Still have RPGs on the brain, still posting here almost every day. This morning I finally got my copy of Beast Bind: New Testament from Kinokuniya.
The first thing I noticed was that the book was definitely printed in Japan. The size is smaller than our 8.5×11″ format, and although it’s a softcover book it has a slipcover. Looking under the cover I immediately noticed they did something clever: the back of the slipcover is the character sheet. The artist who did pretty but vaugely loli art on the front cover did that and a very brief comic, while other artists did the interior art, which is actually surprisingly sparse. Only the first 16 pages are in color, while the rest are in black and white (an approach I haven’t seen in an RPG since Mekton Z). The layout was done by someone with definite skills, though it veers a little bit towards the cluttered aesthetic you see in Japanese magazines. The text is mostly in two narrow columns, albeit with lots of sidebars and diagrams, and the pages that list of numerous powers or other items are in vertical rectangular boxes arraged in a 3×3 or 3×4 grid. Western RPGs often have an example of play in the form of a dialogue showing what the GM and players say — BBNT has those throughout the book to illustrate the rules.
It’s going to take some time for me to read through it thoroughly — I can read Japanese, but I can’t really call myself fluent — but from what I understand the system is actually relatively simple. The game has some archetypes for quicker character creation, but to start from scratch you first pick two “Bloods” (though you can double up on a single one). These are Artifact, Immortal, Irregular (a person with superhuman abilities), Stranger (someone from another world), Spirit, Celestial, Demon, Beast, Full Metal, Magician, and Legend. Each blood gives you 3-6 points in each attribute (Body, Reflexes, Emotion, Mind, Society), and then you have 3 points to put wherever you want. From each of the attributes (which range from 6 to 13 at character creation) you divide by 3 and round down to get the number you actually add to rolls, and there are about 13 skills total (stuff like Melee, Machine Operation, Knowledge, etc.) that add directly to these for rolls (and between your Bloods, your Cover identity, and your free points you only have 10 levels total). There are some other derived values, my favorite being FP, which are basically HP, but “FP” is short for “Flesh Points” (or maybe Fresh Points…). Rolls are just 2d6 plus modifiers vs. a target number.
The neat think about this game is mainly just that it’s such an all-out gonzo manga take on the “supernaturals hiding in the modern day” thing. Among the included archetypes are not only a Rogue Vampire and Werewolf Cop, but a Magical Girl, a tokusatsu style transforming hero, and an android (well, gynoid) combat maid. It doesn’t have the Rune Blade archetype that was in the first edition, but you can make that easily enough, along with a zillion other things. The different Bloods determine what Arts and Hyper Arts you can take, and I find the fact that the Full Metal Blood has an Art called Gospel Engine too cool for words. (It lets a machine character have a soul in case you’re wondering). I am reminded not a little of Exalted’s Charms, but without the trees of prerequisites. Unlike Exalted the character sheet has spaces for the relevant data and more importantly a spot for writing the relevant page reference.
Most of what makes it seem different from Western RPGs is subtleties of presentation and aesthetics. It’s meant to be set up very much like an anime episode, with rules and guidelines addressing setting up scenes and whether a given PC can participate in a given scene, and it recommends doing trailers/previews for each session. Still, reading 272 pages in Japanese is going to take me a while. ^_^;
As a side note, when looking through websites for TRPGs I noticed that some of the art I’d seen in Masamune Shirrow’s Intron Depot artbooks was actually originally for some of the Asura System TRPG books. I definitely need to start making a (reasonable) list of TRPGs for my friends to look for when they take a trip to Japan (which in turn means figuring out where the heck they should go to find them; I think there’s a place or two in Akihabara).