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”The Honobono Song"

Western Honobono?


”The Honobono Song"

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There has been a lot of talk about Honobono among us, particularly about Ryuutama and Golden Sky Stories/Yuuyake Koyake. I usually describe by calling it a “feel-good” genre and making associations with Ghibli films, usually in the same breath. Recently Andy and I talked with Kamiya-san and Elmeth-san from Tsugihagi Konpo about Honobono, and Elmeth said that his idea of Honobono comes from fairy tales, and mainly is about using words to resolve conflict.

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I often think of Honobono as a very Japanese genre of games–hell, you can’t find anything like the games I mentioned on shelves in America–but how Japanese is it? It’s clear that Honobono exists in America: comics like Garfield and Family Circus fit the bill, and many Disney animated films are based on fairy tales (but to be honest I don’t know if many if them really fit in “Honobono”, there seems to be quite a few violent endings).

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But what about western Honobono gaming? I mean besides stuff like “Candy Land” or “Mouse Trap.” What sort of examples are there?

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  1. The only one I can think of is Green Ronin’s “Faery’s Tale” game. Of course, not all fairy tales use clever words for conflict resolution; many of the old Brothers Grimm stories end in bloody violence. Of course, a really dedicated GM can force non-violent conflict resolution onto any general RPG system, so perhaps there simply isn’t enough demand for this kind of thing? After all, Just because one is running World of Darkness doesn’t necessarily mean one can’t run a happy, silly game.

  2. When Elmeth-san was talking about using words to solve conflicts, I think he had peaceful resolution, maybe with both parties coming to an agreement or understanding, rather than tricking or lying to get past a conflict. I do agree that most fairy tales I read were graphically violent and really don’t seem to fit the Honobono style, but as a child I was reading out of a book that had the “original” Anderson and Grimm’s fairy tales. I wonder if the Japanese (and many westerners? or at least Americans) have a sort of watered-down image of fairy tales in their head.

    It’s funny you mentioned World of Darkness; the first WoD game I ever played was Old WoD Changeling, which is much more whimsical than the other games in the line. The guy running it preferred it precisely because it was possible to run light-hearted, silly games (that happened to have fairies?).

    I wonder about just how “Honobono” fairy tales really are.

    Maybe this is a digression, but a game called Barna Kronika recently came out over here, and it’s got a strong northern European/German “fairy tale” vibe, but it’s strongly heroic fantasy. And then there’s Monotone Museum, which is billed as “ironic Märchen” but it’s built on the SRS system, which is decidedly not a Honobono friendly system; like DnD 4e, it’s only got combat rules.

  3. Well, there’s always Adventures in Oz. The Oz stories have a lot of conflicts resolved by talking and deals (although there is violence too), and the Adventures in Oz RPG has a lot of mechanics that encourage this. For one, damage received (in physical or social conflicts) is done to your Wits, and when you run out you either give up or run away, and for another, to gain XP you have to make new friends or help your current friends solve problems.

    • That sounds a little like Yuuyake/Golden Sky Stories’ XP mechanic, in that making friends is the only way for character growth (though in practice I’m sure it’s quite different). I’d say that the Wizard of Oz movie is firmly Honobono, though haven’t read the books so I can’t comment on those. This sounds like an interesting game.

      I had always imagined that a game with both physical and emotional damage meters would be the best way to go about framing exciting social “battles” until I played a game of Spirit of the Century. The game was a lot of fun, until the end when all the characters at once confronted a manic woman who was going to kill another NPC that was offstage; we had to talk her out of it before she did so. In the end, there were 5 guys standing in a circle around this poor woman, saying throwaway, nonsense incongruities so that we could use as many traits as possible, or whatever the mechanic was. When I thought about what the scene looked like without the dice, it was really surreal and disturbing. In the end she couldn’t hold up to 5 guys battering her emotions with snappy puns, long diatribes on the law, etc. and gave up and collapsed. I’m curious as to how Adventures in Oz deals with emotional conflicts.

  4. I’m not too familiar with honobono, but from the discussion here I think three western video games fit: Planescape: Torment, and Fallout 1 & 2. (Not surprisingly these games are from the same group of developers.) These games have options that allow the story to resolve without any violence. It’s a very fine edge to walk though, and a slight misstep in what is said, or entering the wrong area, can quickly lead to a battle. Sorry if this doesn’t fit for my lack of knowledge.

    • It’s interesting that most console RPGs, except for the ones that you mentioned, have few or no options for nonviolence. Honobono is sometimes described as “Slice of Life,” so maybe the games you mentioned are a little too epic, unless you’re able to simply explore the world, make friends and not worry about the quest to save the world–like a post-apocalyptic Animal Crossing. I think in Fallout 1 and 2 you’re timed, right? Are you able to play that way in Planescape? Hmm… a post-apocalyptic Ryuutama sourcebook would be pretty awesome…

      • It’s probably also interesting to note that none of these are “save the world” games.

        Planescape: Torment – you play as an amnesiac immortal, and your only goal is to learn who you are (or were). There’s no time limit, and there are opportunities to talk to the locals, learning more of the world. Characters can join the party, but there’s a set selection; other than that, friends aren’t really tracked. If you complete a quest for someone, they may mention how they appreciated it, but that’s as far as it goes.

        Fallout 1 – in this game you’re a nameless vault dweller. There was a nuclear apocalypse, and the “lucky” found a way to these vaults that protected the dwellers from the fallout. You’re chosen to go out into the world because the water purifier broke, and someone needs to find a new one. This is where the time limit comes from for this game; however, once fixed there is no time limit, and the game continues. On your way to find a new device you’ll have learned of a greater threat to the vaults.

        Fallout 2 – here you’re playing a descendent of the character from the first game. Once again the community is in trouble, and you’re chosen because of your lineage to find a device that is supposed to terraform the land into a lush paradise, at least that’s what the advertisement says. Returning unsuccessfully from the last known location of the device, you find the village captured. This leads to the end goal of saving them.

        Maybe it’s interesting to note that while the Fallout games don’t have to involve the combat system in the game, and can be completed through dialogue options. They are still a violent ending, usually involving destroying the enemy HQ and everyone inside. Thinking about that, maybe Planescape: Torment is the only fitting example.

  5. Well, there is the Michtim RPG (http://www.grimogre.at/michtim/)

    It looks fairly honobono to me, although violence is at least an option, but one that could easily be ignored.

    But besides that…

  6. Hey there!

    What a nice find. I was just doing some lookups for my game, so I finally stumbled over this post. Honobono! I never heard about it, but I can tell you for sure: Michtim was supposed to be a “happy place”.

    While conflict is an option I didn’t want to leave out, the game has indeed a strong ethical background because of the three Virtues of Michtim society. One of it, called Charity (~Compassion) looks down upon violence. So Michtim is not your typical monster hunting kind of game.

    It’s more about exploration of magical places. I do see I have a lot of work to do, for others to truly get to that conclusion though. 🙂

    Anyway, currently the game is open to grabs from http://bit.ly/myFluffyRPG (until somewhere around November, after my birthday). Then it will only be available from http://bit.ly/michtimrpg again.


    Keep up the good work,

  7. Thanks Georg! Speaking of which, keep an eye on Ryuutama, which will be going live next week! The “in progress” site is over here:



  8. Harvest Moon, and it iterations in video games, and the newest rendition, Stardew Valley, seem like Western honobono games 🙂

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