Tag Archives: Tokyo Heroes

Tokyo Kung Fu Catgirls

(This is what the subject headings usually look like on my LiveJournal).

The first rough draft of Thrash 2.0 is finished! Seriously! After I get some feedback from my local friends I’ll be posting it up.

In the meantime I wound up poking at some of the other things on my hard drive. I’d forgotten how neat Catgirl: The Storytelling Game (a semi-tongue-in-cheek parody of White Wolf-ness, but with lots of otaku memes thrown in) was looking. It’s going to be a ST-ish Fudge variant, and the point of it would mostly be just to do the setting for the fun of it.

I also wound up poking at Tokyo Heroes a little, finally. Again, with tremendously helpful feedback from Filip. Here’s what I’m working on so far:

  • Sessions are divided into four distinct phases: Prologue, Investigation, Battle, and Epilogue
  • The Investigation phase essentially involves clearing “gates” set out by the GM for the heroes to find and/or figure out how to beat the monster of the week. Gates can be cleared by using Keys, or just by being in the right place, or by succeeding at challenges. Gates can become improvised, they can be linked, they can branch, and they can provide special advantages against the bad guy.
  • The switch to Keys being the basis of investigation stuff has made many of the attributes in the game irrelevant. Tentatively there’ll be three: Courage (melee attack/defense), Prowess (ranged attack/defense), and Kiai/Spirit (for finishers, and encouraging teammates). This neatly does away with having an overpowered Attack attribute.
  • I’m pretty much getting rid of Stamina and Resistance. I still need to work out more of the specifics, but basically the heroes have a Blast Gauge that indicates how far the battle has escalated. For sentai heroes it starts at Basic Attacks, and moves up until it reaches Finishing Attacks. The Blast Gauge varies a little bit depending on the type of battle (the version for robots and magical girls doesn’t include a Basic Attack stage). Bad guys cause heroes to accumulate Pain, which can eventually cause them to be de-transformed or incapacitated if they get enough.
  • Part of setting up the game is setting up a Budget progression, which determines how powerful the bad guys are and creates a long-term pacing mechanic for the heroes getting handed new robots/powers/etc. Gates are part of the GM’s budget for each episode/monster.

The Status of My Games

I have no idea who I picked it up from, but I came down with a cold the day after I got back from GenCon. On the plus side, I also came back feeling inspired about gaming in general, so it’s time to look at my various back burner projects and figure out where I am and what I need to do. The most important thing, unquestionably, is that I need to make much more of an effort to playtest the stuff I create.

Raspberry Heaven
Today I finally finished typing up the descriptions of Quirks. I need to fill in a few things here and there, but at this point the only thing I really need to to for playtesting is have a single episode write-up ready to play. I actually slipped some elements of this game into a weird dream episode of my Divine Machine campaign (a long-term dimension hopping game using OVA), but the rules never really came into play. I’m trying to do a “Bonus Indie Gaming Night” kind of thing with my friends, and I think the first real playtest of RH will come after The Mountain Witch.

Anime Dreams
I looked through what I currently have the other day, and I’m thinking that I’m closer to having it testable than I realized. Mostly I need to work a little on how I’m presenting what I’ve already got, and maybe do a little bit of trimming. The game is essentially a conflict engine, a diceless version of games like DitV, FATE, PDQ, TSOY, etc., and while the setting creation rules have the potential to be really interesting, they’re a distraction from getting the engine running.

I also want to come up with a more evocative title. In no particular order, here are some titles and bits and pieces thereof that I came up with:
Anime Stars
Defenders of Tokyo
Dreaming of the Sunrise
Round Zero
Zero Saga
Zero Requiem
Zero Spark
Sea of Miracles
Starlight Breaker(s)
Raging Heart(s)
S, R, J, Super, Z, A’s, Zero, 1/2, +

Tokyo Heroes
I think I mentioned this before, but Filip sent me literally 8 pages of feedback. I know more or less what I want to do with the game — an overhaul to make it much, much less handwavey — but it’s going to be pretty time-consuming. The main thing is I’m going to delineate game session structure according to kishoutenketsu as mentioned before, which in turn will require retooling several other widgets in the game to match. In particular, I want to take a cue from the GUMSHOE system and put the emphasis on when and how PCs find clues, rather than rolling dice to see if they figure things out.

Slime Story
I came up with this setting idea ages ago (and even put it in an episode of Divine Machine), and I’ve been wanting to do it in RPG form, either as a setting or an independent game. Right now I’m thinking I want to create a game that uncomfortably marries simple hack-and-slash with hippie/story game stuff about the protagonists’ hopes and dreams in the face of a bland reality brightened only by the monster hunting hobby that they’ll eventually have to give up. It’s still very much in the preliminary stages, and I honestly have no idea how I’m going to tackle the latter part of the game’s concept.

Thrash 2.0
The eternally delayed, hope to do it some day second edition of Thrash. Every time I get even remotely motivated Real Life starts dumping stuff on me, plus my tastes have changed enormously since I wrote Thrash in my first year of college, and while I still want to make a game-y hand-to-hand combat thing, I find assigning lots of points to be bland and cumbersome. I’m thinking that characters should just have set selections of maneuvers (say, 3 Special Moves and 1 Super to start with), and applying similar simplification all the way through. I’ve lost count of how many total rewrites I’ve done, but if I go this route it’ll be yet another.

we are flat
This is intended to be an anthology of three short-form games inspired by Superflat: Moonsick, Magical Burst, and Black Hole Girls. Right now it’s WAY on the back burner. Each game is going to be radically different from the others, and require its own development cycle.


Since it’s looking like it’s going to become an important part of two of the games I’m working on, I decided to write up a blog post about kishoutenketsu (起承転結). Kishoutenketsu is a four-act structure commonly used in Japan. Although it originally derives from Chinese poetry, it has been applied to all sorts of longer works, including novels and manga. The four stages are introduction, development, climax (or turn), and resolution. Just like the three-act structure (set-up, confrontation, resolution) more commonly used in the West, it is ultimately just a model, and it certainly can’t be used to explain the structure of every story out there.

On the other hand, there’s the case of yon-koma (four-panel) manga. These are comic strips consisting of four vertical panels, and are more or less Japan’s version of our newspaper comic strips (which, possibly not coincidentally, are mostly three panels). When you examine yon-koma comics from the point of view of kishoutenketsu, more often than not the panels correspond exactly to the four-act structure, wrought in miniature. In case you’re wondering I learned about this through (1) a fan-translation of Welcome to the NHK, which mentioned kishoutenketsu in a footnote, and (2) a how to draw manga book I saw at a store and have never been able to find since.

Anyway, with Raspberry Heaven most of the source material (notably Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star) started off as yon-koma manga. Even when I come up with a good idea I usually need some prodding in the right direction, so it wasn’t until Jake Richmond egged me on that I came up with a good idea for how to use it in this game, and in a way that will hopefully make the game that much better. Essentially it’s going to be a part of the rules structure for how scenes are set up and run. The four phases are:

  1. Ki/Introduction: The player sets up and initiates the scene.
  2. Shou/Development: The group commences role-playing.
  3. Ten/Climax: The scene comes to a head, and a “challenge” (a thing that requires rolling dice) happens.
  4. Ketsu/Resolution: A little more to bring the aftermath of the climax into the game, and to close up the scene.

With Tokyo Heroes (at Filip’s urging) I’m also planning to use it, albeit on a different scale. As a genre, sentai has a relatively rigid plot structure, so the four acts could correspond fairly tightly to the stages of the story of a standard episode, with mechanical effects (or a lack thereof) appropriate to each.

  1. Ki/Introduction: The game starts, with the heroes doing something ordinary (for them) that, though they don’t know it yet, is going to lead into this week’s conflict.
  2. Shou/Development: The inciting incident hits. The heroes have to do whatever investigating is necessary to be ready for this week’s battle. For this I’m thinking of taking a cue from Gumshoe/Esoterrorists, and making it more about how the PCs find clues rather than if.
  3. Ten/Climax: The battle finally happens for real. The heroes go all-out and beat the monster of the week.
  4. Ketsu/Resolution: The game goes a little further, to establish what happens after the monster is defeated. The people affected by it turn back to normal, the girl it kidnapped is freed, etc. The heroes go back to base and things settle down. Credits roll. Preview plays.

Raspberry Heaven is coming together fast enough that I might actually be able to playtest it before the month is up. With Tokyo Heroes it’s kind of a different story in that Filip sent me a LONG e-mail (8 pages when I printed it out) with a blow-by-blow critique. It’s been tremendously helpful, but it’s required me to rethink some very basic parts of the game’s structure, and a massive rewrite is in order before I do more playtesting.

(Some day I’ll work on Thrash 2.0 again…)

Tokyo Heroes: External Playtest

Mendel Schmiedekamp from the Story Games forum was kind enough to run a session of Tokyo Heroes the other day, and today he emailed me with the results. Not surprisingly, this was major food for thought, and it shows that as far as the game has come, it has a long way to go yet. I’m extremely grateful to have gotten this opportunity, since it exposed some stuff about the game that didn’t really come up with my group, at least not in the first session. I’m onto something (one of my friends called the game “addictive”) but there’s still plenty of work to do.

On the plus side, for his group character creation went very well, and became this sort of mashup of evil aliens and Iron Chef. (“the main villain being Apocalyptic Chef Andromedan – who is planning to cook Earth as part of his course for Theme Ingredient: Mortal Souls.”)

The major problem is that the combat rules need an overhaul. They don’t allow for a whole lot of variety, which makes whittling down the opponent’s Stamina a repetitive process, and initiative and attack power are the only things that really matter, and they can seriously overwhelm the opposition unfairly. It ought to reward creativity a bit more,

I really need to sit down and think about this, and try to get something new together for Mendel’s group and mine alike to try out, probably some time after winter break. For the moment my creative stuff is kind of hamstrung by finals and freelance work.

Also: we are flat
Just before that, I got a bit further on we are flat, my anthology of three crazy Superflat-inspired games. In particular, I’m finally starting to figure out what to do with Magical Burst, the over-the-top insane-o magical girl game that’s basically a reworking of my Magical World campaign setting, with its own set of rules. One of the major things I did was to go hog-wild with random tables, inspired by Maid RPG, and for similar reasons. There’s still lots of things I need to figure out, but the crazy random tables angle is definitely

The first draft of Moonsick is done too, but I suspect it desperately needs playtesting, and to at least be eyeballed by some other people. This is where I run into the problem that the way the game is set up, someone who’s read it all the way through would make a very poor playtester, and it’d be harder to get the full effect on someone who’s played it before. Shades of Paranoia and Cell Gamma (one of the games from the No-Press Anthology), not to mention The Mountain Witch having accidentally become a major inspiration.

For the third one, Black Hole Girls, I’ve come up with some stuff that seems kinda sorta promising, but I really have to develop and playtest it in order to see if I’m even remotely on the right track.

Go Go Tokyo Heroes!

I’ve been watching the original Power Rangers. Yes, I’m serious. The things I get into because of roleplaying games. I just had to decide to make Tokyo Heroes more accessible to MMPR fans, which actually is looking to be easier than I thought — mostly a matter of tweaking some of the flavor text. Guy Shalev pointed out that I coupld pitch the game as “Remember how fun Power Rangers was before it started sucking? This game is like that.” I never watched it when it first came out (I was in high school… though I did still watch some cartoons), so it’s a new and rather surreal experience for me. I should sit down and watch Power Rangers SPD some time too.

Early MMPR is even more awesomely bad than sentai, partly because they’re trying so hard to make it kiddified, wholesome, and politically correct, hence most of the episodes I’ve seen so far have a blatantly obvious moral attached (recycling is good, deaf people can be cool). I also love how in the first episode Zordon says to Alpha 5, with a straight face, “We need to recruit teenagers with attitude.” That and every now and then they use footage of stuff that’s blatantly, obviously Japanese (like, you know, Tokyo Tower) and hope no one will notice.

…There’s also the thing that very few people besides me will find funny, that during WWF’s “invasion” storyline for a little while Stephanie McMahon started to sound a lot like Rita Repulsa. “Rhyno is going to defeat your pathetic Chris Jericho! AHAHAHAHA! Make my wrestler GROW!” (And now I just remembered JR saying how “the Million Dollar Princess has become a Dairy Queen”).

Tokyo Heroes: Bug Fixes

I’ve gotten over the shock of starting graduate school, so I’ve been able to find some more time for stuff like designing games. I poked at Thrash 2.0 a bit over the past few days; I keep forgetting how much I like how it’s looking, but there’s also a lot of grunt work left to do.

For Tokyo Heroes, as mentioned before the first playtest was very successful overall, but revealed some things that need work.

One of the things that was a little problematic was how the villain seemed to always get screwed out of being able to defend. I just realized that there was a potential solution in the rules already; there’s a rule for Split Actions, where a character can do multiple actions in a turn by taking a penalty equal to the number of actions being performed. Hence, a bad guy like Hellion could’ve defended and still been throwing around attacks that do 5-7 points of damage. I need to try it out in play to find out if it’s actually a solution to the problem.

I also reworked the mook rules a bit. For each mook the GM rolls one die, and each Success is a potential point of damage, but each success on a hero’s attack knocks out one of those successes, and each success on a hero’s defense prevents two.

A friend of mine came up with a neat idea too. I hadn’t consciously intended it to be that way, but Tokyo Heroes wound up being set up so that the game involves lots of fun dice rolling. So, the idea is to have players roll for bonus Karma points. I’m not 100% sure how to set this up, but I’m thinking it’ll be something like the GM picks out an attribute each hero used for important stuff during the episode, and the player rolls that for bonus Karma. Either that, or players would roll as many dice as they earned Karma points, and each 6 would be a bonus point.

Of the issues I found in the playtest, that leaves the matter of how the derived stats (Stamina, Resistance, and Initiative) are figured. The variation of Resistance between 3 and 11 in the playtest characters is a concern, not to mention the fact that the totals of Stamina never seem to work out how you expect, and Pink characters seem to wind up having a lot. Of course, in the playtest the PCs haven’t yet gone up against a villain that’s really meant to test those stats, so I’m not sure how problematic it really is. If I do change it, I’m not yet sure what I’d change it to anyway, but having all of the heroes start off with the same amount of Stamina and Resistance (that can be increased later) is a possibility.

Other than that, there’s still some parts that need more pure writing, and that’s before we get into editing and whatnot. But still, while the actual play was different than I expected, I think I’ve got a fun game on my hands.

Tokyo Heroes Playtest! (and a couple other things)

The playtest of Tokyo Heroes is now well under way. Last week we made characters and such, and this week was the first session. The players seemed to have had a good time, and I’m finding the results of all this incredibly useful. I’ve started a thread in the Forge’s Playtesting forum about it. For this game I have a lot to think about and a lot to work on now.

I’ve also put the current draft of the rules online for people to peruse.

As a total side tangent, it’s worth noting that Greg Costikyan and company recently got Manifesto Games up and running. This is the thing he’s been talking about for a while, a site that sells quality independent computer games (so it’s sort of the video game world’s answer to IPR), and even though I really need to hold off spending money I’m sorely tempted to go buy some things.

The other day I had another random idea for a game that I probably won’t get to for quite a while. Toon was the first RPG I ever bought, and not many people seem to notice that it was basically set up as a light, silly version of GURPS. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, and the Toon-ified versions of Car Wars and CoC and whatnot in the Tooniversal Tour Guide book were actually really neat. But having been exposed to all this new indie stuff, I have to wonder what an indie take on Saturday morning cartoons would be like. The game idea I came up with was to do a game based around the sort of “predator vs. prey” cartoons, stuff like Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner or Tom and Jerry. And it occurs to me that I may have just come up with an idea for a CSI game. There would be two players, and while the predator character would pretty much always lose, the players would be competing, probably to be the ones who make the predator’s failures more interesting. And it would be called something like “I Hate You: A Cartoon CSI Game For Two Good Friends.” So, that goes right alongside Distorted Futures: A Dystopian Ass-Kicking RPG on the back burner.

Three Things I Like About Tokyo Heroes (so far)

Last week I went to the mall, basically to do some stuff by myself and clear my head. I was especially thinking about getting more of my creative stuff off the ground. One side of that has been harassing my artist friends to get my T-shirt design project seriously under way, but over lunch I pulled out my laptop and wound up rereading the unfinished manuscript of Tokyo Heries, and I realized that I really liked what I saw. Which is why I wound up dropping everything else I was doing (writing/RPG design-wise) for the moment to work on this game.

Continue reading Three Things I Like About Tokyo Heroes (so far)

Power 19: Tokyo Heroes

The Power 19 are a series of questions meant to help guide game designers. I decided to take a stab at answering these for Tokyo Heroes, and later on other RPG projects I’ve been working on or contemplating.

1.) What is your game about?
Heroes that work together to beat up bad guys.

2.) What do the characters do?
Seek out, confront, and defeat bad guys.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
The GM comes up with the Monster of the Week. The players try to do what they characters would want to do, building up to that episode’s final battle.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The game has a milleu of sorts, but the setting is left up to the individual group. From the source material, there is a notion that heroes are the same in every setting. Despite the similarities and the crossover movies, each year’s Super Sentai Series is a totally new setting.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
Characters must be made as a group, with many important details decided by the group as a whole, and thus they have to be concieved as a team.

6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
Teamwork is strongly encouraged; going solo is difficult at best.

7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
Hero Dice and Karma are the most important form of reward in the game. Hero Dice contribute to the teamwork side of things — and are all but required to win battles — while Karma points reward individuality and thereby create a certain amount of tension.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
Mostly in a traditional fashion, except that at the end of each session players have an opportunity to give the GM input about what will happen in the next session/episode.

9.) What does your game do to command the players’ attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)
The heroes in this game must participate and do things in accordance with their Keys in order for the group to gain enough Hero Dice to function effectively.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
It’s a dice pool system using six-siders. The base target number is 4 (so dice come up as successes half of the time), but this varies depending on the circumstances. Hero Dice can be spent on any given action by any group member.

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
The resolution mechanics are intended to strongly encourage teamwork. Characters can almost always assist their friends in some way, even if the target gets pushed up to 6. Unlike previous attempts at the game, it lets each player roll their own dice and see their contributions to the whole.

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
Basic character competence is improved by spending Karma points, while new weapons, giant robots, etc., are handed out whenever the GM feels like it.

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The fact that Karma is the basis of character advancement adds to the characters’ individual drive for achievement, and is meant to create tension. That the GM periodically plays Santa Claus draws in the source material’s tendency towards deus ex machina, but also frees players to spend Karma on improving their characters’ abilities over time.

14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
Primarily, I want to capture the fun, melodramatic, vivid, and cool style of sentai shows, and get them to play their characters to the hilt.

15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
The game is mostly about a genre, so the emphasis is very squarely on conveying that genre and why I think it’s cool enough to be worth the effort of roleplaying to the reader.

16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
Aside from the fact that it’s meant to bring what I consider to be a really fun genre into the realm of RPGs, I’m really excited to see how well the Keys/Hero Dice really work. To me it’s at the heart of the game, and a big part of what makes it feel like it’ll fit the genre.

17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
The sentai genre has been almost completely overlooked by RPGs, even in Japan.

18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
My main concern is putting together a fun game to play with my friends, but if I can put together something that other people would actually be interested in, I’ll probably try to get it out there, on Lulu.com and RPGnow and such. I don’t have the personality or resources to really concern myself too much with it as a commercial venture, but from the beginning I was eyeing this game as possibly something to sell.

19.) Who is your target audience?
People who are fans of sentai, or at least curious about it. It’s a small niche hobby, but as I mentioned before there’s next to nothing for it in the realm of tabletop RPGs.

Status Report

I dug into Tokyo Heroes again after not looking at it for a couple weeks, and it looks like the actual rules are mostly done now. I need to fill out the rules for making bad guys, finish writing up the sample characters, and the last of the fluffy flavor text. Hopefully once that’s done I can get back into working on Thrash 2.0 — which is also mainly a matter of grunt work at this point. I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to get done once school starts, of course. This semester is looking to be pretty intense.

On the TH inspirational stuff front, Tokyo Mew Mew has been getting really good lately (I’m on episode 37 right now), mainly by finding interesting things to do with the different characters. I watched the first few episodes of Genseishin Jutsirisers and was surprised by how good it was (especially after seeing the first episode of Sazer-X). It’s basically a sentai show, but it has its own distinct feel, separate from the Super Sentai Series. Similar to Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (but in different ways) it deals with what it means to be a “hero” with weird powers. Two of the main characters are high school kids, and they’re fighting in spite of their misgivings and fears about the whole thing. I also like how the girl character is on the school’s lacrosse team basically as an excuse for the characters to have a metal stick handy when mooks show up.

Last night we had our first session of Truth & Justice, though it was mostly prologue and roleplaying. The real super action hasn’t started yet, but the campaign is off to a good start at least. We’ve been playing mostly on Sundays at the FLGS, and the first time we played on a Saturday it was much more crowded than we’ve ever seen it before. It’s definitely encouraging to see that many people playing games.