So, What's That All About Then

posted by TombsGrave Original SA post

So, there's this game.

I like it--or rather, I really like the setting, and there's a couple of cool ideas for game mechanics and character creation. The thing is... let's just say the actual mechanics are inadvisable. Not very surprising, given it's from the same people who did C(little floating o)ntinuum, but there's at least one rule in here that's bound to make your jaw drop in sheer disbelief that it could make it out of playtesting.

That said, I love the setting, and transplanting it into FATE or something like the Cinematic Unisystem makes for some good times. So, without further ado, let's roll up our sleeves and start on Chi-Chian: The Roleplaying Game !

Part 1: So, What's That All About Then

Chi-Chian is a comic series which is not currently collected in graphic novel format, a Flash animated series formerly hosted on the Sci-Fi (pardon, Syfy) Channel's website, and a roleplaying game which is obscure even by obscure roleplaying game standards. So if this write-up gets you interested in the game, uh, good luck.

It's a skinny volume which opens with a dedication by the creator of the comic and animated series, which is an interesting tale in its own right, and from there hops right into the table of contents. The pages are black with white lettering, and most of the artwork consists of exceptionally creepy Claymation figures intersped with scratchy, desperate-looking comic panels. It's moody, that's for sure.

Chapter One is an introduction to the Chi-Chian 'verse, which includes a complete summary of the comics and Flash animated series in a stunning bit of foresight. The summary fills in the reader on the almost-completely-unavailable adventures of Chi-Chian, a power-armored wonder girl from the 31st century. (That's her on the cover with the Thompson and the Madonna / Eye of Sauron bra, along with a worm train. More on those later...)

The story of Chi-Chian, in brief: She spends the comic series cleaning up her well-meaning but father's bio-mechanical messes creations as they apparently malfunction and try to kill everybody, all while her huge bitch sister tries to kill her. She spends the Flash series trying to help New York's giant intelligent cockroach population learn how to defend themselves from moth-worshipping misogynist mutant zombie cultists who employ wonder weapons such as human-sized Victor mousetraps. And she spends the opening story giving the narrator a quick tour of her place and her wacky friends.

Admittedly, while the early parts of the book do a good job of letting you know what to expect from Chi-Chian, it doesn't do that good of a job of selling the game. Reading the setting encyclopedia which takes up most of the book? Oh yeah, that'll get your motor revving. Even the character creation rules have some interesting tidbits in them. But the actual opening, well... Chi-Chian's creator is a guy named Voltaire, which I assume at least some of you have heard of. The style of Chi-Chian was a predecessor to the "quirky gothic cartoon" which would emerge in full force in the early aughties, and going over the first chapter in depth right now would make the game come off as insufferably twee.

Which it might still do, I dunno.

I'll be skipping most of the opening chapter and revisiting it after plunging into the encyclopedia which makes up most of the book.

The gist of the setting: it's New York in the 31st century (the comic came out in 1997, by the by), and things are kind of shit. The world is a ball of pollution with pockets of civilization here and there, and even the oxygen cycle is only maintained due to gigantic kelp farms raised specifically for that purpose. New Jersey recently invaded using psychic terror weapons, a giant "killer" robot called the Destroyer more recently invaded using weapons which transported its "victims" to Nirvana (only to return to the inhospitable dystopia after Chi-chian's huge bitch sister destroyed it, naturally), and the various antagonists Chi-Chian defeated in the comic and Flash series proper are picking themselves up and getting ready to make with the revenge and all.

Into this our player characters stride, ready to do what good they can in a world where all the odds are stacked against them. It's not too far off to call this game a metaphor for the civil rights movement; there's a strong emphasis on solidarity and standing up against a seemingly-insurmountable system hell-bent on keeping your people disenfranchised. Issues of race and class are built into the system, and by "race" I mean if you're not a pure-blooded Japanese woman you have fewer rights, and by "class" I mean the city is literally segregated by force fields which prevent lower-class citizens from advancing higher. (There's a funny story about K-seg, but it'd be better to explain it in context.) It ain't exactly what you'd call subtle, but it's gameably unsubtle, and while it does paint a depressing picture, the main theme of the game is that you can do something about social injustices. All it takes is a willingness to change it, and possibly six arms and the ability to breathe fire.

That's a matter for the next chapter, Game Systems, which I'll start on in Part Two: What Should I Buy, Two Levels of Martial Arts or Six Levels of Sexpert?; or, What Do You Mean Martial Arts Training Costs As Much As Telekinesis?

I Really Wasn't Kidding About Point Cost

posted by TombsGrave Original SA post

And now for Part 2 of the Chi-Chian Roleplaying Game: I Really Wasn't Kidding About Point Cost.

This chapter covers every bit of game mechanic for Chi-Chian (henceforth CC when not referring to the character). We open up with the glossary explaining what roleplaying is to people who somehow first start roleplaying with this obscure game based on an obscure series. The die system is based on ten-siders and players are advised to use 2d10.

In this game the Game Master is the Sensei, characters are made by spending Chi points (120 to start with), and character traits are divided into Stats (your usual ability scores) and Capabilities (everything else). It seems a little weird to lump in "better than normal at using computers" with "has built-in firearms," but what do I know.

Your character concept is more important than normal in CC. In addition to deciding what you want to be...

The Rulebook posted:

Some examples of characters unique to the world of Chi-Chian include:

* A reclusive albino from Titan in a bunny-shaped exxo.
* An experiental worm train prototype.
* A sex toy with its head grafted onto a tentacle unit.
* A 6-foot cockroach that likes to waltz.
* The daughter of a great scientist with an experimental exxo.

(These are all canonical characters.) must define five important, highly-emotional memories for your character, as these help determine their K-seg status.

There are eight stats, Mettle (how good you are at fighting), Brains (as you might expect), Health (Strength and Dexterity as one stat--nope, no problems here!), Guile (how good you are at lying and manipulating people), Virtue (your spirituality and overall goodness), Charm (your "polite society" skills), Tech (your adroitness at using technology) and Willpower (what you might expect). They range from 1 to 5 and the Chi point to buy them is equal to the number you're buying, plus the cost of buying each level below--so starting with Mettle 5 will cost you 1+2+3+4+5 points. If you start with Mettle 4 at character creation, that's 1+2+3+4, but if you buy Mettle 5 later, you need only spend 5 points.

The most interesting stat of all is Status. Status is both what it says on the tin and sort of like Wild Talents's archetype; if you spend no points on Status, you're automatically "a human male Taino dwelling on Gamma Plane" for a total of Status -1. If you want to play a woman, a giant bug, a robot, a mutant, or a non-male or non-Taino human, you either pay points or get more to spend. ("Taino" is their term for someone who is of evenly-mixed genetics, as their appearance resembles the Taino people.) Status is a hell of a stat, since it can influence virtually anything , so long as the Sensei decides that social status would be important.

(Interestingly, there's a built-in "crab bucket" rule: among people with negative Status, positive Status acts as a negative modifier and negative Status as positive. It doesn't say whether this is limited to making first impressions or if your weirdo friends will automatically like you less as you do better for yourself. I suppose it's up to the Sensei to decide.)

Rather than ranking you from 1 to 5 like a regular stat, Status is built on a rubric: what sex and race are you? What's your job? What's your rank in K-seg? (There's that K-Seg again...) How is your family perceived? And are you attractive or do you look like every creature your genes were recompiled from stuck in a blender and shaped in a Jell-o mold?

While the full extent of K-seg is for another update--because good lord it's a doozy--X-Y Relax deserves to be explained up front. X-Y Relax is a system that allows women, and only women (or men who have bought expensive X-Y Relax foolin' systems), to telepathically command biomechanical machinery spread all throughout New York. Remember Chi-Chian's father? He designed the system to favor women because he was under the impression that women were literally the fairer sex and less prone to corruption and wickedness than men. This had the result of turning an oppressive Japanese patriarchy into an oppressive Japanese matriarchy . Good job, dad!

After stats, it's a big fat list of Capabilities. Capabilities are either flat advantages (like Adhesion, which costs 10 points), Stat+, which are added to the affected stat (like Martial Artist and Sexpert), and in levels, which are scalably badass abilities (like Robust and Energy Projection). The list hits all the usual superpower notes, although I again question why one would lump regular, mundane skills in with the ability to spit webbing or fly. Capabilities come in five flavors: Natural, Mutation, Implant, Prototype (for gadgeteers), Freak ("Rare abilities only known to occur in a few individuals [psychic powers, abnormal strength and size, a highly evolved sense of morality]"), or Training. A handful of powers are restricted so that Joe Didn't-Spend-Points-on-Status can't just pick up all the extra arms he wants, but mostly it's for flavor.

An exception: mad scientist types can upgrade their Prototype powers at no cost but at a risk of damaging the power by making a skill roll. I know, those aren't the terminologies used in the game, but trust me, you'll be thinking them too.

Capabilities are inconsistently priced and kind of arbitrary, so that (once again) being unusually good at punching costs as much as being able to move things with your mind, secreting venom, having arms that can pick things up OR run, or being able to fly. I'd say that would be character creations' weak point, but honestly, I just play a lot of games where the power creation mechanics are out in the open. It sets out to do what it aims and for that I give it props.

The guide closes up with starting cash (and how to get more of it), suggestions for your two mandatory fatal flaws (which give no points but which you're expected to roleplay), and a template for playing as robots or cockroaches (robot traits come to 18 points, while the full cockroach package starts at 63 for the bare bones and can go as high as 83 out of 120 points). The second-to-last page of character creation is a look at the character sheet, which wastes huge blocks of black ink on winding worm-shaped borders while offering precious little room to write important information. Also, it offers an intensely ominous-looking result-rolled-versus-difficulty chart in the lower-right corner...

I was going to finish there, but gear is pretty painless, so let's knock it out here. There's nothing unusual about the game mechanics for 'em, but there is a very wide range of equipment available. Think your average Fallout game; you can go primitive melee weapons, pack some old-school heat, or just toss around grenades and zorch folks with plasma bolts. Likewise, your personal protection comes in the form of exxos. Exxos are necessary for the frequently-toxic environment of New York and come in a variety of styles and prices, from the common man's HAZMAT suit to the rich girl's Zodiac-themed power armor. Those who want to get around in style can go for Pods (UFO-shaped hovercraft) or stomp around in Taximechs (the latest evolution in the war for passengers--that and a rollicking good fight brings in the tips like nothing else). And, of course, sufficiently stylish or in-season vehicles and armor add a bonus to Status.

For the particularly rich, you can purchase special equipment that allows you to circumvent K-Seg or X-Y Relax. This is important. You'll want to remember this when we get there.

So, character creation was pretty painless! What's on the next pa--oh my God what the hell is that chart?

Next time: Part 3--The Actual Game Mechanics, Or, Gravity Is The Baddest Son Of A Bitch In New York, Or, Maybe You Should Bring More Than Two Ten-Siders For This Because I Remember It Being Bad, But Sweet Christmas That Is Really Really Bad.

Or, would you rather I whip up a character to show you how it's done? I'll take suggestions!

Wherein A Character Is Attempted

posted by TombsGrave Original SA post

The Chi-Chian RPG: Wherein A Character Is Attempted

So I started off making a mad scientist. The early part was easy: buy some basic stats and go heavy on Tech. About half my starting points went into buying stats and Status, half of which was the cost of making a female character.

The thing is, having 60 or so points left over for non-stats... see, you have to buy a Mimitsu Yen Multiplier or else you only get 1 Mimitsu yen for every point you spend and the cheapest things you can buy are reloads for pistols. If you want to afford a good exxo, the most efficient way is to spring for the 15-point x100,000 multiplier and spend one point to get 100,000 MY.

The plan was to get a Rat exxo and trick it out with sewer-investigating equipment. Having about 45 points allowed me to get one level of Science (10 points), one level of Corrosion (15), Corrosion Resistance 1 (5), and three levels of Enhanced Strength (15). This represents enhancements she made to her suit!

Then I saw that I had a couple extra points left over and, for kicks, decided to spend it on more MY.

I then discovered that having 400,000 MY to spend basically made my exxo the equivalent of about four or five regular characters. Cockroaches have barely enough to buy normal stats, but I upgraded to the next-best exxo model and barely put a dent in my cash supplies to make it have armor 8--which I must note is more than anything else in the game--have more hidden guns and swords than most characters have limbs, oh, and she hits harder with a sword than with her plasma rifle. And since all of her weapons are mounted, she gets to use Tech to attack with instead of Mettle.

I think. It's a little vague.

There isn't a matching exxo enhancement table for Taximechs, which oh wait there is nevermind how ever did I miss that before. So, if I ditched the superpowers because ahahahahahaha why would I need them, it would not be at all unusual for me to buy an x1,000,000 modifier for 20 points, spend 30 points for a total of 30,000,000 MY... I could buy the best exxo in the game, the Dragon exxo, with every option tuned up to the maximum, a heavy taximech with all its stats tuned up to the maximum, a heavy taximech for the heavy taximech, all the guns for both taximechs, and some factory-standard Dragon exxos and heavy taximechs for everyone else in the party.

You know, I haven't made a powered-by-money character before. I now see the error of my ways.

This is entirely within the boundaries of the rules, by the way. I haven't bent them or even wiggled them a little. It's just there, sitting out in the open, hoping you don't put two and two together. No, I won't do the math.


Billie DuBois, All The Money

Mettle 2
Brains 2
Health 2
Guile 2
Virtue 2
Charm 1
Tech 5
Willpower 2

Status +3 (Female, Half-Breed, Beta Plane, Important Job, Good Reputation) [12]

Capabilities: 1,000,000x M-Yen Multiplier [20], 54,000,000 M-Yen [54]

Gear: All

Rigging a makeshift splint for her brother when he broke his leg.
Finding an intact Encyclopedia Britannica , Volume X-Y, from the 1980s in the family safe.
Hearing exactly how much money that was worth and fainting, hitting her head against that family safe.
Kicking a Patahn Parr so hard he literally splashed against her taximech's foot like a moth against a windshield, holy shit did you see that?!!
That really nice Reuben she had last week.

So-o-o, maybe I should take back what I said about the system being pretty good for making weirdos, because trying to make a mad scientist weirdo was infinitely less satisfying than just buying one of everything that rolled off the Mimitsu factory line for a day. 120 chi points is not a lot, half of that gets eaten by character stats quite easily. The various Capabilities can give you some quirky and unusual abilities, but only a lack of attention prevents one of the characters from (possibly literally) playing Scrooge McDuck and bankrolling the entire enterprise. Sure, you'll just be wearing 200 pounds of steel shaped like a dragon* with half the arsenal in the game built in, piloting a giant robot with the other half installed plus the first half for kicks, instead of being a squishy cephalopod who blew all their points on manipulator limbs... but I suppose the intoxicating power of money will soothe that particular ache.

*A non-anatomically-correct, non-aluminum dragon.

I wonder if this is meant to be a statement of some sort.

Anyhow, yeah, that's the first sign that you should be using a different system.

My Sensei Rolled 376 Checks!

posted by TombsGrave Original SA post

I was going to make another character, but the more I looked at the system, the more I realized how difficult it was to make a character that didn't suck in some way or the other. You know what? After this, I'll make a Chi-Chian character using Wild Talents. So, strap yourselves tight, because now it's time for

Part Three: My Sensei Rolled 376 Checks!

So, you know how roleplaying games work, right? You hear that this game rolls 2d10 for checks, so now you're thinking "Oh, so it's like d20, except with a slightly more median die spread and skills are either really cheap or kind of expensive?" Oh, no no no no no. Here's how the game works.

All skill checks have a difficulty--either static or based on the stat of the person you're trying to compete with. When rolling, you roll 2d10, add up the results, and try to get over the difficulty. If you roll over the difficulty, you succeed. If you roll double the difficulty, you get an extra success. For example, if the difficulty is 5 and your result is a 15, you get three successes. Rolling doubles makes the dice explode so long as they keep rolling doubles. Easy, right?

But what about stats? How do they come into play?

Here's the thing.

You don't add your stat to the roll--if your stat is higher than the difficulty, you can reroll once for every level higher your stat is than the difficulty. If your stat is equal to the difficulty, you roll 2d10 once and hope it either rolls matches or just plain rolls higher than the difficulty. If your stat is less than the difficulty, you lose one success from the final roll for every point of difference, and critically fail of the result goes negative.

Yeah. I'm no mathematician, but those are some rather long-looking odds on a chart where difficulty goes up to 12.

Combat, by the way? It's a contest of Mettle vs. Mettle, and dodging requires giving up your action to reduce your target's success levels by 2. No, there's no way to roll to improve that. The good news is that melee damage is based on your Health, unless you have Martial Arts in which it's also based on Mettle. When you get hit, you get a Damage Reduction roll, which is a contested roll of your Health vs. the Attack Strength, and unlike every other roll in the game, your success levels are deducted from the enemy's in an attempt to lower its damage. Minus any penalties for being hit by something that deals more damage than you have Health, which is to say most things that hit you.

For example, if a character with 5 Health wanted to make a save against the hit from that taximech we bought earlier, they'll have to make a save against an attack strength of 150 + whatever the taximech might be using as a melee weapon. That means they suffer -145 successes on their defense and the enemy has give or take 145 rerolls to eke out as high a die roll as they can. Everybody has 10 damage levels, if I'm reading this correctly.

There are other rules, of course--how to build your own mad scientist's lab (it's really expensive, so if you want to hog your millions of MY to yourself you can spend the rest on a pimped-out mecha tune-up lab, which runs off the same stat you use to attack people with your giant robot's war weapons), how to grapple (it's not all that complex), movement and character advancement. It also touches on the hazards common to New York, like radiation and hazardous environments.

Most importantly it has an example of falling damage.

Really In The Rulebook posted:

For example, Terll, smitten with the lovely Chi-Chian, follows her as she jumps off the 301st floor of the Mimitsu Lines Building, which is approximately 1806 yards. Chi-Chian uses her BioLogic armor to stop her descent, and lands on a nearby rooftop. Trell, not having any such luck, falls screaming all the way to the bottom, and minutes later hits the pavement below. 1140 meters fallen, divided by 3 (rounded down) equals 380. Therefore, the concrete ground attacks poor Trell with a Mettle and Attack Strength of 380. Trell's Mettle and Health are both 4, therefore the Sensei gets 376 rerolls to use on the attack.

I suppose you could handwave it by pointing out that in situations like this, you could just handwave the character as instantly dead no matter what, but inexplicably the example continues and the sensei gets a staggering 427 damage, summing up what everybody else could guess from word one.

Other highlights: Initiative is called OOMF ("Ooh! Ooh! Me First!"), there's an official entry for getting more Chi by "Bribing the sensei" (the total you can get is "varies"), and holy hell did you see that damage roll?

And that is the end of the mechanics chapter. After this it's a big fat serving of setting info, AKA "the part of the book that earns its keep."

I'll use the rest of this to just be continually bewildered by the system. Stats are worthless. They either offer a mild advantage in giving you a couple more chances to hit the difficulty, an opportunity to roll once without penalty, or inflict increasingly painful and inescapable dice. Stalemates and running on raw luck are common. And, as we've noticed, it's comparatively quite easy to inflict this on your enemies. I suppose the main thing keeping taximech abuse in check is that the things are bloody huge, but you can still ramp up the "enhanced strength" attribute on exxos until you can throw around equally painful penalties on most of the canon foes. I'd test to see how badly you could trounce some of them, but honestly, I'm not a power game at heart and if I wanted to spend millions of points I'd be playing GURPS or HERO.

So-o-o, just in case you're just tuning in, the mechanics of CC blow chunks. Somehow the writers pitch the system as capturing the flavor of fairy tales, where inexperienced misfits find a way to succeed against their foes through guile, but that holds about as much water as a chain-link fence.

Next time: The fluff! AKA, the reason you're buying this book.

...In a row?