Thursday, December 31, 2015

Last Day of the Year

Yes, the obligatory year in review post! Luckily, it's going to be short. There's not a lot to review.

So this year, I started the year off by getting back to work on Chanbara with a new revision mostly from the ground up. I'm now happy with that revision (a few things need tweaking, and I'm still undecided on how much setting info to include, and whether to revise the adventure/campaign advice chapter). I'm going to start play-testing it both on G+ with the guys, and on RPOL. Anyone interested in joining? So far, one guy, a friend of friends from two other RPOL games, has agreed to play. If you want to try it out, here's the link:

Other than that, there's not much gaming related to say. I tried to get a GamMarvel World (Gamma World in the Marvel Comics Universe) game going, but got sidetracked by real life. I tried to get my Mentzer Cover to Cover series going again, but got sidetracked by real life. I tried to game as often as possible, but usually got sidetracked by real life.

Well, them's the breaks when you're trying to adjust to a new job (teaching at a university instead of a kindergarten), work on a PhD dissertation (more to come in 2016!), and raise two boys (one seven, the other one-and-a-half).

Happy New Year to all of my readers, and I hope you all have great gaming experiences in 2016!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

D&D Winter Workshop

Today was Day 2 (of 10) of my "Developing Communication Skills through Role Play" special workshop class. What do we do in the workshop? Play D&D, of course!

I'm using a slightly different set of house rules for my students, because they are all learning to play and in a second language. But it's still Classic D&D.

I have six people registered for the class. Five came yesterday, but only four today. Yesterday I introduced the game, its history (briefly, and some basic concepts. Then I let them explore the solo dungeon from the Basic Set.

The Fighter lost her plate armor to the rust monster, the Halfling was killed by a skeleton (the player then picked a Magic-user fro the pre-gens), and the whole party lost its treasure to the magic mouth riddle.

Today, 3 Thieves and a Magic-user  (the Fighter's player didn't come) started in on N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God.

Even though the people at the first plae they visited warned them not to stay there, they spent the night at the Golden Grain Inn and were captured by the cultists.

When taken before the naga, only one was charmed. The magic-user of course! (The player is taking his bad luck in stride.) The others were put in a cell and when they came up with a plan to escape, I made the MU be the guard they unarmed sneak attacked to escape.

They had met the ranger in town briefly, so I had him rescue them from the marsh and take them to town and advise them to see Ramne the NPC Magic-user. They did, but his dispel magic failed to free the PC MU of the charm.

The player said he will try a new character tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

New Beastie

Printer’s mark of Guillaume de La Nouaille.
Looks like a chimeric hydra-cockatrice. I'll be statting this bad boy up when I have free time! (Image from the OBI Scrapbook blog)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Very Cool Stuff

Last Friday, Greg Gorgonmilk posted this image from the most recent Knights of the Dinner Table comic -- an article talking about the OSR.

Now, there's only one page, and as some people mentioned, a few big name games (Labyrinth Lord in particular) were left out. But among those that made the cut?

Flying Swordsmen.

Yeah, baby! Yeah! Yeah! I am the Evil Midnight Gamer, What Games at Midnight!

Thanks to Kenneth Newquist, author of this piece, for including my little contribution to the OSR! Also, thanks to Greg G. and Jens D. (The Disoriented Ranger) for bringing it to my attention.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Riddle Me This

A necromancer is exploring a dungeon with his trusty skeleton bodyguard, a charmed goblin, and a big bag of loot. He comes to a river of lava cutting across a chamber, preventing further progress to those without magical assistance.

The necromancer casts fly on himself, and then floating disk. But he has a problem. The floating disk is only big enough to carry one of the three -- skeleton, goblin, treasure -- at a time.

If he leaves the skeleton and goblin alone, the skeleton will kill the goblin. If he leaves the goblin and treasure alone, the goblin will make off with it.

So what's the optimal way for the necromancer to get his henchmen and loot across the lava?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Maximizing Profits

Just had a random idea that would make a (potentially friendship ending) interesting game idea. Probably it would be a better idea for a D&D movie.

Chaotic (and or Evil depending on your alignment system of choice) party enters dungeon.

Facing of monsters, avoiding of traps, solving of puzzles ensues (preþy standard so far).

As the party, loaded down with treasure heads to the surface again, characters start trying to bump each other off (some making it look like accidents, others blatantly backstabbing their companions). Sorta like the Joker's bank heist at the beginning of The Dark Knight.

Only one PC makes it out, with most of the treasure. (Bag of holding required to make this work.)

If a movie, the ironic twist at the end would need to be the lone survivor, bruised and bloody, encounters a lone kobold who slays the PC and takes the loot.

Like I say above, it might not play well for a regular group. Maybe as a convention game, it could work.

Monday, October 26, 2015


This post is a bit tongue in cheek, as I realize it doesn't matter, but it's something that came up when I was running my Under the Hillfort Ruins game a couple weeks back (and I'm just getting to blog about it now).

In my game the other night, Jeremy was looking for a character he had already rolled up to play, and grabbed one he had used in Justin's Vaults of Ur game. Dean also had used a character he has used a few times before in different game systems, most memorably to me in Justin's "Panoply Sector" Stars Without Number game. The thing is, in other games both of these PCs had died.

Now, don't get me wrong. I was running a play test. I didn't really care where the PCs had been used before, or if they were "still alive" or not. For a play test, it just isn't an issue. But during the course of play, Jeremy mentioned that his fighter, Danyael, should level up because he already had 1000xp from Ur. I reminded him that Danyael had died in Ur (partially my fault, Thidrek ran away rather than risking paralyzation at the hands of ghouls after Danyael and another PC had gone down). So does the character still get to keep its XP for use in other games after death in one campaign?

It made me think about the whole FLAILSNAILS conventions a bit. I'd considered in the past the fact that anyone could show up to a game with a character at level X, with magic items A, B and C, and who's to know if that PC actually earned that or not? Of course, the FLAILSNAILS Conventions give the DM power to nerf anything egregious in any way they wish (all ability scores are 18 and you have a Staff of Wizardry at level 2? Well, you're suffering from a curse in this realm, and you find the staff is nonfunctional at the moment).

Now, I'm not arguing that there should be a FLAILSNAILS police or anything, but shouldn't what happens to a character actually matter? Even if it's just taking your favorite character to another game as a one-shot, if good things happen you wouldn't ret-con them into not happening. Why should we ignore the bad just because we can?  Is that cheating to just pretend your character didn't die, or didn't lose their best magic sword to a rust monster, or whatever?

Is this cheating? Should it be discouraged?

Or is it a case of "What happens in Greyhawk stays in Greyhawk"?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Too many ideas!

I think many of you suffer from this problem. Most gamers are creative types, so we're always coming up with new ideas. Maybe it's a character concept you really want to play. Maybe it's a campaign you'd love to run. Maybe it's an adventure you'd like to develop. It could be your next awesome rule-set. But before you get to it, or just after getting started, you've already got another idea or three knocking around your brain.

I'm at that point big time right now. And since I'm actually starting to prep for my dissertation study, I really have NO TIME for any of it. But just got give you a glimpse of things you may, possibly, some day see from me in a possible future where I suddenly have oodles of time to write gaming stuff, here are some of the ideas I currently have:

Chanbara (of course, that's #1): My OSR with heavy character customization fantasy feudal Japan game. The third (or is if fourth?) draft incarnation of the rules are ready to be tested. I think they'll work better than before. I just need some time to run a few games. Well, that and flesh out the "starting area" for the campaign section of the book.

Presidents of the Apocalypse: Paul's and my take on super silly, super simple super presidential post-apoc gaming. One of these days, Paul and I will agree on a final version of the rules (or agree to make two versions). Then you, too, can be a mutated Founding Father beating the crap out of Ronald McDonald, Mikhael Gorbachev, King George III, Kim Jeong-Il, Justin Bieber, and any other foes of America you can think of, set in a ruined world of the future.

Under the Hillfort Ruins: The adventure module I wrote originally for 3E and have recently revamped for Labyrinth Lord (or whatever classic or OSR game floats your boat). A fairly standard dungeon tomb complex with lots of puzzles and traps, and plenty of loot as well. I just need to make a few edits, add some random encounters for the actual hillfort ruins above the dungeon, write up some hooks and rumors, and then this one will be ready to sell.

Demon Castle Dracula: This one's been on my mind recently, what with Halloween a week away and all. Not that it feels very Halloween-y here in Busan, where most people don't celebrate it. Anyway, this may end up being for LL or for Retro Phaze (the 8-bit OSR RPG) since it's basically the Castlevania games translated to table top. Could I get this Gothic horror-action sandbox ready for sale before next Halloween? Guess it depends on how the dissertation study goes.

Mysterious Seas: The maritime campaign I tried to run about 4 years ago or so. The idea was to mix up Jason and the Argonauts, the Odyssey, Sindbad the Sailor, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the like into a big nautical sandbox. If I get around to finishing this (I really only had the first map half-way keyed, and there are nine maps), it may have to get broken into separate modules for each sector.

Ghost Castle Hasegawa: The test adventure I created for the previous version of Chanbara. I'm planning to update it to the new version when I get around to play-testing it, so eventually I'll also probably publish it. A castle cursed by its lord when it fell to his enemies, the Hasegawa family would like the curse removed so they can move back in and restore their standing at court.

Oni no Ran: The old 1E/2E Oriental Adventures campaign I ran back in Evansville in the late 90's before going to Japan was building up to a conflict between the Oni King and the PCs' daimyo. It wouldn't be too hard to convert stats to Chanbara (once I decide this draft is final or not) and release this as either a series of linked adventures, or a mega-adventure (again, if somehow time ceases to be an issue).

Of course, if I ever get any of these finished, they'll be for sale from my DrivethruRPG storefront, Hidden Treasure Books. And if I have time to write up modules and game systems, hopefully I'll have time to create more of my paper minis series.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Getting stuff done despite having no time

As usual, academics are taking up a lot of my attention, and what little is left has been mostly devoted to my family, so not much activity on the blog. I haven't been looking over Mentzer's DM book lately, but I'm not planning to abandon that line of posts. People seem to like it. It may stretch out a while, though, and I may give up my plans to continue through the Mentzer Expert, Companion and Master sets. That will depend on how the dissertation goes. [I'm getting my main experiment prepared, and doing a lot of background reading for that. Once I get that sorted out and I commence the experiment, I may have more time for blogging for a while, until it's time to write up everything, at least.]

On the plus side, I managed to squeeze in an impromptu game session last Saturday. I continued running Dean and Jeremy through an old dungeon I'd made for a 3E game and converted to Labyrinth Lord stats. They haven't completed it, but they found the puzzles and challenges to be good but not too difficult, and the combats so far have been hectic but not unwinnable (in the first session over a month ago, Dean and my older boy played through and came close to a TPK but avoided any loss of life, this time Dean and Jeremy each lost one of their two characters). They both feel like this is something I could publish. So I'll try to get one more session in to let them finish the dungeon, then try to find some time to write up some introductory material, rumors, additional information that could be researched, etc. Oh, and a few pre-generated PCs. And some art, maybe, but I'm not that great and I'm on a budget. Then I'll be ready to try selling it through my DrivethruRPG storefront.

Also on the plus side, I've been plugging away at my latest Chanbara draft (#4), and it's almost done. I just need to flesh out a starting area, and add a few things in the appendices. Then I'll be ready to have this thing play tested. Again, I might not have time to play test it myself due to the dissertation, but I'll try and see if anyone else can do it for me and give me some feedback.

So, if I can make good use of my very limited free time over the next month or so, I might get both of those projects completed. And if not by next month, then at least by the end of the year.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

In Defense of Maze-Dungeons

Over the summer, I went back to the U.S. for a month to visit the family. While there we took a trip down to Hannibal, MO to visit the historic Mark Twain sites. It's only a 40 minute drive down there. I've of course been there many times before, and my wife had visited on a previous trip. But it was the first time for our boys (although the younger, having just turned 1, is still too small for it to count). Anyway, Flynn (my older boy) and I took the tour of the Mark Twain Cave.

If you've ever read Tom Sawyer, you'll remember the cave. It's a real cave that Sam Clemmens played in as a boy. Here's a map of it.

Notice anything? This is a natural limestone cave, carved by water seeping through cracks in the rocks over centuries. And there are chambers, passages, intersections, multiple ways around, and while the map doesn't show it, some elevation changes as well.

Now, I've heard before people bemoaning the fact that labyrinthine dungeons are unrealistic. "If dwarves or goblins or a wizard were really carving out rock, they wouldn't waste effort making long hallways between rooms," they say. Well, what if nature has already done a lot of the work for them? What if the dungeon started out as a natural cave system like this, and the dwarves or gnomes or orcs or whoever came along and just expanded and finished some of the already existing passages and chambers? Not so much work now, is it?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Money and Treasure in Chanbara

Historical Japanese coinage was a mess. There were different classes of bronze, silver and gold coins, not to mention imported Chinese coins, coins minted by the shogun, coins minted in provinces by individual daimyo... They had lots of types of coins. And the conversions between them were not set, so it was like a foreign currency exchange market in some ways. Add to that the fact that samurai salaries were paid in RICE, and it all becomes a big old non-game-able mess.
photo credit: my personal photo

So for Chanbara, after flirting with the idea of including lots of historical coin types (which can lead to more interesting treasure troves), I've gone back to a simple system of zeni (bronze nickles)*, mon (silver dollars)*, and ryo (gold $50 bills)* plus the occasional kan/oban trade bar (silver/gold $1000 bill)*, because these last ones are used a lot in Japanese period TV shows like Abarenbo Shogun or Mito Komon.

With player-side economics sorted out, I came up with a brilliant idea two nights ago for how to do the treasure tables for monster treasure hoards. Before I share the brilliance, though, I'll explain a bit about the process that led me to it.

Originally, I had devised a system of "treasure by HD" sort of like how 3E does it. If the creature has X hit dice, it will roll for treasure on this table. But that wasn't satisfying because some creatures of X hit dice might not be treasure keeping types. So I then broke it down into columns of incidental treasure/personal treasure/group treasure or something like that, with greater value for creatures of X hit dice that would be likely to keep treasure for their tribe, and a few left-overs of whatever last got eaten for those that don't keep treasure.

Then, I scrapped all of the above, and tried to make a treasure table like the ones in D&D. You know, the big chart of various treasure types, and percentages that each type of coin would be there, and value ranges if it's present. Let me tell you, trying to make one of those is either going to be a bunch of random, or else you need to really over-analyze it (Gygax was an insurance underwriter, wasn't he? I'm guessing he over-analyzed). For copyright reasons, I didn't want to just copy what Gygax had done, or use Labyrinth Lord's rejiggering of it. I wanted my own. But I was stuck, because I wanted it to be useful and not unbalanced, so I didn't want it to be a big old pile of random numbers.

Anyway, the idea hit me the other night, like I mentioned above. Instead of one big old chart, I needed two charts.

The first chart is one that shows ranges of treasure value (in mon, it's the standard coin for the system), and each creature in the book has a treasure type to roll on on this chart. There's only one number, because this just determines the value of the treasure. A lazy GM might just leave it at that.
Treasure Table
Monetary Value
1d10 x10 mon
5% 1
1d6 x100 mon
10% 1d2
1d4 x500 mon
25% 1d3
1d6 x1000 mon
15% 1d4
1d12 x1000 mon
20% 1d6
1d20 x1000 mon
25% 1d6
1d4 x10,000 mon
30% 1d8
1d6 x10,000 mon
40% 1d10
1d10 x10,000 mon
50% 1d12
But the second chart then has some random breakdowns by coin type, listing percentages of the total value that are of this type. With this, it's possible you might roll up a dragon's hoard worth tens of thousands of mon, yet all the coins are zeni. Or it could be all rolled up in a diamond-encrusted royal scepter. Or a mix. Of course, GMs can ignore the second chart and break down treasure as they like, but I think it can add a bit of fun to have a random roll like this. Sometimes, the oddball result can be the most fun.
Treasure Breakdown


*vague impressions by yours truly as to how the coins in the game would be thought of as modern U.S. currency.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Drunk-call of Cthulhu

 Last Sunday, early in the morning, maybe around 3 or 4am, my wife woke up and was fairly disturbed. It was raining fairly hard that night, but she could hear the sound of chanting coming from the mini park just in front of our apartment building.

Why would anyone be out in a little park, in the rain, at that time of night? My first thought was that they must have been drunk, figured the "stars were right" and were trying to summon Cthulhu or Hastur or Nyarlathotep. Them being drunk and unable to see the stars may have saved us all.

My wife, not having read Lovecraft, had the impression that they were summoning a demon or devil, like Satanists in some old 80's movie. Too bad she didn't wake me up to hear it. Instead she just closed the windows and went back to bed.

Either way, weird and potentially worthy of use as a hook in an RPG game some day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I may not like what you have to say, but I'll defend your right to say it

So, I doubt there's anyone on the OSR blogs/G+ scene that hasn't heard about the DrivethruRPG/Onebookshelf happening. If you're one of the few who hasn't, someone made a module about a rape tournament and people went crazy over its existence.

Now, would I ever purchase something like that? No. It doesn't interest me, and could offend people I might play with to suggest such a game.

Am I likely to purchase something from that author/publisher again? Not if I remember they're the ones that put this thing out.

But do I think it should be banned from DTRPG? Of course not. I'm opposed to banning books in any way. If you want to read/play that sort of thing, it's no business of mine. And it in no way affects me one way or the other for someone else to actually purchase and enjoy the product.

Did I for a moment consider ending my involvement with DrivethruRPG as a customer/vendor (hey, buy my stuff, it's good and wholesome and I actually make attempts at gender/racial inclusivity!) because one disgusting product happens to be sold there? Never for a minute. Not for a second. The fact that I buy and sell stuff on this website is in no way whatsoever connected to the fact that that product is available for sale on the same website. I don't feel tainted by association.

Tim Brannon just posted a social contract on his Other Side blog. I agree to it, and you should too. It's an adult way to handle stuff like this, rather than the immature rush to ban books/publishers whose work is "icky" or "offensive" and the opening up of some sort of "guilty until proven innocent" report button.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Slow progress is better than no progress

I've got spell lists for my three Maho-tsukai sub-classes, Onmyoji, Soryo and Yamabushi done (may switch a name here or there for color, but the list of spells is done), and descriptions of the spells for Onmyoji and Soryo are complete. Just the Yamabushi spells left to go.

I also have listed out Background Skills. Each class/profile gets a skill or two automatically, and then a number to select from a list determined by your character's social status. Kuge (nobility) don't have the same sort of background skills as Noumin (peasant farmers) after all.

Skills will work on a modification of the Turn Undead mechanic, or more or less like any sort of action in Presidents of the Apocalypse. Roll two dice (usually 2d6) and try to beat a 7, 9 or 11 (sometimes 5 for very easy things, sometimes 13 or even 15 for very hard things) depending on how hard the GM thinks it will be.

Shinobi special skills work the same way, although they start out with some skills at only 2d4, some at 2d6, and some at 2d8. The dice they roll also improve with level. And their special bonus dice (a replacement mechanic for Flying Swordsmen stunt dice) can be used to improve these rolls.

I've come to really like the "roll 2dX" mechanic, as it gives a nice weighted spread. Extreme successes are uncommon, but extreme failures are also uncommon. It's less swingy than d% or d20. Characters will hopefully seem fairly competent when it comes to skill use in Chanbara.

Still need to decide what to do about "unskilled" checks. A few background skills, like Astronomy/Geomancy, are the sort of thing you just can't do without training. But Fishing? Sure, anyone can fish, just not like a pro. I figure most of the time, the Background skills will not even need rolling. But when they do, and someone tries to do something that should be covered by a skill they don't have, what's the best way to do it?

Lowering the dice is one way. If Background skills are normally rolled on 2d6, then have the unskilled PCs roll on 2d4. That works, but then does that mean Shinobi with a 2d4 in a special Ninpo skill are untrained at it? Or just with minimal training? I can live with that, but some players might object. We'll see. I definitely don't want skills to be exclusive for the most part.

Also, I'm wondering if I should allow Ability Scores to affect Background Skills. The concern is that it would lead to stat inflation a la 3E/Pathfinder. My gut tells me to just stress the Background Skills are just that, the character's background. Now, you're an adventurer, not a poet or blacksmith or inspector. If someone needs something smithed, and your PC has that background, they can do it. Done, move on to the adventuring! It's only if the Hannya Queen demands an intricate cast iron puzzle be crafted or she will devour the village's children that it might be worth making a check to see if you can make one good enough for the snake-hag. [But even then, the players are still more likely to try and kick her butt rather than appease her, aren't they?]

Monday, August 24, 2015

Nostalgia and Serendipity

While back at home, my older son (now 7) had a great time raiding my and my brother's old toy boxes for good stuff to bring back to Korea. I'd promised him he could have my old LEGOs, and he decided that just wasn't enough.

So he has some vintage TMNT toys (all 4 turtles, Beebob and Rocksteady, and a frog whose name I'm too lazy to Google), some of my old D&D figures (Strongheart and Kellek, some non-articulated orcs, etc.), lots of old Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, etc.

Along with them, one set of toys that really fascinated him were the Battle Beasts. Remember these guys?
Originally produced in Japan as a tie-in to Transformers and sold in the U.S. in the late 80's/early 90's, they're anthropomorphized cybernetic animal figures with a variety of odd melee weapons.

Actually, of the two dozen or so he brought back, only 4 were actually mine. Apologies to my brother may be needed in the future when his son next visits grandma and grandpa's and finds them gone.

Anyway, seeing them again made me realize that they're perfect minis to use in a Gamma World type game. Use little green army men (or cowboys, or knights, or pirates) for pure strain humans. Throw in some MUSCLE  Wrestlers (more great 80's toys, and I already have my collection here in Korea) for the altered humans.
Then just figure out what to do for the mutant plants (a quick bit of garden pruning, maybe?) and you're all set. 

Now if I only had time to run GamMarvel World as a face to face game...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sexier Spell Lists

Nothing "R" rated (not that there's anything wrong with that), but I'm going through my Chanbara spell list and thinking it's rather bland. Most of the spells have boring names (taken from D&D). A lot of them have game mechanical effects (make you better at X, heal X hit points, gain bonuses to X for Y rounds, etc.), but nothing of a visual aid as to what it might be doing.

So since I'm adding in some new spells anyway, I might as well try and "clean up the neighborhood" with some different names but keep the spell, or just some all new spells altogether.

For an example of making a spell "sexier" (as in: cool, rad, awesome, etc.). I thought of this years ago and am finally getting to use it. You all know the spell Evard's Black Tentacles." It summons cthulhu-ish tentacles to wrap everyone up except the caster. For Chanbara, that same spell will be list as Sumobeya. Instead of otherworldly black tentacles, in my game it summons a stable of sumo wrestlers who can then beat up, grapple with, and hold anyone who gets too close. The mechanics remain the same, the fluff is changed to meet the scenarios.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Reply to Zach K.

Sorry persistent blog readers (all ten or so of you), this is simply a reply to a comment on a previous post, but since I've just gotten back from a month-long -- and much needed -- vacation, I'd rather not let the response go unread if Zach K. didn't sign up for email notifications.

Anyway, in response to one of my Chanbara posts last month (which was written in advance of posting), Zach K. wrote:

Hey, I'm a huge wuxia fan (less so of chanbara, but I love Kurosawa movies, and I enjoyed 13 Assassins and L5R) and I really like Flying Swordsmen's setting. I'd also like to practice my mapping abilities. Would you mind if I gave Zhongyang Dalu a whirl? Not asking for any money, of course. I'd also like to do a map of the setting of Chanbara, if you'd be okay with that.
Zach, by all means! I'd love to see what you do with the map in Flying Swordsmen (and Chanbara, when I get around to detailing that section of the campaign world a bit more.) I had a lot of fun drawing it, so I hope it's just as much fun for you to recreate in your own style.

When you get it done, I'd love to display it here.  If you want, you can contact me directly at dplaffey [at]

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chanbara Shinobi

And here is the third class in Chanbara (as my current revision stands, anyway), the Shinobi and its profiles, the Kagemusha, Ninja, Taijutsuka, and Uragata.

Shinobi [Spy]
Stealthy ninja, deceptive kunoichi, mystical martial artists, guerrilla warriors and other more skillful types are covered by the shinobi class. Many shinobi belong to a dedicated ninja clan, but others may be in direct service to a daimyo, temple or even the emperor. Some may not even belong to any sort of covert organization at all. They use their special skills in stealth, infiltration and espionage to gather information, raid enemy fortifications, and solve problems quietly when possible. While they can fight when needed, they do their best work in the shadows.
Hit Dice: d8
Bonus Dice: Skill
Special Abilities
Skill Dice, Profile Ability
+1 Skill Die
Profile Ability
+1 Skill Die
+1 Skill Die
Profile Ability
+1 Skill Die
+1 Skill Die
Profile Ability
+2 Skill Dice
Shinobi all have access to ninpo, or special skills, which fit into six categories: Acrobatics, Deception, Disguise, Escape, Sabotage, and Stealth. Each shinobi profile has some skills at which they are good, some in which they are average, and some at which they are poor, as noted in each profile's description. To use ninpo, the player rolls two dice (as shown on the advancement chart) and tries to beat a target number (TN) set by the GM. If the roll matches or beats the TN, the skill is successful. Shinobi may attempt to use their ninpo skills as often as desired, as long as time and circumstances allow.
Shinobi gain bonus skill dice (a d6). Any time a shinobi attempts to use ninpo, they may choose to roll a basic skill die and add the result to the total rolled. A shinobi may only use one skill die per round of combat. At first level, the shinobi gains three skill dice, plus or minus the prime ability bonus of their profile (minimum one). Expended skill dice are refreshed after a night's rest.

Shinobi Profiles
Kagemusha: Kagemusha [Shadow Warrior] are shinobi who blend mysticism with ninpo in order to better fulfill their missions. A kagemusha's ninpo training makes them good at Deception and Stealth, average at Disguise and Escape, and poor at Acrobatics and Sabotage. Their prime ability is Int. Kagemusha may select the Kuge, Buke or Shukyo backgrounds. They gain the Mysticism skill for free, and may choose any three other skills from their background of choice. They are proficient with basic and ninja weapons, and with light armor.
Kagemusha Special Abilities
1st level: Cat Eyes, Owl Ears – By spending one skill die, the kagemusha can see twice as well in dark conditions as normal, and hear twice as well as normal, for one hour.
3rd level: select either Mysticism or Shadow Form.
Kuji-kiri – Spend one skill die to cast a 1st level yamabushi spell.
Shadow Form – By spending one skill die, the kagemusha becomes insubstantial for one minute, able to slip through tight spaces, hide, and move without making noise, but unable to interact with solid objects.
6th level: select either Hypnotize or Water Walking.
Hypnotize – By spending a skill die while engaging in normal conversation, the kagemusha can implant a single hypnotic suggestion in the mind of the victim that will last a number of days equal to the result of the skill die. If the suggestion goes against the normal inclinations of the victim, they may save vs. fire to resist.
Water Walking – By spending a skill die, the kagemusha can walk on the surface of still water at 1/2 speed for a number of rounds equal to the skill die result plus Int modifier (minimum 1).
9th level: select either Detoxify or Shadow Step.
Detoxify – By spending one skill die, the kagemusha can remove poison from one character (including himself).
Shadow Step – By spending a skill die, the kagemusha can teleport from one patch of shadow to another within 100'.

Ninja: Ninja [Secret Agent] are shinobi who have mastered the arts of ninpo by using a combination of rigorous physical and mental training and a plethora of special tools. A ninja's ninpo training is varied. Each ninja may select one good and one poor ninpo skill, and the other four are all average. Their prime ability is Dex. Ninja may select the Buke, Noumin or Chounin backgrounds. They gain the Investigation skill for free, and may select three other skills from their background of choice. They are proficient with all weapons, and with light armor.
Ninja Special Abilities
1st level: Deep Pockets – By spending one skill die, the ninja is able to produce one small-sized piece of normal equipment or a weapon, even if not listed on the PC's character sheet, or if the ninja has been searched and all weapons or special gear removed.
3rd level: select either Backstab or Cling.
Backstab – When attacking from a hidden position or with surprise, the ninja's attacks deal double damage. By spending one skill die, the damage is instead multiplied by the result of the skill die (minimum x2).
Cling – By spending one skill die, the ninja can cling to sheer walls or ceilings for a number of minutes equal to the result of the skill die.
6th level: select either Perseverance or Stealing In.
Perseverance – The ninja can go twice as long as normal without food, water or air. This ability does not require spending any skill dice.
Stealing In – By spending one skill die, the ninja can move through tight passages that would slow a normal person to 1/2 or 1/4 speed without slowing down.
9th level: select either Alchemy or Defy Death.
AlchemyThe ninja can produce alchemical items (flash bombs, smoke grenades, etc.) for half the normal price. By spending one skill die, they can produce one as needed, even if not listed on the PC's character sheet, or if the ninja has been searched and all weapons or special gear removed.
Defy DeathBy spending one skill die when captured or struck with a blow that would reduce the ninja to 0 hit points, the ninja disappears and a straw or wooden dummy is found in the ninja's place. The ninja will actually be hiding in a location within 25'.

Taijutsuka: Taijutsuka [Martial Artist] are shinobi who have turned their bodies into living weapons through intense unarmed fighting training. Some taijutsuka may not be spies at all, being temple monks, peasant rebels, or some other form of martial artist. A taijutsuka's ninpo training makes them good at Acrobatics and Escape, average at Disguise and Stealth, and poor at Deception and Sabotage. Their prime ability is Str. Taijutsuka may select from the Buke, Shukyo, Noumin or Chounin backgrounds. They gain the Low Sport skill for free, and may select any three other skills from their background of choice. They are proficient with basic and classical weapons, but are not proficient with any form of armor.
Taijutsuka Special Abilities
1st level: Living Weapon – The taijutsuka uses the attack bonus of a bushi and deals 1d6 damage with unarmed attacks (increases to 1d8 at 3rd level, 1d10 at 6th level, and 1d12 at 9th level), and adds her attack bonus to AC and TD. By spending one skill die, the taijustuka can jump up to 30' vertically or horizontally.
3rd level: select either Burst of Speed or Leaping Strike.
Burst of SpeedBy spending one skill die, the taijutsuka can move at double speed for a number of rounds equal to the taijutsuka's Str modifier (minimum 1). Attacks are doubled for the round as well.
Leaping StrikeWhenever an acrobatics skill is used in conjunction with an attack and by spending one combat die, base damage from the attack is doubled and the opponent must save vs. metal or be stunned for one round.
6th level: select either Defensive Roll or Exploit.
Defensive Roll – By spending one skill die, if the taijutsuka is struck by an attack or spell, the damage from the attack is reduced to its minimum value. If the taijutsuka already acted this round and used a skill die, they may still use this ability but may NOT use a skill die in the following round, or for subsequent attacks this round.
Exploit – Whenever an opponent fails to execute a tactical maneuver on the taijutsuka, the taijutsuka gains a free tactical maneuver attack on that opponent. This ability does not require spending any skill dice.
9th level: select either Immortal's Feet or Ki Strike.
Immortal's Feet – The taijutsuka can move at full speed on any surface, and never sets off pressure-based traps or alarms. By spending one skill die, the taijutsuka may move stealthily at full speed for one minute per point of the skill die result.
Ki StrikeWhenever a natural 20 is rolled, or by spending one skill die, base damage from an attack is tripled, and the opponent must save vs. fire or be knocked unconscious for a number of minutes equal to the skill die result.

Uragata: Uragata [Infiltrator] are shinobi who specialize in deception and social manipulation in order to gain access to enemy strongholds or personnel. They are consummate actors, able to slip into various roles as needed to reach their objectives. An uragata's ninpo training makes them good at Deception and Disguise, average at Acrobatics and Escape, and poor at Sabotage and Stealth. Their prime ability is Cha. Uragata may select the Kuge, Buke or Chounin backgrounds. They gain the Entertainment skill for free, and can select any three other skills from their background of choice. They are proficient with basic and ninja weapons, and with light armor.
Uragata Special Abilities
1st level: Distraction – By spending one skill die, the uragata may pass unnoticed for one minute per point of the skill die result when outside of combat. When in combat, the skill die result is instead the number of opponents who ignore the uragata for a number of rounds equal to the uragata's Cha modifier.
3rd level: select either Flash Memorize or Quick Change.
Flash MemorizeBy spending a skill die, the uragata can instantly remember up to one page of text or two minutes of spoken dialogue (about 300 words). The uragata retains the information for a number of days equal to the skill die result plus the uragata's Cha modifier (minimum 1).
Quick ChangeBy spending a skill die, the uragata is able to make disguise checks to change appearance, dress, etc. in only one round.
6th level: select either Enamor or Smuggle.
EnamorWhen using a skill die with a deception check, if the total is 13+, the target becomes charmed (as the spell) by the uragata for one day per point of Cha modifier (minimum 1) unless the target saves vs. earth with a penalty equal to the skill die check.
SmuggleBy spending a skill die, the uragata can hide a number of small objects equaling the skill die result on her body and they will not be found no matter how thoroughly she is searched.
9th level: select either Assassinate or Thousand Faces.
AssassinateWhenever a natural 20 is rolled in combat, or by spending one skill die if attacking an unwary target, the opponent takes double damage and must save vs. wood or die instantly.
Thousand FacesBy spending one skill die, the uragata takes on a disguise and persona so convincing that it cannot be pierced. Even magical detection of disguise, transformation, or illusion only works if the viewer saves vs. water.