The Slayers d20 by Waffleman_
Pre-IntroOriginal SA post
Who's ready for some motherfuckin' anime?
So in the early 2000s, Wizards of the Coast had a pretty good thing on their hands with Dungeons & Dragons 3.5th Edition. Pretty much the most popular edition of the system to date, Wizards decided to diversify a bit more by licensing out the d20 system used in 3.5e to anybody who wanted to make supplementary material for it. Hooraaaaay~! So in 2004, a Canadian company called Guardians of Order looks at a fantasy anime series from the 90s and says, "Hey, let's do this." So Slayers d20 was born!
Like I said, Slayers d20 is a supplement to the popular d20 system based on the popular Slayers anime series. It focuses heavily on recreating the feel of the source material in the system, providing new races, new and reworked classes, and a completely redone magic system. There are also pointers in place for emphasizing comedy in your stories and roleplay. The book went out of print in about 2007 when the rights to the Slayers anime series were transferred from Central Park Media to Funimation, who declined to renew the license with Guardians of Order. While I've never gotten the chance to play Slayers d20 myself to judge whether it's a good system or not, I feel like it's an interesting enough piece of tabletop literature for us to take a closer look at and maybe judge for ourselves.
However, I feel like before we dive right into the book itself, we should talk about the source material for juuuust a bit.
Slayers is an anime series that aired for three seasons from 1996-1998 and two additional seasons in 2008-2009 based on the light novel series by Hajima Kanzaka. It follows the sorceress Lina Inverse, along with her companions, the dimwitted swordsman Gourry, the hero of justice Amelia, and brooding shaman Zelgadis, as they fight ancient gods and monsters, sass the heck out of the world they live in, and most importantly, try to scrounge up enough cash for dinner at that nice steakhouse in Atlas City. It's basically the pure ideal of a game of D&D with friends blended with the epitome of 90s anime and I fucking love it and it's the perfect candidate for a tabletop game. So hey, let's see how well they did when we actually crack open the book next time!
On the next episode: Let's Get Started! Introduction and Races!
Let's Get Started! Introducing You To Slayers!Original SA post
Let's Get Started! Introducing You To Slayers!
The art of this book is entirely the best in grayscale anime caps. Fine, I guess, but a missed opportunity in a way.
The introduction of Slayers d20 is actually quite brisk, only about four or five pages. It begins with a designer's note outlining the basic mission statement for Slayers d20, that is, to simulate the Slayers universe in both letter and spirit, and how that required going in a direction the system doesn't normally go. Honestly, they can say it better than me, so the designer's note is presented below.
Now wasn't that a fun read? The introduction proper is more of a quick primer on the tone of an ideal Slayers campaign. That is to say, the ideal Slayers campaign involves humor not only as a result of players fucking around at the table, but coming naturally from the characters and the story, with a healthy dose of drama to keep things grounded. We're going to be predominately talking about ~Comedy In Character Design~ right now though.
First off, cliches and stereotypes: embrace them! Poking fun at fantasy tropes is a good foundation for the humor in Slayers, and peeling back those outer layers to reveal hidden depths is an easy way to add some character development. I'll just let them say it.
Slayers' characters should be a mixture of humorous and serious sides. Characters in this game don't have multi-page backgrounds detailing their lives before the game's inception. Parents, siblings, education, or former lovers rarely rate mention unless they somehow figure into the plot. Treasure hunting, cooking, and getting a good price on that magical doo-hickey that could save the world are what drive these people, none of which require a detailed history to establish. At most, there will be some significant event that drives a character forward, but even that isn't always necessary.
The two examples given are Zelgadis, a man who seeks a way to restore his body to a human state after being turned into a chimera by an evil priest, and Gourry, who is a pretty average teenage warrior and kind of a dummy. Both of these characters are valid! In chargen, one of the questions one should be asking themselves is "Where does this character fall on the drama/humor spectrum?" In the example above, Gourry is a more obviously comedic character than Zelgadis, though the latter can have his moments.
The section then basically repeats itself a bit regarding what I just said before going into anime tropes! Hooraaaay~! By which I mean two tropes. And one of which isn't really a trope. Hooraaaay~!
First off, heroic and villainous names, I guess? According to the book, heroic names will A, E, I, and Y, often traditional names with some sort of heroic connotation, like Gourry Gabriev. Villainout names use V, R, and Z, like Rezo, Vrumugun, and Zangulus. If a hero has a villainous name or vice versa, it might affect people's opinion of them and that might be funny! That's it.
Then it's unusual hair and eye color, you've seen anime. Your hair and eyes can tell a lot about your character, which seems like it'd be more useful for a visual medium, but hey. I'm not the game designer. Again, these things determine how NPCs see you I guess.
The final part of the introduction really feels like it should be in the DMing section, but it's something a player might wanna know, but it's kinda out of place. This is honestly not a good introduction. It's an important in-universe question of where exactly the campaign takes place and how it affects the tone. You see, there's a magical barrier around the continent where most of Slayers takes place, keeping people both in and out. Inside the barrier, which is the main setting, magic is the order of the day. Wizards and shit, true D&D 3.5e, you know what I'm talking about. Outside the barrier, which is explored in the third season, people are more into technology, with magic being just kinda parlor tricks. Much harder to be a wizard. Think Final Fantasy 6. The biggest mechanical difference your setting will make is the availability of some prestige classes, which we'll go into when the time comes.
If this post seemed a bit disjointed, that's because, well, this is kind of a bad introduction section. It could have been a nice selling of the Slayers universe and tone, and maybe set you up to want to play in this fantastic fantasy world. Instead, it's the same two points about comedy spread out over three pages, about 4 paragraphs about anime stuff, and a short section that'd mean literally nothing to anyone not familiar with the series. And you know, yeah, this book is probably just appealing to people already familiar with Slayers, but you kinda miss a big opportunity to draw new people in, but that's probably a bit more emblematic of a lot of general attitudes with the hobby I don't feel qualified enough to talk about.
BUT ENOUGH ABOUT THAT! Next time, we actually get into the meat of the book and start talking about mechanics!
On the next episode: Who The Heck Are You?! The Races of Slayers!
Who The Heck Are You?! The Races of Slayers!Original SA post
Who The Heck Are You?! The Races of Slayers!
A human male would’ve had the same reaction if asked to kiss a wolf chick, right? I mean, unless he were weird and into body hair or whatever. I mean, it’s not me being rejected here, it’s my genus. It’s not my fault he’s not attracted to women outside his species. Wait, goblins are outside his species…
So! Races! The first thing the book tells you about races is what you cannot be. You cannot be
"But Waffleman, that's basically everything!" you would say. And to that I would respond, "Shut the hell up, I'm talking." So shut the hell up, I'm talking.
So we'll come right out and say that Slayers d20 only has three core races. This is true to the show in that there is really not a lot you can be. Now at first blush, this seems like barely anything to work with, but there are actually a fair bit of options available to you.
So, our first core race is Beastmen! As the name suggests, beastmen are creatures with both human and animal characteristics. Furries, if you will. A wide variety of animals are represented by the beastmen, from goats to wolves to bulls to fish (?!?!?!?!) In the series, they basically serve the same purpose as orcs, very tribal, insular folks that usually serve as bandits or hired hands to act as an enemy encounter. But some of them are cool!
Mechanically speaking, Beastmen are an umbrella race, with your ability score adjustments being based on which kind of animal you are. There's even a table, check it out!
Ah, tables. As you can see, they're usually either fighters or thieves. That's racist! I don't think there's anything stopping you from making a fish wizard who fights for justice. I mean, you should probably make a fish wizard. But yeah, fighty-types and stealy-types work best with beastmen.
YOU SHOULD BE A BEASTMAN IF:
-You wanna be big and tough
-You wanna be sneaky and stealy
-You like Sonic the Hedgehog a bit too much
-You think humans are boring
-You wanna be a fish wizard
Next up, the second core race is Dragons! Wait, dragons? Yes, dragons! Specifically Golden Dragons, whom feature heavily in the third season of the series. Dragons are kinda the elves of Slayers, being long-lived mystical servants of the gods. Dragons are guardians of peace and order, though they're not necessarily "good." Dragons can do some cold shit if they think they're working for the greater good.
Now, if you're wondering how a dragon PC logistically works, don't worry, they have human forms, it's okay! A dragon PC can assume dragon form at will with a special skill check. It makes them big and strong! They also get DRAGON BREATH which is badass! Hell yeah! Dragons are magical types, with their favored class being priests, y'know, clerical types.
YOU SHOULD BE A DRAGON IF:
-You wanna be a Led Zeppelin album cover
-You like Godzilla movies
-You want to be the team mom
-You're a good boy who goes to church
-You don't want to be a fish wizard
Humans are humans.
I....I don't know what to say here. They're exactly as they are in D&D. NEXT!
YOU SHOULD BE A HUMAN IF:
-You're bad at roleplay
-You think the idea of a party full of dragons is lame
-I'm giving you shit, but it's okay to be a human
-You want to be the furthest thing possible from a fish wizard
And that's it for core races! That's all she wrote.
Well, there is...one thing. The Slayers universe has beings called Mazoku, or the Monster Race, who are kind of demons, except demons are their own thing as well and it's kinda confusing. Mazoku are beings of pure chaos, who only seek to fuck shit up. While these is a Mazoku in the main cast of the second and third seasons, the designers have declined to add them as a playable race, citing tone concerns. I mean, these things are just evil! They don't have time for like...jokes and stuff! There is the caveat that if you REALLY wanna be one, you can just adapt the Mazoku stats from the bestiary chapter (That's later!) to your PC. But like...nah, man.
YOU SHOULD BE A MAZOKU IF:
-You main Reaper
-You're 14 (See above)
-You wanna ruin everyone's day
-You wish Slayers wasn't so funny
-You want to kill the fish wizard
So, that's not a lot. But to alleviate this, we have several templates that you can ratchet on to your character to make something a bit more esoteric!
First off, Chimeras! A chimera is a magical creature made by using black sorcery to shove a bunch of creatures together into one guy. For example, Slayers main character Zelgadis is a chimera of a human, a rock golem, and a demon. All a chimera means mechanically is that you can apply more than one race template to your guy, or even race templates outside of the book with GM discretion. That seems like it could be a bit broken, huh?
Next is Copies. A copy is a magic clone of a person. There was one guy in the first season that had a lot of copies and that's why it's a thing in this book. That's kind of a theme with the chargen stuff. I'm going to be completely honest here, I'm not sure how copies are supposed to work on a "creating a character to start this adventure" sense. It hinges on a fully statted character already existing for you to base it off of, and there's so much complication about allocating previous levels and adjusting from their ability scores, don't do it, it's dumb. They made it way too mechanical when being a clone of a guy probably should have been more of a fluff thing.
And this isn't even getting into stuff like skills and ability scores.
The last five templates are half-whatever or nots, again, most of them here because one person in the series was that thing.
Half-demons are ace spellcasters, gaining the ability to cast common spells of any discipline regardless of class, and gain a couple of bonuses to spellcasting and magic resistance. Cool!
Half-dragons get dragon breath, a couple other dragon perks like low-light vision and hunger resistance, and similar spellcasting bonuses to the half-demon. Roar!
Half-golems are big and tough and basically rock walls. Huge!
Half-Mazoku get similar bonuses to the dragons and demons, but can also shift to the astral plane! Whoa!
Half-trolls have great healing ability! Nice!
That's those! Hooray~!
So, for an example character, let's take our fish wizard. Now, fishmen take a -2 hit to INT, so that might not be so good. But what if this fishman was kidnapped by a sorcerer and combined with a demon AND a dragon to be one-third fish, one-third dragon, and one-third demon? Well, now you've got a fish with dragon breath, the ability to cast all common spells, and great magical bonuses and resistance!
Hotcha, the Demon Dragon Fish is born!
Join us next time when we look at classes and the big problem of being A Bit Too Faithful To The Source.
On The Next Episode: Get A Job Already! The Classes Of Slayers!
Get A Job Already! The Classes of Slayers!Original SA post
Get A Job Already! The Classes of Slayers!
He grunted in admiration. “So… you’re some kind of sorceress, then?”
Now it was my jaw’s turn to drop. “Some kind of sorceress? Yes, I am some kind of sorceress! What did you think?”
I’d like to explain that from the moment that Gourry first laid eyes on me, I have been dressed like SOME KIND OF SORCERESS.
Slayers classes! Pretty much all of these classes are derived from at least one character who appeared in the series and are accompanied by pictures of those characters. Here we go!
It's days like this that make me glad I'm a bandit!
Bandits are a very common foe for Lina and Co. to face during their adventures. You know what these are, it's like a rogue, but in the woods. And mechanically, that's pretty much what a bandit is. One of their main level bonuses is Sneak Attack, just like a rogue. Their other key feature is the ability to gain a group of followers. At level 8, a bandit can form a band as if they had Leadership and gain a bonus in such. The band becomes a gang, mob, clan, and finally a ravening horde at level 20 with stacking Leadership bonuses.
I've worked hard up till now following them all over creation for that money you promised me, but from here on out I'm fighting for my own reasons!
Zangulus the bounty hunter was a constant nemesis in the first season of Slayers and is the entire basis for the class. Bounty hunters are kinda duelist types, with their main class features being tracking people and being fast/good at dodging. Their progression is a bit more varied than the bandit's.
As long as he has wisdom and fighting spirit, nothing is impossible for a man!
Loremasters are keepers of secrets. Basically specialists, Loremasters just know shit. Loremasters can make a special knowledge check with a bonus equal to their level + INT to see if they know about notable people, items, or places. As for level progression...Well, here's the table.
Yeah, that looks kinda weird, right? Loremasters are weird in that their class progression is pretty much freeform. See, the book gives a list of secrets that loremasters can learn, some can be taken once, some can be taken as many times as you want. They range from a new feat or additional skill points, to the ability to sense magic items, to special combat abilities. 's weird.
A prince is dignified, refined, and really handsome too!
You know, I actually really like the concept of this class. Nobility in Slayers are no strangers to the life of an adventurer. Main character Amelia is a princess of the kingdom of Seyruun son of Prince Philionel, and recurring antagonist Martina is the princess of the kingdom of Xoana. Nobles are leaders through and through. Their features include bonuses to social situations, the abilitiy to inspire courage and greatness in your allies, and interestingly, a line of credit to your kingdom that you can use to buy stuff. Reasonable expenses are of course up to the GM, and every tab must be paid off eventually.
Rezo, the Red Priest, who clothes himself in the robes of the priesthood and bears with him the respect of the Great Shrine. He travels through all lands helping people, one of the five Wise Men of the Age.
Priests are the servants of the gods, which makes it weird that they can be any alignment. First season antagonist Rezo the Red and season 2 & 3 frenemy Xellos form the basis of this class. Priests are kinda cleric-y, with the abilitiy to sense and smite evil plus removing disease. Plus, they become spellcasters at 11th level, so there's that. Also they have a staff and they can't do priest stuff if they lose it, so get a wrist strap.
I don't really care if anyone steals the jewels on my shoulders since they're fakes, but it's not my fault if they explode when you remove them.
Rogues....are rogues. They are pretty much exactly as in PHB. There's not even a picture of a character to justify its inclusion. It's a remarkable and glaring lack of effort in a book that has otherwise been nothing but effort, despite any flaws. N....Next.
Look out, sea dragon! I will slay you in one blow!
Warriors are sword guys and you probably shouldn't be playing one in 3.5, but who am I to judge? The two main things a warrior has progression-wise are a bonus to a particular style that they choose during chargen, be it one-handed, two-handed, double weapon, weapon and shield etc, and the ability to choose bonus feats from a list of feats. It's all quite boring.
Even an idiot can learn one trick. You can't be the best without knowing the big and small spells.
Now we're talking. Witches and wizards are your basic spellcasters. It's basically being a magic intern. This is what you wanna be if you wanna be like a sorcerer or a shaman or one of the actually good prestige classes. Outside of spellcasting ability, all you really get is feats and a defensive barrier. Whatever!
That's all very basic, so join me next time when we get to some of the weirder classes!
On the Next Episode: Moving on up! Prestige Classes!