Monday, April 18, 2011

Setting Riff: Bushido of the High Seas

I picked up the first hardcover collection of the Okko comic at c2e2 directly from Archaia Comics' booth on the cheap and just finally got a chance to read it. I've got mixed feelings on the story overall, but there's no denying that the art and coloring (two separate jobs in the world of comics) are gorgeous and down-right inspiring. Given the name of the first collection (The Cycle of Water), the first collection tells the story of how the group of characters get together and focuses on the adventures they have in pursuit of their quest across various islands and seas.

This got me thinking that, well there are several good samurai settings out there (Okko being one, but of course the granddaddy of them all is Legend of the Five Rings) to game in, I wanted to dream up a setting that focused exclusively on the concept of naval warfare in the world of the Samurai.

There's a lot of strengths to this kind of setting. First of all is the natural setting of samurai - Japan. An archipelago, a map of Japan can be lifted entirely from the real world and dropped in to the setting as its map. If you had any image manipulation skills I would recommend stretching the world out a bit more and separating the islands out further to make the world bigger and provide more space for combat on the open seas. Really this whole mini-setting can be considered an elseworlds version of Japan. Another big advantage that samurai have over other forms of armored knights and fighters is that their armor is very light-weight. It's moronic for an armored European knight to get anywhere near even a small pond, but the samurai armor is much lighter and doesn't mean insta-death if the samurai falls in the water.

So we've got samurai covered, let's look at the pirate angle. My favorite thing about the Pirates movies was the council of the pirate lords. I picture an untamed version of medieval Japan with no central government. The peasants and farmers work the land and create tools and weaponry and all swear loyalty to one of the nine pirate lords of the open seas. Instead of guns and cutlasses however, we have Japanese longbows, katanas, and the Naginta, or Japanese glaive.

Think of all the images of pirates boarding an enemy ship or climbing some netting and you may be envisioning an ugly knife sticking out from the teeth of the scrubby rogue. It's fairly iconic, and the samurai have their own answer to this imagery - the Wakizashi. This is the other half of a samurai's most basic armament of the Daisho, complimenting the katana nicely. Shift the emphasis for each character's external representation of might and power from the katana to the Wakizashi and you have yourself a samurai pirate!

This is going to be a pulpy game in my mind, so I'm thinking Savage Worlds is the way to go for the system. You can do a lot of things to make characters fun and interesting in the system, and with a few tweaks, you should be able to do a very melee-oriented game pretty well. It shouldn't be too difficult to make up NPC stats for things like the nine pirate lords as well. Because it's a universal toolkit, it should be easy to amp up or amp down the level of fantasy creatures as well. Sea creatures and ogres are the flavor of the day, but rogue spirits and ghosts (for virtually everything - this could very easily be a Shinto analogue after all) could be a lot of fun. If this isn't exciting enough for you, there's one final twist we can borrow from another Savage Worlds setting that is just waiting to be called upon for other genres - the airships of Sundered Skies. Make the whole up a thousand or two feet up in the air or combine both sea and air ships for extra variety. Instead of nine sea lords you can have five sea lords and four lords of the sky.

Well damn, now I really want to play this, or at least write the thing up. I'd love to hear other ideas for the setting in the comments below, or if you have an idea on where we could take this setting and discuss it better (perhaps on, I'd love to hear those ideas as well.


  1. That does sound pretty darn exciting!?

    Don't forget the original D&D Oriental adventures. (I'd go so far as to say THAT was the grandaddy of them all...).

    I liked Okko. I've read the first one and picked up two others. I'm reluctant to read them at the moment because that will have ME spiraling off on yet another new campaign!

  2. L5R classic was a lot of fun, but so incredibly deadly. It also has the dubious distinction of having one of the worst professionally published scenarios I've ever read. Night of a Thousand Screams. Confusing layout, poor plot, and difficult in frustratingly arbitrary ways.


Noble Knight Games

Wanna support The Hopeless Gamer? Shop at Noble Knight Games via the banner below!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...