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Rise of the Yōkai Koku

Roleplaying in feudal Japan with Revolution D100

  • The PDF is released

    Rise of the Yokai Koku is finally available on RPG Meeting. 

    http://www.rpgmeeting.org/en/component/hikashop/prodotto/rise-of-the-yokai-koku

    The Takeda clan is waiting for you in the faraway province of Shinano...

  • Thank you, and some considerations

    Dear contributors,

    As you can see, this campaign has not funded. Rise of the Yōkai Koku will appear, but in electronic format only. A pity, but not a catastrophe.

    You may have noticed that we have not pushed the campaign much in these last days. Maybe you are wondering whether a massive advertising campaign might have changed the final outcome. Perhaps, but there is a consideration we have made during the first half of the crowdfunding period. Unlike other projects, contributors to this one chose mainly the electronic format for their reward. In other words, even if the idea did generate some excitement among players, the format which this campaign intended to fund (a printed supplement) was not perceived as the best one for Rise of the Yōkai Koku. Please note that the number of contributors reached, if the usual percentage of 80% had chosen a printed reward, could have been sufficient to fund the project. With a percentage of 50% choosing the paper version, funding was much harder.

    With the basic premise of the campaign in doubt, we decided that it was not a good idea to use pure marketing techniques to reach the goal. If the majority of players preferred a PDF, then giving them a PDF was the way to go. And this we can do even without a successful crowdfunding.

    Now, the contributors who pledged for a physical copy will certainly ask one question: what about a print on demand version? Well, it is not entirely ruled out, but at the moment we have not organised any POD version for any product in the Revolution D100 line, except the combat cards. And the cards have sold poorly as a POD item, whereas the small print run which we have sold directly on RPG Meeting has sold out. That said, POD is possible, but not a priority. Especially with two other crowdfundings still to fulfill, for a total of five books and two accessories yet to produce. Let us go back to these before thinking about POD of other products.

    Finally, please remain tuned. We will have further news for Rise of the Yōkai Koku coming soon.

    All the best,

    Paolo Guccione
    Alephtar Games

     

  • Rituals, and the last days.

    Hello contributors and contributors-to-be,

    We are at the last days of our campaign. The goal is still far, but it would not be the first time that 900 eur materialize in the last three days, so we are still in the race till the end. Let us wait for the undecided to make up their minds.

    Today we wish to present to you an important piece of rule expansion (it is more a clarification, in fact) which will be part of the campaign pack: rituals. Rituals are an important part of Japanese culture, and Asian culture in general, and the heroes of the campaign will soon discover that some rituals play an important part in the plot. Cunning players whose character is a monk or a Shinto or Onmioji magician will have the opportunity to use rituals to turn the events in their favour.

    -----

    Ritual Casting

    Most power descriptions refer to the effects of activation in Combat Time, and in some cases specifically in Advanced Combat. In some cases a hero can activate a power minutes or hours, sometimes even days or weeks before he or she actually needs them in Combat: for example, a Blessing of the Kami usually remains active for several combat encounters, and an Arcane Spell can be extended to last until the next Downtime by tripling the Channeling it uses up. Ultimately, though, the default effect is supposed to occur during a Combat or a non-violent Conflict, and the activation procedure takes just a handful of seconds.

    By using a more complex casting procedure that can only work outside combat, a character can alter the scope of a power to obtain broader and more creative effects within its general framework. In this case, the power user must spend extra time, ranging from some minutes to several weeks, engaging in rituals and practices which help him or her to focus personal energy on the desired effect, or to better commune with the supernatural entity which must provide it.

    The Time Scale on which this ritual takes place may vary: from Adventure Time for an enhanced version of the power, to Downtime for an Enchantment that permanently alters the nature of an item or place. A Conflict of the caster’s Will against the full Value of the power takes the place of the Activation Roll used in Combat Time, and is mandatory even for powers which would normally not require a roll in Combat. From a practical point of view, this Conflict *is* the ritual, and we can call it a Ritual Casting, or Deep Meditation.

    If the Conflict is successful, the final effect of the power is altered in one or more of the following ways:

    1.       The scope of the power is enhanced.

    2.       The power takes effect on a higher Range scale (see Enhanced Range Table).

    3.       The power can affect a group of targets, or become an area effect.

    4.       The power duration is extended beyond normal.

    The exact implication of these enhancement will be detailed in the following paragraphs, and are often dependent on the Time Scale on which the ritual takes place.

    Running the Conflict

    A ritual implies a Conflict of the caster’s Will against the full Value of the desired effect, including the multiplier for the Time Scale. Focusing, Holiness or other derived attributes can take the place of Will if relevant, and if higher. The Time Scale of the conflict must match the desired duration of the effect, and the desired Range according to the enhanced range table. The character cannot end the Conflict with a Quick Exit, while the Narrator can (and should, if the power user is attempting to obtain an effect far beyond his or her limits).

    The skill used in the Conflict is always Concentration, and the caster can always use the Power itself as a Concentration Trait, even when it would normally occupy a slot in another skill or Allegiance, or when it is not considered a Trait. The Challenge Rating is usually 50%, but can rise to 80% in the following cases:

    ·         if the Value of the power is more than double the power user’s starting Resolution Points,

    ·         if the ritual takes place in a magically or psychically hostile environment,

    or in other specific conditions, depending on the ritual.

    Any Negative Consequences the power user suffers are automatically Recurrent and will stay in place at least as long as the power effect(s) last. You will often label these Consequences as psychic fatigue, but the Narrator may introduce other Consequences with interesting narrative effects.

    Who can use rituals, and when?

    Possession of a Ritual Casting or Meditation stunt is usually necessary to use the meditative form of a power. However, in most settings and contexts this stunt is included in the pre-requisite Trait for being a magician. For instance, the Miko, Kannushi, Monk or Shugenja Status traits allow Ritual Casting, and the knowledge of Onmyoji clearly includes it, too.

    Nominally, cantrips are too narrow in scope to form the basis of a ritual. However, a monk’s ability to extend their Might beyond the normal limit of 4 enables him or her to make the spell flexible enough to cast them ritually. Blessings from the Kami and all kind of powers that allow manipulation with Stunts can be use it in a ritual, even when the power user does not know any Manipulation Stunt. It is the very nature of the power that makes it flexible and extensible, not the caster’s abilities.

    Innate powers are usually not fit for Ritual use. Exceptions to this principle are usually mentioned in a specific creature description.

    Enhanced Scope

    Powers with an enhanced scope become more or less freeform, and both the player and the Narrator must agree that a specific effect is possible before attempting to create it. When the Narrator does not approve a specific usage, he or she should simply tell the player, and never set an “impossible” level of difficulty for the Conflict.

    As long as the nature of the power is not altered, its effect may become significantly broader, in some cases paralleling what greater powers of the same kind can achieve non-ritually. For instance:

    1.       Project Lightning could create a thunderstorm if a large enough area is influenced, or Project Cold could create a snowstorm or an avalanche.

    2.       Head of the Beast could transform the caster into the animal, like Totem of the Beast would do, just in a longer time and without some of the extra enhancements.

    3.       Demoralise or Telepathy could send disturbing or revealing dreams to a distant person, providing the caster has access to a personal item belonging to the target.

    Duration

    A ritually cast power can be kept active as long as the Time Scale of the game remains the same used in the Ritual Casting. This extension of duration does not use up any Channelling. Even Instant powers can be prolonged with a ritual, as their instantaneous effect can be delayed until a triggering condition activates it, or even repeated for several times (for instance, when a thunderstorm generated with Project Lightning creates thunderbolts).

    A ritual casting can be used simply to prolong the standard effects of a Power and keep it ready for use in Combat or Adventure time. If a power user performs a ritual to achieve this effect, the power does not count against Channelling or whatever limit the power system uses for extending duration. In fact, Channelling and pre-activation of spells are an abstraction representing the application of extra concentration to the power to keep it active for longer, which is a form of ritual itself. If the player takes the time to roleplay a ritual, taking extra time and risking Consequences, then this takes the place of the pre-activation procedure and lets him or her avoid the expenditure of Channelling.

    Some circumstances may suggest employing a Conflict rather than a pre-Activation for narrative reasons, particularly when the power has the Overcome or Concentration attributes. For instance, it makes sense that using Dominate on an individual to keep him or her under constant control be treated as a Conflict.

    Attributes

    Even though the scope or scale of the power is enhanced, its numeric attributes remain the same as those of the non-ritual version. However, the meaning of a numeric attribute may vary in the ritual version of the power.

    If the power user can manipulate some attributes with Manipulation Stunts or in other ways, then he or she can do the same when ritually casting the power, and within the same limits (Focusing, extra Allegiance, etc.). Otherwise, the attributes cannot exceed those normally permitted for the power in Combat Time, and minimal requirements for attributes must be met. For instance, an aura of fear cast over an area must have a Might of 2, the standard for Demoralize.

    Might

    The actual Might of a ritual power cannot exceed those of its Combat Time version, but it might be applied differently. For instance, a magically created thunderstorm will create thunderbolts with a damage potential not greater than the Might of the original Project Lightning; however, lightning can now strike targets that the magician could not see when he or she performed the ritual.

    Range

    The equivalent in distance of the Range attribute varies according to the Time Scale of the ritual (see table).

    Enhanced range table

    Range score

    Range, Combat Time

    Radius, Adventure Time

    Radius, Narrative Time or Downtime

    Touch (0)

    Touch

    Touch

    Touch

    C (1)

    Close, or WILx2 metres

    WIL kilometres

    WILx10 kilometres

    S (2)

    Short, or WILx5 metres

    WILx2 kilometres

    WILx20 kilometres

    M (3)

    Medium, or WILx10 metres

    WILx3 kilometres

    WILx30 kilometres

    L (4)

    Long, or WILx20 metres

    WILx4 kilometres

    WILx40 kilometres

    XL (5)

    X-Long, or WILx30 metres

    WILx6 kilometres

    WILx60 kilometres

    XXL (6)

    XX-Long, or WILx50 metres

    WILx8 kilometres

    WILx80 kilometres

    XXXL (7)

    XXX-Long, or WILx100 metres

    WILx10 kilometres

    WILx100 kilometres

    +1

    +WIL x50 metres

    +WILx2 kilometres

    +WILx20 kilometres

     

    Targets

    Ritual casting can sometimes extend the effect of a single-target power to an entire party. This can be particularly useful if the power can normally affect only the caster, but like most ritual options this one is only available with Narrator approval.

    Ritualizing a power with multiple Targets can create an area effect. In order to obtain this, the number of targets must be at least triple the numeric value of range. The caster may opt to diminish Range in order to keep it within one third of the Targets attribute.

    An area effect can affect a number of targets equal to its Targets attribute per time unit. If the power has the Overcome attribute, it will activate a Conflict against that number of targets in the area, starting with those with the lowest target characteristic. The targets must overcome the caster’s Will to resist, and the Challenge Rating is equal to his or her Concentration.

    Example: An evil oni magician wishes to keep interlopers away from his grove. His allegiance with the Kami of Void allows him to learn Mass Demoralise with a maximum of seven targets, and a Range of Short (2 points). As the number of Targets is more than three times the Range, he can make this an area effect. The oni makes an Adventure Time Conflict against an opposition of 22 (Might 2 plus Range 2 plus Targets 7, multiplied by two for Adventure Time), and wins. A lesser yōkai could have voluntarily decreased the Range to Close and the number of Targets to three to reduce the opposition to 12, but our oni is magically strong and manages to win the Conflict even with such a formidable opposition. For the duration of the ritual any group entering the area will find up to seven of its members affected by fear, in a Conflict against the caster’s Will which requires them to make a roll each five minutes’ time. Targets which lose the conflict will be Demoralised, and probably flee, letting other intruders exposed to the effect within the next five minutes.

    The oni can use such a ritual to repel a group of attackers whom he has already detected, taking less than one hour (Adventure Time) to perform the ritual and scare them away. In order to keep the effect active for several hours or even days (Narrative Time), allowing him to move away from his lair while leaving it protected, the creature must perform a Narrative Time ritual, which will increase the Value multiplier for duration. With the same range and number of targets, the ritual would now have a Value of 33, too much even for a yōkai magician. Unable to reduce Might below 2, the oni will have to decrease Range and Targets to keep the value beatable. He will then cast the ritual in Narrative Time with Might 2, Range Close and 3 Targets, for a total of (6 base x 3 for Narrative Time) 18 Value. Luckily, the Radius will in any case increase because of the higher Time Scale.

    Enchanting

    Enchantment and item creation are always treated as rituals, as they require a Conflict against their Value to make them permanent or semi-permanent, so the rules in this section apply in these cases. As specified, enchanting is the only case when you use ritual casting for the sole purposes of prolonging power duration: if you want to make a power effect permanent, you must perform a Downtime ritual, with each round of the Conflict representing one week’s time. With the Narrator’s approval, the length of rounds can be reduced to one day, but this will raise the Challenge Rating to 80%.

    Example. Taro the Sōhei wants to create a magic yari with +2 damage. In order to enchant a spell permanently, he must beat its Value in a Conflict. He can touch the weapon (Range 0) in the process so he needs only count Target 1 and the Might he wishes to add, up to the limit of his Channelling, as he is a monk. A spear doing +2 damage is a Might 2 magic weapon, which gives us just three points of attributes. However the Time Scale for an enchantment is Downtime (4), so the Basic Value of 3 must be multiplied by 4 for a final Value of 12. Taro is confident that he can beat a 12-point Resolution Pool in a Conflict, so he goes on and begins the enchanting ritual, which will take several weeks.

     

  • Representing Japanese religion in game

    An important part of the background materials of Rise of the Yōkai Koku deals with the integration of Japanese religion in the representation of characters and opponents in the campaign.

    Cultural information about medieval Japan is not included in the supplement, so you should look elsewhere for extended background information. Two good game supplements exist for D100 roleplaying in feudal Japan: the out of print Land of Ninja (Avalon Hill) and the more recent Samurai of Legend (Mongoose Publishing, originally titled Land of the Samurai). Both contain a good representation of Japanese culture and are a recommended reading if you wish to run Rise of the Yōkai Koku. Just keep in mind that they focus on slightly different periods: SoL is set in the earlier Heian period, while LoN is more about the Edo period, when the constant warfare of the Sengoku Jidai somehow comes to a halt. However, a good book about Japan history and culture will also provide you the necessary background information (spoiler warning: it will also tell you what is about to happen in the campaign).

    The big difference between the aforementioned supplements and RotYK is how Japanese religion is represented, in particular how it provides magic to the player characters. We have strived a lot to give a correct representation of Buddhism and Shintō, and yet make them useful in game terms, i.e. in the magic they provide. We find the standard D100 way of representing cults as providing both cantrips (battle magic) and blessings (divine magic) inadequate to the Japanese medium. Yet heroic characters of the period do wield magic – probably even more frequently than their Western counterparts – so it is imperative that our adventurers receive some magical benefits from their devotion to Kami and Buddha.

    It is also important to note that a general tendency to syncretism characterized the Sengoku era, with a marked prevalence of Buddhism over Shintō characterized. It was the Tokugawa shogunate (yep, one of the Bad Guys in our campaign…) which revitalized Shintō as a state religion to oppose the power of independent Buddhist schools, which had become as influent as the secular government during the previous centuries. His friend Oda Nobunaga was even more radical: he razed Buddhist temples and slaughtered monks rather than incentivizing Kami worship.

    How to represent all this and yet keep magic accessible and fun? And how to correctly represent the big difference between Buddhism (that aims at unleashing the inner potential of humanity) and Shintō (where a superior power is called upon to aid mankind)? Because in Buddhism it is man who ascends to the divine by becoming a Bodhisattva or a Buddha, not the divine that descends over man.

    For this reason, we have decided to use two different magic systems for the two religions. Buddhism provides cantrips, which are less powerful (you are not yet a Buddha, after all), are more ubiquitous, and most important are fueled by the inner energy of the worshipper. On the other hand, Shintō provides blessings, more powerful but less frequent, and above all very specific to the Kami that the character worships – usually some local deity. In the end, the result is that your standard character will have the classic mix of magic: as many cantrips as he or she can learn, with Heal being a favourite, plus a small selection of blessings from the local deity of his or her homeland.

    This approach has also enabled us to introduce a slight difference, in game terms, between Zen and esoteric Buddhism. While the former relies on pure meditation practices, refraining from focusing on transcendent beings to gather one’s power, the latter includes ritual imagery, gestures and chanting that are often referred to as Mikkyo, a traditional Japanese approach to esoterism. The difference in game terms is slight – the ability to use magic while swordfighting – but relevant, and you can easily make mudhra and dharani more important in your game if your players appreciate this sort of details.

  • Here comes the Snow Woman

    Good morning supporters. Thanks to all who have contributed and to all who are talking about us on foums and social channels. Please do not wait till the last moment to make your pledge if you have already made up your mind, the sooner we are closer to our objective the more some undecided roleplayers will be tempted to jump on the bandwagon and pledge!

    It is now time for our first news/update. As stated, I cannot reveal much of the creatures you will encounter in game or I will spoiler the contents of the campaign. However, here is a "monster" whom the players are not supposed to meet in the campaign (or are they? do not forget that the highest pledger gets to add his or her own scenario to the campaign...) but could be included in an appendix if we have room for extra contents.

    And so, let us introduce one of my favourite Japanese creatures: the Yuki Onna, or Snow Woman. She can provide a lot of adventure hooks in your game, and is even suitable as an adventurer. I once allowed my ex-wife to play one, and it was a world of fun!

    Until the next update - and feel free to ask questions, we are here to reply.