Sunday, February 11, 2024

31 Days / 31 Characters - ICHIKO YORUHIME

While going through my old RPG notes and files for the 31 Day Character Challenge I came across a folder on my computer containing information on a Japanese TRPG I hadn't thought about in a long while: The Adventures of Horai Academy!!

I'd forgotten how much I fricking love this game! In celebration of rediscovering an old favorite, I thought I'd honor HA with a 31/31 write-up of my favorite character from the one and only campaign I've run of it (so far)...


Character: Ichiko Yoruhime

AKA:  Princess Night, Madame Vice-President

Player: Erica

System: The Adventures of Horai Academy!!, 1st Edition
 
Nature: Short Campaign: The Save The World After School Club

To say 'Short Campaign' here is a bit inaccurate, at least by my usual standards. There were about 6 sessions of this game as it was difficult to get the participants together due to scheduling conflicts (See below).

It was less a campaign and more like a series of related one-shots. The events of prior sessions were in the continuity of those that followed but often had little bearing on the next adventure. The characters did grow in terms of character/role-play as well as mechanically, though I didn't really explore anyone's backstory as I normally would.

Gamemaster: Adam Dickstein

Circa: 1994

Origins: Around 1990 I kept seeing ads for The Adventures of Horai Academy! in the Japanese tabletop gaming magazine Fujimi Shobo, Japan's Dragon Magazine. It was always in the same magazines that featured  Cregurian ads in them as I recall. I was totally fascinated by these ads, largely thanks to the art, and I eventually discovered the ads were for a Play-by-Mail game (also like Cregurian). 

About a year or so later a friend who could read Japanese and had similar interests checked out the latest adverstisment with me and we were surprised to learn it was announcing a tabletop RPG based on the PBM. Instead of The Adventures of Horai Academy!, we were looking at The Adventures of Horai Academy!!. One exclamation point for the PBM and two for the TRPG. I was already in love. 

Sometime in 1994 I was able to get a rough translation of the rules from another friend teaching Japanese and Japanese studies at a private school. I think. It's been a while. Anyway, it wasn't rough in that the translation wasn't accurate but rather in the fact that the rules weren't complete. She didn't translate the entire rulebook but instead she and some of her students worked out the key elements: Character Creation, Basic Background, Judging Actions, and a few other bits. 

Gathering up a few more players, we decided to try and run a campaign. *Sigh* We never got past 6 sessions. Our lives, the players' lives that is, were all kinds of crazy at the time. We simply couldn't get the gang together easily or all that often. Let me tell you, that sucked. This is a great game, it was a fantastic campaign, and had some seriously wonderful characters. My favorite being Ichiko Yoruhime. 




Backstory: Ichiko Yoruhime (ee-Chee-ko Yo-roo-hee-May) grew up in a suburb of Nagasaki, Japan. As a toddler, Ichiko had an ear infection that turned into a life threatening situation. Thankfully, she survived but ever since she experiences a ringing in her left ear whenever there is a sufficiently loud sound nearby, though it can also be triggered by her own voice if she shouts or screams. She learned to avoid noise and she herself become a generally quiet person. 

Oh yes, then they are the voices. 

Another side effect of her illness and recovery was that Ichiko would periodically hear strange whispers. She practiced listening to them and eventually became convinced they were the voices of the deceased; ghosts chattering away in the shadows. She told her parents and teachers but they chalked it up to her being a lonely child who played by herself and had a vivid imagination. Smart enough to realize telling others would go no where, or worse get her in trouble, Ichiko turned her attention towards investigating and understanding the paranormal all on her own. 

Open her graduation from middle school, the Yoruhime household received a letter from the exclusive private high school Horai Academy, including a full scholarship to attend and stay at the dormitory. In her second year she joined the Save The World After School Club and at some point in her third year became the club's Vice-President. 


Private High School Horai Academy
School Emblem/Patch


Overview: The premise of the campaign was simple; the PCs were members of the Save The World After School Club at the prestigious Horai Academy on the island nation of Utsuhojima. Once a week the club would meet and attempt to thwart the would-be world conquering organization known as HAVOC. 

The rules indicate that each Player Character can have between 1 and 4 clubs, so we decided the Save The World After School Club had to be on everyone's list of extracurricular activities. The clubs' meetings would constitute the game sessions (referred to hereafter as Episodes). Skills and knowledge obtained from ones other clubs would assist the group by giving each PC a different field of expertise when facing off against HAVOC's nefarious schemes. 

In the first two episodes, the STWAS Club had an NPC President with one of the PCs serving as Vice-President. Starting in Episode 3, the NPC had graduated and the PC Vice-President was now the club President. The players voted for Ichiko to be the Vice-President.

In addition to both the player and the character being a quick thinker and very clever, Yoruhime contributed quite a lot to the club's various missions. She was an excellent detective, often went unnoticed by teachers and fellow students, and was knowledgeable about the supernatural. She could even cast a few spells.

The player described her as 'a combination of Scooby-Doo's Velma Dinkley and DC Comics' John Constantine'.

Highlights:

Ichiko Yoruhime was a surprisingly layered and nuanced character. She was played as intelligent, very capable, yet realistically flawed. Her childhood experiences and odd abilities made her feel a step removed from the rest of the world and a smidge closer to the hereafter than is common for the living. Ichiko hadn't died from the infection of her early years but came back to the world with the ability to hear the dead. Why? What is it all mean? Was she supposed to have died and somehow cheated the reaper? Did the Kami send her back as a representative to speak for the forgotten? 

We didn't get the chance to delve deep into these questions but Erica, the player, always had them running through her mind when portraying Yoruhime. This game the character a distant, 'lost in thought' or distracted look. She was often 'in her own world', focused on deciphering a lost runic language or trying to figure out a spell or opening enchanted locks. She was not anti-social but nor was she social. She made friend but often by accident, never going out of her way to do so. 

She was also great at solving mysteries, casting incantations, or charging in to help with a smart and quickly formed plan. Her being completely oblivious to social niceties, romantic intentions, and other heavy emotions didn't mean she was ineffective in the game. Her benefits obvious, her flaws more subtle. Watching Erica play as Ichiko was like watching an extremely well written Anime with a highly talented voice actor. 


The independent island nation of Utsuhojima


Game Info:

Here is Ichiko Yoruhime's Character Sheet based on a translation of the sheet for the unofficial Doujinshi 3rd Edition of The Adventures of Horai Academy!! that came out in 2020.

The information and numbers are based on the aforementioned latest version of the game and written up as if she were a starting PC. The reason for this is that I was testing out the new character creation system and might want to use her as an NPC when I run the game in the future. If I had the original Character Sheet for Ichiko it would should a few raised scores and other adjustments.
 
Her Date of Birth is based on the character in the original campaign and would of course have to be changed if using her in a contemporary game.




The Advantages and Disadvantages in the 'Notes' section are a new addition to the game that weren't in the older version I ran. I updated Yoruhime to the current rules, adapting many of her talents and personality quirks using these bonus favorable and unfavorable elements. 

Regarding Hideout and Sewer Tribe: Yoruhime found an abandoned office and set of rooms in an unused part of the sewer tunnels behind the school. She converted the office into her own private study for occult research. She is quite familiar with the Horai Academy sewers and can use them as a short cut in some instances.

Though largely invisible to most people (See below), Ichiko definitely knows how to get everyone's attention. When frustrated at being ignored or just desperately needing to communicate vital information, she will slam one of her heavy [, likely cursed] books against a table or wall and simply but loudly says, 'Listen here'. Ichiko gets the attention of everyone in earshot, though it usually causes her a little in pain and a ringing in her own ear. 

Using the Nickname/Username 'Princess Night', Ichiko interacts with other paranormal enthusiasts on Horai Academy's secret internet message boards. This was inspired by the RPGs Cyberpunk 2013 and Shadowrun. Most people do not know who Princess Night is.

Clever and intelligent as she is, Ichiko is a bit of a Thrill Seeker but will never admit to it. As soon as danger appears, Yoruhime runs right at it. The player made the character seem brave but also tragic and dark when she reveals she charges into trouble to save the people she deems are more deserving of life then she is (which seems to be almost everyone in her eyes). 

This leads to Unimpressive. Ichiko Yoruhime is often overlooked, with people walking by her and hardly noticing she was there at all. In fact, when Ichiko does interact with people, the majority of them don't call their original meeting and often can't recognize her face from their previous encounter. This is partially self-induced; Ichiko goes out of her way to stay quiet and prefers to be alone. Her odd ability to hear phantom voices gives her an off-putting vibe.

Notes:

Ichiko is a female Japanese name meaning 'First Child' or more specifically 'First Daughter'. 
Yoru means 'Night', while 'Hime' means 'Princess'. Her family name is therefore Night
 Princess.

As noted above, Ichiko as a Player Character was both role-play heavy AND action/combat effective. Often these days it seems like players think you can only create a character who is one or the other. Erica proved that isn't the case.

What I haven't really addressed up until now is the fact that the campaign had definite  Romantic Comedy undertones. Most of the comedy centered on the preposterous nature of Horai Academy and its students, as well as the insane plots of HAVOC. All were over-the-top, needlessly complex, and/or too dependent on everything going 'just so'. The main members of the group were intelligent and capable but also prone to in-fighting and chasing their own agendas. 

The female leader of HAVOC had eyes for our PC Club President. He in turn becomes increasingly interested in Ichiko. She doesn't register this at all until about Episode 4 or 5 when he dances with her as a way to move through an extravagant party. The two also team-up a couple times before and after this, with each coming to the other rescue in different situations. Our Ninja guy was kind of interested in the Tomboy/Sports Fanatic but she was interested in an NPC, the sister of one of the villains. 

It's revealed in Episode 4 that HAVOC stands for Horai Academy Villainy Club. They're a club that meets once a week on the same day as the Save The World After School Club and tries to conquer the planet.

Legacy:

Well now...

This post was long and I'm really sorry about that but honestly it's taken me days to edit the original version. Seriously, I could've easily written a lot more. 

Having recently rekindled my interest in this game and after pouring over the fan made Third Edition, I am INCREDIBLY excited to try running it again. I haven't felt this inspired or excited about a new game in a long while. The real trick, as with many of my favorite niche games, will be finding a group that 'gets it'. 




We shall see. 

Now...put your hands on your head and step away from the bioengineered adorable mascot spaceship. You're under arrest and JIN'HOKO of the Galaxy Police is going to read you your rights!

AD
Barking Alien


 





No comments:

Post a Comment