I’ve spent hundreds of hours thinking about all the different aspects of the text of The Tears of a Machine SC. I’ve carefully weighed out my decisions and tinkered endlessly with my word choices (even before my editors saw anything.) I think that’s valuable work – worth sharing, so I’m going to post more of these “director’s cut” blog entries. Hopefully they’ll not only inform but inspire ideas for your own games.
Legulus and Venator
In the basic setting for The Tears of a Machine SC, Earth is first visited by benevolent beings from outer space; the Legulus. They offer to build a high-tech paradise with humanity, in exchange for the use of our brains in their neural network supercomputers. Greed, fear, and xenophobia prevent most of the world from accepting the bargain and the Legulus are driven off. Ten years later, they return but have transformed themselves into the Venator. Now motivated by their own aggression and superiority, they attack the Earth to take what they want.
Why did I write that? Why did I choose to create this backstory? Wouldn’t it just be simpler to have the Venator drop out of the sky and attack? Well, it’s complicated, but it’s the kind of complication I enjoy.
Faceless Foes Are Dull
The invaders could be implacable monsters driven only by an appetite for destruction, but that puts a limit on our stories. By giving them a backstory that includes those days of peace, when the visitors lived alongside us, it opens the door to peace again. Our pilots have room to ask those questions of “what happened to create the Ven?” and “could the Legulus return?” They can strive to be more than pilots in an endless war if they try to learn about their enemies and themselves.
Sometime, somehow, the war between the Preservation Force and the Venator must end. If the Ven are only monsters, then it only ends with an extermination. But if they are something else then the possibility exists for the world to go on once the Saints and Magnas fall silent.
Not So Different, You and I
Robotech was my first mecha-focused anime. It’s not the massive cannons of the SDF-1 that win the first Robotech war. It is (spoiler alert) the music of an up-and-coming idol that appeals to the Zentraedi. Their commanders find a common understanding as pop songs connect them to emotions that were suppressed by their conditioning as cloned soldiers. In addition, the earthlings get their first insights into the minds of their foe when the Zentraedi ace Miriya infiltrates the SDF-1 to kill ace pilot Max Sterling. In a rather ham-fisted scene, the two recognize that they are star-crossed lovers and marry to create the first union between Earth and Zentraedi. Those character arcs made Robotech different to me. They inspired me to think beyond the immediate story of our pilots and their war in The Tears of a Machine SC.
We’re still running our campaign on Kickstarter. Join us, if you haven’t already, and you can decide how your story goes and your war ends.