This will be the first (and probably most important) of a series of posts about my attempt at what I call a “melodramatic anime RPG,” tentatively titled “Anime Dreams.”
I have to admit, I’m not all that experienced with conflict resolution; I’ve only played one game (Panty Explosion) that really used it as a game mechanic per se (though my group’s most recent long campaign was with Truth & Justice), and I’ve certainly never tried to design one before. But, at least I’ve got something that could be workable.
In game terms, characters are defined almost solely by Traits. These can be good or bad (though occasionally a good trait will hinder you and vice versa) and they’re divided into characteristics (actual things about your character) and bonds (connections to the world; friendships, rivalries, beliefs, etc.), rated 1-5. If the campaign’s Sentimentality is Low or Medium, Bonds are limited in their effectiveness in non-social conflicts, but if it’s High then they become interchangeable with Characteristics.
There are action resolution rules, where you basically just compare your trait level to something to see if you succeed, but you can take Xs (i.e., temporarily lose trait levels) to boost your effective ability. Action resolution is used for small stuff, and also for specific types of actions that can be taken during a Conflict.
When a full conflict starts, you have to determine the Scope (how many points worth of traits each character can use and how much Momentum a character can accumulate) and Stakes (what’s gained or lost at the end; success and failure may be enough, but existing and potential traits, amongst other things, can be part of the stakes).
Players take turns taking certain types of “conflict actions.” The most basic ones are Pushing (trying to either damage the opponent or gain Momentum) and Pulling (defending, or trying to reduce the opponent’s Momentum). Each time a character does a Push or Pull with a trait, that trait takes an X. However, Momentum points can be spent on Rest (to remove Xs), Effort (boosting your effective trait level for a Push or Pull), or a Finisher (spend lots, and try to finish off your opponent). There’s lots of leeway for how these things are narrated, so a “Finisher” doesn’t necessarily have to be an epic hisatsuwaza attack. Characters can expand the Scope of a conflict in progress if they wish, by raising the Stakes in some way.
There are a few other things involved, and no doubt plenty more I’ll have to figure out as I go along, but that’s the gist of it. Having traits take an X each time they’re used, but allowing Momentum to be spent to remove Xs, was the most critical thing, since I was thinking in circles trying to figure out how to make it necessary to mix up what traits you use while still allowing a given trait to be used multiple times. I still have concerns about this, particularly that it has the potential to get too drawn out, but that’s what playtesting is for.
Anyway, here’s some other things about the game, some of which I’ll post about in more detail later:
- Character Questions: Inspired by DRYH, and tweaked for anime, character creation begins by asking: What do you look like? Who are you? What do you want? What will you become?
- Power Scale: Originally inspired by the question of how the heck to model Dragon Ball Z in an RPG, Power Scale is similar to Fudge’s scaling rules, and adds a bonus to one’s effective trait rank when in a combat conflict with someone with a lower Power Scale. Very useful not only for DBZ, but for stuff like magical girls (where no one but them can stand up to magical monsters) and mecha (for obvious reasons).
- Character Development: Characters grow and change mainly through conflicts, either as part of the stakes or by “Exploding” in response to an opponent’s overwhelming Momentum.
- Series Creation: Devising (or selecting) a setting is an important part of preparing to play an RPG, so this game will have rules and guidelines for it, including formalized “round robin setting creation” rules, which in turn have a set of alternate rules for campaigns based on existing anime series.
- Stars: A currency in the game used for all kinds of metagamey stuff.
- Fan Guide: As mentioned earlier, it’s part of the game that for longer series the participants work together to put together a guidebook to their campaign. The GM rewards entries with Stars.
- Canned Settings: I intend to include three pre-made settings: Tiny Aliens (Keroro Gunsou, Bottle Fairy, and Invader Zim put in a blender), Angel Soul (sort of like a more mystical version of S-cry-ed), and Fullmetal President (the U.S. President and his VP and cabinet don power suits to stop a military coup. Very much inspired by Metal Wolf Chaos, the greatest Japanese Xbox game that never made it to the U.S. Each does some neat stuff with character creation.