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Author Topic: [Tokyo Heroes] Shadow Hunter Akuranger  (Read 4433 times)
neko ewen

Posts: 36

My brain is melting

« on: August 28, 2006, 08:46:46 AM »

After letting it sit for a few months I got inspired and finally managed to finish up the first draft of Tokyo Heroes, my sentai RPG, and when I announced to my group that I wanted to do a playtest I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they were all up for it the following week. Last week we made characters, and last night was the first session of actual gameplay. I've never had playtesting be quite this useful before. I've put up my current draft of the game on my website here, by the way.

Character Creation
Last week was the first session of playtesting Tokyo Heroes. It wound up consisting of just making characters, though the entire four hours or so were actually utilized well for the game, and Iíve already got a lot of ideas for revisions to make.

The game is set up so that the entire group needs to meet together to come up with characters, which is a largely unavoidable consequence of the genre and the way the game approaches it, so some of the time was spent on me walking everyone through the process verbally at once. On the other hand, in the course of the session I had five players decide, through an extended discussion, on the concept, details, and names of their sentai team and its special powers and gizmos. I mostly took a back seat, and offered ideas or suggestions mainly either to make the game more manageable for me, or to keep the discussion from dragging too much. I have some very creative friends, albeit sometimes with very different creative sensibilities, but one of the things I took away from the session is that itís not necessarily a bad thing for the GM to work out these details in advance. Although everyone, myself included, seems to be happy with the end result, I suspect that if Iíd came up with the sentai teamís details in advance we couldíve had the characters made in less than an hour.

The other thing is that while the character creation rules seem relatively sound, I absolutely needed to rethink how I arranged them in the book. Originally, I had the steps for determining the teamís common traits come first, all at once, and then the ones for the individual characters come after that. And I completely managed to forget that some of the Team Edges need to be personalized for each individual character. Every character has a Special Attack, but for a sentai group each of them has flavor text for it being a different special weapon. While the character creation process I wrote up looked good on paper, in practice I found myself jumping around a lot because of that kind of thing. Thereís a definite need for some streamlining here, but itís mostly just the order in which things are arranged. Iím thinking I also need to make some reference sheets for various character traits.

In terms of knowing the genre, the players show quite a range. Chris has watched a lot and done even more research, Mike B. mostly just really likes Dekaranger, Mike S. watched a fair amount of Power Rangers back in the day (and some Dekaranger over the past week), Thinh I think has seen a moderate amount of both PR and sentai (and hopefully some of my Abaranger DVDs too), and Eltonís a total novice (and didnít have time to watch the DVDs I lent him last week). I put on the first two episodes of Boukenger while we were waiting for everyone to show up, and while some gave more input than others, no one was lost, and Elton came up with a very fitting blue ranger.

I had originally planned to have the group make characters, then theyíd watch more sentai while I went into the other room to make up a quick adventure. We didnít start until around 7, like usual (Mike S. had to work), and after 4 hours it was late enough that we decided to call it a night. On the plus side, weíre going to play next week, and it seems like everyone, myself included, could use the time to get their stuff more developed. Although this is planned as a six-episode mini-campaign (though a continuation isnít out of the question some time in the future) Iím seeing well-developed characters with plenty of plot hooks.

In the intervening week between the character creation and the first episode I developed the setting some more, and wound up incorporating bits of Neil Gaiman and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. I also came up with some neat plot twists and developed the major villains some more.

Before the second session three of the playersóElton, Mike S., and Thinhósent me more detailed bios of their characters. I had to give the group a quick rundown on how the game uses dice and mention about scene framing before we got started, and then I kicked things off by having the players go around and give a brief introduction of their characters.

  • Hunter Red/Calvin (played by Mike S.) is the son of a B-movie director and grew up around the horror movie industry. Heís 19, and lives with his mother and little sister, and up until the beginning of Episode 1 he was working his 51st part-time job at Starbuster Video.
  • Hunter Blue/Peter (played by Elton) is a theoretical physics student at UCLA, and the baseball teamís star pitcher.
  • Hunter Green/Ian (played by Chris) is a quirky conspiracy nut with a real talent for sneaking into places. At the start of Episode 1 heís been snooping around UCLAís physics building, as heís heard that Peterís mentor is up to something.
  • Hunter Yellow/Amber (played by Thinh) is half-Chinese half-Irish, and unlike her cousin Nami she actually took up the familyís tradition of Chinese mysticism in spite of being considered the ďmongrelĒ of the family. When their parents decided to move back to China, Nami was placed in Amberís care and the two of them were on a road trip across America as the story unfolds.
  • Hunter Pink/Nami (played by Mike B.) is full-blooded Chinese, but she was raised in Japan where she became a child actress.
  • Silas (an NPC, whoíll later become an Ally Character) is the heroesí mentor, a grizzled veteran monster hunter. He was the recipient of the Hunterís Legacy, but with the help of Peterís mentor he divided it into five parts, imbuing special technological devices called Shadow Shifters with that power.

Looking over the PCs character sheets, I think the derived values need a bit of work. Because of how their attributes were assigned, Nami and Amber actually have the most Stamina (33 for both of them), while Peterís is only 21. Resistance (how many successes a finishing attack needs to KO someone if all their Stamina is depleted) is even more severe, since it ranges from 11 (Calvin took the ďHard to KillĒ Edge which adds +3 to his 8), while Ianís is a mere 3, which would make him incredibly easy to take out once his Stamina is depleted.

Starting the Game
The first session was set up very simply on my end: the PCs are gathered together by their future mentor, Silas, and then they get to fight a biker demon monster named Hellion. Because of that, while the group, myself included, has never done anything with scene framing before, its inclusion in the game wasnít significantly tested, and no one particularly had any difficulty with it. There were maybe one or two times early on when I tried to declare a new scene and a player wanted to keep going, but for the most part it went smoothly, but then the entire second part of the adventure was one prolonged battle scene.

The part about how the heroes came together involved some deus ex machina, but thatís very much appropriate to the source material. Silas, being an experienced Hunter, used divination to find the proper intersection of fate when proper candidates would appear, and thus ran into Cal at the mall, and stepped outside just as Amber and Nami drove by on their way to LA, where at UCLA they encountered Ian and Peter. No dice were really rolled for this part, though I did award a few Hero Dice here and there. Although I had a list of the PCsí Keys in front of me, I found myself mostly just winging it when it came to awarding Hero Dice, though thatís partly just how I tend to handle such things as a GM in general.

When the fighting broke outóstarting with a big crowd of mooks (called Doomsayers in this setting)óI once again immediately found that certain things need rethinking (but others are fairly sound). The mook rules as written make it too easy for the buggers to overwhelm the good guys in a way that doesnít fit the genre at all, and I wound up fudging my way through that part.

The fight with Hellion provided some more insight into how the combat rules work. Iíve read plenty of games that have initiative declared in reverse order, but this was our first time playing one. It slowed down combat somewhat, but it also made initiative matter a lot more, and added some more to the tactics. On the other hand Amber wound up standing around a lot after declaring defense. Having to commit actions that way also meant that Hellion could seldom affect more than one hero at a time, and was taking a lot of attacks he couldnít do anything about.

The Finishing Attack was a small snag, in that the heroes (especially Nami) had spent a lot of Hero Dice, and they were down to only 2. Theoretically since itís a Group Asset they have a Finishing Attack at level 5, which means it adds 12 dice to the attack roll but also costs 6 Hero Dice. Since 2 HD would be enough for a level 1 Finishing Attack (which means a +4 bonus to the attack), I decided on the fly to let them do that instead. Iím still debating whether a Group Asset should really act as though it has that many Edges worth, or should be scaled down either by a specific rule (e.g., so that itís 3 Edges worth if itís from a 5-man team) or the GMís whims. With everyone rolling their Attack dice, and the +4 bonus on top of that, it was definitely sufficient to take out the weakened Hellion.

When Hellion was turned giant-sized by his mistress Vampira, and the heroes brought their giant ďrobotĒ (Demon King Asmodai) to bear, it went pretty smoothly. Everyone was rolling dice every time the robot did anything, which seemed to provide enough engagement to keep it from becoming a one-man show. During the first round they squabbled over what to do and I had Hellion give them a wake-up call, and after that the group started to very quickly and efficiently decide what to have the robot do. One player would throw out something, and one or two more would elaborate on it a little.

There were lots of dice being rolled all through the combat. At the furthest extreme, Mike S. rolled for the robotís finishing attack, and dumped a full 5 Hero Dice into it, so he was rolling a grand total of 15 dice. The players were definitely engaged with the game part of things, and were quickly able to efficiently go about totaling up Successes, and I was happy with how the dice rolling escalated with everything else. Hellion himself provided the right pacing with 20 Stamina and 10 Resistance, though I donít think he ever came close to taking out one of the PCs, though combat was somewhat time-consuming.

Once he was defeated a second time, I decided it was time to bring the session to a close. For the Preview phase of things, I awarded Karma points, and threw out the offer if anyone wanted to invest Karma in a Spotlight Episode. Mike S. was the one who went for it, and he asked for an episode about Cal trying to balance his new ďjobĒ with his family. Itís still up in the air as to when weíll play again, since Mike B. will be out of town next week, and this is a break from our regular Truth & Justice campaign.

neko ewen

Posts: 36

My brain is melting

« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2006, 09:08:37 AM »

A friend of mine pointed out that it would help if I actually posted the correct link to the rules. Heh.
Here we are.


Posts: 94


« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2006, 11:29:06 AM »

Sounds pretty fun. What are your plans for improvements? Did the disparity in Resistance scores end up causing any problems, or did it seem to balance out alright?

neko ewen

Posts: 36

My brain is melting

« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2006, 03:45:12 PM »

It was definitely fun, though the fun was more about rolling dice and other gamey stuff than I expected it to be, which is kind of a change of pace from how my group usually plays.

The Resistance thing hasn't caused any problems so far, but the first episode didn't actually bring the heroes' Resistance scores into play; it was more of an introductory thing, and the monster of the week wasn't all that powerful. I suspect I need to purposely put the Akurangers up against a monster that can test them on this.

As I said before, I need to rethink how Group Assets and/or multi-Edge Finishing Attacks work. Having a high cost in Hero Dice can outright cut off the heroes' access to their Finishing Attack, which is more than a little problematic for them.

I already rearranged the steps of character creation (and that's in the PDF). IMHO it looks much better than before.

The thing I need to work on that I have some idea how to fix is how mooks work in combat. I'm thinking something along the lines of rolling a die for each mook, but each Success of a heroes attack negates one of their Successes (as well as killing a mook) and each Success on defending negates two of their Successes.

I'm thinking the combat rules need some fine-tuning -- what with how Amber wound up standing there defending against stuff that never came and Hellion was battered by lots of attacks he couldn't do anything about -- but I'm not sure what to do exactly.

The thing that emerged in play with the giant robot, where one player would start describing an action and then others would pick it up from there and add some more details, was so cool I'm thinking of putting something like that explicitly in the rules. The trick is setting it up so it doesn't kill the pacing of the action.

And there's still a lot of copy editing to do, not to mention I need to write up examples, once the rules are more fine-tuned.

Also, a friend of mine lent me a goofy little manga called Imperfect Hero, which while a fun parody of sentai also does an exceedingly good job of illustrating what the different Aspects are like.

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