Ninja

Night of the Ninja (1986)

I love the proximity of the phrase “Reality Role-Playing Game” to the title “Night of the Ninja” on the cover here.

Calling this an RPG feels like a touch of a stretch. There’s a character generation system and like two whole pages of admittedly small print detailing the GM’s role, but the vast majority of the book is dedicated to the combat system and the many exotic weapons it employs. If feels like part of an RPG, but aside of Bruce Lee-themed martial arts board game, I can’t find any other products produced by IIE Games.

As a specialized combat rulebook, I suppose it is fine? The authors take their subject seriously, for certain, and there is a high level of detail. The system is unremarkable enough that you could strip it out and use the details for something else without too much difficulty.

The best part of the book is how self-aware it is about taking advantage of ninja-mania (which kicked off in 1981, inspired by the movie Enter the Ninja). The writers lament the crass commercialization of the ninja and insist that they never intended to be part of the craze. The book was in development long before the craze even started, honest! Our computers just kept breaking! It is weird. Just be psyched that the ninjas you love so much are popular, dudes!

I was really surprised at the quality of the interior art, by Neil Hansen, an indie comic artist at the time. Considering how bad some art is in big budget games of the period, it was a real pleasant surprise to see crisp line work inside here.

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