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Idanthyrsus

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    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Nheko in Clan Traditions   
    It occurs to me that, with the addition of L5R to the FFG stable, we might be getting an influx of new players, and this forum might be among the places they come. So, partially inspired by the 'looking for a Clan' thread, I thought it would be a good idea for some of us (relatively) old-timers to share what (we think) makes our Clan special. Being a Lion person myself, I'll start with them, and leave other Clans to others. I originally wrote this up for the Winter Court IV RPG, then reposted it to FRO7, so some people might have seen it before, but now it's in a more public place, and people can add their own insights to it, for the Lion or other Clans. Apologies in advance for length, but hopefully it helps.
     
    ***
     
    Every Clan and Family has its own traditions and superstitions. The Lion, being deeply conservative, hold to theirs more tightly than most, and everyone should be aware of at least those of their own Family.

    Akodo

    In addition to the Ten Orders contained in Leadership, Akodo traditionally memorise the Five Measures, here paraphrased rather than quoted verbatim, as the originals are quite wordy:

    AIR: The General leads the army quickly and without hesitation; by this, he keeps his eyes forwards.
    EARTH: The General understands the ground on which he fights; by this, he ensures victory.
    FIRE: The General leads the army in accordance with the Imperial Law; by this, he lights the flame of justice in his soldiers' souls.
    WATER: The General understands the flow of battle; by this, he spares his own forces, and wears down those of his opponent.
    VOID: The General leads the army inexorably towards the moment of victory; it cannot be understood, only taken.

    It is quite common for Akodo to use the Five Measures, Seven Virtues (of Bushido, which I trust I don't need to repeat here), and Ten Orders, as quasi-meditative mantras.

    Ever since the Dawn of the Empire, when Akodo One-Eye rejected Shinsei by gripping his saya and saying, "This is my way", and was subsequently ordered by Hantei to show Shinsei more respect, all Akodo dojo contain a copy of the Tao... but it is left pristine and unopened.

    Besides their basic gempukku ceremony, Akodo undergo an additional ceremony, called Kyodai, in which they recite all of their ancestors back to Akodo One-Eye, and have their own names added to the list of honoured Akodo. Completion of this ceremony makes all Akodo formally brothers, and equals (resulting in Akodo frequently calling each other 'brother' or 'sister' in place of -san/-sama, irrespective of actual social position). As a result, it is strictly forbidden for Akodo to fight each other, or to cast any other Akodo into dishonour, and those who do so are punished as if they had murdered their family.

    In combat, Akodo doctrine builds on the concept of brotherhood - no Akodo will leave another Akodo to fight alone, and they take strength in fighting side by side with each other. Tactically, their strength isn't so much that they have excellent command and control structures - though they do have those - but that every Akodo knows what they are expected to do, and will do it unhesitatingly and unquestioningly. As such, they have a much greater capacity for manoeuvre and response in combat, whereas most Rokugani formations are prohibitively difficult to control once they have been committed, and communicating secondary orders is all but impossible.

    Prior to the dissolution of the family during the Clan Wars, all Akodo used to carry distinctive knives in addition to their daisho, that were given to them after Kyodai. That tradition ceased when the family was dissolved, and never reinstated after the naming of the Lying Darkness, and many were lost, so Akodo kaiken are now extremely valuable heirlooms, rather than being ubiquitous.

    Akodo have a reputation for arrogance - "No army led by an Akodo general has ever been defeated", and such - but their self-confidence stems from an acute awareness of their own failings. Lion victories are not studied in the Akodo War College, but only their defeats, to remind Akodo officers that victory is never assured, but always rests on the sword's edge.

    Ikoma

    Ikoma are, by tradition, the only Lion who are allowed to show emotion. Technically, the role of emoting for the rest of the Clan goes to the Omoidasu specifically rather than the Ikoma in general, but being brought up in that milieu tends to result in Ikoma, even the bushi, being much more open in their emotions than the other families of the Lion.

    In memory of a famous exchange between Ikoma and Akodo One-Eye (in which Akodo said he could beat Ikoma if they fought, and Ikoma replied, "You could, Son of the Sun. But I would take your other eye."), Ikoma are traditionally quicker to accept defeat than other Lion, but correspondingly quicker to find ways to make the victory hurt for their opponent. For example, where an outnumbered Matsu would tend to just keep swinging until she went down or her enemies did, an Ikoma might identify the enemy leader, and make sure to kill him, even if it guaranteed his own death (a good example of this mindset occurred during the Winter of Red Snow - the Ikoma realised Kyuden Ikoma had fallen, but hid a squad of men in the ruins until Chagatai rode past with his honour guard, then ambushed him). As all of the above illustrates, they also tend to be somewhat less strict in their interpretation of honour and the rules of combat than other Lion.

    Ikoma himself was extremely fond of sake and women. Some, though by no means all, Ikoma, choose to follow his example in this as in other things.

    There is a super-secret alliance between the Ikoma and Shosuro families to ensure the history of the Empire remains proper and pure- the Ikoma write what is appropriate, and the Shosuro make sure any evidence to the contrary disappears. Needless to say, this is kept secret from the rest of the Lion, and even from the bulk of the family. The Ikoma also have in their possession the uncensored histories, and the only complete copies of Leadership (the edition of the book in common circulation having been censored by various Emperors to avoid offending their sensibilities). Obviously, neither of these things are made public knowledge, either.

    Kitsu

    The Kitsu traditionally refuse to use their gifts in combat- it is Rokugani tradition for generals to invite shugenja to leave the field before engaging in battle, and Lion follow this tradition (both ways) more scrupulously than anyone else, with the possible exception of the Crane. While they are frequently used in an auxiliary capacity, healing and supporting troops off the battlefield itself, actual "combat shugenja" are very rare. In general, the Lion see it as dishonourable and impious to use the kami against others, rather than steel.

    Most Kitsu have no capacity to act as Sodan-Senzo, though they may or may not have some ability to call upon the Ancestors in a more limited fashion. True Sodan-Senzo are identified young, usually have no ability to control when and how the Ancestors speak to them, and rarely leave the Hall of Ancestors/Kitsu Tombs at all.

    Kitsu almost invariably dress and speak in a hyper-traditional manner, sometimes to the point of near-foreignness to contemporary Rokugani, as several of them speak as much to the dead as to the living, and even those who don't, carry the responsibility to act as holders and guardians of tradition among the Lion.

    Some, though not all, of the Kitsu descended directly from the First Five (the last Kitsu, who turned themselves human to mate with five of Akodo One-Eye's children) have golden eyes, and/or red/golden hair. Those who do are almost always Sodan-Senzo, but not all Sodan-Senzo have the hair or eyes. Either way, those descended from the First Five are almost never married outside the Clan, to anyone but the most important of people, as their power is linked to their bloodline, more so than even among other shugenja families.

    Kitsu have an extra-special, and even stronger, grudge against the Spider than other Lion, ever since Nintai - a Tsuno who was returned to his original state as a Kitsu (the storyline was incredibly stupid, honestly... I hate Ratling... but whatever, it happened) - was killed and skinned during the Night of Assassins. Now that the Night of Assassins is known to have been the work of the Spider, the Kitsu have a truly undying grudge against them.

    The Kitsu have, on occasion, produced some of the strongest shugenja in the Empire - Kitsu Taiko's connection to Fire was so strong that he was made Master of Fire in 766, being one of a handful of non-Phoenix ever to sit on the Elemental Council. Though their connection with the kami is generally unexceptional, as their 'magic' stems more from the Ancestors than the elemental spirits, they are - sometimes - extremely powerful.

    Despite being of generally impeccable honour, there have been a few less-than-perfect moments in the history of the Kitsu; most especially Kitsu Okura, who won the Jade Championship by questionable means, and subsequently gave his name to an Oni, triggering a war between the Unicorn and the corrupted Kitsu (plus other Lion), known as Storms over Shiro Matsu. A substantial number of Kitsu went ronin in protest when Okura's corruption became clear, and were readmitted after Okura was deposed, as the Noroko vassal family. The Noroko's prime holding is in Crab lands, and they focus on maintaining vigilance against corruption within the Lion, and they are generally treated with respect and deference by other Kitsu out of respect for their ancestors' stand on principle, but they have no Sodan-Senzo, as those with Sodan-Senzo blood considered it their duty to remain to tend the Hall and Tombs, regardless of the daimyo's actions. Okura no Oni herself was subsequently reverse-corrupted by Bushido, and is now the guardian of the gates of Tengoku, though she can't actually go inside.

    Matsu

    As everyone knows, Matsu are traditionally matriarchal. This tradition stems from Lady Matsu's refusal to marry Akodo One-Eye, on the basis that, "If I marry you, I will not be Matsu, but Akodo's wife." Given that their founder refused to give her name even for a living God, it is extremely rare for female Matsu to marry out of the family, even to other Lion. Male Matsu can marry in, or out, according to the respective social status of the Matsu and the other samurai; or the arrangements of the nakodo, if they're equal.

    Where Akodo generally make decisions based on careful consideration, and consultation of their texts, the Matsu follow a philosophy known as Seven Breaths: as Honour should be your guide in making any decision, and Honour is instinctive, it should take no longer than the space of seven breaths to make any decision. This is the basis of the Matsu's reputation for impulsiveness - as they see it, that reputation is a compliment, as it denotes their pursuit of Honour over practicality.

    Matsu are trained to be extremely physically tough and self-reliant - they undergo extreme tests of endurance and strength, and are strictly forbidden from assisting each other. Their gempukku, however, consists not of a physical test (as they're assumed to be capable of doing that already), but of sitting motionless for several days while food and water are laid out around them, and their friends and family beg them to eat and drink. Needless to say, if they do so, they fail. The point of the ceremony is that Matsu should be not only physically tough, but also capable of exercising great self-control - as much of an L5R stereotype as "The Angry Matsu" is, it actually takes quite a lot of provocation to make a proper Matsu angry in a social situation, or rather to cause them to show that anger openly. If a Matsu shows their anger outside combat, that Matsu is VERY angry, and it would generally be unwise to remain in the area any longer than necessary.

    Whether they show their emotion or not, Matsu commit fully to everything they do. This is partly a result of the Seven Breaths philosophy: believing that hesitation or reservation is tantamount to sin, and trusting completely that everything they do is the right thing to do, they throw themselves headlong at every challenge, generally preferring to prove their worth by overcoming obstacles with sheer force of will, strengthened by the righteousness of their cause, than by finding ways around them. Reaction to defeat, as rarely as they experience it, varies among Matsu - some barely register it, and continue pressing as if it had never happened; others take it a signal that their original cause can't possibly have been honourable (if it had been honourable, they would have succeeded, after all), and turn their attentions elsewhere.

    Because the Matsu were traditionally by far the largest family in the Empire, and individual families were also very large, Matsu generally care less about the particulars of their family than other Lion. Obviously, they care very deeply about their family as a whole, and insulting the Matsu is very likely to result in blood-feud at least, but they are less likely than any other Lion samurai to be able to list all their ancestors, or even to be able to name all their relatives three or four generations back. In general, they are more willing to assume that all their ancestors were heroes, and leave it at that (an assumption aided by the very short life expectancy of Matsu compared to samurai in general).

    There is a common misconception that Matsu make no time for themselves, or have no pastimes except training for combat. While it is true that Matsu train a great deal, and often enjoy it as much as anything else, it is untrue that they do nothing else - they recognise that cultivation of art is good for the soul, and they do care for their souls - what is true, as mentioned before, is that they do nothing in half-measures. If a Matsu is into ikebana, you can expect them to be REALLY into ikebana. Failure to commit fully, even to a personal hobby, is a reflection of Doubt, Doubt is a reflection of Fear, and Fear is a Sin.

    Miscellaneous

    Using the wakizashi in combat is considered borderline blasphemous by most Lion. Primarily, this is because all samurai should be ready to cleanse their honour (ie, commit seppuku) at their lord's order at a moment's notice, which requires that the wakizashi be kept razor sharp, and ritually pure. Using it to stab people goes against both goals. Deathseekers, however, are not expected to commit seppuku - as such, they can, and often do, use their wakizashi in combat. In essence, the wakizashi should only draw blood to cleanse one's honour; for most, that means the gutcut, for the Deathseekers, it means killing as many other people as possible.

    Staying on the subject of katana, Lion generally test their katana on condemned criminals, seeing it as a test of both the blade and the wielder to see how many they cut through. The record is six, set by Akodo Mayuko.

    Lion of all families are, obviously, much more dedicated to the worship of their ancestors than most samurai of other Clans. Superficially, they perform the same rituals of remembrance and reverence as everyone else (except the Kitsu, who are obviously special), but they do it much more regularly than others. All Lion households have a list of their ancestors at their shrine, even those who don't make a point of memorising said list, and the vast majority keep registers of the anniversaries of their most respected ancestors' deaths, which they commemorate dutifully.

    Despite their near-obsessive reverence for their ancestors, the majority of Lion are quite distant, emotionally, from their actual families. Lion children are almost always left in the care of ashigaru and ji-samurai, then sent to the dojo, where they eat and sleep, as well as train, apart from their birth family. Though most Lion could name their families to a few generations without hesitation, they rarely know their actual relatives.

    Among Leadership's tenets - one held dear by Lion of all families - is that, "the wise commander needs only the perception to identify the right subordinates for a task, and the intelligence to let them do it." Competent delegation of assignments is a highly valued skill among the Lion, even for the most self-assured of Matsu, and the misuse of assets under your command a swift route to losing the command of those assets.

    A frequent subject of debate among Lion is the appropriate role of the Book of Sun Tao. While Leadership is obviously the best thing since steamed rice, and De Bellis Yoditorum has its place (not comparable to Leadership, but useful for fighting Yodotai), Sun Tao is less clear. His tactical insights are generally accepted as worthwhile - if only as restatements and elaborations of the same principles laid down by Akodo - but he was, ultimately, just a ronin, and Lion generally don't like ronin at all (excepting ronin-who-are-actually-Lion, like half the Akodo family during their dissolution, the Noroko prior to their reacceptance, and so on), so accepting that a ronin could have written a valuable treatise on strategy is problematic for the premier strategy Clan. It is ultimately a subject for each samurai to decide for themselves, but it is an ongoing issue within the Lion Clan, especially the Akodo family.

    Quotes

    Every Clan has some fantastic stories and characters in its history. This is just a small collection of some of my favourites for the Lion, in no particular order. It occurs to me that most of them are Matsu, but that's probably unsurprising, since they're the most stereotypically 'heroic' of the Lion Families. I am leaving Akodo's Leadership aside here, as it's kind of its own thing, but I strongly recommend reading up on Leadership, too.

    "Age slows only those who are afraid to die." - Matsu Ketsui

    Matsu Ketsui was a brash young Matsu, who managed to sufficiently antagonise Ikoma Tsanuri (who appears later in this list) by her impetuosity for Tsanuri to arrange a marriage for Ketsui with a peace-loving Phoenix shugenja. Ketsui naturally laughed off the Phoenix, and kept doing her thing. Rising through the ranks rapidly thanks to her skill, strength, and ferocity, she became Matsu Daimyo at a very young age (for the position), and was forced to mature quickly into the position, as she guided the family through incessant wars against the Lying Darkness, against the Crane, against the Dragon, against the Unicorn (several times), and against internal corruption. As she matured, she came to increasingly appreciate the wisdom, patience, and humility, of her Phoenix husband, and cared for him more and more, bearing him three children. One of these became Clan Champion, and another died returning the remains of Akodo One-Eye to the Lion. Even as she matured, however, she lost none of her badassery, which extended to killing a Kenshinzen in a duel within two weeks of giving birth. She outlived several Champions, but refused the position each time, preferring to guide her family. In the end, she was killed by her daughter (who had fallen to the Lying Darkness), but she was already past sixty by then, and her awesomeness lived on.

    "If you must ask what honour is, you will never know." - Ikoma Tsanuri

    Ikoma Tsanuri was (Akodo) Toturi's lieutenant through the Clan Wars, and was witness in that capacity to most of the notable events of that war, including Matsu Tsuko's seppuku. This experience led her to distrust the other Clans, believing that only the strength and honour of the Lion could adequately protect the Empire, a philosophy she pursued as champion of the Clan. As unwitting part of a plot by the Lying Darkness, she led an army to the lands of the Crab, who deployed an army against her - but rather than fighting, the two commanders conferred, and came to terms. Specifically, Tsanuri led her army against the Shadowlands instead, upon hearing that the Emperor had gone to Volturnum, and she personally led her honour guard against Akuma no Oni, preventing it from attacking the Emperor. Though she fell in the combat, the Emperor was saved. A torii arch was erected at the site where she fell, along with her enshrined katana, and the spot remains one of only four places within the Shadowlands themselves that are untouched by the Taint (the others being Shiro Hiruma (at good times), Shinsei's Last Hope, and Amaterasu's Furnace).

    "See, fallen hero -
    Even the Darkness gives pause -
    How a Lion dies."
    - Matsu Domotai

    Matsu Domotai was one of the children of Matsu Ketsui. Taken captive by the Tsuno during a raid on the Kitsu Tombs, he was finally rescued by his sister (the one who later killed Ketsui, but she wasn't corrupted at this point). In the same raid, however, the Tsuno also claimed the bones of Akodo One-Eye. The Dark Oracle of Water planned to use these as a lure to gain a Lion follower, to further his plans. When he offered the trade, the Lion had little choice but to except, though it was an obvious trap, and Matsu Domotai volunteered to be the 'sacrifice' to the Dark Oracle. The Lion claimed the bones, but before he could be forced to swear fealty to the Dark Oracle, Domotai recited the above death haiku, and committed seppuku. This demonstration of honour sufficed to prevent the Dark Oracle from completing his trap, thereby allowing the Lion to secure the bones properly.

    "Why feint when you can just kill him?" - Matsu Takeko

    Compared to the other people quoted here, Takeko is a relatively unimportant figure - she was involved in the Lion/Unicorn wars, and the Lion/Mantis skirmishing in Toshi Ranbo afterwards, then again in the multiple wars that followed Iweko's ascension, but never achieved great prominence or rank. That quote, however, is just so perfectly exemplary of the Matsu philosophy that I had no choice but to include it.

    Of course, there are plenty of other excellent quotes out there - check flavour text on the Oracle of the Void, biographies on the L5R wiki, and the fiction archives at Kaze no Shiro - and you can always make up your own and attribute them to your glorious but hitherto unknown ancestors. As the Ikoma say, it is no wonder the Lion are so reverent of their ancestors, when each samurai has more heroes in his own descent than the other Clans can count as their own at all. Those are just some of the ones that have always stuck with me as being perfectly 'Lion'. Enjoy!
  2. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from DeJener8 in Clan Traditions   
    It occurs to me that, with the addition of L5R to the FFG stable, we might be getting an influx of new players, and this forum might be among the places they come. So, partially inspired by the 'looking for a Clan' thread, I thought it would be a good idea for some of us (relatively) old-timers to share what (we think) makes our Clan special. Being a Lion person myself, I'll start with them, and leave other Clans to others. I originally wrote this up for the Winter Court IV RPG, then reposted it to FRO7, so some people might have seen it before, but now it's in a more public place, and people can add their own insights to it, for the Lion or other Clans. Apologies in advance for length, but hopefully it helps.
     
    ***
     
    Every Clan and Family has its own traditions and superstitions. The Lion, being deeply conservative, hold to theirs more tightly than most, and everyone should be aware of at least those of their own Family.

    Akodo

    In addition to the Ten Orders contained in Leadership, Akodo traditionally memorise the Five Measures, here paraphrased rather than quoted verbatim, as the originals are quite wordy:

    AIR: The General leads the army quickly and without hesitation; by this, he keeps his eyes forwards.
    EARTH: The General understands the ground on which he fights; by this, he ensures victory.
    FIRE: The General leads the army in accordance with the Imperial Law; by this, he lights the flame of justice in his soldiers' souls.
    WATER: The General understands the flow of battle; by this, he spares his own forces, and wears down those of his opponent.
    VOID: The General leads the army inexorably towards the moment of victory; it cannot be understood, only taken.

    It is quite common for Akodo to use the Five Measures, Seven Virtues (of Bushido, which I trust I don't need to repeat here), and Ten Orders, as quasi-meditative mantras.

    Ever since the Dawn of the Empire, when Akodo One-Eye rejected Shinsei by gripping his saya and saying, "This is my way", and was subsequently ordered by Hantei to show Shinsei more respect, all Akodo dojo contain a copy of the Tao... but it is left pristine and unopened.

    Besides their basic gempukku ceremony, Akodo undergo an additional ceremony, called Kyodai, in which they recite all of their ancestors back to Akodo One-Eye, and have their own names added to the list of honoured Akodo. Completion of this ceremony makes all Akodo formally brothers, and equals (resulting in Akodo frequently calling each other 'brother' or 'sister' in place of -san/-sama, irrespective of actual social position). As a result, it is strictly forbidden for Akodo to fight each other, or to cast any other Akodo into dishonour, and those who do so are punished as if they had murdered their family.

    In combat, Akodo doctrine builds on the concept of brotherhood - no Akodo will leave another Akodo to fight alone, and they take strength in fighting side by side with each other. Tactically, their strength isn't so much that they have excellent command and control structures - though they do have those - but that every Akodo knows what they are expected to do, and will do it unhesitatingly and unquestioningly. As such, they have a much greater capacity for manoeuvre and response in combat, whereas most Rokugani formations are prohibitively difficult to control once they have been committed, and communicating secondary orders is all but impossible.

    Prior to the dissolution of the family during the Clan Wars, all Akodo used to carry distinctive knives in addition to their daisho, that were given to them after Kyodai. That tradition ceased when the family was dissolved, and never reinstated after the naming of the Lying Darkness, and many were lost, so Akodo kaiken are now extremely valuable heirlooms, rather than being ubiquitous.

    Akodo have a reputation for arrogance - "No army led by an Akodo general has ever been defeated", and such - but their self-confidence stems from an acute awareness of their own failings. Lion victories are not studied in the Akodo War College, but only their defeats, to remind Akodo officers that victory is never assured, but always rests on the sword's edge.

    Ikoma

    Ikoma are, by tradition, the only Lion who are allowed to show emotion. Technically, the role of emoting for the rest of the Clan goes to the Omoidasu specifically rather than the Ikoma in general, but being brought up in that milieu tends to result in Ikoma, even the bushi, being much more open in their emotions than the other families of the Lion.

    In memory of a famous exchange between Ikoma and Akodo One-Eye (in which Akodo said he could beat Ikoma if they fought, and Ikoma replied, "You could, Son of the Sun. But I would take your other eye."), Ikoma are traditionally quicker to accept defeat than other Lion, but correspondingly quicker to find ways to make the victory hurt for their opponent. For example, where an outnumbered Matsu would tend to just keep swinging until she went down or her enemies did, an Ikoma might identify the enemy leader, and make sure to kill him, even if it guaranteed his own death (a good example of this mindset occurred during the Winter of Red Snow - the Ikoma realised Kyuden Ikoma had fallen, but hid a squad of men in the ruins until Chagatai rode past with his honour guard, then ambushed him). As all of the above illustrates, they also tend to be somewhat less strict in their interpretation of honour and the rules of combat than other Lion.

    Ikoma himself was extremely fond of sake and women. Some, though by no means all, Ikoma, choose to follow his example in this as in other things.

    There is a super-secret alliance between the Ikoma and Shosuro families to ensure the history of the Empire remains proper and pure- the Ikoma write what is appropriate, and the Shosuro make sure any evidence to the contrary disappears. Needless to say, this is kept secret from the rest of the Lion, and even from the bulk of the family. The Ikoma also have in their possession the uncensored histories, and the only complete copies of Leadership (the edition of the book in common circulation having been censored by various Emperors to avoid offending their sensibilities). Obviously, neither of these things are made public knowledge, either.

    Kitsu

    The Kitsu traditionally refuse to use their gifts in combat- it is Rokugani tradition for generals to invite shugenja to leave the field before engaging in battle, and Lion follow this tradition (both ways) more scrupulously than anyone else, with the possible exception of the Crane. While they are frequently used in an auxiliary capacity, healing and supporting troops off the battlefield itself, actual "combat shugenja" are very rare. In general, the Lion see it as dishonourable and impious to use the kami against others, rather than steel.

    Most Kitsu have no capacity to act as Sodan-Senzo, though they may or may not have some ability to call upon the Ancestors in a more limited fashion. True Sodan-Senzo are identified young, usually have no ability to control when and how the Ancestors speak to them, and rarely leave the Hall of Ancestors/Kitsu Tombs at all.

    Kitsu almost invariably dress and speak in a hyper-traditional manner, sometimes to the point of near-foreignness to contemporary Rokugani, as several of them speak as much to the dead as to the living, and even those who don't, carry the responsibility to act as holders and guardians of tradition among the Lion.

    Some, though not all, of the Kitsu descended directly from the First Five (the last Kitsu, who turned themselves human to mate with five of Akodo One-Eye's children) have golden eyes, and/or red/golden hair. Those who do are almost always Sodan-Senzo, but not all Sodan-Senzo have the hair or eyes. Either way, those descended from the First Five are almost never married outside the Clan, to anyone but the most important of people, as their power is linked to their bloodline, more so than even among other shugenja families.

    Kitsu have an extra-special, and even stronger, grudge against the Spider than other Lion, ever since Nintai - a Tsuno who was returned to his original state as a Kitsu (the storyline was incredibly stupid, honestly... I hate Ratling... but whatever, it happened) - was killed and skinned during the Night of Assassins. Now that the Night of Assassins is known to have been the work of the Spider, the Kitsu have a truly undying grudge against them.

    The Kitsu have, on occasion, produced some of the strongest shugenja in the Empire - Kitsu Taiko's connection to Fire was so strong that he was made Master of Fire in 766, being one of a handful of non-Phoenix ever to sit on the Elemental Council. Though their connection with the kami is generally unexceptional, as their 'magic' stems more from the Ancestors than the elemental spirits, they are - sometimes - extremely powerful.

    Despite being of generally impeccable honour, there have been a few less-than-perfect moments in the history of the Kitsu; most especially Kitsu Okura, who won the Jade Championship by questionable means, and subsequently gave his name to an Oni, triggering a war between the Unicorn and the corrupted Kitsu (plus other Lion), known as Storms over Shiro Matsu. A substantial number of Kitsu went ronin in protest when Okura's corruption became clear, and were readmitted after Okura was deposed, as the Noroko vassal family. The Noroko's prime holding is in Crab lands, and they focus on maintaining vigilance against corruption within the Lion, and they are generally treated with respect and deference by other Kitsu out of respect for their ancestors' stand on principle, but they have no Sodan-Senzo, as those with Sodan-Senzo blood considered it their duty to remain to tend the Hall and Tombs, regardless of the daimyo's actions. Okura no Oni herself was subsequently reverse-corrupted by Bushido, and is now the guardian of the gates of Tengoku, though she can't actually go inside.

    Matsu

    As everyone knows, Matsu are traditionally matriarchal. This tradition stems from Lady Matsu's refusal to marry Akodo One-Eye, on the basis that, "If I marry you, I will not be Matsu, but Akodo's wife." Given that their founder refused to give her name even for a living God, it is extremely rare for female Matsu to marry out of the family, even to other Lion. Male Matsu can marry in, or out, according to the respective social status of the Matsu and the other samurai; or the arrangements of the nakodo, if they're equal.

    Where Akodo generally make decisions based on careful consideration, and consultation of their texts, the Matsu follow a philosophy known as Seven Breaths: as Honour should be your guide in making any decision, and Honour is instinctive, it should take no longer than the space of seven breaths to make any decision. This is the basis of the Matsu's reputation for impulsiveness - as they see it, that reputation is a compliment, as it denotes their pursuit of Honour over practicality.

    Matsu are trained to be extremely physically tough and self-reliant - they undergo extreme tests of endurance and strength, and are strictly forbidden from assisting each other. Their gempukku, however, consists not of a physical test (as they're assumed to be capable of doing that already), but of sitting motionless for several days while food and water are laid out around them, and their friends and family beg them to eat and drink. Needless to say, if they do so, they fail. The point of the ceremony is that Matsu should be not only physically tough, but also capable of exercising great self-control - as much of an L5R stereotype as "The Angry Matsu" is, it actually takes quite a lot of provocation to make a proper Matsu angry in a social situation, or rather to cause them to show that anger openly. If a Matsu shows their anger outside combat, that Matsu is VERY angry, and it would generally be unwise to remain in the area any longer than necessary.

    Whether they show their emotion or not, Matsu commit fully to everything they do. This is partly a result of the Seven Breaths philosophy: believing that hesitation or reservation is tantamount to sin, and trusting completely that everything they do is the right thing to do, they throw themselves headlong at every challenge, generally preferring to prove their worth by overcoming obstacles with sheer force of will, strengthened by the righteousness of their cause, than by finding ways around them. Reaction to defeat, as rarely as they experience it, varies among Matsu - some barely register it, and continue pressing as if it had never happened; others take it a signal that their original cause can't possibly have been honourable (if it had been honourable, they would have succeeded, after all), and turn their attentions elsewhere.

    Because the Matsu were traditionally by far the largest family in the Empire, and individual families were also very large, Matsu generally care less about the particulars of their family than other Lion. Obviously, they care very deeply about their family as a whole, and insulting the Matsu is very likely to result in blood-feud at least, but they are less likely than any other Lion samurai to be able to list all their ancestors, or even to be able to name all their relatives three or four generations back. In general, they are more willing to assume that all their ancestors were heroes, and leave it at that (an assumption aided by the very short life expectancy of Matsu compared to samurai in general).

    There is a common misconception that Matsu make no time for themselves, or have no pastimes except training for combat. While it is true that Matsu train a great deal, and often enjoy it as much as anything else, it is untrue that they do nothing else - they recognise that cultivation of art is good for the soul, and they do care for their souls - what is true, as mentioned before, is that they do nothing in half-measures. If a Matsu is into ikebana, you can expect them to be REALLY into ikebana. Failure to commit fully, even to a personal hobby, is a reflection of Doubt, Doubt is a reflection of Fear, and Fear is a Sin.

    Miscellaneous

    Using the wakizashi in combat is considered borderline blasphemous by most Lion. Primarily, this is because all samurai should be ready to cleanse their honour (ie, commit seppuku) at their lord's order at a moment's notice, which requires that the wakizashi be kept razor sharp, and ritually pure. Using it to stab people goes against both goals. Deathseekers, however, are not expected to commit seppuku - as such, they can, and often do, use their wakizashi in combat. In essence, the wakizashi should only draw blood to cleanse one's honour; for most, that means the gutcut, for the Deathseekers, it means killing as many other people as possible.

    Staying on the subject of katana, Lion generally test their katana on condemned criminals, seeing it as a test of both the blade and the wielder to see how many they cut through. The record is six, set by Akodo Mayuko.

    Lion of all families are, obviously, much more dedicated to the worship of their ancestors than most samurai of other Clans. Superficially, they perform the same rituals of remembrance and reverence as everyone else (except the Kitsu, who are obviously special), but they do it much more regularly than others. All Lion households have a list of their ancestors at their shrine, even those who don't make a point of memorising said list, and the vast majority keep registers of the anniversaries of their most respected ancestors' deaths, which they commemorate dutifully.

    Despite their near-obsessive reverence for their ancestors, the majority of Lion are quite distant, emotionally, from their actual families. Lion children are almost always left in the care of ashigaru and ji-samurai, then sent to the dojo, where they eat and sleep, as well as train, apart from their birth family. Though most Lion could name their families to a few generations without hesitation, they rarely know their actual relatives.

    Among Leadership's tenets - one held dear by Lion of all families - is that, "the wise commander needs only the perception to identify the right subordinates for a task, and the intelligence to let them do it." Competent delegation of assignments is a highly valued skill among the Lion, even for the most self-assured of Matsu, and the misuse of assets under your command a swift route to losing the command of those assets.

    A frequent subject of debate among Lion is the appropriate role of the Book of Sun Tao. While Leadership is obviously the best thing since steamed rice, and De Bellis Yoditorum has its place (not comparable to Leadership, but useful for fighting Yodotai), Sun Tao is less clear. His tactical insights are generally accepted as worthwhile - if only as restatements and elaborations of the same principles laid down by Akodo - but he was, ultimately, just a ronin, and Lion generally don't like ronin at all (excepting ronin-who-are-actually-Lion, like half the Akodo family during their dissolution, the Noroko prior to their reacceptance, and so on), so accepting that a ronin could have written a valuable treatise on strategy is problematic for the premier strategy Clan. It is ultimately a subject for each samurai to decide for themselves, but it is an ongoing issue within the Lion Clan, especially the Akodo family.

    Quotes

    Every Clan has some fantastic stories and characters in its history. This is just a small collection of some of my favourites for the Lion, in no particular order. It occurs to me that most of them are Matsu, but that's probably unsurprising, since they're the most stereotypically 'heroic' of the Lion Families. I am leaving Akodo's Leadership aside here, as it's kind of its own thing, but I strongly recommend reading up on Leadership, too.

    "Age slows only those who are afraid to die." - Matsu Ketsui

    Matsu Ketsui was a brash young Matsu, who managed to sufficiently antagonise Ikoma Tsanuri (who appears later in this list) by her impetuosity for Tsanuri to arrange a marriage for Ketsui with a peace-loving Phoenix shugenja. Ketsui naturally laughed off the Phoenix, and kept doing her thing. Rising through the ranks rapidly thanks to her skill, strength, and ferocity, she became Matsu Daimyo at a very young age (for the position), and was forced to mature quickly into the position, as she guided the family through incessant wars against the Lying Darkness, against the Crane, against the Dragon, against the Unicorn (several times), and against internal corruption. As she matured, she came to increasingly appreciate the wisdom, patience, and humility, of her Phoenix husband, and cared for him more and more, bearing him three children. One of these became Clan Champion, and another died returning the remains of Akodo One-Eye to the Lion. Even as she matured, however, she lost none of her badassery, which extended to killing a Kenshinzen in a duel within two weeks of giving birth. She outlived several Champions, but refused the position each time, preferring to guide her family. In the end, she was killed by her daughter (who had fallen to the Lying Darkness), but she was already past sixty by then, and her awesomeness lived on.

    "If you must ask what honour is, you will never know." - Ikoma Tsanuri

    Ikoma Tsanuri was (Akodo) Toturi's lieutenant through the Clan Wars, and was witness in that capacity to most of the notable events of that war, including Matsu Tsuko's seppuku. This experience led her to distrust the other Clans, believing that only the strength and honour of the Lion could adequately protect the Empire, a philosophy she pursued as champion of the Clan. As unwitting part of a plot by the Lying Darkness, she led an army to the lands of the Crab, who deployed an army against her - but rather than fighting, the two commanders conferred, and came to terms. Specifically, Tsanuri led her army against the Shadowlands instead, upon hearing that the Emperor had gone to Volturnum, and she personally led her honour guard against Akuma no Oni, preventing it from attacking the Emperor. Though she fell in the combat, the Emperor was saved. A torii arch was erected at the site where she fell, along with her enshrined katana, and the spot remains one of only four places within the Shadowlands themselves that are untouched by the Taint (the others being Shiro Hiruma (at good times), Shinsei's Last Hope, and Amaterasu's Furnace).

    "See, fallen hero -
    Even the Darkness gives pause -
    How a Lion dies."
    - Matsu Domotai

    Matsu Domotai was one of the children of Matsu Ketsui. Taken captive by the Tsuno during a raid on the Kitsu Tombs, he was finally rescued by his sister (the one who later killed Ketsui, but she wasn't corrupted at this point). In the same raid, however, the Tsuno also claimed the bones of Akodo One-Eye. The Dark Oracle of Water planned to use these as a lure to gain a Lion follower, to further his plans. When he offered the trade, the Lion had little choice but to except, though it was an obvious trap, and Matsu Domotai volunteered to be the 'sacrifice' to the Dark Oracle. The Lion claimed the bones, but before he could be forced to swear fealty to the Dark Oracle, Domotai recited the above death haiku, and committed seppuku. This demonstration of honour sufficed to prevent the Dark Oracle from completing his trap, thereby allowing the Lion to secure the bones properly.

    "Why feint when you can just kill him?" - Matsu Takeko

    Compared to the other people quoted here, Takeko is a relatively unimportant figure - she was involved in the Lion/Unicorn wars, and the Lion/Mantis skirmishing in Toshi Ranbo afterwards, then again in the multiple wars that followed Iweko's ascension, but never achieved great prominence or rank. That quote, however, is just so perfectly exemplary of the Matsu philosophy that I had no choice but to include it.

    Of course, there are plenty of other excellent quotes out there - check flavour text on the Oracle of the Void, biographies on the L5R wiki, and the fiction archives at Kaze no Shiro - and you can always make up your own and attribute them to your glorious but hitherto unknown ancestors. As the Ikoma say, it is no wonder the Lion are so reverent of their ancestors, when each samurai has more heroes in his own descent than the other Clans can count as their own at all. Those are just some of the ones that have always stuck with me as being perfectly 'Lion'. Enjoy!
  3. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Bayushi Tsubaki in Clan Traditions   
    It occurs to me that, with the addition of L5R to the FFG stable, we might be getting an influx of new players, and this forum might be among the places they come. So, partially inspired by the 'looking for a Clan' thread, I thought it would be a good idea for some of us (relatively) old-timers to share what (we think) makes our Clan special. Being a Lion person myself, I'll start with them, and leave other Clans to others. I originally wrote this up for the Winter Court IV RPG, then reposted it to FRO7, so some people might have seen it before, but now it's in a more public place, and people can add their own insights to it, for the Lion or other Clans. Apologies in advance for length, but hopefully it helps.
     
    ***
     
    Every Clan and Family has its own traditions and superstitions. The Lion, being deeply conservative, hold to theirs more tightly than most, and everyone should be aware of at least those of their own Family.

    Akodo

    In addition to the Ten Orders contained in Leadership, Akodo traditionally memorise the Five Measures, here paraphrased rather than quoted verbatim, as the originals are quite wordy:

    AIR: The General leads the army quickly and without hesitation; by this, he keeps his eyes forwards.
    EARTH: The General understands the ground on which he fights; by this, he ensures victory.
    FIRE: The General leads the army in accordance with the Imperial Law; by this, he lights the flame of justice in his soldiers' souls.
    WATER: The General understands the flow of battle; by this, he spares his own forces, and wears down those of his opponent.
    VOID: The General leads the army inexorably towards the moment of victory; it cannot be understood, only taken.

    It is quite common for Akodo to use the Five Measures, Seven Virtues (of Bushido, which I trust I don't need to repeat here), and Ten Orders, as quasi-meditative mantras.

    Ever since the Dawn of the Empire, when Akodo One-Eye rejected Shinsei by gripping his saya and saying, "This is my way", and was subsequently ordered by Hantei to show Shinsei more respect, all Akodo dojo contain a copy of the Tao... but it is left pristine and unopened.

    Besides their basic gempukku ceremony, Akodo undergo an additional ceremony, called Kyodai, in which they recite all of their ancestors back to Akodo One-Eye, and have their own names added to the list of honoured Akodo. Completion of this ceremony makes all Akodo formally brothers, and equals (resulting in Akodo frequently calling each other 'brother' or 'sister' in place of -san/-sama, irrespective of actual social position). As a result, it is strictly forbidden for Akodo to fight each other, or to cast any other Akodo into dishonour, and those who do so are punished as if they had murdered their family.

    In combat, Akodo doctrine builds on the concept of brotherhood - no Akodo will leave another Akodo to fight alone, and they take strength in fighting side by side with each other. Tactically, their strength isn't so much that they have excellent command and control structures - though they do have those - but that every Akodo knows what they are expected to do, and will do it unhesitatingly and unquestioningly. As such, they have a much greater capacity for manoeuvre and response in combat, whereas most Rokugani formations are prohibitively difficult to control once they have been committed, and communicating secondary orders is all but impossible.

    Prior to the dissolution of the family during the Clan Wars, all Akodo used to carry distinctive knives in addition to their daisho, that were given to them after Kyodai. That tradition ceased when the family was dissolved, and never reinstated after the naming of the Lying Darkness, and many were lost, so Akodo kaiken are now extremely valuable heirlooms, rather than being ubiquitous.

    Akodo have a reputation for arrogance - "No army led by an Akodo general has ever been defeated", and such - but their self-confidence stems from an acute awareness of their own failings. Lion victories are not studied in the Akodo War College, but only their defeats, to remind Akodo officers that victory is never assured, but always rests on the sword's edge.

    Ikoma

    Ikoma are, by tradition, the only Lion who are allowed to show emotion. Technically, the role of emoting for the rest of the Clan goes to the Omoidasu specifically rather than the Ikoma in general, but being brought up in that milieu tends to result in Ikoma, even the bushi, being much more open in their emotions than the other families of the Lion.

    In memory of a famous exchange between Ikoma and Akodo One-Eye (in which Akodo said he could beat Ikoma if they fought, and Ikoma replied, "You could, Son of the Sun. But I would take your other eye."), Ikoma are traditionally quicker to accept defeat than other Lion, but correspondingly quicker to find ways to make the victory hurt for their opponent. For example, where an outnumbered Matsu would tend to just keep swinging until she went down or her enemies did, an Ikoma might identify the enemy leader, and make sure to kill him, even if it guaranteed his own death (a good example of this mindset occurred during the Winter of Red Snow - the Ikoma realised Kyuden Ikoma had fallen, but hid a squad of men in the ruins until Chagatai rode past with his honour guard, then ambushed him). As all of the above illustrates, they also tend to be somewhat less strict in their interpretation of honour and the rules of combat than other Lion.

    Ikoma himself was extremely fond of sake and women. Some, though by no means all, Ikoma, choose to follow his example in this as in other things.

    There is a super-secret alliance between the Ikoma and Shosuro families to ensure the history of the Empire remains proper and pure- the Ikoma write what is appropriate, and the Shosuro make sure any evidence to the contrary disappears. Needless to say, this is kept secret from the rest of the Lion, and even from the bulk of the family. The Ikoma also have in their possession the uncensored histories, and the only complete copies of Leadership (the edition of the book in common circulation having been censored by various Emperors to avoid offending their sensibilities). Obviously, neither of these things are made public knowledge, either.

    Kitsu

    The Kitsu traditionally refuse to use their gifts in combat- it is Rokugani tradition for generals to invite shugenja to leave the field before engaging in battle, and Lion follow this tradition (both ways) more scrupulously than anyone else, with the possible exception of the Crane. While they are frequently used in an auxiliary capacity, healing and supporting troops off the battlefield itself, actual "combat shugenja" are very rare. In general, the Lion see it as dishonourable and impious to use the kami against others, rather than steel.

    Most Kitsu have no capacity to act as Sodan-Senzo, though they may or may not have some ability to call upon the Ancestors in a more limited fashion. True Sodan-Senzo are identified young, usually have no ability to control when and how the Ancestors speak to them, and rarely leave the Hall of Ancestors/Kitsu Tombs at all.

    Kitsu almost invariably dress and speak in a hyper-traditional manner, sometimes to the point of near-foreignness to contemporary Rokugani, as several of them speak as much to the dead as to the living, and even those who don't, carry the responsibility to act as holders and guardians of tradition among the Lion.

    Some, though not all, of the Kitsu descended directly from the First Five (the last Kitsu, who turned themselves human to mate with five of Akodo One-Eye's children) have golden eyes, and/or red/golden hair. Those who do are almost always Sodan-Senzo, but not all Sodan-Senzo have the hair or eyes. Either way, those descended from the First Five are almost never married outside the Clan, to anyone but the most important of people, as their power is linked to their bloodline, more so than even among other shugenja families.

    Kitsu have an extra-special, and even stronger, grudge against the Spider than other Lion, ever since Nintai - a Tsuno who was returned to his original state as a Kitsu (the storyline was incredibly stupid, honestly... I hate Ratling... but whatever, it happened) - was killed and skinned during the Night of Assassins. Now that the Night of Assassins is known to have been the work of the Spider, the Kitsu have a truly undying grudge against them.

    The Kitsu have, on occasion, produced some of the strongest shugenja in the Empire - Kitsu Taiko's connection to Fire was so strong that he was made Master of Fire in 766, being one of a handful of non-Phoenix ever to sit on the Elemental Council. Though their connection with the kami is generally unexceptional, as their 'magic' stems more from the Ancestors than the elemental spirits, they are - sometimes - extremely powerful.

    Despite being of generally impeccable honour, there have been a few less-than-perfect moments in the history of the Kitsu; most especially Kitsu Okura, who won the Jade Championship by questionable means, and subsequently gave his name to an Oni, triggering a war between the Unicorn and the corrupted Kitsu (plus other Lion), known as Storms over Shiro Matsu. A substantial number of Kitsu went ronin in protest when Okura's corruption became clear, and were readmitted after Okura was deposed, as the Noroko vassal family. The Noroko's prime holding is in Crab lands, and they focus on maintaining vigilance against corruption within the Lion, and they are generally treated with respect and deference by other Kitsu out of respect for their ancestors' stand on principle, but they have no Sodan-Senzo, as those with Sodan-Senzo blood considered it their duty to remain to tend the Hall and Tombs, regardless of the daimyo's actions. Okura no Oni herself was subsequently reverse-corrupted by Bushido, and is now the guardian of the gates of Tengoku, though she can't actually go inside.

    Matsu

    As everyone knows, Matsu are traditionally matriarchal. This tradition stems from Lady Matsu's refusal to marry Akodo One-Eye, on the basis that, "If I marry you, I will not be Matsu, but Akodo's wife." Given that their founder refused to give her name even for a living God, it is extremely rare for female Matsu to marry out of the family, even to other Lion. Male Matsu can marry in, or out, according to the respective social status of the Matsu and the other samurai; or the arrangements of the nakodo, if they're equal.

    Where Akodo generally make decisions based on careful consideration, and consultation of their texts, the Matsu follow a philosophy known as Seven Breaths: as Honour should be your guide in making any decision, and Honour is instinctive, it should take no longer than the space of seven breaths to make any decision. This is the basis of the Matsu's reputation for impulsiveness - as they see it, that reputation is a compliment, as it denotes their pursuit of Honour over practicality.

    Matsu are trained to be extremely physically tough and self-reliant - they undergo extreme tests of endurance and strength, and are strictly forbidden from assisting each other. Their gempukku, however, consists not of a physical test (as they're assumed to be capable of doing that already), but of sitting motionless for several days while food and water are laid out around them, and their friends and family beg them to eat and drink. Needless to say, if they do so, they fail. The point of the ceremony is that Matsu should be not only physically tough, but also capable of exercising great self-control - as much of an L5R stereotype as "The Angry Matsu" is, it actually takes quite a lot of provocation to make a proper Matsu angry in a social situation, or rather to cause them to show that anger openly. If a Matsu shows their anger outside combat, that Matsu is VERY angry, and it would generally be unwise to remain in the area any longer than necessary.

    Whether they show their emotion or not, Matsu commit fully to everything they do. This is partly a result of the Seven Breaths philosophy: believing that hesitation or reservation is tantamount to sin, and trusting completely that everything they do is the right thing to do, they throw themselves headlong at every challenge, generally preferring to prove their worth by overcoming obstacles with sheer force of will, strengthened by the righteousness of their cause, than by finding ways around them. Reaction to defeat, as rarely as they experience it, varies among Matsu - some barely register it, and continue pressing as if it had never happened; others take it a signal that their original cause can't possibly have been honourable (if it had been honourable, they would have succeeded, after all), and turn their attentions elsewhere.

    Because the Matsu were traditionally by far the largest family in the Empire, and individual families were also very large, Matsu generally care less about the particulars of their family than other Lion. Obviously, they care very deeply about their family as a whole, and insulting the Matsu is very likely to result in blood-feud at least, but they are less likely than any other Lion samurai to be able to list all their ancestors, or even to be able to name all their relatives three or four generations back. In general, they are more willing to assume that all their ancestors were heroes, and leave it at that (an assumption aided by the very short life expectancy of Matsu compared to samurai in general).

    There is a common misconception that Matsu make no time for themselves, or have no pastimes except training for combat. While it is true that Matsu train a great deal, and often enjoy it as much as anything else, it is untrue that they do nothing else - they recognise that cultivation of art is good for the soul, and they do care for their souls - what is true, as mentioned before, is that they do nothing in half-measures. If a Matsu is into ikebana, you can expect them to be REALLY into ikebana. Failure to commit fully, even to a personal hobby, is a reflection of Doubt, Doubt is a reflection of Fear, and Fear is a Sin.

    Miscellaneous

    Using the wakizashi in combat is considered borderline blasphemous by most Lion. Primarily, this is because all samurai should be ready to cleanse their honour (ie, commit seppuku) at their lord's order at a moment's notice, which requires that the wakizashi be kept razor sharp, and ritually pure. Using it to stab people goes against both goals. Deathseekers, however, are not expected to commit seppuku - as such, they can, and often do, use their wakizashi in combat. In essence, the wakizashi should only draw blood to cleanse one's honour; for most, that means the gutcut, for the Deathseekers, it means killing as many other people as possible.

    Staying on the subject of katana, Lion generally test their katana on condemned criminals, seeing it as a test of both the blade and the wielder to see how many they cut through. The record is six, set by Akodo Mayuko.

    Lion of all families are, obviously, much more dedicated to the worship of their ancestors than most samurai of other Clans. Superficially, they perform the same rituals of remembrance and reverence as everyone else (except the Kitsu, who are obviously special), but they do it much more regularly than others. All Lion households have a list of their ancestors at their shrine, even those who don't make a point of memorising said list, and the vast majority keep registers of the anniversaries of their most respected ancestors' deaths, which they commemorate dutifully.

    Despite their near-obsessive reverence for their ancestors, the majority of Lion are quite distant, emotionally, from their actual families. Lion children are almost always left in the care of ashigaru and ji-samurai, then sent to the dojo, where they eat and sleep, as well as train, apart from their birth family. Though most Lion could name their families to a few generations without hesitation, they rarely know their actual relatives.

    Among Leadership's tenets - one held dear by Lion of all families - is that, "the wise commander needs only the perception to identify the right subordinates for a task, and the intelligence to let them do it." Competent delegation of assignments is a highly valued skill among the Lion, even for the most self-assured of Matsu, and the misuse of assets under your command a swift route to losing the command of those assets.

    A frequent subject of debate among Lion is the appropriate role of the Book of Sun Tao. While Leadership is obviously the best thing since steamed rice, and De Bellis Yoditorum has its place (not comparable to Leadership, but useful for fighting Yodotai), Sun Tao is less clear. His tactical insights are generally accepted as worthwhile - if only as restatements and elaborations of the same principles laid down by Akodo - but he was, ultimately, just a ronin, and Lion generally don't like ronin at all (excepting ronin-who-are-actually-Lion, like half the Akodo family during their dissolution, the Noroko prior to their reacceptance, and so on), so accepting that a ronin could have written a valuable treatise on strategy is problematic for the premier strategy Clan. It is ultimately a subject for each samurai to decide for themselves, but it is an ongoing issue within the Lion Clan, especially the Akodo family.

    Quotes

    Every Clan has some fantastic stories and characters in its history. This is just a small collection of some of my favourites for the Lion, in no particular order. It occurs to me that most of them are Matsu, but that's probably unsurprising, since they're the most stereotypically 'heroic' of the Lion Families. I am leaving Akodo's Leadership aside here, as it's kind of its own thing, but I strongly recommend reading up on Leadership, too.

    "Age slows only those who are afraid to die." - Matsu Ketsui

    Matsu Ketsui was a brash young Matsu, who managed to sufficiently antagonise Ikoma Tsanuri (who appears later in this list) by her impetuosity for Tsanuri to arrange a marriage for Ketsui with a peace-loving Phoenix shugenja. Ketsui naturally laughed off the Phoenix, and kept doing her thing. Rising through the ranks rapidly thanks to her skill, strength, and ferocity, she became Matsu Daimyo at a very young age (for the position), and was forced to mature quickly into the position, as she guided the family through incessant wars against the Lying Darkness, against the Crane, against the Dragon, against the Unicorn (several times), and against internal corruption. As she matured, she came to increasingly appreciate the wisdom, patience, and humility, of her Phoenix husband, and cared for him more and more, bearing him three children. One of these became Clan Champion, and another died returning the remains of Akodo One-Eye to the Lion. Even as she matured, however, she lost none of her badassery, which extended to killing a Kenshinzen in a duel within two weeks of giving birth. She outlived several Champions, but refused the position each time, preferring to guide her family. In the end, she was killed by her daughter (who had fallen to the Lying Darkness), but she was already past sixty by then, and her awesomeness lived on.

    "If you must ask what honour is, you will never know." - Ikoma Tsanuri

    Ikoma Tsanuri was (Akodo) Toturi's lieutenant through the Clan Wars, and was witness in that capacity to most of the notable events of that war, including Matsu Tsuko's seppuku. This experience led her to distrust the other Clans, believing that only the strength and honour of the Lion could adequately protect the Empire, a philosophy she pursued as champion of the Clan. As unwitting part of a plot by the Lying Darkness, she led an army to the lands of the Crab, who deployed an army against her - but rather than fighting, the two commanders conferred, and came to terms. Specifically, Tsanuri led her army against the Shadowlands instead, upon hearing that the Emperor had gone to Volturnum, and she personally led her honour guard against Akuma no Oni, preventing it from attacking the Emperor. Though she fell in the combat, the Emperor was saved. A torii arch was erected at the site where she fell, along with her enshrined katana, and the spot remains one of only four places within the Shadowlands themselves that are untouched by the Taint (the others being Shiro Hiruma (at good times), Shinsei's Last Hope, and Amaterasu's Furnace).

    "See, fallen hero -
    Even the Darkness gives pause -
    How a Lion dies."
    - Matsu Domotai

    Matsu Domotai was one of the children of Matsu Ketsui. Taken captive by the Tsuno during a raid on the Kitsu Tombs, he was finally rescued by his sister (the one who later killed Ketsui, but she wasn't corrupted at this point). In the same raid, however, the Tsuno also claimed the bones of Akodo One-Eye. The Dark Oracle of Water planned to use these as a lure to gain a Lion follower, to further his plans. When he offered the trade, the Lion had little choice but to except, though it was an obvious trap, and Matsu Domotai volunteered to be the 'sacrifice' to the Dark Oracle. The Lion claimed the bones, but before he could be forced to swear fealty to the Dark Oracle, Domotai recited the above death haiku, and committed seppuku. This demonstration of honour sufficed to prevent the Dark Oracle from completing his trap, thereby allowing the Lion to secure the bones properly.

    "Why feint when you can just kill him?" - Matsu Takeko

    Compared to the other people quoted here, Takeko is a relatively unimportant figure - she was involved in the Lion/Unicorn wars, and the Lion/Mantis skirmishing in Toshi Ranbo afterwards, then again in the multiple wars that followed Iweko's ascension, but never achieved great prominence or rank. That quote, however, is just so perfectly exemplary of the Matsu philosophy that I had no choice but to include it.

    Of course, there are plenty of other excellent quotes out there - check flavour text on the Oracle of the Void, biographies on the L5R wiki, and the fiction archives at Kaze no Shiro - and you can always make up your own and attribute them to your glorious but hitherto unknown ancestors. As the Ikoma say, it is no wonder the Lion are so reverent of their ancestors, when each samurai has more heroes in his own descent than the other Clans can count as their own at all. Those are just some of the ones that have always stuck with me as being perfectly 'Lion'. Enjoy!
  4. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from SlackerHacker in Clan Traditions   
    It occurs to me that, with the addition of L5R to the FFG stable, we might be getting an influx of new players, and this forum might be among the places they come. So, partially inspired by the 'looking for a Clan' thread, I thought it would be a good idea for some of us (relatively) old-timers to share what (we think) makes our Clan special. Being a Lion person myself, I'll start with them, and leave other Clans to others. I originally wrote this up for the Winter Court IV RPG, then reposted it to FRO7, so some people might have seen it before, but now it's in a more public place, and people can add their own insights to it, for the Lion or other Clans. Apologies in advance for length, but hopefully it helps.
     
    ***
     
    Every Clan and Family has its own traditions and superstitions. The Lion, being deeply conservative, hold to theirs more tightly than most, and everyone should be aware of at least those of their own Family.

    Akodo

    In addition to the Ten Orders contained in Leadership, Akodo traditionally memorise the Five Measures, here paraphrased rather than quoted verbatim, as the originals are quite wordy:

    AIR: The General leads the army quickly and without hesitation; by this, he keeps his eyes forwards.
    EARTH: The General understands the ground on which he fights; by this, he ensures victory.
    FIRE: The General leads the army in accordance with the Imperial Law; by this, he lights the flame of justice in his soldiers' souls.
    WATER: The General understands the flow of battle; by this, he spares his own forces, and wears down those of his opponent.
    VOID: The General leads the army inexorably towards the moment of victory; it cannot be understood, only taken.

    It is quite common for Akodo to use the Five Measures, Seven Virtues (of Bushido, which I trust I don't need to repeat here), and Ten Orders, as quasi-meditative mantras.

    Ever since the Dawn of the Empire, when Akodo One-Eye rejected Shinsei by gripping his saya and saying, "This is my way", and was subsequently ordered by Hantei to show Shinsei more respect, all Akodo dojo contain a copy of the Tao... but it is left pristine and unopened.

    Besides their basic gempukku ceremony, Akodo undergo an additional ceremony, called Kyodai, in which they recite all of their ancestors back to Akodo One-Eye, and have their own names added to the list of honoured Akodo. Completion of this ceremony makes all Akodo formally brothers, and equals (resulting in Akodo frequently calling each other 'brother' or 'sister' in place of -san/-sama, irrespective of actual social position). As a result, it is strictly forbidden for Akodo to fight each other, or to cast any other Akodo into dishonour, and those who do so are punished as if they had murdered their family.

    In combat, Akodo doctrine builds on the concept of brotherhood - no Akodo will leave another Akodo to fight alone, and they take strength in fighting side by side with each other. Tactically, their strength isn't so much that they have excellent command and control structures - though they do have those - but that every Akodo knows what they are expected to do, and will do it unhesitatingly and unquestioningly. As such, they have a much greater capacity for manoeuvre and response in combat, whereas most Rokugani formations are prohibitively difficult to control once they have been committed, and communicating secondary orders is all but impossible.

    Prior to the dissolution of the family during the Clan Wars, all Akodo used to carry distinctive knives in addition to their daisho, that were given to them after Kyodai. That tradition ceased when the family was dissolved, and never reinstated after the naming of the Lying Darkness, and many were lost, so Akodo kaiken are now extremely valuable heirlooms, rather than being ubiquitous.

    Akodo have a reputation for arrogance - "No army led by an Akodo general has ever been defeated", and such - but their self-confidence stems from an acute awareness of their own failings. Lion victories are not studied in the Akodo War College, but only their defeats, to remind Akodo officers that victory is never assured, but always rests on the sword's edge.

    Ikoma

    Ikoma are, by tradition, the only Lion who are allowed to show emotion. Technically, the role of emoting for the rest of the Clan goes to the Omoidasu specifically rather than the Ikoma in general, but being brought up in that milieu tends to result in Ikoma, even the bushi, being much more open in their emotions than the other families of the Lion.

    In memory of a famous exchange between Ikoma and Akodo One-Eye (in which Akodo said he could beat Ikoma if they fought, and Ikoma replied, "You could, Son of the Sun. But I would take your other eye."), Ikoma are traditionally quicker to accept defeat than other Lion, but correspondingly quicker to find ways to make the victory hurt for their opponent. For example, where an outnumbered Matsu would tend to just keep swinging until she went down or her enemies did, an Ikoma might identify the enemy leader, and make sure to kill him, even if it guaranteed his own death (a good example of this mindset occurred during the Winter of Red Snow - the Ikoma realised Kyuden Ikoma had fallen, but hid a squad of men in the ruins until Chagatai rode past with his honour guard, then ambushed him). As all of the above illustrates, they also tend to be somewhat less strict in their interpretation of honour and the rules of combat than other Lion.

    Ikoma himself was extremely fond of sake and women. Some, though by no means all, Ikoma, choose to follow his example in this as in other things.

    There is a super-secret alliance between the Ikoma and Shosuro families to ensure the history of the Empire remains proper and pure- the Ikoma write what is appropriate, and the Shosuro make sure any evidence to the contrary disappears. Needless to say, this is kept secret from the rest of the Lion, and even from the bulk of the family. The Ikoma also have in their possession the uncensored histories, and the only complete copies of Leadership (the edition of the book in common circulation having been censored by various Emperors to avoid offending their sensibilities). Obviously, neither of these things are made public knowledge, either.

    Kitsu

    The Kitsu traditionally refuse to use their gifts in combat- it is Rokugani tradition for generals to invite shugenja to leave the field before engaging in battle, and Lion follow this tradition (both ways) more scrupulously than anyone else, with the possible exception of the Crane. While they are frequently used in an auxiliary capacity, healing and supporting troops off the battlefield itself, actual "combat shugenja" are very rare. In general, the Lion see it as dishonourable and impious to use the kami against others, rather than steel.

    Most Kitsu have no capacity to act as Sodan-Senzo, though they may or may not have some ability to call upon the Ancestors in a more limited fashion. True Sodan-Senzo are identified young, usually have no ability to control when and how the Ancestors speak to them, and rarely leave the Hall of Ancestors/Kitsu Tombs at all.

    Kitsu almost invariably dress and speak in a hyper-traditional manner, sometimes to the point of near-foreignness to contemporary Rokugani, as several of them speak as much to the dead as to the living, and even those who don't, carry the responsibility to act as holders and guardians of tradition among the Lion.

    Some, though not all, of the Kitsu descended directly from the First Five (the last Kitsu, who turned themselves human to mate with five of Akodo One-Eye's children) have golden eyes, and/or red/golden hair. Those who do are almost always Sodan-Senzo, but not all Sodan-Senzo have the hair or eyes. Either way, those descended from the First Five are almost never married outside the Clan, to anyone but the most important of people, as their power is linked to their bloodline, more so than even among other shugenja families.

    Kitsu have an extra-special, and even stronger, grudge against the Spider than other Lion, ever since Nintai - a Tsuno who was returned to his original state as a Kitsu (the storyline was incredibly stupid, honestly... I hate Ratling... but whatever, it happened) - was killed and skinned during the Night of Assassins. Now that the Night of Assassins is known to have been the work of the Spider, the Kitsu have a truly undying grudge against them.

    The Kitsu have, on occasion, produced some of the strongest shugenja in the Empire - Kitsu Taiko's connection to Fire was so strong that he was made Master of Fire in 766, being one of a handful of non-Phoenix ever to sit on the Elemental Council. Though their connection with the kami is generally unexceptional, as their 'magic' stems more from the Ancestors than the elemental spirits, they are - sometimes - extremely powerful.

    Despite being of generally impeccable honour, there have been a few less-than-perfect moments in the history of the Kitsu; most especially Kitsu Okura, who won the Jade Championship by questionable means, and subsequently gave his name to an Oni, triggering a war between the Unicorn and the corrupted Kitsu (plus other Lion), known as Storms over Shiro Matsu. A substantial number of Kitsu went ronin in protest when Okura's corruption became clear, and were readmitted after Okura was deposed, as the Noroko vassal family. The Noroko's prime holding is in Crab lands, and they focus on maintaining vigilance against corruption within the Lion, and they are generally treated with respect and deference by other Kitsu out of respect for their ancestors' stand on principle, but they have no Sodan-Senzo, as those with Sodan-Senzo blood considered it their duty to remain to tend the Hall and Tombs, regardless of the daimyo's actions. Okura no Oni herself was subsequently reverse-corrupted by Bushido, and is now the guardian of the gates of Tengoku, though she can't actually go inside.

    Matsu

    As everyone knows, Matsu are traditionally matriarchal. This tradition stems from Lady Matsu's refusal to marry Akodo One-Eye, on the basis that, "If I marry you, I will not be Matsu, but Akodo's wife." Given that their founder refused to give her name even for a living God, it is extremely rare for female Matsu to marry out of the family, even to other Lion. Male Matsu can marry in, or out, according to the respective social status of the Matsu and the other samurai; or the arrangements of the nakodo, if they're equal.

    Where Akodo generally make decisions based on careful consideration, and consultation of their texts, the Matsu follow a philosophy known as Seven Breaths: as Honour should be your guide in making any decision, and Honour is instinctive, it should take no longer than the space of seven breaths to make any decision. This is the basis of the Matsu's reputation for impulsiveness - as they see it, that reputation is a compliment, as it denotes their pursuit of Honour over practicality.

    Matsu are trained to be extremely physically tough and self-reliant - they undergo extreme tests of endurance and strength, and are strictly forbidden from assisting each other. Their gempukku, however, consists not of a physical test (as they're assumed to be capable of doing that already), but of sitting motionless for several days while food and water are laid out around them, and their friends and family beg them to eat and drink. Needless to say, if they do so, they fail. The point of the ceremony is that Matsu should be not only physically tough, but also capable of exercising great self-control - as much of an L5R stereotype as "The Angry Matsu" is, it actually takes quite a lot of provocation to make a proper Matsu angry in a social situation, or rather to cause them to show that anger openly. If a Matsu shows their anger outside combat, that Matsu is VERY angry, and it would generally be unwise to remain in the area any longer than necessary.

    Whether they show their emotion or not, Matsu commit fully to everything they do. This is partly a result of the Seven Breaths philosophy: believing that hesitation or reservation is tantamount to sin, and trusting completely that everything they do is the right thing to do, they throw themselves headlong at every challenge, generally preferring to prove their worth by overcoming obstacles with sheer force of will, strengthened by the righteousness of their cause, than by finding ways around them. Reaction to defeat, as rarely as they experience it, varies among Matsu - some barely register it, and continue pressing as if it had never happened; others take it a signal that their original cause can't possibly have been honourable (if it had been honourable, they would have succeeded, after all), and turn their attentions elsewhere.

    Because the Matsu were traditionally by far the largest family in the Empire, and individual families were also very large, Matsu generally care less about the particulars of their family than other Lion. Obviously, they care very deeply about their family as a whole, and insulting the Matsu is very likely to result in blood-feud at least, but they are less likely than any other Lion samurai to be able to list all their ancestors, or even to be able to name all their relatives three or four generations back. In general, they are more willing to assume that all their ancestors were heroes, and leave it at that (an assumption aided by the very short life expectancy of Matsu compared to samurai in general).

    There is a common misconception that Matsu make no time for themselves, or have no pastimes except training for combat. While it is true that Matsu train a great deal, and often enjoy it as much as anything else, it is untrue that they do nothing else - they recognise that cultivation of art is good for the soul, and they do care for their souls - what is true, as mentioned before, is that they do nothing in half-measures. If a Matsu is into ikebana, you can expect them to be REALLY into ikebana. Failure to commit fully, even to a personal hobby, is a reflection of Doubt, Doubt is a reflection of Fear, and Fear is a Sin.

    Miscellaneous

    Using the wakizashi in combat is considered borderline blasphemous by most Lion. Primarily, this is because all samurai should be ready to cleanse their honour (ie, commit seppuku) at their lord's order at a moment's notice, which requires that the wakizashi be kept razor sharp, and ritually pure. Using it to stab people goes against both goals. Deathseekers, however, are not expected to commit seppuku - as such, they can, and often do, use their wakizashi in combat. In essence, the wakizashi should only draw blood to cleanse one's honour; for most, that means the gutcut, for the Deathseekers, it means killing as many other people as possible.

    Staying on the subject of katana, Lion generally test their katana on condemned criminals, seeing it as a test of both the blade and the wielder to see how many they cut through. The record is six, set by Akodo Mayuko.

    Lion of all families are, obviously, much more dedicated to the worship of their ancestors than most samurai of other Clans. Superficially, they perform the same rituals of remembrance and reverence as everyone else (except the Kitsu, who are obviously special), but they do it much more regularly than others. All Lion households have a list of their ancestors at their shrine, even those who don't make a point of memorising said list, and the vast majority keep registers of the anniversaries of their most respected ancestors' deaths, which they commemorate dutifully.

    Despite their near-obsessive reverence for their ancestors, the majority of Lion are quite distant, emotionally, from their actual families. Lion children are almost always left in the care of ashigaru and ji-samurai, then sent to the dojo, where they eat and sleep, as well as train, apart from their birth family. Though most Lion could name their families to a few generations without hesitation, they rarely know their actual relatives.

    Among Leadership's tenets - one held dear by Lion of all families - is that, "the wise commander needs only the perception to identify the right subordinates for a task, and the intelligence to let them do it." Competent delegation of assignments is a highly valued skill among the Lion, even for the most self-assured of Matsu, and the misuse of assets under your command a swift route to losing the command of those assets.

    A frequent subject of debate among Lion is the appropriate role of the Book of Sun Tao. While Leadership is obviously the best thing since steamed rice, and De Bellis Yoditorum has its place (not comparable to Leadership, but useful for fighting Yodotai), Sun Tao is less clear. His tactical insights are generally accepted as worthwhile - if only as restatements and elaborations of the same principles laid down by Akodo - but he was, ultimately, just a ronin, and Lion generally don't like ronin at all (excepting ronin-who-are-actually-Lion, like half the Akodo family during their dissolution, the Noroko prior to their reacceptance, and so on), so accepting that a ronin could have written a valuable treatise on strategy is problematic for the premier strategy Clan. It is ultimately a subject for each samurai to decide for themselves, but it is an ongoing issue within the Lion Clan, especially the Akodo family.

    Quotes

    Every Clan has some fantastic stories and characters in its history. This is just a small collection of some of my favourites for the Lion, in no particular order. It occurs to me that most of them are Matsu, but that's probably unsurprising, since they're the most stereotypically 'heroic' of the Lion Families. I am leaving Akodo's Leadership aside here, as it's kind of its own thing, but I strongly recommend reading up on Leadership, too.

    "Age slows only those who are afraid to die." - Matsu Ketsui

    Matsu Ketsui was a brash young Matsu, who managed to sufficiently antagonise Ikoma Tsanuri (who appears later in this list) by her impetuosity for Tsanuri to arrange a marriage for Ketsui with a peace-loving Phoenix shugenja. Ketsui naturally laughed off the Phoenix, and kept doing her thing. Rising through the ranks rapidly thanks to her skill, strength, and ferocity, she became Matsu Daimyo at a very young age (for the position), and was forced to mature quickly into the position, as she guided the family through incessant wars against the Lying Darkness, against the Crane, against the Dragon, against the Unicorn (several times), and against internal corruption. As she matured, she came to increasingly appreciate the wisdom, patience, and humility, of her Phoenix husband, and cared for him more and more, bearing him three children. One of these became Clan Champion, and another died returning the remains of Akodo One-Eye to the Lion. Even as she matured, however, she lost none of her badassery, which extended to killing a Kenshinzen in a duel within two weeks of giving birth. She outlived several Champions, but refused the position each time, preferring to guide her family. In the end, she was killed by her daughter (who had fallen to the Lying Darkness), but she was already past sixty by then, and her awesomeness lived on.

    "If you must ask what honour is, you will never know." - Ikoma Tsanuri

    Ikoma Tsanuri was (Akodo) Toturi's lieutenant through the Clan Wars, and was witness in that capacity to most of the notable events of that war, including Matsu Tsuko's seppuku. This experience led her to distrust the other Clans, believing that only the strength and honour of the Lion could adequately protect the Empire, a philosophy she pursued as champion of the Clan. As unwitting part of a plot by the Lying Darkness, she led an army to the lands of the Crab, who deployed an army against her - but rather than fighting, the two commanders conferred, and came to terms. Specifically, Tsanuri led her army against the Shadowlands instead, upon hearing that the Emperor had gone to Volturnum, and she personally led her honour guard against Akuma no Oni, preventing it from attacking the Emperor. Though she fell in the combat, the Emperor was saved. A torii arch was erected at the site where she fell, along with her enshrined katana, and the spot remains one of only four places within the Shadowlands themselves that are untouched by the Taint (the others being Shiro Hiruma (at good times), Shinsei's Last Hope, and Amaterasu's Furnace).

    "See, fallen hero -
    Even the Darkness gives pause -
    How a Lion dies."
    - Matsu Domotai

    Matsu Domotai was one of the children of Matsu Ketsui. Taken captive by the Tsuno during a raid on the Kitsu Tombs, he was finally rescued by his sister (the one who later killed Ketsui, but she wasn't corrupted at this point). In the same raid, however, the Tsuno also claimed the bones of Akodo One-Eye. The Dark Oracle of Water planned to use these as a lure to gain a Lion follower, to further his plans. When he offered the trade, the Lion had little choice but to except, though it was an obvious trap, and Matsu Domotai volunteered to be the 'sacrifice' to the Dark Oracle. The Lion claimed the bones, but before he could be forced to swear fealty to the Dark Oracle, Domotai recited the above death haiku, and committed seppuku. This demonstration of honour sufficed to prevent the Dark Oracle from completing his trap, thereby allowing the Lion to secure the bones properly.

    "Why feint when you can just kill him?" - Matsu Takeko

    Compared to the other people quoted here, Takeko is a relatively unimportant figure - she was involved in the Lion/Unicorn wars, and the Lion/Mantis skirmishing in Toshi Ranbo afterwards, then again in the multiple wars that followed Iweko's ascension, but never achieved great prominence or rank. That quote, however, is just so perfectly exemplary of the Matsu philosophy that I had no choice but to include it.

    Of course, there are plenty of other excellent quotes out there - check flavour text on the Oracle of the Void, biographies on the L5R wiki, and the fiction archives at Kaze no Shiro - and you can always make up your own and attribute them to your glorious but hitherto unknown ancestors. As the Ikoma say, it is no wonder the Lion are so reverent of their ancestors, when each samurai has more heroes in his own descent than the other Clans can count as their own at all. Those are just some of the ones that have always stuck with me as being perfectly 'Lion'. Enjoy!
  5. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from BlindSamurai13 in Clan Traditions   
    It occurs to me that, with the addition of L5R to the FFG stable, we might be getting an influx of new players, and this forum might be among the places they come. So, partially inspired by the 'looking for a Clan' thread, I thought it would be a good idea for some of us (relatively) old-timers to share what (we think) makes our Clan special. Being a Lion person myself, I'll start with them, and leave other Clans to others. I originally wrote this up for the Winter Court IV RPG, then reposted it to FRO7, so some people might have seen it before, but now it's in a more public place, and people can add their own insights to it, for the Lion or other Clans. Apologies in advance for length, but hopefully it helps.
     
    ***
     
    Every Clan and Family has its own traditions and superstitions. The Lion, being deeply conservative, hold to theirs more tightly than most, and everyone should be aware of at least those of their own Family.

    Akodo

    In addition to the Ten Orders contained in Leadership, Akodo traditionally memorise the Five Measures, here paraphrased rather than quoted verbatim, as the originals are quite wordy:

    AIR: The General leads the army quickly and without hesitation; by this, he keeps his eyes forwards.
    EARTH: The General understands the ground on which he fights; by this, he ensures victory.
    FIRE: The General leads the army in accordance with the Imperial Law; by this, he lights the flame of justice in his soldiers' souls.
    WATER: The General understands the flow of battle; by this, he spares his own forces, and wears down those of his opponent.
    VOID: The General leads the army inexorably towards the moment of victory; it cannot be understood, only taken.

    It is quite common for Akodo to use the Five Measures, Seven Virtues (of Bushido, which I trust I don't need to repeat here), and Ten Orders, as quasi-meditative mantras.

    Ever since the Dawn of the Empire, when Akodo One-Eye rejected Shinsei by gripping his saya and saying, "This is my way", and was subsequently ordered by Hantei to show Shinsei more respect, all Akodo dojo contain a copy of the Tao... but it is left pristine and unopened.

    Besides their basic gempukku ceremony, Akodo undergo an additional ceremony, called Kyodai, in which they recite all of their ancestors back to Akodo One-Eye, and have their own names added to the list of honoured Akodo. Completion of this ceremony makes all Akodo formally brothers, and equals (resulting in Akodo frequently calling each other 'brother' or 'sister' in place of -san/-sama, irrespective of actual social position). As a result, it is strictly forbidden for Akodo to fight each other, or to cast any other Akodo into dishonour, and those who do so are punished as if they had murdered their family.

    In combat, Akodo doctrine builds on the concept of brotherhood - no Akodo will leave another Akodo to fight alone, and they take strength in fighting side by side with each other. Tactically, their strength isn't so much that they have excellent command and control structures - though they do have those - but that every Akodo knows what they are expected to do, and will do it unhesitatingly and unquestioningly. As such, they have a much greater capacity for manoeuvre and response in combat, whereas most Rokugani formations are prohibitively difficult to control once they have been committed, and communicating secondary orders is all but impossible.

    Prior to the dissolution of the family during the Clan Wars, all Akodo used to carry distinctive knives in addition to their daisho, that were given to them after Kyodai. That tradition ceased when the family was dissolved, and never reinstated after the naming of the Lying Darkness, and many were lost, so Akodo kaiken are now extremely valuable heirlooms, rather than being ubiquitous.

    Akodo have a reputation for arrogance - "No army led by an Akodo general has ever been defeated", and such - but their self-confidence stems from an acute awareness of their own failings. Lion victories are not studied in the Akodo War College, but only their defeats, to remind Akodo officers that victory is never assured, but always rests on the sword's edge.

    Ikoma

    Ikoma are, by tradition, the only Lion who are allowed to show emotion. Technically, the role of emoting for the rest of the Clan goes to the Omoidasu specifically rather than the Ikoma in general, but being brought up in that milieu tends to result in Ikoma, even the bushi, being much more open in their emotions than the other families of the Lion.

    In memory of a famous exchange between Ikoma and Akodo One-Eye (in which Akodo said he could beat Ikoma if they fought, and Ikoma replied, "You could, Son of the Sun. But I would take your other eye."), Ikoma are traditionally quicker to accept defeat than other Lion, but correspondingly quicker to find ways to make the victory hurt for their opponent. For example, where an outnumbered Matsu would tend to just keep swinging until she went down or her enemies did, an Ikoma might identify the enemy leader, and make sure to kill him, even if it guaranteed his own death (a good example of this mindset occurred during the Winter of Red Snow - the Ikoma realised Kyuden Ikoma had fallen, but hid a squad of men in the ruins until Chagatai rode past with his honour guard, then ambushed him). As all of the above illustrates, they also tend to be somewhat less strict in their interpretation of honour and the rules of combat than other Lion.

    Ikoma himself was extremely fond of sake and women. Some, though by no means all, Ikoma, choose to follow his example in this as in other things.

    There is a super-secret alliance between the Ikoma and Shosuro families to ensure the history of the Empire remains proper and pure- the Ikoma write what is appropriate, and the Shosuro make sure any evidence to the contrary disappears. Needless to say, this is kept secret from the rest of the Lion, and even from the bulk of the family. The Ikoma also have in their possession the uncensored histories, and the only complete copies of Leadership (the edition of the book in common circulation having been censored by various Emperors to avoid offending their sensibilities). Obviously, neither of these things are made public knowledge, either.

    Kitsu

    The Kitsu traditionally refuse to use their gifts in combat- it is Rokugani tradition for generals to invite shugenja to leave the field before engaging in battle, and Lion follow this tradition (both ways) more scrupulously than anyone else, with the possible exception of the Crane. While they are frequently used in an auxiliary capacity, healing and supporting troops off the battlefield itself, actual "combat shugenja" are very rare. In general, the Lion see it as dishonourable and impious to use the kami against others, rather than steel.

    Most Kitsu have no capacity to act as Sodan-Senzo, though they may or may not have some ability to call upon the Ancestors in a more limited fashion. True Sodan-Senzo are identified young, usually have no ability to control when and how the Ancestors speak to them, and rarely leave the Hall of Ancestors/Kitsu Tombs at all.

    Kitsu almost invariably dress and speak in a hyper-traditional manner, sometimes to the point of near-foreignness to contemporary Rokugani, as several of them speak as much to the dead as to the living, and even those who don't, carry the responsibility to act as holders and guardians of tradition among the Lion.

    Some, though not all, of the Kitsu descended directly from the First Five (the last Kitsu, who turned themselves human to mate with five of Akodo One-Eye's children) have golden eyes, and/or red/golden hair. Those who do are almost always Sodan-Senzo, but not all Sodan-Senzo have the hair or eyes. Either way, those descended from the First Five are almost never married outside the Clan, to anyone but the most important of people, as their power is linked to their bloodline, more so than even among other shugenja families.

    Kitsu have an extra-special, and even stronger, grudge against the Spider than other Lion, ever since Nintai - a Tsuno who was returned to his original state as a Kitsu (the storyline was incredibly stupid, honestly... I hate Ratling... but whatever, it happened) - was killed and skinned during the Night of Assassins. Now that the Night of Assassins is known to have been the work of the Spider, the Kitsu have a truly undying grudge against them.

    The Kitsu have, on occasion, produced some of the strongest shugenja in the Empire - Kitsu Taiko's connection to Fire was so strong that he was made Master of Fire in 766, being one of a handful of non-Phoenix ever to sit on the Elemental Council. Though their connection with the kami is generally unexceptional, as their 'magic' stems more from the Ancestors than the elemental spirits, they are - sometimes - extremely powerful.

    Despite being of generally impeccable honour, there have been a few less-than-perfect moments in the history of the Kitsu; most especially Kitsu Okura, who won the Jade Championship by questionable means, and subsequently gave his name to an Oni, triggering a war between the Unicorn and the corrupted Kitsu (plus other Lion), known as Storms over Shiro Matsu. A substantial number of Kitsu went ronin in protest when Okura's corruption became clear, and were readmitted after Okura was deposed, as the Noroko vassal family. The Noroko's prime holding is in Crab lands, and they focus on maintaining vigilance against corruption within the Lion, and they are generally treated with respect and deference by other Kitsu out of respect for their ancestors' stand on principle, but they have no Sodan-Senzo, as those with Sodan-Senzo blood considered it their duty to remain to tend the Hall and Tombs, regardless of the daimyo's actions. Okura no Oni herself was subsequently reverse-corrupted by Bushido, and is now the guardian of the gates of Tengoku, though she can't actually go inside.

    Matsu

    As everyone knows, Matsu are traditionally matriarchal. This tradition stems from Lady Matsu's refusal to marry Akodo One-Eye, on the basis that, "If I marry you, I will not be Matsu, but Akodo's wife." Given that their founder refused to give her name even for a living God, it is extremely rare for female Matsu to marry out of the family, even to other Lion. Male Matsu can marry in, or out, according to the respective social status of the Matsu and the other samurai; or the arrangements of the nakodo, if they're equal.

    Where Akodo generally make decisions based on careful consideration, and consultation of their texts, the Matsu follow a philosophy known as Seven Breaths: as Honour should be your guide in making any decision, and Honour is instinctive, it should take no longer than the space of seven breaths to make any decision. This is the basis of the Matsu's reputation for impulsiveness - as they see it, that reputation is a compliment, as it denotes their pursuit of Honour over practicality.

    Matsu are trained to be extremely physically tough and self-reliant - they undergo extreme tests of endurance and strength, and are strictly forbidden from assisting each other. Their gempukku, however, consists not of a physical test (as they're assumed to be capable of doing that already), but of sitting motionless for several days while food and water are laid out around them, and their friends and family beg them to eat and drink. Needless to say, if they do so, they fail. The point of the ceremony is that Matsu should be not only physically tough, but also capable of exercising great self-control - as much of an L5R stereotype as "The Angry Matsu" is, it actually takes quite a lot of provocation to make a proper Matsu angry in a social situation, or rather to cause them to show that anger openly. If a Matsu shows their anger outside combat, that Matsu is VERY angry, and it would generally be unwise to remain in the area any longer than necessary.

    Whether they show their emotion or not, Matsu commit fully to everything they do. This is partly a result of the Seven Breaths philosophy: believing that hesitation or reservation is tantamount to sin, and trusting completely that everything they do is the right thing to do, they throw themselves headlong at every challenge, generally preferring to prove their worth by overcoming obstacles with sheer force of will, strengthened by the righteousness of their cause, than by finding ways around them. Reaction to defeat, as rarely as they experience it, varies among Matsu - some barely register it, and continue pressing as if it had never happened; others take it a signal that their original cause can't possibly have been honourable (if it had been honourable, they would have succeeded, after all), and turn their attentions elsewhere.

    Because the Matsu were traditionally by far the largest family in the Empire, and individual families were also very large, Matsu generally care less about the particulars of their family than other Lion. Obviously, they care very deeply about their family as a whole, and insulting the Matsu is very likely to result in blood-feud at least, but they are less likely than any other Lion samurai to be able to list all their ancestors, or even to be able to name all their relatives three or four generations back. In general, they are more willing to assume that all their ancestors were heroes, and leave it at that (an assumption aided by the very short life expectancy of Matsu compared to samurai in general).

    There is a common misconception that Matsu make no time for themselves, or have no pastimes except training for combat. While it is true that Matsu train a great deal, and often enjoy it as much as anything else, it is untrue that they do nothing else - they recognise that cultivation of art is good for the soul, and they do care for their souls - what is true, as mentioned before, is that they do nothing in half-measures. If a Matsu is into ikebana, you can expect them to be REALLY into ikebana. Failure to commit fully, even to a personal hobby, is a reflection of Doubt, Doubt is a reflection of Fear, and Fear is a Sin.

    Miscellaneous

    Using the wakizashi in combat is considered borderline blasphemous by most Lion. Primarily, this is because all samurai should be ready to cleanse their honour (ie, commit seppuku) at their lord's order at a moment's notice, which requires that the wakizashi be kept razor sharp, and ritually pure. Using it to stab people goes against both goals. Deathseekers, however, are not expected to commit seppuku - as such, they can, and often do, use their wakizashi in combat. In essence, the wakizashi should only draw blood to cleanse one's honour; for most, that means the gutcut, for the Deathseekers, it means killing as many other people as possible.

    Staying on the subject of katana, Lion generally test their katana on condemned criminals, seeing it as a test of both the blade and the wielder to see how many they cut through. The record is six, set by Akodo Mayuko.

    Lion of all families are, obviously, much more dedicated to the worship of their ancestors than most samurai of other Clans. Superficially, they perform the same rituals of remembrance and reverence as everyone else (except the Kitsu, who are obviously special), but they do it much more regularly than others. All Lion households have a list of their ancestors at their shrine, even those who don't make a point of memorising said list, and the vast majority keep registers of the anniversaries of their most respected ancestors' deaths, which they commemorate dutifully.

    Despite their near-obsessive reverence for their ancestors, the majority of Lion are quite distant, emotionally, from their actual families. Lion children are almost always left in the care of ashigaru and ji-samurai, then sent to the dojo, where they eat and sleep, as well as train, apart from their birth family. Though most Lion could name their families to a few generations without hesitation, they rarely know their actual relatives.

    Among Leadership's tenets - one held dear by Lion of all families - is that, "the wise commander needs only the perception to identify the right subordinates for a task, and the intelligence to let them do it." Competent delegation of assignments is a highly valued skill among the Lion, even for the most self-assured of Matsu, and the misuse of assets under your command a swift route to losing the command of those assets.

    A frequent subject of debate among Lion is the appropriate role of the Book of Sun Tao. While Leadership is obviously the best thing since steamed rice, and De Bellis Yoditorum has its place (not comparable to Leadership, but useful for fighting Yodotai), Sun Tao is less clear. His tactical insights are generally accepted as worthwhile - if only as restatements and elaborations of the same principles laid down by Akodo - but he was, ultimately, just a ronin, and Lion generally don't like ronin at all (excepting ronin-who-are-actually-Lion, like half the Akodo family during their dissolution, the Noroko prior to their reacceptance, and so on), so accepting that a ronin could have written a valuable treatise on strategy is problematic for the premier strategy Clan. It is ultimately a subject for each samurai to decide for themselves, but it is an ongoing issue within the Lion Clan, especially the Akodo family.

    Quotes

    Every Clan has some fantastic stories and characters in its history. This is just a small collection of some of my favourites for the Lion, in no particular order. It occurs to me that most of them are Matsu, but that's probably unsurprising, since they're the most stereotypically 'heroic' of the Lion Families. I am leaving Akodo's Leadership aside here, as it's kind of its own thing, but I strongly recommend reading up on Leadership, too.

    "Age slows only those who are afraid to die." - Matsu Ketsui

    Matsu Ketsui was a brash young Matsu, who managed to sufficiently antagonise Ikoma Tsanuri (who appears later in this list) by her impetuosity for Tsanuri to arrange a marriage for Ketsui with a peace-loving Phoenix shugenja. Ketsui naturally laughed off the Phoenix, and kept doing her thing. Rising through the ranks rapidly thanks to her skill, strength, and ferocity, she became Matsu Daimyo at a very young age (for the position), and was forced to mature quickly into the position, as she guided the family through incessant wars against the Lying Darkness, against the Crane, against the Dragon, against the Unicorn (several times), and against internal corruption. As she matured, she came to increasingly appreciate the wisdom, patience, and humility, of her Phoenix husband, and cared for him more and more, bearing him three children. One of these became Clan Champion, and another died returning the remains of Akodo One-Eye to the Lion. Even as she matured, however, she lost none of her badassery, which extended to killing a Kenshinzen in a duel within two weeks of giving birth. She outlived several Champions, but refused the position each time, preferring to guide her family. In the end, she was killed by her daughter (who had fallen to the Lying Darkness), but she was already past sixty by then, and her awesomeness lived on.

    "If you must ask what honour is, you will never know." - Ikoma Tsanuri

    Ikoma Tsanuri was (Akodo) Toturi's lieutenant through the Clan Wars, and was witness in that capacity to most of the notable events of that war, including Matsu Tsuko's seppuku. This experience led her to distrust the other Clans, believing that only the strength and honour of the Lion could adequately protect the Empire, a philosophy she pursued as champion of the Clan. As unwitting part of a plot by the Lying Darkness, she led an army to the lands of the Crab, who deployed an army against her - but rather than fighting, the two commanders conferred, and came to terms. Specifically, Tsanuri led her army against the Shadowlands instead, upon hearing that the Emperor had gone to Volturnum, and she personally led her honour guard against Akuma no Oni, preventing it from attacking the Emperor. Though she fell in the combat, the Emperor was saved. A torii arch was erected at the site where she fell, along with her enshrined katana, and the spot remains one of only four places within the Shadowlands themselves that are untouched by the Taint (the others being Shiro Hiruma (at good times), Shinsei's Last Hope, and Amaterasu's Furnace).

    "See, fallen hero -
    Even the Darkness gives pause -
    How a Lion dies."
    - Matsu Domotai

    Matsu Domotai was one of the children of Matsu Ketsui. Taken captive by the Tsuno during a raid on the Kitsu Tombs, he was finally rescued by his sister (the one who later killed Ketsui, but she wasn't corrupted at this point). In the same raid, however, the Tsuno also claimed the bones of Akodo One-Eye. The Dark Oracle of Water planned to use these as a lure to gain a Lion follower, to further his plans. When he offered the trade, the Lion had little choice but to except, though it was an obvious trap, and Matsu Domotai volunteered to be the 'sacrifice' to the Dark Oracle. The Lion claimed the bones, but before he could be forced to swear fealty to the Dark Oracle, Domotai recited the above death haiku, and committed seppuku. This demonstration of honour sufficed to prevent the Dark Oracle from completing his trap, thereby allowing the Lion to secure the bones properly.

    "Why feint when you can just kill him?" - Matsu Takeko

    Compared to the other people quoted here, Takeko is a relatively unimportant figure - she was involved in the Lion/Unicorn wars, and the Lion/Mantis skirmishing in Toshi Ranbo afterwards, then again in the multiple wars that followed Iweko's ascension, but never achieved great prominence or rank. That quote, however, is just so perfectly exemplary of the Matsu philosophy that I had no choice but to include it.

    Of course, there are plenty of other excellent quotes out there - check flavour text on the Oracle of the Void, biographies on the L5R wiki, and the fiction archives at Kaze no Shiro - and you can always make up your own and attribute them to your glorious but hitherto unknown ancestors. As the Ikoma say, it is no wonder the Lion are so reverent of their ancestors, when each samurai has more heroes in his own descent than the other Clans can count as their own at all. Those are just some of the ones that have always stuck with me as being perfectly 'Lion'. Enjoy!
  6. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from FelixPhoenix in Clan Traditions   
    It occurs to me that, with the addition of L5R to the FFG stable, we might be getting an influx of new players, and this forum might be among the places they come. So, partially inspired by the 'looking for a Clan' thread, I thought it would be a good idea for some of us (relatively) old-timers to share what (we think) makes our Clan special. Being a Lion person myself, I'll start with them, and leave other Clans to others. I originally wrote this up for the Winter Court IV RPG, then reposted it to FRO7, so some people might have seen it before, but now it's in a more public place, and people can add their own insights to it, for the Lion or other Clans. Apologies in advance for length, but hopefully it helps.
     
    ***
     
    Every Clan and Family has its own traditions and superstitions. The Lion, being deeply conservative, hold to theirs more tightly than most, and everyone should be aware of at least those of their own Family.

    Akodo

    In addition to the Ten Orders contained in Leadership, Akodo traditionally memorise the Five Measures, here paraphrased rather than quoted verbatim, as the originals are quite wordy:

    AIR: The General leads the army quickly and without hesitation; by this, he keeps his eyes forwards.
    EARTH: The General understands the ground on which he fights; by this, he ensures victory.
    FIRE: The General leads the army in accordance with the Imperial Law; by this, he lights the flame of justice in his soldiers' souls.
    WATER: The General understands the flow of battle; by this, he spares his own forces, and wears down those of his opponent.
    VOID: The General leads the army inexorably towards the moment of victory; it cannot be understood, only taken.

    It is quite common for Akodo to use the Five Measures, Seven Virtues (of Bushido, which I trust I don't need to repeat here), and Ten Orders, as quasi-meditative mantras.

    Ever since the Dawn of the Empire, when Akodo One-Eye rejected Shinsei by gripping his saya and saying, "This is my way", and was subsequently ordered by Hantei to show Shinsei more respect, all Akodo dojo contain a copy of the Tao... but it is left pristine and unopened.

    Besides their basic gempukku ceremony, Akodo undergo an additional ceremony, called Kyodai, in which they recite all of their ancestors back to Akodo One-Eye, and have their own names added to the list of honoured Akodo. Completion of this ceremony makes all Akodo formally brothers, and equals (resulting in Akodo frequently calling each other 'brother' or 'sister' in place of -san/-sama, irrespective of actual social position). As a result, it is strictly forbidden for Akodo to fight each other, or to cast any other Akodo into dishonour, and those who do so are punished as if they had murdered their family.

    In combat, Akodo doctrine builds on the concept of brotherhood - no Akodo will leave another Akodo to fight alone, and they take strength in fighting side by side with each other. Tactically, their strength isn't so much that they have excellent command and control structures - though they do have those - but that every Akodo knows what they are expected to do, and will do it unhesitatingly and unquestioningly. As such, they have a much greater capacity for manoeuvre and response in combat, whereas most Rokugani formations are prohibitively difficult to control once they have been committed, and communicating secondary orders is all but impossible.

    Prior to the dissolution of the family during the Clan Wars, all Akodo used to carry distinctive knives in addition to their daisho, that were given to them after Kyodai. That tradition ceased when the family was dissolved, and never reinstated after the naming of the Lying Darkness, and many were lost, so Akodo kaiken are now extremely valuable heirlooms, rather than being ubiquitous.

    Akodo have a reputation for arrogance - "No army led by an Akodo general has ever been defeated", and such - but their self-confidence stems from an acute awareness of their own failings. Lion victories are not studied in the Akodo War College, but only their defeats, to remind Akodo officers that victory is never assured, but always rests on the sword's edge.

    Ikoma

    Ikoma are, by tradition, the only Lion who are allowed to show emotion. Technically, the role of emoting for the rest of the Clan goes to the Omoidasu specifically rather than the Ikoma in general, but being brought up in that milieu tends to result in Ikoma, even the bushi, being much more open in their emotions than the other families of the Lion.

    In memory of a famous exchange between Ikoma and Akodo One-Eye (in which Akodo said he could beat Ikoma if they fought, and Ikoma replied, "You could, Son of the Sun. But I would take your other eye."), Ikoma are traditionally quicker to accept defeat than other Lion, but correspondingly quicker to find ways to make the victory hurt for their opponent. For example, where an outnumbered Matsu would tend to just keep swinging until she went down or her enemies did, an Ikoma might identify the enemy leader, and make sure to kill him, even if it guaranteed his own death (a good example of this mindset occurred during the Winter of Red Snow - the Ikoma realised Kyuden Ikoma had fallen, but hid a squad of men in the ruins until Chagatai rode past with his honour guard, then ambushed him). As all of the above illustrates, they also tend to be somewhat less strict in their interpretation of honour and the rules of combat than other Lion.

    Ikoma himself was extremely fond of sake and women. Some, though by no means all, Ikoma, choose to follow his example in this as in other things.

    There is a super-secret alliance between the Ikoma and Shosuro families to ensure the history of the Empire remains proper and pure- the Ikoma write what is appropriate, and the Shosuro make sure any evidence to the contrary disappears. Needless to say, this is kept secret from the rest of the Lion, and even from the bulk of the family. The Ikoma also have in their possession the uncensored histories, and the only complete copies of Leadership (the edition of the book in common circulation having been censored by various Emperors to avoid offending their sensibilities). Obviously, neither of these things are made public knowledge, either.

    Kitsu

    The Kitsu traditionally refuse to use their gifts in combat- it is Rokugani tradition for generals to invite shugenja to leave the field before engaging in battle, and Lion follow this tradition (both ways) more scrupulously than anyone else, with the possible exception of the Crane. While they are frequently used in an auxiliary capacity, healing and supporting troops off the battlefield itself, actual "combat shugenja" are very rare. In general, the Lion see it as dishonourable and impious to use the kami against others, rather than steel.

    Most Kitsu have no capacity to act as Sodan-Senzo, though they may or may not have some ability to call upon the Ancestors in a more limited fashion. True Sodan-Senzo are identified young, usually have no ability to control when and how the Ancestors speak to them, and rarely leave the Hall of Ancestors/Kitsu Tombs at all.

    Kitsu almost invariably dress and speak in a hyper-traditional manner, sometimes to the point of near-foreignness to contemporary Rokugani, as several of them speak as much to the dead as to the living, and even those who don't, carry the responsibility to act as holders and guardians of tradition among the Lion.

    Some, though not all, of the Kitsu descended directly from the First Five (the last Kitsu, who turned themselves human to mate with five of Akodo One-Eye's children) have golden eyes, and/or red/golden hair. Those who do are almost always Sodan-Senzo, but not all Sodan-Senzo have the hair or eyes. Either way, those descended from the First Five are almost never married outside the Clan, to anyone but the most important of people, as their power is linked to their bloodline, more so than even among other shugenja families.

    Kitsu have an extra-special, and even stronger, grudge against the Spider than other Lion, ever since Nintai - a Tsuno who was returned to his original state as a Kitsu (the storyline was incredibly stupid, honestly... I hate Ratling... but whatever, it happened) - was killed and skinned during the Night of Assassins. Now that the Night of Assassins is known to have been the work of the Spider, the Kitsu have a truly undying grudge against them.

    The Kitsu have, on occasion, produced some of the strongest shugenja in the Empire - Kitsu Taiko's connection to Fire was so strong that he was made Master of Fire in 766, being one of a handful of non-Phoenix ever to sit on the Elemental Council. Though their connection with the kami is generally unexceptional, as their 'magic' stems more from the Ancestors than the elemental spirits, they are - sometimes - extremely powerful.

    Despite being of generally impeccable honour, there have been a few less-than-perfect moments in the history of the Kitsu; most especially Kitsu Okura, who won the Jade Championship by questionable means, and subsequently gave his name to an Oni, triggering a war between the Unicorn and the corrupted Kitsu (plus other Lion), known as Storms over Shiro Matsu. A substantial number of Kitsu went ronin in protest when Okura's corruption became clear, and were readmitted after Okura was deposed, as the Noroko vassal family. The Noroko's prime holding is in Crab lands, and they focus on maintaining vigilance against corruption within the Lion, and they are generally treated with respect and deference by other Kitsu out of respect for their ancestors' stand on principle, but they have no Sodan-Senzo, as those with Sodan-Senzo blood considered it their duty to remain to tend the Hall and Tombs, regardless of the daimyo's actions. Okura no Oni herself was subsequently reverse-corrupted by Bushido, and is now the guardian of the gates of Tengoku, though she can't actually go inside.

    Matsu

    As everyone knows, Matsu are traditionally matriarchal. This tradition stems from Lady Matsu's refusal to marry Akodo One-Eye, on the basis that, "If I marry you, I will not be Matsu, but Akodo's wife." Given that their founder refused to give her name even for a living God, it is extremely rare for female Matsu to marry out of the family, even to other Lion. Male Matsu can marry in, or out, according to the respective social status of the Matsu and the other samurai; or the arrangements of the nakodo, if they're equal.

    Where Akodo generally make decisions based on careful consideration, and consultation of their texts, the Matsu follow a philosophy known as Seven Breaths: as Honour should be your guide in making any decision, and Honour is instinctive, it should take no longer than the space of seven breaths to make any decision. This is the basis of the Matsu's reputation for impulsiveness - as they see it, that reputation is a compliment, as it denotes their pursuit of Honour over practicality.

    Matsu are trained to be extremely physically tough and self-reliant - they undergo extreme tests of endurance and strength, and are strictly forbidden from assisting each other. Their gempukku, however, consists not of a physical test (as they're assumed to be capable of doing that already), but of sitting motionless for several days while food and water are laid out around them, and their friends and family beg them to eat and drink. Needless to say, if they do so, they fail. The point of the ceremony is that Matsu should be not only physically tough, but also capable of exercising great self-control - as much of an L5R stereotype as "The Angry Matsu" is, it actually takes quite a lot of provocation to make a proper Matsu angry in a social situation, or rather to cause them to show that anger openly. If a Matsu shows their anger outside combat, that Matsu is VERY angry, and it would generally be unwise to remain in the area any longer than necessary.

    Whether they show their emotion or not, Matsu commit fully to everything they do. This is partly a result of the Seven Breaths philosophy: believing that hesitation or reservation is tantamount to sin, and trusting completely that everything they do is the right thing to do, they throw themselves headlong at every challenge, generally preferring to prove their worth by overcoming obstacles with sheer force of will, strengthened by the righteousness of their cause, than by finding ways around them. Reaction to defeat, as rarely as they experience it, varies among Matsu - some barely register it, and continue pressing as if it had never happened; others take it a signal that their original cause can't possibly have been honourable (if it had been honourable, they would have succeeded, after all), and turn their attentions elsewhere.

    Because the Matsu were traditionally by far the largest family in the Empire, and individual families were also very large, Matsu generally care less about the particulars of their family than other Lion. Obviously, they care very deeply about their family as a whole, and insulting the Matsu is very likely to result in blood-feud at least, but they are less likely than any other Lion samurai to be able to list all their ancestors, or even to be able to name all their relatives three or four generations back. In general, they are more willing to assume that all their ancestors were heroes, and leave it at that (an assumption aided by the very short life expectancy of Matsu compared to samurai in general).

    There is a common misconception that Matsu make no time for themselves, or have no pastimes except training for combat. While it is true that Matsu train a great deal, and often enjoy it as much as anything else, it is untrue that they do nothing else - they recognise that cultivation of art is good for the soul, and they do care for their souls - what is true, as mentioned before, is that they do nothing in half-measures. If a Matsu is into ikebana, you can expect them to be REALLY into ikebana. Failure to commit fully, even to a personal hobby, is a reflection of Doubt, Doubt is a reflection of Fear, and Fear is a Sin.

    Miscellaneous

    Using the wakizashi in combat is considered borderline blasphemous by most Lion. Primarily, this is because all samurai should be ready to cleanse their honour (ie, commit seppuku) at their lord's order at a moment's notice, which requires that the wakizashi be kept razor sharp, and ritually pure. Using it to stab people goes against both goals. Deathseekers, however, are not expected to commit seppuku - as such, they can, and often do, use their wakizashi in combat. In essence, the wakizashi should only draw blood to cleanse one's honour; for most, that means the gutcut, for the Deathseekers, it means killing as many other people as possible.

    Staying on the subject of katana, Lion generally test their katana on condemned criminals, seeing it as a test of both the blade and the wielder to see how many they cut through. The record is six, set by Akodo Mayuko.

    Lion of all families are, obviously, much more dedicated to the worship of their ancestors than most samurai of other Clans. Superficially, they perform the same rituals of remembrance and reverence as everyone else (except the Kitsu, who are obviously special), but they do it much more regularly than others. All Lion households have a list of their ancestors at their shrine, even those who don't make a point of memorising said list, and the vast majority keep registers of the anniversaries of their most respected ancestors' deaths, which they commemorate dutifully.

    Despite their near-obsessive reverence for their ancestors, the majority of Lion are quite distant, emotionally, from their actual families. Lion children are almost always left in the care of ashigaru and ji-samurai, then sent to the dojo, where they eat and sleep, as well as train, apart from their birth family. Though most Lion could name their families to a few generations without hesitation, they rarely know their actual relatives.

    Among Leadership's tenets - one held dear by Lion of all families - is that, "the wise commander needs only the perception to identify the right subordinates for a task, and the intelligence to let them do it." Competent delegation of assignments is a highly valued skill among the Lion, even for the most self-assured of Matsu, and the misuse of assets under your command a swift route to losing the command of those assets.

    A frequent subject of debate among Lion is the appropriate role of the Book of Sun Tao. While Leadership is obviously the best thing since steamed rice, and De Bellis Yoditorum has its place (not comparable to Leadership, but useful for fighting Yodotai), Sun Tao is less clear. His tactical insights are generally accepted as worthwhile - if only as restatements and elaborations of the same principles laid down by Akodo - but he was, ultimately, just a ronin, and Lion generally don't like ronin at all (excepting ronin-who-are-actually-Lion, like half the Akodo family during their dissolution, the Noroko prior to their reacceptance, and so on), so accepting that a ronin could have written a valuable treatise on strategy is problematic for the premier strategy Clan. It is ultimately a subject for each samurai to decide for themselves, but it is an ongoing issue within the Lion Clan, especially the Akodo family.

    Quotes

    Every Clan has some fantastic stories and characters in its history. This is just a small collection of some of my favourites for the Lion, in no particular order. It occurs to me that most of them are Matsu, but that's probably unsurprising, since they're the most stereotypically 'heroic' of the Lion Families. I am leaving Akodo's Leadership aside here, as it's kind of its own thing, but I strongly recommend reading up on Leadership, too.

    "Age slows only those who are afraid to die." - Matsu Ketsui

    Matsu Ketsui was a brash young Matsu, who managed to sufficiently antagonise Ikoma Tsanuri (who appears later in this list) by her impetuosity for Tsanuri to arrange a marriage for Ketsui with a peace-loving Phoenix shugenja. Ketsui naturally laughed off the Phoenix, and kept doing her thing. Rising through the ranks rapidly thanks to her skill, strength, and ferocity, she became Matsu Daimyo at a very young age (for the position), and was forced to mature quickly into the position, as she guided the family through incessant wars against the Lying Darkness, against the Crane, against the Dragon, against the Unicorn (several times), and against internal corruption. As she matured, she came to increasingly appreciate the wisdom, patience, and humility, of her Phoenix husband, and cared for him more and more, bearing him three children. One of these became Clan Champion, and another died returning the remains of Akodo One-Eye to the Lion. Even as she matured, however, she lost none of her badassery, which extended to killing a Kenshinzen in a duel within two weeks of giving birth. She outlived several Champions, but refused the position each time, preferring to guide her family. In the end, she was killed by her daughter (who had fallen to the Lying Darkness), but she was already past sixty by then, and her awesomeness lived on.

    "If you must ask what honour is, you will never know." - Ikoma Tsanuri

    Ikoma Tsanuri was (Akodo) Toturi's lieutenant through the Clan Wars, and was witness in that capacity to most of the notable events of that war, including Matsu Tsuko's seppuku. This experience led her to distrust the other Clans, believing that only the strength and honour of the Lion could adequately protect the Empire, a philosophy she pursued as champion of the Clan. As unwitting part of a plot by the Lying Darkness, she led an army to the lands of the Crab, who deployed an army against her - but rather than fighting, the two commanders conferred, and came to terms. Specifically, Tsanuri led her army against the Shadowlands instead, upon hearing that the Emperor had gone to Volturnum, and she personally led her honour guard against Akuma no Oni, preventing it from attacking the Emperor. Though she fell in the combat, the Emperor was saved. A torii arch was erected at the site where she fell, along with her enshrined katana, and the spot remains one of only four places within the Shadowlands themselves that are untouched by the Taint (the others being Shiro Hiruma (at good times), Shinsei's Last Hope, and Amaterasu's Furnace).

    "See, fallen hero -
    Even the Darkness gives pause -
    How a Lion dies."
    - Matsu Domotai

    Matsu Domotai was one of the children of Matsu Ketsui. Taken captive by the Tsuno during a raid on the Kitsu Tombs, he was finally rescued by his sister (the one who later killed Ketsui, but she wasn't corrupted at this point). In the same raid, however, the Tsuno also claimed the bones of Akodo One-Eye. The Dark Oracle of Water planned to use these as a lure to gain a Lion follower, to further his plans. When he offered the trade, the Lion had little choice but to except, though it was an obvious trap, and Matsu Domotai volunteered to be the 'sacrifice' to the Dark Oracle. The Lion claimed the bones, but before he could be forced to swear fealty to the Dark Oracle, Domotai recited the above death haiku, and committed seppuku. This demonstration of honour sufficed to prevent the Dark Oracle from completing his trap, thereby allowing the Lion to secure the bones properly.

    "Why feint when you can just kill him?" - Matsu Takeko

    Compared to the other people quoted here, Takeko is a relatively unimportant figure - she was involved in the Lion/Unicorn wars, and the Lion/Mantis skirmishing in Toshi Ranbo afterwards, then again in the multiple wars that followed Iweko's ascension, but never achieved great prominence or rank. That quote, however, is just so perfectly exemplary of the Matsu philosophy that I had no choice but to include it.

    Of course, there are plenty of other excellent quotes out there - check flavour text on the Oracle of the Void, biographies on the L5R wiki, and the fiction archives at Kaze no Shiro - and you can always make up your own and attribute them to your glorious but hitherto unknown ancestors. As the Ikoma say, it is no wonder the Lion are so reverent of their ancestors, when each samurai has more heroes in his own descent than the other Clans can count as their own at all. Those are just some of the ones that have always stuck with me as being perfectly 'Lion'. Enjoy!
  7. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from ultimategamersportal in [RPG] Honour   
    Honour Is Stronger Than Steel.
     
    It's one of the first lines people new to L5R usually hear, and is, I think, one of the reasons for its attraction. It's not just that you get to be a magical samurai, and magical samurai are cool; it's that the moral code of the setting actually has meaning. Not only are the Heavens incontestably real, but Bushido itself can lend its strength to those who follow it, giving them the power to overcome impossible odds, and even push back against Jigoku (Matsu Domotai, Ikoma Tsanuri, Okura no Oni, etc).
     
    Unfortunately, this is rarely represented well in the RPG mechanics. The Honour Table is arbitrary and flawed, a purely numerical scale encourages a view of Honour as just another character stat (not helped by things like the Ikoma Lion's Shadow school, which actively trade Honour for mechanical advantage), the benefits provided by Honour create deeply weird effects (Doji Courtiers being unafraid of Oni), Honour Rolls are either too powerful or irrelevant, Lore: Bushido rolls have a weirdly high TN, and the different perspectives on Bushido in each Clan are entirely unrepresented. In short, Honour needs to be fixed.
     
    I have said before, and will say again, that I am not an expert on mechanics, and if someone else has a better idea, I'm all for it. As an initial stab at an idea, though, and food for thought, here we go:
     
    ***
     
    Guiding Principles:
     
    1) There should be some active benefit for being honourable.
     
    2) There should always be some temptation not to be honourable.
     
    3) Honour is simultaneously objective (it was defined by Akodo, and is therefore incontestable) and subjective (everyone has a different idea of what it means to be honourable).
     
    4) Honour is multi-faceted, and a samurai ought to exemplify all of its aspects, not just one or two.
     
    5) The more honourable you are, the higher the bar is set.
     
    My initial preference would be not to track Honour at all, to rework every mechanic that references Honour to something else appropriate, and let the GM give bonuses to rolls as appropriate. That, however, is heavily GM-dependent, and generally creates a whole lot of other issues, so is best avoided.
     
    With that in mind, the first step is to break Bushido down into its component Virtue: Compassion, Courage, Courtesy, Duty, Honesty, Honour, and Sincerity. Honour is distinct from the others, as it concerns itself with an internal sense of integrity, rather than obligations to other people. Rather than penalties and bonuses from actions being applied to one's "Honour Rank" directly, therefore, they would be applied to the relevant Virtue. This immediately makes it easier to resolve apparent contradictions: falsely claiming to have committed some indiscretion in order to cover for your lord would prompt a loss in Honesty, but a gain in Duty.
     
    I will not attempt to provide a comprehensive list of actions that might prompt gains/losses, but dividing the Tenets up should make it fairly self-evident whether an action is good, or bad, and for which Virtues; and the principle of diminishing returns should prevail. The particulars of any such list are not nearly as important as reforming the system as a whole.
     
    Honour is separate from the other six: your Honour is equal to the total of your ranks in your three lowest Virtues- Yoritomo Sumgai might be unsurpassed in Courage, but if he doesn't adhere to the code as a whole, his Honour will still be appropriately low. Honour Ranks are divided into tiers- x < 10, 10 < x < 20, and 20 < x (0 being the absolute minimum, and 30 being the maximum).
     
    Any samurai can attempt to determine the Honour Rank (ie, tier) of any other samurai with a roll of Lore: Bushido/Awareness, at a TN of 15, and this roll would mostly be made automatically upon meeting a new samurai, along with Lore: Heraldry. Further details - precise Honour total, totals of particular Virtues, etc. - can be learned with Raises, but a roll over 15 will always reveal a samurai's Honour Rank, even if it fails due to Raises (note that this would not reveal which three Virtues were contributing to the Honour Rank). In many cases, the additional information will be of more interest to an interlocutor than the Honour Rank - a Scorpion lord, for instance, is unlikely to care particularly about the Honour Rank of the samurai under them, as long as they have strong Duty - but Honour Rank is always the first thing learned.
     
    Each Virtue also provides benefits, irrespective of total Honour Rank:
     
    Compassion: Bonus to rolls dealing with those of lower Status
    Courage: Bonus to resisting Fear/Intimidation
    Courtesy: Bonus to 'defensive' social rolls
    Duty: Bonus to resisting penalties while in direct service to Lord/Clan
    Honesty: Bonus to rolls to persuade (of facts)
    Sincerity: Bonus to rolls to persuade (of suggestions)
     
    (Here seems as good a place as any to note that, per Leadership, Sincerity means "acting in accordance with your words", not "sounding convincing" - the bonus to persuasion rolls stems from the interlocutor's implicit confidence that you are willing to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak, rather than from your manner of speaking.)
     
    Honour itself provides no inherent benefit, except that anyone who matters will find out what level it's at with relative ease, and will act accordingly.
     
    Again, I'm not going to suggest what kind or scale of bonus should be provided in each case, except that it should scale with the samurai's level of adherence to the Tenet.
     
    HOWEVER
     
    Every time a samurai incurs a loss in any Virtue, the samurai must make a Lore: Bushido/Void roll, against a TN of their own current Honour total (ie, harder for high-Honour people). With a success, the samurai loses the benefit associated with that Virtue for [a period of time appropriate to the severity of the loss, and the time-scale of the campaign], but suffers no other penalties. With a failure, the samurai loses all benefits provided by any of their Virtues for [appropriate time period]. In cases where an action incurs both a loss and a gain, success allows the samurai to retain all their bonuses, while failure means losing the benefit only of the Virtue(s) in which loss was incurred.
     
    (I'm not wholly comfortable with using Void- it seems the most appropriate statistic to use, but only by default, and it does seem to give undue privilege to schools/builds that already use Void, which I'd rather avoid.)
     
    Thus, those with high Honour receive a range of benefits appropriate to their own strengths, and are readily identified as exemplars for others to follow- but also have considerably more to lose from misconduct. A virtuous Matsu might be able to compensate to some extent for her inexperience in court by simple force of honour, but will always be more constrained in the range of available options, risks losing her 'protection' in a single misstep off the path of virtue, and is relatively easily manipulated. An unscrupulous Yasuki might not receive the same reflexive respect, but has a much wider range of options that can be taken with little/no penalty; a Shosuro might be seen (and treated) as scum by the majority of those he encounters, but be nigh-unstoppable in service to his Clan.
     
    ***
     
    I am aware that this doesn't address all the issues with Honour- in the absence of a full chart of gains and losses, application of gains and losses is going to be arbitrary, and the Tenets of Bushido are still tracked numerically, which I'd rather avoid, but can see no viable alternative to, if they're going to have any kind of defined effect. Still, hopefully it provides at least some food for thought. Ideas for improvement? 
  8. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Laurence J Sinclair in [RPG] Re-imagining the L5R RPG - What is necessary?   
    Credit to your instincts! I looked up the original source for that point (Secrets of the Lion, p. 5) - to be sure, and it clarifies that the superstition is, specifically, that a peasant crossing your path while you're riding can make your horse break your legs, which means it's only an issue while mounted. Granted, there are still issues - when riding through city streets, for instance - but it's at least not an issue indoors.
     
    Also, there is no shortage of things within the setting that make little to no sense, and/or are mutually contradictory. Whether or not this custom is plausible, it does at least serve its intended purpose, of illustrating the ways in which the Lion are unpleasant to the peasantry.
  9. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Shosuro in LOF5R setting Europeans   
    ... Are you saying that Japanese society did not change dramatically as a result of Commodore Perry and the black ships? I certainly agree with you that it could be done, and it could potentially be quite interesting (it isn't my thing, but I can see the attraction), but it would still count as changing the setting quite radically, I think.
  10. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Shosuro in LOF5R setting Europeans   
    You can do what you want in your own setting. Reintroducing quasi-Europeans into Rokugan proper would be difficult to impossible, though- Rokugani society in general is incredibly xenophobic, and that goes double for the people who introduced gunpowder and fought them at White Stag. Trade might be just about possible with the Mantis and/or Tortoise Clans, but it would have to be on a very small scale, and outside Rokugan proper.  For quasi-Europeans to be an accepted part of the main setting, the society itself would have to change dramatically.
     
    At least, that's the case in the canon setting. Again, you can do what you want with it in your own games!
  11. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Robin Graves in L5R CCG - Break it down for me please   
    As a person who doesn't play any game except L5R, I may not be the best person to explain this, but the very basic outline is as follows:
     
    You have two decks: Dynasty (mostly Holdings (which allow you to buy things, and sometimes have special abilities) and Personalities (which are necessary to do anything, though 'faceless' decks have on occasion been viable) and Fate (Attachments and action cards). Some personalities and attachments have abilities, some only contribute Force (and/or Chi- Chi doesn't do anything on its own, but several action types key off it). The Dynasty deck is cycled through four Provinces, from which Dynasty cards are bought with gold from Holdings (everyone starts with one Clan-specific special holding, called the Stronghold). There are four ways of winning:
     
    1) Honour- reach 40 Honour before your opponent. This generally means playing as many uncontested honour-gaining actions as possible, though some Honour decks depend to greater or lesser extents on in-battle gains, and preventing the other player from reaching their victory condition first. Several Clans have had access to Honour decks of one kind or another throughout the game's history.
     
    2) Dishonour- push your opponent to -20 Honour. These decks are generally slower (though there is usually some degree of choice to focus on explosive but combo-dependent honour-losses, or smaller but more reliable losses), and often play markedly differently depending on their opponent's deck or Clan of choice. Only a few Clans have access to dishonour deck-types at any one time- it used to be pretty much only the Scorpion, but AEG made efforts to allow other Clans to play with it towards the end of their tenure of the IP.
     
    3) Enlightenment- put all five Rings into play. Rings are special action cards, which can be played and discarded like any other for a one-off effect, or put into play if certain conditions (which change from edition to edition) are met, allowing their effect to be repeated. Enlightenment decks rely extremely heavily on Fate deck manipulation and card draw, to the point of being more or less completely unworkable without it. Traditionally, Enlightenment has been the hardest, and least-played, deck-type- only the Dragon Clan have ever really specialised in it, though it has been more or less possible for other Clan and deck-types at various times.
     
    4) Military- destroy all 4 of your opponent's Provinces. Every Clan has always had more or less viable military options, and it has always been the core of the game. The Battle phase is quite complicated - probably too much so for this kind of brief overview - but the idea is basically to have more Force left unbowed (untapped?) at the end of the battle than your opponent. Since destroying Provinces reduces the opponent's ability to cycle through their Dynasty deck, as well as getting the Military player closer to their victory condition, it has usually been the most effective, and by far the most played, of all deck types, though other victory conditions have always been viable in one form or another.
     
    I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for, and going into more detail risks getting quite complex quite quickly (it's not an excessively difficult game, just very difficult to explain without playing simultaneously), so I'll leave it there for now. Ask away if you have any other questions, and/or if I've completely missed the mark!
  12. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Bullroarer Took in L5R CCG - Break it down for me please   
    As a person who doesn't play any game except L5R, I may not be the best person to explain this, but the very basic outline is as follows:
     
    You have two decks: Dynasty (mostly Holdings (which allow you to buy things, and sometimes have special abilities) and Personalities (which are necessary to do anything, though 'faceless' decks have on occasion been viable) and Fate (Attachments and action cards). Some personalities and attachments have abilities, some only contribute Force (and/or Chi- Chi doesn't do anything on its own, but several action types key off it). The Dynasty deck is cycled through four Provinces, from which Dynasty cards are bought with gold from Holdings (everyone starts with one Clan-specific special holding, called the Stronghold). There are four ways of winning:
     
    1) Honour- reach 40 Honour before your opponent. This generally means playing as many uncontested honour-gaining actions as possible, though some Honour decks depend to greater or lesser extents on in-battle gains, and preventing the other player from reaching their victory condition first. Several Clans have had access to Honour decks of one kind or another throughout the game's history.
     
    2) Dishonour- push your opponent to -20 Honour. These decks are generally slower (though there is usually some degree of choice to focus on explosive but combo-dependent honour-losses, or smaller but more reliable losses), and often play markedly differently depending on their opponent's deck or Clan of choice. Only a few Clans have access to dishonour deck-types at any one time- it used to be pretty much only the Scorpion, but AEG made efforts to allow other Clans to play with it towards the end of their tenure of the IP.
     
    3) Enlightenment- put all five Rings into play. Rings are special action cards, which can be played and discarded like any other for a one-off effect, or put into play if certain conditions (which change from edition to edition) are met, allowing their effect to be repeated. Enlightenment decks rely extremely heavily on Fate deck manipulation and card draw, to the point of being more or less completely unworkable without it. Traditionally, Enlightenment has been the hardest, and least-played, deck-type- only the Dragon Clan have ever really specialised in it, though it has been more or less possible for other Clan and deck-types at various times.
     
    4) Military- destroy all 4 of your opponent's Provinces. Every Clan has always had more or less viable military options, and it has always been the core of the game. The Battle phase is quite complicated - probably too much so for this kind of brief overview - but the idea is basically to have more Force left unbowed (untapped?) at the end of the battle than your opponent. Since destroying Provinces reduces the opponent's ability to cycle through their Dynasty deck, as well as getting the Military player closer to their victory condition, it has usually been the most effective, and by far the most played, of all deck types, though other victory conditions have always been viable in one form or another.
     
    I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for, and going into more detail risks getting quite complex quite quickly (it's not an excessively difficult game, just very difficult to explain without playing simultaneously), so I'll leave it there for now. Ask away if you have any other questions, and/or if I've completely missed the mark!
  13. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Manchu in Kappa in L5R   
    Yes, the canon storylines are often deeply flawed, for a variety of reasons (influence of often-nonsensical tournament prizes, having multiple writers, changing writers before storylines are neatly closed off, lack of payment of said volunteer writers, etc. etc.). But that problem itself is not at all fixed by increasing the prevalence of the supernatural in the canon stories, whereas it is easily enough addressed in role-playing, just by doing a better job of telling those stories (whether with supernatural elements, or without). Ideally, what makes human interactions in L5R compelling is not their familiarity from everyday life (or cheap soap operas, if you prefer); what makes them compelling is that their culture, society, and entire worldview is utterly different from our own... and yet they are still human, and so have no choice but to respond to those circumstances as such. I'm not going to claim to unironically like the way the canon story of L5R has handled human-centred storytelling, but I will say that I absolutely love the potential that it has, and pretty much every memorable moment from my experience of the RPG has been about human interactions, not dealing with weirdo spirits and other supernatural creatures.
     
    I don't really want to argue this, because fundamentally it comes down to personal preference, and, as I said in the previous post, one of the beautiful things about the RPG is that everyone involved in this discussion can get what they want from it (as long as they have a similarly-inclined group). But there seemed to be some slight misunderstanding of my position, no doubt due to my own lack of clarity, so it seems worthwhile clearing that up.
  14. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from AtoMaki in Kappa in L5R   
    Yes, the canon storylines are often deeply flawed, for a variety of reasons (influence of often-nonsensical tournament prizes, having multiple writers, changing writers before storylines are neatly closed off, lack of payment of said volunteer writers, etc. etc.). But that problem itself is not at all fixed by increasing the prevalence of the supernatural in the canon stories, whereas it is easily enough addressed in role-playing, just by doing a better job of telling those stories (whether with supernatural elements, or without). Ideally, what makes human interactions in L5R compelling is not their familiarity from everyday life (or cheap soap operas, if you prefer); what makes them compelling is that their culture, society, and entire worldview is utterly different from our own... and yet they are still human, and so have no choice but to respond to those circumstances as such. I'm not going to claim to unironically like the way the canon story of L5R has handled human-centred storytelling, but I will say that I absolutely love the potential that it has, and pretty much every memorable moment from my experience of the RPG has been about human interactions, not dealing with weirdo spirits and other supernatural creatures.
     
    I don't really want to argue this, because fundamentally it comes down to personal preference, and, as I said in the previous post, one of the beautiful things about the RPG is that everyone involved in this discussion can get what they want from it (as long as they have a similarly-inclined group). But there seemed to be some slight misunderstanding of my position, no doubt due to my own lack of clarity, so it seems worthwhile clearing that up.
  15. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Doji Satevis in [RPG] What Sorts of Stories do you Tell with the Clans?   
    Welcome back, Endwaar! Excessively long posts about why we love Rokugan are the best (and I mean that sincerely- for an outsider looking in, few things can provide more incentive to get involved in a setting or activity than seeing just how enthusiastic people already are about it, even if it can be a little daunting). Anyway, my post will be substantially shorter than yours, but here goes:
     
    (Disclaimer: All opinions below are entirely subjective. I do not claim them as superior to anyone else's, nor am I trying to insult anyone else's favoured Clans. When it comes to fictional settings, all opinions are equally valid, and all love for any aspect of the setting, however different it may be from my own, is to be encouraged. In the spirit of the thread, I am only stating what I, personally, think about them.)
     
    Crab
    I frankly find them boring. That isn't entirely the fault of the Clan themselves- as you say, delving into their truly horrific levels of PTSD can be interesting, and any Clan that comes up with a term like maru has some serious issues to be explored. The fact that the Crab themselves recognise this, with the Kuni acting as 'counsellors' for people who go off the deep end, does raise potential. Unfortunately, my strongest impression of the Crab runs along the lines of, "Hold this club. Stand on this wall. Club everything that comes over it until you die, and hope you don't come back." For people who like treating L5R as a combat-RPG with samurai aesthetics, the Crab are ideal. I am not one of those people, so I don't particularly like the Crab.
     
    Crane
    I like the Crane. Whether the Kakita striving for perfection of their chosen art in the face of a messy and stubbornly imperfect world, the Doji trying to leverage all their cultural cachet and eloquence to counterbalance the sheer weight of arms their enemies can bring to bear, the Asahina doing their best to create at least some little pocket of peace and harmony as a shelter for the soul against the rage and discordance of the outside world, or the Daidoji simply keeping everyone else alive, all the Families of the Crane have distinctive, and equally compelling, stories to tell. In large part, the most interesting aspect of the Crane for me is their conviction that beauty - whether defined as aesthetic value, proximity to perfection, or peace and harmony - has genuine value in the world, and that it is worth working towards and protecting, however hopelessly idealistic that might seem to everyone else. That is a story worth telling.
     
    Dragon
    In theory, they should be interesting. The monks add a distinctive dash of flavour to the setting, the Mirumoto are cool (more for their devotion to their own unique traditions of spirituality and service to their monks and shugenja than for their dual-wielding), the Kitsuki provide a constant source of tension with traditional forms of justice in Rokugan, and the Tamori provide a very different vision of what shugenja can be. All the same, I find little within them compelling enough to make me ever want to play one, or tell a story about them. I am grateful for their presence in the setting, and they certainly can make other stories more interesting by acting as foils, but in themselves, I just can't get excited about them.
     
    Lion
    Clearly the greatest Clan. What more need be said? I have already spoken at some length in various places about why I find the Lion so compelling, so to restate more briefly- no other Clan in Rokugan can provide the tension between ideal and reality that the Lion do. The combination of hyper-awareness of their obligations, impossibly high standards, and knowledge of their own imperfections, makes for a touchingly human story. That they often try to compensate for their own imperfections through arrogance, belligerence, and taking solace in the knowledge that others can only fall further from the ideal than they do themselves, doesn't detract from - and only draws attention to - their own deep fragility as people. The most important thing is to remember that their militarism stems from their tradition, devotion, and insecurity, rather than being a goal in and of itself. Love 'em.
     
    Mantis
    I hate the Yoritomo. I find virtually no redeeming features in them, nor any motivation to play them. The Tsuruchi are interesting, for all the reasons Endwaar described- and all the more so for the fact that they have subsequently faced an increasing loss of identity, with more and more Tsuruchi keeping their swords unbroken, accepting the name of samurai, and adhering (or at least paying lip-service to) Bushido. That is a deep threat to their core identity, and is much more interesting as a story than "pew pew pew our archers are the best" (even if I find their continued existence more than a little dubious- with the two most ruthless Clans as blood-enemies, isolated from any form of useful support, they shouldn't have lasted more than a year or two after the Crane and Emerald Champion withdrew their support). The Moshi are much more interesting to me following the fall of Amaterasu- torn between keeping the glory of Lady Sun shining, and trying to find a new calling against centuries of tradition, deeply conservative and 'honourable' in the way that the other Mantis are absolutely not, they occupy a no-man's-land, and finding one's place is always a good story. The Kitsune are not actively objectionable, but I don't find them particularly interesting, either.
     
    Phoenix
    Again like the Crane and the Lion, we have a faction that remains deeply devoted to an ideal despite all circumstances militating (literally) against it. The twin tragedies of the Isawa (blessed with knowledge beyond measure, lacking only the wisdom of how to use it) and the Shiba (more devoted than their masters deserve, always the first to suffer the consequences and the ones responsible for cleaning up the mess) are engaging enough, if they can be treated effectively. Sadly, as with the Crab, the Phoenix often seem to fall into the trap of either being little more than super-magi, or being sidelined into irrelevance until their knowledge becomes useful as a deus ex machina. More damningly, the Phoenix often seem to lack - to me, at least - the core vulnerability of the Lion, or the forlorn hopefulness of the Crane, which makes them seem less human, and less interesting. At their best, the Phoenix can provide a wonderful storytelling vehicle. Most of the time, sadly, the Lion and/or Crane can do the same thing better.
     
    Scorpion
    I don't like them. Their best characters (Yojiro!) are those who run against what it means to be Scorpion, and that says nothing good about the Clan overall. More generally, I don't like the 'antihero working in the shadows because nobody else will, and doing terrible things because they have no choice' schtick wherever it appears. Can there be interesting Scorpion characters? Yes. Can interesting stories be told of and/or among the Scorpion? Of course. I just don't like them myself.
     
    Spider
    Not touching this with a barge-pole.
     
    Unicorn
    I love Central Asia. My Masters was in Central Eurasian Studies, I speak good Turkish, Kazakh, and Uzbek, and passable Mongolian. On paper, I should be all over the Unicorn. The problem is that the classic Central Asian stories (Manas, Alpamys Batyr, Korgol, etc.) are fundamentally not suited to Rokugan, and Rokugani narrative sensibilities don't transfer at all well to Central Asia, either. The best Unicorn stories, to me, are those that are either told entirely outside Rokugan (so, steppe epics), or among the less-'barbarian' Unicorn. The Utaku, in particular, occupy a place very similar to the Moshi within the Mantis- honourable, conservative, more at home among wider society than as part of their own Clan, yet loyal to their Clan of outsiders, and determinedly nonconformist - and as such provide room for interesting stories to be told there, as well.
     
    Minor Clans
    I am largely apathetic to the Minor Clans, excepting the Monkey, whom I strongly dislike. That's probably all that needs to be said.
  16. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Mirumoto Saito in [RPG] Honour   
    Honour Is Stronger Than Steel.
     
    It's one of the first lines people new to L5R usually hear, and is, I think, one of the reasons for its attraction. It's not just that you get to be a magical samurai, and magical samurai are cool; it's that the moral code of the setting actually has meaning. Not only are the Heavens incontestably real, but Bushido itself can lend its strength to those who follow it, giving them the power to overcome impossible odds, and even push back against Jigoku (Matsu Domotai, Ikoma Tsanuri, Okura no Oni, etc).
     
    Unfortunately, this is rarely represented well in the RPG mechanics. The Honour Table is arbitrary and flawed, a purely numerical scale encourages a view of Honour as just another character stat (not helped by things like the Ikoma Lion's Shadow school, which actively trade Honour for mechanical advantage), the benefits provided by Honour create deeply weird effects (Doji Courtiers being unafraid of Oni), Honour Rolls are either too powerful or irrelevant, Lore: Bushido rolls have a weirdly high TN, and the different perspectives on Bushido in each Clan are entirely unrepresented. In short, Honour needs to be fixed.
     
    I have said before, and will say again, that I am not an expert on mechanics, and if someone else has a better idea, I'm all for it. As an initial stab at an idea, though, and food for thought, here we go:
     
    ***
     
    Guiding Principles:
     
    1) There should be some active benefit for being honourable.
     
    2) There should always be some temptation not to be honourable.
     
    3) Honour is simultaneously objective (it was defined by Akodo, and is therefore incontestable) and subjective (everyone has a different idea of what it means to be honourable).
     
    4) Honour is multi-faceted, and a samurai ought to exemplify all of its aspects, not just one or two.
     
    5) The more honourable you are, the higher the bar is set.
     
    My initial preference would be not to track Honour at all, to rework every mechanic that references Honour to something else appropriate, and let the GM give bonuses to rolls as appropriate. That, however, is heavily GM-dependent, and generally creates a whole lot of other issues, so is best avoided.
     
    With that in mind, the first step is to break Bushido down into its component Virtue: Compassion, Courage, Courtesy, Duty, Honesty, Honour, and Sincerity. Honour is distinct from the others, as it concerns itself with an internal sense of integrity, rather than obligations to other people. Rather than penalties and bonuses from actions being applied to one's "Honour Rank" directly, therefore, they would be applied to the relevant Virtue. This immediately makes it easier to resolve apparent contradictions: falsely claiming to have committed some indiscretion in order to cover for your lord would prompt a loss in Honesty, but a gain in Duty.
     
    I will not attempt to provide a comprehensive list of actions that might prompt gains/losses, but dividing the Tenets up should make it fairly self-evident whether an action is good, or bad, and for which Virtues; and the principle of diminishing returns should prevail. The particulars of any such list are not nearly as important as reforming the system as a whole.
     
    Honour is separate from the other six: your Honour is equal to the total of your ranks in your three lowest Virtues- Yoritomo Sumgai might be unsurpassed in Courage, but if he doesn't adhere to the code as a whole, his Honour will still be appropriately low. Honour Ranks are divided into tiers- x < 10, 10 < x < 20, and 20 < x (0 being the absolute minimum, and 30 being the maximum).
     
    Any samurai can attempt to determine the Honour Rank (ie, tier) of any other samurai with a roll of Lore: Bushido/Awareness, at a TN of 15, and this roll would mostly be made automatically upon meeting a new samurai, along with Lore: Heraldry. Further details - precise Honour total, totals of particular Virtues, etc. - can be learned with Raises, but a roll over 15 will always reveal a samurai's Honour Rank, even if it fails due to Raises (note that this would not reveal which three Virtues were contributing to the Honour Rank). In many cases, the additional information will be of more interest to an interlocutor than the Honour Rank - a Scorpion lord, for instance, is unlikely to care particularly about the Honour Rank of the samurai under them, as long as they have strong Duty - but Honour Rank is always the first thing learned.
     
    Each Virtue also provides benefits, irrespective of total Honour Rank:
     
    Compassion: Bonus to rolls dealing with those of lower Status
    Courage: Bonus to resisting Fear/Intimidation
    Courtesy: Bonus to 'defensive' social rolls
    Duty: Bonus to resisting penalties while in direct service to Lord/Clan
    Honesty: Bonus to rolls to persuade (of facts)
    Sincerity: Bonus to rolls to persuade (of suggestions)
     
    (Here seems as good a place as any to note that, per Leadership, Sincerity means "acting in accordance with your words", not "sounding convincing" - the bonus to persuasion rolls stems from the interlocutor's implicit confidence that you are willing to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak, rather than from your manner of speaking.)
     
    Honour itself provides no inherent benefit, except that anyone who matters will find out what level it's at with relative ease, and will act accordingly.
     
    Again, I'm not going to suggest what kind or scale of bonus should be provided in each case, except that it should scale with the samurai's level of adherence to the Tenet.
     
    HOWEVER
     
    Every time a samurai incurs a loss in any Virtue, the samurai must make a Lore: Bushido/Void roll, against a TN of their own current Honour total (ie, harder for high-Honour people). With a success, the samurai loses the benefit associated with that Virtue for [a period of time appropriate to the severity of the loss, and the time-scale of the campaign], but suffers no other penalties. With a failure, the samurai loses all benefits provided by any of their Virtues for [appropriate time period]. In cases where an action incurs both a loss and a gain, success allows the samurai to retain all their bonuses, while failure means losing the benefit only of the Virtue(s) in which loss was incurred.
     
    (I'm not wholly comfortable with using Void- it seems the most appropriate statistic to use, but only by default, and it does seem to give undue privilege to schools/builds that already use Void, which I'd rather avoid.)
     
    Thus, those with high Honour receive a range of benefits appropriate to their own strengths, and are readily identified as exemplars for others to follow- but also have considerably more to lose from misconduct. A virtuous Matsu might be able to compensate to some extent for her inexperience in court by simple force of honour, but will always be more constrained in the range of available options, risks losing her 'protection' in a single misstep off the path of virtue, and is relatively easily manipulated. An unscrupulous Yasuki might not receive the same reflexive respect, but has a much wider range of options that can be taken with little/no penalty; a Shosuro might be seen (and treated) as scum by the majority of those he encounters, but be nigh-unstoppable in service to his Clan.
     
    ***
     
    I am aware that this doesn't address all the issues with Honour- in the absence of a full chart of gains and losses, application of gains and losses is going to be arbitrary, and the Tenets of Bushido are still tracked numerically, which I'd rather avoid, but can see no viable alternative to, if they're going to have any kind of defined effect. Still, hopefully it provides at least some food for thought. Ideas for improvement? 
  17. Like
    Idanthyrsus reacted to Tonbo Karasu in [RPG] Honour   
    The point that Bushido is the Way of the Warrior and that there are other ways suddenly reminded me of the way Pendragon personality traits and religions worked.
    Since Idanthyrus has said that they are not familiar with other games, I'll try to explain it easily here.
     
    Pendragon has 26 opposed traits in 13 pairs, like Chaste - Lustful,  Just - Arbitrary etc.  They always sum to 20, and if one goes down, the other goes up.
    The thing is, there are 6 of them which are 'Chivalry' and various other sets of 6 which are described as Religious codes.  If you can keep the level of the Religious traits above a certain number, you get a Religious Bonus, which is always on.  If you keep the sum of the Chivalrous traits above a certain number, you get a Chivlary Bonus, also always on.
     
    How does this relate to L5R?
    It would be possible to distinguish between Clans by giving them a set of favoured tenets, and also distinguish between classes by having Way of the Warrior, Way of the Courtier etc bonuses.  It could even incorporate the Spiritual purity from the Magical Redesign thread.  Use the 8 virtues of Bushido, rather than 7.  This means that you can distinguish between the different approaches of the clans, while still applying the same bonuses and penalties for different actions.
     
    Suggestions:
    Bushi: Courage, Honour
    Courtier:  Sincerity, Loyalty
    Shugenja: Righteousness, Self-control
    Monk: Respect, Benevolence
     
    Crab:  Courage, Loyalty
    Crane: Respect, Sincerity
    Dragon: Self-control, Benevolence
    Lion:  Courage, Honour
    Mantis:  Righteousness, Courage
    Phoenix: Righteousness, Benevolence
    Scorpion: Loyalty, Respect
    Spider: Negative Self-Control, something else
    Unicorn: Benevolence, something else
     
    This obviously needs some work, and it may be that 3 is better than 2
     
    You could even do something clever with Shourido, Fudo, etc
  18. Like
    Idanthyrsus reacted to Tonbo Karasu in [RPG] Honour   
    It just occurred to me that I actually have a resource for allocating most of the clans their favoured tenets: the 2nd ed Honour table.
     
    That would mean:
     
    Crab:  Yu (Heroic Courage), Chugo (Duty and Loyalty), Jisei (Self-control)
    Crane:  Gi (Honesty and Justice), Rei (Polite Courtesy), Makoto (Complete Sincerity)
    Dragon:  Jin (Compassion), Makoto (Complete Sincerity), Jisei (Self-control)
    Lion:  Yu (Heroic Courage), Makoto (Complete Sincerity), Chugo (Duty and Loyalty)
    Phoenix:  Jin (Compassion), Meyo (Honour), Makoto (Complete Sincerity)
    Scorpion:  Rei (Polite Courtesy), anti-Makoto (Complete Sincerity), Chugo (Duty and Loyalty)
    Unicorn:  Yu (Heroic Courage), Jin (Compassion), Meyo (Honour)
     
    and a guess at
    Mantis:  anti-Rei (Polite Courtesy)?, ??, ???
    Spider:  Yu (Heroic Courage), anti-Gi (Honesty and Justice), anti-Jisei (Self-control)
  19. Like
    Idanthyrsus reacted to Tonbo Karasu in [RPG] Honour   
    So, I've done some more refining on this, and tried to work out how to combine Clan, School, tags, benefits and even character sheet
    I think that splitting honour up into the different precepts of Bushido is a good way to distinguish between the different Clans opinions on honour.  I also think that adding the 8th precept of self-control is a benefit: its existence is implicit in the charts [penalties for showing emotion etc].  These would be Jin (Compassion), Yu (Courage), Rei (Courtesy), Chugo (Duty), Gi (Honesty), Meyo (Honour), Jisei (Self-control) and Makoto (Sincerity).
    However, it does make things more complicated, and having 8 tracks for managing the decimal parts of honour is too much.  Just 8 titles with a place for a single number is more manageable.  However, this means that it becomes difficult to track the changes of Honour like is done currently.  So I have an alternative suggestion.  This is partially inspired by nWoD's morality system.
     
    Changing Honour
    Some actions that a character may undertake could shake or enhance their sense and appearance of Honour.  As an example, a Breach of Etiquette.  The more noteworthy the action, the greater a chance of an honour change.  Each action is linked to one of the precepts and has a number next to it.  Roll dice equal to the number and compare the results to the characters current rating for the precept.
    If it is an honourable act and at least one dice rolled higher than the current rating, increase that rating by 1 If it is a dishonourale act and at least one dice rolled lower than the current rating, decrease that rating by 1 For example, Hida O-Ushi has a Rei (Courtesy) precept of 3.  She wanders into court while carrying her favourite Die Tsuchi, a moderate breach of etiquette, which is Rei (2).  O-Ushi's player rolls 2 dice, getting a 10 and a 4.  She shrugs off the courtiers' disapproval.
    Had Mirumoto Hitomi, with a Rei of 5, done the same thing with the same rolls, the result would not have been so good, and her Rei precept would be changed to 4.
     
    Starting Honour
    A character's honour when they start play is a combination of their School's teaching and their clan's inherent attitudes.  All 8 precepts start at the Honour rank of the school, then the preferred precepts of the Clan and School tags are adjusted appropriately. [i am pondering whether the School type's should adjust]  Some advantages can also change this, like Paragon or Failure of Bushido.
    For example, Doji Hoturi attends the Doji Courtier school, which has a starting honour of 6.  The Crane clan values Rei, Gi and Makoto.  Courtiers value Rei, Jisei and Makoto.  Hoturi starts play with Jin 6, Yu 6, Rei 8, Chugo 6, Gi 7, Meyo 6, Jisei 7 and Makoto 8
    On the contraray, his Brother Kuwanan attends the Hida Bushi School, with a starting honour of 3.  Bushi value Yu, Chugo and Meyo.  Kuwanan starts with Jin 3, Yu 4, Rei 4, Chugo 4, Gi 4, Meyo 4, Jisei 3 and Makoto 4.
     
    Benefits of Honour
    Keeping your behaviour up to the standards of your Clan and your School has benefits.  If the sum of your three School favoured precepts are over 20, you gain the relevant bonus.  If all three of your Clan favoured precepts are over 7, you gain the Clan bonus.  A handful of clans have such disdain for a precept that they value its negative.  when checking whether you match your Clan's standards, use 11-precept instead.
     
    Crab: Yu, -Rei-, Chugo.  Gain +3 Damage Resistance.
    Crane:  Rei, Gi, Makoto.  Gain a Free Raise on Artistic skills.
    Dragon:  Jin, Jisei, Makoto.  Gain a Free Raise against Fear effects.
    Lion:  Yu, Chugo, Meyo.  Gain a Free Raise on Weapon skills.
    Mantis:  Yu, Gi, -Jisei-.  Hostile Social rolls targetting you require an extra raise.
    Phoenix:  Jin, Meyo, Makoto.  Hostile Spells targetting you require an extra raise.
    Scorpion:  Rei, Chugo, -Makoto-.  Gain a Free Raise on Social skills.
    Spider:  -Jin-, Yu, -Chugo-.  Do +3 Damage.
    Unicorn:  Jin, Yu, Gi.  
     
    Bushi: Yu, Chugo, Meyo.  You may test your honour on Bugei skills.
    Courtier:  Rei, Jisei, Makoto.  You may test your honour on Courtly/High skills.
    Shugenja:  Jin, Rei, Gi.  You may test your honour on Scholarly skills/Spellcasting.
    Ninja: Yu, Chugo -Gi-.  You may test your honour on Low skills.
    Artisan: Rei, Gi, Makoto.  You may test your honour on Artistic skills.
    Monk: Jin, Gi, Jisei.  You may test your honour on something.
     
    I have additional thoughts, but that's enough for one post.
  20. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Shinjo Yosama in [RPG] What Sorts of Stories do you Tell with the Clans?   
    To be fair, Agetoki had been forced into the Kolat at that point, had been forced to kill Kamoko by them, and felt terrible about it afterwards... but let's not pull this thread too far off-track, shall we?
  21. Like
    Idanthyrsus reacted to Shiba Gunichi in [RPG] What Sorts of Stories do you Tell with the Clans?   
    So I had this long post well over half-done when my browser crashed. Argh.
     
    So. Here we go again, but less awesome.
     
    Crab
    I'd focus on "peacetime"Crab- the Crab who come into adulthood and live during one of the long lulls in activity along the wall. You've trained your entire life to fight monsters your old Gunso still talks about with a stutter, but you've never seen anything nastier than a goblin. Everyone around you goes,"be ready, always be ready," but you live most of your life facing NONE of the enemies you have been trained to face.
     
    What is a Crab without their eternal war?
     
    Crane
    The powder-blue parakeets hogged a LOT of story time, to the point where I'm largely out of stories I want to see about them. We've had ninja Crane, duelist Crane, artist Crane, hero Crane,villain Crane... Feh.
     
    About all I would do is something similar to the Crab... "tepid" Crane. In a clan where Excellence is everything, what about a guy who's just uninspiring but competent? Kakita Bill: He does all right.
     
    Dragon
    Some of the best stuff I lost was about the Dragon. Tied with the Scorpion for my second-favorite Great Clan and all that.

    For all of their alien nature, the Dragon spent the bulk of their history under incredibly rigid control-part of why they put up with Hitomi, in my opinion. Dragon were accustomed to following orders, however insane, because Togashi Had A Plan.
     
    After his departure, what were the Dragon to do? The long game they'd been pawns in was over.
     
    Once again- take away their gimmick, and what do the Dragon leave you with?
     
    Lion
    Lost some good stuff here too...
     
    I would explore the Lion's emotional landscape.
     
    The Ikoma bards can drop their On... but only when talking about someone else.
    The Matsu are full of fiery passion... and allowed to express only rage much of the time.
    The Kitsu have a veritable chorus of ancestors reminding them of how Things Should Be.
    The Akodo are supposed to be cerebral and reserved.
     
    And they're all human.
     
    An example of a Lion story I really liked was one I was part of- in Winter Court III, Idanthrysus ably played Akodo Toshigure- a man who was often jokingly described as an emotionally stunted bushido-bot. I played Tonbo Taira, a Shiba-trained Dragonfly with a nasty habit of falling love every five minutes or so.
     
    They ended up friends by the conclusion of court.
    They never went carousing.
    They never talked about the women in their lives (beyond Taira's betrothal to Kitsuki Ekeyu, a love match which pleased him a great, great deal- but the marriage, not the romance, was the focus of his talks with Toshigure.)
    They definitely didn't do a lot of casual hanging out.
     
    But on the last day of Court, they sat in companionable silence sipping tea for a good long while- a Tonbo and an Akodo.
     
    I liked that, because Toshigure never formally said "hey, the Dragonfly are all right," and Taira never did something as sniveling as apologizing for his origins. They just shared an appreciation for honor, and a mutual respect.
     
    Mantis
    I'm sick to death of the Yoritomo, so the story I'd tell? The Tsuruchi, Moshi, and Kitsune get together and go, "you know, for guys all about doing things your own way you're awful at letting others do the same. A Clan is not a Kobune, and if all you want are more kama-slinging sailors, why do you keep us around?"
     
    I might also play with the insecurity underpinning the Yoritomo's tiresome swagger.
     
    Phoenix
    I lost an epic here.
     
    In essence, though, the Phoenix, my favorite Great Clan, are defined by contradictions- Serene and wise in the ways of the spiritual world, arrogant and dismissive with their mortal peers. Valuing life intrinsically, but leveling Shutai during their war with the Scorpion. Dedicated to peaceful discourse, but incapable of sorting out their internal bickering. Passionately responsible for the Empire's spiritual well-being to the point where they do things they know they shouldn't in their efforts to defend it.
     
    I like to play with those tensions- do they tear samurai apart, or do they forge them into stronger people than they were before?
     
    A Shiba who is without peer on the battlefield, but loathes the violence he does.
    A burn-scarred monster-hunting Isawa moved by a sob story.
    A pacifist Asako Courtier moving heaven and earth to secure military allies for a war.
    An Isawa who cannot speak to the kami (and who therefore catches a lot of hell from his own family) defending the veracity of the spiritual insights even though he can't really understand them.
     
    Scorpion
    Ohhhh, so much good stuff gone... *sigh*
     
    I would play with the Scorpion's belief that they're doing the right thing.
     
    In many ways, they have an even harder row to hoe than a Lion or Crane- while the latter two adhere to impossible standards, at least those standards are ones that the wider society upholds.
     
    The Scorpion adhere to impossible standards that everyone utterly despises.
     
    Is it any wonder they throw killer parties whenever someone marries in?
     
    Also: While the masks are reminders that a Scorpion is probably lying, they're also a statement of vulnerability. They can't trust their own faces not to betray them. They're wonderfully tormented little bugs.
     
    Spider
    While Kanpeki's power-grab more or less sums up the overall story of the Spider (a viper the Empire foolishly clutched to their bosom),there are good stories to be told...with those Spider born into the Clan during their time in service to Rokugan. Their ancestors are criminals and heretics, their gods are the avowed enemies of the empire they nominally serve, and they have Dragon Clan teachers informing them of all of this.
     
    Who are these people? And when Kanpeki makes his move, where do they go?
     
    Unicorn
    Never got this far, so this is the only entry where I lose nothing! Ha-HA!
     
    The Unicorn are clearly oddballs... a gigantic pile of outside culture in an Empire that loathes it. They eat red meat, wear weird stuff,worship foreign gods, all of that. (And it's more pronounced since the Moto took over)
     
    So they're a good way to show off honor taking many forms. Moto Bob may be uncouth, smell funny, and spend entirely too much time with his horse, but when the time comes, he will die as well as any Matsu. Ide Joe will try and shake your hand if he forgets himself, but he speaks your language and understands your customs.
     
    Where the Dragon are self-consciously weird, and the Mantis thump their chests about how different and special they are, the Unicorn quietly honor their founder and just do their thing.
  22. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Shinjo Yosama in [RPG] What Sorts of Stories do you Tell with the Clans?   
    Welcome back, Endwaar! Excessively long posts about why we love Rokugan are the best (and I mean that sincerely- for an outsider looking in, few things can provide more incentive to get involved in a setting or activity than seeing just how enthusiastic people already are about it, even if it can be a little daunting). Anyway, my post will be substantially shorter than yours, but here goes:
     
    (Disclaimer: All opinions below are entirely subjective. I do not claim them as superior to anyone else's, nor am I trying to insult anyone else's favoured Clans. When it comes to fictional settings, all opinions are equally valid, and all love for any aspect of the setting, however different it may be from my own, is to be encouraged. In the spirit of the thread, I am only stating what I, personally, think about them.)
     
    Crab
    I frankly find them boring. That isn't entirely the fault of the Clan themselves- as you say, delving into their truly horrific levels of PTSD can be interesting, and any Clan that comes up with a term like maru has some serious issues to be explored. The fact that the Crab themselves recognise this, with the Kuni acting as 'counsellors' for people who go off the deep end, does raise potential. Unfortunately, my strongest impression of the Crab runs along the lines of, "Hold this club. Stand on this wall. Club everything that comes over it until you die, and hope you don't come back." For people who like treating L5R as a combat-RPG with samurai aesthetics, the Crab are ideal. I am not one of those people, so I don't particularly like the Crab.
     
    Crane
    I like the Crane. Whether the Kakita striving for perfection of their chosen art in the face of a messy and stubbornly imperfect world, the Doji trying to leverage all their cultural cachet and eloquence to counterbalance the sheer weight of arms their enemies can bring to bear, the Asahina doing their best to create at least some little pocket of peace and harmony as a shelter for the soul against the rage and discordance of the outside world, or the Daidoji simply keeping everyone else alive, all the Families of the Crane have distinctive, and equally compelling, stories to tell. In large part, the most interesting aspect of the Crane for me is their conviction that beauty - whether defined as aesthetic value, proximity to perfection, or peace and harmony - has genuine value in the world, and that it is worth working towards and protecting, however hopelessly idealistic that might seem to everyone else. That is a story worth telling.
     
    Dragon
    In theory, they should be interesting. The monks add a distinctive dash of flavour to the setting, the Mirumoto are cool (more for their devotion to their own unique traditions of spirituality and service to their monks and shugenja than for their dual-wielding), the Kitsuki provide a constant source of tension with traditional forms of justice in Rokugan, and the Tamori provide a very different vision of what shugenja can be. All the same, I find little within them compelling enough to make me ever want to play one, or tell a story about them. I am grateful for their presence in the setting, and they certainly can make other stories more interesting by acting as foils, but in themselves, I just can't get excited about them.
     
    Lion
    Clearly the greatest Clan. What more need be said? I have already spoken at some length in various places about why I find the Lion so compelling, so to restate more briefly- no other Clan in Rokugan can provide the tension between ideal and reality that the Lion do. The combination of hyper-awareness of their obligations, impossibly high standards, and knowledge of their own imperfections, makes for a touchingly human story. That they often try to compensate for their own imperfections through arrogance, belligerence, and taking solace in the knowledge that others can only fall further from the ideal than they do themselves, doesn't detract from - and only draws attention to - their own deep fragility as people. The most important thing is to remember that their militarism stems from their tradition, devotion, and insecurity, rather than being a goal in and of itself. Love 'em.
     
    Mantis
    I hate the Yoritomo. I find virtually no redeeming features in them, nor any motivation to play them. The Tsuruchi are interesting, for all the reasons Endwaar described- and all the more so for the fact that they have subsequently faced an increasing loss of identity, with more and more Tsuruchi keeping their swords unbroken, accepting the name of samurai, and adhering (or at least paying lip-service to) Bushido. That is a deep threat to their core identity, and is much more interesting as a story than "pew pew pew our archers are the best" (even if I find their continued existence more than a little dubious- with the two most ruthless Clans as blood-enemies, isolated from any form of useful support, they shouldn't have lasted more than a year or two after the Crane and Emerald Champion withdrew their support). The Moshi are much more interesting to me following the fall of Amaterasu- torn between keeping the glory of Lady Sun shining, and trying to find a new calling against centuries of tradition, deeply conservative and 'honourable' in the way that the other Mantis are absolutely not, they occupy a no-man's-land, and finding one's place is always a good story. The Kitsune are not actively objectionable, but I don't find them particularly interesting, either.
     
    Phoenix
    Again like the Crane and the Lion, we have a faction that remains deeply devoted to an ideal despite all circumstances militating (literally) against it. The twin tragedies of the Isawa (blessed with knowledge beyond measure, lacking only the wisdom of how to use it) and the Shiba (more devoted than their masters deserve, always the first to suffer the consequences and the ones responsible for cleaning up the mess) are engaging enough, if they can be treated effectively. Sadly, as with the Crab, the Phoenix often seem to fall into the trap of either being little more than super-magi, or being sidelined into irrelevance until their knowledge becomes useful as a deus ex machina. More damningly, the Phoenix often seem to lack - to me, at least - the core vulnerability of the Lion, or the forlorn hopefulness of the Crane, which makes them seem less human, and less interesting. At their best, the Phoenix can provide a wonderful storytelling vehicle. Most of the time, sadly, the Lion and/or Crane can do the same thing better.
     
    Scorpion
    I don't like them. Their best characters (Yojiro!) are those who run against what it means to be Scorpion, and that says nothing good about the Clan overall. More generally, I don't like the 'antihero working in the shadows because nobody else will, and doing terrible things because they have no choice' schtick wherever it appears. Can there be interesting Scorpion characters? Yes. Can interesting stories be told of and/or among the Scorpion? Of course. I just don't like them myself.
     
    Spider
    Not touching this with a barge-pole.
     
    Unicorn
    I love Central Asia. My Masters was in Central Eurasian Studies, I speak good Turkish, Kazakh, and Uzbek, and passable Mongolian. On paper, I should be all over the Unicorn. The problem is that the classic Central Asian stories (Manas, Alpamys Batyr, Korgol, etc.) are fundamentally not suited to Rokugan, and Rokugani narrative sensibilities don't transfer at all well to Central Asia, either. The best Unicorn stories, to me, are those that are either told entirely outside Rokugan (so, steppe epics), or among the less-'barbarian' Unicorn. The Utaku, in particular, occupy a place very similar to the Moshi within the Mantis- honourable, conservative, more at home among wider society than as part of their own Clan, yet loyal to their Clan of outsiders, and determinedly nonconformist - and as such provide room for interesting stories to be told there, as well.
     
    Minor Clans
    I am largely apathetic to the Minor Clans, excepting the Monkey, whom I strongly dislike. That's probably all that needs to be said.
  23. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Mirumoto Saito in [RPG] Kinzen's Even More Excessively Ambitious Magical Redesign   
    Re: Keywords- another major benefit of Keywords is that it enables you to skim over a list of spells/prayers/whatever, and pick out the ones that are most likely to be suitable for your character (so a Tamori can look for Battle keyword prayers, a Soshi can look for Illusion keyword, and so on). Even if they have no mechanical value in a reworked system, which sounds perfectly reasonable, the inbuilt categorisation of prayers still has some value, and should be replicated in some manner (even if that's just by organising prayers within Element and ML according to their field of applicability, or something along those lines).
     
    Otherwise, all your thoughts seem good.
  24. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from MaxKilljoy in [RPG] Honour   
    Most obviously:
     
     
    This clearly indicates that a leader is considered to be in a position equivalent to a sensei- ie, they know best, and the proper thing for a subordinate to do is to follow instructions without question.
     
    Additionally:
     
     
    Again, the notion of a samurai knowing better than their daimyo is deeply anathema- and that's written into Leadership, not a post-Akodo stultification of his ideas.
     
    There are, of course, many, many, references to the importance of duty and service to one's lord. I would submit that the vast majority of samurai would interpret those references as meaning they should do what they are told, but I am willing to concede that correcting one's lord could be construed as a form of service in itself, if that act is considered permissible (which, again, I would consider debatable).
     
     
    Here, again, we disagree. Obviously Honour 10 is the ideal- and I even agree that anyone who doesn't quite reach that level could be considered 'flawed'. That doesn't mean, however, that they're not trying their absolute hardest and in good faith to be as honourable as possible at all times. It's just that it's practically impossible to avoid situations where you have no choice but to violate some tenet or another, even in a tiny way, and that means you'll pretty much never reach perfection. Yes, samurai are imperfect. No, that doesn't mean they're not honourable, or are somehow taking an easier road.
     
    I have always seen this as one of the reasons why the Lion, especially the Matsu, like war so much (and why Leadership is insistent on the honourable quality of warfare)- in combat, it's very easy to be honourable. Fight fair, show respect to your enemy, and keep doing it until you are dead or nobody on the other side is fighting any more. If all a samurai ever had to do was fight, Bushido-related problems almost disappear (though not entirely- see, again, Akodo Hari's example). In the wider world, life is not that simple, and neither is Bushido.
  25. Like
    Idanthyrsus got a reaction from Crawd in [RPG] Honour   
    Most obviously:
     
     
    This clearly indicates that a leader is considered to be in a position equivalent to a sensei- ie, they know best, and the proper thing for a subordinate to do is to follow instructions without question.
     
    Additionally:
     
     
    Again, the notion of a samurai knowing better than their daimyo is deeply anathema- and that's written into Leadership, not a post-Akodo stultification of his ideas.
     
    There are, of course, many, many, references to the importance of duty and service to one's lord. I would submit that the vast majority of samurai would interpret those references as meaning they should do what they are told, but I am willing to concede that correcting one's lord could be construed as a form of service in itself, if that act is considered permissible (which, again, I would consider debatable).
     
     
    Here, again, we disagree. Obviously Honour 10 is the ideal- and I even agree that anyone who doesn't quite reach that level could be considered 'flawed'. That doesn't mean, however, that they're not trying their absolute hardest and in good faith to be as honourable as possible at all times. It's just that it's practically impossible to avoid situations where you have no choice but to violate some tenet or another, even in a tiny way, and that means you'll pretty much never reach perfection. Yes, samurai are imperfect. No, that doesn't mean they're not honourable, or are somehow taking an easier road.
     
    I have always seen this as one of the reasons why the Lion, especially the Matsu, like war so much (and why Leadership is insistent on the honourable quality of warfare)- in combat, it's very easy to be honourable. Fight fair, show respect to your enemy, and keep doing it until you are dead or nobody on the other side is fighting any more. If all a samurai ever had to do was fight, Bushido-related problems almost disappear (though not entirely- see, again, Akodo Hari's example). In the wider world, life is not that simple, and neither is Bushido.
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