Bi-Weekly Design Blog #3: More than just Chopsticks and Sushi

Hello and konnichiwa!

Two weeks ago we looked at the reality of designing an Asian setting for a Western audience, and how it’s a lot like a Serbian Irish band. Today’s post continues from where we left off.

Back to our Serbian Irish band (last time, I promise). How do they “sell” Irish? It's an important question, because it’s what a good GM does at the table all the time, as they sell their world to the players.


It comes down to cues, those things that scream “Irish” or “celtic” so hard that you’ll look past the “non-Irish” disparities in the video (even if just for a moment). It’s his hat, it’s the bodhrán, it's the grass in his mouth.

Roleplaying is very much about cues. Traits are cues, Steampunk Musha’s philosophies and classes are all cues. The fact that we renamed the fighter to the ashigaru is a huge cue, and there are many examples besides that. These cues are there to give Rosuto-Shima form and make it come alive at the table. If players find it easy to imagine the lands and peoples of Rosuto-Shima, then I know I’ve done my job as a line developer and writer well, there is no greater reward than this.

Often cues are drawn from stereotypes and assumptions. This is great if you’re playing a cackling goblin or a monologuing villain, but Steampunk Musha asks you to dig deeper than chopsticks and sushi, because nothing is ever as simple as it seems in Rosuto-Shima, where oni walk among us and the kami play their games.

Here are some major themes in Steampunk Musha:

vs Technology.

Indigenous vs Foreign (Gaijin).

Philosophies, and how they stand among other philosophies.

The Seen vs The Unseen, and, by extension, The Public Face vs The Private Face.

All of these themes are at the core of Steampunk Musha, and each has its own set of cues that breathe life into the world.

Art is a useful resource for tapping into cues. If you need some great Japanese art for your game you can find some great Hokusai resources over at

Till next time!

Rodney Sloan, Line developer for Steampunk Musha at Fat Goblin Games.

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