Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Unfocused Thoughts Riffing off Jeff's Saikaido Idea

Jeff of Gameblog fame has been posting has been posting about a campaign set in Japan since before I got a blog of my own.  He hasn't posted about it recently - the last one was late last year - so this isn't really prompted by anything, but I had some ideas about what I would do with a D&D/LotFP game set in historical Japan.

  • I like his idea of using Onmyoji for Magic Users.  The fount of all knowledge (wikipedia) tells me that during the period his campaign would be set the Onmyoji had fallen out of favor due to the fact that they were associated with the now mostly powerless imperial court.  There is something to be done with this.
  • Spirit Folk as children of the imperial line?  Aren't Elves and Magic Users automatically chaotic in LotFP - the system Jeff plans to use?
  • Ok so let's taking those two things together, the emperor is the degenerate descendant of a Great Old One or similar entity and a bunch of humans.  His chief advisers, and all magic users in the campaign, are horrid magicians trained in arts that shatter mortal minds.  
  • I want to emphasize the word degenerate in that last one.  I imagine that he's a far cry from his ancestors and is generally more interested in getting high and engaging in bizarre and petty amusements with the aforementioned advisers.
  • I like Jeff's pick for the historical period, but I'm also tempted to set it during the Genpei War.  I suppose I might think about doing it during the Sengoku period, but I want to keep westerners out of the mix.
  • What I would probably actually do is set it during the era right before the Genpei War, populating it with some of the same clans and historical figures, and then use the Oriental Adventures event tables to decide what happens politically.
  • For rules I'd use LotFP with some bits - especially monsters - taken from OA and Ruins & Ronin.  I'll also likely be taking some things from the 3e version of OA which was/is my favorite book for 3e.  I really like the monster illustrations.
  • If I set it during or around the Genpei War I would try to find a suitable spot somewhere far away from Kyoto to keep the war off camera.  It just needs to be there to explain why authorities don't intervene as much in player antics and to occasionally show up to burn down a village.  If I used the period he wants I'd also put it on Kyushu for the reasons he mentions.
  • I'd use a lot of Japanese mythological monsters but I'd try to interpret them in the creepiest, most bizarre, and horribly cosmic ways possible.
  • Social monsters will live in isolated, out of the way places and most encounters walking down a road or in a city will be with people.
  • Unless it's at night.  Night is bad.
  • Most people in the world only rarely see or interact with monsters.  That's something adventurers do.
  • My very scant Appendix N: Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, the Lone Wolf and Cub Comics, and those Short & Shivery books I read as a kid.

There you have it.  This is probably one of those ideas that I'll never actually run, but the muse struck me so I scribbled this down.

On a related note: one of the first OSR games I ever ran was Mike D.'s Ruins & Ronin.


  1. I call this monster threat level "scooby doo"

    1. But Scooby Doo had no monsters in it.

    2. "Why do you hate God so much?"

      "I don't hate God, man!"

      "Well he thinks you hate him, and that's just as bad as hating him."

    3. But Scooby Doo had no monsters in it.
      I used to think that until my daughter became obsessed with it - there are actually a few episodes where monsters occur in the later series - in which case they always pull the gag of trying to take the mask off and finding out it's real.

      To be totally po-faced about this for a moment, scooby doo has a very interesting social setup regarding monsters: even though a healthy sceptic is supposed to assume they don't exist, the public at large is always both surprised and ready to believe.

    4. I haven't seen those episodes, and I'm a little disappointed they exist but that's not the point.

      To be totally po-faced about this for a moment, scooby doo has a very interesting social setup regarding monsters: even though a healthy sceptic is supposed to assume they don't exist, the public at large is always both surprised and ready to believe.

      I see what you mean, and that is a pretty good way to look at this setup - though I don't know how many skeptics there would be.

  2. One thought-what is the level of understanding of Japanese history, culture etc. of your players? Are they going to have to do a lot of homework? Because they might not want to. If that's the case, setting it in the Sengoku period and have them start as westerners (were there all that many in Japan at this time) . That way they could legitimately be mostly ignorant. (I thinking of my vague memories of Shogun from the 70s.)

    After all, what better way to deal with the Gaijin who have washed ashore? A Daimyo could use them as a deniable "problem-solving" team. He can't be held responsible for what those "Barbarians" do.

    New characters (and those of players who get the setting) would be Japanese of course.

    My two koban...

    1. To be honest I don't know yet because I'm not sure where I'd run this as I'm entering a point where I'm not sure where I'll be living in a few months. But that's not important.

      For some reason playing a Gaijin in Japan doesn't excite me the way playing a ronin does. YMMV.

  3. I rather like Ruins & Ronin, but it seems like it could use a referee book and Appendix N to really get it to work well, if only as a jumping point.

    OA fills this gap somewhat. I only own the 3e version, which is a good book, but most of it pertained to AEG's Rokugan setting (On licence to WoTC at the time) and it takes more of a deep reading to understand what's general and what's specific.

    But then, I haven't given Mike D.'s blog a good look-through, which I probably should. :P

    1. Mike's blog is great, and he's a good guy.