Instruments of the Chrysanthemum Throne

Instruments of the Chrysanthemum Throne allows you to explore a world of myth and magic where you must balance the terrible evil of the sentient object you carry, with the enormous power it grants.

Japan is in turmoil. The balance between the natural elements has been shattered; natural disasters ravage the land and monsters from legend terrorise the people.

The greatest heroes of the age have tried and failed to overcome this supernatural catastrophe. Now, in desperation, the Emperor reluctantly unleashes the most potent magical force at his disposal.

The Instruments of the Chrysanthemum Throne are a collection of powerful Tsukumogami, sentient objects that possess remarkable magical powers. They have been locked away for generations because of their abiding malice and hatred of people.

Who will be brave, or desperate, enough to risk their life and sanity by taking up an Instrument and using its power in the service of the Chrysanthemum Throne?


The players ease into character creation, starting with a short prologue using suggested prompts. As the game progresses they develop more detail about their characters and the reasons that they’re willing to risk everything in the service of the Emperor.

Players may also take the role of Instruments from time-to-time, whispering suggestions to the characters that bear them, and providing a constant reminder that the Instruments are living things with their own agenda.

To support a focus in character-driven roleplaying, the game system is light touch. It draws from Japanese culture, incorporating a traditional dice gambling game, with the use of lucky and unlucky numbers, to resolve outcomes.

On a deeper level, players are continuously incentivised to draw ever more power from their Instruments in order to achieve greater success, and in doing so, risk losing control of their characters.

Instruments of the Chrysanthemum Throne is intended to be played as eight linked scenarios that tell a complete story. However, there are also options for groups who cannot make such a time commitment, including running a five episode series, or running the game as a single session game.

This is a complete tabletop roleplaying game intended for 3-6 players and a Game Master who facilitates the game. Included are:
  • A detailed setting based on mythical Heian-era Japan
  • A light-touch dice-based system that focuses the action on the characters and the decisions they must make about drawing on the power of their Instruments.
  • Advice on how to facilitate the game including historical themes and suggestions of how to incorporate these details to breathe life into the game-world.
  • Suggestions to help ensure that everyone has a great time.
  • Eight linked scenarios that can be run as a campaign, short series or one-off game session.
  • Tabletop materials to help make the game easy to run, including one-page summaries of the key rules and summaries of each scenario.
The game is available from DriveThruRPG as either a PDF or a full-colour 126 page hardcover print-on-demand title.


Instruments of the Chrysanthemum Throne won a Pav Award in the category of Excellence in Narrative (The Poetic Serving).

The game was also a finalist at the awards in the category of Excellence in Physical Games (The Tactile Taste).


PDF resources for your games of Instruments of the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Download the Game Materials including:
  • Character Sheet
  • Rules Summary
  • Travelling Japan Summary
  • Instrument Cards
  • Secondary Characters
Download via Dropbox here. (13.1MB)