22 July 2022



>...the Robotech RPG took an anime series about love and music and humanity with an interstellar war as a backdrop, and made a sci-fi military game with giant robots.

—Ewen Cluney, Yaruki Zero, pg 54

the foundational idea of the "rules elide" thing is that one way a text can communicate that a topic is Boring is by making a rule. its boring to describe the specific techniques of lock-picking, and making sure we understand how different kinds of locks work (pin and tumbler or combination or whatever), so we have this rule that lets us skip it

now sometimes the elision is different

like a text might decide that lock-picking is Boring, but shouldn't be for whatever reason. in that case it might provide systems that it views as interesting in themselves, and say "here, play with this, since lock-picking is boring"

—Jared Sinclair, Everywhere

I agree with this generally, ignoring the minor inaccuracy that Robotech isn't much of an interstellar series beyond the invading forces in each season of the kit-bashed show being extra-solar invaders. It's about interstellar war only in as much as the invading forces are interstellar foes encroaching on Earth.

I did even do a couple of games that did approach Macross from the angle of system that focuses on the non-military themes, since Macross has those themes and only the first season of Robotech has any real focus on music.

However, honestly while Ewen sees Palladium Robotech's system focusing the military aspects as a detriment, I see it as a strength. To echo Jared Sinclair, rules elide. Elision is omission of something, coming from language, it's the source of contractions in common speech, such as the previous "it is," and in poetry, such as "when'er they came." In this usage it's a linguistic lubricant. How does this relate to rules and specifically why Palladium Books' Robotech ttrpgs is actually good for emulating and portraying the events in the inspirational material? Rules remove the direct agency of the players, instead they give it up either a distant figure, the Designer or Writer, or to uncaring Chance, which will also be referring to the distant Designer as the interpreter. This merely a statement with no prejudice.

Well what does the system of Robotech elide? Let's examine what the specific themes of the inspirational material, the franksteinian cartoon, Robotech. This series portrays the events of three successive interstellar invaders of the solar system, in the later two installments an invasion of Earth proper, with which the Earth forces, our protagonists, use transforming mecha developed from a crashed Robotech Space Fortress powered by the semi-mystical mysterious Protoculture, or Robotechnology for short. There is romance, drama, robot fights, and something of a defeat of the alien forces by overcoming some kind of inter-species differences through music (ostensibly since New Generation the third season just has Yellow Dancer do random shows as a cover for some of the actions. I don't even remember what actual music related thing is going in my the Masters Saga. Like seriously music inst that important to Robotech. Unlike Macross, which where the first season comes from.) and love or something. Look thematically the 3 seasons are mostly linked through giant robots fighting space aliens and a meta-plot about how the Zentradi are the creations of the Robotech Masters and the Invid are pissed at the RM and come to the Earth for their magic space weed. Which is cool.

Digressions aside, Macross Saga in part shows the Zentradi there is more to life than war thanks to the singing of Minmay. The ultimate turn in New Generation is because of two Invid Simulagents falling in love with humans and the Regess also realizing some shit about humanity; music isn't relevant. So back to the distillation of Robotech in Ewen's quote. Love? Not only are the multiple instances of romantic love, there is the love of friends and comrades, so check. Music? That exists diegetically, so check. Humanity? Not just that humans are the focus of the series, but there is seeing and bringing out the "humanity" of the antagonists until they cease to be antagonists, both the Zentradi and the Robotech Masters integrated with earth humanity, because they are also humans but humans who had fundamental aspects of humanity stunted for militaristic and imperialistic means. So, check. Sci-fi? Space aliens and giant robots with a clear technological bent, so check. Military? Seasons one and two not only are the heroic mecha materiel but most of the protagonists are members of their military, and in the third season the leader and two of the other members of our heroic party are military or former military and all the mecha are materiel. So, check. The existence of the military and robotechnology inform the setting of Robotech. Everything exists in relation to it.

Protagonists are either military or civilians whose relationships become informed by the actions of the military. The antagonists are militarized invaders. The frame of the Robotech rpg heavily systematizes combat, so all other parts of the rules are subsidiary to them. Love and humanity are disruptive forces to the settings backdrop of sci-fi military, which is one of the points. They circumvent the status quo of the setting. The Zentradi are defeated because some teenager with aspirations of pop-idoldom touches something within their hearts, leading a large portion of them to defect to the RDF, aiding them in annihilating the rest of the genocidal hostile Zentradi forces. Love touches Musica's heart and that leads her to defect causing all manner of cascading problems for the Robotech Masters, just as love touches the heart of the clone of Zor. Depending on how you view the changes of the canon between the end of the New Generation and The Shadow Chronicles over the final events of the Battle at Reflex Point, Marlene/Ariel's love for Scott Bernard might be a tipping point in the Invid Regess saving Earth before taking all the Invid and Protoculture off into the cosmos all weird space spirit like, and there is a few times where Sera's blossoming love for Lancer halts her assaults on the heroes.

Love and humanity exist outside of the framework of the system within the pages of the ttrpgs, just as they exist outside of the military. Not only would deep mechanisms for those things cheapen them just within the setting, but they cheapen those concepts in general.

So, what are the rules eliding in Robotech? Does the omission of the mechanisms for matters of the heart elide those concepts? Or does the mechanisms of combat elide combat? Combat is elided because we know have a bunch of numbers and systems to model a simplified version of reality since tracking the individual paths of bullets deviated by the prior bullets, heart beat, wind-speed, rotation of the earth, variations in powder load and bullet weight, buildup of powder residue... would be unrelenting tedium. And then you add in the minutia of just one interpretation of just one style of armed and unarmed combat. A system is already eliding a large portion of the human experience when it mechanizes it to numbers or words that matter to having a character interact through the rules. How much more do you want to elide things?

Without placing a value judgment on a desire to mechanize how love and music ultimately influences and sways the invading inhuman aliens, some of whom are more human that initially thought, why would you want to elide those things? Is it because showing just how love is doing its thing is complicated and boring but shouldn't be, so you want to have a cool bunch of things to play with? Giant robots are unrealistic and hard to model because they aren't real, but they are cool, so we elide that with robot rules. Real combat is a gross, messy and complicated, but it's 'cool', so we elide it with rules. Feelings are gross, messy and complicated, so some people want to elide it with rules so it is easier to handle and to push some of the difficulties off to a Distance Designer and to the Fickle Goddess Chance. I am certain any argument against mechanizing love could be equally and sincerely applied to combat, such that it's messy and complicated and the stakes are somewhat higher than a broken heart or hurt feelings.

Palladium Robotech is good at giving people the space to tell stories of love and heroism against the backdrop of interstellar war with giant robots because of the emphasis the rules place on all matters except romance and love and music. This is because the love and heroism in the medium exists framed by warfare. These fill in the gaps, making their own rules. Ignoring the rules those in power want to govern by. If system matters, the archaic and sometimes stifling nature of reality within the medium is paralleled by the arguably archaic and sometimes stifling rules in Robotech. There are no rules for love there. For what are the rules for love, let alone love between enemies of different worlds and species. What is the mechanism of love. What is the mechanism of music, particularly as it pertains the bordering on supernatural effects it has in the medium? Or humanity. Or romance. They are intangibles. Ephemeral. You can't see or touch these things.

Robots and guns and ships and space are tangible. You can see and touch these things, just like you can see the rules that govern them in the text.