Monday, November 15, 2010

Making Ninjitsu Deadly

Making Ninjitsu Deadly

Everyone knows that ninja and ninjutsu can be used to kill people with poisons, in 4th edition that is doubly so with the current ninja school getting bonuses to attack unaware targets, and people who are suffering a conditional effect. Because poisons now mostly deliver conditional effects alongside trait loss the Shosuro assassin is going to do well dropping one unaware target as their abilities stay strong.

However the weapons they wield themselves, blowguns, tsubute and shuriken, have long been regarded as weaker gimped alternatives to bows and knives. I'm going to show you how you can get bang for your buck from your tsubute.

The unaware targets rule of 3rd edition is now gone, seemingly replaced with only an ambush mechanic. This appears to leave ninja in the lurch as they are suddenly up against the full armour TN of all but the most unaware target.
But a cunning enough ninja ought to get an opponent in a situation where they are either 'helpless' aka stunned, or 'blinded' aka have no idea they are about to get ganked.
This is based on the new principles of 4th Edition. In 3rd edition it seemingly had to be printed to exist, in 4th edition your GM should be able to make the difference and interepret the rules to make sense. Here's an example
you are walking through the woods, hunting bandits or a bear, the bandits jump you. Standing ready for combat you damn well deserve your full armour TN.
You are sitting at a sake house, a ninja has scaled the rooftops and come down through to beams to above your private room, you are sitting their quietly talking.
Do you seriously want to tell me the latter example deserves his full armour TN? Frankly thats just redonculous.
The rules actually say (pg 88) "The GM might also rule that a surprised character is easier to hit, depending on whether that seems appropriate to the circumstances"
So our Ninja ought to be able to craft situations where their GM allows then a lowered armour TN.

Now if your Ninja is going to attack armoured and alert targets you deserve the pumelling you get. Ninja do their killing best when their targets are sleeping, drunk or 'otherwise engaged'..

But how you scream! A tsubute does 1k1 damage that doesn't explode!!
Well thats easy, your a ninja, you have to specialise like anyone else to be good at killing.
First the mastery abilities bring the weapons up to par with other ranged options, but they still dont make up for not being able to add your strength to damage. 2k2 isn't much of a damage roll for someone who has gotten a skill rank of 7.
The other must-have to make ninjitsu effective is the advantage great potential. That turns the puny 3-4 raises you can make on damage into 7+
Now what to do with those raises... you might at first say, DAMAGE! and to that I say no.
Use your raises for two things, in priority order, Feinting, and extra attack.
This is where that high skill rank comes in, it'll let you pull the crazy number of raises required to do that. And any decent ninja will have an agility of 4+, which is the trait of choice for throwing things (reference the athletics options here)
try to arrange a comfy hiding space where you can enter centre stance for a round, adding the centre stance benefit to a damage roll will really make a difference.
The last thing of course is that all important void point, spend that on the attack that has the raises for extra attack.

How you ask, can you feint if they can't see you?
Depends how you set it up, maneuver your target with a thrown rock in the opposite direction or some sort of diversionary tactic so they move into a more exposed position...sure sounds like a feint to me.

but to be sure it may not be every GM's cup of tea.

This will leave your 3 shuriken attacks as follows (based on a rank 3)
lets assume a measly agility of 4 on our rank 3 Shosuro
for attack that's 10k6 +void...and if you are super cunning and your hiding place doesnt require exertion you'll have been in centre stance previous round.
one at 2k2, plus on average 10 for feint.
two at a 5k2 plus on average the full 15 for feint.

that's again on average 66 damage. If the GM allows the target a void to reduce damage that will still drop an earth 3 target straight to out.. and if you've been dropped to out, and there is a ninja in the shadows who wants you dead, your survival odds are not great.

That cost our shinobi
Great potential Ninjitsu, 5 points
Ninjitsu 7, 30 points
Agility 4, 16 points (but a shinobi with a lower agility is as good as dead)
thats 51 XP, 18 of which must be spent in play.

Killing your target? Priceless.

Now our example has shown you HOW you can be effective...but why bother?

Well if you have ever tried to find a decent place to hide in the dark, and stand upright to shoot a bow with both hands, you'll know that a one handed, easily disposible weapon is a must have. Hankyu do have a better range and damage output, but try firing one from a roofbeam...welcome to TN penalties from your friendly GM.

Also we didn't include blowdarts in our example..because they aren't designed to kill people, they are designed to be innocuous. What it doesn't tell you in the blowdarts section is that Ninja would attach cotton to the feathers of the darts and quickly retrieve their dart, leaving no evidence of the dart *Ahem* except the poison coursing through the targets veins.

As for knives, well unless you are a Cashed up Daidoji Harrier with Koku to burn, do you really want to spend 1 koku of your 5 starting Koku on each crime scene? Or do you intend to try and retrieve every weapon?
Knives are expensive, and have a poorer range that ninjitsu weapons.
Knives are an option, to be sure, but if you have to resort to theft, which may compromise your real missions, its an option a proffessional assassin wouldn't resort to.


  1. I had a ninja/coutier in an IR3 game who wasn't based on the idea of assassination but rather investigation and spying. I was planning to use Tsubute almost entirely for distraction purposes. Carried some around as "gonggi" stones (Korean jacks). Unfortunately, the first time I went investigating anything, I accidentally stumbled into end campaign stuff and ran afoul of two IR4 Kolat ninja where I was expecting some simple opium smugglers.

    On the plus side, my high Etiquette and Courtier rolls convinced them that the Scorpion was watching their plot closely and my character's death started a cascade effect that had all sorts of attention on them starting with three Kolat agents getting caught on the way out of Shiro no Shosuro with my character's file.

    The character herself was married into the Unicorn clan and I'm currently playing her daughter, a Moto Bushi who is yet unaware of what her mother was.

  2. I tend to play more courtier style ninja's than assassination ninja's. Taking time to spy and gather information to hand over to other folks to deal with.

    So I know where you're coming from.