A few words about Tenra Bansho Zero

tenra bansho zero title image

Deciding to skip training because of a hypersensitive stomach might sound like a pussy cop-out, but the advantage of having some off-time on a Monday night is that I can dive into some nerdier forms of entertainment. I know that I should have played some TSW, but trust me, I’ll get to that this week. What I did instead was getting my buddy Dee on Skype to check out the fancy-named Tenra Bansho Zero, the first Japanese tabletop RPG that has received a translation. How cool is that, once you move past the funky name and rad artwork? Well, pretty damn cool!

TBZ (even the abbreviation looks awesome and reminds us of a certain popular anime) is a RPG of hyper-dramatic anime action, set in a world that is a mix between a sixteenth-century feudal Japan and Japanese sci-fi, including mecha and cybernetic samurai. It sounds silly, but the setting is described fairly well. Next to some disturbing features (like children pilots of hell-bent warmachines), the whole world feels cool, unique and ready to be discovered.

Fortunately, the rules are simple enough to do just that. Character creation is really easy, as all you do is stacking archetypes to create your character. You’re done with it in a few minutes, and after establishing some role-playing parameters, you’re good to go.

What really intrigues me about this game is the Karma economy. You see, every character has Fates that tell us something about him. When a player sticks to these Fates and / or just plays out his character really well, he earns Aiki. These Aiki can be used during intermission (a formalised break of the game) to gain Kiai, which can then be used to do all kinds of cool stuff. For every Aiki token a player has, he can roll a Fate, with every success translating into a point of Kiai. However, using Kiai generates Karma, and as soon as a character has 108 Karma, he is deemed unplayable. In order to blow off Karma, characters have to change, remove and add new Fates during an intermission. Still with me here?

This creates a fascinating mechanism, in which players will want to have high Fates to turn Aiki into Kiai, but they will have to replace those Fates in order to keep their Karma low. It’s hard to explain, so I advise everyone interested to read the rulebook.

Really, TBZ is interesting, and Dee has agreed to run a solo game with me to check out the actual mechanics. If you have anything to share about this game, feel free to hit me up in the comments!


  1. Yep, it’s a game full of kick-ass over-the-top action. 🙂

    Two pedantic details though: It’s actually the second translated Japanese RPG after “Maid: The RPG” (but Andy still likes to say it’s “the first game *of this scope and magnitude* to be translated from Japanese”).

    Second point, you only risk becoming an Asura when you have MORE than 108 Karma at the END of an Intermission. You won’t wig out during an Act (unless you’re in a Yoroi armour), regardless of how high your Karma goes.

    Enjoy your first TBZ game, and let us know how it goes!

    1. Heya Craig, thanks for the info 😀 It’s nice to know that Karma bites your butt during an Intermission. I was worried about how that might seriously interrupt gameplay…

  2. Also, TBZ was the first licensed for translation. It’s just taken so long, that Maid (the 2nd) actually released first.

  3. Dhampire is correct! I got the license to translate Tenra first (“the first ever Japanese licensed for translation!” is still correct), but then a couple years later we picked up Maid and released that to test the waters of publishing. Man, a lot of teeth were cut there.

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