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TheWanderingJewels

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  1. Well they kinda do, because the whole touching dead flesh thing, it would make them easier to move (and contain if something like Taint got to them). And those that cannot afford the average pyre.
  2. Actually, When it comes to the Hantei XVI, The Hantei and the other Royal Clans simply papered over what he was like, and mentioned him in passing, while quietly expunging the record. Given that the Seppun royal guards are the ones that did him in tells you how bad it got. After that, all of the clans just went along with it because Hantei XVII was very mild mannered and nice comparatively speaking. They acknowledge the few good things he did, thus honoring him, but flat out ignore the rest so smooth things long. No one wants to admit the Hantei line created a complete monster. In my campaign, I had most historians mention a fire in the records that regretfully destroyed most of his histories sadly, so they do try to honor what is known. This came back to bite them in the ***, later...
  3. Sorry not posted for some time, but been working lots. Getting back into the groove Ronin level Plot nugget: This is meant for generic plots and outlines for Ronin or low ranking clan samurai that while they may be accomplished, they can still be overwhelmed, and at the end of the day, while the clans might be annoyed they have lost some young samurai, they really cannot be bothered to look too close at ‘embarrassing circumstances’ if the players are lost to more undesirable elements “A Fistful of Ryô Oban” An out of the way village/town (Yaotsu) in (insert province here) has been taken over be two criminal gangs who have intimidated the local Yoriki (constable), a low ranking Bugeisha by the name of (inset clan name) Hasu, but the local thugs have nicknamed ‘Ahiru’ (domestic duck, or ‘Lame duck’) depending on the usage, a comparatively useless constable and a general embarrassment to her clan. The two gangs are fighting for control of the town’s various businesses (sake works & silk production as primary), extorting what they can, but sending off the correct taxes so as not to draw notice from the local clan lord or the Imperial magistrates, who are notoriously humorless with regard to tax collection. But as long as things are not noticed, the life of the village will remain desperate and bleak. Cast of Peasant Ne’er do wells in Yaotsu Uma-san: Coffin Maker, who will look over the players and size them up, mentioning prices for his wares. If they die or the opposition dies, he makes money Kaniza-san: Tavern owner, who will look over the players and see if they are worth anything and try to goad them to action if possible, while providing what information he knows about the gangs. Shěmāo-San: local ‘Geisha’: While pretty, the gangs have not been kind to her. Currently addicted to ‘Liquid Void’ to get through the day. Very bleak outlook on life if pushed, but can fake being pleasant and cultured with the best of them. Oyqkqta (Boss) Wanizame: Runs the sake works, The local ‘geisha’ house, and leans on what businesses he can. Cold, greedy, and not a fool. Currently employs a large gang to keep his side of the village/town. Constantly angling for control of Yaotsu from his rival, Boss Sasori. Gama-san: A large brute of a man (6’6”), heavily scared, and uglier than most, runs the day to day operations with a cold eye. Has claimed to have killed samurai before. Or at least ronin. Uses blunt instruments to occasionally reinforce his points on whoever anger. A walking Rokugani stereotype of the unpleasant thug 53 or so odd gamblers, spies, drunkards, and other low scum comprise Wanizame’s gang. Oyaktya Sasori Older man who keeps pet scorpions of several small particularly small nasty varieties that he farms poison from to use to make examples of people who anger him. More ‘civilized’ and intimidating than most criminals. Rumors that he has a Scorpion patron have kept him alive more than once. Very good at head games and would give the court trained a bit of a worry as he’s rather good at deceit. Has the Machikata (town police) under his thumb through bribes. Controls the local Sake and Soy breweies, currently has half of the textiles under his control. ‘Somen’ AKA ‘Noodles’: A more normal looking man of middle 20’s that is whipcord muscled, and is head of the local stevedore/warehouse workers. Works for Sasori as the money is good (for him), can be brutal when need be and is very good at throwing blades (those experienced in such things would note and almost professional level. Fights dirty. 64 or so various workers he frightens into line, thugs, and other general scum
  4. Bit of threadomancy. but here's a good bit on coinage in japan
  5. Stumbled across this this morning and it's a nice replacement for the old Obakemono project. Lots of ghosts and other such for aspiring GM's http://yokai.com/
  6. I introduced a Fifth Bloodsword back in my previous campaign as a dark reflection of Zen nothingness called Kyomu (Oblivion), as a subtle temptation to false enlightenment and with mildly 'off' visions that could lead to what the client is wanting, with only occasional 'errors', which the player would interpret as a vision interpreted incorrectly. It also carried the curse of "May You Find What You Are Looking For". It typically ends badly eventually as the corruption quietly takes the person over, and influences them to do things that are...ill advised.
  7. One thing that is often ignored in the Rokugan setting, but is often implied, is the 'Mandate of Heaven'. The concept that The Heavens protect the Imperial Line by virtue of them staying in charge. Well, Hantei XVI happened, disasters and other things showed up as Heaven quietly showing it's displeasure by withdrawing protections over the land. When the Emperor's guards finally turned on him because he was just that evil. And the empire had problems for a few generations after that because the Heavens weren't very subtle in saying "Don't do that again." It followed down the Hantei line until the 38th. And we all know what happened there. Toturi might not have been a Hantei, but he was more in line with how The Heavens wanted things done. So he got to rule. And that's pretty much it. Plus all the shenanigans going on in the other realms
  8. Ritual Elements for Shugenja/preists Ema: a wooden tablet or plaque found at shrines and temples. The front contains a picture or blessing. On the back a person writes a prayer or wish. Next, the Ema is hung on a rack with dozens or hundreds of similar tablets. If the petitioner is lucky, a kami or bosatsu (shinsei spirit) answers the desire written on the tablet. If unlucky, a kansen answers the desire…. 4th Ed Mechanical effects: This is pretty much a GM’s option, but a particularly reverent prayer has a better chance of drawing a kami/bosatsu/kansen’s attention’s than a one made through rote. It will determine the difficulty for the shugenja reading it to determine what was really going on. Gohei: A Shinto wand. When a priest of the Kami chants the Kami’s names and shakes the wand, it is believed that the person becomes purified of any evil or corruption. The want is made of sacred hinoki cypress and is tipped with many tassels of specially folded white silk paper. 4th Ed Mechanical effect: The normal gohei wand will give the shugenja a free raise in banishing Shadowlands creatures or in performing purification magics. More elaborate or specially crafted gohei nemurani may provide other bonuses. The Asahina and The Agasha excel at crafting such items. Magatama: comma shaped beads. Long used in Shinto worship, magatama are believed to symbolize the primal essence of the world. Commonly made of Jade, but obsidian is not unheard of. One of the Three Imperial Regalia is in fact an egg-shaped variation of the magatama. 4th Ed Mechanical Effect: the magatama itself it often blessed and cleansed repeatedly in rokugan before being given to a priest, giving the jade the qualities of a finger of jade. Obsidian magatama have the peculiar effect of warding off the effects of Shadow (user may re-roll thee times to resist affects of Shadowbolts before the obsidian degrades becomes useless). Mayoke: a palm sized talisman or amulet, believed to dispel evil spirits or any misfortunes that accompany them. They often come in a cloth satchel with a prayer within. 4th Ed Mechanical effect: the normal Mayoke may or may not (gm’s option) give a person carrying it a free raise to ward off effects of kansen or angry spirits. Clever shugenja trained in the arts of warding might attach a Ward spell to the prayer and put it in the Mayoke, creating a mobile ward. O-mikoshi: a portable shrine, where a kami resides when it manifests in the world. O-mikoshi are carried in a litter-like fashion during matsuri festivals by 10-100 men in happi coats and loin-cloths. The purpose of this to encourage the kami to inhabit the shrine based on the spirit of the load bearers put into the effort. O-mikoshi tend to vary from being very basic to quite ornate, depending on the local. Often the tend towards the later; a single shrine about the size a large cart can cost thousands of koku, laced with soft silk scriptures and adornments. 4th Ed Mechanical effects: Pretty much up to the GM on this one. Suffice it to say, any beneficial effects would be based on the Kami being worshiped. A O-mikoshi to Benten-No-Kami would have a different set of effects than one to O-Kaimetsuo-No-Kami. Shiemenawa: A thick hemp twine rope with folded white silk paper tassels at intervals used to demarcate a sacred spot or the gate way to one. In the ancient Rokugani past, this represented a white serpent, which was sacred. Of course, after the problems with the Chuda, Imperial priests have modified this somewhat to quietly ignore the serpent aspects while still maintaining the use of the object, so as not to offend the Kami. 4th Ed Mechanical effects: Ever wonder where shugenja might ground their Ward spells near a temple? Here you go. Give that nature of worship in Rokugan, there also may be beneficent spirits that inhabit the twine ropes. Serpent spirits… Shinseist Ritual Elements Bonsho: One of the most recognized Shinseist artifacts, this is a copper temple bell, usually 4-6 feet tall. The bell has no internal clapper, but is rung when a monk swings a wood log suspended on two chains at the bell. Often run during Festivals, this bell is rung During the New Year Joya no Kane Ritual, in which each temple rings the bell 108 times, representing the 108 sins of mankind. 4th Ed Mechanical Effects : Um…it’s a bell. But it is said that a bell rung by a devout Shinseist priest or follower of Shinsei may drive away evil spirits. Mechanics would be treated as a Banishment spell Gofu: a wooden plank wrapped in a slip of paper or a rectangle of paper stuck to any surface of a building or shrine. Planks typically have long prayers written on them, while papers have likenesses of a deity or creature upon them. Said to be more powerful than mayoke at keeping evil or bad luck at bay. D10 Effects: See Mayoke write up. Treat as a Ward Vs Shadowlands with a TN = to the Monks Rank x5. Hamaya and Hamayumi: Arrow and Bow. Yamabushi often use these specially prepared weapons in performing an exorcism. Many festivals in Rokugan also use such weapons in annual purification and exorcism of sacred spots. They are also very useful in harming Shadowlands creatures and Bloodspeakers, to which they are painfully aware of… 4th Ed Mechanical Effects: Treat as a magical weapon vs Shadowlands and Bloodspeakers that require such weapons to hit them. The weapons also a free raise during exorcism rituals. Juzu: Shinseist prayer beads. Resembling a rosary with a tassel on the end, juzu are often made of bodhi woof or bodhi seeds, but jade (often by Crab monks) and other materials are not unheard of. Juzu keep track of the number of times a sutra has been chanted. 4th Edition Mechnical Effect: A free raise for meditation rolls. Kyoten: Sutra books. Folded accordion style like most Rokugani books. The contain the wisdom of Shinsei, allegories, commentary. And teachings. 4th Edition Mechanical Effect: depending on the quality of the Kyoten, nothing to perhaps several raises on Shintao rolls. Markers: These take many forms and are considered very bad luck to desecrate. Gorinto: Wooden planks bearing the shinseist posthumous name of a deceased. Often found lining the walls of a Shinseist temple or in family shrines, butsudan, in homes. They are broken, burned, erased upon the thirty-fifth, fiftieth, or hundredth anniversary of a persons death by and ordained Shinseist priest. To do so at any other time is to cause the spirit to lose their way and become a lost soul or worse. Dosojin: Stone Obelisks or humanoid statues that mark the grounds of ancestral kami sacred to local inhabitants. Mokkan: Wooden tablets in the Shinto tradition of naming various kami. 4th Edition effects: None. Just markers. Breaking the markers, on the other hand, may have consequences. Senko: Incense. Prepared in many different ways (the Dragon being the most varied), senko is made with spices and herbs mixed with flammable salt peter. Used in Shinseist rituals to help focus the mind. Special types of incense are used at prayer markers of the deceased to pray for them. 4th Edition Effects: Perhaps a free raise on meditation rolls. Shaku-Jo: Five ringed staff. The definitive symbol of travelling monks and senior monks, the rings help monks focus the mind and symbolize the Five Realms of the Cosmos. The Sixth Realm is represented by the staff which ritually strikes the earth, our realm. It does well as a staff weapon in a pinch. 4th Edition Effects: There are many legends associated with the Shaku-jo. One of the more interesting is the rattling of the staff causing pain to evil spirits. This particular legend is accurate as the striking the Earth purifies it and wracks the offending spirit with the energies of the Earth. Treat as magical attack of a strength = XkX of the Monks Earth Rank against malevolent spirits. Roll Earth + Shintao, Keep Earth. Radius of the attack is Monks Earth Rank x 2 in meters. Tepatsu: Shinseist Alms Bowl. Many monks are expected to forsake all earthly goods, as they represent earthly attachment, thus desire. Typically this will be the only possession of a monk aside from the Robes on their back. Esoteric or Fallen Shiniest Ritual Elements These items are rarely seen out of some of the more Esoteric sects of Shinseism influenced by the Ivory Kingdoms, twisted Shinseist sects that follow broken paths of enlightenment, or the corrupted followers of the Shadowlands and Fu-Leng. It is thought that the items date from a time from before the Fall of the Kami when bloody practice was far more common among the tribes of Rokugan, both terrifying and intriguing to behold. Some Sects state that Shinsei taught them how to purify the remains of a fallen brother to allow them to consult their spirits to assist on the paths to enlightenment (there have been instances of older masters speaking through aspirants during meditation when using the items. At least that what it seems to be....) Most of the implements are crafted from human remains. On one level, the represents the impermanence of the mortal shell in the endless cycle of rebirth. On a level more mystical, the remains imbue certain Shinseist rituals with more power. Not to mention Shadowlands rituals. Typically a Gaki or Yorei of a particularly vengeful spirit is bound into the Shadowlands implements. Dojre: Vajra (Daimond Thunderbolt): This ritual object represents complete stability and order and is always paired with a ritual dojre singing bell representing Ying and Yang Energies. The Dojre is the double ended “thunderbolt of Enlightenment” causing sudden and irrevocable changes in perception, leading to sudden awareness of the true nature of reality, often experienced only by saints and mystics. This is often referred to a as the “Great Death” by Shinseist preists, and the “Great Awakening” by followers of the Shadowlands. D10: as one might expect, such a tool is mechanically hard to represent. During a Shinseist ritual, it might give Two free raises to rituals as well perhaps offer a great insight. With more twisted rituals, it might open the mind to corrupted influences, and perhaps inflict mental disadvantages as a result. Kangling: Femur Trumpet: made from a human thigh bone, this item is used by the faithful to drive away wraithful spirits and by the fallen to summon them. Regardless of the use of the item, even regular Shinsei praciticioners are circumspect in the usage of the kangling as the unenlightened would tend to think (incorrectly, but reasonably) the priest perhaps is a Shadowlands practicioner. The Kangling can be used as ritual element to summon Gaki, Oni, and Yorei. The Kangling is played using the left hand while pounding a damaru (a hourglass shapped drum made of two human skulls) in the right hand. D10: have the character roll Void + Shintao, keep Void to banish wraithful spirits.....or Taint + Shintao to summon the creatures mentioned above. Kapala: Skull Alms Bowl: It is rather uncertain exactly where this tradition started among the Shinseists, but it has raised more than one eyebrow among the Rokugani that do know, in spite of no Taint ever being found in the ritual itself by the few shugenja who have observed the highly secretive rituals (often under threat of bodily harm if the practicioners had known about it). Highly ornate Kapala have gold and silver inlays with the dome carved with important ritual symbols, used often to aid in Prophecy and Clairvoyance. Fallen monks use it for the passing of blood and other body fluids. Sealed by ritual, the bowl has the good and evil karma of the dead owner. The karma is easily transferred to any handling the bowl, often with ill results for the untrained. D10: The item will add perhaps one to two raises for meditation rolls or divination rolls, but most monks are rather circumspect about it's use around the unenlightened.... The Three Imperial Regalia of Rokugan With the Fall of the Kami and the establishment of the Hantei Dynasty, symbols of Imperial Power had to be forged in for recognition of the Hantei's right of rulership to be evident to all. There had been much contention over the attack on Lord Moon by the O-Kami, but Lady Sun could not truly blame Hantei for wanting to protect his brothers and sisters. In order to show her blessing upon the founding of the new Empire of Roguan, she had gifted Hantei a mirror made of a polished substance not unlike jade named Yata no Kagami (The Mirror of the Eight Handed Flower) from which her light could shine and that the Hantei could reflect upon the Wisdom of the Higher World's, as well as keep track of their family line. The tale behind the Second Imperial Regalia known as Ame No Murakumo No Tsurugi (Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven) aslo called Kusuanagi No Tsurugi (GrassCutting Sword) is much darker tale as it is the former property of Susa-No-O , the Raging God of Thunder, given over to the Hantei after the thunder god lost a Wager against Hantei during the formation of the Empire, as Susa preferred the chaotic mess of the various tribes as opposed to the more organized Empire. While handing the blade over to Hantei, he silently prosribed a curse upon the weapon, that the Sword would indirectly doom the Hantei Emperor once every few generations, but other wise lend it's power when needed. There is some speculation as to what exactly happened in Heaven when Lord Moon found out about the Curse upon the blade, but a majority of Susa-No-O's portfolio was passed onto Osano-Wo when he came into being. The most popular answer Legend is that Lord Moon had Susa stripped of his titles and locked away in Toshigoku for his Treachery. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the curse chose to manifest itself early on, due to the rather tempestuous nature of the curse. Sadly this caused the death of 4 of Hantei the Fourth's siblings and family, but given the rather unusual circumstances involved with their deaths, suspicions arose over the nature of the sword itself. While unable to unearth the curse itself, it was divined that the sword was restless much like it's previous owner and could possibly turn upon the Hantei if not given proper respect. After much debate as to what could be considered respect by the blade, it was decided to make it on of the Imperial Regalia to be viewed, but not actually wielded, during important ceremonies, and brought out only when absolutely needed. This policy appeared wise during the time that Kusanagi was in the Empires possession. The Last of the Regalia is referred to as Yasakani no Magatama (The Necklace of Immortal Jade), also called the Gyoku. It is a rather large necklace composed of unique variants of Immortal Jade (red, black, white, yellow, and green) carved into the shapes of magatama beads. It was rarely missing from the various Hantei's side or proximity during their early reign up until the Advent of the much reviled Hantei the XVI, when they along with Kusanagi and the Mirror disappeared from the Imperial capitol, Otosan Uchi. The Empire would regain much if the Regalia would be returned to the Empire....assuming one could know where to look and what they were looking at. Yata no Kagami : The Mirror of the Eight Handed Flower is rather plain in appearance, but notable for it's high polish that never seems to go away, as dust and other filth seems to slide off it, with the back decorated with early Rokugani script and magatama D10: The Mirror is one of the few things that can contact The Sun with little preparation other than meditation. A Meditation + Void Roll or Etiquette + Void Roll of the GM's determination can be used to garner the Sun's attention. Of course, depending on the Era, this might not be the wisest course. Secondly, the Mirror can be used to scry for people or objects that are known to the person utilizing it with a accuracy approaching that of the Oni's Eye. And lastly, the Mirror has rather unusual property to it that if anyone who walks in front of it is not of the Imperial Line, they will not show up. Those that are will appear in the mirror as normal. Needless to say, this can cause no end of confusion or suspicion on more paranoid players parts. Ame No Murakumo No Tsurugi: There is much speculation as to how Kusanagi was forged, but the most popular legend has it being forged in the heavens by Shiba after catching a shooting star (his skills at forging weapons, or even paying attention long enough being open to question) as an attempt to forge a sword shortly after the concept had come into being. As a result the sword is not of the popular Katana form , but of a much earlier form referred to as a Jian, or straight sword. As a design, it is rather plain, but it is notable that it does not appear to have degraded over time, and it is of such a fine edge that few objects on the earthly plane could resist it's fine edge. The handle is forged of a mysterious dark jade that occasionally have flares of green script which while similar to Rokuganese, are as yet unidentifiable. D10: Kusanagi is a blade of Legendary Quality and would use the Specialization (Jian) to be wielded properly, as it's balance is unusual to most modern bushi. One of it's many properties is that it treated as a Kaiu blade for purposes of shattering it, as well as it ignores all forms of Carapace, and Armor when striking a target. The GM may tailor the bonuses of the weapon to their campaign as needed Secondly, if a lethal blow is struck with Kusanagi, the targets soul is consumed by the blade, preventing them from passing on to the next cycle. This property is not generally known outside of the Imperial family and will not be spoken of unless absolutely necessary. Yasakani no Magatama: As one might expect, The Necklace of Immortal Jade does have the properties of Immortal Jade and should be treated as such with the following modifiers. The sight of necklace causes Fear 6 in all Tainted creatures, (Shadowlands, Shadow, or any other being with Control of other than Tengoku) as it represents the purity of Heaven. Failures to pass a fear test will cause the tainted to run in terror aware from the bearer of the necklace. Secondly: the necklace causes purification of water of ALL impurities within 100 feet due it's nature Peasant Items Hachimaki: (Headband) Worn Across the forehead, typically emblazoned with a bold Kanji of a Desired quality such as “Persistence”, “Perfection”, “Stamina”, etc. Designed as a possible ward against evil spirits. D10: While mostly peasant superstition that works more as a psychological goad, some clans have actually worked to make these bands a form of actual protection that can be worn. At the GM's discretion, various wards could be incorporated into such an item. Of course, such items would be rare and draw perhaps unwanted attention.... Mawari-Dohroh: (Revolving Paper Lantern): a item of the Lower Castes which has notably spread through out the Samurai, particularly in area's afflicted by unnatural spirits, as there have been too many instances of the lanterns revealing hidden threats to be ignored. It is thought that that the first of the lanterns was designed by one of the first practicioners of Onmyodo in the Crane lands who assisting the Crane in tracking particular vexing mujina and yorei for banishment. D10: when constructed, lit and hung properly, the Lantern has an effect similar to By The Light of Lord Moon within the Lanterns area of illumination with regard to that which is supernaturally hidden via virtue of being in a near-plane or magically hidden. It would not reveal anything hidden by more mundane means, such as below a floorboard, or a ninja hiding in rafters. Tohroh-Nagashi: (Paper Lantern Boat) During the Time of the Festival of the Dead, these small paper boats are said to carry the Visiting Spirits of the Dead back down stream to their homes in the spirit world. Some Clans have been known to place the ashes of loved ones within these boats for burial. D10: umm....it's a small paper boat used in a ritual to honor one's family. Possible Free Raise in assisting in banishing malevolent spirits to their home planes. Wara-Ningyo: Straw Doll. Old wives tales state that if you take a lock of hair from an enemy and put it into a small straw doll made to look like that person, you can exact revenge. Four nights in a row, those seeking retribution pound nails into the Doll, pinning it to a Tori Arch or Shrine Gate. On the fourth night, something horrible is supposed to happen to the victim. While dismissed by most Samurai Caste as rubbish (as direct causation is hard to prove), it is seen as a declaration of a threat and most Bushi will respond accordingly D10: This is the one instance where the Samurai caste, both Bushi and Shugenja are completely wrong. The Wara-Ningyo nail pounding ritual (for indeed that it's what it is) summons malevolent spirits of various types by the force of sheer hatred embodied in the ritual. The particulars will vary, but the GM's should feel free to be cruel to the target should they so choose...even a few months after the ritual is completed. Evil never sleeps.
  9. for more fun and games Much of this information is kibbled/modified from The Samurai Archives Wiki as supplementary material for the information provided with the current line of L5R books Han (n): The feudal domains ruled by daimyô are most commonly throughout Rokugani history referred to as han. During the age of Exploration, the term as fallen into relative disuse, and domains are instead referred to by a number of terms including: kuni ("country", "state") (Much to the Crabs amusement) ryô or ryôbun ("territory", "portion of territory") (the play on the term for coinage is often used in jokes) shiryô ("private territory") (Typically used to refer to Samurai residences) ie (“house”) (used to refer to peasant housing, usually farming housing) zaisho ("place where one is resident") (often used interchangeably when referring to Merchant housing and places of business) fu or seifu ( "government") (used to refer to governing clan residences or governmental buildings), and kôgi ("government", "public affairs") (typically used when referring to Imperial Holdings), among others. The use of these terms was often governed by omote and uchi (or "external" and "internal") concerns; a term such as kuni might be used in internal domain documents to refer to the domain, but when speaking to the Emperor about one's domain, kuni would be used to refer to Rokugan as a whole, and another term, such as zaisho, would be used to the daimyô's humble appointed territory The han are largely autonomous in terms of their internal affairs, but were subject to numerous strictures originally imposed by Hantei III, as well as taxation and ritual obligations. Hantei XVI , officially acknowledged (for tax purposes and control) 185 major domains during his reign; by the reign of Hantei XX, the number of major domains stabilized around 260, but the total number of distinct domains that existed at one time or another over the course of Rokugani History exceeds 540. Though many daimyô continue to hold their ancestral territory as their han, in theory all han are fiefs granted by the Emperor of Rokugan. The Emperor reserves the right to give and take away lands from daimyô, and often makes use of this power, reassigning a given territory to a different samurai clan, and assigning the former lords of that territory to a different domain elsewhere in the archipelago, or simply denying them a territory entirely during political turmoil or as a possible reward for service. This occurred particularly frequently in the Reign of Hantei XVI and during the Heresy Era, with 281 instances of clans being moved from one domain to another, and 213 instances of clans losing daimyô status, and their domains, entirely during that fifty-year period. The latter was most often due to the absence of an heir; though Imperial policies were relaxed in later eras, initially, deathbed adoptions were not permitted. The power or status of each han (and of their daimyô) was determined by its kokudaka, normally a measure of agricultural or commercial production in units of koku; in some cases, domains were assigned a kokudaka out of proportion to their agricultural production, in recognition of their importance strategically, diplomatically, or otherwise. The smallest domains, by definition, had a kokudaka of at least 10,000 koku, while the largest domains, boast a kokudaka of 1,000,000 koku or better. The vast majority of domains were closer to the lower end of this range, and only a handful of domains were assessed in the hundreds of thousands of koku. On the Kokudaka: Kokudaka (n): a measure of the agricultural production of a daimyô domain, or "han," expressed as a measure of koku of rice. As a representation of the domain's wealth, kokudaka determined the amount of the domain's tax obligations to the shogunate, and the domain's status relative to other domains. The smallest daimyô domains, by definition, possessed at least 10,000 koku, while some samurai retainers were granted sub-domains within a han, with a much smaller rating in koku. The majority of han were officially assessed at a kokudaka in the range of 10,000 to 200,000 koku, though the kokudaka of the most powerful domains exceeded 500,000 koku. This figure, though ostensibly based on the actual agricultural production of the domain's territory, often did not change over the course of the period. A domain's kokudaka might be changed as a political reward or punishment, but the Empire does not engage in regular surveys of agricultural production, and did not update domains' kokudaka on the basis of their production. Multiple different figures for the kokudaka thus often existed simultaneously for a single domain. The official figure determined and recognized by the Empire and used as a marker or indicator of the domain's wealth and status can be referred to as omotedaka, using the character omote, meaning "official," "surface," or "outside." Meanwhile, nearly all domains maintained their own internal figures for agricultural production, called uchidaka , using the character uchi, meaning "inside" or "internal." The uchidaka was often a higher figure, more regularly assessed and more accurately reflecting increases and expansions of agricultural productivity within the domain. It was generally in the best interests of the domain to not report the higher figure, and to allow the omotedaka recognized by the Empire to remain at a lower figure, since this means lower tax payments owed by the domain to the Empire; though this seems deceitful or deceptive, such behavior is widely condoned by the Empire, as part of the philosophy of omote and uchi, allowing internal matters to remain relatively private, so long as a domain's obligations on the official, external are properly observed.
  10. Shinobi Tools Box While the game has captured some of the more commonly known tools of the Ninja, I have come across some of the more esoteric tools and techniques to help fill out the arsenal of the stealth artists Tsui-giri: Large Picks about a foot long consisting of a wooden handle and a long thin, tempered metal spike that could be used as a weapon as well as for quietly carving spying holes in walls. Torinoko: Smoke bomb. Gunpowder wrapped in a paper much like a firecracker with a paper fuse. Could be used like a grenade or smokescreen. Maru-kagi: Round Key. In spite of the name, a hand held item with a wooden handle and curved hooks coming out at 90 degrees from the handle. Used to jimmy though doors and latch onto early locking mechanisms, to allow the ninja to open the door lock from the outside. Ibushi-ki: Smokepot or Smudgepot. A cylinder device made of ceramic with 8 holes along the side and one at the top, when gunpowder was put in and lit, a thick curtain of smoke would rise from the holes. Tekko-Kagi: One of several climbing claw variants. This particular version could be used in battle against an incoming samurai blade as when fitted over the hand and fingers, the ‘claws’ would protect most of the hands and fingers. When used for climbing, it could me attached to the hand like a crampon Kagi-nawa: Hook Rope. While the four spiked climbing rope variant is more well known, this one was known as more stealthy version, and used for climbing up and down. Often used in quiet getaways. Ikari-kagi: Grappling hook. A four pronged metal anchor hook attached to a hope. Used for climbing roofs or over walls. Uchi-Kai: Prying hook: a small metal hook and wooden handle. The hook was driven into a wall to help the ninja climb and open doors. Kiri: Pick. Smaller than those normally sold. The easy-to-conceal item was used to cut holes. Maki-hashigo: Roll-up Ladder. Something of a misnomer, this was a pulley-mechanism with a pointed spike thrown over a wall to anchor the rope and wheel. Once secured, a person (or items) could be drawn up like a bucket from a well Misshio-ire: Secret Document Holder. Designed to look like the sheath of a small sword (Tanto or thereabouts), it contains a small pipe would could be used to conceal secret documents from enemy forces. That certain clans that remain nameless could use this to seen messages in court is, of course, scurrilous rumor. Zouri: Sandels. A style of slipper made of pleated rope and cotton souls. Used for walking in absolute silence. Hoguchi: Tinder Box. A small box used for carrying hot coals. Given the general construction in the empire, no much is needed to start a fire. Seoi-bukuro: Shoulder Bag. Pretty much the ninjas backpack for carrying tools. A woven net bag of strong rope. Typically slung over the left shoulder to allow right hand freedom of movement. Tenohira-Taimatsu: Hand-held torch. A compact touch made from pine resin and bamboo skin, notable for staying alight even in rain. Gando: Searchlight. While this is technically translated as ‘flashlight’, it is another misnomer to the modern user. This item is a candle-holder consisting of two hoops with in a wrap used to conceal the light. The hoops move to keep the candle upright, no matter the users movements. Tobacco-ire: Tobacco pouch. While commonly used to actually carry tobacco by many, it is used by the ninja to carry gunpowder. One the job, the ninja would not use tobacco as the strong smell would given them away. Kusuri-ire: Medicine pouch. Used by ordinary people as well as ninja. Some would even have the medicine type listed on the pouch. Mizu-gumo: Water Spider. A foot device used for traversing water. The device was made of four curved planks of either wood or inflatable animal hide that were strung together with a fifth plank in the middle. While not allowing the user to walking on water, it can be used to traverse swampy areas relatively quickly. Saoto hikigane: Nicknamed the “ear trumpet” because that’s exactly what it looks like. Saoto hikigane were cone-shaped and were made of metal or sometimes wood. The size of the tool varied, with some being more concealable than others. The ninja would place the wide end to a wall so that the sound coming through was magnified and funneled into his or her ear. It worked the same way cupping a hand to the ear or placing a cup to a wall does. Donohi: Body Warmer. Ninjas often used body warmers named donohi to survive long stakeouts in cold weather. The body warmers were commonly made of bamboo, iron, or copper. They contained flammable materials such as gunpowder, alcohol, and cloth. A fire-starting tool called a tsuketake was usually attached to the donohi to set the fuel ablaze. Once lit, the fuel could burn for hours, even days. Since so much of a ninja’s job involved using their hands, the last thing they wanted was for their fingers to go numb from the cold or for them to get frostbitten. Donohi were very useful in protecting them from such dangers. Also, as a fast and portable source of fire, it could be used for anything from setting an enemy’s home on fire to cooking food. Kanzashi: Hairpin. In Rokugan, women often wear long, ornamental hairpins called kanzashi. The pins are not dangerous in and of themselves, but in the hands of a ninja, they can be used to attack vital points and nerve clusters. They can also be sharpened and used as knife-like weapons, either for defense or for an attack. Dipped in poison, the hairpins become an assassination tool. Kanzashi are ideal weapons for kunoichi (female ninjas), who favor small weapons that can be concealed in plain sight. Due to the popularity of the hairpins among women, kunoichi can carry them without anyone giving them a second look. Yatate: Pencilbox. This was a small cylinder that was sometimes made from bamboo, although they are usually made out of metal. At one end is a small container to hold ink, while the rest of the cylinder was hollow to hold a small calligraphy brush. Its use as a weapon aside, it is important to again remember that ninjas were spies. Yatate were vital to their ability to write down their observations of their targets and record information as they gathered it. In an attack, however, ninjas were able to conceal spikes, needles, and even poison in the yatate instead of a writing brush. Like the kanzashi, no one had reason to be suspicious of pencil cases that most people carried anyway Neko-te: Metal Fingernails. Ninja are tough as nails, so it comes as no surprise that even their fingernails would be weaponized. Metal fingernails called neko-te are a favorite among female ninjas. The nails were attached to the fingers in numerous ways. Sometimes, they were molded in a way similar to a thimble. Other times, they were attached by a band around the fingertips like a ring. The nails themselves were usually made of iron, but in a pinch ninjas would use thin pieces of bamboo. Even old hairpins and jewelry could be fashioned into razor-sharp nails. The weapon’s name was inspired by the claw-like appearance of a cap being worn on each finger. “Neko” means “cat” in Rokuganese, and “te” translates to “hand.” It is important to note that this weapon was used exclusively by female ninjas. Kunoichi training stressed the use of lightweight and easily concealable weapons. Ninja Technique (AKA Spycraft) Passwords: Given their vocation, the usage of passwords could be the difference between identifying a friend or foe, or life and death. These were commonly used when delivering secret documents or meeting allies behind enemy lines. The types of words used, from motifs in nature, poetic associations, antonyms, were borrowed from the vernacular and modified on a daily basis. Some examples in English: Mountain - Forest Sun – Moon Flower – Fruit Sea - Salt Valley – Water Passwords taken from Poetry Snow – Mt Hanayama (a snow capped mountain in Rokugan) Flower – Yoshino (a region n\know for flowers) etc. Codes: secret messages were commonly transmitted by the use of elaborate codes that would be overlooked by anyone but the recipient. Such codes included the following. Goshiki-maki: Five-Color Rice. Rice grains were dyed red, yellow, black, blue, and purple and arranged in different combinations or patterns. With this technique, the ninja could make over 100 different codes. Yuinawa-moji: Rope Code: Rope with a particular number or style of knots, could serve as a coded message. These would be hing from a conspicuous place, such as the eaves of a roof. Shinobi-iroha: The shinobi have made their own alphabet, using parts of earlier forms of Rokugani writing. There are 48 characters in all Nekome-Jutsu: Ninja’s were trained in nekome-jutsu, which was the ability to tell time just by looking at a cat’s eye very closely. Cats have very sensitive eyes, and their pupils adjust to the changing light throughout the day. In early morning, a cat’s pupils are round and fully open to allow in as much light as possible. Between around 8:00 AM and noon, their pupils become more oval-shaped to block out the excess light as the Sun rises higher. A cat’s pupils are narrowest at noon when the Sun is at its peak. With this knowledge, ninjas were able to accurately guess to within the hour what time it was.
  11. It can get pretty ugly, though. The statement I posted assumes the merchant is being nice, and the samurai is being civilized. With a powerful patron, the following adventure nugget below can happen: “Bitter World of the Samurai” Adapted from a story from ‘Samurai Executioner’ From an inscription drawn in blood on a wall in a merchants house: “This is the Bitter World of the Samurai. The arrogance and extravagance of the merchant class is intolerable. They make a living through unproductive thievery. Moreover, ignorant of their proper place, they exploit their samurai superiors. That is truly unspeakable. “The Suffering of the Samurai has but one root: The hideous union between government and commerce. “First, the posted price of rice is unreasonably low so that merchants can make vast profits. This is truly proof of the collusion between the government and the merchants. “Second, what is with this ‘seal money’? As if the unprecedented 15% the rice merchants squeeze out of us wasn’t enough, they use seal money as and excuse to get even more out of us. Such evil is intolerable. “Third, they rip the Farmers off with ‘surcharge rice’. “We shall rectify the shady dealings of officials and merchants with the white blades of warriors. “Alas, This is The Bitter World of the Samurai.” Some context to the above: The government (Clan or Imperial) paid Gokenin (lower ranked retainers such as Gi-Samurai,etc.) in unpolished rice. The ‘Posted Price’ determined the exchange rate for turning rice into cash and vis versa. The Accounting Office (Office of the Imperial Graineries or Clan offices charged with the same duties) examined the prices for the three classes of rice : High for the Kuge, Medium for the Buke, And Low for the Gi-Samurai and bulk of the merchant caste) and used the average between the three to determine the value of 100 bags of rice. The Prices would be displayed on gates of castles and within merchant sections of cities. But the prices would drive Hatamoto (middle ranked samurai) and Gokenin into poverty. Merchants would keep an eye on when prices were posted, typically the Second Month of Spring, the Fifth Month of Summer, and the Tenth Month of Winter – rice merchants would cause the prices to decline. When the market fell, typically when stocks were plentiful, the merchants would sell rice cheaply. Later, when stocks were low and demand was high, they would raise prices to maximize profits. Also, Large government donations to the merchants in the form of rice stocks or additional monies allowed the posted prices to be 20%-30% less than actual market value. This forced the Hatamoto and Gokenin had to borrow huge sums of money from the rice merchants at a fixed interest rate of 15%. For additional insult to injury, rice merchants would exploit them further by using ‘seal money’ as pretext to raise the interest rate. Rice merchants would borrow their own money from others. When they received rice, they would use seal money as poof of payment. A bit like a deceptive sublessor, really. They would demand this ‘seal money’ on every transaction. While the interest rate was fixed at 15%, the seal money added another 20% Fee. Every three months. So Call it 80% at years end. A 100 Ryo loan becomes 195 ryo to pay back over a year. And the Government would do nothing about it. Now you know why samurai really didn’t like merchants. Note: The above shenanigans is really not that far off from what happened historically. Reprisals against the merchant class were more common is spoken off and tales of arrogant merchants were pretty common in Japanese folklore. This should spur ideas for aspiring GM’s want to handle some economic themes.
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