Well, my girlfriend and I just finished the second season of Sword Art Online, and it got me thinking about running a tabletop RPG reminiscent of this game, either in name or some sort of expy-version thereof, but with my most recent forays into the RPG scene being basically from the aspect of Iron Kingdoms, I wanted to dredge up the mechanics of Basic Roleplaying again, seeing as how I've invested a serious amount of my sourcebook income into Chaosium's line of rpgs.
I'm also writing this as a sort of mental exercise for myself, both to increase my postings on my blog, and to keep myself from spending money uselessly signing up for a MMO somewhere and not really enjoying my time playing it, and thus wasting creative energy.
Regardless, I really like the concept of bringing in the actual source as intact as possible because, to reiterate the plot in as spoiler-free a manner as possible, in SAO, when you kill another player character, their actual player suffers a significant electrical jolt to their brain, causing immediate death. This sidesteps one of the standard player mentalities of 'kill everything in sight' by imposing a moral quandary into the more bloodthirsty aspects of the tabletop RPG hobby. Essentially, Player Killers are literally player killers, as their in-game homicides are actual, real-world homicides.
Somewhat breaking from the original source material, however, is the aspect of multiple MMO universes portrayed somewhat later in the anime, and I do quite like the idea of players switching between 'games' occasionally, keeping their attributes but losing their skills, equipage, and money. This does, however, mean that there probably needs to be some sort of leveling system for statistics as well as skills, which is somewhat of a break from the standard Chaosium formula.
But I think I can mitigate that though a hybridization of the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition ruleset with the standard Magic World ruleset, basically running the game where statistics are listed as a derivative of 100, then half that, then 1/5 of that to give a core number that can be used to generate stats. Adding a skill checkbox next to statistic's d100 number means that they can be increased using the standard BRP character advancement rules, but also ensures that characters can't get ridiculously overpowered without more home-brewing. We'll talk more about advancement later.
I think what I like best about BRP is that I can create a list of skills to just put on a character sheet and have players assign starting numbers to them, while keeping the d100 ruleset together. This will probably necessitate looking a number of gamefaqs pages and SAO wikias trying to find a unified list of non-combat skills, but I also think I should probably keep some of the standard BRP/MW skills intact, as the translations for some of the SAO skills in the PSP games are what might be seen as pedestrian. I suppose if I were to keep them it might add to the authenticity and aesthetics of the final system itself, but for now I think utilizing more descriptive and enlightening language creates a more approachable hybrid for rpg veterans and converts from the games/anime. Of course, I'm talking about this as if it's going to be the next big thing, and in all likelihood it'll just become a google document sitting on my drive until I delete my account in x number of years.
What really might require some more intense thought in creating the system is the implementation of Sword Skills from the source material. There are some great write-ups regarding this on the wikias for the various games, and I'll probably trudge through those when I'm less caffeinated and more able to focus on a single stream of consciousness, but from what I'm gathering currently there are regular Sword Skills, which are kind of like special techniques, and Original Sword skills, which are more complex forms of chained Sword Skills, created by individual users (at least in the handheld versions of the game). These I'm thinking can be introduced through the use of Power Points from the BRP system, where x skills cost x power points, and PPs regenerate either through the use of items or over time. Of course the recovery through items basically means that currency and economics needs to play a part of the game world itself, thus necessitating another blog post and me looking through the BRP yellow book for rules on Power Points themselves. Where I start getting into trouble, in my own mind, is when I begin thinking about creating rules for players to create their own Sword Skills and original sword skills, mechanically assigning power points to various effects a Sword Skill may grant.
And, of course, one can't talk about Sword Skills without discussing the combat system of the game (and source material) itself. The big mechanic, aside from Sword Skills (I refuse to abbreviate those words) is the Switch mechanic, where one player parries an enemy attack, allowing a second player to 'switch' in and perform an unopposed attack. This sort of emphasizes team-play, which is cool in concept, I'm just curious about its execution in-game. Off-hand, I'm thinking of hybridizing Pendragon mechanics alongside BRP mechanics, essentially creating a situation where players need to split their skill (I need to look at the BRP rules regarding multiple actions in combat, those may be more forgiving) to engage multiple enemies, and therefore Switching would only really happen in the case of one-on-one combats, probably against bosses.
Again, this can be further mitigated by bosses who can perform multiple attacks in a single round, thereby possibly negating the switch mechanic.
Standard combat would, of course, become more Pendragonny, where players and their opponents would compete with their rolls to see who is the more effective combatant, and that would determine who would roll damage, akin to the Call of Cthulhu 7e ruleset.
The biggest break from the source I'm seeing, however, is that hit points become much more of an issue. With BRP rules, even using the Combine, not Average mechanics, means that players will have fewer hit points than usual. I think this might be where armor comes in and starts saving the day, allowing what I'm thinking will be a standard reduction in damage due to an ARM figure, a la Pendragon or IKRPG. Boss monsters, on the other hand, I'm debating on, perhaps they'll have insane amounts of hit points, or they'll have a set lower number, and each time it disappears the boss goes into Yellow or Red mode, resetting their hit points and changing their tactics, as per the anime.
In any case, there's quite a lot to think about here, and I'm really just stoked I was able to pound out a blog post regarding a fantastic anime and the game system I'll probably never create based on it. But hey, if I do, i'll probably run something with it, just for the funsies.
Thanks for reading.