Supporting Cast

Tsunayoshi Matsuro

by Matthew Rice

Art by andi jones

[Editor's Note: The version of the Iaido martial arts style presented in this article is the author's own variant, and is not official.]

Supporting Cast: Tsunayoshi Matsuro Total Points: 150

Age 20; 5'7"; 155 lbs.; a young, cheerful ronin with shoulder-length black hair tied in a short queue, brown eyes, and a long, pale scar running from the outside corner of his left eye straight down to his jawline. He wears a gray-and-black kimono and sandals, occasionally with a hakama and haori. He wears a well-crafted katana on his left hip, ready to draw.

ST: 12 [20] DX: 13 [30] Move: 6
IQ: 13 [30] HT: 12 [20] Basic Speed: 6.25
Dodge: 7 Parry (Katana): 11 (two-handed), 8 (one-handed)
Damage: Thrust: 1d-1, Swing 1d+2
Unarmed: Punch: 1d-1, Kick: 1d+1
Katana (Two-handed): 2d+1 cut, 1d+2 imp

Advantages: Combat Reflexes [15]; Magery 2 [25]; Literacy [5]; Status 1 (ronin) [5].

Disadvantages: Bloodlust [-10]; Code of Honor (ronin) [-10]; Compulsive Carousing [-5]; Duty (to Hakeda-sensei, fairly often) [-5]; Obsession (become an iaido master) [-10]; Poverty: Struggling [-10]; Secret (magician) [-5].

Quirks: Dislikes studying magic, but enjoys using it; Enjoys sparring with friends; Protective of Hakeda-sensei's honor; Prefers walking to riding; Unusually tolerant of insults. [-5]

Martial Arts Style: Iaido (Realistic)

Languages: Japanese (native)-13 [0].

Skills: Area Knowledge (southern Honshu)-14 [2]; Armory/TL4-11 [.5]; Blacksmith/TL4-10 [.5]; Body Language-11 [1]; Breath Control-9 [.5]; Carousing-13 [4]; Fast-Draw (Katana)-15 [2]; Intimidation-12 [1]; Karate-11 [1]; Katana-15 [8]; Katana Art-14 [3]; Leadership-12 [1]; Meditation-11 [1]; Parry Missile Weapons-11 [1]; Philosophy (Shinto)-11 [1]; Riding (Horse)-12 [1]; Savoir-Faire (Dojo)-15 [0]; Spell-Throwing (Curse-missile)-13 [1]; Streetwise-12 [1]; Tactics-10 [.5].

Maneuvers (all with Katana): Feint-16 [1]; Fighting While Seated-14 [1]; Hit Location-13 [1; Lunge-15 [1]; Stop Hit-12 [1].

Spells (one point each, except where noted): Clumsiness-13; Create Fire-13; Curse-Missile-13; Dexterity-13; Extinguish Fire-13; Haste-13; Heat-13; Identify Metal-13; Ignite Fire-13; Itch-13; Lend Health-13; Lend Strength-13; Might-13; Minor Healing-13; Missile Shield-14 [2]; Pain-13; Resist Pain-13; Seek Metal-13; Shape Fire-13; Shield-14 [2]; Spasm-13.

Equipment: Katana, fine quality, enchanted with Puissance +1.

Notes: Bloodlust, for Matsuro, is less a mental aberration than a result of training; he hasn't been taught to spare an opponent when a fight starts. For this reason, he tries to avoid insignificant fights, such as when someone insults him. Nor does he feel any pressing need to commit suicide; his Code of Honor is therefore less of a disadvantage to him.

In a non-magical campaign, simply remove his Magery, spells, and Spell-throwing skill (and his Secret), and put the points into advantages and martial arts skills. In a campaign where magic is acceptable, replace his Secret with another 5-point disadvantage (Curious would be appropriate).


Tsunayoshi Matsuro is a young ronin and student of Hakeda Godo, an old swordsman and swordsmith living in the central mountains of Honshu (the largest island of Japan). Matsuro found his way to the cave one evening to seek shelter from a storm; Hakeda-sensei was willing to take on another apprentice.

Hakeda-sensei occasionally despairs, though. Despite Matsuro's skill and eagerness to learn more, he remains impatient, undisciplined, and liable to seek fun elsewhere instead of meditating and studying. To try to remedy this, the old master has begun to lessen his training in swordsmanship, and turn him toward the secretive arts of magic in the hope that the required scholarship will help focus Matsuro's mind. To an extent, it has worked; Matsuro has a real gift and, although he dislikes the study and memorization, finds magic to be very useful. In addition, watching and helping his master forge swords has taught Matsuro a little about that art as well.

Magicians are looked down upon and feared in Japan, so Matsuro uses spells only when there is no one around, when there is great need, or when a witness isn't going to survive.

Matsuro often acts as Hakeda-sensei's messenger to other smiths, merchants, and swordsmen; his Seek Metal and Identify Metal spells prove useful when searching for metal from which to make swords. Despite his tendency, when on the road, to find a party every night, he is a reliable agent. Matsuro's skill at iaido is increasing steadily, but Hakeda-sensei has resolved not to teach him any of the higher mysteries (cinematic skills, etc.) until he demonstrates a little more personal discipline and a willingness to sacrifice.

Despite this clash of personalities, Matsuro likes and respects his master. The no-nonsense quality of iaido training has given Matsuro a greater respect for life, and he will not draw his sword without serious provocation; insults aimed at himself will usually be ignored, but he will challenge anyone who slanders Hakeda-sensei.

Matsuro In A Campaign

Tsunayoshi Matsuro makes a good NPC for parties of characters built with 100 points. His mixed package of skills makes him useful in many different situations, while his lack of specialization keeps him from overshadowing skilled PCs. He fits into a medieval GURPS Japan or GURPS Martial Arts campaign, and would work just as well in a GURPS Fantasy game -- simply replace his Japanese language with Sahudese.

Matsuro's Duty to his master often keeps him on the road, and he would be willing to briefly hook up with characters travelling in the same direction, especially if they look like they're having fun. Matsuro picks up and passes on rumors freely, especially when drinking; game masters who need to pass on a little information to the party need simply introduce an intoxicated Matsuro.

Matsuro would make a useful contact for PCs studying the martial arts, especially sword-related ones. He will cheerfully spar with those he considers friends, using lengths of cut bamboo; an interested PC might learn something after a bout or four.

Despite his good nature, Matsuro is no fool, and not to be taken advantage of; under no circumstances will he lead anyone to his master's cave without checking with Hakeda-sensei first. His sword, also, is a gift from his master; Matsuro will go to any lengths to recover it if it is stolen or lost, and will wreak bloody vengeance on anyone responsible.

Iaido / Iaijutsu

Realistic: 10 points
Cinematic: 19 points

Primary Skills: Katana, Katana Art, Fast Draw (Katana), Savior-faire (dojo)

Secondary Skills: Philosophy (Zen or Shinto), Meditation, Breath Control, Body Language

Optional Skills: Parry Missile Weapons, Intimidation

Maneuvers: Feint (Katana), Hit Location (Katana), Lunge, Riposte (Katana), Stop Hit (Katana)*

Cinematic Skills: Mental Strength, Power Blow (Katana), Whirlwind Attack, Fighting While Seated (Katana)**

Cinematic Maneuvers: Enhanced Parry (Katana)

* Normally a Fencing maneuver, samurai should have this as well, reflecting the indifference toward death which is a basic concept of bushido.

** This cinematic maneuver should be allowed to non-cinematic students of the style, accounting for the fact that most of the techniques taught begin in a kneeling or half-kneeling position. The point cost for the realistic version includes this maneuver.

Iaido (the art of drawing and cutting with a sword) and Kenjutsu are closely related, albeit with different aims. The focus of iaido is on drawing the katana and striking in the same motion, with the aim of killing opponents before they have time to attack you. As such, there is less of an emphasis on feints and other tricks of swordfighting than there is in kendo or kenjutsu. Most iaido techniques start from a seated position, hence the inclusion of an otherwise cinematic maneuver (Fighting While Seated) to the realistic version of the style. Advanced students of the style also try to develop their spirit to such a degree that opponents fear to attack them, and defeated foes will choose a quick, honorable death rather than continue a futile struggle.

The study of Iaido is highly ritualized, and combines meditation with the waza (techniques). Students are taught to imagine practice as a life-and-death struggle in order to prepare them to use their skills in real life. Dedicated practitioners will probably develop the advantages of Strong Will and Combat Reflexes. However, most modern schools focus more on individual development than the combative aspects of the art -- it is unlikely that a student will ever be called upon to defend himself with a sword. As such, modern students will probably not learn Parry Missile Weapons, Stop Hit, or Body Language.

Some ryuha (branches, or "sub-schools") of iaido also teach the use of the wakizashi, to be used as an alternative to, or in addition to, the katana; for these cases, add the skills Shortsword, Fast-Draw (Shortsword) and Off-Hand Weapon Training (Shortsword) to the Secondary Skills list.

Recommended Reading

Shimabukuro, Masayuki and Leonard J. Pellman: Flashing Steel: Mastering Eishin-Ryu Swordsmanship.

Article publication date: July 16, 1999

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