posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ninja Crusade - The Firebrands: Storytime

Firebrands is written a bit weirdly - the non-mechanics chapters are all written in character. We start off with a short diary series by a Blazing Dancer who is sent on a mission to capture a traitr to the clan, but gets spotted, shot, and then gets captured by soldiers and lets her prey escape. Then she goes home and returns to her work as an actor. We then cut to the chapter proper, which is written in the form of lectures to a Grasping Shadow initiate who had been sent to murder a Blazing Dancer elder. Specifically, an 80-year-old woman named Nozomi Hayakawa, one of the head teachers of the Wy Ji Theater. These days, she is mostly a clan recruiter, picking up ronin or those who do not fit their clans. Most other clans hate her as a result. She sees her students as her children and tries to teach them to put everything into their performances.

Nozomi reminesces about her youth and the time one of her fellow actors murdered a man onstage to uproarious applause. She then explains to her would-be assassin that the real power that the Emperor has taken to defeat the ninja was convincing the people that ninja are horrible. The Blazing Dancers, she says, have two main jobs - drawing attention and convincing people that ninja are...whatever they say ninja are. If the Emperor wants to hunt down criminals, they will force the Empire to target innocents and the bloved. They are not direct warriors, but masters of opinion.

The Odoriko see no real value in front lines combat - it's just a way to get killed or beaten down, even if you win. Instead, they infiltrate the enemy, finding out who gives the orders and who doesn't want to fight. From there, it's not usually hard, she says, to turn a soldier or get an officer to fall in love with a ninja. Changing even one opinion can turn the tide, and that's what they focus on doing. Let other clans fight and destroy - the Dancers will encourage the citizens to come out and be influenced. To like them, to believe in them. It's a longer war, but the benefits, they feel, are far greater. They turn enemies into allies and stubborn foes into outcasts.

She then reveals that she noticed the poison in her wine and chides the assassin for it because now she can't share the bottle. She says she left the Shadow alive because she believes they have no idea how to plan a murder and was sent here because their masters saw does she. She believes the Shadows want her dead to silence her beliefs about how to handle the war, since they prefer violence. She then launches into a history of the clan. They started out in the Land of Exalted Flame, where obedience is prized far more than individuality. There, they were a group that secretly loved music and dance, forbidden under the Way, the philosophy that rules Exalted Flame. All that matters is loyalty to the country, service to the elders and sex purely for the procreation of children. It is about being effective, not happy. And it works...if you reject your own emotions.

The Odoriko family were stifled by the Way. They loved the arts and their passion, and they quietly rebelled. The King of Exalted Flame gave them one chance - to put on a show that embraced the Way. If he was impressed, he said, he would indulge in small things such as painting or decoration. If it proved a waste, the clan would be disbanded by force, if necessary. It was a challenge to succeed or die - because a life without art is death. They performed dance, juggling and fire manipulation tricks, hoping to impress the King. They failed, in part because one of their pieces was a satire about turning to the arts to repair the spirit, in an effort to show the King their vision. He was insulted by it and banished the Odoriko for insulting his beliefs and those of his people.

The clan master of the time was forced to commit suicide to spare his family and those that made the sets. All of the actors, however, were thrown into a volcano. The rest of the clan was hunted in the streets, and many were tortured before they were killed. The survivors fled into the night, with little food and no real supplies, caught between Exalted Flame and the Desert of Black Sand. All others that had tried to cross the Great Desert had failed. It took weeks for the Odoriko to travel, and they survived only by sheer will and mastery of fire. Many of the clan elders died in the trip, and with then, a lot of information - stories, set building expertise, rare martial arts and jutsu. In the trip, the Odoriko were forced to abandon their pride and their vanity, embracing only survival. They became sharp and focused in the desert, forged with new determination to live. The survivors would perform again - but now with a purpose. Now, they would never let anyone know their true meaning, becoming a force to transform others.

Once on the other side of the Desert, the clan needed to find ways to feed their starving mouths. They knew they could never return to Exalted Flame - so instead, they turned to their new land, hodling performances and struggling to make a new way of life. They never gave up. They became nomads, traveling across the land of the Izou, performing for small crowds. They were something new, something different, and soon, the crowds grew. Wealth poured in as more and more came to see their shows. In fact, the Emperor once tried to tax them to fund a new castle and the fans of the Dancers protested en masse. The Odoriko knew the game, though, and when the tax was withdrawn, they chose to fund the castle in full as a gift. In return, they became the official entertainers of the Empire, replacing the old traditions that came before and doubling their audience overnight.

Nobles would often call upon the Odoriko to perform for them, and everyone loved them. Their goal was complete...and, of course, the Emperor ended it. The greatest of the clan were invited to perform in his honor, in a massive stadium. They opened with a dance and fire show, then moved into a comic play. It never got past that. The Emperor's youngest godson, you see, was having problems with his people - taxation, that kind of thing. One of the shows featured a boy trying to shove goats into a pen too small for them, meant to play up the Emperor's comment to his godson that he would grow wise through his dealings with people. The clan master was even supposed to come on as the Emperor to direct the boy. The Odoriko had not heard the news - the godson's lands had revolted and killed him, then mounted his head on a goat pen stake.

The Odoriko were declared blasphemers before the Emperor and their reputation was damaged in spite of their apologies. Their master again had to commit suicide to atone, and their audiences practically evaporated. Their name was spat upon for years, and the clan fled the Imperial forces that harassed them. Eventually, they settled in the peaks of the Takiyama mountains and around the Ensen Volcano, building a small town that would form the core of what would become the Wu Ji Theater. They started over under a new name - the Blazing Dancers. They began with small audiences, and this time they decided they would not pursue wealth so avidly. Instead, they would pursue true art, performing only for the poor or for charity. This allowed them to find their focus and reclaim the love of the people. Admission was free or for a small donation, and they slowly began to bring in the nobles by inviting a selected few to watch and waiting for the others to follow. After all, when they left, their replacements were nowhere near as good as the Odoriko had been.

It really wasn't long before the Empire was officially funding the DAncers again, in honor of the culture they brought to the poor and the delights to the rich. Students came from across the world to study their methods, though they were selective about who to take. It would have been easy to fall back into the lures of wealth - but they never did. The Dancers decided they would need a central location to perform at. The Wu Ji, or Infinite Theater, was built at the base of Ensen Volcano as their headquarters and training center. They built paths to guide the lava flows around it, so the town was never in danger. Regular performances were held - spectacular to see. The theater is amazingly well made now, and has many secret passages.

Of course, the Crusade ended the performances. After one final show, the Wu Ji Theater was closed to the public, though the sound of music can still be heard within at times. This mystery is intentional, and brings a few to try and sneak in and dsicover the truth. Those that succeed are either killed or recruited. Within the walls, the Theater is now used as a pure training grounds for actors...and for ninja. They teach how to spread rumor, how to turn opinion, how to blend in, how to fight - and how to do all these things without anyone noticing. And so, Nozomi turns back to the Shadow assassin...and offers them a place in the Dancers, having seen the inner pain they feel as part of the Shadows.

She explains the initiation - the new student sits in the center of a circle of fire and DAncers, always growing closer. Finally, after an hour of fear and sweat, they leap to their feet and instinctively mimic the movements of the other Dancers. All involved are coated in ash and soot by the end, to symblize the great journey it has taken to arrive in that place and to thank the Great Desert for its lessons. Training will begin in the morning.

Next time: Life in the Blazing Dancers

Dance, Magic, Dance

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ninja Crusade - The Firebrands: Dance, Magic, Dance

We cut to a training lecture by Odoriko Minori. Dude's an amazing performer that was the face of the clan in public for years, mastering acrobatic feats and firebreathing. After spending years as a star performer, he returned to the Theater as a teacher. He's a fun-loving, cheery guy, but he can't stand laziness or lack of determination. He's quick with a joke and knows the power of positivity to help people turn it around, however. He's also a skilled warrior, having racked up a very impressive body count in the times he's been on the front lines. He prefers not to discuss that part.

Minori teaches the Shadow that they - okay, she, because it's she - needs to get better at dodging while dancing. There are six dancers besides her, and only one is trying to hit her, after all. He says that combat and the dance should only differ by two steps or so, so mastery of the dance is vital, especially since dancing is a lot easier to do without getting arrested. The Odoriko are not above killing, he says - they may paint themselves as heroes, but this is war. However, they prefer to do their murders in disguise - either as other clans or in such a way that they don't seem like a threat. They especially enjoy pretending to be Shadows, for their most special missions.

But why? Minori explains - without the Blazing Dancers, the war would be lost. The masses would have their spirits broken. The other clans would lack their tricks and distractions, and so would both become consumed by infighting and get caught by the Empire. Entire clans would be wiped out, and the survivors would be enslaved by the Emperor. The Blazing Dancers hold things together with laughter and trickery - and that's why the new recruit needs to master her training. Yes, he tells her, most clans think the Dancers are just clowns and thieves. That's fine. They can think that. Their value is made clear, slowly, by doing what no one else can. They can recruit the Empire's own people to their side, you see. It's a long war, and it's one the Odoriko fight essentially alone. It's just hard to notice while it's happening.

The Dancers are also highly social. They can get on with just about anyone, and that lets them get into places others can't. They're great distractions, and they're no slouches in combat if that fails. Other clans only think of advancing the mission goals, because they are detached from others. The Dancers remember how important socializing is - it's fun, and it makes people love you. It can even get you food, shelter, money. Other clans prefer to work only in secret; the Odoriko reject that. Yes, everyone knows the Blazing Dancers have ninja. But everyone knows they're no threat. In a way, the Emperor's PR campaign has only helped them - it makes people get the thrill of rebellion from attending their shows, makes it all the more exciting.

That said, they know the Coalition is all that keeps them alive. Without the rest of the clans, the Empire would have time enough to pay more attention and figure them out. Every clan is like that - they'd all die, alone. That said, not all the clans are allies all the time, and it's important for a Dancer to know where problems might come from. And so, we begin to discuss Odoriko views on other clans.

The Shadows do not like the Dancers at all. The Dancers know the Shadows excel at murder, but they feel it is overused - they rely too much on killing, and they too blindly obey their masters. The targets may well not deserve a damn thing done to them. They forget that every killed victim is just replaced, making an endless cycle of death and changes no minds. They remind the Dancers a lot of the old Exalted Flame people, who gave up all for duty. They'd feel bad about that if the Shadows didn't keep trying to kill them and never compromised.

The Recoiling Serpents buy into the clown act. That's fine - it's not like they'd be loyal if they didn't believe it. Best to just leave the entitled assholes alone and let them have their delusions of greatness. The Hidden Strands are entirely untrustworthy and self-centered and treacherous, but they're very good at their jobs as long as you remember that, so they aren't a major threat. ...assuming you don't trust them with anything you don't want used against you. The Will of Iron are vicious and untrusting, assuming everyone has done something bad and having little room for doubt in that belief. The Odoriko would get on better with them if they had some sense of how to not be on all the time, and could smile a bit.

The other clans see the Herbalists as just a tool to get people back on their feet, but the Dancers prefer to view them as friends and comrades to be aided. It's mutually beneficial - both groups like exciting lives and travel, and the two clans are very close. Likewise, they get on pretty will with the Living Chronicle, who are mostly just socially awkward. Sure, their death rituals can be weird and gross, and there's not much in common, but you can't be picky about company in the war. The closest allies, however, are the Virtuous Body Gardeners. They both focus on freedom of expression, after all, and are seen as rebels. While the Dancers are subtle where the Inks are brash, they work very well together.

The Wardens of Equilibrium are not friends - they don't really do friends. All they care for, say the Dancers, is money and power, and are happy to betray and manipulate. Their methods are nasty, but they get results...just don't expect loyalty. The Black Moons, on the other hand, are loyal friends. They're good people, though they could use some education in how to best take advantage of their reputation for being hicks. Sadly, they're stubborn about changing their ways. As for Ronin...well, they're mostly interesting and neat. You can use them as messengers and allies, and they choose their own paths. Many also petition to join the Dancers if treated well. So do that.

The training ends for a brief break, and Minori explains the various sects within the clan. On a general level you have groups like the caravan drivers and traders that maintain the clan infrastructure and ensure the show actually gets where it has to go, and you've got the trainers and teachers. Beyond these general jobs, though, there are some more specific duties - most notably, the Bellows, the Tamers, the Thousand and the Hands.

Tamers manage a vital aspect of a circus: the animals. They teach dogs, cats, monkeys - all sorts of critters - how to do tricks. Tricks like dancing and tightrope walking and planting evidence. While they're not as close to their animals as the Pack of the Black Moon, the Tamers bond with their pets and use them for many tasks. Mostly circus tricks, yes, but some very useful war tricks, too, or stuff like picking locks and retrieving keys. Very handy ninjas to have around. The Bellows, on the other hand, are what the Dancers call their performing stars. They bring joy to the masses, parade around in public, become famous. They are expected to party and live large, to make friends and be the idol of the people. It helps grab attention that way.

The Thousand were named a century ago - a group of infiltrators in Daiwa that helped hunt out Imperial spies during an internal clan struggle. They were a group of six, but by calling themselves the Thousand, they left their foes hunting for a large group. No one is entirely sure what the Thousand do most of the time - they're a largely autonomous group, and they go masked to hide their identities. They refuse to remove those in the company of others, ever, save for the others of the Thousand. They learn to dance in perfect sync with each other, too, and it's unclear how many exist now. (More than six.) They live separate from the rest of the clan, a necessary evil, but at heart they remain Dancers. The final sect, the Hands, are the strangest. They are the best actors of the clan, but they never act on stage, really. They can take on any role needed, and what they do is go to places, settle down for a few years and wait to set a plan in motion. They gather intelligence and prepare others for quicker missions, as well as providing shelter when needed. They avoid suspicion and live out a false life. The Dancers try to have one in every major city at least, so they can pretend to be visiting relatives.

We end with another training exercise - the ex-Shadow must now have eight monkeys climb on her body and prevent one of them from putting a clay statue in her pocket, to represent the difficulty of avoiding capture by guards in the Imperial Palace. Then she will need to watch a crowded area for ten seconds and then dance, blindfolded, for a crwod there without breaking anything...and will have to do so in a way that entertains the crowd.

Next time: The lands of the Dancers.

Lifestyles of the Famous

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ninja Crusade - The Firebrands: Lifestyles of the Famous

This part is narrated by Katsu Sofu, a very old man who used to be a performer and hedonist, but who was shamed before the clan for his drug habit and learned to control his desires. Now, he is a caravan driver that gets the ninja where they need to go. He is taking our trainee friend to Kokyuryu, where the monks live. He explains that the city was formed by a bunch of monks building their monasteries close enough together that they could collectively pay taxes and be left alone. The location they picked was due to a massive fort being built there by a noble, to be used as a prison. He was overthrown before the prison ever opened, his successor didn't want it, and he donated it to a monastery, who made it their home. The monks there are pacifists, but very skilled martial artists and often under strict vows of silence.

The monks come in several sects, but typically believe that enlightenment comes from kindness, patience and abandonment of worldly things and expectations. (One also worships human bones and makes musical instruments out of the skeletons of their dead. They're quite cheerful.) The prison was designed to prevent prisoners from interacting, and the monks appreciate the thick walls and silence - though they've added signs to warn about pitfalls. The rest of the city was built after the Ensen Volcano erupted a few times, bringing refugees to the fortress. The monks took them in and the town started to get built. Out of fear of fire, a lot of space was left between buildings so it could not spread easily...but that's also kept the town slow and quiet, as it's a bit of a walk to chat with your neighbor. They have plenty of ash-fed farmland, and they trade their food for various things...but never money. The people of Kokyutyu have rejected te concept of currency and operate entirely on barter and work-trade. Any money they get is given to needy travelers or tossed in a room to be melted down and used to make statues or candlesticks. The monks are also big on rehabilitating criminals, showing them compassion even after taking them down when attacked. Many thieves end up joining the monastery as a result - or just taking whatever the monks give them, which given what they do with collected cash can be quite sizable. It's not as though the monks have a use for valuables.

Flame River Province as a whole was the site of the original Orime rebellion, and the Dancers owe a lot to that history and the land. They respect the land deeply, and that keeps them strong, even if others claim a clan with foreign origins can't understand the troubles of the Orime ninja. Once a year, the Odoriko hold the Quieting of the Dragons festival to honor the Orime Rebellion. They try to involve all the locals and gather up stocks of valuable but not useful items, which are built into vaguely human-shaped stacks and hauled out of town. There, they are taken to a large hill with rocks at the bottom, lit on fire and hurled down the hill. People sometimes come to scavenge the treasures that survive, but no one minds that. They only keep that stuff for the festival anyway.

The other major city of the region is Kakou. Kakou is a very different place from Kokyuryu. It's a huge, sprawling city that is half vertical - they ran out of space at the top of their cliff, so they decided to build up it, lashing the buildings together to keep them from falling into the ocean below. The tide, when out, makes half a mile of shallows that big boats cannot enter - indeed, the shoreline's level with the docks only about one hour each day, so that's a very, very busy hour, with plenty of accidents. However, Kakou is the main port of trade with Exalted Flame, so that means the Empire keeps a lot of the navy moored nearby. They once tried to take the city and control it, but the locals rebelled and began burning the exported tea or even the ships. Since then, the navy just watches from a distance to make sure cargo is safe. It's less taxable that way, but more productive.

Kakou is a very wealthy city and it's mostly run by crime lords. They keep their followers in enough money to be middle class anywhere in the Empire, and sometimes pay off the navy so they can go out pirating. Only the most daring ever attack Izou sips, however, to avoid Imperial reprisals. The city is also full of refugees, whom the Dancers like to put on shows for. Many have come to flee the oppression of Exalted Flame or the chaos of Mountains and Valleys. If staying there, a local guide is important - the city is a maze, and it's dangerous without someone to guide you out of bad parts of town or watch over you as you sleep. Only take a registered guide, however - unregistered guides are criminals who are as likely to mug you as actually do what you hired them to. Still, the Dancers love the city, which takes attention away from the Wu Ji theater and provides a good scapegoat for anything they need to do in the area that's not exactly legal. Also, it's great for bringing in supplies.

The Wu Ji Theater itself is said to be the happiest place in the Empire. It was built on the ruins of an old city, but most of the locals moved on by the time the Theater was built. Their empty houses were used to board the professionals coming to join the theater - ninja or otherwise. The great energy of the clan is focused here, but few outside the clan actually live in the area. It is always warm, due to the heat of the Ensen Volcano, and the ash that falls like snow is used by children to play in and to help train ninjas in tracking. Festivals occur almost weekly, often for no real reason. This brings in people, which means recruits, and helps fool Imperial spies. The events also raise funds to fuel the clan and its work. Even they can't really keep track of why they do all the festivals - they do so many that it barely matters any more.

There are a few other cities and major towns in the area, but they are boring. Hand to God, that's the text's opinion on them. The volcano erupts sometimes, but the locals have long since stopped building in the areas of lava flow, so most towns are fine except for the ash and soot rains that sometimes come. The Dancers try to warn people away from the most dangerous areas.

Finally, we get Yamaguchi Asuka herself - that is, the ex-Shadow that has been the focus of all this. She is afraid that her old clan will try to kill her, which they probably will, but the Dancers are backing her now. She's a little too quick to rely on her old ways, but is leanring patience and has realized the Dancers will never, ever give up on her. She is eagerly awaiting the day she gets to prove herself on her first mission. She still, however, is not a huge fan of her training. She did like meeting the monks of Kokyuryu, at least, but Kakou is getting on her nerves. She's been mistaken for a prostitute twice, almost mugged three times, and a dog tried to pee on her. This is because her current training is 'sit on the street and get to know people.' In the Shadows, she was trained by doing murders, and she was good at it. Here, she isn't even sure what her goal is. She has barely been taught much in the way of combat by the dancers, instead learning things like patience with others or how to dance. She doesn't really get how this is going to help fight the Empire.

However, she does believe that the Dancers have the right ideas - just not all right. She wants to show them the right path, if she can...but is slowly coming around to the way the Dancers do things. Her plan is to keep playing by the rules until they realize it's not working, then tell them what they might do when they look for other ideas. She doesn't get why Kakou is such a happy place, even in its filth and crime, and thinks that perhaps the Dancers aren't wholly wrong about bringing joy to people. Also, she isn't sure what she's meant to be learning. Crime, possibly, or dancing for the crowd to make enough money to buy a room. She's a good enough dancer, after all, and her pride uges to her put on a real show. After all, she's the best on the street, and she's not even been at this all that long, right?

Next time: the Virtuous Body Gardeners


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ninja Crusade 2e - The Firebrands: Storytime

The Inks chapter follows a young recruit to the clan, who is totally anonymous and gender-neutral. I will go with 'he' solely because 'they' will get confusing since I'm gonna be taking about the clan using that. Also I flipped a coin to pick a pronoun ther.e Anyway. Our new recruit meets up with a person named Sugiyama Tomo, an extremely deadly deep cover agent. He is described as a very feminine-looking man who crossdresses, both as a disguise to learn secrets as a geisha and because he likes to. He's easily mistaken as a woman even when not crossdressing. He is also known as Akai Hime, the Red Princess, and seems to ID as male. He also refuses to show his tats to the new recruit. First, after all, he has to tell the origin story.

So, once upon a time, there are two twin siblings in a land of constant war. The elder brother is Rekishi, and Rekishi records everything he sees with his Four Treasures of the Study - the brush, the ink, the paper and the ink stone. He writes down the chaos around him, all the facts and figures, working late into the night. His sister, Sumi, focused instead on the emotions and passions of those involved rather than the facts that were all dry and boring. She believed that these, the passions of the moment, were more powerful than the facts. However, Rekishi recorded history without emotion. Thus, Sumi decided to help him. She made him the inks he needed, carved the brushes he used, kept the supplies going, and saw what he was doing. Over time, the two built an immense library together, welcoming many scholars. They became a school, a family, a clan. The Rekishi gathered knowledge, but still only focused on facts. They learned powerful ninja, but only to learn, and were not prepared when a clan known as the Rolling Fire tore through the Land of Crashing Waves and destroyed their library.

In the aftermath, Sumi and her brother looked over the ruin of their work. Rekishi was depressed and forlorn, but Sumi told him to have hope. She told him that while paper is fragile, bodies weren ot. They went out together as the rest of the clan recovered what they could. Eventually, they returned, decreeing that from now on, the Rekishi must travel in pairs. One of the pair, the Gakusha, would be the historian and record keeper. The other, the Horishi, would record that history on the Gakusha's skin. They were the first of these pairs, and Sumi painted the library's destruction on her brother's skin, using powerful jutsu to preserve the flesh from fading.

However, while great honor was given to the Gakusha monks, the Horishi were not honored. They were forbidden ever to have words tattooed upon their skin, save for the artist's signature. The flesh of the Gakusha was revered, but the Horishi were treated as mere functionaries, their art denied. Further, the Horishi tended to feel, as Sumi had, that mere facts were not all that was important. They believed that by remaining mere observers, the Rekishi grew disconnected from life and the greater context of history. They tired of being mere observers. The Horishi began to rebel, studying ways to harness their chi. They went so far as to abandon the Rekishi name, in secret, calling themselves the Sumi behind closed doors, telling their own versions of history - embellished, yes, but focusing on the feelings and experiences. They built their own traditions, apart from their parent clan. When each completed their training and became a master, they would take on a crafter's name - the first syllable of their given name, the final syllable of their teacher's name, and the word 'Hori' - so you might go from Rekishi Katsumi, student of Oraze, to Horikaze. They collected symbolic tattoos, sneaking out and studying people rather than dry events.

In a small border dispute in the Bridge to Battle Province, everything changed. Horikaze, one of the most rebellious of the Sumi, could not be a mere observer any more. As her Gakusha, Tasuke, took notes, a cadre of ninja attacked the village of Hiho, slaughtering villagers and kidnapping children. Horikaze refused to stand by, and revealed the secret jutsu she had learned by pulling a sword tattoo off her own skin and attacking the ninja. She and the vilalgers drove off the Recoiling Serpents that had come for the children, and she was given a large plot of land. Tasuke, however, was furious - the Living Chronicle were given access to everywhere only by swearing to never interfere. They observed, but would neither help nor harm. By breaking that accord, Horikaze could start a war with the Serpents.

Indeed, they called for her to die. The elders of the Chronicle agreed, giving her the choice to commit suicide to restore her lost honor. However, none of the Horishi had ever been allowed to be on the elder council, nor had any been consulted in the neutrality oath. They believed they were not a party to it...but none were allowed to speak for Horikaze, not even the woman herself. When the time came for her punishment, the clan gathered to watch, but Horikaze was unashamed. She approached the Serpent who had been sent to kill her if she refused suicide, and asked for a single request. The elders of the Rekishi allowed it, unaware of the depths of her passion. She stripped, revealing the story of her battle on her own body, portrayed by artistic symbol. No one present had ever seen such a thing, even the other Horishi, for the tattoos themselves moved, depicting the battle, over and over - and each time, slightly different. The villagers always won, but the ones that died each time were different. Horikaze told them that truth, in her view, had nothing to do with dry facts and dates, but in understanding the feelings and emotions of the moment. She argued that she had done nothing wrong - that the Horishi were not bound by the oath, and she was not of the Rekishi clan, in her heart. She was the first of the Sumi clan instead. The gathered Horishi cheered, and they came to protect her.

The Sumi rejected the Living Chronicle, and were allowed to leave. The Serpent came to fight, but was held off by the Sumi - so he just warned them that they had made many enemies, and that punishment would come one day. The new clan headed to the land that Horikaze had been given. However, she grew sick during the journey, though she hid it. The clans whose lands they passed through did not respect them. The Wardens of Equilibrium even attacked them briefly, though no one died, and then gave them a gift - they claimed they'd sated theri curiositiy and were restoring the balance. The Sumi settled in Hiho, helping to build up the village, but Horikaze only grew sicker. No one knew why, but she realized - when the Serpent had touched her, he had poisoned her. She chose not to reveal this in order to prevent a war of vengeance, instead carving a haiku onto her arm, to break the final ban of the Living Chronicle on the night of her death.

Over time, the people of Hiho and the Sumi ninja mixed and merged together. Now, this story is true - in a sense. The names, the facts, the details - these may all be inaccurate. But the story is true. The new recruit is sent with a scroll, to head into the forest and write a single word on the scroll: Kayanwe. This must be done in the forest only, with no ink mixed or paper marked outside it. This is the only chance.

Next time: Doing stupid shit.

Bad Decisions

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ninja Crusade 2e - The Firebrands: Bad Decisions

We open with our new recruit captured by his next teacher. The man is blind - his eyes are sewn shut. He is Nakajima Kayanwe, the Blind Bandit, who is famous for raiding imperial caravans and is probably going to become the youngest Horishi the clan has ever had. He sees life as a chance to experience everything, and particularly enjoys experimetning with his own pain threshold. He is tanned heavily and has bleached hair, and he can see despite lacking eyes because he has mobile eye tattoos all over his skin. He has tied up our initiate so tightly that struggling is cutting off circulation to his hands, but he lets the kid loose. They are guarded by Kayanwe's bandit buddies.

We learn that the stories of the Sumi are the tattoos on their flesh. Every tattoo is a symbol of your identity. Even now, the Gardeners don't really like textual tattoos - they find them boring. Pictures tell stories just as well and are more emotive. The pain of receiving the tattoo is also important in fixing the memory. Kayanwe also briefly explains the idea of a memory palace - basically, you use imagery to remember things in full detail - and that the tattoos do the same basic job. However, they are not to preserve observed things, but to commemorate your life. The Gardeners divide tattoos between irezumi, or regular tats, and horimono, or magic Body Gardener tats. The horimono are made by a chi-infused ritual to become a powerful symbol. The first tattoo is always given as part of initiation. Irezumi fade over time - but horimono are permanent. Really permanent. Irezumi can have meaning, but horimono catalog milestones, times that changed your life and status. With chi, irezumi can be erased easily. Horimono can only be hidden, at most. Even then, it's only temporary.

While the Virtuous Body Gardeners are known as the Inks, tattoos are hardly the only way they express themselves. They augment and alter their own bodies. With tattoos, sure, but not just that. Piercings, too, are a way that the Gardeners augment themselves. Kayanwe uses piercings in precise pressure points to ease chi flow through his own body. This makes his thoughts faster. Scars, also, serve to modify his body. Scars reroute, dam and change the flow of chi, altering how well you can focus and use your abilities. Ritual scars especially can be used to clear chi pathways, like irrigation in a field.

By ninja standards, the Gardeners are basically teenagers. Their clan is very, very new, and they're all rebels. They argue a lot over the importance of pain, passion or exploration of societal taboos. They don't even all agree that body mods are an end to themselves - some see them as just a tool to explore other means of transgression. Kayanwe puts a hood over the initiate, and tails another story. After the death of the first Horikaze, one member of the clan traveled far and wide, hunting monsters. For every monster this man, Fujiwara, killed, he gave himself a horimono, to memorize the creature and its abilities. He was feared across the land as an amazing general, as well. However, he was an utter novice at romance. When he fell in love with a woman named Otsuya, he thought hard about what to do and decided to hunt down a giant spider monster that preyed on her village, to dedicate its destruction to her.

After days of hunting, however, all he found was a beautiful woman in a grove of trees. He told her that he was afraid she was in danger, for the spider was near. However, she told him the spider only hunted by night, and she was a sacrifice anyway. Fujiwara decided to keep her company until nightfall. They spoke as the woman prepared the feast, and Fujiwara looked for places to ambush the spider from as they talked. As they talked, Fujiwara realized he was falling in love with the woman. She asked him to leave as night fell, and Fujiwara was enraged by the idea of her having to sacrifice herself. However, he remained calm, moving to hide and wait to ambush the monster. However, what came is the maiden - she told him she was afraid, and that she wanted him to flee with her before the spider came. Entranced by her, he forgot himself...but he noticed that webbing was attached to her arms, that she was a puppet full of spiders. The spiders carried him to their mother - an immense, monstrous oni.

The spider had been the woman he spoke to, and asked him if enjoyed the show. Fujiwara remained calm, however, and instead bowed to the spider and spoke to it, admitting that he had been fooled. He acts the part of a gracious guest, though he knows the spider plans to eat him. He was so focused on his hatred and anger, however, that he didn't notice the small spiders climbing over him. He got pulled into the trees, and the oni monologued at him for a while. He is left hanging, paralyzed by poison and silk threaded through his flesh. as the paralysis faded, the pain came. He grew feverish and began to hallucinate. The ghost of the woman visited him, but he could not hear her. However, the ghost was somehow able to free him, and Fujiwara used her gift to survive, realizing what he had to do. He used his own flesh and the silk within it to climb up into the trees, then concentrated his chi into a katana tattoo, allowing him to cut himself free. He disguised himself as the woman using her corpse, and used this to ambush the spider, killing it. Finally, Fujiwara goes home to Otsuya, marries her and has many children. However, he never forgot the ghost woman, whom he truly loved.

Why did this story get told? Who knows? Now, Kayanwe gives the initiate his next initiation: hanging. Life must be experienced, both pleasure and pain. He is chained up, with hooks in his flesh all over. He must learn that showing pain and sadness is not weakness, but necessary to life. The rebirth through pain is important to becoming a Virtuous Body Gardener. Adn note when I say hanging, I mean it. The initiate is literally hanging from trees by fishhooks pierced through the flesh.

Next time: Lands of the Gardeners

Bad Friends

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ninja Crusade 2e - The Firebrands: Bad Friends

Our host now is Tanaka "Sake" Sakura, a barfly ninja who drinks a lot and is a master of drunken combat. She is best friends with a Blazing dancer called Kaida and another Ink called Sumi Rika, and the three of them excel at pissing off the Imperials, bloodying their noses and skipping town. Sake herself is a short, lean and muscular woman who is much smarter than she appears. She has taken our initiate to a bar, expecting him to pay. (He has no money, and so she is also going to teach him how to eat and run.)

She tells us about Bridge to Battle Province - particularly, that the Empire doesn't especially care about it. The only thing it matters for as is as a staging area. It has no value to its nominal ruler besides as a strategic asset against the Serpents and a source of iron. The land is scrubby, rocky and barely fertile, but the cliffs are too steep to make for normal ports. It's a dangerous land where it is fertile, bordered by violent and dangerous rainforest. The people must be stubborn to survive at all - and that's why the Virtuous Body Gardeners love it. They're an independent clan who don't like to spend their time mediating disputes for people, and the locals don't expect them to. They protect it because they can, but they don't rule it. They're just accepted - a part of the area. Most of the Inks are actually locals, and the locals tend be somewhat tattooed as well. Especially criminals, because the area likes to tattoo your crime on your face as a punishment, and the rich like tattoos as status symbols and a way to flaunt wealth without insulting nobles, while soldiers like them to show how tough they are.

The village of Heiminmu, the Commoner's Dream, is essentially the symbol of the province - a symbol that the Empire expects nothing but labor and does not reward it. And so, the people find ways to try and forget their pain. The Inks see it as proof that the Lotus Coalition is doing what's right for the wrong reasons - to protect the clans, rather than to free the people. (Not, mind you, that all the Inks agree on this.) They believe that the people of Heiminmu are essentially slaves to the Izou, who keep a military base in the area both to protect the mines and to prevent peasant rebellions.

The pair flee the bar, and Sake reveals that they were never in any danger, as the barkeep's son is an Ink. They then hed to Tokatsu, the Pirate's Port. It was once a bustling trade port, but that was before the storms came. There's tunnels all through the town, leading to a cavern under the place, its entrance disguised by illusion jutsu. This was used as a smuggler's port for ninja, pirates and criminals before the Arashi Sea became impossible to sail. Even now, the town is a rough place. Smugglers still use the area, but not nearly so much. Sake and her friends once got in an argument with a Shadow here, apparently. They also pass the spot where the demon spider from last time lived, which is haunted and full of spider spirits. There's another haunted place nearby, the Masaki Shrine, which has the maddened and vengeful ghost of a murdered woman in it. Hiho is their final stop - the headquarters of the clan, once almost destroyed by the Serpents before the original Horikaze saved it. The locals are not servants, however, and every initiate must earn their respect anew. They're fierce, independent people. That's about all we get.

Next time: The clan's thoughts and secrets.

Bad Friends

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ninja Crusade 2e - The Firebrands: Bad Friends

Our final host is Sumi Rika, an orphan to the first attacks of the Ninja Crusade. She is known to volunteer for the most danger ous missions she can, and she is an utter monster in combat. She's a tall, thin and long-haired woman who doesn't like to dress heavily or in anything constricting. She drinks a lot with Sake, but even drunk, she is a deadly combatant. She will go to any risk to keep those who still have families with those families. She starts off by having the initiate hit her. He's not very good at it and hesitates. She says he'll have to let go of all hesitation to survive.

She also gives the initiate a set of tattooing needles. Eventually, the initiate will need to carve his own handles. The needles will never, ever be used on anyone except the initiate, in order to keep them attuned to his chi. That's why the handles can be removed - everyone has their own handles. The tattoo artist uses your needles and their handles. That lets the handles absorb the artist's chi and be most usable, while the needles absorb the subject's chi and become more effective. The process of tattooing is known as tebori, and mastering it can take years. Most Gardeners are not masters, and so do not have the artist's name - again, "Hori" plus a syllable from your name and a syllable from your master's. In some rare cases, you can actually take on your master's name entirely and become the next in the horishi dynasty. There's also the Horikaze name taken by the clan leader, but that's not the same.

The Gardeners tend to be rebellious and like to question authority, and that means that organizing them is kind of like herding cats. They believe it's good to have disagreement - it stops complacency. However, even they know that ignoring good advice is stupid, and that you shouldn't rebel purely for the sake of rebellion, but rather to choose what you believe is best. Even the Gardeners have a structure, too, but it's a pretty organic one. Those who can lead best rise to the top and take charge, and people listen because they're good at it. It just becomes obvious over time. There's no need to sit down and debate - you find your rhythm or you fail. (The Gardeners aren't the best at providing safety nets for failure.)

Initiates are the bottom of the clan. They do not yet have the clan tattoo and have not yet been chosen as a student by one of the horishi. They are not yet full Sumi. The clan tattoo, granted by your horishi master, is the one tattoo you can never hide. Irezumi can be removed, horimono can be hidden, bt the clan tattoo is permanent and visible. Those shamed and cast out to be ronin have their clan tattoo painfully burned off, leaving an ugly scar. Initiates work to prove their worth to the horishi and be taken as students, becoming one of the nebulous mass of ninja in the clan that occupy the middle ranks.

The Kurokamen are an elite fighting force within the Virtuous Body Gardeners. A team of Kurokamen can wipe out an entire Imperial cadre, and their name means 'Black Masks.' This is because when they enter battle, their jutsus turn their tattoos into a single art piece that covers the entire body, including the face. This gives the appearance of oni, with the black and blue-green tattoo ink covering the entire body, like a demon emerged from the tattoo. The Gardeners do not correct people who hold this misconception.

The horishi are the elders of the clan, accomplished not only in jutsu and tattooing skill but in life. They have experienced many things, and that is why they can understand master both tebori and jutsu. It's not about age - it's about life experience. If you can pack a lot of living into a very short time, as long as your skills keep pace you can become horishi. Kayanwe, for example, is quite young but is well on his way to becoming horishi. The trick is earning respect - the Gardeners respect only those who they believe have earned it, not those who claim titles. Horishi also serve as the teachers and guides of the clan, and help direct it. The Sumi don't take orders well, but they respect the advice given by the horishi. The most respected of all is the Horikaze. In all conflicts within the clan, the Horikaze is the final authority. If you seek out the Horikaze's opinion, you agree to be bound by it. Period. If you don't plan to honor it, don't bother going to see the Horikaze. The Horikaze speaks for the clan as a whole to outsiders, and at this point spends most of his time dealing with the Lotus Coalition.

So, how do the Dancers feel about other clans? First, they believe it's bad to get too comfortable with them - always expect them to pull something out you've never heard of. The Bamboo Herbalists, they've found, are extremely good to have around. They have good medicine, and some of that medicine takes the form of even better alcohol. Always a good thing. The Blazing Dancers are a kindred spirit to the Sumi - passionate troublemakers and good fighters, who understand the Inks better than just about anyone. he Grasping Shadows, on the other hand, are pretensious assholes who've decided they are the final arbiter on what it means to be ninja - and no one but them ever succeeds. They act like they're owed hero worship just for being Kumori, and there's no point to showing them the respect they want - it's not like it'll make them treat you any better.

The Hidden Strands of Fate are the antithesis of the Gardeners. They are politicians, manipulators and control freaks, like spiders in a web. While the Gardeners may not like the Serpents or Shadows, they hate the Strands. The problem is, even if you do decide to fight them, they don't fight fair. They'll wield society against you - little coincidences, little inconveniences, bad luck. Always with their mark, to let you know who's fucking with you. They never fight straight up. The Living Chronicle, surprisingly, are not hated. Sure, living under their rule was a problem - but only the elders give a shit about that any more, if anyone at all. No sense blaming them any more. Besides, the Chronicle understand the Sumi in a lot of ways, and respect their art, and if a Rekishi treats a Sumi with respect when asking for tattooing - well, that's not a burden any more, that's an honor.

The Pack of the Black Moon are terrifyingly powerful. The Sumi know that nature is a potentially terrible foe - and the Pack are nature incarnate. The Pack are amazing fighters, and pissing them off is very dangerous...but once they're loyal, they're loyal forever. The Recoiling Serpents, meanwhile, are not friends. Ever. They may be allies of convenience, but they are ruthless, cold and vicious. They are very patient, and they always get revenge. Always. The Wardens of Equilibrium aren't so dangerous - but they are assholes, obsessed with getting payment and reward for any good they do. That's their idea of 'balance.' The Will of Iron are not about good or justice - not real justice. They don't accept any changes from their idea of right and wrong, and while they'll always do right as they see it, they don't care who gets hurt when they do. The Sumi don't really understand why the Will of Iron haven't just sided with the Emperor, since in theory he's the source of all law anyway.

And as for the Empire? Well, it doesn't matter what you think of another ninja or their clan, once the Empire gets involved. Any fight between ninja should be forgotten, because the real enemy is the Emperor and his forces. Even if you were about to kill a Serpent for betraying you or whatever, stop. Go fight the Imperial soldiers. Never forget that they are the true enemy.

Next time: New mechanics.

Mechanics Time

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ninja Crusade 2e - The Firebrands: Mechanics Time

We get some new chargen options - for example, new Temperaments include Child of the Wu Ji Theater, a Dancer-only temperament for having been raised in the clan, or Kakou Born, a general one that is for being raised in Kakou and learning to survive on the streets but not be trusted by anyone. Some new Professions - you can be a Bellows if you're a DAncer and want to be a famous performing star, say. We also get some new Afflictions, such as being unable to feel joy easily or having skin that appears too smooth and unscarred and so makes you look like you never work or help fight. And of course new Wartime Role stuff, such as an Ink-only rebel hero one or a Dancer-only one for being one of the Hands.

We also get some new Animal Styles! Well, sort of. The first one, Artist's Eye, is obviously not an animal style per se, but it functions identically - it has no weapon associated with it. It can only be taken by the Virtuous Body Gardeners, and is a third style option at chargen, to go with the two Animal Styles they have access to.
Battle Is Beauty
Level 1: On a Boost while attacking, you may immediately make a second attack on a different target in Close range.
Level 2: You can do this out to Near range now, and you get +2 to the followup attack.
Level 3: You get a bonus to all attacks equal to the number of Conditions the target currently has. (Their value doesn't matter - just how many they've got.)

Impossible Target
Level 1: Opponents attacking you get -1 to their attacks per level of Armor they are wearing (capped by your level in this).
Level 2: Opponents attempting to initiate a Grapple with you do so at -2.
Level 3: If you get a Boost on Defense, you may redirect the attack to another target in Close range, who may make their own Defense against the original attack roll.

Suspension Expert
Level 1: Reduce all Pain penalties by 1. You also get +1 Discipline per level while suspended from hooks.
Level 2: If you spend at least one hour in meditation, for one day afterwards you may mold 2 Ki with a single Mold Ki action, without need to spend any Dynamic Actions.
Level 3: Reduce all Pain penalties by 2 instead of 1. You get +1 Health.

Fox Style is all about messing with enemy expectations, taking them down fast and not getting hit. However, it can't easily deal with ranged attacks.
Back to One
Level 1: When an opponent makes a Prepare action (generally to, say, draw a weapon), you may reflexively attempt to stop it by rolling Speed+Fighting against their Might+Speed, canceling out what they are doing somehow. If you succeed, the target cannot use their weapon for that Action. They may take a different Action, but get -1 to it.
Level 2: You get +2 when using the level 1 technique.
Level 3: The target's penalty after you use the level 1 technique increases to -2.

Advantageous Strike
Level 1-3: When an attacker rolls any 1s when attacking you, even if they hit, you get +1 per rolled 1 to your next attack on them, capped at (Level*2).

Gracious Exit
Level 1: While in a Grapple, you may perform a special clinging technique in which you climb over the opponent, then jump off their back. If your attack hits, you and the opponent end up a full Movement action apart, facing away from each other. The target takes +1 damage per level and must make an Athletics+Speed check to not fall over.
Level 2: Even if your attack misses, you and the foe are searated and no longer considered in Close range.
Level 3: The difficulty for the target to avoid falling over goes up.

Scorpion Style is about using rope weapons and distance combat mixed in with close range unarmed attacks, moving constantly and using stealth to help take foes down. However, it has little in the way of defenses.
Blood Strike
Level 1: You may sacrifice up to (Level) Health to increase damage 1-for-1. You must do this before you roll for the attack.
Level 2: Now, you may use this after you make the attack roll. You get +1 to the attack if you use it before the roll.
Level 3: If you sacrifice 3 Health, you add +4 damage instead of the normal 1-for-1 trade. If you get a Boost on a Blood Strike attack, you may regain 1 Health.

Scorpion Kick
Level 1: You do a handstand and kick from above, like a scorpion's tail. You get -2 to the attack, but do +1 damage and cause the target to lose their Standard ACtion for the Round if you hit. If the target has already acted, they instead get -4 Initiative next Round.
Level 2: Your attack penalty is reduced to -1, and the damage goes up to +2.
Level 3: The target also loses 1 Dynamic Action. If the target has already acted and has no Dynamic Actions to lose, they automatically go last in all Rounds for the rest of the Battle.

Wrap and Launch
Level 1: You must be using a Chain weapon. During Battle, you wrap your weapon around yourself to allow you to use all of your muscle with it. Every third attack you make gets +2 to hit and +1 damage.
Level 2: It's now +3 to hit and +2 damage.
Level 3: The bonus is applied every other attack instead of every third.

We get some new example weapons, like the rope dart or katar, and some new 99 Styles. First up is Horimono. It's exclusive to the Inks, infusing ki into tattoos to do magic. However, it's limited by rank, much like summoning.
Level 1: You get a tattoo of an important part of your life, increasing the bonus from a single Gift of your choice by 1, ignoring the limits for doing so with XP. Also, you get +1 to al jutsu activation checks per Horimono level. At rank 2, You get a second tattoo that shows a time when two parts of your life crossed paths. You select two Gifts and increase their bonuses by 1, ignoring the limits from doing so with XP.
Level 2: You must be Rank 3. You get a third tattoo to remind you of your worst failure, increasing the Karma gained from a single Trigger of your choice by 1, ignoring the limits for doing so with XP. At Rank 4, you get a tattoo to commemorate your greatest achievement. You automatically succeed against fear or Intimidation checks and get one free level in a single Fighting or Weapon Style you possess.
Level 3: You must be Rank 5. Your final horimono is a mutable one that depicts the possible future. By spending 1 Yin, you may reroll a check up to (Intuition) times, taking the best result. By spending 1 Yang, you may get +2 to any roll.

Finally, we get Performing Troupe, which is actually a new technique for Master of Spies, usable only by the Blazing Dancers. You get a performing troupe as an Ally.
Level 1: Whenever you perform with your troupe, you get +1 Performance per level. If you push the troupe to their limits, you may mark off their Ally box to raise this bonus to +2 per level.
Level 2: You may send the troupe to an area to distract people for a Scene. No one will notice you slipping away to do something else if you do.
Level 3: You can call on your troupe to get you an invtitation into anywhere - high-security forts, palaces, whatever. It takes a PErsuasion+Performance roll to plead your case and several days, with difficulty based on how secure the area is and how likely they'd let a bunch of guys in to put on a show.

Next time: New jutsus

Ninja Powers

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ninja Crusade 2e - The Firebrands: Ninja Powers

The Way of Fire gets some new Jutsu, surprising no one.
Basic Jutsu
Blinding Flash (Yin+Persuasion): You must have Bright Star. You gather ki energy and release it in a flash, gaining +1 Marksman (???) and temporarily blurring the target's vision. They get Sensory Loss 2, which fades by 1 per Round. On a Boost, it's Sensory Loss 3 instead.
Heat Palm (Yang+Fortitude): You heat your fists. For a number of attacks, you get +1 Fighting and +1 damage, and you deal double damage to non-living targets.

Median Jutsu
Burning Blood (Yin+Fortitude): You must have Cauterize. You heat your body massively, becoming dangerous to the touch. Your attacks get +1 damage and ignore some Armor. On a successful Block against a weapon, you take no damage and the weapon is destroyed. This lasts for several Rounds.
Deflect Flame (Yin+Speed): If attacked by fire of any kind, you may activate this to redirect it to a new target. The new target gets -1 to Dodge the original attack. On a Boost, -2 instead. This lasts until the next fire-based attack on you or for the Scene, whichever comes first.
Flame Sigil (Yang+Discipline): You use this to write a magic sigil on a paper tag. At will, you may activate it to deal 3 damage that ignores up to 2 Armor ot everything in Close range, and 1 damage ignoring 1 Armor at Near range. On a Boost, all Armor is ignored.

Advanced Jutsu
Fiery Flight (Yang+Fortitude): You must have Fire Mantle. You can fly on fiery power. You move at triple Movement, get +2 to Dodge while in flight and get +1 to activate any Fire jutsu.
Dragon's Spirit (Yang+Discipline): You must have Burning Blood, Fire-Breather and Fire Mantle. Your skin peels back to reveal red scales, and you sprout angry dragon heads on long fiery pillars. You get an amount of bonus Health based on Yang, +2 to all Defense checks and 2 extra Dynamic Actions per Round that you may only use defensively. You may also aim the dragon heads to shoot fire with a Yang+Marksman check, doing 4 damage if you hit. These effects last for the entire Battle.

The Way of the Immaculate Show does, too.
Basic Jutsu
Deadly Music (Yin+Speed): You turn a musical instrument into a weapon with appropriate tags. The instrument loses its deadly nature after you let go of it or, if thrown, after it hits the target.
Distant Whisper (Yang+Empathy): You encode a hidden message into an artistic performance, allowing a single target in the crowd to perceive it as long as they can sense your performance. The information cannot be more than a single sentence. On a Boost, you may send the message into someone else who then passes it to your target without your direct involvement.
Rhythmic Blending (Yang+Perform): You must have Perfect Show. You move in rhythm with a group of at least four people, making a rudimentary disguise to fit in with them that will pass casual inspection but not close scrutiny. On a Boost, your disguise is amazing and the difficulty to pierce it is higher.

Median Jutsu
Proxy Dance (Yang+Perform): You must have Perfect Show. You may use this dance to tie yourself to someone you have a strong emotional connection to, as long as you can see them. While you dance, the target takes no damage when struck, and you take the damage instead. You may end this at any time. On a Boost, you can make the target take damage for you instead.
Kicking the Next (Yin+Empathy): You must have Distant Whisper. If you are attacked, you can rally the nearby crowd into a riot, as long as they aren't personally loyal to your attacker. The rioters will do whatever they feel like - attack your attackers, run them out of town, maybe listen to you if you chant at them. However, if you help fight at any point or stop feigning injury (if you weren't hurt), the crowd will disperse. The crowd is mechanically a Legion of low to middling ability.

Advanced Jutsu
Stunning Spark (Yin+Speed): You must have Blinding Flash from the Way of Fire. You draw the audience's attention, then produce a bright flash. You have 1 Round in which to vanish or otherwise take an action without anyone noticing. If you return to your original position after doing so, no one will notice what you did. If you use this to start a fight, your first attack is automatically a Surprise Attack, but the jutsu ends when you strike. On a Boost, you get 2 Rounds instead of 1.
Blending of Selves (Yang+Perform): You must have Proxy Dance. You and all other ninjas that activate this during the same Battle move as one. Your Health and Psyche are pooled, and none of you will fall until the entire pool runs dry. You all get a cumulative +1 to all combat rolls and to Initiative per user, to a max of +3. You may only be part of a single instance of this jutsu at once, and it lasts all Battle.

The Way of Inked Skin gets some, also.
Basic Jutsu
Summon Chains (Yang+Fortitude_: You summon a chain whip out of your tattoos that wraps around your arms and can be used as a Quick Chain weapon. You get +1 to attack with it in Close range and +2 at Near range. This lasts for the entire Battle.
Remove Ink (Yin+Crafts): You can use this to remove any tattoo on your body except the clan tattoo at the base of your neck. All others are absorbed into the clan tattoo and remain there for up to one day. However, while your tattoos are hidden, you may not use any Way of Inked Skin jutsus.

Median Jutsu
Chain Hold (Yin+Might): You must have Summon Chains. You fire a bunch of chains at the target. They must make a Strength check against your activation before every Action they take or they get a -2 penalty to it. This lasts the entire Battle or until they make 3 successful Strength checks, whichever is first. On a Boost, they need 5 successful checks instead.
Body of Vision (Yin+Crafts): You project your vision through eye-shaped tattoos on your body. Eyes on the chest, back and shoulders grant 360-degree vision, while on the hands lets you look around corners. This gives +1 Perception, makes you immune to surprise attacks and nullifies any blindness penalties, but does not remove penalties for darkness. On a Boost, the eyes can leave your body and float anywhere within 300 feet of you.

Advanced Jutsu
Chain Barrage (Yang+Crafts): You must have Summon Chains. You fire chains out from all over your body, lashing at a wide area. You attack using Fighting+Crafts+2, dealing +2 damage to anyone in Close range. You get +2 to Block for 1 Round, then absorb the chains back into your skin. On a Boost, if you know Chain Hold, you may spend 1 ki per target to automatically activate it without a check, using your Chain Barrage activation for its roll result.
Embed Jutsu (Yin+Discipline): You may blend your ki into a target in an hour-long ritual in which you place a tattoo. Any jutsu you know can be placed in the tattoo, and you make a check for it after you embed it. The recipient gets the Tattooed 4 Condition. While they have it, they can use the tattoo's power at any time using your activation check for the embedded jutsu. This does not require them to spend any ki - or even have the ability to do so. When the duration ends, the power fades but the tattoo does not.

Then we get some new Celestial Animals! Foxes are Fire-elemental, and their skill is Crafts. They are master tricksters, childlike and playful, but also very strategic. They like to prank friends and trap foes, and as they age, they grow extra tails. The strongest of them have nine tails and are very, very powerful. Many, however, are hunted and killed for thier magical tails before they reach this stage. Their Trigger is that they love to prank people. The party gains 1 Karma if an important clue or lead ends up being a plant from the fox, who just can't hold in the laughter any more.

The example Major Animal is Kaminari, the Six-Tailed Storm, a Master. She is a human-sized fox with a shiny coat and six tails. She is a leader of animals, having outgrown the typical fox pranks, and instead meets directly with the Lotus Coalition to assist them. She believes the Izou Empire is her home, and rarely returns to the Fox Realm. She wants the ninja to take control of the Empire when the war ends. She is surprisingly serious, and she requires her summoners be as fearless as she is, often requiring them to follow a battle plan she devises and seeing how they react when the plan needs to change. She has 13 Health, 17 Psyche, 7 dice on attack, 9 on defense, 3 Actions per Rund, Armor 1, Initiative 8, +2 damage and 1 Dynamic action, plus 4 dice in a wide variety of skills. She is Intuition (++), Crafts (+), Fighting (-), Perception (-) - she's a very crafty, canny fighter who likes traps and hates to fight head on. She's also too flashy to really hide. She knows seven jutsu among Water, Fire and Movement. She also has level 2 in all Fox Style techniques. Once per Battle, she can also make a counterattack with her tails, focusing them on up to six targets in Close range, with a bonus the more tails are used on a single person. She can teach this as an Advanced Jutsu that grows tails on the ninja and allows them to use them similarly. However, the Twist is that if even one target succeeds using Stealth as part of their combo, the entire technique fails.

The Nine-Tails are said to be the most potent of all Greater Animals, and only five are known to exist at all. They gather often to discuss the future of the world, and are very wise, but largely aloof. They never enter the Earth realm, as their presence can cause miles around them to burst into flame. It is believed that this may be how the Desert of Black Sand was actually created by the Land of Exalted Flame.

Next time: Phoenixes, Red Dragons and minor clans.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ninja Crusade 2e - The Firebrands: BIRD

The Phoenixes are Fire-elemental, and their skill is Holistics. They are a symbol of health and beauty, and they're fun to have around. They are talkative, endlessly curious and prone to getting into trouble, however. They can take two forms, generally - a small, red-and-yellow canary, and a large fighting hawk that is on fire. Of course, that form is very attention-grabbing. Their Trigger is their curiosity. The party gains 1 Karma when forced into danger to follow the phoenix into whatever has caught its eye.

The example Major Animals is Motoko, Child of the Sun, a Warrior. In her natural form, she is a brilliant hawk with wings of fire and long feathers that leave a smoke trail. However, she stays hidden most of the time, waiting for those that catch her interest. She has a knack for picking people that will shake the world with their actions, ever since the First Ninja War. To hear, even the Phoenix Realm's beauty is lesser compared to Earth, and she sees herself as Earth's protector and the watcher of humanity. However, she can be annoying to be around, because...well, she has an obsession. Motoko wants to seek out and taste every fruit in the world. Thus, she generally picks nomadic summoners, and a tribute of rare fruit can gain her can a promise to seek fruit with her. She has 8 Health, 7 Psyche, 6 dice to attack and defend, 1 Action per round, Armor 1, Initiative 9, +1 damage and 2 Dynamic Actions. She also has 3 dice in a wide variety of skills. She is Discipline (+), Speed (+), Fighting (-), Might (-) - she's a wanderer that gets on with people, but dislikes fighting. She is very fast, but that's not enough in battle. She has five jutsu from Fire and Caring Hands, plus Lightning Speed. She is very loyal and will sacrifice herself for a summoner that is loyal to her. She can give up her Health and Psyche to heal her summoner, even if it kills her, though it costs a Favor mark. She is also able to give her feathers to her summoner for use in Alchemy, making Restore potions that use them as components heal more damage.

The most notable Greater Phoenix is Keitaro, the only phoenix in the entire universe that has been alive since the beginning of time, without ever dying. He was there when the Earth was not yet made and humans were stars in the sky, and he was there when the oceans were created and the gods were born. However, it's hard to understand anything he says - even few phoenixes speak his ancient dialect.

The Red Dragons are Fire-elemental, and their skill is Knowledge. Dragons are exceptionally rare, and they're rarely seen in their natural form. Those who befriend them are often given baby hatchlings to protect, which resemble red iguanas rather than epic creatures. The ninja's job is to show the dragon the world. Red dragons can sprout wings at will and fly quickly, but on land they are slow and somewhat fragile. Their personalties range wildly. Their Trigger? They don't really care about the problems they cause. The party gains 1 Karma when the hatchling goes missing and they must choose to find it instead of doing something more important.

The example Major Animal is a Master named Yemon, the Great Guardian. He is the son of Enshoku, the dragon inside Ensen Volcano. Enshoku herself rarely leaves the Dragon Realms, sending her son instead. He is 20 feet long, breathes fire and has burning claws. He is known as the Great Guardian because images of him defending the mountains have appeared in many depictions of the ancient wars of the ninja, reaching all the way back to the Orime war. He is very hard to impress, and tends to see humans as untrustworthy insects that'd steal his power if they were given the chance. He is also easily bored, and it's hard to get him to pay any attention at all to you. However, those that can trade insults with him without backing down amuse him with their lack of fear. He has 30 Health, 26 Psyche, 10 dice to attack, 7 to defend, 2 Actions per round, Armor 3, Initiative 7, +2 damage and 3 Dynamic Actions, as well as 4 dice in a variety of skills. He is Fighting (++), Fortitude (+) and Speed (-) - going up against a dragon in battle isn't the best plan, and he's very tough, but he is slow. He can use just about any jutsu he wants, but mostly focuses on Fire and Survival. He also has at least level 2 in all Dragon and Tiger techniques. Any attack he hits with by at least 2 successes causes Burning 1. If his summoner uses the Way of Fire, they only need 2 successes rather than a Boost to get the Training effect.

On top of Enshoku, there is believed to be at least one other Greater Red Dragon out there, slumbering beneath the Bridge to Battle province. Legend has it that a dragon egg was lost millenia ago in the region, and that finding out would earn the friendship of the Red Dragons, for it supposedly holds their prince. Many heroes have lost their lives chasing the prince of the Red Dragon Realms, however.

The Gracious Illustrators are also known as the Illustrators, the STrokes or the Kanboku Clan. They practice Crane and SCorpion styles, and their unique jutsu is the Way of 18 Strokes. They get +1 Crafts, +1 Intuition, +1 Knowledge and +1 Perception, as well as +1 Yang. Their clan has survived many battles, and while they are not very aggressive, they are nearly impossible to destroy. The most potent of their ninja can, after all, literally paint the future if they are gifted enough in the arts. Once, they served as portrait painters to the nobility and mural artists ofr the Empire. It is believed that their paintings won the War of Withered Fangs by dictating the Emperor's fate. Word of their potent jutsu made the Strands and Shadows try to destroy them, and their numbers have been small ever since. They live and work in artist communes, studying the ways of expression.

They occasionally work on contract to the Living Chronicle, assisting in transcribing history. This is where they first met the fledgling Virtuous Body Gardeners, while they were still the tattooists for the Chronicle. It's believed that the Sumi caught the eye of a Kanboku master, who then worked with his clan to paint a mural depicting their eventual split and rise to power, with the support of the Illustrators. The mural has since been hidden, and its location is known only to the eldest of the Kanboku, for the destiny could be destroyed if the painting were ever damaged in any way. The Kanboku existed in almost total obscurity for decades, unti lthe Crusade began. Their prophesies have begun to occur, and working with the Lotus Coalition allows them to watch the Sumi in action, as well as help them (and the Lotus Coalition in general) shape the future.

Illustrators spend most of their time pursuing art. Their potent abilities are very dangerous, and the Izou hunted them down very early in the Crusade. They live mostly in hiding, in caves or disguised as simple painters. They work in the background, avoiding notice, and are noted for their calm demeanor and lack of enthusiasm for anything besides their art. They hold very little land, and instead mostly borrow safehouses from the Inks. Their initiates are chosen for their artistic skill and martial ability, the mixture of which is the ideal of the clan. They train extensively to master both art and combat, and those who prove unworthy are killed to prevent the clan's continued existence from being revealed to the Izou armies.

The Lotus Coalition took in the Gracious Illustrators for one major reason: to keep trakc of their art. A painting of victory could be enough to push the Izou back...and the Illustrators are fully aware of this value. They have therefore refused to paint literally any portraits for the Lotus Coalition and instead insist on working with the Virtuous Body Gardeners as support. They are rarely front-line fighters, but many are masters of weaponry. When the Izou are gone, they will be able to return to their once-great numbers and reclaim their status as a major clan.

The Gift of the Kanboku is their art. They get +1 Crafts for painting (including use of their jutsu). Their paints are made in part with their own blood to enchant it, and they may choose to give up some of their blood more quickly than usual, sacrificing 1 Health during a jutsu activation to get 2 automatic successes. Their Trigger is their lack of expression. They feel emotions but are very bad at showing it. The party gains 1 Karma when being seen as an emotionless automaton disgraces or hurts the group somehow. Their potential Contacts: Nozaki Yasuoka (Fighting), a bounty hunter always looking for another score. Hama Etsuko (Empathy), a con artist that enjoys breaking hearts as much as, if not more, than the money he makes. Kanboku Tomi (Crafts), one of the best painters in the world, but who has secluded herself from it. Ohka Ume (Intimidation), a guard captain and mother of two. Shiba Bunjuro (Fortitude), a street performer who gets people to punch him as hard as they can for a small fee. Sasada Kenzan (Speed), an Izou messenger who is very fast but has awful sense of direction. Bonds:

Next time: The Way of 18 Strokes and the Grey Tigers.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ninja Crusade 2e - The Firebrands: CAT

The Way of 18 Strokes is the Earth=elemental jutsu of the Gracious Illustrators, which requires them to paint art in seconds in order to call on it for magic. On a Boost, you can either heal 1 Health sacrificed via the clan Gift or get +2 to Initiative. On a Backfire, you get -1 Crafts and -2 Initiative.
Basic Jutsu
Iron Stomach (Yin+Fortitude): You tap into your years of experience eating paint. For the scene, you get +2 Fortitude to resist ingested poisons and drugs.
Lesser Zhu Beasts (Yang+Crafts): You paint a beast on a scroll, summoning it to serve you. It uses the stats for a Smaller Animal.
Painted Arsenal (Yin+Crafts): You paint a weapon, summoning it into existence. It has the same stats as a normal weapon of its type, and lasts for the scene. On a Boost, it also has one additional Quality of your choice.
Searching Creatures (Yang+Crafts): You paint a swarm of tiny animals, which come to life and spread out to cover a distance of half a mile in all directions as you meditate. While you meditate, you can look through the eyes of any of these creatures, though only one at a time. This ends when you stop meditating.
Splash Darts (Yang+Marksman): You hurl paint at someone, using the activation as an attack roll. The drops of paint become sharp daggers, dealing 2 damage when they hit. On a Boost, you also get +1 to your next jutsu activation check against the same target.

Median Jutsu
Carrier's Wing's (Yang+Crafts): You must have Lesser Zhu Beasts. You paint a giant bird, large enough for you to stand on and be carried by. Its Movement is equal to yours plus your successes, and it has 3 Health. It lasts for the scene or until killed.
Dripping with Talent (Yin+Marksman): You hurl paint at your target, using the activation as an attakc roll. Every success you get over the target lowers their Movement by 2. If their Movement hits 0, they lose their Standard Action. On a Boost, they automatically lose their Standard Action. The penalty is reduced by 1 per round.
Greater Zhu Beasts (Yang+Crafts): You must have Lesser Zhu Beasts. This functions identically, but uses Larger Animal stats.
Instant Hole (Yin+Crafts): You paint an opening on a wall, turning it into a door. This can be used on any surface no more than five feet thick. On a Boost, it can be used on any thickness of surface.
Strokes of Destiny (Yin+Intuition): You go into a ritual trance for six hours. In that time, you paint an image of the future, though it will not be completely clear, due to angles, shadow or lack of chronologic order. The GM may ask you to make Knowledge+Intuition checks to interpret it over time.

Advanced Jutsu
Altered Course (Yang+Perception): You must have Strokes of Destiny. You paint something you desire to happen. Once the portrait is complete, the event will happen, exactly as you painted it, though you cannot control when. You gain the Confused 3 condition, and while you have it, you cannot recover resting ki. Also, the painting can be an evil genie sometimes - you might paint your enemy being killed, but it could turn out to be someone who is disguised as them or mistaken for them instead.
Dragon Scroll Attack (Yang+Crafts): You must have Painted Arsenal and Splash Darts. You unfurl a number of painted scrolls, hurling them into the air. On your next Action, you jump into the center and make an attack, raining down the painted weapons on your foes. You get +3 Marksmanship for this attack, and each hit deals 2 damage. You may attack a number of different targets. On a Boost, you may direct as many of the attacks as you want at a single target.
Painting Targets (Yin+Crafts): You must have Dripping with Talent. You splash paint on a number of targets within Near range. The next physical attack on each of these targets gets +2 and deals +1 damage. On a Boost, the bonus lasts for two attacks on each target.
Simple Shapes (Yang+Fortitude): You must have Instant Hole. You turn into a coat of paint on a flat surface, able to move along it two-dimensionally. You are immune to all damage unless the surface is destroyed. If this happens, you are instnatly ejected and lose half your current Health.
Zhu Hoard (Yang+Discipline): When you activate Lesser Zhu Beasts or Greater Zhu Beasts, you can reflexively activate this to summon a number of additional lesser beasts or a slightly smaller number of additional greater beasts.

The Grey Tigers are also known as the Tigers, the Mouko Clan and the Kittens. They practice Tiger and Wildcat styles, and their jutsu is the Way of Bloody Claws. They get +1 Athletics, +1 Might, +1 Persuade and +1 Survival, as well as +1 Yang. The Mouko were once a simple group of scholarly families in the Izou jungles, studying the cats that lived in the area. They watched the tigers and leopards and took notes...until they discovered a pack of rare tigers, who were somehow colored grey for unknown reasons. After years of studying felines, the Mouko could tell these beasts were much smarter, tougher and more agile than normal tigers, and they bred very quickly. Even the Mouko had trouble keeping track of them. That would be when the Recoiling Serpents attacked, as the tigers lived in their territory and they saw the Mouko as a threat, given their guardianship of the powerful tigers.

Many of the families were massacred, but the tigers came to the defense of their friends. The encounter ended when both sides were forced to retreat. The Mouko and the tigers both lost much of their population, and they understood that neither could survive without the other. Thus was the Grey Tigers ninja clan born. Today, they hold a very small piece of territory between the Bridge to Battle and Triumph provinces, which serves as a sanctuary for the ninja and their tigers. They are constantly fighting both the Serpents and the Inks, who want their land for themselves. This aggression has lessened some since the Lotus Coalition recruited the Tigers, however. A temporary peace has been made, but the Mouko still serve primarily out of necessity rather than out of any hate for the Izou. They know the Izou army has never found their sanctuary - but other ninja have, so they're the bigger threat.

The Mouko maintain their home in the spot where the tigers were discovered. This place, known as Neko-shi, has enough food to sustain their current numbers and many more besides, and is quite beautiful. The clan still works towards its original goal of studying and recording the lives of their tiger friends, but now they earn this knowledge firsthand rather than by watching from afar. The tigers and ninja eqat together, play together and protect each other, considering each other part of the same family. Over the years, they have learned that the grey tigers may be descendants of Queen Kazuhiko herself, which may bring them trouble when her plans come to fruition. Still, the ninja have the same vicious hearts as the tigers. A ninja and their tiger are one unit, trained together from the cub's birth. Their temperaments are not always agreeable, but the pair leanr to work together, and the ninja emulate the tiger's timing, hunting skills and territorial nature. Many are masters of unarmed combat from emulating their tiger companions.

The Grey Tigers have one goal: keep Neko-shi hidden. They will do anything they need to to make that happen. They'll fight for the Lotus Coalition, do recon missions, help the other ninja out, as long as it keeps the tigers safe. They hope they can become powerful enough that they can go from being defensive all the time to a full ninja force that can take territory worthy of a major clan. The tigers are slowly regaining their once-great numbers, but it will still be some time before they're anywhere close. They have purposefully removed themselves from any situation involving the continuing problems between the Serpents and the Pack of the Black Moon, but it's not really helped - they keep getting caught in the crossfire.

The Gift of the Mouko is, well, the tiger. They are each ki-bonded to a tiger, getting +1 to any check the tiger can help with, or +2 for Intimidation checks. The tiger is their choice of a young or adult tiger. A young tiger is a Smaller Animal with +2 Initiative, while a full tiger is a Larger Animal. The tiger gains their choice of +1 Health or +1 Psyche per Rank. Further, they can spend 1 ki to apply any jutsu they use to the tiger also. Their Trigger is their territorial loyalty to Neko-shi. The party gains 1 Karma if they ever have to split their loyalty between the group and Neko-shi to disastrous effect. Contacts: Kiski Seiko (Intuition), a wise woman who tells many moralistic fables. Kasai Kenji (Travel), a Coalition scout that has discovered Neko-shi's location. Ijiri Kazumi (Deception), a noble with great influence in Triumph Province. Kuramochi Kyoko (Holistics), an animal-healer who is one of the few that the Mouko allow to see the tigers in their home. Mouko Eien (Athletics), a protestor who is traveling the Empire on foot, painting scenes of carnage to show the damage the war does. Tanizaki Yoshihide (Stealth), a famous hunter who dreams of taking down a grey tiger. Bonds:

The Way of Bloody Claws is the Fire-elemental jutsu of the Grey Tigers, which focuses on emulating tigers. On a Boost, they can extend jutsu effects to their tiger for free. On a Backfire, they get a cumulative -1 penalty to Fighting.
Basic Jutsu
Big Paw (Yang+Fortitude): You make one of your hands into a giant tiger claw. This has no listed effects but presumably gives it weapon Qualities?
Cat's Landing (Yang+Survival): When you fall from a distance of no more than 50 feet, you may activate this to take zero damage and be able to act immediately upon landing. On a Boost, it works on a fall of any height.
Don't Touch the Fur (Yin+Survival): You remove anything non-livin that is touching your skin, instantly. Hope you don't need pants!
Hunter's Focus (Yin+Survival): You tie yourself to the target, hunting them perfectly. You get +1 to Stealth checks against them for the scene and deal +1 damage if you ambush them.
Unswayable Nature (Yin+Empathy): You steel your emotions, gaining Armor 2 against attacks using Persuade for the scene.

Median Jutsu
Cat Nap (Yin+Fortitude): You can activate this between scenes to nap really hard, increasing your recovery by 2. However, a failure on activation means you begin the next scene with a Backfire.
Double Claw (Yang+Fighting): You must have Hunter's Focus. You and your tiger attack together. You use the activation as your attack. If you hit, your tiger then gets +2 to their attack and deals +2 damage. If both attacks hit, the target also gets Bruised 2 and -1 to their next Defense.
Feline Form (Yang+Fortitude): You take on the form of your tiger, except you can be any color of tiger you want. You cannot speak and have no hands, but get +1 Athletics and +1 Stealth while in tiger form.
Grey Tiger's Leap (Yang+Might): You multiply your jump distance by quite a bit (based on Yang) for several jumps.
Marked Territory (Yin+Survival): You become instantly a master of the local territory, getting +1 to any checks to operate in the environment, such as local knowledge, finding specific places or making Journey checks through it.

Advanced Jutsu
All Fours (Yang+Fortitude): You must have Feline Form. You assume a hybrid form of human and tiger, gaining long, clawed arms, sharp fangs and a tail. You get +3 to Athletics for climbing, jumping, dodging and balancing, +5 Movement and deal +2 damage with attacks for the rest of the scene.
Bezoar Bomb (Yang+Marksman): You must have Feline Form. You turn everything in your stomach into a gross hairball vomit that hits everyone in Near range, using the activation as an attakc roll. Targets can only Dodge, and then at -1. Those hit get Slowed 2 and Deprived 1 due to gross, slimy and very smelly barf. On a Boost, it is Knocked Out 2 instead of Deprived 1.
Lion's Roar (Yin+Intimidation): You let loose a mighty roar against the target. If you hit, they lose their Standard Action and 1 Dynamic Action this round. If they are reduced to 0 Dynamic Actions, they cannot make Defense checks for the rest of the Round. They also take Sensory Loss (Hearing) 1. On a Boost, they lose 3 Dynamic Actions instead of 1.
Marked Prey (Yin+Perception): You must have Hunter's Focus. You must draw your target's blood to activate this. Whenever you come within several miles of the target afterwards, you know it and automatically succeed on tracking attempts. However, while this is active, you may not mold Yang ki.
9 Lives (Yin+Persuade): You must have Cat's Landing and All Fours. You may activate this as part of a day-long ritual to bring good luck. For the next day, you get 9 +2 bonuses to apply to any check you want, in any combination. You could even drop all of them at once. However, if you fail any jutsu activation during this time, the bonuses drop from +2 to +1.

Next time: The Winds of Aion.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ninja Crusade 2e - The Firebrands: FLUTE

The Winds of Aion are also known as the Winds, the Pipers and the Gachingachin Clan. They practice Fox and Snake kung fu, and their jutsu is the Way of Deadly Crescendos. They get +1 Discipline, +1 Marksman, +1 Perform and +1 Stealth, as well as +1 Yin. See, most current people of the Izou believe that musical festivals and celebrations were introduced by the Blazing Dancers. They are very wrong. Long before that, the Gachingachin were there, entertaining and enchanting the people with their musical prowess. They began in the early days of the Izou, with a young ninja named Aion and his magic war flute. He and his followers brought their songs to the fledgling Izou forces, using them to encourage the armies in their battles, as they went to conquer. Aion and his students, at their height, numbered in the thousands. They used every kind of instrument, though Aion always led them with his war flute, and it is from this that the Winds of Aion got their name. In peace, their songs were serene, and in war, they were overpowering.

And then the Dancers came out of the Desert of Black Sand. They were hailed as heroes for doing so, the first ever, and their shows began to make inroads in the empire, ignoring boundaries and cutting in on the Winds' territories. The Izou began to prefer the energetic acrobatics to the more soothing and slow songs of the Winds, and this battle for Imperial support went into an all-out shadow war between the clans. The Dancers, however, were the clear victors. As a final symbol, they seized Aion's war flute as a trophy, and it is still held in the halls of the Wu Ji Theater. Today, the clan endures, but is near ruined. They have few villages and fewer ninja, with most seeing them as a vestige of old, archaic ways. Still, those who truly appreciate beautiful music do find them at times. Some of the Winds have joined the Lotus Coalition, largely in areas that lack a strong Blazing Dancer presence. Others, however, have managed to convince the Emperor to let them live in exchange for their service in wiping out the other clans. They are certain, if they do so, then they will once again be the top entertainers of the Empire, having wiped out the Dancers once and for all.

Life in a Gachingachin village is calm and tranquil. They play their songs for each other and their students, and while they will accept gifts of coin or jade, they do not seek it out. They believe instead that performance is done for its own sake, to be truly art. They avoid attracting the Izou by use of a constant magical melody, played in turns, which enchants those that hear it to be unable to see the village, even if they're in the middle of it. The best can hear the individual notes, using them to track down the village. This is the first real test to join the clan, followed by tests of martial skill and music appreciation. An initiate is considered a full ninja when they make their first original musical composition that gets accepted by the clan masters. Creating new songs is how you gain status, as well. The Gachingachin have been in the Izou Empire since the beginning, and they know its roads and travel ways better than any other clan. This is why the Emperor finds them valuable - they are more than able to help track down other ninja, and their songs helped win the War of Withered Fangs. To the Emperor, a Gachingachin is not a ninja, if they are loyal - just a unique kind of soldier.

The Winds could tip the balance of the either direction. They despise the Blazing Dancers, and their ties to the Lotus Coalition weaken as the Dancers rise within the ranks. However, it is also clear that without the Coalition as a shield, the entire clan would easily be wiped out. However, those who become Izou loyalists have used their songs to win decisive battles against the other ninja, and the already small clan is splitting at the seams over which way their loyalties should lie. For the Winds, it honestly doesn't matter who wins as long as they survive and the Dancers are taken down a peg - or better yet, killed off. Ironically, if the two clans could stop hating each other, they'd probably work together quite well.

The Gift of the Gachingachin is the ability to pick apart every sound they hear. They get +2 to any hearing-based Perception checks, and their great lung capacity means they recover from the Deprived condition twice as fast. Their Trigger is their disdain and disgust for rewards and particularly for money. The party gains 1 Karma when they react poorly to the idea of taking money for their art, causing tension and conflict. Contacts: Haruguchi Gennai (Survival), a forest hermit who is an expert at traps. Kimiyama Sawao (Knowledge), a collector of valuable musical artifacts who wishes to get his hands on a war flute. Motoori Miya (Fighting), a former Izou soldier turned mercenary who is very selective about her clients. Kawabata Toichi (Persuade), a local bandit leader who likes making deals and earning money. Odoriko Takara (Perform), a Blazing Dancer that wants to learn new styles of performance and is interested in the Winds. Gachingachin Akuro (Discipline), an elder of the Winds whose mastery of focus and peaceful music is amazing. Bonds:

The Way of Deadly Crescendos is the Water-elemental jutsu of the Winds, focused on breathing exercises and music. Some of the jutsu require the user to maintain a song continuously. Doing so costs a Standard Action, but not any Dynamic Actions, so you can still do other things that way. On a Boost, you may reduce any mental condition you have by 1. On a Backfire, you get a cumulative -1 to Perform for the scene.
Basic Jutsu
Fine Ear (Yin+Perception): You may use this reflexively when you hear a noise. If successful, you know exactly what made the sound, how far it is, and what general direction it's in, as well as the clear content of any spoken words. On a Boost, you pinpoint it so precisely that you get +2 to find or attack the spot without ever seeing it.
Long Breath (Yin+Fortitude): You can hold your breath for several minutes. During that time, if you are able to breathe normally, you gain +2 to resist exhaustion from Athletics or Perform.
Muting Technique (Yin+Intimidation): You silence sounds from the target with a gust of air. You may activate this as a Defense against any sound-based attack or vocal mental attack, treating as a Parry. On a Boost, you also silence the attacker for the rest of the scene, making them unable to use their voice for anything but a barely audible whisper.
Perfect Song (Yin+Perform): You make a flute or reed instrument produce a beautiful sound. You get +2 to any check using the instrument, including other jutsu activations, for several checks.
Sound Deflection (Yang+Perform): You use a blast of sound to turn aside blows. You may activate this as a Defense, which counts as a Parry with a weapon. On a Boost, you also cause Sensory Loss (Hearing) 1 in the attacker.

Median Jutsu
Calm Song (Yin+Perform): You must have Perfect Song. For as long as you maintain the song, you calm emotions, causing -2 to all physical attacks by those that can hear you.
Cutting Note (Yang+Perform): You must have Sound Deflection. You blast a sharp note that can cut people. This is a weapon that has the Sharp quality, does 2 damage and can target up to Far range. A target in Cover still takes half damage, as the notes can penetrate.
Shockwave Punch (Yang+Fighting): You gather wind around your limbs to increase your explosive power for several attacks. Any Defense against your attacks for this period gets -1, and the defender is knocked down and knocked back several feet. On a Boost, twice as far.
Sound Barrier (Yang+Discipline): You must have Sound Deflection. You create a visible dome of tangible sound for a wide area around you. For as long as you maintain the song, you and anyone in Close range gets +3 Armor against attacks from outside the barrier. On a Boost, the barrier also stops people from moving through it without a Strength check.
War Song (Yang+Perform): You must have Perfect Song. For as long as you maintain the song, you inspire your allies. All of their physical attacks get +2. On a Boost, their physical defenses get +1, too.

Advanced Jutsu
Breathless Note (Yin+Intimidation): You must have Muting Technique. You attack with the activation, using your sound to steal the target's breath. If you hit, the target gets Deprived 1. Each Round, for as long as you maintain the song, the condition increases by 1, to a max of 5. Once it hits the cap, they begin to take 1 damage per Round instead.
Crashing Note (Yang+Perform): You must have Cutting Note. You channel your power into a single blast, using the activation as a physical attack against everyone in Near range and one target at Far range. Those targeted by it get -2 to Defend against it, and it does 4 damage and Sensory Loss (Hearing) 2. A successful Defense avoids damage, but still gets Sensory Loss 1.
Dissonant Song (Yang+Perform): You must have Long Breath. You play a piercing song that is uncomfortable to hear for those that cannot mold ki. Anyone who possesses ki and is in Near range or closer takes 2 damage unless they resist with Yin+Discipline. If there is a Backfire, however, the jutsu fails automatically. Anyone that can listen to the entire song quietly and respectfully and also survive earns the respect of the Winds, and doing so is a rite of passage within the clan.
Puppeteer's Rhythm (Yin+Persuade): You must have either Calm Song or War Song. You use your music to infiltrate the target's mind. If it works, they lose their Standard Action. You may use your own Dynamic Actions to force them to perform an Action as though you were taking an additional Action yourself, or you may sacrifice 1 Dynamic Action to remove 2 of the target's. This continues for as long as you maintain the song and the target can hear it. On a Boost, you may choose to instead affect all animals of one species that can hear you, or a number of additional humanoid targets.
Whirling Winds (Yang+Survival): You must have Shockwave Punch. You call down a tornado storm for several Rounds. During this storm, on each character's Initiative they must make a Fortitude+Survival check to avoid 2 damage a cumulative Dazed 1.

The book ends out on an adventure. A notable Virtuous Body Gardener has been captured and sentenced to death, but the Blazing Dancers have got a suicidal ninja whom they have convinced to take her place. (She accidentally killed an innocent child during a duel and wants to die in atonement.) The party's job is to infiltrate the palace and make the exchange of the two women under cover of a parade the Dancers will be putting on. The book assumes the party will be Inks, Dancers or a mix of the two. Things get more complicated when other prisoners try to get help to escape - some of whom probably should still be in prison. Then they'll have to escape via a walking a wire and dealing with a particularly stupid NPC Dancer starting a fight with the guards as they do. They can also fuck around inside the palace if they want to to steal things.

The End!

Next up - the final book I haven't done, Truth and Lies.