[Tenra Basho Zero] Help me quick-start TBZ

edited July 2013 in Play Advice

me and my local gaming group have pretty little time. I started a project where we try out a different game each month so I can slowly dig through this huge stack of awesome indie (and other) games.

We usually meet a whole day and are comfortable to play 8-10h but there is very little to zero prep time invested. I - as facilitator - invest some more time but due to my demanding day-life have trouble spending much more than 4-5h (stretched over some days).

So ... now the time has come where I want to introduce TBZ. Reading it all for me alone would be a major task and my players just wont do it. So I have to make some slim version of it, quick-start it down BUT still keep its feeling.

So problems are:
* I'll have to explain most of world, setting, rules etc to the players in the beginning of the session
* they wont invest much time to read something up before the session
* I myself have limited prep time and reading a 300+ rules book (although I really want to do it thoroughly some day) + world book probably will be too time consuming. Reading once might be possible, but really *learning* them is probably out of my possibilities right now.

Is it possible to strip it down like that? If so .. what rules can I skip, what sections of the world book can I skip.

Would you use a strict scenario, pre-made characters or would you create characters and have a free-flow session? (we are comfortable with both)
I consider using Lotus Blossom's Bridal Path ... is that a good choice? Is there a better one?

Should I skip TBZ until I really find proper time to prepare this?


  • I haven't played yet, but from what time I've spent with the rules, the 300+ page rule book sort of obscures the simplicity of the core mechanics, which sort of boil down to:

    + When you do something that might fail, pick a stat and a skill, roll d6 equal to your stat, and look for a success (roll ≤ skill)
    + The aiki-kiai reward economy fuels the session and lets you do awesome power moves by rolling tons of extra dice.
    + Use the scene/act structure.

    For a first session I figure you should absolutely take the game's advice about printing out some of the pregen characters and using those, to avoid getting bogged down in chargen and power selection. Then look up all the special widgets each pregen you're using has and transcribe the rules onto a cheatsheet for that character.
  • edited July 2013
    1) Use pregens. Use a prewritten adventure (may be prewritten by yourself). Limit yourself to the simplest classes (I used Samurai, Kugutsu, Kijin, Half-Ayakashi; Kongohki and Annelidists may also be usable). You want to give the players characters that have an on/off power switch, or a very short list of usable powers.

    2) World exposition + intro to the system will take half an hour to an hour. Unless maybe if you're running for people well-versed in anime and Japanese culture.

    3) Explain rules as you go. I use this template, more or less:

    Use the very first Fate Roll (pre-Zero Act) to explain how rolls work in TBZ. During Zero Act, explain Emotion Matrix. First intermission (after Zero Act), explain expanding/creating Fates, Aiki/Kiai conversion, some basic uses of Kiai. (Leave dropping Fates and going Asura to the second intermission).

    4) Set example for handing out Aiki.

    5) I made these for easy rules reference:

    Rules summary (PDF, 1page per A4) - will be incorporated in the official TBZ rules summary, but can help you for now:

    Cheat sheets (PDF, 4 rotated pages per A4, so that you can cut it in half, fold the halves in half again, and have 'Attack' on one side and 'Defense' on the other):
  • Read/print out the manga that explain the rules. If you read those, you're about 90% familiar with the rules.
    Read the Advice section, particularly GM Advice.
    Jane is 100% right about pre-made characters, and which to use. I've run the game probably over 100 times, and I still almost always use pre-made characters (pretty much the pregens that come with the game, maaaaaybe tailored under some conditions) in all my games, even with players familiar with the game. They're simple, they're competent, they rock.
    Jane's advice on how to introduce people to the rules mimics my own. Do not explain all the rules up-front.
    Lotus Blossom's Bridal Path is kind of a really long scenario. I'm putting together a quick intro scenario that can be run in an hour or so, but it'll take another 2 or so weeks to finish. If you stick to 5-minute zero act scenes, you can probably get in 3-4 scenes and a "mini boss fight" in about 3 hours including explaining the rules. But if you can meet a few times (4 sessions 3-4 hours) you can spend the first session teaching the rules through play, the rest Simply Playing...

    Good luck!
  • The opening few pages of the Setting Book are an excellent way to give the flavor of the setting.
  • Ah, indeed: The very reason for those 32-page Introductory Manga that came with the book were so that you could pass one around the table one way, the book the other, and in 5 minutes everyone is clued in on the details of the setting (through the characters, anyway).
  • Ah, indeed: The very reason for those 32-page Introductory Manga that came with the book were so that you could pass one around the table one way, the book the other, and in 5 minutes everyone is clued in on the details of the setting (through the characters, anyway).
    I love how the intro manga do that. Great way to cover the setting without having to go into massive detail.

    (Also, the bit about 3-4 scenes plus a mini boss fight in 3 hours is rather illuminating. I'll be adjusting my convention game accordingly.)
  • Great advice, thank you all. I think I'll be able to prepare and run a session now. I hope the players choose TBZ for one of the next session, as I really want to test drive it (every month I propose three games and the players who have time vote/choose one of them).
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