Kagematsu takes place in Japan, 1472, in and around a small unnamed village.  This period was known as the Onin no Ran, and it was a time of internal strife.  Most of the village’s men have gone off to war, leaving the women, children, elderly, and infirm to fend for themselves.  Now a dangerous threat casts its shadow over the village, and without a defender, its people are almost certainly doomed. 

Enter Kagematsu, a wayward samurai fleeing a troubled past.  Here is a defender, if only he can be swayed from his course.  So it is that several young women conspire among themselves to win his affections…


Kagematsu uses six-sided dice.  When rolling dice, all sixes are discarded and the remaining dice are added together to arrive at a total.


Everyone has a character.  Except where otherwise specified by the rules, you have complete control over what your character says and does.

One player must play Kagematsu.  That player must be a woman.  If you are playing Kagematsu, it is your job to interpret him for your game.  Describe him briefly.  He has the traits of Love and Pity, both at zero when the game starts, and which need to tracked separately for each other player.

If you are not playing Kagematsu, you are playing one of the village girls.  Name and describe your girl.  She has the traits of Innocence and Charm; divide seven points between them any way you like.  She has the trait of Hope, which starts at zero.  Also, you must describe two of the following three things: her favorite person, her favorite place, her favorite thing.

The Threat:

As the game begins, something is causing the villagers despair.  Kagematsu gets to define this thing.  It can be almost anything:  a ghost haunting the nearby woods, a local daimyo who has plundered the village’s resources, a mysterious sickness that is plaguing the region, or even something a little abstract, like the creeping dread the villagers feel not having heard back from a favorite son.  This thing is called the Threat.

The Threat starts at five dice.  A particular event within the game can cause this number to increase. 


The game consists of three parts:  the Courtship, the Confrontation, and the Conclusion.  During the Courtship, the girls attempt to seduce Kagematsu.  In the Confrontation, they play their Hope against their fear of the Threat and await the news of Kagematsu’s fate.  In the Conclusion, the fates of the village and the various characters are revealed.  Each is examined in depth, with all of its attendant rules, hereafter.

Sidebar:  Sidebars

Scattered throughout the text, you will find passages labeled “Sidebar”.  Sidebars are rules or information you need to play, but didn’t fit nicely into the main body of the text.  They’re just as important as anything else, so pay attention to them.

The Courtship

During the Courtship, the girls attempt to seduce Kagematsu; they do this by attempting to elicit displays of affection from him (hereafter simply called “affections”..  This happens over the course of several scenes. It works like this:

·          One of the girls speaks up, announcing which affection she’d like to receive from Kagematsu. 

·          Kagematsu frames a scene for that girl; the scene must, at a minimum, feature her and him as characters, but it can include any other content he thinks is interesting. 

·          The scene then plays out; at any point during the scene, Kagematsu may “call” for a roll, meaning he’s ready to see if the girl gets the affection she wants (see below).  If she wins the roll, she is rewarded the affection; she may elect to continue the scene or end it there.  If she fails the roll, Kagematsu fails to react in the way she had hoped and the scene ends.

Immediately following any affection roll, Kagematsu must assign the girl a point of Love or a point of Pity.  There are no guidelines for this; it is solely and entirely at his discretion.

At the conclusion of a scene, but only if it ends on a successful roll, the girl gets one point of Hope.

Sidebar: Taking Turns

There is no established order for who gets to call for a scene and when; if two or more girls want a scene with Kagematsu, the girl with the lowest Hope gets precedence.

Rolling To Win Some Affection

·          The girl gets a number of dice equal to the governing trait of the affection she called for.  Kagematsu rolls dice equal to the difficulty of that affection.

·          The dice are rolled and totals arrived at in the usual way.  From his total, Kagematsu must (in secret) subtract the amount of Love he has for the girl.

·          Kagematsu compares the totals and announces the winner (without announcing the actual totals, thereby keeping secret the amount of love he does or does not have for the girl).

·          The girl can perform an act of desperation at any time (even after the trait dice have been rolled) and roll an extra die, adding it to her total.  Each act of desperation can be used only once, although you’re not limited to using only one per roll.  

·          If the girl wins the roll, she may end the scene or allow it to continue.  If she failed the roll, the scene ends. 

The Affections

The girls are attempting to seduce Kagematsu.  Their efforts are rewarded by displays or affection, or simply “affections”.  There are many possible affections; they are listed here, along with their difficulty (measured in dice) and governing trait.

·          A stolen glance (2, Charm)

·          A smile (2, Innocence)

·          A kind word (3, Innocence)

·          A compliment (3, Charm)

·          A lasting impression (4, Charm)

·          A shared moment (4, Innocence)

·          An introduction (5, Charm or Innocence)

·          A secret told (6, Innocence)

·          A touch (6, Charm)

·          A gift (7, Innocence)

·          A kiss (7, Charm)

·          A confession of love (8, Innocence)

·          A roll in the hay (8, Charm)

·          A promise made (9, Innocence or Charm)

Each girl can ask for each affection just once.


Sometimes you’ll feel like if you had had just one more die, you might’ve succeeded at a roll.  In such cases, you can turn to Desperation.  Announce you are doing so and the current roll pauses unresolved; then choose one of the acts of Desperation available to you, work it into the scene somehow and roll another die in the usual way (discarding sixes), adding it to your total.  If you still do not succeed, you can even invoke further acts of Desperation.  Succeeding through Desperation incurs no mechanical penalty whatsoever, but you probably won’t earn any Love for using it (unless you are very clever in the way you play it).

             ·          Bribe Kagematsu

·          Threaten Kagematsu with violence

·          Get naked (only available after you win “A compliment”)

·          Show Kagematsu disdain (only available after you win “A kind word”)

·          Beg and plead with Kagematsu (only available after you win “A shared moment”)

·          Throw yourself upon Kagematsu (only available after you win  “A lasting impression”)

·          Question Kagematsu’s honor (only available after you win “An introduction”)

·          Challenge Kagematsu’s manhood (only available after you win “A kiss”)

·          Accuse Kagematsu of impropriety (only available after you win “A touch”)

·          Hold for ransom something precious to Kagematsu (only available after you win “A gift”)

·          Threaten to reveal a secret of Kagematsu’s (only available after you win “A secret told”)

·          Tell Kagematsu you’re pregnant with his child (only available after you win “A roll in the hay”)

·          Threaten seppuku (only available after you win “A confession of love”)

At the beginning of the game, there’s only one form of desperation that will get Kagematsu’s attention: A threat of violence directed his way.  As you play, with each new Affection you earn (apart from the easiest two), you’ll have access to a new type of Desperation to ply against your would-be love interest.  Use them carefully, you can only use each act of desperation once per scene, and if a particular act fails to bring you success, you lose access to it for the remainder of the game..

Sidebar: The Looming Shadow

Any time during the Courtship, if anyone (Kagematsu included) rolls three or more sixes, the scene is interrupted in some way by the Threat; increase the Threat by one die.  Whoever triggered the event gets to narrate it.  Nothing about the mechanics of the scene changes; if the girl succeeded with her roll, Kagematsu still has to provide the necessary affections, and Hope, Love, and Pity are unaffected.  The remainder of the scene, however, is tainted by the presence of the threat.

The Looming Shadow rule cannot be invoked twice in the same scene; once the Threat is present, it can not become more present.  Therefore, if a player chooses to continue the scene beyond the roll that brought the Threat into it, it becomes a good time to go for some of those higher difficulty affections.

Sidebar: What If No One Elicits The Promise?

Because each girl can roll for each affection just once, it’s possible for the game to be played and for Kagematsu never to make the promise to protect the village.  In that case, Kagematsu abandons the village to its own devices and is never heard from again.  All Hope is immediately reduced to zero and the game immediately moves to The Conclusion.

The Courtship ends and the Confrontation begins when one of the girls elicits “A promise made” from Kagematsu.

The Confrontation

During the Confrontation, Kagematsu faces the source of the village’s Threat.  Here’s how it works:

·          Kagematsu gets a number of dice equal to the Threat score.  He rolls these dice and arrives at a total in the usual manner, but keeps the result a secret. He should accompany the roll with some small bit of narration, perhaps describing a moment or two as he engages the Threat…or perhaps something else entirely.

·          Each girl decides privately if she wants to test her Hope against the Threat.  The girls reveal their decision simultaneously.

·          Each girl who chose to test her Hope gets dice equal to her Hope score.  The girls roll their dice independently of each other, arriving at a total in the usual manner.  Each roll of the dice should be accompanied by some small piece of narration; make it good, it could be the last time anyone hears from you again.

·          Kagematsu then compares each girl’s roll against the Threat roll, which only he knows. 

o         If every girl who rolled dice wins, the Threat is defeated and Kagematsu narrates a victorious return to the village.  During this narration, he must reveal which of the girls was his “most loved”, if any.  Proceed to the Conclusion. 

o         Any girl who loses the roll immediately reduces her Hope to zero.  She will not get an epilogue during the Conclusion, and everyone else is prohibited from speaking about her again.

·          If there comes a time when no girl chooses to test her Hope, or if none of the girls have Hope left, Kagematsu is defeated; everyone immediately reduces their Hope to zero.  Proceed to the Conclusion.

After each roll a new roll is called for, until such time as Kagematsu is victorious, all the girls have their Hope reduced zero, or no girl chooses to pit her Hope against the Threat (resulting in everyone’s Hope being reduced to zero).

Sidebar: Most Loved?

It seems simple enough: When Kagematsu returns to the village, he simply has to declare which of the girls he accrued the most Love for.  However, there are a couple of things that might complicate this:

·          If the girl Kagematsu most loves was reduced to zero Hope, he can not announce his love for her, as he (like everyone else) is prohibited from speaking about her.  In this case, no girl is his “most loved”.

·          If he has accrued equal amounts of love for two or more girls, he must choose from among them.  Do not announce that there was a tie, simply declare a favorite.

The Conclusion

In the Conclusion, we get to hear how the story ends, be it tragically or happily.

·          Any girl with Hope left gets to narrate an “epilogue”.  An epilogue is a brief narrative, describing what befalls the character from this point on.  There’s no restriction on what you can narrate, except that you can not include any other player character in your narrative without their permission, including Kagematsu (unless you were his “most loved”, see below), and you may not violate anything established as fact within the game.

·          If you were Kagematsu’s most loved, you must intertwine the details of his fate into your epilogue.  In the event that no one was Kagematsu’ most loved, and he survived The Confrontation, he gets to narrate his own epilogue.

·          Girls without Hope do not get a proper epilogue, nor can they be mentioned in anyone else’s epilogue.  Their fates remain unknown.

·          If none of the girls have Hope at this point, it means Kagematsu was defeated.  Kagematsu gets to narrate the demise of the village as the Threat overwhelms it.

5 Responses to “Kagematsu: The Rules”

  1. Marc Says:

    A rules question: In the examples given in the book, it seems like Kagematsu adds his Love for the woman’s roll for the purposes of deciding whether she wins against the Threat, but I don’t see that stated anywhere in the rules. Is that the case? Is it a typo, or did I overlook something somewhere?


  2. Tumbleweed Says:

    This looks really good but there’s a few things I don’t get.

    Why would the girls want to go for any strategy other than “only the highest hope rolls”. Since victory only depends on all the girls winning the roll they’re best with just one roller.

    Or is that intentional, the girls are a team trying to nab a defender for the village; this kind of plotting makes sense (hey, it’s war. You do what you must to survive).

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