Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

BESM 4E - Initial Look

I took advantage of the Late Pledges option on the BESM 4th Edition kickstarter and have access to the PDFs they've released so far. It is a further refinement of BESM 3E with some point costs re-balanced. Interestingly, the combat system in the BESM 4E core book is very, very simple, with only an Attack roll versus a Defence roll. And the detailed list of skills from BESM 2ER and BESM 3E have been replaced with 12 “Skill Groups”, separated into three types based on how expensive the skill group is, rated by utility. I'm hoping that the planned BESM Extras book will include more combat options and the more detailed skill rules. (The BESM 4E Character Folio seems to indicate the detailed skills will be in BESM Extras.)

I liked BESM 3E's switch to roll over, which is continued in BESM 4E. There are 25 race templates and 25 class templates, up from BESM 3E's 20 each, and 20 Humanoid Companions templates that can easily be converted into race or class templates. BESM 4E introduces edges and obstacles, which add 1 (for minor) or 2 (for major) dice to a roll, keeping the 2 best (for edges) or 2 worst (for obstacles), similar to D&D 5E's advantage and disadvantage.

The way Standard and Custom Variables and Restrictions in BESM 3E worked has changed and been renamed. They are now Enhancements and Limiters, and instead of having a character point cost they reduce or increase the Effective Level of an attribute. For instance, If you have bought the Weapon Attribute up to 10 Levels and add the Accurate Weapon Enhancement (1 assignment) and the Area standard Enhancement for 10 metres radius (2 assignments) and the Range standard Enhancement for 100 metres (3 assignments) and Ammo Weapon Limiter for 2-3 shots available (2 assignments) makes the Effective Level 6 (10 - 1 - 2 - 3 + 2). This makes the cost of Enhancements and Limiters proportional to the base cost of an Attribute.

It looks like the point costs for things are one-third to one-quarter those of BESM 3E, which keeps things a little simpler. Here are the suggested power levels:

Power Level

Character Points

















There is a 10 page index, which I was happy to see, but alas the entries are not hyperlinked. There are copious cross references by page number, which is very useful, but again not hyperlinked. The table of contents is reasonably detailed, though again not hyperlinked.

BESM 4E is firmly in the “GMs should fudge dice rolls if it will make the game better.” I'm ambivalent about that.

There is an 8-page section on Shojo roleplaying that seems interesting.

The “Anime Multiverse” chapter seems identical between 3E and 4E and presents an interesting short take on a multiverse cosmology, if you need one.

Just like BESM 3E, BESM 4E has lots of colors. Lots and lots of colors. (I can see no reason for one column of text on each page to have a background color.) I recognize most of the art from earlier editions. I liked it then and still like it.

There is a simple character sheet, in color and black-and-white versions in the PDF of the core rulebook, or for download from the Dyskami BESM RPG page.

Each of the Dramatis Personae PDFs give 15 example characters, with backgrounds, personalities, discussion of their Attributes and Defects, three Adventure Hooks, and a personal quote. These are useful in seeing how the various Attributes work. The backgrounds are tied into the Anime Multiverse from the core book.

All in all, I think it looks good. If the things are in BESM Extras that I hope are there, I can definitely see switching from BESM 2ER.

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