Kazekami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan

PITCH

Kyoko is a wind spirit, a kazekami. She is also a ninja. She is not a princess, as Kublai Khan thought before Kyoko stabbed him in the gut. He was trying to be amorous with his newest concubine. She was trying to prevent the Mongol invasion of Japan. As Kublai dies, the kazekami torments her husband by recounting how she has managed to seduce scores of his rare and beautiful wives.

Note that this game is entirely Shreyas’ fault.

RULES

There are two players. One player plays Kyoko. The other player plays Kublai.

During the game, players take turns making statements or asking questions according to the format prescribed for their character. These are known as “contributions.” The forms are:

  • Kublai: “[Confirmation]! But [declaration]! How [open-ended question]?”
  • Kyoko: “Indeed, [confirmation]! Nevertheless, [declaration]! [Rhetorical question]?”

Following these instructions creates a chain-shaped narrative. Each player must respond to the contributions of their counterpart, confirming, declaring, and requesting confirmation. It is recommended that Kyoko not attempt to answer the Khan’s questions in full detail, but allow the stories of seduction to be slowly drawn out of her, one step at a time. It’s also critical that both players try to avoid holding preconceptions of how the seductions were accomplished, since one of the main goals of the game is listening to and confirming the contributions of your fellow player, even above your own ideas.

Each seduction narrative begins with a boast by Kyoko or a protest by Kublai. The players can take turns beginning new narratives or simply begin a new one whenever a player is satisfied with the information uncovered about the previously mentioned seduction.

For example, Kyoko might boast:

  • I spent many hours writhing in ecstasy with the renowned concubine Jade Petal Rose, whose lips left a lingering scent of sandalwood upon my skin.

Or Kublai might protest:

  • Surely you were unable to enter into the bedchamber of Jade Petal Rose, most beloved of my wives, who smells of sandalwood and cool streams.

Then, assuming this particular narrative began with Kyoko’s boasting (as described above), the narrative might continue as follows:

  • Kublai: Surely you are the greatest enchantress since Yang Guifei! But my wife Jade Petal Rose always treated even the smallest children with such scorn! How did you manage to soften her heart?
  • Kyoko: Indeed, her affections remained carefully guarded! Nevertheless, once I had engendered the good graces of her chief eunuch, everything began falling into place! Have you considered that tactic, O Great Conquerer of the World?
  • Kublai: I, with all my military genius, managed to overlook it! But her chief eunuch would not be swayed by your feminine wiles! How, then, could you earn his favor?
  • Kyoko: Indeed, his manly parts were no longer of any use! Nevertheless, his other appetites, especially for exotic culinary delicacies, remained as rampant as ever! How could he stand impervious to my offering of malted shrimp clusters?
  • Etc.

Bear in mind that Kyoko is both a wind spirit and a ninja. There is little that is beyond her formidable abilities.

However, the Great Khan begins to suspect that Kyoko’s stories are not nearly as impressive and magnificent as they should be, given her obvious skill. Kyoko, in return, decides that some of her adventures and conquests should not be shared with the dying Khan, being none of his business. Either player, then, can also choose to respond to their companion’s contributions in the following forms:

  • Kublai: “My dear! Surely [compliment]! Why then ?”
  • Kyoko: “Great Khan! [Compliment], but [refusal to divulge details]!

For example, Kublai might respond:

  • My dear! Surely your speed surpasses that of crickets and swallows! Why then were you intimidated by a squad of imperial soldiers?

Or Kyoko might respond:

  • Great Khan! Your all-seeing eye does not miss the slightest insect, but surely the contents of a woman’s heart should remain impenetrable to your gaze!

These replace a player’s contribution, but do not interrupt the chain, since their companion replies as usual or can select to use their own alternate response (as described above).

The game ends when Kublai can bear no more, uttering his final words:

  • Kublai: “Thus cuckold by the greatest of women, I depart this world of suffering.”

To which Kyoko responds:

  • Kyoko: “A noble soul is lifted up; the greatest of men journeys onward.”

Notice that while the players have corresponding roles, duties, and powers, these differ quite a bit in content. Playing Kyoko is very different than playing Kublai. For this reason, players are encouraged to switch roles next time they play or play two short games in different roles, to practice their skill in handling different kinds of play requirements.

This game is designed to strongly support online chat-based play. Games can be as short or long as participants desire, since Kublai’s life hangs by a slender thread. His passing, at any point in the game, is not unexpected.

Kazekami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan is strongly influenced by the games and ideas of Ben Lehman, Emily Care Boss, Moyra Turkington, and Shreyas Sampat, as well as by my previous Iron Chef entry, Heavenly Kingdoms: the Game of Drunken Taiping Exegesis. The bulk of it was written in the 30 minutes before I went to bed one night.

ACTUAL PLAY

THOUGHTS

  • Fred Hicks: When I first read this, I thought, “Hah, hah, very funny. I knew no one was going to write a real game for this silly LSN thing.” But… this is a real game …or at least the seed of one. It’s certainly worth trying out.
  • Moyra Turkington: Neato! I like it! I also like that it could conceivably be played anywhere, without prep or props… say, on a long train ride (if you were willing to risk eavesdroppers) or on the beach at the cottage.”
  • Mark Causey: Really neat! I’d like to make one comment that came to mind: Kublai Khan should only have so much fight in him. Kazekami Kyoko should also want him to hear all she wants to say before he passes on. Maybe, Khan only has so many of the “overrides” where he deflects her assertions, and the more he uses the closer he gets to that final exchange of lines. Kyoko can choose to bolster him with some ego boosting statements or somesuch. It would basically be an Hit Points concept, where > 0 is alive and = 0 is endgame; refusals decreasing the HP and ego flattering raising the HP.
  • Nir Shiffer: I like it. I think I’ll go playtest it now. Now, if only all these ‘ritual phrases’ games were more easily translatable to Hebrew…
  • Simon C: What I found really interesting about the game was how quickly it reset my expectations about what I was getting out of it. As the Kahn, I had no ability to actually stop Kyoko. Explicitly, she was able to deal with whatever I threw at her, and the Khan was going to die. What this meant was that, in play, the focus shifted from trying to come up with things that would stop Kyoko (my first few posts were like this), to creating challenges that would expose more of the world and the characters. I really enjoyed setting up great opportunities for Kyoko to really shine, while revealing more about the Khan and his life.

    I’ve played a couple of play-by-post games like this, where there are really no rules for conflict resolution, and conflict becomes a pretty secondary part of the game. In play, the analogy that comes to mind is volleyball, where the players are setting up the ball for each other. One player will float the ball gently in front of the net, for the other player to spike. KKKKK gives great opportunities for this kind of play by enforcing the use of questions in the Khan’s ritual phrase. Because I’m always asking questions, Kyoko alwas has an “in”, an answer to provide.

    While I’m on the subject, Ritual Phrases! These are so cool! I think they really went a long way towards establishing tone for the game, and formalising the “gameplay” aspect. Each post felt like a concrete “move” in the game, like sliding forward a chess piece or playing a card. The joy of the game was in making a move, and then anticipating the other player’s response.

    There were a few times that I felt like Dave and I weren’t quite on the same page in terms of the tone of the game. I think I was angling for a slightly darker, more serious game, and his replies often seemed to brush off those untertones in favour of lighter material. That said, I think we came together really well for the end of the game. One thing I’d tried to do was create a sense of building tension, using repetition as a device, introducing successively more powerful wives, and then reversing the trend with the last wife being physically weak, but sincerely devoted to the Khan. I really liked how Dave dealt with that, taking the opportunity to move the game from the realm of how Kyoko kills the Khan, to why she does so. This was where I really wanted the game to go as well. It felt like a game that only explored the physical abilities of Kyoko could only end unsatisfyingly, with a conformation that yes, indeed, Kyoko is both a wind spirit and a ninja, and thus unstoppable. Instead, what we revealed about the relationship between the Khan and Kyoko really felt like a story.

    I’d love to play the game again as Kyoko, to see how that changes my experience, and I’d love to hear from Dave about his experience of the game. I felt like I was really exploring the GM role in the game, as a guide to take the story in interesting directions, while the main character always wins. I wonder what it’s like playing Kyoko.

    I thought that occurred to me after looking at the depth of history we’d created through the game was that KKKKK would make an amazing tool for world creation. I’d love to play a more traditional RPG in a world that had a previous game of KKKKKK as a historical document, myth, or prophesy.

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