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Played It Review of Ryuutama Natural Fantasy Role Play

In Ryuutama, the GM plays the Ryuujin, an NPC spirit guardian dragon, who records and sometimes interacts with a group of travelers played by the players. Together, the Ryuujin and PCs build towns and the world itself through journeys and adventures.

In Ryuutama (PDF), the GM plays the Ryuujin, an NPC spirit guardian dragon, who records and sometimes interacts with a group of travelers played by the players. Together, the Ryuujin and PCs build towns and the world itself through journeys and adventures.


Ryuutama is a hardcover digest sized 226+ page available in print + PDF or PDF with color for layout and a bit of art but with several black and white drawings as well. I have GMed two sessions as a Midori-Ryuu, green dragon, and the experience has been novel and enjoyable. The PCs include a healer, hunter, merchant, and minstrel on a journey to circle a lake dotted with lighthouses. I share this background because Ryuutama has unique elements that are well worth exploring. For example, my dragon, Tsuro, has gained a level and can now use magic powers during the PCs journey. The players themselves are helping me build the world, working one town ahead as their characters journey onward.

This roleplaying is supported by tightly designed rules and monsters, many unique to Japanese RPGs like walking eggs and nekogoblins. Four ability scores range from a d4 to a d12 and two are rolled and added together to try to succeed at a check to accomplish something. PCs can concentrate on fighting, skills, or magic. Magic comes in incantations as well as four seasons of spells. Gear is important, helping not only in combat but also in traveling without mishap.

Four Ryuujin are options for GMs. The default green dragon concentrates on journeys. The other three cover drama and relationships, battle, and intrigue and conspiracy. Each dragon has magic they develop to both help the travelers as well as provide them with additional challenges. GMs are also provided with scenario creation guidance, sample events and adventures, town and world creation rules, and a wide range of monsters.

Ryuutama works well on Google Hangouts or other shared visual communication mediums. Combat requires only a provided one page battle sheet. I position mine on a small box in front of the camera and use the miniatures from the board game Shogun (Milton Bradley) for the PCs. The miniatures from the Tokaido Collectors Accessory Pack would also work really well.


Ryuutama is all about the journey, traveling from a known town through terrain and weather, to new towns. This trek in part springs from the human cultures of the world, and the first journey is well supported by the traveler’s home town. Humans living in towns often help travelers by offering them jobs for pay as everyone remembers their first journey and how strangers helped them make money along the way.

The game overflows with pleasant experiences, boasts pleasing art and layout, and abounds with well described details. Regular folk travel roads and along the way they gather herbs, hunt, and create camp. All the dangers and possible discomfort of a long journey challenge them while monsters sometimes threaten as well. Some dragons can even become wild and serve as foes. However, the PCs’ spirit dragon watches over them and records their journey. This Ryuujin in turn feeds the story to terrain and weather dragons of the world. In this way, humans and dragons are linked in an ever cycling system of journey being affected by terrain and weather and those in turn controlled by dragons which in turn need the stories of the journey to thrive. Both setting and rules are elegant in both design and in play.
My one caveat is that while the journey itself has detailed consequences, they are abstracted to loss of hit points. Most descriptions are left to the GM. I culled travel mishaps from The One Ring, Forbidden Lands, and Mutant: Year Zero into random lists to roll on which I covered in D30 Overland Travel Mishaps. These flavorful lists greatly enhance game play and are the one thing I wish the rules had included in depth. There are examples, but random roll tables are not included.

At its heart, Ryuutama is an RPG about townsfolk exploring a largely unknown and magical world. While danger threatens, the overall tone is optimistic and whimsical. Ryuutama eschews dark fantasy for color and wonder. I think any GM and play group would benefit from exploring this setting and building a world of journeys and dragons together.

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Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody

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Really Sad that D&D has become just a combat game

Despite Zack S I really and I mean really love A Red and Pleasant Land - Combat will get player characters instantly killed. Politics and Negotiation are key. Just enjoy the landscape and learn to play croquet.

Another very alternative adventure setting. I mean very alternative is The Gardens of Ynn
Again combat is a no win situation. Again careful exploration and manners will win the day.
Unofficial Online Garden Generator gardens of ynn generator

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