Guardians of Order and Big Eyes, Small Mouth
Tri-Stat dx is a role-playing game system developed by Guardians of Order in 2003 which was inspired by the original Tri-Stat System developed in 1999. The first Tristat game was the Big Eyes, Small Mouth, or “BESM” anime rpg. The first version of Tri-Stat included the use of only three attributes for a character, which was held over in the dx version. Tri-Stat dx uses dice escalation from d4 to d6 to d8 all the way up to supers game using 10-sided, 12-sided, or even 20-sides dice. Tri-Stat dx is used for games ranging from BESM to the superhero game Silver Age Sentinels, the cyberpunk game Ex Machina, and even a modified version in the throwback fantasy game Tekumel.
Because Tri-Stat dx is a generic role-playing system, it can be adapted to virtually any setting. Since Tri-Stat dx derives from another system, I want to cover that system first.
Tri-Stat and BESM
Guardians of Order developed Tri-Stat for their Big Eyes, Small Mouth releases from 1997 onward. BESM tried to simulate the action found in anime films and the simple mechanics of the system did a pretty good job of it. Anime and manga fans tended to enjoy the game, so Guardians of Order used Tri-Stat for licensed anime products like Sailor Moon, Demon City Shinjuku, Dominion: Tank Police, and Tenchi Muyo!. Other BESM products were produced using Tri-stat focusing more heavily on certain anime genres, including Hot Rods & Gun Bunnies and the space BESM product, Big Robots, Cool Starships. Big Eyes, Small Mouth used a d6 mechanic, while the Silver Age Sentinels used d10. Eventually, Guardians of Order decided to update its Tri-Stat game in 2003, they decided to create a flexible system that could be scaled for any campaign power level.
How Does Tri-Stat dx Work?
Tri-Stat works using only three player characteristics: Mind, Body, and Soul. The “Body” stat covers just about any form of physicality (prowess/health), allowing warrior characters to focus on a particular stat. The “Mind” stat includes a person’s overall intelligence and ability to learn, while the “Spirit” stat covers their willpower and “spirit”.
The dx component allows the gamemaster to set the power level of the campaign by deciding, among other factors, what type of dice are used. Players use 4-sided dice for mundane or baseline games. Action-adventure games tend to use two 6-sided dice, while transhuman but non-powered games tend to use two 8-sided dice. Players in comic book role-playing worlds like Silver Age Sentinels use a d10 or d12, while those playing in mythological, godlike, or cosmic campaigns would use a d20.
To successfully complete an action, a player must roll against the appropriate stat or skill. Players roll 2 dice and try to get under the appropriate stat. If the game master decides an action is particularly easy or difficult, they might assess a -modifier for easy tasks and a +modifier for hard tasks. It should be noted that early editions of Tri-Stat required a character to add their stat to the 2 dice and roll over a difficulty benchmark, but it was determined rolling under created a simpler randomizer.
Besides stat and skill checks, players might have to make contested checks. This means you’ll be rolling against a person or creature, as opposed to inanimate objects and conditions. In a contested action, you roll against a skill or stat as you normally would, but in addition to rolling under your appropriate stat, you also have to roll higher than your opponent’s roll.
The game master also sets how many character points are used in their campaign, along with maximum stat values (the min and max for the three stats). The rulebook provides guidelines for each of these. For instance, character points in a real-world campaign would be between 25-50, while those in a godlike campaign would be 300. The stat values might only go as high as 6 in real-world game, while they could reach 40 in a godlike campaign.
Attributes in Tri-Stat are the perks, special talents, and powers a person possesses. This might include the ability to fly or cast a fireball or even wield a magical sword. Other attributes include minions, gadgets, weapons, organizational ties, or special higher levels of skills. You might view attributes as (often) similar to feats in a d20 game.
Defects are the opposite of attributes. These represent weaknesses and drawbacks in other games. In one way or another, they hinder the abilities of a player. Perhaps these include psychological defects that limits the character’s range of decisions, or perhaps limit use of a power to a certain number of charges per day.
Combat is divided into 5-second rounds. A character can take actions such a move, attack, or defend during their round. Scenes link together rounds and a scene changes anytime the action leaves a specific place, even if combat is still occurring.
Attack Combat Value (ACV) and Defense Combat Value (DCV) act as the attack and defense/parry stats in Tri-Stat. The ACV is the body/mind/soul stats added up and divided by 3. The DCV is the body/mind/soul added up, divided by 3 and minus 2. This means that attacks should hit fairly often. Health points include body + soul times.
Some games have alternate rules for “energy points” and “shock value”. Energy points account for the fuel to power superpower attributes and magic powers. If energy (mind + soul x 5) runs out, the power no longer works. Shock value is health point divided by 5 and is used for realistic combat simulations. When a character takes points equal to their shock value in damage, they might be stunned.
Tri-Stat dx gives players a tremendous flexibility in building the characters they want to play. The GM needs to set the power level at exactly the level of how they want to tailor their campaign. If this is done, then the game should be balanced. If not, the GM will be frustrated. Tri-Stat dx tends to scale well for high-powered games, though it states in the rules of BESM 3rd Edition that munchkins and power-gamers (not the terms they use) can take advantage of rules, if you don’t keep a close eye on them. Therefore, take a close look at the player characters and make sure their abilities are well-balanced among each other, as well as your game.
Assuming you play a standard action game, you’ll be able to play powerful sorcerer, an unstoppable warrior, or a well-connected mastermind with a bevy of minions in Tri-Stat dx. The flexibility of the system greatly outweighs any concerns about game balance–which can be handled by a firm GM. In the end, you have to ask yourself if the game simulates the anime and superhero genres well. As the rulebook states, these genres aren’t exactly known for their balance anyway. In the end, Tri-Stat dx lets a player play a real powerhouse, if they want to. It also lets you play distinct powerhouses, so you aren’t cookie cutter heroes. Players should always love that.