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.