Way of the Crow – Part Three

The supplicant had returned to the House of Crows, for whilst Master Crow had taught him much, he felt that was much more to learn.

Entering the shadowy interior of the dojo, the supplicant was alarmed to see Master Crow lying face down on his tatami, surrounded by empty Guinness cans. Moving closely, he noted that Master Crow was snoring gently and a musty smell, reminiscent of dusty feathers. As he stepped closer still, he accidentally kicked one of the cans, sending it skittering across the floor. Master Crow immediately sat bolt upright, his eyes staring, although not completely in focus. Turning his head, he stared at the supplicant and said a single word…


Gathering himself, Master Crow shrewdly looked the supplicant up and down. “I am assuming that you have returned to learn more of the Way of the Crow, yes?” The supplicant nodded.

“Master Crow,” the supplicant said nervously, “do you have a drinking problem?”

“Very perceptive, young Padawan.,” answered Master Crow, “I do indeed – my beak is not designed to sup from cans, so I must use…a straw.”

“But enough of the burdens I labour under, it is time for you to learn. Let us begin…”

Welcome back to the third part of my home-brew skirmish rules, currently known as Karasudo or The Way of the Crow. In Part One, I discussed my ‘design philosophy’ and detailed how to stat up characters. In Part Two, I explained weapon skills and gave a brief overview of the main rules and discussed melee combat. Now it’s time to get…crunchy.

Karasudo – The Power of One

No matter how lucky you are, or how good your dice-rolling skills are, there will be occasions that you will roll an unmodified 1 on a d10. This is a Bad Thing, for not only have you reduced the chances that you will succeed in whatever endeavour your character is attempting, in Karasudo it also signifies that your ancestors have forsaken you and something Bad has happened.

This may sound familiar to some and, to be honest, I may have appropriated this idea from the Ghostbusters RPG published by West End Games. This was a d6 based system, which was the precursor of the d6 system utilised in the original Star Wars RPG and used on nearly every game published by West End Games afterwards. When rolling a number of d6’s in the game, one of these dice had to be the ‘Ghost Die’, which had the 1 replaced by the Ghostbusters symbol. If a character rolled this, even if they rolled high enough to succeed, something Bad would happen. If a ghost or other supernatural foe rolled the ‘ghost’, then something Good happened – for the entity. Either way, rolling a ‘Ghost’ was detrimental to the players.

As I liked this concept, I originally integrated this into the missile combat system, whereby rolling a 1 usually meant that the missile weapon had failed in some way – the roll may still have been a success and hit the target, but the weapon was now jammed or broken, and would require a couple of Actions to fix. Not such a problem when supported by other characters, but if you’re pinned down in a mall clothing store by advancing zombies, having your SMG jam at an inappropriate moment can be a little hairy…

So, rather than restrict it to just missile combat, it has now been applied to any dice roll. You roll an unmodified 1 and something detrimental happens. Obviously, depending on what the roll is for, depends on what actually happens, so I’ll break it down by types of roll.

Initiative – Should a player roll an unmodified 1 when rolling for Initiative, not only do they lose the opportunity to go first, one of their characters will not be able to activate this turn. This will usually be the character with the lowest Awareness score or, if more than one character has the same lowest score, the figure furthest from the designated leader. This represents a combination of garbled instructions from the leader and the character in question not paying attention. He’s probably seen a squirrel or something…

If the player who lost the Initiative roll only has one character or model in play, then that character will only activate after the winner of the Initiative has activated all their models. Should have been paying attention, shouldn’t he…

Melee Combat – If a character rolls an unmodified 1 for an Attack Roll during Melee combat, even if they succeed in hitting their target, they’ve managed to disarm themselves. The must now use an alternative equipped weapon (if they have one) or spend their next Action attempting to retrieve it, which is something their opponent may not allow.

If a character rolls an unmodified 1 for an Attack Roll during Unarmed combat, even if they succeed in hitting their target, they immediately lose 1 Health point. This represents a particularly cack-handed attack, such as punching someone right in the armour.

The same rules apply if the character rolls an unmodified 1 for a Defence roll – if Melee combat, they are disarmed of their weapon or shield (controlling player’s choice) and if in Unarmed combat, they take an additional 1 Health point of damage, over and above any they may have received from the attack itself. In the latter case, even if the character managed to soak the damage caused by their opponent’s Attack roll via Vigour and Armour, they would still receive a single point of damage.

As I will be discussing Missile Combat further down, I will explain what an unmodified roll of 1 signifies in that section.


As previously explained, a character can move a number of Units equal to their Agility score for each Action expended on movement. However, this only applied to Clear terrain, such as grass, pavements, roads, etc. Terrain is divided into three categories – Clear, Rough and Impassable.

Clear terrain, as described above, constitutes flat, even terrain, where there are no obstacles in impede movement and therefore has no penalty to a character movement across it.

Rough terrain constitutes terrain that does impede movement, such as shallow water, thick mud, swamps, marshes or ground that is littered with a large amount of stones or gnarled tree roots. When passing through Rough terrain, a character can only move half their Agility score in Units. However, this only applies to the area of Rough terrain itself.

To give an example of how this works, a character has an Agility of 4 and can therefore move 4 Units per Action. The character could therefore move 2 Units across Clear terrain, but when entering Rough terrain would have their remaining movement allowance reduced by half, meaning that they could only move a further 1 Unit through the Rough terrain before halting. On their next Action, as the Rough terrain continues for a further 2 Units, they could only move 2 Units (4/2 = 2).

There are certain Abilities that a character may have that allow them to move their full movement through Rough terrain or ignore it altogether, which will be discussed when we get to the post about Abilities.

To keep things easy, Rough terrain also includes vertical surfaces, but with an additional complication. Each vertical surface, be it a tree, cliff face or building will have a Difficulty rating, depending on how easy it is to scale. Any character attempting to scale the vertical surface will need to roll 1d10 plus their Agility score and get higher than the Difficulty rating. If they succeed, they may move half their Agility score in Units vertically for each Action expended. Each further vertical movement Action necessary to reach the top of whatever they’re climbing requires a further roll. A success means a further vertical movement of half their Agility, a failure means they remain where they are and an unmodified 1 means they’ve fallen, automatically taking 1 Health point of damage for each Unit fallen. It doesn’t matter how tough you are or how much armour you’ve got on – if you fall, you’re gonna get hurt.

As with horizontal Rough terrain, there are Abilities that will make scaling vertical surfaces easier or prevent falling altogether.

Impassable terrain is just that – terrain that cannot be passed on foot. This may be deep or swiftly flowing water, molten lava, very dense vegetation or solid structures, such as walls or buildings. However, what may be Impassable to an average character, may only be considered Rough terrain to others. Certain types of Impassable terrain will have a Vigour rating, meaning that a character which has a Vigour score equal to or greater than the Vigour score of the Impassable terrain can treat it as Rough terrain.

So, if the Impassable terrain was a fierce and swiftly flowing river with a Vigour rating of 6, an average human with a Vigour of 3 would immediately get swept away by the torrent. However, an Oni, with a Vigour score of 8 would be able to force their way through the river, although at half their normal movement score. The same would apply to dense vegetation.

Buildings and structures are treated slightly differently. Whilst they will have a Vigour rating, they will also have a Health score. This represents how much damage the structure or part of the structure can take before being breached. A character makes an Attack roll as normal, adding any modifiers and deducting the Vigour rating (and any other defensive modifiers) of the structure. The end result is how many ‘Health’ points the structure has lost. Once these have been reduced to zero, the structure has been breached and any character can now go through the breach created. Particular weak structures, such as paper walls or thin wooden panelling will obviously be easier to breach than solid stone. However, if you roll an unmodified 1 when attempting breach a structure, you have either broken your weapon or got it jammed into the material from which the structure is made, so it now unusable for the remainder of the game. If you’re attempting to breach a structure using an Unarmed attack (suggested only for weak structures or very Vigourous characters), an unmodified 1 results in automatically receiving 1 Health point of damage. Unless you’re the Hulk, don’t try to punch your way through a wall.

As with the other types of terrain, there are Abilities that allow you to ignore Impassable terrain, such as Intangibility of Flight.

Missile Combat

Missile combat in the majority of rules I’ve read is pretty complicated, with modifiers for range, the time of day, the weapon being used and then there’s the headache of recording how much ammunition has been expended, ad infinitum. So, I’ve attempted to make it as simple as possible, because all that faffing about annoys me.

Unlike Melee weapons, which provide a bonus to your damage roll, and Unarmed attacks, which the base damage is based on the Vigour of the attacker, all missile weapons have a fixed damage they can do, which is expressed as a Vigour rating. So a Matchlock Rifle has a Vigour rating of 5, or V5. Similarly, every missile weapon has a Range, which is the number of Units the weapon can be used within. This is typically double the Vigour rating of the weapon, so our Matchlock Rifle would have a Range of 10, or R10. The shorthand way of recording this under Abilities is as follows:

Matchlock Rifle (V5/R10)

Typically, missile weapons cost their combined Vigour and Range, unless they can only be used every other Action. So, whilst the Matchlock Rifle above should have a points cost of 15, as it has to be reloaded after every shot, it cost half (rounded up) in points, so 8 points. Weapons that can be used every Action, such as automatic weapons or bows, cost their combined Vigour and Range. To show what I mean, I’ll list some typical Oriental weapons and their costs:

Shuriken (V3/R6) – 9 points

Matchlock Pistol (V4/R8) – 6 points

Longbow (V5/R10) – 15 points

Matchlock Rifle (V5/R10) – 8 points

Okay, so strictly speaking an archer does need to reload each shot, but this is just a case of pulling another arrow from his quiver, rather than loading powder, shot, etc. so he’s going to be a lot quicker.

To make a missile attack follows the same process as attacking in melee, so Agility plus Marksmanship plus 1d10. However, you have to take into account whether your target is in range and you can actually see them – this is what is known as Line of Sight.

So, we’ve established that there are no range modifiers, so a character with a Matchlock Rifle can shoot at any opposing character within 10 Units of them. However, if they can’t see them, they can’t shoot at them. There are three categories that apply to Line of Sight – No Cover, Partial Cover and Full Cover.

If the attacking character can see the opposing character with nothing impeding their view, it counts as No Cover – so you roll as normal.

If the attacking character cannot see the opposing character at all, it counts as Full Cover and they can’t shoot at them.

Pretty simple so far.

However, Partial Cover is where it gets a bit crunchy, but still relatively simple. If the attacking character can see the opposing character, but they are partially obscured by anything else, such as a low wall, vegetation of anything else on the battlefield, they are considered to have Partial Cover. The attacking character adds their Agility score and any relevant modifiers (such as Marksmanship) and then halves this amount. They then make their standard 1d10 roll and adds this to their base Attack roll. The defender rolls their Defence roll as normal and the result follows the standard rules for success or failure.

So, say we have an Ashigaru with an Agility of 3 and Marksmanship of +1, armed with a Matchlock Rifle. We’ve established that his target is within 10 Units and in Partial Cover. Therefore the base roll for the attacker will be Agility + Marksmanship divided by 2, which is 2. We roll our d10 and get a 6, giving a total of 8. The target has an Agility of 3 and rolls a 4, meaning that we’ve beaten the target’s score by 1. Add this 1 to the base damage of 5, means that the target could potentially take 6 health points of damage. Our target has a Vigour of 2, a Health of 4 and no Armour. we deduct the Vigour score of the target from our 6 damage, meaning 4 points got through and as he only had 4 Health points – Boom! – he’s dead.

So, as you can see, a lot simpler than most missile combat.

Of course, we still have to take into account the dreaded unmodified 1. For missile weapons that require reloading every other Action, an unmodified 1 means the weapon has become jammed and will require 2 Actions to un-jam. For weapons that don’t require reloading every other round,  an unmodified 1 means that the character is out of ammunition and needs to ‘reload’, which takes 1 Action. I know this is not particularly realistic, but it does work and saves a lot of book-keeping.

Right, that’s all for this instalment. If you have any questions or think that a particular part could be clearer or needs more explanation, please feel free to provide feedback and comments.


31 thoughts on “Way of the Crow – Part Three

  1. It’s looking good so far, Jez. I have one question for you. When moving through Rough terrain you half your character’s Agility score. If the Agility score is an odd number, do you round up or down? I’d guess round up, but I’d just like to make sure.


    • Good point, Bryan. Yes, round up is correct. Once I collate the rules into a whole (as ‘the power of one’ section needs dividing up amongst the relevant sections) I’ll make sure I clarify any sections that need doing so. Thanks for spotting that.


    • Indeed there will, Andy. As I’ve sort of jumped about a bit, there are parts that need putting back into the correct place. So I’ll be collating everything, restructuring, tidying up and generally making the whole thing look a bit better. And I might even put in page numbers! Probably won’t need an index though as they’re quite short = I think a contents page will suffice.


  2. Its all very smooth and precise Jez, easy to understand and nicely challenging on the table top. But we are having one major problem. The rules work just fine when played like HeroClix or HeroScape (i.e. really small teams on each side), but soon bogs down to a grinding halt when trying to use them for larger games. We tend to play a lot of skirmish scenarios involving up to 30 or 40 or more miniatures per side (sometimes more than two sides), played on a big table using a lot of scenery, with anything from 1 to 5 players per side. Played with anything about half a dozen minis per side the game simply becomes torturous to wield; with moves/turns taking a long time to complete (which `A` makes it hard to complete a game in an evening at the club and `B` I`ve been watching, and players tend to lose interest when they stand/sit around waiting for their next go).

    Otherwise, the rules work just fine…. probably GREAT played solo, as the solo player wants all that minutia and time: he is in n hurry, and can really immerse (which is why games like Arkham Horror are so good for playing that way).

    We will continue play testing, and now we have the third part of the rules, we have started to add more complexity (played eight games of Way of the Crow last night at the club on four tables), but it was slow going for reasons mentioned above. Simply too many parts to perform each go to make it fast and snappy. But I repeat, me personally… I`m enjoying it.


    • Thanks for the feedback, Steve. As the rules were originally designed with superhero skirmish gaming in mind, you can understand that they probably work best with half a dozen to a dozen characters controlled by each player. Obviously, with a larger number of models, it will slow down. I always envisaged ‘skirmish’ to mean small ‘units’ on a smallish playing field (2′ to 3′ square).

      One way around this would be to organise similar troops into ‘units’, similar to Heroscape, where a group of similar armed and armoured troops are treated as one ‘character’, so would move, attack, shoot as one, with individual ‘heroes’ as separate characters. It’s not ideal, but would significantly speed up play when using the number of models you have been using. Think of it as a house rule for larger scale conflicts. If you come up with with a more elegant solution, I’d love to hear it, as any feedback can only improve the rules.

      And I can only say a big ‘thank you’ for inflicting my disjointed ramblings on your club. Hopefully they’ve had fun and any comments or feedback from your players, either good or bad, would be appreciated.

      Oh and I’m assuming that “played with anything about half a dozen minis per side” should read “played with anything ABOVE half a dozen minis per side”, yes?


  3. {{Oh and I’m assuming that “played with anything about half a dozen minis per side” should read “played with anything ABOVE half a dozen minis per side”, yes?}}

    Yep, that’s my immaculate and impeccable spelling/typos again I`m afraid. Honestly, those who struggle through and decipher what I write (especially on my more obscure days) should be awarded medals of endurance.

    Your rules: no I totally get them, and I really think they are rather neat. Certainly proves my long standing point and belief that you don`t need to go the `official` route with rules to enjoy a really good game: you don`t need shiny flashy covers with a main stream company logo stamped all over the place. Most certainly, your rules WORK, and are every bit as good as many pro sets out there…. I say many… not all, simply because your rules are BETTER than many of the pro rules out there.

    I almost always use homebrew rules myself, and just about everything I/we play, we either make up ourselves or use rules made up by friends (people like yourself). Even games like Zombicide, if I were utterly frank… we rarely use the official rules that come with a game, but invariably use one of our own creations to play our games on the table… often using different sets of these types of rules each week we play.

    I figured pretty early, your Way of the Crow were taking the premise `skirmish` as meaning half a dozen or so figs per side. Which, in itself, is real cool: I was hoping they would work for both/either skirmish or/and larger scale games too. However, once the guys figured out how to approach your rules, a few of them broke away and set up a couple of smaller scenarios (actually, exactly as you describe… small 2` by 2` tables), and found (apart from the many fiddly stages of the `phases`, but that is probably, in all fairness, mostly simply due to the rules only being first draft) they played really smoothly, and once the rules became familiar and learned (which greatly speeds up play anyway), then they worked really well and gave some nifty and enjoyable results.

    All in all Jez, I think you have a winner mate.


    • Thank you very much, Steve. I feel privileged that my rules are getting a thorough play-testing via your club and that I’m getting feedback from a professional games designer (that’s you, that is…)

      My design philosophy, if I can be said to have one, is that the rules shouldn’t get in the way of the fun. If you’re spending too long muddling through the rules or having to refer to them too often, then this is wasting valuable fun time. Therefore, if there’s any ‘stream-lining’ you can suggest, I’m happy to take any constructive feedback to improve the rules.

      I’ve managed to locate all my previous notes, which has reminded me of things I’ve yet to cover in the rules, and collated everything posted so far into a cohesive whole, whilst also ‘tidying’ up here and there. So, there’s not a great deal more to come, it’s mainly just the ‘special’ Abilities, plus a few bits regarding sneaking about, detecting people sneaking about and knocking people down.


  4. {{ (that’s you, that is…) }}

    ….they feed me from left over scraps from the bins out back.

    Once I get the whole thing, I will give it a kindly once over mate (and reply to you via private email hehe) :)))


    • That would be much appreciated, so thank you In advance. Probably best if I send the collated version over, with everything in the right place, rather than the part-work it is now.
      Of course, if you need another ‘filler piece’ for your blog, you could always do the first official review… 😉


  5. if that’s ok with Bryan, then woooot!!!!! love to mate.

    Oh, when the intrepid warrior-ess returns for her gig, would you like her to format it all and make it look nice and pretty and professional for you, or will you do that yourself Jez?


  6. Looking really good Jez, though rule writing isn’t really my bag, done a couple of short sets, but I have the memory of a goldfish, so can’t even remember my own rules after two turns.

    So kudos to you for this.

    Cheers Roger.


  7. Really cool, I look forward to getting back into this 🙂

    (I wanted to reply to the earlier chibi thread too, but its not accepting comments).

    Tarot (back home woooot!!!!)


  8. Thank you so much. Its nice to feel wanted *hug* xx

    I think the mini on Roger`s post is adorable, my whole heart went out to it. Okay, one sec, I`ll go have another go at the Chibi article 🙂


    • I’ve certainly missed your enthusiastic and supportive comments. And I was gobsmacked to receive such a wonderful gift from Roger, who is a much more talented sculptor than I. He didn’t want to publish his post until I’d safely received it, to preserve the surprise. I’ve got a little me! Um, you know what I mean…


    • That’s a bit odd. It might be that the recent update to WordPress has reset some of the feedback settings, meaning that he would have to ‘Approve’ your comment. As you’ve commented on his posts before, I can’t see it being an issue, but will certainly pass on your comments, if you still haven’t managed to get a comment on their.


      • It’s the way WordPress works – the first comment from a new commentator requires approval from the blog owner – after that, you can comment on the blog to your heart’s content.


  9. Pingback: Thinking Outside The (Blue) Box | Carrion Crow's Buffet

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