Way of the Yakuza (PFRPG) PDF

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Journey with us on the Way of the Yakuza!

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

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Way of the Yakuza weighs in at 39 pages with front and back covers, credits, OGL, TOC, 1 Ad and a 1 page glossary. That leaves us 32 pages for material focusing on the yakuza and artwork. PDF is fully bookmarked, always a plus, and formatting follows the dual column with embedded artwork that is essentially the standard. Michael K. Tumey did an excellent job on transporting us through the feel of the art to the lands of the feudal orient, with one major hiccup. The illustration on page 19 is a classic example of how one bad drawing can bring down the whole body of work, which is a shame, given the level of quality of the cover image (which we are given as a full page splash just ready for printing).
The Table of Contents threw me right of the bat, as it appears to actually be from another product, an adventure perhaps?

Jumping right into a history of the yakuza as an organization, we are treated to a back story explaining why the yakuza exists, how they came to find themselves in the businesses they now are, and why the structures for each family (the proper term for a yakuza gang) are the way they are. All of this information is presented with a bias to the yakuza point of view, as it is written as a conversation between an old man and a young man looking for knowledge upon the path of yakuza. An interesting method of presenting the material, but it does create that bias. Scattered throughout the PDF are what I shall refer to as “The Rules”, small one or two sentence rules of life within the yakuza contained within a salmon (?) colored box. Here we are introduced to the three most common personality types that would be associated with the yakuza, but still adventure:
The Sekkou – Trusted delivery men, scouts and investigators for their oyabun (gang leader).
The Rakugosha – An outcast, living in hiding and on the run.
The Furosha – Mercenaries with no true loyalty to any one oyabun.

We are given 9 new Yakuza traits to choose from covering things such as Bakuto Child (grew up around a bakuto parlor), and Lucky Tattoo (extra dice roll), as well as Shrine Helper (spent time when younger in the company of a shrine's priest), to name a few. Each of the traits goes well with the theme of a yakuza character as far as helping to establish an anchored history in this world. From there we go into Archetypes that will take the more familiar classes and give them a feel more appropriate for a campaign centered around the yakuza, they are as follows:
Bard – Moso: A traveling blind bard (featured in full color on the cover).
Fighter – Yakuza Bushi: Private guards and front-line warriors.
Rogue – Bakuto: Essentially the orients answer to the gambler.
Rogue – Kyodai: Thugs and strong arm thieves as opposed to the more subtle skilled rogue.
Wizard – Horimyo: Tattoo artists who craft their spells into ink, literally. Prepared spells for the day appear on the Horimyo's skin as tattoos until cast, at which point they fade. They may carry their familiar on them as a tattoo; summoning it when needed. All in all, a very cool concept and excellent archetype.

A new prestige class in the form of the Machi-Yakko, intended for a rogue or bard, but can be taken by any class that meets the requirements. The machi-yakko is a title of respect given high ranking or prominent members of the yakuza, typically oyabun. We are given a progression chart for ten levels for this prestige class. One of the cooler features of this prestige class would be the level dependent tattoos, and the powers granted by them.

Next up is the section dealing with new feats, of which there are 8. Feats like Craft Spell Tattoo and Incorrigible Gambler (+'s to sense motive, bluff and profession gambler), City Tough (bonus to intimidate checks), and Country Hooligan (+'s to survival and fortitude), or Craft Wondrous Tattoo and Short Blade Warrior (+'s to initiative and damage), Smuggler (+'s to bluff and perception) and Dice Whisperer (+ to perception, and always know how the dice land).
A small section covering some new equipment items give us things like loaded dice, cane swords, a straw backpack and Tattoos, along with the kits required to give one. This segues very nicely into the spell section which opens with spells for the Horimyo caster. Each of the four new spells are tattoo related in one form or another with effects varying from turning tattoo ink into acid, stealing a dead man's enchanted tattoo and placing it upon a living target, tattoo removal, and a growing pain inducing tattoo that eventually will kill its target.

The next section introduces us to Enchanted Yakuza Tattoos. Used to mimic wondrous items one would usually wear, the tattoo takes up the appropriate slot depending upon its location. Several examples of enchanted tattoos are presented including Mistwalker – once per day the user can assume gaseous form, Fiery Dragon – breath weapon a certain amount of times per day, and Oni – resistance to fire and can increase strength a certain amount of times per day for a set amount of time.

Part 3: Creating a Yakuza Gang. You don't realize how much is involved in fully fleshing out a criminal organization for a fantasy role-playing game until you sit and read a chapter like this one. 7 pages detailing everything one needs from naming a gang to income levels, qualities and honor of the members, enterprises and smuggling limits. Easily the best written chapter of the book, and extremely useful outside of the setting this book is designed for.

Between Parts 3 and 4 of this book we find the one and only piece of cartography, Zawaizumi, a mountain village. The map is full color, and adequate, but far inferior to the level of art presented throughout this book. I would of loved to have seen a better representation of cartography done for this piece.

Part 4, the final section of the book, presents us with the mountain village of Zawaizumi, a small village in the grip of a “retired” yakuza oyabun. The village is fleshed out with location details and several adventure hooks, as well as stats for several members of the occupying gang. A well presented locale, any GM should be able to easily mine this section for adventure material with little to no work.

Final thoughts. I am a big fan of tattoos being explored in fantasy gaming, especially when they are merged with magics. So the fact that there was an underlying current of tattoos prevalent in several different areas of this book was not lost on me. However, a great deal of this book is pigeon holed into a very rigid setting for game play, and would not be as useful for those not looking to have anything to do with an Oriental feel in their campaign. Of course, if one does not wish for an Oriental feel in their games, perhaps one should not buy a book that is so obviously themed as this one is. Art wise, there are several pieces here that are awe inspiring, the cover piece being the greatest of them, and there are a few missteps that can not be overlooked. So, taking into account the good, bad and the middle of the road, I'm going to give this one a 4 star rating.

3.5 star review, some good, some bad, a little great.


Way of the Yakuza by Rite Publishing

This product is 39 pages long. It starts with a cover, ToC, and credits. (3 pages)

Introducing the Yakuza (4 ½ pages)
This section talks about the Yakuza, how they live, a bit of history, their structure as a family. It is a nice look into the Yakuza and into what makes them they way they are.

Yakuza Characters (12 ½ pages)
We start with 9 traits for the Yakuza which where all pretty well done and interesting. Next we get into new class archetypes and PrC.
Moso – Bard Archetype, a blind performer that focuses on damaging undead and banishing outsiders. It is solid option for a archetype.
Yakuza Bushi – Fighter Archetype, few more skills, gives up weapon, armor training and bravery. Gains initiative bonus and some movement abilities. Neat idea but I was pretty meh about it.
Bakuto – Rogue Archetype, gives up trap abilities for bonuses while gambling, solid idea for a NPC, but I thought a bit bland for a PC.
Kyodai – Rogue Archetype, bonus to intimidation, and bonus in combat when fighting with others. Solid NPC idea but kinda meh for a PC.
Horimyo – Wizard Archetype, A tattoo wizard specialist. That works well with the 4WFG tattoo book. Can use the tattoo to get temp pets, turn others tats against them and lash out be giving up spell slots. By far the best archetype in the book. The idea is so cool, really I wish it had been it's own class instead.

PrC, Machi-Yakko – D8 hp, medium BaB, 8 skills, 2 good saves, small but good selection of weapons, light armor. Gains some social abilities, Sneak attack 3d, runs a gang, but the real shinny part is tattoo's that add bonuses to the class. All and all a interesting PrC for a rogue.

Next we come to the feats. There is 8 new feats, the two new tat craft feats are good, I also liked the Short Blade Warrior feat. The rest where pretty meh. Next we get a few new equipment items where are pretty cool. There is 4 new spells that deal with tattoo's all and all fairly interesting spells. Finally we get 8 new wondrous items that are tattoo's, all and all I really liked the tat's, one seemed a bit strong but the rest I enjoyed.

Creating a Yakuza Gang (8 pages)
It has some example gang names but most of this section is about how to create and run a Yakuza gang. This I think is the best section of the book. It has it all broken down to give them a gang set of stats similar to what cities and such have in Pathfinder already. It is really well done. I would love to see the author of this section put his efforts towards a rogue's guild to this effect as well.

Yakuza Mountain Village (8 pages)
This has a sample village with a sample Yakuza gang running into including stat blocks for the key NPC's. There is also a glossary for word meanings at the end.

It ends with a OGL, ads, and back cover. (3 page)

Closing thoughts. The art work is color and so so. Editing and layout where pretty good but I noticed a few errors here and there including on one table. The biggest error is the ToC seems to be for a adventure and not for this book at all. I have no idea how that happened. I am really torn by this product, what I liked I really liked. But there was more than a bit I was pretty meh about or didn't care for. I thought the PrC was pretty good as was one of the archetypes, one archetype I thought was great but then the other three I was pretty meh about. The traits where pretty good. The feats and spells where a mixed bag again. The new tattoo magic items where good though as was the part about running a Yakuza family. So what's my rating? I am going to settle for a 3.5 star review. Some good, some bad, and a little great.

Trust me, I'm a Succubus.

Nice faction book with some filler


This sourcebook is 39 pages long, 1 page frontc over, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving a rather whopping 33 pages of content for your perusal.

"Way of the Yakuza" considers itself to be a faction guide for the Kaidan Japanese horror-setting, but is far from system-specific - indeed, whether it is Jade Regent, Heroes of the Jade Oath or Rokugan, just about any Asian-themed setting that has a caste/class-system is predisposed to have a niche that is fitting for the Yakuza to expand into.

The sourcebook wastes no time and straight away introduces us to the history of the Yakuza as well as their modus operandi and the way in which their organization(s) work as well as to the necessity that bred them in the first place before delving.into the first tender crunchy bits by providing us with an assortment of 9 Yakuza-traits for characters born and bred into the Yakuza. Interspread throughout the whole book, mottos and laws of the criminal organization are presented in boxes, enabling you to better portray the tattooed criminals in your game as well as drawing you deeper into the subject matter.

After these neat and informative as well as useful bits, we are introduced to new, specially Yakuza-themed class archetypes. The Moso, a variant of the bard (who also graces the cover) is a blind performer with a kind of blindsight as well as the ability to dismiss outsiders and damage undead via his song of life, bringing one truly iconic trope to life - I just would have wished to see the archetype as a full-blown variant class. The Yakuza Bushi (Fighter) archetype is a rather simple one in contrast, focusing mobility and fast strikes, while the Bakuto (Rogue) archetype is the passionate gambler. While the fanboy of the class is speaking here, some minor access to luckbringer-like abilities rather than the very specific gambler-focused abilities would have made this particular one a bot more compelling to me - as written, the focus on gambler-abilities makes the archetype very specific and only attractive for a limited amount of players. Some gamble/fate-related powers would have gone a long way there. The second rogue archetype, The Kyodai, sacrifices some of his skill-versatility for a more enforcer-style role and comes with 3 new rogue talents as well as 2 new advanced talents. The final new archetype, the Horimyo (Wizard) is a superb blender of the arts of tattoos and magic and can summon tattoos from his body (as temporary animal companions - empahsis on plural at later levels), lash out with raw magical damage by sacrificing prepared spells and finally even use the tattoos of his foes against them. A neat and compelling archetype, especially when supplemented by 4 Wind Fantasy Gaming's Inkantation sourcebook.

Next up is the Machi-Yakko-PrC, a leader among the Yakuza. The class spans 10 levels and comes with d8, 8+Int skills per level, medium BAB, medium ref and will-saves, 3 dice sneak attack progression and a set income via his gangs and communities. Oh, and of course they can choose from a selection o 14 magical tattoos during their class progression, all of which offer rather significant, neat permanent bonuses beyond the power of class features, but quite fitting for a PrC.. Again, further supplemental material to inspire any inquiring DM further to expand upon this PrC can be found in Inkantations and might make this PrC even more compelling.
Where there are PrCs and archetypes, there are feats and this book is no different - 8 new feats, including 2 magic item creation feats and several ones granting bonuses with regards to skill-bonuses related to smuggling, gambling and other illicit activities. When all's said and done, none felt over-powered, but none felt truly compelling either.
Thankfully, the same cannot be said for the new pieces of equipment and spells provided in this pdf: Loaded dice, straw backpacks, tattoo-kits and spells, oh the spells: Especially the one that lets you steal a vanquished foes' magical tattoos is pure narrative/story-telling gold and might make for uncommon rewards for enterprising PCs Have I mentioned the great tattoo-death-curse spell that might be straight from Fatal Frame 3? With all this tattoo-talk, we of course also get 8 new sample tattoos - from the classic "drawn weapon from ink" and "fire breath to the rather subtle shy maiden, that lets you change into a woman. One is rather powerful, though: The Phoenix-tattoo prevents death once per day by bringing the wearer to full health from below 0 HP once per day. At least for my conservative tastes, a full healing is too powerful here, especially for the rather modest price of 32500 GP. Oh yeah, of course the tattoos all come with their respective auras, craft information etc.

The next section of the pdf deals with the creation of a respective Yakuza-family and guides the DM, step by step through the process, including Yakuza statblocks, modifiers like honor, morale, lore and society, size, wealth levels, alignment etc. We could also let the dice decide via the numerous tables, btw.! Anyway, the role of both first and second in command determine quite strongly how such a family is run and which benefits they might expect: 30 different characteristics for the gang/leader and 3 roles for the second in command are presented, lending to maximum customizability from the most depraved individuals to noble resistance fighters against corrupt daishos. Multiple gang enterprises, Japanese names to make (or randomly generate) authentic Yakuzanames are presented as well. Of course, we also get sample Yakuza statblocks and, even better, the fully mapped village Zawaizumi, which is under firm control of some rather morally dubious Yakuza. The city is a stellar example of concise writing and manages to cram a lot potential and rather interesting adventure seeds in the space it has and comes with a statblock for the village, its Yakuza-family, a new cursed item and 7 fully developed NPCs for your perusal.

The pdf closes with a glossary that explains some of the terms used herein and can be used as a reference for DMs new to the Japanese culture.

Conclusion in the product discussion. Boards ate it here.

Scarab Sages

And its up!


All the reviewers must be busy - I'm getting anxious. This really is a good one guys!


Thanks to Jonathan, Michael and Dave for all their hard work.

Reviewed here, on DTRPG and sent to GMS magazine. Cheers. And sorry for taking so long. My real life sucks right now.

Dark Archive

Looks like your review got cut off End.

Scarab Sages

Thanks for the review End.

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.

Endzeitgeist out.

Sorry the conclusion got cut off. I didn't notice when I posted it.

Thanks for the review, End.

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.

End, in what ways do you think the wizard archetype could be made into an alternative class? It seems like one in all but name.

Here's an offsite review of Way of the Yakuza from RPG.org

@Cheapy: More tattoo-like abilities, perhaps some talent-like magical tattoos to add to the caster etc. Essentially, the difference for me would be more details/more differences from the base-class.

I see!

Dark Archive


Scarab Sages

Thanks for the Review D.M.


I meant to post a thank you yesterday,but I've been down with a cold.

Reviewed here and on RPGNow. Thanks for the chance to review this PDF folks.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thanks very much for the review. It is much appreciated.

The Moso archetype bardic performance abilities are all missing what class of ability they are (Ex, Sp, Su).

My guesses are as follows.

Ward (Sp)
Counterfear (Su)
Song of Life (Su)
Dismissal (Sp)
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, Geisha training. "You gain a +1 trait bonus to Diplomacy and Performance (any one)" should probably be "You gain a +1 trait bonus to Diplomacy and Perform (any one)".

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:"

Kyodai archetype. In the recommended rogue talents section, there's a reference to "Offensive Defensive". This should probably be the rogue talent "Offensive Defense".

The feat Craft Spell Tattoo references the Master Tattoo Artist feat, but this feat does not appear in the book. Is this a feat from another source, and if so, which one?

Scarab Sages

It is found in Inkantations. That's an oversight that I'll take full credit for.

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.

Necro, I know, but the Horimyo seems like it's going to be very, very expensive unless I'm missing something saying the spells go back on the scrolls when cast or allowed to fade.

Instead of a spellbook, each spell known and its tattoo graphic/image is stored as its own scroll. These scrolls do not function like typical magic scrolls - the writing doesn't disappear with use. It is only how your spells are permanently stored. When you ink your daily spells onto your skin, you reference the image and spell from the scroll as part of spell prep - this does not cause your scroll to be "used".

Your daily spell tattoos have no "cost" in ink, aside what typical spells cost a wizard. Only if you want permanent cantrip spells, or wondrous tattoos are significant costs incurred.

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