A Tabletop RPG (straddling the line with Wargames, particularly through the use of miniature) where the players control troops in The Vietnam War. Characters are encouraged to be made disposable and interchangeable, and the story is barebones, focusing instead on random encounters on the way to generic objectives.
The Original Recon, written by Joe F. Martin and published by RPG Inc., got four expansions and adventure modules. Palladium Books bought the rights to the game and published Revised RECON in 1986. This version expanded character creation and added more role-playing elements, though still kept character creation quick and emphasized the game's lethality. This got an expansion in Advanced RECON, and both were merged into one book and republished as Deluxe Revised RECON in 1999.
In the original Recon, characters have three attributes: strength, alertness and agility, each rolled on a percentage die. If the total is under 100 or any one score is below a thirty, the character is 4-F, unfit for duty and rerolled. The player buys skills in bundles of ten called Military Skill Programs. For instance, basic training contains ten skills: athletics, running, climbing, weapon proficiency pistol, W.P. assault rifle, W.P. grenade and hand to hand: military basic. With other skill trees based along the basic routes of Military, Espionage, Police and Rogue. You get two of these based on your class. Palladium's RECON kept the three attributes, but added more Military Occupational Specialties as classes, provided rules for a secondary MOS, and expanded the skills.
Skills and gear play a major role as compared to supernatural powers in other Palladium games. Notably, despite being published by Palladium, the game does not use the Palladium System, though some similarities could be seen in how skills work.
A community has arisen around adapting the rules of RECON to various wars historical and contemporary.
RECON contains examples of:
- Anti-Frustration Features: You will die. A lot. But character creation is quick and easy and combat is usually resolved very quickly.
- Anyone Can Die: There's a reason you're not supposed to get attached to your characters.
- Armor Is Useless: Revised Recon describes the standard issue US flak vest as "Five pounds of useless, dead weight." It was heavy, uncomfortable to wear in the sweltering jungle, and couldn't stop rifle rounds anyways, so most soldiers didn't bother wearing it. As such, no rules are provided for body armour in the game.
- Death Is Cheap: Exceptionally so. Players may want to five or six pre-rolled characters lined up and ready to go.
- No Communities Were Harmed: The Palladium printing changed the names of the power players if groups wanted to avoid the political issues of using the real Vietnam War, but they were up-front that their alternates were transparently thin covers. The Soviet Union became Big Red, the United States is now Stateside, and North and South Vietnam became People's 'Nam and Southern 'Nam.
- Splash Damage: A lot of heavy weapons have one, as well as artillery and airstrikes, naturally. A character who can tank a bullet or two from small arms will quickly die if mortars or machineguns are brought out.
- Straight for the Commander: Usually your best option in any ambush scenario, the loss of a leader will demoralize the enemy, often to the point of disengaging entirely.
- Turn-Based Combat: But rounds go very quickly as does most combat.
- Unconventional Alignment: Recon features its own alignment chart relating to the player characters being U.S. soldiers in the Vietnam War. There's three general alignments: Idealistic (Roughly Neutral Good), Opportunistic (Roughly Neutral, with a note that the player is devoted to their teammates) and Malignant (Roughly Neutral Evil, but in a selfish pain-in-the-ass way.) Each alignment has one or two more focused derivative alignments: Idealistic-Pacifist (Thou Shalt Not Kill), Opportunistic-Righteous (Lawful Neutral Ultra-Patriot), Opportunistic-Karmic (Neutral Blood Knight), and Malignant-Psychotic (Chaotic Evil)
- War Gaming: Essentially, you control individual troops in a small-unit setting that most cross territory towards an objective and get ambushed or drawn into sidequests along the way. The Palladium Printing allowed for more roleplaying, but still focused on the tactical combat.