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SamuraiVille: A first foray into Smallville

Shiro

Resplendent and Coniferous
Validated User
So we ran through pathways tonight for our first Smallville game - set in the Japanese Warring States period. This thread is just so I have somewhere to talk about my impressions and discoveries. It was a bit of a mind-melt making sure everyone did the bits they were meant to, and one player was constantly reorganising her Abilities... In the end I think we sorted it out, although there seems to have been a little more focus on Assets than Relationships. We stopped after the Life-Changing Event, and will fill in the remaining steps as the first few sessions progress.

The characters are:

Okitsu, a fox spirit who currently has the rice-god Inari as a D6 Extra. She doesn't appear to be heavily connected to worldly affairs, although she sees herself as a divine agent sent to punish or reward mortals. Her ability to possess people may lead to complications, especially as she is by default riding around in a Shrine Maiden who isn't even listed as an Extra - in other words, at the moment she's a total nobody unless the fox spirit is possessing her.

Yuriko, a somewhat elderly female ninja who has just been promoted to a senior position within her clan. As a cover, she runs a tea-house in town. Apparently some of the drinks they serve weaken the barrier with the spirit world, allowing patrons to glimpse the supernatural. She has very Japanese Values, and a number of ninja tricks which are mainly based on gear. Thanks to an amulet she has the ability to shape-shift, and can pass herself off as someone much younger.

Taro, a blacksmith who takes great pride in his work. Although he followed a similar life-path to Yuriko, they ended up being quite different. Also, apparently Taro's master is: Yuriko's brother; is in love with Okitsu's shrine-maiden form; and is of the same weapon school as Yuriko's clan leader. In a way, Taro's master is more connected than he is. This should be OK, since he's also Taro's most important relationship; other than that, Taro applies himself to his work.

I have a week to mull things over and develop some wedges. I think it's going to be interesting, especially as two of the characters have alternate forms which people may end up having completely separate relationships with! I'll have to confirm some particulars about the fox spirit's form; I think she can manifest as a fox, or a human form with a tail, but prefers to possess the wholly human body of her god's shrine maiden. I'm not sure if the poor girl will actually become a character in her own right. It's a bit of a complex situation for a first game!

None of the Leads have particularly strong relationships or committed statements to each other. I think the first couple of sessions will need to concentrate on challenging the assumptions (or non-assumptions) they have about each other to push for growth and redefinition.
 

Threlicus

Full of Stars
Validated User
Just popping in to say I'm watching this to see how you go with the Wedges and stuff. For some reason, actually using the Episode-generating material in Smallville was hard for me, but I kept having this feeling that I was missing something. So watching it will be helpful to me.

The one thing I want to say is that I totally think you should get the actual character of the shrine maiden a character sheet. Taro's master is in love with her! Or thinks he is, even if he's in love with the fox spirit in her body... or something. Anyway, I think having the actual girl around when Okitsu isn't possessing her would be interesting to see. How does she feel about being used? What happens when Okitsu uses her body to seduce Taro's master and get him to do something for her?
 

Shiro

Resplendent and Coniferous
Validated User
Yeah, it's been tricky so far trying to find story leads to gnaw on, since the Leads are mostly noncommittal towards each other. I'm trying to find ways for the Features to cause situations between the Leads that will cause them to Challenge and re-form their relationships. Taro's master (who really needs a name) is an obvious start, because he's linked to all of the Leads.

I wasn't really sure what to do about the Shrine Maiden thing. The concept turned up late in the piece, and there wasn't an opportunity to cast her as an Extra or anything. I sort of figured that if people encountered her alone, they could start a pick-up Relationship with her and go from there; she could evolve into a Feature as people interact with her. I think otherwise she is a fairly willing servant of Inari who doesn't mind being host for a Fox Spirit, and I have a feeling that Okitsu will be "riding" her around most of the time. I'm also not sure to what extent the other Leads know of her actual form and identity, and will need to address that before we start play.

I'm currently unsure how to deal with Extras if they have the possibility of turning into Features/Wedges. Can I do that? Should I? Do the Extra ratings automatically get changed to Relationships? Is it better to come up with new, unrelated Features to use as Wedges? Is there any other way to turn an Extra into a Relationship during play? I need to check through the rules, but right now I have to get ready for work!
 

Shiro

Resplendent and Coniferous
Validated User
OK, so it's taken a little under 24 hours for the first idea with real potential to filter through.
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I'm pretty sure none of my players read the forum (but if you do, you know who you are, so please stop reading now! XD )
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I wanted to base something around the Master Blacksmith - now tentatively named Sensei Tetsu - since he's connected to each of the Leads. For a while I couldn't figure out how to get him to provoke the Leads into action. I have a second situation in the works involving plans for improved firearms and his sister's ninja clan, but for now I just want to get the Leads together and trying to deal with personal issues and the relationships between them.

Tetsu's sister, Yuriko (a Lead) runs a local tea-house. One of the drinks they purvey is a type of "dream-wine" that has the side-effect of blurring the barriers to the spirit world for the imbiber. Tetsu has been established as "frequently visiting" the tea-house. After one such evening of pleasantly watching the gossamery things float by, he drinks a little too much and falls asleep with his spirit open, leading to possession by a mischievous spirit.

I've yet to determine its exact nature, but he'll probably start behaving erratically back at the forge. This should cause concern for his student Taro and his sister Yuriko. If they deduce possession, they may seek the help of the local shrine maiden, thus allowing me to bring Okitsu into the situation. Perhaps the spirit might cause Tetsu to seek out Okitsu by himself, giving him a Reckless Distinction and causing him to lose his inhibitions regarding his secret desire for the shrine maiden!

Anyway, that's what I have so far. I'd love to work in some tensions between PCs more directly, but as I mentioned earlier there isn't much to work with at the moment. Hopefully this situation will stir things up as everybody tries to do what they think is best for Tetsu. I'm making a list of potential sub-plots and things to throw in if the situations arise. I'm trying hard not to start sandboxing by giving the NPCs their own independent motivations and just letting things unfold; I'm learning to focus the story more definitely on the Leads, using the Features as tools to that end. My brain hurts a bit, but I've discovered that situational goodness will leak out of it given enough time!
 

Shiro

Resplendent and Coniferous
Validated User
A couple are blank because we finished kind of late, which isn't helping! ^_^; I'll try to tease something out of her when she's not working on an assignment. So far I have:

[HR][/HR]
Okitsu - Fox-Spirit Servant of Inari

DUTY uphold the values of Inari D12
GLORY serve the gods while being modest D4
JUSTICE others must uphold the values of the gods D6
LOVE is of little interest; lust can be useful D4
POWER the mind is stronger than the body D4
TRUTH is a matter of perspective D12

YURIKO ??? D6
TETSU ??? D6
PIRATE items seem to mean a lot to mortals D8 (Feature, no defined connection)

[hr][/hr]
Yuriko - Elderly Tea-House Owner and Ninja

DUTY for family and clan D10
GLORY is not for me D6
JUSTICE is overrated D4
If only I had found LOVE D4
POWER never let go D8
Few know the TRUTH D10

OKITSU is annoying, but necessary for rice D8
TARO is just this guy D4
TETSU is so sweet D6 (Feature, her brother)
PIRATE can get what I want D6 (Feature, trade contact)

[hr][/hr]
Taro - Apprentice Swordsmith

DUTY honour thy master D4
GLORY my work is flawless D12
I suppose JUSTICE has its place D4
I LOVE my steel; hearts should be the same D4
POWER is wasted without purpose D8
What I know is TRUTH to me D10

YURIKO is always staring at me D6
OKITSU never trust a young woman D4
I admire TETSU's skill D10 (Feature, his Master)

[hr][/hr]
I think some statements need a bit of refinement. In particular, I've realised that Tetsu's "Yuriko is always staring at me" isn't an opinion, it's a statement of fact (which may not even be true). What I really need to know is how this perceived staring makes him feel about Yuriko.

I can challenge some noncommittal statements such as Yuriko's "Taro is just this guy" by putting him in a position to demonstrate his usefulness when they are trying to exorcise his master/Yuriko's brother.

Unfortunately I'm missing a couple of statements from Okitsu, but I have a feeling they will be along the lines of "I don't know them very well." I'm hoping the first session will allow the Leads to all interact and get to know each other better, and re-form at least a few opinions into something stronger. I also need to ask why Okitsu has such a strong relationship with the Pirate captain, given she didn't put a connecting statement on the Pathway.

Hopefully I'll be able to fill in the missing pieces in the next couple of days, which will still give me the weekend to percolate more ideas. If anyone has any suggestions in the meantime (or answers to my Extras/Features questions earlier), I'm all ears!

EDIT: Lots of Truth, but nobody's big on Love. With all the hidden identities, I should be able to play with Truth quite a bit. I'm not sure how to challenge Taro's fairly truist statement on the subject, though.
 
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Threlicus

Full of Stars
Validated User
Hmm. I'm guessing you need to emphasize to the players that the Relationship statements don't need to be *true* about the other side, just that that's how your character sees it.

These are pretty strong Values in both directions. Okitsu's is as extreme a distribution as it can get. I would be looking at those d4 values and thinking about how to make her want to balance them a little bit. All the d4s in love mean this Value is troublesome for all the players... maybe bringing in NPCs with romantic interests in the PCs will ping that a it, particularly if they have secrets. Maybe check with the players and see if they want the d4 love to mean little romance, or romance that causes trouble -- unfortunately it can be hard to tell the difference.

Re: Features and Extras. If it doesn't exist on a character's sheet, you are absolutely entitled to create the character as a Feature. These are your 'guest stars' for an episode. Some of them will be one-shots, some of them (that the players decide to keep Relationships with) will recur. With an Extra on a sheet, I think you have a couple options. One is to change it to a Feature, with the consent of the player, in which case the die rating should become a Relationship, and of course the Feature becomes a legitimate Relationship for the other PCs too. The other option is to make it a temporary Feature, if you focus on that Extra for one Episode, and then after that episode return it to Extra status. But I don't think the book discusses this in detail, though it certainly mentions promoting Extras to Features (and I'll note that it happens with some frequency in real TV shows, too. Smallville itself, for example, promoted Dr. Hamilton from an Extra to a Feature somewhere around season 8.)
 

Noclue

Registered User
Validated User
You may want to remind the players that challenging their relationships and values is a good source of additional dice and make sure they have some ideas how they would do that.
 

Shiro

Resplendent and Coniferous
Validated User
Thanks for the advice. I've sent out a few querying messages regarding statements and dispositions, but have yet to hear back.

It looks like we're going to have a late fourth joining the group - a regular member who had just bowed out for a month or two, only to realise his constructive plans for the evenings weren't going to work as he was hoping. So, I'll be going through a Pathways journey with him on Saturday; he intends to make a Buddhist monk, which should be a nice contrast to the Shinto fox spirit depending on the sect he picks. We figured that the monk probably went away to a monastery during childhood and is only now returning to his home town, so hopefully that should explain any disjointedness that arises from him going through Pathways by himself (although he can still connect to the elements the rest of the group already added).

I also wrote up a couple of new custom Distinctions, and I'd appreciate any feedback!

Kitsune Heritage
You were born a fox; long life has transformed you into a yokai with supernatural powers. All have the ability to assume a fox or human form at will, although the human form always features a bushy fox tail. You may be a trickster spirit, or a messenger of the rice god Inari. While fond of sweet rice cakes, kitsune are easily panicked by dogs. Some are said to carry with them a magical gem that contains their power.
d4: Earn a Plot Point when you Choose to gorge on sweet rice snacks.
d8: Add a d6 to Trouble to use a Special Effect from a connected Ability you don't have.
d12: Undefined
Connected Abilities: Shapeshifting, Possession, Dream Manipulation, Flight, Invisibility, Illusions.
Limit: Dogs or Soul-Gem

I'm not sure if I should formalise the human/fox transformation somehow, or make it one of the Triggers? Fox spirits are literally the result of a fox gaining a certain age and accumulating spiritual power, but it would be inconvenient for them to have to be an actual fox unless they buy Shapeshifting...

Priest
You are a member of a religious order. Roll in this die when debating religion, recalling scripture, or resisting temptation.
d4: Earn a Plot Point when you Choose to encourage others to follow your beliefs.
d8: Add a d6 to Trouble to Reroll a die when upholding the ideals of your sect.
d12: Spend a Plot Point to Recover your own Afraid or Insecure Stress, or to Reduce the Afraid or Insecure Stress of everyone in the Scene who subscribes to your teachings.

This should be OK for many different schools; there are doubtless ones that focus on personal enlightenment and don't proselytise so much, but I figured most wandering Buddhists are likely to attempt to impart their wisdom on those they meet. I might make a separate one for warrior-ascentic types such as shugenja/yamabushi. I might make one for Onmyouji too, although they are less priests and more mystical scientists.
 

Threlicus

Full of Stars
Validated User
Kitsune Heritage
You were born a fox; long life has transformed you into a yokai with supernatural powers. All have the ability to assume a fox or human form at will, although the human form always features a bushy fox tail. You may be a trickster spirit, or a messenger of the rice god Inari. While fond of sweet rice cakes, kitsune are easily panicked by dogs. Some are said to carry with them a magical gem that contains their power.
d4: Earn a Plot Point when you Choose to gorge on sweet rice snacks.
d8: Add a d6 to Trouble to use a Special Effect from a connected Ability you don't have.
d12: Undefined
Connected Abilities: Shapeshifting, Possession, Dream Manipulation, Flight, Invisibility, Illusions.
Limit: Dogs or Soul-Gem

I'm not sure if I should formalise the human/fox transformation somehow, or make it one of the Triggers? Fox spirits are literally the result of a fox gaining a certain age and accumulating spiritual power, but it would be inconvenient for them to have to be an actual fox unless they buy Shapeshifting...
I'm not sure of the exact wording, but I'd suggest a Reveal trigger, either for the d8 and moving the unconnected SFX to d12, or for the d12 trigger... something like 'Spend a PP to Reveal you have a supernatural contact with knowledge or abilities bearing on the current situation.'

As for the Shapeshifting thing, I wouldn't worry about it too much. You can just frame it as color for the heritage distinction, so the character can shift when fictionally appropriate, but for whatever reason (lack of control, stress causing problems, whatever), unless he buys shapeshifting, he won't get to roll that Power into any totals.

Priest
You are a member of a religious order. Roll in this die when debating religion, recalling scripture, or resisting temptation.
d4: Earn a Plot Point when you Choose to encourage others to follow your beliefs.
d8: Add a d6 to Trouble to Reroll a die when upholding the ideals of your sect.
d12: Spend a Plot Point to Recover your own Afraid or Insecure Stress, or to Reduce the Afraid or Insecure Stress of everyone in the Scene who subscribes to your teachings.
I think the d4 Earn trigger is a little too easy. IMHO the Earn trigger should cause at least a little trouble for the character. I'd write something like, 'stubbornly uphold your faith's precepts in the face of an easier path, or insist that others do so'. Probably that's more or less what you had in mind anyway, but I'd write it more explicitly.
 
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