Friday, May 21, 2010

Willow & Tara: Big Eyes, Small Mouth 2nd Edition

Big Eyes, Small Mouth (BESM)

I came to this game late. I picked up BESM 2.0 at a game auction and really dug it’s simple style, flexibility and shear “funness” of the game. GoO may be no more and BESM 3.0 is the current version, I still need to do something with all the BESM/Tri-Stat books I bought.

So I did conversions.  I like to think that every game has something to offer me. Whether it is a new complete game to play, or something I can use in some other game.

As everyone knows, normally I play a Unisystem game, typically WitchCraft RPG, Ghosts of Albion or I mix them all up. The great thing about Unisystem and Tri-Stat is they share a lot of compatible features. I can usually pick up a Tri-Stat book and run with it no problems in my Unisystem games, I suspect that the opposite is true as well.

With BESM 2.0 and 2r I spent more time adding material to my Unisystem games.  BESM 3.0 I played more as-is.

Unisystem vs. Tri-Stat
Unisystem has 6 attributes, 3 physical and 3 mental. Attributes, skills and most qualities are all measured on the same metric, 1-5 for normal humans, 6 for the truly exceptional, a 7 and beyond (typically 10) for the supernatural types.

BESM uses (used) Guardians of Order's Tri-Stat system, which they use for a variety of Anime-based games. The main feature of the Tri-Stat system is the Tri-Stat, or Body, Mind and Soul. All skills, attributes and defects as well combat roles are made with these three in mind. They range up to 12, but cannot go over. A quick and dirty conversion from Unisystem would be to add two Unisystem Attributes to get one Tri-Stat stat, so as an example take Strength + Dexterity to get Body.

Unisystem                            Tri-Stat
Strength + Dexterity             Body
Intelligence + Perception       Mind
Constitution + Willpower      Soul

Skill Levels are similar, ranging 1 to 5, with 0 as unskilled or unable to use this skill and 5 representing the human maximum in most cases. Tri-Stat's Attributes and Defects size up pretty well to Unisystem's Qualities and Drawbacks respectively.

Unisystem is a roll-over mechanic. Tri-Stat is roll-under mechanic.
BESM 3.0 is now a roll-over mechanic is much closer to Unisystem, but that is another post for another day.

Willow and Tara
I have often enjoyed the “Magical Girl” style of Japanese animation, sometimes called the “Shôjo” or “Maho Shôjo” style. Course the word Shôjo comes from the Japanese word meaning “virigin” or “virgin girl”, not really something I'd attribute to Willow or Tara. Shôjo-ai or Yuri would be more like it. Shôjo does feature strong female protagonists and stories about love.

These stories are typified by a young girl, normally high school age, that gains or learns of her magical powers. Other girls often join her and they battle evil monsters, evil wizards (almost always older and male), demons and things from “somewhere else”. Sound familiar yet? Common themes include friendship and the power of love. There is tragedy, but in the end the world, the girls, friendship and love all prevail.
"Buffy" is "Sailor Moon" without the school uniforms.

Willow and Tara are perfect for the “magical girl” style of anime. But since I have no ability to draw and less to animate, I'll settle for stating them up for Anime RPGs.

Unlike my version of Robin Sena, for Willow and Tara I choose not a direct translation, but rather how would they look around the time of my Unisytem game, “The Dragon and the Phoenix” using the BESM rules.  An alternate universe deal.

Overall I am very pleased with how the girls turned out under these rules. It certainly was a really good fit. Not a perfect one mind you, I still think Unisystem has a leg up on Tri-Stat here, but really, really damn close.

Willow and Tara, the Animated Series

So how can you fit these two witches into an Anime-style RPG? Simple. Create an animated series!
I'll take a page from the Marvel Mangaverse and create a new universe of the same characters, with a twist.
Let's put Willow and Tara in Japan (Tara already speaks Japanese in my games anyway). We have MKF start talking to them, ala Gigi from “Kiki's Delivery Service”. We can retcon the whole thing and place them there as High Schoolers, maybe foreign exchange students, that learn about their new magical powers.

Willow Rosenberg, a shy but brilliant student is dismayed to learn that her mother has taken a new teaching position at the University of Neo-Tokyo. Willow enrols in a new school where she is even more of an outsider than she was before, that is till she meets Tara. Tara Maclay is another American student on cultural exchange. After the death of her mother Tara needed to get away from her home so she applied for and was accepted as a foreign exchange student. Packing her bags and her cat, Miss Kitty Fantastico, Tara left her life behind to discover a new one in Japan.

Willow and Tara meet, discover their common bond of magic and soon their love for each other in many exciting and harrowing adventures against the supernatural. Aided by the wise spirit of Tara's mother (also a powerful witch in her own right) and the smart-ass comments of MKF, the girls fight evil and discover they had to journey to other side of the world to discover what they were missing.

Or something like that.

Demons have been so over-done, so I’ll focus instead on other types of supernatural creatures: ghosts, spirits, faeries and the like. BESM/Cold Hands, Dark Hearts has quite a bit of guidelines for dealing with these types, as well as faeries and spirits from other BESM books. There are plenty of creatures, threats and distractions so I never have to use a vampire or a demon. After all the point of a new universe is to establish it’s own identity.

Willow Rosenberg
Game Type: Occult Horror/Magic Girl (Shôjo-ai/Yuri)

Race: Human
Sex: Female
Occupation: Student
Height: 5'3” Weight: 103#
Hair: Red Eyes: Green

Body: 3 Mind: 11 Soul: 9

Health Points: 60
Energy Points: 140
Shock Value: 12

Combat, Attack: 7
Combat, Defence: 5
Melee Attack Skill: 2x5 = 10
Melee Defence Skill: 2x5 = 10

Appearance 3x1 = 3
Aura of Command 3x1 = 3
Energy Bonus 4x1 = 4
Highly Skilled 4x1 = 4
Mechanical Genius 3x2 = 6

Awkward 1x-1 = -1
Phobia (frogs) 1x-1 = -1
Significant Other 2x-1 = -2 (Tara)

Biological Sciences 5x3 = 15
Computers 6x2 = 12
Electronics 5x2 = 10 (+2 levels from Mechanical Genius)
Mechanics 2x2 = 4 (+2 levels from Mechanical Genius)
Medical 4x3 = 12
Physical Sciences 5x2 = 10
Seduction 1x2 = 2
Social Sciences 4x1 = 4
Writing 3x1 = 3

Special Attributes (Magical):
Astral Projection 2x3 = 6
Dynamic Sorcery 6x4 = 24
Any Discipline
Force Field 3x4 = 12 (30 damage prevented)
Can Protect Others
Blocks Incorporeal
Item of Power 3x2 = 6 (15 item points left), Doll's Eye Crystal
Magic 5x4 = 20 (50 magic points left)
Telekinesis 3x2 = 6
Telepathy 2x3 = 6
Universal Utility

Tara Maclay
Game Type: Occult Horror/Magic Girl (Shôjo-ai/Yuri)

Race: Human
Sex: Female
Occupation: Student
Height: 5'4" Weight: 110#
Hair: Blonde Eyes: Blue

Body: 4 Mind: 8 Soul: 11

Health Points: 75
Energy Points: 145
Shock Value: 15

Combat, Attack: 6
Combat, Defence: 4
Melee Attack Skill: 1x5 = 5
Melee Defence Skill: 2x5 = 10

Animal Friendship 2x1 = 2
Appearance 3x1 = 3
Divine Relationship 1x1 = 1 (Mother is a Spirit working for the powers of Good)
Energy Bonus 5x1 = 5

Awkward 1x-1 = -1
Inept Combat 1x-1 = -1
Significant Other 2x-1 = -2 (Willow)
Unique Character Defect 1x-1 = -1 (Weird Family)

Animal Training 3x1 = 3 (+1 levels from Animal Friendship)
Artisan 3x2 = 6
Biological Sciences 2x3 = 6
Computers 2x2 = 4
Cooking 2x1 = 2
Cultural Arts 4x1 = 4
Gaming 2x1 = 2
Linguistics 4x1 = 4
Performing Arts 4x1 = 4
Riding 3x1 = 3
Seduction 3x2 = 6
Social Sciences 3x1 = 3
Visual Arts 4x1 = 4
Writing 4x1 = 4

Special Attributes (Magical):
Astral Projection 3x3 = 9
Dynamic Sorcery 5x4 = 20
Any Discipline
Force Field 4x4 = 16 (45 damage prevented)
Can Protect Others
Blocks Incorporeal
Healing 2x4 = 8
Magic 6x4 = 24 (60 magic points left)
Servant 4x1 = 4 (Miss Kitty Fantastico, see below)
Sixth Sense 2x1 = 2
Sense Spirits
Telekinesis 3x2 = 6
Telepathy 2x3 = 6
Universal Utility

Miss Kitty Fantastico
Witch's cat, Irreplaceable Servant

Miss Kitty is a normal looking black and white cat.

Body: 10 Mind: 3 Soul: 5

Health Points: 20
Energy Points: 40
Shock Value: 9

Combat, Attack: 6
Combat, Defence: 4

Art of Distraction 1x1 = 1
Combat Mastery 2x2 = 4
Natural Weapons: Claws and bite, 5 damage
Energy Bonus 1x1 = 1
Extra Attacks 1x4 = 4

Diminutive: Medium 2x-1 = -2
Less Capable: Strength 2x-1 =-2
Not So Strong 2x-1 = -2
Not So Tough 3x-1 = -3

Stealth 8x4 = 32
Wilderness Survival 3x2 = 6
Wilderness Tracking 4x2 = 8

Special Attributes (Magical):
Astral Projection 1x3 = 3
Heightened Senses 2x1 = 2

Miss Kitty cannot be replaced between adventures.

Comparing this to the Unisystem stats, it is fairly straight forward.
What I am trying to do here is use Dynamic Sorcery to replicate their levels of Unisystem Sorcery/Magic and Magic to replicate their magical knowledge and occult library.  Which brings up my biggest gripe with BESM.

Magic vs. Dynamic Sorcery
Where do you use what where?
To me Dynamic Sorcerery feels more like Mage's magic system while Magic seems more like WitchCraft's the Gift with extra points for metaphysiscs. In BESM d20 dynamic sorcery allows you to cast d20 spells of the same level. So in that respect it is more like Cine Unisystem's Sorcery or Magic. In BESM 3.0 Magic (now called Power Flux) feels more like Magic from Mutants & Masterminds. So there is still some debat even among BESM players about which one does what. My prefernce to scrap the whole deal and use Cine Unisystem's Magic system.
Also I'd like import Dynamic Sorcery into Cine Unisystem to get some of those more Mage like effects.

I picked up "Cold Hands, Dark Hearts" a while back and there are a lot of really cool ideas in it. It really plays like a dark horror animated game. It is also largely compatible with Unisystem, though some of the points seem a bit high to me. But if you wanted to play a BESM game out of the box that feels like an Eden game it is a great place to start.

In the end, I really, really liked BESM 2nd Ed revised.  But it was missing something...I am not sure.  I am going to talk about BESM 3.0 in a bit, so maybe that will help.

What Did I Get Out of This?
Well my journey into discovering Anime went hand in hand with BESM.  The roots for a couple of on going projects started here.  While I never got the chance to try out much of "Willow & Tara The Animated Series" it did give me ideas to use in my second season Unisystem game "Season of the Witch".  I also started work on a multi-genre, multi-game idea of a school for magical kids.  It would be part horror, part anime "magical girl" trope, and part supers.  Over the years "Generation HEX" would morph and change, but the ideas are still growing.

Anime Action
The combat and action in a typical BESM game is fast and deadly.  It actually sort of spoiled me for other so called fast and furious combat systems.  BESM is a great design, hampered though by some flaws, but nothing that can't be overcome.

Next time, I'll talk about BESM 3.0 to see if the flaws have been fixed and the ultimate fate of Guardians of Order.

*Yeah I know, those pics are not Willow and Tara, but rather Will and Corneila from W.I.T.C.H.

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