Interests of the Kami

Interests of the Kami

The eight powers defined in the previous two posts will determine the number of dice that kami get to keep when intervening in the world in a supernatural way. What, then, determines the number they get to roll?

Here, I want to use the interests of the kami. As I said when introducing kami, every kami has her own interests, and is more likely to help in that area. In mechanical terms, this works well as a source for the number of dice to roll. A more powerful kami, with higher scores in the powers of her aramitama and nigimitama, is able to benefit you more in any area, but you might be better off going to a slightly weaker kami with more interest in that area. If two kami have the same power, then you definitely want to go to the one with more interest.

Unlike the powers, I don’t think that the possible interests of the kami can be fully captured by a list. There are just too many choices. However, there are a number of standard options.

First, all kami have an interest in the keidai, the grounds of their jinja. This allows them to act to defend or transform that area. It also allows them to act on anyone who is within the keidai, even if there is no other applicable interest. In this case, however, the effect only remains as long as the person is within the keidai, because that is how they have been linked to the power. This will be useful in stories, as it allows kami to act very flexibly when personae are on the kami’s home territory.

Second, almost all kami have an interest in their ujiko, and the area where their ujiko live. This interest can be used to do anything to the ujiko, or to the area. Ujiko who stop living in the area lose this connection, but simply working outside, or going on holiday, does not break it. (Consistently working in the area covered by a jinja may also qualify someone as an ujiko for game purposes; I’ll see how that goes.)

For most kami, the interest in their keidai should be their highest general interest, and for those kami who have ujiko, that should be the second highest, or at least no lower than any other general interest. This has the effect that it almost always makes sense for ujiko to go to their local kami, no matter what the subject of their request, which fits with actual Shinto practice.

A third kind of interest is a personal relationship with an individual. This is what a sūkeisha relies on. These personal relationships could potentially be higher than the interest in the ujiko or keidai. While sūkeisha are most likely to find it necessary to build such a relationship, there is nothing to stop an ujiko, or even shinshoku, from building a personal relationship that is stronger than the general bond to the ujiko.

When two or more interests apply to a use of a power, the kami uses the highest to determine how many dice to roll. Therefore, an ujiko with a strong personal relationship would use that relationship, rather than the general ujiko relationship, to determine how many dice the kami rolls to grant requests, or interfere in her life. There is a Japanese saying that “Kami you do not touch, do not curse you”. In the game, this rule is the reason. If you have nothing to do with a particular kami, she has neither reason nor ability to use her supernatural powers on you.

The other possible interests of a kami are very diverse. Types of natural phenomena, areas of human endeavour, healing, particular diseases, business prosperity, passing exams: these are all examples found among actual kami. For game purposes, there probably needs to be a fixed list of the most general interests, combined with guidelines for more restricted interests. While a narrow interest works the same way as a broad one, providing dice to roll, it should be easier to increase, so that it makes sense for players to define kami with narrow interests.

How many interests should a kami have? There should be no limit on personal relationships; every persona should be able to have a relationship with every kami in the game, although they probably won’t. For general interests, half a dozen is probably a reasonable maximum. More than that, and it will be hard to remember what the kami does. Naturally, this should not be a hard limit, but it is something to bear in mind when creating new kami.

2 thoughts on “Interests of the Kami

  1. First off I have to thank you for all those valuable information on Shinto; I’m learning a lot here that doesn’t seem to be available elsewhere on the internet. But maybe that’s just because cladding it into a RPG makes it more appealing to me 🙂

    Anyways, when it comes to RPGs I always think in terms of adventures, because those are the stories told and re-enacted at the game table. I know that you first want to set the stage, but do you also already have ideas for adventures (or plot hooks in general)? Hearing about those would make all of this a lot more down-to-earth for me (and others). Right now its still highly theoretical stuff.

    Actually there is an idea forming in my mind about an adventure. It is about a small, remote island somewhere on the long coastline of Japan, with a half-forgotten jinja of a once mighty sea kami on it. But now they found a valuable natural ressource on that island (preferably not oil, because that’s just too trite a topic) and basically everything on it, including the jinja and a couple of sacred sites, is going to be leveled. Nobody really cares for that particular kami and those execs who know about the jinja go to great lengths to keep it a secret. So because of its dwindling power, the kami calls out to the player characters (personae) for help. There’s a lot of stuff to do and the odds are extremely against the players, making for a lot of drama.

    To top it all off, it could be a disputed island …

    1. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s information about Shinto here that isn’t available in English; I’m approaching things from a rather different angle to most sites that introduce the topic. Still, you should be able to find most of it on the Encyclopedia of Shinto at Kokugakuin.

      I do have ideas for plot hooks, and I should be getting on to that soon in the writing process. Your idea would be a possible hook as well; maybe I’ll talk to you about writing it up when the game gets off the ground.

      I also think that the website will be rearranged at some point in the near future, to better introduce the game to people. At the moment, it’s in “order of creation”, which is interesting in its way, but not the best way to draw people into a world. However, I need to get a little bit further into the creation before I can do that.

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