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:

Shinobigami Update: Layout, Estimates, and Names
over 2 years ago – Sat, Jul 15, 2017 at 02:03:14 AM

Hi Team Shinobigami: Andy here with a brief update on the Shinobigami status.

First, apologies for the delay: As mentioned before, we're on a schedule of an update/progress report every 4-6 weeks until completion. Right at the 6 week mark (last week), my partner in crime Matt came to visit Japan for work. Over that week, we looked at what was outstanding for the project, and started moving on to the completion of the text of the second book. We also met with the Bouken (Shinobigami publisher in Japan) staff, including the author Kawashima-sensei. They've been reading the play reports that have appeared here and there on the net, and they're very excited to see us so close to our goal (and we're relieved to be nearing the finish line as well).

For the first book, layout continues onward. At one point we considered a second "full text drop" to relay to the backers, basically the more tightly edited version of the text we're currently working into the book's layout (text only). However, at this stage, we want to simply proceed with finishing up the PDF layout with the finished text. We think that the laid-out version will ultimately be easier to read when we do our last group editing before finalization.

We have confirmed the PDF for a summer release. We're aiming to have it complete within the next 8-10 weeks. When finalized, we plan on pushing forward with book production for both the regular and limited editions of the book. If everything lines up, we should see the book ship in the late fall: The only points that may cause pushback there are (A) the printer we are using tends to get pretty busy in the summer, so we may have to wait in the queue for a week or two even if we're ready, and (B) getting the print proofs sent to Japan and back will add an extra few days once we approve the book for printing. I can't be as concrete for a book release date at this time (I'll have this more settled once the PDF is complete, with a print/ship estimate there). 

However, during those weeks of waiting for the books to print and ship to you, we'll be full speed into the editing of the second book for those who ordered it. 

Lastly for now, I'll have one more update within the next two weeks: I will send out another update to all the backers and pre-order-ers, asking for the name they wish to use in the backer listing of the Shinobigami PDF. If you were here for the Ryuutama Kickstarter, it's much the same thing: Rather than ask you for that in the "final Kickstarter survey" where I ask you for your shipping address, it will go out in a Google Documents survey (I'll just ask you to confirm the name you want printed, plus your email for confirmation); and that survey link will be sent in a hidden update in the next 2 weeks.

As mentioned in the original campaign, the full backer list will be going only into the PDF version of the book. We'll reach out to make sure everyone is notified, but please be on the lookout for that update and direct message in the next two weeks: There will be a limited window of a few weeks to respond to get your name in the PDF as a backer.

That's all for now. We do have other secret stuff forming in the pipeline (think "extra limited edition gifts/rewards to the backers of the game, for your patience, which will be sent out with the physical books"); as it manifests we'll be sharing more.

Thanks again for your patience, team. Expect to see progress details and updates, including samples of the English book's layout, in the next monthly report.


Shinobigami-ing Away...
almost 3 years ago – Mon, Apr 10, 2017 at 04:22:15 AM

Hey Team Shinobigami!

I just wanted to reach out and give folks a heads up: Things still on track: PDF layout and final editing (compiling both at the same time) is still in progress. Further, I'm going to be a bit better on status updates: I tend to bundle a lot of information together into huge, long update-blasts. Instead, I'm going to aim for an update consistently every 4-6 weeks until both books are complete and in your hands.

Not to leave you there, let me point out some of the bits we were wrestling with (these aren't huge sticking points that added delay or anything like that, just some little bits stuck in our head).

We've torn through the book with our localization, translating and localizing all terms, but when we go over the book from one end to the other, some bits stood out that we had to re-localize, or are fighting with.

For example, in the replay, one of the players digs deep and comes up with all this backstory for their character (stuff not in any rulebook, just starts creating stuff; it's pretty interesting). Anyway, his character is Kurama Shin clan, and he comes up with this whole sub-clan (The "Marudoku-tou"; again not in any book, and it's totally fine to do this as a character). Long story short, we try to keep the Japanese terms when they seem cool or when they're used as proper nouns, and only break it down to English when there's basically too much Japanese so as to be confusing on a casual reading. Long story short, we're waffling on calling it the "Marudoku-tou", the "Marudoku Faction/Clan/Order", or even translating Marudoku whole into English, etc. Currently the idea is Marudoku Order. Small things like that.

Want to see something interesting? (well, to language nerds like us anyway) Here's our localization paper/list:

One thing that we realized early on is that we would agree to a term (like "Hey, for term X in Japanese, let's stop using Y in English, let's use Z instead!"), and both agree to it... but then forget which was the one we finally agreed on. Basically we would be independently writing, see the term "Z" pop up in the document, and say, "Oh wait, we agreed that the term should be Y, right? Yeah, I think that was it. Even though Z seems cool, I think we agreed on Y..." and flip the words back and forth. After the third such vocabulary bloodbath, we created this document where we listed all of the terms in the book, posted the terms we came up with, posted our own translations/preferences for the terms (middle tabs), and then finally merged them in one final showdown piece (the top tab). 

Most large translation projects have these kinds of documents; and translation agencies that work regularly within a certain field (IT, Medical, Patent) etc will quickly establish this kind of document structure. However, we thought, since this was a "fun game", we wouldn't have to ratchet ourselves up to that level of professionalism. Yeah, it turns out it's not a matter of professionalism or not, it's a matter of braining yourself on your keyboard after realizing you accidentally wrote the wrong localized term... for the fourth time... that hour. A brain prosthesis. :-)

Anyway, back to the topic: Final corrections are happening on the first wave of scenarios, and we should have them soon.

Speaking of which, my Cyberpunk scenario series is coming along. I didn't consider it at the time, but I realized how much I was inspired by the "Legacy" board game series when putting the ideas for this scenario together: Basically a series of scenarios linked thematically, but also played in order to tell an overall grand story.

For example (no spoilers): One of the characters carries a memetic virus: Connect to their brain, and you become infected. Perhaps in the session, you maneuver yourself into a position where you get to see one of the other character's Secrets. They hand you the secret, you read it, and after the typical backstory secret is revealed ("You're in love with X"; "Your secret mission is actually Y", etc), it says: "Now, anyone who reads this secret: On your character sheet, write the character for spirit/soul (精), and draw a hexagon around it."  

...why? Why indeed. You'll find out when you play the second scenario in the 3-part set, which will build off the actions, decisions, wins and losses of the previous scenario, where you won't know the full meaning or consequences until they're revealed in the next scenario!

I'll likely be asking for folks to help playtest this series when it's ready, since it's kind of a new concept for Shinobigami scenarios and I'd like blind feedback to see how it works. 

Anyway, thanks for your patience with the process. As mentioned above, I'll be posting regular updates every 4-6 weeks until the books are out. Thanks!


Quick Status Update
about 3 years ago – Fri, Mar 17, 2017 at 08:20:29 AM

Hi Shinobigami Team!

Just wanted to drop a quick update for you all:

Layout is in process now. Still adjusting a few pieces of text on the fly, but instead of a "complete beta text" you'll see the finished text more-or-less laid out when it is ready.

Further, we're pulling together the Shinobigami scenarios that our gust contributors have written: I have to say, some of these are truly incredible: There are cross-cultural scenarios about both Korea and The Philippines (developed by authors from those countries!) that bridge the two cultures and complicated histories together in a rich, deep way. There's a great scenario that looks (critically an humorously) at the... complicated... history of the promotion of ninjutsu outside Japan in Hollywood and the like, with very recognizable characters serving as analogues to real people and actors in a tongue-in-cheek format. There's even a lighthearted scenario about a lost ramen recipe! I can't wait to make these all available.

This month I expect to have some of the scenarios finalized and available, as well as a sample of what the Limited Edition book will look like.

Sorry about the sparse details: I just wanted to check in to make sure folks knew that we're still at it in the new year (I intended to post in January, but unfortunately was taken out for a week with bronchitis, just getting over it now). The next update will have some downloadable material and extras, so stay tuned.



December Shinobigami Update and Next Steps
about 3 years ago – Thu, Feb 02, 2017 at 04:34:46 PM

Dear Team Awesome:

Thank you so much for your support and patience on this project while we've been working on putting the last touches together.

First, I want to apologize: I didn't even notice until someone mentioned it in the comments section, that the last update we publicly made (with the pre-play materials) was back in August, four months ago! As crowdfunding goes, I tend to save up larger Updates with important information rather than send out easily skippable smaller updates. Further, in our world we've been constantly working on Shinobigami on our end, including prepping the text, discussing it, reading the supplemental and extra material, and responding to feedback after play on the Google Groups: I didn't realize until it was mentioned that - Oh yeah - We're way overdue for a core update with status to our core backer pool.

That won't happen again: I'll have further updates at a pace of about once every two months (or less, but no more) until the project - both the core book and supplement - are finished and in your hands. 

Apologies: We've been so laser focused on finishing production of the game itself that we forgot to come up for air and tell everyone where we're at, and what's going on.

Linguistic Setbacks

So I gave ourselves enough time to have the book ready and published by December 2017... or so I thought. There are a number of reasons for the slip in deadline, but here's the main one: In short, I realized that there were some contextual items missing from the translation that needed to be added. What I mean by that is this: The original Japanese text reads much like an instruction manual (the rules part, that is): Very methodological, not a lot of extra explanation, very concise, and no wasted space. 

In the English version, we maintain that exact format, and translated the book exactly as-is, without adding additional examples or "fluffing up" the text; the only additions we're adding is an extra final appendix section on play advice, and a few cultural notes ("What is Domination", "What is Kotodama", etc) to explain the Very Japanese elements that make sense if you grew up here in Japan on Japanese TV and comics, but need a bit of background if you're coming from another culture (think the "explanation notes" that sometimes appear in fan subbed anime, but more concise).

We had everything on track, but ultimately a few people posted some REALLY interesting procedural questions on the G+ group or on Reddit: Simple questions with simple answers... But there was a troubling undercurrent to a few of the more simple ones. In short, the text is very procedural and concise without "doubling back" or re-explaining things, so in play (by people playing from the earlier provided rules set, without having been "prepped" by playing a session with me, Matt, or another GM) the GM would read a rule, but come up with a slightly different understanding or interpretation of it. 

This didn't happen a lot, only in maybe 2-3 key places (where the rules themselves nor the replay example did not make the correct interpretation clear). And it was not that the Japanese original text was lacking, or that our translation was "off"; it was just one of those nuances in Latin vs Japanese grammar that was getting lost.

Imagine one of those "marble run/marble racetracks". You put 10 marbles at the top, and at the bottom, 10 marbles roll down the track and make it to the bottom. A metaphor for what I saw happen was this: I saw about 40-50 records of play experiences, all of them positive, but a few had some questions about some of the core rules of the game caused by a miscommunication somewhere between language, text and reader: 50 marbles (the play experiences) were loaded at the top of the racetrack, and let fly: At the bottom of the track... 47 marbles arrived at the end. 3 had popped off the track for various reasons. As linguists and engineers, we had to then go back over the track and find out where the marbles popped off the rails, and make adjustments (here, to the text) to make sure things wouldn't pop off again.

Ultimately, we found and fixed those places. We took this item very seriously, because we want to do as much as we can to ensure the success of those novice Shinobigami GMs without being there. In this internet age there's forums and electronic text updates, and later we could have even put together an errata to clarify points or fix the text afterwards... but we're going pretty strong on a print run that will be received around the world, and wanted to take that extra up-front time to ensure all is fixed beforehand. We are hoping for a release that will require no errata, no forums, no "revised" editions to fully make sense from cover to cover.

I think we arrived there, and internally all has been verified and set. The final text is being reviewed now internally, then will be turned over to you all for a final check as we continue pushing through layout.

Ultimately, though, this means that we missed our anticipated goals of a November electronic release, and a December book release.

Updated Release Schedule

After careful review, I believe we can meet a goal of final Shinobigami layout in March, and production (that is, the book being finished, but not shipped/delivered) by late April. I don't want to set a more aggressive goal at this point and slip on it, so instead I'm going to focus on making that happen.

That's for the first core book, including the limited edition book.

Originally, the second Shinobigami book was scheduled for a November 2017 PDF release with a December 2017 print release. After the experiences with the core book (which led to careful review of the second book), I believe we can move that production up a few months with no problem. I'll have a more accurate idea of a target when we finish layout of the first book, but I believe we can have the second book ready by late summer/early fall 2017.

So while we missed our target for the core book release, I'm going to make it up to the backers by stepping up production of the second book of the set a few months, to get it in your hands that much faster.

All the other supplemental scenarios, stretch goals and the like are currently in various stages of completion, and I see no additional delay for their delivery (they'll be released shortly after the core book, before the secondary book). Those elements are on schedule.

Thank you for your understanding and patience with us for this: The ultimate goal here is to get the most complete, perfect English Shinobigami that we can into your hands. We're not going to be paralyzed by a strive to perfection... but we did hit a speed bump there. Everything else is on track now, though.

"I'd like the (higher tier) version of Shinobigami, is that possible?"

Over the last few months, we've had a number of people contact us to ask if it's possible to get into a higher tier: They pledged at the PDF level and want a book; or pledged at the regular book level and want a limited edition, and so on.

We will absolutely make those options open and available. We'll give you plenty of warning, we'll give you plenty of instruction on how to do so when the time comes. You won't miss out, promise.

Likewise, the surveys for your address and the like won't go out until we're closer to the ship date, so no need to tell us now if you're moving. We'll get your addresses later.

Next Steps for Us and You

The next steps are: Sit tight. We'll have an updated text file for you in a few weeks, and shortly after that, a final laid-out version of the core book. 

We'll also have samples of the limited edition cover/book when we're closer to print, to give you a taste of the different (cosmetic; the contents will all be the same) versions of the game.

Finally, we'll have a cadence of updates for you, every 1-2 months until both books (and all supplemental materials) deliver.

Thanks again Team Awesome. I mean that moniker, too: You guys have really been a source of inspiration to us, and because of your patience and support, we've been able to proceed on our tasks with uncompromising excellence and in excellent spirit. We promise to return your trust and patience with a completed product set, as well as some unexpected surprises (more on that in the next update!).

Thank you, and Yoi-Otoshi-Wo!

Shinobigami Introductory Scenario
over 3 years ago – Thu, Sep 08, 2016 at 07:44:28 PM

Hey folks! Andy K here. 

This weekend, I put together a single Shinobigami scenario that's PERFECT for new players (including new GMs): I went beyond the barebones approach and included a lot of hopefully useful advice and direction. 

Further, I actually wrote the same scenario Twice: Once in a PVP format for 4-6 players, and once in a "Cooperation against NPC" format for 2-4 players. It's essentially the same scenario, done twice, so that you can get an idea of the difference between these two kinds of scenarios. Hopefully this will inspire folks to create their own scenarios! 

Here's the link. We'll later lay it out pretty-like and post it on the Website. But for now, if you have the Alpha rules in hand, were interested in running but didn't have that initial spark for where to begin... now you do!  ​