Big Eyes, Small Mouth: Rules Alterations

We'll call this BESM 2.5 edition.by Nick Culver

I’m making some alterations to some of the attributes available and rules used from Big Eyes, Small Mouth. Hopefully these will help add depth and detail to character statistics and enhance the game play experience without clogging the game with an abundance of new rules and rolls.

Attribute Alterations:
This category includes introducing new attributes and skills, often translating them from other products (most notably one of the variants of Tri-Stat dX). Note that I make no claim that my new attributes are point balanced with any attributes they replace.

Attack and Defense Combat Mastery (2pts/level each):
This is largely a port from Tri-Stat dX. I brought it over because I found, with the relatively low statistical spread that 2d6 offers to a game, a simple +1 ACV/DCV was quite a powerful tool for 2 character points. Additionally, it made for a somewhat too predictable and simplistic advancement that could only be augmented with skills that may or may not make sense with the character background. By having your Attack Combat Value and your Defense Combat Value intrinsically and irrevocably linked at a difference of 2, the character’s level of competence in two different areas become far too interrelated for my liking. As such, I’ve divided this attribute into two separate attributes:

  • Attack Combat Mastery (2 pts per level): This is an underlying understanding of how to make a solid connection in combat. Each level adds a +1 to the character’s ACV.
  • Defense Combat Mastery (2 pts per level): This is a basic and universal understanding of how to avoid the application of instruments of destruction on yourself, any vehicle you’re driving, or those in your immediate protection (i.e.-the ability to duck). Each level grants a +1 to the character’s DCV.

Extra Attacks and Defenses (3 or 1 pts per level respectively):
This is also a port from Tri-Stat dX. For much the same reasons, I broke the Extra Attacks attribute into two sub-attributes, with attack and defense variants. The combined cost is the same for the same effects, but they are split unevenly in cost due to the additional effects that each branch encompasses.

  • Extra Attacks (3 pts per level): This attribute reflects the coolness to make the most of each opportunity available to make a calculated action. Usually this translates into another attack, but may instead include a premeditated action (such as digging in a pouch, lighting a torch, casting a spell, etc). Each level of this ability enables an extra attack or one other simple, yet deliberate action.
  • Extra Defenses (1 pt per level): This attribute is the innate or trained ability to make take every chance to defend oneself or make reflexive actions. Again, this is usually another unpenalized defense, but can be used for a reflexive action (such as diving behind cover, dropping your backpack, or using an natural, innate talent).

Lightning Reflexes:
Not every character reacts the same way. A patient and diligent sniper may not fire first, even though his shots are invariably on target and deadly. Therefore, I’ve included Lightning Reflexes, ported over from dX. Each level adds one to the character’s initiative rolls. With this stat you can have someone that acts very quickly without having a monster ACV.

New Skill: Spellcraft (4 pts per level)
Spellcraft, while essential for wizards, is not solely regulated to them. Spellcraft is the ‘science’ of magic, the knowledge of the workings of magic. If the character doesn’t possess the Magic attribute or some campaign equivalent (such as Dynamic Sorcery where applicable or Item of Power for characters specializing in the creation of magic items), then their knowledge is entirely theoretical in nature. Spellcraft encompasses the actual casting of magic, the common structures of mystic thought, and the identification of magic. Specialties include: casting, occultism, identification, magic items.

Graduated Stat Costs:
To keep the characters’ core stats from inflating too quickly (which is largely the quickest route to an unbalanced game), I’m introducing a graduated cost for increasing stats in game. At character creation, the stats are the standard 1 for 1 ratio as in standard BESM. However, to raise a stat with experience points, one must pay the equivalent of the new stat rating in character points. For example, to raise your body stat from 4 to 5, you must pay 5 character points (a whopping 50 skill points). Also, the player must provide a suitable reason that the character’s stat has suddenly jumped up.

Other Rules Alterations:
These are in-game options available to players that are not available in the current Big Eyes, Small Mouth game system. While these should not slow down or disrupt game play, they must be formally announced, or players won’t be able to take advantage of them (and thus they might as well be forgotten). Also, some of these will rather forcibly encroach upon game, and require a bit of explanation.

Trick Shots:
During any attack, a character may attempt a ‘trick shot.’ In theory, these must be accompanied by a bit of description or innovation in attack. In reality, this rule was primarily ported from dX because of the nice way that it handles high-power fights. As becomes obvious with some basic statistical analysis, a high-powered slugfest in BESM becomes an exercise in seeing who rolls a twelve first. To remedy this, a character may take a penalty to his attack roll (prior to rolling), and apply it as a penalty to his opponent’s defense roll.

For example, Guy Samurai tries to plant a sword in the Great Funk Monk. Both characters have ACVs and DCVs of 12 and 10. Seeing a long, boring fight about to ensue, Guy Samurai decides to kick up a spray of dirt, clouding the air just long enough to come flying through it and chop off the Great Funk Monk’s head. Guy Samurai takes a –4 penalty to his attack roll, and imposes a –4 to the Great Funk Monk’s defense roll. Guy rolls a 7, easily passing the trick shot penalty, but the Great Funk Monk also rolls a 7, just over the 6 he needs to dodge with the penalty. The Great Funk Monk’s head flies across the square to come to rest afro-side down.

Block Defense:
Another port from dX, this rule is emplaced primarily to make shields not suck, as well as add a bit of depth to combat options. When making a defense roll, the basic defense assumes either a parry (deflecting the brunt of the attack away from the victim) or a dodge (as in “gettin’ out of…”). If the character feels that the defense roll may be too difficult to execute, he may choose to interpose an object to take the blow (a shield, a sword, a bystander, etc.). This gives a +2 to the defense roll. However, if the attack penetrates the object interposed, this can spell trouble. Not only does any remaining damage go through to the defender, but the interposing object may be destroyed (depending on the nature of the object and the attack). I suppose that if the object is unwilling, it may make its own defense roll to avoid being interposed.

Let’s revisit Guy Samurai and the Great Funk Monk. Let’s say instead of trying a basic defense and trying his luck in the above example, the Great Funk Monk instead decides to execute a block defense. He grabs the nearest object, which happens to be Spanky McOhFuckImStabbed, the halfling in the party, and interposes him between Guy Samurai’s blade and his own precious, precious neck. The +2 bonus raises his target number back to 8, and his roll of 7 just scrapes by. McOhFuckImStabbed rolls a 13 on 2d6 for his defense roll, failing to squirm out of the way, thus fulfilling his role in this example. Due to Guy’s excellent swordsmanship and levels of Massive Damage, the sword thrust does 50 points of damage. Spanky absorbs 40 points and then counts as ‘broken’ (i.e.-dead). The remaining 10 points goes through to the Great Funk Monk, and the tip of Guy’s sword lodges in his septum.

Healing:
Healing has proven to be problematic for my game. Since my current campaign has had very little down time for the characters, they haven’t had much of a chance to heal their wounds. As such, my current system of their body stat/day isn’t working out. Instead I will be using the sum of their body and soul stats (reflecting natural hardiness and will to live). Medical care adds the body stat again (i.e.-total healing=2x body + 1x soul). Exceptional medical care (succeeding a medical roll by four or more) will add soul again (2x body + 2x soul).

Checking back in on the Great Funk Monk and Guy Samurai shows us that they’ve been busy during the last paragraph. The Great Funk Monk has unleashed his deadly “Twistastic Hurricane Kick of Honkey-dom ™” attack on Guy Samurai in retaliation for the cold steel to the septum maneuver, for a whopping 74 points of damage. Guy limps from the fight, and collapses on his horse to head to the nearest medicine man, who’s a whole day away. During the trip, Guy heals back his body plus his soul stat in damage (8 + 4 = 12). He’s still got 62 points of damage to go…uck. Upon arrival, the medicine man gives Guy some soup and bandages his wounds. A few “medicinal herbs” and twenty four hours later, Guy has healed twice his body stat, and one times his soul stat ( 2×8 + 4 = 20). He’s feeling better, but still has 42 points of damage to heal. The next day, the medicine man actually puts on his glasses before inspecting his handiwork, and makes his medical roll by five. This gives Guy twice his body and twice his soul back in health points ( 2×8 + 2×4 =24). Only down 18 health points, Guy decides to chance the roads to seek out his portion of the never ending cycle of vengeance the shall ever plague the spirits of the noble Guy Samurai and the dastardly Great Funk Monk like the blowing winds and harsh snows of the desolate mountain peak that so perfectly symbolizes Guy Samurai’s empty and pathetic soul…or maybe he just sits down and writes a goth haiku about how much the world sucks.

“Standard” XP Changes:
I call these “standard” because at my table (and, it seems, in many tables out there, if the online community is any judge) these have been emplaced for a while as a basic course. Primary of these is the 10 for 1 rule of experience. Every ten skill points awarded may be used to purchase a character point of attributes. There may be other basic changes that are floating around in my games, but that is the biggest one that seems to be standard.

Specific XP Dole-Out Changes: For my game, I award 1 XP per session. However, at any time during the game when a player does something that impresses me, I will allocate another XP. This includes playing your role very well, taking a big one for the team (or in the face of metagaming), or making me laugh. Basically, anything that makes the game more enjoyable for me and the other players.

Bonuses are also be allotted for game contribution. This can include running props (habitually coming to game in costume, writing an in-character journal, etc.), helping me design and run the game (through writing up segments of the world to adventures and the like), and anything that generally makes my life as a GM earlier (sexual favors and bribes may make my life easier, but not necessarily as a GM). Also, particularly constructive and helpful feedback will be rewarded through XP. Typical rewards will be 1-3 XP, for such things as basic props, minor design aid, etc. Exceptional work, like entire story arcs of planning that I use, long running props that give a great deal of insight to the character, or other similar (and extremely helpful) forms of aid will be rewarded with larger rewards (maybe even full character points).

Also, in the course of the game, I may give out full character points as XP. This will typically happen after a long adventure, when a series of story goals are accomplished, or when the characters finish an adventure in such a position to have access to a lot of time and training materials. These points can only be spent as character points in a manner congruent with the story. They may not violate the continuity of the story, nor may they be used with the 10 for 1 rule.

Okay, example time. The Great Funk Monk gets 1 XP for the session. However, making the GM laughs nets him another XP. His player also dresses in a full robe and such for game, netting another 2 XP. Before that same session, the Great Funk Monk submits the background of his entire kung fu order, including some information on major NPCs, religious beliefs, adventure seeds, and a detailed write-up of his mysterious kung fu master, the ever enigmatic Chu Man Wang. The GM is so impressed that he drops a character point in the Great Funk Monk’s lap. The total haul is 4 XP and 1 character point. Quite a night. The Great Funk Monk can use the 4 XP anyway he wants. However, the character point can’t be used to buy off the Nemesis: Guy Samurai defect, since Guy Samurai is still alive and is intent on following up that septum stab. He instead elects to buy off the Significant Other: Spanky McOhFuckImStabbed defect, seeing as Spanky’s currently rotting in a shallow grave.

XP Rerolls:
Since so much XP potential is flying around, I need a way to bleed it off. I’m a big fan of giving the players some ability to fudge rolls, so I’m expanding the use of XP. Any time a character wants to reroll any die roll, he may blow an XP to do so. The second result must be abided by. These rerolls are in addition to those granted by Divine Relationship.

Okay, let’s rejoin our intrepid adventurers again. Guy Samurai, having retrieved his sword from the Great Funk Monk, feels that is may have been dulled by Spanky’s spinal column. He attempts to test his sword on a passerby, and rolls…a 12! Bollocks! The GM rules that the botch costs Guy Samurai his arm. Guy decides (wisely) to blow an XP to reroll. He deducts 1 XP and rolls again. This time he passes with an easy 4 and chops an innocent down in his noble quest toward martial perfection.

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