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Do most folks let everyone pick their Samurai heritage in question 18?  It seems weird to have one step that's randomly determined.  But the results also don't really seem to be created equal.  Does anyone have any experience one way or the other?

 

In particular, I was immediately drawn to Stolen Knowledge to learn Wall of Earth on a Kaui Engineer.  I'm GMing, so I can let my players choose, but wasn't sure what experiences folks had in letting players choose?

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I got to just pick the two times I've gotten to play. When I judge I just let my players pick something appropriate.

Rolling can be fun because you can't really control the past you come from. Sometimes you can find inspiration in that. But picking is also good because it allows you to reflect the story you want your character to live.

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I thought about just allowing my players to pick, but I decided early on that I didn't want to house-rule anything for the first campaign, so I made them roll this time around and honestly, it doesn't seem like a big deal.

  Originally what I had thought about telling my players is that they could pick, but they wouldn't be able to get stolen knowledge (and I think there were 1 or 2 others they couldn't get.) or they could roll and have a chance of getting those results.  When I mentioned this to my players, they all said they would have rolled anyway.

  IIRC the only question that your character couldn't have had any say in, other than heritage, would be clan and family.. both of which are such vital decisions that players should be able to choose anyway. (and honestly, while rare, a character could have been adopted into a clan and family, but they can't change who their ancestors are.)  A character has no choice in their heritage, and the result won't necessarily impact the basic concept of the character, so I think it's cool to make it random.

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I'd give players carte blanche on this one – one or two heritages, roll or pick, doesn't matter. The impact on stats will be fairly minimal no matter how it goes, especially in the long run, and whatever the player and I think is going to make for the best tale at the table is a-ok by me. 

A stolen invocation, like anything else, will have to get worked into the story, somehow, in a way that makes sense. Off the top of my head, maybe it's not the "knowledge" that was stolen, per se, so much as the ancestor? As in: the character had an ancestor who was (or was meant to be) a shugenja, but for some reason turned their back on that path early on. Although the sting to the family honor remains, the favor of the kami lingers, just a little bit, with the descendant.

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I've always been fine with players picking. 

The choices have been all over the place - if I had to say one option comes upmore than any other, it's probably Ruthless Victor (for a 'free' rank of Martial Arts) but it's got to be by a slim margin if at all. 

9 hours ago, lurkingowl said:

But the results also don't really seem to be created equal. 

Agreed, but a big part of the balancing act is how often the GM - and players - pay attention to social attributes; the 'mechanical' rewards are clearly not equal; Famous Deed and Glorious Sacrifice, for example, both create a unique item, but the former gives you that item right now, whilst the latter says "this exists...'somewhere in the world'....and it's yours....if you can find it or get it back".

The balancing factor, in so far as there is one, is that Famous Deed gives you +3 Glory whilst Glorious Sacrifice gives you +5 Glory and +5 Honour. Compared to Stolen Knowledge (which is -5 Honour), Glorious Sacrifice is basically trading a free technique for an extra point of Honour Rank. 

 

1 hour ago, Victarion13 said:

My big question is: if you have a relationship with the kami different from a shugenja, how can you really call up their favor (and power)?

2 minutes ago, ColdObiWan said:

A stolen invocation, like anything else, will have to get worked into the story, somehow, in a way that makes sense. Off the top of my head, maybe it's not the "knowledge" that was stolen, per se, so much as the ancestor? As in: the character had an ancestor who was (or was meant to be) a shugenja, but for some reason turned their back on that path early on. Although the sting to the family honor remains, the favor of the kami lingers, just a little bit, with the descendant.

Or a specific ritual. An invocation is a specific prayer. Core Book, Invocations:

"While anyone can theoretically reach out to the kami and receive their blessing, and all priests train in the art of doing so to some degree, only shugenja know the secrets required to unlock the pinnacle
of these powers."

If it's a secret (not a bloodline trait) then it can be stolen. @Longes raised the point in another thread about importune invocations (which, whilst I don't think it's too powerful an option is basically "Invocation Improv" and presumably requires more background understanding of the methods involved so might not be justified for someone who can only ever know a single technique) but ritual prayer 345, chapter 2, "oh sacred fire kami, please make this person's face explode in an inferno of painful death" is certainly something you can steal.

 

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The answer here seems to be that what Rokugani think about Shugenja magic is not necessarily the absolute truth about Shugenja magic. A lot of the ritual surrounding the kami is just that - ritual to make the kami and the shugenja feel fancy and important. Maybe those ten years in Isawa school are more important to maintaining the social status of the Isawa school than to having Kami answer your requests.

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Equally, the Kami aren't just inanimate forces like gravity.

The spirits have their own personalities and experiences, and different kami might feel differently about specific humans.

The Kami of clear falls river might be infinitely better disposed to a Takahiro no Isawa than any 'proper' Isawa, especially given the Isawa's decision (over their vassal's polite objections) to dam one of its tributary streams to provide water for rice paddies near Shiro Shiba. 

As a result, no matter how perfectly the Elemental Master of Water ennunciates an invocation to the Kami, the result is likely to be the spiritual equivalent of a Wile.E.Coyote-esque placard with "Bugger. Off." scrawled on it poking out of the water, whilst the Kami is more than happy to aid the students who've lived on its banks since childhood, even if their invocations are a bit mangled.

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Appendix in the Unicorn novella seems to indicate A( kami are unique to Rokugan (Gaijin sorcerers have to command djinn, demons or other entities to do their bidding, or resort to blood-magic functionally identical to maho, and the Iuchi had to learn Name Magic to do anything outside of Rokugan), but also B( governed by Name Magic just as much as anything else - so yeah, it seems there are some universal rules even kami have to follow. The wider world has a certain amount of Magic A is Magic A which kami still fall under, but the special bloodlines of Shugenja can shortcut this and basically have a polite chat with their local kami and persuade them to intervene, as opposed to cracking open their copy of Ars Goetia and saying "King Asmodee XXXII, in the name of God I command you to use your 72 demonic legions to have FFG publish the PDF in a timely manner". (The joke being that Asmodee is one of the many alternate readings of Asmodeus)

If you "steal" an Invocation, this means your ancestor may have stumbled upon the proper way to pray to a kami so it is directly compelled to perform a service or just mistakes you for an actual shugenja. To importune, you have to pay the kami a fair price for it's services just like any name mage might have to bargain with a djinn to grant you three wishes if you let him out of his strange oil lamp. Rokugan wouldn't think of the process in this way, but perhaps there are some vague universal constants at work here. 

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5 hours ago, AK_Aramis said:

Given that it's roll twice and pick for the roll method (p 96)...

I'll allow picking but certain ones won't be allowed to be picked. Like Imperial Heritage or Nemurani.

Thing is, these two are the strongest ones, with arguably, stolen knowledge.

The +1 skill ones are pretty boring though. On top of being weak, they are just boring.

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

 

The choices have been all over the place - if I had to say one option comes upmore than any other, it's probably Ruthless Victor (for a 'free' rank of Martial Arts) but it's got to be by a slim margin if at all. 

 

 

This seems like a complete waste - if you're going to pick one of those options, what you want to get out of it is either a kiho or an invocation, whichever you can't buy normally through your school or a really good one if you're a bushi (Yari of Air rocks, for example, and since you're only ever using one kiho you can get one with a general usefulness enhancement effect like, say, getting Earth Needs No Eyes and tell sneaks and half of the courtiers to go jump off the nearest cliff forever), not "and here's something I could've just gotten with a few xp anyway".

 

But, hey, at least it isn't as bad as getting the rank 1 Ninjutsu/Maho, which should be stricken from the table forever.

Edited by JBento

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6 minutes ago, JBento said:

not "and here's something I could've just gotten with a few xp anyway".

yeah, the samurai heritage table is a bit of a wasted opportunity for "cool" stuff, at least some of its options.

So far, I let my player come up with something interesting, mostly toying with either a special item, technique, or the +10 status, which we reflavor a bit to fit the characters.
Probably some Titles could be good handouts too.
 

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34 minutes ago, Avatar111 said:

yeah, the samurai heritage table is a bit of a wasted opportunity for "cool" stuff, at least some of its options.

Honestly, I was kind of surprised not to see new options for question 18 in Emerald Empire - you'd imagine some Imperial Family - specific ones might be interesting. 

I guess that the sort of title you can justify handing to a starting character are the sort of thing you wouldn't really be inheriting, but I'd agree that titles are the one thing you can't currently get from a heritage result (I think every other skill category is covered, and techniques, items, ring changes, honour/glory and status are all up for grabs)

A Veteran Samurai campaign does start you with a title, but that's for 50XP characters and whilst handing them the Clan Magistrate title or whatever seems fine, it doesn't really translate across to stuff which should be available to 0XP starter characters.

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Posted (edited)

yeah, I use the heritage system as a "rough guideline" and just discuss with my player so we come up with something cool, while keeping the powerlevel similar to the "better" options of the heritage tables.
mechanically of course, because lore wise, a lot of them are good.

edit: not every title should be available, but a few can be, I think.

Edited by Avatar111

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Posted (edited)

Thanks folks.  Thinking about this more, I'm focused on it because it's the only way to get the Stolen Knowledge effect, and to a lesser extent Imperial heritage.

I think I'm just going to re-write the last couple (pulled from previous editions, probably) ignore Stolen Knowledge, and let players pick.  Getting Spells/Invocations on a Bushi has been a sort of bright line and it's probably not a great idea to either allow it as a choice, or have it randomly show up if someone gets lucky.

Alas, I really like the idea of a Kaui Engineer with Wall of Earth.  I guess another option is to just make Stolen Knowledge an advantage or a generic Technique that lets you buy (paying XP again) an out of school technique.

Edited by lurkingowl

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Shadowlands has more options so we'll likely see them in future supplements as well. I've always liked the heritage tables even though they've always been kinda random in their usefulness and power levels. My last game I let people pick, in the game I've just started running we rolled. Some results are problematic or powerful no matter what you do I found, but oh well so long as my players have fun who cares if it gives me the occasional headache justifying it in the lore/my game setting.

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1 hour ago, llamaman88 said:

Some results are problematic or powerful no matter what you do I found, but oh well so long as my players have fun who cares if it gives me the occasional headache justifying it in the lore/my game setting.

That's kind of my stance on most problematic mechanics. As long as it's for the sake of a fun and good game, we can put up with a little inconvenience.  In this particular case, if importuning as a non-shugenja (or pseudo shugenja) becomes problematic and ruins the fun just kick that out.

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15 hours ago, Victarion13 said:

My big question is: if you have a relationship with the kami different from a shugenja, how can you really call up their favor (and power)?

Think of it as the difference between knowing the phrase for "Can you point me to the British Embassy, please?" in some other language and being completely fluent in that language.  Your bushi with a stolen invocation is like the former, a shugenja the latter.

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5 hours ago, lurkingowl said:

Thanks folks.  Thinking about this more, I'm focused on it because it's the only way to get the Stolen Knowledge effect, and to a lesser extent Imperial heritage.

I think I'm just going to re-write the last couple (pulled from previous editions, probably) ignore Stolen Knowledge, and let players pick.  Getting Spells/Invocations on a Bushi has been a sort of bright line and it's probably not a great idea to either allow it as a choice, or have it randomly show up if someone gets lucky.

Alas, I really like the idea of a Kaui Engineer with Wall of Earth.  I guess another option is to just make Stolen Knowledge an advantage or a generic Technique that lets you buy (paying XP again) an out of school technique.

Isn't there a title that'll give PC's access to an invocation anyway?

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19 hours ago, Avatar111 said:

Thing is, these two are the strongest ones, with arguably, stolen knowledge.

The +1 skill ones are pretty boring though. On top of being weak, they are just boring.

If you find them boring, it's because you're not working the background into play.

Someone who picks "Ruthless Victor" as an ancestor should be reacting to it - either embracing it, or explicitly rejecting it, or possibly in-play struggling over it. NPCs should, if they know the lineage, make reference to it.

Elevated for service means expectations will either be higher (Following the footsteps) or lower (You always fail to live up to your ancestors).

Each of them has RP potential. If anything, Imperial Lineage is the LEAST interesting of the bunch. And the least powerful. It prevents outright attempts to kill you by anyone who isn't higher status. Killing PC's is itself a boring option, so it's usually irrelevant. Unless the party is, like one of my groups, pursuing a course of autocracide to clean out the Kolat... (Following on from the BB and the DLC follow-on... they realized the Ruby Champion was Kolat, and publicly accuser her, with testimony against her in writing, causing her to publicly flee... and they cut her down as she did. They're now negotiating with Winter Court to not be terminated themselves... They also ended the BB Adventure with a capture of the bad-guy, and the Bayushi PC becoming the Topaz Champion. When the corebook came out, they regenerated the folio characters as full corebook characters. Funny, but an adventure you claim was boring and unmemmorable has been for 2 different groups, very different and rather memorable... as was the 1E version the once I've run it. Totally different every time.)

The 2nd collumn of the table isn't surplus material. It is RP Hooks and backstory inspiration. Every bit as important as the 3rd and 4th columns.

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9 minutes ago, AK_Aramis said:

If you find them boring, it's because you're not working the background into play.

Someone who picks "Ruthless Victor" as an ancestor should be reacting to it - either embracing it, or explicitly rejecting it, or possibly in-play struggling over it. NPCs should, if they know the lineage, make reference to it.

Elevated for service means expectations will either be higher (Following the footsteps) or lower (You always fail to live up to your ancestors).

Each of them has RP potential.

I would have preferred the ancestries to be all about being a roleplaying hook or point of interest and not have too much overt mechanical benefits. In fact, it feels kind of odd they're such an uneven bunch given how much advantages and disadvantages have been streamlined and made to be formulaic. I like they're now a non-optional part of character creation, but it would have been a much stronger step in the process if the flavor aspect was pushed more. Now it's another way for players to wrangle some extra power from the system in many cases.

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