Monday, December 28, 2009

Level Up!

An integral part of any role-playing game is the growth of its player characters. But with a game like OVA this can be a tad problematic. Since the game doesn't shoehorn Players into creating characters of a certain power level, you can often see the green-behind-the-ears apprentice fighting side-by-side with the old hat magician. While it's perfectly feasible for a neophyte to rack up experience quickly and gain power exponentially, the grizzled sage should, if we listen to anime, not progress much at all. With the old experience system, there is some slow-down when you talk about higher level Abilities. But even if you're progressing from Level 4 to the ultimate Level 5, you can theoretically gain the appropriate number of points in two or three adventures. Obviously not ideal.

The Revised game gives the Game Master more control by applying one of three Experience schemes on the Players: Fast, Moderate, and Slow Growth.

Fast Growth is effectively the old system. Spend an Experience Point for every level of the Ability you want to attain, making sure to buy all levels in between. Going from 3 to 4 would costs 4 points. Going from 3 to 5 would cost 9 points – buying both Level 4 and Level 5 at a one-for-one basis.

Moderate Growth makes you multiply the cost by 5. Going from 3 to 4 would now cost 20 points. Characters will still progress, especially if they're just buffing up some of their weaker points, but they will no longer shoot up with wild abandon.

Slow Growth is, obviously, the slowest method, appropriate for games with experienced characters who you don't really expect to change much even after many adventures. The cost is multiplied by 10. Going from level 3 to 4 would now cost 40 points.

The Game Master may apply these schemes to all the PCs as a whole, or individually as appropriate to their archetypes/power level. The actual book gives more guidelines on doing this. I'm still tweaking the actual numbers involved, and using 1, 2, and 5 as multipliers might be more appropriate. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts!

As before, OVA will also allow players to dispose with traditional Experience spending entirely with guidelines on simply role-playing it out. Game Masters can also choose to give "free" Drama Dice in the stead of (or in addition to) normal Experience. While these can obviously be used during the game, these free Drama Dice may be spent between adventures to influence the course of upcoming events – and just maybe justify the chance to role-play the upping of a character's Abilities. "I want to meet a master like King Kai and train!" And so on.

Natsuki has spent all her Experience Points on one rather massive addition, her power glove. It's so bad! While its massive heft prevents her from using it every attack, it adds a serious punch to her martial arts repertoire, and gives coworkers all new things to fear at board meetings. Maybe with this new weapon in hand, she can recover her precious pet project...MIHO!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Hope everyone has a happy and safe Christmas this year! (And if you choose to observe some other equally festive holiday tradition, I hope you had/will have a smashing one just the same!) May your stockings be filled with d20s that always roll critical hits! And if you get a lump of coal, you can always carve it into one. Craftiness is key!

Even Wise Turtle can get into the spirit every once in a while...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Expanding the Demographic

It was no secret when I designed OVA, I wanted to make the game accessible to anime fans. Not just gamers who happen to like anime, but the kind of fan whose only experience role-playing was on a free-form message board. There are tons of anime otaku out there who are keenly interested in telling their stories, but have never heard of this kind of gaming, or have been frightened off by RPGdom's more complicated inhabitants. (I mean you, Dungeons and Dragons. I still haven't forgotten THAC0!) OVA focuses less on lots of funny dice, experience levels, and pages of battle tactics in favor of making it easy to be exactly the character you want to be, and I think that's a clear step in the right direction.

But, having spoken with many, many players of the game over the past years, by and large the people who play OVA are the same gamers who play most other pen & paper RPGs: 20–40-something males. That's not to say my faithful readers aren't great people, as I'm very lucky to have such devoted, creative, and wonderful fans, but it certainly goes to show I didn't quite succeed at my goal.

The rules are even more streamlined now, which is a plus, but I think the key is getting the book where the anime/manga fans are. These days, that's the bookstore. Sprawled in the aisles, blocking all the new releases, you know who you are! With OVA next to Naruto and Fruits Basket, I think a curious manga fan will be more likely to come across it.

Of course, getting a book on the shelf is easier said than done. Book store distributors are notably unfriendly with companies with small catalogs, which essentially requires me to team up with another, larger company. We'll just have to see if that pans out.

But there's more to this goal of expanding readership than that. I know countless people out there are already role-playing, using Internet chatrooms and messageboards as a vehicle for their creative impulses. How does one show them the magic of gaming? Maybe more creative marketing is in order. Any suggestions out there?

Fukiko exemplifies a possible demographic. Then again, when a magical locket lets you transform into Lovely Savior Myu Myu and fight crime just like the comics, who needs a role-playing game?

Monday, November 9, 2009

OVA Replay

While perhaps not as robust as its Western counterparts, Japan's RPG scene has been plugging along for quite a few decades now. Arguably the most unique aspect of their version of the hobby is the replay. Right next to the latest translated American RPG and a new indie offering, you'll find volumes of them. But what are they?

A replay is much like it sounds, a written record of a gaming group's adventures. They read like a play, but are complete with player commentary and even character-generation sessions. They're the rough equivalent of our RPG novel lines and often serve as an introduction to curious Japanese would-be gamers.

You may be more familiar with them than you think. Ever seen Record of Lodoss War? While parallels to D&D are easy to make, it may surprise you to know that Lodoss was actually a series of serialized replays. Depending on which version of the story you listen to, it actually was a (heavily homebrewed) Dungeons and Dragons campaign!

That's all well and good, but what does it have to do with OVA? Well if replays are such a gateway to gaming in Japan, I see no reason to let them have a monopoly on the concept. I hope to do this with a quarterly ezine called - appropriately enough - Replay. While there will be news and letter columns too, the crux of the publication will be a rotating selection of replays from gaming groups just like yours!

Of course, this requires gaming groups willing to do it. Taking a tape recorder (or a stenographer) to the table may be a turnoff to some players, and since this will be a free, or at least bargain, publication, there's not much room for paying gamers for their time.

So what do you guys think? Does the idea of following RPG adventures every few months sound exciting? What would it take for you to contribute? Is fame, glory, and perhaps art of your group's characters enough incentive?

I leave it to you, readers!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Smooth Criminals

While there are plenty of new Perks and Flaws, and a number of refinements to them, one a lot of you may appreciate is the revised Ranged Perk. What's so great about it? For one thing, it's free!

Well, sort of. Ranged has been split into two separate Perks. The first is simply Ranged, which does what you expect it to: allows Attacks and other Abilities to be used in a distant-y fashion. In the old game, this Perk tacked on a +5 Endurance cost. The most obvious consequence of this was it made making grunts with handguns problematic. They can barely afford +1 Abilities, much less be saddled with Endurance costs. But even for full-fledged heroes, I found you didn't get very much bang for your buck. Since OVA assumes that everyone in a given scuffle can reach anyone and deliver a beatdown barring some satisfying excuse (sniping from a building, dropping stuff from a zeppelin, or otherwise being justifiably far away), it just wasn't worth the Endurance expense for such a marginally useful Perk.

Of course, the new Ranged didn't get off exactly scott-free. It's now made expressly clear when you use this Perk that you do not get to add any Strong bonuses. Also, unlike hand-to-hand attacks, ranged fighting is guaranteed to mess up the surroundings, which pending on the locale, can be a very bad idea.

But if you like your attacks with a little muscle, you can purchase the Ranged, Strength-Powered Perk, allowing you to put your full might into it in exchange for the +5 Endurance cost. Overall this seems a little fairer, and it certainly settles once and for all what Ranged Attacks get to add Strong and which do not.

These two use the Ranged perk in both of its new facets. Ancel knows all about attacking his opponents from a distance using a grand arsenal of weaponry and his expert skill. Zurkrieg's raw power is evident in everything he does, but he certainly exhibits it when using his length-changing cane. But with their stylish suits and unassuming day jobs, you may not see the danger until it is much too late.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Black Magic Woman

For those of you who remember Yuu's introduction a while back, you've probably been eagerly awaiting what other new face is in store for OVA. Enter: Carol*!

Carol is a mish-mash of quite a few archetypes, which befits her mixed heritage of an African-American father and a Japanese shinto priest. Despite her inherited talents for seeing spirits, Carol spent most of her life shunning it in favor of the glamor of stage magic.

But the death of her teacher at the hands of a malevolent spirit caused her to adjust her view on things. Now accepting her mother's talents more openly, she runs a paranormal detective agency. It's a pale facade for her real goal: to someday meet up with the spirit that had changed her life forever – and do more than simply send it back to where it came from.

So, basically, you have a gumshoe-shintoist-stage magician that can use playing cards like ofuda, traditional Japanese paper talismans. Only in anime!

* Name is subject to change. What can I say, I'm indecisive.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More than Meets the Eye

So readers, those of you who have been with us for a while may remember a rather stellar idea that I've decided to run with: Dust Jacket as GM Screen. If a dust jacket proves to be a feasible, economical addition to the book, you'll see the backside littered with extra information for budding and veteran Game Master's alike.

Of course, let's not kid ourselves. OVA is no Rolemaster, so there's not exactly a bounty of things that have to be kept within eyesight at all times. So then, what would you like to see on such a screen? I think the Difficulty Chart is a shoe-in, and I'm also considering a small multiplication table for those of us less comfortable with the Damage mechanic. But what else? Most of the oddball Ability Endurance costs would've been a nice fit, but now that such things have been done away with...Likewise, what few tables are left are pretty consistent and easy to remember. So what will it be? What do you all wish you had at hand at all times? I'd love to have more nonstandard stuff like the multiplication table, things that have no business in the book proper but nonetheless might prove convenient to gamers.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Information at Your Fingertips

In the old OVA design, the black bar on the side was originally intended to vary in length to signify the current chapter, making them easy to skip to when the book's edge is looked at askant. But once put into action, the idea didn't work at all, resulting in a bar too short to fit chapter titles in later chapters and absurdly long in early ones. It was in general odd-looking and tossed in favor of the uniform look we're all familiar with.

But I think quick thumb action is always a good thing in an RPG, and this time around there are little white markers that clearly signify the number of the chapter. Need Abilities and Weaknesses? That's chapter 3, and thus signified by three marks.

Of course, given the relative simplicity and short length of OVA, I'm not entirely sure its actually necessary. What do you guys think?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Show Me Your Moves!

To make them easier to understand and integrate into your games, all of the Sample Characters now have a "Combat Block" that details all the major information needed for encounters in one easy to access place. It also moves the incomprehensible block of detail that used to be under Abilities like Power Move to another section, making the Abilities list much easier to look at, too.

This is a sample of what it looks like, though the final version that appears in the book may differ slightly. So if you notice anything you'd like to see or find any of this version confusing, be sure to leave a comment saying so!

And yes, the character sheet will feature a similar block.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Price of Game

It's been quite a few years since I first set the price on OVA, and it's hard to ignore that the economy is in a different place than it was in 2005. While the eventual price of the book will depend on many factors, ranging from decisions regarding color, binding, publisher, and countless other details, I have a lot more leeway deciding on the PDF price.

Originally, I was pretty firm on the idea that OVA would be a $20 book, and that a PDF should never retail for more than half of the print book's price. At the time, it was pretty standard for the big guys to release PDFs retailing at the print prices. This struck me as beyond ridiculous. You're not paying for paper, printing, binding, or shipping, but you're charging the same thing? Wha?

But OVA may not be $20 anymore. Books are getting more expensive to produce, especially if I make the leap to full-color and expand its page count. This isn't even mentioning that I'm spending significantly more on the art. So what is a PDF worth? I've seen similar products (of kin theme, size, and arguably production values) consistently retail for $15-16. This seems a bit stiff to me, but even the cost to produce a PDF has gone up, with most of the retail spaces taking an extra 10-15% than they did when I first made OVA. But OVA's affordability has always been one of its strengths, and it's something I'd hate to lose to satiate a bottom line.

So readers, what I'm asking here is for your honest experiences. What is the most you've paid for an RPG PDF? Did you feel cheated? Likewise, what was the biggest bargain on a PDF? What is the delicate price point that seems appropriate to you, not too little but not too much?

Of course, I realize asking the consumer what they'd like to pay is sort of a conflict of interests, but you guys are a mature bunch, right?


Monday, September 7, 2009

Rock Your Socks Off

There's quite a few changes going on with OVA, but there's quite a few things that are just new, too. OVA is stocked with even more Abilities and Weaknesses, all ready to flesh out your character – or just give you ideas while reading the book. There are Abilities that cover broad ranges of knowledge or vocation, like Performer and Con-Artist, and new background Abilities like Connected. Weaknesses have been fleshed out too, with new options, like Greedy, and opposites for current Abilities, like Dull, the missing companion for Charismatic. There's also more ways to limit other Abilities with the new Endurance Use and Limited Use Weaknesses. And that's just to name a few!

With his charm and undeniable musical talent, Daisuke is an unsurprising showcase of the Performer Ability. But that skill may be less useful now that his self-centered personality has saddled him with a rather annoying curse, turning him into a black rabbit any time a female gets near! For a rocker the girls go crazy over, this is quite the predicament.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Pesky Interlude

I've been very busy over the past week finishing up work on Those Pesky Humans. It's not actually a Wise Turtle product – just a fantasy board game where I was hired on for layout but ended up contributing a bit of game design and writing, too. It's a fun take on the age-old "Humans have come to take the Monster's carefully collected hoard" trope, with players taking sides in the quest to procure legendary treasure/oust the human invaders. The PDF "Print it yourself" version is out now, with the actual boxed game available later this year. But since the PDF price will go towards your purchase of the boxed game, if you order direct from Minion Games, you don't have to worry about paying for the same game twice. You can find out more and purchase the game here.

Okay, with my plugging done, you can look forward to more OVA next week!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Master of Magic

The Magic Abilities, both Arcane and Witchcraft, are the only ones to retain an Endurance cost. Despite this, the rules here have also seen streamlining. Like elsewhere, Players can now use the Ability Perks and Flaws to alter the nature, and the Endurance cost, of each spell. No longer are there built in Endurance costs for casting without gestures, or even without words. All of these, if desired, are handled through the Perk/Flaw System.

The Endurance cost itself has also been simplified. Instead of annoying math like "pay half the initial Endurance cost each round" for keeping a spell in effect, there is no such extra expenditure. The amount you pay up front is the amount you pay, no matter how long the spell is in effect.

The rub is that this Endurance cannot be regained until the spell is relinquished. That 10 Endurance you spent is gone, no matter how much you rest, until you give up the effects of the spell. It's like a semi-permanent chunk of your character's fighting spirit is locked away within it. It's certainly easier to handle, and I think it is more thematically appropriate to the Ability.

Auren certainly knows his way around magic. But despite all his knowledge as a venerable sage in his world, nothing can prepare him for life as a Japanese teenager in ours.

Monday, August 3, 2009

On a Roll

While surely I hope to make OVA's long-planned supplements materialize this time around, you know, at some time before paper becomes completely obsolete, I also plan to support the game in a lot of little ways all the time, so that there's not quite such a vacant gap between releases.

While gaming merchandise is one possibility (like cute/cool folders to haul your game notes in), I also am looking into digital supplements to the game. These were planned last time around, but my personal programming expertise left a lot to be desired, and all that came out of it was a dice-roller I never publicly released. This time I hope to do it right, and get some people who actually know what they're doing to help me out.

One of the first things I'd like to release is a dice-roller for the iPhone/iPod Touch OS. Being able to shake your device and actually see 3D rendered results is a lot more tactile and entertaining than one might think! Gandreas Software has produced a very nice generic dice-roller, one which can handle even OVA's offball mechanics. I'm currently speaking with them in the hopes of producing an official OVA version of the app. We'll see!

While we're waiting, are there any other programs you'd like to see for the game?

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Deflection of Exception

A goal of the Revised Edition is to remove any unnecessary permutations of the basic way things work. OVA is already a simple game, but these little speedbumps, rules that, due to their uniqueness, force reference to the book for this chart or that quick note, rarely add something that can't be handled another way.

Armor is one of these. Before, this Ability would subtract a value from all Damage taken. On the surface this makes sense, but in practice it adds another step to combat. Nowhere else does anything add or subtract from Damage, and the Armor chart itself is not similar to any other Ability's progression.

So how is this fixed? Instead of subtracting from the final Damage dealt, Armor now subtracts from the attacker's Damage Multiplier by an amount equal to Armor's Level. If the attack has a DM of 4, and Armor is Level 2, then the attacker's DM is 2. It's very simple, very quick, and doesn't involve subtracting numbers from an ever changing amount of Damage.

The major effect of this change is that Armor is now a little stronger at low Levels and arguably weaker at high Levels. But considering Level 1 Armor used to subtract a pointless 2 Damage, it's not a bad change.

But what happens when the DM is reduced below 1? You may remember the Weak Weakness and the Unnatural Resistance Ability gave rules for fractional Damage Multipliers, with such nonsense as "one Damage for every three dealt." All that is gone. Instead, if your DM is ever reduced below one for any reason, treat it as 1/2. Or, if you find it simpler, treat it as normal and then half the final Damage. No complicated fractions, and your Damage output is still satisfyingly weakened.

Shadowman here is easily the most heavily armored character in OVA. His ebon shell is not only his protection and his source of power, but also the very thing that keeps him alive.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Happy Birthday, America!

I hope you all had a happy and safe 4th of July. The blog is taking the week two weeks off in celebration of hot dogs, hamburgers, and other American icons with roots squarely not in America. See you next Monday on July 20th!

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Book By Its Cover

So readers, I'm asking for your input once again, but this time on a more specific issue. As detailed in a previous post I've changed OVA's size from the traditional RPG standby 6" x 9" to the A5 format more common to various Japanese oriented publications. I'm wondering how far I should take this...

Essentially, I'm considering a dust jacket. If you do any amount of importing Japanese books or, at least, have seen a copy of such translated volumes as "How to Draw Manga," you've probably noticed a Japanese penchant for printing even paperback books with a dust jacket. The dust jacket features full color art, but underneath the actual cover is usually printed in a monochrome color. Sometimes this "hidden" cover features small comic strips, secret artwork, or other nifty things. So my question to you all is this: Would such a thing be a clever nod to OVA's roots in Japanese media? Or would it just be an obnoxious addition that's difficult to deal with at the table?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Gotta Catch 'Em All!

Besides new rules, the Revised book also rounds out the cast of sample characters with a few new faces. This guy here is one of them, and he's for all of you monster battling fans out there. (You know who you are). Yuu's write-up is true to form: He can give his monster companion commands, but the more powerful ones can only performed after he has built up his Level in a unique Ability: Trust.

If that's not fit for Saturday Morning romps, then I don't know what is! But Yuu's quest has more serious tones. Not only is his chronically ill sister missing, no one seems to remember she ever existed. He only hopes that with his newfound friend, he can uncover the mystery surrounding her disappearance.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stand and Deliver!

One of the most intrinsic parts of many characters is how they make things go boom. Anime is nothing if not rife with powerful heroes wielding magnificent weaponry, displaying fantastic martial arts, or otherwise decimating the landscape. The original OVA represented this through three completely separate Abilities – Weapon, Martial Arts, and Power Move – and none of these are handled in the same way. Weapon applies the game's perks in a manner completely different from Power Move, and Martial Arts forbids them entirely. To make things worse, I still see people from time to time using Power Move in completely oddball fashions. OVA Revised fixes this pretty simply.

By getting rid of all of them.

Yes, you heard right. In their place is the new Attack Ability. Attack is delightfully simple. Give it a Level, add that level to your Damage, and you're done. You don't have to do anything further. In the game, you can describe this in any number of ways. Energy blasts, roundhouse kicks, thrown furniture, it doesn't really matter. Damage is always the same.

This works great for quickly created goons and other badguys, or with newbie players, but leaves a little to be desired for most of us. If you want more detail, the Perks and Flaws are still here, and this time around, they always work the same way. Define a suite of specifically defined attacks, and then add Perks and Flaws. Perks always add to the Endurance cost, and Flaws always reduce it. It's sort of like Power Move used to work, only now there's not that pesky minimum Endurance Cost or the confusing Damage progression table.

The sheer versatility this allows is extensive. Instead of simply giving a character Martial Arts, he can now have a plethora of moves that achieve different things. A character can have a saber, a chi-strike, and a fireball attack without having to go through the drudgery of buying three separate Abilities and learning three different ways to handle Perks and Flaws.

And that's the basics of it. Something I still wrestle with is the name, though. I just know people are going to try to add Attack to their Attack Roll, which should never be done. But yet, try as I might, no other word is as all-encompassing as "Attack." It works for everything from guns to rapiers to waves of fire. Feel free to comment with your thoughts!

Shou here is all about attacking. He'll start a conflict for no reason other than it seemed like great fun at the time. And to him, it is.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Anime Gaming

One of OVA's greatest strengths is the diverse ways in which rules can be applied. With this diversity, however, comes the price of ambiguity. It's good and well that a given rule can be applied in many ways, but that fails to help if you cannot figure out how to represent a particular idea with it. To guide you on the way, the text is now sprinkled with new Expanded Notes boxes. Instead of explicitly clarifying rules or giving examples of the rules in action, they supply specific ways of how the rules could be used. Next to Scale, an expanded notes box gives tips on how to apply Scale to a mecha campaign. Transformation gives several wildly divergent applications of the Ability to cover everything from henshin transformations to power armors. And an extended description of the Attack Ability describes exactly how to create offensive techniques ranging martial arts, firearms, and energy blasts.

Wait, Attack Ability? What's that you say? You'll have to find out next week!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Reader Roundtable

We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to bring you The Reader Roundtable!

Essentially, I'm asking for you, dear readers, to post comments to this entry. What kind of comments? Whatever is on your mind! Thought of something you'd like to see in a revised OVA game? Or maybe you thought of something you would not ? Or did you just want to stop by, say you like everything so far, but have nothing to contribute? This is your chance to help shape the new edition of OVA, and all comments are welcome.

Still here? Having trouble thinking of something? Well, take a gander at this short collection of quandaries and see if any of them match something buried in your subconscious.

1) Was there anything in OVA you had difficulty understanding or wished there were more examples of?
2) Did you ever make a character and couldn't find an Ability or Weakness you needed? How about a rule to handle a certain situation?
3) Any of the sample characters you found particularly entertaining...or boring?
4) Do you have a favorite anime you wish were better represented? If so, what?

Look forward to hearing from all of you! Those of you more content to lurk can expect a new update next Monday.

Monday, May 25, 2009

An Entry to Endure

As hinted at in the previous post, Endurance has a significant new use; it now represents a character's ability to endure. This seems self-evident, but it can't hurt to have some explicit rules on the matter!

Before I can fully explain, I have to clarify what constitutes a round. In the Revised Game, a round is a nonspecific period of time, one that can be represent the seconds between a furious exchange of blows or minutes of lengthy expository dialogue as heroic adversaries size each other up. All a round is, then, is time enough for everyone to perform an action, and it is no longer a chronological division limited to combat alone.

Whenever a character is attempting to do something strenuous over an extended period of time, they spend Endurance to do so. How much depends on the task, and specific Endurance costs are further explained in the actual book. The effort is split up into rounds.

A classic example is the party's resident muscle-head holding up a collapsing building as others attempt to escape. Each round everyone takes results in the strong character losing 10 Endurance. So what happens if everyone takes too long and Muscle-head runs out of Endurance? He may simply give up, allowing the building to collapse and trap others inside as he steps to safety. But that isn't very heroic, is it? Instead, he may choose to press on, and begins to lose Health instead. If Health is exhausted, the character immediately falls unconscious and has no option of saving himself. The building collapses with him inside. Can he still be rescued? Well...I guess you'll have to see in your game.

Endurance also covers actions like holding your breath, resisting dangerous gasses, and other tests of stamina. No need to keep in mind hard to remember formulas or having to account for minutes in an otherwise abstract representation of time. It's all very simple.

Acacia here is certainly capable of conjuring all kinds of obstacles to test the Player Character's Endurance. Her devious witchcraft can cripple even the most stalwart of heroes, but her unrequited love for her partner Saspar could prove to be her undoing.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

World Turtle Day

Wise Turtle would have my hide if I failed to mention that today is World Turtle Day. Take the time to be kind to our ancient reptillian friends. If you fail to find a friendly specimen to appreciate, at least google a terrapin or two. You might just learn something new!

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Little Something for Nothing

Even though it's a change you may not notice right off, many of the Abilities have been reworked in one significant way: They're Endurance free!

That's right, no Ability has a built-in Endurance cost anymore – Well, except for Magic, but we'll get to that. While it worked okay in the original book, the way some Abilities cost Endurance and others did not begged an obvious question. "Why this one and not that one?" While there were a few cases that an argument could be made, for the most part there simply wasn't a good reason. Worse, in cases like Barrier and Heal, the exchange of Health for Endurance made them questionably useful. So problems like these have been eliminated.

This segways into another change observant readers may have already noticed, and that's the adjusted role of Perks and Flaws. Originally, these could only be applied to a select few Abilities, and mainly the Power Move Ability. The rename from "Power Perks and Flaws" to "Ability Perks and Flaws" carries with it the capacity to apply many of these to any Ability in the game. Of course, logic and common sense rule, but it's a change that allows much more versatility and a little less shoe-horning. That's not to say it's a free ticket, as some of the previous Abilities have been weakened a little to compensate. How do you get them back up to par? With Perks and Flaws, of course.

Magic still has a built-in Endurance cost due to its powerful nature. But it's an exception that seems to make sense. Magic is always tiring, after all. And the power to mimick every other Ability – or in the case of witchcraft, Weakness – is a power that needs some drawback.

Endurance also has some other new roles, but that's a topic for another day. For now, I leave you under the watchful eyes of Captain Jiro and Dr. Tomori. Between Jiro's compuslive work ethic and Tomori's network omnipresence, can you ever really be sure you're alone?

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Look of the Thing

Much of the reason to do a Revised Edition was a chance to make the rules faster, clearer, and better than ever, but it was also an opportunity to improve the book's actual look. While many readers have complimented OVA on "looking great for an indie game," I felt like OVA should look good without the stipulation at the end. The original book was done on a shoe-string budget, and in many ways it showed. While I never felt any of the art was bad, the book was a mish-mash affair of many artists, most of whom had no real stylistic congruency with anyone else. This time I felt a measure of consistency was key.

But it's not just the art that's changing. While the text itself was clear enough, I felt like I could do much better now with a few years of experience under my belt. As such, I'm completely redoing the book's layout. But the change you'll notice as soon as you get your hands on it is that OVA is now in the A5 format. For those of you not into paper-speak, this is an international standard that's a tad shorter than the original book. Why you ask? I always felt the original 6"x9" had an overwhelmingly tall aspect ratio to it, somehow confining and cramped in its slender page-width. A5 feels much more open and, on top of that, is one of the standard sizes you'll see over-sized manga published in. So OVA will now sit nicely next to all the rest of your Japanese-inclined books. Not to mention it frees up that much more valuable table space during a game.

Someone else that's seeing quite a few changes is Ai. Yes, that's her. Quite a new look isn't it? I wanted to make sure that all the characters were visually interesting and looked like a lot of fun to play. A handful in the original book just seemed to be drab and overshadowed by the technicolor awesomeness of the flashier sample characters. Ai's design also incorporates another change: She can somewhat dampen her powers through heavy gloves. But she can never fully escape her psychic awareness...or the empty hole of her past.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Question of Man Versus Mecha

One of the recurring questions I see about the original OVA was "how well does it handle mecha?" Surely, giant robots are an integral part of anime, so it's a logical concern. But I've never honestly understood why mecha automatically follow a different subset of rules than any other character in the game. I have seen other RPGs devote entire new chapters for mecha, but at the end of the day, the only difference is one part of the book refers to an advantage as "speedy" and in another as "enhanced engines." It's unnecessary. Mecha are characters too, just a little bit bigger and with a pilot for a brain.

That said, there has been a glaring omission that makes running mecha games more problematic, and that's the question of scale. In OVA, everything is relative. The idea of an Ability ranked at +3 being excellent is compared to what would be average for that character. And what is average for a human being has very different implications than what is average for, say, an automobile. Even a slow, rattletrap truck is considerably faster than a marathon-running athlete.

To resolve this, there is now something called the Scale Advantage. Whenever these is a conflict of scale, the Game Master rules that one side or the other has a Scale Advantage. That side gets a +5 bonus to their roll. To use our previous example, a truck with -1 Slow would roll one pitiful die in a test of speed, while our marathon runner with Quick +3 would get 5 dice. But with the Scale Advantage, the truck can now muster 6 dice. A more fair comparison, surely.

However, in OVA, scale is a dynamic consideration. It's not possible to simply create a mecha scale, a starship scale, and a Death Star scale. If we revisit our example again, imagine our truck and runner both trying to navigate an alley way riddled with tight turns, heavy dumpsters, and obstructing buildings. Clearly the marathon runner is much more nimble than the hulking hooptie. The truck would have no Scale Advantage. In fact, if the surroundings are especially difficult to traverse, the Game Master may give the Scale Advantage to the runner! It's a quick, easy calculation, and requires no conversions, complex math, or other game-bogging considerations.

The idea of Scale Advantage being on a case-by-case basis, instead of a permanent part of a character, also allows different cinematic treatment of mecha. In Evangelion, Gundam, and other typical giant robot shows, mecha would have Scale Advantages for everything from Quick to Armored. On the other hand, these mecha can be torn to pieces by human combatants in shows like Project A-ko, and should receive few, if any, of these things.

Someone else familiar with scale is the mischievous kitsune Nazo. While perhaps not on quite the same level as towering mecha, Nazo's ability to alter her appearance and size makes her a dangerous adversary indeed.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name...

It was a conscious decision to not refer to the new book as a Second Edition. While there are a handful of significant changes, you're not looking at the sort of wide-swept revision seen between 2nd and 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons (or 1st and 2nd or 3rd and 4th for that matter). By and large, a person with a copy of the 1st Edition of OVA and the new Revised Edition can carry on a conversation and even play a game together without confusing each other too much. While new rules and rule changes will be discussed in later posts, I am going to address the substantial number of name changes. Certain Abilities and terms in the original game were a bit unclear, ambiguous, or simply a little inconsistent, and I'm using the Revised Edition to repair some of that. Hopefully the following list will prepare you all at least a bit, though it fails to mention new, removed, or otherwise drastically altered Abilities and Weaknesses. The Original Edition version appears first, followed by the Revised Edition term in bold. Any notes on changes will appear in italics.

Damage Total · Damage Multiplier Damage Total was always misleading, as it was not really a total of anything. Damage Multiplier conveys its actual purpose much better.

Acrobatics · Acrobatic This will be one of many changes for more "description" oriented names for Abilities. I wanted, whenever possible, for character sheets to read like a description of the character. Oddball nouns like Acrobatics or Invention fail to do that well.
Armor · Armored
Charisma · Charismatic
Intimidation · Intimidating
Invention · Inventor
Occult Knowledge · Spirit Medium
Servant · Companion
Unnatural Resistance · Resistance

Airhead · Clueless
Strange Personal Habit · Strange Habit
Unnatural Weakness · Vulnerability

Power Perks and Flaws · Ability Perks and Flaws

Extra Knockback · Mighty Blow
No Attack Gesture · No Gesture
No Knockback · Feather Blow
Slow · Delayed Changed to prevent confusion between the Slow Weakness and the Slow Flaw

On the art front, everyone's favorite robo-girl Miho and her hapless savior Braun make their revised debut. The designs should be familiar to old readers, but there are quite a few new details.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What is to Come

So here we are. It's been over four years since the original OVA Role-Playing Game was released as a PDF in February of 2005. OVA has grown a lot since then, both its dedicated fanbase and the game itself. But with time, hopefully we all grow a little wiser and a little better at what we do. And while OVA accomplished much more than I ever anticipated, it felt like time to revisit this little game and make it the best little game it can be. Enter: OVA Revised Edition!

So what should you expect to see here? This blog is your inside scoop on everything new with the OVA RPG. It's still the same game fans worldwide know and love, just a little bit better in every way. You'll see new rules, and simplification and improvement of old ones. You'll also get a preview of OVA's entirely new look, like the illustration of Raine seen to the right, penned by fan-favorite Niko Geyer. Eventually you may even get a release date - exciting! So check back every Monday and find out more about the new OVA Revised Edition!