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Ryuutama - Book of Spring - Preface

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

Some of you may know that I'm fairly new to being a Game Master.

For those who don't, Hello! I'm Amber and I started GMing 3 years ago and I captured almost all of the games I've ever run in my podcast Shapeshift.

Running my first game, Damn the Man, June 2017

I started my journey running a ton of indie one-shots. Games like:

  • Damn the Man

  • Honey Heist

  • Monsterhearts 2

  • Lasers & Feelings

  • Abnormal

  • A Scoundrel in the Deep

  • # Feminism – How To Be Ava White

After experiencing incredible one-shot burnout, I decided okay, it's time to try my hand at running a campaign. I was nervous, scared, a bit overwhelmed...

BUT it turned out AWESOME!

We started in February of 2018 and finished in November of 2019. It was one of the proudest personal moments I've experienced. I have a 50ish page Google Doc that contains all of my GM notes/session prep. I've shared the game sessions with you, the public, via my podcast and now I would love to share the behind the scenes GM side along with all of the content we created as a group together over 1.75 years.

The first post in this series will cover how I went about getting the game started and prep leading up to session 0. So without further ado, here is the Book of Spring - Preface!

Getting Started

Choosing the game.

First and foremost, I chose a game I was excited for.

A game that I thought was cool, interesting, and fit my own play style. I think it's incredibly important for everyone, including the GM, to have fun with what they're playing. My buy-in and excitement about the game should feed into my players buy-in and excitement and we should become an ouroboros of "HELL YEAH THIS GAME!"

The game I ended up choosing was Ryuutama by Atsuhiro Okada.

I tell everyone that it's essentially Oregon Trail + Studio Ghibli.

If those are unfamiliar terms, then think of a video game Japanese RPG with an emphasis on nature, exploration, and relationships.

It's also fairly rules light which I find incredibly easy to run. This was helpful for me as a new GM because I personally have issues with juggling lots of information all at once. Especially numbers.

If you want to know more about the game, I was interviewed by James Introcaso on episode 129 of Table Top Babble talking about Ryuutama.

Choosing players.

I wanted a group of people who I thought would all play well together. That their personalities would mesh, support, and create a healthy engaged environment at the table.

The first person I immediately knew I wanted in my game was my partner Brandon, for several reasons.

  1. He's the one who showed me the game in the first place.

  2. He loved it just as much as I did.

  3. Incredibly creative.

  4. A good mediator who pays attention to others.

  5. He'd never played in a campaign before.

The second person on my list was my friend Kristin; a writer who enjoys character work. She's also new to roleplaying games and I thought this would be a good experience for her to grow and learn more about the hobby. Plus in the few games I've ran with her, she tends to ask a lot of questions about situations and becomes quickly engaged with the story.

Then I thought of my brother John and my friend Chris who is a long time Geekspective family member. Both of them play with me on Tales from Mauxferry and they're experienced players which I thought would help my two less experienced players.

My brother is a goofball and of course we've known each other for 30 years so we have a good dynamic at the table. Sometimes a bit testy with each other but overall lighthearted. Playing with him is a lot like when we were kids sitting on the floor of our bedroom making up stories together with our toys.

Chris is like a brother to me. We have a chiding back and forth dynamic where we give each other a lot of shit; which is fine and fun for me. On top of that good familiarity, he gives honest feedback and is more of a system minded person. I knew he would be helpful for rules consultation and supporting the mechanics of the game.

Those 4 felt like a good solid group and so the next step was to give them a pitch and ask if they wanted to play!

Setting expectations.

First, I shared the premise of Ryuutama with my players who didn't know about it yet.

Second, I told them I was wanting to run a mini-campaign:12-14 sessions max. 4 hour sessions once a month at best, schedules depending.

I set the end of campaign ahead of time and was also looking for commitment on what I laid out.

Once we all agreed, I started getting stuff together for our upcoming session 0!

Prep for Session 0

Before we sat down for our session 0 together, I spent time with the book. I learned the system and started to build a mood board on Tumblr (back when I used Tumblr).

Then, like I do for basically every game I run, I made a quick guide. Mostly I do this for me. It's how I learn a system but since I'm already putting in the effort to do so, I make it for the players as well.

For our Ryuutama game, I also used it as an opportunity to convey more of the world and feeling I was hoping to create with our game.

The Quick Guide

But first a note: at the time I did not list a safety talk during expectations and I'm not sure if we did one in our actual session 0. I can't remember. We may have even brushed it off.

Since then I've learned the importance of having that discussion even with a group you feel very comfortable with. I established it as part of my pregame discussions around mid 2018 for all my games online and off.

Okay, now here are the 8 pages I created for our group to go through together.


And that was pretty much it leading up to our session 0! Next blog post will contain all of the Session 0 Prep we did together as well as handouts I created for them right after Session 0.

Then from there I'll release all of Book of Spring's session prep and notes!

There will be a Book of Summer campaign (launch date tbd) and I'll do the same thing for it except I'll be releasing the written prep and assets as rewards on Geekspective's Patreon.

However, I've already started doing my GM Prep for it live on

Thank you for reading and if you want to skip ahead and listen to the campaign here you go: Shapeshift Book of Spring Ryuutama Campaign

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