Posts Tagged ‘pnp’


Why the Sailor Moon RPG is pretty awesome… because you want to know.

December 10, 2011

So after making a bold tweet one morning, it seems I confused a few of my Twitter followers.  I made the daring proclamation that the Sailor Moon RPG wasn’t, in fact, the worst game I’ve ever played.  Instead, I took it one step further and actually listed it amongst my favorite RPGs.

Why would I say something so nuts?  Well, to be honest, I was being a little sarcastic.  Perhaps this is not literally the best RPG I’ve ever played, but this game is certainly more solid than one would be lead to believe.  Licensed products are always hit and miss, as they can tend to be shells of rules that are just pushed out the door to capitalize on the fan base’s love for the product.  There are exceptions, of course, and this game is certainly one of them.

Why do I have such nice things to say about a game based on a sometimes hollow messaged kids’ show/anime?  Here’s my list.

1. The game’s rules don’t suck

The Sailor Moon RPG is actually a lighter form of the anime-inspired rules set named Big Eyes, Small Mouth.  BESM, as it’s known in acronym form, is a very freeform set of rules that can be used to mimic any anime setting.  But, while BESM is a little generic and sometimes overwhelming, SMRPG actually takes the initiative and cuts down on BESM’s clutter.

The skill system in BESM, which I always felt was a little tacked on, has been removed in favor of standardized statistic checks (also featured in BESM, but always modified by skills.)  These checks are made by using a single piece of their tri-stat system (which measure’s a character’s Body, Mind, and Soul from 1 to 12) or the average of two or all three stats for checks that may involve multiple stats (like pushing a block and solving a puzzle simultaneously.)  Players must roll below their stat or average stat on two d6, a common die that almost everyone owns at least one of.  The game also includes degrees of success, so a character who has a stat of 5 and rolls a 3 did better than a character who has a stat of 4 and rolled a 3.  Both characters succeeded in their task, but the player who rolled lower than their target value did better at it.  The same holds true for failure (so GMs can be inventive with their descriptions of the character’s actions.)

When it comes to dealing damage, SMRPG and BESM do the same thing — they rely on your pre-made weapon attacks (or Senshi/Knight attacks in this) to deal tons of damage.  No dice are rolled for damage steps, as the attacks themselves have an inherent damage value that will always be applied when the defender is hit.  If, for some odd reason, you’re punching or using a weapon, damage is simply your combat value (the number you have to roll lower than to hit) multiplied. Damage from a punch is simply your combat value in damage points.  Damage from a non-magical weapon is that multiplied by two. This makes dealing damage easy to figure out and calculate in the heat of battle.  (If you’re asking why non-magical weapons deal so little damage, it’s because the game’s focus isn’t on them.  How often are there guns in Sailor Moon? It’s a setting rule that I approve of, as it keeps to the spirit of the show.)

Finally, characters are built by using attributes.  Attributes are traits or features that are added to a character during character creation.  These traits define what the character is all about.  For example, taking the “Massive Damage” attribute lets your character naturally deal more damage in combat each time you take it.  Attributes are ranked from 1 to 6, becoming more powerful as they rank up, but they will also cost more character creation points.

Long description short, these rules are easy to use, fast to play with, and still provide a good amount of detail for both the players and the GM. Min/maxers have the option to uniquely customize attributes, or even take the “Unique Attribute” option to create their own attributes.  On the other side of the coin, new players can be set up very quickly, and their rules will not overwhelm them the first time they sit at the table.  It’s a perfect split for both play-types.

2. The game stays true to the universe

The point of a licensed game is to re-create your favorite universe, right? Well, the SMRPG does that too.  While the BESM rules have been cut down, the book made sure to keep the most relevant rules to the universe intact and even went so far as to add special attributes and rules that are unique to the universe.  We’ve already mentioned the “guns kinda do crappy damage” rule, because the SM universe isn’t about guns and armor.  Pulling a gun on a Sailor Scout, a magical force of nature, is stupid.  While they may not outwardly wear armor (and some people may rage over their sailor uniforms) there is a magical force that is protecting them and changing them when they are transformed. Ya can’t just write that off.

Other rules include special attributes for anyone who plays a Senshi/Knight character AND special attributes for players or the GM when they create Dark Warrior characters.  Yes, that’s right, you can pull out some Negaverse traits.  It’s not all happy kitties and rainbow attacks in this book, and I’ll get to that more in a future point.

3. The game is a idiot’s guide to Sailor Moon

I’m going to make another bold statement here — I’ve barely watched Sailor Moon.  Barely barely.  I know major characters, the general plotline, and that’s it.  I am no expert on this universe at all.

Yet, the book understands that people like me exist.  It’s the kind, knowledgable friend who will tell you whatever you want to know about the license’s universe in an organized way.

The game starts out by giving you the statistics for all of the major characters, and I mean ALL OF THEM.  It doesn’t pull its punches and give you only the “main ones.”  It goes into all of the major villains, the entire cast of Senshi (and the single Knight, Tuxedo Mask/Prince Darien, and yes I’m counting Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Saturn), the Sailor Starlights, Queen Beryl, her cast of bad guys, Alan and Ann, the entire Darkmoon Family, Wiseman, Rini, Rini’s adult form of Black Lady, and… and… phew… Ok, it’s comprehensive, to say the least.  The write-ups even give you a full synopsis of what they did on the show.

Then the book gives you a write up of Tokyo, a few maps, and then a listing of major locations from the show.  That way you can call identifiable places and get an idea of where people are travelling.  After that is a FREAKING TIMELINE OF HISTORY that denotes when every major event takes place and shows you when exactly all of those episodes happened.  Then, after that, the book goes far enough to run down the first 82 episodes of Sailor Moon with plot synopses.  Intense is a good word for this section.

But, for those who really want to run a serious game, this information is super handy.  You get a perfectly clear picture of what happens and when it happens.

4. The game doesn’t hamstring the players

This is a critical one for me.  The game’s rules not only allow players to make their own unique character with attributes and defects, but it also lets them go beyond the “I’m a Sailor Scout, yay” mentality.  Did you want to play a completely evil campaign where all of the players serve Queen Beryl?  You can do that.  You want to play a one shot where everyone plays the Yoma who attack the Sailor Scouts?  You can do that.  You want to play a guy who turns into a female Sailor Scout when they transform?  You can… amazingly enough… do that.  (The Sailor Starlights actually started that whole thing, so it’s canonical. >.> Might as well insert a case where a woman can turn into a male Knight during their transformation as well. :D)

5. The game doesn’t short change the setting

Finally, the game doesn’t just go, “Oh, here’s Tokyo, have fun.” It doesn’t limit the players to the confines of the primary setting of the show.  In fact, it does what it can to find the loose ends in the universe and offer more insight into how GMs can create really unique campaigns that go beyond the show.

For example, the Negaverse, Crystal Tokyo, the Old Moon Kingdom (lulz, The Old Republic…) and other places are detailed as possible campaign settings.  The book offers the GM what information it can on these areas, and then begins to propose hypothetical questions to get the GM’s imagination running.  What’s 30th Century Crystal Tokyo like?  What trials and tribulations could your unique characters find there as they interact with the main cast?  What’s the culture of the Negaverse like?  Is it a mirror image of Earth?  Do all of its inhabitants support Queen Beryl’s relentless war on the Sailor Scouts?

This allows you, the players, the ability to not only re-create the events of the show, but move beyond it.  The setting is not only supported, but it is infinitely expanded to support your adventures.  That’s cool shit.

So there you have it.  Five long reasons as to why this game kicks ass at what it does.  It’s a simple, approachable system that can be used by both novices and experts to both re-create and move beyond the events of the show.  And, not only does it do that, it completely supports/encourages your own custom characters.  Plus, the book itself is a great resource on the show’s events and multiple settings.

This is a licensed RPG that not only lives up to its namesake, but moves beyond it in some ways.  That’s a good game.


The Story Behind Black Clover

January 11, 2010

Concept art for the Black Clover character, "The Organist." Yes, that's a mechanized arm.

So, for many of you, I’ve talked about this random game — Black Clover — and you’re confused as to what it is.  You may have seen it on my Twitter background, you may have heard me talk about it in tweets, and you may have read some of my random descriptions in my blog.  You’ve been introduced to one of my characters — Xavier Guldstein — but you don’t really know much about this world or what this game really is.

Well, now that Black Clover is coming closer and closer to being a reality instead of one of my ludicrous fantasies, I feel that I can talk a bit more freely about this project, this pen and paper roleplaying game.

Black Clover is my first professional attempt at a pen and paper roleplaying system.  For a while, the game was going to be nothing more than a modification of Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition, running off of Wizard’s new open gaming license.  However, when that brand new OGL never came through with the release of 4th Edition, I turned away from using the new D&D as a base and began experimenting with my own, deciding to take advantage of the moment and really craft a game that suits my world.

Black Clover is set in what I like to call Gothic fantasy steampunk, where it’s really a dark mishmash of steampunk values with punk/rock/emo/Victorian fashion.  It’s a bloody world full of the wonder of invention, the intrigue of a fledgling nation recovering after the destruction caused by a great plague, and a society where heroes barely exist.  It’s luscious, it’s twisted, it’s dark, it’s gory, and it flirts with the inappropriate constantly.  While it’s one of my newer fantasy worlds, it’s quickly risen to be one of my favorites.

The world took off centered around two thoughts in my head one day when I was eating lunch:  One question was, “What would a world that was obsessed with death be like?” while the other one was, “What would be the most powerful weapon in existence?”  The answers came quickly — the world would be dark, corrupted, and the center stage for a few heroes taking on all of the wrongs in the world in a bitter, weak struggle to make things right while the most powerful weapon would be the human soul.

So created was the Black Clover Rifle, a mythical wonder of technology that had the power to distill the essence of the human spirit by siphoning it out of the person through six sharp, wicked hooks attached to the back of the gun.  The energy would be routed through a central chamber containing an odd, onyx gem shaped like a four-leaved clover, where the energy was then dispersed into the barrel of the gun.  Black Clover had two firing options:  pulse the trigger quickly to only fire a part of your soul, or hold the trigger down to siphon your soul until you let go… letting the whole thing fire in one gigantic burst.

This was the weapon that finished a war by creating a two-mile wide canyon down the center of the continent for four hundred miles.  This was the gun that destroyed an entire army for the cost of one human life.  This was my world’s atomic bomb.  Of course, after firing the gun, the weapon and it’s holder disappeared.  Some say that he and the gun were consumed by the force of the blast, while others still believe the gun survived… hidden out there in Clover Canyon.  If a full burst could obliterate an army, then how powerful could a person be if they only pulled the trigger for a fraction of a second?


So, with this world had to come a brand new way to play roleplaying games.  Carbon copying rules wouldn’t cut it for this universe (in addition to being illegal.)   However, I did not want to innovate for the sake of innovation (and legal reasons.)  Innovating to be innovative gets you nowhere fast — this system had to solve a problem in roleplaying.  Lo and behold, after just one brainstorming session and a suggestion from a few friends, I stumbled over the idea of dynamic statistics instead of the usual static physical characteristics, like strength, dexterity, etc.  With that, the Personality Drive system was born.

Personality Drive is how Black Clover solves a fundamental flaw of pen and paper roleplaying games: rewarding roleplay in a truly meaningful way.  While many games support roleplaying, and we all know how great D&D can be when the people sitting at the table are dedicated to not dicking over the game… some people like to dick over the game.  It’s hard to roleplay when power gamers are being jerks at the table, rules lawyers are shoving errata down the GM’s throat, and some people refuse to roleplay — preferring to play the whole game as one giant statistics fest.

How does Black Clover fix this?  Quite simply — it ties your statistics to your roleplay.  Each stat represents one of the aspects of the personality of your character.  Utilize these aspects in positive ways that your GM believes to be true to your character, and your stats rise.  Act like a dick… and well… you get statistics worthy of being a dick.  The only person you can blame is yourself.  Black Clover rewards you greatly for playing your character by offering you new abilities, new weapon upgrades (yes, you heard me, you build your weapon from the ground up), and better dice rolls.  Character improvement isn’t measured by scores of experience or level — character improvement is measured by character improvement.  As you explore who you are as a character, your abilities increase as you become more sure of what and who you are.  Act in contradicting manners, you’ll have memories that will haunt you.

This system, while it sounds limiting, really offers a more unique experience by making the player understand that some choices ARE hard decisions.  Heroes don’t make cavalier decisions when lives are on the line.  Or, will you break your morals to do the right thing, even if it means doing the wrong thing initially?  Will this power in personality lift you up or smack you down?

That’s just one aspect of how this game is very different from your standard roleplaying experience.  Hopefully I’ve made some of you excited or curious to see more.  Some of you… well you might be a little miffed right now, or baffled as to why I’d do such a thing with my core statistics.  Trust me when I say that it works out. 🙂  But, I won’t be completely sure of that until I enter playtesting… which isn’t for a bit yet.  But, in my initial runs… things look dandy. 😀


The gaming update

October 6, 2009

So, I should make a post to you guys about the status of the two games I’m currently spearheading.  Yes, I said two.  Most of you have probably guessed at this point that I’m going to make Wildfire Industries, thanks mostly due to the comments on my last post being so undeniably positive.  Thanks you guys for being honest, and I’m working on making this game work.

Black Clover, my first love and major Pen and Paper Roleplaying Project, is currently sitting in a ditch and going back and forth to get itself out.  The problem is that if this game was a car, then the outside would look awesome while the engine would be a complete complex unworking joke.  Simply put — the lore and world is fantastic.  Everyone I talk to regarding this project has nothing but happy smiles, raised eyebrows, and a wish to know more.  I’m really excited to be putting all of these thoughts and concepts down on to paper and make a gothic steampunk game.  If this game could be completely lore driven, it would be great, but sadly that’s not the case.  The game is a game first and a world second, which leads me to saying…

The system sucks.

Perhaps it’s me, the author, just being overly critical but I don’t think I am.  Every time I try to sit down and work the kinks out of combat or work with the system, I either feel I’m cutting off roleplay by being too strict or not putting enough meat on the bones of the combat system to make it unique and original.  I feel as if combat should be a good portion of this game, especially as each “class” is limited to one “mythic weapon.” (Oh snap, I just revealed something, oh well.)  That weapon should provide a really wonderful and multi-talented use, as it’s the only weapon the heroes will get.  Why did I make that decision?  Well, it simply seems to fit another system in the game, which some people could potentially guess at but I’m going to leave out of this conversation for now.

Skill checks seem to work well in the context, but those too seem to be too reliant on the branching pathways of the classes.  Plus, I don’t want to put things out of order and make something too strong or too weak.  I need to bite the bullet and get cracking on at least getting things together in some working order so I can test for these types of power issues, but every time I start working on it I feel uncomfortable.  Perhaps I just need a break.

To make up for the problems with Black Clover, I have an awesome wallpaper to give out to you guys here on mah blog.  The art is done by my good friend Melissa, who is spearheading most (if not all) of the game’s artwork.  All in her spare time.  Throw your kudos to here on here, please, and let her feel some love for all of the work she is doing — especially if you use the wallpaper below.

Widescreen Version

Widescreen Version (1600x900)

Fullscreen Wallpaper (1200x1024)

Fullscreen Version (1200x1024)

Now, as for Wildfire Industries… well… things went together damn easy.  The system is insanely modular, and in the span of 2 hours I figured out a way to play the game as a traditional RPG, a cutthroat game of roleplaying where one person is declared the winner in one session and, interestingly enough, an expandable version that can hold up to 5 teams all playing against one another in either a one shot mission or a running campaign.  Now, you need one hell of a team of GMs for the 5 teams version, but it’s possible — especially if you can play it together on the internet.

This is thanks mostly due to the fact that skill checks are easily variable and not dependent on item use, simply on stat use.  If you want to be better at X skill check, spend points on it.  Or, you could spend the company’s money, which is a discussion for another time.  Checks are easily modifiable to either accomidate one player or a team of players working together (as some checks force players to team up to make them, which depending on the game type they may or may not want to do, resulting in hilarity.)  The game also supports secretive undermining right in the checks system, and that’s not even adding in the “traits” system which are the character’s publicly known and secretly hidden abilities.

Either way, the rules are done.  The game is simple, and I think it’s better for it because it leaves oh-so-much-room for sheer insanity on the parts of the players, much like Paranoia does. (Although I think Paranoia is much more complicated when it’s put next to my system.)  Now all I have to do is complete writing up the abilities that each character type has.  Then, it’s going out for a test run with my gaming group.  If it succeeds there, it goes for a test run at the local gaming club at the University of Pittsburgh.  Hopefully all of this will allow me to refine the rules and abilities, and then I’ll ask for testers here on line.

Then, with luck, I’ll get some inspiration and move forward on Black Clover.  Mmmm… Black Clover… *drools*

Anyway, sorry for the HUGE post, but I hope you guys enjoyed it!



Doing business, badly. Yey or nay?

October 1, 2009

So I need to poll the audience here, hence why I’m writing this post tonight.    I had one of those brain explosions that I rarely get, and I decided to act on this one.  It was the concept for a RPG/game-ish systems where players would effectively play a roleplaying game while simultaneously screwing one another over at the table, but in order to benefit the whole table.  It sounds fun (in concept, of course, as I haven’t exactly tried to test this yet) and it also sounds like a perfect system to plug into a game world that I’ve been working on for a long time now — Wildfire Industries.

WI was always built around the concept of pulling the stick out of the ass of business before shoving it violently into the head of business.  In short — it’s horrible corporate satire.  It’s the office politics you dread taken to a level of insanity and murder.  It was always a fun world for me to write/picture, and it even did quite well as a alternate reality game.

But just because it works well in one setting doesn’t mean it can translate to other settings, so here’s my question.  Would you play a pen-and-paper roleplaying game that centered on something like business?  Now, granted, it’s insane business, but it’s still business.  It’s still making contracts, securing funding, solving problems in the workplace, and things like that.  Sure the answer to all of these things might be having sex with the person you want to make the contract with, robbing a bank to secure funding, and killing everyone in a department to make sure there’s no more problems in the workplace, but it doesn’t work unless players want it to work.

So, would you want it to work?  Would you play a pen and paper roleplaying game centered around something as mundane as modern business?  Or would you believe that this system should be put to use in another type of game?