Issue 6.1: February/March 2003

Role Model


by Naomi Sodetani
photo by Kent S. Hwang


Three years ago, health-industry strategic planner and self-described "fantasy freak" Kaipo Lum was web surfing when he stumbled across some Aristotelian philosophy: "Where the needs of society and your talents cross, there lies your vocation." Lum thus set out to fill a void he saw on local game-department shelves: a role-playing game inspired by traditional Hawaiian chiefly society and cultural values.

Convincing some friends to join him, he created a game called Ku I Ka Moku. "The object is to build the greatest kingdom," Lum explains, noting that the game places special emphasis on the management of ahupuaa—the traditional land unit that stretches from the mountains to the sea. "It all begins with the aina (land), because everything a society needs to thrive—food, weapons, strength—comes from the land you control."

Armed with a "starter pack" of kingdom ingredients—alii (chiefs), land and crops, makaainana (commoners), koa (warriors) and kahuna (keepers of spiritual and practical knowledge)—each player sets out to increase his domain and mana (spiritual power) via a process that rewards not greed but stewardship. "The more pono (righteous) your rule, the greater your mana," Lum asserts.

"Ku I Ka Moku is a world I’ve always dreamed of," says the Kamehameha Schools graduate. "I get to live out this fantasy without actually having to carve out an empire in Hawaii Kai." Ku I Ka Moku is available through Native Books and several other local retailers, or online at