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.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. Very useful to me, really.

    I usually play Isawa Shugenja, but sometimes Shiba Bushi, or Shiba Yojimbo, back in the 3rd edition.

    I've an RPG blog (L5R in the lead) in Portuguese (I'm from Brazil). Hope you like it as I liked this blog.

    Congratulations, again!