Seeking Suggestions: Vibe/Flow

So, I've run one game of Shinobigami so far and the the results were unfortunately deflating. As a group, uniform dissatisfaction with the final scene's battle royale. Some blame was attributed to how certain a hypnosis status ailment was role-played, but I also thought the battle dragged on for way too many rounds. While that wasn't brought up as a point of contention, I found it unfortunate that one of the players experienced minimal interaction with other players due to a goal-oriented mindset. Everyone's primary goal was to obtain the MacGuffin and keep it by the end of the game, which encouraged the player who started with the MacGuffin to take zero actions that interacted or created relationships with other characters. I also found that the tone became painfully tongue-in-cheek when we replied on allot of improv and reach for many low fruit cliches related to ninja.

I'd greatly appreciate suggestions on running another game to help accentuate Shinobigami's strengths for "lightning-paced drama and espionage."



  • In most climax phases (and especially in Battle Royale) I make sure to set a round cap, like at maybe 7 rounds. Otherwise it can go on for a long time.

    Shinobigami requires a lot of buy-in from the players. I've noticed some players that are used to certain games or mindsets are very risk-averse and avoid other PCs and conflicts in general. Aside from explaining that conflict drives the narrative, I'm not sure exactly what to say to these kinds of players. Maybe play it as a one-shot and stress that the players should be "playing the PCs like rental cars" might help?

  • edited April 2019

    Hey Karsing: This is an extremely interesting and complex question: Unfortunately it would take me forever to do a just reply on it, so I put together a video specifically answering your question!

    Daaaamn, clocking in at like 24 minutes. Anyway, hope it helps!

    Please do follow up here with any questions or comments!

  • Thank you ennui, thank you diamondsutra, I think I have a clearer idea of running a smoother second game now.

    Setting a countdown is definitely the way to go if we do another Battle Royale type climax, but the phrase "buy-in" clicks everything into place. A major influence on the experience is what the players expect going on or what they perceive as the appropriate method of play, that players should understand that character and relationship develop are greater contributors to the experience than winning through system mechanics. I'll focus on setting reasonable expectations before a game.

    diamondsutra, never did I expect a 24 minute video response that analyzed each of my concerns in detail. I am infinitely grateful, thank you.
    First, I want to apologize for the sloppy formatting of my questions. Hearing you read it out loud made me seriously regret not cleaning up the grammar.

    Early in the video, you ask about the context of the hypnosis status ailment I mentioned. In our game, during the climax, player 1 used "Emotion Manipulation" on player two to have "Murderous Intent" towards player 3. During the climax, the three players were all fighting for the MacGuffin being held by player 1. Players 2 and 3 had a friendly relationship and player 3 was secretly acing in player 2's favor. Player 1, 3 and I were fairly excited by this development and were immediately disappointed by how player 2 portray the results of the manipulation. As the feelings of camaraderie melted away to reveal bloodthirsty impulse, player 2 left the target of each attach up to chance. There was no internal conflict regarding past and current emotions, there was no reaching into memories for contradictions, there was no dialogue to elaborate on what the character was experiencing, just completely randomized targets for each attack. This threw the three of us through a loop since this was a completely unexpected outcome and player 2 felt that it was perfectly natural. Leading up to this point, player 2 was highly involved with role playing in scenes as both director and actor. From my perspective, abstaining from interaction outside of random dice rolls suggested disinterest in the core of a role playing game. But the amount of investment they showed earlier in the session suggested otherwise, so I just don't understand what happened.
    I did read the example you mentioned from the replay, of the voluntary hypnosis as a character background for the sake of adding additional flavor to the session. I don't think such a development would have been possible for player 2 since they seemed to be too focused on the mechanics. Player 1 ended up keeping the MacGuffin, and they justifiably won using wit, but they also admitted the victory felt hollow from how player 2 handled the emotion manipulation.

    Regarding the round limit for the climax, I completely accept blame for choosing to fight to the death. Based on the players, and their background in D&D, I incorrectly assumed they would be dissatisfied with a less clear-cut "winner". Exactly what you described is what we went through and I see why that's in the rules now. The story will run its course, regardless of who is left standing.

    The session that you mentioned with Eric is very similar to what happened in our game. Player 1 started with the MacGuffin and their secret goal was to defeat player 3, player 2's secret goal was to form positive bonds with both players, and player 3's secret is to protect player 2. This naturally pushed players 2 and 3 together, and for player 1 to conserve their strength. I definitely should have emphasized the value of the secret goal over the primary goal. In this specific game, it had the potential to play out the same way in both cases if player 1 wanted to save their secret goal for the final battle. Non-random secrets based on the character they've built is advice I'll follow through with!

    Thankfully, we didn't have cringing incompatibility with the Deadpool scenario, but tone was super unfocused. Player 1 was an college professor who dedicated himself to espionage throughout the game in order to keep an eye on his potential pursuers, player 2 was a magical school girl and woefully inept detective, player 3 was a civil servant with an unhealthy obsession with becoming friends with a school girl. From this, the tones alternated between espionage, goof and hard-boiled, and I was ill equip to set environments that convincingly meshed these realities. Having a brainstorm before the session to set a mood like you said sounds like the best course of action. As adults playing games, we should be organized enough to plan things out in a way that we're all happy with.

    The characters are professionals, that's as direct as it gets. They focus on what matters to them, regardless of the mission. Regardless of the outcome of the mission, there is value in what they learned. I think something like this also has to be discussed to create the right mindsets. Most games are all or nothing, so victory is the only value we initial perceive. I'll need to think more on how to approach this discussion.

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