[Anima Prime] Steam-Mercs on Mars!

edited June 2008 in Actual Play
I finally got to play Anima Prime at Go Play NW last weekend. Christian & I traded games, to play stuff that grew out of Beast Hunters, so I was pretty stoked.

Folks at the table: Christian as the GM; John, Brandon, Jana & myself as players.

We started off by talking about what sort of anime to do. The first concept thrown out was by John Harper, who said something to the effect of “I have this name in mind, and it’ll color the game: Xeno Fury.” From there, we went to getting a ‘giant robot’ feel, though Christian pointed out that it would likely make for a less intimate party feel. So, we scaled it down to steampunk power armor.

We set it on Mars, with a colonial, waypoint vibe – Mars is just a refueling point for people mining in the outer asteroids, and for archeologists mucking about in Martian ruins.

The characters:
The awesome Jana was Captain Scythia [blanking on last name]. A competent leader, in love with the former extreme pilot & owner of our merc squad, Xeno Fury, and suffering from shakes so much that she’s turned into a junkie.

The ever-talented John was our *ahem* our merc company owner, forcing himself onto our team for glory and excitement. He was torn between wanting to be a team player, and believing that he should be the leader.

The always-entertaining Brandon was Iron Belly [name], the team’s combat specialist & tank. He and the team’s combat scientist/medic, “Muscles” McGee, had a strong rapport, and he felt it his job to keep Muscles out of danger.

Finally, the endlessly-flattering me played “Muscles” McGee, the gruff combat scientist who kept the good captain in drugs and the team in tactical information. But all was not what it seemed with Muscles, as he was secretly Iron Belly’s father, and needed to protect his secret son from the dangers that took his brother, Brains McGee.

The game:
We started off right after a battle that started in Martian ruin, where we were investigating the loss of Xeno Fury’s archeologist contact (girlfriend?). We dove down into the ruins, and FIGHT!

We had a longish battle with a giant beast and a lot of creepy crawlies. In that battle we ended up establishing that while the armor was steampunk, there was networking technology so that I could feed tactical data to people. Scythia, Iron Belly & I let our “fearless leader” charge ahead to encounter the bag bad Martian powerarmor beast, while we also detected the creepy crawlies.

After dispatching an number of the smaller foes while Xeno Fury was focused on the larger one, we were able to capture it…but not at the emotional expense of our leader, as Zeno shoved Scythia out of the way during a coordinated team attack to finish the beast off. The victory was put on momentary hiatus as we had to finish off the last of the crawlies.

We had some character scenes where Iron Belly challenged Xeno Fury over his shit, whie our good Captain, being totally in love with him, defended his actions. Then I injected her with her post-combat usual to calm the shakes. After that, Iron Belly & I bonded a little as we discovered another door, and evidence that the missing archeologists were through here!

Then we had another, big fight with three large brutes & a horde of Martian vermin they were surfing on! The horde was taken out very, very quickly – I want to say by Xeno Fury? – leaving the brutes to wail on Muscles. They poisoned him, but he gave as good back, injecting them in the face with Earth drugs while firing flares into their faces. Then the team worked together to take them down through some high-rolling Super Combo Attacks initiated by Iron Belly’s massive belly cannon.

Cliffhanger! And there was someone at the end of the cave! Was it Xeno Fury’s friend? maybe the brother Muscle McGee thought dead? Tune in next time! (Which, hey, would be fun to play again.)



  • edited June 2008
    The system:
    Okay, Anima Prime has a sweet Japanese cRPG vibe that I dug on, while interjecting character into the mechanics in ways that you can only do in a tabletop game.

    The system has you choosing different sorts of actions, rolling dice the GM gives you and Action Dice from your own pool to gain Strike Dice and Charge Dice – the former used to do damage, the latter for special powers.

    My favorite part of the game was Passions, where you select one of the few ways in which you gain charge dice – your limit break, as it were. Scythia had self-loathing, allowing her to get Charge Dice when she was damaged. Xeno Fury had glory, where he got CD whenever he beat a foe. Iron Belly had Bloodlust, if I recall right, giving him CD every time he damaged someone. And I had Love, where I got CD whenever a specific person was damaged – in this case, my secret son, Iron Belly. That really gave some awesome weight to the game, as I didn’t just narrative being pissed that Iron Belly was hurt, but I got to rage with more mechanical badassery. Or he didn’t just do a battle cry when damaging a foe, but he got pumped up for extreme mayhem. (I’m highly considering stealing this for Mythender as an additional way to gain Mythic Power.)

    The nine powers took us some time to go through, as they were pretty tactical & crunchy. It was a case where having one print-out, printing another bit out at the game and having a laptop at the table helped us out. We did have some bits where we had to ask questions on how things worked together. In general, I think the book would benefit from some “quick convention packages” overall, but our game wasn’t hampered much by the time. Everything was kept punchy.

    I did mention afterwards that I’d like to see something in the way of advice for how to pick powers as a team, and I think I know why. This is this totally badass video game thing, and I totally want to geek out over the Prima Strategy Guide for Anima Prime.

    I suppose my one concern is that those abilities taken could be a flag to the GM to avoid situations where they’d be useful. If everyone has Darkvision & one support character routinely casts Darkness (or in the tech-anime, use advanced equipment that creates such effect), then it’s to the GM’s benefit to have foes that have Darkvision too. Or if there’s a support character as the ability to cure poison, what happens if the GM never has that come up in a campaign? Now, this could be addressed in the text, which I totally need to pour over like a giddy school boy (when I have time), but I sense a potential inequality that could be abused, perhaps even just by accident. The computer manages this in cRPGs by, well, throwing everything at you without bias or habit.

    In any case, I love the number of crunchy bits the game has to make characters feel different, not unlike how they might feel in a cRPG like the Final Fantasy series if you injected that with freedom of narration.
  • edited June 2008
    I was really looking forward to Anima Prime, and it did not disappoint. In gaming, I likes me some kickass action and I likes me some melodramatic scene-chewing. AP delivers on both, and does it well.

    The character scene stuff is short and sweet, and gives you a chance to mark a character trait by roleplaying it. Having a marked trait is a powerful thing during the fight scene, so you have a good incentive to play it up and really hit your trait. It felt a lot like hitting a Key in TSOY... always a good thing.

    The fighting is super fun. The system is simple but deep (you maneuver to create Strike dice which you can use to attack or achieve goals, or Charge dice which you use to activate powers). It's easy to know what to do during your turn, but there are plenty of options for interesting character builds and tricksy ploys during the fight. I really like the balance between crunchy fighty game and light rules system. It's somewhere in the ballpark of SotC, I think.

    Our session was especially satisfying because Christian let us create our own setting before we started. This got everyone on the same page and invested us in the action to follow. I got to play a huge jerk, too, which is always fun. Xeno Fury was a rich playboy who had recently bought the Merc company on a lark and put himself on the team -- despite not deserving a spot. We had some great moments of Xeno trying to take the reins of leadership and generally proving that he didn't deserve them with his selfish showboating.

    The highlight for me was when we pulled off a linked group attack move (which used up everyone's actions) and delivered a powerful blow to the enemy. We each narrated our part of the action, and then, at the climactic moment as I rolled the Strike for Xeno I narrated that he shoved Scythica (the team leader) out of the way, and took the shot. "Stand aside! He's mine!" Our chance for a team-bonding moment was shattered by Xeno's ego. Fortunately, the other players were into it, and were laughing all the way.

    I can't wait to play again.
  • Thanks for playing, guys. That was such an enjoyable session. After we agreed during the mood discussion that we were going for some humor, the group kept cracking me up. I love playing with people who know how to make the most out of the character scenes and tie them in with the conflicts.
    Posted By: John Harperhe shoved Scythica (the team leader) out of the way, and took the shot. "Stand aside! He's mine!"
    And then in the following character scene, Iron Belly and Muscles are yelling at Xeno Fury to be a team leader and follow the captain--while in the background, Captain Scythia is obliviously getting high :) I still chuckle just remembering that.

    I'm glad that we went through the whole creation process. Even though that leaves little play time to actually bring in links and seeds, it totally felt like the start of a game I'd have loved to play for many more sessions to come.

    And again, the goals worked wonders. Blinding the creepy crawlers and following it up with Iron Belly's Shadow Strike was exactly the kind of stuff that tactical goals are for.

    I'll definitely make up some "convention packages", even for the whole game (maybe I'll call them quickstart templates or something) and put in advice on power synergy.
  • I have a decent start on a quick-play package. I'll post it up when it's ready to go.
  • Cool! I'm looking forward to it.

    I need to add some clarifications to the rules here and there, too, based on some very good questions I got at GPNW.
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