Recently, with all of the fuss and concern over the changes to the OGL, thousands of 5e players have finally decided to branch out and try new systems for their roleplaying kick. Luckily, there’s plenty for them to choose from. We’ve discussed Star Trek (A Brief History of Star Trek RPGs, and Which One You Should Play), Star Wars (Star Ward\s TTRPGs: Which One Should I Play?), Sci-fi franchises (Iconic Sci-Fi Franchises with Tabletop Tie-Ins), and even superhero games (Superhero TTRPGs for a Comic Book Campaign), and now it’s time for another: anime.
Of course, anime isn’t a singular genre. There are anime that fall under practically every genre known to man, plus a few all-original ones. But anime does tend to have its own set of tropes, clichés and formats that often benefit from a game that directly addresses them. So, here are 5 easily accessible TTRPGs to run an anime-inspired campaign.
If you want a roleplay-heavy, rules-light anime game that you can use to make characters for just about any setting from mecha to romance to sports, OVA is a good first stop. Its character creation is pretty fast, with easy to learn mechanics, and a focus on simply having a fun time with your players, rather than strategizing or crunching numbers.
The game has a simple ability system, where taking an action (such as making an attack, persuading someone, etc.) causes you to roll 2d6. If you have some ability or trait that makes you better or worse at that action (which come in tiers of -5 to +5), you add or subtract that many d6 to/from your roll. Your final result is the highest number that you rolled unless you rolled doubles (other than 1), in which case you add those doubles together and take their total as the result.
For example: On a roll of 3d6, shown numbers of 4, 3, 5 would garner a result of 5, since that is the highest number. However, shown number of 4, 3, 3 would garner a result of 6, since you add the double 3s.
Overall, it’s a quick-to-learn system. Characters are pretty powerful, but they often are in anime. And the combination of the two makes the game excellent for players who are new to TTRPGs, especially children!
Check OVA out here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/133493/OVA-The-Anime-RolePlaying-Game
Big Eyes, Small Mouth (BESM)
If you really want a hardcover book to use for your games, BESM is probably your best bet for anime TTRPGs. This game is currently in its 4th edition, with plenty of supplemental, show-specific releases scattered across the market, and those various editions (including Sailor Moon!). Like OVA, it’s designed to encompass any number of anime genres and styles.
The action system uses the Tri-Stat system. In fact, BESM 1e originated it! In it, you make fairly standard 2d6+modifier rolls (either contested by an enemy roll or against a set DC from 6 to 24). That modifier will come from the abilities and skills that you choose for yourself in character creation. Sometimes they’ll simply buff your rolls, and sometimes they’ll add negative modifier to your enemies! Particularly powerful abilities may require some recharge in the form of Energy Points.
Overall, this is a fairly simple and streamlined game, with roots pretty far back in gaming history. It’s slightly more rules-intensive than OVA, but not by much. The most recent books do lack templates for certain genres (such as isekai, which has existed as a trope for a while, but only recently gained traction as a unique genre of its own), but its open-ended enough to make a character or world for them, nonetheless.
Check BESM 4e out here: http://www.dyskami.ca/besm.html
If you’re an isekai fan, or want to play a fantasy RPG about fantasy RPGs, the Konosuba TRPG might interest you. This is a tabletop version of the fantasy world featured in the light novel series and anime Konosuba. While it is anime specific, the world itself is generic enough, and similar enough to most RPGs and TTRPGs that you don’t have to be a fan of the particular franchise to use it.
Taking actions and using skills are slightly more complicated than in OVA or BESM. Instead, abilities and skills are more akin to videogame buffs, with a variety of passive and active skills that you can take depending upon your race and class. Most rolls will work similarly to BESM, being 2d6+modifiers (either contested, or with a DC range of 8-18). Sometimes, however, you’ll need to make a roll noted as d66 – this is like a D100 roll with 2d10, where you choose one die to act in the tens’ place. You’ll mostly roll these on tables for randomization purposes.
Overall, Konosuba is the most show/genre specific of the games listed here. If you and your friends are really into fantasy isekai anime (and a lot of people are) this is an excellent choice for you! If not, you might want to check out some of the other options on the list.
Check out Konosuba here: https://www.amazon.com/Konosuba-Gods-Blessing-Wonderful-World/dp/197531641X
Like Konosuba, Double Cross takes place in a specific world. Unlike Konosuba, it’s a world of the game’s own design, and it’s pretty dark. Double Cross takes place in a modern-day world where a virus called Renegade has begun to infect people seemingly at random. It gives them extraordinary superpowers, but also makes them vulnerable to giving into their own personal darkness and transforming into monsters called Gjaum.
While the actual mechanics are remarkably similar to the standard roll+modifiers-from-abilites, there are a couple of mechanics that make Double Cross a little more complicated. First is the sheer variety of powers – these can be combined, layered, and generally made as complex as you’d like to get to make a super custom character. Second, what would in an anime be a character’s emotional beats are transformed into mechanics with the Lois and Titus mechanic, where beloved NPCs and emotional ties (loises) keep away your character’s inevitable surrender to the Renegade virus. You can sacrifice these loises to make Tituses, which you can use to boost your power, but you’ll be pushed further toward the darkness.
Overall, this is a game reminiscent of edgy, power-and-duel focused anime like Buso Renkin or Get Backers. It’s a dark tone, best suited to powered-up fights and dramatic roleplay. You’re also practically guaranteed a character death – to the extent that it’s the players given XP, not the characters. Make of that what you will!
Check out Double Cross here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/128931/Double-Cross-Roleplaying-Game-Core-Rulebook
Tenra Bansho Zero
Tenra Bansho Zero also has its own world – an alternate history designed to shove as many anime tropes as possible into a single setting. But the appeal of the game comes from more than just that factor. TBZ intentionally creates mechanics that do not only encourage, but require roleplay and interaction from the players.
The actual dice mechanics of TBZ are almost absurdly simple – you can improve what abilities you have up to 5, and when using them roll a d6. The object is to roll beneath your ability score. You can also bow out of a fight fairly easily, or redirect damage in harmless ways. Where things get complicated is the Aiki, Karma, and Fate system. This system gives mechanics to freeform roleplay, and lends a little more complexity to an otherwise straightforward game.
Aiki are, fairly simply, reward chits given for good roleplay. The GM can hand them out, as well as the other players, whenever they’re impressed, amused, or entertained by a dialogue line or roleplay moment. Players are encouraged to prolong fights and take more damage to gain more Aiki, since these Aiki can then be used to boost abilities, upon which they become Kiai. During rest phases (intermissions), these Kiai become Karma. Not the Hindu karma, though, the Buddhist kind. Karma makes your characters more attached to their goals, and thereby more “lost” to them. Too much Karma, or too little, and your character becomes an NPC – they (and by extension the player) no longer have full control over themselves, bound by their worldly ties. To prevent this, characters might change their Fates, altering their goals and managing their own destinies.
Overall, TBZ is a game that is light on the dice mechanics, but very heavy on the roleplay mechanics. This is not a game for shy or tactics-minded players. Nor is it meant for campaigns. It’s meant for a brief experience of epic highs and lows.
Check out Tenra Bansho Zero here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/111713/Tenra-Bansho-Zero-Heaven-and-Earth-Edition
Have you played any of the games we listed? How did you enjoy them? Are you currently using them for any campaigns? Let us know in the comments below!