Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Truth

The Truth


Rokugani law is an interesting beast. But before I get into the bulk of this conversation I think we should watch this video.

There is a lot about Rokugan we can walk away from watching that scene. And not just Scorpion players, or Crab players or even Lion players, Jack speaks to several elements that are thematic to L5R in a matter of a few minutes. But what we are going to walk away with today is the point that Rokugani don’t want the truth.

Now this is partially true. They do after all value Honesty, but the tenet of Honesty is not the same thing as being truthful and a guileful person can uphold Honesty without being 100% truthful. That’s why Rokugani worry so much about their On, they desire in some regards to hide the truth.

Thus Rokugani law isn’t about the truth. Well not in a straightforward Perry Mason, Law and Order or CSI kind of way. That’s not to say that games run on the idea of getting to the bottom of it all and finding out who really did it and thus punish them is wrong. I love a good mystery, and that kind of adventure has its place in a game. It’s the Kitsuki’s strong point and it makes them the king in a magistrate game.
However that’s just a tiny fraction of how Rokugani law works. After all the Kitsuki method is considered a joke by most clans.

Ultimately what Rokugani want from their law is accountability. A crime was committed and someone has to pay. Honor demands it. Because Rokugan is a land where honor is stronger than steel it is assumed that the guilty party will be found out. Because the honorable thing to do once confronted with the fact that you committed a crime is to admit it and to ask for seppuku. Honor is the reason why someone can’t be punished for a crime till they confess to it. The honorable mans guilt will eventually weigh him down enough that he will give in and seek redemption. That or he gives into the torture.

In either case because honor is such a central key to how law is prosecuted in Rokugan, things like Investigation skills or techniques become secondary to the individuals with in the setting. Good magistrates get the job done because honor will guide them to the right person and honor will cause said person to admit his guilt.

Now the reality is far far worse and more bleak than that. People lie and cheat and abuse the system all the time. Innocent samurai get accused and are convicted of crimes. But even the possibility of a wrongfully prosecuted case has hope. Rokugani believe in karma after all and if a magistrate knowingly convicts the wrong person then he’ll get his in the end. There is also the possibility that the wronged samurai’s spirit will find a way to get revenge from beyond the grave. After all spirits and ancestors influence Rokugani life and getting ones family to clear your name is right up the alley for their beliefs.

The wonderful thing about this though is that it opens up more avenues for rp. Being a magistrate after all is as much a matter of political ties as it is a matter of skill. And because it’s not an evidentiary based system it gives both players and GM’s wiggle room on how to be a good magistrate.

You’re not required to have more ranks in Investigation than the Kitsuki to be good at being a magistrate. You can approach the magistrate game in your own unique way based on how you see law in Rokugan.

Do you want to trade favors to catch the “right” crook? Do you want to blackmail the guilty or the innocent? Or someone close to an innocent or guilty person? Do you see it as a means to more power and prestige? Do you want to right the wrongs of society? Avenge a family slight?

For the GM you can test a player’s resolve. Is he going to back down to political pressure? Is he going to accuse people regardless of whether or not they actually did it? How long can someone with high status protect themselves from the law? Are the PC’s going to build a group of allies to help take down a well placed criminal? Is an ugly truth that does more damage to one’s family, clan the Empire worth punishing the guilty?

It’s a rich field that opens up the more and more one considers that Rokugani law ultimately cares about accountability than it does truth. That it makes a very large assumption that honor will win out in the end. And it gives characters who aren’t Kitsuki more to do than being back up dancers :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Naked Steel 5

This is a bit late. School and all :(. But Naked Steels has been up for awhile. Anyone who hasn't checked it out should. You can find it here.

Shawn gives us another sneak peak into mechanics of Imperial Histories and the Book of Air. Though I'm far more interested in what he shows us of the prize winning setting that will be apart of Imperial Histories. Great stuff.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Kokujin Tattoo's

Kokujin Tattoo's


Hello everyone,

Dace asked me to tell you a bit about the Order of Kokujin tattoos, since the family is now available with the release of Great Clans. Mechanically, players should consider tattooed monk and order of the spider monk schools to create characters from this family.

I would go myself for an order of the spider monk 3 then multi school in the tattooed monk : Kokujin didn’t had as much power in his blood neither as much quantities as the Togashi (since he was the only one providing, while they were a couple providing for the Togashi). As such, his students had to prove themselves through his Dark Lotus sect training before being granted any tattoos. In truth, most of the original members of the Order of Kokujin had ranks in other schools before joining and were granted tattoos to enforce loyalty through the Shadowlands power Blood domination but those who joined his Dark Lotus sect (after Kokujin joined with Daigotsu) had to undergo many trials before being granted tattoos.

Now that we cleared the question of which school to use, let’s see about the tattoos in question. I would use quotes from the story The Mad Dragon by Shawn Carman ( http://www.kazenoshiro.com/kazenoshiro/8/h8e02p25.php ) to illustrate the tattoos in question. Those tattoos will have the same mechanical effects, but much darker visual effects. A good thing to throw your players off-balance wondering what those tattoos do !

Matsuo unleashed a devastating cone of frost from his mouth. The cone washed over Kokujin, who disappeared in the blinding sheet of white. The cone gave way to a hissing cloud of steam, however, and Kokujin re-emerged, his body wreathed in red fire, a tattoo of a boiling pit of pitch blazing on his shoulder.

So our first tattoo is the boiling pit of pitch. One of the most visual tattoo ever described, covering the whole body in red fire, his effect is protection. I would use the Crab tattoo, who provide reduction, to simulate this tattoo.

Kokujin's fists grew like stone as the tattoo of obsidian on his back surged with power.

An martial art tattoo, this one can easily be duplicated by the Blaze tattoo.

A Tsuburu no Oni tattoo crawled up Kokujin's back, and the mad monk leaned forward and bellowed. It was a riotous sound, accompanied by a tempest of unbelievably foul-smelling wind. Matsuo was lifted from the ground and dashed against the cavern wall.

An interesting effect for this tattoo : the creation of a cone of wind. Difficult to really imitate that with another tattoo, but you can get it close with the Dragon tattoo. The main difference is going to be in the way damage is dealt (wind instead of fire, which can have different effects regarding to some protection, most likely spells) and the DR of the spell. As a fire-damage tattoo, the Dragon tattoo uses the fire ring. As a wind-damage tattoo, I would use the air ring for the damage rating of this tattoo.

the form of a brilliant white dragon on his chest. The tattoo had not been there only seconds before, and as he rose, Matsuo unleashed a devastating cone of frost from his mouth

Following on my suggestion on making a Dragon tattoo using the air ring, here is a normal Togashi tattoo : the frost dragon tattoo. The Frost Dragon is the wrathful aspect of the fortune Inari, and punishes those who offended him by icing their rice paddies. The Frost Dragon tattoo creates the same effect as the Dragon tattoo, but with frost instead of fire. Using the same basic idea as for the Tsuburu no oni tattoo, the Frost Dragon tattoo would use the water ring for his damage rating instead of fire but works otherwise like the Dragon Tattoo.

Shikibu no Oni tattoo: this tattoo show a representation of the oni lord that stole the bodies of the dead.

A tattoo who isn’t actually described directly in the stories, from the bits of description I assumed it was Shikibu no oni and that the tattoo allowed healing abilities. A dark twist, I would use the Phoenix tattoo to simulate it. The visual of the deadly oni lord moving from one body to another would be quite a scary tattoo.

Here we go, I hope those few lines helped you with ideas about how to turn your Togashi tattoos into scary Kokujin tattoos with little rule changes. There is a lot of possibilities ( Kyoso for Wind, Akuma for Blaze, Yakamo for bamboo…) now open, just take a list of scary shadowlands monsters and you are set to go.