RPG Spotlight: Sailor Moon
Fight evil by moonlight and win love by daylight with the 1998 Sailor Moon RPG system.
If you’ve been tuning in for the Tuesday afternoon stream, you may have noticed that I’m a bit of a Sailor Moon fan. The series single highhandedly catapulted me into general nerd culture, so it was no surprise when I saw the Role Playing Game and Resource Book on the shelf at my local book store in 1998 and had to have it.
This system was equal parts perfect and awful, publishing a book that served as a great tool and guide for budding new GMs, but a crunchy system that was likely a victim of its time.
Flipping through the book the thing that becomes most immediate clear is that this game was made with love by a fan of the source material. Something in the area of one-third of the 200-page book is art, short descriptions of episodes and a general overviews of what the life of an animated Japanese thirteen year old might look like. It’s the sort of thing that an early teen who watched every episode of the anime and read every issue of the manga would have known all about. But perhaps their very patient parent who had agreed to help out or act as GM may not. The book is also sprinkled with “Sailor Moon Says” boxes, giving advice delightfully unrelated to anything else going on on the page at the time.
The game mechanics themselves aren’t too hard to follow involving just two D6 and three basic stats: mind, body, and soul. To take a non-combat move the GM determines which stat is required and the player’s roll must be equal to or less than their listed stat. For example, Sailor Moon has a mind stat of 3. If she was rolling to persuade or trick somebody she would have to roll between a 1 and a 3 on 2 six-sided dice. Similarly, combat rolls use to attack and defense stats that every character has and must roll equal to or below.
Unfortunately, it gets exponentially more complicated from there with attributes, sub-attributes, difficulty modifications, and character defects.
As an adult who has been playing RPGs across a gamut of systems for seventeen years, the game mechanics aren’t too bad. Crunchy, sure, but no worse than 4th edition GURPS. Unfortunately, the Sailor Moon Role-Playing Game and Resource Book wasn’t written and published for adults who have been playing tabletop games for more than a decade. The game was based on the Big Eyes, Small Mouth anime system, so there were likely a handful of adult fans who picked up this game to play; but the target audience of this particular system was always going to be younger girls. Likely a thirteen-year-old girl’s (or boy’s, or other’s) first foray into tabletop gaming. Which makes the crunchiness of the system so perplexing.
This brings me to character creation.
Character Creation is a 34-page long chapter highlighting a seven-step process giving you a comprehensive way to create your own Sailor Senshi. This should have been a dream come true, but I remember opening to this chapter in 1998 with a blank sheet of paper, and after a number of minutes of reading and re-reading I flipped through the book to see that a character sheet for Sailor Jupiter was already made and decided that I didn’t need to spend a single moment more on this endeavor.
A competent and experienced GM could easily pare this system down, make it more basic, kid-friendly, and playable; more like the Powered by the Apocalypse games and less like early BESM. The game itself almost wants you to do this, saying on its own pages that combat should be a relatively small part of any given session and most of your encounters should focus on role-playing and problem-solving.
The Sailor Moon RPG holds a special place in my heart. This is the first tabletop sourcebook I ever purchased, the first game I tried to play (we did our best, but I wouldn’t say our attempts were terribly successful), and the oldest RPG book in my personal collection. Sailor Moon has been in my life longer than many of my real-life friends and the series helped me find my social circle when I was a young awkward nerd. But up until very recently, I remember this system being hilariously bad and unplayable because, for a tween with no RPG experience, it sort of was.
Now that I can make heads or tails of this? I’m considering finding some friends to join me for a nostalgia-fueled one-shot. If you’re also an adult who loved (or still loves) Sailor Moon, definitely look this system up. I found it on eBay for less than $10, and Miss Dream has scans of the entire book online to reference for free. I can almost guarantee you’ll have a good time. Do you know a tween or teen who you think may enjoy tabletop gaming? In the name of the moon, don’t hand them this one first.
Did you ever play the Sailor Moon RPG? Which Senshi would you want to play? Do you use the Japanese names or the American ones? Let us know in the comments.
Sailor Moon says, Happy Adventuring!