About this project
(日本人の方はこちら/nihonjin no kata wa kochira)
Almost a decade ago, Japanese artist and game designer Jun'ichi Inoue sat down to create a uniquely and unmistakably "Hyper Asian" (in his own words) Japanese world: A world of magic and technology, of samurai and Taoist sorcery, of powerful mecha and cultured geisha. The world was named Tenra, and the game was named Tenra Bansho, or "Everything in Heaven and Earth". With a rulebook dripping cover-to-cover with high quality anime-style art, a setting rich in culture both real and fantastical, and a revised and simplified rules system that focused with precision on roleplaying and character drama, this game took the Japanese tabletop RPG market by storm and spearheaded both a renaissance and revolution in the Japanese gaming industry.
Years later, this unique and revolutionary game has finally been painstakingly translated into English for play in the West.
Tenra Bansho Zero is a tabletop roleplaying experience, and it features:
* Over 300 unique pieces of art spread throughout the game, 33 full color manga story pages showing off the world and setting features, and ten rules explanations in manga form for fast retention. The art is done by the formidable hand of Junichi Inoue, the fine brush-work of Hiroyuki Ishida, the comical impact of Hayami Rasenjin, and more! WIth layout for the English edition by industry expert Luke Crane (Mouse Guard RPG, Burning Wheel RPG), you've never seen a game like this.
* Two books, almost 700 pages: A full-color Setting book and a black-and-white Rules and Play book. The books are sturdy softcover in an American comic book size factor, come shipped together in a hard slip-case, and together boast a page count of almost 700 total pages! The huge amount of art, combined with the detailed deep-dive explanations and play advice, will give you your money's worth in usable content. A video flip-through of the English books is here.
* A rich Japanese setting involving a planet in a constant state of war, where magic fuels technology and the culture is an analogue of the Warring States (Sengoku) era of Japan. Mecha, sorcery, samurai, geisha, Buddhist monks, cyborgs, annelid-users and more make this game a truly unique--and deeply culturally Japanese--experience. See the Game section below for more details!
* A simple-to-understand rules system utilizing regular six-sided dice, cleverly explained in both detailed text examples and amusing full-page manga art. On top of a system of skills, attributes, action and combat is overlaid a deeper system of kabuki theater-style play: Focusing very specifically on play through Acts, Scenes, and Intermissions, the players of this game are both the actors and audience. As actors, they focus on role-play in a scene with other actors. As audience (much like the audience of a kabuki play), they focus on the drama that unfolds, rewarding the players for dramatic actions and cool ad-libbed lines.
* Speed: An entire campaign, a story from start to finish, can be told over the space of one to two sessions! You can then choose to play the same characters in another tale, or perhaps retire them to look at another facet of life on Tenra.
* All-in-One: The original Japanese game had a core rulebook, a supplement, and later several mail-order only mini-supplements. The data/rules contents and much of the art has been ported and folded into the English book set (originally $145 USD for all of that material if you were to buy it as it came out), including errata and designer suggestions. This is a truly updated version of the game!
We've beaten every single stretch goal in our path, including the FINAL GOALS at $80,000! There's no more goals to achieve in these last three days of the Kickstarter. So please pay at your interest level, and see all the fabulous rewards at each pledge tier below!
Find out more about all the original stretch goal levels at the Tenra Bansho Kickstarter description page.
We're coming to the end of the Kickstarter, and need to describe in brief what you get at every reward level because of all the stretch goals we met! To find our more about these levels, scroll down the page to the "REWARDS" header. Also, much deeper information about the reward tier DLC is on the Tenra Bansho Kickstarter description page.
Note that unless otherwise noted, all of the DLC or electronic goals are set to release within up to 6-8 months of the Tenra Bansho Zero physical book arriving (Jan 2013). It will be priced at about $5 each after the Kickstarter.
$5 - THANK YOU!* A set of desktop and mobile device wallpaper art
* the illustrated Tenra Bansho Zero replay (PDF)
* the ready-to-play scenario (October) (PDF)
* the Mythos Hunters Zero campaign reskin (PDF)
* 13 ready-to-use character sheets pre-filled (PDF)
* Against the Tide campaign setting (PDF)
* Tenra Bansho Zero Japanese name list (PDF)
* A Set of scenarios and scenario seeds by designer Jerry Grayson (PDF)
* Tokyo High-School Demon Hunters campaign reskin (PDF)
$13 - TENRA BANSHO ZERO PDF: All the above, plus
* The Tenra Bansho Zero complete book in electronic (PDF) format
$20 - PDF PLUS: All the above, plus
* Extra Characters DLC (PDF)
* Mass Combat Rules DLC (PDF)
$30 - Ultimate PDF: All the above, plus
* Ruined Empire campaign setting (PDF)
* The Director's Cut Book (PDF)
EXTRAS: Add +$5 to any digital level above to get one physical copy of the Director's Cut Book sent to you anywhere in the world.
At this tier, you can add extra things to your order! See the graphic below!
$55 - The Physical Book! Everything at the $5 Digital level plus:
* A physical copy of the two-book set in softcover with slipcase
* A digital (PDF) copy of the Tenra Bansho Zero rulebook
* A physical copy of the Introductory Reference Comic Book
* 5 postcards featuring core rules of the game for players
* A physical quick rules reference/guide
** You can upgrade to a limited edition not-in-stores hardcover set for an extra $15
** Shipping in the US and Canada is free, International is $15 extra
$62 - Book with Rules DLC! Everything at the $55 Physical Book level plus:
* Extra Characters DLC (PDF)
* Mass Combat Rules DLC (PDF)
(same hardcover upgrade/intl shipping rules apply)
$70 - ULTIMATE BOOK AND DLC! Everything at the $62 level plus:
* 10 Japanese Kanji dice
* A physical copy of the Director's Cut Book
* Ruined Empire DLC (PDF)
* Director's Cut DLC (PDF)
(same hardcover upgrade/intl shipping rules apply)
* Raise your pledge to $100 to also get a limited TBZ tenugi (traditional long hand cloth)
$118 ASURA SET This set includes everything at the $70 level plus:
* A gorgeous traditional 90cm x 90cm Japanese wrapping cloth (Furoshiki)
* 40 total Japanese Kanji dice
* A set of two casino dice (for making an "Emotion Matrix Roll")
* A traditional Japanese hand-cloth (Tenugui)
* You are totally badass, what with all these awesome traditional Japanese textiles!
(same rules apply re $15 to upgrade to a hardcover book set, as well as $15 for non-USA/Canada international shipping)
$190 AIKI CHIT SET This set includes everything from the $118 Asura set, plus:
* 60 large foam Aiki chits with the TBZ logo in Japanese, for tracking drama at the table. Any token/coin can be used, but these are hardcore!
(same rules apply re hardcover book sets, international shipping; I'm subsidizing heavily here!)
Any pledge at $200 or more will receive the option to upgrade to one hardcover set at no extra cost.
THE FINAL SET:
$475 BUT I WANT TO PLAY **NOW!!** SET
You get everything from the above sets, plus:
* Two copies of the final game. You can upgrade one or both to limited edition hardcover for free, if you wish.
* You will get one supremely limited edition white cover print-on-demand preview physical copy of Tenra Bansho Zero, complete with signature and dedication. I will ship this book to you via Express Mail anywhere in the world within 3-5 days of the Kickstarter ending. No waiting, you will be playing the game before anyone! Please add $15 for international orders (it's an incredible cost to me, so I ask very little).
Our original goal was to print 2,000 copies of Tenra Bansho Zero and put them into distribution globally so that people will be able to buy it from their local book, game, comic or anime goods store. I now have enough money to print several thousand copies more than my original goal, and produce quality DLC and stretch goal rewards!
Tenra Bansho Zero was written by famous manga artist, game developer and geek cultural icon Jun'ichi Inoue. He started early in the industry writing Japanese language supplements for American games, and later began designing (both in writing text and drawing art) some of the most popular and revolutionary tabletop RPGs to be released in Japan: Tenra Bansho Zero, Alshard (an easy-to-learn Final Fantasy-esque game set in a world of Norse mythos), Beast Bind (half-demon warriors fight threats to humanity), Tera the Gunslinger (A wild west steampunk game using a playing card system), Angel Gear (an alternate history game where the few remaining children in the world pilot mecha to destroy invading angelic beings) and several more. Not only did he design the settings, he also hand-drew most of the core art and covers for each project himself. He has also designed the concept art and settings for several Japanese computer game projects, as well as created a line of collectible figurines.
Inoue-san is more recently famous for his published manga comic series, "Chuugoku Yome Nikki: A Chinese Wife and an Otaku Husband", an autobiographical work from his own life. His website sees over 60,000 views a day, and his books were #1 at Amazon Japan the week of their release. His work on Tenra Bansho Zero and other games made him a household name in otaku circles, and his popularity grows through his recent manga work.
I'm Andy Kitkowski, a part-time Japanese professional translator and interpreter (full time "computer guy"), and hardcore gaming hobby enthusiast. I've created a number of community-building projects like the Story Games gaming discussion website (www.story-games.com), an RPG award system for small press RPGs (the Indie RPG Awards www.rpg-awards.com), and a blog for discussing Japanese RPG developments (www.j-rpg.com); and shepherded projects like the Iron Game Chef game design competition and the 24 Hour RPG game development project.
I've also produced and localized the first ever Japanese RPG released in English (though historically the second licensed, after Tenra Bansho): The anime comedy RPG Maid: The Role-Playing Game with primary translator Ewen Cluney. This game served as not only an opening salvo of Japanese games into English, but also as a complete test run from concept to post-sales for the eventual release of Tenra Bansho Zero, so that we could avoid pitfalls in the development and release of the game.
My background in and obsession with the Japanese language comes from 18 years of academic and self study, and I have lived in Japan for over five years. My translation focus has been on computer engineering, Buddhist texts, Japanese linguistics and culture, having translated and interpreted at places as varied as Fortune 100 IT companies to NPOs to universities to anime conventions.
The World of Tenra
The land of Tenra has been in a state of constant war for over 400 years, with no end in sight. The core of the setting of the game can be found in the larger-than-life characters who populate it:
* Mecha called "Armours" are piloted by innocent children of regional lords.
* Warriors with energy-producing gems embedded in their flesh called Samurai who have traded their humanity for the ability to spontaneously gain muscle, power and speed (think "The Incredible Hulk with a katana").
* Aloof Taoist sorcerers called Onmyoji use abacus-computer to summon and bind demonic shiki spirits to exert their will.
* Buddhist monks of three major and differing sects--there is not one single form of Buddhism, but three--vie for the hearts of the people, all with philosophies claiming to lead to salvation. Some have developed incredible hand-to-hand combat art to support the people.
* Phenomenally beautiful and cultured geisha-like Kugutsu (mannequins) are crafted from spirit-trees as pieces of art for the rich and powerful, but secretly yearn to become human.
* Shinobi strike from the shadows with incredible Ninjutsu abilities, living and dying for the service of their clans.
* Machine-human Kijin have traded in their flesh--and souls--for cold, powerful steel.
* The horned, psychic Oni are the native people of Tenra--feared and hunted by humans--who share a deep connection to the earth and each other.
* Kongohki are peerless killing robots, powered by the amnesiac spirit of a tormented soul.
* Annelidists serve as healers, and have bodies filled with symbiotic native worm-like lifeforms that protect them from harm and strike down their enemies.
* Secretive Shinto Agents control the world from the shadows with their meikyo mirror-disks, keeping nation fighting nation for a mysterious cause.
* Mysterious Ayakashi, creatures of spirit straight out of Japanese folklore and myth.
These are the characters that emerge in a game of Tenra Bansho Zero--the characters that the players develop and bring to life through play--and they have the power to change the world.
Beyond that, there is no metaplot or long histories to memorize, no atlases or overly defined cities to remember: The intention was for each group to create and explore their own created version of the setting. A compelling game campaign frame--a sample setting to help get you started, written by gaming industry luminary TS Luikart--is included in the rulebook: It features fascinating characters, locations, and events to help you start your adventures in the exciting world of Tenra!
The Game System
The core rules of Tenra Bansho are easy for people new to role-playing to be able to pick and up and play with their friends, even if you've never played another role-playing game before!
The game uses a simple mechanic involving six-sided dice in order for characters to do things, from leaping up the side of a river fortress, to seducing a hard-hearted domain lord, to engaging in a swordfight with twelve ninja. A suite of attributes (the number of six-sided dice you roll), skills (determine your threshold for success) and special abilities determine what your character can do.
Combat happens, and it happens fast: Unlike other games, you get to effectively choose if and when your character dies, at a time that is right for you. And the more wounds your character takes, the more powerful you (or your enemies!) become: "This... is my FINAL FORM!" Combat is simple, story-focused and exciting!
The Zero system of the game's namesake rewards dramatic role-playing: Skilled players are rewarded when they push themselves harder, and new players unfamiliar with role-playing are rewarded as they learn to come out of their shell and engage with their characters more. These rewards are much like the audience shouts and yelps at a traditional kabuki theater experience (very unlike western theater: A kabuki audience shouts encouragement at the actors as they hit dramatic lines and poses!). This reward is called "Aiki", or "Harmony/Meeting of Spirit". It later turns into "Kiai" or "Martial Power", which is spent to accomplish incredible epic anime-like feats: defeat much more powerful enemies, accomplish impossible feats, etc.
The game carries the metaphor of a kabuki stage play into the actual game itself, with very structured Openings, Acts, Scenes, and Intermissions. In the intermissions there are even "Previews" of the next act, much like there are previews of the next episode at the end of an anime!
Finally, the system has within it a Japanese cycle of Buddhist Karma: The more of this Kiai you spend to accomplish incredible feats, the more Karma you gain. Once your character reaches 108 Karma (the number of Buddhist sins) you are at risk of becoming an Asura, a lost soul who looks to destroy everything she loved.
All in all, the game is rich with Japanese culture, all the way down to its core rules of play.
Please see the Tenra Bansho Zero website for more details on the game and system: http://www.tenra-rpg.com
The Tenra Bansho Zero Game: Two Books and a Slipcase
As mentioned above, the game is divided into two softcover American comic-sized books in a hard slipcase, totaling 690 pages between the two books (well over 280,000 words) packed cover to cover with over 300 distinct pieces of art.
The first book is the Setting book, and through 33 pages of full-color manga illustration, it introduces you visually to the vast world of Tenra and its characters. After that, the setting is further introduced through chapters detailing the world, society, culture, characters, and threats, combined with a flood of inspiring visual art to help you identify with the setting.
The second book is the Rule book, and it covers all the rules of making characters, engaging with the world and interacting with the other characters, rules and advice for organizing and running game sessions and the like. It also includes elements specifically created for the English release of the game, including:
* A complete sample setting, written to help you immediately start playing the game, as well as to give you an example of how to make your own setting.
* An extended glossary of all the Japanese and unusual terms used in the game, including pronunciation.
* A list of inspirational media (including movies and games) to help you get into the feel of Tenra.
* An exhaustive list of advice both for players and game masters, from the simple to the advanced: All advice gathered through years of playtesting.
* A quick example of how to explain the world of Tenra to new players.
* A list of 222 things that people would do in cities, towns, on the road, at a temple, etc for role-play ideas.
* And a very long name list, to use when selecting authentic-sounding names of characters and places. Don't be stymied when creating background characters, from poetic Buddhist Monk or Kongohki names, to commoner or aristocrat names.
However, don't feel lost by the size of the game! When I hear that a tabletop game has something like "over 650 pages", I normally think that it's too much content, and too hard to pick up and play! Not true with Tenra Bansho Zero: The page count is mostly due to the comic size form factor and the sheer space that all the gorgeous art consumes. The 30+ pages of color introduction break down the world simply and can be read and digested in minutes. Several full-page manga in the rulebook explain the game system from top to bottom again in minutes. The content required to play takes only 30-60 minutes to read!
Everything else beyond that core is simply "MORE": More optional rules, more advice for players and gamemasters, more content for people not familiar with Japan or who haven't grown up watching Japanese TV, more notes about Japanese culture in relation to Tenra, more elements there to use if you want and ignore if you do not. The deeper you go, the more you are provided with so much, much more support.
I have read a lot of original Japanese manga and then read the English translation (and the same with anime), enough to be disappointed at large with the amount of corners cut, cultural information lost, in the anime and manga industry as a whole. For the Tenra Bansho project, I made sure to do two things in the translation and localization process:
* Make the game as easy-to-read as possible.
* Yet do not lose the tone, nuance or feel of the original Japanese text.
In other words, I didn't simply whitewash the content, removing cultural references and nuances (to complete the translation faster), or simplify it in order to make it more palatable to a generic Western audience: I chose the hard, long road of doing more work in order to make sure the text reached a perfect balance of the poetry and nuance of the original (including leaving in a series of poetic chapter introductions, leaving in some wonderful and skilled Japanese calligraphy art rather than simply over-writing it, leaving many terms in Japanese rather than rewriting them in pure English (while being careful that there weren't too many Japanese words to make the text difficult) and leaving in a rare touch of Japanese grammatical choices--choices that are usually not made in English.
I truly believe that these choices and the incredible amount of time involved led to a richer text, and I want to share that text with you!
Every dollar helps! I'm trying to form a small hobby company with friends to bring over more Japanese tabletop games into English. If you like anime/manga-style art, or just are supportive of these kinds of multicultural efforts, please donate some money. Every little bit you donate--or donate over the set reward levels--makes more translations in the future a distinct possibility!
You can see there's several tiers of reward. The core rewards are the PDF levels and the Book levels.
Computer/IOS desktop backgorunds: Using the art from the game, most backing levels will get access to a small collection of desktop wallpapers of various backgrounds utilizing the original Tenra Bansho art. These will be available before the physical book has arrived.
The PDF level is an electronic copy of each book, in PDF format with high visual quality. I will also be producing a "text only" version for readability and the visually impaired. A pre-release copy of the PDF will be available soon after the end of the Kickstarter campaign, with final versions available when the book is released.
The Physical Book levels are just that: A set of Tenra Bansho Zero books consists of one copy of the Setting Book, one copy of the Rule Book, and the decorative sleeve that holds both books together. All purchasers of the physical book will also receive a PDF as well. The book set is rather heavy, so I am taking a hit by offering free shipping in the US and Canada, and heavily subsidized shipping to the rest of the world, but we are that committed to this project! The book is scheduled to be released three months after the end of the Kickstarter campaign.
Other reward levels include:
"Downloadable Content/DLC" - Future supplements for Tenra Bansho Zero will mostly be in an easy-to-download an print micro-supplement format of 10-20 pages of optional rules and content. DLC will be available within approximately half a year after the release of the book for a few dollars apiece. Plans currently include:
* Extra Archetypes/Character Classes: A collection of four new character types and illustrations, including the Half-Ayakashi, the combat focused Stand-User, the Ninja Robot Dog, and the Gunslinger From The West
* WAR - Mass Combat Rules: A collection of rules focused on a long war session, including the simple tracking of army strengths, as well as a table of long-term battlefield and seasonal events. It will also feature strategies, tips and ideas for the implementation of these rules in your short or long-term game.
The Director's Cut: In the process (and long years) or translation and localization, a number of interesting stories developed: Stories about how I came across the game, the difficulties of translation, interesting cultural quirks and points that caused difficulty or amusement, the list of changes from the original Japanese version to the English version, general stories about life and work in Japan, and so on. Since enough people found those stories interesting,
I've developed a "Director's Cut" book of 30+ pages and counting (including comics; plus anime art and mecha illustrations from artist and technical illustrator Steve Yap), a collection of stories about the development of the game. If you ever wanted to know the background of a game you bought, this is it. If the game Tenra Bansho Zero was a movie, this book would be the director's commentary audio track relaying the behind-the-scenes stories about the game. This will be available around the time of the release of the book.
The Ruined Empire: A complete campaign setting frame from RPG artist and blogger Anna Kreider. The Ruined Empire is a setting of five nations in conflict, ripe with adventure and danger. It has a Final Fantasy-esque feel, a mind to social issues, and serves as a great idea-rich jumping off point to running your own games. This will be available shortly after the end of the Kickstarter campaign.
Dice: The higher levels feature a set of Japanese Kanji Dice to play the game (one player needs about 10 dice initially to play), each die featuring the kanji (Chinese pictographs) of 1-6 instead of the numbers. You can "buy up" more sets of dice, at the cost of $6 for 10 dice (includes shipping). Higher levels come with a set of two color casino dice to use with the Emotion Matrix.
Traditional Japanese Furoshiki Wrapping Cloth: I went all out here on my last trip to Japan. Being an addict of traditional Japanese textiles, I went to the manufacturer of handmade furoshiki wrapping cloths and ordered a huge collection of 90cm x 90cm cloths (huge!) in several different gorgeous patterns and styles. They are the perfect way to wrap up the books, dice, sheets and other materials for easy (and fashionable) transport!
Foam Aiki Chits: Normally you can use poker chips, coins, slips of paper or the like for the aiki chit "audience award" rules, but I ordered a collection of Tenra-labeled giant foam poker chips for the higher-end level reward. They make excellent visual and tactile markers. What better way to reward a player for roleplaying than throwing a foam shuriken-like token at them? They're quite expensive, but I'm swallowing most of the cost of shipping.
* The game is complete and ready to go: I've already gotten print proofs! This project is not at the start of the game development lifecycle (playtesting, writing, editing, proofing, printing, etc), it's at its very end. All of the major work has already been done. This kickstarter is not a promise to the eventual creation of the project, it's a promise to get it into your hand as fast as they can be printed in asia and brought to the US. Once this Kickstarter project ends, if it is funded, it will almost immediately go to our selected printer after one last round of editing. From there, we have been told that it is about a 60-90 day turnaround to arrival in the US. We see how other projects have been held up in printing/transport, so we padded the project by a few months ("December") just in case.
But know that all the heavy lifting is done: If this project gets funded, the already complete print-ready PDF goes to the printer soon after for production.
* Everyone involved has been paid! I've seen game projects where "paying the contributors" becomes something optional, or something that only happens after the break-even/"turn a profit" point. For Tenra, all my assistant translators, editors, and contributors have not only been paid in full, but many of them have received bonuses for delivering their work ahead of their deadlines. I've heard horror stories about the industry and freelancers, and have refused to prey on people. There's blood, sweat and tears in this book, and all of it was fully compensated.
* I support local retailers, book, comic and game stores! If you own or manage such a store, and are interested in supporting this project in return for 4-8 copies of the game to resell locally (no more, as per Kickstarter's rules on mass distribution), please contact me and I'll work out a pricing that works for both of us!
* I support "Kicking It Forward". I've been a Kickstarter contributor for years (click on my name to see what I've backed!), and definitely intend to put 5% of my profits back into the excellent system of peer patronage that Kickstarter has brought us. Find out more here: http://kickingitforward.org/
Tenra Bansho Zero is self-rated T+ for Teens for violence and adult themes.
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