Actual Play – Kagematsu (6/16/2017)

Facilitator: Sean Nittner
Kagematsu: Kristin Firth
Townswomen: Alex Roberts, Mengu Gungor, Michael Donovan, Allen White, and Sean Nittner
System: Kagematsu by Danielle Lewon

It is Japan 1572, the end of the Senguko period of history. Like many transitions of power the country is filled with strife, warring factions pulling any able bodied men into war, leaving villages populated by only women, children and old men.

Now a small, nearly indefensible village is living under the horror of a dangerous threat that casts its long shadow over the village. Without a defender, its people are almost certainly doomed.

Enter Kagematsu, a wayward ronin fleeing a troubled past. Here is a defender for the village, if only he can be swayed from his meandering course. So it is that several young women conspire among themselves to win his affections and steer him to their cause…

I’ve been wanting to play or run Kagematsu since I bought it in 2011. Yikes. That’s been a while! One of the key components of the game is that the character of Kagematsu, who opens all the scenes, and who all the townswomen seek affection from, must be played by a woman. Because Kagematsu opens scenes and because he assigns each townswoman either love or pity at the end of each scene (which affects the difficulty of them gaining affection in future scenes) they have a very GM-like role. I wasn’t sure about running it in Games on Demand both because I would need at least one woman to sign up for the game and also because I would need to as her to take on this responsibility.

Kristin, however was eager to do both, which made me really excited to facilitate!

Our Village

A lakeside village far from the beaten path surrounded by a pastoral forest. The village was known for it’s lakeside fishing as well as woodcrafts, particularly their flutes!

We were threatened by a recent shortage of fish as we had no other primary food supply.

Our characters

Kagematsu, a handsome middle age man with a scar on his face. He rode a good horse, and those that paid extra attention could tell he walked with a slight limp.

Yuna, the bowl-maker from a family of bowl-makers, who loved the shrine to the lake spirit and a beautifully engraved comb.

Ayame, the village midwife, recently appointed to the position when the previous midwife died. Ayame was very young and unsure of her position in the village,  but sure of her trade.

Akiko, the cemetery caretaker, who regarded all the the spirits with great reverence.

Junich, an apprentice flute maker, who loved being among the trees behind the village and listening to the wind waft through them.

Fumi, the wood collector who disliked her job. Her favorites were a young boy named Toshi, who was the town rascal, and being out on the water.

The Play is the Thing

Play in Kagematsu is done in turn based order with each townswoman asking for an affection (anything as simple as a smile or stolen glace, up to a roll in the hay or a confession of love) and then Kagematsu framing a scene in which the townswoman may attempt to win this affection from him.

Because each scene can generate love (which reduced the difficulty in future rolls) and because each affection grants the townswoman a desperation (such as showing Kagematsu disdain, or questioning his honor) the game rewards you for taking it slow and having many scenes with Kagematsu. However, because you can attempt to gain multiple affections in a scene, my experience was that players often wanted to do that. There is a bit of a push you luck mechanic involved as well. Each townswoman has a fear stat which goes down each time they gain affection, however if they ever fail to gain affection, then the scene ends and they don’t reduce their fear for any of the affections they did gain that scene.

There is a fair bit of work that Kagematsu has to do tracking all the the townswomen and their favorite things, along with his love or pity for them all. I noticed in this game and in the one after it that the player playing Kagematsu was making extensive notes. It all paid off in play though, as Kristin’s Kagematsu was great at reincorporating things that were already known about the other character or things that happened in play. The game was so much fun.

What Rocked

I really loved (you’ll see this in the next game as well) playing a recalcitrant townswoman. I slacked off on my, acted inappropriately, and generally clowned around. It’s a selfish role to play, because someone (or many someones) really have to play the game straight for it to work, so I have many thanks to all my other townswomen for giving me a platform to spring from.

Kristin commented while she was playing that she had so much power. Yay, working as intended!

We had some really tender and sweet scenes where Kagematsu gave the affection that the townswomen wanted and some really cold scenes when he refused them. The mechanics of the game pushed towards this uncertainly really well, as well as pushing towards using desperation and turning the nature of the relationship with Kagematus more fraught. Loved it.

Kristin has this amazing backstory for Kagematsu that was revealed in snippets throughout the game, it was so much fun to find out her history for him!

What could have improved

As a first time facilitator I felt pretty clumsy through most of the game. I needed to refer back to the book often to understand the procedure of play.  Thankfully the other players were very understanding and we spent a lot of time passing the book around the table reading passages from it!