On Sunday I ran a Make You Kingdom (迷宮キングダム)one-shot for my regular group. Make You Kingdom is a cute little Japanese kingdom-building role-playing game set in a world (?) that has fallen into a vast and infinite labyrinth, after a cataclysm. The players play the court of a small kingdom, attempting to expand their kingdom and protect it from the many great and evil powers that patrol the mysterious world of the labyrinth. I have previously played the game in Japanese, and had a lot of fun, so it’s been a long-standing goal of mine to GM it in English. This is a report of the session.

The Kingdom Phase

I have previously described the Socialist Republic of Disasters, which I generated entirely randomly, and its court, which consists of the following people:

  • Mario, who is untroubled by the Ephemeral God, the King
  • Cocoa “Wise Ears” Scarlet, the Knight
  • Cookie the Involuntarily Anointed, Ninja
  • Hairan Blademagnet, the Oracle

The players decided that the people populating their kingdom – their citizens – were vaguely crablike, with a random number of extra limbs and sometimes shells and slightly non-human faces. The ninja player also decided his PC was part cat, with a squirrel for an animal companion. The Knight’s mount was a giant lizard. Everyone was eager to capture monsters, bring them back to the kingdom and clone them in the mysterious cloning ranch. What could go wrong?

The characters had a slightly oily and untrustworthy contact, apparently partially descended from an otter, who is something of a legendary fixer and dealer amongst the kingdoms of this section of the Labyrinth. He appeared to tell the characters that rumour spoke of a debt collector in a neighbouring kingdom, who might be on his way to the Socialist Republic of Disasters to call in the debt that Mario owed to the Subterranean One. He might also, it appeared, be carrying some rare item, and so it might be a good idea to visit him, find a way to escape from the debt, and perhaps loot him. Also the neighbouring kingdom was supposedly a peaceful land ruled by an Ant-King, and dealing with an intruder could gain the characters favour with the ant-king.

In the Kingdom phase the PCs get to make some basic decisions about what to do in the coming adventure, or explore the kingdom and try and get benefits from their people. Cookie decided to send some followers to the kingdom to explore the first two rooms; in both rooms he identified the number of monsters, traps and tunnels, which is very useful since knowing there are monsters in the room prevents surprise, and surprise is bad news in this game. Meanwhile the other characters decided to wander their kingdoms, to see what they could find. Cocoa discovered that the kingdom’s army was slovenly and weak, and as a result for every 5 units of horn that the PCs recover in the dungeon, they would gain 1 gold coin. Hairan discovered that the area around the Socialist Republic of Disasters was still in the process of labyrinthifying, and so they needed magic to protect against this; for every 5 units of magical material recovered in the dungeon, they would gain 1 gold coin. Finally Mario was approached by emissaries from two neighbouring kingdoms, and discovered that two neighbouring kingdoms were at war; he could choose to send troops to help one kingdom in the war, with some benefits if they succeeded in a (very difficult) skill check. Everyone decided not to risk getting involved in the affairs of their neighbours, and instead they set off for the neighbouring kingdom to explore.

The Labyrinth phase

The Labyrinth phase involves moving from room to room, to the destination. This is the fatal part.

The Rust Farm

Sound is no barrier to the Angelic Death Penguin

Sound is no barrier to the Angelic Death Penguin

The characters followed an old and rusting railway line to a distant stop far from their kingdom. This station consisted of a crumbling platform with a rusted sign on it declaring they had reached the “Rust Farm.” They followed the exit through to a set of rusting steel ladders, walkways and gantries, that in turn led down into a vast, rust-hued space set in some kind of huge cavern. The walls of the cavern were set with glowing embers and streaks of lava, that gave the whole room a dim red glow; the room itself was filled with the distant sound of chattering cogs, clattering metal and moving chains. The walls and floor were of rough stone, festooned and inset with rusting steel chains, pylons, and other pieces of disused metal; from the ceiling hung huge chains and meat hooks, all suspended from somewhere far above in the dim light. The room was also faintly diffused with hanging rust, so that it tasted like blood in their mouths and the whole room was suffused with a grim red light.

As soon as they had made camp, the group were attacked by a squad of four mysterious, speedy flying beasts. These creatures crashed into the party from a great height, but the Knight managed to strike one down, and they could all see their enemy’s form as it smashed into their camp. They had been attacked by cybernetic emperor penguins, that had been fitted with armour, chainsaws and rocket engines. Mach penguins!! One of these ferocious beasts stooped on the Oracle, and he would have died had not four of his followers – his troop of busty dancing girls actually – not rushed to his aid, forming a cheerleader-style pyramid over him so that on its return attack the Mach Penguin embedded in them, tearing all four of the Oracle’s followers apart. Hairan lost his four favourite cheerleaders, but was able to stumble to his feet unharmed and destroy the penguin with his warhammer as it tried to free itself from the gore of the dead girls[1].

After the initial shock of the attack the party recoverd quickly and were able to beat down the remaining penguins quickly. They recovered from steel from the penguins, and everyone except the Ninja sat down for a meal to recover some damage. While they did this Cookie explored the room, discovering a cuckoo clock the size of a block of flats on one side of the cave; this was the Mach Penguin’s nest, and inside Cookie found a level 1 firearm (d6+1 damage on a random enemy in one area).

Still somewhat bruised from the encounter, the characters moved on to the next room, which their followers had explored, and where they knew they would find four monsters and a trap …

The Disastrous Study

The next room was entered through a metal tunnel that slowly narrowed and changed composition until it was made of bone. Pushing through the narrowing hallway the characters emerged into a structure made of bone. Confused at first, they wandered a little until they found themselves looking out of some kind of joint or knuckle, onto a fantastic sight. They were inside the bones of a vast, ancient jellyfish-like creature that had crashed and died here. The jellyfish-like creature had bones inside all its tentacles, and these bones had formed a complex network of caves and tunnels when the creature came to its final rest. Outside the beast was a vast, empty night; the only light was the gentle glow of the beast’s bones, and starlit night or some distant glow far above. The beast was so old that the outer layers of jellyfish material had long since decayed and blown away, and some ancient civilization had formed a city here, setting clinics, libraries and offices in every joint and chamber of the vast skeleton. Had the body been turned into a hospital or a research centre for some ancient race of long-dead scholars?

The PCs pushed through this warren of bone-tunnels into a central chamber, where they found a huge single bone, the size of a sailing ship, like cuttlebone. It rested on its keel inside a vast dome, the last remnant of the jellyfish-god’s original flesh, which had dessicated into a perfect dome far ahead, opaque but with enough translucence to allow the dim light from far above to suffuse the room; the keel-like cuttlebone also glowed faintly. As the King pushed through a bone-flap valve into this room the air that rushed in with his entry caused subtle disturbances in the air of the room, and the central bone-sheet rocked gently on its keel like a vast sail. The characters decided that their party would set up camp here – what could possibly go wrong if one camped in the brain-space of a long-dead cthulhoid god?

Of course, as soon as their camp was fixed three skeletons emerged from the dust around the bone-sail, and were lashed into battle by a tall human-shaped shadow monster (a shadowjack!) The battle was short but brutal, for the Shadowjack eats hope, and our party are highly dependent on hope to power their magics and skills. The shadowjack offered up a bounty of magical material, while they were able to harvest the skeletons for bone – both items they need to strengthen their kingdom. Money!

Once the beasts had been cleared the party set out to explore further. The King sent followers to explore other rooms, as far as seemed wise; they returned carrying a jar containing a siamese fighting fish, and bearing reports of chaos and cold. Cookie, Cocoa and Hairan wandered the room, with Hairan managing to find restorative rest in a hospital (Hairan likes hospitals), as well as making better friends with Cocoa; Cookie, meanwhile, managed to become annoyed with Hairan[2]. During this time the characters also found that they were affected by the strange odours coming from the bones, but most of them were able to resist this trap; Mario had an amulet which protected him from it, so the trap did not trouble anyone.

The Offal Beach

If only it were jet powered!!

If only it were jet powered!!

Having cleared this strange corpse the characters returned to the Rust Farm and took its only other exit, a tunnel of steal that slowly turned to ice, widening and becoming lighter as they headed down it. A cool wind, becoming rapidly colder, blew up this tunnel, until the characters were shivering and frozen. The tunnel emerged into an ice cave and from there into a scene of chaos and frozen death. The cave opened into an expanse of ice and open water, a little stretch of polar ocean with still, freezing waters separating calm, flat stretches of ice. On all these stretches of ice huge flocks of penguins ran around in chaos and confusion, squawking at each other and running around in aimless confusion. The characters pushed through the nearest gang of these strange waddling mad birds to the beach, where they found rafts of penguin bone. They hopped into these rafts and paddled across the calm seas towards a larger mass of ice, from which they could see a plume of smoke rising into the still grey sky.

When they arrived they found a scene of horror. A beach of black pebbles stretched up to a large factory-like structure, from which the smoke emerged. The beach was covered with the shattered remains of penguins, broken, torn apart, surgically opened, smashed and generally horribly mistreated. On one side of the beach a huge, fat leopard seal lounged, gnawing half-heartedly on the remains of a penguin; it was obviously so sated and overweight that it didn’t even want to eat. The King tried to convert it to communism to join their kingdom, but it gave him a flat and terrifying look, snorted a horribly charnel-scented snort, and fell asleep in front of him. Disgusted and horrified, the party headed up the beach to the factory. From the factory a figure of horror emerged, a huge man wearing a blood-soaked apron, his faced concealed behind a mask of penguin skin. In one hand he held a huge and bloodied cleaver; in the other a strange arrangement composed of a piece of clockwork embedded in a piece of penguin.

There followed a short conversation in which this alarming and bizarre man revealed himself to be the ex science-advisor of the Ant King. He had been exiled here after his creations killed the Ant King’s favourite leopard. Taking the characters through his abbatoir-factory-workshop, the man introduced himself as Boeing and told them he was hoping to perfect his invention and return to the Ant King to show it could be used. He took them into a small study, brightly lit by pale sunlight through huge glass windows, and showed them the source of his genius: a huge pile of crashed drones, some propellor-powered and some jet-propelled, stacked up in the snow behind his factory. On the desktop were designs for combining these with penguins. Here was the source of the Mach Penguins they had killed!

The King managed to convince Boeing to join their kingdom, and after a somewhat horrid experience in which Boeing produced a red carpet made of the skins of freshly-butchered penguins they were able to move on to the next room … First however, King Mario sent forth underlings to explore more remote rooms; they came back bearing a massive bean, the size of a horse, wrapped in a leaf big enough to be turned into a sail. This, they were told, came from a room with no monsters and no traps. They headed to the next room, which they already knew contained three traps, and which then linked to the room of massive beans.

The Gimmick Factory

 

One man's gimmick is another's sinister religious offering

One man’s gimmick is another’s sinister religious offering

The western end of the Offal Beach had a small ice shelf in open water, on which was an abandoned and crumbling whaling station. Within this was a tunnel leading into the ice; this tunnel slowly turned to stone, warming slightly, and opened into a complex network of tunnels that was much more like a normal labyrinth. It was from this labyrinth that their underlings had returned bearing a Siamese Fighting Fish, and indeed this labyrinth was strangely lined with such little ornaments. All the tunnels appeared to have been dug by some ancient race of huge moles, whose three-clawed feet had left triple grooves along the two sides of the smooth tunnels. Each groove was perhaps two hands wide and two hands deep, and after this race of moles had passed on some other group of people must have turned these tunnels into a bizarre place of worship, for the grooves were filled with small gimmicky ornaments: golliwogs, china dolls, hawaiian hula girls, tin soldiers, and of course jars holding siamese fighting fish. The whole was lit with chains of tealights in star-shaped glass holders, and eerily disturbing in its randomness and yet its … completeness. Rather than resembling a huge, labyrinthine junk shop, it took on a frightening, slightly sinister stillness, like a church to some great and ancient evil that expressed itself through the malevolent glint of countless tiny ornamental eyes – and the cold, grim stare of many ferocious warrior fish. The court passed hastily through these sinister tunnels of kitsch watchers, emerging into a crossroads where they only just avoided a ceiling that was tripped to fall; they dodged aside, and then explored more carefully. Cookie managed to disarm a bomb trap, but none of them could disarm the rolling stone, which came hurtling down the tunnels towards them, large enough to crush all of them and preceded by howling winds and the thunder of rock rolling on rock. Watched with distant, alien glee by the millions of tiny fetishes and ornaments, the party scrambled madly away from the stone. They threw themselves around corners and down slippery, sloping tunnels, always down, down, down, until Cookie saw a side exit too small for the rolling ball to enter. They dived in, but only realized too late that this side exit was a slide; it led steeply down, and the whole party were thrown down a steep, sickening series of turns and corkscrews until they were thrown out into brilliant, open air. They found themselves falling through empty space, with no ground in sight: far below them were clouds, far above them a harsh and brilliant sun; and nowhere, as far as the eye could see, any sign of ground. They had a long way to fall to their doom …

The Golden Nebula

... And for their Sherpa a giant coffee pot ...

… And for their Sherpa a giant coffee pot …

 

The court and their followers fell and fell, spinning slowly in the vast open sky. The warm air rushed by faster and faster, roaring in their ears; high above them their followers’ wagon tumbled haphazardly through the still sky, all their treasures and worldly possessions falling out of it and cascading amongst the scattered group. Their newly-acquired Siamese fighting fish tumbled from the heavens in its jar, spinning end over end and flashing brilliant azure as with each slow rotation it caught the distant, brilliant sun. Looking down, our PCs were sure they would fall forever – even after a minute of falling they could still see no sign of distant ground. Not that the eventual sight of far-off earth would do anything to ease their dilemma …

… But eventually one of them noticed that they were beginning to fall more slowly. It was impossible to tell with no landmarks, but the clouds seem to have slowed their advance, and the roaring of the wind was lessened; soon, as the clouds began to draw closer, they all realized that their fall was coming to a stop, and eventually they found themselves floating still in space the nearest of those once-distant clouds just a few hundred metres from them. All their followers, the wagon, the Siamese fighting fish and even the giant leaf all came floating down to land still in mid-air, held in gentle stasis between the distant sun and an invisibly distant earth. Their fears of death by falling were gone, but replaced – with fears of death by exposure. For the sun was relentless, there was no shade, no rain, and though there was no wind the air was dry and warm, and even with the greatest of effort they could not move. There was no sign of a rain cloud, a horizon, or any hint of coming night. They were trapped in an empty space, their only source of water that distant cloud, close enough they could almost smell its moisture, near enough to wilt with desire for the gentle shade of its underside; but too far to move to by any means under their control.

For hours they drifted, wilting under that oppressive sun, until one of their followers called out in surprise, and they realized that over the past few hours that cloud had drifted closer, and was now at his feet. Then, to their amazement, he began walking up the side of the cloud as if it were solid. After a few minutes of precarious struggle he stood atop it, arms outstretched, as if it were more solid than one of the icebergs in the Offal Beach! They were saved! Slowly the cloud drew closer to the main knot of courtiers, and they were all able one by one to climb onto the cloud, dragging all their possessions (even the Siamese fighting fish!) with them. They found a space under a tower of cumulus where the sun was less punishing and set up camp, overjoyed to have finally escaped from the heat and the dry air. The cloud, white and moist, was cool and pleasant to sit on, and its crags and towers offered much shade. From its pinnacle they could survey the landscape without panic, though in truth they were all a little concerned that they might be trapped here forever. But at least for now they had safety and a chance to plan.

They had little time to relax though; for shortly their group was visited by a strange monster, that looked alarmingly like a huge coffee pot with wings, the size of a house. This monster demanded to know their business in the kingdom. It was obviously neutral towards them at first but extremely arrogant (and very large); it hovered over them demanding to know more about them, and when challenged to reveal its own identity simply declared “I am not the creator, simply a giant coffee pot.” It then demanded that they offer up a magic item of great worth, or suffer its wrath; lacking any magical items of worth, they were forced to fight it. It summoned forth three strange flying beasts, called Waliahyra, and the battle was on. This battle passed with limited damage to the players, who were able to slay the strange monster quickly and force the surrender of the remaining Waliahyra. After some negotiation, the Waliahyra agreed to join the kingdom of the Socialist Republic of Disasters. They also told the characters that these clouds rotate on a regular path, and that in a few days’ time the cloud would “join up with a tree” so that they could “go to the abyss.”

They waited …

The Abyssal Fort

Yggdrasil is our playground ...

Yggdrasil is our playground …

After some days the cloud drifted towards a vast and imposing sight at the borders of the Golden Nebula. Here the sun was just as bright, but the clear skies of the nebula bled into a zone of darkness that seemed to be thicker than air. This zone was too large to see to the other side, and in the middle of this empty space grew a grand tree, so huge that its branches were kilometres long and hundreds of metres wide, it’s trunk stretching up and down into obscurity. The light of the nebula’s bright sun pierce this dark space between the branches of the tree, but the thick quality of the air meant that the light soon faded, like sunbeams entering clear water, and the sunlight only entered the abyssal darkness beyond the tree as lances of light, like a streetlamp seen through the branches of a tree on a misty night. The branches of the tree closest to the golden nebula were teeming with life: huge leaves the size of ship sails, strange birds and beasts cavorting on the branches. Somewhere far below, giant ant-like humans herded aphids the size of cattle on branches wide enough to build towns. A roadway coiled around the trunk of the tree, but the ants were so far away that they would surely be months’ worth of careful travel to reach – and who knew what terrifying storms scoured this tree, drawn up from the depths of the abyss beyond? The tree branches became less fecund as they circled the trunk, and on the far side of the tree ice could be seen glittering on the dead branches furthest from the light. Here the party alighted onto a huge branch and set forth into the tree; they soon saw in the distance, on the far side of the tree, a campfire burning in the chilly darks of the abyss.

They set out for the camp, and set their own camp at the base of the branch on which the camp was set. Chill winds blew here, and though it was not cold enough for frost, the bright and cheery sun of the Golden Nebula was a distant memory. From the far camp, figures approached, and they found themselves facing their expected enemy: the Debt Collector, and a bevy of Bad Company. Perfunctory negotiation failed to hold sway over the repo man, and battle was joined. The Debt Collector was a tough foe, able to steal items from the group and armed with double pistols that he could deploy to devastating effect. His bad company were also terrifying. When they came close to a court member’s followers they would lose all their battlefield calm and rush forward, dropping guns and drawing huge meat cleavers, while their own camp followers rolled up a butcher’s wagon festooned with meat hooks and horrifying slaughter devices – the bad company actually tried to eat their enemy’s followers in the middle of battle! Fortunately they were weak and easily killed, and our heroes were soon able to triumph, though they all sustained damage.

Amongst the rubble of the Debt Collector’s camp they found a blank promissory letter, to be signed by Mario, indicating he had paid off his debt and thanking the Subterranean One for his kindness. They signed it and left it in the ruin of the camp where it would be easily found by whatever monster set out to find the debt collector, and then looted the camp. They then decided they’d had enough of adventuring, didn’t want to spend huge amounts of time looking for the last two rooms, and wanted to go home. Mario activated his dungeon insurance policy, and they all teleported back to their Court.

The Conclusion Phase

In the conclusion phase they calculated the Upkeep cost of their castle, rolled for the reaction of the people to their successful return, and calculated loot. Their successful return inspired the people, and new citizens came to join the kingdom; also, another kingdom launched a surprise attack on the Socialist Republic of Disasters but was repulsed, and had to pay reparations; at the end of the adventure our heroes’ kingdom had grown to 91 citizens (including monsters, and monsters cloned in the ranch), and their gold stock had risen. Finally they all gained a level (and Mario gained 2); with these levels they were able to select new skills and increase their number of followers.

A few notes on the game, and playing from Japanese to English

Somewhat surprisingly – given that two of the players are full-time salarymen in Japanese companies – we all had difficulty reading the rules, and at times had to wing some of the random results a little bit. I have read through the key rules as best I can perhaps twice, but because they’re in Japanese I still don’t have a feeling for the overall structure and sense of the rules or the game, as I would have if it were in my native language (this ambiguity is a common experience I have of reading anything in Japanese). Fortunately there is now a ruleset in English (available in pdf format here) but I didn’t have it during the game, so it all felt a bit vague. Still, even with the rules fumbling, the entire adventure – everything we did above – took just 4-5 hours (I think 4.5), including breaks. I think I made some of the battles a little too easy, but overall I think the game flows very quickly and smoothly. We were going for a comic and humorous approach to adventuring, but there was still time for horror, descriptions, and interactions. A few players said they felt especially exhausted afterwards given the time spent playing, but I think this was likely just a coincidence (or connected with the frantic pace of this cute little game? I’m not sure). Everyone said they enjoyed it and want to revisit the game in the future. I think it could be an excellent system for a campaign, though I’m not sure where such a campaign would lead. Playing this in English confirmed my enjoyment of this game, and I’m happy I finally got a chance to GM this game. I hope I can do it again sometime soon!

 

Picture note: the Picture for the Gimmick Factory is from the website of a fine cafe in Shibuya called And People. The Yggrdasil tree in the Abyssal Fort is the work of Margy Nelson, whose artwork can be bought from here, amongst other places.

fn1: This was roll on the death table. The Oracle took enough damage to reach 0 hit points, and so had to roll on the death table. The result: he lost 1d6 followers and took no damage. Brutal!

fn2: All PCs have relationships, and during the game random events can change these relationships in quite remarkable ways. By the end of this adventure Cookie hated everyone.

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Even sunlight is rationed down here ...

Even sunlight is rationed down here …

This is a kingdom I created entirely randomly for a one-off of Make You Kingdom, to be played in English this weekend.

Kingdom name: The socialist republic of disasters [yes I really rolled this randomly]

Map Position: E3

Kingdom level: 2

Lifestyle level: 1

Culture level: 1

Order level: 2

Military level: 1

Total population: 70

Consisting of …

  • 63 citizens
  • 4 Court members (PCs)
  • 3 Hurryfoxes

People’s voice (Maximum): 10

Facilities:

  • Royal Palace
  • Ranch
  • Staple [steel]

Background details

The Socialist Republic of Disasters is located in map square E3 of a random part of the labyrinth, and is ruled by Comintern President Mario, who is untroubled by the Ephemeral God. The kingdom is remarkably stable and fortunate given its circumstances: though it only covers three squares of a standard 9×9 labyrinth map, its population is surprisingly large and it is allied with a distant kingdom, the United Dungeon Empire, that supplies it with steel. It is also home to three Hurryfoxes (Gonkitsune). Due to a loan that the wise Comintern President Mario took from the Subterranean One, the Republic is also in debt, owing a mighty 15 MG.

The Hurryfoxes live in the kingdom because it has a special property of being able to coexist with monsters: under the wise and benevolent rule of the Comintern President, a ranch was established, and people from all over the kingdom are happy to receive monsters and live alongside them, provided they offer some of their souls and material for use in the ranch, where any new monsters who join the kingdom can be cloned to produce more of their kind. The ranch is an ancient heritage, from a time before the enlightened rule of the Comintern President, when the kingdom was under a sorcerer’s curse that caused all its citizens to be undead. This time is long past, but out of respect for history the Comintern President has kindly allowed the cultural memory of this special lineage to linger, enabling all adventurers to learn any undead skill when they gain a level or a new skill.

Since the demise of the sorcerer and the end of his curse the nation has lived a long and peaceful life under the principled, firm but loving guidance of the comintern; as a result it has a larger population than many similarly-sized kingdoms (+13 population) and has a strong sense of discipline and order (+1 order level).

The ranch: From each monster according to his means

The ranch: From each monster according to his means

How it looks

This is ultimately up to the players, but given the name, the sense of order, and the sinister-sounding nation they are allied to, I can’t help feeling it has a slightly tatty-grandiose soviet-era feeling to it. I imagine it is not a particularly large kingdom, and is composed primarily of wide, spacious, well-lit tunnels similar to the tunnels in some of the Moscow metro, with the same sense of grandeur. These tunnels form a complex network connecting the living spaces, markets and royal palace (the Comintern Palace, I guess!) together in a soviet-styled warren. I even imagine there is an actual train, a rickety old coal-burner that connects the Socialist Republic of Disasters (SRD) with the distant Unified Dungeon Empire. Perhaps it takes a month to chug along on complex paths through the labyrinthine fallen world, eventually returning two months after it set out with a cargo of iron scrap – rubbish, basically – from the Unified Dungeon Empire.

I imagine the ranch as a somewhat sinister place, not a happy sunlit farm at all. The rules state that if you have a ranch, when you manage to bring a monster back to your kingdom as a citizen you can make a check to produce another one of them in the ranch. Given the speed this happens at, I see it as some kind of sinister magical cloning process, not a game of happy-monster-families. Sometimes, obviously, it goes wrong (which would be why the SRD has 3 hurryfoxes, not 2 or 4). I imagine this is some relic of the time before, and though the citizens know how to operate it, they don’t know how it works.

From each according to their means, to each according to their needs

From each according to their means, to each according to their needs

The court

The court consists of four PCs, described briefly here.

Comintern President Mario, who is untroubled by the Ephemeral God

The President’s Job is Daedalist (迷宮職人, see the second from right in the illustration above), his/her sex is undecided, and his/her primary attributes are quest and warfare. He owes 15MG to the Subterranean one, and it is his mission to escape from the Subterranean One’s debt. Mario likes foppery and storytellers, and hates liars and apologizing.

Cocoa “Wise ears” Scarlet

A Knight with the job of Hunter, who came to SRD from the distant kingdom of Autonomic Dark Gotanda [square F1] as an apprentice and has the mission of becoming Mario’s lover. Cocoa’s primary attribute is warfare, and Cocoa has a horse, armour, weapons and a living drill (a stick with a mole on the end). Cocoa likes the countryside and smart people, and hates Citizens and elderly people.

Hairan Blademagnet

An Oracle with the job of thief, who came down to SRD from heaven in an elevator when he was a child, and whose nemesis is a deep sea monster called the Forneus, that it is his mission to thwart. Hairan’s primary attribute is charisma, followed by quest. He is a belly-god, so can consume food and drink without running out of supplies, so he’ll probably end up obese by the end of the first adventure. He likes receiving weapons, and the labyrinth itself; he hates beards and ogrekin.

Cookie the Involuntarily Anointed

Cookie is a ninja, who came to the SRD as a spy for the neo-superhero federation [map square B6], and has the mission of becoming Cocoa’s rival. Cookie’s job is Doctor, so Cookie has the skills of Monsterology and Anti-magic Formula. Cookie is powerful in quest and wit. Unfortunately for a resident of the SRD, Cookie hates narrow places and hospitals; but she likes stars and princes; Cookie herself carries a Blade of Star, a bomb and a trap collection. Really, she’s a perfect spy!

The adventure

This week’s adventure will start when an old associate of the kingdom, a kind of fence and all-round sleazy guy, arrives to tell Comintern President Mario that a debt collector [a type of monster] has turned up in a nearby kingdom, possibly looking to call in the debt that Mario owes to the Subterranean One. The characters will then set off to find this debt collector and … er … deal with him. Their oily friend knows the way to the neighbouring kingdom, though he doesn’t know the kingdom layout or the nature of the creatures that live there. Is everything as it seems, or is their oily little friend causing trouble …?

Come to my kingdom, he said...

Today was the monthly Oita Devil Spirit Convention, and on the promise that one of my warhammer players would be presenting a second session of the Japanese RPG “Make You Kingdom,” I attended during an otherwise very busy weekend. Along with an apparent horde of other people trapped in the pre-christmas work rush, my player couldn’t attend, but a different chap stepped up to the plate without any preparation, and offered to run a Make You Kingdom adventure entitled “All Random.” The premise was that the adventure would be genuinely, from start to finish, entirely randomly generated. This, as it turns out, isn’t such a great plan for a convention.

Character Creation

This session I chose to play a priest, and we also had a Knight, a Servant and a King. For my Priest I chose the skill “Faith,” which heals everyone in the party, and my job was “cook,” which gave me the phenomenally useful power of “Apron”:

If a monster I kill leaves behind a raw material of any sort, I can convert this raw material into “meat,” which can then be used to make a “lunchbox.” This lunchbox can be imbued with a single skill that the monster originally possessed, and anyone who eats this lunchbox gains the skill for one turn

Also, when anyone in the party eats a “lunchbox” or a “full course,” in addition to its normal effects they gain +1 to their Bravery for one turn. Who knew cooks could be so powerful?

I rolled randomly (of course) for my character’s name, history, motivations, etc., and this is what I got:

  • Name: Hairan, who cannot even kill an insect
  • Background: Owes a huge debt (11 Gold Pieces) and is in trouble because of it
  • Fate: If he pays back the debt, Hairan will gain much favour
  • Age: 46
  • Favourite things: Medicine, his own country
  • Hated things: Being alone, people’s rumours
  • Item: a fragment of a star (swapped subsequently for a lunchbox)

So I decided on the basis of this that my character was a perfectly-dressed gentleman, who somehow manages to be wearing a different suit and hat every day, carries a cane with a sword hidden in it, and is something of a drug-addicted nationalist. Tally ho!

My character had 21 followers. Because the King’s job was “happymancer” I decided that my characters were all part of a carnival, consisting of a marching band of 10 members, 5 clowns, 5 pretty girls, and a giant.

The Kingdom

Our Kingdom, also rolled randomly, contained a palace, a casino and a ranch, and was called “The Ancient Empire.” It was in an alliance with another Kingdom called “Imperial Konparu Kingdom.” Konparu is a word used a lot in Japan (the hall we play at is called “Konparu hall”) but I can’t find a translation for it in any dictionary.

Our kingdom only had 56 citizens, so if all 4 PCs took their full complement of citizens with them on an adventure, only 2 would remain in the city. Not good! This meant we had to ration our supply of followers (except me, because my healing prayer was directly related to the number of followers I had, which was perhaps a mistake).

The Adventure

There was no beating around the  bush – the adventure was introduced as “We have learnt of a new kingdom, let’s go conquer it!” So, we set off to conquer it. First we did a bit of exploring, and discovered that most of the distant kingdom was empty rooms full of traps, but for one room that had 4 Foxes and a Boar in it. I then went for a wander through our kingdom, which proved pointless, and off we went for an adventure.

On the way we were attacked twice by other monsters, and suffered some damage that wasn’t serious. We arrived at the destination kingdom, and entered the first room. Here are the rooms in order:

  1. The Collapsing Ceiling: This room was empty, but had a collapsing ceiling trap that nearly killed our Servant. Nothing else was in this room, whose description I forget
  2. The foxes and the boar: This room contained 4 “Quick Foxes” and a “Sawing Boar,” and also a rose trap that puts its victims to sleep. We avoided the rose trap and attacked the resident beasts, two of whom were asleep, but unfortunately the boar woke up and nearly killed the knight. I used my single “wish” to enact my healing prayer, and healed everyone. We only just survived this room. The boar was turned into meat, which I attempted to use my “Apron” power on to convert to magic meat that grants the Knight the charge skill, but I failed. We then chose to rest here and eat a “lunchbox,” and I attempted to use my special skill (“Dungeon Feast”) to give everyone a +1 to their Bravery. This resulted in a fumble, which caused some kind of disaster that killed all 5 of my clowns, 1 of my pretty girls and the giant. So much for our carnival entry.
  3. The Dead Letter: We moved on to the next room, where the night stumbled upon a letter in an envelope. This was also a trap, and she had a choice of taking 2d6 damage (she only had 12 hps) or everyone in the party losing 1d6 followers (most people only had 5). She chose the damage, and survived, so we decided to rest again in this room so we could disarm the trap in the following room. We rested, and some of us decided to roll on the rest table. I went wandering through the room, rolled up some kind of excellent effect that depended on a skill check, and fumbled the skill check. Result: we all took damage from a dungeon disaster.
  4. The Escape Route: By now we were all down on hit points, running low on followers, and out of wishes. I was borrowing dice from my neighbour because of the huge fumble rate on my own dice. The room we were in was linked to a room that had a “trap” that sends you straight back to your own kingdom. We chose to go down that trap, and return home…

Returning home we rolled on the “return home” table, gaining a few followers and quite a bit of money. We spent the money on building a Watchtower, which increases our available total wishes, and we also gained a level. By the time we had made these decisions, it was 4pm and not worth returning to the Dungeon, so we all gave up and decided to wait the hour till the other groups at the convention finished their sessions.

Conclusion

Rolling a random dungeon was not such a good idea, if there was any risk of the dungeon being filled entirely with traps. Traps aren’t that interesting as an obstacle. So, we had a slightly boring adventure that finished early. Make You Kingdom adventures are certainly deadly – this is the second time I’ve played, and the second time we’ve survived by the skin of our teeth, consuming our fellow citizens and all our items in the process – but this time around a large part of the deadliness was random.

Make You Kingdom remains a really interesting and fun system, but this session made me think that it’s real strength will show in a campaign, not single adventures. Gaining levels and building up your kingdom is a really essential part of this game, as is achieving your fate, and a campaign where you get to do this would be really fun. I think this is going to be my next campaign after Warhammer.

An army of snowmen does his every bidding...

Having presented a random table and monster from the game Make You Kingdom, here are a few more monsters from the game. I have to return the book tomorrow, so there’ll be no more posts about it until I buy my own. Here is a translation of the monster in the main picture, General Winter.

General Winter (level 14 Angelic Monster)

  • Bravery:9
  • Range: 1
  • Damage: 2d6+2
  • Resistance: 13
  • HPs: 60
  • Character: Sly

Common Monster skills: Fist of the Fierce God, Divine Transformation, Swarm Defence, Feat of Arms, Sword Play, Minor Transformation

Storm of Snow: When someone other than General Winter uses a support action, he can interrupt them using this manoeuvre. Everyone but General Winter must make a Bravery check with a difficulty equal to the General’s Bravery +5. Those who fail immediately have their hit points halved.

Text (“flavour”): A valorous commander who serves the Winter Sovereign on the steps to heaven. He also has a side that is kind to children.

(I don’t know what the “common monster skills” are because they aren’t in my book, but they seem pretty scary).

Below are three other monsters that I scanned in as random trash during the process of scanning in General Winter, and figured I should upload. No translations are provided, but they’re all from the “Angels” family of monsters.

What doesn't kill you...

 

This is how you build a Dungeon...

Continuing my series of posts on the Japanese RPG Make You Kingdom, here I present a single table from the random Kingdom generation section. In this section you choose how many rooms your Kingdom will have (1 to 9), then you generate each room randomly. To do this, you first roll a d6 to see what sort of room it is (human creation, natural form, underground, etc). Once you have chosen the form, there is a table of random rooms from which to select each room. All 6 tables use the same random selection method: D66. That is, you roll 2 six-sided dice, taking the lowest as “tens” and the highest as “units,” like d100 – except you don’t designate one die to be a “ten.” Instead, the lower roll is always a “ten” and the higher always a “unit.” For example a roll of 1 and 4 is 14, regardless of which die rolled the 1. This gives you 21 options.

The table below is an attempt at translating the results for the “Heavenly” style of room, which you obtain with a roll of 5 on the original D6 to determine room type.

11 A room with falling rain 23 Atop a cloud, which somehow you are able to walk over 36 A colossal exhaust vent making a huge roaring sound
12 A cavern riddled with wholes like a swiss cheese 24 A hollow veiled in mist 44 A room in which lightning strikes every now and then
13 Many floating gardens layered atop one another 25 A room in which you drift, weightless 45 A room of gently falling feathers
14 White laundry strung out in endless lines 26 A room in which snow falls and gathers 46 A cavity with many walls on which have been painted pictures of a clear blue sky
15 Beanstalks growing to the heavens 33 A cloister floating in mid-air, in which space and time are distorted 55 A room on one wall of which is a mirror
16 A colossal shaft in which hangs a rope ladder or a chain 34 A corridor in which a monster-repelling windmill spins, making a strange sound 56 A cavern in which the aurora wavers and flares
22 A room through which a strong wind blows 35 A cavern, through the roof of which a ruin or relic can be seen 66 A room in which the direction of gravity is disjointed or strange

With only 21 choices, in one campaign you can only make 2 or 3 wind-themed kingdoms before you run out of rooms (unless you make up your own), but even if you mix in a few rooms from a different table (e.g. roll 6, the spirit world) you’ll get an interesting and weird dungeon to play in.

The picture is a human monster, called a Dungeon Geek (“Dungeon wo taku”). I think the name is actually a play on words, because the correct way to write “geek” in Japanese is “otaku,”(オタク) not “wotaku,”(ヲタク) but the verb “taku” means to burn, so “Dungeon wo taku” could mean “burn the dungeon.” There are a few puns in the monster section playing on either Japanese kanji jokes, or English translation jokes (like the “living room” which is literally a room that lives). The Dungeon Geek is a level 5 monster with an attack range of 1 (missile fire), 1d6 damage, 10 hit points and a resistance of 9. His abilities are:

  • Schemer: Enemy tactical checks are made 3 points harder when opposing this chap (I’m not sure what a tactical check is, as I don’t have the basic rule book)
  • Enhance Animated Objects: He can increase the resistance and damage of nearby animated objects
  • Public Enemy: This skill’s rule beats all others. This monster cannot be converted into someone else’s follower. Also, this monster’s skills cannot be acquired by a PC (I presume there is a mechanism by which PCs can steal monster skills).
  • Dungeon Tectonics (I think, this skill is not listed in the book I have): The Dungeon Geek can lay traps for enemies
  • Collector: The Dungeon Geek can equip a single common item of his choice, using it as if it were level 0

The text in italics at the bottom is “flavour” (フレーバー) and says

This is a human who became obssessed with the first dungeons, and was drawn into them unawares. Always losing himself in the quest to make the perfect dungeon, Dungeoneers are his perfect test bench. Being completely heedless of human conversation, he is incapable of communicating his purpose.

A very suitable monster for our little corner of the universe…

[All translations should be taken with the usual note of caution]

Our Dungeon Tectonics Expert and Eunuch Servant

This is the session report for yesterday’s Make You Kingdom adventure. Because we covered a lot of ground and my notes were being taken hurriedly, this report needs to be quite light on details – probably a good thing, since I didn’t understand what was going on about 50% of the time.

The PCs and the Kingdom

There were 4 players, who as usual didn’t introduce themselves – in fact one player referred to another player as “Honourable Older Sister” throughout the session, because he didn’t know her name. We played the following characters:

  • The King, previous job “Doctor”
  • A servant, previous job “Eunuch.”
  • An Oracle, previous job “Sex worker” (Or something similar – performer of dubious origins, perhaps?)
  • A Ninja, previous job “Hunter,” played by me and named (by random roll) “uwasa wo sureba Oboe,” which in English would be something like “The Oboe of which everyone speaks”

I decided that my ninja was of unspecified gender, being so heavily wrapped in black that only his/her eyes show, and wrapped in a great black cloak (part of my equipment). My ninja starts with Quest 5, Wit 2, Bravery 2 and charm 1. This means he/she has 7 followers, who I decided (in keeping with the ninja theme) are all members of the same Visual Kei band. My Ninja had two skills:

  • Hunting, by which he/she can gather food with a good skill check
  • Disruption, by which he/she can expend a wish and prevent 1d6 of damage to a fellow PC

My ninja had the following equipment, all rolled up on random tables:

  • A fragment of a star
  • A used magic item
  • A cloak
  • Some shuriken (throwing stars)
  • A warhammer
  • A full course meal

No character can have more than 6 items. No one carries mundane items. I’m not sure what these items did, and I didn’t get a chance to use any except the shuriken, hammer and meal.

To give an idea of the dangers of combat, my Ninja had 14 hps. My ninja’s shuriken do d6-1 damage. To hit my ninja an opponent needs to roll over 12 on 2d6+bravery, and usually a monster’s bravery is roughly equal to their level. We were all level 2.

Our Kingdom was called “Eastern Champion Land” (also randomly rolled). Within it we had a Palace, Temple, School and Hospital, all randomly rolled.We also rolled up its location in a larger labyrinth section (like a Gormenghastian Traveller sector map!).

The Adventure Starts: The Kingdom Phase

A spy came to our kingdom and told us that nearby was a kingdom called “The Forest of Harvests” that was having a little trouble and was also the holder of a rare magic item. We decided to explore this kingdom, so first of all my ninja used his/her Exploration skill to map out the kingdom. I rolled so well on this process that I learnt the number of traps and monsters in every room, and the layout of the whole kingdom, as well as the type of monsters in one room. With this knowledge our job was made considerably easier. While I was doing this two of the PCs decided to go for a wander around our own kingdom; this is handled by rolling on special “roaming” encounter tables and can only occur during the “kingdom phase,” which happens when you’re in your kingdom. One player found some kind of magic berry or something and gained a permanent increase in hit points (+5!), while the other found us all some money. You can make these rolls any time you are in the kingdom phase, but you can only ever get each result once, and there are some risky outcomes (I think). It’s an example of your kingdom giving you benefits, basically.

Once these things were out of the way we set off. On the way one player rolled a random encounter, which we managed to avoid by making successful bravery checks, and then we arrived at our destination, The “Forest of Harvests” Kingdom.

Room 1: The Entry

There is usually only one way in or out of a kingdom, and the way in is always the first room you enter. The Forest of Harvests’ entryway contained some rolling hills and a road rolling between them, which happened to be blocked by a giant tree. This tree happily moved out of our way after some negotiation (I’m not sure what was said; my hangover was still going pretty badly at this stage)[1], and we proceeded without further trouble into room 2.

Room 2: The Road of Meals

In this room we were attacked by a pair of Ogrekin, who we killed quite quickly. We then explored the room, finding a road running through the middle and a field of mushrooms. Some investigation revealed that the yellow mushrooms healed damage, the red ones exploded on impact, and the blue ones were poisonous to touch. We couldn’t take the red ones with us because they were a little unstable. We travelled to the next room.

Room 3: Fisherman’s Lake

On the road to room 3 we discovered a Black Spot trap, which I disarmed. A Black Spot trap causes any who fail a Quest DC 9 test to be trapped in the black spot. Every quarter they have to make another test to escape it, and everyone else has to wait. This wastes time, but also food; every 4 quarters everyone has to eat one meal. Fortunately we didn’t trigger it, and ended up in the third room, which contained a massive lake. This lake was populated by Kappa, with whom we chatted. They revealed that they catch fish and trade them with a princess called Princess Mira, and told us about the dangers on the road to her room. We thanked them and did a spot of fishing: the Oracle hauled up a rare and splendid “Dungeon Maguro,” which can be used as trade with Princess Mira (or anyone else!) and a rare item (I was writing this so I don’t know what item came out of the tables).

Room 4: The Forest of Relaxation

This room wasn’t very relaxing at all, being gloomy and filled with Giant Squirms, a Chowhound and a Minotaur. We killed all of them. The Chowhound had a special attack called “Warm and Snug” which reduces everyone’s Resistance, making them easier to hit, but we dealt with it. There was nothing else in this room, so we proceeded to the room of the Princess.

Room 5: Mira’s Forest

Here we met Princess Mira, in a room with huge trees and lots of harmless flying monsters. Princess Mira spoke to us when we gave her the Dungeon Maguro, and revealed that the Kingdom was in trouble due to something happening at the “Small Shrine.” We offered to help, and set off to the next room.

Room 6: The Forest of Confusion

In this room we were attacked by 5 Scum and 2 Bad Company. Someone also set up a trap in the battle zone, which was a problem because this trap did 2d6 damage to anyone who triggered it, and was between us and the enemy. Only two of our members had missile weapons, and the Bad Company are pretty solid ranged fighters. However, our Servant had a special skill, “Dungeon Tectonics,” which enabled him to set traps in battlezones from a distance (it’s a type of magic). He used his Dungeon Tectonics skill to set traps, which killed the Bad Company and half the Scum; I then took out the rest with Shuriken. From their bodies we looted a rare magical Business Card that gives a bonus on diplomacy; this we gave to the Oracle. Every ex-prostitute Oracle should have a magic business card.

Every room has a Camp Phase, if you choose, in which you rest or explore. I chose to risk a “Rest Event” and rolled on the Investigation Table; it turns out that during the rest period I explored the room and stumbled on a Rust Samurai’s grave, and from this I looted a few pieces of iron, which I gave to the Oracle to use in her magic item construction powers.

Room 7: The Forest of Nightmare

This room was not actually a forest, but had lots of small buildings and contained some Dwarves. We talked to them and they told us that the next room – the Small Shrine – was occupied by 3 “Hurry Foxes” that could be very bad news. They gave us a bitter potion that we had to make Bravery checks to keep down, and with this we regained a few hit points. We rested here and moved on to the Small Shrine room.

Room 8: The Small Shrine

In the Small Shrine we were met by the 3 Hurry Foxes, who were called Umi, Soru and Chan. They refused to help us unless we answered 3 riddles, which were

Riddle 1

Consider the following equations. What is the answer to the 4th?

  • Bx4=1
  • Ox3=C
  • Sx3=O
  • Dx1=?

This is a baseball reference, and one of our players got it. 4 bases = 1 run, 3 outs=change sides, 3 strikes = Out, so 1 Deadball=Take 1. Thus the answer is “1”.

Riddle 2

In every survey ever done, which planet in the solar system is the most popular with firefighters? Is it Venus, Saturn, Earth or Mercury?

The answer was Earth. The reason: the emergency number for firefighters in Japan is 119, ichi-ichi-kyuu, which sounds very much like ichi-chikyuu, which means “1 Earth.” One of our players got this. I was flabbergasted.

Riddle 3

This involved completing a sequence of kanji I couldn’t read. The players got this in moments (Japanese love kanji quizzes).

With these three correct answers the Foxes told us of a secret road to an 8th room, where a Mushroom Dragon and its followers had set up and were terrorizing the Kingdom. So, off we went… but first a rest… I rolled on the Exploration rest table, and found a secret path to any room of my choice; we set this secret path to shorten our exit route. Then, onto the next room…

Room 8: The Mushroom Dragon

This room was gloomy and foggy, and occupied by a Mushroom Dragon, some Primal Ogrekin, some Ogrekin, an Ogrekin Shaman and a Minotaur. Battle was joined.

This battle was nasty. The Dragon’s breath caused poison damage (1 HP every round) and the Ogre Shaman kept summoning Ogrekin between us and the Dragon. Because the rules don’t allow us to move through occupied spaces of the battlezone, this stopped us from neutralizing the dragon. At one point the King was trapped in the Dragon’s zone, with a wall of Ogrekin summoned between us and him. I had to use all my wishes deflecting damage with my disruption skill, and I also sacrificed 4 of my band members to improve an attack roll; in the spirit of things I made a random table of band members and determined that the sacrificed members were the singer, both guitarists, and the Strange Male Dancer. The battle finally came extremely close to a TPK. The King was on 4 HPs, the Servant on 1 and the Oracle on 2, and me on 10; but Oracle and Servant were both poisoned, so one would die next round regardless of his actions, and the Oracle the round after. The Dragon was a 2d6-damage monstrosity, so likely to kill the King, and the King was our only way of winning initiative – and to do this he had to sacrifice an elite follower every round. Only the King and I were close enough to the Dragon to hit it. If I missed the Dragon its HPs would be too high for the King to kill it, and then it would kill him; if he missed it then it would probably kill him next round anyway, and even if it didn’t the Servant would be dead. For me to hit it I had to roll over 11 on 2d6. At this point the Oracle chose to expend her “loyalty points” on me, doing a kind of mad prayer to give me all the support she could. This effect can be used once a session, and gave me a +2 to my bravery. With this I hit, doing 3 damage; the King then managed to hit, and killed the Dragon. Had he missed, it would almost certainly have been a TPK, and had I missed he probably couldn’t have killed it even with a successful hit.

When the dragon died the gloom of the forest dispersed, revealing a beautiful and happy forest full of fruits that healed our injuries. The dragon was carrying a special rare item that could grant much money on a successful Wits check, which the King failed.

Returning to our Kingdom

The return journey has its own special random table, and rolling on this we got lost for a few quarters (no big deal), and I fell in love with the Oracle. We avoided random encounters on the way home, and when we got back to our own Kingdom we each rolled on a special encounter table for the response of our citizens, who thought I was a hero and granted me an extra follower, and then finally we rolled on a table for our party’s return to the Kingdom; this granted us extra followers. We then used our money to purchase a new building – a Harem. Finally the King rolled a wits check and recovered my band members for me.

Once the game was up there was one final, cute mechanic. Everyone had to close their eyes and, on the count of 10, point to the person they thought was the most effective player. This person gets a single “MVP point.” That person was me!

Conclusion

Including character and Kingdom creation, and an hour for lunch, we got through all those rooms, combats, talks and events in 7 hours. I think that’s an excellent amount of progress, and we had a lot of fun while we did it. This is an excellent system for megadungeon madness, and I think with a bit of GM input it could lead to some really excellent and hilarious dungeon settings. For example, there is a monster called a Red Giant that is essentially some kind of construct of Communism. This could be the final boss for a level 1 adventure, in a kingdom full of enslaved and crazy humanoid and magical creatures with a communist theme. Alternatively, the level 5 Dungeon Geek monster could lead to a kingdom modelled on a D&D dungeon and stocked with suitable monsters. For the times when the GM is not feeling imaginative there are a wide range of random dungeon tables by which a whole Kingdom can be stocked for play.

The game also has an excellent campaign mode, with the Kingdom phase between adventures enabling players to grow their kingdom as well as their characters, and relations between the PCs growing dynamically at every rest point. The final results of a campaign run this way would, I think, be truly hilarious. I think I might invest in this game and try it out on some people to see how a campaign runs – or try and force the GM from the convention (who plays the Soldier in my WFRP campaign, coincidentally) to run such a campaign outside of the convention. This probably won’t happen though, since he’s running Sword World campaign too (which I may be joining).

fn1: An interesting fact about the players in the convention that I really should dwell more on is that they are really kind and friendly, and if I had stopped at this point and asked for a simple explanation of the negotiation, they would happily have done so, and continued to do so through the whole game; in fact at later points “Honourable Older Sister” did this, as did the GM. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad encounter at this convention, which differs remarkably from the pub-based experiences I had in London; furthermore, I’m very confident that a British or Australian group would be nowhere near as supportive of someone with my level of language skills. The players were even interested in my reading method, since I had to translate things as I went and this is a fiendishly slow task. They’re genuinely helpful and warm-hearted.

Two types of pond life

Today I managed to attend the monthly konkon convention[1] in nearby Oita, and was rewarded for dragging myself out of bed with a slight hangover by an introduction to an excellent Japanese RPG, Meikyu Kingdom. The strict translation of this title is “Labyrinth Kingdom” but the nature of the game and the easy transliteration means that the game is actually given the English title Make You Kingdom.This is basically a mega-dungeon exploration and combat game with random tables that make D&D look rather tame and stingy; a social mechanic to rival Double Cross 3; and hireling rules that make your average D&D “I send my hireling down the corridor to spring the traps” look terribly noble. It’s also very cute and engaging, very fast, and has a degree of attention to details that is staggering in its thoroughness.

The basic idea

In Make You Kingdom the PCs are a group of heroes from the ruling court of a small kingdom that is part of a massive labyrinth of similar dungeon kingdoms. One of the PCs is always the ruler of the kingdom. Together with a large group of your subjects (we took about 30), you head off into the labyrinth surrounding your kingdom to explore new dungeons and capture kingdoms for yourself. The world consists entirely of labyrinthine dungeons – this is a real megadungeon, folks – because at some point in the past there was a “dungeon catastrophe” in which all of the world collapsed into the labyrinth – even the sky and the sea got labyrinthisized[2]. There is a whole ecology and science to this labyrinthine system, but from our point of view it doesn’t matter, because our purpose is to explore a neighbouring kingdom, kill everything in it, and take its stuff.

How it works

The mechanics of the game are remarkably simple. There are a couple of classes – Ruler, Oracle, Champion, Servant, Ninja – and each person had a job before they became part of the royal court. In our group we had a doctor, a eunuch, a prostitute and a hunter – and it is from this job that they get their single skill. There are 4 attribute scores – Wit, bravery, Quest and Charm – and 3 derived scores – Hit points, resistance and Supplies. That’s right folks, 4 stats and 1 skill. You also get a skill from your character class (I think the Servant gets 3), so you start the game with two skills. I had “hunting” and “disruption” (I was playing the Ninja – see below). All PCs get basically the same starting scores in their skills – a 4, two 2s and a 1. The ruler and the servant are slightly different, but that’s basically it.

The mechanic for resolving any skill test, saving throw or attack is the same. You roll 2d6 and add one of the 4 skills, and try and beat a target. There are two methods for boosting this roll to 3 or more dice, and damage is also done with d6s.

Combat occurs on a battlefield with 3 sections for each team – the Vanguard, the Rearguard and the Encampment – and the rules are very simple. You can move and you can attack, but you can’t move through a section that’s occupied by the enemy and you can’t disengage from combat. Various special abilities apply in combat, all with their outcome determined by the 2d6 skill mechanism. Monsters are presented in terms of 4 values: Bravery, Resistance, damage and Hit Points.

When your hit points reach 0 you’re dead. One member of the party has to be the ruler, and he/she is not allowed to die.

That’s it. The whole mechanic – including all forms of bad status, which is the Japanese word for “effects” – are written on the back of the character sheet.

There are two special methods for boosting your attack rolls:

  • Wishes, which are generally employed by spending a point of a stat called “vitality” (気力) that is not written anywhere on the sheet, and that we kept track of using paper clips, can be spent to add one die to any roll. Vitality is gained by a rather amusing method. If when you roll your 2d6 skill check you get a 6 on one die, and the other die has a value sufficient to get you a successful result, you get to trade the 6 for a point of Vitality. This applies even if the extra die you bought with vitality got you the 6. You can’t have more Vitality than your wit. This proved a problem for us.
  • Sacrificing followers, in which you get to throw 1d6 of your followers into the fray, and in exchange you can increase the value of your skill check by 1. At the end of the adventure your ruler can resurrect 1d6 followers. Some skills rely on followers – my Ninja could have chosen the skill “shinobi army,” which sacrifices 1d6 followers in order to disarm a trap (sound familiar!?) but he/she only had 7 followers, so this didn’t seem like it would get him/her very far

So, on those two paragraphs of rules the whole game flows.

Except for the social mechanic, and the kingdom-building.

Social mechanics

Similar to Double Cross 3, when you create your character you also have to generate a relationship with another PC, which can be based on loyalty, friendship or love. You can also have unrequited love. You get points in these traits, and these points can be useful. The Oracle in our group had “loyalty 2” for me, which she used to aid me at a crucial point in the adventure. During the rest phase of exploration things can happen that change these points (see below) or even turn PCs into enemies. You also have a background and a purpose that are related, and these can apparently affect the game (I didn’t see this happen). Some abilities and effects are limited by the number of points you have invested in your relationships with other people.

Kingdom-building

Before you can go anywhere you need to build your own kingdom. Your (and every other) Kingdom is built on a 3×3 grid of “rooms,” each connected by a varying number of corridors. You roll a random number of buildings to spread through these rooms, of varying types limited by your level and some traits of the kingdom that depend on the choices of the ruler. These buildings can take a wide range of forms – there is even a memorial hall – and they can have effects for the characters. For example, if two PCs go into a “Piazza” they can swap equipment and change the status of their relationship. Also, the level of order or education in your society depends on which buildings you have, and I think the number of combatant followers you have depend on some of these things too. We had a Shrine, a Palace, a School and a Hospital, and on my suggestion after completing the adventure we added a harem (which has a very funny picture).

The Kingdom also has 4 attributes – lifestyle, order, culture and something else that I forget. These determine some aspects of the kinds of items you can buy, and the number and kind of followers and allies you get.

Adventuring: Traps and Monsters

So, having established your characters, their interrelations and their kingdom, off you go on an adventure. The GM creates a new dungeon kingdom, also on a 3×3 map, and populates it with monsters and traps. In each room there will be a certain number of each. You explore in turns, that are divided into quarters, and each turn you need to eat once (so you need to pack food! We carried “bento” and a “full course” that  recovers HPs). In each turn there is an encounter/fight/camp type phase, and in each stage certain things happen.  The best thing about this aspect of the game, though, is the monsters, which are hilarious, cute, nasty and intertextual all at once. Here are the monsters we fought:

  • Ogrekin (小鬼), little ogres that are really easy to kill
  • Giant Squirms (みみず), giant worms that are quite easy to kill
  • Scum (人間の屑), really dodgy humans who drink too much and try to rob you
  • Bad Company (極悪中隊), a squad of nasty soldiers
  • Scum (人間の屑), a bunch of useless losers who try to kill you and steal your stuff
  • Chowhound (大喰らい), a great big fat thing that eats stuff
  • Ogrekin Shaman (小鬼呪術師), who can summon Ogrekin (actually a really annoying trait)
  • Primal Ogrekin (原始小鬼), slightly nastier versions of Ogrekin
  • Mushroom Dragon (キノコのドラゴン), which is exactly what you think – a dragon that is a mushroom

We fought all of these, and were nearly killed by the Mushroom Dragon. The picture at the top of this post is the little cardboard token for my PC, next to the token for a Scum. Below is a picture of some of the last group of monsters we fought – some Primal Ogrekin with the Mushroom Dragon.

Who says dragons are a strange idea?

Traps are ubiquitous in the dungeons, and you have to either disarm them or avoid them, and to do either you need to find them. This was my Ninja’s job, but because he can’t find and disarm a trap in the same quarter, he/she left others to do the finding and he/she did the disarming. Traps are quite nasty – we sprung two, one of which did small amounts of damage and one of which seemed to be some kind of disapproval trap that lowered our scores. There are several pages of traps for the GM to choose from, and some rooms had more than one, either in the room or the connecting corridors.

Random tables

The game is built on fighting and exploring, but the social mechanic is important and all sorts of things happen outside of combat, randomly. In addition to the random tables used to generate your PC’s history, purpose and inter-personal relationships, there are also:

  • Random encounter tables for travel between kingdoms
  • Random event tables for when you go “roaming” around your own kingdom. These can have significant benefits but you can only encounter any one line of the table once.
  • Random event tables for when you are resting, and decide to take a rest action. I used one of these tables to explore the area I was in, and found the tomb of a Rust Samurai, from which I looted some metal; I also nearly started a love affair with another PC (by accident)
  • Random treasure tables for every type of monster
  • Random event tables for certain types of action taken to prevent death (usually involving destroying an item)
  • Random event tables for your journey back from a successful quest – these can involve getting lost or having new types of encounters
  • Random event tables for when you return to your kingdom after a succesful (or unsuccessful!) quest, which can involve a gain or loss of followers, more money, new items or buildings, etc

There was a lot of rolling for this sort of thing during the game, and a lot of hilarious results arose from it. The dungeon we explored was already established, but I think that there are probably random generation methods for this too.

Conclusion

In essence this is a very cute, entertaining and light-hearted game that combines mega-dungeon, classic D&D-style dungeon crawling, very simple strategy and resource management, and exploration within a very simple system that incorporates some very clever social dynamics to provide triggers and dynamics for role-playing. The monsters are hilarious, as are the descriptions of buildings, character classes, jobs and items. It’s a really entertaining mixture of manga, classic D&D references, Japanese-style role-playing and strategy game. If you get a chance to try it out, I strongly recommend it. Over the next few days I’ll put up a description of my adventure and some scans of monsters, buildings etc from the rule book, which I’m borrowing for a week.

fn1: Today was the 60th convention, which apparently means it’s been running continuously for 25 years (it didn’t used to be every month). I think that’s pretty good for a town the size of Oita.

fn2: The way that Japanese is written makes this word really easy to invent naturally: Meikyuuka means “labyrinthification” and you can stick that “ka” onto pretty much any noun to get the same effect.