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 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).
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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)
- Initiate Grab
- Break Grab
- Knock back (Physical Only)
- Knock down (Physical Only)
- Mold Ki
- 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
- 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.
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!