Ever want to introduce a friend, relative, or child to role-playing, but you weren’t sure what game to run? Consider Ryuutama, the natural fantasy RPG.
Ryuutama is a freshly translated Japanese role-playing game which ran a successful Kickstarter, and recently won a Silver ENnie for Best Family Game. It’s Hayao Miyazaki turned up to 11, and mixed with some D&D.
The game takes place in a world where everyone, once in their life, goes on an epic, years-long journey. This is done because the dragons who guarantee the peace and safety of the world can only eat one thing: The stories of travelers. Players take on the role of these travelers as they explore the land, help villagers with problems, and slay monsters. The GM takes on the role of a dragon, who records the stories of the travelers. However, the dragon/GM is not entirely benevolent, as the tastiest stories for dragons are the most interesting!
The game bleeds atmosphere. There is peril on the road, and travelers are always willing to defeat a monster or two to help villagers. (A number of classes can make things out of defeated monsters after all!) But it is also a world where people care for one another, and speak forthrightly and honestly in all matters. It is a world so beautiful and wonderful that legend has it an emperor once looked down from his throne and said, “Well! Looks like this is travelling season!” He hopped down from his throne and went off on his journey, no differently than the humblest farmer.
The feel of the world even comes through in its magic. One spell is entitled “Chocolate Cosmos” which shocks its target by reminding them of a lost love. Another, “Knights of Cleaning,” reads
Dirty clothing flies away at the start of the ritual to be cleaned by the mysterious Knights of Cleaning. At the end of the ritual, the clothes are returned with no loss of color or quality.”
The game was designed with novice gamers in mind. The system is simple as pie. There are four statistics, Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Spirit. Add two stats together, roll them, and if you beat the target number, you succeed.
The book is enlivened with amazing manga-style illustrations. (A character in one illustration, for example, points out that a D4 would really hurt if you stepped on it.) You can see more of the art at the game’s website.
The first game most RPG gamers every experience is Dungeons & Dragons, and it is a fantastic game. But dungeon-crawling, and kill-monster-take-stuff is not an activity that will appeal to everyone. Ryuutama moves the focus of the game to ordinary people taking the most extraordinary journey of their lives, through a world of wonder and beauty.
The game is so simple, children as young as 10 could play the game. The book is so beautiful that it makes readers want to play the game just to spend more time in a world of such tranquility and splendor.
Japanese Gaming Brought to an English-Speaking Audience
Ryuutama was written by Atsuhiro Okada, and translated by Andy Kitkowski and Matt Sanchez. Kitkowski said he was a regular consumer of Japanese role-playing games. In an interview with Geek & Sundry, he said “I’d make a list [of RPGs], and purchase several the next time I was in Japan to visit family.” But when he heard about Ryuutama, he couldn’t wait for his next visit to Japan. After reading about the game, he and some friends ordered a copy by express mail from Japan, and then set about translating it.
Kitkowski said, “The softness, that honobono, [or] feelgood-ness of the setting that came off like a Hayao Miyazaki anime, the focus on travel and wonder, it really hit us hard and had our minds on fire.”
The process of translating the rulebook was easier than one would expect. Kitkowski said, “Both Matt and I have been through complicated translation projects before: Everything from ancient Buddhist scrolls and sermons, to patent applications for ocular surgical equipment. Ryuutama, in comparison, was rather light and easy in general.”
Kitkowski said that just being nominated for an ENnie was an honor, and “It’s truly an honor to have our work, and espeically the work of the original author Atsuhiro Okada, be recognized by our English-speaking gaming peers worldwide.”
Through Kitkowski, Geek & Sundry was able to contact game design savant Atsuhiro Okada to get his reaction to the win. Okada said, “I thought there was no way we could win… I was actually in the middle of running an RPG session at work when they told me the news, and my heart lept out of my chest. I’m so truly grateful! For all those around the world who watched and supported Ryuutama, thank you so very, very much!!”
See you on the road, traveler, in the world of Ryuutama.
Follow Okada Atsuhiro on Twitter! He’s @okada_atsuhiro, and the feed is in Japanese, but Google Translate means that’s not an insurmountable problem.
What would you play with non-gamers to infect them with the game virus? Let us know below!
All images courtesy Kotodama Heavy Industries.