Posted by: markfender | June 20, 2012


There’s lots of JRPGS out there. But no roleplaying game based on them.

The goal of all JRPGs, apparently

I should probably define some terms. Japanese role playing games are (usually) console role-playing games. As a distinct offshoot of the Western computer role-playing game, they feature a much tighter emphasis on story and less emphasis on exploration sandbox play. Contrast this with the tabletop role-playing games that both genres descended from.

There’s been a few tabletop RPGs that attempted to emulate anime (and, by extension console JRPGs). But, how exactly can rules emulate the type of stories you get from anime? Answer: they don’t. All they provide is a rule framework for the wildly variable characters and their abilities within anime stories. It’s up to the GM to craft that into some sort of game that “feels” like anime.

There’ve been tabletop RPGs that attempt to emulate computer RPG combat systems. Dungeons & Dragons 4e has a strong system based on the conventions that occur in computer RPG combat systems. But I have yet to see a tabletop RPG emulate the type of combat systems you see in console JRPGs.

There’ve even been tabletop JRPGs that have been translated into English for the Western tabletop market. And while they offer a different focused play than Western tabletop RPGs offer, they aren’t very close to how console JRPGs operate.

Ultimately, the big difference between Western computer RPGs is their focus on world exploration. Yes, there’s a definite story there. But you insert whatever character you make into that ongoing story. Very rarely do they concentrate on story above all else, presenting some interesting subsystems to explore and countless battlefields to conquor. Console JRPGs have had a strong character emphasis from very early on. Your party is set with definite characters – you often don’t even pick their abilities or which class they belong to. The games emphasize the story they’re telling. There aren’t dialogue options or any of that other stuff Western gamers associate with computer RPGs.

So, I think the way to properly emulate a JRPG in the tabletop RPG format is to not necessarily to create a world. A world implies that a lot of different kinds of stories are possible within it. But that’s not how console JRPGs operate. They’re going to tell their one story and move on. So, a tabletop JRPG should not have a world, but a campaign. Similar to something you might find from Pathfinder or those Savage Worlds Plot Point books, the game should be firmly wrapped around the campaign. Adventures, sub-quests, and the like should be statted out and let the world details flow from that. When you pick up the book of the tabletop JRPG, it should immediately start out with a set of adventures that lead your characters to a world-shattering climax (probably involving the environment, or killing God – probably both). And when your group of friends are done with the campaign, the book goes on the shelf to never be played again (unless you want to experience that same story again). There shouldn’t be supplements or a constant stream of new adventures. One-and-done should be the watchword.

Then, you just need some sort of system that emulates the game play from console JRPGs. Good luck making those numbers smaller.



  1. I seem to recall there being several pencil & paper RPGs based on console JRPGs. They’re just in Japanese, so distributors in the US don’t bother with them.

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