Chibi RPG: Some Initial Ideas

15 06 2015

So I have a lot of chibi miniatures. I have the original Super Dungeon Explore, Super Dungeon Explore: Forgotten King, Arcadia Quest Board Game, and Arcadia Quest – Beyond the Grave.  Hopefully (yet doubtfully) I will also receive Ninja All-Stars by year end.

With such a cornucopia of celluloid characters to choose, I’ve started ruminating on a chibi rpg. I realize that there are a few systems specifically designed for manga, but I find them clunky, tendentious and often out of print.

For those not in-the-know. Chibi anime and manga are dominated by motifs of cuteness. It’s a world of wonder that boarders on the naïve. Think Pokémon; think Dragon Ball Z; think those Dragon Quest games.

With all this in mind, I’ve come up with a few general ideas for how to adapt Pathfinder for a chibi campaign:

  1. Everyone is good, deep down inside. All the player characters (PCs) have a good alignment. All NPCs are good as well. Heck, even reoccurring villains have the chance of redemption upon defeat.
  2. Zero hit points does not mean death. No player death. No NPC death. Even the lowly 1st level kobolds simply get knocked unconscious when they run out of hit points.
  3. No coup de grâce. This might seem redundant after the last few, but even when your enemy is lying on the ground defeated, there’s no coup de grâce. Sure, you can loot their unconscious bodies; but about five minutes after you leave they will wake up and wander off. Some of these characters will disappear, but many will become reoccurring villains or even positive NPCs.
  4. Fewer player races. There are simply too many races in Pathfinder that don’t fit the chibi aesthetic. I’m thinking of pairing it down to three: humans, elves (or simply “pointy ears”), and furries (cat people, fox people, bear people, etc.). For one thing, this fits most of my minis. For another, it allows for a better chance of explaining how the characters know each other. Which remind me…
  5. Characters know each other. None of this starting in a tavern. The characters are old friends who have grown up together. Period. As a matter of fact, almost everyone knows the PCs, even if the PCs don’t know them. And if it happens that an encounter starts without that knowledge, exposition is built into the fight. Chibi works with the kind of transparent information that you find in Monkey: Folk Novel of China or even The Iliad. You need to know who you are fighting, because you are a good guy.
  6. Weird animal companions. Part of the reason for keeping this rpg in a standard system like Pathfinder is to keep it simple, but there would need to be some modification of animal companions and familiars. Latitude will need to be taken so that the cuteness can shine through. Sentient meat pies, fluffy balls of colour and wisecracking cats are all acceptable animal companions. Lions, tigers and bears? Not so much.
  7. Everything levels up. Obviously characters level up. But, so should there weapons. And, so should animal companions, NPCs and the ever-present villains. This does not mean that I encourage “the treadmill,” but if you were given your grandfather’s awesome sword of awesomeness, it only makes sense that as you get better, so does it. This might be through some innate talent of the weapon, side quests designed for the tasks or maybe just specially tailored feats. Same goes with that little pink fluff ball of a familiar you have. Maybe at level 5 it gains an elemental power; at level ten it can puff up and fly you around.

There are more ideas bopping around in my head, but this will do for now.

RPG Musings Part 2: How Small Can You Go?

26 09 2014

My Iron Kingdoms game ground to a halt a few weeks back when all members of the party present were knocked unconscious by a sinister baddy, unsure if they will ever wake up.* After this indeterminate TPK, we’ve taken a vacation from the Iron Kingdoms to play other games (specifically a 5th Edition home brew of Eberon, but that’s another story). This has left me trapped in my head thinking, musing and generally scheming of role playing scenarios.

One question I keep coming back to is this: how small can I make a role playing adventure?

Now, by small I do not mean short. I mean as in physically petite. To understand, keep in mind my love of terrain, war games and Iron Kingdoms. In other words: Could I make a single piece of terrain and play an entire campaign using nothing but that terrain?

I’d like to think this is possible. I even think it could be amazingly beneficial. With a limited locale it is possible to go deeper both in terms of story and player interaction. I’ve been involved in a “sandbox” campaign with no over-arching story that allowed the party to roam far and wide. What happened was that we never stayed anywhere long enough to build a story. We just hacked and whacked.

What if the party was physically in one place and could not leave? What would they do? How would they interact? What if instead of going to the monsters, the monsters came to them? What if they were the monsters? etc. etc.

In truth, I think the wanderlust would be too much. But, what if the locale was an air ship? A zeppelin? A floating town? Hmmmm….

I’m not sure where these musing will lead. I love terrain. I have a 2′ x 2′ MDF board sitting in the basement begging to be transformed into a little world. Would it be possible for 4-5 characters to exist in that space? That’s 144′ x 144′ in scale—roughly half an American football field. What story could I write in that world? What scenario could I create to keep my players interested?

Maybe this is my players’ future?

* I need to qualify “all members present” because one crucial member decided to go play skee ball instead of show up and in some ways helped cause the existential dilemma for the rest of the party. Oddly, his absence might all provide an option for GM hand waving to allow the story to continue later.

RPG Musings Part 1: Who controls the story?

3 08 2014

I’ve had a lot of role-playing-game musings as of late and need a place to sort some of them out. This is the first of (hopefully) a multi-part series on pen-and-paper RPGs. While there are a lot of things to talk about from crunch to fluff to the relationship of this genre to other forms of geekery (e.g. tactical war games, LARPing, etc), I want to start with story.

Lately I’ve been looking at systems that allow for more story telling without overtaxing anyone person at the table. Several systems seem to be “story optional.” As much as I love them both Iron Kingdoms RPG Core Rules and Pathfinder seem not to care about the story. You can play each as basically skirmisher board games without any problems. This has forced me to look at the problem from different angles and look at other systems for help.

So who controls the story in your typical RPG? There are several possible answers here.

1) One one level, there’s the game master/dungeon master. The persons who are “running the game” obviously have a lot of control over the story. They at bare minimum tell provide description and colour to a scene and arbitrate the rules of an encounter. However they might also be the game designer (or at least the game tinkerer who has adapted a scenario to fit the party or larger story arc).

Some systems, such as the Fantasy Flight Star Wars Edge of The Empire RPG Core Rulebook, place even more of the story in the GM’s hands by having them improvise story elements based off of dice rolls. What does it mean that a player succeeds with a disadvantage? Well, that’s up to the GM to show. The GM in such systems either has too much power over players or becomes fatigued by the system forcing them to do too much.

2) On another level the story is also in the hands of the players. Players (at least should) have names, backstories, hopes and dreams, and other narrative hooks that help tie them to each other and the adventure. These narrative elements can (AND SHOULD) influence the story in the mind of the GM.

Some systems put an amazing amounts likewise put even more of the story into the players’ hands. I recently ran through the beta of Dark. It’s a fascinating system that forces the players to come up with a narrative explanation of why they are using the skills/abilities/card that they are to overcome a certain obstacle. My gaming group had some problems with this, but the idea is sound.

Another two systems that builds player story building into the very fabric of the mechanics are the Fate: Core System and the Cortex Role Playing Game System. I’ve played both and like them. They allow for the players to build the narrative with the GM. Always a nice bit

3) Of course, if you are using a pre-generated adventure/module there is a game designer somewhere in the background here as well. This is often where issues of rail-roading come into play. Indeed, if you are in an established world (Eberon, Forgotten Realms, Iron Kingdoms, Star Wars, etc.) there is even more of an issue. Does what the players and GM are doing change the canon? Are the players always relegated to the periphery of the world with only voyeuristic glimpses at Yoda or Drizzt?

Dark puts too much onus on the players. Star Wars puts too much on the GM. Fate just seems to overtax everyone from what I can tell. The best I’ve played with has been Cortex. However, that’s might be a function of the group I’ve been in more than the system itself.

Dire Bat with Rider

5 03 2014

At D&D two weeks ago my Gnome ranger performed a 24 hour ritual to gain a dire bat as an animal companion and mount. Of course, this necessitated a new mini! Yesterday I received a Dire Bat with Rider from Stonehaven Miniatures. Here’s a rough job on my new bad-ass bat-riding miniature.


Rather than just placing the dire bat on a 25mm base, I used a GW flight base. This meant having to drill a pretty substantial hole in my poor bat’s belly, but the payoff is worth it. The rider is removable, which will come in hand to switch it for my usual miniature, a modified Marius Burrowell, Gnome thief.

Now that I look at it more closely via the picture, the bat still needs a bit of shading around the eyes and more pink in the ears. But, it will be good enough for D&D this week.

D and D Character

5 08 2013

According to a survey of 129 questions I took…

I Am A: Chaotic Neutral Halfling Wizard (6th Level)

Ability Scores:







Chaotic Neutral A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn’t strive to protect others’ freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it. Chaotic neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society’s restrictions and a do-gooder’s zeal. However, chaotic neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it seeks to eliminate all authority, harmony, and order in society.

Halflings are clever, capable and resourceful survivors. They are notoriously curious and show a daring that many larger people can’t match. They can be lured by wealth but tend to spend rather than hoard. They prefer practical clothing and would rather wear a comfortable shirt than jewelry. Halflings stand about 3 feet tall and commonly live to see 150.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard’s strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)