Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Box and the Hare

Outside of a fleeting flirtation with popularity in the 1980s, rpgs have always been a niche product, a collection of tomes and boxes more likely to be squirreled away in the recesses of some specialized hobby shop than displayed front-and-center in your favorite department store. Still, you’ll see the bigger rpgs, like Dungeons & Dragons, show up in the big chain booksellers, and such games are never-the-less a prominent part of our cultural identity — even if everyone isn’t aware of exactly how to play one.

But in Japan, things are a little different. rpgs may have seen the same brief rise in visibility as they did in the west, with really awesome-looking versions of D&D, Battletech, and other standbys localized for a curious audience, but nowadays Japanese rpgs are lucky to have a tiny space of three or four books in stores. Polyhedral dice are a chore to get a hold of, and besides the venerable D&D, often eschewed in favor of the stalwart six-sider. Suffice it to say, it’s a niche of a niche, to the point where rpgs have to be referred to as “Table-Talk rpgs” to differentiate them from the grossly more popular video game variety.

That’s what makes a game like Golden Sky Stories all the more remarkable. There’s no thriving “story-gaming” culture there, not a slew of diceless rpgs to draw inspiration from, no new-fangled narrative rpgs to be influenced by. It’s a microcosm of rpgs, one largely still in the same boat as our games were 10 years ago. And you'd think a game developed for a much smaller audience may have hit-and-miss production values, especially when you consider that most Japanese webpages look like Geocities came by for a visit and then never left. That’s not the case. gSS is a lovely book, with big, expressive art that brings a rural Japanese town to life. So I’ve tried to be faithful to the original design of the book as I’ve gone about rebuilding it from scratch. (No source files here, folks!)

But still, there are some things throughout the design that seems a little out of place. For instance, the book is split into four parts, seasons, and each section is introduced by art and one of these symbols. You can see the very thematic, almost sumi-e looking paint job behind the character for Spring, right? Looks great!

However, throughout the book, these stark, austere-looking rounded boxes are used for notes and callouts. In a book otherwise so warm and comfy, it seemed inappropriate to me. So I did something about it! Drawing inspiration from the seasonal characters, all of the boxes, tables, and other details have swapped their old rounded-rectangle tool attire for newer threads with rough edges and a more painted look. I think the end result is much more in character with the book, and I can only hope Ryo Kamiya, the book's author, would approve!

For your reading enjoyment, I’ve included an entire spread from the Powers section. The left-hand page features abilities all henge of a given type possess, while recto features optional ones. It’s a neat system, because in order to gain more powers, you have to take the corresponding weakness! The number in parenthesis indicates the amount of Wonder (a sort of story-telling currency) you spend to use that power.

Why the Rabbit, you ask? Well, it only seemed appropriate for today, right? Hope you all have a great Easter!


  1. I think the layout is superb - its easy on the eyes and simple to read. Once you manage that, the rest is gravy.

  2. It looks beautiful! Thanks for the sneak peak, can't wait for it to be released.

  3. Thanks! I'll continue to post updates about the book, so you'll see even more where that came from!

  4. any ideas for release date, Clay?

    also, for OVA 2 :D

  5. I don't know how I'll feel if this thing gets released before OVA Revised. @_@

  6. You may want to check out the latest blog post. :)

  7. I really love the content of the post. . .thanks a lot for showing it to me..
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