Welcome to Kannagara.
Kannagara will be a modern fantasy roleplaying game set in contemporary Japan, drawing heavily on Shinto folklore, legends, and practices. I say “will be” because it is not yet written; I will talk about the design on this blog, and hope that the readers of the blog will make comments about the design while it is in progress, so that there is some dialogue. At some point in the future, there’s likely to be Kickstarter or something similar. Consider yourselves forewarned: this is a commercial project, and eventually I will ask for money.
So, what is Kannagara?
The players portray people associated with a Shinto sacred space, who create and perform its rituals. They build relationships with the mundane and supernatural inhabitants of the area so that the sacred space, people, and spirits flourish, mysteries are solved, and wonders are both uncovered and created.
That’s the current version of the elevator pitch, but I hope to refine it as we go along. If you would like to read a really long introduction to the general setting, Kannagara is almost Tamao: The Roleplaying Game. However, Tamao was rather darker than I intend Kannagara to be, and had less of an emphasis on creation. In this post, I want to pick up and amplify a few of the important elements of my vision for Kannagara.
First, the game is not about combat, at all. There will be no fighting, and no rules for fighting. There will, of course, be conflicts, because you need conflicts for drama, but those conflicts will not be solved by violence, or, indeed, any other illegal action. (Well, I can imagine that trespassing might be involved in some plots.) There are plenty of roleplaying games that do combat very well, but it isn’t something I am particularly interested in.
Second, Kannagara is a game of wonder, not horror. It is set in a world like the modern day, with a largely hidden and secret supernatural element, but that supernatural element is not horrifying, it is wondrous. I do anticipate that maintaining that will be as hard as maintaining a sense of horror, and I don’t expect to succeed all the time, but it is the goal. In particular, I want to avoid horrific elements. If the game turned out to be an accurate depiction of our world, that would be a good thing. (Also, extremely surprising.)
So, that tells you something that the player characters don’t do, and a bit about the mood. What do they do? The game revolves around four central activities.
The first is personal growth. Characters get better over time, overcome their problems, and become something better than they were. This applies to player characters (whom I will call “personae”, following the lead of James Wallis in Alas Vegas), and non-player characters (whom I will just call “characters”). Personae do this with each other’s help, while characters do it with the help of personae. Personae are, of course, the active driving force in the game world. Characters follow their own agendas, and do not just wait for personae to act, but major changes require the involvement of personae.
The second is building relationships. Personae try to build good relationships with characters, and with each other.
The third is discovery. Personae uncover lost truths and solve mysteries. Sometimes these are wholly mundane, such as finding out why someone seems so hostile to them, but often they are supernatural. The personae know nothing about the supernatural when the game starts out, but that situation does not last long.
The final activity is creation. A central form of creation is the creation of rituals for the sacred space, the jinja. These rituals help to build relationships with characters, and can help them to grow. In the case of kami, the supernatural spirits associated with the jinja or the surrounding area, this is quite direct, but for human characters it is generally an indirect effect.
These elements are all interdependent. Personae grow by building relationships, creating things, and discovering truths, and after growing they are better at building relationships, creating things, and discovering truths. Of course, they can also build relationships by growing and encouraging growth, creating things, and discovering truths, and so on.
Finally, the party is held together because they are all closely associated with the same sacred space, the same jinja. The success of the jinja is one way to measure the overall success of the players in the game.
I am writing this game because it is a game that I really want to play. As mentioned above, I’d also like it to be a commercial project, so I rather hope that other people will also want to play it. The only way to discover that, however, is to make the game, and see.
I hope you will stay around to watch.