The players need to be able to describe the matsuri that their personae have created, and most players do not know anything about Shinto matsuri when they start playing, so the game system needs to support the description. This is the most important function of elements. The elements are things that are included in the matsuri, and can be mentioned in the description. As noted earlier, elements come in two types: generic elements, and special elements.
Generic elements are simply ways to describe the results of the basic rules given earlier. Every roll adds a new element to the creation, chosen from a list, and there are two types of generic element for each skill: those corresponding to concepts, and those corresponding to embodiments. Norito concepts might be “a long description of the mikë”, “a poetic description of the jinja”, or “a detailed offering of thanks”. For the embodiment, the elements would be particular phrases from the norito, such as “Kakemakumo kashikoki Tamao Ohkami no ohmae ni”. For mikë, the concepts would be things like “a lot of seafood”, “seasonal vegetables”, or “various kinds of rice”, while embodiment might be “a whole bream with its scales on”, “sweetcorn and aubergines”, or “mochi rice cakes dyed red and white”. For kagura, the concept might be “offering a tamagushi”, “purifying an area”, or “offering flowers”, while the embodiment might be “a drum beat”, “carrying a sword”, or “holding flowers”. Putting the selected elements together allows the players to describe, in general terms, what the matsuri looks like.
Specific elements naturally serve the same function, but they also have a mechanical effect. One way they can work is to be mechanically better than the generic elements, so that the personae get more effect for a lower difficulty. However, this is not the only possibility. A conceptual element might allow greater benefit at a lower conception cost, but a higher difficulty than the standard possibilities. Embodiment elements might require a roll against a difficulty of 7 to incorporate, but add 3 points towards completion of the matsuri, no matter what the current value. If the current value of the matsuri is greater than 4, that is easier than trying to improve the matsuri by the standard method. Embodiment elements might also require some sort of roll to apply successfully, like the performance roll for kagura, but, in return, give a useful bonus if the roll does succeed.
Some specific elements will specify the bonuses that they add to the matsuri. That is, an element might always grant an additional point of shin’i, and not an additional die to roll. Normally, these bonuses count against the steps of improvement that the basic rules allow, but sometimes the improvements offered by an element might count as fewer steps, even none at all, or an element might give the personae a free choice of one or more bonus steps, beyond those gained under the normal rules.
Elements that increase the total for a creation regardless of its current level are particularly useful if the personae have added concepts to the creation after the initial stage. This normally adds the full difficulty of the concept, which makes it much harder to create the thing than it would be if the concept had been integrated from the beginning. The ability to add to the total even if the roll does not exceed the current total, however, might make this possible.
The discussion so far has only explicitly discussed the basic matsuri, making a simple request to the kami. However, the other types of matsuri can easily be fitted into the same framework. The other effects require a certain number of steps of improvement above the basic matsuri, and if there is no request, then there may be a bonus to the number of steps available. This extension of the rules is conceptually straightforward, so I want to discuss other elements of the game before coming back to it. First, however, I would like to give an example of creating a matsuri.