Big Eyes, Small Mouth
Author: Mark C. MacKinnon
Company/Publisher: Guardians of Order
Page count: 94 pp
ISBN: ISBN 0-9682431-0-X
Playtest Review by Larry D. Hols on 06/24/98. Genre tags: none
_Big Eyes, Small Mouth_ is a designated universal anime role playing game. The game is designed to handle all of the genres of anime adventure from fantasy to modern to futuristic. One-dimensional characters with outrageous abilities is the order of the day, in anime fashion, and the game promises to deliver exactly these characters to gaming groups everywhere.
The Introduction immediately lays out what the system covers and what it doesn't, and explains the hallmarks of anime to the uninitiated. I am no hard-core anime fan, but the explanation offered in the system matched up with what I have watched, and with the single anime video in my collection. The introductory material provided a solid overview of what can be found in the anime field, and what to expect in anime-style action. This information was very useful for me, and I would assume would prove more so for the completely uninitiated.
The character generation provides for characters that match the descriptions provided in the introductory material. The characters produced by the system are one-dimensional, possess some extraordinary abilities, and lend themselves to anime-style activities very well. Characters are also quickly and easily generated.
To begin with, the process is clearly described, being presented graphically via a flowchart. This proves useful, providing a clear indication of what sorts of things will be covered in the process, and giving players a leg up on the process. The first step involves discussing the coming play sessions and campaign with the game master to decide on a suitable sort of character. The combination of these two elements together leads to a very solid grasp of the character from the beginning.
The characters are rated in three Stats, as befitting an anime universe. Anime characters work in marvelous simplicity, and the use of only three Stats is appropriate. Body, Mind, and Soul are rated, and these reflect well whether the character will be physically oriented, or given to magic or psychic abilities.
The next step involves deciding on attributes. Attributes are simply abilities of some sort, mostly fantastic in nature. There are general abilities described--those that many characters would have--and unique abilities, or those that appear to characterize the individual possessing them. The list of unique abilities serves as a list of examples, and players are encouraged to create their own. The abilities included range from martial prowess to fantastic speed to OBR (Own a Big Robot) and other expected sorts.
The players are encouraged to choose defects appropriate to the particular sub-genre, then derive values for Combat, Health, and Energy. The process is rounded out by describing the character's background, and the GM may award some bonus points for good background descriptions, points which can improve the character from the outset.
The combat system is fast as befitting anime mayhem. Combatants may Hold their actions, make a Physical Attack, or engage in Mind Combat. As the rules state plainly, this system is "dramatic, quick, and unrealistic." 2d6 are rolled for attacks. There are few modifiers listed for attacks, a range of weapons are described, and armor uses only generic ratings against all physical attacks. Mind Combat is likewise quick and straightforward, and healing up afterwards is a short process. This system is easy to learn and delivers the manic sort of encounters found in anime.
Other actions are governed by Stat checks, and these work quickly and smoothly--roll 2d6 and compare to the appropriate Stat. There are also useful notes on when to roll and when not to roll, emphasizing that play shouldn't be bogging down with die rolls.
The book provides a chapter on roleplaying for players and GMs alike, a list of resources for those wanting to find more source material, and a solid index.
A very basic system that allows new players to get into games quickly is always welcome on the market. That this system provides this and is oriented towards anime-style play can be and added benefit. The appeal for gamers who love anime is obvious. The opportunity for other anime fans to be introduced to gaming via an easy to play system is valuable to the hobby. The suitability of this system for younger players, both in terms of simplicity and also in terms of appropriate handling of imaginary violence (I'd play this with my 8-year old if he'd sit still long enough,) make this game more interesting.
The fact that this is a universal anime game places it solidly in a market niche that is larger than one aimed at a particular licensed property, or one that aims at a particular anime sub-genre (mecha, for instance. This game should have some staying power based on that alone.
This game is beautifully produced, and the details were well taken care of. I'm enchanted with the figures guarding the page numbers (although the larger figures in the page headers aren't nearly so endearing.) The layout is clean and easy to follow. The editing was thorough, with typoes nearly non-existent. The character sheet is easy to fill out and use. The information provided on anime--complete with glossary of terms--was interesting. This game is a keeper.
Complexity : Low
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)