An Endzeitgeist.com review
This Hybrid Class clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, which, as always for Legendary Games, are chock-full with text – so yeah, there’s more content herein that the page-count might lead you to believe,
All right, so the yakuza is a hybrid of the unchained monk…Wait. It’s NOT? WTF? So yeah, the yakuza’s parent classes are actually something completely different: Cavalier and ninja. I know, right?
So, the yakuza gets ¾ BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and d8 HD as well as 6 + Int skills per level. Proficiency-wise, we get proficiency with simple weapons, kama, katana, kusarigama (HECK YEAH!), kyoketsu shoge, nunchaku, sai, shortbow, short sword, shuriken, siangham and wakizashi as well as light armor, but not shields. The class begins play with a teamwork feat, for which he must meet the prerequisites. As a standard action, the yakuza can grant this feat to all allies within 30 ft that can see and hear the yakuza. This feat is retained for 3 rounds + 1 round for every 2 class levels the yakuza possesses. These allies don’t have to meet the prerequisites. This ability may be used 1/day, + an additional time per day at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter and is treated as the tactician class feature for the purpose of prerequisites and archetypes, etc. Additionally, all members of the yakuza gang are treated as having the teamwork feat for the purpose of determining bonuses granted by the yakuza’s teamwork feats. 9th level and 18th level provide more choices here regarding feats and improve action economy and allow for the sharing, in the latter case, of more teamwork feats at once.
Now, pretty cool: The Yakuza begins play with a contact and gains an additional one at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. They also get +2 to Diplomacy to procure services from contacts. If the contact is part of the same yakuza gang, the Trust level will be increased by 1. However, violating the tenets of the gang will result in a general reduction of Trust level by 1, by 2 for members of the respective gang. Gang? Yep, the equivalent of the cavalier’s orders is chosen at 1st level. Adherence to a gang’s ideals and what constitutes a violation thereof is within the realms of GM interpretation and changing gangs first strips you of the former gang’s abilities and requires a process of re-dedication.
The pdf provides a total of 5 such sample gangs. Each gang modifies the character by granting a boost to sneak attack and skills at first level; the skill boosts provide their benefit to one use of a given skill, like e.g. influencing a creature’s attitude. Formula-wise, the bonuses granted are +1/3 class level, minimum +1. Beyond those, 2nd, 8th and 15th level provide gang abilities. What do the gangs do? The black rain gang grants a +2 bonus to atk versus foes that are unaware of the presence of the character (or consider him an ally) when sneak attacking; 2nd level is treated as having concealment versus such targets and 8th level allows for a Cha-governed, supernatural, ki-powered suggestion. 15th level allows for the maximizing of sneak attack damage when attacking unaware or friendly targets.
The blood tong gains a +2 bonus versus foes that damaged him; skill-boost is applied to brokering a deal. The 2nd level ability nets a bonus versus targets that broke an oath with the yakuza or the blood tong. 8th level nets the option to use ki to make a deal a blood pact, which bestows a curse upon those that dare break it. The 15th level option allows the yakuza to shift obligations of blood oaths to other characters and treats the blood oath as geas/quest. The dragon lords chooses a ranger’s favored enemy and applies a +2 atk to sneak attacks versus that type. Skill-boost-wise, we get the bonus to Bluff non-dragon lord yakuza. 2nd level allows for aid another as a swift action and 8th level has something cool: 1/day when using aid another, the aided character also gets a move action. This may be used an additional time at 12th level and every 4 levels thereafter, 15th level allows for the expenditure of two uses of this ability to grant a standard action.
The Jade Triad gets the sneak boost versus demoralized foes, the skill boost to demoralize targets. 2nd level allows for swift action demoralizing when hitting a target with a sneak attack. 8th level upgrades demoralization to cause the target to be frightened 1/day. For ki expenditure, he may even bypass fear immunity. 12th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield another daily use. The 15th level ability allows for sneak attack damage dice rerolls versus demoralized targets: All that come up as 1 may be rerolled once. For 1 ki expenditure, the dice that come up as 1s and 2s may be rerolled, and they may be rerolled until they all come up as 3+. Finally, the white tigers gain their sneak boost versus targets threatened by more allies and apply their skill boost to shift attitudes of friends and foes via Diplomacy. 2nd level provides a 5-ft.-speed reduction (I assume, all movement rates are affected) accompanying sneak attack, for Cha-mod rounds, min 1. 8th and 16th level increase that speed reduction by 5 ft., respectively. 8th level provides the ability to expend a point of ki when successfully sneak attacking a target; if the yakuza does, the target may not use withdraw or 5-ft-steps for Cha-mod rounds, min 1. The 15th level ability allows for the expenditure of ki when damaging a foe with sneak attack, setting their speed to 0 and inflicting the staggered condition on a failed Ref-save. Minor complaint here – no save DC is given. While it is pretty obvious that the DC should be 10 + ½ class level + Cha-mod, analogue to other gang abilities, that can be a bit confusing at first.
2nd level nets a ki pool equal to ½ class level + Cha-mod. This nets them two hadou techniques: By spending 1 ki point, the yakuza can grant himself a +1d6 bonus on a skill check or save, or to atk versus a target who is denied Dex-mod to AC or flanked. Additionally, for spending one ki, the yakuza can grant himself an additional 5-foot-step of a +20 ft. speed enhancement for 1 round. Finally, 1 ki may be spent to grant the yakuza the option to open/close a door or draw/sheathe a weapon when using Sleight of Hand to conceal. These are activated as a swift action. Minor complaint: The save boost probably should have been activated as an immediate action instead; otherwise, it’s pretty useless. Cool: The ability covers interaction with other ki-based classes. 2nd level also yields sneak attack, which increases in die-pool-size by +1d6 every 3 levels after 2nd.
At 3rd level, the yakuza gains no trace who not only provide a bonus to Disguise and opposed Stealth checks, it also makes tracking them, particularly if they lay low, increasingly harder. This level also nets home turf, , which means that he treats all urban terrain as favored terrain, gaining Knowledge (local) instead of Knowledge (geography), boost-wise. The bonus begins at +2 and improved by +2 every 5 levels thereafter. Cool: The yakuza is not automatically familiar with a new city – it takes a bit of studying, represented rather well in the engine. He may only have one home turf, though. Even cooler: The bonus actually is not simply passive: The yakuza actually may use ki in such familiar terrains to increase his AC and is not impeded by crowds! REALLY cool representation of the concept.
4th level yields uncanny dodge and 7th level, improved uncanny dodge. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield a ninja trick, with 12th level unlocking master tricks. At 5th level, the yakuza gains the right to wear the elaborate tattoos that we associate with the concept. These provide a +1 moral bonus to saves versus fear effects for all allies within 30 ft., which increases to +2 for gang members and further scales up by +1 every 5 levels thereafter. Additionally, the yakuza gains Dazzling Display, with a +2 to Intimidate versus targets that can see his tattoos. This bonus similarly scales. 6th level nets Black marketer, which nets Black Market Dealings as a bonus feat. Any team lead by the yakuza gets +2 to all Cha-based social skills (Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate) related to black markets. 10th level yields uncanny flanker, treating class level as 4 higher for the purpose of determining flanking capabilities regarding improved uncanny dodge. Additionally, the yakuza may spend 1 point of ki as a swift action to determine any adjacent square as her position for setting up flanking positions. COOL!
At 11th level, we get druglord, basically providing poison use and gets +1/2 class level to Craft checks to make drugs and poisons as well as +4 to saves to resist poison, drugs and alcohol, including recovery from intoxication or addiction. Knowingly ingesting a poison, the yakuza can delay the onset of its effects via ki expenditure. “Sure, this wine is totally not laced with black lotus. See, I’ll take the first sip…” Damn cool. Additionally, via ki, the yakuza can combine poisons and drugs, though such combined materials are short-lived, preventing the creation of ridiculous mega-drugs/poisons. Well done.
At 13th level, gambler nets the option to spend ki to roll twice when gambling (or guessing riddles). Also, whenever the yakuza rolls a natural 1, he can expend 1 ki for a reroll with +1d6 luck bonus – but if the reroll is still a failure, he takes -1 to all d20-rolls and can’t use the ability for 1 minute. Nice one. 19th level eliminates the autofail of atk, saves and some skill checks on a natural 1 and the capstone prevents dying from old age as well as providing immunity to death effects, diseases and poisons. Any accrued age-related penalties may be suppressed via ki expenditure. Cool one!
Now, I already mentioned one of the new feats herein, Black Market Dealings: This one nets +4 to Diplomacy to access it and eliminates the gp-cost to do so as well as the consequences for failing to the check by 10 or more. Additionally, and that is pretty damn cool, you can attempt to find merchants with deeper pockets by increasing the access DC, with a settlement’s crime modifier as a bonus. I really liked this and its concise rules. Mind Trick lets you select one Dex-based class skill, which may then be used as governed by Cha, ignoring armor check penalty for it. Additionally, when using aid another with the skill, you add Cha-mod to the boost granted, which can be brutal, but fits. Overflowing Ki makes you count as always having at least 1 ki for the purpose of abilities that require that you have at least 1 point. Additionally, you can meditate for 1 hour to regain 1 point of ki. The class also comes with favored class options for the core races as well as aasimar, catfolk, dhampir, drow, fetchling, goblin, hobgoblin, ifrit, kobold, orc, oread, ratfolk, sylph, tengu, tuefling and undine. In an uncharacteristic glitch, three favored class options lack their numerical values: Orc and half-orc deal “+ damage on sneak attacks”, which probably should be +1; goblins and humans get “+ of a ninja trick”, which probably should be 1/6, analogue to the rogue FCO.
A total of 8 different archetypes are included in the pdf: The Absent bansho replaces the teamwork sharing and contacts features with the vigilante’s dual identity and seamless guise; the teamwork sharing abilities are delayed to 5th and 13th level and yakuza-levels are treated as 4 lower for the purpose of these benefits. To make up for this, the gang abilities are replaces with a vigilante talent at 2nd, 8th and 15th level, assuming the stalker specialization. The flying tiger does not gain light armor proficiency and replaces the teamwork sharing with Improved Unarmed Strike and monk-like damage scaling. They also begin play with Tiger Style and get Tiger Claws at 4th, Tiger Pounce at 8th level, replacing the ninja tricks at these levels. Contacts are delayed to 6th level and are treated as -5 levels. Instead of 2nd level’s sneak attack, the character gains rain of star, +1 attack in a full-attack, +2 attacks at 11th level; for +1 ki, another attack may be added, though all such attacks must be executed with shuriken. Sneak attack is delayed to 4th level and gained at -2 yakuza levels and 3rd level yields slow fall and 6th level, high jump. Starting at 12th level, the character may choose style feats or monk bonus feats instead of ninja tricks. Instead of uncanny dodge, we get evasion at 4th level and 7th level nets swoop, which is really cool: As a sift or immediate action, you can spend 1 ki during a jump or fall to turn up to 90 degrees and move ½ slow fall distance in any direction, including up. Yes, it’s double-jumping/swooshing as seen in Wuxia-media, games like Devil May Cry, etc. Love it. Also: This movement has a dodge bonus to AC based on Cha associated with it...or you may forfeit the bonus, to end the changed movement with an unarmed strike.
At 10th level, this ability can be further enhanced and allows you to drag foes –love this part of the engine. 11th level nets improved evasion and 13th level nets flight for class level minutes per day, with the option to increase duration via ki-expenditure. And yes, sports proper interaction with the swooping ricks. A real winner here. Love this archetype.
The gun runner is proficient with all firearms, excluding siege engines and replaces contracts with Gunsmithing. 2nd level nets Amateur Gunslinger as a bonus feat, using ki as a grit-substitute. While he has at least 1 ki, he gains + Dex-mod to damage with firearms, capping, thankfully, at yakuza level, though. 2nd level increases reload speed by one step, stacking with Rapid Reload (note here – it would have been convenient to get the actions listed, but that is only the slightest comfort detriment); 8th level lets you spend a ki point to double the first range increment of a firearm wielded for Cha-mod rounds. I assume the action to be swift here, in line with other swift action ability uses, though the Su may point otherwise. Clarification would be neat here. 15th level upgrades this to also adding +Cha-mod damage, but only until the next round.
The junk pirate loses light armor proficiency and delays contacts gained to 6th level, treating his class level as 5 lower for it. However, they gain +2 to Sleight of Hand to conceal small objects, as well as to Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Linguistics and Profession checks to come off as a regular businessman. At 3rd level, they can spend 1 ki to force targets to roll at basically disadvantage (taking the worse result) when opposing these skills with Perception or Sense Motive, with a Cha-governed Will-save to negate. No trace is replaces with scaling skill boosts to Swim as well as Climb and Acrobatics atop a ship and in aquatic terrain. Home turf is replaced with favored terrain (aquatic) and the ninja tricks are replaced with deep sea pirate tricks. 4th level nets a familiar at ½ level, which also helps prevent being flanked while in the vicinity. 7th level nets the option to cut sneak attack damage in half for a free reposition as well as the option to move to a square thus freed as a swift action, sans AoO and in addition to other movement, mind you. Instead of gambling, we get ki-based curses, which improve at 15th level.
The pack rat is only proficient with simple weapons and light armor and gets either Catch off-Guard or Throw Anything at first weapon. He replaces the gang-based ability with a scaling crazy-prepared ability – 100 gp per class level. While the ability has a maximum item value and weight caveat, it does not have a no-specific-items caveat, which is a somewhat annoying oversight. The archetype also is treated as +4 Str for the purpose of carrying capacity if he properly packs his stuff and gains +4 to Sleight of Hand to conceal small objects. 3rd level allows the character to attempt Profession untrained, as well as getting +1 to trained Craft and Profession checks. Also at 3rd level, we get the option to use ki to feint as a response to being attacked by a higher CR foe; on a success, the foe must save or deem the pack rat harmless, focusing on other targets. A target thus bluffed can be attacked by the packrat as though flat-footed for one round. Nice: The ability has a caveat to avoid spamming it or use the trick on those that witness it, with a hex-like cooldown. 4th level nets a pack animal animal companion or familiar. No trace is delayed to 6th level and 7th level nets the gang war teamwork sharing ability, but only pertaining the companion. 11th level lets the archetype use dirty tricks in conjunction with improvised weaponry or unarmed strikes versus targets that are denied Dex mod.
The serpent chemist loses proficiency with light armor and delays contacts to 6th level, but gains druglord at 1st level. 3rd level nets swift poisoner. The archetype gets poison-related tricks to choose from, including some SPs in conjunction with drugs/poison or select some alchemical extracts. 9th level has an Int-governed option to create more doses, with Master Alchemist synergy provided as well. 10th level nets DC increases based on sneak attack damage dice foregoing as well as ki-based swift action poisoning. 11th level nets the option to use ki to reroll saves versus alcohol, poison or drugs immediately, taking the better result, which may also, as a full-round action, be extended to an ally. Minor complaint: The ability has no range and it probably should – 30 ft. or adjacent. The ability also allows the chemist to mitigate ability score drain and damage an ally has suffered from such toxins. 13th level allows for super-fast toxin creation.
The tattooed one replaces contacts with better Intimidate versus non-yakuza, better Diplomacy for yakuza. Additionally, fear effect DCs are increased by 1- 2nd level allows the yakuza to use prestidigitation at-will via his magical tattoos and higher levels net ki-based illusions, with 10th level and higher unlocking shadow illusions. These are btw. considered to be parts of the gang. Sneak attack is delayed to 4th level and 3rd level allows the tattoos to dance to fascinate targets, with ki to power the ability and 8th and 13th level improving the action economy of the ability. 8th level allows for the use of ki to double the range. Instead of uncanny dodge, we get the option to shake off nauseated, sickened, fatigued and exhausted conditions on subsequent rounds or halve the duration of save-less conditions. The conditions to which this applies are expanded by dazed, frightened, shaken and stunned at 7th level. Instead of black marketeer, the archetype can mark targets with tattoos, duplicate some cantrips and use ki for tattoo-based unseen servants. 9th level provides more ki-powered SP-like tattoo-animation.
Finally, the triad enforcer gets Enforcer at 1st level and replaces home turf and no trace with a samurai’s resolve. Cool: They can use their own resolve or ki to break that of other creatures! They can also cause Wis-damage (save to negate) with demoralizations, but for a cost of ki. Gang war is delayed to 5th level and 6th level nets a bonus to Bluff and Intimidate. Cool: This one has honor point system synergy, taking only half the penalty for dishonorable actions. 7th level nets dirty fighting, which helps with improvised weapons and CMB-checks as well as allowing the character to forego critical bonus damage for debuff effects. 11th level lets you add, as a swift action, another attack when reducing a target to 0 hp, at +character level damage. 13th level nets fear immunity as wellas the option to spend ki to affect creatures usually immune to fear, but only if they are no more than one size larger than the enforcer.
Finally, the pdf sports a detailed and lavishly-illustrated sample NPC, Shinsuke Tatsu a CR 7 tattooed one yakuza, whose story ties in with the deadly NPC from Legendary Villains: Vigilantes. It should be noted that the name of the character’s lost lover is Yoshi, which usually denotes a male in Japanese. Personally, I applaud the integration of a well-rounded, gay badass here. It should be noted that the NPC comes with a full boon-write-up as well, ending the pdf on a high note.
Editing and formatting are very good for the main class; the supplemental material sports a few more glitches in the details than usual for Legendary games, though – none of them are grievous, but they slightly tarnish this otherwise inspired book. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard. Weird: The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment. The full-color artworks are a blend of artworks LG has used before and the new, cool class piece.
Okay, so first things first: I frickin’ LOVE Jason Nelson and N. Jolly’s Yakuza. This is a hybrid class done right. It plays differently from both of its parent classes; the abilities do an AMAZING job of reflecting the flavor of the yakuza and the tropes associated with them. The archetypes, even the engine-tweaks, are all meaningful modifications of the chassis and the abilities of the class manage to marry fluff and crunch in precise and flavorful ways. If only all hybrid classes were this good…
Now, the base class is great and expertly balanced – it should not provide issues in even low-powered, gritty games and I adore the vast majority of this pdf…but unfortunately, the minor hiccups here and there do need to be represented in some way in the final verdict. Hence, I will rate this as 5 stars, but omit my seal of approval. If the minor gripes I noted don’t faze you, then get this hybrid asap!
[5 of 5 Stars!]