torsdag 18 februari 2016

Rokugan Basara II: Gozoku

The second of the six ages is roughly analogous to the Nara / Heian periods. There is only one city to speak of, and it is the capital, Otosan Uchi, or maybe "Capital of Peace" after Heian-kyou, to cut down on the copious and unnecessary Japanese.

The Empire of Rokugan is still small and surrounded by threats. Barbarians in the north and west, pirates from the east, the shadowlands to the south, yokai everywhere, and eventually Iuchiban and his bloodspeakers.

The world, as they see it

The descendants of Bayushi, Shiba, and Doji maintain the alliance that gave Hantei the throne, mostly to keep the Akodo out of power. Old retired Emperors have long "advised" their young replacements to a large enough extent to be de facto emperors, and with the tradition of Emperor/Doji marriage, the prestige of the Isawa school, and the tactical importance of Bayushi, it wasn't particularly hard to make the Emperor their puppet.

It seems fitting to name this era

The Isawa school has established a long tradition of training shugenja, which exist in all clans but are almost always trained by the Isawa (the Kitsu being a notable exception). Bharata/Shintao becomes fast friends with the Gozoku, who like to pretend it has been in their families since the dawn of the Empire. Togashi wholeheartedly embraces it, in part for his own sanity, but also to give his strange mountain cult an air of legitimacy. It becomes fashionable to bring a monk to court.
Perhaps as a reaction to this, the Akodo never fully accept the new faith.

It is the age in which most of the Empire's oldest texts are written, including much that has been attributed to the children of heaven.

Only one Winter Court of note exists and it's the one in the capital. Anyone who's anyone in politics attends.

Tea-ceremony finally supplants alcohol-ceremony as the go-to drinking ceremony of the upper classes, though alcohol still maintains a strong cultural significance. Similarly, curved swords are now in use, but straight swords still common, and the bow or pole arm are both more likely weapons of choice for most bushi.
High hats (above) become fashionable for men. Courtiers (of both genders) take to wearing ostentatious nail extensions to flaunt how they will never be required to do physical labour.

Three rough phenotypes emerge among the nobility, as a result of the Gozoku primarily marrying within the Gozoku, the Lion/Tiger and Crab mostly marrying within those two clans, and Togashi's followers remaining isolated.
Gozoku nobles tend towards wiry builds and slim, straight hair, with an above average (though still rare) occurrence of albinism. LionCrabs tend to be broader, more muscular, with thicker, wilder hair. The Togashi tend to be shorter, but the few that still climb the mountain come from many different places, some of them even "barbarians".

Peasants are equally inbred, but since their inbreeding is more local, clan-wide similarities are less prevalent.

The position of Shogun is established as an office tasked with coordinating their armies and defending against foreign threats (barbarians, pirates, shadowlands). It is always given to one of the non-Gozoku families, usually an Akodo, so the Shogun's political influence is limited.

Crab families are more south and east oriented, so they deal with the Shadowlands and most of the pirates. Might place Kaimetsu-Uo in this era and give him responsibility for the pirate threat - his brother playing the political game and supplanting him while he's away.
Lion/Tiger families are more north and west oriented, so they focus on barbarians.

The southeastern islands often stereotyped by mainlanders as being pirate-infested are, like Scandinavia during the viking raids, mostly populated by non-pirates, but the lack of a central authority makes piracy more convenient there.
The islands are warm and consist mostly of volcanoes, beaches, and trees. Most islands have their own distinct cultural identity. Could be a good place to put the early Moshi, as an informal female priesthood (a name given to spiritual leaders of the community) rather than a matriarchal clan.
Visually, I'm leaning towards something like the Mantis sketch I did a couple of years ago.

Major barbarian factions include Kirin remnants and various (mostly northern) tribes and families collectively referred to as "hairy people". They both tend to excel at riding and/or archery. Over the course of the era, they are both either absorbed into the Empire, forming a number of minor clans (most notably the Fox), massacred, or pushed ever further away.

The Kirin remnants differentiate themselves from the various northern tribes by their use of particular hairstyles and overt Kirin imagery (such as ceremonial use of antlers). They hunt and gather rather than farm and their vast meat consumption is a large part of their cultural friction with the Empire.

They revere Mother Sky rather than Lady Sun.

Iuchiban is the primary threat of the era, and he is a thoroughly internal one.
He really really really wants to live forever, and feels very strongly that the Empire rightly belongs to him. The Bloodspeaker cult isn't an active goal of his so much as a spontaneous result of his efforts.

Where he comes from has always been ambiguous, but considering we're in an era of puppet Emperors, let's just make him the Emperor proper and have later historians cover it up.

Important Bloodspeaker characters:
Iuchiban - basically Dracula
Jama Suru - bald-headed genius maho-tsukai and fanatical first follower of Iuchiban
Asahina Yajinden - creator of the Bloodswords, driven by faustian curiousity
Isawa Tanayama - since I want a name to attach to the "Heirs of Isawa", which may or may not be founded independently of Iuchiban during this time, depending on how complicated you want your Bloodspeaker politics

Rough Timeline:
- Bharata introduced to Empire by a monk called Shinsei
- Bayushi Kuninoko infiltrates the reinvented cult of Togashi, falls in love with its leader, and gives birth to Togashi Hoshi
- Imperial Crusade against the Shadowlands
- Kaimetsu-Uo supplanted through political backstabbery
- Iuchiban founds Bloodspeaker cult, becomes Dracula

political map, light blue is Gozoku (Isawa and Shiba are entirely capital-based)
Major Gozoku factions:
Seppun - charged with the physical protection of the Emperor and their court
Miya - Imperial messengers
Doji - dominant cultural force among the upper classes
Kakita - branch family of the Doji, easier to marry into, especially for accomplished artists and craftsmen
Isawa - not yet exclusive to any clan, you find Isawa advisors, trained in the prestigious Isawa shugenja school, in every castle in the Empire
Shiba - dedicated to "Shiba's Promise", to protect the Isawa, but not necessarily to obey them
Asahina - founded by an Isawa shugenja after he sets fire to a group of Doji diplomats for suggesting peace between Isawa and Akodo during a petty conflict that diverted Lion attention from the northern threat (the family is passionately pacifist)
Asako - adopt many of the outward trappings of Bharata, and many go to the Isawa school for their education, but the core of the family still want to be gods
Bayushi - primary rival of the Doji, but more pragmatic and more focused on intelligence than culture
Shosuro - Shosuro is a person, not a family (it is intentionally unclear whether that person is actually Shosuro or just a name passed on through generations, or indeed if it is several people pretending to be one), but they command a sizable network of spies recruited from the lower classes
Yogo - doomed to betray what they love the most, somehow still tasked with guarding the black scrolls
Soshi - mostly Isawa-trained researchers of the Living Darkness
Agasha - Isawa-trained alchemists and potion-drinkers with a noticeably eccentric streak

Major Army factions:
Akodo - fiercely proud, ambitious, and more than a little bitter about both the Gozoku and the marginalization of their contributions when the Emperor openly prioritizes southern threats
Matsu - still open for new members if you're prepared to go through their Gempukku ceremony, and to kill yourself if you fail
Ikoma - writing history, rewriting history, burning the right books
Kitsu - lingering traces of their inhuman origins still physically obvious, "pure" Kitsu still common
Hida - pragmatic, but given to irrational machismo, with a cunning political strain that history will not remember
Hiruma - shadowlands scouts, easy to join but hard to survive
Kuni - their lands still green, researching the taint
Kaiu - building walls, building castles

Major unaligned factions:
Togashi - inventing Kaze-do, doing their thing
Mirumoto - a major bushi school of the capital, tracing their lineage from the Thunder, heavily influenced by Bharata, on good terms with the Agasha
Kirin - horse/stag-riding northern resistance
Kholat - may or may not exist yet, but if they do they're probably strong in the Isawa and may be one of the driving forces behind the Gozoku, initially thinking that it would dismantle the status quo

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