Fans of classic SNES Japanese RPGs and Studio Ghibli-esque anime should keep their eyes glued to the recently launched Kickstarter campaign for tabletop RPG Break!! Its melding of old-school roleplay reminiscent of D&D’s first edition with a wealth of artistic inspirations ranging from Berserk to Secret of Mana results in a unique and captivating world.
Break!! puts players in a fantastical, post-apocalyptic world decorated with a melange of familiar imagery - abandoned mega cities and hulking war constructs exist alongside painterly vistas and mystical wilderness. Roleplay groups can choose thematic regions to fit their mood, whether that’s sunlit boldness and character-driven stories, dank and crusty dungeon crawling in a land choked by evil or several other shades in between.
Boasting a 470-page rulebook, Break!! is the creation of designer duo Reynaldo Madrinan and Grey Wizard, who have been gradually building their passion project for more than a decade. The current iteration is apparently “95% done”, according to the campaign page, and a full digital PDF of the rules will be available shortly after the crowdfunding wraps up.
That rulebook will include 11 species that include fantasy mainstays such as elves, dwarves and goblins, more unique alien cultures and even isekai-style humans pulled from their ‘normal lives’ into something decidedly more magical. Eight classes, called Callings in this RPG, have been designed towards interesting options and roleplay hooks rather than numerical optimization. Archetypes include the magical girl-adjacent battle princess and the jack-of-all-domestic-trades Factotum, but gear, pets, weapons and followers unlock access to a personalised suite of abilities.
The engine chugging beneath Break!! and its aesthetic trappings uses a single 20-sided die and a simple roll-under check to resolve skill challenges, combat situations and other outcomes. Combat and social systems are highly modular so that groups can shave off whatever doesn’t interest them. For example, the 21 Adversaries included in the core book can be reskinned and remixed with little effort to fit dozens of distinct storytelling genres.
Break!! takes another note from old-school roleplay in how it deals with overland travel, opting for a point-crawl system as opposed to vast and clearly mapped overworlds, a la D&D’s Forgotten Realms. This allows facilitators to pack meaning into all encounters and not waste time with what the designers call “aimless wandering”. It also allows individual groups to fill in blanks and define mysteries themselves, which helps with player investment as they see their own contributions shape the overall narrative.
In between adventures, tomb delves or beachside rendezvous, Break!! allows groups to indulge in downtime activities to enrich other parts of their characters’ lives. Some are more practical - dressing wounds, recuperating, training skills and performing critical research - while others allow players to tell their own side stories. Want to tame a special mount, learn a skill or develop the bonds between characters or NPCs? Break!! has systems and tangible rewards for all of those scenarios.
There’s a lot going on under the hood in Break!! beyond the obvious anime stylings that speak to its long design gestation. Its mechanical identity is unique but not so baroque that it would scare away potential players searching for something more than generic high fantasy roleplay.
The Kickstarter campaign for Break!! will run through May 17th and is funding both a physical and digital version of the single core rulebook, which will contain everything needed for play. The designers expect fulfilment will begin heading towards backers in November of 2023.