Stan! Presents: Kaiju by Fossilized Rappy
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Before we get into Cerulean Seas: Indigo Ice, I decided I'd push out a snapshot related to a topic near and dear to my heart – kaiju!
...No, this has nothing to do with the new Godzilla movie coming out on Friday whatsoever, why ever would you think that?
As I'm fairly sure I've said in my first review of material from The Game Mechanics, the enthusiastically pseudonymed Stan! was one of the original writers Wizards of the Coast had for d20 Modern material who happened to feel that there was more to be written about the system than what survived the cutting room floor. This is by far the smallest of such endeavors, a wee 13 pages not counting the front and back covers. Most supplements this small tend to be given out by The Game Mechanics as freebies, but for whatever reason Stan! Published this one solo as a for-purchase PDF.
As for kaiju, they probably need little introduction. The term means “strange creature”, as Stan!’s supplement helpfully tells us, but in practice it tends to refer specifically to giant monsters. No matter what your opinion on kaiju are, you’re likely to have heard of at least one at this point – they have become imbedded in international pop culture at this point, from Godzilla and his prodigious rogues’ gallery to the fishy freaks of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim.
The art for Stan! Presents: Kaiju has cutesy black and white pastiches of several Toho kaiju and two enigmatic may-be-Toho-may-be-something-else critters decorating its limited pages. His references to Godzilla and King Ghidorah in particular were picked as the images I’d show for the snapshots header, because they’re easiest to recognize. But who cares about that, let’s actually discuss the supplement.
After a two and a half page discussion about the history of kaiju from Godzilla and Gamera up to tokusatsu villains and a paragraph on what is and isn’t a kaiju (Roland Emmerich’s Zilla isn’t but Ray Harryhausen’s Rhedosaurus is, according to our author’s opinion), our first actual discussion of kaiju in a d20 game happens. Stan!’s advice here ends up contradicting the direction the supplement heads in. He states fairly explicitly that kaiju are not to be the main focus of a campaign, but a big plot piece to motivate your player characters. He also states just as explicitly that kaiju are a force of nature that the heroes aren’t meant to fight directly.
This becomes rather confusing very quickly given that the next section after that advice is on how to stat up a kaiju. I’d liken it to the whole “stats for a god” problem faced by D&D – you have an extremely powerful entity that your heroes are not supposed to fight in the head-on murderhobo tradition, but you give them stats anyway. Rather than using the standard d20 size categories and creature types, Stan! Declares that these mighty monsters have their own size and type. The Monumental size category is given because it would apparently be more unrealistic to have a 300 foot kaiju and a 100 foot blue whale be in the same size category than it already is for the 65 foot Tarrasque and a 100 foot blue whale to be in the same size category.
The Daikaiju (“giant strange creature”) creature type gets a d12 for hit die like a dragon, a Base Attack Bonus of +10/+5 plus Strength, and saving throws of +12 plus ability modifiers of course for poor saves or +22 plus the modifiers for good saves. All kaiju get damage reduction 50 that is only bypassed by other kaiju, swallow whole, and trample as special qualities, which must be really awkward for the kaiju that don’t have mouths or legs. Oh, and if they hit a monster that isn’t a kaiju with an attack? Automatic save or die. Even if that creature may be Colossal in size or in a vehicle/mecha and probably should be able to withstand a hit or two at least.
The last part of building a kaiju are its unique special qualities, which are bought with “kaiju points”. Stan! recommends giving 5 to 8 kaiju points and keeping the points generally the same for all but the most powerful kaiju in the same setting. These points seem arbitrarily placed rather than all that thought out – for instance, having a spiky back and tail that deals a measly 1d6 damage to other kaiju (who cannot have less than 40d12 hit dice according to Stan!’s chart) costs 3 points, while being able to fly everywhere or regenerate 25 HP a round are both 2 points. For fun, I experimented with a rather famous kaiju, and it turns out that Godzilla has a total of 18 points with this system. And that’s with me being generous and assuming he doesn’t take the kaiju traits for extra skill points, higher ability scores, or a retaliatory strike. “5 points is recommended, and try not to go over 8” indeed.
The last bit of gaming info this supplement provides are three adventure ideas courtesy of Stan!.
It Came From Underground:
The rural southwestern town of Red Rock Valley is under siege by a titanic mole kaiju accidentally created by the Manhattan Project. The heroes are supposed to investigate the US Department of the Interior’s involvement, track down the mole, and get it to eat a long lost atom bomb buried in the desert to explode it for good.
The Curse of Bakemono Shrine:
A giant monster of unknown description is released from its millennia-long bondage when a statue of the Shinto priest who sealed it away is stolen. Generic trampling over Japan happens and the heroes have to get the statue back from the thieves and place it in the shrine once more to stop the rampage.
Space Monster X:
Literally the plot of the Godzilla film Invasion of the Astro Monster.
Stan! Presents: Kaiju is a weird supplement. Hell, even as much as I like d20 Modern and Stan!, I’m not so blind as to say that this isn’t a bad supplement. It is definitely a bad supplement plagued with a sense of indecision. You have a system to create kaiju, but the heroes are not actually supposed to fight them head-on, and indeed can’t really do so due to the whole” damage reduction bypassed by other kaiju” rule. This was written after d20 Future was already a thing, so the mecha rules were on the table, but the best mecha weapon (the far-future beam scythe held by a Colossal mecha) is still going to do no damage half of the time and deal 50 damage if it deals its maximum yield. Mechagodzilla, MOGUERA, Jet Jaguar, the jaegers of Pacific Rim? Chumps by the logic of the rules here, given that they won’t be dealing nearly as much damage as even the best case scenario above.
This is where my whole “it’s a weird supplement” statement comes in. The only way the kaiju creation rules actually make sense to me is if they were meant to emulate characters playing kaiju for big ridiculous Destroy All Monsters-style battle royales. But this is something the book never mentions, not even in passing, as a possibility! Is this an oversight on Stan!’s part? Cut content? Meant to be assumed even though the campaign ideas text says everything the exact opposite of that premise? I honestly don’t know. There are books that manage to get the most out of the d20 system, Modern or otherwise, with atypical premises. This? This is not one of them.
EDIT: Oh, and while not important to the review, this quote from the index of good kaiju films and books should probably be quoted for who amazing it is.
Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) — Probably the best choreographed of the “pro-wrestling” period of Godzilla films.