Shinobigami - Modern Ninja Battle Tabletop RPG from Japan
Shinobigami - God of the Shinobi - is a tabletop Role-Playing game originally developed and published in Japan by Adventure Planning Service. Originally written by legendary designer Toichiro Kawashima and gorgeously illustrated by Shie Nanahara, Shinobigami is a fast one-session RPG focusing on character drama, stories of conflict and cooperation, and light tactical strategy in a dark modern "World of Shadows" setting where mysterious ninja exist and engage in inter-clan conflict in an ongoing hidden cold war. It is being translated and published by Kotodama Heavy Industries, the team behind previously crowdfunded releases Tenra Bansho Zero and Ryuutama.
The overall effect is a very easy-to-learn game that is equal parts story-driven RPG, German-style board game, and secret identity/role game (Werewolf, Coup): With a few friends, you together create a dramatic story that starts and ends in the course of just a few hours (one evening). From there, you can revisit the same characters or make new characters, and create another tale set in the Ninja Cold War.
Find out more about this game at the official English website, www.shinobigami.com.
Shinobigami is a game for 3-7 players, with one player acting as the "Game Master", who creates the scenario and helps facilitate the game. Each player creates a character from one of the six warring ninja clans in accordance with the rules, and introduces them to the other players (you can find out more about Shinobigami character creation and rules at the official website). The GM then hands each player Secret, which is a piece of information or a true goal specific to that character. The GM introduces the antagonist characters (if any), the Prize or Goal of the mission that all of the characters share, then the game begins:
The game plays in three Cycles: Each cycle, every player has one scene where their character is the focus. That player narrates their scene and starts moving to accomplish their goals. Based on their Secret and the other characters, they might attempt to learn the other character's Secrets, to form Emotional Bonds with them, or just follow them in order to trigger a one-on-one battle.
After three cycles, there is a no-holds-barred free-for-all battle called the Climax Phase with twists and surprises as the players reveal their true alliances and hidden motives. After the dust settles from the Climax Phase, there's a brief epilogue where we see who accomplished their goals, which relationships changed or became stronger, and who walked away with the Prize.
This three-act structure, the character types, the secrets, the strategies and twists that occur during combat by means of Shinobigami's "Velocity System" battles, and most importantly the nature of the relationships that form in the game due to the Emotional Bond rules, means that even though the game follows a tight tructure or include the same players, no two games of Shinobigami will ever play out the same. It will be a unique experience each time.
Shinobigami has a very different form factor and design from common Western RPG books. Shinobigami is originally a small form factor hand-sized paperback book of about 250 pages that can fit in your pocket, not too different than Japanese manga size. The book is divided into two sections: The first 2/3 of the book contains a Japanese-style Replay, or an entire session of play - from character creation to epilogue - written out in screenplay format. This is a real session that happened, and provides the reader with a blueprint to understanding what kinds of stories and fun you can create with Shinobigami. A replay is also a great reference for new or inexperienced role-players, because it shows you what to expect from the game, how the rules work in actual play, and what an actually good, fun session with enthusiastic players can look like.
The last third of the book contains all the rules you need to play the game. Once you read the replay, you've got an idea of the flow of the game: The rules show you how you can take the next step and run the game yourself. The rules are written simply and concisely, and there are lots of random tables to help you with the character creation process, especially when trying to come up with authentic Japanese ninja-like character and NPC names.
Both books maintain this format of Replay followed by Rules. This format was a new experiment even in the Japanese roleplaying scene, and it took off because of the success it had in helping both new roleplayers and experienced hobbyists into quickly understanding the game and how it works in play.
For the English release, we plan on keeping this same revolutionary format of Replay-and-Rules. Because of language differences between Japanese and English, the books themselves will be a slightly larger/wider size to accommodate left-to-right writing. The final book will have a paperback cover, black and white interior (full bleed), approximately 5 x 8 inches and about 150-200 pages, or "almost the same size as Japanese manga books published and sold in English". We are aiming to provide a thorough, well-researched and expertly localized translation, like our previous games.
The Shinobigami Game Book
The core Shinobigami game book (cover picture above) will contain the full replay text, with several gorgeous illustrations by Shie Nanahara throughout the piece. The rules demonstrate how to quickly create a character of one of the Six Shinobi Clans. Role-playing focused game-play rules are referenced, followed by the explanation of the unique Shinobigami light tactical combat system called the "Velocity System". The last few pages of the book contain reference material for antagonists and other enemies that may appear. Throughout the rules text are simple and cute "chibi" illustrations by Nagomi Ochiai that help demonstrate key points.
The book is easy to read (it's a very fast read, that was definitely a goal of the original author), easy to understand, and easy to reference. It is also the only book you need to play the game for... forever, basically. You can have such rich and limitless experiences with only this book; while we plan on also printing the first rulebook for the game and creating more material, this is all you'll ever need to enjoy the Shinobigami experience.
We are planning a fulfillment date of the final print version of the core rulebook to the backers by December 2016.
The Shinobigami Supplement Book/Advanced Rulebook
The Shinobigami Supplement book contains expanded rules and material, and also includes a replay which demonstrates the use of them in an actual game session.
The expanded material includes extra scenarios; extra charts to help create scenes in school, city and other environments; expanded "sub-clans" for each of the six core Shinobigami clans (indeed, each clan has 3-4 splinter groups with different and sometimes conflicting goals) including special rules and powers for those sub-clans; finally, special expanded rules for playing "normal human" characters tangled in the ninja war. Of course, "normal humans" in Shinobigami are anything but normal, and the rules exceptions and abilities they have demonstrate this.
Again, while you do not require the supplement book to play, it will expand the options available to your Shinobigami game.
We plan to have the supplement rulebook printed and fulfilled to our backers in a second, later, shipment, by December 2017 (it will not ship/deliver with the core book).
Kickstarter Goals and Rewards
Our initial goals are simple: We want to produce, print and distribute 4,000 copies of the Shinobigami core book. Due to the smaller margins involved in this project, we are not looking for a high Kickstarter funding number in dollars. Instead, we are hoping to see a high backer (PEOPLE, not Dollars) count for this project. The more people who come in and support even at the lower tiers, the more money we can free up for planned free and for-purchase followup material for the English release of Shinobigami. Also, the more support we see for this project, the more material and supplements from this expansive game we'll bring over from Japanese into English in the future. To that end, if you believe in this project, please get the word out and tell your friends!
-- EXPANSION MATERIAL --
We have several reward levels that say "ALL EXPANSION MATERIAL" or "ALL PDF MATERIAL". Here is what we are working on for those reward levels. Most will be fulfilled by the time of the delivery of the core rulebook in December 2016.
* New scenarios for Shinobigami, written by many unique voices in the English role-playing hobby and produced in PDF format, for ready-to-play options. We already are developing twelve new scenarios at this level. We will add even more as we achieve backer count levels!
* Full color quick play guide. The full-color comics that appear in our Kickstarter video above were part of a supplement and not in the core (B&W) book; we'll be collecting those 6 full-color manga pages into a full-color 10-page guide for new players of the game, to help quickly explain the themes and rules of Shinobigami.
* A Shinobigami setting reskin: Play Shinobigami in a Weird West setting based loosely on imagery/visuals from T**gun or Ph****sy S*** Online 2. A simple, evocative setting with some new abilities and rules skillfully penned by Steven Siddall, complete with some scenarios to get you started.
* Theme-Run scenarios: The translators are creating a set of three unique scenarios each based on a common "theme", that can be played in order as an extended campaign. Think "The Key to Time" from Doctor Who
* Character "Chibi" Tokens: In the Velocity System, you use a token (like a cut-out or miniature) to track your location. There are about 20 wonderful B&W nittoushin ("chibi") designs available in the supplement book, which will be made available to all backers of expansion material for print/play.
* A Guidebook to writing Shinobigami scenarios: Shinobigami scenarios are actually just 1-3 page small affairs mostly focusing on the opening scene and secrets. But for new GMs, we've got a lot of experience and advice to create new Shinobigami scenarios. We've compiled our strategies into a document which we'll share with you.
* A Director's Cut book, which has interviews from the original author and illustrators, the translators; and talks about the background of the game and development of the English edition, including the bizarre story of when the translators met for the first time at the grand Atsuta Shrine. Think of this as the book version of a "Director's Commentary" you hear on the DVD Extra for a movie.
* Printer-friendly versions (PDF and epub) of the core books for quick reference.
* A Roll20 package of Shinobigami material so that you can easily play online with friends over Google Hangouts.
* Print and Play cards to supplement various elements of play, like EmoBond connections and the Velocity System chart.
-- LIMITED EDITION HARDCOVER BOOKS --
The highest level of support/backing rewards you with a limited edition version of both the core Shinobigami book and the supplement book. We were extremely happy with all the previous "limited edition cover" attempts we've done in the past (especially the success of our Ryuutama limited edition cover), and plan to do the same here for this campaign. The design is not finalized, but the concept will be Hardcover, Faux-Leather, Black with Bright Red highlights, that looks like a cross between a cursed ninja training scroll and a secret journal. Esoteric Buddhism (密教/Mikkyo, often used in "ninja magic") lettering and diagrams, and so on. Will attract strange looks from passersby.
-- WITH YOUR SUPPORT, WE HOPE TO LIST THESE AS GOALS ACHIEVED AT CERTAIN BACKER OR FUNDING THRESHOLDS --
* More scenarios that make use of the core and supplement rulebook.
* Some illustrations for this new expansion material above, from the original artist Miss Shie Nanahara.
* More Chibi character markers from Nagomi Ochiai
* A second Shinobigami setting reskin with a Magical Girl anime theme, complete with new abilities, rules and accompanying scenarios.
* And more: We have even more ideas we're frankly too scared to put into words at this point without seeing if this campaign is successful!
All of the additional goals we reach will be made available to all backers of the "ALL EXPANSION/PDF MATERIAL" levels. We may make some material available to all for free on the Shinobigami website.
Extra Copies of the Shinobigami Books
If you want to order multiple copies of the Shinobigami two-book set beyond the first set, please add the following amount (this combines the book price as well as shipping) to your existing two-book pledge:
For an additional set of Regular Edition Shinobigami books:
USA: Add $44.
Rest of the World: Add $60.
For an additional set of Limited Edition (special hardcover) Shinobigami books:
USA: Add $75.
Rest of the World: Add $85.
For an extra copy of just the Regular edition of the Shinobigami Core Rulebook (and not the supplement):
USA: Add $21.
Rest of the world: Add $36.
We've had successful Kickstarter projects before: So why another one? We go into details on the website, but in short, we'd like to print a large amount of these books at a price point that will help a new generation get into our tabletop role-playing hobby: By doing this carefully and at a measured pace, we hope work with distributors to see copies of the small form-factor Shinobigami turn up not just in game stores, but in comic stores and regular bookstores as well, lined up near manga.
Our experiences at local and national conventions with selling Ryuutama has been that anime and manga fans have heard of role-playing: Many want to try it, they're very interested in it, but the price point and learning curve has been an issue. They only need a small push to try it out. Ryuutama's been selling well with brand new RPGers as that "push", but we think that Shinobigami will help be more of a "loving boot in the ass" to expand the hobby to new potential players, or ex-gamers who are looking for a catalyst to come back.
With extra money for printing raised through Kickstarter, we can try to make that happen.
Finally, we do have goals in mind, but we want to see how much interest there is in this project. If it goes well, we'll bring over other Shinobigami supplement books and maybe even a second Shinobigami-like game from Adventure Planning Service.
As mentioned above, this Kickstarter is a little unusual: It is not just for the publishing of one book, but rather two books; the second book (supplement) to be delivered a year after the first. To that end, you'll notice the shipping costs (even in the US) for the two-book set is roughly double the shipping of the core book (though the core book's price already has some of the shipping cost added to it; the retail price point will be a few dollars less). This is because we have to ship two books.
We may have some physical add-ons, but they will be done in a way where we will not have to ask you to give us more money for shipping later (unless there's a total global shipping collapse in mid-2017). We'll of course reconfirm shipping addresses and the like before shipping the second book later.
Unfortunately for our international friends, we cannot hold off on shipping the first book, and bundle them together in one set when the second book is ready; instead, if shipping for you is costly, please consider just backing the single core rulebook; if you enjoy it, you can later order the second book when it is later available.
Credits and Donations
Because of the small form factor nature of the books, we're going to have a new policy for backer credits: All backers of this project will have their name listed in the credits for the electronic (PDF) copy of the rulebook. However, the physical rulebooks will not contain individual backer names in them. We will also create a memorial page on the Shinobigami website where all backers' names are listed.
We mention on our website that this project has far lower margins than our other projects: This helps us achieve that goal of "low cost high production book", as well as the creation of new material for the English-speaking market. We will be happy to accept your donations above the price of the level you choose. Whatever extra we receive will not be going into our pockets, but immediately re-invested into new material including scenarios, illustrations by the original Shinobigami artists, and the like to be shared with everyone.
Thank you so much for your support. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. And don't forget to see the official Shinobigami website for more information and links to Shinobigami-themed communities.
Thanks to Jennifer Lee for her video mastery.
Thanks to the band Copestoned and Forfeit Productions for granting us the use of their excellent track "Our Screams". You can see more of them at their Facebook site here, and Forfeit Productions.
Risks and challenges
We address most of our risks and challenges here:
This is our third successful Kickstarter: We have a plan that lets us work forward together without burning out, which can handle major life changes if any arise, and lets us focus on crafting the best product possible. As morbid as this sounds, the process could survive and fulfill on time even if one of us dies.
The only real challenge we haven't faced before is this: Since this project ultimately has lower margins than our previous projects, we can't afford to undercharge, to subsidize shipping and the like. After the project ends, we won't be able to offer the same prices, discounts and the like that we are during the project window.
For example: If someone decides later that they want to upgrade from one tier to a higher tier, we can't offer a full refund (because of Kickstarter/Paypal/other fees), we can only offer a partial refund (minus those fees, basically).
We believe in this project, and just like in Japan we want to see it on shelves at its low-cost price point, but we can't afford the same kinds of features and discounts that cause us to lose 5% here, 10% there, 20% over there; on previous projects there was more "slush", but here we're really keeping costs down in an effort to expand the game to a new generation of gamers at a great price point.
Fail to deliver, though? Heh, no, that's not going to happen. Hasn't happened before, won't happen in the future. If this was a possibility, we would not have turned to crowdfunding: We treat your money/resources as our own, and demand of ourselves the same level of accountability to fulfill our project as you would expect from us.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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