Shinobigami - Modern Ninja Battle Tabletop RPG from Japan

Created by Andy Kitkowski

Shinobigami is an original Japanese story-focused tabletop RPG of drama, action, tactics and frenemies, set in a modern ninja cold war.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

PDF Progress and Go-Live Date
over 1 year ago – Fri, Nov 09, 2018 at 09:08:20 PM

Hey Team Shinobigami!

As I mentioned last week, I'll be doing weekly updates until the PDF edition of the game is finalized. I also mentioned that it will take about two more weeks to have it ready. We're still on course there for a final release next week! We now have access to all original digital art assets, and this last week is basically doing final art asset insertion and Ninpo/Enemy list finalization.

Also like last week, I have a small sample of the rules section of the book. This part shows the finalized English version of the six Ninja clan representative characters, and the skill list.

Again, for your eyes only (though there's not a huge amount of content here, so I'll make this post public):

I don't suspect that folks will be running many games of Shinobigami before the final is released next week, but if you do, these sample pages of the six clans are extremely helpful for getting new players into quickly understanding the game. Matt and I often print them out and drop them on the table so that the players can quickly get a sense of the representative clans.

Go-Live Date: While we're going to release the full PDF to the backers and pre-orderers next week, we're setting the official electronic copy sale date to November 24th

This will give us a week to fix all remaining last-minute glitches/grammatical errors/etc found in the document. But mostly, that weekend corresponds to the big analog tabletop gaming convention in Japan, Game Market 2018. It's kind of the "GenCon Dealer's Hall" or "Comiket" of tabletop RPGs and Board Games in Japan, an open marketplace focusing on Japanese original tabletop games. Bouken/Adventure Planning Service (the original publisher of Shinobigami) will have a booth there. I too will be attending, though at another booth (3D6).

If you're in Tokyo next week and coming to Game Market on Saturday, shout out! I'll buy you a drink and humbly apologize in person for the delay you had to endure.

Finally: After Game Market but before the end of the month, the Backerkit will go online. This will let those folks who wish, to be able to change their pledge levels.

Next Update: The finalized Shinobigami full PDF.

PDF - Days to Go, Sample Download Link
over 1 year ago – Thu, Nov 01, 2018 at 01:04:31 AM

This post is for backers only. Please visit and log in to read.

A Look Into the Supplement Book
over 1 year ago – Sun, Sep 09, 2018 at 06:50:31 PM

Hey team Shinobigami - Andy here.

It was just two updates ago that I discussed the two big hurricanes that came through Japan, expecting that that was the last of the bad weather for the typhoon season: Then category five Jebi rolled through Japan last week and tore up Osaka pretty bad (followed by the earthquake in Hokkaido the next day)... Good news is that we're safe, my friends and family in Kansai are safe, and no delays to this project either.

Unfortunately, though, the side-effects at my day job (which I try to never have interfere with the translation work) were pretty severe: Lots of late nights dealing with the weather fallout in the IT world here; to that end I need a few more days to finish up the "Yokohama 2050" scenario set.

Anyway, while things are on track in the background, I wanted to make a brief post looking into the future: Specifically, the supplement book that we are currently finishing up in the background.

The Supplement Background

The "full set" for Shinobigami comes with two books: The core rulebook and the supplement book, each one with a long replay that demonstrates how the rules of the game work. The supplement book is interesting in that it gives you some extra data and play styles to play with, but not necessary to play. It truly is an expansion to the core game, with three sets of extra rules you can pick and choose from. Those specific rules sets are: Normals, Commonfolk, and Bloodlines

I want to take a peek into two of those rules sets, specifically Normals and Bloodlines.

NORMALS or "Ippanjin", allow the players to play the game as "normal humans": Humans (of appreciable overall dramatic power, mind you) that are caught up in the Shinobigami shadow war. They get skills from the same skill grid that ninja draw from, but they get no ninpo or ohgi. In combat, they are easily targeted and pretty frail in comparison to others (unless certain "secrets" are picked). But their dramatic punch comes in the form of "Truths". 

At character creation, someone who decides to pick a Normal takes a look at three lists of "Truths", broken up into (for lack of a better word) "Classes": Walking Disaster, Amplifier, and Outsider; each has special rules for how they interact with the other characters in the game. The player chooses the two "Truths" they want their character to have, and the category of their Truth determines their Class: So if you decide that you want your character to be able to bestow ninja abilities on others (the Amplifier's "Legendary Scroll" Truth; perhaps she is the non-ninja descendant of an ancient warrior family) and that you naturally attract trouble to those around you (the Walking Disaster's "Nightmare" Trush; perhaps she's just a weirdness magnet), then the character would be a "Walking Disaster/Amplifier". 

These "Truths" work like regular Shinobigami "Secrets"... to a degree: You basically start out with two secrets that others can roll to discover. However, unlike a normal Shinobigami game (where each PC has one secret), the Normal has two cards, and when someone discovers your secret they draw randomly from the two. For the above character, for example, if a Ninja uncovers her "Truth", and draws the "Nightmare" card, then the Normal's player afflicts that ninja with any Bad Status effect she wishes: There's potentially a big risk to "screwing around in the lives of Normals". On the other hand, if this Normal becomes close to one of the other Ninjas, she can reveal her "Legendary Scroll" Truth and grant that person two additional Ninpo arts!

Ultimately, Normals are hardly "truly normal": The Outsiders, for example, have Truths like "Actually Dead" (they are a ghost), "Casts Sorcery", "Lord" (the others must listen to their commands). While much weaker than ninja in normal combat, their playstyles are quite different: They basically dramatically change the nature of the story, creating a lot of chaos while the ninja characters race to the Prize (or fulfill their Secret Goals). 

Ultimately, one of the players choosing to be a Normal (with the GM's permission) can dramatically change how a story unfolds, even in a simple scenario like the "Dagger that Kills Gods". It's also recommended that Normals are limited to one player, maybe two in a 5-player game: Any more than that and the game kinda stops being about ninjas and the Shadow War: The Normals only really shine (and make others shine) when they are working with or against the other Ninjas in the scenario.


Next to Normals, the Bloodlines take up the most space in the supplemental rules. Bloodlines can be thought of as "Sub-Clans" or more accurately "Descendant Clans". Long story short, each of the six clans has three Bloodlines, smaller offshoot clans that loosely bear the clan name, but have their own goals, enemies, and each comes with three new Ninpo unique to that specific Bloodline. It also adds three new Ninpo for each parent clan as well.

Bloodlines are a great feature to add to a Shinobigami game when all the players have become used to the various abilities and tricks of the core clans. Introducing just one bloodline with the rest of the core clans can shake up the story and how the characters react to each other: Especially if there are two Bloodline characters representing the same parent clan in the game!

To demonstrate, I point to the picture above. We all know that the Otogi Private Academy is a wealthy, secretive private institution: A kind of "Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters", just one that happens to churn out a cult of loyal, sometimes brainwashed, ninja soldiers. Pretty scary stuff.

Scarier than that? Try the Otogi Private Academy's Student Council (pictured in the middle): The top of the top of Otogi, which work to promote the ideals of the school to the other students and the world. Their special Ninpo demonstrate their preparedness and force of will. 

Or perhaps the Tarao Private Academy for Young Women (pictured in the top left), a sequestered all-girls' school in the mountains which trains women to be Kunoichi ("female ninja"): Their Ninpo focus on brutal sneak attacks, as well as twisting the emotions of those around them to serve the Kunoichi as pawns.

Finally, there's the Otogi Special Mission Educational Staff Council (pictured in the top right), extremely renowned and well-regarded teachers and educational staff (and Otogi ninja leaders) who are graciously loaned out to schools across Japan in order to share their educational techniques with other schools... when in reality they're assigned to those schools due to rumors of ninja activity that need to be investigated firsthand. Forget the mysterious exchange student; in Shinobigami, you need to watch out when your homeroom teacher mysteriously becomes sick to be replaced "until further notice" by an elite instructor from Otogi PA. Their Ninpo abilities focus on their primary role: Watching over those under their charge, and manipulating them into new situations, sometimes for the target's own safety.

Like this, each of the six major clans has three bloodlines, each providing a new and interesting take on the parent clan: This can dramatically increase the roleplaying opportunities as well, offering specific and interesting backgrounds for the PCs to draw from. In future updates we'll look at the Bloodlines of other clans.


The next update: We'll be seeing some more ready-to-play scenarios released before the end of this month (both for Yokohama 2050 to those expansion material backers that will be delivered privately, and another regular Shinobigami scenario for the core game, available for all). I'll also discus the third optional rule from the supplement book, the Commonfolk, and how they differ from Normals.


Book Details, Release Schedule and Content Update
over 1 year ago – Mon, Aug 27, 2018 at 01:24:00 AM

Hi Team Shinobigami: Thanks as always for your time. 

We've got a number of updates this time, so let's get to it:

Delays and Refunds - My apologies for the ongoing delays with the PDF and book production. The largest hangups we've had on this front (art asset and a few contractual issues) have all been sorted out or in progress to be resolved this week; this element took us far longer than we expected to sort out, and in hindsight it would have probably been best to work around it (finish the layout with placeholder art for missing art pieces, until the final art was delivered to us). But we have clearance to work forward and will be proceeding with the finalization of the layout.

The updated - and final - release schedule is noted below. However, we absolutely understand that some folks are frustrated and upset with the delays. We hold absolutely no ill will to those folks, as we're clearly far off our original target date (by almost two years). Even though the finalized release we dropped a few months ago is fully playable, it's not the finalized game we promised. To that end, we are absolutely prepared and willing to give full refunds to anyone who wishes, no questions asked: Simply contact us through the project contact link to have this resolved to your satisfaction. We would in particular ask that folks frustrated with the lack of progress pursue this route: We would rather return folks' money now and ask them to consider reading/buying the book when it is officially in stores at their leisure.

So please: If you are unhappy with the project at this point, we absolutely understand and accept full responsibility for the delay. Please contact us privately for a full refund. Thanks for your understanding.

Now, on to the larger details:

The PDF Release: We'll be delivering the finalized PDF of the Shinobigami core rulebook by October 31st. We're aiming for an earlier completion if possible, but setting it 8 weeks out gives us enough time if there are unexpected roadblocks that come up. This is the final expected deadline based on the current status, no further slipping or pushback here.

The Core Rulebook (physical) Release: While we are strongly aiming for a December 2018 delivery based on the PDF release and print/proof/fulfillment cycle (it's pretty tight), we need to be a bit realistic in case of December production delays (Thanksgiving/Christmas shutdowns and the like, as the books are being produced in the US). To that end, we expect delivery (not printing, but actually delivery into your hands) to be complete by the end of February 2019.

On the side, the dimensions of the core rulebook will be 5 x 8 inches (12.7 x 20.32 cm), and come in at about 200 pages softcover. This is roughly the dimensions of a large paperback book released in North America, including Japanese manga that are officially translated and published in English in North America: This size is a little larger than the original Japanese release, which will allow us to use a slightly larger font and also handle the replay better in English. The page edges will bleed like the original, allowing us to clearly delineate between the Replay and Rules sections of the book.

The cover of the commercial/regular edition of the book will look similar to this (with the author's name - Toichiro Kawashima - featured prominently on the cover):

Sample cover of the Rule Book
Sample cover of the Rule Book

 Note that after the core PDF is released, we'll be then starting the final editing and layout of the supplement book immediately after that step: So the several weeks while we wait for printing and fulfillment of the core book will be spent putting together the Shinobigami Supplement book and the Limited Edition Shinobigami book.

The Shinobigami Supplement PDF and Book Release: As we'll have the layout templates ready from the finalized core book PDF release, we're going to jump straight from finishing the translation (the replay for this book is finished, we're now working on the rules section) and releasing it in a laid out format (rather than a "white page Alpha version". Our planned deadline (again, this is setting things out a little to plan around the unexpected) for the Supplement PDF is February 2019. While it will be edited and fully laid out, we're going to give it 2-3 weeks for final community editing catches before finalizing it and going to print (in March 2019). We expect to have the printed Supplement book in your hands (delivered) by June 2019.

The Supplement book will be the same size/dimensions as the core book. The cover will be similar to the original mock-up, again with the author's name featured prominently:

Sample cover of the Supplement Book
Sample cover of the Supplement Book

The Limited Edition Shinobigami Book Release: This book represents a shift in the backing levels: During the campaign, we originally planned on doing a hardcover version of each of the books (the exact same content and size), with a cool/mysterious ninja document-themed cover: A bit like what we did with Ryuutama for the limited edition of that book. But when we started looking deeper into this, it felt really "basic": The books are a smaller format than a book like Ryuutama, and it just felt a disappointing: Like two small hardcover Moleskine diaries, cool in their own way, but not as cool as it could be.

We took a lot of factors into consideration, and decided to go for a style which would ultimately cost us more personally, but result in a much more satisfying limited edition book. At the same time, we realized that we're behind schedule so wanted to get this together in a way that wouldn't have the Limited Edition backers waiting too much longer for their book. The result is this:

Sample Cover of the Limited Edition Shinobigami Book
Sample Cover of the Limited Edition Shinobigami Book

The size will be a larger B5 size (6.9 x 9.8 inches; 176 x 250 cm) format (for those of you who have Ryuutama, the same size as that). The page count will likely reach about 300. The hardback cover will be a faux leather cover (again, similar to what we did with the Ryuutama limited edition book) with the characters for "Shinobigami" in Japanese written in bold red on the cover. The interior will feature some design adaptions to the new format.

Finally, the limited book will contain both the Core and Supplement books in one book/cover: We are not going to integrate the rules into a larger whole (as that would go against the spirit of the original): Instead the book will feature the entire contents of the Core Rulebook (replay then rules, just like the original), then feature a break section with a few comments and light essays on the game, followed by the entire contents of the Supplement Book (replay then rules). It will also feature some full color illustration panels of Shinobigami art. Two books in one, with some extra content, in one (pretty cool) cover.

Further, we're producing some add-ons that folks can purchase later (namely a Shinobigami Velocity System/Combat Grid printed upon a traditional Japanese handcloth called "tenugui"): But we're adding one for free to everyone who backed at the limited edition level or higher (the "both versions" level). We hope that the additional cost going into the limited edition as well as the handcloth will make up for the delay in this product.

The delivery for the limited edition physical book is planned for August 2019. We plan to have the finalized PDF of the limited edition book by May 2019: there will be no further content to edit beyond the original book and supplement save for a few pages of essays, which is why we're expecting to be able to finish the limited edition so fast on the heels of the supplement book. Important note: Everyone at the Limited Edition book level will be getting access to the commercial edition PDFs of both the Core and Supplement books, so you will be able to play the full game as those deliver. We hope to be able to deliver both the PDF and finalized books sooner (by a month, if we can) but we want to make sure we set ironclad release deadlines this time that account for and manage around any further potential unexpected setbacks: The line has been drawn.

Expansion Materials/Scenario PDFs: We will be providing ongoing updates, and expect full, complete fulfillment through the end of 2019.

The first promised expansion material, the "transhumanist cyberpunk" (read: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex meets Greg Egan style transhuman SF) themed scenarios are almost finished and will be provided soon for backers at that level. It's a cycle called "Yokohama 2050: The Public Welfare Comprehensive Special Countermeasures Bureau", and while it was originally intended to be just a few linked scenarios with a common theme without any real changes to the Shinobigami theme (in other words, everyone is still ninjas, just in a cyber/bio-hacking future), it developed into a reskin of sorts: 12 fully detailed organizations (Light and Shadow) replacing the 6 Shinobigami clans, which adds more depth to the "trust game" aspects of Shinobigami. The abilities (skills and ninpo) are the same (just reskinned/redescribed in a technological veneer or cyber/bio terms for the obvious magic abilities) so there's no learning curve that would come with a total conversion.

While the scenarios themselves will be released this week in private to the people who backed at the "all supplementary material" levels, you can CLICK HERE to get the setting and conversion details for Yokohama 2050, to give you an idea of what it will be like.

Backing Level Changes: We know that some folks have been very interested in raising their pledge level. We will be using BackerKit to manage pledge levels, so in time you will absolutely be able to update your pledge if you want. The reason we didn't go live sooner is because we wanted to be sure - absolutely sure - of the final planned deadlines for the fulfillment of the PDFs and the books. We didn't want to open up a pledge manager and offer upgrades without getting the previous problems with our project under control.

Now that the deadlines are settled, we'll be setting up a Backerkit page in the next few months, when we have mock-ups of the Tenugui and a few of the additional promised material gathered and ready.

With that in mind, here's what's coming next.

Next Update: While we want to get one more in in August, we really need the weekend for organization. The next update will come September 3rd (Monday) Japan time. Here's what we'll have then:

* Discussion of the contents and rules unique to the supplement book (ninja subclans and playing non-ninja "normal humans").

* Delivery of the Yokohama 2050 scenarios to the backers who bought in at the "all supplemental materials" level (by private message, not public update).

Again, my sincerest apologies for the ongoing delay on Shinobigami and the lack of details and updates as we pulled everything together to account for and correct the flaws in the project: Going forward will be clockwork on both updates and the above deadlines.

Thanks for your time.

Post-Storm Update
over 1 year ago – Thu, Aug 09, 2018 at 10:05:29 PM

Hi Shinobigami backer team:

I waffled over posting this as an update vs just posting in the comments (since it's more of a "We're okay" than a full status/progress report); but I wanted to reach out en masse to the folks who had been watching us in the news.

This will be a brief post: I wanted to reply with a sincere "Thank You" to everyone who reached out to us in public and private with regards to the recent hurricane/tropical storm that rolled through Japan: This is just a quick update to tell everyone that we're okay. 

As most folks who have been following the news in Japan, we were hit by two huge hurricanes/taifu in a really short timeframe (with some serious heat wave in between); I was pretty surprised to see it hit international news, but it was a pretty bad situation (especially the first one). The last one just ended this morning. Luckily, most of us in the Yokohama/Tokyo area were only affected by infrastructure issues, and not the massive flooding and destruction like the other areas of Japan.

On our end: Aside from a few brief power issues, we were pretty unaffected by the weather. Further, we made sure to back up our work several times locally and in the cloud, so that if things got really bad that we would not lose any of the progress made (thankfully it didn't come to that). It looks like the worst of the hurricanes/tropical storms are over (for at least the next two weeks, which likely means for the year at this point). Just the joys of living in a "monsoon season" culture.

Anyway, a bunch of people reached out to us over the past few days (especially given my delay on a end of July/beginning of August update), and I wanted to let folks know that we're okay, and while we had to stop production for a few days, we didn't backtrack or lose anything (data, etc).

The only issue is that meetings with the printer, writers and original publisher had to be rescheduled and pushed back these last two weeks. I'm currently lining up everyone's schedule right now so that we can get that taken care of (hopefully this next week): From there, we can start sharing the mock-ups and confirm release dates (still on target for 2018, mind). We'll also have a sample cover of the limited edition of Shinobigami, and another sample scenario ready within the next two weeks. Instead of an "Expect an update at the end of the month", we'll be seeing two updates this month: The one with the information listed above before 8/24 (two weeks; though I hope to have everything squared away in just one week), plus the end of the month followup with further progress and samples.

Again, apologies for the delay with this last update; the weather really took us all off guard (plus the record highs in heat leading to a heat stroke epidemic; that was a nightmare as well), but we're all safe here, and the worst appears to be over.