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Steven Siddall
There is no better tagline than "Killing Dimension Action"!
There is no better tagline than "Killing Dimension Action"!

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Hey! I'm curious. Anyone got any good cyberpunk music recommendations? I know we had a post a bit ago, and that was great, but it merely whetted my appetite for more!

All I can offer at the moment is the soundtrack for anime cyberpunk bartending visual novel VA-11 HALL-A, which, well, some tracks are more cyberpunk-y than others, but not everything hits it right.

Hey, so. Appearance Checks.

I've always been puzzled by them. They seem so... well, to be honest, unnecessary? I can't wrap my head around why they exist at all, what use they are, or why I should even use them. How do you fellows treat them?

I'm pretty sure they exist in most, though not all, JRPGs these days, and the only place I've seen them make sense was Tokyo Nova (there, it simulates security checkpoints, and your gear, according to the size, gives you penalties to appearing).

Where did they come from, anyway? What game started the trend? Anyone know?

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A TRPG called "Colossal Hunter". I guess it'll be for conventions only? I'm not sure, but anyway. The basics of it is, humanity's been nearly wiped out by giant monsters called Colossals. Colossal Hunters then came about and starting fighting back. The game is about the toubatsu of those Colossals using huge weapons (you can see some in the art in the link), collecting Colossal parts, and then making huger weapons to toubatsu huger Colossals. Looks fun, anyway!

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(This turned into a long-winded speech. TL;DR: I'm closing in on finishing Kamigakari, and excited. I give a bit more preview of how character creation works.)

So I mentioned Kamigakari a bit ago, right? If you don't remember, you can read it in the link below. Well, since then I've been off and on translating the core book. I'm only an N4 or so in level (I've never taken the test, that's just about my feeling), so my translation is uh... rough. But I would say readable and, when I'm done, certainly playable.

But it's not done! Not yet. I started in January of 2016, and now it's October of the same year. I'm... very, very close. Prologue, World Section, Rule Section, and (most of the) GM Section are all done. (I say 'most of' on the GM Section because the only things I didn't do were the monsters, which are largely just collections of numbers anyway, and the two sample scenarios.)

Now I'm working on the Player Section, which is to say, the fun stuff. And I'm suitably impressed by what I see. The rules of the game have already interested me, but the character design in terms of how you make up your character are all pretty good, in my opinion. Rikizou (the author) seems to have a keen grasp of how to make Talents (the 'powers' if you will) work for the flavor. Just about everything fits together both mechanically and flavor-wise, and it makes me usually sit up and say "dang, I want to play that!"

The brief overview of how it works is, your character first picks a Race. This goes from boring humans, to Scions (the descendants of demigods and other legendary figures), Darkstalkers (夜魔 but ain't no one stopping that train, they're exactly what they sound like even!), Hanyou (half-breed didn't sound right, but you're descendant from Tengu or luck gods or the like), and Magus (Type-MOON style where you're all about inheriting your family's research and spells). Then once you've chosen the Race, you've got to choose a stat tendency: Combat, General, or Magic. Combat leans to Strength and Agility, General leans to average with a slight lean on Luck, and Magic to Intellect and Will. This means any race can be any class, just like D&D always wanted to be. Each Race also comes with a selection of Talents (the 'powers' if you will.)

Then, you pick not one, but two classes (or 称号 which I've called Styles.) Each Style further breaks down into two Types, A and B. Type A is generally offensive, Type B is defensive. When you pick your Style, you also pick a Type, and while you can double down on a Style, you have to pick both Type A and B of that Style. Doubling down might be worth it because only one of your Styles can be your Main Style, which allows you to take certain powerful Talents, specific to that Style.

That's the basic core of what makes up a character, but there's so much flexibility inherent in it that you can make some truly out there characters. For example, Arc Slayer is the first Style. Type A is the Type you want to play if you just want to hit things as hard as possible. It has incredibly high burst damage potential, and some of its abilities work by stacking other abilities. In other systems this would be like saying, "Each time you use a minor or free action to buff yourself, you get even more buffs to your damage." Type B meanwhile doesn't have that damage potential--instead, it works on a flurry-of-blows style, in the sense that its automatic Talent you get for selecting it is "if you succeed at your evasion, you counterattack." And there's abilities that let you make the Evasion check for another player, and then counterattack off that. And then there's Talents that let you charge and counter, or counter into an area attack, or just do MORE COUNTERS because, yeah.

Then you've got Dragon Carrier. This Style lets you crystallize spirit energy, and if you look at the cover of the book, the guy in the back with the guns is wearing that crystallized spirit energy. It's specifically described as the Style for magical girls and henshin heroes. Type A works through DPS--it's less 'huge numbers' than Arc Slayer A, but consistent about it. And moreover, it has somewhat more defensive capabilities, and also defensive penetration abilities. Type B meanwhile is where you go if you just want to stop giving a crap about damage, and gain an ability to take damage for others at range.

The last thing I've translated so far (there's three other Styles I haven't gotten to yet) is Dark Hunter. Basically, you're a ninja. However, where Arc Slayer and Dragon Carrier are "Combat" types, this is the first "General" type. So even though its Type A is HIGHLY MOBILE, it's not really focused on huge damage numbers (it can do okay at it). Type B meanwhile has heal effects and movement support effects (as in, 'ally, you move now and you get the hell out of the area attacking monster's range'). But its auto ability is insane--it lets you switch places with the target. No roll. The target can't refuse. It just happens. And moreover, if this Style is your Main? You can get a Talent that lets you use that switch teleport twice a round, from anywhere in the combat zone.

The trick is that all of these abilities work together. For example, Arc Slayer A has that ability that gives +10 damage bonus when you use certain Talents. It doesn't actually care if those are Arc Slayer Talents, Dragon Carrier Talents, Dark Hunter Talents, or even a racial talent. So long as it fits the bill, it works. Meanwhile Dragon Carrier A has an ability that lowers the cost of physical attack actions, which works with anything that says "Physical Attack" on it. And you can freely mix and match these Styles... and hell, later on, there's Talents you can get that add a 3rd and even 4th Style!

I'm rambling. I'm just excited! I've been working on this for months, and now I'm extremely close to the end. There's 54 pages left of raw translation and all of that is just player data, which is the easiest stuff (for me). Once I finish, I'll need to rewrite it and edit it all, then put it in a fancy PDF or something. My Japanese skills have grown immensely just due to the repeated, blunt force approach of translating something I really want to see translated, and while it's occasionally frustrating (what the hell IS a 秘奥 anyway, or a 神秘 for that matter), I'm super looking forward to finishing this up and having some fun with my friends. Hopefully you guys can have fun with it too!

So, after doing the rule summary put up on FEAR's website, I went ahead and ordered Code: Layered, and thought I'd continue what I started. So this'll be a kind of review of the book, but my Japanese isn't great enough to easily grab hold of anything but the mechanics, so I'll be primarily focused on that.

To begin with, I have to say this is probably one of the best 'feeling' books I've ever gotten from FEAR. I mean that physically; the book is kind of hefty at 250+ pages, but the paper is of a thicker weight than I'm used to, the binding is better, there's more glossy pages, and just in general it feels like a solid book, despite being softcover. It feels like the Kamigakari book, actually. In any case, if you've held a real FEAR book, it'll look mostly the same on the inside, but with more art than is standard (which was surprising to see, since most of their more recent stuff has just the cover art, sample characters, and not much else.)

Likewise, if you've played a FEAR game before at all (particularly DoubleCross), you'll find yourself very at home with the mechanics and character creation. You've got Strength, Agility, Perception, Intelligence, Willpower, and Luck as your stats. You'll have a number for that stat, generally between 1 and 6, and this represents how many d10's you roll. Each stat also has a number of skills attached to it, such as Martial Arts, Search, and Negotiation. If you have points in these, you add that many d10's to your roll for checks.

Your character is made up of three choices, essentially, that define a good deal of their base stats: Code, Style Class, and Layer Class. Code is sort of the 'sell' of the setting. It's the mentality and such of a figure of legend. There are 47 Codes in the book for you to choose from, which sets your base stats, HP, MP, initiative, and gives you some pertinent skills, along with a talent/ability of some kind. I won't go into exhaustive detail, but the list of Codes is pretty far-ranging. You've got King Arthur, Gilgamesh, Jeanne D'Arc, Florence Nightengale, Arsene Lupin (not the Third, alas), Jack the Ripper, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. To name but a few. Some of them are even monstrous, it seems, as they have Cerberus, Basilisk, and even Dracula. So, yeah, there's some choice.

There are only three Style Classes, which essentially define your, I'd say, 'role' though it doesn't seem as rigid as say, Grancrest or Log Horizon. Breaker is focused on attacking and dealing massive damage. Checker is focused on hindering the enemy. Supporter is... you can probably guess. These also provide you with more HP, MP, and Initiative depending on the choice. After that, you need to choose your Layer Class, which represents how you use your Code. I mean this in the sense that apparently you generate 'something' based on the class. For example, the Arms class generates their Code via weapons. You get access to a unique set of items which are basically things like 'Cursed Spear' or 'Hero's Bow' or 'Forbidden Book'. Veil meanwhile generates their Code as armor or accessories. Sentinel seems to be almost like a 'summon'--it stays with you at all times. Magi generates good old fashioned spells, and Shadow seems to work like a Persona or a Stand.

I've only briefly glanced at the talents, but they seem to be your typical FEAR design. Most abilities buff your numbers, inflict bad statuses, or recover from them, and some manipulate your dice (for example the Magi Layer Class's automatically acquired talent lets you set any one die you rolled to a '1' which is a critical.) Overall they don't appear very exciting, and the use of MP is, in my opinion, an outdated resource mechanic, but some people may enjoy it. Items seem to be stat sticks like most FEAR games as well, so there's not really much in the way of changed design there.

Now, battles... battles are something a little interesting. They call it the 'Assault System', and it uses an 'Assault Map'. This is kind of like a grid, except not exactly. Instead it focuses more on zones, a bit like Fate Core. Several zones will connect in some manner, with lines drawn between them, and when you move you can shift to an adjacent zone. The zones don't really care about exact distance or placement, the more important thing is that they exist, and also, what kind of line is drawn between them. For instance, one line might stipulate that only flying characters can move through it into the Zone beyond it, or(/and?!) it might be a one-way trip, at least through that route.

Where the game really blows up is that they use this to simulate fighting on a massive enemy! That's right, kaiju battling, and you're just a piddly human on foot! The first sample boss enemy is a humongous quadraped mechabeast that had six zones making up its layout. The PCs begin the fight in one of them, then the huge boss itself had two zones where it could attack from and be attacked, while also having skeleton soldiers and wyverns rolling around on top of it to get in the PCs' way! Another enemy in the book looks like a giant enemy crab called a Factory Shell, which literally has a factory on its back. It's eight zones big, and had four points on which to attack (the PCs started in two other zones, and the final two zones were locked away behind 'air lines' so you'd need to be able to fly to access them).

I couldn't glean much from the setting aside from the fact it is indeed near future (2116!), and it's set on Earth, where humanity is corralled into only a few walled cities, which combined with the massive enemy thing, makes it feel a bit Attack on Titan. While it's a touch disappointing that some 'sacred cows' (I haven't used that one in awhile) can't be discarded entirely, at least it seems like this game is trying something new with its combat, and who doesn't love a good kaiju battling as an anime hero?

If you're curious, ask me something and I'll see if I can't come up with an answer. The one I know most people will be asking is: can you change your Code, and I don't think you can, alas.

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So there's this new game coming out from FEAR and Roll & Role called Code: Layered. I had originally dismissed it as "it's going to be like every other FEAR game," but during JGC I saw Rikizou tweeting about it, which made me reconsider. Rikizou's the guy who did Kamigakari and Sacred Dragoon and I love his work, so I decided, hey, maybe this needs another look. The book is on sale today, so FEAR put up its website, and I decided as today's warm up I'd translate the rules summary for it! Enjoy.

So I've been slowly working on Kamigakari, though a combination of mild burnout and lots of work have left me just reading it rather than translating it, for the moment. But, what I've been reading has been really neat. Today I'd like to talk a bit about the 武装システム, or Arms System.

In Kamigakari, the PCs are all Godhunters, and as Godhunters, they have access to 人造神器 or what I'm calling False Regalia. This is opposed to 神成神器 (what I'm calling Godforged Regalia), which are the real, actual items of legend like the Excalibur or whatnot. False Regalia in contrast are just what humans (or similar) make in trying to copy the Godforged. So basically, copies or redesigns or "inspired-bys" of the Excalibur (or whatever) that are not nearly as good as the Excalibur, but still amazing enough to hurt Aramitama.

Mechanically, what happens here is that instead of buying from a list of pre-made items, you buy first, a "form" for your weapon. This is a very wide range of things and just about every book, including the replays, have more and more forms. These give your Regalia its basic stats--how much damage it does, whether it can be used one, or two handed, or if it's a hand-and-a-half. Etc, etc. There's really nothing revolutionary about this part of it. It's when you get to the 追加効果 (Additional Effects) and 素材合成 (Material Synthesis) that it starts to shine.

So let's say by now you've decided you want a Two-Handed Sword form. This can be literally anything you want it to be, from an odachi to a claymore to a chainsaw because that's how little the system cares what it looks like. Now, you look at the Additional Effects, and see which of them appeals to you. These effects range from simple things like +3 damage to "once per combat, when an enemy fails their dodge check, you can move them up to 2 squares in any direction." Pay the cost, and that effect gets slapped onto your Regalia forevermore. This lets you tailor your weapon to be uniquely suited to your tastes and playstyle.

Material Synthesis meanwhile is a smaller system that relies on getting materials from Mononoke. It's a bit Monster Hunter here, actually. Materials can have various stats, like making your weapon deal specific types of elemental damage, or giving you very slight numerical budges. All you need to do is pay 1G, use the material with the effect you want, and it's slotted in... permanently, mind you. While most games allow you to swap these things around, I guess the designer wanted you to think about it and tailor it specifically to your tastes. In short, Additional Effects are like modding out your weapon with tacticool bits in an FPS shooter, whereas Material Synthesis is like slotting materia.

And now, here's the truly fun part. You see, Regalia are special because they have tiny Shards in them. This means they're partly sentient in that they can at least seem to have emotion. So it only makes sense in something that feels... you give it a name, right? So at the end of the item section, there's a bunch of d66 ROC tables sorted by Form to give your Regalia a unique and befitting name.

Rolling just right now, I got 天空の for the first part, and then (assuming a two-handed sword like the above example!) 豪剣 for the last, making it 天空の豪剣 or Tenkuu no Gouken! ...Or, if I were trying to make it sound cool in English, the Overwhelming Etherial Sword!

There's also portions of this system I'm not yet familiar with. In another book, they introduce the Legacy-User Title, which lets you obtain a Real Ass Godforged. And this looks to be an additional layer over the Arms System template. You pick, say, a normal two-handed sword like I did, and then add the 王者の剣 (King's Sword) Godforged template on top of it, which boosts its base stats, gives it additional abilities, and then--and this is cool--it gives you additional abilities as you level up, including unique Godforged Effects. But mind you, like I said, it's just the King's Sword... not *which* king's sword. It lets you define its story by just giving you the barest essentials and templates to pile on each other, rather than saying: this is Excalibur, and this is what it does, according to us.

Cool, huh?

Hey, so my partner and I were talking about Group SNE RPGs, and I recalled I had bought End Breakers! a bit ago but was too busy to give it a read. Pulled it off the shelf and read it, and wow, that's a cool little system!

I remember +Claytonian JP was the one that got me interested in the first place. Is there perchance a translation, even a rough one, floating around?

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Whew. I'm not dead, I've just been busy! Hello, I'm back again with another super-rough, not-very-good-but-readable translation of Kamigakari! This time I have the rules section. You'll find that even though the terms are (very) different, it looks a heck of a lot like a SRS game, except in ways that are awesome. I apologize for the lack of quality or editing; think of this as more a preview than anything.


Spirit Energy Manipulation. You roll 4d6 at the start of every round in combat, or the start of a scene, and set those dice aside. Whenever you make a check, you can swap dice from your Spirit Pool out with dice you actually rolled. Spirit Pool dice are used to fuel abilities, and when you use a Talent, you pay it by removing those dice from your Spirit Pool (they get rerolled and added back to your pool at the start of the next round of combat or scene).

Soul Ignite. You start with 22 points of Art (it says Crest, but I've recently decided to change that.) Depending on the number of Bonds you've formed (think Loises in DX, or Connections in lots of other games, or Bonds in PbtA stuff!), you can add more dice to your roll, recover HP (that second thing is a mis-translation!), or do ridiculous damage. Those all cost Art, however. And if, by the end of the session, you've got negative values of Art, then you perform a check. If you've still got negative values... well. You might turn into an Aramitama.

Rule Breaks. These are a neat way to do skill challenges. So say you find a Haunting. You roll Luck to do the Sense stunt, and depending on how well you do, you learn nothing, or a little bit, or everything, about that Rule Break. This lets you evaluate whether you want to Break it, or Erase (Purge?) it. Breaking it buffs you and recovers your Art, but you take damage and penalties, and the boss is also buffed. Purging it takes a roll, however, and if you fail, you get none of the upsides of breaking and all of the downsides. If you win, you get the upsides, but not the downsides.

Super looking forward to finishing the rest of this, but my groups are heavily invested in Grancrest at the moment. I'm actually working on a huge spreadsheet of all the various data options across the five books, for that, so look for that soon?

Although recently I've said I wanted to translate all of Kamigakari, I kind of got sidetracked part way through the rules section when my usual anime/Japanese games-focused group decided to try Grancrest. Since then I've been busily translating the rules from Book 2 to use in my own campaign (rules on a Lord's Flag, dead zones, and other things.)

Grancrest has been an interesting experience, though. At first, when I started to really push my Japanese skills and start translating this stuff for fun, I would eagerly devour anything at all that looked interesting. Things like Age of the Galaxy, Monotone Museum, Full Metal Panic! (FMP! is absolutely one of my favorite anime shows). Over time, however, I sort of realized that pretty much anything stamped with the SRS sign, and indeed many things that were based in SRS... kind of had no flavor?

Take, for instance, Night Wizard 3. While I didn't translate that whole book, by the end of my work on it, I was thoroughly burnt out and realized I didn't actually even like it that much. Almost every ability is either a passive or a bland set of mechanics that didn't really DO much. There were some hints of interesting design--for instance, the Dark Hero getting stronger the more Bad Statuses they were inflicted with, and their ability to manipulate and mitigate those Bad Statuses--but overall, everything more or less felt the same.

This bring me to think about games that are based in SRS but try to break the mold a little, like DoubleCross. To be honest, I'm not DoubleCross's greatest fan--mechanically speaking. I think it's a great setting and has lots of interesting details, but the wildly swingy dice don't interest me, and many of the powers stop at "add more dice" or "add a flat bonus" despite the ability combo them. This is just my opinion anyway, I certainly don't hate it! But in any case, this gets me back to Grancrest.

Grancrest is written by the same guy who designed DoubleCross, Shunsaku Yano. If you know nothing else about Grancrest, it also features a world setting designed by Ryo Mizuno, who you might know from Record of Lodoss War. But with Grancrest, what's interesting is the impact of one's abilities. There ARE many abilities that just add some damage, true. But then you get to things like "Meteor Projection."

Meteor Projection is a level 10 Summoning spell, the capstone spell of summoning magic. It targets a huge area, inflicts fire and crushing damage, wipes out any kind of terrain effects where it hits, and inflicts extra damage on structures and huge enemies. The damage isn't actually stellar, but it's the fact that it can reshape entire battlefields (and can be used from long distance) that amazes me. It's a tactical spell that I can see being easily used in a mass combat to reshape the battlefield to being something more advantageous to you and your allies. It just has a greater deal of impact, and this is just one example of things that I feel have better mechanical flavor.

Now I'm not saying DoubleCross is boring or badly designed. But it does feel a little like FEAR products seem to get... the taste washed out of them a bit? Tokyo Nova The Axleration is the only game I've read so far that seemed to not have that problem, and that might be more attributed to the fact that TNX is the baby of Suzufuku Tarot, the head of FEAR. (I've already forgotten his real name. Andy, if you read this, please do not hate me for my inability to remember Japanese names!)

In any case, I'm not saying Grancrest is perfect, it's just interesting to see what designers like Shunsaku Yano do when they're not designing for someone else, but (and I might be wrong on this?) for themselves.
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