The Fortress of Xie'e Wu Xing
As everyone knows, a ninja could be lurking in any shadow, or behind any anonymous face, waiting to strike. However, there may only be one PC ninja in the party (i.e., the first player to obtain GM approval), and he must keep his ninjatude a secret – in other words, he must appear and function as another character type, someone who would not raise suspicion traveling in the company of a group of the Shogun’s samurai. This is most often the guise of an Eta manservant (to the point that those prone to suspicion will assume that an Eta traveling with a party of samurai is really a ninja in disguise), but a crafty ninja poses as a priest or peasant soldier, just to keep them guessing. All ninja are hinin non-persons, but you have the rights of the class that people think you belong to, so a ninja disguised as a priest or commoner has the rights of one, so long as his cover isn’t blown. Wearing a black mask and bodysuit is a dead giveaway, however, as is brandishing traditional ninja weapons.
A ninja character is built using the rules and template in DF12: Ninja, but replace the Ninja template’s (DF12, p. 8) entire disadvantage section with the following: Duty (Ninja Clan; Very Hazardous; 9-) [-10]; Secret (Ninja: Possible Death) [-30]; Vow (Own no more than what can be carried) [-10]; and -25 points chosen from among the options listed with the template. (A ninja is not a member of a racial minority in the Lands of Nippon.) In addition, the ninja may choose a single Ninja Disguise Lens, below.
The ninja’s secret doesn’t need to be kept from the other players, and in fact their characters most likely know that the daimyo sent along a ninja – at least the leader of the party, and most of the other PCs will probably figure it out pretty quickly. But he must keep his secret from anyone who could publicly reveal it (or he must silence anyone who learns before they do); if he is publicly outed as a ninja, he must return in shame to his clan’s secret mountain stronghold … even if he refuses ritual suicide and somehow escapes the envenomed shuriken of his brethren, he’s effectively removed from the campaign.
A ninja character must choose one of the following disguise lenses, giving him the ability to conceal his inner ninja. Some ninja specialize in masquerading as a certain kind of person – usually a peasant or soldier – while others are more versatile in their disguises, at the expense of the depth of expertise required to maintain the ruse under close scrutiny. A few even learn magical tricks and illusions, using these skills to disguise themselves. A single disguise lens is a free campaign feature for a ninja character, and unavailable to other characters.
Some ninja master various peasant fighting arts in addition to their own ninjutsu secrets, both to enhance their fighting abilities, and to pass convincingly as peasant martial artists. Since the practice of such arts are frowned upon by many samurai, and even outlawed in some provinces, this isn’t necessarily a great disguise … but even being seen as a possible insurrectionist is better than being known as a ninja.
The ballsiest of ninja sometimes take up the mantle of a samurai – often, but not always, the guise of a wandering ronin. Carrying the weapons of the samurai brings its own risks and rewards, perhaps the most important of which is the guaranteed attention of peasants and samurai alike, which more discrete ninja prefer to avoid. A ninja master swordsman is a true terror, however, able to strike down his target toe-to-toe as easily as from the shadows; a ninja master archer is a deadly sniper without equal.
Many ninja are first-class outdoorsmen, and spend their time between missions wandering the wilds of Nippon. In addition to the skills they gain in survival, tracking, and scouting, they can easily blend in as peasant woodsmen, hunters, bandits, or irregular infantry in a clan army. Some, but by no means all, master the use of the han-kyu (short bow).
A disguised ninja may easily join a clan’s army, getting training and experience as a professional soldier. In addition to the obvious boon to his combat effectiveness, he learns to move about in military circles – clan armies, mercenaries, militias, etc.
The inner mystic teachings of some ninja clans include actual magic spells, a secret available only to those who are born with (or can awaken) an aptitude for magic. They may learn a handful of illusion and mind control spells, which they use in place of the deep infiltration and method-acting techniques of magically inept ninja.
A ninja who can take on a variety of different disguises has a distinct skill set from his more role-specific counterparts – rather than displaying specific competence in a certain field, he must be able to convincingly bluff such competence in many fields. Ninja who commonly disguise themselves as priests, for example, don’t have actual supernatural powers – “assassin” is a ritually impure job, anathema to the holy life – but rely on acting and chicanery to convince others of their legitimacy. However, should the disguise become suspect, he can easily switch to a new one.