What is Shinobigami?
Shinobigami is a table-top role-playing game from Japan. One of the few that has been translated from Japanese to English. It is set in modern Japan but there are ninjas with supernatural powers working in the shadows of ordinary society. An urban fantasy setting with ninjas.
The Shinobigami RPG book is divided into two sections. The first half is a replay you can read in a couple of hours to get an idea of how to play the game and the second half is the actual rules to play the game.
What is a Replay?
In Japan, a replay is a transcript of a role-playing game session published in a novella sized book with illustrations of characters and key moments usually drawn in anime/manga style.
The Shinobigami replay is one of the few Japanese replays translated into English. The reason that replays became a thing at all in Japan is that when table-top RPGs were introduced to Japan in the 80s there was no concept of table-top RPGs in Japan before that. Game designers included replays with their games so that players could understand what a table-top RPG is by showing them how a session would play out.
The most special aspect of replays, however, came from the players themselves. Players also published replays of the sessions they played. The reason that this is special is that it allowed players who couldn’t draw or write to publish a finished product by just recording and transcribing a session they were in. The illustrations could be drawn by another player or by another illustrator.
The Shinobigami Replay
The game master was the game designer himself. The first player to show up was a female illustrator. The GM went through character creation with her. The other players came with their players prepared. Every player character has a Secret and a Mission. Some NPCs have secrets too. There was a novelist too as a player. As the story unfolds the secrets of the characters are revealed. The setting for this particular session was a Japanese highschool.
Each player character gets Drama and Fight scenes. No damage is taken during drama scenes. The missions that the characters have may pit them against each other but it was all very light-hearted though it doesn’t have to be.
The progression is very fast-paced because each character gets a ‘scene’ and the location of scenes is determined by rolling against a table. Most things are decided by rolling 2d6 against tables.
There were plenty of footnotes some explaining references made by the players and others explaining some game mechanic. The reader gets to see all the secrets as they are revealed to any character so there is some comedy to be seen players acting without knowing some secret that has already been revealed to you. At the end of the session, all the players will judge who has accomplished their missions and who hasn’t. Those players who have achieved their mission for this session will get some experience.