I can’t remember the last time I was this excited for a new release.
I’ll be posting a short review on Renegade’s website sometime soon as well. My loving wife, knowing my love of the TV series, gave me a pdf copy of the new Power Rangers RPG from Renegade. I’m pretty excited! If you’re a fan of the show or just a fan of superhero roleplaying in general, this book is a treat. I’ve been playing and making homebrew campaigns set in the Morphin universe for years, but it’s difficult to publish something when multimillion dollar corporations can sick their legal teams on you. Luckily, Renegade Studios is doing everything the right way and it’s awesome!
The book jumps right into the action helping you get your character made. Character creation is handled similarly to D&D 5E. No real surprises from what is essentially a heavily hacked D20 game in those regards. Please note, this is not intended as disrespect. There are a LOT of derivative D20 games out there and this one is definitely ahead of the curve. I suspect Renegade is trying to pull players in from 5E, given they both same parent company.
If this is what the Essence system is going to bring to the GI Joe and Transformers RPGs, I’m all about it. The system is really smooth in appearance from the outset. It combines some of the character development aspects from FATE and Powered By the Apocalypse that we like, but still has freeform character creation enough to prevent cookie-cutter characters. For example, you can build a Red Ranger as a class clown who takes care of his aging grandmother. The combinations of Origins, Roles, Influences, Hang Ups, character bonds, and so forth are going to lead to endless degrees of interesting characters.
The system itself reminds me a little bit of Savage Worlds or Cortex in that you get to add in different dice from a d2 (Coin) all the way to a d12 to your roll depending on your skill. Sure, certain ranger types are going to be more prone to certain categories. Blue Rangers get a bonus to Smarts, for example, but the system allows enough flexibility for anyone to be good at almost anything. Yes, you really can make a Green Ranger belly dancer who is also intimidating in heavy armor. The baseline stats are Strength, Speed, Smarts, and Social. This is one place were the game moves away from D20’s normal 6 stat spread. (Think of Speed being a little like Dex in most D20 games.) Skill tests work much the way one would expect in a D20 game.
I should mention there are rules for playing rangers outside of the regular Ranger Spectrum, such as the famous White Ranger. However, the book ONLY gives us the rules for White. Gold, Purple, Grey, and so on are promised in a later sourcebook which has not been announced yet. No surprise that sourcebooks are already in the works. I can imagine potential for dozens of them. I doubt we’ll see them open up an OGL because of the Power Rangers Trademark, though.
Combat looks smooth in the Essence System.
I haven’t tried combat yet, but it looks much like what you’d expect from an episode of the TV show. Putties go boom in one hit. Bad guys require a concerted effort from the team. Zord/Megazord battles are huge. Think I’m going to make some house rules for civilians caught in the crossfire, but that’s another matter entirely. You can’t expect the writers to do everything up front, right?
It’s most of what you would expect from D20 system combat in terms of initiative, movement, and actions. It will look a lot like D&D up until you go to attack and do damage. Getting knocked out as a Ranger pretty much looks like it does on TV- oops, there goes your armor and good night. Same thing with losing a Zord battle. I was surprised vehicles can actually explode in the rpg, claiming the lives of the occupants. That’s a little meatier than the TV series.
I should mention you get to customize your character’s loadout from the very beginning. You get to define your character’s weapons, fighting style, even your Zord from the get-go. That’s pretty darn cool. They give plenty of examples throughout, but you’re free to do as you choose.
I love that they’ve worked out the scaling all the way from human size all the way up to Megazord/Gigantic Monster size. Combat looks to be pretty well written if you want to have your character take on something 10 times normal size. The writers have a good sense of scale. Humans are squishy. Watch where you step. The column shifts kinda gave me Marvel Superheroes flashbacks from back in the day. Lol!
Chapter 11: Exploration confused me a little at first. Like, why are we talking about medieval fantasy style exploration in a day and age where we have Zords, satellite GPS, and infrared imaging? The rest of the chapter made sense dealing with different environments and conditions. Maybe the chapter could have been named differently?
The other thing I have to laugh about is you can make this game as campy as a 1960’s superhero TV show or as gritty as the “bootleg” short film with Katee Sackhoff as Kimberly. (That movie was dark, btw.) Personally, I’m leaning a little more toward the Mighty Morphin era and the more recent major motion picture in terms of “realism.”
The art in this book is top notch. The graphics and layout are phenomenal. I think a lot of credit should be given to the design team in terms of art and layout.
I give this game Three out of Five Stars. Here’s why:
- Access to more seasons of the TV series.
- Monsters! It needs so many more.
- A more defined GM Section.
- A different adventure entirely.
- A little less gamey, a little more Morphin.
- Little things like a map of Angel Grove, experience, etc…
To be very clear, I don’t hate this game. I really want it to be more mighty! I truly wanted to be absolutely in love with this game. I’m still stoked to run it for my kids. I really do like the game, but I think it needs some improvements. I hope someone at Renegade hears my pleas for improvement.
This game does an awesome job emulating the early seasons of the TV series. I suspect there might be some copyright/Trademark issues which is why a lot of the later Ranger teams don’t get mentioned? Hopefully they do Samurai and Megaforce down the road. My kids love those series. I’m big on the plot and Zords from both myself. Gosei is probably my favorite Ranger commander ever.
I felt the thing most seriously lacking from this first book: Monsters! Other than the Putties and a few examples, we don’t get much for monsters. Rita and Zed are mentioned, but no stats yet. Goldar is mentioned, but no stats. So far the Mighty Morphin area has been the main focus for bad guys. I hope someday we’ll get to see other seasons’ villains.
This book would have really benefitted from a quick and dirty monster creation system, maybe even a set of tables to quickly make the monster of the week. Also, as crunchy as the rest of the system seems to be, I wish they had gone into more detail about what happens when a monster goes Mega Mode. Right now there are two stat blocks for everything and I think it could be simplified to one stat block with dual listings. I kinda wonder if they’re leading up to a Monster Manual type book, but I haven’t heard anything specific about sourcebooks yet. (I think my wallet just cringed a little.) There is so much room for diverse monsters in Power Rangers from the extremely silly pineapple-octopus all the way to murderous giant robot bristling with firepower.
The other thing I think needed improvement was the adventure section. It’s a good intro adventure, I guess. Were it written for any other rpg, it would work pretty much as well. It does not scream “Power Rangers episode” at me. To me, it seems like it would be more at home as a convention game, maybe? I was hoping for more of an introductory adventure where the group receives their power coins for the first time, maybe a little more obvious monster fight, and more of an obvious BBEG. Without getting into spoilers, I think it’s a little game-y and not as much Ranger-y?
I found leveling up to be another source of mild confusion. We get a tiny bit of it on page 19. What we don’t get is any kind of experience system, guidelines or GM advice. I’ve been a GM for decades, so I’m just going to hand out levels as I see fit, but they really gave us nothing to work with here. It’s like Renegade is winding up for a GM’s Manual or something. I would have liked more specifics up front.
Personally, I would have rather they left the adventure out of the book entirely in place of more monsters, the other ranger aspects, more weapon and Zord design options, and a thorough GM section. Sorry, I’m still in shock that the entire GM section was basically three pages and spent one page explaining gamer terms to new players. It’s an extremely player heavy focus throughout. Maybe I’m just an Old Grognard, but it seems like a little more effort could have been focused on GMs in a $55 hardcover intro to the system and the world.
There are some minor things that bother me about this book. A map of Angel Grove would have been nice. I would have liked to have seen more back-and-forth between Alpha 5 and Zordon in the text portions. Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of Alpha 5 and I could have seen a lot less of him. I think they could have maybe used that space for GM tips or even comic panels for other characters.
Overall, great job. A few adjustments would have made it 5 stars. I’m sure there are good things coming in the weeks and months ahead.
TL;DR: Great game. Great genre emulation. Needs a bigger, better monster section, monster creation rules, and a LOT more of a GM section. Great D20 mechanics. Beautiful artwork. Definitely a good first attempt on the part of Renegade Studios.