Friday, May 16, 2008

Hey, "Mekton Empire" Is Better Than I Remembered!

All this recent jibba-jabba about old R. Tal games had me digging up my copies of Mekton II and Mekton Empire this morning. I brought 'em to work and looked over them a bit here and there.

Mekton II isn't really my thing, anymore -- I ♥ giant robots and all, but I'm just not in an anime place right now. (Plus, I have Mekton Zeta and Mekton Zeta Plus for that kind of thing.)

Mekton Empire, on the other hand, is a gem. I have reasons for saying that.

What we have in Mekton Empire is this: a solid yet flexible SF/space opera, inspired apparently as much by Gundam and Captain Harlock as by Traveller. You have a bunch of planets, each with a write-up (and even some abbreviated codes, wheeee!), a map, some new equipstuff, some new rules, alien races, corporations, etc., etc., etc. It's a hearty supplement to the core game.

It's the way the setting is presented to you, the GM, that really makes this thing rock some socks. Dig: There are several intentionally-blank spaces spread throughout the setting sections. They're there for you to write stuff in. No planet's location is established -- just empty brackets. You place it on the map; you write in the coordinates. Answers to the setting's mysteries? Blank lines. Certain details about important NPCs? Blank lines. The authors (Guy McLimore, Greg Poehlein, Mike Pondsmith and Jesse Matonak) seem to be saying, "Go ahead, GM. Write in this book. It's yours. We're not inferring it -- we're telling you. We expect you to."

The planets are swank. They range from quaint and welcoming to dark and mysterious to exotic and exciting. Their 'stats', as it were, are written up in such a way as to evoke a "Traveller UWP Lite" kind of impression in the reader, and manage to be evocative on their own. I immediately wanted to start making up my own planets, once I looked at the format.

The best thing, though, is this: It's a breeze to yank the anime influences out. If it looks like a furry, change the way it looks. If it's an anthrpopmorphic mek, turn it into a starfighter. Toss out the fairies (look, man, I dunno, okay?), and you're left with a workable space opera setting full of reptiloid pirates, mysteries to solve and a planet which does nothing but manufacture and export candy.

The candy bit, I'm keeping. That's awesome and it makes sense.