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Universal Comedy Anime Rules!
Things You Should Consider For Your Campaign
Culled From Various Sources
Attitude Counts l The GM Is Right l Ignore The Rules l Nobody Dies l Always In Range l A Miss Hits Someone Else l Bad Joke Rule l Disgraceful Dodge l Supreme Bullshit Action l Roll For Bandages l Nosebleed Roll l Mune Roll l Hammerspace
As I mention on my page about anime and role-playing, there are a growing number of games dedicated to anime role-playing, both professionally published and sold through game stores and public domain games that can be downloaded for free over the internet. Each of these games has it's own take on how role-playing should work in an anime world, and each comes up with some ideas or aspects that most of the others missed out on. There are some rules peculiar to one role-playing game or one group of anime gamers that can really apply to any anime role-playing game (and for our purposes, we are usually talking about comedy anime here).
This particular page is meant to present these "Universal Anime Role-Playing Rules" in a single list for your perusal. I think you'll find that many of these rules can be used to enhance your gaming.
What Makes It Anime?
My roommate and I have talked about what, in particular, makes a role-playing game an "anime" role-playing game, as opposed to anything else. I also posed this question to a few other people and to the animerpg-l mail list. It's definately something you should consider before running an anime rpg campaign.
Pretty much everyone agreed upon a couple of points. First, attitude, more than anything else, seperates anime games from other games. It's a matter of style of how you approach and play the game. Let's face it, anime is not a genre like mystery, horror, or science fiction, therefore what exactly constitutes an anime rpg experience is a bit elusive. The rules that I have here are largely applicable to the goofier comedy anime shows -- if you're going for a more serious, non-mecha anime gaming experience, the attitude of the GM and the players is going to have a lot to do with it.
The second observation that most people made was that you don't really need an anime rpg to play an anime campaign. Many people adapt GURPS to anime, and others use White Wolf, Palladium, Toon, or other systems to achieve what they want. One person wrote to me about their anime space opera campaign built around the Star Wars role-playing game.
What it all boils down to is an emphasis on role-playing over rules. Nearly every anime rpg out there has a section telling you to stress the role-playing aspect of the rpg and not get bogged down in rules interpretations. This seems a very important point in anime role-playing, to the point that TFOS, BESM, and the Project A-Ko games really go out of their way to design simple systems with not too many rules at their core. As Paul Pondsmith in TFOS puts it, a nearly transparent system is preferable.
All of that said, there are a lot of other things you can do to enhance your gaming experience, especially if you're going for a more light-hearted anime style. Consider the following:
Rule #1: The GameMaster is always right: And, of course, rule #2: if the GameMaster is wrong, see rule #1. This has always been, in my book, the first law (two laws actually) of role-playing. Role-playing games are different from other games, in that the gamemaster has the final say in anything. Arguing rules with the gamemaster is futile -- his or her word goes. Otherwise, chaos ensues.
Some people take their role-playing too seriously. The object of a role-playing game is not to win, but to have fun. Role-playing, in most cases, should not pit player against player or players against the GameMaster. Role-playing is a cooperative game, unlike most other games which are competetive. The players and the gamemaster cooperate together to tell a story and have fun. Rule-hounds who argue interpretations of minor rules and look every little thing up are missing the point.
If A Rule Annoys You, Ignore It: This is a suggestion from the Project A-Ko game, but in my opinion this is not an anime rpg-specific rule; it also applies to any role-playing game you could name. Like players who are rule-hounds, some rpg creators take their own games too seriously. Not long after TSR produced Dungeons and Dragons, the gaming magazine The Dragon began creating new character classes and rule variants, and TSR felt the need to point out which rules were official and which were heretical. They all but came out and said that if you weren't using their official rules, you weren't really playing D&D (or AD&D).
These people, and many that have followed, were missing the point completely. RPG rules are made to be bent, twisted, broken, and replaced -- as long as the end result is an enjoyable evening of role-playing. The rules in any RPG are suggestions only, and you use, add, or subtract things until you get the mix that you want or need for your purposes. This is, after all, only an advanced version of make-believe. You will rarely find a good GM who thinks differently on this point, and personally speaking, I've never been involved in a campaign where the rules of the game were not eventually modified to suit the GM.
The corralary to this rule is, of course, if you don't like how the GM runs his or her game, then find a new GM or do it yourself!
Nobody Ever Dies: In a comedy anime setting, this rule makes sense. Teenagers From Outer Space, among others, employs this rule -- instead of dying you are "bonked", but you get up and are okay a round or so later. This is one of the things that makes TFOS a bit like Toon, the rules-lite cartoon role-playing game wherein you "fall down" but get right back up the next round. If you're going to base a game on an anime like Ranma 1/2, then you'd do well to consider this option. Of course, since you're the GameMaster, exceptions can be made for non-player characters, but the whole point is that, as a player, it sucks when the character you've spent so much time creating gets killed. In TFOS, this is never a problem!
Knowing your character won't die also allows the players to cut loose and do stupid things, which makes the game more fun!
Everything Is Always In Range: As they say in TFOS, it's just funnier that way. There are no ranges... if you can see it, you can hit it. Mind you, you can't punch someone from 1,000 feet away (unless you have incredible stretching powers or fists that fly across great distances before returning to you), but any sort of gun or thrown weapon has a chance of hitting the target.
If An Attack Misses, It Hits Someone Else: This is a general rule in TFOS, which the GM can suspend when it doesn't make sense, but usually there are other player characters or NPC's around that can get hit by accident. Why do this? Because it's funnier that way, naturally!
In a TFOS game, players and NPC's must make a luck roll, and the person who rolls the worst ends up getting hit instead. People don't get hit by accident because they were particularly near the target -- they get hit because they were unlucky!
The Bad Joke Bonk: A TFOS rule that some players overlook, this rule accounts for all the damage taken when someone says something incredibly stupid or funny. You see this in anime comedy all the time of course... usually the completely clueless character makes a completely clueless comment, and everyone else is so stunned that they automatically fall to the ground in stunned disbelief.
In a game employing this rule, any time someone says something that makes people laugh or really groan (really bad jokes are especially good for this), the GM and/or the players decide whether it was sufficiently bad to actually cause harm to the other players. Of course, in a TFOS game damage is relative, since you can never die!
The Disgraceful Dodge: I picked this up at Bakacon '98, and I thought it was such a neat rule that it inspired me to create this page. I was told that it came straight out of the Project A-Ko rpg gamebook, but that is only partially the case -- the rule actually comes out of the A-Ko card game presented in the back of the book, and does not appear as part of the role-playing game rules in the main section of the book. Still, it's a really nifty rule, so I present to you the modified version.
Once per turn a player can employ the Disgraceful Dodge. This allows the player to completely avoid any single attack, no matter what the attacker rolls. However, the attacker and/or other player characters determine HOW the player manages the dodge and what happens. It should never be elegant.
Some potential disgraceful dodges include: flip backwards into mud puddle, leap into garbage can, sidestep into open sewer, expose your underwear to onlookers (preferrably ones with cameras), split your pants, land on your girlfriend, etc.
Depending on how inventive and cruel you and your players are, people may hesitate to employ this rule, even IF it means a successful escape!
Supreme Bullshit Action: This is a nifty rule out of Totoro Hunter Leto II's Kimagure Orange Road role-playing game. In this game, one of the major stats is "Dai-Suki", translated as general looks, charisma, and all-around appeal, and a minor stat that relates to this is "Kakko", meaning general style or glamour, what kind of first impressions you make and how you come across when you try to talk tough.
As anyone who's watched a few Kimagure Orange Road episodes knows, Madoka Ayukawa does not, like the members of the Kasuga clan, have special psychic powers, but she has a charisma and a coolness that transcends mere mortals and she manages to do some amazing things, apparently just because she's so cool.
This power explains that. A person who is cool enough (a high Dai-Suki and a high Kakko) can, once per adventure, perform a "Supreme Bullshit Action", which is defined as something that involves dexterity or athletic skills that no normal human could possibly do. The action should a) have the okay of the gamemaster, b) involve physical skills, atheletic ability, or dexterity, rather than mental powers, or magic, and c) should be an original or unique action -- something that would look really good in the middle of an actual anime show.
Examples of "Supreme Bullshit Actions" from anime include the time Madoka cut a skateboard that was flying through the air at her friend's face in half from across the room by throwing a guitar pick at it (ep. 37) and the scene in Project A-Ko where A-Ko ascends to the enemy spaceship by walking on the missiles coming at her.
Roll For Bandages: Another of the nifty rules from the Kimagure Orange Road rpg that seems obvious in retrospect. According to this rule, any time a player takes damage and is at less than half their hit point total, they must make a "roll for bandages". The KOR game rules have a simple chart that covers assorted scrapes, shiners, and bandaids, having an arm in a sling, having crutches, and having actual casts on your arms and/or legs.
As in any comedy anime, these things (bandages, crutches, etc.) just appear out of thin air. Bandaids, scraps, and slings will disappear very quickly (a round or two) while crutches and casts can take longer to disappear.
Nosebleed Roll: Another nifty anime rule found in the Kimagure Orange Road rpg. It's a popular myth in Japanese culture that someone who is still a virgin gets a nosebleed when they are confronted by something sexually embarassing or stimulating. (Their blood pressure becomes too great, if I remember the explanation correctly).
This appears in anime and manga all the time, as I'm sure you're aware by now. This rule is employed to help you determine if and when a character gets a nosebleed. This only works on males who are at least partially pure or virgins, so you will need some sort of stat or method that determines virginity in order to employ this rule. In the Kimagure Orange Road rpg, there is a stat called Virginity which has only three possibilities: yes, no, and sort of. Under the right circumstances virgin males have a high chance (computed against their Dai-suki or coolness stat) of getting a nosebleed, and "sort-of" virgins have a moderately low chance. Women, and men who are definately not virgins, never have to worry about this.
Mune Roll: Yet another of those nifty Kimagure Orange Road rpg rules, this is also referred to as a "notice tits" rule. This is brought into play any time a male is alone with a very good-looking female. The player must roll to determine if he winds up staring at the girl's breasts or body rather than looking directly into her eyes. By the rules of the KOR game, a normal player has a 30% chance of doing this, while a player who is a pervert has a 50% chance.
What follows, of course, is the female's reaction... from simply yelling at you and calling you a pervert, to slapping you, or possibly (in the right circumstances) even pulling a mallet out of hammerspace...
Hammerspace: This is a rule explaining how anime characters like Akane Tendo of Ranma 1/2 and Kaori Makimura in City Hunter can produce giant mallets out of thin air. Hammerspace is the hyperdimensional pocket dimension that contains all these giant mallets, accessible only to females who are angry or have been slighted by a male (especially their boyfriends or relatives). It's also a good attack against any male who is being especially stupid or sukebe.
Hammerspace allows these women to produce a giant mallet (or, in some cases, a whole bunch of them!) for wacking stupid men on the head with. This only works for women attacking men, and the hammer vanishes back into Hammerspace once their attack is finished. Mallets can come in various sizes, depending on what the situation calls for.
The term Hammerspace has been around in fandom for a while now, and girls in anime and manga have been producing mallets from thin air for quite a long time. Despite this, few anime games have provided any rules to explain how this works. TFOS deals with it by having an item that you can purchase (Hyperdimensional Hammer) but I like the idea of it just being one of the rules of an anime universe, something any girl can do naturally. Rob Pool's Thrash Anime Sourcebook not only defines Hammerspace, but also The Angry Female Strike (which includes an explanation for that glowing blue battle aura that Akane sometimes gets) and The Sub-Orbital Knockout, which, if you've watched any Ranma 1/2 at all, is completely self-explanatory.
Supreme Obliviousness: Or, the Kasumi Syndrome. In anime this more often applies to girls than boys, but, in essence, the character is so oblivious to what's really going on around her that she is almost never affected by any of it.
Outside the Tendo Dojo, Ryoga and Ranma are beating each other senseless. Kasumi says, "Oh, it's one of Ranma's friends." The place gets torn apart, and everyone sustains damage... everyone, that is, except Kasumi, who doesn't even seem to notice much of it.
Sasami is working in the kitchen on dinner. She hears laser blasts and screams from outside as the others fight against Mecha-Washu. Sasami's reaction: "Sounds like everyone's having fun." Sasami's damage from Mecha-Washu? None.
What is going on here?
There is an almost zen-like quality in the ability of some anime characters to transcend all the chaos that goes on around them. The character with Supreme Obliviousness is so totally clueless that, in a way, they are protected any real danger. They go through life believeing that every day is a sunny day, that everyone is happy and having fun, and that, when all's said and done, nothing really bad is going to happen.
Mind you, while a character with this ability is almost entirely protected from harm, they are also in most ways completely out of the loop. They don't know what's going on, they don't have any way to respond to it, and they won't know what happened when it's all over. It could be fun to play a character like this now and again, but on a regular basis it might become boring, since you spend most of the game making happily inane observations and going about your daily routine, rather than actually doing anything.
Limited Supreme Obliviousness allows the character to be oblivious to one or two very specific things. This might allow for a more playable character.
In Big Eyes, Small Mouth, this would be a character attribute, rather than a defect. Granted, being clueless is may not seem like the most wonderful thing to be, but in a world where what you don't recognize doesn't hurt you, it's actually quite useful.
Thanks to John Swann and Exeter the Squid on this one!
More? I'm sure there are a lot more rules that apply to comedy anime role-playing. For one thing, I probably need to add Rob's Sub-Orbital Knockout at the very least, and I should add in a rule explaining how Happosai, Genma, and Soun use their battle auras to appear huge and/or demonic. Extreme Geekiness Around Girls/Girlfriends should be written up too -- Dr. Tofu being the most extreme example. Perhaps a rule for giant sweat drops is in order? I'll be adding to this page as I come across them, but if you want to send me your suggestions, I'm always happy to let others help me create the information on these pages!