions and teams of heroes come from the Japanese Sentai tradition. The Sentai-style show began in 1975 with GoRanger. This is the great-great-ancestor of what we know as Power Rangers over here. In fact, the official Super Sentai lineage is still ongoing as of this writing. While Beast King Golion is not strictly a part of this line, many of the concepts of the Sentai series are present here. A team of pilots (usually 5, usually with 1 female and sometimes a kid) in multicolored uniforms with matching mecha that usually combine to form a super-mecha. We can see shades of this in everything from Battle of the Planets (Gatchaman) to Mighty Orbots. Usually each teammate has a definite focus, a skill, a personal attribute, an archetype. Sometimes this has something to do with their color codes - blue has an affinity for water, for example.
How does this translate into gaming? On the surface- perfectly! Think about it. An action-oriented team where the concept of niche protection is hard-coded into the genre. Think about it from a D20 Modern perspective, using Voltron as our basis. Shiro, Paladin of the Black Lion, is primarily the leader archetype. Yes, he is a great warrior- possibly the best in the party, and if anime conventions and plot lines from the original Golion remain in play, he's the Roy Fokker. By that I mean he's probably more of an NPC than a PC, the seasoned vet who brings the team together and then gets taken out so that the younger hero can take his place. But, we're going with the season one team, here. So Shiro would have levels in Charismatic Hero. Perhaps not all his levels- but half of them at least. His function is to lead and inspire. Hunk is the mechanic and tough guy archetype - his levels would be split between Smart Hero and Tough Hero, with Tough being the majority and adding a few Feats to back up his technical acumen. Pidge would be Smart and Fast, with Smart being the focus. Lance would be Fast in great part, as his piloting and combat skills are his primary asset. Keith would be fast and charismatic, as he is the heir apparent to Shiro. Princess Allura, although she does not currently pilot a lion, would probably be Dedicated Hero with a dash of Smart and Charismatic.
The lions each make up a part of Voltron - and here's where the problems come in. Each lion contributes its essence to the whole that is Voltron, but Voltron effectively becomes one character when the lions are united. This means that four out of your five PCs are twiddling their thumbs in a conventional game. So what to do? I credit my partner in crime in game design Bobby for coming up with this idea: If each lion represents one of the core attributes, then certain combat options would be under the control of that lion's pilot alone. The new Voltron series seems to bear this out- when they need the shoulder cannon, Shiro has Hunk activate it. When they need the sword, Keith activates that. Each Ro-beast has a different fighting style and different weaknesses, which makes figuring out how to fight them a puzzle for the entire party if written correctly.
So, just for giggles, let's take a look at this. I'm going to assign each lion a primary and secondary Ability Score from the D20 array that they bring to Voltron.
Black Lion: CHA and WIS - As an individual lion, the Black Lion is the largest and most powerful of the lions, but as the core of Voltron, it is where Voltron's intimidation and inspirational abilities spring from. Voltron puts fear into evildoers and inspires those of good heart to have hope. As part of Voltron, Black Lion brings these abilities to the table.
Blue Lion: WIS and CON - The Blue Lion in the original series was the powerplant for Voltron. Therefore this lion brings some of Voltron's CON, but it also brings WIS to contribute to the kinds of actions that would come from a Dedicated Hero - repair of Voltron being an important one.
Green Lion: INT and DEX - Green Lion brings stealth and wiliness to Voltron.
Red Lion: DEX and STR - Red Lion brings the Blazing Sword, as the contributor of Voltron's combat skills, DEX and STR flow from Red Lion.
Yellow Lion: CON and STR - The Yellow Lion is the hear of Voltron's toughness and resilience.
So, each lion would get a list of abilities they can add to Voltron. For the sake of brevity, let's give each Lion three abilities just to see what it would look like.
- Basic Attack (Melee)
- Intimidate - Force Morale Check on enemy units of smaller size class than Voltron.
- Inspire - Similar to Clerical Bless, gives bonus to allies on saving throws and morale checks.
- Basic Attack (Kick) - Option to do Cold Damage
- Automated Repair Systems - As Cure Light Wounds on Voltron
- Power Surge - Grant bonus to Voltron's FORT Save.
- Basic Attack (Ranged) - Beam weapon from lion's mouth.
- Analyze Enemy - Give attack bonus on following round.
- Find Weakness - Give PCs a clue as to the deficiencies of an opponent.
- Basic Attack (Punch) - Lion Bite
- Blazing Sword! - Hell yeah.
- Multi-Attack - Attack multiple opponents.
- Basic Attack - (Kick) with optional Fire Damage
- Power Attack - Modifies any of Voltron's melee attacks.
- Shoulder Cannon - BIG Ranged Attack.
Now that I've jotted down these ideas, there are other things to look at. Bobby mentioned each lion and pilot being able to lend their feats to the whole, which reminds me of the way the Pointman class can lend feats to the whole team for the duration of a mission... There's a lot to consider here if I want to run Voltron or a similar Sentai-inspired game in the future.
Just some notes and ruminations I thought folks out there might enjoy.