Matsuri Mechanics

It is time to start getting specific about the mechanics for matsuri. In the real world, most matsuri at jinja follow a fixed pattern. The participants are purified, standard miki and mikë are offered, and the shinshoku reads a standard norito, copied out of a book of norito. Such a matsuri will be the baseline, because any shinshoku could do this, with no chance of failure. I could do this with no chance of failure. So, this sort of matsuri grants the kami 1 point of shin’i, and makes a request. It does nothing to incline the kami to answer the request.

How does the kami decide whether to respond? The obvious mechanic is to have the kami roll a number of dice depending on the details of the matsuri, and keep a number equal to the strength of the highest relevant interest. A baseline matsuri provides no dice to roll, which means that the players roll twice as many dice as the level of the interest, and keep the lowest ones. Better matsuri provide more dice to roll. The difficulty for this roll, on the other hand, depends on the details of the request, and on the kami’s attitude to those details.

This means that it makes a lot of sense to go to a kami with an interest in a topic, or in you, even if there are other, more powerful, kami. The more powerful kami is likely to not answer your request at all. A weaker but interested kami, on the other hand, will do something for you. Still, we need to look at the question of what happens when the kami decides not to act. As mentioned earlier, “nothing happens” is not a good result from a die roll.

Although I want to avoid that sort of situation in general, I think I might keep it as the result of a failure on a baseline matsuri. Performing a matsuri out of a book shows that the personae are not investing much effort into the matsuri, so it is not an important part of the story. For a minor event, it is reasonable to simply say that nothing happens.

If the personae have put effort into the matsuri, however, things should be different. If the personae have made the effort to personalise and improve the matsuri, the kami provides instructions on what the petitioner should do to have her request fulfilled. These instructions would normally come in a dream, because that is the only way a kami can communicate with most people, but they might also come through divination, and a kannagi could be told directly. The more effort the personae put into the matsuri, the clearer and easier these instructions become. This is not just a game balance feature; it makes sense that a carefully-designed matsuri would get closer to convincing a kami to act than one slightly modified from the book, so that the personae need to add less to the matsuri to get a response.

If the kami decides to respond, she spends the shin’i, rolls the relevant interest, and keeps a number of dice dependent on her score in the relevant power. Something happens, but what happens depends on the result of the roll; the higher, the better. For a baseline matsuri, the kami will only use one power, but a more elaborate matsuri might make two or more requests. This would normally increase the difficulty to convince the kami to act, and it might be easier to perform two separate matsuri. A single matsuri, however, can only appeal to one of the nigimitama or aramitama; if the petitioner wants effects from both mitama, at least two matsuri are required. As mentioned in the last post, a matsuri might also grant the kami a bonus to these rolls.

It’s time to start putting some numbers onto these mechanics. These numbers are entirely preliminary, and are very likely to be changed as the rest of the mechanics get created, but we need to start somewhere.

Let’s say that the difficulty of convincing a kami to respond to a standard request is 4. If the kami has an interest in the topic, and so is keeping four dice, a response is guaranteed, even from a standard matsuri. There is simply no way to get less than 4 when keeping four dice. Ultimately, this number should be set to match the level of interest that characterises a kami with a particular interest in a topic; Tenjin’s interest in examinations, for example, or Inari’s interest in commercial prosperity. Performing a matsuri to ask such a kami to help is guaranteed a response.

What is the default effect? The effect will, obviously, vary a great deal depending on the nature of the request, but there is a good candidate for a default position. The kami can grant the petitioner more dice to roll. Having more dice to roll does not allow you to perform outside your normal range, but it does mean that you will, on average, do better within that range than you would otherwise. This works best for the nigimitama, particularly for prosperity, but that is possibly the most common petition. For the numbers, we can say that the kami grants one bonus die, plus one for every full three points of the total. That is, if the total is 1 or 2, the petitioner gets one bonus die, if it is 3, 4, or 5, the petitioner gets two, if it is 6, 7, or 8, the petitioner gets three, and so on. Every additional die that the kami keeps increases the maximum number of bonus dice by two. Each of these bonus dice can be used once, and personae get to decide when to use them. They can only be used on the activity for which the matsuri requested support, but otherwise they are under the control of the player.

There will need to be a lot of other possible effects for granted petitions, but this one can be applied to many situations, and gives us something concrete to look at when we turn to look at the parts of a matsuri.

Matsuri Effects

In the early stages of the game, matsuri are the main way in which personae can influence kami. If they are not kannagi, personae can only speak directly to the kami when they are all in kamikakushi, which is, by default, a relatively rare situation. The way in which matsuri influence kami is, therefore, a very important part of the game. Much of what personae do will be the creation and performance of matsuri, in order to have an influence on the kami. Matsuri creation and performance will, I think, have the same place in the game as combat holds in a typical RPG.

The first effect of matsuri was mentioned a couple of posts ago: they give a kami shin’i. The number of points of shin’i that a matsuri grants to the kami will be an important feature, and one of the aspects decided during the process of creating the matsuri. In mechanical terms, creating the matsuri creates the option of performing the matsuri to give the kami that many points of shin’i.

The second obvious effect of a matsuri is that it should persuade the kami to do what the personae want. Kami are not machines, and may decide to deny requests. In real-world Shinto, this is not a possibility to which shinshoku draw much attention, but it is officially acknowledged. Here, the matsuri is a way to ask the kami to do something, and may grant bonuses to the roll to see whether the kami is persuaded. These bonuses would be something else designed into the matsuri.

For a standard matsuri that makes a request of the kami, these two points are all that is necessary. However, this is not all that a matsuri can do.

Some matsuri do not make any specific requests. The annual grand matsuri of a jinja is a good example; although the norito includes a general request that the kami look after the jinja and the ujiko, there is nothing specific that the kami is asked to do. There are some matsuri, such as matsuri thanking the kami for previous help, that literally make no requests, and others that simply announce a gift to the kami. These matsuri serve, in the game, as a good way for personae to strengthen their relationship with the kami, which makes it more likely that the kami will be able to grant their requests.

The other interests of a kami could also be strengthened through matsuri. A very common form of matsuri in Japan involves the kami being carried around the ujiko area in a mikoshi, a portable shrine based on the palanquins used by emperors in ancient Japan. This matsuri is supposed to strengthen the link between the kami and the ujiko, and in game terms that means increasing her interest in the ujiko. More abstract fields could also be strengthened in a similar way; a matsuri including scholarship might be used to increase a kami’s interest in scholarship, for example.

It should also be possible to perform matsuri to make a kami more powerful. In particular, kami who are characters rather than personae will not change or develop without the intervention of the personae. These matsuri should be significantly harder than request matsuri, and probably only work once. In the real world, request matsuri are repeated, so this should be reflected in the game, but matsuri to make the kami stronger are not an explicit part of real-world Shinto, or, at any rate, not one that I have yet come across, so I can design them with more concern for game balance. If the same matsuri can be performed repeatedly to increase the power of a kami, kami will get very powerful very quickly, which is not really what I want. Therefore, a matsuri that increases the power of the kami only has that effect once.

This increase in power could take two forms. First, the matsuri might grant a bonus to the kami for the request made in the matsuri. Second, the matsuri might grant the kami points towards increasing one of her powers. The first type of matsuri should be easier, as it is a temporary bonus rather than a permanent one. The second type should be significantly harder, and probably requires the personae to use particular elements to improve the matsuri.

That brings us back to the question of the elements of a matsuri. What are they, and how do they work in game terms? That will be the next post.


Tamao is the main kami in, er, Tamao. The title of the novel is a bit of a giveaway there. I wrote the novel four years ago, so I didn’t design him in terms of these rules, but I should be able to do it retrospectively. In addition, this example should make sense even to people who haven’t read the novel (and at the moment it is not available to read, although that may change — and if you do want to read it, this post contains minor spoilers).

The first step, deciding on shin’i, is very easy. Tamao is a character, because Akiko is the protagonist and thus a persona, and therefore Tamao has no shin’i unless the personae give it to him.

The next step is to think about Tamao’s powers. Under the nigimitama he has, like all kami, wisdom, healing, protection, and prosperity. Under the aramitama, he has inspiration, destruction, creation, and transformation. The nigimitama and aramitama are treated separately in the novel, so I’ll look at the nigimitama first.

Tamao uses wisdom a lot, to give Akiko dreams and visions. He also uses healing, to purify people and places, although in the end the aramitama has to complete the purification. He seems to be bad at protection and prosperity, however; that is why the area around the jinja is suffering so much. So, wisdom should be the highest, followed by healing, with protection and prosperity both quite low. Let’s say wisdom 4, healing 3, protection 1, and prosperity 1. Four dice to keep should be a decent number, because we don’t want to be rolling more than ten dice as a matter of course.

What about the aramitama? Inspiration is not a major feature of the story, but creation (the hot spring and feather cloak) does play a role. Transformation is also important, particularly if we include kamikakushi in transformation, and destruction seems to be the appropriate ability to cover the purification efforts of the aramitama. (This is a reminder that I really need to work out how purification fits into the game, because it is an absolutely central part of Shinto practice.) So, I’ll give Tamao a score of 1 in inspiration, meaning that he is good at seeing what is wrong, but bad at working out how to fix it. That fits the plot of the novel quite well, really. A score of 2 in creation, and 4 each in transformation and destruction, seem to fit the description, although transformation might be a bit lower. The problem in the novel, in these terms, was giving Tamao’s aramitama enough shin’i to perform the purification of the area.

Next, we need to define his interests. His interest in the keidai should be the highest, and I’ll set that at 6. The ujiko have neglected him a bit, so I’ll set that interest at 2. What other general interests does he have? The most striking themes are water and storms, although as he appears as a snake, that would be another reasonable interest. Let’s say that he has an interest of 5 in storms, and of 3 in snakes. The hot spring is not a storm, but it is within the keidai, so Tamao can use his interest in the keidai to create it.

Tamao’s specific relationships start with Akiko. His relationship with her gets closer over the course of the novel, but seems to start quite high. Let’s call it 5. He should have at least as close a relationship with Revd Shiraishi, and there are some scenes that suggest it is closer, so we can set that at 6. Akiko seems to have become a kannagi very early in the novel, while Revd Shiraishi is probably still not one at the end, but there are signs that Tamao is still closer to the hereditary priest of his shrine. (The end of the novel does not really work in game terms, at least not at the moment, but then, it is not actually a novel set in this game world.) Finally, Tamao has a close relationship with Kazumi, but not as close as with the other two. That can be set at 4.

Tamao’s description in game terms, then, looks like this.

Wisdom 4
Healing 3
Protection 1
Prosperity 1

Inspiration 1
Creation 2
Destruction 4
Transformation 4

Keidai 6
Ujiko 2
Storms 5
Snakes 3
Reiko Shiraishi 6
Akiko Tanahata 5
Kazumi Miura 4

We do not, yet, have any rules for actually using these numbers, but that will come soon. The next stage is to look at matsuri, and how they interact with the kami.


Shin’i means “kami authority”, roughly speaking. (The apostrophe indicates that you should finish the “n” before starting the “i”; it is shin-ee, not shi-nee. Pronounce “shin”, but not “knee”.) It is written with the character for “kami”, which is pronounced “shin” here, and the character used in for authority in the thirteenth century laws I quoted earlier:

The kami increase their authority through the respect of the people, and the people increase their prosperity through the blessings of the kami.

In Kannagara, I will use it as the name for the main resource statistic for kami. A resource statistic is one that you use up: it is a pool of points that you spend, and once they are spent, they are gone, until you do whatever the game says you need to do to get them back. They are distinct from capability statistics, like abilities, because abilities do not go down when you use them. Even original D&D had a resource statistic: hit points. In more modern games, however, the resource statistic is something that players decide to use, and characters get it back by doing things that are appropriate to the game. For example, in the new World of Darkness, the general resource statistic is Willpower, and characters can regain Willpower easily by acting according to their Vice. That means doing something at least a bit bad, and reinforces the atmosphere of a horror game.

I plan to have a resource statistic for all characters, but shin’i is the statistic that determines whether kami can do something supernatural. A kami with no shin’i cannot do anything supernatural in the normal world. Kamikakushi will probably be different, in keeping with the idea that kamikakushi is more of a fantasy world.

When Kannagara includes rules for kami personae, there will have to be several rules for shin’i, so that kami personae know how to recover it, and what they can spend it on. However, in the initial stages of the game, all kami will be characters, because the personae are all human. In this case, the relevant question for the personae is whether the kami has enough shin’i to do what they ask. How do the players decide this?

To keep things simple, the basic assumption will be that kami use all their shin’i all the time. They use it to answer prayers from other people, or to interact with the world to meet their own goals. If the personae want a kami to do something for them, they must give her enough shin’i to do it, as well as convincing her that it is a good idea. This means that players do not need to keep track of a kami’s shin’i in most cases: she has none available, unless they give it to her. But how do they give it to her?

Shin’i increases when people show respect to the kami. Matsuri are the basic way to show respect to the kami. Therefore, matsuri give shin’i to the kami. For a matsuri to be successful, it must give the kami enough shin’i to fulfil any request made in the matsuri, and convince the kami that she wants to fulfil that request. While matsuri can do more than this, this is their basic function, and the next major topic for this blog. Before that, however, in the next post I want to give an example of a kami: Tamao.

Interests of the Kami

The eight powers defined in the previous two posts will determine the number of dice that kami get to keep when intervening in the world in a supernatural way. What, then, determines the number they get to roll?

Here, I want to use the interests of the kami. As I said when introducing kami, every kami has her own interests, and is more likely to help in that area. In mechanical terms, this works well as a source for the number of dice to roll. A more powerful kami, with higher scores in the powers of her aramitama and nigimitama, is able to benefit you more in any area, but you might be better off going to a slightly weaker kami with more interest in that area. If two kami have the same power, then you definitely want to go to the one with more interest.

Unlike the powers, I don’t think that the possible interests of the kami can be fully captured by a list. There are just too many choices. However, there are a number of standard options.

First, all kami have an interest in the keidai, the grounds of their jinja. This allows them to act to defend or transform that area. It also allows them to act on anyone who is within the keidai, even if there is no other applicable interest. In this case, however, the effect only remains as long as the person is within the keidai, because that is how they have been linked to the power. This will be useful in stories, as it allows kami to act very flexibly when personae are on the kami’s home territory.

Second, almost all kami have an interest in their ujiko, and the area where their ujiko live. This interest can be used to do anything to the ujiko, or to the area. Ujiko who stop living in the area lose this connection, but simply working outside, or going on holiday, does not break it. (Consistently working in the area covered by a jinja may also qualify someone as an ujiko for game purposes; I’ll see how that goes.)

For most kami, the interest in their keidai should be their highest general interest, and for those kami who have ujiko, that should be the second highest, or at least no lower than any other general interest. This has the effect that it almost always makes sense for ujiko to go to their local kami, no matter what the subject of their request, which fits with actual Shinto practice.

A third kind of interest is a personal relationship with an individual. This is what a sūkeisha relies on. These personal relationships could potentially be higher than the interest in the ujiko or keidai. While sūkeisha are most likely to find it necessary to build such a relationship, there is nothing to stop an ujiko, or even shinshoku, from building a personal relationship that is stronger than the general bond to the ujiko.

When two or more interests apply to a use of a power, the kami uses the highest to determine how many dice to roll. Therefore, an ujiko with a strong personal relationship would use that relationship, rather than the general ujiko relationship, to determine how many dice the kami rolls to grant requests, or interfere in her life. There is a Japanese saying that “Kami you do not touch, do not curse you”. In the game, this rule is the reason. If you have nothing to do with a particular kami, she has neither reason nor ability to use her supernatural powers on you.

The other possible interests of a kami are very diverse. Types of natural phenomena, areas of human endeavour, healing, particular diseases, business prosperity, passing exams: these are all examples found among actual kami. For game purposes, there probably needs to be a fixed list of the most general interests, combined with guidelines for more restricted interests. While a narrow interest works the same way as a broad one, providing dice to roll, it should be easier to increase, so that it makes sense for players to define kami with narrow interests.

How many interests should a kami have? There should be no limit on personal relationships; every persona should be able to have a relationship with every kami in the game, although they probably won’t. For general interests, half a dozen is probably a reasonable maximum. More than that, and it will be hard to remember what the kami does. Naturally, this should not be a hard limit, but it is something to bear in mind when creating new kami.

Powers of the Aramitama

What, then, are the powers of the aramitama? Once again, I would like to have four, because human beings like symmetry, and it also makes things a bit easier to remember.

The aramitama is concerned with change, disrupting the way that things are. As discussed in the last post, something counts as a change if the kami thinks that it disrupts the way things normally are.

The first power is inspiration. Wisdom is about the way things are, while inspiration is about the way things could be, but are not. It could be artistic or creative inspiration, but it equally covers political inspiration, or new ideas for ways to organise your own life. Inspiration is about new ideas, but they do not have to be absolutely new. They just have to be ideas that change the current situation. The idea that women should be equal to men could have been suggested thousands of times by aramitama throughout history, because it has always been a change. (These days, some kami may think that it falls under their nigimitama. Probably mostly male kami.)

The second power is destruction. Destroying something in a situation changes that situation. This power is the one most often regarded negatively, and it often causes genuinely negative effects. An earthquake or typhoon would fall under destruction, as would a plague. However, destruction could also remove hatred or prejudice, or a disease that had become normal.

The third power is creation. Adding something new to a situation changes it just as surely as removing something. This brings up a point in which the game will differ from normal Shinto practice. In the game, if you want a baby, you have to ask the aramitama, because a new baby is a change. Once a woman is pregnant, she should ask the nigimitama for a safe pregnancy and childbirth, because the situation then falls under protection and prosperity, but a woman who is not pregnant and wants to be should ask the aramitama. The same applies to requests for a good relationship; it is something new, so it is under the purview of the aramitama. Improving an existing relationship, on the other hand, falls under prosperity.

The final power of the aramitama is transformation. Something in the situation changes. This is different from a combination of destruction and creation. When a kami uses destruction followed by creation, something is destroyed, and then something new is added. Transformation, on the other hand, changes something that already existed in the situation. Killing a man and then creating a baby girl is obviously not the same as changing a man into a woman. The first is creation followed by destruction; the second is transformation. Some cases, however, are not so clear. Consider changing a relationship of hatred into one of friendship. Is that a transformation of a single relationship, or the destruction of the hatred and the creation of the friendship? For game purposes, a change is transformation by default, with destruction or creation being used when transformation is clearly not a useful description of what happens, so the relationship change would be transformation. If this ruling makes transformation too useful, I will revise it, but that is a matter for playtest.

As with the powers of the nigimitama, I think that these will be numbers of dice to keep. So, the nigimitama has the powers of wisdom, healing, protection, and prosperity, while the aramitama has the powers of inspiration, destruction, creation, and transformation. If these provide dice to keep, what provides the dice to roll? That is the topic of the next post.

Powers of the Nigimitama

When we come to define the game-mechanical powers that fall under each of the mitama, we are moving firmly beyond anything established in Shinto theology or legend, and into the purview of game design. The powers here are designed to allow kami in the game to do the things that kami do in legend, but they have no specific basis in those legends. I am making stuff up.

As discussed in the previous post, the nigimitama favours the status quo, and wants to keep things the way they are. This could be a single power, but I’d like kami to be more distinct than that, so I will split it into four separate powers.

The first is wisdom. This means understanding the way that things are, and allows the kami to both comprehend things for herself, and to grant knowledge to people who ask for it. The second is healing. This does cover curing diseases and injuries, but it is more general. It is the ability to restore the status quo when it has been damaged, so it would cover repairing items and relationships as well as simply medical issues. The third is protection. Protection stops the status quo from changing, primarily by resisting outside influences, but also by restricting internal changes. The final power is prosperity. Prosperity is growth and development within the constraints of the status quo. Becoming a better baseball player as you practice is a form of prosperity, but so is a good harvest, or a good year of sales from a business. Starting a new business is not, however, covered by prosperity, because that changes the status quo.

Each of these four powers is a separate game statistic for the kami. Specifically, I think that it will be a number of dice to keep, but I will get on to that in a later post.

An obvious question here is “what is the status quo?”. Normally, this is easy to answer: it is the way that things are. However, when a kami uses healing the way things are right now is not the status quo; that is why the status quo needs to be restored. In most cases, the question is still easy. A person does not normally have a cold, and not having a cold is better, so the cold is not the status quo, and can be removed by healing. When the question gets difficult, the determining factor is what the kami thinks. Does the kami think that something is part of the normal situation in the area? This does not mean that the kami is in favour of that feature of the situation, because all kami have an aramitama as well, but it does mean that the kami accepts it as “the way things are”. That means that it is possible to move something from the purview of the aramitama to the nigimitama, or vice versa, by convincing the kami that a given situation is normal or otherwise.

A particular kami might still think, even in 2013, that it is normal for women to be subservient to men, in which case the nigimitama could use healing to remove a woman’s independent spirit. If the kami thought this was normal but bad, of course, the aramitama might bring about changes. If a different kami thought that independence was normal, then the nigimitama could restore a woman’s independent spirit through healing.

Just as with people, most kami prefer things the way they are, for the most part, which means that the kami are normally called upon to operate through the nigimitama, and generally prefer to do so. There are, of course, exceptions, and the powers of the aramitama are important to all kami. They will be the subject of the next post.

Aramitama and Nigimitama

Kami traditionally have two aspects, called the aramitama and the nigimitama. “Mitama” means spirit or soul, while “ara” means wild and violent, and “nigi” means calm and peaceful. “Aramitama” could be translated as “wild spirit”, and “nigimitama” as “calm spirit”.

As kami are often thought of as spirits, it might look as though the aramitama and nigimitama are almost separate kami. Indeed, they are sometimes treated that way. At the Naiku of Jingu in Ise, for example, there are separate jinja for the nigimitama and aramitama of Amaterasu. The main jinja enshrines her nigimitama, while Aramatsuri no Miya enshrines her aramitama. The Geku is similar; the main jinja enshrines Toyouke’s nigimitama, while Taga no Miya enshrines her aramitama. The jinja enshrining the aramitama are a few minutes’ walk from the main jinja in both cases, and Kashima Jingu, in Ibaraki Prefecture, has a similar arrangement. At Kashima, the jinja enshrining the aramitama is a few minutes’ walk into the woods behind the main jinja. The jinja can be even further apart: the nigimitama of the Sumiyoshi kami are enshrined in Sumiyoshi Taisha, in Osaka, while their aramitama are enshrined hundreds of kilometres away in Sumiyoshi Jinja in Shimonoseki, at the western tip of Honshu, the main island of Japan.

Jinja that enshrine the nigimitama and aramitama separately are, however, the exception, rather than the rule. I suspect that a large part of the reason is practicality: to enshrine them separately, you must have two jinja buildings, and space to build them, which doubles the cost of a jinja.

The nigimitama is the peaceful aspect of the kami, bringing blessings to people, while the aramitama is violent and active. Some matsuri directed at the aramitama have the goal of calming it down, and returning the kami to her nigimitama. However, sometimes violent action is necessary, and in those cases a matsuri would be directed to the aramitama. Because people do not, in general, want their lives to be violently disrupted, the nigimitama is generally more popular, and regarded as the main aspect of the kami. The aramitama is not, however, any sort of evil spirit.

I would like to make these two aspects an important part of the game, in the following way. A kami’s nigimitama favours the status quo. The nigimitama is a force for stability, but not stasis. Kami are fundamentally concerned with growth, so even the nigimitama is in favour of growth and development. However, that growth and development happens within the boundaries that are already set.

The aramitama, on the other hand, favours change. The change doesn’t have to be instant, but it goes beyond what was expected and predicted. This change disrupts the established order, makes plans impossible to carry out, and creates new options.

Most people want to avoid too much unexpected change. It is hard and stressful to deal with, even if it is ultimately good. The rulers of a country like unexpected change even less, as it almost always reduces their power. Further, many of the obvious examples of unexpected change are negative: natural disasters, plagues, deaths. This explains why the nigimitama is, and always has been, more popular. On the other hand, it is obvious that, sometimes, the aramitama’s intervention is what you want or need.

The powers of a kami will be divided between the two mitama, and the next post will look at those powers in more detail.


As we saw from Norinaga’s definition, anything awe-inspiring can be a kami. For Kannagara, kami are going to be personal entities with supernatural power, and, in most cases, they will be spirits. This is partly because most kami are thought of this way in Shinto practice, and also because it works well for the game. Mount Fuji as a kami would not be easy to introduce into play, and it is hard to see how you could interact with it, other than by climbing it. Konohananosakuyabime, the spirit of Mount Fuji, is a different matter.

Personae can form relationships with kami, and that will be an important part of the game. Kami, like people, are all different, and have their own interests and quirks. A kami’s power is particularly potent in her areas of interest, but that does not mean that a kami has no power in other areas. A kami is not the kami “of” something, but is most often asked for help in the areas for which she is well known. For example, Tenjin is well known for granting success in examinations, so he is often petitioned for exactly that, but he is also associated with poetry. The Sumiyoshi kami are also associated with poetry, and with travel. The association can also be specific to a particular jinja; Benzaiten is generally associated with the arts, but there are particular jinja where she is also associated with wealth — not something typically associated with art.

This particularity is important. Even when a jinja enshrines one of the popular kami, the kami of that shrine is not entirely the same as the kami at other jinja. She is not completely different, either, and as Shinto is not given to abstruse theological speculations I don’t believe that the details have ever been worked out. In fact, a kami may be both the same kami and a completely different kami. Inari jinja all enshrine Inari, one of the most popular kami, but the named kami venerated as Inari varies from jinja to jinja. This is also true of Hachiman, who is typically a group of three kami: Hondawake, Okinagatarashihime, and Tamayorihime, but the third kami often changes, and the second one is not completely constant. In addition, a lot of jinja enshrine a purely local kami, often associated with a natural feature, rather than one of the famous kami. This gives us a lot of freedom to define the kami of a jinja for the game.

Even when the kami of a jinja is not a purely local kami, she takes a particular interest in that shrine and the surrounding area. That is why jinja have ujiko; they are the people who live in the area in which the kami is particularly interested. Sūkeisha do not live in that area, so while they might have a good personal relationship with the kami, the kami is not that concerned about where they live.

Kami are normally portrayed as having their own personality, and they are approachable. They are still, necessarily, awe-inspiring, but they are not perfect, all-powerful, or all-knowing. They have personal preferences, such as for kinds of mikë, and personal styles. Indeed, as I noted earlier, personae can become kami, and they do not lose their personality when that happens.

The rules for the personality of a kami will be the same as the rules for the personality of any other character, in order to keep the game as consistent as possible. Different rules are needed for the awe-inspiring, supernatural aspects of the kami, and those are the rules that will be most important early in the saga, when personae are first getting to know their local kami. They are, therefore, the rules I will look at first.


A persona who becomes a kannagi can see the supernatural at any time and in any place. The other option, kamikakushi, lets anyone see the supernatural, but only sometimes, and only in particular places. “Kamikakushi” means “hidden by the kami”, and could be translated “Spirited Away”. Indeed, the Japanese title of the Miyazaki anime called “Spirited Away” in English is “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi”: “Sen and Chihiro’s Kamikakushi”.

In kamikakushi, a kami takes a number of people out of the mundane world, and into a separate world inhabited by the kami. In this world, any human being can see kami and communicate with them directly, and the kami can, and do, use obviously supernatural abilities.

Only kami can initiate kamikakushi, at least to start with, and it takes a significant amount of effort. The more people a kami tries to spirit away at once, the more effort it takes, so small groups are more common. It is not normally possible for the kami to keep someone in kamikakushi indefinitely, and it is not possible to take anything from kamikakushi to the mundane world that didn’t get there from the mundane world first. Time normally passes more quickly in kamikakushi than in the mundane world, so that even someone taken for a long time is only missing for a matter of days, at most. This, of course, makes it very hard to convince anyone else of what happened.

In addition, there are many kamikakushi, all of them different. Most of them look superficially like Japan at different periods of history, from primeval woodland to the present day, but the inhabitants and events of each world are different. This means that the accounts of people who have been spirited away do not agree.

The first session of a kannagara game, then, would typically involve kamikakushi, to get the players involved in the supernatural side of the setting, and give them a chance to talk directly to the kami of their jinja. After that, the personae can only return to kamikakushi if they can give the kami enough strength to take them, and convince him that it is a good idea. These goals play into the themes of Kannagara.

Kamikakushi also provides an opportunity to have pseudo-historical game sessions, when the personae visit a kamikakushi that resembles a period of Japanese history. The kamikakushi is not actually Japan in that historical period, so not all details are the same, but the overall culture and atmosphere is preserved. This is important, because it allows people to run game sessions without doing an inordinate amount of research.

Not all game sessions take place in kamikakushi, so gaming groups must choose how often they go there. If it is very rare, the game will feel more mundane, but the wonder of kamikakushi will be easier to preserve. If it is very common, there will be more supernatural events, but they will become commonplace. At the moment, I think the default will be that kamikakushi is rare to begin with, but becomes more common as the story progresses. Once the characters have become kannagi they can, of course, see the supernatural in the mundane world as well, and this may well make it easier to enter kamikakushi.

Kamikakushi may be linked to one another, and may also be linked to the actual past, as opposed to supernatural re-creations thereof. That, however, is something for the future development of the game. Initially, each kamikakushi will be self-contained, and fairly small. Links to other kamikakushi, other places, and other times can be discovered or created in play.