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Topaz Championship Prestige

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So I understand that the Topaz championship is the most important of the gempuku ceremonies, but what does it mean to be selected to participate? If you're a contestant does that mean that you're already considered one of the most promising young samurai or is it that anyone who can make it to the tournament would do so? I'm planning to run the beginner game for my group and I just want to be sure I'm giving them a proper sense of how exceptional they're considered to be.

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The Topaz championship is the most famous gempukku ceremony, not the most important. 

Depending on your setting (1st ed,  4th ed, 5th ed, homebrewed) it might be different so I will write here some general perception about the tournament.

  • While this ceremony is a grand event for all to see, most gempukku are actually done before or after, in the privacy of each clan/family. So depending on your family's tradition, the Topaz championship might be a formality or a sine qua none condition. A few examples can be found (Shiba needing to write an essay, Shosuro needing to blend in a crowd, Hida needing to defeat a shadowland creature) if you dig into the literature.
  • Famous, means that for clans that favour glory and honour, this is of particular importance. For the crab, a bushi in a tournament is a bushi away from the wall not fulfilling its duty. Depending on the current political and economical situation of the Crab, the presence of one of its bushi might for example be a waste of resource, and thus they would send their most useless child unattended. On the other hand, a Kakita duellist, doing the competition in the city of its academy, will be the brightest and most skilled exceptional talent available. It all depends on your clans willingness to shine in front of the high rokugani society.
  • RP is first and foremost about your player's enjoyment of the plot/setting/universe. If they do want to feel like heroic youth, give them this role and go for an heroic setting. If they like gritty, dark, horror kind of settings, you can make the whole tournament an obscure plot driven by an evil entity. It all depends on you and your players playstyle. 

One thing to note though is that if you are using the 5th ed beginner's kit, the setting is quite undefined. The fictions/free pdf will give you clues but nothing really structured. So if you want to stick to the official version, be careful to explain too much as the official stories and books might go in a different direction. In a direct example there is Hitoshi's role and reason for being there in the 5th edition Topaz championship. Was he sent because he was the most promising your samurai of a great clan? Definitely not. Now the real reason remains shrouded in mystery even though GMs might have a little bit more clues about it than the players... but not that much.

One of the particularity of L5R is the drama and conflict arising from Honour, Glory, Strife, Ninjo and Giri. Whichever direction you choose, if you can make a plot that highlight these and put each character or the group itself in a kind of dilemma, you will have fun :)

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Generally, each school sends one samurai to the Topaz.  So it can be a few things.  There is definitely glory to the school for winning, but in the school's way. So the ones sent are often not the BEST, but the student ready to graduate that year who is the most representative of the teachings of the school.  On the other hand, such as with Kitsu Tsubasa, as public as it is, and the shame of failing completely, it can be a way to rid yourself of failures.  He's told, if you fail, kill yourself.  So its win win, either he uses the competition as a way to psych himself up and overcome limitations, or he gives himself an honorable death to avoid the shame of being a failure.  


It can also be political.  Spoiler, but the Mantis ABSOLUTELY knew they were sending as their chosen the illegitimate son of the hosting Samurai. The Crab pregen is a passable bushi, but is absolutely obsessed with convincing others of the dangers of the Wall, and the needs of others to go there.  Why not send a bushi that will blindly advocate in such a way as to possibly turn more hearts than the sweetest words of a courier?

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