Thanks for taking a look at this entry, as it is not my usual fare.
Lets get down to the question at hand:
How many of you would be interested in a new Robotech RPG?
This subject came up earlier tonight as I was enjoying dinner with family. We were talking about Palladium Books not having the license anymore, Harmony Gold's license expiring in 2021, and what would be involved in producing a new Robotech pen and paper role-playing game.
I did a little brainstorming with some of my brothers and the idea is buzzing in my head right now. So here is what I'm thinking right now (2300 hours EST, May 9th 2018).
1) Licensing ~ With the current license with Harmony Gold set to expire in 2021, what would licensing look like? An initial license set to run through Harmony Gold's tenure and a second license running under Tatsunoko? How much would those licenses costs?
Licensing the IP is the critical first step in a realistic effort to create a new Robotech game.
2) Funding ~ Funding an RPG is daunting. If you are not creating your own art you need to pay people to create it. You also need legal documents for licensing and copyright ownership, ISBN and bar code costs, legal fees, edit and layout costs, etc.
3) Game mechanics ~ Its a game, you need rules. Those rules need to be play tested before release (because you want a game to be good).
4) Art ~ Personally I would like to see an all color art selection. That means a LOT of funding for art!
My thoughts on addressing the issues at hand:
1~ part a) Where licensing is concerned, I think the discussion would have to begin with Tansunoko. Afterall, with only three years remaining at Harmony Gold for their license period, one would need to look to the future of the game's viability. Discussions with Harmony Gold would follow, to address the period of their license. Any agreement reached would be dependent upon funding which will make things tricky.
1~ part b) As an incentive I would recommend that as part of the license an open game license of the sort that have been so productive on the DM guild be implemented. As with DM Guild, a percentage of the revenue from community produced content would be distributed to the license holding entity with an agreed upon percentage of that total distributed back to Tansunoko (more on this below, stick with me).
2) As all of you who have been following this blog are aware, I'm a huge fan of KickStarter. I would imagine that the best course, and one that would avoid the debacle that Palladium Books ran into, is to limit the initial reward structure to a digital format. Basically, keep it simple, get the license funded and get the books created and out to the people expediently.
A simple digital file reward would be easy to produce, optimize the funding to provide for licensing as well as some initial art.
3) I'm a fan of simple game mechanics. I'm also a fan of hard-hitting, lethal combat rules. I have a game mechanic system that I believe would work well for Robotech. There are also a plethora of well designed game mechanics out there which I could see working for Robotech. I think that ultimately it would depend on how things rolled out during the play testing as to how the game mechanics evolved and were finalized.
4) Art funding can be accomplished through the crowdfunding with enough interest. Palladium's Robotech book was only a little over 100 pages (if I remember correctly). Even for a small book like that, art costs can total a few thousand dollars for good quality work. I would expect styling of the art to mimic the source material, with a higher level of detail on the machines (lets face it, we expect it today).
A few thoughts I've come up with tonight about this:
I like Paiso's methodology in the development of Pathfinder and Pathfinder 2 as a good model here. First produce the playable "Play Test" book and get it into the hands of the people who want to play. Use whatever funding is raised for that to facilitate the license, and begin the shake down of the game mechanics. For this I think using a few different open source game mechanics is a good idea as well. Several are readily available and have the benefit of years of play built in already. I would still want to construct a core rules system for the game, specifically to address the variations in actions between humans, machines, zentradi, etc.
I think that the next step would be a refinement of the game based upon player feedback (again, a la Pathfinder approach). Use that feedback to produce the best rules for the game possible. Make this version available to all the original backers/play testers without further funding at this step. This is basically the final live fire test for the game before going forward with any funding efforts for end product art.
Crowdfunding of a finalized version to pay for final art would be next. Here I suggest that PDF awards go out through Drivethrurpg, but that print awards be handled by offset printing to cut costs. Print on demand is terribly expensive overall for large numbers of runs, but ideal for small numbers of prints. As the costs necessary, just for the art alone, are likely to run up into the ten thousand dollar range and then some (again, I'm talking about full color art here) you would want to minimize your print costs per unit. I say that not just for a profit point, but also for a sustainability point. Think about this: why have your backers support a project where the individual book cost is $18 for printing and another $12 for shipping, when you can get the same or better quality book at a print cost of $9 (same shipping though)? Any company taking on the license would need funding for future projects, keeping up with the license, and operating costs associated with the books (and they should probably earn a bit of profit as well... just being realistic).
I think that any open game license implemented should coincide with the reversion of license back to Tansunoko. It would make things far easier for the community for release purposes. Afterall, how many open game licenses should you have to have? This is not to slight Harmony Gold by any means, its just a real concern involving the IP and proper release of community content so as to avoid unnecessary legal problems.
Please keep in mind that I'm spit-balling here. I haven't reached out to Harmony Gold or Tansunoko on this as of yet to inquire as to licensing. Its a bit premature for that.
I'm interested in what you, the community of Robotech and role playing game fans would think about a new Robotech rpg. I hope you'll comment below and share this with others. Lets find out what the community thinks.
Thank you all!