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    Default I Need A Crash-Course In Persona

    A friend of mine who frequents the same gaming store I do has offered to run a Persona game! However, I know jack-diddle about Persona. Other than that it's an Atlus game series and therefore hard.

    Can anyone give me a crash course on what I need to know about Persona to play a game? And especially to make a character that fits.
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    People, usually highschoolers, gain the power to conjure their true selves, their "Personas" in a physically manifested form. Sometimes, a Persona can turn against its host (trapping them into depression), or other times it can protect the host from danger.

    It really depends on the game, but the characters are usually depicted as physically weak, summoning powerful Personas to deal high damage by spending psychic energy or health.

    Personas are also matched with a particular Major Arcana Tarot card, usually depicting their personality. This implies that there are 22 personalities in the Persona universe, and each Persona is arranged into one.

    People with Personas can also see demons and kill them.

    As a person's personality and life grows, their Persona can grow in strength, gaining new powers. The more fulfilled your life is, the more power your Persona will have. A dumb, anti-social coward will have a weak persona, but someone who studies hard, fights their fears, or has a social life will have a stronger Persona. Basically, the more you do stuff you don't want to do, the more your Persona grows.

    How people interact with demons, what demons do, how people get Personas, is all dependent on the exact game in the series you are playing. These are the general concepts that are shared with each game.

    A classic Persona character is a common person with several specific personality traits about them, and several things they keep hidden. People with Personas are very specific, not generic, and often fit tropes. You do not manifest your Persona by being generic, you manifest it by having beliefs that make you different. Maybe you're a perfectionist because your parents abandoned you. Maybe you try to have friends because you can't stand being alone. You crack jokes to hide how terrified and anxious you are in mundane life. Maybe you get into fights because it's the only way you know how to keep control. Or maybe killing ghosts isn't scary for you, because you were planning on offing yourself anyway and this gives you a little more reason to live. For a Persona to grow, you have to have a balance of a good-natured soul and adversity that conflicts with your good nature.

    Anything more than that will require some specifics from your DM, like what kind of system he's using, or what generation of Persona is he basing it off of.
    Last edited by Man_Over_Game; 2019-04-23 at 04:44 PM.
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    Default Re: I Need A Crash-Course In Persona

    I'd like to add that the demon's aren't demons exactly. They're more tulpas, as the shadow world of persona is molded and shaped by society in different ways. They usually represent something and are tied into culture, so the demons range from tiny gremlins and lesser fey to pantheon heads.

    For example, Thor may show up as a boss to a high-level party, and chances are he'll look like Chris Hemsworth because society says so. Oh, and the dungeons general are metaphysical hellscapes based on the nightmares and insecurities of the general public, unless they go the Persona 5 route of having them themed on a related bad guy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MCerberus View Post
    I'd like to add that the demon's aren't demons exactly. They're more tulpas, as the shadow world of persona is molded and shaped by society in different ways. They usually represent something and are tied into culture, so the demons range from tiny gremlins and lesser fey to pantheon heads.

    For example, Thor may show up as a boss to a high-level party, and chances are he'll look like Chris Hemsworth because society says so. Oh, and the dungeons general are metaphysical hellscapes based on the nightmares and insecurities of the general public, unless they go the Persona 5 route of having them themed on a related bad guy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JNAProductions View Post
    A friend of mine who frequents the same gaming store I do has offered to run a Persona game! However, I know jack-diddle about Persona. Other than that it's an Atlus game series and therefore hard.

    Can anyone give me a crash course on what I need to know about Persona to play a game? And especially to make a character that fits.
    To run a Persona game? You mean to GM a tabletop game based on the series? I assume that must be it, since if you're just talking about the actual games all you'd really need to know is "they're good, try them if you like JRPGs basically at all."

    Anyway, Man_Over_Game got a lot right, but I feel some of it is misleading a bit. For instance, calling anything in Persona "demons" really isn't accurate (outside of the first two games, which generally get ignored these days since Persona 3 sort of reinvented aspects of the series compared to its predecessors, and it's the games that came after 3 that have gained the series what popularity it has). The enemies in the games are known as Shadows, and while specific explanations of their existence can change from game to game, they're generally tied to the collective unconscious of humanity or to specific people to some degree. A specific person's Shadow tends to represent parts of their personality that the person suppresses or would prefer to deny exist, while more general ones that make up most of the series' random enemies can take many strange forms - sometimes those of gods, demons, and other mythological figures, sometimes just weird shapes like stone hand holding a sword. A specific person's Shadow, once confronted and accepted by that person as a part of them, becomes their Persona (at least in Persona 4, which used them the most).

    Shadows also tend to only be found in, and Personas can only be used in, some supernatural other-world, which varies from game to game. In Persona 3 it was the Dark Hour, a 25th hour of every day in between midnight and 12:01 that only those with the potential to use Personas experienced - and unlike in the games that came after it this wasn't tied to the collective unconscious, but rather created by the power of the game's final boss. In Persona 4 it was the TV World, a literal world inside of TVs that Persona users could access by physically going through the screen of any TV large enough to let them, and portions of which would be re-shaped to reflect suppressed parts of the personality of anyone who spent enough time in the TV World. And in Persona 5 it was the Metaverse, in which existed "Palaces," places that came into being for people whose psyche was twisted in some way, built around a "treasure" that was the source of that corruption and reflecting their particular psychological problems. In both 4 and 5 it was directly stated that these worlds were part of humanity's collective unconscious (though in Persona 5 it was specifically Mementos, a special Palace that represented the collective minds of everyone not twisted enough to warrant their own Palace, that was most connected to this). Presumably someone running a Persona-based tabletop game will have their own version of one of these supernatural worlds, or possibly just use one of the ones from the games wholesale.

    In the games themselves the main character also tends to be someone uniquely special in a couple of ways. One, their arcana is the ultra-rare Fool, Arcana 0, which means they have what the series calls the "Power of the Wild Card," allowing them to freely summon multiple Personas and switch between them, where everyone else only gets the one that maybe evolves into a second form as they grow. Two, they're contacted by Igor, a mysterious man who inhabits the Velvet Room, a never-really-explained place that seems to exist to help guide anyone who turns out to have the Power of the Wild Card towards their destiny, and whose shape changes to something appropriate to the journey that each one faces (shapes that it has had include an elevator, a limo, and a prison). Igor and the other inhabitants of the Velvet Room (attendants, mostly women, who act as Igor's assistants) offer the main character the ability to fuse Personas together in order to create new ones, as well as giving generally cryptic guidance throughout the game. Whether or not this might appear in a tabletop version might depend on whether one or more of the PCs get to have the Power of the Wild Card, though maybe it would show up in some capacity even if no one did just because it's such a fixture of the series.

    Also, the games themselves are all set in Japan, though obviously someone running a tabletop game base on them may elect to set it elsewhere.
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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: I Need A Crash-Course In Persona

    Quote Originally Posted by Zevox View Post
    To run a Persona game? You mean to GM a tabletop game based on the series? I assume that must be it, since if you're just talking about the actual games all you'd really need to know is "they're good, try them if you like JRPGs basically at all."

    Anyway, Man_Over_Game got a lot right, but I feel some of it is misleading a bit. For instance, calling anything in Persona "demons" really isn't accurate (outside of the first two games, which generally get ignored these days since Persona 3 sort of reinvented aspects of the series compared to its predecessors, and it's the games that came after 3 that have gained the series what popularity it has). The enemies in the games are known as Shadows, and while specific explanations of their existence can change from game to game, they're generally tied to the collective unconscious of humanity or to specific people to some degree. A specific person's Shadow tends to represent parts of their personality that the person suppresses or would prefer to deny exist, while more general ones that make up most of the series' random enemies can take many strange forms - sometimes those of gods, demons, and other mythological figures, sometimes just weird shapes like stone hand holding a sword. A specific person's Shadow, once confronted and accepted by that person as a part of them, becomes their Persona (at least in Persona 4, which used them the most).

    Shadows also tend to only be found in, and Personas can only be used in, some supernatural other-world, which varies from game to game. In Persona 3 it was the Dark Hour, a 25th hour of every day in between midnight and 12:01 that only those with the potential to use Personas experienced - and unlike in the games that came after it this wasn't tied to the collective unconscious, but rather created by the power of the game's final boss. In Persona 4 it was the TV World, a literal world inside of TVs that Persona users could access by physically going through the screen of any TV large enough to let them, and portions of which would be re-shaped to reflect suppressed parts of the personality of anyone who spent enough time in the TV World. And in Persona 5 it was the Metaverse, in which existed "Palaces," places that came into being for people whose psyche was twisted in some way, built around a "treasure" that was the source of that corruption and reflecting their particular psychological problems. In both 4 and 5 it was directly stated that these worlds were part of humanity's collective unconscious (though in Persona 5 it was specifically Mementos, a special Palace that represented the collective minds of everyone not twisted enough to warrant their own Palace, that was most connected to this). Presumably someone running a Persona-based tabletop game will have their own version of one of these supernatural worlds, or possibly just use one of the ones from the games wholesale.

    In the games themselves the main character also tends to be someone uniquely special in a couple of ways. One, their arcana is the ultra-rare Fool, Arcana 0, which means they have what the series calls the "Power of the Wild Card," allowing them to freely summon multiple Personas and switch between them, where everyone else only gets the one that maybe evolves into a second form as they grow. Two, they're contacted by Igor, a mysterious man who inhabits the Velvet Room, a never-really-explained place that seems to exist to help guide anyone who turns out to have the Power of the Wild Card towards their destiny, and whose shape changes to something appropriate to the journey that each one faces (shapes that it has had include an elevator, a limo, and a prison). Igor and the other inhabitants of the Velvet Room (attendants, mostly women, who act as Igor's assistants) offer the main character the ability to fuse Personas together in order to create new ones, as well as giving generally cryptic guidance throughout the game. Whether or not this might appear in a tabletop version might depend on whether one or more of the PCs get to have the Power of the Wild Card, though maybe it would show up in some capacity even if no one did just because it's such a fixture of the series.

    Also, the games themselves are all set in Japan, though obviously someone running a tabletop game base on them may elect to set it elsewhere.
    Well said!

    To tack on to this, I would not reflect the character you're using for the tabletop as the same kind of character expressed as the Persona Main Character. Not only is the Main Character in Persona games designed to be able to use multiple Personas (so that you can collect them like Pokťmon to add new elements to the video game and make it less static), but Japanese story telling often has the main character be as generic and bland as possible so that the audience can fill in that void with their own personality. With a TTRPG, the game doesn't have to create a character to match every person playing it, so you can easily create a character that best suits you.
    Last edited by Man_Over_Game; 2019-04-23 at 05:36 PM.
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    Adrenaline Surge, fitting Short Rests into combat to fix bosses/Short Rest Classes.
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    Default Re: I Need A Crash-Course In Persona

    The one other thing I add is that, as Zevox said, the Personas are usually only usable in the "secret" world (the Dark Hour / TV World / Metaverse). Outside of that world, the characters are just normal high school students, with normal person levels of power. There are no shadows and very little that is supernatural in the normal world, too.

    At least half of each game revolves around the normal world -- going to high school, forming friendships, taking tests, getting jobs, going to movies, get a driver's license, fishing, etc. Making friends in the real world feeds into the characters' strength in the secret world; a person who heart is strong with the bonds of true friendship has a far more powerful Persona than someone with no friends, but making a true friendship in the real world requires spending a lot of quality time with the other person -- friendship doesn't just happen overnight. This is called the Social Link system. Choosing who you are going to spend time, and thus who you will become closer to, is a major choice each day within the game. The normal world is very clearly our world, specifically modern day Japan. Persona 5 is set in present day Tokyo; Persona 4 is set in a (fictional) rural Japanese town called Inaba.

    I'll also mention that the main character usually has a set of "normal world" skills which don't affect combat / dungeoneering at all. Academics is a constant one across Persona 3, 4, and 5; it helps determine how well you do on exams and can be raised by studying (at the cost of not spending a day with any of your friends). There's also Diligence, Charm, Guts, and so on, but the list changes from game to game. Most Social Links require certain skills to be at certain levels to advance. For instance, Mitsuru (an honors student who believes strongly in academics) won't hang out with you until your Academics is maxed; otherwise, she thinks you should be studying instead of hanging out with friends.
    Last edited by Sermil; 2019-04-23 at 06:28 PM.

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    To be fair, describing Shadows and Personas as demons is accurate to the greater SMT lore. There may be some fine metaphysical distinction, but demons are also created through human belief and emotions. Persona 5 blurs the line even further by having the Shadows you fight literally be the same as the Personas you can recruit, which are the same models (usually) as the demons in the rest of the SMT series. Persona 1 and 2 establish that Personas are effective against demons, which are generally immune to conventional weaponry in the broader series and can only be harmed by other demons (or demon summoners, who usually have to have some sort of magic thingy to accomplish that). If they aren't identical, they are certainly cousins.

    A big message in Persona 5 especially is that belief makes things more real, and conversely disbelief makes things less real. Your weapons, particularly the model guns you use, are props and escalate in power the more realistic they are, and in the Metaverse function like real guns firing bullets. On the other hand, being totally forgotten by everyone causes people to slowly cease to exist - in the real world, even.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tonberrian View Post
    To be fair, describing Shadows and Personas as demons is accurate to the greater SMT lore.
    Eh, while Persona began as a Shin Megami Tensei spin-off, and the influence is clearly still there in the form of the Persona/Shadow designs and basic combat elements, they seem to have made a conscious choice to dissociate Persona from SMT proper. They haven't even used the SMT title since Persona 3 Portable (it was even dropped from Persona 4 The Golden despite being used in the original release of Persona 4). And they've so far avoided including even Persona 1 and 2, which are by far closer to the mainline SMT games than their successors are, in the continuity they've established for the rest of the series, much less connecting it in any way to the rest of the SMT series.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sermil View Post
    The one other thing I add is that, as Zevox said, the Personas are usually only usable in the "secret" world (the Dark Hour / TV World / Metaverse). Outside of that world, the characters are just normal high school students, with normal person levels of power. There are no shadows and very little that is supernatural in the normal world, too.

    At least half of each game revolves around the normal world -- going to high school, forming friendships, taking tests, getting jobs, going to movies, get a driver's license, fishing, etc. Making friends in the real world feeds into the characters' strength in the secret world; a person who heart is strong with the bonds of true friendship has a far more powerful Persona than someone with no friends, but making a true friendship in the real world requires spending a lot of quality time with the other person -- friendship doesn't just happen overnight. This is called the Social Link system. Choosing who you are going to spend time, and thus who you will become closer to, is a major choice each day within the game. The normal world is very clearly our world, specifically modern day Japan. Persona 5 is set in present day Tokyo; Persona 4 is set in a (fictional) rural Japanese town called Inaba.

    I'll also mention that the main character usually has a set of "normal world" skills which don't affect combat / dungeoneering at all. Academics is a constant one across Persona 3, 4, and 5; it helps determine how well you do on exams and can be raised by studying (at the cost of not spending a day with any of your friends). There's also Diligence, Charm, Guts, and so on, but the list changes from game to game. Most Social Links require certain skills to be at certain levels to advance. For instance, Mitsuru (an honors student who believes strongly in academics) won't hang out with you until your Academics is maxed; otherwise, she thinks you should be studying instead of hanging out with friends.
    The split between the normal world and shadow world events in Persona is probably the greatest challenge to represent in tabletop, especially as there's a considerable tension between the two. All three of the more recent Persona games have utilized time as their primary limiting resource - with there being only so many days available and the party only able to act in one world at any given time. This is a complex thing to model using an actual game system in a satisfying way, especially given that the development of stats and social links has always been something exclusive to the Protagonist and the rest of the party disappears to mostly do their own thing (outside of scripted events) when not in the shadow world while the protagonist may interact extensively with characters who never encounter the rest of the party at all.

    As a suggestion I think it might be useful to model the game not on the traditional Persona setup, but instead upon Persona Q. That game utilizes the central elements of the combat system from Persona 3 & 4 (and the same characters), but traps all player characters inside a shadow world and forces them to dungeon crawl through extensive labyrinths based on the Etrian Odyssey games. There are still mysteries to uncover, puzzles to solve, and important character dynamics, but the structure breaks through the split-world nature that would make a traditional Persona game difficult to bring to tabletop.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zevox View Post
    Eh, while Persona began as a Shin Megami Tensei spin-off, and the influence is clearly still there in the form of the Persona/Shadow designs and basic combat elements, they seem to have made a conscious choice to dissociate Persona from SMT proper. They haven't even used the SMT title since Persona 3 Portable (it was even dropped from Persona 4 The Golden despite being used in the original release of Persona 4). And they've so far avoided including even Persona 1 and 2, which are by far closer to the mainline SMT games than their successors are, in the continuity they've established for the rest of the series, much less connecting it in any way to the rest of the SMT series.
    I'm pretty sure there's an easter egg in P3 that the P2 location does exist in that universe, and P3 does have it as canon that the Raido Kuzunoha games are movies. It's certainly not that the Persona games are canon in any SMT game, but most mainline games aren't canon to the other mainline games either.

    If they really wanted to disassociate them, they should use different art and spell names.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tonberrian View Post
    I'm pretty sure there's an easter egg in P3 that the P2 location does exist in that universe, and P3 does have it as canon that the Raido Kuzunoha games are movies. It's certainly not that the Persona games are canon in any SMT game, but most mainline games aren't canon to the other mainline games either.

    If they really wanted to disassociate them, they should use different art and spell names.
    The only P2 easter egg that I recall in P3 is that the Hermit social link uses the names of the P2 main characters as the character names in the MMO you and your online friend were playing, which doesn't establish continuity between them at all. It was P4 and P5 which established that their predecessors occurred within the same world via the brief trips to those locations, which fits with the continuity they've established in the spin-offs.
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    If I would encapsulate modern Persona games, they're contemporary supernatural mystery stories with a Japanese high-school setting that uses Jungian psychological concepts as a central motif for its fantastic elements.

    The game assumes there's a vast cosmic power in humanities' collective unconscious that exists in an unknowable space that mirrors our reality that loosely connects to us through dreams and we're not capable of actually controlling, and that occasionally the barriers between the reality and the unconscious realm become thin and the supernatural emerges in funky and dangerous ways. Like suddenly the crazy thing you've heard people talk about that there's a hidden illegal firearms dealer which can't possibly be true... well, there he is, and now you can buy weapons, mysteriously enough. Or that urban legend about that mysterious website that you can only access at the apex of the full moon where you can curse people to death if type their names 100 times backwards, yeah, that works. It's the kind of fantasy where half-truths, rumours, urban myths, and strange delusions can become powerful, real things in the odd places where the thin line of reality has become permeable.

    So, there's something happening - people falling ill with an unknown disease, people being killed in a string of inexplicable murders, a disastrous incident of some kind - and inevitably a supernatural cause is at its heart. Which, because they're gifted with... well, they're basically Stands from Jojo's Bizarre Adventures but embodiment of the character's magical potential that can be summoned forth and are sorted by tarot arcana, the heroes are the only ones who can participate in this investigation as they're able to enter normally and fight the Shadows who lurk there.

    The basic gameplay loop -- there's some narrative set-up, then there the an introduction of a crisis situation - such as someone's been kidnapped and will die sometime soon if you don't do anything - you investigate in the real world to gather the pertinent information to continue the story, you dive into the supernatural mirror-world of dungeons and Shadow monsters in order to resolve the crisis before time runs out, get to the end of the maze and beat the boss. Then the narrative continues with that arc's coda where you assess what happened and cool down for the process to start again. Repeat until you've got the mystery solved. Usually there are new party members to meet and get to know from these individual chapters until you've filled out the game's roster, but that's probably not as relevant for a TTRPG.

    For recommendations in terms of characters? While "normal high school student" is kind of a default as it is a high school setting predominantly, a number of Persona-users are pretty atypical to that -- a popular idol, androids, a dog, a teenage super detective, the scion of a wealthy industrialist, a Shadow who developed a bubbly personality and really wants you to like him, and stuff like that. Basically, eccentricities are fine, Persona isn't heavily into realism in its world even putting aside the supernatural aspects of it, and you don't actually need to take classes or be a part of the school so long as you're available for the mystery. Depends on the direction for the game your in and your comfort though, just don't be surprised if something wackier than you expect comes up.

    I would say have a character in mind that can grow emotionally over the course of the story as that's a major underlying theme of Persona story-telling... except for the dog I suppose, he's just cute and a dog. Anyways, characters in the games progress towards dealing with some significant internal conflict - a sense of inadequacy that's undermining their self-esteem, a fear that they've been suppressing, an important life decision they've been dithering on, or some existential illusion about themselves that needs to be shattered - basically a stress of some kind they haven't confronted and is keeping them from personal contentment. In the video game a party member reaching a level of personal enlightenment via the MC's interactions with them can literally reshape their Persona into a stronger existence outside of just being satisfying narratively. I don't know how well that'll translate into a tabletop game, but much of the fun in Persona as a game experience is meeting the major NPCs and other party members and following their story through their own individual character arcs as you progress through the overall story.

    Actual Persona - as in the Stands - are normally named after Goetia demons, Biblical Angels, mythical gods and heroes, popular fairies and ghosts in folklore, historical or literary figures with a certain level of mythological significance surrounding them, and representations of urban myths and conspiracy theories (I believe there's one based off of chemtrails). They're summoned in different ways in each game, like in Persona 3 you use a fake gun to simulate suicide and the Persona comes out in the process while in P4 they come out of cards after the characters break or burn them.
    Last edited by Kitten Champion; 2019-04-23 at 11:33 PM.

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    JNAProductions's Avatar

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    Default Re: I Need A Crash-Course In Persona

    I think I've learned enough to at least get by.

    Thanks y'all!
    I have a LOT of Homebrew!

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    DrowGuy

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    Default Re: I Need A Crash-Course In Persona

    Quote Originally Posted by JNAProductions View Post
    I think I've learned enough to at least get by.

    Thanks y'all!
    Please post about this session/campaign in the General RPG forum if this goes anywhere; iím always interested to see people try their hand at running this sort of game.
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