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:

Book Details, Release Schedule and Content Update
about 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.


Further status, a bit behind but pushing forward
over 1 year ago – Wed, Jun 06, 2018 at 11:01:02 PM

Hey Shinobigami Team: A very quick update, before returning to the workbench...

Unfortunately I have some rather embarrassing news: We couldn't make it by the 6 week estimate we earlier set. In the background, there was a week-long national holiday vacation here in Japan (Golden Week), and both myself and my layout designer planned to take most of those holiday days and focus all that time on finishing up the layout.

What we thought was a sure thing got rolled by some real life stuff: Neither of us were able to take that week off, and instead (for different reasons/causes) had to grind through the vacation week. Further, some art assets we thought we had turned out to be missing, so we're hunting for those now.

We're almost there, and are focusing on evenings and weekends to get it done. Before the end of June (3 weeks) we'll have an update with hopefully a pre-final PDF ready by then (I say "pre-final" only if we can't get those 1-2 pictures ready and instead need some placeholder art until it can be readied).

I wish I had better news to share, but this mark was missed due to, effectively, our holidays being cancelled.

However, with 3 weeks and four weekends between now and the end of the month, we're going to be able to catch up with our earlier proposed schedule, and won't see later timelines (finished book) etc slip too much.

Stay tuned for the next update. Until then, we're going to be spending our time grinding evenings and weekends to get through this last step!

Quick Status Update!
over 1 year ago – Mon, Apr 09, 2018 at 11:41:56 PM

Hey Team Shinobigami: Andy here.

Apologies for the delay, we're a little over the 6 week mark since my last update. I was trying to hold out a few days for some graphical samples, but I couldn't get them ready without ever further delay: I'll likely have an update once those are ready in hopefully the next two weeks, but at least for now I wanted to discuss our status and release plans.

The PDF is almost done: We expect delivery of the finalized PDF to you backers within the next 4-6 weeks. This finalized PDF has even more bugfixes and final edits than the previously released files (so don't worry about errors you may have seen in those previous files at this point, most have been caught and fixed).

After the PDF is complete, we're going to start pushing towards the printing of the book: We're going to hold out for 2-3 weeks to catch any final mistakes or fixes in the finalized PDF (since that will be the base file that we're using for the book), and then get that final to the printers shortly after. With samples, proofing and the like, we expect the finalized book to be released around convention time (GenCon) this year.

This is for the commercial edition of the book, mind: The limited edition is going to take a little bit longer (current estimate: 2-3 months after the release of the commercial/"regular" edition). The reason comes down to form factor: When we produced Ryuutama (our last project) and went for a limited edition version of the game, producing the same content but with a different cover made the most sense for that game: The book was already full-color and gorgeous, and a limited edition cover really set the book apart.

However, for Shinobigami, the book is a much smaller form factor (American manga sized, like a wide paperback book), and just releasing a special cover felt a little underwhelming for what we could do. In the end, we are going to adjust the layout, once completed (not starting over from scratch, mind, just minor adjustments) and push the layout into a larger B5 form factor, to make it that much more special. Long story short, while the text will be the same, the book's cover and form factor will be quite different. We expect the printing of the limited edition to take about 2 more months, pushing the first book's limited edition into the Fall.

Several folks have asked about upgrading their pledge level to the limited edition book: We're going to be moving to Backerkit soon, first I want to be able to provide you with a few samples of what it will look like. We'll have those visual samples ready (plus the backerkit portal live) within six weeks, so before/by May 22nd. We'll also have samples of the coins and tenugui (hand-cloth) Shinobigami play-mats as well (these are the samples I hoped to have this week, it took a little longer than I expected to work out the details with the textile vendor).

In short: THings are on track, and the first delivery milestone we expect to hit within six weeks. We're very excited to be able to get the fully playable electronic version into your hands!

Thanks for your patience with us on this journey. As soon as I have more details and samples both of the limited edition book and some of the extras, I'll share those with the community (hopefully within the next two weeks).

Next stop: The Finalized Electronic PDF of Shinobigami!

Book Update and Extras Details!
almost 2 years ago – Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 08:28:36 PM

Hi Team Shinobigami: Andy here with our first update of 2018.

First of all, I want to apologize for the first update of the year coming out mid-February. After a bit of Japan O-shogatsu/New Year's holiday chaos and things settled down a bit, a bit of delay creeped in, followed by a bit of delay-triggered anxiety. That was crushed a few weeks back and we're back on track.

2017 was, well, really sh**y for the Shinobigami team across the board, for personal and professional reasons. We've made regular forward progress, but not at a speed or throughput that's on par with our previous work, and that really got to us both. We ultimately had to do a lot of self-improvement and self-care to get back on the rails at the end of 2017. The engine stalled a bit in 2017. We're late with both books. But we're back on track: Calendar's up, goals and deadlines are set and being met.

I do understand that some folks will not be happy with the delay at this point: While we haven't created a sunken-cost fallacy pit trap here, we do realize that we have basically sat on folks' money that could have been put to use for other projects or personal goals. To that end, if anyone contacts us asking for a refund at this point, a full refund will be given, no questions asked. We hope that you'll stick with it since we're almost there, but we absolutely understand that people's situations change.

Here's what we're going to see in the first few months of 2018:

* The finished electronic copy of the first book: We're in layout (stalled a bit at the end of the year, but back on it now). Should be finished and available for review before finalization within the next six weeks. 

* Release of some of the stretch goals: We plan on eventually compiling all the extra scenarios into a supplement at a single link (DriveThruRPG), but until that's ready and done we'll be releasing them individually over the first few months to the backers.

* Preview of the second Shinobigami book: We'll have a preview of some of the content, including the new sub-clans, and a look at the three "Normal Human" character classes and what they bring to the table.

* Details of the limited edition Shinobigami book: For those who followed the Ryuutama campaign, you know that the Limited Edition was a faux-leather cover with gold trim, but essentially the internal book contents from start to end were the same. For Shinobigami, the book format is such that it didn't feel right to give the limited edition just a different cover: We're processing a second, separate layout for it, at a different book size (the text contents will be the same, but the book size will be a little bigger; this will allow us to play with the layout a little more, but take away from the modular nature of the small pocket-sized original paperback). More details on this soon.

* Backerkit information: We're going to go with Backerkit for pledge handling this time. We've had a lot of people approach us asking for an upgrade to the limited edition version of the game (sight unseen, which is extremely flattering; thank you): To ensure that we are able to handle the logistics of all these changes, we're bringing Backerkit into the picture to handle processing and extras. When the link is ready we'll be sending it out.

* Other extras: I've been keeping quiet on these until we had actual samples, but here's what we're prototyping in the background while we finished up the book content (while not a core part of the campaign, these are going to be offered as extras to those who want them, as well as be included by default in all Limited Edition orders):

- A Shinobigami Tenugui (traditional Japanese hand-towel/cloth) with the Shinobigami logo, with the "Velocity System" battle mat printed on it: Basically a cloth you can use to tie your book(s) together, then throw down on the table to serve as a large (larger than printing out the A4/Paper sized one) Velocity System sheet. 

- Working with a metal coin manufacturer on a set of "Shinobigami coins", to be used as a token for each player to track if they had completed their Scene in the cycle (face up), or if they haven't had a turn yet (face down). Think of it as one of those stones/buttons at a Churrasco restaurant, where you leave it face up to bring "The Drama" instead of steak.

- Further Shinobigami scenarios written by as yet unannounced authors, including one that will appear simultaneously to the Western (in English) and Japan (in Japanese) fanbase.

More on these extras later once we have prototypes complete; for now we're focusing on closing the electronic book and moving forward with printing the physical book.

On that timeline, we expect to see the following:

1-2 months: Finalized electronic copy.

2-3 months later (summer, before convention season) Finalized version of the commercial/regular edition of Shinobigami printed and en route to the backers.

2 months after that: Delivery of the limited edition of the Shinobigami book.

Finally, we've already started in on the review of the second Shinobigami book (pre-editing stage). With the project back on the rails, we are aiming for completion of the electronic version of this book by the Fall, and aiming to print the book around the end of the year (I can't promise at this time that the second book will deliver to all backers by the end of 2018, but we definitely intent to have it in the hands of the printer or warehouse by that time).

In short? Back on track. And again, apologies for the embarrassingly long start to 2018: The project is back on the rails. The next update will be in March, where we'll have pictures of the book and more information on the extras announced above.

Thanks for your time: We're super excited to be closing in on the results of our blood and sweat.