Jackson is the best.
Jackson is the best for many reasons. One of them was getting me and Karen into this Anima Prime game. I had never played before, so it was a real treat to have Christian (the author) run a game for us. He told us Anima Prime is a game of Steambots and Megaswords, which you know, pretty much had me roped in from the start!
From the website: Anima Prime is a fast-paced, spontaneous roleplaying game inspired by the Final Fantasy series of video games as well as Avatar: The Last Airbender and other animated shows and movies.
Christian gave us a bit of back story about the setting. Specifically about the demon invasion into our world and the occupation by a foreign people. That mixed the the default pan-Asian, Final Fantasy-esk, Exalted setting , and I was ready for…
Sean – I wanted to play with some mad kung fu, and opted for a character with a grudge. Ebon Star was a dragon tatoo monk and the last of his kind. His family the Ebon dragons were slain by the demons. His kung fu was strong, and when charged up he would turn into a black dragon and breath fire on his foes.
John – Plague Child was wisp-like creature, a child with kabuki face paint and a cloak made of gossamer shadow. She was touched by the underworld and mastered necromatic powers. For all that though, she was the most moral of all of us all, with a keen understanding of the value of life.
Karen – Played a sword for hire and helper of lost causes. Batu, the sand child could bend wind to her will and had some ninja-assassin mojo to boot. She dressed in dessert garb and was still new-ish to our lands.
Max – Slyte was a half-demon mechanic that both built and operated giant steambots. He had set up shop in the village and tried to keep to himself, but his ancestry couldn’t be hidden, and some (like Ebon Star) hated him for it.
Jackson – Made a chalk dancer named Tara. She used her chalk magic to animate things, slip into pocket dimensions, and all of those fun things. More importantly though she took care of the lost and wayward. Mostly cats but also some of us.
As soon as we had introduced our character, we started making connections between them. Two hubs formed that we attached ourselves too.
Tara – As she provided for those in need Tara had started delivering food and leaving it on the window of Batu’s cottage. Though they didn’t speak about it, Batu also helped Tara when she needed it. Also, since Ebon Star had lost his job as a fry cook (excellent cook, bad temper), he was sleeping on Tara’s porch and cooking for her.
Slyte – Plague Child had taken an interest in Slyte, for they were both of another world, and sometimes misunderstood. Slyte felt a paternal bond with the small creature and wanted to help her if he could. Ebon Star, who had lost his family to the demons, however, hated Slyte because of his heritage.
I dug that we did this. Not only did it create bonds between the characters but it also gave them some normalcy. You know, what do you do when you’re not fighting with steambots and megaswords? How do you get along in normal society?
If I hadn’t already settled on a patter of “[Game Name] at GPNW (Date)” for my post titles, I’d have totally called this game Fish Day.
Christian set the scene. A remote mountain village overlooking a great lake. In that lake stood five titanic pillars filled with a current of upward bound sand. Atop those five pillars and powered by the earth anima funneled through them was a great gate, that sealed a border between our world and the demon dimension.
However, none of that epicness was important today, because today was the first day of the fish season… Fish Day!
Christian started us off with a character scene, which has two great effects. In the fiction, it further draws our characters together, revealing things about them and sets up future conflicts. Mechanically, it grants your character a resource to tap later when they need inspiration (allowing failed dice to be re-rolled).
Tara and Batu were walking through the market looking for a lost cat named Fiona. As neither of them had any real lost-cast-finding skills, they were mostly walking through stalls calling “here kitty-kitty-kitty” and looking likely hiding spots.
Ebon Star was carrying a bag of groceries when a group of muscled fishermen carried a gigantic fish through the market streets. One of them bumped into Ebon and his grocery bag spilled. A single onion rolled out of it and into a merchants stall… that of Slyte. As Star entered to retrieve his lost onion the tension between the two was palpable, and withing moments they broke out into arguments and accusations. Plague Child, who had been there all along observing, stepped in to calm the raged dragon, but this was just a set up for a gloriously emo anime teen moment.
Slyle: “I have no choice about who my parents are -”
Ebon Star: “Well at least you HAVE PARENTS!”
Hah, that was so much fun. And felt so right in that setting.
The Pillar Cracks
There was a rumble in the earth, which is normal enough, but then we all heard a great cracking sound, which certainly wasn’t, and looked over to see one of the great five pillars split open and the great funnel of sand that had poured into the gate to fuel it was now spraying the earth anima out into the sea… weakening the gate.
There was a shout “look over there” as the whole village turned to watch a giant fireball sail out of the gate and into the side of the village. Also, pouring out of the gate was a black cloud… of bats!
This is when Christian explained the conflict mechanics. And they are awesome. Rather than step through each step (for that I’d suggest you picking up a copy of Anima Prime) here are some of the highlights
Achievements – In a given fight there is more at stake then just defeating the bad guy. People on are danger, buildings will burn down, and lost cats must be found! This is demonstrated by having certain achievements that must be made before the fight is over. Any that are left off will be lost when the fight is done. The bad guys of course want to focus on beating you up, so deciding what to tackle isn’t always an easy choice. I love this because it allows our larger-than-life heroes to do cool things without necessarily doing violence. Initially Christian just had putting out the fire and saving the villagers as achievements, but since clearly we’d all grown attached to Fiona in our character scene, she was added to the list.
Let me show you my kung fu – The other thing I liked is that in order to attack (or complete achievements) you had to first build up “strike” dice. This could be done by using your skills and action dice to make some kind of “getting ready to strike” maneuver. Now, that could certainty be physically getting into position, reading your bow and taking aim, or any other kind of practical action. But it could also be yelling a monologue at your enemy, performing a kata, or getting really angry and pounding your fist into the earth. I love this because it encourages, nay, mandates flash action to build up to a big move.
Passions – Passions are not strictly a function of fight, but it’s where they came out. Passions allow your characters to charge up (gaining strike and charge dice) based on conditions. Fighting their enemies, saving people, etc. I really like that there is mechanical reinforcement to play to your archetype!
Up up down down left right left right B A start – I super did the way “combos” are built in this game. I really wanted a character that could “charge up” and turn into a dragon when delivering his finishing blow. That actually works really well in Anima Prime. I didn’t do it in the game, but that was mostly because we were a little too bad ass and time was running short. Had the bad guys been more numerous or we not kick so much ass, I’m confident I could have built up my charge pool to be rolling like a 47,000 dice using my Force Attack, Blaze, MegaUltraSuperBarbaraStreisand attack.
Simple Resolutions – Several of us had powers that gave opponents conditions like Weakness or Blindness. Spend the charge dice and boom they take the condition. Done. Simple. Fast. Fun.
During the fight Plague Child continued to chastise Ebon Star for his anger towards Slyte, and when the Mecha Armor Wearing Half Demon knocked the Fire Tiger out of this plane of existence, even Star has to concede that he was “alright”.
We wrapped with some cute, yay we saved the world and now it’s time to eat moments.
Batu was happy that she saved the kitty Fiona, but now it would leave her alone!
Thoughts on the game
I think Anima Prime could be my replacement for Exalted. Not that a run a lot of it now, but if I did, I’d use this (as opposed to the Wushu/Exalted hack Wuxalted that I’ve used in the past).
Jackson did this amazing thing that I totally forgot about in Anime, but that made perfect sense the moment he did it. In one reality Tara was screaming at the villagers to run and get to safety. In another reality Tara, this time drawn incredibly comically was yelling “Pickle race today. First one into the temple wins a pickle”. Yay, how cool is that?