Foxtrot's L5R Reference
~Mythic Samurai RP Setting~
This is one of my favorite RP settings, but its obscurity has scared off many a potential roleplay partner for me in the past. This thread is my attempt to introduce it properly so that I don't have to explain and re-explain it to different people, often forgetting some details or presenting them in poor order. It's a reference that will be a continuous work in progress as I refine it.
> Legend of the Five Rings CCG and RPG
The Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) is a collectable card game akin to Magic: the Gathering that nerds play at comic book shops around the world. It's popularity, amazing art, and the growing amount of unique and compelling lore upon which the game is based have also spawned a series of pen and paper (PnP) roleplay games, akin to Dungeons & Dragons or World of Darkness.
For online roleplay purposes, the game and it's rules are irrelevant. Ambitious and intrigued players might be interested to know the source material for the world if they want to do there own research, however, and I like to give intellectual credit where it's due.
> L5R Lore
An exhaustive summary of L5R's lore would be an immense undertaking that I really have no stomach for, and which almost no one would want to read on RPGuild. If you want that, I recommend doing your own net surfing to find all the details you want. What I will provide here is a basic introduction of the world and its occupants so that you can get a sense of what to expect. All of these lore elements are entirely optional, since L5R isn't the game we'd be playing – what I'm more concerned with is the theme, mood, and setting.
Themes: Honor and sacrifice.
Mood: Dark, gloomy, and melancholic. Samurai tales are often tragic ones, and these samurai live in a world filled with uncounted horrors that only their constant vigil and spent blood keeps at bay.
Setting: East Asian, a mix of feudal Japan, China, and Korea. The world is filled with horror and mystery, though, and ghosts, demons, and curses are all very real plagues on mortal life.
>An Empire Divided
The Great Samurai Clans live in the land of Rokugan – a temperate landmass bordered on the east by the Great Sea, on the west by the Scorched Desert and Old Forest, the north by the Spine Mountains, and the south by the desolate wastes of the Shadowlands. There have been periods in Rokugani history in which outsiders have visited and fought with the samurai, but for the most part the outside world is a mystery to them.
The samurai themselves are divided into seven clans, each of which is dominated by a handful of powerful families whose bloodlines have produced great warriors, skilled diplomats, and powerful shugenjya magi. Each one claims to be descended from a child of the gods, and seeks to perfectly embody their great ancestor's most endearing traits, creating a diversity amongst the houses in both physical appearance and military practice. Above them all is the Empress and her house, proclaimed the rightful ruler of Rokugan by the voice of the gods themselves. All samurai owe her their allegiance, but how best to serve the Empire is a matter of much contention between them.
Despite their common ancestry, the samurai clans have fought many protracted and bitter wars between themselves over control of Rokugan's land, the favor of the Empress, and perceived sleights to the honor of their houses. Long after the bloodshed stops, the grudge lingers, shaping prejudices and vendettas that never seem to completely die.
The Crane: Own the most profitable land, most of the great trading ports, and a disproportionate amount of wealth and political power. They have the most skilled diplomats, having mastered the art of speech, and protect their honor above all other things. As duels are a common practice of resolving political disputes, they also claim some of the best swordsmen in the realm. Crane samurai, whether warrior, diplomat, or shugenjya, often dye their hair white and keep it long as a symbol of their lineage, and are widely held to be amongst the most fair of the Rokugani tribes.
The Lion: Proud warriors that have mastered the art of massed warfare, the Lion are the embodiment of military prowess in Rokugan. They have the largest army and bravest soldiers, and their entire society seems designed to support them. They are also seen as stubborn and unaccommodating of the peculiarities of their sibling clans, viewing all those that deviate from their strict interpretation of martial honor as inferior to themselves. Lion samurai often dye their hair gold, as the mane of the lions which roam the plains they claim as their homeland.
The Crab: Another martial clan, the Crab man the Great Kaiu Wall – a massive fortification along Rokugan's southern border which has kept the rising tides of Shadowlands abominations from invading Rokugan for centuries. They are a coarse, practical people that judge the value of everything by its utility in war. Crab samurai have pioneered siege engines, often fight in formations, and are a tough and hardy people well-acquainted with constant war against the forces of the underworld itself.
The Phoenix: Famed for their great sages and magic wielders, the Phoenix are the most feared shugenjya in Rokugan. They have far more battle-capable mages than any other clan, and have discovered the most powerful spells known to man. They often find solace in books and meditation, from which they attune themselves more perfectly with the universe to better understand magic and its fickle properties. As their mages are so valuable to them, the Phoenix have also trained the best bodyguards in Rokugan – swordsmen which are sworn to protect the lives of their magical charges without hesitation, and second only to perhaps Crane duelists in their skills with steel.
The Mantis: A younger clan, full of pirates, adventurers, and famed archers. The Mantis call the archipelago of tropical islands off Rokugan's coast their home, and are the realm's best sailors and explorers. In battle, they are swift and sly, in speech they are cunning and crafty.
The Scorpion: The most universally detested clan, the Scorpion have dismissed the traditional notion of honor other samurai cling to, maintaining that power and influence are the only currency in the world that truly matters. They have devious tongues in diplomacy, and have mastered the art of seduction, thievery, and stealth. The Scorpion are the only clan that favors the employ of ninja – assassins that use poison and other cowardly instruments to murder their targets.
The Unicorn: The great horse clan, which has recently returned to Rokugan after three centuries of self-imposed exile in the Burning Sands. Fearing that some outside force may one day arrive to topple their empire, the Unicorn volunteered to forsake their home and travel the world, learning what lies beyond in order to protect the Empress. Now returned, they are seen as nomadic outsiders that deviate so far from tradition as to startle the other clans. They have unequaled empathy, however, long-used to being guests in the lands of others, and the only true war horses in Rokugan, which they use ferociously on the battlefield.
The Dragon: An order of reclusive monks that live in the mountainous areas of the realm, where they meditate on the mysteries of the universe. They are great religious scholars, venerated by all for their fairness, temperance, and wisdom. In combat, they specialize in unarmed and staff fighting styles which help them perfect the use of their minds and bodies.
By far the greatest threat to Rokugan lies to the south in the wasted Shadowlands. Legend holds that one of the gods' sons fell from the sky and crashed there, his divine nature becoming twisted and corrupted with time. The point of impact lies like a festering wound on the landscape, poisoning all life around it and twisting it into abominable creatures. All Shadowlands creatures contain the 'Taint' - the touch of evil - which grows inside them until it consumes them completely, driving them to madness and rage even as their bodies become more nightmarish.
The Crab Clan have discovered that the element jade can absorb Shadowlands taint for a limited period of time, and often carry jade amulets and weapons with them on their excursions into the wastes to ward off evil and prevent their own corruption. Should a human become infected with Shadowlands taint, jade talismans and a rare herbal tea can stave off the inevitable advance of the cancer as long as the remedy is consistently employed. The Taint can not, however,be removed or reversed.
It is the destiny of the Shadowlands to consume all mortal life like a plague, and only the constant sacrifice of the samurai clans stymies the periodic inflitrations and invasions of Shadowlands hordes into Rokugan. The very earth under which its armies march becomes vile, and grows only strange corrupted crops after it has been touched by Taint, meaning that every inch lost to the Shadowlands is an inch of land the Rokugani will never get back.
It's by no means necessary, but there are some things you can do to keep the story immersed in its Asian setting. First among them is getting a basic knowledge of some Japanese phrases, suffixes, and titles which go a long way towards adding flavor. If you don't want to bother or find it tacky, then by all means ignore this section.
The most common suffix, most commonly used for someone of equal or similar station. If their station is ambiguous, this is a safe one.
For someone of notably higher station, or as a sign of respect. If used for someone you don't really hold in high regard, it can be sarcastic and offensive. Used to refer to older and more venerated samurai, nobles, scholars, and the like. Peasants would also call samurai "-sama."
An endearing suffix for younger people you are familiar with and generally hold no station. Most commonly used when referring to girls. Younger sisters, servant girls, geisha you are intimate with, etc.
Extreme respect, generally reserved for nobility and people of significantly higher station than yourself. The Empress, for example.
Generally used for younger people you are familiar with, but is less endearing than -chan while still being casual. It's more commonly used for boys of no station or whom women might be familiar with, such as a male childhood friend. This one would rarely if ever come up.
You can also learn a bit about feudal samurai society as L5R depicts it (not entirely realistic either to what a samurai or Japan was like in that time, but more interesting to read about in my opinion). I'll provide some basic info here, as well (when I get around to it).
Last edited by Foxtrot; 06-15-2012 at 12:29 PM.