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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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