Friday, December 31, 2010

Usagi Yojimbo: Ghosts and other Supernatural

In Seasons, two of the stores, A Promise in the Snow and The Obakeneko of the Geishu Clan bring forth the supernatural elements to the forefront of the Usagi setting.

In A Promise in the Snow, Usagi is doing his standard wanderings and comes across a merchant that has been attacked and is near the point of dying. From out of nowhere the merchant's daughter comes and collects a promise from Usagi that the wandering ronin will not let her father die.

This is one of the first times I remember going, "She's a ghost."  the tip off is when Usagi tells the father, who is stumbling in and out of consciousness, that the merchant's daughter will lead the way and he replies, "F-fum-chant? But... " Right there, perhaps because I've read so much Usagi recently, I knew it was going to involve the supernatural.

But it makes an interesting turn of things for a role playing perspective. The ghost doesn't do any harm to Usagi. She leads him to safety. She doesn't really help him, but she does guard her father. Too often in fantasy RPGs, the focus on the ghost is fighting the ghost and somehow putting it to rest, ususally doing something that involves further adventure. But what if the ghost has a specific short set mission and doesn't even know it's a ghost? The more subtle elements of the supernatural can be played up on that don't involve direct conflict to give the players a greater appreciation of the beyond.

In the Obakeneko, Usagi, Gen, and Tomoe are invited out of the cold weather only to be attacked by a supernatural entity. The three are victorious of course and latter learn the tale of the owner of the house. the thing I thought interesting, was the illusions of the house as being new and stately. There were little insights that might make one suspect something was wrong, like a lack of servants, but the idea of a stately manor being whole and sound...

When the entity is defeated, the illusion is dropped. This allows the GM to prsent a magnificent encounter local that is actually shambles. This can be overused though and the GM should try and keep track of how many times he does it.

Usagi continues to provide both character elements and moments of 'cool' that can easily be swapped for most fantasy role playing based games.