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.