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Wyrmdog

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  1. While I agree that we need more fiction from the POV of people who are not clan leaders, scions, and royalty, I would say that it's a bit of a missed opportunity if you don't run at least one adventure with PCs playing VIPs. For me and mine, we're rolling into the 3rd generation of PCs that are scions of the clans and their extended families, patrons, and henchmen. The rules? Yeah. I am torn on them. They do some things better than 4th edition and some things worse. It's kind of a wash to me. I have played all 5 editions of L5R (including the d20 iteration) as well as run it in Fate. For me, the 1st and 4th editions are the most chock full of flavor that is also supported by the rules. 5th has a ton of flavor, but the rules not as well tuned for a 'grittier' game. I say that as someone perfectly cognizant of how the 4th edition game shifts from samurai drama to damned near Exalted around Insight Rank 3. Now, full disclosure: I only played a few sessions of 5e so I may not be giving it a fair shake, despite buying every stupid thing that comes out for it.
  2. Here is my take, for what it's worth: While the Scorpions' actual, full-time Shinobi fared best, the rest of them were not murdered en masse (although many likely were, the rest of the Empire had centuries of grievances to avenge). Many went into hiding, posing as samurai of other clans, peasants, ronin, bandits, etc... Because the real ninja of the Scorpion clan aren't ninja at all and one does not need to carry the Shinobi tag to be an effective spy or hide in plain sight. The real Scorpion ninja are the courtiers, the bushi, the diplomats, the courtesans. Every Scorpion is a ninja and no Scorpion are ninja. The Scorpion do indeed have Actors, Infiltrators, even ninja Shugenja that function primarily as Shinobi. But these are not their only covert agents, nor are they necessarily their most effective. Actors are deep cover spies. As such, their usage in a standard game is more gimmicky than anything, and tends to be difficult to work into any mixed group unless the group is what's being infiltrated. We have done exactly that once. In the setting, I find them exceedingly rare. I figure the school has only a handful of students at any given time. They are probably all aware of each other on some level from their education, but have zero contact and would not recognize one another. Most of the time, Infiltrators spend their non-Infiltratey time posing as farmers, laborers, tradesmen, merchants, ashigaru and even eta or courtesans (geisha ninja are more likely to be Actors, IMO). They are guerrilla fighters, hitmen, scouts, disposable spies and so on, but due to their need to not be seen, even when operating openly, they do not often pose as samurai. After all, a trained swordsman would be able to tell if you were actually trained as a Scorpion Bushi (well, in a setting that has a distinct Scorpion style, that is), and that makes posing as one a bit of an unnecessary risk. In my games, most Infiltrators are not even Samurai by caste. The ninja Shugenja school from what, 3rd Edition? That one seems very specialized, probably kept in the Clan most of the time and deployed only when necessary, like a magical JSOC operator or Treadstone agent. Really, most of these are probably Secret Service/NSA types. Most 'ninja' are not schooled as ninja at all (at least in my games, no idea if it's canon but...). Many Scorpion will be called on to do things that we think of as things a ninja would do: poison people, steal a critical missive and deliver it to Agent X, gain the confidence of Y and let Z know what they learn, simply report back on seemingly innocuous conversations or the movements of certain people...whether Bushi or Courtier, most Scorpion samurai spend at least some time functioning as shinobi or ninja. So most Scorpion privileged enough to have gone to the main schools for Bushi, enough to learn the techniques, are also competent and capable as courtiers, spies, and assassins. They are not the best swordsmen, the best spies, the best courtiers, but they have enough schooling and skill to function in any of those roles competently when called upon. I guess this is my long-winded way of saying that I think Scorpion bushi are perfectly capable of going to ground after the Coup and surviving. We did it in more than one game at my table and it not only worked, but it was incredibly fun. The Scorpion are a massive intelligence and counter-intelligence organization, one uniquely suited to the vagaries of feudal imperial society and a world rife with the supernatural. Their pragmatism means that they leverage everything they have to get the job done and that means that every single Scorpion, no matter how lowly and no matter how exalted, may operate as a ninja at some point in his or her life. I would bet that most never do, at least not in a way they or anyone else would recognize. After all, you need plausible deniability and the opportunity to lull people who already think of you as a clan of crooks and spies and cowards into giving you openings, trusting you, relying on you. You can't do that if your only specialized tools wear pajamas to work. As for FFG's plans...who knows. I have already stated what I think about their choice to exclude the school from the book earlier in this thread and there is no point rehashing it. If, as you say, there is an upcoming Defender that functions as a yojimbo/duelist...that could work and I would be okay with that, but it still does bother me that they were left out. I have WAY too much invested in this game. But like all people who are watching something they love change, I am having a hard time with my perceived treatment of this clan by FFG. Take that for what it's worth.
  3. I suppose, and I see where you're coming from. My $0.02... Scorpion bushi number at least in the tens of thousands where Kakita Artisans are likely at best to number into the hundreds, and the Witch Hunters perhaps a few dozen. Now, numbers are not always the best measure, but even if measured by impact, Artisans can be handwaved just as easily as so many are saying Scorpion Bushi can be. Easier, in my estimation. Witch Hunters...only ever had one in my games, but conceptually, they are up there with Scorpion Bushi with regard to what I like, but given that Scorpion Bushi get played almost an order of magnitude more often (again, IME), I can happily live with the Witch Hunter coming after the Scorpion Bushi. Utaku Infantry...well...the Unicorn already have a surfeit of bushi schools. They cannot give us all schools all at once, and while yes, we can use Manipulators, Infiltrators, and Worldly Ronin schools...it still tells us something about the lore as intended by the designers via the absence of a Scorpion Bushi school. I find it hard to believe that space is what led to 2 Scorpion Shugenja and no bushi. I think it is more likely a deliberate statement on the culture and capability of the Scorpion's warrior class.
  4. The former. Honestly, I would have dropped one of the shugenja schools and not worried so much about each family getting a school out of the gate. I feel it would be better to give each clan a Courtier, Bushi and Shugenja, then one specialist school as a baseline. I don't see the relationship of school to family as important as filling the school roles for each clan. This is just my opinion. I am not getting after anyone for seeing it differently, just trying to explain why I don't like the design decision and what I'd rather was done, I guess. Griping. 😃
  5. And this is probably my biggest problem with the lack of it. Using Worldly Ronin, Manipulator, or Infiltrator all feels off, even if it is a mechanical option to use one of them. The bulk of Scorpion are not ninja, nor are they shugenja, yet those are the schools that get the most attention for the clan. As a great clan, they really do deserve a dedicated and openly acknowledged bushi school with it's own special techniques. It's kind of a staple of the genre and setting. The previous edition Scorpion may not have been Kakita or Mirumoto, but they were still feared and respected swordsmen with a unique fighting style. Now? Not so much. Now the Scorpion either have a standing army composed of 11,000 trained ninja or that is composed of talkers and lovers rather than fighters, or who are trained in a school of swordsmanship available to any and all. Yes, I can work around it, but I shouldn't have to. Only players of Scorpion have this conceptual and mechanical obstacle, this deterrent. I have primarily played Bayushi Bushi since 1998 when I first discovered the game and have played one in every iteration of the rules to date. They have been in the core of every set of rules making their absence here quite a disappointment. It's not a deal-breaker, and I'm not discarding the system over it. I am, however, curious what I am supposed to take from the absence of the school. After all, the rules influence the fiction and vice-versa. The lack of them is not just a mechanical or balance decision, but one that says something about the setting. By excluding the Bayushi Bushi and not replacing it with another option, FFG is basically saying that the Scorpion bushi are not only unimportant mechanically, but that they are an afterthought in the setting as well. I appreciate that the special techniques are limited and not super crazy powerful and that makes not having a true bushi school less mechanically punishing, but there is a message in its absence (intended or not) that I am disappointed to see.
  6. @AK_Aramis I am just using the Stance nod to performing an additional non-rolled action in a round to being able to quickdraw a blade. I can see how that might not be RAW but I like it. Helps other people be more than simply fodder for the Kakita and Mirumoto. It also has the downside of forcing them into Water when they want to strike, so that pushed them to make decisions and risk being locked out of the stance. Does that seem reasonable for a formal Iaijutsu duel to first strike/blood? Or should I force at least one opportunity spend for that, making Water stance just the required stance to do so without an appropriate Technique? And @Nheko, you are most welcome! I am using this as-is tonight, but I think I'll probably keep evolving it as I learn things.
  7. We have taken our time with the Topaz Tournament but Friday we will be hitting the Iaijutsu contest. I have read rules repeatedly, as well as the Iai thread and my brain boggles when I try to explain it. So I thought I'd try to distill the process for the players and give them a quick reference sheet to use at the table. It won't cover all the nuances but should handle the basic flow and function. Please let me know if anything jumps out at you as wrong or that could be misleading. Goal: Score a Critical Hit. In fiction, this is simply to the First Strike. Rules: Katana only. One-handed. Each contestant gets a single strike, any more are disqualifying and is also a dishonorable action. STAGE 1 - INITIATIVE Choose beginning Stance. Initiative Check using Meditation Skill @ TN 1 At this point, either contestant may concede. STAGE 2 - STAREDOWN and TAKING TURNS Note: Noted Strife gains dependent on the Round are additive, not a cumulative total, so at Round 3, the character has gained 6 Strife from the STAREDOWN phase. Round 1 - Gain 1 Strife. Secretly bid Strife. Reveal and add your Strife to your Initiative. On your Initiative, select your stance and take an action. Calming Breath Center (Void Stance Only) Predict Prepare (This typically represents drawing your weapon and is not recommended unless neither of you are accomplished duelists - you are SLOOOOOWWWW) Strike (if you succeed, you may spend ** to inflict a Critical Strike equal to your weapon's Deadliness - note this is ONLY for the Strike action, not any technique that allows you to draw and strike in a duel) Use an appropriate Technique Note, you may not draw and strike in the same round unless you utilize a mechanical effect that explicitly allows it (this includes Water Stance as explicit permission per page 251). If a contestant becomes Compromised, their opponent may immediately execute a Finishing Blow. This can be done out of turn. This may not be done if your weapon is not readied without explicit permission. See above Note. Page 259 for details. Select an Attack action (Strike or a Technique, typically) and make a roll. Success means no damage. Instead apply a Critical Hit with 2x the Deadliness of your weapon or attack, plus bonuses and other effects. Round 2 - Reset Initiative to Stage 1 total. Gain 2 Strife. Secretly bid Strife. Reveal and add your Strife to your Initiative. See Above. Round 3 - Reset Initiative to Stage 1 total. Gain 3 Strife. Secretly bid Strife. Reveal and add your Strife to your Initiative. See Above. Round 4 - Reset Initiative to Stage 1 total. Gain 4 Strife. Secretly bid Strife. Reveal and add your Strife to your Initiative. See Above. Increment as necessary. Either contestant may concede at any point after Strife bid is revealed, provided they are not Compromised.
  8. Given the realities of a feudal political system - at least the way I understand it - inter-clan warfare is common but not constant, and is a necessary evil. Rokugan exists in a near-perpetual state of hybrid space between the Sengoku and Tokugawa periods. There is a central governing authority, but the Great Clans are like teenagers who are in reality stronger than their parent. The Emperor and the Imperial seat maintains power by positioning the clans in opposition to one another so that none dare take the step of deposing the dynasty. Should the throne enforce a strident peace between the clans to the point where those breaking the peace are meaningfully punished, one clan will eventually play the game well enough to take power in all but name. One could argue that the Crane are quite near that point as it is. Alternatively, an enemy to the Chrysanthemum Throne is created via consistent, repeated sanction. Regardless, the Emperor may not like the conflicts and may take steps to prevent, extinguish, or otherwise discourage total war, but the throne cannot and will not severely punish any clan that does not actively threaten the stability of the empire at large. This is how places like Toshi Ranbo can be such common flashpoints. War, diplomacy, detente...rinse, repeat. Besides, each Great Clan is a nation unto itself in many ways, and while they bend the knee to the Emperor, they also know full well that they can frequently ignore or pervert dictums they dislike so long as they put a pretty face on it. Plausible deniability is big, yes, but so is cynically asking forgiveness rather than asking permission. The greatest tool the Emperor has to enforce any sort of status quo is siccing the other clans on any blatantly disrespectful or aggressive actor. The clans keep each other in check, particularly when they have the mandate of the Emperor to kick the Lion out of occupied Southern Dragon-istan after a particularly bloody war. The clans have a vested interest in keeping the Imperial seat largely militarily toothless but cannot take away its divine mandate and the cultural and social weight it carries. It's a delicate balancing act but they all know that without the Chrysanthemum Throne, the weaker among them would easily fall prey to the more powerful. Additionally, they resist further consolidation of power to the Throne. It is one of the few things all the clans agree upon. The Throne in turn cultivates close relationships with some minor clans and powerful families such as the Tortoise and later, the Monkey. These clans are afforded protection by the Emperor and often also serve as additional deterrents to overt ambition. They may be small, but coupled with the smattering of Imperial legions, they can come together to make a potent force given the right circumstances. But more than the military might they provide, they also provide for functions critical to the Empire the other clans cannot or will not do, and the Emperor has been known to exploit these roles to get things done. Further, the Otomo exist in large part to keep the clans pointed at each other and not at the throne (in addition to providing a safe landing zone for potential rivals to the throne). Therefore, no matter what the official position may be about official sanction for war, the reality is that the throne itself often encourages conflict between the Great Clans. The Miya then set about their mission of propaganda and the Throne can cluck at the perpetrators and exact concessions for those it favors. Long story short, war is as open as you want it to be. I tend to keep clans from going after one another with too much relish just because they don't want to sap their ability to wage war on another front should a rival clan see an opening due to the first war. This keeps the Emperor from having to do much more than wag his finger most of the time and call out a few scapegoats for punishment when needed. A concession here, a payment there, and everyone goes back to the starting gate. At least, this is my poorly-explained layman's understanding of how a feudal system like this one might work. I like to give my wars real cause. My current plan is that a famine in Crab lands makes them desperate to trade for food to feed their soldiers and populace. Plague is the inevitable outcome of the misery and they need to prevent that. So they approach the Crane, Scorpion, Mantis, and Unicorn for their largess. Problematically, an exuberant Crab commander begins raids on Crane lands when the Crane hold out for better prices. The Scorpion rarely have much extra and thus charge highly for it (not to mention they are still recovering from a decades-long civil war). Still, they acquiesce. Should the Crab fall, the Scorpion may be protected somewhat by the Shinomen, but not enough to gamble. The Mantis are amenable but have little to sell as well. My game is set in 1162 with events post-Clan War being mostly driven by my own campaigns and not the old AEG timeline, so the Unicorn are barely a generation from open revolt by Moto Chagatai and resent the Crab's refusal to march with them back then. They extort high prices from the Crab. Meanwhile, the Mantis, Scorpion, and Unicorn are all fighting a shadow war in Ryoko Owari for control of the black market there. They all come to blows here over the Crab trade and suddenly supplies to the Crab from the Scorpion dry up as they convert food to payment for mercenaries and gangs to proxy in the conflict, the Unicorn become too distracted to get their caravans through, and the Mantis suddenly need to route personnel and supplies overland through Ryoko Owari using non-existent Crane ships as their excuse. The Crab, growing more desperate believe the Scorpion are soft targets and march on them even as war sparks in the southern Crane lands. Eventually, they will find their way to southern Unicorn lands as well, as they keep the Crane war low-key and mostly raids. Meanwhile the Crane are jockeying with the Lion over accusations of too much Imperial influence (in my game the Crane have WAY too much blood in the ruling family post-Hantei and there are very real power-balance abuses going on courtesy of my players' short-sightedness), though there are no large-scale conflicts schedules, just some tense brushfire exchanges and proxies in Toshi Ranbo. Anyway, I have it all spiraling outward including a plot by the Imperial Consort to get revenge for the Empress' shenanigans which will draw the Scorpion, Lion, and Crane into a 3-way conflict. All these actions will be defended in the Imperial Courts, the Emperor's Winter Court, and so on. Everything military has a political element, just as every political move has a sword ready to spring into action. The goal, as always, is to get the players involved to see if they can broker peace or win wars as they see fit.
  9. While the overwhelming majority of schools are tied to family in name, it's not beyond the pale to assume that Great Clans have schools that are not so specifically branded to an individual family. Granted, Great Clan families are akin to very large Minor Clans in a lot of ways, but the confederation that brings the status of Great Clan matters, and each Great Clan builds an identity greater than that of its constituent families. Therefore, it makes sense to me that schools should be open to an entire clan (and indeed by canon they are). Further, I don't think a clan member needs any special dispensation to attend the majority of dojos within their home clan. That said, there are some that really do feel family specific like the Kuni Witch Hunter, the Matsu Beast-Master, the ninja schools of the Scorpion and their Wardmasters, the Isawa Elementalists, the Utaku Battle-Maidens...for schools that are indelibly tied to family, there should be strong in-game justification for even intra-clan cross-pollination. Finding a Hida Witch-Hunter should not be something that happens every generation. It should stand out in a big way when the Battle-Maidens take in even a Shinjo girl, let alone an Akodo one. I think another reason they have traditionally been tied to family over clan is to impart a sense of style and specialization. A Bayushi school you know will be politely smarmy and terrifyingly astute, seductive, underhanded, a little unnerving, regardless of its focus. Yogo schools are insular in spite of being open to the clan, and still turn out mostly Yogo students. Even at home they are unwelcome. The Shosuro appear largely harmless to the Empire at large. Their schools focus almost exclusively on showmanship and deception and when you see a Shosuro school, you know that no matter what else it does, it will do so covertly or with a healthy dose of distraction. The Soshi are mystics, yes, but they have also served as the clan's wild-card family and its strongest connection to both organized crime as well as law-and-order. We will all have our perceptions to be sure, but in the end the point is that families have 'themes' and their schools have tended toward a way for the designers to show us a bit of their unique culture, traditions, and values within the clan they call home. Schools branded to a clan rather than a family go a long way toward fostering a shared identity, something that transcends family and builds on the strength of the association. I don't feel it's a problem for a generic Scorpion Bushi to be labeled a Bayushi Bushi though, outside the surprisingly adorable alliteration.
  10. So my first shot at making a test Scorpion Bushi using the Manipulator shook out as follows. I would probably be okay with this for now but I would want to reserve the right to remake the character if/when a proper Scorpion bushi school is released. Bayushi 'Test'uko Bayushi Manipulator Honor 35, Glory 44, Status 35 Air 3, Earth 1, Fire 3, Water 2, Void 1 Artisan: Design 1 Martial: MA (Melee) 1, MA (Unarmed) 1, Tactics 1 Scholar: Culture 1, Sentiment 2 Social: Command 1, Courtesy 1 Trade: Commerce 1, Skulduggery 1 Endurance 8, Composure 6, Focus 6, Vigilance 3 Techniques: All Shuji, didn't pay tons of attention. It's serviceable, but it also fails to capture any stand-out feel for the speed and duplicitous fighting style of the earlier edition Bayushi bushi characters. At least at creation. It should be easy to raise Earth to help with Composure right off (thematically it feels wrong for Bayushi to natively lean away from high composure), but Void at 1 seems very in keeping. Air and Fire rings at 3 obviously means the character will be feinting or lashing out viciously with their sword when fighting, and with a little luck at the earlier stages, being in Air stance could help against superior foes. It's also feasible to use Fire a lot just to try to break an opponent's composure. The Heritage roll could net you a boost to Martial Arts (Melee) or Tactics, a rank in Fitness, or a starting Kata but it's a crapshoot and you could end up with something useless unless the GM lets you pick. If he/she does, you're in luck! In the end, you can do it, but it lacks any mechanical character of its own. It's all going to be in the narration. It is now harder to make a Scorpion duelist than it used to be, and it was never as easy as with some other clans. Still, to me it feels more thematic for a Scorpion bushi to be an accomplished duelist than a brawler or soldier. At least the PC and major NPC flavors of them. So those bushi that will attend court and actually talk to people are basically courtiers and diplomats who spend their extracurricular time learning the sword. I suppose Worldly Ronin used as a generic bushi dojo works too, as suggested earlier. Infiltrators could probably also stand in as bushi, maybe more spec-ops oriented but also able to walk around with their daisho and not embarrass themselves. I'll have to look into that later.
  11. You are likely right. I tend to read some of these things very loosely and it's becoming clearer that I can't do that.
  12. I figured that an Iaijutsu Cut Kata counts as a Strike and can thus spend Opportunity like one. It doesn't say Strike (rather it says Attack and Movement) so perhaps not by the most literal reading of the rules, but...
  13. Seems like you get around that if you utilize the Finishing Blow to get your insta-crit, since you aren't spending Opportunity to activate the Crit and Earth only prevents spending Opportunity to activate a Crit or a condition. Boosting or altering is a whole other animal it would seem.
  14. The Iaijutsu kata do indeed specify 1-handed, but the more generally available Finishing Blow in the duels makes no such requirement. Also, am I assuming too much that the Finishing Blow involves a draw and strike regardless of stance? I must be. argh
  15. Personally, I am not allowing 2-handed strikes in an Iaijutsu duel at my table.
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