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T_Kageyasu

How not to metagame the Shosuro?

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In a Clan of the morally dubious, we have their actors and entertainers who are otherwise hidden from public view. If we treat their other role as pajama wearing assassins, spies, and intelligence operatives as being outside common knowledge, we're left with a not so terrible face (for a Scorpion). So my question stands, what is the Rokugani view and treatment of the Shosuro? Is their family name infamous? Are they treated as if they were merely actors? The latter feels a little improbable. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that their family and school is completely unknown outside the Scorpion.

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This has been asked before (more or less) and I don't remember that a consensus answer came up. I do know from city of lies that the Scorpion largely controls the opium networks and distributions and that their "drug cartel" was/is split three ways between the Bayushi, the Soshi and ... the Shosuro. I  personally wouldn't present them as secretly being a major drug cartel while publicly known to Rokugan as "Hollywood." My best guess is that they are generally known as a powerful family who own lands, field armies etc etc. Maybe with a reputation as Bayushi-lite? That sounds at first like a put down but it might also help them move into the shadows and escape the spot light.

"They do all the things the Bayushi/ Scorpion do, but they can't trace direct lineage to one of the founding Kamis."

Like the rest of the Scorpion clan I am sure no one trusts them.

I am sure there are people who have a deeper well of lore to draw on. I know a little about the scorpion village of actors who change all the time who confuse the odd travelers who pass through. 

Sorry. That's all I got...

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I've definitely had this conversation before with people, especially concerning what people THINK the Scorpion should be doing. Lord Bayushi giving himself the black hat for Hantei cannot be public knowledge, or it defeats the purpose, but I suspect in the effort to make a clan of machiavellian social engineering assassins we may not have thought about what people think they do as opposed to what they actually do, and otherwise their plots are inscrutable and perfect - how dare you try and stop them! If they don't have a purpose on the books, over the past 1000 years surely somebody would have looked over at them and gone "why do we let these guys whose only job it is to backstab us stick around? Can't we eliminate, exile or reorganize them?". 

For the Shosuro, the first and foremost thing know about them from Shosuro herself (who was also a Thunder, so maybe that cuts the family some slack) is actors and entertainers. They probably are masters of all three forms of theater (presented in Emerald Empire) and thus have some social influence there, as the art forms have fluctuated over the years. This can vary from really high art theater to the flashy and populist. Performance itself is a pretty broad area, including also forms of music, dance, etc. The second thing people usually hear about the Shosuro is their gardens and their secret herbs and spices. Now obviously, one can turn around and go "ooh poisons!" but any self-respecting physician or apothecary would tell you the difference between a medicine and a poison is about dosage, and considering Scorpion lands are the major source of "medicinal" opium in Rokugan, I would assume that the Shosuro are probably leaders in herbal medicine. And sometimes they don't tell you what happens if you take two of the medicines instead of one.  Another fork is that the Shosuro lands are along the River of Gold, leading from the City of the Rich Frog, to the City of Lies, and then way down into Yasuki territory - making it a major trade route. And traditionally they're loaded with rice and opium fields (though also perhaps some mountain foothills with mineral resources). This means the Shosuro provinces are very prosperous, And sandwiched between the Unicorn and Crab on that route, it makes sense maybe if the Shosuro were a bit more mercantile than normal for samurai. 

All of these things though might add up to a Family which seems low for samurai, focused on entertainment, production and trade. But part of the Scorpion MO is to always be underestimated, if people think they aren't very prominent samurai, it's better than thinking they're ninja assassins. Speaking of which, I'm pretty sure the average person doesn't suspect every Scorpion of being a ninja assassin. You probably know from common knowledge a Scorpion isn't to be trusted, they have ears everywhere and don't feels as strongly bound to Bushido as some clans (though really, what clan is as bound by bushido as your clan?), but suspecting them of engaging in both illegal and fantastical operations might be a bit much. This will also probably become easier to discuss as FFG prints both more material on the Shosuro family, and more Shosuro schools. The infiltrator one is iconic, but a bit sticky to handle yes. My favorite excuse as to why a Shosuro carries a daisho is they were trained in the obscure "Shosuro Bushi School" which apparently nobody has ever heard of. Possibly said with a hint of embarrassment. 

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8 hours ago, UnitOmega said:

All of these things though might add up to a Family which seems low for samurai, focused on entertainment, production and trade.

This angle is intriguing; a utilitarian artisan family that handles the "lower" art (at least compared to the Crane). The Scorpion everyone, including their own clan, needs but keeps at a distance.

Adding more schools will definitely help deflect suspicions and the "I'm not an assassin!" protestations (that PCs shouldn't be having, beyond what they should normally have for dealing with a Scorpion).

Edited by T_Kageyasu

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Everybody knows they are assassins. Everybody knows not to trust a scorpion.

No subtelty there. Nobody is fooled. A Shosuro is most likely someone up to no good.

Scorpions couldn't "exist" in a real world, they would have gotten destroyed by alliances of others. But in this "world", they have their role/place. Its simply something you have to come up to fact with.

Scorpions are bad, but you cannot kill them anyway, because that wouldn't be proper and the emperor would not like you to do so.

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The vast majority of Rokugani samurai will probably never encounter a Shosuro. In fact, the vast majority of Rokugani samurai are unlikely to encounter many samurai from other clans during their lives; those who do will have duties that take them outside of the clan's lands, and this really isn't very many of them. The big opportunity to "encounter" samurai from other clans will be during times of war, and those encounters are likely to be across drawn weapons in a line of battle. PCs are, obviously, not typical clan samurai; they often range across the Empire dealing with just about every family of every clan, but that's because it's fun and cool to do that, and fun and cool is kinda the point of playing the game. Unfortunately, in the setting's reality, most samurai will spend most of their lives performing duties given to them by their lords, that involve overseeing commoners, dealing with largely domestic issues, patrolling the clan's and lord's lands and borders, and the like--they just don't travel much.

So, if samurai DO encounter a Shosuro, it will probably be in the context of a performance of some sort put on by a traveling  Shosuro troupe, or in Court, if there happen to be Shosuro delegates. Outside of this, given their education and the demands of things like their gempukku, Rokugani will probably be aware of the Shosuro as a family of the Scorpion clan, even if they have no direct experience with them. This creates the perfect conditions for people being judged mainly on the basis of reputation, and the reputation of the Shosuro is probably going to be mostly one of being enigmatic, heavily colored by gossip, rumors and the Rokugani version of urban legends. People will probably be at least somewhat suspicious of Shosuro they encounter...but this is Rokugan, so the social niceties of etiquette, the Bushido virtue of Courtesy, and the realities of simply not insulting people you don't know because they might be useful and/or a threat to you, probably also mean the Shosuro will be treated politely--if somewhat warily.

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I think the Winston Churchill quote which I have posted before on other threats about the Scorpion Clan still very much applies here.  Maybe even more so for the Shoshuro and Soshi.

"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interest of the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan States and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south eastern Europe,  That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia."  -Winston Churchill, October 1st, 1939.

I suggest that for the Empire at large, the Scorpion are a riddle.  The families of the clans are a mystery.  And the leaders and goals of those families are an enigma.  While they are loyal to each other, even the Daimyos of the Scorpion clan will be vexed by the interplay of their own plots.  Which ones allowed to go forward and which are but mere feigns may only be known fully by Kachiko, and even she might not be up to date on everything going on.  Fog of War does that.  Me thinks that even then, she is well versed in the Xanatos Gambit.

https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/XanatosGambit

 

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27 minutes ago, neilcell said:

I suggest that for the Empire at large, the Scorpion are a riddle.  The families of the clans are a mystery.  And the leaders and goals of those families are an enigma.  While they are loyal to each other, even the Daimyos of the Scorpion clan will be vexed by the interplay of their own plots. 

I just started to read the Scorpion novella, which prominently features the Shosuro from the perspective of another Scorpion, but one that doesn't really fit in. Looking forward to seeing how this story helps answer my questions! If anything like the Unicorn novella, it's bound to be an enjoyable read :)

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Whispers of Shadows and Steel is by far my favorite of the novellas. Probably because I love the City of Lies, but also because it feels the most like an adventure you would play with your PCs. I should go back and reread it.

Here is a question for the community, and the thing I have the hardest part wrapping my mind around. Aren't actors low status and looked down upon by the society of Rokugan (at least when they aren't entertaining)? If so then how does that fit with being samurai?

Edited by Void Crane

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1 hour ago, Void Crane said:

Aren't actors low status and looked down upon by the society of Rokugan (at least when they aren't entertaining)? If so then how does that fit with being samurai?

Not really. Actors aren't 'sullying themselves' with direct contact with their audience (like Geisha are), so they're more in the same class as storytellers, who go right the way up to high-status individuals like the Imperial Storyteller.

Geisha may perform plays but not all actresses are Geisha.

Don't get me wrong. Performing 'the cudgel play' for a bunch of drunken peasants is not a high status 'gig'. But that wouldn't be a famous samurai doing it.

 

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One of the source books goes into plays.  They talk about Kabuki in the context of Rokugan being a half-way point between high drama plays of the courts and the puppet show plays of the streets and commoners.  Depending on the talent of the Kabuki acting troupe and the director, the play might slider closer to more burlesque and hence commoner or towards more refined tastes and hence the courts.  It really is what you chose to make of it.

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One way to metagame the Shosuro as a PC would be to take the Worldly Ronin school and be a regular Scorpion clan Bushi who has not gone Ronin (yet, maybe never) and truthfully deny having Ninja tendencies. Which would make everyone suspect him ef being a secret Bayushi Deathdealer.

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ccp7Pj6.png

Specifically, here's the sidebar in Emerald Empire p. 62. Several references to Nō and Kabuki are scattered throughout the book. Since the Shosuro are "known" to be actors, I'd guess they have one of those schools of Nō traditions mentioned here. 

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5 hours ago, UnitOmega said:

ccp7Pj6.png

Specifically, here's the sidebar in Emerald Empire p. 62. Several references to Nō and Kabuki are scattered throughout the book. Since the Shosuro are "known" to be actors, I'd guess they have one of those schools of Nō traditions mentioned here. 

Thank you.  That was exactly what I was talking about in my earlier post.  Thank you for posting that here.

As it pertains to the Shoshuro, I  suspect they cultivate the idea that they train some of the best No actors and playwrights with those that don't make the exacting standards relegated to refined Kabuki.

Edited by neilcell

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On 8/26/2019 at 6:36 AM, Void Crane said:

Aren't actors low status and looked down upon by the society of Rokugan (at least when they aren't entertaining)? If so then how does that fit with being samurai?

I think this is a great question, agree with Magnus, but feel like there's more nuance. We're talking about nobility skirting the line between generating art and entertaining others (the latter being a role of the merchant class). I think it's a matter of clan taste and personal perspective whether a samurai who pursues the arts is potentially looked down upon by other samurai, but mechanically speaking it's within the boundaries of acceptable behavior. If Andy Warhol carried a katana, I sure as **** wouldn't criticize his art.

Geisha aren't members of the nobility, so it's difficult to make comparisons with samurai. They might enjoy some protection and perks of closely associating with nobles, but neither gain nor lose honor for doing their job. The same might not be true of samurai, if generating art isn't their official job but they think themselves an aspiring artist.

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Ah, yes, the Scorpion Conundrum. 

I like to think that the Scorpion's open mission is: to gather the secrets of the other Clans.  Basicly, they exist, officially, to make the other Clans not rest, not be complacent, lest a Scorpion find their secrets and use them against them. The great example to me is the story in the old Way o the Scorpion, where a Shosuro playwright wrote an alternate version of a Lion story that made the Lion look bad...and so the Lion Champion killed the playwright and the entire troupe of actors who had performed the play, tried to destroy all copies of the play(I am sure one survives in the Ikoma Libraries, though, if not in the hands of a Scorpion), and banned the play from being performed again. To me, that is the Face of the Scorpion to the rest of the Empire.
As for how people see the Shosuro? Well..they *ARE* actors. The Shosuro Infiltrator school is a well kept secret. You see some Shosuro with a daisho? They went to the Bayushi Deathdealer School. Or the Bayushi Courtier School, but took training to use the katana(so it is a statement they can defend themselves). Or, you know,  they are still actors, but, because of the risk of bandits, some of the Shosuro need to know how to defend themselves...(and, again, it becomes a political statement beyond the wakizashi saying "I am samurai.")
At least, that is how I always treated it.

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On 8/26/2019 at 6:36 AM, Void Crane said:

Whispers of Shadows and Steel is by far my favorite of the novellas.

I'll have to agree, if only because we learn so much about the Scorpion dynamic from a range of perspectives including that of a few important NPCs. There seemed to be a touch of added complexity for the sake of complexity, which isn't as effective for storytelling, but it was still really enjoyable.

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