Itsukushima shrine, torii gate. Photo: Joe deSousa/Flickr (CC0 1.0)
Of course he knew the Empire was built on airy, at times vulgar, symbolism. He was, after all, an educated man. He knew how to interpret the Laws of the Elders. Could equally well listen to the speech of the stars as kiss one of his concubines below. He believed neither in ghosts, nor in symbols as anything other than representations.
Still, a part of him; one might say the child, believed firmly in the virtues:
1. Fidelity to the large and the small family. Even when the decisions of the concubines or the Emperor seemed enigmatic.
2. Friendliness and good will towards strangers.
3 . Ritualized blasphemy by the altars along the roads, at night.
4. That you will reap as you sow.
Now he was standing by one of the altars, on the road to the Imperial City. The sunset painted the sky in shades of gold, pink, violet and orange. But not red, that color had been forbidden by the Emperor.
Soon the star-song would begin.
The altar was a scrawny, ancient spike of stone. The little roof that was supposed to protect the sacrificial gifts; fire, incense, beautiful stones, blood, flowers and perfume, against wind and weather would probably break down completely in a few hundred years.
He left a small, twelve-sided die for the enjoyment of the altar-eaters. Said a silent prayer to The Guardian of the Road that the ghosts he didn’t believe in would leave him alone this night.
On the long way home.
Shrine Master is about building those wayside shrines. It uses the Soft System.
The Soft System
Relations (max 3)
Twists/ story seeds/ complications/ intrigue magnets
Skill/ability check results
On a modified roll of 1d12:
12. Critical hit
11. Yes, and
10. Yes, and
9. Yes, but
8. Yes, but
7. Yes, but
6. No, but
5. No, but
4. No, but
3. No, and
2. No, and
1. Conflict escalates
With a table you can add modifications to die roll results. E.g: you have a relevant ability = +1, bigger chance of yes-roll. Very difficult task = -1, etc.
The results are interpreted by another player (one who’s character is not attempting the action. Everyone can make suggestions.)
At the beginning of each session, the players get one Whimsy card each (draw two cards, keep your favorite). They can be played at any time during the game, the player interprets the result. Inspiration can be used to buy more whimsy cards, at the rate of 1 Inspiration point = 1 card.
Original whimsy cards: http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/systemdesign/cards/whimsycards.html
Any player or the GM may award one (1) inspiration points to another player during a session. These can be spent [in interesting ways] to hack the narrative, setting or outcome of die rolls.
They are awarded when:
– A player does or says something unspeakably cool.
– A player acts in accordance with Goal or Problem.
– A player complicates matters in interesting ways.
The inspiration points are awarded immediately.
Inspiration points are dialed back to zero at the start of every new session.
Can be used to make small additions to the GM’s descriptions, add detail to the setting (the GM forgot to mention), auto success, introduce (useful) NPCs, buy a new whimsy card, etc.
Give others a chance to speak. Hear what they say. See how you can build or act on the information they impart to the story.
Accept, and add
If something is stated or established in the fiction, it’s probably true. Characters and ghosts may lie, and you may forget details. But try to stay with what has been said. Add your own details as they come to you. Don’t try too hard. Say the first thing you think of. Reincorporate elements that have come up previously.
Decline, but offer
It’s perfectly fine for your character to refuse a suggestion, but try to come up with a counteroffer. Don’t block or stall the game. If you get stuck in discussion-paralysis; act. Make up something, like an accusation. Do something stupid.
Just pause. And breathe.
Before you add a new element, consider: what has already been established? Can I re-introduce it into play? Will it create contrast, or shed new light this time around?
The home village. Photo: dynamosquito/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Be willing to discard your plan, or even better; don’t plan for a certain outcome. Pick up on the creative “balls” others throw out for you to play with. Go along with ideas. This is key to having fun in this game.
Let the story emerge
There are no true secrets here. There isn’t a prewritten plot to discover. This story will emerge during play, and you will see the totality in the end. Relax. Give your character and the ghosts time to play their hand, say their piece. Watch what the others do. Listen.
You don’t have to be funny or smart. Let the words come to you at their own pace.
Your little village needs a new wayside Shrine, the last one was torn down by the forces of nature. You play the Shrine Master and her henchmen. They will gather holy materials for the shrine, and build it where the last one stood.
Random story table (d12)
1. Another Shrine Master, searching for the same material as your group.
2. Sex in the City: your materials are located in a brothel in the Imperial City.
3. Sacrifice Emotion: you must recall and reenact a childhood memory to empower the Shrine.
4. An Infidel Demon tries to usurp your shrine. You must battle it with your wits.
5. Consumption: shrine building proves costly. You must get day jobs. It’s terrible after a life spent adventuring on the road.
6. Enabler: you meet a wrinkled old crone who offers to make shrine building easier if you make a sacrifice.
7. Tallest tower: an essential shrine component is located in the top of a near-inaccessible tower. It symbolizes our vain efforts.
8. Priestess: you must also recruit a priestess to cater to the shrinal needs. She must be a virgin, and very hideous.
9. A special kind of stone is required for the shrine. You must establish a quarry and safely transport the stone to your home village.
10. The Shrine Master’s concubines approach her for a favor, interrupting the quest.
11. Harmonious ritual: the group must create a ritual to empower the shrine.
12. Personal demons: the entourage have to confront and battle their personal, manifest demons in order to complete the shrine.
Game master instructions
Because all new indie games must be AW hacks:
Thunderous roar: Give brief, short descriptions that relate to the setting. “The crystal shines like crimson terror. It’s cold and hard to the touch. Electric fragrance in the air.”
Address the characters, not the players.
Show, don’t tell.
Abrupt change: every time your attention strafes something you own: a secondary character, an object, organization or relationship: consider killing, destroying or altering it for good.
Name everything, make everything human: create a list of names before the game. Give the secondary characters simple, understandable, human motivations.
Ask questions, build on the answers: “when did you first understand you’d be building a shrine? Why do you want to build the shrine? What does the new location look like?”
Give them what they want, reveal the consequence.
Be a fan of the characters: give them what they fight for, let them build their shrine… but only at the very end.
To be used if there is inaction or you’re stuck. Choose something from this list that will fit what has already come to pass. Shake things up, good:
Take a prisoner.
Give them a dilemma/tough choice: you can save one friend, not both.
Announce future threat: a great, big column of black smoke on the horizon. A nasty noise in the bushes. A rumor spreading.
An eye for an eye: hit them the way they hit your secondary characters.
Reveal your hand: state what you plan to do, execute.
Take away their stuff (except what truly defines them)
Activate their flaws.
Explain possible consequences and ask if they still want to go through with the plan.
Offer an opportunity that comes with a price.
Always ask: “what do you do?”
Ask follow-up questions: «yeah, tell me; what does it look like on the road? What will the shrine look like in the end?”
Digression and detail, sometimes.
Go around the table, give everyone spotlight.
Take breaks. Take your time.
The game ends when the shrine components are assembled, and it’s erected by the road near the character’s home village.
Go around the table. Ask the players what their character added to the shrine, and how it looks in the end. Go in great detail, this was the goal after all.
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