Kickstarter: Tenra Bansho Zero – An Art and Culture-Rich RPG from Japan

Update: already backed, 13,122/9,000.  127 backers and someone took the big one for $2,800.

Oh Kickstarter, you get me in trouble sometimes.

[Actually, that’s not quite true… yet.  My wife hasn’t said a word about my little bad habit here, she even likes the PennyGems because they’re “shiny and sparkly”]

I’ve wanted a good anime-related RPG for a long time now, so I’d have to look at this project anyway.  Most I have seen to date tend to either just use the dressing of ‘anime’ (usually with amateur North American kawaii drawings) or get bogged down in dissociated rules (Anima Prime, I’m looking at you)… I have not been satisfied yet.

Kaidan doesn’t count negatively here, by the way.  Kaidan is a campaign setting based on Japanese mythical horror — which is a sometime source for anime, true — using Pathfinder rules, rather than an ‘anime-related’ game.

Tenra Bansho Zero presents itself as a “high-action high-drama fantasy RPG originally from Japan! A world of magic and mecha, with rules that emulate a Kabuki play or anime”, something that I have been looking for for quite a while.

Other things — beyond longing for what this purports to be — that encourage me to back this project:

  • The project lead appears to know more than usual about the topic.  He’s evidently put in the time and effort to become knowledgeable in the area this game covers.
  • It is a translation of a Japanese RPG created by someone who should know the material he is modelling.  I’ll admit, the modelling may be no more accurate than we see in a lot of western RPGs regarding western European tropes… but even then it is likely to be a significant step up from what I am used to seeing.
  • The producer is Andy Kitkowsky, the guy who brought the Maid RPG from Japanese to English.
  • This is ready to go, he’s got print proofs, he’s not still writing it.
  • The contributors have already been paid.

The cheapest level to get the full game is $55, but $62 and $70 both have some attractive additions.  The $108 level is somewhat tempting to me (depends what the furoshiki looks like) but at this point I think I’ll pass.

At this point, $70 it is (backer #40), but I reserve the right to change my mind if a more interesting level comes along.

Project closes September 16 and is currently 13,122/9,000 funded.

Tenra Bansho Zero
Tenra Bansho Zero


  1. I’ve noticed a number of Kickstarters seem to be more of a preorder system for something that’s going to get made anyway. The first few ones I ever saw were more along the lines of “we need pledged money to have the confidence to make this at all”. Is that just me or is this a general trend?

    • I’ve seen both.

      Kickstarters are supposed to be for things you aren’t doing now (Penny Arcade’s no-more-ads project notwithstanding). Whether it involves getting money for production, or right back to research and development, varies from project to project.

      Tabletop Forge was a gonna-happen project, but they wanted better assets, so they ran a project.

      CLANG! was a want-to-happen, but needed half a million dollars, so they ran a project.

      OGRE was a maybe-happen-if-there’s-interest, so they ran a project in part to get funds, in part to see if there was enough interest to warrant it (hint: oh yes there was).

      All over the place.

    • Hey Keith, thanks for the mention!

      GreyKnight: In my case, it was this: I could pay out of pocket for a pre-order run of 500 to 1,000 copies of the book. Had I done that, the book’s MSRP (if I even allowed it to be in stores) would have been close to $80. If I sold it entirely from my site and never let a brick and mortar or online store sell it, it would have been a more reasonable $60. Thanks to the initial buy-in (even with me still fronting something like $14,000 out of pocket) I was able to cut the MSRP down to $60, and confirm that I can actually sell in stores.

      Since Kickstarter blew my pants off with support and eyes, I can now cut the MSRP down to $55 per set.

      So yeah, my main thing here was not “will it get made or not” but rather “will you ever be able to buy it anywhere for less than $80”. It worked, and I’m really happy with the results!


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