A Look at the Crunch of BESM
June 28, 2013

A Look At The Fluff Of BESM

Again, I would like to mention that I am describing my thoughts on the third edition of Big Eyes, Small Mouth. The Tri-Stat version, not the d20 version.

Big Eyes, Small Mouth, or BESM for short, is a universal game that allows Gamemasters to craft their own unique worlds and adventures without having to coheir to any previously existing narrative. The closest thing that BESM has to a standard campaign setting is a multi-dimensional world-hopping setting in which players can create any sort of character they wish from any anime setting and have them all work together. It can be fun, but it is also really tricky to get to work. The strength of BESM is in its simple mechanics and design that allows games to incorporate elements of any sort of genre they might wish. The fluff of the game is any anime you have ever seen.

A friend of mine tried running a BESM game he called “Mundus Iovialis,” which he described as “Bleach in Space,” Bleach being a fairly popular anime series we were watching at the time. The basic idea for it was that mankind had finally taken to the stars in mass and were colonizing other planets in our solar system; but lurking in the shadows were demonic entities that sought to feed on the souls of human beings. Beings invisible to the naked eye, but still very real. During a trip to Ganymede, one of the moons of Jupiter, one such creature attacked the immigrants making their way to a new home off world. Characters varied, of course, but on hand was a witch-hunter who had lost his kids and his dog (and man, did he love that dog) when his wife revealed herself as a witch, a Knight Templar who wore an impressive suit of Arthurian-stylized powered armor, a mystic investigator, and a boy possessed by the demon called Legion. Needless to say, an unusual grouping, and one that never really worked out.

That game only ran a few sessions, and none of them that really went together all that well, but it was an interesting experience and really lent to showcasing the strange and intriguing adventures Gamemasters can dream up. Though lacking any real fluff of its own, BESM more than makes up for it in just how much it encourages Gamemasters to think of their own stories, basing them on many of the themes and elements of anime. I have seen everything from cat-girls to mecha pilots, elemental-magic wielding ninjas, and more come out of these pages, and the dynamic system and ease/speed of combat resolution really lends to a narrative focused style of game.

Now, I will admit, there are a lot of universal games out there, and to me, a game’s world narrative is what makes a game stand out. Not having one, and relying solely on the Gamemaster to fully flesh out their entire campaign worlds, isn’t something I see as a good thing. Part of what really makes me like games like The Dresden File RPG, Shadowrun, and Anima: Beyond Fantasy (also a game based on some anime-style elements, I might add) is their amazing cannon settings. Big Eyes, Small Mouth is a great game, and I have had many fun nights playing it, but I’ve rarely had anything more than a three to four session campaign, and I usually use it for one-shot game nights where the whole group cannot attend. I would still recommend BESM, highly in fact, but warn that all you are really getting from it is a set of anime flavored RPG rules.

Image Credit: White Wolf, ArtHaus

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