Manchu

Politics of Rokugan

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I've heard people say, all politics is personal - meaning that politics ultimately comes down to relationships between particular personalities. But politics also transcends individuals. It is also ideological. IRL we have ideological frameworks like "conservative" and "progressive," which for the purposes of this thread I will broadly define as emphasizing continuity and emphasizing development, respectively. We also have high concept issues IRL, such as the give and take between centralized authority and devolved authority (subsidiarity). IMO these real world concepts don't line up very well with Rokugan. Are any of the Great Clans "progressive"? Perhaps the Unicorn, although that would leave every other clan in the conservative camp. Also, is there any real tension in Rokugani politics about the relative power of the Imperial family and the Great Clans or between the leadership of each Clan and the daimyo of its constituent families?

In other words, are there any actual ideological controversies in Rokugani politics or is it all a matter of personalities? Put it another way, if the Champions of the Great Clans and the Emperor all got along at a personal level, what would there be left to squabble over?

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13 minutes ago, Manchu said:

I've heard people say, all politics is personal - meaning that politics ultimately comes down to relationships between particular personalities. But politics also transcends individuals. It is also ideological. IRL we have ideological frameworks like "conservative" and "progressive," which for the purposes of this thread I will broadly define as emphasizing continuity and emphasizing development, respectively. We also have high concept issues IRL, such as the give and take between centralized authority and devolved authority (subsidiarity). IMO these real world concepts don't line up very well with Rokugan. Are any of the Great Clans "progressive"? Perhaps the Unicorn, although that would leave every other clan in the conservative camp. Also, is there any real tension in Rokugani politics about the relative power of the Imperial family and the Great Clans or between the leadership of each Clan and the daimyo of its constituent families?

In other words, are there any actual ideological controversies in Rokugani politics or is it all a matter of personalities? Put it another way, if the Champions of the Great Clans and the Emperor all got along at a personal level, what would there be left to squabble over?

A quick simplistic answer:

The culture of Rokugan pretty much puts things in a game of personalities.

Your point vis a vis the Unicorn vs. Other Clans seems spot on.

Politcal progress is near impossible when.

A: goes against 'Tradition', a cornerstone concept of Rokugani culture.

B: could be considered Treason or Heresy and suppressed with prejudice 

any political or sociological debate is kept more or less private and therefore usually has little impact on things. The 'usually' was the Gozoku, and we knew how that turned out.

 

Edited by Kuni Katsuyoshi
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16 minutes ago, Manchu said:

In other words, are there any actual ideological controversies in Rokugani politics or is it all a matter of personalities? Put it another way, if the Champions of the Great Clans and the Emperor all got along at a personal level, what would there be left to squabble over?

It is a feudal society - so they can all like each other, and party all winter... but when the crops come to bear its whatever army is "protecting" the fields that gets the yield.

There is the caste system though - and some people are willing to teach heimin (half people) and sometimes even hinin (non people) how to fight and defend themselves which to others is against the celestial order as anyone in the Samurai class should by rights be able to slaughter any hinin, and most heimin without resistance.  The recent fiction showed this with Kitsuki Shomon, talking about how she would teach anyone.  This would be considered very progressive.

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2 minutes ago, shosuko said:

It is a feudal society - so they can all like each other, and party all winter... but when the crops come to bear its whatever army is "protecting" the fields that gets the yield.

There is the caste system though - and some people are willing to teach heimin (half people) and sometimes even hinin (non people) how to fight and defend themselves which to others is against the celestial order as anyone in the Samurai class should by rights be able to slaughter any hinin, and most heimin without resistance.  The recent fiction showed this with Kitsuki Shomon, talking about how she would teach anyone.  This would be considered very progressive.

Of course, she secured the proposition with her life. 😛

Edited by Kuni Katsuyoshi

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If I had to rate the clans I would say
Crab - They care a lot less about the celestial order, but do care that you live or die by your own merits.  They would be similar to Libertarians.
Scorpion - These would be scummy politicians in any group who like to tag in hidden laws inside other bills and skip debates in favor of a swift vote while the main bill is still popular.
Lion - Definitely conservative.  They like how things have been, tradition is very important, as is the ability to protect ones self with force.
Unicorn - Progressive, but militant.  I would put them as sorta left-wing in that they aren't just different, but flaunt their differences to troll everyone.
Dragon - Progressive, but more centrist.  Their investigators are the few who rely on actual facts, and their shugenja use chemistry.  Very forward thinking.
Phoenix - Conservative, but in an intellectual way.  They believe they know enough about how things work that others should listen to them - but don't go learning yourself, just listen.
Crane - These are the fashionistas and socialites, whether liberal or conservative.  They are fine with new ideas as long as it doesn't get them dirty, or take away deference they've come to expect.

Edited by shosuko
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There certainly is political tension between centralization vs. devolving authority. I think this should be emphasized much more than it has been, but in the original timeline, the Gozuku replaced the effective power with the emperor with the interference of several clan daimyo.

Realistically, clan Daimyo will want to accumulate power for themselves. Feudal societies always feel a pull towards decentralization coming from the nobility and a centralization pull coming from the ruler. This has nothing directly to do with personal relationships. 

I have never see this depicted outside of weird little aspects of the Kolat, but in an empire as large and developed as Rokugan, one would expect there to be a merchant/artisan class that would want more power. In Europe this became the political division between conservatives and liberals (conservatives representing the aristocracy), and Rokugan ought to have something like it, since trade and manufacture are depicted as pretty advanced and there are some large cities.

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I am very fond of the highly personal nature of the story telling. I love that L5R has well drawn characters. But as a setting, Rokugan has vast scope. L5R is the story of an entire Empire. Therefore, I believe the conflicts should transcend personality.

So in the "current" era, we have the issue of meishodo. At an ideological level, this is a conflict between, on the one hand, the notion that Rokugan's strength and security rest on its cultural purity and, on the other hand, the notion that gaijin culture can be incorporated into Rokugan to make the Empire stronger. Certainly, Altansarnai believes she is acting from the latter perspective. But her Phoenix opponents, while prejudiced against gaijin sorcery, don't seem to be arguing in favor of purity so much as - on the basis of a personal experience of a disturbance rippling through the Void - that meishodo is dangerous in and of itself, regardless of its origin.

The Lion obviously side with the Phoenix - but is this ideological? It seems to have more to do with pressuring the Unicorn on the otherwise unrelated controversy over some Ki-rin lands. Similarly, the Crane seem to be siding with Unicorn, not because they believe Rokugan can absorb gaijin culture and be stronger but rather because they want to ally with the Unicorn against the Lion, with whom they are also in conflict.

Edited by Manchu
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8 minutes ago, Eugene Earnshaw said:

There certainly is political tension between centralization vs. devolving authority.

So far, it is personal rather than ideological. The great example is Kisada Hida. In the "current" era, he is inwardly critical of the Emperor's lack of concern regarding the Shadowlands. This is one personality's critical perspective of another. Kisada (so far) doesn't believe anything is wrong with Imperial authority as an institution; he just questions whether it is being exercised properly by Hantei XXXVIII particularly.

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The Perfect Land sect has the most potential to create an ideological conflict because it gets to the basic social structure of Rokugan. The "Age of Declining Virtue" is basically a revolutionary slogan, since it is explicitly anti-samurai. Perfect Land teaches that people have no need to cultivate personal merit, presumably because faith in Shinsei is the path to paradise.

According to orthodoxy, people are no more equal in the Celestial Order than they are in Ningen-do. Samuari are samurai because they have accumulated sufficient spiritual merit over the course of reincarnations. Interestingly, the Dragon believe there is a short cut whereby heimin children of a certain level of spiritual merit can be trained as samurai. And of course, becoming ise zumi is open to anyone.

This is probably why Perfect Land - despite Masahige's concern about Perfect Land growing violent - is not (yet) outlawed in Dragon Lands. Then again, that's not only despite Masahige's concerns but also because of them: rooting out the sect would very probably also further radicalize it.

Masahige himself articulates the seed of a potentially empire-wide ideological conflict: "if there is the slightest chance their mantra might lead them to that goal, should they not be permitted to follow it?"

Edited by Manchu

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10 hours ago, shosuko said:


Phoenix - Conservative, but in an intellectual way.  They believe they know enough about how things work that others should listen to them - but don't go learning yourself, just listen.

I take offense at this, sir! ;)

The Phoenix are obviously democratic socialists. Knowledge is for everyone, and anything we learned from meishudo, a flawed and impure magic, not to mention dangerous, would be shared with caution. After all, you don't give labor the capital directly. You give them a vote on how it's spent or distributed. The elemental council is obviously a union!

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Re: Dragon Heimin Peasant Children

I personally have a pet theory that Dragon use kind of a circular fate logic to justify this course of action: that  because given child was found out and deemed worthy, it was its Fate all along to end up as a Samurai, and because it was Fate, there is no move against Celestial Order, because Fate is an expression of Will of Heavens. You know, the logic where the success of your action retroactively confirms that initiating that action is a right move - if there are no children to be forged into samurai, they won't be found, and your failure retroactively means that searching for them is dishonorable treason against the celestial order, but as soon as you find a child, your success automatically makes the course of action honourable and theologically justified. 

 

EDIT
Actually, the kid should be in some constant, Schroedinger level of weird state of potentially being a failure (and thus making it so that elevating it was a dishonorable heresy) until it has no more means to turn out to be a failure - so until it dies not-dishonorably :V. This is interesting because Shomon actually took up a similar deal - her Dojo is "correct and legit" as long as no single student turns out to be a failure, which retroactively makes Shomon bad and as guilty as they are. 

So yeah, Dragon are taking some major risks right there, and there is a lot of weight they are accepting by doing so! 

Edited by WHW
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I doubt the Dragon lean on such empty tautologies. Remember the words of Kitsuki Shomon: "Indeed, we demand the merits of Bushidō from [heimin] in countless ways, only we do not give it that name." Think of it this way: when the Kami descended to Ningen-do, they wandered the world looking for followers. Were there samurai in those days or not? Akodo found merit in Ikoma and Matsu - were they not therefore samurai? And perhaps Akodo just recognized as much. Togashi never stopped doing this, granting his own name to whoever has the merit to live up to the demands of being ise zumi.

The key is merit. Again, Shomon said: "true virtue is the center from which all else proceeds." Merit is not only accumulated in one's previous incarnations but also in the course of one's current lifespan. Plus, it's not as if the Dragon are being cyncical. Only those heimin children whom the Agasha deem already worthy can be reared as potential samurai. It's not as if they are just "knighting" ashigaru to fill the ranks; no moreso than Shomon would train a peasant in kenjutsu. The practice, after all, only somewhat alleviates the Dragon's problem. It doesn't solve it.

The point is, the Dragon do believe in the cultivation of spiritual merit. That is precisely why Masahige is disturbed by the Pure Land sect teaching. Suijindai means the very constitution of the Empire is failing. The signs of Suijindai would naturally include a decline of fertility among samurai, since there would be insufficient meritorious souls to be born into samurai families. When virtue is strong, the samurai are strong and protect the heimin, who thus live prosperously. When virtue wanes, the heimin wander down false paths - such as questioning whether virtue is meaningful at all.

This brings us back to Shomon's point to Yogo Hiroue: "Tell me where it serves the Empire for peasants to be cowardly, or cruel, or dishonest." Nonetheless, they will be so in the absence of virtue, when they abaondon the cultivation of spiritual merit. And I believe this is exactly why, according to Masahige's observation, the Pure Land sect is growing more violent. The trouble is, doubt gnaws at Masahige's own heart: he wonders openly, if also hypothetically, whether Pure Land may be a path to Enlightenment. The Dragon are susceptible to error for the same reason they grow into wisdom: they are open-minded, like Togashi. Because Togashi can see how fate bends and twists, he does not rely on the certainty of rigid orthodoxy.

Contrast this to the Phoenix. They outlawed Pure Land in their own territories and they would have had the Emperor outlaw meishodo in Rokugan. But Masahige understands that trying to stamp out Pure Land would just push the adherents into greater violence, as guerillas in the mountains, where the Dragon Clan would expend its waning strength fruitlessly pursuing them. Sometimes everything done to avoid disaster is what creates it. I saw one Phoenix post he was glad the Emperor did not accept the Phoenix position regarding meishodo, so that when it inevitably threatens the Empire the crisis cannot be blamed on them.

The Phoenix are certain Pure Land is a false path. The Dragon doubt that. Perhaps certainty is the privilege of scholars and doubt is the privilege of mystics. In any case, as a matter of policy, the sect can be banned or allowed. Shosuro Hyobu can allow Shomon to operate her dojo as she sees fit, or not. The Emperor can illegalize meishodo or not. It is worth noting that the Emperor's decision did not vindicate the Unicorn ideology of incorporating gaijin customs to strengthen the Empire. He merely recognized that if he did not ban it, then the Hidden Guard must learn enough about it to counter it as a threat to himself. In effect, the Emperor's policy concedes that meishodo could be a threat, as the Phoenix claim.

The Emperor's decision reflects balance.

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As a Student of Japanese History and the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States) Period, all of the above are interesting observations on how the various parties might react. Some additional ideas are as follows:

With regard to the decentralized verses centralized model of governance: Centralization with regard to the rise of the historical samurai clans took time as many warlords were not want to give up their power and alliances were built to accomplish this over time....or during the Warring States period when it was every warlord for themselves and everyone (including family/clan members) regarded each other with suspicion and clawed for position over the backs of whoever could be bought off, suborned, or outright killed. Rokugan historically in the setting has been far more stable as far as Clan respect for central authority, with a few exception of the Crab or the Scorpion Coup. Aside from this, things have been largely stable. To throw things fora curve and change things up, a few concepts should be played with:

1. Money: Yes, I know that a lot of modern games do not like tracking money and wealth for reasons, and by in large, most clan samurai do not look at it too closely. But the lower rank Gi-samurai do. As do Ronin, merchants, and monks. Monasteries and temples do need funds to run properly. And historically, a lot or Monasteries and Temples had peasants villages set aside to support them. And monies and rice the local Daimyos could not touch normally, which stuck in the craw of the local Daimyo, particularly if the temple became popular and grew, requiring more land, peasants, and monies to operate. Some peasants might run to the monastery if they considered the local lord unjust. Some temples raised warrior monk armies and you can pretty much see where this is going. Add a layer of actual or False piety (materially corrupt monks were more common that people like to talk about) and you get a potentially explosive mixture ready to go.

2. A Weak Emperor: This has sort of been touched on in the stories, but one becoming weak enough not to control The Great Clans to the point where they start getting ideas has not really be covered enough. The storyline I run is where the Scorpion Won the Clan Coup and Shoju II is on the throne, preparing to hand off to Shoju III. The time since the coup has been the royal family navigating the minefields since the coup and a all out Gaijin Invasion on the level of Troy that was long and bloody and devastated the coasts. The rebuilding has been going slow and brushfire conflicts have been occasionally known to happen. The current emperor does command respect (he's actually been fairly honorable and his suggestions are considered wise and sensible)....but there is that whole thing with wiping out the previous imperial line. So you have the older resentful generation in the clans,and the new ones who look around and see he's been doing good. So you get that dynamic.

3 Equality of the masses.....yeah that's not happening: Peasant uprisings (Ikki) are simultaneously feared/Loathed by the samurai, and having them put down entire villages to prevent the spread of bad ideas is a known thing. In my current storyline, there are several villages the in Crane lands that were backed by monasteries preaching equality of the masses in the material world . Doji Shingen, A Crane warlord responded by burning them to the ground, then surrounded the mountain the monestary was on and set the mountain on fire killing all the villages the fled to the monastery and everyone inside to get the point across. And not one bushi is going to blink at this, except regretting the loss of life. The peasantry if they find out.....will get back to work

 

Edited by TheWanderingJewels

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Opportunities for Shenanigans 

Much of this information is kibbled/modified from The Samurai Archives Wiki as supplementary material for the information provided with the current line of L5R books

 

Han (n): The feudal domains ruled by daimyô are most commonly throughout Rokugani history referred to as han. During the age of Exploration, the term as fallen into relative disuse, and domains are instead referred to by a number of terms including:

kuni ("country", "state") (Much to the Crabs amusement)

ryô or ryôbun ("territory", "portion of territory") (the play on the term for coinage is often used in jokes)

shiryô ("private territory") (Typically used to refer to Samurai residences)

ie (“house”) (used to refer to peasant housing, usually farming housing)

zaisho ("place where one is resident") (often used interchangeably when referring to Merchant housing and places of business)

fu or seifu ( "government") (used to refer to governing clan residences or governmental buildings),

and kôgi ("government", "public affairs") (typically used when referring to Imperial Holdings), among others.

 

The use of these terms was often governed by omote and uchi (or "external" and "internal") concerns; a term such as kuni might be used in internal domain documents to refer to the domain, but when speaking to the Emperor about one's domain, kuni would be used to refer to Rokugan as a whole, and another term, such as zaisho, would be used to the daimyô's humble appointed territory

 

The han are largely autonomous in terms of their internal affairs, but were subject to numerous strictures originally imposed by Hantei III, as well as taxation and ritual obligations. Hantei XVI , officially acknowledged (for tax purposes and control) 185 major domains during his reign; by the reign of Hantei XX, the number of major domains stabilized around 260, but the total number of distinct domains that existed at one time or another over the course of Rokugani History exceeds 540.

 

Though many daimyô continue to hold their ancestral territory as their han, in theory all han are fiefs granted by the Emperor of Rokugan. The Emperor reserves the right to give and take away lands from daimyô, and often makes use of this power, reassigning a given territory to a different samurai clan, and assigning the former lords of that territory to a different domain elsewhere in the archipelago, or simply denying them a territory entirely during political turmoil or as a possible reward for service. This occurred particularly frequently in the Reign of Hantei XVI and during the Heresy Era, with 281 instances of clans being moved from one domain to another, and 213 instances of clans losing daimyô status, and their domains, entirely during that fifty-year period. The latter was most often due to the absence of an heir; though Imperial policies were relaxed in later eras, initially, deathbed adoptions were not permitted.

The power or status of each han (and of their daimyô) was determined by its kokudaka, normally a measure of agricultural or commercial production in units of koku; in some cases, domains were assigned a kokudaka out of proportion to their agricultural production, in recognition of their importance strategically, diplomatically, or otherwise. The smallest domains, by definition, had a kokudaka of at least 10,000 koku, while the largest domains, boast a kokudaka of 1,000,000 koku or better. The vast majority of domains were closer to the lower end of this range, and only a handful of domains were assessed in the hundreds of thousands of koku.


 

On the Kokuda:

 

Kokudaka (n): a measure of the agricultural production of a daimyô domain, or "han," expressed as a measure of koku of rice. As a representation of the domain's wealth, kokudaka determined the amount of the domain's tax obligations to the shogunate, and the domain's status relative to other domains.

The smallest daimyô domains, by definition, possessed at least 10,000 koku, while some samurai retainers were granted sub-domains within a han, with a much smaller rating in koku. The majority of han were officially assessed at a kokudaka in the range of 10,000 to 200,000 koku, though the kokudaka of the most powerful domains exceeded 500,000 koku.

This figure, though ostensibly based on the actual agricultural production of the domain's territory, often did not change over the course of the period. A domain's kokudaka might be changed as a political reward or punishment, but the Empire does not engage in regular surveys of agricultural production, and did not update domains' kokudaka on the basis of their production.

Multiple different figures for the kokudaka thus often existed simultaneously for a single domain. The official figure determined and recognized by the Empire and used as a marker or indicator of the domain's wealth and status can be referred to as omotedaka, using the character omote, meaning "official," "surface," or "outside." Meanwhile, nearly all domains maintained their own internal figures for agricultural production, called uchidaka , using the character uchi, meaning "inside" or "internal."

The uchidaka was often a higher figure, more regularly assessed and more accurately reflecting increases and expansions of agricultural productivity within the domain. It was generally in the best interests of the domain to not report the higher figure, and to allow the omotedaka recognized by the Empire to remain at a lower figure, since this means lower tax payments owed by the domain to the Empire; though this seems deceitful or deceptive, such behavior is widely condoned by the Empire, as part of the philosophy of omote and uchi, allowing internal matters to remain relatively private, so long as a domain's obligations on the official, external are properly observed.

 

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On ‎9‎/‎12‎/‎2017 at 10:39 PM, WHW said:

Re: Dragon Heimin Peasant Children

I personally have a pet theory that Dragon use kind of a circular fate logic to justify this course of action: that  because given child was found out and deemed worthy, it was its Fate all along to end up as a Samurai, and because it was Fate, there is no move against Celestial Order, because Fate is an expression of Will of Heavens. You know, the logic where the success of your action retroactively confirms that initiating that action is a right move - if there are no children to be forged into samurai, they won't be found, and your failure retroactively means that searching for them is dishonorable treason against the celestial order, but as soon as you find a child, your success automatically makes the course of action honourable and theologically justified. 

 

EDIT
Actually, the kid should be in some constant, Schroedinger level of weird state of potentially being a failure (and thus making it so that elevating it was a dishonorable heresy) until it has no more means to turn out to be a failure - so until it dies not-dishonorably :V. This is interesting because Shomon actually took up a similar deal - her Dojo is "correct and legit" as long as no single student turns out to be a failure, which retroactively makes Shomon bad and as guilty as they are. 

So yeah, Dragon are taking some major risks right there, and there is a lot of weight they are accepting by doing so! 

Sounds like the Dragon are struggling with Fate vs Free Will.

Sounds like the Dragon need to read Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy.

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I guess that with crab they give you a chance to test your fate with the 20 goblin winter. Although now that I think of it I get more of a snake oil salesman vibe from it. *in a C.W. Fields voice* Step right up, step right up. Present 20 goblin heads and you too can be an honorable samurai. No more toiling in fields or wandering the land, for a measly 20 goblin heads Dr. Hida can transform your into a warrior all your friends will be envious of.

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On 9/25/2017 at 10:45 PM, TheWanderingJewels said:

As a Student of Japanese History and the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States) Period, all of the above are interesting observations on how the various parties might react. Some additional ideas are as follows:

With regard to the decentralized verses centralized model of governance: Centralization with regard to the rise of the historical samurai clans took time as many warlords were not want to give up their power and alliances were built to accomplish this over time....or during the Warring States period when it was every warlord for themselves and everyone (including family/clan members) regarded each other with suspicion and clawed for position over the backs of whoever could be bought off, suborned, or outright killed. Rokugan historically in the setting has been far more stable as far as Clan respect for central authority, with a few exception of the Crab or the Scorpion Coup. Aside from this, things have been largely stable. To throw things fora curve and change things up, a few concepts should be played with:

1. Money: Yes, I know that a lot of modern games do not like tracking money and wealth for reasons, and by in large, most clan samurai do not look at it too closely. But the lower rank Gi-samurai do. As do Ronin, merchants, and monks. Monasteries and temples do need funds to run properly. And historically, a lot or Monasteries and Temples had peasants villages set aside to support them (Not Taxed....at all). And monies and rice the local Daimyos could not touch normally, which stuck in the craw of the local Daimyo, particularly if the temple became popular and grew, requiring more land, peasants, and monies to operate. Some peasants might run to the monastery if they considered the local lord unjust. Some temples raised warrior monk armies and you can pretty much see where this is going. Add a layer of actual or False piety (materially corrupt monks were more common that people like to talk about) and you get a potentially explosive mixture ready to go.

2. A Weak Emperor: This has sort of been touched on in the stories, but one becoming weak enough not to control The Great Clans to the point where they start getting ideas has not really be covered enough. The storyline I run is where the Scorpion Won the Clan Coup and Shoju II is on the throne, preparing to hand off to Shoju III. The time since the coup has been the royal family navigating the minefields since the coup and a all out Gaijin Invasion on the level of Troy that was long and bloody and devastated the coasts. The rebuilding has been going slow and brushfire conflicts have been occasionally known to happen. The current emperor does command respect (he's actually been fairly honorable and his suggestions are considered wise and sensible)....but there is that whole thing with wiping out the previous imperial line. So you have the older resentful generation in the clans,and the new ones who look around and see he's been doing good. So you get that dynamic.

3 Equality of the masses.....yeah that's not happening: Peasant uprisings (Ikki) are simultaneously feared/Loathed by the samurai, and having them put down entire villages to prevent the spread of bad ideas is a known thing. In my current storyline, there are several villages the in Crane lands that were backed by monasteries preaching equality of the masses in the material world . Doji Shingen, A Crane warlord responded by burning them to the ground, then surrounded the mountain the monestary was on and set the mountain on fire killing all the villages the fled to the monastery and everyone inside to get the point across. And not one bushi is going to blink at this, except regretting the loss of life. The peasantry if they find out.....will get back to work

 

 

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