I played a lot of Anthem on the Xbox One and enjoyed it. From getting immersed in the lore of the Anthem universe, dealing with the narrative about repairing old relationships, all the cool and quirky relationships, and all the freelancer missions — I loved it all. I felt there was always something to see around the next corner. I got to tinker around with my Javelin, the hi-tech mecha-suits of the freelancers. All the makings of a fascinating TTRPG. But let me back up if you’re not familiar with the Anthem video game.
Scattered about this planet are unstable, powerful relics that wield godlike, destructive energies. Locals call them Shaper relics. Shaper is the name of the unknown godlike race that left these things behind. Using these relics humans built mecha-suits called javelins to fight against enslavement by a race of aliens, the Urgoth. That was centuries ago. Today, folks live in fortified cities in a nation called Bastion. These walled cities are protected by Javelin pilots. Out in the wild frontier, there are the alien invaders called the Scars, exiled outlaws, powerful creatures and wild Shaper relics. A new threat has surfaced, they are the Dominion. These are a human faction that has an agenda for these Shaper artifacts and want control of them. Javelin pilots who go out into the wild to take on these threats are the Freelancers.
Here’s how I’d do it: Fort Tarsis is the walled frontier city in the game where you start. It grows and expands as you take on different missions. I’d need domain mechanics to improve the city by players taking on missions or bringing back resources. Mutant Year Zero’s rules for Ark projects come to mind, Forbidden Lands RPG has domain rules, OSR, etc.
Javelin play. I think a fun factor is tweaking, kitting out your Javelin. In the video game, you could have multiple Javelins…but I think at the table it’s easy to limit it to one. One Javelin, but options to tinker with it. I feel like freelancers were caught up in all kinds of drama: assault missions, recon, spying, ‘save my kitty’, etc. There was certainly more work than Freelancers to go around. I think strong NPC connections and a jobs mechanic are on the list. Early on a GM could push jobs, but for me, long term I’d like the players to have more control over jobs or reasons for venturing outside the city..maybe even meta-game by designing the job they want and we play it, like the mid-late stage play of the 3:16 RPG.
For a deep dive, I’d like mechanics for the Anthem relics and shaper tech. I’d also want to have a cypher as a player option without the “hacker problem” of cyberpunk games. Cyphers need not go out into the field, they are the “eyes-in-the-sky”, a support character. They should have ‘improved’ helper mechanics for supporting freelancers in the field.
I might start small scale testing with Apocalypse World, but I might also skip it because I feel pretty certain there’s a strong game here. Forged in the Dark also seems like a PERFECT fit! Factions, homebase improvements, mission generators. Playbooks could be various Javelin builds. Cortex Prime is also a nice easy fit. In fact, you could scale the ‘crunch’ and focus of gameplay with the Cortex mechanics.
One-shots are missions during the time of the Monitor(The BIG BAD) or any of the 4 Tomb Trials. In the video game, you have to find the tombs of the first Javelin pilots for reasons…lots of stuff to do there!
A short series of games could be interfering with the Dominion and the Monitor’s plans, or even doing all the tomb trials. Longer series could replay the quest for the Cenotaph Macguffin and throw down against the monitor!
Let’s make this our regular thing!