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ElSuave

Shadow of the Cabal Interviews Katrina Ostrander

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Amelia and Tanner sit down with Katrina Ostrander, one of the lead designers of the forthcoming 5th Edition of L5R RPG from Fantasy Flight Games. We chat what it’s like to transition from GMing to game design, L5R’s past, being the story director for the IP, and the philosophy behind the design!

https://shadow-of-the-cabal.pinecast.co/episode/77033ffb-cfe2-4188-b88b-80348ba0a64d

Looks like a 2 hour interview. Looking forward to hearing it!

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Pretty insightful interview. As much as I like 4th Edition, I agree that I wish there was more mechanics for courtiers, courts and intrigues. 

I also agree that yes, Its very challenging to get new people into L5R b/c of the setting and themes. Most of the people I introduce to L5R just found the setting and themes to intimidating and uncomfortable unlike the general mechanics. 

I did found it interesting that they compare Unmasking, Strife and Compromise as mental "wounds" to how getting an injury to the body is physical "wound"  That surprised me honestly. 

Just some of my first reactions. 

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There's a lot in the interview that left a bad taste in my mouth, but overall - I appreciate Katrina greatly for tapering my expectations with 5e. I better understand the direction her and the team thought to go and it made it clearer to me as to how they got there with some of the stranger (IMO) decisions. I look forward to more interviews with the rest of the design team popping up. and would highly recommend anyone on the fence about 5th edition check out the interview.

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1 hour ago, Novatheorem said:

There's a lot in the interview that left a bad taste in my mouth, but overall - I appreciate Katrina greatly for tapering my expectations with 5e. I better understand the direction her and the team thought to go and it made it clearer to me as to how they got there with some of the stranger (IMO) decisions. I look forward to more interviews with the rest of the design team popping up. and would highly recommend anyone on the fence about 5th edition check out the interview.

What left a bad taste? Could you elaborate on what design decisions you felt were strange? 

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1 hour ago, Novatheorem said:

There's a lot in the interview that left a bad taste in my mouth, but overall - I appreciate Katrina greatly for tapering my expectations with 5e. I better understand the direction her and the team thought to go and it made it clearer to me as to how they got there with some of the stranger (IMO) decisions. I look forward to more interviews with the rest of the design team popping up. and would highly recommend anyone on the fence about 5th edition check out the interview.

I am also curious what left a bad taste if your mouth?

One of the things that I am liking about this new edition of L5R is that it is good at presenting Rokugani society as far less monolithic / oppressively conservative than previous editions. This world of Rokugan is more solidly grounded in the realistic, influenced by the modern society which has created it. Making it explicit that Rokugan is a society with equality between the genders (hooray for removal of the "If you want your Rokugan to be REALLY SEXIST" guidelines), with no social stigma linked to traditional Western gender roles and the cult of domesticity, where the problem with extra-marital affairs is the disloyalty to one's liege and duty, and not the identity (or gender) of the person it is with.

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If anything thing, the interview addressed many of the issues I have/have had with Rokugan in general.  I appreciated the the decision to move towards a gender blind Rokugan, but I particularly appreciated their attention to appropriation.    Reading the creative credits at the beginning of the BB, the lack of Asian representation was troubling.  Asians are pretty underrepresented in the industry as a whole, so perhaps this was not surprising.  Anyways, the interview put a lot of that anxiety to rest.  Thank you Katrina, Amelia, and Tanner.

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15 minutes ago, Alderaan Crumbs said:

In your opinion, how “woke”is this game going to be? I’m topped off with buzzwords and PC culture being injected into my escape from the same. 

It's not really being "woke", it's more like coming to terms with modern-day audience. I never played or read Old5R, but from what I've heard there were very few prominent female characters. In the old story Doji Hotaru was actually a male character named Doji Hoturi. Also in this new timeline Shiba Tsukune was immediately crowned the Phoenix Clan champion very early in the story where in the old story they focused on her brother Shiba Ujimitsu until he eventually died. So right off the bat we get 2 female clan champions in the beginning of the story instead of prominent male champions. And Shinjo Altansarnai is a completely new character from my understanding. So that makes 3 female champions.

Also since Hotaru is now a female champion it creates a gay relationship between her and Kachiko instead of the original relationship with Hoturi and Kachiko. 

This is more of taking an out-dated storyline and reintroducing it to a modern audience that will enjoy it. The boost in equality helps make for a more enjoyable narrative experience, IMO.

Edited by ElSuave

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29 minutes ago, Alderaan Crumbs said:

In your opinion, how “woke” is this game going to be? I’m topped off with buzzwords and PC culture being injected into my escape from the same. 

As woke as a game about fantasy samurai written by modern Americans could ever be? Welcome to 2018. I am HAPPY to see a fantasy setting that is not less fantastic as the modern day that we are living in, especially when you consider the VAST historical precedence for transgender identity, non-binary or genderfluid identity, acceptance of LGBTQ+ preferences in partners, equality between the sexes, ethnic and religious diversity and their inherent conflicts...

Need I go on?

Ultimately, this is a game focused around an East Asian inspired aesthetic, written primarily by people who are not of East Asian ethnicity or Asian-American ethnicity (which are different experiences, as being Japanese in Japan is substantially different than being Japanese-American in America), for a primarily American audience, with the intent to make profit. There is only so far this can go from issues of culture and appropriation, but its choice to  be very open and accepting of the full spectrum of gender expression and healthy sexual practices (see: the Harkness Test for more information) is a substantially good move for the game.

Edited by sndwurks

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1 hour ago, ElSuave said:

It's not really being "woke", it's more like coming to terms with modern-day audience. I never played or read Old5R, but from what I've heard there were very few prominent female characters. In the old story Doji Hotaru was actually a male character named Doji Hoturi. Also in this new timeline Shiba Tsukune was immediately crowned the Phoenix Clan champion very early in the story where in the old story they focused on her brother Shiba Ujimitsu until he eventually died. So right off the bat we get 2 female clan champions in the beginning of the story instead of prominent male champions. And Shinjo Altansarnai is a completely new character from my understanding. So that makes 3 female champions.

Also since Hotaru is now a female champion it creates a gay relationship between her and Kachiko instead of the original relationship with Hoturi and Kachiko. 

This is more of taking an out-dated storyline and reintroducing it to a modern audience that will enjoy it. The boost in equality helps make for a more enjoyable narrative experience, IMO.

Nothing wrong with any of that. 

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4 hours ago, sndwurks said:

As woke as a game about fantasy samurai written by modern Americans could ever be? Welcome to 2018. I am HAPPY to see a fantasy setting that is not less fantastic as the modern day that we are living in, especially when you consider the VAST historical precedence for transgender identity, non-binary or genderfluid identity, acceptance of LGBTQ+ preferences in partners, equality between the sexes, ethnic and religious diversity and their inherent conflicts...

Need I go on?

Ultimately, this is a game focused around an East Asian inspired aesthetic, written primarily by people who are not of East Asian ethnicity or Asian-American ethnicity (which are different experiences, as being Japanese in Japan is substantially different than being Japanese-American in America), for a primarily American audience, with the intent to make profit. There is only so far this can go from issues of culture and appropriation, but its choice to  be very open and accepting of the full spectrum of gender expression and healthy sexual practices (see: the Harkness Test for more information) is a substantially good move for the game.

Nothing wrong with any of this, either. I’ve always “done it right” as far as who can play and what they play, so this is familiar to me. To unpack it more, it’s not any particular views I get irritated with it’s the omnipresent politicization, on any side, of so many things that frustrates me.

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49 minutes ago, Alderaan Crumbs said:

Nothing wrong with any of this, either. I’ve always “done it right” as far as who can play and what they play, so this is familiar to me. To unpack it more, it’s not any particular views I get irritated with it’s the omnipresent politicization, on any side, of so many things that frustrates me.

What is meant by "done it right"?

Regarding the idea of an "omnipresent politicization", it is kind of hard to escape that L5R is rooted in a very American passion for the trappings of feudal Japan. Regarding gender representation, I would argue against any presence of politicization. If anything, FFG's policy is making it non-politicized. They issue no public statements above inclusivity or representation or anything, really. As a journalist, I have even approached them to get a solid quote on designer intent on the character of Bayushi Kyo as non-binary or genderfluid, and they have been very careful not to make ANY official statement on the matter.

FFG lets their product stand alone. Their first fiction featured a powerful woman placed in charge of her Great Clan, dealing with her own unresolved anger at her father's neglect and abuse, while worrying about the safety of her husband and trying to think straight around the woman she is head over heels in love with. Try to imagine a major market AAA studio product doing that in the 1990's, and it is refreshing and uplifting to see just how far the hobby (and L5R in particular) has come in representation.

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1 hour ago, sndwurks said:

What is meant by "done it right"?

Regarding the idea of an "omnipresent politicization", it is kind of hard to escape that L5R is rooted in a very American passion for the trappings of feudal Japan. Regarding gender representation, I would argue against any presence of politicization. If anything, FFG's policy is making it non-politicized. They issue no public statements above inclusivity or representation or anything, really. As a journalist, I have even approached them to get a solid quote on designer intent on the character of Bayushi Kyo as non-binary or genderfluid, and they have been very careful not to make ANY official statement on the matter.

FFG lets their product stand alone. Their first fiction featured a powerful woman placed in charge of her Great Clan, dealing with her own unresolved anger at her father's neglect and abuse, while worrying about the safety of her husband and trying to think straight around the woman she is head over heels in love with. Try to imagine a major market AAA studio product doing that in the 1990's, and it is refreshing and uplifting to see just how far the hobby (and L5R in particular) has come in representation.

I “do it right” by never having discriminated a player or character role that might not fit because they’re/it’s a woman or gay or such. I played a female ronin (I loved that character so much) in AD&D years ago and nobody cared. I’ve never played with people who would. When I ran the Star Wars Beginner Game a female player wondered if Pash could be a female. I said yes, of course. To think otherwise is ignorant.

As far as FFG’s stance of staying out of politics, I applaud it. I’m also wondering why Bayushi Kyo’s gender matters, especially if Rokugan society is tolerant. All that said, I’m glad you’re happy with what’s to come and I would very much enjoy continuing to discuss the game or even other games. 

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27 minutes ago, Alderaan Crumbs said:

As far as FFG’s stance of staying out of politics, I applaud it. I’m also wondering why Bayushi Kyo’s gender matters, especially if Rokugan society is tolerant. All that said, I’m glad you’re happy with what’s to come and I would very much enjoy continuing to discuss the game or even other games.

I inquired because if it was the designer explicit intent to present Bayushi Kyo as gender fluid or non-binary, then it would be a major statement in terms of representation of such gender identities in gaming, something which is not common in AAA game studios. It is not revolutionary (indie games have been doing it explicitly for years), but being a major game studio with a major game line opening release featuring an explicitly non-binary or genderfluid character (as opposed to the implicitly such Kyo is) would be significant, and worthy of praise in my opinion. 

It is 2018 and representation matters, and I have friends who WILL decide to play a game (or not) because of how it depicts gender roles and what sort of fun it encourages. See: Vampire 5th Edition’s deluxe appendix on fascism and gaming, for more information. 

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14 hours ago, sndwurks said:

What is meant by "done it right"?

Regarding the idea of an "omnipresent politicization", it is kind of hard to escape that L5R is rooted in a very American passion for the trappings of feudal Japan. Regarding gender representation, I would argue against any presence of politicization. If anything, FFG's policy is making it non-politicized. They issue no public statements above inclusivity or representation or anything, really. As a journalist, I have even approached them to get a solid quote on designer intent on the character of Bayushi Kyo as non-binary or genderfluid, and they have been very careful not to make ANY official statement on the matter. 

FFG lets their product stand alone. Their first fiction featured a powerful woman placed in charge of her Great Clan, dealing with her own unresolved anger at her father's neglect and abuse, while worrying about the safety of her husband and trying to think straight around the woman she is head over heels in love with. Try to imagine a major market AAA studio product doing that in the 1990's, and it is refreshing and uplifting to see just how far the hobby (and L5R in particular) has come in representation.

This. Exactly the correct response by FFG is precisely to do it and not specifically trumpet the fact; it's not a case of "we're being culturally aware, check us out" so much as "let's do the right thing and not demand any praise for it, anyone who cares will notice anyway".

Bayishi Kyo is a perfect example. You can easily not notice - I didn't - on first read through that it pointedly never gives a gender-specific pronoun for the character.

And yes, it's feudal medieval Japan. But it's also not. It's a fake history involving daemons, manifest gods and other such shenanigans and FFG can make the social structure work however they like, as long as it makes sense, and - as noted - why not have a setting that feels less oppressive to a modern audience?

[Obviously the setting is prejudiced and oppressive as heck on class grounds, as well as racial grounds, but the odds are your PCs are playing native Rokugani and aren't playing Peasants.....there's no particular reason to throw sexism in there too when the individuals in question are provably just as capable - particularly when talking about two Clan Champions, the Imperial Advisor and one of the Jewelled Champions - and doing so would hurt anyone wanting to play a female character and for that matter, impact some people's enjoyment of the setting as a source of fiction]

I imagine it's more noticeable to people with previous edition contact with the setting. Changing a character's gender is noticeable, but - not having ever seen any fiction with Hotaru in it - I don't have any particular mental picture of the character to upset, and she's certainly an interesting character in this version.

21 hours ago, sndwurks said:

where the problem with extra-marital affairs is the disloyalty to one's liege and duty

Indeed. There's no shortage of potential sources for angst and emotional pain. Heart of the Garden puts Iuchi Shahai in a position where she's being ordered about and has no control in her own fate, to the point that she's seriously considering suicide, but it's because she's the family heir, not because she's a daughter; a son would have been ordered around just the same.

 

 

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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On 9/26/2018 at 4:29 PM, ElSuave said:

It's not really being "woke", it's more like coming to terms with modern-day audience. I never played or read Old5R, but from what I've heard there were very few prominent female characters.

There were tons of prominent female characters, and the prominent female characters were always very prominent. In fact, the single most prominent Old5R character was female. Lack of female characters were really a problem very early on, and that was mostly due to the aforementioned  female super-character being the head writer's mary sue/waifu and thus no other female character was tolerated in the story least they would overshadow her - they even ruined two other female characters just to keep that one afloat.  

 

Also, is there a transcript somewhere? I don't really have two free hours to listen through this. 

Edited by AtoMaki

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9 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

There were tons of prominent female characters, and the prominent female characters were always very prominent. In fact, the single most prominent Old5R character was female. Lack of female characters were really a problem very early on, and that was mostly due to the aforementioned  female super-character being the head writer's mary sue/waifu and thus no other female character was tolerated in the story least they would overshadow her - they even ruined two other female characters just to keep that one afloat.  

 

Also, is there a transcript somewhere? I don't really have two free hours to listen through this. 

Yeah, she didn't quite seem the right choice for Empress, and generally resulted in my disinterest in the storyline of Destroyer War and on. I hated the whole "Re-ascension of the Heavens" idea, especially with them killing off Yakamo.

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5 minutes ago, Hida Jitenno said:

Yeah, she didn't quite seem the right choice for Empress, and generally resulted in my disinterest in the storyline of Destroyer War and on. I hated the whole "Re-ascension of the Heavens" idea, especially with them killing off Yakamo.

I was not talking about Iweko ;).

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6 minutes ago, Hida Jitenno said:

Yeah, she didn't quite seem the right choice for Empress, and generally resulted in my disinterest in the storyline of Destroyer War and on. I hated the whole "Re-ascension of the Heavens" idea, especially with them killing off Yakamo.

Actually, I think @AtoMaki was talking about Bayushi Kachiko, and how her depictions were... ahem... problematic, and both Mirumoto Hitomi and Otaku (now Utaku) Kamoko were pretty heavily sabotaged on not being allowed to overshadow her (though Hitomi would go on to be the center of an aborted villain arc).

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2 minutes ago, sndwurks said:

Actually, I think @AtoMaki was talking about Bayushi Kachiko, and how her depictions were... ahem... problematic, and both Mirumoto Hitomi and Otaku (now Utaku) Kamoko were pretty heavily sabotaged on not being allowed to overshadow her (though Hitomi would go on to be the center of an aborted villain arc).

I do not count Hitomi as a 'character' in the Old5R canon, the second ruined female character is someone else. Otherwise, this is correct. 

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3 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

I do not count Hitomi as a 'character' in the Old5R canon, the second ruined female character is someone else. Otherwise, this is correct. 

Ah, see I thought you were actually talking about Toturi II, which was why I went down the 'Empress' line of thought.

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