Thursday, December 30, 2010

Usagi Yojimbo Seasons

Usagi Yojimbo Seasons is the last of the Usagi books that I did not own. I managed to snag it from Things From Another World, a web site vendor that actually sold it for less than the cover price at Amazon.com. Interestingly enough, all of the other sellers were selling it for massive amounts over the cover price. My order arrived in two days. Good deal all around.

Seasons has some points in it I'd consider weak. The use and reuse of certain elements, especially in fields of the supernatural, comes across a little too obvious. Good stuff for those who've never read the material before.

Before I ramble on too much, let's see what's inside eh?

The Withered Field: Stan does a fantastic job of introducing new characters. Here we are meet with Nakamura Koji. He is a master of the sword and a wanderer like Usagi himself. He was once a man who would teach the art of the sword but was soundly bested and went on the road to improve his skills. He's an important character for a few reasons.

One, he actually beats Usagi in a duel. While it's not cool to continuously shove the players face into the dirt, it doesn't hurt to remind them that there are still giants in the earth and that their power, as great as it is, may have equals or superiors out there.

Two, its a set up for a latter duel with Usagi's mentor. This doesn't happen until volume seventeen. Stan is able to build up different expectations in the in-between sequences and does a lot to promote things between Nakamura, Usagi, and Katsuichi.

Three, it gives the GM a chance to make Usagi look cool. You see, while Nakamura is out challenging schools, those schools don't like it necessarily and send out students to kill him. These are effectively minions and Usagi and Nakamura cut through them like butter. This allows the player to still showcase how powerful they are.

Four, it serves as a showcase of something beyond alignments. Nakamura accepted Usagi's help in a fight and then challenges him to a duel. What's up with that? It's Nakamura's motivation you see. He's not concerned necessarily with the good or evil of an action. He's concerned with being the best swordsman he can be. That motivation in and of itself is one that's used time and time again. Even with the manga character Guts from Berserk, before his battle against the supernatural, his main motivation was to become a great swordsman. Hell, it's the motivation of most players I know, to be the best in their field.

But are they really striving to be the best? Are they willing to give up creature comforts? To challenge friends? To issue challenges against anyone, regardless of their social status and ability? To take it on the road so to speak?

There are other bits of Seasons I'll get back to, but the idea of being the best, of having the motivation to throw away a past live, it strikes a powerful chord and is another useful thing to discuss with players. What is your motivation and what are you willing to do for it?