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WELCOME . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
INTRODUCTION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
BASIC ACTIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
THE KARMA SYSTEM. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
BASIC COMBAT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
WHAT IS THE ZEROSYSTEM? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
SCENARIO CREATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
ARMOUR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173
ONMYOJUTSU RULES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190
SAMURAI ABILITY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215
BUDDHIST MAGIC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220
KIJIN AND MECHANICARULES . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
KONGOHKI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243
NINJUTSU RULES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 256
ANNELID RULES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 273
ONI RESONANCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 282
SHINTO RULES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 287
THE AYAKASHI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 292
THE ART OF WAR. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 304
ONE TENRA: AGAINSTTHE TIDE . . . . . . . . . . . 321

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TENRA GLOSSARY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 344
MEDIA RESOURCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 352
ADVICE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 358
222 THINGS TO DO INTENRA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 375
NAMES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 382
ARCHETYPES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 389
CREATING NEW ARCHETYPES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 416
SAMPLE CHARACTERS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 427
EMOTION MATRIX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 449

Directed and Produced By Additional Graphics By Tenra Bansho Zero: Tales of Heaven
Andy Kitkowski Ben Morgan and Earth Edition is dedicated to
Tony Dowler Satoru Hosono (1973-2006), for
Translated By
Mark Quire without whom I would never have been
Andy Kitkowski
Orie Hiromachi introduced to the wonderful world of
Bryan Thogerson
Jose Jimenez Japanese-born role-playing games or
Scott Blow
the people who play them.
Ewen Cluney Primary Editors
Keith Perhac Grant Chen Original Edition: 2000 JunIchi
Shawn Burke Craig Judd Inoue/Far East Amusement Research
Additional Research By Edited By
Orie Hiromachi Andy Kitkowski Tenra Bansho: Tales of Heaven
Andy Kitkowski Adam Dray AndEarth Edition: 2012 Kotodama
Mark Causey Heavy Industries, North Carolina,
Additional Writing By
Matthew Gandy USA.
T.S. Luikart
Andy Kitkowski Supreme Thanks To First Printing | Winter 2013
Everyone at FEAR for their eort and
Graphic Design and Layout ISBN: 978-0-9836458-1-8
cooperation, Kei Kitazawa
Radek Drozdalski
Sho Tomono from Group SNE for
Luke Crane
their constant encouragement.

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these are the words
that craft the world
they grant the ability to craft
the very tales of heaven and earth

Welcome to the world of Tenra, a vast land of endless feudal war, a land of incredible
tales that you and your friends will create.


This book takes us behind the scenes of Tenra, a Hyper-Asian setting of fantasy,
swords, technology and magic introduced in the world guide. This book is a tool for you
and your friends to use to create thrilling tales within the world of Tenra. It is a tabletop
role-playing game: A rulebook, informational resource and play guide. This book and
some friends are all you require to play the game.


A role-playing game is a form of creative entertainment that you engage in with your
friends. Its an ancient form of entertainment given new form. Behind all of the gloss,
dice, and rules this game simply comes down to telling stories with your friends.
Together with a group of friends, you will create a tale. The story will have a backdrop,
the world of Tenra. It will have unique and interesting characters, which you will role-
play: You will pretend to be those characters, guiding their actions and speaking through
them. Using some rules and a little creativity, a story will develop. There will be crises and
climaxes, and the characters will change as you pass from chapter to chapter in the story.

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O By the end of one session of about 4-6
hours, you and your friends will have an
original story, a unique tale which you
have created together. Thats the kind of
entertainment that role-playing provides.
Thats what a role-playing game is.

Many of us are familiar with the idea of

but fundamentally different ways than

many RPGs you are familiar with: The
Karma system and Zero System will have
rules which are surprisingly dierent from
other tabletop RPGs. Please familiarize
yourselves with them, as Tenra Bansho
has some interesting things that set it
apart from similar fantasy games, and take
a while to get used to. Things like:

video games known as Role-Playing Games The Emotion Matrix, which determines
or RPGs. Final Fantasy and Mass Eect what your character initially thinks of
are the kind of games that you play on a other characters when they rst meet.
video game console. The dierence between Aiki chits, which are a mechanism for
console RPGs and tabletop RPGs is a basic players outside the scene rewarding good
one: In console RPGs, the author has the role-playing and adherence to character
story written from beginning to end. You background.
may be presented choices throughout the The Karma system, which reects how
game, but you still must follow the plot of your characters personality grows and
the pre-determined story. You are the sole changes throughout the game.
player of the game.
Familiarize yourself with these unique
With tabletop RPGs, several friends play bits before your rst game, and your game
at once. Almost like a theatrical play, they session will ow much more smoothly.
serve as both the actors and the audience.
The player choices matter in tabletop play: WHAT DOES TENRA
The game will shift and change, grow and BANSHO ZERO MEAN,
develop, all as the players make choices ANYWAY?
throughout the game. The playersby In short: All Things in Heaven and Earth
role-playing their characters actions
It is a play on the Buddhist expression
write the story in real-time. There is no
shin-ra-ban-shou, a concept which
pre-determined path and no correct way
connotes The Universe, Nature,
to do anything. The players make it up as
Heaven and Earth, Everything that
they go along.
Exists. It originally hails from the
HOW IS TENRA BANSHO Dhammapada, a Buddhist scripture
DIFFERENT FROM written in Sanskrit and later translated
OTHER RPGS? into Chinese. The Chinese character for
If you are familiar with tabletop role-playing Shin (nature; forest) has been replaced
games in general but are not familiar with with Ten (heaven; sky) to make a unique
Tenra Bansho Zero, after you look through word that plays on this expression.
the world and setting sections to get an idea Tenra is the name of the land featured in
of how the world works, you will want to the game (both the planet and the string
carefully review the rules sections. While of continents). The hidden Sanskrit
characters and combat work in similar meaning of the word is eternal.
ways to other popular role-playing games,
the ow of the game operates in some small

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ZERO is the moniker for this new Player or PC

edition of the game, which features The rest of the participants in the game
tightened rules for Karma, drama and aside from the GM are players. Each player
story. is in charge of a Player Character (PC),
Tenra Bansho is the original name of this which they guide through role-play. Players
role-playing game, originally published in who take part in a scene are called acting
Japan in 1997. The game was redesigned, players, and a player who takes the role of
re-conceptualized, and republished in a an important character for that scene is
new edition in the year 2000. Th is new called the scene player.
edition was called Tenra Bansho Zero.
Player Character or PC
The Zero referred to a new beginning in
These are the heroes and characters that
the year 2000, and the system that made all
the players use to tell a story, as opposed to
the drama and action happen was labeled
the background characters that the heroes
the Zero System. This English version of
meet, which are called NPCs.
the game comes directly from the Zero
edition of the game. Since Zero referred to Non-Player Character or NPC
a new beginning for the game, we thought it These are the various story characters
would be tting to keep that title as Tenra that the Game Master controls, such as
Bansho Zero nds a new beginning in the townspeople, leaders, and villains. They
English-speaking Western world. interact with the PCs. Sometimes the
players will take on the roles of these NPCs

TENRA RULES as well.

LEXICON Acts are units which show the passage
Here we will introduce the special words of time, just like acts in a play, movie, or
used in the rules sections of Tenra Bansho anime. Think of acts as chapters of a novel.
Zero. Throughout the rest of this book, Normally, one game session is organized
the words here will be used without into 3-5 acts.
explanation. If you know the meaning
of the words below beforehand, youll Scenes
eectively pick up the rules of the game. An act is further broken down into scenes,
just like a TV show or anime. Scenes are
Game Master or GM the where the actual role-playing happens.
This is the person in the group who is in They are small chunks of time or space in
charge of the game. She is responsible for which the story, drama and action occurs.
the ow of the game, setting the stage and Strings of linked scenes become an act.
creating scenes, and creating the adventure
scenario in which the other players will Intermission
play. She also creates conf licts for the Intermissions are the phases of rest
characters, and describes what happens between two acts. During an intermission
when the players react to those con icts. phase, Kiai becomes replenished, character
The GM is also the referee and judge of the Fates and Destinies may change, and
rules. changes to the characters are recorded on
character sheets.

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Zero Act a ict the mind and body. Only through

The first act of the game is called the cutting ties to the physical world can these
Zero Act, and is meant to introduce the delements be reduced or eliminated.
characters, introduce major NPCs, and for
the GM to assign each character a Destiny.
Fates represent the PCs relationships and
Each character gets one single scene in the
connections with the world. Each Fate can
Zero Act.
be an emotion towards another character,
Aiki, Aiki Chits a thing the character did in her past, a
Aiki (pronounced: Eye-Key) means motivation, a belief, and so on. Fates are the
harmony or kinship. Aiki chits are rewards beliefs that move the character to act day
that the players or GMs give to players who to day. A characters Fate could also be a
are role-playing well. Whenever someone trauma, a reason to continue living, or even
has their character do something cool, a sin that they committed.
or something that is interesting in the
context of that character, that player will
Destiny is a special kind of Fate which the
receive an Aiki chit from the other players.
GM assigns to each PC at the beginning
Aiki is later converted into Kiai. It is
of each gaming session. It is a goal that the
recommended that the players use poker
player should try to act out through their
chips, coins, colored stones, paper strips or
PC during that session. It is the characters
other physical artifacts to represent Aiki
mission in that scenario.

Kiai, Kiai Points Asura

When you crave for unattainable things,
Kiai (pronounced Key-Eye) is literally
when youre plagued by the loss that you
a ghting spirit or a yell used in martial
feel when you realize you cannot change or
arts. It is a symbol of character power.
let go of attaining your goals, and when you
Spending Kiai lets the character do
cannot forget the pain of wanting things
incredible acts of skill and grace, usually in
out of your reach, you lose the part of you
the form of rolling extra dice, or gaining
that makes you human. You either actively
extra successes. Power comes with a cost,
or inadvertently destroy everything that
though: Whenever Kiai is used, it will turn
you once loved. You become an Asura
into Karma. The word Kiai is made up of
(pronounced Ah-Shur-Ah)also known
the same two Japanese kanji pictographs as
as a Lost Soula demon in human guise.
Aiki, only reversedThey are two sides
You reveal yourself to be evil, and your PC
of the same coin.
becomes an NPC under the GMs control.
Karma is gained when Kiai points are
In each scene, the GM and a few of the
spent. They represent the pollution of
players will participate, role-playing their
the characters soul or show the strength
characters. The players who are not actively
of the characters ties to the world of esh
taking part in the scene are the audience,
and suering. Karma is strongly tied to the
just like the audience of a Kabuki or
108 Buddhist De lements or Sins, the
Bunraku play. They have a role in awarding
aictions caused by human suering that
good role-play and character expression
with Aiki chits.

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This is an optional rule for beginning CANCELLATION
players. The role of the scene judge is to The GM is allowed to change rules or
give Aiki chits to the other players. As decide to work around or outside of the
other players role-play well, they should be rules at any time.
encouraged as well as given Aiki chits by
the GM or scene referee. The scene referee
changes from scene to scene. In normal
In situations where the rules dont clearly
games of Tenra Bansho Zero, the scene
cover how to resolve a situation, the GM
referee is not used and all players reward
can decide which rules should be used or
each other with Aiki chits.
how to resolve that particular situation.
If the GM faces a situation where the rules
THE BASIC dont apply at all or where the PCs want
to do something not covered in the rules,
RULES OF please use the following criteria when
thinking of a judgment:
ROLE-PLAY Does it feel like it ts the atmosphere of
Tenra Bansho Zero is like a play or story the scene?
that everyone participates in creating.
Does it sound cool?
The goal of the game is to engage in the
fun process of creating that story through Does it seem to t inside the plans of the
their characters, and enjoying the story as rest of the adventure?
it unfolds. Does it add to the fun of the players?
For the player who participates as the If the player decides to do something that
GM, there are some additional powers and completely counteracts the atmosphere of
abilities that come with the job. Of course, the game, the GM can say that it didnt
they should stick to the rules as much as happen, and have the player choose their
possible. Moreover, they should try their action again. The GM should never have to
hardest to apply the rules impartially to all use this power often with a focused group
the players. of enthusiastic players, but it is there as a
If the GM makes a mistake in the sort of emergency break, just in case.
application of a rule, they should apologize
immediately and use the correct rule from
that point on. Dont try to rewind time,
The GM can control the basic actions of
as it were, and try to reapply the correct
the NPCs without making them roll dice.
rule to the situation. Think of it like a
They simply succeed or fail at tasks as the
referees call in a sports game; it shouldnt
GM decides.
be undone. Whats past is past. Just make
an eort to use the correct rule or judgment
in the future.

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VICTORY CONDITIONS 3) You get the GM to say, That was

Tenra Bansho Zero is a type of game where cool! or That was great! when you do
there are no winners or losers. However, something.
if the players dont have any goals to work 4) You were able to encourage the other
for, they certainly wont be able to play the players and keep them involved.
game well. Weve gone ahead to set victory
5) You took the opportunity to show o or
conditions for the game, both for the
express yourself.
players and for the GM in a game of TBZ.
The more of the conditions you fulll, the 6) You helped create an interesting story.
closer you are to victory, as it were, in the If the player lled more than half of the
game. above conditions, then they have achieved
a victory. The player can go ahead and tell
others that she mastered Tenra as well. If
you suer a defeat, then regroup, focus on
1) You helped the players have as much fun
the victory conditions, and try again later.
as humanly possible.
Make sure to stand tall and not to blame
2) You help bring the characters to life in a the others if you are defeated.
way that the players say, I want to play
this character again someday!
3) The players tell you the session was THE FINE
interesting and enjoyable.
4) You helped each of the players take the
This section just has some small elements
stage, and show o or express themselves
to be aware of when reading through the
in their own ways.
rules sections of this book.
5) The players thank you for your eort in
doing all the above. RULES ABOUT DICE
This game uses six-sided dice, the kind that
6) You helped create an interesting story.
come with most board games. When we
If the GM lled more than half of the above refer to rolling dice or making a roll, we
conditions, then the GM has achieved a mean rolling these six-sided dice. Usually
victory. She can go ahead and tell others the players will roll with one Attribute and
that she successfully mastered Tenra. one Skill. You will often see statements like
However, dont quit just because youre Make a Spirit: Willpower roll or Roll
ahead! Try to do even better! Moreover, if against the opponents Agility: Melee
you suer a defeat, then regroup, focus on Weapons. See the basic rules section for
the victory conditions and try again later. more details on how to make these rolls.
Dont give up!
THE PLAYER VICTORY Any time you take a fraction of a number
CONDITIONS, IN ORDER OF in the game, you will always round up to
IMPORTANCE: the highest full number, no matter what
1) You had fun over the course of the fraction of a number results. 10 / 3 = 3.3,
session. which in Tenra rounds up to 4.
2) You helped the other players to have as
much fun as you had.

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CONCEPT TEXT the other pronoun (he) in alternate chap-

In the sections of text labeled Concept, ters. In the end, this is a game to be en-
we will explain the hidden meanings joyed by both men and women. In Japan,
behind the rules, how they aect play, and for example, Tenra Bansho is a roleplaying
why they exist. There are rules that give game that is traditionally very popular with
the power to the GM to make rule changes female players!
or make decisions based on rules, and we The game is set in a fantasy analogue
wrote the Concept sections to emphasize of Japan during its Sengoku period
that there is often more to the rules than Warring States Eraof several hundred
meets the eye. years ago. Back then, there were traditional
GMs should read the Concept sections, so roles set for men and women. There is no
that their decisions take the reasons behind reason whatsoever to emulate the gender
the rules into consideration. Once the GM roles of historic Japan in this fantasy
is aware of the purpose behind the rule, it game. Think of it more like an anime or
will help the GM make better on-the-y manga-ized fantasy world, where women
rules decisions in the game. and men can (and often do) trade gender
roles and break cultural, caste and gender
TENRA, TENRA BANSHO, stereotypes. Play with modern sensibilities
TENRA BANSHO ZERO, to culture and gender, and have fun with
TBZ bending or breaking those stereotypes!
Throughout the game we will make
reference to all of the words above. Tenra VICTORY IN A GAME
Bansho and Tenra Bansho Zero refer WITH NO LOSERS
to the game you hold in your hands. Tenra Bansho Zero is dierent than most
Sometimes we use TBZ as a shorthand console and board games, as there are only
of Tenra Bansho Zero. The world Tenra winners. Defeating a player doesnt lead to
alone may refer to the game, but more often victory for the GM, and trouncing a GM
than not it refers to the game world, as the does not make the players winners. Its
setting the stories take place in is a land important to understand that in this game,
called Tenra. Playing in a way that benets everybody
usually begins with Play in a way that is
GENDER, GRAMMAR fun for yourself, and dont ruin the fun of
AND THIRD PERSON the other players. Or, more colloquially,
PRONOUNS Dont be a jerk. This is a game for the kind
Throughout the text, we will indiscrimin- of people who think If I help others have
ately use male and female pronouns (he/ fun, Ill probably have fun myself .
she) when using third person in the rules: Lets aim for that kind of play. Play with
The Japanese printed language simply has friends you trust, enjoy their company,
no regular-use pronouns, so weve had to do and push each other to higher levels of
our best to add them in to this English enjoyment. Its that simple. It takes a while
version. In many sections we refer to the to get used to role-playing games like Tenra
GM as she and the players as he. In the Bansho Zero, but were condent you can
rules sections, we tend to alternate using quickly have successful game sessions.
one pronoun (she) in some chapters (Like
this one, for instance. Did you notice?) and


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there is another you
a youwho exists in the world of Tenra
here you will take form

Youve read or at least skimmed through the world section, and have seen the kinds of
people that inhabit the volatile world of Tenra. Now its time to experience it. Its time
to play the game.
This section details the methods for bringing to life another side of you, a part of you
which will live in the world of Tenra. These are the character creation rules.
In Tenra Bansho Zero, there are a large number of pre-made characters available so
that you can quickly pick one and jump right into playing the game. If all of the players
each choose one of the characters in that section, everyone will be able to begin the game
For people who are new to playing Tenra Bansho, or people playing at a game convention
or other place where time is limited (like a spontaneous game with friends), we suggest
you use one of the many sample characters found in the back of this book. However, for
people who really want to get into making a character from scratch, we have rules that
explain how to create new characters.


The rst step to creating a character in Tenra Bansho Zero is to rst understand what
kind of game you are going to be playing this time. More often than not, the Game Master
will have at least some idea for an adventure scenario, if not an entirely prepared adventure


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 11 12/19/12 12:08 AM


from start to nish. In this situation, the high drama, with lots of backstabbing and
GM will share with the group some of the intrigue. I have some ideas for the scenario,
ideas that she had for the scenario. The but nothing set in stone. So feel free to
players can from there decide what kinds choose any kind of character that you want,
of characters to play. but make sure that you think about your
The best thing to do is to not decide alone Station, Empathy and Willpower scores,
what kind of character you want to play, because theres going to be a lot of talking
but to bring your idea to the table. Share and confrontation, and maybe one ght, if
your idea with your fellow players and see any.
what they think. They might have some 3) From Scratch
suggestions to make your character idea GM: Thanks for coming. I dont have any
more exciting, or perhaps be inspired prewritten scenario today, but I have a few
to come up with a character type that loose ideas. So lets talk about what kind
complements your choice. of game we want to experience, and what
Sometimes the GM will have a scenario kinds of characters you want to play. When
that is very focused, where the GM will were done, Ill need about 10 minutes to
create a few characters to be used in that jot some notes down, and well be ready to
scenario. Each player will pick one of the play.
prepared characters, and play out that role
in the game. CHOOSING A
Other times, the GM will have a simple,
When choosing characters, here are some
short outline of a scenario. Or perhaps
things to consider:
the GM is going to wing it, and have no
prewritten scenario at all, instead basing it Does the GM require that certain
on the role-play and choices of the players. character types are chosen for the
In these situations, the players will be given scenario?
more freedom to choose their characters. What kind of character do you really
Compare the following game introductions, want to play? Is there a character type
and think about the kind of character that you havent played yet, and want to give
you might choose for it: it a shot?
What would work well with the other
1) Prewritten Scenario
characters? If the other three players are
GM: Hey everyone, Ive put together a
all playing kugutsu, would it be more fun
Ninja Clan War scenario. Basically two
to play a kugutsu as well? Or would it be
ninja clans duke it out for supremacy of
more interesting to play a dierent kind
the domain. Id like you all to make ninja
of character, to accentuate the dierence
characters, or at least character types that
between your character and the others?
will work well in a ninja village.
In the end, play what you want to play.
2) Scenario Outline Share your ideas with the other players,
GM: Hey everyone, we were talking and listen to what they think of your idea.
earlier about a change of pace, and Jason The nal decision rests with you, though.
was interested in a court drama game. So
I was thinking of running a game where
all the players are nobility. Its going to be


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 12 12/19/12 12:08 AM


There are no wrong choices in character COPY THE CHARACTER SHEET

creation. The focus of Tenra Bansho Zero Copy the sample character you chose
is on the characters, their struggles, and from the back of the book, or print out the
the stories that emerge. You dont have to sample sheets of those characters from the
balance the party as you might in an online Tenra Bansho Zero website. Just copy the
roleplaying game: We dont have a healer. needed information like Attributes and
Somebody needs to be the groups healer. Abilities, Soul points, Wound Levels and
Who is going to be a Buddhist Priest? the like.
Dont consider strategic party balance for
overcoming combat challenges: Instead, MAKE THE CHARACTER
consider what would make for a more YOUROWN
entertaining time for everyone. A good From this point, the players can make small
GM will make sure to change the scenario changes to the sample character templates
in a way where any character choice is valid. to make the characters their own. The
players should help each other come up
Finally, do not be concerned if everyone with a suitable Tenra-like character. Come
is interested in playing the same up with names and genders, perhaps a very
character type. You can have a game with brief backstory for the character. Work
four samurai, and yet each samurai is with the other players to make sure that
dierent, both in abilities and especially the characters will be able to interact easily.
in personalities. One might be young and
rash, another might be old and jaded. One NAME
might have Art of War skills, while another In this book and on the website weve
has annelids or limited onmyojutsu skills. provided several tables of cool Tenra-
Even in a group where everyone picks the sounding names for you to make use of.
same general character archetypes, you can Most characters will not require a last
still have a great range of actual characters: name (traditionally only lords and other
So dont be afraid to pick the character type higher members of the caste system have
you want to play, even if other players are last names), but instead have a single name
choosing similar types. or nickname. For characters of nobility,
If you are a brand new player to Tenra they will have a rst and last name, and
Bansho Zero, it would probably be best be called almost always by their last name.
not to choose character types like onmyoji Nicknames in English (or Japanese) are
or shinobi, as they have magic or special also very common for seasoned adult
abilities that take a little while to get used characters, too (Yellow Knife; Gonta
to. For your rst game, it might be better the Weaver; Ayame the Headhunter;
to stick to the character types that dont Shadow Edge). Buddhist Monks,
have as many special exceptional rules: Onmyoji, and samurai often have names
samurai, kugutsu, kijin and the like. that might be cool (Ten Blades), owery
Having said that, if you are really interested (Red Lotus), or esoteric (Symphony
in a particular kind of character for your of Clouds). Kongohki and Monks (once
rst game, go for it! Just be ready to spend they join the order) almost always have
a little extra time learning the special rules descriptive, poetic names that are based
that go with that character type. on words and not human names.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 13 12/19/12 12:08 AM


Another eect is to add a nickname to a second game onward, feel free to change
rst or last name for extra eect: Hawk the Fates written on your character sheet
Murakami , O-Ren the Songbird , to whatever you want. Some of the Fates
Magobei the Snake. that automatically come with pre-made
characters might not be fitting for the
GENDER AND AGE scenario. If you or the GM dont think a
Choose these freely. Gender wont be an particular Fate is relevant for the scenario,
issue, and age will rarely matter. However, change it to a Fate that works for you.
the GM will sometimes have a scenario
planned where This is a samurai scenario; CHARACTER CREATION
children characters wouldnt work for FROM SCRATCH
this scenario or You are all going to be The rules for character generation
surviving orphans at a temple, so older from scratch are for those people who
folks wouldnt t in this scenario. If the arent satised with using pre-generated
GM has prepared a scenario, listen to the characters, or when your group has
description of it and choose an age that ts more time to work together to make new
from there. characters.
SOCIETY AND SOCIAL CLASS Its been suggested above that for your rst
Tenra is a world at war. The traditional game you should choose a pre-generated
status and severe restrictions of a classic character. Making a character from
social position system are not strongly scratch is not hard, but it can be a little
enforced in this world as they were in time consuming the rst time you try. It
real Japan. It is the kind of world where can take up to thirty minutes to customize
the power a person wieldsmoreso than a character from scratch your rst time, but
their social standing or genderinuences in time you will probably be able to create
others. Having said that, a loose caste a character in ve minutes or less once you
system is still in eect in Tenra, just as become used to the system.
it was in old Japan: First vassal warriors, Characters made from scratch are created
then farmers, then artisans and lastly from archetypes. Essentially, you pick and
merchants. choose two to four (or more) archetypes
which will determine your starting skill
levels, special abilities, equipment, special
The player should feel free to describe the
eects, and more. All you really need to do
characters image: the clothes she wears, her
is choose 2-4 archetypes and you are ready
looks and style, the things she carries, etc.
for play, though in some cases players will
The color of your kimono, the condition of
want to customize their characters further.
your sandals, the look of the weapon you
carry, your posture, grooming or bearing CHOOSE ARCHETYPES
all these are little touches that bring out the
Archetypes are brief descriptions of
interesting parts of your character, making elements that make a whole character.
her more lifelike for the other players. Some describe the focus of the character,
like samurai or Shinobi. Others give
describe their jobs, or other roles or
For your rst game, it is recommended that
qualities like Weaponmaster, Doctor
you keep the Fates for the characters as-is
or Wanderer.
to get used to how they work. From your


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 14 12/19/12 12:08 AM


The first step is to skim through the KARMA COST

archetypes section of the rulebook and Each archetype you choose has an
look for the archetypes that appeal to you. associated Karma Cost. When you
If you want a specialized character like a calculate the total Karma for your chosen
samurai, kongohki, onmyoji, annelidist, archetypes, the total for your starting
oni or the like, you will want to rst pick character must be less than 108. You are
the archetype that will give you those free to choose as many packages as you want
special abilities. From there, look at the as long as their combined Karma does not
skills which the archetypes provides, as exceed 108. However, you probably dont
well as the unique Fates that the archetype want to build your character with too much
comes with. Sometimes you will want to starting Karma at rst, as you wont have
pick up an extra archetype (Hard Luck is much room to spend Kiai points during
a popular choice) because it provides your the actual game. A good starting place
character with an exciting starting Fate. is somewhere between 50 to 90 Karma.
If you want to play a character with magic Less than 50 and you may have a hard
powers, specialist abilities, or unusual time accomplishing goals. More than 90
equipment, its necessary to select an and you will nd yourself with a powerful
archetype that provides those abilities. starting character, but one who is very close
Later on you have the opportunity to to becoming an evil NPC, an asura.
raise your starting basic skills like Melee The total amount of Karma of your
Weapons or Pillow Arts, but if you want archetypes is your characters total
to be able to use Ninjutsu, Wormcharm, starting Karma. Please write it down on
Resonance, or Interface, you will have to the character sheet.
buy an archetype during character creation
that grants those abilities.
Starting characters have a trade-off that you
If you want to play something other than will see in play: You can choose to start off
a human like a kugutsu, ayakashi, or oni, with a potentially powerful character with a
you need to choose that races archetype high Karma cost, like 100 or above. You can
package, called a species package. also choose to start off with a potentially
Humans do not need to take any special weak character, with a starting Karma of
packages for their race. 50 or so. The difference is that the high
It is possible to combine several archetype Karma character will always be walking the
packages together to make unique line of Good vs Evil, and will not be able to
characters. The one exception is that perform as many wild feats using Kiai points
you cannot take more than one of the at first. However, the character with the
aforementioned species packages (i.e. lower starting Karma may not have as many
half-oni and kugutsu; ayakashi and oni). nifty abilities, but she will be able to spend
Kiai wildly and do incredible things without
Character components like age and
having to worry about the consequences.
gender are not de ned by archetypes, so
you can choose these freely. Write your For new players, we suggest a starting
chosen archetypes on a blank character Karma somewhere around 60-90. Once you
sheet (either copied from the book, or become used to the way the game works,
downloaded from the Tenra Bansho Zero youll be able to see the long-term effects of
web site). starting off with higher or lower Karma.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 15 12/19/12 12:08 AM


ATTRIBUTE COST Melee Weapons: 2 and Melee Weapons:

Some of the character archetypes have 3, then you keep Melee Weapons: 3 and
something called Attribute Cost. We will pick another general skill to set at 2 like
explain this in detail soon, but it means Movement or Evasion. You do not add
that you will have a minus when it comes them together to get Melee Weapons: 5).
to spreading a number of points (usually
40 at character creation) amongst your IMPOSSIBLE ARCHETYPE
Attribute scores like Body, Spirit and COMBINATIONS
Station. In the various archetypes, there exist
some packages that cannot be combined.
SKILLS For example, if you choose a kugutsu,
The archetypes list the skills the character you cannot combine that with a samurai
will receive, and the level they are set at. An because of their magical bodies. Please
archetype that lists the skill Movement: 3 read the archetype description for details
means that the character sheet will have a on possible combination restrictions.
nal rank of 3 in movement, so they should
have Three Dots total lled in under the TRADING ATTRIBUTE POINTS
movement skill. Since the movement skill FOR GENERAL SKILLS
is a generalist skill which every character At the cost of one attribute point (the
starts out with one dot already lled in, the points that you use to spread amongst your
player will only need to ll in two more dots starting attributes) you can either gain one
in that skill for a total of three lled-in dots. single skill rated at 3 (Advanced), or two
skills rated at 2 (Skilled). You can only do
OVERLAPPING SKILLS this with general skills (the ones that start
If you pick multiple archetype packages out at 1, or Unskilled), not specialist
and get the same skill more than once, it is skills. Specialist skills can only be gained
called an overlapping skill. You may change by taking the appropriate archetype which
either of the overlapping skills to another contains that skill.
basic skill on the sheet. If the overlapping
skills are Specialist skills (skills that SOULGEM AND CUSTOM
start at No Skill/Zero Dots, usually WEAPONS
magic and special abilities like Ninjutsu, If you want to start the game with a soulgem
Onmyojutsu, Etiquette, Strategy and the weapon, please look at the weapons section
like), you can change one of the skills to in the appendix. If you plan to take part in
either another specialty skill or basic skill. a erce battle, soulgem weapons are very
If the overlapping abilities are both basic useful in the hands of seasoned warriors.
skills (skills which every character starts It costs ve points of Karma to purchase
at a rank of Unskilled/One Dot, like each soulgem weapon. The weapon comes
Melee Weapons and Movement), you can fully loaded with its capacity in soulgems:
only take another general skill and not a A soulgem-katana with a capacity of 6
specialist skill. soulgems starts out fully loaded with its
At this time, you are not able to increase six soulgems. To purchase additional
the level of any of these stacked skills: soulgems to use later (ammo bags and the
That is, you cannot add them together to like), it costs 1 additional Karma point for
get a higher level of ability (Example: If you
choose two archetype templates and get


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 16 12/19/12 12:08 AM


every 5 soulgems at character creation. Example Attribute Ranges:

During gameplay more soulgems can be 1-3: Normal for average people. Pretty low
acquired. for most player characters.
Some players may want to create 4-6: Normal range of PC attributes.
customized weapons for their characters: 7-8: Excellent/high range for PC attributes.
Soulgem swords or rifles with a higher
capacity or rate of fire, or perhaps an 9+: Supreme PC attributes.
unusual wicked-looking weapon that was
inspired by some manga, anime or video
You have 40 points to spread amongst your
game. A player can use the weapon creation
seven attributes. Make sure that you take
rules in the weapon list appendix to create
into account any attribute cost that your
a custom weapon. Custom weapons cost an
character archetypes have, or attribute
additional attribute point to take during
points which you traded in for skills,
character creation. Please see the weapons
mechanica, or custom weapons. Divide the
list and custom weapon creation rules for
remaining attribute points amongst those
more information.
attributes however you wish. The number
ATTRIBUTES of points you assign to an attribute will
In TBZ, all player characters have become that attributes nal value.
seven attributes: Body, Agility, Senses, The lowest you can have an attribute is 1,
Knowledge, Spirit, Empathy and Station. and the highest is 10. However, its best to
When you try to complete actions in the try to keep your attributes around at least
game, the attributes represent the number 3 or higher. That way you will roll at least
of dice that you will pick up and roll for three dice for any given action.
that action. Here is what each attribute Spend all of your 40 points. Do not leave
represents: any points unspent, as they cant be used
Body: Muscular power, physical energy after character creation. Remember that
and stamina you may also spend these attribute points
Agility: Pure speed, dexterity, reexes, and to raise the level of generalist skills.
Senses: Your ve senses Some of the archetypes you choose for your
character will indicate if there are attributes
Knowledge: Education, reason, logic,
that you should focus on more than others.
If the archetype lists a recommended
Spirit: Guts, ghting spirit, willpower and attribute, youll probably want to start that
sixth sense attribute o at 6 or higher (for example,
Empathy: Sympathy, emotional control, Knowledge for onmyoji characters).
the ability to manipulate people or However, there is no rule forcing you to
relationships do so, this is simply guidance to help you
create an eective character.
Station: Social standing, Eminence, social
class, and inuence in the world of Tenra Some of the archetypes list arms or
equipment that have a minimum Station
requirement. In cases where a number is
written after Station, that means that you


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 17 12/19/12 12:08 AM


must take at least that score or higher in SOUL

your station attribute to be allowed to take This represents a characters force of will
that archetype. and ability to take mental or spiritual stress.
They act like Magic Points (MP) in popular
ATTRIBUTE RESTRICTIONS console or online role-playing games. Soul
Kongohki, oni, half-oni and kugutsu points decrease as you use magic and other
archetypes have special requirements for special abilities like Ninjutsu or Buddhist
attributes. Many require you to put one Magic. When Soul reaches 0, the character
attribute higher than all of the others. falls unconscious. The maximum number
Others, like the kongohki, start out with of Soul is the total of two times the total of
some attribute scores set in stone. Please Knowledge and Spirit.
follow the specic rules listed on those
archetypes. (Knowledge + Spirit) x 2 = Maximum Soul

CONCEPT: The Meaning of Attributes WOUNDS AND

Player Characters in the world of Tenra THEWOUNDTRACK
possess attributes that are higher than most The Wound Track is a way to represent
normal people. This is a way to make the serious injuries in a way that encourages
players understand that the character is not role-playing. Aside from Critical and Dead
a regular human being. She is something conditions, theres no real rule punishment
much more. Th is is something that the for stacking up wounds. To see how these
players should remember. Their PCs are work in more detail, please refer to the
not necessarily do-gooder heroes, but they Combat rules section.
certainly are something more than the You calculate your Wound Track by
everyday people that populate the world, the method below. Remember to always
and are capable of moving and shaking the round up for any fractional number to
foundations of Tenra. the next whole number (A score of 5 in
Body, divided by 4 for Critical Wounds,
SUB-ATTRIBUTES becomes 2 Critical Wound boxes.) On the
There are three sub-attributes for each character sheet for each injury value, count
character: Vitality, Soul, and Wounds. the number of boxes you need to leave open
(for your Body, Body 2, etc) and blacken
out the boxes left over in pencil.
This represents a characters physical
durability and ability to take physical Light Wounds: The same as Body
punishment and wear. You can think of Heavy Wounds: Body 2
them as being like Hit Points (HP) from
Critical: Body 4
console, online, or other tabletop role-
playing games. These decrease as the Dead: 1 (Always just one)
character takes damage in a ght. When Characters that have a variable Body
Vitality reaches 0, the character passes out attribute like samurai and annelidists (or
and is out of the ght, though she does not the kongohki/armour Meikyo Bonus) do
die. The maximum number of Vitality is not suddenly raise or rewrite their Wound
the total of Body plus Spirit. Track or increase their Vitality score
Body + Spirit = Maximum Vitality when they activate their higher adjusted
body score. Rather, the wound track is
calculated at their default resting state,


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 18 12/19/12 12:08 AM


before the eects of the samurai shiki or

annelids or Karma, and stays at that range
even when their bodies are boosted.
It may be a little hard to grasp at first, but
EQUIPMENT AND MONEY its possible to get Negative Damage
Equipment and starting money entirely when using Soul and Vitality. If your Vitality
depends on the Station score. Station or Soul goes below zero, you simply pass
is your social status, rank, and political out; thats all. Youll stay that way for
power in the world of Tenra. It denes the however long is dramatically appropriate
things you are able to use your resources to (but certainly not realistic): A few minutes, a
purchase and carry with you and the social few hours, even a few days.
level of equipment that youre allowed to Theres no limit to the amount of Negative
use. Damage you can take. For example, if you
In olden days of historic Japan, only true fell 3,000 meters from the sky and landed
mono-no-fu (samurai) or vassal warriors on solid rock, and take all that damage in
were allowed to carry katana or other Vitality (and none in Wounds or the Dead
weapons. Anyone who wasnt of the correct Box) you will simply only pass out. But
rank who was caught with a katana was eventually (a few hours? 50? GMs should
severely punished or executed. In Tenra, be careful not to be too easy on the players,
Station represents your ability to get your but dont try to mimic reality too much, and
hands on otherwise restricted weapons certainly do not bore the players) youll wake
or equipment, usually through political up, stand up, and say, Damn, that was a
power and social status. close one. I thought I was a goner for sure!

If theres no information in the rules about Or, as a player, you may think it would be
the equipment you feel want your character interesting or cool to take some of that
to have, feel free to take it if it makes sense damage in wounds. That way, you can act
(an extra kimono, a pet frog, art supplies cool and have your character say, Crap.
for my paintings). However, in the case of Well, there goes that arm or something like
weapons, make sure you have a high enough that. Its always best to aim for the coolest
station to possess that weapon. Please see or most interesting result when interpreting
the weapons list for more information on damage.
the station score for various weapons. do. But remember, this is a game about
Any other equipment you want to take, feel drama and action, dont get too caught up
free to look through the sample characters in buying stu and worrying about what
or check with the GM to see if its okay. you can or cannot buy. Moneyin this
gameis used mostly for show, drama,
In regards to money, there are not really
and role-play purposes.
any denite rules to how much you start
out with, other than what is already written SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
in the character archetype. Just have the Gunpowder pistols, soulgem spears,
characters carry as much money that would samurai-shiki, magic spells, annelids,
be appropriate to that character type. If and yoroi armours are all set and limited
youre really in a pinch and need to know to specic archetypes only. Please look at
how much money and resources a character those archetypes to nd out more about
would be able to gather as per their station,
around Station x 500 mon worth should


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 19 12/19/12 12:08 AM


their equipment. You can only get that kind MEIKYO, THE CLEAR MIRROR
of equipment by taking the appropriate Agents of the Shinto Priesthood, yoroi
archetype. armour-riders and some of the other
Once you have some experience with the archetypes start out with a meikyo soul
system, you can choose to substitute or mirror, and have the ability to enter or
customize your characters starting special manipulate the realm of Reection.
equipment. For example, you might want By using two objects called a Soulcord
to change your starting annelid loadout (which looks like a cable that stretches
from the standard one on the annelidist from the Meikyo to the Helm) and
archetype. Or you might want a four-legged Interface Helm (a visor, helmet, or other
war platform yoroi armour with more headpiece that covers the eyes and ears),
guns and no melee weapons instead of the these characters can interface with the
standard one that is written on the armour intangible information-based world known
rider archetype. You can manipulate your as the Reection. When they do so, they
starting special equipment, but because of can use all of their general skills at the
the time required to read those sections, its same level as their Interface skill. Interface
suggested that for your rst few games of eectively replaces these skills while in the
Tenra you simply stick with the equipment Reection.
listed on your archetype. For example, while interfaced with a yoroi
STARTING FATES armour, instead of using Agility with
When you choose your characters Melee Weapons when you are attacking an
archetypes, youll notice that they have enemy with your armour, you use Agility:
Fates set in them. Write those Fates onto Interface to make melee attacks. This
your character sheet. applies to Notice, Evasion, Movement, and
all other general skills as well.
For starting characters, you are initially
limited to two Fates. If you choose three or The Reflection is also a means of long-
more archetypes, please just pick two of the distance communication. If you acquire
Fates which you like the most from your both a meikyo soul mirror-disk and
collection of archetypes and write them on have ranks in the Shinto skill, you have
the character sheet. One Fate will be rated the ability to enter the Ref lection and
at 3, the other at 2; you may freely choose communicate messages through other soul
which of these two ratings applies to which mirrors. This ability is usually limited to
Fate. If there are any special conditions agents of the Shinto Priesthood. However,
regarding Fates in the character archetype, it is possible for two soul mirror users
please take note of them. to form a temporary network between
them for communication, like instant
SPECIAL CHARACTERS communication over the Internet. Feel free
ANDPOWERS to decide limits of meikyo use with the GM
There are some special archetypes that when youre playing.
have special rules, powers or conditions Also, feel free to describe the mysterious
applied to them. Some have special Reection world as you explore it: There
equipment or abilities. Please read the is no set appearance of the world behind
following section to see which powers apply the meikyo soul mirrors. However, it might
to which character types, and what special help to consider it like a futuristic magical
conditions they have.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 20 12/19/12 12:08 AM


Internet controlled by one agency: The a Meikyo Bonus. It is described in detail

Shinto Priesthood. What it looks, feels, in the armour and kongohki rules section,
and sounds like, and how you communicate and again in the Karma rules section.
within it, is up to you.
Meikyo mirrors are special objects meant ABILITY
solely for their owners: it is impossible to Kongohki have the ability to temporary
acquire one through money or other means. boost their speed, movement, attacks and

KARMA AND SOUL MIRRORS the like to incredible levels. This ability is
Both the character and the characters called Overdrive. It allows the kongohki to
meikyo accumulate Karma separately. move at incredible speeds in combat. Please
When you create your character, nd the see the combat rules or kongohki rules for
overall Karma cost of your character. The more information on the Overdrive ability.
armour-riders Karma will start at 10, while ANNELID IMPLANTATION
all the other Karma for that character goes Annelidists are people implanted with
into the armour-riders (or puppeteers) creatures and control those creatures
soul mirror. Keep track of these numbers by using a skill called Wormcharm. For
separately: Meikyo users start o innocent, starting characters, each annelid has an
with very little accumulated Karma until ingestion/implantation/infestation cost
they experience more and more of the that must be bought in Karma.
When a character implants herself with an
For example, if you have a total starting annelid in the actual story, the player has
Karma of 80, that means that your to pay the annelids implantation cost in
character only has 10 Karma herself, and Kiai points. During the game, annelids can
your meikyo soul mirror controlling the only be implanted during an Intermission
armour has accumulated 70 Karma. You phase. Do not forget that the Kiai spent
will keep track of your meikyos Karma to implant the annelids in this manner
separately, because as it increases towards immediately becomes Karma.
108 it grants a bonus to the user when
using the meikyo (piloting an armour, for ONI RESONANCE
example). Later in the game, the meikyo It is said that oni and half-oni get their
user will be able to take in the meikyos mystical powers through their magical
Karma in order to sublimate it. hearts. The special abilities that are
Kongohki are dierent. With kongohki, available to them because of their horns
their meikyo is actually part of their body. and hearts are called Resonance. For
Therefore, all of their personal Karma is complete rules on how to use Resonance,
the same as their meikyos Karma: They are please see the oni Resonance rules section.
one and the same, and do not get tracked Pureblood oni can spend extra Karma (5
separately. points each) to use the special Resonance
For all meikyo users, including kongohki, abilities of Gale and Bless. Please read the
there is a type of special bonus to actions Archetype and Oni Resonance Powers
that comes from using a soul mirror with sections carefully when you are creating
accumulated Karma. This bonus is called your character to find out how these
abilities work.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 21 12/19/12 12:08 AM


SAMURAI ABILITY Ninja that go through this procedure are

Some of the archetypes have samurai from that point forward called Shinobi.
listed in their equipment sections. These They can reduce the cost of using their
are no mere warriors; these characters have special ninja arts: They can reduce the Soul
special abilities, as they have gone through cost of activation of all ninja abilities by one
the mystical and painful samuraization point for each ve points of Karma added
surgery. Through verbal and mental to the archetype. Remember to mark
commands, they can cause their bodies down any additional Karma cost on your
to increase in size and even mass, growing character sheet.
muscle and chitin plates all over their Karma Cost 5 = Number of Soul Points
bodies: The exact nature and form of reduced from the cost of activating any
the transformation is up to the samurai Ninjutsu ability
player. Samurai also receive special abilities
Example: Genta the Claw is a shinobi of some
granted by the shiki spirit which inhabits
renown. Gentas player decides to ignore the
their form. They can only receive these
Karma cost of the Dark Arts of the shinobi
abilities for a certain amount of time: template, and instead spend 30 Karma during
The time duration and Soul Point cost to character creation on the Dark Arts to make
activate the samurai abilities varies fromthem more powerful. This 30 Karma, divided by
person to person. Write down the samurai 5, means that Gentas Dark Arts rating is 6. This
shikis abilities in the notes section of the
means that whenever Genta performs a Ninjutsu
character sheet and note the Soul cost to ability, he subtracts 6 from the listed Soul cost
activate the samurai. of that ability, down to a minimum cost of 1
(Ninjutsu abilities cannot be reduced to a zero or
While we suggest simply using the samurai
minus cost because of the Dark Arts).
abilities listed in the archetype, experienced
players who want to try a different One character cannot be both a samurai
samurai loadout can pick a different and undertake the Shinobi Dark Arts. You
one from the samurai rules section. For can still combine the archetypes to create
experienced Tenra players who want to a samurai-ninja (as crazy-badass as that
try experimenting with the samurais shiki sounds) who can use Ninjutsu abilities,
abilities, they can use the onmyoji Shiki but the samurai will not be able to reduce
creation rules to come up with dierent the Soul cost of the Ninjutsu abilities like a
shiki to possess their bodies. You can nd pure shinobi can by use of Dark Arts.
more on shiki creation in the Onmyojutsu
rules section, and various samurai loadouts
If you choose a kijin archetype, you are able
in the samurai rules section.
to implant more kijin robotic/cybernetic
DARK ARTS OF THE SHINOBI implants (called mechanica) if you wish.
The Dark Arts is another type of soulgem- Look at the Mechanica Data section for
based surgery that elite ninja use to implant more information. Most mods have an
gems inside their body. This procedure attribute cost, so reduce your attribute
allows them to stock dark magic into their pool by the listed number when making
bodies that make it easier to perform your character. Add the attribute cost to
special ninja arts. When they use their the cost listed in the archetype. Also write
ninja arts, the amount of Soul consumed is down any attribute or other benets the
reduced, down to a minimum of one point mechanica bring.
of Soul per ability.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 22 12/19/12 12:08 AM


THE KUGUTSU You can reduce the Karma cost of yohjutsu

BUTTERFLYDREAM abilities by taking one or more Weaknesses.
Kugutsu have the special ability to use the The amount of Karma reduction is listed in
illusions cast upon them to aect other the Ayakashi section. In short, a Weakness
people: Kugutsu can make people enter of 2 gains 5 points of Karma back, a
the Buttery Dream, a strange dreamlike Weakness of 3 gains 15 points, a Weakness
hypnotic state. of 4 gains 35 points, and a Weakness of 5
If the person is sleeping, the kugutsu can is worth 75 points. However, you cannot
make them dream without any eort. If reduce your total yohjutsu Karma cost
the person is awake, they have to use their lower than 0. See the ayakashi rules chapter
Performance or Pillow Arts skill to aect for more information on ayakashi abilities
them. The opponent rolls their Spirit: and weaknesses.
Willpower, and if the kugutsu is successful EXAMPLE OF CHARACTER
the opponent is pulled into the kugutsus CREATION
dream world. In this next section well take a look at
The Buttery Dream happens in a moment building a sample character from scratch.
of time outside of the normal ow of time. Character generation will happen in the
A dream is acted out in a Scene, just like following order:
any other Scene in the game. The people 1) Work with the group and GM to choose
involved in the dream are usually limited a general character type.
to the kugutsu and the person or people
that she pulls into the dream. It is possible 2) Pick Archetypes.
for other characters to enter the Dream 3) Divide up attribute points.
of the Buttery, but they will be gments
4) Work out skills.
controlled between the kugutsu and the
GM. 5) Choose weapons.

Also, if a kugutsu pulls another PC into the 6) Calculate total starting Karma.
Buttery Dream by force (or when asleep), 7) Choose and record starting Fates.
the kugutsu chooses one of the PCs Fates
or their own Fates. The situation acted out WORK WITH THE GROUP
in the dream must somehow involve that It turns out that for this example scenario,
Fate. It would be a good idea to discuss the Game Master will be running a game
with the GM the details of the dream about mercenaries. All character types
before starting up the dream scene. For are welcome, but ones that work well
more details of the Buttery Dream, see as mercenaries (or would make a good
the kugutsu rules section. contrast to mercenary characters) are
welcome. Thinking for a little, you decide
YOHJUTSU: AYAKASHI ABILITIES to make an armour hunter: An ex-armour
If you choose an ayakashi or half-ayakashi rider who now has dedicated her life to
archetype, you can gain some of the single-handedly toppling those mechanical
sorceries and unearthly abilities of the monsters. The GM and other players give
ayakashi called Yohjutsu. a thumbs up and offer a suggestion or
To learn about the various ayakashi powers, question or two about your characters
please see the ayakashi rules section. background (Perhaps you are the daughter
of a feudal lord? Did you turn your back


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 23 12/19/12 12:08 AM


on your family after you stopped being an Looking at the three archetypes chosen,
armour rider? etc). With a general idea of we see they recommend having a decent
a character, were ready to esh them out. starting Body, Agility and Senses. It will
probably be best to start out with 6 or more
PICK ARCHETYPES points in these attributes. Also, it appears
After f lipping through the archetypes that we will start out with the fearsome
section of the rulebook, a few fitting armour hunter weapon called ZAKT-8,
archetypes stand out. Armour Hunter is a a huge modied yoroi shortsword. Th is
given. This character used to be an armour weapon requires a starting Station of 4, so
pilot, so Former Armour Rider looks like we must have 4 or more in that score as well.
a tting archetype. Perhaps the characters
yoroi armour was destroyed in a rout, and There are many ways we can divide up the
nowadays because of her experience and 39 points amongst the attributes. For now,
background, she makes a living hunting the we will divide them like this:
very armours that she used to pilot. Finally, Body 7
the Mercenary archetype looks useful, so Agility 8
well add that one to the mix. We can make Senses 6
an interesting character with these three Knowledge 3
Spirit 5
archetypes, so well use them for now:
Empathy 6
Archetype Karma Cost Attr. Cost Station 4
After writing the above on the character
Armour 10 0
sheet, we then look on to the sub-attributes
and ll those in as well:
Mercenary 30 0
Armour Vitality: Body + Spirit = 12 points
30 1
Soul: (Knowledge + Spirit) x 2 = 16 points
Total: 70 1
The starting Karma Cost must be less than Light Wounds (Body)
108. Were at 70 to start o with, and that Heavy Wounds (Body/2)
is a good number: Not too low, and not Critical Wounds (Body/4)
too high. 60-90 is a good range for starting Dead (1)
characters. After weve marked the above on the sheet,
We will now jot down the archetypes we well move on to the next section.
chose on the character sheet, as well as the CALCULATE SKILLS
total Karma cost and attribute costs. Looking at our three chosen archetypes, we
DIVIDE UP THE see that they provide us with the following
Next we divide 40 points amongst the Former A-Rider: Interface 3
various character attributes. However, Etiquette 2
because of the attribute cost of 1 (due to Art of Rule 2
taking the Armour Hunter archetype Mercenary: Melee Weapons 3
which includes a custom weapon, the Marksman 3
ZAKT-8 blade), well actually begin with Information 3
39 points to spread around. Armour Hunter: Melee Weapons 4


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 24 12/19/12 12:08 AM


It looks like weve got two counts of Melee CHOOSE AND RECORD
Weapons, so this is an overlapping skill. STARTING FATES
Well keep Melee Weapons at 4 (from Th is is one of the more exciting steps of
theArmour Hunter template), and move character creation: Were going to decide
the second Melee Weapons score of 3 what the character cares about at the
(from the Mercenary archetype) over to beginning of the game! As well see, these
another general skill. Well choose the Fates will change over time as the story
general skill Notice which is currently 1 progresses. However, for now we will look
for all characters, and turn it into a Notice at the three archetypes and choose the two
score of 3 . Fates that appeal to us the most. Looking
over the three available Fates, these seem to
CHOOSE WEAPONS be the most interesting to us, so well write
Because we picked the Armour Hunter them down. Well ll in three dots for one
archetype, well start out with a ZAKT-8 Fate, and two dots for the other:
Yoroi-killer sword. After checking with
the GM, well add a simple light katana Emotion: Hatred of Yoroi Armours 3
shortsword as well. Its mostly going to be for Emotion: Attracted to Strength 2
show or used as a backup weapon, though. The current Fate Cost of these Fates is 10
A shortswords Station requirement is 2, so points (A Fate rated at 3 costs 10; a Fate
we can own it with no problem. rated at 2 costs nothing; see the Karma
The ZAKT-8 comes fully loaded with 8 rules for details), which is always the same
soulgems at no cost, but it doesnt have any for most starting characters. Well write
extra ammo. Well take 15 extra soulgems 10 under Fate Cost on the part of the
in case the character gets in a difficult character sheet which lists the Fates.
battle. Soulgems cost 1 Karma point for
5 extra soulgems, which means that well WRITE INFORMATION ON
have to increase our starting Karma by 3 THECHARACTER SHEET
points: It is a small price to pay to be able As we go through the creation process,
to power up one of the most dangerous were writing in words and numbers, as
weapons in the game. well as lling in dots for skills and Fates,
on the character sheet. Once weve come
CALCULATE TOTAL to this point all that is left to note on the
STARTINGKARMA character sheet are any special rules or
Weve already totaled our starting Karma extra equipment that our archetypes grant
for the three archetypes we picked, making us. This is where we would list our samurai
sure that they dont go over 108. We started powers or Ninjutsu abilities in the notes
with 70 points in Karma. We added 3 section of the character sheet.
points for the extra soulgems. Therefore, The character that we made, however, has
our total starting Karma is going to be 73 only her two weapons, 15 soulgems, and
points. Well record this on the character three coppers/mon to her name (by player
sheet, and track the rise of our Karma over choice). Shes pretty poor, which is always a
time. great starting motivation to seek adventure
and danger perhaps not for fortune, but
at least to eat a hot meal.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 25 12/19/12 12:08 AM


FINISHING TOUCHES and uncouth to use casual speech in front

Since weve nished all the above, the last of a lord, but she sure doesnt use polite or
steps are to decide a character name or honoric speech unless she needs to.
nickname, as well as personal touches. A range of speech types includes Always
First, lets pick a name. Were going to make Honoric, Polite, Plain/Normal, Casual,
this character a female, in her late teens Rough and Uncouth. Well call her speech
(probably just a few years after coming of Casual. Shes got a loose tongue after a
age and not being able to resume duties as few years as a mercenary.
an armour rider). The character used to be With these last few touches, were done.
an armour rider, so she probably had a full We are now ready to get started in an actual
honoric last and rst name. Now, though, Tenra Bansho Zero scenario.
she is a rough-and-tumble mercenary, so
more likely than not she goes by her given OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
name and has thrown away her last name. In truth, your character is absolutely ready
She might take on a nickname later once she for play at this point. You dont have to
takes on a few more scars as a mercenary. think too much more about the characters
But for now, well call her Kirie (KIRI-E), past, mannerisms or beliefs. Anything
her rst name, and say that at this point important you can bring up in the actual
she has no interesting nickname (but may game through role-playing.
pick one up later). She hasnt told anyone However, if you want to give your character
her last name, and does not know if shell a little more avor, here are some questions
ever speak it again. you can ask yourself as if you were your
As for possessions, we will note that she character. They might provide interesting
has 15 extra soulgems. Just as a character answers that you can bring into play:
touch, well give her some money. Kiries
Character Questionnaire
player decides that she has 3 mon to her
1) Is there a story behind your name?
name, about enough to pay for her next
meal and maybe a mat to sleep on. Kirie 2) Does your age and sex affect your
will have to take a job soon in order to eat. personality?

Next, well think about a few personal 3) What kind of body type do you have?
touches, like speech mannerisms. In 4) Hair color? (usually black or brown)
Japanese there are various dierent ways
to say words like I or You, depending
on how casual or honorific you were
attempting to be. We dont have this sort
of variance in English (like the polite and
old-school Wata-kushi and Anata-sama,
or the aggressively, almost threateningly,
casual Ore, Boku, Atashi, or Anta and
Omae/Omee), so well just make note of
the fact that, even in polite company, she
often talks plainly and casually with others
even above her station. Shes not so rough


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 26 12/19/12 12:08 AM


5) Skin color? (light, dark, etc)

6) Eye color? (usually black or brown)
7) What kind of lifestyle do you live?
8) Can you bring yourself to kill a person?
9) What do you think of death? What do
your personal or religious beliefs tell you
about death?
10) What is your purpose in life?
11) In one word, how would you describe
your personality or self?
12) Is there anything or anyone that you
13) Is there anything or anyone that you
hate or fear?
14) Is there anything that you dont want to
do, or would refuse to do?
15) What is one thing that you would like
to do soon?
16) If you left your family to travel, why did
you leave them?
17) Do you know anything of the Shinto
Priesthood? What do you think about
18) Do you know anything of the oni
people? What do you think about
19) Do you know anything of annelidists?
What do you think of them?
20) Lastly, what is your greatest hope?


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 27 12/19/12 12:08 AM

tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 28 12/19/12 12:08 AM
every world
has certain rules
which dictate how things are done

Youre running through a battleeld. Swords are clashing all around you, bullets are
whizzing past, and the screams of the fallen are deafening. Can you make it through
without being hit or fazed?
This is the kind of thing that the resolution system behind the game of Tenra Bansho
helps determine. In media like dramas, movies, books, anime and manga, the characters
often engage in duels of wits, challenges of the mind, physical struggles or outright ghts.
In those media the outcome is pre-decided and written by the author. The fate of the
characters is left entirely up to the author or director.
However, in role-playing games, the players often do not know if their characters will
succeed at a dicult challenge or not. We use cards, dice, or other randomizing tools to
help determine whether the character succeeds or not, and then watch the story develops
based on those results. Success leads to the next step in the scenario, and failure also
leads to progress through interesting and dynamic follow-up challenges. Having a game
system in place of a single author amplies the thrill of each conict.
In Tenra Bansho Zero, the game system takes the form of rolling several six-sided dice.
It is recommended that you have several dice available during play.
When the characters in the story come upon a challenge, the resolution system follows
the following steps:
1) The GM decides initial success or failure
2) The GM decides the skill that should be used for the challenge
3) The GM decides which attribute should be used with the skill


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 29 12/19/12 12:08 AM


4) The diculty number of the challenge them by other characters. When the GM
is decided presents a challenge to a player, the rst
5) The dice are rolled step is determining if the character is
immediately successful or not.
6) The player counts successes
A fun and interesting challenge is a
7) The outcome is determined challenge where success or failure could
lead to exciting results. This is important
INITIAL SUCCESS to remember, especially for beginning
OR FAILURE Game Masters. If the challenge is one
Characters do things. They do things
where the result of failure simply is not
because they want to affect the world,
fun (Jump over a cli or die), or would
or because situations were forced upon
prevent the adventure from continuing
forward (Find the clue: If you cant nd
BASIC ACTION SUMMARY the clue, you cant proceed), then it is not
Here are the absolute basics of the resolution an interesting challenge. Simply have the
system of the game: result be a success for the player, and move
Attribute: This is the number of six-sided dice on to the next, more interesting challenge.
you roll. Alternately, the player and the GM might
consider that failing a challenge would be
Skill Level: This controls the number (or less)
a far more fun result than success. In this
needed on the face of the rolled die for that die
to count as a success: 0 (No Skill, impossible
to perform), 1 (Unskilled), 2 (Skilled), 3 AWESOME TRUMPS DICE
(Advanced), 4 (Master), or 5 (Supreme). On some occasions, a player will describe
a solution or do something so cool when
Successes: The number of dice that, when
presented with a challenge that the GM
rolled, came up equal to or lower than the Skill
wants it to happen that way. Youll know it
if you see it: A player suggests a solution
Difficulty, or Challenge Rating: The number or describes an action so fun or interesting
of successes you need to clear a goal (usually that the other players sit there in awe for a
1). Scoring a number of successes equal second before they reply. Usually Aiki chits
to or greater than this rating means that the start flying as well. In that case, as a GM
character succeeded at the task. dont let the dice get in the way: If youre
Rolling: Roll your attribute in dice, and count the the GM and you think that the players
number of dice rolled that came up at the same action was too cool not to happen, simply
rank as your skill or less. Each of these dice are let things happen in the way described. This
a success. also rewards your players for being creative
and really pushing on making the story as
Example: Rolling your Agility: Melee
interesting as possible. Save the dice for
Weapons. If your Agility is 6 and your Melee
another future action.
Weapons is 3 dots, then you roll 6 dice: Any
die that has a 1, 2, or 3 on it is a success, and Final approval of this is up to the GM.
any die that has a 4, 5 or 6 on it is a failure. If Use this guideline in moderation, though.
your skill was 2 dots, then any die with 1 or 2 The dice add a thrill to every encounter,
on it is a success, and any die with 3, 4, 5 or 6 make sure you dont opt out of using them
on it is a failure. too much!


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 30 12/19/12 12:08 AM


case, the GM will describe the event as an The number of the rank (the number of
automatic failure and move the scenario dots lled in on the character sheet) that
forward. a skill has represents the skill level of the
In other words, dont even pick up the dice character.
if the result of failure (or success) would A quick way to remember the words
simply stop the game, or bring a result that associated with skill levels is through
isnt interesting or fun for anyone (instant their rst letters: NUSAMS: No Skill,
character death, for example). Unskilled, Skilled, Advanced, Master,
If you have found a situation where winning Supreme. If you want to remember the
and losing are both viable, interesting skills only by their rank/number, thats
options that wont bring the game to a halt, ne too.
this is an interesting challenge. Its time to You will note that many of the skills listed
translate this challenge into a die roll. on the character sheet have one dot in them
by default. These are general skills that
DECIDE A SKILL most human beings have innately. Also,
The GM decides which skill is applicable to many skills have no dots in them. These
the roll in question. For assistance, please are specialty skills that require specialized
read the skill descriptions in this chapter training and talent to have. There is no
carefully. Just choose the one that seems Unskilled Level in specialized skills; You
most appropriate for the task at hand. either dont have it, or you are at the rank
In many situations, two skills will seem of Skilled (or higher) in that skill.
equally relevant to the task at hand. If
Supreme represents the pinnacle of
two skills seem to be equally applicable in
human, or perhaps inhuman, ability. The
a particular situation, then simply let the
highest most characters will climb to is a
player use the higher of those two skills.
skill level of 4, or Master. Supreme skill
The GM has final say on which skill represents inhuman or magical ability,
is applicable to a specific situation. unique or unnatural training, or just
Remember that as a GM youre not out to that the character is that one person in a
choose a characters weaker skills to make million at the peak of human perfection.
them fail, rather youre attempting to be a The character simply has a sublime Zen-
fair arbiter of which skill seems to be the like mastery of that skill (or perhaps a skill
best t for the characters action. boosted with dark magic, forged on the
res of corruption, sacrice and unbridled
inhuman ambition).
Skills usually represent a characters innate
talents as well as ability learned through DECIDE AN ATTRIBUTE
practice and study. The skills are divided After choosing a skill that is applicable for
into several classes: the task, the next step in the resolution
Skill Level Dots/Rank system is to pick the attribute that ts best
No Skill 0 for this challenge.
Unskilled 1 On the character sheet, the skills are
Skilled 2 grouped under their recommended
Advanced 3 attribute (Sneak is under Agility,
Master 4 Information is under Knowledge, etc).
Supreme/Special 5 This is simply a good default attribute to


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 31 12/19/12 12:08 AM



tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 32 12/19/12 12:08 AM


fall back upon. However, any attribute can o than other challenges in the game, then
be coupled with any skill when creating a the challenge rating for that challenge will
challenge, if it ts. be higher.
For example, going into a town and quickly The GM should reveal to the player how
assessing where the village elder must live many successes are needed before the dice
(without talking to people or getting the lay are rolled. The success number should not
of the land rst) will probably be a challenge remain hidden from the player. This helps
involving the Information skill with its them understand how challenging the
default attribute of Knowledge. However, task is, as well as if they want to bring in
if a character comes across a dead body in other resources (like other characters, or
the woods littered with arrows, and wants the spending of Kiai points) to assist in
to determine where the arrows were made succeeding at the task.
or which group uses this kind of arrow, The Dif f icult y/Cha l lenge R ating
a fitting roll would be Marksman with determines the number of successes
Knowledge (instead of Marksman with the the player needs to roll on the dice to
default attribute of Senses; the challenge accomplish the task successfully.
is testing the characters ability to know
about the arrow or gather information CHALLENGE RATING
about them, not to re an arrow). 1 You could probably do this in your sleep
In cases where it is hard to decide a tting 2 If you have some skill in it, you probably
attribute, simply use the default attribute wont fail
for that skill.
3 With practice, skill and innate ability,
THE CHALLENGE 4 People with advanced training at least
At this point, the Game Master should have a chance of doing it
determine how difficult the challenge 5 Extremely dicult
is. Since the player is not rolling against
another character (see Opposed Actions), 6 Almost Impossible
the GM will have to set the diculty at It is not suggested that you make diculties
one number, usually between 1 and 6. higher than six, except in extremely rare
Th is is called the Challenge Rating or circumstances such as the player wanting
Diculty. to do something physically impossible yet
The player will soon roll the dice and the GM wants to give them some remote
determine how many of their dice are chance instead of saying No outright.
successes. The GM will have to reveal
now how many successes are required to
At this point, now that the player knows
overcome the challenge.
the diculty of the task, she will roll dice
In most cases, simply getting one single and measure success. The player rolls a
success means that the character succeeded number of dice equal to the attribute score
at the task. One success is all that most used for this challenge. The dice are rolled
rolls require. However, if it is more tting in front of everyone.
that the task is dramatically harder, more
challenging, or requires more risk to pull


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 33 12/19/12 12:08 AM


COUNT SUCCESSES Determine What Happens

When the dice are rolled, the player will The last step in this process is determining
make use of the skills value and count the what happens based on the results. The
successes. A success is any die that comes GM is the one who usually describes what
up with a number of pips equal to or lower happens based on the die roll, whether the
than the characters skill level. In other result was a failure or a success.
words, rolling low (ones) is better than The GM can also invite player input. Or,
rolling high (sixes). she might ask the player:
For example, a player is using her Movement You succeed. What happens?
skill to leap through a forest canopy to
pursue a foe. The characters Movement Or:
skill score is 2 (Skilled), represented by You fail. What happens?
two lled-in dots on the character sheet. In this case, the player can describe the
Any die rolled that comes up showing 1 or result. The GM has nal say as to whether
2 pips is a success. Any die that comes up it happened that way or not. The best thing
showing 3, 4, 5 or 6 pips is a failure and is a GM could do when letting the player
not counted. describe the outcome (success or failure) is
If you are rolling your Notice skill, and your to let the player describe the gist of what
notice skill has 4 dots on your character happens, then the GM restates that result,
sheet (indicating that you are a Master of adding in details and continuing forward
Noticing), then any die that comes up as a from there.
1, 2, 3, or 4 is a success. Any die that comes
up as a 5 or 6 is a failure and is not counted. CHALLENGE RATING LIMITS
The max challenge rating is usually 6.
Compare the number of successes the
For extremely rare cases, you can make
player got with the challenge rating that
it higher than this. However, remember
the GM set. If the player gets a number
that while all challenges shouldnt be
of successes that equals or exceeds the
easy, the object as GM isnt to beat up
challenge rating, then their character
the players from game start to nish with
succeeds at the action. If the player gets a
high difficulty numbers. In most cases,
number of successes which is lower than
1-3 successes should suffice for easy to
the challenge rating, then their character
moderate tasks, and 4-6 successes should
be ne for a challenge rating that is hard
It can take a little bit of time to get used to to impossible.
the system, but simply remember:
Remember that the number of dice that the
Attributes represent how many dice are player can roll is based on their attribute.
rolled in challenges. There is a nite limit (which can be bent
Skills represent the number of pips a or broken by spending Kiai, more on that
die must have, when rolled, to count as later) to the number of dice a player can roll
a success. for a task.

You are attempting to roll many dice, and If you want to determine the odds that
trying to roll them as low as possible (ones your character can beat a particular task,
and twos in most cases). You then count you can calculate the characters average
the number of dice that were successes. success rating for that skill. Its s simple
mathematical process:


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 34 12/19/12 12:08 AM


Average Success Rating =

AUTUMN RAINS JUMP Attributex(Skill Rating 6)
GM: Autumn Rain, a mercenary on the run, now
In the jump example, Autumn Rains
knows well the price of retreat. The tide of battle
average success rating for Movement skill
turned against her company, andas mercenaries
tasks based on the Agility attribute would
dothey dispersed and ran away. Autumn Rain
be 8 x (3 6), or 4.
finds herself alone as she is running along a forested
mountain path. Through the bitter cold and the rain, Its a handy equation to have if you want to
she finds herself talking to herself to keep her mind see if your character has a decent chance
focused: of succeeding at a task without the aid of
Kiai points.
Player: Those Rasaku Clan bastards. The first sign
of trouble and they tuck tail and run
GM: Suddenly, the path opens up into a 4-meter-
For many people used to online chat-based role-
wide pit. Must have been a stray artillery shell.
playing games where people make up results on
Player: I can make it. the fly, or computer-based role-playing games
With that, Autumn Rain leaps up, her body where the results are decided by the computer,
silhouetted against the surrounding trees for several its probably a good idea to understand why
seconds. this game uses dice and challenge ratings
and the like.
After deciding that this is an interesting roll (she
decides failure means that the enemy troops catch First, not knowing the outcome of a conflict,
up to Autumn Rain and capture her), the GM thinks where both winning and losing could result in
about the difficulty. Autumn Rain is running up a interesting results, is entertaining.
sloped mountain path. On top of that, the rain has Second, its a way for tasks to have their outcome
made the ground slick. The 4 meter distance will be decided in a non-arbitrary way. Sure, the GM
hand-waved by the GM: Many characters in manga decides a difficulty rating, but from that point on
and anime can jump that far with no problem. The its up to the player whether they succeed or fail.
GM decides that the challenge rating will be based
Third, it interjects some chaos into play: Watch
on the skill Movement, and have a challenge rating
as skilled people fail, or unskilled people succeed,
of 3. Autumn Rains player uses her Agility score
and decide how that came to be. This chaos
with this roll. Since her agility is 8, she picks up and
creates some interesting story twists!
rolls 8 dice, and compares the numbers that come
up against her Movement score to find successes. The GM is given a lot of power in this game: She
Her Movement skill is 3, so any die that comes up a decides the difficulty of tasks, where the story
1, 2 or 3 is a success. She is looking for 3 or more of turns and leads after the dice hit the table, etc.
these successes, since the GM announced that the The GM has to decide what to do when a task or
challenge rating is 3. conflict isnt really covered by the rules. Overall,
the GM should strive to remain fair and balanced.
She rolls the dice, and gets 5 successes.
They shouldnt strive simply to shut the players
GM: Autumn Rains form floats through the air in a down if they try new things by using the rules
magnificent arc, landing squarely on the opposite as a wall: Rather, they should use the rules to
side of the pit and tucking into a roll. Glancing support the players in their characters acts as
quickly back to the enemies chasing after her in the the story develops. The Zero System chapter
distance, she snorts in defiance then turns to run the gives more tips on how to run a fair and exciting
rest of the distance to the nearest town. game of Tenra Bansho Zero.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 35 12/19/12 12:08 AM


An opposed roll happens when one character does something, and another opposes them either directly or indirectly.
The opposing or defending character rolls an appropriate attribute and skill combination. Count the successes that
result. Thisnumber of successes will now be the diculty number or challenge rating for the aggressor.
If the aggressor gets more successes than the defending character, the aggressor succeeds.
If the aggressor gets fewer successes than the defender, then the defender succeeds instead.
If their results are a tie, both players pick up the exact number of dice they just rolled, keeping all modiers for spent
Kiai andthe like in place, and roll again. They do this until one character wins.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 36 12/19/12 12:08 AM



When one PC is working against an NPC, In the game of Tenra Bansho Zero, theres
or two PCs are working against each other, no real sense of keeping track of money.
both players (or the player and GM) roll Even though your character might have
dice against each other and look for written down 10 mon or 5 ryo on
successes; the side with the most successes the sheet during generation, thats more
wins that conict. Its that simple. of a color item to give you some details
There are times when both players will have about what kind of character they are.
the same number of successes. When this Players shouldnt worry about how much
happens, both sides simply pick up the dice money their characters have, or how
and roll again, repeating this until one side much they need to buy stu. Instead of
wins. On these rolls, the dice and bonuses that, use common sense and role-playing
do not change. If you spent Kiai points to determine what your character might
to gain more dice, or used Kiai to gain a get a hold of, or how much things cost. If
temporary skill level bonus, those continue you decide you need something thats well
to remain in eect until one side gets more within your character concept, you have it.
successes than the other. At this time, time If you need something that falls outside of
stops within the game until the roll ends your character concept for that time, work
with a clear winner, then resumes when a it out with the GM. The GM will either let
victor emerges. you have that resource outright, or perhaps
work out details to get one.
Money shouldnt really be treated as
anything more than color for the game.
Sure, theres the Japanese expression Yoh


Autumn Rain has infiltrated the estate of a noble bushi. She pulled away a ceiling board in
the entryway, and has just climbed up into the rafters. She passes over a room containing the
lord and his highest paid ronin, talking and drinking sake a few meters below her. She passes
over a small hole in the ceiling tile, casting an almost imperceptible shadow below. The ronins
instincts flare up, and he slowly begins looking around the room.
Damn. Does he sense me?
The tension rises, thick as a fog.
The GM calls for the player to make a roll to stay hidden, to effectively cover her presence by
remaining still and holding her breath. This roll, the GM decides, will be based on the attribute
Spirit and the skill Stealth. The Ronin will oppose by rolling Spirit and Notice, to try to detect
(even without realizing it) the ki or presence of the intruder.
Autumn Rains player rolls and gets 3 successes. The GM rolls for the ronin and gets 3
successes, too. Since its a tie, its a do-over: They both pick up their dice and roll again. This
time Autumn Rain gets 3 successes, and the ronin gets 2. Autumn Rain wins this conflict.
Suddenly, the master calls to the ronin while tapping his empty sake glass with his lacquerware
fan, breaking the tension in the room and the ronins concentration. The ronin nods subtly and
pours more sake in the lords cup. Autumn Rain continues to move forward in the ceiling rafters.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 37 12/19/12 12:08 AM


no naka wa kane ja, or Money makes EQUIPMENT REPAIR

the world go round . However, how Sometimes kijin mechanica, gemblades,
much money you have on your sheet isnt and other special equipment purchased at
important. Its how it is used in the game character creation can become broken.
thats important. Its not about how much This doesnt necessarily mean that they are
you have or lose, but how money can make forevermore unusable.
the situation more interesting:
Instead, it is just that they dont provide
GM: The mob boss looks you up and down. their dice or other special bonuses anymore.
I know I told you ten ryo. But you botched The equipment is eectively tapped out.
that job up. Got one of my men killed. Heres Equipment only becomes broken if it works
ve ryo, and you should count yourself lucky I for the story; equipment has no hit points
give you that much. or wounds. Instead, the GM may simply
Player A: We agreed on ten. The price rule that an item needs repair. Breaking or
is ten. Your man got himself killed. If youre damaging equipment may be a result of a
going to back out of our arrangement I failed skill roll (the GM should discuss this
say as I sloooowly lower my hand to the hilt of possibility before the roll occurs).
my sword, looking at the other guards with as
For example, a gemblade would no longer
much of a erce glare as I can muster.
provide its damage bonus, nor would it
Player: Muroku needs a horse. be able to use soulgems or gunpowder.
GM: Sure, hes a samurai. I can imagine you The same is true for kijin mechanica.
have enough money to buy one at the next Their effects are lost, their die bonuses
town, no problem. and the like no longer work. In cases like
Or mechanical eyes, it isnt that the character
becomes blind: They can still see, but the
Player A: Muroku needs a horse.
in-game mechanical bonuses are lost until
GM: Hmmm. You just escaped from they can be repaired. A gemblade might be
your bandit captors, who took all of your
cracked in half, or simply dulled, requiring
possessions. You fought your way out, and
repair to return it to its natural condition.
barely managed to keep your trusty katana.
Youll probably have to work at it. Either steal Repair can happen during intermissions
a horse from the bandits, or perhaps nd a job or at the end of a game session. Theres no
as a bodyguard for a few days once you get to repair roll or anything like that. All that
town. is required is the permission of the GM.
Player B: What if Muroku has an old friend Usually this means that the character took
in town who could lend him a horse? the time to seek out a repairman, or made
GM: Thats a good idea, too. So which do you the necessary repairs herself.
want to do? Steal one from the bandits? Or get If it makes sense in-game, and the player
to town and nd your friend? The latter one agrees to it, then a piece of equipment like
will involve more in-character role-playing. a gemblade could be totally annihilated,
Player A: Hmmm. I want to get back at the destroyed without possibility of repair.
bandits. Ill steal one of their horses.
GM: Cool. Ill make that the next scene,
well see if you can steal that horse or not, and
maybe nd out more about the bandits in the


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 38 12/19/12 12:09 AM



EQUIPMENT Like soulgems, gunpowder weapons
During the course of a scenario, a character require ammunition to function. However,
might nd an excellent new gemblade or lead and gunpowder bullets are not nearly
stumble upon a cache of hundreds of as hard to acquire as soulgems. Bullets
soulgems. During the adventure, the for gunpowder weapons are completely
character can use these as she sees fit. refreshed during each intermission phase
However, to keep this equipment from one of the game. There is no Kiai cost for
Act to the next, the player has to spend the replenishing gunpowder ammo.
Equipment Cost of the equipment found,
as per the chart below. The GM may rule SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
that a player can keep special equipment Kongohki and kijin mechanica, as well as
from one Act to the next, but before the the armour hunters ZAKT-8, all are special
game ends the character must spend the equipment which requires an attribute cost to
cost if she wishes to keep the equipment. initially purchase during character generation.
When these are chosen at character creation,
If the player doesnt spend the cost (on
they are effectively a part of the character (in
the Equipment Cost chart) of the newly
both the physical and philosophical meanings).
found equipment by the last act of the
scenario, then that equipment is lost. Your Damage, destruction and loss may be interesting
onmyoji character might obtain thousands to portray in the game, but unlike other
of soulgems at the end of a scenario that equipment it can mean life or death for the
focuses on a mining conspiracy, but start owning character.
the next scenario with that character with Thats why the intermissions give the players
only 20 soulgems (4 Kiai points worth) a chance to quickly heal any damage to this
in her pockets, having left the rest, given equipment. In most cases permanently denying
them to someone, or spent them all on sake this equipment from the player would really mess
and fancy kimonos. The choice is up to the up the initial character concept. Thats why the
player. player has so many chances to replenish and
repair her characters equipment. Thats also why
the player has the final say in the permanent loss
Special Weapons* 10
or destruction of specialized equipment: It might
Gemblades 3
make the story cooler, but its good to make
Gunpowder Weapons 2 sure the characters player is on board with that
Buying New Soulgems decision as well.
(per 5)
While upkeep should be spent for new equipment
Buying New Shiki
1 gained, some GMs may want to wave away the
Prayer Slips (per 10)
idea of equipment damage. Sometimes it can be
Mechanica interesting in a game, other times threatening
penalty x 10
players with equipment failure or damage can
Annelids annelid cost
simply get in the way of the story. If you want,
* Includes armour, kongohki, kijin weapons
feel free to treat equipment damage and failure
and equipment, as well as customized
weapons. as optional, unless the rules specifically call for it
(Some Arts of War require the destruction of the
attackers weapon).


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 39 12/19/12 12:09 AM


however they need a good reason (or story

SKILL LIST idea) for how they were able to take such
The skills below are listed under their skills. Decide with the GM and the other
default attributes. Remember that in play players how that might have happened.
you can couple any skill with any attribute,
depending on what your character is trying
to do. Some examples are provided for each UNARMED COMBATGENERAL
skill of cases where you might pair another This is the skill and the art of fighting
attribute with the skill. Many skill usages unarmed, or using special open hand-
overlap with each other, as the skills have based weapons. Th is ability can also be
multiple purposes and usages. used for spiritual or open-minded actions
like detecting an opening in the enemys
Skills are listed by Skill Name and Skill
defenses, or feeling a killing intent from
Type. There are basically two types of
the spirit power of a nearby enemy.
skills: General and Specialist. General
skills are skills that everyone starts off BODY: Attacking and defending
with as Unskilled (one dot lled in on SENSES: Sizing up the enemy and
the character sheet). These are skills that guessing their general strength or skill
anyone can quickly raise through self- KNOWLEDGE: Recognizing the
training and practice. Specialist skills opponents style or weapon
can only be bought through choosing SPIRIT: Detecting a killing intent from
special archetypes which provide them. an open or hidden enemy
These skills represent special training and
STATION: Demonstrate your martial
background that most common people
ability through words or physical actions
cannot hope to attain, and always start out
at Skilled (2 dots) or higher. WORMCHARMSPECIALIST
This is the skill that is used when an action
You can pick up a general skill at the
deals with annelids in any way. Finding
Skilled (2 dot) level any time in the game
annelids, knowledge of annelids, caring
by spending the requisite Kiai (5 points).
for them and using them all fall under
You can also spend Kiai to raise a general
this skill. When employing combat-based
skill up a level any time during the scenario.
abilities, this skill is used as well: Couple it
You may raise a specialist skill up one level
with Body for melee worm attacks, or with
any time during a scenario you wish as well.
Senses for projectile attacks.
However, if you want to take a specialist
skill for the very rst time (raising one of BODY: Making melee attacks with
these skills from 0 to 2 dots, or No Skill annelids
to Skilled), you must wait for the next AGILITY: Catching wild annelids
Intermission phase to gain that specialty SENSES: Finding annelids; making
skill. annelid ranged attacks
A number of specialist skills are classied KNOWLEDGE: Annelid knowledge
as elite skills. Elite skills are specialist EMPATHY: Caring for annelids
skills that require special upbringing
STATION: Information about the
from childhood, or induction through an
Mushi-tsukai, Nests and rank in
intense training regimen. A character can
Annelid-user society
gain these skills like other specialist skills,


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 40 12/19/12 12:09 AM



This is the art of doing things without
being seen. Hiding in shadows, or moving
Almost every physical action falls under
without making noise. If you are trying
this skill: Lifting heavy objects, climbing
to do something without someone else
up a cliff face, jumping over obstacles,
noticing, they will usually make a roll to
swimming, maneuvers in the air or while
resist using Notice. This ability can also be
falling, leaping from tree to tree, or riding a
used to hide from armour and devices with
horse or carriage. All these things and more
the Soulnd ability.
fall under the Movement skill.
AGILITY: Moving stealthily, hiding
BODY: A hard endurance run, lifting
without being noticed
heavy things
SENSES: Detecting ambushes,
AGILITY: Quick sprints, falling without
optionally use in place of Notice to
hurting yourself
detect hidden people
STATION: Riding a horse
SPIRIT: Hiding your own ki-presence,
MELEE WEAPONSGENERAL holding your breath, blending in with
This skill involves the use and knowledge the environment
of any and all melee weapons. Theres also
a mental aspect which encompasses things
This is the elite skill of the ninja and
like detecting an enemys killing intent,
shinobi of Tenra. This skill represents
or seeing through an enemys stance or
high-level specialist training and Spartan-
style rearing. At the command of their
AGILITY: Attack and defense actions in clans leader they would quickly take part in
melee combat dangerous missions. This skill is not really
SENSES: Determining the relative used like normal skills, but rather shows
power or skill of an enemy the rank and power level of the ninja. Please
KNOWLEDGE: Knowledge of weapons see the Ninjutsu section for ninja abilities
and descriptions.
SPIRIT: Detecting an enemys killing
intent, either open or hidden You should write your clan or style name in
STATION: Intimidating others next to the Ninjutsu skill (Ninjutsu: XYZ
Clan). If you are training in more than one
EVASIONGENERAL style or under more than one clan, then
This skill is used to escape dangerous write each Ninjutsu ability separately.
situations. In many cases it is a simple
dodge, and can be used against an opponent CRIMINAL ARTSSPECIALIST
attacking with any kind of weapon. Pickpocketing, lock picking, applying
However, if this skill is used you can not or treatment of poisons, setting up or
make a counter-attack (see the Combat dismantling traps, or tricks of the hand used
section for more details). in criminal activities, all these fall under
criminal arts. It also represents knowledge
AGILITY: Dodge an attack
of crimes and their punishments, as well as
SPIRIT: Detect the presence of others
knowledge of the criminal underworld, and
STATION: Demonstrating your power connections within it.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 41 12/19/12 12:09 AM


AGILITY: Pickpocketing, springing MARKSMANGENERAL

locks or traps, sleight-of-hand tricks The Marksman skill covers all weapons
SENSES: Spotting traps, detecting that fire, shoot, or are thrown by hand
poison including shuriken and kunai, bows,
KNOWLEDGE: Criminal knowledge, gunlances, gunpowder weapons and heavy
knowledge of the underworld society, weapons. Unlike other weapon skills, this
poison lore skill cannot be used to defend or gain a
counter-attack. The mental aspects of
SPIRIT: Intimidation
this skill include repair, assembly and
EMPATHY: Finding or keeping knowledge of missile weapons, as well as
underworld connections detecting ambushes, sensing killing intent
STATION: Intimidation based on social and the like.
SENSES: Firing weapons, throwing kunai
FIRST AIDGENERAL and thrown weapons
This skill covers the treatment of common SPIRIT: Detect killing intent, sensing an
injuries and illnesses. This is an important ambush
skill in the world of Tenra, a world without STATION: Intimidating foes
prestigious medical colleges and the like:
Home doctoring, plant-based medicine,
This is the skill of using tracks and
bone-setting, and homeopathy are the
knowledge to hunt down people and
common tools of this skill. Please see the
animals. Its also a skill that can be
Combat Section for more information of
employed to shake o a pursuer by covering
the rules usage of this skill.
ones tracks and blending in. It can cover
SENSES: Actually performing rst aid, everything from knowledge of animal
nding medicinal plants movement habits, to understanding the
KNOWLEDGE: Herbal lore, doctoral psychology of the criminal mind.
SENSES: Spotting clues, tracking
This is the skill used to nd hidden people KNOWLEDGE: Knowing common
or things. It can also be used to detect runaway and refugee hideouts
killing intent from a hidden foe (to prevent SPIRIT: Covering your tracks, blending
an ambush), or a persons physical presence. into a crowd
It also involves the use of all ve senses,
including hearing, touch, and taste (and FORGERYSPECIALIST
perhaps even the sixth sense). This skill covers lots of things, including
cutting coins or counterfeiting, creating
SENSES: Finding hidden or hard-to-nd
fake documents or passes, crafting keys,
people or things
or engineering small devices or traps. This
SPIRIT: Detecting killing intent or a skill also covers the knowledge of all the
humans ki-presence above (and the network of other people
who do them), as well as the ability to spot


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 42 12/19/12 12:09 AM


or size up the quality of a forged work. In ART OF WARSPECIALIST

social situations, this skill can be used to This skill represents ones level of mastery
nd forgers or other related connections. in a particular Art of War discipline. This
AGILITY: Creating a fake or forgery skill is not used like normal skills, but
byhand rather simply shows the level of power
and inuence in that discipline or art. You
SENSES: Engineering, creating or
should write down the art studied next
setting traps, spotting fakes
to the skill name (Art of War: XYZ). If
KNOWLEDGE: Knowledge of precious more than one Art of War is learned, then
metals, crafting techniques and the like record that instance of style separately. For
EMPATHY: Finding or keeping more information, see the Art of War rules
connections in forgery circles section.
STATION: Knowledge of and
connections with fences and other SPIRIT CLASS SKILLS
people who move stolen or forged goods WILLPOWERGENERAL
More a reactive skill than an active skill,
KNOWLEDGE CLASS this skill represents ones mental and
SKILLS spiritual fortitude, and the ability to resist
INFORMATIONGENERAL everything from persuasion, seduction and
Also known as, Ahh, Ive heard of this swindling from even charismatic people.
before, this is the general skill of trivial Its not a skill that you will roll actively
knowledge. Its also the skill of having ones often, but its an important skill where you
ear to the ground, of knowing the lay of the may nd yourself in trouble if you dont
land (both physically and socially) of towns take it.
you visit, and hearing the latest big news.
BODY: Resisting torture, enduring
KNOWLEDGE: I heard about this from physical stress
a doctor friend of mine SENSES: Sizingg upp another pperson
STATION: I heard this rumor about
Lord Kagehisa when I was at court, KUGUTSU SKILL SPECIALIST (ELITE)
talking to his entourage This skill is rare, only taken by kugutsu-
maker players or NPCs. It involves the
ONMYOJUTSTUSPECIALIST knowledge and history of kugutsu, as well
Th is skill covers all training, knowledge as how to make and train them. Since it is a
and use of Taoist summoning magic. It rare skill, it does not normally appear on the
also represents knowledge of mechanisms, character sheet. You may write it in under
armours, samurai, and other objects the Knowledge attribute area.
powered by magic. Please see the Onmyoji
section of the book for more details of the AGILITY: Carving and forming the kugutsu
use of this skill. SENSES: Assembling the kugutsu
KNOWLEDGE: Knowledge of magical KNOWLEDGE: All knowledge regarding
devices and spirits kugutsu and their makers
STATION: Inuencing other onmyoji, EMPATHY: Training a kugutsu
using your reputation as a Taoist
STATION: Knowledge of and influence in
kugutsu-maker circles.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 43 12/19/12 12:09 AM



swindled This skill represents ones ability to exercise
SPIRIT: Resisting intimidation or Buddhist Magic. Its practitioners believe
temptation in the endless circle of reincarnation, and
EMPATHY: Resisting temptation strive to help save other souls through the
powers bestowed upon them. The way they
STATION: Resisting intimidation or
go about that practice depends on the sect
temptation by virtue of your nobility or
they belong to. Please note that this skill
social status
does not equal belief: One can still be a
RESONANCESPECIALIST devout Buddhist without having the ability
(ELITE) to use or master the rare powers of unique
Resonance is the extraordinary power that Buddhist monks. For more information on
oni and half-oni call upon. Only those who Buddhist magic, please see the Buddhism
have chosen the oni or half-oni templates rules section.
can make use of Resonance. Resonance
uses the power gathered in the oni heart EMPATHY CLASS SKILLS
called Earth (Dii) or the horn called PERSUASIONGENERAL
Heaven (Alu) to perform almost magical This skill is the art of using talking,
feats. conversation and social inuence to move
BODY: Using Dii power the hearts of others. Everything from
chiding someone to fast talk, moving
SPIRIT: Using or resisting Resonance
someone to tears or inciting a rebellion
EMPATHY: Using Alu power
and more, is covered by this generally
STATION: Ones standing in oni shaman useful skill. When inuencing another, the
circles opponent makes a Willpower, Persuasion
INTERFACESPECIALIST (ELITE) or Art of Rule counter-roll to resist. If the
This elite skill makes use of a meikyo soul opponent loses, then their character either
mirror to access the Shinto Priesthoods believes in what they are told, or at the very
all-prevalent Meikyo network. Typically, least gives the speaker an ear.
this skill is used by riders to pilot yoroi BODY: Physical blustering
armours, by Shinto agents to access AGILITY: Fast-talk, quickly explaining
and contact others through the meikyo something away
network, or by Shinto puppeteers to hijack
SENSES: Getting common rumors
control of a yoroi or kongohki. To make
this skill work, Karma should be kept as
KNOWLEDGE: Discussion, theorizing
low as possible. This is because if too much
Karma builds up, the soul mirror will SPIRIT: Stopping someone in their
cease responding to the user and become tracks with a commanding or powerful
clouded. tone, moving someone to action
EMPATHY: Flattery
When utilizing the power of a meikyo
soul mirror, all general skills are actually STATION: Starting rumors in court,
performed using the Interface skill. All using social rank instead of words to
other specialist skills cannot be used with inuence others
the Interface skill (you must rely on that
specialist skill instead).


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 44 12/19/12 12:09 AM


PILLOW ARTSGENERAL AGILITY: A small ceremonial or social

This skill covers everything from seduction dance
to using ones sexual or sensual appeal to SENSES: Polite entertainment,
get things done. Various sub-uses will be calligraphy
left up to the readers imagination. KNOWLEDGE: Poetry, tea and tea
SENSES: Finding an attractive person ceremony
in a crowd, spotting people interested EMPATHY: Conversing with nobility,
in you social maneuvering
KNOWLEDGE: Knowing who is seeing STATION: Saying and doing the proper
who in a social environment thing
SPIRIT: Resisting seduction
EMPATHY: Seduction, talking, Th is elite skill represents ones standing
attering, gauging interest within the Shinto Priesthood. Characters
STATION: Resisting seduction, or using that have this skill have some relation
ones political weight to seduce another to the Priesthood, usually a wandering
PERFORMSPECIALIST Gyoshi (Shinto priest) or Miko (shrine
Musical instruments, dramatic acting in maiden). Please see the Shinto section for
traditional plays, singing and otherwise more details on the use of this skill and the
entertaining are all covered by this skill. powers associated with it.
This skill may also provide a source of small This skill is special: Without GM
income when performing in a large town or permission (and a good explanation), you
city square in a pinch. must wait for Intermissions to raise the
BODY: Physical performances, dance, level of this skill. Normally you cannot use
taiko drums the Skill Boost Kiai ability on this skill as
it represents rank, but GM permission may
AGILITY: Traditional dances, biwa,
override this (to access higher-level Shinto
abilities) if there is a good story explanation
SENSES: Acting for why the player has an anity with local
KNOWLEDGE: Knowledge of songs kami.
and plays, performers and artists
performances (ELITE)
This skill represents the schooling and
STATION: Inuence in performer
training that one receives when preparing
to be a ruler. It includes learning the
STATION CLASS SKILLS Machiavellian teachings required to
gain power, politics, political subterfuge,
negotiation, diplomacy, and always
This is the skill of behaving in a way that
showing ones best qualities while hiding
wouldnt embarrass ones self or others
the worst. Ones noble airs are covered
in front of people of high status. It also
by this skill, which makes it useful when
includes skills or knowledge of tea and tea
resisting Persuasion or Pillow Arts.
ceremony, poetry, small social dances, and
Successors to a throne or the heirs in a
the skilled use of supremely polite-form
noble family commonly have this skill.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 45 12/19/12 12:09 AM


KNOWLEDGE: Negotiation, political

information, political history, famous
For ease of getting into play, the skills
political works and edicts
have been grouped into categories with
EMPATHY: Pure charisma and their suggested base attribute. If you
leadership want to organize the skills in other ways
STATION: Politics, the ins and outs (for example, if you want to create a new
of court, manipulation of the court, character sheet for your group), feel free
diplomacy if you think it will help play. Heres another
STRATEGYSPECIALIST sample breakdown of skills into other
Some people grow up studying styles of categories:
leadership, tactics, group combat, and war COMBAT GROUP
formations. Sometimes this knowledge Evasion/Agility
comes from studying classical war journals Melee Combat/Agility
in cloistered halls, other times this Unarmed Combat/Body
knowledge is passed down from captain Marksman/Senses
or general to son, or through grassroots PHYSICAL GROUP
knowledge gained as a leader in times of Movement/Agility
war. Stealth/Agility
Not only limited to martial combat, Notice/Senses
well-schooled ministers and leaders have Pursuit/Senses
keen insight into the battlefield-like Criminal Arts/Agility
conditions of social machinations, plots, MENTAL GROUP
and manipulation. Classical knowledge of Willpower/Spirit
great works of ction and political journals Persuasion/Empathy
can teach one to be an expert tactician in Pillow Arts/Empathy
social schemes. Interface/Spirit
This skill allows one to anticipate the SUPREME ARTS GROUP
outcome of a martial skirmish or even Wormcharm/Body
social machinations, and maneuver ones Onmyojustu/Knowledge
resources in a way which greatly benet Resonance/Spirit
their goals. Buddhist Magic/Spirit
Once per act, a character may roll a Station: Ninjutsu/Agility
Strategy roll against a diculty of zero, Shinto/Station
and bank all of the successes made for Art(s) of War
later. In later rolls made by themselves or KNOWLEDGE GROUP
their allies, they can convert some or all of First Aid/Senses
those banked successes into bonus dice Forgery/Senses
on a one for one ratio, which can be given Perform/Empathy
out by the strategist. Any dice left in the Etiquette/Station
bank at the end of the act are nullied. Information/Knowledge
Art of Rule/Station


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 46 12/19/12 12:09 AM


This eect in the game represents that the warrior walking into battle will be a re
situation is going exactly as the strategist with unmasked killing intent. A rieman
planned. The strategies must be present in will aim her killing intent at the target she
the scene when rolling this ability. res at. The best assassins will attempt to
Strategy rolls can also be used against set hide their killing intent (and their cover)
diculties to remember historical records until the precise moment of the killing
of war or politics, recognize political blow. Killing intent might be felt right
or martial traps, or carefully calculate before an ambush in the woods; or perhaps
the resources required to overcome an you detect almost beams of pure hatred
opponent. from the eyes of the mysterious girl in
the marketplace, watching you from afar,
KNOWLEDGE: Military history, giving you goose-bumps or making the
weapon knowledge, knowing the size of hairs on the back of your neck stand up or
a neighboring lords army. the candles in the hall icker as if a slight
EMPATHY: Understanding the move- wind was blowing over them.
ments of the enemy leader, anticipating
an opponents next step. TAKING NEW SKILLS
STATION: Crafting strategies, plotting General skills and most specialist skills
war council machinations. can have their level permanently increased
(think of it as a level up) by using Kiai
KI-PRESENCE AND at any time during the game. You can also
KILLING INTENT pick up new general skills (starting at two
You will notice that many combat and dots) any time during the game as well.
notice skills allow the user to detect However, new specialist skills can usually
anothers presence, detect a persons ki- be only gained during Intermissions.
presence, or detect killing intent.
Ki-presence (or kihai in Japanese) is that
feeling you get when someone is watching SKILLS EXPRESS THE CHARACTER
you: Hairs stand up on end. You feel like The skills in the book represent the things
someone is watching you or you feel that that will appear most in the game. There
someone is here, in this room (or house). are things like physical skills, combat skills,
It isnt used like a sonar or a game of Hot/ mental and magical skills. The skills that the
Cold to zone in on enemies, nor is it used player chooses become what that character
to detect friends who are far away. Rather, is about. Things like specialist skills and
its primarily used to sense the presence (or especially elite skills can really define a
hear the breathing or heartbeat) of people characters role and set them apart from
who are physically near you: The ninja others.
hidden in the rafters making his way over
Three samurai built using the same skills
your head, or the samurai who is hiding
and attributes can still have very different
three meters away in the closet, ready to
backgrounds, personalities and fates.
However, you may want to explore a
Killing intent (or sakki in Japanese) is the characters individuality further by crafting a
ki-signature that is generated of boiling character with unique skills. Pick something
hatred, anger and force when an assassin that you think would express your character
or other enemy makes that fatal stab. A in a new or interesting way.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 47 12/19/12 12:09 AM


This represents the downtime required to

study and learn the ins and outs of those
specialist skills.
While it may make things interesting to
bend that rule, having a character suddenly
say, Hey everyone. I know I kept it a secret
until now, but actually Ive had extensive
Onmyojustu training as a child. I didnt
want to use these skills, but I see now I
have no other choice, it could also be
disruptive to the feel of the game. Always
work it out in advance with the GM: The
fewer random Oh yeah, Im awesome at
XYZ, too! twists, the more stable the
game will be.
For those elite skills like Ninjutsu, Shinto,
Interface and the like, the downtime of
the Intermission required to gain these
skills might represent the intense short-
term training, or relearning what was once
learned and forgotten, or perhaps a secret
revelation about the character: She was
always a member of the Priesthood, and
just now became activated.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 48 12/19/12 12:09 AM

the thread of Karma is the strongest thread
nothing you wield can sever it
nothing you carry can deny it


Within the game Tenra Bansho Zero is a subset of rules which focus on the psychological
condition of your character. That rules system is called the Karma System.
The Karma System is the backbone of this game. While these rules are an important
part of playing Tenra Bansho, they are fuzzy rules, rules that dont rely on hard numbers
and math. For those of you familiar with role-playing games, you understand that the
actual act or role-play is not something that can be quantied in a number or rolled on
dice. The Karma System attempts to bridge the gap between qualitative role-playing and
quantitative character change.
The Karma System is made up of four inter-linked concepts: Kiai, Aiki, Karma and Fate.
Lets take a look at each element in detail.

Kiai is synonymous with a characters potential power. The more Kiai a character has,
the more power and inuence the character can exert on the world. Kiai is represented
in a pool of points that the player spends. Kiai is sometimes called Kiai Points.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 49 12/19/12 12:09 AM


The word Kiai comes from Ki (spirit/

chi) and Ai (joining/harmony), together WHAT IS KARMA?
meaning ghting spirit. Its the martial Doing good things leads to Good Karma, and
yell that martial arts practitioners scream doing bad things leads to Bad Karma: Good
while attacking, generating a forceful things come to those who have good karma, and
spirit to overcome obstacles. In the game bad things happen to those who have bad karma,
Tenra Bansho Zero, Kiai represents the right?
characters force of will, and how she exerts Not really: Thats Hinduism.
herself upon the world. If the concept of In Buddhism, all karma is bad.
Kiai is hard to remember at rst, think of
it as focus. In Buddhism, there is just one kind of karma. Karma
(or goh in Japanese) actually means actions.
Kiai has two major roles in the game. The It represents the actions that people do in the
rst role is explosive power, the ability to world. In Buddhism, as people care more about
do heroic or mythic deeds. Many tabletop the world, they become bound to it. Eventually, as
games have this kind of pool of points: They karma amasses, they are tied to the cosmic cycle
are sometimes called Hero Points, Action of life and rebirth. Karma is such a burden that
Points, or Fate Points. The second role of the more you gain, the more perverse your actions
Kiai, albeit a lesser-used one, is character and emotions can become. You can start to love
development. Just like experience points something so much that you would destroy it, or
in many tabletop and console games, Kiai everything around it, in order to preserve it.
is used to raise attributes, skills, and gain
new abilities or equipment. You can love your kingdom and become so
attached to it that you make brutal war on your
Kiai starts at 0, but there is no upper limit peaceful neighbors in order to keep your kingdom
to the amount of Kiai you can have. When safe from the threat you perceive.
Kiai is spent, it turns into Karma during
Intermissions (special scenes that occur You can care for your wife or husband so much that
between acts of the game). Kiai must be you want to protect them from the influences of
recorded carefully: Not only the Kiai pool other people, seeing every friend or neighbor as a
that you currently have, but every spent threat.
point of Kiai has to be recorded as well. Your love for a person, organization, activity, object
Make sure to note spent Kiai carefully, or goal can become so strong that you cannot let it
as each point turns into a point of Karma go. You would do anything, kill anyone, even tear
later. down the world in order to mistakenly pursue that
Emotions and emotional ties to the world are a
Aiki is the player currency of the game, a
very human thing. However, too much of a good
reward for good role-playing. When the
thing leads to pain, as well as being trapped in
players receive this reward, it is passed to
the cosmic cycle of rebirth, of which escape is the
them in the form of what are called Aiki
goal of Buddhism.
chits. Aiki chits can be pieces of paper,
coins, poker chips, or other physical, tactile If the concept of Karma is hard to understand, you
counter. They are given to the players by can get by for now by thinking of Karma as Sin.
the other players and GM as a small reward Although it differs significantly, especially how it is
for excellent roleplay. gained (caring too much vs doing actual evil), the
term makes a good substitute at times.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 50 12/19/12 12:09 AM


Aiki is the reversal of the same characters a past trauma, or developed from a reason
which make up the word Kiai. Ai and for living, or perhaps from the shame of a
Ki together mean A Harmony of Spirit. transgression.
It represents the fact that when you gain Each Fate has a type, as well as an ability
Aiki chits at the table, you are receiving scale (like other skills and abilities) rated
them because your spirit is joined to that 1-5. The higher the Fates rating, the
of the other players: You have made them more the character feels strongly about
laugh, gasp, or say That was cool!, and that particular Fate. Fates assist in the
they in turn reward you for it with praise. conversion of Aiki chits to Kiai points, as
If the word Aiki is hard to remember at well as showing the psychological state of
rst, think of it for now as Praise from the the character: Essentially what they care
audience. about, and how much they care about it.
Aiki chits turn into Kiai points through
what are called Fate Rolls. Aiki can also DESTINY
be spent to gain new Fates. Finally, Aiki A Destiny is a particular type of Fate which
chits themselves may be spent in the same is given by the Game Master to the player
way as Kiai, although they do not generate during the Zero Act. It represents the
Karma. characters goal for this particular story. By
pursuing their Destiny, the character will
We will look further into the role of Aiki
progress through the scenario or adventure.
chits throughout this chapter.
The players should take careful note of this
Fate, and are encouraged to make use of it
KARMA through the game. Mechanically, Destinies
function exactly the same as Fates.
Karma is the sound of your soul tearing
The Destiny represents the characters
itself apart. It is the act of destroying the
role in the scenario. If a player is new to
world because you cannot keep your strong
role-playing, or at a loss as to what to do,
emotions in check.
they should follow the Destiny their GM
Karma starts as a number between 1 and gave them. Doing so will ensure that the
108, and usually signies the power level of scenario unfolds smoothly, and that the
a PC. If it goes below 0 or above 108, the player character has a solid path and role-
character becomes an NPC. play opportunities to follow in the game.
We will look further into the game rules of
Karma, how it is gained and lost, further in
this chapter. AIKI CHITS
FATES Aiki chits form the core economy of the
game. To understand how and why they
Fates in this game represent the PCs work, you need to know a little about
past, the things they accomplish, their Japanese Kabuki theater, which Tenra
goals, beliefs, and desires, all expressed Bansho attempts to emulate in style.
as abilities. They represent an event that
had some sort of impact on the characters Kabuki theater is similar to Western-
heart. That impact might have come from style theater, but there are a few poignant
dierences. The makeup, the music, and
the stage tricks aside, the biggest dierence
is the role of the audience. In Western


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 51 12/19/12 12:09 AM



tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 52 12/19/12 12:09 AM


theater (Shakespeare, etc), the audience pieces. You will need about fifteen to
stays silent and enjoys the performance. In twenty Aiki chits per player, including the
kabuki theater, the audience participates: GM. If you have dierent colored chits, you
They yell and holler during the action could use one color to count as a ones chit,
scenes or when the actor strikes a classic and another color to count as a ves chits.
dramatic pose. When the actor delivers one The system of giving Aiki chits is a soft
of the famous lines within the play (usually rule, not as mechanical as rolling dice or
striking a traditional kabuki mie pose), the adding combat modiers. However, this
audience goes nuts. The serious kabuki fan system is the core of the most important
will scream out to the actual actor: Way rules set of the game. Make sure that all
to go Ichikawa! You tell em, Nakamura! the players understand it well, and that
Even if the audience knows whats coming the GM and experienced players set an
up next (and the kabuki enthusiast almost example of giving Aiki chits for the new
always does, being familiar with the play players of the game.
before watching it), seeing the actor play
up their backstory or deliver a set line in a Asking How many Aiki chits should a
certain way, is part of the dance or exchange player receive in a scene? is a little bit like
that happens between kabuki actors and asking, How much money should I tip
audience. my waiter? The answer is a subjective It
depends. However, a good rule of thumb
In Tenra Bansho, the Aiki chits help is this: The players should try to aim at
replicate the same kind of feel of the ow receiving about 2-3 Aiki chits per scene
of kabuki theater. A player (the actor in through role-playing, perhaps 4-5 or more
a scene) entertains the other players (the if the scene is long or the player is simply
audience) through cool or interesting role- bringing the house down.
playing, great ad-lib lines, or specically by
acting up their characters Fates. The other THE AUDIENCE
players will certainly smile, say Thats In the default method of gameplay, all of
awesome! or laugh. But they will also give the players at the table (including the GM)
the acting player a reward in the form of can award the acting players Aiki chits at
an Aiki chit (Awesome line, Mary: Here, any time. The role of the audience is simple:
take an Aiki chit). Each scene the players When they are entertained, they award the
will usually receive 2-3 or more Aiki acting player an Aiki chit. There are some
chits, depending on how much they exert things to look for when awarding Aiki
themselves and play up their role. chits:
There are two systems of handing out Aiki: Does the acting player express their
The main method is called The Audience, characters Fates? If so, give them a chit
where all players can award Aiki chits at right there. Make sure you read and
any time. The optional method is called understand the PCs Fates.
The Scene Judge, where one player per
Did the player entertain you? Did they
scene takes on the role of the audience and
say something really cool or really funny
awards Aiki chits to the acting players.
without distracting from the scene? Give
The Aiki chits themselves can be coins, them a chit.
poker chips, slips of paper, colored glass
beads (such as life counters used in
collectible card games) or other physical


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 53 12/19/12 12:09 AM


Did the player say or do something that

pulled at your heartstrings, something AIKI CHITS AND SUBJECTIVITY
that moved you? Give them a chit. What is cool is going to be different for
Keep an eye on the players role-playing. each player at the table. Its subjective.
Some players are more comfortable with Its the classic Beauty is in the eye of the
acting than others. Dont judge one beholder expression, applied to role-
players role-playing based on anothers, playing. However, you will see when you
but rather against their own skills. If a actually play that no matter how much you
player has a hard time coming out of their might be wary of the subjectivity involved
shell and acting out their part, reward in relying upon the players to reward what
them when they make an eort. is cool, the players will ultimately be
properly rewarded for their role-playing and
Each player should keep three Aiki chits in
cool lines. There is no need to worry about
their hand or somewhere near them on the
playing to what the audience (or scene
table. Award the chits as you see t. When
judge) thinks is cool over what you, as an
CONCEPT: AIKI CHITS AND HURDLES acting player, thinks is cool in order to be
It takes a few minutes to get used to rewarded. Unless someone actively acts
handing out Aiki chits to the players at the like a jerk to the others, the system of Aiki
beginning of the game, even for long-time chit giving normalizes over time and does
players of Tenra Bansho Zero. Giving Aiki function as intended.
chits is a process which is like the heartbeat
Jason likes things that Elizabeth doesnt
of the game, and an indicator of the games
like. Thats always going to be true. That
pacing. During the Zero Act, the giving of
doesnt mean that if Jason is the scene
Aiki chits may be a little haphazard: Acting
judge you should roleplay your character
players might get Aiki chits for almost every
one way, and if Elizabeth is the scene judge
line they say, or else the players might forget
you should roleplay your character another
to give out Aiki chits, even when they are
way. In fact, that kind of nuanced acting and
awestruck by something cool an acting
role-switching is pretty much impossible
player said or did. Soon, though, youll see
when your head is busy just trying to stay in
that the Aiki chit giving begins to normalize
character over the course of the scene.
in the first act, and from that point on the
flow of chit giving will rise and ebb as The other players are presumably your
expected throughout the game. friends, or at least people who you respect
enough to sit together over the game table.
At the beginning of the game, though,
Theyll recognize your cool lines. Theyll
its very important to not keep extreme
give you Aiki chits when you bring out your
standards for role-playing: The acting
characters backstory and motivations
players are just getting used to their
(Fates). Theyll reward you when you push
characters. Award them quickly for
your limits. And you will do the same for
interesting/fun lines, or for acting upon
them. Dont sweat subjectivity; the system
their Fates in even a small way. Dont set
works as intended. Thousands of players in
the award hurdles too high at the beginning:
Japan and the West have seen this truth for
Keep them low. Award early and regularly.
themselves in play since the release of the
Over time, the hurdles will naturally rise and
game in Japan. Everyone will have a good
even out for each player as they settle into
time. Try it and see for yourself!
their character and the game.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 54 12/19/12 12:09 AM


you run out of chits, or at the beginning When you give Aiki chits to a player for
of the next scene, pick up three more and role-playing their Fates, call attention to the
repeat the process. Having three chits at a Fate in question you are rewarding: Here,
time helps keeps the pace, making sure that take a chit is ne. However, Interesting
the acting players in the scene dont receive play o of your Fear of Divine Wind Fate.
too few or too many Aiki chits. Once all Here, take a chit will let the other players
of the players have played a few games of know your reasons for awarding that Aiki
Tenra, you can just keep a large pile of chit, as well as remind them of what the
Aiki chits in the center of the table and acting player has on their character sheet.
give them to the acting players from there.
The players should keep the Aiki chits In the Audience mode, anyone (including
they receive somewhere on their character the GM) can give a player an Aiki chit
sheet to dierentiate their own Aiki chit to the players in the scene as per the
pile from the chits they are giving to other guidelines above. However, for one cool
players. line, or one great expression of a Fate, the
Keep in mind that you dont award too few player only gets one chit. If three players
Aiki chits. When the role-playing becomes are entertained enough by the acting
intense, its easy to be moved by the action players role-playing, and they all reach out
or dialogue, and in the process forget to to give the acting player an Aiki chit, that
award the acting players Aiki chits. You player will only receive the rst one, and
can reward players after the fact. When the the other two players withhold their chits:
scene closes, you can award players after That player wont get three Aiki for just one
the fact for their role-playing or for hitting single in-character line.
their Fates (Oh, you really played up your If you see the players giving too many chits
Love of the Princess Fate in that last scene. (such as a player receiving five or more
Here, take an Aiki chit. I got sucked into regularly in every scene, continuously),
that great dialogue you had with the GM you can talk to them about it during the
and forgot to give you the chit then). next Intermission. However, most Aiki
LOOKING AT PLAYER FATES chit inf lation originates from the GM
The players will be intimately familiar with giving too few chits. If the GM makes sure
their own characters Fates. However, it is to reward good role-playing and acting on
important to learn the Fates and Destinies Fates, it sets an example and pace for the
of the other player characters when they other players to reward the players as well:
appear in their scenes. Knowing them Not too little, not too much.
will help you, the audience, understand This system is pretty much impossible to
what nuances of the player is aiming for in game to your advantage. Any attempt
their role-play. If you dont know what the to do so will likely be seen as cheesy, and
acting PCs Fates are, you wont be able to you wont get rewarded. For example,
reward that player properly, so make sure a PC might have a Fate of Goal: Gain
to familiarize yourself with the session Freedom. If the player suddenly blurts out
log sheet (if you are using it) or the Fates (in character) I wish I had my freedom!
written on that players character sheet. apropos of absolutely no other dialogue or
event in the scene, and holds out her hand
to the other players, no one is going to


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 55 12/19/12 12:09 AM


reward her. But if she brings up that Fate the audience gameplay method. If they are
in an interesting way that entertains the using the session log sheet, they will also ll
other players or makes them take notice, or in a Scene Judge check box next to their
simply ad-libs really cool lines of dialogue, name, indicating that they acted as a scene
the other players will reward her, and judge.
rightfully so. Its nigh-impossible to gameWhen the scene judge hands out the last
the system in unfavorable ways when the of the chits, its time to nd a new scene
goal of the system is the entertainment of judge. The GM will pick a new scene judge,
everyone at the table. and the new scene judge will pick up three
Beyond that, dont worry about giving too Aiki chits. The GM may simply allow the
many Aiki chits. Too many is better than existing scene judge to pick up another
too few, and over time you will get used to three Aiki chits and act again as scene judge
the ow of the game. for the rest of that scene.

GIVING CHITS TO NPCS The Aiki chits can provide a good pacing
While they cannot make physical use of mechanism to the novice GM. When the
them, you should also reward the GM with scene judge runs out of chits, its a sign for
an Aiki chit if they engage in some great them to start wrapping things up (either
role-playing through an NPC. GMs need soon or shortly). The acting players have
love too! been rewarded, the players have been
entertained, so now its time to move to the
The GM will sometimes assign players next scene. If the GM thinks that there
to play the roles of NPCs that appear in is more to be pulled from the scene, then
a scene (giving them an Aiki chit to pull they should feel free to continue onwards
them into the scene). These temporary with a new (or the same) scene judge, but
NPCs wont have Fates, but the player may the last Aiki chit being spent may become
still entertain the audience through role- a helpful indicator of the pacing of your
playing. Those players can still be awarded scenes. Speed them up or extend them as
Aiki chits for entertaining the others while you need.
they are taking on the roles of NPCs.
OPTIONAL RULE: The scene judge will usually be a player
SCENE JUDGE whose character does not appear in that
The second method of distributing Aiki scene. Additionally, the scene judge should
chits is the Scene Judge method. It is an be a player who has the most Aiki chits. The
optional rule, and if used, it completely player with the most Aiki chits can focus
supersedes the Audience method. Read on the players with fewer Aiki chits. That
and be familiar with the above default way, there is less of a chance of a lopsided
method of play before reading further. distribution of Aiki chits per player, with
In the Scene Judge method of gameplay, one player having tons of chits while the
the GM elects one player to become the other players have few.
scene judge at the beginning of the scene.
The scene judge gets three Aiki chits and
Just because a player is a scene judge doesnt
acts as the audience. This player pays
mean they cannot participate in the scene.
attention to the acting players and hands
You can have an acting character also be the
out Aiki chits in the exact same method as
scene judge, but it can be hard to remember


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 56 12/19/12 12:09 AM


to reward the other players when you are The scene judge rules make it easy for
also role-playing in that scene. Thats why one person to look over the session log
the scene judge is usually a character who is sheet (or notecards, or character sheets)
not in the scene. However, that scene judge to see what the acting players characters
has just as much right to push their PC into have as Fates. The scene judge rules also
a scene as any other player. When that control the distribution of Aiki chits, as
happens, either let that person continue to the person with the most Aiki chits will
be the scene judge or pass the role to any often be the next scene judge (giving the
players left without PCs in the scene. other players an opportunity to keep up
or surpass that leading player). Over time,
GM AS JUDGE and maybe a game or two under your belt,
The scene judge is one of the non-GM youll nd yourself naturally gravitating to
players at the table, acting as the audience the audience method, because youll soon
for the other players. However, the GM remember the other PCs Fates without
always has the power to give Aiki chits being reminded, and youll be constantly
just like a scene judge does. If the GM aware of how many Aiki chits each player
is entertained by the role-playing of the has, as well as how much eort they are
acting players or sees a characters Fate putting into their characters.
being played in a particularly interesting
way, they always have the ability to give Use the scene judge rules once or twice to
them Aiki chits at any time. However, get the players used to the Aiki chit system.
just as the default audience rules, the GM But when you start to nd yourself wanting
should not give an Aiki chit to a player at to naturally reward the acting players with
the same time as the scene judge: They only Aiki chits (but cannot because you are not
earn one chit per line. the scene judge), then its time to make the
switch over to the default Audience rules
The scene judge rules for Aiki chit
distribution are nothing more than USING
training wheels for the audience method.
The audience method is a less structured AIKI CHITS
but more rewarding method of distributing Using Aiki chits is not nearly as
Aiki chits. The scene judge method is complicated as the methods in which they
more structured, more calculated. There are distributed. There are two places where
is some overhead and added handling time the players use them: during scenes and
(passing sheets, chits etc) as the scene judge during intermissions.
changes from scene to scene. However, its
a good and simple method to get used to DURING SCENES
the idea of rewarding your fellow players USE AIKI AS KIAI
for how they entertain you or play up their Players can spend an Aiki chit in order to
character goals. Not many other tabletop use it as Kiai (See the Kiai rules in this
role-playing games do this kind of thing (or chapter for how to use Kiai.) One Aiki chit
certainly not as much, or in a method as grants one point of Kiai for immediate use.
central to the rules as Tenra Bansho does), Its usually a poor trade because Aiki chits
so it might take a little getting used to.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 57 12/19/12 12:09 AM


can be used to make Fate rolls to get far all Aiki chits are spent and the player is left
more points of Kiai. However, spending with a pool of Kiai. See below for how to
Aiki can be helpful in a pinch. make a Fate roll.
The main benet of spending Aiki chits as A player can make a Fate roll during a scene
Kiai points is that Aiki chits spent in this (with the GMs permission), or even during
way do not add to the spent Kiai pool, so combat as an action. However, instead of
it doesnt increase Karma. This is the only using the characters highest Fate, the
Karma-free way to spend Kiai points. player makes the Fate roll against the Fate
which is most applicable to that scene or
This is a method most commonly used TAKE OR GIVE A NEW FATE
by the GM after the scene is underway When it is time to take new Fates during the
in order to draw in the other players into intermission, a player can give themselves
the scene (usually as their PCs, sometimes a new Fate ranked at 2 for a cost of one
temporarily to play the role of an NPC Aiki chit. They can oer another player a
within the scene). The GM or player gives new Fate ranked at 2, in which case (if the
a player a single Aiki chit and, in return, other player accepts) they actually give that
the receiving player jumps into the scene player the Aiki chit instead of discarding it.
as their PC or an NPC.
ADJUST THE EMOTION MATRIX Fate rolls are the most common use of Aiki
When a player rolls on the Emotion chits. During the intermission, a player
Matrix, the GM can oer them Aiki chits makes a roll using the PCs Empathy as
to move up, down, left or right one or more the attribute, and the Fates rank in dots
spaces. One chit is given for each single as the actual skill. This roll will result in
space moved. Another player can also oer a number of successes. Every single one of
their own Aiki chits to another player to these successes become Kiai points, and
guide them to Emotion Matrix results. are recorded on the character sheet in the
If the player rolling on the Emotion Matrix Kiai pool. If the player has eight Aiki chits,
wants to move towards an emotion that they can make eight Aiki rolls in a row and
interests them, they can spend their Kiai hopefully gain a large pool of Kiai in the
for each square moved. See the Emotion process.
Matrix rules for more information on this The player chooses whichever Fate they
action, as well as why the GM or other want to use to make the Fate roll. Of
players would want to adjust the matrix course, this means that the player will use
roll. their highest-ranked Fate, the one with the
most dots in it (usually 3 or 4). In this way,
DURING INTERMISSIONS the character becomes stronger (or gains
MAKE A FATE ROLL more potential) through the things that the
This is the most common use of Aiki chits. character cares about. If the player doesnt
At the end of the intermission, the players feel they have a single Fate which applies to
exchange their Aiki chits for Fate rolls. their character any longer, they should be
Each Aiki chit is traded in for one roll, until encouraged to spend one Aiki chit to buy a


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 58 12/19/12 12:09 AM


new Fate (see the No Self Phase section SKILL BOOST

later in this chapter for the rules on buying Another common use of Kiai is to raise the
new Fates). level of the skill temporarily before a roll is
Fate rolls can be made during the game as made. This can only be done with general
well. A player can make a single Fate roll skills, not specialist skills. Three points
in a scene, or make a Fate roll as a combat of Kiai will raise a skill level by one level
action. However, at those times the player (from 1 to 2, 2 to 3, or 3 to 4). A skill can
must roll against the most applicable Fate be raised more than once in this manner
for that scene or situation, as approved by (for example, spending 9 Kiai to raise a
the GM. skill level from 1 to 4 for one roll). The skill
boost can raise a skill to a maximum level
of 4. This can only be done before the dice
USING KIAI are rolled. This can also be combined with
The legends of Tenra are lled with stories the dice boost or other Kiai eects. This is
of people doing incredible deeds: Single a temporary eect, and the skill returns to
samurai who face off against armies normal levels after the roll is made.
of 5,000 and survive, or Onmyoji who If you use a dice boost or skill boost and
destroy entire cities with their rampaging roll a tie against an opponent outside of
summoned shiki. Kiai represents the combat, you pick up all dice and reroll
explosive power that these heroes draw them. You keep all the eects of dice boost
from to perform these acts of legend. and skill boost when you reroll the dice in
Kiai comes from Aiki chits in the methods this manner.
explained above. Kiai becomes a pool of
points which the players can use to have
After the roll is made, you can buy
their characters do those legendary acts or
additional successes. You can do this to
improve their abilities. Keep careful track
increase the level of success on a successful
of spent Kiai, as later it becomes Karma.
skill roll, or else turn a failure into a tie
Here are the ways in which Kiai can be used.
result or even a success. Each success after
DICE BOOST the roll is made can be purchased for three
The most common use of Kiai is to boost Kiai points. Any number of successes can
the number of dice rolled for a skill roll. be purchased in this manner.
Each extra die costs one point of Kiai.
Before a skill roll is made, you can spend
Two Kiai can be spent to take an action
any number of Kiai points to gain an equal
that interrupts another character or NPC
number of dice to roll. There is no upper
before they make a roll. This allows you to
limit to the number of dice that can be
take an action before the other character
purchased in this manner: 50 points of
can act. Another player cannot interrupt
Kiai can be used to roll 50 additional dice
an interruption in progress: only one
on a skill roll. Once. And with monstrous
interruption can happen at a time. In other
karmic fallout.
words, if Player B declares an interrupt on
Player As action, Player C (or any other
player) cannot say, I will interrupt that
interruption, and do this


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 59 12/19/12 12:09 AM


In combat, an interrupt to take a combat EMOTION MATRIX SHIFT

action costs three Kiai points: Two points When you roll on the Emotion Matrix,
for the interrupt action, and one for the you can pick another emotion (usually near
additional action. the one you landed on). It costs one Kiai
to shift the matrix one box left, right, up
MULTIPLE COMBAT or down. In other words, add or subtract
ACTIONS 10 to the 10s die, or add or subtract 1 to
For the cost of one Kiai, you can take the ones die. If you land on one square of
another combat action. Th is can be done the Emotion Matrix, and you really want
any number of times. These additional to instead take an emotion which is two
combat actions happen after all of the boxes away (one shift to the right, and one
other characters act in that round. shift up), it would cost two Kiai points to
If you want to make an additional action take that emotion. The GM may haggle
in combat before the other characters have with you, oering Aiki chits to move to yet
a chance to act, you have to couple the another emotion in the matrix.
combat action with an interrupt action (3 See the Emotion Matrix rules for more
Kiai total per interrupted combat action). information.
Taking multiple combat actions can make
combat a little confusing, so make sure to GAIN EQUIPMENT
declare your actions with the GM in order Useful new equipment is purchased in
to help keep things in order. Karma, not in copper or gold. Equipment is
purchased usually during the intermission
PROTECT phases, but it can be purchased in a scene
When another character is hit in combat, with GM permission.
you can spend 1 Kiai to have your character
jump in to protect that character. There are Soulgems cost 1 Kiai for a set of 5. Shikigami
two types of Protection, Before and After. prayer strips for onmyojutsu summoning
cost 1 Kiai for 10 strips. Soulgem weapons
Before: If you declare that your character cost 5 Kiai, while gunpowder weapons cost
will Protect another before the attack/ 3. Annelids require a number of Kiai equal
counter-attack or attack/defense roll is to their cost. Mechanica cost an amount of
made, your character jumps in and makes Kiai equal to 10 times the attribute cost of
the defense roll for the other character. If the equipment.
you succeed, your character cannot make
a counter-attack. If you fail, you take the A character can receive a new weapon in the
damage as normal. middle of a scenario as part of that scenario,
but they must pay the Karma cost to keep
After: If you declare that your character it by the end of the next intermission.
will Protect an ally after the attack/ Otherwise, that equipment cannot be
counter-attack or attack/defense roll is used. Instead, it is lost, discarded, or given
made (and your ally presumably failed), the away.
damage that the ally takes is automatically
transferred and applied to your character: RAISE ATTRIBUTES
Your character does not roll to defend, she 10 Kiai can be spent to raise any attribute
simply takes the damage intended for the by one point. This can be done at any time.
other character. Armour attributes can only be raised in
this manner during intermissions: It is


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 60 12/19/12 12:09 AM


expected that the armour was tuned-up KIAI AFTER

or upgraded by a skilled armour-maker or THE SCENARIO
onmyoji. When the scenario is over, any Kiai the PC
has left disappears. It does not carry over
TAKE NEW SKILLS to future scenarios. Because it disappears
A new generalist skill can be taken for a
without being used, this Kiai does not
cost of 5 Kiai. This raises it from 1 to 2 (or
become Karma.
Unskilled to Skilled.) Generalist skills can
be raised at any time. A specialist skill can ALTERNATE RULE:
be taken for 5 Kiai as well (raising it from 0 MINIMUM KIAI
to 2), but specialist skills can only initially Fate rolls can produce wild results. Even
be purchased during an intermission. This a character with a high Empathy attribute
represents the downtime required for a could roll cold dice and end up with few
character to be trained in an entirely new successes over multiple Fate rolls. If the
ability. player wishes and the GM allows, they can
RAISE SKILLS forfeit rolling dice for Fate rolls and instead
take a number of Kiai points equal to the
AND ABILITIES number of their highest Fate.
All skills can be raised at any time in
the scenario. The only issue is that GM Example: Lord Kagetora has a Fate ranked at 4
permission is required to take a skill at dots, Emotion: Hatred of the Steel Horse Clan.
This is his highest ranked Fate. His Empathy
a rank of 5/Special, as those abilities are
attribute is 7. However, the player has had a
usually game-changing. Otherwise, if you
run of poor dice rolls and is wary of getting few
have the Kiai, you can increase your skills
successes again. So during the intermissions Fate
and abilities on the y whenever you wish. roll segment, Kagetoras player decides to cash
Raising a skill from 2 to 3 (Skilled to in all of his eight awarded Aiki chits and turn
Advanced) costs 10 points. them into Kiai using the Minimum Kiai rules.
He multiplies the number of Aiki chits (8) by
Raising a skill from 3 to 4 (Advanced to the value of his highest Fate (4 dots) and takes a
Mastery) costs 20 points. total of 32 Kiai points. He might have been able
Raising a skill from 4 to 5 (Mastery to to roll many more successes if he rolled his Fate
Special) costs 40 points and requires GM normally, but this time, Lord Kagetoras player
permission. doesnt want to take any chances.
If the highest ranked Fate is higher than
STARTING KIAI the characters Empathy attribute, then use
Before any play begins, each player makes the Empathy attribute as the Minimum
a single Fate roll to create their characters Kiai score.
starting Kiai pool. Roll against the highest
Example: Flower-of-Iron is a kongohki with a
starting Fate (usually with a rating of
Fate of Sealed Memories ranked at 5 dots.
three), and take that many Kiai points However, his Empathy attribute score is 3. He
before play begins. For this roll, if you do will only be able to receive a maximum of 3 Kiai
not start with at least a minimum Kiai pool points per Aiki chit spent using the Minimum
of three points, raise your starting Kiai to Kiai rules.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 61 12/19/12 12:09 AM


to the earth, or else nefarious inhuman

KARMA monsters who happen to wear a human
All spent Kiai points become Karma at the skin over their own.
beginning of the Intermission. Asura cannot be reasoned with, nor can
The upper limit of Karma for all characters they be empathized with. The only thing
is 108: Th is is the number of Buddhist they care about is the ful llment of their
attachments, defilements, sins. If the goals or destiny. Anything that gets in the
characters Karma exceeds at 108 by the way is ignored, discarded, or destroyed.
end of the Intermission, that character Their goals are given preference above
becomes an Asura and the character is everything. They did not become Asura
immediately retired, becoming an NPC. because they couldnt fulfill their fate.
Rather they became Asura because it was
Karma can be reduced by sublimating impossible for them to let go. Everything
(erasing) or changing Fates. else is secondary to the pursuit an Asuras
chosen fate.
Asura are lost souls, people who have BECOMING ASURA
utterly destroyed themselves in the pursuit When a PCs total Karma plus spent Kiai
of their fate. They give up trying to change goes over 108, they are in danger of becoming
their fate and simply resort to stopping at an Asura. In the next intermission, if they
nothing to attain their goal. They cannot do not reduce the total of Karma to 108 or
change; they refuse to give up what they less, that character becomes an Asura. PCs
view as their goal or destiny. They make can attempt to lower their Karma through
a decision, even unconsciously, to give up changing or sublimating Fates, or they
on being human, to abandon their soul, could simply make the conscious decision
and to simply be carried away by their to become an Asura.
unattainable fate.
If a character becomes an Asura, the
People who become Asura dont simply character sheet gets passed to the GM.
snap and run around killing people They become an NPC. If the player of that
recklessly like berserk savages. However, if
character had any Aiki chits left unspent,
normal people were to watch the Asuras each Aiki chit is multiplied by the PCs
actions, they simply wouldnt understand Spirit: The character gets that many
the seemingly insane connections between additional Kiai points, which the GM can
their obsessive actions and their goals. use for this Asura in the same ways that
Asura are not a species. They are not a players can use Kiai.
category of race or creed. They are people In the end, the concept of Asura is a wall
who act in the same manner of the Asura which should not be breached, a line in
of ancient Buddhist mythology. Asura are the sand which you should not cross, a
consumed by their emotions, obsessed mechanism to promote change of ones
with violence and unable to calm their goals and beliefs (Fates). However, if the
raging spirits. The common people of player thinks it would make for a great
Tenra view Asura as true demons of pure story to have the character lose control and
evil, emerging from the heavens and fallen become an Asura, that line in the sand can
be crossed, that wall breached.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 62 12/19/12 12:09 AM


See the Scenario section for more details PC Fates are generated from character
on what to do when a player character archetypes, created by their player, given
becomes an Asura. by another player, or assigned by a GM
(these are called Destinies). Players should
VOLUNTARY ASURA put some thought into Fates they create for
The player can keep an eye on their Kiai, themselves. When making Fates, you will
Karma and Fates and make sure that they want to choose something that you nd
can avoid becoming an Asura during the interesting for your character, as well as
next intermission. something that youll be able to role-play
In some rare cases, the player will decide in a scenario. If a Fate is too subtle, it will
that becoming an Asura is the most be hard for you to portray, and the audience
interesting option for their character, even to spot.
though it means that the PC will be taken
away from them and made into an NPC. DESTINIES
This sort of decision comes usually towards During the rst act of the game, the Zero
the end of the scenario. If the PC has more Act, every player will receive a special
than 108 Karma, and the player decides Fate from the GM. Th is Fate is called a
that this is the best option, they should Destiny, but rules-wise, it functions the
discuss it with the GM. The GM may allow same as a Fate. This special Fate shows the
them to become an Asura immediately. characters role in the scenario, what they
should do in order to navigate or succeed
This is an option, but ultimately a sorrowful in the scenario. Of course, players are free
one. There is no return once a character to plot out their own direction in a scenario
becomes an Asura. It is likely that the other and ignore or even sometimes go against
characters will have to destroy the Asura. their Destiny. But if a player cant decide
However, on rare occasions, a player may their next course of action, at the very least
want to take this option if they think it following or playing up their Destiny will
ts their character. The GM should never keep the game on track.
pressure or suggest the player go that route.
Fates are written down on the character
FATES sheet. If you are using the session log sheet,
Fates are the things that a character cares you will also make note of your Fates on
about. Its the relationships they maintain, that sheet as well. The session log sheet can
the paths they walk, the goals they wish be passed around to the audience members
to attain, the acts they must never do, so that they remember your characters
their backgrounds and histories. Picking motivations. Update the sheet during the
Fates and role-playing them is central to intermission when your Fates change.
the game, the core of Tenra Bansho Zero. If you are not using the session log sheet,
The players will pick interesting Fates a good idea is to write down all of your
to act out in character, appealing to the characters Fates on a notecard. Leave the
audience through dramatic or cool lines, notecard in front of your character sheet, so
in-character actions, and general role-play. that any other player can grab it and look it
The more you act out your Fates, the more over when your PC is in a scene. This way,
Aiki chits you will collect from the other the audience can try to empathize with


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 63 12/19/12 12:09 AM


your character, understand which goals or is done together in a group before the next
emotions you are role-playing, and perhaps action is taken, and the order of the actions
reward you as appropriate with Aiki chits. is very important. Those actions are:
1 Create new Fates
NO-SELF 2 Raise the level of Fates
ANATMAN PHASE 3 Sublimate (discard) Fates
The intermission phases of the game, 4 Rewrite Fates
which happen between acts (usually
Again, this order is important: Once the
2-4 intermissions per game), is a time
group gets to the third step and start to
for the players to rest, decide the next
sublimate their Fates, a player cannot go
course of action for their characters and
back a step and raise another Fates level,
the scenario, and make deep changes to
not until the next intermission.
their characters. The players will make
changes to their PCs Fates during the After the four steps are complete and the
intermission, in a structured method No-Self Phase is over, the players should
called The Anatman Phase or The No- record the changes in their Fates on the
Self Phase. Their characters personality session log sheet or Fate notecards.
will start to change as they begin to care
about new things, become concerned
One thing that the players should
more with goals and relationships, start to
remember at every step during the No-Self
change their relationships with the things
Phase is that the Fates have an associated
they care about, or even stop caring about
cost which has to be accounted for. The cost
things altogether. See the Zero System
of the Fate is related to its level (the number
rules chapter for more information on the
of dots associated with that Fate: 2, 3, 4
structure of intermissions.
or 5). The total cost of all PC Fates must
There is a Buddhist expression known as be less than that PCs total Karma score.
Anatman in Sanskrit, which in Japanese The character can only care about so many
is called Shogyo-Mujoh. In English, we things, and the Karma score represents
call it The Impermanence of Worldly that characters capacity for caring about
Things or in simple shorthand No- their Fates.
Self . It means that the self (the body, the
Calculating the costs of PC Fates is
mind, ideals and personality) is always
sometimes jokingly referred to as Doing
changing: You are never the same person
your Fate taxes. Early in the game, it is
from moment to moment. Theres a similar
almost impossible to exceed your total
expression from the Greek Pre-Socratic
Karma score. After the second or third
philosopher Heraclitus, who expressed the
intermission, though, the players have to
same idea in his expression, You cannot
be careful that their total Fate costs do not
step twice into the same river. The world,
and the self within it, is always changing. exceed their Karma score.
Your characters will change as well. Fate Rank Fate Cost
Just as four kanji make up the Japanese 2 0 points (free)
expression Shogyo-Mujoh, four actions 3 10 points
make up the No-Self Phase. Each action 4 30 points
5 70 points


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 64 12/19/12 12:09 AM



No-Self Phase You can assign Fates to other PCs as well.
Give the PCs player an Aiki chit, and tell
CREATE NEW FATES them the Fate you wish their character to
You may create one single new Fate for your
character, at the cost of one Aiki chit. FATE BALANCE AND FATE ROLLS
You will see later that there is a limit to
This is an important step of the No-Self
the level and power of the PCs Fates. In
Phase, and most players will want to create
short, you could have many Fates ranked
new Fates for their characters during the
at 4 and 3, or one single Fate ranked at
rst and second intermissions. New Fates
5 with few other Fates. Having a higher
give your character new directions, and
ranked Fate means that you get more Kiai
more capacity to receive Aiki chits.
points when making Fate rolls. So why not
Players will roll on the Emotion Matrix, always aim to raise one single Fate to the
but these do not automatically become highest possible level, a rank of 5, in order
Fates. Instead, if the player wants their to increase the possibility of Kiai payout for
PC to have a relationship with another Karma rolls?
character tied into a Fate, they will need
The reason is that this will leave you little
to spend the Aiki chit and write in the
room for other Fates. If you have any other
nature of that relationship (or feelings
Fates at all, they will be few, and be low
towards that person) as a Fate. However,
in rank. This means that on your character
the Emotion Matrix is a great starting place
sheet, you will only have 1-2 Fates that
for generating relationship-based Fates,
the audience will be able to use to award
especially because many relationships will
you Aiki chits, even though one of them is
change over the course of an adventure.
ranked higher. You have to engage in the
The player spends one Aiki chit, and writes same behavior over and over again to get
down the Fate (the type of Fate, and the Aiki chits, and over time, that becomes very
Fate itself) on their character sheet. This hard. You will end up earning less Aiki points
Fate will start at a rating of 2. Remember through your Fates, but those that you do
that new Fates do not have a Fate cost, so earn have a much higher chance of cashing
dont worry about picking up new Fates. out as Kiai.
The maximum number of Fates a character
Compare that to a character with one Fate
can have is eight: Seven Fates and one
ranked at 4, and several others ranked at 3
Destiny. However, many characters hover
and 2: This character is more balanced in
around 4-6 total Fates.
the things they care about, and the player
FATES AIMED AT OTHER PCS can role-play out far more Fates. This means
Many relationship or emotion Fates are that there are more opportunities for the
tied to other PCs: Fear of Kawagoe, Love audience to award them for role-playing
of the Spiral Princess, Anger towards their character.
Crimson Fist, Friendship with O-rin.
Breadth of character and higher possibility
If you create a Fate for yourself where the
of receiving Aiki chits, or very focused
target of your emotion is another players
character with less of a possibility of
PC, give that player your Aiki chit instead
receiving Aiki chits: This is a decision youll
of discarding it.
have to make in play as you decide what
your character cares about.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 65 12/19/12 12:09 AM


have. If they accept, they receive the Aiki been achieved, or perhaps a Fate that you
chit and write down that Fate. If they dont as a player never really felt all that strongly
want to take that Fate, you can keep your about), you can now remove it from play.
chit. Draw a line through it to sublimate it, but
Since you can only create one new Fate still leave it on your sheet for now (dont
for your own character per intermission, actually erase it from your character sheet).
encouraging the players to assign each If you want to sublimate a Destiny, please
other Fates will help everyone increase check with the GM to make sure that it is
their total Fate count. okay to do so.
The sublimation of Fates instantly results
RAISE FATE LEVELS in a great reduction of total Karma. When
In the second step of the No-Self phase, you remove it from play, you immediately
the players can raise any and all of their lower your total Karma score by a number
Fates up by one single level: Fates ranked equal to that Fates current score: Fates
at 2 dots can be raised to 3 dots, and so ranked at 2 do not lower Karma at all; Fates
on. There is absolutely no cost to do this ranked at 3 lower it by 10, Fates ranked at
(Aiki chits, etc). Simply add a new dot to 4 lower Karma by 30, and if you sublimate
the Fates you wish to raise by one level. a Fate ranked at 5 dots, your Karma drops
However, this is where you need to keep by 70 points.
careful track of your Fate costs, so that This is one of the two ways you lower your
they do not exceed the PCs current Karma in order to avoid becoming an
Karma score. Use the Fate Cost table to Asura. It is important to raise the levels
calculate the new total cost of all the Fates, of Fates throughout the game so that you
ensuring that it is less than Karma. If you can knock them out and lower your Karma
accidentally exceed the Karma score, then score.
undo adding dots to Fates until their total
no longer exceeds your Karma score. REWRITE FATES
If you have a Fate on your sheet which The last step in the No-Self Phase is
you dont particularly care too strongly rewriting Fates. When you rewrite a Fate,
about, you dont have to raise it. You can you change one aspect of it. For example,
imagine how strongly your character cares if you had a Fate of Emotion: Anger
about her Fates, and try to increase the towards Crimson Fist, you can change
important ones accordingly, while leaving the Fate to something like Emotion:
the less important ones as-is. However, at Friendship towards Crimson Fist or
the beginning of the game, it is important Emotion: Undying Hatred of Crimson
to start raising Fate levels right away. This Fist. Or perhaps Taboo: Must not Kill
eventually leads to having more higher- can become Taboo: Can only Kill in Self-
ranked Fates (3-4 dots) which you can later Defense.
sublimate or change in order to reduce your If the Fate is a relationship (like the above
rapidly increasing Karma. example towards a ctional monk named
Crimson Fist), feel free to change the
SUBLIMATE FATES nature of the relationship or emotion, but
The third step in the No-Self Phase is the leave the target (the character to which the
sublimation of Fates. If there is a Fate that Fate is directed) unchanged.
you no longer care about (a goal that has


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 66 12/19/12 12:09 AM


When you rewrite a Fate, you lower that to manage your Karmawithout thinking
Fate by one rank down to a minimum about your character or the storya story
of 2. You also lower your Karma by the will begin to emerge anyway.
dierence between the Fate ranks:
There are several categories of Fates. You
Rank Change Karma Reduction dont have to actually write the category
2 stays 2 0 points down when deciding on a new Fate, but
3 2 10 points the categories will help you quickly come
4 3 20 points up with an applicable Fate that works well
5 4 40 points within the game.

Rewriting Fates is the other way to GOAL

reduce Karma and reduce your chances A goal is one of the most common types of
of exceeding the Karma threshold to Fate, next to Emotion. This is a goal that
becoming an Asura. your character has, a mission or task that
they feel obliged to complete. Once a goal
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? is completed, this Fate can be sublimated.
You will be adding Fates to round out your
Characters with their dreams or hopes
characters personality and creating new
as goals can become very optimistic
avenues to receive Aiki chits. You will be
characters. Characters who tell the others
raising Fate levels in order to drop them
about their goals through role-playing, or
later (through sublimation and rewriting.).
complain when they drift further from
You sublimate Fates that no longer apply
their goals, will likely receive Aiki chits.
to your character in order to lower your
characters Karma. You rewrite Fates to EMOTION
also lower your Karma, as well as to express Emotion-based Fates are the easiest to
change in your character. create and role-play, and they are perhaps
One way of looking at the No-Self phase the core Fates for Tenra Bansho Zero.
is simply a way to manage keeping your You choose a target of the Fate (another
Karma below 108. The system can be PC or NPC in most cases), an emotion
gamed.: You can simply start erasing towards that target, and role-play that out
and rewriting Fates on your character to in scenes. These Fates can be rewritten
do nothing more than avoid becoming an during the No-Self Phase to reect that the
Asura, and story be damned. However, characters feelings towards that person or
take a look at your character after you make object change over the course of the game.
those changes. See what the changes mean As the game progresses, a PC might start
for your character. You will nd that these to develop contradictory or inconsistent
changes will make sense for your character, emotions towards a single target at the same
and youll start imagining reasons for why time: In those cases, instead of rewriting
it makes sense. No matter how you erase or one Fate over and over, take a second Fate
rewrite Fates, the changes will make sense against that same target with that second
in the end with a little interpretation. emotion, and play them both out over the
Game the system all you want. Youll course of the game.
realize quickly that no matter how you
manipulate the Fates on your character just


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 67 12/19/12 12:09 AM


Emotions are powerful, and since people

In one famous real example (from a Tenra Bansho
are emotional animals, emotion-based
replay, a presentation of an actual session of the game
Fates are easy to create and act out.
in screenplay format), a samurai character ghts against
SECRET a deadly opponent in the nal boss battle. The session
was long, the player was lucky with Fate rolls and role-
This type of Fate means that the character
played well, and had amassed a huge pool of Kiai. The
has a Secret. Of course, this secret is known
player looked at his formidable opponent, then down at
to none of the other characters. However,
his pool of Kiai points, then his Karma total. He did
this Fate type can represent a secret that the math. Then he attacked the enemy twice (he had to
is even hidden from yourself. For example, attack twice, to rst break the enemys Dead box, then
some kugutsu do not even know that they to nish him o ), with two powerful attacks, rolling
are kugutsu; others do not realize that their 30 bonus dice for one, 20 bonus dice for the other,
friend is actually their long-lost sibling, raising his melee weapons skill level, and buying extra
and so on. Any time you reveal the secret, successes. In the end, he ended up having a spent Kiai
or the events in the scene play out so that and Karma total of 168.
your secret is at the center of them, you will Since that was the last scene of the game, the last
likely receive an Aiki chit. intermission and epilogue began. With 168 Karma,
the player had a plan, based on the calculations he did
If you revealintentionally or uninten-
earlier: He sublimated all of his Fates ranked at 4 and
tionallyyour secret to everyone, it can
3, four Fates in total. The only ones he had left were
probably can no longer be considered a se-
ones Fates ranked at 2 dots. This immediately lowered
cret: Target it for sublimation in the next his Karma to 108 exactly: His character was safe, and
intermission. did not become an Asura.

LOVE Then the GM asked him, Well, you just burned

Love is an emotion, of course, but it is through all of your Fates. What does that mean? The
much stronger than the Emotion Fate player thought about it for a second, then determined
that his character was struck hard by his enemy in the
type conveys. Falling in love with someone,
battle, and almost died. When he eventually came to a
and then having your character act on that
few weeks later, he had amnesia. He couldnt remember
emotion throughout the game, will dene who he was or what he was trying to do. In the end,
your character and possibly result in Aiki the story followed the players actions: Even though
chits for role-playing. he was gaming the system in order to be as eective
Perhaps you are in a loving relationship, as possible without becoming an Asura/NPC, the
or maybe you love someone but have not player inadvertently created a great story twist for his
confessed your feelings to them yet. If your
love is forgotten, or you break up with that In fact, a follow-up game was played, where the still-
person, or your love becomes unrequited, amnesiac samurai PC was in the employ of an onmyoji
then it is likely that you can sublimate this sorceress as a bodyguard. The sorceress was evil, and
Fate in the next intermission or will you? the other PCs were attempting to stop her while at the
same time trying to protect the samurai, and to help him
An unrequited or unfullled love cannot be
recover his past. At the same time, the samurai player
erased so easily. Perhaps it would be more
chose the Fate Background: Lost Memories in order
interesting or dramatic to keep that love- to connect that condition to his character.
based Fate going for a while longer, until
In the end, making decisions in the game based on
you can nally let it go.
reasons of rules eciency or eectiveness can cause real
interesting twists in the stories and characters, or even
create new stories out of nothing.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 68 12/19/12 12:09 AM


This person must be broken or destroyed. Background Fates are rare, since most
This is a person, group or organization that character backgrounds worth role-playing
you cannot forgive or forget, and you will will fall into the categories of Emotion,
not stop until they have fallen at your hand. Goal, Misfortune, etc. However, there are
This is a very easy Fate to role-play, and its a few characters with set backgrounds,
also a very easy Fate to sublimate: When like the kongohki, where their Fate is
you nally reach your goal of defeating that tied to their very being (In the case of the
enemy, the Fate can be erased. Perhaps kongohki, they have one Fate called Sealed
over the course of a scenario you can learn Memories, which represents the memories
to let those feelings go, or come to a new of their earlier human life, suppressed by
understanding of the person who you the meikyo soul mirror they inhabit).
thought of as the enemy. While most other backgrounds will fall
Enemy-type Fates work great as Destinies. into other Fate categories, if you can think
If the GM hands out an enemy Destiny, of something about your characters past
odds are theres no question of But what that aects them, that can be role-played
should my character do? Its a pretty out in front of the other players and will
simple goal: Defeat that enemy! emerge in the scenario, then consider Fate
with a type of Background.
Something happened in your past (either OTHER
long ago, or even something that happens You can make up any kind of Fate of your
in the course of the game) that defines devising. However, its a good idea to stick to
you. If your actions reect the fact that the basic types above. Over time, you wont
you were aected by that misfortune, you even need to write the type of archetype
are likely to get Aiki chits. If you forget you have, youll naturally create a Fate that
this misfortune, overcome it, come to falls into one of the basic categories above.
terms with it, or forgive yourself for the
misfortune, you can target this Fate for FATES AND APPEAL
sublimation. The Fates you choose for your character are
your own. You can aim to choose Fates for
TABOO your character that will appeal to the other
There is something that you absolutely players, interesting ones that will likely get
must not do. Every time you act upon that a rise out of the others (and award you Aiki
taboo, you will likely receive an Aiki chit, chits in the process). However, dont aim to
whether you follow the restrictions of that solely appeal to the others in ways that will
taboo or cast it down. Taboos make for change your character in ways you dont
very powerful and dramatic Fates. want to pursue.
Just because this action is a taboo does
not mean that you can never do it. In fact,
After playing the game a number of times,
in most cases, its just a matter of time
you will start to notice that Fates fall into
until you do, or that you come to a new
a number of patterns. Knowing these
understanding of your taboo. In those
patterns may help you pick Fates to better
cases, target this Fate for rewriting or
serve your player goals.
sublimation in the next intermission.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 69 12/19/12 12:09 AM


CLOSED FATES your characters family will not appear in

Backgrounds, Taboos and Misfortunes any form; Love of my Sister in a game
usually fall into the pattern of a Closed where your sister wont appear because
Fate. These kinds of Fates are great for your character is thousands of miles from
setting your characters background and home. These Dead Fates might make
past, making them believable. However, your character seem more interesting and
theyre not as easy to bring clearly across give them more of a human feel, but they
through role-play, and theyre very hard to wont contribute to the game.
rewrite. Usually, players have to sublimate It will be very hard to get Aiki chits from
them in order to gain Karma from them. these dead Fates. Since the target does not
OPEN FATES appear in the game, these Fates cannot be
Open Fates are easy to create and role-play.: easily rewritten or sublimated. They sit
These represent relationships with the other there on the character sheet, unused. They
characters, as well as emotions towards wont help your character out, and they
other characters and organizations. They wont keep the character from becoming
are easy to create and use in play. They are an Asura.
also easy to change and rewrite during the As a GM, if you see a player taking a dead
No-Self phase. However, they are harder Fate, or if one of the Fates from their chosen
to sublimate. Once you have a relationship archetypes or character sheet is a dead Fate,
with someone, it may be harder to justify talk them out of it. Let them just make that
completely severing your Fate with them element a part of their personality, just not
unless they die, leave or otherwise stop codied and written on their sheet as a
being a part of the characters life. They true Fate. Ensuring that players avoid dead
are great for character background and Fates will help the player in the long run as
rewrites, but harder to gain Karma from their Karma starts to build up.
than scratch-o Fates. Some of the Fates that appear on the
SCRATCH-OFF FATES sample characters might be dead Fates.
Enemy Fates, as well as Fates that represent If the sample character comes with a pre-
specific attainable goals, fall into this written Fate that is not likely to come up in
pattern. Once the goal is attained or the play, or you have a better idea for a Fate, go
enemy defeated, you scratch them o your ahead and change it.
sheet. These Fates are easy to sublimate,
and result in a great one-time drop in
Scratch-off Fates will help keep your MEIKYO
character from becoming an Asura, as When a character is interfaced with a
long as their goals get fullled, or they nd meikyo soul mirror, like in the case of an
a good enough reason to abandon them. armour rider or Shinto puppeteer, the Kiai
DEAD FATES and Karma rules work slightly dierently.
The pattern to watch out for is Dead Fates. The PC has a total Karma, and the meikyo
These are Fates where the target simply also has its own Karma pool. Unlike the
wont appear in the game. For example: normal rules for spent Kiai, which becomes
Loyalty to My Family in a session where


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 70 12/19/12 12:09 AM


Karma later during the intermission, Kiai Your meikyo bonus can increase over the
used when interfaced immediately becomes course of a single roll. For example: An
Karma added to the meikyos Karma pool. armour rider is interfaced with a yoroi
Kiai spent by the PC when not interfaced armour and the meikyos Karma is 60. The
is added to the PCs spent Kiai pool, meikyo bonus is currently +2. The pilot
which will later become Karma during spends three Kiai to gain three bonus die
the intermission as normal. In the case of on a combat roll. This raises the meikyo
kongohki, their very existence is tied to bonus from +2 to +3. However, for that
the meikyo soul mirror. Kongohki have roll the meikyo bonus stays at +2. From
a single Karma pool just like every other the next roll onwards, the rider will be able
character, and Karma works exactly the to roll three dice for future rolls.
same for kongohki as it does for all other
character types.
When a human interfaces with a meikyo
MEIKYO BONUS mirror (in the common case of an armour
Karma weighs on the soul, and it has a rider), the total Karma of both rider and
strong effect on meikyo. Any machine meikyo cannot exceed 108. If a rider tries
powered by meikyo will receive a bonus to interface with a meikyo, and the total
to its physical properties when it gains Karma at that moment of Interface is over
Karma. The more Karma a soul mirror has, 108, the meikyo will reject the rider. She
the stronger the interfaced Body, Agility will never be able to interface with that
and Senses attributes become. This eect meikyo ever again.
is called the Meikyo Bonus: If the user is interfaced with a meikyo, and
while interfaced, the total Karma of both
rider and meikyo/armour rises to exceed
0-20 +0 108, the soul of the armour rider becomes
21-40 +1 trapped within the meikyo. The meikyo
41-60 +2 user will forever be tied to that meikyo,
61-80 +3 and eectively dies. The meikyo user (and
81-100 +4 her armour) immediately becomes both an
Asura, and an NPC. This is an exception
101-108 +5
to the rules regarding normal characters:
109+ +6 Non-interfaced characters have until the
APPLYING THE MEIKYO BONUS next intermission to lower their Karma
The Meikyo Bonus applies to all die rolls. below 108 before they turn into an Asura.
An armour or kongohki with a Karma total Interfaced users like armour riders and
of 70 would add three dice to every physical puppeteers whose combined character and
die roll made. meikyo Karma goes above 108 will become
Asura immediately.
However, note that the attributes dont
actually increase. Even though there is a Remember that kongohki, whose souls
bonus generated from Karma which adds are already bound to a meikyo, work as
dice to physical attribute rolls, the Wound normal human characters. Their Karma is
Gauge and Vitality Point pool dont not divided between rider and meikyo,
increase: They will stay the same.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 71 12/19/12 12:09 AM


and their Karma can exceed 108. All is during the Raising Fate Levels step of the
well if the player can reduce the kongohkis No-Self Phase. When Fates rise from
Karma below 108 in the next intermission. one level to the next higher level, the rider
can choose whether or not to reduce the
REDUCING MEIKYO meikyos Karma at that time, taking on
KARMA that Karma herself.
Karma amassed by meikyo soul mirrors
If a Fate rises from 2 to 3 dots, the meikyo
needs careful attention. As mentioned
user can choose to accept 10 points of
above, having too much total Karma when
Karma from the meikyo. If a Fate rises
interfacing with a meikyo results in the
from 3 to 4 dots, the user can choose to take
interface failing and the meikyo rejecting
in 20 points of Karma from the meikyo. If
the user. Gaining too much Karma while
a Fate rises from 4 to 5 dots, the user can
interfaced means that the user can become
choose to burden herself with 40 points
trapped inside the meikyo forever, their
of Karma from the meikyo. The meikyos
armour going on a rampage or running
Karma cost can lower with each raise of a
away, while their bodies inside waste away
Fates level, and that amount is added to the
and die. However, there are two methods
meikyo user or armour rider.
for reducing the Karma held by meikyo
soul mirrors: Calling upon a Buddhist The rider can then sublimate or change her
monk, or taking the meikyos Karma into Fates to reduce her Karma as normal.
MEIKYO CLEANSING The kimen-style technology that has been
Some Buddhist monks are capable of propagated by the Northern Court of the
performing a limited amount of ritualized Priesthood does not accumulate Karma.
magic. One of these rituals is called This means that kimen armour riders
Meikyo Cleansing: Through chant and can interface with kimenkyo mechanical
prayer, they can cause the Karma amassed mirrors without fear of being trapped
by the mirror to dissipate. Please see the inside. Kimen technology is weaker and
Buddhist Magic rules for more details on thus does not gain the meikyo bonus of
the Meikyo Cleansing power. If this spell pure meikyo-style technology. However, a
is performed on a kongohki, or an Asura kimen armour rider can exceed 108 Karma
armour rider whose soul is permanently while interfaced without fear of becoming
trapped within a meikyo, the meikyos an Asura, as long as that Karma is reduced
Karma can be reduced to 0. If that happens, during the next intermission.
the soul is set free and passes on safely to
the afterlife. Perhaps it will eventually
Kongohki created with kimen technology
reincarnate one day.
are simply not as powerful as their soul
MEIKYO AND FATES mirror-based kongohki counterparts. They
The main way for a rider or meikyo user to do not receive a meikyo bonus. However,
reduce the Karma held in a meikyo mirror they still their Overdrive ability. That still
is to accept it into their own spirit. During makes them formidable opponents and
an intermission, the rider can cause the terrors on the battleeld.
meikyos Karma to transfer into her own
by raising her own Fate levels. This is done


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 72 12/19/12 12:09 AM


In closing, the Karma rules are centered
around one thing: Creating and getting
into a story that is fun and exciting, both
beautiful and sorrowful, enjoyable and
painful. It requires the cooperation of all
the players to make this happen. If the
game session is a canvas and the players the
painters, the Karma rules are the paints.
The players play the roles of their
characters, and the GM coordinates the
action and ow of the game. Together, the
drama develops through play. Fates are
the players inuence over what happens
to their character and the story. Destinies
are the GMs message to the players, as to
what their role is in the story that unfolds.
The Karma system brings that out to the
forefront in a way where an entire story can
be told, from start to nish, over the course
of a single session. It condenses the action
and drama into a short time period, and
emphasizes change in the player characters
and surrounding events.
When you engage with the Karma rules
in Tenra Bansho, you need to remember
the mantra of the creator of the game,
Junichi Inoue: Everything exists for the
sake of the drama. Your characters are the
tools you control to make the story more
interesting for everyone. The characters
are the resolute, unbreakable entities,
the focus at the center of the story. The
story that develops from your characters
and your role-play is your story, your own
unique mark left on the world of Tenra.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 73 12/19/12 12:09 AM



tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 74 12/19/12 12:09 AM

what kills a person
is not a blade
is not skill
it is the will to murder
that all humans possess

The combat system of Tenra Bansho works very much like the combat of any console
RPG that you may have played.
Combat is broken down into rounds. One round lasts just the amount of time needed
for all characters to act. This can range from a few seconds in quick exchanges, to up to
a minute per round in great battles. The length of time is an abstraction and is rarely
important. What is important is how a round of combat plays out: What is at stake?
What will the characters gain if they win? What will happen if they lose? With those
things in mind, combat begins.
Combat begins with the character with the highest Agility. If two or more characters
are tied for Agility, then compare their Body scores, then Senses, then Knowledge to
determine order. Each character takes an action, then the spotlight passes to the next
player character or enemy character. Here is the order of actions in a combat round:


1) Declare Actions
Moment of Truth
2) Move (up to Agility x 10 meters)


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 75 12/19/12 12:09 AM


3) Take an Action then all of them decide that they want

Attack action to go at the exact same time, then those
Special ability characters who waited will act in their turn
Samurai form order.
Start up a yoroi armour
Fate roll MOVEMENT
Cheer If a player decides to move their character
to a new location, she does so now. She
4) Half-action can move up to her Agility score times 10
A quick activity, either before or after in meters per round, if you are keeping
theaction careful track of distance in a battleeld. In
The Round Ends most cases, battles in Tenra Bansho Zero
are skirmishes between small groups of
Interaction Phase characters. In these situations, if the eld
An upkeep phase between rounds where of battle is not very large (the inside of a
some record-keeping is done tea house or store room, a forest path a few
Next Round Begins. meters wide, etc), simply move to a new
location, or describe moving closer to or
further from an opponent.
ACTIONS Actions are the core of the combat round. It
is where the actual ghting occurs.
When a round starts, it is assumed that
the character will take normal actions like Every round, you may perform only one
moving, attacking, or using special abilities action. These actions (sometimes they
and the like. If you want to Rest, Wait, or are called combat action, full action,
declare a Moment of Truth, you have to say or major action to distinguish them
so now before you take any further action. from half-actions) are the important or


If you declare that you are resting, your Once per session, one single character can
character pauses to collect her breath, to use a Moment of Truth to spend a large
get her bearings and to rest (as much as amount of Kiai at one critical moment. The
possible on the battleeld). The character Type Zero rules section has a more detailed
gains back one point of Vitality. You may description of what this does. When this
not move or take any actions, though special action is declared, all action stops.
you may defend yourself if attacked (and No one else can take an action, and no one
initiate counter-attacks). can interrupt nor jump in with an action until
WAIT the Moment of Truth is resolved.
If you declare a Wait action, your character When the Moment of Truth is declared, note
will skip her turn, and instead act later that the players Kiai pool is at risk. They
than she would have acted. You can later should try to use as much Kiai power as
declareat any time later that round possible, because at the end of the round all
that you want to take an action. If many of that characters unspent or unused Kiai
players declare that they are waiting, and points disappear.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 76 12/19/12 12:09 AM


common actions like attacking, using character somehow. It doesnt have to be a

special equipment, powers, etc. They are a nice Fate (it could be things like Hatred,
separate concept from half-actions. In a tie Must kill, etc), but some sort of Fate
for time between a full action and a half- specically towards that target character
action, the full action happens rst, the must exist on the giving characters sheet.
half-action second. The cheering character should roleplay out
how she is cheering on the other character
ATTACK ACTION (a pep talk, screaming out enthusiastic
An attack is the most basic action to take in commands, etc). The cheering character
a round. Using Unarmed Combat, Melee can then give the target character a number
Weapons or Marksman skills, the attacker of Aiki chits from her own pool to the
selects a defender and makes a die roll to target, up to her own Empathy attribute
try to hit the defender. See the Attacking score.
and Damage section below for more details
on resolving attacks. If the giving character does not have Aiki
chits but has Kiai points, those can be
SPECIAL ABILITY traded in for Aiki chits and given as well:
Onmyojutsu, Samurai Transformation, Every one Aiki chit costs the giver three
The Butterf ly Dream, Wormcharm, Kiai points to convert. Be careful, though;
Resonance, Buddhist Magic, Ninjutsu, the giver must erase those Kiai points, and
Arts of War, Shinto Magic and Ayakashi mark each one spent as Karma. Carefully
abilities all usually require a full action to record the Karma gained by spending Kiai
perform. in this manner.


In combat, it is possible to make a Fate Roll, A note on defending: It does not cost an
using an applicable Fate to the situation at action to defend, so you do not ever have to
hand. Sometimes the highest Fate score declare a defensive action. Using Evasion,
can be used for this roll. At other times a Unarmed Combat or Melee Weapons
lower, more applicable Fate will have to be against an incoming attack can happen
used instead (at the GMs discretion). That at any time and as many times per round
player should describe how the situation as needed. However, you can only roll a
aects their characters Fate. This is usually defense once against an incoming attack.
done if Kiai points are needed in a hurry, For example, you cant fail at using Melee
or the character wants to take an action to Weapons to parry an incoming sword
spend on some melodrama. See the Zero strike, then say that youre going to try to
Rules and Karma sections of the rules to defend against that same attack again using
learn more about Fate Rolls. Evasion. Only one defense per incoming
attack roll, but you can defend any number
CHEER ON of attacks aimed at you that round.
Most player characters will be working
together towards a common goal, and many That holds true for ideas like a single attack
will take emotional Fates with each other. of one thousand incoming arrows. Its
By taking an action to perform a Cheer absolutely better for the GM to treat that
On roll, one character can give Aiki chits as one 1000-arrow attack or5 200-arrow
directly to another character. The cheering attacks instead of rolling to evade each of
character must have a Fate aimed at that the 1000 individual arrows.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 77 12/19/12 12:09 AM



A character can cheer on another character as many times as she wishes in a combat scene. This is a good way for a good
roleplayer whose character has a low combat ability to give a low-Empathy/high combat ability character a chance to beat
a challenging foe. Rack up those Aiki chits or Kiai points, and spend them on friends!
Or, alternately, you could make that finishing blow yourself, trading in a huge pile of Kiai to gain a large number of dice and
temporary skill bonuses. See the Karma section for details on how Aiki chits, Kiai points and Karma works.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 78 12/19/12 12:09 AM


Some special abilities from Buddhist

monks, onmyoji and ayakashi (like the
Possession ability) require a Willpower
roll to resist. This resistance roll is treated CONCEPT: THE LENGTH OF
as a defensive action; the target does not A COMBAT ROUND
have to spend an action trying to defend While, conceptually, a combat round usually
against mental or spiritual attacks. involves a few quick sword strikes and lasts
a couple seconds, the official default length
HALF-ACTIONS for a combat round is one minute, unless
When a character acts, she can perform the GM declares otherwise. This gives the
one action and one half-action. A half- players enough time to formulate actions
action can be performed either before or without worrying about if the action they
after their major action, whichever the want to take is an Action or a Half-action.
character wishes. A half-action allows As mentioned above, though, the concept
the character to take small, quick, simple of time is elusive in a combat round, and
actions. Things like dropping an item, everyone deciding that each round is only a
switching weapons, yelling something, or few seconds long (10, 20) by default might
moving a little can be performed during the add a bit of cinematic action to the game.
half-action phase. Also, if the player calls
The GM might decide that a close-quarters
a Moment of Truth, this is considered a
combat between one player and three
half-action. The GM will have nal say
assassins might have rounds which last ten
if a lengthy action can be performed as a
seconds each. The GM might decide that
half-action, or if it will require a full action
a full-scale battle between two warring
to perform. A good rule of thumb for the
factions on a bloody battlefield might be one
GM is that if it takes about ve seconds or
minute or more per round.
less, it is a half-action. No attacks or other
damaging actions can be performed during In the end, there are tactical choices in the
a half-action. Also, remember that in a tie combat of Tenra Bansho Zero, but time really
for speed, full actions occur before half- isnt all that important in most games. The
actions. only time you would really want to define the
length of a combat round might be if some
players are in the middle of a fight, while
EXAMPLES OF TYPICAL HALF-ACTIONS other players are in another location trying
Readying a weapon to do something tricky at the same time.
In either case, round length is a matter of
Moving 10 meters or less
action and cinematic flavor: Distinctions for
Yelling a sentence or two Actions and Half-Actions wont change if a
Give a shiki spirit a command round is ten seconds or ten minutes (A ten
minute mass battle round length wont give
Call a Moment of Truth
the character 4 actions and 60 half-actions,
An exciting athletic stunt for example, even though that would be
Anything that takes about 5 seconds more realistic) When all else fails, though,
or less the official default length for a combat round
is one minute.
A half-action can not cause damage to
an enemy


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 79 12/19/12 12:09 AM


The interaction phase is the name of the Fighting with sts, swords and magic is a big
period which occurs between the end of part of the combat system. In this section
one round and the beginning of the next. well discuss how to make attacks, take
Its a period of quick bookkeeping, status defensive actions, make counterattacks,
checks, and preparation for the next round. and deal damage. In the section below, the
Think of a potentially innite number of person making attacks will be called the
potential combat rounds: Interaction attacker, and the target of the attack will
phases are the glue which holds the be called the target or defender.
combat rounds together.
If your character is wounded, the When an attacker makes an attack against a
interaction phase is the time where you defender in melee or unarmed combat, both
mark down loss of Vitality due to wounds sides roll an attack against each other at the
or where your character might pass out or same time! The attacker and the defender
die. roll their respective combat skills (in close
Here are some other things which occur combat this is usually Body: Unarmed
during the interaction phase: Combat, or Agility: Melee Weapons)
Environmental or special damage: Fire, and count the number of successes. The
acid, poison, loss of Vitality points due to person with the most successes wins: It
the Critical Wound track being marked doesnt matter if they were the attacker
or the defender, the person with the most
Passing out or dying because of wounds successes is the one that hit, and caused
Shiki spirit appearing after a summoning, damage to, their opponent.
or disappearing when dispelled Unarmed Combat can be used to defend
Regaining Vitality or Wounds from or counterattack against Melee Weapon
shiki, annelids or innate ayakashi abilities attacks with no penalty: Most martial
Finally, the GM has the ability to declare artists train themselves to fight against
an Intermission if she wants. This might armed opponents.
be used to break up a long combat scene, In a case where the attacker is using her
or to take a much-needed break. However, Senses: Marksman skill against a defender
be careful: Calling for an Intermission in (using Unarmed Combat, Melee Weapons
the middle of a combat scene could break or Evasion), roll and count successes. If
the tension and mood if done poorly or too the attacker wins, damage is dealt to the
often. We dont recommend doing it often, defender. If the defender wins, no damage
but its there as a possibility if it is needed. is returned to the attacker: The arrow, knife
or shuriken was deected or caught, not
red back against the attacker. The bullet
bounced o the blade or the samurai used
her training to narrowly take cover; she
cannot re the bullets back at the attacker.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 80 12/19/12 12:09 AM


Remember that re attacks, attacks which If Attackers Successes = or < Defenders

use spiritual or magical force, explosive Successes
attacks like mortar and bombs, and other The attacker fails and misses.
incorporeal attacks can only be defended
against using the Evasion skill. Even though a counterattack does damage
to the attacker, a defending player may
If both sides roll the same number of choose to simply not do damage back to
successes and get a tie, then neither the attacker, and take mercy on them. In
side succeeds. In a normal non-combat this situation, the defender is not injured
opposed roll, you would normally freeze and the attacker takes no damage from the
time, ignore the tie and roll the dice counterattack.
again until one side simply ends up with
more successes. However, in combat, that TAKING DAMAGE
attack simply does not succeed and is not Damage is easy to determine in Tenra
re-rolled. In a swordght, one can envision Bansho. However, deciding what to do
this easily: Swords clash, sparks y, both then with the damage once you take it is
ghters pushing at each other to give, but hard at rst, and takes a little bit of practice
neither side can make a strike this time. to get used to.
Thats the kind of thing that happens when
The damage received is equal to the
neither side has the advantage.
dierence between the winners successes
COUNTERATTACK and the losers successes. After that, the
When the defender gets more successes damage modier of the weapon used by the
when defending against an attacker, the winner is added to that total. This means
result is called a Counterattack. If more that the more you succeed on an attack or
than one attacker attacks a defender, the counterattack roll, the more damage you
defender has a chance of counterattacking will do to the opponent. The amount of
each attacker. success usually adds more to damage than
the damage rating of the weapon used; a
If Attackers Successes > Defenders Successes skilled ghter could kill with a sword, a
The attacker wins, and scores a hit stick or a teacup.
If Attackers Successes = Defenders Successes Once the amount of damage is determined,
This is a Tie the target of the damage decides how to
distribute those damage points. Damage
If Attackers Successes < Defenders Successes can be distributed in one of two ways: on
The defender wins, and scores a Vitality or on Wound boxes. The target can
counterattack. spread the damage across these two areas
As mentioned above, if the attacker is in any way she wishes.
using the Marksman skill, or the defender For example, if your character receives
is defending against any attack by using the ten points of damage from an attack (For
Evasion skill, then no Counterattack can example, an attacker wins by 7 successes
occur. If the defender wins, the attacker and is using a +3 damage katana), here are
simply does not take a hit: some examples of how you can decide to
If Attackers Successes > Defenders Successes distribute damage:
Reduce Vitality by 10 and dont ll in any
The attacker wins and scores a hit.
Wound boxes


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 81 12/19/12 12:09 AM


Fill in 10 Wound boxes and dont reduce

Reduce Vitality by 4 points and ll in THE SAME ROUND
sixWound boxes Every good samurai or chambara movie has
that scene: The lone hero faces off against
Fill in two Wound boxes and reduce
3-8 or more foes who end up encircling the
Vitality by 8
hero. The classic Zatoichi movies and TV
Damage Points Taken = The dierence franchise were full of these great scenes.
between the numbers of successes rolled The hero draws, the enemies advance to
between attacker and defender, plus the attack, and in a few seconds they all go
damage rating of the weapon. down in a flurry of steel. Or the hero makes
COMBAT EXAMPLE a few quick strikes in the air, the enemies
SEKISHU, YOU JUST DONT KNOW pause for a second, surprised, then cry out
WHEN TO QUIT, DO YOU? as they all fall at once like cut bamboo.
Autumn Rain, a re blazing in her eyes, points at Looking at the rules as-is, though, with one
the man in ninja garb before her. attack per round, this seems impossible,
The man called Sekishu, his face covered below right?
his cold, narrowing eyes, doesnt answer back.
Wrong. There are two basic ways to go
Instead, his hand slides to the hilt of the sword
about performing one-on-many combat
strapped to his back, inching it out of its scabbard.
That was the last time either would exchange
words. The not-so-smart way: You can spend Kiai
points to gain additional actions. Therefore,
Autumn Rain, wielding a ninja sword (damage
on your turn you can spend four more Kiai
rating: +3) makes an attack against Sekishu. She
uses Agility (8) and Melee Weapons (Advanced, points and make four more attacks in that
Skill 3) to attack. She rolls 8 dice for her 8 round.
Agility and tries to roll a 3 or under to match or The awesome way: Simply take your
stay below her Melee Weapons Skill of 3. Upon character and put them in harms way. Find
rolling the dice, they come up with a 1, 1, 1, 2, a group of enemies and plant yourself right
3, 3, 4, and 6. Only the 4 and the 6 are above
in front of them, or maneuver around so
her Melee Weapons Skill of 3, so everything else
that they encircle you. When every one of
counts as a success, for a total of six successes.
those enemies attacks you, you are actually
Sekishu is also wielding a ninja sword and uses attacking them back with a counterattack.
it to defend. He rolls his Agility (9) and Melee
6 enemies surrounding and attacking you
Weapons (Advanced, Skill 3). Because he has 9
means that you get to make 7 attacks
Agility, he rolls 9 dice instead of Autumn Rains
that round: Your normal attack, plus the
8, though like her, he has to roll a 3 or under to
achieve a success. The dice come up 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 6 potential counterattacks disguised as
4, 4, 5, and 6. This gives him four successes. This defensive rolls.
means that Autumn Rains attack succeeds. Be careful, though. This is a great way to
The dierence between Autumn Rains successes mow down weaker enemies, but being
(6) and Sekishus successes (4) is 2. That is the surrounded by strong enemies will make this
base damage that Sekishu receives. Autumn a real dangerous challenge.
Rains ninja sword deals three damage, which
raises the damage total to 5. There are no


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 82 12/19/12 12:09 AM


additional damage types done (magic, electricity,

poison, etc), so the total damage to Sekishu
remains at 5.
If Sekishu happened to get seven successes there VITALITY
instead of four, he would have beaten Autumn Each character has a maximum Vitality
Rain. The margin of success, or dierence score. When they take damage, the Vitality
between their numbers of successes, would have
score lowers. Over time, the Vitality score
been 1. His ninja swords damage rating of 3
returns to a full state.
would have been added to that, so Autumn Rain
would have received 4 total damage. Once a character has received damage, its
Next, Sekishu will have to decide how to divide up to the player of that character (or the
up those 5 points of damage received between his GM, if the character is an NPC) to decide
Vitality and Wound boxes. how to split up or spread out the damage.
As mentioned, she can choose to take all
EVERY DEFENSE IS A the points of damage received and use
COUNTERATTACK! it to reduce Vitality by that amount. All
Well, almost every defense anyway. For of it could be taken in the form of lling
those of you familiar with other role- in Wound boxes, a more lasting kind of
playing games, many set up a chain where injury. Or more commonly, a portion of the
an attacker rolls to attack and the defender damage can be taken in the form of Vitality
rolls to defend. Then, the defender later damage, and the rest of the total taken in
becomes the attacker, and rolls an attack Wounds.
against their opponent, who rolls to defend.
Vitality is a more f leeting area. It
In Tenra Bansho Zero, these rolls (for represents the characters ability to stay
melee and unarmed attacks) are collapsed conscious. Points of damage taken in
into a single roll: Both the attacker and Vitality represent supercial cuts, bruises
the defender attack, and the winner and stabs, esh wounds, fatigue, weariness,
does damage to the loser. If the defender loss of maneuverability, that kind of thing.
wins, she eectively parried the attack and When Vitality goes to zero or less, the
came back with her own counterattack. Be character is eectively out of the ght. She
careful of this, as a weak character stabbing lost. She goes down for the count. The ght
or punching a strong enemy is eectively an is over, and the opponent won. This doesnt
invitation to get smacked down hard by the necessarily mean death, in fact it rarely
stronger enemys counterattack! does: It usually means that the opponent
However, characters using Evasion instead gets bragging rights over the victim or that
of a weapon skill to defend and characters the antagonist can cross over the heros
using their weapon skills to defend against fallen body to continue on to fulll his goal
ranged attacks (deecting arrows, grabbing now that the opposition has fallen.
knives mid-f light, and protecting vitals Every point of damage taken in Vitality
from bullets) do not make a counterattack. lowers the Vitality pool one point. It can
go past zero to a negative number: If a
character has given up on a fight after
taking a huge amount of damage, she can
spend it all on Vitality to be taken out of


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 83 12/19/12 12:09 AM


the ght without dying. When the ght is Heavy Wound boxes, a very few number
over and the opponent has moved on, the of Critical Wound boxes (usually 1-2), and
loser wearily regains consciousness. one Dead box.
Vitality is short-term damage that quickly Heavy Wounds have interesting eects on
goes away. Under normal circumstances, a character. When you take wounds from
a character can regain all of her Vitality a category, there are usually associated
back once the combat is over and the scene die eects. If you have one wound in that
ends. Otherwise, it heals at a rate of about category, you gain that eect.
1 point per minute in the game world (as You can also choose how to spread your
opposed to minutes in the real world) when Wound Boxes around. If you take 3 points
not ghting in combat. of damage, and you decide to leave Vitality
A quick note: Soul acts very much like alone and take those 3 points as Wounds,
Vitality in combat situations, but the then you could take 2 Light Wounds and
recovery rate is one hour per point of Soul. one Heavy, or 3 Light Wounds, or perhaps
Taoist sorcerers who summon too many 2 Critical Wounds and a Light Wound, or
powerful shikigami spirits in battle will any other combination. You dont have to
quickly find themselves face down in a ll in all the Light Wound boxes before
ditch. starting to ll in Heavy Wounds, Critical
Optional Rule: If you are playing in a Wounds or even the Dead Box. You can ll
long term battle, and the GM decides to them out in any order you desire!
allow unconscious character to return It may take a little while to remember
to the fray (this should be extremely rare this in play, as it seems counter-intuitive.
or under unusual circumstances, like a But the player has full control over which
large war) every negative point of Vitality boxes in the Wounds area of their sheet are
damage received represents a combat checked o. Each damage that becomes a
round, or a minute of game world time Wound becomes a story element of that
that that character remains unconscious battle, an element which the player gets to
before rising up to 1 Vitality and regaining narrate!
WOUNDS AND THE Light Wounds: Nothing
EFFECTSOFDAMAGE Heavy Wounds: +1 die to all die rolls
Wounds, unlike Vitality, represent long- Critical Wounds: +2 dice to all die rolls,
term damage and a more serious level of but every Interaction Phase you lose 1
injury. Wounds are deep cuts, painful additional Vitality point
stabs, broken bones, torn muscles, and
Dead Box: +3 dice to all die rolls
other gritty physical wear-and-tear that
takes a while to recover from. If you have wounds across more than one
wound category, you gain the eects of only
In the Character Creation chapter, the most serious of the wounds.
we looked into how to determine the
characters Vitality score and Wound So what does the above mean, then?
track. Most characters have several Light If you take 3 points in Light Wounds,
Wound boxes, about half that number in nothing happens. You have received a nasty
wound which will take a bit to heal.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 84 12/19/12 12:09 AM


If you take 3 points in Heavy Wounds, When a player received a number of

then you get the benet of the Heavy damage points and decides to take that
Wound category: From that point on you damage as Wounds, she must check one
get to add one extra die to every single roll wound box for every point of damage
that your character makes: Combat, Non- spread to wounds. However, with the Dead
combat, everything. It doesnt matter if you Box, it can be checked to completely ignore
have one Heavy Wound box checked, or all the eects of damage from one attack.
of your Heavy Wound boxes checked, you This means that if your character takes a hit
will only receive one single extra die for from a powerful foe which does 3 points of
having a one or more Heavy Wounds. damage, 30 points of damage, or even 300
If you take 1 point in Heavy Wounds, and 2 points of damage (which wont ever happen,
points in Critical Wounds, then the Heavy but its a good example), the player can wave
Wound eect (+1 die) is ignored and you away all of that damage, and not have to
focus only on the eect of the more serious take any of it, by simply checking that Dead
wound, the Critical Wound. In this case, Box. The Dead Box makes all the damage
you get to roll 2 extra dice to every single go away, but in return the character is put
roll that your character makes. However, in a dangerous state.
your character will also take one point of Once the Dead Box is checked, the
Vitality damage every round during the character is at risk of dying. She will receive
Interaction Phase between combat rounds those three extra bonus dice to use on any
until you reach one point of Vitality: When action. However, you must keep track of
you reach one point of Vitality, the eects your Vitality score. If your Vitality goes
of Vitality Drain stop. down to zero while the Dead Box remains
A note on Critical Wounds: A critical checked, the character literally dies.
wound will not by itself cause your Vitality Usually this means that she goes down
to drop to zero. Once your Vitality is and is out of the ght, and then afterward,
reduced to 1, it stays at 1. However, you when the ght is over, she can say a few
can always choose to take the extra step to words to her companions or enemies before
accept Vitality damage, push Vitality to passing on.
zero and drop out of the ght. When the When the Dead Box is checked, as
ght is over, your Vitality goes back to 1 explained above, all other wound eects
and remains at that level until you heal all and bonuses are ignored. This means that
of your Critical Wounds. if the player has a Critical Wound, then
THE DEAD BOX the player stops losing Vitality points every
The Dead Box is special. When the round if the Dead Box is checked.
player checks the Dead Box, it means the The Dead Box is a useful tool in a dangerous
following: ght, however you will want to make sure
The player gets to roll those three bonus that you have enough Vitality points and
dice on every roll from that point forward enough open Wound boxes left in order
(regardless of other boxes lled in). to soak any additional incoming damage.
Only activate the Dead Box if youre okay
The player is signaling to the GM, My with the possibility of your character
character is willing to die to win this permanently dying.
ght, and Im OK with that.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 85 12/19/12 12:09 AM



Sekishu couldnt hide his surprise at the swift Light Wounds:
strike he received. Autumn Rain had improved
her skill since they last crossed swords, and now is Heavy Wounds:
much faster than she once was. Critical Wounds:
I see that you are indeed Oboro Enshus greatest Dead:
work, puppet. Prepare yourself, for I will make
After Autumn Rains attack, Sekishus character
sure that we put your hidden skills to the ultimate
decides to spread the 5 damage between both
Vitality and Wounds. Sekishus player thinks
With that, Sekishu chokes back the blood welling it would be more dramatic to take a Heavy
up in his throat, and curls his lips in a perverse Wound. Not to mention he will receive that
smile. bonus die to future attacks if he takes any
Sekishu takes 5 points of damage. Before Heavy Wounds. He spreads the damage around
this attack, he was uninjured. Since his Body between 2 Vitality, 2 Light Wounds and 1
attribute is 7, his Vitality and Wound gauge Heavy Wound, and his gauges now look like this:
looks like this: Vitality: 12
Light Wounds: 
Yes, thats the fundamental rule of combat in
Tenra Bansho Zero. Think of all the samurai
movies or anime youve seen, manga youve A bloody strike, but he can manage. Sekishu
read, and video games youve played. The reaches for that bonus die, as he now has a Heavy
big enemy doesnt often go down in one hit: Wound. He looks at his opponents moves to try
to nd an opening for the next strike
Instead, they become fiercer, stronger, more
reckless as they get hit, until they finally go WOUND DICE
down like a ton of bricks. Sometimes, when One thing that may help your game is to use
they appear to take that fatal hit (checking special brightly-colored dice for keeping
off the Dead Box), they rise back up into the track of wound damage. When a character
fight with a different appearance, perhaps takes wounds and gains dice bonuses,
on fire or surrounded by an energy halo, that player will take those 1, 2, or 3 extra
more powerful than ever, screaming This is dice from those bright red (or other color)
my Final Form! special Wound Dice and keep those dice
The same thing happens in Pulp and other in front of them to remind themselves to
Western cinema the heroic cop, superhero or use them. It is easy to forget about the extra
archeologist gets beaten up, only to have the dice when youre new to playing or running
theme music play as they rise up and bring the game, and having a set dierent colored
the pain down on the enemy. dice set aside for wounds sometimes helps.
Tenra Bansho Zero combat emulates the ARMOUR AND
dramatic and cinematic ideals of combat (in TWOWOUNDTRACKS
fact, a lot of these conventions are used in Yoroi armour riders who pilot their armour
Kabuki stage combat as well), and hand- in combat have a few special rules to be
waves the reality of shock, trauma, blood aware of. When piloting an armour, they
loss and other real combat factors. will use two sets of Vitality scores and two
sets of Wound tracks.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 86 12/19/12 12:09 AM


When an armour rider takes damage, If both the pilot and the armour have taken
she can spread the damage between the wounds, then only count the bonuses and
armours Vitality and wound tracks, as penalties of the checked box which grants
if the armour were a separate character. the highest bonus. For example, if the
When the armour reaches 0 Vitality, it pilot herself has 1 Critical Wound, and
shuts down until combat is over. If the the armour has 2 Heavy Wounds, then
armour has a checked Dead Box then drops the armour rider gets the two bonus dice
to zero Vitality, it is completely destroyed. to all rolls that comes with having a single
Critical Wound.
Finally, an armour rider can choose to
spread damage to her own wound track
when her armour takes damage. Th is is
In Tenra Bansho Zero, the player effectively
dangerous, but it can keep an armour in a
decides when the character dies. If the
ght longer. When doing this, all damage
player eggs on a series of brutal and
from that attack must be taken by the
insurmountable fights, she could simply
character as Wounds (spread between
choose to lose on purpose, running out of
the armour and armour rider); if a rider
Vitality and passing out each time instead
chooses to take some of the damage, that
of dying. Of course, this means that theyre
damage cannot be spread to Vitality at all,
taken out of the fight, perhaps demoralized,
whether to the characters Vitality or the
rebuked, or even taken captive. It also
armours Vitality. It must all be taken as
often means that the antagonist or their
enemy gets to advance their plot with
them out of the way, which will probably One thing to note for armour rider
soon begin to affect the things that the PC characters: Like kongohki, their armour is
cares for (Fates). Eventually, the PC will not a living thing. When the armour takes
find themselves in a fight that they (or their a Dead Box, it means that the armour
player) wants to win, nay needs to win. is irrevocably damaged. One day it will
Thats when theyll start checking off the eventually crack and break down. While
Dead Box to stay in the game, at least long characters can eventually heal their own
enough to see the fight through. Dead Box after combat, a Dead Box on an
armour or kongohki cannot be recovered
When an NPC dies, they might have a few
during a game session: Theyre stuck with
last words or a small speech as they pass
it for the rest of the game!
on. Likewise, when a PC chooses to die, its
probably best to give that player some time If an armour breaks or powers down, the
to say a few things before the character hits armour-rider can still leave the armour
that eternal slumber. To that end, while the (eectively ejecting or crawling out of the
character might die in a battle, they arent armour). The rider can then ee or even
totally dead until the player says so. At that take up arms against the enemy without
point, the battle ends, and the scene hangs. the aid of the steel giant.
Time comes to a standstill, and in that
eternally lasting moment, the player has
A character can finish off an enemy
time for her PC to act out a dramatic death
by declaring a Finishing Blow. If the
or have her character say a few last words
character is in range, and spends a major
before the scene ends.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 87 12/19/12 12:09 AM


action on a Finishing Blow to an enemy WOUNDS AND RANKS

who has fallen (0 Vitality), that enemy is Wound Rank
nished. Light 1
The opposite is not entirely true, though: Heavy 2
The PCs cannot be nished o if they fall Critical 3
(unless they had their Dead Box checked). Dead Cannot heal in combat

Think about the action movies or anime These ranks are used in determining how
youve seen: Why doesnt the villain simply easy it is to heal a wound at that level. A
nish o a fallen enemy? Because its simply warriors player, familiar with how damage
not interesting. The PC has a place and a works, might be inclined to make sure that
time where they are fated to be nished o. they take a Heavy Wound right o the bat
Of course, the player may declare that this (to gain that bonus die advantage). But
is the time and place by checking that Dead looking at the chart above, in a critical
Box. In that case, the GM should respect situation where they need healing to
the players wishes and nish them o if continue fighting, Heavy Wounds are
they lose all of their Vitality and go down. harder to heal than Light Wounds. There
is always a trade-o.
Until that time, though, the enemy will do
things that villains usually do: Walk away,
not realizing that the character still faintly OPTIONAL RULE:
clings to life. Or realize that the PC is still THE DEAD RISE AGAIN
alive, and simply gloat while exiting the If the GM allows this special rule, then
stage to push their evil agendas further. Or one character per game session can be
the characters could be taken captive. Or temporarily brought back from the dead. If
they could be publicly humiliated. Theres a character has checked off their Dead Box
a lot of options which the GM can employ, and let their Vitality fall to zero, they die
the default being that the enemy simply (either right there, or stay down until the
walks o, presuming the PC is dead:Oh, end of the battle, at which point they die).
thats all she had in her, eh? Humph, good If it would seem appropriate, one single
riddance, Im off to the castle/tavern/ character per session can be temporarily
pleasure district. brought back from the dead.
Make a First Aid roll to help the fallen
HEALING DAMAGE character (one success is required). If that
IN COMBAT roll succeeds, then the dead character
There are essentially four ways to heal returns to the battle for a few minutes,
damage taken during combat. The only perhaps for a final strike, or to block a blow
thing to note is that, in the middle of a for a companion. Their Vitality returns to
combat scene, the Dead Box cannot be 1. If the character drops to zero Vitality
healed; You have to wait until combat is again, they go down for good and cannot be
over. If you are still alive by then, the Dead re-healed.
Box can be healed.
After the battle, if the dead character is
Every type wound has a number associated still standing, that character will fall again
with it for healing purposes. Here are the permanently. Perhaps they have enough
wounds, and their associated rank: time to say a final word or two before they
are gone forever.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 88 12/19/12 12:09 AM


In combat, though, it is generally hard to This magic does not work in a combat scene
heal unless you have innate abilities that let on a character with the Dead Box checked;
you do so. Its much easier to heal after a The nature of Healing Prayer cannot break
battle scene, so take care when racking up the rm lines of fate to which the Dead
wounds in combat: Sometimes it is better player has resigned themselves.
to take a fall in combat unless the battle See the Buddhist Magic section for details
means a lot to you. on the Iyashi spell.
First Aid has two functions in combat Rejuvenation and Immortality worms
scenes. If another character has passed out assist their character during the interaction
by dropping to 0 or less Vitality points, phase. An annelidist does not need to take
you may try to stabilize them and return an action to use these worms to heal their
them to the battle. Make a First Aid roll own bodies, this happens automatically
against the number associated with the during the interaction phase. However, if
highest wound taken (0, 1, 2 or 3). In a they wish to use their Rejuvenation Worms
case where the hurt character has not to heal another character (a common task
taken any wounds, at least one success is for annelidists), the annelidist must instead
required. If the healer succeeds in this roll, spend a full action to heal them. See the
then the wounded character returns to 1 Annelid List for more information on the
Vitality (no higher than 1, regardless of the eects of these creatures.
number of successes made). That character
has been stablized. SHIKI OR AYAKASHI
The other function of First Aid in combat is REGENERATION ABILITY
to heal characters who have taken a Critical Shikigami powers (including Shiki-
Wound. Critically wounded characters given samurai powers) and ayakashi
will naturally bleed out a point of Vitality Regeneration powers are activated every
every round until they reach 1 Vitality if Interaction phase in combat.
left unchecked. Making a successful First
Aid roll against the Critical Wounds
rank of 3 (three successes or more needed
When a combat scene is over and the fallout
on a First Aid roll) stops the eect of the
of battle has been tallied, other forms of
Vitality Drain.
healing become available.
The Buddhist Magic spell Iyashi (Healing
Prayer) can take away wounds from
Damage that was taken to Vitality
hurt characters. Essentially, the healer
rejuvenates quickly. One point of Vitality
will spend ve Soul, roll their Empathy:
returns for every minute that the character
Buddhist Magic, and count the successes.
is not in battle until their current Vitality
Subtract the Wound rank of the highest
matches their maximum Vitality. This
Wound the hurt character has, and the
usually means that by the time the next
remainder of the successes can be used
scene starts, the character is fully healed.
to restore checked Wound boxes on a one
for one basis. On top of that, all Vitality is
restored to its maximum score.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 89 12/19/12 12:09 AM


The exception is if the character has taken a equal to or greater than the rank of the
Critical Wound. In this case, the character highest wound level of the hurt character
will need treatment soon, or they will pass (0, 1, 2 or 3). For every single success greater
out (losing one Vitality per minute, down than the highest wound rank, one wound
to a minimum of 1: At one Vitality point, box can be removed from anywhere on the
the eect of Vitality Drain ends). If losing hurt characters Wound Track (wherever
consciousness is inevitable, they can be they wish to have it removed from: Light,
healed in a future scene (assuming the other Heavy, Critical, or even Dead). If there is
characters or an NPC drag that character no healer around, the character can roll
somewhere to be healed). If nothing else, their own Senses: First Aid to try to heal
the character can wake up suddenly in themselves.
the care of a stranger with their Vitality Example: The hurt character has 5 Light
replenished and no idea of how they got Wounds and 1 Critical Wound. The target
there. If this makes sense for the story, go number to heal this character is 3, the rank of
with it. the highest wound (Critical). A healer rolls 5
successes on her Senses: First Aid roll, so the
Soul requires more time, replenishing at the
healer succeeds. The hurt character may remove
rate of one point per hour. This means that
two Wounds equal to the number of successes (5)
if the next scene after combat happens right minus the highest wound rank (3). In this case the
away, the characters will only have time to result is 2, so the hurt characters player can clear
replenish maybe one point of Soul. If the 2 wound boxes from anywhere on her sheet. It
next scene happens several hours or a full might be a good idea for the player to remove that
day later, then it is likely that all characters 1 Critical Wound box and 1 Light Wound box.
will have their Soul fully restored. If the
This can be attempted one per day in the
combat happens at the end of an Act, then
game world, or once per act if more than
at the beginning of the next Act (after the
one act occurs on the same day.
Intermission) the character will be fully
restored in Soul as well. If the First Aid roll fails, then the characters
condition does not change, although this
While Soul replenishes one point per hour
will not cause it to get worse.
of game world time, a full days rest or
relaxation (including sleep) will completely The Dead Box can be healed after combat
rejuvenate Soul. It might be interesting using this method. The Dead Boxs rank
to act out a relaxation scene. This could is equal to 1 (the same as a Light Wound).
include time spent with friends at a tavern Its easy to heal from a mortal physical or
or hot-springs resort, indulging in mindless spiritual wound, but only after the battle is
fun, carousing, gambling, calligraphy, over. The character will still most likely be
painting and so on. shaken by the experience. Consider later
adding a Fate (or changing an existing Fate)
RECOVERING FROM WOUNDS that somehow deals with that battle.
Wounds will heal much more easily once
a battle scene is over. The character can Healing Formula Summary:
recuperate through resting or medicine. First Aid: Roll the dice and count successes.
If the character gets the aid of a doctor, Target diculty number: the Rank of the
herbalist, acupuncturist or similar highest wound taken (1, 2, or 3 for Light,
caregiver, the healer can make a First Aid Heavy and Critical, respectively, and 1 for
roll. She must get a number of successes Dead)


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Success: The hurt character can clear a annelidist rules for healing wounds. This
number of wound boxes equal to the class of living armour can be healed by and
number of successes rolled over the heal themselves with annelids.
highest wounds rank.
Failure: The hurt characters status does
not change. SPECIAL
Yoroi armours and kongohki are creatures RULES
of magic and steel, not esh and blood. The following is a list of special rules
They cannot be healed with First Aid or for combat. Some of them are special
Buddhist Magic. They can only be healed maneuvers that any player can use, while
by onmyoji who are skilled with repairing others are unique abilities only open to
these technological wonders. Roll the characters that take a specic archetype or
healers (or mechanics) Knowledge: ability.
Onmyojutsu against the rank of the highest
wound taken. Every additional success AIUCHI ATTACK
past the wounds rank equals the number Aiuchi means simultaneous strike. It is a
of wound boxes that the character can very dangerous maneuver, but in those rare
clear from the sheet. In short, it works just circumstances the incredible risk could be
like human healing but with Onmyojutsu worth the reward. The defender drops
instead of First Aid. her guard and takes on the full weight of
an incoming attack, then counters with
One thing to note, however, is that a Dead
a deadly and unblockable attack. Both
Box can never be healed in one game
characters will roll for damage as if their
session. Once the machine takes enough
opponent had zero successes.
damage to be hurt in such a way, its days
are numbered. While other wounds can Only the defending character can declare
be healed, the Dead Box will not go away an aiuchi, and it must be declared before
for the rest of that scenario. If, later, in a the dice are rolled. The other character
future game of Tenra Bansho (not the same gets to make their attack rst, against a
scenario, but a future one with the same diculty of zero. All successes, plus the
characters) the same kongohki or armour weapons damage, hit the aiuchi character.
returns, then it can return with a healed If the aiuchi character is still standing and
Dead Box: The armour or kongohki was conscious, then the aiuchi character can
completely retrotted, broken down and return the attack: She rolls to attack, and
re-crafted by skilled machinist-sorcerers the opposing player will take an amount
or Priesthood agents. of damage equal to all of the successes
There are a class of rare armours called the aiuchi player rolled plus the weapons
living armours, made of both steel and damage rating. This is a brutal maneuver
esh. Living armours are healed externally and should be used sparingly because of the
like other steel-based armours. However, damage it inicts upon the initiator.
if the living armour is implanted with
Rejuvenation Worms, then follow the


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While the aiuchi attack is a classic sword Autumn Rain as leaping out of the grass, knee
maneuver, missile or f lying weapons forward, at the same time brandishing her
(shuriken, arrows, guns) can be used to ninja sword, the player rolls Autumn Rains
make aiuchi attacks as well. Agility: Melee Weapons and gets 6 successes.
The ashigarus player (the GM) rolls his Agility:
SNEAK ATTACK Melee Weapons and gets only 2 successes. Not
Characters who use their Stealth skill, or only does Autumn Rain win, she won as if the
shikigami or ayakashi with the Invisibility ashigaru had zero successes. With the 3 damage
for the Ninja Sword, that makes a total of 9
ability, have a chance of making a
damage to the ashigaru.
devastating surprise attack. To initiate a
Sneak Attack, the attacker must be hidden, The ashigaru falls silently backwards into the tall
disguised or invisible. In most cases the grass, his face contorted into a ghastly mask of
target will make a Notice roll against the
attackers Stealth roll to see if they can spot SAMURAI FORM
the attacker or not. If the attacker is not The warriors who have living shiki bound to
spotted (or is simply magically invisible), their esh are called samurai. Samurai form
they can make a sneak attack. is the name of the state when the samurai
The attacker rolls to attack and the activates the shiki and changes physically:
defender rolls to defend as normal. If the Muscles grow and enhance, mass increases,
defender wins, then the target is safe and chitin-like armor and spikes appear on
does not get attacked (or they parried their bodies. It is a spectacle to behold.
the attack at the last second). However, This is the process to engage the samurai
they cannot make a counter-attack on a form:
surprise attack. If the attacker wins, then
the attacker does damage as if the defender 1) To start the samurai form transformation,
had zero successes to defend. In other the samurai must expend Soul. The exact
words, the defender takes damage equal to amount depends on the power level of the
the total number of successes the attacker bound shiki spirit.
rolled, plus the weapons damage. This can 2) The samurai then immediately gains use
be a deadly attack strategy for stealthy of her samurai abilities (attribute bonuses,
characters and gunlance-wielding snipers. special powers, etc).
SNEAK ATTACK: AUTUMN RAIN 3) From that point on, the samurai form
VSASHIGARU can be sustained for a number of rounds
Autumn Rain slows her breathing. Although she equal to the samurais Spirit attribute
was crafted as a kugutsu, a beautiful creature to
score. Starting at the beginning of the next
stand out in society, she is doing everything in her
round, start counting the rounds samurai
training to remain hidden in the tall grass. Her
form is active during the interaction phase.
target, the lone ashigaru foot-soldier pursuing her,
is rustling noisily through the grass towards her. 4) A samurai has no limit (other than Soul
He runs past her, almost stepping on her prone reserves) to the number of times a day the
form. Autumn Rain sees his exposed, unguarded samurai can attain samurai form.
robe covering his back. She leaps out of the grass
to make her strike! During combat it takes one action for the
samurai transformation to be completed.
Autumn Rains player made a successful Stealth
The metamorphosis occurs once that
roll against the ashigarus Notice roll, so she is
set up to perform a Sneak Attack. Describing


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action is used, and during that combat weapon can then fire any number of
round all subsequent rolls that round (like soulgems the user wishes in that single
defending) use the modied samurai levels. attack up to that weapons listed Rate of
Since the transformation requires one Fire.
action, most samurai will simply not make For every soulgem the attacker expends,
an attack action until the next round. one point of additional damage is done to
However, a samurai may still attempt to the target as the blade tears through its
attack that round by spending an extra Kiai target like an electric knife carves through
point to take a second action. In a pinch, a block of tofu.
when faced with an incoming attack before The attacker can declare the number of
the samurai has transformed, a samurai can soulgems she is using after the attack
spend 2 Kiai as an interrupt action, spend succeeds; she does not have to declare the
1 more Kiai to take an action (3 total), and soulgem expenditure beforehand.
start the samurai transformation in order
to use the modied samurai attribute levels INTERFACE SKILL
to block the attack. See the Karma section, When piloting a yoroi armour (either a
Kiai abilities for more information about hand-crafted meikyo armour, or a mass-
interrupt actions. produced kimenkyo armour), the pilot
Note that when the samurai form is substitutes her Interface skill for all general
activated, from that instant onward the skill rolls. This includes melee attacks,
samurai can use the enhanced ability scores marksman attacks, evasion, notice and the
for defense/counterattack rolls. However, like.
the process of transformation itself is not
instantaneous, and the samurai cannot
Kugutsu have the ability to manipulate the
normally make an attack until the next
physical illusion which covers their body to
round. However, the samurais player can
create hypnotic worlds of dream. It is a kind
spend Kiai points as mentioned above to
of brain hacking or forced psychotherapy
take additional actions that round, and
which can be performed on any single
then make attacks with those actions
character. Once per combat, a kugutsu
using the adjusted samurai attributes, or
character can attempt to engage a Buttery
enhanced defense rolls by interrupting
Dream against any single opponent as a
early in the round and transforming then.
major action.
YOROI STARTUP If a kugutsu successfully brings a target
There is no roll required for a yoroi armour into the Dream, she instantly knows all of
pilot to start up an armour. However, it the target characters motivations (If the
does require a full action for the pilot to target has any Fates, reveal at least one, if
perform the initial startup. Additional not all of them). The kugutsu has instantly
actions require further spending of Kiai. gotten a sense of who that person is and
what their goals are.
When an attacker scores a hit with a From there, the kugutsu can pursue the
soulgem weapon, they can then choose target and engage in illusory combat,
to increase the damage by squeezing the try talking to the target as kind of
soulgem weapons trigger. The soulgem psychotherapy, or break it o and return
to combat.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 93 12/19/12 12:09 AM


KONGOHKI skill. Spiritual attacks, ame, energy balls,

Kongohki have the Overdrive ability, which explosions/mortars/missiles, and lasers
lets their fearsome steel bodies move and can only be dodged with the Evasion skill.
act at incredible speeds for a short period 3) A character can make a number of
of time. When Overdrive is used before an different attacks equal to the weapons
action and the kongohki makes a roll based Rate of Fire. However, the attacker only
on Body, Agility or Senses, they can count rolls one time for multiple attacks.
the number of dice that came up successes,
4) There is a damage bonus for using a
roll that number of dice again, then add
ying weapon with a rate of re to make
those successes to the total.
multiple attacks against the same defender.
Kongohki can activate this ability instantly See the chart for details.
before they take an action. They can use
Overdrive for a number of times per game ATTACKS AGAINST MULTIPLE
session equal to their Spirit score plus their TARGETS WITH RANGED
Body score. Each Overdrive activation will WEAPONS
boost one single action. Keep track of how An attacker using ranged weapons can
many times this ability is used in a session. make attacks against multiple targets as a
If the kongohki increases its Body or Spirit single action as long as these two conditions
attributes in the course of the session, are met:
they receive additional Overdrive actions. 1) All of the targets are within range
Overdrive activation is instantaneous and
2) The weapon used has a Rate of Fire equal
can be performed at any time during the
to or higher than the number of targets
kongohkis turn.
For example: A kongohki goes into Overdrive,
The attacker makes one attack roll, and
and makes an Agility: Melee Weapons roll.
each defender rolls to defend separately.
The result of the roll is 6 successes. The player
can pick up 6 more dice and roll those, adding If the attacker res or throws a weapon
them to the total. If the player rolls 4 more more than once against the same target,
successes, then the total is 10 successes for that then the attacker gets a damage bonus. The
action. damage bonus is equal to +1 for each shot
spent against an opponent.
For ranged, ying or projectile weapons like MULTIPLE ATTACKS AGAINST
bullets (red from soulgem or gunpowder A SINGLE OPPONENT WITH
weapons), kunai, shuriken, or knives, there RANGED WEAPONS
are various rules for their use in combat. In the case where multiple shots are taken
against the same enemy, the character
1) They cannot be counter-attacked, only
simply adds a higher damage rating to the
parried with weapon skills or dodged with
single defender if the attack succeeds. This
the Evasion skill.
happens often, as ninja are classically fond
2) Knives, arrows, shuriken and bullets of throwing many shuriken or kunai at an
can be parried or dodged with the melee enemy at one time.
weapons, unarmed combat or Evasion
Every additional shot spent against a
target grants a damage bonus of +1, for a
maximum damage bonus of +2 per target.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 94 12/19/12 12:09 AM



Rate of Fire Sample Weapon Number of Targets Aimed at
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 Single Shot 0 - - - - - - -
2 Bow, Soulgem Rifle +1 0 - - - - - -
3 Kunai, Knives, Repeater +2 0 0 - - - - -
4 Soulgem Pistol +2 +1 0 0 - - - -
5 Shuriken, Heavy Repeater +2 +1 0 0 0 - - -
8 Dreadnaught Repeater +2 +2 +1 +1 0 0 0 0

Follow the chart for easy reference. If your OTHER DAMAGE

character uses weapons which require the There are other types of damage besides
Marksman skill, it might be helpful to weapons, such as re or falling from great
reference the numbers above. If it seems heights. When calculating other kinds of
too complicated, the GM can declare damage, use the following formula:
these rules optional and just use the default
Find the damage rating.
damage ratings for ranged weapons.
Resist the damage with the appropriate
Autumn Rain is crouched on the other end of the Every success rolled subtracts one from
Red River Bridge facing two ashigaru soldiers the damage rating, down to a damage of 0.
who have their spears pointed at her. She opens
her hands, revealing four shuriken which she Here are some examples of types of damage,
sends speeding quickly towards their targets. their rating, and what to use to resist
Shuriken have a maximum Rate of Fire of Type Damage Resist With
5, but Autumn Rains player doesnt want to Falling from a cliff height (in meters) Movement
waste them. She can get the exact same damage
Poison/Fire/Acid/Cold damage rating Willpower
bonus (+1) throwing against two targets with 4
Explosives damage rating Evasion
shuriken as she can with 5, so she uses the Rate
of Fire: 4 column to determine the bonus. If she The damage rating is set for each of the
were throwing all the shuriken against one target damage types either by the GM, or by
she might use the maximum Rate of Fire of 5 the power it comes from. For example,
shuriken for a +2 damage bonus.
an ayakashi might have a poison with
Autumn Rains player rolls 8 dice, and gets 5 a damage rating of 10, or a shiki might
successes. Not bad. explode with a damage rating of 15. If there
The GM rolls the ashigaru soldiers Evasion is no set rating for the damage, the GM will
skills, and gets a total of 1 success for one soldier decide the damage rating.
and 2 successes for the second soldier.
Things like poison, re, cold and acid will
The shuriken base damage is +1. The damage continue to do damage every round during
bonus for using 4 shuriken against 2 opponents the interaction phase. Poisons have a time
is +1 for each opponent. Finally, the attack and rating, which is the number of rounds the
defense roll dierence was 4 for one soldier and 3
character is aected by it. Fire, Cold and
of the other. The total damage is 6 damage to one
Acid lasts until the characters situation
soldier, and 5 damage to the other soldier.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 95 12/19/12 12:09 AM


changes (she puts herself out, she gets out A character can combine multiple
of the acid pit, or she takes shelter from the techniques into a single attack, defense
cold). or counter-attack, as long as all of the
Continual damage can be resisted every techniques are from the same school.
time it is dealt to the character. In some rare cases, a character might be
skilled in more than one war art. In these
cases, a weapon master can use multiple
techniques from one art in one attack, and
Autumn Rain is hit with a poison needle red by
a hidden assassin. After taking the slight damage
multiple techniques from a second art in
from the needle, the GM determines that the a second attack. However, you cannot mix
poison has a damage rating of 5 and lasts for 5 techniques from two dierent schools in a
rounds of continuing damage. single attack or defense: The arts require
a distinct mindset, focus, and movements
Every interaction phase, Autumn Rain will
make a resistance roll using Spirit: Willpower which are impossible to stack at the same
against a target number of 5 to try to reduce that time with a dierent arts mindset.
damage. Failure means that she will take damage For example, a character who is supremely
that round. Autumn Rain better nd and nish skilled (5) in both Crescent Moon Blade
o that assassin before she gets hit with another Tactics and True Illusion Style could
use the True Illusion styles Light and
ARTS OF WAR Shadow technique in conjunction with
Weapon masters and some trained warriors the True Illusion styles Three Year Kill
have access to the abilities called the War technique, since both techniques come
Arts. There are many styles to choose from, from the same school. However, she could
each style having its own progression level not use the True Illusions Light and
of unique abilities, attacks and maneuvers. Shadow technique in conjunction with the
See the Art of War section for more details Crescent Moon Blade Tactics styles Seal
on these abilities. of the Blade maneuver in the same attack
because they come from dierent schools.
The arts of war are a unique set of skills. Like
the Shinto abilities, the characters skill STRATEGY
level at an art is simply just a marker which A character with the Strategy skill can at
shows the characters rank and knowledge any time make a roll of Station: Strategy
of that art. The war art itself is almost never to build up an advantage for their force.
rolled as if it were a skill. It simply shows This can only be done once per Act. This
the player of that character what their represents expert plan creation, barking
characters level is in that particular style out orders clearly, setting up strategies
and which abilities within that school that to win skirmishes and the like. The
they have access to. When using the war strategist should describe, when awarding
arts to perform a special maneuver, the advantages to their allies, how their actions
character will make attack rolls as they or strategies led to this advantage.
normally do and not Art of War rolls. In All of the successes rolled in the Station:
most cases, the weapon master uses their Strategy roll become banked bonus
Melee Weapons, Unarmed Combat or dice. Later, at any time during the Act, a
Marksman combat rolls as normal. strategist can award some or all of these dice
to their allies (usually for attack or evasion


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 96 12/19/12 12:09 AM


rolls), or even use these dice themselves. All dice that remain banked at the end of
For every banked die spent, the character the Act are immediately removed from
chosen by the strategist can roll one extra play. The strategist may attempt to roll for
bonus die. This can be done as many times another advantage sometime in the next
as the strategist wishes until they run out act.
of banked dice. Also, there is no limit to In a future Tenra Bansho supplement, there
the number of dice that can be given in this will be rules around using the Strategy skill
manner: 1, 5, 10 or more for one roll is ne. to direct mass combat battles and full-scale


Most adventure scenarios will put the There are a number of tricks that you can
players against strong enemies with high use in combat by expending Kiai or Aiki
natural dice pools and high levels of skill. chits. Here are some of their combat uses.
Please see the Karma chapter for a more
As youve seen in the rules, combat comes
detailed explanation.
down to a roll-off of dice between you and
the enemy. There are tricks you can use in ATTACKS/COUNTERATTACKS
combat: things like filling in the Dead Box, By spending Kiai, you can boost your
declaring aiuchi, making sneak-attacks, or Weapon or Evasion skill up a rank or two
using Arts of War. But in general, many end (up to a maximum rank of 4) for one roll, or
game bosses are too strong. You can roll add more dice to a combat roll. If you dont
dice against them all day, but youll only win succeed at the combat roll, you can spend
if youre really, really lucky. Kiai to gain some automatic successes.
Thats the way its supposed to be! Strong These are some techniques commonly used
enemies simply cant be beat using normal in combat.
means. Thats where Kiai comes in. Kiai lets
players perform extreme feats of skill. A
Spending one Kiai point lets you take an
character could easily raise their skill level
attack that was meant for another character
one or two levels with Kiai for a strike, then
(even if you are out of range). You cannot
buy 5 or 20 extra dice to roll. Or break a tie
counterattack when you protect. See the
against a foe by using Kiai to buy one or
Karma chapter for more information on
more instant successes. This is the only way
the Protect maneuver.
players will be able to defeat strong enemies
or boss opponents. ADDITIONAL ACTION
You can gain Kiai from role-playing your After your action, you can spend another
character well and entertaining the other Kiai point to make an additional major
players. The more you get into character and action. If the next character acts afterwards,
play out that characters Fates, the more Aiki and you want to make an additional action
chits you will receive from your friends. This before the end of the round and your
leads to having a pile of Kiai points to spend, turn has passed, you will need to buy an
the very Kiai you need to do the tricks to take Interrupt to go before other characters.
down a powerful enemy. Yes, in the end,
boss enemies can only be defeated in Tenra
Bansho Zero by role-playing well.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 97 12/19/12 12:09 AM


INTERRUPT character doesnt die until the player checks

You can take your action before your that Dead Box and signals that shes okay
turn officially comes, or after you have with dying.
performed your major action, by spending That means if the character falls o an
2 Kiai points. You can take additional orbital platform, burns through the
interrupt actions by spending 2 Kiai for atmosphere, and falls several kilometers to
the interrupt, and one more Kiai for the land in a rocky crater, if the player doesnt
additional action. Th is is a good way to want the character to die there, and leaves
assume samurai form in a hurry before you that box unchecked, she doesnt die. It
would normally be allowed to go in order to
might make for some strained narration to
defend with the samurai attribute bonuses.gure out how they lived, but it just wasnt
See the Karma section for more detailed that characters time to die.
explanations of these Kiai-based actions. When a character takes damage, its up to
the players and GM to decide what that
COMBAT damage means. Here are some examples
to get you started:
BALANCE Vitality Damage: Tears in clothes, thin
cut lines, narrow misses, running out of
AND breath. This is the kind of wound or cut
where, if you saw it in a manga or comic,
NARRATION in a few panels the artists will simply stop
As you read through the rules and begin drawing it and move on.
to play, youll soon learn that theres really Light Wound: Flesh wounds, some blood
no major detriment for taking Heavy or bruising.
Wounds or lling in that Dead Box (until Heavy Wound: A bone snaps, or blood
the character passes out, that is). It might doesnt easily stop owing.
seem strange to have a system where hitting
Critical Wound: Being hit hard somewhere
an enemy for a large amount of damage can
painful or dangerous.
make that enemy stronger, giving them
Dead: Being run through.
more dice to ght back in exchange for
taking some wounds. Also, it might be good for the GM and
players to talk beforehand about the level
The combat rules in Tenra Bansho do not
of splatter/gore in the game. The default
reect reality. They instead aim to reect
is a little blood, like a cinematic movie or
the ctionalized reality of what youve
anime. Many players will be squeamish
come to see in theatrical plays (or kabuki
with narrations of bloody rampages of
plays if youve had the experience), manga,
spilled organs and bloody decapitations.
anime, video games and the like.
Theres no need to gross out the players, try
The important thing in combat isnt how to keep the action focus on the characters,
long a character can go before dying, but not on the trails of blood spatter.
how the characters act out the performance
in those combat scenes. What cool lines
are thrown out? Dramatic posturing?
Cool wire-fu maneuvers? To that end, the


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 98 12/19/12 12:09 AM

the zero system
make use of these rules
and you will enter a new world

Up until now, the basic game rules have focused on creating a character, doing things in
character, being rewarded for role-playing, and battle. The Zero System is the collection
of rules that tries to establish a fun, fast-paced play session. These are the rules that
make playing the game feel more like a story out of a stage or kabuki play, anime, manga,
or novel. The breakdown of the game into distinct acts, scenes and intermissions, and
understanding the ow of the game is an important part of the play process.
There are also other rules that all players need to know. Learning them is just as important
to the success of a session as learning how to make combat rolls or learning how to gain
or spend Aiki chits. Things like game preparation, scheduling, organization, character
creation and approval, game ow and nally clean-up after a session are important to a
successful and fun session.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 99 12/19/12 12:09 AM


In this chapter were going to explain these with your friends two or three Tuesdays
Zero System rules in detail. While this in a row, for example). As long as you are
section is going to be very important for able to keep the momentum going, you can
a GM, all players are encouraged to read probably break those 5-6 hours up over two
this section to see how to take part in a or more sessions. Just dont put too much
successful game. time in between sessions, as players will
quickly forget what happened in previous
The game of Tenra Bansho Zero, from the
beginning to end of a single story, usually A PLACE TO PLAY THE GAME
happens in the space of one single multi- Tenra is what is called a tabletop role-
hour session. To begin a session, you need playing game. You can try playing online
the following things: with friends over the internet, but the game
was really meant to be played face to face
A place to play
with friends in a single room.
Free time
Those three basic things are all that is In Japan, houses are often small and
essentially needed to play the game. private spaces, so gamers often want to
play in more public places when they meet
CONCEPT: THE SESSION up to play role-playing or other games.
While many RPGs are structured so that Friends meet up to hang out far more often
the story runs on and on over the space of somewhere in town than at someones
many sessions, Tenra Bansho was meant to house. In Japan, there are community
be a fast role-playing game. The entire game, centers where you can grab some table
from character generation, to adventure, to space for a few hundred yen (a few dollars)
conclusion, usually happens in the space of a day, or cafes where spaces can be
one session. A Tenra Bansho campaign borrowed or rented.
happens from start to nish in one session
lasting a few hours, usually 5-6. The quintessential Japanese role-playing
experience, though, is to play RPGs in a
This can easily be done if you plan to meet Karaoke club. Karaoke clubs are relatively
and play with your friends on a single inexpensive, where each room is spacious
weekend day. In Japan, people meet with and almost soundproof from other rooms.
friends far more on the weekends than Instead of singing songs, though, gamers
on weekdays. However, in the West, we will bust out their role-playing books, order
often make plans to meet with friends on some drinks and snacks from the Karaoke
weeknights as well as on weekends. club menu, and play for hours. Luckily, in
Therefore, while the intent behind the the West we dont have to go to such great
design of Tenra Bansho Zero was for all the lengths to find a play space. We dont have
players to meet on one day of the weekend as many reservations against hosting events
and together share an epic story over the in our houses, so most role-playing happens
course of 5-6 hours, many of us in the at someones house or apartment. Coffee
West are more exible with our time. You houses or even local game stores are also
could break this up over say two or three available when the players want to meet in
weeknights of 3-4 hours each (meeting a public area.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 100 12/19/12 12:09 AM


All you really need is a table and enough This also assumes that you will have
seats for four to six people to sit comfortably friendly chatter, but will be pretty focused
around it. In Japan, youd want to use at on the game and the story you are telling
least a six tatami-mat room, but since while youre playing the game. If you nd
most of us dont live in Japan, the basic play yourselves taking longer intermissions to
area in someones home will be the dining chit-chat, that will add an hour or two to
table or living room coee table. The shape the game time.
of the table doesnt matter, nor whether you With a Game Master and four players, you
sit in chairs or on the oor around a coee might nd that four hours is a little too
table, as long as everyone is comfortable. tight, and that ve or six hours makes for
You will want to pick a relatively quiet a more natural, fun story without cutting
place, or at least a place where you can out too many interesting parts. In fact,
raise your voices without disturbing others. many kabuki plays, like long-scale western
A coee shop or library might seem like a theatrical productions (Shakespeare),
good place to play, but when something last six or more hours when you include
cool happens in a game, the players tend intermissions. This kind of session is best
to get noisy. Wherever you play, make sure held over a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
its a spot where a little noise isnt going to However, if you play on the weekdays you
disturb people around you. might have to split the session up into two
or more 3-4 hour sessions.
Tenra Bansho Zero can usually be played You probably dont want to be spending any
in one single four to six hour session. more than seven or eight total hours on one
Th is assumes that there are 3-5 players game of Tenra. More than six hours in one
(including the Game Master). This is easy play session can be really tiring, especially
to organize on a weekend, but if you wish if everyone is really role-playing and acting
to play on a weekday, you might nd it aggressively. The players will probably
best to divide the game into two or more want to wrap up the story in six hours or
3-hour sessions. You will also want to keep less, so that they can plan other events for
in mind that it usually takes about 20-30 the weekend.
minutes for everyone to get into the game In four to six hours a story will be told. The
after showing up, as well as another 20-30 game will start and come to a close. The
minutes after the last scene of the session ending will be dramatic, especially as the
happens to do after-game discussion with characters deal with their Fates. But at the
your friends. end of that session, the story is over, and
Time to play can be adjusted if the GM it is time to move on. Your next game of
organizes the event over email: Over email Tenra might focus on an entirely dierent
the GM can describe the game she has in situation, with all-new characters. Or, you
mind, and together with the players work may bring some or all of the characters
out roughly what kind of story and what back together again to tell a new story
kind of characters they wish to make. You with them. However, each session, from
can save an hour or so by doing this kind of beginning to end, is a complete story.
preparation in advance before the session Unlike some other games, the same story
begins. with the same characters does not get
dragged out for days, weeks, or even years.


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TBZ_RULEBOOK_INTERIOR_R3.indd 102 1/3/13 9:43 PM


FRIENDS be entertained as if they were passively

You can play a game of Tenra Bansho Zero watching television, lack enthusiasm, or
with one Game Master (GM) and two or dont help entertain the other players and
more players. The best stories tend to come GM, then the game will op. It will fail as
out in games where there is one GM and if it were a theatrical play where the actors
3-4 players. Its very likely that games with are not interested in performing that day.
6 or more players will not take o: You have Bring your Game Face to the table.
to spend an incredible amount more time
on the story to include all of the characters, THE GAME SCENARIO
and that estimate of 4-6 hours of play will When the game comes together, at least the
start to expand exponentially and look more GM has to have an idea of what they want
like 10-12 hours in order to include all of to have happen. The GM usually writes
the characters in a meaningful way. The down a scenario, or story outline, of the
game looks more like an Epic than a Story. events which will happen in the game, the
Normally, that wouldnt be a problem, but characters that will appear, and perhaps
in an RPG like Tenra that means that a the stats of major villains and other major
character will be onstage for a while, and NPCs.
after that there may be a long downtime Some GMs, especially beginning GMs,
before they can take the stage again. This want to script out many events in a way
will increase the play time, and may be where they expect to have the players
boring for players who are red up and move their characters in a line from Act to
want to act out the role of their character Act, Scene to Scene, following the GMs
but have to wait longer for scenes focused carefully-made story. Other GMs come up
on them. with just a basic concept of what they want
There are other options with larger groups, to have happen, maybe writing a single
though. If you have six friends who want line or two for their entire scenario, and
to play, you could run a game for three ad-lib or improvise everything from the
of them one day, and the other three at beginning of the game to the end.
another time. Or, if your players are up for Probably the best way to prepare (until you
the challenge, you could run a game with 6 get used to the game and how your friends
players but only 4 player-characters (PCs): play the game) is to be in the middle of
The other 2 players will assist the GM in those two extremes, perhaps writing down
playing the roles of the other characters some ideas for the characters Zero Acts,
(NPCs, both minor and major NPCs) that some NPC names and roles, plan out a
the PCs interact with. few encounters (and jot down some villain
Finally, its important to note that everyone stats), and in the end have a general idea of
is responsible for making the game a how they imagine the ow of the game to
success. The GM is the one who plans the take place from act to act, scene to scene.
session, sets the story spinning, and plays That way, if the players take the horns and
the role of many of the NPCs that appear steer the game in exciting and interesting
in the game. The players are there to be ways, the GM can ditch his notes and
entertained, and to entertain each other: make up new ones on the y (which is very
They should be willing to act out their hard if the GM structures the scenario
roles and have a hand in helping shape too much). At the same time, they have
the story. If all of the players show up to already prepared some interesting NPCs


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 103 12/19/12 12:09 AM


(including their names, personalities and play more powerful characters. Regular old
cool character lines) and solid events ready dice can be bought in almost any pharmacy
to re o at any time. or grocery store. You can buy pretty sets of
dice online or at your local gaming store,
ITEMS USED or dig them out of popular board games.
While the basics of the game require simply RULEBOOK (EVERYONE, OR
a place, players and time, in truth some ATLEAST ONE)
other supplies are also required to play You need at least one copy of the rules to
the game. For example, its hard to write play the game. However, its always a good
up characters if nobody brings any writing idea for the GM and players to have their
utensils. Here are the items required to own copies of the rules so that any player
play the game, as well as who is responsible can reference the rules at any point without
for bringing them. having to take it from someone else.
Having only one copy of the rules during
character generation make it take longer
for the game to start, since each player
In the game, the players write up their
will need to jot down their character
characters, keep track of Wounds and
stats from the pre-made characters or ip
Health, and erase old Fates while writing in
through the Archetypes section to make
new Fates. To that end, all players will need
character choices. At least two or more is
pencils and erasers. Its probably a good
idea to have some spare pieces of paper
laying around so that the players can take AIKI CHITS (GM)
notes (writing down the names of major The GM should bring something to use
NPCs or place names so they dont forget, as Aiki Chits, or else have another player
for example). The Game Master will also bring some. You can use anything as Aiki
probably want some paper or a notebook chits, like coins, colored glass beads, or
to write down things as his scenario plans strips of paper. Poker chips, especially
change. The GM may have to make up new colorful clay 11.5g or 14g chips (or even
characters, places, events or update villain the cheap plastic poker chips you can buy
stats on the y. anywhere) make excellent Aiki chits (you
can call them Aiki coins in play). You
will want to bring either a lot of chips in
When deciding if a character succeeds at
one color (100), or else smaller amounts
a task or not, that characters player rolls
in two colors: one coin representing 1
normal six-sided dice to determine success
Aiki coin, another color representing 5 or
or failure. A six-sided die is sometimes
10 Aiki coins. Clay poker chips are very
called a d6 for short.
inexpensive these days, can be purchased
Each player should bring about 10 dice at almost any thrift store, and can be used
with them to the game session. If one of for other games as well.
the players or the GM forgets their dice,
Edible tokens like chocolates or cookies are
you can pool the dice together and use
generally not good for Aiki chits. Its very
them as needed. In this case, 20-30 dice
hard to resist the temptation to consume all
per group is a good number. You can bring
of your delicious power.
more if you want, especially if you tend to


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 104 12/19/12 12:09 AM


The GM and players may also wish to have SNACKS AND DRINKS
a plastic cup available to dump a lot of Aiki
chits or coins into. Th is will be the pool The players should all bring maybe a
that the GM or players use to give to the drink or a snack or two, especially if you
other players, as opposed to the Aiki coins are playing at someones house. Bring
they have received (which they can place on something that the other players will enjoy
their character sheet or in front of them). as well. You might want to avoid snacks that
have too many empty calories or stu like
CHARACTER SHEETS (GM) really greasy potato chips which can stain
The GM should have enough copies of the books and sheets. Be sure to clean up the
character sheet or other reference sheets play area when you are done with the game.
(like the Emotion Matrix) ready for the
players. They can be photocopied from this The GM should feel free to reward any
book, or downloaded online and printed players who bring quintissential Japanese
out from the ocial English Tenra Bansho snacks like Pocky or Ramune to a Tenra
Zero website ( Bring game session. Particularly Mens Pocky.
enough sheets for all the players in case
they forget. If there is a cost associated
Usually the person who owns a copy of
with printing or copying the sheets, all of
the game, or else the Game Master, is the
the players should help pitch in evenly to
person who will contact their friends and
mitigate that cost.
make arrangements to play a game of Tenra
Bansho Zero. Luckily, due to technologies
like email and text messaging, planning for

CONCEPT: Game Preparation

The Zero System. You might be wondering
why such specific common knowledge
things like bring snacks, where to sit,
help clean up etc are written here under
the game preparation section. The thing
is, these rules are just as important (and
possibly even more important) than the
actual game rules.
When you run an RPG, there are a lot of
unspoken assumptions about how theyre
supposed to play out. Normally, this is fine,
but if theyre unspoken, its a little harder
to learn them if youre new to role-playing
and a lot easier to forget if you arent. This
section will cover those basic assumptions.
If youre familiar with tabletop role-
playing games, go ahead and give this
section a quick read anyway. There might
be something new that you would have
Paper Aiki chits otherwise missed.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 105 12/19/12 12:09 AM


a game session is extremely uncomplicated The GM is the person who creates the
in this day and age. Just contact some world. They describe the scenery and
friends, set a tentative date, place and time, setting. They provide challenges to the
and get conrmations as to who can come characters. They make things happen,
and who cant. and ask the players What do you do?
Everyone should try to be on time. You can then describes how the world reacts to
plan for everyone to come a little early (or whatever the PCs do. The GM also acts as
set the meetup to happen at 11:00AM but the referee for the rules parts of the game.
plan on the game beginning promptly at The GM also takes on the roles of many
11:30) so that everyone can catch up and of the background non-player characters
make small talk. However, please try to be (NPCs).
on time: If youre late to the game, it will This seems like the GM is responsible for a
mean less time for everyone to have fun. lot of things. Thats because she is, but its a
If someone gets sick or has to cancel, please very fun and interesting role to take on. We
let everyone else know as soon as possible suggest that all players give a shot at being
so that other arrangements can be made. the GM at some time. Some role-playing
In some cases, one missing player means groups have one person who regularly
that the other players can still meet and assumes the role of the GM. Shake it up by
complete a Tenra Bansho story. However, calling for the other players to run the game
folks can always choose to reschedule to next time. The game only lasts one session,
another weekend or weekday. Just dont so theres no harm in giving it a shot!
leave everyone waiting for you to show up Here is a summary of the GMs
if you arent going to be there. responsibilities:
1) Starting the Session
THE ACTUAL 2) Storytelling
Tenra Bansho is normally played out in its 3) Rules Judgments
entirety in one session (or sometimes split 4) Role-Playing
over 2-3 shorter sessions). This includes the 5) Combat Scene Handling
three high-level stages of the game: Setting
the Stage, the Production, and the Curtain 6) Drawing the Session to a Close
The rest of this section is written with the
Once everyone is together and ready to
GM in mind, but everyone is encouraged to play, the GM is the one who calls a start to
read this section and understand how the the session. The GM could simply say, OK
ow of the game works. everyone, lets get started! Or, if the GM is
feeling a little more poetic, we suggest that
the GM call a start to the session with the
Every session of Tenra Bansho Zero has a
following set phrase:
Game Master. The term might sound high
and mighty, but its a basic role. The GM Toki Wa Sengoku: It is an age of warring
is the one who scripts out an adventure or countries. The world is stained by hundreds
scenario and is usually the one who gets of years of continuous war, with no end to
everyone together to play the in sight. This is but one tale of the land
of Tenra


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 106 12/19/12 12:09 AM


From that point, move on to the rst act, forth challenges, monitoring scenes and
called the Zero Act, and begin the rst pacing, until it is time to draw the story to
characters scene. a conclusion.

STORYTELLING The most important thing to remember

The GM is responsible for the pacing and about creating the story is this cardinal
ow of the session. They react to the actions rule: Make sure the players are having
of the players, adjusting and creating the fun. It is important for the GM to engage
story as the players perform their roles. the players and make their characters shine.
The GM should not be writing a story
The GM should take what she knows from beginning to end, forcing the players
from watching movies, anime, and TV to dance through it without being able to
dramas to help maintain tension, to create change events or what happens, much like
good scenes, and to keep the plot moving puppets on a string. If the players have no
like a roller-coaster ride. Setting scenes, input into what happens over the course of
closing scenes, skipping over boring scenes a session, and the GM controls every aspect
and extending interesting scenes are all of the game (perhaps by creating powerful
techniques which the GM can employ. NPC characters who tell the PCs what to
The goal here is to create events that will do, save them in combat or challenges, etc),
keep the players engaged, that will present then theres really no reason for the players
dramatic moments or challenges for their to be there.
characters, and to react to the events and
actions proposed by the characters. RULES JUDGMENTS
However, one huge place where Tenra Another important role of the GM is to
Bansho and other RPGs differ from make fair rules judgments. When rolling
scripted plays, movies and anime, is the to succeed at tasks, the GM is the one who
way the story is made: In anime, theatrical has the nal say on which attributes and
plays and movies, the story is already skills are appropriate. At times where it
predetermined from beginning to end. The looks like the character could use either
players read their parts, and act out their of two attributes or skills, let them use the
roles in an entertaining fashion, but they higher ranked one. Make sure the players
have no control over how the story develops are having fun, as always, but make sure
or ends. Instead, the writer is the person that the rules apply fairly in all situations.
who controls where the characters go, what Its also up to the GM as to when to
they do and what happens next. ignore or change the rules. For example,
In Tenra Bansho, the GM only has about if a characters Zero Act involves a ght
half or less of the story written (usually which they are destined to lose (like when
just the setup portions, and a few notes role-playing out the last fight before a
for what will likely happen later). The GM downtrodden warrior destined to become
might have ideas for events that may take a kijin or samurai), then theres no reason
place, and may guess at how the players to engage in lengthy combat rolls. Simply
might react, but the story is not written in declare that the player will lose, but describe
stone. The players are the ones who dene the fight dramatically with the player.
the story and for most of the game the GM Other times, the PCs might be following
must simply react to the players, putting clues in some sort of investigation (the
whereabouts of the assassin, the location


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 107 12/19/12 12:09 AM



tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 108 12/19/12 12:09 AM


of the kidnapped princess, etc). At times on. Dont go back and rewrite or replay
when its simply uninteresting or silly to what happened earlier in the game because
make the players fail (especially if the game an incorrect rules call was made; whats
cannot proceed unless the player succeeds), done is done, just be mindful of the correct
then simply have them succeed. Ignoring, rules going forward.
bending or breaking the rules with a mind
towards the story is left up to the discretion ROLE-PLAYING
of the GM. The GM can always talk with or The GM will also play the roles of many
seek the advice from the players if she cant major NPCs or inconsequential NPCs.
decide how to judge a rule. The GM is a player himself, but instead of
one character he plays the roles of several
Finally, when the GM makes a judgment characters. The GM should create motives
based on the rules, treat it like a referee and possibly even NPC Fates for major
call at a sports game; the GMs authority NPCs, and remember them when playing
on the matter of rules interpretations that characters role. All of the characters
and the like is nal. You can talk to the that appear in the game, except for the
GM about a decision, but dont derail the player characters, are ocially owned by
game by arguing rules semantics. Also, the GM, but the GM should encourage
like a referee call, if later on in the game a players who do not have their PC in a
player or the GM realizes that they were particular scene to pick up the role of a
forgetting a rule, or did something wrong, new or established NPC. Remember to
then that correction stands from that point tell the player all the applicable motives
and Fates. Its a great way for them to have
something to do, its a fast free Aiki chit for
A group of friends are playing Tenra Bansho
bringing them into the scene, and it gives
for the first time. They get to right near the
them more opportunities to entertain the
end of the scenario, the Last Act. Suddenly,
other players (and, incidentally, potentially
one of the players realizes that they had been
be awarded more Aiki chits).
doing combat incorrectly this whole time.
GM: Uh oh. I just realized that in our previous COMBAT
two combats, weve been forgetting to add In almost every game of Tenra Bansho
the weapons damage to our attacks. We there is combat. In the grand tradition of
have just been using the difference between most dramatic period dramas, theatrical
the winner and the loser as damage. plays and the like, most sessions do have
at least one or two combat scenes. It is
Player: Oh man! That means that I would have
the GMs responsibility to make combat
finished off the renegade shikigami in two
fast-paced and thrilling. There are a few
hits instead of three. Before my third hit, the
components of making combat scenes
shikigami hit me for 12 damage points which I
exciting which the GM is responsible for.
took mostly as Wounds. If we knew that rule,
These components are also applicable to
I wouldnt have taken that damage.
elements outside of combat as well:
GM: Sorry, yeah that was my bad for
1) Teaching the Rules
forgetting that. We wont reverse that
damage you took, but we know the right way The GM will need to explain the combat
to do things going forward. Ill make sure to rules the rst few times battle scenes occur.
keep an eye on that next time. Things like counterattacks, damage
calculation and sneak attacks take a few


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 109 12/19/12 12:09 AM


tries to learn. Make sure to ll the players direction. Put eort into describing the
in as you go along, and explain combat combat scenes, using scenery as detail.
actions as they happen. Turn up the heat, and bring the players to
2) Checking the Power Levels of PCs the edges of their seats.

Player characters in Tenra Bansho are CALLING THE SESSION TO

special. They are almost superheroes. ACLOSE
Make sure to treat them as characters that The GMs last responsibility is to call the
can change the destinies of entire nations session to a close. When the story is over,
and give them appropriate challenges and and the players nish the last act, perform
battles. Before going into battle make sureone last intermission, and possibly discuss
you know the characters skill and attribute
possible epilogues, the GM should call the
levels in general, or you may overpower or session to a close: That brings us to the
underpower the enemies by accident. close of this session. After that, the players
3) Making the Enemies Intriguing and can all discuss the game, what they thought
Powerful was cool or interesting, and perhaps start
planning for a future session.
Pick enemies that will push the buttons
of the characters. Connect them to a PCs If it looks like youre running out of time
back-story and give the player characters and the last act has not started yet, end
reasons to want to defeat these enemies. the game a few minutes early at the next
Also, make sure to give them appropriately intermission. This will give the GM some
high skills and attributes, so that some time to plan out the events of the next
teamwork or Kiai spending is required to session, and maybe discuss things that may
defeat the boss enemies. happen in the second half of the story.

4) Turning up the Heat SETTING THE STAGE:

Dont linger on battles against waves of GAME PREPARATION
countless zako enemies (weak enemies to Setting the Stage, the period before the
be mowed down, also known in RPGs as actual game play occurs, happens in four
mooks) unless youre demonstrating the sections.
combat rules. Make the ghts climactic and First, the GM must decide on a situation or
meaningful against enemies that matter to problem. Before the GM can start planning
the PCs. Make sure not to stop role-playing out the adventure, the GM needs to have
or saying cool lines once the swords come an idea of what the adventure is going to be
out. If the characters are rolling over an about, where it is going to take place, and
important enemy who you accidentally what it is going to involve. See the scenario
didnt make powerful enough, adjust their creation section of this chapter for more
abilities on the y to compensate, but be details on this step.
careful not to go overboard in the other


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 110 12/19/12 12:09 AM


Next is scenario creation. Once the GM The scenario will take place entirely
comes up with an idea of a situation, its within the capital city, so make sure
time to start writing down notes to start to your characters are comfortable in a city
develop it into a scenario. These two steps environment. Most of them will have
are usually performed before the day the lived in the city most or all of their lives.
game happens. This scenario is all about a fallen ninja
After that comes character creation. This clan trying to raise itself up and take
is where characters will be made to go revenge on the people that tried to wipe
through the scenario and play out that it out. You should all be ninja, shinobi,
situation. Major background NPCs may or other characters that regularly interact
also be created at this time if they werent with shinobi. In fact, everyone should
created by the GM in advance when take at least one of the ninja-themed
planning the scenario. archetypes.
Finally, the preparation for the actual game This scenario is set on a far away continent
session has to be done. You have to nd a outside of the reach of the Priesthood.
place to play and make sure the players are Imagine The Road Warrior, but with
ready to play. katana and kimen-armour motorcycles.
Its mostly a desert wasteland of scarce
TALK ABOUT THE SCENARIO resources. Theres going to be a tribe of oni
The GM should describe the scenario in which will be important to the scenario,
general detail to the players, so they have so at least one or more of the characters
an idea of what to expect. This will help should be an oni or sympathetic to the oni
them come up with character concepts people.
compatible with the GMs scenario idea.
Here are some examples: TALK ABOUT THE SETTING
In this scenario, youre going to be For new players, its important for the GM
exploring the ocean ruins of the old to give a little background of the world of
capital city of Jinrai. Theres going to be Tenra, and the particular corner of the
a lot of action in the ocean and in port setting where the game scenario will be
towns. Any character concept is ne. Just set. Dont go into too much detail about the
make sure that if you choose an armour setting before the game starts, or players
or kongohki that its capable of going will be overwhelmed. Just give enough
underwater. relevant information to help the players
understand what the world is like. Make
In this scenario theres going to be a war sure they understand that the world is
between two provinces, and you want essentially feudal era Japan with 1600s-era
to make sure your side wins. Buddhist buildings of wood, peasants gathering rice,
monks might not t into this scenario etc, but with high-technology magical
well. Also, at least one of the players weapons (the default world is not lled with
should be a samurai, as thats going to be futuristic skyscrapers, metal buildings
important later. and the like). Letting the players f lip
through the colorful introductory section
of the book should give them enough
background to jump into a game. There is


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 111 12/19/12 12:09 AM


also a summary of the world of Tenra in the make sure that things dont get too out of
appendix which the players could read to hand. If one of the characters has a question
understand the basics of the setting. about the way the world works, then as long
If the setting of your scenario is dierent as it doesnt contradict the setting material
than the standard Tenra setting, or there in the book or in the scenario in a way that
are unique features of the world which would cause a huge disruption, it might be
will be relevant to the game (deep magical good from time to time to let the players
forests, under the ocean, on a far away invent the specics of the setting, especially
hidden continent, in space on the Bridge as it relates to their character. If a player
of Heaven, on top of a mythical mountain, asks, How many other samurai are in this
etc), make sure to describe that to the city?, the GM could let the player of the
players as well. samurai character decide that.


A player may ask, Does my character know The next step is for the players to make
that heartgems are the actual living heart characters together. For players who have
of oni people? Well, thats entirely up to never played Tenra Bansho Zero before,
the player. Its totally ne for the characters the best thing to do is to choose one of
to know things that normal people in the the sample characters listed in the back of
world may not. What they do with that the book. There are dozens of pre-made
information is the interesting thing. If it and ready-to-play characters there that
turns out to be more interesting for the need only a player-supplied personality to
player to pretend that their character be brought to life. Sample characters are
doesnt know something about the world even recommended for experienced Tenra
that the player knows, then thats ne too. players as well, if you want to jump straight
Just dont let it hamstring or derail the into playing the game.
game, and everything will be ne. Sometimes the GM will prepare characters
Sometimes a GM will need to have the for the scenario, or simply choose a few
characters know something about the world of the sample characters that t the best
in order for the game to progress: The role within the scenario, and ask the players
of the Demon Mask Faction, how a soul to use those. The players can also work
mirror works, etc. Keep explanations brief together to choose character types that will
and to the point. Theres no use explaining work well with each other.
the intricacies of the struggle between the Character creation from scratch by
Northern and Southern Courts of the assembling archetypes and crafting
Priesthood if they arent going to appear weapons can be a fun activity for
anywhere in the game. However, if a rst- experienced players. In those situations,
time player chooses an armour-rider, it the GM should give a few guidelines for
would be good for the GM to explain the the kinds of characters that work best
basics of armour, meikyo soul mirrors, and within the scenario, and leave the rest to
the fact that most pilots are children. the players to come up with together. The
Finally, let the players take responsibility GM may recommend or require certain
for lling out the world as well. Nothing archetypes to be taken for the scenario to
about the setting is set in stone, although run smoothly.
the GM usually has nal approval just to


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ONE CHARACTER TYPE, MANY All of the above have the exact same
CHARACTERS attributes and the exact same skills, but
The classic role-playing game standard of through role-playing they can become quite
character creation is to make characters of dierent and exciting characters.
various dierent roles or classes, and have
them work together in a scenario. This is PRE-MADE CHARACTERS
often the case of many Tenra scenarios as If the player has a copy of the Tenra Bansho
well. For example,a cyberized Buddhist rulebook, then he could simply make a
monk, a samurai, a shinobi kugutsu character at home and bring it to the game
and a Priesthood armour-rider could session. Th is is a possibility which saves
join together and ght an evil overlord. some time, however the character will be
However, having most or all characters made in a vacuum, without the direct
come from the same background (all input of the GM or the other players. This
armour-riders, all shinobi, three onmyoji can be avoided by discussing the characters
and one samurai, etc) can make for very or scenario by email before the day of the
tight, interesting scenarios as well. game session.

Three players can choose to take the same The important thing to be careful about
sample character, with the exact same when allowing pre-made characters are
abilities, and each play the character in the characters Fates. These will dictate the
a completely dierent way. For example, characters starting goals. The GM should
the GM decides to make a scenario about make sure that they can actually happen or
onmyoji demon-hunters who have to clean be used within the connes of the scenario,
a haunted city. He requests that three of the and that they are not too unique or specic:
players use the onmyoji sample character This could result in a character that wont
and one of the players use the Buddhist be able to interact well with the scenario,
priest sample character. The players decide the story, or the other characters.
amongst themselves who chooses which, It might be worthwhile for the player
and this is what they come up with: creating a premade character to write
Player As onmyoji is a cloistered young potential Fates on the character sheet in
adult, gifted with power and not a lot of pencil, and to not assign them ranks yet.
experience, who is confused by the world For example, a character made up of 5
around him. archetypes could have 5 potential starting
Fates. When the players sit down to play
Player Bs onmyoji is a world-weary female and the GM approves the character and
in her mid-20s, lusty but strong of heart. describes the scenario, the player can then
She is quick to anger, and seems to have choose the two starting Fates from the
friends and enemies in the shadows potential Fates and rank them.
Player Cs onmyoji is an elder sorcerer. He APPROVING THE CHARACTERS
is more interested in calligraphy and poetry The GM has final approval of the
these days than the principles of magic. But characters. The GM should look over each
he holds the others of his order as if they character and decide if it will work for that
were younger siblings to be looked after session or not, and if not, make suggestions
and educated. for ways that the character would better t
with the scenario or the other characters.


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tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 114 12/19/12 12:09 AM


In general, most characters will be ne. If you leave these characters unchanged,
However, there are two patterns that the scenario could fall apart. A character
can emerge when selecting characters has no tie into the story, has no motivation
(particularly pre-made characters) that to interact with it, and the player has no
players and GMs should be aware of. opportunity to role-play those Fates.


A skilled GM will take the input from the ONTHEMSELVES
players, look at the characters, and adjust As soon as the game begins, the players
the scenario to make those characters should be creating new Fates for themselves
stand out. Other very skilled GMs will and the other players that describe the
simply have the barest of game notes for relationships between their characters,
the scenario, and create the scenario on so theres no need to be worried too much
the y based on the characters and how about self-centered characters at the start.
they interact with each other. However, However, its important to note that Tenra
most of the time a GM will prepare at least Bansho Zero is a game where the stories
an outline of a scenario, and have certain focus on all of the characters, not just one.
ideas about where it takes place, the people If a player chooses Fates that focus only on
involved, and so on. If a character has Fates their own Destiny or future, and dont tie
which put them too far outside of that themselves to other characters or NPCs,
scenario, they wont be able to do much, or then that could result in a character that is
wont really care about what happens. separated from the other characters. Those
For example, a player may create an characters tend to wander o, to explore, to
oni character, with Fates that focus on nd their own story. Meanwhile, the other
oni-centric ideals. However, the GMs players and GM are left with a constant
scenario really doesnt focus on the oni at struggle to keep the story moving forward
all. Perhaps a few minor details could be because they are all on the same page,
changed (an oni NPC introduced here or interacting with NPCs and each other,
there), but even so the game will not be oni- while the lone PC is off on their own,
centric. The GM should simply say, Well, ignoring the story and the other characters.
there really arent going to be too many oni Th is is usually remedied by the players
in this scenario. The GM may still allow being aware of this kind of potential hazard.
the player to make an oni character, but At the intermission at the end of the Zero
request that the player changes the Fates to Act, the players should quickly create Fates
ones that will work better with the scenario that involve the other PCs or major story
or the other players. Otherwise, those oni- NPCs in order to keep themselves tied to
centric Fates will be wasted; the GM wont the story.
have opportunities to bring those issues up
in the game, so the player wont have solid CREATING NPCS
opportunities to role-play them. The GM should create some NPCs for the
scenario as well. With experience, the GM
can make up solid adversaries that arent
too weak or too powerful on the y, but
starting GMs can make some competent
NPC enemies by simply taking one of the


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sample characters and adding +3 to all judge will hold on to this sheet). Write in
of the attributes, and +1 level to some of the character names, player names, and all
their skills. There are tricks in the Scenario of the characters starting Fates.
chapter of this book which may help ne- Throughout the game, as the Fates and
tune NPCs for a scenario as well. Destinies of the characters change, the
SITTING AT THE TABLE player with the log sheet will update the
Session Log Sheet with that information.
In the West, we dont have small Japanese-
style kotatsu tables to sit around. Youll The Session Log Sheet is used not only
want to make sure that everyone can hear for tracking Fates, but for also reminding
everyone else. If you have a rectangular the other players about the Fates that your
table, rather than having the GM sit at character has. That way they can bring
the end of the table, its probably better those Fates up through role-play or take
for the GM to sit at the middle of the table note when you role-play a focus on one of
in order to clearly hear and see all of the your own Fates.
players. The actual order of seating of the Players can use notecards instead of the
players around the GM is not important. session log sheet to copy down their fates,
You are free to give the comfortable chair then place that notecard in the center of the
to the person who brings the best snacks to table when their character is in that scene.
share with the group.
Clever GMs can make good use of how the CHARACTER
players sit around the table. There are also INTRODUCTIONS
sorts of hidden techniques that you may Starting from the GM and going clockwise,
discover through play. For example, you the players will all give a brief character
may encourage strong inter-character Fates self-introduction in-character (as if they
or Destinies to the characters of players themselves were that character, talking
who are sitting next to each other. In fact, about themselves). At that time, theyll
the GM might encourage a seating order describe their characters in brief detail:
where the GM encourages people with Name, sex, age, a few small details about
stronger inter-character Fates/Destinies what they look like and what sort of role/job
or relationships (good or bad) to sit next they do. This should be less than a minute
to each other. The kind of subtle behaviors or so per character. Remember, the players
that occur through the use of organized will be role-playing the description of their
seating can really fuel the drama of a game characters as if they were the characters
session! themselves: My name is X. Im a young
samurai of some renown and so forth.
If you wish to use the Session Log Sheet, FIRST FATE ROLL
either make a copy of the one found at the Before the rst scene begins, have all the
back of the book, or print one of the copies players make their rst Fate roll. Th is is
that are online on the Tenra Bansho Zero a good opportunity for GMs to teach the
website. This sheet is used for tracking the players how dice rolls function in the game.
general ow of the session. The GM will Have them roll their Empathy ability in
hand it to a player for record-keeping (if dice against their highest-ranked Fate
you are using the optional Scene Judge (which will have a rating of Advanced/3),
rules for handing out Aiki chits, the scene and all successes will form their rst small


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pool of Kiai points which can be used in THE EMOTION MATRIX

the Zero Act. Mark down the starting Kiai The Emotion Matrix is a great way to
on the character sheet. All characters will determine new character Fates. There is
start with at least three Kiai points. more detail about the use and purpose of
the matrix later in the Emotion Matrix
ADDITIONAL FATES rules section, but it is simply a chart that
Each character starts out with two Fates, can be used for determining what your
usually determined by their archetypes. character initially thinks about another
However, the player can remove one of character when they rst meet. It can be
these Fates and replace it with a Fate of used before the Zero Act to prime all the
their choosing, as long as it ties them player characters relationships with each
directly to one of the other characters at other, or it can be used in the game when
the table. one PC interacts with another PC for the
The GM may also request that the rst time. It is also used on major NPCs.
characters start the game with a third Fate For the characters rst relationship-base
before play begins, one that specically Fate, the player can simply write the result
describes their relationship with one of the of the Emotion Matrix as a Fate, or perhaps
other characters. One suggestion is to have reword it to be a little more tting. An
every player write in a Fate which describes Emotion Matrix result of Blood Relative
their feelings towards the character owned could result in Fates like Emotion: I
by the player sitting to their immediate left. love X as a brother or Goal: Protect my
That way, all the characters are tied together brother X at all costs. Additional Fates
and no one is left out. If the GM does not (for example, Fates purchased during the
request this third Fate, then the players intermission phase by spending Aiki chits)
should be ready to create an additional Fate can be created in this way as well.
with one of the other characters at the table
One suggestion is to write down the results
when the rst intermission comes.
of all your Emotion Matrix rolls somewhere
The GM will also soon assign each on your character sheet, perhaps in the
character a Destiny in the Zero Act. Notes section, or in the margins. Later,
once you decide to take a Fate towards that
CHOOSING FATES character, you can use those notes to help
Most characters will start the game in Act
guide your decision.
One with four Fates: Two will be already
written on the character sheet (or picked Not all rolls on the Emotion Matrix will
from the archetypes when creating a turn into Fates, not even with all the
character from scratch), a Destiny (which is other PCs! You can still care about other
a kind of Fate) will be given to the character characters without writing it up as a Fate.
by the GM either before the game starts Just because your character has a strong
or at some point during the Zero Act, initial reaction about another character, it
and likely one optional relationship-based doesnt mean that this reaction is required
Fate connected to one of the other player to lead to a Fate.
characters created in the intermission after
the Zero Act. More Fates are gained during
Another way for a player to create new
later intermission phases of the game.
Fates for their own or other characters is
to utilize what just happened in the game.


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Sometimes in play, a player will find a STAGE PLAY:

new direction, goal or purpose for their THE PRODUCTION
character, or perhaps meet new characters Game setup is complete. Now its time to
and create new relationships. The player actually play the game. The stage is set,
can then create new Fates that fit well and it is time to raise the curtain. We will
within the shared story. take on the roles of various characters, and
Remember to pick Fates which keep you through them tell a fantastic story set in the
engaged in the story and engaged with land of Tenra.
the other characters. If your character In this section we will describe the system
becomes too unbalanced with Fates based of Acts, Scenes and intermissions which
on personal goals that dont require the make up the game. First, lets look at these
aid of the other characters, then your elements in brief, before exploring them in
reasons for working together could fall detail.
apart. Sometimes this creates interesting
character drama between your character ACT
and the others. However, a lot of the time The Act represents a period of time within
it simply means that the GM and the other the game, just like the acts of a stage play.
characters are engaging in an interesting The act takes place over a period of time
drama, while you are o in your own little set by the GM. In the acts, the players will
world doing not much at all. Split o too role-play their characters actions. They
far from the goals of the scenario and the will talk, ght, get into conicts, and go on
relationships with the other characters, various adventures. The GM should clearly
and it will be hard to rejoin the game. separate the action in one act from another,
and label them Act One, Act Two and so
PICKING EASY-TO-USE FATES on. They can be separated from each other
Some players like the challenge of role- by time (each act representing a day, a week
playing the characters subtle or dicult or a month), or by theme (one act could be
Fates. However, all characters should have held entirely within one city, another act
at least a few easy-to-use Fates. The most could focus on the action within a castle,
simple and easy to use Fate is a favorable etc.). In one session of Tenra Bansho Zero,
Emotion Fate taken against another expect to play through 3-4 acts.
players character: Emotion: Camaraderie
with X, Emotion: Childhood friend of In Tenra Bansho Zero, there is also a special
X, etc. These are easy to role-play and starting act called the Zero Act. This is the
make use of in a game. Even if a character rst act of the game, which introduces each
has complex motivations, they should have character (one quick scene per character)
some easy-to-understand characteristics and establishes the characters role in and
and emotions in the form of easy-to-use connection to the scenario. This is the
Fates. When you want to create a new act where the players receive character
Fate, but are unsure of what to take, go Destinies from the GM. The Zero Act is
with creating a favorable emotional Fate incredibly important, and as such it has a
towards one of the other PCs. chapter devoted to the organization and
play of Zero Act scenes.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 118 12/19/12 12:09 AM


An act is divided into smaller chunks called The GM decides when the next act begins.
Scenes. Or one could say that a string of Each act is made up of a string of scenes.
scenes makes up one act. Think of them Normally, play progresses in the following
as scenes in a play, movie or anime: The manner:
characters are set, the location and time are
1: Start of an act
set, and in each scene we see the characters
take action. When the characters change 2: Begin a scene
location, time passes, or the GM introduces 3: Decide which players are in the scene
action that happens in a dierent place or 4: Optional: Choose a scene judge
between dierent characters, the scene will 5: Role-play through a scene
6: End the scene
Each scene usually lasts just a few minutes 7: Return to 2 for the next scene, or proceed
of real time, and most involve drama or to 8 if the act is at an end.
role-play between some of the characters
8: The act ends
in the game.
9: Intermission
INTERMISSION 10: The next act begins
The space between one act and another Theres really nothing special to starting
act is called an intermission. This is a brief an act. The GM simply announces that
period of rest where the players see how the first (second, third, last, etc) act is
their characters change over time. Kiai is beginning, and immediately transitions
spent, Karma is recorded, Fates increase into creating the rst scene.
and change, and characters grow and
There is no set number of scenes in an act.
develop during the intermission phases.
Some acts may have just a few (2-4), other
While intermissions generally happen
acts may have several (5 or more). It all
only in the space between acts, the GM
depends on what is happening in that act.
can introduce an intermission in between
The GM will usually have a general idea
scenes of an act as well, especially if one act
of the number of scenes in an act, but the
has a large number of scenes. In general,
GM is free to create new scenes as the plot
one intermission should occur every hour
develops or changes.
or so, and should be a brief break that lasts
about 10 minutes. The GM will decide when to end the act.
In many scenarios, each act will have a goal
In general, most people have an attention
of some kind which the players attempt to
span of about one hour. Intermissions serve
achieve. When that string of scenes and
to help people relax and keep the game
that goal is complete, it is time to end one
focused. Make good use of intermissions
act and move to the intermission phase.
to keep the players recharged and the game
lively. In general, an act should last about one
hour of real time. If it goes on too long,
Now lets look at these three elements in
it would probably be best to break it up
greater detail.
with intermissions. Usually 4-5 scenes
will play out in an hour, if the players
are concentrating. If you plan to have


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 119 12/19/12 12:09 AM


more than 6 scenes in one act, consider them more chances to role-play. There are
interjecting intermissions in order to keep a lot of factors to weigh when picking the
the players refreshed. characters for the new scene.
When the act ends, the next intermission The GM might call for an open scene,
begins. After the last act, the GM should allowing any player who wishes to appear
provide an epilogue to summarize what be allowed in. Or she might declare a set
happens to the characters after the scenario scene where only 1-2 characters are allowed
ends. (usually for purposes of focus or advancing
the plot). In scenes where the GM wishes
SCENES to have other NPCs present, she may
The scenes are where all of the real action of request volunteers from the other players
Tenra Bansho occurs. It is where the players whose characters are not participating in
role-play the actions of their characters. those scenes to take on those roles. This is
Think of scenes in terms of stage plays or a great opportunity for players to step up
movies: A point of time, at one place, where and take the role of interesting background
a few of the characters do things. When characters, as well as be rewarded with
that scene comes to a close, the action Aiki chits for doing so.
moves on to the next scene. When planning
out a scenario, the GM should record the ACTING PLAYERS AND SCENE
scenes by number: Scene One, Scene PLAYERS
Two, and so on. Everyone sitting around the table is a
player, although we commonly make a
PICKING CHARACTERS TO distinction between the players and the
APPEAR IN THE SCENE GM. The players that are currently in the
While some scenes will feature all of scene, taking on the role of their own player
the characters together, many of the characters, are called acting players.
scenes should feature just a few of them,
If the GM is focusing on the story, plot or
perhaps two. The scene will focus on
drama of one single PC for that scene (a few
those characters. When their scene ends,
acting players, but one of them with clearly
it will be the other characters turns. Its
a major role in the scene) than that acting
important to give everyone a chance to role-
player is sometimes referred to as the scene
play their characters, so keep careful track
player. Theyre the star of that scene. The
of who appears in which scenes.
rules dont change for that PC, but the GM
The GM might have ideas for scenes will give their characters story more of a
written down (OK, next were outside the focus on that scene.
castle, and the samurai is talking to the
NPC princess. Go!), or she might decide INTRODUCING THE SCENE
the next scene based on game factors, like The GM will introduce the location and the
making sure that a character who did not time of the scene, as well as a brief rundown
appear in the last scene appears in the next of the situation, to give the players an idea
scene. Another common practice is to have of what is going on. This is the place where
a scene that features a character whose you might also introduce some NPCs to
player has the fewest Aiki chits, giving the scene. The GM determines which
players will be the acting players for that
scene. The GM may also decide which of


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the acting players is the scene player, the CHOOSE A SCENE JUDGE
player whose PC will be the focus of that If you are playing the game with the
scene. optional scene judge rules (see the Karma
rules section for more details), before the
scene begins the GM or players determine
the next scene judge here.

Scenes With Fewer Acting Players

One thing to be aware of, for experienced
role-players and GMs of other role-playing
games; most games dont set scenes in such Examples:
GM: In this next scene, we see the outside
a strict fashion as in Tenra Bansho Zero. It
of the mountain temple at dawn. Some
might take a little bit of time to get used
students are practicing meditations in the
to this structure. In most games there is a
courtyard. Autumn Rain is here, as well as
natural tendency to create all of the scenes Genta the Claw. The master of the temple,
so that all of the characters appear and an elderly, kind-looking woman, notices you
interact at the same time. This is great at and gestures for you to come speak with her.
times, but creating a lot of focused scenes Autumn Rain, well have you be the scene
where only two PCs are involved allows the player and take the lead here.
players more opportunity for in-character GM: Youre all in a tavern. Its night, and
role-playing. the place is noisy due to the nearby mine
The default method in Tenra Bansho Zero workers spending their salaries for good food,
is to have scenes with only some of the drink and conversation. Lets have Genta
the Claw and Spring Reection discuss their
characters in them, usually two or three.
plans for the next season. Jason, since youre
There can be one PC in a scene (maybe bring
not in this scene, Id like you to play the role
a few other players come into the scene to
of the barkeep. Also, Elizabeth, youre going
take on the role of NPCs), and of course you to be a townie who doesnt like strangers, and
can have scenes with all the players in them. will try to pick a ght with Genta.
However, remember that when opening a
GM: Dusk falls in the Floating Palace. A
scene as a GM, you need to pick the PCs,
while back, Empress Genshi Daigo invited
location and time. Make sure you go through Spring Reection to discuss what should be
that exercise each time you open a scene to done about the recent assassination attempt
limit the number of players within the scene. from the Southern Court, so lets do that
Youll see that relationships between scene. Ill be the Empress. Jason, youll be
characters are formed quickly and change her over-protective advisor. The Empress
drastically when the GM sets the scenes
for a limited number of PCs. In general, GM: This Act is drawing to a close. Any of
if a GM realizes that the last few scenes you want to have one last scene before moving
have involved all of the PCs, it would be on to the intermission? If so, let me know in
brief what you want to do or who you want
good to force a scene between just two
to interact with, and well make that scene
of the characters, even if it lasts for just a
happen now. Anyone? Alright Jennifer, you
minute or two. Make up an excuse for those
want a scene with Autumn Rain and Spring
characters to be away from the others, and Reection at an outdoor hot springs at night,
see what direction the players take their discussing the previous battle? Sounds good,
characters. lets do it!


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 121 12/19/12 12:09 AM



The action begins. The acting players role- Reaction scenes are where a GM presents
play their characters actions and words, an open choice to the players. This often
and the scene progresses from there. takes place in a scene with another NPC.
The NPC will present new information
While there are many kinds of scenes that
to the characters, and the players decide
can possibly happen in a game of Tenra
how their characters react. The lord tells
Bansho, most scenes that the GM starts
the PCs to nd a priceless kugutsu, but
will follow one of these two basic patterns:
leave it up to the characters as to how they
scenes where the characters have to take
go about nding her. The monk tells the
action to overcome some kind of event or
characters that a monk in another temple is
challenge, and scene where the characters
performing evil acts, and leaves the means
meet with or talk to an NPC, and react to
and methods of punishment up to the
the information gained from the NPC.
While these are effectively both called
scenes, the kinds of things that would Depending on those reactions, the game
happen in each of these scenes, or the kinds may proceed down a dierent path than
of role-playing that will happen, are quite expected. Its also expected that the GM
dierent. is open to any choice the player comes up
with as well, and wont simply force the
EVENT SCENES player to choose one single option anyway.
In event scenes, the GM takes the initiative
Reaction scenes can be excellent ways to
to set up in advance some kind of challenge
show o the personalities of the characters
for one or more of the PCs to overcome.
when they make their choices. However,
The longhouse catches re. The merchant
sometimes a player will have a hard time
leaps at you with a erce expression, katana
choosing what they want their character
drawn. The Bright Lotus monk is singing
to do. In those situations the GM could
a song that is clearly insulting your regent.
give them a prod towards action by giving
The path to the town is blocked by three
them a binary choice: Something like, If
members of the ninja clan who have been
you want to do X, you might want to do
hunting you, and they look ready for action.
this. If you would rather do Y, you might
The person in the gambling house sitting
want to say that.
across from you looks very much like the
kugutsu you were paid to nd. For example, the characters ght their way
through an evil merchants fortress, and
The players must act. In these situations,
beat him into submission. The GM sets up
if the players dont start describing their
a reaction scene where the merchant pleads
actions right away, the GM should ask,
for the characters to let him go, perhaps
OK, what do you do? There is usually a
even pleading that he will change his wicked
lead-up to the event of the scene, but the
ways. The decision is totally up to you, the
scene usually focuses on whatever even the
GM says, You can do whatever you want
GM planned (or came up with on the y).
at this point. If the players seem to stall,
When that event is overcome, the scene
or arent sure what they should do next, the
will usually wrap up and end.
GM can oer suggestions like, If you want
to bring him to bloody justice, you are well
within your right to do so. Your lord will
permit any action here. If you think that


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 122 12/19/12 12:09 AM


he might be capable of changing his ways As the players step forward and describe
if you let him go, and you want to look the their characters actions, they are taking
other way if he promises to behave, thats part in the scene without specically being
ne too. The important thing to remember called on to participate in the scene. The
for the GM is not to make any correct GM should set up situations to pull in the
answers. If the GM sets up a truly open players and the players should try hard to
reaction scene, she should be prepared for jump in and start doing things in-character.
the players to make unexpected decisions. The more dangerous the scene seems, the
If it makes sense within the story, make faster the players will tend to jump in and
sure not to instinctively say no simply start acting.
because the GM didnt make any plans for A GM should also open up the framing
that contingency. of the scene from time to time, and turn
In the above scene, we can see that the GM it over to the players. If the next scene is
has presented a situation for the players to not set in stone, the GM might ask the
engage in. The GM here (unlike normal players if anyone has an idea for a situation
scenes) didnt set who would appear in in the next scene. If a players suggestion
the scene, simply leaving it open for now. sounds exciting, then go with it. If the
players suggestion sounds out-of-place
SETTING UP A SCENE with the scenario or strange, either oer
GM: New scene. Nightfall washes over the a compromise or simply say no and move
path like a thick blanket. The moon, as bright along to a new scene.
as it has been in weeks, illuminates the forest
path in front of you. The forest night is as ENTERING A SCENE
quiet as death, and not even the forest insects A GM lays down a scene and declares the
dare make a sound, for fear of attracting the participating characters in the scene, or
attention of the eerie silence. simply leaves it open for any player to join.
This is where the characters nd themselves. If a character is not explicitly in a scene,
Lets see them enter the scene. they can still join. The player can spend
Player A: So I dont see anyone else nearby? a point of Kiai to allow their character to
enter the scene.
GM: It doesnt appear that there are others
here. And yet, the thick, cloying smell of blood Spending a Kiai point is a good way to
hits your nostrils. It feels like the air itself force your character into a scene where
in this forest wishes to do evil upon you. It they might normally not be there. Your
doesnt feel like youre being watched it feels character happened to be nearby, or
like something is marking you for death. happened to overhear the other characters
Player B: Ugh, Ive got a bad feeling about talking, that sort of thing. However, if
this. I yell out quickly, then listen for having your character enter the scene later
movement or try to sense any attackers. Kind was something that works for the GM, he
of like echolocation. Actually, Im just trying may waive the 1 point Kiai fee and allow
to get any danger to present itself now rather your character to enter at no cost.
than later.
GM: OK. Use one of your combat abilities CALLING A PC OR PLAYER
like Unarmed Combat, Melee Weapons, INTOA SCENE
Marksman or Evasion, and roll using your Sometimes a GM wants to suddenly bring
Spirit attribute another player character into the scene after
that scene has already begun. By giving that


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characters player one Aiki chit, he can have One thing to note is to not start o scenes
that player jump into that scene. When the this way too often. Sometimes they provide
GM does this, that player does not spend a an explosive rush of cool role-playing.
Kiai point to enter the scene, because they Doing it too often, though, and rewarding
were pulled in by the GM. players who join into player-less scenes all
Calling a player into a scene does not always the time, could encourage the players not
mean having them bring in their character. to step forward when the GM is creating
For example, sometimes the GM will want the scene, creating a situation where the
the players (whose characters are currently players will only step forward when they
not in the scene) to take on the roles of will be rewarded with an Aiki chit. Keep
important background NPCs. The GM that in mind, and strike a balance between
can oer an Aiki chit to the player if they crafted scenes with set players, and open
come into the scene and play the role of an scenes with rewards for player who jump
NPC during another characters scene. in.

The player can resist if they really dont LEAVING A SCENE

want to be in that scene, in which case they A player can leave a scene with the GMs
do not receive the Aiki chit. permission any time they wish, in any way
This example scene just sort of began they want to.
from nothing. There were no set players WHEN NPCS LEAVE A SCENE
or characters, just the GM beginning a NPCs are for the most part totally
scene through role-playing, and oering controlled by the GM, so they will leave the
an Aiki chit to a player to join. If the GM scene when the GM says so (even if another
doesnt care who is in the scene, she might player is temporarily taking on the role of
simply hold up an Aiki chit, encouraging that NPC for a scene). Sometimes the GM
any player to jump into character into the will have a combat scene where they wish to
scene (and thus receive the chit). have a major NPC run away before they are
killed (as they plan to have them face the
player characters again, perhaps as a nal
boss for the scenario); this kind of thing
happens in plays and movies all the time.
Its best to bring in players using at least a
little acting or role-play. Heres an example: In a combat situation, a player can spend
GM (Role-playing a Regent): Anyone? I say, two Kiai to make an interruption action
is anyone here? (see the Karma rules for details), perhaps to
jump at the NPC and defeat them before
GM: is what the regent says as he calls to
you from his chamber.
they can run away. In that kind of situation,
where the GM has denite plans for that
(the GM passes an Aiki chit to a player, gives
NPC in a future scene, simply tell the
that player a knowing nod indicating that
player that the NPC runs away before they
shes putting that player on the spot to take
could react, and the player does not lose the
Kiai spent. Just let the players know that
Player: My lord, I am here! I say, the NPC will get away this time but will
presenting myself before him.
return later, and the players should be okay
GM: Oh! says the regent, gladly surprised with that.
at your sudden entrance


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ENDING THE SCENE Its important for the GM to keep the

The GM can call for the scene to end at action moving forward. But the GM
any time. From that point, the GM can will also have to balance this with not
either introduce the next scene or call for pushing too hard or too fast. If the GM
an intermission phase if appropriate. keeps cutting forward any time theres no
The GM should call an end to the scene Extreme Action, that may lead to scenes
after one of the following conditions: that feel disjointed, with no opportunities
for the players to role-play the nuances
The time changes and subtleties of their characters. The GM
The scene was played out, and the next should try to nd that balance.
events will naturally occur at a dierent Combat ends
If the scene featured a combat, the scene
The location changes will usually end right after combat
The characters end their interactions in concludes. In the next scene, we will see
one place, and the action moves to another all of the characters at their full Vitality
place. Meanwhile, back at the castle is points again.
an appropriate way to end one scene and
begin another. INTERMISSIONS
Intermission phases are just as the name
The scene is played out implies: they are a period of rest between
When the players have nothing more to say acts. While the GM may want to break
or do, or nothing further to react to, it is up an exceptionally long act with an
time to close the scene. intermission, the GM should always put
In order to move the story along, it is an intermission phase between two acts,
important to make sure that play doesnt even if the acts run quickly.
linger on unimportant things. If the players The intermission is a period where the
are in the middle of an exciting role-play players think about the changes that their
moment, then the GM should let that characters went through in the previous act,
conversation or role-play conclude and and prepare their characters for challenges
then end the scene there. If the scene goes in the next act. It only needs to last for a
on too long, or the GM doesnt cut the few minutes. It is also an opportunity for
scene when the action winds down, it will the players to go to the bathroom or eat a
take longer to get to the more interesting snack.
scenes of the game. The GM is the one who calls for the
As a GM, you will soon spot times when intermission. The GM decides when the
the players will come to a gradual standstill, intermission begins, and when it ends.
unsure of what steps their characters
should take next. Thats when you should INTERMISSION EVENTS
cut the scene so that it doesnt linger, and The following are the things that happen
then jump forward a bit to the next scene, during each intermission.
perhaps a few minutes or hours in the PREVIEW OF THE NEXT ACT
future, in a dierent place. The GM provides a preview of the events
of the next act. This is similar to the
preview or the On the Next Episode of


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segments which we see at the end of an The preview is important, as the players
episode of an anime or TV drama. Some will use it as a jumping-o point to think
previews will be very matter-of-fact (You about their characters and what they wish
will go to the castle and stand o against to accomplish in the next act. This will lead
the evil Regents army). Some previews to some players increasing the abilities or
will be more poetic. Some GMs will have skills of their characters, or more often,
a few pre-written sentences to use as their changing or increasing appropriate Fates
preview, while other GMs may wing it as that they think will be addressed in the
events in the story change the events of the next act. The GM shouldnt give everything
next act.
(GM reads the following intermission she
prepared the day before, which consists of
seemingly random lines of dialogue and poetic
As explained before, the intermission offers descriptions using dierent intonations)
a period of rest for the players. As the span
(in a soft voice) My father the Regent
of concentration for humans is about one
doesnt care whether I live or die!
hour, breaking up the game into roughly
hour-long acts and inserting intermissions (in a calm narrators voice) The great gears
will let the players recover and refocus on of Fate slowly grind forward, crushing
everything that gets between them.
the game.
Four assemble in the mountain village of
However, think of the events of a game of
Haruyama. The shadow that forms behind
Tenra Bansho Zero as a story. A story has
them, at a glance, looks like the outline of a
chapters: Thats what the acts are. Each serpent.
chapter contains multiple scenes where the
Blades will cross at the mountain pass. War
action and drama occurs. Chapters exist in
seems imminent.
a book to prevent the reader from feeling
the need to power from one end of a novel (in a rough, noble voice) Those who wont
to the other. They offer periods of rest and stand with us against the tide, they will be
crushed underneath it.
reflection, so that the reader can think about
the events that just occurred. The same (back to the narrator voice) An attack at the
thing happens in many stage plays and mountain threatens to unravel everything.
kabuki theater as well. Breaking up the story Not even the great kami know who will
cleanly with acts and intermissions will push emerge victorious.
the story forward and keep it focused. Tenra Bansho Zero, Act Three: Renka and
the Assassins
The GM can insert intermissions wherever
they are needed, but the GM is encouraged A STRAIGHTFORWARD PREVIEW
not to use intermissions too often (more than GM: Okay guys, the next Act Lets see
Were going to start o in that Haruyama
once an hour, for example). The players play
town where we ended the last Act. Were
their characters through the acts, and the
going to spend most of the Act in this town.
intermission is where we see the characters
There is going to be some investigation, well
change; creating too many intermissions see what happens to Renka the kugutsu,
and not long enough acts means that the and nally the boss ght against the samurai
characters do fewer things in play, and thus warlord Garoku. Get ready for Act Three,
hardly change at all during the intermission. Renka and the Assassins.


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away, but like a good anime or drama THE ANATMAN/DOCTRINE OF

preview, she should describe in vague NO-SELF PHASE
details a few possible key events that are The Doctrine of No-Self is a Buddhist
likely to occur. doctrine that says All things are
The preview should also have a certain impermanent and change from moment
amount of impact. Three years have to moment, never staying the same. This
passed since the last act Hows that phase is probably the most important in the
for the beginning of a dramatic preview? intermission for the characters; it is where
While most scenarios will feature events the characters Fates change.
that happen in roughly the same time The players will have an opportunity to
period and location, having huge changes create new Fates, to raise up the rank of
in time or location will certainly create a existing Fates, to sublimate or erase Fates,
memorable tale. Make sure that if you go and to rewrite Fates. Please see the Karma
that route that the changes make sense to rules for a breakdown of how this process
the players. They could step on a boat at works.
the end of one act and start the next act in a
One important thing to note is that at
foreign land several months later. How this
the end of this phase, if a character has
is handled is up to the GM. And the GM, more than 108 Karma points, then he
as always, is expected to balance impactimmediately becomes an Asura (demon
with utter craziness when it comes to or lost soul) and is removed from play.
previews and following acts. Th is No-Self phase is where the player
INCREASE KARMA attempts to lower Karma to prevent that
All of the Kiai spent in the previous act from happening.
becomes Karma at this time. Record the MAKE FATE ROLLS AND
new Karma total on the character sheet. GAINKIAI
Unspent Kiai remains in the Kiai pool, This is where the players exchange all of
which can be used later. their accumulated Aiki chits for Fate rolls.
If the character wishes to replenish their For each Fate roll in the intermission, the
pool of soulgems, it is done at this time. player takes their characters Empathy
New mechanica, annelids, and new skills attribute score in dice, and rolls against
can also be taken, or old skills increased their highest-ranked Fate. One Fate roll
at this time. Anything that requires the is made for each Aiki chit owned: If the
expense of Kiai to attain is taken here, player has twelve Aiki chits, then she
and the Kiai spent immediately becomes makes twelve Fate rolls, building up a nice
Karma. The character cannot gain new pile of Kiai to use later. Each success grants
skills or equipment that require more Kiai a Kiai point which can be added under the
than the character has in stock: Sometimes Kiai point total. Role-playing well in the
a player must wait for the next act, and previous act will give a player more Kiai
accumulate more Kiai, in order to gain points to spend in the next act.
more powerful equipment and skills.
The GM and players should discuss in
brief what just happened in the last act.
If a player has certain ideas that he thinks


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might be cool for his character, he can tell THE FINAL INTERMISSION
the GM here and discuss the possibilities Its probably better to call it an Epilogue,
of making that happen in the story. If the as the game has reached its conclusion.
players have suggestions for the GM, or the However, one final intermission phase
GM has suggestions for the players, those begins when the last act ends. We will see
would be discussed here as well. In general, how the characters have changed in the last
this is where the GM and players talk about act, as well as see if any have become lost
what they think of the scenario so far, and as Asura.
what they are imagining will happen in the
If the character has enough Kiai points,
TAKE A BREAK the player can spend them to increase the
Take a breather. Clear your mind, grab level of attributes and skills or gain new
a snack or drink, stand up and stretch skills. Remember that this spent Kiai
your legs, hit the bathroom. Check those will immediately become Karma. You can
phone messages, talk with your friends spend Kiai and bring your character to a
about some cool anime or movie youve total higher than 108. However, make
seen recently, and let o some steam. A ten sure that by changing and sublimating
minute break should bring all the players your Fates during the No-Self Phase you
back on track and keep them focused can lower your Karma back down again.
through the next act. See the Karma section for the details on
changing Fates.
Players do not need to improve their
The group goes through acts, scenes, more
character if they dont want to. Its common
scenes, intermissions, and so on. The game
for a player to play a new character in
moves in that fashion until the scenario
a new adventure rather than playing a
draws to a close. Well take a look next at
previous character again: That characters
what happens towards the end of the game.
story is done. If a player wishes to play this
CURTAIN CALL AND EPILOGUE character again later, though, now is a good
After everyone has enjoyed their tale in a opportunity to improve that characters
game of Tenra Bansho Zero, its time to attributes and skills if they want to.
bring the session to a close. Heres what
happens after the last act has concluded.
If you are playing with the optional scene After the character spends Kiai improving
judge rules, check the Session Log Sheet their characters, the last Doctrine of No-
to see how many times each player has Self phase begins. The players should
been a scene judge. Each player is awarded sublimate (erase) their Destiny if it has
with a number of bonus Aiki chits equal been achieved. As per normal Fate rules
to the number of times they acted as a (see the Karma rules chapter for details),
scene judge. If one of the players declared a this will lower the characters Karma. The
Moment of Truth, they do not receive this players probably wont need to create new
bonus (see the Moment of Truth rules for Fates or raise the level of existing Fates,
an explanation). but they are welcome to do so if they really


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want to. It might be a good way to show style taverns (izakaya) outside of Japan, but
how their character will live out the rest of a family restaurant, fast-food joint or other
their life after the session is concluded. place to eat and talk would work ne.
If the character has more than 108 Karma The after-game discussion is an important
at the end of the last No-Self phase, their part of the game, so dont forget to do it.
character is lost forever. That character There are many players who consider the
becomes an Asura, or simply dies. See the after-play discussion of the game events
Karma rules for more details on Asura. an integral part of the game, so if possible
schedule some time for this discussion.
The GM should spend the last few That concludes the play of a session of
moments talking about the results of the Tenra Bansho Zero. Hopefully, everyone
characters actions and discuss in brief has had fun, and is interested in playing
what happens to the characters after the again.
curtain closes. Perhaps each player could
describe a quick one-minute scene in the
life of their character, days or even years
after the events of the scenario. This is the
kind of scene we might see as the credits
roll on the last episode of an anime, movie
or TV drama.

The table is a mess, so help clean it up.
Throw garbage away, and do your part to
leave the play-space cleaner than when
you started. This is, in fact, a rule of the
game which must be followed by all of the

Many games of Tenra Bansho happen on a
weekend day, or are broken up over a series
of a few weeknights. After the curtain falls
and the players clean up, dont just split.
Instead, take a few minutes to discuss the
game with your friends. Talk about what
they liked, what they thought could use
improvement, and just reect on the fun
moments of the scenario. Make plans for
when to play next, and who will act as the
GM. Feel free to move to another location
for the after-game discussion if you want.
Unfortunately, there are no good Japanese-


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in the beginning
the stage is set
the characters take form
goals become known
emotions take shape


In this section, we will explore some of the rules central to the beginning and the end of
the game. The Zero Act, Destinies, Emotion Matrix and Moment of Truth.

The rst act of the game is not Act One, but the Zero Act. In it, each PC has their own
scene where they are introduced. We discover a little bit about the character, and the
GM gives the PCs player a Destiny.

Destinies (capitalized) are a special kind of Fate: They are a Fate that the GM assigns
to the player. It represents the PCs role or goal in the scenario. The rules for handling
Destinies are otherwise the same as Fates.

The Emotion Matrix is a six-by-six grid of 36 dramatic emotions. It is used to determine
what your character initially thinks about major NPCs and other PCs. The Emotion
Matrix is used primarily in the Zero Act and initial scenes of the rst act.

Towards the end of the scenario, a player can call for a Moment of Truth: This optional
rule (with GM permission) is a last-ditch eort that allows the other players to give them
their Aiki chits. The player uses the last of this Aiki for Fate rolls, and amasses a large
amount of Kiai which they can then use.
Lets take a look at each in detail:


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The very rst act in the game is a special Unlike the other scenes in other acts, the
act called the Zero Act. It sets the mood, Zero Act scenes focus on each character,
image and feel for the rest of the game, and each scene highlighting and introducing
it is where the characters are given their one character. For the sake of the story,
Destinies. If the Zero Act goes well, it is the GM might have two player characters
very likely that the rest of the game will in one scene (one with a minor role in
proceed smoothly as well. For this reason, another characters focused scene). More
the rst act is a very important set of scenes. commonly, the GM will have the character
interact with other NPCs (the PCs lord,
SCENES IN friends, family, peers, etc), whose roles can
THE ZERO ACT be given to the players not in that scene. In
Scenes in the Zero Act are created and any case, unlike other scenes, the players
happen very similar to other scenes in the cannot spend Kiai points to appear in a
game. The only dierence is that usually scene: The GM is the sole person who
each scene will focus on only one single determines who appears in a Zero Act
player character. scene.
The Zero Act is essentially a way to AIKI CHITS AND THE
introduce the player characters which will FIRSTSCENE JUDGE
appear throughout the rest of the adventure, If you are playing with the optional scene
as well as give them an opportunity for judge rules, then the scene judge will be
their players to get used to role-playing the person sitting to the right of the player
their actions and personalities. What whose character is the focus of the scene.
happens in the Zero Act comes down to Explain the role of the scene judge to that
equal parts of character introduction, player. After that, the next scene judge will
scenario introduction and player warm-up. become the player whose scene just ended.
The scenes of this rst act push these goals.
If you are playing by the normal audience
WHICH CHARACTERS TAKE rules, this is where the GM describes the
PART IN THE SCENE? importance of handing out Aiki chits to
It doesnt matter which PCs are the players, as well as nding the balance
introduced in their own scenes rst. The between giving too few and giving too
GM might choose to start by giving a many. Each of the players should pick up
character a particular Destiny which best and ready a few Aiki chits to give to the
demonstrates the point of the game. Or the scene player.
GM might have an idea for a scene with a
lot of impact for a particular character, and
decide to start out with that scene rst. Go
The GM will hand the Destinies to the
with whatever method works best. If the
characters, one Destiny per character per
GM isnt sure, she should begin with the
player on her left. Or perhaps begin with
the player who is the most veteran role- The scene should introduce the major
player, or the most veteran Tenra player. NPCs of the scenario to the characters.
These NPCs will aect the outcome of the
story. If there is a noble lord who gives a


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PC a secret mission, it should happen in

the rst act. If there is an evil general who
An interesting technique that is often used
is planning to destroy the nation, one of
in the Zero Act is to show what happened to
the PCs should meet him in this rst act. If
the character in the past. It could be a few
there is a good opportunity or story reason
weeks or even several years, but an event
for the PCs to meet, this will happen in the
in the past should be a pivotal point in the
rst act as well.
life of that character, involve another PC or
This is where all the major Emotion Matrix major NPC, and show us what drives that
rolls happen. There should absolutely be at character.
least one matrix roll per character per scene,
A common example is for the excellent Loss
either against a major background NPC or
of your Most Important Thing Fate which
against one of the other player characters.
comes with the archetype Hard Luck. This
Th is places the players character in the
could be an object (a sword, an heirloom)
events which will unfold through the rest
or more commonly it is a person. The first
of the game. The character will encounter
scene could show how the character had
one of the other major characters in the
that thing: An idyllic lifestyle living with
story (NPC or PC), in an almost fated
this person, a covetous samurai who
encounter. The GM then hands the player
demonstrates his most prized sword, a king
their Destiny.
ruling over his kingdom. The scene could
COMBAT IN THE ZERO ACT also show us how that thing was lost, which
Combat can slow down or derail the scene will absolutely shed some light upon that
in a Zero Act, so its best not to have combat characters motivation. Bandits attack and
at all. If having a scene with ghting in it is kidnap or slay a loved one, a lord demands
important to the story, simply narrate the the samurai give him an heirloom katana, a
victory (or, more commonly, the defeat) of king is exiled or forced from his kingdom.
the PC and move on with the story. Other times, we see what made that
If you want to quickly demonstrate character who they are now, in much
how combat works, or all the players are the same way as a flashback scene in a
experienced players of Tenra Bansho, then superhero movie or comic: the fight lost to
the GM could set up a single-roll Sneak a major NPC, which convinces an otherwise
Attack, or perhaps roll through one round common warrior to become a gem-studded
(at most) of combat. More often than samurai; the conditions which cause the
not, though, it will be better to simply annelidist to implant his most dangerous
talk through what happens in the combat bug inside of his head to serve under an
instead of rolling, let the GM make any NPC lord, the grueling training of a lunatic
nal decisions, and introduce real combat kugutsu-maker which leads to the kugutsu
sometime in Acts One or Two. running away from her home and soon
meeting another PC.
Playing a pivotal character scene from the
past is an excellent way to start the story in
At least one Emotion Matrix roll is made
the present, but make sure that each scene
per scene of the Zero Act. Just like regular
includes a major NPC or PC who will appear
Emotion Matrix rolls, the player has the
later in the game, and at least one Emotion
opportunity to spend Kiai to change the
Matrix roll.
result (using any Kiai gained with that


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single Fate Roll made during game set-up), Destiny Goal: Protect the Princess: 2
and the GM and other players have the to the player as they are talking to each
ability to inuence the player with Aiki other in character. However, if they do
chits. You should talk through this process, not interact favorably (the player chooses
to make sure that you either go with an an unfavorable reaction to the NPC) the
emotion that will favor the events of the GM should simply pass the Destiny to the
scenario: favorable results for major good character at the end of the scene anyway.
NPCs, unfavorable results for major bad The character might not be getting along
NPCs and so forth. with the princess now, but it is his Destiny
Dont forget that it might make for a to protect her; over time, this will hopefully
great tale to have an unfavorable reaction drive the samurais player to change how he
towards a good NPC or PC, and a feels towards the princess in the game. This
favorable reaction towards an evil NPC. makes for a great story.
Just talk it out when the Emotion Matrix ENDING THE SCENE
roll is made and decided. If a player The GM calls for the end of the scene,
chooses an unfavorable reaction towards and hands out a Destiny to the character
another PC and from that point on never spotlighted in that scene (if he hasnt given
tries to role-play a reconciliation, that the player a Destiny already).
will be problematic for the scenario and
the other players. This often leads to one ENDING THE ZERO ACT
single player taking their character off When all of the characters have one
in another direction, creating a tale for introductory scene, its time to call the
myself instead of working with the other Zero Act closed and move on to the rst
players. Talk about it as a group so that the intermission.
player understands that they should aim to
overcome that initial unfavorable reaction, THE ZERO ACT
and quickly. INTERMISSION
The first intermission phase in the
PASSING OUT THE DESTINIES game, the Zero Act intermission, is very
In most cases, the GM will pass a Destiny similar to most regular intermissions.
to the player, either writing it in advance There are some slight dierences to how
on paper and physically passing it to the the Zero Act intermission works from
player, or simply telling the player to write other intermissions. Review the rules
the Destiny on their character sheet at the for intermissions, then take note of the
end of that characters scene. However, if following examples and exceptions for this
an opportunity presents itself in the middle rst intermission.
of the scene, the GM should be free to hand
out the Destiny in the middle of the scene THE PREVIEW
as appropriate. The rst preview is very important, more
so than any other preview in the game. Its
Also, dont change the pre-crafted Destinies
the prologue. In console video game terms,
due to events in the Zero Act scenes. For
this is the opening movie where we get
example, a GM sets up a scene where a
a picture of the world and the opening
PC samurai will meet a princess. If they
credits roll. Something explosive should be
interact favorably (driven by the Emotion
Matrix roll) the GM could hand out the


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 133 12/19/12 12:10 AM



tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 134 12/19/12 12:10 AM


happening, driving up the players interest that you can do by using Kiai. Kiai is
or involvement in what is about to come in power, so try to accumulate as much as
Act One and the rest of the game. possible, even if you dont end up using it.


Use this rst intermission to create new This is a great opportunity to answer the
Fates or raise the level of existing Fates player questions about the rules or the
(or the Destiny). At this point, if there game in general, or discuss some things
is any player that has not created at least that happened in the Zero Act. Dont dally
one Fate in relation to another character too long on game discussion, though. The
(especially another PC), have them do so point is to play the game, not to talk about
now. If the GM determines that the game playing the game.
will basically start with all of the characters
knowing each other, the players could make TAKE A BREAK
their inter-character Emotion Matrix rolls At this point, everyone should be ready to
at this time and create a Fate or two based move on to Act One. Feel free to skip the
on the results. rst break and move right into the next
act. However, if youve spent 40 or more
The intricacies of how Fates work can be minutes in the Zero Act, maybe a 5 to
confusing to new players. So simply tell the 10 minute break rst would be best to get
players to raise most or all of their Fates up people ready for action.
by one level or dot (and only one, not two or
more), and not to think too hard about it.
Tell them that raising the Fates they want
to focus on for now will be important later
in the game, and leave it at that. Also, there
is no need to balance the Fate cost with the THE PURPOSE OF DESTINIES
characters Karma level (see Karma Rules Destiny is a rule which creates the story-
for more details), because at this point even based motivation for player characters. As
if a character raises all of their Fates by one human beings, we strive for meaning in our
level or dot, they will still not come close actions. In much the same way, we want our
to that limit: Theres no need to bother characters to have a purpose to passionately
calculating it until the next intermission. work towards. A purpose makes the
Make sure that all players raise at least one characters actions make sense.
single Fate or Destiny up by one level. Destinies are a call to action. If a player
You will not sublimate or change Fates in is struggling to find a way to role-play his
the rst intermission; your Karma will not character, the Destiny provides a simple,
be reduced at this time. clean outlet. An inexperienced role-player, or
a veteran role-player who gets temporarily
FATE ROLLS AND KIAI overwhelmed, can rely on Destinies to drive
Aiki chits can carry over from one act to their character through the scenario. If all
the next. However, its important to have else fails, focusing on the Destiny will help
the players spend all of their current Aiki the game go smoothly. For that reason,
chits on Fate rolls and convert them into Destinies focused on scenario goals or
Kiai. Explain that unless they do this, Destinies that focus on a major NPC in the
their character wont have the power to scenario often work best.
accomplish the kinds of wondrous feats


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 135 12/19/12 12:10 AM



The GM will later assign the characters The Emotion Matrix is an important part of the
a special kind of Fate called a Destiny, game. It is basically a syringe which injects
either before play begins or in the rst act. drama into the game right from the get-go. It tells
Destinies are Fates that deal directly the players what their characters feel towards
with the scenario, and are usually the other characters upon their first meeting. As
characters goal for that scenario. Another such, it requires a bit of explanation to really
way of describing Destinies are Scenario understand its function, especially since most
Fates which the GM specially creates for tabletop RPGs do not have these kinds of rules.
the characters, as opposed to all the other It can take a while to get into character, and
Fates, which players create themselves. The decide as a player how your character feels
GM will usually hand the Destiny out at about the other characters. The Emotion Matrix
some point during the Zero Act, but he helps get right down to business. It basically is
might also hand it out before the game a way of setting how your character feels about
begins. another character at first sight. Using the results
The Destiny is something that must as cues, even without the game master forcing a
happen in the session. It is usually a goal or story along, the players can create drama simply
mission that is directly tied to the scenario by interacting with each other in scenes. In the
that the GM created. It could also be a end, Tenra Bansho is a character drama game,
strong motivation with no goal, as long as with the trappings of katana, ninjas and badass
the character has plenty of opportunity to mecha.
express that motivation. You could think The important thing to remember about the
of a Destiny as a personal victory condition Emotion Matrix is that these emotions are simply
for that character for the game. Work a flash of emotion or first impression in their
towards it or ful ll it, and your character characters eyes. It is the first thing that their
will usually be considered to have a good character thought when she first met (or started
ending. in a scene with) another PC or major NPC. It is
The Destiny will always involve the scenario not a straightjacket forcing them to adhere to a
in some way. If the GM plans on having relationship for the course of a game.
a super-powerful samurai NPC named Some people might be uncomfortable with the
Blazing Sky in the game, then he might idea that they dont have full control over how
create a Destiny called Emotion: Loyalty their character feels. In this case, its important
to Blazing Sky in a game where Blazing to remember that this is just that first jolt of
Sky gives the PC orders, or Mission: Find emotion that a character experienced. If theyre
Blazing Sky in a game where the object is not feeling it, the player can simply change their
to nd out what happened to this legendary attitude towards the other quickly, brushing
figure. Of course, if Blazing Sky is an off that first emotion as a fluke (It looks like I
antagonist from the start of the scenario, misjudged her. I felt a killing intent from her when
a Destiny like Mission: Destroy Blazing our eyes met, but she must have mistook me for
Sky might be expected. The GM would someone else. I wonder who). However, it
give this Destiny to the character whose can be fun to roll with that emotion for a while, to
story is closely related to Blazing Sky, see how it plays out over the course of the game.
possibly a samurai character.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 136 12/19/12 12:10 AM


Each character will have a unique Destiny DESTINY TECHNIQUES

throughout the scenario. Here are some In a game where there are new players and
examples: experienced players, a good GM technique
Mission: Protect the princess is to have the Destiny of the new players
character support one of the veteran
Emotion: Loyalty to the Ten Thousand players. It could be tied to one of the other
Knives Clan characters at the table, in a supportive
Mission: Defeat General Fujiwara way: Protect Character X, Loyalty
Emotion: Hatred of Kogarashi the Axe to Character Xs Clan, and so on. Or it
could be a very similar goal to the more
Mission: Help Master Gen attain experienced players character, giving the
freedom two characters good reason to travel and
Mission: Save the city of Suns Edge work together, and perhaps become strong
allies and companions.
Mission: Prove to yourself that your skill
is greater than (name of another PC)
And so on. The possibilities are limitless,
even within a single scenario.
The Emotion Matrix determines how
Destinies, like Fates, can be raised during
a players character feels about other
intermissions. The player raises Destinies
charactersboth major NPCs and other
exactly like Fates. They should not be erased
player characterswhen they rst meet.
or sublimated. With the GMs permission,
the player can rewrite a Destiny as the Whenever a player character rst meets
game progresses if there is a good reason another player character, an Emotion
to. For example, a character learns that Matrix roll is usually made. Whenever a
Blazing Sky is the enemy working behind player character rst meets an important
the scenes. The player gets permission NPC within the scenario, an Emotion
during the next intermission to change the Matrix roll is also made. The GM calls
characters Fate from Emotion: Loyalty for the Emotion Matrix, and the players
to Blazing Sky to Emotion: Hatred roll. The GM will roll for the NPCs. The
of Blazing Sky or Mission: Confront
Blazing Sky.

1 2 3 4 5 6
10 Unsettled Mind Aquaintance Desire Pursuer Nostalgia Annihilation
20 Loyalty They Hate You Like Your Child Dark Dreams Admiration Hmmm
30 Hatred I Am Salvation A Warning! Deep Impression Rival Companionship
40 Purity/Innocence Killing Intent Love at First Sight Fear Like a Brother/ Unstable Emotions
50 Soulmate Master Shock Goodwill Chains of Fate Strange Interest
60 Dj Vu Chaos Worthy Rival Thirst For Your Blood Relative A Dark Flame


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 137 12/19/12 12:10 AM


Emotion Matrix tells the players what their on the matrix, the GM can bribe the
character feels towards that other person player with two Aiki chits to take that new
the rst time they meet. result. The other players may get involved
Players should only be making Emotion and oer their own Aiki chits (not Kiai)
Matrix rolls at maximum once per scene. to move along the matrix as well. If the
Eventually, by the first or second act, player accepts the GMs or other players
there will be no new important NPCs suggestions, she receives those Aiki chits
encountered: Most of these Emotion immediately.
Matrix rolls occur during the rst quarter There is a bit of interplay that can happen
or third of the game. between the player and GM when it comes
The player rolls D66 (two dice, one to the Emotion Matrix. A GM might come
representing tens and the other ones) out and oer two Aiki chits immediately if
then checks the result against the Emotion the player makes a particular choice. Or a
Matrix chart in the back of the book. This player might spend a Kiai point or two to
determines the starting point for their shift around on the matrix. Sometimes, the
characters feelings towards the NPC or player will shift to a new position, and the
other PC. GM will oer 1-2 Aiki chits if the player
shifts from the new position to yet another
From there, adjustments can be made. If a position. And then from there, from a
player is not satised with the result, they position far away from the starting point,
can spend Kiai points to shift up, down, left the player could spend more Kiai to shift
or right one space on the matrix. Every Kiai further. While this interplay can be fun, try
point spent allows one shift on the matrix to keep it simple; try to aim at something
to a new result of the players choice. For close to the initial Emotion Matrix result,
example, spending three points of Kiai will rather than wandering all over the matrix
allow a player to move the result up two on every single Emotion Matrix roll.
boxes, then left one box to their desired
result. Mark Kiai used in this way as spent In the end, the player has the nal say in
Kiai, because it will later become Karma. which result they want for their character.
If they would rather spend Kiai to pick a
The GM also has the ability to make matrix result which they prefer and ignore
adjustments to the players roll. The GM the GMs Aiki chit oer, that is ne. The
can oer the player Aiki chits to move to GM shouldnt force the player to take a
a dierent place on the matrix. Perhaps result that they are not interested in role-
the GM wishes for the player to choose a playing.
more challenging result for their character,
or perhaps the GM wishes the player to Once the player decides on a result, they
choose one of the favorable results for begin treating the other NPC (or PC) in
their character that works better for the a manner in which the Emotion Matrix
GMs concept for the scenario. The GM describes. Quickly, or over time, the
can suggest a new result for the character, reaction can change, but the result of the
and oer that player a number of Aiki chits Emotion Matrix dictates their characters
equal to the distance in spaces from the first initial impression of other major
original result to the GMs desired result. characters in the game.
If the new result is down one box and to
the left one box of where the player rolled


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 138 12/19/12 12:10 AM


D66 between the PCs and maybe one to three

When rolling on the Emotion Matrix, you NPCs, after which they tend to stablize
should pick two dice of dierent colors. unless a major NPC is introduced later in
Announce which color (usually the darker) the game.
will represent the tens place, and which Also, making too many Emotion Matrix
color die (usually the lighter) will represent
rolls in scenes can really disrupt the ow
the ones place. Roll both at once and look
of the game. If there is one new major NPC
up the results. introduced to several PCs at once, consider
SCENE JUDGE AND AUDIENCE only make Emotion Matrix rolls for one or
If you are playing with the optional scene two of the PCs only (perhaps the PCs who
judge rules, a scene judge can also oer would naturally have a stronger story tie to
Aiki chits from his pool of three chits to that character).
encourage the player to move along the THE EMOTION MATRIX
Emotion Matrix. If you are using the basic ANDNPCS
audience rules, the other players at the When meeting major NPCs for the rst
table can encourage the player making the time in the game (nobles, mentors, family
Emotion Matrix roll by oering their own members and the like), it is a good idea
Aiki chits. to have the player roll against the NPC
EMOTION MATRIX ROLL TIMING on the Emotion Matrix. This gives some
Sometimes it is important to establish how inspiration for the relationship between
the PC feels about a major NPC as they
are about to interact in a scene. In those THE EMOTION MATRIX IS NOT
situations, the player should roll as soon A STRAIGHTJACKET
as they meet the NPC in-scene. However, For experienced players of other role-
this might disrupt the ow of the game. playing games, the concept of Tenra Bansho
Zeros Emotion Matrix is very unusual. But
If the GM wishes, he may simply tell the
I control what my character thinks and
player at the beginning of the scene that
feels! is a common reaction. However, just
they will soon meet a major NPC (You are
remember that the Emotion Matrix simply
about to meet your domains Regent.) and
dictates that initial spark that happens
make the player roll on the Emotion Matrix
when two major characters meet. It does
before the scene begins, so that when the
not mean that for the rest of the game the
meeting occurs they can role-play the scene
character will not be able to change their
without the interruption of the dice. Other
relationship with the other character. In fact,
times, it might make sense to role-play the
many times the nature of the relationship
scene rst, and then roll the dice when the
(especially between PCs) changes quickly.
scene ends (as long as the NPC will appear
Do not think that Emotion Matrix results are
in the game again) to determine how the
permanent. They change all the time.
player character really feels about the NPC
they just met, and how they will approach Many character relationships in popular
the NPC the next time they meet. media begin with mistrust or unease,
but soon (potentially through undergoing
As noted earlier, not every NPC requires an
trials together) lead to friendship and
Emotion Matrix roll. Most of the time, the
camaraderie. This is the spark that the
rst few scenes of the Zero Act and maybe
Emotion Matrix provides.
the rst act will have Emotion Matrix rolls


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 139 12/19/12 12:10 AM


those two characters. It also offers an Only the very few major NPCsthe ones
opportunity to be steered by the GM into which the scenario focuses onshould be
an interesting relationship with that major rolled against in this manner. You shouldnt
character, allowing the players to build up roll on the Emotion Matrix for bit part
a few extra Aiki chits. merchants, courtesans and the like. Many
times a character wont make an Emotion
Emotion Matrix Roll vs NPC Matrix roll against an NPC at all during a
GM: Before you stands a young vassal scenario. Other times, in scenarios where
warrior. He looks at you with anger-lled
there is a lot of room for social interaction
eyes as he unloosens his katana. His words
with major NPCs, a character might roll
are cold. Ive nally found you. Ive waited
against one or two NPCs over the course
so very long for this moment.
of a scenario.
Player: Uh, who is this guy?
GM: Well, roll on the matrix and lets nd THE EMOTION MATRIX AND PCS
out. Emotion matrix rolls amongst PCs are far
more common. This creates a lot of inter-
Player: OK. The red die will be the tens, the
white will be the ones. 20 and 5, so 25 total.
character drama that develops and changes
over the course of the story.
GM: Admiration? Well, that might work if
you knew what drove his conviction. Let me A popular option in Tenra Bansho games is
see How about I give you two Aiki chits to to have the players all make their Emotion
move up one and over one to Pursuer? Matrix rolls against each other after the
Player: Pursuer? Thats pretty Zero Act, in the intermission before the
straightforward. OK, that works for me, I rst act begins. Th is is great for games
couldnt think of anything there I wanted where the characters are assumed to have
more (takes the two chits). So, youre the one known each other directly or have heard
whos been following me through town. Well, of each other before the game begins. If
were here in this abandoned section of town, characters are actually meeting for the
just as you wanted. What do you want from rst time in the rst act (or in the Zero
me, then? Act, an uncommon but possible occurance
Player 2: Oh, that was pretty good. I give him between a pair of characters), feel free to
one Aiki chit. roll then instead.
GM: The youth lifts his sword over his head. This method helps both get past the
Kudoh Gensai, I hereby claim my revenge initial Emotion Matrix rolls quickly to
for what you did to my father. Die! jump into the game, as well as provides an
Player: (looks to the GM) Um, thats not opportunity for the players to write new
me? Fates regarding their relationships with
GM: Yep, sure isnt. the other PCs before the rst act begins.
Player: Hold your steel, boy. You have me In a game with 2-3 players and one GM, it
confused with someone else is best to have each character roll against
GM: Excuses wont save you now, demon every other character. In games with 4 or
samurai! he screams. Fight time! more players, it might be better to move
the game along quickly by suggesting that
Player: Oooooh. Ill make sure to just beat
the players pick just one other character
him into unconsciousness and settle this
misunderstanding over drinks afterwards.
to roll against. When two players are


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 140 12/19/12 12:10 AM


rolling against each other, they should to roll against: In a scenario, a GM might
talk it through so that they both get be planning for three PCs to be traveling
complementary or interesting results. companions, and one PC to be an outsider
Another easy solution is to have each who joins them at the beginning of the
character roll against the characters sitting scenario. In that case, the GM might have
directly to their left and right. Or perhaps the three PCs in the group roll against each
the GM can assign g pairs
p or sets of people
p p other on the Emotion Matrix, and then
everyone roll against the outsider (and vice
Emotion Matrix Roll vsNPC Version 2 versa) when they rst meet. There are a
lot of ways to use the Emotion Matrix in a
GM: Suddenly your attention is drawn back
towards the towns main path. A young girl
game, depending on the scenario. Feel free
wearing the robes of a miko shrine maiden is to experiment!
running towards you. Help me, please help! When another player is rolling against
Player: I look at her. Do I sense a trap? your own character, you can spend your
own Aiki coins to change their results
GM: Go ahead and roll on the Emotion
Matrix. with their permission, just as they can
spend Kiai to change their own results. If
Player: OK. The red die is the tens place. 40
two other players are rolling against each
and 3, so 43.
others characters and you are not involved,
GM: Love at rst sight. Well, that works you can still oer your own Aiki chits and
for me. make suggestions to the players involved.
Player: Hmmm. Interesting! Hmmm.
Actually, I think that my character wouldnt EMOTION MATRIX AND FATES
be one to fall in love so easily. How about I The Emotion Matrix is a great way to
spend one Kiai to shift up one space to 33: determine new character Fates. The
A Warning!. All I see is a loyal dog of that matrix is simply a chart that can be used for
bastard Priesthood running towards me, so determining what your character initially
Im on the edge for an attack of some kind. thinks about another character when they
GM: Hmmm. Thats probably not going rst meet. It can be used before the rst act
to work too well here, because shes being begins to prime all the player characters
attacked by something worse than some relationships with each other, or it can be
Priesthood spy. Do you think a favorable used in the game when one PC interacts
matrix result would work? Ill give you with another PC for the rst time.
three Aiki chits to move down two and
over one from that result for a result of 54: For the characters rst relationship-based
Goodwill? Fate, the player can simply write the result
of the Emotion Matrix as a Fate, or perhaps
Player: Id rather stick with my choice of
reword it to be a little more tting. An
A Warning, since my character hates the
Priesthood. Ill still come to her aid, because Emotion Matrix result of Blood Relative
I do help people in need, but Im not gonna could result in Fates like Emotion: I love X
trust her. as if he were my brother or Goal: Protect
my brother X at all costs. Additional Fates
GM: OK, that works for me. Just dont stab
her or anything. And be prepared for your
(for example, Fates purchased during the
relationship to change with her later. intermission phase by spending Aiki chits)
can be created in this way as well.
Player: OK! (spends one Kiai)


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 141 12/19/12 12:10 AM


One suggestion is to write down the The goal of the chart isnt to force you to
results of all your Emotion Matrix rolls role-play a random emotion. The goal of
somewhere on your character sheet, the chart is to put a spark in the players
perhaps in the notes section of the sheet, mind generated from the chaos of a roll of
or in the margins. Later, once you decide to the dice. Whether the player sticks with
take a Fate towards that character, you can that option or chooses another (or is bribed
use those notes to help guide your decision. by the GM to choose another space), the
Remember, not every Emotion Matrix roll players mind has already begun exploring
has to result in a new Fate: Many do not. that possibility. Even if the player chooses
another result for their character, that
THE EMOTION MATRIX AND player has thought about their character
THE POWER OF THE DICE in a new way.
Why use the Emotion Matrix at all? It would
seem easier to just let the players choose an The Emotion Matrix can result in forcing
emotion they prefer for their characters from emotions that are impossible for the
the matrix rather than rolling. players to ignore, which will in turn drive
their role-playing. This will lead to more
While that is true, the Emotion Matrix Aiki chit rewards, but more importantly
injects a spark of chaos that can charge a it ultimately leads to a more interesting
game, or take the players in new unexpected story. As players, we are all well aware that
directions. This small spark of chaos is a the heroic players will very likely overcome
key feature of this game! the evil lord by the end of the scenario: But
Rolling on the chart opens up new whats really interesting is what happens on
possibilities for thinking about your the way to that destination. The Emotion
character, even more so than simply picking Matrix sets the characters in motion on
from the chart (as youd be choosing
something that you would expect for your
EXAMPLE 3: Emotion Matrix Roll
character, something normal). Being Between PCs
able to choose love at rst sight from Player 1: So this is the rst meeting between
the Emotion Matrix is a very different my samurai and your armour-rider.
experience from landing on the love at
Player 2: Go ahead and roll rst.
rst sight space based on a roll of the dice.
When you roll the dice and hit that rst PL 1: This blue die is the tens place. 60 and
4, so 64: Thirst for Your Blood is this
square, it provokes a reaction in the player.
armour rider out to get killed, perhaps?
This is what the chart says. Does this work
for my character? The players mind will PL 2: No killing, I promise! How about I
naturally try to make it work, to make that spend one of my own Kiai to move you over
result t. This is the kind of spark which to 65: Blood Relative? Heck Ill even call
you big brother!
can ignite a very interesting role-playing
experience. PL 1: How about you dont call me big
brother, and I spend one more of my own
Or perhaps the player rolls the idea around Kiai to move over to 66: Dark Flame?
in her head for a few seconds: Hmmmm,
PL 2: Hmmm, looks like you want to start
any way I look at it, I simply cant see that
us o as enemies one way or another. Sure,
kind of relationship, she says, and proceeds
Ill go with that. Initial mistrust can lead to
to spend Kiai to move to another nearby
awesome relationships.
space on the Emotion Matrix. Thats okay.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 142 12/19/12 12:10 AM


an emotional collision course. Used well, (usually the last scene, or one of the last
it can help run an interesting and fun scenes, in the game), all of the remaining
character-focused scenario. Kiai that the character has will disappear.
Take note of this rule exception. Normally
a character can carry their unspent Kiai
THE MOMENT from one scene to the next, but if the player
declares a Moment of Truth, all unspent
OF TRUTH Kiai that player has at the end of the
There are a few times in ones life where scene simply vanishes. The spent Kiai will
the next few moments, the next choice, is eventually become Karma. The unspent
the dividing line between life and death, Kiai will vanish without becoming Karma.
or between achieving your lifes goals and
failing to attain anything. Th is moment ROLEPLAYING THE MOMENT
is an optional rule called the Moment of OFTRUTH
Truth in the game. When a player calls The player is role-playing out a critical
for a Moment of Truth, time comes to a moment. The player nishes talking and
standstill, the player amasses as many declares a Moment of Truth. That player
resources as possible, and their character role-plays out the actions he wishes to
takes one nal action that will determine take, and the other players role-play their
characters in assisting him. The other
their Fate forever.
players give him their Aiki chits, and the roll
Only one player can call for a Moment of is made. Sometimes this default method
Truth (also known as MoT) in a single can cause a long pause in play because of all
game. If the other players agree, then of the Fate rolls made (sometimes up to 20
it happens. The other players role-play or more rolls are made to generate the MoT
how their characters support the MoT Kiai pile), and role-playing momentum is
character, either by physically helping lost. Sometimes the GM will have to have
them, or by offering encouragement or the players repeat the last few lines of role-
moral support. The other players then play in order to pick up where they left o.
hand their own Aiki chits, as many as they
Another option for the Moment of Truth
want (or simply all of them) to the player
is for the player to declare the MoT at some
who declared a MoT. Only Aiki chits can
point in the scene before the majority of the
be given, not Kiai points.
role-playing occurs. The player senses that
If you are playing with the optional Scene this next con ict is going to be the nal
judge rules, then the MoT player is given one of the game, and the results could go
an extra number of Aiki chits equal to either way. The player could simply declare
the number of scenes in which they were a Moment of Truth before the role-playing
a scene judge. If you are playing by the in the scene actually occurs. Aiki chits are
normal Audience rules, the player receives given, a number of Fate rolls are made, a
no extra Aiki chits. stockpile of Kiai is amassed and then the
Time stops. The player will take this large player role-plays their encounter with the
mass of Aiki chits and make one nal Fate major NPC or last boss. Th is method
roll and convert all of the successes gained ensures that theres no break in action
into a pool of usable Kiai points. Action between the role-playing, die-rolling, and
resumes, and the player spends this pool results. The GM should decide which is
of Kiai as they see t. Once the scene ends more appropriate.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 143 12/19/12 12:10 AM


CONVERTING KIAI BACK opponent, but in the process of spending

TOAIKI CHITS all of that Kiai they will raise their Karma
By the end of the game, many players far beyond their limits. They will win that
will have some Aiki chits in their hands. battle against the major NPC enemy, but
However, most of their power will have in turn they will permanently lose their
already been converted to Kiai, which is character as it becomes an Asura. This is
sitting there unspent on their character something to be careful of when declaring
sheets. Th is method lets players convert a Moment of Truth.
their unspent Kiai back into Aiki chits,
which they can then give to the player who
declared the Moment of Truth.
During a MoT, a player can convert any
amount of their unspent Kiai back into
Aiki chits at a rate of 3 Kiai points for 1
Aiki chit. These Aiki chits are then given to
the player who declared a MoT. The player
chooses how much of their characters
unspent Kiai they wish to convert to Aiki
chits and give to the MoT player. Finally,
this converted Kiai is not spent, it is
shared; Kiai converted back into Aiki chits
for the Moment of Truth does not become

Many games will put the PCs head to
head against a nearly unbeatable foe. The
Moment of Truth mechanic allows one
character to focus the groups energy into
a carefully made nal attack (or series of
attacks), at great risk to that character. It is
an exciting conclusion to an action-packed
However, not all games require a Moment
of Truth. Its up to the players if they want
to use the MoT mechanic. Some foes can
be beaten by a team of players who carefully
manage their Kiai pools or combat options
and skills without declaring a MoT.
A Moment of Truth is dangerous. It
may be possible for a single character to
amass a huge pool of power in the form of
Kiai, and still not have enough to defeat
an opponent. Or, more often, they have
more than enough raw power to defeat an


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 144 12/19/12 12:10 AM

the characters have been drawn to life
they can interact, fight, and die
the time has come
to give them a reason to live

Scenarios are the foundation of the Tenra Bansho Zero game, and require the most
thought for the game to succeed. Each scenario represents the adventure in which the
characters engage. A scenario might begin with nothing more than a few loose notes, or
it could be an extensive scene-by-scene breakdown of every planned event, complete with
elaborate descriptions and prepared segments of NPC dialogue.
Between one session and the next, the game master creates the scenario. Creating a
scenario might seem like a daunting task, but in the end theres only a few things needed
to create a good Tenra Bansho-esque adventure:
1) A problem
2) Dramatic situations
3) Fast pacing
Lets look at the above elements in detail, then talk about some tips and tricks you can
use to run an exciting scenario.

Each player, or the group as a whole, has a problem that they must resolve. Instead of
problem, one could call it a situation that needs to be addressed.
In the rst act, the Zero Act, the GM hands each player a special Fate called a Destiny.
That Destiny is, in essence, the problem that the player character is presented with. It
represents a situation that must be addressed or resolved, or a problem to be overcome.
Destinies are things that PCs have to think about, wrestle with, and eventually put to
Of course, there is no one correct solution to the situation the Destiny addresses. Each
player will look at a problem in a dierent way and try to resolve it in their own way
through various means. Its important for the GM to remember that the Destiny is a
question that the PC must answer, a question that has no single solution. Goal: Defeat
the Enemy could mean so much more than just a combat beatdown.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 145 12/19/12 12:10 AM


In the Zero Act, the GM gives the players Make the Destinies usable by the players.
their Destinies. Each scene in the Zero A good Destiny will feature PCs or NPCs
Act focuses on that players purpose in which appear often in the game or a goal
the adventure, and often clearly shows o which will have implications in many of
the problem or situation which needs to the scenes. A bad Destiny will feature
be addressed. It also tells us a little about NPCs that dont appear that often in the
what that character is like, who they are, game or goals which the PCs really cant
how they act, and what might be in store do anything about. Whatever is written
for them. on the Destiny that the GM gives to the
This is why the Zero Act is so important; player, make sure it is something that can
it creates the image of the game to come in come up in the adventure often.
the mind of each player, and demonstrates Dont turn a Destiny into a straightjacket,
each player characters place within the though. The Destiny should guide the
game. If the GM does a good job of crafting players role-playing. Like Fates, Destinies
the scenes of the Zero Act, the players will can change over the course of the game.
know what to do through the rest of the The Destiny shouldnt be something used
game. against the player or to force them to role-
play in one dened way from the start of the
CHOOSING game to the end. However, this isnt so much
THE DESTINIES a concern in writing the Destiny. Simply
Destinies are the elements that set each make sure that the players understand that
character into their role in the game. Its while they should step up to address the
a purpose or problem that the player has situation the Destiny presents, it should
to eectively role-play in order to move the not be used to articially force the player to
scenario forward. As mentioned above, make role-playing decisions they dont like.
there is no one correct answer for each
Lets look at a sample Destiny: Say that
Destiny. However, at first the Destiny
there will be an NPC princess who will
should reect or hint at an ideal goal to
journey with the players for most of the
the situation (Goal: Destroy the Falling
adventure, and one of the PCs will act like
Leaves Clan, Hatred: Magobei the
her knight or bodyguard. What would be
Snake, Goal: Come to terms with your
a good way to turn that relationship into a
new powers, etc). Without that suggestion,
starting Destiny? The GM wants to write
it wont give the players a good starting
the Destiny up in a way so that it clear
direction for role-playing. Over the course
to the player that the PC should want to
of the game, the Destiny might change.
protect the princess (in the beginning of
The goal will shift slightly or a lot; hatreds
the game, at any rate). However, something
might turn to friendships, and vice-versa.
like Romance: You are in love with the
However, it is a good idea to imagine the
princess is probably a little weak. It will
player characters as toys: wind them up and
most likely lock the player into one single
point them in a direction. Over the course
kind of role-play towards that character
of the game, as scenes are role-played, the
and make it very hard to change the nature
direction of each individual character may
of the relationship between the two. It also
start to change but they need some sort of
leaves no room for player interpretation; its
direction at rst in order to get into the
a straightjacket of role-play that the player
game as quickly as possible.
cant get out of.


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Lets make the situation more interesting. hates role-playing romance, then give
How about if the princess reminds the the Destinies (and roles) with romantic
PC of his or her younger (or older) sister, possibilities to other players.
a sister who died years ago? A Destiny of
Misfortune: Loss of your sister would DESTINIES AND
sound good at rst. However, this too is ARCHETYPES
a little dicult. Theres nothing actually Each sample character has some ready-
pointing this at that princess character. It made Fates. All of the archetypes include
also means that the player will have to role- one sample Fate as well. Make sure you
play their PC in some kind of relationship look over the characters before assigning
(once the emotional baggage is dealt Destinies to the PCs. This will make
with) that will be a familial relationship; sure that you dont accidentally give a
it would be hard to turn this into a PC a Destiny which totally conf licts
romance or a hatred. While not as much with the Fates they already have. For the
of a straightjacket as the rst example, this samurai who wants to know What is true
Destiny represents a lot of excess stu that strength? (based on their pre-written
has nothing to do with the princess. Fate), or a kongohki who has sealed
memories (another archetype-determined
In this situation, something like Emotion:
Fate), a Destiny which focuses on defeating
Deep feelings towards the princess might
the bad guy may be better than one that
work well. The feelings are undefined,
focuses on emotional elements. However,
so they are left up to the player to dene
some players might be up for that additional
where the feelings come from. This gives
the player a direction and the ability to
openly interpret what the emotions are and RECOMMENDED
how they will change over time. This is a ARCHETYPES
good emotionally-ripe Destiny. Of course,
something simple like Goal: Protect the
As a GM, you may want to make a list of
princess or Goal: Return the princess
recommended archetypes for the game,
to her kingdom are also solid beginning
then pair the Destinies up with them. If you
Destinies because they push the characters
plan out a scenario for two ninja characters,
together and also give the player leeway on
a samurai, and an armour-rider (rather
how they will role-play in relation to that
than having a free-for-all where the players
character. However, you can probably
choose any character type they want), it
guess that Feelings towards the princess
might be good to pair up each Destiny
will most likely lead to a game that focuses
with an archetype that is compatible. For
on the emotions between those players
example, if there is an enemy to be defeated
rather than the characters simple mission.
in a combat-heavy scenario, it might make
Just one last thing to note when assigning more sense to tie Goal: Defeat the Evil
Destinies to players: You want to give Overlord to an archetype that excels in
Destinies which will allow the players ghting like a samurai or armour-rider.
the chance to role-play their characters This is just a recommendation for getting
in new ways. But make sure to get a sense things o the ground quickly: Ultimate
of what your players want. If you know authority in which PC gets which Destiny
from experience that one of your players is left to the GM.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 147 12/19/12 12:10 AM


BEING CAREFUL WITH the game during the Zero Act. When used
SCENARIOS AND well, theyll help kick-start the players into
DESTINIES role-playing and bring the characters alive.
Most Tenra Bansho Zero stories have Example
elements of tragedy in them. While the Lets look at the Destiny mentioned above,
endings may be happy, more often than Emotion: Deep feelings towards the princess,
notjust like the kabuki theater they are and a quick Zero Act introduction.
based uponthe events or the character GM: It was a hot day then, long ago. That day,
backgrounds often have tragic elements your sisters last quick, oh-so-quick breath escaped
behind them. her lips in your arms. The same sister who
followed you everywhere you went: Kennosuke!
While it is important to remember that, its Brother Kennosuke! She would always be the
also important to remember that TBZ is a rst to greet you when you returned home: Hey
game, and games are supposed to be fun. Kennosuke! Guess what I did today! Guess!
To that end, be very careful of the comfort That energetic spirit is gone forever.
level of your players. Dont force Destinies (to the player of Kennosukes character)
or plot lines upon them that are only there Kennosuke! Kennosuke, are you listening to
to push their buttons or evoke bad feelings me?
in the players. Your role as a GM is to set up
The GM gives the player of Kennosuke a few
the foundation of an interesting story and seconds to respond. If he responds at all, the GM
let the players play it out. Your role is not gives him an Aiki chit for quick-thinking and
to push them into an uncomfortable place jumping in.
just to create something artsy.
GM (continues): Geez, why is your head always
If a player becomes uncomfortable or isnt in the clouds? Whenever I, Chisa, address you,
happy with one of the tragic elements (or you never respond in kind, Princess Chisa pouts,
even the direction of the story), she should while honoring you with polite speech.
immediately feel obliged to tell the GMThe GM gives another opportunity for the player
right then and there. That way, the GM to jump in, perhaps rewarding him with an Aiki
can help re-play the scene, or do-over
chit for quick-thinking and role-play. By this
time, the player should be engaged. If the player
the last few lines of dialogue in order to
lighten or change the tone. is stymied or doesnt seem to reply quickly, dont
stop and dont point attention to it. Simply move
Again, because the original authors of along in the conversation. Even if its one-sided at
the game say it as clear as the summer the beginning, give a few pauses to let the player
sky: Tenra Bansho is a game, a form of jump in. The player will jump in soon enough.
entertainment between you and your
GM: Anyway, guess what I did today, brother
friends. It should never be used to hurt the Kennosuke! Guess!
players of the game.
At this point, its probably a good time to call for
DRAMATIC SITUATIONS an Emotion Matrix roll to see what Kennosuke
Hopefully by now, you understand that thinks about Princess Chisa. The GM in this
setting up Destinies is an important part case should try to steer the results towards a
favorable relationship (oering Aiki chits as
of creating a scenario. The Destiny is the
per the Emotion Matrix rules, as needed), and
direct link which ties the character into
steering away from neutral or unfavorable/
hateful relationships. The GM then reveals that
this is Princess Chisa, entrusted to Kennosukes


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 148 12/19/12 12:10 AM


care as bodyguard, and since she was young shes Even if the players pick pre-generated
thought of him as almost a real older brother, characters and do not create their
even addressing him as brother in private. characters from scratch, theyll quickly
GM: I visited my father! He was inspecting start to identify with them. Theyll think
the latest yoroi armour our family received for about the Fates and the character issues
service to the regent. He said, Chisa, it looks like that the PC will have to face.
the lines of battle are shifting and war is upon
Before the game begins, youll create the
us again. Can you believe it? Now Im of age to
ride an armour myself, so I bet hes going to take overall story (either completely, or in an
me along on his next war campaign! Isnt that simple outline format) of the struggle that
great? I bet Ill even get to ght alongside you! the PCs have to overcome together.
You better watch out. I just might overcome more The important thing is to tie these two
enemies than you! together. Having a strong, exciting
GM (continues): With that, Chisa holds her background where the PCs just drift
hand to her mouth and smiles at you. For a brief through it like ghosts without addressing
moment, it reminds you of someones smile, a or resolving their personal issues may leave
smile from long ago the players bored: They have an interesting
The GM hands Kennosukes player the Destiny, character in their hands, but theyre
Emotion: Deep feelings towards the princess. suppressing it in order to jump through the
The scene wraps up quickly after that. hoops of the scenario. Likewise, focusing
While most Zero Act scenes will have more back- totally on character issues at the expense of
and-forth dialogue with the player and role-play, coming up with an overall threat or story to
the above is basically an abbreviated and boiled- throw at the players will turn the game into
down view into what a fast Zero Act scene looks a slow-paced soap opera style game. that
like. The GM had two things that she wanted to lingers on without resolving. Neither of
make clear in this scene, and was able to hit on these extreme outcome is very interesting.
both of them:
Make sure to balance both; keep the
That Princess Chisa looks or feels like your
character issues in mind as you run the
younger (deceased) sister.
game, and have concerns related to the PC
That there is a war happening now. Fates appear regularly. Dont simply treat
The interesting point is that the GM was able the player characters as puppets used to tell
to convey both of these points clearly without your pre-written story. That will bore the
actually coming right out and directly saying players, as it will be transparent to them
either one. that their actions and choices dont matter.
Balancing both the overall story and the

CREATING characters stories is the foundation of a

strong Tenra Bansho Zero scenario.
SCENARIO To create an interesting TBZ scenario,
the GM should really use the elements of
There are two elements to track when situation and time in changing from one act
creating a good scenario for Tenra Bansho to the next act.
Zero: Overall story and character story.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 149 12/19/12 12:10 AM


For example, in a scenario that follows a

war between two domains, the characters CHARACTER
domain could win a great battle against
the enemy domain in the first act, be DEATH
completely destroyed in the second act, and Character death happens in TBZ, and it is
in the third act, the characters could join entirely up to the player to manage when
forces with a neighboring domain to ght their character dies. If a character dies in
once again against the enemy domain. Each the nale or a climax, there is no problem
act might be separated by several months at all; it should be easy for the GM to keep
of time in the process. This could create an that death dramatic and appropriate for the
exciting story with a real sense of a large game. However, if a character dies during
scale. any other scene, thats a problem. If a player
Another example might be to have two starts to check the Dead Box, or leaves it
or more years pass between the rst and checked and jumps into a potentially fatal
second acts, and three years between the challenge outside of a climax or nale, its
second and third acts. Focusing on change a good idea for the GM to just straight-up
of the situation (one minute your country warn that player, Were not currently in a
is victorious, the next you are running for climax or nale, so you might want to wait
your lives as refugees) between acts will on that until the next climax.
really keep the story interesting. In the end, Once a character dies, the next step is up to
thats all that matters: Getting a positive the GM. If its the nale, theres no problem
reaction from the players, and together at all, since the story is at a close anyway.
telling an interesting drama or epic. If it happens during a climax (usually near
the end of the game), the GM can keep
the player involved through the rest of the
A climax is a dramatic end to each act,
game by:
while a nale is the nal climax of the game.
Making that player a permanent Scene
Every act should end in a climax. This is
Judge (handing out Aiki chits to the other
usually a erce combat, but it could also be
a powerful dramatic moment as well (the
PCs convincing a lord to change his ways; a Handing that player a new character at
duel through combat, magic or skill; grand the beginning of the next act, a secondary
social conicts resolved through role-play). character who appeared earlier in the
Its also a good idea to keep the nale of the game.
scenario within its own act. That way, the Having the player quickly create a new
GM has plenty of leeway to change the time character during the next Intermission,
and situation to make it that much more perhaps keeping the same Destiny as the
dramatic. That pre-climax act intermission previous character, or a variation of that
is always welcome, too, in order to ensure Destiny.
that the characters pool enough Kiai to
Handing the player the role of a villain,
(hopefully) overcome any nal challenge.
and letting the player role-play the villain
(as a character, as well as controlling them
in combat).


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 150 12/19/12 12:10 AM


Having the player play several major CHOICES AND

NPC roles for the rest of the game, as a CONTRADICTIONS
kind of assistant GM. A game isnt written in stone. As a GM,
one thing that you have to try to remember

BENDING when planning or running a scenario is that

there should be no single correct answers to
THE TENRA any encounter in the game.
Say, for example, you introduce a princess
SETTING to the characters at some point. You can
Th is book is lled with information on pretty reliably assume that the players will
the world of Tenra, from oni customs to try to help her, perhaps by having her travel
onmyoji summoning constraints. As you go with them. However, the players might
through the book, you will likely nd some move in another direction that you dont
inspiration here and there, elements that expect (Not that theyre being jerks, but
you will want to pull into your scenario. just that, for the game and their characters,
Go for it. other options seem more realistic). Maybe
they decide to help the princess by asking
In the process, you may have some ideas relatives to let her stay with them incognito.
that directly contradict the setting Or maybe theyre all mercenaries, so
material. Samurai that can give birth, they give the princess a few gold coins to
zombies, onmyoji that can summon spirits help her out and continue onwards, not
in areas with no residual Sha energy, time realizing that she was an integral part of
travel, a warrior coming back to life because events to unfold. As a GM, you will have
of her intense hatred, and so on. Go ahead to be prepared for the players to go in
and bend or break the setting to create unexpected directions.
your own Tenra setting. Perhaps these
impossibilities were that way because Beyond that, you will actually want to try to
no one ever succeeded. In your own set up contradictory choices, complications
game, legends can be born from doing the for the players to deal with, making sure
impossible. that they know there is no correct answer,
and that the scenario will continue along
When bending or changing the setting, its own unique path no matter what the
just make sure to do it in subtle ways players end up deciding to do.
that the players can accept. Dont feel
constrained to never break any setting These kinds of contradictory choices and
rule, and likewise dont break every rule as dilemmas really help make a scenario
the players wont know what is happening interesting, exciting, and complicated, even
to the Tenra setting theyre familiar with. without throwing in combats and cyborg
Sprinkle some impossibilities into your ninjas. Choices that pit emotion against
game from time to time to keep things reason make for very Tenra-like games.
interesting. Say, for example, the PCs are ghting on
the front lines of a war in their own domain.
The superior enemy troops are advancing,
and they have two options: Meeting the
enemy in the elds outside of the city will
save the inhabitants of the city who have


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 151 12/19/12 12:10 AM


not yet ed, but the PCs armies will be undoubtedly bad eects of choosing one
at such a disadvantage that they may be path or the other. This may help the players
annihilated, and the PCs themselves will choose the option that is right for them, or
likely die. Steering the enemy to come ght it might stymie them further as they try to
them in the city means that the PCs will choose between the lesser of two evils.
have the home advantage, and the battle A third option is for the players to do
will be on a much more even ground, but nothing, wait it out, and leave it to fate.
the city will likely be utterly destroyed, (Perhaps they cannot decide which is
and certainly any innocents left in the city better.) That, too, is a valid option. Let
will be cut down in the battle as collateral the next scenes play out from that point
damage. on, the GM deciding what happens due to
Which option will the players decide? the players not making a solid decision. In
Neither option is correct. The GM many cases, the outcome will be worse, but
will need to be prepared with the players the PCs may be able to engage again if the
choosing either option, or come up with situation changes.
their own alternative. The GM could paint Making the choice between two dicult
a vivid picture of the possibly good and options, and then role-playing the
characters living with the results, is a strong
For Example: element in Tenra Bansho Zero scenarios.
Player: The attacks, the spies, all of those Try to include at least one or two good hard
freakish monstrosities This is it. This castle choices in your game.
holds the answers to all of those riddles, I
say as I point at the dark castle on the rock. I
sling my katana over my shoulder and start
walking towards it.
Tenra is a game of acts, each act containing
Another Player: Hah, excellent. Have an
Aiki chit (tosses the chit to the player) a series of events. Those events are played
out in scenes. Scenes tell us what sorts of
GM: Okay, this brings this scene to a close.
actions the characters will take, and what
Next scene, well start with you. Youve
kinds of things will happen in response to
inltrated the castle, and have reached the
tatami-lined throne room of the lord of the
those actions. The GMs job when setting
castle up and looking at scenes is to determine
what would make for a good following
Player: Woah, wait a minute there, I gured
scene. It takes some strategy and thought
that we could rst maybe get some more
to keep the action strong and exciting,
details about the castle before
advancing the game to the interesting
GM: (ignoring) Above you, the lord of the parts, without jumping too far ahead.
castle begins to speak
For example, the characters decide that
You can see in this example that care is
they must enter into enemy territory,
needed when jumping ahead in time and
focus using scenes. Careful jumps can keep
sneak into the enemy army camp and nd
the game focused on interesting scenes and information on their next plans. In many
great role-playing moments. But jump too far games, the next scene would involve the
or change the pace too quickly, and the game PCs discussing a strategy to in ltrate the
will quickly become disjointed, random, and enemy camp, doing some investigation
start to y apart. to determine the best way to sneak in. A


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 152 12/19/12 12:10 AM


Tenra Bansho Zero-esque scene would Innocent

be simply bypassing all that and starting These characters are the ones the PCs
with the players already in the middle of want to protect. Be careful when choosing
sneaking through the enemy camp. emotions from the Emotion Matrix when
This is a great way to get right to the it comes to Innocents. Start o wrong, and
important actions. Just make sure you it may be hard for the player to care about
consider well the best next scene, and or protect an NPC you brought in to play
not jumping too far ahead of the players an innocent role.
expectations. Exposition
These are the background characters who

NPCS exist to provide information to the PCs or

simply add avor to the scenes. Most of the
Non player characters, or NPCs, are game time they are not important enough to the
elements which exist to provide opposition scenario to use the Emotion Matrix with
or support to the player characters, or them. However, if you create what you feel
role-play opportunities for the player. to be an important exposition-based NPC
Remember this when creating NPCs. important to the scenario, then feel free
to use the matrix more freely with these
NPC ROLES exposition-based NPCs.
When you look into non-player characters
that appear in the game, there are very few Enemy
overall roles they play in the story. Most These are the people who want to stop
fall into one of four categories: Sponsor, the PCs from accomplishing their goals,
Innocent, Exposition and Enemy. through force or subterfuge.

Sponsor When bringing in major NPCs, try to

These are powerful NPCs of rank, ability, think about what motivates them. That
or meaning. They are the life of the game, will help you determine what their next
the characters that the PCs are loyal to and actions would be, how they speak, and
serve unquestioningly. They give orders how they would react to player characters.
to the PCs (expressed as suggestions, Dont forget to role-play them with
requests, demands, or even at-out orders), passion, adopting dierent types of speech
and often help start o or guide a scenario. or mannerisms to really give the players a
striking image of the character.
When creating a major sponsor-style
NPC, be it a noble lord or a sweet mother, NPC ACTIONS
its important to guide the Emotion Matrix When an NPC performs an unopposed
rolls with these NPCs towards favorable action which a PC would normally roll
results. Over time, the PC may become against a set diculty, the GM can simply
disloyal or view a sponsor as an enemy, determine success or failure based on the
but if they dont start o with a favorable events in the scene. There is no need for
reaction (or at least a reaction that would the GM to roll dice for simple NPC skill
make the PC willing to follow a request), and ability checks that are not against
then that will often mean that the game other player characters. When one NPC
cant start. Take care on Emotion Matrix takes an action upon another NPC, the
rolls. GM should also determine the results


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 153 12/19/12 12:10 AM


without rolling dice. However, when other enemies may have attributes ranked up to
PCs become involved and conict with the 20! Write down the attributes and their
NPCs, follow the rules normally. Make rank.
skill or ability rolls as you would for a Decide Skills and Rank. Write down
player character. the skills the NPC has, and a skill
A GM can have NPCs suddenly enter level you think is appropriate for them:
or leave the scene without spending Kiai Unskilled/1, Skilled/2, Advanced/3,
points to do so, as they dont follow the Mastery/4, Special/5.
same rules for entering scenes as the PCs. Determine Special Abilities. Arts of
This does not count for enemy NPCs in War, onmyojutsu shiki, oni powers,
boss fights: The GM should not have mechanica, etc. Familiarize yourself with
the NPC suddenly disappear or y away them, or copy down their descriptions
unharmed in the middle of the nal combat and mechanical eects in your scenario
of the session. notes.
NPC STATS Choose equipment and weapons.
AND ABILITIES Choose some Fates to use as character
When determining non-player character motivation when role-playing them.
abilities, skills and attributes (often
Determine Vitality and Soul ratings
referred to as statting out NPCs, as you
are assigning their statistics), decide them
freely. There is no need to create them Detailed NPCs will not have wound
as if they were player characters, using gauges (Light, Heavy, Critical). Instead,
archetypes, assigning attributes from a set look at the NPCs Body stat, double
pool, and so on. that rating, and add that number to the
Vitality pool. Th is gives the NPC the
However, there are some guidelines for
equivalent of wound boxes in power, but
making NPCs, either when crafting the
in a format that doesnt need to be tracked
scenario or on-the-y.
as closely.
DETAILED NPCs Add a Dead box. Most detailed NPCs
Detailed NPCs are the major non-player have the Dead box, which works in the
characters you determine will play a same way for NPCs as it does for PCs
major role in the game. Certainly, boss- (allowing them to eliminate all damage
level enemies will be created beforehand from one incoming attack and roll three
as detailed NPCs, but you might stat extra dice for all further rolls). This
out critical sponsor NPCs as well. There ensures that, if there is a ght, that the
is certainly no need to have every NPC boss can stand up to more than one single
encountered by the players written up in lucky (or powerful) blow.
such a detailed format.
Decide Attributes and Rank. Write down
After you have the framework of the
all seven attributes. Normal humans have
detailed NPC, you will want to make some
an attribute range of 2-3. Exceptional
adjustments for major NPC enemies and
people have a range of 3-5. Heroes,
boss characters in order to have battles
paragons and others will have higher
happen smoothly, particularly boss battles
attributes, including 10 or more. Major
against powerful villains. Without taking


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other factors into consideration, you may have the skill at all), perhaps 4 for master
have villains that are knocked over quickly ninja. Never give an NPC an Evasion skill
without a sweat, or accidentally so powerful rating of 5.
that the players cannot make a dent in If one of the PCs has an attack which
them even when spending tons of Kiai. Its can only be defended against using the
best to set the enemys abilities rather than Evasion skill and can not parried with
changing them on the y, unless you totally a weapon (annelidist electrical blasts,
underestimated or overestimated their monk spirit attacks, shiki re attacks,
eectiveness. Here are some guidelines for etc), make sure the enemy has an Evasion
adjusting major enemy NPCs, nal bosses skill of at least 2. Otherwise, it will be a
and the like: very short battle.
If the enemy is not a nal boss, but is The nal bosss main combat skill should
sort of a mid-boss character, or strong be as high as the skill level of the PC most
henchman who is in the ght with the skilled at combat (usually 4, on very rare
final boss, consider simply using one occasions 5).
of the PC sample characters. Raise its
primary combat skill by one rank and The nal bosss main attribute used in
most of the attribute scores by 2-3 points. combat should be higher than the highest
This creates a quite balanced enemy to modied physical attribute between all of
use against two or three PCs. the PCs, usually by 3 or more points.
If the samurai PC can achieve an Agility rating
If the boss battle pits all of the PCs against
of 12 when in samurai mode (compared to its
one single NPC villain, then multiply the
normal value of 9), and this is the highest physical
number of player characters by 5 and add attribute in the group, then consider statting the
that number to the villains Vitality pool. nal bosss primary combat attribute at 15.
If the boss battle pits all of the PCs against Be careful with NPC combat skills rated
two NPC villains, multiply the number 5: Most PCs will have to burn at least 9-12
of player characters by 2 and add that points of Kiai each strike to even slightly
number to each villains Vitality pool. damage NPCs with a combat skill ranked
If one of the player characters has an at 5 if they have a large attribute pool used
Art of War, add 10 points to the villains in combat. If you absolutely want to have
Vitality pool. a combat rating of 5, then you will likely
If there is a PC with healing abilities (like want to lower the NPCs attribute ratings
Buddhist monks, annelidists or ayakashi), a few points for such a character, as almost
either add a second Dead box to the NPC all of their dice will roll successes.
(This just grants a second chance to erase Come to a balance between attribute level
all damage; it wont grant them a doubled and skill level as compared to the PCs. If
+6 Dead Box bonus), or double the the nal boss NPC has a skill ranking of
NPCs original unmodied Vitality pool. 5 and a high combat attribute as per the
Most NPCs will not have skill in Evasion, guidelines above, consider lowering the
simply relying on other skills to parry combat attribute by a few points, or raise
attacks. Only very agile enemies like ninja the attribute a few points more but reduce
and samurai will have Evasion as a skill. It the combat skill down to 4.
is best to keep their skill at a ranking of 2
or 3 for these fearsome opponents (if they


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Keep an eye on the player characters Instead of the normal seven attributes,
Kiai and Aiki chit pool. If there are lots simply use three attributes: Physical
of unspent points and chits, the above (instead of Body, Agility and Senses), Non-
guidelines will likely work ne. If for some Physical (instead of Knowledge, Spirit and
reason the PCs have run low on Kiai and Empathy), and Station. Normal humans
have little left, going up against a final have an attribute range of 2-3. Exceptional
boss with a combat skill of 4 or 5 and a people have a range of 3-5. Heroes,
high attribute pool means that none of the paragons and others will have higher
players will be able to amass the power to attributes, including 10 or more. Pick an
hit the enemy at all. Consider lowering the attribute range for Physical, Non-physical
bosss combat attribute a few points if the and Station attributes based on what
player characters total Kiai pool looks low. you imagine they would be: A legendary
You can try to telegraph the enemys samurai in the service of your lord might be
power a few scenes or acts in advance in 15-6-8 (Physical, Non-physical, Station).
order to help the players make a choice A shrine maiden might be 3-7-9. Feel free
between skipping character improvement to boost the attribute a few points if you
or saving up Kiai for the nal battles. You want to give the PC a challenge, but make
can also set goals throughout the scenario, sure that if the attribute is much higher
complications where if the PCs achieve than the PCs own attribute, that they get
various dicult side-goals, the nal boss the sense that they are outclassed.
becomes slightly less powerful. Next, only write down the skill which
In the end, though, the goal is to create is being contested with a PC. Base the
a detailed enemy NPC who will provide skill level on the level that you think the
a threat to the characters in combat: A person might have, considering that NPCs
threat that is not so unchallenging that the background (Unskilled=1, Skilled=2,
PCs will bowl it over in the rst round of Advanced Skill=3, Mastery=4). A shrine
combat, but not a threat that is so powerful maiden would have a Shinto rank of 2; a
that there is no statistical way for the PCs legendary warrior would clearly have a 4
to ever win against it (except for every or possibly even a 5 in Melee Weapons; a
single character sacricing themsleves with young ninja might have an Evasion skill of 2.
the Aiuchi technique), even when amassing If a simple NPC gets into a combat
Kiai and calling for a Moment of Truth. It encounter with a player character, you
may take one or two sessions to nd that will likely want to quickly take a minute to
balance. turn them into a detailed NPC. You will
de nitely want to stat out major enemies
SIMPLE NPCs and antagonists as detailed NPCs rather
Simple NPCs will provide simple adversity than simple ones. However, if a PC is
for the player characters. It is recommended determined to get in a ght with a simple
that sponsor, innocent, and information NPC, simply do the following:
NPCs be made in this fashion when you
are making an NPC on the y. You wont Double the Physical attribute: That
need to stat them out until a PC actually is the number of Vitality points the
tries to do something against them. Simple simple NPC has. Simple NPCs do not
NPCs only have attribute and skill levels, have Light, Medium or Heavy Wound
nothing else. Gauges.


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Equip the simple NPC with a weapon WHEN PCS BECOME ASURA
Take another look at the Physical During an intermission, at the end of the
attribute level and make adjustments up No-Self phase, if a PCs Karma score is
or down. still above 108, that character becomes an
Asura forever, an NPC controlled by the
This samurai is a legend, so I would bet hes
skilled with an Art of War. Instead of picking out
which Art and tracking the Arts special abilities, By managing Fates and their Kiai/Karma
Ill instead bump up his Physical attribute by 4 balance throughout the game, the player is
points to reect his skill with combat. never forced to become an Asura. In fact,
Or This shrine girl might be physically t its better to say that the only way for a PC
and have good senses, but shes not skilled with to become an Asura is for the player to
ghting. Ill lower her Physical attribute to 2 make the conscious choice to become one.
points. It does not happen by accident.
Add a Dead box. If you are statting out Once a PC becomes an Asura, the GM
a mass of individual small-beans enemy and player should discuss how and why it
happens. At that time (either in a special
types as a small combat challenge (zako,
scene right there, or in a scene to happen
in Japanese), you may want to skip giving
them a Dead box in order to keep combat early in the next act), the GM will set up an
Asura scene for the player. The focus of the
fast and exciting. If there are more than 4
enemies on the battleeld, most of them scene will be the events or emotions that
should not have a Dead box. Save the drive the character to become an Asura.
Dead box for the major boss NPCs. Role-play out the mental transformation
from a normal human into an evil, twisted,
NPCS AND FATES and obsessed shell of a human. This will
As a GM, you will likely want to assign be the last performance for that character
Fates to major NPCs, especially major before it is turned over to the GM to play
NPCs who support the PCs, and the in further scenes.
main enemies (and certainly the boss
enemy if there is one). You can put them ASURA AS ENEMIES
at whatever rank you see t. NPC Fates Asura can be introduced as extremely
are not rolled and have no mechanical powerful foes. They are enemies under the
weight, but they provide motivation to control of the GM who can make use of
make their personalities and goals more Kiai in the same manner that PCs can.
understandable and perhaps realistic. Asura start out with three times their
Spirit score in Kiai, and cannot receive
ASURA more. If you allow a player to continue
One nal thing to consider when making
playing their character as an Asura, then
Tenra scenarios is the role of Asura in your
they will receive a number of Kiai equal
game. Most enemies will be villainous, evil,
to the number of Aiki chits the player
and corrupt; however, they will still be
currently has, times the Spirit attribute
human in body and rotten soul. Few will be
rating of the character.
as obsessed and crazy as true Asura. Asura
enemies, including NPC Asura and PCs
who turn Asura, are extremely formidable
opponents to be used sparingly.


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entire campaign arc of drama, action, and

THE change emerges over the course of a single
session of play.
CAMPAIGN This element of character change is
GAME important to remember if you decide to run
TBZ as a campaign game. More than other
A campaign in tabletop RPG-speak is a tabletop RPGs, the character you begin
series of adventures strung together one the session with is often quite dierent
after another, where the players use the than the one remaining at the end of the
same characters in each adventure scenario scenario. If you keep this in mind, plus the
until they die or move on somehow. This fact that character change is inevitable in
is very much a standard way to play most the game, you can play TBZ as a series of
tabletop role-playing games. The PCs linked scenarios using the same (or mostly
gain experience and ability throughout the same) characters.
their adventures, and as the campaign of
interlinking adventures continues, the When it comes to campaign play, there are
heroes complete larger and larger goals. some kinds of settings which are ripe for
this kind of linked-scenario game.
Campaign play is not the default mode of
play for Tenra Bansho Zero. Normally, at SENKI-MONO:
the end of each scenario, the game moves THE WAR CHRONICLE
focus to another set of characters, another Some wars are so great that they leave
location, and another story. Sometimes, a scars that echo in history. The war
few of the PCs from the previous return chronicle campaign details the events of
to the next game, but usually not all of a war through the eyes of key characters
them at once. While campaign play is not in a chosen kingdom. Th is campaign is
the default mode of play for this game, similar to the kinds of campaigns we see
by keeping a few things in mind you can in computer or console RPGs, or tactical/
certainly enjoy TBZ as a campaign game. simulation RPGs. They are the focus of
tales like the Chinese Romance of the Three
THE TENRA-STYLE LONG Kingdoms or strategic tales of the ambition
CAMPAIGN of the Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga.
One scenario of Tenra Bansho Zero,
Other tales focus on the people driven
from beginning to end, lasts about 4-8
to rebel against unscrupulous rulers, or
hours of play. Usually, this occurs over
perhaps the leaders of a kingdom who
one single session of play, but can stretch
have to quash a chaotic rebellion. Classic
to 2-3 sessions depending on the length of
tales like Houshin Engi (Fengshen Yanyi in
your game sessions. (Playing all day on a
Chinese) or the Nanso Satomi Hakkenden
weekend grants more time than a few hours
aka The Tale of the Eight Dogs are virtue-
on a weekday evening, so adjustments
lled tales of families and companions on
have to be made to accommodate session
both sides of a revolution within a great
length). Within that period of time, the
characters come alive, their roles are played
out, and by the end of the session they have To make these kinds of stories into
usually changed in signicant ways. An campaigns, remember to make them big.
And while the scope of the war is huge, the
PCs will most likely be completing small


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but valuable goals in the corners, rather RENZOKU-MONO:

than taking center stage in the front lines of SERIALIZEDSTORIES
battles against armies of 10,000 warriors. Another style of campaign that works great
This kind of campaign takes a bit of is where a group of character companions
planning. The GM has to plan the stick to one location and perform missions,
successive events of the following scenarios, or where the companions travel from place
all the while taking into consideration the to place. The Japanese classic TV series
changes that are happening in the world Mito Komon, as well as the more popular
around them and bringing those changes (outside Japan) TV/movie series Zatoichi
into setting material into the next scenario: are great examples of a traveling tale. The
How will taking over a soulgem mine, or TV series Baian the Assassin is a serialized
defeating a legendary enemy samurai, or story about an assassin acupuncturist and
taking a capital city change the events in the his close friend as they take up jobs in
scenarios ahead? Its a bit more work than a old Edo and smite evil; even though they
single session game, but the campaign can dont often leave Tokyo for travel, they nd
become that much more exciting and epic trouble in all sorts of places with all sorts of
because of the eort put into it. new people in their adventures and dustups
within the old capital.
When planning out a war chronicle style
of game, you should determine how many In a serialized story, theres no set number
sessions of play the game will last. In other of sessions. While there is usually a core
words, break up this large campaign into a stable of player characters, some characters
set of interconnected scenarios. Setting the can change from session to session.
number of sessions or scenarios (4 is a good However, there is no solid connection or
round number for this kind of campaign.) progression of an overall plot like in the
is a good idea, because it gives the players war chronicle. Instead, the companions
an idea of the scope of the campaign and often do the same kinds of missions or
allows them to plan ahead. Its easier for scenarios, just with dierent NPCs and
them to make decisions like when their backgrounds.
characters die or if they become Asura if This can be a strength, though. The
they have an idea of the length of the overall serialized campaign style is perfect for
campaign. gaming clubs or social gaming groups
where you expect to have some members
DESTINIES IN THE not able to attend every session. Some of
WARCHRONICLE the player characters will form a stable, and
When planning Destinies for characters of if the player attends, their character can be
a war chronicle, its probably best to aim in that session. If someone cannot attend,
for Destinies that the character can carry there is no loss as their character is simply
from one scenario to the next, goal-based not used for that scenario. And nally, if a
Destinies which are both exaggerated and new member wants to join in for a session,
grandiose: theres no problem in introducing a new
Goal: Create an ideal kingdom character to the bunch.
Goal: Bring peace to the land


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DESTINIES IN If you create a scenario from the Zero Act

SERIALIZEDSTORIES scenes and carefully outline each scene in
Destinies in traveling tales-style campaigns detail from beginning to end, planning out
(serialized stories where the same the game rigidly, then the players will be
characters travel from place to place) will be doing nothing more than playing the role of
pretty much the same as individual sessions puppets. You might as well tell them their
of Tenra Bansho Zero: Each scenario will lines to say on top of that.
have the same crew of player characters, If you dont start with any preparation and
but will feature all new adventures, NPCs, let the players run the game completely,
goals, and enemies. youll have a meandering mess with no
punctuated breaks, dramatic ow, or likely

SCENARIO even a fullling ending.

Youll want to try to balance these two
ADVICE extremes when you plan out your games.
Creating ideas for strong Zero Act scenes,
Up until now, weve broken down the acts
then a light outline of what you would
of creating scenarios and campaigns for
imagine happening from there (as well as
Tenra Bansho Zero. In this last section
a few NPCs with stats and some ideas for
of this chapter, were going to look at some
cool things that you want to have happen),
advice, mostly for the game master, that
is probably the best way to go. If you are
may help you when running TBZ for your
new to creating scenarios, then you might
rst few sessions. Some of the advice may
want to write your scenario outline in more
seem contradictory, but everything is a
detail, but be willing and ready to eject,
little lesson you can choose to use or ignore
dismiss, and throw away entire scenes or
as you build your own style of GMing.
sections from your plan if it doesnt t with
There is more GM-centric advice in the
the players choices.
Advice section of this book, and some of
the important bits here are restated and AD-LIBBING
emphasized. You dont have to use every Once you get used to the feel of the game,
piece of advice, but some of it may make you can begin stepping away more and
your games exciting and memorable. more from pre-written scenario notes, and
create the game as it happens. After you get
THE GREAT TENRA a feel for the balance mentioned above in
CONTRADICTION crafting a completely planned-out scenario,
As you are reading this book, youve
then you can start to ad-lib your scenarios
probably noticed the heavy inuence of
with little preparation.
Zero Acts, scenes, acts and intermissions
in planning a scenario. Creating a scenario Ad-libbing is not simply running a game
for Tenra Bansho is an exercise in without preparing anything. Instead,
contradiction. The game requires players to you come up with some ideas, do a little
make choices and steer the direction of the preparation, and focus on the situation at
game, yet the game needs to have at least the table. You can try to determine where
that initial framework in order for the GM the players will head next, and plan in
to plan what happens next. your head for the next reaction, event or
scene. It is still recommended that if you


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 160 12/19/12 12:10 AM


decide to ad-lib a scenario, you should still Finally, dont get upset or mad if the player
design good Zero Act scenes and plan the characters do something unexpected! Its
Destinies out in advance. your responsibility to react to the players
However, once you give the Destinies and let them create the adventure. It may
to the players, you will see them try to take some practice, but weaving a story
reach those goals themselves, driving the as the players create events is part of the
adventure forward without you having challenge and excitement of being the GM.
to pull it along. The skill of the GM can LIMITING CHARACTER
be seen in watching what the players do, CHOICES IS OKAY
anticipating their next moves, coming up Its tempting to keep the game open as
with challenges and events to react to those much as possible, allowing the players to
moves, and keeping this back-and-forth step in from the beginning and make up
action continuing smoothly and naturally characters from scratch. Letting players
throughout the session. It will take some make their own characters is ne, but it
practice. can put some stress on the GM up front.
DONT SWEAT THE If theres some time (as in, a few days or
SCENARIODETAILS a week) in between the time where the
Often, youll create a scenario and think players make their characters and the GM
of possible ways for the players to progress creates the scenario, then allowing players
through the story. The players will surprise to make their own characters is a great way
you. They always will. Perhaps they want to get the GMs brain thinking of a good
to make friends with the villain, or go to scenario for them.
the next (undened town) to do something However, if the GM has a scenario
you hadnt planned for. You will almost planned ahead of time, its probably best to
always nd yourself changing the scenario tighten the reins on character creation by
as it happens. About half the material you forcing the players to create specic types
think of may go unused, while another half of characters, if not outright providing
of the scenario will be written on the y premade characters from the start. Some of
from creating new paths when reacting to the more focused stories can come from the
the players actions. GM planning out the scenario situation
Th is quick thinking and reacting to the in advance, and putting limits on player
players actions is part of the surprise and characters. Okay, this scenario calls for
fun of being a GM! Make sure that you one ninja, a samurai, a kugutsu, and either
dont force the characters down the roads a kijin or kongohki, or This is going to be
you paved in your story. You should be an oni-focused scenario, so at least three of
worried if you have gotten to near the end you need to have oni archetypes of some
of the session and you have not changed any kind are both acceptable ways of setting
of your session plans. This is usually (but up character creation.
not always) a sign that you are likely forcing One thing to keep in mind is that if you
the players back on track to walk through limit character choices, that you should still
your prepared thought-out story, rather allow the players freedom in their actions.
than nding their own paths. In other words, if you insist that there is
a samurai character, but the samurais
player is making decisions and playing in


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ways that you didnt expect, then as the to choose between stopping the shikigami
GM, you should try to go with the ow. and chasing down the onmyoji, or coming
Dont try too hard to force them into the up with a clever way to do both
decisions that you expected them to make. The oni chieftain gathers the PCs
Just something to be mindful of. around a campfire. While he talks in
WHEN IN DOUBT, START hushed tones about the past, he shares a
WITHTHE SITUATION conversation through telepathy with the
Coming up with a scenario idea from other oni, telling them that the tribe is
scratch can be hard work. Sometimes going to revolt against the humans.
youll want to get feedback from peers on The ninja PC meets the enemy ninja boss
the internet or use friends as a sounding in the woods, where the boss reveals that
board for your ideas. he is the PCs brother.
The best place to start is with some kind A yari-wielding armour falls out of the
of situation. From here, you can come up sky and lands in front of the PCs.
with the details of the situation like NPCs, The prince of the domain invites the
sides of the con ict, events which may PCs for tea. They have to try to get the
occur, and things like that. For example, information they need from him all while
a simple situation is Our domain is under being polite and formal.
attack. That implies that theres at least
two sides of this battle, our domain and Theres a battle over the hovering
the other guys. It also implies some NPCs Priesthood capital of Genshikyo, where
are involved, like the lord of the domain, the combatants are riding on the backs of
the enemy lord or shogun, and a few allies ferocious shikigami spirits.
and enemies. Throw in some minor goals, Having little ideas like this planned out
and youre just about ready. makes them likely to happen and will
certainly spice up the game a little. If the
AFTER THE SITUATION, THROW scenario moves away from your planned
IN SOME MEMORABLE SCENES events in new directions, try to come up
While youre probably not going to create with another cool scene to replace the one
the scenario from the ground up and plan that you planned out (or make it happen,
out every Act and Scene in minute detail but in another location or in a slightly
(which wouldnt allow much wiggle room dierent way.)
for the characters), its important for the
GM to at least plan out a few memorable REMEMBER THE HARD CHOICES
scenes that she wishes to see happen in the Like the above, when planning out
game. For example: memorable scenes, remember to include
Four samurai attack the players inside a few hard choices as well. Planning out
the multi-tiered pagoda, and theres at the events surrounding the hard choices
least one swordght on the roof. in advance (You can always change the
details on the y as the scenario changes
The enemy onmyoji summons a terrible through the players actions.) will help you
shikigami which immediately begins to remember to include those choices, even if
rampage through the town. The PCs have you dont use them all.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 162 12/19/12 12:10 AM


You can chase the nefarious ninja clan have character Fates pointed at each other.
members as they assault the castle, which The best way to push this hard is for the
may give the ninja leaders a chance to GM to make sure to force a few scenes
escapeOr you can leave the castle to where there are only two player characters
its fate and instead go to the undefended (or one player character and a major NPC)
ninja clans village and attempt to kill the in the scene.
unguarded leaders, eectively destroying If the GM feels like the PCs havent done
the clan. enough inter-character talking, a great
Th is scoundrel has lied to you at least thing to do is to call for a scene. Declare
three times. You can help free him from that only 2 (or 3) PCs are in it to start, set
the corrupt local police who have captured the location and time, and give them a brief
him for stealing and plan to execute him rundown of whats going on and what they
(a punishment far more severe than the should do. This is great for characters who
crime warrants)Or you can leave him have Fates with each other. Even though
to his fate and stay out of the way of the these scenes wont last too long (usually a
regent-backed police force: After all, he minute or two), they are a great way to allow
did lie to you and steal from you earlier. the players to develop their characters a
You can accept the princes offer of little more. Its also a great opportunity for
marriage and risk your new status and the players to get some Aiki chits through
honor when you try to leave the fortress role-playing in character. Finally, its also a
to help your friends (but at least you will great way to exercise the Spend one Kiai
be able to requisition the equipment point to enter the scene rule; eventually,
and troops that your friends need to youre going to have a scene between two
bring down the evil wandering monk) - PCs, and a third player will want to have
Or you can snub the prince to continue their PC enter that scene to either take part
journeying with your companions, but in the discussion, or else simply be present
you wont be able to ask for the resources to listen to what the other characters are
that you need to defeat the evil monk, discussing.
meaning that it is very likely some or all For example: Given the characters Princess
of you will die. Rin and Kenzaburo the Edge (where one of
You can bring the orphan with you, these characters has a Fate with the other):
putting her at risk to the assassins that Okay, next scene. You guys were traveling
want to kill you - Or you can leave her in to the next town. In this scene, youve
the ruins of her home with a little money, stopped at a roadside tea house. Rin and
hoping that shell be able to fend for Kenzaburo are drinking tea and eating
herself (but be free from potential harms while the others are elsewhere.
way aimed at the PCs). Everyone is exploring the haunted town
SPLIT THE PLAYER at night. Lets see lets have Rin and
CHARACTERS UP Kenzaburo o by themselves at the towns
In many classic role-playing games, the well. Rin, you just watched Kenzaburo
characters travel almost everywhere the Edge kill four presumably bad people
together. In Tenra Bansho Zero, theres a without remorse. Lets see you tell him
bit of emphasis on inter-character drama what you thought of his actions. Go!
and relationships: The PCs usually will


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 163 12/19/12 12:10 AM


Youre about to ght your brother, Rin; game that would not have been there if the
you know hes behind all this and youre GM took on all the NPC roles. The GM
about to confront him. As you try to get can harness that chaos to advance the story.
yourself calm and prepared for this task, Minor roles are great to hand out to the
Kenzaburo finds you. Hes got a few players, because the things they say and
things to say before you go. What do you do will oer background for the scene and
say, Kenzaburo? give it more color. Major roles are great to
Putting a question to one of the players, or hand out for the reason of the randomness/
giving them a starting place to role-play, controlled chaos as described above: Since
is a great way to kick o these kinds of the player doesnt know specically what
split-party scenes. It gets the role-playing the GM had in mind for that character,
started, so that it doesnt stall as the players the player might say something cool or
hem and haw at something to talk about. dierent as an NPC that sets o a spark
Look around the table: If you see players in the GMs imagination or catches her o
who have managed to play through an act guard, leading to a new direction for the
for a long time, but dont have that many scene, the character relationship, or even
Aiki chits in front of them, then its a good the scenario. This happens quite a lot in
idea to get them into their own scenes by actual play.
themselves so that they have a chance to If the GM has something specific that
share the spotlight in front of the others. she needs to have an NPC say or do, she
can of course step in, momentarily take
LET THE PLAYERS PLAY control of the NPC from the player, do or
THEROLES OF NPCS say what is needed, and then either keep
The GM traditionally plays the roles of the role for the rest of the scene or else turn
all the non-player characters that come the role back over to the player character.
into the scenes. However, not every player Sometimes the GM will want to have a
character will be in every scene. This particular NPC do or say a very specic
usually means that the players are sitting thing at a specic time (like oer a clue,
out a scene or two (or acting as scene judges give valuable information, or say something
and passing Aiki chits) while the other that will change their relationship to a PC).
players role-play with each other and the In those cases, its totally ne for the GM
GM. to take back control of the character and
One thing the GM can do is turn over the continue forward.
control of major or minor NPCs in the scene Remember to award an Aiki chit to players
to players whose characters are not in the who take on minor or major NPC roles for
scene. Be it a small role like the master of an a scene. Even though their own PC did
inn, a guardsman, a performer, or a passing not enter the scene, the player did, and
child; or even a large role like the lord of the thus they should be given an Aiki chit in
domain, an enemy samurai, another PCs accordance with the rules for being brought
lover or friend, or even the scenarios main into a scene, as well as further Aiki chits
antagonist; giving these roles to the players if they entertain the other players as per
gives them an opportunity to play someone the normal Aiki rules usually associated to
dierent than their own character. It also role-playing their own character.
adds a little randomness or chaos to the


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 164 12/19/12 12:10 AM


FAILURE SHOULDNT BREAK roll against the Regent, who has a Station
THE GAME of 15 and an Art of Rule skill ranked at
There are many times in a game where a Master (4), so get ready to spend that
GM may call for a Senses: Notice roll to Kiai. If you succeed, hell realize the
spot a clue or a Spirit: Persuasion roll to folly of the war and immediately call for
convince someone to do something for negotiations with his enemy. If you fail,
you. One thing to be very aware of is that hell call for negotiations in an attempt to
you dont create a task where a PCs failure personally assassinate the enemy regent
stops the game cold. when they meet (presumably the PCs will
If there is a clue that needs to be found, be there to try to stop him from doing so).
simply have the characters in the scene As a GM, your main task is to make sure
make a Senses: Notice roll, and the PC the game proceeds smoothly, and part of
with the most successes nds it. If there is that is ensuring that no single die roll can
an NPC who needs to be convinced to do a stop a game dead. The best way around
task essential to the scenario, simply have those situations is to, in the cases where
the PC roll for it, where success or failure the PCs need to complete a task in order to
comes down to Does this NPC willingly move the scenario forward, make success a
help you, or does he grudgingly help you given, and simply change failure to include
then quickly alert your enemies?, and not a future complication for the PCs at some
Does he help you or not? point.
There are many ways for the GM to describe CREATIVE TASK ROLLS
a task that will keep the story moving even Once youre familiar with the basic rules
if the character fails. of Tenra Bansho Zero (and maybe have
You are in the hut of the Ashen Ninja. You played a scenario or two), as a GM, you are
need three successes on a Senses: Notice free to play with the rules - even bending
roll to nd the Ultimate Arts scroll (the them or inventing new rules - to come up
object the PCs need to continue the with unique tasks with creative success and
scenario) before the ninjas return. If you failure conditions.
fail, theyll spot you and attack. You are in the hut of the Ashen Ninja.
The swordsmith crosses his arms and Youre looking for the Ultimate Arts
refuses to bind your shiki prayer strip scroll. Everyone in the hut roll Senses:
into the blade of his masterwork sword Notice. The one with the highest score
(the object the PCs need to continue the finds the scroll. Anyone with two
scenario). You need two successes on a successes is unaected. If you have less
Spirit: Persuasion roll to convince him to than two successes, you get hit with a trap
do it. Otherwise, he will refuse, and youll for 5 damage, minus the successes from
have to do a hard task for him rst. your Senses: Notice roll.
The regent is adamant in his position to The swordsmith crosses his arms and
continue the war (the condition needed to refuses to bind your shiki prayer strip
end the scenario), despite the fact that you to the blade of his masterwork sword.
dispatched the assassin who was aiming You can certainly convince him to do it,
for his life. Youll need to roll Station: Art because its for the good of the domain
of Rule to convince him to negotiate peace and all. Roll your Spirit: Persuasion or
and call o the war. It will be a contested Station: Persuasion against his Spirit:


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 165 12/19/12 12:10 AM


Willpower. Youre trying to convince In most cases, you dont need to creatively
him to put all his eort into this task. For bend the rules. Simply sticking to normal
every success you get over him, add +1 to tasks (as per the rules) will create scenarios
the damage of the sword (starting from 0) that are exciting and varied. These
up to a total of +6. If the blacksmith wins, alternative GM-created tasks are best
he crafts the sword anyway but without suited to situations where one roll (with
putting his heart into it, and the shiki creative success and failure results) would
spirit curses the sword: Its damage will prevent a string of linked success/fail skill
be -2, meaning that you have to get at least tasks in a row which might be otherwise
three successes over the enemy in combat boring.
rolls to do any damage at all with it.
The regent listens to your plea for The player characters are competent, heroic
peace with open ears, especially since people who are better than most common
you dispatched the assassin who was people at most activities. However, failure
aiming at his life. Hell quickly arrange happens, and when it does, be prepared to
a meeting with the opposing regent and describe the results.
negotiate peace. Roll your Station: Art
of Rule against his to see how much An easy way to describe failure is with a
pressure you can put upon him to do so whi .
right away. If you succeed, hell meet the He evaded, so your sword swing missed.
neighboring regent without delay. If you
You cant convince the monk to let you
fail, every success the regent had above
into the cloister.
your total represents 1,000 soldiers and
townspeople who died in the war while You failed at healing the samurais
the regent made the arrangements. Out wounds.
of those thousands of deaths, there will You tried to forge a security pass, but
be some who will have heard of what dont succeed.
transpired today, and hold you directly
The above failures are all ne: Sometimes
responsible for the loss of their loved
a failure is just a failure. However, dont get
stuck in the trap of thinking that all failures
Be careful with these more advanced represent some failing of the characters
examples, though. They actually dont ability or skill. Through describing the
relate to any rules in the book. Even though failure, you can create failure events that
they kind of make sense, theyre the result of take into consideration the characters
some improvisational GM creativity. This skill, but in the end the task failed because
is great, but it also means that the rules in of some event outside of the character that
the book that the players are familiar with the character cant control. For example, to
dont apply as written. Make sure to state re-describe the above four failures in a way
rules changes clearly, indicating the results that doesnt involve simple whing:
of success and failure beforehand in those
Your sword strikes true, impaling his
cases. See the bending rules explanation
throat on its sharp tip or wait? What
below for more examples of coming up with
is this? For any other man, hed be
GM rulings on the y.
skewered at the end of your sword as you
just saw in your minds eye. But because
of his superior training, he threw himself


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 166 12/19/12 12:10 AM


backwards out of harms way just as your LET THE PLAYERS DESCRIBE
blade pierced the air where he stood just WHAT HAPPENS
a moment ago. Describing the events of success or failure
You seem to get through to the monk, when the dice hit the table is great fun, and
expressing your urgency. He seems to adds a lot of avor to the game. In many
hesitate for a moment, and thats when tabletop role-playing games, the GM is
the head abbot appears behind him encouraged to interpret the results of the
from the courtyard and clears his throat. characters successes and failures. It is often
Feeling the abbots glare on the back of exciting to instead let the players describe
his neck, he slowly turns back to you, a their successes or failures from time to
tear of sweat rolling down his cheek, and time, especially during combat. The players
rmly tells you that no one is allowed in have a good grasp of their character, and
the cloister. what they would like to see happen when
they succeed or fail at a task.
These wounds that bizarre annelid
has some kind of rending mandible youve So turn the description of the success or
never seen before. Youve never seen failure over to the player:
wounds like this, and your traditional You hit him with your sword. Tell me
healing skills havent prepared you for what happens.
treating this kind of wound. You do what You succeed in your Station: Etiquette
you can, but you fear its not enough. roll against the princess. What do you say
You successfully forged your pass the to her that causes her to clamp up?
day before and are now in line at the He hits you with his sword for 12
Gate of Lions, awaiting inspection. As damage. Where does he hit you, and what
your hand moves over the folded paper in do you do?
your pocket, you happen to glance over
your shoulder at the family in front of You fail to see the ninjas lying in ambush
you: Their pass seems to have a dierent for you in the forest. This is something
format than yours. You glance back you normally would have noticed, but not
nonchalantly and happen to see the pass of this time. Why were you distracted?
a merchant behind you, which conrmed The last question to the player is, as an
your nagging suspicion. Damn, they must example, a little more out there than
have recently changed the format for the the others. Still, consider it the advanced
security passes in this district. If you walk form of letting players describe their
to the gate holding this forged piece of success or failure, even if its a little esoteric.
paper, youll be arrested for sure.
The characters still fail, but the failures
can be more interesting, lead to more
Encourage your players to help bring the
detail, and allow the characters to fail for
world to life by adding little details to the
reasons outside of their character, rather
world, usually through their characters.
than their skill wasnt good enough. Still,
Dont have them rely upon you all the
a real failure/whi every now and then
time to bring the setting details to life.
can also keep the characters grounded in
Remember, there is no single World of
reality: They dont have to be Awesome, All
Tenra; the only Tenra that exists is the one
The Time.
that you and your friends create together.


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 167 12/19/12 12:10 AM


The GM will certainly have elements that PLAYER: Its in a red lacquered sheath, and
will be brought into the scenario to set the has gold and ivory etchings on the handle. Its a
backdrop of the game. However, the parts prized weapon that her father handed down to
that dont relate directly to the scenario her, and was given to her father by the shogun of
the domain.
should be introduced by the players.
GM: Hmmm The shogun? Thats pretty
Heres an example of relying on the GM for
impressive. Like, almost too impressive. Not
background information:
sure if knowing the shogun would really work
PLAYER: Princess Rin comes from a capital city
here, that seems a little too much
near the ocean. Whats the name of a capital city
near the ocean in this domain? PLAYER: Well, she doesnt know the shogun
personally or anything like that, she cant call
GM: Hmmm How about Oceans Hollow?
on him for aid or whatever. I was just thinking
PLAYER: Okay. Also, she has some kind of that maybe there might be some high lords of the
weapon. In the culture of Tenra, is it okay for domain that recognize the quality and origins of
princesses to walk around with daggers openly? this ancestral gift. I gure its a tool that shows o
Also, who would have given her a dagger? Some her high Station attribute.
kind of vassal lord?
GM: Oh, that totally works then.
GM: (thinking) Sure. In this domain, which is
The GM jots down some notes.
rather infamous for its warlike tendencies, even
princesses and ladies carry weapons openly. If Both examples are excellent examples of using
someone gave you a dagger Hmmm, let me setting in play, and creating it as the game
look in the vassals section of the rulebook for an progresses. You dont have to turn over the reins
appropriate type of person to have given you that to the players to create all of the setting, but the
dagger GM should not have to be the single player who
controls the setting: The players can and should
Heres an example of the player taking
step up and be creative.
control of the setting:
PLAYER: Princess Rin comes from Sea Edge. If the player takes this creative invention a
little too far and it starts to interfere with
GM: Sea Edge?
the scenario, the GM should absolutely
PLAYER: Yeah. Its a lesser capital city of the feel free to reel things back in, ask for
domain which sits on the ocean. Its the launching clarification, or suggest alternatives. In
station for the ship eets of the domain. Oh, and most cases, though, such narration is
I gure that Rin is the daughter of some vassal
just a way for the player to add some cool
warlord who earned his status through naval
descriptive spice to the game. Sometimes,
those descriptions can even help the GM
GM: Sounds ne (writes down a few notes). push the scenario forward or give her new
Whats the fathers name?
ideas for things to bring into the game.
PLAYER: hmmm
GM: Oh, thats okay, its not important now. Let
Fishing, aka Prompting, is the
me know if you think of something later.
nickname for a technique used by GMs
PLAYER: Also, Rin carries a wicked shortsword thats similar to whats called reection in
psychological circles. It refers to the GM
GM: Whats it look like? shing for ideas from the players. Its a
great technique that a GM can use to get a
player to come up with a cool background,
description, or reasoning that the GM


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 168 12/19/12 12:10 AM


can then incorporate into the game. Its some great creativity into a scenario and
excellent for less structured games, but if give the GM material to work with to
a GM is running a very structured game, reincorporate into the game, it puts a lot
she should be prepared, as it could change of stress on the players to come up with
the plot or events of the scenario around something creative on the y. If the player
(usually only temporarily, or to provide is able to react and come back with a good
color, but sometimes more.) reply, they might even be given an Aiki chit.
Basically, the technique is this: The GM One thing to be wary of: Fishing can derail
sets up an event, an item, a person, or a the game a little if the player comes back
scene, and then tells the player to nish with a totally unexpected or intriguing
describing it, usually using very open- response. It can in turn stymie the GM,
ended questions: who might have diculty reincorporating
the players description and continuing on
As you walk through the graveyard, you with the scene properly. It can make the
come to a dead stop. The marker on this scenario too chaotic, and overusing shing
gravestone has your full attention. Whose as a technique will make your scenario start
name is written on the gravestone? looking more like a series of psychological
The swordmaster hands you his katana experiment questions for the players than
for inspection. Theres something odd an adventure scenario.
about this katana, though. What do you Fishing is a great technique, but we
nd strange about it? recommend that you start using it slowly
As you walk through the crowd, you come and get used to it over time, and dont over-
upon an old monk playing the shamisen use it.
in front of a small crowd of onlookers. But
wait theres something familiar about BENDING THE RULES FOR
this monk, or that instrument, or the THESAKE OF THE SCENARIO
music that hes playing. Something thats The setting of Tenra is huge, and there are
right on the tip of your tongue, something no limits to the potential things that can
that bothers you. What is it? happen in the game. If the GM understands
the rules and knows their purposes, then
You get to the inn before nightfall, and she should have no problem changing them
soak in the hot springs around the back. as needed to create exciting scenarios.
You close your eyes as you take in the
sounds and smells of the winter forest. For example:
As youre relaxing, you hear footsteps The GM crafts a shikigami that will serve
approach the outdoor bath. You can tell as a suitable boss ght for the player
who it is without even having to open characters. An evil onmyoji will summon
your eyes. Who is it? it and it will attack the PCs. However,
Before the lord leaves the room, he says when she does the math, she realizes
something under his breath that catches that the shiki is too powerful: It would
your attention. What does he say? cost too much Soul to cast, and theres no
way that the onmyoji would have the skill
You should not overuse this technique: alone according to the rules to summon
About once per player per session should this monstrous creature.
be more than enough, and even then, it
might be too much. While it can inject


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 169 12/19/12 12:10 AM


Solution: Do it anyway. Feel free to keep enemys skills or attributes if the enemy
the players in the dark as to the power level,looks too tough, then the players will
or simply describe the onmyoji as having never gamble their Kiai points or put their
tapped into forbidden power or some characters at risk for death. If you decide
other way that he was able to summon such to raise an enemys skills or attributes if
a creature. an enemy looks too weak, then the players
The GM creates a scenario where one of might not have the Kiai or resources left to
the goals is to capture a special interface put up any resistance whatsoever.
helm in order to hijack a conscious enemy With the combat power of enemies and
kongohki. There are no rules as written boss characters, its always best to try to
which give miko agents, puppeteers set the attributes and skills ahead of time
or armour riders the ability to use an and stick with them. Youll get used to
interface helm to hijack a conscious (that how to balance an enemy after a scenario
is, not just a shell) enemy kongohki. or two. However, mistakes can happen,
Solution: The GM creates the rules. She so as a GM, you should feel free to make
says that this is a special interface helm, adjustments on the y using your common
and tells the players that when they wear sense.
it they can make a Spirit: Interface roll GET OUT AND PLAY
against the kongohkis Spirit: Willpower. Hopefully youre ready at this point to
Every success the player gets means a die give the game a shot. Remember that
penalty to that enemy kongohki in combat. theres no such thing as a perfect session.
The GM writes down the stats for the Your GM skills, and the role-play skills of
games single nal boss ahead of time, your players, will develop in time through
a powerful samurai. As the battle begins practice. If you have a cold session that
and the samurai takes damage, the GM doesnt run smoothly, try running again
realizes suddenly that the final boss later. Over time, youll become comfortable
samurai is in no way powerful enough to with playing the game.
cause much of a threat to the PCs, and So stop reading this book now, and start
will certainly die in two rounds without organizing your rst session!
putting up a struggle.
Solution: The GM could have other
enemies appear (ninjas attack as well!), or
simply boost the abilities of the samurai a
little: Add 20 Vitality points. Add a second
Dead Box. Boost his melee weapons skill
from 4 to 5. Have him suddenly unleash
an annelid electrical strike or produce
mechanica arms and weapons from
underneath his kimono.
While its totally acceptable to make
changes to the rules on the y, make sure
to be aware of the consequences, especially
when changing the diculties of enemies
on the y. If you are too quick to lower an


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 170 12/19/12 12:10 AM

a persona, a voice
a representation of all that is in tenra
a force of change, a paragon, a whirlwind
these are the characters we make

tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 171 12/19/12 12:10 AM

tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 172 12/19/12 12:10 AM
Yoroi armours are the products of generations of Priesthood-backed technological
innovation. They are the terrors of the battleeld, and even one is enough to make an
army of men ee. Meikyo armours are carefully crafted works of art of high quality, while
kimen armours are mass-produced of lesser quality. Subtle dierences arise between
meikyo and kimenkyo versions, so take care to learn those dierences.


Any Karma gained by a pilot while interfaced with a meikyo soul mirror is absorbed by
the meikyo. That total gets added immediately to the meikyos Karma pool: When the
rider spends Kiai while interfaced, it immediately becomes Karma.
A side-eect of the spiritual nature of the meikyo soul mirror is that, the more Karma
builds up inside a meikyo, the more powerful it becomes. At certain levels of meikyo
buildup, a bonus in dice is added to every single roll using the armours body, agility, or
senses while piloting the armour. The deeper the Karma level of a meikyo mirror, the
stronger its reactions become. They become more powerful the closer they are to the edge
of breaking and turning into an Asura. Eventually, meikyo-driven armours will seem to
react quickly and powerfully at the slightest exertion of will.

Karma Additional Dice
0-20 +0
21-40 +1
41-60 +2
61-80 +3
81-100 +4
101-108 +5
109+ +6

tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 173 12/19/12 12:10 AM


The only way to reduce a meikyos Karma armour eventually rejects them due to their
without Buddhist intervention is for the maturity and worldliness, many children
rider to accept the meikyos Karma as her go on to become kimen armour pilots.
own, then try to reduce her Karma by
changing or erasing Fates if necessary. See ARMOUR AND KONGOHKI
the Karma rules section for more details REPAIR
on how to do this. There is also a Buddhist Yoroi armour repair happens in a way that
magic spell called Mitama-Gaeshi which is very similar to how the skill rst aid helps
can be used to reduce the Karma of a people recover from wounds. However,
meikyo mirror. See the Buddhist Magic instead of nding a medic to roll Senses:
rule section for details on this spell. First Aid on their body, the pilot needs to
nd an onmyoji to perform a Knowledge:
When determining the starting Karma
Onmyojutsu roll to repair the wounds
for an armour-rider, the split is simple. 10
taken by the armour.
points of that total Karma belong to the
rider herself, and all of the rest belong to ARMOUR-SPECIFIC
the armours meikyo. RULES
Kimen armours are mass-produced, but EXITINGARMOUR
they too rely on onmyojutsu magic and A pilot must possess the Interface skill.
high technology to function just like their The combined Karma of the rider and the
meikyo counterparts. However, they armours meikyo mirror must be less than
operate on lesser kimen calculating devices 108. If these conditions are not met, then
instead of meikyo soul mirrors. the armours meikyo will not be accessible,
even with an interface helm. The pilot will
This means that kimen armour and kimen
be locked out, and the armour will reject
kongohki do not benet from the Karma
any further attempt for them to interface.
bonus that their meikyo counterparts
receive. This fact accounts for the high It takes a pilot one major action to enter or
difference in quality and operational exit an armour in combat. As per the rules
functionality. Meikyo devices crafted by of spending Kiai in combat, an armour-
the Shinto Priesthood are always superior rider can spend a point of Kiai to perform
because their devices run on more natural, more actions the same round they enter an
human urges that reside in the human soul. armour.
However, there is merit in not having Outside of combat, an armour can be
a meikyo: There is no accumulation of entered or exited as they see t. Most pilots
Karma in a kimenkyo; all Karma gained will leave their armour outside of a village
while in a kimen armour goes to the pilot. or in a designated stable when traveling
This means that the pilot will never be cut in one of the great cities. The armour is
o from the armour, and that the armour locked using a code or key held only by
will never trap the pilot inside. the pilot. Only higher-ranked Priesthood
agents have the skill or ability to hijack a
Since there is no chance of rejection from
pilotless armour, so armour pilots never
the soul mirror during Karma buildup, it is
worry about someone stealing or messing
common to see more teenagers and adults
with their ride.
piloting kimen armours. When their


tbz_v2_book2_r11.indd 174 12/19/12 12:10 AM


PILOTING ARMOUR BODY: This represents the pure physical

When piloting armour, the armours stats power and stability of the frame. Just like
for Body, Agility and Senses are used. human characters, body also represents the
The pilot uses her Interface skill for every Vitality and Wound levels for an armour.
single physical-based roll while piloting the
AGILITY: Agility represents the pure
armour: Attacking, shooting, spotting, speed and reexes that the frame is capable
climbing, evading, and so on. Remember of. In combat, a frame can move 20 times
to add the meikyo bonus to all rolls in an its Agility score in meters every round.
armour. Outside of combat, a frame can move up
If the pilot is skilled in an Art of War, to 10 times its Agility score in kilometers
they can use their skills while piloting each hour.
their armour. However, since those arts SENSES: Senses are a representation
are steeped in physical training, they must of the strength of the sensors and sense-
use the appropriate skill (Melee Weapons, amplication equipment that the frame
Marksman, Unarmed Combat, etc) instead contains. Armour can eectively see up
of Interface when performing maneuvers to a range of 100 times its Senses score in
with Art of War. The meikyo bonus still meters. They also have an innate ability
applies while piloting the armour. called Lifepulse, which is a kind of sonar
If the combined Karma total of the pilot that detects all living things human-
and armour meikyo goes over 108 while sized and larger within its normal eld of
piloting the armour, the pilots soul vision. It quickly allows the unit to detect
becomes trapped inside the meikyo and the approximate size and number of
cannot wake up or escape, forever. people moving nearby (including kugutsu
and shikigami spirits). The range of the
Lifepulse is equal to a radius of Senses
ARMOUR times 10 meters.

CREATION Yoroi armours have no soul of their own, so

they only have the above three attributes.