Today we’re kicking off the Let’s Study series for OVA: The Anime Role-Playing Game by Clay Gardner. As always we’ll be studying the game chapter by chapter, taking the time to figure out character creation, and maybe think of a campaign or two for it in the process.
OVA is clearly meant to be a beginner’s game. It starts off with a quick discussion on Anime, as well as roleplaying games. Given the target market of the product, this is a reasonable way to start off, as anime fans might not be familiar with RPGs outside of console games, and RPG fans might not be too familiar with the anime genre.
The role of the player and the GM is also described here, as well as a quick description of tabletop RPGs as an activity. With that out of the way, Clay provides a quick sample of play to help cement the concepts introduced in the chapter. Overall it’s a no-nonsense chapter that works to convey the information in as quick and easy a way possible.
Being a generic Anime RPG, OVA needs to have the kind of flexibility to manage multiple genres in a single ruleset. There’s a promise of being a rules light system, so I”m curious as to how extensive Character Creation is for OVA.
Character creation in OVA is divided into the following steps:
- Step 0: Discussion
- Step 1: Concept
- Step 2: Abilities
- Step 3: The Weaknesses
- Step 4: Health and Endurance
- Step 5: Finishing Touches
This “Step” is really more about talking as a group to come up with a solid idea of what the game is about and what characters would make sense in the context of the game. I’m glad that this was called out as it’s an “obvious” step that tends to be forgotten. I’ve been in more than a few games where an anime game was pitched and we got characters that made no sense when put together.
For the purposes of this article, I figure that I’d like to make a character for a “Samurai in Space!” sort of game. Spaceships + Katana + Honor and all that.
Before actually putting pen to paper, it’s always a good idea to work with a concept first. Given the idea for Samurai in Space, I figure I’ll go for a Ronin cyber-sellsword, dishonored and roaming the space lanes selling his skill with his katana in exchange for money.
Abilities are a catch-all term for facets that define the character. A character’s Abilities are rated from +1 (average) to +5 (superheroic.) Most Abilities are rated at +1 or +2, with +3 and higher being much more rare. +5 is considered to be very rare and barring certain campaign types, starting characters shouldn’t begin with any Abilities at that rating.
Given the sheer number of genres to cover, the Abilities List for OVA is pretty big, covering everything from “Agile” to “Time Freeze.” I won’t be able to cover all of them here, but let’s see what will fit our sample character.
So, going over the Abilities list, I’ve chosen the following for our Space Ronin:
Armored +2 – Reduce Damage Multiplier of any incoming attack by 1 per level.
Attack +3 – Increase Damage Multiplier by 1 per level.
Quick +2 – Add Quick to Defense Rolls, Dodging, Running, Driving, Initiative and other challenges that require speed and reflexes.
Right, so while this seems a little generic, you can further refine Abilities by applying Perks and Flaws to them.
Perks and Flaws are essentially modifiers that are attached to Abilities to further customize them. Perks add functionality at an increased Endurance Cost. Flaws mitigate this by reducing Endurance Costs in activating the abilities.
Let’s try using these on the Attack Ability. For Space Ronin, I figure it would be neat if he had some sort of super-sharp sword. Because of that I’m adding on the Armor Piercing perk, which increases the Endurance Cost by +5. To help offset this, I’m getting the Weapon perk, which represents that the attack is actually his sword, which offsets it by -5, bringing the balance to zero.
The other half of the equation in OVA are Weaknesses. These are essentially anti-abilities. They also define your character by the things that they’re not good at, or suffer a disadvantage from.
For the sake of balance, the default mechanics of OVA prefer to go for cancelling out all Weaknesses with Abilities to come up with a result of 0 if you add them all up. Given that I have 7 points in Abilities, I’ll need an equal number of Weaknesses.
Hatred: The Cosmic Shogunate 2 – Due to his history, our Space Ronin has a deep hatred for the Cosmic Shogunate. He’s barely able to keep himself in check, and will most likely get in trouble if kept in the presence of any of the Shogunate’s people for too long.
Infamy 2 – Being a Ronin makes him pretty disliked in the Shogunate, and many want our Space Ronin dead.
Outcast 3 – Not only is he wanted by the authorities, people largely treat our Space Ronin as little more than a common bandit (which to be fair, he is)
Health and Endurance
Starting characters begin with a Health and Endurance Score of 40 to begin with, unless they take further Abilities or Weaknesses the modify this value.
This is essentially where you customize the character by filling in the details like appearance, names, and motivations.
I think I do need to call out that the Attack Ability isn’t just one attack. The rules allow for making a suite of attack, all of which have the same Damage Multiplier, but may be different based off the Perks and weaknesses applied.
For example, our Space-Ronin has one attack right now that is defined as an armor-piercing sword attack. I can further add more attacks to the character, each one all having a Damage Multiplier of x3, but representing different kinds of attacks. I could have one be a martial arts strike that requires complicated gestures, for example, or any number of other Perks and Flaws.
Character creation in OVA is very simple, and easy enough to understand. Each Ability and Weakness is a self-contained rule, and is generic enough to fit multiple genres. Given that I’ve not read the book ahead of this, I already put a character together in less than 30 minutes. That’s fast, and admittedly pretty fun given the crazy options in the book.
Tomorrow we’ll take a peek at the Basic Mechanics of OVA and see how they’ll resolve combat. If I have enough time I might throw in a sample combat breakdown as well featuring our little Space Ronin from this article.