By Anthony “LibrariaNPC” DeMinico, 05 August 2020
If I could go back in time to tell younger RPG fan me one thing, it would be “More Things Are Coming.” With the increasing number of games being released thanks to crowdfunding, indie publications via Itch, and a number of games being translated and released in the West, it’s hard to keep up.
As a fan of Japanese culture and games, I always try to keep an eye out for these translated games. While I snag a few myself, some are recommendations (like my upcoming review of Kamigakari), while others are picked up or sent to me by friends that demand I read something. For example, many friends of mine were astonished to know that I had not read nor played the RPG Golden Sky Stories. Granted, I am not an expert in Japanese RPGs, but with my moderately sized collection of M.A.G.I.U.S. titles I brought back during my travels, it was still shocking to most that I had only heard of the name in passing.
Thanks to a friend’s intervention, I was able to remedy this situation and see what had drawn everyone’s attention.
Golden Sky Stories is pitched as a feel-good, family friendly, slice-of-life RPG in which you play as a henge, essentially an animal-based spirit, in a small, rural town. During play, you witness the lives of the people living in the city and interact with them as best you can…without giving away your very nature, of course.
==What You Get==
Golden Sky Stories comes in a paperback form with black-and-white artwork (and some color comics), and weighs in at 144 pages. It is a short book packed with plenty of cute, Japanese anime-inspired art, cultural notes, and a ready-to-run setting (town, pregenerated PCs, and NPCs).
Like the previously reviewed Ryuutama, Golden Sky Stories focuses on simple, pastoral lifestyle. Unlike many games, Golden Sky Stories takes place within a single, small, rural town/village/city, with a heavy emphasis on how the PCs interact with, and alter the lives of, the various inhabitants. I feel we need more titles like this; more “develop your home” and less “travel to new places, kill people, and take their stuff.”
Speaking of, this is another family friendly title in that combat isn’t a focus. In fact, the book specifically states this happens when something goes terribly wrong, and should be avoided at all costs. Again, not enough games emphasize this, in my opinion, so seeing this is a nice change of pace.
I’m also fond of how everything we need for the game is here in one little package. After reading this and making a couple copies of sheets, you can start running it relatively quickly. We have a premade town, some “actual play” examples, and with the simple mechanics, it would be easy to set up and run on relatively short notice (again, if you’ve read it). While it’s not replacing some of my default “ready to run” games, it absolutely is being kept in my pocket for a later event or when I have a strict time limit (as the sessions here are short, usually estimated at an hour or two).
Finally, I’m a sucker for the art style here. It’s not so much a “these images are breathtaking,” but rather it has that adorable style that makes you want to give head pats to all of the adorable critters.
It is obligatory to say, but this may not appeal to all audiences. Like Ryuutama, Golden Sky Stories relies heavily on Japanese society, culture, and thoughts. Everything from small town streets to the adorable tannuki require a bit of knowledge to properly portray and envision to unaware Western audiences. This is a great thing to drop onto a group at an anime convention, and, as ironic as it sounds, will probably take some work in a more rural and isolated area .
The mechanic may also be a make or break for some groups; for me, it’s a bit of a break. While it is simple and easy to grasp, it is “pricey” to get things done. In lieu of dice rolls, players have to spend from one of their limited resources to succeed; there’s no rolls, just a “Your Difficulty is X and your Rating is Y. Pay Z from your pool to succeed.” The game also relies on a form of a betting mechanic for contested rolls, where whoever is risking the most usually will win, making it a bit easier to crunch. It’s the curse of diceless games, so if they aren’t your thing, you may not like what Golden Sky Stories has to offer.
After a great deal of internal debate and deliberation, I have to leave Golden Sky Stories with my baseline of 3 buns.
A cute game that is easy to prep for, simple to track, and is kid-friendly is hard to come across, but Golden Sky Stories hits the mark across the board. While there’s some initial prepwork that will be needed, the book provides most of the tools you’ll need to get started relatively quickly.
If you’re not a fan of diceless game, Japanese culture, non-combat games, or hate cute things, you’ll want to give Golden Sky Stories a pass.
Golden Sky Stories was released in the US by Starline Publishing. Copies may be purchased as a PDF for $10 or a softcover book for $20 from Indie Press Revolution or via DriveThruRPG (physical copy will be POD).