Now that I’m gearing up and working on the All-Crane Clan campaign for L5R 4th Edition, I find myself going back to the basics. Part of this is the fact that I’m a Lion Clan fanboy at heart, and I’ve spent a good deal of my time playing the L5R card game viewing the Crane Clan as an antagonist faction.
Time to change all that.
The fun part of being a GM is the fact that you have a chance to take the point of view of pretty much anyone else in the setting. Thankfully L5R has a very good story team, and they’ve given each of the clans equal billing with regards to the events of the metaplot.
Things operate very differently with regards to the Crane game, and I’m hoping to deliver an equally satisfying game with the Crane as I did the Lion, without replicating things the same way.
For example, in Never a Dull Blade, there was a powerful undercurrent of Clan before self, and that the Lion Clan had to be in a state of combat-readiness as they were vulnerable even in times of peace.
This time I have to take a moment to reconsider what it means to be a Crane in the current political climate of my version of Rokugan, and the possible conflicts that can arise. Unlike the Lion after all, the answer isn’t always to hit things until they stop moving :p
So far, my character roster for the game includes a Kakita Artisan (Silver Countess), A Doji Courtier (Mappy), an Asashina Shugenja recently returned from stuying in the Kitsu Shugenja School (Tarathiel23) and a humble Crane ronin with a history (Hikkikomori)
Given the character concepts so far, most of these fit the overarching themes as presented by the campaign pitch, which involve the conflict of the Past vs the Future. I feel very good about this, since it means that most of the situations that I can throw at this team will have a consistent theme that can be used to paint a bigger story arc.
Conflict without necessarily resorting to combat is probably one of the tougher parts of this sort of campaign. While this might come naturally to some, I’m admittedly under-experienced in the matter. I see that the Crane campaign will have plenty of times when characters and npcs will be at odds, but without swords coming out right away.
The Crane clan’s focus on Courtesy seems like another thing that needs to be considered. While combat might be the first and obvious answer for the Lion, the Crane approach things differently, and I want to be able to emulate that.
I have a feeling that Glory will be a very important resource in the game, as it allows you to sidestep some of the differences of Status, allowing even lower ranking players to stand toe to toe with npcs who might outrank them. Likewise, their influence on the greater ecosystem of influence both inside and outside of the Crane is something I’ll have to carefully weigh.
It’s a different sort of battlefield to be in but it has to be equally ruthless if I want it to feel L5R-ish.
And so we’re looking at just what exactly is at stake when there’s conflict in a Crane Game:
Glory – Glory is the closest mechanical equivalent to “Fame” in Legend fo the Five Rings. The Rokugani culture respects Glory, as being known for great deeds elevates you above being just a normal samurai to someone of note. It’s an interesting mechanic as a young upstart with high Glory can skirt dishonor and break decorum with more leeway than most just by being a celebrity.
Honor – Honor is the closest thing to a “morality” stat in Rokugani culture, and having a high honor is something that is expected from the Crane. Sure it limits your ability to act to further your goals, but having a high honor also allows you to leverage significant amounts of influence without being subject to scrutiny. It’s a double-edged sword, as many “evil” individuals can find means to preserve a high Honor stat while getting dirty deeds done on the side.
Allies – It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. In rokugan, having people in the right places can get you very, very far. Because of that, a Crane Game will most likely involve a very large number of NPCs. Add the fact that Rokugani justice runs on testimony, and you get a potent combination.
Property – Ownership is something that I’ll have to establish early. The Player characters might not mind ninjas attacking at night, but I’ve yet to see a player be happy about seeing their Tea House burned to the ground by arsonists. (Not that I would EVER do that to a players property… yet.)
In any case, part of the fun of being in a Crane game would be the fact that there’s no such thing as a quick kill. Character assassination and the slow knife of politics is the name of the game in this one.