Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Transformers: RP Session 1

This big, bad long text is me and my daughter's setting for our Transformers and Knock-Offs, as well as our first RP session with them, which is different than the random "transform, shoot at each other" play we've had up until now. After this session, my daughters were hooked, though they'd enjoyed them already. As my 10yo daughter said "It's so cool that we can just talk and do what they do." Put one storyteller and two little girls together and that'd be the response I'd expect. My 2.5yo son and 5yo daughter enjoyed this too.

Before we can explain setting, we must first explain scale. Scale is an ongoing issue since the Diaclone and Microman toylines were repurposed as Transformers, and has never let up. (See the Transformers Wiki on: Scale).

That aside, fans probably have varying ways of accounting for it.

As a child playing with the G1 toys, I simply assumed that, while I knew the scales were off, in my fiction, that's just the way they were. There were super big trucks and super small tanks. Since my toys couldn't magically change size, I didn't do that, exceptions being Soundwave & crew, etc. (I always wanted him to come with a small piece of plastic that was "him", transformed.)

Playing with my children today, we came up with a more inventive solution: Matchbox cars are the actual car size, making (Classics) Optimus Prime & Mirage overly big and humans, tiny; Humans mix vehicle sizes since their world has changed since 1984.

We had to settle on Matchbox cars or die-cast cars roughly the size of Mirage; either the mini Transformers were tiny cars, planes and tanks, or they were slightly big, and everyone else was huge. Matchbox won out because my son has 30+ of them, and only 8 die-cast cars. Props matter.

Inclusion of Other Toys:

Since humans are hostile to all Transformers after the alternate end to my childhood stories, my son's toy tanks and mecha are great "Human Solutions" to the "Autobot and Decepticon Problem."

Our Fiction:
Before the Great Cataclysmic War of 1989, which Optimus Prime only alluded to the newly awakened Autobots, in which basically all the toys I had and lost were destroyed in a horrific war (fictionally speaking), the Autobots destroyed all data humans had on their technology they could find, both by physical and digital means, ordered by Autobot High Command in space. This created a strong animosity between Humans and all Transformers.

Optimus Prime, in my stories, was simply the leader of the Autobots on Earth.

18 years later (from 1989), Cyberton having forbidden Transformers from traveling to Earth, two renegade Autobots have returned: Optimus Prime and Mirage. Unearthing Teletraan 1, which was left behind along with Grimlock and the Omnibots, they built new mini Autobots (the Knock-Offs of different combining Transformers). They have been unable to locate Grimlock or the Omnibots.

Old Conflict, Renewed:

The reason Optimus Prime came is that he knows a clone of Megatron (Armada Megatron, a tank), has defected from Decepticon command and arrived here, along with his Lieutenant, SkyShadow, and three mercenaries, Slipstream, Scalper and Driller, who gestalt into "Krieg." They have already set up a base and created small Decepticons of their own (again, Knock-Offs of different combining Transformers).

How Death Works:
Although Prime died on Earth in the Great Cataclysmic War, like all Transformers in my fictions, they are difficult to kill; so long as their memories remain, and a processing core compatible with their coding (either equally or more powerful than the original), they can be rebuilt. This, too, explains the clones of many Transformers, such as the renegade Megatron, and why Megatron has "existed" for hundreds of millions of years.

In my childhood, Transformers would be destroyed and rebuilt several times, only losing the memories of the time between their last "back-up". As machines, they just view life differently than people, and the Autobots understanding of natural life versus those of machines is one of their humanistic qualities; Decepticons care little for these things.

Different Pre-History:
The Ark crashed several hundred million years prior to 1984. The Dinobots were the first to emerge, molding themselves after the life found on the planet at that time. For eons, they rebuilt themselves and continued their trek across the planet, always guarding the Ark and waiting for word from Autobot High Command, which never came. Eventually a meteorite fell and buried them; as Grimlock later said "We just didn't spend enough time looking to the stars."

The Dinobots weren't dumb, just different. Unearthed millions of years later by the Autobots lead by Optimus Prime, their memories were partly restored by Teletraan 1 on the Ark, which had been running continual repair on itself over the millenia to keep itself in top shape. Grimlock being the leader the Ark chose long ago, but Optimus Prime being the new one, the two settled on Grimlock heading up the role of battlefield commander, and Prime being the overall strategic commander. Sometimes they disagreed, which would get Prime's muffler if it was in front of other Autobots.

The Earth War: 1984-1989
During my stories, Soundwave lead the Decepticons on Earth, while Megatron continued the war from Cyberton.

Hundreds of Millions of years ago, Cyberton itself had nearly been destroyed, and every Transformer was along with it; only a few straggling survivors buried on other planets (like the Earth-bound Autobots) re-emerged after the ages past; for a long time any who returned to Cybertron were destroyed by the nano-virus spread there. Once that was overcome, however, Cybertron was reclaimed circa 1462 A.D. (Easy date for a kid to remember, same as Columbus; my stories were always detailed and still are.)

A clone of Shockwave came to Earth and became the new leader; Soundwave only lead because he had to. Later, Galvatron, a "New Edition" of Megatron, one of numerous clones, arrived; he brought with him the coming of the Great Cataclysmic War on Earth.

You see, Grimlock had lead a number of Autobots onto a Decepticon-held planet and made a successful push there that was countered. All hope lost, Grimlock let lose the "World Bomb", essentially a device capable of creating an Extinction-Level Event on any Earth-sized globe. He made it back by way of teleportation with a few Autobots, and wanted little more of war afterwards. The Decepticon High Command, however, wanted revenge.

Optimus Prime, by this time, was old. He refused to leave his body and lay in the Ark giving orders from there, and sometimes remotely controlled Ultra Magnus, who became his 2nd in command.

Having spent so much time around humans, Optimus Prime had begun to feel that he was more than memories: he was the robot. For this reason, he refused to leave his aging body.

The Great Cataclysmic War:
I never got a chance to "play out" the Great Cataclysmic War because I didn't know it was going to happen; nor would I have wanted it to. My parents lost our horse ranch and me just about every toy with it. Grimlock, the Omnibots and my two Jetfires/Skyfires survived (one mint in box). My mother later gave away my Jetfires without me knowing; that left only four survivors. I thought I still had Topspin, my first Transformer ever (and one of my least favorites) but I didn't find him with my NES things, which I also still have.

2007: Present Day
So today, the Classics Optimus Prime (which belongs to my 10yo daughter) is Optimus Prime, finally in a new body. As with everyone else on Earth, he died in the Great Cataclysmic War; The Ark, before this war, had left Earth, and the parts of Teletraan 1 left behind were incomplete, and unable to back up all of the Autobots. Permanent death ensued for a great many Transformers; Optimus Prime has not said how many. He does know that Teletraan 1 saved his memories because it deemed him more valuable, something that weighs upon him.

Grimlock and the Omnibots survived the War, in which the humans participated in slaughtering all Transformers after the Autobots and Decepticons nearly ended each other; Grim, Overdrive, Camshaft and Downshift went into hiding.

(This is especially disconcerting for my 10yo daughter, because she knows I have both my G1 Grimlock and my "Robots in Disguise" Classic Grimlock still in its box. She wants Grimlock to return, but I am unwilling to open his box, nor use my G1 figure.)

The Autobots feature only:

The First Role-Play Session:
My 10yo daughter made me role-play Prime to help her get ready to fill his shoes. She took control of various knock-offs, as did my 7yo daughter, Dulce. Jose Francisco, my 2yo son, spoke Cybertonese, and we'd act like we understood him and answer in such a way as to make it obvious what he said; he loved this, discovering that you could do more with Transformers than shoot each other, and kept talking and listening. He started practice fighting with laser-beams later.

I had to get into the moment to take up Prime; it had been a long time, but having seen the G1 Cartoon episodes 1-7, the feeling had come back. Still, last night was the first time since, probably, 1989 that I played him. Took me a few moments to get ready, take everything in that had happened, and figure out what he'd say first.

Before Prime, in the largest doll-house, which was their new base, were all the mini Knock-Offs and Mirage, transformed into vehicles. That wouldn't do for a meeting, my first words with Prime were fittingly:

"Autobots: Transform."

My daughters sighed and giggled. We transformed everyone into robot mode.

Prime explained that it had been a long time since the Autobots last came to Earth, and that all of the mini Knock-Offs were newly created Autobots (which explained their lack of stickers, which the little guys complained about later). He explained their roles and the buddy system he expected them to use; the Decepticon threat and their superiority, and that he had put out a call for Starfire, but that his old friend could be many parsecs away (7-10 days shipping).

Prime explained that all Autobots have mini-hologram generators which will blend their seams, so humans won't be able to tell they are Transformers. Decepticons, of course, can see right through this, so the disguise won't work against them. Here too, when asked about the Doll House decorations they were surrounded by, Prime said "Those, too, are holograms; however, by our eyes they look flat and unrealistic, but to human eyes, they will look real."

My daughters smiled at that.

Note on Starfire/Jetfire/Skyfire:
Optimus Prime has sent a message calling Starfire (what I called Jetfire/Skyfire), but does not know how long it will take his old friend to arrive, but that, given Starfire's intellect and distaste for war and the Autobot High Command, he is sure to come. (Classics Jetfire is on order from Hasbro, as is Jazz, which Prime is not aware of: Starfire is bringing along an old buddy who defected with him; not that Starfire had to defect, he was never a soldier under Autobot High Command's control).

Back to Role-Play:
Brute, Recon and Chaser went out on the road; (Brute played by Maria, Chaser by myself and Recon by Dulce) we set up a freeway and put a lot of Matchbox cars on it. Brute hadn't bothered computer speed-reading the laws on traffic, which was problematic because he is a miniature tank. Chaser, a patrol car, quickly became the group's watchdog. Recon, while certainly a follower, provided his own quips.

Firefox and Harrier, two Autobot mini-jets played by myself and Maria, took to the air, and ran into Hawk, a Decepticon mini-jet Knock-Off played by Dulce. She attacked us, and the two Autobots quickly out-gunned Hawk. Foolishly, Dulce had Hawk fly back to the Decepticon Base, whereupon (Armada) Megatron blasted Hawk with his main battle cannon, destroying him for his idiocy, undoubtedly to be rebuilt later, perhaps the wiser. Megatron sent Laserbeak ("Real Gear" Booster X10) to follow the Autobots; Laserbeak's new power was turning invisible like Mirage, but Prime doesn't know that so the data he gave the brand-new Autobots omitted this ability.

Firefox and Harrier, however, were overly wary about being followed, and flew to Japan before heading back home. By that time, Laserbeak had grown tired of following them and returned home; two dice rolls failed to let the Autobots see him, nor get the Autobots to feel less paranoid. They returned and told Prime the good news: they now knew where the Decepticons were.

That ended our role-play and fun and games, as everyone but my oldest had to go to bed.

Current Situation:
As it stands, the Autobots are hopelessly outgunned if a full battle happened, so Prime ordered that, at all costs, their new base must be kept secret; even human governments might seek to destroy them.

On order, "Movie Deluxe" Jazz, my 10yo daughter bought with her own money (she paid me, I bought him online); "Classics" Starfire/Jetfire is mine.

That's all we know, for now. We haven't played the Decepticons yet.

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