Sunday, September 13, 2009

Current Frustration

So, I'm currently working with a game Called Anima: Beyond Fantasy, published by Fantasy Flight Games.

For those not familiar with it, Anima was originally developed and published over in Spain in 2005. FFG managed to get an English version published over here in October 2008. There's also a card game (noncollectable, has 1 expansion I'm aware of) and a miniature based skirmish game. Here of course, I am concerned with the RPG.

Alright, enough jibbajabba, lets get down to business!
So, whats wrong with it?

First off, it uses a d100. I personally don't like percentile based systems, but in this case, that's not actually a problem. While Anima does use d100's, it is not percentile based. Its essential function is more similar to the D20 system. (roll a die, add a number, compare to a DC) Anima just uses a d100 because it likes big numbers. Which brings us to our first major issue!

Many of the numbers in Anima are artificially inflated just for the heck of it. Regardless of how good at math you are, working with big numbers is generally going to be harder than working with small numbers. Ideally, I should be able to shrink the system to using a d20 or a d10 instead.

Character generation is also a bit on the complicated side, though that is actually an unavoidable symptom of one of the benefits that I will discuss below. Also, you only need to make a character once, so I think that this can be left as-is.

Combat, is, unfortunately, very clunky. There are a lot of little options and modifiers, and even worse, there is a combat table. Basic Attack/Defense works via an opposed roll. The difference between the Attacker's and Defender's rolls is cross-referenced with the defenders relevant armor type (AT) on this big table to find out what percentage of their base damage the Attacker does if they hit, or what bonus the Defender gets if the attack misses. Not only does this mean that the players will have to look at this thing all the time, but it also requires that the Attacker calculate a percentage! Ugh! Division bad!

To follow up the combat table madness, the game also features fumbles. Now, I hate the "critical miss" idea anyway, but Anima manages to take it to the next level. Not only do you have the chance to auto-fail, BUT, you also get the fun of making an additional roll (with conditional modifiers no less!) to figure out just how bad you screwed the pooch.

Anima also has critical hits, which is cool. What isn't cool is that the rules for determining the effects of a critical hit are insane. To score a crit (not counting attacking vital points) you must do at least 1/2 the target's current life points in damage from a single attack. So far, not so bad. Then you need to determine the critical level. To do this, you roll a d100 and add the damage you did, halving any amount over 200. (so a result of 260 becomes 230) Then the defender makes a resistance check against the level of the crit. If they pass, great, otherwise, they suffer a wound with a level of awfulness determined by the amount by which they failed. It starts with just a penalty from the awful pain, which goes away bit by bit each turn. (bookkeeping nightmare) The higher levels also require you to determine the specific hit location, which requires another roll. Like I said, insane.

There are other little things here and there, but those are the main ones that stick out in my mind at the moment. To recap:

  1. The numbers are all huge for no real reason

  2. It has this huge combat table thing, and combat is a bit clunky in general

  3. It has critical fumbles

  4. The rules for critical hits are spawned from the mad ravings of a mathematical hate-machine
So then, you must be thinking, "why bother? That game sounds awful."

That brings us to the next section:

Why is it worth it?

The reason that I want to fix Anima comes from one major factor: It is stuffed with awesome. I mean, to the gills. There's a huge amount of depth and breadth to what you can do with your character. In addition, its capable of scaling the power-level all the way up to the top. Exalted kind-of promises this, but really, you only go up to essence 5 or so, and after that, there isn't much in the way of published content for you. In Anima, it has everything you need to turn the Awesome dial all the way to 11.

While it does have classes, they only change how much things will cost, and what innate bonuses you get. Any character can develop pretty much any ability. And there are plenty of abilities to develop! You can become an unstoppable warrior with the Ki Dominion, master the forces of the cosmos via magic, or impose your will on creation with Psychic powers. You can summon lesser beings from beyond, or invoke the great powers of the world in earth shattering displays of might. And if that wasn't enough, you can also gain power by becoming a devoted champion of one of the 14 deities in the game.

Now usually, a game with that many detailed subsystems would be a total nightmare, but Anima manages to keep things under control fairly well, because all of the different subsystems intersect on the same point. If your playing a Ki-wielding badass, you don't need to know anything about the magic rules, or the psychic rules, or any of the other systems. All you need to know is the Ki Dominion rules.

In short, there are a ton of awesome things you can do in Anima, its just held back by a few clunky mechanics.
Here at Systemic Frustration, that is exactly the kind of problem that I aim to solve.

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