fredag 20 oktober 2017

Rise of Iuchiban

Arrogance incarnate
It doesn't really matter where he comes from, so long as he has access to education and feels sufficiently dissatisfied.
d10 table of origins:
1 Emperor
2 Emperor's brother (canon)
3 a Shugenja (possibly Master of Void)
4 probably not a gardener or a Unicorn, but sure why not
5 an Akodo daimyo
6 a Bharata monk
7 the vengeful leader of a massacred non-rokugani people
8 a Kholat Courtier
9 an Asako Henshin
0 a merchant

Reads a book by Kuni Nakanu on blood magic and learns how to use it from his bff Asahina Yajinden. Makes his fanboy Jama Suru do the actual blood magicking, so he and his bff can stay taint free. Supposedly goes globe-trotting through the desert with bff Yajinden, fanboy Suru, and wife Tsugiko, along with an entourage of Imperial guards that can't hack it and die.
Eventually convinces some Khadi to make him an undead servant by ripping his heart out and placing his LIFE FORCE in said heart, so anyone who holds the heart controls him and destroying the heart is the only way of killing him, then steals his heart back and runs off.

Don't have to include the road-trip, since it's gameplay irrelevant. Can just have him run into a Khadi in the Empire. Or you could skip the heart entirely and have him and his friends eat mermaid barbecue.
Considering both Yajinden and Suru become immortal (as well as Yajinden's apprentice Fushiki) and Tsugiko dies, you could have Iuchiban trying things out on other people while he searches for immortality. Tsugiko dies in a failed attempt, Suru succeeds but Iuchiban doesn't like the way it turned out, Yajinden is a success and Iuchiban follows up by performing the same ritual on himself.

Either way, he returns, founds the Bloodspeakers, raises a zombie army, big fight, the end.

Seeing how the bloodspeaker cult is the most game-relevant part of the sub-plot, I'd suggest they be an early product of his rise, a means of casting a wide net as he looks for ways to not die.

Early bloodspeaker factions:
- Heirs of Isawa, a group of Isawa-trained shugenja believing that the stigma on blood magic is largely arbitrary, arguing that Isawa himself was a skilled user of blood magic and that it was blood magic that defeated Fu Leng and sealed him in the black scrolls.

New System? OSR, Legends of the Wulin, and Geneaology in L5R

Even more than most games, character creation in L5R feels like writing a wishlist to your GM. Almost every single choice you make is you saying something about what you want to happen to your character. The extreme specificity of a lot of skills contributes to this.
The downside of character creation in L5R is that it takes a lot of time and gets you really invested in your character in a system where people die when they are killed. I get the feeling that the books encourage dynastic games, where people retire and get replaced by their descendants, but the rules for new characters in the same campaign are one of the weakest aspects of the system.

I'm patching together a simplified, hybrid system somewhere between L5R, and Legends of the Wulin. I chose LotW because I like its alternative to HP-mechanics and the fact that its basic combat engine works about equally well in social duels as in physical ones. Going to try to create a system where character creation provides a base from which descendants more easily spawn. One of the main things will be dividing advantages/disadvantages into inheritables and non-inheritables, and making a random table for next-generation quirks akin to the L5R heritage tables.

Also adding a system for "leveling equipment". Your possessions don't gain XP as such, but every time they're passed on they gain some degree of spiritual resonance. It may take the form of a small skill bonus, they may develop special abilities, they may start building their own GLORY stat. This is not limited to weapons, but they have to have been obviously important to the previous character.

torsdag 5 oktober 2017

Tell my fortune!

You will
1. Meet
2. Fight
3. Kill
4. Be killed by
5. Be intimate with
6. Be involved in the plans of
7. Steal from
8. Be stolen from by

1. a terrible villain
2. an attractive stranger
3. a member of your family
4. a great hero
5. someone of great authority
6. a monster
7. someone poor and desperate
8. someone who didn't deserve it

torsdag 28 september 2017

Rokugan Basara IV: Basara Era

Weak central authority leads to strong regional great clans forming out of smaller family clans and becoming de facto countries in their own right

Minor border conflicts aside, peace reigns for much of the era and the arts thrive - though this time, in the wake of the Akodo Shogunate and the return of the Unicorn (and the rise of the merchant class), both heavily influenced by warrior culture and with a tendency towards tacky, ostentatious fashion and a fascination with foreign imports.

Notable inventions of the era may include firearms, "bulletproof" nanban armour, and eyeglasses.

Alliances are made, tensions rise, and it all eventually explodes in a string of conflicts.

The era ends when all of Rokugan returns to true centralized rule under a pseudo Tokugawa system, after other rulers have tried and failed to hold power. The "uniter" can come from anywhere, but I am partial towards them rising from obscurity.

Shugenja are already becoming rare (except in the Phoenix) and grow rarer still as the wars rage on.

Rough timelines

Hantei rule:
- generations of smaller conflicts and relative peace
- clan war begins
- Second Day of Thunder
- new shogunate
- Dragon civil war
- Dragon/Phoenix war
- Shinjo returns
- war against shadow
- Daigotsu+Iuchiban
- final Shogunate

Akodo rule:
- the Akodo reshape Rokugan in their image, delegating power to their allies, dealing with their enemies, exercising extensive religious oppression
- as soon as things calm down, the shogunate declares war on the Dragon
- Dragon / Shogunate war goes on for years before the mountains are taken and the high house of light disappears (see Dragon section below)
- Second Day of Thunder
- war against shadow
- Shinjo returns
- Daigotsu+Iuchiban
- final Shogunate

Shinjo rule:
- Rokugan opens completely to foreign trade and ideas
- Second Day of Thunder 
- Dragon civil war
- Shinjo returns
- war against shadow
- Daigotsu+Iuchiban
- final Shogunate

måndag 21 november 2016

Rokugan Basara: Notable Places

I'm considering reversing the hemisphere, so the equator is to the north. Southern Rokugan is cold, and northern Rokugan (with the exception of mountain tops) is warm.
Large sections of Unicorn lands are desert, there's occasional savanna in Lion territory (as is inexplicably the case in canon Rokugan, presumably to explain the presence of actual lions), Mantis island climate is more Iceland than Okinawa, Dragon has pockets of tropical heat in valleys, with temperate-to-cold peaks.

On the other hand, considering it's all supposed to be covered in deep snow in winter, maybe it's better to discard realistic climate entirely and just assume everywhere is really hot in summer and really cold in winter.

Either way, here are some notable cities:

Capital of Peace / Capital City / the Imperial Capital (Otosan Uchi)
A city more defined by craftsmanship than trade - many of the Empire's finest artisans compete for the honour of plying their trade in the Capital. Defined by a distinctly upper aristocratic culture, as influenced by the proximity of the Emperor. A Mekka for many High Skills. "Necessary evils" - waste management, executions, prostitution, trade (of things you did not make) - are relegated to the furthest edges of town, usually outside the city walls. Permanent artisan-run shops are accepted in the city proper, but getting a permit is difficult.

Ranbo City / Ranbo / City of Drink (Toshi Ranbo)
Known primarily for "Ranbo" - an ancient variety of "white spirit", a type of alcoholic drink similar in strength and feel to vodka. Loved by locals and connoisseurs and made famous by the many Kakita Artisans who've settled in the city and composed miles of verse in honour of the drink.
- Alcohol ceremony still more common than tea ceremony
- Decent "second choice" for artisans that don't establish themselves in the Capital
- Commercial hub of east Rokugan, picking up a lot of the business that would've taken place in the Capital had it not been so openly disdainful of merchants
- Stark, conservative architecture

City of Sacrifice / Isawa's City / Gisei Toshi
Secret city of the Phoenix. An extreme student-town shrouded in secrecy - no commerce to speak of, not a lot of outsiders, almost everyone you meet is in some way involved with the Isawa shugenja school.

City of the Rich Frog / City of Heaven's Judgement / City of Foreigners
Built towards the end of the Lion-Unicorn war and functions as a gateway in and out of Rokugan proper. The third name is only relevant if the Unicorn eventually lose, in which case it becomes the only city in the Empire that is open to foreign merchants, which primarily arrive through the desert between the northwestern mountains deep in Unicorn lands. The Second name may be used if they are defeated by the Lion specifically (as opposed to the Hantei restoration), which results in Unicorn exile from the Empire and them being included in the "foreigners" who are only allowed to enter Rokugan through the city.
Either way, it is the only city that sees a decent amount of Dragon(/Dragonfly) presence, which, combined with the prevalence of foreigners, and the ever-present Unicorn-Lion tension, gives the city a strange vibe. Most Rokugani experience it as extremely exotic.

Journey's End / Greenwall / City of Lies (Ryoko Owari)
The city most affected by the result of the Unicorn's invasion of Rokugan.
- if the Unicorn remain in charge, and the city is still de Facto Capital of the Empire. The previous Capital retains its name, but little of its political significance.
- if the Lion exile the Unicorn and the Hantei restoration fails the Shogunate takes control of the city, likely leaves the day-to-day running of most of the northwestern former Scorpion lands to the Ikoma.
- if the Scorpion survive the war and hold the city (either the restoration succeeds, or blame is successfully deflected after it fails) the Scorpion come to embrace many of its Unicorn-era quirks, including merchant culture, the booming drug trade, its criminal gangs, its unapologetic hedonism. In the post-war era it becomes a favourite gathering place for a hip new breed of romantic upper class youth.

Rokugan Basara: misc changes from vanilla

All Shugenja, through their three starting spells, are proficient in "basic sorcery", ie what everyone with the talent was doing before Isawa invented spells, the "sorcerers" of the first era. Generally I allow Shugenja to achieve almost any supernatural effect they can think of if they are prepared to spend enough time, effort, and resources bargaining and making pacts with the right spirits.

It's more time consuming than spells, and not something anyone in their right mind would do in the middle of a fight, but it's open ended and can make for great roleplaying.


Gaijin pepper = Mountain pepper
Developed by the Agasha during the Two Rokugans era, thus the name-change. Partly a response to a worrying decrease in children with a talent for sorcery. No muskets until much later, mostly explosives/fireworks. Takes a few years to really take hold in Rokugani culture, first as a tool of war, then as entertainment.


Kiho are different things to different people, but on a metagame level I think of them as psychic powers. Some people have a natural affinity and kiho can occur untrained, but this is rare. They're a common side-effect of dedication to Bharata (Shintao), which has caused adherents to regard them as a sign of enlightenment. In reality, they're the result of a quiet, "uncluttered" mind, which is something Bharata helps with, and something Ancestor Worship, Fortunism, and Xavism generally do not.
I'm reversing the Bushi/Shugenja relationship, making it easier for Bushi to learn and harder for Shugenja, as well as making them harder to learn and execute for anyone with abilities, advantages, or disadvantages that imply a strong spiritual connection (anything that involves contact with ancestors, for example).

Many shugenja schools gradually move towards kiho use (in meta-game terms filling their ranks with "monks" instead of shugenja) as the talent for spellcasting grows rarer over time (the Tamori's more martial focus and kiho-like blade-summoning strikes me as a clear example of this, as does the kuni witch hunters, which I would populate primarily with Kuni who were born without the gift).

Because of its anti-spirit overtones, kiho are highly controversial in the Lion, and not uncommonly viewed with skepticism or scorn among dedicated adherents of non-Bharata religions.


Unarmed combat skills split into a more pugilism oriented and a more grappling oriented skill. Regional differences accounted for with kata/kiho and by "knowing the school". These are still experimental, so game balance may be non-existent.

Striking Art
alt names: Pugilism / Foot and Fist / "Kenpō"
Armor-based damage reduction counts double, but no need to ready a weapon and no risk of getting disarmed (even if they cut your arms off, you can still kick and headbutt). Also covers improvised weapons. Practiced primarily by monks and peasants.
0k1 (roll dice equal to strength and keep one, dice explode)
Rank 3: 1k1
Rank 5: 1k2

Grappling Art
alt names: Jiujutsu / Kaze-do
Used to either grapple as per the grappling rules, or to disarm, redirect, or trip an opponent that is attacking you.
Reactive Grappling: Unarmed disarm attempts do 0k1 dmg instead of 2k1, but require only one raise if done against someone who's just attacked you (with three raises you take your opponent's weapon). You also get a free raise when you make a Grappling / Agility roll against someone attacking you at close range to trip or throw them (as "throwing" in the grapple rules). Taught in most bushi schools, practiced by everyone. Requires one extra raise to use while holding a weapon larger than a knife.
Rank 3: Reactive grappling (against opponents who've attacked you) is now a simple action (2 per round)
Rank 5: Free raise when initiating a grapple


No longer a skill. Ninja-weapons are all covered by whichever weapons skill seems relevant.

Ninja experience a golden age during the Two Rokugans era, especially on the Shogunate side. Many villages that struggle to survive, whether because the war ruined the harvest or their land was barren to begin with, switch focus to training ninja for the local clan in exchange for economic support.

The average ninja would beat the average samurai in a fight. Their skillset is more pragmatic (fewer court-related skills), they're a lot less predictable (using rarely seen weapons), and they do not "fight fair" (most samurai would not willingly do things like coat their blade in excrement). Most are peasants, some are eta, very few are samurai. Way of the Land is common, as is carrying a kitten beneath your clothes as a pocket watch.