Sunday, August 30, 2020

Intercultural Miscellany - World in Motion, First Contact, Cultural Appropriation, Indian House, Migration Museum

A Picture of Change for a World in Constant Motion
Jason Farago
New York Times

"During Hokusai’s lifetime, Japanese were barred from leaving the country, on pain of death. But the country was not totally closed. Some foreign goods could come in. And some foreign techniques, too. Do you see, here, how the traveler in the back is so much smaller than the woman who’s lost her papers? And how sharply the landscape slopes up? A hallmark of Renaissance image-making. Hokusai was among the first Japanese artists to employ Western perspective, though he used it playfully. Hokusai would have picked up this perspectival technique from Dutch prints circulating in Edo, even as elsewhere, in the same image, Hokusai employs a perspectival technique common in Asian painting, with similarly sized figures positioned along diagonal sightlines. That, too, was imported knowledge, absorbed from Chinese examples into earlier Japanese painting."

"In 1867, the World’s Fair took place in Paris. Japan participated for the first time, and displayed coats of armor, swords, statues - and woodblock prints. The French went wild. A critic at the fair singled out Hokusai. What these young moderns loved were the prints. Hokusai’s example would soon influence the work of Paris’s modern artists. Mary Cassatt, for instance. She learned from Japanese printmakers to create spaces of blocky color, with hard transitions from tone to tone. Or her friend Edgar Degas, whose flat and asymmetrical spaces channel the Japanese model into the opera house and the ballet studio. These Parisians understood the prints they were looking at only in part. They made foolish, patronizing generalizations."

"Like most fantasies, 'Japonisme' said more about the fantasizer than the fantasized. These Parisians, defeated in war and rocketing through industrialization, saw themselves in landscapes that were both ageless and adrift. And Hokusai, who’d already metabolized Western technique into his images of Japan, was the perfect vessel for their dreaming."

First Contact
David Olusoga

"In the 15th and 16th centuries distant and disparate cultures met, often for the first time. These encounters provoked wonder, awe, bafflement and fear. Art was always on the frontline. Each cultural contact at this time left a mark on both sides: the magnificent Benin bronzes record the meeting of an ancient West African kingdom and Portuguese voyagers in a spirit of mutual respect and exchange. By contrast we think Spain's conquest of Central America in the 16th century as decimating the Aztecs and eviscerating their culture. But even in Mexico rare surviving Aztec artworks recall a more nuanced story."

"The Tokugawa Shogunate, after an initial embrace, became so wary of outside interference that they sought to cut ties with the outside world. But in their art, as in their trade, they could never truly isolate themselves from foreign influences. By contrast the Protestant Dutch Republic was itself an entirely new kind of creature: a market driven nation-state. It was a system that created new freedoms and opportunities. The British in India: at first the British were as open to foreign influence as the Dutch. But by the 1800s they became more aggressive and the era of encounters gave way to the era of muscular empire, that was dismissive of India's arts and cultures."

How to Change Your Conversations about Cultural Appropriation
James Mendez Hodes

"A cultural practice or cultural expression is a mode of behavior, communication, or self-assertion with origins or close associations with a certain culture. Either internal factors or external factors may form those associations. Cultural exchange is one culture’s adoption of cultural practices or expressions originating with another culture. We’ll call the former culture the adopters, the latter the originators. Cultural appropriation is an instance of cultural exchange which aggravates, entrenches, trivializes, or mocks a power imbalance between an enfranchised adopter and a systemically oppressed originator. An instance of cultural appropriation may also have positive or benign effects - for the originator, the adopter, or third parties - which exist in parallel to the appropriative dynamic."

"What’s the context? What does it look like without that context? What power dynamics differentiate adopters and originators? What’s the connection between adopter and originator? What’s the tone? Who feels hurt, and why? Where I hope this analytical strategy takes us is the complicated places. Where expressions are simultaneously racist and anti-racist. Where different subaltern groups borrow from each other along intersectional gradients of power that leave each group empowered over the other in a different way. Where there’s contradiction, harm and help given and taken simultaneously, or long histories of borrowed expressions becoming the adopter’s cultural signifiers. The most complex, challenging questions of cultural appropriation concern marginalized groups exchanging culture with one another."

This is an Indian House, According to One Architect
Aatish Taseer
New York Times

"Indian architecture was effortlessly palimpsestic, a place on which layer upon layer of thought and reverie had been inscribed, and yet no succeeding layer had completely hidden or erased what had been written previously. India's oldest stone buildings are stupas and rock-cut caves of Buddhist origin. These were preceded by an older tradition of building in wood. When Buddhism declined in India, and resurgent Hindu faith rose, it was the ghost of Buddhist architecture, visible in both the apsidal shape of certain temples and in the use of stone-latticed windows, that was resurrected in a new tradition of Hindu temple architecture."

"With the coming of Islam, many features of Indian building, such as screens, carved brackets, corbeled arches and deep eaves projecting hard black shadows, became part of Indo-Islamic architecture. Dynasties rose and fell, the religious makeup of India changed, but Indian architecture, like Indian food, music and literature, was able to absorb the new influences."

"The English writer Robert Byron makes an important distinction between what he describes as 'fusion' and 'allusion'. The first is the use of diverse architectural inventions and ornamental themes, whatever their dates or racial origins, simply for their practical value in creating and artistic unity and in giving effect to the values of mass, space, line and coherence in the whole design. The second is the use of these same inventions and themes in a mood of reminiscence regardless of their relevance to mass, space, line and coherence."
A New Type of Museum for an Age of Migration
Jason Farago
New York Times

"A whole new order is proposed, one that does not care about an artwork’s uniqueness, a dress’s elegance, or an artifact’s fine condition. What matters here is movement - how objects and forms circulate through time and across the globe."

"Here’s an example: Two pieces of blue-and-white pottery are on display - a vase ringed with Persian script and a porcelain dish decorated with Chinese characters. They both date from around the late 16th century. But it turns out that the 'Persian' one was made in China, while the 'Chinese' one comes from Iran, and on both of them the characters are nonsense. Their meaning lies not in the gobbledygook written on their surfaces, but on the trade routes they map and the relationships they signify."

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Give me fat novels stuffed with learning and rare words

Steven Moore's history of the novel opens with a defense of difficult literature. The type of books he praises, books with stylized prose and experimental plot structures, are unquestionably books I want to read. The pleasure I feel when reading a love story told via a museum catalog of artifacts of a failed relationship, or a chronicle of academic failure inferred only through letters of recommendation, reminds me of the feeling I got as a child, reading the key to a dungeon and assembling a narrative of the place in my mind as I went. And really, several of the tricks Moore mentions sound like they'd make good organizing principles for dungeons.

"Give me fat novels stuffed with learning and rare words, lashed with purple prose and black humor; novels patterned after myths, the Tarot, the Stations of the Cross, a chessboard, a dictionary, an almanac, the genetic code, a game of golf, a night at the movies; novels with unusual layouts, paginated backward, or with sentences running off the edges, or printed in different colors, a novel on yellow paper, a wordless novel in woodcuts, a novel of first chapters, a novel in the form of an anthology, Internet postings, or an auction catalog; huge novels that occupy a single day, slim novels that cover a lifetime; novels with footnotes, appendices, bibliographies, star charts, fold-out maps, or with a reading comprehension test or Q&A supplement at the end; novels peppered with songs, poems, lists, excommunications; novels whose chapters can be read in different sequences, or that have 150 possible endings; novels that are all dialogue, all footnotes, all contributors' notes, or one long paragraph; novels that begin and end midsentence, novels in fragments, novels with stories within stories; towers of babble, slang, shoptalk, technical terms, sweet nothings; give me many-layered novels that erect a great wall of words for protection against the demons of delusion and irrationality loose in the world."

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

DCC Occupations for the Occupationist's Female Relative

A recent comment on my post about the trend of naming books for "the occuaptionist's female relative" gave me the idea that it might be fun to use these as 0th-level occupations for Dungeon Crawl Classics. The result is a varied and interesting list, different from anything I would have written myself, in a way that I find appealing.

Roll 1d20 to determine your relative's occupation. This provides your trained skill, your starting weapon, and one piece of equipment. Roll 1d6 to determine your relationship to them. This provides your Lucky Sign and a single-use magic item.

Ronja, the (12) Robber's (2) Daughter


1   Antelope - antelope's horns (1d6, use crit table M) - bottle of antelope milk

2   Bonesetter - bone saw (as short-sword) - bandage and batch of plaster

3   Clockmaker - clockmaker's tools (as dagger, usable as thieves' tools) - clock missing 1d4 parts

4   Hangman - length of executioners's rope (as garrote, wielder can Backstab as Thief) - 2 gold coins

5   Heretic - cruciform dagger - apocryphal illuminated manuscript missing 1d4 pages

6   Hummingbird - rapier (as short sword) - green feathered cloak

7   Kitchen God - fireplace iron (as mace) - 12 small cakes with silver coins baked inside

8   Liar - club - deck of marked cards and set of weighted dice

9   Lighthouse Keeper - lamplighter's pole (as staff) - lantern and flask of lamp oil

10 Memory Keeper - shepherd's crook (as staff) - handwritten chronicle of your village's history

11 Orphan Master - willow switch (as club) - large gunny sack

12 Robber - shortbow - climbing rope and key to the city jail

13 Stargazer - sling - telescope and hand-drawn celestial map

14 Taxidermist - flensing knife (as dagger) - glass jar of formaldehyde and pair of glass eyes

15 Tiger - tiger's teeth (1d8, use crit table M) - children's book of jungle animal stories

16 Time Traveler - deer-hunting bow (as shortbow) - pocketwatch that runs backward

17 Traitor - backstabbing knife (as dagger, wielder can Backstab as Thief) - letter of marque

18 Witch - broom (as staff) - talking cat (AC 11, 1 hp, MV 20' or climb 10', SV +0, AL  N)

19 Witchfinder - witch-pricking needle (as dagger) - flask of holy water

20 Zookeeper - catch pole (no damage, but add +1d6 to grappling roll) - giraffe calf (as pony)


Daughter - hp/level and Deity Disapproval - saint's medallion (use in prayer to heal 1d4 hp)

Daughter - Initiative and Thief skills - magic arrow (+1 to attack and damage, ignore resistance, can be wielded as dagger)

Daughter - Reflex saves and Grappling checks - rag doll (use to change fumble to miss)

Sister - Armor Class, ability checks, and occupational skill checks - jade amulet (1 point of Luck to spend)

Wife - Fortitude saves and damage rolls - manticore's tooth (use to change hit to critical hit)

6  Wife - Willpower saves and spellcasting checks - oracle bones (consult to learn if planned action is weal or woe, 75% accurate)

Thank you to mudfish for the inspiration!

Sunday, August 16, 2020

XP for Exploration - Maps, Monster Drawings, and More!

In a game about traveling, it makes sense that experience might primarily come from travel itself rather than from finding treasures or defeating monsters.

In Ryuutama, players earn a single XP award each time they finish a "leg" of their journey, based on the most difficult terrain they passed through on that part of their trip. You can earn 100-500 experience per trip, depending on the terrain and weather, plus a possible bonus for the most difficult combat, typically another 30-60. The XP totals needed to level up are comparable to 5e.

Players are encouraged to keep travelogues about their journeys, but I don't think there's a mechanical benefit to doing so. There is one other possible reward though - once per section of the trip, a Minstrel character can write a song about either the weather or the terrain, then sing it later under similar conditions to help out the other party members.

One consequence of this system is that it's more rewarding to take trips with short legs and frequent stopovers than to travel long stretches without visiting a town. It's an experience system that is well-suited to a game where you're traveling through settled lands, and where you're interested in staying awhile in each settlement. It would work less well in a campaign where you're exploring trackless wilderness, or where you pause at waystations so briefly that they're little different from any other campsite. It's also an experience system that's better suited to maps where players have some freedom to decide both where they'll travel and how they'll get there. It would work less well on map with only a single fixed route.

In Neoclassical Geek Revival, Zzarchov also awards XP directly for travel and exploration. Zzarchov's system is intended to reward and encourage longer journeys. Each session, each new room visited within a dungeon is worth more XP than the previous room - but if the players leave the dungeon, the reward resets to zero. The goal is to tempt players, perhaps against their better judgment, to press on further each delve than they might go otherwise.

"Experience points for a dungeon are granted based on how many rooms you had previously explored for the first time in this delve. The first new room might be worth 0xp, the second 10xp, the third an additional 30, the fourth an additional 60. This leads characters to constantly risk defeat by wanting one more room since leaving the dungeon to rest will reset the XP clock as it were. Trying to make it through that 13th room (which may be empty) is worth 780xp now or 0 if they return to the surface to rest. "

If we applied this system to overland travel, the specific unit of exploration that replaces "room" would depend on the kind of map you draw, whether hexes, grids, points, or something else. The most important thing to notice is that this system discourages the players from stopping in town. The longer they can remain out in the field, the more each discovery will be worth. This encourages an entirely different playstyle than Ryuutama's experience system.

The Dwimmermount megadungeon includes supplemental rules for earning experience (and money!) by selling maps of the dungeon and by selling clues that help answer key questions about the dungeon's history. I first learned about these mechanics from Dreams in the Lich House's review of Dwimmermount. In any game where players earn experience for finding treasure, setting our rules to assign prices to maps and clues creates a way for players to earn experience for exploration that fits within the existing framework of gp = XP.

The review suggests some basic considerations for anyone designing rules for assigning values to maps. "The book provides guidelines on the value of player maps based on the number of doors and rooms, and these scale with the depth of the dungeon level from hundreds to thousands of gold pieces in value." I suspect this works best when the players actually draw out a map. You could probably come up with a similar framework for assigning monetary values (and experience!) to player-written session reports, if you wanted to make an incentive for keeping diaries as well as for drawing maps.

One decision you would need to make would be whether to have the value of the map increase with its size in such a way that players get more for making several small maps or more for producing a single larger map. It initially seems to me more appropriate to make a single large map worth more than the sum of its smaller parts, but there is one reason to set the prices so that several small maps are worth more than the single collected version.

Players could face an interesting decision-making dilemma if selling maps creates a risk where rival adventurers might use the maps to swoop in and snatch up treasures the players hadn't collected yet. This dilemma is more severe if small maps are worth more than large ones. If the multi-session map is worth more, then there's little incentive to sell the map until after all the exploration is complete and all the treasures collected. If single-session maps are worth more, then the players will have to decide if the predictable depreciation of the map price is worth more than the potential, unpredictable loss of unclaimed treasures to rival adventurers.

Deciding on prices for clues to campaign setting mysteries seems like it might require the game master knowing what the all the mysteries and their solutions are. Without knowing those things, it might be hard to decide what counts as a clue, and when the players have accumulated enough clues to sell off their accumulated evidence.

Unlike with the maps, there doesn't seem to be any trade-off holding on to clues until you can sell a complete answer - aside from the general financial dilemma of whether you need money right now so badly that you're willing to accept less money overall to get some of it right away. My inclination is to say that complete answers should be worth quite a bit more than the individual clues that lead up to them.

The review provides a glimpse of what the maximum level of game master pre-planning and organization might look like. "Players can monetize exploration by recovering the secret history of Dwimmermount. There's a thorough discussion of the secret history, organized numerically, and these key facts can be gleaned throughout the dungeon from a range of sources. There are over 80 of them! Bringing evidence corroborating the secret history facts back to the surface allows the players to sell this information for exorbitant amounts of money when they accumulate enough facts to answer key questions about the world."

Travel and collecting clues about campaign mysteries are both types of exploration. Mapping and note-taking are both ways that players document what they've explored. Melancholies and Mirth has a guide to awarding experience for both exploration and combat. The key idea here seems to be running a campaign where the players still earn XP for treasure, but where the primary source of treasure is bringing documents and objects to interested organizations within the game world, rather than treasure hunting per say.

As with Dwimmermont, earning any of these rewards requires the players to find an NPC who wants to buy what they're selling. In Dwimmermount though, I think the conceit is that basically everyone is interested in maps and clues about the megadungeon - so the players can sell to whoever they like, and might use these sales to improve their relationship with key NPC factions. In these rules, certain organizations exist in every town, and serve more as generic quest-givers than as well-developed NPCs. There's nothing actually preventing giving those buyers names and personalities though, so if your players seem to prefer some quests more than others, it might be worth developing the NPCs on the other side of those transactions a bit more.

Melancholies and Mirths assigns prices to both dungeon maps and maps of the countryside, to secrets and pieces of history, to proof-of-death for both monsters and human NPC criminals, and to a few other things, including rare materials, presumably the type that can be used to make magic items. Again, the main difference between this and any other campaign is that most of the money and XP the players earn will come from exploration and collecting non-monetary treasures rather than from finding hordes of coins; and none of the XP rewards are automatic, but only occur after the players bring the desired objects to their respective NPC admirers.

A couple other bloggers have suggested creating rewards like this, but they've built the chance to earn additional experience into specific new character classes, rather than writing them up as opportunities that any character might participate in. I suppose this has the benefit of letting interested players portray particular archetypes (with their game master's permission, presumably) while leaving the primary game rules untouched.

One possible downside though would be if this turned into "my character gets extra treasure and levels up faster for doing the same kinds of things as everyone else". So if you did introduce rules that award XP for exploration to some characters and not others, I think you'd want to be vigilant to the possibility of conflict arising over perceptions of unfairness. (Although I haven't tried that, so I might be worrying about a possibility that doesn't arise often in practice.)

Cavegirl presents an Artist character class who can spend an hour of game time to paint "an unusual or impressive sight - which might be a strange landscape, monster, magnificent chamber in a dungeon, supernatural phenomenon, or something else". Paintings are worth 500 in cash and XP. The Artist's other abilities are pretty negligible, they're like a Thief with no thief skills, or a Wizard with no spells, so maybe leveling up really fast is fair compensation? I like the idea of roleplaying a character who's an artist, but I feel like the Artist would be a more interesting class if they were more like the Ryuutama Minstel or Goblin Punch's Bug Collector class, where the reward for identifying and studying an impressive site is to gain a new special ability that can only be acquired this way.

Monsters and Manuals suggests an Adventurer Sage class who earns money and XP for selling drawings of monsters, specimens of monsters, and of course, maps of dungeons and wilderness sites. The sizable rewards for bringing back complete monster corpses and capturing living monsters might even be enough to prompt players to approach combat differently than they usually would. This isn't far off from Melancholies and Mirth's alternate experience system, except that the Sage is the only character who benefits from it. Again, I like the idea of portraying a botanist or zoologist who's more interested in collecting natural specimens than in hunting for monetary treasure. It sounds fun. But beyond that concept, I'm not sure that being able to earn XP in an unusual way is very interesting as a character class's only special ability.

When I first saved the links to both these classes, I expected I'd be praising them, but on reflection, I think it would be better to make the cash and experience rewards for painting landscapes and studying monsters into general rules that could apply to any character. Aside from a class name that can provide a jumping off point for roleplaying a fussy aesthete or a nerdy scientist, neither the Artist or Adventurer Sage can actually do anything that other characters can't. They're like fighters with smaller Hit Dice, less armor, and lower XP requirements to gain levels.

In Final Fantasy VI, Relm is an artist who can sketch monsters and then summon magical monster drawings to fight on her behalf, Strago is a magician who can study monsters' magical abilities and then cast them as spells himself, and Gau is a feral child who can observe monsters' natural behavior and enter a rage where he imitates their physical attacks. Something like that interests me, personally, far more than class-specific experience bonuses.

So if I think that XP for exploration should be universal rather than character specific, what kinds of rewards do I think should be available to character classes that are especially exploration focused? I mentioned Ryuutama's Minstrel back at the beginning. Like most other bard-like characters, they can inspire others to do better on certain rolls, but with an added mini-game of learning songs while you travel that can only inspire under certain terrain and weather conditions. In some sense, the Minstrel is worse than other bards, since they can't sing their songs just any time, but somehow the mental challenge of deciding which songs to learn, and the emotional reward you experience when your planning pays off later seems to make up for that limitation. It's an ability that's less useful, but more fun. (It's also unlikely to ever be use-less, unlike some other "Goldilocks" abilities. You don't have to pick your songs in advance, unlike a ranger selecting their Favored Enemy or Favored Terrain, so you'll never be disappointed to discover that you can't sing Song of the Snowstorm because it turns out the campaign is actually set in the tropics.)

Goblin Punch's Bug Collector is a bit like a wizard who gets terrain-specific spells each day. Every morning before breaking camp, the Bug Collector finds a random assortment of local bugs, and can capture a certain number of them. The bugs live for 1 day in captivity, and each bug can perform a single trick, once, so mechanically this is very much like casting any other spell in D&D. But there's something kind of joyful about the presentation, and the fact that your spells are random each day, but the spell list they're drawn from is tied to the local landscape, provides a nice mix of surprise and player choice.

Pathfinder Ultimate Wilderness offers a similar ability in the Geomancer archetype for Occultists. The Geomancer can learn a set number of spells of the player's choice each level, but they also know bonus spells based on whatever kind of terrain they're currently inhabiting. These aren't chosen randomly like they for the Bug Collector, and they can change mid-day if the character passes from one terrain type to another. It still seems like it would add a fun bit of variety to the character, and would make decisions about where to travel matter in a fairly concrete way.

The Cartographer archetype for Investigators provides a mechanical reward for map-drawing that's pretty similar to the Minstrel's songwriting. Instead of inspiring others, the Cartographer can benefit themselves by studying the map they just drew of their current location. The only flaw here, ironically, is that you would never not be able to use this ability, so it lacks some of the charm of the Minstrel's  matching-terrain requirement. (Potentially you could re-introduce the charming sense of limitation by only allows maps to be useful on a return visit to a previously mapped spot.) For a game master wanting to add exploration-based abilities to their game, the Cartographer and Minstrel do have one other upside. Unlike the Geomancer or the Bug Collector, this sort of simple bonus-granting ability doesn't require an extensive list of possible spell effects before you can introduce it at your table.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Bon Mots - Porchie vs Pouchy

The Crown asks us to believe the impossible
"Porchie's father is also Porchie"
But Orphan Black knows the truth
"There are not two Pouchies, darling"

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Learning from Boardgames - Tokaido and Things to do on a Journey

My Friday night group recently started playing Ryuutama, which got me thinking about the kinds of things you can do on a long journey. Which, in turn, got me thinking about the boardgame Tokaido.

The Tokaido game is named after a feudal-era Tokaido road between Kytoto and Edo. (Hiroshige also made a series of woodblock prints about traveling along the Tokaido road.) 

In the game, you take on the role of a traveler walking the road by foot. Your goal is to have the most satisfying journey possible. When boardgamers review Tokaido, they usually talk about how it's unusually non-competitive; there's not all that much any player can do to interfere with another's vacation. But as a roleplayer, what sticks out to me is that Tokaido is like a resource that can be referenced for ideas for things that player characters can do on a journey, like the kind you take in Ryuutama.

So what is there to do on a journey?

Leaving Edo from the second printing of Hiroshiga's The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido

Stopping in a village - In the Tokaido game, stopping in a village is synonymous with shopping at the local marketplace. And visiting the bazaar to see the unique wares each town has to offer is certainly one possible joy of traveling. It's easy to imagine giving each village its own specialty ware - this town sells nice hats, that one makes excellent pottery, etc.

Collecting souvenirs - Collecting mementos of your travels is a pretty common practice. But beyond picking up postcards or guidebooks or miniatures of the local landmarks, Tokaido rewards you for collecting different kinds of souvenirs on your trip. You get the most points for collecting equal numbers of clothes, art objects, small gifts, and local food and drinks.

Old school D&D gives experience for acquiring gold, and some OSR referees award experience for spending it, either in addition or instead. If each souvenir acted like a minor magical item, most players would happily buy them up, even if there was no XP reward for the purchase.

Working on a farm - Several activities in Tokaido cost money, but almost the only way to get more of it is to stop in at a local farm beside the road and do chores.

The British travel show Race Across the World has opportunities for the contestants to earn extra spending money by helping out farmers, working in restaurants, assisting the staff at tourist attractions, and doing various kinds of cleaning, from buses and boats to horses and elephants.

In a game like D&D or Ryuutama, its easy to imagine a job board somewhere in town asking for help slaying various monsters, or retrieving small treasures from nearby dungeons. There could even be wanted posters offering bounties on specific criminal NPCs. In my Friday night game, Josh also hit on the rather clever idea of the locals taking advantage of the travelers' itinerant status, by posting jobs like delivering packages or retrieving purchases at various other stopping points along the way.

Admiring the view - The Tokaido game has several scenic overlooks where you can enjoy taking in what the game calls a "panorama".  Stopping at an observation point to admire the scenery is a pretty classic thing to do on any kind long journey, whether a hike or a cross-country drive. You get the most points from enjoying the same panorama from several different vantage points.

Besides just looking, you could photograph the view, or draw a sketch or make a painting. In turn, you could photo, sketch, or paint a plant or animal, or I suppose, collect biological specimens - picking berries, gathering flowers, and of course, going fishing. The other thing you could do, at a particularly lovely natural trailhead or outdoor garden, would be go on a hike-within-your-hike to take in the whole site.

Bathing in a hot spring - Stop by a natural hot spring and enjoy a relaxing bath. This one is kind of culturally specific. Some parts of the world have natural hot springs, or some other tradition of collective bathing; others don't.

What else might be equivalent to going to a bathhouse? The characteristics that seem relevant here are that it's recreational and communal, possibly a bit intimate. When I think of communal relaxation, personally, I think of something like a picnic, brunch, high tea, or happy hour. Something where the ceremony of eating is at least as important as the food consumed.

Visiting some other sort of spa might fulfill the requirements I laid out; something like going for massages, or manicures, or for makeovers. For that matter, something like trying on dresses for a wedding or costumes for a celebration could work too.

Thinking of spas also makes me think of swimming pools and gymnasiums. In turn, that brings to mind participating in some sort of local sporting event. This could be something that tests each individuals against all others (like a race), or a tournament of one-on-one contests (like tennis or dueling), or even a team sport  I can think of a dozen examples, and you probably can too. Participating in a festival, stage play, or religious ceremony could also fulfill a similar function.

Praying at a temple - Stopping in at a temple and making a cash donation is another way to earn points in Tokaido. Panoramas and hot springs are free, but temples cost money, just like souvenirs and meals. The difference here is that you get to decide how much to donate. When shopping, different goods have different prices, but you also might be able to buy the cheapest item and still have it help you most (or you could get unlucky, and have the thing you really need by the pricey one). Mealtimes are similar. But at the temple, how much you spend is entirely up to you, though obviously more is better.

It's not hard to imagine pretty direct equivalents. If religious services don't quite fit the mood of your countryside, you could substitute in tossing coins into fountains or wishing wells (perhaps with a very small chance of being rewarded for the donation?) Anything that costs money, and that calls on you to be more of an audience than a participant, could fulfill a similar role as well. Touring a museum or art gallery, watching a concert or play, attending a reading or recital, watching a sport instead of playing one, witnessing some natural phenomenon.

These are all opportunities to earn experience by spending money, and to watch some local color rather than taking part in it. These entertainments are likely to be briefer. Helping to throw a local festival could take up an entire session, simply watching a parade go by should probably be much quicker for the players.

Meeting locals and fellow travelers - To my mind, this is one of the most interesting possibilities of travel in an RPG. In Tokaido, choosing to have an "encounter" is a bit like choosing to receive the effect of one of the other sites at random. You might get a souvenir, a piece of the view, some cash, even just victory points added to your score. But in a game like D&D or Ryuutama, you could, you know, actually talk to the people you meet. Instead of just archetypes - traveling merchant, shinto priest, guide, noble, samurai - you could meet individual NPCs.

In Tokaido, you only have encounters along the road. In D&D or Ryuutama, traveling encounters are still possible, but you'd expect to have more of them in villages or at the inn. (In Tokaido, the only people you meet at the inn are the other players.) I think there could also be a useful distinction between meeting locals and meeting fellow travelers. Locals are, by definition, only going to show up at a single site, and if you want to see one of them again, you probably have to go back to that town. Fellow travelers are more unpredictable; you could meet them along the road or at any site you stop by. You never know quite when to expect them.

D&D has its rival adventuring parties, but fellow travelers are different - not so much wandering monsters as wandering allies. At their worst, they're more like annoyances or nuisances. If they're "rivals" it's more in the sense of them wanting to be better at traveling than you are. They want to get to the next town before you, or be the first ones to spot all the rare birds along the way, or show off their latest purchase that you didn't get. But most fellow travelers won't be rivals. Some will be friends, some will simply have some eccentricity that makes them interesting or memorable. Sometimes circumstances might force you to cooperate, or pool your resources, or spend time in close proximity, perhaps sharing stories to pass the time. Sometimes you'll simply be passing through at the same time.

Staying at an inn - In Tokaido, every player has to stop at every inn. In D&D or Ryuutama, it probably won't take much convincing for most players to want some time in a hotel after several nights of camping by the side of the road, especially if the hotel avoids any hazards, or permits a better quality of sleep or healing. Any kind of checkpoint or waystation, any place where tolls are collected or papers are presented could serve a similar function as well, albeit with a less friendly atmosphere. Tokaido rewards the player who arrives at the inn last, on top of the rewards that you probably accrue in the process of taking the slowest path and having the most stops along the way.

Eating a good meal - Whenever I think of Tokaido, I think of a vacation my grad school roommate once told me about, where she and her aunt planned to spend a couple weeks visiting different villages around her prefecture, trying out the local udon specialty. Apparently every village has its own traditional style, just a bit different from its neighbors.  

(Later, in a different grad program, I learned about the idea of folk culture, where some way of doing things started out the same or very similar within a region, but then the people who do that thing in each particular place start handing down minor changes to the original way, from teacher to student, generation after generation, so that the traditions of each place slowly drift apart, a process that reminds me a little of island biology.)

The idea of enjoying food from other places is pretty well accepted as one of the benefits of traveling. There are entire series about it on the Food Network, the Travel Channel, even NPR. Describing the unique flavor of the local cuisine is a simple but visceral way to make a place feel different and special. There might not be any mechanical benefit, within your game, to eating at a restaurant instead of by a campfire, but this is still an opportunity to communicate about what kind of people live in each place, what sort of hospitality they offer. And the emotional connections we all have to both food and the sharing of food means that a well-described meal really is its own reward.

Tokaido board game logo

Traveling in the Tokaido game is about following a road dotted with landmarks and deciding which ones to visit. With one exception, there is no hierarchy, and each landmark is as important as the next. This is in contrast to both D&D and Ryuutama, where towns and dungeons tend to be much more important than other sites you can pass alone the way.

I think this is because each landmark has precisely one purpose in Tokaido, while in D&D and Ryuutama, the "size" of each site is variable. We could think of size here as the number of rooms in a dungeon or major buildings in a town - or as the number of potential encounters to be had at each site. Either way, in both D&D and Ryuutama, players spend much more time at some locations than others. Some spots along the road will be like a single room to explore, or a single encounter with a monster or NPC, but others will be both larger and more time consuming. A small town or dungeon might involve far more rooms and encounters than all the singletons put together; a megadungeon or city might be larger than all the other sites of any size combined.

The closest anyone can come to interfering with another players' agenda in Tokaido is to stop at a spot they might like, forcing them to pass it by and go on to the next one, making them arrive at the inn a little faster. Inns in Tokaido are a bit like the various "safe havens" that appear in various roleplaying games, but they still have only a single purpose (enjoying a meal), rather than allowing a full range of downtime activities.

The result of each landmark having only one interaction is that this keeps you moving along the road. There's no temptation to stay at a single site, exploring all the possibilities it contains. Instead, each stop is brief, and the journey continues.

I'm not sure it's possible (or even desirable) to partition things quite so strictly in a roleplaying game, but I think it is worth trying to emulate the idea that there are many possible pleasures, each stop contains only a few of them, and greater fulfillment will come from continuing onward to further sites than from delving deeper into the offerings of a single location.