Saturday, April 13, 2024

GHOSTBUSTERS: TOKYO GHOST RESEARCH - Part II

Welcome to Part II of my Ghostbusters: Tokyo Ghost Research idea, combing the Japanese Doujin TRPG 'Tokyo Ghost Research' with everybody's favorite paranormal investigation and elimination franchise, Ghostbusters. Check out Part I here.




I've decided to create a character for myself to better illustrate Character Creation and gameplay going forward. His name is Taro Ranpo, a homage to famed Japanese mystery writer and literary critic Edogawa Ranpo ( the pen name of Taro Hirai, Born October 21, 1894-Died July 28, 1965). Here is his Employee ID/Character Sheet custom made by yours truly based on Tokyo Ghost Research's sheet.

For Career Type I went with Investigations (which is why I chose a name with a mystery genre reference). I decided to go with the following skills for Ranpo's Skill Set

Distant Impressions/Psychometry (General: Psychic Skill)
The ability to discern information, thoughts, and/or feelings about someone from contact with items or locations they frequently have/have had contact with.

Office Chair Detective (Career Skill)
Reasoning and thinking ability that intuitively derives the truth from collected data. 

Previous Work Experience (General: Origin Skill)
You can make use of your experience, knowledge, and skills from your previous occupation. In this case, 'Manga Writer'. 

Super Search Technique (Career Skill)
Skill that allows you to find and collect the clues and information you need.

Supplied Tablet (General: Item Skill)
A lightweight and sturdy tablet that can withstand communication failures at haunted locations.

As for his Overwork Skill, I thought Butt Wipe would be a good fit. 

Butt Wipe
Timing: Anytime.
Effect: Recovers 1 point of Damage (Any type) for one Employee other than yourself.

With the way Overwork functions in my version of the game, this is a much more useful ability then it is in the RAW Tokyo Ghost Research rules. Being able to remove a single one of damage from one person one time in a 4+ hour session is kind of weak compared to some of the other Overwork Skills.

However, if you can gain and spend Overtime with an increasing cost per usage (1 point for the first use, 2 points for the second, 3 points for the third), this ability becomes a useful but not overly powerful heal. I can see Taro being a guy who acts aloof and like he's 'too-cool-for-school' but actually cares about his friends and watches out for them.

If I could, I might switch out Ranpo's Supplied Tablet for a custom made Item I'd call 'Detective Kit'. I'm seeing it as a bag or box he can attach to his Proton Pack that contains a Magnifying Glass, a Fingerprint kit, etc. Maybe a mundane flashlight. 




OK, now that we have an Employee (PC), let's look at one of the game's most intriguing features - the Task Resolution System or as is often translated from Japanese TRPGs, the Judgement System:

Essentially all you need to do is roll a single 10-sided die (1D10) and meet or beat a Target Number determined by the Manager. If you are using a Skill, your Target Number is usually between 2 and 8, with 2 being something fairly easy to accomplish and 8 being something very difficult. 

If you do not have a Skill that covers what you're doing the Manager may decide that you don't need to roll at all. This is the case for most actions. However, in the case of hard to achieve goals or dramatic instances you roll 1D10 with the Target Number being 10. 

Here's where it gets wild (hold on to your plush Goblins D&D fans - you're NOT ready for this!)...

If you meet or beat the Target Number you succeed but if you don't...you still succeed! Wha?!? Yes! You Succeed with 'Trouble'. A complication arises; something goes wrong and the situation gets worse. You also take 1 or more points of Damage in one of the 

Optionally, you, the player, can declare that the action truly fails. This causes you to take 1 point of Damage in any one of the three Damage Categories but you gain 1 point of Overtime! As noted, collecting Overtime allows additional uses of your Overwork Skill.

I LOVE this! It is such an interesting design choice on so many levels. It allows more interesting things to result from a die roll beyond just hit or miss, pass or fail. It gives players greater control over the outcome of a roll, which in turn gives them additional future options. It is also a great way to handle PC activities in a comedic game. As the players and their characters go for more daring moves, wackier and wackier things will be happening more and more often. 




This is balanced/off-set by the fact that Damage is taken as a result of both Success plus Trouble and True Failure. With True Failure you only take a single point of Damage to a Damage Category appropriate to the action taken. With Success plus Trouble there is a chart in the game that looks like this:

1 Trouble arises but you escape it! MG identifies the trouble. You explain escape. No damage.
2 You manage to handle the task, but feel very tired. 1 point Physical Damage
3 You hurt yourself while completing the task. 1 point Physical Damage
4 You experience fear, confusion, or stress while completing task. 1 point Mental Damage
5 Situation brings up past traumatic memories. 1 point Mental Damage
6 You damage your personal credibility performing task. 1 point of Environmental Damage
7 You displeased the company or your boss. 1 point of Environment Damage
8 You are so exhausted that you can barely move. 1 Physical Damage + 1 Mental Damage
9 You were injured AND made the company look bad. 1 Physical + 1 Environment
0 The boss was angry, reprimanded you and you found myself in a bad position. 1 Mental Damage + 1 Environment Damage. 

As with most random charts, I'm not a fan of how some rolls simply won't fit some actions, situations, or circumstances. I might simply go with Manager's fiat with player input. That way, the effect of a given activity and resulting Trouble will more accurately reflect the cause. 

With regards to 'Combat' and Damage...




Tokyo Ghost Research doesn't have a traditional Combat system per se. There's no 'To Hit' mechanics, special moves, or anything of the kind. We only have Judgements and a Damage System. That said, when doing anything one rolls 1D10 and tries to beat a Difficulty Number as noted in the past. Based on this, my thinking is that blasting a supernatural entity with ones Particle Thrower is the same as any other general task. 

I might suggest that the 'Sales' Career should be able to hit opponents with a Difficulty Number between 2-10, while non-Sales personnel would only hit on a 10 [maybe a 9 or 10 in certain circumstances]. Sales is the department that 'deals directly with the ghosts' after all.

If an Employee manages to zap or otherwise effect a paranormal being or condition, I would say they cause it 1 point of Ectoplasm Damage. Unlike Employees, who withstand Physical, Mental, and Environmental Damage, the ghost-types only have Ectoplasm.  Employees can take 3 points of Damage in each category. Ghosts will therefore vary but generally they can take their Classification + 1/2 in Damage (maybe?).  

Based on this, a Class V Full-Roaming Vapor like Slimer would be able to withstand 8 Ectoplasm Damage. Sound good? If the Employees can get the entity up to the half way point - 4 points of Ectoplasm Damage in this case - then they can try to lasso the spook with a 'Catch' or 'Capture' Stream. I'd make it pretty difficult until the PCs did more Damage to the entity. Alternatively, since the Tokyo Ghost Research game setting leans into Psychic Abilities and Exorcisms, perhaps there are ways to weaken a spectral presence besides repeatedly hitting it with a blast of charged protons.

This is an element I've applied to my previous Ghostbusters games already as I've mentioned in prior posts on the subject. Sometimes there are special weaknesses or conditions that can render a ghost easier to catch based on its nature or background. 




A little more about Damage...

In Tokyo Ghost Research you don't have 'hit points' so much as you can take a certain amount of Damage. Most Employees can take 3 points of Damage in each of the three Damage Type categories before something negative happens.

Physical Damage indicates the Employee is exhausted or injured. If you take 3 point of Physical Damage you go unconscious. Again, this might be from blunt trauma, getting the wind knocked out of you, or simply being incredibly tired. 

Mental Damage represents stress, panic, mental exhaustion, and even going mad. When you have 3 Mental Damage points you go a little crazy and do something unstable (freeze in place, run in terror, charge at the giant monster, etc.). Some supernatural beings may try to possess you if you are at 3 or more Mental Damage. 

Environmental Damage is a funny one and not what I initially thought. It represents your standing with the company, your boss, and the status of the company itself. You take Environmental Damage if the boss is cross with you, if you make the company look bad on TV or social media, or if a rival company/service looks better than yours in the public eye. With 3 points of Environmental Damage you might get clean-up duty, docked pay, or get suspended for a couple of days. 

At the end of a Scene you can reduce your Physical or Mental Damage by 1 (1 point in a single category) by returning to your vehicle, getting lunch, or other taking a few moments to relax and get yourself together. Environmental Damage cannot normally be repaired this way but if you speak to the boss on the phone and explained what happened, perhaps the Manager will grant you a 1 point heal for good role-playing. 

You can heal up completely by returning to the office (Mental and Environmental), your home (Mental), or the hospital or company infirmary (Physical). As this and the aforementioned short break constitute a change of Scene, all Skills Used are reset to Unused. 

There are a few other elements I could go over but for the most part that's about the gist of things. I like what I have here and honestly, I like Ranpo. I see his backstory as follows:

Taro Ranpo grew up loving mystery stories and enjoyed writing his own in Middle and High School. He was good, if not great. His work was missing something and he knew it, though not what it was. In College he met a young woman named Miku Mochizuki, a very talented artist who worked with Ranpo on a project. Together they put out a Doujin Manga, a supernatural mystery written by Taro and illustrated by Miku, that did quite well at a school faire. 

Not long after the two of them submitted the Manga to a publisher and it was picked up and professionally released. The two made a decent amount of money and planned on doing more but Ranpo was inspired to submit a full length novel he'd been working on for some time. He did and it was rejected. While Ranpo continued to do more Manga with Mochizuki, he also sent his novel manuscript to several other publishing companies to no avail. Before long, his meager success with their Manga but constant disappointments with the novel made Ranpo very depressed. 

One morning, on a whim, Taro applied for a job with Ghostbusters: Tokyo Ghost Research, and much to his surprise he got hired. He informed Mochizuki that he was giving up the Manga and writing, at least for a while. Later that same day, Miku surprises Taro but getting hired as well. She tells him that this was a great idea, a great way to do research for their next series. Realizing his friendship with Mizu was more inspiring than his book rejections were demoralizing, Taro assured her that the two of them would be the best Ghostbusters team ever. 




Hmm. I think I've got a solid idea for a scenario. I might have a surprise for my readers this weekend. 

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Sunday, March 31, 2024

GHOSTBUSTERS: TOKYO GHOST RESEARCH - Part I

My latest poorly considered idea is to use the Japanese TRPG 'Tokyo Ghost Research' to run a different kind of Ghostbusters campaign. 




My idea is that at the Tokyo, Japan franchise office of Ghostbusters Inc. International, things are handled a little differently. There is more of a corporate office mentality, with different departments having to compete for budgeting and resources, drinking and karaoke with the boss after work, and of course being exploited and overworked (an actual mechanic in Tokyo Ghost Research). The 'salaryman' motif is applied to Ghostbusters and damn if that doesn't sound potentially (darkly) hilarious. 

As I discuss the concept in more detail I'll breakdown Tokyo Ghost Research's game mechanics. I have added a houserule/rule modification and I'll point out what it is when I come to it.

While I usually begin with the base mechanic, today we'll start with Character Creation

In TGR, PCs are called Employees (Gamemasters (GMs) are referred to as Managers (MGs) - love that) and the Character Sheet resembles a Corporate Employee ID. This game really does its best to stay on brand. 

Here's my Tokyo Ghost Research Character Sheet with a 'Ghostbusters Makeover'.




Employees are defined by their Career Type, which connects you to a list of Career Skills that are really more like abilities in many cases. Funny enough, I probably shouldn't use the word 'defined'. Careers give you access to the Skills of that Career sure but there are also General Skills anyone can take that can give your PC some really interesting features. One category of General Skills - Items - can be changed anytime the PCs go back to the office. Don't worry, I talk more about this below. First the Careers:

General Affairs: These Employees are responsible for supporting the other Employee Career Types. Without the General Affairs department, the smooth operation of Ghostbusters: Tokyo Ghost Research wouldn't be possible. Procuring supplies, getting permits, coordinating with other organizations, and handling publicity are all jobs covered by General Affairs. But oh man, the paperwork!! 




General Affairs Skills include Public Relations Cover Story (Skill disseminating information and concealing the truth to make things go smoothly) and Master of Internal Coordination (Establishing all the necessary conditions for a project through internal coordination). 

Investigations: Investigation Employees are charged with fact-finding and research into paranormal phenomena. Good intel is often the key to capturing a rogue spectre or exorcising mischievous spirits from a abandoned sake brewery. Additionally, many cases require Investigators to inspect haunted sites before they send in a full Sales team.




Investigations Skills include Office Chair Detective (Intuition regarding the meaning of collected clues) and Super Search Technique (Allows Employee to find and collect the clues and information your need). 

Sales: The department that deals with clients and ghosts directly is referred to as Sales. Sales people usually begin by calming and/or reassuring those being bothered by the supernatural disturbance in question. Next it's time to strap on their Proton Packs, charge up their Neutrona Wands, and heading out to bust some ghosts. Sometimes Sales people deal with police, firefighters, or other emergency personnel in the field after General Affairs has spoken to them on the phone. 




Sales Skills include Route Sales (Skill to smoothly carry out 'Sales Activities' according to established procedures) and Spirit Negotiation Techniques (The courage and wherewithal to negotiate with non-human beings and the skill to understand their logic). 

Technology: Obviously the Technology department handles the development, construction, maintenance, and conveying the operating procedures of the various devices used by the Ghostbusters. In addition to the traditional backpack mounted particle accelerators, ghost traps, and such, Ghostbusters: TGR sometimes uses additional spiritual and physic paraphernalia. Prayer beads, ofuda (talismans on paper, wood, or other materials), and ouija boards are all things covered by the Tech department. 




Tech Skills include Psychic Light (Knowing how to use a special ray that allows anyone to visually perceive spiritual beings and/or traces of their presence) and Spirit Line
(Use of an app for communicating with otherworldly entities).

General Skills vary widely, with several sub-categories. The various types of 'skills' are Connections, Items, Origins, Psychic Abilities, and Talents. As you can see, not all General Skills are in fact skills in the traditional sense. As noted, Items can be traded out when the Employee gets back to the Office/HQ. For example, one Item is 'Company Car' - if you choose it you're the one driving the Ecto-1. Let's say the team heads out and gets their butts handed to them by a really tough ghost and you think, 'Darn, if I wasn't driving I know just what I would've done'. Well, when you get back to the Office you can decide to leave the driving to someone else and pick up a 'Provided Amulet', a 3D printed talisman in the form of a keychain, magnet, or sticker that can create a barrier or seal. 




The player chooses 5 skills for their Employee with no duplicates allowed (you can't pick the same skill twice). If I were making an Employee I would probably take one or two Career Skills and three General Skills, one of which would definitely be Item.

This is where Tokyo Ghost Research's Character Creation really shines in my opinion. Even with only four Career Types, only a few Career Skills for each Career, and granted, a generous number of General Skills, the characters come out quite different from each other. Even two Sales Employees can have very distinct Skill Sets (which is what the Employees five chosen skills are called in the TGR game).

Honestly I really love this. In some ways it is similar to the way skills are presented in Space Ship Story. If you have to have Classes in your game, THIS is how Classes should work. A simple, concise system with access to both dedicated Class abilities and more general ones, the freedom to choose a certain amount of each, and bam! you've got a Player Character. 

During play, each Employee can use each of their skills once per Scene. A Scene is not a defined amount of time or a set number of turns or other gamespeak gobbledygook. It is a scene in the cinematic or theatre sense, determined by Manager's judgement and player input. Again it isn't an exacting thing. Once used the skill is essentially spent (declared 'Used' in the game) until the next Scene. 

Finally, there's Overwork: In the game, Overwork is a Special Skill that can only be used once per Session. Like the other skills, once used Overwork is gone until your group gets together to play the game again. Unless...certain Overwork Skills can restore already used skills, with one ability bringing back standard skills and a different Overwork bringing back someone else's Overwork. Here's where I was inspired to add an additional mechanic: Overtime

Because skills are spent like a resource and with how neat Overwork abilities are, I decided that certain die rolls earn the Employees Overtime Points (see my follow-up posts for more details). In my houseruled version, the player spends 1 point of Overtime to use the Employee's Overwork Skill. To use it a second time in the same Session costs 2 Overtime Points, 3 for a third time, etc.

Sample Overwork Skills include simple things like Bulldoze (Allows you a do-over. You can re-roll a die roll), healing abilities like Steel Heart/Nerves of Steel (Reduces Mental Damage to Zero / 0), and the aforementioned Clear Mind/Routine Work (Makes all skills in your PCs Skill Set 'Unused'). 

This will make more sense when I talk about how the intriguing Judgement Rolls (basically the Task Resolution system). In addition, I'm considering making a sample Ghostbuster Employee to better illustrate how everything works together. 

That's it for now. Catch up with you soon.

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One more thing before I go...in Japan there is a promotional collaboration going on between Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (re-titled Frozen Summer for the Japanese market) and the upcoming Anime series Dan Da Dan




The idea seems to be that the characters from the popular Manga promote the new Ghostbusters film to a young audience less familiar with the franchise, while simultaneously letting everyone know an Anime based on the Manga is coming out later in 2024.

Dan Da Dan (sometimes written Dandadan) is definitely in the vein of Ghostbusters genre-wise. The story follows Momo Ayase, a high school girl who believes in ghosts but not aliens and her classmate Okarun who believes in aliens but not ghosts. To determine who's correct, the two make a bet and challenge each other to visit locations associated with UFOs and the occult respectively. When the two reach their respective places it turns out that they were half-right, both aliens and ghosts do exist and neither is too thrilled at being found out. 

There are 13 volumes of the Manga so far, with the Anime airing in October of this year. 

PS: All the art (except for the Dandadan/Ghostbusters poster above) is the result of my usual mix of Midjourney AI, my original art, and Photostudio. 







Sunday, March 24, 2024

Fullbore Connective Splatter!

The plan was to have another 31 Day Character Challenge post here but something came up that I knew I had to address first. Two things actually and thankfully they are related. 

GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE

AND

TOKYO GHOST RESEARCH

NO SPOILERS for the movie!


I'm definitely going to have a lot more to say about both of these in the days come but I wanted to get out my initial thoughts while they are fresh in my mind.

Firstly, the newest film in one of my all time favorite franchises, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, which I saw earlier today...




Professional film critics have generally panned the movie, giving it a rather low score on Rotten Tomatoes and not having positive words about it for the most part. This is because they are film critics and not fans of Ghostbusters. They are also film critics not filmmakers. Lastly, it is distinctly possible many of them were high when they went to see. 

The film is entertaining with a capital 'E'! It is action-packed, funny, and has a lot of heart. It also expands the franchise's universe in a few ways. A number of interesting elements were introduced, though unfortunately not as fully explored as I would have like. Adding them to my kitbashed RPG and exploring them there is definitely something I am looking forward to.

It isn't perfect but if the original 1984 film is given 5 stars and Afterlife is given 4 1/2 stars, I'm personally giving Frozen Empire 4 stars. I might be in the minority here but I'd absolutely put it ahead of Ghostbusters II. Other than The Real Ghostbusters animated series, that's all we've had to go on up 'til now. 

I said that's All We've Had. Ahem.

Now on to Tokyo Ghost Research...




Tokyo Ghost Research is a free Japanese Doujinshi Tabletop Roleplaying Game by Seiji Nakata of Story Engine Lab that revolves around the idea that you (the player and by association your PC) are an employee of a company that investigates and removes paranormal phenomena. Sound familiar?

The business in question, called Tokyo Ghost Research, is not portrayed as a Ghostbusters-like 'Mom and Pop' operation but a mid-size corporation with Japanese Salaryman types, problematic bosses, and inconvenient budget cuts. It's a very Japanese company culture take on supernatural investigation and elimination and I am here for it! 

I've had the game for over a month now and have pretty much translated the whole thing. I'm going through the process of editing it and hope to test it out soon. The rules are very simple but there are enough theme specific bits to give both the players and GMs (called Managers or MGs in the game) something to sink their teeth into. Sort of. The game's one weakness is that there don't appear to be any stats provided for the strange entities or events you might encounter. It is completely up to the Manager to determine what the weirdness is and what it can do. 

The more I think about it the more I'd like to discuss this game in more detail and I'm even pondering a way to combine it with my Ghostbusters material. I want to finish my next 31/31 entry but man oh man, I am really getting excited about this new idea I'm forming...

Ghostbusters: Tokyo Ghost Research!

Maybe.

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A bit of trivia - In Japan, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire has been retitled Ghostbusters: Frozen Summer. Personally, I kind of like that better.







Saturday, March 16, 2024

HOLY ORDER OF WARES!!!

Did everyone hear the news? No?!? Well lemme lay it on you...

WARES BLADE is coming to the United States in ENGLISH! 




Sorry it's taken me so long to post this but I've been in a deep dive down the rabbit hole of Japanese TRPGs lately and it took awhile to find my way back up to the surface. I've got so much I want to talk about! Ah, but first...

On March 12th, LionWing Publishing announced via a 'Showcase' stream and the attached video that they'll be doing a Kickstarter in 2025 for an English Language translation of Wares Blade. This is the classic Japanese TRPG of Magic and Machinery that I've mentioned on this blog many times now (click the Wares Blade tag below). Check out this announcement statement on LionWing's website.

I can't tell you how excited I am. I've literally been waiting for Wares Blade in English since I first found out about the game in 1988. This is news I never expected to hear. It's kind of incredible. Almost hard to believe. What's next? Life discovered on another planet in our Solar System? Some distant relative I've never heard of left me a million dollars? After 'Wares Blade coming to the USA in English' I'm ready for anything!

It seems this is part of what they intend to be a line of games; collectively called 'Legends of Japan' (not the most creative name but it works), focused on Japanese Tabletop Roleplaying Games of that market's early era. Well, sort of. Not so early that they were largely just importing and translating US games and not so late that JTRPGs were regularly produced, distributed, and sold all over Japan and available through JTRPG dedicated websites. Wares Blade is pretty much the perfect example of a game that fits within this category. Others might include Gear Antique, Metalhead, Peekaboo (aka Peekaboo Horror), SATASUPE, and of course Sword World. 

Curiously...

The image they used to announce their endeavor is the cover of
'The Renewal', the 2nd Edition of the Wares Blade TRPG.

Here's the full version.



Expect more coverage of this as I learn more. Until then...

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UPDATE: I got the chance to chat with Bradley of LionWing Publishing on their livestream last night (03/19/2024 10:00 pm EST) about Wares Blade and their other upcoming projects. It was very interesting and informative.

Also, Bradley gave a shout out to my blog, saying he'd checked out Barking Alien while doing research on Wares Blade. So cool!

You can check out the stream here.







31 Days / 31 Characters - JIN'HOKO

Tenchi Muyo! is a Sci-Fi/Space Opera Harem Comedy franchise created by Masaki Kajishima that first appeared as a six episode OVA (Original Video Animation) series in Japan in 1992. The title translates to 'No Need for Tenchi', with Tenchi Masaki being the titular character. His name is also a play on words translating to 'Heaven and Earth', such that the series could also be called 'No Need for Heaven and Earth'. 




Since 1992 the franchise has produced four additional OVA series, three multi-season Anime television shows, three animated feature films, two Manga series, and numerous novels as well as light novels, some published in Japan and some produced by an American publishing company here in the U.S. There have been several spin-offs as well, including Magical Girl Pretty Sammy, Photon: The Idiot Adventures, and Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure (itself a partial parody of Evangelion). The Magnificent World of El-Hazard, a seeming unrelated series, is revealed through the course of its OVA to also be connected to the 'Tenchiverse'.

One of the more popular spin-offs, which has spawned a TV series, an OVA series, a Manga, and a string of light novels, is called Tenchi Muyo! GXP. In 2012 the Anime aired on Adult Swim in the US and elsewhere. It follows the adventures of unlucky Earth boy Seina Yamada, who is mistakenly recruited into the interplanetary law enforcement agency known as the Galaxy Police. Keep this in mind for later. 

In Japan, a TRPG set in the Tenchi Muyo! universe was produced for the multi-genre/setting game MAGIUS. The main book and three supplements came out between 1995 and 1996. Guardians of Order put out a Tenchi Muyo! RPG and 'Resource' Book in 2000. This was followed by a GM Screen and sourcebooks for two of the television shows, Tenchi Universe and Tenchi in Tokyo.


The Tenchi Muyo! RPG products using MAGIUS by Fujimi Shobo


The Tenchi Muyo! RPG products by Guardians of Order


Tenchi Muyo! is a franchise very near and dear to me. Not only am I a really big fan of it but also because it's how I met my ex-wife.

We met when she came into the Japanese Pop Culture Entertainment related retail store where I was working. She came in that day looking for the latest installment of Tenchi Muyo!. The thing was, Selina really knew her stuff and had been aware of the first OVA series even before it came out in America. As a result, she was unsure what was available in the US already and what hadn't yet been released here. We ended up talking quite a bit, bonding over our mutual love of Tenchi and company. About a year later we got together outside of work to watch some Anime and the rest is history [and just about the best ten years of my life].*

Cool story but what does this have to do with a character for the 31 Days/31 Characters Challenge? Well...


The first Galaxy Police we encounter in the Tenchi Muyo! universe:
Mihoshi (kneeling) and Kiyone (standing)


At some point prior to 2002 I told Selina about an idea that had come to me, a really cool concept for a Tenchi Muyo! Anime, Manga, or maybe a TRPG campaign; Ginga Keisatsu Muyo! or 'No Need for The Galaxy Police!'. Selina liked the idea but said it would probably go over better as a game than as a Japanese series. Most fans prefer their 'Tenchi' be Earth related. I figured she was probably right. Sure enough a couple years later Studio AIC released the newest installment of the Tenchi Muyo franchise, Tenchi Muyo GXP!. 


Tenchi Muyo! GXP


The game concept stuck with me however, even after Selina and I parted ways, and sometime around 2010(?) I ran a one-shot session of Ginga Keisatsu Muyo at a Pop Culture convention with a large Anime/Manga presence (though it wasn't an Anime Convention). The most memorable and exciting character was Jin'Hoko...




Character: Jin'Hoko

AKA: Detective First Class, Jin

Player: Nikki

System: Teenagers from Outer Space, 1st Edition, with my 'Advanced TFOS' houserules. 

I have a special surprise for you all down below in the 'Game Info' section. Keeping reading!
 
Nature: One-Shot: Ginga Keisatsu Muyo! No Need for the Galaxy Police!

Gamemaster: Adam Dickstein

Circa: 2010(?)

Not entirely positive if it was 2009, 2010, or 2011. 

Origins: I kinda gave away the origins of this game and character earlier in the post but I'll get more specific about Officer Jin'Hoko herself:

More often than not I create Pre-Gens when running games at conventions. When doing so I always leave room for the player to customize their PC, name them, and come up with a bit of background.

A cool gal named Nikki picked the Wau Officer and called her Jin, later changing it to Jin'Hoko. The Wau are a species of intelligent, humanoid felines resembling lions. She used the extra points I gave out to raise her 'Blaster' Knack and asked me if she could switch out or add a custom Power called 'Blaster-Fu' which I'll discuss later. Of course I said yes, replacing another Power on the character sheet. Her background was kind of made-up as she went along but it ended up being absolutely excellent. 




Backstory: Officer Jin'Hoko is First Class Detective of the Galaxy Police, the interstellar law enforcement division of the Galaxy Federation. She had served as a loyal, dedicated, and efficient police-being for sometime prior to the game's incident. At least, that's what the records show. The truth is not too different but often leaves out her reckless use of her GP Blasters when apprehending Space Pirates.

We additionally learn that Jin'Hoko's family were once profitable merchants who'd been preyed upon by the Space Pirate Cometia to the point where they couldn't stay in business. Jin initially applied to the Galaxy Academy in order to support her family and someday defeat Cometia.  

In this adventure, she gets her chance.


Emblem of the Galaxy Police


Overview: Galaxy Police Officers Hikari and Kumonosu are having lunch at a space station 'drive-in' diner when they receive a call from their precinct, the infamous Space Pirate Cometia is attacking a freighter in the vicinity of Diaspora! The two Officers immediately take off in their Patrol Ship and head for the incident. Hikari, a relatively recent graduate of the Galaxy Police Academy suggests they call for back-up as Cometia and her vessel, the Dragon Riot, are ranked among the most dangerous criminals in outer space. Kumonosu agrees. 

Hearing their request, GP Detective First Class Jin'Hoko and Special Investigator Chikao Arakane - with her robot sidekick 'Chiru-B1' - respond and fly to the scene of the crime at top speed. As their three ships arrive, the Transport/Freighter is burning and listing while a spikey, odd looking spacecraft tries to land on it and presumably board the merchant ship. 

The Galaxy Police [PCs], over the course of the session, discover that the freighter was actually a getaway vessel of another group of pirates and Cometia was trying to stop them from escaping with a fabulous treasure. The treasure included a royal relic belonging to a Great House of the Jurai Empire, one connected to Officer Hikari's family.

Things get further confused and complicated over the next three hours as Jin'Hoko and her allies learn Cometia was created and controlled by a bio-engineering genius turned Crime Boss/Pirate Queen. Her early 'career' as a Space Pirate was the villain commanding her to commit acts of piracy. Freed from this a few years back, Cometia has been trying to make up for what she'd been forced to do by hunting down other Pirates. 


Left to Right:

Detective Jin'Hoko, Rookie Officer Hikari, Chiru-B1
Special Investigator Chikao, and Veteran Officer Kumonosu.


The grand finale had the entire PC group plus Cometia fighting the Pirate Queen and her horde of crazy Space Pirates throughout her hideout/headquarters/starship which had a trans-dimensional M.C. Escher floorplan. 

Highlights:

Cometia manages to board the freighter and begins attacking the people on board (who are pirates but this isn't known to the PCs yet). Jin'Hoko and Special Investigator Chikao enter the cargo ship from a different airlock and Jin'Hoko runs up a wall, then launches herself at Cometia. The Wau badass slams the notorious Space Pirate into a bulkhead rolling a Crit! Nikki then said Jin'Hoko opens up on Cometia with her two Blasters at point blank and rolled, Criting AGAIN! 

I was about to say something since Nikki really shouldn't have made that second roll. This was technically her taking two actions. Everyone at the table just stared at Nikki with their jaws having dropped and then started clapping or shouting 'Yeah!' and so we went with it. Furthermore, Crits in Teenagers from Outer Space are actually kind of bad. The rules are you don't just succeed or even really succeed but you Super-Duper-Over-Succeed. Jin ends up blowing Cometia through the ships hull and - FLOOSH! - explosive decompression! Chiru-B1 rushes to help Chikao while Hikari and Kumonosu race to save Jin'Hoko. Meanwhile, a badly injured Cometia shook her fist and shouted at Jin (which no one could hear through the soundless void of space). 

In the final battle Jin uses her heightened sense of smell in concert with her Blaster-Fu ability to shoot a bunch of Pirate goons to her right, left, and behind her or her friends without directly looking at them. She would often pair up with other PCs, creating some really cool and different combos based on her partner at the time. One of my favorites was right before facing the Pirate Queen Big Bad when Jin and Hikari work together. Hikari is revealed to be part Royal Blooded Jurai and possessed a variation of Tenchi's Light Hawk Wings power. Hikari absorbed blasts from Jin'Hoko's pistols and used the energy to fire off a barrage of light bolts - basically releasing two dozen baseball-sized photon torpedoes. Jin's idea. 
 

The notorious but actually reluctant Space Pirate Cometia!


Game Info:

The one-shot I ran used my own 'Advanced TFOS' variant of the Teenagers from Outer Space game but I thought it would be fun to try and build Jin'Hoko in the game Space Ship Story, the Japanese indie Space Opera TRPG I mentioned in my previous post. SSS seems perfect for this sort of setting and character. Let's see how this goes...

First, I think Detective Jin'Hoko's Classes would be Gunner and Officer. At first I thought Gunner/Neighbor because Neighbor is used to represent alien characters and Jin is a Wau, a species of lion-like humanoids. The thing is, other than her physical prowess and supernormal sense of smell, Jin wasn't particularly 'alien' in her personality, mindset, or story. I gave her a bonus +1 to Senses here when smelling for trouble. I could use to bump up her Physical Body stat though. Hmm.

As mentioned in my prior entry, PCs start with two Specialty Skills (one from each Class) and five additional skills, one of which must be Class based and one must be a Support Skill. The rest can be made up of any combination of Class and Support. For Jin'Hoko I chose:

Cooperative Attack (Officer Specialty Skill)
Interference (Gunner Specialty Skill)
Investigate (Support Skill)
Military Tactics (Officer Class Skill)
Pilot (Support Skill)
Shooter (Gunner Class Skill)
Twin Barrel (Gunner Class Skill)

One of her Skills is custom - Twin Barrels. I created a virtually identical ability for the TFOS version so I just gave it to her here. It would qualify as a Gunner Class Skill. 

I assume her Intercomp (a combination Communicator/Personal Computer) is in the form of the Galaxy Police Watch. In the Animation there is also a sensor in it that can detect lifeforms but here I'm going to say hers doesn't have that. During the game that kind of thing was usually left up to Officer Hikari and the robot Chiru-B1.

The last thing I'd like to point out is under Special Items - The Control Cube. This is an item from the Tenchi Muyo! universe that looks like a faintly glowing, blue or red plastic cube about the size of a softball. The Control Cube is an extradimensional device that is capable of holding a number of items within it. By twisting and turning it (like a Rubik's Cube) the user can pull out the equipment they need. 




Notes:

Jin'Hoko's name is a play on 'Raion no hōkō' which means 'lion's roar'.

As noted, Jin is a Wau, a humanoid feline species resembling lions. Numerous characters of this species have appeared in the various Tenchi series and the Wau are noted to be long standing members of the Galaxy Federation. 

Jin'Hoko was inspired by the Wau we'd seen before but also M'Ress from Star Trek: The Animated Series. Nikki admitted to thinking about her when making the character. 

Nikki did an amazing job of playing Detective Jin'Hoko as both 'Action Hero out for Vengence' and someone with a bit of a moral quandary. Jin grew up believing the Space Pirate Cometia to be the 'boogeyman' who attacked her family's ships and ruining their livelihood. To find out it might have been this Pirate Queen villain and her cronies, that Cometia might be on the side of good, turned Jin's world (galaxy?) upside down. She (Nikki) really played it well. 

Legacy:

Unfortunately, I haven't thought about this character in a long time. In fact, I haven't thought about the Tenchi Muyo franchise in quite. That's a shame. It is certainly one of my all time favorite universes. 

Perhaps it deserves a rewatch...




Our next entry believes in the truth of the broth, the power of pork, and the wisdom of fresh vegetables. Most of all, KENTARO SHOUJI lives by The Way of the Noodle.

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Barking Alien








Thursday, March 7, 2024

Devastator Cannon Irradiation to Warp Gate...Fire!

Welcome to the far future universe of...




February, the traditionally emotionally charged month of utter chaos for me was emotionally charged and filled with utter chaos this year. Who could have predicted this? Who I ask you?!?

Anyway, now that that's over...

Space Ship Story is a Japanese Space Opera TRPG written by game designer 'Hatta' (obviously a pen name) and distributed by Dato Honpo, a small, independent publisher. In an unusual move by a Japanese TRPG company, Dato Honpo made both a Physical Version and a PDF/Electronic Version available upon release. I was so intrigued by the ad copy for this game that I bought the PDF back in 2021 when it was on sale on Conos (the Japanese equivalent of DriveThruRPG).  . 

Unfortunately, I had neither the ability nor time to dedicate myself to fully translating the game and having so many side projects (as I always do), Space Ship Story fell by the wayside. Recently, thanks to improved access to Japanese language translation programs, helpful native speakers, and Japanese websites where they transcribe 'actual play' sessions, I have been able to get a mostly complete understanding of this very neat little RPG. 

Here's a rundown...




Setting

At some point in the distant future Humanity has spread out into space and colonized numerous planets. Eventually, an all-powerful Galactic Empire was founded that controlled countless worlds with its tyrannical outlook and fantastic technology. It was the victim of its own hubris however when its scientists invented and tested a Time Machine. The activation of this device twisted and snapped the Time/Space Continuum, causing bizarre anomalies and making FTL travel nearly impossible for centuries. The Galactic Empire collapsed as a result. 

Now, a literally unknown number of years later when time and memory finally had meaning once again, interstellar commerce, law enforcement, and many other interactions between the various peoples of the stars are handled by the Galactic Trade Association

Emblem for the Galactic Trade Association by me.


Although the GTA began restoring major trade routes, there are still unexplored areas of space on the outskirts facing attacks by pirates, invading aliens, and remaining Imperial holdouts. In order to investigate these regions of danger, the Galactic Trade Association sought a daredevil new profession, the Adventurer! Adventurers are beings willing to brave the long lost and unexplored planets of Outer Space in hopes of bringing peace and prosperity to the cosmos.  

Mechanics

The game works as follows: Judgement rolls are made by rolling two 6-sided dice (2D6), adding a character’s relevant Ability Score to an appropriate Skill and adding any modification from Equipment or Location (see below). The goal is to meet or beat a Target Number determined by the difficulty of the action as determined by the Gamemaster. Pretty simple and classic RPG faire, right?

A natural roll of a 7 indicates a Critical effect (referred to in the rules as Critical 7). If the total of the roll beats the Target Number you have a Critical Success on your hands. If you don't meet the target difficulty it becomes a Critical Failure

PCs have a resource called Singularity, a sort of 'Hero Point' that turns any roll into a Critical Success. Every Player Character starts each session with 1 and can be awarded additional Singularity points during play. 

 Characters

There are eight Character Classes: Fighter (Close Combat), Gunner (Ranged Combat), Tank (Able to take a lot of damage), Scout (A sort of Rogue/Ninja type), Tech (Engineer/Mad Scientist), Officer (Leader/Coordinator), Psycho (A being with Psychic Powers), and Neighbor (a Non-Human. An Alien or Robot PC).


Fighter, Gunner, Tank, Scout.


The player picks two Class and combines the Ability Scores on the Class 'Template' to get your Ability Score Set. You can also choose the same Class twice and double down on your character type is you desire. In addition to Ability Scores, each Class gives the PC a Class 'Special Skill' and gives them access to a variety of Class Skills that you can pick from, most of which aren't really skills so much as special talents or feats. You can also take skills from a collection of Support Skills. 


Neighbor (Robot), Tech, Officer, Psycho, and Neighbor (Alien).


The whole concept is both really easy and pretty intuitive. Want to make a Jedi Knight? Fighter + Psycho. Starfleet Engineer? Maybe Officer + Tech. A friend of mine used Tech + Neighbor to create an R2-D2/Astromech type robot. 

In addition to your two Class Skills (one for each Class chosen) you pick 5 additional skills which, as mentioned above, are comprised of Class and Support Skills. You must have at least one Class Skill and one Support Skill but other than that, any combination is allowed. 

For example, you could have:


After getting your skills together, the PC grabs some Equipment. Equipment comes in three forms: Items, Weapons, and Armor. A PC may have as many Items as their Intelligence Score and as much Weapons and Armor as their Body +2. 

Let's jump over to the game's namesake element...

Spaceships

In the tradition of many prior Space Opera TRPGs, your group's Spaceship is their home, means of travel, best weapon and defense, and heck, practically a member of the family. 



Each player gets to decide on two components that are installed on their crew's Spaceship. These items are derived from a list of 16 'parts' that give benefits/bonuses to the PCs when on board or when fighting ship-to-ship battles. You can have things like a Medical Pod that can restore Body and Mental Power or a Prison/Brig capable of holding a captured Space Pirate or Monster. Other choices include Dining Room/Mess Hall, Library, and a Virtual Theatre. 

As an aside, FTL Travel is achieved in an interesting way in the Space Ship Story 'setting'; a big tube on the front of your vessel (reminiscent of the Wave Motion Gun from Space Battleship Yamato), known as a Devastator Cannon, fires a beam so powerful it tears a whole in Space/Time. How's that for epic? The starship then travels through the wormhole it created and fires again to re-enter our reality.

Crew, Followers, and other NPCs

NPCs and how they are handled in the game is an element I find particularly interesting. During an interview with the game's creator, Mr. Hatta, he mentioned that one of the key inspirations for the game was an idea he had for 'One Piece in Space'. In each Space Ship Story scenario you are expected to meet at least one NPC that becomes or is revealed to be an enemy, an ally, a old acquaintance, or even a new crew member. Think about that last one. It means that not only are the PCs likely to be picking up NPC followers along the way but this concept creates a built in way to add new players to your campaign with relative ease.

Gamemaster Tools

There are some really intriguing bits here but I haven't completely finished translating this section. There are pages covering scenario and villain design, as well a really neat idea called Master Points.

These points, based on the number of PCs and their overall experience level, can be spent by the GM to perform certain 'cheat code' actions. It seems a little like Threat from Star Trek Adventures [and other 2D20 system games]. Examples include spending 1 MP to re-roll an NPC's Judgement Roll or to create a 'Singularity' Critical Success.

In closing...
 
Space Ship Story feels like something I myself might have created. While all the parts fit together like a well made Gunpla model, its really an expertly assembled kitbash. The individual parts seem to have come from a bunch of other kits and then reworked to form a cohesive new product. 

The Character Creation rules resemble the Templates of Last Unicorn Games' Star Trek RPG (the ICON System). The basic die mechanic is essentially classic Traveller. The Master Points remind me of Threat from Star Trek Adventures as noted above. It has a Drama/Hero Point mechanic, albeit with a twist. 

I am honestly loving this game. It just works. It's fun. The combination of one of my favorite approaches to Character Creation with the really cool way the game treats the Spaceship has totally won me over. I also see it having a lot of potential to work with other genres. For example, this approach to Classes would make for much more enticing Fantasy Characters, at least for me.

That's all for now. More to come...




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Barking Alien

I would like to acknowledge the passing of the immeasurably talented and influential Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dr. Slump, Dragonball, and Dragonball Z. Mr. Toriyama died on March 1st at the age of 68.

Rest in Peace.