The setting is sketchy, but that’s ok. Not a universal RPG – far from it! – but a flavorful multiverse along the lines of Everway or [and my knowledge of this is quite minimal, so forgive me if I’m wrong] Planescape. Once a whole grand realm called Grand Cornerstone, the world has been torn asunder by some mysterious catastrophe – the Great Calamity. Since then, the Aether – a mist that behaves something like antimatter to the “matter” that is Anima – has been closing in on the shattered remains of a once-great world. Anima is the “mana” of Empyrean, the 7 elemental forces that shape the world, guided by Great Spirits, totem animals of immense power on par with gods.
Throw in colossi, any level of technology or variety of magic, kinds of people (known as the Nascent) and varying levels of Balance of Anima and there’s a great deal of variety to be had. The book provides numerous tools for generating Realms, characters and so on.
Player characters are Eidelons: basically immortal demigods with strange and diverse powers and corresponding personality traits. Anima is what makes up their unique aspects. This is a core concept of characters in Mystic Empyrean – they “wear their souls as a skin”. In other words, their insides are reflected on their outsides. As characters change behavior, their appearances and even their powers change accordingly, whether they like it or not. The rotating GM-ship and voting on experience dole-out ensure this change happens regularly.
Rotating GM-ship? Yes. Troupe-style play, as I’ve heard it called before, is central to the system. What’s more, the “toy box” metaphor means individual players have ownership of specific elements in play. This is about as broad as you could imagine: owning NPCs, monster types, realms, even peculiarities of your game like divergences from standard physics and their impacts. Players take turns ruling on resolution and describing the surroundings, while their PC takes a back seat and basically acts as an NPC.
The central resolution system involves a custom deck of cards representing the levels of the 7 types of “flavored” Anima, as well as Pure Anima (from which the other types are derived, presumably) and Aether, the aforementioned “nothing” that eats away at the fabric of the universe, i.e. Anima. Players have balances of Personal Anima as well, each governing how generally well the character does at tasks ruled by the specific types of Anima. A player gets as many redraws from the deck as the rating of the element in question. I won’t get into more detail now, I probably wouldn’t remember it anyhow.
I would love to play this game at some point. It’s offbeat, I love collaborative play and shared world building.