Ryuutama, or How Eating Stories Saves the World.

Welcome, everybody, to my first review. It’s a wee bit later than planned, due in no small part to Efka pointing me towards Legend of Korra during last week’s  livestream .

It's the art that makes the game stand out at first.

It's the art that makes the game stand out at first.

I recently backed a tabletop RPG called Ryuutama on Kickstarter. I’d never backed anything before and I did no research into it beforehand with the exception of reading through the page. What caught my interest was that the pictures (but you should never judge a book by its cover, kids!) were so decidedly different when compared against anything else I’d seen on Kickstarter that day. Frankly it looked beautiful, so I read on. The concept of forging stories to keep the world working is quaint and different and really rings true with what I enjoy most about RPGs, tabletop or otherwise. I weighed up whether I wanted a PDF or a physical copy, decided on the PDF, and now I want to pick up the printed book when it's released - assuming I can get a regular group going. I’m sure the interest will be there.

Days after the Kickstarter finished backers received a rough draft of the final PDF sans pictures, and I got to thinking about doing a preemptive review on what I’d received (and been linked to) so far. I asked Andy from Kotodama if it was okay to do so, and he said it wasn’t a problem so long as I dropped a few links, and you can find them at the end of the review.

Ryuutama literally means Dragon Egg. In the world of Ryuutama, once in your lifetime you wake up with a yearning for exploration. And you go. And everybody lets you wander without question. Wow. I want to live in this world. The reasoning behind this is that the Seasonal Dragons that act as the setting’s gods actually eat stories, or more specifically are nourished by the energy released from the telling of them. The Ryuujin, which are played by the GM like a character, are a race of draconic scholars. They spend their lives following adventurers around and chronicling the stories to be ‘fed’ to the Seasonal Dragons in due course. As a result of this, the world keeps spinning and everything is gravy. That’s pretty freaking awesome for the pretense of a setting, right?

A Ryuujin receiving a story. Nom Nom.

A Ryuujin receiving a story. Nom Nom.

From there onwards things get a little more freeform. There isn’t much in the way of setting material beyond a handful of monsters, and players are encouraged to build their own world from the ground up. I have mixed feelings about this as often my favourite part of a new RPG is getting to know the setting, but having read the above paragraph you should have the canon down. I realise that there’s a fair bit of supplementary material to come as time goes on though, so this might wind up being a moot point. Still, GMs and players are given carte blanche to make the world their own, without constraints, and that’s nothing but good.

As cool as D&D Rangers are, I just wanna play in a game where my pet companion is just a regular mutt. Much doge.

As cool as D&D Rangers are, I just wanna play in a game where my pet companion is just a regular mutt. Much doge.

Having not had a chance to play yet, I can’t say for sure how well it runs, but if everything works as intended, the game looks to have a very simple yet adaptable flow. If the group is more interested in combat (something not heavily focused on in Ryuutama), then that’s fine and can be worked around. The same is true if they want to focus on the story or the setting. It doesn’t really matter so long as at the end of the day a Ryuujin has a passable story within a story to feed to a group of fable-hungry dragon-god-things.

I want mine poached please!

I want mine poached please!

Character creation is quick, straight forward, and a bit of a game unto itself (as it should be). The speed and simplicity are something that separate it from other tabletops I’ve played. Having spent hours designing D&D characters in the before, I'm delighted that this takes roughly twenty minutes at a conservative estimate. See here for an idea of what the sheet will look like when finished. I like it. Personally I could squish all that info onto one page, and would be inclined to make my own compact version, but I do think that the one pictured has a pleasant charm to it.

In fact, that sums up my thoughts on Ryuutama quite nicely. It has a certain serene quality, and I’m looking forward to giving it a proper chance. That said, I wonder if a lack of a setting as such will damage the game at all, or if players will compensate and create their own fun? We won’t know until we play it and see exactly what works and what doesn’t. Once I form a proper opinion, this will be my first soap box!

Ryuutama at Kotohi / Kotodama

Ryuutama at Kickstarter