Monday, September 27, 2010

Creating Spirit Characters: The Quick and Easy

Creating Spirit Characters
The Quick and Easy
by Dace

So before we begin I would like to state that when I sit down to come up with rules I tend to err on the side of what makes for a fun story. So a lot of my suggestions are in fact based on the idea of creating what I feel is a good story.

The Spirit rules found in Enemies of the Empire create a brief and quick way of making a Spirit character for the purpose of NPC building. This doesn't work so well for PC's.

Now allowing a Spirit character into the game does present some intresting problems. Some GM's may find them out right disruptive. Spirits have an alien mind set from the average Rokugani, being compled to respond more based on the nature of the realm they come from and their spirit nature than that of a samurai. Concepts like honor and bushido do not always come to them.

Other things that a GM must consider is that such characters have no lords. And if things get too sticky for them could merely disappear into the spirit realm they came from. Certain combitnations of spirit powers and schools must also be watched since the powers themselves were never tested against the schools.

With all that in mind let us begin.

The basic spirit character is built by using the base animal and then adding the to it the spirit quality and basic spirit powers based on the spirit itself. Most of these base animal traits can be found either in Enemies of the Empire or the Core Rule book.

Start off using the base stats given as the basic spirit of that character. Example, I'm building a Ryu spirit to interact with some PC's in my game. I anticpate heavy use of the character and therefore will build it as a basic character. We will call him Hiei.

Hiei basic starting stats will be the same as all Ryu (found on page 254 of EotE).


Air 4
Awareness 6
Earth 3
Fire 4
Intelligence 5
Water 3
Perception 4

It's intitatve will of course be recalculated based on the school, but I would keep it's Reduction. No matter the form after all it will still have those qualities. Though I would only allow it it's claw damage when Hiei is fighting in dragon form. It's claw damage and armor TN would only apply when in dragon form.

Now the Ryu have a couple of extra abilities. Shapeshifter, Swift, Spirit and Soul of a Dragon. The Shapeshifting ability will be put to good use when it comes time to chose which powers it has. As a GM I would only apply the Soul of a Dragon ability when Hiei is serving in the capacity of the Celestial Heavens. This is one of the reasons why the book notes that such characters can be disruptive

The next step is now to chose which spirit ablities the character will have. Since Hiei intends to interact as a mortal human Humanity is a must. Mimic also makes a good choice for a guy who intends to help guide other characters. Showing up in the guise of someone the characters might trust or just observing them with a new face from time to time. And finally a Panthers Move.

Three minor ablities require three minor penalties. So we'll go with Can't drink alcohol, Must always dress in colors of your natural form and You can't answer questions in a straight forward manner.

Now comes the tricky part, a school. Now for the more powerful creatures I believe in making them True Ronin in point spending. Even if we are choosing a great clan school, say Hiei wants to pretend to be an Asako monk, I do not believe that spirit characters who start out with an initially strong set of abilities should have more points during character generation.

So in general if it has several abilities on it's own, or will pick up many abilities (like the Kitsune) I recommend using the True Ronin CP. If it has only a handful of abilities, around 2, then I say go with the clan ronin. If it only has one ablity (epically one that will be taken up with the Humanity trait) then I would say go the full 45 CP that any starting character gets. Tsuru, Saru and Tanuki spirits spring to mind as spirits deserving of the standard character package.

Now as for schools. Such characters don't get a Family bonus, but they would get the School bonus. Most will have decent traits to start with anyway from their animal. I recommend keeping the same set of basic rings and traits no matter the form. Far less confusing that way.

School selection should be done based on background. A spirit who just walked out of the woods three weeks ago is best suited for Monk and Ronin schools. A spirit who has studied a clan however may be able to pick up or trick someone into teaching them techniques. I would require such characters however to have at least three ranks in Lore (Clan). A spirit that is trying to be an Asako should have some working knowledge of how the Phoenix and Asako work.

And there you have it. The quick and easy of making Spirit PC's.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Yojimbo

The Yojimbo
By Cooper

In previous editions you could tell a yojimbo apart from another bushi by the presence of a Shiba or Daisoji mon above their sword arm. It was the Techniques of these two schools which protected their charges, but the character itself would end up fighting in more or less the exact same manner as any other bushi. A straightforward enough solution, but one which was neither diverse nor flavorful.

The newly refurbished Guard maneuver of 4E reverses that trend. Now any School can produce a decent yojimbo so long as the player remembers to place their charge's safety ahead of their own. Why? Because the Guard maneuver will allow anyone to protect an ally by surrendering an attack and compromising their own defenses.

With this understanding, I present you with ten rules of being a yojimbo:

Ten: Never Begin A Combat in Full Defense

A character in Full Defense cannot use the Guard Maneuver to protect his charge, he is also probably harder to hit than his ward, and he will pose no immediate threat to his assailants.

If you begin combat in Full Defense, a competent assassin will run right past you and stab your charge through the heart.

It should be noted that while anyone can make an effective yojimbo in this edition, the Shiba and Daidoji do still have a few edges that reflect their expertise. For example, a Rank 1 Shiba actually can use the Guard Maneuver while in Full Defense, allowing them to occasionally get away with breaking Rule #1.

Nine: Always Think About the Safety of Your Charge

Pretty obvious, really. As a yojimbo, your duty is to keep your charge alive, untainted, and if possible, unharmed. Naturally you will do a better job keeping your charge safe if you yourself are healthy and sober. However, if one of the two of you must get hurt, you should be the one standing in the way of the blow. Remember, if your charge dies before you, you have failed.

Eight: Don't Let the Obvious Catch You By Surprise

9 times out of 10 a Kaiu on the Wall is going to need a Yojimbo who can hold an Oni at bay while an emissary to the Crane courts will need one who can hold his own in a duel. By paying attention to the duties, disadvantages and enemies of your ward, you can prepare for trouble before it arrives. You can't prepare for everything, but you should at least have a plan in place for your most common enemies.

Seven: Be A Soft Target

In other words, make sure your Armor TN is lower than that of your charge. While this makes you easier to hit, it also makes you more attractive to attack, and every enemy who goes after you is an enemy who is not going after your charge. Using the Guard Maneuver is a good way to become a Soft Target, so is going into Full Attack.

A bushi who takes the Shiba Yojimbo path or who reaches Rank 5 of the Daidoji Iron Warrior School does not need to worry about making themselves into a soft target because they already posses a technique that allows them to intercept damage meant for their ward.

Six: Don't Be A Hero

You only need to protect one person, not the entire party. If your friend, the Matsu, wants to charge in and make herself and even more attractive target than you, let her. Any enemy who attacks her is an enemy who is neither attacking your ward nor undermining your ability to protect him. If the Matsu survives, be sure to sing her praises and buy her a drink. After all, you want her doing the same thing again in the future.

Five: Know When to Attack

Even for a Yojimbo there comes a time when it makes sense to go on the assault. Here are a few examples of when it is appropriate
When no assailant can reach your charge this Round
When no one else is in a position to attack
When there is only one assailant left
Daidoji Iron Warriors who have reached their 2nd School Rank can attack more often than other yojimbo because their Guard maneuvers last for twice as long.

Four: Stick to Your Ward

If you have any suspicion that there might be another assailant, stay within a Simple Action Move of your charge. Remember, someone can only gain the benefits of a Guard maneuver if they're within 5' of you.

Three: Be Ready to Duel

Since you are already fighting your charge's battles for them, it is not unreasonable for your ward to name you as their champion in a duel. As such a yojimbo should at least be a passable duelist. Enough, at least, to keep the riffraff at bay.

Two: Be Willing to Lose

Sometime the best thing you can do for your charge is lose a duel by bowing out. For one thing, it may be the only time you can safely rebuke your ward for being in the wrong. For another, there is nothing to be gained by injuring yourself against the blade of a superior opponent (or a poisoner). Remember, you can best defend your charge when you are healthy. A canny foe might well arrange for a duel before an assassination attempt just to make sure you are off your game.

One: Die Well

There will come a time when all other rules will fail you and the only way to keep your charge safe is to face insurmountable odds while they run for it. Seize that moment when it comes. In these final moments give your charge every advantage you can. Hand over your initiative, charge the enemy, assume the Full Defense stance, do everything in your power to buy your charge the time to get away and die knowing that you were a good yojimbo.