Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Notes Toward an Imaginary Japan

So, anyway...
We launched into the "Grand Quest" campaign outline in my post about elevator pitches -- and then we stalled out.  While Greater Albion is in the shop, we've decided to pick up another of those elevator pitches and go with SEIRYU.

Robin and I are geeks about a lot of things, both together (RPGs, Doctor Who) and individually (G. I. Joe, Jem and the Holograms).  We are both diehard Japanophiles (even though neither of us speaks Japanese).  When we started gaming duets campaigns together in the early years of our marriage, the world of White Wolf's Year of the Lotus was our setting and we played that into the ground.  We have a bookshelf bigger than my gaming shelves that's full of books about Japan or by Japanese authors (like Haruki Murakami), another shelf packed with manga several layers deep, and a shelf that's just anime and Japanese music (mainly anime soundtracks and J-rock, but also some traditional stuff).  Telling Robin that the setting I imagine is halfway between the moods of "Otogi Zoshi" and "InuYasha" gives her all the info she needs.

Which is how we began a new campaign with practically no notes except:
Kyushu has fallen to the Mongols.  The imperial line is fragmented.  In this time of terror, a princess has been found.  Some say she has returned from the dead; some say she is guided by the Monkey King.  None doubt that she wields a bow like she was born to it.  None doubt that she lights the darkness of the world like a second sun.  Only she can wield the ancient magatama that summons the guardian dragon of the east; only she can command Seiryu!
(A samurai/kaiju/Arthuriana mashup for Savage Worlds or d6)

Well...  Maybe I had slightly more than that in mind -- but only slightly more.  I knew the Merlin figure was a variation on the Monkey King and that our heroine had been raised with a Sir Kay-like brother figure.  I knew the heroine was the survivor of a Kenmu Restoration-like event that went wrong.  I know her future will feature a love triangle between her, a cross-dressed Guinevere in the form of a youthful Emperor, and a Lancelot who is in love with our heroine's Arthur instead.  And that's about it.

So today -- two days after beginning the campaign -- I wrote some notes:
Mukashi mukashi...

Fifty years ago, Emperor Go-Daigo rebelled against his puppet masters in the Kamakura Shogunate.  The battle lasted twenty years and ended in a stalemate with the Emperor’s forces controlling parts of southern Honshu and northern Kyushu and the Shogun’s puppet empire controlling the rest of Japan.  Seeking to exploit the fractures in the Japanese government, the Mongol Empire launched a new invasion approximately twenty years ago that successfully overran Kyushu and turned Shikoku into a disputed wasteland.  The true, southern Emperor died valiantly battling the invaders and his family line appears to be extinct.

O-Kami [our heroine] is the last of the rightful imperial line, daughter of Go-daigo’s heir Go-Morinaga.  Kai is a descendant of Kusunoki Dai-Nanko, Go-Daigo’s most loyal general. Ushiwakamaru is a son of Ashikaga Yoshitomo, the current shogun reigning in Kamakura.  The current Emperor is the ailing Go-En’yu; he will be succeeded by young Prince Fushimi.

They are on their way from approximately Kuji to visit Shingen Masamune, Lion of the North, a powerful daimyo anachronistically based in Sendai.   He is 30+, gruff and powerful. 

The Ashikaga shoguns retained the Kamakura residence of the Minamoto shoguns due to its easily-defended location.  They are somewhat more martial and less courtly than their historical counterparts.


464 miles at 14 miles a day (average for mountainous terrain and bad light) = 33 days
195 miles at 14 miles a day = 14 days

So it would take just over a month for our heroes to reach Kamakura if they went right there.  If they go to Sendai first, then that takes about 14 days and then it would be 19 days to Kamakura. 

You know the really hilarious thing about this?  I own Iron Dynasty and we deliberately decided to not use it because we didn't feel it felt genuinely Japanese (and we didn't like all the extra Edges).  Why do I make life hard for myself?!  Oh well, I should at least be able to raid Iron Dynasty for NPC archetypes.

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