Daishō Design Notes – 07/05/2014

When is a sword a sword?

One of the issues that has faced us in the past is how we accurately represent iconic weapons yet stay true to the KISS principle. Our approach has been to look at the function of each weapon and then classify it by that function.

So, for example, in IHMN we had a simple entry called ‘Sword’. This covered infantry officer’s swords, cavalry sabres and other one-handed swords such as scimitars. Although each weapon was different in look they all performed the same function on the field of battle.


The Katana

We face the same issue in Daishō. Samurai and Ronin Bushi carry the famous Katana. Many ‘lesser’ men, such as the Warrior Monks of the Sōhei and Ikkō-ikki carry a Tachi, and the Ninja carry the Ninjato.


The Tachi

Each of these swords are about the same size and perform the same function. Classic illustrations show each being used one and two handed, so in Daishō they shall all be classed as swords. However, due to their status, the Katana of the Samurai are much more likely to be master-worked or of a legendary nature, thus gaining important bonuses to their capabilities.


The Ninjato

Similarly we shall be classifying the Samurai No-dachi in the same category as the Sōhei Ōtachi as Great Swords.

13 thoughts on “Daishō Design Notes – 07/05/2014

  1. This is a totally reasonable philosophy. The differences between katana, tachi, and ninjato are small enough that, when “zoomed out” to a skirmish level, they don’t matter a whole ton. Since you guys are going for a mystical bent to everything, I can see wanting to add a little somethin’ extra to katana.

  2. Indeed Robin. Once we have settled on the mythical Nippon expansion to the equipment rules I shall be back on here to explain how we intend to do it.

  3. To the best of my knowledge, there are no ‘classic’ illustrations showing ninjato. It is almost certainly a 20th century invention – like most things related to ninja (including ‘ninjutsu’). It’s a fantasy game so it hardly matters, but lets be clear about these things.

    I disagree with your generalizations of ‘katana’ and ‘tachi’ as well – but again it’s hardly relevant to the game. To a master swordsman, a sword is simply a sword, whether it’s a priceless antique or a length of wood.

    • You are correct Craig. I’m working with what we can extrapolate from the data we do have (I.e. guessing).
      The illustration was off the Internet and is there for illustrative purposes only 🙂

  4. Nice idea!! For a fantasy-samurai themed game, a only “sword” category (although realistic) is not enough. Maybe you still need another one rules category, for the nodachi and nagamaki!!

    Can I suggest that you could use a more “general” name for the short and straight-bladed swords than ninja-to?

    • Luis,
      We would have a general sword category for katana, tachi and ninjato and a great sword category for the nodachi and otachi.
      The naginata is a quite different weapon and will be listed separately.
      A set of new rules will also allow you to improve these weapons.

  5. Not all Katana were lovingly created masterpieces Luis. I expect that a lot of them were average at best. This being the problem with arming an entire caste. There are a few though that will rate higher and, in fantasy Nippon, have qualities that will make them legendary…

  6. Apologies to both Craig and Luis if my answers seemed short and little off topic. This is the problem with trying to read and reply to their comments on a smartphone at work.

  7. If I remember correctly a Samurai dual was nothing like a western sword dual as a top quality katana would have been horribly damaged if hit against another one. Ken-jitsu is the art of hitting vital areas on an opponent with a single blow (think of the dual near the start of a The Seven Samurai where the two combatants stand there for ages before running at each other and both trying a single stroke). Obviously this would not make a very entertaining game… 🙂

  8. That is incorrect. All combat systems aim to defeat an opponent with the minimum of effort and risk, but this isn’t always possible. I can only claim experience of two of the literally thousands of kenjutsu ryu, but blocking an opponents attack is common. The back and sides of a Japanese sword are ideal for such a purpose.

    Kurosawa’s films are wonderful things, but not the basis for an informed opinion.

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