In the process of going crazy with zines, I put together one called Small Company Big Mess about the history of Guardians of Order and Big Eyes Small Mouth. It’d been a while since I last even seriously thought about BESM, and while I’m still critical of the Tri-Stat system, I can at least appreciate that BESM and other GoO games meant a lot to a lot of people. Looking deeper into the history of the company, I was also genuinely impressed with the stuff they were producing towards the end, to the point where it made wonder what could’ve been if they’d stayed in business and built on the triumphs of their Tékumel and Game of Thrones books.
One thing that GoO left behind was the Anime d20 SRD, which contains the rules of BESM d20 as OGL open content. I realized that that means that someone could take the SRD and make something of a BESM retroclone. It has pretty much all of the Attributes and Defects, and it wouldn’t take too much work to implement stats, action resolution, and so on. David L. Pulver was talking about doing something like that, though as more of a generic system, with support for some anime stuff but not calling itself an “anime” RPG. I’ve played around with the idea of doing a BESM retroclone myself, but since it was never what I actually wanted out of an anime-inspired RPG in the first place, I wasn’t able to muster the enthusiasm to get anywhere with it.
Naturally, when I let the possibility of making a general anime RPG enter my brain, a game started forming. I’ve made attempts in the past—most notably as a Fudge build—but I’d largely abandoned the concept of making an “anime” RPG in favor of making specialized games that happen to have anime influences. The game I have in mind—which I’m currently calling Chocola Anime—is specialized in that it’s aimed at colorful, melodramatic adventure. It’s a game you could use for Tenchi Muyo!, Fullmetal Alchemist, or Outlaw Star, but probably not more serious, gritty stuff like Ghost in the Shell or Attack on Titan, or comedy so wacky it’s becoming incoherent, like Pop Team Epic. (A Poptepipic RPG would be pretty bonkers, huh?) There are still a lot of possibilities, but I’m hoping I’ve narrowed it down enough to at least have some semblance of tonal coherence.
The name is maybe kinda dumb and I may change it, but it’s from (1) Di Gi Charat’s name, (2) the game having some elements of the Fudge rules in them (and Fate too), and (3) “you got your anime peanut butter on my RPG chocolate!” It’s shaping up to use and expand on a bunch of concepts I’ve been playing with.
- Similar to Pix, you make PCs by first combining a Style (Heartful, Mastermind, Nekketsu, Tsundere, etc.) and a Power (Esper, Magical Girl, Ninja, Power Suit, etc.), with Power choices constrained by the campaign’s setting.
- Gauges and Triggers are what I picked as the Chocola Anime terminology for meters/clocks that fill up and events that happen when they do. It’s a merging of the countdowns in Apocalypse World and Blades in the Dark and the tracks and shifts in Magical Fury, applied as a general thing all across the system. The world has some gauges that create events depending on your choices during campaign setup, characters have some depending on their Styles and Powers, and the GM can create “Event Gauges” whenever it’s a good way to handle something in the game.
- This extends to the conflict rules, which have “Blast Gauges,” the idea being that clashes are not about attrition (as in most RPG systems) but rather about building up the Blast Gauge to get in a finishing blow. (It’s an idea I was developing for Tokyo Heroes/Dyna Rangers, which I really need to get back to one of these days.)
- Waaaaay back in the day I made a setting called “Aniverse” that’s sort of “Planescape But Anime,” and I’m working on a new anime multiverse for this book, albeit one that’s a bit different and maybe a little more mature (relatively speaking). I generally like kitchen sink multiverse nonsense, plus it would be a good way to have a campaign where pretty much any kind of character is viable. I may end up breaking it off into its own book, and regardless I’m thinking Clay and I might do a crossover Aniverse book that’s compatible with OVA someday.
- The Drama Point type currency in the game is called Anime Points, which is stupid and I love it so much.
One big thing that’s been on my mind a lot while culling through a bunch of BESM stuff is that late 90s and early 00s anime fandom had this sort of worshipful inferiority complex towards anime. There was a lot of slavish imitation—it was the era of mediocre How to Draw Manga books—and a lot of people acting like capturing the true essence of authentic anime was impossible so you shouldn’t even try.
Hindsight being 20/20, I now realize that that was a really counterproductive way to approach things, and if you want to draw inspiration from anime, you should treat the same as works in any other medium rather than as having some ineffable magic. That’s why among the PbtA-style principles I’m working on for Chocola Anime, one of the most important is “Be authentic to yourselves,” meaning that when all is said and done you should create what moves you rather than what you think best aligns with your impression of a pop culture institution from another country. When you play an RPG, you don’t have TV executives making demands of you, and you should take full advantage of that.
I have so much other stuff I need to take care of that I really can’t afford to rush it, but on the other hand I’m really happy with what I have so far of this mutant hybrid game I randomly started designing.