What Are the Quintessential Elements of a JRPG?

If it’s Shin Megami Tensei, the final boss has to be The Actual Judeo-Christian God!

There should be an incredibly intricate monster-breeding system that at least one player will get really hardcore with, starting a eugenics program that no one else will comment on, even as ecosystems are destroyed as violently as the bosses the breeding program’s resulting god monsters will fight.

There should also be a set of horribly convoluted, long-term quests that eventually reward party members with their ultimate weapons…but none of the quests are remotely related, mechanically or thematically. Enjoy playing some sportsball to unlock the bruiser’s best weapon!

Finally, outside of combat, you need a jump button that makes the jumping character say stuff, like this:

OMG I forgot about Slimes. Which get re coloured throughout the game :)

Mechanic suggestion.

When someone is in trouble can close to death in combat, someone can shout out that character’s name in a tone of concern to give them +1 HP or some other bonus.

He he, yeah too much fun making fun of Japanese writing foibles that come through in localizations.

An effeminate main hero with a weapon of size that makes up for this.

Make your party run around the desert while you roll a d100 99 times to simulate them dodging lightning strikes. If you ever roll a 1 they must start over. If they make it through you can give them access to a special item that had nothing to do with dodging lightning.

Make sure one of your NPCs is named Wedge.

Almost forgot : make them fight a boss that they thought was going to be difficult but really wasn’t. When said boss dies have ‘the real’ boss jump out from behind a rock and call the party a name. Then fight the boss again. But he is harder.

[quote=“Redfive, post:25, topic:125896, full:true”]Make sure one of your NPCs is named Wedge.

You forgot Biggs, and Cid.

Also one of your party members must be a sentient non humanoid creature. Dogs, stuffed animals, cats, plantets, whatever works.

You know, I’ve never played a JRPG.
But after reading this marvelous thread, I really want to. Sounds absolutely fantastic. And crazy!
I have no idea where to start.

Totally! Escalating boss fights, maybe 3 or 4 for the final boss of the campaign is squarely in the JRPG wheelhouse.

Yep, I think this is more or less baserock foundation. Also, despite this fact, typical battles never get easier.

Since this’ll be run at my apartment (I will finally own a Table and Chairs as of 2017, Qt3ers. At age 30, I will possess furniture), music is absolutely doable.

Heavily agreed; airships, some sort of speedy bird, etc. Of course weird racing minigames for both, right? And tons of weird weapons and potion and especially weird classes.

Pretty much the entirety of this seems vital. So, the question becomes: how do I translate these items into a tabletop game without making it feel more bogged down than Pathfinder crossed with GURPS?

Fully agreed. I am strongly considering making max PC age something like 22, and even then, they’d gain traits like “Grizzled” and “World-Weary.” And of course the villain is probably both of those things.

I think that the classes need to come attached to–or at least in addition to–personality archetypes, and you should get bonuses for playing that stuff up. If you’re the weird, babylike monster-pet, seems like you need to get compelled into making horrible, plot-wrecking decisions more or less every five minutes.

Craig’s post is really long, and mine is getting there, so I won’t do a full quote, but even the tongue in cheek bits seem vital. I think that status effects are mandatory, but should be way harder to apply than receive. Big difference between Mooks and Bosses, and prior Mooks should be so easy that rolling dice may not even be necessary to clear them. Big flashy spells and crazy battle effects should ramp up completely off the scale by the end.

Someone further down mentions the almost complete lack of “gamified” systems out of combat, so clearly any Conversation/Persuasion/Rapport/Intimidation/Deceit skills just get rolled into a single “Stoicism” stat, right?

Elements are a foregone conclusion. Crystals, too. Probably multiple travel-the-world-to-unlock-release-repower-the-Widgets quests will be necessary to fully advance the plot.

You’re on my wavelength so much it kinda spooks me, Juan. Someone elsewhere used a “buckets of HP” analogy. Bosses are huge buckets of HP that can’t refill but do modest damage. PCs are tiny buckets of HP that refill easily and do tons of damage. Fighting a boss is all about juggling the damage against the boss’s bucket against the need to keep all PC buckets from running out simultaneously (on that note, fuck you most WEAPONs in FF games).

Great point about how the omission of mechanics for certain activities is as much a part of the spirit of things as the creation of mechanics for others. No idea how this plays out as a TTRPG, but it seems vital.

An infinity of yes.

GM exposition hoooooooooo!

I have to assume that “Amnesiac Manic Pixie Dreamgirl” is more or less a de facto class in JRPGs, right?

I think the back third of the theoretical rulebook should be nothing but increasingly convoluted rules systems for increasingly improbable “minigames” the GM must throw at players, from races to cross dressing competitions to monster breeding. I’m only about 30% kidding.

God damn do I hate the ultimate weapon quests in FFX.

I assume that by end-game, all boss-fights are sixteen-phase multi-fakeouts with no fewer than six dark overlords waiting in the wings to hop in and transform into beasts of Lovecraftian portions.

Stuffed dog planet. Its weapon class is, inexplicably, garden hoses.

For “classic stuff,” FF3, 4, and 6, alongside the early Lunar games and Secret of Mana are hard to top.

Middle-phase, of course, Final Fantasy VII gets all the glory, but the early entries in the Tales series, Suikoden, and early Shin Megami Tensei weren’t far around the bend.

Later on, you get FF8, 10, and 12, which are all landmarks. **Tales of Symphonia’**s particularly beloved. Skies of Arcadia’s lovable, but stuffed to the gills with random battles. But it also has sick airship fights. So conflicted!

There’s some oddball entries, like the western-influenced Wild ARMS series, the unfathomable Xenogears/Xenosaga games, and the wonderful scifi romps of the Star Ocean games. Dark Cloud rolls in some cool terrain resculpting/townbuilding mechanics that are neat. Magna Carta has some cool real-time based attacks and bizarro Korean game design elements.

Last Remnant and Lost Odyssey are both good and later, but similarly named. That game about the composer Chopin, Eternal Sonata, is just weird enough to be worth your time, too.

Particularly strong rec’s bolded. Good luck!

The combat system is much better than Witcher 3, but the story is much worse. Or at least, much more Japan-teen-drama centered.

Whichever character you have invested the most time in/like the most, gets removed from the party via some plot device…don’t do this lol.

Things I like:

  1. Character classes are highly specialized, and offer powerful and differing synergies based on group makeup.

  2. End game level classes become truly powerful. FFX would be my example here. It was possible in that game to build a character to the point where it completely owned the game…I like that. It should be something that requires much more time to achieve than just a core play, but should be possible. Not sure if this applies to your scenario, but something I enjoy.

  3. Crafting being meaningful, but not overburdening. Side quests needed to complete ultimate weapon etc. Special gear available if effort taken to acquire.

  4. A class that is incredibly complex, but incredibly powerful if figured out. Mathematician in Final Fantasy Tactics come to mind.

  5. Job system/ability to multiclass and make your own combos. One reason I love FF tactics so much.

That’s because even the tongue in cheek bits were done out of a place of love ;)

One more I thought of just now.

You have an accessory slot for equipment, usually used to equip things that boost an attribute, increase EXP gain, or mitigate status effects. However there is one random item you receive in the first third of the game that has no apparent usage, sells for the minimum 1 gil, gives no indication of utility, but if worn at the proper time will either open some secret or locked passage, unlock some side quest, or weaken the final boss by doubling the damage you do against him or something.


No love for 5 Armando? But, not joking, 4 and 6 are, IMO, the best in the entire series (other than spin off Tactics).

That’s a funny spelling of Chrono Trigger. Ok, I kid. Mana totally worth playing, but I consider CT to be the second best SNES era JRPG. FF 6 takes tops.

Fine, but overrated. However it is a landmark game.

Decent choices. I’d also throw Xenogears into the mix. Giant mech battles? Fairly deep combat system with a fighting game type combo system? Yes please.

However if you were to skip the PS1 era entirely, it’s not a bad choice. Aside from Xenogears there isn’t a game that doesn’t have a superior entry in either the preceding or following era.

I love 12 more than most, but beware it is one of the more mixed reception games. I reccomend it, but caveat emptor. Tales of Symphonia is an easy recommend however. Skies of Arcadia is also fantastic. Both are top tier entries.

I’d put Final Fantasy Tactics, hell I’d put Tactics Advanced, as decent non traditional JRPGs. Valkyria Chronicles mixes some Xcom in your JRPG, and is definitely worth a look.

To pick just 3, since I fear we are inundating you Giles:

Final Fantasy 6
Chrono Trigger
Tales of Symphonia

Yes! And a red mage type that can ‘learn’ enemy abilities.

And at least one class must have a special ability that chooses its result based on a random die roll. It can cost a very expensive spell like Meteor potentially on the cheap, but it may also cast water spout on an enemy that is immune.

Choice of system will matter, obviously.

I think the key is deciding what aspects are really important to give combat the feel you want. Then how can you abstract those into mechanics that have flavor without being mechanically unworkable.

For me, the interaction between characters would be really important, as would be having ex-type attacks and maybe even transformations.

Something I neglected to mention earlier is that the power curve in jrpgs is typically quite steep, with characters beginning as nobodies and developing immense power.

The more I think about it, the more I think something along the lines of TORG’s action deck would work very well with this, as it has so much of the player-player interaction built right in.

On the subject of game recs, one of my favorite games of all time, and extremely Japanese in a great many ways, is Enchanted Arms.

This is going a bit outside of the specter of the games themselves, but a JRPG was required to make you grind hours upon hours upon hours, unless! you had bought the strategy guide that told you how to unlock your afore-mentioned hidden easy mode.

The one that traumatized me: Phantasy Star 2 had a #$%&!ing save anywhere option hidden this way - you had to have the thief girl in your party, then enter and exit a particular shop in a particular town a number of times before she would randomly drop out of party, and then pick her back up at your home and hope she’d have stolen the item allowing this absolutely necessary option, in one of the hardest JRPG ever done. The random thieving ‘skill’ of that character was never documented anywhere to begin with, and she was useless so you’d never have her travelling with you anyway. So evil, on so many levels.
… Thank God for the internet.

You’re joking, right?

*looks it up *

Oh my god, you’re not.

Bloody hell. Thats rough!

Well, since you and @ArmandoPenblade both mentioned it, and it happens to be the only one on your lists that I actually own, I may have to give it a shot. I bought it for my Dreamcast many years ago, but never opened it. I believe I bought it based on someone’s recommendation back then as well. I just need to unbox my Dreamcast now…

Anyway, thanks to you both for the recommendations! Reading this thread has been all kinds of awesome to someone who never actually looked into this genre before. I’d heard of it, of course, many times over the years, but as I’ve gotten older, I tend to stick to the genres I already know, and never stray. But now I’m very intrigued.

Some additional notes, then:

Almost everything in here is completely accurate, so expect ridiculous melodrama, incomprehensibly complicated plots, and hundreds of battles against random monsters along with all the other fun stuff. The older the JRPG the more grindy combat; generally, the newer, the more hilariously over the top melodrama.

None of which means they’re bad! It’s just a very particular genre with all sorts of tropes and history to it, and we lovingly mock the bad while reminiscing about the good.

Skies is a truly wonderful game, with really endearing characters, a fun and fast plot with airship pirates and evil empires and of course a good mysterious pale girl! The Dreamcast version has better quality music by far, while the later GameCube port has some minor quality of life improvements (the original is definitely at least partly in the grindy tradition, so expect lots of fights). both are great, though.

I hope you enjoy!

Skies of Arcadia is one of those very few games that didn’t display video through RGB on a 60hz Dreamcast (a very rare programming issue affecting only a few games). Which is why I never could play it :(