The concept behind this book is simple: as Mekton is inspired by Japanese mecha TV shows, why not create an adventure based on the way in which a TV series is constructed. Nice concept!
The first chapter is 100% Characters and the stated aim is to introduce the pre-generated characters who'll be the 'stars' of the campaign, helping players to choose a character and also introducing some of the other folks who will feature in the story. Unefortunately the introductory page is written in darkish red ink on a black background, which would be difficult to read even if crisply printed. It's worth straining your eyes over, as it consists of a good background and overview of what is going on in the world when the campaign starts. Closing months of a bitter war, the planet Algol in the grip of an ice age that forced a territorial dispute over the only warm bit... there just wasn't enough room for everyone. And then there wasn't really room for anyone, it started to snow even here in the tropics! People stopped brawling and began to work together instead, and a scheme to reheat the planet was devised. Unfortunately a bunch of terrorists tried to sabotage these efforts, calling on one of the former leaders to be tried for war crimes as the price for them to behave themselves. The authorities decided that to protect planet-warming efforts, an elite police force called Overwatch was to be formed... and the characters are recruited to be part of it.
Some characters follow, each given a page of illustration and notes about the character rather than hard and fast statistics. These are in the main legible, although more care could have been taken over text placement on the backgrounds. There's a selection of characters from the terrorist group as well. Interestingly, the notes are written as if by an intelligence analyst, giving an assessment of each person - a nice way to provide role-playing details. This section is intended for anyone to read.
Next comes a Story Digest, marked for referee's eyes only. It gives the real background, and plenty of detail about what is going on. After some general notes giving both the main plotline and a couple of sub-plots, we move on to an episode-by-episode outline - in classic TV series style, 22 in total. Written as a cross between a script and an episode synopsis, each gives a good idea of what needs to take place and where, and who is involved, while providing plenty of detail and atmosphere and ideas of how to involve the characters rather than leaving them feel as if they are scripted spectators to the action. Each gets about three pages including events, opportunities for the characters to do their own thing as well as get involved in the events, notes on major NPCs appearing and scene-setting background on the locations involved. Layout is good, and it will ensure that the referee doesn't have to search through the book mid-action to answer a question or find a detail required during the course of play.
This is followed by extra detail in the shape of full character sheets and even more background for the referee. Players should only read the material relating to the character that they have chosen, based on the 'open access' material in the first chapter. While many people like to create their own characters, this campaign is so tightly-plotted with the characters as written completely integrated that it is recommended that players do use one of the pre-generated characters. There's still scope within the descriptions for player interpretation of how to role-play that character. If players are adamant about using their own characters, the referee should spend some time integrating the character into the storyline in a similar manner, but in the 10 characters given most people ought to find at least one they'd like to play.
The final chapter is 100% Mechanix, and it's all about the mecha available and how to best run the combats to be challenging, survivable and above all enjoyable. Full specifications are included.
While you might feel it's a bit over-scripted, it serves a tightly plotted campaign well, ensuring that every point essential to the storyline comes in at the correct moment - even if the characters do not realise their significance at the time! As role-playing events generally takes a bit longer than watching them on TV, each episode will take up a gaming session of 3-4 hours, but you will need to keep the action moving - no bad thing, it will help to maintain the proper pace and feeling of excitement inherent in the campaign if you work to such a schedule. If you like tightly-plotted campaigns with a lot going on, but do not mind that it's all been laid out for you, this is a fine campaign to consider... I'd like to run it myself!
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Reviewed: 27 June 2009