Bottleneck Designs – Oh To Be A Ninja When The Magic Goes Away!


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There have been a few requests for a comparison sheet on Yuki Tendo, to see just how badly having her innate enchantments suppressed (by Dispel Magic, Antimagic, or a variety of other means) hampers her. Here then is her condensed character sheet for the player, with it’s “with magic” and “without magic” divisions.

This, of course, neatly illustrates the problems with all bottleneck designs – and the shifting point of balance in one. Most characters have bottlenecks of course. A paralyzed warrior isn’t usually a lot of use and a wizard in an antimagic zone or without his or her spellbook is fairly crippled – but paralysis is normally very short-term, antimagic zones are generally easy to leave, and a sensible wizard will take due care to protect his or her spells and will have backups hidden away – or in the vaults of the local wizards guild if there is such an organization around.

Bottlenecks should come up occasionally; if they don’t, you’re cheating all the characters who are paying for immunity to those bottlenecks – whether in feats, or expensive items, or in using less vulnerable (and either less powerful or vulnerable in other ways) builds.

Yuki, however, has a very, very common and very serious bottleneck. Something as simple and common as a Dispel Magic – which only has to affect a level one enchantment – will temporarily cripple her, drastically reducing or eliminating her attacks, her defenses, and every other ability and skill she’s got. Even a wizard in an antimagic zone isn’t that badly off.

That’s generally poor character design – although it’s not uncommon in superheroic universes, where the opposition tends to be quite over the top. In a superhero universe it’s usually a foregone conclusion that the villains will be defeated; it’s how and how much damage is done along the way that matters.

In a fantasy universe the outcome is much more in doubt – and it’s usually more interesting to be competent most of the time, shine occasionally, have to struggle occasionally – and occasionally have to deal with a really massive disadvantage. After all, in these settings it’s the challenges that matter, and being put at a disadvantage occasionally just makes the challenge more exciting.

So here we have the simplified sheet for Yuki Tendo, both with and without magic.


  • Duty: Protect the innocent and pass on the secrets of Ninjitsu – but only to family members.
  • Cursed to draw unwanted and unsuitable suitors.
  • Compulsively honorable.
  • Irreverent – having several gods in the family has left Yuki pretty blase about them.

Ninja Package Deal:

  • Adept: Pays half cost for Hide, any one Martial Art, Move Silently, and Tumble.
  • Block/Melee: May expend an Attack of Opportunity and make a DC 20 Reflex save once per round to reduce the damage from a successful incoming melee attack by up to 60 (Min 0).

Basic Attributes:

  • With Magic: Str 12 [+1], Dex 22 [+6], Con 14 [+2], Int 16 [+3], Wis 10 [+0], Chr 9 [-1].
  • Without Magic: Str 10 [+0], Dex 20 [+5], Con 12 [+1], Int 16 [+3], Wis 10 [+0], Chr 7 [-2].
  • Special Note: Yuki, like many superheroines, is exceptionally good-looking. She also has a very abrasive personality…

Combat Abilities:

  • Proficient with All Simple, Martial, and Exotic Weapons
  • Hit Points: 56, or 51 without magic Con bonus.
  • Armor Class: 24, or 15 without magic.
    • 10 Base +6 or +5 (Dex) +4 (Ice Armor) +4 (Ice Shield)
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +4, or +1 without magic morale & Con bonus.
    • Reflex: +10, or +7 without magic morale & Dex bonus.
    • Will: +6, or +4 without magic morale bonus.
  • Initiative: +6, or +5 without magic
  • Movement: 60′, or 30′ without magic. May teleport as normal movement with magic.

Usual Attacks (With Magic):

  • Shuriken (Knives): +12/+12/+12, 1d4+3, Crit 19-20/x2, 80′ Range.
  • Ice Bolt: +11 Ranged Touch, 3d6 +2, Crit 20/x2, Range 520′.
  • Chains of Ice: Range 520′, DC 18 Reflex save to dodge, DC 15 Fort save to escape each round.
  • Katana (Longsword), +6/+6, 1d8+3, Crit 19-20/x2.
  • Unarmed: +7/+7, 1d6+5, Crit 20/x3, considered magical.

Usual Attacks (Without Magic):

  • Shuriken (Knives): +9, 1d4, Crit 19-20/x2, 10′ Range,
  • Katana (Longsword): +4/+4, 1d8+1, Crit 19-20/x2..
  • Unarmed: +3, 1d3 Stun, Crit 20/x2.

Sword of Yoshima (4 CP Relic):

  • Attracts creatures who wish to possess it and, when drawn…
  • Glows brilliantly, negating stealth but illuminating the area.
  • Provides Combat Reflexes.
  • On player request instantly heals the user for 1d8+5 damage OR 1d3 attribute damage OR one negative level six times per day (Grant of Aid).
  • Provides 6 Mana with the Spell Enhancement option.
  • Inflicts +3d6 damage versus Undead.
  • When the user is surrounded by multiple targets, slashes at one, and hits, he or she may spend two AoO to continue the slash to hit the next target. This can continue as long as he or she keeps hitting and has enough AoO left.

Mystic Ninja Arts:

  • Ninja Items: Yuki may produce minor items – smoke, gas, and flash pellets, flaming arrows, flares, sleeve-firing grappling lines, swim fins, camouflage clothing and makeup, rope, fine lockpicks, sneezing powder, shuriken, forged papers, crude paragliders, and so on, pretty much at will. These have effects roughly equivalent to those of a strong first-level spell and only work for her. Unlimited Use at caster level three.
  • Winter Magic: Yuki may create any winter-related effect of up to level two, including icy mists, snow, and blasts of wind, ice bolts, ice bonds, shields, and armor, resist cold and fire, and summoning minor air elementals. Unlimited Use at caster level three.
  • Chi Balancing Techniques:
    • Fast Healing I for 18 rounds three times per day.
    • Relieve Illness on herself once per day.
    • Relieve Poison on herself once per day.
    • Lesser Restoration on herself.
  • Arctic Hawk familiar. Can currently communicate with it telepathically within a range of one mile.
  • Spatial Perception: Yuki can sense matter within a radius of roughly thirty feet. This allows her to operate in the dark, sense material but invisible objects and creatures, and avoid being flanked unless she’s being attacked by at least three opponents. Fortunately for her, this is (Ex) rather than (Su).

Initial Wealth Level:

  • Affluent: Yuki’s weapons and armor are treated as being Masterwork, she can use five Charms and two Talismans, she gains +1 SP/Level, and she has a permanent +2 wealth bonus to Speak Language and Ride. She can afford exotic imported pets and fine steeds, and may have some employees or slaves if she so desires.
  • Talismans:
    • Bracers of Hurling: Gives anything she throws a range increment of 80′
    • Ninja Scroll: Allows her Ninja Mastery ability to produce strong second level effects up to three times per day.
  • Charms:
    • Contraceptive Charm: The user will not become pregnant.
    • Elfin Cloak: +4 to Hide, +7 if in natural surroundings or holding still, +10 if both apply.
    • Foothold Boots: Provide a momentary disk of force under the user’s feet three times an hour.
    • Glittering Disk: Casts Hypnotism three times per day, but will not work in combat.
    • Seeing Crystal: May attempt to Scry, or “place calls”, up to twice per day.


All “with magic” skill values include +2 Luck, +2 Morale, +4 Competence, +2 Aid. External effects of this type will be less helpful than for most people.

Skills: With Magic Without Magic
Appraise (Int) +13 +3
Balance (Dex) +20 +9
Bluff (Chr) +9 -2
Climb (Str) +15 +3
Concentration (Con) +12 +1
Craft (Int)    
-Alchemy +14 +4
-Mechanician +14 +4
-Smithcraft +14 +4
Decipher Script (Int)# +15 +5
Diplomacy (Cha) +9 -2
Disable Device (Int)# +20 +10
Disguise (Cha) +10 -1
Escape Artist (Dex) +18 +7
Forgery (Int) +15 +5
Gather Info. (Cha) +9 -2
Handle Animal (Cha)#    
Heal (Wis) +10 +0
Hide (Dex) +31 +20
Intimidate (Cha) +9 -2
Jump (Str) +13 +2
Knowledge (Int)#    
-Arcana +15 +5
-Architect/Engineer +15 +5
-Dungeoneering +13 +3
-Geography +13 +3
-History +15 +5
-Local +13 +3
-Nature +13 +3
-Nobility/Royalty +13 +3
-Religion +15 +5
-The Planes +16 +6
Listen (Wis) +16 +6
Move Silently (Dex) +24 +13
M. Art +24 +13
Open Lock (Dex) +20 +9
Perform (Cha) +9 -2
Profession (Wis)#    
Ride (Dex) +18 +7
Search (Int) +16 +6
Sense Motive (Wis) +10 +0
Slight of Hand (Dex)# +24 +13
Speak Language +15 +5
Spellcraft (Int)# +15 +5
Spot (Wis) +18 +8
Survival (Wis) +12 +2
Swim (Str) +11 +0
Tumble (Dex)# +24 +13
Use Magic Dev. (Cha)# +10 -1
Use Rope (Dex) +16 +5

2 Responses

  1. I’m still wondering why she needs a contraceptive charm. Only crazy, obnoxious people she dislikes hit on her (well, the Red Scarf sometimes teased her that way, but only because it annoyed her). She’s so aggressive it’s hard to even say hello to her. And I can’t see her really taking that deliberately.

    Perhaps someone gave it to her secretly to keep her from reproducing any more Yukis?

    • Well, she did nearly start a couple of relationships – most notably with the White Necromancer, even though Mina’s direct werewolf-style approach won out through simple speed.

      Secondarily, she is from a world where simple magic has been in widespread use for tens of thousands of years. That’s why contraceptive charms are on the list of common charms in the Even the werewolves use them.

      The gear list is over here – but the charm list is fairly well buried, so I’ll put it here:

      Charms are normally Fragile Inobvious Accessible Foci (-.75) and are powered by Personal Magic (-.25). They cannot normally exceed 10 active points. either singly or in combination. Many powers are difficult or impossible to create as charms: consult the GM. Common Charms include:

    • (4) Armor: Warding Talisman (4 PD/2 ED)

      (3) +3 BODY, Amulet of Life

      (4) +3 DEX, Monkey Belt; Doesn’t Affect Figured: -½

      (2) Owls Sight Amulet: Ultraviolet Vision

      (2) 5″ Levitation: Gliding (NC: 10″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 15

      (3) Pearl of the Seas: Breathe in Unusual Environment/Underwater, Life Support: High Pressure/Vacuum; Generic Limitation (high water pressure only): -1

      (1) Running: Belt of the Gazelle (+1″, 20″, NC: 40″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 3

      (5) Shifters Clasp: Shape Shift (Select Form) (Single Form)

      (5) Demon Ward: Change Environment/Holy (2″ rad.); Effect: Fixed, +0

      (4) Beastmaster’s Amulet: Animal Handler 14-

      (2) Merchant’s Pin: Specific Language (Completely Fluent w/accent); Literacy: Standard

      (5) Ward of Heaven: Danger Sense (In Combat, Self); Works: In Combat, +0; Range: Self, +0 11-

      (1) Contraceptive Amulet: Immunity/Parenthood; Frequency: Common

      (5) Luck Charm (2d6)

    • Like most youngsters in the setting from sensible familities, her parents made sure that she got a warding talisman while she was still in her crib – and a contraceptive amulet before she even reached puberty.

      Yes indeed, her mother got it for her…

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