First up for today, we have Ninsei’s musings on the current situation with the clans in the Legend of the Five Rings campaign.
The Crab: Diverting troops from the wall is a potential disaster. Even if the Scorpion clan push is readily contained, the diversion could let the forces of the Shadowlands swarm across the border – and there’s no point in containing a potential second or third front if the major one collapses behind you. The Crab need to be made to understand that defending from a probable incursion from the Shadowlands takes precedence over putting other clans in their place – and that they must hold the wall while the Imperial forces deal with the infiltrators. The other Clans should, indeed, provide more willing support for their efforts at the wall, rather than using those needs as diplomatic leverage. Has there been any word from the Nezumi scouts in the Shadowlands? Have they been formally introduced to the Naga either?
The Crane: The time has come accept that diplomacy will only go so far. The Crane need to start pulling in all those favors, use the various items we’ve accumulated for blackmail, and try to minimize our enemies and maximize our allies. Even if the best they can do is to get a group to sit it out rather than joining the Scorpion, that’s still a notable victory. Would a little humility – some acknowledgment that their ability to manipulate society has limits and that they need other assistance – really be a mortal humiliation? We’ll need to emphasize the prophecies on this one.
The Dragon: If they sit this out, fine. We would much rather they joined us, even if not militarily. Pledging support for them in resisting the Yodatai incursions – they may not be a real problem yet, but they must realize that they’re going to get worse – might help if we have the manpower. Barring that, supplies and cash would undoubtedly help relations. Once again, we need to emphasize that the prophecies are occurring NOW and try to finger the Scorpion in this.
The Lion: I think that pushing the idea that their promises to the Imperial house and the empire in general supercede those made to clans or individuals in this case might be worthwhile. With such a conflict brewing we cannot afford to have one of the biggest military powers of the empire sitting on the fence. The 12th scroll worries me – and we should keep an eye out for any rumors – but there are bigger issues at the moment. We need to make a considerable point of Toshi Ranbo’s neutral status and utility as a diplomatic meeting point – and that, while Ninsei is Crane, he certainly is unlike any Crane they’ve met.
The Mantis: I suspect that supplies are going to be tight in all the fighting to come. The biggest use of the Mantis fleets should probably be blockades of enemy ports while working with Merenae to get the things we need. Fu Leng has the Shadowlands and Jigoku to draw on, trying to draw on sources outside of Rokugan ourselves seems like the only rational response. Opening up trade with the Gaijin may be distasteful, but necessary. Can the Emperor be persuaded to go against tradition to that extent? Even if that won’t work, the ability to rapidly transport troops and materials along the coast is a major strategic advantage. We must also consider the risk that other realms will try to make use of the chaos to set up trading empires. Perhaps the Mantis could be put in charge of preventing that?
The Phoenix: Will just have to come to terms with the fact that the time has come when they can no longer be the sole keepers of arcane knowledge. This war will force us to let several of the proverbial cats out of the bag (sometimes literally). I foresee a gradual restructuring of the Phoenix from being sole keepers of various mystical secrets to a magical peacekeeping force to keep the other powerful mage from getting out of control. Trading the knowledge we have of gaijin magic and theories should prove enticing to them – perhaps enticing enough for them to throw themselves in with us wholeheartedly. at least politically and resource-wise. We also need to highlight how helpful the Shadowcats have already been and how much additional help they may be in the future. That should help with any shame they might feel over their existence.
The Scorpion: The more dissent we can spread, the better. Trying to undermine the Champions power base is a top priority with emphasis on the attacks on the Yogo family as a wedge. I think that the honor inherent in working for the survival of the Empire and its people more than outweighs a bit of deception. Rumors, lies, fabricated evidence, real evidence, testimonies from Scorpions, whatever it takes to convince the clan of the tainted malevolence of their champion. You can hardly find a much bigrer personal dishonor than working with outsiders to bring down the empire. Evidence collection should be a high priority, barring that, testimony.
The Unicorn: Yes, the existing system is flawed, that’s what ultimately led to this mess. On the other hand, the Unicorn must be convinced that throwing in with the Scorpion is not likely to help in the long run. In the end it will merely trade one xenophobic ruler for another a paranoid, xenophobic ruler. I suspect we may be facing the Yodatai as a third front all too soon – and if that happens we’re going to HAVE to have the Unicorn to hold them off or at least slow them down. Greater cooperation between the clans is necessary and through that, greater acceptance. Their knowledge of the gaijin would be of immense assistance to the Mantis I suspect.
The Fox: Are a trump card I am hesitant to play. They seem to have quietly entwined themselves with the temples to the point where they have become virtually synonymous with the faith of the Empire and the Celestial Order – which is ironic, because they’re so closely related to the Fox spirits that they’re halfway outside the Celestial Order anyway. They would likely serve best as a strategic reserve and rear support group. We need to push the Imperial support bit in diplomacy and definitely hold banquets and such to improve ties to Toshi Ranbo and the Imperial house.
The other minor clans apparently each control their own specialities or unique resources. We should put more stress in acting as hosts in Toshi Ranbo, look into what they have to offer, and try to create a truly united alliance. Together they could be a political counterweight to one or two of the major clans. Promoting trade and minor pacts should be a priority. Get them talking with each other and us.
Now the Tortoise, Ladybug, Bat, Monkey, Goose, Otter, Porcupine, and Bull are pretty much Imperial auxiliaries anyway, although only the Tortoise actually have any significant forces.
The Badger, Sparrow, Cat (don’t they have underworld connections all over the Empire? How can we make use of this?), Stag, and Bear seem to be firmly on the Imperial side. Of course, the Cat look likely to prosper no matter what happens. The underworld is never going to go away.
The Hare are virtually surrounded by the Scorpion lands, so it’s difficult to blame them for being at least nominally allied with the Scorpion. Still, the Fox are within reach. They haven’t gotten along historically, but the Fox were already defying the Scorpion to chase them into Chikushudo anyway. They may not contribute much, but every little bit has to be made to count. We need to try to pull them into an alliance of the minor clans.
The Wasp: I suppose a pact ensuring coming to their defense should the Scorpion attack them if they remain neutral is the way to go with this one – although Shigure seems to have some sort of scheme cooking involving them. If that falls through – or isn’t incompatible – pushing the minor clans alliance idea still might be worthwhile.
The Falcon, Squirrel, Butterfly, Eel, Ox, Dog, Horse, Weasel, Rooster, and Panther Clans: OK, some of them might not be of much help, or are simply too isolated or scattered, far away, or tiny to respond quickly, but who knows what odd resources they may have stashed away? We need to send emissaries and to try to get their own emissaries to the court in Toshi Ranbo. Get them knowing we are thinking about them and wish to hear from them even if – like the Dog Clan and their plague-prevention assignment – we may not want to divert them (wait: they’re not just doctors, they’re plague-SEEKERS. Can they cause plagues as well as cure them? That would explain why no one ever seems to interfere with them).
The Crow and Kaiju Clans: Perhaps the Voices-of-the-Dead and the Binders-of-Monsters-and-Natural-Disasters should simply be left alone. Their help might be almost as dangerous as their enmity.
The Centipede: We should emphasize the importance of the Wall – and of NOT diverting troops away from it. Sending experts in fortifications to the other likely front lines is a good way to build up a working relationship with us and others.
The Dragonfly: Well, they get the same basic strategy as Dragon with the twist of being a minor clan and so being a potential candidate to join the minor clan meeting/dinner/party.
The Firefly: Ok, they’re too small to make a decent party of bodyguards. Still, Shigure recruited them – so we’d better make sure that they aren’t more assassins. Then look into pursuing building Shigure’s canal, getting a respectable port set up somewhere along their coasts, and working with the Mantis and other minor clans about setting up some trade routes.
The Tiger: Their defense of the temples is good, but… Wait a moment; how closely allied with the Fox are they? They have a couple of representatives at court already (they simply sent them over from some of the local temples), so perhaps finding them funding for better temple defenses and a few new temples might be a good inducement for a formal alliance.
The Elephant: Well, given the way the barriers between the dimensions are breaking down, and the way the Shadowcats are casually punching holes in them – not to mention the Fox and Kochige – the Elephant are probably a bit frantic at the moment. It may not be the best time to be approaching them, but it’s worth trying.
The Temples: Well, supporting them, building new temples, and other practical considerations should help keep the superficially-religious groups firmly on our side. The really dedicated ones are pretty much with us automatically, but that shouldn’t make us take them for granted.
The Imperial Family: I am keeping a wary eye on the Emperor and his guards. The heir to the throne is supposed to be possessed and we have yet to see who that might be, so we must prepare for all contingencies. In the meantime, think about how to broach the topic of pretending to assassinate him while acting as the decoy for the Emperor to ensnare the enemy with.