Monday, January 10, 2022

31 Days / 31 Characters - KEI OKAMI

When I was in my early years of college I had an on again off again romantic relationship with a girl named Liza. We used to joke that if we weren't seeing anyone it meant we were seeing each other.

I really liked her. It could have turned into something more but for various reasons it didn't and I had to break it off. That sucked as those things often do. When I was thinking about old characters from old campaigns I started thinking about her and her character Kei Okami and decided she needed to be included in this year's 31/31 Challenge.

The character that is, not the player. Well sure, the player too but well, you know what I mean. 

This character is rather unusual and stands out on this list as a great PC from a great campaign that I had absolutely nothing to do with. I'll explain...

Character: Kei (Pronounced Kay) Okami

AKA: Kei the Wolf Girl, Wolf-Spirit Kei

Player: Liza Rodriguez 

System: Hero System, 3rd and 4th Edition
The River of Dreams

Gamemaster: Unknown. Never met the guy. 

Circa: 1989-1991

Origins: I wish I knew. Liza was clearly ahead of her time when creating this character as nowadays every Video Game, Manga, and Anime are chock full of tough, sexy, feral wolf-girls. Was she the first? Probably not and I'm sure Liza's love of Japanese Anime played a part in the creation of this character. 

Anime and RPGs were among the many interests Liza and I shared but I never actually got to game with her. As I recall she had her groups and I had mine and she played in this campaign in Brooklyn on the same day I ran one of my Star Trek or Star Wars games in Manhattan. We would update each other on the various characters and goings on in each others campaigns, which is how I have this story to tell.

Backstory: At some point during Japan's late Meiji or early Taisho Periods (roughly 1888 to 1912), many of the land's ancient spirit clans found their numbers dwindling; resources grew scarce, and their magic waned with influx of foreigners and the expanded industrialization of the islands. It was during this time that a young, female Wolf-Spirit Bushi (Warrior) - orphaned in a past war with Humans long ago - found herself on the run from a demon known as the Spirit-Eater. Doomed to fade from the world like all the other supernatural beings, the demon discovered his power and lifespan could be extended by consuming other paranormal creatures. 

The Wolf-Spirit Girl, Kei, had been alternating between fighting and running from the demon for the better part of a day. When night fell she seized her chance to escape by making her way to a Human city along a river and disguising herself as a common Mortal. This was no easy task given her wolf ears, bushy tail, dark tan complexion (very different from the locals), and lack of knowledge of basic Human customs or manners. 

While moving along the river's edge she saw a man from the West in colorful garb performing magic tricks for applause and a few coins. He smiled at her and winked over his glasses, subtly gesturing towards a passing Steamboat. It was a large ship of Western design with lantern lights and music coming from onboard. Just then the demon - also in disguise though Kei could easily smell him - burst from a crowd of people. He was bearing down on her like a charging bull! Kei ran and believing the street magician may have been trying to help her, leapt over the railings and on to the ship. 

The demon seethed and stared daggers as the boat pulled away, disappearing into the evening mist. 

Overview: The campaign focused on this very 'New-Orleans-Turn-of-The-Century' steam powered riverboat, , as it traveled along 'The River' from one world to the next. Yes, you read that right. Kei met some of the boat's other passengers, all of whom were from different places and times (though all roughly within the era when Steamboats regularly traveled on rivers for the most part). 

The other PCs I can recall include:

A Cowboy Gunslinger type who was extraordinarily lucky, with both the good and bad kind being equally in play. 

A Fortune Teller/Medium who could see the future using tarot cards, speak with the dead through a seance, and had other such mystical abilities.

A Masked Superhero similar to DC Comics' Hour Man. A secret formula gave him Super Strength, Speed, and Toughness for a short time. Too much of the elixir made him go mad, giving him a slight Jekyll and Hyde vibe. 

A Mechanical Person, an advanced steam-powered automaton resembling a butler or maid (I forget which) that claimed to have been Human at one time. 

The Steamboat was owned by the Street Magician fellow whom Kei had met and who Liza described as a Willy Wonka-esque figure. The ship essentially ran itself, with no Captain or Crew aboard beyond the PCs and the Magician. 

Every few sessions the Steamboat would run a low on supplies or need repairs for some reason and dock at a port on 'The River' that could be literally anywhere. From what I can recall they once stopped at a medieval fishing town that thought they were circus performers of some kind. Another adventure had them at a late 16th century Pirate Cove. They encountered such adversaries as Unseelie Court Faeries, bloodthirsty Pirates, a Ghost Ship of Undead Sailors (late Age of Sail), and more. There was a Big Bad, a central menace behind it all that wanted the Steamboat and possibly the Magician but it wasn't a person; more like an abstract concept focused on crushing one's dreams. 

The Highlights:

The two tales I remember the best are:

Stopping at a Napoleonic Era French port, the Gunslinger met a very lovely and charming 'Lady of the Evening' and invited her onto 'his' boat, claiming he won it in a card game. She turned out to be a powerful Vampire and the PCs were pretty outclassed. Thanks to excellent teamwork and the players' own knowledge of the Steamboat's layout (including the way each PC had defined their private staterooms), the heroes were able to beat her. 

Another story involved needing to travel down the river to get a medicine to heal one of the PCs. Kei covered their escape, holding off a dozen Spanish Inquisitor Zombies pretty much by herself. She got the job done with clever moves, great rolls, and a little help from a pack of Iberian Wolves. 

Game Info:

I never saw Kei's Character Sheet and Liza and I didn't talk rules, so I can't give you much solid information on Kei's attributes and the like but there are some things I do recall. 

The system used was initially Champions 3rd Edition, later updated to 4th. All the PCs started out as 200 Point Characters, with 150 Base Points and up to 50 points of Disadvantages. I believe Attribute Limits were enforced. 

Liza described Kei as twice as strong as a normal Human (Strength 20?), able to outrun turn of the century soldiers on horseback, capable of Anime leaps of 20-25 ft. or so, and tough enough to take very limited small arms fire. She would get hurt and bleed but would likely survive. Possibly more Justice, Inc. than Champions?

Her Powers and Skills included a Heightened Sense of Smell and Hearing, the ability to See in the Dark, Regeneration (amusingly she could regenerate faster if she could lick the wound), and the ability to Detect the Presence of Supernatural Entities such as ghosts, demons, and other spirits. Kei could 'smell' an Oni or similar creature even if she could not see it. 

The Wolf Girl was highly skilled at Hunting and Tracking, Stealth, Swordsmanship, and Martial Arts. Her fighting style involved a lot of launching herself at enemies from a crouched position and leaping down on enemies from above. 

In combat she initially wielded a Wakizashi of poor quality but was later gifted with a paired Katana and Wakizashi of superior, possibly supernatural quality. She could also scratch with her clawed fingernails or bite someone with her very sharp teeth. 

Her Disadvantages included a noted lack of proper Human etiquette, being baffled by many Human devices and tools, a very short temper (though her anger was just as quickly forgotten), and a need to howl at the full moon. 


Okami means 'Wolf' in Japanese.

Kei - pronounced Kay - is the name of one half of the famous Japanese Science Fiction duo The Dirty Pair; the other being Yuri. Kei's hair is often referred to as a 'Wolf Cut'. 

I based the illustrations of Kei on the work of Japanese Manga Writer and Artist Kunihiko Tanaka, best known for the Anime and Manga 'Fam and Ihrie: The Ruin Explorers' and the Xenogears and Xenosaga series of video games. 

Liza's group preferred Fantasy over Superheroes but preferred the Hero System over other Fantasy games. That was likely a contributing factor to the creation of this campaign. 

What's next? A trip to the 25th Century aboard the starship Relativity and a visit with its reluctant captain, LANCE GRAVITY! Hyperwarp to Maximum!

Barking Alien


  1. Sounds fairly heavily influenced by the Elric book "Sailor on the Seas of Fate," one of my favorites, and I'm totally cool with that.

    1. It also has some aspects of Philip Jose' Farmer's Riverworld series: