The fourth book in Palladium’s original Robotech series is the first one to step away from the Macross back-story and take on the second of three storylines. Southern Cross deals with probably the least popular section of the Robotech cartoon. The Robotech Masters have come to Earth and it is up to the Armies of the Southern Cross, including Max & Mira’s daughter, Dana, to fend them off. Spoiler alert – at the end, almost all the military forces of both sides are wiped out. While it is the least popular of the three series, Southern Cross does contain many important plot details to the overall Robotech universe with the Robotech Masters (creators of the Zentraedi) and Protoculture (the uber-fantastic power source).
Arrangement: The book starts off with a quick introduction and what different time periods that can be played as the Southern Cross (working with the RDF, fighting the Masters or preparing for the Invid or anything in-between). Being a “new” book, new skills (including M.O.S.’s) and O.C.C.’s are now available to chose from (the “15” Armies of the Southern Cross are each an O.C.C.). The combat tables come after the skills followed by some optional rules. Up next comes the descriptions of the each of the 15 armies/O.C.C. (TASC, ATAC, GMP, etc.) They add in a bit about “special teams” which pretty much tells the GM and PC’s that they can go ahead and chose different OCC’s and still work together. Next (in the middle of the book!) are character sheets. After that is the mecha of the Southern Cross and EBSIS, followed by regular vehicles and equipment. After all the vehicles and equipment comes the section on the Robotech Masters (background, O.C.C.’s, mecha) followed by updated information on the Earth (including another, minor, earthbound antagonist, the “Merchant Republic”) and finally some NPC stats and “Japanimation” notes.
OCCs/Armies: A lot of the information here is good but like we see throughout the book, misidentified (which, to Palladium’s credit, they were working with very little material in the days before the Internet). Some branches aren’t separate “armies” onto themselves but branches from the Tactical Corps. One of the best things introduced here (but not carried over in their other material until the “2nd Edition” stuff came out) was the M.O.S. – Military Occupational Specialty. What this allowed was for anyone to play an ATAC OCC but still have unique abilities (Science Officer, Mechanical Officer, etc. like is seen in the series). The Southern Cross book doesn’t have the “Electrical Engineer” or his peers like Book One does so this helps cover that aspect of the game. Along with each OCC are the illustrations showing off their own versions of the armor, along with different helmet designs for officers and such.
Mecha: This is probably one of the two spots were most of the errors in this book occur (which, with the advent of the Internet, became more noticeable than in the 1980’s and early 1990’s). The Logan Veritech Fighter is mostly correct; the one thing they added, like the VF-1, were extra lasers, which it doesn’t have. The AJACs has a pretty good description, though, to make the time-period more “game-able” they make its debut earlier than actually seen in the series. What they leave it for the AJACs is that there are two versions – one for space (left out) and one for Earth (shown). Mainly it’s only stylistic changes. The hover tank is pretty well done also with only the add-ons we see later on in the cartoon series left out (rocket boosters, enclosed cockpits).
The Southern Cross battleoids, however, are where the most glaring mistakes come in. Many are assigned to the wrong branch, others are called battloids when they were closer to power armors, and some were given to the EBSIS states (the EBSIS was a fictional for the role-playing game, based off of notes by Carl Macek). The coolest part of this section, though is the fact that many of the battliods only appeared ever so briefly in the animated series (and thus easily missed) so it is pretty cool to see them and have stats for them.
Vehicles: Pretty good in this section though some of the vehicles we do see in the series are left out (but not many). This gives a lot of standard military vehicles to use (hover cycles, trucks, APCs, jets). The biggest let down was lack of some pictures and the fact we only get two space ships detailed (with no pictures to go with them!).
Equipment: Some pretty good information on the armor of the Southern Cross, including some add-ons. The hand-held weapons are mostly good, a few are misidentified. One big difference between Southern Cross and Macross is now PC’s can have Mega-Damage armor to protect them (and not have to rely solely on mecha) and because Mega-Damage with the energy weapons presented.
Robotech Masters: Some good background information is presented along with the hierarchy of the Masters (including stats if you want to either make NPC’s or have characters run them). They go into the Master’s mecha though here they seemed a bit under-armored, compared to what we see in the series. Some of the other equipment is detailed though the only ship that is given any detail or stats is the main mother ships we see (though there are clearly other ships in the series).
World Information: Some good stuff, updating the world for the past 15 or so years when Books One and Two left off. What’s nice is that with the EBSIS and Merchant Republic, we get antagonists that do broaden the adventure levels for the time-period. I’m not too sure how much is completely made up on Palladium’s side of things and how much is based on drafts, notes, and conversations with Macek and Harmony Gold. With Earth-bound antagonists, it can add a variety of game play to the game.
Artwork: This is where the book gets funky. There are some really good b+w line art in the book, however, a lot of it gets ruined by over-shading/shadowing it (some mecha look mostly like silhouette drawings!). I’m not sure the reasoning behind it but it definitely takes away as you lose a lot of detail. Some of the artwork is reused from the previous Book One. However, many of the weapons and battliods are drawn out which is nice, since, as mentioned, the series sometimes gives us a second of it on the screen. The cover has a simple fight scene in a wasteland setting with a bright orange background.
Overall: When I first got this book, I would have given it a good B/B+. I was never a huge fan of the Southern Cross section of Robotech but I loved seeing all the information on the mecha! However, I also a bit disappointed by the lack of more information on the Masters and more on the world. Looking back now, the book would be a C-, knowing how much information was wrong. However, they do admit right at the end of the book that a lot of the information is pure speculation on their part, based on animation models and brief scenes in the animation and not on any other books or material. The OCC’s were mostly good and the introduction of the MOS was great but not carried on anywhere else. I think one of the “pipe dreams” of Palladium was to always try to get a Southern Cross Sourcebook out but they never did. This would have detailed the world some more and given up information on the Southern Cross in space (moon bases, Liberty, more on the ships and Masters).