hotfoot_jackson (hotfoot_jackson) wrote,

Hitting the Road...

Perhaps as a response to the industrial bleakness of the "Hostile" game I've been perusing of late I treated myself to something a little more lighthearted. A few years ago there was a Kickstarter campaign to translate a Japanese RPG called "Ryuutama", meaning "Dragon's Egg".

It's a lighthearted fantasy RPG set in a world mainly of your own making but where the seasons are controlled by four dragons, the weather by lesser dragons, and the servitors of the seasonal dragons are semi-draconic beings called Ryuujin, who are normally seen as winged humans.

In this world there is a tradition that everyone goes on at least one journey in their life and your players are those citizens about to embark on this tradition. They are not the usual classes of fantasy RPG heroes, fighters, thieves or wizards, no, these are ordinary folk. The seven classes presented in the game are Hunter, Healer, Trader, Minstrel, Farmer, Artisan and Noble (the last three being for slightly more accomplished players), each of whom have their own particular set of skills and abilities. You then select your ability scores for Strength, Dexterity, Intellect and Spirit from three choices- 8-6-6-4, 6-6-6-6 or 8-8-4-4, assigning the numbers as you wish, representing standard, generalist or specialised characters. You then further customise your character by assigning them to a type- attack, technical or magic, which is much more on the more regular fighter, thief, wizard spectrum and shows if they solve problems through force of arms and strength, through skill and cunning or through the various types of magic available. You have a budget to buy equipment, decide who's going to be the leader, navigator, quartermaster and journey recorder and off you go!

Since the story is the journey, quite a bit of the mechanics of the game is devoted to travelling, terrain and weather modifiers, setting up camp, navigation, getting enough food, etc., with each of the character classes being able to use their skills towards the various obstacles you meet.

One unusual mechanic is that the GM is also a character in the game, namely one of the Ryuujin. In this world the seasonal dragons "feed" on stories, so each Ryuujin has their own group of travellers and crafts exciting adventures for them to undertake along the way, themed for the dragon they serve. Green is spring, adventure, voyages and discovery. Blue is summer, friendship, love and relationships. Red is autumn, danger, combat and experience. Black is winter, deceit, betrayal and suspense. Green is the default "starter" Ryuujin. Each GM character has a series of powers and boons they can grant occasionally to assist their group of travellers or to test them. As the player characters gain experience, so will the Ryuujin, gaining more abilities they can bring to bear on crafting the story as they continue to follow and watch their group. At the end of the voyage the story is finished, it is fed to the seasonal dragon and the adventure is complete. Time for the next one.

There are hardships the characters can face, but it is still lighthearted, it's very difficult to actually die. Even the most common "monster" is a race of cat-folk called "nekogoblins" (who apparently eliminated the actual goblins in a war ages ago), the focus of the game is in adventure, so Warhammer chaos spiky bits sort of gaming this is most definitely not. It is supposed to be a fun, gentle game.

I have spoken before of the Japanese concept of "Iyashikei", healing, used for gentle, heart warming anime and games, like My Neighbour Totoro and Golden Sky Stories. Ryuutama is specifically referred to as a "honobono", specifically meaning "heartwarming", and is at it's best when that principle is adhered to.

It's apparently an enormously popular game in Japan, helped no doubt by the gorgeous whimsical art that peppers the book (although one wishes that the chapter on all the various beasties one can encounter was so illustrated). I'd seen it after the Kickstarter was complete and, since it didn't appear to be on general release, didn't think I'd get a copy over here in the UK. Of course this being the modern-type age you can order it directly online from the company that produces the translated version here-

Or you can do as I did and discover that good ol' Leisure Games in Finchley stock it. Check it out here-

So, if you'd like a little gentle, whimsical, heartwarming fantasy gaming, you can't really do better than Ryuutama. No acid blooded, extendable tongued, parasitic xenomorphs here, no indeed, not even in a Winter Dragon game...
Tags: rpgs, ryuutama

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