In 2013, I started then had to prematurely stop a super-heroic RP. I took to the forum to explain to the participants the plot and why I decided to cut it short. I’ve learned a lot since this time, but I wanted to share some of my thought processes and insight into the type of RP’s I’ve participated in.
With me pulling the plug on “The Snake Knows…” I thought I would post a few notes about how the story got started, what I learned in this effort, and possible endings. A confluence of factors led to me trying to run it as a RP and I appreciated everyone’s help in trying to pull it off.
The initial impetus for the story came from a reading of Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein. I had friends that decided to stay in Japan as hostesses after their contracts with the JET Programme ended and I met a few hostesses during outings into Tokyo. Many of them described the “Job” like paid dating with a real potential to receive expensive gifts and money before heading back to home countries. I don’t think anyone understood the dangers that went into the job and/or the business’ ties to the forced sexual exploration of hundreds of women throughout Japan.
Armed with some new information from the book and my own experience, a mystery involving the disappearance of an American hostess seemed like a good fit for Chance. I originally saw the tale as a 5 to 7-part short story and sketched out this outline:
* Investigate the death of an English teacher
* Chance visits a local crime boss
* Discovers she was working as a prostitute
* Discovers she was talking to a reporter
* Questions reporter
* Learns girl talked to him about forced sex workers
* Something leads him to murderer
* Discovered murder with introduced to victims by pimp of forced laborers
* Chance is told the pimp is untouchable to police due to a tip years before.
* Chance confronts pimp.
As I wrote the outline, I realized that I didn’t know what Chance would do when he solved the case or the particulars of how he would solve it. This isn’t unusual for me. I set my characters up with a base framework of a story and I write what they do and how they react using their voice in my head. This case would challenge Chance, calling into question what he would find acceptable in a pursuit of justice. I honestly didn’t know how this would turn this out.
Given that a few of friends had asked Chance about the next time he was going to Japan, I thought I would open the story up to other players. It would provide an excuse for Chance to go back to Japan for something other than meeting his contacts in the intelligence services or Yakuza and give me an opportunity to play with a different group of people. I was also very curious to see if the other players could come up with a solution I did not.
Think I overshot with this story as an introduction to my storytelling style, but I found it a valuable experience. I don’t think I would have used two pronged story as my first RP with this group. Sticking to a single objective would have made it easier to maintain focus and shortened duration. Some in game time would have really helped things along. The setting added unnecessary complexity. The Japanese legal system is considerably different from Western organizations, as are the populace’s relationship with the police.
While it provided some great character moments, this story could at best end in a draw. I. Didn’t hear any plan so far that would lead to shutting down the Nigerians permanently or getting Kumagae convicted with certainty. That might be a standard in the worlds I usually GM for, dark fantasy, but it doesn’t work too well for superheroes.
So, what happened next?
If the group can get the women away from the Nigerians and to the Polaris Project, the women will be safe. This seemed very likely. The nightclub owners have no reach outside of Japan. Unfortunately, it is just a matter of time before the two start again with another collection of foreigners. It’s possible that anonymous tips about drugs in the bar will finally attract the attention of the police and get the Nigerias deported, eventually.
I’m still struggling about Kumagae. Initially, I believed Chance would steal video of the man assaulting a clearly drugged hostess, then handing that footage over to the reporter for Pittard to give to his contacts at the police. This would force a search of Kumagae’s house and reveal hours and hours of video. This is by no means a slam dunk. It took years to convict Joji Obara, the criminal upon which I based Kumagae, and they had similar evidence in that case.
To give the party a “win” I had considered making Kumagae a kappa, a type of Japanese vampire. That would give the group something to fight against and offer a clear victory over an evil creature. I wasn’t sure I was going with this idea and was waiting to see how things went at the noodle shop.
In either case, I found it pretty likely that Kumagae would meet some form of justice for assaulting and killing an unknown number of hostesses.
Stephanie Burdette would eventually turn herself over to police and be charged with the Japanese version of obstruction of justice, get released after she makes a public apology, then quietly booted out of Japan with a request to never return.
Pittard is finished as a reporter in Japan. Loosely based on Jake Adelstein, I imagine him starting to work for a human right organization trying to end exploitation in Japan. It will consume the rest of his life.
One last note, the title “The Snake Knows…” comes from the Japanese proverb, “The snake knows the way of the serpent.” It reflects something that Jake Adelstein was told when assigned the Lucie Blackman case. It takes a foreigner to investigate a crime involving foreigners, basically.