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'New' Official Map

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27 minutes ago, Kinzen said:

Oh, sweet kami. The more I look at the new map, the more hydrologically nonsensical it gets. I'm too lazy to root around for the names of rivers and lakes, but the old map had that lake up in Phoenix lands draining to the west, where it joined up around the City of the Rich Frog and then proceeded southeast to the sea, with the aforementioned Lake of Shining Glass draining into it along the way. I could draw an elevation scheme that would make that reasonable (albeit a little weird). But the new map helpfully provides that river draining the Phoenix lake with a new branch leading directly southeast, through another mountain range . . . while the other branch still goes west and then hangs a turn to go southeast as well . . . with the Lake of Shining Glass draining both north and south . . . the entirety of Lion territory is a freaking island now, surrounded on all sides by water. And the tiny little river near Otosan Uchi now both feeds into a lake/bay/thing and somehow has enough flow to also go south and make itself the biggest delta in the entire Empire.

I had hoped the new map might make things better. Instead it's made them worse.

I guess they needed some way to explain how a Mantis naval invasion will be able to attack any province in the game.  The new magic Water Kami inspired river network will make that a little easier I guess.

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As I said on the L5R FB group, I'm a geologist by background, so I cringe every time I see a map of a fantasy world--with VERY few exceptions, they're all drawn to a) support the accompanying story's narrative and b) look pretty. There's almost no attempt made to have them make geological or geographical sense. That said, I don't really let it bother me; in the end, the map is just a convenient way of portraying where stuff is happening. And, to be fair, few writers have the background in geology, geomorphology, hydrogeology, etc. that would allow them to have things make sense. I rationalize it by saying to myself, eh, as long as the story is a good read, and accepting the fact that people in said story can read minds, make things burst into flames, shoot beams of freezing cold, etc. I can put up with imperfect maps.

And even all that said, the map of Rokugan is far from the worst offender. As hard as it is to explain the rivers, there ARE (convoluted!) ways of explaining them. Middle Earth is much worse; Tolkien's map of ME is awful, especially in the way its mountains are arranged. In that respect, the map of Rokugan actually isn't too bad.

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12 minutes ago, DGLaderoute said:

 I rationalize it by saying to myself, eh, as long as the story is a good read, and accepting the fact that people in said story can read minds, make things burst into flames, shoot beams of freezing cold, etc. I can put up with imperfect maps.

When there is no logic, we can use creativity to explain things

 

When the Kami fell a thousand years ago, they completly transformed the land and even some natural laws were completly broken in the process. Some rivers started to flow from the sea to the mountaintops, mountains were shifting locations, animal life and plants started to wither or grow regardless of the envirohmental conditions, fire could erupt and lightning could strike spontanously and time itself could move at different speed depending on where you were.

 

In the early years of the Empire, shugenjas accross Rokugan spent years stablizing the situation, often one elemental kami at a time. The natural laws are now fopr the most part restored, but some remnants of this chaotic age can still be seen. Rivers forking where they shouldn't or sometimes even going uphill. It is said some parts of the world (especially in the South) were volontarly kept that way because it provided some protection against the corrupting forces of the Shadowlands.

 

 

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22 minutes ago, DGLaderoute said:

As I said on the L5R FB group, I'm a geologist by background, so I cringe every time I see a map of a fantasy world--with VERY few exceptions, they're all drawn to a) support the accompanying story's narrative and b) look pretty. There's almost no attempt made to have them make geological or geographical sense. That said, I don't really let it bother me; in the end, the map is just a convenient way of portraying where stuff is happening. And, to be fair, few writers have the background in geology, geomorphology, hydrogeology, etc. that would allow them to have things make sense. 

I don't expect everybody to go to great lengths on this front, no. (I wound up working with some geologists and climatologists -- the guys who did the geological history of Westeros -- to work out the plate tectonics of the world for the Memoirs of Lady Trent, but that's because I was writing about a globetrotting scientist, so had a higher-than-usual degree of need for it all to hang together.) But I don't think it's too much to ask that people grasp the basic concept of a drainage basin, which can be explained in less than five minutes -- more like one minute, if you provide an explanatory picture. :-P

And yes, you can say "in a world with magic, anything goes." But the more I have to not just suspend but strangle my disbelief on matters of nature, without an explicit in-world background saying "yes, here's the point in Rokugani history where some rogue Isawa did a number on the waterways of the Empire," the more I'm having to work to stay in the headspace of the story. Any time matters of trade or travel come up that involve the rivers, I'm going to stumble.

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12 minutes ago, Kinzen said:

I don't expect everybody to go to great lengths on this front, no. (I wound up working with some geologists and climatologists -- the guys who did the geological history of Westeros -- to work out the plate tectonics of the world for the Memoirs of Lady Trent, but that's because I was writing about a globetrotting scientist, so had a higher-than-usual degree of need for it all to hang together.) But I don't think it's too much to ask that people grasp the basic concept of a drainage basin, which can be explained in less than five minutes -- more like one minute, if you provide an explanatory picture. :-P

And yes, you can say "in a world with magic, anything goes." But the more I have to not just suspend but strangle my disbelief on matters of nature, without an explicit in-world background saying "yes, here's the point in Rokugani history where some rogue Isawa did a number on the waterways of the Empire," the more I'm having to work to stay in the headspace of the story. Any time matters of trade or travel come up that involve the rivers, I'm going to stumble.

Fair enough, but the other reality here is that the vast majority of the people looking at the map don't know and/or care there's any issues with it geological or geographically. And I'm not saying "anything goes" because there's magic; it's more that I'm just not going to get too fussed about it--even as a geologist--as long as the story itself grabs and holds me.  And even that said, as one of the writers for the setting, I'd probably make some effort to describe rivers, mountains, etc. in some way that makes geological sense, IF it ever came up as something important for the story (that being key...if it doesn't advance the plot and/or develop characters, I wouldn't include it anyway.) That would more be for me, though...

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1 minute ago, DGLaderoute said:

Fair enough, but the other reality here is that the vast majority of the people looking at the map don't know and/or care there's any issues with it geological or geographically. And I'm not saying "anything goes" because there's magic; it's more that I'm just not going to get too fussed about it--even as a geologist--as long as the story itself grabs and holds me.  And even that said, as one of the writers for the setting, I'd probably make some effort to describe rivers, mountains, etc. in some way that makes geological sense, IF it ever came up as something important for the story (that being key...if it doesn't advance the plot and/or develop characters, I wouldn't include it anyway.) That would more be for me, though...

We've got a decent percentage of the people here going "augh, I know, right, the rivers are terrible" -- so while it's still probably true that the vast majority don't notice the problem, it's tripping up enough people to be annoying.

As for the "speaking as a writer" angle -- that's honestly one of the reasons I wish we could have taken this opportunity to fix the problem. Because now I feel like I can't write things that deal very much with the river geography of Rokugan (e.g. trade, which ought to be a pretty big deal), because the foundation I'm standing on isn't solid enough to support that. Whereas if it were better-designed, we could have stories about how certain castles control important confluences, or the Lion and the Unicorn squabble back and forth over the banks of a given waterway so they can dominate trade along it, or the drying-up of a particular minor river means the kami in a neighboring family's lands that contain the headwaters has been offended and now you need to politick your way through fixing that. But when there's only a handful of rivers and their behavior makes no sense, it's a lot more difficult to do that kind of thing in a compelling fashion.

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Can we chalk this up to Rokugani Cartographers are not that good with dimensions of rivers. Also, since travel might be limited, the samurai who drew the maps may be going off word of mouth and using a artistic spin on things.

Other than that this may not be the official map as it is a board game.

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^ also this is a map of early rokugan, things change over 1000 years.  The kami were a lot more active then so the rivers may have had a mind of their own at the time, where they have steadied and become more in line with nature at this point.

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3 hours ago, Kinzen said:

We've got a decent percentage of the people here going "augh, I know, right, the rivers are terrible" -- so while it's still probably true that the vast majority don't notice the problem, it's tripping up enough people to be annoying.

As for the "speaking as a writer" angle -- that's honestly one of the reasons I wish we could have taken this opportunity to fix the problem. Because now I feel like I can't write things that deal very much with the river geography of Rokugan (e.g. trade, which ought to be a pretty big deal), because the foundation I'm standing on isn't solid enough to support that. Whereas if it were better-designed, we could have stories about how certain castles control important confluences, or the Lion and the Unicorn squabble back and forth over the banks of a given waterway so they can dominate trade along it, or the drying-up of a particular minor river means the kami in a neighboring family's lands that contain the headwaters has been offended and now you need to politick your way through fixing that. But when there's only a handful of rivers and their behavior makes no sense, it's a lot more difficult to do that kind of thing in a compelling fashion.

Again, I don't disagree. But we've literally had a handful of people say anything at all about the rivers on this forum and on the L5R FB group combined, so it's not exactly a representative sample! But I also intend (if it ever comes up while writing) just to pretend that the rivers make sense; again, what matters is the story. The perfectly square mountains blocking off Mordor in Middle Earth make even less sense than Rokugani rivers, but I still enjoyed reading about Frodo, Sam and Gollum climbing around and near them, and generally venturing into Mordor to toss away the Ring! 

The map in the Atlas of Rokugan is actually better in this regard; the rivers as depicted on it do actually make a degree of hydrogeographic sense if you make some generous assumptions about the relief of Rokugan north of the Spine of the World Mountains. Things are better south of the Spine, until you get to the Shadowlands (but maybe the Taint of Jigoku fiddled with hydrogeography in the same way it screws around with the landscape generally...)

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11 hours ago, Tonbo Karasu said:

You know, 'Shiba of flexible virtue' sounds like something completely different, and I now wonder if there were ever any Shiba at the Seductress Actress school.

Sigh. I had hoped to avoid that insinuation which is why I used flexible instead of negotiable.

 

I wonder, how much are we taking canal building into consideration here? I think it could address most of the issues people are having. For example, back when the Lion still controlled Unicorn territory I could see them wanting to be able to rapidly redeploy troops by boat along their norther border. And the Crab and Crane would obviously both want the River of Gold to meet the sea within their own territory.

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4 hours ago, Hellvlad said:

As a RPG game master I had a universal answer each time a player  was pointing out something not coherent in the background of the lore especially in cases of setting like L5R where magic has a huge influence, and it works every time:

"Shut up, it's magic!!"

Ah the classic  a Wizard/Shugenja/Jedi/Sith did it answer.  Has saved my but in many a setting.

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Real talk though, in this setting everything is run technically by the kami, who clearly do what they want when they want. For all we know they want those rivers to move in those directions, **** I almost guarantee that over the 1000 years of the empire the rivers have actually changed directions and flow patterns entirely because the kami wished it or a shugenja asked really nicely.

Nature doesn't have the rules that we have in our world.

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23 minutes ago, Schmoozies said:

Ah the classic  a Wizard/Shugenja/Jedi/Sith did it answer.  Has saved my but in many a setting.

And as a player/reader I hate that answer. If it comes with enough foreshadowing and/or explanations, it is acceptable, but if it is used as a mean to hide a major plot hole, it's Lazy GMing/writing.

 

If a GM wants to sweep something under the rug, I would forgive a "don't look at this yo closely" apology much more easily than "it's Magic."

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1 minute ago, Tetsuhiko said:

And as a player/reader I hate that answer. If it comes with enough foreshadowing and/or explanations, it is acceptable, but if it is used as a mean to hide a major plot hole, it's Lazy GMing/writing.

 

If a GM wants to sweep something under the rug, I would forgive a "don't look at this yo closely" apology much more easily than "it's Magic."

Only comes out when I'm playing in someone else's sandbox.  Far too many game worlds that are defined by one terrain type or set piece (I'm looking at you Star Wars with your Hoth the Ice Planets and Tattoine its just one giant desert).  

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19 minutes ago, Tetsuhiko said:

And as a player/reader I hate that answer. If it comes with enough foreshadowing and/or explanations, it is acceptable, but if it is used as a mean to hide a major plot hole, it's Lazy GMing/writing.

 

If a GM wants to sweep something under the rug, I would forgive a "don't look at this yo closely" apology much more easily than "it's Magic."

This is not usually something clever to bring out as an explanation I agree. But since we are in a fantasy setting, people should not expect the same rules from our world to apply. Pointing out what in the end are details without impact on the plot and narrative is not constructive and pointless to my opinion and deserves the "it's magic" universal answer.

Using this however for resolving a plot whole in the narrative is bad storytelling and lazy (and it's total different matter).

Coming back to the topic here, I have no advanced knowledge into geography and nothing really shocks me when I look to the rivers and lakes of the map. If knowledgeable people confirm it looks wrong, I'm interested to know why, and it's a missed opportunity for FFG to fix these things now that they have the chance to reboot the franchise. But still I really don't think it's a big deal and worth the debate because neither the story-line neither the card game will be impacted.

 

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I dunno, "A wizard did it" and "Don't look too closely" are really the same answer, and one of them doesn't break immersion. I'm inclined to be pretty generous about these things, because it's pretty much impossible to be a master of every science and create a completely self-consistent world (especially if you introduce any magic at all into it), and you'll always find a player who is more knowledgeable than you about one topic or another that can point out your inconsistencies or errors. A DM's time is better spent crafting the story they want to tell and making exciting environments and encounters than foolproofing their game, and if that means they forget to consider one detail or another, so be it. I'll forgive pretty much anything for an enjoyable game experience, but won't be thrilled to play again if the game's flat and unexciting.

As for these rivers, I do wish they made more sense. Hopefully someone at FFG knows which direction they're intended to flow, though, and has some intent and knowledge about it. Otherwise, there are going to be a lot of confusion points.

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I don't mind "because magic" as an answer when that is the answer in canon. FFG could release a card with an upside-down mountain depicted on it, and so long as there was also a canonical story about how Togashi decided he wanted to be way up high but also have room to put a temple on top so he flipped the mountain over, I'd love it.

What gets up my nose is when I have to supply the reason myself, and the only available in-story answer is  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ "magic???" That isn't building magic and its effects into the world; that's using magic to spackle over holes. I honestly prefer to say "this doesn't make sense; let's move on." 

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38 minutes ago, AradonTemplar said:

I dunno, "A wizard did it" and "Don't look too closely" are really the same answer, and one of them doesn't break immersion. I'm inclined to be pretty generous about these things, because it's pretty much impossible to be a master of every science and create a completely self-consistent world (especially if you introduce any magic at all into it), and you'll always find a player who is more knowledgeable than you about one topic or another that can point out your inconsistencies or errors. A DM's time is better spent crafting the story they want to tell and making exciting environments and encounters than foolproofing their game, and if that means they forget to consider one detail or another, so be it. I'll forgive pretty much anything for an enjoyable game experience, but won't be thrilled to play again if the game's flat and unexciting.

As for these rivers, I do wish they made more sense. Hopefully someone at FFG knows which direction they're intended to flow, though, and has some intent and knowledge about it. Otherwise, there are going to be a lot of confusion points.

 

I might be apparent by reading my posts, but I actually love to take these inconsistencies and errors and craft a story around i. When there is no story to be told, it's better to just ignore the errors (allowing a future story to explain it if needed) rather than handwave it with a simple ''it's magic''. It kills creativity and suspension of disbelief. 

 

Unless it really is magic and there is an in-universe explanation of course. 

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21 hours ago, DGLaderoute said:

The perfectly square mountains blocking off Mordor in Middle Earth make even less sense than Rokugani rivers, but I still enjoyed reading about Frodo, Sam and Gollum climbing around and near them, and generally venturing into Mordor to toss away the Ring!

Well to be fair there is a really good explanation for the mountains around Mordor (and a lot of strange landscapes etc in Arda) : they aren't the result of natural effects at all.

The world was literally made by gods (the valars). The square mountains were created by Morgoth (Sauron's boss) as a measure of defense against his kin.

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13 hours ago, TheItsyBitsySpider said:

Real talk though, in this setting everything is run technically by the kami, who clearly do what they want when they want. For all we know they want those rivers to move in those directions, **** I almost guarantee that over the 1000 years of the empire the rivers have actually changed directions and flow patterns entirely because the kami wished it or a shugenja asked really nicely.

Nature doesn't have the rules that we have in our world.

To add, from The Book of Water for the 4E RPG, p. 109-10

Quote

In the Rokugani view, there is no such thing as a “natural” disaster. Thus, any Water-based disasters have a spiritual cause, either in an imbalance of the Elements themselves or due to the anger of a Fortune or other supernatural being. Suitengu, for example, will ravage the coastline with a fury unmatched by even the disaster of war if he is not shown the proper respect. A lake spirit which grows angry withdraws its blessing, and soon fish die, the water pollutes, and famine ensures. Every river and lake has its own spirit, effectively a minor Fortune, and if their waters are polluted with the blood of war they retaliate in various ways, such as by spewing forth sudden foods. In fact, the most dangerous of all Water-based catastrophes, the super-taifun known as the kamikaze (divine wind), is often a physical manifestation of the wrath of Osano-Wo himself. Entire clans perform prayers and offerings to avert such anger.

This was very interesting the first time I read this. 

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I'm still VERY confused about what's supposed to be going on with that trapezoid-looking river system in the north. So in the northwest you've got two rivers draining out of two lakes converging together, which then...either fork at a ninety-degree angle or converge with a river coming from the east. Then they flow south into a mountain range...somehow, and somehow the path of least resistance at that mountain range was to split into two branches, one of which travels along the eastern edge of the mountain range and the other apparently bored its way down through a mountain peak (from what the drawing makes it look like) before travelling southward and eventually emptying into the sea. Meanwhile, on the eastern side of the trapezoid we have a river running down from a lake that, again, either converges with that horizontal river or splits at a ninety degree angle for some reason. That horizontal river, by the way, is the most confusing part of this map for me. Which way is it flowing? Which side is it forking from and which side is it converging on. There's a tiny little stream feeding into it in the middle from the north--is the river supposed to be flowing away from it in BOTH directions? Maybe it's a Kami-blessed tiny stream that turns into a crapload of water when it meets the river because of Phoenix shenanigans. 

 

...Yeah, I'm no geographer, but this map makes NO sense to me! Are the trapezoid rivers anywhere near Phoenix lands? Because the only way I can justify these rivers is if someone was meddling REALLY DEEP in the Maho!

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