Tag Archives: Tokyo Heroes

Writing Style In RPGs, In Tokyo Heroes

Lately I’ve been pondering the craft of writing — putting together words with skill — as it applies to RPGs. And not having much luck. One of my other hobbies is writing fiction and poetry, and I like to think I’m at least not completely horrible at it. However I find I have a hell of a time fully applying what writing ability I have to roleplaying game texts. I’m sure the differing writing genre makes a difference (I have a harder time with creative nonfiction too by the way), especially when it comes to writing game rules.

The RPG books that I can remember liking the writing style have mostly been either crisp and clear (Primetime Adventures) or sort of like a really excited yet coherent friend telling you about cool stuff (octaNe). Exalted books always develop a really awesome setting and have sentences here and there where the wording seems awkward to me. Part of that, I’m sure, is that I’ve found that as I work on longer pieces of fiction, the revision process lengthens exponentially rather than in a linear fashion (I don’t want to talk about how long this novella is taking me, and I’m afraid of what’ll happen when I try for a full-length novel). Another part of it is simply differing priorities; I’m not just writing, I’m putting together a game that needs a coherently interlocking array of rules and concepts. Just typing up the rules as I have them in my head is a challenge sometimes. I’m wondering if I should’ve tried taking a technical writing class alongside all those creative writing classes… And I may have to finally break down and get Dogs In The Vineyard (even though it’s not something I’d run with my group), since its writing style is yet another of the things people keep praising it for.

The thing about Tokyo Heroes is that it deals with a genres that have only a cult following in the English-speaking world, so there are a lot of non-rule concepts I want to convey in the text, but I keep finding myself using “noodly” language with lots of conditional phrases (“Often the Sixth Ranger is…”). That’s partly just a fault of how I think and write; another reason I like writing fiction is it’s easier for me to get away from that. One idea I’m contemplating is using vingettes to convey certain concepts. Granted, RPG-related fiction is notoriously bad, outdoing even novelizations of movies at times, but I like to think I could do a bit better. ^_^;

Anyway, for that (and other purposes) I want to put together sets of original characters — a sentai team and a magical girl team. For the magical girls I’m just taking the protagonists of a story that never quite came together, Magical Girl Rose, which takes some cues from Abaranger for how the five heroes are organized (three main heroes, one mentor, one who starts off evil and comes around at the end, and a dangerous/defective transformation item thrown into the mix). For the sentai I originally at least had the name (Dynaranger), except that then I’d wind up having heroes with the same names (Dyna+color) as Kagaku Sentai Dynaman. Besides, I want to come up with a more detailed and somewhat less generic sentai team concept. In the “wish I’d thought of it” category is one of the PBP RPGs in the Japan Hero forums, “Kensei Sentai Slashman.” One of my favorite things about OVA is that it has a set of sample characters and uses them for every illustration and example.

And in other news, I ordered the aforementioned TRPG Super Session Daikyouen book with the Eiyuu Sentai Seigiranger game in it, though it’ll take around 3 weeks to arrive. I don’t feel so bad for not knowing 饗宴 (kyouen; “feast”), since apparently the clerk at Kinokuniya (a native speaker) didn’t either. A friend of mine is moving to Japan next month and I’m going to be sorely tempted to bug him to buy TRPGs for me… But it’d be much better to wait for my other friends to take their 2-week trip to Japan instead.

I’ve been trying to watch more source material for Tokyo Heroes, starting with Tokyo Mew Mew. I don’t know that I’d call the series good, but it’s definitely fun, and as usual in spite of the fact that between sentai and magical girls the number of hours of programming I’ve watched is now in the triple digits (holy crap, I never realized that before!) I find I need to watch it with a notebook in arm’s reach, should I suddenly gain new insights into the genre.

Character as Communication/Tokyo Heroes

Three posts in less that twelve hours! Woo! (I really have had RPGs on the brain lately…)

Reading all this theory blog stuff (not to mention finally reading through more of The Burning Wheel) got me thinking of this idea of “character as communication.” This post in Jay Loomis’ LJ digs into the nature of the whole disadvantage concept as seen in GURPS, which helped bring an idea together:

A character sheet is a means of communication between player and GM, and both sides need to treat it as such. When a player puts a disadvantage or somesuch on the character, he should be in effect saying to the GM “I want the game to partly be about this!” Burning Wheel stresses this quite a bit actually, though with the added wrinkle that the group will periodically vote on new traits to be added to each player character based on how they act in-game. In RPGs, players tend to get disadvantages for points and hope that the actual downside will be minimalized, while GMs can sometimes get too caught up in the overall plot to have the PCs’ individual stuff be more than a sub-plot.

I’m pretty sure I’ve been guilty of both, though my character for my friend’s upcoming superhero campaign has some serious stuff that will come back to haunt her (which come to think of it is not unlike my character for his Macross-based Mekton Z game, though for very different reasons). With my superhero character (Victory Rider) I went so far as to even list off some possible plot/episode ideas. I deliberately left her father’s alien origins a total mystery, and also suggested some wacky stuff with her rider transformation getting weird before it adapts to her physiology.

For Tokyo Heroes I’m attempting to do something with this idea. The game has a “Keys” mechanic similar to TSOY, but for Hero Dice that are shared by the group, and the group chooses 2 Keys that are possesed by all team members, and the player selects one related to his character’s Aspect (ranger color) and has the option to buy a “Personal Key” to boot. Each player also has a Heroic Flaw (inspired in part by Enemy Gods), which I’m thinking of linking to the individual XP-type mechanic somehow. None of these have any point benefit during character creation; you have to pick them. Between those the players are saying a lot about what they want out of the campaign, so the text recommends that the GM either have copies of the character sheets or make a cheat sheet of the characters’ stats, and look at them before doing any serious campaign planning. This is something I’m definitely going to be trying out with pretty much any game I run.

Tokyo Heroes also has a “spotlight episode” mechanic. In sentai and magical girl shows there are often episodes that revolve around one particular hero; the team gets drawn into the plot because of a friend of that hero, and it’s that hero who leads the way into battle. In Dekaranger the episode titles are actually color coded, and there are episodes like “Perfect Blue” — where DekaBlue has an old partner come to Earth for a visit, but turns out to be a bad guy, and they have a climactic shootout. So, in Tokyo Heroes a player can invest personal points (I’ve been calling them Karma in my notes, but as a placeholder) — sort of like the Star Power in Hong Kong Action Theater 1st Edition — at the end of a session to have the next session be a spotlight episode. The character gets certain mechanical benefits and has the plot center around them for that session. In spite of that last sentence being really horrible convoluted, the point is that this is a way for players to force the issue and make it so that their characters’ desires and whatnot become a part of the game.

Also, just when I thought there weren’t any other sentai RPGs out there at all, it turns out there is in fact one in Japan. It’s called Eiyuu Sentai Seigiranger (Hero Sentai Justice Ranger), part of a 175-page RPG anthology called TRPG Super Session: Daikyouen. From what I’ve read it seems to be a little toungue-in-cheek, and pleasing the sponsors in order to get more toys is a major part of the game. Still, I’m definitely going to see about ordering a copy from Kinokuniya when I get a chance.

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