Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The Same But Different

The unassailable Tim Knight of HeroPress posed an interesting question in the comments of my previous post:

"Are there any genres/topics that the Japanese TTRPG market covers that we don't?"

It just so happens that on the day I put up that post, on the day he commented, I was thinking about that very subject and considered making it the focus of an upcoming entry. This is not so much that entry but it is a preview of sorts...

It is difficult for me to say that the Japanese cover genres we simply do not. While the argument for that can certainly be made (MAID The RPG, Golden Sky Stories, and Uncle Gap come to mind), it is more the execution that differs, not the base conceits. 

MAID may be a game about normal and/or superhuman female domestic help trying to protect and win the favor of their employer but at its heart it is a Romantic Comedy RPG and we certainly have those. Golden Sky Stories (Yuuyake Koyake in Japan) is a heart-warming, decidedly non-violent RPG featuring various spirit folk and set in modern times. Do we not have Modern Fantasy games in the States? Sure we do. Do we have one like this? No, not really. 

Just looking back at the Horror genre TRPGs I mentioned in my post on that topic you can see a few that are definitely unusual in premise - especially Nechronica, Kill Death Business, and The Castle in Gray - but they are really just riff on the basic concept of Horror. Could The Kill Death Business take place somewhere beyond the mortal realm in the World of Darkness? Possibly. Could you use All Flesh Must Be Eaten to run a Nechronica type game. Well, with some effort, sure. The Castle in Gray could be a setting for practically any traditional Paranormal Investigation or Supernatural Conspiracy game. The thing is though...no one in the US has. 

The culture of Japan, its peoples' beliefs, history, folklore, and traditions over the course of many hundreds of years has resulted in a particular way of looking at things. That outlook consciously or unconsciously forms the way they write stories and design games. There are definitely games in Japanese unlike any I've see in the US but not because they are wholly original; rather it is because they are innovative, taking an established concept and moving it in a new direction. 

This may be what attracts me to Japanese TRPGs in the first place. Japan's Game Designers and TRPG Creatives and I have a similar view of what makes a cool game. Look at a familiar idea in a new way. Put a twist on some popular genre without fundamentally changing what makes it what it is. Do this and you can open up a world of heretofore unknown possibilities. 

Expect a follow up post on this subject later this month. For now, get ready for Superheroes! 


Barking Alien

1 comment:

  1. Japanese TRPG are innovative in many ways. The themes, the worlds, the systems...
    Sword World is a western fantasy RPG with classes & levels. But it is very different from the games we have. The classes are working diffrently from D&D. The closest analog I know, would be WarHammer Fantasy RPG, with the career system.
    Tenra Bansho Zero is a dice pool system but with the capacity to go over your limits (at a risk, you need to balance things to avoid 'going to the Dark Side'). The world is similar to feudal Japan but with strange technology/magick. You can play a human soul in an automaton...