The Connection Between Story Games and Tenra Bansho Zero

edited August 2012 in Story Games
Hey guys, been meaning to post this for a few days, but here it is:

Tenra Bansho Zero is why Story Games exists. It’s that simple.

Years ago, I did a few stupid things. I bit off more than I could chew (by underestimating the time and energy required to translate this RPG, given a day job and family responsibilities). I released a PR announcing the rights to the Tenra Bansho Zero game in English, rather than grinding through it and releasing a PR when I was almost finished. Hindsight 20/20 and all that.

Anyway, as many translators-with-day-jobs find, you’ll go through cycles of energy and productivity, followed by periods of acute, insurmountable stress and procrastination that only relaxation/hobbies can heal (video games, reading, writing, art, etc).

It was a period of this stress, punctuated by starting a new and very intense, awesome job/career as well as the purchase of my first house, that I had to backseat the Tenra translation for a few months: My hobby project, a veritable ship-in-a-bottle, had to get in line after Real Life stuff, then stress relief for the Real Life Stuff.

Most folks who are have been here a few years or have heard an interview about S-G know that this place was born in some degree from the Forge forums, namely a once-a-year event called the “Forge Birthday Forum”, where for one week a year folks at The Forge (www.indie-rpgs.com) interested in game design would drop into discussing actually playing games (and not just constructing them, or theory). S-G started off as a “Forge Birthday Forum; All The Time” and then quickly formed into its own thing.

What I don’t mention too often is that this entire site was an effort of stress relief from real life concerns. The Forge Birthday Forum was a great source of relief and fun. In recreating it, I was creating a little Batcave where I could crawl and talk indie/hippy games with fellow gamers. But at the same time, it was a stress relief ‘heat sync’ for the amount of very real stress the colossal Tenra Bansho translation/localization effort was causing me. It was a place of escape.

At the same time, it was a project of Resistance (to use a really apt term from Steven Pressfield, in Do The Work.

Anyway, over the years folks have asked me about donating money to S-G to help with the costs of keeping it running (on and off, approx $750 a year in pure monetary costs, not to mention time etc just on the technical pieces). I’ve always refused, mostly because of reasons I find kinda silly and naive now (and will likely set up a little donation box or something later). But I had always intended to get the word out when Tenra was nearing a close, to tell people:

“Hey, I don’t have an avenue to donate directly to the Story Games site; but this Tenra Bansho Zero English translation over here is a white whale project that I’ve been at for years, a project which was responsible for the origin of Story Games: So if you’ve gotten anything out of this site in the time you’ve used it, and felt like donating to it, I’d gladly take a tip in the form of a PDF purchase or donation to the TBZ machine.”

So I’m doing that now, I guess. If you have benefitted from this site socially, financially, personally, or professionally, please consider dropping even a buck or two over on the Kickstarter for Tenra Bansho Zero. Not only is it a boost to that project, it’s a lead-in to the translation and publishing of further Japanese RPGs in English under my new business, games that totally would appeal to folks who are interested in these unusual indie/hippie/small press titles (not for their “indie-ness”, but for the unique and exciting features these games have in terms of rules, play, themes, etc). Ryuutama, The Game After That (not announced yet publicly, though I've run and talked about it enough) WILL blow your mind.

If Japan/asian-themed roleplaying is really not your bag at all, or you have issues with that project, sit tight; I’ll eventually have a little Donate button for Paypal where you can throw me some sushi money if you feel generous. (EDIT: Down there).

I appreciate all the goodwill I’ve been receiving on the project, and wanted to make sure that folks knew the deep, foundational connection between this RPG translation project/company founding and the origins of Story Games!
= = = = = = = = = =

Now, I did write the above when I thought I'd be pulling in all connections, favors and teeth to cross that $9,000 finish line. Instead, I'm swamped with support, and really don't care about the money. However, the core of the message still stands: S-G exists because of this game over here.

If folks want to give a little to the site but don't want anything to do with Japan/Japanese gaming/Kickstarter/etc, I've got a little paypal button here. I'll take the funds I receive from it and put it towards the server costs. Don't go big, just give a little and only if you want to, I don't want to guilt anyone into anything here. And if you gave to the Tenra kickstarter, don't donate here as well; your KS contribution is good enough.

Here is the Paypal Link for donations.
(the donation cause is "STORY GAMES WEBSITE", the email addy begins with "ziggurat")
(I'll leave this up for the duration of the Kickstarter just for congruency; then later on at some point I'll put a donation link somewhere)

Finally: I will be translating and releasing more games. Matt Sanchez and I are working on Ryuutama now officially, and other stuff as yet unannounced. However, I will not be posting announcements and public television style beg-a-thons here (like this post/thread) at S-G about them. Future projects I do/support/produce/etc will just pop up in "Stuff to Watch" or their own threads, no public stickies or announcements on them; while cool, they aren't really central to the narrative of this site.

Thanks!
-Andy

Comments

  • Good lucky with this Andy! This site has been incredibly helpful and has provided many hours of entertainment and good discussion.
  • Looks top notch. Can't wait to see the end product.
  • Now I feel less guilty about upping my pledge to fifty-five! :)
  • Man...I was *thinking* about backing but will I really get to play the game? Now that you put it this way, I have a -great- excuse. In! :)
  • Hey Andy, possibly off-topic, but: Would you recommend Pressfield's Do the Work over The War of Art for people who want to get shit done? Or ideally both of them? In what order?

    Thanks!
  • edited August 2012
    Hans, I found The War of Art was excellent at articulating the concept of Resistance, and getting me to emotionally buy in to the idea of defeating it.

    Do the Work is fantastic at taking you step-by-step through a project: the various stages of Resistance you'll face, and some great fundamental strategies for making progress on a project. However, I feel it does skimp a little on defining 'Resistance', as it summarises material from The War of Art in a way that I don't think stands entirely alone.

    The War of Art changed me but Do the Work is the one I refer to on a weekly basis.
  • edited August 2012
    Ahhh, you know what? I got the books confused (it's been two years since I read it). Hans, I meant The War of Art. That's the one that was really inspiring. I have not had a chance to read Do the Work yet.

    If you are into writing or designing games, or making hacks and stuff, but can never quite find the time? READ THIS BOOK.

    Based on Steve's experience, I'm gonna head to the library to pick up Do The Work next!
  • Picked up both of 'em tonight. Do the Work is a very nice-feeling little book. Van Gogh image on the cover that shows someone doing physical labor and implies the creative labor of Van Gogh, and also a dice logo. I like it already, and I haven't even opened it.

    Started reading The War of Art. Really good so far! A bit mystical, but I'm cool with mystical as long as it doesn't seem like bullshit, which this doesn't.
  • And I'm a backer on a fantastic-looking game, and a community that has slowly engulfed a portion of my Internet time every day.

    Thanks, Andy!
  • Backed it. Will back all other weirdo Japanese translated games also. MOAR.
  • Andy's efforts translating this game (and the others) is nothing short of heroic. I worked with him for nearly four years on this project. I recently witnessed him translating on the fly. Working Japanese RPG-speak into English RPG-speak requires at least three levels of translation.

    But more than that, what Andy's doing is culturally significant. It's like he's founding Harmony Gold back in 1980 to bring us uneducated savages Robotech and Starblazers.

    If you want to be at the forefront of a tsunami, support him in every way you can.
  • Andy's efforts translating this game (and the others) is nothing short of heroic. I worked with him for nearly four years on this project. I recently witnessed him translating on the fly. Working Japanese RPG-speak into English RPG-speak requires at least three levels of translation.

    But more than that, what Andy's doing is culturally significant. It's like he's founding Harmony Gold back in 1980 to bring us uneducated savages Robotech and Starblazers.

    If you want to be at the forefront of a tsunami, support him in every way you can.
    plus one button, forever.
  • Whoah I'm dying for Ryuutama...
  • I keep hoping as a fringe benefit this will open up the path to more stuff. I'd love to see Sword World put out over here, for instance.
  • After Tenra comes Golden Sky Stories and Ryuutama, and I know of three other people/groups that are working on translating Japanese RPGs for publication. Sword World isn't one of them (and from what I've heard the publisher would be kind of a pain to deal with, but never say never), but the ones that are coming are pretty damn amazing.
  • edited August 2012
    So is Ryuutama kind of honobono as well? I understand that honobono is the whole idea with GSS.

    EDIT: Also, "honobono" is a delightful word to say out loud.
  • So is Ryuutama kind of honobono as well? I understand that honobono is the whole idea with GSS.

    EDIT: Also, "honobono" is a delightful word to say out loud.
    It possesses tremendous honobonitude.

  • edited August 2012
    Whole lotta stuff
    I'm looking at the Kickstarter for the first time, and I gotta say WHOAMG I wish I had the moneys. Seriously, some of the rewards (the various books and even a trip around Japan) make me wish I could afford all this. Congratulations on everything, and I can't wait until Ryuutama!
    After Tenra comes Golden Sky Stories and Ryuutama, and I know of three other people/groups that are working on translating Japanese RPGs for publication. Sword World isn't one of them (and from what I've heard the publisher would be kind of a pain to deal with, but never say never), but the ones that are coming are pretty damn amazing.
    After reading up on the blog and seeing this, I'm waiting to see when Golden Sky Stories will hit my local store. =D Seriously, though, it wasn't too long ago when you said you were working on it, and I'm happy to see that it's going to be heading to print soon.

    As for your other point, while I can't say anything about an "official" release, there's a good amount of work done on Sword World (though the book does need to be purchased separately, like Ryuutama above). Even with a lack of actual Japanese knowledge and real life getting in the way (more now than ever), work is still being done. While I don't want to give a deadline, I'm hoping to bang out the last huge non-replay section and finish up the little bits and pieces before the end of the year. So yeah, stealth plug for the wiki and all. =p
  • I hit this site almost every day and didn't know about this KS until this morning when a friend pledged. I decided to check it out.

    I read the whole KS spiel, getting pretty interested in the game and more excited about it as I went down the page, but the clincher was the bottom--This is from the guy who runs story-games.com?

    SIGN ME UP!
  • I really want Meikyu Kingdom... I have it in Japanese already...
  • Andy's efforts translating this game (and the others) is nothing short of heroic. I worked with him for nearly four years on this project. I recently witnessed him translating on the fly. Working Japanese RPG-speak into English RPG-speak requires at least three levels of translation.
    Hah, yeah Luke got to witness my "Translator Twitch", having to translate intricate Japanese poems (for chapter headers) on the fly into English, preserving the pace, tenor and theme of the poem. It's not something I would recommend folks seeing.

    -Andy
  • edited September 2012
    Sorry about the wait, I meant to write this like two weeks ago but have been too busy /being busy/ to make this post.

    "WHY STORY GAMES FOLKS WOULD LIKELY BE INTERESTED IN TENRA BANSHO ZERO"

    So, you may have seen the Kickstarter and my little video and all, but here's the post aimed at Story Games folks.

    There's this cool editorial which talks a little about my struggles with the translation, and the amount of work involved:
    http://penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/why-you-should-care-about-tenra-banso-zero-the-rpg-one-man-spent-seven-year

    * The game features a fanmail system which came out years before even Primetime Adventures!

    * It features comics which explain the rules of the game, making the bar to entry really low. The comics are cute and contain within them basically all the basics to play. Aside: Mike Miller was inspired by a flip-through years ago at Gencon, and ended up doing the same in his With Great Power!

    * The game has three "levels" of game systems:
    - The first level is the system of attributes and skills.
    - The second level is a focused theater-themed system of Scenes, Acts and Intermissions which set the pacing of the game: You start off with a "Zero Act" (hence Tenra Bansho "Zero") where all the characters get their own scenes, and their characters and motivations are established. You also roll on an Emotion Matrix to see how your characters feel about each other and major NPCs from the start. Then the play begins in structured scenes, usually with one or more characters left out (to create tension, and so the person not RPing can reward the others with fanmail/"Aiki"). Then Acts wrap up and Intermissions begin, where the character motivations change and a preview of the next act given.
    - The third system is the "Karma system". The Karma system is the system of character motivations and relationships. The more you care about people and the world, the more dangerous you become. Eventually, you cross a line (that line is "108", the number of Buddhist sins/defilements) and destroy the world to protect what you love or are obsessed with. This manifests by spending points that you get from the fanmail rewards on things like "character advancement" "bonus dice", "temporary skill level boost", "jumping in front of an attack", "entering a scene you're not currently in". The more you do things to change or influence the world, the more you become tied to it: That's Buddhist Karma. You can only lower it by caring about things less: Lowering your ranks in relationships, motivations etc. The cultural roots of Buddhism are baked right into the system. Heck, the phase where you balance and change your motivations/emotions is called the "anatman phase". :-)

    * An entire campaign of Tenra is played out in 1-3 sessions.

    * It's culturally rich, and that's not just a throwaway: I show how the Buddhist roots are baked into the game, and how the scenes, acts and reward cycles demonstrate a kabuki-style play. But the setting itself, from the endless Sengoku setting, the three-plus orders of Buddhist monk (not just one, but several, fantasy yet based on historic sects), the Shinto priesthood, the reskin of classic mythical monsters, the language of the game (in setting and rules), it all hints at basically the most culturally tethered asian-themed game seen in English, period.

    * I'm including a replay in the set, complete and illustrated. If you've seen me rant about how awesome Japanese RPG replays are around here (what, once a quarter or so?), I'm always lamenting the fact that there are no real full replays in English to use as an example of what I'm talking about. Now there will be.

    * There is a Director's Cut Book, which gives you all the little details of why and how the book was made and translated, what the little setting elements mean or were inspired from, and tons and tons of cultural notes that couldn't be included in the book. I've been meaning to do something like this for like 10 years, since I imagined doing such a thing while writing a Sorcerer supplement. But there it is, you can get all the background details of the game, which normally require all sorts of digging and blog-hunting and stuff.

    * Anna Kreider wrote a kick ass Final Fantasy-esque setting where she looked at the world, and the fact that you are supposed to "make Tenra your own", and did just that: Not only is it really solid, she reframed setting aspects to be less problematic for her, making something very unique.

    * TS Luikart did the setting included in the book, a more historically rooted campaign frame. If you've seen his work elsewhere, you know that he's one of the best writers of that traditional setting jazz out there. And he nails it.

    * Luke Crane did the layout, and holy hell. I might have spent a ton of time perfecting the translation of the game, but Luke spent a ton of time "translating" the image and feel of the game into an English format. Phenomenal, my heart stopped a little every time I saw new material, the final layout, etc.

    * The most powerful samurai is the one who is crying.

    * No common lines/veils crossed in the book: No torture, sexual violence, etc etc.

    And hey, I want to be real here: I don't want people to spend money on things that will ultimately disappoint them. So let me also add:

    Here are some reasons you might NOT be interested in this game:

    * It's pretty gonzo. I mean, the drama is all human drama; people weep while they fight just like any good 'ol hippie game. However, the stage in which all this human drama is set is full of robot killing machines with kung fu, children in big mecha, samurai with demons trapped in their flesh, and so on. If you just like playing normal people or normal settings, you won't really find either here.

    * Japan?

    * Some of the art is gooey (I checked! About 3 pieces of art out of 320+ makes me go something to the effect of "really? tits that big, really?") and a hint of fanservice-y. Again, about 1%: not much at all, but it's there and featured in prominent places. When I took pictures of and from the book in the kickstarter material, I made sure there was some of that art in there, just so people knew what they were getting and weren't surprised.
    As a fan of anime and manga who sees gooeyness from time to time, it helps to remember that you can still enjoy problematic things, just be aware of them. Also, see Kira's thoughts in the other thread.
    Also, Anna K created a really awesome campaign frame for Tenra (she's both read it and played the game) that works to help minimize and reskin problematic things. It's not just a "feminist campaign setting" or whatever (implying that the first point of it is to hit you over the head with an agenda), it's interesting, fucking well crafted, and rich with ideas. On a flip-through I immediately found no fewer than four ideas that I just have to use as the background of a campaign at some point.

    * Takes at least 4+ hours to play a full game. An entire campaign is meant to be played in one session, but that assumes about 4 players, 4-6 hours, and everyone knows the rules. So it might be more like 1-3 sessions. While you might squeeze a game into one 4-hour session, you really couldn't go for the new indie sweet spot of a "2-hour game from beginning to end".

    * Not GM-less? It's got stats and skills, optional "mecha creation rules" stuff, etc? Maybe I'm reaching...
  • Hm...Nope, Japan.
  • Alrighty, dropping the thread. Thanks, everyone! And as mentioned, even when I create another project or do funding raises for RPG or volunteer stuff, I'll not be posting it as a stickied thread. Tenra was special, and that's that. Thanks for your patience!
  • To be fair: the Kickstarter was a pretty impressive event overall. I'm as surprised (well, probably less so) as you are of how well it did. Good job, and I look forward to the next one you do. (It's like the kickstarter was a mini-game withing the game, entertaining in it's own right...)
Sign In or Register to comment.