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Bayushi Tsubaki

Which "sacred cows" are you hoping get abandoned?

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RPG had a lot of back and forth on many matters during its many editions, which is why IMHO it's critical to look at each edition as a standalone game instead of considering them a continuous single unified game.

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Here is a very basic Shugenja idea that I literally made up in past 5 minutes:
- For each Rank, Shugenja can decide to willingly place a spiritual and religious restriction on themselves. This is called a Vow. 

- Vows are represented by a token (FFG loves them tokens, and so do I) with a Pure side and Impure side.

- Casting spells flips Vows to the Impure side. This represents your magic exhausting the delicate harmony between you and Kami.

- Vows are flipped to the Pure side by following the religious protocol, and are flipped to the Impure side by going directly against your self imposed rules. 

This gives you between 1 and 5 spell slots that can be recharged by roleplaying a priest. You probably could give each Shugenja a few basic spells that don't exhaust Vow Tokens, and maybe include an ability to flip a Vow Token by spending a Void Point on it. You also could possibly give some extra frontloaded Vow space, allowing a Shuggie  to grab up to 3 Vows at the first rank. 

 

I guess this would also work for a Monk, and anyone willing to delve into the realm of Kiho.

Edited by WHW

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I like the idea of refreshing spell castings through veneration, prayer, etc. I'd come at it from a different angle, though.

Each spell a shugenja asks of the kami requires an act of veneration worthy of the spell's rank before the kami respond. Each casting would make the kami less responsive to further requests from that shugenja. Some spells exhaust the local kami, with the same effect, but for all casting nearby.

Venerating kami of one alignment would make kami of the opposing alignment temporarily less responsive.

Shugenja rank would reduce the severity of required veneration, such that a high rank shugenja beseeching the kami of their affinity would be able to sling lesser spells and offer veneration without interruption - for a brief time, at least, until the kami are exhausted and unresponsive even for them.

Some spells of particularly low or high rank (ie; commune, earthquake) would have a requirement of veneration that cannot be altered.

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2 hours ago, WHW said:

If I recall correctly, Imperial Archives had some optional stuff (a lot of written by @Kinzen , though I'm not sure if THIS particular bit was it), including some rules about purity and whatnot.

I didn't write that bit, no -- mine was the section on courtiers and social characters. But I did come up with an approach to the purity thing that I may or may not have posted here; I can't recall. It has three levels (Purified, Neutral, and Defiled), with shugenja and monks defaulting to Purified, courtiers and artisans to Neutral, and bushi and ninja to Defiled, plus a two-tier Cleansed advantage you can take to move yourself up one or two levels, and a two-tier Polluted disadvantage you can take to move yourself down. Remaining Purified requires you to observe a bunch of strict practices (vegetarian diet, no contact with blood, avoiding drunkenness, etc), while being Defiled means you eat meat, regularly come into contact with blood (via combat), drink a lot, etc. Neutral is in between, as you might imagine. There are guidelines I won't quote here for what constitutes a temporary or permanent change in your Spiritual Purity, and what you have to do to restore yourself to your previous level.

The mechanical effects of this are that Purified characters get the default TN for spellcasting and kiho activation, as well as Divine Favor, which was my adaptation of Mirumoto Saito's "Appeasement" prayer system from the old forum; plus they get +1k1 on social rolls with entities from Tengoku and Yomi. On the other hand, TNs to feed them with Survival checks are +10. Neutral characters suffer +5 to spiritual TNs and get no bonus with spirits. Defiled characters suffer +10 to spiritual TNs, and -1k1 to social rolls with spirits from Tengoku and Yomi. I hadn't yet decided what to do with other Spirit Realms, especially places like Gaki-do or Toshigoku, where defilement is kind of the name of the game.

So basically, something that is largely a matter of RP, because your Spiritual Purity can rise and fall depending on your actions, but with a little bit of mechanics to back it up, calibrated so that the most common rolls (shugenja casting spells; monks activating kiho) are set at the default, meaning you don't have to remember modifiers unless there are special circumstances involved.

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21 hours ago, Bayushi Tsubaki said:

Thought of another one!
Can we stop insisting that Shugenja are totally not wizards because they're totally priests?

L5R does not have that kind of direct correlation to D&D thematics. The Shugenja of Rokugan are significantly more like the Shaman of Warcraft, with the "kami" of Rokugan acting much like the "elements" of Azeroth. They can speak to those who have the gift of understanding and they are very predictable in their nature (ie: fire kami are always passionate, air kami are always capricious, earth kami are always stoic, etc.) But when a shugenja is praying to the kami to cast a spell, he/she is decidedly not politely requesting a kami fulfill their spell-request, please and thank you; that's more how the Henshin and their Riddles work, not how shugenja spells work, which are typically cast from scrolls because the same prayer works all the time, every time, assuming something isn't wrong with the kami... (kinda like... a wizard... ;))

The reason they're called priests is because that is their role in society (which, based on most of the past lore, usually gets relegated to monks anyway, since shugenja always seem to have "something more important" to be doing than blessing babies and praying for healthy crops). Priest, as a title, speaks in no way towards their ability to speak to, and influence/control, the elemental kami that fuel their spells.

:)

 

Let me preface this by saying that we don't really know how FFG will choose to interpret the role of Shugenja within NL5R.  However, in O5R Shugenja were more "Priest" than any other class. Now, if all spell casters are deemed "Wizards", then that poses an issue in the distinction. Shugenja cast spells, yes, but they do so through cajoling/convincing kami to perform an action. They are indeed requesting said kami's aid. 

Here's an excerpt from page 142 (Sidebar) of the 1st edition RPG Core Rulebook: 

"The most common misconception about Shugenja is that they are "spell casters". This is not entirely true. Shugenja are more aptly described as "communers". A Shugenja does not possess any innate magical ability,  he is simply taught the proper techniques for speaking with Elemental spirits and the fortunes. However, they spend most of their lives studying the technique. Anyone can speak to a spirit willing to listen. The trick is getting the spirit to listen." 

Page 137:

"Shugenja are much more than spell-slinging sorcerers: They are the very foundation of Rokugan's Religion." 

 

This is at once "their role in society" and their method in communing with the kami. Meaning, the action informs the role, and then the role in turn informs the action. Rokugani religion is built upon the practice of petitioning kami with prayer. That specific prayer is answered, which then ensures the continued worship of said kami.  That Shugenja are the purveyors and practitioners of religion in Rokugan speaks to why the term "Priest" best first their archetype, not Wizard. Their adherence to religion makes for a key difference in the classes.  

 

Of course, we can add to this by looking at Eno no Gyoja and the Yamabushi in Japanese history, and how they too differ from what we could classify as the Western portrayal of the Wizard. I see them as being distinctly different. 

 

 

Edited by Anemura

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Obviously FFG may do things entirely differently - we'll have to wait and see. I'm then clearly speaking of Old5R. ;)

Here's the thing about that style of "spell casting" however, as far as Old5R goes: It is only ever depicted that way in RPG material, and very inconsistently at that.
Not the fictions.
Not the artwork.
Not the card game mechanics.
Not even in RPG mechanics.
Only in sidebar descriptions in (some) RPG write-ups.

But there is no denying that "prayers" are written down in clan-specific ciphers and kept for shugenja to use to summon kami and cast spells. This is true in all depictions, even the RPG flavor. If every "spell casting" was actually an individual plea to the kami to fulfill a specific task (like, "please, Fire-kami, go burn that person/item/location") then you couldn't count on written scrolls to be correct every time.
Except that's exactly how it works. 4th Edition even removed the ability to cast without using a spell scroll (ie: innate casting died with 3rd edition).

tl;dr - RPG and Story Devs said, "This is how it works," and then went on to portray it entirely differently than they described in every instance. :lol:

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Just because game says something, it doesn't mean it ends up being like that. Shugenja have been constantly characterized and represented in ways that feel and look like Wizards, especially when it came to their mechanics and actual gameplay. In fiction, this would be an informed trait - something that author and narrator insists that this character is (for example, smart) but in practice and actual action, she isn't (for example, she is dumb as brick and makes really dumb decisions). Handling of Shugenja is similar to that - we have been told that they are communers and priests, but there was barely any backing for that, and in actual practice, they play like wizzzzzards unless you go out of your way to reinforce their gameplay themes by using homebrew. Nature of spells we have been given also doesn't help.

Of course, you can say that you don't need gameplay to reinforce the fluff in order for it to matter, but IMHO that's just an excuse for bad design. Good design combines fluff with mechanics for grand gameplay. Look at Vampire games, for example - using vampire superpowers for free X times per day would have totally different feel in actual play than having to fuel it with blood, and having to deal with consequences of that hunger. Good design is kind of like a teacher who is quizzing you but helps you with leading questions; it doesn't force you to answer or play the "proper" way, but it naturally leads you to that.

Overall, I feel that both CCG and RPG didn't age well at all in their designs, and I think that a new, modern incarnation that learns from the experience of the last 20 years (way of lion style!) to create something fit for the current day and era. 

 

Sorry for attributing that to you, Kinzen. I'm AFK from books (by tommorow's evening, I will be finally in my new apartment, moving is terrible) and I remembered that you did...a lot of stuff...for many things...so you know. 

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6 minutes ago, Bayushi Tsubaki said:

Obviously FFG may do things entirely differently - we'll have to wait and see. I'm then clearly speaking of Old5R. ;)

Here's the thing about that style of "spell casting" however, as far as Old5R goes: It is only ever depicted that way in RPG material, and very inconsistently at that.
Not the fictions.
Not the artwork.
Not the card game mechanics.
Not even in RPG mechanics.
Only in sidebar descriptions in (some) RPG write-ups.

But there is no denying that "prayers" are written down in clan-specific ciphers and kept for shugenja to use to summon kami and cast spells. This is true in all depictions, even the RPG flavor. If every "spell casting" was actually an individual plea to the kami to fulfill a specific task (like, "please, Fire-kami, go burn that person/item/location") then you couldn't count on written scrolls to be correct every time.
Except that's exactly how it works. 4th Edition even removed the ability to cast without using a spell scroll (ie: innate casting died with 3rd edition).

tl;dr - RPG and Story Devs said, "This is how it works," and then went on to portray it entirely differently than they described in every instance. :lol:

You are going to like the fic I'm going to translate after moving, then. It touches upon the spell casting process in a way that you will probably like.

Still, I think you are underselling the idea that a specific prayer can elict a specific response. It's kind of like etiquette and social ritual, both of which were very important in the cultures this game imitates and emulates. Ritual and Etiquette basically form a framework to work within, a set of proper responses to specific actions that, when followed by all involved parties, leads toward harmonious resolution of the situation. 

I kind of like the idea that "fixed prayers" are like these rituals of etiquette. You are asking Kami in a specific way for a specific gift, and they repay respect with respect, doing their part of the divine etiquette. 

Wizardry would be more like trying to treat it like laws of physics or a set of occult geometrics that you can manipulate to provide specific results. Think about it like this:  Shugenja is like a person trying to get something from government, and in order to do so, they need to fill a proper form and send it to a proper official  within proper hours, everything written in a proper way. 
Proper proper proper.

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45 minutes ago, Bayushi Tsubaki said:

If every "spell casting" was actually an individual plea to the kami to fulfill a specific task (like, "please, Fire-kami, go burn that person/item/location") then you couldn't count on written scrolls to be correct every time.

If beseeching the kami were as simple as "please, Fire-kami, go burn that person/item/location", then you wouldn't need a full scroll of instructions in order to ask a completely alien entity in an understandable and reliable manner.

Edited by BitRunr

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1 hour ago, Bayushi Tsubaki said:

Obviously FFG may do things entirely differently - we'll have to wait and see. I'm then clearly speaking of Old5R. ;)

Here's the thing about that style of "spell casting" however, as far as Old5R goes: It is only ever depicted that way in RPG material, and very inconsistently at that.
Not the fictions.
Not the artwork.
Not the card game mechanics.
Not even in RPG mechanics.
Only in sidebar descriptions in (some) RPG write-ups.

But there is no denying that "prayers" are written down in clan-specific ciphers and kept for shugenja to use to summon kami and cast spells. This is true in all depictions, even the RPG flavor. If every "spell casting" was actually an individual plea to the kami to fulfill a specific task (like, "please, Fire-kami, go burn that person/item/location") then you couldn't count on written scrolls to be correct every time.
Except that's exactly how it works. 4th Edition even removed the ability to cast without using a spell scroll (ie: innate casting died with 3rd edition).

tl;dr - RPG and Story Devs said, "This is how it works," and then went on to portray it entirely differently than they described in every instance. :lol:

 

The written scrolls are tools used to remember complicated prayers, nothing more. The scrolls themselves are not imbued with the power of the spell, as far as I'm aware. They serve as reminders to the Shugenja for a correct spell casting. They are "...mental, physical and spiritual reminders. Eventually, a Shugenja becomes so accustomed to casting a particular spell he no longer needs the reminders... " (page 142, Core Rulebook). In other words, innate casting was possible in the original rules after a time. Also, Shugenja can cast Kiho - element manipulation without the use of scrolls. 

The trapping of a scroll does not denote Shugenja as being Wizards. There are many outside depictions of scroll-users that are not Wizards. Inuyasha's Miroku is one that immediately springs to mind, and he is still classified as a monk.  Dosetsu in Legend of the Eight Samurai is another, I believe. 

Can you elaborate as to why you feel that this form of magic has not been depicted in fiction, artwork, CCG and/or RPG mechanics? I'm using O5R source material to show that it is depicted in fiction and RPG mechanics...? How did it need to be different in the CCG so as to represent Priest magic vs. Wizard magic? And lastly, I have seen Phoenix artwork that closer represents Shugendo and Yamabushi (the more historical depictions of), it's just not as prevalent as I'd like it to be. I agree, there are Wizard-like depictions of the Isawa/other Shugenja, but this is exactly what I hope FFG removes. I much prefer the art of personalities such as Isawa Tanaka, Isawa Tenkawa, Isawa Tadaka, and Shiba Ningen to the more extravagant, westernized (IMO) portrayals of Isawa Koiso,  Asako Ume and now Isawa Masahiro.  There is a difference in the aesthetic to each. 

Edited by Anemura

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1 hour ago, WHW said:

Still, I think you are underselling the idea that a specific prayer can elict a specific response.

I hope I wasn't, because that's kind of my entire point, that a specific prayer can indeed elicit a specific response, and will do so consistently. :)

1 hour ago, WHW said:

I kind of like the idea that "fixed prayers" are like these rituals of etiquette. You are asking Kami in a specific way for a specific gift, and they repay respect with respect, doing their part of the divine etiquette.

Exactly this, with the added bit that they will respond to a correctly stated prayer the same way every time.
I think a better way to make my point is to say that yes, casting a spell is a specific, ritualized prayer asking the kami to perform a certain task, however the kami has zero consideration for your sincerity in the "asking." If you recite the spell correctly, the kami involved will always oblige (otherwise, Sense, Commune, and Summon would be the only spells, and you would do everything through casting Commune).

1 hour ago, WHW said:

Wizardry would be more like trying to treat it like laws of physics or a set of occult geometrics that you can manipulate to provide specific results.

I say that while Shugenja and Wizards (really, it's more like Sorcerers, but I digress...) are thematically very different, they are mechanically very similar.
I think people tend to get too caught up on the latter without properly acknowledging the former.

51 minutes ago, BitRunr said:

If beseeching the kami were as simple as "please, Fire-kami, go burn that person/item/location", then you wouldn't need a full scroll of instructions in order to ask a completely alien entity in an understandable and reliable manner.

I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek in order to make the point. Obviously that wasn't a true representation of what a prayer to a kami would look like. Sorry if that wasn't clear. :lol:

18 minutes ago, Anemura said:

The written scrolls are a tool used to remember a complicated prayer. That's why scrolls are used.  The scrolls themselves are not imbued with special power, as far as I'm aware. They serve as reminders to the Shugenja to cast the spell correctly.

 

24 minutes ago, Anemura said:

The trapping of scroll does not denote Shugenja as being Wizards. There are many depictions of scroll-users that are not Wizards. Inuyasha's Miroku is one that immediately springs to mind, and he is still classified as a monk.  Dosetsu in Legend of the Eight Samurai is another, I think.

Absolutely. My point about the use of scrolls wasn't to suggest that there was anything inherently magical or supernatural about the scrolls themselves, but rather that the very fact that a scroll of, say, "Earth Becomes Sky" can exist at all points to a narrative in which praying to the kami isn't actually making a personal request, but rather is following very specific instructions to elicit an elemental response; that those instructions happen to take the form of a request is besides the point.

(My comment about using scrolls being Wizard-like was just poking fun. ;) )

22 minutes ago, Anemura said:

Eventually, a Shugenja becomes so accustomed to casting a particular spell he no longer needs the reminders... " (page 142, Core Rulebook).

I'm not sure which Core Rulebook you're referring to, but it's not the most current iteration of the rules (4th Edition). Are you quoting from an earlier (probably retconned) edition?

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4 minutes ago, WHW said:

Don't be facetious, Anemura mentioned earlier their sources - it's 1st Edition of the RPG. 

Wasn't trying to be facetious. People quote-mine from multiple sources in these discussions all the time in my experience. I didn't want to simply assume (although in this case, I guess I could have).

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14 minutes ago, Bayushi Tsubaki said:

Absolutely. My point about the use of scrolls wasn't to suggest that there was anything inherently magical or supernatural about the scrolls themselves, but rather that the very fact that a scroll of, say, "Earth Becomes Sky" can exist at all points to a narrative in which praying to the kami isn't actually making a personal request, but rather is following very specific instructions to elicit an elemental response; that those instructions happen to take the form of a request is besides the point.

 

Hmmm... If a request is formalized and repeated, does it cease being a request?

Next, does that request have to be personal? What if it's made to aid another? 

(Source Material: All 1st Edition, to get back to the original design)

 

Edited by Anemura

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6 minutes ago, Bayushi Tsubaki said:

I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek in order to make the point. Obviously that wasn't a true representation of what a prayer to a kami would look like. Sorry if that wasn't clear. :lol:

I wasn't quite as clear to what you were getting at then, as I think I was with your reply. :rolleyes:

Admittedly, I would like to see the kami be more intelligent, formless entities outside of their spells, occasionally active and displeased with things Rokugani do, their pacification within Rokugan be an important role for shugenja, and the alternative without a shugenja's aid being to fight a losing battle against an immortal entity whose only presence is a puppet of elemental force until it calms down. Sort of like mini Kusatte Iru dotted across Rokugan that the clans must shepherd carefully ... but that probably won't ever be A Thing™.

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Oh gosh... another discussion about: "What is a Shugenja?" Last time, we had a 17+ pages thread about it without any result...

A shugenja is not a priest.

A shugenja is not a wizard.

A shugenja is not a shaman.

A shugenja is not a druid.

A Shugenja is simply a shugenja.

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1 hour ago, BitRunr said:

Admittedly, I would like to see the kami be more intelligent, formless entities outside of their spells, occasionally active and displeased with things Rokugani do, their pacification within Rokugan be an important role for shugenja, and the alternative without a shugenja's aid being to fight a losing battle against an immortal entity whose only presence is a puppet of elemental force until it calms down.

I want this to be a thing.

 

EDIT:

On the topic of shugenja, I think that before we discuss their implementation, we need to decide how magical a setting we want. At present, shugenja are a powerful and common source of magic in a world which is still puzzlingly doing most things without magic. This is incoherent.

There are four ways of making it coherent, to my mind:

A) Magic is an everyday thing. Agriculture, mining and mass communication are enhanced with shugenja spells. Bushi and courtiers are obsolete, not suitable for PC-level play. A clan's power is measured by their number of shugenja.

B) Magic is rare. The world is run by muscle power, either human or animal. Wars are fought by bushi and agriculture is done by the sweat of peasants. Children born with the shugenja gift are incredibly valuable and so are carefully controlled. No daimyo is foolish enough to let them go around making their own decisions and getting into danger. You can forget about them being playable RPG characters.

(This is the level that the LCG seems to be aiming at.)

C) Shugenja are weak. Even the most potent shugenja will never be able to wield powers beyond what other humans can achieve. The Elemental Master of Fire, for example, can kill a man at range - but then so can the best archer. He can't burn armies or incinerate warships.

(This is the option that the CCG seemed to be aiming at some of the time.)

D) Everyone is magical. Much as a shugenja can wield a katana and have a Kenjutsu skill but won't benefit from school techniques, bushi and courtiers should be able to invoke the kami but won't be able to get quite the same results.

I like low-magic Rokugan, so B and C work for me. You may disagree. However, I feel that a setting in which there exist shugenja who can destroy castles with a gesture but the clans still fight with swords for some reason is a setting which lacks coherence, and that means that the PCs will be able to destroy it with their normal PC shenanigans.

Edited by Kitsu Seinosuke

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I can't speak for other people, but when I say shugenja are repeatedly described as priests but play like wizards, what I mean is this:

There is generally bugger-all in the way of spirituality in their mechanics.

RPG fluff tells us stuff like "they interact with the Spirit Realms on a daily basis," but if you look at their techniques and spells, the Spirit Realms are almost never mentioned -- except insofar as you have lots of ways to kill 'em dead. The ancestors basically do not appear. The role of the Fortunes is limited to the occasional spell/invocation named after them. Even the Elemental Dragons don't figure in, unless you're a Dragon channeler; even when the books pay lip service to the notion that you have to propitiate the kami or at least get a benefit if you do so (rather than treating them like minions to do your bidding), that's the "atomic" kami that make up the world, rather than the entities from which they arise. Which mean shugenja apparently spend time propitiating what amounts to Tengoku's toenail parings, with nary a mechanic in sight that talks about trying to win the favor or divine the will of anything further up the hierarchy.

What would an actual priestly approach look like? Less DPS, less AOE damage; more things related to the cosmology and religion of the setting -- especially the non-Tainted parts of it. Sensing (non-"atomic" kami) spirits, identifying them, summoning them, binding them to places or to perform certain tasks, warding them away, communicating with them, interfering with their abilities (making invisible creatures invisible or incorporeal creatures corporeal, locking shapechangers into a single shape, etc), mitigating their suffering (e.g. temporarily sating a gaki's hunger), strengthening or weakening the influence of a Spirit Realm, creating or sensing or closing portals to same, calling on the ancestors by doubling someone's clan or family or school bonuses or denying them those bonuses for a time, divining auspicious times and places and the will of Heaven -- I think that's enough to give a sense of it. Some of that stuff exists in 4e, but a great deal of it is locked up in techniques specific to incredibly rare schools, when it ought to be the bread and butter of what priestly powers should look like in a setting of this type. Instead we get a whole lot of spells for heaving the landscape about so you can kill people with it. And there isn't a single core mechanic for things like needing to maintain the favor of spiritual entities or your own purity, which ought to be foundational concepts, given the setting's inspiration.

So yeah: I don't care about scrolls etc. That's the window dressing. What bothers me is that the entire raison d'etre of a shugenja, as created by their mechanics, does not feel spiritual at all.

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At the very least, each spell cast should have their TN raised so that the more you call upon the kami the less they want to aid you.

Add in a way to reset it, via religious ceremony or something the kami would like.

Edited by Kakita Shiro

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3 hours ago, Kitsu Seinosuke said:

D) Everyone is magical. Much as a shugenja can wield a katana and have a Kenjutsu skill but won't benefit from school techniques, bushi and courtiers should be able to invoke the kami but won't be able to get quite the same results.

I like this option the most. Shugenja call forth the spirits with their prayers to do their bidding, sorcerers harness the power of the primal elemental energies (the same energies the Ancient Five Races used to create the world), maho-tsukai manipulate the ever-present spiritual corruption that seeps through the mortal realm, monks transcend the natural rules and shape them to their will, samurai (bushi, courtiers, and artisans) become perfectly aligned with the world and make it naturally bend to their favor, and ninja use shadow powers and other obscure tricks. Everyone has something, nobody is at loss (well, except the commoners), and you can have all kinds of awesome stuff without making compromises. 

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25 minutes ago, Kinzen said:

I can't speak for other people, but when I say shugenja are repeatedly described as priests but play like wizards, what I mean is this:

There is generally bugger-all in the way of spirituality in their mechanics.

RPG fluff tells us stuff like "they interact with the Spirit Realms on a daily basis," but if you look at their techniques and spells, the Spirit Realms are almost never mentioned -- except insofar as you have lots of ways to kill 'em dead. The ancestors basically do not appear. The role of the Fortunes is limited to the occasional spell/invocation named after them. Even the Elemental Dragons don't figure in, unless you're a Dragon channeler; even when the books pay lip service to the notion that you have to propitiate the kami or at least get a benefit if you do so (rather than treating them like minions to do your bidding), that's the "atomic" kami that make up the world, rather than the entities from which they arise. Which mean shugenja apparently spend time propitiating what amounts to Tengoku's toenail parings, with nary a mechanic in sight that talks about trying to win the favor or divine the will of anything further up the hierarchy.

What would an actual priestly approach look like? Less DPS, less AOE damage; more things related to the cosmology and religion of the setting -- especially the non-Tainted parts of it. Sensing (non-"atomic" kami) spirits, identifying them, summoning them, binding them to places or to perform certain tasks, warding them away, communicating with them, interfering with their abilities (making invisible creatures invisible or incorporeal creatures corporeal, locking shapechangers into a single shape, etc), mitigating their suffering (e.g. temporarily sating a gaki's hunger), strengthening or weakening the influence of a Spirit Realm, creating or sensing or closing portals to same, calling on the ancestors by doubling someone's clan or family or school bonuses or denying them those bonuses for a time, divining auspicious times and places and the will of Heaven -- I think that's enough to give a sense of it. Some of that stuff exists in 4e, but a great deal of it is locked up in techniques specific to incredibly rare schools, when it ought to be the bread and butter of what priestly powers should look like in a setting of this type. Instead we get a whole lot of spells for heaving the landscape about so you can kill people with it. And there isn't a single core mechanic for things like needing to maintain the favor of spiritual entities or your own purity, which ought to be foundational concepts, given the setting's inspiration.

So yeah: I don't care about scrolls etc. That's the window dressing. What bothers me is that the entire raison d'etre of a shugenja, as created by their mechanics, does not feel spiritual at all.

This is one of the reasons I rarely have people playing Shugenja in L5R RPG.  I love the idea them being priests, but they always seem more like mages.  You mentioned a purity system and I like the sound of that, especially because it encompasses the other classes as well.  I like the idea of a bushi who isn't really a Shugenja, but does focus on purifying themselves and always observes the proper rites and rituals everywhere they travel.  For this they can't just summon up kami the way a Shugenja would, but kami may want to show up to help out occasionally.

This time you mention having them focus more on the spirits by summoning them and binding them.  This is also a really fun idea!  I could imagine a fire Shugenja has maybe cajoled a fire spirit to stay with him, bound to a rock the Shugenja carries.  Perhaps this rock was cooked in a roaring fire for 3 days while prayers and offerings were given, the rock is permanently warm and the spirit travels inside - so they have a more personal relationship.  The Shugenja may need to continue to give offerings to that spirit but they would be able to have a more powerful bond than just giving offerings at every temple you go to.  This could also open up monks or Shugenja who are extremely powerful - on and around their temple - but aren't powerful elsewhere, because of their personal bond with the kami of that specific temple.

I'll keep these in mind next time someone wants to play a Shugenja.

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Also, to give an example of what I mean:

Benten. Within the framework of the 4e shugenja mechanics, where does Benten -- one of the Seven Great Fortunes -- play a role?

In the spell Benten's Touch. And that's it.

Okay, you say, but that's still a thing; you pray to Benten --

Nope. You pray to the air kami. And how easy or difficult that is for you depends entirely on your stats and your school. If you have Benten's Blessing, your TN isn't lower, nor do you get a larger benefit from it. If you have Benten's Curse, again, the spell is exactly the same. Because Benten and what she thinks of you or your target have absolutely nothing to do with it. You could rename the spell "Social Grace" and nothing whatsoever would change.

Jurojin gets named twice in spells. The rest of the Seven Great Fortunes, not at all. And these are entities that are supposed to be hugely important to the spiritual life of the setting.

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That's why I made a joke about Shugenja in RPG being like a toyline where you buy more spells for your Shugenja figurine: there was a ton of spells for the CCG. All you needed to do was to translate them to RPG rules.

Of course, the card game focusing on clan on clan warfare, you had mostly spells that dealt with launching elements on your enemies to kill them bad. And because these spells formed the primary body of spells since the start of the game, non-CCG based spells continued the tradition simply because they were written to emulate the style of their predecessors. 

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2 minutes ago, WHW said:

That's why I made a joke about Shugenja in RPG being like a toyline where you buy more spells for your Shugenja figurine: there was a ton of spells for the CCG. All you needed to do was to translate them to RPG rules.

Of course, the card game focusing on clan on clan warfare, you had mostly spells that dealt with launching elements on your enemies to kill them bad. And because these spells formed the primary body of spells since the start of the game, non-CCG based spells continued the tradition simply because they were written to emulate the style of their predecessors. 

So there's a sacred cow to kill: "RPG mechanics must look like CCG mechanics." :-P

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