12 reasons Anime d20 sucks

January 5, 2009

Some time ago I went to read Anime d20 as a system that should supposedly solve some of my problems. If you wonder why I haven’t done it earlier, I can let you know I just gave up after I saw good ol’ dwarves there. Don’t let me be misunderstood, I love dwarves. They just don’t mix with anime. It’s just like trying to ride a bike while having sex: both activities can be fun if tried separetely, but together you’re just gonna fall down and injure yourself and your partner. Not to mention the broken bike and the embarrassement.

  1. Dwarves. Elves too, they are kinda scarce, but dwarves… I’ve watched thousands and thousands of episodes of various anime, I’m not exaggerating. You know how many of those bearded small guys I’ve seen so far? Yes, I’m counting. One. One motherfucking dwarf! The poor lad went against Olibu in a tournament and lost before you could start counting his screentime. Guys, don’t make a standard race unless it’s a common thing, and having just one of that kind is not considered common.
  2. Giant Robots and Hot Rods. I mean, what’s the deal with separating them from Mecha Pilots? The story is never about robots anyway, and even if it is, like in Giant Robo, they are still more of a thing that responce to certain feelings and requests, more of a tool than of a front row character. Robotic characters like Kikuchiyo or Al are not that different from others to separate them. Who cares if you actually drive a robot, fuel a robot or are a robot? What matters is that you solve problems with “robot-ness”.
  3. Ninjas. Yes, for once, I’m against the ninjas. You gotta give ’em some other title, like Shadow Warriors or something like that. You don’t call giant robots “dolems” or “gunmen” because you don’t want to tie it down to RahXephon or TTGL, so don’t rely on this term too. There’re lots of people who want to play a game of Naruto with your rules, please don’t say they all gotta use just this one class!
  4. Pet Monster Trainers. Epic fail. They tried to base it on Pokemon, then swinged the other way to generalise trainers of different traditions, but the result just doesn’t fit anywhere anymore. And you gotta really make distinction between trainers who fight together with their ‘pets’ (Lucy, Jiraiya), who totally control them (Sasori, Squala), and who summon them and try to keep them on the leash (Rekka, Adilicia, Babidi). The details, like what happens when a ‘pet’ dies, or whether ‘pets’ are real animals, magical creatures or supernatural beings, can be written out in the setting itself.
  5. Samurais. Same shit as with ninjas. “Samurai” is a cool term, but it doesn’t say anything about you. If you’re a samurai, does it mean you are all disciplined and loyal? Are you for instance able to use sword-based energy attacks or you just cut people? There are different kinds of samurais, and there are series completely devoted to samurai, so this is a double fail. How I propose to do that? Go for several types of swordsmen that you can identify: the one with a magic sword that’s almost like a ‘pet’ (Kazu, Haru, Aya, all shinigami from Bleach), the one that uses special properties of his swords for his attacks but otherwise thinks of it as a tool (Zoro, Zabuza, Kenshin), the one who is just damn awesome at cutting others (Trunks, Tama, Musashi). Note that a hell lot of swordsmen are naturally “multiclass”: think of Trunks, Hiei, Kamina, etc.
  6. Sentai Member. Epic fail (again). All characters of all classes can be “team players to the core”. Or maybe not. This depends on the subgenre and on the particular game, it’s definitely not multiclassing. Think of Dragon Ball Z: they are all sentai members (at least in the beginning, until the weakest become cannon modder), yet each one of them is unique.
  7. Students. It’s not a class, it’s background. Some games just state you’re all students, some others don’t. Being a student as such does not give you any special powers, and I can hardly think of any anime beside Yu Yu Hakusho that has a mixed set of students and non-students.
  8. Multiclass, or the lack thereof. Given this crappy unorthogonal class system, all of the decent characters need to multiclass, and by using classic rules it’s just impossible. How do you think Naruto would look like? Adventurer(with Jiraiya)/Dynamic Sorcerer(ninjutsu)/Gun Bunny(kunai)/Martial Artist(my way of the ninja!)/Ninja(finally)/Pet Monster Trainer(frogs)/Sentai Member(team7)/Shapechanger(Naruko)/Shapechanger(Kyubi)/Student(ninja academy)? That’s 10 levels just for the starting package. Thank God he’s not a robot!
  9. Attributes, feats, skills. Whereever I look, they are either too specific to a certain series, or too broad and non-specific to anime. I mean, Duplicate? The cost for duplication is totally different in Naruto and Dragon Ball Z, and it’s actually much harder and more rare in the latter despite it being way higher on a power level scale, not to mention One Piece not having any duplication at all, no matter the cost. And what’s up with Dynamic Sorcerers casting D&D spells and forging rings? Gimme a break…
  10. Combat rules. While I like the idea of using a skill chosen from a set to attack and defend (D&D4 does that, btw, modulo the opposedness) and the surprisingly concise and fun rules for attacking multiple targets, most of the specific aspects of anime combat are not addressed. No talking that gives you real combar bonuses, no hostage rules, no power escalation, lousy second wind, etc.
  11. Size. Let’s face it: no-one is going to read a 265 page long document just to fish out the 10% that he’d need as a basis to build his own variant to run his own game. I still believe it is possible to design a more or less universal game system suitable for any playable anime (examples of unplayable anime: FLCL, TWHE) and better and more fine-grained than BESM, but Anime d20 is too far off.
  12. Lack of examples. I do realise this is an SRD I’m reading, but still the lack of examples and references ruins it too. It would look much better with 10 or 20 pages explaning the core rules, followed by example settings, say, 5 pages a piece.
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3CC

August 18, 2006

Finishing the line of 1CC and 2CC posts, I shall say a couple of words about 3CC, or Third Class Content. From previous speculations one might have thought that all content is either first class or second class, and this is true to some extent. However, some 2CC is kind of „broken” and therefore cannot be considered valid 2CC—that’s what we’d call 3CC.

For example, the almost-2CC that has been created by someone who is not authorised to be an author is 3CC. Thus, movie sequels are usually 3CC. Alternatively, 3CC can be an unfinished chunk of would-be-2CC, the classic „what would Superman/Spiderman/Bruce Lee/Colonel Jack O’Neill do if he were here?” is 3CC: it is never finished, but the set of possible answers is obvious for anyone familiar with 1CC/2CC.

Avoid creating big deals of 3CC, lest it be perceived as silly noice. Small 3CC flashbacks, intimations and jokes can be used as spicery.


2CC

August 15, 2006

Following my yesterday post about 1СС (first class content), today’s topic is second class content, or 2CC. I remind you that this is about texts created by, for, or otherwise in connection with role-playing games (a character background written by a player, an adventure prepated by a game master, etc).

2CC, or second class content, is not created in a sense of „producing through imaginative skill” (Merriam-Webster), it is rather generated from 1CC and other materials. When you are making up, say, a particular monster for your players’ characters to face, first you think that you want it to be like this or like that, and to be able to perform this or that trick and to look like that creature you forgot the name of from that B-movie you watched the other night. And then—click—and you know exactly how it shold look, feel, move, act and die. Everything before that „click” is 1CC, everything that comes after is 2CC.

What’s the use for 2CC? First, use it for testing. If you think you have a perfect gaming setting with original and unforgettable feel, you can write a couple of ideas down and show them to a friend. If (s)he gets excited too, probably it’s really not that bad. Second, use it to convince other people and to make sure they understand you. This is very important for those guys who publish their adventures—official modules contain a remarkable amount of 2CC (for example, when you have an old man who is obsessed with collecting ancient coins, it’s obvious that when he gets a bargain at something he likes, he’ll go after it—still, small details like this one usually are written in full). Third, in games played via internet (mostly play-by-email and forum-based) most of gaming content is 2CC, just because every time you want your character to say something you cannot just go ahead and say it loud as you do when sitting around a table, instead, you have to produce an appropriate chunk of 2CC.

Use 2CC to its full extent where it’s needed and avoid it when it’s not. Sometimes it is tempting to write more and more even after you get the exact idea of what you want, especially when the idea itself is interesting. That’s fanfiction, not role playing game.