Friday, August 23, 2013
Sentai-fy your Games!
by Tobie Abad
I have NO doubt that not everyone will want to do this. Oh don't worry, I don't blame you at all. In fact, I am certain that there is a much smaller demographic of readers who will find this article useful. But hey, I love you, people in the niche groups.
Wait... did I hear you right? What is Sentai, you ask?
Asians like myself tend to be familiar with Bioman, Gatchaman (Battle of the Planets) and Super Sentai series. Some of you might be familiar with this thanks to Power Rangers as well as Sailor Moon (although Sailor Moon touches more on the magical girl concept.)
So here are my suggestions on how to sentai-fy your games!
1) The Rule of Five
There must be FIVE main characters in the game. It doesn't matter if they are all players, or if the others are non-player characters. Five is the magic number of a Sentai group. As the story progresses, a fifth or even sixth member may emerge (usually with one being a dark horse who falls from grace and eventually redeems himself) but five is the number which makes the game have that sentai feel.
2) The Colors Must Matter
While many Western sentai concepts ignore this rule (for instance, note Animorphs doesn't really embrace the color scheme as much) Sentai teams tend to follow a color-coded approach to their uniforms, clothing, and accessories. The guy in red, for example, probably owns a red car, likes red drinks, and tends to have a red armband or red watch. The girl in yellow, on the other hand tends to have a yellow skirt, or wear yellow shoes, or might live in a yellow condominium and so forth. D.C. Comics Green Lanterns have recently embraced this sentai trope by introducing the other colors into their franchise (with Orange for Envy, Blue for Hope and so forth).
You can push this to less tacky and more moody, if you think about it, by describing any scenes or narratives with color codes for each character. The red vampire for example would tend to notice the night sky contrasting the red brick buildings in the neighborhood. Or feel the masses of people like a crimson tide pushing against him. Or the rust-colored cages we walk ourselves into.
3) Strike a Pose
Each member must have a key pose. Typically this key pose is the group pose, where each one shows their personality or key fighting stance. Given the way table top games tend to be, having the characters gather for a group pose might be... pushing the envelope. So you can always reduce this to making sure they have a signature move. Exalted, for example, has combo uses in charms manifest with a specific Essence display. For a Sentai-Exalted game, be sure to connect that essence display to their specific personal look with the matching color to boot.
You can also just require the players to describe a specific favorite pose they take whenever they roll a tremendous success or a natural 20.
4) The Weapons Matter
Each one would have their own signature stylish weapon or armament of choice. In sentai, you've had everything from swords, to guns, to guns that turn into swords, to boomeranges, or even yoyos. Have the character have a signature weapon he or she would be a master at. Give them a huge bonus when using the weapon to encourage them to keep using it.
5) The Enemies Should be Dressed to fit the part
Enemies in Sentai shows are always overly-dressed and clearly evil. So play your villains to the hilt. Alien hybrids, strange cyborg things, animal-like plants and so forth. And don't forget to have a signature line or key phrase for each one.
6) Teamwork MUST have its moment of Glory
Every Sentai group as their Team Attack which can range from them simply moving in unison, or them projecting some empowering force as they all chant the same battle cry and press a button. Give your group the appropriate bonuses when they learn to gather together and (at the prompting of the leader) call upon their Team Attack.
And be sure to reward it ONLY and only if they actually perform it in unison.
Optional #7 Rule
Given most Sentai shows are officially not western productions, having some kind of dubbed/subtitled angle to your game is always a fun plus. But this will only really work if your other players are familiar with the genre. And actually enjoy it.
So, let's go!
Role-playing Powerful Greeting: Now!