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PostPosted: Wed Aug 20, '14, 8:04 pm 
Challenge And Fighting

So, combat, or "That thing you probably shouldn't be doing too much of, if you can help it." Combat begins when "violence becomes inevitable", and ends when one side is totally defeated or escapes. Nothing too surprising there. The game's battlefield is a bit of an abstraction, as there are only four zones the game considers worth contemplating. The party's front and back areas, and the enemy's front and back areas.

The very first order of business is for characters to roll initiative to see where they end up in the turn order. Monsters never roll, they have a fixed initiative in their stat block. The being who has the highest initiative goes first, with everyone else following in order from highest to lowest. Initiative actually has a secondary function, in that it's also your dodge value- your initiative is also the number that enemies need to match or beat in order to hit you. What shields do is put a "floor" on your dodge value- if a character has, say, a heavy shield, but rolls a four on initiative, they still go on four, but they would use the shield's dodge value of nine instead of their initiative roll, because it's lower than the shield's value.

The second part is assigning objects, usually around five. These pieces of battlefield scenery are placed by the players, and if a player describes an attack as using one of these objects to assist them, they get an accuracy bonus, and the object is used up.

The actions a character can take aren't too out there, and each character only gets one. There's movement between front and back rows, choosing to reroll their own initiative, cast normal spells, attack, defend to reduce incoming damage a bit and possibly cover other party members from attack, use items, and possibly use certain skills. At level 2, characters can take a turn to add a new object to the field, as well as feint, which is an attack roll made against an opponent's Condition which, if successful, reduces their Initiative. Incoming physical damage is reduced by the target's Defense points, which the characters can increase by using spells or wearing armor. Most offensive spells have to beat the target's Condition score in order to take effect or deal damage, except when noted.

Characters fall unconscious when they reach 0 HP or 0 MP, so casting yourself dry does have its own consequences, and there's a section of what recovers HP and how much, all of which has been gone over in other sections but is included here as a handy summary. A character has a number of negative HP equal to what they rolled for their condition that day- Matt Sanchez has talked about one session that his character only survived because he had eaten delicious food the previous day.

Beyond that, there are only a couple of things. The first part is running away, which the PCs can do whenever their sum initiative count is equal to or higher than the sum of the enemy's Initiative- which means that the more characters there are standing as opposed to the enemy, the easier it is to get away and avoid being trapped. The second is that characters can roll knowledge against the terrain+weather to find out what a monster's general capabilities and stats are, but for the real hard numbers, there's a spell for that.

Next up: Setting creation.

PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, '14, 4:55 pm 
Gonna build me a brand new world.

So, setting creation in Ryuutama works a bit differently, as it is expected to be something of a communal endeavor to create the world and the various towns that fill it. This is not a typical setup for most tabletop roleplaying games, as this sort of thing generally rests entirely on the shoulders of the GM or game designer. Here it is expected that everyone will jump in with something to add to the world. The rationale behind this philosophy is so that everyone has some investment in the game world, and also to guarantee that the world or town has something that at least one of the players is interested in. The GM still has control as to how these things are used, and does maintain veto power during the process, but the created world is still expected to be something of a group, rather than a singular effort.

Towns are generally treated as important stopovers for the journey- after all, there's no point in traveling if there's no place to travel to, and it's also a place where PCs are expected to recover their stocks of food and water, sell anything valuable they may have stripped from defeated monsters along the way, and also where they might stop over to do some local jobs that need doing in order to cover their travel expenses as well as even make money on the side to invest in better travel equipment or the like. Liquid cash seems generally rather difficult to get outside of towns, as most creatures don't keep treasure- not even dragons, as they have better things to do, like be majestic manifestations of the natural world.

The game offers a number of suggestions as to when to actually create towns, each with its own risks. The riskiest point is to do it right when the PCs arrive, as that means the GM is forced to work up everything about it right on the spot in the middle of the game's play. Not that there aren't some people who can pull this off, but I'm certainly not one of them.

The way it generally goes for towns is that the GM will first decide the name of the town, and decide what size it is (there are four sizes: village, town, city, and large city), while the remaining details are handled as a group. the remaining categories are-

Government- Who rules the town and how do they do it. Is it ruled by some aristocrat, a town council, or some other party in power. This also includes the name and personality of the ruler or chief representtive of the ruling party.

Environment- What the town is built on. Is it a literal city on a hill, or is it on a flat plain, or in the middle of a lake? That sort of thing.

Representative building- The details of something big and prominent that representative of the general feel of the town. This can be a castle, a huge mill, an astronomy tower, or even famous ruins- in the campaign I ran, this was a piece of the Dark Emperor's sky battleship that crashed in the middle of town and was the center of its tourist trade.

Sights/Sounds/Smells- Self explanatory. Basically all of the things that greet a traveler's senses when they first arrive at a town. A town noted for its fulling will have a much more... "distinct" smell than one that's known for its baking.

Town threats- Every town has problems, and this one is no exception. This can be pretty open, as it could be external threats, such as bandits or monsters, or internal ones, like feuding noble families. Whatever it is, it's a problem, and it may or may not be something the travelers will be able to solve themselves.

Of course, having towns ins great and all, but you'll probably need a world to put them in. This pt is entirely communal, and the game suggests that, if you have new players, it might not be a bad idea to hold off on this until you've actually played a few sessions of the game, so they can get a feel for just the general ways of the game. The more general aesthetic of the Ryuutama world is of a somewhat magical, idealized and pleasant Early Renaissance Europe and whatnot shared with a feel of old Japanese towns and culture. As a note, wacky magitek is not necessarily outside of this, because the line between fantasy and sci-fi in Japanese storytelling is much, much blurrier than in Western writing- one of the most famous old Japanese folktales is essentially about a guy raising an alien baby and her life on Earth before her incredibly advanced people arrive from her home to take her back.

The main world categories are-

World Name- Exactly what it sounds like.

World Shape- Now things are getting interesting. This is all about the physical structure of the world. It might be flat, it might be in the inside of a hollow sphere, it might be any sort of configuration that works for everyone. Normal is still a viable option.

World History- Not asking for huge timelines here, just some events that have shaped the world's history in brief and general terms. This is an RPG session, not a "write the Silmarillion" session.

Representative Countries- A couple or a few countries that best represent the feel of your world, and may even be places that the group travels to over the course of their journey.

World Threats- Some worldwide problem that's pretty major and has the potential to affect or even end everything. It's also fine to put "None" in here, which is something I pretty much always do. There are plenty of other RPGs for that sort of thing, thank you very much.

World Enigmas- Making up some mystery, secret, or even bizarre happenings that even the people of the world don't know the answer to. This is where you come up with one of the above, but the actual truth is left to the GM to decide.

Of course, there is nothing mechanical that keeps the players from handing this kind of thing over to the GM, if they're a bit more traditionally-minded. That happened in the campaign I ran with this, so I basically ended up creating a post-Final Fantasy world that took place about a hundred years after the Dark Emperor and his four lieutenants were destroyed for good. There are war museums, historic sites and even tourist traps built around some very rather imposing remnants of the struggle. Of course, there are also some rather dangerous left-behinds, and some groups of Neo-Imperials who are all about how the Dark Emperor was just a Hard Man making Hard Decisions, and he got things done, maaaaan. And just where did the final battle take place, anyway?

It went over pretty well.

Next up: Dragon Dragon, rock the Dragon, Dragonman Z.

PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, '14, 3:32 pm 
What a GM is to do?

Make a character, of course.

The GM actually has their own character in Ryuutama, the Ryuujin that's following the PCs along and writing down everything that happens, no matter how embarrassing. The Ryuujin also have a number of abilities, some of which depend on which color Ryuujin is chosen to go along with the PCs and the campaign. All Ryuujin can choose from one of three artefacts, which affect the way the game is played, and three unique Benedictions, which are bonuses the they can confer on the group in certain circumstances. There are also powers which all Ryuujin can use, and these powers are cast from the Ryuujin's Life Points- If the Ryuujin's LP reaches zero, it dies forever, and a new one must be assigned to the party.

The game does give some guidelines for the use of Ryuujin in game, in that the Ryuujin's powers shouldn't be used too often (not that this is especially possible, most of the time), nor should the Ryuujin actually appear in person too much. Generally, the Ryuujin should appear once in a while (even if it's just in disguise), but not too much- the role of the Ryuujin is to record the travels of people, not direct them, nor to employ travelers as their own errand-persons.

There are four colors of Ryuujin, chosen depending on the type of campaign.

Green Dragon- The green Ryuujin is pretty much the default for most Ryuutama stories, as these govern stories of travel, exploration, adventure, freedom, that sort of thing. Their three artefacts are the book, which means default rules are in play, the Sextant, which means some house rules are in effect (tell your players what they are!), and the torch, which doubles received XP. Their powers are all about the travel itself, mainly in ignoring negative travel modifiers or status ailments, plus one that gives bonus gold if travelers write about the journey.

Blue Dragon- The Blue Ryuujin is the second most common, as Ryuutama is supposed to be a feelgood game, thank you very much. this one governs stories of family, friendship, love, and community, and its artefacts reflect that. His three possible choices are the crystal, which gives PCs an enormous negative HP buffer, the ring, which determines that all of the PCs are either related (secretly or openly) or classmates, and the Mascot, which allows the Ryuujin to always travel with the PCs in a shapechanged form. His own powers have to deal with temporarily increasing the spirit score or defense points of PCs under certain circumstances, as well as handing out fumble points for moving roleplay.

Red Dragon- The Red Dragon is all about stories of war, glory, life-and-death struggle, valor, those sorts of things, so this stack of goodies revolves around combat. The Greatsword allows twice as many objects to be placed in battle as normal, the Longspear, which determines that all PCs are a member of some army or another, and the longbow, which turns all attacks against PCs into opposed rolls- there is no fixed dodge value. His powers are about increasing strength and such, plus he also has a once-per-campaign power of, while in battle, reviving any dead PCs and restoring all party members to full health.

Black Dragon- The black Ryuujin is the least commonly used, because they tend to cover stories of tragedy, intrigue, madness, mystery, and similar sordid business. Not all of this one's artefacts are helpful to the PCs, as they include the Chalice, which determines that all the PCs have some kind of dark past, the dagger, which, once per campaign, can instantly kill any NPC, and the Mirror, which forces PCs to make a roll every time they experience fear or gain a nasty status ailment. The unique powers allow this Ryuujin to grant players bonuses to rolls when acting out of revenge or cooperation, and even one that allows PCs to regain MP by killing human-sized or larger enemies.

At the beginning, each Ryuujin can only choose one Benediction per session, but that changes as they level up.

Then there are the common Beneditions, which don't need to be slotted, but are generally more expensive in LP- and Ryuujin never really have a huge amount to spare. These govern things like rewinding or fast-forwarding time, changing dice rolls to fumbles or criticals, and even manipulating enemy strength and abilities. There is a second class of common powers called the Réveil, where the Ryuujin takes on a dragon form to bestow some boon or aid to the travelers. the number of these that a Ryuujin can use is limited by level, and they also tend to be on the expensive side, LP-wise. they do have powerful effects, like granting extra food and water, taking damage for PCs, and other adventure aids.

The Ryuujin doesn't level up based on some kind of calculated experience, but rather based on the number of sessions that have been played in the campaign. Levels grant a host of benefits, such as adding new powers, more slots for current powers, being able to take a second artefact, and so on. At max level, the Ryuujin gets to use Ritual Benedictions, which are actually metagame powers, such as if a player falls alseep at the table, the Ryuujin arranges for the character's wallet to be stolen, or the next session's GM being determined by a game of rock-paper-scissors. My opinion of the latter? Let's not go there, it's a silly place.

Next up: Session creation.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, '14, 1:21 am 
I had hoped the game would be out by now, but it seemed I had misread one of the announcements. Still, no excuse not to continue.

Scenario Creation

So, this is pretty much where Western and Japanese GMing styles start to diverge. In general, Japanese players will pretty much go along with anything, but Japanese tabletop gaming tends to be a somewhat more structured affair, either mechanically or just plain in the advice- this is because Japanese gaming tends not to take place at people's homes, but rather at other, more public venues, such as cafes, restaurants, and other areas where there is a definite premium on time to both get things started and wrap things up. Because of this, there are a lot of Japanese tabletop games built with the assumption that a particular adventure scenario will wrap up by closing time or whenever, and this sort of thing can be seen across Japanese tabletop games, like Tenra Bansho Zero, Maid, Double Cross, and I believe Shinobigami.

Step one: Consult yourself. You've read the book, and you've probably got some ideas of what you want to do with the game. Well, you should anyway. the art has probably been a big help on that score. You've got some ideas, you want to turn them into a game, good on you. Step two: You should probably consult your players, too, because there may be some things they want to see happen in the campaign. Even if you don't necessarily agree on the details, this is also a good place to hash out what exactly expectations are for the upcoming game and all that. This is probably essential as Ryuutama isn't all that close to pretty much any other fantasy game out right now.

The game does come with a set of sheets to keep track of all of the various scenario bits that you're probably going to want to hold onto in order to run the games. Aside from the world and settlement stuff that has already been covered. The first is the Scenario Target, which is all about keeping track of what kind of adventure that this leg of the journey is going to be. The second one is the Scenario Cultivation sheet, which is about arranging the events of the story in a rough approximation of the 3-act form, because that's just something people are familiar with. The last is the Scenario Events, which is basically where you put down all of the gritty details.

Not that any of these sheets are required, they mainly exist for organization's sake.

And then next is the Balance table, which includes things like roughly what level range of enemies PCs should be able to handle, the max terrain difficulty PCs of certain level ranges should generally be expected to handle, and the general reward range by level range for a given scenario.

So, let me talk about GM'ing, as I've been at this whole tabletop RPG thing for a while. There are some people who pretty much explode when it comes to suggested balance for adventures in tabletop games with things like. "But a good GM doesn't need any balance stuff!". So, here's the thing. There are good GMs, who really do know how to handle all these kinds of things to make good games. There are also terrible GMs who are convinced that they're good, whom no advice can save. But in between there are a very great number of GMs who are not maliciously bad, but don't really know how to run a good game out of the book and who either kinda need the help or really need the help- most of these being starting GMs who are not aggressively and proudly terrible but are also not yet good, and pretty much anyone who starts this sort of thing on their own, absent other factors, are not going to be good at it. I definitely wasn't, and anyone who has gone through the same thing almost certainly wasn't either. Not bad enough to make players leave, but bad enough to make one glad one's friends are polite.

So, next time- Monsters.

PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, '15, 8:59 pm 
Well, the game is actually finally out now, so I thought I might as well finish up here.

A Slime Draws Near!

And those are actual monsters.

So, the monster section of Ryuutama draws from a mix of standard RPG monsters, more Japanese fare, and whatever the imagination of the author happened to come up with on the spot, because that's just how things are done. All monsters have the same sort of stat block, which includes their vital statistics, special abilities (if any), harvestable materials (if any) and level, which is used to determine the (usually paltry) amount of experience they give when it comes time to assess the end-of-session experience points.

Monsters in Ryuutama tend not to have gigantic stat blocks, and typically never have more than two special qualities to throw at the PCs. This isn't to say that monsters can't be incredibly dangerous, especially considering that the PCs of Ryuutama are common travelers rather than the mighty heroes that can occur in other RPGs. Characters are not defenseless, and there are minor threats they can handily deal with, but there are some things that they just really should not consider getting involved with unless completely pressed. Besides that, combat just isn't generally thought of as a large part of the game.

Parts of the monster section would be familiar to anyone who has played Dungeons and Dragons at any time whatsoever, and in the case of Deadly Grass, anyone who has also managed to play Ultima III. And unlike other games, there is pretty much zero point to fighting dragons at all. There are huge, dangerous, well-armored, and possess no treasure of any sort whatsoever. The only real way someone could make money fighting most monsters is if someone in town was paying for the act, which may not be unheard of. Dungeon delving just isn't really an option.

While humans are the only playable peoples (at least in the core book), time is spent on the other actual intelligent peoples, those being the Nekogoblins and the Gobroaches- apparently they used to be regular goblinoids about but at some point they were "replaced" by the cat creatures that effectively serve as the games secondary mascot. Remember folks- cats are carnivorous predators in the wild. The gobroaches themselves are tough critters who believe it is the fundamental duty of any living roach to dirty up their corner of the world, and the most dangerous members have delved so deep into the inner Tao of filth that they have become outright radioactive.

Something tells me that this game isn't meant to be played super-seriously.

The monster section does provide a pretty wide swath of antagonists from the living, the unliving, to the never-living-but-still-walking-around sort, like monster houses and all that, but there's no real system or method to the madness of creating custom monsters. Thankfully, the examples do provide enough basis to build monsters and just eyeball the whole thing from the get go. Besides, it's not like PCs are usually going to get a huge amount out of fighting monsters in the first place.

It also amuses me that even though the default zombie scenario in almost everything else is "total apocalypse", the typical zombie in this game is pretty much no threat at all to commoners. People are just built tough in these parts, I suppose. I guess they have to, if they're going to be travel-ready.

And that's it for the book.

I've had chances to actually run the game, and it is a pretty good time, so anyone who does do the tabletop thing should give it a look, at least.

As for me, I may do another tabletop RPG book sometime. This is "General Gaming", after all.

Last edited by R-90-2 on Mon Aug 31, '15, 8:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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