Shinobigami Drama Scene: Emotional Bonds

In the comments of an earlier post, someone expressed interest about learning more about how the Emotional Bonds work in Shinobigami, and when I began writing my reply, it got pretty large, so I figured I ought to make it into a post.

I really like the way that the Emotional Bonds play out, because they have a large element of randomness to it, but that’s exactly what makes it so dynamic and really pushes creativity and characterization to awesome levels.  Basically, when Emotional Bonds are created, the way it works is that the Scene Player will choose a Drama Scene with the intention of forming bonds with another character.  The players will play out the scene until the Scene Player decides to roll a skill that the GM decides based on the scene that was played out, and on a success, both players will roll 1d6 on an emotion chart.  Each possible number has a positive and a negative emotion, and each player must choose one to apply to the other character.  It’s possible, for example, for one character to fall in love with the other while the other feels jealousy towards the other character.  It’s then up to the players to figure out why it’s turning out that way, and play out the rest of the scene (or not).  Here’s an example.


  • Eiji: Hasuba ninja with a huge drill arm.  He’s been tasked with killing Emi’s father.  Scene Player.
  • Emi: Hirasaka ninja trying to stop her father from going berserk and killing people.

Eiji’s player chooses a Drama Scene.  First, he rolls on the scene chart, which is a list of vague ideas to help come up with a scene.  Let’s say he rolls up the one that suggests that the scene takes place at some high place.  So he decides that Eiji and Emi are on the top of a skyscraper at night, where they are trying to determine whether or not they are truly enemies (because maybe they don’t know each other’s secrets?  He could decide halfway through that he’d rather have her Secret, but this time wants to forge a bond.). 

Anyway, Eiji is sort of lost as to what sort of scene he wants to do, so he decides that Eiji has sent Emi some sort of letter, saying that he has ninja business to discuss, but of course it was a trap, and now he’s got her trapped in a techno-magical barrier/kekkai that his research and development team at Hasuba has been working on.  As the scene begins, Eiji sort of taunts her talking about how gullible she is, etc. while Emi’s roleplayer of course reacts with venemous threats, etc.  Of course, the barrier has no in-game mechanical effect.

Eiji doesn’t really know where to go from there, so he tells the GM that he wants to roll to forge a bond.  The GM decides, after talking a little with Eiji’s player, that Eiji will need to succeed on a skill check using Barrier, since Eiji trapped Emi in a barrier.  Luckily, Eiji has the skill, making it a difficulty 5 roll, which he passes. 

Now that the bond is made, both players roll 1d6 and consult the emotion chart.  Each entry has 1 positive and 1 negative emotion, and each player will choose 1 emotion between the two to have towards the other character.  The players are completely free to choose; it’s completely fine to have negative emotions (jealousy, inferiority complex, etc.) towards teammates, or positive ones toward enemies.  Since they’re random, you might end up with strange emotions that you wouldn’t have otherwise assumed.

Let’s say that Eiji rolls 5, giving him the choice of either Loyalty (positive) or Inferiority Complex (negative).  Emi rolls either Affection or Jealousy.  They talk about the scene, and Eiji doesn’t really have much reason to feel Loyalty to Emi, but the complex seems a little odd, too.  Emi’s player decides to make things interesting, and has Emi fall in love with Eiji.  Eiji plays along (with making things interesting) and chooses Inferiority Complex.

This is where it gets good.  The players discuss things amongst themselves in the party; there are strange emotions erupting in these characters that didn’t seem likely a minute ago, but now there are pieces of their personality that are just now coming to the surface. 

The players decide that Emi realizes (or thinks she does, at least) that Eiji is really fighting to save the city the best way he knows how, and that’s by applying his strength towards the destruction of the only other thing Emi holds dear–her father.  She’s torn by this affection that she is only now just realizing she has for this guy who wants to kill her only remaining family.  She’s always been unlucky in love (aren’t all ninja?) so that’s why she keeps up her defensive exterior.

Eiji, on the other hand, went through all that trouble to trap this girl that he knows has some connection to his prey.  He went to the trouble of stealing the latest prototype to this techno-barrier from his lab, but in the end, the players decide, Emi simply smashes it to bits and runs away.  Eiji now realizes how powerful she is, and that she just destroyed years of research.  Eiji is sort of flabbergasted now, seeing at how easily she defeated him, and now he’s got a new (unofficial) mission: to wipe that smirk off that girl’s face, and show her that he’s just as powerful as her!

Then the scene ends, and the next player goes. 

I just recently (finally) got Fiasco and the opening character creation reminded me a lot of this process.  I guess this sort of group storytelling is a pretty vital part of the current indy game scene, and I am really digging it.  I think that a lot of western gamers don’t like giving up control of their character’s fate (or emotions), but I think it’s good to learn to let go after a while, heh.


~ by mattgsanchez on February 28, 2011.

2 Responses to “Shinobigami Drama Scene: Emotional Bonds”

  1. awesome! This really does turn traditional RPG conventions upside down.

    You’ve mentioned in previous posts that emotional bonds can fuel special attacks (say, taking down a hated enemy as you plummet to your death) (breaking into a loved one’s scene, I think) is there a specific power for each bond too?

    I could see bits and pieces of this incorporated into western RPGs, perhaps bonuses/penalties when bonds are involved (fighting a hated foe bonus vs penalty of abandoning a loved one)

    • Oh yes, I didn’t mention it in the post, but there are generally 3 main reasons why you would want to form bonds.

      -Info Sharing: If anyone towards whom you have a bond (positive or negative) learns someone’s Secret, Location, or Ougi, you will automatically and instanly receive that information. So it’s good strategy to start the game off by forming bonds, then letting other people find information for you.

      -Emotion Mods: I think this is what you saw happening in the play reports. Basically what it means is that whenever someone makes a roll, anyone with a bond towards that character may give a +1 bonus or -1 penalty, depending on whether the bond is positive or negative. This can occur once per bond per cycle (of drama scenes) or rounds (battle). In a co-op style game, this can be quite powerful, if everyone was nice enough to be positive towards each other.

      -Battle Burst: If a character towards whom you have an emotional bond becomes involved in combat, you may jump in at any time. Normally, only the character called out by the Scene Player, and/or whomever else they decide, joins combat. Of course, you may join in to help or hinder as you see fit.

      Then there are lots of Ninpo that either affect the way that bonds or formed or their effects. Missions and Secrets may also involve emotions, too, like the Secret: “You are in love with Player 1. If you and Player 1 don’t have ‘Loyalty’ or ‘Affection’ bonds towards each other by the beginning of the Climax Phase, your Mission becomes: Kill Player 1.”

      You’re right, I think that something like this can certainly be implemented in western games. A friend of mine developing his own game had the idea of having every character fill out a questionaire where the character would fill in a grid of emotions, explaining what the character felt during that session. Then depending on what they’d written, they would receive some small bonus, for example, if they felt some sort of comaradie towards a PC, they’d receive a bonus when helping them next session, or something. I think that emotions can be pushed even further, but I’m not completely sure quite how just yet!

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