Kannagi

Kannagi

A fundamental problem faced by all “modern world with the supernatural” games is how to account for the fact that there is no clear evidence of the supernatural in a world where it definitely exists. That is, for the game world to look like the modern world, there must be no clear evidence for the supernatural generally available, as that is what the modern world is like. However, the supernatural does exist in the game world, so one would expect there to be evidence. This is a problem. Some games just handwave it, while others create justifications that work as long as you don’t look at them too closely, and as long as the players are not involved. Kannagara will fall into the second category.

The supernatural creatures in Kannagara are limited in that they cannot do anything that is obviously supernatural where a human being can observe it. This is not a rule or social convention; supernatural abilities fail to function if a human being is watching. Supernatural creatures can appear as humans or animals and tell people (if they appear human) that they are really kitsune or kami, but they cannot, in general, do anything to directly prove it. They can also intervene in human affairs through their powers, but only in ways that do not necessarily appear to be supernatural. Believers believe, but they cannot provide convincing evidence to sceptics.

There are two exceptions to this rule. The first is people who are also kannagi. “Kannagi” (巫) is the old Japanese word for a medium, someone who communicates directly with the kami, and “miko” is written in Japanese with the characters for “female kannagi” (巫女). In game terms, a kannagi does not count as an observing human being; kami and other supernatural creatures can do clearly supernatural things where a kannagi can see. Kannagi do not have any other supernatural abilities, but this one makes a big difference.

For example, not all kami can take on human forms that appear mundane. In order to communicate with a human being, they must use supernatural abilities. This means that they can only clearly communicate with kannagi, although they might be able to send dreams to other people. If the kami use a form of telepathy, so that only the kannagi can hear what they are saying, they can communicate with the kannagi while there are other people present, and the kannagi can pass along what the kami has to say. As far as the other observers are concerned, the kannagi is speaking; it is up to them whether they believe that she is passing along the words of the kami.

While communication is one of the major benefits, kami can also use supernatural abilities to both help and harm a kannagi directly, which opens up more possibilities for a kannagi persona. If she has a good relationship with a kami, she can use supernatural abilities by proxy.

Personae do not normally start as kannagi, and the idea is that the game can be played indefinitely without any kannagi among the personae. Such personae communicate with kami through traditional divination or dreams, building relationships indirectly. However, the assumption is that most personae become kannagi sooner or later, as this makes the game more directly supernatural, and introduces new elements of play. One thing that needs to be determined in development is the default length of play at the pre-kannagi stage. This is something that a group can easily change; indeed, they could decide to start with kannagi personae. However, the rules will make a certain length of time natural, requiring house rules or determined effort in play to spend a significantly shorter or longer time as normal humans.

There is, however, a problem with this. If the personae cannot see anything supernatural to start with, the first sessions of Kannagara will not properly set the tone of the game: they will be much more mundane than the game is supposed to be. The second exception to the rule against seeing the supernatural is designed to cope with this issue.

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