Thursday, May 20, 2010

Anime RPGs

My first Anime was Akira.  I remember hearing a lot about it in college and I finally watched it, but I was not all that impressed.  Sure I liked the whole neo-Tokyo vibe that pervades so much Anime and it had style, but the story left me flat.

Then, a change happened.  I was teaching at night so I had my days free.I also had a NetFlix account.  Ao I began to get anime, and flankly a lot of it was so good I even dragged my wife into them.  I do admit I sought out what had been considered some of the best, Witch Hunter Robin, Cowboy Bebop were our faves.  We also enjoyed the Witchblade anime as well as some that were even less than family fare.

What I liked about them were obviously the stories and in many the humor, but also the style.  Anime have a beginning, middle and an end.  Obviously due to their manga origins.  Some TV shows in america seem to go on ad nauseum.   It is a style I would want to duplicate in an amime based RPG game.  Get in, tell your story, and get out to let others have the stage.

It's a style more than a system thing.  You could do high action anime D&D (and some claim that is what D&D4 is) or even horror.  But all the same I sought out various games.  Here is a breif run down before I get into details.    For this I even have new "label" for these threads; Anime.

My first Anime game.  I started with 2nd Edtion and quickly found out that there was a 2nd Edition revised.  What was great about BESM was it was a primer on all things related to Anime.  I learned what "Fan service" was, even if I already had an idea, the history, the conventions of anime (not Anime cons) and in there was also a pretty slick system.  There were parts I didn't like, but that is fine.  BESM + Unisystem in my mind was  a great mix.  I picked up BESM d20 (which I really liked to be honest), Silver Age Sentinels (using the same system) and a bunch of the splats to go with it.  I also bought BESM 3, which I really did like a lot, but never could find anyone to play with.  I like BESM, it is very easy to write for, I just wish there was a market for it.

Mutants & Masterminds: Mecha & Manga
I love M&M and was really looking forward to this.  To me anime and supers are of a similar breed.  Both typically have comics or cartoons as their storytelling medium, so that gives them a lot of surface similarities and similar stories are often told.  Astro Boy and Superman are more alike than different.   But while I like M&M, Mecha & Manga left me a little flat.  It is a great book to add to your normal M&M game and it is a great book to add to a BESM game for other ideas.  But I think I was expecting more.

This is a new one to me, but not a new game.  I just got it and I like what I see so far. The system is very different that BESM, but it has some good character creation guidelines that I think would work nice with any game.

Cartoon Action Hour Season 2
AKA CAH:2. Another new one for me.  Like OVA I have not gone over it much other than to print it out.  It is not really an Anime RPG, but a Cartoon one.  But I am not going to let that stop me.
It also has some great character creation ideas and a series creation worksheet that is great for every game really.  Of my recent purchases (OVA, BASH and CAH:2) this one is my favorite so far.

Heart Quest
Heart Quest is a Soujo Anime/Magna RPG using the Fudge RPG. Why did I choose this one? Well a lot of what goes into Shoujo can be found in Buffy as well and visa versa. There is even a very anime looking Buffy-like character on page 43.
It is obvious from the start that while the mechanics are mostly the same to other Fudge games, the tenor is very different. HQ only has five attributes in what looks like an odd cross of Unisystem and BESM. In fact, the holds up that Fudge Universal Translator theory well since HQ looks like it could convert to BESM in a snap. Skills are the same, mostly, as are the Gifts/Faults. Magic becomes a Supernormal Power, so more inline with Buffy here.
Where HeartQuest has the most to offer is half-way through the book with different Shoujo genres. Teen Romance can add lighter feel to a younger Junior High or just starting High School set game and has some good advice on how to deal with relationships and sex on a more mature level.
The chapter on Magical Girls shows the connection between and obvious debt owed to Sailor Moon by Buffy. Here again is advice on how to run a game where a group has magical powers, fighting against some evil, and yet still trying to live a normal life. In fact all seven of the types of Magical Girl games they suggest can be done with the Buffy rules. Extending the TV theme farther it is easy to see shows (and thus Buffy or Now Playing rules adaptations) for most of the Magical Girl types. Team: Sailor Moon; W.I.T.C.H., One Girl: Buffy, Witch Hunter Robin; Rivals: Winx Club, Psychic Girls: Twitches; Witch In Training: Kiki's Delievery Service, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, 8th season of Charmed.
Charmed and my Willow and Tara series has run the gambit to include all of these at one point. The book goes on to describe Historical Romance (great for Ghosts of Albion game), a sample setting for the three different genres and some sample characters. There is also a sample bibliography and resources not to be missed.
There is also another Fudge game actually called Shoujo Anime that covers similar material. The bibliography in fact is identical. Which is fine for Fudge I guess, but a little odd all the same.
I also have a post about Fudge/Fate coming up sometime soon.

Bounty Head Bebop
A game using the Inverted 20 system.  I reviewed it here.

Open Anime
This one just came out from Battlefield Press.  Looking to buy it here soon.

Random Anime
I have never been able to find a copy of this game, but have wanted to try it out.

I'll detail some of these games in, well, detail, as the weeks progress.  I'll start with BESM since that is where I started.  I am most looking forward to OVA and CAH:2.

Looking at any Game through the Anime Lens
What happens when you add a bit of Anime to your games?

Well some things change that is certain. Obviously the easiest answer is, it's the same game only there is more of it. Black Cat above notwithstanding there is more to it than that.

I'll try to detail that when I deal with each game, but the idea is this is something different.  I in fact separated out my normal Unisystem-based Willow and Tara game (the Dragon and the Phoenix universe) and my anime based Willow and Tara the Animated Series.  They had a lot of things in common, but enough differences that I was compelled to make them different worlds.  With doing things Anime or Manga it is ok to break the rules that are often the sacred cows of the normal worlds.  For example, in the Marvel Universe Iron Man is Tony Stark, but in th eMarvel Manga universe it Toni Stark who is the Iron Maiden and the Hulk is a 70 ft tall Godzilla like monster. Small changes, but there are a lot like that.


DMWieg said...

I just found out about the OVA RPG today...I was a bit surprised, considering that it has already been out for five years. Apparently there is a second edition due out in a little less than two months.

Aeon said...

This does remind me of the fact that there is a from what I understand relativly small RPG community in Japan(, and they do produce several of their own games. The only one I can think of that has been translated into english is Maid RPG(, and that's a weird game(even over in japan) that can be described as a game based on the mildly erotic romantic comedies that are common in Japanese media. I try to keep an eye out for japanese RPGs whenever I go to the local San Diego bookoff( japanese used book store that also deals with movies, music, and videogames, they import goods from japan into their store, and can have some very good prices), and managed to acquire a second edition TOKYO NOVA( in fourth edition, however) and Meikyu Kingdom(迷宮キングダム)(
I just thought that I should point out that there's a japanese RPG culture as well, even if it is a bit small compared to the north american one.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Ryan: Yeah, I am a bit slow getting to it as well.

Locien: Thanks for the links! I know of Maid of course, but the rest are new to me.

Anonymous said...

I hear that Open Anime game is the best one. :-)

Actually in all seriousness, I am looking forward to your reading of OA. It took many years to get it out, and we hope the content is worth the price of admission.

GMBob said...

I use to be a fan of BESM 2nd Ed due to it's fast paced and simple rule system. When they released 3rd Ed, I was sorely disappointed as it lost alot of that quick pace 2nd ed felt like it had. I playtested those rules and my players and I were not impressed. I've not tried the M&M books for anime RPGs, but I fear it may suffer the same issues (Though i love the overall M&M system).

OVA is something I think I heard of in passing but never actually found. I may have to look into that one.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Well I have a bit to work through with BESM first, but then I want to cover OVA and OA.

Maybe I can get one of them in next week.