Sunday, December 26, 2010

Usagi Yojimbo: Shades of Death

The samurai rabbit has gone through some interesting times not only in his series, but in his publishing history. These stories collected by Dark Horse, originally appeared by another publisher which is a different publisher than the first seven volumes.

Regardless though, I'm here to touch on some of the story telling techniques that I try to remind myself of here.

1. Bring the conflict to the characters. Usagi and Gen are walking down the road and bam! Attacked by dreaded ninajs and they have to figure out what's going on.

2. Don't be afraid to use the popular stuff. It's popular for a reason. During this time period, Usagi teams up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It's something that's happend a few times and I believe even happened on the carton. The point though for a game? If the players love to hate drow, use them. If they love to hate the undead, use them. Find out what the players want to see in the game and bring it out.

3. Throw the history or feel of the setting into the small things. One of the short stories is about Jizo, a road side statue that has its own history and feel to it. In the brief pages that the author gives it, you get the geist of what the purpose is for but the author also provides you with some notes at the end of the book in case you want more information. Bringing details to the players through third parties is an old stand by, but don't be afraid to give a specific player information and ask them to share it. This lessens the load on the GM and allows the other players to take part of the world building activity.

4. Make the Villains Cool. Usagi fights a group of four named Shi that spell their name with the death character. They come off as very bad ass with unique styles and attitudes but Usagi being the star here, kills them in variosu ways.  The more powerful, legendary, and overall awesome your monsters and villains are, the greater the heroes the players are when they overcome them.

Shades of Death has some flash back sequences and some other bits, such as the use of the language to illustrate the setting, but overall, the above four things are what I'll be thinking of when trying to crib notes from how and why Usagi Yojimbo has worked for decades.