[L5R 4e Hearts and Souls] Romances and Rivalries

Posted: December 12, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Campaign Design, Legend of the Five Rings, Roleplaying Games
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One of the more interesting facets of life in Rokugan is its approach towards Courtly Love. The society of Rokugan likes the idea of romance, but doesn’t always approve of marriage for that reason. Of course, this leads to interesting situations where a courtship between two samurai can seriously impact their Glory by having a “fairy tale” romance with all the bells and whistles as expected by society.

Reading about it has gotten me thinking about where else people can use relationships to gain Glory, when it hit me:

Rivalries.

It’s a trend we see all the time. From Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro (Or Mirumoto and Kakita if you want to stay in Rokugan), there’s something utterly compelling about having two people regard each other as equals in competition that draws our attention and imagination.

Romances are admired for the potential of scandal, and the audience observes with bated breath to see how the couple continue their game of flirtation and admiration, raising the stakes without ever getting caught. Rivalries on the other hand bear the risk of turning into something ugly. Each regards the other as a threat, but does not stoop so low as to disrespect the other. There’s a certain tension apparent in rivalries that is greater than each of the participants, resulting in a similar effect with regards to their Glory Ratings.

But there’s more to it than just pointing at some random samurai and declaring them your rival. Rivalries, like romances, must be acknowledged and verified. Both individuals must acknowledge that the other is their rival, and witnesses are in order. The best rivalries happen in large spectacles like the Winter Court.

Rivalries, like romances, can end. Perhaps one decides that he has exceeded his rival and moves on (much to the chagrin of the one left behind.) Or perhaps one of them dies in battle, leaving the superiority claim unchallenged, and forever left in doubt.

There’s a lot of story potential in fostering a rivalry, one that goes beyond the usual “Enemy” that most players tend to go for. Rivals may turn into strange allies in times when their counterpart is in danger from a third party, leading to an interesting dynamic that works in play.

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