Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dungeons & Ninjas, part 2

In part one of this article I outlined why I was working on this new game project. Now let me tell you a little bit about the game itself. Dungeons & Ninjas is a ninja-themed hack of D&D designed for an experienced DM and young players (ages 5 and up). At first I toyed with the idea of modding Microlite20, an excellent super-light game that boils the SRD down to its essential salts. After some initial work, that fell flat. So I've changed over to working with the game nearest and dearest to my heart, the '81 version of Basic/Expert D&D.

I don't have anything resembling a working draft yet, but I see the Top Secret Dungeons & Ninjas Player's Manual (the Top Secret part is really in the title) as breaking down into 3 major parts. Part 1, "Congratulation! A Ninja is YOU!" is a reworking of Basic D&D character generation. The biggest change will be in the classes. There will be four: Ninja Warrior, Ninja Wizard, Shadow Ninja, and Mystic Ninja. These classes will correspond closely to the traditional Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, and Cleric, except that they all wear pajamas and masks. Armor will be renamed Heavy, Medium, and Light armor, since basic D&D only uses three types and I don't care what the armor is made of or looks like. The weapons chart will probably see an addition or two. Shurikens and nunchucks at least. The equipment section will also contain a note that sometimes higher-level ninjas will be assigned additional equipment such as laser pistols, motorcycles, or giant robots.

Part 2 , "A Ninja Without Honor Is Not A Ninja", effectively replaces the D&D alignment system. Instead PCs will track two scores, Honor and Dishonor. When a PC completes a mission, saves lives, or otherwise acts heroically, they will gain a point of Honor. Ninjas who lie, cheat, steal, or otherwise act like delinquents gain Dishonor. A Ninja whose Dishonor is greater than their Honor is Shamed. Shamed Ninjas will get some sort of mechanical penalties and risk being drummed out of the Ninja League (or whatever, I'm still working on terminology). Being expelled from the ranks of the good ninjas has the same effect as losing all your San in Call of Cthulhu: the player can no longer play that NPC. This scheme may sound heavy-handed, but experience both running games for younger players and interacting with my nephew tells me I need to go this route.

Part 3 is called "Your Ninja World" but is not just another stupid rpg setting chapter. Instead it is a primer on making your own ninja-tastic adventure setting. The idea is for the whole group to work together but you can make your own ninja worlds, too. Here's how it works: Take the biggest piece of paper you can find and draw the biggest circle you can on it. Now cut it out. This is the map of your group's ninja world. Put a dot in the center of the map. That's Ninja Headquarters. Someone in the group names that dot. Maybe they call it Ninja City or the Last Dojo or Uncle Sam's Hamburger Palace. Whatever is selected, that is the party's home base.

Based upon the name of your Ninja HQ, the DM develops the Ninja Mentor. This is the wise old sensei that teaches the ninjas or the Gandalf figure or one of the similar characters from the various Power Ranger shows. The Ninja Mentor is there for the DM to give exposition, warn PCs against behaving Dishonorably, and assign missions to the Ninjas. After these preliminaries are done you go around the table. Each person at the table (DM included) adds something to the map. Maybe they draw a little tree and label it "Spooky Forest". Or maybe they just put down a dot and a name. It doesn't matter. The DM will flesh out the details as needed. After two or three goes around the table your map should be chock full of possible adventure locations to serve as grist for the DM's adventure mill.

And that's about everything I have right now.


  1. For Part 2 - you might want to crib from Karma in FASERIP and make Honor a spendable resource and/or function as experience.

  2. Sounds like TMNT without the M and the last T.

    Dishonored ninjas make for good bad guys. Especially one who had your ninja mentor, so he knows your ninja hq, and in your first run in with him, you are so not his equal, but at the end of the series of episodes, you have all your mentor's tricks, and he does not. :)

  3. I find this concept utterly charming, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. (Reposted sans typo.)

    You continue to be one of the best uncles ever.

    Does your nephew watch Naruto? Do you? We've been churning through episodes lately, and while it's actually more gruesome than I'd really want to show little kids (despite being a kids show), the whole idea of "ninja school" is pretty cool, and it has lots of fun ideas for bad ninja opponents.

    One of the good "running a game for kids" aspects of Naruto is a strong, strong emphasis on teamwork. The ninja trainees work in groups of three, and pass or fail as a group.

  6. I've tried watching Naruto, but the slow pacing kills me.

  7. Yeah, it would. We "watch" it while doing something else at the same time. I can't imagine sitting and taking it straight up.