Shinobigami Play Report: The Aztec Arrow

I set up another play test in San Diego, this time with 2 players.  I have been looking for a very long time for a game system that would allow me to play in a Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure sort of world.  Maybe not necessarily using stands and hamon and all that, but something similar with whacky logic and very abstract skills.  I have been thinking for a long time that Shinobigami would allow for that sort of play so I set up the story with that in mind.  Ah yeah, I also thought I’d have 4 more players, but when only 2 showed up to play, I suddenly had 4 NPCs that had to be played.  Yikes.

Kyle hadn’t had any exposure to Jojo, so I basically kept the influence but made the game enjoyable for him, too.  Jessica is a huge fan, like me, so she was excited.

Anyway, here’s the set up:

A strange arrow similar to many found at an Aztec dig site has been found by Jorgen Joesmith’s team of archaeologists.  Having fought off vampires and other evildoers before, they knew the grave importance of keeping this arrow out of the hands of evil.  But a strange force is moving against them even now…

Mission (All): Retrieve the arrow and make sure your team has control of it by the end of the climax phase.

Evil Side:

PC1: (Jessica) Mitsuzuki – ‘The leader of a group of powerful rogue ninjas after a powerful artifact.  You are totally ruthless…’  She wore a uniform that somewhat resembled the SS outfit and used wasp powers.  She was sort of a bitch and hated everyone except for Numerator (PC3) and had her eyes on the prize, so to speak.

PC2: (Kyle) Signus – ‘You have been part of PC1’s gang for a long time, but now you have your own agenda…’  This guy was from the Bloodline of Oni and was sort of a bug-person.  He used a lot of stinger attacks and was appropriately creepy but awesome.  It wasn’t until afterwards that both players realized that they both made bee characters.

PC3: (NPC) Numerator – ‘You never seem to leave PC1’s side.  You do everything you are ordered, no matter how vile..’  I made this guy to be like a small henchman guy.  He was always being beat up by the players but was just happy to help them, like a retarded dog.  He was pretty cool.

Good guy NPCs:

PC4: Jorgen Joesmith – ‘The leader of a coalition of ninjas that have been assembled to protect the ancient aztec artifact from falling into the wrong hands…’  This guy was a big American vampire hunter/avid pulp and comics fan that loved boxing and fighting.  He was sort of a light-hearted doofus but would do anything he could to help his friends.  So, you know, a Joestar–err, a Joesmith.  Ahem.

PC5: Wing Lung – ‘You are PC4’s right hand man, a long-time family friend.’  For some reason I made him a Chinaman with the super stereotypical Fu Man Chu ‘stache.  He was also a dark necromancer but was very loyal to Jorgen.  We quickly forgot about the actual Shinobigami clans and the way they interacted with each other, but I made it so that Wing and Jorgen had some clan-based animosity but they overcame it to become allies.

PC6: Gina Moncor – ‘You have been assigned to PC4’s team to protect the artifact.’ A Hasuba Ninja Army cyberninja.  She had certain parts of her body replaced with steampunk-style implants, etc. and was somewhat angsty.

Once our characters were written up, we were ready to go.  Keep in mind that everything that happened after this was completely made up on the fly (except for the Secrets).

Introduction Phase

Neither player are very experienced with role-playing and both felt a little shy.  So I stepped up and had the good guys do their introduction scenes first.

NPCs: It was a simple scene where we decided that the time period was the 1920s and that the team had just found the arrow along with some stone masks at a dig site in Tibet (Aztec stuff in Tibet?? Dun dun dunnnnn!!!!!).  Jorgen exclaimed that it needed to be kept out of the hands of evil, etc.  The sun was just going down…

Mitsuzuki: She was on a train in the bar area.  She had an evil aura about her.  She looked over at a familiar face and nodded knowingly…

Signus: It was getting dark but he had lots of work to do with his beekeeping stuff.  But he felt a familiar dark energy approaching, so he had to go prepare to meet his master…

Numerator: They were approaching the target area, so he had to tell the master!!  He weasled his way toward the bar area of the train and met his master’s gaze.  He nodded knowingly at her, communicating everything with a look, then went back to collect their luggage.

Main Phase

Cycle 1

Master Scene: The bad guys made their stop and rented a jalopy that took them to the Tibetan wilderness.  There, they came to a cliff that overlooked the dig site.  The two sides locked eyes and battle began.  We rolled on the battlefield chart and found out that the battle took place somewhere high and treacherous; the dig site was at the bottom of a huge rocky valley!  Just as the fight began, Numerator and Wing tore away from the others and fought somewhere else (so that I only had to use 2 NPCs).  During the fight, I showed the players how combat worked, etc.  Jorgen emerged the victor in just the 2nd round of combat by planting a well-practiced jab to Mitsuzuki’s jaw.  Jorgen then picked up the arrow, cutting himself on it on accident… (Jorgen gets the prize)

Mitsuzuki: (rolling a flashback scene) On a train in the past, Mitsuzuki had encountered Jorgen in the casino car.  Jorgen was his usual boisterous self, betting absurd amounts of money and losing a lot of it.  Mitsuzuki challenges him to a game of cards, and wins using bluff, somehow in the process learning about Jorgen’s manse in the Tibetan highlands. (Mitsuzuki learns Jorgen’s Location)

Signus: Though Mitsuzuki’s wounds seem to have healed on their own, he still attempts to revive her, seeing as how she seems to be lost in thought.  As he does so, however, she stands up indignantly.  (He used First Aid and successfully made an Emotional Bond.) Signus now feels admiration towards Mitsu, but she feels an inferiority complex towards him.

NPCs: Numerator’s voice sounds from the car, asking if the other 2 are ready to go.  He pokes his head out of one of the huge bags of luggage, with a stick of dynamite in his mouth as he mumbles.  He dives back down into the back, throwing various weapons out of the bag as though looking for something.  Mitsu kicks the bag and kicks him in the head, laughing.  An emotional bond is formed between the two: She feels affection for Numerator while Numerator feels friendship toward her.

Meanwhile, the good guys talk about stuff and form emotional bonds between them while they try to escape to Jorgen’s Tibetan hideaway.

Cycle 2

Signus: Signus approaches Gina alone in the forest surrounding Jorgen’s fortress.  He tells Gina that he knows all about how her family was killed, leaving Gina and her sister Lena, alone in the world.  He tells her that he was there when Lena overloaded the steam boiler of their family’s factory, killing them.  Gina immediately becomes enraged, demanding to know what he knows about their death and his involvement, etc.  Signus fails his skill check and Gina leaves without forming a significant emotional bond.

Wing: A strange flute plays, drawing Mitsuzuki deep into the forest.  When they are alone, Wing hands the key to the hideout over to Mitsuzuki suspiciously.  When accused of being a traitor, he replies that he is probably the most devoted to his master of anyone… (Emotional bonds are formed. Wing feels Admiration for Mitsu’s strength, but Mitsu feels contempt for his treachery.)

Mitsu: They enter the mansion after convincing the staff that they are Jorgen’s guests (Signus hands them a large pot of homemade honey as a gift). As they are lead through the huge property, they find a huge training chamber filled with implements of vampire-hunting.  Then it becomes apparent to Mitsuzuki (and subsequently Signus) that Jorgen’s secret is: “Alternate Mission: Defeat all vampires you find.”  It doesn’t mean much to Signus, but Mitsuzuki just smirks…

Gina found Signus again to get more information out of him.  They ended up with emotional bonds: Gina felt jealousy towards him because something she couldn’t place, while he felt something like sympathy toward her.  I don’t remember what exactly.

Numerator + Jorgen: Numerator fell down a pit trap and ended up in a cell being watched by Jorgen.  Well, more like Jorgen was busy reading pulp adventure novels and Numerator fell next to him.  Jorgen beat him to a pulp and broke his legs to get his Location and Numerator used his Willpower to forge a bond between him and Jorgen: Jorgen, wowed by Numerator’s incredible willpower and resistance to torture, formed an inferiority complex towards the little guy.  Numerator felt doubt toward Jorgen and his good nature after being so brutally mangled.

Cycle 3 – Last

All the characters meet at the prison area where Jorgen and Numerator are.  A moment occurs where every character starts eyeing each other.  Using analysis, I gave each player a chance to find out another character’s Secret.  Signus finds out Gina’s Secret: “Numerator killed your entire family except for you and a sibling.  True Mission: Get revenge.”  He is floored, realizing that what he has been telling her has been so close to the truth, and yet, he can’t give away his secret just yet…  Mitsuzuki finds out Wing’s Secret, but uses a ninpo to keep Signus from finding out.  She has a huge grin on her face…

Mitsu: Knowing Jorgen’s Location, she initiated a battle scene.  Numerator, Gina and Signus were able to join because of emotional bonds.  A roll on the battlefield chart told us that the area was really crowded.  The players decided that the location was Jorgen’s holding cell, where he was just finishing breaking Numerator’s legs.  A throng of servants had just entered and was busy cleaning the place as the fight was occurring.  Gina and Numerator are quickly dispatched and Signus is just about to take Jorgen out, too, but Jorgen uses his Ougi–First Aid Crush!  Just as Signus’s poison fist attack was about to deal some nasty damage, Jorgen uses his vast first aid skills to dodge the attack and take no damage.  He then turned around and knocked Signus out of the battle.  But Mitsuzuki saw what he did, figuring out Jorgen’s Ougi info.  She then knocked him out of the battle, too.  Victorious, she takes the arrow–which promptly stabs her.  She feels a surge of energy and finds out that the arrow imbues anyone who is impaled on it with a strange power, giving her 1 extra Ougi.  (She gets the prize)

Signus: He approaches Gina, trying to tell her that he was just trying to psych her out and that he knows who really did it, etc.  She lets down her guard and asks him to help her.  He tells her that he can’t directly, but that he understands her feelings.  He feels a huge burden lifted off his shoulders and recovers a Life Point.

I don’t remember what, if anything, Jorgen, etc. did.  I think we might have gone straight onto the Climax Phase…

Climax Phase

At this point the sun was just about to rise.  Everyone was escaping the mansion through a secret underground passage that led to a vast cavern.

First, we rolled on the battlefield chart: a 6!  Dangerous terrain!!  An earthquake shook the entire cavern, sending huge boulders and stalactites raining down all over the place.

Round 1

In the first round of battle, Signus tried to attack Jorgen but was just short on his roll–until he used his flashback scene!  In it, he recalled the fateful night that Gina’s family was killed.  He recalled watching Lena, and revealed his Secret:  You are in love with Gina’s sibling.  He gained a bonus to his dice and the attack went through–until Jorgen countered with his First Aid Crush for no damage.

Numerator used giant needles to pull his body along and launch himself at Wing–who used his own flashback scene to get a bonus to dodge it: He recalled the night when Wing Lung walked along a dark street after drinking and gambling, mumbling something about Jorgen, when out from the shadows, a dark form murdered Wing, pulling his body into the alley.  Wing then walked back out of the same alley, feeling quite well in this new form… his Secret: You have killed this character and took its place.  You are actually Mitsuzuki’s henchman. This gave Wing enough to dodge Numerator’s attack, throwing him aside and making a snide remark about how useless he’d always been.

Gina then attacked Wing, now outed as a traitor.  She used her own flashback, recalling that night when she saw a small broken figure messing with the controls.  She was too far away to stop him, but as she ran back to the factory, it exploded, wrecking her body.  The last thing she remembered from that night was Lena watching over her…  Gina kicked the crap out of Wing.

Jorgen then beats up on Mitsuzuki, and Mitsuzuki finds that now the damage she sustains doesn’t heal like it did…!

Round 2

Gina and Mitsuzuki attack at the same time, both using their Ougi!  Mitsuzuki stabs her head, filling it with bees that lobotomize her, while Gina transforms herself into a huge, literal machine of destruction.  They are both knocked down to critical levels of health.

Jorgen is overcome with a strange new energy, and a strange blue humanoid appears out of nowhere.  It’s his 2nd Ougi, created when he was stabbed with the arrow.  He yells, “Waterworld-starring-Kevin-Costner!” as the name of this new power, which sends a powerful torrent of water at Numerator.  He is knocked to his last Life Point.

Signus attacks Jorgen with poison fist.  Jorgen saw it coming and tried to use his First Aid Crush, but it was denied by Signus and Mitsuzuki’s Ougi Crush!  Signus used a new type of poison, effectively rendering his Ougi useless.  But at the last minute, Gina threw herself in front of the attack, taking enough damage to knock her out of the game.  But she chose to die, gaining one last attack–she threw herself at Wing, using her Ougi!  In her dying breath, she takes Wing with her as they fall into a black chasm…

At the bottom of the round, a boulder smashes into Mitsuzuki.

Round 3

Jorgen uses his Ougi to knock out Numerator, washing him down the same chasm as the others.  Before long, though, Signus and Mitsuzuki manage to knock him out.

The players, bruised and bloodied, are victorious.

Conclusion

Wing + Numerator:  I then revealed Numerator’s Secret: You are actually already dead, only kept ‘alive’ by Mitsuzuki’s strange power.  Their concluding phase involved them at the bottom of the chasm, Wing using his necromancy to put Numerator back together while Numerator whined and said things like “Stop tickling me!”

Jorgen: He woke up with amnesia, “Who–where am I?  What–I have this strange feeling that I’ve left something… unfinished!!  DUN DUN DUNNNN”  It is agreed that he actually said that last part, too.

Signus: He reflected on Gina’s death and what it means for him and his hopes for a relationship with Lena.  He is still devoted to serving Mitsuzuki, but he knows that Lena wants the arrow, too…

Mitsuzuki:  She is carried out of the cavern by Signus, but tells him to put her down.  She’s soon back to full health and reveals that she is a vampire and has been behind the death of Gina’s family, etc.  And that she has plenty more evil things planned.  She leaves him, telling him that he should think about whether or not he is truly ready to follow down he path of darkness…

The End…!?!?!!!?

The game took much longer than I expected it to take with only 2 players, but it went MUCH better than I expected.  I think that part of it may be because my players were way into their characters and really put everything they had into it.  At one point Kyle took a break so that he can think about what his character would say to Gina.  At the beginning of the game, they were both a little nervous, saying that they aren’t good at coming up with stuff on the fly, but everything came together so well that I feel that anyone listening to it would think that they were old hands.

I’ve seen how great the game can be with 2-3 players, now I’m curious to see how it goes with 6 players.  Hopefully I can get a group together for that sometime soon…

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~ by mattgsanchez on January 10, 2011.

6 Responses to “Shinobigami Play Report: The Aztec Arrow”

  1. And in re-reading this, it occured to me that I had no idea what Numerator’s secret was until AFTER I’d made something up concerning the deaths of Gina and Lena’s parents. Pretty crazy! That’s what stopped me cold in my tracks, were the implications that s**t just got real and I then had to connect everything I’d made up with what was really going to potentially come to light later on. Bravo!

    • Yeah, that was so cool! And completely unexpected. The whole Secret mechanic just takes this game over the top, I think. I’d consider using something similar in any game, even DnD, to mix things up.

  2. Right when I saw “Aztec Arrow” I thought “JOJO!?” hahah.

    “Rolling a flashback”,
    Rolling for emotional bonds after actions (healing, torture, etc.), how exactly does that work out?

    Do you plan on doing more translations of the system on this blog? I’m super curious to find out more, especially the storytelling system

    • Yes, there’s tons of stuff that I want to do for this system! It’s so versatile and so flexible that I gush about it to like every gamer I meet. There is a lot more I’d like to put on the blog, but I think I’m going to hold back for a little bit longer. When I get some extra time I’ve got some more things I want to put on here, too.

      I’ve been reading through Hunter’s Moon, as well, which is a little similar in structure, but I’m not so sure how I like it compared to Shinobigami. I’ll post a quick summary of the replay that’s in the HM book soon.

      But as for emotional bonds and actions: each player gets to control a scene each cycle and can be either a drama scene or a battle scene, though there are requirements to initiate a battle scene. During a drama scene, you describe what’s going on for your character. You then decide what you want to accomplish through the scene. The choices are, basically, recover health, learn information about another character, or form an emotional bond. The way that you accomplish these things is by finding the skill that matches your character’s actions during the scene, and rolling 2d6 to beat a certain number, which is determined by your character’s acquired skills. If you are successful, you have recovered/learned/bonded, and its up to you to describe how it happened. Does that make sense and answer your question?

      • Yeah it makes sense, but now I have a dozen more questions. I figure you’ll post a translation some day though so I can be patient.

        Are there any other Japanese RPGs with English blogs around I could check out? That way I can bug a half dozen different people instead of just you hahah

      • Unfortunately, I don’t know when I’ll be posting the rules in its entirety, but until then, feel free to keep asking questions!

        The blogs that I have linked on my blog are the only blogs that I know of that have consistent posts about Japanese RPGs. There’s also the http://www.j-rpg.com/talk/ forums, but those, too, are a little slow.

        There isn’t much of a following for JRPGs right now, but I think that people are missing out!

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