Showing posts with label BESM. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BESM. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

PWWO: Mighty Protectors

Time again for another edition of "Plays Well With Others"!

Mighty Protectors is a new game, but it has a long history and some solid Old-School DNA.  Because of this, there is a lot of ways to tinker with the game.

It is no secret that there is D&D DNA in Villains & Vigilantes.  That DNA carries over to V&Vs offspring, Mighty Protectors.  While there are still plenty differences in these games, there are enough similarities to build on.

Mighty Protectors and Villains & Vigilantes 2.1

Total cheat really. These games are less "Mix and Match" as they are "ideas to be shared". They are basically two slightly different expressions of the same world.  Now V&V 2.1 has better, or at least, more explicit rules for magic and psionics. Plus converting between MP and V&V 2.1 is easy; there is a section in the MP book on converting V&V 2.1 over.  Using this V&V 2.1 becomes a Rosetta Stone of sorts for d20 based games.

This conversion key is really helpful for me for the next two games.

Mighty Protectors & d20 Silver Age Sentinels / BESM d20

Alas, Guardians of Order.  You were a not a well-run company, in the end, but you did have some fun games.  Two of GoO's games are of particular interest to me.  Big Eyes Small Mouth d20 (BESM d20) and Silver Age Sentinels d20 (SAS d20).  Both had great breakdowns of the d20 system (circa 2002) into Level-Based Point buy systems.  Using our V&V translation you can now have a translation of BESM/SAS d20 to V&V and MP.  In particular, the book Advanced d20 Magic for BESM d20 is a great resource for point-buy spells.   I have not worked out the mathematical translations or crunched the numbers just yet, but there are there.  My initial guess is that 1 CP (MP) = 2 Points for SAS/BESM. 
This would give me a great point-buy spell system with some well-defined familiar spells.

Another great thing about SAS (Tri-Stat or d20 versions) is the excellent history of comics and the superhero in modern culture. The Silver Age sensibility of the "how to play" sections fit Mighty Protectors to a tee.

Mighty Protectors and Mutants & Masterminds 2.0

One can't talk super-hero games and not mention Muntants and Masterminds.  While now in the third edition, it is the second edition that concerns us here and now.  M&M2 shares a lot in common with MP. I could detail it here, but this link, Converting Mutants & Masterminds 2.0 to Mighty Protectors, does a far better job.   I have gone over the list of Powers and Abilities for both games to see what one has that the other doesn't, But I can say that between these two nearly every power likely is covered.

Plus Green Ronin has an absolute ton of material for M&M.  Personally, I like to put the supers of each game into their own cities and if you go to that city that's where you will find them.

For my next round of characters, I am going to take some notes from these other games to get the characters I am really looking for.  It should be a blast.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Open Core and Open Anime

O is for two games that are related. Open Core and Open Anime.
Both games are from Battlefield Press and both use quite a bit of the SRD, but they are not d20 or D&D.

Both are designed to allow the GM to create his/her own game with the tools provided.  Both also use the same basic roll system; 3d6 + Attribute + Skill. (or even 1d20 + Attribute + skill).   The system is modular, so you can take or leave what you like.

Open Core is based on the OGL but differs quite a bit from it.  Like a number of game, OC uses a point buy system for attributes and skills.  The number of points granted is based on the game's power level.  You have six attributes, three physical and three mental, that map nicely to d20 or even Unisystem.  These abilities then can be used for derived abilities, like initiative or health or even variant ones like SAN.

Skills are covered and use the same point buy system. And there are a lot of skills, though given the modular nature of the game and maybe the your own games focus, you might need to use all of them.

There are also a number of effects-based abilities which look very similar to BESM d20/SAS d20 or other open Super's games.  Though the "hows" of these effects may not be defined.  For example a "Fire" effect could be magic (fireball), tech (flame thrower), advanced science (heat ray) or anything really.   The aim is to describe what is happening and then GM/Players decide how it happened.

Also included are a list of Disabilities, things that can affect your character.  This is very similar to other games, in particular GURPS.  These grant a certain level of Character Points back to you.  Finally we also get Action Points, which work like Drama Points in Unisystem.

The next part of the book are the rules of play, which is heavy on the combat and things like chases and mental battles. The rules are simple really, using the same basic rolls, just applied in different situations.
There is a section on adventures and a quick overview of character creation.

The Appendices cover different play modes.  So for example Sorcery which adds "D&D/d20 Arcana" like spells to your game.  Another is an expanded wealth system.

Open Anime is a little different.  It is very, very similar to Open Core, but with more of an anime overlook.  What does that mean?  Well, for starters we start with the various Anime sub-genres and how these change how you view and how you play your character.  If Open Core is the Marvel Universe then Open Anime is the Marvel Manga Universe.

Open Anime is actually a game I have wanted to write.  When BESM disappeared there was a vacuum for a good Anime RPG.  With all the Open systems out there and the BESM-d20 system open, all the elements needed are out there.  Open Anime combines all of these using Open Core as their guide.  While I don't think it quite reaches the heights that BESM does/did, it is a rather good effort.  Good enough that I don't have any desire to write my own Anime game anymore, I'll just tweak this one.  There is a heavier emphasis on Magic and Magical Girls than say other types of Anime Genres.  Which I think is a little disappointing.
What gets me the most about this one is there seems to be a lack of what makes an Anime RPG an Anime RPG.  I think in the attempt to make this game more open and more flexible they lost a little of what makes Anime different than some other games.

Both games are fun and I'd like to see more from them.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Family Game Day: All Wet (rain and ocean adventures)

Taking a break from Anime RPGs for a sec to talk about yesterday's family game day.

Due to the rain yesterday and a general lack of motivation we decided to play a game of D&D.  This is the on going saga of the "Dragon Slayers" which consisted of my oldest son's three characters (I have alway let him play multiple characters since it was just us), my youngest son and his Archer Ranger/Thief and even my wife got into the game for a bit.  A couple of D&D tile sets (which my wife told me to go out and buy more!) a few  of my son's toys that work great with the minis, and a half baked idea all came together for "Dragon Slayers and the Quest for the Dragon Pearl!"

I used my Hero Lab for Pathfinder to put together a character for my wife really fast; a duel wielding Ranger/Fighter multiclass. Now this is not the same game as the Kid's Pathfinder game I have been playing in.  Though Connor is playing an older version of that character in the Dragon Slayers game.  Liam's characters are also somehow related in both games.  I am playing the same witch character.  In Dragon Slayers she is a 9th level witch using my Liber Mysterium rules for D&D 3.0 and in Pathfinder she is a 1st level witch using the new witch class from that game. In Dragon Slayers she is a GMPC/NPC of course, but her job in that group is to record all the knowledge the characters gather on dragons.

The Dragon Slayers game has turned into a rather cool one.  It is at it's base D&D 3.0 with various 3.5 add ins, a little Star Wars d20 (for the Bounty Hunter) and some BESM d20 and Mutants and Masterminds where needed.  It is set in my Mystoerth world which is another unholy union of various D&D worlds, so it all fits really.  The over arching plot here is that evil dragons are planning to take over the world by killing all the good dragons, the characters are finding all the big bad evil dragons and hunting them down, while collecting pieces of an artifact so the can defeat Tiamat. So it has it's own built in end game.   While they are seraching for these artifacts they are also looking for other items of power.  They are supposed to head to the South Pole next time, which I am going to draw heavy from At the Mountains of Madness for, but before they get there they will come to Ansalon, a country they did not know was there (it's not on their maps) and this gives me the excuse to have them gain some Dragonlances.  So yeah, this game is more cartoon than it is fantasy adventure epic, so in a way it does connect back to the topic at hand; how to add Anime Style to your games.  My son's character sheets are an odd collection of D&D 3.0, M&M and BESM d20.  For this game the BESM d20 sheets work the best since his wizards tend to have "powers" instead of "spells".
I know there are purists out there cringing, but all I can say is it works and it is fun.

Yesterday the Dragon Slayers were convinced by an Ogre to retrieve a "Dragon Pearl".  Why were they dealing with an ogre?  Well he had the only boat that would take them from The Four Kingdoms north of the Zakhara desert to the South Pole where they believe another piece of the artifact was.  The pearl was in a submerged cave system and protected by a Deep Sea Dragon Eel and an Aquatic Dragon.  Which were stat wise just two adult black dragons with about 200 hp each.  The Dragon Eel was a toy viper fish that my son got years ago and the aquatic dragon was this sea dragon toy he bought recently on Amazon.  The "ogre" was also an "igor" figure from a Castlevania Succubus, so while he is a small figure to her, to a 7ft tall Dragonborn mini he is about 10-13ft tall (hard to tell, he is hunched over).

The adventure went great and nearly everyone gained enough XP to level up.  My sons started talking about the "end game" of this; when they defeat Tiamat and retire to pick up on 4th Edition.  While I Am looking forward to playing some 4th edition with them, I am finding I am not really ready to see the end of the Dragon Slayers yet.  It has been a ridiculously fun ride.

What adventures will the Dragon Slayers have next rainy day?  Unknown, but it will certainly be a blast.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Anime RPGs: BESM recap

Ok, so I have worked through three different versions of BESM.  Each one had something to offer my regular Unisystem games and each one gave me a alternate game when I felt the need to recharge my batteries.

Yes, Unisystem pretty much offers everything I need in a system.  But playing and reading other games, especially other genres of games, can help me build out the game I am playing.  BESM added a need dose of light to my games.  Trust me, I have a stack of Horror games that can provide me plenty of dark, Anime games helped me focus on some of the things that horror games often overlook.

One of the issues in my games (at least in the past) was "what does it mean to be human?".  I had many characters that were were closer in nature to the monsters they hunted rather than the humans they protected.   To help with these issues games like World of Darkness are good, but full of angst that I may or may not want in an adventure where the characters go to the beach on a bright sunny day.  Anime games help with those "days off" stories where there is a lull from the action but it is a good adventure for character development.

BESM, and other Anime games, were very influential on my Season 3 game "Generation HEX" in terms of tone, pacing and story.  It also helped me see the value in a 2d6 mechanic for Unisystem.  BESM 3 only solidified that.

Some Crunch
One of the things I like to do with a new system/game is find some gems and convert them over to what-ever system I happen to be using at the time.  Often that is Unisystem.

Unknown/Undeveloped Power
1-5 point Quality
Prerequisite: Approval of Director/Chronicler

Some characters are born with their gifts turned on or readily apparent. These characters my start the game as normal humans only to have their powers or gifts turned on when it becomes dramatically appropriate.
To represent this the player pays a certain amount of Quality points at character creation (usually 1 to 5) to have the Director/Chronicler develop the new power over time as part of the story campaign or all at once when it is needed. The Player and Director/Chronicler need to agree to this. The player pats the points now and the Director/Chronicler gives them the power that costs the amount paid plus 50% rounded up at a later date. This payoff should be no more than two or three episodes. Longer than that should increase the amount of interest paid on the power. The character is loosing potential at the beginning of the game (making them weaker than other characters) for a larger return.
So a character that is to develop magic at some point can pay 3 points now and get a return to 3 + 1.5 = 4.5 rounded up to 5 points later to buy Sorcery/Magic.

The Director/Chronicler must work to make the payoff worth it not just in terms of points, but also in terms of drama.

This selection also works well for younger characters.

One thing that BESM 2r/3.0/d20 was missing were some iconic characters for me to convert.  So I have to turn to it's sister game SAS.  And since GoO was a Canadian company I should use one of Canada's finest superheroes.

Mother Raven
Human Witch
This represents Mother Raven at the start of her career. As she progresses she will increase her levels of magic to a max of 8 and increase her skills and loose her recurring nightmares (loss would be something she would have come to terms with). Given that this is "Silver Age" I would imagine she would be "Grandmother Raven" now.

Life Points: 26
Drama Points: 10

Str: 2 Dex: 3 Con: 3 Int: 4 Per: 7 Will: 7

QualitiesAcute Senses (Sight) ("Raven's Eyes")
Contacts (The Guard)
Hard to Kill
Iron Mind ("Raven's Will")
Magic (no TK) 6
Nerves of Steel
Supernatural Senses ("Raven's Warnings")

DrawbacksAdversary (Various, in particular General Winter)
Dependent (Daughter)
Minority (Ojibwa Native American)
Recurring Nightmare (life without Raven)
Secret (identity Katherine McCloud)
Spell Focus* (All powers require the use of her Raven staff)

SpellsShadow Form, Illusion ("Raven's Tricks"), Darkness, Pocket Dimension, Negate Powers (drains Willpower), Sunkiss (Blindness, LP damage SLx5, SLx8 to vampires)

SkillsAcrobatics 1, Art 5, Computers 1, Crime 2, Doctor 5, Driving 1, Getting Medieval 3, Gun-Fu 0, Influence 5, Knowledge 8, Kung-fu 2, Languages 5 (English, Ojibwa, Crow, Chippewa, Tlingit), Mr. Fix-it 2, Occultism 7, Science 3, Sports 1

From the d20 version:
IDENTITY: Katherine McCloud (Secret, known to Anisinabe)
OCCUPATION: Teacher, speaker, writer, painter, adventurer
FIRST APPEARANCE: Amazing Presentations, Vol. III, #45
PLACE OF BIRTH: Sunset Lake Reservation, Ontario, Canada
TERRITORY: Empire City
HEIGHT: 5'8" (173 cm)
WEIGHT: 160 lbs. (73 kg)
EYES: Brown
HAIR: Black

The old ways had been abandoned in Sunset Lake Reserve by the time Katherine McCloud was born; it was a familiar story in Northern Ontario. The Ojibwa sank into despair, suffering from poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and rampant diabetes. The ancestors and spirits of the world were all but forgotten to gambling and alcohol. Katherine excelled in school, but the instability of her home life took its toll. Her father was often gone for months, and they had to take in her mother's mother. Both parents were alcoholics, but her mother would try putting life in order each time father left. Yet whenever he returned Katherine's mother would take him back, beginning anew the cycle of abuse.

By high school, Katherine turned to drinking and drugs as a panacea for the pain and anger she felt, and for the strange visions that plagued her dreams. She dismissed her grandmother's foolish talk of spirits, and refused to admit she was spiralling out of control; Katherine could no longer ignore life when she discovered she was pregnant at 16. She exhibited a supreme effort of will to finally live clean, which her grandmother noted proudly.

Without the alcohol, her grandmother made sense, and Katherine turned to her grandmother's spirits to ease her burden. Drumming circles and sweat lodges brought the image of the Raven, growing ever stronger. As she neared her delivery date, grandmother sent her on a vision quest into the wilderness. The Great Raven appeared, speaking of the need for change. Katherine's role was to become a symbol for her village, for her daughter, for all Anisinabe - the people of the land. She awoke in her mother's house, now a mother herself. Her grandmother taught her to be a good parent, see the spirits, and represent her people. In time, she became a powerful teacher herself, reaching out as a writer, painter, and speaker.

During Katherine's 20th summer, Lady Starbright pursued General Winter across Ontario, until Winter knocked the hero unconscious and deep into Sunset Lake. Katherine desperately struggled to save her while the General's wake turned the village from summer to winter. Raven helped Katherine save Starbright, before both women co-operated to drive Winter off.

Starbright liked Katherine immediately, and offered to teach her. Katherine accepted, knowing she had a greater responsibility. She left her daughter with her grandmother, and let Starbright show her the world. Starbright introduced Katherine, now Mother Raven, to the American Sentinel, Slipstream, and others, while Raven guided Katherine's abilities, teaching her to draw from his power, to create shadows, and cast visions.

An early mission with Starbright against Artificer resulted in tragedy; Artificer lashed out indiscriminately and killed a young Ms. Matthews. Her son, Samuel, forever blamed the women, calling them false heroes; his hatred grew over the years, turning him into Katherine's frequent enemy.

Raven still whispers secrets in his hoarse caw; Katherine learned to take strength from sorrow, and thus faced Starbright's death by joining the Guard. Raven even taught Katherine to touch the sun, as he once did to bring fire to mankind, but only at great need, and at great cost. Now, she travels to protect and teach, but always returns to the one who needs her most: her daughter.

And what is a hero without a super villain. If Mother Raven represents what is best about motherhood and power, then here is the worst.

Bloody Mary

There are many strange and terrible things in the world, but few target innocence so ruthlessly or cruelly as the monstrous Bloody Mary. She has been called demon, fiend, and vampire, but is she truly otherworldly, or just an example of human capacity for evil?

Bloody Mary was first reported as the perpetrator in a nation-wide kidnapping case, where a dozen children from across the United States were abducted. Street kids were whispering, “Bloody Mary got ‘em,” weeks before the FBI had a name. The Baron recognized something supernatural was involved, and helped the FBI. Mary’s plans to use the children as livestock were upset by the Baron, the FBI, and the appearance of Pan & Belle. Mary was defeated, but escaped.

The story of Bloody Mary, however, was told by street kids for years, but no one ever believed them. She was first called La Llorona by children of Mexican immigrants, and known to stalk children through mirrors. Haitian kids knew she could reach through the tinted windows of Jeeps. She was a demon, or a spirit possessing an evil woman, or even a corruption of the Virgin Mary; she fought with angels, and used children for slaves, living off of their blood and fears.
Blood Mary has been seen several times since then. Mother Raven and Lady of the Lantern teamed up when Mary invaded Empire City, once more chasing her away. Some children say she is building an army of demons, a hellish warmachine powered by the souls of children, to conquer the spirit world. Others believe Mary is mad, perhaps driven insane at the loss of a child, and simply trying to restore her old life. Finally, a few believe she is pure evil, hunting children because she loathes their innocence and can feed off their souls. Many children believe once she’s seen your face, Mary can track you to the ends of the Earth.
In 1997, a doomsday cult in San Francisco, the Temple of Mars, summoned Bloody Mary to tear apart the dimensional veil. They offered 100 refugee children as sacrifice.
Whatever they intended, few seemed to realize the horror they were dealing with. Many died as Mary opened a hellgate, but Pan & Belle appeared and drove her back. Meanwhile, Mother Raven and Slipstream arrived and dealt with the demons ... but during the fight, one incarnation of Belle gave her life to keep the children safe.
The FBI does not know how to deal with Mary, and calls in help whenever she is believed to be involved. The Baron clashes with her whenever their paths cross, but she tries to avoid his territory. He does not know if she truly travels between Heaven and Hell, but has seen her vanish into the spirit realms, and has even seen her personal, nightmare dimension. Mary barely acknowledges these forces, except when they directly interfere with her machinations. She sees most superheroes as bothersome distractions, but regards a few (like Red Phoenix and Sentinel) as hated angels.
Pan & Belle most often crop up wherever Mary is spotted, and much bad blood lies between them. Mary is the embodiment of everything they oppose. She eagerly anticipates the day they, and all the children of the world, lie chained at her feet.

Bloody Mary  (Unisystem)
Character Type: Demon? (has Faerie and Vampire like attributes as well)
Attributes: Strength 3, Dexterity 4, Constitution 3, Intelligence 2, Perception 5, Willpower 8
Ability Scores: Muscle 12, Combat 12, Brains 20
Life Points: 55
Drama Points: 10
Qualities: Dimensional Travel (requires reflective surfaces), Fast Reaction Time, Hard to Kill 7, Hypnosis, Immortal, Iron Mind, Nerves of Steel, Regeneration, Supernatural Senses, Telepathy, Vampiric Attack (“Spirit Bleed”, Willpower)*
Drawbacks: Adversary (Various, in particular General Winter), Attractiveness -1, Supernatural form (bloody tears, looks supernatural and evil)
Skills: Getting Medieval 2, Influence 4, Kung-Fu 2, Notice 4, Occultism 8

Spirit Bleed Attack: On any touch-based attack Mary can drain 1 point of Willpower. Victims drained to 1 point are completely under Mary’s control. Anyone drained to 0 become zombies.

Name Score Damage Notes
Dodge 12 — Defense action
Grapple 12 — Resisted by Dodge
Kick 12 8 Bash
Punch 12 6 Bash
Claws 12 6 Slash

Bloody Mary  (Mutants & Masterminds)
PL: 7 (105 pp)

ABILITIES: STR: 11 (0) DEX: 13 (+1) CON: 11 (0) INT: 9 (-1) WIS: 20 (+5) CHA: 13 (+1)

SKILLS: Bluff (+1), Concentration (+5), Diplomacy 1 (+2), Disguise (+1), Escape Artist (+1), Gather Info (+1), Handle Animal (+1), Intimidate 2 (+3), Streetwise 6 (+5), Notice (+5), Search (-1), Sense Motive (+5), Sleight of Hand 2 (+3), Stealth (+1), Survival 10 (+15)

Languages: English, Spanish, Creole, French, Latin, Portuguese

FEATS: Favored Opponent (Children) (1), Fearsome Presence (1), Attack Focus (Melee) (1)

POWERS: Dimesional Pocket [4], Environmental Control (cold) [4], Immunity [2], Mind Control [4], Mind Shield [5], Obscure (Darkness) [4], Shapeshift (animals only) [4], Super-movement (dimensional, requires a reflective surface) [1], Super-senses (innocence, magic, portals, ultravision) [4], Drain (Intelligence & Wisdom) ("Spirit Bleed") [1], Blast ("Soul Wound") [2], Regeneration (Resurrection) [1]

COMBAT: Attack 0 [Unarmed +0 (Bruise)] Defense 10 (10 flat-footed) Init 1

SAVES: Toughness 0 (0 flat-footed) Fortitude 2 Reflex 3 Will 7

DRAWBACKS: Disability (Holy Gound) -4, Noticeble (looks supernatural) -3

COMPLICATIONS: Enemy (Angels, Those that protect children), Obsession (Kill all Children)

Abilities 17 + Skills 7 (26 ranks) + Feats 3 + Powers 79 + Combat 0 + Saves 6 – Drawbacks -7 = 105 / 105

To make these more "Anime" I would alter Mother Raven a bit to be more of a kindly old grandmother type that has a ton of power.  Bloody Mary would be more inhuman looking.  Abnormally thin with long claws. Something like the Witch in Left 4 Dead.

Next week I want to look at some of the newer games and see what they can offer me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Big Eyes, Small Mouth d20 (and SAS d20)

Why BESM d20?

Well again, it seems like a logical next step.
My conversions to BESM Tri-Stat version went so well that a conversion to BESM d20 seems logical. Plus I have done numerous d20 conversions so far and Silver Age Sentinels also has Tri-Stat and d20 variants and are very close to Mutants and Masterminds (with SAS d20 and Mutants and Masterminds both written by Steve Kenson).  So yeah, it seemed logical.

Plus despite that fact that Guardians of Order are no longer with us, the "Anime d20 SRD" rules were released as open gaming content. So if I wanted to I could release an anime d20 supplement or an entire new rule book using the rules of the OGL.

The other advantage to using this set of rules it is fairly easy to convert Unisystem to BESM and BESM to BESM d20. I can also convert d20 Modern or M&M to SAS d20 and SAS Tri-Stat. And both SAS and BESM d20 are built on an odd mix of d20 and Tri-Stat, so in the end it seems that BESM and/or SAS d20 stats should write them selves by now.


What happens is I get some interesting differences depending on if I start fresh, convert from Unisystem, convert from BESM Tri-Stat, or even from one of the d20 games. I will not bother with the details here (mostly they end up being differences in saves and amount of skills) but all of them are close enough for me to feel there is a good sense of "inter-system reliability" and that was sort of the point of this long experiment; can I represent certain characters more or less the same way under multiple systems.

So when looking at this conversion I am going to be focusing on BESM d20. I am grabbing things from SAS d20 as well since the systems are largely compatible. (nitpick: and by "largely compatible" I mean "powers were cut and pasted from one version to the next" with BESM 2, SAS, BESM d20 and SAS d20 I figure I have paid for the same blocks of text now four/five times). BESM d20 seems closer to D&D3.x and SAS d20 closer to M&M, but that is to be expected. I am also freely dipping into "BESM d20 Advanced Magic", but more on that later.

A lot of what is in BESM d20 can be found in BESM and SAS d20. A lot. So much that I wish I had just one omnibus edition with say a d20 conversion chapter. Almost all the attributes have the same (or similar) point spread across all the systems and to convert to d20 from Tri-Stat is often just a matter of doubling the points. BESM d20 includes rules for converting the D&D and d20 Mod classes to their point system so I am not at a lack of choices. I did notice right away that BESM d20's Dynamic Sorcerer is not 100% compatible with SAS d20's Costumed Wizard; and similar inconsistencies have popped up. There are also minor balance issues between the SAS classes and between the SAS and BESM classes. Converting the lot to Unisystem might help, or might make things worse. So my first conversion rule is giving any character an extra 5 "fluff" points to spend as they see fit. I found that these points usually balance everything out well. See defects below for more on this.

Levels, Classes and Hit Points
Ok, lets get this out of the way now. BESM d20 and SAS d20 both have levels, classes and hitpoints. I typically find that people can deal with one, but not the other, and rarely both unless it's D&D. On the surface level can convert roughly to M&M's PL, rough enough that I am going to say it's fine and not worry about it. But Hit Points do not work with M&M's Damage system. On the other hand levels do not work well with Unisystem.

And then there are Classes.

While some don't like this, I think it works well in terms of Anime, but less so for Supers. Ok for the most part these can be ignored since they only decide what powers a character will get and when, what Hit Die, attacks and saves. BESM d20 offers a classless option which should work fine for the class haters out there. Also BESM d20 deconstructs the D&D classes by what they get with points to show their relative merits (useful for anyone playing D&D). We can convert the Classes to archetypes but we are still stuck with levels. It is d20 after all.

The Classes in BESM d20 seem to work better for me. The SAS d20 classes felt too restrictive. One thing I wanted to do was stat up my son's favorite female super heroes Fire and Ice, but the closest thing that seems to work is "Adventurer" with maybe some "Acrobat"? Not very satisfying.
At this point I go to my d20 Modern and Mutants & Masterminds conversions to get an idea of what level I want. I have a basic understanding of their skills, so I can work backwards from that point. I also have knowledge of what types of magic (lower case m) they can do, so I can work backwards from that point as well. In the end I think I want to use the lowest possible level (so I have room to work up) and given them the 5 fluff points. Willow comes out to about level 13 and Tara level 12 total.

Magic and Dynamic Sorcerery
Like BESM, BESM d20 has a "Dynamic Sorcery" power, "Dynamic Powers" in SAS and BESM 3.0. This is used in BESM d20 to emulate the power of wizards. Its roots are in Anime of course to mimic the special magical effects of characters that are not really Vancian-style wizards. Witch Hunter Robin for example could have dynamic sorcery limited to fire. Using Dynamic Sorcerery is one of the benefits (and one of the problems) of BESM (either Tri-stat or d20).

Dynamic Sorcerery is primarily used for improvised casting. It is bought in levels and how many levels you have decides on what it is you can accomplish. It's not cheap, 8 points per level in BESM d20 (4 points per level in BESM 2.0 Tri-Stat, 20 points per level in SAS d20), but limitations on powers (like the fire only stipulation for Robin above) drops it to 4 or 2 (or 2 and 1, or 15 and 10) points per level. Ranks in the power determine what level of spell you can cast. So to cast a 0-level d20 cantrip you need 1 rank of Dynamic Sorcery, to cast a 9th level d20 spell, you need a Dynamic Sorcery rank of 10. The parallels between this and Cine Unisystem's Magic/Sorcerery should be obvious. Buffy's Sorcery includes Telekinesis, d20 BESM has TK as a separate 4 point per rank power.

So Dynamic Sorcery is a way to do spells and on the spot magical effects.

Now BESM d20's "Magic" attribute ("Power Flux" in SAS and BESM 3.0) also allows the character to perform magical feats, seemingly similar to Dynamic Sorcery, but they caution using the two together. Magic then becomes a descriptor and then the extra 10 points per rank are used to buy other attributes/powers. This makes it most similar to M&M's "Magic". Then to power those magical attributes/powers, the character must pay some cost from their Energy Points (like Essence in WitchCraft) So a Techno Pagan then could buy Magic and use the points to buy Mechanical Genius or to be a Super Scientist. BESM d20 Magic then in Unisystem terms is a means to buy Supernatural Qualities. In this respect BESM's Magic + Energy Bonus is most similar to Classic Unisystem's The Gift + Extra Essence and Essence Channeling.
Magic becomes a means to buy other powers, that can sometimes be called spells, sometimes called powers.

Willow then could have a level of Magic, use the points to buy TK and use the associated Energy Points to power her TK OR she could do it with a level in Dynamic Sorcery. Tara would do the same to power her Empathy and the Sight qualities, but those "feel" more like magic and less like dynamic sorcery. BUT keeping track of Energy Points is not how Cinematic Unisystem works (otherwise it would have Essence) so, I am going to limit how Dynamic Sorcery and Magic are used together (as the rules suggest) and treat them much the same way I treat Sorcery and The Gift. Separate, but equal (and not in a Kansas Board of Education way).
Magic and Dynamic Sorcerery are also known as Power Flux and Dynamic Powers respectively in other Tri-Stat books (SAS and BESM 3.0).

So which one should I use to represent the magic I want?
Good question.

I have spent a lot of time working this out and the truth is for d20 BESM I want to go with Dynamic Sorcery. It's more cinematic in it's feel, it's parameters (in d20 anyway) are a little better defined. Thanks to "d20 Advanced Magic" it is also a better choice in terms of multiple spells. Plus at this point in my game Willow and Tara are whipping out spells left and right. For a BESM d20 "Willow and Tara" or "Charmed" game, I would say each witch character gets a special power with the Magic descriptor added on and then Dynamic Sorcery as well. To use TK they use their Dynamic Sorcery with a power level equal to that of their power level in Dynamic Sorcery. Sure it's expensive, but cheaper than buying DS and TK at the same time.
Note: BESM d20 vs. SAS d20. I am further making my options for BESM d20 over SAS d20 clearer here. The Dynamic Sorcerer in BESM is much more powerful than Costumed Wizard of SAS d20. Not only in terms of points given (twice as much for BESM) the cost for the dynamic sorcery power is 8 points per level compared to SAS's 20 per level. Now the arguement can be made that BESM is way overpowered. But this can be controlled though the use of the character points. In the end BESM d20 has a closer fit for me and what I want to do.

Powers into Qualites
Again the basic conversion is divide the BESM d20 power cost by 2 to get the Unisystem quality cost, unless the BESM one is 1, then it stays 1. There is so much overlap between BESM d20/SAS d20 and Mutants and Masterminds that whatever works for one will work for the other.

Defects into Drawbacks
If BESM d20 and SAS d20 have one edge over their d20 brethren then it is in the use of Defects. The issue here is that both games use point systems along with levels, so defects give you more points. This makes it sometime unwieldy for other d20 games, it makes it perfect for converting them into Unisystem Drawbacks or Mutant & Masterminds.
Again, as with Powers, divide the Defect points by two to get a Unisystem equivalent, with some rounding. 1 point defects remain 1 point, 2 points = 1 point and 3 points = 2 points. Most defects never go beyond 3 points. Now if you remove the "fluff" points option I have above then it is possible to convert them on a one to one basis; keeping in mind that a Unisystem character should never have more than 10 points in Drawbacks.
Since all the drawbacks are "scaled" in BESM and SAS they can be converted more on an as-needed basis too.

Skills convert on a 1 for 2 basis, so every one rank of Unisystem gives you 2 ranks of d20. That works fine as a base, but the two games are not powered the same. So to get a level based on Spell power, you end up with a higher level character (Willow is 13th level here) and a lot more skill points to spread around. Fortunately there are a lot more skills in d20.

Silver Age Sentinels vs. Mutants and Masterminds
I have mentioned it above quite a bit, but I'll detail it here. These two games have a lot in common. Yes both have Steve Kenson's name on them, yes both are d20 (and thus maybe not interesting to Unisystem players) and yes both are about superheroes.
But what you don't get from reading one or the other game is how well they can work together.
When doing my conversions I have decided that in my d20 Supers game, SAS represents my Silver Age (1956 - 1968) while M&M is the modern age. So I just roll back any dates of the characters back 40-30 years, where necessary.

The great thing is that this has brought greater definition to my "Superhero World". It is a mix of Mutants & Masterminds, with SAS as part of it's history and elements from BESM where needed. No cute and fuzzy fighting seizure monsters, well, not yet anyway, but there are dragons and some other magical beasts.

Willow and Tara in BESM / SAS d20
Why always these two? Lots of reasons. But here are my salient points.
- I am interested in how witches in particular will convert. I don't really care about demons, vampires or other stock creatures; every game has those.
- Eden has Willow and Tara sheets on their site (used to anyway), this allows people not overly familiar with Unisystem, but d20, to make judgments on my conversions.
- I like Willow and Tara. If want to do all this work on converting then you can pick your own characters.
Now I also use them as "out of the box" characters. That is I try not to make up any special rules regarding them. I have another character I use that for. But the idea here is take something that I know very well (and most people here have some idea about) and see if I can re-create them using another system.

Instead of using "The Dragon and the Phoenix" canon/timeline, I am going to be using my "Willow & Tara: The Animated Series" timelines; so the same as BESM 2r. Truth is, vampires and demons, especially the kind that show up on TV are not much of a threat to humans that can leap tall buildings in a single bound.

I don't feel the need to post their full stats (unless anyone wants them), but here are their levels.

Willow D. Rosenberg
Female Human
Classes and Levels: Student 2, Adventurer 2, Dynamic Sorcereress 9 (13)
Strength 9 (-1), Dexterity 11 (0), Constitution 11 (0), Intelligence 18 (+4), Wisdom 16 (+3), Charisma 17 (+3)
Student (to cover her time during 1st and 2nd seasons), Adventurer (starting in 2nd season and into 3rd where she 'buys' more tech and magic skills) and finally Dynamic Sorcerer. I'll make her a Student 4, Adventurer 2, Dynamic Sorcereress 7 (level 13).
Compare this to her d20 Mod incarnation who is a Smart Hero 5, Occultist 1, Mage 7 (level 13)

Tara A. Maclay
Female Human
Classes and Levels: Magical Girl 3, Student 2, Dynamic Sorcereress 7 (12)
Strength 12 (+1), Dexterity 9 (-1), Constitution 12 (+1), Intelligence 16 (+3), Wisdom 18 (+4), Charisma 16 (+3)
Magical Girl (to cover her time before meeting Willow and to power her Sight and Empathy) and then Dynamic Sorcerer. Maybe a level of Student in there too.

Her companion is the ghost of her dead mother (or grandmother if you want her to start earlier). She also has MKF as a companion, and in true anime fashion Miss Kitty is a talking cat. I could also make her a Magical Girl 5, Student 2, Dynamic Sorcereress 5 (level 12). Compare to her d20 Mod incarnation, Dedicated Hero 6, Mystic 6 (level 12).

I'll say they pick up the bulk of their Occult Knowledge while they are students.

While I am not as thrilled with these versions as I am the BESM 3.0 or the Mutants and Masterminds ones, they are still pretty good.

What gets me about BESM d20 is the huge amount of untapped potential here.  There is just a ton of stuff in this book for the taking.  Same with SAS.  Speaking of SAS, the best super-hero history I ever read was in the pages of SAS.  They are the same in both the d20 and Tri-Stat versions (another grumble).  SAS looks like it should mix well with M&M but I guess they are really too close to each other that their differences are more obvious.  It's a shame that SAS never really got it's due. It does read like a rough draft of M&M at times.

Is BESM d20 Anime?  Well I guess I have to ask, what is Anime?  BESM d20 is a good d20 version of BESM.  I am not convinced though it taps into that collective known as "Anime" as well as BESM 2 or 3 does.  I have played more BESM d20 than BESM 3 so to me it came off more like "Cartoon Cinematic d20".  Which is in itself not so bad.  I have mixed BESM d20 and D&D3 and gotten something a bit more cinematic. I have also mixed BESM d20 with d20 Star Wars for some really weird stuff, but all of it fun.

As I wrap up BESM (all versions) I have to reiterate what a shame it is that we lost GoO.  I know companies come and go all the time and each time something unique to the industry is lost.  Not to say there were not issues with GoO; there were plenty, and they were hardly a model of how to run a business.  It is just too bad that what they provided to the game industry is now gone.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Willow & Tara: Big Eyes, Small Mouth 3.0

Willow and Tara in BESM 3.0 

Yes I know, I did these both for BESM 2nd Ed. But I went with a slightly different version here. The 2nd Ed versions were based on a idea of mine to do a Animated series to feature the girls as high school foreign-exchange students to Japan. In this case I am going strict the Dragon and the Phoenix, or rather in this case, my 3rd Season, "Generation HEX" conversions. Given the style of game that Generation HEX has become (low-powered supers/magical girl in a modern supernatural occult dramady) then oddly enough the BESM 3.0 stats work rather well.

The differences are mostly do to the changes in the systems, but also to reflect where the characters were at that point in my games.  These are certainly older versions of Willow and Tara than I had in BESM 2r.

BESM 3.0 makes more use of their multiverse (which sadly we won't be hearing more about) so there is a Universe line now on the character sheet.
Despite all thee differences though (and the change in mechanic) these are obviously related games. The conversion from BESM 2r to BESM 3 is easier than say the conversions between AD&D 2 and D&D 3.

The BIG thing here though is my shift from Power Flux/Magic to Dynamic Powers.   Now some of the BESM guys mentioned to me in the past that this might make them much more powerful than the numbers would suggest.   But I wanted to try it out.  Plus they had become "mages" in my Season 2 arc, "Season of the Witch" and this is supposed to represent them at the beginning of my Season 3 arc, "Generation HEX".   They might bee a tad powerful, but I think that is fine really.

I will say this. Dynamic Powers are so ripe for abuse it is not even funny. Yeah I see why it is there.  I have watched enough anime now to get it.  But it should still have something more to guide the player.  BESM d20 was a handy guide for this, as was True20 believe it or not.

Name: Willow D. Rosenberg
DAM Multiplier: 5
Genre: Modern Occult/Shojo
Universe: Mine

BODY 4 HP: 70 ACV: 8
MIND 12 EP: 115 DCV: 8
SOUL 9 Armor: 0 SSV: 14

Attributes Level Cost Notes
Dynamic Powers +5 +195
(Depletes -1, Backlash -2, Concentration -2)
Energy Bonus +2 +4
Features (Ambidextrous) +1 +1
Features (Attractive) +2 +2
Item (Dolls Eye Crystal) +1 +40
Tough +1 +2
Wealthy +2 +10

Skills (Attributes) Level Cost Notes
Acrobatics +2 +4
Biological Sciences +4 +8
Computers +6 +12
Cultural Arts +1 +3
Intimidation +1 +2
Languages +3 +6 English, Latin, Greek, French
Occultism +6 +18
Physical Sciences +5 +15
Seduction +1 +2
Social Sciences +6 +12
Street Sense +2 +4
Writing +1 +1

Defects Cost Notes
ISM (Jewish, Lesbian Wicca) -1
S.O. (Tara) -1
Phobia (Frogs) -1

Other Stuff: (Items, Equipment, Power Templates, whatever else is needed)
Dolls Eye Crystal. Provides 1 extra level of Dynamic Powers.

Name: Tara A. Maclay CP:
Template(s): DAM Multiplier: 5
Genre: Modern Occult/Shojo Universe: Mine

BODY 4 HP: 75 ACV: 7
MIND 11 EP: 130 DCV: 8
SOUL 10 Armor: 0 SSV: 15

Attributes Level Cost Notes
Companion (witches cat) +1 +2 MKF II, see below
Dynamic Powers +4 +155
(Depletes -1, Backlash -2, Concentration -2)
Energy Bonus +5 +10
Features (Attractive) +2 +2
Heal +2 +6
Sixth Sense (Magic, Empathy, the Sight) +3 +6
Tough +1 +2

Skills (Attributes) Level Cost Notes
Acrobatics +2 +4
Biological Sciences +4 +8
Computers +2 +4
Cultural Arts +2 +6
Languages +3 +6 English, Latin, Japanese, Gaelic
Occultism +6 +18
Performing Arts +2 +2
Riding (Horses) +3 +3
Seduction +1 +2
Social Sciences +2 +4
Street Sense +2 +4
Visual Arts +3 +3
Writing +2 +2

Defects Cost Notes
ISM (Lesbian Wicca) -1
S.O. (Willow) -1
Impaired Speech (stutter when nervous) -1

Other Stuff:

Miss Kitty Fantasitco II. Black & white cat familiar (Companion) 120 points
M: 2 (20 points) B: 2 (20 points) S: 3 (30 points)
HP: 20 EP: 35 Arm: 0 ACV: 2 DCV:2 SSV: 4
Energy Bonus 2 (4), Heightened Senses (sight and smell) 2 (4), Power Flux Magic 2 (26 points), Sixth Sense, Empathy 1 (2), Super Senses, Magic 2 (4), Telekinesis, Any 2 (16)
Skills: Occult 5 (10), Acrobatics 2 (6), Stealth 4 (12), Urban Tracking 5 (5), Wilderness Tracking 5 (5)
Easily Distracted (things that distract cats) -2, Unique Defect, Lazy -2

This version of MKF is more of a witch's cat than wise cracking side kick.  I think she should still talk though.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dracula: Big Eyes, Small Mouth 3.0

So if I am going to do Buffy, I should at least add one of the greatest vampires ever.
Dracula, in one form or another, has appeared in a number of anime.  So it seems natural to include him here.

This build is roughly based on the vampire build in the BESM 3.0 book and on my own Mutants and Masterminds version.

Dracula BESM 3.0


HP: 145 ACV: 16
EP: 120 DCV: 14
SSV: 29 Dam: 5/9

Attributes Level Cost Notes
Attack Combat Mastery +3 ( +30)
Combat technique (brutal, critical strike, lethal blow, lighting reflexes) +4 (+8)
Defense Combat Mastery +1 (+10)
Features: Appearance +1 (+1)
Heightened Awareness +1 (+2)
Heightened Senses (hear, smell) +2 (+4)
Mind Control (humans, depletes) +2 (+13)
Mind Shield +3 (+6)
Resistance +1 (+2)
Regeneration +1 (+10)
Special Defense (ageing 2, disease 2, freezing water 2, freezing cold 2, lack of air 2, poison 1) +11 (+22)
Special Movement +2 (+4)
Super Strength +4 (+32)
Tough +1 (+2)
Weapon Fangs +2 (+3)

Skills Level (Cost) (Modern-day Occult setting)
Acrobatics +2 (+4)
Climbing +2 (+4)
Cultural Arts +3 (+9)
Disguise +1 (+2)
Etiquette +3 (+3)
Foreign Culture +3 (+3)
Languages +4 (+8) English, Latin, Romanian, Turkish, German
Occult +3 (+9)
Performing Arts +2 (+2)
Seduction +5 (+10)
Sleight of Hand +3 (+6)
Social Sciences +3 (+6)
Stealth +3 (+6)
Street sense +3 (+6)
Urban Tracking +2 (+4)
Wilderness Survival +1 (+1)
Writing +1 (+1)

Defects (Cost) Notes
Achilles’ Heel (Wooden weapons) (-2)
Bane Sunlight (-2)
Bane Mirrors (-2)

Notes: Can move about in the daylight, but is very weakened. When sleeping or in his crypt he appears to be completely dead. Dracula lies in his coffin with his eyes wide open and can see everything even in his torpor.

Dracula here is a vampire at the top of his game with 145 Health Points, the same I put Buffy at.  With these stats they would go toe to toe for a while.  Same as in Unisystem.  But for an Anime Vampire Lord I am thinking he should be a bit more powerful.  That at least is the one thing consistent in all the Anime version of Dracula I have seen; he is a complete bad ass.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Anime RPGs: BESM 3.0

I was eagerly anticipating the release of BESM (Big Eyes, Small Mouth) 3rd Edition. Of course, by the time it was ready Guardians of Order had gone belly up and the rules were now being released by Arthaus/White Wolf. My anticipation was tinged a little with stress. What had happened to the game I had just recently become very fond of and what was going to happen now? And of course, would I be able to convert Willow and Tara to the new version given how much fun I had with BESM 2nd Ed Revised?

Well, many of my fears were put to rest, only to be replaced by new ones (and a couple that just never seemed to go away).  I'll detail those all below.

Briefly here are my comments on the system and the book.

The book is very attractive and one of the most colorful RPGs I have seen in a long time. It reminds me of Mutants and Masterminds in terms of color. It is a thick tome, and now sized to fit well on my shelf. The Niko Geyer artwork is great and really captures the feel of the game well. On the other hand I have seen all this artwork before, maybe not in color, but certainly in other editions of this book. Now I understand that money was very tight at GoO and the art is great, so I am willing to cut them some slack here.
The text though also has the same problems. There is text in here that I am now reading for the 5th or 6th time over (BESM 2.0, BESM d20, SAS, SASd20, Tri-Stat core). Some of this text still has the same problems as it always did (Dynamic Powers in particular).

I do like what is new. The analysis of anime, maps of Japan and Tokyo, and the overview of Shôjo anime. The section about the anime multiverse is also rather fun and full of ideas that can be used for any game. Especially as a way to run those pesky crossover sessions.

The new game mechanics are now a Roll-over; 2d6 vs. Target Number. Makes it very much in feel with Unisystem. No Success levels as such, but a very loose difficulty class system similar to many d20 based games. It was reading over these rules in fact that help re-tool my dice mechanic for Unisystem that I have come to call The Chicago Way .
But otherwise, it is still mostly the same BESM. We still have our 3 Stats, Body, Mind and Soul. Still have attributes, defects, and skills. There are different scalings for the game depending on how you want to play it.
Like M&M the powers are all effects based. So if you wanted to make a Pyro Girl, for example, its not a matter of choosing levels in pyrokenesis, but choosing a particular power and have it act like it. This could be Elemental Control (Fire), Power Flux- Fire or something else.

That gets me to a big issue. Magic.

Magic has always been an issue in BESM. There are basically three magical powers. The first is the easiest. Pick a power and call it magical. No big deal really.

The second is Power Flux, which used to be called magic. The idea here is pay for this at 15 points per level and you get 4 points per level to buy any other power temporarily. For that loss of 11 points per level you gain flexibility. So every power in the book then becomes a spell that your magic using character can use. So lets take the power Invisibility as an example.  The power says you become invisible, it does not say how or why.  Since its results or effect based then the Invisibility power can come from magic, be a spell cast by Power Flux, or be a cloaking device of a super-science item. Power Flux does not just have to be magic, it can psi powers, super-science, or just about anything else. For people starting out in BESM I say go with Power Flux. This is what I usually do for starting games and my Teen Witch below uses Power Flux.

Then there is Dynamic Power. Dynamic Power used to be Dynamic Sorcery, but the name change didnt help clear anything up. It is bought like Power Flux (including some of the exact same text copied and pasted in). Now the idea here is to be able to replicate all those kewl powerz you see in anime that the characters just seem to think of and they get. The really weird stuff. The trouble is the power as written is ripe for abuse and it is not very clear. Turning to BESM d20 you can get an idea of what it can do there, but none of that is here. So there is no telling what a person with 3 levels in this can do say differently from what someone with 3 levels in Power Flux do.

The BESM d20 version has Dynamic Sorcery (its equivalent) casting D&D type spells with restrictions on how many, which ones and how often. But nothing like that here. IF I am going to use Dynamic Powers I am going to have to figure out a way to convert over the magic in BESM d20 Advanced Magic for some guidelines.

The designer, Mark MacKinnon, says a lot about this power in and outside of the book. Things like this power is balanced if you know how to use it and It's a mature role-playing tool for mature role-players. If you don't "get it" when you read the description, then it's not for you. Well Mark, you seem like a good guy and I do really like BESM but I am calling BULLSHIT on that one. I have been playing for 30+ years, writing games and playtesting new games non-stop since the mid 1990s. Players, mature or not, still like guidelines, thats why they are called core rules. I don't want to kick you since you have left this biz but please, don't insult my intelligence.

I do understand it, and frankly, its not really my bag. I have some witches I use it with and others I use Power Flux with. In the end, I am finding I still like my own systems better. I appreciate the desire to tell a good story or to give GMs their freedom, but sometimes even the best GMs need a guide.

Though I should not *have* to do this I am going to take my cues on proper leveling from BESM d20 Advanced Magic. There Dynamic Sorcery goes to 10, to make life easier I am going to limit it to 5 levels in BESM 3.0 (level 6 is the realm of Gods). This will correspond to 1 BESM 3.0 level equaling 2 BESM d20 levels. Not perfect, but it is a guideline. Similarly Ill say 1 BESM 3.0 level of Dynamic Powers is roughly equal to having 2 levels of Magic/Sorcery. Its not perfect, but it works well enough.
Still though, I am unhappy with this power as written. Its a cool idea, but not as it is now. Ill revisit this when I do the BESM d20 conversions.

More Mechanics
The rest is very familiar. The main feature of the system is still 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

Attributes and Skills convert pretty much as is. BESM 3.0s new mechanic is such that the chances of success for a character is about the same as their Unisystem counter-part. Many of the Attributes are nearly the same as Unisystem with minor name differences; Tough vs. Hard to Kill for example.

BESM 3 Skills are now part of Attributes, but otherwise mostly unchanged. Skill Levels range 1 to 6, with 0 as unskilled or unable to use this skill and 5 representing the human maximum in most cases. Unisystem has a lot more Drawbacks for characters than BESM has Defects.

Basically, if I wanted to run an Anime-based game in Unisystem, I would start with the rules that seem to be the closest (WitchCraft RPG, Army of Darkness, Ghosts of Albion) and then add in BESM 3 material as needed.

Teen Witch
Here is a way to get a Unisystem-like witch into your BESM game. Use this template to start out your character. It uses Power Flux as I mentioned above and I went with a more anime-feel to it.

You were living a fairly normal crazy teen-age life. Worrying about school, boys, clothes, boys, popularity and boys. That is till one day you discovered your grandmothers Book of Shadows hidden away and since then nothing has ever been the same. You see ghosts, your cat now talks to you (and gives you advice!) and what worse now all these people are after you; rival witches, government agents that cant apparently tell the difference between you and a vampire, oh and not to mention you have a midterm in a couple of weeks!
College? You just want to make it to the prom!

Value Points Stat
+1 +10 Soul Stat or Mind Stat (choose one to work with Magic)

Value Points Attribute
+1 +2 Companion (Familiar, 120 points) OR
Divine Relationship (Spirit)
+1 +2 Energy Bonus (+5 Energy Points)
+1 +1 Features: Attractive (cute)
+1 +18 Item Book of Shadows restriction:
Unwieldy, easily lost, cannot learn new spells without it -2
+2 +26 Power Flux Magic (8 Flux Points)
restriction: Activation (lesser) -1, restriction: Depletes (lesser) -1,
restriction: Spells must be learned (moderate) -2)
+1 +2 Sixth Sense (One Aspect)
+2 +4 Skill: Occult (+6 points in Modern Occult Horror)
+1 +2 Super Senses (Magical) (uses same
Stat chosen above)
+1 +8 Telekinesis (Any)

Points Defect
-1 Marked (witchs mark)
-2 Nemesis (Usually a rival witch or investigator)
-2 Skeleton in the Closet (Magical family/history)

Total: 60 Points

Book of Shadows (40 points worth, 20 CPs, -2)
Common Spells (spells use same stat as chosen above)
Value Points Attribute
+4 +8 Environmental Control
+1 +8 Flight
+2 +6 Force Field
+2 +8 Healing
+4 +8 Illusion
+1 +2 Telepathy (minor)

Notes on the Template
The Teen Witch chooses one Stat, typically Soul or Mind, and uses it as the basis for all of her magical powers. All Spells in her Book of Shadows will use this Stat instead of the Stat listed. Eg, a Teen Witch that uses Soul as her Stat will use Soul and not Mind when using Telepathy as a spell. Her Super Senses also use the same Stat, but Game Masters can rule that Telekinesis can remain as it is.

For this I choose to use Power Flux as I had with my BESM 2r builds.  I wanted to see how it fared.  I dod like how it works.  Power Flux is "magic" and the powers bought are "spells".  So somewhere in between Ghosts of Albion and WitchCraft RPGs.  I tried out Dynamic Powers too, but more on that later.

Paths of Improvement
To advance the Teen Witch can improve her stat of choice, add more points to her Power Flux Magic (to increase her power), her Energy Points, or to her Item Book of Shadows (to represent more spells learned). Other choices are picking up both a Companion Familiar and Divine Relationship Spirit of Grandmother/Mother or increasing her Occult skills.

Buffy in BESM?
Well believe it or not, but Buffy owes a lot to the likes of Salior Moon and other Magical Girl or Shôjo anime. Buffy, Faith, Willow and Tara (even Anya and Cordelia) could all be considered magical girls with Xander as the comic relief guy and Angel as the mysterious stranger; its practically anime cliché. These stories are typified by a young girl, normally high school age, which 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. Common themes include friendship and the power of love and saving the world. Stop me if you have heard this all before.

Witches and magic I have discussed, vampires, werewolves and all sorts of monsters are more than adequately covered. Can you do a Slayer?

Sure. Why not.

Since BESM is effects based, we can use this to our advantage by describing what happens to a girl when she gets called: Increased strength and speed, increased health, quick healing, sense vampires, prophetic dreams, boatloads of enemies. Unisystem does a fantastic job of capturing this I think. But any game that can feature vampires should be able to feature their hunters. Again, we are going to have to look at the effects here.

Vampire Slayer Template
You are the One, the one girl born to rid the world of vampires, demons and other supernatural threats. You are the Vampire Slayer.

When you are called you get the perks, the increased strength, speed, stamina, fast healing and like Neo you now know Kung-fu. Of course this all comes with a price. You have a stuffy old guy watching you, and not in a creepy way, but in a you better train or you are dead way. Plus every vamp in town now wants to kill you to make a name for himself.
You have the talent, the skills, and damn, these new boots were made for kicking ass!

Vampire Slayer Template

Value Points Stat
+2 +20 Body Stat
+1 +10 Soul Stat

Value Points Attribute
+2 +20 Attack Combat Mastery
+6 +12 Combat Technique (Brutal, Critical Strike, Hard Bodied, Lethal Blow, Lightning Reflexes, Precise Aim [Stake through the Heart])
+1 +2 Heightened Awareness
+1 +10 Defense Combat Mastery
+1 +3 Melee Attack
+2 +8 Massive Damage (Vampires; Demons)
+1 +10 Regeneration (5 health points per round)
+2 +4 Sixth Sense (Vampires, Prophetic Dreams)
+1 +8 Superstrength (+1 damage)
+5 +10 Tough (+25 health points)

Points Defect
-3 Nemesis (vampires, demons and others supernatural bad guys)
-2 Skeleton in the Closet (Slayers have secrets)
-2 Unique Defect, Obligation: kill vampires

Total: 110 Points

Obviously not a point for point conversion, but a very serviceable for a typical Modern Occult powered game.

NOW BIG CAVET here. I can run a Cine unisystem game in my sleep these days, I am still getting used to BESM. I'd wagger that you could speed up things in BESM once you know it all better, but I still think Cine Unisystem is the fastest combat system around. BESM combat reminds me a lot of Classic Unisystem combat, very deadly.

What strikes me though here is how well the fit is between the BESM system and what you might want to do with a "Buffy-style" game. It's not going to be everybody's taste I know, but it is fun and one of the better conversions (in terms of how much the end product captures the feel of the original) I have done.

The BESM guys tell me that this build is a combat machine and may in fact be closer to Buffy in Season 3, not at the start of her game.

Now to do this proper I'll need to read over the combat sections in BESM some more to understand how the Slayer would work. Basically run "holo-deck" simulations. I put the characters in a variety of situations and simulate the combat in Excel.

Now one thing to consider is this. The Eden Slayer is 15 points, as is the Vampire (with a soul, Witchcraft or GoA). Their abilities parallel each other.

BESM's Vampire is 110 points. So is the Slayer. I'd like to move some things around, but I would like to keep this parsimony between the two templates if I can. To me that is worth more than a slightly over-spent character.

Of course one could very easily point out that BESM's vampires are more powerful than Buffy's, and they would be a 20 Point vampire in Unisystem. So doing the math the Slayer in relative strength should be about 80 BESM Points. Does that make sense?  If the 110 point slayer is closer to 3rd Season, then the 80 point  Slayer should be closer to 1st Season.  15 points per season to upgrade then?

About those points. Sure it seems a lot, but I typically* run a 300 point BESM game, gives me the same feel as my Unisystem game. So 110 points off the bat doesnt seem like too much to me. Figure in Unisystem a Slayer spends 75% to 100% of her Quality points on just being a Slayer. So to me it feels the same.

*Typically is a misnomer. I have only run a handful of games, none of any length, but my builds are always aimed at 300 points.

New Unisystem Quality
So now we have seen what BESM gains from Unisystem. What can Unisystem get from BESM? Well quite a bit it seems. Let not even get into Mecha, Giant Robots or Kaiju, lets look at things that could sneak into a Unisystem game unnoticed till its too late!

Cat Girls
Ah Cat Girls. Why do they fascinate us so? Or is that just me? Anyway, with Bast running around, talking cats and other general weird stuff, why not a Cat Girl. We can do this one the opposite of the Slayer, take a BESM Template and reverse engineer it as a Unisystem Quality. I am going expect this to come out around 15 points, but that is only based on guess work. Lets see.

Nekojin (Cat Girl)
15-Point Quality
Prerequisite: Can only be taken at Character Creation
You are a Nekojin, commonly known as a Cat Girl. Some people see you as a demon type, others think you are more like a werewolf, but you know the truth: You have no idea what you are! But you do know that you are not evil (well, most of the time), and you are sure you are not a mindless killing machine (unless cans of tuna count) and the only thing you torment is this toy mouse one of your human friends gave you.
Despite your ears, tail, fur and cat slit eyes, people find you cute. Must be that you still look like a kitten.

* +3 to Dexterity and +1 to Constitution. These bonuses can raise the your Attributes above the human maximum of six. (+4) Dexterity can max out at 9. Other attributes can also go over the human max to 7.
* You get one level of Attractiveness and one level of Acute Senses (Low light vision) and one level of Acute Senses (Hearing). (+5)
* Fast Reaction Time, Situational Awareness. (+4)
* +2 to Acrobatics and Kung-fu (cat-fu?) skills. (+4)
* Natural Weapon (Claws) Strength x 2 damage (+2)
But these perks come at a price, you are not exactly human remember.
* Supernatural Form: Not Human. Sorry Kitty, you dont look human. A big hat and head to toe covering might hide that, but why would a cutie like you hide all that? -2
* Mental Problem: Easily Distracted. Must make a Willpower doubled roll to avoid being distracted by the things that distract cats (string, mice,) -1
* Mental Problem: Mild Cruelty -1

15 points. Not bad. Its a tad high for White Hats, but Heroes can use them and in a Cine Unisystem game they will end up being combat characters.

I like BESM.  I wish more people did too.  Despite it's flaws (and it still has them) it is a great little game.  I like what it can offer other games too.  There are a lot of mechanics I have adopted over to unisystem, some fluff as well.  There are some great ideas on how to run a multiverse game that I think should be essential in an GM's guide for a "universal" game.
The biggest tragedy of BESM 3.0 is it's wasted potential.  ArtHaus/White Wolf go it on the death of GoO and promptly did nothing with it.  I get it in a way. BESM is not their product, not their line and really not in the same genre of their games.  But I think it would have been great if someone had picked it up and expanded it some.  Mark and GoO had some great ideas for the future of BESM 3 and it is sad that these will never come to pass.  The loss of GoO and BESM is more than the loss of one small company and their game in the industry; it was the lost of something very unique.

I want to spend some more time with BESM this week and look into their heirs apparent to the Best Anime RPG title.

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.