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Naranjalimones

Strife and Ronin?

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Posted (edited)

I've run an L5R game once before, in the 4th edition of the rules, and I want to run a new game in the new 5th edition. The problem is, I want to do a ronin game, but the way the game is constructed makes me nervous.

In the deadly courts of Rokugan, strife makes perfect sense and can be a very risky thing to accumulate. However, less decorum is expected from a ronin so the dissonance between the stoic ideal and the emotional reality is not nearly as much of a big deal for them as it is for samurai. Strife feels difficult to reconcile with this campaign idea.

Old R&K quite a traditional system in its approaches so it was easy for me to work around certain rules. But in a narrative game that's so comprehensively tied together, I have more difficulty.

How can I reconcile ronin with the concept of strife as it shows in the game rules?

Edited by Naranjalimones

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For what it's worth, the ronin themselves might not think twice about displaying their emotions openly; their surroundings definitely will. If they make regular Unmaskings their customary approach, they will have to accept that their outward appearance is not as honourable and glorious as that of proper samurai. They are only dishonourable, uncivilised ronin, after all. 

Myself, I've been contemplating something like a minor Unmasking mechanism for venting steam. Not, actually, to give the players another active Strife reduction opportunity, but to narratively deal with the one or two hot-headed players, who just can't compose themselves. Something like:

When not Compromised, a player's outburst might translate into their character having their mask slip just so slightly; removing Strife as if triggering a Passion for a Trifling Forfeit of either Honour or Glory. This is only an initial thought, mind; there are a few issues with this I'm aware of, and quite a few more I'm not, I suppose.

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The Wandering Ronin School (my current favorite School btw) actually helps a lot on Strife by negating it for certain hand-picked Skills. 

Also, don't be afraid of Strife. It is only a thing for beginner characters. Even with 30 starting XP most characters will not be bothered about it because they either not accumulate it that much (via mostly relying on Skill Dice that has less Strife) or they can take a lot of it (high Composure from high Earth and Water Rings). Characters who live long usually have both of these, so I would just give everyone 40 starting xp and call it a day. 

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Posted (edited)

As @AtoMaki says, Wandering Rōnin has pretty good strife negation as it is, and I don't think rōnin should otherwise get a free pass from strife. They're still living in the same world as Clan samurai, and in many ways have stressors most other samurai never have to deal with. Strife definitely still has its place.

Edited by deraforia

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On 4/14/2019 at 11:27 AM, Naranjalimones said:

I've run an L5R game once before, in the 4th edition of the rules, and I want to run a new game in the new 5th edition. The problem is, I want to do a ronin game, but the way the game is constructed makes me nervous.

In the deadly courts of Rokugan, strife makes perfect sense and can be a very risky thing to accumulate. However, less decorum is expected from a ronin so the dissonance between the stoic ideal and the emotional reality is not nearly as much of a big deal for them as it is for samurai. Strife feels difficult to reconcile with this campaign idea.

Old R&K quite a traditional system in its approaches so it was easy for me to work around certain rules. But in a narrative game that's so comprehensively tied together, I have more difficulty.

How can I reconcile ronin with the concept of strife as it shows in the game rules?

Strife is only indirectly about the expectations of the Rokugani society. It's about being dutiful instead of indulging yourself. Conforming to expectations is not a goal in itself, it's only a goal because it is part of being dutiful.

The whole game assumes the player characters want to be proper samurai. You can deviate from that aspiration (sometimes with mechanical consequences), but the idea is that the PCs try to follow bushido as well as possible (with specific focuses depending on their clan). In that sense there is little difference between ronin and clan samurai - the game expects a similar attitude from both. Reactions towards ronin will likely differ from those towards clan samurai, but that's primarily a function of status and reputation - an honorable ronin who holds bushido in high regard will be treated the same as one who doesn't, at least until he proves his noble character.

So, you can play a ronin who doesn't much care about being a proper samurai, and that will kind of clash with the strife mechanic, but you can play a clan samurai with the same attitude too and that will have similar consequences. Don't worry about it being a ronin game. If the strife mechanic feeling right for your game is important to you, worry about the characters - regardless of their status.

 

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15 hours ago, deraforia said:

I don't think rōnin should otherwise get a free pass from strife. They're still living in the same world as Clan samurai, and in many ways have stressors most other samurai never have to deal with. Strife definitely still has its place.

This. Poor behaviour might be 'expected' but that just means you'll be dealing with prejudice. 

You unmask, you will generally bleed glory and honour, which as a low-born ronin you are not over-provided with to start with.

You let your honour and glory drop too much, the GM starts attaching "Whispers of Poverty" and "Disdain for Courtesy" on your character, which messes with your ability to succeed at persuade actions in intrigues. 

Essentially; no, if a ronin behaves badly in a noble's court, no-one will be especially shocked. However, no one will listen to them either and they won't be invited back.

Which is a problem if the PCs need something from that lord (like trying to requisition weapons, armour and food for the campaign they've been hired for....)

 

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One option is to be generous with glory and honor awards so that the ronin don’t completely rank their social status. Essentially: give them some points to burn up with unmasking. 

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To be fair, the system is kind of self-correcting.

Yes, a Worldly Ronin starts with lower Honour (although in a 'normal' campaign they should match their peers for Glory), but because most serious forfeits are based on your Honour rank, if they act....well, like a stereotypical ronin, really...they'll lose detectably less Honour than a 'proper' samurai for the same offense.

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I wonder at what point it’s ok to declare a Ronin to be an honorless dog and slay them on the spot? I mean if a clan samurai somehow dives to honor 0 I imagine their lord would demand their seppuku (if they’re lucky). 

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

I wonder at what point it’s ok to declare a Ronin to be an honorless dog and slay them on the spot?

Technically never. Ronin or no, honourless dog or no, Ronin are still of the samurai caste. You'd need permission/mandate from someone at least as high in the hierarchy as the local governor/daimyo. I mean, you can do it anyway, and no-one's going to be doing much askance about it*, but it still merits a Honor/Glory hit of at least 1 point.

EDIT: *Note that this is true regardless of the Ronin's H/G scores. One of the big disadvantages of being a ronin is that no-one has your back, so unless you're on somebody's payroll**, nobody truly cares (though they still have to give the appearance they care, because ronin are still samurai).

**If the ronin is on somebody's payroll, the amount of trouble you're in for ganking them depends on the somebody's Status and how much importance they gave to what they hired the ronin for. If it's just some retainer dude, then probably not much. If the ronin was doing something actually important, then it gets... complicated. No-one's going to really come after you openly, because no-one is going to cop to hiring ronin to do something that actually matters, as that would be admitting that either the samurai they have at their disposal are incompetent (in which case everyone takes a H/G hit, and odds are there's a bunch of sepukus about to happen) or they were wanting something dishonourable done (in which case, they take a large Glory hit - they already took the Honour hit when they hired the ronin for it). You might just get a few nin- er, shinobi in the night.

Edited by JBento

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17 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

I wonder at what point it’s ok to declare a Ronin to be an honorless dog and slay them on the spot? I mean if a clan samurai somehow dives to honor 0 I imagine their lord would demand their seppuku (if they’re lucky). 

One would need some sort of local authority for it, but since ronin often lack higher protection even a yoriki could cause problems to them. If a ronin is attacking people or stealing stuff on Clan lands, there is no reason for the Clan to treat them as anything else than invader, even if they are alone.
Then again, Clan samurai will need a reason to attack ronin, at least plausible invented one.

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22 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

I wonder at what point it’s ok to declare a Ronin to be an honorless dog and slay them on the spot?

When you know for certain that the Ronin won't slay you on the spot for insulting his honor. 

This is essentially the general rule of thumb for Rokugan: "When can I slay X for whatever reason?" "When you are sure X won't slay you!"

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11 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

When you know for certain that the Ronin won't slay you on the spot for insulting his honor. 

This is essentially the general rule of thumb for Rokugan: "When can I slay X for whatever reason?" "When you are sure X won't slay you!"

"Honourless Ronin Scum, I challenge you to a duel! Prepare to.....Musha Shugyo you say? Kakita Toshimoko's prize student? Really. That's.....awkward. I don't suppose we can pretend you didn't hear what I just said, can we?"

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5 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

"Honourless Ronin Scum, I challenge you to a duel! Prepare to.....Musha Shugyo you say? Kakita Toshimoko's prize student? Really. That's.....awkward. I don't suppose we can pretend you didn't hear what I just said, can we?"

I don’t think such a person would allow their H/G to sink super low, thus they wouldn’t Give you grounds to declare them honorless. 

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1 hour ago, AndyDay303 said:

I don’t think such a person would allow their H/G to sink super low, thus they wouldn’t Give you grounds to declare them honorless. 

Your honour and glory score aren't floating in a box above your character's head. People assume - or even deliberately manufacture - offense all the time.

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On 6/27/2019 at 7:49 AM, UnitOmega said:

All dread the mirumoto prodigy on Ronin walkabout. While you were busy insulting people's honor and status, he or she was studying the blade. 

Except for Kakita Kaezin.  He can make them back down :)

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