Please ignore if you’re not interested in rambling talk about my amateur RPG design…
If you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself. Let’s see if I can come up with something coherent in terms of a Macross RPG.
– Strong civilian setting
Macross is set on a huge colony ship/fleet with cities, farms and even a friggin’ beach resort! It’s not all fighter pilots: in fact, the fighter pilots are more of a necessary evil, they’re there to protect the fleet! It should be reinforced that the pilots have a very personal reason to fight: they are protecting their family, friends and lovers — and part of humanity’s survival in space as well! Yes, there will be tense battles (the main attraction of a mecha RPG, right?) but there should be enough scenes out of the cockpit to show the reason for the pilots to fight: to show them what’s at stake.
– Troupe-style play
This is a concept I encountered in Ars Magica, wherein every player controls a wizard character and one or more companions and ‘grogs’ (servants). The wizards live together in a covenant and attract companions for specialised services/knowledge, and grogs for the daily labour in and around the covenant. During any given scenario (or even scene), each player can control any of ‘their’ characters. Some scenarios, you might not even play your own wizard, but concentrate on one of your companions who go on an adventure with another player’s wizard. (For best result, you’d typically play the companion of a different wizard than your own.) The “focus character” is still the wizard, though: they have the most systems to deal with.
Macross shows us bridge officers and civilians, both of which you could easily play. The pilot would be your main character, but you could also play a civilian when the pilots are in town. You could play a bridge officer during fleet manoeuvers: you want to be at the controls when the Macross-class fortress fires its main gun!
– Apocalypse World Engine
I really like the AWE for its “fiction first” mode of play. And you want to show the pilots pulling off cool stunts, right? The system is really simple: a playbook is really all you need.
– Linking pilot stats with mecha stats
So this is something I’ve seen in Perrin’s Mecha RPG: a pilot links his stats with the stats of the mecha, combining the strengths (and weaknesses…) of each other. It’s a neat idea, but it also gives a way for a player to personalise their pilot. For instance, a pilot who links their Strength stat with the mecha’s Weapons stat will make attacks with overwhelming force. But a pilot linking their Intelligence with Weapons would instead make use of their smarts to find the best positioning for their attack. That also should provide excellent fodder for the question: “What does that look like?” when a player states their action.
(There is a problem with that though, which I need to put some more thought into. Suppose a pilot has a stat with a +2 bonus, and a mecha with a stat with a +2 bonus — you’d get a +4 bonus. And with a 7 or more being a success, you’d have only a 1/36th chance of failure. That’s not very exciting… Perhaps take the average of the bonuses, rounded up? Hm.)
– Transformable mecha
The original Macross was the first series to feature transformable mecha. It would be a slap in the face of Shōji Kawamori to not have them. The Variable Fighter has three configurations. The Fighter is fast, so should give some points of Hold to spend on speed. The Battroid is precise, so should give some points of Hold to spend on precision shots. And the Gerwalk is nimble, so should give some points of Hold to spend on evasion… Something to think about — should all these things have their own Move? Probably…