Organizations initially created for the protection of their communities, the Yakuza have evolved into a unique culture fiercely loyal to their traditions. Easily identified by their colorful tattoos, Yakuza brethren are a hard, violent lot given to drink, gambling and lechery. They practice extortion, engage in smuggling, sell powerful narcotics, and regularly force women into prostitution. Yet, despite their numerous faults, they view themselves as folk heroes, warriors fighting for the common man against the dangers of the world.
Way of the Yakuza presents a wealth of information for players and Game Masters alike. This 36 page PDF contains an extensive overview of the Yakuza culture, Yakuza character options (including archetypes, traits, feats, spells, enchanted tattoos and more), and a new method for creating unique Yakuza-gang stat blocks. Additionally, for GMs looking for a quick adventure, there is even a Yakuza-controlled mountain village, complete with map and adventure seeds. Whether you want a Yakuza centric campaign, or just want to add flavor to your setting, this book has something for you.
Author: Jonathan McAnulty Cover Illustration: John Wigley Pages: 34
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed some very minor glitches, but less than 5 on 39 pages is not enough to rate a pdf down. Layout adheres to the beautiful 2-column, full-color bamboo-lined standard RiP has set for Kaidan. The artworks are mostly Japanese stock, although the cover art of the Moso deserves special mention - it's awesome! The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks.
First of all, let me say that I think there are not enough faction books out there and that, at least in my opinion, "Way of the Yakuza" is a great idea. The modularity with which the families and the creation-rules are presented makes it easy, almost required for the DM to create his/her own families. The ideas and takes on the tropes are great and touch upon seedy territory while remaining classy. The sample village and the hooks provided are plain awesome and make for compelling adventuring and the interspread mottos let the reader dive into the Yakuza mindset. However, not all is rosy herein: The archetypes uniformly fall at the wayside of their own potential - The Moso could have easily made for a very compelling base-class (perhaps a fusion of bard/oracle?) and would have alternatively benefitted from some heavier modification. The same holds true for the other 3 archetypes - the rogue/fighter archetypes are different, yes, but not in a truly astonishing or significant way and try as I might, I still consider the tattoo wizard better off as fully developed alternative class.
The excellent ideas are obviously there, after all. The PrC is a great example of the rather concise design author Jonathan McAnulty can deliver. The feats, unfortunately, are uniformly bland and mostly useless for PCs. I said it once and I'll say it again - I consider any feat that just delivers some lame skill-bonuses FILLER and bland and unfortunately, while the background of the feats was nice, their mechanics are just boring. The spells are neat, but I had some balance-concerns with one of the tattoos. Damn, I'm torn about this one. I love the faction book genre and think we should get more. The sample village/Yakuza creation rules are nice and there's a lot of content herein, but several pieces just don't excite me. The gambling aspect of the Yakuza especially is rather bland in this pdf: Why not integrate some luckbringerish style via a archetype/PrC? Magic dice? A Yakuza-dice game to play for strength, charisma, honor and ultimately the souls of the players? Summoners with tattoo-eidolons? Kaidan-wise, there is not too much setting-specific information, making this easily usable just about anywhere, but also robbing it somewhat of a bit of its identity. Seeing that the Yakuza deal in drugs as well, I would have loved to see some new drugs, smuggling techniques etc. Don't get me wrong, this book is by no means bad - it just could have been so much more. Due to the accumulation of the plethora of minor gripes and the fact that many aspects of the book left me feeling that more and cooler stuff could have been done with them, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3.
Sorry the conclusion got cut off. I didn't notice when I posted it.
I've discussed this with Jonathan. Because we are hip deep in the development and wrap up stage for Way of the Samurai - that work comes first, so we'll release the second Kaidan genre book, before we can go back to Yakuza and perhaps tweak this a bit more for more flavor. But we will look at how we can improve this at that time.
The Moso archetype bardic performance abilities are all missing what class of ability they are (Ex, Sp, Su).
My guesses are as follows.
Song of Life (Su)
Soothing Performance (Su)
Also, the page where these abilities are found on the PDF has some weirdness with the carriage returns at the end of lines. You probably want to be consistent as to the number of new lines/spaces after a paragraph for each new bardic performance.
Yakuza traits, Hinin Performer. "You gain a +1 trait bonus to Performance (any one) and Knowledge (geography)" should probably be "You gain a +1 trait bonus to Perform (any one) and Knowledge (geography)".
Yakuza bushi archetype. The section heading lists this archetype as "Yakuza Bushi" while the usage in the text is "Yakuza-Bushi". It would probably be best to be consistent with one usage or the other.
Bakuto archetype. The entry for advanced talents has the following text
"The following rogue talents compliment the bakuto archetype:" it should probably be "The following advanced rogue talents compliment the bakuto archetype:"
It is found in Inkantations. That's an oversight that I'll take full credit for.
MASTER TATTOO ARTIST
Your superior tattoo artistry allows you to create magically enhanced tattoos.
Prerequisite: 5 ranks in Craft (tattoo) skill.
Benefit: You receive a +3 bonus on your Craft (tattoo) skill. Ranks in Craft (tattoo) count as your caster level for enhancing mundane tattoos with magical effects, and determining the potency of those effects – how detailed or crude the animation is, how bright or colorful the illumination is, how smoothly it changes shape, and how long-lasting the tattoo will be.
Normal: Only spellcasters can create magical tattoos.
Great, thanks for providing the feat. I'll add it (so things can be linked) and use the Section 15 for Inkantations.
Also, I noticed that none of the class features listed for the Machi-Yakko prestige class denote whether or not the ability is Ex, Sp, or Su, or none. Some of these are probably none, but I was expecting to see at least an Ex or Su in there.