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TheBoulder

Campaign idea - need advice from seasoned players/GMs please

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I presented numerous options to my players for a campaign and they settled on this idea I had for a restricted campaign:

A new minor clan is founded and they are recruited as ronin into this new clan.   I ruled that they could make characters normally and we could hand wave school progression.  I did this to allow not only a diversity and for them to play things they had their eye on, but also because we are new to the game and want to try things out.

What I was hoping people could help me out with is...

1. How are minor clans created?  I know the Emperor bit, but I can't find how they "draft" samurai.  Are they always ronin?  Do they come from other families as respectable samurai?  Is this idea valid from a fluff perspective?

2. Is this a good idea?  Am I setting myself up for unseen difficulties in adventure making?  Will this be a difficult and awkward setting?

 

Many thanks in advance, I've been impressed and encouraged by the cool community here!

Edited by TheBoulder

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I think it sounds like a great idea for a campaign.

1 hour ago, TheBoulder said:

1. How are minor clans created?  I know the Emperor bit, but I can't find how they "draft" samurai.  Are they always ronin?  Do they come from other families as respectable samurai?  Is this idea valid from a fluff perspective?

No, they're not always ronin.

The Emperor will give a seal of approval to a specific samurai to found a clan.

What happens will depend on why the Emperor chose to found a clan, and who the initial key members are.

  • Some clans are founded from 'cut-off' chunks of existing major clans - like the Crab who became the Boar - who end up with enough separation and separate identity, but are a sizeable block of population rather than just one or two individuals. This is more a case where a separate group already exists and the emperor just rubber-stamps "yeah...after this long you're not really part of your home clan anymore, are you?"
  • A samurai comes from a family, even if prior to that point they didn't come from a Family (i.e. they didn't have a family 'name' recognised by the courts - what the RPG calls Ji-Samurai - whilst a samurai might be a crab samurai the rank-and-file grunts aren't, for example, necessarily a member of the Hida family or even a Hida vassal family even if they follow a Hida banner in wartime) - if a samurai is raised to the status of clan champion and given a 'family name', their immediate relatives will presumably follow. Something similar to this occurred when a peasant in Tani Hitokage became the first Toritaka and Falcon Clan champion; the emperor elevated Yotogi, which almost by default elevates Yotogi's immediate relatives.
  • Sometimes the foundation of the clan 'comes with' initial members. The Badger Clan was founded by the Emperor to watch the borders whilst the majority of the Ki-Rin (now unicorn) were away beyond the borders, and he held a tournament to determine who would accept the responsibility. A Crab (Hida Domogu) won, but other competitors joined him to form the core of the clan (including the runner-up, Shinjo Maku). The lot of them were given a new clan name (Ichiro).
  • Equally, if the Emperor has assigned the new minor clan a task - "protect this strategically important valley" and put the lands in question under their responsibility, those lands probably have people living there, and probably were part of someone (or several someones) lands beforehand. Some of those people might got elsewhere in the remaining lands of their current clan, others might be ordered to stay in their 'home' and serve their new overlords.

Other families might well allow their members to join a new minor clan if it's in their interest to do so.

  • If a minor clan is performing a function the great clan approves of, then it's in their interest to provide the nascent clan with samurai
  • Increasing the amount of 'former great clan members' in the ranks of a minor clan means that minor clan is likely to look favourably on the them - yes, they're sworn to their new clan champion, but their culture and outlook on life will be shaped by their upbringing.
  • A family, especially a vassal family, looks out for its own interests and those of its members in addition to those of the clan as a whole. A minor vassal family of a great clan will have to really work to become a great clan family, let alone to have a chance of becoming clan champion (if that's even possible; most clan championates are 'locked' to the nominally Kami-blood families despite a millennium of intermarriage); if, by comparison, a senior scion of the family has a real shot at becoming a (minor) clan champion answerable to no-one but the Emperor themselves within a generation or two, isn't that worth the family daimyo investing people in?

And finally, yes, Ronin are always a potential source of warm bodies.

1 hour ago, TheBoulder said:

2. Is this a good idea?  Am I setting myself up for unseen difficulties in adventure making?  Will this be a difficult and awkward setting?

I think it could be very interesting. You'll essentially have all the issues of a senior clan member (because if they're joining a newly-formed clan I'm assuming they'll be near the top of an admittedly fairly small heap) - military threats, governance, political issues, the works, but from the perspective of being down around the feet of the great clans. A minor clan on the border between two great clan's territories has to play a very careful court game to avoid offending either of its neighbours, because either could overrun it in an hour if given just cause to attack openly, and even with the Emperor's prohibition on making war on minor clans could wreck it with little effort with hired mercenaries, sabotage, or economic and political pressure - even just closing a border to merchants could devastate a minor clan with only small - quite possibly not self-sufficient - holdings.

I'd start by figuring out in reasonable detail:

  • Why the Emperor created said clan? (a reason which can be as secret, stupid, pragmatic, or whatever as you like)
  • How the Emperor created the clan - how and why was the new Clan Champion selected?
  • Where are their lands?
  • What is the clan's duty?
  • Who do they have borders with?
  • What are their relations with other clans - Great Clans are likely to be indifferent unless:
    • They share a border
    • They provide an important trade relationship (You have a jade mine? And would be prepared to sell to the Crab? Do tell...)
    • They are an 'offshoot' clan (or otherwise share a heritage)
    • The reason for their existence somehow benefits or inconveniences that great clan directly (like minor clans with nominal imperial protection founded as 'firebreaks' between great clan territories)

And then imagine a list of problems the clan's senior members (that's you lot, PCs) might be tasked to deal with:

  • Famine - no, you're not being asked to get your hands grubby growing rice. But whilst the farmers can grow rice, they need water - lots of it. And the minor clan which sits immediately upstream has diverted the river into a moat to further fortify its castle. By the time the stream passes onto your clan's lands it's little more than a trickle and certainly not enough to support the villagers. That leaves the ugly choices of buying rice (at a high cost) from nearby clans, or trying to take a fellow minor clan to task for an entirely legal action which occurred on its own land, which could politically backfire massively if their allies (and yours) take exception.
  • Politics - far more than a largely self-sufficient great clan, minor clans desperately need trade and outside help, which means that their courtiers securing agreements of passage with bordering major clans is vital; whilst Imperial Roads are theoretically free passage to all, the minor clan would generally need passage through at least one major clan's land to get to one, and - Great Clan relationships being what they are, making nice with one instantly makes enemies of two more.
  • Developing the clan's infrastructure - not so much 'building things' as establishing armies, schools and shrines. Rather than handwaving school development, you might want to let the players help create a clan school that's a mixture of their respective schools and have them 'transfer into it' at some point. Equally, persuading sensei, monks and shujenga to come and teach and minister to the clan's lands is a worthwhile endeavour
  • Security - military and spiritual. A newly-settled bit of land, or one abandoned by a great clan, or a border region, is ripe for banditry. If they want to be taken seriously, the clan has to prove quickly that bandits poking their noses into the clan's lands are going to get them chopped off. Equally, if the land is newly settled, or was previously war-torn, there may not be shrines to appease the local kami and all sorts of spiritual elements might be unbalanced, and all sorts of nasty beasties may be abroad in the land.
Edited by Magnus Grendel

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What Magnus Grendel put together is really good. Really good indeed.

Also take your time and take a look on Secrets of the Empire from 4E, is a good book and it also discusses the foundation of Minor Clans and details the Minor Clans of 4E from foundation, customs, etc.

Edited by Nheko

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I ran a campaign where the PCs were the founding leaders of a new minor clan.  They were based in a city between Unicorn and Scorpion lands; the two clans had basically wrecked the place fighting over it, and the Emperor set up their minor clan to rule the city and make it profitable again.  My PCs were the daimyo and ruling council, and their starting samurai came from the other 5 great clans who were each 'encouraged' to chip in by the Emperor.  

 

It worked *really* well as a campaign set-up.  Initially, the PCs were forced to deal with their squabbling neighbours, rebuilding the city, and dealing with the Emperor's 'quirks'*.  Later on, a terrible famine* hit the empire which heated things up even more. This culminated in a civil war with three rival imperial claimants; they were key in supporting the eventual winner.  

 

You can read the campaign log here on rpg.net's actual play forum.  It was a generational game, with about 6 months per game session, and covered over 40 years in play. 

 

* I stole very heavily from the Imperial Histories supplement for 4th Edition; the Emperor was modeled on the Iron Chrysanthemum, and the famine was the Great Famine. 

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7 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

I think it sounds like a great idea for a campaign.

...

First, thank you very much.  I wish I could like your post a hundred times. It was an absolutely incredible answer and helped me so much!  Second, people like you are the reason communities get good names and games prosper.  You are an unsung hero of the gaming world.  Thanks again!

Edited by TheBoulder

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4 hours ago, Nheko said:

What Magnus Grendel put together is really good. Really good indeed.

Also take your time and take a look on Secrets of the Empire from 4E, is a good book and it also discusses the foundation of Minor Clans and details the Minor Clans of 4E from foundation, customs, etc.

Awesome, thanks, I will definitely check it out!

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On ‎11‎/‎2‎/‎2018 at 1:28 PM, Kaikayi said:

I ran a campaign where the PCs were the founding leaders of a new minor clan.  They were based in a city between Unicorn and Scorpion lands; the two clans had basically wrecked the place fighting over it, and the Emperor set up their minor clan to rule the city and make it profitable again.  My PCs were the daimyo and ruling council, and their starting samurai came from the other 5 great clans who were each 'encouraged' to chip in by the Emperor.  

 

It worked *really* well as a campaign set-up.  Initially, the PCs were forced to deal with their squabbling neighbours, rebuilding the city, and dealing with the Emperor's 'quirks'*.  Later on, a terrible famine* hit the empire which heated things up even more. This culminated in a civil war with three rival imperial claimants; they were key in supporting the eventual winner.  

 

You can read the campaign log here on rpg.net's actual play forum.  It was a generational game, with about 6 months per game session, and covered over 40 years in play. 

 

* I stole very heavily from the Imperial Histories supplement for 4th Edition; the Emperor was modeled on the Iron Chrysanthemum, and the famine was the Great Famine. 

Sounds great; I'll have to have a read....

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From Kodansha Comics guide to honorifics

  • -san:  This is the most common honorific and is equivalent to Mr, Miss, Ms and Mrs.  It is the all-purpose honorific and can be used in any situation where politeness is required.
  • -sama: This is one level higher than "-san" and is used to confer great respect.
  • -dono:  This comes from the word "tono" which means "lord".  It is an even higher level than "-sama and confers utmost respect.
  • -kun:  This is used at the end of boys' names to express familiarity or endearment.
  • -chan: This is used to express endearment, mostly towards girls.  It is also used for little boys, pets and even among lovers.
  • -[blank]:  The lack of honorific means that the soeaker has permission to address the person in a very intimate way.  Usually, only family, spouse and very close friends have this kind of permission.  Known as yobisute, it can be gratifying when someone who has earned the intimacy starts to call one by one's name without an honorific.  But when that intimacy hasn't been earned, it can be very insulting.

Added by the FFG writers

  • -ue:  This is used to refer to a Clan Champion, only.

And another one I know

  • -hime:  This is most often translated as "princess", and thus a female of the Imperial Family.

So, to eventually answer your question, Shinjo-dono is basically the same as Lady Shinjo, so Lady Shinjo-dono is a bit redundant.  If I understand correctly, you can add someone's given name in if you have been introduced to them.  If you are a personal friend, or have been in service for a long time, you might be able to get away with just the personal name.  I think Shinjo Masako-dono would probably be the full and correct way to refer to the daimyo that you know and report to, whereas Shinjo-dono would be a daimyo of the Shinjo family that you are not familiar with and Masako-dono is someone that you've worked for for a decade, in informal circumstances.

Actually knowing which name to call somebody you don't know can be a bit troublesome.  You can always just use the family name of whichever mon they are wearing, but people sometimes wear either multiple mons (Clan, family, dojo [and some shugenja go as far as adding Isawa as well]) or only their Clan one.  Generally, the one worn on the left lapel is the one the wearer feels closest to.  In extreme cases, it is acceptable to just go with the ruling family's name - that Crab with no shirt and just the Clan mon on their helmet wouldn't object to be being called Hida-sama, even if they're actually a Kuni.  Oh, and always err on the side of more respect.

Gosh, that got long.

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-shi  is for "I don't know your rank, but want to be polite."  Also for recordkeeping where rank is specifically not being used.
-hakase -statesman,  senior instructor, elder monks, and other academicians, (modernly, anyone with a doctorate degree)
-sensei - politicians, non-senior instructor, most clergy and monastics.

-Senpai is "more senior student than myself"
-kōhai is "fellow student" with the implication "who isn't senior to me"

Almost all of the honorifics can also be used as pronouns, with the notable exception of -dono, which becomes tono as a pronoun.

@Tonbo Karasu: ue isn't made up for L5R... it's an archaism for higher than Sama, but below Heika (sovereign), Denka (royal, non-sovereign), and hidenka (consort of a denka).

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On 11/2/2018 at 5:20 PM, TheBoulder said:

1. How are minor clans created?  I know the Emperor bit, but I can't find how they "draft" samurai.  Are they always ronin?  Do they come from other families as respectable samurai?  Is this idea valid from a fluff perspective?

Magnus has a very good reply already so I just want to say that you can look at the 4E book "Imperial Archives", which has an extensive section on how minor clans can be made

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It also matters what legal 'hat' the person you're speaking to is wearing for the purposes of a conversation.

Akodo Toturi is, for example, Lion Clan champion and Emerald Champion, but someone wanting to talk to his imperial magistrate persona - especially if wanting to complain about the Matsu being jerks might want to avoid using "-ue" because they're not talking to the Lion Clan champion and frankly would rather he wasn't in the room...

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That is a great point, actually.

So much of Rokugani society involves polite fictions - no, I certainly can't hear what these two guys are shouting at each other, there's a paper wall in between! - that it makes a lot of sense to basically treat titles as separate persons.

As long as you only speak to the Emerald Champion, that's who you're in a room with. Once you address the Lion Clan Champion...

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1 hour ago, Myrion said:

That is a great point, actually.

So much of Rokugani society involves polite fictions - no, I certainly can't hear what these two guys are shouting at each other, there's a paper wall in between! - that it makes a lot of sense to basically treat titles as separate persons.

As long as you only speak to the Emerald Champion, that's who you're in a room with. Once you address the Lion Clan Champion...

Please select from the following menu options:

  • Hidenka for the Emerald Champion
  • Ue for the Lion Clan Champion
  • Hiue for the Akodo Family Champion
  • Sama for your Liege
  • Tono for the Senior Lion in the room
  • San for your brother 
  • Kun for your son
  • Shi for "Which role does this need?"

?

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Have any of you seen The Mikado?  Ko-ko is the Lord High Executioner and Pooh-bah is the Lord High Everything Else.  Quoting W. S. Gilbert.

Quote

 

Enter Pooh-Bah.

Ko-Ko. Pooh-Bah, it seems that the festivities in connection with my approaching marriage must last a week. I should like to do it handsomely, and I want to consult you as to the amount I ought to spend upon them.

Pooh-Bah. Certainly. In which of my capacities? As First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chamberlain, Attorney General, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Privy Purse, or Private Secretary?

Ko-Ko. Suppose we say as Private Secretary.

Pooh-Bah. Speaking as your Private Secretary, I should say that, as the city will have to pay for it, don't stint yourself, do it well.

Ko-Ko. Exactly — as the city will have to pay for it. That is your advice.

Pooh-Bah. As Private Secretary. Of course you will understand that, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am bound to see that due economy is observed.

Ko-Ko. Oh! But you said just now "Don't stint yourself, do it well".

Pooh-Bah. As Private Secretary.

Ko-Ko. And now you say that due economy must be observed.

Pooh-Bah. As Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Ko-Ko. I see. Come over here, where the Chancellor can't hear us. (They cross the stage.) Now, as my Solicitor, how do you advise me to deal with this difficulty?

Pooh-Bah. Oh, as your Solicitor, I should have no hesitation in saying "Chance it —"

Ko-Ko. Thank you. (Shaking his hand.) I will.

Pooh-Bah. If it were not that, as Lord Chief Justice, I am bound to see that the law isn't violated.

Ko-Ko. I see. Come over here where the Chief Justice can't hear us. (They cross the stage.) Now, then, as First Lord of the Treasury?

Pooh-Bah. Of course, as First Lord of the Treasury, I could propose a special vote that would cover all expenses, if it were not that, as Leader of the Opposition, it would be my duty to resist it, tooth and nail. Or, as Paymaster General, I could so cook the accounts that, as Lord High Auditor, I should never discover the fraud. But then, as Archbishop of Titipu, it would be my duty to denounce my dishonesty and give myself into my own custody as first Commissioner of Police.

Ko-Ko. That's extremely awkward.

Pooh-Bah. I don't say that all these distinguished people couldn't be squared; but it is right to tell you that they wouldn't be sufficiently degraded in their own estimation unless they were insulted with a very considerable bribe.

Ko-Ko. The matter shall have my careful consideration. But my bride and her sisters approach, and any little compliment on your part, such as an abject grovel in a characteristic Japanese attitude, would be esteemed a favour.

Pooh-Bah. No money, no grovel!

 

 

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I was picturing Yes, Minister instead, which has a relatively similar skit:

Quote

 

Minister James Hacker: "Speaking with my parliamentary hat on, I don't think it would be a very good idea; on the other hand, with my Cabinet hat on, I think perhaps it would be a good idea. But there again, with my Party hat on, I can see there could be arguments on both sides."

Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby:  "I see, and which hat are you talking through at the moment?"

 

 

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-ko is technically a suffix meaning "loyal child" or "daughter" which leads to the oft used term "Samurai-ko" as a female samurai.

 I also want to point out that O- is a granted honorific prefix which means "Great" and is only meant to be applied to royalty.  Hida O-Ushi broke protocol when she took the honorific for herself and I believe she technically could have been put to death (or at least challenged) for doing so, but that would have angered a couple people that nobody wants to anger.

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