[Tokyo Heroes] 'Fade To Black' (tokuatsu campaign)


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[Psuedo-Tokyo Heroes] Fade To Black

Let's face it. Tokusatsu (Japanese Live-Action programs) is cool. While, admittedly, some of the Sentai team stuff is pure cheese (Just look at the later variants of the Power Rangers), several franchises do break the mold; Kamen Rider (Beginning with Kamen Rider Ryuki, and ending with Kamen Rider Blade- Don't ever mention the abomination that is Den-O to me) was a personal turning point. When 2006's awesome 'GARO' came out, I finally caved in...

It was time to run a tokusatsu RPG. The question was, what to use? My standard gaming group generally prefer to play Old WoD, particularly Werewolf (For the violence, really), and Wraith (For the old-school weirdness). And I'd just received a DVD of Blood: The Last Vampire (With the accompanying PS2 games!), and bought the entire line of the Orpheus limited series- For a spiritual successor to Wraith, it ain't too shabby. 'The Orphan-Grinders' and 'Crusade Of Ashes' are my personal favorites, though...'End Game' is a bit, well, meh.

Also, I don't really go for the Super Sentai kind of show- Hell, if I couldn't sell it to myself, I couldn't sell it to my players. So, this bastard crossbreed was born: I intended to run a dark, gritty, mature RPG, while still holding to the established Kamen Rider troupes.

Now, the following campaign uses Neko Ewan's excellent 'Tokyo Heroes'...Which is still is playtest stage, but is ultimately viable. Keep in mind that, while initially intended for Sentai-troupe games, it still works very well with the brooding, more serious settings of the OWod. (For those interested, check it out here.)

So, without further ado, I present Fade To Black: A mix of Kamen Rider, Orpheus, Blood: The Last Vampire, and yes, .hack//GU, powered by the 'Tokyo Heroes' system. Hope you enjoy it!

Setting Up:

The setting is modern Tokyo- The classic home of the Kamen Rider series. The players are 'Investigative Consultants' for the shady, semi-governmental 'Association', much like the titular 'Orpheus'.

Now. We can't expect the heroes to be hard-core killers from the get-go...That comes much later. So, what makes them 'Kamen Riders'? Well, the Association has a variety of artifacts (All in the shapes of futuristic belts), known variously as 'Regalia', 'Gears', or 'Keys'. They don't function for just anyone- Only special individuals, known as 'Singularities' can operate them, and even then, each Singularity can only use a single type of belt.

Thus far, four Regalia have been unearthed: The Cerebus (Kerebos, for exact Japanese pronunciation) Gear, the Cypher Gear, and the Advent Regalia. The fourth, known as the Orga Belt, functions for anyone- However, it has the nasty effect of killing the wearer, the moment the transformation ends. Throughout the campaign, six Gears were unearthed; Notably, despite attempts to mass-produce or copy them, 'normal' humans still can't use the Regalia...Not without severe consequences.

The Kamen Riders themselves are called 'AMITO'- That's an acronym for 'Armor-Morphic Integrated Tactical Ordinance'. Generally, while varying in tonnage and capabilities, each AMITO exhibits increased toughness, greatly enhanced strength, and sometimes stranger abilities, like cryokinesis or super speed. Thus far, as only four belts exist (At least at the very beginning), they've been categorized into Scout, Assault, Heavy Assault, and Commander-class.

Now, that's the suits done. Our heroes need something to fight...And what's better than the Undead? In this case, the 'Undead' are a race known as Chiropterans, blood-drinking hematavores.

They're not really Undead in the Dracula sense; They're not affected by blessed weapons, and don't fear holy water or crosses. And, of course, they're fiendishly difficult to kill- Gunfire can put them down, but it's extremely hard to kill them for good. Fire is much better, though they're often smart enough to extinguish themselves. Decapitation, or high levels of physical trauma are best- And that's what the AMITO excel at.

Generally, Chiropterans can pass as human- In fact, they are human, or at least used to be, though admittedly slightly more feral. Significantly, they can regenerate from most forms of damage, and exhibit enhanced strength, reflexes, and senses. At will, they can shift from human form to a hunting form, or a killing form- Usually, this is a muscular bat-wolf monster, though others have also been noted…Ranging from vaguely feline or canine forms, or even, in one case, a huge reptile, complete with a breath weapon that turned things to ash.

(Note that the heroes don't know that the Chiropterans have a human form. The players thought they were just MOTW (Monsters Of The Week.) How wrong they were....^_^)

The setting's in place, the players are assembled...Now on to the Characters.

The Characters (Or, Meat for the Grinder):

1.) Kazune Tokimi

(aka Cerebus/Kerebos AMITO, or simply Kamen Rider Cerebus)

Played by RL.

A Red Aspect (Fireball Hero), Kazune's a student, one whose spending habits have him constantly struggling to make ends meet. He went for one of the Association's 'drug trials' (Actually, fronts to find possible users of the Regalia), lured by the 20000 Yen (About $200) payoff- To his surprise, he was capable of using the Cerebus Gear, and was promptly recruited by the Association- Better than struggling to make ends meet, eh?

RL spent most of his 4 Personal Edges on Hyper-Speed; The last was on Hard To Kill, a nifty Edge that adds 3 to Personal Resistance. So, Cerebus is a lightning-fast almost feral AMITO with claws for fingers- Something like a sleek, red-and-black redesign of Alternative Zero. As a character, Kazune's Heroic Flaw is an Obsession with the opposite sex- He's a real ladies' man, which has got him into serious trouble later in the campaign.

His Personal Key is Pride, while his Special Weapon is the Cerebus Edge, his claws- Actually the weakest attack of the group. Thanks to RL's uncanny dice luck, though, he's actually racked up more kills than the more combat-focused Advent.

2.) Toru Asagami (aka Cypher AMITO)

Played by BT

A Green Aspect Hero (The Wildcard). Toru's another fresh recruit to the Association, and the second Singularity discovered- In fact, he used to be a rookie in the Association's Operative forces (Think private security). Initially meant to transport the Cypher Gear, he donned it in a desperate attempt to defeat a rampaging Chiropteran; And it worked.

Cypher's speciality is his twin energy weapons, VESPERs. BT decided to beef up his Personal Attack with his initial Edges, choosing a Secondary Transformation: Flight Mode, and a Finishing Attack, Hellion for the last. So, Cypher's a sleek gray-green AMITO, with the ability to fly in his second form.

Toru’s Personal Key is Speciality (Stunts). (This has been far more useful than I’d initially expected, considering some of the tricks he’s pulled off so far…) His Heroic Flaw is, fittingly, Overconfidence: He has the utmost faith in his own abilities, even to the point of foolhardiness.

3.) Hiroyuki Nagahara (aka Advent AMITO)

Played by AG

A Black Aspect (Dutiful Hero). In contrast to the other two, Hiroyuki has significantly more experience: As the first AMITO ever discovered, he’s proud of his privileged role, and doesn’t quite welcome the other two musclin’ in on his turf…Maybe we’ll give him a Spotlight Episode later, eh?

Generally, AG plays…Well, complete anarchists, so this role is a serious departure for him. He’s also a Blood fan- Though this is kind of a stretch. Ah, well…Live and learn…

Advent is the ‘Tank’ of the group; A genuine black knight in AMITO armor. He’s notably the only guy with a conventional weapon- In this case, a chainsaw sword called the ‘Dirge’, thanks to the eerie, grinding noise it makes.

As the only guy with any prior experience in Tokyo Heroes, he’s optimized Advent for serious combat, with 2 Edges for his Personal Weapon, 1 for Hard To Kill, and 1 for a Defensive Technique (Advent slams the Dirge down like a giant shield, and the attack rebounds off it.) Of course, he’s very, very slow…Though in battle, AG used Hero Dice to beef up his initiative- As Tokyo Heroes announces actions in reverse order (Lowest to highest), high Initiative is essential for a good defender.

Hiroyuki’s a tall, handsome guy- The brooding loner of the group. Fortunately, he’s not an annoying emo, and comes off as serious rather than petulant. Beyond several scars, his main distinguishing feature is his artificial right arm; A Chiropteran ripped it off in an earlier battle, and later escaped. Of course, Hiroyuki’s still looking for it; Yes, this played out much later, and not the way you would expect.

His Personal Key is Goal: (Take Revenge). While his Heroic Flaw is apparently Sadism, he also has a Dark Secret: Hiroyuki’s been passing information about the Association to a nameless, faceless Agent, (Who goes by the monicker ‘Iago’) in hopes of tracking down the monster that maimed him…

The Team:

As a team, the AMITO Trio has the following (Out of 5- Group Edges)

1.) Special Attack (Personal, 2 Edges)
2.) Basic Attack (Enhanced strength, basically)
3.) Perk: Authority (They have a special role in the Association’s bureaucracy)
4.) Team Finisher Attack- Red Shift.

The Group Keys are:

1.) Cause (Defeat the Chiropterans)
2.) Pride

Yep, that’s about it for now. I’ll fill in the rest of the first Session later…And boy was it a doozie. While Tokyo Heroes does have its flaws (Read: It’s unfinished), it’s surprisingly versatile. At least, we haven’t quite broken the system yet…Despite more than eight sessions of vicious combat.


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The Setup:

Episode 1

The first session, ironically, did not begin with the players at all. Instead, it kicked off with between the Mooks and the Monster of The Week- The ‘Teaser’ for Episode 1 was a running gun battle between a half-dozen Operatives and the Bat Chiropteran (If you’ve seen Blood, you’ll know what I mean), as the former struggled to protect a courier carrying an important package. This segment was entirely OWoD survival horror, with the rampaging monster shrugging off gunfire, easily slicing and dicing the hapless Operatives with huge talons and a seriously nasty sonic attack (It’s a Bat, after all.)

BT managed to put a serious dent in its hide, thanks to a lucky roll of 4 successes- I statted out the Mooks they’d be using, giving each an Attack of 2, and a Special Attack (Phosphorous Grenade) of +2 Dice; Singularly unimpressed, the monster stomped him into the ground, then ate him. Of course, just when all hope seems lost, and the courier is a few moments away from a messy fate, the countdown begins…

(As this was an mIRC game, I used a sound bite from Karas- A creepy girl counting from 1-10, then finishing, appropriately, with ‘Descending from the sky…Go, Karas.’)

A helicopter banks insanely over the battlefield, disgorging its cargo without slowing- The three AMITO leap down from the craft, and right into battle. Thanks to RL’s advice (“Posing’s the Pride Key, right?”) didn’t attack immediately- Instead, they took the chance to rise slowly and menacingly, doing the Kamen Rider equivalent of a pose. Of course, the Bat promptly hit Cypher when he was still posing, taking off about half his Stamina in a single mauling strike…Lots of sentai sparks, and a lot of reeling backwards with arms flailing. (Later, he took several Defense Edges. Just goes to show…)

When the fight actually started, Cerebus definitely won the MVP award- Thanks to Hyper-Speed (Note: Hyper-Speed is a very powerful Edge. In my game, I made it worth 2 Edges for 1 rank, and allowed EITHER -1 to the Target Number, OR an additional Action. 2 Energy = 2 Hero Dice) he managed a full 6 successes on his first attack, mostly due to uncanny dice luck. That mostly negated his foe’s attack, too, so the Bat’s mauling bite ‘merely’ grazed him, instead of ripping his head off.

(I’ve experimented with one of two systems: For the single, 1 AMITO VS 1 Chiropteran duels, which happened much later in the game, the guy with the most successes negated the other’s attack. Here, each ‘extra’ success on the Attack dice negated one of the opponent’s. The Bat had a Basic Attack of 4, so Cerebus’s 6 successes negated 2 Dice worth of Attacks. This was to encourage players to boost the more expensive Attack Attribute, instead of the cheaper Special Attack Edge.)

Advent, despite his chainsaw sword, had significantly more difficulty (Bad luck, really. He just couldn’t roll more than 3.). Eventually, he used his superior toughness to defend Cypher and the still-cowering courier, repeatedly hurling himself into the teeth of danger…(While he couldn’t connect with most of his attacks, his high Defense, and his Defensive Technique helped a LOT. Cypher would’ve gone down several times, if not for him.)

Cypher, largely protected by Advent’s efforts, focused on pummeling the Chiropteran to death with his twin VESPERs. He managed several lucky head-shots, scorching the Bat to the bone; The twin blasters burnt chunks of chitin and hide off the monster’s flesh, the combined weight of gunfire sending the Chiropteran reeling. (The rules for Chained Attacks aren’t that clear, really. So, I let 2 Successes on an Attack (Which could be soaked normally) count as -1 to Resistance…Which the opponent regenerated, at a rate of 1 point per turn.)

Finally, flesh hanging from its bones in tatters, the Bat tried to take to the skies to escape- Only to be met by an epic hisatsuwaza attack from EVERY member of the Team. Cypher rained plasma death from above. Cerebus, moving at approximately Mach 5, ripped both its arms off. But it was Advent, the Dirge buzzing and shrieking, who sheared the thing cleanly it half- Hit by fire and plasma, sawn almost in two, the Bat shrieked, convulsed…And died. It caught fire, burning with a sick blue flame, and finally quit thrashing when it was little more than ash.

(I let the Group Finisher be the sum of all three AMITO’s Attack Attribute, plus the extra dice for the Group Edge. While seemingly an obscene amount of dice (Almost 20!) it ensures that Finishers, well, FINISH the opponent. Later, it was almost not enough, especially in the later fights. As a Special Attack, the Finisher could also be used…Albeit at +1 to TN. Combined with the high Hero Dice cost, it pretty much discouraged them from repeatedly spamming it. As an extra condition, the faster members have to participate too- That means, the entire Team does not act the entire Round, though the monster gets in a final strike.)

As the terrified courier finally uncurls from his fetal crouch, he realizes that his saviors are, surprisingly, human- Especially as they de-henshin, their AMITO armor returning to the Regalia. Unsmiling, Hiroyuki offers him a hand- An artificial, stainless steel hand, badly concealed in a black glove- And says:

“Welcome…To the Association.”

End Scene


Tokyo Heroes has a very satisfying ‘gamey’ mechanic- While large numbers of dice are needed, a great time was certainly had by all; None of the guys were sitting out any actions, and there was a fair amount of in-character chatter. I used the ‘Final Circle’ Toybox rule (Draw a circle. All dice that land in the circle during the final roll count as twice their value.), which later became increasingly essential- Otherwise, it’s doubtful they would’ve managed to take the Bat out.

After that, upkeep. Unanimously, the group decided to beef up their Finisher-They did this almost every Episode, and it was a damn good idea, really, despite the increasing cost. Cerebus had the most Karma, and he beefed his Attack up by 1, purchasing a single Edge of Passive Defense (Too Fast to Hit.) Cypher got ‘Tough As Nails’, and saved up the rest. Advent spent all of his for one Edge worth of Hyper-Speed…At least it help him hit more reliably. Good investment, for all.

Generally, the battle was very fast-paced. I realized the need for close-ranged weapons; Cypher was pretty much “I shoot him. I shoot him again.” (Though he did do a LOT of damage), while Cerebus and Advent were significantly more…visceral…In their descriptions. While not exactly a nail-biter, all the players were moderately damaged, Advent through sheer attrition, Cerebus with his low Defense, and Cypher with his low Stamina (He had about 3-4 points left).

Note that combat in Tokyo Heroes, for a Kamen-Rider style troupe, can be lethal. Without a party to back the individual guys up, they would’ve been screwed- Advent was the damage Tank, Cerebus was the main damage-dealer, and Cypher tended to take multiple actions to encourage Advent, which greatly cut down the damage he took. So, good times by all.

Of course, it wasn’t long before the guys asked, “What’s in the box?”. Being cool guys who were supposedly ‘in the know’, they couldn’t ask (Not in-character, anyway), but they could guess…Though it would be some time before they realized it was the notorious ‘killer’ belt, the Orga Regalia- Which makes anyone a superhero, at the cost of a messy death when de-transforming.

neko ewen

my brain is melting
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All very cool stuff, and the game is apparently lending itself to the dark Kamen Rider style much better than I would have expected. :)

Hyper-Speed, BTW, was originally meant to be used by bad guys, hence it being a bit overpowering. I may have to see about putting together some guidelines for using enemy Edges with PCs whenever I get back into working on TH.
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