Big Eyes Small Mouth is a multi-genre Tabletop RPG created by the now-defunct Guardians of Order. Conceived as a system to allow people to play out games in the style of anime series, it was first released at GenCon in 1997. The name comes from a common generalization of the typical anime and manga character designs, which have proportionately large eyes and small mouths.
A number of supplemental rule books have been released, with additional rules and character creation options to provide specific advice for running games in a certain genre. For instance, the supplement Hot Rods and Gun Bunnies contains information on running a Gunsmith Cats or Riding Bean-style game, while Big Robots, Cool Starships has rules for designing Mecha and running Space Opera-style games. Most of the extras in the supplements were folded into the second edition of BESM.
There are two other kinds of supplements produced by Guardians of Order. Stand-alone game worlds such as Uresia: The Grave of Heaven and Centauri Knights, and licensed supplements based on various anime series, such as Slayers, Serial Experiments Lain and Sailor Moon. Licensed supplements that were mostly or completely background information about the show's world were released with the misleading title of "Ultimate Fan Guide".
BESM uses the Tri-Stat System designed by Guardians of Order, and was their flagship product for that system. Characters are defined by three statistics: Body, Mind and Soul, as well as a number of Attributes and Defects. Tri-Stat is a Point Build System. A d20 System version of the game has also been released. GOO had a third edition of BESM ready when it collapsed. The rights were sold to the game company White Wolf, which published it (for a short while anyway; the now discontinued third edition book sells for over $100 on the Internet, but you can buy .pdfs) and now provides what support remains for the Tri-Stat system.
See also Silver Age Sentinels, GOO's superhero RPG that used a similar rules system.
This tabletop game provides examples of:
- All There in the Manual: One of the attractions of the early licensed settings (most famously Sailor Moon) is that each RPG book was also a series guide - so much so that a lot of anime fans who had no interest in RPGs bought the Sailor Moon RPG for the guide alone.
- Arbitrary Minimum Range: One of the custom variables for the Weapon attribute (which covers all types of attack abilities) is Indirect, which lets the attack strike through a ballistic arc. However, rank 1 of the variable restricts the attack from targeting less than half of its maximum range (determined by the Range variable); rank 2 reduces this to ten percent; rank 3 is the maximum and removes the restriction. Splash Damage is handled by the Area variable instead, so there may not be any practical reason for an attack to have a minimum range.
- Awesome, but Impractical: The laughably weak Alternate Form attribute. Without installing some kind of drawback, you will be one point per rank in AF more powerful than if you'd just bought the powers for your native form and called it good. Meaning that with two ranks of Alternate Form, you can afford +5 HP, +2 ranks of armour, or a single combat technique. Also, there has to be some reason you don't just drop into Omnikill Mode and stay there, even if it's just social.
- The template for the Magical Girl, one of the archetypes you'd most expect to use Alternate Form, instead assumes that her mahou shoujo identity is her main one, and simply uses a single level in the Alternate Identity attribute (which only costs two character points in-game) for her civilian identity.
- The Alternate Form actually has quite a bit of use in the right situation, it's just abstract. Technically there's no reason you can't have an Alternate Form with almost entirely different stats, defects, and attributes. Think of the difference between The Hulk and Dr. Banner. It basically allows you to have two characters tag team.
- The Sentai Member character class from BESM d20 can only really function effectively in a group that is comprised completely of Sentai Members — practically all of its abilities require that there be another character with Sentai Member levels nearby in order to function. If you go it alone or team up with other characters who are not Sentai Members, all you get is low levels of Personal Gear, Rejuvenation, and Combined Attacks, plus some extremely rare bonus Character Points.
- Badass Driver: The Hot Rod template.
- Banishing Ritual: The Exorcism attribute has banishment back to an entity's own dimension as a possible outcome of reducing its Energy Points to zero by means of the attribute in question. Third Edition changed this to freeing someone from Mind Control.
- Bare Your Midriff: The amount of art that exhibits this would be surprising were it dealing with any other genre. Even hardcore mercenaries show up with their midriffs bared.
- Battle Butler: With the Servant attribute, it's possible to create one (or several).
- Big Anime Eyes: The game lampshades this in its title.
- Bigger on the Inside: The Dimensional Portal attribute uses this trope by name.
- Bowdlerize: The Mons-focused sourcebook Cute And Fuzzy Cockfighting Seizure Monsters had the word Cockfighting removed in a seperate printing to prevent stores from not selling it due to the name.
- Cat Girl: One of the sample templates, and the creation of a space opera catgirl character was used in third edition as the chargen example.
- Combination Attack: Word for word, this is available as an Attribute. It requires all characters participating in the attack to have the attribute and at least one rank in a Special Attack. All combining characters must also pay Energy Points and the cost increases depending on how many characters are combining.
- Demon Slaying: The Demon Hunter, one of the sample templates, who is dedicated to killing the denizens of the hell dimension of Bazaroth.
- Evolutionary Levels: The Homo Psyche template is a human who has awakened to his or her true psionic potential, becoming the next step of human evolution.
- Fanservice: About half the art.
- Gadgeteer Genius: The Tech Genius template.
- The Greys: Yep, they're a playable race in this game.
- Gun Fu: Combat Techniques that can be used with ranged weapons can create a gun-fu character quite easily. Indeed, Hot Rods and Guns are just one of the many subgenres of anime.
- Humongous Mecha: The Giant Living Robot template. The Mecha Pilot template also gives you a lot of item points with which to design one of these for your character to pilot.
- Idol Singer: As idols are popular in anime and video games, you can bet they've shown up here.
- Magical Girl: One of the templates available to players.
- Medieval European Fantasy: The Shards of Azar on Ikaris are a medieval-style world with a replica of the feudal system, except that mages directly replace knights and lords, because a magical fireball is more powerful than a lance and a horse.
- Minmaxer's Delight: For attributes, Extra Actions. Even the book recommends only allowing players up to two levels in this unless they're supposed to be vastly more powerful than humans.
- Divine Relationship also counts to some degree in the attributes category. Rerolls are generally a powerful tool to have on hand, to the point that many systems limit them to per level or per story arc, and even then often limit the number of times a given die can be rerolled to once. At two points per reroll available each session (when even the weakest player characters are built on triple-digit point totals), they're dirt-cheap in BESM, and it's even explicitly stated in the attribute that you can use rerolls to reroll rerolls you don't like, with the only limit on how many times you can do that being the number of rerolls you have available for the session.
- Mons: The Companion attribute can be used to design your own Mon if you have the Pet Monster Trainer template.
- Mouse World: In the Western Animation suppement, Big Ears, Small Mouse.
- Ninja: Yep, they're here too.
- One Stat to Rule Them All: If you can have only one stat at 8, for God's sake make it Soul. Body + Soul determines your HP; Mind + Soul your Energy Points. And the most common roll based off just one stat is Soul-based anyway.
- One to Million to One: The "Swarm" attribute allows a character to divide into a mass of critters (crows, bats, rats, tiny attack robots, etc.) depending on his/her current HP/maximum HP.
- Ordinary High-School Student: The Student template, which includes twenty points worth of Unknown Power to ensure that their lives will be anything but uneventful.
- Parody: The splat book Cute and Fuzzy Seizure Monsters pokes fun at Pokémon in particular while being set in the pet monster training genre.
- Pinball Protagonist: The GM's section mentions that this is a normal characteristic of Shoujo anime, but it's not fun to be a PC who has no agency, and it's best to avoid this.
- Resurrective Immortality: This is what the Reincarnation attribute does. The various levels determine how long it takes for the character with the attribute to come back after being killed, and how easy or hard this is to stop.
- Samurai: No anime-inspired game would be complete without these.
- Sentai: The Sentai Member template, which is at its best when fighting alongside the other members of the team, just like in a sentai show.
- Skeleton Key: The template that bears this trope's name has the power to open any world gate in any dimension in the Anime Multiverse as well as being able to unlock anything and even destroy any world gate. For this reason, they are very sought after by those who know of them.
- Super Mode: The Alternate Form attribute (but see Awesome, but Impractical above).
- Unequal Rites: In the Ikaris setting in the Anime Multiverse, the Shards of Azar are ruled by sorcerers who use true magic, which is severaly distrusted in the Land of the Seven Stars. Meanwhile, the Azarans consider the Supernatural Martial Arts and Enlightenment Superpowers of the monks of the Seven Stars, and the Badass Normal capabilities of their blademasters, to be nearly magical but not quite - thus relegating them to mercenaries and favored armsmen for the noble mages. Finally, Alchemy has recently been developed in the Shards, and has magical effects but doesn't require an Inherent Gift, so the sorcerers also look down on alchemists.