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Monkey Bloke

"My buddy with the shuriken"

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I'm just starting running a game and I have a PC who is a Bayushi Infiltrator. Being a sneaky shinobi the player wants to have some suriken hidden about his person, which seems legit for the character.

My question is what happens if/when the other PCs see that this guy is secreting shuriken about his person.

I understand that shuriken are the favoured weapon of a shinobi, and that shinobi are completely illegal (to the point that a samurai being proven to be a shinobi is a death sentence, right?).

Is there a rational a samurai could give to carry shuriken that would allay suspicion? What about if that samurai is a Bayushi Courtier? And if that courtier is found carrying secreted shuriken into a meeting with important local samurai?

 

In Dungeons & Dragons you have the well-work trope of the Paladin being 'distracted' while the rogue goes off and does his not-strictly-lawful activities. With most of the L5R PCs have a code of honour that is very strict, how do people dance that line of allowing one player to engage in the activities their character can do, while not making the rest of the party look like fools?

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The one time I had an Infiltrator-type person in my game, she was pretending to be a Battle Maiden, and she stayed in character around the party the entire time. There were a few passed notes, and side-room discussions when the character needed to drop her character. But she understood that if she got caught by the other characters, she'd be dead.

You could say that shuriken are so rare that the average samurai wouldn't recognize it as a shinobi weapon. Then leave it to your Bayushi player to come up with an excuse if/when he gets caught. The best legitimate reason I could think of? "Hey, I found these and I'm immediately bringing them to the local magistrate right now!"

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Shuriken do not have the forbidden tag, so I don't think there's anything illegal about owning them. Yogo even get them as part of their kit, and aren't shinobi. They aren't wargear, so they aren't considered an implement of war, but aren't mundane, so they aren't just a simple tool - a bit like a yumi in that regard. 

Shuriken can come in a variety of styles,  and made from a variety of sources (including old coins and tools) and in the real Japan shurikenjutsu is actually taught in a couple different martial arts styles along with the sword, so you could pass them off as a legitimate part of your school (probably what the Yogo do) or just basically a small personal tool or art project. It's the poison shinobi usually put on them which is actually illegal. 

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Somewhat related to the previous post, I think shuriken are concealable and a creative person should be able to hide them on their person as if they were a mundane item. I mean, in the old timeline Kashiko hid daggers in her hair. There's something to be said about scorpion ingenuity.

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15 hours ago, Monkey Bloke said:

Is there a rational a samurai could give to carry shuriken that would allay suspicion? What about if that samurai is a Bayushi Courtier? And if that courtier is found carrying secreted shuriken into a meeting with important local samurai?

There are lots of reasons why a samurai might carry a concealed weapon (shuriken or not). Usually it involves expecting an attack...or wanting to have an unexpected offensive capability. A samurai carrying a concealed shuriken while walking around a city is probably not a big deal. As Unit Omega notes they don't have the forbidden tag. It's a discrete ranged weapon. Maybe very useful if you get attacked by a gang of criminals... ...Surprise! I don't have to be next to you to attack!

Many other situations are less sanguine.

Carrying a concealed weapon into a meeting with an important NPC, who has the authority to make sure weapons are left outside, is not okay. If you get caught. Probably its either a declaration that you don't trust them (and an insult to their honor!) or its a signal that you plan to attack someone there. Just because you can do something doesn't mean that doing it as a good idea. Maybe its not a good idea to carry them except when you plan to use them.

Are there possible rationals? Maybe. "Hey I'm a Bayushi Courtier, and part of the Scorpion Clan! Just trust me with these spikey throwing stars" ... uh ... probably no. "I am deeply embarrassed Samurai-sama, but I got a tip from within the Scorpion Clan that there would be an attack on you! I wanted to defend you if it happens while I'm here," at least in this case you can try to make a roll.

 

Edited by Void Crane

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Going by Usagi Yojimbo and some other sources I have read, so was shuriken openly used in combat by samurais to give them an advantage against an enemy in a fight - you throw them at the other guy as he come at you or before you come at him (mostly as an distraction but if some of them strike true it will hurt). This seemed to be fully accepted, at least as long as it was not done in a duel (but then again there are lots of stuff that you can't do in a duel that ok outside of them).  

 

Now if somebody who is supposed to be a non-combatant walked around armed with visible shuriken there will be questions.

Edited by Gamiel

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3 hours ago, Gamiel said:

Now if somebody who is supposed to be a non-combatant walked around armed with visible shuriken there will be questions.

Right, but as noted they're concealable. Samurai don't normally get subjected to pat-downs, so under normal circumstances you should have no trouble carrying them wherever you want provided you don't actually use them or in any way draw attention to the fact that you have them.

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I honestly don't know if being a shinobi is "completely illegal" right now.  I find it most likely that being caught performing Shinobi-like acts would be illegal, but just being a shinobi is not actually illegal..  which is to say that a Hiruma or Shosuro could say they were trained in stealth and infiltration techniques without getting in too much trouble..  but actually being caught using those techniques on others might be troublesome.  I would point out also that many samurai use concealed armor and concealable weapons.

 

  Remember that Rokugan is a society in which people can't hear through paper walls.  Noticing that someone else is doing things that are dishonorable could be considered impolite.  It's only one someone is forced to notice something that problems arise..  and while this may seem foolish to you, remember that most clans have some form of shinobi that work for them, so not automatically killing shinobi that are doing you no harm is a good thing.

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22 hours ago, Black_Rabbit_Inle said:

I honestly don't know if being a shinobi is "completely illegal" right now.  I find it most likely that being caught performing Shinobi-like acts would be illegal, but just being a shinobi is not actually illegal..  which is to say that a Hiruma or Shosuro could say they were trained in stealth and infiltration techniques without getting in too much trouble..  but actually being caught using those techniques on others might be troublesome. 

I am going to mostly disagree.

Emerald Empire and older products like City of Lies make it clear that true Shinobi ARE officially illegal by decree of the Imperial Throne. I believe that extended to Shinobi techniques also being illegal. And a clan that got publicly caught with a school(s) that train "ninja" would face severe embarrassment and consequences from the Imperial Court. And the other Major clans.  I believe it would be a very big deal. 

Despite this risk both the Scorpion and the Crane secretly train Shinobis. The Shosuro have Infiltrators (and weird shadow power ninjas too) and the Daidoji have Harriers. Though I think it's possible that the Clan Champions of the Crane have been mostly ignorant of them (or had plausible deniability) throughout history. Some other schools like the Hiruma Scouts also have many of the same skills and techniques (and even the Shinobi tag) but do not do "Shinobi Things" ... which amount to espionage and assassination against political rivals. The Hiruma Scouts are oriented against the Shadowlands. That means they are publicly accepted, if not entirely celebrated. The political truth of Rokugan is that the Hiruma are not shinobi. If the Hiruma did Shinobi-like things against other Clans, on a wide scale, I believe they would face significant censure.

I do agree that in Rokugan a lot gets ignored if you can look the other way without loosing honor. Who really knows these days what techniques are Shinobi ... besides the ninja? I agree that generally a Shosuro could claim to be trained in "scouting" (maybe not infiltration) and that would be acceptable in "polite samurai society."

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Posted (edited)

@Void Crane   I don't think we can pay any attention to the "older products" on Shinobi/Ninjas, since that would require accepting the Lying Darkness lore as well..  however, what I found online was that Ninja were outlawed by the emperor, but Shinobi and Ninja weren't the same thing..  in fact it seems like the scorpion specifically used the term "shinobi" so they wouldn't be ninja..  but again, that's old lore.  I'll have to keep reading the current emerald empire and see what I find there.

  So historically only the Dragon and Unicorn don't have Shinobi schools, which I'm guessing would cause the other five clans to be a little less judgemental even if being a shinobi is "strictly illegal".  Obviously it could be a big deal, and will be made a big deal if the clans are feeling hostile at the time.. it probably also has much to do with who the shinobi was targeting. I also note that there's a Shosuro Infiltrator school, so clearly being trained as an infiltrator doesn't warrant a death sentence.

  Mainly my concern is that it doesn't seem like FFG wants any character to be a Pariah just for existing and, as a GM, I feel like that's generally a bad way to go unless it's intended to be the entire purpose of the campaign.  For this reason alone I think shinobi characters should be cut some slack..  the things I mentioned earlier are simply in world justifications for my out of character line of thinking.

  That being said, getting caught sneaking weapons into a meeting with an important samurai is a no-no..  good thing the infiltrator school is also a courtier school, so they might be able to fast-talk their way out of trouble..  or at least get a duel issued instead of just being killed.

Edited by Black_Rabbit_Inle

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Black_Rabbit_Inle said:

@Void Crane   I don't think we can pay any attention to the "older products" on Shinobi/Ninjas, since that would require accepting the Lying Darkness lore as well..

 

With what was revealed in the Yojiro novela, shadowbrands and what was revealed about Shosuro post day of thunder, I think it's a safe bet that the Lying Darkness is still tied to shinobi/ninja in 5e. That said, your point stands about using old lore as a basis for informing new canon in regards to how things work.

Edited by NeoSamurai

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On 1/30/2019 at 11:10 AM, Monkey Bloke said:

In Dungeons & Dragons you have the well-work trope of the Paladin being 'distracted' while the rogue goes off and does his not-strictly-lawful activities. With most of the L5R PCs have a code of honour that is very strict, how do people dance that line of allowing one player to engage in the activities their character can do, while not making the rest of the party look like fools?

Honor prevents typical D&D rogue shenanigans in L5R unless the entire party is into that sort of thing.  Even with the rationale of allowing samurai with shuriken or tsubuto, when people start dying or disappearing, it would be dishonorable on the fellow party members to cover for the shinobi/ninja or even ignore their suspicions when asked.  in l5r, the cost of a shinobi's actions isn't just limited to their forfeiture of honor but the potential forfeiture of honor for their allies too. That's a very important element to get across before play begins.

As someone that's played a samurai/ninja in a high honor group of samurai, the best survival tack is to not put the group into the situation where they have to choose between their honor and my character.  additionally, it also helps to make yourself indispensable to the party while not drawing attention to your true activities.

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2 hours ago, Black_Rabbit_Inle said:

Mainly my concern is that it doesn't seem like FFG wants any character to be a Pariah just for existing and, as a GM, I feel like that's generally a bad way to go unless it's intended to be the entire purpose of the campaign.  For this reason alone I think shinobi characters should be cut some slack..  the things I mentioned earlier are simply in world justifications for my out of character line of thinking.

That being said, getting caught sneaking weapons into a meeting with an important samurai is a no-no...

This part I do agree with. I think Black Rabbit is not only correct on this point, but is also articulating good GMing in general. As long as it fits in the world, part of a GMs job is finding ways to say yes to the players (crazy) ideas. Often leavened with a heathy dose of "Okay. But then...". I agree we don't want to make PC Infiltrators (or other Shinobis) pariahs or invalid player choices. But I do think such characters are taking on board extra risks. And they need one or more public "cover stories" that have daylight between what they say and the private truth that their clan illegally trained them as a shinobi. It's sorta like Fight Club. The first rule of being a shinobi is that there are no shinobi.

And if such a PC somehow gets caught red handed in what might be called "Black Pajamas" territory, I think players should be ready to be disavowed by their clan. Getting caught with concealed weapons is territory any bone-headed samurai might find themselves in. As I said in an earlier post there are potential excuses one might offer, that at least have a chance of smoothing things over. But if you get caught at night sneaking out of someones secured rooms after an assassination ... 

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Playing shinobi in mixed-clan group is tricky. If the character gets caught, they are likely "not even allowed seppuku"-level of screwed, and easiest way to avoid getting caught is to choose when to use shinobi tricks. Don't play as an obvious shinobi all the time, choose a cover of either bushi or courtier and play as shinobi when situation allows or demands it. Sneak when you can't gain information or access otherwise, assassinate when there are no witnesses etc. Many clans have different forms of scouts for warfare (Hiruma Scouts and Daidoji Harriers for example), reconnaissance and sabotage are common tools during wartime and samurai in Rokugan are sometimes amazingly practical about bending rules when necessary.
I don't think merely having concealed shuriken as a courtier is obvious sign of shinobi, they can be explained as emergency weapons like tessen or kiseru. Having poisoned weapons or weapons when you shouldn't is bad no matter their form, first is dishonorable and second is against someone's orders.

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  Shinobi don't exist, which is why it's not very likely that someone would be accused of being shinobi.  Even if it's illegal to be shinobi, it's not a crime that would be prosecuted unless someone had a specific reason for doing so.  Claiming that someone else is shinobi sounds, to most rokugani, like the rantings of a mad-man.  If someone commits murder or is found spying, they might be accused of murder or spying.. there's no need to try to convince anyone that the accused is also shinobi. With that said, a samurai's word is generally law.. if a samurai claims that he himself is shinobi, people would be forced to believe him until he's contradicted by someone with greater authority.

  I agree that the shinobi characters take on extra burdens..  they are likely to be asked to do things that are dangerous and illegal.. that's what the shinobi tag means. But again, I feel that these characters aren't likely to be accused of being shinobi unless there's some specific reason..  otherwise they'll just be accused of commiting whatever other crime they commited.  Also, while it might be okay to claim to be good at stealth and infiltration and also have some knowledge of medicines and antidotes, such a person would probably be the first suspect if a nearby daimyo's house is broken into and the daimyo is found murdered with poison.. even if the PC shinobi isn't the actual culprit. Hopefully if that happens, the shinobi pc already has good enough relationships with the other PC's that they will help him prove his innocence, rather than simply accepting that he's guilty.

  Finally, if you're really worried about your infiltrator PC being caught, give them a Soshi illusionist npc as back up.  The illusionist can help the infiltrator hide whatever the infiltrator feels they couldn't explain.. and since the illusionist isn't likely to be caught invoking spirits and, if they are caught casting spells, doing so isn't actually illegal.. this means that the two really aren't likely to be discovered at all. (unless the gm wants them to be..  heck, make the soshi illusionist be from the Yogo family to make things extra exciting.)

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17 minutes ago, Black_Rabbit_Inle said:

 With that said, a samurai's word is generally law.. if a samurai claims that he himself is shinobi, people would be forced to believe him until he's contradicted by someone with greater authority.

it's kind of a weird thing about admitting to be a shinobi as well because then they are also admitting to not being samurai which in turn means they're admitting to "nonpersonhood" which opens themselves up to the right of samurai to execute peasantry. so, even if they're not recognized as shinobi, the question of why they're admitting to not being a person/samurai becomes an issue of its own worth of suspicion.  performing spying, sabotage and scout duties are considered part of performing war so it then becomes another issue of "why shinobi?" are they relying on the mythos or maybe they actually are shinobi?

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Posted (edited)

IIRC "Ninja" don't exist, those are a fairytale. A Shinobi does exist, theoretically, but use of such agents is illegal because such tactics are obviously dishonorable. For purposes of this setting, a ninja and a shinobi are not synonymous. 

Edited by UnitOmega

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On ‎3‎/‎29‎/‎2019 at 6:32 PM, UnitOmega said:

IIRC "Ninja" don't exist, those are a fairytale. A Shinobi does exist, theoretically, but use of such agents is illegal because such tactics are obviously dishonorable. For purposes of this setting, a ninja and a shinobi are not synonymous. 

Honestly I think the problem comes from the fact that "shinobi" is the term used for shadow magic which was practiced by Ninja, and is also the word for "stealth" and is used to identify scouts, spies, saboteurs and assassins.  Ninja are believed to be a fairytale, and so is their shinobi.  Scouts are known to exist and certainly aren't illegal or even dishonorable (unless they're being used against you).  Spies are probably dishonorable, but I don't know about illegal.  Saboteurs and assassins are likely both illegal and dishonorable (unless used against the shadowlands).

  In the current setting though, we have "Shinobi" who are samurai loyal to their clan and sometimes practice "ninjutsu". So as far as I can tell, Ninja using shinobi is illegal, Shinobi using ninjutsu isn't illegal.  Now this doesn't mean that Shinobi don't do illegal things..  assassination is illegal whether the perpetrator is a ninja, or a Shinobi, or any other samurai.  It also doesn't mean that the Shinobi won't be the prime suspect in any case which involves crimes committed through stealth and deception.  It just means that being Shinobi is not strictly illegal, because the crime of shinobi is something a person does, not something a person is.   It's possible that Ninjutsu is also illegal, but it's interesting to note that Shinobi often aren't forced to learn Ninjutsu.. it's just something that have the opportunity to learn. In other words, being from a Shinobi school isn't enough to make a character illegal.

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On 3/28/2019 at 11:17 AM, NeoSamurai said:

additionally, it also helps to make yourself indispensable to the party while not drawing attention to your true activities.

This. Obviously, your fellow players know exactly what you're up to, but baseless suspicion is also dishonourable. So as long as you can avoid leaving any credible reason for your allies to believe that you're responsible for the bandit chieftain very sadly accidentally disembowelled himself whilst shaving and his second very sadly accidentally cutting his head off whilst combing his hair, they're not going to be inclined to press the matter.

On 3/31/2019 at 12:20 PM, Black_Rabbit_Inle said:

In the current setting though, we have "Shinobi" who are samurai loyal to their clan and sometimes practice "ninjutsu". So as far as I can tell, Ninja using shinobi is illegal, Shinobi using ninjutsu isn't illegal.  Now this doesn't mean that Shinobi don't do illegal things..  assassination is illegal whether the perpetrator is a ninja, or a Shinobi, or any other samurai.  It also doesn't mean that the Shinobi won't be the prime suspect in any case which involves crimes committed through stealth and deception.  It just means that being Shinobi is not strictly illegal, because the crime of shinobi is something a person does, not something a person is.   It's possible that Ninjutsu is also illegal, but it's interesting to note that Shinobi often aren't forced to learn Ninjutsu.. it's just something that have the opportunity to learn. In other words, being from a Shinobi school isn't enough to make a character illegal.

From the core book:

"Shinobi are covert agents and infiltrators who hide from sight and strike with surprise and without honor. The shinobi are a weapon of war, but they are often used in times of peace to hide the origin of an attack and deflect blame for drastic but precise violence. The use of such tactics, and the shinobi themselves, are officially banned by Imperial edict, but somehow rumors of their use remain"

So technically, being a formally trained shinobi is illegal. But the average shinobi has enough sense not to admit to that. As noted, simply saying they're a 'trained scout' explains being light-footed, and obviously assassinating someone is illegal so they're going to make a point of not being caught.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

So technically, being a formally trained shinobi is illegal. But the average shinobi has enough sense not to admit to that. As noted, simply saying they're a 'trained scout' explains being light-footed, and obviously assassinating someone is illegal so they're going to make a point of not being caught.

that's one thing I like with the evolution of the game/setting.  what spies, scouts, saboteurs and assassins do for a Clans objectives are extremely important and valuable from a warfare standpoint. it becomes more in line with "the intelligence Game" mindset of we know what everyone does but we all have the decency (except the Scorpion) to deny that it's something that's done. there's always a use for deniable assets--but they're still deniable and for a good reason. 

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