Saturday, July 6, 2013

Kyoto Gaming Inspirations – Mt Kurama

I live just 20 minutes outside of Kyoto, a city brimming with roleplaying inspirations. From its hoary old temples and shrines, to its moss covered stone buddhas on lonely trails, bamboo groves sighing and chiming in the wind, and old stone bridges where samurai once strolled, drank sake, composed poems, or lopped off heads, Kyoto is an inspiring place for an Oriental Adventures/Ruins & Ronin/L5R etc game.

From time to time I’d like to introduce a real Kyoto site that would fit sweetly into a roleplaying campaign. I’ll start today with Mount Kurama.

Mt Kurama (鞍馬), literally ‘Mount Saddle Horse’) is a 30 minute drive in the hills north of Kyoto. Founded originally in 770 AD by the Tendai sect of Buddhism, in 1949 it was bought out by Kurama-Kokyo sect (basically a cult shot off from mainstream Buddhism) and they tend its temple-encrusted and forested peaks now. Their pamphlet tells of Mao-son, a god-king who descended from Venus a million years ago to fight evil and yadda yadda Scientology-sounding BS. Yep, they’re a cult.

But the Kurama-Kokyo pamphlet could also easily serve as a B1- In Search of Adventure style module for Oriental OD&D. The outer side has a numbered woodblock art map on one side with descriptions of all the temples on the other. It is literally begging to be statted out with monsters, traps and treasure.

Look at that map a bit closer. These are not measly 10 x 10 squares! The trip over the mountain took me 3 hours, and was pitch black and treacherous as hell descending.

The inner side contains more woodblock art with descriptions of four major festivals. Although the festivals themselves could be great seeds for adventures, taking the pictures out of context inspires some great adventure antagonists.

Are the two demon-dogs guarding a hoard of coin? Are the bamboo staff wielding berserker monks a force to be reckoned with? Who is this procession of blankly smiling candle holders, and what secrets do they wish to keep from interlopers? Finally, are these henchmen carrying cannons? If so, to what end?

Yes, Mt Kurama is equally inspiring in person, with meditation waterfalls whose icy falling streams will pound the daily worries out of your shoulders, giant trees and gates stretching into the sky at seeming impossible angles that are hard to look into, and mysterious monks wordlessly on their way on secret errands (probably just paying the gas bill…).

So, if you have the chance to visit Mt Kurama in real life, I can heartily recommend it. If not, at least visit it in your gaming. If you do stat up or use Mt Kurama, drop us a line to tell us how it went!