02 March 2005

Read-through Review of Run Robot Red

I just got hold of Run Robot Red by Annie Rush, after hearing various good things about it here and there.

It's not long, so I read through most of it last night (I skimmed the crunchy bits). It's pretty cool. The basic idea is that you are robots in a communistic robot society in which you must be mediocre. Any robot that is not good enough or too good is punished, only robots that maintain the level of ability mandated by the overseers succeed.

The player characters are all robots who have decided to fight against the system, joining "ART" the conspiracy of those who dare to do things well.

So that's the setting. It reads like it will run kind of like Paranoia but with somewhat different emphasis (i.e. you are required to be mediocre rather than loyal). The game has a definite trajectory, in that you start out as conspirators and there are certain things that you will end up finding out and that will lead to a natural place to end the game. Rush provides the GM with two basic endgames, but it would be easy to add more or mess with those ones if they didn't appeal. Both the provided ones are interesting and should make for a satisfying story.

Also, everything possible using alliterative acronyms, which adds a lot of whimsical style to the thing. I mean, "Optical Openings" is certainly a funnier name than "Optical Sensors". Especially when everything is named like that...

What really stands out is the character creation. The robots are all different, with various standard units, abilities and custom extras to differentiate them. Additionally, robots from different factories have certain types of attachments and personalities common to them. There are a few different character generation methods to choose from, and they all look like they'll give you a crazy bunch of robots to play. The standard utility attachments range from basic arms to pneumatic cannon and electroprods and the factory-specific odd ones are all amusing (and might even be useful!)

The other thing I like is the economy of power. You need to keep track of your battery level. The dice rolled for an action are based on your CPU and the utility being used and this is how much energy will potentially be used. On a normal roll you just roll these and get the power back.


If you roll better than your target number you are over-achieving and risk drawing the attention of the controllers. You can drop dice from your roll to minimize over-achievement, but this wastes energy, so you lose a charge. So you always want to walk the knife edge of doing well enough to get your target number, but never too well. I think this will lead to some funny moments in play, with robots saying "No, you open the door. I'm too good at it!"

Another nice trick is what happens when a robot over-achieves so much that they attract the attention of the controllers. In this circumstance, the robot is informed that an Internal Investigation Bot is on the way to assess them. The GM leaves the room to allow the players to get the robots' stories straight and after at least 30 seconds they return in the persona of the IIBot. Then the GM interviews them to determine if the suspicious robot needs to be memory-wiped and reprogrammed. I suspect that will be hilarious in play.

Overall, a very funny game. Probably only good for the odd short campaign, rather than long term (although there are seeds of some rather different longer campaigns in there).

1 comment:

Yokiboy said...

Sounds great! I have wondered what all the hype was over this one, but now I understand. Oh well, I am sooo made of money - NOT! :p