High Rolls and Sub-Stats

[Note: I originally submitted this to Guardians of Order for inclusion in a planned "BESM Rules Compendium." However, the book was cancelled so I'll never know if it would have been accepted or not. Anyway, there was a strict word limit on submissions, so I had to chop out a lot of flavor text, explanations, and examples to make it fit. Therefore, it comes across as a bit spare and terse. The deadline also means I never got the chance to playtest the rules. As Silver Age Sentinels addressed most of my concerns with the original Tri-Stat rules, these rules have been rendered nearly obsolete as far as I'm concerned. However, I spent a lot of time writing them, so you're going to read them and like it, dammit.]

This rules variant provides a simple method for increasing player control over character abilities and a game mechanic that rewards high rolls.


Each of the three primary Stats described on page 18 of BESM Second Edition has three "Sub-Stats," values representing different facets of the Stat. They are treated much like Sub-Attributes, such that each Level of "Stat" purchased with a single Character Point gives the character 3 Sub-Stat points. Sub-Stat points can be allocated to all nine Sub-Stats in any manner you choose, giving you a finer degree of control over your character's abilities. Those who prefer the elegance of the standard BESM Stats may continue to allocate Stat points on the standard "one-Character-Point-to-one-Stat-point" basis, in which case the value of a character's Sub-Stat will always be equal to the value of its primary Stat. In any case, the three primary Stats can be derived by averaging their three Sub-Stats and rounding down. The nine Sub-Stats are defined below.

Body Sub-Stats


Strength governs a character's ability to move things, to resist being moved, and to apply physical force. The base damage inflicted by a character in any form of combat where strength is a factor is increased by the value of his or her Strength Sub-Stat. Under these rules, the Super-Strength Attribute should be redefined as follows: Each Level of the Super-Strength Attribute adds 10 to the Strength Sub-Stat, allowing it to exceed the normal maximum value of 12.


Agility represents a character's ability to move his or her body with speed and precision. It is one of the three Sub-Stats from which a character's Combat Value is derived.


Constitution represents a character's physical health, fitness, endurance, and resistance to physical afflictions. It is one of the two Sub-Stats from which a character's Health Point total is derived.

Mind Sub-Stats


Brainpower represents natural intelligence, pure information-processing and problem-solving ability, and the mental power needed to effectively harness and control extraordinary abilities such as psionics or magic. Therefore, it is one of the two Sub-Stats from which a character's Energy Point total is derived. It is also very important to telepathic Mind Combat.


Knowledge represents a character's mental warehouse of facts, figures, and procedures. Knowledge is the Sub-Stat from which Skill Points are derived. If the optional Skill System is not used, Knowledge Sub-Stat checks can be rolled when a character is attempting to remember a bit of trivia, arcane lore, or other knowledge, such as the capital of Mongolia, the weakness of a certain type of demon, or the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow.


Perception measures a character's ability to process input from all of his or her senses. Since determining the correct timing and placement of a strike, parry, or dodge involves Perception, it is one of the three Sub-Stats from which a character's Combat Value is derived. In addition, the base damage inflicted by a character in certain forms of ranged combat is increased by the value of his or her Perception Sub-Stat. Previously, perception-based Attributes such as "Heightened Senses" were based on the Body Stat. Such Attributes should now be based on the Perception Sub-Stat.

Soul Sub-Stats


Charisma represents a character's "presence" and ability to influence other characters through social interaction. This ability may be derived from physical appearance, force of personality, or both. In any case, because an anime character's combat ability is almost always proportionate to his or her physical attractiveness, hairdo quality, or ability to wear huge shoulder pads without looking silly, Charisma is one of the three Sub-Stats from which a character's Combat Value is derived.


Willpower quantifies a character's ability to remain focused on a task, resist outside influences, and, in some cases, impose his or her will upon reality. As it also represents the ability to ignore pain and pursue goals with dogged determination, it is one of the two Sub-Stats from which Health Points are derived. It is also one of the two Sub-Stats from which Energy Points are derived, because it represents mental health and a character's potential to affect his or her fate through acts of will. In addition, Willpower is used to determine damage in telepathic Mind Combat.


Power is a "catch-all" Sub-Stat that can be used for many different things. It can represent raw psionic ability, mystical talent, sanity, karmic attunement, or total superheroic potential. It can also measure the maximum amount of supernatural power or cybernetic enhancement a character can safely bear. The GM may use this Sub-Stat however he or she pleases. For example, one optional rule using Power might be: No character may have more than half as many Levels in a Psionic Attribute, Magic Attribute, or some other "Special Attribute" than he or she has points in the Power Sub-Stat. Another option would be to use Power instead of Willpower when calculating Energy Point totals. Or, it could simply be used for Sub-Stat checks based on some esoteric, setting-specific ability mot covered by the normal rules. The possibilities are endless.

Using the Sub-Stats

The GM may determine which Sub-Stat is relevant to a given Skill, Attribute, or task on a case-by-case basis, or he or she may instead decide ahead of time. It will usually be fairly obvious whether, for example, a given Body-based task is Agility- or Strength-based, but the GM should feel free to average Sub-Stats (rounding down) or alter the "relevant" Sub-Stat for a Skill under appropriate circumstances. For example, a Seduction roll may involve the average of a character's Charisma and Strength if the one to be seduced is impressed by big muscles. Similarly, a Skill's relevant Sub-Stat may be Brainpower at times (for example, when analyzing data or making a cognitive leap), and Knowledge at other times (such as when trying to recall an obscure fact within the field).

Sub-Stats and Stat-Based Defects

The use of Sub-Stats obviates the need for the "Not So Fast," "Not So Strong," and "Unskilled" Defects, so do not use those defects in conjunction with these rules. 1 CP and 2 CP reductions in Agility, Strength, and Knowledge will now have more severe negative effects than before, but that is the price to be paid for finer control over your character's abilities.

Derived Values and Sub-Stats

Skill Points

If the optional Skill System is used, a starting character will normally receive a number of Skill Points equal to ([Knowledge] X 5), plus an additional 10 Skill Points for each Level of the Highly Skilled Attribute that he or she possesses. The GM may alter these numbers according to the emphasis he or she wishes to place on Skills. Unless the GM would normally allow characters to have more than 6 Levels of the Highly Skilled Attribute, characters should be limited to a maximum of 2 Levels when this method of determining Skill Points is used. This will keep the maximum amount of available Skill Points at 80, and it will still cost a total of 6 CP to buy them.

Combat Value

A character's Combat Value represents the ability to place blows accurately (Agility), to determine the best time and place to strike (Perception), and to generally be an anime badass worthy of victory (Charisma). There are two separate components of the Combat Value- Attack and Defense.
To calculate a character's base Attack Combat Value, add together a character's Agility, Perception, and Charisma Sub-Stat Values and divide the result by three, rounding down ([Agility + Perception + Charisma] /3).
A character's Defense Combat Value is two less than his or her Attack Combat Value (Attack Combat Value - 2).

Health Points

A character's base number of Health Points is equal to the sum of his or her Constitution and Willpower Sub-Stats multiplied by 5 ([Constitution + Willpower] X 5). The GM is encouraged to lower the X 5 multiplier to create a "grittier" atmosphere, or to increase it to lend a more cinematic tone to the game. In addition, the GM may wish to halve the Health Points of minor NPCs in order to simulate the ease with which great anime heroes and villains typically dispatch trivial foes.

Energy Points

To calculate your character's initial Energy Point total, add together the Brainpower and Willpower Sub-Stats and multiply the result by 5 ([Brainpower + Willpower] X 5).

High-Rolling Game Mechanics

Dice and Dice Rolls

Actions are resolved by rolling two six-sided dice. One of these dice must be designated "positive" and the other must be designated "negative." In order to differentiate between the two and eliminate confusion, the dice should ideally be of different colors. Alternately, they could be marked, rolled in a certain order, or perhaps rolled in different places. To calculate the result of a roll, subtract the value of the "negative" die from the value of the "positive" die. This will generate a value between -5 and +5, with 0 being the most common result.

Non-Combat Dice Rolls

Unopposed Stat Checks

To make a Stat check, roll the dice and add the result to the Stat (or Sub-Stat) in question, bearing in mind that the result of the roll may be negative. The GM will compare the total to a Target Number representing the difficulty of the task in question. If the total is greater than or equal to the Target Number, the character succeeds at the task. Otherwise, the character fails. The exceptions to the preceding statements are that an unmodified roll of +5 always succeeds, and an unmodified roll of -5 always fails, regardless of the Target Number. The GM may decide to qualify a success or failure in accordance with Table 4-1 on page 196 of BESM Second Edition, with the words "less than" and "greater than" reversed. Similarly, all penalties listed as positive numbers in BESM Second Edition should now be considered negative to reflect this dice-rolling mechanic's preference for high rolls. Naturally, bonuses should now be read as positive. Table X-X: Target Numbers is the functional replacement for Table 4-2: Dice Roll Modifications (page 197 of BESM Second Edition). Table X-X was calculated based on the assumption that an Average, Unskilled, Human Adult will achieve a Marginal Success on an Average task more than half of the time. The GM is encouraged to increase these Target Numbers if the optional Skill System is used. Most importantly, the Target Numbers for "Record-Breaking," "Historical," and "Practically Impossible" feats should be increased by 7 to reflect the existence of Grand Master Specialists with relevant Stats of 12.

Table X-X: Target Numbers
Target NumberAction Difficulty
0Trivial. Why Roll Dice?
1Nearly Trivial
2Extremely Easy
5Slightly More Difficult Than Average
7Quite Difficult
8Extremely Difficult
9Outrageously Difficult
10Average Achievement At A World-Class Competition
11Average Achievement For A Living Legend
12Difficult For A World-Class Talent
13Difficult For A Living Legend
14Difficult For Even The Greatest Talents
15A Record-Breaking Feat
16A Historical Feat
17A Practically Impossible Feat

Opposed Stat Checks

Whenever multiple characters are competing with or opposing each other in a non-combat situation, they should make opposed Stat checks to determine which one of them fares best. To resolve an opposed Stat check, each character's player must roll a normal Stat check. Characters with higher results perform better than characters with lower results. In the event of a tie, the GM may rule the outcome an in-game tie or demand a tie-breaking dice roll.

Skill Checks

Skill checks are resolved exactly like Stat checks, except the character's Skill Bonus (which is now positive, of course) is added to the roll.

Combat Dice Rolls

Offensive Actions

To succeed in an attack against an opponent, the player must make a dice roll (adding any applicable Combat Skill bonuses) and add the result to his or her character's ACV. If the total is a positive number, and if the target does not successfully defend, the attack hits. Otherwise, the attack misses. The exceptions to these rules are unmodified rolls of -5, +5 and sometimes -4. An unmodified roll of -5 will always miss, and may result in unfortunate side effects. If a weapon has the disability Unreliable (page 171 of BESM Second Edition), an unmodified roll of -4 or -5 means it fails to work. An unmodified roll of +5 is considered to be a "critical success" as defined on page 206 of BESM Second Edition.

Defensive Actions

A character may take a defensive action immediately after being attacked. To resolve a defensive action, the character's player must make a dice roll (adding applicable Combat Skill bonuses) and add the total to the character's DCV. If the result is greater than or equal to the attacker's offensive action total, the attack is successfully negated. If not, the character has been hit. A character is penalized for defending against more than one attack per round, as described on page 209 of BESM Second Edition.

Mind Combat Dice Rolls

Mind Combat Attack

In order to successfully attack another character in Mind combat, the character's player must make a dice roll and add the result to the character's Brainpower Sub-Stat. If the total is greater than or equal to the defender's Brainpower Sub-Stat, the attack succeeds. As usual, an unmodified roll of +5 always succeeds and an unmodified roll of -5 always fails.

Breaking An Unwanted Mind Contact

In order to break free of unwanted mind contact, the victim's player must make a dice roll and add the result to his or her character's Brainpower minus two (Brainpower - 2). If the result is greater than or equal to the intruder's Brainpower Sub-Stat, the contact is broken. An unmodified roll of +5 always succeeds and an unmodified roll of -5 always fails.

Delivering Damage

The base damage inflicted by a successful attack (before modifiers, weapon damage, or Critical Damage multipliers are taken into account) is calculated differently for different types of attacks.

Base Melee or Thrown Weapon Damage

(Attacker's ACV + Attacker's Strength) - (Defender's DCV)

Base Ranged (Non-Thrown) or Explosive Weapon Damage

(Attacker's ACV + Attacker's Perception) - (Defender's DCV)

NOTE: The Perception Sub-Stat is factored into the above damage equation twice - once to calculate the attacker's ACV and again when added to the total. This reflects the advantages of modern weaponry. This advantage is offset by the fact that ranged weapons rely on equipment and ammunition.

Base Mind Combat Damage

(Attacker's Brainpower + Attacker's Willpower)

Other Types Of Damage

Some odd forms of attack may factor different Sub-Stats into their base damage values. For example, a special Unarmed Combat Skill (which would undoubtedly cost a hefty sum in Skill Points) based on the exploitation of a target's pressure points may allow a character to add Agility, instead of Strength, to his or her base unarmed combat damage. It is easy to envision a variety of Willpower- or Power-based attacks. Use your imagination, but remember that the GM has the final word.

Copyright © 2002 The Metallian
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