Big Eyes Small Mouth is a system designed for swift-paced,
story-oriented gaming. The rules book itself recommends not having
much combat at all if this slows the game down. Emphasis is placed on
cinematics and simplicity in gaming action: the players make a few die
rolls, the GM describes what happens in his story, and the game moves
on. If this is the type of game you wish to play, then this is a good
system for you.
The rules give few tactical choices, and there is not much texture
to the system. If you wish to play a game that allows creativity in
mechanics use by the players, neither the book's author nor I think
this is the system for you. By 'mechanical creativity' I mean things
that add character differentiation or increase player options.
An example: if I want to build three diverse martial artists in BESM,
the only real difference between them mechanically would be their base
characteristics. Their martial arts styles would all be three points
of the kensei attribute. Their players (if they're smart) will
describe them differently, but the mechanical effect on the game is
identical for all three characters.
Because of the rules design, you can potentially end up with a rather
dull, "flat" seeming combat if you're not careful. However, the rules
book also clearly notes that being a good combat system is not its
purpose. The author is unambiguous in expressing his preferences --
his rules are for an anime-like cinematic game, not expanding players'
choices or options, in or out of combat. I can't fault him for that,
and I think his rules will allow such a game.
A well-run and organized combat can be a lot of fun, however. The
following will hopefully give some ideas on things that can be done for
both players and GM to accomplish that goal, within this system.
BESM is designed to be extremely simple. The game system
creators wished to streamline the mechanics of gaming down to as few
dice rolls as possible. Thus you can think of BESM's dice roll checks
for skill/stat/combat/whatever in the following fashion:
You want to end up with the smallest number possible;
you want to subtract bonuses and add penalties
Unfortunately the game system creators were not consistent with this
rule -- there is one point in combat where you want to add to your
roll, in order to come up with the largest number possible. Furthermore,
research has shown that human beings add things more easily than they
subtract them. It would probably have been much easier had the system
been consistent, with bonuses being added and penalties subtracted.
However, this is not the case, so we'll work with what we've got to
the best of our ability. Just keep one thing strongly in mind
while gaming: be very careful in combat -- don't accidentally
penalize yourself by adding when you should have subtracted!
So... let's assume you're either a player who knows BESM will be used
in your game, or a GM who thinks this would be just the system for the
game you have in mind. We'll look at preparing for gaming and combat,
from a player's perspective, next.