za3k > games > ninjas ninjas ninjas!
Ninjas Ninjas Ninjas! is a fast-paced storytelling game about how damn cool ninjas are, for 3 more or players (instructions are written for 3). It's designed to last 5-30 minutes--how long exactly is up to the players. New events and challenges happen rapidly, and which player is doing what shifts quickly.
Audience: Unlike my last two games, Ninjas Ninjas Ninjas! is not for complete beginners to storytelling games. There is very little guidance from the rules about what story to tell or how.
Each player controls a young journeyman ninja taking his/her/their final ninja exam. The three ninjas work together as a team to accomplish their goal. At all times one ninja is in Front. Front is the "player" who is actively deciding what to do, while the other ninjas throw problems and points at them.
Storytelling focuses on the ninjas being cool, and quick progress. Detailed description always illustrates just how COOL the ninja team and their moves are. It DOESN'T talk about the scenery, plot details, motives and emotions, or whether the enemies are also cool.
The goals of the game are to accomplish your mission, be super awesome, and throw as many stars as possible as quickly as possible.
Supplies needed: None, in the worst case. Ideally, each player tracks how many stars they have thrown--you tally in front of you on paper, or take a penny from a stack in the middle whenever you throw a star. If you wish, you can play with a timer. If your group has trouble keeping track mentally, you can also use nine nickels to track throwing stars.
written 2021-02-07 by zachary "za3k" vance
The intended play style is fast, and the game is complex at full speed. At first start slow, and review a Role every time you get it. Also, mention why you're passing point starts. After a couple games, players should memorize the rules and Roles, and stop using any written aids. Then, start scoring if you aren't (guessing is fine). You can also use a timer if you want one. Finally, ramp up speed until you're forced to improv (say what you do before thinking it through).
Advanced players are encouraged to invent and use ninja hand signals in place of yelling.
One player shouts "Team!". A second player shouts "Mission!". The slowest player is Place.
- First, decide the Place. Do ninjas have naruto powers or they realistic? Are there cell phones? Is your team good or bad? Where does the exam take place?
- Second, decide the Team. Come up with three ninja characters, each different. Everyone else picks a ninja--whoever grabs it first gets it. The Team player gets the remaining ninja. Whoever grabbed the very first ninja is in Front. I recommend naming ninjas after one-syllable colors (Green, Red, and Blue), and having each player be the same color game to game.
- Third, decide the Mission. What exactly do the three ninjas have to accomplish for their final exam? How complex the mission is determines how long the game will be. If you want to set a timer, match the mission complexity to the timer length.
- Each player grabs three ninja stars. You never throw stars as Front. Every time you throw a star, it will be to Front. When you throw, you lose a star and they gain a star.
- Track of how many ninja stars you have in your head, or by counting on your fingers. Ninjas don't talk about how many stars they have. If that doesn't work for your group and players lose track, pass around nine nickles instead.
- Your goal is to throw stars, not have them.
The Front ninja is the team leader, so they assign each player a unique starting Role--Goal, Enemy, or Cheat.
One ninja is always Front. The are the current team leader and decide what the team does. Attention is on Front. Front's team accomplishes tasks quickly, in cool ways, and then quickly goes to the next step of the plan.
- Front should describe both what the team does, and what's happening in the world.
- Ninjas are cool, skillful, deadly, quiet, efficient, they cheat constantly, and they have perfect teamwork. The point of the game is for the ninjas to show off being as awesome as possible.
- Front should change often. Whenever Front thinks another ninja should take charge, they just yell "Red, Front!" and now the Red ninja is in Front. They toss Red a star. It's coolest if Front puts another ninja in charge when that ninja would be able to handle the situation or next step of the plan better.
- Front can and should introduce new obstacles, although the other two players will as well. Front is encouraged to introduce single peons and physical obstacles especially, because only Front introduces these.
- If the Front tells you to grab a bucket of water, you run to the well without hesitation--a ninja team trusts each other completely. When members of the team other than the Front do something, they answer "Yes, Front!" or describe it very quickly without detail: "Green runs to the well and tosses Red a bucket". Keeping responses short keeps the attention on Front.
- Front describes what the team does, but they don't explain why. Other players should make an effort to understand Front's plan so they can continue it. Ignoring the previous Front's plan would be lame, and ninjas aren't lame.
- If there's a long lull, another ninja can jump in and describe what's happening in the world, but not what the team does.
- Front doesn't introduce problems using their Role--only the other two ninjas throw stars.
- Goal throws Front a star to introduce a new goal, or shift an existing goal. A child might scream in a nearby room--the team needs to save (or gag) them. Or their assassination target might turn out to be an undercover agent, and the real villain is someone else. They yell "Goal" and quickly explain what happened and what the new goal is.
- Enemy throws Front a star to introduce a new enemy or event (someone spots you on the roof). Enemies are always people, never physical obstacles. Front or Cheat introduces physical obstacles. An enemy could be a boss, a horde of peons, or a lone watchman ready to sound the alarm. They yell "Enemy" and introduce the new enemy or explain the event. Boss introductions can be a bit more detailed, but still keep the game fast.
- Cheat throws Front a star to introduce a twist or surprise. Surprises are consistent with the Place set up at the start, but it might not match the story so far. The car you stole to get away was rigged with remote explosives, or the boss you killed in Act One shows up again looking fine, with your infiltration plan in hand. They yell "Cheat" and quickly explain what happened.
- Front never awards points--only the other two ninjas throw stars.
- When passing point stars, you don't explain why aloud. If you're using physical star tokens, just pass one. If you're not, say "point".
- If the team accomplishes a goal or defeats a boss, Goal throws Front a star. If the team accomplishes a goal, but another player throws in some twist as they would have finished the original goal, Goal should still throw Front a star.
- If the team does something quickly, Goal throws Front a star.
- If the team does something cool, Enemy throws Front a star.
- If Front introduces an obstacle, Enemy throws Front a star.
- If the team does something skillfully or in a clever way (including cheating), Cheat throws Front a star.
- If anyone breaks the game rules, Cheat can throw them a star, too, even if they're not Front. Don't bother discussing the rules during the game, just keep the pace up.
- If a ninja runs out of stars, they whisper "Ninja Down" or use a hand signal. They are now Front. The old Front immediately swaps Roles with them, permanently. For example, if Front (Red) was Cheat, and Enemy (Blue) runs out of stars, then Blue becomes both Front and Cheat, and Red takes over as Enemy. The new Front is not allowed to switch out again until they get a star again.
- If Goal decides the team has accomplished the main goal, they shout "PASS!". The ninjas have passed their final exam and won the game. The game is over.
- At the end of the game, your score is the number of stars you threw. My recommended method is to make a tally mark whenever you throw a star. This is your individual score. The team score is the sum of the individual scores. If you don't have paper, or don't want to keep track, you can just guess instead.
- (Optional) The ninjas fail the final exam if X minutes pass and they haven't won (I suggest 5 to 30 minutes as a good limit). They also lose one point for each minute that passed before they sucessfully passed their exam.
As mentioned, you should learn this and stop using it as soon as possible.
||Skill, Clever, Cheat
- Ninjas Ninjas Ninjas requires at least 3 players, but it probably works with more. You need one Role per playe. Come up with your own Roles. Each Role needs at least one Problem Star, and at least one Point Star. If you have good Role ideas and try them out, send it to me!
- Example: Stealth's Problem stars introduce Traps and Events (Enemy is no longer in charge of Events). Stealth throws Front a Point Star if the team does things stealthily, or without causing collateral damage.