Monday, April 29, 2013

Togashi's Empire

So the book should be hitting the selves soon. It is due to release today and thus most players should be able to get it sometime this week.

Now going into this chapter I didn't expect to like it. I don't think it's any secret that the Dragon are one of my least favorite clans (vying for that position with the Mantis and Spider :P). So honestly I didn't expect to like the chapter. I've always felt that Togashi as a character was jerk and he was given far to much credit for a person who didn't seem to act except to make peoples lives more difficult.

 So if you asked me before reading this chapter what I would think of a Togashi dynasty I think the words lame and boring would have been what I said.

But I was pleasantly surprised.

So what makes this setting so appealing? Well for starters it is truly a different kind of Rokugan. Well one of my favorite aspects of L5R has always been the spiritual side and Togashi's empire is filled to the brim on spiritualness. It also pulls martial to the fore front as a setting fixture.

One of the featured changes to Togashi's empire is the lack of a Kitsu family (my favorite Lion family!!!!! :( ). I think in this regards I would have added mechanics for a Lion themed monks school but the reasoning for it is very sound. In Togashi's empire the Lion may respect shugenja but they do not practice magic itself. They tend to rely on the gifts of men and their own personal strength. Fertile ground for Kolat I might add ;).

But what really appealed to me is the Hantei family. In this version of Rokugan Hantei goes off to form his own clan known as the Owl clan. His sacred duty is to protect the empire from non human threats. So this pretty much puts them in a position to deal with things from Naga to Nezumi. If it's not a tainted oni it likely falls under the Owl to deal with.

And with the Owl clan comes the mechanics. The Owl clan features a Hantei bushi school, a new take on the Otomo school and a new Seppun shugenja school. There is also a new monk Order and family bonuses for the Hantei and a new family called the Yoshun. There is also the Owl blades as a sacred weapon to round things out mechanically speaking.

Check out a future out a future update on idea's to add the Owl clan to a game not features around the Togashi dynasty. Until next time.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Final Frontier

So now I'm going to talk about the last chapter in Imperial Histories II. This one is titled Empire of the Emerald Stars. As you can guess from the name of the chapter and the picture to the right this is a setting about Rokugan in space. This is pretty much the far end where one can take their game.

I also find it amusing since back during the 15th anniversary of L5R, Todd Rowland said that if L5R made it to it's 20th anniversary he would take them to the moon. A bit early but glad it's here.

So the timeline picks up roughly in the year 2765. Not every possible change is listed in the timeline, it more or less serves as a sign post of the major things that lead up to space travel for Rokugan.. The Phoenix are the ones to pretty much discover other planets and thus play heavily in the race for the stars, even going so far as to design radiant energy weapons and armor. Radiant energy is a process that allows for the awakening of an objects spirit. This isn't a full awakening but it's enough to give items a new energy aura. This energy is used for armor, katana's, ship hulls etc etc. The use of radiant energy though keeps melee combat an important part of fighting since having shields limits the overall effectiveness of blasters. It also helps that the daisho is still a mark of ones station and thus samurai still carry them to prove they are samurai.

Space itself is an interesting place. Many planets are representations of one of the many realms. It's alien inhabitants creatures native to those realms. Just imagine it, an entire world that could be dedicated to 1000 Years of Darkness. Chilling. :)

So much as how the clans carved up Rokugan (and latter their entire planet) the clans carve up space settling entire regions of space. The book goes on to describe several key worlds for each of the clans. My favorite being a planet controlled by the Lion that does everything as if the year was 1171 as opposed to 2765.

So what mechanics are in the chapter? Well it starts off with a few pointers and guidelines for updating a standard L5R game to this new setting, after all it would take an entire book to update everything. Because Rokugan is still a tradition bound society most of the schools remain unchanged themselves. What makes things different is instead of adding in a bunch of new basic schools the weapon tags changed on ranged weapons so that they work with the same basic techniques that a katana might. So that's 4 weapons added plus an additional 4 or so new skills that reflect traveling among the stars.

So what would you do in an Emerald Empire among the stars?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Heresy of the Five Rings

So Imperial Histories II is making it's way out. It should be out in most locations by the 29th of April. But while we wait on the book to make it's big splash everywhere I thought I'd take a moment to talk about my favorite chapters from the book.

The first up is Chapter 4, Heresy of the Five Rings. So what makes this chapter good? Well it's the first time we explore a theological conflict in Rokugan. This chapter, combined with the information later presented in the Age of Exploration is excellent for anyone who wants a conflict that is more than just politics as usual.

So what happens? Well the year is 510 I.C. (Isawa Calender). Gorinno grows in popularity as he begins preaching about the imbalance of the current age. The solution for him, is simple and elegant; there are to many clans. Since there are five elements there must be a clan that represents each element. However there are six clans (the Unicorn haven't returned yet) and having this extra clan is creating a spiritual imbalance in the empire that is spilling over into conflict for Rokugan.  The only way to fix this is to remove one of the great clans.

This problem is made all the more dangerous for the clans because Gorinno has the ear of the emperor. And with that kind of power he can take a simple philosophy and turn it into a reality. And this is where the conflict starts for the clans involved. I'd tell you which clans are which elements and which clans get proposed into being removed and how, but I have to leave you with something to read right?

Of course this isn't the only way to use the setting. In the current story arc Fudo is making a return and spreading through out the colonies. So it is very possible for this time period to instead be about the original conflict between Fudo and the Empire itself. Or you could take what's presented and move it to the Colonies as Fudo makes it's return.

What I enjoyed most while reading the chapter though was the use of the Brotherhood. I'm not a major monk fan mind you, but I do love some good kung fu. Using monks as the center piece for conflict is something that I haven't seen too often in Rokugan. I know there are a fair number of monk fans out there so this kind of conflict is ideal for them. The Brotherhood, after all  isn't in 100% agreement with Gorinno's idea's. Therefore it is very possible to run the entire game as a conflict between the various Orders of the Brotherhood.

And of course there are new mechanics. The Order of the Five Rings is a new monk path works on seeking and capitalizing on the imbalances of your opponent  There is also a new ronin path called The Hawk Purist. This is a level 1 ronin path that capitalizes on being a member of the Hawk Clan. What's the Hawk Clan .... well ..... ;)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Powder Blue Shogun

One of the more interesting turning points for the L5R story was when the Crane clan champion Doji Domotai was told about the infamous Daidoji Harriers. For those who weren't around back in the day, the Daidoji Harriers went around and sacrificed their honor for the good of the Crane clan by using gaijin pepper and sabotage to gain battlefield advantages.  The were the Crane clans dirty little secret since they did something that was fundamentally against the Emperor's wishes. So in a nutshell .... powder blue ninja's.

Now Domotai had been trained as a Matsu when she was young. So she had the unyielding honor of a Lion. When the lord of the Daidoji, one Daidoji Kikaze, informed her of the use of the Harriers Domotai was outraged and demanded they be disbanded. This was one of many hard life choices for Kikaze. The Harriers caused no small amount of trouble for the Crane, being the source of war between the Crane and the Dragon and .... well .... their explosives going off during Moto Chagatai's invasion of Toshi Ranbo.

So what would it take to bring them back and why? Well the why is easy, I liked them and I think they make a nice counter point. In the same fashion that I think the Lion Shadows make a nice counter point. Not a big group mind you but just enough to make a difference every once in awhile. I've recently undertaken introducing L5R to some new players and so I wanted to bring them into a shadow war and who better to use than Harriers vs Shinobi.

The year is 1171 and Iweko has just ascended to the throne. For over a year now Shosuro Jimen, the Emerald Champion, and Kakita Noritoshi, best duelist in the empire and Kakita daimyo, have been engaging in a shadow war over the fact that the Crane had Harriers. This is yet another cost that the Harriers have wrought against the Crane. Enter the new Shogun, Daidoji Kikaze. Iweko instates him as her new Shogun to garner favor with the Crane and to gain their support as she begins her reign. And it is shortly after becoming the new Shogun that Kikaze is approached by one Kakita Noritoshi. Noritoshi has been "off the grid" as he engaged in a smear campaign against Jimen. Meanwhile Jimen has been sending shadowy agents against the Kakita in general and Noritoshi in particular. This feud is Kikaze's fault as far as Noritoshi is concerned and it is time that the Daidoji bring something to the table to make up for all the trouble that has been caused.

Noritoshi is, by this point, a deeply broken man. He has become an ends justifies the means and while he can not ask Domotai to go back on her decree he can ask Kikaze to do something about it. Kikaze meanwhile has always struck me as a character who would carry a large amount of guilt over his families actions and thus would be willing to do anything to make up for it. This includes reinstating the Harriers not as Crane, but as a special forces unit for the use of the Shogun. Transferring what few Harriers remained after the purge into the Shogun's army, Kikaze enters a shadowy war between two colossal figures.

So into this war of red vs blue I will toss a new group of players fresh to L5R. Charged with having to balance the honor of the Crane verus battling a man who corrupts the lands most important political office and willing to hold nothing back.

For Noritoshi this is a chance at vengeance. For Kikaze this is a chance at redemption.