Weekly Design Blog #30: Samurai Spirit with a Six-Shooter

Hello All,

Quite a while back, I talked about some of the classes we'll be adding to Steampunk Musha and how we'll be treating some classes like the Fighter slightly different as the Ashigaru that is more "fitting" to the lands of Rusoto-Shima. The one class I want to specifically talk about today is the Shangti Cowboy, which is a clear iconic of the setting.

The Shangti Cowboy's current write up starts thusly:

 The tradition of the Shangti Cowboy began in the gritty slave city of Shangti, where everyday cowboys were made into a freelance police force. They patrolled the city on horseback, investigating homicides of the rich and powerful, found missing or kidnapped persons, and tracked down known criminals for bounty, delivering justice at the end of a barrel. Many also worked as bodyguards or private detectives, hired by honest civilians and crimelords alike.

The presence of the organization in Shangti lowered the crime rate significantly, and soon, other cities were clamoring for the services of mercenaries trained among the Shangti Cowboys. With an open market for their services, the original force in Shangti lost its internal structure, and soon all the Shangti Cowboys were working on their own, for profit or sport. While some see the Shangti Cowboys as bringing order to a chaotic world, others worry they’ve replaced random violence with organized crime and punishment.

Role: One-part cop, one-part vigilante, even when they don’t work in Shangti, those that call themselves Shangti cowboys consider themselves mercenary enforcers of whomever’s rules they’re being paid to execute. Excelling in dirty tricks and underhanded maneuvers, a Shangti cowboy combines the bombastic firepower of a gunslinger, with the killer instincts of a slayer, drawing from each class the necessary skills and abilities to track down bounties, and bring them back dead-or-alive, through any means necessary.

The class is then a mix of a bounty hunter type character, but mixing in the firearm tricks of the gunslinger. They have some abilities like the Slayer's studied target ability, but then their own grit-like gunslinger pool call instead gunbaru.

 Gunbaru (Ex): At second level, the tough-as-nails Shangti cowboy claim to possess gunbaru, which is a play-on-words that mixes the gaijin word for firearms, with the traditional Rosuto-Shima belief of ganbaru— which poorly translated to gaijin Common would mean, “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity”. While ganbaru is a traditional samurai virtue, Shangti cowboys see gunbaru as the willingness to do what is necessary to get the job done.

In game terms, gunbaru is a fluctuating measure of a Shangti cowboy's ability to perform amazing actions in and out of combat. At the start of each day, a Shangti cowboy gains a number of gunbaru points equal to his Charisma modifier (minimum 1). His gunbaru goes up or down throughout the day, but usually cannot go higher than his Charisma modifier (minimum 1), though some feats and magic items may affect this maximum. A Shangti cowboy spends gunbaru to accomplish deeds (see below), and regains gunbaru in the following ways.

Critical Hit with a Firearm: Each time the Shangti cowboy confirms a critical hit with a firearm attack while in the heat of combat, he regains 1 gunbaru point. Confirming a critical hit on a helpless or unaware creature or on a creature that has fewer Hit Dice than half the Shangti cowboy's character level does not restore gunbaru.

Killing Blow with a Firearm: When the Shangti cowboy reduces a creature to 0 or fewer hit points with a firearm attack while in the heat of combat, he regains 1 gunbaru point. Destroying an unattended object, reducing a helpless or unaware creature to 0 or fewer hit points, or reducing a creature that has fewer Hit Dice than half the Shangti cowboy's character level to 0 or fewer hit points does not restore any gunbaru.

Daring Act: Each time a Shangti cowboy performs a daring act, he can regain gunbaru. As a general guideline, a daring act should be risky and dramatic. It should take a good deal of guts, and its outcome should have a low probability of success. If it is successful, the Shangti cowboy regains 1 gunbaru point. Before attempting a daring act, the player should ask the GM whether the act qualifies. The GM is the final arbiter of what's considered a daring act, and can grant a regained gunbaru point for a daring act even if the player does not ask beforehand whether the act qualifies.

While that's clearly a port of grit with adjusted flavor, the exact mix of deeds that come along with it reflect the bounty hunter and rough and tumble roots, as well as some of the cowboy aspects of the class. They were rough-riders after-all first. And that bit of flavor is actually really important, in that it is based on the Japanese concept of ganbaru, which really is thing that is hard to translate into English, but at the same time is a quintessential Japanese value or concept to grasp.

And for clarity, though the name "cowBOY" has an obvious gendered preference, the class isn't limited to only males. We might even (assuming I can convince the Fattest Goblin) have our Iconic for the class be a Shangti CowGIRL.

Lucus Palosaari, Editor & Project Manager at Fat Goblin Games (Like us on Facebook!)

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