So you may or may not have heard of Yu-Gi-Oh, as one of the Big Three trading card games along with Magic the Gathering and Pokémon (I think they’re still the big ones?), and/or as a cartoon from the early 00s about teenagers playing said game for Stakes.
(Also while we’re on the topic i vaguely remember someone, I think it was Scrap Princess, doing a post about yugioh monsters a while ago? Like statting them for B/X or maybe even just talking about them based on the art. Anyone got a link?)
We’ve been rewatching the anime Chez Graverobber and having a great time. I decided to try the manga as I know it’s meant to be “”different”” and being a Shonen Jump title it’s included on their app.
(the Shonen Jump app releases all its comics, professionally translated, simultaneously with Japan, for free?? And anything older than the past 3 issues is archived and available for $2 USD a month?? It’s a ridiculously good deal, even if you’re just there to read One Piece. Anyway.)
The manga is indeed, uh, different. The cartoon many folks my age grew up watching is based on the second “season” of the manga and beyond, albeit restitched and sanitised for a Saturday Morning audience. Before that point the manga wasn’t about the card game much at all, but gaming in general - each chapter pretty much had a new game, Duel Monsters was just their MtG analogue that appeared once or twice.
Then it took off, they made the game a real thing kids could buy, it made money and became the focus. But yeah, for the first 60 chapters they play all sorts. Dice games, card games, yo-yos, an escape room, one where they’re manacled to a serial killer… the tone varies.
(Are either the manga or anime worth it? For camp value and nostalgia yes. If you’re not in it for those then probably not. Tone is all over the place - which I found charming. And the manga is interspersed with little games for the reader, like mazes or spot-the-difference all the way up to whole solo or 2P board games. Which aren’t great but - fun!)
We all caught up? Ok.
For the last 10 chapters of the manga’s first run, we’re introduced to a new character, Ryo Bakura, who brings with him plot development and homoeroticism and a new type of game.
The kids play a ttrpg! It’s called Monster World.
So I’m going to see if I can retroclone this fake game because of course I am.
To be clear - this is not an actual game. While Duel Monsters eventually got turned into actual cards with actual rules, Monster World never did. And the author, Kazuki Takahashi, is uh… notorious for not really following any kind of design logic in his in-world games’ rules.
(In an episode of the cartoon, a player declares their aquatic monster cards are invincible because they’re playing the game on a beach, only for the protagonist to play a card that’s just The Moon, draw the tide in and… yeah.)
So my task, which I have apparently set for myself, begins with reading these 10 chapters, noting down anything somewhat concrete I can learn about how the game supposedly functions, and see if I can get a rough image of what an actual RPG might look like featuring as much of that as possible.
Or at least that was the idea - as you can see from the notes below, I somewhat lost my mind in the process. There’s really no logic here at all. If I come back to this I’ll have a lot of work to do...
Monster World - notes:
- a “combination board game and role-playing game”.
- “you know, like Hobgoblin or Mazes and Monsters!”
- standard GM and players setup - GM is called the Dark Master
- Dark Master has a Boss Monster, defeating the boss is the explicit end goal. Interesting I guess
- you can buy terrain tiles to join together and make your world map, cute. But not something i can do here
- board is gridded, game uses minis.
- bakura’s board is about 10x20 squares for the whole world - fields, mountains, town, forest, dark lord’s castle. Scale is like an over world map inf Final Fantasy, but uses that same scale for positioning in battles. Locations open up to reveal interiors, but still at the same scale(?)
-now referred to as an “adventure board game”
- the rules overview is very normal rpg stuff. The GM plays the world, players make characters and face challenges.
- explicit win condition for the GM too - defeat adventurers. Definitely more of a board game.
- now yugi’s saying it “combines elements”. I guess I’ll focus on the RPG bits.
- they have a “what is a tabletop roleplaying game” section lmaooooooo
- “it’s the original virtual reality!”
- ah here we go, concrete info! Races: Human, Elf, Half-Elf, Hobbit, Pixie-Fairy, Dwarf, Birdtail. We get a bit of info on each
- it mentions the classic D&D stats, like elves have “high wisdom and charisma. Good magicians. Low strength.” But when we see the stats later, they’re different.
- Classes: Warrior, Beast Tamer, Magician, Bard, Priest, Enchanter, Martial Artist, Diabolist, Magic Gunman, Illusionist, Merchant, Thief.
- some of those sound cool! I don’t think they match 1-to-1 with any existing game? Maybe Sword World or some Japanese D&D clone? Probably just a selection the writer liked.
- we get character sheets for our four characters (and bakura has made them all minis). Entries for character name, race, class, weapon, equipment, abilities, level and HP.
- a couple of notable bits. The equipment, which seems tied to class for some characters and race for others - a throwaway line mentions that you need money to buy starting gear.
- The magic gunman has bullets listed, and also “6 special thunder grenades”. Bullets have no ammo count.
- and the numbers. Abilities are not in fact the Big Six, but Speed, Wisdom, Strength and Courage. Looks like the numbers are in the range we’d expect from a D&D-alike, nothing higher than 20, mostly 11-18, the occasional 8 or 9 dump stat.
- All characters are level 1, and hit points range from 18 for the squishy magician to 25 for the warrior.
- bakura is using a program on his laptop to do some calculations. The game is “too complex”
- you start on “start”
- “monsters will appear depending on the players’ actions… or sometimes, by random chance!”
- they “take five turns to enter the village”, seems to be referring to the overland travel it takes to get there.
- they chat with the barkeep in a very normal D&D conversational way (the bartender’s mini contains the trapped soul of a former player, but I feel that’s an impractical design goal)
- confirmation that the GM controls NPCs
- in dangerous areas, there’s a “Judgement Roll” to determine random encounters.
- dice! D100 system!
- encounter rate is 30, bakura rolls a 21, they encounter a level 3 goblin. D100 roll under.
- the warrior rolls a 13. bakura says that “based on the warrior’s level, speed and weapon”…”kills the goblin on a roll of 40 or less”.
- 1 hit kill, no HP or stats given for the enemy.
- “the closer you roll to 00, the more damage you do to the enemy”. So they have HP, and damage is based off the to-hit roll.
- 99 is a fumble! (And in the manga that means yami bakura traps your soul in a mini forever)
- encounter with an unconscious figure in the road. No roll apparent, bakura appears to be reading from or just checking his laptop, maybe just for notes
- encounter plays out in rp, side quest for treasure an a magic sword in the forest. They’re not sure to trust the NPC. Normal rpg bits
- forest encounter rate is 80%. Bakura rolls an 05. “The closer to 00, the stronger the monsters that appear!”
- 5 monsters. Fight!
- roll under “attack success rate” to hit, the closer you are to “critical” (00), the more damage you do. Same as before.
- warrior rolls 82, but needed a 30 to hit. For some reason. He trips and falls
- a bit of detail given on the gunman class - deals “magical damage” from the gun.
- gunman’s attack rolls a 21 - a hit, no reason given. The monster is defeated - again, 1 hit 1 kill, but I guess we can assume that that’s a coincidence or monsters are just generally weak because we know there’s HP and damage systems.
- well, we can’t really assume anything because this isn’t a functioning system. but
- the beast tamer (starts with no weapon, could be by choice though), uses his “magic hands” to make monsters into allies. 50% success rate given, it’s shown later that this varies but no metric as to how.
- “Hand power! The evil disappears from Poki!”
- the magician is “still an apprentice” at level 1, but sometimes “magic is more powerful than expected”
- immediately proven - she rolls 00, which is a “super critical hit” now. “That means she can use the top level magic for an apprentice magician!”
- Apprentice Final Big Bang!!! big explosion spell kills 3 monsters
- the quest giver NPC was actually Zorc, the Dark Master - the GM’s boss monster. the GM says that since the players were deceived and caught with their defences down, sorcerer takes the first attack. He rolls a “super critical hit” with a 00, so I guess that’s what they’re called from now on.
- ok at this point Zorc targets the player not the character, because of the manga’s plot, and seals her soul in her character mini. Also bakura claims that his “godlike game mastering techniques” allow him to roll crits whenever he wants. Unsure how much of this I’ll be keeping.
- a bit of plot, next player rolls to attack and immediately fumbles lol. But Bakura does state a rule here, or possibly just “gaming etiquette” as he refers to it both ways - rolling the dice without the GM’s permission is not allowed! I like this guy
- Players can roll for their friends whose souls are currently unable to roll dice. One of those edge case rules.
- Ok, back to the game. Zorc has a powerful aura, meaning that the magical gunman has to roll Courage or Zorc can preempt his attack. Basically a fear save, and we get a use for the courage stat. Those D&D stats are very much forgotten by this point lol
- “I’m not afraid of you!” “That’s for the dice to say…”
- fail, Zorc goes, gets another Super Critical. Still targeting the mortal souls of the players at the table rather than the characters though so no mechanical insight.
- Explicitly stated - if characters’ HP reaches 0, they die. Bakura is too hardcore for death saves
- btw they’ve mentioned a couple of times that the minis are made of lead. There are little hobbyist details like this for a lot of the games in the manga. In one chapter they go step by step through buying a figure, clipping the spruce, washing the resin parts, assembling and painting. Idk it’s cute.
- Bakura now has everyone’s soul in their minis, but yugi has two souls so he’s still playing. It’s a thing.
- Gunman rolls an 03 which hits, uses his Thunder Grenade. It blasts off Zorc’s hand! Not just cosmetic damage as it comes into play a few times, so possibly a hit location table… ok enough speculation, I’m just here for the FACTS goddammit -
- zorc’s hand turns into monsters, sure
- zorc flees. “Jerk! Creep! Power gamer!”
- warrior rolls a super critical and uses his Energetic Slash, which was vaguely mentioned before as being a special move. Unsure if that’s triggered by the low roll, as with the magician - could also be why the gunman used his grenade? Why am i looking for logic here
- beast tamer is gonna attempt another beast taming. The dragon was part of zorc’s arm until a few minutes ago which apparently makes the chances of brainwashing him 10%. Yugi rolls an 02.
- btw, if you think wow that’s a lot of criticals - turns out there’s a “technique” of rolling the 10s die like a spinning top and then using the other d10 to like… beyblade it into a lower roll. And jiggling the table with your leg to control the path of the dice. i should remember this for Mothership.
- Follow Zorc to his lair. the castle diorama is sick
- there’s an absolutely bullshit trap that isn’t really worth going into. And it doesn’t even damage the characters’ HP but the minis themselves, which are robust enough to last exactly 3 turns? Oh Takahashi, never change
- “Instant death traps are the tool of amateur game masters! A good game master prolongs the torture as long as possible!”
- 30% chance on the judgement roll of Zorc showing up since it’s his castle. He shows up. His attack success rate is 95% while the characters are stuck in a trap
- he rolls a 41 - Yugi’s HP goes down to 13 and Joey’s to 15. I don’t think there’s any real maths happening here
- they escape the trap by rolling exactly 33. What kind of tomb of horrors bullshit
- zorc’s turn, rolls a 12. But since the PCs have “much higher speed”, they have already moved behind him! And because they’re behind him, they get a surprise attack! A 15 hits!
- if any of that makes sense to you, no it doesn’t
- next chapter opens with the characters’ HP and levels in a little HUD, which is at least consistent from last time, and we also get Zorc info - he’s LV15, with 205 HP
- Yugi channels his friends’ anger into the dice (we’ve all been there) and rolls an 09 for the gunman’s attack, which bakura calls a “critical”. So I think 01-09 is a crit and just 00 is a super crit? For now anyway!
- gunman uses thunder grenade, lends credence to that crit theory from before. But am I just seeing consistency because i want to at this point? Does anything mean anything any more?
- the magician “gets a free attack too”, a 13 to hit, uses “Apprentice Death Blaze”
- beast master rolls 08 (a “critical”!) and all his beasts attack
- “Fools! You are still apprentices, level-one adventurers! You don’t have enough experience to defeat Zorc!” Experience is in bold. Tells us something about the campaign structure i guess.
- GM goes on a power trip here. Also gets out some special d10s with a human soul in them or something. Rolls a super crit. This attack can apparently “kill characters with more than 50 hit points in an instant”.
- Bakura uses his laptop to crunch all the variables because there are to many! But all the PCs survive with 1hp each! Because his left hand is being controlled by his real self- ok we can skip this bit
- warrior gets 05, hits, no more detail given. Oh but now it takes out his left eye? Idk
- i guess when all the rules of your game are about combat etc etc
- the magician’s level is too low for resurrection spells, but she can use “healing magic of luona”!
- but will she be able to do so before zorc’s next attack? Roll off for tied initiative apparently! Lowest wins
- Some plot happens. The healing spell goes off, heals everyone by An Amount
- zorc can now hit all of them if he rolls 80 or less
- why am I doing this
- who knows any more
- zorc fumbles and hits himself, now at 125 HP if that means anything to anyone
- the castle terrain is made of “durable poly-resin”! We know this because bakura impales his hand on a gothic spire
- beast master rolls a crit 05 to tame zorc, but he can’t at his level, but some plot happens and a new character appears, level 13 white wizard. No that wasn’t one of the classes. NPC apparently
- white magic lowers defences i guess
- gunman hits on a 15
- why am I doing every turn like it’s a play report, we all know this doesn’t make any sense by now surely
- zorc is at 81 HP. Changes form to Last Zorc. Rolls a 00 to hit but the white wizard can defend by converting HP to MP. Yes that is the first mention of MP so far
- they’re all still down on 1-3 HP. But after last zorc attacks his weak point is exposed, an eye on his torso. One of the beast master’s beasts tries to hold it open and sacrifice himself but they won’t let him. So the beast tamer uses his training hand to punch right through the eye hole (jet stream punch!), rolls an 02 (crit).
- the warrior rolls an 01 for an explosive energetic slash, whatever that is, and they win the battle
- no wait, they didn’t for some reason
- reroll initiative i guess? And the same roll is also to determine attack success, because stakes
- bad guy rolls a super crit but the dice explode from friendship
- Magician uses Final Big Bang, and the battle is finally over
- I’m so done
- There’s one more roll but it’s to restore a player’s soul.
So, uh, that’s as much game as I could find in the Monster World arc. Supposedly there’s more RPG action later on, and I’m morbidly curious so maybe I’ll report on that too. Whether or not I can retroclone this mess is another question… I do like a challenge, though. Who knows.
[To Be Continued…?]