Legend of the Five Rings: The Sparrow Clan Calligraphy School

   Here we have another specialist school for Legend of the Five Rings – in this case, an artistically-focused school from the Sparrow Clan. For the purposes of the Sparrow, however, it is a very, very, practical school indeed. The etiquette of Rokugan requires the constant giving of presents, and the meager lands of the Sparrow Clan can barely feed their people. To the Sparrow, a school which focuses on turning simple paper and ink into acceptable gifts, on creating and maintaining their own gear with simple tools and basic facilities, and thus provides them with something to trade, is quite invaluable.

   The Sparrow Clan has carried on the artistic tradition of the Crane Clan, with an austere focus on the inexpensive arts of paper, ink, and paint and the practical art of making their own equipment. Within those narrow foci, the monk-like contemplation of the Sparrow Clan Calligraphy School yields it’s own quiet rewards.

   The Sparrow Clan (Courtier) Calligraphy School

  • Benefits: +1 Void, Glory 0, Status .5, Wealth 0, Honor 3.5
  • School Skills: Ceremony, Courtier, Craft (select Armorsmith, Bowyer, or Weaponsmith), Defense, Etiquette, Hunting, Investigation, Meditation, Sword, choice of Instruction or Storytelling, any one Lore skill, and any one High or Bugei skill.

   School Techniques:

  • First Technique/The Master of the Brush: Studying the secrets of paper, ink, and paint as closely as a a duelist studies the secrets of the blade may be the quieter path, but – as is the nature of the Tao – it is no less deep. The quiet insights of the student of the brush are of value in many fields. The user gains +5K0 to all artistic skills (Artisan and Calligraphy) involving paper, ink, or paint (Bonus Dice, 5) and all such skills are considered Skilled and are treated as School Skills (+5). In addition, the user gains a daily pool of free raises equal to his or her Meditation skill rank for use with his or her school skills (10).
  • Second Technique/The Moment of Illumination: The many lessons of the past shape and inform the work of the hands which record them, providing guidance which extends well beyond mere writing. Recalling those lessons, and following in the traditions of the ancestors, lends excellence in all endeavors. Double the Style bonuses for the Calligraphy Skill (5) and, when the user spends a void point to enhance a school skill roll, he or she gains +(Void)K(Void) rather than +1K1 (15).
  • Third Technique/The Koan of Perfection: To achieve perfection by adding to something already flawed, or by training, or by magic is nearly impossible. All such things are flawed, and to expand upon them is almost always to expand upon their flaws. The simple curve, the blank sheet, the freshly-dipped brush – all are perfect in themselves. To remain close to the perfection of simplicity, do only what is necessary, use only the tools you must, then do no more. The user may spend a void point to add his or her Void Ring to any other trait or ring for five minutes or for any one roll (10) and gains Immunity to the need to know or be able to cast a spell to effectively copy an existing spell scroll (5) and to the need for special facilities and expensive supplies to produce items of above average quality (5).

   Only a few, highly-talented, individuals ever progress to the fourth technique of this school – and there is no known fifth technique

  • Fourth Technique/The Secret of the Fold: The Master Calligraphers insight into his materials is such that he or she may now briefly stir the spirits of paper, ink, and paint from their slumbers – producing remarkable feats of skill (gain [School Rank] free raises with all artistic skills [usually Artisan and Calligraphy] involving paper, ink, or paint) and gaining access to one branch (either painting or origami*) of art-based magic (10).

*Sufficiently skilled origami artists normally pick up Conjures III and Bind Conjure V, allowing them to create paper talismans which can transform into real items for a time – albeit only once.

   Yes, there’s a note about “atmospheric conditions” in the Sparrow lands which cause paper to fall apart rapidly. Since there’s no mention of any actual effect this has in the game, nor of what sort of “atmospheric conditions” that destroy paper prevail in a small patch of mountains without also affecting the surrounding Crane and Crab territories, the Tales of the Sunrise campaign ignores that bit. Most likely this is just a way of saying it rains a lot and is very humid there (although that would also affect leather, metal, and most other materials). That can be managed.

   Ok, this school can provide a reasonably useful boost to a few courtier or etiquette checks. It’s principally useful, however, in creating items, scrolls, and artworks of extremely high quality. That can be quite useful of course – such items make impressive gifts – but it’s relatively rare for a player-character to take this particular school.

2 Responses

  1. I like this school and what it does for the Sparrow (my personal Favorite Clan), but it seems that the 11 skill allotment is a bit high, as to the best of my knowledge the most any school gets in the core books is 7. Secondly on the note of skills, isn’t it a bit strange that a Calligraphy School wouldn’t get the calligraphy skill as a mandatory school skill?

    Lastly I was wondering if the writer of this School, has put any thought into what the 5th technique might be.

    Thank you so much for this school.


    • Those are simple enough;

      Buying a skill at Rank one costs 1 point. Buying a skill at rank two costs a total of 3 points. Buying an Emphasis costs 2 points. Thus, for some randomly-selected examples…

    • The Doji Courtier School provides Artisan, Calligraphy, Courtier (Emphasis Manipulation), Etiquette (Emphasis: Conversation), Storytelling (Emphasis; Poetry), Tea Ceremony, and any one High Skill – for a total of thirteen skill points.

      The Tsuruchi Bounty Hunter School provides Athletics, Defense, Hunting, Kyujutsu 2 (Emphasis; Tsuruchi Longbow), Stealth, and any one Bugei or High Skill – for total of ten skill points.

      The Iuchi Shugenja School provides Calligraphy, Horsemanship, Lore/Any, Meditation, Spellcraft, Theology (Emphasis; Fortunes), and any one skill – for a total of eight skill points.

      The Akodo Bushi School provides Battle (Emphasis; Mass Combat), Defense, Kenjutsu, Kyujutsu, Lore/History*, Storytelling, and any one High or Bugei skill – for a total of nine skill points.

      *Despite the books confusing tendency to sometimes list the specific lore skill the characters have in the same way as an emphasis, this seems to be merely a specific lore skill.

    • Those numbers are fairly typical throughout the various books. Thus the general school design rules note that a Shugenja School provides eight skill points, a Samurai (or Ninja) School provides ten, and a Courtier School (like the Sparrow school here) provides twelve. This school, as it happens, doesn’t provide a single emphasis or skill above rank one, and so offers twelve school skills. That option was chosen because it didn’t seem like the Sparrow could afford to support all that many schools, so one with a broad base of skills was desirable.

      The school doesn’t provide the Calligraphy (or, for that matter, the Artisan) skill because its first technique provides that +5K0 (counts as being skilled) bonus to those two skills. Characters with the school can certainly spend a few of their personal skill points on either or both of those skills, but the school makes them quite competent even if they don’t.

      Now, a Minor School normally only offers three techniques, while a Major School offers five. This particular school is currently evolving from Minor School to Major School status. That’s why the fourth technique is currently only half complete (with a cost of ten design points instead of twenty) and the fifth technique is currently entirely unstandardized.

      The most likely completed fourth technique will – as noted – add Conjures III (from the Guuzou Kami spell list) as an Innate Self-Powered Spell, usable up to (Void) times daily. That costs nine design points, and covers temporarily transforming origami figurines into items up to the scale of small boats, watch dogs, large tents, and so on. Technically that leaves one design point left over, but there isn’t much that can be done with one design point; it might be best to save it for the fifth technique.

      The most likely fifth technique – call it Grace of the Kami – is to add Binding V (as noted under Alchemy) as an Innate Spell which costs a void point to activate. That will cost ten design points and allow the user to create talismans which can be activated later on, by anyone to whom he or she gives them. While such talismans are still quite temporary, having a rowboat, watch dog, and katana literally up your sleeve in the forms of a few bits of folded paper can be quite handy.

      Upgrading the basic Conjures III to Conjures IV would cost another six design points and would be even more handy at times. It would be overly mystical for a martial school, but – fortunately – this is a Courtier school and the ability to provide a fine house for guests to stay overnight despite the poverty of the clan seems quite appropriate.

      With the left-over point from the fourth level technique, that leaves five design points left to complete the school. To represent the enlightened grace of the artists spirit, perhaps add in the ability to trade in two rolled dice for two kept dice on any check other than attacks or damage.

      There are lots of other possibilities for completing the fourth and fifth technique of course; I was leaving it as an opening for the players.

      If you’d like the school design rules (I must get back to revising those again before the next L5R game; the players found possible exploits in the wording of four abilities), I’ll email you the old campaign PDF. There’s a download link around, but you may not have found it.

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