About Yuuyake Koyake
  • I'm currently working on translating Yuuyake Koyake for my graduate thesis project ("Culminating Experience"), so I wanted to talk about the game and why it's so neat. Since graduate translation projects have to be relatively short (50 double-spaced pages) I'll only be translating roughly the first half of it for the project, but I'll definitely do the rest when I have the time, and I'll hopefully look into publishing it at some point.

    Yuuyake Koyake ("Sunset") is a game about henge, animals that have just a little bit of magical power, including the ability to take on human form. The creator specifically wanted to make a game that eschews violence and accumulation of power, and in YK these henge mostly help out ordinary people with everyday problems. The henge come from Japanese animal myths, though needless to say they've been toned down for the game's more heartwarming portrayal.


    More when I have time for more :3
  • I'm so eager to play this game. I decided to make a TSOY hack reflecting it just because I really wanted to play it. I'm using TSOY's transcendence mechanic to reflect when a henge completes their transformation to human and what Ability they used to determine what kind of adult they ended up becoming.

    Does YK have a point where the henge finally makes it to human? If so, how does it handle it?
  • That's a neat idea, but it's not a part of YK as written. The setting strongly emphasizes the idea that henge are animals who happen to be able to take on human form, and even if two scenes come immediately after each other, you still have to pay the transformation cost to maintain it. For that matter, apart from accumulating Memories and Threads (more on those later), there isn't any character growth per se. That's partly because the game is focused more on small-scale, short-term play. It specifically says that it's meant for 2 to 4 players, and (for example) the マレビト/Visitor character type in the Mononoke Koyake sourcebook has an optional Weakness that basically forces the character to permanently leave play after one story.

    In addition to the henge, the people of the town, and ordinary animals, there are 土地神様, or "Local Gods." These are beings who protect a particular small area, and don't really concern themselves much with anything outside that area. They often take the form of things like insects, fish, or reptiles, though they can take human form if they want too.

    Connections, Wonder, Feelings
    In terms of its overall sensibility, I would describe Yuuyake Koyake as being like a hybrid of Japanese and indie sensibilities. (Though the designer has only had contact with indie stuffs through the バカバカTRPGをかたる column in Role&Roll magazine). It has relatively few rules, all focused towards a specific kind of play, and it alters or outright discards conventions of RPGs where it serves the game to do so.

    The heart of the game is in the flow of Connections to Wonder and Feelings. You set up Connections to the town and to each of the other PCs before you start a story. A connection has a Strength (a number from 1 to 5) and Contents (what kind of bond it is; Admiration, Affection, Rivalry, etc.), and connections go two ways. One character's connection towards another has a Strength and Contents separate from the partner's connection back at them.

    At the start of each scene you gain points of Wonder equal to your connections towards others, and points of Feelings equal to your points of connections from others. (Contents are pretty much purely descriptive). You can spend Wonder to use your henge's special powers, Feelings to boost your attributes for action checks, and transforming uses a mixture of Wonder and/or Feelings. Players can also award Dreams to other players (and the Narrator/GM) whenever a character do something neat. Between scenes you can spend Dreams to strengthen your Connections. However, when you first meet someone you can make an "Impression Check" on whatever attribute you want to use, and create a new Connection with a strength of 1 or 2.

    At the end of the story, you lose all of your current Connections, but you get Memories points equal to your total non-town connections to others, and a Thread for each Connection you had. Memories can be used as Wonder or Feelings, but they're gone once you use them. Threads record a person and the contents of the former bond, and if they show up again in a subsequent story your new Connection to them has its strength increased by one (and you can accumulate multiple Threads towards the same character).

    If you look at the character sheet, you'll notice that the little arrows neatly illustrate the general flow of stuff. Also, all this makes scene framing very important to how the whole thing works, and if the replays and scenarios in the book are any indication, it's meant for the scenes to be relatively short, and tightly controlled by the Narrator.

    When you create a henge, you also pick what kind of animal he or she is (Fox, Raccoon Dog, Cat, Dog, Rabbit, Bird). This gives you six pre-determined powers, and six pairings of an Additional Power and a Weakness of which you pick one to three. This is where it shows more of its Japanese TRPG-ness. Henge powers sometimes affect how Connections are formed, sometimes affect action checks, and sometimes let a henge do something a normal person can't. For example, Foxes get a こあくま power where their strange allure makes their connections stronger by 1, and lets them pick the contents of the other person's connection towards them. They also have an optional power called ふわふわ that lets them fly at a slow pace.

    Yuuyake Koyake has one sourcebook so far, Mononoke Koyake. It adds five new character types, all "mononoke" that rather than being animals with some mysterious powers, are creatures of pure mystery. The types are Michinoke (monsters that pester people on roads), Oni, Kappa, Ghosts, and Visitors. One neat thing about these is that they allow for variations. A "Kappa" can be a traditional Kappa, or just about any critter that lives in the water, including mermaids and what amount to fish henge. The Visitors are the most varied of all; the signature character is an alien, but they can as easily be witches, time travelers, or Santa Claus. The book has a short comic about a boy befriending a Michinoke, some more stories/dialogues about them, and two scenarios.

    The most recent issue of A Local Paper (Sunset Games' zine thingy) has a preview and sample story from the game, and the designer's doujin circle has included some Yuuyake Koyake stories in their anthologies, and even put out a 2008 YK calendar. At Comiket 73 they apparently were giving out rules for mouse henge, but the website says these will be revised and re-released later. The Sunset Games blog also obliquely mentions that Kamiya-sensei is thinking about another supplement.
  • Posted By: neko ewenThat's a neat idea, but it's not a part of YK as written. The setting strongly emphasizes the idea that henge are animals who happen to be able to take on human form, and even if two scenes come immediately after each other, you still have to pay the transformation cost to maintain it.

    Are the henge's human forms children like the images in the book, or can you have an adult form? I kind of thought the game focused on an end game or finale scenario for the characters, the goal being to become completely human. Is this true or am I just crazy?
  • The guideline in the book is for characters to be between 8 and 18 years old in their human forms, (though their chronological/animal ages can be anywhere from less than a year to a few centuries, depending). Although it might make for an interesting hack to the game, as written Yuuyake Koyake has no endgame at all, and it specifically emphasizes how henge are first and foremost animals, are defined by and happy as such, and have to exert themselves somewhat to maintain a human form.

    One of the books on Japanese myths I was reading says that "folk legends" are a kind of folklore that consist of stories that don't necessarily need a narrative structure, and are fixed in a particular local place. It occurs to me that Yuuyake Koyake is in a sense a game about folk legends, albeit ones with a deliberately heartwarming tone.

    Another thing is that in his book "Shared Fantasy," Gary Alan Fine says gamers tend to create what he calls "folk beliefs." In, say, D&D these tend to be along the lines of "Heroes will triumph over evil in the end," but for YK they're more reinforced by the game's text, and they tend to be more like "There's always a way to make someone happy."
  • That's so sweet I could cry ;_;

    I wonder how a con scenario would work. Maybe a family in town is struggling and the henge get involved to help them sort their problems out? How does one know when a story is done in YK? If the Visitor has to leave at the end, when does everyone know that has happened? Is it just a one-session game?

    (I'm still kinda into my TSOY hack, though. I should probably do something with it.)
  • If the included replay and two scenarios are any indication, YK is meant to be fairly tightly controlled by the Narrator. In all three cases, the game is basically set up with 4-5 scenes that establish and resolve a situation (e.g., a kid goes back to school to get something he forgot, but hears scary sounds from within, the henge persuade him to go in anyway, and it turns out to be a puppy that they have to figure out what to do with), and then there's an "epilogue" scene where the henge essentially get to see the fruits of their efforts and spend a little more time with whatever new friends they've made (if the boy adopted the puppy, they come visit the boy and his new pet and play for a while). So, basically, the Narrator says, "The next scene will be the last one," and after that one, the story comes to a close. Although there's no reason you couldn't do something like your example of trying to resolve a family's problems, the examples have thus far been on an even smaller scale than that.

    Reading through the Visitor description did get me a little misty-eyed, to be honest, and I immediately decided I want to run a scenario where henge have to help a quirky time traveler (or some such) get home. I'll have to see how the game's default style works for me in practice, but what I would do is set up the scenario to be about how the henge help the visitor find her missing MacGuffin, and then the final scene would be the tearful goodbye. Of course, I should mention that Mononoke Koyake specifically says that mononoke are more difficult to play, and you should get some experience with playing henge first. Aside from the fact that, unlike henge, their natural forms usually scare people, mononoke also can have complications like the "Traveler" weakness (where they have to leave at the end of the session) that can make it more challenging to work out how the session should flow.

    YK can definitely be played for multiple sessions--the rules for Memories and Threads only actually matter if you do--but it seems like it'd work best as a thing where you'd play every now and then, and swap out characters freely. That said, playing more in the long term, and thereby getting to know the town and the people (and other things) that live there could be a lot of fun too.

    Oh, another thing I noticed while re-reading the rulebook some today: Although there aren't any rules for it, it often mentions about how some animals (and in Mononoke Koyake, mononoke as well) can potentially become local gods.
  • It definitely seems like YK emulates a particular kind of story that I am not culturally exposed to, as of yet. Are there any American books or movies that might match the feeling of gameplay?

    And, thanks for taking time to answer my questions. I feel pretty silly having bought the book not knowing any of this, but I do want to know how to play it :)
  • I have a hard time even thinking of Japanese works that quite fall into the same category, much less American ones. Although the designer definitely drew inspiration from various sources, he's also staked out some new territory. About the only thing from another media that it readily resembles to me is certain Miyakaki films, especially My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service. And really, you owe it to yourself to get caught up on Miyazaki films. ;) Anime with a juxtaposition of everyday small-town life and the supernatural rarely lack violence (e.g., Petopeto-san could be a neat source of ideas, but it does have yakuza kappa girls getting into epic battles), though there are some obscurities like The Gargoyle of the Yoshinagas.
  • Man, even the fairy tales I can think of that are similar still have some violence to them. It will be very fun to try this out, I think. Although, it is hard to think on a scale as small as you've presented with the one boy and the puppy. I can imagine that scene framing will be a critical skill to game YK and have it be fun.
  • Hey, Ewen!

    We're really excited about this game in our household! Anything we could do to help you with the process / encourage you to go faster?

  • At this point there isn't much I need in the way of help. For the portion of it I'm doing for my thesis, I'll be going over it with my graduate adviser to make revisions (starting tomorrow), and I'm planning to get some more work done on some more of it besides over Spring break. What I really need for it to go faster is for the original publisher of the *other* game I'm translating to get me the raw text files sooner so I can get that translation project done with.

    Incidentally, although I still plan to e-mail the designer about it, I'm pretty sure I've figured out where the title comes from. There's a very famous Japanese children's song of the same name, which seems to fit the tone of the game perfectly. If the song is as well-known as it seems to be, it's practically like naming a game "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." As I've said, "Yuuyake Koyake" means "sunset," but it seems like it means a particularly vivid, colorful sunset, very much like what's on the game's cover.

    Anyway, here's the lyrics to the song, and there's a YouTube video of it here.

    夕やけこやけで 日が暮れて
    山のお寺の 鐘がなる
    お手手つないで みなかえろ
    からすといっしょに かえりましょ

    子供がかえった あとからは
    まあるい大きな お月さま
    小鳥が夢を 見るころは
    空にはきらきら 金の星

    In the sunset the sun sinks
    The mountain temple bell rings
    Let's hold hands and head home
    Let's head home with the crows

    The children have gone home, and after that,
    The big, round moon
    When the little birds are dreaming
    The sky sparkles with golden stars
  • Just wanted to mention, Sunset Games recently updated their blog with a note saying that they're releasing a new Yuuyake Koyake sourcebook called "Hitotsuna Komichi" at this year's Japan Game Convention. Hitotsuna was the name of the sample town from the rulebook, and komichi means lane, path, or trail.

    There's no info on what it's about just yet, but since the designer released a draft of rules for mouse henge at Comiket 73, I think it's likely it'll include at least the one new henge type.

    Update: The Yuuyake Koyake page on the Sunset Games website now lists Hitotsuna Komichi (release date is September 9th), and there's a cover image, but it's a little vague on what it contains. 3 new character types, additional rules, and 2 scenarios.

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