Shinobigami Play Report: The King in Yellow
This past weekend, I met with some good friends of mine in San Diego to play Shinobigami. Here’s the play report, so others can get a sense of what this game is about.
We started off by making our characters. It took us about an hour, though 30-40 minutes of that was spent by my players taking turns to look meticulously through the Ninpo list. I made a character with them to use as an NPC. Here are what they made:
Jessica: Kovery Aum, Kurama Shin Clan ninja. Masquerades as an antique appraiser and sort of looks like an old British boxer sort of dude. Set up: “You are the blade of your clan–anything they need done, they assign to you. Now, another mission calls…” Mission: Fulfill your duty in stopping Ulther.
Hide: Tozzan, Lost One ninja. Homeless (I think he may have misunderstood the way I described the Lost Ones or maybe his character..? Probably not.) Set up: “Your entire family was murdered while you were abroad. You’ve heard their death has some connection to the King in Yellow…” Mission: Exact revenge for the death of your family, the Constantines
Allan: Kiki Hasubi Buruburu-sama, Hasuba Ninja Army member. A paramedic with a wicked Conviction. Set up: “You have heard of the destructive power of the King in Yellow. When you heard that Ulther was going to reenact the play..!” Mission: Stop Ulther from completeing his ritual.
NPC#3: Berry, of the Oni Bloodline. Soft spoken daycare teacher.
Set up: A man named Ulther has gotten his hands on the damned play, The King in Yellow. He is planning on using the tome to summon the Shinobigami, but to what purpose..?!
Master Scene 1: A madman cackles as a hooded figure swiftly follows him down an alley. The hidden attacker beats down the howling lunatic and manages to beat some information out of him; “No mask? No mask!! hahahaaaaaa~ at the playhouse… O, CARCOSA!” The figure gasps, then disappears into the night. Soon afterwards, a number of interested parties are mysteriously notified of an emergency at the playhouse Carcosa in the bad side of town.
Kovery: Kovery finished closing up shop, locking the door behind him. He took his time walking home and enjoyed the moonlight. As he arrived at his doorstep, he found a mysterious letter waiting for him.
Tozzan: Tozzan wakes up, groggy from his light sleep in the alley. He kicks a mouse (?!) and starts to dig through some trash to find some food. Instead of food, he finds a letter addressed to him!
Kiki: As her ambulance is called to pick up a dead hobo, another homeless man kicks Kiki’s pet mouse. Angry, she is about to kick his butt when she gets a phone call…
Main Phase – Cycle 1 :Act 1
Master Scene 2 – As the PCs arrive at the playhouse Carcosa, a hooded ninja awaits them. She throws off her mantle and introduces herself as Berry. She knows that they are all looking to stop Ulther and reveals herself as the one that tipped them all off. Ulther is in the middle of preparations to start his ritual: performing the play in its entirety, which will call something from beyond, and place the entire world in peril. She beckons them all into the playhouse to defeat Ulther. As they enter, however, Ulther escapes and a man in an iron mask covers his exit with the assistance of 4 or 5 “Grass” ninja (minions). Battle ensues and the players can’t seem to hit Ulther’s benefactor. He reveals himself as Ytill, and as the victor he takes Kovery’s Location.
Kovery – Immediately after the fight, Berry (whom I had forgotten to enter in battle… oops!) comes up to everyone and helps them up. Kovery is intent on chasing Ulther down and Berry is impressed with his bravery. At the end of this Drama Scene, Kovery forms an Emotion Bond with Berry: Kovery ends up feeling Sympathy towards Berry, while Berry feels Fanaticism towards Kovery. Berry is into older men..!
Tozzan – During Tozzan’s Drama Scene, Tozzan notices that Kiki’s mouse looks familiar! He talks to the mouse, whom he decides he has a lot in common with. When Kiki starts to object, Tozzan tells her to shut up because he’s talking to his mouse. He rolls Animal Mastery and succeeds, giving him a Bond with Kiki: Tozzan feels anger at Kiki (for interrupting?) and Kiki feels doubt (of his sanity?) toward Tozzan. Both are negative emotions; so far the characters have really come alive and the role playing aspect of the game is really awesome.
Kiki – Kiki, pissed off at Tozzan, uses his contacts to learn more about him. He manages to learn Tozzan’s Secret, and keeps it to himself.
Berry – Berry manages to pull herself away from Kovery for a short Drama Scene. She talks to Kiki, whom she decides is a strong woman, something she really appreciates. But Kiki is a big jerk (having wickedness as her Conviction) and forms Bonds: Berry feels jealousy towards Kiki but Kiki feels anger at Berry.
Ytill – Because Ytill knows Kovery’s Location, he initiates a Battle Scene. He comes upon Kovery at his antique shop and taunts him. Berry, having a Bond with Kovery, jumps into the scene to help her good friend. They fight and Berry is knocked out by Ytill. Kovery manages to defeat him this time and chooses to receive the Prize. Ytill leaves behind a small, yellow bound folio: the King in Yellow. The rules for the prize for this scenario were: “The character who holds this Prize loses 1 skill, but gains the Performance and Word Magic skills.”
Main Phase – Cycle 2 :Act 2
Kovery – Kovery stumbles through the remains of his store and fumbles on his roll to find someone’s secret; he suffers from Amnesia, losing his Bond with Berry. The Book has truly destroyed his mind.
Tozzan – Having both been rebuffed by Kiki, Tozzan approaches Berry. They instantly hit it off and form Bonds: Tozzan feels admiration towards Berry, while Berry feels loyalty toward Tozzan.
Kiki – Seeing both Tozzan and Berry become good friends, Kiki tries to figure out another Secret, but fails.
Berry – This became another Master Scene, allowing the players to share any information they like. They mostly just roleplayed their characters for an interesting scene in the ruins of Kovery’s shop.
Ytill – Sensing a wickedness in Kiki, he approaches her with a proposition. Will she join him? They forge a bond: Ytill feels sympathy toward Kiki, but Kiki feels anger toward Ytill.
At the end of the cycle, Kovery recovers from her Amnesia.
Main Phase – Cycle 3 (Final) Act 3
Tozzan – Tozzan’s scavenger nature emerges and he pokes through Kovery’s old shop and finds out his Secret: “You followed your orders to destroy the Constantine Family after they all read through the King in Yellow. They had become evil and mad with power.” Because Kiki had a bond with Tozzan, she also had access to it. In his rage, Tozzan forgot that he himself was a Constantine and Kiki took pleasure in reminding him. (haha) Then Tozzan’s rage poured forth and he silently swore revenge. Kiki, knowing Tozzan’s Secret, was uneasy.
Kiki – Kiki had a secret past with Ulther that she tried to use to manipulate Ytill. She tried to seduce him and managed to learn his Secret: “You are Ulther’s brother. If you share a positive Emotional Bond with a PC when the Climax Phase begins, your Mission changes to: Stop Ulther” Kiki, who thought she had shocking Secrets of her own, was aghast.
Kovery – Taking time from the preparation for their final battle with Ulther, Kovery and Berry sit together. After a short talk, Kovery analyzes her and realizes her Secret: “You are Ulther’s split personality, created when he read the King in Yellow. When this Secret is revealed, the person who revealed it gains the Location of Ulther.” Kovery realized with a shock that he was sitting with the very man (?) they had to defeat. But suddenly, Berry was gone.
Ytill – Ytill wanted to meet with Kiki one last time. They talked things over, and she managed to forge a new bond toward Ytill; Ytill still felt sympathy toward her, but she had a change of heart and felt loyalty toward him, trusting that he would do what was right. Charmed by her trust, he had some thinking to do…
Berry – In this last Drama Scene before the Climax Phase, Berry has gathered the PCs for a quick information gathering session before the last battle. Ytill enters and offers his strength, and the PCs are thankful. Kiki reveals Ytill’s Secret. Kovery, sitting with everyone, then takes a deep breath and, pointing a finger at Berry, reveals Berry’s Secret. Shocked, everyone looks at Berry – who was no longer there.
Ulther’s Ritual is coming close to an end: as the PCs rush to where Kovery knows to find Ulther, they find that the play is in its last scene: Cassandra lies on the floor before the Stranger, a man in tattered yellow robes and a pallid mask. The actress calls to the Stranger, “We have all laid aside our masks, now it is your turn, sir!” The King in Yellow replies coldly, “Mask? I wear no mask.” All actors on stage collapse as Cassanda turns to Camilla for the last line of the play: “No mask? No mask!”
Ulther, wearing the tattered yellow mantle, turns to the players and battle begins. Uther begins by fighting his brother. Soon, however, his brother uses his Ougi to deal enough damage to kill him in one hit. In his dying breath, Ytill tells Kiki how to defeat Ulther’s Ougi. All the PCs have Ougi that allow them to either negate Life Point loss or regain lost Life Points, making this a long battle. Ulther’s 2nd Ougi is an area attack where he takes off his mask, revealing a void that damages everyone within a range of 2. Kiki learns how to Break that Ougi as well, basically neutering the threat.
Each player ends up using Flashback scenes, which can either add +3 to a roll or add 1 to damage on a successful hit. Kiki reveals that she once had a relationship with Ulther when he was sane. Tozzan reveals that his entire family, including himself, are succeptable to the powers of the King in Yellow, and he hungers for the book that Kovery is holding. Kovery flashes back to when he had to kill Tozzan’s family and completed his mission single-mindedly. Kiki and Ulther fight while Tozzan decides to get his revenge and defeats Kovery. He then deals the last blow to Ulther. The world is saved, etc.
Kovery – Berry appears in Kovery’s dream, where they say goodbye. It’s a little sad, especially when he’s pretty cold to her.
Tozzan – Berry appears in Tozzan’s dream, but he competely ignores her.
Kiki – Berry appears in Kiki’s dream; she’s still a bitch to her.
Berry basically was hated by everyone. haha
Jessica ended up with 5 XP for Kovery: Mission Complete (3), RPed her Conviction (1) and held the Prize (1)
Hide ended up with 6 XP for Tozzan: Mission Complete (3), RPed his Conviction (1), Survived to the end (1) and was selected by Allan as his MVP (1)
Allan got 7 XP for Kiki: Mission Complete: (3), RPed his conviction (1), Survived (1) and was chosen by both Jessica and Hide as their MVP (2)
In all, the game went really well. At first, I was having trouble trying to explain how skills and ninpo worked, and Jessica was frustrated because she felt her character wasn’t built quite as she had envisioned. I thought that everybody’s characters were interesting and well-played, and I am very much looking forward to playing with them again.