Anima

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Anima is a tabletop RPG created by Anima Game Studio. Its setting is influenced by Japanese RPGs like Final Fantasy or Suikoden. It combines concepts found in Japanese tradition, like mysticism, onmyojis and some other stuff, like their concept of honor for instance. It also adds bits of medieval western culture to that. And above all that, well, it's a bit of a mess.

Setting[edit]

Anima is set on Gaïa. Gaïa is a world where the Spanish Inquisition reigns over a big empire/confederation where countries have some degree of freedom but must still obey the federal/imperial law. The funny part is that you and all of your friends will probably be considered heretics (well, if you actually tried to make a decent character at least), because you use stuff like Magic, Ki, or psychic powers, all of which are things that the inquisition frowns upon, unless they are used by Inquisition approved people in Inquisition approved ways. So normally, at the beginning you'll have to side with them, unless you want to be burned or otherwise executed. Don't worry though, you can (and probably will) betray them soon enough.

Inside this confederation are different countries all with their own caracteristics, like the science country, the commerce country, the thief country, the horse country, and other countries all defined by a single trait that makes absolutely no sense, because people and ideas move, and a scientist can be employed, in order to not stay in the stone age for example.

There is also an oriental empire that still uses slaves, and Norse barbarians living in frozen wastelands and swamps.

All of this is mainly populated by humans. There are also supernatural races, but they tend to stay by themselves, since, you know, the Inquisition doesn't really like them all that much, and humans in general fear them, and, as they're bound to do with things they fear, they either flee or attack them.

System[edit]

And now, we get to why this game is a mess. Be it the player characters or the adversaries they might have to face, everything can be optimised to high heavens. Magic might be a bit more tame in most cases, but don't you worry, it can be optimised too.

The game uses a d100 roll-over system, with explosive dice. This means that a random level 1 mook might one-shot you if he's lucky that day. That also means that you might kill a level 10 guy while level 1 if you're lucky with an insta-death spell (because those exist).

Character creation is somewhat messy, but still pretty understandable. From it, though, comes one of the game's main problems: the game allows you to take flaws to take more advantages in turn. This means that you can optimise on that. Another problem is that while you're limited in the proportion of skill points that you can spend in one category, this does not stop players from actually creating extremely specialised characters by spending all of the points they can in a category on a few specific skills. This is further coumpounded by the fact that the game allows you to create your own Ki techniques, or your own creatures if you are a summoner... With another system that includes flaws to get more points. It gets ridiculous fast. Very fast. By comparison, specialised magic users seem tame and they're STILL COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS. All of that is, of course, if you compare them to the charcters and monsters presented in the book. Your Game Master is, of course, free to create his own antagonists, which might also be ridiculously optimised, and if that's the case, well, whoever fires first wins. Because you see, it's easy to optimise for offense, but harder and less productive to optimise for defense. This means that you can easily get in a stupid arms race with your Game Master, which is not always very fun.

Now, all of that is quite theoretical so let's get into some character concepts that are easily made as level 1 characters. We'll go from least ridiculous to most ridiculous, in increasing order. So, you like magic, huh? Well you're in luck, because in this game, you can access the highest level spells at level 1! That's right, the equivalent of level 9 (or even 10) spells in D&D, right away! This is even more ridiculous in the Arcana Exxet, because while you cannot cast High Magic or Divine Magic right away (thankfully)-that is spells above level 80- , you can cast the level 100 spells in the sub-paths that the Arcana Exxet (a supplement) introduces right away. Enjoy being venerated as a god by everyone in a 4 kilometers radius wherever you go, create a literal death-note, or get free levels (which will then allow you to get even more powerful!), and that's only a few of them.

Now, you might be asking yourself "how does one top that?". Well, Anima will surprise you, because it allows you to do that. Easily. One of the ways you can do that is by using psychic powers. You can make an alchemist that can change the composition of any material thing around him. That means he can simply look at you, and bam, you are now a golden statue that he will then sell to make money and buy new cool stuff (unless you get a 100 on your resistance roll). He basically has infinite money. If that seems slightly unbalanced to you, then congratulations, you are still somewhat sane. Also with psychic powers, you can make a character that has enough strength to basically take a mountain and hit you with it. Because you see, there are psychic powers that allow you to better your physical caracteristics. Add a little bit of optimisation and the fact that the effect of said caracteristics is exponential, and that's what you get.

Now, we get to Ki techniques. The problem here is that you can create your own techniques, and thus optimise them in addition to your character, this means that you can create techniques that would be considered completely overpowered by themselves, and then optimise your character to make them even more broken and spam them. The possibilities are almost endless. And you only need your Game Master to accept one to completely steam-roll everything the game can throw at you.

Summoning is the same, except you don't need to buy the custom thing, you build it on the fly. Normally, you'd have to bind it too, to make it obey you, but just take a spell that allows you to teleport, and binding becomes a useless skill. Or you could have a high knowledge on creatures, and only summon things you know won't attack you. Your summoning skill is also the thing that counts to summon Arcana, Deities, and heroes of the past. Except that those don't need to be bound. Another funny thing is banishment. You see, if you critically fail at banishing a creature, then more of the same type are summoned instead. Now, that might seem bad, but if those creatures are sympathetic to your cause, it's actually good. Just summon a type of creature that likes you, and then "accidentally" summon five more in one turn. Or alternatively you could even do that with creatures that don't like you and then teleport away to safety. Your choice.

And finally, we get to the Pun-Pun of this game. Except that you don't need supplements to build it, just the basic book. There is a Creation spell that allows you to create a creature of your level. There is another one that lets you give it free points to buy new abilities with, and there is an Essence spell that allows you to transfer your soul to this creature. You see where this is going.

So, now, as you can see, it is very easy to optimise for attack, while it is almost impossible to optimise for defence, because of the diversity of attacks that you'll have to withstand, and because of the high difficulty for resisting the attacks. For instance you start with 45 Physical resistance at level 1, and if you optimise to get it as high as you can, you might go as high as 160. The thing is, the difficulty to resist the alchemist's attack, which he makes effortlessly every turn, is 220, which means that at best you can have a 40% chance of surviving the first turn, and then a bit less than 20% chance to survive two turns, etc. And since you optimised for defence, you don't have any tools to stop him from doing it to you at least 4 or 5 turns in a row. Fail once and you're basically dead. And even then, you'd still be defenseless against magic and psychic attacks... The only real defence you can have is Nemesis, because it has a capacity that negates supernatural effects around you, but even then, you'll need a very high amount of Power to stop some of the characters presented here, which is not possible to do at level 1, so even this is not enough... And you're again left with the problem that you have no real tool to speak of when it comes to attack when you optimise for this.

Another glaring issue with how the system works is that the level of power it allows is often in conflict with the fluff, unlike in Exalted for instance, where the fluff is adapted to the heights to which the power of a player character can go. For instance, if you only take the standard world of Anima, any of the level 1 characters presented here can easily take over entire cities, beat up unoptimised level 5 characters without too much of a problem, and other fun things. The way this problem is treated is as follows: A shadow organisation kills people when they try to do that kind of shit. Can you beat them? No. Fuck you, you should have known better.

Conclusion[edit]

Anima CAN be fun. You just have to make sure that everyone is on the same wavelength. Everyone should play characters that are around the same power level, except that this is somewhat harder to do than in D&D.