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The Transformers RPG review – Intro

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series The Transformers RPG review

(Translated with (free version))

One thing that many here already know about me is that I like Transformers. Not everything of course, I think few Transformers fans do. But I especially love IDW’s new comics and also Marvel’s old comics. I like the toys and have an inordinate number of plastic goblins bought in adulthood. I even like the Michael Bay movies. I think they may have negatives, but they’re a hell of a lot better than a lot of the old cartoons (fight me!).

Transformers is my first and strongest geek love. The franchise I’ve never been able to let go of, that I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t like. Robots that transform has been My Thing kind of… always.

Anyway, Renegade Studios announced a while back that they’ve been licensed to make role-playing games on a number of Hasbro properties, including GI Joe and Power Rangers and… Transformers.

That game was released not too long ago, so now I’ve bought it as a PDF and intend to read and write about it here. As with my Neotech thread, I’ll take a chapter or two at a time, and give my thoughts in stages. I’ll also be taking a break from all other roleplaying reading in the meantime. I’ve actually read one NeotechD chapter I should rewrite, so maybe I will, but I won’t read any more until this is over.

Me and licensed games have a, uh, not too positive history. I wrote about the Terminator RPG here. This is my list of things I normally expect from licensed games:

  • A world description that in no way invites role-playing, but is mostly a rather dull summary of the original. Kind of like a wiki page. “Here’s a timeline of the TV show’s seasons, a summary of the mythology, and stats for the main players”.
  • An undersized SL section that doesn’t really provide much help in how to actually create and structure your own adventures that feel like the original’s stories. If you’re lucky, you might get a brief passage on the dramatic curve.
  • A rules system that’s D&D-ish, by which I mean it’s pretty crunchy, entirely focused on combat, and with heavy emphasis on character stats and feats and such. I’m not saying that all D&D versions are like that, but that’s the feeling I got from the ones I’ve read. And no, OSR doesn’t count in here; I’ve mainly read D&D 3 and 4 =) But yes, at best maybe something more BRP-ish – still crunchy etc, but maybe without levels and supposed grid battles at least.
  • If the original has some unique feature (magic, for example) then there are unnecessarily complex subsystems that try to simulate that feature in detail. Maybe the original ran dramatic handwaving, but here we’re supposed to have at least four tables.
  • Illustrations taken straight from the original, even though they really only worked in context. Ugly screengrabs from a TV show are standard.
  • An intro adventure consisting of a corridor – a series of encounters one after the other with very little agency for the characters as to what they want to do. Presumably, most of these encounters are battle-ditones. There’s also nothing in the role-playing game as a whole to suggest that you’re expected to run any adventures other than just those.

…so in other words, basically my perhaps somewhat cynical expectations of trad games in general, plus a few things that are then specific to just licensed games.

I’ve already seen a youtube video about the game, where the person who made the video sounded enthusiastic but several of my expectations were met. We’ll see; I’ll try to read this game with kind eyes.

But I will say that when Renegade Studios charges $38 for the PDF, and $55 for the physical, and doesn’t have a bundle… they don’t exactly create a good breeding ground for goodwill.

I’m one of those who clearly could have spent a little extra to get both, but I’m not going to pay 970 bucks for the book+pdf. And $38 is an expensive pdf.

Anyways, on with the review – it will be split up into several posts; likely one per chapter or so. At time of writing, chapters 1–8 are already up on swedish RPG site, and I’ll translate and add new chapters here whenever I have the time.

Series NavigationThe Transformers RPG review – Chapter 1: Introduction >>

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