Yakuza (ヤクザ or やくざ), also known as gokudō (極道), are members of traditional organized crime syndicates in Japan. The Japanese government, call them bōryokudan (暴力団), literally “violence group”, while the yakuza call themselves “ninkyō dantai” (任侠団体 or 仁侠団体), “chivalrous organizations”. The Yakuza are notoriously known for their strict codes of conduct and very organized nature.

Despite uncertainty about the single origin of Yakuza organizations, most modern Yakuza derive from two classifications which emerged in the mid-Edo Period: tekiya, those who primarily peddled illicit, stolen or shoddy goods; and bakuto, those who were involved in or participated in gambling.

Tekiya (peddlers) were considered one of the lowest social groups in Edo. As they began to form organizations of their own, they took over some administrative duties relating to commerce, such as stall allocation and protection of their commercial activities. During Shinto festivals, these peddlers opened stalls and some members were hired to act as security. Each peddler paid rent in exchange for a stall assignment and protection during the fair.

The Edo government eventually formally recognized such tekiya organizations and granted the oyabun (servants) of tekiya a surname as well as permission to carry a sword – the wakizashi, or short samurai sword (the right to carry the katana, or full-sized samurai swords, remained the exclusive right of the nobility and samurai castes). This was a major step forward for the traders, as formerly only samurai and noblemen were allowed to carry swords.

Bakuto (gamblers) had a much lower social standing even than traders, as gambling was illegal. Many small gambling houses cropped up in abandoned temples or shrines at the edge of towns and villages all over Japan. Most of these gambling houses ran loan sharking businesses for clients, and they usually maintained their own security personnel.

The places themselves, as well as the bakuto, were regarded with disdain by society at large, and much of the undesirable image of the Yakuza originates from bakuto; this includes the name yakuza itself (ya-ku-za, or 8-9-3, is a losing hand in Oicho-Kabu, a form of blackjack). Because of the economic situation during the mid-period and the predominance of the merchant class, developing Yakuza groups were composed of misfits and delinquents that had joined or formed Yakuza groups to extort customers in local markets by selling fake or shoddy goods.

The Burakumin are a group that is socially discriminated against in Japanese society. The burakumin are descendants of outcast communities of the feudal era, mainly those with occupations considered tainted with death or ritual impurity, such as butchers, executioners, undertakers or leather workers. They traditionally lived in their own secluded hamlets and ghettos. Discrimination against the Burakumin continues into the present day, a legacy of the Japanese feudal/caste system.

During the formation of the yakuza, they adopted the traditional Japanese hierarchical structure of oyabun-kobun where kobun (子分; lit. foster child) owe their allegiance to the oyabun (親分; lit. foster parent). In a much later period, the code of jingi (仁義, justice and duty) was developed where loyalty and respect are a way of life.

To build a Yakuza, use the following templates:

  • Martial Artist, DF1: Adventurers pg 9
  • Thief, DF1: Adventurers pg 12
  • Big Guy, Action 3: Furious Fists pg 5
  • Fast Guy, Action 3: Furious Fists pg 6

You can also combine:

  • Assassin, Martial Arts pg 32
  • Contender, Martial Arts pg 33
  • Movie Star, Martial Arts pg 37/Stuntman, Martial Arts pg 41
  • Spy, Martial Arts pg 39
  • Gladiator, Martial Arts: Gladiator pg 28
  • Lanista, Martial Arts: Gladiator pg 29
  • Venerator, Martial Arts: Gladiator pg 30
  • Merchant, Fantasy pg 123
  • Thief, Fantasy pg 126
  • Peasant Adventurer, Fantasy pg 124
  • Bandit, Fantasy pg 118


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