Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sex in Table Top Games

Sex in Table Top Games
by Tobie Abad

Not everyone is comfortable with doing the nasty in front of their friends (and yes, I understand there are exceptions to the rule).  Nor is everyone comfortable watching their friends get it on.  But given how sex is a vital part of the human experience, there are times when it might have to... shall we say... be consummated in a role-playing game scene.

So how does one approach the topic without turning the whole game into a queasy moment of die-a-sutra?

REMEMBER THIS IS A GAME, NOT PORN
If you keep in mind you are in a table top game, and not a simulated porn flick, you should already be moving in the right direction.  Given how many role-playing games focus on showing rather than telling, but tend to get played with telling rather than showing, when it comes to having a sex scene, you might want to stick to the telling if your comfort levels aren't that flexible.    The Princess and the Knight make love in the woods after he steals her away from the Dragon that kept her locked up all these years?  Then just run it as "I make love to her with the stars as our ceiling, the grass as our bed.  We kiss and savor each moment.  We fall fast asleep beneath the full moon."  End scene.

And mind you, that example is already a tad too advanced for some groups.  A simple, "I make love to her in the woods," might be the most one can be comfortable about in some groups.  And frankly, that's fine.  Because the scene is still given a narrative which supports the feel of the moment.  Compare that to a player going, "Sure, I fuck her nice," and while for some people that might not be an issue at all, generally speaking such a delivery would sound less about making love and more about just rutting in the woods.  What scene did you want to have again?

BE A CAMERA
And focus on the key parts.  She breathes heavily.  His fingers trace the moles on her skin.  They exchanges kisses gently.  Sweetly.  Roughly.    Her hand clamps over his, and finger intertwine.  She bites her lip.  His eyes close tight.  They fall asleep, locked in an embrace, naked against the grass.

Lovely.  Sultry.  But definitely not porn-ific in approach.
When it comes to sex, less can be so much more.

BE THE POET
The two loves lie beneath the canopy of stars. Their eyes stare into each other.  Not too far away, a bee lands gently on a flower, its actions purposeful yet gentle.  The nectar is sweet.  The flower smells intoxicating.  The midnight blooms open.  The fireflies dart into the sky.  Silence.  Peace.  The two lie asleep with their skins damp with the morning dew.

The montage of images usually has been used in films to comedic effect in talking about the sexual act (Austin Power's for one was infamous for this) but when delivered with less humor and more drama in mind can be an effective non-porn approach to the act of love.

THE CUT-AWAY
The two lovers step into the glade.  Their hands slide across their clothes as they kiss.  Fingers untie knots.  Flumbing loosens buttons.  And as they move closer, we focus on the full moon above them.  We  dissolve to... next morning.  The Moon is now a Sun.  We pan down to see the two, still there.  He is half-asleep, naked save for the blanket of leaves.

The cut-away is a huge show rather than tell approach, and might be the best especially when dealing with younger players (mentally or chronologically.)

BUT IF WITH A GROUP YOU CAN TRUST AND TRUSTS YOU BACK...
Then don't be afraid to let sex take even the focus of the story.  I recall in a Weapons of the Gods campaign I ran for my group, the finale sequence had the heroes duking it out against the Demon Emperor, who had prophecised that he would be unstoppable once the Emperor's child, who was destined to ensure the Emperor's legacy was not forgotten  was conceived.  But given how the Emperor and a player's character were already consummating their love that moment, the character had to use her immense sexual techniques and acupuncture to keep the Emperor from... finishing, while the two other heroes defeated the mystical nemesis.  So yes, that was a game where the combat rolls were punctuated with "Roll your acupuncture skills to keep him from releasing."  We were laughing, but at the same time, celebrating the awesome martial arts over-the-top Wuxia feel of the game.

It can be easy for sexual related stuff in a game to take the direction of a Monty Python movie, or a comic sequence from Oglaf, but with the right players, sex can be a factor just as valid and important as a fight sequence, an interrogation scene, or a reaffirmation of loyalties in a game.    For instance, I ran a Call of Cthulhu inspired World of Darkness one shot where the players realized the evil wanted to use the other player character to become the host of the Great Old Ones' return.  Her virginity and purity was what made her a valid choice.   So, given they were trapped underground with no means of stopping these hideous godlike things, the other player realized there was only one last way to save the world, and somehow keep them both alive.  He raped the female player character.   While in no way do we condone rape, or violence against women, given the game's gritty disturbing nature and premise, we all felt it was an unthinkable act done to save an undeserving world.

SEX... ONLY IF YOU'RE MATURITY LEVEL CAN HANDLE IT.
Sex is part of the human experience.  There's no denying it.  While I can talk about how the games seem biased, where they willingly embrace violence and cruelty, but consider acts of lovemaking and physical pleasure to be taboo, I will focus instead on ending this article with this:  I do not see Sex as becoming something in gaming infantile the way it was done by the infamous F.A.T.A.L. game for example.  But I do believe with certain groups who have the maturity to give it justice can realize their games can do with a little bit more loving.

Consider shows like Spartacus, True Blood, Game of Thrones, and even older movies like Fifth Element and  Eyes Wide Shut.  The presence of sexual acts can, if done in a way the group deems mature and dramatic, work to enhance the narrative elements of the story itself.  So stop thinking that the moment you mention breasts, the game has devolved into a fantasy wank fest of socially inept teens.  That's what the non-geeks want you to believe.









Dynamic or Back to Basics

As I mentioned here, I actually wanted to have a blog that played around with the Dynamic Themes that Blogger added to the blogs.  Now, however, I've received some feedback from some readers that they have trouble accessing the website whether it is in regards to using certain browsers or accessing it via a mobile device.

So I guess I should just throw the question out here and ask you all:  Should I give up on the Dynamic Themes or keep it?

To be frank, I like being able to shift the look of the site at a whim, but if it makes it less accessible for you guys out there, then I don't mind dropping things back a notch to a more traditional look.  It has been quite a while since I actually played around with HTML or CSS though, but hey, I just want to make sure all my readers have an easy time accessing the contents of the blog.

Hope to hear from you guys out there!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Blade and Silk e01 : Blood and Honor


2/10/2013
Blade and Silk
Blood and Honor

After our long Adventure! - Aberrant - Aeon Trinity campaign, we decided to dip our toes into something different.  While the original idea was to play a World of Darkness game, one of our players was only available for games in the morning to early evening.  Even if I had come up with ideas on how to still run horror games during the day, I realized I felt like going for something a bit more exciting and narratively challenging.  Enter John Wick's Blood and Honor.

The three players mapped out their Clan and Daimyo and came up with this:

CLAN:  Kinitchi (One with the Sword)
Daimyo:  Kimagorena  (Mad)
It is Spring:  Daimyo is currently Cruel
Holdings:  Gambling Den, Geisha House, Dojo, Rice Farm and Garrison (Ashigaru)
Three Truths About the Province:   People are Loyal,  the Emperor himself based in Province, Daimyo is Emperor's Lover. (Distant relative of Emperor by blood)

The Samurai of Kinitchi Clan.

Urim portrayed Shinjin, the Clan's Takumi.
The name Shinjin means "Trust Me"
Beauty is his highest Virtue.  Strength is his Weakness.
Takumi (Courtier) Rank 3
Aspects:
None of Us...
Fan Cannot Dispel the Fog
The Best Sword Stays in the Scabbard
Clear-Headed
Advantage: Insight

Mahar portrayed Kuren, the Clan's Onmyoji.
The name Kuren means "Graceful"
Wisdom is her highest Virtue. Courage is her Weakness.
Onmyoji (Spiritual Advisor) Rank 2
Aspects:
None of Us..
Fan Cannot Dispel the Fog
Not all Women are Wives
Mysterious
Advantage: Visions

Rocky portrayed Shizukana, the Clan's Oniwaban.
The name Shizukana  means "Quiet"
Cunning is his highest Virtue. Beauty is his Weaknesss.
Oniwaban (Spymater) Rank 2
Aspects:
None of Us...
Fan Cannot Dispel the Fog
The Best Sword Stays in the Scabbard
Feared
Advantage: Archer's Eye


The Onmyoji makes a pronouncement:   "This Season will find the arrival of a most valuable ally."
With the coming of spring, the Samurai learn of some rumors that have been spreading in the Province.  The first rumor was  "There may be infiltrators in the land" and the Takumi investigates the matter.  He learns that the town elders have heard of this rumor and have noticed a new face in the area.  The man is the one who has been supplying farming tools and teaching the other people in the region how to use them.  The tools were gifts from another Daimyo, one known to be an Ambitious one.

The second rumor was that "People in other Daimyo are not happy that we have the Emperor's favor."  The rumor may relate to the knowledge the players have of the Daimyo being the Emperor's lover.  When the Omnyoji goes to check on the Daimyo, she finds herself intercepted by the Clan's Hatamoto  Roku.  Roku reminds her their master requires his privacy, and escorts her away.  But she is feeling unsettled by the rumor and what she has heard of a third one.

The third rumor was that "The Emperor is sick."  The Oniwaban watches as the Emperor's doctors are escorted out of the Clan's building.  Word reaches him as well that an attack transpires in the Dojo, with two swordsmen that bear the emblem of another Daimyo attack the Takumi.   The Takumi's investigations reveal the swordsmen (both of whom he dispatched quite easily with his katana) had their tongues sliced off, and wore the emblem of the Daimyo Ukita, the one who was supplying them farming implements.

With that, the Daimyo calls for his Samurai, and the four gather to discuss things.  It becomes clear that the someone is out to harm the Clan, but the Daimyo dismisses Ukita as the culprit believing such malevolence would not have had these swordmen bearing the emblem so boldly.  The Onmyoji was consulted for an oracle and her findings from the charts were as follows:


You will find what you most need.
You will return with it in time.
You will return with the most loyal of companions.
Your domain will be safe while you are gone.
Your enemies will reveal themselves.

The Daimyo announces that he and the Emperor are visiting Ukita Province by the next evening.  And so the Samurai are tasked to ensure the safety in the trip.  The Daimyo comes to a decision with Shizukana and Kuren to slip into the Ukita Province in secret.  And the Takumi is to remain behind to watch over the Daimyo.   While resting for the night, the Onmyoji has a vision, and from it she receives a warning:  "Beware secrets under your own nose."


Shizukana and Kuren to sneak into Ukita's Province.  They very quickly uncover truths from Kenji, the Seneschal of the Daimyo Ukita, who happens to be someone whom Shizukana knows.  The Daimyo Ukita it seems is preparing for war.  They had a poor harvest this Season.  The Daimyo Ukita's daughter has been missing.  The only daughter has been missing for 10 full years and was believed to have been kidnapped.  The Daimyo Ukita has no spymaster.  And his general is a woman.   Shizukana knows that the Seneschal is in love with the Daimyo Ukita's courtesan, and that he suspects treachery.  Kenji agrees to prepare an exit route of the Samurai (a raft in the river) and makes arrangements for Shizukana to meet with the Emiko, the Courtesan.  They realize however that there is no direct plot to kill the Daimyo.  And given there is no spymaster, it becomes clear that the former spymaster was dealt with due to the belief he was the one who kidnapped the Daimyo's daughter.

The Takumi, back at the Province, drafts a letter to formally announce that the Daimyo Kinitchi and the Emperor are to visit.  Horses were to be provided for the trip home.  Hospitality was to be extended towards all the Daimyo's vassals.

Unable to travel about without being noticed, Kuren is forced to stay in Kenji's home.  Shizukana meets with Emiko, who transforms into a strange monstrous thing and tries to kill him.   But he easily defeats her with his blade and finds a letter in her body that details the task of assassination by a Daimyo Roku.  Unfamiliar with the name, he attempts to make greater sense of things.

Kuren talks with the Seneschal and learns that Daimyo Utika's daughter, Mitsune, was always a bold figure.  The door slams open as the Hamamoto of Daiymo Utika steps into the room and remains the Senechal admit who he is sheltering without the Daimyo's knowledge.  When Kuren confronts the General, the stories she gains, when added to the facts Shizukana had uncovered paint an unexpected story of the daughter Mitsune having been captured by a monstrous thing in the bamboo forest under the urgings of a Daimyo Roku, who escapes and out of fear of not being able to protect her father, assumes the identity of a different person who eventually gains the role of Hatamoto.  General Omnitsu Matsuda is the daughter of Daimyo Utika.

An attack happens back in the Province however, and Shinjin finds himself dueling against the Hatamoto himself!  Frighteningly, the Samurai is not clearly human.   As they battle, with Shinjin on the losing end, he realizes the Hatamoto is the man who hopes to attack the Emperor.  Bleeding from injuries, Shinjin worries if he can win this fight, but thankfully, the other samurai arrive in time to help in the fight.  As Roku attempts to escape, Shizukana launches an arrow to try and kill the beast, but it the arrow fails to deliver a killing blow.

The story comes to a close with the Samurai accompanying the Emperor and their Daimyo to Ukita Province.  The reunion of Mitsune and Daimyo Utika is a heart-warming moment, one which solidifies the friendship between the two provinces.

At least for now.

*

Now will this be an ongoing story?  Or a one-shot?  My best is a one-shot, which I don't mind.  But definitely the experience was pretty fun and I foresee us playing this again soon.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Joy of Mini-Chronicles

The Joy of Mini-Chronicles
by Tobie Abad

Time.  One of the biggest hurdles in finding opportunities to enjoy table-top games is the lack of time.  As we get older, we slip free from what seemed like imprisoning school-centric schedules to what we believed was a chance to indulge in hours we totally had free of assignments, homework and research... only to discover how much less free time we have now that we work to earn our keep, have errands and chores to maintain, and commitments to keep.  Maybe in the past, having a weekend game that ran from six p.m. to nine p.m. the NEXT evening might have been normal.  But now, with partners to spend time with, children to raise, and jobs to keep, gaming clearly takes a back-seat among the many things in your plans.

But no, it shouldn't go away.  Sometimes, a one-shot game, while fun, just doesn't cut it.  But a chronicle - which was described as a series of stories composed of a series of game sessions which usually take a large number of real time months - might be out of the question.   It just needs to be given a new shot of life in the form of mini-chronicles.

A mini-chronicle is best imagined as either the "movie version" of your favorite book or television series, or a single season of British television (given how a single season can sometimes be composed merely of six or eight episodes at the most.)  Comics are familiar with this approach, with narratives being told as a mini-series rather than a full ongoing series.   D.C. comics once had this line called Elseworlds where new stories were told with familiar characters or concepts, but given a whole new twist.  And what made them really cool was the writer seemed to have the freedom to go all the way with the story.  Basically, consider shaping a story that will contain its opening scene, and make a small list of probable endings the story might approach.  Then with the help of the players, find out what particular stories, themes and ideas they want to explore as well.   And from that, you got the ingredients for your mini-chronicle.

The trick is to make each session of your mini-chronicle cover a lot of ground.  And that's where television and movie magic comes in.

BEGIN DEEP WITHIN THE TALE
You have plans for a rescue mission to introduce the enemies and have the players meet a vital recurring non-playing character?  Then open a game session with the rescue mission already at its peak.  Have the heroes currently guiding the npc to safety.  Or have the firefight against the enemies already at its peak.  With the bullets flying, the screams rising, and the panic rising... your players will definitely feel they are deep in the tale and would be dying to learn more.

Time to break away from the "You are all at a tavern bar meeting room [insert desired location].." opening approach.

NARRATE BACK TO EXPAND
Rather than make everyone or everything a first time encounter or visit for the players, introduce them as things the player character is familiar with or accustomed to.  For example, instead of going, "A knight approaches you and introduces himself to you.  He is from the Order of bla bla bla.." say, "You see a familiar face.  Lord Kingston.  You first met him three years ago when the Order of Roses assisted your father in clearing out goblins from a monastery."   That way the introduction, while new for the player, does not feel new for the player characters.  The player, as well, gets subtle hints that the guy can be trusted, that the guy is an ally, that the guy is martially capable, and so on and so forth.   This maximizes time and allows you to say so much more about a character or location without waiting for the player's long list of inquiries.

FLASHBACK AND FORWARD TO EXPLORE
Consider also using flashbacks to explore certain moments that you want to zip through, yet still give some attention.  For example, the group's last scene was the rescue of a synthetic human from an exploding zeppelin.  You cut forward to the dinner the mayor has thrown for the heroes, hearing about their success and getting commendations from the press and other guests, and play it until you reach the part where they are all seated with the mayor and his foreign guest... you mention how they are all staring at the guest, with shock and tension rising in their hearts.     Cut back to flash back.  The heroes see the nemesis, Dr. Chaotec.  They demand his surrender, and he responds by snapping the synthetic human's neck.  One opens fire and the bullet grazes his face.  The left cheek.  Cut back to present.  The foreign guest's left cheek shows a recent wound.  He wraps an arm around the mayor as he laughs, just the way old friends do.  But the players, they remember the synth instead.

Given how in a mini-chronicle, every session counts, don't feel that a single game session has to maintain a single forward flow of time.  Jump between scenes.  Drag the past forward to explain the present.  Echo events in the past with present concerns.  Embrace a statement of fear for the future as something you might opt to leap forward to and force the players to confront.

KILL.  KILL WHEN THE DRAMA DEMANDS IT.
The game is a short chronicle.  The game isn't meant to be a drawn out tale.  So if drama demands it, embrace the call for death.  For non-playing characters, let them feel death's touch when the players most felt a connection with them.  The npc lover becomes a victim.  The favorite recurring shop keeper is suddenly the monster they have to defeat.  The parents of the player character sacrifice themselves to buy the hero time.

Think of Obi-Wan's sacrifice in Star Wars: A New Hope. Think of almost all the movies that had Sean Bean.  Think of the Serenity movie and how (spoiler warning) the deaths in that movie made you curse out loud.  Let death be felt in the mini-chronicle.    Let death really painfully matter.

And even better, if you have a player who is willing to join the fun, stage a scene where a player character also meets a final hurrah.  Perhaps in exchange the player can have a new role to play.  Or perhaps the player is willing to first mate, and from that point on, portray his favorite non-playing character. But yes, if you have a player who is willing to let her character face certain doom, play it to the hilt!  Make that death a scream fest.  Draw the tears.

HECK, RAISE THE STAKES AS HIGH AS YOUR GENRE WILL ALLOW IT
It is a short chronicle after all, so raise the stakes!  Your adventuring heroes are trying to stop a war?  Then raze their homelands, raise the dead, and make the skies weep blood.   Your super heroes are trying to defeat the genius from taking over the future?  Then have the multi-verse shatter.  Have the concept of time be diluted into a super serum.  Have the villain, out of pure petty jealousy break the moon.

If not raise events to incredible heights, stab them deep into personal levels.  The vampire rival wants to kill the player character?  Then let him become the player's exact duplicate, and have him nearly kill all of the player character's family and friends.  Then have the villain come to them afterwards, become their best friend, and offer to kill the player character for them.

And no, that's not enough yet.  Stab it deeper.  In the final fight, the family happens to be witnesses to it.  Have them cheering the villain on.  Have them cry out for his blood.   And even if the player character himself doesn't see these things, cut away to such scenes for the player to know.

Barring players who asked you to keep the game light and fluffy, embrace the opportunities of a mini-chronicle to go the limits of dramatic narrative.   Our Last Best Hope has a system called Death Cards, which players draw as a card to play for a moment in the game where he dies and gives extra dice for the survivors.  Why not adapt something like this, hand players out cards to give ideas on how they might want to do a final death scene, but leave them to decide whether or not to incorporate it?

LET THEM GROW
Don't be afraid of jumping forward either.  One game session ends, and you open the next with, "It has been ten years.  Adjust your sheets to reflect what you think they've developed in that time.  You can mention five key moments that happened and shaped you further in those ten years."   Such developments rarely happen in many groups since games are approached with an almost day-to-day feel in a game session.

So yeah, this is a mini-chronicle.  Maybe in game session two, one of the player chracters already has kids.  Maybe in game three, the guy's got grand children.  Explore these new avenues which might have never been touched before in longer campaigns.

PLAN AN ENDING
Yes, usually in a chronicle a game master throws away the ideas of planning an ending given how games keep going on and on and on.  Some groups map out an ending early, and lead the chronicle eventually to that point.  In a mini-chronicle, not only can you plan this out early, you can even give it a six-degrees of separation feel in unfolding it.  Note down a key moment or scene in each game session that you liked.  And as you near the final session, flashback to these moments, whether as visual cuts, or with key lines, and have them empower the final terminal steps to the end.

Fiasco ends each session with each player getting a scene to play out, whether dead or live, on how the story ends for them.  Do the same with each player having some final realization or monologue to share.

Then... curtain.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Game Idea: Cat Dreams, a RPG inspired by Studio Ghibli

As part of this year's Creative Pay It Forward, I promised my friend Jovan an rpg.
This is her request.

"They say if a cat asks you to follow him, you should never hestitate.

They never ask twice."

- Mikko

Neko Yume
Every now and then, for reasons they alone would know, a cat would walk up to a person, stare at him or her until the person noticed, then walk off, stopping after a few feet to check if the person was following.  If the person was curious enough to follow, it is said the cat would lead you down through alleyways, corridors and unfamiliar paths until finally you are brought to a place where you are needed.

Cats, they say, know the secret passages that exist between rooms.  Between cities.  Between worlds.   They are feisty and always watching for reasons we will never truly completely understand.  They can be completely care-free with not a single concern for your own activity, then suddenly demanding of your affections within the same hour.  Many people have offered tips and guides on how to care for cats.

But none of them have ever told you, that if a Cat offers to lead you somewhere.  You should follow.  Because if you don't you would have lost the chance of a lifetime.

Cat Dreams  is a Studio Ghibli-inspired RPG.
This game is created without permission nor attempts to claim ownership of Studio Ghibli's works.  This game is merely a fan-creation that I feel captures the wonder and joy Ghibli movies share and translates it into a playable game that others can enjoy.

In this game, the player portrays a girl or guy who has been chosen by a Cat.  The Cat leads the guy or girl somewhere where he or she is needed.  And the player's choices can determine what events shall transpire, how they will unfold, and how the journey will end.

For this game, no Game Master or Narrator is necessary.  Instead, the player only needs a character sheet (you can just copy the suggested sheet below), a pencil, a six-sided die and a single deck of cards.  The deck of cards will be used to generate the events that unfold as the player takes the journey.  And in the end, will challenge the player to resolve the journey for a happy ending.  What if the player fails?  That will be revealed below.
Unlike most games, in Cat Dreams, you do not have to fill up a detailed character sheet.  Instead, you simply have to come up with a character who has a particular dream.  The character can be of any age, gender, or social class, but definitely must have a particular want which seems impossible or unlikely to ever be achieved.

The best way to think of one is to complete the sentence,  "I want...."  This can be something as fantastical as "I want to be able to fly," or something as dramatic as "I want my dying mother to get better."  What this want is can help shape what kind of game you will be having.  More serious or somber wants will end up creating a game which explores a heavier emotional dream.  Interesting and exciting wants will be the roots of a fun adventurous dream.

Once you are done with that, you are actually ready to play!  But let me explain how the system works so you grasp the nuts and bolts of this game first.  In this game, the dice and the cards are BOTH used to resolve challenges.  Most challenges are resolved using the cards alone.  The dice comes in whenever the character has to "try again."  You see, in Ghibli movies, the lead character rarely really fails unless it is a major dramatically appropriate moment.  This system tries to match that feel.


Hope is the Trait that is important whenever the character tries to do something positive which is not being contested or opposed by someone.  Trying to find a dropped earring, following the trail of a lazy firefly, or climbing a wall are examples of actions that are tested by Hope.

Strength is the Trait that is important whenever the action of the character is being opposed by other characters.  Running from one rooftop to the others is just a Hope action.  But if you're doing this while being chased by soldiers, then it becomes a Strength action.    Trying to talk and convince the living stone wall to let you pass is also a Strength action.  Don't look at this as physical actions.  Look at this more as when the character's strength of conviction and determination are key to succeeding in the task.

Fear is the Trait that tries to make things more difficult for you.  In many ways, Fear stops you because you allow it to.   While there are instances when Failure cannot be avoided, during all Strength tasks, the target you have to beat is based on what you have currently in Fear.   Don't worry, this will get clearer soon.  But know that what you have here in Fear, is what makes your Strength action a challenge.

Note: Given how most Ghibli stories focus on a single protagonist, this game assumes you are playing solo.  If there is enough feed back, I can write up the rules for group play.

The game requires a deck of cards.  The cards should be a standard 52-card deck with the four suits (Hearts, Spades, Clubs and Diamonds) and  no Jokers.  Just remove the Jokers if your deck includes them.    Hope resonates with Hearts cards.   Strength resonates with Spades.  Fear resonates with Clubs.  A card is worth only one point if the drawn card does not resonate with the Action.  It is worth its face value if the drawn card matches.

Whenever you are doing an Action which requires a draw, you will pull out three cards  and lay them face-down in each appropriate area.  You can choose which cards go where, so long as you have not looked at the cards.   These cards now will represent the results of the action.

So assuming you draw the 8th of Hearts in a Hope action, you have 8 for your Hope for that action.
If you drew the 8th of Spades instead for Hope, however, you only have 1 for Hope.

Hope Actions have a difficulty to match to overcome.  Typically Hope actions automatically succeed, but in some instances, the story might require a higher value for Hope.  If this value is not reached, you can Try Again (See below)

Strength Actions must be equal or greater than Fear to succeed.  You can add the value of your Hope if the Strength card happens to be a red card.  If the value is not matched, you can Try Again (see below).

After cards are dealt, and an Action is resolved, all cards are discarded save for the Fear card.  The Fear card is removed from play.

If a face card is drawn instead (Knight, King or Queen), a new NPC enters the scene.  If the Face card is in the Hope, the character is an ally and will help you accomplish a task.   If the Face card is in Strength, it can be an Ally or an Enemy depending on whether or not the suit is red (Ally) or black (Enemy).  An Enemy in Strength means the Enemy helps you, for now (usually a henchman or a usually dangerous character choosing to help you instead).   Face cards do not have a value, but are considered to always succeed unless the story otherwise says so.


If the Face card is in Fear, however, then your story will have an Antagonist.  And every time a Face card with a Spade or Club appears, it will now represents that same enemy.  Antagonists always have a value of 8.

Try Again
If you did not have enough Hope, Strength, or Combined Hope and Strength to beat either the difficulty or Fear (when appropriate), you can Try Again.  When you Try Again, you discard your Hope and Strength card, and draw two new cards.  You then roll the six-sided die and can add it to the new result, but if you choose to do so, you must discard a third card from the deck.


Once the deck is depleted, the story will come to an end.

Running a Story
The Cat has brought you to a place you need to be at.   This is somewhere where you can achieve your "I want..."  At the start, however, that might not seem apparent.  To determine the setting of your story, roll the six-sided die three times, with each roll generating a keyword from the table below.

The First Visit into the Dream
Die result
First Keyword
Second Keyword
Character
1
Magical
Forest
Meeting a Lost Princess
2
Mysterious
Town
Cursed by a Witch
3
Dangerous
Underwater Ship
Encountering a Kind Spirit
4
Hidden
Steampunk City
Challenged by a Stranger
5
Moving
Island
With your younger sibling
6
Quiet
Castle In the Sky
Finding a magical artifact


With the beginnings of your story now set, the adventure begins!
Draw a number of cards equal to how many scenes you want your Neko Yume Journey to last.  A standard Journey is ten scenes long.  You can however opt for shorter (I recommend no less than five) or longer scenes (No more than fifteen).  Each card represents a scene in the Journey as defined by the table below.  Use the keywords to piece together an interesting narrative.  Note that at this time, the cards you have drawn have determined key scenes, but are not yet arranged in any order.

Hearts
Meaning
Diamonds
Meaning
Ace
Explore, Hope: 1
Ace
Play with locals, Hope: 2
2
Get Lost, Hope: 2
2
Glimpse of family back in real world.  Shuffle back 2 cards.
3
Meet Nice Townsfolk, Hope: 1
3
Argument with locals, Fear challenge.
4
Try interesting food, Hope: 1
4
Confront someone everyone else fears.  Fear challenge.
5
Dead end, Hope: 3
5
Ate something you shouldn’t have, Hope: 5
6
Get Lost, Hope: 3
6
Cursed! Discard next Hope card.
7
Make new friends.  Shuffle back up to 7 discarded cards.
7
Good Night’s Rest. Shuffle back up to 7 discarded cards.
8
Pretends to be from here, Hope: 2
8
Can’t Sleep.  Discard next Strength card.
9
Learns more about place, Hope: 1
9
Good breakfast! If next Fear is Face card, discard and draw again.
10
See’s glimpse of Antagonist, Hope: 2
10
Missing home.  Next Fear challenge has one six-sided die bonus.
Jack
Friend offers to guide you.  Card not discarded.  Will auto succeed next challenge.
Jack
Transformation!  Friend reveals he was an animal you met.  Recover all discarded Hearts.
Queen
Authority figure welcomes you.  Reshuffle all cards back to deck.
Queen
Transformation!  You have become someone of Authority in the setting!  Recover all discarded Spades.
King
Deus Ex Machina: Next Fear Challenge auto succeed.
King
Transformation! The setting has changed.  Roll six-sided dice twice to generate new location.
Spades

Clubs

Ace
Twist:  Way home is closed.  Hope: 6
Ace
Threat of Discovery!  Fear Challenge.
2
Thank you.  Someone is grateful for what you’ve done.  Reshuffle back all Diamonds.
2
Disguise fails! Fear Challenge.
3
Mistaken Identity: Fear challenge or identity mistaken until last three cards of Journey.
3
Cursed! Fear Challenge or next Heart Face card is discarded.
4
I can do this!  Resolve grows.  Reshuffle 4 discarded cards back into deck.
4
Scary monster chases you!  Fear Challenge or discard five cards.
5
Twist!  Friend is actually Antagonist in Disguise.  Fear Challenge.
5
Riddle too tough.  Fear Challenge or discard ten cards.
6
Safe Journey, Hope: 1
6
Horribly Lost, Hope: 10 or discard five cards.
7
Antagonist not really evil.  Explains his side.  Reshuffle up to 7 discarded cards.
7
Antagonist Forgives you.   Reshuffle up to 7 discarded cards.
8
Running on unsafe path, Hope: 5
8
The long wait.  Hope: 4
9
Console crying companion, Hope: 2
9
Magical Curse/Spell can be Broken.  Fear Challenge.
10
Homesickness strikes.  Fear challenge.
10
Friend badly injured.  Next red Face card discarded.
Jack
Friend disappears.  Discard next Strength card and draw again.
Jack
Imprisoned by Antagonist.  Fear Challenge or remove 3 random Story Cards.
Queen
Authority figure thanks you.  Reshuffle all Hearts and Diamonds into deck.
Queen
Antagonist gloats.  Fear Challenge or discard ten cards.
King
Invitation to go home: Hope 8 or game ends early.
King
Sacrifice.  You die to prove you care.  Fear Challenge to be revived after or game over.


Build the Neko Yume Journey
Choose one of the drawn cards, set it down as the Start of the Journey (Which is card #1).    Build the story now connecting the  First Visit to the first card, and be sure to suggest connections to the "I want.."  As you shape the story of each card, when you reach a good point in the narrative, accomplish the listed challenge in the table.

Example:  As Mikko follows the cat, the cat leads her through a door and the next thing she knows, she is in a Moving Steampunk City and encounters a Kind Spirit.  "You!" the Spirit tells her, "I was looking for a new Carrier."  The Spirit was made of Steam and could only travel around safely if carried by a Carrier.  Mikko realized this was a chance to explore a whole new world.  An adventure!
Of the cards draw, the player picks 9 of Hearts as the first card.  The Spirit begins to weep, dropping steaming tears all over Mikko's shoulder.  "Oh I hate this.  I wish I could explore the world.  But I never had legs like you servants do."  Mikko tries to console the Spirit, suggesting that steam can float.  She remembers how hot air balloons work and suggests, "Why don't we build you a balloon to float in?"  Mikko now starts the Hope: 2 challenge, drawing three cards and hoping she has enough Hope to pass it.  If not, she can Try Again.


With each challenge, continue the narrative as appropriate.  Some cards require certain penalties or bonuses after a challenge is accomplished.  Keep in mind, at any point in time that you run out of cards in your deck, the story comes to an end.  (See Out of Cards, below)


Build the narrative as you choose each card.  One approach is to NOT read the meaning of the cards first and just choose what the next step of the Journey is, then read the meaning and make it work.  That makes the game a fun narrative challenge as well.

Whenever the cards call for a new character, feel free to invent an appropriate character for the setting.  If you feel stuck, here's a table you can roll in to randomly generate new characters.

One
Animal
Does not Talk
Speaks in Riddles
Two
Animated Object
Eats a Lot
Recognizes Humans
Three
Elemental/Magical
Says only one word
Knows about Journey
Four
Human
Annoying
Works for Antagonist
Five
Spirit
Scary
Can Fly
Six
Combine two
Helpful
Can change shape

Out of Cards
If at any time you run out of cards, sadly that means the Story comes to an abrupt end.
Your character suddenly sits up and finds herself in her own bed.  A cat stares at her from the window, then very calmly, and nonchalantly, walks away.

The dream is over.

So there you have it!
All this needs now is a good soundtrack. :-)
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