Monday, December 30, 2013

Seems I'm not alone

There are some other OSR-type bloggers out there working on Asian Themed RPGs this holiday season (like Dan and Joseph B.).  And here I am, once again starting from near scratch to build my Chanbara game.

Well, thanks to my buddy Ted (here, here and here), I've refocused what I actually want to do with the game.  It doesn't need to be just D&D in funny hats, as it was headed.  Busting monster heads in ruins can still be part of the game, but hopefully I'll be able to make it a bit more than that (like I did for Flying Swordsmen). 

I'm simplifying a few things (character classes), and re-complicating some others (Skill Dice) although not as complex as they originally were.  And hopefully I'll manage to cobble together a game that's fun to play and also evokes and rewards playing to the tropes of Japanese period action movies (the historical and semi-historical stuff like Kurosawa or a lot of ninja movies), but also the weird Japanese supernatural stories (ghosts and bakemono and oni and all that). 

It will also likely be closer to Flying Swordsmen than I originally intended it to be, but now I'm thinking that's not such a bad thing. 

I'm going back to basics.  Three classes: Bushi (Fighter), Ninja (Thief) and Mahotsukai (Wizard), each with two subclasses similar to the "profiles" in Flying Swordsmen to allow them to specialize in certain areas.

Skill Dice will again be linked to ability scores (well, only my play-test group knew that I'd unhooked them, but oh well), with bonuses (increased die type) for using it for your class's main thing (combat, exploration or magic). 

I'll be getting rid of the archetype merger classes, but (in a bit of a twist from how it's normally done), allow humans the ability to multiclass.  Or maybe no to multiclassing, this is still in the idea stage.  But instead of subclasses being a mix of two main classes, each will just focus on doing their thing a bit differently.  So, like I said, more like Flying Swordsmen, only without the magic-user/cleric distinction.

The big change will be in the reward mechanics, which I'm still working on.  More details later as I figure out exactly how I want to do it, but if you read Ted's three posts (especially the second one), you'll get an idea of what I'm after for "goals of play."


  1. Good to hear my posts are helping someone. I am surprised you've left out the sohei (fighting monk) as they are historical and make a neat 4th corner to the triumvirate you gave above (samurai, ninja, and mahotsukai). I myself would also add a monk type (karate-ka) and possibly wild woodsman of some type, but that is just me.

    Anyway, best of luck, happy new years and see you in 2014!

  2. Woodcutters figure prominently in Korean folktales, too, but I wonder how well they would fit in a basically D&D chassis without making them Ranger clones.

    I have considered a martial artist/budouka class, possibly as a subclass of the ninja. Sohei are currently one of the Bushi subclasses.

    Of course, by the time I'm done I may just do away with the subclass idea and have each archetype be its own class. We'll see. I suppose it depends on how much overlap there is.

    Thanks for the input, and good luck to you, especially with the dissertation, this new year!

  3. When I read "ninja", I think specifically of the guys in pajamas. Would shinobi sound more general like bushi? Fighting monk as sub-class sounds good.

    1. Probably, and I may change it. I specifically went with "Bushi" over Samurai so that it can encompass actual samurai and ronin, and other peasant warrior types, like the Fighter class in D&D.

      Shinobi to me still has all of the ninja trope baggage, but it might not to the population at large. Onmitsu (spy) might also be a good general name choice, and then people could use it to craft the sort of ninja/kunoichi/whatever that they please.

    2. I just groan when ninja (English informal) can be a verb, or mean a motorbike, kitchen appliance...

    3. One of the best things about being in Asia is that I'm mostly insulated from dumb crap like that.

      In a fantasy game with a Japanese motif, though, I think people will expect there to be ninja of the black pajama variety, and will know that it does not involve whatever the verb usage means (what, sneak up on someone? Gank them? Steal something? If one of the above, then maybe it will apply...)

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  5. You mentioned that you may have to put aside your plans to convert Flying Swordsmen to OSR. Is it possible to list some of your thoughts on how you were going to do that and may some of us here can assist you with your project?

    1. I do consider Flying Swordsmen to already be OSR, but I was thinking of making some classes more similar to Labyrinth Lord classes based on the Flying Swordsmen/Chanbara archetypes.

      And I'm actually thinking about that again. This post has the main ideas I think I would use to build the classes:

      I may give it a bit of work over my summer break from university, along with continuing to work on Chanbara.

      If I need to bounce any ideas off of you (or other readers), I'll be happy to have some help.