What are the sorts of things that serve as elements when trying to find out about someone? The default assumption is that the personae are not spying on and manipulating the character, although that is possible, and should be supported by the rules at some point (although not necessarily in the core book). Instead, the personae are quite open about the fact that they are trying to build a relationship with the character.
The investigation elements will, therefore, include such things as “talk to her”. In fact, quite a lot of the elements will boil down to “talk to her”, so those elements need to be more closely defined. Recall that personae need to use several elements to build up an investigation, and can only use each element once. Each element, then, should not cover too much ground. “Talk about current events”, “talk about hobbies”, “talk about recent holidays”, “talk about religion”, and so on seem as though they would have a reasonable level of detail. Since the personae are being open about what they are trying to do, we should not neglect elements like “ask her what food she likes”. However, there are other useful approaches: “look at her outfit”, for example, because the clothes that someone wears tell you something about her. If the persona has been invited to the character’s home, “look at her bookshelves” is another option. Some elements here will be made available by the course of the game — by being invited into the character’s home, for example.
The other players describe the response. Here, the elements include things like “complains about politicians”, “plays tennis”, “visited Guam”, or “doesn’t know the difference between a jinja and a Buddhist temple”. Because the game is set in Japan, and most of the players will probably not be in Japan, the source material for the game will suggest some elements that could be used here, and the sorts of things that go together. Of course, the Japanese are also human, so there are a lot of similarities to people in other countries and players can also rely on their common sense.
The pieces of information that the persona puts together are things like “she likes cats”, “she is insecure about her appearance”, “she likes to think that she doesn’t care about food”, and so on. These are features of her personality, and while they can change over time, they are established at this point. These features do not determine what the personae should do to improve their relationship with her, but they do provide hints. They also help establish the character, for future interactions, and may also provide new goals for the personae. For example, they may decide to help a character who is insecure about her appearance to feel more confident about the way she looks.
Finally, the theory is, in this case, a description of the action the personae will take. This might be as simple as “buy her a cat”, or as complex as “hold a party with lots of delicious desserts, but where every dessert is from a different country, and captures part of the essence of the country, so that she can enjoy lots of desserts while telling herself that she is really investigating international culture”. (I think events like that are held in Japan quite frequently.) The players can generally just make these theories up, with the die roll simply determining how many dice they keep when they actually perform the action to boost the relationship. The game should provide some examples to give players hints and guidance, but this is another area that is within the realms of common sense.
One way I will incorporate Japanese culture into the game is by providing sets of elements that go together well for Japanese people, or that make good individual elements. For example, a lot of Japanese women want to own brand-name bags and clothes. This means that “wants to own brand-name shoes” is a good element for a Japanese woman. However, “has no interest in brand-name shoes” is also a good element, because it defines her as not following the general social trend. The important point is that a woman’s attitude to brand-name goods is significant, and, as far as I can tell, a man’s is not. Incorporating that sort of element into the game makes it feel as though you are playing in Japanese culture.
Before we finish the discussion of building relationships, I want to talk about the process. What happens while the personae are performing the actions that will create the relationship with the character?