Sunday, May 15, 2011


Zatoichi has provided the fuel for many an offshoot ranging from the blind swords pig to this movie, Ichi, the blind swordswoman. Where Zato was a blind masseuse who worked for the Yakuza, Ichi is a blind shamisen  player.

The clever bit here is Ichi is treated as the daughter of the original Ichi from the old series.  This is never mentioned directly. Instead, its tip toed around but its well done I thought.

For character motivation, Ichi has what I'd call a singular quest; to find her father. In role playing games, having an overall quest can be a good thing. In the manga Berserk, prior to being thrown into a much larger cosmic plot, Guts main motivation is to test his strength against strong fighters. It's not deep or anything, but much like Dragonball Z and Goku, it does leave him a lot of wiggle room in what can be done with the character in terms of an ongoing series.

For Ichi, the singular goal of finding her father would be difficult in a role playing game that was lengthy because either the Game Master is going to have to jerk the chain around a lot, or the father figure has to be found at some point. If the player is good at improvising and taking events in the campaign and incorporating those into character motivation, this can work well.

For example, a player is looking for his lost cousin and discovers that she died due to being caught in a city with the plague. What does the player do now? Depending on the circumstances that lead the character to leave home in the first place, either the character decides that he enjoys life on the road or retires.

In games like Champions and Mutants and Masterminds, as well as GURPS and perhaps Call of Cthulhu, putting a character to the side for a while isn't that big a deal. While there is a power curve to the first three of those games, it's not as steep as level based games. When that character's arc is done, move on to the next character.

However, depending on the motivation of the character and the events of the campaign, the character can be given different opportunities. Say that the plague in the city was caused by worshippers of Nurgle? Now the character has a reason to hunt down those individuals and fight those daemons. What if the cousin didn't die at all but was transformed into a Nurgle spawn? What if the aunt and uncle blame the character for not watching out for his cousin?

Singular motivations are useful tools to keep things in sharper focus than open ended motivations but remind the players to be ready to roll with the campaign when those arcs close.