They do things differently in Japan.
For instance: replays. You know those corny one-page sample games that most western RPGs stick at the start of their rulebooks? Japan goes way beyond that, selling recordings and transcripts of entire game sessions in book or audio format. I never understood the idea of reading or listening someone else’s game, but they’re not made for me. They’re made for a Japanese audience, and apparently they sell like hotcakes over there.
It was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea of using RPG replays, not just as entertainment, but as a teaching tool – specifically Toichiro Kawashima at Adventure Planning Service for the game Shinobigami.
According to Andy Kitkowski of Kotodama Heavy Industries, which translated Shinobigami into English, doing so makes sense in Japan. Players there prefer one-shots to long drawn-out campaigns. Including a replay in your rulebook that teaches players how to play your game makes it easier for players with busy schedules to learn it. It also benefits games with weird rules or play methods, because a replay lets players see a successful example of play. Shinobigami has been so successful, in fact, that other RPGs have adopted teaching replays, as well.
It’s definitely something I want to try with Covenant. I’ll never say that Covenant is !!!GROUNDBREAKING!!! or !!!INNOVATIVE!!!, but it is unusual (more on that tomorrow). Including an actual example of play will should lower player frustration when learning it, if nothing else.