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.
3 thoughts on “Anime Dreams: Conflict Resolution”
I like what I see here. Keep on writing your Anime heartbreaker, and I won’t have to write mine own ;)
It’s nice that characters evolve through conflicts, DitV-style apparently, and that conflicts seem to have some tactical depth to them. The directions I’ve been taking in recent projects (due to DitV being awesome, probably). And I like it that you give some thought to avoiding “I use my best rated trait… again” monotony – yes, I’m going in circles about such stuff, too.
One thing that makes me wary is the out of conflict action resolution. I did have something slightly similar in Illumination, and after a playtest or two I’ve got rid of it, as play was driven towards conflicts in a natural way and these rules simply weren’t used. This may or may not be the case with your game – in TSoY, for example, there is a pretty functional task and conflict resolution mix. I think it’s all about how these separate resolution systems interact (hmm, maybe some stuff could be done only through conflicts, and things defined as less important for the campaign would be resolved using simple actions, or something…)
As for the action resolution, I’ll have to see how it turns out in playtesting, but at least for the way the rules are structured it feels natural to me. For the one game I’ve tried running that has conflict resolution — Panty Explosion — I kept running into situations where I really wanted to be able to do action resolution, which admittedly may say more about how my group plays games than PE as a game. Hopefully we’ll give DitV a try fairly soon.
But yeah, the general idea is that important stuff is conflicts and less important stuff is decided by actions. Wushu also has something like this, which it calls “scab rolls,” though they actually use the dice differently than in Wushu’s conflict resolution rules.
The other thing is that particularly if Power Scale is being used it can be an expedient way to skip past a conflict that would almost certainly go one way. If Krillin tries to fight Frieza (Frieza saga DBZ), Krillin is toast, so it’s better to just reduce it to a single action. The same goes for a lot of human vs. mecha confrontations, and that kind of thing.
I just got (the new version of) TSOY in the mail yesterday, so it’s been very educational as a way to integrate the two approaches into one game. Bringing Down the Pain is similar to what I’m doing, in that the turns taken in a conflict use the rules of the action resolution rules.
Hmm, to tell the truth, I’ve never seen much point in Wushu scab rolls. That’s probably since in the end, in practice there rarely is any real need to bother with deciding “less important stuff” by referring to special mechanical procedures. Basically, that’s what “say yes or roll the dice” is for.
Well, I’m waiting for more Anime Dreams stuff or better a playtest version ;)