Big Eyes, Small Mouth
Author: Mark C. MacKinnon
Company/Publisher: Guardians of Order
Cost: $13.95 US
Page count: 91
Capsule Review by Kevin Mowery on 04/07/98. Genre tags: none
I was never very big into anime. Oh, I remember the giant robot shows like "Robotech", "Tranzor Z", and "Voltron" (both versions). I even watched them when they were on TV, but I never really got into them the way my friends did. Then my girlfriend introduced me to "Ranma 1/2" and I was hooked. I went on to "El Hazard", "Ushio & Tora", and "Tenchi Muyo!" This stuff is great! Now how do I combine it with my other love, role-playing?
There are a few different anime-based RPGs on the market, most of them with specific universes in place. BESM, though, is truly generic. There's no specific world information given, just a few suggestions for time periods common to anime.
Character creation starts off simple. You come up with an idea, work with the GM to make it fit into the gameworld. Then you roll to see how many points you get to distribute among your stats. There are only 3: Body, Mind, and Soul. Then you buy advantages and disadvantages to further enhance your character and bring it closer to your vision. You just decide what sorts of skills your character has, and what sort of equipment, if any. There are some quick task resolution rules, and a few pages on combat.
So far, so good, except that it doesn't all work. Advantages can be hideously expensive, but disadvantages are worth only a couple of points if they're really crippling (for instance, having all your actions controlled by a megacorp, government, or other organization is worth 2 points, but getting one extra point in your combat score costs 3!). Psionics, magic, mecha, and cybernetics are vaguely defined (perhaps as befits a generic system), but it's all so vague that any GM wanting to use any of those will have to design his own system.
Combat scores are typically so low that a fight between two average adults would last next to forever as each tried to roll a 4 or less on 2d6 to hit (and a 2 on 2d6 to dodge!). If you wanted to create a character like Ranma--not too quick on the uptake, a bit abrasive, but a demon in a fight--you can't slight attributes to do it, since your Mind and Soul stats are just as important in combat as your Body.
It all works, sort of, but it's not especially elegant and it doesn't capture an anime feel any better than any other set of loosely-defined rules would. The fact is (and this is the problem with all generic systems), some gameworlds work best with specific rule sets. A campaign based on "Record of Lodoss War" could be done with AD&D, a lot of action-based anime could be handled by Feng Shui or even Extreme Vengeance, and with a little tweaking, Teenagers From Outer Space could handle most high school anime (even the serious stuff--blech! ^_^ ). BESM tries to be generic enough that it can encompass everything from "Ranma 1/2" to "Neon Genesis Evangelion" to "Yoma: Curse of Undead", and that's just too generic for a rule-set as small as BESM.
Style: 3 (Average)