Friday, March 1, 2013

Flashback Friday: Starblade Battalion

Starblade Battalion is sort of an alternate Cyberpunk 2020 future, as a setting for Mekton Zeta. It had cybernetics, megacorporations, starships, mecha, pirates and planets with dinosaurs (kind of). The setting is about nearly two centuries after the events in CP2020. The Earth is environmentally ravaged and is ruled by a world government. The solar system has been colonized, and faster than light travel has allowed mankind to go to the stars. Of course, the evil corporations want to plunder and ravage the off world colonies while the government back home has become dominated by ecological zealots, and the colonists aren't getting a say in the matter either way. Needless to say, the situation isn't destined to end well.
Enter the Starblade Battalion, the Default PC Group. It's a rogue paramilitary organization made up of defectors from both sides plus the usual collection of misfits. Pirates, too. Without the pirates, we wouldn't have an excuse for the awesome crossbones-inspired mecha design. They've accumulated stolen and otherwise misappropriated ships, mecha, military hardware and even managed to abscond with the setting's equivalent of The Skunkworks so they can develop their own toys. Their mission is kind of humanitarian: protect innocent people from getting squashed in the fighting, and try get both sides to see how pig-headed they're being especially when millions of lives are at stake. 
Draken
The setting's mecha designs were somewhat reminiscent of SPT Layzner  There was also a terrifically cool concept called a cutter, where the mecha docks to the front of a small starship. It's reminiscent of the Legioss/Tread combination from Mospeada except the cutter is a ship capable of supporting a small crew, as opposed to another type of fighter. Cutters mount FTL drives and give the PCs a good class of ship for flitting around the universe in.
If one element in the setting didn't quite jive for me, it was the descriptions of the planets the off world colonies were on. I suppose for an anime-inspired game it's actually not that awful, but the planets seemed cartoony to me when I first read them. They included the old tropes of a desert planet, jungle planet, etc. One of them even had dinosaur analogs, if I remember right. Again, this isn't actually something that was a serious problem with the setting. Starblade Battalion wasn't meant to be hard science fiction, and Mass Effect's cardboard cutout planets don't ruin the series for me.
Overall, it was a nifty little setting for those that wanted a post-CP2020 feel for their games with mecha. These days it probably doesn't stand out quite so well in light of all the other games where Earth has suffered an ecological collapse and now the colonies are trying to get independence and everyone's worried about greedy corporations ruining outer space (Jovian Chronicles, Blue Planet) but Starblade Battlion still has a few hooks of its own to distinguish it. Mostly the mecha. Especially the mecha.
Finally, in case you're interested there was an extremely long-running Starblade Battalion fan fiction and a pretty extensive website that is surprisingly still up. I won't make any commentary as to the quality of the fan fiction. The website also had some concept sketches from the guy who drew the mecha (you can catch them from the Internet Archive). Starblade Battalion is also available in PDF from DriveThruRPG.