Cowboy Jutsu

Howdy y’all. Now, you wanna talk about that there cultural appropriation, you wanna talk about the Japonisme Renaissance of the nineteen-hunnerdeighties an’ thereabout. Folks around the world got themselves the fever for the flavor of a ninja, kinda Part Two of the seventies interest in kung fu, itself a sequel of an even creepier post WWII interest in Japanese culture and judo. The Chinese were into it early on (see movies like Heroes of the East and Five Element Ninjas), but no one went whole hog for it like the U S of A.

During that time, Frank Miller had a run on Daredevil comics which featured extremely ninjatastic plots, that ultimately formed the basis of the most recent season of Netflix’s Daredevil series.  Now, I was on the tumblrs when I came across a screen cap of a hilarious tweet by someone name of Sam Kriss:

“imagine a japanese tv show in which someone investigating a corrupt american corporation is attacked by droves of lasso-wielding cowboys”

As it happens, back in my unselfconscious days of youth, I owned a role-playing game called Ninjas & Superspies, which had dozens of martial art forms.  But it didn’t have Cowboy Jutsu… until now!  You can thank me in the comments.  Now I reckon a lot of you will care less about bonuses to Parry and Dodge, so just focus on the color text for yuks in the following section.  (For the interested and egregiously nerdy, I tried to make this balanced within the system by modeling it off of Triad Assassin style from “Mystic China” but made it a bit more versatile and tough with the excuse I was making it an “Exclusive” form.)


Entrance Requirements: Heartfelt commitment to rugged individualism and personal liberty, No city slickers

Skill Cost: 10 years

The Way of the Cowboy, like the warrior traditions of the Maasai people, originated in the protection of cattle. To that end, the highest principle of the art is that rustlin’ is a hangin’ offense in these here parts. The true cowboy learns to rope cattle and people alike as needed, how to brawl, but most important, how to smoke banditos with pair of classic high-powered six guns.

As a fighting tradition that emerged in a diverse, individualistic, and vast domain, there are many schools – some even in direct, violent opposition to each other. Some schools of vaqueros speak Spanish as their primary language, some serve robber barons, some pride themselves on regulatin’ any stealin’ of people’s property, while others only grant prestige to the best of killers.

Costume: A good belt with a way to hang a lasso and two gun rig is essential. The cowboy hat is also useful, helping throw off the aim of punches and bullets alike when properly used, and shielding the eyes from the sun to keep one’s aim true. Cowboy boots make the feet into deadly weapons. Chaps protect the legs from damage while riding. Tight collared shirts with décor and broke-in jeans complete the ensemble, though personal variation is expected among these folks.

Stance: Keep them bowlegs wide, face forward, palms down and hands open. Or do what you will, lookin’ good is important.

Add 2 to MA
Add 2 to PE
Add 1 to PP
Add 15 to SDC


Attacks per Melee: 2

Escape Moves: Roll with Punch/Fall/Impact.

Basic Defensive Moves: Dodge, Parry, Automatic Parry.

Advanced Defenses: Automatic Dodge, but only vs. gunfire and when cover is available.

Hand Attacks: Punch Attack, Roundhouse Punch.

Basic Foot Attacks: Axe Kick, Kick Attack, Snap Kick.

Jumping Foot Attacks: Rideby Kick. From a horse or motorcycle, can kick a foe as they pass. Damage as Leap Kick.

Special Attacks: From Weapon Katas only.

Weapon Katas: Three are had for free. All use the cowboy’s best Strike bonus (the one for six guns), but don’t benefit from Paired Pistols.

Pistol Whippin’: Can buttstroke a fool for 1d8 damage. At level 5, can Knockout/Stun on a natural 20. At level 10, on 19-20, and at level 15, on 18-20.

Ropin’: A lariat in a cowboy’s hands can act as a whip for 2d4 damage and possible Entanglement. +1 to Entangle and Disarm at levels 1, 4, 7, 10, and 13. If a Disarm beats the foe’s roll by 10 points, the cowboy can pull the weapon or item to himself. Also, they can Pin/Incapacitate a foe with it on a roll of 18-20. Outside of combat, can use the rope as a grappling hook or to pull items to their self, or for Hojo-jutsu / non-erotical rope bondage. In a fight, if they success-fully keep a foe pinned with it for three rounds, they can make a Hojo-jutsu roll on the spot.

Trick Shootin’: With revolvers only, a cowboy can attempt wacky shots with penalties, ranging from -1 to -10 depending on GM’s estimate of difficulty. Inanimate objects “Dodge” is always 15, bullet damage is -4 per ricochet.

Modifiers to Attacks: From Weapon Katas only.


Martial Art Powers: None from this form.

Language: The wild west is diverse. Pick one language you don’t know from English, Cantonese, Japanese, Spanish, or any Native American tongues spoken west of the Mississippi.

Skills: Hojo-jutsu, Horsemanship and any three from Desert Survival, Gambling, Land Navigation, Sing, Play Musical Instrument (Harmonica, Mouth Harp, Guitar, that sort of thing), Tracking, or Wilderness Survival.

Physical (Choose 1): Weapon Improvisation, WP Bow, WP Knife, or WP Thrown Weapons.

Philosophical Training: Only a rogue cowboy would submit to a sumbitchin’ school of thought, but some do. Nefarious Libertarian cowboys serve corporate robber barons as pinkertons, and foolhardy wobbly Unionists get tied down in cities. What’re you gonna do?

If this is your Primary Martial Art Form, then the following other forms can be learned in a shorter time: Moo Gi Gong (4 years), Shih Ba Ban Wu Yi (4 years), or Zanji Shinjinken-Ryu (4 years).

1st +4 to Strike with six-guns, +1 to Strike with other attacks, +1 to Parry & Dodge, +2 to Roll with Punch/Fall/Impact
2nd +1 to Strike & No offhand penalty with six-guns
3rd Paired Guns, +1 to Strike with other attacks
4th +1 to Roll with Punch/Fall/Impact
5th +1 to Strike with six-guns, +1 to Parry & Dodge
6th Attack per Melee
7th +1 to Roll with Punch/Fall/Impact
8th +1 to Strike with six-guns, +1 to Strike with other attacks
9th Attack per Melee, +1 to Parry & Dodge
10th Can simultaneously shoot widely separated foes without penalty
11th +1 to Strike with six-guns
12th +1 Attack per Melee
13th +1 to Roll with Punch/Fall/Impact, +1 to Parry & Dodge
14th +1 to Strike with six-guns, +1 to Strike with other attacks
15th +1 Attack per Melee

The versatility of ridin’, ropin’, shootin’, and roughhousin’ makes for one formiddable hombre. Plus the mystique of a world-renowned warrior tradition ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at neither.


  1. Great American Satan says

    I reckon this here post could attract some comments. Don’t panic if yours gets held up in moderation, I’ll likely clear ’em all eventually.

  2. Great American Satan says

    I’m embarrassed for me too. Since I still have the books a million moves later, thought I’d put them to a perverse use. I’d argue it isn’t the rock bottom worst system ever, but it is totally abysmal.

  3. Rick Pikul says

    Palladium was a decent system for it’s day, it’s just that it’s day was 35 years ago. It had the usual bits of needing some house ruling to flesh out unclear/inconsistent bits and fix things that didn’t quite work and it had some clunky subsystems.

    There is a reason why Rifts was known as “the most popular game no one plays.”

  4. Great American Satan says

    Probably the worst problem was an absolute disregard for balance. Most people doing house rules and home brew foolery were probably paying more attention to that than the peeps at the wheel. But depending on how one plays, balance isn’t necessarily as important as all that.

    Also for some reason combat tended to run reallllly slow for us. I say for some reason because on the surface of it, the system was almost less complicated than Shadowrun – only two damage classes that were pretty easy to get, no step up / step down or soaking – but it was rare for me to have a session that went well when tha soup was on.

    I remember one time I played a palladium RPG where I came up with a surprisingly slick way to convert it straight into West End Games’ D6 system, and it ran really well. Wish I had something more specific to say on that but it’s lost to time. It was a Macross 2 game anyhow.

  5. eddie says

    I remember an RPG I played in the ’80s having Barroom Brawling as an art/skill. IIRC it was the Judge Dredd one.

  6. kyuss says

    You’re right, it’s not the worst system. RaHoWa and FATAL are far, far worse. And I’ve read some English translations of foreign games where something was definitely off. But Palladium is horrible, and because almost every game has the same system, that makes all their games horrid. The only exceptions being Recon (i think they might have a new version that has been converted to the “megaversal system”) and original TMNT (because it was primarily designed by Erik Wujcik). I will admit to enjoying the “normals” rues in the original Beyond the Supernatural.

    It’s not just you/your group that had gods awful combats. With all the darn rolls (attack/dodge/parry/roll with punch) for every attack, a single combat round can take an hour – and it’s a 100x worse if you’ve got a juicer in the party and heaven forbid if they’re a newbie.

    The amount of stuff you have to make up yourself is out of control; the worst example being movement. Is it a “free action” to move? Does it take an attack? How far can you move with a single attack action (if indeed it does take an attack action to move)? Are there any rules for walking, or jogging (assuming that the base movement equation is equivalent to running speed)?

    Also, when, exactly, are you supposed to make a skill roll? Every time you use the skill? Do you not roll for “routine” stuff? What constitutes “routine” stuff? Is it different for someone with a skill of 34% vs someone with a skill of 98%?

    Of course you know this, you’ve obviously played the game (s).

    I’ve played almost every game in the Palladium line-up and they’re almost all tainted by the system. There’s some good ideas here and there (primarily fluff) but to make any use of them you’ve got to use a different game.

  7. Great American Satan says

    Good answer Kyuss.

    tbtabby – I feel like the Samurai Showdown guy was in the back of my mind when I wrote this, though I haven’t seen the game in twenty years or more.

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