Tenra Bansho Zero: Working the MechanicsDecember 2, 2013
Now that I’ve played a few sessions, I can talk a bit more about how to use the mechanics better.
Stats matter, a little
In most RPGs, having a disparity in power or ability in characters tends to translate directly to a disparity in who gets spotlight time and who gets to do cool things. In TBZ, this is not the case. Usually stronger characters are just a step above, and a weaker character can easily dominate a powerful one just by spending enough Kiai.
The faster you spend through Kiai, the sooner you have to change/close your Fates to keep yourself from going Asura, which means your character simply goes through story arcs and drama faster – and you end up getting the spotlight on roleplaying.
That said, if you plan on getting into a type of activity often, you probably want the associated attribute or two up into the 7+ range, and with skills of 3 at least.
Don’t Fear Wounds
A mistake I made early in was spending a chunk of Kiai to avoid wounds from relatively weak enemies. I knew my monk was a glass-cannon type of character so I was trying to avoid taking hits – but in TBZ you get injured, you get extra dice. Consider saving your Kiai and taking the injuries so you can get those Wound Dice and spend it later when you really need it.
Also consider whether you really need to win a given fight – taking it all as Vitality hits and getting knocked out actually isn’t that bad either.
If you DO need to win the fight, consider taking a simultaneous strike, taking all the damage to the “Dead” box, and then delivering a full powered, undefended return strike (now with +3 dice…)
I ended up putting myself into a bad position by spending out Kiai early – in the last two sessions, I had no Kiai, but I needed dice – so I spent Aiki. So every Intermission I’d come in with barely a point or two of Aiki, which meant I barely had any Kiai… which meant I’d spend my Aiki… Meanwhile the other players had something like 30-40 Kiai by the last act, and I had 6.
So, don’t worry about budgeting as “never spend it” but make sure you have SOME around when you need it, or, if you’re all out, just accept some extra lumps in the form of wounds or failed rolls early on until you get to an intermission and can convert Aiki to Kiai.
What I needed to realize is that while TBZ has some reward cycles similar to things like Primetime Adventures – you get Aiki (just like Fanmail) very easily, it works very different in that spending it isn’t as immediate. In PTA, you get Fanmail and you can spend it right away, whereas TBZ, you really should hold onto it until Intermission and then toss it all into Fate rolls.
Be merciless with your Fates
Every intermission provides you a chance to change your Fates. You’re going to basically spiral down to the 1-2 Fates you’ll be working on and the rest will not really matter. If something didn’t show up for an entire Act? Drop it or change it to something that is showing up. Consider changing a Fate so it ties to one or more of the other PCs. Consider paying an Aiki to another player to take a Fate that interacts with yours in fun ways.
The only point where your Fates might become static is by the last Act – you’ve pretty much got a good idea of what conflicts/story you want to pursue, and now it’s about making last decisions and seeing if you are going to be strong enough to live up to them.