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Crashw1re

I'm confused about vassal families.

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The rule book states that each main clan family has between 3-5 vassal families. That's all cool, but I'm wondering about other samurai families, because currently that doesn't add up to the supposed thousands of samurai in Rokugan. 

 

I'm sort of assuming that each family and vassal family also has multiple lords that manage small bits of their land. The local lord of the village sort of situation. 

 

Also what about all the samurai that serve as guards or in the court or in the bereaucracies. I've kinda got that in my head that each family and vassal family also had a varying number of retainer families that swear loyalty to them.  These guys don't have land but have a place in whatever town they are in. Or a given room in a castle or palace by Thier lord.

 

Does anyone have any idea what they actual structure of samurai life looks like? I'm very curious. Thank you. 

Edited by Crashw1re

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1 hour ago, Crashw1re said:

The rule book states that each main clan family has between 3-5 vassal families. That's all cool, but I'm wondering about other samurai families, because currently that doesn't add up to the supposed thousands of samurai in Rokugan. 

I'd love to offer some words about this, but I'm caught on this point above. Why? The number of samurai families, vassal or otherwise, has nothing to do with how many samurai there are in Rokugan because these families don't necessarily have some sort of "fixed" size. The Doji family could have 100, 1000, or 1 million members (no, probably not 100 or 1 million and somewhere WELL in-between, but I think you get my point.) Understanding your reasoning here would be very helpful to answering!

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I think the main concept here is that "family" doesn't equal "household" in this context. Each great clan family is quite extended, has multiple branches and distant relatives, and is made up of a lot of households (possibly hundreds of households, I guess) that lord over different parts of the clan territories, control different aspects of the clan's activities, as well as act as emissaries and ambassadors in other clans' lands, etc.

Edited by Agasha Kanetake

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Well firstly I'm interested in the structure of the houses/vassals/lords ect irrespective of how many peolple there actually are in each.

 

I am interested in rough numbers of samurai. The number in each family could vary but my initial thoughts would not be to excessive amount So that makes me think I need to ask. What would be your estimates on how many people there are in each family. 

 

Secondly if there are hundreds of Doji's filling all the roles then are there even smaller families? Or is it literally just the named families and their vassals. It seems unlikely to me that there wouldn't be other families around. 

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It's a huge pyramid scheme! With the emperor at the top and all the other subpyramids branching out like a gnarled twisted pedigree.

But in all honestly this question is on my mind as each clan organizes itself different from others, and I like my players to know where they are in their family hierarchy. For example, Togashi is an umbrella family name for anyone who is accepted into their ranks, as goes for any ronin earning the name Hida for killing a large number of goblins whenever the holiday is announced.

Simple answer: not one family tree but a pyramid shaped forest sometimes connected by bloodlines but other times not.

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This is my understanding.

I think it would be better to compare them to the 12 tribes of Israel or more directly the clans of the Japanese Warring State period.  These are more than just families.  They are political factions.  Over time those families exploded in size, but in addition you don't need to be born into a family or marry into a family.  It's possible to be adopted into a family to honor a samurai for their service for example or in the case of the Isawa just on the merit of showing promise as a void shugenja.  For the Togashi family all you need to do is become a monk of the Togashi order.  So all the Doji family members don't actually need to be blood relations to Lady Doji.  Even then many of them would be pretty distant relations from each other.  Below that would be the vassal families.  They are actual families with their own names that fall under the great clan family in jurisdiction.  The Kaito used to all be of the Isawa family until just recently, but they had the vassal family name of Kaito to honor their ancestor's heroic service.

So if you think about it that way where there are 7 clans each with 4 or 5 great families (each with just as many vassal families) and then on top of that the imperial families and the minor clan families there are actually quite a good amount of samurai family names in the setting (maybe more than their historical comparisons).  Then in addition to that these samurai (which form the aristocracy) oversee a much larger general population.  The legions of the Crab or Lion for example aren't just staffed by the samurai. The rank and file soldiers are mostly the peasant class.  The lands usually aren't farmed and businesses aren't run by the samurai.  The Heimin form the vast population of Rokugan.  In the fiction and RPG adventures we are shown examples of samurai characters going into places and interacting with only Heimin (like in farming villages for example).

All that said a samurai would have some responsibility.  You might be a feudal lord governing a territory of you clan's land.  Though samurai fill more than just a feudal landlord role.  You might be a politician, a yojimbo, a magistrate, a diplomat, a military officer, a teacher, a priest ... which are all jobs not devoted to just overseeing castles and lands.  That said as mentioned above it's one big pyramid of feudal lords branching back up to the clan Champions and then by extension the Emperor.  The samurai at the top don't micromanage all the samurai under them.  Their authority is extended to their subordinates and so on down the line until you get to the bottom of the barrel samurai doing the less glamorous tasks.

Edited by phillos

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So, there's two levels of samurai. Kuge are "noble houses", Buke are "chivalric houses" (as relayed in the core book). Most samurai are buke, and my understanding that these are generally drawn from the followers, students and perhaps extended family of the original family founder who are all sworn to their service and take the name of that Family as a result - and generally those added to a family by adoption, promotion, etc count as buke. Kuge are the imperial families, and the direct family line of the Clan Champions or Family daimyo, which is a much more exclusive number. 

Theoretically, any ronin (and sometimes even ashigaru) could join the Crab Clan and end up with the Hida family if they complete the twenty goblin winter. And due to the magical transformative powers of adoption (not kidding) they are now metaphysically transformed into members of that family. But even if they earn the right to wear the mon and bear the name, they will never be quite the same as the descendants of the literal Kami Hida, the first Crab Champion and founder of the Clan and Hida Family, who form basically a core inside the Family. 

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The writing for the setting has never delved too deeply into the internal organization or division of the families. For instance, we know there's a Kakita family, and it has a daimyo, and...not much else, really. We certainly get to know Kakita characters, and sometimes may learn things about their immediate family--parents, siblings and children. We may even occasionally hear that Kakita Bob's grandfather was somebody notable. None of the writing has really dug more deeply into it--in the case of fiction, unless the internal organization of family like the Kakita is somehow important to the story, it's a waste of word count; and in the case of the RPG books, I think it has largely been glossed over with a broad understanding that there are many lords within the Kakita family, and they have many vassals, and there are bloodlines within the Kakita that represent individual successions of parents to siblings. So, Kakita Bob has his parents, while Kakita Steve has different parents, and Kakita Sally has yet different parents, but they're all still Kakita (and quite possibly cousins of varying remoteness.) But how many of those bloodline lineages there are in the Kakita (or the Doji, or the Hida, etc.), and who among them are lords to whom and/or vassals to others, has never been detailed (that I can recall, anyway). And just as well, because actually trying to document all this would be tedious and of questionable value to the game (and it would another possible constraint on, or at least factor in, writing fiction, that really wouldn't add much to the story or characters.)

As for numbers...heh, I won't even touch that one. I don't want someone saying "Laderoute says there's 500 million billion jazillion samurai in Rokugan, and he's one of the writers, so now it's canon!" Frankly, as a writer, I don't really even want to have worry about things like that. If I need something specific for a story, then (with FFG's say-so) I can include it, but that would only be if it proves dramatically valuable in some way in that story. Now, if FFG decides to nail down the internal organization of the families, or the population stats for Rokugan, then, cool--it happens. But I'm personally in no rush to see these things cast into stone!

Edited by DGLaderoute

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Also it is suggested that great clan population numbers aren't created equal.  The Crab and Lion are probably the two largest clans since they govern very large landmasses and are tasked with forming the core of the empire's military (with Crab armies having a very specific purpose).

If I recall correctly 1st edition said somewhere that the samurai class (including ronin) makes up about 10 percent of the population with the rest being the Heimin and Hinin population working as farmers, artisans, laborers, merchants, entertainers, soldiers, criminals.  Also I remember 1st edition saying Rokugan had a population in the 10s of millions.  I believe 1st edition was just mimicking historical numbers from Japan during equivalent historical periods.    Whether that is still the case in FFG's continuity I'm not sure.  I don't recall reading a population number in the RPG books I have and I don't have them in front of me.  Since 1st edition I feel like they've stayed away from locking down these sorts of numbers.  I don't think any of the other editions tried to nail it down that way.  In my opinion I think most of the time Rokugan feels like it's depicted as a much smaller place than the numbers cited above so while it may seem big the reality might be that Rokugan is a smaller nation than Japan or it might have lots of sparsely populated areas within it's borders (That does seem to be the case when you read about characters traveling between cities).

 

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In my own version of Rokugan I use for roleplaying, I have a pretty firm idea of population, population density, etc. But that's MY Rokugan, and it might not work for everyone (which is what's great about the RPG--you can have your own version of the Empire, that works for you.) I'm honestly not clear what canon numbers may exist and which ones would still hold true, if they haven't been superseded in some way by FFG...nor am I particularly interested in going to look for them, or advocate particular numbers or whatever, beyond "whatever is dramatically appropriate".

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Logistics is the bane of all sci-fi/fantasy writers. Actually figuring out all this stuff is done by, y'know economists and political scientists and rando renaissance men who have all the time on their hands to learn every field known to man and write books about how they think things should work. Fantasy isn't usually about how things "should" work, but more "gosh I really want giant color coded samurai armies to fight all the time but we can't have anybody actually get wiped out because that invalidates all the people who play that color". Hard numbers, dates, facts could possibly counteract this premise, and also make it a pain in the butt for Gamemasters to flex their creative muscles when they come up with a really good game plan which hinges on a specific number and all these books are like "there are exactly 10,000 Crane Clan Samurai" but man, your story would be way cooler if it was 50,000. 

Current edition of L5R despite returning to its "roots" in a lot of archetypes and plot hooks is also leaning very hard into the narrative aspect of the RPG, where "truth" is a stretchy concept (which is shockingly realistic) and the specifics are best sketched in "in the moment" of when you're playing and it matters to the story you are telling, and if it doesn't matter, you just wave it away "this is how it is said to be" and nobody questions it, because people who ask questions get assigned to Siberia. Or Australia. Or the Gobi Desert. Or Jigoku. All of these place equivalents exist in Rokugan, and you can be reassigned there. 

Edited by UnitOmega
Had to circumvent censorship on a place name

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19 hours ago, Crashw1re said:

The rule book states that each main clan family has between 3-5 vassal families. That's all cool, but I'm wondering about other samurai families, because currently that doesn't add up to the supposed thousands of samurai in Rokugan. 

At an educated guess the total population of Rokugan is roughly between 10 and 20 million people. That’s a good estimate for feudal Japan between 1600-1700. Saying 90% are peasant and 10% are samurai is decent estimate. It would probably skew even more toward the peasant class, but I like easy numbers for estimates. That means there could be 1 million samurai in total across Rokugan. As has been noted, the society is roughly pyramid shaped. So probably at more than half are at the very bottom ... ronin or minor lower ranked vassals. Another big chunk are  guards, soldiers, and junior officers over the Ashiguru ... these people have a valued place in society and perhaps a Great Clan name, but probably don’t get a chance to leave their finger prints on history in any significant way. I would suspect that only the top 10% of a Great Clan get to exercise independence and make significant decisions in the name of their lord.

 

19 hours ago, Crashw1re said:

I'm sort of assuming that each family and vassal family also has multiple lords that manage small bits of their land. The local lord of the village sort of situation. 

Each Great Clan owns multiple provinces. Each province has a local Daimyo. That territory might be further divided with Samurai lords in charge of notable towns or particularly important villages. Most villages are ruled on a day to day basis by a headman ... not a samurai. Most samurai want to be at the (civilized) court of the local Daimyo. The more samurai a Daimyo commands, the more powerful they are...but also the more expensive his or her court is to run. This includes his samurai guards and courtiers.

Emerald Empire has a good write up of what day to day life looks like at a samurai Lords Castle.

 

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I'm quickly going to link to the page on the Galton-Watson process, to provide a rationale for how you can get a society with few surnames. China is actually a good example of this process in action. So you can have many people with the same family name whose kinship is... about the same level to that of any random stranger they meet on the street.

As for your actual questions most of them haven't actually been detailed on the lore, so this is how I view and just one of many options on how to handle it.

14 hours ago, Crashw1re said:

The rule book states that each main clan family has between 3-5 vassal families. That's all cool, but I'm wondering about other samurai families, because currently that doesn't add up to the supposed thousands of samurai in Rokugan. 

There is little to no reason for a family to have "just" 3-5 vassal families. You can have more if you want. You should consider for example how common are collateral branches of the family. Does the family in question have the habit to establish a household for younger sons or do they just marry them off, get them adopted, or ship them to monasteries?

Using the example of the Minamoto, one of the major buke clans of Japan; the clan actually consisted of 21 branches each descended from different Emperors. The most famous branch was the Seiwa-Genji which were descended from Emperor Seiwa. That's the branch that produced the Shogun.

However the oldest Minamoto branch were the Saga-Genji descendants of Emperor Saga. Now Saga was the Great-Grandfather of of Seiwa so the orginal Minamoto were Great-Granduncles to the orignal Seiwa-Genji.

To complicate matter each of those orignal branches could actually be made of different families. The orignal Saga-Genji I mentioned were actually eight different families, one for each of of Saga's sons who took the Minamoto name. The Seiwa-Genji IIRC were orignally nine households. The Shogun actually came from the Kawachi branch of the Seiwa-Genji branch of the Minamoto descended from Tsunemoto. Yeah, that's a branch, from a branch from a branch, and all these guys had the Minamoto name.

If you drill far enough into the past, everyone is related.

Oh, and it didn't stop there, as those branches of the Minamoto kept splitting (and to be far just as many were going extinct) to the point that many of those branches started taking the name of the places where they settled. For example, the  Ashikaga were a Minamoto branch that took their name from the town of Ashikaga were they were established. The Nitta, descended from the older brother of the ancestor of the Ashikaga took their name from Nitta district. The Tokugawa are, supposedly descended from these guys.

The five main branches of the Fujiwara Kuge family are named after the Kyoto streets where they had their manors.

So as you can see a single "family" can be very large if you take it as a loosely connected kingroup instead of what we usually consider a family in common usage.

Having said that in actual play, what you're calling your NPCs and their family tree is not very important unless you want it to be. You can invent a new name if you want to, but just because a random guard has the Akodo name that doesn't make him, necessarily, very important.

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I'm sort of assuming that each family and vassal family also has multiple lords that manage small bits of their land. The local lord of the village sort of situation. 

You can play it that way if you want to, but please consider that, for a series reasons, it was actually rare to divide the land in small piece among all "nobles".

While "lords of the village" existed, as it turns out villages are pretty good at  managing themselves out without needing a local lord. The local lord tends to be a product of periods of instability, where the difference between the nobility and the commoners is thin, and they tend to gobbled up and/or destroyed by their neighbours once one of them gets the upper hand. It's in the interest of every lord to dilute their power as little of possible.

Using Edo period as an example the Daimyo, with the single exception of the Shimazu, did not parcel out the land they ruled over. There was the occasional branch established, but they were created as independent Daimyo from the get go and almost every samurai was a city or town dweller to the point that most farmer could go their entire lives without meeting a samurai. Everywhere else the Kokujin or Ji-samurai either had to chose to become commoners and give up the sword or become full time warriors and move to a town. So you don't see more than 2-3 tiers of hereditary land-owning aristocracy.

Incidentally this is a common pattern among most feudal societies. As it turns out warriors tend to be more convenient when concentrated in a few strategic locations from where they can be deployed as necessary.

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Also what about all the samurai that serve as guards or in the court or in the bereaucracies. I've kinda got that in my head that each family and vassal family also had a varying number of retainer families that swear loyalty to them.  These guys don't have land but have a place in whatever town they are in. Or a given room in a castle or palace by Thier lord.

They might have retainers, but not necessarily as explained above. Using the Tokugawa shogunate as an example again, bellow the Shogun, whose land holdings totalled between 4 and 5 million Koku, and in direct service to him there were the following:

The Daimyo; numbering at just under 300 families, with land holdings valued between 10000 and 1000000 koku. These guys did have retainers, but with the notable exception of the Shimazu, as explained above, they mostly didn't land them. The number of retainers varied, but IIRC the clans bordering Nagasaki were expected to provide 3000 men to garrison the city in rotating 4 month long tours of service, and looking at the  SA Sankin-Kotai, despite regulations limiting the size of the traveling entourages, the Maeda (Kaga domain, worth 1 million Koku) regularly travelled with 2500 retainers instead of the 400 expected. This was a travelling retinue so consider that it is only a fraction of what the Maeda could muster. They had to mantain a permanent residence at Edo, and many also kept manors at Osaka and/or Kyoto. Fudai daimyo may have had their incomes increased by stipends if picked for some kind of bureaucratic service like Osaka-Jodai, Machi-Bugyo or Roju.

The Hatamoto; numbering between 4 and 6 thousand men and their families, with incomes between 100 and 9500 koku. Some of them, the ones at the top end did own land and had a few retainers, but for the most part they just received yearly stipends. They comprised most of the administration. They usually earned enough to be house owners although at the lower income brackets they might live with relatives or in communal barracks depending on their job.

The Gokenin; the lowest rank of samurai, some 17 to 20 thousand men and their families with yearly stipends between 100 and 200 koku and were the bulk of the guards and very lower end-clerks. If they are lucky they are living in a communal barrack or apartment provided as part of their job, but they are just as likely to be dirt poor and living in a rented townhouse

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Does anyone have any idea what they actual structure of samurai life looks like? I'm very curious. Thank you. 

You mean the day to day life? There is no single answer, depending on the job the samurai is performing and their status rank. The various Emerald Empire and Winter court books give such examples for many jobs. If you want to take a page out of real world history I suggest these episodes in the History of Japan Podcast:

http://isaacmeyer.net/2013/06/episode-10-a-day-in-the-life-of-edo-japan/

http://isaacmeyer.net/2019/01/episode-272-i-am-the-law/

also, Episode 84 which I can't find on the websit, but is on iTunes...

Any specific type of samurai you want to know?

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Thanks for a the replies guys. 

 

Regarding facts within storytelling, I do understand what you mean. It can make for creative problems. And as long as numbers remian proportional it's okay.  But actual facts can be very important from a story telling standpoint. When the players enter a village, who is the top dog? (as you say a peasant which I didn't know) If that village is under threat who can you talk to, who's responsibility is it. Do they have to go find some distant samurai? Or does he live outside the village? 

 

Fantasy should be grounded in its own internal logic, it should be a world that works and ticks along and then you throw in the characters and story. Especially in a role playing game, immersing yourself in the world is important. (Well with L5R I find it to be, Paranoia maybe not so much) Players are always asking for details, those details build the sense of actually being in a world as opposed to just whatever the GM makes up in the spot.

 

Thank you Suzume that helps a lot envisaging what the society structure would look like. Which is what I was trying to get my head round. It sounds like what you are saying is that for the most part samurai dwell in towns and perform their roles in exchange for payment from their lord. Essentially like a job. It's not western feudalism in that the king owns all the land and gives it out to nobles to govern and then they in turn give it out kinghts or minor lords to govern smaller pieces. They each reap the revenues of that land but pay taxes to the lord above them. Correct me if I'm wrong but you are saying major families own the land, they keep that land, take the revenue and pay samurai to govern it? The core book says that each family has 3-5 vassals. Would those vassals be granted land by their ruling family? 

I presume all samurai would be found a job some where by their lord. 

 

Also finally I get there can be huge extended families and that many of these are not tightly connected despite sharing a name. And you included some very interesting information from history. I'm just curious now. Is everyone from these mega extended families. Are there mega families but also loads of other families as well? Are those families small or hugely extended as well. 

 

Thank you everyone. 

 

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I think you would find the "Emerald Empire" supplement useful, as a lot of the information you're looking for is in there. If you don't own it, and would like to learn more about how Rokugan works, I highly recommend it. It provides much of the setting's "internal logic" regarding the organization of its society.

That said, it certainly isn't trying to be exhaustive, because RPG's are always at their best when they leave some "wiggle room" for Game Masters to adapt things to their vision, their particular game and their players. For example, you'll find some examples of things like "way stations" along the Imperial roads. This is meant to provide a "type" of that sort of facility, so a GM can use it as the basis for way stations they players may encounter in his/her campaign. More broadly, EE tries to portray the broad strokes of the Empire and how it works, providing a few specific examples and adventure seeds along the way to illustrate. The presumption is that the GM will use this as a lever to help flesh out their own campaign.

Edited by DGLaderoute

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https://craneclan.weebly.com/demographics.html

 

Above is a breakdown of Rokugani demographics based on some not-insane statistics and stuff from the world, centered around the 5th Ed dimensions given for a 'rectangular' Rokugan and comparing it to the demographics of Edo Japan.  If you really want to get into some breakdown, you can play with this model.

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On 1/23/2019 at 11:26 AM, Crashw1re said:

Also finally I get there can be huge extended families and that many of these are not tightly connected despite sharing a name. And you included some very interesting information from history. I'm just curious now. Is everyone from these mega extended families. Are there mega families but also loads of other families as well? Are those families small or hugely extended as well. 

You can be a Clan samurai and not be high status enough to be from a Family or Vassal Family - in fact, a sizeable proportion of them probably are:

From the RPG rulebook

"The vast majority of the buke are warriors, courtiers, and shugenja, down to the jizamurai, or half-samurai—those not allowed the name of their lord"

If you wander into a backwater border guardpost and grab a random guardsman, they will (if not the officer) be good odds of them being a ji-samurai; obviously they are from a family (no-one would suggest they're illegitimate, and they can probably quote several generations of ancestors) but they're not from a Family. They don't technically have a Family name in the eyes of Imperial High Law, and are just "Jim-Bob-San, a Crane Bushi" (or whatever), even if they probably do have a sort-of-family-name to distinguish them from every other Jim-Bob in the Crane army.

One of the biggest rewards a line soldier or low ranking officer might receive from the Daimyo of the Clan Family they serve would be to have them say "as a reward for your courage, you are now the first member of the [insert name here, normally your name, home village or something to do with the event you've been elevated for] Family, a new Vassal Family to me and mine."

At which point Jim-Bob is now officially Vassal-Family-Name Jim-Bob - or more correctly Clan-Family-Name no Vassal-Family-Name Jim-Bob - in the eyes of the Law.

 

 

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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This information, mostly, exists but ends up being spread through multiple different books published over the past 22 years. FFG is on the early stages of their own production cycle.

Personally I was always confortable with making things up on the fly, and just do some research on the go and as needed, but I was always immersed in period and genre literature so I was never daunted with feeling I was starting from zero.

Fo my own take on Rokugan I tend to seek inspiration in late Heian Japan with some dashes of Azuchi-Momoyama and early Edo, so I get a ruling Emperor and more egalitarian gender politics, but also get what is often seen as quintessencial to samurai culture.

 

14 hours ago, Crashw1re said:

Thanks for a the replies guys. 


Regarding facts within storytelling, I do understand what you mean. It can make for creative problems. And as long as numbers remian proportional it's okay.  But actual facts can be very important from a story telling standpoint. When the players enter a village, who is the top dog? (as you say a peasant which I didn't know) If that village is under threat who can you talk to, who's responsibility is it. Do they have to go find some distant samurai? Or does he live outside the village? 

 

Depends on how you want to handle it.

Using the Edo period for inspiration there would be no local samurai, but that's not necessarily true for other periods where there might be a samurai in residence and class distinctions are not much of a thing to begin with. More importantly though, one thing that is often forgotten is that villages are not isolated. The exist to support town and cities and are in relative close proximity to them or to other villages. Rarely will a village be more than a mile away from other villages, and between 5 to 10 miles away from a town or city. So worst case scenario we are talking about a day's walk to the nearest military outpost.

And this is assuming the samurai don't perform any kind of patrol or  checkpoint/border watch which would be odd.

 

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Fantasy should be grounded in its own internal logic, it should be a world that works and ticks along and then you throw in the characters and story. Especially in a role playing game, immersing yourself in the world is important. (Well with L5R I find it to be, Paranoia maybe not so much) Players are always asking for details, those details build the sense of actually being in a world as opposed to just whatever the GM makes up in the spot.

Sure, but it seems that often enough, and, in L5R, maybe more than usual, GMs are overthinking it and overburdening themselves with work that the players neither need or asked for.

 

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Thank you Suzume that helps a lot envisaging what the society structure would look like. Which is what I was trying to get my head round. It sounds like what you are saying is that for the most part samurai dwell in towns and perform their roles in exchange for payment from their lord. Essentially like a job. It's not western feudalism in that the king owns all the land and gives it out to nobles to govern and then they in turn give it out kinghts or minor lords to govern smaller pieces. They each reap the revenues of that land but pay taxes to the lord above them. Correct me if I'm wrong but you are saying major families own the land, they keep that land, take the revenue and pay samurai to govern it? The core book says that each family has 3-5 vassals. Would those vassals be granted land by their ruling family? 

Well, Western Feudalism is largely a early modern fiction used to justify centralized Absolute Monarchies and with very little basis on the actual reality "on the ground" so to speak, and in many ways how Rokugan has been depicted to work is much closer to that idealized model of Western Feudalism. So it's not even that different.

I had previously posted my take on it, so to summarize:

The lowest level I'm interest would be large towns/cities. These would have, mostly, appointed governors, receiving a stipend, but some could be granted in heredity.

Above that we have what the game, so far, as called provinces. I prefer to call them districts, after the usual translation for Kôri. most of these would be granted in heredity, but some could have appointed governors.

Above this would be the main family lands which the game as always handled as hereditary fiefs.

For me, what, in the game, are called vassal families, are the major, landed, vassals and it is not necessary to drill down further.

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I presume all samurai would be found a job some where by their lord. 

Eh, you'd be surprised.:D

Notice how, when I mentioned hatamoto and Gokenin, I wrote "... men and their families"? Samurai stipends were payed to the "household" so to speak, so basically a samurai in service had a job ,and their heir would take over that job. If the samurai in question has some clout he may be able to get any additional children their own postions, but if not they would have to rely on the goodwill of their siblings or basically become ronin and start hustling for a living.

If you check the second podcast episode I linked above you can see one of the usual ways in which younger children got a position which was through adoption. This is a pattern that is repeated time and time again. The sons of Mori Motonari are also a good example (and unlike Ichimonj's children in Ran they did take their father's advice to heart).

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Also finally I get there can be huge extended families and that many of these are not tightly connected despite sharing a name. And you included some very interesting information from history. I'm just curious now. Is everyone from these mega extended families. Are there mega families but also loads of other families as well? Are those families small or hugely extended as well. 

No, for example there are quite a few clans with Korean ascent and the samurai themselves were only created in the 9th Century. Most of them can, however, trace their ancestry to the Fujiwara, the Taira, the Tachibana and the Minamoto (and, again, emphasising that these are single families only by the most generous of definitions). And as these families intermarry with each other those distinctions become even more mudied.

For example, as he was paving his way to the shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu commissioned three different genealogies. The official one "proved" the Tokugawa descended from the Seiwa-Genji through the Nitta clan, but the other genealogies showed Fujiwara descent.

As for their size it varies. As time goes by you see branches, and entire families disappear to illness, war, catastrophe or by marrying into other families. Good examples are the Hosokawa the Oda and the Hatakayama which were huge families at some point but were later severly diminished. The Hosokawa and Oda survived to this day but the Hatakayama did not.

The family line of the "first"  Shogun, Minamoto Yoritomo, himself ended 14 years after his own death.

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I had originally put L5R also in late Heian Japan, just like you.  But in 5th Edition, they confirmed the segregation of samurai into towns and cities and away from the heimin in the villages. While I do think this was something of a mistake, that's what they did.  That makes it much more Edo.

I tend to think of it now as being part of a WAR ----------------------------------------- PEACE spectrum, where War periods have more samurai/heimin segregation while peaceful periods have more of a distribution of samurai among the villages as low-level landowners, and that 5th Edition expresses a period of a more war-like time for Rokugan. But that's only my take.

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That's one of the Edo dashes I use, yes, and I think it ends up working well because L5R make a very clear distinction between the buke and the bonge, but doesn't make anywhere near such distinction in regards to the buke and the kuge which end up allowing to borrow both from Late Heian and from the Edo period. 

I disagre with you in regards to war periods leading to more segregation between heimin and samurai though. It's during peace time that such segregation arises and can be enforced. War times end up being more pragmatic, and often more meritocratic, if in a Russian Roulette kind of way. Being able to survive is more important than conforming to ceremonial expectations.

I wish I knew more about the Nanboku-chō period, because I think it could be an interesting source of inspiration although it probably would take quite a bit of work to make it fit with baseline Rokugan.

 

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On 1/23/2019 at 3:26 AM, Crashw1re said:

...snip...When the players enter a village, who is the top dog? (as you say a peasant which I didn't know) If that village is under threat who can you talk to, who's responsibility is it. Do they have to go find some distant samurai? Or does he live outside the village? 

The Samurai almost always lives outside the village...but perhaps not far off. Most villages exist to create food for towns or castles. I would assume most villages are no more than a days travel from help. Some that are located near a major road or town might only be hours away from help. It's possible that some villagers have training as ashigaru infantry. They and the headsman might be the first line of defense against "bandits," but most small villages do not have significant defenses. Fleeing into the hillsides is usually their best tactic.

On 1/23/2019 at 3:26 AM, Crashw1re said:

Fantasy should be grounded in its own internal logic ...snip... It sounds like what you are saying is that for the most part samurai dwell in towns and perform their roles in exchange for payment from their lord. Essentially like a job. It's not western feudalism in that the king owns all the land and gives it out to nobles to govern and then they in turn give it out kinghts or minor lords to govern smaller pieces. They each reap the revenues of that land but pay taxes to the lord above them. Correct me if I'm wrong but you are saying major families own the land, they keep that land, take the revenue and pay samurai to govern it? The core book says that each family has 3-5 vassals. Would those vassals be granted land by their ruling family?

Basically yes. Most samurai are given a "job" by a lord (usually a daimyo) of some stripe. However the Emperor technically DOES owns all the land in Rokugan. He then leases land to the Great Clans. Who administrate it. However after a thousand years of ownership (that generally only changes a little on the borders), one might be excused from thinking the Great Clans own their land. Each of these grants is broken down into Provinces (or you could call them districts, or even "Baronies") each of which is led by a Provincial Daimyo. As I understand it, each Great Clan has 4-5 families that are powerful enough to rules multiple Provinces. Each Great Clan also, almost certainly, has other lesser vassal families that do not have provincial daimyos & this kind of power. Provincial Daimyo are the unsung backbone of the clan IMO. They take in local taxes, and generate revenue. Each of the recognized vassal families also has a Family Daimyo (who also rules a province, but is also directly above the other provincial daimyos in the family) and of course a Clan Champion/Daimyo who is directly above all the family Daimyos...the Clan Champion is always (or just about almost always) the Family Daimyo of one of the kami that fell to earth at the founding of Rokugan (Akodo, Bayushi, Doji, Hida, Shiba & Shinjo. The Togashi are ... different). 

Hope that helps

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I forget what term they used, but Emerald Empire mentions basically "country samurai", who life minimal lives out in the backcountry, even living in relatively small manors in some villages directly. The Sparrow Clan do this as a kind personal lifestyle choice, and some samurai prefer the quiet, but most people in this "position" are essentially being the equivalent of being reassigned to Antarctica - a demotion framed as a promotion which indicates your lord can't just get rid of you, but really wants you out of the way where you're causing minimal harm. 

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11 hours ago, UnitOmega said:

I forget what term they used, but Emerald Empire mentions basically "country samurai", who life minimal lives out in the backcountry, even living in relatively small manors in some villages directly. The Sparrow Clan do this as a kind personal lifestyle choice, and some samurai prefer the quiet, but most people in this "position" are essentially being the equivalent of being reassigned to Antarctica - a demotion framed as a promotion which indicates your lord can't just get rid of you, but really wants you out of the way where you're causing minimal harm. 

I think you mean goshi.  The Sparrow are an intersting case.  Their founder is actually the ultimate case of being promoted out of the way - IIRC, the Crane Clan Champion politiced to get their embarrassingly incompetent courtier promoted to rule their own minor clan, where they got to make sure no-one farmed the Emperor's personal valley.  Since then, they've come to accept their position.

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13 hours ago, Void Crane said:

However the Emperor technically DOES owns all the land in Rokugan. 

This is a kind of interesting case, because in Rokugan, the Emperor actually owns all the land and the subservient lords technically only govern those lands in the Emperor's name. If you disagree, then Lady Sun Amaterasu herself might visit you for realsies to slap you on the wrist for your heretical thoughts. The reason why it doesn't really work like this is because out of all the involved the parties (including Fu Leng), the Celestial Heavens seem to be the least interested to enforce the Mandate of the Heavens. 

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4 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

This is a kind of interesting case, because in Rokugan, the Emperor actually owns all the land and the subservient lords technically only govern those lands in the Emperor's name. If you disagree, then Lady Sun Amaterasu herself might visit you for realsies to slap you on the wrist for your heretical thoughts. The reason why it doesn't really work like this is because out of all the involved the parties (including Fu Leng), the Celestial Heavens seem to be the least interested to enforce the Mandate of the Heavens. 

Yes!

But!

Generally (and this is a personal choice on my part) I don't usually worry much about the Mandate of Heaven in play directly. Given that all the Great Clans, in addition to the Imperial Families, descend from the kamis... AND...that the Heavens have generally not seen fit to intervene interclass fights over the years, I don't think Lady Sun concerns herself much with "who rents what." As long as social order is maintained, and the Kami/Fortunes are venerated I think Tengoku remains a distant presence in the world... I think some NPCs may actively worry about it ... and some don't. But this mostly a political and cultural concern. My opinion.

On the other hand, in a potential secular clash between the Imperial Families and the Great Clans, I personally think the balance of power greatly favors the Clans. I think an Imperial attempt to strip a Great Clan of its lands under the theory hat the Emperor owns the lands (and can redistribute as he or she wishes) is likely to cause wide scale resistance & rebellion...probably from ALL the Clans. The Lion still resent the Unicorn for come back and reclaiming "their" lands. As a practical/political matter, while the Emperor owns the lands, I don't think they can actually do much except on the margins without  risking massive upheaval.

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