Akira Kurosawa’s The Road Warrior?

That’s the short pitch for a new game idea I’ve started developing, anyway. It’s pretty awesome as a pitch, but it does what most good pitches do, which is a little bit of a bait-and-switch ploy: the real idea isn’t quite the one described in the pitch, but the pitch gets you to stick around to hear more detail.

We start with the picture a ronin wandering a post-apocalyptic wasteland, then zoom out. It’s not post-apocalyptic NOW, but post-apocalyptic 1600: right as the Edo period is taking off in Japan, and in the heart of the Ming Dynasty on the mainland in China. Something has happened to the world – fully half of the globe, from the Black Sea at the easternmost edge to New Zealand at its westernmost, covering the Western Hemisphere, has been practically destroyed with few to no survivors, and the rest of the earth is a nightmare realm.

Our ronin’s sandals tread the blackened earth and foul water of this hell, and occasionally cross paths with other wandering warriors. What goal do these warriors seek? It’s hard to say. They all seem to be fixated on a distant, looming stronghold, perhaps a tower or castle’s ramparts, where it’s said an overlord of the darkness holds sway. Is the ronin going there to challenge the fell daimyo in hopes of lifting the curse? Will they instead offer their sword’s service to the emperors of shadow, thinking that any master is better than none? Do they hope they fall in combat along the way, freeing them from their wretched existence? The ronin does not answer, but simply walks on toward the next duel.

I’m envisioning this as a card game, but it can go one of two ways: initially, I imagined a direct player-versus-player dueling game, but I can see the appeal of having a multi-player competitive quest to follow a path of events, questing closer to the end goal while simultaneously throwing obstacles onto the paths of one’s rivals to prevent them from beating you to the climactic encounter.

More to come as I develop this.