When I’m not playing JRPGs, watching anime, or retweeting lewd art on Twitter, I’m probably adventuring away at one of my ongoing tabletop roleplaying games. Now, you might think that the only tabletop game on the market is Dungeons & Dragons, but you’d be so very, very wrong. There are plenty of other games that can let you play an anime tabletop game with all your friends. D&D might be the most well-known, but there are countless other games, systems, and settings out there, from the high fantasy adventures of Pathfinder to the cyberpunk intrigue of Shadowrun.
So if you’ve ever wanted to live out your anime adventure fantasies, and if you’re browsing Rice Digital then I am guessing you have, then I’ve got some good news for you. I have done a lot of the research into how you can make that a reality. So gather up your friends, get some dice ready, and get ready to dive into a slightly different dungeon than we usually do here. Here are my recommendations for anime tabletop games for you to dive into.
Anime Tabletop Games
Before I get to some of the recommendations, it’ll be useful to know how varied the different tabletop systems are. Some, like the famous Dungeons & Dragons, are what I call Crunchy systems. They tend to have rules for most of the attacks you can do and might even have them spelled out for you. They have strict battle systems that rely on balance between games and sessions, meaning you could take your character to any other group playing the same game and they would fit right in without much change.
Exalted is one of these systems. Players take on the role of the Exalt, individuals with the power of divinity flowing through them, giving them access to powers and abilities beyond those of mere mortals. These powers start at ridiculous and work their way up from there. Even low-level characters will be able to shoot with supernatural accuracy, punch through walls, and leap small to medium-sized buildings. It lends itself to recreating the action anime style in a system that relies heavily on expressing your ever-increasing powers with an ever-increasing pool of ten-sided dice. You will have to do quite a bit of math in order to make your attacks, which come with such fanciful names as the Peony Blossom Attack – a thousand cuts causing your enemy to scatter like cherry blossom petals.
Legend of the Five Rings from Fantasy Flight Games is another crunchy system where players become samurai in a stand-in for feudal Japan called Rokugan, where magic comes from the kami and dishonour can leave a literal, visible mark on your soul. Think of an anime in the style of Rurouni Kenshin, but with more magic and monsters and you’re on the right track. Players wield a variety of weapons and spells, attacking and defending by rolling ten-sided dice. It’s a system that reflects some of the dangers of battle, as each wound taken poses a penalty to all future rolls, resulting in a potential death spiral. It can be a tough system to survive in, but the samurai aesthetic and the tension in the battle system create a very fun game.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is what is called Fluffy systems. These are games that take a lighter touch on the rules, allowing players and Game Masters to design their own attacks, powers, and drawbacks together. Some even suggest building the game world together with the other players as part of the first session. These systems are more loose and fluid and the experience will differ greatly between groups.
OVA is a game designed by Wise Turtle Gaming with anime in mind. There is no canonical setting for it and it has the ability to incorporate tropes from almost any genre in the medium. I have played in a game that had a Saiyan, a Hidden Leaf ninja, a stand user, and a soul reaper all attending the same high school and fighting alongside each other. Weird as it sounds, it worked shockingly well, making this one of my favourite anime tabletop games just for simple flexibility.
Powers cost endurance, with more powerful attacks costing more endurance, and can be made up in the middle of a session to simulate the unlocked power that drives a character toward victory. Attacks are made using six-sided dice and death is intended to be rare. Failure is more about driving the story forward than seeing a character die. OVA is a very fun, flexible system that needs a good GM to help run and keep everyone’s characters on the same power level, but with the right group it can be a blast.
So whether you prefer your games to have a lot of rules and crunch or if you prefer them being fluid and fluffy, there are a number of systems out there for you to play to get your anime tabletop gaming on. All you need is a group of friends to share the adventure and a set of dice to help you decide your fate.