We have a story to tell...
It begins in a large forest, with tree-covered mountains, and hills sprawling as far as the eye can see. A group of four is seen walking down the side of a cliff with an Ox pulling a cart full of supplies. Suddenly one of them, a young boy in overalls, falls off the trail and rolls down a hill. While trying to pick himself up, he realizes his knee is causing him some pain. One of the travelers, an older woman in a white cloak, races after him, checking on his condition. However, it seems the boys cries have alerted a small group of wolves, who look rather angry that the group has crossed into the wolves' territory. Seeing this, a scholarly-looking man pulls out a tome from his backpack and a hardened woman with leather belts pulls out her sword, rushing to the front to stop the pack from harming the rest of the party.
But the question is, how will this story end?
Ryuutama is a Japanese Tabletop Roleplaying Game created as a response to the Dungeons & Dragons boom once the game hit the region. Also referred to as "The Natural Fantasy RPG", the game has a heavy focus on travel, character conditions, friendship, and adventure. Most experience that characters receive isnt about taking down monsters, but for getting across harsh terrain and finding new towns and locations. Classes are also not just Barbarians, Paladins and Thieves, they are Merchants, Healers, and Nobles who travel together with a similar goal in mind.
Of course, thats not the only thing you can do with this game. Probably the most well-known mechanic of this game is the inclusion of a required GMPC known as a Ryuujin, a race of demigod dragons who are tasked to bring stories of commoners to a greater dragon and feed it these tales until they are ready to leave. The more stories the Ryuujin gather, the more powerful their dragon becomes, and said Ryuujin gains benefits from being in multiple campaigns by gaining more abilities. Each Ryuujin type has their own powers, abilities, and story types they excel at. If your story is a very simple yet long trip across the nation, use the green Ryuujin, or if your story is about a brewing war on the verge of ignition, use the red Ryuujin.
The game was released as a Japan and never received an English translation until 2014 where a team started a Kickstarter to translate the book. Official PDF and Physical copies were released in 2015.
Tropes for the Game Include:
- Animorphism: A Ryuujin can take the form of a single small animal of their choosing, from a field mouse to a wolf. They also get a quadrupedal dragon form as they level up.
- The Bard: The minstrel class
- Basilisk and Cockatrice: Both. A cockatrice's attack will cause an injury on any player it hits, because it turns a part of their body to stone. Basilisks will turn people entirely to stone unless they have some form of eye protection.
- Bloodless Carnage: Given the game's lighthearted, family-friendly approach to role-playing, many of the illustrations in the book show a rather cartoonish style of violence such as a character throwing a Frying Pan of Doom at a monster, complete with an onomatopoeic BONG! over the enemy's head as he's struck. If a group has no issues with role-playing a more realistic depiction of combat, however, it can be easily averted.
- Breakable Weapons: All items have HP equal to their size, but items only take damage when players roll fails and at the GM's discretion.
- Cast From Hit Points:
- Strangely, using a weapon you are not proficient with costs you 1 HP per attack. This is explained as the physical strain your body endures trying to swing a weapon you are not trained to properly use.
- The GM-controlled Ryuujin can bless the party with various boons in the form of "bénédictions" and can even directly intervene in the story's events in the form of "réveils," but both abilities come at the cost of Life Points. A Ryuujin can end up giving up their own life to help the party they watch over if they are not careful.
- Cat Folk: Koneko goblins are fun loving pranksters who cause mischief and appear everywhere. The 2014 holiday supplement gives rules for them as a playable race.
- Character Level: Goes from 1 to 10, each level-up granting 3 points to distribute between maximum HP and MP as well as special abilities applicable to all characters regardless of class or type. Magic types also unlock new spells as they gain levels.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Typical Ryuujin races and their campaign themes follow this pattern. Note that Ryuujin personalities are not dictated by this chart. A black Ryuujin can be kind and empathetic just as much as a Blue Ryuujin can be chaotic and insane.
- Midori-Ryuu [Green Ryuujin] campaigns are about adventure and exploration.
- Ao-Ryuu [Blue Ryuujin] campaigns are about interpersonal drama and relationships.
- Kurenai-Ryuu [Red Ryuujin] campaigns are about battle and competition.
- Kuro-Ryuu [Black Ryuujin] campaigns are about tragedies and betrayals.
- Combat Medic: The player, if they choose the Attack Type and the Healer class.
- Divine Intervention: A GM can actively invoke this trope by activating their Ryuujin's ability known as a Réveil, or "Awakening": The Ryuujin transforms into their full dragon form and appears before the party, directly intervening in the events of the game to the players' benefit, being able to do things ranging from helping the party navigate and avoid getting lost to providing a few days worth of food and water to unleashing a powerful attack against an enemy. Activating this ability, however, is Cast From Hit Points on the part of the Ryuujin and can even kill them in an act of Heroic Sacrifice.
- Dragons Are Divine: The origin of the world involves four great dragons creating the seasons and another seven creating the weather. The dragons are also why villages have their people go on pilgrimages.
- Eastern RPG: The game specifically mentions that its combat system is inspired by and meant to evoke the spirit of classic JRPG's such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, using an abstracted battlefield that acts as its own scene with only a front and back line for PC's and enemies rather than a grid-based system with a 1:1 representation of the environment like other tabletop games.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The petrified fossil monster is heavily implied to be a dinosaur that's been revived as a fossil.
- Fighter, Mage, Thief: The three character types, Attack, Technical, and Magic. Attack types have bonus HP, can use more weapons, and deal more damage in combat. Technicals have higher carrying capacity and bonuses to initiative and skill checks when concentrating, while Magic types can use magic. Character type is distinct from class, which defines one's professional career and what sorts of skills they can perform, whereas type is more oriented to how that character functions in combat.
- Improvised Weapon: In a given combat situation, there will be 5 or 10 objects lying around the environment that both the GM and party collectively brainstorm before the battle begins. These can be anything from a cart sitting in a crowded market to a large rock off the road or even a nearby tree that can be used for cover. Players then have the opportunity to use these objects in creative ways to battle their opponents, gaining bonuses to their accuracy rolls if their use satisfies the GM. Once an object has been used by a player, however, it cannot be used again and effectively is removed from the battlefield.
- Item-Drop Mechanic: Characters with the Hunter or Artisan class can harvest materials from defeated monsters, most of which either sell for a decent price or can be repurposed for crafting.
- Kaiju: The Ghost Beast is a giant monster said to level mountains and cause dragons to flee when it attacks. Mechanically, its attacks hit all players and any failed rolls count as critical hits.
- Loyal Animal Companion: Animals with the "Loyal" trait are this, never leaving their owner's side.
- Luck Manipulation Mechanic: Any character can spend half of their current MP to "Concentrate" on a roll before they make it, giving them a bonus to their check result. This can generally be done before any skill check other than rolling damage, initiative, or their condition for the day.
- Made of Indestructium: Items made from orichalcum can't be broken
- Magic Compass: The incantation magic Arrow Compass creates one to help direct the players.
- Magic Is Mental:
- "MP" is short for "Mental Points" rather than "Magic Points." While magic-type characters typically use MP to cast spells, other characters can also spend MP to "Concentrate" before making a skill check, giving them a bonus to their roll.
- Incantation Magic also works this way, as users of it must memorize magic words and gestures in order to cast their spells, and typically keep their incantations and rituals written down in a spellbook. Seasonal magic, on the other hand, is used innately.
- The Magic Touch: There are a few spells that give a magic touch, such as Tastegood Taste lets the caster change the taste of food for an hour, but it will rot after that hour.
- Mithril: Items made of Mythril are lighter, smaller and automatically have very high durability
- Non-Combat EXP: Because of the lack of emphasis on combat, it's perfectly possible to go several sessions in a row without fighting anything. Rather, EXP is calculated based on the general challenge of the day's activities, whether they involve slaying monsters or crossing a river in the middle of a storm.
- Our Dragons Are Different: While most of the dragons are shown as quadrupedal and large beings similar to western dragons, some humans statues within the book show Ryuujin as bipedal dragons.
- Power-Strain Blackout: When a character casts a spell that reduces their MP to 0, they fall unconscious after casting. It's also possible for characters to do this after concentrating on a skill check; doing so costs half of the character's current MP rounded up, meaning at 1 MP a character can concentrate, spend their last MP, and fall unconscious afterward.
- Rapid Hair Growth: A spring magic spell allows the caster to style their hair any way they want.
- Ritual Magic: Both Incantation and Seasonal magic have a variety of rituals that require 1 hour to cast and have stronger, longer-lasting effects than the kind that only require an action to cast. They still consume MP and can only be used by Magic-type characters.
- Spell Book: While not required to use magic, most mages keep a spell book handy for quick reference for incantation magic.
- Supernatural Fear Inducer: Red Demons are so terrifying that anyone that encounters them immediately suffer the Shock status effect, reducing all of the person's stats.
- Swordfish Sabre: A hunter or artisan can take a defeated Zordfish and turn it into a "smelly, gross sword."
- Time Stands Still: A user of winter magic can cast a high level spell that freezes time around them for a few rounds, but the tradeoff is that they can only spend these extra turns casting spells.
- Weapon of Choice: Every player gets a mastered weapon, which is a weapon they're used to and don't tire themselves out using. Attack types and the Nobel class get an extra mastered weapon each.
- Utility Magic: Several spells are used for mundane tasks, such as applying makeup and styling hair, causing food to taste good and one spell even summons a group of knights to do your laundry for you.