Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Persona


While I feel the Shosuro Actor is a good school, as with anything in life, there are some area’s that I feel it could be improved upon. Or things I would have done differently. Nothing major mind you just some personal taste that I think makes more sense to me.

First things first, breaking the persona. Now I’m of the opinion that doing such should be a hard task. It is after all a technique here that we’re talking about, not a mere use of the Acting skill. Thus I do agree with the side bar on Dealing With Shosuro Actors in a Game, with one minor exception.

In my opinion the strength of a Shosuro Actor isn’t so much in his acting as is it’s his knowledge of the clan in question. For me no amount of acting is going to help you preserve your persona if you simply don’t know what you’re talking about. The book calls for two rolls in certain situations for covering up a mistake. The first roll is for when you say something wrong and you are attempting to ally fears, thus a Sincerity (Deceit)/ Awareness roll vs Investigation (Interrogation)/ Perception works. And if you’re displaying skills or attempting to “fake” it Acting/Awareness vs Investigation (Notice)/ Perception is called for.

But sometimes the character clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Or simply forgets to do something that anyone from that clan would otherwise know to do. In these situations I recommend a Lore (Appropriate Clan)/ Intelligence roll vs Investigation (Notice)/ Perception. The reason for this is that ultimately you have to know something about the clan you’re attempting to infiltrate.

On the flipside, if you don’t really feel like adding more rolls but feel as I do that you can’t fake your way through something you have no clue about I would recommend limiting the number of dice added from the skill by the characters rank in that particular clans lore. So if you’re pretending to be an Akodo Bushi and you need to cover up for not knowing something about the Hall of Ancestors or faking a ritual you just now learned about you would roll either Sincerity or Acting and limit the dice from those two skills by the Lore skill in question.

Another concern comes in the form of the Persona skills themselves. Now during PT I tested it with the idea that the Persona skills never raised or that you weren’t using the higher of the two (your skills or the persona). In some regards it makes sense. You haven’t really learned all those skills. And of course you don’t want a character who uses his persona’s to become a jack of all trades with free skills.

But it also presents an interesting problem in that Ide Tang obviously was a skilled diplomat and his skills were likely higher than just the basic beginner. So here are a few options.

The first and easiest method is to merely allow the character to use the higher of his persona vs non persona skill. Thus if the persona has a Courtier of 1 and the Actor actually has Courtier 3 then use 3. Another method that one might consider is persona stacking. So instead of gaining a new persona at IR 3 and 5 you stack them onto your current persona and thus raise your phantom skills.

But the method I prefer to use is to simply reduce the TN adjustment for the use of skills that both you and your persona knows. Thus if your persona is a Doji Courtier and you want to use Courtier and your normal roll has it at 4 then I would have them roll and require +5 raise in the TN.

The reason for this is that at the end of the day you kinda have to balance the phantom skills against spending real xp on real skills. I think it would be less difficult to “break character” to do something both you and your persona can do than it is to “break character” to do something only you know how to do. But as I mentioned initially the balance between providing PC's with a jack of all trades character with phantom skills that are better than his real skills vs what the character truly knows is a though one to strike. With this method you maintain that it is in fact hard to "break character" even for something you already know and still encourage the character to learn real skills instead of always relying on phantom skills.

Naked Steel # 4

Naked Steel #4 is up. In this update Shawn talks more about Imperial Histories, dropping a note about some extra web content that we'll see :)

Also more on the Book of Air

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Naked Steel #3

The third issue of Naked Steel is up. It gives you another sneak peek at Great Clans (which should be availbe soon), Imperial Histories and Book of Air.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Great Clans Preview: Kakita Artisan


You know there are plenty of reasons to hate the Crane. They have good duelist. They have good courtiers. Their bushi are fairly decent as well. So, yeah I can understand why people would hate the Crane. I suppose the Kakita Artisan will just be one more reason to hate on the Crane.

The Yang to the Shosuro Actor's Yin, the Kakita Artisan makes a strong addition to most parties. They will sign extremely well when backed with a Kakita Bushi or a Doji Courtier. But in general for a school whose primary focus isn't politics but art it's got some very good political teeth. Having a Kakita Artisan can make some aspects of an adventuring party easier (gift giving for the win).

The game has its fair share of schools that allow for more artistic pursuits. The Shiba Artisan, Tsi Smith, Shosuro Actor all let you be artistic for your clan. But in the realm of art the Kakita is king. At least to me anyway :).

The Kakita Artisan also gets some very nice support in the form of Paths and Advanced Schools. Overall I expect Crane fans to be very pleased with what is offered.

Kakita Artisan (Artisan)

Unlike their occasional rivals among the Shiba, the Kakita Artisans do not confine themselves merely to the creation of physical art such as paintings or books of poetry. The Artisan Academy devotes itself to the study of every sort of art, whether it is performance-based or creation-based, and studies not only the ways of art but also the ways in which such art may be turned to the service of the Crane Clan.

Rank Four: Undying Name
Your art is now so magnificent that you can make and break the reputations of others by depicting or referencing them in your work. You may create a piece of art referring to another person by rolling [chosen art]/Awareness at a TN equal to 20 plus 5x their Glory Rank. With a success,
you may either increase (if your art is complimentary) or decrease (if it is critical) their Glory by up to 5 points, plus an additional 5 points for every Raise you make on the roll. You may call two additional Raises to inflict a gain of Infamy on the target instead of a Glory change.

You may not target the same person with this technique more than once every six months. Furthermore, persons of high station cannot have their reputations damaged by artists lacking in prestige – the target’s Status Rank cannot exceed your Glory or Status Rank (whichever is higher).

Sample NPC

Kakita Naomi – Crane Storyteller

Kakita Naomi is said to be one of the best storytellers alive. The wit and humor in her poems and stories are the stuff of legends. Her tales have even moved the Crab Champion to tears, though many do not remind the Champion of this.

Naomi is a favorite in the courts of Rokugan, being sought after each winter to entertain and enthrall the host guest. She even has a standing invitation to the Emperors imperial court each winter. She even holds the position of honored guest when visiting the Imperial City.

Her rivalry with the Scorpion playwright Shosuro Sakuya is notorious. While the source of their animosity is unknown it is rumored that in their youth the pair were lovers until Naomi was bethrowed to another.

Naomi does not like her husband. She feels he is barely above being a barbarian. His only saving grace was that he came from the Ide family and not the Moto. She spends as much time as possible away from her husband, touring the empire and giving stirring performances to honor the Crane and its allies.

Naomi’s favorite stories and poems focus around the conflict between love and duty. She has also captivated many a court with gripping tales of honor in the face of great adversity. Naomi is sharp witted and equally sharp tongued. When not entertaining a court she can often be found deeply involved in a conversation of some nature.

Kakita Naomi
School/Rank Kakita Artisan 5
Air: 5
Earth 2
Fire 3
Intelligence 4
Water 3
Void: 4
Glory 4
Honor: 5.0
Status: 4

Skills: Calligraphy 4, Courtier 4, Games: Sadane 6, Etiquette (Conversation, Courtesy) 4, Sincerity (Honesty) 4, Artisan: Poetry 6, Perform: Oratory 6, Perform: Storytelling 6, Perform: Song 4 Tea Ceremony 5, Lore: Heraldry 4, Lore: History 3, Lore: Crane Clan 4

Advantages: Fame (3) Kharmic Tie (3 Shosuro Sakuya) Voice (3)
Disadvantages: Contrary (3) Sworn Enemy (5 Shosuro Sakuya) True Love (3 Shosuro Sakuya)
Techniques: Soul of the Artisan, The Souls Dreams, Free the Spirit, Undying Name, A Gift Beyond Price

Great Clans Preview: Shosuro Actor


The Shosuro Actor was one of my favorite 1st Edition schools. But it always had one large baffling problem that made the school unfun for me. You couldn't disguise yourself in a new persona till IR 3. This made no sense. After all they're actors right? Undercover agents. They should be able to assume that new persona when they are done training.

Luckily for 4th Edition this logical inconsistency I faced was removed. Starting out a Shosuro Actor gains a persona at IR 1. Oh happy day :)

Now for those who are new to 4th Edition the Shosuro Actor is part of the ninja team. Working as deep cover agents they go in and assume the identity of another clan member and collect information for the Scorpion. They also make fine assassins. Some even rise to prominent positions within their infiltrated clans, such as Ide Tang the daimyo of the Ide family.

I would like to note that the Shosoru Actor is a somewhat difficult thing to play. Not too many non Scorpion's are going to be understanding of you wandering off to “be someone else” ;). It's one of those schools that will require a fair amount of work from the GM and player. But one that I think is worth it.

The Shosuro Actor (Ninja)
The Shosuro Butei (Acting) Academy is a famous acting school, rivaling the actors of the Kakita Artisan Academy, but its students are also taught methods of infiltration and impersonation. The most promising students receive instruction in poison, stealth, and assassination, and are
given contacts within the Scorpion spy network to help them to build up the false personas which they use in their later espionage careers. For the vast majority of its students, of course, the Butei Academy is simply a school of the arts—the Scorpion students are aware the school is more than it seems, but are content to ignore such unpleasantness and focus on pursuing their craft.

The skilled infiltrators who emerge from the Butei Academy are a matter of rumor and supposition to the rest of the Empire. There are fanciful tales of Scorpion infiltrators so skilled they could convince a doting mother to place an entire family’s welfare into their hands. These are exaggerations, but the Shosuro Actors are certainly quite skilled and they take their clan’s sacred duty to protect the Empire extremely seriously. In their view, whatever deceptions they must perpetrate are more than justified, and they are as ready to die for the clan as any other Scorpion.

Rank Five: The Third Face
The Shosuro Actor is now a true master of deception, infiltration, and murder. You gain a third persona. In addition, if you attack a foe who is unaware or does not expect danger from you, your Raises are not limited by your Void.

Sample NPC

Shosuro Sakuya – Scorpion Playwright

Shosuro Sakuya is one of the empires best playwrights. His troupe, the Laughing Frogs, has performed in various courts throughout Rokugan; including the Emperor's court. Sakuya has a standing invitation to attend the Imperial winter court. It is an honor that Sakuya enjoys taking as often as he can, when clan duties permit him to attend.

Sakuya's plays are well known for their political satire. The Crane often serve as the antangonist for his plays and many delight in watching Sakuya's hero's (often Lion, Scorpion or Phoenix) getting the upper hand against them. Sakuya's critics speculate that the rivalry between Sakuya and Kakita Naomi is the cause for his depictions against the Crane. Whatever the reason though, Sakuya is not always welcome in Crane lands.

The Shinning Blossom is Sakuya's playhouse in Ryoko Owari and serves as his training grounds for many agents with in the Scorpion. The Laughing Frogs are composed mostly of other bueti and infiltrators. While the bueti entertain a cities nobles the infiltrators sneak in and find information useful to the clan, plant incriminating evidence and other nefarious activities. It is rare that Sakuya undertakes assassination missions. While many in his employ are more than capable of taking out a target, the attention it would draw would undermine future performances.

Shosuro Sakuya
Air: 4
Awareness: 5
Earth 3
Fire 4
Water 3
Void: 4
Glory 5
Honor: 2.5
Status: 4

Skills: Acting (Crane, Phoenix, Lion) 6, Calligraphy (Scorpion Cipher) 3, Etiquette 4, Lore: Crane 3, Lore: Lion 3, Lore Phoenix 3, Lore: Heraldry 3, Knives 5, Meditation 4, Sincerity (Deceit) 6, Stealth 6

Advantages: Fame (3) Great Potential Acting (5), Kharmic Tie: Kakita Naomi (3)
Disadvantages: Dependant (Niece 4), Sworn Enemy Kakita Naomi (5), True Love Kakita Naomi (3)

Techniques: The First Face, The Subtle Sting, The Second Face, The Vipers Kiss, The Third Face