Tokyo Nova: The Revolution

A lot of the newer Japanese RPGs use something called the scene system. The best way to learn about it is to read the Japanese Wikipedia article, which Google Translate does a passable job at translating to English. According to the article, the scene system was introduced by トーキョーN◎VA The Revolution “Tokyo Nova: The Revolution” (1998), which is the 3rd iteration of the Tokyo Nova rules.

In the scene system, all gameplay happens in a scene. Periodically there is a cut to a new scene. In TNTR, a cut happens when the cast (i.e. the players and NPCs) travel to a new location. The appearance of a new character also results in a cut to a new scene, and cuts can be used by the referee to simply skip time.

At the start of a new scene, the referee draws a card from the tarot deck and places it on the table for everyone to see. This is the scene card. Incidentally, characters are generated by drawing three cards from the tarot deck, a feature inherited from the 1st edition of the game. It is good for the character if the scene card is one of those three cards, because he or she is allowed to perform the feat specified by the card at some time during the course of the scene. The scene card is also used by the referee, who looks up the card in the “scene chart” and get the “style”, “key word”, and “events” associated with the card. These are hints for deciding what transpires during the course of the scene.

Whereas the 1st edition of the game was a box set, TNTR is a perfect bound book. They still managed to include the tarot cards by putting them in an envelope attached to the back cover. However a deck of playing cards is also needed and you have to provide that yourself. If you compare the tarot cards with those in the 1st edition, you’ll see that some of them got new artwork.

B5 perfect bound softcover with dust jacket, 304 pp.

Dragon Ring

One of the big names in Japanese RPGs today is Shinkigensha. The company releases about two new RPGs per year in addition to being the publisher of the monthly Role & Roll magazine. However, Shinkigensha entered the RPG market back in the day with some unusual products, such as this book of manga from 1989 called ドラゴンリング “Dragon Ring”.

It tells the story of Yuji who we encounter playing a video game on his Famicom. He is fighting a troll when his friend Takashi arrives, and they discuss ways they could defeat the troll “in real life”. Yuji says he would trip the troll with a rope or maybe drop a rock on his head. Takashi suggests sneaking past the troll to get the key to save the village. They bemoan the fact that the game doesn’t give the player those options. A game that did would be awesome though. At that moment a dungeon master in sunglasses walks in and tells them that such a game exists. He even invites them to try it out. It’s called Dragon Ring, and no, it’s not a video game, it’s a tabletop RPG, something Yuji and Takashi aren’t familiar with.

They walk over to the dungeon master’s house where they meet Keiko. She is also going to play. They start with character generation: rolling 3d6 three times for strength, dexterity, and intelligence. Yuji decides to be a warrior, Takashi a thief, and Keiko a magic user. In their first outing they enter a troll cave where they trip the troll with a rope and stab him in the back while he’s down. A fourth player joins at the start of the second session and he chooses to be a cleric. The manga describes seven sessions, each one getting its own chapter. The chapters start with the players sitting down at the table and then the illustrations switch to in-game events. The rules for the game of Dragon Ring are provided in a 16 page appendix.

Perfect bound A5 softcover with dust jacket, 208 pp.

The Asylum & other tales

Hobby Japan’s 4th box set for Call of Cthulhu was 療養所の悪魔 “The Asylum & other tales” (1987). It’s a translation of a Chaosium book from 1983 containing seven unrelated scenarios. One of the scenarios is by David Hargrave, who incidentally had not been on the best of terms with Greg Stafford after Stafford refused to publish the Arduin Grimoire, but apparently they patched things up. Hargrave’s scenario has the investigators explore a mound in the woods of Maine with 13 rooms dug into it.

The title of the book refers to a scenario by Randy McCall describing the Greenwood Asylum for the Deranged. If an investigator suffers a loss of sanity, a sensible course of action would be to have them committed to its care, as the institution has an excellent reputation. However, the investigators may learn that five inmates have died recently of supposedly natural causes, so something’s up.

The Japanese version of “The Asylum & other tales” is a box set. The translation is by Teiko Nakayama and the JV adds no additional artwork other than a photo of a stone building covered by Virginia Creeper on the back. The box set contains two booklets of 36 and 44 pages (the EV book has 80 pages). In the JV the player handouts are provided as 4 loose sheets.

All of the Hobby Japan Call of Cthulhu box sets are in demand and the Japanese version of “The Asylum & other tales” usually sells for the equivalent of $300 to $500 in yen. I haven’t seen one of them for sale with the obi, so unsure if they originally had one.

Box contents:
• The Asylum & other tales Book 1, letter sized saddle-stapled book, 36 pp.
• The Asylum & other tales Book 2, letter sized saddle-stapled book, 44 pp.
• Player Handouts, 4 loose sheets
• Hobby Japan survey card

Hyper Tunnels & Trolls

Information about ハイパートンネルズ&トロールズ “Hyper Tunnels & Trolls” (1991) in the English speaking world is scant, but think I can answer some of the questions I’ve seen people ask!

Miyuki Kiyomatsu, who did the game design for Sword World, contributed a T&T column to Warlock magazine. From Dec. ’89 to Aug. ’90 his column was called “How to Make Hyper Tunnels & Trolls”. Much of the content that would eventually appear in the 448 page bunkobon by Shakaishisosha first appeared there. Development and test play took place at Group SNE.

The 1991 version is a complete set of rules recapitulating the content from 5th edition T&T needed for play. The races are the same: human, elf, dwarf, hobbit, fairy, and leprechaun, as are the ability scores: strength, intelligence, luck, constitution, dexterity, and charisma. Kiyomatsu admired the T&T combat system, calling it fast paced and exciting, so he left it as is. To the 4 classes: 戦士 “warrior”, 盗賊 “rogue”, 魔術師 “wizard”, and 魔法戦士 “warrior-wizard”, HT&T adds 6 more: 武闘家 “martial artist”, 僧侶 “priest, 聖闘家 “holy warrior”, 怪盗 “phantom thief”, 呪術師 “shaman”, and 魔道士 “sorcerer”. New spells are a significant portion of the new content.

When Group SNE published a Record of Lodoss replay in Warlock magazine using the T&T rules, they dropped Etoh the cleric. If they had the HT&T rules they could have made Etoh a priest, which approximates the cleric of Dungeons & Dragons. Like wizards, priests must expend strength to cast spells. Some spells require the priest to have a minimum charisma. There are priest spells for detecting, turning, and destroying undead.

HT&T adds a skill system. Every skill is associated with an ability score. If the character has a skill he has a skill level for it from 1 to 9, though just how high the level can go depends on the skill. Saving throws in T&T are ability score checks: the player rolls 2d6 and adds the relevant ability score. Skill checks add the character’s skill level to the roll too. HT&T awards characters a number of “hyper points” equal to their level at the start of each adventure. These can be spent to increase the number of dice used in saving throws and skill checks. Each point spent adds one die.