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RPG Superstar 2015

Way of the Samurai (PFRPG) PDF

***** (based on 2 ratings)

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Now the enemy is arrayed against us. Now the day is at hand when we shall risk everything for our lord and master! For this, we have prepared all the days of our miserable lives. Now you shall learn what it means to be samurai! Fate is in the hands of the gods, our armor is on our breast, success is in our legs! Let us go forward without fear and may our swords find a bloody sheath before we die." —Taira Motomori to his troops at the Battle of the Six Bridges

Rite Publishing Presents: A faction guide for Kaidan and supplement for the samurai style characters designed for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game by Jonathan McAnulty (Curse of the Golden Spear Trilogy, Kobold Quarterly).

This product contains information on:

  • Samurai: You will find detailed information on samurai in the Kaidan campaign setting of feudal Japanese horror. Along with the nature of samurai clans you could belong to, how you deal with matters of honor and seppuku, your religious beliefs and alignment, and finally your role as a samurai adventurer.
  • Honor: Detailing its inherent impact on the Kaidan setting and as a mechanic providing a useful scale to measure your samurai's standing in the eyes of your peers.
  • Traits (9): Add depth to your samurai's background from a Legacy of Steel lending you an ancestral blade, or Practiced Calligraphy bringing your pen and sword in accord.
  • Gunslinger archetype: Become a teppou bushi and embrace the future of warfare, learning to use gunpowder and lead alongside your steel blades.
  • Paladin archetype: Choose the way of the yamabushi divine warrior-monk who draws power from the positive aspects of Yomi (the realm of the dead) and the kami.
  • Ranger archetype: Become a yojimbo, the face of the noble lord throughout the lord's province, traveling about
  • Samurai archetypes (4): Choose the way of the kuge and be born into a life of wealth, privilege, culture, art, and scholarly pursuits. Choose to disdain other pursuits, and become a nitōjutsu sensei, spending your life perfecting the art of fighting with katana and wakazashi. Choose to champions the natural world, and become a tajiya samurai dedicating your life lives to ridding the world of unnatural creatures. Alternatively, choose the way of the yabusame for while most people equate the samurai with the katana, you know that the true weapon of the samurai is the yumi, or bow.
  • Samurai Orders (3): Join the Order of the Shogun and swear you loyalty to him, serving to maintain order and fight those traitors who disturb the peace of the nation. Join the Order of Tajiya and learn the techniques useful against a variety of supernatural foes. Alternatively, join the Order of the Undying Emperor and serve in the Imperial court, so you can become a master of etiquette and diplomacy.
  • Wizard Archetypes: Choose the way of the onmyoji, the legal practitioners of the arcane arts, and become noted for your use of folded paper spell components (origami) and your relationship to the shikigami oni.
  • Prestige Classes (2): Become a bugyo, and gain a great deal of official authority in service to a daimyo. Alternatively, become a mosa, the elite bodyguard of the nobility, stubbornly refusing to back down, standing resolute, even in the face of overwhelming odds.
  • Samurai Feats (7): Now let every aspect of your character reflect the outlook of your samurai character weather you are Driven By Honor that continually inspires you to try harder or use Skillful Follow up, to allow your secondary attacks a greater chance of success.
  • Creating a Samurai Clan: Guidelines and rules for creating customized factions of samurai reflecting the philosophies of its daimyo, the goals of its clan head, the size of the clan, its source of income, and its influence at court.
  • Kawashi, samurai town: Also within you will find a fully detailed modular location, accompanied by the stellar cartography of Kaidan's creator Michael K. Tumey

Author: Jonathan McAnulty
Cover Illustration by John Wigley
Cartography by Michael K. Tumey
Pages: 48

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Product Reviews (2)

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***** (based on 2 ratings)

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Some live, some die in the way of the samurai

*****

This pdf is 52 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 46 pages of content for this faction guide, so let's check it out!

The samurai-class by Paizo has not gotten any love by 3pps so far - this pdf tries to remedy that. Kaidan, the Japanese-horror-setting by Rite Publishing serves as a backdrop, but the crunch in here and its fluff is generic enough to make the pdf usable for just about any Asian-themed setting. In the tradition of the books by RiP, the pdf kicks off with an aptly-written in-character prose that details the samurai and REALLY helps Western minds wrap their head around the concepts of Bushido and a Samurai's codex and mindset - a section Ultimate Combat had heretofore painfully neglected. If you want to play a samurai, this section can essentially be considered a must-read. Clichés on when Seppuku is appropriate, the virtues etc. are addressed, explained and made clear - commendable!

And then there's honor - quintessential for a Samurai, this pdf provides an easily inserted into a running game, simple mechanic for tracking the honor of individual characters - in upcoming releases e.g. legendary weapons will be influenced by this and general social repercussions for honor-scores and the interaction with people are covered.

After that, we delve into the crunch of the book - 9 new, balanced samurai traits are provided and then there are introduced to the new archetypes:

The Tanegashima is a musket-using gunslinger that gains two new deeds and can deliver devastating volleys at higher levels, but is regarded with suspicion in the conservative culture. Paladins may now opt to become Yamabushi - divine, ascetic foes of the undead that can bond with Yomi or Kami to either improve his weapon or call an outsider ally to his help. The swift Yojinbo (Ranger archetype) becomes a quite hardy foe that replaces hunter's bond with the ability to bond with a weapon or mount and selects enemy clans instead of favored enemy, the solitary warriors make for a neat, complex archetype that also features a new combat style. The next archetypes are all for the samurai-class - the Kuge can be considered an aristocratic samurai that excels not only in the field of battle, but also at court and gains improved leadership capabilities. The Nitōjutsu Sensei is no doubt influenced by the legendary Miyamoto Musashi and lets a samurai fight with two swords, but be frowned upon by society and thus lose his/her order for the art of the blade. The Tajiya are devoted to ridding the world of the supernatural blights that plague it, while the Yabusame can issue far challenges and make it possible to play an archery-focused samurai-class.

That's not where the pdf stops, though: We also get new samurai orders: The order of the Shogun gains challenges that help allies, a steady mind and even negate one critical hit per day. The order of the Tajiya, much like the archetype, focuses on purging the unclean from the land while the Order of the undying emperor features dark masters of courtly intrigue. It should be noted that the orders all come with their edicts.

The most complex of the archetypes can almost considered to be an alternate class of its own - The Onmyoji wizard uses origmais that go up in flames when the spells on them are cast and also get shikigami familiars that come with full coverage - they essentially are oni-like goblins. I really liked the evocative and iconic flair of this archetype in particular, though I would have loved to see an alternate version with rules-synergy with Sutra Magic from the HotJO-setting.

There are also two PrCs: The Bugyo (10 levels, d10, 4+Int skills, full BAB, medium will-save) is a samurai with significant official authority, massive social graces and competence with tactical finesse, making this a valid choice to depict a sophisticated authority figure. The Mosa (10 levels, d10, 2+Int skills per level, full BAB, medium fort-save)on the other hand is essentially a martial tank with stalwart defense and gaining progressively better DR who also gets limited access to challenges and samurai-style abilities without being necessarily of the class.

6 new feats are also part of the deal, including improved riding skills while armored, advantages gained by honor and one that grants you a +2 bonus on iterative attacks, making the lower level attacks of fighting classes slightly less useless.

The next section is a godsend for DMs - essentially a toolkit on how to design your own samurai-clan - crests (sample images provided), naming conventions, stats (similar to how community statblocks work), a solid selection of qualities for the clans and daimyos as well as several sample clans are provided.

The village of Kawashi (with a gorgeous full-color map) is given as an example town to house the sample Taketsune-clan and comes not only with sample statblocks and a gazetteer-like section for the community, but also for the clan, 6 sample NPCs and hooks to spawn adventures and intrigue from the get-go. This section also contains 2 sample magical items - a katana and a kabuto helmet with a rather sinister twist.

The pdf closes with stats for the Shikigami as a creature and as a familiar and a glossary of terms.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, though I noticed some very minor glitches here and there - minor changes in font-size and the like - nothing impeding my enjoyment of the pdf. Layout adheres to the bamboo-covered two-column standard and comes with fitting full-color illustrations in the traditional Japanese style. The cartography of the sample village is awesome, though I would have loved a key-less, player-friendly version. The pdf comes with no printer-friendly b/w-version, but printing it in grey-scale does not take a big toll on ink/toner. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks.

After "Way of the Yakuza", a good, though not absolutely stellar book, I was rather skeptical on this one. Was my skepticism well founded? I'll come out and say it: Jonathan McAnulty, Will Cardell and Michael K. Tumey have created THE definite sourcebook for the samurai, not only in the Kaidan-setting, but for EVERY Asian-themed setting for PFRPG. This book takes an up to now neglected class and gives it the polish, love and options it needs - mechanically sound, well-written, concise and flavorful in design and suitable for both low- and high fantasy, this pdf is a must-buy for anyone even remotely intrigued by samurais - especially due to the excellent bang-for-buck-ratio: 46 pages for 5 bucks make this not only a great pdf, but a steal as well. Final verdict? 5 stars, Endzeitgeist seal of approval. Check this out!

Endzeitgeist out.


*****

Weighing in at 52 pages, the latest oriental themed book from Rite publishing brings us an extremely detailed look into the Samurai, and all that it means to incorporate them as a class into your campaign world, both as a GM and as a player. Of those 52 pages 8 are eaten by the usual suspects (cover, OGL, ads and and appendix (for unfamiliar terms ), leaving us with 44 pages to cover the new material. Formatting follows the dual column approach, with embedded full color artwork throughout the book, and more than a few rather large pieces of said artwork. Each page is treated with a bamboo style framework, further invoking the feel of an old world fantasy oriental setting. Editing appears to be excellent, with nothing standing out or catching my eye in the ways of missteps or errors.

Paizo has already introduced the Samurai as a playable class, so what exactly are we getting here in this book? Simple, we are getting the history and culture that bred the samurai. We're being introduced to a cultural caste that goes much deeper than a mere class choice for a character. We are getting the reasons behind why one would want to play a samurai in the first place. A look into the reasoning behind where the teachings came from that originated the concepts behind a samurai's unwavering loyalty to his master, and the bizarre levels of respect they are willing to pay their enemies. What role a samurai plays in their lands and communities when there are no enemies to fight, no wars to be won...all of this and more is what this book attempts to uncover and reveal first by giving us a first hand telling of these histories and traditions from servant to master, and then by filling page after page with mega crunch. For those liking their books rules heavy and crunchy, and not to big on fluff, I personally recommend you flip straight to page 11, and start there. Not that fluff is a bad thing, but the method of delivery here is a lot of fluff, for what feels like a very long time, before you finally see anything resembling game mechanics....luckily, it is a pretty clean cut line, so those not wanting as much fluff can simply flip past it to get to the crunch....and let us discuss the crunch, shall we?

But, before we dive into the crunch, there is one thing I think is important to clear up in regards to this book. It clearly states, and I thought this odd until I really let it process, that unless specifically mentioning an archetype linked back to the Paizo player class of samurai, no other mention of samurai within this book is actually referring to the player class, but rather the social caste made up of poets, accountants, tax men, lords, monks and paladins...yes, paladins...they go by a different title, but they are what they are. As I said, this book seeks to introduce the entire concept of samurai, not merely what cinema has convinced us was reality.

The Samurai operate with an Honor mechanic, allowing for one to both earn and lose Honor points, and utilize them within roleplay as a gauge for how to treat other characters of honor, as well as how to expect to be treated. The rules for implementing the concept are fairly straight forward, and extremely easy to use. Characters outside of a clan or family should only find themselves in possession of honor points if their GM has allowed it, and even then there should be a solid reason within the character's story to explain it, as the entire concept of the honor system lies within the core of the samurai values.

For those utilizing traits within their game setting, 9 new samurai traits are presented, with such offerings as Practiced Calligrapher (gain a bonus to Craft(calligraphy) and Linguistics), Legacy of Death (having come from a long line of samurai who have given their lives in battle, you seek to do them honor and rush headlong into danger, grants a bonus to initiative), or Honorable Soul, which allows for a higher calculation of figuring our your honor points.

Teppou Bushi is our first archetype, and it is an archetype for the gunslinger. The gunslinger you say? Yes, in a samurai book, remember, this book approaches the samurai as an entire buke caste, not just a solitary class. The teppou bushi suffer a penalty to their honor to demonstrate the suspicions that come from fellow samurai who look at them as nontraditional and unworthy, forcing them to work harder to earn their place and the recognition they seek.
The paladin finds itself represented within the Yamabushi archetype, the divine warrior monks. Serving within the setting of the game mechanics primarily as spiritual leaders and counsel to the heads of clans and family organizations these warrior monks occasionally leave their mountain retreats to travel the world battling evils and righting wrongs.
The ranger shows through in the archetype Yojimbo. Yojimbo function equally as well alone traveling as a solitary warrior policing their lands, or within a structured unit of fellow warriors, and are looked upon as some of the hardiest of all samurai. Taking an enemy clan instead of a favored enemy, and replacing hunter's bond with warrior's bond (choosing either weapon or mount) are but a few of the differences from the base class for this archetype. This also marks the first major editing oddity, as the text halfway down the first column drops down a few points in size, goes back to standard at the top of the second column, then drops down again. I can only assume it is intended to do, but it looks very odd visually.
Our last four archetypes are all for the Samurai base class, the Kuge – those born into wealth and power, the Tajiya – a true master of the two blade style, the Tajiya – those dedicated to ending the scourge of supernatural foes plaguing the world, and the Yabusame – the true traditionalist, the bowman.

From the archetype we go to three new orders of samurai, the Shogun, the Tajiya and the Undying Emperor. Each order giving its own list of perks for aligning oneself alongside.

The Wizard archetype Onmyoji was by far the most interesting thing in the entire book for me, as it is a variation upon the classic wizard that I have never encountered before. Studying much as their western counterparts do to get their spells after sleeping, the Onmyoji fold their spells in origami, that is then consumed in flames by the casting of the spell contained within the paper structure...feeling more true to older edition concepts in regards to scroll casting, but allowing this particular wizard to maintain these spells day in and day out, the idea rather appealed to me. Visually it is a very cool concept, but I can not help but wonder, when it comes to an adventuring version, where do they keep all that paper they would have to keep on hand once they get a decent level, lol. Replacing arcane bond with Shikigami Bond, this archetype also gets a rather cool familiar, in the form of an oni known as a shikigami (think Asian goblins).

Following this we have two new prestige classes, the Bugyo (a government official with a rather large amount of authority), and the Mosa (a samurai known for refusing to back down, despite the odds, and carrying the capacity to win the day through sheer determination and tenacity).

Six new feats, including Armored Horseman (reduces armor check penalty by your Str bonus when riding), Honor's Tongue (allowing a bonus of twice your Honor Point total to your Cha based skill checks), and Improved Far Shot (increasing a ranged weapons distance limits by 50%).

From there we get into the rules pertaining to the creation of a samurai clan, and all the intricacies involved in that...the naming, the crests, the statblock (similar in nature to a communities statblock). Presented following this section is a fully realized example clan, with map and NPC's, to better demonstrate how to utilize the rules for clan building. It is within the NPC listing that we find a new cursed magical item, the Gaki Helm, a kabuto helmet that will allow control of ghouls, but will also allow the evil spirit living within the helm to corrupt and control a wearer.

The Appendices wrap it all up with a full statblock write up for the Shikigami, as well as a statblock for one as a familiar in the first, the second being a list of terms and their definitions, for those unfamiliar with a great deal of the terms used throughout this work.

Final thoughts...for those playing within the Kaiden setting, or any Oriental high or low fantasy setting, this book is a must. It adds so many levels of depth to the idea that is samurai that it in itself becomes a solid sourcebook, with many potential avenues for adventure hooks and ideas. For those not looking to add the oriental myths or classes to their gaming worlds however, there is very little here for them, but any book entitled Way of the Samurai should have that expected of it, and if you are still reading this I doubt that is an issue. Other than the smaller font size a few times (which I think was intentional, just odd looking) I can think of nothing to really complain about regarding this book, and encourage GM's and players alike to add it to their collection. A solid 5 stars, well earned and deserved.


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