I was eagerly anticipating the release of BESM (Big Eyes, Small Mouth) 3rd Edition. Of course by the time it was released Guardians of Order had gone belly up and the rules were now being released by Arthaus/White Wolf. My anticipation was tinged a little with stress. What had happened to the game I had just recently become very fond of and what was going to happen now? And of course would I be able to convert Willow and Tara to new version given how much fun I had with BESM 2nd Ed Revised?
Well many of fears were put to rest, only to be replaced by new ones (and a couple that just never seemed to go away). I'll detail those all below.
Briefly here are my comments on the system and the book.
The book is very attractive and one of the most colorful RPGs I have seen in a long time. It reminds me of Mutants and Masterminds in terms of color. It is a thick tome, and now sized to fit well on my shelf. The Niko Geyer artwork is great and really captures the feel of the game well. On the other hand I have seen all this artwork before, maybe not in color, but certainly in other editions of this book. Now I understand that money was very tight at GoO and the art is great, so I am willing to cut them some slack here.
The text though also has the same problems. There is text in here that I am now reading for the 5th or 6th time over (BESM 2.0, BESM d20, SAS, SASd20, Tri-Stat core). Some of this text still has the same problems as it always did (Dynamic Powers in particular).
I do like what is new. The analysis of anime, maps of Japan and Tokyo, and the overview of Shôjo anime. The section about the anime multiverse is also rather fun and full of ideas that can be used for any game. Especially as a way to run those pesky crossover sessions.
The new game mechanics are now a Roll-over; 2d6 vs. Target Number. Makes it very much in feel with Unisystem. No Success levels as such, but a very loose difficulty class system similar to many d20 based games. It was reading over these rules in fact that help re-tool my dice mechanic for Unisystem that I have come to call The Chicago Way .
But otherwise it is still mostly the same BESM. We still have our 3 Stats, Body, Mind and Soul. Still have attributes, defects and skills. There are different scalings for the game depending how you want to play it.
Like M&M the powers are all effects based. So if you wanted to make a Pyro Girl for example its not a matter of choosing levels in pyrokenesis, but choosing a particular power and have it act like it. This could be Elemental Control (Fire), Power Flux- Fire or something else.
That gets me to a big issue. Magic.
Magic has always been an issue in BESM. There are basically three magical powers. The first is the easiest. Pick a power and call it magical. No big deal really.
The second is Power Flux, which used to be called magic. The idea here is pay for this at 15 points per level and you get 4 points per level to buy any other power temporarily. For that loss of 11 points per level you gain flexibility. So every power in the book then becomes a spell that your magic using character can use. So lets take the power Invisibility as an example. The power says you become invisible, it does not say how or why. Since its results or effect based then the Invisibility power can come from magic, be a spell cast by Power Flux, or be a cloaking device of a super-science item. Power Flux does not just have to be magic, it can psi powers, super-science, or just about anything else. For people starting out in BESM I say go with Power Flux. This is what I usually do for starting games and my Teen Witch below uses Power Flux.
Then there is Dynamic Power. Dynamic Power used to be Dynamic Sorcery, but the name change didnt help clear anything up. It is bought like Power Flux (including some of the exact same text copied and pasted in). Now the idea here is to be able to replicate all those kewl powerz you see in anime that the characters just seem to think of and they get. The really weird stuff. The trouble is the power as written is ripe for abuse and it is not very clear. Turning to BESM d20 you can get an idea of what it can do there, but none of that is here. So there is no telling what a person with 3 levels in this can do say differently from what someone with 3 levels in Power Flux do.
The BESM d20 version has Dynamic Sorcery (its equivalent) casting D&D type spells with restrictions on how many, which ones and how often. But nothing like that here. IF I am going to use Dynamic Powers I am going to have to figure out a way to convert over the magic in BESM d20 Advanced Magic for some guidelines.
Though I should not have to do this I am going to take my cues on proper leveling from BESM d20 Advanced Magic. There Dynamic Sorcery goes to 10, to make life easier I am going to limit it to 5 levels in BESM 3.0 (level 6 is the realm of Gods). This will correspond to 1 BESM 3.0 level equaling 2 BESM d20 levels. Not perfect, but it is a guideline. Similarly Ill say 1 BESM 3.0 level of Dynamic Powers is roughly equal to having 2 levels of Magic/Sorcery. Its not perfect, but it works well enough.
Still though, I am unhappy with this power as written. Its a cool idea, but not as it is now. Ill revisit this when I do the BESM d20 conversions.
The rest is very familiar. The main feature of the system is still the Tri-Stat, or Body, Mind and Soul. All skills, attributes and defects as well combat roles are made with these three in mind. They range up to 12, but cannot go over.
Attributes and Skills convert pretty much as is. BESM 3.0s new mechanic is such that the chances of success for a character is about the same as their Unisystem counter-part. Many of the Attributes are nearly the same as Unisystem with minor name differences; Tough vs. Hard to Kill for example.
BESM 3 Skills are now part of Attributes, but otherwise mostly unchanged. Skill Levels range 1 to 6, with 0 as unskilled or unable to use this skill and 5 representing the human maximum in most cases.
I like BESM. I wish more people did too. Despite it's flaws (and it still has them) it is a great little game. I like what it can offer other games too. The biggest tragedy of BESM 3.0 is it's wasted potential. ArtHaus/White Wolf go it on the death of GoO and promptly did nothing with it. I get it in a way. BESM is not their product, not their line and really not in the same genre of their games. But I think it would have been great if someone had picked it up and expanded it some. Mark and GoO had some great ideas for the future of BESM 3 and it is sad that these will never come to pass. The loss of GoO and BESM is more than the loss of one small company and their game in the industry; it was the lost of something very unique.
[5 of 5 Stars!]