Suggest a game/games to a YA librarian for a tween anime group!

edited April 2009 in Story Games has been a while. So, i have a friend that is a YA librarian in NH. She also heads up the anime club that is mostly tween girls. They have been looking to branch out from manga and anime and she mentioned gaming. They seem to be really interested in it. One of them mentioned DND but i think she wants to avoid that for now.
So. What games would you suggest (does not have to be specifically anime flavored) to her for that group?

I suggested PTA but it looks like IPR is out of it.

thanks in advance!


  • Offhand there is Panty Explosion (psychic japanese teen schoolgirls fighting monsters and the japanese school system) and Bliss Stage (children fighting aliens in giant dream robots formed from their relationships).
  • As well as some generic "anime" games such as BESM and OVA. Those are more toolkit games, but the art and style hits that sensibility.
  • I've played a lot with anime teen girls, seems that they like roleplaying. Tend to have some chat game experience or such. My best picks have been MLwM, Zombie Cinema, The Mountain Witch and PTA for this purpose. Avoid games with long and complex mechanical procedures - something like The Shadow of Yesterday won't work easily, because you'll either bore the players by explaining the system or make them do a lot of chargen work the purpose of which they won't appreciate before playing; it's a sort of chicken and egg issue. Then again, we started a new campaign of TSoY just a couple of weeks ago with a group that has one typical anime teen girl in it, and she's enjoying herself, so I guess too much association with nerdy boys and playing boardgames with them will make even a girl learn the game.

    All of the games on my list above are Forge-style mechanized narrativism. I've also had good results with adventurous Dungeons & Dragons (with a mixed group, not one of all-girls); however, this absolutely requires a good GM who can avoid the morass of weapon lists, encumbrance rules, hit points and actually the majority of the rules dross in D&D tradition, focusing on the fiction, strategic choices and consequences in the game instead. This makes for a very enjoyable environment with beginners, I find - they get to adventure, lots of things happen when they try out stuff, nobody needs to stress about thespian quality or whatnot and everybody has fun. So I definitely wouldn't discount the old school if you have a good GM available.

    I also think that it's a bit foolish to jump for a specifically branded anime game here. At least my experience has been that narrowly anime-focused teenagers are a minority, most will actually respond better with a less constrained creative environment; I suspect that this is because their passionate relationship to manga actually translates into a creative pressure when they have to work with the same genre. Give them the opportunity to introduce anime-like characters and stories, but don't force it, and the results will be more natural.

    Considering all of the above... if there's going to be an experienced gamer running the game and there is a modicum of creative trust in the group, I recommend MLwM; it can be a very powerful, sweet bonding experience that makes for a good starting point for other games. If there is no trust (that is, the players don't really want to play or don't know each other) but there is an experienced GM, I'd go for PTA or Mountain Witch or Dust Devils (as a costume drama for girls, you know), all of which are approachable and allow the GM to control the pace of the game to build up trust. Finally, if there's no experienced GM, then my best bet would definitely be a GMless game where everybody can be relied on to take some responsibility for success: Zombie Cinema is the best one (being designed for this performance bracket in many ways), but I could see giving Under the Bed or 1001 Nights to that sort of group. (If you're going to leave them to play without an experienced co-player, do explain the rules and make sure they get a session going before leaving them to it; much easier that way.)

    Ah, a black horse came to mind: a good sim game like Dead of Night would be an excellent option sort of in between a simple D&D adventure and My Life with Master. Like those other games, it requires an experienced GM, though.
  • Maid!

    Also, my own Blazing Rose has some definite anime inspirations, e.g. Love Hina.
  • Posted By: SabreCatMaid!
    Seconded. If I had a couple of catgirls anime fans to convert, that's the one I'd use.
  • I don't know about foolish, but if the group is pretty open to very specific situational play, most of the indie systems you've mentioned might be good places to start. In my defense, OVA seems both easy to learn and forgiving of all kinds of character concepts, thus putting fewer constraints on the group in terms of genre, style, etc., without imposing a huge mechanical burden. I like it as a toolkit system, though I haven't played it. BESM is likewise on the light side mechanically--at least 2d ed. is. I'd pick them before introducing a new group to any version of DnD, good GM or not. In theory, with the hypothetical good GM at the controls able to buffer players from all mechanical complexity or confusion, you could pick virtually any game and make it sing. (Well, OK, maybe not Synnibarr.)

    Everway could be a good pick for beginning players. Lots of colorful cards, simple "sketch" mechanics, plenty of easy character customization.
  • I think Maid is an excellent choice, if the atmosphere of the rule book matters. Panty Explosion, as well, although that might be better for slightly older teenagers.

    My Life With Master is good if you can get a good GM for it.

    Bliss Stage is probably too adult. It has sex and stuff in the rules.

    PTA is good, but requires an initial investment of creativity. Also coming to mind are Shooting the Moon and Under the Bed.

    In short, I wish I knew the personalities of the group: a more creative group might do well with PTA, a group less good at story-telling on their own would do much better with Maid or Shooting the Moon.

  • Oh, I wasn't pointing at Blake with my anime comment. It's just that although I've made a point of focusing on anime color and stylings in many games (Mountain Witch and Bliss Stage, for example), but ultimately that hasn't ever really made a noticeable difference to the quality of the game. It's sort of... some of the anime teens certainly respond to the color, but that response seems to only rarely be positive for the actual play of the game! A typical response is that a player, when faced with a typical anime genre game, will create a character who is a clone of some anime protagonist, and proceed to play with the added constraint of this outside influence. I've yet to see a positive benefit from having a player at the table worry about what her character's original influence would do, especially when the player also excepts the other players to support the character concept by bringing in the whole cast of characters and situations from the anime in question. Might be that this sort of influence and effects would be more positive in a different type of game, but these games I've been playing with the teens don't like it. It seems to be better to make color pretty neutral and allow the players to naturally develop anime stylings into the game if that is what they want, instead of challenging their hobby identity by asking them for anime material, if that makes sense.

    Bliss Stage is good, by the by - I've played that one with a mixed teenager group as well. Requires the same degree of trust as MLwM does. Where it becomes a bit difficult is that it's very mechanized in the conflict system, so you shouldn't throw it at first-timers without knowing how they'll react to a system that requires them to count dice and limit their creativity in accordance to what the system allows them to do.
  • edited April 2009
    I think Cold City could take an anime color conversion well, and Inspectres plays like silly anime a lot too.

    Oh, and The Magical Land of Yeld, which you canget as a whiebook from Jake Richmond and Nick Smith. It's very much like the early Final Fantasy games. Scuba Snakes!
  • I run an after-school club (though it's pretty much all boys) and have tried a few indie games. InSpectres was a big hit. PTA went over like a lead balloon though because the kids couldn't really handle the pitch session - they needed a lot more guidance.

    I love MLwM but that game seems to have a dark side to it that might not be appropriate with kids. Similarly, running a game called "Panty Explosion!" or "Classroom Deathmatch" with kids is just asking for all kinds of problems.

    What kind of anime? There's quite a range out there from the moody, vampire hunting stuff to school girls with super powers, to big, stompy, transforming robots.

    How about Monsters & Childish Things? It's got an anime vibe to it in the Pokemon sense and has a premise that would be pretty easy for teenage kids to identify with. PDQ would also be a very simple game to use and is very flexible: ZoZ could do anime stuff pretty easily and the new S7S might be a very easy game to turn into an anime setting.
  • Posted By: MJ HarnishI love MLwM but that game seems to have a dark side to it that might not be appropriate with kids.
    I have no idea if darker stuff is "appropriate" (what does that even mean?) but I bet they'd still like it. Aren't all the girls nuts over some series of novels about vampires these days?
  • That was pretty much my theory in pitching MLwM to teenage girls, yes. Of course you need to be sensible about it and take some adult responsibility to the GM seat; there's nothing age-inappropriate in MLwM unless somebody brings it. More significantly, a game like MLwM won't have any barriers to being serious and touching, which is quite good if you're looking for a game that really allows the players to have a powerful experience suited to their own creativity. Being too careful with teenagers runs the risk of making the game dull and patronizing because you don't allow them to address the issues they themselves find interesting. Teenagers are not prudes, even if their parents are.

    All that assumes a certain level of trust, though: the players need to feel comfortable being creative with each other (and perhaps the GM, although just having them there to support each other can compensate for a GM they don't know as long as the GM makes an effort to be friedly as well), and there needs to be a certain level of commitment to artistry in the group (as opposed to a commitment to keeping the game emotionally safe).
  • Ah, also: I should note that most of my play with teenagers has been with a 14+ years age bracket. Middle school is the word, I believe. I seem to remember that "tween" means somebody younger than that (12 years?), but I'm not sure.

    For the younger teens the choice of game pretty much has to hinge on their development level - if they still see themselves and their interests as childlike, then a childlike game is more appropriate than most of the stuff mentioned here. I could even see myself recommending OVA, as it tends to be that young enough roleplayers mostly want to focus on their own character and let the GM take care of the interactive content. A game that focuses on character creation and allows the GM to essentially fiat everything else in the interests of story and immersive content could work well for that sort of group. Also, early D&D or T&T - an adventure game is easy for both age brackets.

    Still, I've encountered 12-year olds who fit in the same game with their older siblings as well. Depends on the person. I could consider even MLwM for a group with one 12-year old, but for a bunch I'd go with The Questing Beast, Trollbabe (or some other light narrativist adventure game) or an adventure game.
  • RPGs based on a film or TV show are good anchors for getting the players involved. I suggest picking an anime series that they like and running something freeform based around it:

    1. Each child chooses which character they want to play. If more than one child wants to play someone in particular, first see if you can get them to reach a compromise. If not, flip a coin or roll a die for it.

    2. For each character, the player writes down three things their character is good at and reads them aloud in turn. The adult can suggest some changes if an ability would be too strong, even if that's what they can do in the anime.

    3. For each character, the whole group decides on a character flaw for them. If the character doesn't have a flaw, let them make one up.

    4. The adult describes a typical scene that would bring all the characters together, then introduce some kind of crisis for them to react to. It's perfectly fine to start off with an actual scene from one of the episodes.

    5. One at a time, ask each child what their character does. Draw attention to their strengths and call out their flaws when they come up.

    6. Repeat step 5 until you reach a good stopping point.

  • Hey guys, aforementioned librarian here.

    Thank you all for your suggestions (and to Chiv for posting the question for me).

    I'll clarify that these kids are mostly in the 13-16 age range, and while I expect a mostly female crowd, that is by no means certain. Many of the girls I have in mind have been writing fanfic (mostly Naruto, I think) in pairs and threes for quite a while now, and it was their interest in collaborative storytelling that inspired me to try to shepherd them into gaming. I imagine their writing sessions probably go a lot like the proto-game structure you describe, Grant, minus the adult and some of the structure.

    Moody, broody vampires is *definitely* their style, so you guys hit that right on the head. (Some of them are, however, like *so* over Twilight.) I'm okay with things being dark or whatever. I might try to steer them away from graphic sex and super gory violence (and combinations thereof), but I know from personal experience what teenage precocious readers read, and I'm not super stressed about toeing some appropriateness line. (But it's totally a legit concern, MJ Harnish! I'm super lucky to work with people who have my back against prudish parents.) I do think Panty Explosion might be too much for printing on flyers, though...

    I should also mention that I'm a GM noob. I have the small group discussion management experience from teaching, but not so much the storytelling, which is why PTA appealed so much when Chiv suggested it to me. So if something is going to hinge on my ability to create elaborate worlds and plots all by myself, it's probably not going to work out. I'm also trying to get out from under a lot of the power structure baggage that comes along with being an adult interacting with teens, so something where the players have a little more agency than in the traditional DnD style setup would be extra awesome.

    That said, I do love a challenge. To all of you who started with, "Well, if you have a good GM...," what specific skills do you have in mind when you make that caveat?

    Eero, I really appreciate your consideration of group dynamics and trust in your suggestions, and the value you place on having a deep, juicy experience.

    Finally, can someone toss me a link for Under the Bed? My googling was totally unfruitful.

    Thanks again for all your suggestions, guys! This is such a big help.

  • edited April 2009
    Posted By: AbbyI do think Panty Explosion might be too much for printing on flyers, though...
    Yeah, I wouldn't mention that one by name. :) Sadly, that and it's "sibling" are both games I'd be hesitant to name when it comes to young adults (or at least parents) and yet I suspect Panty Explosion might be good for this group. It's got the potential for dark and moody and also anime-ish.
    Posted By: AbbyFinally, can someone toss me a link for Under the Bed?
    Under the Bed
  • Posted By: AbbyI do think Panty Explosion might be too much for printing on flyers, though...
    Right you are. It's a good name if you want to draw attention but at times it's a little too effective. I'm a big fan of the game myself and have debated with myself over and over again if I could run it a one of the conventions I attend annually. I'm usually there to run a Star Wars game and a lot of the kids are in that 13-16 range. I've been thinking that the kind of things I want to see in a Panty Explosion game might be a bit too dark and edgy. At the same time it's exactly that kind of game where the players really are the ones who can set tone and the GM can follow. Another question is; do teenagers want to play teenagers? That's a pretty big issue after all.

    All in all, I agree, the name Panty Explosion might stir up too much commotion to be worth it but I highly recommend the game itself. Maybe something to pass on to a group once it's gotten on track?

    Eero mentioned his Zombie Cinema. I think it's a great game in the way that it gives good clear guidelines as to what were're supposed to do at the table; it isn't a zombie game, it's a zombie movie game. You get something to relate to right away and as long as their clear on how things work ("First we have to argue among ourselves and then the zombie come!") and know that it's a collaboration, everything will be super fine. Also good since it doesn't take forever to finish a session and you get going pretty much right away.
  • That does change it a bit; I thought 'tween' meant something like 8 to 12.

    Like the others, I'm going to chime in with Panty Explosion; it went over really well and I think you can have a great game with or without a demon antagonist.

    How about calling it by its romanized japanese: pantei bakuhatsu (or something like that; my Japanese is awful).

  • Or just say that it's a game about supernatural Japanese schoolgirls... there's not much need to use any name for a roleplaying game; often it's enough if you have a name for your campaign itself. Of course then you need to hide the rulebook (at least if you feel like it'd cause consternation with your players) and it's a hassle anyway - Panty Explosion does kick itself in the head a bit by directly referencing a fetish that is usually just obliquely pointed at for laughs by mainstream media. Makes a creepier impression than the game deserves.

    Most of the games mentioned in this thread don't require the GM to do a lot of creative work, but some of them require finely tuned creative leadership to get off the ground - that can be stressful for new GMs when they have to simultaneously prove the whole concept of roleplaying to the players as well, which is why a simple, one-session GM-less game can be a good icebreaker that can be followed with more complex games later on. That's why something like Under the Bed, 1001 Nights or Zombie Cinema could be a good choice for the first session, followed by Primetime Adventures, Mountain Witch, My Life with Master, Panty Explosion or whatever else the group wants to play, really, as long as they realize that it's not a GM's job to entertain the players but the job of everybody to figure out the game and make it work. So start with a simple game that hammers home collective creative responsibility, after which it's easy to continue with something more elaborate.
  • Thanks for showing up and giving us more information about the group, Abby!

    Given what you say (both the being into fanfic and the slightly older than anticipated age range), I don't think that Bliss Stage is necessarily "too adult" for the group. The game does have some "mature content" but it's nothing that they won't have seen before. I'm happy to send you a free PDF* (I'm the author and publisher, so I'm allowed to do that) and you can decide for yourself whether or not it's appropriate.

    I'd recommend a short game (MLwM or Shooting the Moon or Under the Bed) to see if you like the idea and then something longer (Bliss Stage or Panty Explosion by a different name or PTA) if you like it.


    * If you're interested in it, whisper me an e-mail address in this thread, or contact me at and I'll send it to you in the next couple of days.
  • Some great suggestions on here.

    I want to give Mountain Witch as my personal pick o' the bunch - it has a very simple and engaging premise, and gives lots of space for players to author lots of stuff around their characters and their experiences. But its also a good first game because, for the first section at least, the GM provides a lot of the structure and drive so it doesn't rely on complete newbies bringing the awesome their first time out. (Note that, in my experience anyway, a 3-session Mountain Witch game is heavily GM-led for about the first half-session, lightly GM-led for the rest of that session and the first part of the second session, and for the second half is entirely driven by the players.)

  • Posted By: Ben LehmanI don't think that Bliss Stage is necessarily "too adult" for the group.
    I don't either. But Bliss Stage does have the direction to name your anchors after high school crushes right? Kind of weird if you're currently in high school. :) but i'm sure that could be worked around.
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