Each week here at Geek & Sundry we’re taking a look at new and upcoming exciting titles on Kickstarter! This week’s Kickstarter of the week is The Mountain Witch, a second edition of the critically acclaimed indie RPG of samurai sacrifice and betrayal. The Kickstarter has exceeded their $10,000 funding goal and is currently past $45K in funding as of this writing.
All tabletop RPGs are tools to help the Dungeon Master and their friends hone their imaginations. Some games, like Dungeons & Dragons, are big toolboxes made to build sprawling campaigns or adapt for worlds throughout the planes. Other games, like Stars Without Number, encourage players to build a campaign from bits and pieces taken from their favorite media. A few games are precision tools made to deliver a singular experience, albeit one players would want to have over and over again. The Mountain Witch, an RPG first released in 2004, is such a game, binding together players in a taut game of trust, betrayal and monster hunting. The game had a tremendous impact on game designers upon its original release and is now on Kickstarter for a long overdue second edition.
The Mountain Witch, in its elevator pitch, is Seven Samurai meets Reservoir Dogs. The game is set in a mythical feudal Japan and the players are cast as ronin who agree to take on a job nobody else wants. They must climb Mt. Fuji to kill O-Yanma, the titular Mountain Witch. Each character arrives at the mountain with secrets, agenda and a Dark Fate that’s slowly revealed over the course of play. Over the course of the game, players reveal that they didn’t just take the job out of a ronin’s desperation. Everyone has an ulterior motive, ranging from making sure one of the other players pays for something they did in the past to perhaps feeding the rest of the ronin to the witch in exchange for her help in bringing a loved one back to life.
Character creation is fast. The sooner characters are ready, the sooner players can start getting into drama. Characters are created by answering a few questions, but the Dark Fates are chosen at random. The game offers a simple d6 vs. d6 resolution system. Whoever rolls higher on a d6, wins. These rolls are modified by player’s Trust in one another. Trust points can be spent to aid other characters, or can be burned to hinder other characters in pursuit of your own goal. A player might put a lot of trust into another player, only to be betrayed on a critical role when the second player reveals she was there to make sure the first player died so she could marry her true love.
The trust mechanic revolutionized indie gaming at the time it was first introduced. Few RPGs put mechanical backing into the relationships players had with each other and The Mountain Witch focused the game on the idea. Making important relationships part of the character sheet has even filtered all the way back up to the granddaddy of them all with the bonds section of the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons sheet. The game also provides guidance on how to properly pace a mystery scenario. Each of the game’s act slowly teases out the Dark Fate of each character. The first act shows the players how the rules work. The second act asks players to hint at but not reveal their Dark Fates. The third act reveals but does not resolve the Dark Fates. Finally, in the fourth act, everything comes to a bloody head full of murder, duels, demons, and death.
The Kickstarter offers simple rewards and stretch goals. Basic backers can opt for PDF, print or even a deluxe boxed edition of the game. Big backers can opt for a framed print from the game’s artist or a chance to work with the designer on a custom setting hack for the game. The Kickstarter ends on July 3rd, so don’t delay if you decide you wish to heed the siren’s call of The Mountain Witch…
Did you play the first edition? Tell us about it in the comments!
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Images Credits: Timfire Publishing
Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. He can be hired as a professional Dungeon Master for in-person or remote games. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.