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Tabletop Game / Anima: Beyond Fantasy

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That's the only cover on the whole series not by Wen Yu-Li

In those times the World had another name. But everyone who knew it is gone.

Anima: Beyond Fantasy is a Tabletop RPG first published in Spain in 2005. It's a fantasy game of Sword and Sorcery with strong anime influences. It's more rules-crunchy than rules-light, with emphasis in chi-abilities, magic, psychic powers and the like. It has been translated to English and French, the English version published by Fantasy Flight Games.

The intended setting for the game is Gaïa, who might, or might not, be a distant future Earth after a planetary scope Apocalypse How caused by a Reality-Breaking Paradox event. Its tone hovers between Seinen and Dark Shoujo Fantasy. Most of the art in the handbooks and signature characters are by Wen Yu-Li, giving it a very distinctive and gorgeous look.

Set in the same world are the miniatures game (Anima Tactics), a (non-collectable) card game, and two video-games: Anima: Ark of Sinners and Anima: Gate of Memories.

Character Sheet for relevant NPC's in the Setting here. A constant WIP.

The game mechanics are heaviliy influenced by the old Rolemaster system by ICE, including the bulk of character classes being mostly a mix of basic ones (as in, Warrior meets Mentalist), or specialized versions of the same role (like Thief/Spy/Assassin). Character attributes may be rolled (on a D10) or bought with a point allotment. Character classes are pretty much just skill cost templates, and much customization can be done (although maybe not smart); still, nothing prevents your vanilla Warrior guy (known as Weapon Master) from getting a few Psychic powers, if you feel like it. The game uses mostly D100 rolls for checks, except for the odd D10 roll where Character attributes are involved.

Skill ranks, secondary attributes (like Hit Points) and special combat tricks like Martial Arts or fighting techniques are bought with Development Points, D.P.s for short. Special advantages and training are bought with Background points. In fact, being a psychic or spellcaster is NOT a part of the class choice, but one of these advantages.

The system is level-based, with a possible "Apprentice level 0" and a (soft) level cap of 20. Levels add some inherent bonuses to skills and characteristics coming from the class, but mostly they give you extra D.P.s to spend.

Supernatural powers all have their particular mechanics:

  • Ki Manipulation are of the flashy, super-powered variety and come with a do-it-yourself rules that let players create their own techniques from scratch. Very flexible although slightly cumbersome, it gets expanded and streamlined in one of the Sourcebooks.
  • The Magic system shows some of the Rolemaster roots, with Spell Points (called Zeon here) expenditures used to cast spells bought as a "list" with a common theme.
  • Sharing the Zeon Applied Phlebotinum but nothing else are the Arcana Summoning rules, that evoke strongly Final Fantasy signature summonings; unlike previous powers, summoning is handled by a set of special skills that must be developed independently for Summoning, Binding, and Banishing.
  • Psychic Powers are sort of the Jack-of-All-Trades of the Supernatural powers, lacking some of the raw power of the rest but not as resource dependent, and behaving more like a kind of skill than the other "pay for effect" powers without the "roll for everything" of Summoning.
  • Last of the Supernatural powers is Elan, that indicates whether a character is "synchronized" to one of the game's deities. Anima lacks traditional "clerics": divine powers come from following principles sponsored by the gods, behave like odd skills and advantages rather than like spells, and have nothing to do with organized religions, actually (but that is another story for another time...).

Combat is fairly lethal. Thankfully, the myriad weapon tables used in Rolemaster are gone, although fast adding and substracting is still a plus. Fights between opponents a couple of levels apart are very uneven affairs; high level characters with supernatural powers can annihilate armies without breaking a sweat. Later Sourcebooks even feature rules for enviromental damage caused by Physical Gods duking it out and combats where time is stretched by the Rule of Cool.

In spite of this, it is suggested that the game should be played at a "low" power level, severely limiting the availability of Supernatural skills, yet other two power level settings are suggested, and the "high power level" one uses the default Supernatural mechanics and character creation on the rulebook.

Anima: Beyond Fantasy contains examples of the following tropes

  • Archangel Azrael: Azrael is present but, notably, entirely distinct from Death, who is a different entity. Azrael instead represents justice and goodness in a paladin-esque sense.
  • Battle Aura: Appears whenever a large amount of Ki is accumulated. And with Arcana Exxet your wizard can have one too!
  • Black and White Magic: Plenty of Magic school "lists" to choose from.
  • Creating Life: Entirely possible for the Power of Creation. High Magic allows for the user to create a true soul, and Divine Magic allows the user to create worlds.
  • Damage Typing: A few kinds of physical, elemental (classic types and Light/Dark) and mystical damage.
  • Demihuman: Save for Sylvains, none of the traditional types.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Literally possible, with the right dominion tech.
  • Epic Fail: In order to invoke the Arcana "The World, Reversed", a character must have failed at every major undertaking in their life... and then fail the roll to invoke said arcana.
  • Fantasy Character Classes: But the classes say only which areas are easier for you to learn. Nothing stops you from improving others.
  • Game System: Anima: Beyond Fantasy uses its own system. Very reminiscent of Rolemaster, though.
  • Gratuitous Spanish:
    • The English translation of the game retains the use of Spanish demonyms for different nationalities ("Abelense", "Helenio", etc...), and contains a few missed words here and there.
    • Along the same lines: frustratingly, many lists contained in the books were translated fine, but not re-alphabetized from the Spanish. This makes it difficult to find certain things, especially in Those Who Walked Amongst Us. This is also likely the reason the core book has no index.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Sort of. You can play a Nephilim, a member of a Demihuman species reborn as a human.
  • Improbable Weapon User: The Zodiac-named Ars Magna weapon schools from the Ki Sourcebook. Many are Shout Outs.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Averted — a katana is pretty much the same thing as a long sword, stat-wise. It has a bit less durability, but oddly has a bit more Presence (meaning that while it's more vulnerable to attacks that sunder weapons, it has a higher chance to resist a Zeonic spell that would turn it into a rubber chicken or thereabouts). If using the rules for making your own artifacts in Prometheum Exxet, a katana's higher Presence gives it a little more room for holding artifact powers, so katanas are just better, albeit not by a whole lot, so... played straight, but downplayed?
  • Kung-Shui: Dominus Exxet has rules for fights between warriors of high combat ability and the damage they do to the local area. "Local area" can be defined in miles, and "damage" defined in castles, at the highest levels.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Yes and no. A purely physical warrior is ultimately going to fall behind someone with access to supernatural powers, but it's expected that at a certain point, you're going to pick up some kind of supernatural powers to boost your physical combat abilities.
  • Point Buy: Every level you get some points to choose what to improve.
  • Rule of Cool: The ability "Style", whose main purpose is to exercise it. The rules even describe it as pure cinematography.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: Also, Full-Contact Magic. Magic Knight and Kung-Fu Wizard are fully supported.
  • Special Snowflake Syndrome: The sourcebooks for the supernatural powers include new subpowers half for this and half Rule of Cool.
  • Tarot Motifs: The Arcana in both their pure and reversed forms.

Gaïa, the World Setting, contains examples of the following tropes

  • Anachronism Stew: Some elements of this; with the world itself a Renaissance type atmosphere, there are elements of pop idols, jazz, the blues, and even a popular sport which features a pro level league that would be familiar to our eyes. Some characters are portrayed wearing blue jean style shorts, as done by multiple artists.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: So many... but there is one that is older than the current world: Imperium.
  • Archnemesis Dad: The Immortal Onerios to the Black Lion for eating most of his soul and leaving him for dead.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Yuri Olson, former Imperial General, now head of the Empress' Hand. The Colonel/Wilhelm of Les Jaeger. All of the Arbiters. Matthew Gaul, the former Lord of War.
  • Baby Planet: Imperium, as well as the other two powers in the shadows, used magic to divide the world into three parts: one for the humans, other for the sylvain (light elves), and other for the duk'zarist (dark elves). While the planet itself was not broken apart in three, that magic causes each "sub world" to look spherical and be (almost) self-contained. Overlaps with Small, Secluded World.
  • BFS: Several, but Kronen's is noteworthy because it is actually gigantic longsword that belonged to an Oni he slew. Or the Aldebaran Lawgiver that acoording to Prometheum Exxet weights 250 kilograms. Ligori has a Big Freaking Axe that rivals Kronen's sword.
  • Badass Crew: Any team in Anima Tactics automatically qualifies for this.
  • Badass Normal: The backstory for Hringham. He was a Norse warrior whose Temporary Love Interest died; so he killed himself to challenge the goddess of Death to bring her back. And won. Hilarity ensued
  • The Berserker: Maximo Ligori is most certainly this.
  • Big Bad: Most games of Anima follow a similar structure of big bads. First it starts by fighting monsters and/or The Azur Alliance. After that the new big bad becomes the Corrupt Church Holy Empire of Abel (who almost always start as allies before their true nature is revealed). After your now demigod-like characters crush the Empire they soon discover the nature of the Powers in the shadow. With that The Imperium becomes the new and last big bad of the game and the characters usually take them out with the help of the supernatural races from Hell.
  • Blessed with Suck: Vayl, who ages as a side-effect of his time stopping powers. He is in his 20's, he looks like he is in his 60's.
  • Bodyguard Crush: A few exist within the setting.
  • Church Militant: Any Inquisitor in the setting
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: An interesting case in The Church of Abel. While it seems to have a lot of the hallmarks of this trope, it actually has a Christ figure (Abel), and its adherents are called Christians. It's really a bit like a cross between this, Fantastic Catholicism, and some Anime Catholicism mixed in.
  • Cute Bruiser: Erika, a thirteen-year-old girl who wields a Big Freaking Hammer.
  • Cursed with Awesome: The Black Lion, who is effectively immortal since he consumes the souls of anything he kills. Were does the cursed part come in? He must continue to kill to stay alive, or suffer a Fate Worse than Death
  • Dark Action Girl: Any Action Girls that are of "dark" alignment.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Filisnogos and Omega certainly qualify. There was also a war between the Sylvain and the Old Ones.
  • Evolving Weapon: The Pillars of Souls are eleven weapons that absorb the powers of whoever they kill. They can also absorb the other Pillars, and actually drive their wielders to attack each other if the weapons have absorbed enough powers. They are actually an experiment by Imperium to create a god slaying weapon, and once their is only one weapon left, they will recover it using the twelfth Pillar.
    • The thirteenth Weapon of Legend, Claidheim Souls, gains a new power for every wielder it has. This is because it was forged from the remains of a Pillar of Souls, which gives it the ability to evolve.
  • Expy: Gaia features a significant number of these, which isn't particularly surprising considering the anime styled setting. Sometimes they're even more than that.
  • Faking the Dead: Yuri Olsen was forced to do this in order to lead the Empress's Hand in secrecy.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Vikings, 16th century Spain, 18th Century France and Italy, Scotireland, Ruritania, an United States-like country in the west continent, and of course Far East, Qurac and African/Egyptian flavours. And there is the fallen Ancient Grome empire, too
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: A few, but Kujaku Hime is probably the worse offender.
  • Feather Motif: On not few of Wen's images. Justified on those people who work for the Church of Abel (ie: the angel-like High Saint Elienai)
  • Female Angel, Male Demon: The Maiden of Light and Lord of Darkness respectively.
  • Femme Fatale: This is the entire schtick of the Sisters of Selene, an all-female group of master assassins who combine extreme beauty with very well-developed supernatural powers (and no small skill with their signature stilettos) to pretty much be the best Professional Killers in Gaïa.
  • Final Boss: Filisnogos all the way; not only is it a Sealed Evil in a Can but it's also the strongest monster in the core book and it makes a perfect endgame fight. It tends to come into play because of revenge-seeking enemies, usually the defeated members of Jurgand or The Empire after every enemy has been defeated by your characters.
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Arguably inverted with the Azur Alliance and the Empire of Abel.
  • Homage: The city of Terrasanta might be renamed to Raccoon City in the future...
  • Lady of War: The women that are part of the Empire tend to be this. Kujaku Hime may also count.
  • Magitek: Very prominent in the setting, particularly any Lost Loggia or Wissenschaft equipment.
  • The Masquerade: Several Masquerades going on, but the most prominent is the one held by Samael, the loose network of supernatural creatures and supposedly extinct races who banded together for protection.
  • Moral Guardians: One adventure hook is Gold Collins, proprietor of Paradis Paradis decides to throw a contest called "Beauties on Water" where sexy women compete wearing sexy swimsuits, and a semi-religious group called "The Moral Order" thinks it is obscene, and wants to stop it.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Celia, who has the most artwork of any single named character in Anima and is going to be the star of the very first Anima video game.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: A common fashion statement in Gaia apparently, along with Cleavage Window.
  • The Necrocracy: Hinghram is called King of Unlife for a reason; he runs a Type II but is seen as Type I for those who know he's real.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Deadmoon and the rest of her crew are Pirate Ninjas, Deadmoon herself is a Pirate Ninja Warlock. The Machine are Psychic Cyborg Hive Minds.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The seven Beryls, each one of them named after an archangel of the Christianism of the setting. All of them but one (Uriel) have adopted female gender.
  • Path of Inspiration: The Church of Abel was purposely modeled after Christianity. Old Testament version.
  • Pimped-Out Dress:
    • Elisabetta Barbados' court dress (see the Gaïa sourcebook cover) fits too, falling also under Impossibly-Low Neckline.
    • Fallen Angel Dinah. As for the former, Impossibly-Low Neckline applies as well.
    • Also, in some cases the stuff you gain for belonging to the high class (Nobility/High Nobility) includes lots of this. Even an Unlimited Wardrobe if you're a high noble from Gabriel.
    • The Wardrobe spell (in Arcana Exxet). On its most basic form, you get an exquisite dress inmune to damages (to it, but not to the wearer). At higher levels it gives you point to Style (see below), the clothes change to adapt to the situation or the moment, and even serve as armor armor Unlimited Wardrobe too, in other words.