Resources for Mountain Witch

I was first exposed to the wonder of Indie games at a presentation of indie games, hosted by Per Fischer at Fastaval in 2006. And as far as I recall, the first game I played at that presentation was Mountain Witch (the second was Dogs in the Vineyard).

For me, discovering the wonderful realm of indie games was quite a revelation. Luckily, it turned into a memorable occasion for someone else. The person running the game (I keep telling myself it was Per Fischer, but I may only have played Dogs with him; some research indicates that the GM may have been Peter Dyring-Olsen) posted an after-play report at The Forge, including the following paragraph:

But the best part of the day came, when one player asked if he could use his ”Unholy Lore” to test if he knew anything he could use against the tengu he was facing. We rolled dice and he got a success (I think it was a critical, but I’m not sure). He then looked at me, clearly expecting me to look up the monster in the book and tell him some details. But when I asked HIM to narrate, he got this weird expression – a mix between abject horror at not knowing what to say and pure bliss at the thought of the extreme freedom and co-authoring of The Mountain Witch. I could hardly keep my arms down. This was THE best moment playing tMW yet!

Yeah, that was me. I remember it distinctly. The confusion, the mixed horror and delight as I realized that it was up to me to describe what I figured out. I also remember not being satisfied with what I found out – I was still thinking so much in traditional RPG terms to tell a proper success. Besides, I think even today, a “knowledge roll” in an indie game is a tricky thing – because you’re basically throwing up the ball for future action, instead of narrating action. But I digress.

The result of that day was that I went home and ordered a bunch of games from Indie Press Revolution: With Great Power…, Dogs in the Vineyard, and Mountain Witch. Now, I’ve played a fair bit of Dogs (more, I think, than I’ve played of any other Indie game), I’ve played a few half-sessions of WGP… – but I only ever played half a session of Mountain Witch. But Tuesday, that’s going to change.

For my final game with my group at the Ungdomsskole, I’m going to run Mountain Witch with a small group of three of them. It’s a good group, all three having been part of my IaWA group. But still, I’m a little nervous. How is it going to go, I wonder? I’m far from certain I’ve got the feel for how a game of MW is supposed to go, and there will be many new techniques to try out, for me and for them. Also, I fear my players won’t properly grab on to the Dark Fates, thus leaving a tale of samurai trudging up a mountain to kill a demon, instead of a tale of treachery and tragedy, as the ideal MW I see in the text.

Alright, enough idle chatter. I told myself I’d write a brief post that would be mostly to myself, as a way to save the links to the resources for the game I’ve found around the web. Well, mission mostly failed as far as the brief is concerned, but I guess I can still gather the links I’ve found, sharing them with the world and my future self. Also, any additional links and pieces of advice you have will be greatly appreciated.

Taming the Tengu: a collection of helpful links

The official homepage of Mountain Witch: apparently, Timothy Kleinert has had some problems with hosting and suchlike for his homepage for timfire publishing. But this page contains what you might need in the way of character sheets, pre-made characters and a startup scenario, as well as printable zodiac and Dark Fate cards. There is also a text from Kleinert explaining techniques and tricks he uses when running the game.

A couple of threads from contain useful advice:

Six questions, the answers to which were very helpful.

A long list of tips and tricks. Most are referenced at the top of the thread, but timfire gives  a lot of useful advice during the whole thread.

A number of resources on Japanese mythology

The Wikipedia article on Tengu: Apparently quite a versatile creature. I’m sure to be using it in my game.

The Wikipedia article on Aokigahara: There is apparently a forest at the foot of Mount Fuji which is a popular place to commit suicide. Mood evoking? Ooh, yeah!

An encyclopedia on Japanese mythology: Someone on a forum (Story Games, probably) recommended this. It doesn’t seem to be too visual, which would be nice, and many of the entries seem a bit brief. But, what the hell – if nothing else, it’s something to Google.

A collection of Japanese mythological beasts, with pictures. I don’t particularly like the style, but they’re something to work from. The page is not all that easy to navigate, but it’s got a “random” button, which I’m sure can come in handy if you need a beast in a hurry.

And that’s it for now. An unstable internet connection meant I had to recreate some of it, so some of it is a bit briefer than I’d have liked. Ah, well.

I may post my bangs later. I’m not quite sure how to do them – I always thought bangs were all about a “hard choice” (to save my brother, or to get my revenge), but in MW, it seems to be all sort of things the GM can introduce – including monsters and puzzles.

One thing I know: I’ll be adapting the fox and the badger from Neil Gaiman’s “Dreamhunters” to use as npc’s in the game.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Yeah, that was Peter running MW at that event 🙂


    • Posted by eliashelfer on May 3, 2010 at 2:54 pm

      Ah, good. And all these years I’ve been crediting you with being the first to show me an indie game. But you ran the Dogs session in the Café afterwards, right?


      • Yup (I ran Dogs quite a few times over that weekend, it was the most popular choice by far among the many games I brought along)

  2. Posted by Peter Dyring-Olsen on May 3, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I clearly remember this! Good luck with Mountain Witch. I found it to be quite daunting and a little bit difficult and I had the exact same thoughts and uncertainties about the Bangs. My best advice is to keep the Fates and the backstabbing center stage at all time – and worry less about creating a coherent story. Remember reincorporations, though!


    • Posted by eliashelfer on May 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm

      Ok – thanks for the advice. When you say “reincorporations,” you mean re-introducing characters and events from earlier in the game, right?


  3. Posted by Peter Dyring-Olsen on May 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Exactly – as well as other details. If one player narrates a red dress into a scene, be sure to use that later on – this will create a sense of coherency, even though the game is pure Story Now. Furthermore, it can help to create a shared aesthetic space.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: