As I said in my previous post, The New Dragon: L5R Campaign Planning, I'm working on planning the new L5R campaign. I want to give the players plenty of room to build a family for their characters- with a strong personality and some history to it. The Dragon represent the easiest clan to build onto, especially if we assume a shift from the pre-Scorpion Clan Coup period, to one where the Dragon move to be involved in matters of Rokugan. That's another item I have on my list (among many)- written up a brief history of events following the last campaign. I'm still focused on the mechanical aspects- that's usually the majority of my campaign prep work. When I finally sit to think about the campaign itself, I'll sketch ideas lightly, come up with hooks, and mostly write up NPCs. For now I'm still reading through many flavors of FATE, since I want to get the balance of that right with our homebrew system. For the family building stage, though, I'm turning to John Wick's excellent Blood & Honor.
Blood & Honor’s Clan Building step has the players working collaborative through a set of decisions. I’m largely going to parallel those, but with some additions and changes.
The daimyo of the family will have a distinct personality, which offers a benefit but also confers a penalty, usually in the form of an aspect which can be compelled. For example, the Clever Daimyo means that his retainers have good-quality equipment; but they also receive the “Non-Traditionalist” aspect which can be used against them. I will probably be changing/refining some of the details of this- depending on how I present other mechanics.
Blood & Honor has seven daimyo personalities: Ambitious, Clever, Cruel, Cunning, Dangerous, Kind and Mad. This last one means that the player randomly determines their benefit and drawback each season. I’d like to come up with a few others for them to choose from, not too many as it is a single choice at the beginning, but enough that I can vary their neighbors as well.
• Enigmatic: The daimyo speaks in riddles. This confers no benefit, but also only a slight penalty. Getting things done takes slightly longer as people have to work out what the daimyo actually means.
• Scholarly: discovery, rumors, lore- perhaps regarded as impractical.
• Lazy: Retainers gain great freedom, but others regard their master badly- or it is difficult to get support for matters?
• Mystical/Spiritual: Bonus for shugenja/monk affairs- perhaps access to nemurani, but a good deal of energy and wealth is spent on ritual matters.
• Worldly: Daimyo can entertain very well and impress others, has courtly pull. Significant resources get diverted for their luxuries.
Blood & Honor has you pick one of the virtues as the ideal for your clan. I’ll have the players set one as their lead, and two others as the second most important. Perhaps even set one as least important. This will affect the personality of members of the family and be used for determining honor gain/loss.
In Blood & Honor, holdings cover the basic resources of the province. These are used mostly for the seasonal actions. I will be modifying those rules a little- and giving some of the holdings general game use. I will likely borrow ideas from Legends of Anglerre for building groups, cities, etc. so some of that will impact how I define these. What I picture is that a province has the basics of most of the standard holdings (like rice farms or geisha houses) but these are the bare minimums or the most common/rudimentary forms. If players select something as a holding, it means the province has a decent or largish version of that. Holdings can be increased in ranks through play. Since I’m increasing the number of options, I’ll probably double the number of picks- and allow players the options of spending a pick to increase a holding’s rank at the start.
Blood & Honor has the following holdings: Blacksmith, Temple, Dojo, Gambling Den, Garrison, Geisha House, Rice Farm, Shrine, Stables, and Sumo School.
• Artisans: Silk, Gold, Tattoo, Ceramics, Jade: a master and apprentices of significant skill.
• Castle: like a fortification, but perhaps with less strategic value. It trades some of that off for amenities and the security of the daimyo.
• City: I’m assuming the province will have a significant town or two, but this represents an actual city with walls and commerce. More ranks in this at the start will indicate a large city.
• Fantastic Gardens
• Farm (Other): essentially food supplies, but non-rice.
• Fortification: a significantly placed fortress with high strategic value. While will obviously be smaller ones, this should be a key defensive position.
• Master: Retired General, Go Master, Sensei, Famous Poet- let them decide. Useful for impressing, getting advice or perhaps even swaying the daimyo.
• Mine: the lands they hold will be formerly of the Lion, so probably a copper mine, but I’ll let them decide.
• Monastery: for training of monks, perhaps not classic Dragon Clan monks, but another order.
• Mountains: strategic value but also places of mystery. Players can decide how they want these- ravines which make it hard for invading armies, places of retreat, secret passes for high mobility.
• Rich Forest
• Sake Works
• Silk Works: including a silk farm
• Tea House
The group picks something that the province is known for, like the best miso, most striking chrysanthemums, or strongest bamboo.
Blood & Honor has the group selecting four aspects to represent your clan, with one being the default “None of Us is as Great as All of Us.” Players later pick two of these for their character- I suspect I’ll do the same, except I’ll probably just have the players pick one of the four as their Clan Aspect. Wick offers 17 aspects which seems pretty good. I might go through the various L5R cards with phrases and see if I can find a few others which fit.
For my money the most important part of this is that it helps define the character of the other retainers of the family. Between that and the virtue choices above, it should be pretty clear as to how these people behave.
I’ll let the players come up with this. Since it is a new family I’m going to set a convention. Within the province and the family, the people will likely refer to one another by their old pre-adoptive name (i.e. Mirumoto Kenji) as an honorific. For outsiders and non-familiar locals, they will use the new family name. I don’t think that will be too confusing and it will allow the players to maintain some ownership of their identity.
7. Giri (Duty)
This is part of the character creation process, rather than family creation. These are the roles which players will take on. Instead of being your typical starting samurai characters, the PCs are expected to have some experience and take on duties within the family. Of course it is something of a cheat here since the family is so young and everyone’s relatively inexperienced. I’ve been doing something like this in the Last Fleet campaign and it has really given the players something they can sink their teeth into and play with. Each player will also have a valued “second” so that affairs can be in solid hands when they go off adventuring and the like.
B&H has seven giri. I probably won’t make them quite as “high level” as that system does. For example the first one is Hatamoto aka General, meaning that they lead all of the daimyo’s armies. For the PCs in this setting, it would instead mean they had a senior military rank, with control over a segment of the military. Each of these offers an ability and a benefit which I’m going to retool a little.
• Hatamoto (General) Command of one of the divisions of military within the province
• Karo (Seneschal) Rather than being the absolute advisor, the PC would be among the inner small council and have strong control over finances.
• Kaishaku (Executioner) This probably works as is.
• Oniwaban (Spy Master) Master of the intelligence network, probably works well as a PC role.
• Onmyoji (Spiritual Advisor) Another one suited for the PC, a shugenja or monk could take care of this. Beyond casting predictions, also probably in charge of dealing with questions of maho.
• Takumi (Courtier) Advisor for arts and culture, master of entertainments. In charge of making sure everything runs well. Useful when dealing with visitors, access to the arts, and a behind the scenes look at what goes on in the province.
• Yojimbo (Bodyguard) Oversees the protection of the daimyo and from time to time serves as the personal protector for the lord.
I will also allow the group to pick two roles for which the clan will have a more senior and experienced NPC. Here are the new roles I’m generally thinking about.
• Diplomat: Deals with persons from other clans within the borders of the province. Oversees trade and trade contracts to insulate the daimyo. The face of patronage from the family. Has authority to negotiate.
• Records: Oversees the records and notes for the family. This grants the character access to all current accounts and also allows them to fudge them as necessary. Also provides access to historical records, legends, and lore.
• Dojo: The character is the senior for the most important dojo in the province. He’s responsible for maintaining the training of retainers and young samurai. He also oversees any tournaments held in the province.
• Industry: If the province has important industries- mining, lumber, silk works, sake works- the Minister of Industries oversees that. He makes sure that these remain stable and productive. A good minister increases the output of these places and protects them from sabotage and corruption.
• Clan Magistrate: The senior local magistrate or judge for the province. He oversees all the local magistrates who report to him. He, in turn, reports to the daimyo but can also make judgments. Defers to Emerald Magistrates should they be present and active.
• Ritual/Ceremonial Master: This depends on the role of the Onmyoji- if that’s filled with a shugenja, then this should be a Monk, given the importance of both those roles for the Dragon Clan
• Cartographer/Scout: I’m not sure exactly what to call this- surveyor? forester? This person would have the responsibility for keeping the maps of the province, knowing the secret routes, and having a sense of what is where. They would also be in charge of the roads and the barricades. They would have staff throughout the province keeping these things in line.
• Master of Taxes: The person who handles tax assessments and tax collection. They try to strike a balance between burdensome and reasonable. If money needs to be raised quickly, they know which purses can be pressed. They also have the responsibility to know the tenor of the populace, and the potential for rebellion. Given that financial demands on a daimyo remain one of the most potent weapons, a reliable and effective Master of Taxes is vital.