I am playing Chrono Trigger, and it is awesome. Great example of JRPG. Awesome story, sense of humour, turn based combat system, items what make you a bit better, skills and spells. Similar to earlier Final Fantasy series.
While playing Chrono Trigger I started to think, what kind of pen and paper roleplaying game would be, and what elements it must include to be JRPG style. Here are some points.
Player characters are deep. And unique. There is not necessarily race restrictions, but almost anything is possible. Even though there are only one or two main races in the game, your player character (or some NPC) could be of rare or unknown race.
Characters have background, but usually player characters just happen to be there. They might be normal persons who just happened to be in the wrong (or right) place at a time when the adventure starts. Still, they know how to fight or use spells. Or they learn it easily during the experience they gain.
Outlooks can be whacky. Red pointy hair is more a rule than exception. Player characters are individual, even strange or crazy looking.
Weapon of Choice
Player characters are good with one weapon, and they like to use similar weapons from the beginning. Some use swords, some bows, some javelins, some fists. They usually stick to this one type of weaponry, because they are good using it.
Special Skills, Spells
Everyone has special skills. Mostly special attacks. They use some kind of power similar to magic points or mana. They can learn better and more powerful skills during the adventure. With experience levels they might unlock new skills, buy new skills or even gain access to special skills from items.
Same way with spells. Usually spell users know more spells, as fighters know special attacks. In some conditions also non-mages can learn spells, but spellcasters have wider access to them.
(Similar to D&D feats.)
Attributes and Skills
Attributes raise after every level. They have no limit and numbers must be big. First level character might have attribute of 10-40 but at level 30 these values might be hundreds. Bigger the skill number, better the character is. Usually there are no skills at all, but everything is attribute based (I'd make some kind of different system for this though).
Attributes are usually combat, defence, initiative based, dexterity for dodge, maybe change for critical hit, and resistance. Also some other attributes may be present.
Attributes are what determine how well character can perform.
Problem here is, that JRPG use character Attributes only to determine character's power in combat, but in PnP roleplaying games attributes and skills are used in many other things.
No limit to levels. Every level grands bonuses to Attributes. It might be +X every lvl. Usually in JRPG you cannot choose what Attributes you develop as it is automated.
In PnP JRPG I'd give an amount of points player can divide to his character's Attributes.
Weapons, Armor and Items
Weapons are bonus to Attributes to deal damage, hit better etc. Same goes with Armor. Some equipment give better bonus overall, some give specific bonus but are not as good overall. Also, there is no limit to how good bonuses from equipment can be.
In JRPG items are usually affecting to character's status. Healing, MP restore, poison or other effect remove etc. Potions and magic scrolls are everywhere.
For PnP RPG use there could be also other items, what give other bonuses. Like a scope might give bonus for sniping, map and compass for traveling etc. JRPG items are designed usually just to buff character, not to help him in tasks.
Many of them. Different kinds of roam the world. Also variety of races can be diverse. Monsters are easy to create, just use your imagination. Huge blue chicken with bombs? Four handed monkey with wings? Aracnoid robot? All possible.
Combat should be tactical but fast. Different powers, special attacks and spells to use, also normal attacks. Items of course to use.
In one turn you can choose one action to do. No multiple actions (well, maybe if you got special power for that).
Initiative is a hard one. You might want to use basic initiative concept from other games, as usually there's initiative bar growing in games. Just roll initiative in the beginning of the battle. Or you can make pre-made initiative what determines the course of battle, which could be better in my opinion.
History is important. Make it. Usually they mix up fantasy, science fiction and steam- and cyberscifi. There might be samurai warriors, robots shooting lasers, elven with bows and sniper rifles. Be creative. Nothing is impossible.
J-Tacchi, Concept For My JRPG Style PnP Rules
I was thinking, that I'd like to do quick and simple JRPG rules to fit PnP gaming. Just for fun, not so seriously.
Choose or pick up ready made concept. It determines your starting Attributes, Powers, Magic, Skills, Equipment. I might add some points to add and share for a customization effect.
Calculate HP, MP (or other "power points"), resistance etc. based on Attributes.
Write character personality, history etc. and describe his appearance.
Trying to perform something? Roll dice equal to your every 10th of attribute value (and possible bonus from skill?). Dicepool system. There might be target number to gain success (similar to Storyteller system). Different tasks need different amount of successes to be successful. For example easy would be 3, hard 5 etc. or what ever would be balanced.
Another possibility could be fixed D20 system. For every 10 points of attribute (or skill bonus or similar) you get +1 to your D20 roll against DC.
Which would be better? Remember, there can be "Attack value" of 300! Dicepool of 30 is ridiculous, but similarly is D20+30. Though "Attack value" of 300 might be über-tough anyways ;)
Combat goes similarly to Task rolls... but how to emulate big amounts of damage here? We are talking about JRPG, not 1D8 for a sword attack. Sword can do 5-50 damage at lower levels! It's not same to just downgrade damage values if we want to do JRPG, isn't it?
If enemy has 300 HP and character does 30 damage average, it's same as 30 HP vs. 3 damage... Easier to calculate though with smaller numbers. This is something I must think harder. How to make damage work.
One way could be, that damage has multiplier based on character. So, this normal sword has damage of 1D8 what is rolled, character's multiplier is x3 so final damage is 3-24. How to make sword better?
Rusty old sword is 1D8-2 when Sharp sword is 1D8+1.
Critical hits are 2x damage. Plain and easy.
Before damage is decreased from opponent's HP, you decrease defense from it. Different defense values could be for example:
- Physical (cutting, slashing, piercing, smashing)
- Fire (magical fire, firebreath, torch)
- Water (magical water spells)
- Air (magical air spells)
- Earth (magical earth spells)
- Natural (poisons, sleep, paralyzis)
And of course special defenses for example Thunder Turtle halves damage of lightning weapons.
Character might have 1D8+2 Silver Sword of Thunder with x1 damage multiplier. He is fighting Infant Thunder Turtle, what's defense values are:
½ to thunder attacks.
So character rolls damage against physical - Phy defense and remaining damage is halved. Fire based attacks are best against Infant Thunder Turtle. But when monsters are stronger, they need stronger weapons to fight. If Defense values are high, damage is hardly dealt without great multipliers. So here's another option:
Another possibility is, that Defense value is reduced from attack value. So if character has Attack of 31 he could roll 3D OR get +3 attack bonus. If Defense is off from Attack value, it's 25 what means 2D OR +2...
If the rules are fixed D20 system, against what is attack rolled to success? DC/AC of an opponent? Are defense values separate from DC/AC? Is there some fixed number to roll against and opponent doesn't affect it but only defenses against it?
So many questions with rules system still. Must write down to paper, and start to manipulate dice and numbers.