Carving runes on the inner sky of an empyeran, trying to make meaning and hoping that those from without understand as well.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Tenra Banshou Zero

I got to play Tenra Banshou Zero yesterday, and I had an awesome time. That wasn't my character that I've got uploaded but I did want to showcase some of the over-the-top art from the game.

Remi, Eric, Lisa, Matt and I played residents (whether temporary, permanent, recently arrived or long lived) of a ninja village. That is, the village specialized in its training of ninja in their service to the Regent (daimyou).

Eric played Oldclaw, a ninja with a cybernetic arm and eye. His character qualities were patriotism and authority, and he did a good job acting like a right bastard.

Lisa played this annelid using ninja (think like you're implanted with gigantic roaches and centipedes!) with issues over what he'd become.

Matt played a straight-up powerful ninja, but he was going to betray us at some point.

Remi played a Samurai (a soulgem studded person that can hulk out like the image I've got posted (but not necessarily with all the cyber tech)) who had issues with being a warrior and was currently a farmer. You'd think from anime stereotypes that samurai and ninja wouldn't coexist well but it was all good.

I played an android (made of wood!) that could wrap illusions around herself to make her look human. I called her a tree geisha for lack of a good translation. She had the secret of her nature to protect and she couldn't kill. I played her as an emotion-phobic young girl that wanted people and things to 'be right'.

Remi and I had some great roleplay going on where I challenged all of his issues. Remi called me a bastard! It was TEH AWESOME. Lisa and I had a great scene as well. I really felt like a spotlight hog but I was having so much fun. To those of you reading that played, I do feel bad about it. If our session was longer, though, I'm sure it would have evened out, as I was ready to try pushing towards it; however, I still had machinations in my head for scenes with other characters!

Andy did an awesome job rolling with the flow of the game. He wasn't as prepared as he could have been but I was impressed with his handling of everything, specifically teaching us the game. There's so much to learn and it all points back in on itself that you can start at any point very easily. He did a good job with the scenes and concluding acts and all that pacing stuff and he forced us to think a little differently from some traditional gaming with jumping around time-wise and having scenes in the past. Andy is the roxxorz.

However, we all agreed that too much thought was put in to making the mooks in the big fight too much like PCs and that the fight slowed things down quite a bit. We all had trouble paying attention while waiting for our turns to come around. Thus, the only problems to be had with the game itself came from a lack of experience running it.

As for the game system and mechanics, it has some old school and some kabuki school and it came together well (but damn if it wasn't a mindbender).

First, the old school. It only uses d6s (in terms of dice). You have like 8 stats, HP and a wound chart (and some other HP style thing that I never used, MP maybe?) Under all that are skills, which are ranked from 1-5. When you do an action, you roll the number of dice in the stat, and sucesses are culled from the roll based on the skill (e.g. an Agility stat of 7 and Marksman skill of 4 would mean roll 7 dice and successes are any dice coming up 4 or below). There are only certain skills, so no hippy self-defined skills. When you get hit, you split things between your HP and your wound track. It's really neat because you don't get penalties with more grievous wounds but bonuses.

Okay, some of the new school. There is a relationship chart that you roll on whenever you want to know how it is you react to someone. If it comes up as completely off from what you expected, you can pay to move it around or the GM can pay you to move it around. It really encourages cool roleplay opportunities, despite it sounding like it hinders you. The qualities are vague but inspiring and you aren't prevented from changing your point of view.

The game is split into acts and seem to just note an organic end to the current set of scenes.

So, it has this fanmail-like system wherein a player takes some chits (or, in our case, poker chips) and distributes them to people when they do awesome things. The person responsible for this rotates around the group. These chits are called Harmony and they begin the Karma cycle. They're really valuable at the end of acts, but can be spent mid-act for some minor things (thus, the thought always is, can I make it to the end of the act and/or suffer to lose at this point?). The key thing that Harmony is spent on (in my limited opinion) is purchasing the ability to use your character qualities (Fates) to provide a new resource, Kiai. Kiai powers cool meta-options that are general and everyone can use them (not to be confused with other power fueling resources, like Soul-Glo, err Soul Points). Here's the kicker: once spent, the Kiai build to your Karma score. If your Karma score can't be reconciled below 108 by the beginning of the next act, you're freaking screwed. You lose your character, everything they hoped and dreamed for is destroyed by them, and you sit there as an audience for the rest of the game. So now you're in the middle of the act and you're wondering if you should use that kiai cuz it'll screw you over. There are methods of reducing Karma but they provoke great change in your character. And that it awesome cool unto itself. But all of this just scratches the surface of the uses of these cool resources.

Well, that's about it. I hope everyone gets a chance to play it once it gets released. It'll blow the water out of other anime games out there, in my opinion, and should be an anime gaming standard from now on.



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