The Fallen Mountains – Rough Map

One of the things I’ve always had in my head for the Fallen Mountains setting is the geography of the region but getting it down on paper has always been a stumbling block. An upcoming short campaign in the setting has provided new impetus to put something together, produced using the InKarnate web software. I’m still not 100% happy with the outcome. Hopefully with some more practise I can replace it with a hand drawn version but I still struggle with too many of the details I want to add.

fallen-mountains-draft2

Advertisements

The Zanif Pass / Bei Village

a1fc02c9b4df067c2fa132bed80bdf44While there are many paths that crisscross the peaks of the Fallen Mountains only a single route is suitable for larger forces. The Zanif Pass (known as the Ichira Pass by the Unicorn) bisects the mountains almost in half and forms a major trade route for those wishing to avoid travelling the length of the mountain range. Unicorn legends tell that the Kami created the pass centuries ago in order to aid the Clan as they began their great journey while local tales speak of a great battle on the peaks that continues to echo in the thunder and lightning of winter storms.

Control of the pass swings between the Unicorn and the Lion on a regular basis and each maintain sizeable garrisons at the edge of their stable territory. Large scale battles are rare, with neither side being willing to commit the forces required to confidently take and hold the positions of their opposite number. ‘Misunderstandings’ and duels are the norm and during the summer months military encampments will move back and forth along the length of the Pass as inexperienced samurai are given the chance to hone their skills.

Despite the regular skirmishes the village of Bei, resting on one of the plateaus accessible from the pass, has managed to remain neutral over the years. The village is comprised of a half dozen samurai households, associated peasant families and a lone tea house / inn, which often serves as a meeting point during disputes between the Unicorn and the Lion. Bei is popular with members of the Oriole Clan, who maintain a sizeable holding in the village. The current head of that household, Tsi Shiori, has become the reluctant spokesperson for the village despite her desire to lead a quiet life dedicated to the arts.

Plot hooks

1. Akodo Naru, the young daimyo of the 3rd Zanif Garrison has dispatched soldiers to take and hold Bei, claiming they owe taxes to the Lion. Word has reached the Unicorn at the Ichira Garrison and the soldiers there prepare themselves for the chance to ‘liberate’ the village. Trapped between the two opposing forces the party have only a short time to calm the situation before the Pass once again erupts into bloody warfare.

2. It is Bei’s turn to host the region’s annual brewing festival, bringing together representatives from towns and villages across the Fallen Mountains. As a neutral group the party are recruited to serve as judges for the final competition, drawing then into a web of politics as complex as any found at the winter courts. Matters are further complicated when the Scorpion Governor’s favoured nephew enters a batch of beer which has spoiled during his journey to the festival.

Miya Tomoko, Imperial Herald

Miya_AnzaiAllegiance: Imperial
Age: 32, Honour: 4.8, Status: 3.2, Glory: 2.1, Insight Rank: 1
School: Miya Herald (Page 230, core rulebook)

Attributes

Air: 3, Awareness: 3, Reflexes: 3
Earth: 2, Willpower: 2, Stamina: 2
Fire: 2, Intelligence: 2, Agility: 2
Water: 2, Perception: 2, Strength: 2
Void: 2

Skills

Courtier (Rhetoric): 1, Etiquette (Courtesy): 3, Lore (Heraldry): 2, Investigation: 1, Sincerity; 1, Athletics: 2, Defense: 2 Horsemanship: 4, Hunting: 3, Iaijutsu: 1, Kenjutsu: 2, Kyujutsu: 3, Animal handling: 1

Background

Miya Tomoko, the Imperial Herald for the Fallen Mountains, serves in the post that has been passed down by her ancestors since the Unicorn Clan reclaimed their territory in the region, triggering frequent skirmishes with the Lion Clan and necessitating the need for a dedicated Imperial presence. Like all heralds she serves the Emperor two fold, delivering missives and declarations to the citizens of Rokugan while constantly observing all that transpires within the region. Due to the numerous small villages and treacherous terrain associated with the Fallen Mountains Tomoko spends little time within Shirayama Toshi, a situation which suits her temperament and desire for a simpler life. As could be expected the numerous samurai of the city court see Tomoko’s position as one which can be politically exploited and during her limited time in the city she is frequently petitioned to endorse their positions or to carry worthless messages on their behalf. Only the Governor makes little effort to influence her actions despite the fact that as an Imperial appointment he could easily arrange for Tomoko to serve him directly.

Tomoko’s desire for a simpler life extends beyond that of merely wishing to avoid the distractions of court. On more than one occasion she has found herself trapped within villages due to snow or landslides, during which times she has been forced to live amongst those beneath her in the celestial order. While most of the samurai caste would find themselves appalled by such conditions Tomoko found love in the embrace of a peasant who was not immediately cowed by her station or Imperial heritage. While such romances are the source of numerous pillow books across Rokugan if anybody were to discover it Tomoko’s position and perhaps even her life would be forfeit. More dangerous, perhaps, would be for a member of court to discover her secret. With it Tomoko would become just another pawn in the never ending game of political maneuvering, subject to the whims of those accustomed to trading the secrets of others.

Plot Hooks

  • General: As a herald Miya Tomoko travels the region extensively, spreading Imperial edicts while also gathering news and rumours. In this position she could easily serve to alert PCs to unusual goings on or movements within the Fallen Mountains, though much of her knowledge is based on little more than hearsay and idle chatter.
  • A secret to protect: Tomoko’s lover has become known to a member of the court and she begs the assistance of the PCs in gaining leverage over those who would blackmail her, all while trying to prevent the PCs from also discovering her secret.
  • The last ride: Peasants from a village on the shores of Lake Ishi summon the party, having found a mortally wounded Tomoko on the shores of the lake. Before she died she called herself Miya Ishi and spoke cryptic messages of “the legion, cannot stand unforgiven.”

Inspirtational Artwork: Samurai

A couple of new pieces of inspirational artwork that I stumbled upon while working on ideas for the Legend of the Five Rings campaign I’m currently running. Both are by Sam Filstrup and you can find more of his work over at samfilstrup.daportfolio.com

img-sf_samurai_and_dragon

83b89f711ac3e777bb27a50049655e8c

L5R: System bugbears

We’re now a couple of sessions in to the L5R campaign ‘A Gaijin’s Guide to Rokugan’ and while I’m enjoying the game so far reading over the system has already thrown up a few aspects which, on a personal level, annoy me. The biggest of these is the calculation of the armour TN (defence scores), which form the target number to hit in combat. While they may be modified by certain actions the base score is calculated as 5 + (Agility x 5) + Armour bonus. So for an average (agility 2) unarmed and unarmoured individual their base armour TN is 15, this doesn’t change at all if they are later armed with a weapon.

Yup, this is a system where the primary mode of combat is melee but where an unarmed character is as easy to hit as one wielding a katana. Supposedly (if anybody know better please correct me) this is down to the style of combat employed in Rokugan, with parries being avoided in order to prevent damage to blades which have been passed down multiple generations of a family. Even if this is the case for katana’s there are a whole host of weapons where it would be reasonable to assume that the blade isn’t as sacred and parries or blocks would be acceptable. Chief amongst those would be polearms and spears. Using these weapons provides a major advantage in their ability to keep opponents at a distance, which is most easily represented by making the wielder harder to hit (though if this were me I’d give them an additional bonus on top of the one given for being armed) however nothing like this is present in the system. Likewise there are a few examples of where the weapon does affect defence (dual wielding and the war fan come to mind), which seems rather inconsistent.

It gets better (well worse actually, damn semantics) however when you consider the defence stance, which provides a boost to defence with the only restriction being that the character may not attack. In order to cast a spell a shugenja is required to maintain their concentration for a number of rounds dependent on the difficulty level of the spell and they are required to roll to maintain that concentration if sufficiently distracted. Despite this they are able to maintain the defence stance while casting, which somehow doesn’t affect their ability to concentrate but does make them harder to hit. Yeah, I’m not sure I quite get how that is meant to work either, essentially the system is saying that somebody reading from a scroll and trying to maintain their concentration is also able to move about in a way sufficient to make them harder to hit.

I’ve not played enough of the game to fully work out how I would prefer to see the armour TN calculated but as a start it would definitely factor in whether a character is armed or not. My initial idea would probably be (Agility x 5) + (Skill with melee weapon being used) + 5 with the role of armour shifted solely to reducing damage. I’d then also include bonuses for certain weapons through the mastery abilities (for example Polearms 3 – You gain a +3 to your armour TN while wielding a readied polearm). Under that system the basic armour TN of my current character Doji Soshin in the attack stance (no bonuses or penalties) would be 20 when unarmed, 23 when wielding a polearm or 26 if the mastery ability was also included. This is compared to a score of 25 when using the system as written, so the scores are fairly comparable while also making unarmed targets easier to hit but without entirely crippling their defence. To my mind though that still makes put the unarmed TN too high, simply because an average unskilled person would not be able to reliably hit him (average roll of 11 vs TN 20) and assuming he had only an average agility (so TN 15) over half of the attacks would still miss.

All of this is probably over thinking the situation and maybe my opinion might change once I’ve played the system for longer, for the time being it is a bugbear as opposed to a mechanic that ruins the game for me. So I can live with it, though I suspect it’ll be something I look into houseruling if I ever run a game in the future.

L5R character concept: Doji Okimoto

This is my initial character concept for my first L5R character, Doji Okimoto, a Crane bushi who has lived his life as a political hostage of the Lion clan. While he was still an infant Doji Nanako, Okimoto’s paternal grandmother and a Doji courtier was involved in negotiations between the Crane and Lion clans when she misjudged the temperament of the Lion representative. The resulting fallout led to a series of skirmishes between the clans, which ended with Nanako committing seppuku and her family being held by the Lion clan as living collateral. While the Doji family are typically a social / political family being raised within Lion territory has impacted significantly upon Okimoto’s world view, leaving him conflicted as to the nature of bushido and possessing many Lion values which conflict with his Crane heritage.

Air ring: 3, Awareness: 3, Reflexes: 3
Earth ring: 2, Willpower: 2,Stamina: 2
Fire ring: 2, Intelligence: 2, Agility: 3
Water ring: 2,Perception: 2, Strength: 3
Void ring: 2

Clan: Crane
Family: Doji (+1 awareness)
School: Matsu Berserker School (Lion)
School Benefit: +1 strength
School Skills: Battle, Jiujutsu, Kenjutsu (Katana), Kyujutsu, Lore: History, Polearms, Defence
Honor: 6.5 though I want to reduce this to 4.5 to fit with the hostage situation
Outfit: Light armour, sturdy clothing, daisho, naginata, travelling pack, 5 koku
Rank 1 technique: The Lion’s Roar. Add your honour rank to all damage rolls. when in full attack stance you may move an additional 5ft in addition to the bonus from the stance

Advantages
Different school 5
Quick 6

Disadvantages
Hostage 3
Bad Fortune: Lingering misfortune 3
Doubt: Iaijutsu 4

Bugei Skills
Athletics 1
Battle 1
Jiujutsu 1
Kenjutsu (Katana) 1
Kyujutsu 1
Polearms (Naginata) 3*
Defence 3
Iaijutsu 1

High Skills
Lore: History 1
Etiquette 1
Sincerity 1
Artisan (drawing) 1
Tea ceremony 1

Points left: 2