- Atmo 26(Atmo)Brazil
I’ve been lurking on the Something Awful traditional gaming forum for a while now, and I finally registered when they took an interest in Japanese RPGs. This is a compilation of the overview of the Arianrhod rulebook that I posted up in several parts there.
F.E.A.R. is one of Japan’s major TRPG publishers, and they’re pretty prolific. Looking at their website right now I see just over 20 titles listed, and I know there are a few out of print ones besides. For a while now (well after Tenra Bansho though) they’ve been using minor variations on a house system, which from Alshard Gaia (a mashup of Alshard and present-day Earth) onwards they’ve made into an open-ish system called SRS, or “Standard RPG System.” Arianrhod is one of those games, so Alshard and others are fairly similar to it. Arianrhod (named for a Celtic deity, though IIRC in the game it’s the human God of Luck) is their cute fantasy game, in the style of CRPGs like Ragnarok Online and Dragon Quest.
I have the old version of the 1st edition rulebook; they came out with a version with a less chibified cover, and then more recently they came out with a 2nd Edition that I haven’t looked at yet.
The rulebook starts with an introductory mini-comic, the gist of which is basically “Yay adventure!” From there the introduction has an outline of the book and explains some of the very basics of RPGs, and includes the Golden Rule (a.k.a. Rule Zero). One common thread in Japanese TRPGs is that there’s pretty much always a GM, and the rulebooks often play up the GM having supreme authority over the game.
Then comes the Characters chapter. It gives an outline of the ability scores, classes, and races, and then has the rules for making characters. Like most F.E.A.R. games, it has two methods of character creation: Quick Start and Construction. Quick Start means you pick an archetype and copy it onto your character sheet (or print out the PDF from their website), and Construction is more or less like a standard RPG.
Let ’s go through the steps for Construction:
First you pick your Main Class. Your options are Warrior, Acolyte (which is basically a D&D cleric), Mage, or Thief. Then you pick a Support Class. This can be one of the Main Classes (and you can double up if you like), or you can pick from Samurai, Monk, Summoner, Ranger, Alchemist, or Bard. The next step is to pick a race, and the choices are Hurin (Human), Eldernarn (Elf), Nevaf (Dward), Firbol (Hobbits, basically), Varna (which have animal features, so you can be a catgirl or whatever), and Duan (big bruiser types with horns).
The ability scores are Strength, Skill, Agility, Intelligence, Perception, Will, and Luck. To get your ability scores, you start with your race’s base scores. Humans have all 8s and 9s, but scores vary between 6 and 12. Varna are incredibly agile (12), while Duan are amazingly strong (12). Your main class and support class each add +1 to three different scores, and that’s it. Some other F.E.A.R. games give you a handful of points to assign how you want, but in general the scores are determined first and foremost by your choices. Once you add them all up, you divide by 3 (round down) to get the number you actually add to rolls.
Next comes Skills. In Japanese TRPGs “skills” almost always vary between a Feat and a Power in D&D4e terms, and F.E.A.R. likes to put them in little boxes too. For Arianrhod you pick 1 racial skill, you get the Automatic Skills of each of your classes, plus 2 skills from your main class and 1 from your support class. In the core rulebook there are 3 skills for each race and 15 for each class (including the one Automatic Skill). In this game most everything has an English (or Engrish) name written phonetically in Japanese, and some of them use somewhat obscure words (there’s a Bard skill called “Busker” that lets you earn gold while in town by performing) or a little misplaced. Many (but not all) skills let you level them up by spending more skill selections on them.
From there you write down your HP and MP, each of which is the sum of the values provided by your two classes (and these vary between 6 and 14), and your Fate Points (everyone gets 5 to start). Note than MP here stands for “Mental Points,” which is why some martial type Skills have an MP cost.
From there you get your items, and if you use the optional guild rules in the back of the book you set that up now. It also has guidelines for “personal data,” basically some character bio type stuff, with optional charts you can roll on.
This section also has the character growth rules. The GM hands out XP, which you can use to raise your class level (which means you increase your HP, MP, and attributes, and get one more class skill from either class), or you can spend it to buy more Fate Points, or you can spend it to change classes.
So For Example
I decide to make a Varna Thief/Thief. The Varna ’s base stats are Strength 8, Skill 7, Agility 12, Intelligence 6, Perception 10, Will 6, and Luck 8. Adding the Thief class bonuses twice gives me Strength 8, Skill 9, Agility 15, Intelligence 6, Perception 12, Will 6, and Luck 8. In terms of what I’d actually roll while playing that means I have Strength +2, Skill +3, Agility +5, Intelligence +2, Perception +4, Will +2, and Luck +2. I also get 18 HP and 22 MP.
Because I can and you can’t stop me, I pick Acrobat as my racial skill (which makes the character a catgirl) and adds +1 to Agility checks aside from Escape Checks.
The automatic skill for thieves is Find Trap, which means that unlike those other suckers I can make trap finding rolls, plus I add my Luck modifier plus my level to the roll. Since I doubled up on one class my level for that skill counts as one higher, which means my total bonus for that at 1st level is +8, which is pretty amazing in this game.
For my other skills I’ll grab Envenom (4 MP to put poison on a weapon, which adds the Skill Level to hit and makes an attack that does damage also cause the Poison status), Streetwise (lets me roll to find info, and add +1 to the roll for every 20 GP spent), and Feint (4 MP to make two attack rolls and take the highest).
I have 500 GP for items, so I get a Baselard (50 GP), a domino (200) and leather jacket (100) for head and body protection, a set of thief tools (50), an adventurer fs kit (10), and 2 HP potions (30 each), leaving me with an extra 30 GP.
The Personal Data section has some life path tables. These are linear, not so complicated as in say Mekton Z, and use their “D66 ROC” method, which is to say you make a tens and ones roll with 2d6 or choose (ROC = Roll Or Choice). I’m gonna just pick based on what’s easy for me to read without having to look up kanji, so I pick Lucky Star (you were born under a star of good fortune and get +3 to your base Luck score), Revenge (someone wronged you and you must take revenge!), and Rebirth (you will rise again, whether from death itself or the depths of despair).
As an aside, the character creation method here is fairly close to other current F.E.A.R. games, but there are a few key differences. Beast Bind (which I think of as their “gonzo manga World of Darkness” game) lets you pick two “Bloods” for different supernatural properties (Spirit, Stranger, Fullmetal, Immortal, etc.) and figure out what your character is for yourself. In Alshard (whose version has become more the default) you start with 3 class levels to distribute (and you can go Level 3 in one, 2 and 1, and level 1 in three classes), and you gain more with XP.
The Rules Section
In Japanese TRPGs what we call action resolution, making checks, etc. is 行為判定/koui hantei, which means something like “action judgment” or “action evaluation.” In Arianrhod, like most F.E.A.R. games, you roll 2d6 and add your ability score bonus, plus any other applicable bonuses to get a result. If it matches or beats the target, you succeed. If you roll snake eyes it’s a Fumble (critical failure), and if you roll boxcars it’s a Critical. Spending a Fate point lets you roll an extra die, and you can spend as many Fate points as your Luck stat on one roll. It goes into opposed rolls too, which are entirely standard.
After that is a section on how a game session goes. This is kind of interesting in that it spells out the overall process kind of explicitly, and doesn’t have quite so much of the Western RPG assumption that it’s okay to just let people puzzle it out. So, it starts with Pre-Play (the GM reads the book, plans a scenario, prints up sheets, etc., and when everyone gets together you make characters and whatnot) then goes on to Main Play (which is divided into scenes at the GM’s discretion, though scene changes don’t do much mechanically), to After Play (award and spend XP, clean up, maybe go to a coffee shop to talk about how it went).
In light of D&D Next I feel I should mention that in Arianrhod every class gets the same number of Skills, so Warriors have every bit as good a selection as Mages. Samurai can take a “Spirit of the Samurai” skill to get a special badass samurai sword too, and upgrade it by putting more skill levels into it. I don’t think it ever even ocurred to them to make fighter types less interesting to play. But anyway.
To start combat, you determine initiative. Each character has an Action Value, which is the sum of their Agility and Perception, plus any modifiers from armor and skills. So if I’m understanding it right my catgirl’s AV is 27 (15 + 12, and her armor has no modifiers). So unless you have something special, your value is static. If there’s a tie, PCs go before NPCs, and if two PCs are tied the players will have to decide.
When it’s your turn, you get one Minor Action and one Major Action, in that order. Minor Actions include moving, readying an item, using certain skills (the catgirl thief’s Envenom skill for example), and recovering from certain status conditions. Certain actions can also call for the target to make a Reaction.
When you attack, you make a Skill check (and now I realize it should probably be Dexterity or Prowess), and the target can make an Agility check for Evasion. If the attacker wins, the attack hits. If the attacker gets a Critical, it takes another Critical to evade it, but a Fumble on an attack always misses. A successful weapon attack does 2d6 damage plus any modifiers from your weapon. (The catgirl’s baselard gives -1 to hit and +3 to damage by the way.) The target’s armor reduces the amount of damage inflicted. The catgirl’s domino and leather jacket take a total of 6 damage off, while a guy in full plate mail with a Cross Helm and Kite Shield would have a defense power of 17 (but -4 to initiative, and that would cost 1500 gold). For magic the base damage depends on the skill you’re using (e.g., the Mage skill Fire Bolt costs 6 MP and does 2D6, plus 1D6 per skill level), while Magic Defense is separate from physical, and based on the character’s Will stat (but there are items that can boost it). You can also spend a Fate Point to add 1D6 damage to an attack. If you get down to zero HP (it never goes below zero) you’re Incapacitated, and someone can kill you with a coup de grace, which is basically just a standard attack on someone who’s Incapacitated. Natural healing is very Final Fantasy; if the GM feels you’ve adequately rested and/or gotten treatment, you jump up to full HP and MP.
These days every F.E.A.R. game has the “Movement and Engagement” rules with the same little diagram (see below). 13th Age actually has something pretty similar, but the basic idea is that in battle you can be in or out of an Engagement. You have to be in one with someone to do a melee attack against them, but to get out of an Engagement when there’s a hostile there you have use a Major Action to use the Escape action. Furthermore, if you’re in a closed space you’ll have to make an opposed Luck check and not have any enemies beat you in order to successfully Escape. They recommend using colored board game pawns or some such to keep track of characters, putting them in and out of groups to show Engagements.
After the combat rules it has a section on the nitty gritty of skill use, a combat example, and then a section titled “Other Rules.”
The first thing here is a section on exploring, which covers stuff like finding traps in dungeons (which requires the thief’s Find Traps skill, and also putting yourself in an engagement with the trap). It also talks about detecting danger (Perception check), identifying enemies (Intelligence check), appraising items (Intelligence), buying and selling items, and how other random sources of damage typically do 2D6.
There’s just over a page reiterating how Fate points work, and then a section on “Spot Rolls,” which basically explains tricky combat situations and what kinds of checks you make to get out of them. Finally, there’s the surprise attack rules, which basically means that the ambushers get an extra Main Process each, not unlike a D&D surprise round.
Up next is the world section, which has about 25 pages on the continent of Erindyll, followed by the GM section (GM advice, guild rules, monsters, and an adventure scenario).
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- Mark HarveyUnited States
Wow! Lots of great information. Thank you for taking the time to write all that out. I have just recently heard about the japanese RPG games, and been trying to learn some more information about them. Information for someone who does not speak Japanese such as myself is difficult to come by.
I find it very facinating the differences in styles between east and west RPG games. Besides your writeup here, the only other game I have had any luck with getting details on is Sword World v2, which has a lot of simularities to this one (though I am sure such a thought is fighting words for someone involved in the scene).
At least as far as using 2d6 as a basis for checks, and having multiple classes, opposed rolls, MP based systems, and armor as DR. Though it seems to be billed as the more complex game of the two, Arianrhod seems to be free of the lookup table Sword World uses on 2d6 checks.
So thank you for sharing. Hopefully there will be more in the future *poke* *hint* as it does not look like these games will find their way across the shore anytime in the near future, for the exact reason I find them so interesting, they have a different style.
btw, does Arianrhod use monster knowledge checks for weaknesses and have small loot tables for each monster like in SW?
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