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Nuekagami: Night Tales of the Heian (Kamiya Ryo) - Printable Version

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Nuekagami: Night Tales of the Heian (Kamiya Ryo) - Anzelotte - 07-30-2016

Nuekagami: Night Tales of the Heian
Incog. Lab

Year of Release: 2016
Designer: Kamiya Ryo

Die Rolls: Dice pool of #d20, where # is equal to an attribute; which attribute a player uses depends upon the phase of the game session. Roll under a target value set by one of a character's other attributes. Characters take damage upon failure.
Classes: Characters pick 3 of 20 classes.
Time System: None.
Distance System: None.
Meta-Currency: Players can spend Sukuyou to adjust a die roll by 1, or Ten'yuu to reroll it.
Non-Combat Options: N/A.


Nuekagami takes place in the imperial city of Kyoto (at the time known simply as Kyo,) during the titular Heian period of Japanese history. Three years have passed since the Kanoran, a supernatural incident in which the capital was surrounded by a mysterious dark mist known as the Nue and cut off from the outside world. Within Kyo itself, the time since then has been known as the Maen Era. None who attempt to pass through the Nue return, unless they take one of the safe paths known as the Ayatsuji. But the Ayatsuji do not necessarily lead to Japan. They lead to other times. Other worlds, full of things even more fearsome than Kyo. Thus, even these 'safe' paths are treacherous, and the denizens of Kyo are trapped in the capital - with more stumbling in by the day, via the Ayatsuji, from other worlds and finding themselves unable to return home.

Kyo has become the playground of youkai. It is ruled by Tamamo-no-Mae, the dreaded fox-woman, who uses the dead Emperor as a puppet. She cares about little but furthering her own aims, and allows oni and other youkai to carve out their own dominions and terrorize the human inhabitants of Kyo. Humans have a few allies in the capital, both once-human kami and sympathetic youkai, but they are trapped in a stalemate with its selfish rulers. And forces more sinister than even Tamamo-no-Mae's oppressive rule plot in secret to turn the destiny of Kyo to their own ends. Enlightened monks who fell prey to worldly corruption... bloodthirsty warriors who have transcended death... and of course, the Nue itself.

Nuekagami's setting is the most detailed part of the game. In addition to extensive information about how the Maen era came to be and about the landscape and inhabitants of Kyo, the book features twenty major NPCs, from Abe no Seimei to Murasaki Shikibu, with three-page profiles and two pages of plot starters for each and every one.


Nuekagami's game system is extremely simple at its core - thus, no subheadings for this post - yet also quite unusual. It bears mention that a lot of the terms in Nuekagami are hard to translate (unless a meta-currency named 'Astrological Predictions of the Xiuyaojang' really rolls off the tongue for you,) so all the translations below are pretty loose, and I'll include Romanized terms just to play it safe.

Characters are created by picking three classes. Each class represents a certain part of the character's background, and is assocuated with one of their Walks of Life (Lineage, Profession or Soul,) with different narrative implications. For example, a character that chooses the Shikabane (Corpse) class as their Lineage or Profession slot is literally undead, while as their Soul it indicates that they lead a life so bereft they feel dead inside,

A character's choice of classes determines their attributes and abilities. Attributes are more abstract than is typical of a Japanese TRPG - rather than representing concrete aspects of the character themselves, they correspond to the character's Walks of Life and the phases of the game session. There are four such attributes, named Gadou (The Selfish Path,) Kidou (The Oni's Path,) Kudou (The Grueling Path) and Gaidou (The Fell Path.) These four phases can occur in any order during a session. There's also a fifth phase, Godou (The Enlightened Path,) which always occurs at the end of the session. This phase has no associated attribute.

During each phase, the GM will at three suitably dramatic points ask all of the players to make a check. Every player rolls a number of twenty-sided dice equal to their attribute for the current phase. They compare these dice to the attribute corresponding to one of their Walks of Life; the attribute is chosen by the GM, depending on what seems appropriate for the current check. If one of their dice rolls under that attribute, it's a success. There are three levels of success with different thresholds, Divine Successes, Master Successes, and Normal Success. However, every type of success does nothing at the time of the roll.

Failures, however, do have an immediate effect; it causes the player in possession of the die to take a point of damage. This means they lose a point of Meiun (literally 'fate,') which is effectively a character's HP. NPCs present in the scene may also roll dice. For each die roll over 10 that they make, they do a point of damage to a player of the GM's choice.

What makes checks interesting is that all players can swap dice between themselves at will, allowing them to pass high dice to people with a high enough target number to make them successes, or successes to a player with the abilities to best exploit them. Players can even swap dice with NPCs, potentially neutralizing the threat that they pose.

Abilities are also used during the die roll, after making it and before committing to the results. These include things like the Mononofu class's Kiru (Cleave) skill, which boosts their own Divine Success threshold by 1 during the check, to the Yoriwara class's Kaguramai (Sacred Dance,) which restores a point of another player's Ten'yuu.  Most abilities have no cost, but they do come with 'required RP.' To use Kiru, a player has to roleplay their character cutting something, while to use Kaguramai, they have to perform a dance of prayer.

Required RP to use abilities is actually the only way in which checks tie into the narrative of the game. It's encouraged, but not required, to roleplay characters taking damage from failures or NPC successes.

Finally, there are the meta-currencies. Sukuyou (this is the aforementioned astrology thing - I'd prefer to translate it as 'Stars') can push any die roll 1 lower or 1 higher. Ten'yuu ("Divine Providence") allows you to reroll your entire check. These are both rare currencies, of which characters have single digits, and must be used judiciously.

At the end of the game session, the total value of successes every character rolled are summed together. This sum determines how many 'gates' the characters passed; this in turn determines how generously they are rewarded for playing in the session. Passing the highest gate allows the characters to increase their maximum (and starting) Sukuyou by one point, as well as any attribute of their choice by a point or two. If the characters were particularly unlucky, they can potentially pass no gates and receive no reward.

Personal Opinions
Quote:I haven't had the chance to actually play Nuekagami, so I will refrain from writing my uninformed impression of it.
If you have played Nuekagami, please let me know your thoughts! They will replace this pointless message.
- Anzelotte