Legend of the Five Rings – The Merenae Morgantha “Courtier” (“Ninja”) School

   The origins of the Morgantha school are long lost: in accordance with the requirements of it’s first technique, it has been passed on to forsaken or adventurous youngsters, to wanderers, and to rogues, without any serious restriction – to the extent that it is one of the few Merenae schools to have a “standard” fifth technique and to have developed a standard set of benefits.

   In the Emerald Empire, it is – at least technically – a “Ninja” school, since it both teaches combat techniques (if not many) and accepts non-samurai students. The fact that it’s a school for rogues, tricksters, and thieves also tends to let out most samurai…

   The Morgantha school is essentially a school for venturesome rogues – the people who are good at disarming traps, concealing their doings from magistrates and bothersome guards alike, who can pick a pocket, plant something on someone, or tracelessly open a lock with equal ease. Those aren’t jobs for typical Samurai – but sometimes, even in the Emerald Empire (if not so commonly as in Merenae), you really need someone to do them. A Morgantha adept makes an excellent companion for a magistrate, diplomat, or spymaster, and can be quite effective on their own – at least as long as a job doesn’t come down to heavy-duty unsupported combat.

  • Benefits: +1 Reflexes, Glory 0, Status 0, Wealth 2, Honor 2.0.
  • School Skills: Deceit, Defense, Forgery, Investigation, Knives, Locksmith, Lore/Underworld, Poison, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Traps, and any one skill of choice.

   Morgantha Techniques:

  • First Technique/The Brotherhood of the Forsaken:
    • The first thing that happens in the career of every Morgantha adept is being taken under the wing of a Mentor – and accepting the obligation of acting as a mentor later on themselves. (Ally. Influence 2 (can teach this school), Devotion 0 (teaches and provides minor aid, but does not generally risk his or her life for a student who isn’t part of their primary gang, 0), Eccentricity 0 (the mentor is normally another human, although an ancestor spirit is possible, 0), Inconvenience -2 (you are required to teach if some youngster with few other prospects wants to learn this school and/or join your gang), net cost 0. Ergo, this school is generally easy to acquire – but only for those without a clan (5 for being freely available like the Ronin schools, – 5 for the restriction to clanless characters, = 0).
    • The primary technique itself provides (School Rank) Free Raises with the Stealth, Sleight of Hand, and Deceit skills (10), allows the user to add his or her Fire Ring to all school skill rolls (5), and allows the user to keep a Kata active at all times. He or she may even spend a void point to switch which kata is active up to once per hour, however only use those katas specific to this school may be used in conjunction with this ability (10 -5 for the restriction = 5)
  • Second Technique/The Wisdom of the Streets:
    • As the Morgantha Adept continues his or her development – and learns the ways of the streets, alleys, and hidden places – he or she will quickly develop the arts of deceiving others, avoiding their notice, and finding excuses that they will find acceptable. He or she gains (Deceit Skill Rank) free raises whenever trying to deceive or mislead people or to justify his or her presence and activities, although this only works out of combat, not in conjunction with feints and similar maneuvers (10 – 5 = 5), a +10 to the targer number for anyone else to notice or remember them, albeit only while unarmored and plainly dressed (a Gift, 6 – 5 = 1), expands his or her special knacks (+school rank free raises) to cover the Investigation, Locksmith, and Traps Skills (+5), may now add twice his or her fire ring to all rolls using his or her school skills, replacing the level one benefit (+5), can evaluate the value of various items at a glance (Innate, self-powered, psychic sense, “Sense Value”, 3), and learns Thiefsign – a very limited “language” of sketchy gestures and scratched glyphs which can be used to pass on simple messages, such as “dogs here” or “reliable fence” (1).
  • Third Technique/Honor Among Thieves:
    • The Morgantha Adept has now become an accepted and experienced part of the underworld, and has learned it’s precepts. He or she gains Immunity to Honor losses for actions undertaken for the benefit of friends or allies (10), the ability to exploit the power of wealth to obtain various Favors (up to Rank +2 favors per session, rated at up to a rank of the [rank of the skill used/2], using Investigation to obtain information, Lore/Underworld to obtain criminal gear and services, and Deceit to quash investigations and get people acquitted in court. Unfortunately, each such favor will cost 5-10 Koku to arrange, 10 -5 = 5), and may trade up to two rolled dice for kept dice on school skill checks (5, -5 for limited group), Finally, his or her growing experience provides (Honor Rank) extra Void Points, however, these points can only be used to buy off damage or in conjunction with the School’s Kata (10-5 = 5)
  • Fourth Technique/The Lieutenant of the Underworld:
    • With increasing prominence, and greater skills, the Morgantha Adept will be able to effectively exploit his or her position in the Underworld. Unfortunately, with increasing wealth and influence comes increasing responsibilities and the necessity of dealing with occasional challenges. The fourth technique grants it’s user an Income of (Rank x 10 Koku/Month) – however, this must be shared with other students and unfortunates (10 -5 = 5), an extra Attack – if only while unarmored (10 -5 = 5), the ability to apply all their overheard tidbits of information to their already-extensive knacks (now also gains SR free raises with all Lore Skills, +5), and the ability to match an allies Initiative once per combat per rank (5).
      • Since this can obviously be used off-initiative, it could – in theory – be used to match the initiative of someone with a lower initiative than yours, and go again. This is obviously abusive. Nevertheless, I recommend allowing this once per round – but ONLY when the user is protecting other, less skilled, members of his or her gang.
  • Fifth Technique/Leader of the Pack:
    • A full Morgantha Adept will, almost inevitably, gather younger students around him or her, ready to be instructed. As a minor side effect, the Adept is now invariably on guard, even when the situation seems safe. The fifth technique of the school provides Gang Leadership – the user may recruit up to a dozen otherwise unremarkable youths, teach them this school, and run them as secondary characters. New recruits get the first level of this school and are built on 30 XP. Seasoned recruits get the second level of this school and are built on a total of 60 XP. Veterans get the third level of this school and are built with another +40 XP, for a total of 100. A single veteran can advance to “Lieutenant”, gaining another +60 XP and the fourth level of this school – but Veterans, and the occasional Lieutenant, will tend to depart occasionally and be replaced by new recruits even if no casualties occur (10). In addition, the user may spend ten minutes giving advice related to Lore/Underworld – granting his or her listeners pools of (Rank) free raises and +2 void points (which are not subject to the usual spending or pool limits) to use on rolls related to brawling or illegal activities within the next twenty-four hours (5). Secondarily, the user is always considered to be in Full Defense unless his or her posture is otherwise specified – however this only applies while he or she is not wearing armor, which makes it difficult to more freely (10 -5 = 5).

   Morgantha School Katas:

  • Rank One, 2 XP – The Opportunistic Strike: Focusing on searching for weak points and striking against them suddenly, this kata grants +2K0 to Hit and Damage when striking from behind or with surprise and allows the user to cause +0K1 damage with any item that comes to hand, using them as improvised knives. Sadly, this focus on searching for physical weak points leaves the user with a -5 penalty to his or her Initiative and to all Social Skill Rolls.
  • Rank Two, 3 XP. The Wind from the Shadows: Extensive practice with swift, silent, and tumbling movements provides the character using this kata with +2K0 to Athletics and Stealth checks, +5 AC, and +1 on his or her effective Water Ring for movement purposes only. Unfortunately, the user must move at least ten feet each round to claim the benefits of this kata and suffers a -1K0 penalty to all attacks made while this kata is active.
  • Rank Three, 5 XP. The Ballet of the Rogue: Attunement to the rhythm and flow of any conflict grants the user of this powerful kata +1 Attack per Round, +2K2 Damage, and grants him or her (Current Void Points) dice each round to distribute between attack rolls, damage rolls, and AC (at +5 AC per die). Unfortunately, wearing armor renders the user far too clumsy to use this kata at all – and such attunement makes the user’s movements more predictable, and thus makes it easier to hit him or her, penalizing his or her AC by -10.
  • Rank Four, 6 XP. Between the Lightning and the Thunder: Focusing entirely on speed and escape, this kata leaves the user with a -2K0 penalty to all attacks. On the other hand, he or she gains a +2K2 bonus on initiative, ignores all penalties for wounds and fatigue, may sacrifice one or both of the attacks he or she would get in a round for +15 on his or her current initiative, and may switch to another kata of lower level without spending a void point or it counting against his or her once-per-hour swap limit.
  • Rank Five, 8 XP. The Cloak of Legitimacy: Practice in evasion and flexibility is not limited to combat alone – or at least not to conventional combat. Blades are a threat, but – to the high-level practitioner of this school – law enforcement is at least as troublesome. The user of this Kata gains a +20 bonus on any attempts to explain, justify, or direct suspicion away from him or her self and his or her followers, gains double the usual benefits of the Etiquette skill when social checks are made against him or her, and can easily entangle witnesses, making the testimony of character’s who’s Rank is less than the user’s Honor ineffective against him or her and his or her followers. If the situation moves out of the social realms, the user may switch to another kata of lower level without spending a void point or it counting against his or her once-per-hour swap limit. Sadly, the focus on social issues comes at the expense of being alert to other things: while this kata is active, the user suffers a -10 penalty to his or her initiative and armor class.

   OK, the Morgantha school can do reasonably well in a fight – especially while using the Ballet of the Rogue kata – but it really isn’t a match for a lot of the dedicated combat schools. On the other hand, if your game is running more towards investigation scenarios, city adventures, or even classical “dungeon crawls”, having a classical rogue or thief along can be pretty helpful. Of course, it’s also one of the few schools which is easily open to the occasional non-samurai character, which helps make them more viable.

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