The System

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The following article contains all the mechanics you need to know to play Pirates vs. Ninjas.


There are four base attributes and 2 derived attributes in Pirates vs. Ninjas. These numbers affect numerous abilities, your life total, your ability to hit, your ability to dodge, your ability to take a hit, etc. They are the very basis of your character and what he/she can do. They are as follows:

Physical Attributes: Body- This is your stat that effects how healthy and well-built you are. It helps to determine your Life total and how well you do physical tasks that require strength or resistance. Players also reduce all damage taken from attacks by their body score divided in half (rounded down) and do damage on basic 0 cost attacks equal to half their body (rounded up).

Agility- Your character's physical agility. This determines how well you preform acrobatic and fine motor tests. This stat is also used to determine your reaction, and is used the vast majority of the time to dodge attacks.

Mental Attributes: Precision- This stat represents your ability to perceive the world around you and to act accurately on it. This attribute represents your ability to notice things, piece facts together, your general intelligence that is not gained through abilities or experience, and your ability to hit your foes. It also helps to determine your reaction attribute. Half of this stat rounded up is also the character's raw damage with guns.

Will- Your force of your personality. Your soul. That extra bit that can't quite be explained. This is your will. Your will represents your social capability and charm, your ability to resist certain mental effects, and your ability to keep it together when every other one of your attributes fails. This stat is the very forcefulness of your soul. It is also used to help determine your life total.

Derived Attributes: Life- Your life total is equal to your (body + will) * 10. This represents your total energy. It's not only your health points, but what you use to charge your special attacks as well. The more life you have, the more often you can use bigger and flashier attacks.

Reaction- This stat is the average of your agility and precision (rounded up). This is rolled every turn to determine what order players act in, in the round.

All attributes except Life are CAPPED at 10. The only exceptions to this are extreme (Gods, the Three Legendary Heroes, Aspects of the universe itself), and should not effect the average player.

The Dice

All dice rolls in Ninjas vs. Pirates are handled by 2 six-sided dice. There are no automatic successes, automatic failures, or critical hits (except in the case of Awesome Points).

Since stats and bonuses are capped at 10, this does mean that there is ALWAYS a chance for a character with a minimum 1 bonus to defeat an opponent with a capped 10 bonus. However, the chances of a one person rolling a 2 on 2d6 and the other rolling a 12 on 2d6 is roughly 1 in 1000.

Ties should be rerolled.

Damage is handled automatically by abilities.

Awesome Points

Every character has a fate or a destiny. Sometimes, this path can shine through anything and causes the character to become more than the sum of their scores. These points allow the character to do very amazing things in the face of adversity.

Awesome Points allow a character to:
-Add a +2 bonus per point spent to a roll that can break a total 10 modifier. Assume a minimum +1 modifier on a roll BEFORE adding this bonus (So, the minimum roll for 1 awesome point is at a +3 total). Capped at a +6 (3 Awesome points).

-Declare an automatic success on a roll for 5 Awesome Points (this will be the minimum success if the player could not achieve it otherwise). If an automatic to hit and defense are declared, the defense wins.

-Turn a roll of 12 or an Automatic Success on an attack roll into a critical hit that does double damage for 1 Awesome Point

-Power some high level abilities.

-Allow a player to edit a scene in some minor way. (ie. Claim they have an old contact in town, make the chandelier above them loose so it can drop on people, etc).

-Go first in a turn.

-Gain the usage of a known non-passive untrained ability on an item without the Life penalty for 1 combat.

- Spend 2 points to gain the usage of a known passive ability on an item for combat.

-Increase an attribute score by 1 until next action per point spent. Maximum +3. This count towards the maximum +6 bonus if combined with the +2 bonus.

-Gain 10 Life instantly.

-Do 10 extra damage on an attack.

-Interpose for an ally within reasonable distance.

These can be earned one of two ways. Great failure or great success.

Great failure means that a player voluntarily takes a set-back when it is inconvenient. At any time, a player can declare that they automatically fail on a roll. This MUST be declared before the roll is made, unless the player succeeded otherwise and still chooses to fail. The GM may choose to give the player an extra awesome point if the situation merits it.

The player then gains a number of Awesome points that are dictated by Karma to balance the act out. These rolls should ALWAYS be for the benefit of making the story more interesting and increasing the enjoyment of the game. Screwing over your fellow players intentionally should not gain awesome points. The number of points rewarded are up to the GM, but the general guidelines for handing them out should be as follows.

1 point- The player suffers a moderate set-back (intentionally takes a decent hit they could have easily dodged, fails a check they should have made that would've helped them significantly, etc.). This usually makes the character look like a fool, sets up for a bit of comedy, but doesn't have a lasting impact past the scene. Example: A player fumbles his awesome super attack against a mundane mook that he can normally 1-shot and suffers a decent Life drain from the attack's requirement.

2 points- The players suffers a major set-back. This is the same as the 1-point version, but to a larger extreme. This represents more long term problems. This includes intentionally taking a hit that equals at least 50% of their max hp, failing a crucial roll, or letting a villain pull off his major attack that cripples the character in some way. Example: A character lets a villain put him under the effects of an illusion.

3 points- The players suffers a severe set-back. The results of this should be long term for a player. The results of this intentional failure should put a character effectively out of a combat, force them to lose a contact, get banished from a city, get captured by the villains. Example: A player botches a stealth roll and gets caught by the entire town guard and becomes a wanted man.

4 points- The player suffers a CATASTROPHIC set-back. This is the absolute limit. Nothing short of putting the character's very existence on the line should get this award. This includes failing a roll that knocks a character down to 0 life in one hit in a death duel, failing to sense that the villain is lying about what he wants the magical mcguffin for and giving it to him, and anything else that puts that character in absolute mortal danger but advances the plot.

If a player tries to abuse this method to gain too many awesome points, he or she should feel free to award less or stop rewarding them entirely until the player spends some of them. The point is not to hoard 20 of them and 1 shot the boss.

The second Method of gaining Awesome points is to do something awesome. This should include the player using abilities together in some way that drops everyone else's jaws at the table. The player should still roll for it, but if they pull it off, they should get a number of awesome points to compensate for the risk.

Gm's should determine what to give their players on an individual basis, but the general rule of thumb should be.

1 point- Kinda cool. It breaks from the boredom, but it's not particularly too amazing. Minor stunts like back-flips off of trees into diving attacks.

2 points- Cool stunt. This should be something fairly new and original and really set or make a scene. A cool speech, a super acrobatic stunt that defies this universe's very small grasp on gravity, something that all the players enjoy.

3 points- Absolutely amazing. This should be jaw-droppingly cool, get the entire table laughing or watching. The kind of move that steals the entire scene. A shining moment of awesomeness. Something that players will talk about all session.

4 points- Mind-blowing. This is the absolute pinnacle. It should be something the players have never done before and will likely never do again. This is the kind of moment that players talk about even in different campaigns and never forget. These are those once in a campaign amazing super moments. Use this reward sparingly.

The Rule of 10

As said before. All stats and bonuses are capped at 10 (without the inclusion of Awesome points to enhance the roll). With some accurate attacks and abilities, it's possible to get a roll's effective modifier or attribute score above 10. Instead of dropping the score down, there's a way to give the player a bonus for their efforts.

In the case of a roll to hit with or dodge an attack, just use the effective modifier as long as the difference between the scores is less than 10.

Should the difference between the two rolls be more than 10, set the difference at 10 and take the extra bonuses left over and multiply it by 5. If it's a to-hit roll, the attack gains this much extra damage. If it's a dodge roll, the attack is reduced in damage by twice that number if it should hit.

In the case of a roll to give or resist a special effect like an illusion, any extra bonuses are applied as follows. If the attacker has the bonus, he gets to apply the effect to an extra target for each point over 10. If the defender has the bonus, he gives the effect of his roll to an extra target for each point over 10. This isn't too useful in resisting an initial effect, but if the entire party is under an effect, this can pull them out by his own pure force of will.

Outside of combat, a player may get a bonus on a certain skill roll from abilities that sets him over 10. At this point, it is up to the GM what happens, but the effect should either extend to extra targets equal to the number (in the case of something like a Jump check), give extra information (in the case of knowledge checks), or give an extra unintended positive side-effect all based on how far the check went over 10.

For abilities that use a stat as a determining factor to damage or number of hits or some other effect (like Bullet Dance or Torrential Hurricane Strike or Royal Flush), cap the stat at 10 unless awesome points are used to raise it above 10.

If Body or Will is taken over 10 with abilities, the user still gains life from the attribute increase unless otherwise specified.

The Kurosawa Corollary

It's one of the basic rules of the universe. When a large number of enemies outnumber a force severely, the smaller force will become more powerful. This has allowed 1 pirate to beat a hoard of 100 ninja, and vice-versa. Needless to say, most people prefer to send a small number of skilled assassins to fight skilled foes, rather than a large gank squad. Some people are still dumb enough to try it, but most people learn their lesson after the first attempt.

To simulate this powerful effect, there is one simple rule.

For every time a force outnumbers a smaller force by a factor of 2, that force takes an external -1 penalty to ALL ROLLS.

So, if a force is outnumbered 2 to 1. The larger force is at a -1 to all rolls. If they are instead outnumbered 4 to 1, the larger force is at a -2 to all rolls. 8 times their size, and their at a -3. Always round up to the next penalty for this effect. So, a pirate surrounded by 100 ninjas is giving a total -7 to all of the surrounding ninjas' rolls down to a minimum of 1. If he's anywhere near their skill level, he should be able to take down the majority of them before getting tired.

It should also be noted that when a force outnumbers another force 16 to 1 or greater, the foes in that force will fall in 1 hit to the enemy forces' blows, the force rolls 1 roll at the LOWEST score in the group for dodge or hit, the number of targets the opponent can target per attack is increased by their highest primary attribute. This is doubled for every time the force is doubled after that. So, 1000 to 1 force may find themselves more than decimated by 1 mildly talented ninja.

This, of course, does include the players. They are not exceptions to this rule. If 4 players outnumber 1 boss of skill equal to theirs, all the players are at a -2 to all rolls. Something to think about before getting a bunch of allies to gank 1 ninja.

There are ways to negate the Corollary. A few abilities allow characters to offset the effect temporarily. Also, a player can choose to challenge a foe to a 1 on 1 match. If the opponent accepts and the player's allies honor it, the corollary is broken unless someone breaks the challenge's rules. This is regardless of whether the allies are fighting anything in the background.


Death is shockingly uncommon in Pirates vs. Ninjas. Both Pirates and Ninjas prefer a live hostage to a dead one. They're just more fun to mess with, and dead men don't give away military secrets. So, there's some kind of unspoken pact. You don't kill a person unless they asked for it.

Of course, monsters in the outlying areas don't honor this pact, but you at least know the super powerful ninja that defeats your entire party won't stab you while you're unconscious. Just take you prisoner.

Of course, Death still happens. Some people hate each other too much to live. When a Pirate and a Ninja hate each other very much and it's dramatically appropriate, something beautiful happens. It's called a Death Duel.

The word duel is misleading. This can happen between 2 opponents or 2 opposing armies or even an army vs. 1 man. The only condition is that both sides agree to it ahead of time with the other side's life as the stake.

At this point, combat becomes deadly. If a character is knocked down, an opponent merely needs to go over to the fallen foe and finish the job with one last attack that automatically hits. Of course, an opponent doesn't HAVE to kill at this point, but there's little reason to declare a Death Duel if you do not want the opponent dead.

Wounds in a Death Duel are more severe then ones in a regular duel. These are intended to kill a victim and hurt him in the worst way possible with a precision that wandering monsters don't have. If an opponent is knocked out and doesn't get medical attention (even if the opponent left him or her alive) they will surely die if not attended to in minutes. Even if they survive after this, the wounds heals at a tenth their normal rate, and most healing abilities cannot speed up this process.

Maybe you'll think twice before you REALLY want to kill that rival.


Abilities are the base unit of character progression in Pirates vs. Ninjas. These cover passive bonuses and special attacks alike. They literally ARE your character.

Characters will receive experience at the end of each session. This is used to eventually train in abilities or to increase their attribute scores when they have the time to focus (in other words, not in the middle of a dungeon or a government official's house).

Abilities are given levels. These represent the difficulty of learning the ability and its general power-level. They level from 1-6.

Level 1 abilities are simple little exercises that are on instruction manuals anywhere and anyone can learn.

Level 2 abilities are abilities that require a little bit of physical training, but anyone that knows the ability can teach it to you.

Level 3 abilities are similar to level 2 abilities, but level 3 ninja abilities require the insight of a full-blown teacher and not just some smuck.

Level 4 abilities are difficult abilities that absolutely require a master of the style to learn. They are also the pinnacle that a member of an opposing side can learn. So, pirates can only learn up to level 4 Ninja and Wanderer abilities, but only a Pirate can learn a level 5 or 6 pirate ability.

Level 5 abilities are the ultimate attack that defines a style of fighting. These are usually named after the people that invented it and are only known by a handful of people. These make excellent quest rewards.

Level 6 abilities are a frightening technique that can shake nations. Only the most powerful of individuals can learn these. These are generally reserved for powerful bosses, powerful monsters, or the three legendary heroes. Players will generally never get one of these, and if they do, you can be sure they went on a LONG quest to learn it.

Abilities are formatted as such.
Ability Name (The name of the ability)
Ability Level (The level and side it belongs to. Ie. Ninja 2)
Life Cost: (The amount of Life this ability takes to use. Some abilities are passive and take none)
Description: (What the ability does.)

So, an example ability would be.
Water Walking
Ninja 1
Life Cost: 1/turn
When this ability to active, the user can walk and run on water at their normal speed as if it were solid ground.


Combat is fairly simple in Ninjas vs. Pirates. Once combat has been declared, players quickly write down the attack they will be using in the first round on a sheet of paper. Once this has been written, it cannot be changed. all people involved roll their reaction. The person with the highest reaction goes first that turn. If there is a tie. Use the LOWER overall reaction score for the purposes of determining who goes first.

Players then are given one action for moving and one action for attacking or doing something of similar complexity. Much like other systems, this extra action can be used to move farther. Characters can move a number of squares equal to the higher of their agility or body times 2. So, a character with a 2 agility and 4 body would move 8 squares in an action.

A player with a higher reaction can hold their turn. At any point during someone else's turn, they can interrupt that turn and take their FULL turn. The other player then finishes his or her turn. This often means that faster opponents can hit their opponent before they can even attack and then move out of the way of the attack before it even hits. If the opponent does not have a ranged attack prepared, they may have wasted their turn. If multiple people interrupt, the person with the highest reaction goes first.

Attacking is resolved (unless otherwise noted) by rolling precision vs. agility. If the attack hits, the opponent take the damage from the attack minus their damage reduction (usually half their body, rounded down). An attack cannot do less than 1 damage. If the attacker has no attack abilities, treat the attack as a 0 life cost ability that does half of their body score (round up) in damage unless it is with a gun (then use half of precision rounded up).

Players can use as many abilities as they want in a turn as long as they can pay for them. The only exception is attack abilities. Players only can use one at a time. However, there are abilities that can supplement attacks. So, they can use an ability to walk on water, run straight up a wall, hit their opponent with an attack, increase their damage on the attack, and absorb the counterattack. It might cost more Life than it's worth though.

If a player spends more Life than they have left on their attack action, they do not go below 0. Instead, the turn goes through as normal and then the player falls unconscious. This is often a great way to get one last super powerful attack off.

Repeat the process each turn by writing down the attack for the round and then rolling reaction.

Combat ends when either everyone on one side goes unconscious, one side runs away, or the sides don't want to attack each other any more. Unconscious characters will remain so until they are awoken by being given some medical or healing attention or given 1 hour rest.

Skill Checks

Pirates vs. Ninjas has no skill checks. Some abilities give a bonus on certain skill checks, but no character will have a skill ability for every situation. People that wish to accomplish a task simply roll the most appropriate attribute score for the task at hand (adding an bonuses for skill abilities if they have them). So:

Body- Resisting harsh weather, holding your liquor, lifting a cheapskate by his collar, etc.

Agility- Acrobatic stunts, slipping between bars, dodging, cheating at cards, etc.

Precision- Playing darts, lock-picking, fixing devices, spotting enemies, etc.

Will- Convincing others to join your causes, resisting mental effects, resisting temptation, etc.

Skill checks are either done versus other players or NPCs or against a target number. In the case of a roll-off between players, highest number wins. Ties are ties and should either be called ties or rolled again, depending on the scenario.

Target numbers are numbers players have to hit on a skill. GMs should determine the DCs based on the difficulty of the task. A general rule of thumb is: 3-Impossible to fail 6-Easy. Even a child can do it 9-Average joe makes it about half the time. 12- A decent challenge for a professional 15- A decent challenge for a master 18- A severe challenge for a master 21- Impossible for a Master. Nearly impossible for someone with a 10. A decent challenge for the 3 legendary heroes.

Keep in mind, for physical challenges, this is a universe where most people can jump at least 10 feet up in the air from a standing jump. Players with decent physical stats should frequently be performing amazing stunts. Lower the physical target numbers from your universe accordingly. When in doubt, let the players do something cool.

Pirates vs. Ninjas doesn't typically cover character intelligence. Intelligence is a complicated thing that can't be expressed in a number. Even Two-Eyed Pete was a genius in his own boorish way. He was just smart in a way that was VERY different from Ellipsis and the Raven.

For knowledge checks, players should use their own in-character knowledge. If it makes sense for a character to know something from their background, he should feel free to tell them. This should cover most things, but for those cases where the players want to see if they know anything about an obscure legend or want to try to figure out complex math they've never studied, the GM should use Precision as the general intelligence stat.

Keep in mind that abilities that give bonuses to skill checks do not stack. A pirate who has abilities for sailing and tactics can use one or the other in a naval battle.

It's also important to note that some actions should not be attempted or performed without an appropriate skill ability. Blacksmithing, Surgery, and some knowledge checks are just not the kind of things that can be done without training. A character with an 8 precision may be smarter than a character with a 5 precision and a relevant ability, but the person who has trained in the skill just knows some nuances that the other person does not. For instance, if someone doesn't have Dihydrogen Monoxide Expert, then they should not know the exact chemicals being used unless they're incredibly basic. This is knowledge exclusive to someone that's studied the field. At this point, GM's should either give a penalty to the character (in the case of a roll-off), or let some results and knowledge be off-limits without a trained skill. In the previous example, a character with an 8 precision can probably figure out easily what a chemical solution does, but they won't know how it was made. Meanwhile, a character with the skill could learn exactly what chemicals were used, even with a 1 precision (although, it may be a difficult roll).

For the record, stealth checks happen with agility. Attacking out of stealth gives the opponent a -2 to dodge, and can give surprise rounds if they're taken off-guard.

Creation and Advancing the Character

Characters start with 16 attribute points and 40 experience points. Distribute the attribute points among the attribute (remembering to put at least 1 point in each score). This should cause all attributes to average out to a score of 4 (above average). Spend the rest of the experience points on raising attributes or learning abilities. Character will be able to learn more abilities and raise their attributes after character creation with experience points.

Characters should gain anywhere from 1-3 experience points after each session depending on the difficulty of the challenges presented. 1 being a cakewalk, 2 being moderately challenging, and 3 being a huge undertaking. GM's should also feel free to give an extra experience point for good role-playing, being entertaining, coming up with a clever idea, or meeting a major character goal. So, the most exp a character should expect to get is around 5 (difficult session, major goal met, and a GM reward for good roleplaying or otherwise). Characters can then either spend these experience points on raising their Attributes, Learning new abilities, or Mastering Artifacts.

In order to raise an attribute score, a character must have a significant period to train or have a good reason they've been working on that score. It costs 10 experience points to raise an attribute.

Ability costs are based on which philosophy your character prescribes to.

Pirates and Ninjas can learn abilities from their side and Wanderer abilities at a cost of 2 experience points per level. Add 1 point per level to opposing factions (ie. Ninjas learn level 2 pirate skills at 6 points).

Wanderers also learn their skills at 2 experience points per level and learn either pirate or ninja skills at .5 points per level (round down). (So, a level 3 pirate ability costs 7 and a Level 4 costs 10)

Finally, Ninjas vs. Pirates tends to obscure money and ownership. Mundane items don't need rules for who owns them or bought them. Some pirate will probably just steal it in a session anyway. However, major artifacts of power that the characters may find or get rewarded as a job well-done are a different matter.

Artifact items give characters access to abilities that they normally would have to train for. They do this at twice the Life cost that they would normally have. If there's a passive ability on the weapon, it cannot be used without training. Abilities on artifacts are trained for at half the cost it would take to learn them. At this point, the passive abilities can be used and abilities with Life costs will use normal life cost. If an artifact contains a level 5 or higher skill from a side other than your own, you can still train for it. This is the only time a Pirate can use a high level Ninja skill and vice-versa. The trade-off is that Artifacts can be stolen, disarmed, or temporarily lost. GM's should not permenantly take away artifacts a character has invested in without reimbursing the experience points spent. If a character already knows a skill on an artifact, he or she uses it freely with no bonus or penalty.

Remember. Before a character can learn a new ability, they will need to find an appropriate way of learning the ability and the time to train in it. This may mean a pirate finding a sympathetic Ninja master to teach him.

On Buffs and Debuffs

As a rule of thumb, Buffs and Debuffs all stack. However, one target can only take a buff or debuff from a specific ability once unless the ability states otherwise. So, a target can ONLY lose 2 Body and 2 Agility from Five-Fold Crippling Palm in a given combat. However, if a Charrismatic Lord uses a Moment of Weakness to give the opponent a further -1 to agility for the turn, the opponent is at a -3 to agility from his or her natural attribute score.

Same thing with Buffs. An Evadinja can't use Ninjas Don't Get Hit more than once to stack more than a +2 to dodge. However, an Evadinja CAN use Ninjas Don't Get Hit AND Infinite Reflexes to get a cumulative +8. However, if there's an attack coming that Evadinja feels is worth 10 Life points AND a turn to add that +8 to dodge to, Then he or she likely angered the wrong Pirate.

So, if someone really wished to debuff a foe into oblivion or boost an ally to Godliness, then it will require multiple allies working in tandem. So, you'll need to ask yourself whether it's worth 5 turns worth of moves and a whole boatload of Life to hit with that one attack.

It should also be noted that when an ability buffs the damage of an attack, it only does this for the first hit in multiple hit attacks like Tap Storm, Bullet Dance, or 1,000 Tiny Needles. If the player wishes to do extra damage on extra hits, they should pay the cost for the ability on each hit. If the ability is a passive damage buff, it can only be applied once per ability but applies if the character gains an extra attack action.

Natural Healing

While there are ways to actively heal characters in Pirates vs. Ninjas, it's far less important than in other systems. Characters start each day at full life. They heal back to full at the beginning of each scene.

This essentially means that any time that the characters can get around 10 minutes of rest (that means no active skill checks or movement), they heal back to full again. For the most part, unless the group is constantly under attack, they can heal between each battle and challenge. However, if a character finds him or herself in a situation of constant and extended danger, they would be wise to conserve their energy as efficiently as possible.


As stated before, a character's move speed is expressed as 2 times the higher of their body and agility in squares for a turn. This assumes that the player has a hex or square map for use. The unit of squares can be used for either military scale battles or personal ones. If the city is a battlefield, then each square can be upwards of a mile.

However, for the most part, squares are represented as 1 meter in length each and a turn is represented as around 2 seconds. Yes. This does mean that Pirates and Ninjas with either a 10 agility or body are running approximately 10 meters a second in combat. Movement can't go past 20 squares a round without abilities.

Outside of combat, the character's run speed is doubled. So, characters in Pirates vs. Ninjas can sprint up to 20 m/s (22 in the case of the legendary heroes).

If a character wishes to jump, they may jump vertically a number of meters equal to a quarter of his move speed and horizontally a number of feet equal to half his move speed. Double this on a running jump (consecutive horizontal jumps are running jumps).

A character may also climb or swim at a quarter of their move speed.

So, a Pirate with 4 body and agility can move 8 meters in a round, jump vertically 2 meters (4 on a running jump), jump horizontally 4 squares (8 on a running jump), and swim and climb at 2 meters.

Do I Need a Weapon?

Characters in Pirates vs. Ninjas are all about their skills and not their weapons. Still, some abilities require a weapon in the Pirate or Ninja's hand to work. If a character is completely disarmed, these abilities become impossible to use without an ability that compensates. For the most part, techniques just call for A weapon.

In order to tell if a technique needs a weapon, read the description. If a weapon or necessary item is mentioned in the description, then it needs a weapon. Logically, almost every ability from the Rokinja and Gunnars requires a musical instrument and a gun respectively.

Anything else is left up to the judgement of the GM.

Non-Factioned Abilities

Some abilities don't belong to a faction. These are taken the same way as other abilities but don't belong to a faction. They can be found at the Non-Factioned Abilities Page