Transcribing Transformers

Though not all of them are so equipped, most Transformers released since 1984 include Tech Specs. In addition to offering some background and a raw description of each Transformer's specialties, Tech Specs provide something of a guide by which people can compare the capabilities of one Transformer against those of another. Or, in other words, a Transformer's statistics.

While the statistical numbers provided by Hasbro are far from precise in nature, as admitted by their original creator, they nonetheless provide a baseline through which Universal Heroes players can model character descriptions of their favorite robots in disguise, assuming that hasn't already been done here on the 13. And, with all the Transformers that have been released over the years, this is highly likely.

Before proceeding with this process proper, however, I feel it is vital to give credit where credit is due, and to thank the inspiration for this work. The root of Transcribing Transformers is a guide partially released into the wild, back in 1999, by EmarZero - a member of the old Marvel Super Heroes e mail list. This, and by extension all of my game-related efforts on Transformers, would have been impossible without him.

But What Are They?

Transformers are precisely what they appear to be on the surface: powerful electromechanical entities that can transform (hence the name) between two or more distinct configurations. But, aside from their origins on the planet Cybertron, what makes them tick? The answer to this question is a bit more complicated, and can in fact vary considerably, depending on which Transformers setting you choose to utilize.

Every iteration of Transformers fiction, whether seen in print, on television, or even at the movie theater, seems to give these curious beings a different origin. Regardless, whether they're granted life by some inexplicable entity or simply built by soul-less aliens to serve as war machines, all Transformers are considered sentient beings, complete with emotions, goals, and quite often, distinct personalities.

As such, despite their incredible abilities, considerable age, and advanced knowledge, Transformers are often subject to the same foibles as ordinary humans. This is possibly the reason that people tend to relate to them so well in most of their portrayals... and makes it a whole lot easier to adopt the role of a Transformer in the game. At least, that is, once one has managed to quantify what they can and cannot do.

Modeling Transformers from Tech Specs

As luck would have it, Tech Specs provide an accounting of a given Transformer's basic strengths and weaknesses, traits which are roughly analogous to the statistics used to describe characters in most role playing games. Thanks to this happy coincidence, determining a Transformer character's ability scores in the Universal Heroes system is a relatively simple affair, which can be accomplished with the use of Table 1, below.

Table 1: Tech Spec Translations
Tech Spec
Ability or
Power Rank
1Feeble (2)
2Poor (4)
3Typical (6)
4Good (10)
5Excellent (20)
6Remarkable (30)
7Incredible (40)
8Amazing (50)
9Monstrous (75)
10Unearthly (100)
?Shift X (150) or more

When plugging Tech Specs into Table 1, Skill translates into Fighting, Speed corresponds to Agility, and both Strength and Endurance are direct equivalents. Intelligence is analogous to Reason, Courage is the equivalent of Psyche, and Rank stands in for Popularity (at least where members of various Transformers factions are concerned.) Intuition lacks a direct Tech Specs counterpart, so simply use the average of Intelligence, Speed, and Skill.

For those Transformers whose alternate modes include vehicles, vehicular statistics need to be determined. Skill can be used to provide a Control rating, Speed is used to produce, well, speed - for ground or other locomotion, and Endurance offers us a proper Body score. Protection is a value that must be inferred, based on the body armor a Transformer has (explained later), which may increase or decrease depending on how much any passengers are covered.

For those powers a Transformer possesses that aren't inherent to their very bodies (also explained later), or already accounted for thanks to their Speed Spec (such as flight, perhaps), Firepower is used to determine how much damage a Transformer's primary attacks inflict, while Skill provides a rank for any non-damaging powers not already covered by Speed. Which should cover pretty much everything at this point.

Of course, it is important to take the descriptive text provided with a Transformer into account when modelling their ability scores and powers with Tech Specs. These can often lead to a given rank being increased or decreased, depending on the specific details provided for the character in question. Buzzsaw's Speed rating of 8, for example, does not jibe with his listed flight speed of 250 miles per hour (Amazing versus Remarkable-ish).

Inherent Transformer Powers

While many Transformers have one or more special abilities that help them stand out amongst their peers, all of these mechanoids have a common set of super human powers. These powers, usually listed within the 'Cybertronian Physique' entry on a Transformer's character description, serve as a base from which Transformers, as an electromechanical alien species, can claim a minimal common ground.

These powers include:

* Body Armor: being that they are all living robotic entities, Transformers possess this power solely due to their molecular composition. Metallic in nature, though the exact composition of such varies from one robot to another, Transformers typically possess this power at a rank of Good (10). This can vary, however, based on how durable or fragile a given Transformer's Tech Spec makes them out to be.

* Microscopic and Telescopic Vision: complementing their highly variable volumes, Transformers can modify their visual acuity, doing so in two distinct fashions. They can change the focus of their optical receivers such that they can spy objects at a great distance, or objects very close but very small, with Feeble (2) ability. It's not a world-shaking power, but it makes a Transformer's life much more convenient.

* Radio Transceiver: whether on the ocean floor or in deep space, a Transformer can readily communicate with its fellows. While their mouths move when relaying information to each other, and they can indeed vocalize when talking to those without onboard electronics, Transformers chat by sending and receiving radio signals to each other. They may do so with Excellent (20) ability, having a one hundred mile maximum range.

* Resistance to Disease and Poison: primarily inorganic in nature, Transformers are invulnerable to poisons and disease that threaten organic entities. They don't catch conventional bugs, nor do they fret breathing in noxious fumes. However, as living beings, they are subject to comparable threats that can affect electromechanical life forms, though they possess Unearthly (100) protection from these dangers.

Growth and/or Shrinking

Though in some instances they willingly downsize to a volume more consistent with human beings, Transformers are for the most part rather large. They will thus usually possess the Growth power to account for their great size in comparison to a human being, particularly when in humanoid form. In the vast majority of cases, this is intended to be more descriptive than indicative of an actual ability.

However, Transformers are weird. They can seemingly adjust their size to accommodate another Transformer as a passenger or to become one - or sometimes, two Transformers will 'split the difference' so that one can more easily transport the other. This may simply be a curious result of plot device, which is most visible in older animated Transformers tales, but it is important to point out that it is documented.

This anomalous behavior aside, some Transformers definitely have the ability to shrink. This is most often in order for them to pose as some innocuous device or another, one which a human - or even another Transformer - might mistake as inert technology. Where such Transformers are encountered, they will have the shrinking power listed along with their growth (if applicable), to help one track their multiple statures.

The thing about growth, however, is that it modifies the base values for both a Transformer's Strength and any special attack damage they have, according to their size factor. For each +1 size factor a Transformer possesses, subtract 1 CS from their Strength and the ranks of their damaging powers and/or weapons. This makes them properly menacing to smaller entities, but on equal footing against others of like volume.

For example, Sunstreaker possesses a Firepower rating of 7, while his stature gives him a size factor of +1. As such, when modelling this Autobot sociopath, one would reduce the base damage of his electron pulse rifle by 1 CS, which is the damage he would inflict when firing upon entities of like stature. If he were to use it against a human sized foe (or even a human!), though, that size factor would boost said damage by +1 CS.

Individual Transformer Abilities

In addition to the above abilities, all Transformers can, well, transform. Inherent shape changers, Transformers may reconfigure their bodies between two or more modes at will. Unlike the above abilities, though, each transformation is, for the most part, what makes one Transformer a unique individual. While some do, in fact, share an alternate mode, most Transformers go about transforming in their own, unique way.

Generally, a Transformer cannot change which modes they may transform into, this usually being a process executed by specialized hardware, housed in a base or vessel of some sort. The latter can be something as large as a space craft or as small as a stasis pod. Of course, there are exceptions to this basic rule, most notably in the case of the Transformers in the live action movies.

A Transformer's shape changing power usually isn't given a rank, since it's a reflexive ability that they all have. In a pinch, one can simply use the Transformer's Skill rating to quantify it if required to do so. Rare instances where this might be necessary include exposure to weapons or other effects that 'lock' a Transformer in their current form, or perhaps attempts to transform when heavily damaged.

In addition to this versatile skill, a Transformer will invariably have at least one additional capability that allows them to stand out amongst their fellows. This may come in the form of a special power, such as Skywarp's teleportation or Trailbreaker's force field generation, one or more traits granted by their alternate form(s), or even just a relatively unique weapon the Transformer lugs around with them.

As indicated previously, special powers and equipment that inflict damage have their base rank determined by the Transformer's Firepower Spec (subject to modification by their size factor), while those that don't directly inflict damage are based on the Transformer's Skill Spec. Of course, common weaponry, such as laser pistols or missile launchers, will typically rely upon whatever rank such destructive devices normally wield.


Though it isn't one of their standard powers, Transformers possess a tendency to merge their body and/or mind with that of another being - usually another Cybertronian, but not always. Furthermore, as one might guess from a group of beings as wildly diverse as Transformers are, these mergers can take numerous forms. The simplest of these involve two (or more) Transformers forming a binary bond.

A binary bond involves a larger Transformer allowing a smaller being to serve as either a body part or a weapon. Transformers with another being serving as their head are known as Headmasters, those with a secondary being acting as their power core are called Powermasters, and Transformers whose weapons are living, transforming entities may be identified as Targetmasters. The benefits of a binary bond are as follows:

* Headmasters: a Transformer who has binary bonded with another being to become a Headmaster has physically removed their head, and uses their partner to take its place. By joining together so, the combined entity may make use of the higher of the two's Reason and Intuition scores, adding a +1 CS all the while. Of course, if either of these ability scores are within 1 CS of each other, give it a +2 CS enhancement, instead.

* Powermasters: Transformers in a Powermaster binary bond allow a secondary being to serve as their power core, taking the form of a vehicle mode engine. A Powermaster may utilize the higher of the binary pair's Endurance score, raised by +1 CS... or +2 CS if both scores are within 1 CS of each other. A Powermaster should also receive the benefit of another +1 CS bonus to any other rank of the player's choice.

* Targetmasters: a Targetmaster is a Transformer who is binary bonded to a being who serves as their firearm. The most minimally invasive binary bond, becoming a Targetmaster allows a Transformer to attack with their partner's considerable firepower. They may do this at either their own or their partner's Agility score +1 CS, though this bonus is raised to +2 CS if both their Agility scores are within 1 CS of each other.

A variation on the Targetmaster binary bond is the powerlinx, which a Transformer may create with Mini-Cons. These roughly human-sized mechanoids can readily share their power, which is why their services are so desirable to other, larger Transformers. A powerlinx is less permanent than a binary bond, however, and Transformers have been known to readily mix and match Mini-Cons with each other over time.

When so utilized, a Mini-Con provides its powerlinxed Transformer a +1 CS bonus to any ability or power rank they desire. Multiple Mini-Cons can offer more bonuses, but overlapping boosts suffer from diminishing returns, per a buddy CS. In addition to this enhanced prowess, a powerlinxed Mini-Con will also provide its Transformer a special power, dependent on its (and its partner's) nature.

Finally, and perhaps most infamously, many of Autobots and Decepticons may combine their bodies with each other to form a gestalt robot, one comprised of the bodies and minds of at least two ostensibly amicable fellows. Such mergers can involve as few as two Transformers, but usually include more. A lot more. For example, Devastator is the result of the six Constructicons combining into a singular engine of destruction.

For the most part, when two or more Transformers combine, they typically do so per the corporeal gestalt power. Their ability scores may not line up with what that power would otherwise indicate, however, for they often have their own Tech Specs available somewhere, which take precedence over the rules as stated. In fact, few combiners lack such Tech Specs, aside from poor SquawkBox, so keep that in mind.


Last, but not least, it is important to note that Transformers do not need to recover from the rigors of simply existing as do you or I. They need not intake food or water to live, nor do they need to breathe at all. In fact, Transformers don't seem to sleep, unless knocked offline due to injury or other external effects. They lack environmental independence, though, for all Transformers require energon to function.

The exact nature of energon is almost as difficult to pin down as is that of Transformers themselves. From one continuity to another, it acts in a different fashion, some differences being more drastic than others. Is it the essence of Primus dispersed through the cosmos itself, or merely a strange crystalline substance that can be refined for fuel? Regardless of its properties, it is a constant need of Transformer life.

It is unknown how much energon a Transformer requires to persist, but it presumably takes a lot; several Transformer tales revolve around Cybertron being drained of energy, after all. In the absence of proper energon, however, a Transformer can get by with lesser energy sources. Some fictions demonstrate Autobots fitted to accept gasoline as would an earth vehicle - even if they need plenty more than their counterparts.

Regardless of the source material, energon is an inherently unstable form of matter/energy. It can easily be destroyed by assaults intentional or accidental, and usually expires in a most explosive fashion. Either in a solid or liquid form (usually a crystal or contained within a coherent energy cube), energon can be detonated to affect everyone within its current area, the exact force of such depending on how much is present.

Think of one cube or crystal as an explosive of Remarkable (30) intensity - at the very least.

On the other hand, in some continuities energon can be refined into coherent energy structures that can be consumed to give Transformers an ability or power boost, per those powers. Or, alternately, the Transformer with a refined 'energon star' can instead transform it into a powerful weapon - melee or ranged - with which to assault their foes. Such implements are usually much more powerful than their mundane counterparts.


In case you'd rather view this information on the go, or just want to hang onto it for posterity, I've converted the meat of this diminutive work into a text file for ease of use. This way, one can archive it with the rest of the text files they may have purloined from the 13, or can even alter it to better suit their own purposes. Some people may feel it's not perfect, after all. So hey, here it is!

Transcribing Transformers Text File Download

In the event that you are curious about the scaffolding I used to forge this work, I've provided the original text files I used, culled from the dead and gone MSH RPG mailing list. Both of these, as mentioned above, were written by EmarZero, and are provided for perspective's sake. After all, you might not like my take on this material, and would like to see how the original was put together. So here they are!

Transformers Converter

Beast Wars Converter

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