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Tenra Bansho Zero – Sample Antagonists

January 18, 2014

A couple of the villains I created and used in the TBZ game I ran a few days ago.  Stats, theme, and notes on why I built them that way.  A quick set of actual examples of what I used in play following what I wrote on GMing TBZ.

Yojima, the One Armed Swordsman

Master rival swordsman, paradoxically on the brink of enlightenment and very far away from it – able to see the future in a battle.

Body 6, Agility 6, Senses 6, Knowledge 7, Spirit 12, Status 6, Empathy 6

Melee 4, Evasion 4, Art of War: Empty Mind Style 4

Vitality 30, Soul 38

Masterwork Katana +5 damage

Unique Cheap Dice Trick: Maitreya’s Sword

Yojima locks eyes with you, and you start to see his muscles micro-tense in response to any movement you consider doing – he is countering your actions before you even make them.  You can see almost every future movement ending with you dying upon his blade, and the ones in which you survive, your life is ruined by the wound he leaves you with.  The glowing figure of Maitreya, the future Buddha, appears behind him, guiding his sword arm.  One of Maitreya’s hands strokes Yojima’s hair and it turns white – he’s aged a little bit from seeing all these futures…

Yojima takes the opponent’s Karma, divides by 4, and can use that many dice as a an equivalent to a Kiai dice pool for this battle.

Design thoughts:

One player had as his character’s backstory and Fate that a one-armed swordsman defeated him and thereby he was driven to samuraization to get more power to defeat him.  I basically wanted the antagonist to be the thematic opposite of the PC.   The PC was pretty much live-for-the-moment, undisciplined, a little self destructive… now that he’s a Samurai, he’s a little less human, too.   So the antagonist is obssessed with the future, self preservation, and has none of the usual TBZ upgrades/magic – he’s just someone close to true mastery of the blade.

(Ironically, attempting to control the future is about the height of karmic attachment…)

Mechanically, all this really does is give Yojima a pool of dice like the PCs have a pool of dice, but it DOES allow him to go toe to toe for a few rounds – which is exactly what happened.

By the end of a story arc, most players will have higher Karma, since they’ll have been raising Fates along the way.   Higher Karma = Higher Fate = More Kiai for the Player.  (and, likewise, lower Karma, Lower Fate, etc.).   Keying his pool of dice off of a PC’s Karma lets them feel and either regret having Karma (thematically appropriate!) or enjoy having less Karma.

Overall, this is a combo of being inspired by the Vagabond manga + Final Fantasy’s Tonberry whose damage keys off of how many enemies you’ve killed in the game.

In play, this worked pretty damn well!  Also fun – nothing came up that specifically made Yojima evil or a bad guy.  So it’s kinda cool and tragic that this guy who literally got so awesome he’s seeing future timelines got killed anyway.

Divine Shinto Weapon: Kilaka the Container of Evil

Freaky Kongohki containing 3 souls – all former Armour pilots, and an Ayakashi object – the Karma Clock.

Body 13, Agility 16, Senses 11, Knowledge 5, Spirit 9, Status 7, Empathy 8

Unarmed 4, Melee 3, Evade 3

Vitality 33, Soul 20

Armour-sized Wakazashi +8

Freaky description:

12 foot tall Kongohki, looks like one of those creepy ball-and-socket dolls – has massively oversized hands allowing it to wield the Armour sized short sword.   It has an expressionless mask-face, with 2 other masks above it, like it was a person with a mask flipped up.  Then the masks start flipping down, each in turn, one of wrath, one of joy and they flip faster and faster until it looks like an animated flip book – each mask has the voice of a different girl.

“We/we/…/once/once/…/were/were/…/like/like/…/you/you/(no!)/but/but/…/now/now/…/we/we/…/are/are/…/one/one/…/with/with/…/the/the/…/machine/machine/(NO!!!)”

Unique Cheap Dice Trick: Karma Clock Abilities

Every round, have a player roll 1D6 to see which ability is in effect:

1-2 “The Blade is my shield” (defense only)

Kilaka spins the massive sword about, then jumps on it using her magnetic feet to run along the giant blade being able to use it as a shield.

For this round alone attacks made against Kilaka are capped at Skill 2 and Kiai cannot raise the skill equivalent.

3-4 “Machine Sight Defense”

Kilaka analyzes your fighting style when you push yourself beyond your limits.  Each point of Kiai you spend gives her 1 Vitality in defense against you.

5-6 “Mind Gash, the Disharmony of the Untuned Gear”

One of Kilaka’s souls is torn between her desire to live and her desire to die and no longer be trapped as an inhuman… thing.  The Karma Clock within their body spins out of control and any Kiai the players spend is doubled in effect!

Reduced Abilities

Kilaka did not get to use the Kongohki Overdrive or the multiple actions during play.  This was more because time was short and having the GM drive most of the turns would have been less interesting, and the Overdrive would have been way too much.   If Kilaka was going up against a full party, I’d use all of those, though.

Design Thoughts

For contrast to Yojima, I wanted a completely freaky antagonist, one of those “Final Fantasy WTF” kind of boss types.  Kilaka was perfect because it played up on a few different things for the PC it was aimed to go against – the player was playing an Oni, so here I’m presenting the height of human abominations.  The character was also attached as sort of a step-brother to a young Armour pilot, so seeing this possible, sickening end for her was like an extra “Oh god no” bit.

I knew I wanted 3 faces to go with the 3 souls, and doing a quick search online for which of the many 3-faced Buddhist beings I wanted to go with, I found ritual daggers known as Kilaka which were used to “contain evil”.  PERFECT NAME.

Mechanically, the random roll powers is like the classic sort of “Changing powers boss” in most JRPGs, or the videogame boss who you have to time WHEN to go all out as they periodically open up their chest plate or otherwise give you their weak spot.   There’s not a lot of tactics in TBZ, so this was a pretty easy thing to run with.

In play, the Oni player just used his Sha-claws which cannot be blocked to counteract the Blade defense, so I ruled he could do full skill and he tore Kilaka apart.  He actually understood it was completely tragic and horrific this thing existed to begin with so he narrated a pretty fitting end where it’s body and the Armour of his “adopted sister” were strewn out on the battlefield, hands reached out towards each other, with the Karma clock left between them…”tick tick.”

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