Now that I’m about to run a campaign centered on the Crane Clan, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to their Clan virtue of Courtesy or “Rei.” Alternately called Respect, Courtesy is the virtue of proper manners and bearing in a true Samurai.
But what does it actually mean? Surely there’s more to it than just running a game focused on making sure that everyone exhibits good manners, right?
Well, let’s go back to an in-game definition of the virtue, as written in Akodo’s Leadership:
“Samurai have no reason to be cruel. They do not need to prove their strength. A samurai is courteous even to his enemies. Without this outward show of respect, we are nothing more than animals. A samurai is not only respected for his strength in battle, but also by his dealings with other men. The true inner strength of a samurai becomes apparent during difficult times.” – Akodo’s Leadership
One of the ways by which we can highlight the virtue of Courtesy is to show the lack of it. I pulled this trick in the Phoenix Civil war by pitting the players against several power-hungry and hubristic Isawa and Shiba groups, highlighting the Phoenix virtue of “Humility” in the process. Likewise, the Lion game fought against an enemy that used cowardly tactics such as conspiracies and dirty tricks, giving players ample means to demonstrate the virtue of Courage.
Needless to say the lack of “Rei”/Courtesy isn’t about the lack of manners. It’s certainly not about the scandal of farting in a tea ceremony (though that might be a funny thing to insert into a game.)
I think the best way to tackle this is to step back and look at what Lady Doji, the kami who founded the clan represented: She was the light of civilization. She brought not just commerce and art, but drew man away from barbarism. Her rules are the rules of law and respect for each other, and her structures gave a place for every man.
To deviate from that form of Courtesy is to return to the state of bandits and Gaijin, where strength, not respect, ruled over human interactions. The Crane Clan stand as a representation of mankind’s triumph over such a state, and I think that this point of view will hold very well as a theme in a campaign. A focus on just how the little things we let slip might just be the ones that make us worthy of being called “human.”
Already I’ve got a few plot hooks that tie in to the theme, and even better, how to tie them to the player characters. I think Silver Countess and Hikkikomori will be most pleased by what I have in mind.