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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Darkest Soul: Zero Act and Act One



What's all this? Well, I've finally started running a game of Tenra Bansho Zero, a short-form Japanese RPG that's been recently translated into English by Andy Kitkowski. I've written a couple articles drawing from it, both here and here, and it's finally time that I relay some of my actual-play experience with the system. Spoiler alert: it's awesome.

TBZ follows a very specific "act structure"; each Act takes up a chunk of the story, and in between are intermissions, where characters are adjusted. The "Zero Act" kicks everything off--it's a series of short scenes, one to introduce each character, which roots them and starts off the initial arc.

The Zero Act
First up was Tomodachi Shino, our shinobi (we were using the pregen characters for sake of quickness). Very dedicated to protecting his clan, and he's angry that samurai are permitted to exercise lethal force without repercussion, especially against shinobi. Shino was tasked with destroying Yuudai of the Rose Clan, a shinobi who had become an asura, a "dark soul" who'd become so obsessed with the world that he became evil and destructive.

Next up was Sano, the eunuch samurai who made a point of being as boisterous and macho as he possibly could be. Before his samurai-conversion surgery (where a warrior has magic-battery "soulgems" implanted into their flesh), Sano had gone off to war with comrades, which went swimmingly until they were ambushed by a mob from a village, led by a dark shinobi. (By mentioning his signature crest, a razor-sharp leaf, I was able to demonstrate that this was, indeed, Yuudai.) Sano was the sole survivor, presumed dead by the attackers.

Finally (we had four players, but the fourth came in late), there was Tasu, the war-maiden kugutsu. She was a freshly-crafted kugutsu, immediately tasked with being an armed escort/ally for Shino. I took the opportunity to introduce our first Emotion Matrix roll. (The Emotion Matrix is a d6-by-d6 chart which outlines different possible "first impressions" that one character may have of another. You randomly roll it when player characters first meet one another.) Here, I told her that her first memory was of a warrior (Sano)--and she rolled "I am salvation". We decided that this meant she was determined to save Sano from his lonely, isolated path.

Then, Tasu was led to Shino, and they both made Emotion Matrix rolls. Intriguingly enough, Tasu got "Deja vu", and Shino got "Chains of Fate". Hoo boy. I'm gonna have to figure those ones out.

Act One
We kicked things back off with Sano, headed off to the village where his comrades had been massacred. He hunted down the village elder, gutted him with a katana, and when the rest of the villagers turned hostile (all in denial that they had done the samurai wrong), Sano clove through all of them, hulking out into full samurai mode. He left a sole survivor to spread the word of his justice.

Shino and Tasu had been pointed towards Hirano City, a place that Yuudai had been rumored to be menacing. Hirano is near an infamous wood, Spiderweb Forest, with its own fearsome reputation. Back in Hirano City, though, Shino headed for the "wretched hive of scum and villainy" portion of the city, hightailing it to a bar and dropping payment for info on Yuudai's whereabouts right in the middle of the bar. Everyone sorta backed off, but another shinobi in the bar discreetly got his attention and motioned towards a booth in the back.

Sano, meanwhile, went to find a city official, in order to divine information on Yuudai's whereabouts. He thoroughly impressed the local magistrate whom he found, and was told that Yuudai tended to stalk the city at night, menacing and attacking civilians. He headed back through to the city.

Meanwhile, at the bar, Tasu had been speaking with the bartender (an old woman), and had found out that Yuudai was rumored to have been seen around Spiderweb Forest, the woods infamous for being hard to navigate. Tasu began heading towards the back when guardsmen came into the bar, having heard that someone was causing a ruckus. Shino (who had discovered that Yuudai's former clan didn't want outside interference) ducked through the shadows and spirited away Tasu through the back entrance.

And then they met Sano, as they came out of the alley. Sano rolled "Companionship" with Tasu. Sano also rolled "I am salvation" with Shino, declaring that since the shinobi was such a boring person, he'd find ways to lighten him up.

Shino rolled "Dark dreams" with Sano. He freaked out, grabbed Tasu, and started running. He found a clearing, tossed Tasu into a tree, and then turned to face Sano after a hectic chase. After a scene between the three of the characters, Shino used a kunai to pin Sano's shadow to the ground, effectively immobilizing him (the shinobi power "Shadow Stitch"). Then, he and Tasu headed out.

One Last Zero Act Scene
Finally, our fourth player showed up, so we introduced her character with a Zero Act scene. Miyaka, an oni, lived by a lake in Spiderweb Forest. She was troubled by dark dreams of a strange presence in the woods, and woke, glimpsing a dark figure across the lake. She followed it, as it ran across the land, towards Hirano City...

To Be Continued...Next Time!

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