Ninja Crusade: Second Edition: Empire's Reign by Mors Rattus
Are We The BaddiesOriginal SA post
Ninja Crusade: Empire's Reign - Are We The Baddies
We start off with a history of the Empire, except this time from the Empire's perspective. Children are taught the history of Izou Zurui early, and the history is clear: total authority over the world came from Zurui's honor and power, and the Empire itself is unstoppable and glorious. In the time when Zurui lived, the use of ninja had discouraged large-scale armies, but the city-states were growing tense with each other. Ninja had once been a deterrent to total war, but now, the many nations were too strong to be threatened so easily by ninja power, and war became inevitable after a five-year drought forced conflict over food and rivers. When two armies came to a small fishing village, few knew it would become more than a pointless skirmish...but the family if Izou Zurui was slaughtered in the chaos, and he swore vengeance against those that took them from him. As Zurui buried the dead, he saw a vision of a land at peace, his descendants living happily, undivided by religion, language or people. He saw the world united under one leader, and spirits spoke to him of his destiny. Zurui never said all the spirits told him, but he awoke to find a golden sword and the location of a dojo in his mind, where he could learn the art of war.
The Grasping Shadows trained him, gave him the means to raise an army that would destroy those who would ruin the land. They pledged to assist him and train his elite forces. Zurui excelled under their tutelage, and he would soon lead them and defeat armies far more numerous than his own, thanks to his bold leadership and clever strategy. He and his men became heroes of legend, and to this day, many nobles claim descent from Zurui's followers. He brought doctors and scholars with him to conquered lands, to see to the needs of the people. Zurui never burned villages nor temples, and he showed mercy when he could and made examples when he had to. He found many generals chose to join him rather than face him, and he became the ruler of an empire far greater than anything the Orime Dynasty had ever dreamed of.
While Zurui was grateful to his ninja trainers, he never fully trusted them and always made sure to pay his debts to them prmptly. He knew they would be loyal only as long as there was mutual respect, and he negotiated carefully with other clans. He would leave them in peace if they did not threaten his realm, and so the clans used this chance to expand their power and eliminate their rivals. When Zurui died, four decades later, his nation was strong, and it was said that when the Emperor's last breath came, a dragon flew over the Palace to escort his soul to the heavens. However, Zurui's nephew, Junshinichi, quickly destroyed the peace in his Expansion Wars, seeking to take new provinces into the Empire. This expansionist conquest would continue over time - every Emperor ended up following one of two paths. They were either conquerors, adding new lands to the Empire, or administrators, caring for the people.
The early years were not totally easy, however. The Jahata Rebellion was an insurrection that spread across the Empire, centered on the city of Jahata, where the crops were destroyed by famine and the water plagued by Crashing Wave pirates. A strange man came to the city on the back of a yak, preaching a new religion that caught on quickly. He told them they need not fear an unjust Empire, that they could be their own masters, and so Jahata rebelled. It spread quickly, and soon the Yak symbol could be seen across the Empire, and even Imperial garrisons took up the banner and the ways of the monk, having sometimes gon unpaid for months. The Empire broke out in civil war, and the court was unsure of what to do, while the Emperor, not long from having been a boy who took the throne when his father died of illness, was unprepared.
It was his sister, Lady Sako, who was the more skilled of the two. She had studied under her uncle, and begged her brother for a commission in the Army to become a soldier. She struggled at ifrst in the ranks because of sexism, but soon became a fierce and competent commander. She won the loyalty of her men by brave and intelligent tactics that allowed her to defeat forces many times the size of her own, and she was made Commander of the Southern Legions and set to fight the Jahata rebels. She managed to cripple them in a series of bold raiders, ending the rebellion by razing Jahata and destroying the forces of the Yak. Few can recall what happened to the priest that led the rebellion. It is said that a team of ninja stormed his stronghold near the end, trying to bring an end to the war. Few records exist of what happened there, but the ninja who returned told tales of snakes with the heads of men and strange, foul beasts.
In more recent years, the ninja were the stuff of legend. Their conflicts sometimes needed Imperial intervention, but for the most part, they kept to the shadows. They were fainfully employed and, as the Izou Empire grew, they worked among the Izou. The Empire was a beacon of grace and honor in the world...until the ninja slew the son of the Emperor, and the great purge was called. New laws were made to ban the ninja teachings and to arrest even those ninja known to work with the government until their loyalty could be truly proven. This was not, at the time, out of hatred, but of fear of ninja power, for the Emperor Mamoru knew well what they were capable of. It was a welcome thing for the Army, who had never liked the one threat that challenged their power in the land. They believed the ninja to have operated too easily, to be blasphemous and dishonorable. They wanted to control the Empire's peace without needing to avoid or appease a group little better than terrorists. Helping them were the Golden Lions, the so-called Emperor's Clan, who were personally charged by Mamoru to continue their jutsu work to better fight the other ninja. New divions like the Executioners and the newly revitalized Engineers Guild were formed, and the Empire capitalized on a newly discovered invention - gunpowder.
Once, gunpowder had just been used for stage trickery, but its development as a weapon gave the Army an edge. Ninja had many powers, yes, but now they could field soldiers using weapons that could pierce nearly any defense. Mamoru was willing to pay any cost to train his forces, and the Crusade began. As it grew, so did the destructive revenge tactics of the ninja. Despite his best protections, the ninja slew Mamoru's beloved wife, Izou Hana, and her head was put on a pike outside the Palace. Their daughter, Megumi, whose voice was said to be as beautiful as the dawn, was left poisoned, to waste away and day. This enraged Mamoru, who ordered that no ninja be spared. The barbaric acts of the ninja could not be forgiven, and the Emperor told far and wide what had been done to him and to others. He told the people to throw off the tyranny of the ninja, that he would no more allow anyone to fear these vigilantes that existed outside the law. The people rallied behind their leader and his wisdom, and the Army's ranks swelled.
The Emperor learned from his spymaster, Katosoge, that the ninja planned an all-out attack. He knew that if he traveled amongst the people, the ninja would use them ash uman shields, so he devised a trap for them, to end things quickly and decisively. He gave orders to summon his best warriors and hid them away in the PAlace, waiting for the ninja to come. His spy in the Lotus Coalition told him they were on their way, and he was ready. There was little resistance as the ninja entered the capital and the palace. As they emerged there, however, they found the 'Emperor' was a mere decoy, a servant. The secret passage they used was sealed behind them, and the Golden Lions, Executioners and Silver Blades emerged to defeat the ninja. The ninja were fierce, but the Golden Lions were able to negate their jutsu by stealing their powers. The Silver Blades and Executioners punished the ninja with death in combat, but one of them managed to break away and flee into the palace, where he had the sheer luck to stumble upon the Emperor and his escort. The Emperor could not restrain himself when he saw the ninja trying to kill his men, and he drew his sword to fight.
That is where all official reports end. It is known that the ninja, Danketsu, escaped despite suffering terrible wounds. It is known that Danketsu reported the Emperor's death, and that the people received no news from the palace for several months. It is known that at the end of that itme, the Imperial legions suddenly charged forth once more in battle, armed with the locations of some of the most hidden temples and dojos of the ninja clans. It is known that they spared no one in the villages they found. At their forefront were great celestial beasts, summoned by the Imperial Summoners to wage war. And it is known that Emperor Mamoru rode at the forfront of the army in this march, as strong as ever. The Lotus Coalition gathered in their new village, Danketsu, and prepared for the war to begin anew. The Imperial people were filled with hope that at last, the war might end.
We then cut to a brief sidebar on a few famous emperors. Zurui the First, obviously. His nephew, Junshinichi the Conqueror, who expanded the borders. Emperor Huhua the Blessed, who supported the arts and the sciences and whose reign saw the discovery of black powder. Emperor Akono the Horseman, who led the fight against the Matamoto, a clain of demons that sought to conquer the Empire. Empress Xia the Lonely, who is said to have led the Empire through famine and restored it to glory. Emperor Gong the Corrupt, who spent his entire treasury on the infamous Golden Pleasure Palace and is the only Emperor to have ever died of choking on food. Lastly, Emperor Ide the Lawgiver, who codified what had been thousands of minor edicts into today's easily understood legal system.
Anyway, back to the Emperor. See, being Emperor is more than just being a hereditary king. The Emperor is supported by divine might, not only that of the gods but also the ancestors of the Izou people. He is a bridge between past and present. A strong Emperor means the Izou will have great fortune. A weak Emperor means plagues and bad economy. The Empire is said to be run solely by the bureaucracy, with the Emperor as its one absolute power. Under the Articles of Heaven written by Izou Zurui and later expanded by Izou Ide, the power and authority of the throne are defined, with many provinces led by assemblies or noble councils which the Emperor may step into and change as he sees fit. The Articles do give guidelines on how the Emperor should act and Imperial children study them closely as they grow up. Of course, there have been ruling Empresses. It's not common, but the Emperor chooses as heir the child most fit to lead, and that is not always a boy. Chauvinism among then obility makes life for an Empress hard, and they must work harder than men to be seen as worthy, but every Empress so far has not only excelled as a leader but led the Empire through many hardships successfully. Because the Emperor has divine authority over all things, however, it's hard to remove a bad or cruel one. There's been times of civil war, sure, but peace has been maintained either by the Empire doing its best to handle a weak Emperor or by standing strong in the face of barbarity. Only once in all of Izou history has an Emperor been assassinated, and that because the sons he passed over as heirs were particularly vicious. The son that ordered the murder has had his name stricken from history, and the nation was led afterwards by Empress Xia, whose reign was thirty years of amazing prosperity.
The big question these day,s though, is what happened to Emperor Mamoru? According to Danketsu, he died, and the ninja spread this rumor far and wide, but Danketsu died before revealing all the details of the fight, and the Golden Lions sealed the palace for months. In that time, the Empire did little atacking and focused on regaining its strength. However, Mamoru returned apparently unscathed, with the only change being a more proactive and vicious approach to his war against the ninja, plus an apparent knowledge of many hidden ninja bases. He became known as the Immortal Son of Heaven, his battle standard changed to a phoenix rising from a sword's hilt. He is now paranoid, seeing traitors everywhere, and will not hesitate to purge advisors who are not absolutely loyal. When he holds court, it is often deathly silent, for fear of offending him. He keeps his daughter locked away from the public for her own safety, and some wonder if, when the ninja are finally exterminated, he will embrace peace or will turn his eye towards conquest.
There are several facts known about the events of the night of Mamoru's apparent death. More than five squads of soldiers and forty specialists were at the battle. The Imperial heroes Mitsuo Harama of the Black Smokes and Musashi Harama of the Silver Blades were both among the dead. Danketsu was the only ninja survivor, and he escaped the palace and evaded capture.The Palace was locked down and the Imperial City occupied by hundreds of soldiers for nearly a year after the event. The Emperor emerged alive and immediatley reorganized the Army and renewed his war on the ninja. Mamoru today is certainly crueler than he was before, and punishes most crimes and infringements with death now. So...what actually happened? There are many rumors.
Some say that Mamoru is dead, and that one of his bodyguards has taken over his identity. The reason it took so long was so the court could groom the man to pass even the strictest test. Others believe that a Celestial Phoenix was summoned and merged with Mamoru, gifting him its power of resurrection. Others say that the Emperor died and that his soul was devoured by a powerful Oni, which now operates his body and uses it to sate its evil appetites. Others say that the gods saved Mamoru from Danketsu's blade at the last minute, and that Danketsu was given his 'trophies' of proof by the trickster god, who sought to mislead the ninja due to their failure to properly pay him honor. Still others say Danketsu lied, stole the trophies on his way out and left his comrades to die. The Emperor was never killed at all. Still others hold that the Emperor did die, but his rage and cruelty kept his bdoy moving. His spirit will not leave until his vengeance is complete, but the body is starting to rot under his armor, and he must now work even harder to be sure the ninja all die before he finally disintegrates and is cast into the hells.
While the Emperor likes to joke about his 'resurrection' and has taken the nickname of Immortal Son of Heaven, he has privately commanded that anyone who spreads stories that he was ever in true danger fro mthe ninja should be punished. This hasn't stopped him from using his immortality rumors to strike fear in the ninja forces, and certainly he seems as strong as ever, if not moreso. He has become colder towards his people, but he does still run the Empire and esnure that the borders are safe and that food and money continue to flow as much as possible.
The courts, of course, are what keep the Empire together. The bureaucracy is often joked about, but without it, the Empire would have collapsed centuries ago. The hierarchy is simple enough, really - there are ranks, but ultimately, the Emperor commands, and the courts are left to execute his edicts. It may seem convoluted from the outside...and in many ways it is, given the absurdity ofone man being responsible for all things but needing so many ministers. But it works more often than it doesn't. Education is a major focus and route to advancement, as it allows even the poor to get ranking government positions, which have strict competitions to judge candidates. The drain of this competition on students is a frequent subject of plays, in fact, given the dramatic potential of changes in caste due to Imperial patronage.
The Imperial Court itself meets, on average, twice a month, though the Emperor can call them whenever he likes. It is a regal, dignified occasion and a chance to show off wealth and ower. It usually lasts all day, with many feasts and performances to entertain the guests as well as reviews of issues of politics. New inventions are often demonstrated, and the best soldiers are there to protect the court. Around midday, the bells ring to announce the Emperor's desire to hear petitions. The Royal Advisor controls the agenda, and getting a chance to speak to the Emperor means going through him in advance, often with bribes. The court lasts for as long as the Emperor remains interested, with no set duration...save one. One the anniversory of Izou Zurui's death, the Emperor opens his palace to the public to hear their issues and arbitrate disputes. This is seen as the only way for the poor to ever speak to him, and some spend their life's savings just for a few minutes. Mamoru still honors this tradition, but his judgments are highly influenced by his moods. Occasionally he will dsmiss those he finds dull or will give strange, apparently nonsensical procalmations out of boredom. Since his resurrection, he's gotten more brutal, but that has never stopped people from showing up and hoping he'll rule in their favor.
It should be noted that for centuries, the law of the Empire was enforced by the Will of Iron, alongside the Imperial wardens and constables. They were heavily relid on to keep people safe and to solve crimes. DEspite the Crusade, many Will of Iron ninja want to keep this tradition going, even though they are now seen as criminals. Many city guard captains maintain an off-the-books policy of working with the Will of Iron in exchange for denying their involvement in a case. It would be scandalous if it came out, but it has kept crime from getting even worse.
Next time: Daiwa, the Imperial City.
One Night In DaiwaOriginal SA post Ninja Crusade: Empire's Reign - One Night In Daiwa
So, one note. While the court is firmly and publically behind the Emperor - obviously - the Crusade has been a topic of some debate. No noble would dare do anything but support it in public, but behind closed doors, they debate if it is just, if it had to happen, and if it should continue. Some see it as a costly war that only brings misery to the Empire, or argue that it has unleashed terrible dangers - the Summoner Skirmishes, say, or the wide authority given to the Golden Lions and the Executioners. The Emperor wants to go on until every ninja is dead or has fled the Empire, but many in court are trying to find another way to end the war...if they can do so without losing honor or being killed by hte Emperor.
So, Daiwa, the Harmony City. It is the heart of the Empire, the largest city in all of the nation and...well, honestly, uncommonly low in population at the moment. It once had 800,000 people, but less than two thirds that number still live there, and the place feels rather empty. Still, it is isolated from the horrors of war, and the people there are quite happy to keep it so. Summer is humid an winter is damp, and in spring, the air smells of apricots and cherry blossoms can be seen everywhere. In autumn, the city is full of the red and yellow of plum and maple, and leaf-viewing parties are popular. All kinds of animals live in the city's extensive parks, from sika to tanuki, and monkeys can be found on the rooftops, arguing with sobgbirds, at all times. The Emperor treats all animals in the city as his property, so they are left alone. The architecture is highly traditional, with heavy use of machiya, or wooden townhouses, as both homes and businesses. There is also a huge number of karasansui - that is, dry rock gardens. Even the poor try to keep them. The largest is in the Hall of Heroes Memorial, resembling a river made of stone. The entire city is very clean and controlled, due to a very large sanitation system and many street sweepers.
The siege of 757 left scars, however, especially in the Noble District. Entire families died in the onslaught, leaving their estates empty. Many have disappeared as their gardens have overgrown massively, hiding the buildings behind bamboo and vines. Squatters, untouchables and criminals often occupy these ruins. By Imperial decree, some of the estates have become fortresses, protected by earthworks and canals, which serve both as defenses and firebreaks. Crown Prince Kano has also been giving some of the estates to prominent and loyal members of the Warrior class, which has been annoying the nobles, while others are bought up by rich merchants that are trying to join the gentry classes.
The shopping district is one of the few parts of the city which is very busy, full of goods from the entirety of the empire - even very rare goods. For example, one can find kokuei steel in the Black Veil Market, one of the few places outside Kokudou that has any. There's many ryokan - that is, traditional-style inns - here, aiming for tourists, travelers and diplomats and competing very aggressively. It also makes a good location for some of the Lotus Coalition's spies, such as Arata Koizumi of the Bamboo Herbalist, whose medicinal skills are turned towards brewing and who runs the most popular bar in Daiwa, gathering information from drunken guards and dignitaries.
The Kochou District is also known as the floating world, home of art and recreation. The geisha teahouses serve to provide conversation, drinks and various traditional games and entertainments, while the expensive bars and restaurants cater to many exotic tastes from across the empire. Private ryokan also exist here, for those that don't want to stay in the markets, and of course there are the widely popular communal bath houses. There's also plenty of gambling dens and, well, discreet prostitution (of both genders). The geisha tolerate the flesh trade in exchange for payment in cash or information, but do not especially like it.
The Temple District is surrounded by a bamboo grove, and it is always austere and tranquil. The temples actually predate the Izou Empire itself, and at the heart of the district is Tengoku Temple, built atop a natural and eternal spring of pure water. It was designed so expertly that there are no nails in the entire construction. The monks and priestesses tend to its many shrines and offer healing and aid to the worshippers. Each spring, during the cherry blossom festival, all of the city comes to attend the Sky Dragon's Ceremony, in which the monks parade around a dragon costume through the city to call on divine protection for the Emperor. For most, this is the only time they ever see the Emperor himself.
The Imperial PAlace is surrounded by gardens, shrines and temples, plus the tombs of the former emperors, each guarded by Silver Blades. There is also an hono guard over the empty mausoleum of Mamoru, though no one is sure why. There are many food and souvenire stalls through the park, selling ti pilgrims and dignitaries. Occasionally, angry mobs execute captured ninja here to try and gain imperial favor, and this has grown more common since the siege of 757. Not all of the executions are actual ninja, but it brings in money, so few complain. Even before the siege and assault, thje Palace was formidably defended - massive walls, concentric moats. The original palace, built after Zurui's conquest, was a single castle twenty stories tall, but it's been greatly expanded since. The floors are designed to 'chirp' at the slightest pressure, to prevent stealth. Indeed, these are so distinctive that the staff can identify individual footsteps and their location just by the sound. Secret doors and moving walls let guards easily move through the structure and protect the imperial family. The grounds have expanded with each emperor, and now there are many estaes and residences. Crown Prince Kano currently lives in the Imperial Barracks, near the troops, and the palace ponds and gardens are faithfully cared for. One small home is guarded eternally by silent Golden Lions. This is the former home of Izou Megumi, the Emperor's daughter, and he often visits it by night. His screams of rager can be heard across the palace on those nights.
This is all quite nice...but there's also the slums. Daiwa has them. They're just cordoned off from the rest of the city by ivy-covered walls. Thousands of people live in crumbling townhouses - all classes, as long as they've lost their luck and ability to support themselves in the rest of the city. The lucky find menial work; most do not. The guards rarely visit the slums, and crime is common. The place is mostly controlled by Jirokichi, a violent and cunning man with strange and unnatural abilities. In truth, he is secretly a Celestial Rat summoned during the war, who then decided to amass an army of criminals and spread his influence, though it's unclear what his goals might be.
The city of Nanchou was once the main training camp of the Mercenary Wars, but it was abandoned some time after, nearly consumed by the jungle. It would have remained so, had Mamoru not had the idea of turning the ruins into a prison. Its population is now in the tens of thousands, and its already ruined infrastructure can barely keep up. The north and south gates are secured by military facilities, guarded by soldiers and feral dogs, who attack escapees on sight. Drawbridges lead into the prison-city proper. The guards ring bells to warn that they are entering, and prisoners have ten minutes to retreat to their homes after that. Anyone caught outside will be considered a threat or escapee and will be attacked. This keeps the guards from being outnumbered when they enter the city proper, and riots are pretty rare. The guards deal with those by staying on the walls and firing explosives and flaming arrows into the prison.
The prison itself is ruins, in the lower wards, commonly flooded, which form a natural moat. The prisoners tend to the deepwater rice fields and carp fisheries, working as slaves to feed the army. Many die here, of disease, drowning or snakes...or starvation. Still, the punishment for stealing food is far worse than going hungry. The city was originally a tiered design of five districts, but the lowest tier at this point is basically just a violenty shantytown of huts and black markets, known asthe Scatters. Many prisoners never leave it - new arrivals are at constant risk of robbery, murder or enslavement by other prisoners. The only rule of Nanchou is you keep whatever you're strong enough to take, even people. As you head upwards, the buildings get more intact and the resources more plentiful, and so the upper levels are where the more powerful prisoners live. The guards avoid these areas, leaving the inmates to do as they will. Dozens of crime families and gangs vie for control of the upper tiers, and turf wars go on constantly. By day, prisoners scavenge for tools and weapons, and occasionally an ancient cache is found that shifts the power balance.
Currently, Nanchou is dominated by three factions. The Iron Dogs are former soldiers, led by Masa Tamotsu, a former Executioner imprisoned for civilian-focused brutality, who worships the evil Celestial Dog known as Inugami. He buries his foes up to the neck and lets them die of thirst, then uses their corpses in rituals of magic and worship. The Dogs are very strong fighters, and they control large caches of fresh water, which is very precious in the city-prison due to poor sanitation and rampant disease. The Deadly Lilies are a gang of educated women, former artisans and former courtsans ledb y Rangiku Sato, once a geisha in the Imperial court until a Hidden Strand ninja falsely incriminated her. She hates the ninja virulently and will kill anyone she thinks is a ninja without hesitation. She and her gang protect the female inamtes as best they can, so long as they pledge their lives to the gang. The Lilies run a few very guarded prison brothels to finance their operations, and kill anyone that breaks their strict rules. They are also expert poisoners. The final of the three major prison gangs is the Night Foxes, led by the mysterious figure known as Noppera-bo, the Faceless. Every member must be a killer - they must murder someone to join the gang. Once they do, they give up their name, station and even their face, as they all wear bat-like masks. Those that won't are...well, disappeared. The Night Foxes' ranks are told by the number of ears they've collected, worn on a necklace.
We also get descriptions of the cities of Kiwan, Kokudou and Hotaru no Kouji, the strongholds of the Empire. They're kind of interesting, but broad, and only a few details really matter. Kiwan worships the Celestial Turtle Genbu and has for a long, long time, and the priesthood of Genbu is very powerful and taxes the city to keep the shriens running. Killing a turtle is a punishable offense - one that is punished by death. The city is run by the Eight Winds, a council of mechant families that decide on just about all matters of law within Kiwan, with the Voice of Genbu (the high priest) breaking any tie votes. However, one of the families secretly are Wanizame, shark worshippers that work to undermine the Eight Winds and who partake in cannibal rituals each year.
Kokudou is a bleak, deforested area because of the constant mining and needs a lot of food. It has been destroyed and rebuilt eleven times, and it mostly exists underground, in pit-houses carved from rock. It is also one of the best places in the Empire to become an engineer, and an engineering college is under construction in the hopes of getting more Imperial funding. It is also the source of kokuei, or night steel, which is basically patterned steel.
Hotaru no Kouji, on the other hand, is a beautiful and diverse city that has become a diplomatic center of peace negotiations. Every year, thousands of fireflies gather to mate over the city, and this display is shockingly beautiful...but lately, superstition holds that the fireflies are the souls of the war dead, and that their increasing number is a bad omen. The summer brings not just fireflies, but massive trade, and when the merchants come, open air bazaars form throughout the normalyl serene city. It's also home to the Palace of Lions, where peace talks are held with the Five Blades and Seed and Blossom. It is guarded by porcelain Shisa statues and built of copper and sandstone. The design is like a labyrinth, allowing total anonymity when needed - entire delegations can stay for weeks without meeting each other, tended to by monks who willingly cut out their own tongues. The palace is also home to Governess Shiruetto Yamauchi, who runs the city. She was raised by the Will of Iron, but she supports the Ninja Crusade in the belief that it will purge the clans of carrogance and corruption. The city is also home to a yearly martial arts tournament that runs for two or three weeks, in which fighters must defeat their foes, get them to submit or knock them off an elevated platform. Duels to the death are rare, and the one with most victories is the Firefly Champion. Shiruetto encourages the tournament as a release of tension, and has been champion before - she beat 94 opponents over the course of 15 days.
Next time: Assignments of the Imperial Army.
You're In The Army NowOriginal SA post Ninja Crusade: Empire's Reign - You're In The Army Now
Assignments are the Imperial equivalent of clans. See, they're all soldiers in the same army...but just being some rando grunt is boring. So you can't do that. All PCs are a member of one of the elite groups that belong to the Imperial Forces or support them in one way or the other. Each one has its own qualifiers and requirements, but they're all a step above of the rank and file. They don't all like each other, either. Their tactics can often collide, and there are rivalries over who is the best. However, in the end, they're all working together, and they can usually do that when the missio ncalls for it. After all, the ninja are the larger threat, and cooperation is the only way they'll all survive.
The Black Smokes are also known as the Aines, the Shatters and the Black Powder Brigade. They study the Ranged, Eagle, Wildcat and Alchemy styles, as well as their own unique Way of the Gun. They get Athletics +1, Marksman +1, PErception +1 and Perform +1. See, once upon a time, the mixture of charcoal, saltpeter and sulfure was known as just blakc powder and was only used for magic tricks and fireworks. However, it was soon found to also be a powerful explosive agent that could cause massive devstation. The Empire began to hard the stuff, placing it in the care of a unit called the Black Powder Brigade, who followed the Engineers' Guild around and helped carry stuff and load weapons. The engineers didn't see the delicate nature and true power of the tools and explosives they were making. The Black Powder Brigade found a few skilled inventors among them and worked with them to invent the first firearms. These elevated what was now called gunpowder from a purely destructive force to a beautiful one, unlike any other tool the Empire has. The name 'Aines' came from the Brigade's almost euphoric love of the sound of bullets firing. The Brigade asked the Emperor for their own responsibilityu and authority, and they took on the name of the Black Smokes. They became the soldiers that turned the tide of the Expansion Wars with their superior technological force.
The Black Smokes are just as vital in the Ninja Crusade. Ninja are quick to use their jutsu and skilsl to defeat common soldiers, but with a gun and the right training, you can kill dozens of ninja easily. A bullet is the ultimate equalizer against magic, taking out the enemy before they can do their hand signs. Anyone can hold and fire a gun, but only a Black Smoke can make it sing. Despite that, they live pretty similarly to the common soldiers. They get orders, they move out, they work in squads that maximize their advantages on the field. However, they don't use melee weapons much, preferring to hang back and strike foes down at range. Those that do jump into the midst of combat use smaller guns, firing in close combat almost like a dance through battle. The Black Smokes see use of the gun as artistry, and the battlefield as a canvas. Some race to see how many they can kill, while others become obsessed with their guns, trying to take the minimum shots possible in order to preserve the soul of the mechanism. A few take eyes as trophies, drying them and grinding them up to mix with gunpowder in the belief that it makes kills more likely.
When not on assignment, the Black Smikes tend to hole up in thier mines, extracting the ingredients for gunpowder or making their own bullets. They tend to prefer getting their own materials, and they make better gunpowder than anyone else. It's not a fast process, but they enjoy it, and it's part of why they've been in charge of guns for nearly a century. Specifically, they viciously guard the secrets of making bullets, mixing gunpowder and where the best ingredients can be found. There aren't a lot of Black Smokes out there - for every ten foot soldiers, there is only one Aine. However, they make up for that in capability. They're versatile - a gun's useful on just about any misson...except for stealth ones, as they are quite loud, and the Black Smokes enjoy the noise. Some prefer smaller, more accurate weapons, while others prefer long-range rigles. The rifle-users are renowned for their sniping at range, while the pistoleers prefer to get up close and use flair to defeat their foes. The Emperor is bright enough not to rely on either for when a job must be done secretly, however.
The Gift of the Black Powder Brigade is twofold. They choose either up-close or distance training. Up-close characters get +1 Marksman when using guns at Close range and +1 to all Dodge rolls. Distance characters get +1 Marksman with Ranged weapons and +3 to ranged attacks from Plan Attack actions rather than the normal bonus. Also, both groups get +1 Initiative. Their Trigger is that they tend to be completely dependent on their guns, often forgoing backup weapons or training melee. The party gains 1 Karma whenever they are left defenseless by their overreliance on guns.
Their potential Contacts are: Torisei Teto (Empathy), a fearless warrior that fights all the time. Asano Daishi (Intimidation), a man who excels at using his guns to terrify his targets as well as kill them. Sugai Chiemi (Survival), a miner who knows her way around the Empire's cliffs and can make missions much harder or much easier for people. Fukuoka Zennosuke (Perform), a politician skilled at giving speeches to crowds. Takishita Juri (Crafts), a gunsmith who is known to be able to craft all kinsd of unique bullets for any situation. Egami Yachiho (Deception), a mistress of disguise who can get into and out of just about anywhere with a few words. Their Bonds are:
- Choose one other character who you respect for their artistry, even if their instruments differ from your own.
- Choose one other character who distrusts firearms, and always goes out of their way to show you that traditional weapons are superior.
- Choose one other character who has needed your help on the battlefield on more than one occasion, and is expecting to have to pay you back soon.
The Engineers are also known as the Imperial Inventor's Guild, the Sages and the Builders. They train in Ranged, Paired, Trap Master and Snake styles, plus their own Ingenuity. They get Crafts +1, Intuition +1, Knowledge +1 and Marksman +1. The Engineers are a secret order, only recently giving the lbessing of the Emperor. Once, they were seen as just another part of the Army, working on aqueducts using ancient principles. Thanks to Emperor Han, Mamoru's grandfather, a renewed interest was taken in their works and strange philosophies, and they have become a group of scientist-philosophers with the goal of expanding human knowledge and testing their theories outside the lab. It all began with a strange man named Hinshin and his daughter, Nakomi. Hinshin designed machines to fire hundreds of fireworks, but which had no real practical use. The Empire was at war with the Matamoto, a group of Raiju demons who were invading towns. Nakomi watched her father's fireworks displays and had an idea.
She took his designs and expanded on them. When the demons came for the local garrison, she unveiled her machines, blasting the enemy lines apart and leading the soldiers to victory. Emperor Akono heard about these machines and made Nakomi and her father the commanders of the Imperial Engineers. Since then, the Engineers have been working on science and rational philosophy while trying to perfect their machines. Some are accident-prone or too impractical to use, but the Engineers want to test their owrk in the real world and build on the results. Success or failure - all that matters is the learning you get from it. They are both praised and hated by the rest of the Army, and these days, they are essential to success.
The Engineers value both order and chaos, working to combine centuries of practical knowledge with many new and strange theories. For years, they obeyed the order to only research practical things to aid the Empire, but have now been encouraged to seek new means, which has splintered them into many philosophies. They can often be hard to get along with, as many traditionalists do not appreciate the rapid changes they espouse or the philosophies they follow. This means the Engineers tend to be isolated, working onl with their peers in hidden labs. Specific fields tend to flock together - those that want to build war machines, those that like to experiment with alloys, and so on. It's home to them. The citizenry view them with both marvel and disdain. Sure, a new means of getting water from a well or heating your home is amazing, they're very thankful. But they're also not happy when the town's metal supply vanishes or the new printing press releases fumes that sicken the entire town. For the Engineers, this is just part of the discovery process, just one more step to further science and humanity.
The Engineers' goals may seem complex, but they are ultimately very simple: grow and nurture the creative sciences and expand the understanding of the scientific world. Now that they have the authority to ravel where they want, recruit the best minds and test out their inventions, many Engineers try to solve every problem with science and technology. They are always looking for the rare resources they need to make their new tools, and they view their constant struggle with traditionalists as just a transitional phase as they delve into the world's secrets.
The Gift of the Engineers is sudden geninus and adaptability. They get +2 Crafts with anything mechanical and may spend 2 Karma to ask the GM a question about how to ingeniously get around a specific obstacle they face. The GM always answers with 'If you do <x>, you think it'll do <y>', and is told to let the Engineer's actual roll determine their fate, once they give the idea. Their Trigger is their curiosity. The Engineers are always seeking the unknown, which can often interest them more than their actual mission. The party gains 1 Karma when they are presented with a task or mystery that consumes their concentration, regardless of what they actually need to focus on.
Their potential Contacts are: Matsumura Tagane (Marksman), a one-eyed rifleman with a prosthetic wooden hand and a mastery of trick shots. Gima Ron (Crafts), a savant who uses simple tools to make large machines and who will happily trade his information for food or pretty stones. Takeshi Aiko (Knowledge), a former teacher at the destroyed Wind Valley Dojo who now travels the land, helping to rebuild what she finds broken by the ninja and the army. Matmura Rei (Intimidation), a woman known as the Iron Banshee for the shrieks and roars her machines make to disorient foes and scare them off. Dai Hanako (Persuade), a jaded quartermaster who has spent years gaining the respect of her fellows and who knows where everything is in the imperial inventory. Hirane Goto (Perception), a boastful man who is nonetheless essential to working out problems with experimental machines, and will do so for free as long as you can put up with his massive ego. Their Bonds:
- Choose one other character you feel a fascination with and want to learn something meaningful from.
- Choose one other character who you find simple and ignorant about the wonders of science.
- Choose one other character you believe will always understand you.
The Enlightened are also known as the Koans, the Follows of Ko, and the Bound. They study all of the animal styles, plus the Reach and Portents styles, and their own special Paths of the Body, Mind or Spirit. They get +1 Discipline, +1 Empathy, +1 Holistics and +1 Speed. They are monks who have existed longer than the Empire and will survive after it falls. They claim that once, there was a being known as Ko that sought immortality. By meditation, Ko freed their mind from possessions and emotions. Through body techniques, they left behind the ideas of man, woman and even human. They prepared their vessel and separated their spirit, ascending to the heavens to meet the gods and celestial courts. After days in a trance, Ko opened their eyes and told their dsiciples: "I have unlocked the secrets to attain true enlightenment. I have returned to show those desiring the secrets of the spirits." Ko spent decades teaching these lessons, mixing them with extreme fighting skills to prepare the body for the journey. Thousands of monks studied the Tenets of Ko, passing these lessons on to the next generation. Ko's body died, long ago, but Ko's spirit is continually reincarnated, known as the tamashi. Specialized squads of monks are sent to find the new tamashi every time, sometimes taking years to find their new spiritual leader.
The teachings of the Followers of Ko influenced the Izou, spreading the idea of reincarnation to the masses. While the Empire's system was one of dharma and strict social classes, the Enlightened offered another solution to escape oppression. While these two ideas seem at odds, they fed into each other symbiotically. The Enlightened have, until now, done their best to stay out of the Emperor's wars. They are kind, patient people who do not like to harm others. However, they could not forever stay out of the Crusade. The tamashi was assassinated by the ninja shortly before the Year of Floods, throwing them into chaos. It is believed that this was done to cripple them, but it has done the opposite - the monks joined the war.
The Enlightened have monasteries in every land, but most live within the Izou borders, usually high in the mountains or behind some other obstacle that makes them hard to get to, so that would-be students face the first of their trials getting there. To become an Enlightened is simple - submit to be taught and give up your old life. A monk has no family, no friends, no attachments. In exchange, they have a place to sleep, regular meals and nonstop training. For the Koans, everything is a chance to learn a new lesson about the universe. They must abstain from strong emotional ties, alcohol and causing harm to the universe. Every life, they believe, is sacred - even that of an animal or insect. Every death sends ripples through the soul that take millenia in the celestial courts to work off. Many outsiders believe that their intense martial arts training goes against their pacifist beliefs, but just because they won't start a fight doesn't meant they won't defend themselves or their comrades. When not physically training, most monks spend their time in deep meditation, to clear their mind of distraction and free their spirit. It's not easy, however, and only the best monks can attain this state without hours of work.
The alliance between the Izou and the Koans is beneficial for both...right now. But it's a tenuous balance. The army gets a handful of highly trained warriors, and the Koans get to fight those that killed their leader, and get to prove to the Empire that their teachings are superior to ninjutsu. The monks consider the ninja an affront to their teachings - liars who believe in a quick way to power without hard work, who steal away many that might have become students working to enhance their souls. Ninja are just tricksters, they believe, who must be dealt with so that the people return to the correct path. The Enlightened are exceptionally few in number among Imperial forces. Each is a massive help in battle, but all are volunteers, not conscripts, and most of the monks have still chosen to stay out of the fight. The generals usually send Enlightened when they expect large numbers of ninja - otherwise, well, why use a cannon on an ant hill?
The Gift of the Followers of Ko is that they've spent years enhancing their abilities on every level of mind, body and spirit. At the start of each scene, they choose Discipline, Fighting or Intuition, and get +2 to that skill for the scene. They may spend 1 Dynamic Action to swap the bonus to one of the other two skills. Their Trigger is...well, pacifism. An Enlightened never throws the first punch, always tries to get out of conflict with words. They battle only in self defense or when they are convinced it is for the greater good, and are never quick to fight. The party gains 1 Karma when a swift punch would have saved them much trouble and danger, but they couldn't bring themselves to throw it.
Their potential contacts are: Kahae Taku (Deception), a former bandit leader turned magistrate who can always tell when someone is lying and has deep insights into what drives people to crime. Yunokawa Gingka (Intuition), the monk currently in charge of finding the new tamashi, who is often busy but has many resources at his fingertips. Onishi Shizue (Might), a mother who focused her physical strength massively to save her child and has somehow retained this gift, becoming her village's local hero. Tsudo Fumihiko (Knowledge), an information dealer who knows many things and will tell them if you pay her, but whose loyalties are somewhat questionable. Koyanagi Yaeko (Perform), a Blazing Dancer that deeply respects the Enlightened, and who could be a useful tool or a dangerous spy. Uchiyami Eiri (Fortitude), a man who has found ways to go without food, drink or sleep for days at a time with neither jutsu nor monastic training, but few understand how he does it. Their Bonds are:
- Choose one other character who has forgotten the ancient teachings. It's up to you to become their mentor, whether they want it or not.
- Choose one other character who shares the patience of a monk. The two of you often meditate together, while the others thrive in chaos.
- Choose one other character who scoffs at the Tenets of Ko and the idea of pacifism. This person is not to be trusted.
The Executioners are also known as the Anti-Ninja, the SCarred and the Butchers. They study all weapon styles, plus Tiger and Bear style, and their own unique Ki Negation abilities. They get +1 Deception, +1 Fighting, +1 Intimidation and +1 Might, as well as +1 to either Yin or Yang. (They are one of the few groups in the Army with a ki balance.) See, after the fourth great war, the old agreements with the clans were nearly eradicated, and the Emperor needed ways to deal with potential ninja threats. No matter what he sent at them, the ninja would vanish, brainwash his ofrces or use their jutsu to win. A solution was required. Rumors existed of those that could resist jutsu, and this led to Uoya Ikuto, a serial killer locked away in Nanchou in solitary confinement. For some reason, mystical effects were just deflected off him, like water. The Golden Lions were called on to dissect the madman and investigate his abilities, and doing so, they constructed a spiritual blueprint of his mental instability and aura, which they could then overlay on another person's soul. The end result was a new kind of soldier - slightly insane, but ready to fight to the death for the Empire...or, if the process failed, a sniveling waste of flesh that was ofrever destroyed. EVen the survivors clawed at their own bodies due ot the feelings of the soul, leaving scars on themselves.
This group became known as the Executioners, the perfect instrument against the ninja when the Crusade began. Not even a Golden Lion could so skillfully lock a ninja down long enough for a public execution, after all. Beyond their duties as literal executioners, they were also sent to lead many attacks on ninja villages, using their abilities to nullify magical defenses and traps that would have otherwise stopped the army. It was not long before just about every Izou army unit contained at least one Executioner, and now, they are even more important.
The life of an Executioner is constant blood and violence. Sure, they were once a normal person or a patriot...but now, their will is driven by the need to tear their foes apart. They spend years training in martial arts, but the mystical template placed on their soul also gives them a basic understanding of how to use weapons for maximum carnage. They see Ikuto's murders in their dreams, hearing his eternal screams of torment as he was cut apart by the Lions. Thy practice ritual scarification to turn this extreme emotional distress into a weapon, and to keep themselves from descending into becoming the monster that Ikuto had been. Still, each Executioner is a person, even if Ikuto's memories haunt their dreams. They are individuals witht their own desires - usually, they want to become unit commanders. They have little time for personal attachments and tend to see people as tools or targets. Some pity them, but each Executioner was a volunteer who was well informed of what would happen to them. The power they use is also rather intoxicating.
The Executionrs have long proven to be excellent warriors, but are rarely sent on stealth missions. Their tendency to resort to all-out battle to solve any problem is...not subtle. Their involvement in Imperial affairs has increased, but their numbers have not kept pace with demand, and they tend to die spectacularly in battle. Not all of them, however, go for the kill. Some take prisoners, toying with them until they get bored and discard the broken victims. Some believe they are leaving their own imprint on the victim's soul in the process. The Emperor does not encourage this, but few are willing to tell an Executioner what they can't do - these elites tend to be violently bad-tempered, thanks to their serial killer headmate.
The Gift of the Executioners is that they are masters of battle. They have access to all weapon styles (rather unique among Imperial forces), and may always entirely ignore the Pain condition, regardless of its level. They can also pick one other physical condition and treat it as if it were one level lower than it is. Their Trigger is...well, Ikuto. He scratches at their soul whenever he can, getting them to spread chaos and destruction. The party gains 1 Karma whenever they create random, damaging chaos that causes problems for them or the group.
Their Contacts: Ajibana Naosuke (Athletics), a soldier who is known for his ability to leap across rooftops to provide backup for his allies. Morioka Sakyo (PErsuade), a thief that can take himself out of just about any situation. Hino Kaiya (Empathy), a geisha that knows how to use her skills to calm even the most savage Executioner. Soga Reiha (Fighting), an Executioner who likes to take her aggression out on husbands caught in the red light district (despite the fact that technically, that's not illegal). Nozaki Shingo (Survival), a man who has survived in ninja territory for decades and is excellent at tracking them down...for a price. Kamon Kenko (Holistics), a medic who is excellent at her job, but spiteful and more than willing to block those that cross her from getting treatment. Their Bonds:
- Choose one other character who knew you before you were an Executioner, and distrusts you now that you're different.
- Choose one other character who can pull you out of your bloodlust.
- Choose one other character who feels uneasy around you, with or without a reason.
Next time: Golden Lions, Iron Breakers (THE WORST PEOPLE), Jadesmiths and Silver Blades.
The Asshole To Decent Imperial RatioOriginal SA post Ninja Crusade: Empire's Reign - The Asshole To Decent Imperial Ratio
The Golden Lions are also known as the Glorious Legion, the Celestial Warriors and the Guard. They use Tiger or Mantis styles as well as Master of Spies and Alchemy, and uniquely have access to the Jutsu Retrieval techniques and the Way of Dazzling Pilferage. They get +1 Fighting, +1 Intimidation, +1 Perception and +1 Stealth, and +1 to either Yin or Yang, being...actual ninja. For most of the Izou citizenry, the Golden Lions are a rumor - a nightmare tale to be told in warning. They say that the Golden Lions will always be there to protect you - or, if you offend the Empire, to vanish you in the night. They are bodyguard and secret police at the same time, designed to neutralize other ninja by using their abilities against them.
Once upon a time, the Golden Lions were a completely different clan. Izou Zurui set out to bring together the Empire, and he found a ruined monastery containing the remnants of a betrayed and defeated ninja clan. He had grown distrustful of the Grasping Shadows, and saw these survivors as potential allies. They swore to serve him forever if given the chance for vengeance, and so he named them the Golden Lions and had them serve him. They have protected Emperors for centuries, but never have they had the numbers they do now. They have been given massive resources by the Emperor, including first access to all slain ninja, and have considerable leeway in their work. Their knowledge of other clans' jutsu makes them terrifying foes, and they are said to be the only ones who know what truly happened between Mamoru and Danketsu, as the Emperor's bodyguards. They are utterly and totally loyal to Mamoru's will, and they will obey his every demand.
Becoming a Golden Lion is a huge honor. It's more than just skill at killing or guarding - it is having the means and will to do anything required to serve the Emperor, no matter what. The Golden Lions are ruthless and unforgiving, and it is no wonder the Lotus Coalition fears them. They are resolute and proud of the fear they cause as well as their duty to protect the Emperor - the entire clan would die if they had to do so to keep Mamoru alive. They work hard to eliminate compassion in their membership. This is beyond mercy in battle - see, they're experts at stealing the secrets of other ninja and incorporating them, and their methods range from bribery and theft of manuscripts to torture or other dark practices. They know that they can't match the Silver Blades or Executioners in single combat...but they don't try. The Golden Lions focus on team combat, overwhelming foes and setting up allies to get the kill. They believe themselves to be the ultimate warriors, growing ever more powerful the more they ferret out ninja secrets. They're as protective of these secrets as the people they stole them from, and they work to ensure none but they know the location of their secret dojos.
The Golden Lions stand apart from the rest of the Imperial forces, but they are essential to the Crusade. They like that they terrify the ninja, and they use it as much as they can. They see the Silver Blades as far too honorable, contemptible and their unwillingness to do the dirty deeds the Empire requires, and they look on the newer Assignments with some suspicion, fearing they'll try to supplant the Lions as the bodyguards of the Emperor. Their current strategy to deal with this is to just hunt down every ninja and take their lore and jutsu by force, in order to expand their knowledge and power. Once the ninja are wiped out, the Golden Lions will have a monopoly on ninja power.
The Gift of the Golden Lions is their stolen ninja arts. Whent trying to decipher secrets or lore of another ninja clan, they get +2, and they also get +1 Intimidation against ninja, with a cumulative +1 for every other Golden Lion present, capped by Empathy. The Trigger is their desire to get all the ninja secrets and keep them from all non-Golden Lions. The party gains 1 Karma when this mission comes into conflict with the rest of the group.
Their potential Contacts are: Naiko Akira (Athletics), a ruthless mind with a heart of gold, who is often at odds with is clanmates over treatment of peasants and civilians but who sees the clan as the next heroes of legend. Yuki Gin (Fighting), an enforcer who marks the ninja she kills as tallies on her armor and who has worked for many criminals over the years, learning how to fight expertly. Jin Chika (Deception), an opera singer who pretends to be disloyal but secretly serves the Emperor, hiding her own intellect to trick others into not ralizing she's a spy. Sokei Misao (Might) is a village mayor from the mountains who secretly works with the Golden Lions to keep her people safe after the ninja killed her father and brother. Tomi Yokio (Holistics) is an old man - none can say how old or where he's from - who knows many things and has a soft spot for those that truly wish to learn. Shiro Tanaka (Stealth) is rumored to have snuck into a Golden Lion dojo and disguised himself as a student but was never formally a member of the clan, and will trade what he learns to anyone who can pay. Their Bonds:
- Choose one other character who you have chosne to trust, despite your better judgement telling you not to.
- Choose one other character whom you scorn for the weakness you see inside them.
- Choose one other character who you seek to get to acknowledge your superiority.
The Iron Breakers are also known as the Corruptors, the Breakers and the Black Bones. They use Blunt, Chain, Dragon and Trap Master styles, as well as their unique Black Bones ability. They get Crafts +1, Fortitude +1, Persuade +1 and Survival +1. See, ninja have been able to pact with celestial animals forever, and while the Empire has used this to their advantage, when the Crusade began, they lost most of their ability to use this massive military benefit. The Emperor called on his best trackers and beastmasters in an effort to find celestial animals living on Earth, to learn their customs and find ways to bind them. During this, these trackers learned that the celestials hated demons and their powers. The story goes that the Emperor summoned a potent demon named Kuroi Hone, using a magical sword to kill it instantly. Then, he had the demon skinned to reveal its black iron bones, which had properties that could be used to fashion weapons to unlock the power of the Celestial Animals. To test this thory, the Imperials found the lair of Vakhesh the Fire Ape, impaling his hands, feet and neck with black demon spikes, seizing control of his body and giving it to the newly formed Iron Breakers.
This was an amazing feat, of course - Vakhesh was one of the most powerful summoned creatures in the world. He was later used during the Summoner Skirmishes, baffling ninja with how the Emperor could do such things. The Year of Floods was very important for the Breakers, and while everyone else retreated in the chaos to try and handle things, the Breakers continued to scour the land for hibernating celestials to capture, even going so far as to force ninja captives to betray their pact families. These guys are, y'know, total monsters.
Most who become Iron Breakers are wilderness scouts and rangers skilled in tracking, or expert animal trainers. They are then led to the body of a celestial animal, either already captured or something they've been forced to go out on their own and get, then cut off and eat part of it. This becomes their first trophy, giving them a new Iron Brteaker name - Forecity Jin for a bear, say, or Snarl for a dog. There aren't a lot of Iron Breakers, but they are always busy. Some hunt out demon corpses to get the black bones that they use to enslave Celestial Animals, while others hunt for animals to capture, looking for tales of any strangers with large animals hanging out with them or rumors of strange eggs and other events in the wild. The Iron Breakers are a horror to celestial animals and work closely with the Golden Lions in order to terrify the Lotus Coaltiion.
The talents of the Iron Breakers are very useful on just about any ninja. They're obvious picks if the enemy is known to have summoners, sure, but they're also expert trackers. Their numbers are small but rising, as the Emperor wants to settle the entire war with a massive battle of summoned beasts. Since the Breakers are actively enslaving and stealing animals, they are both strengthening the Army and weakening the ninja. However, even the other soldiers do not like these guys at all. Their cruelty is horrible, and most sane and sensible people that care about other living things find them monstrous. The Iron Breakers don't especially care, and even if they did, typically wears masks to hide their faces and emotions anyway so you'd never know.
The Gift of the Iron Breakers is that they devour celestial flesh to augment their own bodies. They no longer need food or water, as this divine flesh empowers them. They get +2 Survival for tracking, or +3 to track Celestial Animals, and get a bonus against all of a Celestial Animal's ability based on their Rank. Their Trigger is that...well, to become an Iron Breaker is to give up your humanity, and after a few years, you lose touch with the fundamental idea of decency. The party gains 1 Karma when their lack of compassion and basic human decency causes problems for the group. Word for word.
Their potential Cotnacts: Gensai Zetsumei (Perception), a ki-sensing monk who demands acts of charity in payment for his services. Choshi Miko (Stealth), a thief and con artist that can blend with any crowd and is very hard to remember. Tokaji Konan (Speed), a woman with a massive array of trivia who can answer just about any question faster than anyone else. Shigeki Haji (Marksman), a gunman with a chip on his shoulder. Fuwa Shion (Discipline), a professional go player who is known for staring long and hard at problems before she finds the perfect answer. Hagino Kento (Travel), a man with a wagon and a boat who can get you just about anywhere and will tell you so at length. Their Bonds:
- Choose one other character who you've known since childhood. You enlisted together, but they are uneasy with how disconnected you are now.
- Choose one other character who has been ordered to protect you (whether they want to or not).
- Choose one other character who thinks the Izou Army can win the war without Iron Breakers, seeing you as useless.
The Jadesmiths are also called the Builders, the Diplomats and the Voices of the Empire. They use Defending, Dragon, Eagle or Master of Spies styles, plus their unique Voice of the Emperor techniques. They get +1 Empathy, +1 Fortitude, +1 Perception and +1 Persuade. See, where the Engineers build Imperial infrastructure, the Jadesmiths build Imperial people]. When the Emperor needs people to obey him, the Jadesmiths go in first, to serve as his voice to the leaders of the Empire. They are a special authority, a weapon as strong as any sword. In the early days, Zurui summoned up the great counselors and lawmakers of the land to see what could be done to establish and enforce just one set of laws. Hundreds came, and their arguments filled the palace. The Emperor was resigned to the chaos until he saw one man in green robes, sitting in the center but saying nothing. When he was ordered to speak, the man told the Emperor: "Now is not the time to speak. The time to speak is when everyone has stopped talking and realizes they need to listen." He was silent again for a long time, but when he next spoke, his words had much wisdom. His proposals became Imperial Law, and the Emperor was so impressed by his simplicity and honor that he gave the man the most important job he could: ensuring the Empire would last.
The man was the first Jadesmith, and his modern descendants are now recognized by the jade pendants they wear. Their job is to preserve peace and society, and for them, the conflict iwth the ninja is ideological rather than military. They see the fear that many peasants live with, knowing that the ninja could appear from nowhere and brutally enforce their own rules without warning. That is why the Jadesmiths work to promote the Empire, working to make a peaceful and just society that prospers without need for internal aggression.
The life of a Jadesmith is split between study and debate. They arbitrate land disputes, bring messages of peace to brbarians, teach others and know when to stop and listen. It's nearly impossible, but the Jadesmiths use their abilities to read people and say what they need to hear, sometimes lying and sometimes not. While some Jadesmiths prefer luxury, most spend their time training and studying to be in peak mental and physical fitness. They may not wield swords like the Silver Blades, but their words are just as potent. The respect they are given differs throughout the Empire. They speak with authority, but their rank can only be used when giving a Jade Declaration from the Imperial Court, a task or mission assigned to them that grants htem power only within its confines. Some abuse this power, while others use it only when they absolutely must. It's a constant temptation, both power and curse, and the Jadesmiths must use their authority carefully and be ready to pay if they overstep.
Jadesmiths are mostly used as diplomats and social support on missons, bringing knowledge and understanding that others lack. They are political generals and economic commanders, not military, but their knowledge has proven essential many times. The Crown Prince ensures that one Jadesmith is put in every squad when he can, to help coorindate and relay orders more accurately and with more authority than most soldiers possess.
The Gift of the Jadesmiths is authority in their bearing. At the start of each scene, they pick PErsuade or Knowledge, getting +2 to that skill for the scene. They may also spend 1 Karma when giving orders to make an obligation in the target, which gives -2 to the target on any roll that goes against the order. Their Trigger is that diplomacy is a delicate art, and the Jadesmiths are used to giving concessions. The party gains 1 Karma when forced to concede something vitally important to the group despite protests from others.
Their potential contacts are: Ku Hiroshi (Deception), an actor who has lied so often that he has forgotten his true self. Ken Kiyoshi (Knowledge), a man crippled by ninja poisons who now spends his time reading and sharing information in the hopes of leaving a better world than the one he lives in. Murasaki Riku (Travel), the woman in charge of the Imperial corps of messengers. Kanaka Etsuko (Persuade), a businesswoman who runs an iron dealer traditionally run by her family's women, who is charming and very impatient with sexism. Hideyo Kuma (Fighting), a woman who has faith in diplomacy and politics but also feels that all diplomats should know self-defense, whose father was murdered by ninja and who deeply supports the Crusade. Kun Akio (Perform), a retired speechwriter nearly outcast from the court for his politics, who now teaches others the art of public speaking. Their Bonds are:
- Choose one other character who has shown a great need for your guidance, and you are helping them.
- Choose one other character who you are suspicious of, and constantly put their methods under scrutiny.
- Choose one other character whose cause you wish to help however you can.
The Silver Blades are also known as the Ichikyo Family, the Sword Saints and the Honor Dogs. They are masters of Sharp, Paired, Mantis and Tiger styles, plus their unique Way of All Rivers style of combat. They get +1 Discipline, +1 Fighting, +1 Intimidation and +1 Persuade. There is no family in the Empire more famous than the Ichikyo, who have spent centuries mastering the sword and the craft of swordmaking. The Emperor has maintained the position of Court Duelist for centuries, and it's almost always an Ichikyo. Legends talk about many villages saved by traveling Silver Blades who stopped to fight some foe the village couldn't handle. Their founder was the orphan Ichikyo Morimoto in the early days of Empire, whose vlllage was slaughtered by bandits. As an adult, he trained to protect others, establishing an elite force to kep the lands safe and be exemplars of what he thought a warrior should be. They removed themselves from work like farming, dedicating themselves to mastery of combat.
Their philosophy, the Way of All Rivers, has given them a strict code that defines who they are, how they must act and how they should treat people. Right now, the Silver Blades are on the outs in the court, being one of the most vocal groups against the Ninja Crusade. They believe it's served its purpose and that now, the war is just heartless and cruel. They do not believe the ninja were innocent, certainly, but there's worse threats right now, and the Emperor's growing cruelty must be addressed for the sake of the Empire.
The greatest virtues of the Silver Blades are contemplation and dedication. They know that a rational mind backed with the determination to neer back down can defeat any challenge. They believe in rewarding patience, good conduct and honor, seeing strict adherence to honor not as a flaw, but as a strength. They dedicate themselves to the WAy of All Rivers, believing that life is a constant flow of many streams that all go to a larger source. They believe that pursuit of perfection is worthy, even if you never get there. Their high standards of honor often put them at odds with other Imperial soldiers when it comes to how to treat others. Almost all Silver Blades are of the Warrior class, born from wealthy families and spending most of their time mastering combat. Those few who began as Commoners rarely rise far in the ranks. They believe in honorable surrender, unlike the Holden Lions, and in protecting people over pursuit of ninja. They are not afraid to kill, but believe in strict adherence to the letter of the law. They often cross paths with the Will of Iron, and it's said that, despite the Crusade, they are rivals that help each other as often as they fight each other.
The Silver Blades now stand at a crossroads. They are loyal to the Empire, but do not agree with the Crusade. They believe some ninja are threats, but others are honorable and good. They will still serve faithfully, but they prefer missions in which they can bring their code of honor to bear, pushing the wicked and vile. They also love jobs that test their combat abilities, for they believe that only fighting great foes can make you great.
The Gift of the Silver Blades is that they are masters of combat. They get +1 Fighting when wielding a sword by channeling the energy of fate into the blade. They can also enter a special meditation to clear their minds, allowing them to spend a Dynamic Action to reflexively reduce all mental conditions they have by 1. Their Trigger is their honor. They are often surrounded by the ruthless, but they must stay true to their ways. The party gains 1 Karma when pursuit of honor comes into conflict with a decision that has grave consequences if they are forced to go against the needs of their comrades.
Their Contacts: Izumi Sako (Holistics), a spiritual adept who has dedicated herself to nonviolence but who owes the Silver Blades and sees them as the rightful protectors of Empire. Hiteroshi Kaiyo (Crafts), a one-armed swordsmith of amazing skill who lost her sword arm in a duel and who is very picky with her clientele. Matsurachi Eichi (Discipline), a recluse of the Silver Blades who has a deep understanding but is very eccentric. Kataoka Ren (Perception), an Imperial investigator who uses her sharp eyes and clever mind to find clues others miss. Hamada Shoraku (Fortitude), a martial artist who is dedicated to serving the law in a different way than the Silver Blades, who claims to have seen her own future and is preparing for a dangerous journey. Ichikyo Mitsada (Fighting), the former Court Duelist who has been in seclusion since the Crusade began, because his honor would not permit him to stay and has made him hated by the Executioners.
- Choose one other character you feel great respect for due to their discipline and philosophies.
- Choose one other character who you find too chaotic and unfocused in their conduct.
- Choose one other character who you feel needs to be taught the hidden truth of your philosophy.
Next time: Life in the Empire.
Life in the ProvincesOriginal SA post Ninja Crusade: Empire's Reign - Life in the Provinces
The Black Veil Province is home to the Grasping Shadows, and they loom large over the people. The war has poisoned their natural resources, and the ninja rule with an iron fist. The people live in constant fear of drawing attention, and life there is all about being inconspicuous. No one dares to speak poorly of the clan, because that gets you killed. Everyone fears their neighbors are informants. Dissent will see your home burned, your family killed - or worse. So the Black Veil people do not meddle with each other as much as possible. Keeping your mouth shut is how you get respected. Travelers that ask too many questions or seem too friendly rarely get much in response, and speaking poorly of the province will get you dirty looks or even fights. Many of the locals have lived in the area for generations, because it is their home. The mix of fear and pride is hard for outsiders to understand.
Sometimes, the Grasping Shadows will take jobs from the locals in order to strengthen their hold on them, but talking to them isn't easy. Some will tell a friend or relative of their need, saying much but never really telling anything of note. If they are lucky, the word will be passed on to someone else, who knows someone else, who knows a ninja. Thus, speaking of a problem or need aloud always means the problem is dire indeed there. The ninaj will then approach the person in need, to test their loyalty. They ask the question: "Why do you build a fire but retreat from its heat?" The only correct response is "Because I prefer the shadows." Say anything else and you die where you stand. You might ask the ninja to intimidate someone, to get resources you need, even to kill. The cost will be information, money, supplies - anything the clan needs.
The local businesses are highly regulated. Business ownersm ust pay fees and fill out paperwork to administrators controlled by the ninja. Beneath that, however, if a business is seen as out of line, the ninja will intimidate or even raid them. Merchants that do not change their ways just...vanish. Running a business in the Veil is hard, and means having to work closely with the Grasping Shadows. Even worse, there's spirits to deal with. Things move, and strange things happen. It is not rare to speak in the night to a person who has been dead for years. These souls are bound by violence or tragedy, and their true danger is when they coerce someone into helping them pass on. Those that don't help will be harassed and haunted until they give in...or they die. Most citizens learn that the trick dealing with spirits is to not make any verbal deals with anyone you aren't certain is alive, and even then, be careful. Most carry charms and know protective prayers and chants. Uneducated travelers often become targets of the dead, without a knowledgeable guide to protect them.
Outsiders tend to see the Black Veil people as stoic, no-nonsense people...but with something dark lurking beneath the surface. The references to events or customs that make no sense or have no context seem innocent, but they are often unsettling. If a traveler has earned the trust of the locals, they are loyal allies that do not ask questions and will do what little they can to help...but if not, well, it's dangerous. Soldiers do not like having to work on the edge of the area, and it's usually a job for newbies, a test of their resolve. It isn't unheard of for the locals to raid Izou camps for fun, and the Shadows make it clear to any soldiers that they are not welcome. Sending a soldier to the Black Veil is a threat officers use to keep people in line - the desert on the edge of the Empire is not fun for anyone, and few ever want to go back. Still, a soldier that respects the strength the locals have to survive there may survive, too.
Bridge to Battle Province is divided heavily by the war. They have been used by both sides due to their strategic position. A soldier must always be careful, for it is equally likely to meet an enemy as a friend on the road. Some citizens see both sides as evil. Some believe the Empire has put them at more risk and resent them, while others think the ninja should just give up and surrender. The arguments are everywhere, and local law enforcement often has to break up political arguments. Many of the people feel like they are caught between two angry dogs. Tehy cannot even forget the war because of the many training centers, barracks and camps of the Izou forces. Soldiers are everywhere - and if not them, you can see the effects of the mines, the coughs and disease of mineworkers spoiling a once-beautiful land.
Those that dare enter the forests of the Virtuous Body Gardeners can petition for favors at the shrines within. Medicine and other resources can be gained...if you're willing to owe a debt to the clan, who might ask for labor, resources or that you spread rumors. The Inks will use whatever they can to get an advantage, more out of habit than anything else at this point than to prove their own worth. They take credit for anything they can, whether they were involved or not. The people endure this posturing for the sake of peace, mostly, and know that if they were to call out thel ies they hear, it'd just mean more fighting. They aren't ready for that yet. They pick their battles. However, the feigned apathy to the ninja boasting and lies is wearing thin.
The locals are pretty much ready to fight everyone. Even themselves. It's their only way to deal with a world that has used them and won't reward them for it. It's not hard to understand - the exploitation by all sides is obvious everywhere. Most citizens fear what will happen when the resources run out and they are no longer useful. A small resistance works to hide caches of supplies, but many fear what will happen if either side finds out they're planning to revolt and declare independence. It's a dangerous dream, but the idea of being free of both ninja and Empire is spreading. Outwardly, people keep up appearances and avoid suspicion. What seems a simple conversation can lead to veiled discussion of plans to take the land back. The resistance feels people out and plasn to grow their numbers. They started with single agents that had little to lose, but now, entire families are joining. Caution is still important, of course, given the many opinions in the province. But the resistance is patient, waiting for the right time.
A soldier that discovers the resistance must decide. You could turn them in for a possible rward. You could try to blackmail the resistance for personal benefits. You could do them small favors. You could play both sides - like many, no sides. It all depends on how you feel about the Empire and why you joined up. Either way, life in the Bridge to Battle Province is a constant balancing act of pushback and holding back, and travelers must learn this quickly or flee.
Bridge to the World Province is the western side of the Empire, full of many ports. It is easily one of the wealthiest provinces, thanks to the imports and exports, and it's full of soldiers leaving and returning, plus refugees fleeing the more wartorn areas and making camps while they scrounge up the money for passage out. No ninja clan truly controls the area, but the Living Chronicle have many temples, keeping their ties to the Land of Crashing Waves intact. Few permanently live in the area, though, and they rarely call on ninja directly. Instead, they have customs. If they have a problem, they tell a Chronicle monk, who will record it for posterity. Leaving a legacy is what matters to those who live in the area, and the best way to do that is to get it recorded on a historian's skin. If a request is seen as truly important, a monk may contact a ninja to handle it somehow, of course. But that is rare, and the Bridge citizens are mostly self-reliant sorts. They don't look to anyone else to solve their problems. They aren't especially loyal to the Empire, and will help the ninja when it seems beenficial, but they also know that the Empire ultimately controls their lifestyle, so they try to remain overall neutral.
The merchants in the area mostly focus on services over goods. Their wealth is obvious even at a glance, and they can afford enough oil lanterns to keep the streets bright as hell, day or night. It's opulent as shit and no other cities anywhere use the system. You can get just about anything you need in the province, if you can pay. Famously, they hold the Flesh Festival in the Summer Solstice, in which naked or lightly clad citizens are playfully chased by monster-costumed other citizens, ending in 24 hours straight of drinking and parties. Originally, it was a memorial to the destruction of the old Yuukou before its rebuilding, but now it's basically just hedonism. It should be unsurprising as well that, given the money in the area, mercenaries and cutthroat politics and intrigue are all over the place.
Cradle of Life Province may be caught in its own vicious ninja war, but it is still the breadbasket of the Empire, full of open grazing ranges and farms. More horse ranches, these days, given the need for mounted cavalry. It was once the most fertile land in the Empire, but it was poisoned by ninja using both mystic and traditional techniques, and much cannot now grow crops. Still, they have more farmland and better food than most provinces, it's just in drastically reduced number from where it once was. The military presence has increased, to prevent further harm to the farming. The Empire's been running a propaganda campaign centered around the poisoning of the Cradle of Life, and the Cradle citizens have embraced it. They are mostly farmers and simple ranchers, and the attacks that were blamed for the famine and food shortages caused many riots and much death. The Empire makes sure everyone knows it was the ninjas' fault, especially when distributing food to the hngry, and most of the Cradle is fully behind the war effort. They hate the ninja, and those that operate in the province do so without support and with many watching out to report them.
Even the Pack of the Black Moon who live in the area find they are the targets of hate and defiance. Once, you would hang out a dried duck as an offering to a ninja's dog to gain their favor. Since the Crusade began, this tradition has been dying. Those Cradle citizens still loyal to the ninja are quiet about it, fearing being called traitors by their neigbors. Now, they call the Hounds by burying the ducks instead., and the Pack remain eager to serve the people and regain their trust. The entire thing was caused by a war between the Recoiling Serpents and the Black Moon, who now hate each other, even within the Coalition. The Izou forces have learned a lot about this shadow war from prisoners, and have actually gone to some lengths to extend the conflict. This keeps the Cradle under their sway and the ninja at each other's throats, after all. In the meantime, the government is trying to find ways to restore the land's fertility.
Unlike other provinces, the Credle of Life is genuinely hospitable. Visitors and travelers are always welcomed into local homes to share a meal or sleep off their fatigue in exchange for some farm work or even just sharing stories. The locals are happy to answer questions - indeed, tourists are often unpleasantly surprised by how talkative they are. The dialect is very fast, but also drawling, so it can be very hard to understand what the Cradlers are actualyl saying, not that this stops them from trying to talk to anyone they meet.
Flame River Province was the birthplace of the ninja and is still full of insurgents now. It's a harsh land of mountains, volcanos and rocky shores. Most notably, it has the Ensen Volcano, largest in the empire and regularly belching thick smoke and ash. The Empire is researching the area to see if farms or work camps could be set up to offset the loss of arable land in the Cradle of Life. The insurgency has died down some, but it's still there and supported by many locals. The northern regions are full of criminals, bandits and rebels, as well as refugees from both the Land of Mountains and Valleys and the Land of Exalted Flame. Very few imperial agents ever travel to the remote region, and those that do are usually looking to find a specific person, to hire local mercenaries or are part of the agricultural expeditions. Still, few citizens of the province go there either, because of, you know, all the bandits and mercenaries.
The area is controlled by the Blazing Dancers that built the Wu Ji Theater. Their stages were once destroyed, but are rebuilt greater than ever. The theater is no longer open, but the people see it still as a place of hope, making pilgrimages to join the troupe or contact the ninja for aid. Leaving an invitation to put on a show in your village is all you need to do, and there are often hundreds of requests sitting on the Wu Ji doorstep at any time. If the ninja accept your invite, they will announce a new city on the Blazing Dancer tou and show up to put on a show, which often distracts everyone from their real mission. It may take months, but they try to follow up with all requests, unlike many ninja clans.
Their performances are ovwrhelming supportive of the Emperor, his generals and his nobles, occasionally changing the shows on the fly to curry favor with some specific spectator. This keeps them safe from Izou loyalists and the Emperor, for the most part. A few performances recently have made fun of some political decisions or even satirized the Emperor a bit, but these are few and far between...albeit much more common than even a few months ago. The Blazing Dancers know what they can get away with right now, and they know that Flame River people see the hidden messages in each show. When the DAncers show up, everyone is filled with hope, and the locals overwhelmingly support the clan. The Izou army is starting to notice the hidden messages, however, and has ended many shows before they can even be put on. This weakens the ninja ability to sway the people, but also makes the locals feel hopeless and beaten over the head by propaganda. It remains unclear if their hearts and minds will change - the province could go either way, depending on how things continue.
Iron Province once belonged to the Land of Five Blades, and the citizens still see themselves as essentially occupied by an invader, taken by Imperial greed. Ritual is a fact of life for them, and a soldier coming to the area will note how even the smallest interactions are ritualized - and taken deadly seriously. This ranges from a simple prayer to the many spells that protect the local temples. These rituals are kept by ancient tradition and habit. More recently, though, as the Empire begins to run low on funds, the youth have started not only using subtle ritual to fuck with the army but also skirmishing with the soldiers, who must be wary at all times of being jumped. It isn't war yet, but that might not be long in coming.
The western Aikuchi Mountains make the place seem timeless, especially with the teleporting temple of the Will of Iron. The locals are strong believers in mystery and magic, and they tend to accept that change both exists and that people can cause it, if they are willing to risk things. They have seen what the Will of Iron can do, and some believe they can learn the same power. The elders believe that the mountains and the ninja are protection against further conquest, while the youth that are loyal to the Izou see them as a threat to the Empire. It is never easy to visit the Will of Iron - the trip is arduous, and some never return. If they do find the temple, however, they can ask for protection in exchange for metals, which are precious to the clan - a fact the citizens are happy to know and epxloit to ensure the clan is loyal to them as well.
Since the occupation, the Will of Iron have weakened. They are eager to help protect the area, but cannot stop the open war they know is comng. The older folks, who remember a time when they were Blades rather than Imperial, hope the Will of Iron will oust the Izou entirely. The youth, who grew up like this, tend to be combative but more willing to accept the idea of imperial rule. They argue a lot, but until open war comes, they just try to live as best they can. They are a passionate, resolute people, who enjoy crafting things with their hands and working the land. They are stubborn in their beliefs and wish to continue their lifestyles, however they see them. While they may disagree on politics, they always help each other, because they know that others will help them in their need. Travelers that are willing top ut in some hard work to help out are welcomed and received well, and the Iron people are also fond of those who are practical and do not waste resources, which are precious. They reuse what they can and often have little in the way of luxury or decoration so common in other ares, to better leave space for things they need.
Ultimately, what the Irons want is to continue their simple lives of farming, mining and trade. Their most valuable resource is the metal they mine, and they know it. Most resent that they must sell to those that control them, but there's no real choice in that. They do what is practical to survive, and that's selling metal to all buyers. That's not to say they aren't choosy about their clients when they can be - they are more than happy to sell to those who will help the province free themselves over those that won't.
The Middle Province is both the physical and the spiritual center of the Izou, the cornerstone on which the Empire stands. It is the heart of the Empire, and is thus always full of travelers and tourists - underhanded and legitimate. The capital welcomes all, and even the disloyal can get in in disguise. Still, the tide of travel is a fraction of what it once was, making the province and Daiwa seem empty and lonely. EVen so, every month there are organized celebrations of the Empire, with song, dance, food and goods from across the land. These have done good in promoting diversity, but many feel they seem forced and orchestrated to distract from the problems caused by the war.
The Wardens of Equilibrium make their home here, and contacting them is easy - find a shop, give the shopkeeper a jade in a bag soaked in milk. The ninja are pretty hands-off, all things considered, but every shop owner knows they're watching and can choose to put you out of business. Thus, they pass on these messages, and the Wardens contact the requester with an hour...though they only honor requests that are in line with their philosophy of balance and will not, for example, help a rich man get richer. Even so, most of the Middlers are loyal to the Empire, thanks to the constant bombardment of propaganda about its greatness and the Emperor's immortality. The Crusade has hurt them less than others, though many have still lost power and wealth. Some have even gained from the Crusade, though, and sitll truly believe in the Empire, while others are secret friends of the ninja, using their political leverage to help the Coalition.
Despite stereotypes, not all Middlers are from Daiwa. Other parts of the province are used to test explosives and other weapons, but since the Year of Floods, the land has grown fertile despite this alchemical testing. Farms are growing larger, but occasionally some poor, unlucky farmer stumbles onto a hidden cache of explopsives or secret alchemical laboratory, both decades old. There are even rumors that the rebellious alchemist-general Ishimaru Kaito concealed a cache of enough explosives to destroy the entire Daiwa valley. These are usually dismissed as nonsense, but the ninja are hunting for Kaito's agents to see if the rumors are true.
Oak Leaf Province is forested and dark, full of hunters comfortable with the land. Much is amde of the wood of the forests and the pelts of the beasts that live there. Most of the locals trade with travelers and eahc other to survive, and are noted for their dark hair and the pale complexions caused by the constant tree shade. They are also smaller than most other people, allowing them to more easily hunt in the crowded forests. They make their own weapons and keep their own counsel, originally of the land of Seed and Blossom. It is largely untouched by battle, largely by not resisting. The cities have moved on, but most of the rural villages are unhappy with either side of the Crusade and prefer to trade with neither as their method of protest. While these rural folks dislike the Bamboo Herbalists more these days, those ninja remain in the area and protect with with their illusions. The locals take it in stride and mostly do not mind, and the urban folks tend to find the entire Crusade ridiculous.
The Oak Leafs look down on anyone who cannot take care of themselves. Solving your own problems and feeding your own family are what they see as most important, and they don't like getting involved in the affairs of others. They also do not mince words, speaking plainly and tersely. Soldiers that want to hunt or use the local resources had best make sure they have permission form the owner of the area to avoid getting run out of town. The citizens are generally healthy and long-lived, between the local ninja being medics and their unwillingess to fight the Empire directly. They tend to be happy that they've been so untouched by war, but some feel guilty and wonder what could have been, had they not surrendered when the Empire came to Seed and Blossom. As a result, the locals try to help travelers, to assuage their guilt and to help the people they see as more touched by war than themselves. M<any refugees settle in the area, and are welcomed.
While helpful, the locals od not like to talk politics, given their diversity and because they prefer to ignore the war when they can. They prefer to mediate and not blame, seeking to prevent arguments and welcoming all sides, as long as they keep the peace. It is no surprise, then, that the Oak Leaf are relatively popular in other areas and welcome anyone who comes to heal and leanr. Soldiers are treated no differently than anyone else. The Herbalists rarely turn requests for aide away - all you have to do is show up in their city headquarters and present your problems. If they can help, they do. The locals thus often feel extrmely protected and well-disposed to everyone around them.
Silk Belt Province is liekwise almost untouched. However, its silence hides a pall over the region ruledb y the Hidden Strands. The fear of ninja retaliation here is stronger than anywhere but the Black Veil, and the Strands operate in total secrecy. Still, there's so beautiful and tranquil a place that many forget the ninja are even there until it's too late. It is a place of art and knowledge, after all, which has quickly capitulated with the Emperor's will in order to keep the archives and tourism safe. Now, it is the province to visit to forget your problems and pretend they don't exist. Ignore the war It's just not there. The Silk Belters arne't bad people, per se, but they are self-absorbed - a trait cultivated by the Hidden Strands and their political allies. It can disturb travelers, but this apathy to others is rather infectious.
The province has a long history of unsavory politics and unscrupulous trades in power. It is home to Tennokiba, a ciy used as neutral territory for nobles and politicans to meet in, awaqy from prying eyes. The politics here as often cause peace as chaos, and the locals are pretty nonchalant about that. The STrands once controlled the place more obviously, but since the Crusade's escalation, the power structure was corrupted by criminals organizations. The locals are loyal to neither ninja nor Empire - they shift with the winds, as long as life remains unchanged. The criminal families make the most sense right now. The ninja have begun to infiltrate these families, treating them as equals in deals but plotting their demise.
Etiquette in the Silk Belt is more strict than anywhere else, and formal dining with enemies and potential allies is a formal art. Breaking the rules is an affront to everyone, a total disrespect to the host. Everyone in the area takes time to teach their kids how to avoid these embarrassments, and there are even restaurant-schools you can send your child to to master these arts. It is here that many alliances begin and deals take shape. Leaving an invite underneath a stone on your doorstep is the local way to call the Hidden STrands, though few do these days. If the ninja accepts the invitation, they will expect a ceremonial meal in which to solidify the details, and it always costs something precious to you. So far, this method has avoided Imperial notice...but it may not remain so long.
Triumph Province is home to the Recoiling Serpents and their murky bogs. They do not fear that they will lose power. They fight the Izou daily, knowing the value of their strategic position near the center of the Empire. The locals know that survival is a battle, and that those in power will do all they can to turn them into pawns. As a result, they adapt easily to hardship and work to make their problems work for them when possible. For the people, the name of the province has gone from an Imperial gloat to a local pride at how they triumph over bad situations. They believe that they can defeat the Empire - they will survive anything, can wait out all fate has for them, and they will remain at the end.
While the province is the largest of all, it has the lowest population. Most of its cities are separated by Serpent-controlled swampland, and the residents have to be tough to travel between them. They move quickly, always watching out for dangers - both from the land and the ninja. Sometimes they'll call on the Serpents when they need medicine or other things only the ninja have. The method's easy - head into a swamp. They'll find you soon enough, especially if you go to the spots they put signs up in. However, the locals do this only out of desperation. The Serpents aren't known for generosity.
The local cities are always being sieged - the young cannot remember what that was not so. The locals know that at any time, an attack could come and they might need to find shelter. Soldiers outnumber civilians, and the locals avoid them or cater to them in order to avoid conflict. Luxury is scarce, and even basic needs are hard to meet during a siege. This uncertainty means the Triumph people avoid making waves and being noticed whenever possible. They rarely keep track of time in the way others do, because they know they might have a future. Gallows humor is common, to retain what hope is left. It can be unsettling, but it is understandable once you spend any time in the region.
Soldiers are often sent to train in Triumph, because constant siege is a perfect training ground, even for Golden Lions and Silver Blades. The people have adapted, even if they don't like it. Soldiers are just a part of life now, and business have adapted to meeting their needs, seeling them goods and luxuries the army doesn't provide them. The soldiers that can use gallows humor as well as the locals often get the best deals. No longer do the locals farm by day and practice sickle katas by night. A few elders try to keep up these traditions, but the world is changing, and the locals adapt. Disease and wounds, however, are rarely a problem. The Triumphers are long used to dealing with the swampy landscape and the ninja that live there, and they know how to avoid getting sick or falling into danger. They can wait to fight back.
Next time: Religion and Organized Crime
I am posting quickly because I want to get to the powers.Original SA post Ninja Crusade: Empire's Reign - I am posting quickly because I want to get to the powers.
Religion is built into the foundations of the Izou Empire. Everyone, from the lowest to the highest, is on some level a spiritual person. Before the rise of the Izou, each state had its own religion. The Empire did not institute any formal state religion, but does tacitly approve of what is now the most widespread belief: you are reincarnated based on your dharma, and your station in life is determined by how you acted in your past life; your next life will be determined by this one. This, to the Empire, is the core that a harmonious and smoothly run society is built on. Faith, the Imperials know, could strengthen or weaken the state, and the government as gone to lengths to destroy the symbols of the religions of other states in order to prevent their mass penetration into the Imperial consciousness.
The Imperials do not usually go so far as the Enlightened and usually don't believe there's some way to escape the cycle of reincarnation, but they are at least on the path. It is one of the reasons the Followers of Ko were able to ally themselves to the Empire after the assassination of the tamashi. Many ninja are portrayed in Imperial propaganda as souls that were despicable in their past life, and some even hints at the idea that they are corrupted by Oni to spread evil for the purpose of disrupting peaceful Imperial rule. The fates of the Emperor's family are often used as examples of the evil the ninja do, though the Emperor's temporary absence is never mentioned - just the attack on the capital that failed to kill him.
Broadly speaking, the people of the Empire do recognize several gods, known as kami. There is no unified dogma, but most worship their ancestors' spirits and various local gods. Sometimes they will also worship their village's founder. Remembering and praying to these spirits brings strength and honor to the community and the family. Gods, spirits and ghosts are just a part of everyday life. Some villages have small public shrines or temples, but most homes also maintain their own family altars, known as kamidana. Prayer to the ancestors, while ubiquitous, is not codified as part of any official religion. These days, neighbors are often suspicious of those whose ancestors might be ninja, and some families take pains to exclude known ninja from ancestor worship, even if they are pained by doing so.
The young are also beginning to question their faith in the dharma. The idea that you should know your place, when so many have been forced into crime and murder just to survive, is hard to countenance. Some pray to their ancestors as well, for guidance on how to free themselves of the ninja and the Empire alike. Village leaders often tell people that both sides have forgotten those they claim to fight for.
According to the beliefs of the Empire, there is a period between death and reincarnation. In this period, some spirits stay in the Celestial Courts, to help their descendants on Earth and prepare for reincarnation. Others, tied somehow to the Celestial Animals, go to their realms after death. Most are welcomed and help strengthen family ties, but not all. Some also then contact their livving relatives to help try and free the Animals caught by the Iron Breakers.
While there are a number of organized religious sects, not all devout people consider themselves part of one. You might well practice a ritual-oriented form of worship built into your daily life, calling by prayer to the ancestors to ask for help with nature spirits to ensure family success, or for strength to get through the next day or to get revenge on those that hurt you. Some even pray for forgiveness while seeking out criminal work, believing it is all they have left. The Enlightened believe that breaking laws to survive is spiritually weak, but they also are happy to teach anyone who will listen, set aside their old ways and walk a new path. They've seen a slight surge in recruits, as many are seking guidance these days.
While some question the karmic wheel these days, many still lean heavily on the worship of ancestors and spirits. Not all, however. Some have sought out demons, Oni and darker spirits. These creatures have long memories, and they reward their worshippers. The Oni in particular thrive on sorrow and chaos, which abound in great amounts right now. Oni are often happy to exploit regular people, masquerading as helpful beings until they can extract the ultimate price from their followers. They fan suspicion and distrust, gorging on the chaos that follows.
A particularly new sect is the Reconciled. While many believe there is no divine being more portent than the Emperor, the Reconciled teach that there is a single Heavenly being that is more potent even than he. They believe that those who have done or seen evil can be forgiven in this life, that dharma need not damn them to a life of misery and pain. By penance and prayer, all can find redemption. This is a very tempting prospect for many. The Enlightened teach something similar, but theirs is a more judgemental sect, which can be offputting to those on the outs. The Reconciled are more accepting of those who have been through a harsh time but are not so jaded as to lose all hope of their own redemption. The Reconciled are also easier to find than Enlightened monasteries. They believe that redemption is for all, and should not be sought in hidden contemplation. Rather, it must be found on the streets, feeding the hungry and tending to the ill. Prayer is needed, but penance must be action.
And now we jump to organized crime. There are always criminals, and now, it is easy to become one even accidentally - dissent, for example, can get you branded a criminal. Ninja are all criminals now, too. This can lead to authorities harassing many people just because someone saw something strange. Laws can be abused and corrupted. Officials extort wealth from people who are even suspected of sympathies with the ninja, threatening them with the weight of law. With so much crime, it is no surprise that criminals organiuze. These groups are known as itsutai - fmilies, though they are not always actually blood-related. They are used by the rich and powerful, but looked down on heavily as evil beings, pretenders at nobility that reach beyond their dharma. Of course, this is never said too loudly, for fear of retaliation.
A number of itsutai exist within the Empire. Some are potentially noble vigilantes; most are not. The Itsutai Nakatsune are led by Nakatsune Haga, a family patriarch that has never even gone far from his home village of Nogata. However, he has always had a talent for seeing what people needed and how to get it to them, with little regard for law. He has been happy to steal, to bribe, to smuggle. After all, it's just doing favors. And so his gang grew, at the top mostly his closest friends and below them more distant allies...but everyone was always clear: Haga was in charge, and there were rules. The girls were not to be prostitutes, but should be used to gather information, to be couriers or even enforcers. The elders of the village were never to be targeted by crime. And so Nogata has flourished, because they were good in Haga's eyes, always respectful of the ancestors. Haga also forbids any violence near his village. It is his home, and his power is built on protecting it. He doesn't have to be ostentatious about his power - the village just has to know he's their protector. The village leaders seek him out. None call it asking permission, though that's what it is. However, not all are happy with Haga's leadership, and recently he's had people try to kill him, or hire ninja to do the job. His loyal guards have killed most of them, but not all. Haga has responded by sending word to his childhood friend Norisue Aya, who is now a Golden Lion. She is to come home and find the traitors. Haga wants to be a good citizen...and to find and destroy the ninja who have tried to break his peace. He'd be heartbroken and shocked to learn who was behind it, but the book doesn't reveal who that is. His gang travels to nearby towns and cities to smuggle contraband and sell it, and to remind people what Haga does not allow. Mostly, they smuggle stolen liqour and luxuries, sometimes weapons and sometimes people who need to get in or out of cities. Haga doesn't like ninja, but their coin is good coin and sometimes, you need to do favors. Of course, Haga has also loaned out his people to help Imperial soldiers at times - not always muscle, either, sometimes spies or informants.
The pirates of the high seas also cannot be ignored. The Pirates' Guild is ruled by a triumvirate of three - Riyono Mori, whose mother was the last captain of her ship before a bunch of ninja stole a shipment of weapons bound for the Empire, Akifusa Nakagawa, who killed his way to the top, and Chikanori Chiba, and elderly, agreeable man who became a captain when his own captain retired. Chiba is still vicious in battle, of course, but if you're on his good side he's a fair and kindly man. He never shorts his crew and he doesn't play politics. Mori and Nakagawa are both younger and more hotheaded, and Mori inherited general command from her mother, as well as the favors her mother was owed. Chiba prefers to be a guide, and Mori hates ninja, which has given her favor from Imperials that need her work...but has also soured some contracts. Nakagawa's ruthless violence and general nastiness has also scared off some work. Chiba knows war must mean compromises, and tries to get the two to work better at getting more contracts. The three crews don't always work together perfectly - there's always arguments over contracts or splitting the take. Mori tries to have a lot going on at once, so that the work can be farmed out to whoever's best at it and so they can all stay sharp and keep the coin flowing. There is one thing they all agree on, however. Never, ever work with the Will of Iron. They are too inflexible...and they were the ones who killed Mori's mother. Chiba tried to explain to her that not all ninja are like that, but it hasn't really worked out.
The Kodama Collective were run by Kodama Matsukura, whose mother saw visions that let him rise to the top. Many see him as brilliant and unpredictable, and he is a very powerful man in the city of Tennokiba, running gambling, brothels and slaving. With the help of his mother's seer powers, he has established routes to many places ner Fuchou for his slave trade, and has gained a reputation for evading both ninja and Imperial patrols. When he brought home his pregnant consort, however, his mother tried to poison the girl, and he had her imprisoned. The mother, Kodama Gou, is not ashamed of her son's work, but she believes they have rules, and she has foreseen that his son will bring only chaos and upset the balance. Matsukura convinced himself she was wrong, though his mother prophesied that his son would kill the mother in childbirth. It was the only vision she's ever had that he would not believe. It came true, of course, and she never stopped telling her son to kill the boy, Taro. Taro has been raised to inherit the guild, but Matsukura has no real affection for him - that died with the consort, Hiki. Taro is now in charge of the Collective. He runs the weapons dealing, the pleasure trade and the slaving. He knows his grandmother foretold the future for his father, and he revels in the world of crime. He saw to the death of his own father, framing a rival guild, which he then destroyed, along with the twon they lived in. They left it all as a symbol to show the world what crossing Taro Kodama would mean. Now, Taro is destructive, chaotic and ambitious. He always looks for ways to streamline his empire, and is more than willing to kidnap family members of those that owe him debts, putting them to work in various ways.
Zaitsu the Immortal is a 150-year-old man, a rogue Bamboo Herbalist that left his clan to master the sword. He eventually became a warlord, gathering bandits and ronin to his banner. He tried to fight the Empire, but failed. Now, in the chaos of the Crusade, he has broken out of prison and is trying to rebuild his army. The Lotus Coalition has wanted to contact him, but the Bamboo Herbalists forbid it, still seeing him as a traitor. Zaitsu was a terrible ninja - he was never stealthy and over-relied on his ronin to protect him. However, he's an excellent swordsman and commander. He hast three lieutenants - Hideaki, a young man who is a prodigy with a blade and got framed for various crimes, whom Zaitsu is training in 'ninja arts' (primarily, fighting). Dokuouhtei, a former Golden Lion who was stripped of rank for defending and sparing a young child in a ninja village and who was rescued from execution by Zaitsu. In exchange, he swore to forever serve the immortal and is probably the only true ninja in the group, though he garbs his followers in bad, makeshift copies of Golden Lion armor. Last is TEnzen the Mad, an unorthodox former general of the Imperial ARmy whose tactics often conflicted with Imperial doctrine and who was forced into retirement. He spent time as a mercenary, and has now befriended Zaitsu, who shares many of his opinions. The four lead an army that could be only a few hundred men, or if the plot required it, a few thousand.
Next time: How to play an Imperial.
The Imperial GameOriginal SA post Ninja Crusade: Empire's Reign - The Imperial Game
Chargen for Izou characters is broadly similar to the ninja. Steps 1, 2, 4 and 5 are the same. Step 3 changes from Tragedy to Motivation - the thing that drove you to join the army and/or the Crusade in general, whether that was conscription or a belief or whatever. Also, for most groups, you don't have or gain ki or jutsu. That changes up step 6 and 7. For everyone but the Enlightened and Golden Lions, you skip step seven and instead of 6 levels to spread between Style techniques and Favored Tactics, which are similar but Assignment-exclusive. For the Enlightened and Golden Lions, you get 2 levels, same as normal, and 5 points to spend on "jutsu". Enlightened, however, can only take from their three Paths, rather than any normal jutsu, and no one else - not Golden Lion or Ronin - can take those. Golden Lions can select any jutsu, except those - even clan-exclusives.
The Enlightened do not have ki - instead, they have a trait called Balance, which is equal to twice their Rank. They use Balance the same way a ninja would use ki, but they get no training bonus or Backfire, ever. Also, they take 75 XP to rank up, rather than 50. Executioners do not have jutsu, but do have ki, which is used in their Ki Negation abilities.
So, let's talk about abilities, and then you all can give me some characters to make, to show off how chargen works for Imperials.
Black Bones is the unique technique of the Iron Breakers. They forge weapons from the bones of demons, long rods that they can summon at will and wield as a staff. They use these to enslave the celestial beasts. It's not a pleasant experience - it involves piercing the Animal with black bone rods, usually through the muzzle, neck, arms, legs and heart, though each Breaker has their own unique approach. Enslaved celestials cannot return to their home realm. When not summoned, they exist in a dimension of total solitude and nothingness, with nothing to touych and no one to speak to and no light to see by. OFten, they go mad if not summoned regularly. Some Breakers don't care bout that - they enjoy breaking the pure, heavenly being. So far, no ninja has ever found a way to remove the Black Bones from a celestial, even after killing the Breaker that enslaved them, short of the Breaker willingly doing it themselves. These beasts are forever tainted by demonic energies and cannot go back to the celestial realms. Even if they could, the taint would see them banished by their fellows. Some of these beasts return to the Empire voluntarily, seeing it as the only place they are still welcomed. Others hide with the ninja and hope someone finds a cure for their taint.
To an outsider, Black Bones and the Summoning arts are virtually identical. However, a Summoner befriends the Animals. Iron Breakers just tap into their ki directly and control them. They are not limited by Animal Families, but have no Minor Animal to help them. The longer they use therods, the more potent their control is, and the more beasts they can command at once. They may have up to one Celestial Animal summoned per Level, and have never found a way to bind the Greater Animals, which is probably a good thing. Once a Breaker captures an animal, they command for as long as they choose to kee pit. However, they can remove the rods themselves to attempt to capture another - usually when they're trying to get a stronger one. Some leave the freed animals behind, while others kill the old animal and eat it. Like Summoning, the levels are locked to Rank as well as...well, levels. Summoning is also an act of effort on your part - it costs 1 damage (of either type) and an Intimidation+Discipline check. Your summon can stick around until its task is done or one scene passes. You get +1 on the check if you share an element with the animal's family, as per normal.
Level 1: you get a single enslaved Major Animal, which you can summon and control at will and which must be only a Warrior. You name it and mark it as a Rival, with its family's skill associated with it. However, you don't actually owe it favors - rather, if the favor box is marked, the beast is injured, crazed or otherwise impaired. Going a session without summoning it clears the mark. If summoned with the mark, the animal gets -2 to all checks. You may only control one animal at this time. At Rank 2, you get control of a second Major Animal in the same way, which can be a Warrior or a Squad. You may also summon your Black Bone weapons in the form of a bo, tonfa, nunchaku, sansetssukon or yari without a Quick Action or a Prepare ACtion. Black Bones are indestructible either as weapons or in animal-control form.
Level 2: You must be Rank 3. You get a third Major Animal, and your Animals can be Warrior, Squad, or Master. You can command two summoned Animals simultaneously. At Rank 4, you get another Major Animal. While you and all your animals are still Rivals, you get only a -1 to their associated skill in their presence, rather than -2.
Level 3: You must be Rank 5. You get another Major Animal. You can command up to three summoned Animals at once. You may also access the dimension they are stored in for fast travel. You disappear, reappearing elsewhere seconds later. You can use this several times per session and can travel several miles with it. In Battle, you must spend a Dynamic Action to use it, but if you do, you can instantly avoid an attack, reposition or escape entirely.
Ingenuity is the unique technique of the Engineers. They know how to make new devices. It's not just about intelligence or scientific rigor, however - it's about thinking outside the box and finding the best way to combine simplicity, power and ease of use to solve problems. You must dedicate yourself to the field you are trying to work in, of course - an Engineer that works in guns must be a good marksman, for exmaple.
The way this works is that Engineers receive Resource Points. This represents, mostly, backing from the Imperial College in order to get the materiasl you need, but you can also make Crafts+Intuition rolls to scavenge through trash piles to gain RP. You may never have more than 10 RP at any time. You spend RP to create inventions. An invention lasts for one Scene before it breaks or needs to be recreated. The invention either increases an item's strength or gives a useful advantage - you might make a grapple that boosts Athletics for climbing, or you might make a device to let a raft fold up into a compact cube. Each invention costs 1 RP, and if you spend a second RP, the invention lasts all session. You must make a Crafts roll for each invention, with the second skill in the combo being based on what the modification or device does. A firework modified to be more accurate would use Marksman, while shoes that don't leave footprints would use Stealth. The more successful you are, the more you can modify the device's dicepool or stat bonus. Each modification you make costs 1 RP, as noted, and some amount of time. A quick jury-rigging might take a few turns, while fortifying a building might take a day.
Level 1: You get two Fields of Study and begin each Session with 2 RP.
Level 2: You get two more Fields of Study and begin each Session with 3 RP. You also automatically get 1 free RP with each successful scavenging check, on top of the normal results.
Level 3: You get two more Fields of Study and begin each session with 4 RP. When you roll to make inventions, 9s count as 2 successes now.
Fields of Study are basically the areas you can make inventions in. They can overlap, but they shouldn't be overbroad. The game gives a list of potential fields of study:
Black Powder: Devices that use black powder - both noisemakers and bombs, and anything in between, and presumably black powder weapons like guns, too.
Equipment and Gear: Climbing devices, hidden compartments and modifying existing equipment with new functions.
Civil Engineering: Aqueducts, plumbing, architecture, artillery and fortifications.
Metallurgy: Armor, metal structures, new metal materials, probably metal weapons.
Covert Equipment: Spyglasses, spy toys, hidden compartments, forgeries.
Clockwork Designs: Clockwork and steam-powered devices of all kinds - prosthetics, hydraulic lifts, pneumatic pumps.
Jutsu Retrieval is the unique non-Jutsu technique of the Golden Lions. It is...well, it's the theft of jutsu by the dissection of living or dead ninja and the study of their bodies and spirits. These dissections are cruel and dangerous, and many believe they're just fearmongering propaganda. Thye are not. At level 1, you get to do the ability. Each of level 2 and 3 reduce the difficulty of the checks involved by 1.
Retrieving a jutsu involves a long, gruesome ritual. The target is stripped and covered in symbols written in the blood of a Celestial Animal, in a room filled with special cinnamon-scented incense. Then, they get tortured to raise their ki levels and bring out the jutsu in their minds and souls. It is very hard to manage the pain of the torture, and few survive the retrieval. Once the right amount of pain is reached, the target is cut open and dissected. Golden Lions study to understand how to tell a jutsu based on the target's bones, muscles and internal organs. A living target, obviously, must be restrained to keep them from escaping or damaging themselves. Corpses can be used, but at -2 to all checks. The ritual takes 8 hours at least, but spending a full day gives +1. It's a Holistics+Discipline check, with a success retrieving the secrets of a single, randomly selected jutsu the target knows...and kills them or destroys the body being used. A Boost either lets the target survive, lets you pick which jutsu you get, allows you a second jutsu or halves the length of the ritual - you pick. Dead bodies are destroyed even on a Boost, however. You can't use the ritual more than once a week on a target - they need time to recover, which cannot be sped along by jutsu because that would alter the spiritual information within. You then take the jutsu you found and write it down on a scroll. You get a -2 XP discount to leanr that jutsu - so if you get the same jutsu often enough, you could learn it for free. However, no one but you can use your notes to learn the jutsu at all - the ritual is exceptionally personal. The use of Celestial Animal blood is part of why the Lions work closely with Iron Breakers.
Ki Negation is the special technique of the executioners. Learning it is a long and extremely painful process, but it is what makes the Executioner so terrifying to ninja. They learn to balance their internal ki to lash out at other ki-users and their jutsu. Ninja do not understand this at all, not the way Executioners do, and no one else can even begin to perform these techniques. It turns your ki into a weapon, and this can be used for even more than countering jutsu. Executioners with this ability can tap into their ki to use it, but cannot Mold Ki to gain more. The abilities, like Summoning, are also rank-locked.
Level 1: You can Sense Ki as per the Portents style. When you are present for a jutsu activation, you can spend 1 Dynamic Action to roll Discipline and the opposite type of ki as the jutus to suppress it, canceling out successes. If you fully suppress a jutsu, you get 2 Karma and the ninja gets -1 to that jutsu for the scene. You may also just spend a ki outright to cancel the jutsu, regardless of how powerful it is. At rank 2, you get a bonus based on your ki. If you have more Yang than Yin at any time, you get +1 to Fighting and Fortitude, and gain 1 Yang when using jutsu suppression, and get +2 when using Support on a character that is Yin-aligned. If you have more Yin than Yang, you get +1 to Marksman and Stealth, gain 1 Yin when using jutsu suppression and get +2 to support Yang-aligned. If you are balanced and have equal Yin and Yang, you get all the skill bonuses but none of the other bonuses.
Level 2: You must be rank 3. You may now, when you fully suppress or cancel a jutsu, take on any beneficial effects it would have had for the ninja. If the jutsu was targeted at anyone but the ninja, it retargets towards the ninja and they must now Defend against it as if your suppression roll was the jutsu activation. At rank 4, you may reflexively spend some of your own ki to destroy the target's ki. Destroyed ki cannot be remolded until after the Scene.
Level 3: You must be Rank 5. You can cut off a 4-tap environment from being molded by sacrificing 1 ki, or a 6-tap environment for 2 ki. Once you do that, you can attack with the ki using Marksman+Discipline, dealing +3 damage and causing a level 1 condition of the GM's choice based on the environment type. You can do this a number of times equal to the taps the environment once had.
The Paths are the unique 'jutsu' of the Enlightened. They have basic, median and advanced jutsu, just like normal. The Path of the Body deals with, obviously, augmenting the body's abilities.
Diamond Finger Technique (Balance+Fortitude): Your fingers become as deadly as a blade when you strike at pressure points. Your unarmed attacks do +1 damage and have the Sharp quality for the scene.
Intangible Strike Method (Balance+Speed): The speed of your blows increases until the force can pass through material things. For several strikes, you may ignore Armor.
Silence of Wind (Balance+Stealth): Your movements become utterly silent, as do all inanimate things you touch. Water splashes silently, pictures fall over silently. Any living thing you touch during this can hear you normally, however. On a Boost, you also get +2 Stealth for the scene.
Sliding Stance (Balance+Fortitude): Your body can bend nearly impossibly. You get +1 Athletics for the scene and can easily perform near-impossible contortions.
Twisting Stance (Balance+Travel): You cannot suffer Knockdown or Knockback for the Battle.
Cat Stance (Balance+Speed): You get +2 to all Defense checks for several rounds.
Iron Head (Balance+Fighting): You must have Twisting Stance. You headbutt your target with the activation check, dealing +1 damage and knocking them back quite a ways. With a Boost, you also cause Pain 2.
Lizard Climb the Wall (Balance+Travel): You instantly climb quite a ways based on your roll.
Ringing Round a Tree (Balance+Athletics): You must have Sliding Stance. You double your Strength and deal +1 physical damage for the scene. On a Boost, you triple your Strength instead.
Swift Eye Gouge Technique (Balance+Speed): You must have Intangible Strike Method. You can instantly remove something from someone's hands, pockets - even their eye socket. You use the activation as an attack, ignoring all penalties for striking a small target and getting +4 Initiative if this is your first Action. This can only be used once per Round.
Iron Shirt (Balance+Might): You must have Iron Head. You become immune to all ranged weapons. You don't even have to make a Defense roll - they just bounce off. If the weapon is a gun, you instead just get Armor 2 against it.
One Finger of Chan Meditation (Balance+Intuition): You must have Swift Eye Gouge Technique. You can attack something inside something else. Aainst a living target, you roll the activation as an attack and deal Injured condition instead of damage, as you cause internal bleeding and ruptures. If you go over the level 5 limit, the rest of the damage is dealt as a Deprived condition.
Series of Blows (Balance+Speed): You must have Lizard Climb the Wall. This duplicates the 10,000 Fists jutsu, but you can split successes between Inflict Harm actions and Move actions, allowing you to fight almost entire armies.
Surge of Life Meditation (Balance+Fortitude): Your next year of aging takes several years based on your roll. The first five times you use this, it affects only one year of aging. The next five years, you age 2 years over thaat period. The next 5 times, you age 3 years over that period. This continues until the years beat your dicepool and the technique is no longer effective.
Universal Flow (Balance+Empathy): You must have Cat STance. You give yourself to the universe, removing thought from your actions. For the rest of hte Battle, you get +3 Initiative, ignore all environmental penalties (including poor visibility) and get a Boost on only 2 additional successes when making combat checks.
The Path of Mind is all about augmenting or manipulating minds and thoughts, or about ignoring physical limitations.
Altered Truth (Balance+Deception): You can put a thought in the target's mind, as long as it's not easily contradicted or clearly untrue. The thought lasts for one scene.
Floating Position (Balance+Discipline): You free yourself from gravity with mental power. You can fly a decent ways off the ground at half your Movement for the scene.
Linked Minds Meditation (Balance+Empathy): You and a number of others link your minds together for the scene. You can communicate mentally with any of them at Far range, but the only one they can communicate with is you - you need to be their go-between.
Stable Mind Meditation (Balance+Discipline): Your heal your own mind, reducing mental conditions. You cannot do this in Battle or under duress.
Stoic Warrior (Balance+Intimidation): You get +2 Armor against mental attacks and may ignore 1 Armor when making mental attacks.
Art of Invisibility (Balance+Stealth): You must have Stoic Warrior. You cloud the minds of others, making yourself invisible to them for the scene. This ends immediately if you act aggressively, even against inanimate objects.
Finger Lock (Balance+Knowledge): In a grapple, you paralyze by grabbing your foe's finger. The activation is an attack, and you cause the Pain condition instead of damage. On a Boost, you also cause Embarrassed 2.
Mind Over Matter (Balance+Knowledge): You must have Stable Mind Meditation. You focus your mind, getting a bonus to your next physical skill check.
Sleep Touch (Balance+Persuade): You touch someone's pressure points, causing Knocked Out 2. In combat, this is activated at -2.
Twin Lock Stance (Balance+Speed): You join your forearms together to block as a wall. You get +1 to Defense checks and may Block weapons without penalty for the Battle.
Crippling Strike Amenti (Balance+Discipline): You must have Finger Lock. You strike so accurately that it makes it hard for the target to function. The activation is an attack that does +1 damage and also causes Broken in addition to damage. If you exceed the level 5 limit, you apply a second Broken condition for a different skill.
Forgetful Mind Prana (Balance+Knowledge): You must have Altered Truth. You can alter thoughts and memories via pressure points, duplicating the Information Consumption jutsu, but taking only moments rather than a ritual. A Boost means the victim can't even question the new memories.
Paralyzing Strike (Balance+Holistics): You strike to disable. The activation is an attack, and if it hits, you deal +1 damage and the target loses a number of Actions based on your Balance. A Boost doubles all effects.
Share Minds (Balance+Empathy): You must have Linked Minds Meditation. You meditate with the target, opening your minds to each other. Once used, you and the target know everything about each other. Everything.
Unlocked Puzzle Prana (Balance+Crafts): You attune your mind to logic and puzzles. You get a number of +2 bonuses, which you may spend on any mental checks during the scene.
The Path of the Spirit manipulates spirits and souls, both to reinforce and to confuse. It also taps into ki abilities.
Bow Stance (Balance+Perception): Your attacks also cause the Confused 1 condition for several strikes.
Elemental Training (Balance+Fortitude): For several hours, you can withstand adverse weather without any problems, and you get Armor 1 against Elemental jutsu for the scene.
Following the Tenets (Balance+Travel): You use this before a Journey to align yourself with the Eents of Ko. You get a number of bonus dice that you may grant to any member of the group for their Stage checks.
Ki Strike (Balance+Discipline): For a number of attacks, you may choose to deal no damage and instead drain 2 ki.
Spirit Steps (Balance+Discipline): Your spirit leaves your body for several minutes. In this form, your are invisible, undetectable by any means and cannot interact physically with the world.
Affect the World (Balance+Empathy): You must have Spirit Steps. While using Spirit Steps, you may activate this to be able to affect the physical world for several checks in any way you normally could. You can only use this once per use of Spirit Steps.
Graceful Swan Technique (Balance+Stealth): You must have Bow Stance. You become light as a feather, able to walk on walls and jump long distances. You get +2 Athletics and ignore fall damage for falls up to 50 feet. However, you may only stay on a wall or ceiling surface unmoving for (Balance) Turns before falling. On a Boost, this number is doubled.
Horse Stance (Balance+Discipline): You focus your spirit, increasing your Balance by 2 for a number of activations.
Knowing the Soul (Balance+Intuition): You look into the eyes of a Close target, learning a number of things about them based on your activation - rank, Ki levels, clan/assignment, likes, dislikes, name, whatever.
Long Distance Punch (Balance+Intimidation): For the scene, you may attack using Fighting within Near Range. On a Boost, it extends to Far Range.
Hand of Sun Rays (Balance+Empathy): You must have Horse STance. You call spiritual energy into your hands, making them glow as you attack and granting you power. The activation is an attack that causes Dazed and Burned as well as damage. If you exceed the level 5 limit, extra levels are converted to 2 damage each.
Piercing the Veil (Balance+Travel): You must have Spirit Steps and Horse Stance. You can teleport to anywhere within a decent range that you can see.
Poison Hand Tehcnique (Balance+Fighting): You must have Ki Strike. You fill your aura with anti-ki energies for several attacks. Anyone hit takes 1 damage and Poisoned 1 on top of all other damage. For several rounds after, they continue to take 1 automatic damage and the Poisoned condition increases. On a Boost, all effects are doubled.
Split Essence Meditation (Balance+Discipline): You must have AFfect the World and Knowing the Soul. You split into two beings - the yume that controls intellect and the akuma that controls physical power. The yume gets +2 to all mental rolls but cannot participate in physical Battles. The akuma gets +2 to all physical rolls, but automatically fails all non-Intimidation mental or social checks. All other stats are identical to yours for each. You may remain separated for several hours and can be any distance apart. The yume has your Psyche, the akuma your Health. If one hits 0, the two halves are thrown back together and you suffer Knocked Out 2. Otherwise, the merge happens at the end of the duration without any problems.
Vibrating Strike (Balance+Discipline): You must spend 1 Round neither attacking nor defending. After this, your next hit deals no physical damage, instead marking the target's spirit. They take 1 damage the next round, 2 the round after that, 3 the round after that, and so on for (Balance) Rounds. This damage is dealt to Psyche before Health, and generally ends if they fall unconscious. On a Boost, you may have it deal to Health first if you want.
Next time: Voice of the Emperor, the Way of Dazzling Pilferage, the Way of Silver Blades, the Way of the Gun, and I make some characters.
Sword LasersOriginal SA post Ninja Crusade: Empire's Reign - Sword Lasers
Voice of the Emperor is the special technique of the Jadesmiths. It is the greatest of political skills, combining verbal tricks with a focus on the grand strategy of politics to work on a level few comprehend. It can be a gentle tool or a blunt instrument, and it is extremely powerful. Like the Portents style, it has only one technique tree that unlocks a number of different abilities.
Level 1: You get Air of Authority and either A Subtle Implication or Voice of Rebuke. You also get +1 to Knowledge checks related to know politics and bureaucracy.
Level 2: You get Voice of Righteousness and the ability you didn't pick at level 1.
Level 3: You get either Voice of Fury or The Lord's Will.
A Subtle Implication: You know how to wield words as weapons at exactly the right time. You can make an Empathy+Intimidation check to plant an idea in someone's mind and make them obsess over it for several scenes. You can have this active on up to (Intuition) targets at once.
Air of Authoirty: You get +1 to all social or mental skill checks. You always appear regal, noble and authoritative. You may give the Embarrassed 1 condition on any Boost of any kind. All attempts to sully your appearance or dismiss you out of hand get -2.
The Lord's Will: You have total authority. As long as you hold your Action during a Battle and instead stand back and give orders, every Karma point spent gives two dice, and any time Karma would be gained, 2 Karma is gained instead.
Voice of Righteousness: You speak with passion easily. You may spend 1 Karma to get +2 to one of DEception, Empathy, Intimidation, Perform or Persuade for the rest of the scene. You give a +1 bonus in the same skill to up to (Empathy) allies for the same duration, empowering them with your passion.
Voice of Fury: You can drive a crowd to a frenzy or calm them easily. You can make an Empathy+Intimidation check to do so. If you succeed, the crowd obeys your orders for the scene. You can have them cause or stop a riot, attack a foe, defend a place - they're your personal army for the scene. All attempts by other people to affect the crowd's behavior get +1 Difficulty.
Voice of Rebuke: You know how to keep others in check with a verbal sting. You may spend 2 Dynamic Actions to make an Intimidation+Deception check against the target's Intimidation+Discipline. If you win, they get -4 to their next roll.
The Way of Dazzling Pilferage is a Water-elemental jutsu used by the Golden Lions to copy and mimic the abilities of other fighters and ninja. The Golden Lions also have very strong basics and understand jutsu and combat styles in a way few others do. On a Boost, you can get +1 to defend or resist against jutsu or styles for the Round. The Backfire gives a level 1 Bruised condition that applies only to mental damage, due to low self-esteem.
Armor Synch (Yang+Perception): You align your ki with your armor, tying it to a specific jutsu. When you use that jutsu next, you use this activation roll instead. You may do this with no more than (Intuition)/2 jutsu at once, and a jutsu remains synchronized until you next use Armor Synch. However, an enemy can attack you at -3 to strike your special armor and render you unable to use a one jutsu.
Golden Aura (Yang+Discipline): You summon energy form your gold armor into an aura. You choose either +1 Fighting or +1 Athletics to gain for the scene. On a Boost, you get both. This jutsu can be canceled with a targeted attack, as in Armor Synch.
Lion's Pounce (Yang+Stealth): You leap at the foe. If your next attack is a surprise attack, it does +1 damage. On a Boost, +2 damage instead.
Pack Tactics (Yang+Empathy): After another character uses a jutsu, you give them a bonus to their activation check.
Jutsu Reading (Yang+Perception): You get +2 to defend or resist against a specific jutsu for the Battle. You may have this active for up to (Intuition) jutsu at once.
Lion Blast (Yin+Marksman): You channel your armor's ki into the mouth on it, firing a ki laser to Far Range. The beam does +1 damage and causes Bruised 1 on a Boost.
Lion's Roar (Yin+Intimidation): You mkae a load roar. Anyone in Near range gets Sensory Loss 2 until the end of the scene and also takes the jutsu as a mental attack defended with Discipline+Fortitude.
Jutsu Mimicry (Yang+Perception): You must have Armor Synch. You may use this to temporarily copy a jutsu you have seen, synchronizing it to your armor as per Armor Synch, and can do so reflexively with a Dynamic Action. This jutsu can be disrupted as per Armor Synch, and any mimicked jutsu count against your Armor Synch limit.
Skill Mimicry (Yang+Perception): After you are attacked, you can mimic the foe's ability. You get a obnus to one of the skills in the attacker's combo for the rest of the Battle, capped by the opponent's skill level.
Style Mimicry (Yang+Perception): You must have Skill Mimicry. After seeing a technique from a fighting or weapon style being used, you may activate this to gain that technique until the end of hte Scene. This can be done reflexively with a Dynamic Action.
Golden Interference (Yin+Fighting): You must have Armor Synch. You use your armor's ki flow to disrupt the enemy, typically via a headbutt. The target cannot use the Zen Mind Dynamic Action for the rest of the scene. On a Boost, they also cannot Mold Ki. This jutsu can be interrupted as per Armor Synch.
Golden Shield (Yang+Crafts): You use your armor to totally negate a jutsu, giving up your normal defense or resistance check to do so. This can be disabled as per Armor Synch.
Jutsu Prediction (Yin+Intuition): You must have Jutsu Reading. You can subtly nudge your foe into using a specific kind of jutsu. This is opposed by Discipline+Intuition. If you win, you select an element. If the target uses any jutsu next Round, they must be of the chosen element. You also get a bonus to defend against any of their attacks or resist any of their jutsu next Round.
Shadow of the Pack (Yin+Deception): You must have Pack Tactics. You create a number of illusory copies of yourself. When you are hit by an attack, roll a die. If the number is lower than your number of copies, a copy is hit and destroyed instead. Otherwise, you are hit normally. This lasts until the Battle ends or all copies are destroyed.
The Way of All Rivers is the unique Weapon Style of the Silver Blades. Its techniques can be used with any sword at all - curved, straight, short, wooden. Any sword.
Way of the Silver Tide
Level 1: Your every action is a cut, even when you defend. On a Boost when you Block/Parry a weapon attack, you may cut the attacker's weapon in half. On a Boost when you Block/Parry an unarmed melee attack, you cause the Injured (Limb) 1 condition on the attacker.
Level 2: You can swing your blade so precisely that you cut not only what is in front of you, but everything in a straight line out to Near Range. If foes are lined up, you can hit all of them in that line. You roll only once to attack, applying it to all valid targets.
Level 3: You can swing your blade in an attack identical to the level 2, except that it cuts out to Far range now. Both this and the level 2 now deal +1 damage. However, if you use this to attack at Far range twice in the same Battle, your blade shatters after the second attack.
Way of the Sword's Heart
Level 1: You may spiritually tie yourself to your blade with a Fighting+Intuition check. While tied to the blade, you get +1 Fighting and cannot be disarmed. This lasts for several Rounds.
Level 2: While tied to the blade, you can make an up-down attack, then immediately reverse it. This attack deals +2 damage and is defended against at -2. When you use this, your sword-bond is immediately broken afterwards.
Level 3: While tied to the blade, you may make a horizontal cut across the shoulders and neck. This attack does +3 damage and causes Bleeding 3. When you use this, your sword-bond is immediately broken afterwards.
Way of the Tiger Rush
Level 1: You use raw power to cut deeper. On a critical failure while using this tree of techniques, your blade shatters. Before striking, you may hold the weapon in one hand and prepare the strike with the other to build power. You may make a Quick Action to make an Athletics+Discipline check. On a success, your blade gets the Brutal quality for the Round. On a Boost, it lasts the entire Battle.
Level 2: When you defend at Close range, you can learn to counter-attack. If you get a Boost while defending, you can reflexively make an Athletics+Fighting check to boost the damage of any counterattack you make, capped by the original attack's dicepool.
Level 3: After a successful attack, you have learned to increase damage by striking the blade. On a hit, you can reflexively make an Athletics+Fighting check to add damage to the attack. However, if you use this twice in the same Battle, the blade instantly shatters.
Way of Instant Step
Level 1: You can Move as a Quick Action without the normal penalty. Alternatively, you may accept the penalty to move four times your normal Movement rather than three.
Level 2: When you attack with a sword using Speed after using a Quick Action to move, you deal +2 damage.
Level 3: Once per battle, you can zwee fight. To do this, you roll Fighting+Speed and spend a Dynamic Action to immediately attack a number of foes within Near range.
Way of the Silver Iaijutsu
Level 1: You can draw a weapon without spending a Quick Action to do so. You get +1 Initiative per level of this technique, as long as your weapon is sheathed when the Round starts.
Level 2: Before you draw your sword, you may spend 1 Dynamic Action to makke a reflexive Intimidation+Speed check that does +2 mental damage. You can do this only once before drawing.
Level 3: You may now immediately sheathe your blade after you attack, for free.
Way of Last Blood
Level 1: When you strike an enemy that has yet to act this Round, you do +1 damage per level.
Level 2: After you strike an enemy that has yet to act this Round, you get +1 to Defense, or +2 on a Boost.
Level 3: If you are the first to act in the Round, roll a Perception+Fighting check. If you succeed, you get +2 Fighting on your next attack. On a Boost, you also cause Bruised 1.
The Way of the Gun is the Black Smoke-specific weapon style. Its techniques all work with any kind of firearm unless otherwise stated.
Level 1: You ignore one level of Sensory Loss per level.
Level 2: While attacking with a Loud weapon, you do +1 damage to Psyche at Close range. On a Boost, you also cause Sensory Loss (Hearing) 2.
Level 3: When you fire your weapon, everyone in Close range must make a Perception+Fortitude check. If they fail, they get Sensory Loss (Hearing) 1 and Afraid 1.
Level 1-3: You may dual wield Pistols or other small firearms (but not Rifles). What this does (besides let you even try to do that) is give you +2 Marskman per level while you do, as you send massive amounts of bullets at the foe.
Level 1: You get an additional +1 per level from using Plan Attack to aim.
Level 2: On a Boost when you attack, you may hit another target in Close range as well as your original target. They can Defend as normal. You can do this up to (Perception) times per shot, assuming you get enough Boosts.
Level 3: You get one free Plan Attack action each Round.
Level 1: You may draw your gun without a Quick Action. You get +2 Initiative in the first Round of any Battle.
Level 2: You carry (Strength)/2 backup guns, which you may draw and use if you are ever disarmed or run out of ammo with the weapon you are using.
Level 3: If you are disarmed, you get a free Counter Attack with your backup weapon, if you still have one.
Level 1-3: You use extra gunpowder to produce smokey clouds. You get +1 Stealth per firearm attack you've made this Round, capped at (Level*3). You cannot use this with a Loud weapon.
We also get two new general Weapon Styles. Defending is for defensive weapons.
Level 1: You can make an additional Defense per level each Round without penalties.
Level 2: If you successfully Block/Parry, you get +1 to your next Defense, or +2 on a Boost.
Level 3: Wen you fail a dEfense check, you can spend a Dynamic Action to negate additional effects you might suffer from attacker Boosts.
In Harm's Way
Level 1: When you Protect another character, you get Armor 1 per level against the attack.
Level 2: When you use the Protect defense, you get +4 Movement for it.
Level 3: When you use the Thicker Skin Dynamic Action, you reduce damage by 2 per spent Dynamic Action, rather than 1.
Turn the Tide
Level 1: On a Boost when you make a Defense check, you get +1 Fighting per level against the attacker for the rest of the Round. You can apply this to only (Level) foes per Turn.
Level 2: When you Counter Attack, you deal +1 damage.
Level 3: When you Deflect Attacks, you only need to spend 1 Dynamic Action rather than 2.
Reach is for long weapons, like spears.
Level 1: If you spend a Dynamic Action to attack a second time in a Round, that attack gets +1.
Level 2: After a successful attack, you get +1 to Block/Parry for the Round, or +2 on a Boost.
Level 3: You may make an attack on everyone at Near range by spinning your weapon. However, it gets -1 damage.
Level 1: Your weapon gets the Driving quality.
Level 2: On a Boost with a weapon attack against a foe in Close range, you can immediately perform a Knockback attack.
Level 3: When an opponent moves from Far to Near range, you may immediately make a weapon attack against them.
Level 1: Opponents in Near range of you get -1 per level on Discipline checks.
Level 2: If an ally attacks a foe in Near Range of you, you may roll Intimidation+Fighting. On a success, you give the foe -1 to their Defense check, or -2 on a Boost.
Level 3: You may assume a watchful stance as an Action. While in this stance, you get +1 to Defense and all foes in Near range of you get -1 to Defense. This ends when you move.
The new weapon Qualities are:
Defending: You get 1 more free Defense check before penalties kick in each Round.
Driving: You get +1 to Knockback attacks.
Exploding: On a Boost, you deal +2 damage. On a critical failure, you take 2 damage. (The most notable example weapon is Blast Bracers, which are bracelets full of explosives that explode when you punch people. They are somehow not destroyed by this.)
Loud: You get -2 to Stealth after using this weapon.
Reload: On a critical failure, you run out of ammunition for this weapon and can't attack again with it until you get more.
Restraining: On a Boost while attacking, you may automatically initiate a grab.
Next time: I underestimated the size of this, so we make a pistoleer, an engineer, the worst possible Iron Breaker, and a talky sort of monk.
Imperial Party TimeOriginal SA post Ninja Crusade: Empire's Reign - Imperial Party Time
Okay! First up, we have a pistolier lady to make. We will go with...Tsukiya Momoko, because that's a name that popped into my head for some reason.
For step 1, Wood: Youthful. Momoko is an energetic, naive and hyperactive sort who comes off as a big kid sometimes. For step 2, we decide that before she joined the army, she was a farmer who helped her family harvest the crops. She's still not really used to the high society circles that the Black Smokes are sometimes required to be in. Step 3: Motivation. Still, she was never particularly happy with being stuck at home, so Momoko signed on with the army so she could see the world. Nature: Adventure. Now we determine what she did before getting promoted to the Smokes. She served, I'm going to say, as a guard to traders. Normally, that's mercenary work, but the Army sometimes gets that stuff done for staunch Imperial allies. Mercenary: Trader. Her excellent work here and adept use of the simple gun she was given earned her a job with the Black Smokes. She quickly befriended Sugai Chiemi, a miner who now supplies Momoko with most of the materials she needs for her gunpowder, but got on the bad side of Asano Daishi, who doesn't like her cheerfulness and tendency to undercut his more frightening demeanor. Lastly, we get 6 levels of Martial Training/Favored Tactics. The Black Smokes get Ranged, Eagle, Wildcat and Alchemy as options, plus Way of the Gun. She can fire really well in darkness and poor visibility, is very hard to knock down, and specializes in using two pistols and making her own smoke to cover her movements.
Tsukiya Momoko, Black Smoke
Gift: +1 Athletics when playing games or taking part in physical competitions.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma whenever child-like naivety or lack of respect hurts you in some way.
Gift: +1 Travel when going over rough terrain.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when your behavior in high society has a negative effect.
Gift: +1 Travel when going somewhere you've never been before.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when you go off the beaten path and it ends badly.
Gift: +1 Deception when making a distraction.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when your eagerness hinders the group.
Gift: +1 Marksman when using guns at Close range, +1 to Dodge, +1 Initiative.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when you are left defenseless due to your reliance on your guns.
Skills: Athletics 4, Deception 1, Fighting 1, Fortitude 2, Holistics 1, Intimidation 1, Marksman 4, Might 2, Perception 1, Perform 3, Persuade 2, Speed 3, Survival 2, Travel 2
Ally: Sugai Chiemi (Survival)
Rival: Asano Daishi (Intimidation)
Fighting Styles: Ranged (Firing Bland 2), Wildcat (Lands on Feet 1), Way of the Gun (Double Barrel 2, Smokey Aftermath 1)
Her Engineer friend is going to be Sagara Kyosuke. Step 1: He's a Collector. Since he was a kid, Kyosuke just can't throw anything away if he thinks it's interesting. He worked with his parents as an architect, learning how to build and make beautiful homes. He joined the army because...well, he thought it was is patriotic duty. He doesn't really care about the ninja, he just loves the Empire. While going through the Imperial College, he served as a combat medic, diagnosing and helping the soldiers brought in as part of his anatomical training. Now, he is a full Engineer, and more than ready to use his skills for science and the Emperor. For combat styles, he gets access to Ranged, Paired, Trap Master and Snake, plus Ingenuity. In combat, besides his mastery of engineering, he relies on poisons and thrown weapons - sometimes both at once. He has befriending Matsumura Tagane, making him his prosthetic hand, but often butts heads with the egotist Hirane Goto.
Sagara Kyosuke, Engineer
Gift: +1 Perception to spot something missing or out of place.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when you just can't resist going after another addition to your collection, regardless of the danger it puts you in.
Gift: +1 Perform when selling your wares or showing your skill to a crowd.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when something you made is used against you or the group.
Gift: +1 Discipline when doing something above and beyond the call of duty to complete a mission.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when you can't neglect your duty, even when doing so causes complications for the group.
Gift: +1 Intuition to treat something you've never seen before.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when your pride causes conflict within or for the group.
Gift: +2 Crafts when dealing with something mechanical. You can spend 2 Karma to get a hint from the GM about how you might ingeniously get around an apparently impossible obstacle.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when you are presented with a task or mystery that consumes your concentration regardless of what you need to focus on.
Skills: Crafts 5, Discipline 2, Fortitude 3, Holistics 4, Intuition 2, Knowledge 3, Marksman 2, Perception 2, Perform 1, Speed 2, Stealth 2, Survival 2
Fighting Styles: Ingenuity 2 (Black Powder, Clockwork Devices, Civil Engineering, Equipment and Gear), Snake (Poison Striking 2), Ranged (Living Missiles 2)
Ally: Matsumura Tagane (Marksman)
Rival: Hirane Goto (Perception)
Now, the worst possible Iron Breaker, Liu Kojiro. Step 1: He's devious. He fights dirty and is happy to cheat and double cross. He grew up to become a marauding bandit. He joined the army for a simple reason: he likes hurting people. In the army, he became a skilled enforcer for his commander, if a bit rebellious. Still, he never turned his back on causing harm. He got picked as an Iron Breaker for his wilderness tracking skills and general lack of conscience. He gets access to Blunt, Chain,. Dragon, Trap Master and Black Bones. He works well with his old partner in crime, Choshi Miko, but hates the moralizer Gensai Zetsumei. He has personally enslaved Horuma, a Celestial Rooster of some skill.
Liu Kojiro, Iron Breaker
Gift: +1 Fighting for unsportsmanlike attacks.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when a cheat gone wrong causes a problem in the future.
Gift: +1 Intimidation when conscripting services or items.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when you choose your own personal gain or safety over the group.
Gift: +1 Athletics for the rest of the Battle whenever you incapcitate an enemy.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when you choose not to incapacitate an enemy and it comes back to haunt you.
Gift: +1 Intimidation to interrogate an enemy.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when you disobey an order to your detriment.
Gift: You never need food or water. You get +2 Survival for tracking, or +3 against a Celestial Animal. You get +(Rank) against all Celestial Animal abilities.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when your lack of compassion and basic human decency causes issues for the group.
Skills: Athletics 2, Crafts 1, Discipline 1, Deception 3, Empathy 1, Fighting 4, Fortitude 3, Intimidation 3, Knowledge 1, Marksman 1, Might 3, Persuade 1, Stealth 2, Survival 3, Travel 1
Fighting Styles: Black Bones 1, Dragon (Master of Surroundings 2), Chain (Chain Dance 1, Flying Chains 2)
Ally: Choshi Miko (Stealth)
Rivals: Gensai Zetsumei (Perception), Horuma (Intimidation)
And the guy who is desperately trying to make Kojiro not be the worst person, Hina, a monk. She was noted for her wisdom from a very young age. She has been a monk since childhood, raised by the Enlightened. She volunteered to help fight the ninja due to her strong conviction that they needed to be punished for the death of the tamashi. Now, she seeks out the tamashi's killer as her sole real goal in the war. The Imperials mostly use her as a champion in battle, leading charges. She can learn any Animal style, plus Reach and Portents. She is quite close to Onishi Shizue, her cousin, but deeply distrusts Koyanagi Yaeko, who she feels is too close to the ninja.
Gift: +1 Intuition to randomly come up with correct common knowledge.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when completely inaccurate but truthful-sounding information leads you or your squad into danger.
Gift: +1 Fortitude to remain unmoving for long periods.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when you choose observance of your code of behavior over safety.
Gift: +1 Travel when traveling closer to the goal of your quest.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when taking actions that take oyu a step backward from your goal.
Gift: +1 Fortitude vs poison.
Trigger: Gain 1 Karma when you share your truth and it causes conflict.
Skills: Athletics 3, Discipline 3, Empathy 3, Fortitude 2, Fighting 4, Holistics 2, Intuition 2, Knowledge 2, Might 1, Persuade 2, Speed 2, Stealth 3, Travel 1
Fighting Style: Mantis (Mantis Feasts Well 1), Bear (Angry Mother PRotects the Young 1)
Jutsu: Path of the Body (Diamond Finger Technique), Path of the Mind (Linked Minds Meditation), Path of the Spirit (Ki Strike, Knowing the Soul)
Ally: Onishi Shizue (Might)
Rival: Koyanagi Yaeko (Perform)
Next time: Mass Combat rules! Also, Mass Combat rules.
How To Fight An ArmyOriginal SA post Ninja Crusade: Empire's Reign - How To Fight An Army
Mass combat is not actually frequently needed - most Ninja Crusade stuff is fairly small scale. But when you need army on army action, the game has you covered without having to care about what random soldier HP values are. Step one, both armies are assigned a Threat ranking, ranging from Pitiful to Unstoppable. Generally, you don't want to be on the low end of the scale. To determine the armies' Threat, you first assume both start as Moderate, the central value. You then upgrade the larger force one step, to Fearsome. If the smaller force is half the size of the larger, the smaller force is downgraded to Minor. If it is a tenth the size of the larger, it is instead downgraded to Pitiful. After that, you decide which force is better-equipped. That force goes up one step. Higher Threat is usually better, except in one situation. Mass Combat initiative is not numeric - the lowest Threat force goes first, period. They have less to manage.
At this point, both sides declare the Stakes - that is, what their goal is in the mass combat. 'To survive', 'to slaughter the enemy', whatever. Obviously this has to make sense for the size of the conflict, but that's all that limits it. Then, you come up with your Compromised Stake. This is a lesser version of the Stakes which assumes you take significant losses or have to make major sacrifices. During any Clash action, you can choose to take your Compromised Stake and withdraw. Even if you fail, this costs you a Threat rank, but if you scceed, you get the Compromised Stake and pull out of the battle. The enemy can pursue, but that'd be a new mass combat, with new Threat ratings and so on.
Mass Combat has two stats: Tactical Might (for clever plots, battle tactics, surprise and other mental variables) and Strategic Might (physical forces, quality arms, support lines, etc.) Effectively, these are a force's Psyche and Health, respectively. Your Tactical Might is your Threat Rank Power (there's a chart) plus twice the commander's Intuition. Strategic Might is your Threat Rank Power plus twice the commander's Fighting. Because Threat can shift during battle, this can and will shift your mass combat healthbars around.
However, mass combat is unlike normal combat in that there is the Buildup phase. This is the period of preparation before the battle actually begins. There is either No, Short, Medium or Long Buildup. No Buildup means that you hear about the battle no more than an hour before it starts, and you get no chance to prepare. Short Buildup is within an hour to a day of notice, and has time for one Buildup Action. Medium Buildup is a day to a week of prep time, and has time for two Buildup Actions. Long Buildup is over a week and has time for three. To make a Buldup Action, you declare what you're doing to help prepare your side for the battle and make a roll as normal. The successes become bonus dice you can use during the battle as needed. On a Boost, you cah choose to either upgrade your force's Threat by one rank, decrease the enemy force's Threat by on rank or get surprise in the first clash, and have to explain how your preparations help with this. A critical failure gives the enmy a Boost.
Every turn in mass combat, there are two events: a Clash and a Spotlight Action. The Clash represents the macro-scale battle. The Spotlight is for individual heroics. Each turn, the player commanding the force chooses which member of their team gets the Spotlight that turn. This happens before the Clash, and can influence it. Spotlights are normal actions, but have larger scale of narration - you're narrating an entire event in the battle, which may well involve more than just you, but only one person gets to make an action roll. Instead of causing damage or otherwise calculating the mechanical effects, however, the successes apply to the Clash roll as bonus dice. Boosts can increase or decrease one of the sides' Threat rank by 1, and you explain how that happens.
The Clash is rolled by the commanders. If the first Clash was a surprise, however, only the surprising side can act in that Clash. Further Clashes cannot be surprise. All Clash actions are done as normal for combat, using the stats of the commanders. However, the higher Threat rank force gets +2 to the roll - and goes second, as noted. Support modifiers and tool modifiers cannot be applied - your only modifier is the Spotliught action. The Difficulty is always 1+(difference in Threat rank), in either direction - it's hard to damage a significantly bigger force, but just as hard to take down underdogs fighting to survive. A Boost either adds or removes Threat rank, and damage is dealt to either Tactical Might or Strategic Might. If either hits 0, the force cannot fight any more, but that doesn't mean they're dead or taken out. It means they're in a strategic situation that is untenable and can no longer meaningfully oppose the larger force. At that point, individuals can keep acting, but the Stakes have been won or lost. The defeated group does not get their Stakes, and the winning group does.
Commanders take most mass combat actions, and are usually the formal leader of the force involved. Sometimes, however, a character will be the de facto leader by shining more. That's on you to decide. If a leader is killed, the force must take a full action to appoint a new leader, which leaves them very vulnerable for that turn. This is why ninja like to take out leadership rather than fight directly, and that's why the Empire heavily defends its commanders and trains potential replacements.
You can, obviously, continue to use Dynamic Actions in mass combat, they're just narratively different. Likewise, you can take advantage of the environment - it's just much larger in scale.
The book ends with an adventure focusing on the Imperial PCs attempting to frame ninja for a murder in a small village, while avoiding the ninja that are there and making sure the propaganda is convincing. It's not easy, and takes a lot of skill. It primarily will involve setting up a fake murder scene rather than actually doing a murder, convincing the village it's the ninjas' fault - especially the three major leaders of the village community - and then, once they hate the ninja, actually taking down the ninja team if possible. The ninja must not seem to be heroes or martyrs. Also, ensure the Empire cannot be implicated in the frame-up, under any circumstance.
So, we have left: Land of Seed and Blossom (weirdo creepy foreign ninja), Firebrands (Blazing Dancers and Virtuous Body Gardeners), Truth and Lies (Will of Iron and Hidden Strands of Fate) and Clan Pack #1 (three minor clans).