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A Role Playing Game

Demons whisper in the sleeping ears of influential ministers. Ogres and spirits harass villagers that wander too far into the mountains. Ghosts haunt ruined castles and forgotten temples. Rebellious daimyo scheme to usurp the Shogunate. Heroes are needed to protect the Jade Islands from the supernatural threats that are on the rise.

In Chanbara, players take on roles such as stoic samurai, stealthy ninja, or idiosyncratic yamabushi. In addition to battling monsters, spirits and demons, these heroes need to balance the various obligations and duties to clan, lord and society in a regimented culture. Being selected to battle the forces of evil does not excuse one from obligations or strictures of honor and duty.

Chanbara plays like traditional fantasy role playing games. Players control characters who explore dangerous locations and battle monsters and bring back the treasures they hoard. Unlike other games where characters amass wealth in order to purchase magic items, build strongholds or else carouse away their winnings before adventuring again, in Chanbara the characters are not gathering the treasures for themselves. They turn over the wealth they acquire to their lord, clan, temple, or some other cause they serve in order to advance their interests. By doing so, they gain status, fame, and positions of power.

Chanbara is an OSR style RPG based on Japanese fantasy tropes. In 64 pages you get a complete RPG for dungeon, wilderness, and urban adventures.

The book includes rules for:

  • Character Creation featuring the six ability scores and other stats you're familiar with from the world's most popular RPG.
  • Three character classes, each with three or four subclasses.
    • Bushi (Warriors) can specialize as Abarenbo (Rowdies), Kensei (Weapon Masters), Samurai (Warrior-Aristocrats) or Sohei (Warrior-Monks)
    • Mahotsukai (Magicians) can specialize as Onmyoji (Exorcists), Soryo (Priests), or Yamabushi (Ascetics)
    • Shinobi (Spies) can specialize as Kagemusha (Shadow-Warriors), Ninja (Secret Agents), Taijutsuka (Martial Artists), or Uragata (Infiltrators)
  • Social Class: Four (or Five) social classes provide a list of possible background skills, plus benefits and hindrances based on social status.
  • Background Skills based on a simple 2d6 system which meshes with class abilities.
  • Equipment Lists covering weapons, armor, adventuring gear, typical services, hirelings, and special shinobi gear.
  • 126 Spells, some familiar, some brand new, from level 1 to 6 for each mahotsukai subclass.
  • Exploration, Interaction and Combat rules, including rules for running positions of authority or holdings as well as dungeon and wilderness encounter tables.
  • A thematic system of character advancement tied to challenges overcome, support for one's allegiances, and just actions that give the game a unique feel while still retaining what makes fantasy adventure gaming fun.
  • Over 100 Monsters including a dozen NPC types and 44 normal animal types, the rest pulled from Japanese legends and myths.
  • Treasure Tables, including a DIY magic item generation system and sample magic items.
  • Appendices including non-human races, conversion notes for other OSR games, a list of inspirational media, quick reference charts, and a character sheet.

Did I mention that all this fits in only 64 pages? And there's plenty of evocative art from actual Japanese artists whose work is now in the public domain.

Print Version: a 64 page softback with color interior artwork. (Available NOW!)

Ebook Version: a 65 page (including cover pages) PDF with hyperlinks in the TOC, Index, spell list (by level), and internal rule references ("see p. XX for more").

*Unfortunately, bookmarks are not working in the PDF. The three weeks prior to release were spent trying to resolve the issue of broken bookmarks, but so far unsuccessfully. If I get them working, I'll be sure to update the PDF file in the future. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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Discussions (2)
Customer avatar
Shawn B December 29, 2019 1:53 pm UTC
Great stuff! Any chance of a bookmarking the PDF version?
Customer avatar
Reid S February 28, 2018 1:08 am UTC
Any chance of a Print option?
Customer avatar
Stefan S March 11, 2018 3:55 am UTC
A print version is already in the plans, but delayed as the first proof copy had some errors:

"Slight delay with Chanbara. I found a few small errors in the proof and updated the files. Now I nee to wait for a second proof to arrive. Hopefully it will come quickly like the first one."
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File Last Updated:
February 23, 2018
This title was added to our catalog on January 25, 2018.
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