A Long War! Let’s Try Out Plot Armor!!

So, this is me trying out plot Armor, a journaling game based on mecha anime. As a fan of Power Rangers, it naturally bleeds into me being a marginal fan of mecha, especially mecha RPGs like Bliss Stage. I also like “episodic RPGs”, roleplaying games that break themselves up into episodes. An example of this is Primetime Adventures. It’s a huge reason why my solo system for campaigns plays them out like a TV show.

So, naturally, this hit my interests. Though, I decided to browse around for some context behind the game. This was made in a Game Jam where the theme was lite emotional mecha. If this game interests you in any way, I highly recommend you guys check out the rest of the games sent to the Jam, as some of them are also solo games or can be modded to be solo games.

As such, I understand some of the mechanics of the game, such as its one-page format. Now, I played some one-page RPGs before, like Six Hours to Midnight, and got a lot of mileage out of it, so perhaps this game, despite its small size, will grant me that same sort of play.

The premise is that it’s a journaling game about a protagonist of a mecha anime who has plot armor, meaning they cannot die by any means because of plot. In spite of this, the protagonist will die by the end of the show’s 32 episode run.

We can pick any setting we want, provided it involves Mechas known as Armor and involves mecha fighting. Whether this means mechas fighting monsters or other mechas, we don’t know. Also, difficult situations and an optional hot springs episode.

So, for this idea, and to tribute the fact that a certain fan favorite show is set to end this month, I decided to turn Westeros into a mecha anime setting where our protagonist not only has to fight against ice-themed monsters and dragons, but also against other mechas who care more about who gets to sit on the Iron Throne.

Our protagonist is Taro Yuki, bastard son of Ryubi Shokan. He has a foolish prospective into being the pilot for the Knight’s Watch. Without further to do, let’s begin Episode 1, which details how the story begins:

Episode 1: Winter is Coming! The Beginning of the End!!

My name is Taro Yuki, and I am a bastard. That is why I am in the Knight’s Watch, because I need to prove myself in spite of my heritage. Eventually, I will be able to get the rest of my family to accept me, knowing I have at least tried to put my life on the line for the family name.

However, the Knight’s Watch isn’t the best respected. Their supposed enemies, the Shirorei, haven’t attacked in over a century. One person supposedly saw them, but my father executed them before they could say their piece. There’s also rumors of insubordination within the southern end of the map, and tensions building up. Perhaps that’s why I’ve run away to this frozen wasteland.

I hope I don’t get into too much conflict. After all, I only need to serve this front out for about five or so years before I am allowed to come back to my family. Though, in case I do fight, I was assigned a mecha. The Haiirokami is supposedly one of the deadliest Armors man has ever invented given its bestial nature. However, I am determined to use it as my own personal Armor, for if I don’t, I feel like we’ll all die…

And that’s the end of the first episode. Now, how the game works is that I roll a D6 and add it to the current episode. Meaning I can advance as far as the 7th episode or as early as the 2nd episode. In this case, my roll got me into the 7th episode, which usually is when big plot twists start to happen. Speaking of, we need to determine the context of the episode in question.

Now, in keeping with the tradition of this being a lite game, we only have two tables to worry about. An impossible thing happening to the protagonist or an impossible thing happening to the armor. At first glance, this may be pretty interesting, but looking at the tables, I’m worried that the tables will run dry with potential, as there are items on the list that imply that, once they’re rolled, rolling on that result again in the future wouldn’t work or lose the impact of it being an impossibility.

Though that is my concerned hypothesis, let’s see if it actually happens and continue the game in keeping with the tradition that I need to roll the two tables, in this case, 4 & 1.

Episode 7: Win or Die! Taro’s Desperate Gambit!!

I had no idea what happened… I felt like I was one with Haiirokami… During an intense fight with one of the Shirorei, my body seemingly vanished and I was seeing through the eyes of my Armor as it gained devastating claws, shredding through the Shirorei like paper…

The Administrator Commander called this Warging, where people become one with their Armors to increase their firepower… However, it comes at a price. He didn’t tell me what the price was, but knowing how devastated I was after I came out of it, I knew this doesn’t come cheap.

Okay, so far so good, we established a pretty powerful method of fighting with the results. Let’s continue! We’re on Episode 12 and we’re dealing with the results of 4 & 6.

Episode 12: The Night Lands! The Face of Haiirogami!!

It happened again. I merged with Haiirogami again. But this time, I was able to see a glimpse into something… A gray spiritual wolf. I have seen this wolf before in the story book I read for the kids. It’s the Okami, a wolf god who brings prosperity to the North so long as we celebrate it in rememberance. I have reason to believe that I’ve been piloting Okami the whole time, or at least a piece of it.

I don’t want to bring this up to the Administrator Commander out of fear that he’ll suspect me of knowing too much, so I’ll keep it to myself for now… But now that I have seen the face of Okami, how will my battles worsen?

So, already we’ve come across a hiccup. Taro has been absorbed into Haiirogami again, as is the result of the first 4 I rolled. However, we established that this was a recurring thing in universe by saying it was called “Warging”. However, the same could not be said for the Armor’s result of 6, where the armor is revealed to be a piece of a god (or as it’s described on the PDF, God with a capital G).

If I were to roll 6 again for the armor, what new information will I have? Taro already knows Haiirogami is a piece of Okami, so what changes when the 6 is rolled again? My only idea for what to do in the event I roll a 6 again is to explore more details about Okami, like what their opinion is towards the battles we’re facing or even a 1-on-1 conversation with Taro.

I mean, I guess that works. Like, instead of having it be “is a piece of God” it could be “has a godly influence” or “preforms an act of God”. However, I think the list is kinda limiting on what you can do. You have 36 different combinations through rolling the 2d6. On average, you’ll go through about 9 in-game episodes before you hit Episode 32 unless you’re either lucky and roll a string of high numbers (six episodes on average) or unlucky and roll low numbers (fifteen to sixteen episodes on average). Now, normally this wouldn’t be much of a problem, except that the impossibilities that you roll can potentially happen enough times for them not to be an impossibility.

Granted, you could work that into the story somehow, like what I did with Warging, but for the most part, you’re gonna have to either figure out new ways to use the same result of “is a piece of (a) god” or “summoned a new weapon”. I guess it’s mostly up to how creative one can be, and I doubt there’s anything stopping you from using another driver to substitute the result if you rolled the exact same combination, like the Adventure Crafter.

If this is, indeed a problem, then how does one fix it? Well, I can think of three different means to fix it or even any combination of the three.

1: Only roll one die to determine the impossibility.

Granted, this lowers the combinations to 12, but the upside is that you only need to roll once on the list for each Episode. Let’s look at the previous example. If I were to roll a 4 when determining the impossibility and I realized that “Melding with the Armor” was something I already rolled, I can instead switch it to the Armor category’s 4 result of “Spoke to the Protagonist”. This way, it pads out the list without running into the same result, or at the very least stalls for time before you end up getting the same result.

2: Expand the list.

Thirty-six combinations may not seem like a small number, but it can add up. Especially when you’re doing multiple playthroughs of the game. Part of the workaround for this is to expand the tables to include more results. For instance, even with adding two more results to both tables, we get a whopping result of 64 combinations and thus less chances of running into repeats.

Though, we can probably go higher. There’s something known as the D66 system where it’s a table that offers 36 combinations alone. If we have two of them, we end up with a huge 1,296 different combinations. Okay, now that may be a bit much, so we might scale it back down to a more manageable number, but usually 6 choices will lead to some repeats really soon.

For instance, we can add two more options to the Protagonist Table:

  • A loved one is caught in the crossfire!
  • The protagonist finds out a hidden connection to the enemies!

And for the Armor Table:

  • The Armor fused with another Armor!
  • The Armor is stolen!

3: Make the results vague.

There are some tables that do a D6 roll to resolve, but the difference is that, for the most part, they’re vague enough for multiple outcomes, especially when you plug in different contexts or in combination with other tables. There are two good examples of this: The Insta-NPC series, which often has D6 tables but often have one word to describe the NPCs in question to provide different possibilities, and the random events table for the Tiny Solitary Soldiers engine, which has a completely different context each time depending on what you roll and how you interpret it.

For example, instead of Armor’s 6th Impossibility being “is a piece of God”, it could instead be something akin to “preforms a godly feat” or “some deep lore about the armor is revealed” and for the Protagonist’s 6th impossibility, perhaps “survived impossible odds”?

There are many ways to fix this, but for now, it is what it is and I should at the very least try and continue with the system for now. So, let’s continue onto Episode 13 where it involves events 3 & 5.

Episode 13: What is Dead may Never Die! Haiirogami’s Rage!!

I warged into Haiirogami, only to find that Okami is not pleased with the state of current affairs. While I was out fighting against the Shirorei, the whole of Westeros is suffering from war. A war that Okami resolves to finish. This was all I knew about the situation before I blacked out.

When I came too, I was in a completely different kingdom and my Armor had ripped through Ohma’s Nest. Friends, enemies, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was me standing in the middle of a destroyed land, blood on my claws and most of the pieces of the Armor discarded.

I had truly become a monster.

Dark… You’d think we’d immediately see the consequences of this, but instead we skip to Episode 16. Not exactly sure why I need to roll the episode number instead of writing up what happens next, but okay. 5 & 1 now.

Episode 16: The Old Gods and the New! The Power Of Love!!

My love for my father took me to a whole new level of power with Haiirogami as I was now able to use ethereal fangs that tore apart the armor of Kinshi, the Armor of the Sougi clan. I will avenge him, even if it kills me!

Simple enough, onwards to Episode 17 where we deal with 6 & 6.

Episode 17: A Man Without Honor! The Final Duel with Souta Sougi!!

It seems fate had favored me. I had been impaled by Souta Sougi, the masked pilot of the Kinshi, and I would have died were it not for the divine intervention of Okami. I was brought back to life and, with my new weapon in hand, I destroyed the Kinshi with Souta inside it. They won’t bother us again.

Hmm… So Episodes 13 to 17 seem to be a large arc then? That’s cool. We’re close to the end with Episode 20, dealing with 4 & 3. At this point, I’m gonna give you all the cliffnotes.

Episode 20: Valar Morghulis! The Monster Rises!!

After another attempt to Warg in his fight against Morghulis, a dragon raised from the dead as a Shirorei, Haiirogami took over and fought to the death with Morghulis. Obviously, he survived, but it reveals that Okami had a feud with Ryuga, the Dragon God.

Episode 21 has Taro black out in the middle of an unwinnable battle against Morghulis, and another new weapon is revealed… I’m definitely running out of ideas for what kind of new weapons he has now. Rocket launchers? Sure, why not.

Episode 25 has Taro come back from the dead again after Haiirogami took over his body. Episode 27 has another blackout while Okami talks with Taro. In an attempt to spice up the game a bit, I’m gonna roll what Okami is trying to say to Taro.

  • NPC Mood: 56, Sociable
  • NPC Bearing: 3 & 5, Happiness.
  • NPC Topic: 93, Weapons.

I guess she’s proud that Taro was able to unlock every weapon that she has available to him and that the final battle with the Shirorei is nigh. Episode 29 is the battle with the Shirorei, and another blackout, but now Haiirogami had transformed into a full on feral wolf. So… That’s cool. Which leads us to Episode 32.

Episode 32: The Lion and the Rose! Farewell, Taro Yuki!!

At this point, Taro had lost his sense of identity. He has become one with Haiirogami and fulfilling Okami’s desires to rid the world of humanity, for they have disgraced nature for the last time with their squabbling. It takes the newly rebuilt Kinshi and the Kinbara to defeat Haiirogami, but Taro dies along with Haiirogami’s destruction. An era of peace is struck after this battle, but there’s the lingering threat that the Armors will soon be used for war once more.

And that’s plot Armor.

My thought on this? It’s alright. The premise is great, but it greatly depends on a powerful imagination to twist the Impossibilities so that they feel unique each time, or at least a shorter game span. By the midway point, I mostly skimmed through the episodes and wrote up cliff notes.

In retrospect, perhaps the game should have been 24 episodes long. Most mecha anime nowadays have a 24-to-26-episode structure. The only reason I can think of why there’s a 32-episode structure is to illustrate Tomino’s early mecha anime, which often result in premature cancellations.

Despite the shortcomings, I do like this game. It’s a nice framework to say the least and it serves as perhaps an inspiration for me to expand this into a campaign idea for me to explore someday. After all, I have prospects to have an episodic campaign game one day.

Until then, though, Bon Voyage, Gamers!

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