Sunday, June 16, 2013

Game Idea: Kumiho of the Nine - a KDrama RPG

As part of this year's Creative Pay It Forward, I promised my friend Dekya an table top role-playing game inspired by My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox.   This is her request.  Also, happy Free RPG Day!

Kumiho of the Nine
A Korean Drama table top role-playing game

There are beings that live amongst us who are not human, though they appear to be.  Beautiful, seductive and sweet, these women have the power to change their forms and use magical abilities that are beyond mortal men.  Called the Kumiho (pronounced "goo-me-hoe"), these women have been mistaken as demons, or evil spirits, and myths have been spread about their need to devour human hearts and livers.  While Chinese, Japanese and Korean lore would contradict each other on what "facts" can be stated about them, if there is one truth that mankind has never known about the fox-tailed spirit maidens, it is the fact that there are only nine of them in existence at a time.

Until now.

Rumors of a tenth Kumiho have begun to spread and the current nine Kumiho are definitely concerned.   There are those who are anxious to welcome her to their ranks, seeing a useful ally they hope to control.  Some are fearful that the tenth fulfills the prophecy of the fox-tail spirit who would upset the delicate balance and be the very force that ushers the nine-tailed fox spirits into modern society's attention.    But what they do not know is that the tenth Kumiho knows nothing of her own kind, and quite frankly just wants to understand and embrace what she believes is a normal human life.

You are the tenth Kumiho.
And this is your story.

What is Kumiho?
Kumiho of the Nine is a solo-role playing game experience which seeks to mimic the fun and feel of a Korean Drama television series.  The game can also be played with others (see below) The player portrays the tenth Kumiho, a woman who is one of the fox-tailed spirits, but does not quite grasp that she is one.  She begins play with the following traits:  Amnesia, Empath, Beautiful.  And is allowed to pick up to three more traits from the following list to create her character's concept:
Compulsive Liar
Green Thumb
Cooking Goddess

The player then chooses four Myths that the Kumiho benefits from and has to abide by.  These Myths in many way shape the kind of KDrama story you want to explore.  Choosing, for example, Travel, Fox-Form, Immortal and Love might have a tragic story of a Fox-Spirit defending a man she loves, only for him to forget her as his love brings her back from the dead.

The Kumiho can only marry a man who has truly fallen in love with her, but the man must have first been betrothed to someone else.  This can allow her to become truly human.
The Kumiho can weave sense-befuddling illusions on objects around her.  The illusions can be broken by those who carry a bane of the Kumiho.. or by her true love.
The Kumiho only feels true love.  However, if this true love is not returned, the man she loves will die in 100 days.
The Kumiho MUST eat liver once a week.  Eating allows her to retain her other Mythical powers.
The Kumiho can transform herself to look like another person.  The Kumiho retains her own personality and voice, however.
The Kumiho can travel through the spiritworld by staring through her reflection.   She can bring others, but only if they stare at her eyes when she carries them through.
The Kumiho can live for thousands of years.  This can be given away to someone else, permanently.
Fox Form:
The Kumiho can transform completely into a fox.  As a fox, she can communicate with animals and spirits at ease.  She cannot transform while being watched.
A Kumiho can be reborn even after dying, so long as there was someone who truly loves her.
That person, upon her rebirth, will forget she ever existed.

The game will make use of six-sided dice.   Each time the player faces a notable challenge where failure can be dangerous, the player must roll two six-sided dice.  For each appropriate Trait that may help in the encounter, the player can add an extra die.  The desired result determines what number is needed to succeed in the encounter.

1: For Myself
The roll is intended to benefit the Kumiho alone and no one else.
2: For My Love
The roll is intended to benefit the Kumiho’s loved one.  This however should establish who the one true love of the Kumiho is in the game.
3: For Society
The roll succeeding is clearly to benefit the rest of Society, even if it may not  benefit the Kumiho directly.
4: The Enemy
If there are too many fours, the enemy of the Kumiho gets the desired result instead.
5: Day
Acts as your success number if you are playing during the day time. 
6: Night
Acts as your success number if you are playing during the night time. 

So for example, you are trying to convince the guard to let you into the locked building, because you know your friend is in danger at the rooftop.  You have 2d6, and you have the following Traits: AmnesiaEmpathBeautiful.  As well as the following traits: Sassy, Temper and Artistic.   You gain an extra die for being Beautiful.  Rolling the three dice, you get a 1,4, and 5.  This means if you were playing during the day time, you have two successes over the one of the enemy.   A roll of 3, 2 and 6 might suggest the Kumiho isn't allowed in (3 means for Society) unless the player determines that moment to admit (I love him!) that a 2 is a success.

Whenever there are more 4s than successes in your roll, your traits must take a negative precedence in that scene.  So in the example above, if the roll was 4, 4, and 1, having more fours means you probably do get in, but only because your Temper takes charge as you punch the security guard to step aside!

Crafting the Scenes
A game session is called an Episode, and each Episode will be composed of around four to ten scenes, depending on the player.  A story can be composed of multiple episodes if the player wants (Rules for that can be found below) typically the system is prepped for single session fun.

The Basic Episode framework contains the following scenes:
I .The Opening.
II . The Introduction of the Problem.
III. The Introduction of the Loved One.
IV. The Threat.
V. The Ending.

The player starts with a number of Drama Tokens (which can be represented by beads, dice, coins, etc) equal to the player's Age.  As the game progresses, the player spends Drama Tokens to initiate certain sequences.  Once the player runs out of Tokens, the episode must come to an end.  The five Basic Framework scenes are free and need not be paid for.  However, if the player is not careful, she may run out of Drama Tokens to have characters help out or emerge in later scenes.  Part of the fun is balancing out the Tokens to have characters present in a scene.

Each Scene costs a Drama Token to start.
The player may always add more scenes to the basic framework, at the cost of a Drama Token per scene.

Other details added to a Scene cost a Drama Token. These only need to be paid for when they join a game if they are either named characters whom will reappear in later scenes, or vital unnamed characters which bring a challenge that must be passed.  Each time the character appears in a new scene, the cost must be paid again.  Note that nameless crowds are irrelevant to the cost.
Best Friend
Fellow Fox
Supernatural Ally
Enemy Fox
Supernatural Threat

Lee Gi, a Kumiho, has convinced the guard to let her run up the building and help her friend.  The new Scene opens (costing one Drama Token) as she arrives at the rooftop to see an Enemy Fox, Dae-Woo.  (This costs a second Drama Token)  Dae-Woo has held Lee Gi's friend hostage to force Lee Gi to reveal herself! Notice that the guard himself earlier cost a Drama Token given he represented a challenge that must be passed, but any other people the character ran past to get to the roof did not since they presented no challenges.

On ties, the player must pay a Drama Token to roll again. Or choose to embrace his negative trait to accomplish the action.

The reason the Drama Token costs exist is to act as a "counting down" timer on how many scenes and characters the player can have before the Episode must be wrapped up.    Whenever the player does not roll favorably, the player might have to find a way to steer the narrative back without using too many Drama Tokens.

Gaining more Drama Tokens
Each time a Trait's negative effect is brought into focus (such as the Kumiho's Amnesia getting her into trouble, or her need for Liver complicating a scene), the player is rewarded a Drama Token to further develop the story.

Multiple Players Option
Rather than just making it a solo-experience, multiple players can join the fun, each one representing a different Kumiho in the story.  The players can all be part of the same Fox-Tail story, or can represent various time lines of fox-tail stories or stories happening in various locations.

In this version of the game, each player has their own Drama Token pool.  Each player takes a turn to set the Scene and introduce how it relates to one of the Kumiho.  Each Kumiho has an end goal in mind, based on how the Myths were chosen for it, and the players can work together or against each other in reaching their goals.  While a player is setting the scene, another player can pay that player a Drama Token to join in the scene as a key character they want, or as their own Kumiho (if possible depending on the way they story is approached).  Players who run out of Drama Tokens have either ended their Kumiho's stories or have taken steps to the background and become members of the supporting cast.

Multiple Episodes
If by the end of all your Tokens, you have not resolved the story, you can opt to call it "To Be Continued" and start a new Episode at a later time.  Alternately, you can also do this if you haven't finished your Tokens but need to stop playing for the nonce.

In Both cases, a new Episode begins when you are free to start one, but this time, you have three less Tokens than your usual starting number.  Each time you need to start a new Episode, you must reduce your starting Tokens cumulatively by three.  This pushes the need to reach certain goals and to end the story before things run out badly.

Cancelled Show
Sometimes, the show is so great, but there just aren't enough Drama Tokens to give it a grand finish.  You can always go the realistic route and declare the Episode over, and claim "The Show Had Been Cancelled" as the ending.  In such an ending, be sure to lament how such a great show came to end so soon, and how the show will now be remembered the way Firefly, Dollhouse, Terminator and other wonderful shows were sadly discontinued.

Less-Solo Drama, More Serious Game
Dekya mentioned to me wanting the game to have the feel of a gritty-serious bloody Romance version of Vampire the Masquerade and for that, I realize I might need more time to write things out and do proper research.    That version will have varying Kumiho Clans, a divination system using cards, and a nice selection of weapons to use in the fight to protect one's loved ones from other horrible monsters out there.  So for now, this is the star-crossed drama version of Kumiho.

Maybe later on, I can release a darker more fleshed out version of the game, less focusing on it being like a show and more on it being like a long term running game.  Til then, hope you enjoy this!

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