Eclipse and the Anime SRD

Here we have another part of the answer to Alzrius’s last question – a review of the d20 Anime SRD in comparison to Eclipse

0066 Grand Canyon_ Mather Point Improvements

I see a certain gap between intent and outcome here…

Sadly, the Anime SRD suffers from a number of fairly basic problems.

The authors didn’t really think about how attributes operated in d20 – and on which effects were cumulative and which were not. They also attempted to make an end run around the restrictions of the d20 license by providing a point-buy system for attributes that said “generate attributes according to the player’s handbook, then add up their costs, compare the total to this stated point allowance and then modify freely to fit” – thus providing a system where you generated a set of numbers, and then ignored them to buy what you wanted in their system.

That system was “attributes cost 1/2 their value, rounded up” (this, of course, eliminated odd scores from the system, but that’s no big deal). As a normal base, you had 40 points to buy your attributes and racial abilities. You could buy any racial stuff you wanted later just as cheaply though – and attributes had no upper limit. You could also take 24 points worth of disadvantages, and thus get 64 points to start with. We’ll do that.

This has some VERY problematic consequences. Most blatantly, low scores are less of a hindrance than a high score is an advantage – which is why d20 characteristic point-buy systems normally use sliding scales.

So… I’ll take a bookish mage-type character. He’s socially inept (Cha 2), imperceptive due to his glasses and solitary lifestyle as well as easily persuaded by anyone willing to interact with him socially (Wis 2), he’s a clumsy couch potato who never gets out at ALL (Str 2, Dex 2), but he is healthy (Con 18), and he’s VERY bright (Int 60). That leaves us with 22 points left.

Now that’s not quite as good – or bad – as it sounds; the anime SRD alters what bonuses your attributes give you; Strength no longer provides bonuses to hit, or penalties either – and high stats no longer provide bonus spells, although they still seem to affect Save DC’s and do provide skill bases. Intelligence still does provide skill points though – and so we’ve just picked up a hundred of them.

Of course, we’ve also thrown out back-compatibility, or comparability with almost anything else that was ever published for d20 despite the later pretense at “breaking down the standard classes so you can just take one of them”.

I’ll get to those later. We’re still on those skill points.

The system also provides “Combat Skills” – skills with no attribute base that add directly to your AC or Attacks in certain situations. So… Gun Combat, Melee Attack, Melee Defense, Ranged Defense, and Special Ranged Attack (Magic). Sure, that’s 20 skill points up front and 5 more each level – but it’s also +4 to attack and +4 to AC at level one and +1 to attack and +1 to AC each level – neatly making up for Dexterity penalty on AC at level one and improving matters thereafter. Given that we have more skill points than we’ll EVER need, that’s quite a bargain!

Hm… there a lot of other different skills in the system (there goes back-compatibility again) – but we can max out twenty more skills, which is quite enough to compensate for those low attributes. Heck, with one point each in knowledge skills our young mage is starting off with a +26 at level one. That’s not bad.

Are there other ways to get skills? Certainly there are! Some come with our class (there’s no true classless option), but if you take a standard human…

Standard Human: Base movement (0), +1 Feat at 1st Level (2), +4 Skill Points at 1st Level (1), +1 Skill Point each Level (2), any favoured class (when multiclassing) (1): Total Cost (6), Base Racial Allowance (6) for a net cost of zero – then you’ll be… shafting yourself; for 3 points you could get +6 Intelligence (and +12 skill points at level one) instead of +5. Of course, as far as humans go… the system specifically does not include multi-class penalties, so the humans are paying one point for… nothing.

Forget humans. Half-orcs get five points back (four if you buy off their attribute modifiers) and thus make the best of all standard races for pretty much ANYTHING. If your game master will let you get away with it, don’t buy ANY racial abilities and just keep all six points!

We’ll go with half-orc with no attribute modifiers though. That gives us 26 points to spend.

Class? We’re taking “Adventurer”. Poor saves, d4 Hit Dice, poor BAB, 4 SP/Level (who cares?), and five PRECIOUS points per level to spend on anything we want. We shall drool now. No other class need be considered.

Of course, for comparison… we have the Anime SRD breakdown for standard class builds:

Class Ability Costs:

  • +1 to Fort, Ref, or Will Save (1): So +1 to Fortitude costs the same as +2 to Constitution. I see a problem (and a certain lack of thought) here.
  • +1 to Base Attack Bonus (3): Now THAT’S obviously VITAL compared to simply buying those combat skills. If you want it, you can buy it any time as “Attack Combat Mastery”.
  • (2 + Int modifier) Skills gained each Level (0.5 each Level)
  • (4 + Int modifier) Skills gained each Level (1 each Level)
  • (6 + Int modifier) Skills gained each Level (1.5 each Level)
  • (8 + Int modifier) Skills gained each Level (2 each Level): Yeah. Forget ALL of these. Buy Intelligence.
  • Wizard Class Skill bonus each Level (0.5 each Level): What?
  • d4 Hit Dice (1 each Level)
  • d6 Hit Dice (1.5 each Level)
  • d8 Hit Dice (2 each Level)
  • d10 Hit Dice (2.5 each Level)
  • d12 Hit Dice (3 each Level): So which is better? A d4 hit die and +4 Constitution each level or a d12 hit die each level? Those 40 points a Barbarian spends on going from d4’s to d12’s could be buying him +80 Constitution. I think I’ll take that. The “Armor” power is worth considering too; each point invested in it… reduces the damage from ANY attack by one point. A bit of that to start could be pretty helpful at low levels, although investing in constitution for +800 hit points is pretty nice later on. You could also buy “Damn Healthy!” at 2 points for an extra d8 hit die and Constitution Modifier – but +4 Con will rapidly outshine that. This is a useless power – one of many to come.
  • 0th Level spell slots (further modified by spell breadth) (0.25 each)
  • 1st-9th Level spell slots (modified by spell breadth) (0.5 times spell Level)
  • Cleric domain spell slots (One half times normal value)

Spell Breadth” was an interesting notion. To quote the Anime SRD…

“Assigning Character Points proved to be an interesting exercise. The capability of casting a spell costs a base of 0.5 Points times the spell Level (0.25 Points for 0 Level spells; one-half value for all Cleric domain spells), but this is only the base cost. Since some classes have a much wider range of spells from which to choose, all casting classes needed an “accessible spells multiplication factor” to provide appropriate balance (see Table 5-20: Accessible Spells Factor for Casting Classes). This factor is equal to the number of potential of spells available to the class divided by the number available to the Wizard class – resulting in a factor between 0 and 1. To determine the total number of Character Points assigned to spellcasting ability, the base Point cost total is multiplied by the spells factor for each class.

Although Sorcerers have the same potential spell access as Wizards, and thus could have the same multiplication factor of 1, Sorcerers have two aspects that set them apart from Wizards. Sorcerers do not need to prepare their spells in advance each day – a powerful advantage – and Sorcerers know far fewer spells than Wizards at each level – a severe disadvantage. Consequently, the Sorcerer’s multiplication factor of 0.85 is derived more from these two differences than the potential spell access that is considered for all other spellcasting classes.”

The writers apparently forgot about having to FIND spells versus the entire list being available, about researching new spells, about new sourcebooks, and about theme and versatility of spells meaning more than number.

For that matter, they also failed to realize that d20 Modern Classes include the bonus skill points for being human since ALL d20 modern characters are assumed human, but that’s a rather minor issue – although it does show that they didn’t bother to actually talk to anyone who played d20 modern while writing their system.

  • Special class talents and abilities (Variable): What a surprise!

Those cheap characteristics make a LOT of powers rather pointless. To give some examples…

  • Defense Combat Mastery provides +1 AC per 2 points – or you could buy more Dexterity, for +1 AC, +1 Reflex, +1 Initiative, and +1 to dex based skills per point. Guess which is better.
  • Heightened Awareness provides a +2 on Ability and Skill checks relevant to noticing otherwise hidden things, such as concealed objects, ambushes, or anything else related to sensory awareness per point. That’s actually competitive with wisdom, since it offers a +2 instead of a +1 each to Will and Perception Skills / Checks.
  • Highly Skilled provides four extra skill points per point invested in it. Investing that point in Intelligence… provides four extra skill points at level one and nineteen more over the course of your career, plus a bonus on all intelligence-based skills. Forget Highly Skilled.
  • Massive Damage adds +2 damage to a specific attack for 2 points or to all attacks for five points. That’s potentially marginally useful for some things – but for 2 points you can buy +4 Strength, which adds to all melee attacks and muscle powered weapons. Given how high your strength can go… skip Massive Damage.
  • Superstrength… costs 4 points for +8 Strength and has no other effects. Wait, isn’t this the base cost? Why yes, yes it is! It won’t hurt to buy “superstrength” as opposed to just buying strength – but it’s a useless entry that just takes up space in the book.

So we want to buy magic and other special abilities, and we have – as an adventurer – 31 points to spend.

So:

  • Dynamic Sorcery II (Calling on Spirits): As a “limited field” (well, not so “limited”; since Dynamic Sorcery lets us make up any spell we like that’s in the rough power range of a d20 spell one level lower, we can find a way to do almost anything) (8 points). OK, we’ve only got effects of levels zero and one to work with, but they can be ANYTHING. Even better, with a casting attribute of 60, pretty much nobody is going to be saving. As soon as this character goes up one level, and can get “Hold Person”, it’s going to be instant “I Win!” time.
  • Energy Bonus III (+60 Energy): This is important, since spells of effective level 0 cost 1, and spells of effective level 1 cost 4 – and without this bonus we won’t have much (9 points). Fortunately, a character gets back the highest of his mental attribute modifiers in Energy each hour, whether or not he rests. With that 60 Intelligence, that’s 25 points an hour. Pretty good.
  • Armor-I (reduces all damage by four points): Who wants to get hurt? (4).
  • Personal Force Field I (absorbs incoming damage, collapses for a round if hit by more than 10 in a shot, but still absorbs the 10) (3).
  • Reincarnation (stopped by blowing up his ritual area, takes several weeks (2).
  • Flight (OK, it’s only 10 MPH to start, but you can do it all you want) (4).
  • Sixth Sense (Senses Magic): Well, that’s sort of basic (1).

Oh wait! We can also get up to nine more points for establishing our characters background. Lets go for that…

  • Buy Dynamic Sorcery up to III (4).

We could buy Wealth – after all, it only takes 18 points to be a multi-billionaire (Don’t try to use this SRD with ANY setting where money provides power!) – but why bother? We’re headed down the path of “I can do ANYTHING!” at pretty high speed. Honestly… I’ve got five points left and I don’t know WHAT to buy.

  • His saves do suck of course. We could get some Divine Relationship (rerolls, costing 1 point per roll per session) – but lets get those crappy stats up to 4 (4 points) and one reroll (1 point).

For further advancement… Adventurer, 5 points per level. Buy up stats. Buy some more Energy. Buy up Dynamic Sorcery. You can be wielding ninth level spells by level ten easily, and have good stats, and +18 to hit (thanks to those combat skills), and +13 AC (due to those combat skills again), and…

Well, you can have lots of other stuff. You won’t need weapon proficiencies though; anime SRD characters are presumed to be proficient with all weapons and armor (which has generic skill penalties for everyone).

Ironically enough, one of the goals – at least according to the SRD – was to enhance the martial classes compared to spellcasters.

I don’t think it worked.

The Anime SRD does have it’s own “balance” of course, but it’s not one that’s going to work in any normal d20 setting. In it’s own way it was a valiant try; it’s just that it wasn’t a valiant try at making an anime-themed d20 SRD. It was a valiant try at funneling customers away from d20 towards BESM – and it ultimately wasn’t really delivering the sensible d20 game system that it was promising.

And for a stylistic complaint… A lot of things got given fractional point costs. That’s just sloppy – and a holdover (just like the list of abilities and a lot of the price structure) from Big Eyes Small Mouth which got hauled over into d20 where it really didn’t work. Go ahead; if you’ve got fractional point costs… multiply. It’s easy, it costs nothing, and it’s a lot easier for your customers to track.

BESM was fun sometimes, but the d20 version never really got much traction. It relied an awful lot on “talk with your GM” – and like most such games, never really understood that that gave massive advantages to players who knew their GM’s well and/or were persuasive talkers. Yes, some GM discussion and input will be needed in pretty much ANY point-buy system. Eclipse can be abused too – but at least it hasn’t got a bunch of utterly useless powers, and lets you use the vast majority of other d20 source material.

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