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?