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.

Tokyo NOVA

トーキョーN◎VA “Tokyo Nova” (1993) was designed by Taro Suzufuki, founder of F.E.A.R. (Far East Amusement Research). Artwork is by Chiemi Suyama.

Tokyo Nova takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. A pole shift caused catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis. Glaciers advanced to cover much of the earth’s surface and a deadly virus decimated the survivors. Tokyo Bay dried up. A new city called “Tokyo Nova” was built on the reclaimed land. Despite the disasters, the setting is high tech, with computers, space travel, and cybernetics. The game classifies itself as a “cyber action” instead of cyperpunk.

Tokyo Nova is perhaps the first RPG to dispense with dice and use cards to generate random results. The English language “Castle Falkenstein” also does this, but came out the following year.

The box set has a pack of 22 “arcana” cards with personalities drawn on them. A character is generated by choosing three cards from the arcana deck and reading off the ability scores for “reason” ♠, “emotion” ♣, “body” ♡, and “outside world” ♢, which are numbers from 0 to 3. The values are summed to get 4 ability scores for the character.

Also included are a pack of regular playing cards. The referee deals out 4 cards to each player. To resolve an action, the player uses a card from his hand. The card value is as in blackjack, with face cards counting as 10 and an ace as 11. The suit determines the ability score that is added to the face value of the card to get the achievement score. The card is then discarded and a new one drawn from the deck. The player can thus control his achievement score to an extent. He can also choose to take his chances and play a card drawn from the deck. If he draws one of the arcana, this is treated as a fumble.

PCs are called “cast” and NPCs are called “guests” or “extras”, depending upon their importance. Later editions of the game would extend the film production metaphor, developing the scene system that has been widely adopted by other Japanese RPGs.

Box contents:
• Minor Arcane Book, 64 pp.
• Major Arcane Book, 36 pp.
• deck of 84 cards