the mountain witch

April 6, 2007 at 12:03 pm (gaming, nonfiction)

The Mountain Witch by Timothy Kleinert is probably the closest thing to a “traditional” game out of these three, which really says something, because this is not your daddy’s rpg. i only say it is closer to being traditional because it actually has a GM, which both Polaris and the Roach lack. rather unfortunately, at the moment i feel the Mountain Witch is the indie game i own which i am least likely to play, simply because it seems that it probably needs more players than i am likely to be able to round up, though hopefully that will change someday.

the basic concept behind The Mountain Witch is kind of a film noir samurai story. it is about a group of ronin samurai who have banded together to climb mt. fuji to kill O-Yanma, the titular Mountain Witch.
the game has almost ludicrously simple mechanics, at least at its base. each side of a conflict rolls a single six-sided die, whichever side rolls higher wins. the difference between the rolls determines degree of success. what makes things interesting however, is that for one thing, the conflicts are as much about who gets to narrate what happens as they are about who wins. in most traditional rpgs, even when a player character succeeds on some kind of roll to do something (hit an enemy with his sword, pick a lock, hack a computer, whatever) the GM is still the one who narrates how it actually works out in the game world. in the Mountain Witch, narration is shared between players and the GM. also, the game has some highly fascinating mechanics to deal with issues of trust between the PCs. each of the ronin has a different reason for wanting to find and kill the mountain witch, and they don’t necessarily have good reasons to trust each other. the game is built to create tension between the PCs and create reasons for them to help each other sometimes and betray each other at other times. as the book describes it, O-Yanma is meant to be more of a plot device than a true adversary. the real adversary is meant to be the other PCs and their trust (or lack thereof) for each other.

so that’s the Mountain Witch. it’s a damn cool read with some really interesting ideas. the mechanics are possibly a bit too simplistic for me (though i really dig the trust system) but i still really want to try it out someday.

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1 Comment

  1. Arnold said,

    Random, I know, but I came across this through a google search.

    Have you gotten a chance to play in the past year?

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