Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Look at the Ii Bushi Disciplines

By rights, this should be a post about Magic and Magic Items, the last sections of Chapter 3. However, I want to spend a little more time revising those rules. But, I still want to give this blog something to chew on. So, let's look at Disciplines, and one in particular.

When you make a character, you choose a specific Dharma, a metaphysical law your life is guided by. For samurai this is life as a bushi (warrior), onmyoji (wizard-priest), or teishin (courtier). Then you get to choose a Discipline; these are analogous to Classes , Schools, Careers, and other similar divisions in other games. you can only choose Basic Disciplines normally at character creation; later you can choose Branch Disciplines requiring certain Ranks in a Basic Discipline, or Advanced Disciplines which have even more strict requirements. Advanced Disciplines, by the way, don't strictly require their Basic Discipline, it's just the best suited to the theme of the training. Advanced Disciplines represent specialized training usually tied to a group or other extraterritorial tradition.

So this is rundown of the first Bushi Discipline "set": a Basic Discipline, its associated Branch Disciplines, and the well-suited Advanced Discipline. Enjoy!

Ii Bushi Ryuu

The charging fool thundered against the mat, thrown back by his instructor's hip toss. Inoue Tatsune risked only a brief scowl at the young soldier before adjusting his armor, the practice plates of woven bamboo creaking and cracking across his shoulders. “What did Takeshi do wrong?” he barked. “What should he have done?”

Students still waiting their turn for punishment looked straight ahead. None dare turn to another for help. And besides, Takeshi's approach seemed traditionally perfect. Under their thick bamboo practice armor, sweat ran in rivers.

“My knee,” smiled their sensei. “He should have struck my knee. You are not learning to let others use honor against you, or to engage in treachery. But you must always look for advantage in the moment; it is never dishonorable to win.” He pushed his right leg forward, reached down and grasped either side of his training pants. “Whether your enemy wishes to kill you or worse, you pay for hesitation.” He ripped open the cloth.

A ruined knee, shot through with thick scar tissue spidered white and green, unhealed gashes at the edge sticky with black blood, and sickly sweet to the nose.

“Win or die, samurai. I am your lesson why.”

The dominant school of the Ii uji, and most of the Kitagoku uji, its followers are immediately recognized by their preference for heavy armor and heavier weapons. Weapons crushing or pulverizing your enemy are preferred, as an outgrowth of its development from Todo origins into the monster-slaying bushi needed during the Kaiju War. Although they are as competent in the traditional sword and bow of their fellow warriors, even those outside of Kitagoku who become heavy infantry shock troops maintain a fondness for the less elegant tetsubo, and a rare few prefer the raw brutality of an ono or otsuchi. It's a mark of honor to wield the most cumbersome weapon they can find on the battlefield and still strike circles around more delicate “flowers.”

Ii bushi are also trained to shoulder the weight of their armor and weapons effortlessly, and to stand firm no matter the pressures of war or pain. From an earlier age they pile heavier and heavier kimono on before moving to bamboo practice armor. In the field they do their morning kata in full heavy armor. Winter or summer, it makes no difference. “Patience and persistence against all odds,” decried the first Ii, and no matter their uji an Ii bushi does not abuse this maxim.

Daimyo throughout Hachigoku prize their Ii-trained bushi, not only as centers for their armies but as imposing yojimbo whose mere presence grants a negotiator the upper hand (a fact the Ii often ish the Yagyu would take less advantage of). While Ii no Ii Basara, still considered one of the strongest men in the Empire even as his topknot turns gray, is the ryuu's Sei. With his grave responsibilities as both daimyo of the Ii and Warden of the Third Jade Division demanding his full attention, he appointed Ii no Inoue Tatsune as Dai and Senryuu representative. Local legend says Tatsune swam to Goshima and back just because the Ii daimyo asked.

Legend is not far wrong.

Ii Basic Discipline
  • Element Bonus: Earth
  • Skills: Athletics, Kenjutsu, Kyujutsu, Obujutsu, Senjojutsu, Sumai
  • Virtue: 2
  • Outfit: Heavy armor, daisho, daikyu, 20 arrows of any type, 1 Obujutsu weapon, 1 kimono, traveling pack, 2 koku

Rank 1: Way of the Mountains
Ii bushi train extensively in their heavy armor, and visualize themselves as mountains on defense, avalanches on the attack. Your Defense (both passive and active) is based not on your Water but your Earth, and all melee attack rolls keep your Earth instead of your Fire. All armor penalties for attack and Bugei Skill rolls are reduced 1 Difficulty Step; this will not lower the Difficulty below Average.

Rank 2: Mountains Weep Not
Ii bushi strive to be paragons of immovability, holding the line at all costs. You may spend Honor equal to all Light Wounds suffered to remove them once per Scene. You may also spend an Honor when resisting social rolls or other attempts to manipulate or intimidate you, unless they are magical.

Rank 3: Lightning Between Twin Peaks
Ii bushi strive to be swift as a mountain storm raining strikes upon their foes, especially when overwhelmed. When you spend an Action to make an attack, you may make an additional attack immediately. All armor penalties for attack and Bugeil Skill rolls are now reduced by 2 Difficulty Steps; this will not lower the Difficulty below Average.

Rank 4: Fire on the Mountain
Mountains spend entire ages patiently waiting to unleash their inner furnaces of fury. You may spend an Action to conserve your energy awaiting the moment of a perfect explosion. If you are successfully attacked and take Wounds before you spend another Action, you automatically attack and hit your foe in return with the same number of Raises (including Free Raises). No roll is needed, but both the original attack and yours must be melee attacks. You may also sacrifice a Strike in any Duel as if spending an Action to active this okuden; if you do so, you need not suffer Wounds in order to automatically strike back for equal Raises, but all standard consequences for continuing a finished duel apply if necessary, such as not acquiescing in a duel to first blood. You cannot activate this okuden if you are Down, Out, or Dead already.

Rank 5: Mountain Shoulders Heaven High
Duty is heavy as a mountain, death light as a feather. Even when Down or Out, you can spend an Honor to immediately gain an Action in the current Moment. If Dead, you can still spend Honor to gain Actions, but only until the end of the Scene. When you are out of Honor you are finally, truly deceased. All attack and Active Defense rolls made with these Actions adds add your Earth in unkept dice. All armor penalties for attack and Bugei Skill rolls are now reduced by 3 Difficulty Steps; this will not lower the Difficulty below Average.

Naito no Abe Hiro served for years in the Imperial armies along the Wall of Bones before being assigned as a yojimbo to Imperial ambassadors during their brief contact with the court of neighboring Outremer. Although as contemptuous of the foreigners as any in the embassy, he admired their ability to march around in the desert heat in chainmail and plate—even if they stank. Particularly interesting was their cavalry. Although trained in the Ii ryuu, Hiro had always admired horses, especially the tough, northern farm horses used in Kitagoku. Until Outremer and the massive warhorses of the Alphasian knights, he had never seen their equal.

Bit by bit, he befriended the knights until he was invited as an observer on their patrols. When the Night of Crescent Knives decimated the foreign quarter of Nouvelle-Sadiq and the Hachigoku embassy fled three decades ago, Hiro was left behind; it took two more decades of living as a mercenary among the wastes before his craggy eyes saw home again, coming in on a merchant caravan through Katagiri borderlands.

Reinstated to the Naito, he hunted the forests for bandits and trained his samurai cavalry to charge fiercely into battle, fully armored, after searching for suitable high ground to strike from. Small units would engage an enemy, drawing them to a scouted location, then dismount and quickly ascend, still armored, to the rest of the force. Only then was thunder unleashed.

Impressed by his success, the Naito daimyo gave him a hundred men to train. When that force successfully joined in the Battle of Three Dagger River, routing an Owari raid, the Todo daimyo offered another thousand. Now under the leadership of Hiro's daughter, Hanako, the Naito cavalry have become a feared rapid strike force in the Todo armies.

Naito Bushi (Branch Discipline)
  • Discipline: Ii Bushi 1

Iron Stallion
On horseback you come crashing down on your foes. Your Athletics gains access to all the abilities and Aspects of the Bajutsu Skill. If mounted and using the Charge maneuver on your attack, you suffer no Difficulty penalty from armor to your attack and Bugei Skill rolls, and you may sacrifice remaining Actions in the round to deal extra Wounds if your attack succeeds. Each such sacrificed Action deals Wounds equal to your Earth.

The Oka don't view the tetsubo the way most samurai do, thinking even their lieges the Ii don't regard it properly. It is more than just a tool against monsters and those unworthy of samurai steel; it is a marvel of polearm and club, and only great strength unlocks its full potential. Other samurai view the reverence of the Oka for this rugged, inelegant weapon as an overcompensation for their status in Kitagoku, as if elevating the signature weapon of the Ii founder justifies their own common origins.

Whatever the cause, there's no denying that in the hands of these specially trained tetsubo duelists the weapon acquires the kind of grace Okabe bushi lavish on their naginata and yari. Ii samurai often join their brotherhood as well, thinking that dividing their attention between different weapons is merely impractical. This combination of intensity, strength, and unorthodox beauty strangely makes bushi trained in the style excellent samurai in foreign courts, and many become yojimbo to Ii diplomats.

Unfortunately, this can also lead to dueling disasters, as fierce loyalty to their art sometimes outstrips any other oaths. The current daimyo and Dai of the style is currently banned from every court they ever visited south of Kitagoku.

Oka Bushi (Branch Discipline)
  • Discipline: Ii Bushi 2

Iron Lightning
Your devotion to obujutsu brings you martial and spiritual excellence. Your Obujutsu gains access to all the abilities and Aspects of the Zen Skill, and you gain bonus dice equal to your Void on all rolls involving a tetsubo. After being challenged to a duel, all social rolls for the rest of the Scene have a difficulty penalty equal to your Obujutsu mastery: Rank 3 has Moderate difficulty, Rank 5 has Hard difficulty, and Rank 7 has Heroic difficulty. However, in duels involving your tetsubo you may increase the difficulty during the Focus additional times equal to your Earth.

Hotta samurai have a long history with the art of sumai; legend says they refined the style specifically to engage the spirit world in battle, and many of their techniques became ritual conventions for modern sumatori. Their samurai, they say, still preserve the original spiritual power of wrestling. Whatever truth is lost to history, there's no denying that those initiated in their secret techniques are fearsome opponents when confronted with the supernatural.

Legend says the first Hotta grappler was a samurai who saved a kappa from the nets of hunters poaching on his land; in thanks, the kappa taught him how to best other yokai through sumai. Returning the favor, every student down through today vowed to never use their technique against kappa, or take up arms against them. When the Hotta eventually settled in Chugoku, they found a mysterious, mountainous land full of the supernatural, where even immigrant and native yokai were at odds.

The new neighbors discovered the Hotta had a unique style, one their most accomplished samurai could easily use to police their disputes and protect their peasants. By consequence, the most accomplished Ii bushi in the uji are given wide authority as metsuke, and the Makino have an unusual respect for a ryuu they typically hold in the lowest esteem.

Hotta Bushi (Path Discipline)
  • Discipline: Ii Bushi 3

Slam the Beast
You know your spirit and flesh steels you against the supernatural better than armor. Your Sumai gains the abilities and Aspects of the Shingaku Skill. When unarmored, attack rolls against you suffer a difficulty penalty equal to your Earth. If you spend an Action to attack a supernatural foe barehanded, your body is considered a magic weapon, and you may make an additional attack immediately against a supernatural foe. This is cumulative with your Ii Bushi Rank 3 Okuden.

During the Kaiju War, a small band of desperate samurai from many uji, ronin, and even ashigaru held out against a tentacled kaiju along the coast, completely abandoned by Todo forces and besieged on the other side by a vicious company of oni. Hojo no Shinjo Hiroki, the Jade metsuke in charge, rallied the survivors. For thirty days they held out, dodging from building to building as tentacles battered down the strongest fireproof vaults.

When Ii himself arrived to liberate the village, only a dozen fighters remained. Ii made short work of the oni, and upon meeting Hiroki congratulated the hero. “How did you survive so long?”

“The temple had a store of jade,” he smile through green teeth. “We ate it.”

Hiroki demanded to be the vanguard of the assault against the kaiju. Ii granted the request, and after a furious assault ended the threat, one of his aides hailed them as the “Jade Heroes.”

“No heroes here. Just a bunch of battered bastards.”

Ii reenforced the unit with a company of his own samurai, naming them Jade Company and giving Hiroki command. Mizuno spent a good deal of time with as well, study the effects of their desperate diet of jade dust and amplifying its potency. They continued to fight at the forefront of every major engagement afterwards, including the defeat of the Blood Lotus at the Battle of Five Talons.

The Jade Company remains an elite force of the Imperial army, traditionally headquartered near the foothills of the Five Talons. Their standing orders are to assist any samurai or peasant against Yang-corrupted beasts and their worshipers, with small units regularly dispatched across Hachigoku. There is no discretion in their appearance, they are loud and the break things. But not every samurai who takes their turn is honored to be a true Battered Bastard; such samurai must survive combat with monsters, and take an oath, even after their discharge from Imperial service, that they will never turn down a request to protect the weak from Yang corruption. Villages ever since have been overjoyed to see the permissible Jade fist broach on a traveling samurai's cloak and plead for safety.

And a Battered Bastard loves a hopeless cause.

Battered Bastard (Advanced Discipline)
  • Element: Earth 5
  • Skills: Kenjutsu 5, Lore (Oni) 5, Obujutsu 5, Renkinjutsu (Yang) 3
  • Fortunes: Brutality, Dealing With Shadows
  • Other Requirements: You must be a member or veteran of the Imperial army, and you must have publicly defeated an akuma, oni, bakemono, or practitioner of Yang corruption in combat.

Rank 1: Strength of Jade
Any creature corrupted by Yang earns your wrath. Any person or creature with Yang corruption making attack rolls against you may not have their dice shout, nor may they make Raises (except Free Raises). If you are aware of another's Yang corruption, you gain bonus dice on all attack rolls against them equal to your Earth.

Rank 2: Raise a Wall
Northern Hachigoku has no great wall against evil, except you. If a person or creature corrupted by Yang targets you with a Battle Action in a Battle, you may spend an Honor to cancel their Action. You may then immediately target a member of their force with a Battle Action of your own. You also add your Earth + Discipline to your passive Defense at all times.

Rank 3: Lay the Last Stone
When facing the worst evils, every day is as good a day to die as it is to kill. If you are reduced to Down, Out, or Dead by a Yang corrupted foe, you may spend an Honor to immediately retaliate with a melee attack that automatically succeeds against the foe. You make no Raises, but you do gain any normal Free Raises, including additional Free Raises equal to your Renkinjutsu. During a Battle, you may spend an Honor at any time to target you and a Yang corrupted individual to bring you both down to Down, Out, or Dead.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Battle: The Art of War & the Importance of Proper Landscaping

Way back in the 90's when I cracked open the very first L5R book, the Mass Combat rules thrilled me. An abstract way of conducting mass combat so the players not only felt like they were deeply enmeshed but being in command of troops in a non-miniatures-based tactical game actually mattered! Yes! It was a great complement to the CCG mechanics, although it didn't mirror them much. Since then, such systems have proliferated, but few really balance the need for both abstraction and player influence on the battlefield to my satisfaction. Houses of the Blooded introduced a super-abstract system that, despite its simplicity, I thought at least brought the brutality of battlefield chaos home. Blood and Honor, the samurai follow-up used the same base system is too in keeping with the Old Japan "Beauty & Tragedy" aesthetic to work for Hachigoku...

But they were good sources of inspiration. So I went back to reading the Art of War over and over again, and developed the mechanics based on it, with nods towards my original inspiration. Terrain and "ground" (in the Chinese they are the same word although clearly used in different tactical contexts) from the CCG were wonderfully modeled after Sunzi's descriptions, and I hope I've carried through and done them justice.

There is no Season-spanning "War" mechanic in Hachigoku; I don't think the game needs it. I may, however, change course and introduce an optional one later alng the same lines as the Ada-uchi.



When combat occurs between two, we call it a duel. When it happens between more than two, it becomes a Skirmish. But at some point, attempting to adjudicate combat between too many actors becomes a tedious chore. Oh, look, your samurai chopped down the tenth Kaonashi. Don't worry; only 145 more to go!

Sidebar: Skirmish or Battle?

No one is going to knock on your door and monitor whether you're having a Skirmish or a Battle. If you and your players think it's fine using the Skirmish rules for a few hundred foes, especially if they're just Kaonashi, more power to you! These are suggested conditions for the switch, with an in-world explanation, but they may not fit every situation.

Notwithstanding how ritualized the samurai of Hachigoku tend to be, the mass of Battle rules may look overly complex. Keep this in mind: the full suite of rules assumes two or more armies amassed against each other on a field of battle for honorable combat. Not every battle is going to fit that description, or need all the bits and pieces. If you want the advantages of an ambush, for instance, you may only want to use Skirmish rules. Or you may want to switch from a Skirmish to a Battle after an opening Round. If there are no opportunities for speeches or omen-reading, simply skip those Advantages. You'll always have Advantage, a Senjojutsu (Strategy) roll, Battle Actions, and Casualties, but beyond that keep the rules as fluid as the chaos of war.

At this point, before thrilling combat degenerates into tedious score-keeping, a Skirmish becomes a Battle. How do you know when to apply the Battle Rules versus the Skirmish Rules? Simple: when there are 50 or more combatants. Why 50? The typical group of player characters will compose a Wa, and a Wa at its typical maximum will have seven samurai (like the Seven Jewels) with a maximum of six Kaonashi attacking each Wa member. Thus, forty-two Kaonashi against seven samurai remains a simple enough Skirmish to still adjudicate with forty-nine actors. Add one more, and there is an actor left standing around with nothing much to do until someone falls in battle. Which is neither fun nor realistic, frankly. And yes, this glosses over a lot of other possibilities of how Kaonashi and other characters can interact, yet 50 remains a fairly good cut-off point between Skirmishes and Battles.

The point of these Battle rules is twofold. First, to simplify mass combat in terms of both time and mechanics, yet also to keep one's sense of agency and fun. Secondly, to provide a way to manage a battle between opposing forces of any size. Battle rules should be able to portray conflicts ranging fights between magistrates and bandits, to those between vast armies.

So, we know the first criteria: Fifty combatants. After this, there are several steps to take:
  • Know Your Force
  • Know Your Terrain
  • Know Your Advantage
  • Know Your Wave
  • Know Your Casualties

Know Your Force
The first thing to determine is how many forces the Battle is dealing with. Typically, this will be two forces: the player characters versus whoever is opposing them. However, this need not be the case. There may be three, four, or even more forces involved, each with its own agendas and ideas concerning victory. Even all the Wa members may not stay in the same force. There may be loyalties or agendas that conflict with their fellow Wa members, in which case it's perfectly fine, and interesting, for them to choose to be in another's force, or even commanding their own. It could also represent that a much greater, grander campaign is being waged all about your samurai, but your independent unit is embroiled in a smaller battle in the midst of the chaos.

You could even be a force all by yourself, a force of one. This is a very dangerous and deadly option, but it could be necessary.

So decide which force you're in. Then choose a commander for the force. Preferably, this ought to be a player character. While someone in a force may be appointed by an outside agent (such as a daimyo) to lead the force, they may be incompetent and wisely allow someone else to be the actual commander in terms of Battle mechanics. Or they may not. If you wish to wrest command of the force from this appointed leader, it is certainly an Act of Vice. But it also may save the force from destruction.
Take note of what type of armor (none, ashigaru, light, or heavy) the majority of the force are wearing; the dominant armor (or lack thereof) is a difficulty modifier applied to the Senjojutsu roll for Strategy (and only that roll).

If a commander is killed or unconscious during the Wave or after taking Wounds at the end of the Wave, then the force loses all Advantage. A new commander can arise or be chosen and continue the Battle, but they will have to establish their own Advantage as if the Battle were occurring in the midst of a Scene (which is essentially happening). So no new Shingaku, Law, or Oratory rolls for the next Wave. Just a Senjojutsu roll.

If no commander takes charge, the force is considered immediately defeated and can no longer participate in the Battle. It is up to opposing forces to either capture or allow the escape of the force.

Know Your Terrain
The next order of business is to determine what kind of terrain dominates the battlefield. There are five kinds of terrain: Accessible, Suspended, Stalemated, Constricted, or Precipitous. Each terrain provides bonuses and penalties to a force.

Accessible: Accessible terrain is easily passable by all forces, a feature typified by essentially flat plains and other even ground. This would include courtyards, otherwise empty plazas, or any other territory open and spacious. No force gains a significant benefit over the other as advancing is a simple matter; however, there are no significant penalties to any force either.

The openness of the terrain allows for less restriction of movement. A commander targeting someone in their force for a Battle Action is not limited to targeting that individual only once.

Constricted: Constricted terrain bottles up forces into narrow passages and ground bordered by difficult heights. Examples include valleys, rocky badlands, snaking caverns, and crowded city streets. In such terrain it is vital to occupy its extent and maintain your hold.

Whichever force wins the opposed Senjojutsu/Water roll for Advantage gains a bonus to their Advantage equal to their Water; they have managed to permeate the battlefield with their force, gaining a firm upper hand.

Precipitous: Precipitous terrain is dangerous territory containing violent changes in elevation. Twisting mountain passes, bridges, city walls, rooftops, and any combat aboard ship (except within the vessel) qualifies as precipitous terrain.

Whichever force wins the opposed Senjojutsu/Water roll for Advantage gains a bonus to their Advantage equal to their Earth; they have managed to take the highest ground, making them hazardous to dislodge.

Stalemated: Stalemated terrain offers no immediate advantage to any force, and limited movement; the only proper course is to withdraw until the enemy offers you an opening. Then your force storms in, swift as a wildfire. Such terrain include any heavily fortified structure or natural terrain such as forests, swamps, or snowfields.

Whichever force wins the opposed Senjojutsu/Water roll for Advantage gains a bonus to their Advantage equal to their Fire; they have managed to take advantage of an enemy commander's impetuous attack with a lightning fast counterattack.

Suspended: Suspended terrain varies from high ground to low ground, but not nearly as violently as precipitous terrain. This is terrain it is easy to advance from, but difficult to retreat back to if necessary. Land that slopes, such as hillsides, rolling plains, or even the wide ramps that often mark castle entrances all qualify.

Whichever force wins the opposed Senjojutsu/Water roll for Advantage gains a bonus to their Advantage equal to their Wind; they have managed either to make use of their maneuverability and high ground for a devastating assault (often with ranged volleys), or were able to cunningly draw the enemy into a position difficult to disentangle themselves from.

Target force members multiple times.
Advantage Bonus: Water.
Advantage Bonus: Earth.
Advantage Bonus: Fire.
Advantage Bonus: Wind.

Know Your Advantage
Determining who wins or loses in a Battle is measured by Advantage. Once all of a force's Advantage is calculated, only then does the Battle proceed into Waves. Certain aspects of Advantage are only able to be garnered when forces of sufficient size have time to engage in the niceties of samurai warfare; other Battles may occur to quickly for these elements to be observed, becoming vicious contests of momentum and tactics.

A good commander, one assured of victory, must attend to the Dao of War: the Dao of Heaven, the Dao of Honor, the Dao of Glory, and the Dao of Strategy. Assessing the full Dao of War is equivalent to a full Scene, considering each individual assessment a significant and complex Action. Evaluating each Dao is a separate roll for each force commander, if they choose; all such rolls are considered to have both a simple TN of 10 (including Strategy) and an active TN against all rolling force commanders. Raises on these rolls only affect the simple TN, not the active TN. If Battle erupts within a Scene, there is no time for these assessments except for the Dao of Strategy. In some situations a commander may not wish to make these assessments, especially if their goal in the Battle is not victory. This is especially true of those who choose only themselves as a force, becoming their own commanders, for the purpose of freedom on the battlefield to achieve specific goals before withdrawing. Reasons include theft, assassination, and avenging blood feuds by duels.

Becoming a force unto yourself is rarely honorable.
Each force calculates their total Advantage after figuring out the various Daos. Each Advantage you win gives you an Advantage of 1, +1 per Raise made on a successful roll. Thus, between two forces, one who knows best (rolls highest) the Dao of Heaven, Glory (+2 Raises), and Strategy (+1 Raise) has an Advantage of 6. The opposing force knows Honor best (+2 Raises), for an Advantage of 3. The force with the highest Advantage is considered to be winning the present Wave; multiple forces with the highest Advantage are stalemated.

The Dao of Heaven (Shingaku): All forces choose a single character in their force to perform a divination, seeking the will of Heaven. This is not, it should be noted, as requesting the aid of Heaven. However, how this knowledge is communicated to both the commander and the rest of the force is important. No onmyoji wishes to tell their daimyo he is doomed to defeat; those who do are often placed on the front line and commanded toreconsidertheir prediction.

Each force's chosen character makes a Shingaku/Wind roll. The highest roll wins Heaven's Advantage, and can increase their hold over the Advantage by +1 per Raise.

The Dao of Honor (Law): All forces choose a single character in their force to find the moral high ground in the battlefield. A force united in justice and honorable purpose is far stronger than one acting against the Celestial Order, thus each force tries to outmaneuver each other in legal and moral terminology through diplomacy before hostilities begin.

This roll can only be made by a force whose commander is superior or equal in status within the Celestial Order. If a commander is clearly inferior in status to an opposing commander, they cannot even attempt to gain this Advantage. A commander whose actual status is inferior, however, may be granted a higher status by virtue of the authority he is given. Thus, a daimyo could authorize a heimen to command a force against another daimyo's samurai, although this would be very rare, allowing the heimen to try for this Advantage.

Each force's chosen character makes a Law/Wind roll. The highest roll wins Honor's Advantage, and can increase their hold over the Advantage by +1 per Raise.

The Dao of Glory (Oratory): Each commander heads forth to proclaim their prowess, ancestry, and virtue to the enemy. What appears to be a mereshouting matchbetween commanders, however, is in truth a vital morale booster for each commander's force as they attempt to outmaneuver one another in confidence. Except for using some special abilities, only the commander can engage in this boasting.

Each force's commander makes an Oratory/Wind roll. The highest roll wins Glory's Advantage, and can increase their hold over the Advantage by +1 per Raise.

The Dao of Strategy (Senjojutsu): This assessment covers all the traditional trappings of war: strategy, tactics, formations, military discipline, and logistics. Each force's commander (the real commander, not just the one for show) makes the final roll. This is the only assessment that can be made without preparation. Unlike the other assessments, there are certain difficulty modifiers for this roll, depending on both the force's morale and strength; these are considered separate difficulty modifiers.
A force's morale is determined by past experience in Battle. If the majority of the force has been in a lost Battle just prior to the current one, the Senjojutsu roll has Hard difficulty. For each Wave it loses, this penalty increases by a step (start from Average if they do not have a prior loss). If the force won the prior Wave, their difficulty modifier increases in the other direction (from Average to Easy, etc.).

Sidebar: Fortifications

Fortified battlefields, such such as earthworks, walled settlements, and castles, are an important consideration. They do not give direct benefits to Advantage, but rather act as force multipliers. Each such fortification has a Fortification Rank; multiply that Rank by your force size before determining magnitude.

The following are example Fortification Ranks:
  • Rank 1: No fortifications of note.
  • Rank 2: Earthworks, barricades, and natural defenses such as caves.
  • Rank 3: Walled village.
  • Rank 4: Fortified watchtower.
  • Rank 5: Walled town.
  • Rank 6: Fortified keep.
  • Rank 7: Walled city.
  • Rank 8: Castle.
  • Rank 9: Walled metropolis.
  • Rank 10: Palace.

A force's strength is determined by its size in comparison to other forces in the Battle. If its size is larger, its difficulty modifier has a beneficial increase equal to its magnitude compared to the next largest force in the Battle, minus a step. An army of 10,000 samurai versus an army of 5,000 samurai has a 2 to 1 advantage, and therefore a magnitude of 2, granting an Easy difficulty. If there are more than two forces, you compare your magnitude to the next largest force, excepting those that are forces of only a single character.
The dominant armor of the force is also a factor. The highest difficulty modifier due to armor among all opposing forces is applied to your Senjojutsu roll.

Once all modifiers have been calculated, each commander makes a Senjojutsu/Water roll. The highest roll wins Strategy's Advantage, and can increase their hold over the Advantage by +1 per Raise.

Know Your Wave
Battle has begun in earnest, and occurs in Waves. While preparation for the Battle is considered a Scene in itself, all the Waves combined together comprise a separate Scene as the forces vie for the upper hand, fighting and dying. Combat ranges all across the battlefield, with various individuals and units finding themselves driven onto specific positions, embroiled in duels, or targeted by magic.
Like Skirmish combat, the Wave is broken into Moments. Initiative works the same as in a Skirmish, with the following exceptions:
  • Instead of Void, the commander of each force rolls their Water for the entire force.
  • Individuals and Kaonashi do not have their own Initiative or Actions; they have only the Actions assigned to them by their commander.
  • Individuals in a force can gain their own Actions by spending Honor Points, exactly as if they were gaining an interruption. They can still only perform Battle Actions, however.

Only specific Battle Actions can be performed during a Wave. These actions often includetarget someone in a forceorin another force,or even target a force itself. Each commander can only target a specific individual or force once per Action, including themselves. When spending an Honor Point to act independently during a Wave, an individual is not bound by the same restrictions, however anindividual in your forcemust always refer to themselves. Any individual targeted by a Battle Action is considered to be performing an Act of Virtue, gaining an Honor Point.
Battle Actions include:
  • Bonus Effects: Target yourself. You can establish facts about the Battle equal to your Void as if they were bonus effects created by Raises.
  • Breach the Defenses: Target a member of your force and the fortifications used by a force. Your force charges over the barricades, earthworks, or walls, batters down the gates, or otherwise causes a breach in any fortifications. You lower the Fortification Rank by your Water.
  • Duel: Target an individual in your force and an individual in another force. A duel begins between the two. In any case, your force's individual is considered the challenger, and can determine what kind of challenge it is. If the opponent refuses, they are considered to have used the Flee Battle Action. The duel is also applicable to attacking nonhuman creatures who can only avoid one-on-one combat by Fleeing. No courtly duel (mono-awase or shodo-shiken) may occur. Except for Romance. It can flare to life in the flash of a blade.
  • Flee: Target yourself or, if you are the commander, your force. You withdraw from the field of the Battle. No matter how orderly or necessary or haphazard your escape, this is an Act of Vice. The Battle is over for you, although you still take Wounds during the Know Your Casualties segment. There is no Honor Point gain.
  • Prayer: Target any individual in your force that can perform magic, such as an onmyoji. This individual can use a prayer, an ofuda, or use any other magical ability. If the magic targets anyone else, they can target freely. If multiple Actions are normally needed, it is unnecessary now.
  • Rallying Cry: You can attempt an additional Oratory (Boasting)/Wind roll (passive TN highest Advantage of another force x 5) to inspire your force. If successful, at the beginning of the next Wave you now have Glory's Advantage, and can increase your hold over the Advantage by +1 per Raise.
  • Contentious Ground: Target another force who is benefiting from the current Terrain. You can make a Senjojutsu/Water roll opposed by the force's commander to move your force into the advantageous position occupied by that force, pushing them out. If you win the roll, you gain the benefit instead for the next Wave.
  • Deadly Ground: Target an individual in your force. This individual has found themselves on ground where there is no escape; they must vanquish or die. The individual gains a Mundane difficulty bonus on all combat rolls for the rest of the wave. If they are not targeted by an additional Battle Action or use a Battle Action by the end of the Wave, they suffer 2 Wounds at the end of the Wave.
  • Dispersive Ground: Target another force or an individual in another force. They have penetrated deep into your held territory, but your force is swallowing them up. If you target another force, they suffer an additional Wound at the end of the Wave. If you target an individual, they enter into a Skirmish with a six Kaonashi of your choice from your force. If either all Kaonashi or the individual reach Down, the Skirmish immediately ends. Also, other members of the targeted individual's force may join the Skirmish by spending an Honor Point.
  • Encircled Ground: Target another force. You cut off the force from making any effective maneuvers, making them lose all current Actions at the price of losing all of your own force's Actions.
  • Entrapping Ground: Target your force. You can tell the Terrain is solidly against your force, and swiftly order the entire force to break ranks and reform somewhere more suitable. At the end of the Wave, the entire force moves to the nearest accessible Terrain. If no other force pursues, the Battle is ended for your force with neither victory or defeat. The force still accrues Wounds and casualties, however.
  • Focal Ground: Target another force. You have provided an opening for that force to act at an advantage. The other force gains an additional Battle Action in the current Moment.
  • Heavy Ground: Target your force and another force. You drive deep into their held ground, at a cost to your own force. At the end of the Wave, your force suffers an additional Wound, but the other force suffers an additional 2 Wounds.
  • Light Ground: Target your force. Your force has penetrated lightly into enemy territory, causing them to group together for better defense. At the end of the Wave, your force suffers 1 less Wound.
  • Traversable Ground: Target an individual in your force. They have been placed some distance away from the engagement as a defensive precaution, finding ground to move swiftly away from hostilities when necessary. The individual does not gain any Honor Points from this Battle Action, but they suffer only 1 Wound at the end of the Wave and cannot be targeted by any other Battle Action.

Know Your Casualties
At the end of a Wave, each commander has the opportunity to evaluate his losses. And war, though honorable and glorious, is deadly and unpredictable. It is a quick way to die, so tread carefully when you wade into rivers of blood.
Each force commander chooses an opposing force and inflicts Wounds equal to their Advantage. A force may also suffer additional Wounds from Battle Actions. Once the total Wounds suffered by a force are calculated, they are distributed among the force by the whim of its commander.

Wounds can be assigned to Namae characters, but only to those involved in Battle Actions during the Wave (this includes being named as part of bonus Effects). The commander cannot assign more Wounds to a Namae character than it takes to kill them; one samurai cannot take the full brunt of enormous damage to save the rest of their force. It's important to note that a large force likely has a wide variety of such individuals. Registering the Wounds for all of them would be time-consuming and prohibitive, so one needs only to keep track of Wounds for ones relevant to the players and Story. If they showed up in a duel, were targeted by a similar Battle Action, or are in command, then they're worth keeping track of. Otherwise, don't worry about it.
Of course, your samurai is always worth keeping track of.

Wounds assigned to Kaonashi are applied to the entire force as a whole. The commander rolls dice equal to all such Wounds (these may shout as normal); the result is the percentage (round up) of Kaonashi too injured (Down or Out) to continue fighting: the casualties. Those wounded will be too exhausted, demoralized, or damaged to engage in any further Battles during this Story.

The commander rolls the same number of dice again to determine the percentage of casualties who die. At least 1 Kaonashi per Wound suffered this way dies as a result of the Wave; this may decimate small forces in a Battle composed of more than two forces. Again, the commander chooses who is a casualty, and who dies.

A commander may also assign Wounds to themselves, be they Namae or Kaonashi.

Armor: The use of armor in a Battle affects how many Wounds a character or force may suffer during the Casualties phase. A Namae character may negate 1 Wound suffered per Wave if wearing ashigaru armor, 2 Wounds if wearing light armor, and 4 Wounds if wearing heavy armor. Fine Quality armor negates an additional Wound; Poor Quality lowers the negation of Wounds by 1. When calculating the Casualties for Kaonashi, you need only consider what the simple majority of the Kaonashi in the force are wearing, and apply the same negation amounts (1, 2, or 4) to the dice being rolled for percentages of wounded and killed.

The Next Wave
Once casualties have been calculated, the next Wave begins. Heaven's and Honor's Advantage continue, as does Glory's Advantage unless it changed hands due to a Rallying Cry. Strategy's Advantage is rerolled Wave to Wave, which can fluctuate based on changing morale and strength.

Ending the Battle
The Battle ends when:
  • One commander has the most Advantage during consecutive Waves.
  • Every other force surrenders (to the enemy), cedes victory (to an ally), or is obliterated, leaving only a single force standing victorious.
  • There are no forces left in the Terrain (as all have chosen to Flee or withdrawn to a different Terrain).
  • A stalemate continues for consecutive Waves, and all forces withdraw from the Battle with neither gaining ground, exhausted and demoralized.

Being in a victorious army is considered an Act of Virtue for samurai; you gain an Honor Point. If you were the commander, both your Virtue and Glory are increased by 1. If your force surrenders, the commander's Glory and Virtue both lose a rank. These benefits and penalties apply only to samurai.