Over the past few years, I have noticed a considerable uptick regarding the conversion of nostalgic intellectual property into TTRPGs. To my complete surprise, I was told that Power Rangers is now a role-playing game along with Avatar the Last Airbender, and Alien! So without further ado, grab your skintight body suit… It’s MORPHIN’ TIME!
SIDEBAR – I was never a fan of Power Rangers, as I was just old enough at the time of its initial release to have “aged out.” However, I am both fully aware of its place within the greater cultural zeitgeist and the structure of episodes. Basically, I’m writing this review from the perspective of someone new to the franchise… so don’t hate me if you are a super fan.
The Power Rangers (PR) the Role Playing Game is a 254 page book created by Bryan C.P. Steele and published through Renegade Game Studios. From cover to cover, this book contains highly detailed, colorful, and striking artwork that conveys the essence of the original series. 14 chapters break down everything you need to know in order to run the game. As a veteran of TTRPGs, I truly appreciated the efforts taken by the editors to clearly layout the information in an accessible format. Even someone who is completely unfamiliar with Power Rangers could pick up this book and find everything that they need to run a game.
Let’s be honest, Power Rangers is a bizarre concept mishmash that has me convinced that it was originally conceived of in the cocaine fueled 1980’s. This game is a high school drama-fighter jet-giant robots-Kaiju-marital art epic. It is a Frankenstein’s monster of genre mashups, and I can understand why it is both ravenously adored by some, and dismissed by others. Yet somehow, it holds itself together through this very tightly defined genre structure.
For anyone lacking even a passing familiarity with Power Rangers, here is my attempt to condense the lore: Earth is being threatened by General Rita Repulsa, a scheming leader who continually throws an army of evil (and compostable) minions and giant monsters at a small town called Angel Grove. Here to stop her are the Power Rangers, a group of high school aged supernaturally imbued defenders of the Earth. The color of each Ranger grants them both marital arts abilities as well as the skill to pilot giant armored battled mechs known as “Zords.” With the help of their leader Zordon, the Power Rangers must learn to work together as a team to stop the forces of General Repulsa.
A typical game of Power Rangers essentially hops between combat, exploration and social interaction, heavily mirroring the episodic structure of the television show. As game master, one must balance all of these elements so it does not weigh heavily on one aspect alone. For instance, a given scenario will have players in high school interacting with each other, exploring various locales for clues (related to the current plot) and eventually combatting the threat directly. Said elements will rotate continuously. The design allows for plenty of leniency within the ruleset to diverge a little, but I would imagine that players would want to mimic the structure of the show as close as possible.
Characters are created through the following elements:
• Concept – What the player envisions the character as.
• Origin – Choose from a list of descriptors such as Athletic, Comedic, Tragic, etc. The choice will grant specified and unique bonuses to health, ability scores, skill levels, movement, languages and a single special benefit.
• Role – This defines what color your character picks on the “Ranger Spectrum” (Black, Blue, Green, Pink, Red, Yellow and White) The color choice will determine both the combat related play style, and provides power growth and essence adjustments. For instance, the Yellow Ranger is fast and nimble while the Pink Ranger is a skilled sharpshooter and perceptive.
• Influences – These are descriptors based on a characters background. They could be Artisans, Nomads, Survivors, etc. Each descriptor provides a unique influence perk, hang up (like a social quirk), suggested characteristics, and bond (usually behavioral).
• Essence Scores – The main ability scores are Strength, Speed, Smarts and Social. Your ability scores will also define any derived stats like carry weight.
• Skills – Each of the four main attributes have a number of skills associated with them. For instance, driving is under the speed ability, while technology is under smarts. Scores range from a D2 to a D12 with options for various specializations.
• Perks & Grid Powers – There are a number of perks related to either combat or interaction. Each perk requires a certain prerequisite and will grant unique and defined bonuses.
• Equipment – Contains a number of weapons (both ranged and melee) along with armor, vehicles, general equipment, etc.
In essence, each color on the spectrum is like a class that defines a role on the team as well as an area of combat where you would excel. Keep this mind when creating a character for the first time.
Zords & Bestiary
For all of the diehard fans, I am positive that the section on Zords will not disappoint. It provides everything you need to know about not only the stats, but also give plenty of examples of different types. In addition, there are rules on creating your own in case some were not covered. On the flip side, the Threats section contains a veritable buffet of both human and monster sized opponents. What, you want more? I am not going to list them all, buy the damn book!
Power Rangers utilizes the Essence 20 Role Playing System. This system utilizes a truly interesting take on dice mechanics through the utilization of “sliding dice.” Certain perks, actions or modifiers can cause dice to “slide” either up or down. This can either reduce the chance of success by lowering the die type or increasing the number. The slide can be so dramatic in either direction that a player could have an automatic and/or critical success or an automatic failure or fumble. Additionally, Edges and Snags act the same way mechanically as the D&D 5e Advantage/Disadvantage system. Regardless of the number of die, the idea is to roll against a target skill difficulty and roll high.
This is where things get a little more interesting! Along with standard combat (like fighting human sized opponents), there is a chance of fighting creatures well beyond human size. There could be a combat scenario in which the players must avoid “being squished” by a giant monster. Truly, the size dynamic can really change up the pace of a combat scenario. You could feasibly have a combat session where some players are on ground level in hand-to-hand combat while others are piloting vehicles. There are rules for mech fighting in zero gravity, aerospace, underwater, etc. I could write an entire review on this aspect alone, but I’m glad they took the time to help define all of the various conditions that players could encounter. Each of the said conditions/environments have clear mechanical rules and/or modifiers that generally apply to the aforementioned sliding dice system.
Angel Grove & A Fool’s Errand
The section of the book detailing Angel Grove contains location ideas as opposed to a fully detailed map. I’m supportive of the idea behind this as it allows the GM to make Angel Gove as they envision it. Much like any show with a fictional location, it can change over time.
The section titled “A Fool’s Errand” Contains an entire plot arc for new players. Honestly, it is the best example of how the structure of the game should play out. As discussed previously, the narrative will move between investigative, social and combat related scenarios. Also, much like a television show its assumed that if the players find or successfully investigate X that the plot will then pick up at the next “scene.” There are also some nice little maps and artwork helping to illustrate certain characters, monsters or locations.
I am always pleased to review something that is a labor of love. The mechanics are surprisingly easy to understand, and there is enough crunch in character creation that you feel like you made something unique.
Power Rangers the Role Playing Game is for fans of the intellectual property. True, I have no love for the setting, but at the same time, I understand that it wasn’t designed for me. Additionally, there are going to be others turned off by yet another system of mechanics that they must learn.
There are so many of other properties (I’m looking at you, Star Wars) that I wish would have been given this sort of treatment. If you are a fan of both TTRPGs and Power Rangers, this is the game for you.