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wastevens

Casus Belli in Rokugan?

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Emerald Empire says that there is persistent (but relatively small) fighting in Rokugan most years. Which got me wondering- what serves as the nominal reason for a damiyo to declare war?

In a setting where 'Honor is stronger than steel', "I want his stuff" doesn't seem like it would motivate your samurai very well. Plus, since control of the land is apportioned by the Emperor, the idea of seizing another damiyo's territory seems like it would be construed as an insult to the Emperor (and unlikely to be recognized/supported) if it's done without some kind of nominal pretext to justify the attack.

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The most common reason is retaliation for a perceived insult or some kind of similar personal vendetta. Since insults come easy in Rokugan and forgiveness is hard, your average lord has a lot of excuses to attack another lord. Example: Lion-Unicorn war over Shinjo Altaransai's failed marriage. 

Another reason is two or more lords working at cross-purposes and failing (or unwilling) to compromise. Example: Lion-Crane war over Toshi Ranbo. 

This kind of low-scale warring was sanctioned by Hantei II for Fortunes only know why (at least in the old canon it was never explained), so it is not disrespectful towards the Emperor's authority. 

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1 hour ago, AtoMaki said:

This kind of low-scale warring was sanctioned by Hantei II for Fortunes only know why (at least in the old canon it was never explained), so it is not disrespectful towards the Emperor's authority. 

Oh no, I get *why* it was tolerated at a realpolitik level; so long as the Clans are wary of one another, they're less likely to unite and say "Hey, what do we need this Hantei fellow around for anyways."

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31 minutes ago, wastevens said:

Oh no, I get *why* it was tolerated at a realpolitik level; so long as the Clans are wary of one another, they're less likely to unite and say "Hey, what do we need this Hantei fellow around for anyways."

Nah, this is a kind of handwave-y thing for the Otomo so they can screw up everyone and get away with it. In Rokugan, the Emperor's Divine Mandate is a very real thing, not something people has to believe in. If you question the Hantei's right to rule then a Fortune or Dragon will come for you and turn you into a Gaki or some crap, that's no joke. If you have a good enough shugie in your service you can literally travel to the Heavens and learn it first-hand why the Hantei will stay on the throne and THAT'S IT. At the very least Emma-O tells you that if you dare to rise against the throne he will personally send you to Jigoku after your death where you will be tortured by demons for all eternity. And again, that's no joke. 

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2 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

Nah, this is a kind of handwave-y thing for the Otomo so they can screw up everyone and get away with it. In Rokugan, the Emperor's Divine Mandate is a very real thing, not something people has to believe in. If you question the Hantei's right to rule then a Fortune or Dragon will come for you and turn you into a Gaki or some crap, that's no joke. If you have a good enough shugie in your service you can literally travel to the Heavens and learn it first-hand why the Hantei will stay on the throne and THAT'S IT. At the very least Emma-O tells you that if you dare to rise against the throne he will personally send you to Jigoku after your death where you will be tortured by demons for all eternity. And again, that's no joke. 

Eeeeh...

Whole lotta people throughout real history have believed much the same. The wise ruler does not trust solely in such a belief, however.

See also: Steel Chrysanthemum, the; Gozoku, the. The Hantei Dynasty is long, but it will be the last Hantei that trusts it will be eternal.

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Just now, wastevens said:

Whole lotta people throughout real history have believed much the same. The wise ruler does not trust solely in such a belief, however.

In Rokugan, it is real. Like, as I said, you-can-experience-yourself kind of real. A real-life parallel is how you can't just overthrow the town major because the government will sweep in and take you out eventually. You don't have to believe in the government, but the black helis will come for you all the same way. 

 

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There's a very pragmatic reason why low-level, small-scale warfare is tolerated--Rokugan is a VERY militant culture. Samurai--even courtiers and shugenja--are very much immersed in this "way of the warrior" philosophy that underpins much of what the Empire is all about. Accordingly, if you want to have skilled and aggressive warriors, then you have to let them fight. Otherwise, their skills and aggression fade, and they essentially cease to be effective warriors...or, alternatively, their skills and aggression DON'T fade, and they start getting up to things that are considered "no good", like unsanctioned battles and invasions, or even revolts and uprisings. More or less continuous, low-level conflict gives samurai both an outlet for their aggression and way of keeping their skills honed (again, I include courtiers in this, because they essentially do battle in court to help enable success for their brethren in the field; shugenja are a little more removed from this, but they're also super rare and basically a "niche" aspect of samurai life).

As noted, insults and matters of honor provide ready excuses for doing battle. However, taking land and resources can be part of it...it's just usually not the stated reason for fighting (just a happy side effect for the winner). And, when it happens, the attitude is often...well, if Doji Bob wasn't strong enough to hold those rice fields, then Akodo Bill now righteously owns them, because it was obviously the will of the Celestial Heavens...

The caveat, of course, is that no one can go to WAR without Imperial sanction. Clans won't mobilize all of, or even large parts of their armies without the Throne's say-so. Now, if the Throne and unengaged clans can be convinced those ten Crab legions rampaging into Scorpion territory are just a "skirmishing" force...well, then cool. And that's what the courtiers are for.

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Posted (edited)

My general understanding is that in general a decent chunk of what Courtiers do is to find casus belli (or work later to refute it). The land may be owned by the Emperor, but it is leased to the clans. Some of these areas have been leased to clans for a very long time. And how these leases are determined involves imperial maps - which as we know are not always true-to-life accurate. 

Some will engage in realpolitik. You are Dragon, experiencing a famine. Lion have a lot of wheat fields, and you can't wait for them to be nice about it - you'll occupy the field with some Mirumoto and pay them back later, and if soldiers show up, you'll bonk them on the head and run back to your mountains. Peasants have founded a new village along the border tapping a natural resource - such as a new logging town, a river port or fishery, an iron mine. The maps don't technically have this on them yet, so you want to occupy it with some bushi, declare it's your territory and then schmooze the Miya to have them draw it on your side of the border next census. If your neighboring clan thinks of the same thing, you might have a skirmish. 

But, Honor can also enter into it a lot. 400 years ago, some Miya or Ikoma or whoever drew a line across this valley saying Scorpion on one side, Crane on the other, and there's no natural border inside the valley itself. So in this box valley there is a Scorpion (Red) Castle, and a the other a Crane (Blue) Castle. The two houses of these castles have been arguing for hundreds of years about who owns what in the valley - occasionally they come to blows. The territory itself doesn't matter - unless you draw a new map the valley is split, but those darn dirty Reds and/or Blues keep mocking you and trying to edge you out of your territory. Maybe you're a Lion lord, and your cutest most precious younger sister has fallen in love with the suave, cool, perfect Kakita lordling across the border, and they've eloped - his Lord allows this because it gives him an in on her inheritance. But more importantly she's bound by honor to marry somebody else and also, dude, it's your sister. So you'll marshal the banners and march across the border and if they don't give her back you'll knock over their castle. And once you get a bad blood going, Samurai don't need any pragmatic reason to get into an argument with those guys across the street, because a few generations ago they insulted your great-great-great-grandmother or accidentally killed an ancestor in a duel. Institutional memory is long, and understanding and worship of ancestors empowers it. And probably remembers the other guys as less honorable than your guys. Except maybe if you're Scorpion. 

Edited by UnitOmega

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12 hours ago, UnitOmega said:

My general understanding is that in general a decent chunk of what Courtiers do is to find casus belli (or work later to refute it). The land may be owned by the Emperor, but it is leased to the clans. Some of these areas have been leased to clans for a very long time. And how these leases are determined involves imperial maps - which as we know are not always true-to-life accurate. 

Agreed. If something is on an imperial map, it's pretty much unarguable, because that is (at least to some delegated degree) says "the emperor says the border is here" - it's where a minor village isn't on the imperial maps that you get into disputed territory.

 

18 hours ago, wastevens said:

Which got me wondering- what serves as the nominal reason for a damiyo to declare war?

Also note that "declare war" is something requiring imperial permission. Most fighting, as @AtoMaki and @DGLaderoute say, is "a minor skirmish that's totally not war" - despite the scale of the fighting, Toshi Ranbo was not actually 'war' in the eyes of imperial law. Despite a sizeable army besieging a fortified city, and both clan champions getting involved, and one of them getting killed.

That's why the Lion/Unicorn conflict is such a big deal, because part of what's hinted at in A Swift End is that the Lion set up a vanguard force to get chopped up in part to secure permission to actually declare proper war. Which may be possible due to a slight loophole involving the Unicorn*.

But yes, a fair amount of causes for war involve territories which have previously changed hands. The Emperor wants the various clans at each other's throats so they're not united at his.

Taking several examples:

  • The Crab/Crane War. Basically caused by the Yasuki family 'defecting' from the Crane to the Crab due to a rift between the Doji and Yasuki.
  • The War of Fire and Snow. A volcanic eruption in Dragon Lands displaced a large peasant population. The Dragon tried to resettle them into Dragon Heart Plain, which technically belonged to the Dragon but had been tended by the Phoenix for centuries (due to the Dragon's tiny population). The Phoenix saw this as an invasion of 'their' land.
  • Toshi Ranbo. It's been back and forth between the lion and crane ever since it was founded, so both sides have a valid 'historical claim'.

 

 

* A previous Hantei banned open warfare between the major clans without the reigning Hantei's permisssion in an imperial decree.

That decree, naturally, lists the major clans.

Because it was issued in 400 (between when the Ki-Rin left Rokugan and the Unicorn returned, and after the remaining Ki-Rin became the Kitsune minor clan), neither the Ki-Rin or Unicorn are on the list.

Therefore, technically it doesn't apply to them and they're free to do 'open war' (or have 'open war' done to them).

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23 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

Nah, this is a kind of handwave-y thing for the Otomo so they can screw up everyone and get away with it. In Rokugan, the Emperor's Divine Mandate is a very real thing, not something people has to believe in. If you question the Hantei's right to rule then a Fortune or Dragon will come for you and turn you into a Gaki or some crap, that's no joke. If you have a good enough shugie in your service you can literally travel to the Heavens and learn it first-hand why the Hantei will stay on the throne and THAT'S IT. At the very least Emma-O tells you that if you dare to rise against the throne he will personally send you to Jigoku after your death where you will be tortured by demons for all eternity. And again, that's no joke. 

Quick question, why then the Heavens allowed Toturi to reign?

Why the dragons didn’t came down and did strike him down and bring a rightful heir to rule? I’m pretty darn sure that at that time there were several blood related Hantei that could have rightfully claims to the Emerald Throne...

Unless Toturi was blood related to Akodo himself and they declare that Hantei’s reign is over and that Akodo’s reign shall start. 

 

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1 hour ago, Nheko said:

Quick question, why then the Heavens allowed Toturi to reign?

Why the dragons didn’t came down and did strike him down and bring a rightful heir to rule? 

I'm fairly sure that the Heavens were kinda in a turmoil during Toturi's time with the whole Lady Moon / Lord Sun ordeal and as soon as Tengoku was back on track with the Jade Dragon and the Obsidian Dragon the Toturi Dynasty was extinguished. 

Obviously, if you can screw over the Heavens somehow then the throne is yours for the taking too.  

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3 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

I'm fairly sure that the Heavens were kinda in a turmoil during Toturi's time with the whole Lady Moon / Lord Sun ordeal and as soon as Tengoku was back on track with the Jade Dragon and the Obsidian Dragon the Toturi Dynasty was extinguished. 

Obviously, if you can screw over the Heavens somehow then the throne is yours for the taking too.  

Thanks this makes sense...

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21 hours ago, DGLaderoute said:

There's a very pragmatic reason why low-level, small-scale warfare is tolerated--Rokugan is a VERY militant culture. Samurai--even courtiers and shugenja--are very much immersed in this "way of the warrior" philosophy that underpins much of what the Empire is all about. Accordingly, if you want to have skilled and aggressive warriors, then you have to let them fight.

One would think this resulted in a big empire-scale military rotation on the Kaiu Wall. That place has infinite fighting against a common enemy for everyone!

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24 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

One would think this resulted in a big empire-scale military rotation on the Kaiu Wall. That place has infinite fighting against a common enemy for everyone!

This is...complicated. The Crab are reluctant to station anyone on the Wall unless they can assume full command of them and ensure they are properly trained, because having not-properly-trained personnel on the Wall can be worse than not having them there at all...it's a very specialized and dangerous type of fighting. The clans, however, are likewise reluctant to give full command of their troops to the Crab, for the usual reasons of honor, loyalty, etc. The Crab also tend to see suggestions they need help as insulting, as protecting the Empire is their sacred duty...despite the fact they really DO need help, including supplies, jade, etc. but are wary about openly asking for it, lest they been seen as weak or failing in that sacred duty. 

Like I said...complicated. And needlessly so, but needlessly complicated is pretty much the unofficial motto of Rokugan.

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21 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

Not more than the low-intensity deathmatch we have now. 

Oh, Rokugani politics and related conflicts are insanely complicated, yes. My point was more that sending forces to the Wall to vent their aggressions and keep their skills honed isn't a simple solution, either.

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5 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

I'm fairly sure that the Heavens were kinda in a turmoil during Toturi's time with the whole Lady Moon / Lord Sun ordeal and as soon as Tengoku was back on track with the Jade Dragon and the Obsidian Dragon the Toturi Dynasty was extinguished. 

Obviously, if you can screw over the Heavens somehow then the throne is yours for the taking too.  

Not to mention, when Toturi I died, the Celestial Dragon Itself gave him a ride up to Tengoku, so if that's not divine sanction then I'm not real sure what is.

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Posted (edited)
On 6/16/2019 at 6:44 AM, AtoMaki said:

...snip...This kind of low-scale warring was sanctioned by Hantei II for Fortunes only know why (at least in the old canon it was never explained), so it is not disrespectful towards the Emperor's authority. 

 

On 6/16/2019 at 8:50 AM, AtoMaki said:

Nah, this is a kind of handwave-y thing for the Otomo [regarding "realpolitik," as a reason to keep the clans from ganging up on the Imperial Families] so they can screw up everyone and get away with it. In Rokugan, the Emperor's Divine Mandate is a very real thing, not something people has to believe in. If you question the Hantei's right to rule then a Fortune or Dragon will come for you ...snip...

I believe that politics is definitely a part of it. How you want to handle the Mandate of Heaven in your own campaign(s) is up to you. AtoMaki is certainly right that there are powerful supernatural forces that support the Hantei line. At the same time there are certainly exceptions. Wastevens listed several.  I don't necessarily believe that the history of Rokugan plot-lines and products are exactly clear or consistent on the matter. How heavy handed the spirits of Heaven and earth are in supporting the lawful Emperor is up to you.

Another possible reason why there are so many conflicts is that its a great way to gain distinction. Lots of young bucks hope for a war so they can prove themselves and gain glory. Older established leaders often have to manage their young hotheads. 

Another possible reason for the armed conflicts (I believe) is that behind the scenes Togashi wants Rokugan ready for the Second Day of Thunder. As a result a certain amount of conflict is needed each generation to keep everyones skills at peak ability. 

My two cents.

Edited by Void Crane

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On ‎6‎/‎17‎/‎2019 at 6:03 PM, DGLaderoute said:

The clans, however, are likewise reluctant to give full command of their troops to the Crab, for the usual reasons of honor, loyalty, etc.

Plus the fact that, by and large, troops sent to the wall don't come back. There's no 'rotation' because for the vast majority of soldiers it's a one-way deployment.

One non-trivial thought to be held in mind is that the Crab 'use up' troops - if not killed in battle then transferred to the damned by taint or just sent bat-guano crazy by the mind-warping sight of the oni attacking the wall.

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6 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

One non-trivial thought to be held in mind is that the Crab 'use up' troops - if not killed in battle then transferred to the damned by taint or just sent bat-guano crazy by the mind-warping sight of the oni attacking the wall.

Can't remember the source, but I remember reading that since it was built there has not been a single day Crab bushi did not die on the Wall.

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8 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Plus the fact that, by and large, troops sent to the wall don't come back. There's no 'rotation' because for the vast majority of soldiers it's a one-way deployment.

As far as I can understand, this is due to the Crab solo'ing the Shadowlands and not a given. If every other clan required to station large portions of their warriors on the Wall then the whole Shadowlands deal would be taken considerably more seriously. It is possible that there wouldn't be even a Wall because the Maw would have failed to defeat the combined Rokugani defense force. 

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One thing that is often ignored in the Rokugan setting, but is often implied, is the 'Mandate of Heaven'. The concept that The Heavens protect the Imperial Line by virtue of them staying in charge. Well, Hantei XVI happened, disasters and other things showed up as Heaven quietly showing it's displeasure by withdrawing protections over the land. When the Emperor's guards finally turned on him because he was just that evil. And the empire had problems for a few generations after that because the Heavens weren't very subtle in saying "Don't do that again."   It followed down the Hantei line until the 38th. And we all know what happened there.

Toturi might not have been a Hantei, but he was more in line with how The Heavens wanted things done. So he got to rule. And that's pretty much it. Plus all the shenanigans going on in the other realms

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Posted (edited)

Story wise There has never been any real indicators to me that the heavens cared who was on the throne until Iweko I, and that seemed to be more about bring balance back to the heavens and Rokugan then any real interest in the mortal world as a whole. This can be seen many time, as has been stated before (Steel Chrysanthemum, the Gozoku, battle of the White stag ) where during these time the dragons did not come an protect the Hantei line or impose their mandate on Rokugan. I would say that as the Hantei line thinned the idea of 'Mandate of Heaven' was adopted to keep stronger/purer lines like the Hida from gaining a claim to the throne. You can play it like you want, but I have never seen anything in the old canon that stated or enforced a belief in the 'Mandate of Heaven'.

Edited by tenchi2a

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