Adaptation Notes by S. John Ross
Here are my notes for using Uresia: Grave of Heaven as a ready-to-play fantasy setting for OVA – Open Versatile Anime Role-Playing Game – designed and published by Clay Gardner (as Wise Turtle Publishing).
For most Uresian characters – even very unusual ones – you can use the OVA rules without special notes or modification. OVA allows for characters of any shape, size, speed, species or disposition, and it’s pretty easy to hash out any special abilities, signature attacks or defining obstacles that make your character tick. I don’t think any particular set of character-limiting rules (OVA p.19) is best for Uresia; those are more about adapting to your gaming and campaign style than adapting to any given setting. For my own OVA runs, I’d probably use some version of any of them if I were doing a treasure-hunty, mercenary-adventury sort of game … but I’d probably do away with all of them if I were running a comic satire about Winnowite social climbing.
Sweating the Details
OVA, by default, ignores picky details like language skills and monetary bookkeeping. Long-time Uresia fans will be very comfortable with this and it’s a great way to do Uresian gaming. On the other hand, it’s easy to toss money in if you enjoy shopping (and it is a shame to let that spiffy new price-list in Uresia go to waste). If you want to add individual language skills, it’s probably best to treat them as Hobbies in game terms (OVA p.47), and remember that everyone gets at least one language without “paying for it” using any of the limiting rules. It’s probably wise to make Merchant Crude another global “freebie,” for just about anyone, unless the campaign is entirely rural.
Abilities & Weaknesses
I haven’t written notes on every OVA detail, but I’ve hand-picked a healthy batch to provide points of reference. Armed with these, it should be pretty easy to spot the ways that OVA and Uresia can dance together. Absorb what follows, and you’ll have the rhythm down pat; any other moves will come naturally.
Animal Companion – If you’re building a mage of some kind, don’t overlook this one (and Flunkies, and Servant) for summonable brutes and helpers (living, demonic, animated-skeletal or otherwise).
Cute! – Slimes – even very dangerous, cutthroat slimes who’d just as soon watch you die painfully as look at you – tend to be cute, and they know it. Conspicuous cuteness can manifest in other races, too (pajama-wearing cat girls, some elves, penguin sea monsters, etc) and it’s great for child characters (one of the “secret weapons” of the Sea Dragon cult!) but the Slimes have it almost universally. Retooling: The mechanics of “Cute!” can be used for other kinds of characters that people tend to underestimate or curb hostilities toward (for example, an elderly, grandmotherly witch with rosy cheeks and a nasty death-wand hidden in her apron … essentially redefining Ageism as an Ability rather than a Weakness, if you care to).
Endurance Reserve – Great for the smaller, less plot-devicey magic emeralds.
Flunkies – See Animal Companion, above.
Hammerspace – Hammerspace is another Ability with lots of potential for magic; it’s particularly appropriate for Sindran sorcerers, who spend a lot of time probing into other dimensions (and not just to pull rabbits out of hats, though they’ve been known to indulge at parties). When recording a Hammerspace-oriented magic spell, I recommend tagging it as “silly Hammerspace” or “serious Hammerspace” as an aid to the GM for when the rolls go badly and you get something other than what you were reaching for. Or leave it untagged for “schizoid Hammerspace” and abandon it to whimsy. Hammerspace tied to a specific motif or profession (warrior, chef, scholar, alchemist, etc) can make a fun alternative to the more reliable Human Arsenal.
Heightened Sense – This (and its cousins, like Perceptive and Sixth Sense), are very common abilities in Uresia. Most mages have a knack for detecting magical emanations; Necromancers can “see dead people,” Beastmen of all sorts usually have remarkable senses of smell and/or eyesight, Elves have uncanny hearing, and Dwarves can sense things intuitively about metal and stone that others can’t spot even when examining the materials carefully. The list goes on (see “A Different World, For Everyone,” on page 75 of Uresia itself). If you’re running Uresia as an out-and-out parody of old-school dungeon-stomping, “underground” races (Dwarves, Mad Digger Slimes, etc) should have Heightened Sense (Can Tell if They’re Standing On A Sloped Surface). Use for some kinds of social awareness, too (it’s rare and unusual for a human to be really usefully aware of the secret communities of intelligent Rats that thrive around and beneath them, for example, so this ability could represent past experience with Rats that leads you to notice their goings-on).
Human Arsenal – When using this ability for things that aren’t as spifftastic as weaponry or vehicles, a single level in this Ability can provide all you’ll probably ever need. The combination of Human Arsenal with Hobby (Cookery) is very, very Dreed, of course, and crucial when you need access to every imaginable variety of spatula. Given the fondness of some Sporting Chefs for deadly food-fighting techniques, that kind of Arsenal can really become an Arsenal, justifying higher levels of the Ability for particularly devastating cooking tools (an Orgaltish pig-spit can skewer a suit of Emerald Armor if you aim it just right). Combine with a Hammerspace sack of fresh ingredients and spices for the full package.
Invention (and Invention, Focused) – Specializing in magical inventions isn’t narrow enough to qualify as “Focused,” since magic items aren’t limited in scope. Specializing in “dangerous hare-brained magical inventions,” on the other hand, is just the thing for our intrepid thinkers of Celar (ditto for other clearly-defined magical motifs). Use this ability for alchemists too, and apply a special rule: any invention that can – by design – be used only once faces half the normal DN. Useful for potions, small pots of magic Ultimate Glue, etc. When using this rule, new characters can start with two inventions instead of one, if they’re both “one-use only.” Usually, the duration of “one use” will be obvious in context, but for inventions that mimic an Endurance-fueled ability, assume a single “use” will last as long as the inventor’s own Endurance would allow for.
Magic (Arcane and Witchcraft) – See “Extra Notes on Magic,” below, for more on these.
Occult Knowledge – Note that, in game terms, there are some Uresian occultists that don’t bother with this ability. Sindran, Winnowite and Yemite mages use forms of it (as does a Troll shaman), but most Boru don’t, nor do most non-Winnowite Rindenlanders. Elves and Dwarves have special, focused versions of Occult Knowledge, focusing on wild nature spirits for Elves (a practice that, at its ultimate expression, created the Wild Pact) and earth and fire spirits for Dwarves (who can name more than a hundred varieties of “elemental” involving basaltic rock alone). Heltish approaches blend magic familiar to both Elves and Sindran sorcerers.
Servant – See Animal Companion. Summoning a spiritual/demonic Servant using a spell is more reliable than fiddling with Occult Knowledge rolls; depends if you’ve got the Endurance to spare …
Teleport – High levels of this ability are exceedingly rare in Uresia; it’s one of those areas of endeavor that has stumped the Sindrans for a long time, and it galls them (which is why they’re so interested in the Lenthan Gates; see pages 37 and 64 of Uresia). Long-range Teleport abilities should usually be saddled with various complications and dangers; work out something suitably harrowing with the GM. Short-range Teleports (including combat Teleporting for defense) needn’t be saddled thus unless the player feels like it.
Time Freeze – This is another rare ability, though it’s certainly not unheard-of (see the expanded material on the Nonathorian Calendar for one reason the Sindrans consider it creepy, and the stuff on magical limits on page 37 of Uresia).
Vehicle (Mecha) – Use the descriptions in Uresia to guide you when using this to build something like a suit of Emerald Armor, a Caravel, a Hot-Air Balloon or something odder like a Celari Thundership or Laöchrian train. The possibilities are endless, but vehicles notably beyond Uresia’s established achievements will draw a lot of attention – and I don’t just mean groupies. But I also mean groupies.
Ageism – This is rare as a weakness in Uresia. Centuries of child heroes, elderly heroes, child villains, elderly villains, child chefs, elderly chefs, and so on have established that, in Uresia, the “prime of life” is very much what you make it. To the extent that the very young or old are sometimes seen as weak or trivial, canny youngsters and oldsters tend to capitalize on it rather than suffer from it (see the note under “Cute!,” above). The biggest drawback of youth in Uresia is that you need to sneak into the theater if you want to see a naughty adults-only stage-play (but all that takes is two kids, a tall coat, and a fake mustache).
Code of Conduct – This applies to many kinds of group-affiliations, especially the secretive ones like the Cult of the Sea Dragon and involvement with the Wild Pact. At lower levels, it’s common for knights, members of trade guilds, Loreseekers, Charcoal Kings, and so on. Some of these ties end up working like the Focus weakness, but tying abilities to behavior instead of an object. Work out the value using both Code of Conduct and Focus, and take the larger one. (Servitude is also appropriate, of course, but that’s for determining how devoted you are personally to the cause).
Lecherous – Satyrs would be quietly amused by this Weaknesses’ repeated, naïve and presumptuous references to the “opposite” and “other” sex. Satyrs want to have sex with you, your brother, your sister, and your belt pouch.
Pariah – Trolls, goblins and many others face a lot of overt racism in Uresia, ranging from outright fear and hostility in rural areas where they’re seldom encountered to a kind of condescending oh-look-Muffy-a-primitive acceptance in more cosmopolitan circles.
Soft Spot – Culinary and scholarly versions are notably common in certain types of characters.
Some Closing Notes, on Magic
You can faithfully evoke the character of any of Uresia’s magical flavors by creatively choosing Abilities (and spells) to suit the plain English descriptions in Uresia. Of course, OVA magic (or, specifically, the Arcane Magic and Witchcraft Magic abilities) is inherently improvisational … in game terms, there’s no specific limit on the number of different effect any spell-caster can achieve, and only a few built-in OVA mechanics for applying self-imposed limitations to make “styles” of magic differ in utility.
For the most part, that works in your favor in a Uresia game, since to a large extent the magical motifs really are just motifs, especially for the more powerful forms (Yemite necromancy, Sindran sorcery, Rindenland tall-pointy-hat wizarding) any of which can do anything, really – just with different colored lights, noises, poses, and residual smells. To open a stubborn stone door, a Sindran might call on the precise Formula of Yarnax to split the stone asunder with a stroke of purple lightning, the Rindenland wizard might call on elemental spirits to coax it aside, and the Necromancer would raise a small horde of skeletons to haul it away, but they’d all get the job done one way or another.
If you’re in the mood to fiddle a bit more, it’s easy to use existing OVA material to extrapolate new stuff for Uresian magic … Yemite necromancy, for example, requires the presence of large amounts of “soul energy” to work properly (something that’s normally not a problem, but becomes so in a remote frozen mountain range in Orgalt, where the only soul to leech from is the surly Dwarf next to you). Something like that could be applied as a weak kind of Trigger (instead of being absolute, though, maybe it just doubles Endurance costs when the Trigger isn’t available), or even as a Power Flaw applied to individual spells (a –5 point endurance break most of the time, but at the cost of a 20-point Endurance price-hike when in desolate areas). There’s no one right way, and individual mages make the established magical styles their own, anyway. Do the same as a player.
For forms of magic with more restrictive areas of influence – Boru and Troll magic, for example, or Wild Pact beast-and-battle sorcery – just apply restrictions (perhaps with corresponding Endurance breaks) willy-nilly. For magics that OVA doesn’t really touch on at all (divining the future, for instance) … either write up some whole new Abilities (it’s easy, given the number of existing examples) or just let those fade into the background, focusing on the game’s strengths (my usual preference for magic). For more that will be applicable to this sort of thing, the forthcoming new OVA material may shed yet more light … But as it is, you can do whatever you need with just OVA itself, plus an eagerness to roll up your sleeves and dig a little. Have fun!
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