Speaking of which: whom do I have to fuck in order to join the cool kids' table? I realize my posting schedule is rather erratic and that my topics are all over the place, but I'm certain this blog falls under "general geekery" in that I regularly talk about guns, science fiction, superheroes and role-playing games. I suppose my inability to commit to a certain movement, like the OSR, prohibits me from being categorized as a "gaming blog" or whatnot like that of Jeff Rients or ChicagoWiz, but come on! I prefer to think of myself as a multi-lingual nerdette and would greatly appreciate it if someone, anyone, would include me in their Reindeer Games rather than just exiling me to a random spot on their blogroll.
I'm cute, I'm eloquent, I say "fuck" a lot and I can tell you anything you'd like to know about Larry Hama-era G.I. Joe. Doesn't that get me SOME kind of pass here?
Anyway, a quick explanation about my absence and then I'll pay my Joesky tax*. I'm not sure if it's hormonal, linked to my depression, or just a facet of my screwed-up personality, but there will be times when my patience to deal with the BS inherent in dealing with other people drops to zero, and I want nothing more to become a recluse. I typically retreat into my room where I listen to offensive comedy, read postholocaust novels, sharpen my knives and tinker with my guns. It doesn't happen often -- maybe once every three to six months -- but during that time I simply cannot be bothered to do anything constructive. As you may have noticed, last week was one of those times. I seem to be better now, though I make no guarantees.
It has been over a year now since I've run a game, and it's past time to correct that. Having been in a bit of a samurai mood lately, I've decided to run an L5R game over Skype. What I think will be unusual, though, is the premise. From the briefing I sent my players:
The year is 1120. You are all samurai of the Mantis Clan, the largest of all the minor clans (which is a bit like being the tallest midget in the room). The Mantis are a clan of seafarers and their holdings are on the Islands of Silk and Spice.
Except for one. The Mantis Isles, while rich in many resources, do not have an abundance of fertile land. They have to trade timber, ore, and other items to buy the rice that feeds their people. Fortunately, they are rich enough that this isn't a problem.
Feeding their people IS a problem for the Crab Clan, however, who are cursed with the troubles of fighting an eternal war against the forces of the Shadowlands (aka Hell on Earth) and lacking the arable land needed to support the largest army of the Empire.
However... while the Crab are shit at farming, they excel at kicking ass. It was very easy for them to march north and claim a fertile village in the middle of unaligned lands for food production. The problem arose in administering it, because the Crab can't afford to garrison troops there when they are needed on the Wall.
Fortunately, the Crab and the Mantis share a common ancestor, and have always looked upon each other as brother clans. In addition, there is a proud tradition of the Great Clans using Minor Clans as buffer states.
So the Crab say to the Mantis, "Here is a village we can't protect. Would you like it? No, don't ask us where it came from, it fell off the back of a truck. Anyway, here's the deal: You protect the village and grow food. We get half your village's rice crop to feed our armies. Everything else is yours to keep or sell, plus you get a foothold on the mainland."
The Mantis agreed.
So here you are, Mantis samurai fresh from the boat, assigned to a new village on the Mainland (A15 on the map). It seems nice enough, but it sits at the intersection of two merchant roads. To your north and west are the lands of the Scorpion Clan -- liars, backstabbers, and cheats, and those are their nice qualities. To the south lie the lands of the Crane -- prissy fops who nonetheless control the machinery of the Empire and who have a wickedly lethal dueling school to boot. To the east are mountains, mountain passes, ronin, bandits, another Minor Clan called the Wasp who specialize in bounty hunting but who might also be bandits themselves. Your best neighbors are some monks to the southwest, but they're close to a hundred miles away.
Into this mess you are tossed, to serve the clan and protect this village. The locals call it Mimura, but your clan refers to it as "Promise Village". Your time here promises to be memorable. As low-level Samurai working for the local lord, you will have ample opportunities for heroism, but few of them will be epic. You aren't the FBI; you aren't even NYC homicide. You're small-town sheriff's deputies.
This will be a "return to base" game, in that at the end of each game session every character will need to return to Mimura. This is so that if one of the players can't make it that night, it's easy for the GM to state that the character had to pull guard duty at the castle (or whatever) and isn't available.
It's often said that samurai movies are westerns with swords instead of guns. If that's true, then this game is the samurai version of COPS. I've also never run L5R as a location-based campaign before; prior to this, the PCs have been wandering magistrates at either clan or Imperial level. It will be interesting to run a non-epic game for once, where the stakes are small but no less important for all their immediacy.
Plus, with them all being Mantis, it allows me to make terrible "Fish out of water" and "Land-based pirates" jokes. This is an important consideration, because the GM needs to be amused, after all.
So far, I have 4 PCs: 1 bushi, 1 courtier, and 2 shugenja, all of the appropriate Yoritomo schools. I think I'd like to have one more bushi, just to balance things out, but I'm being very picky about whom I choose to play with me. I want this game to be as tightly-knit as possible.
Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is a main source of inspiration, of course, along with Yojimbo and basically any small-town Western, ever. Tombstone seems particularly apt, along with Unforgiven.
I have no idea how well this game is going to turn out, and that thrills me no end. It's exciting to go outside my GM comfort zone and try something new.
If you'd like to know more about this game, and how the campaign progresses, leave a comment. You guys know I'll always write about things in which my readership shows an interest.
*Basically, any time you whine about RPGs, be it players, DM styles, edition wars, etc, the Tax requires you to post something of creative use in your system of choice. This offsets the entropy inherent in whining.