Shinobigami is set in a version of modern-day Japan, one where mysterious and powerful ninja clans rule from the shadows. For the most part, normal people are entirely unaware of the existence of “real” ninja, and at the very least would never guess that they are fighting in an unending cold war around them. There are six core clans in Shinobigami, and each clan has a goal that is instilled in all the members of the clan.
The Hasuba Ninja Army are a clan of scientists, engineers and technicians. They aim to learn the ultimate powers (ohgi) of the other ninja clans in order to replicate these abilities through science, and bring about a better era for mankind.
Kurama Shin Clan are elite ninja warriors, soldiers, guards and spies who focus on physical and martial abilities. They have one purpose: To prevent the resurrection of the mysterious Shinobigami.
Lost Ones are not a clan but rather unorganized individual ninja who left other clans, or are descended from runaway ninjas. While they are not necessarily hunted down, they do try to stay out of the business of others. If they fight at all, they fight for their own reasons. To blend into society and avoid the machinations of the ninja cold war, they have mastered arts of stealth, concealment and disguise.
Otogi Private Academy is the most elite school system in all of Japan… which brainwashes its students into becoming a powerful ninja army for the new generation. They specialize in study, tactics and strategy, and have survived by keeping their ear to the ground: Their goal is to learn the secrets of the other ninja they encounter.
The Hirasaka Agency form the backbone of Japan: Government workers and agents of the Shinto religion. While they excel in schemes and manipulation, their sole goal is to protect the material and spiritual interests of Japan.
Bloodline of Oni include strange members indeed: Sorcerers, spirits, vampires and the cursed. While they are not necessarily evil as a group, they are certainly the masters of the dark magics ninjas are famous for, from Illusion to Possession to even Necromancy. Their goal is to bring about the rise of the Shinobigami, the god of the ninja.
These clans are in a constant fluctuating state of unease and balance, partnership and cold war. When an object, information or person (the “prize”) emerges that will change the balance between the clans, ninjas assemble and vie for control.
WHAT IS THE SHINOBIGAMI?
Ahhh, the Shinobigami. Yes. The very thing written on the title of the book, and which two clans have a focused relationship with.
What is the Shinobigami, indeed.
Shinobigami literally means “God of the Shinobi (Ninja)”.
However, what that means is going to entirely depend upon the events that happen in play, or the direction of the game master when running the game. For the most part, that answer doesn’t matter: Not even most of the ninjas in the clans fighting for the coming of or prevention of the Shinobigami truly understand what the Shinobigami is. That reality will be set later in the game by the players as the story develops.
In your stories, the Shinobigami might be an actual god or demon; an extremely secretive, ancient and forgotten ninja bloodline; a prophecized unborn ninja master; a viral idea; or some new possibility altogether
The interesting thing about the Shinobigami game is that it provides enough information to set up a session, but there are not details on the cities of Japan, pages of notes or maps about the setting and the like. Instead, those details emerge in play. While the game’s default setting is Japan (and in fact dice tables are provided in the book to assist with naming characters that appear in the game), it can of course be set anywhere in the world. The setting is sparse so that the players can create and embellish ideas in play.
For example: Can a ninja recognize another ninja on the street? (by “spidey sense” or appearance or something?) What does using the magical skill Clairvoyance or Binding look like? How many people in my character’s clan know of my existence? Questions like these are answered in play. When it is your scene, and a question about the setting comes up, it becomes the player’s responsibility to tell the others what the real answer is, what form reality takes.