The Mountain Witch is a Samurai RPG of Trust & Betrayal

What I love most about Kickstarter is finding new RPG projects being designed brought into the world, but what I also about Kickstarter is that it serves as an excellent platform for other tabletop RPGs to get the chance to be crowdfunded for reprints or even new editions. This presents opportunities for indie RPG authors and game designers to reintroduce their games during this tabletop renaissance. With so many indie RPGs out there, finding them all or knowing all of them is quite a feat. So when I stumbled upon Timonth Kleinert’s Kickstarter for the second edition of Mountain Witch, I was intrigued by the medieval Japanese setting, the mention of the horror and noir genre, and this daring assault against a powerful mountain witch.

Mountain Witch is a self-contained roleplaying adventure where players assume the roles of ronin, or masterless samurai, that accept a deal to assault the dreaded O-Yanma, the Mountain Witch of Mount Fuji. The game utilizes primarily a six-sided (d6) die to resolve conflicts across gameplay. Typically, players declare their intent through a freeform narrative, where contested rolls are done with a single d6, the winner gains control of the story, while the losing die is used to subtract from the value of the winning die to determine degrees of freedom to measure the overall success for the winning character. I genuinely enjoy this mechanic as a way to bridge the concept of contested rolls, which keeps the game dynamic but also present a method to determine degrees of freedom to reward and incentivize the storytelling. Unlike typical RPGs where characters test their skills and gain progression through gameplay, the Mountain Witch assumes competent characters and instead implies that under normal circumstances the characters to be able to perform any reasonable action within their ability. Conflict in this game is more of a conflict of interest between characters. The degrees of success grants players the metaphor of two samurais in a duel to the death with one strike for one kill.

In a game where character death is very probable over the course of gameplay, Kleinert skillfully incorporates a meta-game mechanic referred to as Trust wherein even dead player characters (PCs) can accrue this currency to continue influencing the narrative. Trust as a currency grants a player influence over another character’s conflict rolls. Additionally, it is given by a character to be on them in a future conflict, which is a very dangerous double-edged sword that invites betrayal. At specific points in the story, players rate how much their character trusts other members of this company. At character creation, players designate one of six grim fates for their character that act as open-ended descriptions that reveal a samurai’s past while providing ulterior motives. Both the Fates and Trust mechanic create a tense atmosphere where the samurai characters must trust one another to survive but cannot trust all of them for they all have ulterior motives.

The current Kickstarter campaign has already met their $10,000 USD funding goal which will produce a published instruction book of the game with full-color illustrations, and the ability to provide game cards that contain the dark fates and zodiac signs to be used during character creation. Additional stretch goals, which at the time of this article have been achieved, include other writers to contribute a few chapters and instructional videos on GMing the game. Some of the sections include commentary and alternate settings and rule variants. After purchasing a digital PDF of the game for myself, I look forward to the updated version and have my physical copy to add to my RPG collection.  

Kickstarter link: http://kck.st/2LocRrI

 

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