This post has been a long time coming. I have heard, over the last couple months, a few complaints aimed at our friend the Ninja. I am here to day to defend out beleaguered friend and ask you, the reader, to reevaluate your way of thinking.
It seems that a lot of people give the Ninja (and to a lesser extent, the Samurai) a lot of sh*t. A lot of this comes in off-hand remarks about Ninja in fantasy games; "They just don't fit", some say. Other times, these remarks are made with regards to the players that choose to play Ninja, claiming that their Ninja nature allows them to do things that the rules would not allow.
Today, I want to address these claims and make you realize that if you think this way, you are a classist: you are discriminating against a certain race based on your limited perspective.
Let me give you a bit of my background. I live in Japan, as many people know. I majored in Asian Studies, specifically in Japanese culture, language, and literature. I speak Japanese, married Japanese, raise my child Japanese. I eat Japanese food on a daily basis. I teach English to Japanese kids. So, lets just say that I have a pretty vested interest in Japanese society.
I take it pretty personally when you attack our friend the Ninja.
So, why is there so much hate against these poor, helpless individuals that prefer to live in the shadows? Well, one argument, which I understand and can deal with, is the idea that many times, the Ninja simply doesn't fit into most fantasy settings which are primarily based on a Medieval European game world. Ok. I can deal with this argument. When you are playing a more old-school kind of game, where it really isn't even that common to see elves or dwarves running around, I can see where it would be odd to see a Ninja coming onto the scene.
But really, is the Ninja all that different than the Assassin or the Rogue? Sure, they are a lot different when it comes to their cultural and historical context for existence, but if you are playing a fantasy game, everything gets taken out of its historical, cultural context and an entirely new context is given to the constructs which we usually see in our own world. Let's take for example armor. There are a lot of armor types in traditional fantasy games that simply never existed, or, have been drastically altered to make them fit into a specific game world. You could do the same with the Ninja. Why don't you? It may just be that you want to make the Ninja less of an Asian flavored character and more of a Shadow flavored rogue/assassin. But, some people just don't want to deal with it. Ok. I will let your argument stand.
But, lets move on to the second case. Some people rebel against the Ninja because of the characters that select them. There is always that very odd person who picks the Ninja and then does stuff that just goes against the grain of the party. Ok... so.... where has the Ninja done anything wrong in this instance. Your problem is NOT the NINJA!!! Your problem is with those individuals who can't be part of the team, who won't play a character that fits in with the rest of the group. Your problem is with the socially unacceptable outcast nerd who relates to and likes to play the Ninja because of their inability to fit into social situations. So, my solution, DON'T BLAME THE NINJA!!! Blame the player. He is the one that picked that class. He is the one who doesn't want to play nice. He is the one who doesn't fit in with your group. I have had player's like that. I had a friend in high school who always pulled that kind of thing at our games. Our solution - We kicked him out of the bloody gaming group. But, we certainly didn't get rid of the Ninja. If someone who could play a Ninja in a group friendly way wants to pick up their dice and their Kusarigama and give the Ninja a try, we always let them do as they please.
In conclusion, if your setting flavor just doesn't allow for the Ninja to exist, that is ok. There are settings that don't have magic at all. But, if you are playing in a Super Fantasy style world, a.k.a. 4e D&D, where you see Dragonborn and Tieflings on a daily basis, don't even pretend that a Ninja could not exist in that world. If you are playing Super Fantasy and you decide that the Ninja doesn't fit, you are being a classist. You are prejudiced against a character class. You should be ashamed of yourself. If you are constantly being assaulted by players that pick the Ninja and abuse them, GREAT!! You know exactly who you don't want to invite back to your next session, and here is a hint, it isn't the Ninja, it is the guy that is playing him.
Don't Blame the Ninja. Blame the player or blame yourself.