Archive for the ‘Let's Study’ Category


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Moving on from the character creation, the game offers a broad selection of threats, from basic animals to bandits, and township threats, and moving up to the Emperor’s finest soldiers and even Celestial Animals and Oni for the more supernatural angle.

Seeing this kind of spread is actually a good thing for the game, as Ninja Crusade seems to be geared specifically for a broader range of games, from ninja vs ninja tragedies, to action-adventure yarns. It’s a deep toolkit of ideas for the GM to use, and I sincerely appreciate that.

In the Setting chapter, Ninja Crusade 2e gives us an overview of life in the renewed Izou Empire. While heavily influenced by Japan, the setting of Ninja Crusade is much more well formed this time around.

Wherein the first edition was all broad strokes and implications, there’s a stronger voice of authority in the setting, but enough white space around for GMs to place their own take on things.

Each of the provinces of the Empire are described in a short blurb, along with descriptions of prominent cities. This could afford to be a little longer, I feel, but there are some pretty good plot hooks in this section for people to insert different kinds of adventures.

The game then zooms out to talk about the lands around the Empire, giving us a better appreciation of it’s place among it’s neighbours and the lands beyond the borders of the empire where new friends (and foes) might come from, or where the heroes might be forced to visit for a time.

In the GMing chapter, Ninja Crusade tackles the job of providing inspiration and ideas for a new GM. Starting from inspirations, which feature some obvious picks like Basilisk and Naruto, the book then moves on to the basic structure of handling Ninja Stories. There’s good advice here on how to put together a plot, as well as how to pace the game.

One of the best sections here is an examination of common Ninja Story types, as this can be the backbone for a new GM’s attempt at running the game. After all, you don’t need to be original you should be well executed.

The book finishes with a collection of pregenerated characters, all of which could be used by new players, or as NPCs in an ongoing game.

Conclusion & Review

Ninja Crusade 2e is kind of like that long delayed sequel you never thought you wanted until you were walking out of the movie theater after seeing it. While the first edition was full of haphazard enthusiasm and spunk, the second edition of the game greatly benefits from a host of improvements brought upon by careful and deliberate design.

Third Eye Games has shown that it is capable of great leaps of innovation, with this edition showing off some incredible artwork, well-considered, and imaginative mechanics, and a much more fleshed out setting.

As a total product, it finally feels all there. There are no hanging bits that feel tacked on at the last minute, no hasty ideas written in just to make it to print. Everything is here because it was meant to.

But that said, is it fun? I would say yes. As a love letter to ninja anime, the game has everything you might want. From strange powers to warring clans, and a setting that lets you go from Naruto to Legend of Korra, Ninja Crusade delivers. Comedy games of Ninja Crusade aren’t too far fetched, and I can see a serious group pull off Basilisk-style ugly clan wars mutual destruction just as easily.

So if you’re looking for a good game that does over-the-top anime action without the fiddly nature of Exalted, but with enough crunch to satisfy your tactical itch, Ninja Crusade is a solid pick.


Today we’re taking a look at the mechanics behind Ninja Crusade 2e.

Gifts and Triggers

One of the first thing this chapter talks about are the Gifts and Triggers. As seen in the character creation entry in our series, 5 of the Steps involve getting a Gift and a Trigger.

Gifts reflect lessons learned and internalised by a character, and bestow a bonus to a Skill for a specific use. Triggers on the other hand reflect hubris and conflict between loyalties. When Triggers are activated, players receive 1 Karma.

Skill Combo System

The game uses only Skills to complete tasks. When performing an action, the GM can call for a combo of 2 skills that are involved in the action. The player then rolls a number of 10-sided dice equal to the total of those two skills and tries to roll 7 and above. 7, 8, and 9 count as one success each, while a 10 counts as two successes.

Should a character roll no successes and any of the dice show up as a 1, then this is considered a critical failure.

Difficulties

Difficulties in Ninja Crusade is rated by the number of successes needed to roll in order to pass. This ranges from 0 (easy) to 5 (legendary).

Boosts

If a player is able to roll 3 successes OVER the Difficulty, then the roll benefits from a Boost, which grants improved benefits over a normal success.

Boosts can bestow benefits such as the ability to attack additional targets, gain bonus information from a roll, halve the time to execute a task or deal bonus damage.

Fate Die

Should a combo be reduced to 0 by modifiers, or due to a lack of any levels in either skill, then the player rolls a single d10 called a Fate Die. This die differs in that the only way it can score a success is by rolling a 10.

Karma Pool

At the beginning of each session, the group begins with a Karma Pool with a number of d10’s equal to the number of players. These dice are considered a shared resource, and have a maximum cap of 10 dice. During play, certain events add to the Karma pool, such as Triggers and Critical Failures.

Any player may use these Karma dice on their turn as long as no other player objects. These may then be spent on Bonus Dice, or in a Dramatic Rewrite, which allows for players to change something in the Scene to fit their character’s needs in the heat of the moment.

All good so far. Ninja Crusade’s basic system is pretty standard stuff, with good ideas taken from various games and cobbled together into a medium crunch system with many options for neat bells and whistles to take place, as in the case of Boosts and Karma.

The way Karma is created is also neat as it encourages missions going south quickly due to the Ninja’s inherent personality failings before rallying to victory as the Karma gained is spent on Dramatic Editing to save their bacon.

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s take a peek at combat!

Initiative

In an interesting take on the standard Initiative system, Ninja Crusade has a static value for Initiative that doesn’t change. Ties are rolled off to determine who moves first within the same initiative, but the initiative values themselves don’t change.

This sort of saves time from rolling off… time that is now spent rolling for something else called

Dynamic Actions

These represent the ninja’s ability to think on the fly and react to factors as their arise as opposed to waiting for their turn to come around. Rank provides characters with a number of Dynamic Actions, as well as a number of dice to roll each Round to gain further Dynamic Actions.

It’s a neat subsystem I’ve yet to see anywhere else, and I do like that the Ninja Crusade systems people have managed to incorporate it without taking up table time by moving the initiative roll’s time slot over to here.

Dynamic Actions are spent on a menus of various actions ranging from counter-attacks, boosting (or lowering) initiative or deflecting an attack.

Battle Actions

In a neat little treatment, Ninja Crusade treats social (or Mental) combat in the same way as normal combat. But rather than creating two entirely different systems, they harmonized the two by generalizing actions to the following:

  • Inflict Harm
  • Plan Attack
  • Affect Composure (Mental Only)
  • Disarm
  • Initiate Grab
  • Break Grab
  • Knock back (Physical Only)
  • Knock down (Physical Only)
  • Mold Ki
  • Retreat
  • Sprint / Rush (Physical Only)
  • Use Jutsu

In response, the target can then choose their defence (which is also split along Mental and Physical)

  • Block / Parry
  • Brace
  • Catch (Physical Only)
  • Dodge / Evade
  • Find Cover

Once both characters have chosen their action and defence, the GM determines the Skill Combos for each, and they roll off.

Damage is determined by how much the attacker rolls over the Defender. Some attacks have a base amount of damage that occurs on top of any other factors.  Boosts and Dynamic Actions can be spent to further increase damage.

Conditions

In order to stave off death, players may opt to take on Conditions, this is a tradeoff of taking instant damage in exchange for a longer-term penalty. It’s a great roleplaying opportunity, and while I am a little wary of having multiple players each nursing up to 4 conditions each, when used in moderation it can be fun.

Overall, the combat system is a bit involved and multi-layered, and those not used to a middle to high level of complexity in rules might find themselves losing track of the fiddly bits. In any given moment you’re tracking Gifts, Dynamic Actions, Karma, Boosts, Jutsu and Actions.

What it does promise however, is a game with a lot of interesting avenues for cinematic ninja battles. I would definitely advise more than a few sample sessions of the combat system to get players to learn all the nooks and crannies as the system will shine if everyone is proficient at it.

Overall, big kudos to the Ninja Crusade team for putting this together. It’s unique, but not overly difficult to learn, and I’m glad they really stuck their necks out to try new combinations of what might feel like familiar rules to deliver the experience they wanted.

Next up, a look at Ninja Crusdade’s Setting, and Antagonists!


Hey there, welcome back!

Today we’ll be taking a look at the Character Creation rules for Ninja Crusade. Character Creation officially begins in Chapter 3, but it helps to go over Chapter 2 first as it gives you a profile for each of the playable clans in the game.

Each profile is broken down into the following:

  • Name
  • Other Names
  • Stereotypes
  • Fighting Styles
  • Favoured Jutsu
  • Skills
  • Ki Balance

A history of the clan follows afterwards, along with a look at their average lifestyle and agendas of the clan.

Clan Gifts and Triggers are also discussed, before wrapping up with the Contacts options and Bonds.

While I appreciate having all this information in one place, I suppose I’m being nitpicky because I have no idea what all of these concepts mean. At first glance, Jutsu, Ki Balance, Gift and Triggers, and Contacts and Bonds are all confusing, as they’re actually all for lookup as part of character creation that takes place in the next chapter.

I’m not sure what a good solution for this is, but it’s good to consider when picking up this game that there are concepts that are used ahead of when they’re actually defined.

Okay, so now that I’ve read through the Clan Writeups, I find myself liking the Will of Iron Clan, so let’s see what I can put together.

Character Creation Proper begins in Chapter Three, with something called the Long Road, where each Step is defined as a phase in the character’s life up to now, and is defined by what choices they’ve made. It’s an intriguing concept, and one that feels a bit similar to the Lifepath system of Fusion games, but perhaps more modern.

Each choice contains: a Name (or descriptor of the choice), Skills, Ki Balance, Gift and Trigger

It’s at this point that we learn that Ki Balance is a +1 Yang, +1 Tin or +1 to the player’s choice. Also Gifts are dice bonuses provided when a character performs tasks connected to their choice, and Triggers are terrible twists that affect the Scene in a dramatic way and usually offers Karma in exchange.

What Karma is, isn’t explained yet.

Step One – Ocean: Element, Ki Balance, Skills

At this point, I decide to stick to an Element resonant to the Will of Iron Clan and choose Metal as my element. This gives me:

Skills: Deception +1, Discipline +1, Might +1, Speed +1

Ki Balance: Yin +1

I also pick Honorable, which bestows the following:

Gift: +1 Fortitude to stave off hunger, thirst or sleep derivation for the greater good.

Trigger: Gain 1 Karma whenever honour hurts the character or their squad

Step Two – Village: Occupation, Skills

This is the step where I choose a Profession and a Focus for my character.

For Profession, I go for Noble, which gives me:

Skills: Deception +1, Intimidation +1, Perform +1, Travel+1

For Focus, I pick Magistrate:

Gift: +1 Intuition to assess a situation

Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when refusing to bend or break the law to help the group

Step Three – River: Tragedy, Ki Balance, Skills

River has you choosing a Tragedy, and an Affliction

I’m going for a Tragedy of Civil Discord:

Skills: Discipline+1, Perform +1, Speed +1, Travel +1

I’ve also decided on Star Crossed as an Affliction

Ki Balance +1 Yang

Gift: +1 Knowledge if the ninja tries to impress someone with a piece of trivia

Trigger: Gain 1 Karma whenever the ninja misses an important detail due to a distraction that endangers the group.

Step Four – Forge: Wartime Role, Skills

For this step, I have to select on Wartime Role and a Title that best suits the character’s expertise.

My character’s Wartime Role is a Footsoldier

Skills: Athletics +1, Discipline +1, Fighting +1 Might +1

I chose their role to be a Champion

Gift: Gain +1 Fortitude against poisons

Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when the ninja shares their truth and it causes conflict.

Step Five – Mountain: Clan, Ki Balance, Contacts, Bonds, Skills

At this point, we refer back to the Clan Writeups. I’ve already decided on Will of Iron so I record their stats here:

Ki Balance: +1 Yin

Skills: Empathy +1, Fighting +1, Intimidation +1, Perception +1

Favoured Jutsu: Way of Heaven’s Judgement

Fighting Styles: Mantis, Tiger

Gift: Get a +1 bonus to any check when utilising a metal tool or weapon. If it is an item they forged themselves, they receive a +2 bonus instead

Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when they stand firm to preserve the law and refuse to break an oath, rule or their conscience to their detriment.

Contact: Koga Harue (Fighting)

Rival: Hagane Fuyuko (Intuition)

Step Six – Temple: Martial Training, Skills, Specialties

The Temple is where the player can customize their character further with 10 Skill points to spend, and define 2 specialties.

  • With the spent 10 skill points and skill picks from the Long Road, the character looks like this:
  • Athletics +1
  • Crafts +2
  • Deception +2
  • Discipline +3
  • Empathy +3
  • Fighting +3
  • Intimidation +2
  • Intuition +3
  • Might +2
  • Perception +3
  • Perform +2
  • Speed +2
  • Travel+2

Players also get to define their Martial Training within three different types: Fighting Styles, Weapon Styles and the 99 Styles.

For my 2 picks, I go for Mantis Style’s “Mantis Feasts Well” tree at Level One, gaining +1 damage with unarmed attacks. for my second pick, I’m going for Trap Master Level One, allowing my ninja to build and place traps. I specialise in Capture and Immobilise traps, getting a +1 to create those by 1.

Step Seven – Sky: Select Jutsu

For the final step, I get to select my character’s Jutsu. At character creation I begin with 6 points to spend. Basic Jutsu cost 1 point, Median Jutsu cost 2 points and Advanced costs 3 points per purchase.

Way of Heaven’s Judgement

Element: Metal

Training: On a Boost, the ninja gains +1 damage on an active criminal.

Backfire: Suffer a cumulative Confused 1 Condition and they can’t determine guilt while confused.

I’m sticking to Jutsu from the Clan for now, and pick the following:

  • Hunt the Guilty (Basic)
  • Righteous Objection (Basic)
  • Eye for an Eye (Median)
  • Part the Mystery (Median)

Health and Psyche

The next part involves calculating Health and Psyche Scores. These represent the amount of physical and mental damage a character can take before being broken.

Health is 5 + Fortitude, while Psyche is 5 + Discipline. As my ninja has no Fortitude, his final scores are:

Health 5

Fortitude 8

Ki

Ki is determined by the picks of the various steps in character creation. Based on their choices, the ninja starts with 2 Yin and 1 Yang ki.

Rank

Starting ninja begin at Rank 1

Initiative

Initiative is determined by Intuition + Speed + 3, or in this case 8

Strength

Strength is a function of Athletics + Might, in this case my Ninja begins with 3

Movement

Movement is determined by Athletics + Speed + 5 or 8 in this case.

Overall the character creation process isn’t too complicated, with each one just being a series of small decisions, and the resulting character comes off as pretty well rounded. Having a decent spread of skills is particularly important given the way the system works (which we’ll get to next time) and honestly, Ninja are all about self-sufficiency, so being able to do more is definitely a benefit.

In general while I was a little annoyed at being presented mechanics before they were adequately explained, I can certainly see more well rounded characters as opposed to min-maxed ones.

Next time, we’ll check out the mechanics that power Ninja Crusade!


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Old time readers might remember the time when I checked out Wu Xing: the Ninja Crusade by Third Eye Games. Well, I’ve been meaning to write this follow up on the new edition of the game, now just called Ninja Crusade, for a while now and we’re finally getting to it!

What is it?

Ninja Crusade is a fictional asian-flavoured fantasy featuring super-powered martial arts ninjas along the lines of those found in the Naruto and Ninja Scroll anime. In the setting, Ninja are powerful entities that must move in secret as they are subject to the Ninja Crusade, a campaign of eradication initiated by the latest emperor of the Izou Empire to kill off the Ninja.

The game provides players with the tools they need to create their own ninja characters and craft dramatic, engaging stories.

The Ten Clans

It wouldn’t be a good ninja game if it didn’t feature different ninja Clans. Ninja Crusade features Ten of them, each featuring their own brand of special jutsu, or ninja abilities.

They are:

Bamboo Herbalists: Genius doctors and thrill-seekers, they are masters of medicinal jutsu

Blazing Dancers: Entertainers, well known for their acrobatic acts and fiery performances

Grasping Shadows: Traditionalists, spies and assassins, they wield power over shadows and stealth

Hidden Strands of Fate: Master manipulators, adept at pulling strings (both literal and political)

Living Chronicle: Historians, keeping knowledge alive in their minds and on their bodies

Pack of the Black Moon: Ranchers and farmers, they are experts on animals, particularly their specially-bred ninja dogs

Recoiling Serpents: Fallen lords, masters of poison and survival in dangerous lands

Virtuous Body Gardeners: Feisty warriors and artists who specialize in tattoo manipulation as their newest art form

Wardens of Equilibrium: Merchant ninja who seek to balance the world and turn a profit at the same time

Will of Iron: Wandering, lone magistrates who believe in invoking justice wherever they go

Ronin: Clanless ninja, composed of exiles from other clans or self-taught ninja

It’s a fun list of interesting Ninja Clans to choose from, and so far all signs point to awesome.

I remember my discomfort for the first edition was in the tone of its writing, and I quote:

I’m also slightly put off by the modern language and concepts used in character dialogue in the fiction parts of the book. One particular vignette for the Blazing Dancers Clan had me strangely bothered when the Ninja offers a fan an autograph. It seemed like a very strange anachronism, and one that kept jarring my suspension of disbelief. Some turns of phrase were also far too informal to match the setting, but I think that’s just my expectations clashing with the setting as intended by the author.

The Introduction seems to be no-nonsense right now, and I’m hoping that it holds.

Next up, we’ll be taking the time to check out character creation, which seems to have taken a route similar to the the Fusion Lifepath system where you organically build your character based off key choices in each phase.

Should be fun!


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Today we’re tackling the last parts of the Conan book, with a quick glance at the remaining chapters!

The Hyborean World

This is the dense setting chapter that talks about the world that Conan inhabits. Remember when I said way back at the start of this series that the RPG book is probably the most extensive treatment of Robert E. Howard’s worldbuilding? Well, that shines through in this chapter.

Each of the regions in The Hyborean World is given exhaustive treatment, with a discussion of geography, cultures, the people, customs and conflicts of each. Needless to say each of these is also filled to the brim with plot hooks and adventure ideas that could launch a ton of campaigns. GMs can zoom in and have a solid series of adventures around a given region like Aquilonia, for example, or do the Conan thing and go whole hog on a travelling campaign where the characters find themselves in new and exotic locales in every adventure.

Gamemastering

This chapter is where the book breaks character to address the GM directly. In it, they relay the tasks and duties of a GM, and try to convey as many tips and tricks as possible to emulate the pulse-pounding thrills and chills of Conan’s pulp adventures.

In addition, there is also a long section talking about Momentum and Doom, and how to best use these resources to manage pacing and tension in a game.

Perhaps the most interesting section in this chapter is what happens between adventures. Whenever the characters aren’t off slaying creatures and escaping mummified sorceror-kings, they’re busy living their lives. This is tackled with mechanics for Upkeep and Carousing. This isn’t just simple task of wine and wenches, but an opportunity to engage in traditionally downtime activities like meeting with a patron, engaging in trade or gambling. These then become a source of adventure seeds and misadventures, giving the players a sense of the passage of time while engaging in (mostly) non-sword swingy pursuits.

Vultures of Shem

This is the introductory adventure found in the Conan RPG. It’s a brisk adventure that kicks off in a very pulp-y fashion, but to avoid spoilers I’ll refrain from talking about it in much detail. Needless to say, it starts with quite an opening, and depending on the decisions that the characters take they’ll run into all sorts of interesting (and despicable) characters, and have more than a few run-ins with the supernatural. It’s very appropriate given the source material and a great way to re-orient players away from the habits and expectations of other Fantasy games.

Heroes of the Age

This is the Kickstarter Backer character chapter, and they present a wide range of interesting characters that can be tossed into any Conan campaign. While whether or not they’re good is largely a matter of taste, many of them are pretty interesting, and I can spot a few that would make for interesting encounters in my campaigns. (If you’re the kickstarter backer who wrote up Hast, well done!)

Review

Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of set off to become the definitive Conan RPG. While many have tried before them, Modiphius has managed to pull off this claim, coming up with a game that contains what could be best described as the very essence of Conan’s adventures.

Art & Layout

The artwork in the book is phenomenal, and well used, each one conveying the manic vibrance and urgency of Conan’s pulp adventures. While there was still a few instances of a naked lady being sacrificed in an altar, most of the other artwork showed sensibly-dressed women in situations of empowerment and adventure.

The layout is crisp and clean, and made reading the book a lot more pleasant. Callout boxes with and tables were used with consistency and an eye towards clarity, and even with the textured printer-unfriendly version, the background didn’t interfere with the ability to clearly read the text.

As a PDF product, the entire thing was bookmarked and searchable and quite snappy on my laptop (though perhaps a little less so on my mobile phone.)

System

Modiphius’ 2d20 House System feels like a perfect fit for Conan’s adventures, and the genius of the Momentum and Doom mechanics lie in their ability to affect the mood of the game and amplify tension.

Combat is crunchy, but every rule exists to support the fiction. Conan isn’t a place where combat is heroic. It’s visceral, practical and fraught with danger. Even if the player characters are meant to be exceptional individuals, there’s never a sense of an encounter being a cakewalk since the GM is always waiting in the wings with Doom in hand.

Conclusion

Would I recommend Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of to others? By all means, yes. If you’ve never played a different kind of Fantasy RPG, then you owe yourself to try this game.

If you’ve ever enjoyed Conan in any iteration, from the movies, the cartoon, the videogames or the stories then you owe yourself to try this game.

I’ve always had a strong preference for games whose rules are structured to promote a given feel and mood while simulating the “physics” of the fiction. The Conan RPG does this in a stellar fashion, with a crunchy set of mechanics that emulate the world of savage adventure inhabited by Conan in a way that I imagine will be very, very difficult to outdo.

The Conan RPG is now available for purchase in PDF format from DriveThruRPG for $24.99