Shinobigami is a Japanese Tabletop roleplaying game (TRPG) and at the moment it is in the process of being translated from its original Japanese to English via Kickstarter. It is a story game for 3-7 players about the clandestine war between ninja clans. Each player takes the reigns of a member of one of the rival ninja clans. Each game revolves around a MacGuffin which each player character (PC) having their own mission and secret mission to accomplish. Throughout the game the PCs are encouraged to make emotional bonds (emo bond), discover secrets, locate and do battle with the other PCs. As a result the games tend to be player-versus-player (PvP) orientated even when the scenario is designed to be co-operative.
It is a system I really enjoy especially interaction scenes between PCs and as a result I have ran it as gamemaster (GM) a number of times for our Weekly One Shot Meetups. Unfortunately, every time I run the game I run into one problem. Combat. In particular with the initiative system it uses. What I thought originally was a nice concise system, in play was often an annoyance to players.
The combat system relies on something the game calls the Velocity System, where players in the battle secretly assign a value of 1-6 on a die, called the Plot Value. 1 (Ghost Walk) being the slowest and 6 (Light Speed) being the fastest. The Plot Value dictates a number of things including:
- The order of attacks,
- The position on the field and how far you are away from other PCs,
- How many Ninpo you can use in one turn due to their cost and,
- The base Fumble value.
Each turn the die is secretly assigned once again by each player and what happens more often than not PCs are flitting along the Velocity track unable to hit anyone they want to attack. This can be mitigated with certain Ninpo but is often exacerbated by injuries and battle area effects like Bad Weather.
Due to the aforementioned, I propose the following:
- With the secret die allocation the player determines how quickly their ninja will act. This still affects when they attack, how many attacks/buffs they can use and defines the fumble value. But it no longer determines where they are located.
- In descending order from 6 to 1 determine where they want to be on the Velocity track (or battle map) in terms of distance from other PCs. Draws simply place at the same time.
- Once again from descending order 6 to 1 attacks are resolved. Once again with draws occurring at the same time in the narrative.
The logic behind this is that those PCs focusing on speed are concerned with attacking swiftly and often. Whereas, those choosing to go slower are actually watching their opponents and choosing their positions carefully. It also enables sneaky PCs to enter combats and stick to the sidelines, aiding or hindering other PCs using their emo bonds.
These modifications affect a couple of Ninpo as follows:
- Sandbind – Affects those slower than you in initiative.
- Arrow catching – Is related to the distance on the battlemap.
- Out of sync – This means you can reduce your initiative after revealing.
- Resolution – This means you can increase your initiative after revealing.
- Plot Restriction – Restricts how fast one can go to no higher than 3.
- Evening Calm – sorta falls apart, as one needs to be in close combat range (ie same plot value) and same speed. Instead of acting simultaneously they act first.
- Silhouette – You can move to another ninjas place on the battlemap.
- End of the Beginning – This affects those with higher initiative than the ninja.
- Scent of Spring – Range affects the battlemap but the attack hits all those slower than you.
- Body Double – The other ninja must be on the same area on the battlemap.
- Shadow Duplicate – You can choose your initiative twice on two separate dice then choose one when everyone reveals.
I plan to run Shinobigami in the near future to test out the modification and see if it cleans up some of the annoyance. I would be interested with what others have experienced with the game.