When I went home for Christmas I looked through my games collection that still resides at my parents’ house. Among the items I found in boxes that I was very glad I still had was the first roleplaying game Palladium Publishing produced, The Mechanoid Invasion and it’s two sequels.
For those not familiar the series of three games/supplements describes the destruction of a human colony by the Mechanoids. They Mechaniods are an evil, insane, race of cyborgs. Think of the Borg but created while on a peyote trip after reading a decade of Rom: Spaceknight comics. In the first book, The Mechanoid Invasion the colonists are trying to fight off the Mechanoids. In the second book, The Journey, finding out that military assistance will be month’s too late as the Mechanoids are tearing apart the planet for resources the colonist become the rats in the walls of the Mechanoid’s asteriod sized mothership. Interestingly, this book is the only one that is isn’t a stand alone game. Finally, in Homeworld, we reach the Mechanoid homeworld. The last is the longest book at 192 digest pages. The combined reprint is in normal RPG sized is about 200 pages.
Today Palladium has become the butt of jokes for most of the community for their gun porn, power creep, and recycling material. There is truth to that. In fact, if you get the original The Mechanoid Invasion you’ll find material in the newest Palladium games word for word. Even in the third book you get material for the first repeats. The Balrog Destroyer super tank from The Journey is the first instance of the power creep and lack of internal logic that would characterize Rifts material.
However, ever good thing that people would say about Palladium in the next thirty years is in here too. The engine, which is an early D&D derivative, is functional for the game in place. Given the modern view that the Palladium engine is fine for fantasy but broken for modern systems people should look back. The gonzo imagination of Kevin Siembieda is on display. The various kinds of Mechanoids is creative as is the entire idea of the second book. At the time most people expected what we’d later see in Rifts with the Federation showing up with big ships and a power scale up. Instead we got microbe created magic and the ultimate reverse dungeon in space.
After the original digest books went out of print Palladium created a third stand alone game called The Mechanoids set between the first and third book of the original trilogy. While not quite as exciting it isn’t a bad game. A decade later the Mechanoids would appear with mega-damage as yet another Rifts supplement. This is the least enjoyable version in my opinion but for several years was the easiest to find. However, about a decade ago the original books were gathered into a single volume pretty much intact. This big book is one of Palladium’s first e-products and is available at RPGNow. The preview has a complete table of contents if you’re considering any version of the reprint.
With the growing interest in science-fantasy this is truly a buried treasure. If you are using Mutant Future including Mechanoids in a variety of forms is an option. They’d fit well into Encounter Critical. I’m not sure they’d be too great for most science fantasy but I’d encourage someone using Jeff Rient’s Alchemical Proposal to think about making it one supplement. In fact, if you want to do an OSR science fantasy game more from the science side than the fantasy side it it could be a good base game. Regardless, this is one game worth overcoming the post Rifts Palladium prejudices to take a look at.