Retro: MEGA

MEGA is a French Sci-Fi RPG that appeared in 1984 as a special issue of Jeux & Stratégie the leading French magazine about games at the time. It saw three published versions and has currently a fan made fourth edition. It didn’t see any translation so you’ll need to read French to be able to play it. And that’s why I’m talking about it here. At the time it was one of the most sold RPG in France, mostly because it was one of the last expensive and had a large print run, with newsstand distribution.

I’ll talk about the last officially published version Mega III. Not because Mega IV isn’t worth, but because I haven’t played it. I might read-review it later once I go through it.

After a first version in 1984, and a second one in 1986, this third version of Mega has been published in 1992, first as a special issue for Casus Belli the leading RPG magazine in France, then has a hard cover in 1993, that also contained more background a lengthy campaign. The rule content in both is the exact same, as it was made from the exact same layout, but the hard cover came with erratas. On the other hand, the magazine version had 3 shorter adventures modules plus a few hooks.

The universe

Mega is the short for MEssagers GAlactiques (Galactic Messenger). Mega are member of a Guild of Messengers that travel through the universe and across universes by transiting between points — almost instantaneously. This transit power is what make them part of the Guild and this why the Guild exist. It has been serving the galaxy for thousands of year through the different times and political powers. Nowadays it accomplish various missions, usually to investigate, aid diplomatic missions, extends its coverage, etc. The Guild is far far away from Earth, even though people are mostly humanoids and the PCs are possibly humans from Earth.

Where is Earth in all of this? Earth is now - actually in the mid 90’s as the game was published at the time, but we aren’t much further anyway so 2016 is perfectly fine.

The rules

The rule system has evolved from the first two editions. It uses d10 and d100 (percentile). You do roll under against a difficulty as per a single table. Each character has 10 attributes, 5 physical, 5 mentals, and skill that are calculated depending on two careers and the actual attributes. It is a simulationist system with nothing of the narrativism found in more recent games.

The split between physical and mental attributes is important: Mega have another power: Transfer. It allows them to transfer their mind into a third party body. This is the not secret power that makes the citizens of the galaxy aware of the guild, fear the Mega a little bit. Of course, you’ll recalculate those skills, at least those that rely on the physical attributes.

The gaming potential

We can classify Mega as the intergalactic spy space opera RPG. That’s the short version.

PCs are usually sent on a mission, to solve a problem, gather information, recover something or whatever is needed. While they are not soldier, it happen that the usage of physical means might be needed.

We have seen that Transit allows travelling between universes. This is where it gets interesting: these universes might have a slower timeline, one that diverged at one point, which give for uchronies: the timeline of history has differed from the main universe. So you can be sent during the French revolution, the war of the Roses in England or anything else that happened, and history might have changed. What if the Cuban crisis led to this missiles being launched — and you arrive in that universe in America during the late 1960’s? You can’t change your history, but you can be stuck in theirs. The man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick, or Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream are perfect examples of alternative history.

Faster than light space travel do exist, and you can use it, even though Transit is way faster. Transit you said? To explain it easily is Stargate, albeit predated by that game: the traveler enters a gate and exits on the other side. These are not circles, they are solid tetrahedrons (the shape of a d4). These transit points also lead to parallel universes, they can also fail, leading to arriving somewhere else.

In conclusion

This game offers a lot of potential in what kind of adventure can happen and a very broad range of the Sci-Fi genre, or even Fantasy can be exploited without fear. The fanbase is what lead to the creation of the Mega IV even though it only got commerical follow up as adventures published in Casus Belli.

Today it could benefit from a reboot, as an indie game, but that possibly what Mega IV is about.

Mega III — a game designed by Didier Guiserix and Michel Brassine

  • Published by Casus Belli, 1992
  • Published by Descartes Éditeur, 1993