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Old 05-06-2017, 09:34 AM   #1
Greg 1
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Default DF: Where do Martial Artists and Ninja come from?

I tend to imagine martial artist and ninja characters as either coming from a distant land far to the east, or as having been trained by a person from a distant land far to the east.

Obviously, neither the rules nor dungeon fantasy tradition require this.

Where have the martial artists and ninja in your games come from?

Edit: Shall I be first to double entendre the question? Where do Ninja come from? Well, sometimes an assassin and a martial artist love each other very much, and..

Last edited by Greg 1; 05-06-2017 at 09:38 AM.
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Old 05-06-2017, 09:47 AM   #2
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Default Re: DF: Where do Martial Artists and Ninja come from?

In my last game the Ninja came from a) a distant island archipelago and b) the City of Shadows (the capital of the shadow elves; a dangerous ancient metropolis ruled by a thousand secret societies), the first ninja's clan was actually founded by a refugee from the City of Shadows, so ultimately Ninja came from (b).
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Old 05-06-2017, 09:58 AM   #3
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Default Re: DF: Where do Martial Artists and Ninja come from?

Non-DF answer:

Martial Artists come from my China-expy region, but even they prefer to use weapons such as staves and butterfly swords. Ninja don't exist - at least not by that name (the Chinese forerunner of the ninja is viable, though, and would probably use the ninja template).

For the most part, my Martial Artists are Shaolin monks that scattered after their temple was destroyed....
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Old 05-06-2017, 10:15 AM   #4
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Default Re: DF: Where do Martial Artists and Ninja come from?

I regard Ninja as a spectrum disorder. Sufficently martial-artsy assassins are indistinguishable from ninja, albeit a bit less trope-y (no slitted masks, no Kobudo weaponry).

There's no Real Ultimate Power in my campaign. I know, totally non-sweet, but while Western fantasy is quite a-historic and generic, at least from our point of views, ninja are a bit too culturally specific for my tastes. It's like having carbon copy Roman legions...

My most recent ninja-expys are the result of an assasin guild being "taken over" by a "monk" the PCs freed at the start of the campaign. Old dungeon, closed from the outside world for centuries, while some martial arts cultists bred with their shadow wifes.

Other than that, dark elves are remarkably close, especially after the LotR movies moved elven weaponry in the weeaboo direction.
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Old 05-06-2017, 10:19 AM   #5
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Default Re: DF: Where do Martial Artists and Ninja come from?

In the DF games I've been in, we've had no Ninja (that I know...) but we've had two Martial Artists... I think. I forget the details of where one came from, the player abandoned the idea pdq, but I'm pretty sure he was faux-Asian from some unspecified place. The other was a pretty European-seeming tiger-man, absent the clothing which seemed as much North African as Asian. I don't think the tiger-man had a particular origin mentioned in the game world, but it was a while ago too.

We've also had a character whom you could be forgiven for thinking was a Martial Artist, but was basically a Barbarian who wrestled. He was a coleopteran with a giant fiddler-crab claw, and came from an underground, Underdark-y region of the world. You can't say that he related to any real world human cultures at all.
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Old 05-06-2017, 11:59 AM   #6
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Default Re: DF: Where do Martial Artists and Ninja come from?

For my work-in-progress fantasy world, the primary culture is pseudo-European and resides in the northern continents. The south lacks continents, instead consisting entirely of islands (albeit some decently large ones), and is pseudo-Asian, probably more pseudo-Japanese than anything else. The latter is where the Chi-wielding Martial Artists and Ninja come from. While things are mostly DF-tastic, I interpret those two a bit differently, making them something more like Chi-based supers than the weird esoteric Martial Artist class, and the ninja-expy's are more like the revamped Martial Artists with moar sneaks (in fact, once I've formalized the templates, the ninja will probably be a lens rather than a distinct template). In fact, the example Ninja character I'm working with fights almost completely unarmed (she uses some traps and thrown weapons, but the latter just for delivering poisons or activating traps from a distance), and utilizes Chi blasts in addition to preternatural stealth. Her backstory has her learning her skills from Martial Artist equivalents, adapting them for her unique body shape (she's a Feuyaner, which I've posted about before - basically semi-shapeshifters who can grow weapons on their bodies, hence her fighting unarmed) and focusing on more assassination-friendly abilities (for her eventual return to her Northern country of origin, and the subsequent campaign of revenge).

EDIT: For another example, the Noble Dead Saga series of books had ninja-expys called anmaglahk, an elven word for "thief of lives" (also the title of one of the books, appropriately). As the name implies, they are exclusively elves - in fact, they are exclusively elves of a somewhat-reclusive, isolationist offshoot elven society. DF templates wouldn't be out of place in that setting, although the anmaglahk wouldn't follow the Ninja template - they're more like rogues/thieves with really high Karate, Judo, and Knife skills.
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Last edited by Varyon; 05-06-2017 at 12:06 PM.
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Old 05-06-2017, 12:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: DF: Where do Martial Artists and Ninja come from?

Right now, I have two spots for a BS dump that would work for faux Asian in my world:

"Out East." In my world, that's the lands of the elves. I haven't defined what lies beyond those lands, and I'm unlikely to do so. I could either have eastern elves or men from beyond; I tend more towards eastern elves myself.

"The Isle of Erstókkīs." That's an island about as big as Madagascar set off to the west, in relation to the mainland as Ireland is to Europe, without pesky Britain between them. My campaign area is somewhere between Germany and Belarus in terms of distance from the western coast; I gleefully steal the fauna and flora of Belarus to make the place a bit more exotic. Anyways, Erstókkīs is my named human land of "other," and which again works since the game won't go anywhere near there as it stands now.
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Old 05-06-2017, 01:41 PM   #8
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Default Re: DF: Where do Martial Artists and Ninja come from?

My DF world is sort of a mix between Ars Magica's Mythic Earth and an alternate Earth where history has happened similar to Earth but with no technology but with magic and monsters. Europe has reached Asia and people travel on the Silk Road so Asian martial artists and ninjas are possible in Mythic Europe but they are rare.
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Old 05-06-2017, 02:08 PM   #9
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Default Re: DF: Where do Martial Artists and Ninja come from?

In my current world, I don't have either martial artists or ninjas. In previous campaigns, they came from local schools.

I may add a local school in the current campaign, because I have some players who enjoy playing martial artists.
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Old 05-06-2017, 04:57 PM   #10
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Default Re: DF: Where do Martial Artists and Ninja come from?

For my (very WIP) commedia dell'arte campaign, the Martial Artist hails from the Sunset Kingdoms to the west, where there are Cannibal Tribes, Fearsome Pirates, Jungle Islands, and Valuable Exports. It's very loosely Southeast Asian, which is hinted at in the Martial Artist's fighting style (primarily a dual-wielder: options include butterfly swords, katars, machetes, and rattan sticks.)

Ninja don't exist, because they come with too much baggage: they're explicitly Japanese, which implies that the rest of the setting should also have real-world counterparts. (Reflavoring them fixes this, but then they're not ninjas.) Besides, everyone knows ninja don't exist, and the Sunset Kingdoms have been pirate territory ever since islands and strategic sea lanes were introduced from the mainland.
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