The Four Robos: Multi-Era Play in the Atomic Robo RPG

One of our favorite features of the Atomic Robo RPG is how the game supports multi-era play. Today we’re going to talk about that a little, after reminding you to check out last week’s post with its freshened downloads and delicious informations.

Reminded yet? Great! Let’s get to it.

OCT091062-ATOMIC-ROBO-TP-VOL-03-SHADOW-FROM-BEYOND-TIME-C_-0-0-11What’s Multi-Era Play?

In short, it’s how the game lets you play out a story that spans a century in the same campaign — maybe even in the same session — without missing a beat. The game accomplishes this, in party, by making it crazy fast to create a new character. All you really need is to pick three modes (that’s easy), establish a high concept, and get playing. Everything else about a character can be determined as you play!

This is something that comes straight from the source material. Atomic Robo is an immortal robot, created by Tesla early in the 20th Century, with his current stories spanning anywhere from that point in the timeline up to 2020 or so. Any given volume can happen anywhere in that timeline, and in the case of Volume 3: Atomic Robo and the Shadow From Beyond Time, each issue takes place at a different point in the timeline.

That’s the sort of thing that was foremost in our minds as we sat down to work out a plan for the Atomic Robo RPG. We wanted a game that would let you sit down at one session where the PCs are Charles Fort, H.P. Lovecraft, and Atomic Robo… and then pick up two sessions down the line, where you’re short one player due to life events, jump the timeline forward to the 70s, and have the PCs be Atomic Robo and Carl Sagan, without any real trouble at all.

This makes for a pretty dang resilient campaign, the sort that can handle the stresses of life and scheduling conflicts without batting a mechanical eyelid at it. New players can drop in and out without having to put the brakes on to spin up new characters. Each player can potentially play an entire cast of PCs spread across the timeline — or different versions of the same character as they age and grow. Retiring one character and starting up a new one is no big deal either.

At the end of the day, you don’t have to use the multi-era idea in your game’s storytelling — but the machinery we’ve put in place to support it brings a new kind of flexibility and fun to RPG play in general, even if you decide all your action is going to occur in the same calendar year.

The Four Robos

So what’s all this mean for our title character, Atomic Robo himself? Just because a character is an immortal robot doesn’t mean he’s an unchanging immortal robot. We see this in Volume 3 (and the rest of the series for that matter) — earlier-timeline Robo is more naive and less experienced with the action half of action science. Later on he makes with more of the exploding and actioning.

As such that led us to create four different character sheets for Robo — all the same character, but manifesting just a bit differently depending on where he’s at in the timeline. Here’s a look at each of those four character sheets. (Click for the PDF!)

All Four Robos