Bleach: Seven Days to the Wolves - Game Brief

This is a brief for the Bleach game Fox is intending to run once Steve's Legacy of the Shattered comes to a close. It does not include much background information on the setting; For that, go to the Backgrounder.

This is my church of choice
Love's strength standeth in love's sacrifice,
For the rest, I have to say to you
I will dream like the god
(and suffer like all the dead children)

This is where heroes
and cowards part ways

- Nightwish, 7 days to the wolves

Style and Tone

In terms of game style, I want to run something relatively serious but light-hearted; I'm not interested in a comedy game, but I want a decent amount of humour, and I don't want the whole thing to be the gloomy and depressing sort of serious. We'd definitely be talking about plot-driven, swashbucklery adventure in which the characters would be the good guys (though good-hearted rogues and scoundrels are always welcome); cinematic is a must. Basically, something like Bleach itself.

Gameplay

  • Standard table rules – any roll which does not result in the dice sitting flat on the table doesn’t count.
  • While we are using a system to run this game, the rules can be mangled if a significant amount of "cool" is involved. To that ends, the GM reserves the right to nerf with gay (or at least bisexual) abandon, for PCs and NPCs alike, when it is cool.
  • I will come right out and say it; I do not plan to kill any character unless it is absolutely necessary. This is a cinematic game designed to tell a story, and the characters should only die when it is appropriate to that story (think of it like a console RPG, where only plot devices can kill a character beyond recovery by a Phoenix Down). What would be "death" in ordinary D&D will instead be considered critical injury, which will take long-term rest to recover from (that is to say, you won't need a resurrection spell, but you'll need more than just a lot of "cure x wounds"). Note that anybody who is having their character act stupidly is already ruining the cinematic flavour for everyone, so the "no deaths" rule does not apply to them.
  • Unlike many GMs, Fox wants to deal with issues when they come up, insofar as this is possible. Having an argument is better than having a player (or GM) sulk for the remainder of the game. Until somebody asks for the contention to be set aside, it may be discussed for as long as the involved parties feel is appropriate.
  • Remember, there is no such thing as a critical success or failure on a Skill Check. Also, there will be no fumbles on critical Attack Roll failures unless the player feels that such a thing is demanded by his/her sense of style (because fumbling when it doesn’t look cool simply isn’t fun).

Character Creation

The group will be shinigami – literally "death gods", but "gods" are less like deities in this sense, and more like celestial housekeepers. In Bleach, the shinigami watch over the real world and the spirit world, and are charged with maintaining the balance between the two. Most commonly, this means dealing with threats from the spirit realm which break through into the real world, or locating spirits who are stuck in the real world for some reason. You should read the attached backgrounder if you want more setting info, but the important thing is that the characters should be, to begin with, rank-and-file members of this gatekeeping force.

Although most of the group will need to be moderately experienced shinigami, there is the possibility of a newcomer – almost certainly a human who is spiritually sensitive for some reason – to be brought into the group also. I will only allow one of these, however, or it will spoil the balance of the story. If more than one person wants to play this role and it can't be decided easily, I'll just remove this option.

Characters who are evil will not suit the style of the game. Anti-heroes are fun, as are motivationally ambiguous loners and ex-bad-guys, but if the character is a villain in spirit, they are not appropriate for the roles you’ll be playing.

While the character’s motivations are entirely up to the players, and I do encourage in-party conflict when role-played appropriately, the characters do need to share a reason to cooperate (even if it’s just "getting out of this mess"). Similarly, while I don’t mind characters who don’t want to be involved with the story, the player must be willing to conspire with me over how to force the character to be involved.

Plot Hooks (Statements)

Because the nature of this game is to be very character-focused, players must provide the GM with as many backstory elements and plot hooks as possible. The story that forms will depend on who the characters are and where they have come from. I will run with whatever you give me (generally, though, I will ask you beforehand if I’m going to do anything major with your character), so give me as much as possible; talk to me between sessions about how your character is developing and how their goals/motivations are changing, so I can better work with them.

When you make your character, I'm asking for three statements which represent a defining aspect of him/her. The nature of these statements can be just about anything - it could be about an important secret, a personal goal, a driving interest or fascination, whatever you like. It's deliberately ambiguous because the type of statement given will help me learn more about the character. For example…

  • "<character> loves his childhood friend <npc>" tells me not only that the character loves his childhood friend, but also that this love is one of the most important aspects of the character. The childhood friend would become an important NPC, and the character would have to deal with matters which would affect him or her as well as the party.
  • "Kyrie is a copper" tells me that Kyrie is a watchman, but more importantly, that she defines herself largely by her job. Challenges in the game would be designed from the perspective of a character who has to act as a law enforcer and report back to an authority, and with the intent of fulfilling a policeman's sense of duty.
  • "<character> is trying to find the assassin who killed his parents" tells me what the character's goal is, but also that the character himself is goal-oriented. He is defined less by what he is or has done, and more by what he's trying to achieve. This character might be well-served by clearly defined challenges which can be overcome in a definitive fashion. He should also regularly be given chances to work toward this major goal.

These statements will be the basis for the parts of the game tailored to your character, so choose them wisely.

Rules Variants

  • Starting Level 6, unless players unanimously vote for a higher or lower level.
  • There will be no multiclassing penalties; favoured class is a serving suggestion. I want you to make a build that you see as fitting the character, not change the character to fit what a class says (s)he should be like.
  • Please see the separate Condensed Skills Variant for the new skill list which will be used in this game.
  • Action points (see Eberron or d20Modern) and related feats/abilities are totally in.
  • Stunting (describing a particularly "cool" moment in detail and getting a bonus to pull it off), a la Exalted, is welcome – however, players who overuse it will be rewarded less frequently. It's only cool if it isn't happening all the time.
  • The game will use the Weapon Groups variant from Unearthed Arcana.
  • The game will use the Craft Reserve variant from Unearthed Arcana in combination with Talen's Superlative Crafting rules (Cobrin'Seil).
  • The game will use the Fractional Base Attack Bonus variant from Unearthed Arcana.
  • To encourage the zanpakutou mechanic, Martial Adept Schools no longer have favoured weapons. Instead, manoeuvres which rely on having a school's favoured weapon instead work only when performed with a released (shikai form) zanpakutou.
  • The classes available in this game will be severely limited, in an effort to represent the setting better. To this end, power will come from two main sources: Martial Adept classes (Book of Nine Swords) represent suitably exaggerated anime martial arts and weapon training, and psionic classes (Expanded Psionics Handbook, Complete Psionic, Player's Guide to Cobrin'Seil) represent kidou (magic).
  • I am currently debating whether or not to allow the non-magical PHB and Cobrin'Seil classes and variants (Rogue, Barbarian, Fighter, Scrapper, Spell-less Adherent), so if you are interested in one of them, bring your concept to me and we'll see. At this stage, though, I would rather not allow them.
  • Cinematic ammunition rules apply (i.e., you run out when it’s cool for you to be on your last shot).
  • In this setting, there aren't really any PC races aside from shinigami, who are effectively just spirit versions of humans – but that's in terms of thematics. Most suitably humanlike races (elves, dwarves, halflings etc.) are free to be used to make changes "under the hood". Also, there are some precedents in the existing series for non-humanlike shinigami, so if your concept fits better with another race, we can discuss that possibility.
  • Positive and negative energy are to be ignored. Healing and inflict spells work the same way, except for their interaction with undead, and negative leves are removed (this fits better with the healing magic seen in Bleach, as well). Undead and their creation are not inherently evil – they're just constructs, more or less. I don't have time to update every single spell and effect which uses negative or positive energy, so if your character would interact with these mechanics, let me know and we'll sort out the stuff that relates to him/her.
  • Forget the D&D cosmology. Instead, check out the Backgrounder.
  • Bleach features a bizarre hybrid of magic, biology and technology. Most characters are indifferent to it, but characters related to the science department, in particular, are likely to have weird, semi-organic gadgetry. Mechanically, we will be using the 3rd Age Cobrin'Seil rules for now.

Gear and Budget

In accordance with with typical eastern-fantasy anime, characters in this game won't be collecting gold pieces from the bodies of their enemies and buying enchanted equipment from wizards and sages; rather, they will be seeking self-improvement and personal progress, whether it's through spiritual rituals, intense training or simply intuition. A character does not expect to buy Gauntlets of Ogre strength with the spoils of her last campaign, but instead has dedicated herself to intense strength-training in both body and spirit, which achieves effectively the same result.
This doesn't mean that the mechanics need to change much, however; all that's really required is a change of thematics. At the core of it, the gaining of gold and buying of items in D&D can be reduced to an obvious baseline: you gain a resource as your character progresses, and you spend this resource to acquire the benefits you desire.

So, instead of monetary rewards gained from combat or contract, simply regard a character's budget as a generic pool of "enhancement points" which can be used to "buy" bonuses and abilities (this also has the handy effect of keeping everybody "up to budget" without feeling inorganic). Instead of buying actual items, the character acquires abilities in whatever fashion pleases his personal thematics, and uses the Chakras concept from Magic of Incarnum to limit these benefits as though they were still items.

In this proposal, a character can "buy" their benefits freely when gaining a level, just as they might buy magic items. However, if they want to acquire bonuses between levels, they need to devote time as well, in the classic vein of the "training" subplot in most fight anime. In addition, because the progress of the character now depends on personal improvement rather than equipment, one can't simply resell and replace a benefit after acquiring it. Changing previously chosen "budget" items roughly follows the "respec" rules given in the PHB2; only one "item" can be changed each time the character gains a level (though the character can still freely choose new "items" for that level as well).

Ergo, the fact that this system gives more secure "items" (an inherent benefit can't be sundered or stolen) is balanced by their permanency. A character must "pay" extra to make these benefits independent of Chakra (equivalent to "slotless" magical items). The upshot is that, while still having an upgrade system that fits the anime convention, no adjustments need to be made to existing budget amounts or magic/psionic item prices. This means that the rare character who should have a lot of items - an inventor, for example - can still forgo personal improvement to buy actual items.

Zanpakutou

Transforming spirit swords possessed by every shinigami. For fluff, please see the backgrounder!

Zanpakutou will, of course, be the one big exception to the "no items" concept. Because no major changes have been made to the budget system, however, this can still be made to fit in with everything else; a character can simply use her "budget" to improve her zanpakutou rather than herself if she chooses. A non-released zanpakutou can only have basic enhancement bonuses (+1, +2 etc.), but shikai and bankai forms can have almost any benefit the player wishes.

Unreleased

An unreleased zanpakutou is a simple or martial blade of some kind - usually a katana, but variants exist. It can have only basic enhancement bonuses (+1, +2 etc.) added to it via the the character's "budget". If its wielder has one or more levels in a character class, it always affects ethereal/incorporeal targets normally, and can perform a "soul burial" to banish benevolent or defeated spirits.

Shikai

A "shikai" form zanpakutou can be any sort of weapon, and is usually exotic if the wielder can have the appropriate proficiency. The key to shikai is knowing the name of one's zanpakutou; the weapon can be "switched" into its released form by speaking its name and the appropriate command word (such as "growl", "burn", "grow", etc.) as a swift action. The shikai can then be suppressed again when the shinigami wishes, also as a swift action.

In addition to the abilities of the unreleased weapon, almost all zanpakutou have a signature special ability which is revealed when they are in shikai form (such as the ability to channel magic, command an element, expand to tremendous size, multiply themselves, and so on) which should be assigned using the character's "budget". Many appropriate abilities won't already exist as a weapon enhancement, so the idea is that new and unique abilities should be chosen. Although standard D&D rules say that "secondary abilities" applied to a weapon should cost 2x the price they would cost on a universal item, the player can choose one "signature ability" which costs only 1.5x normal price when applied to a shikai form.

A character must be at least level six to unlock his zanpakutou's shikai form, and the weapon may not use more than 1/2 of the character's "budget". EVERY SHINIGAMI of the appropriate level should have a shikai form for their zanpakutou; there are occasionally exceptions, but it is extraordinarily rare for a shinigami to reach this stage in their development without learning their sword's name, and how to release it.

Bankai

Because a zanpakutou cannot be both shikai and bankai at the same time, "budget" spent on a shikai form can be re-assigned in bankai form, if the shikai form is significantly different to the bankai. Alternatively, the bankai can just be a bigger/better version of the shikai, which has the same abilities as well as extras.

A bankai form can be almost anything - some are not even weapons, but rather creatures in their own right (as might be expressed by the mechanics of the Leadership feat). Usually, bankai means adding to the character's power level as well as making the weapon stronger, and some are even expressed purely as a boost to the wielder, leaving the shikai weapon unchanged or even making it vanish completely.

A character must take the 'Bankai' feat, and have at least 10 levels in a character class, to unlock her zanpakutou's bankai form. A bankai weapon can use as much as all of the character's "budget", and the signature ability chosen for it costs only 1x normal price. Other secondary abilities applied to a bankai form cost only 1.5x normal price.

If you don't know where to start when choosing a zanpakutou, Weapons of Legacy will probably make a good basis for a bankai form. If you wish to use a Weapon of Legacy, having the Bankai feat allows you to ignore the normal sacrifices made to wield the weapon.

See Also

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