Tale of Ronin

The Intention System: Agency in Tale of Ronin

One of the main pillars of Tale of Ronin’s game design is freedom. A ronin, a masterless samurai, is free to do whatever they desire. This is in stark contrast to a samurai retainer, whose choices are often extremely limited by the wishes of their master.

Many design elements are intended to simulate freedom. Players are free to walk anywhere, interact with anyone, fight with whomever they wish, and take on any missions they desire. However, during playtesting and roleplaying as a ronin, we felt that something was missing. We believed that the ronin required even more agency in the game world. This need for freedom inspired the Intention System.

This system models the basic intentions that the playable ronin might have, which are derived from the intentions of the player. By activating an intention for the playable ronin, the player can modify the available dialogue options. This technique allows the playable ronin to want what the player wants.

For instance, players may wish to hire any ronin they encounter on the roads and add new warriors to their playable roster. To do this, they can activate the “Hire Ronin” intention. This will make a dialog option available during encounters with another ronin, allowing the player to invite them to join their party. Disabling this intention will remove the dialog option from future encounters.

The currently designed intentions include:

  • Ask for Food Survival is a fundamental challenge for all ronin. They may find themselves in a dire situation where obtaining food becomes their main priority. In such cases, the ronin may have the option to ask others for food, but this is considered shameful behavior for their station.
  • Steal from Others In extreme cases, the player (and the ronin) may want to abandon ethics and steal food or money from other characters they encounter. However, there are tradeoffs to these actions—namely, the risk of conflict and death.
  • Purchase Food If the ronin has enough money, he can offer to purchase food from the various people he encounters.
  • Look for Simple Work As a ronin, one can always resort to simple chores to earn a few coins, even if it may bring shame. Ultimately, it is up to the player to decide where to sacrifice honor for the sake of survival.
  • Challenge Samurai The existence of a samurai as a warrior is closely tied to combat. Challenging other samurai to duels and winning is a way for a ronin to gain some fame, reduce their shame, and feel honorable once again.
  • Hire Ronin The ability to add other masterless samurai to your party is crucial to a ronin’s survival in the harsh and unforgiving regions of early Edo period Japan. This feature allows players to offer other ronin the opportunity to join their party.
  • Observe the Road The ronin usually moves quickly to reach his destination. However, sometimes aimless exploration can lead to new opportunities for a wandering ronin. When this mindset is active, the ronin will notice subtle details and cues while exploring that they normally would not pay attention to.

These intentions are currently being tweaked and tested. As we progress with the development of the game, we may realize that the ronin needs other intentions. This all depends on the “Player Desires” we identify during playtesting. Ultimately, allowing a player to roleplay involves letting them pick their desires while playing. This is the goal of the Intention System in Tale of Ronin.