The kuge represent the noble class of Japan, equally skilled at mounted archery and court machinations. For a time, it seemed as if the kuge would rule unchecked through their bureaucracy, education, and control over the Emperor. However, the cwarrior class was destined to supplant these administrator-warriors through sheer force of arms and cold, unwavering determination for power. Despite their ouster from power, the kuge were needed to run the vast bureaucracies that controlled medieval Japan’s sprawling cities, and their prowess on the battlefield was an important asset as well. These elements combined to allow the kuge to remain powerful enough to challenge the samurai well into the 18th century.
Adventures: Lower level kuge serve as cavalry officers in the armies of powerful daimyo, where they provide a deadly form of mobile archery. These cavalry forces are also used for reconnaissance and as a way to quickly transmit orders (through the use of coded placards among the daimyo’s forces, the vast majority of which tend to travel and fight on foot.
At higher levels, most kuge leave the battlefield for the intricavies of court, attempting to rise through guile and manipulation. At the highest levels, the kuge’s skill at both warfare and intrigue make them a dangerous opponent indeed.
Characteristics: The kuge is skilled with horsemanship, archery, and the refined finesse of court. He can kill with a rumor or with a well placed arrow, and takes delight in both skills.
Honor: Honor is nearly as important to the kuge as it is to the samurai. These nobles trade on their prestige and use it as a commodity with which to gain power at court.
Religion: As educated men, kuge tend to prefer esoteric Tendai and Shingon sects of Buddhism. A few who prefer warfare to the subtleties of court can be found adhering to the Zen sect as well. Those with connections to the imperial family and their direct descendants sponsor Shinto as well.
Background: Kuge train from a very early age to fire bows accurately from the saddle of a galloping horse. Sports such as hunting and the ever-popular dog shooting helps teach the young kuge to control his horse and fire his bow at the same time.
Bloodline: Most kuge ar eborn into their roles as leaders and schemers and come from the noble bloodline. Even when serving in armies as young men, cavalry officers are given a slight precedence in importance over the ranks of footsoldiers. A few kuge are elevated to their status – mostly honored footsoldiers given the opportunity to learn the ways of the horseman.
Other Classes: The kuge have an intense rivalry with the priests and samurai over the question of who will rule the peasants and determine the course of national policy.
Role: The kuge excels in diplomacy and in the art of mounted archery. In a pinch, he can serve as a frontline fighter for a party, but this role is usually filled by samurai and ashigaru.
Game Rule Information
Abilities: Dexterity is important to the kuge because it impacts his major combat focus of mounted archery. Charisma is important for his other role – manipulating the intrigues of court.
Honor: A character must have an Honor score of 40+ or belong to a noble bloodline to take levels in this class. A character from any bloodline can take levels in this class with the permission of a character from the noble bloodline, but if his Honor ever drops below 40, he can never take levels in this class again. A character of noble bloodline can always take levels in this class regardless of his Honor score.
Kuge who take an allegiance to the Code of Bushido gain a +5 Honor bonus.
Lvl BAB F/W Ref Special
1 +0 +2 +0 Mounted Combat, Born to Saddle
2 +1 +3 +0 Weapon Focus (bow), August Personage +2
3 +2 +3 +1 Mounted Archery
4 +3 +4 +1 Specialization (bow), Cutting Remark
5 +3 +4 +1 Ki 1/day, August Personage +4
6 +4 +5 +2 Point Blank, Court Contact (low)
7 +5 +5 +2 Rapid Shot/Rapid Reload
8 +6/+1 +6 +2 Greater Weapon Focus, Slander
9 +6/+1 +6 +3 Court Appointment (low), Manyshot/Far Shot
10 +7/+2 +7 +3 Ki 2/day, August Personage +6
11 +8/+3 +7 +3 Court Contact (medium)
12 +9/+4 +8 +4 Greater Specialization, Innuendo
13 +9/+4 +8 +4 Court Appointment (medium)
14 +10/+5 +9 +4 Court Contact (high)
15 +11/+6/+1 +9 +5 Ki 3/day, August Personage +8
16 +12/+7/+2 +10 +5 Smear Campaign
17 +12/+7/+2 +10 +5 Court Appointment (high)
18 +13/+8/+3 +11 +6 Imperial Visitation 1/year
19 +14/+9/+4 +11 +6 August Personage +10
20 +15/+10/+5 +12 +6 Ki 4/day
Hit Die: 1d8
Skills: Bluff (cha), Diplomacy (cha), Gather Information (cha), Handle Animal (cha), Intimidate (cha), Knowledge (calligraphy, Chinese classics, Chinese poetry, composition & rhetoric, history, Japanese poetry, law, mathematics, nobility & royalty, politics, religion, tactics) (int), Perform (ikebana, tea ceremony) (Cha), Ride (dex), Sense Motive (wis), Survival (wis).
Skill Points: 4 + Int mod
Weapon & Armor Proficiency: Proficiency (bows, knives, spears & staves, swords), armor (light, medium, heavy)
Mounted Combat: At 1st level, the kuge gains this as a bonus feat.
Born to the Saddle: The kuge has trained from a young age at the genteel skills of raising and riding horses. He gains a +1 bonus per 20 points of Honor to Ride and Handle Animal (horses) skill checks.
Weapon Focus (Bow): At 2nd level, the kuge gains this as a bonus feat to a bow or crossbow of his choice.
August Personage: The kuge learns to project an image of power and majesty appropriate to an officer of the Imperial Court. This ability grants the kuge the listed bonus to all Diplomacy, Gather Information, and Intimidate skill checks when interacting with characters of lower Honor score.
Mounted Archery: At 3th level, the kuge gains this as a bonus feat.
Weapon Specialization (Bow): At 4th level, the kuge gains this as a bonus feat for the weapon eh chose at 2nd level.
Cutting Remark: The kuge learns that his wit can be as dangerous as any sword stroke. While attending a social gathering, he may make an insightful comment that damages the reputation of a rival. The kuge, his target, and at least a dozen witnesses must be present for this ability to work.
The kuge must make a Diplomacy skill check for Etiquette (DC 10 + 1 per 10 points of his target’s Honor). If successful, the target loses one point of Honor plus an additional point of Honor for each 5 full points by which the kuge’s skill check exceeds the DC.
Although useful and potentially devastating to his enemies (since a loss of Honor could cause someone loss of appointments or even make a samurai’s lord call for him to commit ritual suicide), this attack on another’s honor puts the kuge in a delicate position, since the most direct way for anyone to answer such an attack is to challenge the kuge to a duel to the death.
The kuge may only target a single character with this or a similar ability (such as Slander, Innuendo, or Smear Campaign) once per month. The ability itself may be used at will (as long as conditions are met), but the kuge may not use this ability on the same target more than once per month.
Ki: At 5th level, the kuge can use the power of his Ki to wrap himself in a cloak of majesty and power. This grants the Kuge a +4 bonus to Charisma for one minute per class level. Using Ki is an attack action that provokes an attack of opportunity.
At 10th level, the kuge may use his Ki twice per day, and may use his Ki to gain a bonus on a single saving throw equal to his Charisma modifier.
At 15th level, the kuge may use his Ki ability three times per day and may generate a shield of nobility, granting him DR equal to his Charisma modifier. This aura lasts one round per 2 class levels.
At 20th level, the kuge may use his Ki four times per day and may generate an aura of majesty so bright that anyone who looks directly at him must make a Reflex saving throw (DC 30) or be blinded for 1-4 rounds. This aura of majesty lasts one round per class level.
Point Blank Shot: At 6th level, the kuge gains this feat as a bonus feat.
Court Contact: The kuge excels at making friends who can advance his career. By calling on these friends, he can “grease the wheels” and make his dealing much easier and smoother. Once per month, the kuge can call on a contact to automatically succeed at a Bluff, Diplomacy, Gather Information, or Intimidate skill check. This could involve having the friend make introductions, or might simply mean casually dropping his name in conversation.
The level of the kuge’s contact determines the difficulty of the situation they can help with. A low level contact can allow the kuge to automatically succeed at any relevant skill check of DC 15 or less, a medium level contact with DC 20 or less, and a high level contact with DC 25 or less.
The kuge can call on these contacts at any time, even in situations when the character would not be allowed to take 10. In addition, if a contact is used to make a skill heck, that check takes a maximum of one minute. For skills like Gather Information, this could cut out all the red take and allow the character to establish trust through a mutual friend rather than the usual 2-5 hours.
A kuge with multiple contacts can call on each contact once per month.
Rapid Reload/Rapid Shot: A 7th level the kuge gains either Rapid Reload (crossbow) or Rapid Shot (for a bow) as a bonus feat.
Greater Weapon Focus: At 8th level, the kuge gains this as a bonus feat.
Slander: This ability functions like the Cutting Remark ability, except the kuge’s insight is even greater and his ability to damage the honor of his target is increased. The Honor loss from a successful check is increased to 1-4 plus 1 per five full points by which the kuge’s skill check exceeds the DC.
The kuge may only target a single character with this or a similar ability once per month, just as Cutting Remark.
Manyshot/Far Shot: At 9th level, the kuge gains Manyshot. If the kuge has selected a crossbow as his weapon of choice, he instead gains Far Shot.
Greater Weapon Focus: At 12th level, the kuge gains this as a bonusf eat for his weapon he chose at 2nd level.
Innuendo: This ability functions like Slander, but now the kuge has mastered the art of the whispering campaign. The target does not need to be present; determining that the kuge is the source of the attack requires a Gather Information check (DC 10 + the kuge’s class level).
The same conditions as Cutting Remark apply.
Court Appointment: As the kueg rises in level, he may seek more prestigious offices in the Imperial Court. A low level appointment grants the kuge a +5 bonus to Honor and a +1 bonus to Reputation. A medium level appointment that pays 1 koku a year for each 5 Honor (this replaces the salary granted to all characters of a noble bloodline). A high level appointment grants the character a position that pays 1 koku for every 2 Honor and an additional bonus of +5 Honor as well as an additional +1 bonus to his Reputation.
The actual position should be determined by the GM, and may provide a source of adventures as the character (and his friends, of course) are asked to deal with situations that fall within the kuge’s area of authority.
Smear Campaign: This ability functions like the Innuendo ability except the Honor loss is greater (1d8 + 1 for every five points by which the kuge exceeds the DC).
The same restriction on usages apply.
Imperial Visitation: The character has risen to the pinnacle of Imperial Court posts and now has the right to visit even the Emperor himself. Once per year the character can influence the Emperor to intercede on the kuge’s behalf with his divine power. This has the effect of the Miracle spell.