[H66] The First Founding

Now that I’ve finished (and rage-quit) A Dance With Dragons, it’s time to get back to the idea mill for Hagakure ’66. Now I want to talk about the First Founding, and introducing players to the game with a bang.

One very valid concern that was raised during a recent design-jamming session is related to the very nature of the motorcycle pack. In this game, the characters are all members of an outlaw motorcycle gang, and along with that membership come several assumptions that could feasibly be made about their natures. With this game I am envisioning play going back-and-forth between scenes involving exploration of setting and situation, and scenes involving motorcycle samurai action – y’know, sword duels and motorcycle races and all-out gang-on-gang warfare.

Given the typically rugged, brutal, take-what-you-want-by-force nature of the typical outlaw gang, the question was poised: what is to stop the gang from just rolling into town at the beginning of the scenario, putting everyone to the sword, taking what they want, and leaving, without taking the time to explore and network?

While I don’t want to completely invalidate the above tactic – after all, that could definitely be a fun approach to a situation, right? – the question posed highlights the need for a definite pre-game “tutorial mode” which can introduce the players to the mechanics, without departing too heavily from their own situation.

To handle this, I’m now hammering out the rules for running an event I’m calling the First Founding. After sitting at the table and getting out all the usual pre-game chatter and sillies that invariably accompany gatherings within this hobby, the first real game-related thing that players of Hagakure ’66 will experience is the First Founding. In this event, the players act out the events of the war that initially sealed the founders together into what would become their post-war Pack.

The initial idea for the core conflict at hand is thus:

The battle is over, your forces are smashed, your leaders dead or captured. All around the battlefield you see the destruction that has been dealt to your side, and you hear the victory calls from the horns of your enemies. As far as you know, you seven are the last remaining fighters on your side. The question has been posed: do you run and hide in the hills, or do you make one last charge?

The seven mentioned above should of course be changed to fit the number of players in the group. The players are given choice to pick from several pre-made template characters, designed around archetypes that would have been common within the ranks during the war. The Grizzled Vet, the Brash Young Recruit, the Silent Scout, etc. They will then play out a scene in which their own characters argue and even fight to determine the final fate of their unit.

The idea here is for the game to begin with a moment of mutiny, which could potentially cloud the honor of the Pack’s founding. Some of them will want to fight, others will want to run, and the scene plays out until this conflict is resolved. Resolving the decision will end the scene, and move the game into actual character creation.

The scene is intended to be a deadly one. Elements will be involved that will put the characters’ lives as risk. Perhaps they will fight each other, perhaps they will be ambushed as they argue. Perhaps the players come to a quick unanimous decision, so we play it out a little further through the actual charge or retreat. Either way, there is a very strong chance for one or more characters to die, and this is intentional. The players should see the mechanics first-hand before the game begins, and they should be introduced to the deadliness of rash action from the onset of the game.

An idea here is to have there be multiple options for the nature of the First Founding conflict. I like the idea of mutiny and honor being at the core of it, but the Final Charge could be one of a handful of possibilities available. Others:

  • Your lord general has decided to betray his own lord ruler, and has commanded all his troops to follow him and support the enemy. The time has come for the battle tide to change. Do you follow your lord general, or do you continue to fight for the original lord ruler?
  • Your commander has sent your unit off on a mission that you all recognize as being a suicide run. Some among you believe that this is an unnecessary waste of your unit’s skills. The time has come to decide.

Again, the intention is to have the players take sides and resolve the situation, which will then be established as the event that sets the tone for the group’s first founding. After the resolution, the group will then go into actual character creation. Those who survive can stay on as pack elders, having made it through the war and stuck together to found their own Pack. Character attributes can be shifted and adapted to represent the passing of time, and other players can make new characters who have joined in the time that has passed since this event.

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