|The Nine Cuts of the kuji-kiri. Used for reference only.|
Seems I broke a small promise to you and went a bit off course from my Reloading Killshot series. With so many things on the go, I guess it's bound to happen, but let's not think of it that way. Let's think of it as appropriate to the topic - ninjas. One minute, your mind is thinking about them and how they might come in through the window to kill you in your sleep until eventually you begin to wonder about other problems... and then BAM!! they slip out of the shadows and dig a knife into your back.
Last time, I wrote about ninja magic in the upcoming theme, Way of the Killshot. As historical accuracy has already been tossed out the driver's seat, playing up on the mystique and terror of these ancient assassins is now par for the course. The trick is devising a magic add-on that not only plays along with the ninja's other assets without overpowering them (i.e. other focuses), but also extends the mechanics without breaking them and enhances the aura of these characters without snapping players out of their expectations.
As the idea of "magical ninja" is intended as a variant for players and Directors to play around with rather than a regular feature, I've created a first draft ninja focus called the Shinobi. These ninja specialize in the mystical art of kuji-kiri, itself based on the actual practise of hand symbols as part of meditation in various Japanese martial arts (including ninjitsu). Each symbol (or cut) represents an aspect of human consciousness and was taught to real world students as part of their path to enlightenment and training. All nine cuts are featured on the diagram to the right.
The Shinobi have taken this a step further and use the Nine Cuts as symbols of invocation to enhance their natural abilities. When a Shinobi has mastered the ritual, they must master each cut individually in a step-by-step process until they have attained all nine and become a Shinobi Master. Details of how this ritual will come into play are still being worked out as I'm not sure if I want to have the Shinobi use an automatic option to enact this ritual or allow it to take place outside of a scene. Either way, a Shinobi learns to harness the power of each cut as a type of magical level using the Invoke option to build up a pool with particular cuts and abilities costing a certain number of Invoke points.
Once a cut is mastered, the ninja can invoke a loosely defined magical ability related to that symbol's purpose. These abilities are not written in stone and allow players opportunity to embellish and adapt their magic as needed. For example, Kyo is the second cut of the kuji-kiri and represents energy. The Shinobi can summon one of the four elements with this cut (fire, water, air, and earth) in any manner they wish so long as it is used to augment an existing roll, such as coating their sword in flames or creating a gust of air to enhance their leap off a cliff.
At this time, the Shinobi is yet to be tested at the table and so all of this is merely theoretical mechanics. I'm still struggling with how the Invoke option will work at keeping the Shinobi balanced amongst other ninja, but the powers gained from each cut have been chosen and provided in detail below. The remainder of this post is a copy from the first draft text of Way of the Killshot's Shinobi focus - what do you think? Too much? Too little? Too weird?
Rin (Power): Whenever you spend an Invoke point, you gain a bonus hit to any dice roll of your choice.
Kyo (Energy): One of the four natural elements – Fire, Air, Earth, or Water – responds to your bidding. You must spend 1 Invoke point to access this Symbol. With an Active option, you can attempt to summon and control a single element of your choice by making an active Mind roll vs. Impressive difficulty and follow it through as bonus hits on a corresponding roll, including attack rolls. For example, if your chosen element is Air, you can attempt to use your element to make an impossible leap over a stone wall. If you succeed on your active Mind roll with 2 hits, those hits can pass into your following active Body roll to make the jump.
When you gain another Mind or Shinobi focus dice, you can choose an additional element or learn the next Symbol.
Toh (Harmony): You can summon an animal to complete your bidding. This Symbol costs 1 Invoke point. After making an opposed Mind roll with an Active option against an animal you are adjacent to, you can add that animal to your Team as a thug and play out its actions on your turn. When the animal dies or at the end of the series, your control is removed. You can spend an additional Invoke point to keep a living animal under your control.
For an additional 2 Invoke points, you can attempt this Symbol against an intelligent person (only a thug). It costs 2 Invoke points at the end of every series to keep a living thug under your command.
Sha (Healing): For every Invoke point spent, you can recover 1 point of lethal damage or 2 points of normal damage. This Symbol can also be used on adjacent characters, but requires twice as many Invoke points and you must be able to touch the character using a Quick option.
Kai (Intution): Your mastery of this Symbol allows you access to unseen details and dangers. When you fail an opposed or defense roll, you can spend a number of Invoke points equal to the number of hits rolled against you and translate your failure into a success of no more than 0 hits.
Jin (Awareness): You can become invisible for the remainder of the series after spending 3 Invoke points. Your physical body cannot be seen by mortal eyes and you gain the major Concealment modifier to all opposed and defense rolls.
Retsu (Dimension): Behold the power of shapeshifting. After spending 3 Invoke points, you can make an active Mind roll vs. Legendary difficulty to transform your physical body and appear as an identical match to an existing person, even down to their voice. You can also spend 2 Invoke points without any active roll to make minor alterations to the your physical appearance as a disguise.
Zai (Creation): (Oops, busted. This one's stumped me thus far and I haven't been able to come up with anything plausible as of today's post.)
Zen (Absolute): The Final Symbol provides you with immortality. No weapon can claim you and age will never touch you again. You have ascended beyond the realm of man and rise up to venture into the next life, occasionally returning to lead mortals in time of great trouble.