In the early stages of the game, matsuri are the main way in which personae can influence kami. If they are not kannagi, personae can only speak directly to the kami when they are all in kamikakushi, which is, by default, a relatively rare situation. The way in which matsuri influence kami is, therefore, a very important part of the game. Much of what personae do will be the creation and performance of matsuri, in order to have an influence on the kami. Matsuri creation and performance will, I think, have the same place in the game as combat holds in a typical RPG.
The first effect of matsuri was mentioned a couple of posts ago: they give a kami shin’i. The number of points of shin’i that a matsuri grants to the kami will be an important feature, and one of the aspects decided during the process of creating the matsuri. In mechanical terms, creating the matsuri creates the option of performing the matsuri to give the kami that many points of shin’i.
The second obvious effect of a matsuri is that it should persuade the kami to do what the personae want. Kami are not machines, and may decide to deny requests. In real-world Shinto, this is not a possibility to which shinshoku draw much attention, but it is officially acknowledged. Here, the matsuri is a way to ask the kami to do something, and may grant bonuses to the roll to see whether the kami is persuaded. These bonuses would be something else designed into the matsuri.
For a standard matsuri that makes a request of the kami, these two points are all that is necessary. However, this is not all that a matsuri can do.
Some matsuri do not make any specific requests. The annual grand matsuri of a jinja is a good example; although the norito includes a general request that the kami look after the jinja and the ujiko, there is nothing specific that the kami is asked to do. There are some matsuri, such as matsuri thanking the kami for previous help, that literally make no requests, and others that simply announce a gift to the kami. These matsuri serve, in the game, as a good way for personae to strengthen their relationship with the kami, which makes it more likely that the kami will be able to grant their requests.
The other interests of a kami could also be strengthened through matsuri. A very common form of matsuri in Japan involves the kami being carried around the ujiko area in a mikoshi, a portable shrine based on the palanquins used by emperors in ancient Japan. This matsuri is supposed to strengthen the link between the kami and the ujiko, and in game terms that means increasing her interest in the ujiko. More abstract fields could also be strengthened in a similar way; a matsuri including scholarship might be used to increase a kami’s interest in scholarship, for example.
It should also be possible to perform matsuri to make a kami more powerful. In particular, kami who are characters rather than personae will not change or develop without the intervention of the personae. These matsuri should be significantly harder than request matsuri, and probably only work once. In the real world, request matsuri are repeated, so this should be reflected in the game, but matsuri to make the kami stronger are not an explicit part of real-world Shinto, or, at any rate, not one that I have yet come across, so I can design them with more concern for game balance. If the same matsuri can be performed repeatedly to increase the power of a kami, kami will get very powerful very quickly, which is not really what I want. Therefore, a matsuri that increases the power of the kami only has that effect once.
This increase in power could take two forms. First, the matsuri might grant a bonus to the kami for the request made in the matsuri. Second, the matsuri might grant the kami points towards increasing one of her powers. The first type of matsuri should be easier, as it is a temporary bonus rather than a permanent one. The second type should be significantly harder, and probably requires the personae to use particular elements to improve the matsuri.
That brings us back to the question of the elements of a matsuri. What are they, and how do they work in game terms? That will be the next post.