An RPG Resource Review:
This remarkable book is intended to enable you to include 'mecha' action in just about any genre of d20 game that you may be running. Presented in a detailed yet readable style, it provides the system background and statistics to describe mecha in d20 terms and then delivers a stunning succession of 'campaign ideas' for setting up a mecha-based campaign in your chosen genre, including notes for incorporating them into your existing campaign in that genre if you prefer. Even if you are not particularly interested in giant fighting robots, there is sufficient inspiration here to make you wonder about using them.
The book is organised into four chapters. The first chapter is an overview: beginning with a definition of what a mecha actually is, and classifying them into three types - powered suits, giant human-piloted robots and vehicles. Then there's a quick summary of campaign genres and styles, each with an assessment of how well conventional mecha might fit in to them. This is followed by the details of how d20 mecha stats 'work,' with explanations of each term used in the descriptions later on.
The real 'meat' of the book begins with the second chapter, which looks at mecha in fantasy campaigns. Not quite as surprising as it might seem: here although they look and are used like more conventional mecha, the suggestion is that they are magical rather than technological constructs - or remnants from long-lost ancient but advanced civilisations - or something visiting aliens left behind. Four campaign outlines are presented, in which the mecha are constructs of the gods, the invention of deranged wizards, etc. Each is laid out in a systematic manner, with text describing the background and details of what is going on, suggestions for adventures to run in the setting and then a section of actual mechas designed for use in it. Each mecha has a full-page treatment including description, illustration and full d20 statistics. Each stats block is clearly marked as OGL material.
These settings include 'Guardians of Divinity' where the mechas are but two divine artifacts of great power (although they have inspired the creation of inferior copycat devices by teams of enchanters and metalworkers). Then there is 'Golemsuit Warriors' in which the first mecha was a golem-construct gone wrong, the idea then being adopted as the latest addition to the warrior's tools and put into production. Another setting is 'Beast Lords,' where the mecha are autonomous ancient constructs, created to protect the land against dimension invaders and roused many centuries later as they once again threaten the land. Finally there is 'Cities and Empires' in which the mecha are manufactured by lower-class craftsmen as a means to counteract the nobility's use of magic as a means to power... with a Goblin Empire with its own mecha as an added threat. These mecha, known as coalsuits from their power source, are non-magical although firmly rooted in fantasy.
The third chapter looks at contemporary and near future settings. Again there is a brief introduction covering various general aspects of using mechas in such a setting, followed by three campaign ideas. The first is Gear Krieg, a well-developed setting published by Dream Pod 9; and this section provides an overview of what is going on plus d20 versions of mecha already developed for that setting. There's certainly enough there to let you decide if you want to play Gear Krieg (a 2nd World War with fighting mechas added in concept), if not quite enough to get you started if you don't have any of the books for this game already.
The other two settings in this chapter are 'Phoenix Rising' - a rather fun contemporary through near future (about 2029) setting where one company has discovered workable cold fusion and, keeping the secret thereof to themselves, have built up a position of world domination; and 'Great Machine Decander' which is a more superpower style campaign in which an archaeologist has found the remnants of an ancient technology and used it for both good and ill.
And then on into the future with the fourth chapter. After a discussion of potential roles for mecha in the more distant future, the first setting is presented - Dream Pod 9's own Heavy Gear game. Quite a lot of detail is given, again giving you a good impression of the game and enough information to decide if it's a concept that appeals if not quite enough to run it there and then without more background material. It's an excellent outline, and one which could be used to give new Heavy Gear players an introduction to what they are getting in to!
The next setting is another of Dream Pod 9's games, Jovian Chronicles. It's 2212, humanity has spread out through the Solar System, and many mechas are more advanced forms of spacesuit - verging on self-contained one man spaceships. Naturally, there is plenty of conflict both territorial and between different organisations, so a good mecha punch-up in space or on various planets is on the cards. Again the introduction is thorough, and gives a good overview of the game's setting.
The next campaign idea is called 'Space Ranger Ouroboros' and in a rather different 2214, where man has spread to the stars, an inimical alien race is encountered. Reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica or Space Above & Beyond, characters are likely to be pilots of space-combat mecha, dealing with the alien threat as they serve aboard the Earth Space Force's flagship, the Ouroboros.
The final setting, 'Outworld Changelings,' involves little-understood alien technology, encounters with vast star-spanning civilisations having difficulty in coming to terms with these upstart humans who have suddenly infested a sector of space hitherto thought free for their colonisation... and mecha so complicated to control that only the flexible but unformed neural pathways of a child are able to cope.
The book finishes with details of how to make mecha as D&D magical items, and a few pages of pictures of suitable miniatures for at least some of the mechas depicted in the book.
Throughout the book, ideas are thrown out with abandon. Hints on how to incorporate any of the mechas, indeed parts if not all of each setting, into a campaign that you may already be running. Different ways in which these things may be used. But it is not a book to pick up, skim through and start running a campaign. Although the outline is there - if you choose to use one of the settings presented - you will need to settle down and think through precisely how you intend to use it. Create much of the detail, and of course the actual scenarios that you intend to throw at your characters. Likewise, if you decide to drop mechas into an existing campaign, you will need to work out how and why they are there; how many of them, and what level of importance they are to occupy - are they rare or unique items, or as commonplace as a rifle or sword as a weapon of war?
This is a book for spawning ideas, to read while you are planning your game, or when you want an additional twist to liven things up a bit.
[5 of 5 Stars!]