Monday, May 30, 2011

Tommy's Take on MACHO: Last Action Heroes


In honor of Memorial Day, a review of an RPG about badasses! MACHO: Last Action Heroes is an RPG about in-your-face, balls to the wall, action hero goodness. I'm not 100% sure if it's meant to be a mocking parody or an affectionate parody, but the foreword in the beginning feels pretty heartfelt and makes me lean towards the latter.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: MACHO is a stand-alone RPG from Channel M Publishing, with a PDF price of $5. The book is only 34 pages, but it only paints the setting in broad strokes. The system aims to allow you to be able to play pretty much any action movie character type from Bruce Lee (who is his own character type, you know) to Batman to Robocop to Captain America to Hulk Hogan.

Each character type (or Cliche) gains a bonus, such as the Player getting a +1 to all dice when dealing with women, or Martial Arts Masters getting +2 to Hand to Hand Damage. From there, you spread 10 points among four Attributes: Muscle, Brains, Attitude and Macho. These are ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, with 4 being Superhuman and 5 being unattainable at the beginning of the game.

Macho helps derive your Macho points, which are used to power Para-Macho-Abilities, and Muscle helps derive both your Tough Points and your Speed. Once you have those, you spend 10 points across 11 Skills, with no starting skills going above 3 and no skills ever going past 5. Your skills are Deebo (intimidation, essentially), Drive, Explosives, Fixit, Geek, Mack, Hand to Hand, Ranged, Sneak, Melee, Medic and Stunt.

After that comes Para-Macho-Abilities, of which you get three. Some of my favorites include Aaay (making machines work with a light hit, ala The Fonz), Magic Bullet (crazy trick shots) and Ninja Vanish. Every character is part of a secret society called, er, SOCIETY, founded by George Washington, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (who wrote a secret amendment to the Constitution granting the SOCIETY the authority to kick ass after they had to fend off an extra-dimensional invasion). Rather than buying equipment with their own money, SOCIETY members are given an allowance from the organization to buy their weaponry and vehicles with.

The system is pretty simple, a dice pool in which you roll an Attribute plus a skill as a pool of d6s. 4, 5 and 6 are Awesome Rolls and 1, 2 and 3 take away from the successful rolls. If you roll all 1s, it's a big botch. If you roll all 6s (and you have to roll at least two dice to do this), it's a big deal and you get an extra Macho point.

Speaking of: In addition to powering Para-Macho-Abilities, Macho Points are used for advancement as well, and are gained by the above "all 6" rolls, as well as just generally being Macho.

The world is mostly defined by the adversaries, which include a bin Laden knock-off on steroids, a Russian mob that employs old movie monsters, ninjas (of course), a group of feminist amazons and the Hnt'rs, who are not at all Predators. Oh, and the People for the Ethical Equality of Everything (or P.E.E.E.).

The adversaries/bestiary chapter is broken down into Everyday Joes, Minions (Generic Ninjas, Monsters, Zombies, Hnt'r Warriors, Morph-Bots and more) and Bosses like the Executionator, Hnt'r Chief and Supervillains.

According to an ad in the back of the book, MACHO: A Fist Full of Bullets is coming later this year.

WHAT WORKS: While it isn't politically correct, it doesn't push the envelope remotely as much as the games I have been reviewing recently, meaning it's probably safer for a broader audience. It is tailor made for a slightly tongue in cheek version of an all-star action movie set-up ala The Expendables, allowing for a pretty decent range of character types and adversaries.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The book was riddled with typos, in headings and buried in the text. For those worried about game balance, Muscle seemed a tad overly strong, since it is used to get your Tough Points, Speed and affect your damage, while Attitude is pretty much used in roleplay situations. A broader list of Para-Macho-Abilities would have been great, as I could see characters stepping over each other pretty quickly, especially in a larger group. Oh, and ranking The Von Erich Family above Chuck Norris in the Macho Hall of Fame?!?! Are you nuts? I also question The A-Team and MacGyver as being sources of "Grade A" senseless violence, as A-Team was notorious for its "bloodless carnage" and MacGyver was designed specifically as a counter to "violent cop shows".

CONCLUSION: A little editing could have gone a long ways here on the presentation, which also suffered from lackluster art. That being said, there could easily be much fun had with any group willing to embrace the tropes and kick some ass for a night or two of beer and pretzels gaming. I am terribly interested in the superhero RPG advertised in the back of the book, however.