Legend of the Five Rings – The City of Jewels Evil Grand Vizier Courtier School

   The City of Jewels, across what used to be the Burning Sands, is ruled by a Sultan – as are several more cities up and down the Vetirus and Torath rivers.

   And what Sultan would feel secure without his Evil Grand Vizier? There are things which must be done to keep a government running, a city organized, and a Sultan on his throne. Distasteful things. Dishonorable things. Expedient and ruthless things. You need someone who’s willing to assassinate – or execute – rival claimants to the throne and their families, to inflict horrific deaths on rebels, to poison emissaries at peace conferences, to quietly dispose of your embarrassing or misbehaving offspring, or torture prisoners. You need someone who is willing to negotiate in bad faith, to blackmail people, to frame or imprison the virtuous, and to make foul bargains with demons.

   Such tasks fall within the purview of the Evil Grand Vizier.

   Oddly enough, they’re regarded as pretty trustworthy in their own bizarre fashion. After all, while they may plot (just like virtually every other noble and major individual in the cites of the rivers), they’ll make quite sure that no one ELSE gets anywhere with their plots – and you’ll know exactly who to keep an eye on. If they actually do turn out to be loyal to the state, then you’re usually ahead – unless you’re so incompetent that the state would be better off with someone else in charge.

   The Evil Grand Vizier school is a surprisingly effective Courtier school, albeit one that’s a bit more obvious than most. They’re skilled in a wide variety of dark arts and quite good at manipulation – as well as at coming up with poisons, potions, and dishonorable services.

  • Basic Modifiers: Intelligence +1, Glory 2, Status 1, Wealth 4, and Honor 1.
  • School Skills: Courtier, Craft/Alchemy, Deceit, Defense, Divination, Etiquette, Investigation, Knives, Lore/Evil Spirits and Dark Magic, Lore/Underworld, Slight of Hand, and Stealth.

   The Techniques:

   First Technique/The Web of Intrigue:

   The Evil Grand Vizier

  • Suffers no loss of honor for acts of expedient treachery, giving blatantly evil orders or performing such acts themselves, or for dishonorable activities, as long as he or she makes it utterly obvious that no one in their right mind should trust them in the first place (Major Immunity 10, -5 for having to be blatant = 5).
    • Normally an Immunity requires a minimum school rank of three – but the game master is allowed to make exceptions, and this is, after all, pretty much the defining feature of the school. Besides: most would-be Evil Grand Viziers could not care less about their honor score: this just means that the few who actually do want to serve to the best of their ability while accepting that it won’t be nice get to keep their honor.
  • Will quickly build a network of spies, informants, and allies. He or she may call upon them up to (Rank + 2) times per session for services rated at a level of (Related Skill/2, rounded up), using Investigation to obtain facts, briefings, and special reports, Lore/Underworld to obtain criminal services, poisons, drugs, and illegal substances, and Defense to obtain the services of squads of thugs. (Favors, 10, -5 since it will take time to establish local contacts and the range of such services is limited; if something is only available from far away, it may take a very long time to obtain it – if it ever arrives at all = 5).
  • Gains (School Rank) free raises with Courtier, Craft/Alchemy, and Divination, provided that he or she can either retreat to his or her laboratory to work, or (for Courtier) has not yet exhausted his or her supply of exotic psychoactive perfumes, drugs, and similar compounds (he or she will run out on a die roll of one whenever this ability is used) (10, -5 for conditions = 5).
  • Gains +10 Political Position points, however these can only be spent on Political and Espionage Holding Assets or on Contingencies (10, -5 for restriction = 5).

   Unsurprisingly, training as an Evil Grand Vizier is usually a matter of apprenticeship or family tradition. Many would-be Evil Grand Viziers let it go to their heads, and become enamored of pointless treachery and random malevolence. Those students usually wind up being poisoned or – sometimes – being sold on the slave market in the bazaar. That sort of thing is, sadly enough, one of the natural risks of studying the school; all too many students forget that their mentor has been an Evil Grand Vizier a lot longer than they have and is much, much, better at it than they are.

   Second Technique/Inhabiting the Shadows:

   The Evil Grand Vizier

  • May exploit any local position of power or influence which he or she happens to hold to gain an income of (Rank x 10) Koku per month (10, -5 for having to hold a position = 5).
  • May call upon dark magical forces up to (Rank+2) times per session as long as he or she has access to his or her laboratory, allowing him or her to obtain Spells (of a level of up to his or her Sleight of Hand Skill/2, rounded up), the services of demons and various strange or evil spirits and creatures (performing tasks rated at levels of up to Lore/Evil Spirits and Dark Magic/2, rounded up), and Craft/Alchemy to obtain magical potions (rated at levels of up to Craft/Alchemy/2, rounded up) (Favors, 10, -5 for required access to laboratory = 5).
  • Gains (School Rank) free raises on Lore/Law, Investigation, and Stealth checks (10).

    Third Technique/A Draught from the Dark Well:

   The Evil Grand Vizier

  • Now has such mastery of poisons and antidotes that he or she is effectively immune to poisons, although he or she must consume regular doses of special herbs and antidotes to maintain this effect (10, -5 for conditions).
  • May now craft special talismans, potions, and spirit-bottles which allow him or her to ignore the need to have time in his laboratory to call on supernatural favors. Sadly, he or she can only do so (Intelligence + Rank) times before he or she must return to his or her lab and make more such devices (10, -5 for limited usage = 5).
  • Gains a pool of (2 x Intelligence) Free Raises, up to half of which may be applied to any school skill roll, but may only refresh that pool – and no more than twice per day – by committing a blatantly treacherous, corrupt, or evil act (10).

   Fourth Technique/One with the Darkness:

   The Evil Grand Vizier

  • Gains +10 Political Position points, however these can only be spent on Political and Espionage Holding Assets or on Contingencies (10, -5 for restriction, = 5).
  • Can no longer be effectively searched or stripped of his or her smaller equipment, such as knives, talismans, vials of poisons, and light hidden armor; he or she can conceal such things in within the darkness of his or her own spirit (Minor Immunity, 5).
  • May add his or her Intelligence to all school skills (5).
  • May call upon dark forces to bend the course of events to his or her will up to (Rank +2) times per session, gaining “Favors” rated at (Skill being used/2, rounded up). He or she may use Courtier to obtain political favors, Divination to twist fate (this can only be used in malevolent ways, or to cause a target to be afflicted with a penalty of up to -(5 x School Rank) while the user concentrates or half that for a scene, but gets immediate responses), or Deceit to conceal all connection with his or her plots or to produce evidence pointing to someone else being responsible for them. Sadly for the Evil Grand Vizier, this only works where he or she has had plenty of time to become acquainted with the local spirits (10, -5 for conditions, = 5).

   Fifth Technique/The Treacherous Master:

   The Evil Grand Vizier

  • May now add twice his or her Intelligence to all school skills, replacing the bonus from level four (+5).
  • May add +2 to the effective rank of all his or her School Skills (12)
  • May cause thoughts to occur to anyone they can see. While these carry no compulsion and no great weight, they are virtually impossible to distinguish from the victim’s own passing thoughts (a level one self-powered psychic ability, 3).
  • May call on the local populace and spirits to obtain special services up to (Rank+2) times per session, rated at a level of up to (Skill being used/2, rounded up). He or she may use Etiquette to obtain rare gifts, evil artifacts, and the services of eccentric minions, Knives to cause knives to turn against their user’s, refuse to strike him, or even attack on their own (such results are immediate, but the services of knives are inherently limited), and Stealth to suddenly locate or reveal secret passages and escape routes. Unfortunately, such stunts require the expenditure of a void point (10, -5 for void requirement, = 5).
  • Optionally, the Master of Treachery may gain Immunity/Regrets and Moral Scruples (5) – with the disadvantage that this tends to lead to an ever-more-horrific psychotic spiral of activities that invariably ends very badly indeed (-5, for a net cost of 0). Still, it does make them a lot more psychologically comfortable in the meantime. Most fictional Evil Grand Viziers tend to take this one – but most of them haven’t had formal training in this school…
  • Unfortunately, the Evil Grand Vizier’s constant dealing with dark forces will start to warp even the strongest will. An Evil Grand Vizier who achieves the fifth rank in his or her school will develop some mild insanity – whether that’s an irrational desire for one of the Sultan’s offspring, absurd over-acting, paranoia, a desire to be surrounded by appreciative yes-men, fear of having their own position usurped, or a desire for unforced universal respect (the odds aren’t good on that one). This constitutes a -5 flaw on this final technique.

You wish to challenge me to a duel over this? Very well then! We shall drink cups of poison together until one of us is dead! What, you say that this is without honor? You haven’t been paying attention have you?

   OK, the Evil Grand Vizier school can be played for laughs. It’s also fairly powerful – even if it is virtually defined by it’s limitations and has an absurd number of them in order to pay for all the odd abilities. An Evil Grand Vizier who’s established himself or herself in a particular area will be at the center of a web of agents, well-stocked with poisons and antidotes, and even have access to a wide variety of magical services to compliment his or her basic skills as a courtier and investigator. An Evil Grand Vizier out wandering about on their own isn’t much of an Evil Grand Vizier at all. Still, so far they’ve been fun for both the players and the game master, and that’s really what’s most important.

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2 Responses

  1. Interesting. I love the trope of the Evil Vizer and amusing to see it adapted to the L5R system.

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