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Michael Hopcroft

"That Japanese Play"

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I just got back from my Anime club's Halloween party, and the big hit of the evening was undoubtedly an adaptation of the classic Japanese ghost story "Yotsuya Kaidan". And the big thing about the adaptation was that it dwelt on the classic play's having a reputation similar to, if not deadlier than, that of "Macbeth" in the English-language theatre.

 

The story is classic revenge tragedy: a social-climbing samurai drives his wife to suicide so that he can marry into greater wealth and prestige, before dying she swears vengeance and then All the Million Hells Break Loose. The murderous samurai starts to go mad, killing his new wife and patron after mistaking them for ghosts, jumping and cutting at shadows, and generally going to pieces. Meanwhile, one of his co-conspirators is dragged into the ghost's revenge as her sister uses a classic Japanese method to remedy an impossible moral dilemma after her old love appears to come back from the dead. The murderer is finally confronted and destroyed, by now throughly insane, with the aid of a horde of large rats.

 

But it doesn't stop there, for as the author of the play explains numerous untimely deaths -- including his own -- became entwined with the production, filming, etc. of Yotsuiya Kaiden, to the point that actors pray to the shrine of the fictional ghost's family for forgiveness. In the climax of the animated version, the playwright begs the ghost to expend her final fury on him so that future generations would be spared. Apparently the response was not in the affirmative....

 

Now literature and lore is full of cursed plays, both real and fictional (In the weird fiction of Robert Chambers, the play The King in Yellow was under such a hideous curse that even reading it through was enough to render mortal life pointless, much less attempting to produce it). I was wondering if such things have come up in people's games and how they dealt with them.

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Re: "That Japanese Play"

 

The King in Yellow spawned the Necronomicon, at least in part, so I'd say the pedigree is there. I've used the King in Yellow in an extremely effective short Lovecraftian Call of Cthulhu campaign, where a bunch of film students from the Pi Omicron Delta fraternity decide to film it for their senior project.

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Re: "That Japanese Play"

 

Those students earn points for non-intelligence.

 

Speaking of Yotsuya Kaiden, would there be any point in writing up the yurei at all? Or does she primarily exist in the mind of the samurai who wronged her? her principal power seems to be causing things to appear that lead him to do unspeakable things in his terror.

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Re: "That Japanese Play"

 

Those students earn points for non-intelligence.

 

Speaking of Yotsuya Kaiden, would there be any point in writing up the yurei at all? Or does she primarily exist in the mind of the samurai who wronged her? her principal power seems to be causing things to appear that lead him to do unspeakable things in his terror.

 

Hmm... I think I reference this story in Asian Bestiary II, under the yurei section.

 

As to writing up the yurei, it becomes a question of what you want to do with it. If the samurai is an NPC, for example, and totally under the GM's control then you might not need a character sheet for the ghost. The PCs have to deal with the samurai and his actions and may never know if the ghost is real or all in the samurai's head. However, if you're playing a more, well, "anime" game, where the PCs might be Shino miko mediums, ghost-busting Buddhists (or is that Taoists?), magicians, and the like, then you probably need a character sheet so the PCs have something to interact with (on a game mechanics level.)

 

This (IMO) is a very campaign-style/specific question.

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