Ying Johnson

Captain of Shenmue


AGI – d8 ALE – d6 STR – d4 INT – d6 VIT – d8 WIL – d6

Life Points – 14

Initiative – d12 + d6


Assets – Talented – Midbulk Transports (minor), Steady Calm (major), Lightning Reflexes (major), Athlete – Dodge (major), Healthy As A Horse (major)

Complications – Dead Broke (minor), Superstitious (minor), Things Don’t Go Smooth (major), Ego Signature (minor), Overconfident (minor)


Athletics d6/dodge d10/zero-gravity movement d8, Covert d6/infiltration d10/hotwire d10/stealth d12, Discipline d6, Guns d6/pistols d12, Linguist d6/Tong Speak d10, Pilot d6/astrogation d10/midbulk transports d12, Perception d6/tracking d8, Survival d6/navigation d8/space survival d8, Unarmed Combat d6/jeet kune do d10/ jiu jitsu d10


Flechette pistol, combat knife, set of brass knuckles, plate vest, 10 poison flechettes, box of 100 standard flechettes, pilot’s jumpsuit, shoulder holster, luxury multiband


Ying Johnson was born Ryu von Berg on Santo in 2490 to a Chinese hospitality worker and Charles von Berg, a military veteran with a bit of a gambling habit.

Von Berg spent his youth and adolescence working part-time in various hospitality-related occupations (just don’t call him a Cabana boy) during Santo’s “Golden Age” prior to the Unification War. His father, a ronin with a complicated past, taught him martial arts while hanging about on Santo doing little more than gambling and doting on his Chinese bride.

Then the Unification War devastated Santo’s economy almost overnight. As the casinos and hotels closed or were abandoned, Ryu had few prospects. His mother managed to hang on by turning to some shady family connections, while his father’s past caught up with him and he embraced the cause of Independence. At 16 and with nothing better to do, Ryu followed his father into the conflict as far as the old man would allow, which wasn’t very. His father secured a position as a space hand on a converted patrol boat called Pony Express, a vessel who was issued a letter of marque by the Independent Faction to engage in blockade running and discreet harassment actions. There was no official connection between the Express and the Independents, which suited Ryu’s father just fine, as the Alliance was not as likely to treat smugglers with the same harsh penalties meted out to Independent blockade runners.

Ryu spent the war learning the piloting trade from the eccentric, nigh-suicidal blockade runners crewing the Pony Express and other motley craft. The Express hauled all manner of exotic cargoes, transported refugees, and otherwise provided valuable intelligence to the Independents about Alliance shipping and military patrols. Occasionally an Independent ‘contractor’ would fly with the Express as it carried out some nefarious deed on behalf of the Browncoats, and more than once the boat was involved in delicate search & rescue operations for downed pilots and cornered officers. One of the Express’ final missions was participation in the extraction of Independent Space Forces Admiral Roland Sharpe after he lost his chance for amnesty in the chaos following the Battle of Serenity Valley.

The Pony Express’s luck finally ran out in orbit around Beylix as an Alliance patrol craft surprised the blockade runner as it was taking cargo from a smuggler’s shuttle (a perfectly legitimate load of contraband designed to cover up the slightly more illegal job the Express was contracted to perform). The ship was impounded and its crew interrogated on suspicion of acting as a Browncoat privateer.

Ryu’s bad luck was only beginning. That day, he had received word that his father had perished in combat. The ill news coupled by his ship’s capture reinforced his youthful superstitions.

However, the Alliance couldn’t make the charges of privateering stick, and given that the bust took place at the very end of the Unification War, von Berg’s time in lockdown was not as unpleasant as it could have been. Still, the detention and interrogation was enough for the Alliance to permanently revoke the 22-year-old’s flying license, putting an immediate stop to what promised to be a fine career as a hotshot pilot. Ever the resourceful one, Ryu spent his time in lockdown picking up what knowledge the School of Hard Knocks could provide.

After less than a year in lockdown and no trial, as the Alliance had far bigger fish to fry in the months following the end of hostilities, Ryu von Berg was discharged from lockdown with no pilot’s license, no citizenship rights, and no prospects – exactly the situation he had found himself in as a teenager prior to the war.

Ryu wasn’t going to take this turn of events lying down. As a suspected ex-Browncoat and blacklisted flyer, the legal jobs were few and far between. Ryu put his jailhouse skills to work as a ‘procurer of unsold vehicular goods’ for whoever wanted to hire him – the Tongs, local crime bosses, Syndicate hacks, you name it. He hooked up with a fellow half-breed name Ying Johnson, a petty crook who ran with all manner of unsavoury types, and the pair hotwired and boosted one of everything that ever flew, hovered, or drove, with Ryu taking care of the hotwiring and Ying as the wheelman.

Bad luck followed the pair, however, and their numbers came up in a gated community in New Dunsmuir on Beaumonde. Engaged in the theft of a shiny custom hovercraft from a rich, protective petty nobleman, the pair failed to notice the anti-aircraft defenses in the old man’s villa. The vindictive man, who had caught sight of Ying as he stood lookout on the launch pad, waited until the vehicle was airborne before letting loose with the Vulcan cannons. The sky yacht was peppered with rounds and crippled instantly, flying out of control into Beaumonde’s picturesque seas.

Ryu survived the ditch into the ocean, but Ying Johnson didn’t – shot through the back with armor piercing rounds that had perforated the fuel tank before shredding the control systems. The hovercraft began to burn.

Ryu saw his partner’s body slumped over the control console and reflected for a moment. Had he been piloting the boat, it would have been him laying there, dead. Ryu von Berg would have ceased to exist. That thought tickled him as he fought to escape his restraining belts. As flames licked the inside of the cabin, von Berg realized that if he were indeed dead, so too would be his criminal record. Von Berg made the decision, stuck his ID in the corpse’s pocket while pocketing Mr. Johnson’s credentials, and made it to the escape hatch as fire consumed the wreckage. As Ryu von Berg’s ID burned inside the sinking hovercraft, he broke the surface of the water, baptizing himself as Ying Johnson. He promised his dead partner-in-crime that Johnson would fly again.

The newly-christened Johnson swam ashore ahead of the police search teams and disappeared into the city’s depths. The police found a horribly burned corpse inside the wreckage and cross-referenced the ID found in the cockpit. The authorities figured the crime had been committed by a blacklisted flyer who couldn’t find a place for himself in the new peace. The insurance company outfitted the nobleman with a new hovercraft and the Feds complimented him on his AA cannon prowess. The investigation ended there, as there was no evidence that this was anything more than a one-man carjacking.

After sending a coded wave to his mother assuring her that he was still alive, Johnson, with no military criminal record, enrolled in flight school and quickly rose to the top of his class. He graduated with a commercial pilot’s license and was voted ‘most natural ability in piloting’ by his peers, who chided him on his status as a ‘mature student.’

Johnson, or “YJ” as he likes to be called, sank much of his income into tightening up his fake identity. This put him in debt to some unsavoury characters, who have indicated that failure to pay would result in the addition of several new criminal charges to his clean record. He’s not eager to test the veracity of his falsified ID papers. He looks back on his war years as a youthful adventure and is only sorry that he was caught at all.

The rest of his money he has sunk into a drawn-out attempt to learn more about his father’s demise. No body was recovered, no grave marker bears his name, and there’s no word on exactly where his father died, which has led him to believe that he doesn’t know the whole story. He’s collected a growing file of information and misinformation about his father’s role in the Unification War and more interestingly his military career prior to the Unification conflict. Private investigators and ex-Browncoat sources routinely take his coin upon arrival at any major spaceport.

YJ is 28 years old, five-foot, eight inches tall and about 155 lbs. His appearance hints at his Chinese origins, especially around the eyes and his jet-black hair. He affects high fashion ensembles and goes through clothes like some people go through Kleenex. His clothing is a source of much superstition, a holdover from his youth spent watching high rollers and not-so-high rollers, and linking their measure of success with the fineness of their threads. Wardrobe aside, he travels light, a habit picked up from his criminal days in the months following his prison term. These days he spends his cash keeping his informants flush, his footlocker stocked with frippery, and paying off his underworld debt.

Ying Johnson

Honour Among Thieves mikebobinski