Wednesday, December 14, 2011

initial thoughts on classes of the Saikaido Campaign

So I'm working on this mythic/faux-historical Japanese campaign.  Today I wanted to talk about classes.

Bujin (fighter) - Well-heeled samurai, wandering ronin, or desperate peasant-turned-bandit, all these fall under the bujin class.

Sohei (cleric) - You're a monk so into Buddha you can drop miracles. PC sohei are probably troublemakers kicked out of respectable monasteries.  The cops and/or monks from a rival temple may be looking for you.

Onmyoji (magic-user) - Ancient Japan actually had a government bureau of magic-users.  Most onmyoji stay in the capital and draw decent paychecks for little work.  PC onmyoji tend to be unlicensed renegades and/or power-hungry maniacs. Female onmyoji operate as a sisterhood outside the legal sanction of the bureaucracy, but since their order was founded by an imperial princess they have a certain romantic cache that makes them less spooky to the common people.

Ninja (specialist/thief) - I got nothing more to say about this class other than "Yes, you can play a ninja."

Wo (dwarf) - Not as beardy as their Occidental cousins, most Wo go for neatly trimmed facial hair, maybe just a moustache or even -gasp- clean shaven. Many have facial tattoos, looking a bit like an actor in a kabuki play. The Wo try to participate in mainstream Japanese culture, but because of their long lifespan and tendency to sleep for Rumple Stiltskin lengths of time, they can't keep up.  Like if in a modern setting game you had a short dude in your party that dressed and talked like William Shakespeare. The Wo aren't quite over the fact that suddenly (in their terms) some emperor living on another island is in charge around here and tend to be skeptical of imperial officials.

Korrobukura (halfling) - These hairy little people live in holes in the ground and generally try to stay out of everyone's way.  Their numbers are dwindling in the south (where the campaign is set).

Spirit Folk (elf) - Mostly human in appearance, every spirit folk has some sort of 'tell' that distinguishes them: odd colored hair, a tail, animal ears, impossibly long elf ears, a third eye that opens when casting spells, a long lizard tongue, etc.  The clans of the spirit folk claim descent from old imperial lineages on one hand and various kami (spirits) on the other, making most of them hella arrogant.  Since I envision spirits in this campaign as tending to be inhuman and weird, the Spirit Folk are kind of like what if happy shiny half-elves really had the Innsmouth Taint.


  1. No Catfish Demon? Or does that fall under Spirit Folk?

  2. "Is a catfish" seems like a pretty good tell to me.

  3. Not sure if you've looking for ghostly inspiration for your campaign, but if so I'd recommend Hearn's Kwaidan. It's a great read regardless.

    Also, the current GURPS Horror book has a bit about J-horror you might want to browse.

  4. nice take on the dwarves and magic users. it'll be interesting to see how much of that makes it to the table in the day-to-day of a game session.

    maybe mechanics to back it up? or maybe not.

    the thief/nija is knd of funny because the cops grab you and are all "oh, look at mr. ninja here" and poor Musashi is just like "I'm not a ninja, I just wanted some rice and didn't want to pay for it." "Whatever pal, move it along"

  5. How come the poor halfling gets little love? I like the dwarf flavour.

  6. Interesting that you chose Buddhism over Shinto. Shinto seems so much more amenable to gaming purposes with crazy beasties and all sorts of spirit manipulation.

  7. Ninja. Scroll. 'nuff said.

  8. Onmyo was sort of a mix of Shinto and Taoism, so it looks to me like Shinto falls under the Magic-User in this setup.

    Cool way to rework the BX/BECM classes to OA, Jeff. I'd love to play in this campaign.

  9. The historical sohei were pretty much ruffians who hired on to Buddhist monasteries to help protect them from bandits and such, so that seems like an appropriate way to handle them to me.

  10. Eodrid5:21 PM

    Very nice. One of my favorite world-building exercises is "how can I adapt as many classes as possible to the setting."

  11. I am revving up a asian themed post apocalyptic Labyrinth Lord myself.

    My take on the dwarves was that they are terracotta warriors come to life after being buried for millenia. And they are kinda pissed things aren't how they were when they left them.

    They would both share that "I know heaps of stuff but all from 3 dynasty's back" vibe.

  12. stranger7:59 PM

    Great stuff, I especially like the races.

    I have to say I never much understood the rationale behind renaming classes in Japanese/Asian games. If a "bujin" is a fighter, then why not just say "fighter"? I guess you might say it adds flavor, but I think it just creates an unnecessary linguistic hurdle for the players. Especially if they are generally into Eurocentric games, and are just humoring you by playing in a Japanese game, as has been my personal experience with such things.

    I once did something similar, but I had "Priest" instead of cleric/sohei. The player then could choose Buddhism or Shinto, with respective spell lists. Sohei were fighters who had taken Buddhist vows (and therefore "Fighters"). Magic-users were usually foreign (or foreign-educated) Taoist sorcerers.

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  14. I like this reversal of the usual cleric/mu dynamic, regarding respectability. Are spirit folk hated and/or feared by the general public? If you stay in an inn, will people be forever bringing you weird offerings of flowers and rice and burned leaves?

  15. I have to say I never much understood the rationale behind renaming classes in Japanese/Asian games. If a "bujin" is a fighter, then why not just say "fighter"?

    I don't plan on insisting on either set of terms. Since the classes map exactly with Occidental counterparts, people can choose which term better suits them.

    Are spirit folk hated and/or feared by the general public? If you stay in an inn, will people be forever bringing you weird offerings of flowers and rice and burned leaves?

    Yeah, stuff like that could definitely happen. Or the local shinto priest could be called in to exorcise the PC from the village.

  16. This setting is definitely an interesting twist on the usual Bushido-era stuff that most people associate with Japan. Since I don't know anything about Japanese history, I'm picturing everything being like Princess Mononoke.

    In that vein, it might be cool to have halflings as forest people. They're experts in archery and guerilla warfare. War leaders ride bareback on deer. Tall folk who stray into their forests disappear, and invading armies always find their villages recently abandoned.

    Most only associate with tall folk out of great necessity, like lifting a dire curse or defeating a demon. They delight in acting aloof to "ridiculous" human customs, especially the concept of private property. Halflings can survive in human lands by showing that they "have their uses", and by being two steps steps ahead of angry mobs.