Arms and Armour


Armour worn in Nippon is completely different to that worn in the Old World. It is, on the whole, lighter and is heavily leather-based. Armour is restricted to the armouries of a clan and its usage depends upon the rank of the clansman; commoners do not wear armour other than, maybe, leather. Any rank of bushi (warrior) can wear armour although the high-ranking members of the clan will inevitably wear the more elaborate pieces. Furthermore, not every warrior in a clan is armed and armoured to the teeth, as some clans are richer or poorer than others and may not even have the necessary expertise in the making of some armour and weapons. 

The warriors of a clan are equipped according to what the clan has available or what they are left by their fathers; the latter case is the most common. Generally speaking, armour and weapons are usually owned by the family and handed down from father to son (such weapons and armour have pride of place in a bushi's house where an entire room is given over to them). Trade also does happen: a warrior may buy items from the clan's artisans but he should be wary of purchasing things which are inappropriate to his rank, i.e. a low-ranking bushi is not permitted to use a longbow. A warrior might trade with another warrior if he can afford it or he might even kill him for what he wears or carries. The other way, of course, of a clan obtaining weapons and armour, is through victories in battle.


Kabuto (Helmet). The Nipponese helmet is called a kabuto (see picture, right). They come in many varying shapes and sizes and are worn by the buke. The shapes and styles are legion with helmets resembling a demon's head, a domed mountain, a flat-topped mountain, a peach and the heads of lions, birds, and dragons. The more elaborate the kabuto the more high-ranking a bushi is. The kabuto belonging to a high-ranking bushi will have a special socket where an ornament may be placed (maedate, see below). A kabuto offers 1 armour point of protection to the head (+1 AP if combined with a mempo, face mask, see below).

Mempo (Face mask). Available to higher-ranking bushi are the face masks or mempo (see picture, right). They are made from a single, rigid piece of metal or leather, or from several plates hinged together to make them more flexible. Their a many different styles of mempo. Some cover the entire face with removable pieces, some cover the face below the eyes, some cover the cheeks and chin, leaving the nose and mouth exposed, others cover the lower part of the face (usually chin only) and are often referred to as "swallow-face", and some cover the forehead and cheeks only. A mempo is almost always worn with a kabuto in which case it grants the wearer +1 AP to the head. If a mempo is worn on its own then it offers only 0/1 AP to the head.

Maedate (Crest). This is frontal decoration or crest slotted into the kabuto of a high-ranking bushi to display his prowess in battle, his clan, or bravery or cunning (see the above picture). This crest doesn't offer any extra protection but may grant leadership to inspire comrades or it may even be used as a tool of intimidation.

Jingasa (Flat helmet). Very common throughout the lower-ranking bushi (including the ashigaru) is the conical, almost flat, type of helmet. It is cast from one piece of steel, copper, iron or from as many as twenty strips of those metals riveted together in an overlapping pattern, which serves to reinforce the whole construction. They are usually decorated or embossed, with two circular patterns made of finely lacquered leather or wood. Other types of these helmets have a flexible net of mail hanging from the brim covering the wearer's shoulders and back. Some types of jingasa can be used as cooking pots. A jingasa offers 1 AP to the head and may not be combined with any other type of head armour.

Kawa-gasa (Leather helmet). Lower-ranking retainers of a clan sometimes wear this leather helmet. It is usually heavily lacquered and embossed and has a pointed crown, a broad brim coloured black, with the clan crest at the front. The kawa-gasa offers 0/1 AP of protection to the head.

Kusari-gote (Armoured sleeve) & Hansho-gote (Leather sleeve). The armoured sleeve, or kusari-gote, is worn by many warriors. It is protected on the outside by a series of metal defences beginning with a plate covering the shoulder. Two heavy cords are usually tied to the warrior's breastplate or tied in a crisscross around the neck. The finest kusari-gotes have hands protected by embossed metal. A kusari-gote offers 1 AP to the arm (maybe combined with the sode, see below, thereby offering +1 AP bonus to the arm). 

The hansho-gote is a lightweight leather sleeve and is often worn by archers for ease of movement. It is worn in exactly the same way as its metal counterpart. A hansho-gote offers 0/1 AP to the arm.

Sode (Shoulder guard). A true bushi wears a pair of sode on his arms. A sode consists of a large plate fastened to the shoulder (see picture, right). If a bushi wears the kusari-gote this armoured sleeved will be tied to the sode. The sode is almost always colourful with strips of metal and lacquered leather. A sode offers 1 AP of protection to the arm and when combined with an armoured sleeve it grants 2 APs protection (a sode is only really ever worn with an armoured sleeve).

Do (Breastplate or corselet). Most common are the breastplates that are made of several large pieces of plates laced together with strong cords. Some are made from a single large piece of metal and simulate the curvature of the body. However, these are very rare indeed. Breastplates are usually tied at the back with shoulder straps and others open at the sides giving all round protection. A do offers 1 AP of protection on the body.

Haramaki-do. This essentially a suit of armour which incorporates the do (breastplate) and leg protection, which protects the knees upwards (see picture, above). The haramaki-do offers 1 AP of protection to the body and legs.

Kusari-kyahan (Armoured legging). This item of armour is worn a lot by bushi in times or peace and war. The kusari-kyahan is a mail or chain legging, which, with its length of padded mail, covers the entire leg. This grants the wearer 1 AP to the leg location. This maybe combined with the haramaki-do (granting 2 APs on legs in this case) but this is heavy and will reduce the wearer's Initiative by -10 (GMs might like to impose an additional penalty to Movement skills). No self-respecting bushi would ever want to be weighed down in this way.

Armour Type AP Area Covered
Do 1 Body
Hansho-gote 0/1 Arms
Haramaki-do 1 Body/Legs
Jingasa 1 Head
Kabuto 1 Head
Kawa-gasa 0/1 Head
Kusari-gote 1 Arms
Kusari-kyahan 1 Legs
Mempo +1 (if with Kabuto) or 0/1 Head
Sode 1 Arms


Leather is a very popular form of protection and is worn by many warriors not least because it is reasonably inexpensive. Some items of leather armour are covered with such material as sharkskin, tortoise shell, and laced whalebone, which creates beautiful patterns and lends exceptional strength to the garment (the use of Orc skin is not unheard of). Popular leather corselets include Cathayan leather, red leather, and flowered leather. Many of the corselets worn by lower-ranking bushi are made of black lacquered leather. There exists, in their own form, all the leather armour types detailed on page 122 of the WFRP rulebook with the addition of a loin guard (haidate) worn around the waist. This functions as leather armour and protects the legs and is usually worn in conjunction with a haramaki-do. Another popular item of leather armour is the face guard (see picture, right) and is good enough to offer 0/1 AP to the head location.


In Nippon anything that can be used as a weapon will be used, from something as inconspicuous as a smoking pipe to a harmless fan. This has come about by the strict rules of Nipponese society. Commoners are not allowed to carry the established weapons, such as swords and spears, and in certain places weapons are strictly prohibited. The ever resourceful exponents of bujutsu (martial arts) have come up with many styles and techniques to use seemingly harmless objects, and the farmers themselves, with their sickles and rakes and rice-beating utensils, have had a hand in these developments. In the hands of those not schooled in these arts, a pipe or fan to be used as a weapon is about as effective as chopping down a tree with a herring. However, the weapons that are the heart and soul of Nippon are the longbow, the spear (or yari) and, of course, the sword or katana. Only the warrior class of Nippon are legally permitted to carry such weapons. Should a commoner, or heimin, be found in possession of these weapons he will be in danger of losing his life.

Daito: This sword is longer than a katana but shorter than a no-dachi (two-handed sword). This weapon is often carried by officers in battle and can be used one or two-handed in combat. The daito is classed as a hand-and-a-half sword (Bastard Sword) for WFRP purposes.

Fan: Incredibly something as harmless-looking as a fan can be used as a weapon, albeit one with iron edges. The art of the war fan is known as tessenjutsu and masters of it can use a fan for defence and attack and could also throw it. The fan in Nipponese society has always been a symbol of prestige. In the hands of one not schooled in tessenjutsu, a fan is nothing but a useless artifact. A master of tessenjutsu may throw a War Fan like a throwing knife.

Jitte: Essentially a parrying weapon, the jitte can also be used to break weapons but it is equally effective as a thrusting weapon especially to the eyes and throat. It is best described as a forked dirk and is used widely by Nipponese watchmen (doshin). A successful parry with a jitte will break a sword or dagger on a successful Strength test. Skilled users of the jitte, one with jittejutsu, can even throw this weapon.

Himogatana: This is a one piece stiletto made of fine steel. It is an ideal weapon when used by assassins as it can be easily concealed. However, when used without the element of surprise the himogatana is relatively ineffective in hand-to-hand combat.

Kaiken: This is a dagger primarily used by women. Women of the buke class always carry a kaiken and some can wield it with exceptional skill and throw it with deadly accuracy. But not only is this weapon used for attack or defence it is also used by the woman to commit suicide, should it be necessary to do so.

Kama: This is the humble farmer's sickle. It is used a lot by farmers to defend themselves. The kama is also used by warriors when a length of chain is attached to it and this is called the kusari-gama (see below).

Katana: This sword can be seen as the symbol of the buke. Only the buke are legally allowed to carry the katana and many of its bushi (warriors) carry the daisho, which is the katana and wakizashi (see below) combined and typically carried in a sash tied round the waist. This weapon, like so many Nipponese blades, is an item of beauty and extremely sharp. The katana is counted as a normal hand weapon for WFRP gaming purposes.

Kusari-gama: This weapon is used by warriors in order to reduce the effectiveness of the terrifying sword and the strategic use of the yari. It is basically a sickle with a length of chain, made of iron or steel, attached to its handle. This weapon may be used to entangle an opponent if a character attacks with the chain (kusari), which has an Effective Strength of 2. The character must pass a BS roll (hit location determined normally) to hit instead of WS.

This hit location table should be used for any weapons that can entangle an opponent (usually the ones with chains). Any hit from such a weapon, whether it causes damage or not, may entangle the enemy unless he makes a successful Dex test with a -10 penalty, which must be made each round. An entangled creature fights with a -10 penalty to relevant skills, which may be increased to -20 if the user does nothing other than continue to pull hard on the chain handle.

Location Effect
Head If any damage is caused, the victim must make a successful Dex test or be blinded with pain for 1 round.
Arm If the character is holding anything and the blow causes damage, the target must make a successful Toughness check or drop the item.
Body There is a 50% chance that both arms are pinioned. If this happens, the victim can do nothing but attempt a Dex test each round in order to fee himself.
Legs If the user makes a successful Strength test, the victim can be dragged to the ground and treated as a prone target. This is in addition to the usual entanglement chances. A target cannot be dragged to the ground, however, if its Strength exceeds that of the user by more than 1 point.

Kyotetsu-koge: The Ninja's weapons are numerous, one of his favourite weapon is the kyotetsu-koge, a dagger with two blades, one curved. It is joined to a metal ring with a rope which could be wrapped around an enemy's arm or leg, to bring him down. The kyotetsu-koge basically functions as a whip as the Ninja attempts to entangle his enemies. It also bears two blades, one curved and one straight. The straight blade functions as a dagger and is used to slice the throat of any entangled opponent and the curved functions as a grappling hook.

Nage-gama: This is another chain-based weapon (the chain has an Effective Strength of 2). It may have a kama at one end but often it might just look like a harmless walking stick. However, at one end of the pole a kusari (chain) can suddenly snap out and disorientate an opponent. This weapon is favoured by monks and the dreaded ninja. The nage-gama can entangle an opponent in the same way as a kusari-gama.

Naginata: The naginata (see picture, right) consists of a very long, curved spearhead. It is said that the yamabushi invented this weapon and today its use is common. Indeed, women of the buke class are expected to master this weapon by the time they are eighteen years of age. It is known as the "woman's weapon" and the special arm of women of gentle blood.

Ninjato: The ninjato is a straight-edged sword slightly shorter than the katana and used almost exclusively by the ninja clans. With its straight edge and shorter length it is ideal for stealthy activities.

No-dachi: This is a two-handed sword, a much larger version of the katana. It isn't an especially popular weapon, because of its length and weight, but in the hands of a skilled swordsman the no-dachi can cause terrible wounds and is quite useful against foes on horseback. The no-dachi is counted as a normal two-handed sword.

Nunchaku: The nunchaku is closely related to the fighting farmers because it is connected with the cultivation of grinding and polishing rice. It consists of two blocks of wood connected by leather thongs, strands of horsehair, or even chains. It is a useful subduing weapon and it can also be used to entangle an opponent's weapon. In combat the nunchaku grants a +10 bonus to the chance to stun and a +10 bonus to chance of disarming an opponent. However, it requires two hands to use.

Smoke Bombs: One of the favourite acts of evasion for a Ninja was the use of Smoke Bombs. Once one was used a smoke screen would hide the Ninja long enough for him to escape - thus given the appearance of sudden invisibility. In gaming terms a Smoke Bomb's effects are exactly those created by a Mystic Mist spell only that the diameter is 6 yards instead of 12. A Smoke Bomb is generally designed for close range use in order for the Ninja to escape from any unwanted attention. However it may be thrown a maximum of 20 yards.

Tanto & Aikuchi: Both these weapons are daggers. The former is a blade with guards and the latter is one without. Both daggers are often carried by all elements of Nipponese society as the heimin are allowed to carry them.

Tonfa: This is another weapon connected with the cultivation of rice. It consists of a rectangular piece of wood, with a handle protruding on one side, near one end. Whirled around with lightning speed, this apparently innocuous tool can be used to parry or deflect a blow, and then return it with a flourish. In combat a tonfa grants a +10 bonus to the chance of stunning an opponent.

Wakizashi: This is the short sword and is typically carried with a katana (daisho). It measures from sixteen to twenty inches. The wakizashi is often used to carry out ritual suicide or the beheading of an enemy but in other cases skilled bushi of kenjutsu (swordsmanship) can use both the wakizashi and katana in tandem. Although it is the case for a bushi to leave his katana, or similar weapon, in a safe place, when visiting another bushi's house or of the ruling lord's palace, the owner is allowed to keep his wakizashi as "the guardian of his honour". If a warrior has Specialist Weapon – Parrying Weapon, he receives a free parry per round when using a wakizashi.

Yari: Nipponese spears, or yari, are just as beautiful as their swords. The spearheads are cast of the same high quality steel used for swords and come in many shapes and lengths. The straight spearhead is the most common but there are yari with curved heads too and these are called naginata (classed as halberds). Some yari have barbed points, some are hooked and others are rake-like. The yari is a very popular weapon among the bushi and it is common among regiments of Ashigaru.


Weapon Initiative To Hit Damage Parry
Daito (2-handed) -10 - +1 -
Himogatana +10 -10 -1 -20
Jitte - - -2 -
Kaiken/Tanto/Aikuchi +10 -10 - -20
Kama - - - -
Katana - - - -
Kusari-gama - - - -
Nage-gama - - -1 -
Naginata +10/+20* - +2 -
Ninjato - - - -
No-dachi -10 - +2 -
Nunchaku - -10 -1 -10
Tonfa - -10 -2 +10
Wakizashi - - - -10
War Fan +10 -10 -2 -20
Yari +10/+20* +10* - -

*Effective during first round of combat and during subsequent rounds if user is winning. If the opponent is mounted then there is a +20 bonus to Initiative.