I played Shinobigami at Chicago Gameday this weekend!

I loved it.

Samuel Crider ran it for myself, Eric Simon, and Josh Brining. I was really psyched to get a whack at this, given that I am a KS backer.

The gist of the session was each of us on a mission to retrieve a dagger that IIRC was itself a god that could be used to kill other gods and end the world. Ergo, each of our clans wanted it. We spent maybe half or less of the session making characters, and the rest playing out the “cycle” of turns that defines a session.

Shinobigami is a wonderful mix of high-improv and high structure. There’s a whole overlaying framework for a session and the scenes you play, but within that is ample room to just narrate things and revel in ninja color. E.g., I played an Oni, known only as “Ayumi”, whose cover was simply that she was a mysterious figure who was also famous for being mysterious — kind of a Prince-meets-Lucifer celebrity. Nobody knows what she does exactly, but they all want to follow her on Twitter. Her main attack (ninpo)? Apparel. So freaking cool.

There’s definitely a lot of moving parts to the game, though, and likely a lot of potential for strategy in mastering how those parts all interact with each other. The game is all skill rolls based on using a really cool chart-and-plot system, but with tons of exceptions to fiddle with.

I definitely think that running this as a one-shot would benefit from tools like ninpo cards and other cheat-sheets — we were doing a lot shuffling paper around looking up what we could do. And the initiative system for combat nearly broke my brain. It’s not complicated, but it’s sort of counter-intuitive at first; it took a few rounds before I began to grok it.

Overall, it reminded me a lot of Tenra Bansho Zero, in that the game is both heavily emo and fairly fiddly, and for some reason this tickles all the pleasure centers of my RPG brain. I desperately want to design big 11″ x 14″ character sheets and battle boards for it to facilitate handling and revel in the game-y bits.

So, yet another Japanese RPG that is totally my jam, despite not being huge into the source material. I am surprised and delighted. Can’t wait until this finally comes out.


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