Japanese Tabletop RPG Blog

Tabletop RPG Information and News!

December 2, 2016
by Diamond Sutra

Meta/fourth wall tricks to carry TRPG play, courtesy of A Japanese Drama…


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On Japanese Netflix, there’s this show starring Yamada Takayuki (Yoshihiko, from the “Yuusha Yoshihiko” series) that caught my attention, called “Replay & Destroy“. It’s basically a cute “honobono” series of stories in this Everyville Japanese city suburb. However, the directing/camerawork style is very reminiscent of Guy Richie style wild cuts, hammy but fun overacting, and just general “style way way waaaaay over substance”. It’s got a lock on me, luckily it’s only 8 episodes.

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Anyway, there’s this fourth wall trick that they use in at least half the episodes, which really caught my attention as cute, effective, and fun (but totally in the milieu/feel of this drama). You know how in many RPGs the party splits up and does various things, then when they meet up, they have to share the story of what happened while the others were away?

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Classically, most of us just chew the time by, in character, going through the five or so minutes of in-character-to-character session brief. Or it can be cut through with a “…Okay, I have (my character) bring (your character) up to speed on what happened…”, and that’s it. This is specifically for events where there’s not an Unreliable Narrator (ex: You go specifically to beat up a bunch of dudes and take their money, then come back and tell the others “nothing happened” or “some folks attacked me, I had to defend myself”, etc), and you’re just doing the in-character telling to another character what your character saw/experienced/etc.

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In this drama, though, they do this cool thing: I’ve got two clips below (no telling how long they’ll last) that shows it in action. But basically, the person talking holds out their hands, then proceeds to “jump” their hands from Left to Middle to Right, while saying “Don; Don; Don” (“Don” is the onomatopoeia word for “thud” “bam” “crash-bang-boom”, etc). I guess the English equivalent would be “Ding-Dang-Dong” or “Bing-Bang-Boom”, but I like the one repeated syllable of the original Japanese “don”.

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1) Anyway, here is the main character explaining to a friend why he’s stalking out a grocery story (in short, it’s a long tale involving wanting to see why this particular strange person was so obviously shoplifting, and the reason why they aimed to get caught).

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“BTW, what are you doing here, anyway”
“Ah, I see. So that’s why you’re standing here and eating that.”

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2) In another episode, the main character helps an area neighborhood high school kid get his first pair of boxer shorts to give him some confidence. In the process, his friends (including other high school groups) overhear them and get the totally wrong idea “Three’s Company” style, thinking that there was something going on between them. Sayu and her friends are acting really weird around him, planning some kind of intervention, like “Hey, that’s okay, but he’s a little too young…”

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“Seriously, Sayu, what the hell is going on??”
“Don-Don-Don” (more exaggerated than the example above)
“WHAT??? There’s no way that kind of thing is going on here!”

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Anyway, it’s a cute little trick, and while it can be imported directly into my Japanese sessions for effect, I’m wondering how to do this in English (“1-2-3”? “Da-Da-Dummm”?). Since a lot of the games I rn or play in have a lot of dialogue, a lot of characters doing their own things then coming back to communicate with each other about what happened, this sort of fourth wall trick would be useful and more fun than just “I tell her what happened”.

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December 13, 2015
by Diamond Sutra

48 Hours Left for the Shinobigami Kickstarter

Shinobigami Kickstater Link Here


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.


Okay, that was the PR-y blast. In truth, Shinobigami is one of our favorite games – Both Matt and Andy – And despite running it several dozen times between us, we’ve never had a bad/unfun session with it. The game is exciting and interesting on so many levels: Between the secrets, the “frenemies” style light PVP play, etc, it’s just a generally exciting and fun game.

Two days to get in on it at the early bird prices. Jump in now!

August 9, 2015
by Diamond Sutra

Steven talks about Kamigakari : A Demon-Hunting RPG

After Rikizo-san left Group SNE, I was wondering what he’d do: He’s extremely passionate about Role-playing games and Japanese culture, as evidenced by his work on the Japan-mythic supplements for the Demon Parasite RPG line.

I didn’t even realize he produced a new hard-hitting action/Japanese myth RPG until a friend pointed it out: Kamigakari, or “We God Hunters” (if I was being sufficiently Anime enough).

It’s getting some decent amount of play in cafes and cons in Tokyo. I’ve heard that it’s kind of in competition with DoubleCross in the “troubled teens with power hunt down dangerous demons” category; but since there’s a lot of media with that theme, and the setting is sufficiently different, I don’t see too much conflagration…

…Anyway, Steven Siddall, author and budding “Japanese media translator in the making”, breaks the game’s super interesting mechanical pieces here on his Google Plus blog. Give it a follow!


September 21, 2013
by Diamond Sutra
1 Comment


So, Matt and I (Andy) have partnered up with the Geeky and Genki network to deliver media (postcasts, videocasts) through their website! We’ll be posting more info here when there is content over there, so for now go ahead and check out our new podcasts!


Warning: We are new at this, and still finding our legs: Case in point, each time I aim for maybe 20-30 minutes of content… then we talk (directedly!) for like 90 minutes. Wow! So yeah, we’ll be finding our legs and improving shortly.  For now, you can check out our attempts here:

Geeky and Genki: http://geekyandgenki.com/

Super Excite Game (formerly the J-RPG podcast) #3 here: http://www.geekyandgenki.com/j-rpg-podcast-3/

The NEW Super Excite Game #4 here: http://www.geekyandgenki.com/super-excite-game-episode-4/

Come for the gaming, stay for us blathering about Japan, culture and language!


Matt’s G&G Profile: http://www.geekyandgenki.com/author/matthew/

Andy’s G&G Profilehttp://www.geekyandgenki.com/author/andy/

June 24, 2013
by Diamond Sutra

Updates for DoubleCross (English Edition)

DoubleCross is now out and available at Amazon (see two updates ago).

The publisher (Ver Blue/KH Shu) heard some customer issues and saw some editing misses, so he sent out this informational update: An ongoing Errata, Document links, and other information related to the game through the official web presence at G+:


Dear Customers,

It has come to my attention that there are a handful of mistakes in
the printed book. I have uploaded an Errata file on my G+ site. The
link is as follows:


Please follow me on G+
(https://plus.google.com/101235997413051519555) or Facebook
(www.facebook.com/pages/Ver-Blue-Amusement/351682611607409) for future

On a side note, I have also uploaded the Record sheets as well. They
are available at:



June 22, 2013
by ennui

Japanese Occultism

When I was majoring in Japanese in college, I excitedly signed up for as many Japanese religion classes as they offered. For years I was looking for the sources of the ideas I’d seen several times in anime up to that point, such as onmyouji, shikigami, kekkai, et cetera. I wasn’t expecting to learn how to summon/banish nekomata, but I was hoping to get some academic background on this and tons of other questions I had. (I’d heard that kitsune grow a tail every 100 years of existence, but where did that idea come from? I’d only found rumors and nothing to back that up)

I’m not sure what the hell I was expecting, but the closest I found was the ancient Shugendo practice of Bhuddist monks attaining spiritual power in the mountains. In the end (though I learned a lot of interesting stuff) I figured I’d just have to play lots of Megami Tensei to get my fill of Eastern Occultism.

Covers of an older edition of the first three books. Art by Yoshitaka Amano. Photo by Wikipedia

So the other day I was wandering the Wiki path and came across an entry that had to have been on the periphery of my vision for years. This book, Teito Monogatari, seems to be the source of many–if not most–of today’s Eastern occult memes, just as Futaro Yamada‘s stories did for ninja myth. It was written by Hiroshi Aramata, who at the time was a historical scholar with an interest in old weird Japanese stories. He wanted to share the obscure things he’d learned and started writing the novel as a side project. It immediately took off and became a 12 volume epic story that spans a hundred years and spawned spin-offs, prequels, manga, and several anime (even a play!). The ideas found in Teito Monogatari immediately took hold in Japanese culture and became the basis for manga like Tokyo Babylon/X, anime such as Demon City Shinjuku, and games such as Shin Megami Tensei.


Raidou Kuzunoha from the Shin Megami Tensei spin-off of the same name. Photo from the Megami Tensei wiki.

The story itself concerns itself with Yasunori Kato, an onmyouji and oni who was part of the Japanese Imperial Army. For reasons going back thousands of years in Japan’s past, he is determined to bring down the city of Tokyo and tear Japan apart. I don’t know much more than that, but I’m going to get my hands on a copy of the books and see if I can get through them. There’s an older manga that goes through the first half of the story, but I’m going to challenge myself to get through the text. I’ll come back with an update once I’ve given it a shot. In the meantime, what sort of Eastern occult meme have you been interested in and are curious about? The ‘wormcharm’ in Tenra Bansho, for example, might have some roots here, from the Kodoku practice of insects embuing humans with luck. I’m excited to see what else is in there waiting for me!

June 19, 2013
by Diamond Sutra
1 Comment

Doublecross in English: Preorder Now!

Doublecross, one of my favorite Japanese RPGs of all times, is now available in English, through Amazon!


A note from the publisher, though:


Please treat these as a preorder, and give him some time to fulfill them. The books are set to arrive any day now.

Doublecross 3rd edition is the latest and greatest version of one of my favorite RPGs. The best way to describe it is as a very story-focused “Japanese X-Men”. I think it refers to itself as “Dark Conspiracy Action”, and it’s that in equal amounts: The conspiracy stuff is baked into the setting, and the action is baked into the rules: All the rules are pretty much geared towards the “Effects”, or character powers, which reside under “Syndromes”, or power sets. So my character might have the syndromes Salamander and Hanuman, which are the domains of Fire Control and Speed (respectively), and a number of Effects/powers under each.

It’s a d10 dice pool system with just a little bit of math involved in each roll (tallying the number totals on pools of dice), but it’s fast and solid. The power sets are evocative and awesome. The story-focused play keeps you tied socially to the other players, with the major NPCs in your life offering you strength so you don’t “turn to the dark side” (but as relationships, they can be burned to keep you alive, basically flipping from Lois Lane to Lex Luthor types in the process).

Also, KH Shu, the translator, basically didn’t just translate and sell one book in the series, he combined at least three Japanese releases (Rulebooks 1 and 2, and I believe another, likely the Advanced Rulebook) together into one massive English tome.

If you like X-Men style young supers, Exalted-like Charms (for combos, etc, but without Exalted’s “massive amounts of dice ultimately doing nothing” effect), and dark conspiracy/betrayal, this game is totally for you.

I ordered four.

December 7, 2012
by Diamond Sutra

J-RPG Podcast 2: Tokyo Nova, RPG-Themed Manga, and more!

J-RPG Podcast #2 is up! Download it here!


00:00 Introduction (First Crush by Sabrepulse)
00:31 What we’re listening to:
01:31 What we’re playing
Animal Shogi (the full version: Animal Shogi in the Greenwood)
(note: The basic version is available as an IOS game app, look for “Let’s Catch the Lion!“)
05:53 News
-Kickstarter updates: Magician, Hillfolk, Tenra Bansho Zero
Gamer MarketPictures from the Game Market
Psychic Hearts
22:50 Main Topic 1: Spiel EssenShinobigami Announcement
36:08 Main Topic 2: Piyopu Seikatsu is now available for free on j-comi! An incredible gaming life/RPG autobiographical manga by Naoko Kanazawa (Blog) (Girls’ Style Gaming Blog)
46:33 Game in 5 Minutes (or more): Tokyo Nova, a uniquely Japanese Cyberpunk RPG using playing cards and specialized Tarot cards- Pictures of the Tokyo Nova Tarot
1:15:50 Word(s) of the day
Endaka (Wikipedia)
1:20:00 Mail & Shout Outs
1:25:00 Closing & Next Week
Style Savvy
-Fixing Legend of the Five Rings
Outtro (The Rapture by Sabrepulse )

Thanks to Sabrepulse for the rocking chiptunes. If you like his tracks, please buy a copy like I did!

Comments? Questions? Topic Ideas? Hit us up!

November 10, 2012
by Diamond Sutra

J-RPG Podcast? J-RPG Podcast!

Google Drive: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B1uVoci2ePQKYnhiSmNMdGppMzA 
Direct Link: http://www.j-rpg.com/podcast/j_rpg_podcast_1.mp3

Hey all! Last month Matt Sanchez and I–partners in crime at Kotodama Heavy Industries –were bored, so we put together the first of hopefully more podcasts about Japanese Tabletop RPGs.

Since it’s an introductory podcast, we focus mostly on self-introductions and the past, including:

* Who we are
* Our day jobs!
–The world of customs brokering!
–The world of high performance storage computer analysis!
* How day jobs lead to pushback on writing projects!
and 21:00 minutes in, we talk lightly–5 minutes each–about what we love about the J-RPG “Ryuutama: Natural Fantasy RPG
* Why Hall and Oates?

If you have questions, thoughts, or topic ideas, please feel free to post a comment here!


August 16, 2012
by Diamond Sutra

A followup to the GenCon Talk on International Gaming!

Heya all! Jason Morningstar from Bully Pulpit gave a lecture on international gaming. You can download the discussion here!


Here are some quick liner notes for his discussion. His highlights include:

Ryutaama, Shinobigami, MAID, Tenra, Meikyuu Kingdom, Komiket, replays, “roll or choice”, FEAR, SNE.

* Ryuutama, or as I like to call it “Hayao Miyazaki’s Oregon Trail”, can be seen on this site! http://www.j-rpg.com/ryuutama . Also, I officially announced the upcoming release (planned 2013) of Ryuutama. Stay tuned for a more official website soon. The core release will be in PDF format, with a very limited printing of books to coincide with an eventual kickstarter campaign (once the book is laid out). It’s a game with a very traditional adventure gaming structure, but the feel and style is very new.

* Shinobigami is a story-focused game about modern day ninjas who fight each other-and themselves-to further the aims of their clan. It’s a scene-focused game where everyone is trying to create and author scenes to attain goals, goals which will eventually lead to them “winning” the scenario. More on Shinobigami here: ( http://www.j-rpg.com/talk/discussion/48/shinobigami/p1 ) and here ( http://d66roc.wordpress.com/category/shinobigami/ ).

* I can’t shut the hell up about Tenra Bansho Zero, because I’m so proud that it’s finally coming out. The Kickstarter is here, please back it! I mean, it’s funded five times over, but the more stretch goals that are broken, the more awesome we can generate for it (including lower the eventual MSRP of the final book, which has already happened once).

* Meikyu Kingdom – A lighthearted fantasy game about creating and expanding a kingdom in a world where the whole dimension has turned into an endless labrynth. More here ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meikyu_kingdom ) and on Matt’s blog here ( http://d66roc.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/meikyuu-kingdom/ ) . Totes fun, cute.

* The Komiket, or Comic Market, is the largest comic convention in the world. It’s held twice a year in Tokyo’s Big Sight, and boasts about half a million attendees for the wekend ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comiket ). Every year there’s 100 or so “Tabletop RPG tables” in a specific section for a day, where folks bring their replays, house rules, fan translations, fan rules, settings, etc, and sell and trade them with each other.

* Replays are awesome. More on these later. On the side, one of the greatest replays crafted in history is available online for free in stunning HTML5: http://sai-zen-sen.jp/special/reddragon/

* Roll or Choice is a grand phenomenon: To make characters easier to create, some developers use a system called “roll or choice” (RoC): You roll on a table to see your result. If you don’t like that result, you can look around for another option and choose that instead. What’s the point of rolling, if you can just choose something anyway? The roll helps stop some analysis paralysis (looking over the list and taking painful amounts of time to decide on one), the one you randomly roll might suddenly shock and inspire you! Or if it doesn’t, maybe the ones right next to that option will!

* FEAR and Group SNE are the two largest RPG development houses in Japan, located in Tokyo and Kobe, respectively.