Kamigakari (神我狩) is a TRPG set in modern Japan that mixes anime action with Japanese folklore and then turns it up to 11. The Kickstarter for an official English translation was funded in just 55 hours and has already met its first stretch goal of including translator notes.
Scott: How did the project first come to life?
Amy: A friend was planning on running Kamigakari for my group. While reading the original fan translation, I said to myself, “This game sounds great, but the translation is sort of obtuse and difficult. Someone must already be working on a better English version.” Having been friends with Ewen, who is involved in basically every Japanese TRPG project, I asked him about it and discovered, nope! He introduced me to Andy Kitowski, who’s already friends with Rikizo and has contacts at Arclight. Without him, this straight-up wouldn’t have happened.
Scott: Was it difficult to get the rights?
Amy: Once I got the ball rolling, not really. Everyone has been super-excited about the project, the main trouble was getting in touch with Arclight and fighting against corporate inertia.
Scott: How involved has (the Japanese publisher) Arclight been in the process?
Amy: Not really at all. The only request they had is that I eventually make some original content that they can translate back into Japanese, besides that, they’ve sort of given me the files and told me to have fun.
Scott: What’s your favorite mechanic?
Amy: Numen Dice, without a doubt. Using the dice pool as a resource mechanic is brilliant.
Scott: What’s your favorite setting detail?
Amy: The way the setting entirely eschews American interpretations of European folklore. Like, duh, it’s a Japanese RPG, of course it’ll do that, but it’s still cool.
Scott: That sounds really cool. Any examples that particularly resonate with you?
Amy: I guess the most obvious example is that the only mention of anything explicitly western is the Church that the Templar faction works for as an ominous, poorly-defined force that’s exerting its will everywhere, which is sort of how most Japanese occult fiction describes Christianity. The implication to me is that the way say, Orient Adventures or Kindred of the East slapped a vaguely Eastern aesthetic on top of the American pop culture interpretation of European folklore, the western world in Kamigakari would be an shallow anime version of America or England or France or whatever, and I am down for that.
Scott: Favorite character build?
Amy: Elder Mage A or Digital Sorcerer A / Arch Slayer B. I’m a sucker for magic knight types.
Scott: Any highlights or favorite moments from a game of Kamigakari?
Amy: I haven’t exactly had time to play it enough to have a really memorable story, but if you ask anyone else, they’ll have some weird story or another. This game is great for that.
Scott: What types of stories are best told with Kamigakari?
Amy: Goofy monster-of-the-week fare. Things work best when you get completely absurd with it, like an Elemental Adept using a jetski as a weapon.
Scott: How did the team form?
Amy: Ewen’s done this stuff before, and worked with Grant and Char, so they were no-brainers. I wanted to involve Noelle, what with her being the reason I even knew about Kamigakari and having grown the English fanbase almost single-handedly, and once again Andy was a huge help, knowing her already and being able to get us in touch. I’ve worked with Olivia before and wanted to again.
Scott: Which came first, the team or the project?
Amy: The project, though I had an idea of who I wanted from the beginning.
Scott: I’m looking forward to reading the translator’s notes stretch goal. Any interesting examples of troublesome translations?
Amy: In the text of the game, the numen mechanic is read as 霊力 (reiryoku) which comes out to literally spirit power. However, the 霊 (rei) part of that word is tacked onto literally everything. Spirit barriers, spirit crests, spirit hides, spirit light, spirit meat. It’s tricky coming up with a cool spread of words and not making it all sound very repetitive.
Scott: You mentioned the original fan translation. How much of it, if any, informs your new translation?
Amy: Besides inspiring this whole project, not really at all. Noelle’s here because she made it and is thus responsible for Kamigakari being at all popular over here, but not because of any particular thing that was great or amazing about the fan translation. Mostly I don’t want anyone to feel beholden to the conventions and non-liberties taken in that version of the game (i.e. the aforementioned Spirit Everything)
Scott: I believe you have previous experience with writing RPGs. What have you worked on and how’d you get started?
Amy: I’ve written freelance for Chronicles of Darkness and Shadowrun, and a couple indie RPGs, including Ewen’s Ghostbusters RPG retroclone. To get started, I made friends with a developer for an established publisher on Facebook and asked for a job. 100% luck that he even asked me for a sample, do not try this at home.
Scott: Do you speak Japanese?
Amy: Basically not at all. I can count to ten, ask where the restroom is, and say that Soul Hackers is a criminally underrated video game.
Scott: What was your first exposure to Japanese TRPGs?
Amy: Double Cross. Shame the rights holder fell into a black hole, never to be heard from again.
Scott: How did you decide to launch on Kickstarter?
Amy: I wanted to make this game, but I didn’t have any money.
Scott: What’s been the most difficult aspect?
Amy: I completely screwed up with the expansion book stretch goal. This wasn’t even something I had planned, and so I included “all digital stretch goals” in every backer tier, and then had to go back on it if I wanted the expansion books to be included at all. I pissed off a lot of people with that, and I’m really sorry.
Scott: What’s been the most fun aspect?
Amy: Seeing just how many people are interested in Kamigakari. I never expected such an outpouring of support!
Serpent Sea Games
Scott: Is there a meaning behind the name?
Amy: It’s from a song I like. It may have been prophetic in a bad way, because the end of the chorus is, “Serpent sea is falling down, crashing at your feet.” Let’s hope not!
Scott: Any plans for when the Kickstarter is finished?
Amy: I’m probably going to take a nap.
Scott: Can we expect more games from Serpent Sea Games in the future?
Amy: I sure would like it if we did!
Scott: Any final words or comments you’d like to make?
Amy: I want to stress again how surprising it was to get as far as we did so quickly, and I hope fans can help us push this even further.
A special thanks again to Amy for taking the time to answer my questions. The Kamigakari Kickstarter runs until November 30th.