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Yoritomo Kazuto

In depth thoughts on Setting Enhancements

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Here is a rahter long topic about L5R and how it would be possible to integrate additional historical Japanese aspects into the LCG, RPG, and Story. Several of the things included are; Yamabushi, Onmyouji, and Shinto Shrines (called Jinja in Japanese). I will provide further details in regards to each of those, as well as links to various sites that you may find useful. In addition I will discuss the Mantis Clan, and aspects about them and the historical connotations from Japan that may fit well for them. I have been studying Japanese culture and religion for a couple years now, and I am blessed to have had to opportunity to visit Japan with regular visits thanks to my in-laws being Japanese.
 
Yamabushi follow a religion called Shugen-do which is a syncretic faith of Shinto, Buddhism, and Toaism (this is similar in many ways to the design of the L5R combined faith of Shintao). It is a mountain faith that focuses on using asceticism to gain magical powers against evil spirits. This would be a fitting way for Shugenja in L5R to fit neatly within the Dragon Clan, mixing the Ascetic ways of the Togashi Monks with the Shugenja techniques and traditions often utilized by the other clans.  In addition with the focus being on the defeat of evil spirits they would be useful against potential shadowland corruptive forces ,or for calming down angry Kami that inhabit the mountains and/or storms. In fact the religion of Shugen-do is likely the inspiration of Shugenja in L5R to an extent, as most Shugenja utilize some of the concepts to a limited degree. Albeit the Shugenja more likely fill the role of Kannushi in Shinto, more on that later.
 
Onmyouji would be a huge boon to the Imperial Families as their own unique take on the role of the Shugenja and how to best serve the Emperor. The Five Elements that L5R utilizes are the same that the Onmyouji use in their magic (again likely a major inspiration for aspects of the Shugenja). Fortune-telling and the reading of auspicious signs for the Emperor would be a key aspect of them, in essence they would know potential aspects of the future (in game turns, perhaps adjusting dials after the fact). They would also be able to fight and put to rest angry dead, something that the Maho-Tsukai (Blood Magic users in L5R) would have reason to fear. Finally Onmyouji were known for the creation of Shikigami, basically creating a body for a Kami to serve you in various dangerous matters, be it spying, guarding, etc. This could be done in game through the creation of tokens for fate cost or something similar. Having the Onmyouji be directly connected to the Imperial Families would also add some much needed depth to the usually antagonistic Imperial Families in a more positive (potentially) light.
Shinto Shrines and thus Shrines in L5R are integral to the community for a variety of reasons. Primarily in that they are one of the few things that brings together peasants and Samurai. Matsuri and various festivals are typically held by Shinto Shrines to instill community values and ideals to all people involved. They celebrate many things, be it the departed, a good harvest, graduations (Gempekku for L5R), reaching adulthood, and Holidays related to various Kami. Shinto Shrines also act as a sort of nature preserve within communities, with the nature being seen as sacred nature. In addition communities often built up around shrines, and the shrines often have a good amount of natural space around them, really creating the separation of mundane from sacred. The Torii gate is integral to the Shrine, and is not just an aesthetic choice, a Torii gate represents the entrance into sacred space, or entrance to the approach to the shrine. When you see pictures of Torii Gates within cities what you are seeing in the loss of Shrine land to the city, with the approach still remaining, not a random Torii being placed without reason. In the time period of L5R, when cities are much smaller, you would only see Torii where Shrine lands start.
 
Kannushi are the priests of Kami, and the keepers of Shrines. Within L5R that role is filled by the Shugenja, and very rarely do we see them doing this duty, often leaving Shrines abandoned or alone. A shrine without a priest, especially one with a sacred object to the Kami would likely lead to an angry Kami. With L5R I would love to see the more priestly aspects of the Shugenja explored, overseeing the rituals for Matsuri, doing rituals for good crop yields and bountiful harvests, really having them integrated into the spiitual core of the setting insteado being wizards and sorcerers. Shugenja should feel like they are serving the Kami (and specific Kami), when they go to war they are doing the will of the Kami, but it should be rare for them to go to war. More often they should be giving blessing to the warriors, and speaking on behalf of the Kami in court. This could make them a dangerous political powerhouse (as the Phoenix are looking to be).
Ok now onto the Mantis Clan and my thoughts on them, their culture, and what makes them interesting. A lot of what I will be discussing is generalized from the old L5R with some personal thoughts. The Mantis clan in the old L5R originates from the heir of the Crab clan (Child of the Champion, and a Matsu) who was passed over for his sibling who was a bastard born of peasant stock. His mother left with him and their followers to the island of Silk and Spice. The founder of the clan utilized a Kusari-Gama as their primary weapon instead of a Katana. Looking at this we can quickly see how the Mantis clan would care little for the Katana, first due to their founder, second due to their terrain, and third due to their life upon the sea. The Mantis Clan in the old L5R near the end had an interesting theme of dual wielding peasant weapons, and a long history of using the Kama. The Kama is a cheap weapon, typically used by peasants for farming, so losing it is no big deal. It is also useful on a ship in that if can be used similar to a pick to stab into the wood to keep from going overboard. Finally it is useful in that it makes the wielder appear to look like a Praying Mantis. It is a beautiful weapon for theme, and story. The Fighting style for it would also be based around Eskrima, the Philippine Martial Art (which works for the Islands of Silk and Spice). This would give them a unique way of fighting that separates them from the other families.
Links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kama_(weapon)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnis
http://blackbeltmag.com/daily/traditional-martial-arts-training/escrima/10-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-the-filipino-martial-arts/
 
Gunpowder and Guns are probably a touchy topic for many L5R players, but I think it is an important thing to broach. Historically the Japanese were using Firearms since the 16th Century (which is around the time Samurai were a major thing). Firearms were introduced by the Portuguese and were quickly replicated by the Japanese. Samurai would lead armies of Ashigaru who would wield the Flintlock rifles of the days. An example of a major Samurai Daimyo who used it to great affect is Oda Nobunaga who nearly unified Japan before one of his own men assassinated him in a Temple (there are reports Nobunaga burnt the temple down and committed Sepuku so his traitorous retainer wouldn't have the pleasure of killing him). Gunpowder could still be fairly controlled by the samurai, without the use of cannons and expensive, but it could easily have its place in the new L5R, really setting the world apart from the previous incarnation.
I think that is a majority of what I wanted to discuss at the moment, and I think you for taking the time to read it. I would love your feedback, questions, and thoughts regarding these questions. I look forward to seeing where L5R goes from here, and I hope that I have been in some form useful.

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On shugenja - the kanji 修験者 (for shugenja) translate as "examinees" (修験 shugen test/trial, 者 sha person) and as "mountaineering ascetic"... a wonderful pun on shugenja and their training...

Yamabushi 山伏 "mountain priest". (山 yama mountain; 伏 fuku lying down, facing down) - note the transition of the second kanji to a wholly different sound - almost literally "lying on the mountain"...

As for shrines without attendants - the only ones I've encountered in the material are those in samurai homes - ancestor shrines. Whether any given GM has upheld that bit is more flexible, but I, as a GM, make it a point that every shrine has one of the following attending: A shgenja, A monk of shinsei, a retired samurai turned clan-monk, or a peasant kannushi. Only that last isn't supported by the materials in 2E and/or 3E. I will admit, however, to not having read most of 4E, and having missed some parts of 2E and a few parts of 3E.

It is important to remember that Rokugan is not Japan, and the syncretic behavior of Japan embraces 3 major religions in varying but non-exclusive proportions: Shintō, Buddhism, and  ancestor worship, with doses of Taoism tossed into all three (tho least so into Shintō). L5R has always intentionally merged those 4 into one syncretic whole. Separating them again does little benefit, and serves mostly to confuse gaijin, most of whom are used to relatively low syncretism in the major faiths of the west.

 

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The big thing I'm hoping to see isn't the separation of the faiths, or the creation of new faiths., instead what I'm hoping to get out of it is more of family specialization based upon their own views and interpretations. The concept of Yamabushi style Shugenja for the Dragon being one example, and Onmyouji style Shugenja for the Imperial Family. You see this already with the Kuni in the Crab, and the Death Priests of the Unicorn. I'd love to see this space explored further, with looking into historical aspects of Japan, and other East Asian faiths/cultures.  I'm also really wanting to see the Shugenja really start to fill the religious/spiritual role more, especially when compared to the old L5R near the end. The timeline reset, and the opportunity for positive changes is something I hope we do not ignore.

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1 hour ago, Yoritomo Kazuto said:

You see this already with the Kuni in the Crab, and the Death Priests of the Unicorn.

While it is a school I loved since the death preist didnt emerge as an accepted religious sect in rokugan until Tein Shin Yin Wang were made fortunes in the 1160s then the timeline reset would have them nonexistent in rokugan so far.

That said between the techniques of the kuni witch hunters and toritaka exorcist perhaps even yogo wardmasters mechanics and premise for onmyouji could easily be flushed out.   Their are also mechanics in fourth edition homebrew called Court of the Minor Clans that has a Obake minor clan that is very similar to an onymouji you described.

 

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3 hours ago, Yoritomo Kazuto said:

Kannushi are the priests of Kami, and the keepers of Shrines. Within L5R that role is filled by the Shugenja, and very rarely do we see them doing this duty, often leaving Shrines abandoned or alone. A shrine without a priest, especially one with a sacred object to the Kami would likely lead to an angry Kami. With L5R I would love to see the more priestly aspects of the Shugenja explored, overseeing the rituals for Matsuri, doing rituals for good crop yields and bountiful harvests, really having them integrated into the spiitual core of the setting insteado being wizards and sorcerers. Shugenja should feel like they are serving the Kami (and specific Kami), when they go to war they are doing the will of the Kami, but it should be rare for them to go to war. More often they should be giving blessing to the warriors, and speaking on behalf of the Kami in court.

This is an excellent point that is downplayed due to happenstance.

While i do not believe the writers of l5r have ever intentionally downplayed or overlooked the these facets in rokugans culture and the role of preists i think the fact that 1. The audience here is widely american or westernly influenced toward magic users have role primary action at all times and 2. That the preist of rokugan unlike the monastic traditions that serve the emperor through the brotherhood are samurai in service to their daimyos 1st,  both play a role in them being depicted and played by all as more like dynamic spellslingers than keepers of elemental harmony and peace.

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At first i thought it was just similar name due to the dragon clan lands being mostly mountains but then i found their tradition.   To summarize:

"These monks focused on a relationship with the natural world, as only through experiencing the interplay of the elements in their most primal state could the soul be set free. [2] Most yamabushi sects organized themselves into bands of five, with one monk in each band embodying one of the Five Rings. [3]"

While this is from 2nd and 3rd edition sources their philosophies fit in nicely with the kannushi and yamabushi described above.  And seeing as they are recognized as one of the largest brotherhood sects on rokugan and count the order of the seven thunders amongst them I see little reason they couldnt already cannonically exist within the new l5r.

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In the end Onmyodo would be just the use of foretelling and omen related skills and spells. Plus a bit of warding and exorcism ritual. The creation of a Shikigami would be a kami bounding spell (like rise elements) or a mystical advantage. 

I'd even think the old editions seppun shugenja school was rather Onmyodo oriented. 

It exists but maybe not formally declared as such in the setting. 

And Yamabushi (was a Tamori adv school in 4ed) is any monk or shugenja who focus on relations with mountains/earth, is a bit militant, and knows also warding and antitaint/jade invocations, Kihos and rituals. 

But I agree introduction of Heimin Kannushi and their family as stewards of temple would fill up the religious structure and pose even more shugenja as "holy men". And remove the awkwardness of shugenja adventuring around Rokugan when they should be attached to a temple or shrines. 

 

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14 hours ago, Shiba Rana said:

While this is from 2nd and 3rd edition

They get 4th edition mention in Emerald Empire & Secrets Of The Empire (probably more, too).

Quote

The term Yamabushi (or “mountain warrior”) is sometimes used by samurai when referring to certain martial traditions within the Dragon Clan, but the Brotherhood uses it to refer to those monks who forsake the conventional temples in order to dwell within the Empire’s remote hills, forests, and mountains.

Some of them are hermits who dwell alone, pursuing their path to enlightenment without distractions; others form small monasteries in the remote peaks and valleys of the Spine of the World and Great Wall of the North mountain ranges. Yamabushi monks may be either worldly or ascetic, and are best known for their acute connection to the elements and their highly physical nature.

They are most common in the Order of the Seven Thunders, the Order of Osano-Wo, and the Order of the Thousand Fortunes. Few if any of the monks from the Four Temples or the Order of Kaimetso-Uo follow this discipline. The Brotherhood’s various Elemental Masters (see “Monastic Rank” sidebar nearby) are most often Yamabushi monks.

 

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