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June 5, 2019
by Diamond Sutra

How to Japanese at the Table

I swear, you drop one more pithy accented non-aphorism and I’ll shoot this “wise ancient man” stereotype.

This is a followup to the “May I play…” article linked to two posts ago.

Mendez’ article is great, and I wanted to follow up on my end with some practical table advice for using Japan specifically (or “AsiaLand”, as it happens in western-developed fantasy RPGs) at the table. This covers both historical and contemporary Japan.

Long story short: I have used Japan as a theme in games a lot: Contemporary games, historical games, fantasy games, many set in Japan or a Japan-analogue. I am fluent in Japanese, use it primarily at my day job. I have lived in Japan for almost 10 total years now. My interest in Japan is far more sociological than historical (read: I know countless things about various Japanese counterculture movements and scenes; but I know jack and shit about the details of various historical battles and the like). When I write something about Japan, I always float it by a group of Japanese gaming friends to get their feedback.

Further, I’ve been subjected to the kind of torture session that Mendez highlighted, usually at one-shot sessions at conventions and meetups and the like: Most often the “old/wizened master or gruff samurai who only speaks in thick accents, aphorisms, grunts, or accented aphorism-grunts.” This is particularly ridiculous when you’re playing a game set in Legend of the Five Rings (which will get its own post, believe me! 🙂 ) or like TORG’s Nippon Empire, where *all* of the characters are from the same culture so would not have an “Asian accent” when talking with each other.

Killing Accents Before They Start

So sure, Lesson One is “Knock that shit off”. But we’re going to pre-cog that shit so it doesn’t start in the first place. If you run a session with an Asian theme, please feel encouraged to start the session off before you begin handing out characters with a simple “By the way, you are all from Asia-Land(tm), so none of you will have an ‘Asian accent’ with each other. So let’s take “stereotypical Asian accents” off the table for this session.” Or if there is one or more Asian player characters at the table, maybe drop a similar reminder in: “If you speak with an accent, tell us during your character introduction about how accented your English is. But for the session itself, just talk in character with no accent, please.”

Even if you are not the GM, and thus not “running the table”, please feel free as a player to be bold and interject the above before play begins. You can be self-effacing by starting off the conversation with “Hey, by the way, I had a weird experience a bit ago where this person did a really stereotypical accent the entire session. It was like fingernails on a chalkboard the entire session. So let’s not do that at this table, okay?” (while enthusiastically looking at the GM and other players to signify “you’re with me on this, right?”). Just starting off the session on a positive note like that will likely kill that sort of thing before it starts.

The above situations are for those convention games where you don’t know most/all of the other players. If you’re playing with friends, then no problem you should all be fine with correcting each other without harm in play if something like that happens.

The reason I push for this kind of “Positive Energy Preemptive Strike” with the kind of statements above before play begins, is because it is SO EASY and quick to say, it’s less time and energy than fastening a seat belt. However, if no one says anything but then someone at the table (who hadn’t received the memo that “this shit is played out”) starts into a – heck, even a good/well-meaning and not “Mickey Rooney” – accent at the table… it’s really hard to put the shit back in the horse at that point. It’s still worth bringing up for sure (a gentle phrase I use is, “Ahhh, yeah man, sorry, we don’t do that at this table” and quickly move on without lingering on them), but at that point you’re climbing out on that tightrope, balancing between “hurt feels/shame” “group mood” “self doubt at bringing it up” (“if it’s just me, maybe it’s not really a problem?”) and so on.

Ever feel that “Oh man, I think I need to pee in the next 30 minutes” feeling during a blockbuster superhero movie at the crowded theater? That amount of background stress is nothing compared to aiming for the perfect moment to gently tell someone their fake accent is making you uncomfortable after they’ve already been doing it for five minutes. Still. Worth. Doing. Though.

From here, I focus on positive stuff.

Dive into Describing Language

Part One: Pick Another Accent, or Describe How They Talk

Language – even the non-understanding of a fake language like “High Elven” – is a rich thing that can bring so much flavor to your session. The Japanese language has so many areas where it differs from romance languages that just bringing up those points of difference can enhance what happens in a scene. Also, Japanese is totally more difficult than High Elven: Indirect Object; Direct Object; Predicate with omitted Subject my ass.

For accents, I address the different way people talk in – say a fantasy Japan game – by using accents and dialects found in cultures that the players are familiar with. If they encounter a “wise old woman/man”, the accent I use for them is usually an Elizabethan-style or comical/cartoonish “old person”, without any “Asian accent”. If the Yakuza or other criminals are involved, they have Brooklyn, or Chicago accents (if I could do a Liverpool accent, I’d bring that in too; but I can’t so I don’t). I voice Inaka-mono/farmers in the field like people from the American South. Why these? Because this is what (admittedly from a very hyojungo/”Tokyo-centric” point of view) Japanese people sound like to each other. We’re not simply masking/eliminating accents so that “whiny people don’t have their feelings hurt”, we’re changing it to make it more relate-able – and perhaps more impact-ful – to everyone at the table.

Part Two: Playing with Politeness and Honorifics

There’s this kind of mental test I have when I hear people describe linguistic encounters in Japan, especially from folks with a level of Japanese speaking ability. I forgot where this was from, but this example is burned in my brain from some book or news article from probably 20 years ago: Some western businessman and their western translator lackey were at some big rich business dinner in Tokyo that had “geisha” (read: totally not geisha, just a restaurant greeter). The “geisha” held the door for them and said something. The business dude turns to the translator, “What did she say?”

“She said, “May I be allowed to humbly open the honorable door for you?”

The businessman’s mind was blown. “WOW! Holy shit these Japanese people are so honor-bound, their culture is so rich and unique, and they really understand respecting the customer! Modern day goddamn samurai” (chomps on cigar)

Naw. See, that translator? He was being a fucking douchebag in order to look like hot “finger on the pulse of Japan” shit to his boss. He played up the encounter in order to make the night about him/his skills to his authority.

Sure, if you transliterate exactly what she said going into excruciating lengths to make them sound like porcelain samurai dolls that spit Yoda rhymes, yeah it looks like she’s about to honorably throw herself on the ground so that respectable white business-sama can humbly step on her head to climb into his cab. All that she fucking really said though – in any realistic translation that isn’t weird Japanese xenophelia – was “Let me get the door for you.” Same as when the white businessman said “I’ve got this” when getting the check, he wasn’t “laying sole ancestral claim to the possession of the bill, like his knight ancestors did to castles and lands during the Holy Crusades”. Stop that shit.

Let’s lose the excruciating honorifics when describing stuff in Japanese or Japanese-analogue. Not everything is “honorable” or “humble/humbly”. Play up other parts of the language/encounter to evoke that sense of “social division” in your session. It’s not really “racist” to talk like the above, but it is fucking annoying to people who come from a background of that language. I say the above as examples of Japan/Japanese, but I’m sure you can find the same footprints in other Asian languages.

And yet! There’s still room to play here, as Japanese (and your Japanese-analogue) language does have levels/forms which romance languages do not.

Japanese has various levels of politeness, from common (very close friends/family) to polite (friends) to rough (thugs, close friends) to very polite/keigo (customers/seniors/higher status; like the lady holding the taxi door above) to extremely polite (esteemed customers, nobility). What we should do in English, since we don’t really have that level of politeness/formality in English (except for ancient “thou’s” and the like), is come right out and descriptively use language-talk and say things like:

GM: The young carpenter talks to you using very polite Japanese/Rokugani/etc, “How can I help you?” You’re kind of thrown off by his speech, given that others in town address you more plainly.

GM: The servant (until now it’s assumed that she’s been using customer-polite speech, I as GM/player don’t say this) turns back to the steward and drops to an almost street level thug speech when she thinks you can’t hear her. “The fuck? I told you to get that food ready. Where the fuck is your head tonight?”

Doing so in turn gets the players into it: With no knowledge of Japanese (or “Asia-Land-ese”), they will say things like “I turn to her, and address her in extremely polite Japanese. Like, this is normally completely out of character for me, since I usually talk plainly to everyone. I say…” (etc). It really carries the authenticity of playing in another culture, but without falling on stereotypes, and without having academic depth (or guilt because you didn’t “learn Japanese for 5 years” before playing a fantasy samurai). Engagement, respect, and fun: Language then becomes a setting feature to be experimented with and engaged with like gun-swords or magical fireballs.

The above requires a little bit of that magic called “Director’s Stance”, where you don’t just roleplay but also tell others what they see/notice and other little facts about the world before, during, and after your in-character narration. But the payoff is big; the story grows strong; the immersion in the fiction goes way, way deep.

The above are a few lessons that I’ve actually brought to the table over many years, which have turned a “Japanese/Japanese-themed game” into a much deeper experience for all, in a way which is Respectful, requires no deep learning/research (so none of that self-effacing “I can’t bring myself to play a fake Asian in a fake Asia-land game without doing grad-level research so I don’t make a mistake” stuff), and brings the experience deeper as it makes language and culture a living thing that can be set and played with in game: Rather than excruciatingly detailed descriptions of the characters swords only, we could focus on making our characters’ personalities stand out by detailed descriptions of how they address people/communicate with others.

My examples are for/about Japan, but I’m sure you can find other languages and cultures with their own unique and interesting grammar devices, that could be manipulated in play to create more depth-of-culture in play.

At the very least, back in the US I ran several campaigns of games set in fantasy-Japan or with contemporary Japanese influence, where mostly white/black tables never had to fall into stereotypical accents or the like to “make the game feel more Asian”. Best of luck at your table!

June 5, 2019
by Diamond Sutra

The “May I Play…” Article as the Start of a conversation, not the End of one

I don’t have a poignant subtext for this meme, I just wanted to share.

So, did you charitably read the previous linked article where my friend Mendez talks about gaming-as-other?

I love this article, and I love sharing it with my communities of gamers over here in Japan: I play online with native Taiwanese, Chinese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Korean gamers. I game face to face with a mishmash of faces and cultures (predominantly in Japanese or “Mutt-English”). I enjoy hearing the feedback from folks around here. In short, there’s a lot of the following comments from Asian gamers (as in “English as a Second Language, actually born/living in Asia, “Never lived in/visited America/Europe” Asians) I’ve shared this with, after giving the “read it charitably” speech:

Japanese friend: “What? I read it and it makes sense but… I don’t quite get it. Maybe I missed some language/culture nuance?”

Taiwanese friend: “I get what he’s saying, but a lot of it doesn’t seem to apply to me?”

Japanese friend: “I enjoyed reading it, but it seems that this is mostly… “USA culture stuff?” “

To crunch a long, long story short: This article for me is not a religious verse to be handed out and memorized. Instead, here in Asia, it’s the starter-gun start of a very interesting cross-cultural conversation with people I’m interested in sharing myself with.

Indeed, for myself, only a fraction of what Mendez writes about applies to me (20-30%?). But with the rest, I get where he’s coming from. And even if I don’t need to draw upon it all right now, it’s great to have in the toolbox for later. Most of the harsh criticism towards the article that I’ve seen online from western sources (reddit, etc) are basically dismissive: “It doesn’t apply to me, so it was a waste of time”, stuff like that.

I tend to think about gaming and sociology… a lot. Like, I wish I could turn the wheel in my brain so that I would eagerly think and learn about other aspects of my professional career as much as I read/learn about gaming and social networks. Save for maybe network/system performance, that’s one professional topic where I read that shit for fun too. Well, when it comes to system performance (everything from hardware to nestled systems of software components to fundamental queuing theory) or personal productivity books, I read a LOT of stuff that people in the field are going through that doesn’t necessarily apply to me. Just because it doesn’t apply to me right now doesn’t mean it’s not a problem for someone else. Maybe I’ll never need to pull upon that information. Or maybe I will, or else I’ll have an opportunity to help someone else in my field who is struggling with that problem. Learning about this sort of thing from an expert who’s willing to break it down in simple, easily to relate articles, is a really pretty tool to add to the toolbox for later.

Aside from that simple aspect of “Cool Tool, Bro” and tossing the article in the back of the brain to maybe draw upon later, the other great aspect of this article is the discussion it brings to the table to people not submersed in Western culture: People who haven’t grown up rolling their eyes at Hollywood/mass media’s portrayal of them their whole lives. It is a real conversation starter, and a way to relate questionable items of one’s own (non-western) culture for self-reflection and improvement.

When I sent this article around to other Japanese and Asian friends, it wasn’t just to close the book on an issue, but rather to start a new conversation. Starting off with an innocent-wink “So… what did you think?”, going down the path of “That part that did apply to you, what do you think about that?” and “The parts that didn’t apply to your experience, here’s a bit about where Mendez is coming from (drops a small amount of cultural history about Asians in the US)” to “Do you see any parallels in your own country/culture or gaming?”

I love these conversations, as I end up learning a lot more in these kinds of exchanges than I thought I would when I just dropped the article. I get lectures/lessons on the Singaporean gaming scene. Differences in all-female vs mixed Japanese TRPG tables. Interesting takes on “The Foreigner” in Chinese or Japanese media. A real hot, explosive, messy, cultural exchange. A lot of it is sociological-academic heroin: So much new cultural reference points. Some of it is even “problematic”, and needs further discussion!
(for example, when my native Singaporean-Chinese friend told me – after reading the article at my request – that during one online RPG session, a white person from the US called the Singaporean’s portrayal of a historical Asian character “racist” and was offended: There was a LOT to unpack there from all angles!)

In short, if you come across this stuff, if you are interested in “Getting better at gaming”, or better yet, “Getting better at people“, give these articles a read, even if they don’t seem to apply to you – you bastion of progressive liberal spirit. Chances are that you’ll find a real-world use for them later, or else they become a kickoff for a real, meaningful, cultural exchange with gamers from completely different cultures: There’s so much to explore when looking into the similarities and differences of these points, and such conversations beat Asian-typical (at least in Japan/China) “idle food talk” for interest and depth.

Okay… so this post is where I was going to bring up my actual “usability points” for gaming when using Japan/Japanese language as a theme, but I’ve spent too much time talking about the positives of expanding your horizons with articles about culture/ancestry and gaming, so I’ll call this “Part One” and move the pragmatic stuff to “Part Two”.

May 28, 2019
by Diamond Sutra

“May I Play a Character from Another Race?”

TL;DR: Read this post by Mendez on playing characters from other backgrounds.

So, a blog post series I’ve been sitting on/mulling about for quite some time is about portraying Japan in non-Japanese-language tabletop RPGs. Everything from contemporary settings with Japanese characters or culture, to running historic or fantastical games set in Japan or an analogue culture.

I have a quick essay, but before posting, I want to direct people to this great article by my friend James “Mendez” Hodes. The quick background is that Mendez is of Filipino descent, writes a lot of game material set or using in Asian cultures (Japanese, Chinese, etc). He’s a historian/culture expert on various Asian cultures (for example, he’s forgotten more about Japanese military history than I will *ever* learn). And he blogs from time to time about the connections between Asian cultures, “race”, and gaming.

Please give it a read: It’s likely not going to be 100% relevant to your own experience, but even so there are some wonderful thoughts in here. Back when it was first published, I saw it shared around the net; some folks were… let’s just say quite unkind… in reacting to his piece. As you go through it, put on your charitable hat (pretend he’s a friend, that you’re sharing a conversation): Mendez loves gaming, and his take is always unique, interesting, and from a place of love; he doesn’t use criticism to lord over others, and he doesn’t have time for status games.

Rather than writing my reaction/”Japan Supplement” here, I’ll give a day or two for you to ingest it before posting my thoughts/addendum.


See you again in a day or two.

February 20, 2019
by Diamond Sutra
1 Comment

Starting the Machine in a Post- GPlus World…

Hey world!

Originally this blog was meant to capture some bits and pieces of things related to Japan and Tabletop RPGs. Over the last two decades I’ve sponged up a lot of “useless knowledge” of the games and gaming scene stuff that goes on here in Japan; and also have been following all the various foreign games that used Japan as a theme.

While my day job is “tech guy”, my background and love has always been rooted in Sociology and Philosophy (basically, what I graduated with in college), especially how different things work in different languages and cultures. When I meet other people with similar interests, these stories about the Japan gaming scene and how things are a little different over here (especially in a sense of, “This is something interesting that I think we could adopt into our culture as well!”) tend to really resonate with others. Basically sharing those stories (rather than keeping them to myself or word of mouth only) has kinda landed me in the role of “The Japan/Japanese RPG Guy”, and led me to do things like translate RPGs, promote unique Japanese cultural phenomenon, and write a few articles and blogs here and there.

Most of my primary game blogging had been done on Google Plus, though. And what I realized is that I was a little afraid to share things here (on this “J-RPG” blog) that weren’t basically mini sociological essays. For example, if I wanted to talk about just some cool event or convention I went to here, or some movie/anime/game that influenced me, that was more “fun” than “essay”, so it didn’t really fit. Every time I thought, “Hey it would be fun to blog about that time I ran TORG in Japenglish to a mixed audience”, I had an image of my academic advisor from way back when; slowly closing a book he was reading; slowly turning his head to me; a single tear running down his cheek… (heh)

Long story short, I wrestled with it a bit, and the length between posts here went to basically “one a year”. But with the recent shuttering of Google Plus, and the fact that I only use Facebook for talking to friends and sharing cute cat pics and memes, I realized my perspective of this site was a little too narrow. So, going forward, I’m going to drop the pretense of making everything a poignant micro-essay with some sort of “lesson”, and use it as my primary gaming blog. That means that there will be stuff here from time to time that is “general gaming” or “general life/living in Japan” stuff.

Not that there’s a ton of followers or anything; but since G+ is shuttering and the RPG Gaming Communication sphere is imploding a bit, I decided to take my show back to a format that I have full control over, untied to any other network (and with RSS feeds, so totally exportable to anyone interested).

That’s all for now, stay tuned!

April 12, 2018
by Diamond Sutra

Do you actually LIVE in Japan? Then get your game on!

TL;DR: Search for “Tokyo Roleplaying Games” in Facebook or Meetup.com: Very active and growing!

Hey everyone! When I began this blog (or posted articles online like it) many, many moons ago, I was living back in the US and keeping upa  public space to talk about the various RPGs coming out of Japan, or various interesting issues and ideas coming from the Japanese tabletop scene. Since that time, I’ve moved back to Japan – perhaps permanently (got my permanent resident status/”Green Card”) – and now live and work here.

Living and working in Japan, especially in a high stress/high responsibility business environment, seems like it would take a serious hit on my RPG and board-gaming activity. Well, it has in some ways, of course (I don’t do “weeknight weekly gaming” with my friends as much as I used to back in RTP/North Carolina); but in other ways the scene has changed in the last few years, and more and more people in Japan, especially the Tokyo area, are keeping up with gaming like never before. Others are trying their hand at RPGs for the first time!

Now, my sincerest apologies up front: The rest of this post is going to be very Tokyo/Kanto centric (long ago I lived in the boonies, and disliked the fact that “Japan” was synonymous with “Well, basically Tokyo, right?”, but “shikata ga nai” for now). If you are reading this and have a group/org promoting gaming in English in another region of Japan, please do drop a comment and I’ll collect these into a future post.

In future posts, I plan to discuss:

  • Places to game in Japan and tabletop cafes
  • The Japanese/bilingual game meetup scene
  • The history of JIGG and TokyoRPG, as well as other gaming meetup groups

But for now, let’s talk about where to meet folks, specifically if you live near Tokyo, in the Tokyo-Kanagawa(Yokohama)-Chiba-Saitama area:

For RPGs, there’s one place with two fronts that you want to join if you want to play RPGs in the Tokyo area, even if you’ve never played before and want to try: The Tokyo RPG Meetup group, created and administrated by Martin K, a friend and IT colleague. This is a group The two fronts are:

1) The Tokyo Roleplaying Games Meetup Group’s Companion Facebook page. This page was created recently as a sister-site to the Meetup page below, in order to have a space for people to more openly discuss gaming, organize games, introduce themselves, and so on. Even if you’re iffy on Facebook recently, this group is worth creating a dummy account for. This is the place you go when you want to run or take part in a game, but don’t have a date/time/members locked in yet. We also discuss area gaming events, conventions, and play opportunities.

2) The Tokyo Roleplaying Games Meetup Group on Meetup.com. This is the original group that Martin set up several years back, mostly to organize local gamers to meet and play. Unfortunately, Meetup’s forums aren’t that great for communication, and Meetup is not really a good place to do the “Hey, who is interested in Game X?” kinds of posts: Rather, it is excellent for organizing and scheduling set events. So this is the place you go when you have a Place, a Date/Time, a few interested people, and you want to recruit a few more people for a game session. Currently, there are lots of mostly full events at this site, as it’s used by many folks as a calendar reminder system for their next full-table (no recruit) sessions. But that should not throw people off: Every event for every weird non-mainstream game I’ve thrown together, with enough advance notice, has gotten full signups.

Those above are the two faces of the Tokyo Roleplaying Games group, the best place to talk and organize in the Kanto area.

There are a few other places as well, including:

3) JIGG, The Japan International Gamers Guild (Tokyo) (Note, there’s JIGG outlets in Kanto and other areas as well). The Meetup group is HERE, the BoardGameGeek group is HERE. Formed way back in the 90s, this was THE group for RPGs, with board games as a side activity. In the early/mid 2000s (post global German board game explosion), it flipped to being mostly board game focused with some RPGs on the side. Still, RPG gaming happens at JIGG meetups from time to time, and it’s definitely the place to join if you’re looking for local board and card gamers.

Note: For Osaka/Kansai gamers, it looks like there is a Facebook group to organize area Role-Playing Game activity OVER HERE.

4) Japan Roleplay Society, which is another fun Facebook group for general role-playing gaming discussion and meet-up organization. Run by Rodney S and Drew H, it’s a group that I’ve found to be very enthusiastic and fun. It appears that a majority of the members live in Gunma prefecture, Japan (north of Tokyo), so if you are in that area, check these folks out. Also, it’s general good gaming discussion, as there are a few RPG developers/creators in this group.

More about the English gaming scene later; but I figured it was time to drop a post for those English-speaking gamers in Japan that were googling for a place to play.

And as mentioned above, if you live far from Tokyo and are a member or moderator of a local role-playing game meetup organization in Japan, please drop a comment here or tell me (Andy K) in the Tokyo Roleplaying Games group on Facebook, and I’ll add it to a future list of English gaming organizations in Japan.

December 2, 2016
by Diamond Sutra

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


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.

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?

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.

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”.

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).

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

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…”

“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!”


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”.

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

Noelle 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, Noelle, a longtime friend, collaborator, and budding “Japanese media translator in the making”, breaks the game’s super interesting mechanical pieces here on their Google Plus blog. Give it a follow!

EDIT: Removed link for now. Noelle’s G+ account is in the middle of a transition to a new location. I will return to this post later to update this page with more information about Kamigakari when it occurs. Thanks!

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: