|The Sailor Moon Role-Playing Game and Resource Book|
Guardians of Order , 1998
Guardians of Order put anime RPGs on the map with their Big Eyes, Small Mouth game. BESM was a set of generic rules suitable for any genre of anime. Instead of expanding BESM through a series of generic supplements, Guardians went for a series of stand alone games based on licensed anime properties using BESM's Tri Stat System as a common game engine. Their first license was Sailor Moon.
Sailor Moon was a good choice, because an English translation version was broadcast in the United States on network television, and it was popular enough to make the Sailor Moon RPG a popular book.
The Sailor Moon series was set in Tokyo in the 1990s, where it followed a group of junior high school girls and their travails in growing up, learning responsibility, and finding boyfriends. The main protagonist was Serena Tsukino, a somewhat clumsy and immature teen. Serena learned the at first unwelcome secret that she was a superheroine, Sailor Moon, destined to protect the Earth from powerful foes from the Negaverse. Sailor Moon was soon joined by other "sailor scouts," Sailors Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus, and the group's mysterious masked protector, Tuxedo Mask, who frequently showed up at the nick of time to help them dispatch a Negaverse foe.
Over the course of the series, we learn that the Sailor Scouts are reincarnated princesses from the legendary Moon Kingdom of a thousand years ago, that Sailor Moon is the daughter of the Moon Kingdom's benevolent Queen Serenity, and that the evil Queen Beryl of the Negaverse was defeated by Queen Serenity at the cost of the total destruction of the Moon Kingdom. Queen Beryl is back for revenge, and it's up to the Sailor Scouts to defeat her.
In between battles with Negaverse foes, the Sailor Scouts in their normal teen identities grow up and find true love. The Sailor Moon setting is as much about the personal development of the characters as it is about saving the world.
The RPG devotes most of its space to describing the television series's characters, settings, and plots, fulfilling its title as both a game and a sourcebook. We suspect it was as likely to be bought for the latter reason as it was to be bought as a game.
Before players built their characters, they needed to determine what types of characters they wanted to play. Sailor Scouts were, by definition, female. Males could either play Knights like Tuxedo Mask, or transform from male teenagers into female Sailor Scouts. The game could also support powerful "normals," who were not Sailor Scouts or Knights, or players might even choose to create Negaverse characters who opposed the Sailor Scouts—although a mixed party game of heroes and villains was not recommended.
Once their character type was decided, players were given a pool of stat points to spend on character statistics. As we'd expect from something called the Tri Stat System, characters had only three statistics: Body, Mind, and Soul. These would range from one ("inept") to twelve ("best in the universe.") GMs decided how many points players got by simply assigning a number—recommended levels started at 12 for novice Sailor Scouts, essentially normal humans, up to 24 points for extremely powerful, seasoned veterans. GMs might introduce a random element by having a set number plus a die roll.
Players then received a second pool of character points to spend on attributes, from 10 (for beginner characters) up to 30 or more for highly experienced characters. Attributes were classified as either Senshi/Knight, Negaverse/Dark, or Neutral, and most skills had levels of increasing power (and cost). Neutral attributes were available for any character type, and included such abilities as Acrobatics, Combat Mastery, [Cause] Massive Damage, and so forth. Neutral attributes cost one point per level.
While one could develop an interesting and powerful character using only neutral attributes, if one intended to play a Sailor Scout or helpful Knight, the character needed to buy the Senshi/Knight attribute. This attribute was a gateway power that mainly served to give characters access to special skills. The attribute cost 4 points per level to purchase, and it gave characters a transformed body, appropriate costume (sailor suits for the girls), an affiliation with an element, a means to transform, and a telepathic link to other Sailor Scouts. Each level purchased of the Senshi/Knight attribute also gave the character ten points in a new pool: the Power Pool. Power points could be used to purchase the subskills that gave Sailor Scouts their abilities, such as their trademark energy attacks, magical items, animal friends and guardians, and so forth.
Evil characters could buy the parallel Negaverse/Dark attribute, which worked the same way.
Characters could obtain extra points for attributes by taking on a few defects, such as the need to shout a speech and assume a pose in order to make an attack, or the fact that they only have their super powers when they are transformed into their Sailor Scout/Knight form. Other common defects included phobias, poor combat ability, easily distracted, and so forth. Some defects had characters lower their effective stats, and some abilities permitted characters to raise them.
Once the character's basic scores were set, a number of derived scores were computed. The Attack Combat Value (ACV) was computed as the average of all three stats, modified by any appropriate abilities. The Defense Combat Value (DCV) was the ACV minus two. Health points (used for damage) were computed as the sum of the character's Body and Soul score, multiplied by five. Energy Points, used for energy attacks and other abilities, were the sum of the character's Mind and Soul score, multiplied by five. We note that since the character's combat values were based on the average score of all three stats, a character's combat score was largely determined by the GM's choice of power level: barring considerable ability adjustments by skills or defects, with twelve stat points, characters would have to have an ACV of four!
The Sailor Moon RPG was more about the emotional development of the characters than their physical enhancement. Thus, skill advancement was relatively slow. The rules suggested awarding one Character Point every three adventures, and maybe twice that if the player had done especially good role playing. These character points could be spent on new attributes at the same cost as buying them during character creation, generally at a cost of 1 - 4 points per level.
The Tri Stat mechanic was simple: roll less than or equal to the necessary stat on 2d6. Relevant abilities and skills might modify the basic stat or the die roll. A roll of 2 was an automatic success while a 12 was an automatic failure. (These were not necessarily critical failures or successes.) Mark MacKinnon said this modeled the anime universe, where one could never be certain of success or failure.
The degree by which a character succeeded or failed was noted, based on how far away the die result was from the target number. A success or failure by eight or more points was critical; other degrees were extreme, major, minor, or marginal. It was up to GMs to interpret what these descriptors meant.
Combat followed a similar mechanic. Players determined initiative by rolling 1d6 and adding the result to the character's ACV. High scoring characters went first. To make an attack, one rolled 2d6, trying to get the ACV or less. If an attack was successful, the victim was entitled to make a defense roll against his DCV—but each defense roll for subsequent attacks suffered a cumulative +2 penalty. Targets might decide to hold their defense for a later attack.
If the defense roll succeeded, the attack failed. Otherwise, the target took damage. For hand to hand attacks, damage was simply the attacker's ACV score. Weapons did the ACV times a multiplier: two for standard melee weapons or guns, and three to six for more powerful weapons such as machine guns or worse. It was up to the GM to determine exactly what the multiplier should be. Energy attacks did the ACV plus a set amount of damage: maybe ninety points for an energy attack from Sailor Moon herself.
The Rest of the Book
As noted above, the Sailor Moon RPG was intended to be a sourcebook, and it was filled with information of interest to the Sailor Moon fan as well as potential gamers. All of the major characters were statted out, color plates of them were bound in the center of the book, and the book included a plot summary of every episode, including the ones never aired in the United States. Two sample adventures were included, along with some very basic notes on Japanese schoolgirl culture. There was even an introduction that explained the whole Japanese "Magical Girl" genre of anime, which explained a lot about why fourteen year olds wearing sailor suits might be superheroes to begin with.
The book included sufficient material for somebody who knew next to nothing about the show to run an acceptable campaign. A dedicated Sailor Moon fan could probably whip up some extremely detailed scenarios.
The Sailor Moon RPG provided a good introduction to the world of anime role playing. The Tri Stat System was extremely light-weight and easy to run, and Mark MacKinnon took pains to point out that the game was designed to simulate the speedy and exciting world of anime, not to be a hard number-crunching exercise. Fans were encouraged to consider Big Eyes, Small Mouth to expand their Sailor Moon game, and possibly to consult other forthcoming Guardians of Order anime products, but the game was complete on its own. The game may have served to bring anime fans into role playing, but we suspect it was more likely to bring role players into the world of anime. If it can be found, it's still a good introduction, provided one is interested in the source material.