Oh, the sin of desire. Whatever. AEG runs a column on rpg.net for the L5R RPG. For 2013, they have two undetermined slots for sourcebooks. Here is my post on what I’d like to see for future sourcebooks:
1. Spirit Realms besides Ningen-do detail, including areas between realms. What do Fortunes look like when you meet them? How would you survive for extended periods in Toshigoku or Gaki-do? And, so forth.
2. Military Campaigning – Imperial Legions, Jade Legion, Clan Legions – What are they like? How do they fit in with samurai serving locally or “adventurous” samurai? Can be more on mass combat for tabletop RPG play, though I’m expecting The Book of Water will address mass combat alternatives.
3. Adventuring in the outdoors – There’s a lot of uncivilized sections of Rokugan but too many details need to be worked out by a GM for anything more than “oh, look, a bandit camp” such as having animal encounters laid out in detail. Not to say it should all be about fauna, how to find water, extreme elements, and such that can be found with some research but also just what are the uncivilized areas of Rokugan like? What is it like to go into Shinomen Mori? What is it like to spend a week climbing mountains in Dragon Lands? What are islands without ports and cities like?
4. Monsterhunting campaigning – While monsters can easily show up in a book focused on Spirit Realms and it’s not really necessary to statblock everything under the Moon, I’m thinking more of a campaign that is monster-smiting focused, not to be confused with a pure Shadowlands supplement. In addition to more on the Shadowlands, what would a roving band of monster hunters really find within Rokugan?
Perhaps may notice the trend: I get plenty of politics and intrigue already, I’m more interested in heroic adventuring and more physical adventuring throughout the world(s).
When I think of what Asian fantasy role-playing that I want to do [censored], I think of an InuYasha style world. There are all sorts of spirits and many of them are naughty and the roving band of heroes tries to help innocent folks get by in the country – cities and large population centers are never, to my knowledge, shown. Now, InuYasha is a bit lacking in subtlety for me; I wouldn’t say it’s too high fantasy as I like high fantasy but more that the PC abilities tend towards the over the top stuff you see a lot in anime. In particular, InuYasha with his sword and Miroku both have abilities that are more superheroes in a fantasy world, which would be okay but not the more ghostbusters vision I have.
L5R could do this, but most folks who play L5R want the politics and intrigue, the infighting between clans and Imperials, that I just don’t care anything about. In my Ghostbusters of the Five Rings world, the Scorpion Clan would have no reason to exist. In truth, the idea of clans is unnecessary. The Crab would be specialists in monsters. The Crane Clan would just be courtiers, artisans, and merchants. The Dragon would be esoteric monks. The Lion would be soldiers. The Mantis would be sailors, island-dwellers, and merchants. The Phoenix would be priests. The Unicorn would be … nonexistent. Imperials would be off stage to where they would be just plot device individuals – “I, rich noble dude, am being haunted. Help me.”
But, this isn’t going to happen. Or, at least, it’s unlikely. It’s not that it would be all that hard to strip L5R of numerous mechanics and flavor elements logistically, the issue is that people have expectations based on the source material, including just the mechanics in the source material. In other words, as a GM (though I’d prefer to be a player) in such a campaign, the actual L5R RPG books would need to be hidden to not give players preconceived notions of how the world works. Roll and Keep core mechanic, Rings/Traits as per L5R, combat system, weapons, mundane goods, even magic system could all be retained, but it should be written out in a document stripped of all of the Rokuganiness of L5R.
A different Asian FRPG system could be used much the same way. Qin: The Warring States, Weapons of the Gods, whatever – the need, though, is to separate out world specific elements that don’t fit this sort of campaign.
Do people do this sort of thing all of the time? Sure. Fantasy Hero or any other generic system could be redone to reflect an Eastern world. Non-generic systems are repurposed all of the time, as well. It’s just that so much of L5R is wrapped up in its world as a niche product.
Anyway, back to the realistic. I find 4e L5R supplements to be amazingly good. A step up from 3e and a huge step up from some of the 1e books that felt mechanics heavy even if they were supplying some essential world information. Now, having said this, I still need, as a GM not so much as a player, visuals and details that players largely don’t care about. I want to know what a small Mantis island looks like. Do they vary much? I want to know what the terrain is like in Gaki-do and what there is besides gaki. I want to know how the Imperial Legion functions since it rarely seems called upon to fight in times of peace and it’s a major disruption from the normal duties of samurai.
Actually, I don’t even know what is normal for samurai. Emerald Empire will talk about birth, gempukku, death, marriage, but what about: What do samurai get assigned to do after gempukku? Why? How?
Emerald Empire and material in other books addresses mundane aspects of a samurai’s existence, but I’m still trying to process how the world works. You aren’t supposed to wear armor anywhere that is supposed to be safe – this often comes up when traveling in adventures. How far out are patrols? What are the areas without patrols like? No peasants? How big are these wilds areas?
On a different topic, ashigaru get mentioned often but samurai are often the ones who do stuff in adventures, for obvious metagame reasons. But, what about these ashigaru? How common are they? What are their lives like? What is their military organization like (given that I don’t have virtually any sense what the samurai military organization is like)? How do they work together with samurai? In theory, much of warring is done by ashigaru, but the game acts like it’s Crane duelists taking out Lion commanders while actual lions are running around and dying to Phoenix fireballs as Utaku Battle Maidens charge into dual-wielding Mirumoto.
Deeds, Not Words