Character as Communication/Tokyo Heroes

Three posts in less that twelve hours! Woo! (I really have had RPGs on the brain lately…)

Reading all this theory blog stuff (not to mention finally reading through more of The Burning Wheel) got me thinking of this idea of “character as communication.” This post in Jay Loomis’ LJ digs into the nature of the whole disadvantage concept as seen in GURPS, which helped bring an idea together:

A character sheet is a means of communication between player and GM, and both sides need to treat it as such. When a player puts a disadvantage or somesuch on the character, he should be in effect saying to the GM “I want the game to partly be about this!” Burning Wheel stresses this quite a bit actually, though with the added wrinkle that the group will periodically vote on new traits to be added to each player character based on how they act in-game. In RPGs, players tend to get disadvantages for points and hope that the actual downside will be minimalized, while GMs can sometimes get too caught up in the overall plot to have the PCs’ individual stuff be more than a sub-plot.

I’m pretty sure I’ve been guilty of both, though my character for my friend’s upcoming superhero campaign has some serious stuff that will come back to haunt her (which come to think of it is not unlike my character for his Macross-based Mekton Z game, though for very different reasons). With my superhero character (Victory Rider) I went so far as to even list off some possible plot/episode ideas. I deliberately left her father’s alien origins a total mystery, and also suggested some wacky stuff with her rider transformation getting weird before it adapts to her physiology.

For Tokyo Heroes I’m attempting to do something with this idea. The game has a “Keys” mechanic similar to TSOY, but for Hero Dice that are shared by the group, and the group chooses 2 Keys that are possesed by all team members, and the player selects one related to his character’s Aspect (ranger color) and has the option to buy a “Personal Key” to boot. Each player also has a Heroic Flaw (inspired in part by Enemy Gods), which I’m thinking of linking to the individual XP-type mechanic somehow. None of these have any point benefit during character creation; you have to pick them. Between those the players are saying a lot about what they want out of the campaign, so the text recommends that the GM either have copies of the character sheets or make a cheat sheet of the characters’ stats, and look at them before doing any serious campaign planning. This is something I’m definitely going to be trying out with pretty much any game I run.

Tokyo Heroes also has a “spotlight episode” mechanic. In sentai and magical girl shows there are often episodes that revolve around one particular hero; the team gets drawn into the plot because of a friend of that hero, and it’s that hero who leads the way into battle. In Dekaranger the episode titles are actually color coded, and there are episodes like “Perfect Blue” — where DekaBlue has an old partner come to Earth for a visit, but turns out to be a bad guy, and they have a climactic shootout. So, in Tokyo Heroes a player can invest personal points (I’ve been calling them Karma in my notes, but as a placeholder) — sort of like the Star Power in Hong Kong Action Theater 1st Edition — at the end of a session to have the next session be a spotlight episode. The character gets certain mechanical benefits and has the plot center around them for that session. In spite of that last sentence being really horrible convoluted, the point is that this is a way for players to force the issue and make it so that their characters’ desires and whatnot become a part of the game.

Also, just when I thought there weren’t any other sentai RPGs out there at all, it turns out there is in fact one in Japan. It’s called Eiyuu Sentai Seigiranger (Hero Sentai Justice Ranger), part of a 175-page RPG anthology called TRPG Super Session: Daikyouen. From what I’ve read it seems to be a little toungue-in-cheek, and pleasing the sponsors in order to get more toys is a major part of the game. Still, I’m definitely going to see about ordering a copy from Kinokuniya when I get a chance.

Neat RPG Blog Posts

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