This page is geared specifically to people familiar with tabletop RPGs, and want to know what cool features there are in Ryuutama that separates it from their other games. These are some features of Ryuutama: Some unique, some common.
✿ The players and GM create the world together. There’s a world creation sheet which is passed around the table once: Each player adds a fact to the sheet based on the specific questions asked about the world, and then the GM fills in the rest. This sets the tone of the world. The same is done for the many towns that the players visit. This helps ensure that every player (and the GM) has some element they’re interested in exploring as they travel from place to place.
✿ The majority of XP is given for difficult travels, not for killing monsters. Though combat is certainly a part of the game, and even “total party kills” are a potential result against strong enemies (not all sessions have to be fuzzy and feelgood!), you get far more XP for climbing a mountain in a snowstorm than for fighting a demon. Having said that, though, travel is potentially much more hazardous: On the roll of the dice, daily, your character can be immediately reduce their hit points by 50% or even 75% (fumble) by making a mistake while traveling!
✿ Ryuutama is sometimes colloquially called “Hayao Miyazaki’s Oregon Trail”: Half of that is because of the potential feelgood/wonder sense the game brings. The other half is due to the fact that the party has to manage their supplies and resources for their journey: They have to pack food and water, tents, equipment; maybe they have a pack animal to help with this. But those resources, and the money to buy them, is kept track of throughout the game. If you don’t have enough food or water to make it to the next town, the characters may become weary or sick.
✿ Ryuutama is not a setting of fearless warriors and powerful wizards. It’s about a baker, a farmer, a town doctor and a town crier who meet up and travel to new or far places because they have an intense wanderlust. At first, they won’t be very effective. Later on, their skills will grow: They will be able to pick up a secondary character class, a secondary character type, and more skills. But they’ll never be able to easily navigate deserts in a sandstorm, or easily fell monstrously powerful enemies, or kick open dungeon doors without dire consequences. This is a setting of commoners, those NPCs in the towns that the heroes blow past in other fantasy RPGs, eventually becoming notable travelers and maybe – just maybe – heroes.
✿ There’s a lot of focus on telling stories about your character. Every character has a “personal item” which tells us something about that character. But much of their equipment tells stories about the characters, too: No one will ever have the starting money to buy what they want, so everyone will have to make compromises: You can afford a high quality sword, but not a shield and tent. Or you can pool your money with the other players and together buy a tent, but not have enough left for armor. In the end, beginning characters have to buy equipment with “special qualities” that reduce the cost of their equipment. Things like “uncool”, “gross”, “smelly”, “old”, “broken”.
You can buy a sword and a shield at the start of the game by reducing the cost in this way: “I have an uncool, old sword; and a gross shield”. But the real fun comes in what happens next: Telling the others what an “uncool, old sword”, or a “gross shield”, look like! Why do you carry stuff like that? Why does it smell? Why is it uncool? Those little things add up to more interesting story elements for your character!
If you’re lucky, maybe in time you can buy “cute”, “well-made”, or “mithril” equipment.
✿ If anyone rolls a double-ones on any dice, that’s a Fumble. Something very bad happens! But at the same time, every player at the table gets a “Fumble Point”! This Fumble Point can be later spent to give you an advantage on a future roll. While a fumble hurts your character (and it can be pretty bad), the other characters will help you. They’ll actually be happy about it, because now they have a Fumble Point that they can each spend later as well.
✿ Magic can be useful, but a lot of the magic spells are for the players to experiment with to help them overcame obstacles. Sure, there are some heal and attack spells, but many of the spells are left for creative interpretation: “Turn any biological matter into a bottle of jam”; “Detect people who are in love”; “Make a beautiful full moon come out at night”; “Make candy ice cubes”. Through player innovation and creativity, they use these seemingly not powerful spells to overcome the GM’s obstacles.
✿ “Condition” is an important part of Ryuutama. It is a daily roll to determine how you feel. If you roll high, you gain a temporary ability bonus. If you roll low, it means that your enemies will find it easier to hit you, or to perform magic on you. You can raise condition by resting or eating well the night before.
Yes, a delicious pie and a night at an outside hot springs in Ryuutama gives you a measurable tactical advantage in the game!
✿ There are roles within the game: Leader, Mapper, Quartermaster, Diary-Keeper. If you, as a player, keep a diary of your character’s thoughts and show it to the GM, you can gain experience points!
✿ Probably the most mind-bending element for experienced roleplayers is the GM’s double-role as the “scenario writer, providing adversity to the players”, and the “Ryuujin”, the hidden offscreen (at least at first, at higher levels the Ryuujin and meet or even join the players) character with a distinct personality and powers that provides help sometimes to struggling characters.
The Ryuujin has its own sheet. They have a pool of power points they can use to influence the game (at first, maybe they can “turn a failure into a success” one time during a scenario; at higher levels they can do more). But they are no “Mary Sue” character: It is not a character that inserts themselves into the game to take all the spotlight and help the characters win all the time.
Instead, it is a natural progression of a long tale that unfolds over many sessions: The characters will feel like something out there is helping them. In time, they may adopt an unusual animal companion that sometimes seems to give them guidance. Much later, the Ryuujin reveals themselves and tells the players their role in sustaining the natural order. They are an integral part of the natural tales of Ryuutama!
The Ryuujin’s Experience Points are literally the number of stories they have written down: This refers to the number of scenarios the GM has run. The more scenarios that are run, the more powerful the Ryuujin becomes!
✿ What’s more, there are four types of Ryuujin: Green, Blue, Red, and Black. The Ryuujin’s color determines the kind of stories that the campaign will be focused on:
– Green dragon stories focus on classical adventure, journeys, travel, new experiences. This is the “default” dragon.
– Blue dragon stories focus on friendship, love, family, and particularly feelgood human dramas. This is the second-most-common dragon used for Ryuutama stories.
– Red dragon stories focus on competition, adventure, war, monster hunting and dungeon exploring.
– Black dragon stories focus on suspense, conspiracy, betrayal, disorder, and tragedy.
✿ There are a lot of cool ideas, techniques and rules that go into the game and have crafted it into the extremely well playtested and run game that it is. However, as far as playstyles go, it’s a classic tabletop RPG with well-defined roles for players and GM once the world and towns have been created. There is a lot of GM interpretation and “fiat”, and the GM has the ability to bend rules in response to the story that unfolds (“Normally a delicious pie would only give you +1 to your next Condition check; but since this is, after all, the greatest piemaker in the land, this one time you all get +2!” “After that direct critical hit, the monster’s armor cracks! It’s armor is reduced by half for the rest of the fight”, etc.
Ryuutama is a game perfect for new explorers into the world of tabletop roleplaying, and at the same time experienced roleplayers open to a new style of play will have no problem finding themselves at home in.