Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Usagi Yojimbo: Glimpses of Death by Stan Sakai

While the previous graphic novel collections of Usagi, Travels With Jotaro and Fathers and Sons, builds on the continuity of the series, Glimpses of Death builds on what I'd call 'interlude' moments.

While Usagi does have a few brief adventurers here, much of the book also comes into play with other elements. For example, Jei and his unwilling victim remain in a state of contest for the body. This is another showcase of things that will continue to play out as the series progresses.

Another example of this is the hunt of Gen on Jei, who discovers that Stray Dog, another mercenary and bounty hunter, is also on the case. While the two don't find their quarry this trade, it sets up the events that will occur further down the road. Another 'glimpse' of what is to come in the future. Another interlude.

Usagi's old inspector friend meets a new nemesis; a robin hood style thief. Stan isn't afraid to borrow from the rich history of Japan and if Stan can do it, GMs everywhere should do it. Don't let a good idea for an NPC, building, monster, or magic item fall by the wayside because its already been done. Toss it into the game and see what happens. Trust me, if it sucks, your players will be more than happy to let you know.

Lady Tomoe suffers some politician setbacks when a new lord comes into contact with her master. Her Stan uses a mist to provide Tomoe with a flashback of what happened in an event that the political rival spins to make it look as if it were her family's fault that a critical battle was lost, even though Tomoe lives out the battle in the mist and knows the truth. These little glimpses into the past can be useful if you're playing in a political heavy campaign. The real trick in such situations, is how to prove the accusations false and bring the reality to light with naught but a spirit quest vision to do so from?

In some instances, people may wonder, what good are these interludes? What benefit do they bring to the game? Why should GM's or players want them in the campaign.

Depth.

They add depth to character motivation while providing further details of how the setting itself works.

This isn't to say they are for every game. If you're heavy into dungeon crawls and see little use for the city or town outside of a potential place to spend loot, then having interludes where your characters learn that some outside religion is being persecuted, or that one lord is lying to another or that a skilled thief is on the lose, then no, those things would have no point.

But if in the course of the campaign you do learn of those things and they do match with what your groups interest is, then roll out the interludes.