Thomas insisted that I give the new Netflix reboot of Voltron, Voltron: Legendary Defender, a try, and I'm incredibly glad I did. I have very few memories of the Voltron TV series that aired on American TV in the 80s. I'm certain I saw re-runs in syndication and I had the Voltron figure that combined all 5 lions, though I lost the sword and paladin figures before I started elementary school. Which is to say, I knew Voltron, but didn't have many definite and concrete memories and went into Voltron: Legendary Defender with only hazy memories of what came before.
Now, I won't try to claim that V:LD is high art or ground-breaking for a 'kids show' in the way that I might for Adventure Time, Steven Universe or Over the Garden Wall, but I did find it enjoyable and I'm looking forward to the second season. There's a slow bit in the middle of the series with some rock people and a friend remarked to me that there's a lot of it that revolves around them not being able to or wanting to form Voltron, but what I keep going back too as I think about the show is how it could be an excellent model for a D&D style adventuring party.
What do I mean? Well, not only do the paladins have some individual motivations, but they also have some good intra-party interactions. Minor Spoilers follow, but I've tried not to give away all the surprises.
- Shiro - The oldest of the paladins and default leader, Shiro serves as a role-model for the others, though he's haunted by the time he spent as a captive of the Galra Empire. Shiro was the pilot on the mission to Kerberos where Pidge's father and brother disappeared. Serves as a surrogate older brother figure to the other paladins.
- Keith - Sullen, temperamental and over-confident, Keith is also the blandest of the paladins in my opinion, but does serve as a more serious foil to Lance. He generally follows Shiro's lead but his arrogance leads him to act alone sometimes. He and Lance have a rivalry that balances nicely on always seeking to one-up the other but also being willing to work together when the need arises.
- Lance - Enthusiastic but sometimes lazy, with a mixture of goofiness and teenage lust. Lance is best buds with Hunk and seems to see Pidge as a slightly annoying younger sibling. Always seeking to one-up Keith, but when push comes to shove the
- Hunk - Initially reluctant to be a hero, Hunk comes around to defending the universe through the first series, in a kind of arc I realize I don't see often in my D&D games. Perhaps the next long term PC I'm able to play in a game will need to be reluctant hero who comes to embrace it.
- Pidge - The youngest of the team, Pidge wants to find his brother and father and sometimes let's that goal override other considerations. Pidge also has a secret that he initially keeps from the group. Pidge looks up to Shiro as a kind of mentor, but also doesn't trust him at points since he can't remember much about his captivity or what happed to Pidge's family.
The last few ongoing games I've run, it hasn't felt like the party has come together the way I like, but instead it felt more like a group of PCs all made to be individually interesting or awesome for the players to play but without many ties between them or intra-party interaction. Additionally, I feel like recent parties had some issues with party cohesion, motivation and tactics/cooperation. With my two new games, keeping Voltron in mind has definitely guided how I worked with the players on building parties. Here's what I wrote up for my Numenera for the players to consider when forming their party
- Discuss how the party will work and its organization.
- Does anyone want to be the leader?
- How will the party make decisions?
- Which PCs want to know each other?
- Is the party all “good heroes” or are they morally ambiguous.
- What will keep the party together?
- Githzerai Pact of the Winds Warlock
- Khaasta Sand Knight
- Planar Human Focused Specialist
- Planar Human Way of the Mind and Body Monk