Thoughts on Anime RPGs

Over the past few days I’ve been working more on Zero Breakers (the tentative title for my fighting shonen manga RPG), though it’s mostly been filling in details I’d already thought of, and occasionally modifying parts to fit together better, so there isn’t a whole lot to post about. Though I did realize that part of what I’m doing with the game is taking stuff I do at the gaming table naturally and codifying it into rules.

I’m sorely tempted to write a lengthy essay on anime RPGs. The main thing is that for various reasons–among them that some people seem to set ridiculously high standards of authenticity–it seems like anime is not treated as just another medium that RPG designers can draw as much or as little inspiration as they want to, when it really should be. It comes back to that thing about how when people use a strict definition of “anime” or “manga” to exclude stuff like Avatar and Dramacon, they’re completely missing out on (1) the quality of the work, and (2) the fact that it does in fact have a lot of what makes the Japanese stuff appealing to people in the first place.

Of course, that’s just my impression from what I see on internet forums, which may or may not have anything to do with reality. The point is that we have insane amounts of anime (and other otaku media) available to us, and more and better techniques of RPG design than ever before, so there are vast stores of possible inspiration that remain untapped. I think this is the real reason why most of my RPG design projects wind up being about Japanese stuff; if people were designing as many games inspired by anime as they did from movies, novels, and comics, half the ideas I have would already have been done.

Here’s a list of every English-language anime-related RPG I know. The thing I notice about them is that there are (1) lots of mecha games, (2) lots of universal systems, and (3) lots of licensed games, and very few of these don’t fit into at least one of those three categories.

  • Teenagers From Outer Space (a.k.a. the stealth Urusei Yatsura RPG)
  • Mekton
  • Project A-ko (Dream Pod 9 did a licensed A-ko RPG)
  • Heavy Gear
  • Jovian Chronicles
  • Bubblegum Crisis (licensed game by R. Talsorian)
  • Armored Trooper Votoms (licensed game by R. Talsorian)
  • Tinker’s Damn (an obscure attempt at a universal anime RPG)
  • BESM
  • Licensed Tri-Stat RPGs include Sailor Moon, Demon City Shinjuku, Dominion Tank Police, Tenchi Muyo!, El Hazard, plus lots and lots of Fan Guides.
  • Dragon Ball Z (licensed RPG by R. Talsorian)
  • HeartQuest, a shoujo manga RPG, powered by Fudge.
  • OVA (A nifty game that IMO does what BESM 1e wanted to do. Unfortunately OVA seems to be kind of floundering right now in terms of follow-up support or even distribution)
  • RandomAnime
  • Panty Explosion (Sort of; it veers more towards the Japanese live action side of things)
  • Bliss Stage

At this point I don’t think anyone really believes that R. Talsorian is ever going to get the Gundam Senki RPG out in English. On the other hand, aside from all of the stuff I’m working on (or failing to work on, as the case may be), there are a couple of games in development that sound really interesting:

I just found out that Matthew Gandy is working on a game called Seiyuu, which as he explains it is something like anime’s answer to Prime Time Adventures.

Christian Griffen’s Anima Prime now has its own site and there’s a PDF of the beta version. I’ll have to read it when I have time, but it is a full 165 pages.

4chan is a place I don’t really recommend you visit, but it does have a “traditional gaming” board, which has produced some interesting projects. One of these is Trigger Discipline (I’ve found some blog posts about it here)/ The idea is that it’s a variant of There Is No Spoon about some kind of over the top giant robot anime, and you have to take the anime studio’s budget for the project into consideration as you do things. There’s also some other project called “necrololis.”

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