トーキョーN◎VA (Tokyo Nova), A slow breakdown
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    トーキョーN◎VA (from this point on "Tokyo Nova"), is published by FEAR. It's in it's fourth edition (or so). IIRC, it went TN, TN 2nd edition, TN The Revolution, and TN The Detonation.

    Anyway, it's the first Japanese RPG I ever played, way back in 1995 when I lived in Japan going to school as an exchange student one semester in college. Through a completely coincidental and even cryptic series of events, I found myself one day at a Day Convention: This convention was in one smallish meeting room at one hotel, with about 12 tables; The Con was for one purpose only: The playing of Tokyo Nova, some 40 or so people playing across one large campaign, spread across several tables and GMs. That's a story for another time.

    At that time, I wasn't nearly as good at speaking Japanese as I am now, so I spent most of that time with my head down, confused, and offering a burst of roleplaying here and there before I got that "translator fatigue" and had to rest. But I did end up making up a fascinating first character (A Half-Jamaican Legger-Mannikin-Mistress: A drug runner for the elite who ran simply the best parties).

    Anyway, over time I forgot most of the rules, and I never played since 1995, though I did own two editions of the game. After not thinking about it for a while, I suddenly got into a real Cyberpunk fix, and Tokyo Nova is a real anime-inspired distinctly Japanese take on the cyberpunk genre. In this discussion I'm going to slowly (over weeks/months, as I'm in the middle of other projects) break down the game into its parts to show how it works. Eventually, I hope to once again play it, and this is a baby step towards that goal.

    Japanese Wikipedia
  • The most distinctive features about the game are that it uses only trump/playing cards for game resolution (no dice). Also, each edition contained a spread of gorgeous game-themed tarot cards representing the Major Arcana. Each of the major arcana represents a "character class" in the game.

    During character creation, you simply choose three of the arcana/classes (by choice, not drawing randomly; although that might be cool too for a one-shot). Now, going from memory (I'll check facts later):The first represents who you are, what you do in the public eye. Your job, basically. The second represents your true nature, the hidden side that you don't show people (like you might look like a yakuza, but really you're working as a police detective; that sort of thing). The third is your "hobby", which defines what you do on the side, and gives you some extra abilities. You can take the same archetype more than once, and in fact you'll see some NPCs throughout the book that are really focused: Mayakashi-Mayakashi-Inu, frex.

    In this post, for my own re-edification, I'm going to list the names of all the classes and the basic concept of each. The format will be:

    Archetype Name -=- Major Arcana -=- Archetype Name Translation (either word-wise or conceptually) -=- Brief description of the archetype/class

    KABUKI -=- The Fool -=- "punk" -=- The media idols; rock stars; glam-rappers, aidoru, etc.

    VASARA -=- The magus -=- an old word meaning "mysterious one" -=- a psychic, with both "slightly psychic" powers, and if you want, a template of "old style powers" dealing with the elemtnts.

    TATARA -=- The Priestess -=- a variation on "metalsmith" -=- a skilled craftsperson. Basically the "doctor" class, but they can be doctors, teachers, weaponsmiths, etc

    MISTRESS -=- The Empress -=- just as it sounds -=- a socialite, with lots of social powers.

    KABUTO -=- The Emperor -=- a samurai helmet -=- a bodyguard, with the ability to fight, but mostly to protect someone else from harm.

    KARISMA -=- The Heirophant -=- charismatic leader -=- a politician or someone with real political power

    MANIKIN -=- The Lovers -=- mannequin -=- A loafer/moocher, a seducer, a "himo" (jpn), someone who looks feeble but can get support from others

    KAZE -=- The Chariot -=- "the wind" -=- A biker/driver, like the speed tribes in Akira.

    FATE -=- Strength/"Adjustment" -=- just as it sounds -=- detectives, investigators, private eyes, etc.

    KURO-MAKU -=- The Hermit -=- "black curtain", a Japanese metaphor for "the one who pulls the strings/wires" or political fixer -=- basically someone who has power "from the shadows". The secret head of a government or corporation, a mob boss, etc.

    EXEK -=- Fortune/Wheel of Fortune -=- executive -=- a company leader, someone with lots of resources.

    KATANA -=- Justice/"Lust" -=- if you've ever played a roleplaying game, you know what a katana is -=- The warrior type good with melee weapons.
  • KUGUTSU -=- The Hanged Man -=- a marionette -=- A grunt who works in a company, who also can use company resources.

    KAGE -=- (nothing)/"Death" -=- shadow -=- A ninja or stealthy saboteur

    CHAKRA -=- Temperance/"art" -=- chakra -=- the Street Fighter type, harnessing Ki and punching holes in things.

    LEGGER -=- The Devil -=- "bootlegger" -=- A criminal, yakuza member, fence, bootlegger, etc.

    KABUTO-WARI -=- The Tower -=- Helmet-breaker -=- A sniper, assassin, gunfu gun-bunny, etc

    HILANDER -=- The Star -=- Highlander -=- Someone who came from or was exiled from a high-level culture (usually from the moon colonies). Seen the anime "Battle Angel Alita/Gunnm"? This is the person exiled from Zalem.

    MAYAKASHI -=- The Moon -=- deception/falsehood -=- unknown currently. Looks like a lot of powers based on lying, but I can't tell for sure yet.

    TALKIE -=- The Sun -=- "one who talks"(?) -=- A newsperson or reporter, someone with media connections.

    INU -=- "The Aeon"/Jusice -=- "Dog", a slag word for "cop" -=- a police detective or cop, someone with the backing of the law machine.

    NEURO -=- "The Universe"/The World -=- neuro- -=- The name for a hacker in the Nova future.

    KAGE-MUSHA -=- none: This new card is actually Kuro-Maku, again, written in a different color: It has "the hermit" written on it with backwards letters -=- a body double -=- unknown at this time. This actually looks like a special NPC-only archetype.
  • There's been a lot of talk about tarot decks as conflict resolution. How did/does Tokyo Nova handle these issues? And also, can you enlighten me as to how Reason, Passion, Life, and Mundane affected storytelling in play? Also, is there some sort of Blackjack style mechanic, or am I taking crazy pills? As a huge cyberpunk fan with a pentient for weird resolution systems, this one definitely has my attention.
  • Heya, in no particular order:

    First off, just note that it has been about 12 years since I pseudo-played it, and since then have forgotten most of the rules. I'm laaaaazily translating it for my own "night reading" (I try to read Japanese manga, games, magazines and short stories before bed, just to keep up my skills), but I have not begun putting the rules together. Not until Tenra is done. So I won't be able to answer these questions with total authority, mind:

    Posted By: JarrodAs a huge cyberpunk fan with a pentient for weird resolution systems, this one definitely has my attention.


    Yeah, I find it much more along the lines of Ghost in the Shell than standard Cyberpunk. There's a lot of cyberpunk tropes and all (in fact, the author used to contribute to English Cyberpunk sourcebooks, like the Pacific Rim one). But there's more of a focus on society, and a campaign setting that's really uniquely Japanese.

    Also, the original incarnation of this game came out IIRC 1994: The same year as Castle Falkenstein. They were both games that independently decided to introduce playing cards into a traditionally dice-based game. CF was done because it fit the genre. In Tokyo Nova, the author was specifically aiming for a more resource-management style of play than a random style of play: He indicates that he wanted the game to function less on the whim of randomization, and more on the calculation of resources, and of course story effects (A sniper saving that "Joker/Wildcard" for that one shot she has to take, rather than randomly seeing if she hits or misses, etc).

    Posted By: JarrodThere's been a lot of talk about tarot decks as conflict resolution. How did/does Tokyo Nova handle these issues?


    The Tarot that come with the game are more of a scene-framing tool: You throw one down, and the GM uses that (much like Everway) to determine the feel of what's going on that scene. Most of the action is resolved by the trump cards 2-K, Ace High, Joker wild. Throw down a card, add its numeric value to your stat, and that determines if you succeed or not.

    Posted By: JarrodAnd also, can you enlighten me as to how Reason, Passion, Life, and Mundane affected storytelling in play?


    They are standard stats, rated in numbers, and those numbers are determined solely by the three Archerypes you choose for your character.

    Reason is the stat for using knowledge and information. You could call it Intelligence or Knowledge for what it is used for.

    Passion is the stat for manipulating emotions. Probably could call it "Charisma" for what it does.

    Life is staying healthy, lifting big things, taking damage, running fast. It's like a combo of Endurance, Strength and Dexterity.

    Mundane is things like using Money and Social Connections to get things done.

    Posted By: JarrodAlso, is there some sort of Blackjack style mechanic, or am I taking crazy pills?


    Here's the basics of the system: Each player holds about 3-4 cards. THere's also The Pile, which you can choose to choose from if you want (if you want the Random Dice Effect rather than wasting a resource). Problem is that if you take from the deck, there's a chance you can "Fumble" if you fail. Aces are like Critical Successes.

    So, if you want to do something, you have a Skill and a Stat. Your Stat is rated by a number. Your skill is represented only by a Suit: Unskilled is "nothing", SKilled is "one suit (diamonds, frex)", Really skilled is Two Suits (Clubs and Diamonds, frex), and so on.

    The GM sets a difficulty number from 2 to 30. Most of the time it's "10". Draw a card, add it to your stat: If it equals or exceeds the target, you succeed. At this time I haven't had a chance to completely read through pages 86-89, which explain all these rules in detail.

    As I spend minutes here and there puzzling over the rules and character generation stuff, I'll post more here.
  • In the news: Tokyo Nova: The Detonation is a game that came out in 2002, It's currently 2008, 6 years later. This is the 4th edition of the game, with one edition coming out every three years or so.

    I just checked the FEAR website to see that this version just went into a huge second printing. This makes me incredibly happy. After I am done with Tenra, my next project is to translate this into a playable game *for myself*. :-)
  • I think this would be a great game to be translated. I haven't gotten a chance to really read through the book but what I've seen is definitely cool. I've really only given Sword World and Alshard GAIA a real read (I've kinda translated a bit of GAIA but that was very cruel and ugly and I haven't had time to touch that since summer).

    Grats to FEAR for the second printing.
  • So, one of the things that I so admire about this game is that they have managed to do the following:

    1) Take the Tarot Major Arcana, and basically spin a cyberpunk version of each, which became its own character class.

    2) Basically cover every single possible angle for cyberpunk characters that you could imagine seeing in a cyberpunk game, and do so in a way where everyone is powerful in their own right. To compare this to, frex, the Cyberpunk 2020 game: You meet up with company men, politicians, executives and the like all the time: But you're not expected to play them. They're not very powerful types, just fodder for the Enforcer. In Tokyo Nova, each one of these classes has powers, so a "Level 3" Company Man is very, very powerful indeed (lots of social and outside resources).

    So anyway, last night after doing my taxes, I couldn't get to sleep: So I decided to start a fan translation of all the powers of the game, mostly to do upkeep on my Japanese (my kanji is starting to suck lately). I wrote up lists of every single power of every single character class, and plan to do maybe 1-2 a day or so until I'm done. Should take about a year.

    The crazy thing is, the more I dig into the game, the more I love it. I just stumbled upon the rules where basically your troupe of PCs, together, pick one of the archetypes, and everyone in the troupe gets powers from that archetype, as well as some other small benefits. This really ties a story together where all the PCs work for or around a company, or a news agency, or a team of assassins. You can do "Ghost in the Shell: SAC" if you make the troupe's archetype "INU" (or possibly "NEURO", but I think INU works better, they're police after all).

    We'll see how it goes.
  • Posted By: ryuuchibaI think this would be a great game to be translated. I haven't gotten a chance to really read through the book but what I've seen is definitely cool. I've really only given Sword World and Alshard GAIA a real read (I've kinda translated a bit of GAIA but that was very cruel and ugly and I haven't had time to touch that since summer).

    Grats to FEAR for the second printing.

    Seconded. I would love to have this translated.
  • Wow, you know I'd read this before, but now that I'm going back over this, I'm getting more excited. Lately I've been playing a miniature wargame called Malifaux, and it uses this exact same mechanic. In fact, Malifaux uses standard playing card decks, except that face cards are given a certain value and aces are ones; you can buy official Malifaux decks with the faces replaced with the values so that it's easier to play. i.e., 4 suits of 1-13 plus 2 jokers. I wonder if those decks would come in handy for this game.

    You mentioned that they've been putting out new editions every 3 years, and it looks like this is the 3rd year this particular edition has been out, right? I wonder how soon we'll see a new edition.

    I'm looking forward to this game. I wonder what the supplements have in them...

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