Category Archives: ideas


Although it goes without saying that S. John Ross is a living fountain of awesome, today I stumbled across the Adventures of Darcy Dare paper miniatures font. The art is done in that kickass illustration style that’s used by lots of industry pros, yet aside from the Esurance commercials hasn’t gotten anywhere near the mainstream exposure it deserves. Some time I seriously want to run a game based around the general feel of Darcy Dare, and have each player pick out a character from the font to represent their character.

Also, since I had more money in my PayPal account than I realized, I decided to order some more things from Sunset Games. I’m finally getting Mononoke Koyake, the sourcebook for Yuuyake Koyake that adds kappas, aliens, ghosts, oni, and michinoke (I’m not sure what those are either). Also, I ordered Aitsu wa Classmate! (“That’s My Classmate!”), a newer game (by an entirely different designer) about high school wackiness. Finally, I’m also getting the newest issue of A Local Paper, Sunset Games’ little in-house magazine thingy. Past issues have included convention reports, mini-RPGs, scenarios, etc., though I’m getting the newest issue which has a Yuuyake Koyake replay with designer commentary, and a Maid RPG scenario.


Since it’s looking like it’s going to become an important part of two of the games I’m working on, I decided to write up a blog post about kishoutenketsu (起承転結). Kishoutenketsu is a four-act structure commonly used in Japan. Although it originally derives from Chinese poetry, it has been applied to all sorts of longer works, including novels and manga. The four stages are introduction, development, climax (or turn), and resolution. Just like the three-act structure (set-up, confrontation, resolution) more commonly used in the West, it is ultimately just a model, and it certainly can’t be used to explain the structure of every story out there.

On the other hand, there’s the case of yon-koma (four-panel) manga. These are comic strips consisting of four vertical panels, and are more or less Japan’s version of our newspaper comic strips (which, possibly not coincidentally, are mostly three panels). When you examine yon-koma comics from the point of view of kishoutenketsu, more often than not the panels correspond exactly to the four-act structure, wrought in miniature. In case you’re wondering I learned about this through (1) a fan-translation of Welcome to the NHK, which mentioned kishoutenketsu in a footnote, and (2) a how to draw manga book I saw at a store and have never been able to find since.

Anyway, with Raspberry Heaven most of the source material (notably Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star) started off as yon-koma manga. Even when I come up with a good idea I usually need some prodding in the right direction, so it wasn’t until Jake Richmond egged me on that I came up with a good idea for how to use it in this game, and in a way that will hopefully make the game that much better. Essentially it’s going to be a part of the rules structure for how scenes are set up and run. The four phases are:

  1. Ki/Introduction: The player sets up and initiates the scene.
  2. Shou/Development: The group commences role-playing.
  3. Ten/Climax: The scene comes to a head, and a “challenge” (a thing that requires rolling dice) happens.
  4. Ketsu/Resolution: A little more to bring the aftermath of the climax into the game, and to close up the scene.

With Tokyo Heroes (at Filip’s urging) I’m also planning to use it, albeit on a different scale. As a genre, sentai has a relatively rigid plot structure, so the four acts could correspond fairly tightly to the stages of the story of a standard episode, with mechanical effects (or a lack thereof) appropriate to each.

  1. Ki/Introduction: The game starts, with the heroes doing something ordinary (for them) that, though they don’t know it yet, is going to lead into this week’s conflict.
  2. Shou/Development: The inciting incident hits. The heroes have to do whatever investigating is necessary to be ready for this week’s battle. For this I’m thinking of taking a cue from Gumshoe/Esoterrorists, and making it more about how the PCs find clues rather than if.
  3. Ten/Climax: The battle finally happens for real. The heroes go all-out and beat the monster of the week.
  4. Ketsu/Resolution: The game goes a little further, to establish what happens after the monster is defeated. The people affected by it turn back to normal, the girl it kidnapped is freed, etc. The heroes go back to base and things settle down. Credits roll. Preview plays.

Raspberry Heaven is coming together fast enough that I might actually be able to playtest it before the month is up. With Tokyo Heroes it’s kind of a different story in that Filip sent me a LONG e-mail (8 pages when I printed it out) with a blow-by-blow critique. It’s been tremendously helpful, but it’s required me to rethink some very basic parts of the game’s structure, and a massive rewrite is in order before I do more playtesting.

(Some day I’ll work on Thrash 2.0 again…)

Yarukimantan: Raspberry Heaven

Now that my freelance translation stuff is mercifully done (for now), I want to get back into doing creative stuff over what’s left of the summer, including getting back into the swing of things with game design. Although I need more time to think about my Slime Story idea, I wound up coming up with a new game idea that while not groundbreaking per se is definitely promising and doable. There’s nothing quite like it as far as I know, and it’s not so ambitious that I’m worried about (a) whether I can actually finish it, or (b) whether the end result will be complicated enough to be a pain to get fine-tuned. More importantly, I’m actually excited about it.

Raspberry Heaven (bonus points if you get the reference) is meant to be a game about Japanese high school girls, but where Panty Explosion has them being mean to each other (plus the occasional exploding head), this would be about fun, everyday stuff. It’s Azumanga Daioh, Lucky Star, Ichigo Mashimaro, or Hidamari Sketch (take your pick) with the serial numbers filed off. Basically, a light-hearted slice of life kind of thing. I’m still working out how the rules will function, but I’m thinking the end result is going to look like a mashup of The Shab-al-Hiri Roach and Best Friends, but with a general feel more akin to Yuuyake Koyake. It’ll most likely be GM-less, something I’ve been wanting to experiment with anyway, and revolve around the players setting up scenes, very much like in the Roach.

It’s still very much in the preliminary stages, so while I have a rough idea of how I think the overall game will work, lots of things are up in the air, and there are lots of bits that I’m looking forward to discovering how I’m going to make them work. Of the four anime titles I mentioned above, three were originally done as yonkoma (4-panel) manga, so one wacky idea would be to somehow fit the four stages of kishoutenketsu (起承転結; introduction, development, climax, resolution) into the game somehow.

Update: Started a thread in the Forge’s First Thoughts forum.

Here we are!

Yay! My first new post on WordPress! I’m still working on getting acquainted with the interface and whatnot. Anyway.

In case you’re wondering “yaruki zero” is Japanese (やる気ゼロ) for “no motivation.” It’s an “extreme in-joke” (meaning I’m the only one who really gets it and finds it funny); when I and some other students were forced to do a skit for a Japanese class, after the ordeal was over I was thinking, “Well, that’s what happens when you have a group made of up people who didn’t want to do this in the first place. We’re ‘Team Yaruki Zero!'” Like my Go Play keychain, it’s also a reminder to myself to actually do stuff.

My package from Amazon Japan came in the main on Thursday, so I now have shiny new copies of Ru/Li/Lu/Ra, Alshard ff, and the bunko version of Arianrhod. I will post about these more when I’ve had a chance to really read them. At the moment I’ve been distracted by the manga I ordered along with them (new volumes of Genshiken, Yotsubato! and Rozen Maiden), plus I want to finish reading Gary Alan Fine’s book Shared Fantasy, which is a sociological study of RPGs from 1983, before I have to return it to the library.

Although the setting of Alshard looks fantastic, the underlying system is very, very similar to Beast Bind and Arianrhod (and part of why I picked up Ru/Li/Lu/Ra was just to make sure I picked up something not from FEAR). Interestingly, FEAR has taken the basic rules from Alshard (specifically the version from Alshard GAIA) and created what appears to be an open system, called (heh) the “Standard RPG System” (SRS for short). I’ll have to sit down and read/translate it, and see just how much they allow people to do with it. I’m wondering if they’d be amenable to an English translation to it, especially since it would be perfect for some of my more mainstream RPG project ideas (notably Ether Star and Catgirl: The Storytelling Game).

I also got the newest issue of Role&Roll, Japan’s main RPG magazine, and was inspired to post about it on Story Games herehere. Admittedly in posting it I was sort of crossing my fingers and hoping, but I was still (pleasantly) surprised when Tad Kelson posted saying he was going to try to put together an indie gaming mag.

I’m also hard at work on my anime RPG project (I still don’t know what to call it; I’m using “Anime Dreams” as a placeholder). I have a small notebook I use to write down stuff when I’m away from my computer, and I’ve literally filled up about 40 pages just with ideas for this game. Right now I’m mainly working on the conflict resolution rules — which will be at the heart of the whole thing — and it’s taking a heck of a lot of work. I keep catching myself staring off into space on the train and thinking really hard about it. I’m exceedingly happy with how this is turning out so far, but how well the conflict resolution rules work is going to be the main test of how good a game it turns out to be. I’ll be posting more about the gritty details soon, when I’ve got my tentative version a bit more straight in my head. At the moment it’s looking like the game will be diceless and resource-based, which in turn means I ought to go look at Yuuyake Koyake again.

Another Random Game Idea

So, I got Wario Ware: Smooth Moves for Nintendo Wii. Like the other Wario Ware games it’s a collection of “micro-games” that are thrown at you rapid-fire, so fast that sometimes figuring out what you’re supposed to do is part of the challenge. I haven’t had a chance to try out the multiplayer stuff at all (because for some bizarre reason Nintendo felt it should be unlockable…), but the multiplayer on the GameCube version had some surprisingly meta-game stuff. Like, there’s a version where each turn a doctor tells the player to do something (“Stare At Player 2,” “While reciting a tongue twister,” “While yawning,” etc.) while playing the micro-game, and the other players tap the A button to applaud how well the player pulled it off. At the end, the score is actually based on applause, and success or failure at the micro-games is unimportant.

Anyway, I had this zany idea to do a “Game Thing” that sort of plays off of this idea in a tabletop format. The Host of the game has the players do weird little things with dice, a rubber ball, pencils, etc., that in turn determine success or failure at a main game, of which there are a couple different types, including a board game and a silly RPG. I’m tentatively calling this project “Neko Neko Wai!” on account of titles aren’t really my strong point. (Though if I do wind up keeping that title, it’ll be an excuse to get cute catgirl art for the game).

Tokyo Heroes Playtest! (and a couple other things)

The playtest of Tokyo Heroes is now well under way. Last week we made characters and such, and this week was the first session. The players seemed to have had a good time, and I’m finding the results of all this incredibly useful. I’ve started a thread in the Forge’s Playtesting forum about it. For this game I have a lot to think about and a lot to work on now.

I’ve also put the current draft of the rules online for people to peruse.

As a total side tangent, it’s worth noting that Greg Costikyan and company recently got Manifesto Games up and running. This is the thing he’s been talking about for a while, a site that sells quality independent computer games (so it’s sort of the video game world’s answer to IPR), and even though I really need to hold off spending money I’m sorely tempted to go buy some things.

The other day I had another random idea for a game that I probably won’t get to for quite a while. Toon was the first RPG I ever bought, and not many people seem to notice that it was basically set up as a light, silly version of GURPS. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, and the Toon-ified versions of Car Wars and CoC and whatnot in the Tooniversal Tour Guide book were actually really neat. But having been exposed to all this new indie stuff, I have to wonder what an indie take on Saturday morning cartoons would be like. The game idea I came up with was to do a game based around the sort of “predator vs. prey” cartoons, stuff like Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner or Tom and Jerry. And it occurs to me that I may have just come up with an idea for a CSI game. There would be two players, and while the predator character would pretty much always lose, the players would be competing, probably to be the ones who make the predator’s failures more interesting. And it would be called something like “I Hate You: A Cartoon CSI Game For Two Good Friends.” So, that goes right alongside Distorted Futures: A Dystopian Ass-Kicking RPG on the back burner.

Too Many Goddamn Ideas

As usual, the amount of inspiration I get far exceeds the amount of stuff I can actually work on. Here’s a quick rundown of the various things I’ve been thinking about. I’m sure I forgot a few.

  • Thrash 2.0: The vastly overdue new version of my old fighting game RPG is turning out pretty nicely… so I just need to find time to actually work on it. Original system, though the original version was heavily influenced by Interlock/Mekton Z and SF:STG, and the new version shows a bit of Cinematic Unisystem influence too. Once I have it up and running it’ll be time to put together second edition Weird Powers rules, amongst other things.
  • Tokyo Heroes: My crazy sentai/magical girl RPG. Also coming along nicely, but in dire need of playtesting once it’s done.
  • Catgirl: A tongue-in-cheek White Wolf-ish RPG about catgirls in a modern-day setting. Powered by a weird variant of Fudge.
  • Halo: The Covenant War: A Halo RPG. Powered by a different weird variant of Fudge.
  • Distorted Futures: A dystopian ass-kicking RPG.
  • Hikikomori: A solo RPG where you play a guy who almost never leaves his room and may or may not be going insane. I want to try this as a 24-hour RPG.
  • Eternal Saga: A fantasy RPG in the style of Japanese CRPGs. I’ve been failing to work on this one for ages, though there are a few neat ideas in there.
  • Something along the lines of Alien Nine, using Sorcerer. Player characters are schoolgirls who have to live with alien symbionts. Will you stay human, or will you become something else?
  • Karyuu Densetsu: A revised version of my original Thrash campaign setting.
  • WFL: The World Fighting Leage, a WWE-ish campaign setting for Thrash.
  • Tiny Aliens/Battle Maids/Puzzle Girls: Three relatively self-explanatory campaign settings for Mascot-tan. Maybe in one book.
  • Aniverse: Exploring the anime multiverse. This was originally a BESM book, but I never really finished it, and now I have some new ideas to incorporate. If I ever get around to redoing it, I’d prolly use OVA and/or BESM d20, in order to freely use the rules on my own.
  • we are flat: Somehow I find myself wanting to try to do a mini-anthology of anime-inspired RPG settings that attempt to put some of the Superflat aesthetic into a roleplaying game. This may or may not be a terrible idea. I’m thinking there would be three in here, and one would be an even more twisted new version of Magical World. Not sure what system to use, but I’m eyeing OAV. Maybe Fudge instead, or maybe a forgey original system for each one. I have a ton of other ideas for less acid trippy anime mini-settings too.
  • Our Truth & Justice campaign has wound up developing a fairly interesting original superhero setting with a wealth of nifty characters, and once the campaign is finished I think it’d be cool to compile all of that into a book.

With this much stuff, plus a stack of indie games I want to give a whirl (mainly octaNe and The Mountain Witch), I’m thinking that when the current epic campaign finishes up I should try to organize a regular “anthology campaign,” which is to say a weekly grab-bag of mini-campaigns, one-shots, and playtests.

I’m also considering attending GenCon SoCal this year and running something too. Halo is definitely high on the list.