[nMage Japan] Setting Research

Posted: February 16, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Campaign Design, Mage: the Awakening, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness

While I’ve never been a GM that has obsessed over making sure that I simulate everything in a setting, I do make it a point to try and at least look up the more common things that I might encounter when running a game. Having never been to Japan in my life, most of my research has been confined to the internet, and some of the more publicly available media.  Rather than overload myself with too much information, I’ve taken to researching different facets of the setting and taking notes based on the social circles that my players will most likely operate in.

For example, Hikkikomori has already declared his intent to play a Male Host from a Host Club, which of course led to some research on that general direction.  Being able to at least simulate his place of work and what kind of behavior is expected from such is a great way of filling out the detail in the setting, and lends to a good number of hooks.

On a more general topic, I’ve also been looking up on Gun and Sword Control Laws in Japan. The World of Darkness is rooted in reality and I think the fact that weapons like Guns and Knives being strictly regulated are a good twist on the standard arsenal of a horror game.  Will this lower the lethality of the setting?  Maybe, as long as the opponents are human. I’m certain that criminal elements will have ways of getting a gun into a fight, but it also means that they’re more of an exception rather than the norm.

I’ve been doing a lot more reading on other topics such as Business, Art and Popular culture as well, in hopes that when I run this, I won’t come off as a complete farce in the eyes of those who have actually lived in Japan. I know that ultimately this is just a game, but having more than a little bit of realism certainly wouldn’t hurt.

  1. mythicast says:

    Damn, I wanted to own a club (a gentleman’s club ^_-). But either way, this is still a world of your making. Everyone else are subject to your laws of physics, for lack of a better word. It should be clear that way, otherwise players might tend to run amok.

    • Hikkikomori says:

      You still can. Host/ess Clubs and Gentleman’s Clubs are very different. 😉
      At the very least, there is no ‘dancing’ in Hoste/ss Clubs. They’re just classier Maid Cafés.

      We still need someone for funds, since most of us are playing minimum wagers.
      Though I can also double as the cash cow depending on my build.

      • Hikkikomori says:

        Not to mention we don’t have a place to setup a Sanctum yet.

        Though, on second thought, I don’t think Roponggi might be a good place to setup one despite it having relatively good security if only by virtue of a cold war with the other seedier elements and high alert of government-issued security; seeing as its resonance might be shot to heck.


      • mythicast says:

        yes, it is but the club is a kind of setting. Either I own one and you’re working on another, having two might be redundant. But its still not a done concept anyway. I’m just starting to read up on mage.

        • Hikkikomori says:

          Ya, since we both work the underground.

          But technically, as a business owner, you have access to more official and bureaucratic channels. Even government – if you know what I mean.

          Whereas, I can tap more underground elements and individuals.

          Its still a good combination.

          Go! Reading is good.

        • Hikkikomori says:


          “You’re not fooling them. They just paid you, they know what you are. They know it’s all just an act.

          Your job is to make them forget what they know.”
          – Petyr Baelish — at Game of Thrones – Ep.07: “You Win or You Die”.

  2. doctorether says:

    I know how you feel about researching a setting. Thus why my Manchester and Venice games rely on my reading and spending time there.

    Gun and weapons laws really do add nice twists to games. Running games set in Europe, and the UK are always great as the lack of guns among the regular population means that fights are in some ways more creative, and in other ways more scary as you may want to fight at range against some opponents.

  3. cokesakto says:

    I’m running a Vampire game set in Tokyo right now. Having been a Tokyo nut for a while now, this was a dream game for me to run. Definitely researching subcultures, the local political and criminal atmosphere, and the “feel” of certain districts and wards is of supreme importance.

    Especially the last part, which is probably the most important. Taking a cue from Damnation City, I decided to really give each ward its own mood and character. So I took central Tokyo and its surroundings (Ikebukuro being my northernmost point, The Arakawa my westernmost, not going beyond Shibuya and Shinjuku for the east, and the extremes of Minato to the south), and gave them each a purpose that they should be trying to fulfill for Kindred society, and make them something symbolic to the player characters. I had the wards serve the theme (tradition vs. modernity), and it became easy due to this being built-in to the perception of Tokyo culture already (the “yamanote vs. shitamachi” concept)! I populated it with a bunch of NPCs that paid service to the mood and theme of the place, and did the same with the Covenants. With my Japanese knowledge, I even made some Japanese names for the Covenants, and the titles that the Kindred use, to ingrain in my players that this is a different place. I topped it off with a print-out for them to read that described all the wards, the Covenants, the important characters, and then a map of Tokyo complete with marks for the important go-to places that are in there, like clubs (club ageHA!) that serve as Elysium, important Kindred-related buildings (etc.). And it only took me about a week to build too!

    If you’re interested, I found a Japanese blog (http://d.hatena.ne.jp/piroki/19000104) that lists the M:tA glossary of terms in their Japanese translation, and you may want to use a select few of them for that foreign feel. Just run the first word after each English term through Google translate and click “read phonetically”, or I could do it for you if you’d like.

    • Hey cokesakto! Good to hear from you again.

      That’s some really good advice on using Damnation City to cut Tokyo up into districts, if anything it’ll give me a better idea of what the ecosystem of the setting will be like. Sadly I’m not quite so well versed in Japanese to come up with good Cabal names so I may just stick to English for now.

      Also that website is awesome, I’m trying to run it through google translator for now and it does seem to work right. I’m amused that the phonetic translation for The Abyss is “Naraku” given that when I first ran this game, one of the player characters had that as his name. Rather ominous in this context now. 😀

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