Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Neo Shinobi Vendetta: Campaign Sketches

The next portal for our OCI game will be Neo Shinobi Vendetta. I've been doing some pre-campaign planning for that before I turn to the mechanical tweaks we'll need for play. I pitched the game as Ninja Scroll meets Appleseed. Below are some of the details I've worked out so far. This setting is built on classic cyberpunk stereotypes and western-assimilated visions of Japanese cultural elements. 

PREMISE: In Neo-Kyoto, Zaibatsu Clans battle for domination- served by tech-samurai, yogang yakuza, and deadly ninja. But the return of a shinobi family long-thought destroyed may shift the balance of power.

Sources: Ninja Scroll, Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade, Appleseed, Cybergeneration, Akira, Shinobi no Mono, Lone Wolf and Cub, Tenra Bansho Zero, The Gaean Reach

SCALE: Players take the role of trained ninja bearing strange powers. These come from a variety of sources: cybernetics, deep training, implants, nanowire, special hardware, viroware colonies and all kinds of weird future science. The setting will be science-fantasy, not hard sci-fi. The PC group will carry out missions while at the same time building towards their ultimate aim of destroying enemies who thought them defeated.

The characters will travel and act across Neo-Kyoto. While you might have a shared central base, your adventures will take you across the landscape of this enclosed metroplex. The background and places will be more thematic than specific.

CHARACTER BUILDING: PCs begin by choosing a template. This affects starting stunts, stats, skills, specialties, and refresh. They can then select X additional stunts/powers (depending on how I build this). The may also choose X and Y additional skills and specialties. They may trade refresh for additional stunts to start. Aspects will be handled in the usual exchange way.

There exist five orders of Shinobi- the history speak of bloodlines, factions and infighting that lead to this state. The five have warred upon one another since their inception. The settlement of the five great Zaibatsu, under the auspices of the Shogun, lead the Shinobi Orders to also align themselves. Each order tied itself to one of the Megacorporations. While they do not act as direct agents of that corporation, they undertake not to go against their interests. Instead, they act as 'for hire' operatives- and avoid striking their patrons.

The Shinobi train in many ways: physical challenges, virtual simulations, stimulus implants, and experimental engrams. This last one brings the carefully crafted advice, experience, and counsel of past ninja to minds of the newly indoctrinated. Somehow- by design or accident- a corrupt engram filtered through to a handful of new recruits. This revealed the truth. The Shinobi were not meant to be the tools of the Zaibatsu. Instead they had once had their own power, existing at the behest of the Celestial Emperor, the Mikado. They had their own agendas but also carried out the Will of Heaven. The shift of power which led to the organizational takeover of SHOGUN had splintered the Shinobi. But more importantly- they had been betrayed. The other ninja clan leaders had managed to subvert the meaning of Shinobi. At least three clan heads had conspired to ally themselves with the Zaibatsu- and had rewritten history in the minds of those ninja clans who did not agree.

This is a game about the revenge you’re going to take.

  • From fragmentary evidence, we have to discover who the actual betrayers and their agents are.
  • Once we have a name we can work our way up the chain to get at our target and carry out our vengeance.
  • We have to keep our knowledge secret from the other clans and even from those among our clan who still obey the memetic instructions.
  • We have be ready when our enemies become aware of our presence and purpose.
  • We have to bring down the corrupt system which has poisoned the proper order of the world.
Character Tensions
  • Clan & Group vs. Self & Individuality
  • Secrecy vs. Action
  • Maintain Your Honor vs. Relentless Revenge
  • Technology vs. Humanity
The Neo-Kyoto Metroplex stretches along the coast having swallowed dozens of cities and smaller settlements. It crosses all environmental zones from the icelands of the far north neighborhoods to the heat of the tropical south. Neo-Kyoto is the largest of the city-state metroplexes across the globe. Overland travel between them is rare- requiring venturing out into the wastelands and their dangers. The distance also makes air travel a dangerous option. Instead elites and transports use the space elevator, The Shin-no-Mihashira, to move via low orbit to similar facilities in those places.

The city is divided into prefectures and neighborhoods. Rapid transit systems for those with influence and cash make distances vanish. They see the city as connected and small. But the greater urban underclass or chonin know only their neighborhood and perhaps a few others in the same prefecture. Neo-Kyoto has few places with a singular character. Every prefecture has its shrine, school, theater, and so on of legendary repute. They blend together for the experienced urban dweller. They’re effectively generic. Great machines constantly move through, uprooting dwellers from neighborhoods and relocating them. The machines then renovate the area, sometimes repairing, sometimes tearing down, sometimes making strange changes to the usage. Teams of laborers live on those robots, servicing them The Workgogs operate at the behest of the Mikado, following his design instructions. Special sites like shrines remain untouched unless a punishment needs to be meted out. The restorers avoid neighborhoods with the Mikado’s blessing, often corporate key zones.

To make things easy, we can define every neighborhood with four details. First, who controls the neighborhood or has primary influence? You’ll see a full list of the power players below, but the most common will be: one of the five Mega-Zaibatsu corporations, Imperial, Contested, Minor Clancorp, Templar, Anarchy, and most rare- Local.

Second, the primary use of the neighborhood,
  • Offices: Workboxes for companies and corporations. These can range from a low-rent drone hive to a large-scale and superior arcology containing everything a salaryman could need.
  • Residential: Living quarters ranging from densely packed drawer habitats for commuter populations to palatial estates for the wealthiest, usually atop a massive apartment fortress.
  • Park: Areas which have gone to seed. In the best cases they offer a planned wilderness with immense and beautiful gardens and restricted access. In the worst the zone has collapsed due to industrial accident, bio-warfare, or ecological subversion.
  • Glam: Entertainment districts offering music, art, food, recreation, and all kinds of services to keep the populace appeased. At the lowest rank, these can be rough and tumble- at the highest, elite centers of refinement and decadence. A particular subtype of the Glam is the Theme district which can be historical reenactment, a massive amusement park, or an insane plan to draw in tourists.
  • Industrial: Manufacturing centers- sometimes automated and sometimes run by cheap labor. Depending on the production type, nearby neighborhoods may be particularly dire. This also includes underground sweatshop economies and neighborhoods dedicated to handcrafted goods and lost arts.
  • Administrative: At the lowest level this represents the central offices for a prefecture- the bureaucracy, records offices, doshin stations, and so on. In more important and wealthy areas these are the offices of the Shogunate itself- managing affairs for the Mikado.
  • Temple: Neighborhoods dedicated to the maintenance of a temple or shrine. At the lowest rank they represent a decaying area with locals trying to sustain the old practices. At the highest levels they’re a major site or monastery for one of the two competing orders, The Shinto Appeasers General and the Ikko-Ikki Buddhist Personhood.
  • Vendor: The shopping districts. While most neighborhoods have stores, these areas offer a full range of goods and services. Goods cannot legally be purchased through the Network without high-level clearance, but an informal network of buyers and cut-outs creates a underground shopping network who frequent these places. At the lowest level, they’re open air markets filled with barter. At the highest they’re massive neon shopping plexes.
  • Academic: At the highest levels these are the centers of scientific research, invention, and study. They may also include the Enforcement Learning Centers for those hoping to pass the lethal Civil Service examinations. At the lowest rank these are keepers of lore, attempting to preserve knowledge and information seen as useless or dangerous.
  • Military: Most factions keep a staff of elite samurai warriors. These zones represent training areas, military depots, and weapons testing zones. At the smallest level they may be a particularly famous dojo. At the highest level they’re the deployment facilities for the Shogun’s forces in case of external attack.
  • Storage: Warehousing districts. Corporations may have vast and labyrinthine zones filled with apparently useless goods and rejected projects. Others store old goods here- things are much easier to come by than the space to actually store and keep them.
  • Blacklight: While they may have another purpose, these zones are hotbeds of criminal activity. They deal in prohibited modifications, restricted weapons, and unlicensed escort holdings. They cater to the most dangerous elements of society and those who wish to operate outside the bounds of moral and legal codes. At the bottom, they’re wretched hives or scum and villainy. At the highest they’re sophisticated and highly structured organizations run by the Yakuza.
  • Broken/Contaminated: The neighborhoods have collapsed for one reason or another: poor construction, industrial accident, attacks by outsiders, the capricious curse of the NanoKami. Either they’ve been taken off the list for restoration or haven’t yet come up in the schedule. These places often turn into public dumps for non-perishable goods. In some cases they bear a striking resemblance to the Wastelands outside of Neo-Kyoto. These zones often serve as the entry point for Wastelander infiltrators. 
  • Under Construction: Districts currently being refurbished or repurposed by the Workgogs teams. Usually a few stragglers will desperately try to eke out a living there rather than relocating.

Thirdly we assign a Quality or Niceness value to the neighborhood, representing wealth and investment. And then we assign some aspects to it.

Major Factions:
  • The Illustrious Orbital Mikado
  • The Grand Shogun Protector
  • The Five Zaibatsu: Arasaka, Goda, Jinrai, Oyamado, Shiroma.
  • The Five Ninja Clans
  • Neo-Ikki Buddhist Templars
  • Agents of the Kami
  • Yazgangers
  • Anarchs
  • Wildlanders
  • Road Wardens
  • Magistrates/Doushin Inspectors
  • City Prefectures and Neighborhoods: Local authority

One force remains outside of the direct control of the authorities, the Kami and the Yokai. These emerged generations ago during one of the War of the Limitless Flowers. Many believe they represent old powers returned in modern form. The less spiritual focus on their actual forms. They see the Kami simply as free-roaming nanoswarms which take a solid presence from time to time. The soul of the Kami is simply an AI which has taken on a particular aspect drawn from classical sources. Whether this was an attempt to adapt, a rebirth of old forces, or a defensive technique used to limit them remains open for debate. The Kami have become objects of veneration and worship- depending on the neighborhood. Some kami exist as localized forces, while others seem to have greater power. Regardless, the kami remain as fickle and rarely seen powers. Their nature allows them to take many shapes and move from place to place silently. Temples and shrines to the kami can be found in every corner of Neo-Kyoto.

On the other hand, the Yokai have a definite form. They have also assumed a form and a role- echoing old creatures and monsters. They are not nanoswarms, but instead robots, androids, or other automatons which have taken on these personalities. If they have transformation capacities, they’ve shifted to appear like them. If not, they’ve jerry-rigged parts, mutilated themselves, or assume disguises. Picture a hauling bot welding plates to itself to look like a scaly beast. More dangerous are those Yokai with a human form and deadly approach. Some hunt the Yokai for bounties or revenge. Unlike the kami, the Yokai do seem to reproduce through some method. Exactly how they transmit their mimetic programming remains uncertain
The Shinobi have access to a number of special powers and abilities, drawn from various sources. Players pick a source for their powers. That gives some distinct advantages and limitations. They can then pick powers from the menu list. A few powers will only be available to some sources.

There’s a constant race of technology and incremental advancements within Neo-Kyoto. New devastating weapons appear and as quickly counter-measures are created. New forms of camouflage and jamming arise and the corporations devise cracks and disruptions just as quickly. This has been a game of cycles for generations.
  • Cybernetic Implants: The most classic and hard to conceal. These range in sophistication from cybernetic replacement limbs to modular computer implants to under-skin mesh networks. Potentially the most potent and easy to take care of, they still run the risk of cutting the bearer of from humanity as they undergo more transformations.
  • Memetic Overlay: Knowledge and training of past generations is carefully kept and stored for future use. Most training within the clans is at least marginally supplemented by memory implants and virtual training. Some prove particularly receptive to these techniques- with potent reflexive muscle memory. These receive full personality overlays, ghosts in their head who can advise (and at times control) the ninja.
  • Genocolony: The ninja has become bonded with a pulsing and intelligent organic machine. It quickly shifts to adapt and change the host body in response to changing circumstances. Blood can be pumped more rapidly, wounds can be healed, bone spurs produced. These changes can appear on the simple physical or deeper genetic level. The colony itself must be fed and sustained however.
  • Nanometals: The ninja has been bonded with a swarm of intelligent nano-machines. Their blood is supersaturated with them, allowing them to affect materials, change their body, create objects, and a host of other tricks.
  • Chi-Field: Every being has a lifeforce- an aura which surrounds them. Through the use of minor implants and viral therapy, the ninja can be more fully put into contact with these forces within themselves and others. These can be tapped for wondrous effect from the subtle to the awe-inspiring. However use the these powers taxes the ninja’s own body, killing them over time.
  • Psychic: Over generations the clans have studiously bred those with metaphysical talents. Though their nature still remains mysterious, they know the practical powers of psychokeinetics and precognitives. Often they’re honored as advisors and seers. Still most regard them with some worry- a strange group even among the strangeness of the clans. 


  1. Right with you! It turns out I've been wanting to run a cyber-ninja shrine maiden all my life.

  2. These write ups are fantastic. Thank you for putting them together.

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