Shinobigami
  • Hey everyone! I've been in Japan for 4 years now and I've been playing with a Japanese group and at cons for about a year now. Just as I'm leaving to go back home to LA, I was gifted with a copy of Shinobigami by my group. I looked through the book, and I was surprised to find that my Japanese had improved over the past year or so and I was able to read the thing with minimal looking-up of kanji.

    The book is another digest size and is half-replay and half-rulebook. This is awesome because the replay is pretty interesting (it's the first one that I've actually read the whole way through) and shows how the game is meant to be played. It's actually referenced in the rule-section as such. The rule section is pretty small compared to many western games and is pretty narrative based.

    I'm really looking forward to playing this with my friends back home. I've begun a rough translation for them, nothing fancy, just enough to be able to play. And actually after reading through, I wonder if I found a game that I can tweak to finally make a Jojo's Bizarre Adventure trpg....

    Has anyone else picked this game up?
  • I got a copy through the local Kinokuniya because Andy recommended it. I need to sit down and read more of it, but I like what I've seen so far.
  • Ok, so I think I'm going to do a quick write up of the character creation process, and while doing so, explain a bit about the game. It's actually a very simple game with very few character stats (none, really) that allows for an interesting and narrative heavy game.

    First, here's the homepage with lots of character sheets and sample characters:
    http://www.bouken.jp/pd/sg/

    The game reminds you that you are ninjas first and foremost, and that you are living in the modern era. To make a character, first you decide a name for your ninja. Like most JTRPGs these days, it has a handy chart for randomness. Your character's age and sex, however, are up to you. (Can you handle deciding it without a chart?!)

    You then choose which of 6 ninja schools/clans you belong to. They are:
    Shiritsu Otogi Gakuen: An elite school that is secretly training ninjas. They search for people's secrets. They excel in the art of war.

    Haguremono: Runaways, ronin and other ninja groups that are too small to be counted as a major group. They fight for their own reasons. They excel in ninjutsu.

    Hasuba Ningun: They are an ancient school that believes that they ought to try to unite all the schools, by using tools that emulate everyone's Ougi (final attack). They excel in "tool arts"/using tools.

    Kurama Shinryu: This group is trying to stop the Shinobigami from being revived. They excel in the "body arts"/taijutsu.

    Oni no Kettou: They are supernatural beings that have existed as part of society for thousands of years. They are trying to find a way to revive the Shinobigami for their own reasons. They excel in the Supernatural Arts.

    Hirasa Kikan: They are a group of ninja that want to protect Japan at all costs. They excel at the "scheming arts".

    Once you pick which one you want, you mark yourself off as a "Chuunin", the middle rank, where all PCs start off at. You get to choose 3+2 skills, 4 magics and 1 ougi. More on these as we get to them.

    Next you choose your character's outward appearance; what does (s)he do when they're not ninja-ing about? Then you pick (or roll) a personality type from a chart of 6 possible types. Then its off to the exciting stuff.

    Skills are printed on the character sheet as a sort of grid; the 6 ninja skill "types" each have 11 skills, and each ninja skill type is tied to a school. You choose 3 skills from your corresponding school, and then 2 from any other school you'd like. These are things like controlling water (tool arts) or cursing people (supernatural arts), and can be as mundane as "money making" (scheming) or can be as out there as "eye control" (supernatural arts), where you control anyone and everyone in your vision. These skills are pretty broad, too: if you are controlling water, you can use it as a weapon walk on water, take the water out of people, use it to teleport or really anything you can come up with within the situation.

    You then choose 4 ninja magics (ninpo) that can be attack magic, using your skills to actually do "damage" during a fight scene, support magic, using skills to help in drama or fight scenes, or equipped magic that is always active.

    Last you choose an Ougi, a super secret final waza. You get to choose from 1 of 6 effects, from a super powerful attack to a perfect defense that cuts any damage taken to 0. You then get to assign a new skill to it, anyone that you'd like, and those are your new super secret Ougi and skill. You can use them once a drama scene or once a round in combat and it will hit automatically, but if someone sees you use it, they can use a certain skill to see what you did, and from then on, they will be able to defend against it as usual. It's really important to keep it a secret. Did I mention keeping secrets? They're a big part of this game.

    That's really about it. You can throw a character together really fast, and there are a lot of options and freedom that really let you make the character you imagine.

    When you make a skill check, you roll 2d6 as usual. The target number, if you have the skill in question, is 5. However, if you're trying to see what skill someone just used for their Ougi (the skill used would be miteki) and you don't have it, you need to use the closest skill you have. If, for instance, you have kunoichi no jutsu/seduction, it's 2 squares away, so the target number is 7. You roll 2d6--if you pass, you've been able to seduce the answer out of the target, but if you fail, you've just tried to seduce someone to no avail.

    More on the drama scenes and fighting scenes if people are interested.
  • OK, so I just spent like 10 minutes looking for the earlier thread I created on Shinobigami... But I can't find it! And then I was like, "Wait, did I talk about it here? Or was it Story Games? Or maybe RPGNet? Or my blog (kitkowski.com)? Or maybe it was my Livejournal?" Frik, I can't find my comments anywhere. I must have mentioned it in a thread somewhere without a full review, like S-G.

    Anyway, yeah: It is my solid impression that Shinobigami is one of the most interesting/revolutionary RPGs to be released in Japan in the last two years. Shotgun impressions:

    * It is the Japanese version of World of Darkness: A world like ours, with cults of ninjas fighting a secret war behind the scenes. 6 clans, each with enemies and goals. Heck, WoD is even referenced (jokingly) in the replay, when A...Whatsherface? (don't have the book on me) "Abanbiru?" -'s player goes into the "secret world history of her ninja art".

    * The first game I know that begins with an entire, full replay at the beginning, followed later (in the second half/last one-third) by the actual game rules.

    * The ninja powers table is awesome. I dunno what I think about "roll and succeed, and your power goes off. Otherwise, you do nothing", but it's handled REALLY well, in a way that both rewards focusing on one clan's arts and at the same time learning other arts (to reduce difficulty). Usually games reward one over the other, not both at the same time.

    * I don't know how the initiative/combat system works (haven't had the time to read it seriously), but it looks great: A track between "fast" and "sub-light-speed", and it seems to somehow handle both "initiative" and "board-game-like combat placement" all in one. That is really interesting, and I want to know more.

    * I love how each clan has "built in" a clan that it hates. That really kicks off the action in play.

    * The Hirasaka Kikan clan leader is hot in that "school nurse/cold scientist with glasses" way. I love that there's a ninja clan of politicians. I think, though, that some of this game was really influenced by the manga "Sumomomo Momomo", namely Hirasaka feels like a combo of the Sheep and Monkey clans from Sumomomo-momomo: Politicians/Yakuza who are secretly one of many clans of badass fighters.

    * The whole damn thing is $12.00 US. The supplement? It, too, is $12.00 US. That's a year's worth of tabletop story-focused gaming for less than the price of a semi-decent meal.

    So please, MORE. If you get the game to a playable state, I will totally pull out money and throw it in your face-hole.
  • I second the above, as I love charts and innovative system mechanics.

    Even the part about face-hole money-chucking.
  • Well, I read through the entire book in like 2 weeks (much to my surprise) and I'd already gotten the first 2 chapters translated (but lost a chapter when I forgot to save). It won't take much to get the whole thing done now, except for maybe the spell list, but there really aren't a whole lot of those in the first book. I could conceivably knock out something playable out by this week or next... except that I gave the book to a friend of mine who just moved to Tokyo. I'm going to head out and buy a new copy today if I have time.
  • Oh, actually all 3 books are 1/2 replay and 1/2 rulebook. Or 1/3 rulebook.

    I haven't gone through them thoroughly yet, but just by looking through them, this is what I see:

    Book 2: Rules clarifications, an extra Ougi option, more items, rules for alliances (blood oaths?) that has another random name generator for the alliance and provides more options for spells, rules for playing as "normal people," a bit more detail and lots more spells for each ninja school, more random charts for setting up scenes, more general spell options, and more enemies.

    Book 3: More rules and clarifications, rules on Boss characters and their henchmen, something called an "Enigma," which seems to work like a "personal secret" for Bosses but are a little more involved, then lots of options for Bosses. Lots more charts of all sorts (yay!!), then special "Hiden" ninpo spells for higher level ninjas, more enemies (stats for a child! my next Boss) and more options for "normal people" PCs.

    At 1200 yen a pop, I'd say they're worth it. Both the supplements seem to offer just enough to make the game a bit more interesting, and they both come with replays! The 3rd replay looks freaking crazy; it stats off with 4 different Lutsubo characters and looks like madness from there. I'm looking forward to delving into these once I'm done making the first playable in English.
  • I've been working on the ninpo/ninja magic, and thought I'd share a few of the ones I've translated.

    There is a big list of generic ninpo that any ninja can take, but also a list of ninpo that is unique to that school, that no ninjas from other schools may learn. It really helps give a sense of individuality and flavor to each school. The best part, though, is that each ninpo is sort of a rough framework. For example:

    Shagekisenkougeki (*) “Ranged Combat Attack”
    Type: Attack Distance: 2 Cost: --
    Skill: Any
    Ranged Combat Attack. If the attack is successful, you may deal 1 ranged combat damage to the target.
    A normal ranged combat attack.

    The skill for this ninpo is listed as any; you choose it when you write the ninpo on your character sheet. This means that you can use your imagination to come up with some crazy attacks that are completely within the bounds of the rules. Want to throw fireballs? Ok, how about you use the kakutou skill, which usually means hand to hand, but maybe in this attack, you throw a fireball like Ryu. Or how about an attack in which you snap your fingers and a machine in the area shoots screws at you. Use karakurijutsu. This is one of the basic attack ninpo available to everyone.

    Banka “Savage Song”
    Type: Support Distance: -- Cost: 2
    Skill: Kotodamajutsu
    You may use this instead of an attack when there are no other characters on the same Plot Number as you. On a successful Action Resolution of this ninpo’s skill, you may inflict the “Breakdown” status effect on any character in the battle.
    A cursed word disabling your opponent’s ninja tools.

    This support ninpo is another generic ninpo. Most of the support ninpo have pretedermined skills, though some give you an option. A lot of them let you change your Plot Number, add or subtract damage, or even break into a scene.

    Kinin “MechaNinja”
    Type: Equip Distance: -- Cost: --
    Skill: --
    You may now select any ninpo from any ninja school, even those outside of the Hasuba Ningun and it’s (subsidiary?) schools. (But not hiden ninpo or Enemy ninpo) However, those ninpo skills become Karakurijutsu and the cost is raised by 1 (if the cost is --, it becomes 1).
    Mechanize a part of your body.

    This is an equip ninpo. These stay active at all times. This Hasuba Ningun ninpo allows a ninja of the Hasuba Ningun school to take any ninpo from any school. This particular school specializes in science and using machines and tools, so it's a really flavorful and useful ninpo. The ninpo particular to each school tend to be pretty powerful, but even the generic equip ninpo seem pretty strong.

    Btw, I wasn't sure what to call the separate schools united underneath Hasuba Ningun. Child schools? Subsidiary? I'm sure I've heard it a million times in jidaigeki and whatnot, but it's just not coming to mind! In the second book, there are some ninpo that are only available to certain "subsidiary" schools within each major school. I can't wait to get cracking on that book next.
  • I noticed that in combat you basically have an initiative number ("plot number") that does a few things:

    1) It shows your range to the other characters.

    2) It shows how fast you can go. Higher number == Faster.

    3) It increases your chances of failures/fumbles: The faster you go, the more of a chance you fumble. So if you choose a Plot of "6", that means if you roll 2d6 and get 5 or less, you fumble.

    ...so I was wondering, does there in fact seem to be a huge advantage to going first/earlier in combat? It seems like everyone will eventually get their turn anyway, "so what's the big deal? Why risk going faster?"

    Thoughts?
  • Actually on a plot of 6, I think you fumble on a 6 or lower. I need to recheck that.

    But there are 2 main reasons why you would want a higher Plot.

    1) In the Main Phase, once you take a single point of damage, you are out of the scene. There's no coming back, and you lose the chance to gain the Prize, Information, etc. that was at stake. So you want to be first, especially in a 1 on 1 battle.

    Even if you're in the Climax Phase, where you fight to the death, taking a point of damage may mean that the Skill Category that has all your best skills is taken out, meaning that your most powerful ninpo are disabled. That could be a big blow.

    2) The higher your Plot is, the more ninpo you can use, and the more powerful they can be. Each non-equip ninpo has a cost, from 1-6. You can use ninpo until the cost of all combined ninpo equals your Plot. For example, I use a ninpo that lets me attack like 3 people, so it's an expensive one, at a cost of 4. I was planning on using it, so I played at Plot 5, just to make sure I attack first. Now, rolling a 5 or less is a little higher than 1 in 4, so it's a bit risky, but worth it in this case. But I the opponent dodges the attack. I have another ninpo that lets me retry attacks, but it has a cost of 2, which would bring me up to 6 just to use it, and then another 4 to use the powerful attack I just used... So basically you need to be at least a certain Plot to use powerful ninpo, especially if you want to use multiple ninpo in one round.

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