Although 2016 isn’t over yet, it seems safe to say that the recently-concluded Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- is going to be one of the best anime of the year. Having finished watching the show, I’m now quite eager to find the light novels that it’s based on, as there’s quite clearly more to the series than what the anime was able to portray.
As a note, this post will have considerable spoilers for the series.
The protagonist of Re:Zero is a young man named Subaru Natsuki. Inexplicably brought to another world while returning home from buying dinner, he befriends a beautiful half-elf girl named Emilia, who turns out to be a candidate to become queen of the country he finds himself in. Naturally, this leads to all sorts of intrigues and adventures.
Like so many young men who get thrown into other worlds, Subaru is granted a special power…albeit one that carries a heavy burden: when killed, Subaru immediately reincarnates a short time in the past, with all of his memories intact. He eventually determines that this ability is given to him by an enigmatic – and widely-feared – entity known only as Satella the Jealous Witch, who moves up the date of his “save point” when he overcomes various obstacles. However, she doesn’t let him tell anyone he has this power, tormenting him with crippling anxiety whenever he tries.
What makes Re:Zero so enjoyable is that the show doesn’t treat the effect of Subaru’s “Return by Death” power (as he calls it) lightly. I suspect that a lot of other shows would have had their protagonist use such a power casually, committing suicide over and over so that they could gather information and try different strategies to overcome a seemingly-insurmountable problem. Re:Zero, however, makes it clear that dying tends to be very painful and intensely traumatic, meaning that Subaru still tries his hardest to survive.
Moreover, the series is smart enough not to wallow in pathos. While not afraid to highlight the effect that Subaru’s struggles have on him, it keeps the focus on the problems that he needs to overcome. In this way, the story makes the plot and the characterization complement each other, instead of getting in each other’s way.
…that, and its villain is quite the spectacle.
Betelgeuse Romanée-Conti, level 12 Archbishop of Sloth
First appearing more than halfway through the series, Betelgeuse Romanée-Conti is a leader in the universally-loathed cult that reveres the Jealous Witch. Thoroughly in love with Satella despite never having met her, Betelgeuse works tirelessly to complete the Ordeal, the ritual that will allow the Witch to reincarnate in a new body.
He’s basically a living meme.
To those who meet him, it’s immediately obvious that Betelgeuse is a madman. Gaunt and pale, his eyes bulge from their sockets and his lips are typically pulled back in a rictus grin. Even when calm, he speaks in a grandiloquent style and makes jerky, sweeping motions with his entire body. Easily agitated, he’ll descend into fits of mania that worsen all of these traits; he’ll become fixated on a single word in a sentence, either rapidly firing off synonyms or simply shrieking the word over and over while deliberately injuring himself by biting his fingers until they bleed or tearing handfuls of hair from his head.
His madness is not weakness, however. As a high-level Witch Cultist, Betelgeuse not only has the Witch’s aura around him, but has learned how to weaponize it, forming it into invisible tendrils that end in hands. This makes him a formidable opponent, as he can crush an enemy to pieces without seeming to do anything at all. And that’s just the beginning of his bag of tricks…
As per usual, this character is built using the point-buy rules in Eclipse: The Codex Persona.
Available Character Points: 312 (level 12 base) + 30 (levels 1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 feats) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 10 (disadvantages) + 36 (restrictions) = 394 CP.
Betelgeuse has taken three restrictions: to not use melee weapons, to not use ranged weapons, and to not wear armor. Normally these restrictions would be intensely severe, but his build is designed to work around them. His disadvantages are Broke (he effectively has no equipment), Insane (this should be self-evident), and Outcast (Witch Cultists are loathed by virtually everyone else in the world).
Ability Scores (28-point buy):
As the point-buy used for the above stats show, Betelgeuse is built on the basic 3.5 assumptions. While the above stats might seem low, they’re fairly appropriate for a world where most magic is focused on external effects rather than self-enhancement, and where most magic items (“metia”) are minor conveniences, rather than weapons or armor.
Human Traits (9 CP/+0 ECL)
- Fast Learner, specialized in skills for one-half cost (3 CP).
- Bonus feat (6 CP).
Basic Abilities (147 CP)
- 12d8 Hit Dice (48 CP).
- +12 BAB, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only for unarmed strikes with extra limbs (24 CP).
- Fort +8, Ref +4, Will +8 (60 CP).
- Increase specialization of racial Fast Learner from one-half to double effect (done at level 0) (3 CP).
- 12 skill points (12 CP).
- No weapon or armor proficiencies (0 CP).
Although the world of Re:Zero doesn’t utilize any obvious analogues for d20 classes – besides your typical commoners and non-magical fighter/skill-user types that are found in virtually every world – Betelgeuse’s basic stats are built with a cleric in mind. The upgrade to Fast Learner lets us save a few CPs on his skill points.
Archbishop of Sloth (18 CP)
- Improved Karma/bad karma, specialized for one-half cost/creates an aura that can be detected by others with negative karma as well as magical beasts, undead, fey, and outsiders, as well as divination spells and effects (6 CP).
- Leadership with Born Leader and Emperor’s Star, corrupted for two-thirds cost/followers must have the Insane and Outcast disadvantages (12 CP).
The use of Karma here is meant to simulate the tainted aura that clings to those who use the Witch’s power (though even when karma points are expended, this shouldn’t decrease). Since bad karma also is used by the GM to penalize the character’s roles, this also helps to explain how Betelgeuse is eventually defeated (and why Subaru, who also has the Witch’s corruption thanks to her continually reincarnating him, has to go through so much hardship!).
Betelgeuse has 45 levels’ worth of followers, none of which can be above ECL 9; he usually has a couple dozen low-level followers. Emperor’s Star adds his same use of Improved Karma to all of Betelgeuse’s followers. It’s very important to him that he always have people who’ve felt the Witch’s touch nearby (see below).
Unseen Hand (87 CP)
- Extra Limbs x6 (36 CP).
- Immunity to limitations on reach (very common/major/epic), specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only with extra limbs, does not threaten non-adjacent areas (18 CP).
- Immunity to limbs being severed or rendered nonfunctional (uncommon/major/great), corrupted for two-thirds cost/only applies to extra limbs (8 CP).
- Immunity to being seen (very common/minor/great), specialized and corrupted for two-thirds cost/only applies to extra limbs, can be seen by those with negative karma values of 10+ or “see invisibility” magic (8 CP).
- Immunity to weight and leverage (uncommon/minor/major), corrupted for two-thirds cost/only applies to extra limbs (2 CP).
- Immunity to not being able to conduct multiple grapples at once (common/major/major), corrupted for increased effect/only applies to extra limbs (9 CP).
- Damage reduction 5, specialized for double effect/only applies to extra limbs, corrupted for two-thirds cost/overcome by magic weapons (6 CP).
Between using Extra Limbs – a power which is meant to be limited to racial and template builds – and several instances of natural law Immunities, this suite of powers would warrant a second, or even third, look from a discriminating GM. (His Immunity to reach should allow for his extra limbs to reach up to 30 feet away.)
Betelgeuse’s invisible hands are essentially astral limbs that he can manifest, and are very difficult to detect, let alone damage. Worse, damaging them is largely futile, as he can manifest new ones immediately (that’s what the Immunity to having them severed is meant to represent). Being invisible, these limbs receive a +2 bonus on attacks against foes that cannot detect them, and said foes are also flat-footed against such attacks.
Betelgeuse can grapple multiple opponents at once with his unseen hands, without taking grapple penalties himself. However, grapple checks made in this way take a -8 penalty to their rolls. He’ll need to buy this Immunity up considerably (all the way to epic resistance) in order to eliminate this penalty altogether.
Authority of Sloth (86 CP)
- Improved Imbuement/unarmed strikes: +1 enhancement bonus and adamantine, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only applies to extra limbs (8 CP).
- Martial Arts/2d10 base damage, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only applies to extra limbs (14 CP).
- Evasive/grapple, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only applies to extra limbs (2 CP).
- Specialist/grapple, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only applies to extra limbs (2 CP).
- Trick, when an opponent is pinned for 3 rounds, may force them to make a Fortitude save (Str-based) or be killed, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only applies to extra limbs (4 CP).
- Enhanced Strike/crushing and whirlwind, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only applies to extra limbs (8 CP).
- Improved Superior Rapid Strike, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for extra limbs (24 CP).
- Celerity with Improved x2 and Additional (flight); granting 50 ft. flight (perfect) (24 CP).
This suite of abilities is why Betelgeuse’s unseen hands are so incredibly deadly. In addition to dealing massive damage, and being able to overcome magic- and adamantine-based DR (and hardness), he’s able to make myriad attacks with them. When facing a single opponent, Betelgeuse will often use Enhanced Strike/crushing to devastate them. But he much prefers to grapple opponents and slowly crush their limbs or throat; when surrounded, he’ll use Enhanced Strike/whirlwind with a grapple attempt to grab multiple foes at once, slaying them all a few rounds later, without ever getting close to them.
His ability to fly is due to him being able to pick himself up with his unseen hands. As astral creations, they’re not subject to gravity, and don’t need to press against anything to move. As such, when he needs to move quickly, Betelgeuse can scoop himself up and fly off.
Undying Love (36 CP)
- Returning/can possess the body of someone within a quarter-mile that has a negative karma value of at least 10 (6 CP).
- Improved Stoic with Ferocity (15 CP).
- Inherent Spell with Multiple x2, all specialized for one-half cost/only as prerequisites, and one more instance of Multiple (summon construct VI) (15 CP).
This suite is why Betelgeuse doesn’t place much emphasis on bumping up his Armor Class. So long as he always has enough minions nearby that have sufficient corruption from the Witch, he can always come back. Even if that avenue is closed to him, however, he can be surprisingly difficult to kill. In a worst-case scenario, he can wrap himself in his unseen hands, forming an impromptu suit of armor. In other words, use the summon construct spell from The Practical Enchanter, p. 85.
Betelgeuse’s psychic construct is spell level 7, but its abilities (The Practical Enchanter, pg. 230-232) are preset and unchangeable, lowering the spell level to 6. These abilities are as follows: Menu A) Armored, Buff, and Celerity. Menu B) Feat (Pounce), Heavy Deflection, and Trample. Menu C) Enveloping.
Miscellaneous Abilities (20 CP)
- 3d6 (10) points of mana, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no form of natural magic (12 CP).
- Ritual Magic (6 CP).
- Defender/dodge bonus, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only when not wearing armor, requires one extra limb not to be used per +1 bonus gained (2 CP).
Betelgeuse usually uses his mana to power his Enhanced Strike abilities (see above), but will use it to fuel his earth-based rune magic when in a pinch. Likewise, his Defender ability is a lesser version of his construct-armor; by dedicating a few of his unseen hands to defense, he can increase his Armor Class, albeit only slightly.
Finally, his Ritual Magic is meant to represent his ability to invoke the Ordeal that will reincarnate the Jealous Witch.
- Hit points: 8 (d8 at 1st level) + 49 (11d8) + 12 (Con bonus) = 69 hp.
- Speed: 30 ft., fly 50 ft. (perfect)
- Init: +0 (Dex bonus).
- Saving Throws:
- Fort: +8 (base) +1 (Con bonus) = +9.
- Ref: +4 (base) +0 (Dex bonus) = +4.
- Will: +8 (base) +0 (Wis bonus) = +8.
- Armor Class: 10 (base) + 0 (Dex bonus) = 10, touch 10, flat-footed 10.
- Unseen Hand: +16/+14/+12/+10/+8/+6 (2d10+4).
- Unseen Hand grapple: +20 (reduced to +12 when grappling multiple foes at once).
- Total skill points: 30 (human bonus) + 15 (Int bonus) + 12 (12 CP) = 57 skill points.
|Knowledge (religion) – specific (Gospel of the Witch Cult)
||1 (+15 bonus)
||+16 (Gospel of the Witch Cult only)
Betelgeuse’s class skills are the twelve skills listed above.
With his ranks in Earth Casting and Earth Mastery, Betelgeuse is able to cast earth-based spells of 4th-level or below, with a caster level of 7. Each spell level requires that 1 point of mana (see above) be spent. As noted, he does this only rarely, typically when his offensive abilities are blunted and he requires greater defense.
Betelgeuse is a glass cannon, having very strong offensive capabilities but no real defense to speak of. His ability to raise his AC (via Defender) is incredibly minor, and typically not worth the effort it takes for him to do so (though this will change if he buys the specialization and corruption for increased effect rather than reduced cost). If characters can get the drop on him, he can be taken out with surprising ease. But if he’s the one who surprises them, things can quickly turn into a bloodbath.
Of course, all of this matches neatly with what we see in the show. In fact, the stats and abilities line up so perfectly that it can’t help but make my brain…tremble!