|Fairy Tail isn't a rom-com (let alone a harem rom-com) but I couldn't find any better visual examples that wouldn't require a mature content warning. Hmm... Maybe it's a harem show where the viewer is the one with the harem!|
As mentioned in Savage Worlds, the Critical Failures setting rule works well in humorous games. Unfortunately, this rule disadvantages those faced with backlash, brainburn, and malfunctions from the Magic, Psionics, and Weird Science Arcane Backgrounds, as they risk hurting themselves with a roll of 1 on their skill die when activating a power.
Many harem romantic comedies feature the frequent use of Arcane Backgrounds, or even offer a heavy dose of combat (Tenchi Muyo! certainly comes to mind). The emotional stakes of such battles are often quite high, but the chance of serious injury is usually fairly low. In such cartoonish settings, a different approach to backlash may be in order.
New Setting Rule: Comedy Backlash
When a character utilizing Magic, Psionics, or Weird Science rolls poorly enough that backlash, brainburn, or a malfunction would normally be called for, the player (never the Game Master) can instead choose to suffer a Comedy Backlash effect. The hero is Shaken, but a second Shaken result cannot cause a Wound; instead, the player describes something embarrassing happening to the character.
- The character accidentally destroys their own clothes, exposing themselves to onlookers.
- Collateral damage from the attack causes debris to clonk the hero on the head.
- The power explodes in the hero’s face, leaving cartoon scorch marks.
- With the other player’s permission, the hero accidentally destroys another character’s clothes, exposing them to the original character’s bashful gaze. (The other hero does not suffer a Shaken result, but may wish to suddenly realize they’re naked after the fight is over.)
- With the other player’s permission, the hero stumbles into a nearby ally, causing unintended intimate bodily contact and getting slapped for it.
Players running heroes using Miracles or Super Powers may elect to take Comedy Backlash as part of their Arcane Background instead. Deities in romantic comedies tend to be lecherous goofballs themselves, and may forgive a character who commits a Minor sin who opts to take Comedy backlash on their next use of Faith. A hero with Super Powers who opts to take an instance of Comedy Backlash may retain the Power Points they would have otherwise lost to the failed roll.