Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Yama Hachiyama
I love Dungeons and Dragons. I have been playing, more or less, once a week for over two years and I don't ever plan to stop playing. Most of the times I've played Dungeons and Dragons, I have been the Dungeon Master. For those who don't know, a Dungeon Master is the guy who is in charge of telling the story, determining what monsters and characters the other players come across and, in essence, is the god of the world the players explore. As an author, it gives me a chance to flex my creative muscles.

So, it is not that often, especially lately, that I have been able to play instead of DM. On Sunday, my friend Zach started a new Advance Dungeons and Dragons campaign with us set in an Asiatic setting, much like Edo Japan (think Inuyasha). I was skeptical, at first, because I thought that myself and the other two player characters would have to be human. Instead, I discovered a race called Hengeyokai.

Hengeyokai are animal spirits or demons that can switch between an animal form, a bipedal monstrous form and a human form. A Hengeyokai can be any kind of animal and I couldn't help myself but be drawn to the Japanese Raccoon Dog or Tanuki. I could go into a whole entire blog about tanuki because of just how weird and interesting Japanese folklore on the subject is. They are so interesting that Studio Ghibli made a film about them called Pom Poko.

I decided to be a Tanuki Hengeyokai bushi ("warrior") and went about making my character. One of the funnest parts of playing Dungeons and Dragons is making characters. My friends and I must have took about two or three hours coming up with the basics of who our characters are and were. I eventually came to mold my character piece by piece.

First, I started with an image in my head of a giant warrior that would tower over others and was basically a man-mountain. At first, he was only 6' tall but, by the end, he ended up 6'6'', in his human form, and weighs over 300 lbs. I made him a soft spoken, kind and gentle giant that walks softly and carries a big, big stick (Tetsubo- a type of Japanese mace). Then came the name, Yama Hachiyama. 
Being a simple creature, he named himself  Hachiyama (Eight Mountains) and his family name was simply Yama (Mountain). He came from the mountains and is as big a mountain. The name just fit. A simple but memorable name is one of the most important parts of creating a character, especially in a fantasy setting.

His companions are a Hare Hengeyokai Wujen (wizard) and a human Kensei (swordsman).By the end of our first session, Hachiyama had the biggest kill count, the human swordsman won two duels and the wizard leveled up to level 4. It was probably the most successful first session in my life!

I really enjoyed playing Yama Hachiyama and hopefully I can play him again soon.

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