Legend of the Five Rings – Kasumi Neko, Cat Clan Samurai

English: Kyudo, Archery, Yumi, Bow. Main metho...

Yes, this is how...

The Cat Clan plays a very minor role in Rokugan; it’s tiny, obscure, has no major school of its own, and mostly operates under cover. Their general role is to appear as the mysterious shadowy figure who passes on some important information to the more active and combative types – such as most PC’s. They are, however, a favorite clan for one of our players (who, I suspect, has some anime prototype in mind) – so here’s another dual-knife-wielding slightly magical young woman of the cat clan – although this one is pursuing a seriously exotic archery school rather than the usual clan minor schools (found in the handouts or at the end of this character sheet.

Personally, Kasumi was a problem; talented enough for any five normal children, with more than a trace of magic, and a fascination with archery – and inclined to rely on those (admittedly remarkable) talents rather than on developing her skills properly. She wanted (and clearly needed) an Archery School – and the Cat Clan simply didn’t have one on tap.

Still, her father Togai Neko was owed a few favors from some VERY exotic folks… Gaijin contacts and schools were no longer quite so off-limits as they had been either – and it wasn’t as if the Cat Clan normally operated in full view in any case. When his daughter returned, she brought with her the basics of one of the powerful Yodatai Divine Bushi schools.

Currently Kasumi is out gaining some experience – attempting to expand trade, undercutting the Mantis, and supporting the Imperial families. She’s aware that the bow she made upon completing the basics of her training is hardly the best, but she’s still pleased to be able to say that it’s her own handiwork.

Obviously enough, this build relies very heavily indeed on special advantages – especially bonus dice. That’s less effective to start with, since advantages cost more than skills – but skills are easier to build up later.

Rings: Earth 2 (Stamina 2, Willpower 2), Water 2 (Strength 2, Perception 2), Fire 2 (Agility 2, Intelligence 2), Air 3 (Reflexes 4 (5), Awareness 3), Void 3.

Cat Clan Upbringing/+1 Reflexes


  • Bad luck with Wagers (Every Few Sessions, Great Aggravation, 3)
  • Owes occasional favors due to bad wagers (Every Few Sessions, Serious Trouble (4)
  • Likes to Gamble (Every other Session, Minor Difficulties, 3)

Well, that combination is pretty well guaranteed to get her into plenty of trouble.

Initial Experience Points: 60 (Base) + 10 (Disadvantages) = 70

  • 03) Access to an Exotic School
  • 15) School Package Deal / Hosfera Madrase (Old Yodatai Divine Bushi School)

Benefits: +1 Reflexes, Glory 2, Status 1, Wealth 1, Honor 3.0.

School Skills: Animal Handling, Athletics, Archery, Defense, Horsemanship, Hunting, Investigation, Meditation, Stealth, Swords, and two of choice (Etiquette and Courtier).

First Technique Summary: Add air ring to school skills, +1 attack with Bow, double effect of void spent to buy off damage, Get Hosfera as a patron spirit (Hosfera lets his devotees produce an average-quality bow and arrows whenever they need them and allows them to spend a void point to make one of the arrows they fire turn into an animal after it hits something. The user may then make an immediate target-15 meditation check to recover the void point. At the moment, Kasumi is limited to things like monkeys, bobcats, and wolves; this will improve with her void ring).

Second Technique Summary: The user may trade in one or more bow attacks during a round for +5 free raises per attack traded in on one of the remaining bow attacks and – when the character spends a void point on reducing damage – it will continue to reduce damage from each attack for a full minute.

  • 06) Additional Skills: Archery to 2 (2), Commerce (1), Deceit 1 (1), Knives 1 (1), and Lore/Underworld 1 (1).
  • 06) Bonus Dice/+1K0 and a free raise with all Low Skills.
  • 08) Bonus Dice/+1K0 and a free raise with all Weapons.
  • 06) Bonus Dice/+1K1 with Knives.
  • 06) Gift/+10 AC when being attacked while unarmored.
  • 09) Inherent Supernatural Powers/Three level one self-powered Inner Gifts.

Catfoot: Reduces damage from falls by ten points, the user places less stress on supports, such as thin ice or nightingale floors.

Sensitive: The user vaguely senses magical disturbances.

Suggestion: The user may make a thought occur to a nearby target – although this carries no more compulsion than a whisper in their ear.

  • 08) Natural Mastery: Magical Dabbler. May use first level air spells and starts off with the Sense, Commune, Summon, and Counterspell spells.
  • 03: Allies/Harumui Neko, Cat Clan Ancestor Spirit. Influence: 4 (provides 20 points worth of techniques), Devotion: Minor (0), Eccentricity: Ancestor Spirit (0), Inconvenience: Minor (asks for weekly prayers and small offerings, -1), for a net cost of (3). This is a modest slice of cheese of course – but a character who brings knives to a katana fight is going to need a bit of cheese to work well in the game.

Harumi Neko grants Immunity to Honor Losses due to using or raising Low Skills (5), and to the usual penalties for fighting with two knives (talent, 2), adds (2x Reflexes) to a limited set of skills from the Neko Schools when not wearing armor (Athletics, Courtier, Commerce, Deceit, Defense, Forgery, Hunting, Investigation, Knives, Lore/Underworld, Stealth, and Swords, 5), a +1 magical boost to any one trait (Reflexes, 3), and grants +10 AC when using two knives (5).

Heritage/Combating the Shadowlands: a century ago, Koin Neko – Kasumi’s Great-Great-Great grandfather – was tracing a smuggler who was importing Maho supplies and scrolls into the Empire. He’d traced the man to a small Crab Clan village near the Wall when his target caught on – and summoned a powerful oni and a few lesser creatures. Koin was a master archer, and eliminated the smuggler, and the great oni, before they could reach him – but the best he could do when the swarm of lesser oni closed in was to delay them while the villagers escaped. The local Crab Samurai did not reach the village in time to rescue Koin, but he’d left them with very little to do before he’d fallen. His descendants Gain +1 Rank of Archery, +10 on rolls to resist Fear effects from Shadowlands Creatures, and a free lunch whenever they stop by a certain Crab village.

Earned Experience: 30 Points

  • Boost Awareness and Void from 2 to 3 (24 Points).

-This takes her to Rank-2 and gets the second school technique.

  • Learned Spells: Elemental Weapon (1 Point) and Cloud of Mist (1 Point).
  • Skill Purchases: Knives to 2 (2 Points), Courtier to 2 (2).

Major Skills:

  • Animal Handling 1 (3K2+3)
  • Archery 3 (9K5+18) (Includes Free Raise Style Bonus). Usually 2K3 base damage.
  • Athletics 1 (Varies +13)
  • Commerce 1 (4K3+10)
  • Courtier 2 (5K3+13)
  • Deceit 1 (5K3+15)
  • Defense 1 (3K2+18)
  • Etiquette 1 (4K3+3)
  • Forgery 0 (3K2+15)
  • Horsemanship (3K2+3)
  • Hunting 1 (3K2+13)
  • Investigation 1 (3K2+13)
  • Knives 2 (6K3+15). Usually 3K1 damage, +1 free raise when used to disarm, two if used against a light or medium sword.
  • Lore/Shadowlands 0 (3K2+5)
  • Lore/Underworld 1 (4K2+15)
  • Meditation 1 (4K3+3)
  • Stealth 1 (4K2+18)
  • Swords 1 (4K2+18)

Armor Class: 25 Base, +10 when Unarmored, +10 when using two knives.

Initiative: 7K5


  • Basic Gear: sandals, samurai clothing, chopsticks, basic grooming supplies, coin purse, whetstone, bit of string or thread, tanto/knife, soap, washcloth.
  • Bushi Gear: Dai-sho (katana and wakizashi), bow, 100 arrows, two parrying daggers, two regular daggers, horse and tack.
  • Magical Gear: small scroll satchel, scrolls for all known spells, brushes, inks, and paper.
  • Cash: 11 Gold Koku.
  • Traveling Kit / 12 Items: Pillow Book (1), Hand Mirror (1), Set of Dice and a Dice Cup (1), Packet of Sweets (1), Personal Shrine and Incense (2), Small Statue (1), Decorative Fan (1), Small Tent (1), Messkit (1), Bedroll (1), and a Weeks Rations (1).

RPG Design – The Common Humanity

   This question was directed towards the Village Heroes series – but it deserves a more general answer.

“Why are all of these characters human?”


   The vast majority of RPG’s focus on humans – and most of the ones that don’t actually focus on humans focus on almost-humans with a few quirks or on humans with some common bit of fantasy layered on. There are very, very, few that focus on creatures that actually behave in inhuman ways and have genuinely alien cultures or technologies.

   Why is that?

   For the most part, it’s simple pragmatism. At least so far, the game designers and players are all human, and the vast majority come from industrialized, westernized, cultures. Humans are easy to relate to, their cultures don’t require a lot of explanation, and you can describe their reactions without tripping yourself up too often. If you need to check on their reaction time, average family size or some other detail, pick out some deities or cultural features, produce an old myth of theirs, or need some other odd factoid, there are entire libraries of information available.

   Ergo, even if a game features other races, they almost always wind being portrayed as funny-looking humans with a few game-mechanical modifiers. They may be labeled elves, dwarves, or vulcans, or they may look like anthropomorphic deer – but as soon as you note that the locals are honorable, get thus-and-such a package of modifiers, and describe a vaguely samurai-styled culture, the players will all be on familiar ground, and the katanas will be flashing soon enough. For game purposes, that’s a good thing. Spending three sessions explaining your world simply doesn’t go over well.

   Trying to create a genuinely non-human race and culture is a tremendous amount of work – and it’s awfully easy to trip yourself up. Even if you manage to get it all right on the fly when you’re called on for details on the spur of the moment, the player’s will never be able to remember all the details and keep it consistent. Even if they all start out as brilliant logicians with photographic memories, eventually the caffeine, sugar, and energy run down, people get fuzzy, and mistakes happen.

   It’s easy to gloss it over when someone forgets their manners, or there’s an anachronism, or some such. It is, after all, a fictional universe and player characters are almost always eccentric – and usually enough to drive anyone a little crazy. The players are used to being human, and will rarely really foul up a human or near-human role.

   Forgetting that your alien species dissolves in water and having a fight scene in a raging storm by the sea is going to be harder to cover up – especially when no one remembers that detail until after twenty minutes of action in that setting and they’ve used the water to short out the enemies electrical equipment. Suspension of disbelief goes right out the window when you abruptly find that the centaur archer has spent the last half an hour of the battle sniping at the pirates from the crows nest. All that takes is a few moments of distraction and a player who isn’t too familiar with the details of ships.

“What’s the highest place I can reach?”

“The Crow’s Nest.”

“All right, I’ll start sniping from there.”

   Creating non-human races and exotic cultures can be great fun. For a deep-immersion game it can be immensely rewarding. For most other games, even if it isn’t at all what you intended, most of the exotic races are going to wind up being played as humans in funny hats.

   But wait! There are entire, popular, games that revolve around non-human character types! Just look at most of the White Wolf lines!

   Well… no, they don’t. Those characters are all pretty throughly human. That werewolf is tough, strong, and regenerative. He or she can shapeshift, probably commands a few magical tricks, and may even have a few exotic motivations – if, and only if, the players are paying any attention to such notions.

   A mid-level 3.5 “human” Druid does all that and more, has experienced many different sets of animal instincts, and will often act a lot LESS like a normal human. When Werewolves get set on fire they try to put it out; they don’t calmly decide whether or not they have something better to do this round, or go for a casual stroll through a burning house because it’s “only normal fire” and only does 1d6 damage per round. Ignore six threatening opponents? Your druid very well may. Werewolves hardly ever do. Fly into an insane berserker rage? Pretty common with some players – while others will stay cool and calculating while a demon lord of hell is tossing their children into the depths of the abyss child by screaming and pleading child. Exotic motivations? Have you ever listened to players explaining why they had their characters do various things? Now THERE we have exotic motivations.

   If you want a solid basis for your fantasy world, don’t go for your idea for a centipede-octopus race with bizarre lifestyle. Don’t even go with turtles and elephants. When it comes to a solid base for fantasy, it’s humans all the way down.

Latest Material Index

   It’s once again time to get the latest material index updated and to transfer the material from the old one to the main index tabs at the top of the page. If you want the very latest material, it may be necessary to either scroll down or consult the “Recent Posts” listing-widget on the lower right. The previous Latest Materials Index can be found HERE and – for those who like to rummage at random – the full post-by-post index can be found occupying a great deal of space in the lower right column.

   Eclipse Classless d20 Character Construction Cribsheet / Sample Character List – Character Creation Primer – Compiled Martial Arts.

   Subindexes: RPG Design – Twilight Isles – BattletechChampionsd20Legend of the Five RingsShadowrunWhite WolfOther GamesBattling Business World

Cumulative General Index.

   d20 Material:

   RPG Design:

   General Material:

   Rolemaster Material:

  • Arcane Healing: A spell list  designed to let you get along WITHOUT a healing specialist.

   Tales From The Floating Vagabond Material:

   Champions Material:

   Star Wars Material:

   Call of Cthulhu Material:

   Legend of the Five Rings Material:

   Assorted Crosslinks:

  •    The Letters from Rudra are an in-character account of the Twilight Isles campaign. While the player wasn’t able to make it to the first few sessions, so far we have Letter One, Letter Two, Letter Three, and Letter Four.
  •    Fredronon’s Notes are a similar production – the somewhat biased notes on his adventures that Fredronon is willing to share. Currently we have parts Three and Four.
  •    The Ability Spotlight series is player notes on how he’s designing and developing Fredronon. Here’s Part II
  •    For the Federation-Apocalypse Campaign we have a writeup of Fern, a Sentient BlackBerry of Battling Business World.
  •    Over at Abalux’s weblog we have another sample character for Eclipse – Isaac Gelman, a level-one equivalent cartoon child (level zero with +1 ECL race) with a knack with magical medicine and the otter-fey powers he’s recently acquired.

Ninsei’s Secret Diaries – Legion Edition

   Here we have a special excerpt from Ninsei’s Secret Diaries – complicated by the fact that now there are not only the Lunar and Solar-oriented versions of Ninsei, but also a set of dream-duplicates with differing elemental orientations and Solar Ninsei has recombined with what was left of a badly damaged version of Lunar Ninsei from an alternate timeline and didn’t exactly win the battle of identities. Ergo, we have multiple entries…

   Arasai (Air Ninsei)

   There are days when I am convinced that I must be the smart one. The “original” continually runs around from one problem to the next with only the vaguest outline of a plan at times. And now he has managed to get himself caught in a situation where he cannot escape without further repercussions beyond what we already face. Good thing I have a plan to get his rear out of the oven.

   A little thought, divination, and weaving can reveal a great deal about what you can expect to face. Using such information effectively and applying the minimal force in the right place can accomplish far more than the biggest fireball spell. Like today, I was able to stake out an important beachhead within the capitol without resorting to overwhelming firepower. All it took was some bait, some smokepowder, and pretending to be a firemage to make powerful opponents step back and negotiate. Now granted there was a great deal of luck involved but I can’t say I have had much time.

   So we still have Gems of the Designer, the Yodatai, the Yobanjin, Asuras, weird eldritch abominations from beyond, Shin and Fu Leng to worry about. Never mind the fact that we still have the possibility of one of us going rogue. We were barely able to stop it the last time, and even then, our side lost the battle of wills. We need to make plans, stash away resources, make contingencies and prepare for the worst should it happen.

   Sigh, it is going to be difficult to keep track of all of this. I am really going to need to work on the ability to process information better. Those people from the universe Ninsei and Kochige created had learned something of this, as had the people of the “Central Worlds” universe where that lunatic embedded in a crystal came from. It may well be worth studying all that material we have brought back from all these realms on advanced magic and such. There may be insights into how to better handle more information and multiple tasks going on at once. Worst case, I could visit our friends from the dying universe in the realm of dreams and ask for advice or instruction.

   Speaking of the Realm of Dreams, I must really find out how the Nightmares were constructed and by who. Not only could whoever it is still pose a threat – the Nightmare of the Mantis is new after all – but that knowledge could also lead to greater insight into how to better anchor my own existence. The tangled webs of fate and knowledge gleaned from the Void say this might be important.

   Lanwei (Water Ninsei):

   Yet again, more people I/we/he care about are getting hurt or nearly killed. Of course, when your answer to everything is fireballs or sunbeams, I guess that’s to be expected. Unless I figure out a better way to respond to this sort of situation, someone is going to get killed. Tying Ninsei to a chair, while amusing, is going to be impractical. Ergo, best option is to find a way to protect them from the damage Ninsei is so bent on exposing them to.

   Okari seems to be really good at this sort of thing, but as best as I can tell, his method relies on some quality unique to himself that no one else can duplicate. That’s probably not surprising in this group… On the other hand, it does suggest a line of approach.

   I can tie threads to people just as well as the others can. These people can then be monitored over these threads. Spells can also be cast over these threads. Is it possible to sense through the threads when someone is in danger and ward them with a protective spell? To be honest, I haven’t the faintest. On the other hand, it may be worth experimenting. If I can even develop the sense to know who is in danger and get to them sooner, it would be beneficial (and less hassle).

   I wonder if I can package a healing spell in such a way so as to be reflexive or nearly instantaneous? Also worth experimenting on. If the pyromaniac can chain cast six sunbeams, then surely I can get a heal spell off quickly. Of course it may be better to try and prevent the damage in the first place with some kind of warding spell.

   Hmm, now there is an interesting question: what measure of power can be inherited? If some of these future family members can be given some modicum of power, then the need to intervene on every little thing can be reduced. Too bad I don’t have supernatural mice to try ideas with. Although it does occur to me that the Unicorn priests had something working for them. Something about coupling power sources together.

   Nevertheless, I am going to have to do something about making these people more durable.

   Yindae (Earth Ninsei)

   My detailed review of the plans for the Power Grid has definitely been a learning experience. While it is certainly a marvel of design and something to be proud of, a few shortcomings do make themselves apparent.

   First off, the system’s greatest strength is also the greatest weakness. The ability to control power flow from a central location makes the system a great tool for social manipulation. On the other hand, should something happen to the controls, then the entire system goes down. Lunar Ninsei combated this issue by burying the control system in a location difficult to find without either knowing what you were looking for or by knowing a great deal about our family. It was then manned only by people he could trust to the utmost.

   Is this the best solution? I am not sure, although I will have to give it more thought. Although I shall have to look into the idea of multiple Control Cores or distributing the control functions.

   It is also becoming apparent that one of the limiting factors of the system will be availability of power. The system looks like it did fine under the load it was designed for. On the other hand, Ninsei with his Obsidian Magistrate system is going to be pushing the limits of the system by a good margin. So we are going to need more power to feed the system.

   It looks like the future Lunar Ninsei pretty thoroughly tapped all the energy sources in the Empire. So not much improvement to be had there. On the other hand, it looks like we might be able to incorporate the Shadowlands and parts of the new lands between the Empire, the City of Jewels, and the Yodatai Empire. That should add to the reserves.

   Another dangerous option would be to look into the Void-Shadow thing the Naga and that Deva use. Seems to be plenty of power there, just a great difficulty in control. Having reviewed the books and other materials from the other realms, I have learned much about concepts like fuses, circuit breakers, switches, and programs. While this electricity thing seems to have no relation to anything in our realm, it does look like magic and gemstones can mimic at least some of the functionality. It may be worthwhile to find a secluded island (or a pocket dimension) and run some very small scale experiments.

   And even if that does not work, and the energies are found to be too uncontrollable, it is not a complete failure. It will still be a learning experience on adapting this information on computers to Rokugani magical laws. This knowledge can then to applied to improve the Control Core of the Grid and even in making automata similar to the Designer for use in bolstering the ranks of the Obsidian Order. Hey, while the Designer was a horribly evil monstrosity, it did have some great ideas. Like that one with imprinting a consciousness into obsidian. I am sure something useful can come of that tidbit.

   Regardless, I have plenty of books and other materials to shift through for useful ideas. Some of them may prove useful to me and the others, some may not. It is not like I am in any hurry, I will have plenty of time on my hands.

   Lunar Ninsei

   All right, what in the name of the Kami is going on?! First Solar Ninsei is here, then he falls off the face of Rokugan, then he’s back again. That time he came back with three copies of us. Then he disappears again and comes back with copies of all our siblings and the princesses. Is the goofball actually trying to make backups of everyone important to him? And now he sends me a message “Congratulations, you won the battle of wills.” Which last I recall, since I am still here, is friggin impossible. I mean, the only way that could even work would require either alternate dimensions or time travel…. oh god damn it.

   I am going to have to send Kochige and Alex a fireball equal in power to the migraine I am now getting. I think I may have to find one of the copies and ask if there even is a plan or if Solar Ninsei is just winging it. I might even get an account of what happened that he ended up fusing.

   And if he has managed to fuse with another version of me, then I may have to step things up to keep pace.

   Solar Ninsei

   It seems like nothing is ever quite as simple as it initially seems. This latest development with Shin illustrates this perfectly. One of the reasons I haven’t tried to escape this escort of mine is simply because I do not know what to do with the boy. Simply running isn’t going to look good in front of someone who takes his oaths as seriously as he does, and it doesn’t help my case that I believe we are the good guys in this dispute.

   Did Fu Leng recruit him because he knows Shin can kill otherwise intractable opponents? Or is he simply looking to put Kochige in a bind by forcing him to fight his own son? Or perhaps the Gem of the Designer has had a hand in suggesting this idea? Regardless, this is one of the most troubling developments since learning the Emperor was likely possessed.

   The pragmatic side of me says to simply knock out Shin, erase his memory of the summons entirely, and then stuff him somewhere safe until this is all over. I think I could probably get the jump on him enough to pull that off. The idealist in me tells me that Shin has had enough with people messing with him magically and that he needs to face up to this himself. I just do not look forward to the idea of Shin fighting against us.

   Of course, thinking about that alternate future timeline, maybe Shin is destined to live a long, unhappy life. That is not a pleasant thought.

   I am also pondering the fact that shortly I will be leading an army to attack the Imperial capitol. I am putting a lot of trust into the Lost commander I put in charge of the combined army. Should she perform anywhere near as well as I hope, she will likely serve as one of my generals for a long time. Hopefully with Shigure’s advisement, she can keep casualties to a minimum.

   There is also the fact that Fu Leng is trying to drive a wedge in the Empire so that no one has the strength to oppose him. I really need to counter his efforts there while at the same time preparing for the assault on the capitol. Not going to be much point in saving the Empire from Fu Leng if the Empire is already destroyed. Frankly though, whatever political capitol I had was lost when I was declared a traitor to the Empire. And as evidenced from the battle at my parent’s house, trying to declare the Emperor false or possessed will only lead to further strife.

   Now only if we had access to someone with Najite’s skills. We could make a serious effort at discrediting Fu Leng’s position on the throne through embarrassment, get annoying people out of the way, and collect the “information” that could be useful in getting everyone to drop their support of Fu Leng. Thereby creating a serious effort to rally around our Emperor. It is too bad that Najite has disappeared and I know of no one that has similar abilities to him.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 86b – Binding Words

   Behind them, Gelman had given up the pursuit for long enough to call Mr Leland and let him know what Marty had dragged his company into…

   However ironic it was that – out of all the things Marty had actually done – it was something that had happened behind his back that was finally catching up to him.

   Another notification had arrived for Marty while he’d been at his party; a legal notice forwarded from Battling Business World through Abigail’s Thralls. One custody agreement amendment, as authorized by the New York City family court and subject to review in six months. An injunction against unsupervised contact with Julia and all such contact at the option of Abigail Saunders-Tabard, justified by a failure to appear to answer allegations of moral turpitude.

   Marty couldn’t say he was surprised. He knew he was no moral paragon, and he’d never been one! But damn! Plus, while he was having that party… Did karma normally work that fast? And now this business with Gelman… Still, that was only partially his fault at best! He was pretty sure that he could still do something about the slaving-mess, but the custody order was another matter entirely.

   Still, at least Kevin seemed to be upset too, if not quite so outraged. That was people from core though; always too damned reasonable.

   Well, if he couldn’t fix it, and got fired over it, he had a whole multiverse to work in! Talk about ultimate job flexibility! But damn, Julia… He should have been there more.

   Ikeran was currently reviewing reports from the Linear Realms. He popped up to attention and bowed when Kevin and Marty came storming in…

(Ikeran) “My lords! I am honored!”

(Marty) “Yeah? What’s this I hear about you outright KIDNAPPING kids?”

(Ikeran) “Sir? I just arranged for them to be purchased once they were captured!”

(Marty) “Oh, captured! That makes it better!”

(Ikeran) “I think it’s better than being used as toys and organ donors Sir!”

(Marty) “Well yeah, but like they had any choice in being captured! It’s not like giving them the offer!”

(Kevin) “Yes it’s better than being killed! But that would have been what, a hundred or so a day? You’ve made direct arrangements to pay people to kidnap more kids and to buy all they can catch! That’s not a rescue operation, or even purchasing kids who are already enslaved! Did you ever consider trying to do something about the syndicates rather than turning them into employees!?! And why did you assign six Neodog Thralls to a mass murderer of children? You know what kind of power that will give him!”

   Kevin had to pause there… He had to admit that buying slaves was actually pretty gray, since it did encourage the slavers – but dammit, it wasn’t like he was a big part of the market, and buying kids that had already been enslaved by the local system, and were usually legally up for sale on the market, was (somehow) a lot different from hiring people to snatch kids from worlds with no legal slavery! Setting up your own slave trade was a lot worse than just picking up some kids who would be slaves ANYWAY.

   Marty had been getting a better look at the entry on the “good doctor” while Kevin was on a tear – but the silence let him get a word in.

(Marty) “Wait a minute… What a bastard! He thinks he’s HELPING these kids? I’ll gut him myself!”

(Ikeran) “There would be others! I thought it would be best to try and get them to stop and sell kids to us rather than murdering them Sir!”

(Marty) “How about I gut you instead? My most experienced home colleague is pissed, my wife isn’t letting me see my kid, and I missed my chance to bed women today!”

(Ikeran) “If I was wrong, it is only right that I should be punished Sir!”

(Marty) “Yeah, I would do that… but you’re still a kid.”

(Ikeran) “I came of age almost three years ago Sir!”

(Marty slumped into a chair) “Well, we’re going to have to get those dogs back, or at least stop the flow of kids.”

(Kevin) “Hm. You don’t think much of the Neodogs do you?”

(Ikeran) “Rameraz acted very foolishly Sir! He risked the security of the entire operation for four children, when that would increase the risk to many thousands! In addition, after a known security breach, he hesitated to take the necessary actions to escape and that led to the capture of another five – although they were equally foolish to allow it!”

(Marty) “And you gave him to a murdering butcher.”

(Ikeran) “Yes Sir! Operatives and liaisons needed to be assigned to put an end to the organ transplant industry in the Linear Realms and they had already proved their incompetence elsewhere!”

(Marty) “What do you think he’s going to do with exotic animals from an advanced society?”

(Ikeran) “Probably use them to help cover his criminal organization and the capture and transport of children Sir! He probably won’t try to breed them though, since they can tell him how long they take to mature and twenty-odd years is almost certainly too long to be useful. He might fix them to prevent the distraction I suppose, but it’s not like they’ve proven effective anyway!”

(Marty) “Listen, kid, you haven’t seen as many bad sci-fi flicks as I have. Mad scientists don’t think about practical things. He’s going to breed them. That’s what they DO.”

(Ikeran) “Well, they’re only talking dogs without the Thrall-powers Sir!”

(Marty) “He’ll find SOME use for them. And guess who management will blame?”

(Kevin, considering Ikeran) “You act like Rameraz had a real choice about whether or not to try and rescue those four kids. He didn’t. Property-class Neodogs are COMPELLED to protect and obey humans. That’s one reason they’re property; it’s because it means that a human is always responsible for their care! They NEVER had a choice, which is why I’d feel guilty about mistreating them – unlike you. YOU had a choice and opted to serve in exchange for your powers!”

   Ikeran was looking a bit confused… He was from Baelaria – a far more ruthless world than Core – and the Neodogs were just DOGS. So they talked. Familiars talked, and that didn’t make them PEOPLE.

(Marty, to Kevin) “Are talking dogs so common there that he DOESN’T think they’re worth respecting?”

(Kevin) “What? You remember Baelaria. That Victorian steampunk place with the mages guild. Only normal dogs there.”

(Marty) “Ugh, my brain… What ARE we going to do?”

(Kevin) “Urgh… He’s 10% right. This does keep the organleggers from killing more kids – but it puts us so far in the wrong doing it that it’s hard to measure the distance to the surface!”

(Ikeran) “Then I should be severely punished Masters!”

   Marty STILL had trouble hurting kids – but he was inclined to have the kid explain himself to Gelman and let the good Lord sort it out. He could at least let Gelman know that he’d done this with neither Kevin nor Marty’s permission.

   Kevin could see his point – but that would put Gelman in the position of brutalizing a kid… That wasn’t fair either. Hmm… First up; a learning experience.

(Kevin) Ikeran.. You obviously don’t appreciate what the Neodogs have to deal with in the way of mental compulsions or how well they do despite those limitations. I’m changing your base species and damping your shapeshifting.

   Kevin pointed – and a crackling sphere of energy left behind one Neodog. He’d never paid much attention to dog breeds, so he left that up to Marty’s input – and Marty suggested the smallest practical (given the need to support the brain) hairless. It might be a bit petty, but he thought that Ikeran SHOULD look a little stupid.

(Kevin) Now, you’ll need a smartcollar, and appropriate shots and such – and a new assignment.

(Marty) “Here, have a chew toy. You jerk.”

   Ikeran judged it wiser not to say anything at the moment – and had a lot of new instincts to deal with – so he simply took the chew toy.

(Kevin) We’ll have to limit your responsibilities to where you can’t do any damage for awhile, but I’m sure there’s some job you’re up to out there. I’d put you on child-rescue in the Linear Realms, but I suspect that you wouldn’t actually be much use there. Anything else come to mind Marty?

(Marty) “Could have him do computer work. Neodogs do that. And it’s TEDIOUS.”

(Kevin) “True – but something where humans order him around a lot and he has to keep coming to the rescue would fit… How about to the staff who’re working the madness-meme treatment projects?

(Marty) “Great idea! He can learn some empathy!”

(Kevin) “Empathy… Ikeran? What did you think that this “Doctor Brenner” was likely to do to Rameraz?”

(Ikeran) “Er… He’d gotten the man into trouble, forced him to expend his resources, defied, and attacked him. Severely disciplined at the least. Probably fixed Sir!”

(Marty) “So you were more worried about the mad doctor than the dog? Whose side are you on?”

(Ikeran) “No sir! But I thought that the dog had severely fumbled an operation, and if he was punished for it, it would be no more than he deserved – and if it soothed the murderous doctor without him hurting any more children, that would be a bonus Sir!”

(Marty sighed) “Yeah, the kid’s right. But boy, that solution is troublesome!”

(Kevin) “I don’t really think Rameraz fumbled it… He didn’t really have a choice about the initial intervention and managed to pull it off. If he’d known how corrupt the local authorities were – which SHOULD have been a part of his briefing – he could have turned in some news films and such and made it impossible for Doctor Brenner to get off the hook so easily! It’s not like his Smartcollar didn’t have pictures, and we could have provided any amount of video from that with the processing capacity going to waste on Kadia! As for the murderous doctor… I don’t think it’s necessary to cool down an ice cube!”

(Marty) “Yeah, we can handle an intervention to save a bunch of Neodogs… You REALLY should have told us about this.”

(Ikeran) “You weren’t in touch Sir! You were in the Crusader Kingdoms!”

(Kevin) “For THIS you should have made an emergency call!”

(Marty – with heavy sarcasm) “Yeah, he could have done it, but Rameraz was a bad dog.”

(Kevin) “Damn… He’s made a bargain on our behalf, and left Rameraz and five other Neodogs in the lurch. At least the Doctor apparently doesn’t know about the immortality – and I’ll tell them not to let him know.”

(Marty) “What else are we going to do?”

(Kevin) “Well, first… Ikeran… I’ve heard what you thought you were sending Rameraz into, and you really ARE a bad dog and a failure now. When you get to medical, tell them to give you the same treatment you thought you were sending Rameraz into. Get over there now.”

(Kevin, to the computers) Remind me to see how he’s getting along in about twenty years. Damn it, it may not be one either of us would have made, but we have a contract! Any ideas here Marty?”

   Marty was a bit startled. He’d known that Kevin always kept his bargains and contracts – but it wasn’t like HE was exactly fond of breaking contracts either. He’d read up a bit on supernatural pacters and the fey, but it had been kind of hard to take it seriously… was Kevin really supernaturally bound by his oaths and promises? That HAD to be a pain in the ass!

   Kevin was busy placing some general orders; from now on, any deals of this – or even remotely similar – magnitude had to be approved by Marty or himself in advance!

(Marty) “Dammit, we can’t break it. How am I going to explain this to my people?”

(Kevin) “My parents are going to kill me!”

   Marty had to give him a look at that one. Was he really listening to himself? Even if he hadn’t been legally an adult, he wasn’t really within reach of his parents discipline any longer on any level beyond the social… Oh well. Arrested aging obviously had it’s downsides, and there was no arguing with what went through people’s heads under stress. Personally, he needed a drink.

   Fast-chugging a few quarts of high-proof helped for a few minutes – but he recovered too quickly for that to work for long. Fortunately, the system could provide it very quickly.

(Kevin) “Did I overdo it with Ikeran there?”

   Marty thought about that for a moment… Ikeran was going to spend quite some time as a dog, on the bottom of even the dog social ladder. On the other hand, he’d made a horrible mess – and all by not looking into doing his job properly. Too much blind belief and not enough understanding.

(Marty) “No, you didn’t.”

(Kevin) “I could put some regular thralls into Neodog form and try and trade them for Rameraz and the others. They knew they might be rented out to use as familiars and such when they signed up, so at least they had a choice about it… He’d still try to breed them for pups though, wouldn’t he? And the shapeshift is complete enough for that.”

(Marty) “Send the ones who can control their fertility. That should work.”

(Kevin) “Well, they can all do that. We can probably bribe the evil doctor into it with a few more Thralls; the Neodog maturation rate really is too slow for his kind of operation… That still leaves us responsible for mass kidnaping and enslavement-turned-indenture though!”

(Marty) “Yeah, and Gelman is not going to be amused by ‘he’s bound by his oaths.’ Dammit, I should have sided with him! If he hadn’t lost his department, he would have stayed back home!”

   Well, really, that probably wouldn’t have been the case; a man as smart as your typical sentient computer would have put two and two together eventually – but Marty was kind of depressed at the moment; things had never caught up with him all at once this way before!

(Kevin) “Blast it… Can’t do much about the payment scheme – that’s already agreed on – and it does save some kids lives, even if it means kidnaping a lot more. Not much alternative to shipping them to Kadia… Charging people purchased as slaves their purchase price is also standard procedure.”

(Marty) “So you’re saying we can’t do a damn thing, or close to it.”

(Kevin) “Well…. There’s dry up the sources – but that’s long range. There’s eliminate the syndicates. We could probably get enough information shortly to do that, but it would be being pretty treacherous… Wait… How much is the purchase price on them?”

(Marty) “Thinking of buying them up?”

(Kevin) “No, there was something in that contract… they were being paid for with supplies of smartfibers, either as smartclothes or collars…”

   Fortunately, Doctor Brenner had had a very exaggerated idea of the monetary value of smartclothes, hadn’t wanted to disrupt civilization too much, and hadn’t wanted to flood the market – and Ikeran hadn’t been wholly incompetent. The “good doctor” had agreed to provide three kids in exchange for each set of Smartclothes.

(Kevin) “Ha! It’s not ideal, but there is something we can do here!”

(Marty) “What?”

(Kevin) “Indenture them until they’ve paid for one-third of a suit of Smartclothes!”

(Marty) “How much is that?”

(Kevin) “About eight credits! The “welcome basket” credit for arriving in Kadia is ten!”

   Marty had to grin at that one. That was true… Core tended to give away Smartclothes. Ikeran had been ethically challenged, and blindly fanatic, but he hadn’t been stupid enough to miss an opening that broad.

(Marty) “Yeah, that should work.”

(Kevin) “Lets see… I’ll call it a 2 2/3’rd credit bonus for the first time someone listens to the recruiting spiel… We’ll still be responsible for kidnaping them, and for paying off the thugs who are doing it – but I think I can live with trading “a few kids get snatched and killed” for “twenty times as many kids get snatched and have to listen to a speech before going on vacation”!

(Marty) “I can hear it now, though: ‘Well, Tabard, you solved the problem . . . in the laziest way possible.’ But what the hell, it’s better than just keeping them enslaved.”

(Kevin) “I suppose it is unfair to indenture youngsters who were snatched by pirates and such – but somehow the second-hand snatch is a lot easier to live with than ‘we’re funding a mass kidnaping operation’. I ought to reduce their indentures a good deal too. It’s not really like ‘money’ means much when you have the resources of the Manifold available to pay with.”

(Marty) “Hey, watch it, pal! You say that where I’m from, and you’ll get pummeled!”

(Kevin) “Sorry… It’s just that… well… I built a universe! That’s a pretty big financial base!”

(Marty) “Heh. Maybe I should look into this ‘god’ business.”

(Kevin) “I really ought to find out more about how it works myself!”

   Kevin went off to make some arrangements – and Marty headed back to his penthouse, and another drink. He wasn’t so sure about these deals any longer… The wrath of his more moral and ethical colleague had made him a bit leery of them Of course, since Kevin couldn’t back out of the deal, and he was Kevin’s partner, he was stuck!

   About that time Gelman managed to get through on the network.

(Gelman). THERE YOU ARE! It took a little sweet-talking, but this system finally put me through to you! What are you and that satanic “Lord Sanwell” character up to! What have you done to FIX THIS MESS!”

   Marty explained to him, emphasizing that “Lord Sanwell” couldn’t break his contracts…

(Gelman) “Then he should be a lot more careful of what contracts he makes shouldn’t he!”

   The boy literally COULDN’T break his contracts? Could this really be Satan in person?

   Marty had to agree there.

(Marty) “Yeah, he should!”

   Gelman wasn’t exactly happy with the situation – but at least something was being done about the worst of the abuses. Besides… Perhaps there was hope for both Marty AND “Lord Sanwell”. They’d recognized when they’d gotten involved in a genuinely grotesque abuse, and had promptly done something about it. Not what he would have done – but it was better than he’d really expected.

   They evidently weren’t entirely lost to morality. That meant that there was something there to work with.

Latest Material Index

   It’s once again time to get the latest material index updated and to transfer the material from the old one to the main index tabs at the top of the page. If you want the very latest material, it may be necessary to either scroll down or consult the “Recent Posts” listing-widget on the lower right. The previous Latest Materials Index can be found HERE, and – for those who like to rummage at random – the full post-by-post index can be found occupying a great deal of space in the lower right column.

   Eclipse Classless d20 Character Construction Cribsheet / Sample Character List – Character Creation Primer – Compiled Martial Arts.

   Subindexes: RPG Design – Twilight Isles – BattletechChampionsd20Legend of the Five RingsShadowrunWhite WolfOther GamesBattling Business World

Cumulative General Index.

   d20 Material:

   Shadowrun Material:

  • New Technologies: Why you should always carefully examine new gadgets before turning them loose in your games.

   General RPG Material:

  • Uncontrolled Substances: Precious compounds and drugs for use in any world, M’ram (a stimulant), Denila (metabolic stabalizer).

Legend of the Five Rings – The Timeless Wanderer Bushi School

   Next up we have a player-submitted school for Legend of the Five Rings – albeit with the usual selection of mechanical tweaks and a bit more description.

   The Path of the Timeless Wanderer is long – and perhaps truly without end. Once one has set forth upon the way, only in death will a single location truly claim the bones of the wayfarer again, and his or her spirit shall not be bound to them.

   The Timeless Wanderer school is a school for a wandering warrior-sage – focusing primarily on the “sage” part, secondarily on the “wandering”, and only in passing on the “warrior” part. While the school does include one or two offensive, and several defensive, talents, it primarily focuses on universal expertise. A Timeless Wanderer may – quite truthfully – claim on a moments notice to be an expert on “Lore/fourth century unicorn clan cake recipes”, or on any other specific lore skill that he or she cares to name.

   And any player character who takes this school will usually name a lot of them.

   The Timeless Wanderer (Bushi) School:

  • Basic Modifiers: Agility + 1, Glory 1, Status 1, Wealth 3, Honor 1.
  • School Skills: Athletics, Bow, Defense, Engineering, Etiquette, Hunting; Lore/Other Worlds, Meditation, Stealth, and any one weapon skill.

   School Techniques:

   First Technique/At the Threshold of Reality:

   One cannot travel the way of the Timeless Wanderer without becoming more aware. As the practitioner learns to sense the flow of the cosmos and the interconnections of all things, he or she begins to know without knowing. As might be expected, personal dangers along the user’s way are the easiest to learn to sense, but such things are merely a subset of the infinite knowledge of the multiverse and of the paths between worlds. The practitioner gains the ability to sense whether a path is dangerous and how dangerous it is (Sense Dangerous Paths, a second-level inherent, self-powered mystic sense, 6), +1KO on all Lore skills which counts as being skilled (8), the ability to step partially out of reality, adding the results of the user’s stealth checks to the TN of attempts to detect him or her via magic (the Undetection reflexive spell, level one, self-powered, inherent, 3), a pool of (Rank) free raises daily, usable with any one school skill (chosen when this technique is acquired), and the ability to fire missiles through the spaces between worlds – given a few moments to prepare (Innate L1 Darts of Unmaking spell, usable Void times per day; the user’s next three ranged attacks will ignore carapace, invulnerability, and abilities or techniques which would ignore or reduce damage, 3). Sadly, the nascent Timeless Wanderer will also begin experiencing the curse of this school as he or she learns the first technique; he or she will begin having difficulty finding familiar locations – such as his or her place of work and favorite teahouse as his or her studies progress (-5).

   Second Technique/The Opening of the Gate:

   The budding Timeless Wanderer increases his or her awareness of, and connections to, unfamiliar regions. He or she gains the Perception psychic power (an inherent, self-powered, second-level effect, 6), a further +2KO to all Lore skills (total +3K0, considered skilled, +8), the ability to use his or her free raise pool with all of his or her school skills, rather than only one of them (+5), and a translation psychic power that enables him or her to speak and read any language, although this takes an hour of trying to kick in (6 -5 for restriction = 1). Furthermore, being toughened by travel, the Timeless Wanderer may now add +2 wounds to each of his or her wound levels (5). Of course, at this point, the Curse of the Timeless Wanderer now extends to his or her very home (-5).

    Third Technique/Outside the Walls of Reality:

   The Timeless Wanderer is starting to come into his or her own, and will find that his or her body has begun to shed it’s mortal limitations. Continued travel continues to fortify the body; the Timeless Wanderer replaces the +2 bonus to each wound level with doubling the base wounds in each of his or her wound ranks (+10). More obviously, he or she will find that shifting between realms rejuvenates his or her body and equipment, making the Timeless Wanderer Immune to aging (5). He or she becomes Immune to the restrictions of terrain, able to run up walls, across water, and even onto clouds (5). By expending a Void point, he or she can even step briefly outside of time, gaining an extra action, completing some simple task (such as writing a long report), or avoiding the effects of a change in the past, in a mere instant (Immunity/Time, 10 – 5 = 5). Unfortunately, his or her curse also strengthens, making it impossible for him to find his home region (-5).

   Fourth Technique/Exploring the Realms Beyond:

   Having left ordinary life a long time ago, the Timeless Wanderer begins attuning himself or herself to other realities. He or she becomes immune to the ill-effects and control of malign extradimensional energies (including the ill effects of Taint, 10), and to the general hazards of realms hostile to human life (Immunity/Environmental Effects, 10, -5 for applying only to large-scale effects; the user may be protected from a forest fire or storm, but a small fire will still burn his or her hand and a lightning spell will still harm him or her – provided that he or she isn’t currently on a plane of storms). He or she also gains a final + 2KO to Lore skills, for a total of +5KO (8). Finally, as a figure rapidly becoming lost to his or her home dimension, the Timeless Wanderer adopts a certain slipperiness of identity; those trying to remember him or her suffer from a +5 TN modifier. Sadly, his or her curse will now prevent the Wanderer from returning to his or her native nation (-5).

   Fifth Technique/The Open and Barred Gate Koan:

   Dimensional boundaries, social and otherwise, are nearly negligible to the master of the Timeless Wanderer school. He or she is immune to physical dimensional boundaries, always being able to seek out a path that will allow him or her to travel between the worlds given time (10-point Immunity, -5 for time requirement = 5). By opening small gates, the Timeless Wanderer may call forth blasts of elemental material up to (school rank) times per day, using the relevant elemental ring to hit and rolling (Ring)K(Ring) damage (10). Finally, he or she has become supremely adaptable to the multiverse, doubling his or her pool of free raises on school skills (10). Ironically, however, his or her home dimension is forever closed to the Timeless Wanderer – hence the technique name (-5).

   OK, the Timeless Warrior is a superficially weak school; it’s got a few handy tricks and makes it easy to travel, but it’s biggest overt abilities are knowing a lot of obscure facts and being able to run around on blatantly insufficient surfaces. It does, however, pull at least one fast one there; it allows the user to take advantage of whatever benefits a realm may offer – say the combat boosts bestowed by the Realm of Slaughter – while remaining unaffected by it’s deleterious effects. That’s not bad, although the effective forced retirement at rank five definitely puts a damper on things. Still, if you don’t quite finish the fifth technique, the curse need never entirely take effect.

Legend of the Five Rings – The Thunderbolt Blade Bushi School

   Today it’s the Thunderbolt Blade Bushi School (sometimes known as the “Hand of Bayushi” School) for Legend of the Five Rings.

   Darkness is everywhere. Beneath the ground, beyond the stars, hidden within the light, and lurking in the hearts of men. None can escape it.

   The blade pierces darkness. One with it, yet shining like a thunderbolt. It comes from darkness, it strikes darkness, and it passes into darkness, yet is not one with it.

   Such is the Tao of the Thunderbolt Blade.

   This particular school focuses on movement and on striking at exactly the right moment, when the forces of the universe are aligned with your effort, for optimum effect. It’s best in individual heroic combat, rather than on the battlefield, although it also puts some of it’s teachings to use in less physical combat.

   Students of the Thunderbolt Blade tend to be more than a bit brash at first; they are aware that their school’s strength lies in speed and mobility, not in patient manipulation or analysis of an opponents techniques. They know that a single strike at the right moment is worth a hundred that come too late to make a difference.

   School Bonuses:

  • Basic Modifiers: Agility +1, Glory 1, Status 1, Wealth 2, and Honor 2
  • School Skills: Athletics, Bow, Chain Weapons, Courtier, Defense, Etiquette, Fast Draw, Hunting, Sword, and any one high or low skill.

   School Techniques:

   First Technique: The Strike of Lightning

  • The first technique of the Thunderbolt Blade focuses on timely action; neither strength, nor speed, nor even righteousness is as important as being at the right place at the right time. When the moment is at hand, it must be seized. When it is not, the enemy should not be engaged unless no other course is open to you.
  • The Student of the Thunderbolt Blase may add twice his or her Air Ring to Initiative rolls (5), gains +10 Defense against slower opponents (5), gains a daily pool of (Rank) free raises which may be used on any roll made in the direct pursuit of his or her duty (10), adds +2 to his or her water ring for movement purposes (Enhancement, 1), and inflicts +1K0 damage with all weapons (4). Sadly, this technique cannot be used while wearing anything heavier than scout armor and it’s intense focus on acting in the instant that an opportunity arises places the Student at a slight disadvantage in social situations, where he or she will suffer a -1K0 penalty (net -5).

   Second Technique: The Lashing of the Storm

  • The second technique of the Thunderbolt Blade focuses on constant motion, leaving opponents off balance and out of position.
  • The Journeyman of the Thunderbolt Blade may add twice his or her Fire Ring to Initiative rolls (5), gains another +10 Defense against slower opponents (5), gains (Air Ring) free raises against enemies who attacked him or her and missed in the last round (10), and requires one less raise than usual to increase the damage he or she inflicts (5). Unfortunately, this technique cannot be used while wearing anything heavier than scout armor or if there is no room to maneuver freely (–5).

   Third Technique: The Penetrating Rain

  • The third technique of the Thunderbolt Blade focuses on a multitude of approaches, combining constant motion with attacks from every angle. No matter how small the chink in an opponents defense, it is always a point of entry.
  • The Adept of the Thunderbolt Blade requires one less raise than usual to perform the Acrobatics and Disarm Maneuvers as well (+5), gains one free raise on each attack towards the Acrobatics, Disarm, and Extra Damage maneuvers with each attack (10; in combination with the last technique this amounts to an automatic +1K1 damage, a basic disarm attempt, and some minor bit of acrobatics with each attack), and now gains (2x Rank) free raises which may be used on any roll made in the direct pursuit of his or her duty per day, replacing the bonus from the first technique (+10). Unfortunately, as usual, this technique cannot be used while wearing anything heavier than scout armor or if there is no room to maneuver freely (–5).

   Fourth Technique: The Purity of Thunder

  • The fourth technique of the Thunderbolt Blade focuses on purity of purpose. The storm must be harnessed, directed, and focused upon a task. Otherwise it’s fury is wasted – yet the storm cannot direct itself and remain pure. Such is the paradox of the Thunderbolt Blade.
  • The Master of the Thunderbolt Blade gains +1 attack with bladed melee weapons (5), may add twice his or her Void Ring to Initiative rolls (5), and gains a secondary Void pool equal to his or her Rank, which is regained monthly (10). The points from this pool may only be spent on rolls made in pursuit of missions assigned by the user’s superiors (-5), but up to half of them may be spent on a given roll (+5) and their effect is doubled (+5).
  • While the fourth technique transcends the limitations of armor which restrict the three previous techniques, it requires that the user be in active service to a greater lord. Without the instructions of a lord to provide direction, the mind of the user is necessarily divided, and his or her purpose is not pure (-5).

   Fifth Technique: The Lightning-Cast Shadow

  • With purity of purpose comes it’s shadow. With this technique the user’s shadow takes on a life of it’s own, embodying ruthless purpose without compunction or honor. While the Shadow may be unleashed into the world for a time, it is always a risk. Indeed, if the Shadow is unleashed, and sees it’s “Master” – or his friends, family, or companions – as an impediment to the mission, it will not hesitate to dispose of them in passing.
  • The fulfilled Seeker of the Thunderbolt Blade gains a shadow-companion, with XP equal to his or her own (within whatever limits the game master sets) – but it is ruthless and without honor, loyal only to assigned missions and of an independent mind (5). The creature has Shadow instead of Void, and also has a secondary Shadow Pool, equivalent to the user’s secondary Void Pool, which the Thunderbolt Blade Master may freely draw upon while his “companion” remains a simple Shadow; it is not available while the shadow is unleashed (+10). Finally, the Seeker may draw upon the light and darkness within himself or herself to temporarily awaken the spirits of bladed weapons in the vicinity, requesting their assistance (Rank+2 Favors per session, with favors based on the Seeker’s [Sword Skill/2], 5).

   The Thunderbolt Blade school is loosely based on a school proposed by one of the players: he felt that the original Bayushi Busi school wasn’t quite up to snuff at very high experience point totals, and certainly wasn’t up to schools like the Hida Bushi School and the Tsuruchi Archer School. Whatever the merits of the case there, it’s certainly true that it’s fifth technique was dull, risked nothing, and made combat rather uninteresting; you just rolled than counted up your spare raises and picked some effects. Ergo, he wanted to drop the fifth technique and make the school a bit more powerful – and noted that “the Scorpion are exactly the knd of Clan to keep their actual school technique secret while pretending to have a less effective one”.

   His initial mechanical proposal sat in the files for quite some time, until I eventually thought of some interesting flavor to give it. As usual, of course, once it got some flavor text the mechanics mutated to fit the flavor text until it no longer bore much resemblance to the original idea at higher levels – but that is how school design tends to go.

   The school itself is quite powerful, albeit mostly because of those secondary Void and Shadow pools. If the user saves those pools and throws them behind one or two rolls, they’ll get some pretty horrific bonuses. At – let us say – Rank 6, the user would have reserves of 6 Void and 6 Shadow, could spend 3 Void and 3 Shadow on any one roll, and would get a total bonus of +12K12. That translates into quite a lot of free raises. It’s a very good trick, but you can only pull that stunt twice a month. You’d best save it for when you really need it.

Legend of the Five Rings – Reflexive Spells

   Reflexive Spells can be used without taking an action – or even during someone else’s action. It’s a part of their design. Sadly, this means that they’re invariably pretty weak. They must be taken as innate powers with no casting roll required, and so only free raises may be used with them. They’re most commonly encountered built into special techniques. Some of the more common reflexive spells are listed below, but there are others – and some higher level possibilities.

   Level One:

  • Self-Hypnosis: the user may instantly convince him or herself that something is the truth, however silly it may be – foiling powers and abilities that detect lies or are triggered by them.
  • Tongue’s Lure: the user may make a contested willpower check to get someone to reveal more then they meant to in a conversation.
  • Ch’i Battle; the user may make a contested void check to make an opponent who just attacked them to lose his or her next attack.
  • Strength of Steel: doubles the user’s armor bonuses for three combat rounds.
  • Undetection; adds the user’s stealth check result to the target number of any attempts at detecting the user by magic for the next hour.
  • Psychic Weapon I: creates an arrow, knife, or similar small, light, weapon. It will last for up to ten minutes, although it will immediately vanish if someone attempts to use it against it’s creator.

   Level Two:

  • Warcry: causes fear for two rounds in those nearby, with a TN of (User’s rank + 1)x5 to resist.
  • Redirect; the user may make an opposed check against an attacker to redirect an attack to another target within five feet.
  • Fortune’s Aid; allows the user to keep all the dice he or she rolls on a particular skill check or effectively doubles his or her skill rank for a single roll.
  • Crippling Blow; allows an attack to cause a special effect, such as blindness, reduced movement, or some similar severe penalty, for the next hour. The victim, however, may resist normally and the attack must connect for the spell to take effect.
  • Touch of Arcana: allows the user’s flesh, or a specific weapon he or she touches, to take on the properties of a particular magical material for the next five rounds.
  • Serene Aura: keeps a chosen target from instigating any hostile action or contested roll against you for up to an hour – as long as you also refrain from doing so against them. This doesn’t work on animals, demons, or those lost to considerations of honor.
  • Magic Disruption: allows the user to strike a magic-wielder and make a contested void check against them. If the user wins, his victim will be unable to use any form of magical powers through the end of the next round. This will not, however, work again before the end of the next round; there won’t be anything to disrupt.
  • Psychic Weapon II: creates a one-handed weapon, bow, or similar weapon. It will last for up to ten minutes, although it will immediately vanish if someone attempts to use it against it’s creator.
  • Mastery: allows the user to automatically succeed on a check, but only with a minimal success.

   Level Three:

  • Blades of Truth: negates all of a target’s special damage-reducing powers save for spending void points for (Honor) rounds.
  • Blade Arcane: causes whatever weapon the user indicates to be treated as an arcane material of his or her choice for the next five rounds in addition to whatever other properties it may have.
  • Ultimate Evasion: the user evades any one single-target attack.
  • Psychic Weapon III: creates a two-handed weapons of choice. It will last for up to ten minutes, although it will immediately vanish if someone attempts to use it against it’s creator.
  • Ranged Strike: allows the user to make a single melee attack using archery range modifiers.
  • Otherworldly Essence; the user may add his or her level in a chosen dimensional energy to every die used for an attack roll, damage roll, defense roll, or skill roll this round.

Legend of the Five Rings – Mudra

   Mudra are mystical gestures and postures which focus and channel the trickle of chi that anyone can tap via meditation. They require a meditation skill level of at least three times the level of the effect being used – and most require both hands, sitting still, and several minutes of meditation to activate, although the effects last for about one minute after the user stops. Anyone who meditates can learn Mudra as per acquiring any other spell formula as an innate ability.

   Level One:

  • Tranquility; banishes fear and stress, allowing the user to get along on only half the usual amount of sleep and to resist fear effects.
  • Purity; allows the user to try and cast out personal impurities – including poisons and spirits – through meditation. The target number for any such attempt is set by the game master.
  • Lesser Sealing; keeps the user’s energies from interacting with those of an item or spell, allowing safe handling of dangerous things. Unlike many other Mudra, this one allows slow movement and only occupies one hand.
  • Aura; allows the user to walk around – albeit slowly – while radiating an impression, such as “I am a worthy recipient of alms” or “I am too angry to mess with”. Animals are strongly influenced, humans always “get the message”, but can resist it with an opposed willpower check.
  • Hibernation; greatly slows the user’s metabolism, and allows him or her to tolerate a drastically lowered body temperature.
  • Void Flare; this mudra simply burns off the trickle of energy supplied by meditation in as occultly-spectacular a manner as possible – making the user easily detectable by anyone else who uses occult powers in the vicinity.
  • One with the Tao; allows the user to attune himself or herself to his or her surroundings. The user cannot be surprised and gains a +10 bonus to initiative.

   Level Two:

  • Stasis; the user need not eat, breathe, age, or make rolls against progressive conditions, such as diseases or poisons, while maintaining this Mudra.
  • Magic Resistance; the user gains an effective magic resistance equal to the results of his or her meditation check.
  • Illusion Penetration; the user will become aware of any illusions in the immediate vicinity.
  • Hand of (Material); the user’s unarmed blows are treated as if his or her hands were made of a particular mystical material.
  • Deflection; this mudra allows the user to calmly deflect blows, gaining a +10 bonus to his or her AC while he or she remains on the defensive and is either sitting or standing.
  • Radiance; allows the user to generate an eerie glow, roughly equal to torchlight, either from his or her entire body or from a selected portion of it. Unlike most Mudra, this one can be used while walking around slowly.
  • Immovability; grants the user enormous mass (many tons) and great durability – equal to being made of the hardest metal – but also prevents him or her from moving more than an inch or so an hour, although this does not disrupt the mudra. Given time, however, the user can easily push through an iron wall.

   Level Three:

  • Spirit Walking; allows the user to engage in a limited form of astral projection. He or she must remain passively focused on meditation, but can send their spirit to various locations while doing so. Alternatively, this mudra can be used to simply release the user’s spirit, resulting in a peaceful death.
  • Invisibility; allows the user to meld into the background, both physically and magically. While this mudra is active, the user may add his or her meditation skill to his or her stealth-related skills and allowing the user to employ his or her meditation skill as a magical stealth skill against various forms of detection magic.
  • Energy Resistance; allows the user to subtract the results of his or her mediation skill check (to a minimum of zero) from any energy damage inflicted on him or her while the mudra is active. Unlike most other mudra, this one can be maintained with one hand while moving around slowly – allowing the user, for example, to walk through a fire while remaining unaffected.
  • Self Healing; the user accomplishes one full days worth of healing per hour that this mudra is maintained.
  • Awakening; infuses a target item or creature with a bit of the energy the user is tapping into. An item can be briefly “awakened” as a magical item (the exact properties are up to the game master, but they are always simply bonuses), an unconscious target will be awakened, and any living creature can be healed of one point of damage. Unfortunately, actually selecting a target and infusing it ends the mudra – and an “awakened” item will return to sleep in a few minutes at most.
  • Deep Trance; your meditations achieves results in one-third of the usual time – at which point this mudra can simple be abandoned in favor of another.
  • Sacred Barrier; allows the user to generate a ward as long as he or she continues to meditate, forcing creatures who attempt to enter to make an opposed meditation check against the user to do so. Even if they succeed, the user may inflict half the value of his or her meditation check as damage upon them.

Legend of the Five Rings – Sagmahi Kashti Madrase (Old Yodatai Divine Bushi School)

   With all the wild powers of the seas and salt waters arrayed against them, the Yodatai Empire is limited to those places to which it’s legions can march. A tidal estuary, a narrow strait, an island a mile or so offshore – or an are of shoreline within reach of a storm waves and tidal surges – are all almost as out of reach of the Yodatai as another world.

   Around the ocean borders of the empire, a hundred small towns and cities maintain a limited independence from the Yodatai. They can’t afford to antagonize the empire – the legions themselves may not be able to reach them, but there are always mercenaries, both magical and mundane – hence they exist either as tiny fugitive groups of disorganized scavengers or as client-states of the Yodatai.

   Within the bounds of the Yodatai realms, and for a short distance beyond them, the ancient gods of the Yodatai may walk freely, the current estrangement between the Yodatai and their gods not withstanding.

   Even the Stormlord, Master of Tides and Currents, the Dance and Spirit of the Raging Sea, sometimes borrows a body from amongst the creatures of the sea, transforms it, and walks among men – if not among the Yodatai who labor under his curse.

   Sadly even among the client-states, the Iilgyr – the demigodling-offspring of Yodatai gods and mortal heroes and lovers – are not welcome, and remain all-too-easily recognized. The Stormlord, obsessed with his vendetta against the Yodatai, took his infant son to Mons Midil and left him in the care of the lesser spirits who served the gods – distant both from purpose and from the sea.

   Sagmahi is now about four and a half centuries old – the mortal equivalent of fifteen or sixteen. He has spent his life gazing out across the distant reaches of the world and it’s broad seas – and being stuck on a boring mountain peak. The falling-out between the Yodatai and their gods is a mere an annoyance to the major gods, who can easily bridge the gap between the worlds under their own power and possess local bodies as they please, but the Iilgyr are not so talented – and their peculiar physical traits make them easily recognizable should they attempt to sneak down into the mortal world.

   Sagmahi’s personal school, as amplified by his own blessing, is a school for wanderers, traders, and explorers. This makes it doubly frustrating for him to be struck on Mons Midal; he can’t even use half the abilities of his school for anything.

   Sagmahi Kashti Madrase (Old Yodatai Divine Bushi School):

  • Benefits: +1 Intelligence, Glory 2, Status 1, Wealth 3, Honor 2.0.
  • School Skills: Athletics, Battle, Commerce (note that this does not cause honor problems for non-samurai; that’s a local prejudice), Courtier, Hunting, Investigation, Land Vehicles, Lore/Travel (covers geography, trade, trade, seas and sailing, and general information about the creatures and cultures of other lands – albeit rarely in much detail unless very difficult rolls are made), Water Vehicles, and any three skills of choice provided that they include at least one weapon skill.

   School Techniques:

   First Technique/Rah Durdast Sier, the Path of the Distant Wanderer:

   With the endurance gained from hard roads and the blessing of the far-traveler, the Sagmahi Adept:

  • Gains (School Rank) Free Raises whenever repairing, operating, or navigating a vehicle (5).
  • May add his or her Intelligence to all school skill rolls (5).
  • May double the effect of each void point spent on buying off damage (a common feature of the Iilgyri schools, since their patrons are somewhat protective of their acolytes, 5 points).
  • Like all the Iilgyr schools, the Blessing of Sagmahi himself is a major element. This means that this school only functions to full effect while Sagmahi approves of the user and will never be a large one; like all the Iilgyr, Sagmahi simply doesn’t have the power to support all that many devotees. Ally with Major Influence (can provide +20 points worth of abilities, 4), Minor Devotion (0), Major Eccentricity (2), and Minor Inconvenience (Sagmahi wants regular weekly prayers and small offerings, -1) (Net cost 5).

   As a patron spirit, Sagmahi provides:

  • Mastery of Stowing: Any items packed away by a user of this technique, or under his or her supervision, take up only 10% as much space, and weigh only one-tenth as much, as they normally would (the Reduce to Talisman spell with an indefinite duration, lesser effect, and larger volume affected, making it level two, taken as a Gift, allowing an immediate TN 15 meditation check to regain the point of Void spent powering it) (8). To make most efficient use of this gift, pack larger items first.
  • Improvised Repair: The user may take any item from “Broken” or “Poor” quality to “Average” with a TN 15 skill check within 1-2 rounds. The TN is reduced to 10 if he or she can spend a few minutes at the job (level two self-powered Psychic “Repairman” Power) (6).
  • Terrain Sense: The user is always through “familiar” with the terrain, obstacles and barriers, and the layout of any structures within a radius of (Awareness x 150) feet (A level two self-powered Psychic Sense) (6).

   Yes, Sagmahi does aid himself in the use of his school. Godlings can do that.

   Second Technique/Rah Kashti Farman, the Path of the Commander:

   The Wanderer is now adept at leading men, adapting to new situations, and improvising to meet new challenges. He or she now gains:

  • +1 Attack with Pistols, Bows, or CAh,rossbows (5)
  • The ability to keep a vehicle functioning under the worst of conditions. Any vehicle which the user is currently commanding will have it’s effective level of quality upgraded by one step – including from “broken” or “destroyed” to “poor” (5 – 5 for the command requirement = 0)
  • The ability to add twice his or her intelligence to all school skill rolls, replacing the benefit from the level one technique (+5).
  • The knack of Universal Excellence. The Sagmahi Adept may add his or her Void (which must be at least three) to a skill for ten minutes. This may be done without cost up to (Void) times daily, but costs a Void Point each additional time this ability is used after that (innate self-powered level three spell) (9).
  • A +2 bonus on his or her effective Water ring when calculating his or her movement rate (1).

   Third Technique/Avaz Barq, the Voice of Thunder.

   The Sagmahi Adept is now so attuned to the wide world, it’s currents, and it’s storms, that its power flows through him or her, and into his or her actions, weapons, and commands. The Sagmahi Adepts powers now include:

  • If his or her Void is at least four, his or her skill enhancements from Universal Excellence will now last for a full hour (+3).
  • Immunity/the Sagmahi Adept does not need to actually be using a Cannon or Siege Weapon to use their attack statistics, provided that he or she is using a pistol, bow, or crossbow instead (10 – 5 = 5).
  • The Adept is now immune to lesser communications difficulties: his or her words can be clearly heard over the din of battle or the raging of a storm, he or she can clearly understand others under similar conditions, and languages – whether spoken or written – are no barrier to communication (5).
  • The Adept may call upon up to (Rank + 2) supernatural favors per day, each rated at a rank of up to (Level of the skill used/2). He or she may use Lore/Travel to reduce travel time for himself and those he or she leads, find routes, evade transient obstacles such as storms, fires, and stampedes, and obtain general information about areas. Battle may be used to obtain temporary Spirit Allies (usually Iilgyr or the greater Yodatai gods) for themselves and at least some of those under their command. Commerce may be used to obtain supplies and basic services, such as repairs and medical aid. Sadly, each such favor invoked costs a void point) (10 – 5 for cost = 5).

   Fourth Technique/Zere Shamshir, the Armor of the Blade:

   The Sagmahi Adept has become hardened to trials of the world, and secure in his or her ability to meet those trials successfully. He or she now gains:

  • +1 Attack with Pistols, Bows, or Crossbows (5)
  • +3 on his or her Movement Multiplier (7).
  • Expert defense: he or she may subtract his or her Intelligence from the wounds inflicted by any attack which affects them, reducing the damage to a minimum of 0 (5).
  • If the user’s Void is at least five, his or her skill enhancements from Universal Excellence will now last for a full day (+3).

   Fifth Technique/Paki Vashi, the Purity of the Wilderness:

   The Sagmahi Adept is now at one with the forces of the world, and flows with them, home everywhere and nowhere. His or her words may span the world, and he or she is now:

  • Immune to Major Communications Difficulties – such as distance and encryption. Perhaps sadly, this extends only to communications addressed to them or to people in general; it is not a method of eavesdropping on anyone anywhere (+5).
  • Able to trade two rolled dice for kept dice on any roll save for attacks and damage (5).
  • Travel Hardened. The Adept may subtract (Willpower) from the wounds inflicted by any attack, reducing them to a a minimum of zero (5).
  • Able, up to once per week, to spend a point of void and make a TN 20 Meditation check to expel 1K1 points of any malign dimensional energy, such as taint (5).

   Sagmahi Kashti Madrase is primarily a school for ship-captains, wanderers, and travelers. It’s not particularly useful to a courtier, and is of relatively little use in melee combat – although, at higher levels, it does make the user tough enough to stand up to quite a lot of minor opponents. It’s not bad at range, if only because firing off attacks that strike like siege weapons can be quite useful (and can take out a lot of minor opponents) – but it’s still no match for a dedicated archery school. It comes into it’s own when trying to keep a ship afloat, when delivering a message across the world, or when attempting to deliver a desperately-needed load of supplies.

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.

Legend of the Five Rings – The Merenae Morgantha “Courtier” (“Ninja”) School

   The origins of the Morgantha school are long lost: in accordance with the requirements of it’s first technique, it has been passed on to forsaken or adventurous youngsters, to wanderers, and to rogues, without any serious restriction – to the extent that it is one of the few Merenae schools to have a “standard” fifth technique and to have developed a standard set of benefits.

   In the Emerald Empire, it is – at least technically – a “Ninja” school, since it both teaches combat techniques (if not many) and accepts non-samurai students. The fact that it’s a school for rogues, tricksters, and thieves also tends to let out most samurai…

   The Morgantha school is essentially a school for venturesome rogues – the people who are good at disarming traps, concealing their doings from magistrates and bothersome guards alike, who can pick a pocket, plant something on someone, or tracelessly open a lock with equal ease. Those aren’t jobs for typical Samurai – but sometimes, even in the Emerald Empire (if not so commonly as in Merenae), you really need someone to do them. A Morgantha adept makes an excellent companion for a magistrate, diplomat, or spymaster, and can be quite effective on their own – at least as long as a job doesn’t come down to heavy-duty unsupported combat.

  • Benefits: +1 Reflexes, Glory 0, Status 0, Wealth 2, Honor 2.0.
  • School Skills: Deceit, Defense, Forgery, Investigation, Knives, Locksmith, Lore/Underworld, Poison, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Traps, and any one skill of choice.

   Morgantha Techniques:

  • First Technique/The Brotherhood of the Forsaken:
    • The first thing that happens in the career of every Morgantha adept is being taken under the wing of a Mentor – and accepting the obligation of acting as a mentor later on themselves. (Ally. Influence 2 (can teach this school), Devotion 0 (teaches and provides minor aid, but does not generally risk his or her life for a student who isn’t part of their primary gang, 0), Eccentricity 0 (the mentor is normally another human, although an ancestor spirit is possible, 0), Inconvenience -2 (you are required to teach if some youngster with few other prospects wants to learn this school and/or join your gang), net cost 0. Ergo, this school is generally easy to acquire – but only for those without a clan (5 for being freely available like the Ronin schools, – 5 for the restriction to clanless characters, = 0).
    • The primary technique itself provides (School Rank) Free Raises with the Stealth, Sleight of Hand, and Deceit skills (10), allows the user to add his or her Fire Ring to all school skill rolls (5), and allows the user to keep a Kata active at all times. He or she may even spend a void point to switch which kata is active up to once per hour, however only use those katas specific to this school may be used in conjunction with this ability (10 -5 for the restriction = 5)
  • Second Technique/The Wisdom of the Streets:
    • As the Morgantha Adept continues his or her development – and learns the ways of the streets, alleys, and hidden places – he or she will quickly develop the arts of deceiving others, avoiding their notice, and finding excuses that they will find acceptable. He or she gains (Deceit Skill Rank) free raises whenever trying to deceive or mislead people or to justify his or her presence and activities, although this only works out of combat, not in conjunction with feints and similar maneuvers (10 – 5 = 5), a +10 to the targer number for anyone else to notice or remember them, albeit only while unarmored and plainly dressed (a Gift, 6 – 5 = 1), expands his or her special knacks (+school rank free raises) to cover the Investigation, Locksmith, and Traps Skills (+5), may now add twice his or her fire ring to all rolls using his or her school skills, replacing the level one benefit (+5), can evaluate the value of various items at a glance (Innate, self-powered, psychic sense, “Sense Value”, 3), and learns Thiefsign – a very limited “language” of sketchy gestures and scratched glyphs which can be used to pass on simple messages, such as “dogs here” or “reliable fence” (1).
  • Third Technique/Honor Among Thieves:
    • The Morgantha Adept has now become an accepted and experienced part of the underworld, and has learned it’s precepts. He or she gains Immunity to Honor losses for actions undertaken for the benefit of friends or allies (10), the ability to exploit the power of wealth to obtain various Favors (up to Rank +2 favors per session, rated at up to a rank of the [rank of the skill used/2], using Investigation to obtain information, Lore/Underworld to obtain criminal gear and services, and Deceit to quash investigations and get people acquitted in court. Unfortunately, each such favor will cost 5-10 Koku to arrange, 10 -5 = 5), and may trade up to two rolled dice for kept dice on school skill checks (5, -5 for limited group), Finally, his or her growing experience provides (Honor Rank) extra Void Points, however, these points can only be used to buy off damage or in conjunction with the School’s Kata (10-5 = 5)
  • Fourth Technique/The Lieutenant of the Underworld:
    • With increasing prominence, and greater skills, the Morgantha Adept will be able to effectively exploit his or her position in the Underworld. Unfortunately, with increasing wealth and influence comes increasing responsibilities and the necessity of dealing with occasional challenges. The fourth technique grants it’s user an Income of (Rank x 10 Koku/Month) – however, this must be shared with other students and unfortunates (10 -5 = 5), an extra Attack – if only while unarmored (10 -5 = 5), the ability to apply all their overheard tidbits of information to their already-extensive knacks (now also gains SR free raises with all Lore Skills, +5), and the ability to match an allies Initiative once per combat per rank (5).
      • Since this can obviously be used off-initiative, it could – in theory – be used to match the initiative of someone with a lower initiative than yours, and go again. This is obviously abusive. Nevertheless, I recommend allowing this once per round – but ONLY when the user is protecting other, less skilled, members of his or her gang.
  • Fifth Technique/Leader of the Pack:
    • A full Morgantha Adept will, almost inevitably, gather younger students around him or her, ready to be instructed. As a minor side effect, the Adept is now invariably on guard, even when the situation seems safe. The fifth technique of the school provides Gang Leadership – the user may recruit up to a dozen otherwise unremarkable youths, teach them this school, and run them as secondary characters. New recruits get the first level of this school and are built on 30 XP. Seasoned recruits get the second level of this school and are built on a total of 60 XP. Veterans get the third level of this school and are built with another +40 XP, for a total of 100. A single veteran can advance to “Lieutenant”, gaining another +60 XP and the fourth level of this school – but Veterans, and the occasional Lieutenant, will tend to depart occasionally and be replaced by new recruits even if no casualties occur (10). In addition, the user may spend ten minutes giving advice related to Lore/Underworld – granting his or her listeners pools of (Rank) free raises and +2 void points (which are not subject to the usual spending or pool limits) to use on rolls related to brawling or illegal activities within the next twenty-four hours (5). Secondarily, the user is always considered to be in Full Defense unless his or her posture is otherwise specified – however this only applies while he or she is not wearing armor, which makes it difficult to more freely (10 -5 = 5).

   Morgantha School Katas:

  • Rank One, 2 XP – The Opportunistic Strike: Focusing on searching for weak points and striking against them suddenly, this kata grants +2K0 to Hit and Damage when striking from behind or with surprise and allows the user to cause +0K1 damage with any item that comes to hand, using them as improvised knives. Sadly, this focus on searching for physical weak points leaves the user with a -5 penalty to his or her Initiative and to all Social Skill Rolls.
  • Rank Two, 3 XP. The Wind from the Shadows: Extensive practice with swift, silent, and tumbling movements provides the character using this kata with +2K0 to Athletics and Stealth checks, +5 AC, and +1 on his or her effective Water Ring for movement purposes only. Unfortunately, the user must move at least ten feet each round to claim the benefits of this kata and suffers a -1K0 penalty to all attacks made while this kata is active.
  • Rank Three, 5 XP. The Ballet of the Rogue: Attunement to the rhythm and flow of any conflict grants the user of this powerful kata +1 Attack per Round, +2K2 Damage, and grants him or her (Current Void Points) dice each round to distribute between attack rolls, damage rolls, and AC (at +5 AC per die). Unfortunately, wearing armor renders the user far too clumsy to use this kata at all – and such attunement makes the user’s movements more predictable, and thus makes it easier to hit him or her, penalizing his or her AC by -10.
  • Rank Four, 6 XP. Between the Lightning and the Thunder: Focusing entirely on speed and escape, this kata leaves the user with a -2K0 penalty to all attacks. On the other hand, he or she gains a +2K2 bonus on initiative, ignores all penalties for wounds and fatigue, may sacrifice one or both of the attacks he or she would get in a round for +15 on his or her current initiative, and may switch to another kata of lower level without spending a void point or it counting against his or her once-per-hour swap limit.
  • Rank Five, 8 XP. The Cloak of Legitimacy: Practice in evasion and flexibility is not limited to combat alone – or at least not to conventional combat. Blades are a threat, but – to the high-level practitioner of this school – law enforcement is at least as troublesome. The user of this Kata gains a +20 bonus on any attempts to explain, justify, or direct suspicion away from him or her self and his or her followers, gains double the usual benefits of the Etiquette skill when social checks are made against him or her, and can easily entangle witnesses, making the testimony of character’s who’s Rank is less than the user’s Honor ineffective against him or her and his or her followers. If the situation moves out of the social realms, the user may switch to another kata of lower level without spending a void point or it counting against his or her once-per-hour swap limit. Sadly, the focus on social issues comes at the expense of being alert to other things: while this kata is active, the user suffers a -10 penalty to his or her initiative and armor class.

   OK, the Morgantha school can do reasonably well in a fight – especially while using the Ballet of the Rogue kata – but it really isn’t a match for a lot of the dedicated combat schools. On the other hand, if your game is running more towards investigation scenarios, city adventures, or even classical “dungeon crawls”, having a classical rogue or thief along can be pretty helpful. Of course, it’s also one of the few schools which is easily open to the occasional non-samurai character, which helps make them more viable.

Legend of the Five Rings: Hosfera Madrase (Old Yodatai Divine Bushi School)

   Once, the gods of the Yodatai appreciated heroes, and visits from them. In the beginning they set up Mons Midil, the Mountain of Heaven, as a stairway for heroes to climb; any mortal who could manage to climb twelve miles (the last three through a realm of little air where most magic could not aid them) were surely heroic enough to recognize. Besides, it made it easy for the lesser gods to visit the material realms.

   For long centuries heroes occasionally climbed the mountain, sought answers, favors, training, or artifacts from the gods, and attended their parties.

   During those centuries, the Iilgyr – the demigodling-offspring of Yodatai gods and mortal heroes and lovers – were seen as teachers and heroes, and were welcomed among the Yodatai. Each had a unique inherent school of their own to teach or use, a privilege of their divine heritage. But that welcome faded… With the rebellion of the Yodatai, their insistence on a “constitutional religion”, and the ongoing Siege of Heaven, there is little for the younger Iilgyr to do. They are reduced to hanging around the heavens, irritating their divine parents, and harassing the occasional Yodatai scouts who test the higher level techniques of their (unanticipated) hyper-athletic school by trotting up Mons Midal to throw a few javelins at the Gates of Heaven.

   Hosfera is a mere few centuries old, the product of one of the Sun Bull’s various trysts with human women. In human terms he’s about twelve – and, like all the Iilgyr, he’s BORED. He has his own special school of course, but – to be blunt – there’s only a limited amount of amusement in practicing archery and harassing people with animals. He’d really like something important to do, or a chance to start his own little following somewhere. Sadly, while the falling-out between the Yodatai and their gods is a mere an annoyance to the major gods, who can easily bridge the gap between the worlds under their own power and possess local bodies as they please, the Iilgyr are not so talented – and their peculiar physical traits make them easily recognizable should they attempt to sneak down Mons Midal.

   Hosfera’s school – as amplified by his own personal blessing – is a high-powered archery school, and a fairly good defensive school, at least as long as the user’s Void points hold out. After that, it’s merely an effective archery school. Of course, it’s Hosfera’s personal blessing which really makes the school; the ability to have your arrows turn into sizeable animals as they’re hitting someone, do damage, and then continue to attack or otherwise harass your enemies is definitely unusual. Arrows that you can shoot over gates, and which will then turn into gorillas and let you in, can be pretty handy too… Weird, but handy. Secondarily, those granted Hosfera’s blessing will never find themselves without a bow and a quiver of arrows when they need one.

   At the highest levels, the constant – if minor – influx of divine energies from Hosfera will greatly extend the effects of the practitioners void expenditures and will even protect the user against the effects of malign extradimensional energies, such as the influence of the realm of mischief or the Taint.


   Hosfera Madrase (Old Yodatai Divine Bushi School):

  • Benefits: +1 Reflexes, Glory 2, Status 1, Wealth 1, Honor 3.0.
  • School Skills: Animal Handling, Athletics, Archery, Defense, Horsemanship, Hunting, Investigation, Meditation, Stealth, Swords, and two of choice.

   School Techniques:

   First Technique/Zahrshir, The Lion’s Roar: The basic disciplines of Hosfera Madrase are simple enough, representing little more than intense drill with a favored weapon and a touch of divine favor. Like all the Iilgyri schools, however, it is the personal blessing of the sponsoring Iilgyri that makes it truly effective. The user may add his or her Air ring to all school skill rolls (5 points), gains +1 attack with bow (5 points), and may double the effect of each void point spent on buying off damage (a common feature of the Iilgyri schools, since their patrons are somewhat protective of their acolytes, 5 points).

   Of course, the Blessing of Hosfera himself is the truly critical point… This means that this school only functions to full effect while Hosfera approves of the user and will never be a large one; like all the Iilgyr, Hosfera simply doesn’t have the power to support all that many devotees. Ally with Major Influence (can provide +20 points worth of abilities, 4), Minor Devotion (0), Major Eccentricity (2), and Minor Inconvenience (Hosfera wants regular weekly prayers and small offerings, -1) (Net cost 5).

As a spirit ally, Hosfera provides:

  • Conjures II (Innate Self-Powered Level Two Spell [6], only works to create a bow for the user and arrows as needed [-5]. Sadly, the bow is only of average quality, you’re better off with a good real one. Still, it’s handy when you need one, and only has a net cost of 1 point),
  • Rapid Animal Conjures V (Innate Level Six Gift [the user may make an immediate target-15 Meditation check to recover the void point spent to activate it] [24]. This variant on Conjures can be activated in an instant [+2 levels] but only produces relatively normal animals [-1 level], and can only be used to attach the spell to arrows [-5]. The net effect is that the arrow turns into an animal as it’s hitting, does normal bow damage, and then continues attacking or doing whatever it’s creator wanted it to in later rounds until it’s destroyed, dispelled, or the spell runs out. The maximum level of effect usable is equal to the user’s void ring, net 19 points).
  • Yes, Hosfera does aid himself in the use of his school. Godlings can do that.

   Second Technique/Saiyad Cashm, the Hunter’s Eye: Mastering the technique of the Hunter’s Eye brings a touch of the divine to the archer and his or her bow, both protecting the user and allowing him or her to focus that power into accomplishing truly remarkable feats of archery. The user may trade in one or more bow attacks during a round for +5 free raises per attack traded in on one of the remaining bow attacks (10 points) and – when the character spends a void point on reducing damage – it will continue to reduce damage from each attack for a full minute (10 points).

   Third Technique/Taquat Andarun, The Strength Within: Once the practitioner of Hosfera Madrase has truly centered his or her strength in the school, he or she can meld those strengths with the energies of the heavens. While gaining an additional +1 attack with bow (5 points) is a minor benefit, the true strength of that fusion becomes apparent when the user spends a Void point to enhance one of his or her school skills; rather than gaining a mere +1K1, he or she gains +(Void)K(Void) (15 points).

   Fourth Technique/Par Periquesse Tir, the Arrows Legendary Wings: The plateau before perfection is like a rest before the final ascent to the summit of Mons Midal; it is a place to breathe air thin, cold, and pure, and to prepare for the final ascent. From that dizzying height, the patterns of the world become clear. The user may now add twice his or her Air ring to all School Skill Rolls (replacing the level one bonus, +5 points), to his or her Initiative (5 points), and to his or her Armor Class against ranged attacks (5 points). Perhaps even more importantly, he or she may now double the effect of all void points he or she spends, rather than merely those spent to resist injury (+5 points)

   The updated school design rules note that this isn’t fully compatible with the +(Void)K(Void) effect from the previous technique, and it would only allow the user to get the bonus on two rolls, not to double it in the first place.

   Fifth Technique/Zadan Cehel Shira, The Strike of Forty Lions: The final technique of Hosfera Madrase achieves the summit. Hosfera may be only a minor godling, relatively young, and – like all the Iilgyr – merely half-blooded, but he is still a celestial being, and a channel of the power of heaven. With that power augmenting mortal strength – transforming the Hosfera Madrase practitioner into a semblance of the Iilgyr themselves – the user finds long-enduring strength. While he or she incidentally gains a fourth attack with his or her bow (5 points), he or she will also find that any effect – including the Rapid Animal Conjures ability – on which he or she expends a Void Point will remain active for a full minute (+5 points). Perhaps as importantly, the surging energies of the Heavens render the user impervious to the malign energies of other dimensions. (Immunity to Malign Dimensional Energy Contamination, 10).

   Hosfera Madrase is quite formidable. It’s not the worst school out there, but it is well up there in the power levels. Of course, it’s also the personal school of a foreign demigodling; if you want to learn it, you’ll need to reach the far side of the Yodatai Empire, get past the siege of Mons Midal, climb ten miles up the cliffs, get past being shot at by the Iilgyr, and persuade Hosfera to teach you. This is not going to be easy.

   On the other hand, if you can bring it home, the ability to bombard enemy troops and fortifications with – say – lions, tigers, and bears (Oh My!) – is going to give an entirely new meaning to the words “harassing fire”.

Legend of the Five Rings – Demographics of Rokugan

   The demographics of Rokugan seem to have been relatively static for many centuries; while there apparently have been occasional massive disasters, the population seems to quickly rebound to about the same level. There’s no serious mention of the clans opening new territories or falling back from old ones except on the Shadowlands front. Ergo, we can evaluate it’s demographics based on a steady-state empire. This particular analysis is based on the information in the third edition book – the most comprehensive set of figures that I can locate. In any case, here are the Demographics of Rokugan as used in the Tales of the Sunrise campaign.

  • The numbers in the book give a fairly consistent ratio of 17 peasants to 1 Samurai (18 to 1 if the “population” figure doesn’t include the Samurai, possibly up to 20 to 1 if it also doesn’t include Eta) throughout the empire. It is unclear as to whether the “samurai” figure includes retirees who become monks, but the basic ratio isn’t out of line for a pre-industrial agricultural economy with limited (magical) assistance.
  • While magic might reduce infant and childhood mortality below the classical (roughly 50%) pre-industrial levels, taint, monsters, wars, destroyed villages, training accidents, evil spirits, and various magical plagues and disasters might increase it even further. I’m presuming a net reduction to around 40%, simply because I find 50% unduly depressing.
  • Classical sterility rates ran as high as 1/3’rd, whether due to actual sterility (from disease, birth defect, misdevelopment, or injury), failure to marry, or simply due to avoiding having children. In Rokugan it may also be due to curses and contraceptive magic, but magic may be used to cure other cases. Of course, since all children of a Samurai are Samurai, assorted bastards via peasant lovers will help shore up the numbers again. Both factors fall under “insufficient data for Rokugan” (even if several emperors have had illegitimate children to demonstrate the possibility), so I’m going to assume that they roughly cancel out.
  • Thanks to monsters, taint, duels, death in childbirth, and constant skirmishing, the adult death rate (from gempukku at around 16 to retirement at 40) is also fairly high.
  • Those who survive such perils are, however, reasonably likely to make it to 50 or even 60 as respected elders. They’re no longer major targets and – if they survived childhood and disease to this point – are likely to be tolerably healthy.

   This implies that, in a steady-state empire, most samurai families will average about six children, of whom slightly under half will die in childhood and one of which will die violently as a fairly young adult – since violent death is fairly common and such casualties are always heaviest among the inexperienced. Furthermore, there’s a pretty good chance of having at least one retired or semi-retired elder about even in a nuclear family.

   It also implies that the average samurai woman MUST spend at least 6-8 years bearing children and will probably nurse them personally (doing otherwise unnecessarily is probably a violation of the celestial order anyway), extending that time another year or two. That will take them out of action for about ten years out of the 24 between gempukku at 16 and retirement at 40 (also a reasonable approximation of their reproductive years). Clans that interfere with this are sacrificing their next generation, and will not survive for long.

   Ergo, the samurai population listed includes about 50% children, 15% elders, 8% who are preparing for marriage/getting pregnant/pregnant/ recovering from giving birth/nursing (10 years out of 24 for one-half of the remaining 35% of the population), and – probably – at least 2% who are simply incompetent, permanently disabled, or otherwise out of action. That leaves 25% available for “active duty”.

   Out of that 25%, roughly 85% will be bushi , 10% will be courtiers, teachers, or simple administrators, 4.9% will be mystics – magical artists, alchemical dabblers, tattooed men, samurai with monk-style training, single-element spellcasters, shapeshifters with phony clan identities, and similar oddities, and roughly 1 in 1000 (.1%) will be shugenja. However, since peasant-born shugenja are commonly recruited as samurai, and shugenja die less often in battle or from lack of magical aid, their numbers can be roughly doubled as a percentage of the samurai population. Secondarily, they rarely retire and pregnancy is no real hindrance to most of their activities, meaning that they’re drawn from 50% of the samurai population base rather than 25%.

   The standing armies are unlikely to include more than half the theoretically-available bushi. They’re needed as guards, magistrates, local garrisons, law enforcers, teachers, tax collectors, yojimbo, and in many other roles as well. The Crab, Lion, and Unicorn are exceptions, at 75%. The real size can be quadrupled, counting ashigaru, peasant law enforcers, ronin hirelings, and the occasional non-bushi who participates. An all-out, total mobilization will add most of the remaining bushi and lots of virtually untrained peasant levies.

   Ronin are prominent in the game, but are actually relatively rare in Rokugan – especially with the Crab and recent imperial recruiting – so I’m not going to try to separate them out.

















































































   * The Shugenja numbers for the Crab have been quartered and those for the Phoenix have been quadrupled to reflect the books. The Dragon and Phoenix Mystic numbers have been doubled, in part due to the slowly- accumulating population of phoenix immortals

   # This is awkward. Per the book, the “others” include the imperial families (Miya, Otomo, Seppun, and Toturi), the minor clans (Badger, Bat, Dragonfly, Fox, Hare, Monkey, Ox, Sparrow, and Tortoise), and three ronin families (Kaeru, Tsi/Oriole Clan and Yotsu). Counting the four small groups (Toturi, Badger, Bat, and Tsi/Oriole) as a single group, allowing another for tiny independent factions, and doubling up on the older minor groups which haven’t suffered recent disasters (Fox, Sparrow, and Tortoise), this leaves a divisor of 17 – an average of about 2100 samurai each for the Toturi, Badger, Bat, and Oriole, 19,000 each for the Sparrow, Tortoise, and Fox (maybe more for the Fox, given their extended lifespans), and 8400 for each of the other groups. Since it’s noted that almost EVERY adult fox clansman is a shugenja, the Fox apparently have at least six times as many shugenja as the rest of the empire put together. This will require some tweaking, possibly by also making the Fox reproduce much more slowly, thus limiting their numbers much more dramatically. Even so, they’ll have a much larger magical role in Rokugan than is usually recognized. In Tales of the Sunrise many, or even most, of the wandering shugenja-priests, major temple keepers, shugenja-tutors, jade magistrates, and shugenja “on loan” to minor clans who need one are from the Fox. There’s a reason why the emperors have kept the Fox clan close to them for a thousand years.

   The Imperial Legions and mostly draw from the same pool as the armies (311k assorted bushi and 37K courtiers), and may host about 10% of that number – 35K. This really cannot be reconciled with the numbers from Emerald Empire – such as the unicorn having nearly 5000 militant shugenja to field in the Baraunghar and the emperor having a standing army of at least 100,000 samurai (both page 216), so the main book is taking precedence. Players considering their character backgrounds should ignore the numbers from Emerald Empire, although its information on organization is fine. Note that the Imperial Legions are NOT a part of the “Others” population figures: if they were, it would throw off the peasant-to-samurai ratios. They’re supported by taxation and are counted under the appropriate clan figures.

   The map of Rokugan – however inaccurate it may be in the details – shows a total surface area (including forests but exclusive of water areas and the shadowlands) of roughly 560,000 square miles. With a population of 26,200,000, it has an overall population density of about 47 people per square mile.

   Tokugawa-era Japan supported up to 30,000,000 people on approximately 144,689 square miles, an overall population density of 207 people per square mile. However, from the map, it looks like 30-50% – probably around 40% or 224,000 square miles – of Rokugans land is suitable for agriculture. Only about 15%, or 21,703 square miles, of Japan is so suited. Rokugan has less access to fishing resources, but it has ten times as much potential farmland as Japan did, including major river valleys – and Japan supported nearly 1400 people per square mile of farmland. On that model – even allowing for less ocean access – Rokugan could easily support ten to twenty times as many people as it does.

   The culture, lifestyle descriptions, and even illustrations all tend to indicate very high population densities, intensive farming, and an emphasis on defense – along with the intense focus on manners, social niceties, travel restrictions, and social control that such conditions allow. On the other hand, there seem to be plenty of areas where bandits, pirates, and other outlaws can hide – even just outside the empire’s largest city!

   Evidently vast reaches of Rokugan are almost entirely unpopulated – left to monsters, dangerous spirits, nezumi, naga, outlaws, and the elemental powers of nature – while the human population crowds into the most desirable and defensible 10% or so. Possible reasons for this include

  • Predation. On earth, a small group of humans living in the wilds is in little or no danger. Occasional animals may be foolish enough to attack individuals, but only natural disasters and other people threaten even the smallest settlements. On Rokugan, if there aren’t a few hundred people within the sound of your voice, you and your family may be destroyed by supernatural horrors at any time.
  • Resistance. On earth, people dominate the landscape. If you move in and cut down the forest, it has no defense. On Rokugan, the spirits of the land – and it’s many nonhuman intelligent inhabitants – will often offer serious resistance to expansion and may even reconquer small settlements.
  • Control. Like most rigid social structures, the Empire resists change – including contact with outsiders, expansion, altering its maps, and any other new development. You live in the village where your parents lived and you farm the lands they farmed. At least as importantly, unlike earth, Rokugani soils can be renewed with simple spells and ancestral bargains with the land spirits actually hold; there’s no need to change things. Most importantly of all, allowing the peasants to spread out over marginal areas makes it nearly impossible for the government to maintain control – as shown by the Yobanjin and others who fled the dominion of the Kami when the empire was founded.
  • Casualties. The empire has been relatively stable – and at constant war – for a thousand years. That isn’t natural: it should have imploded under the strain centuries ago, as small failures in one place threw extra stress onto others. Like a power grid, the occasional blackout is near-inevitable. Unlike a power grid, once the darkness gets in, it’s almost impossible to throw it out again. Evidently all the superhuman talents of the samurai are barely sufficient to maintain the empire as it is. Indeed, provinces have been lost and it could easily be argued that the empire has been slowly losing ground and population across the centuries – another reason to concentrate everyone in the smallest possible defensible area.

   Small children (up to age 8), characters in intensive training, and apprentices in the “learning” portion of their apprenticeships (usually up to age 12) gain 1 XP per month. Characters who train while distracted by other duties get 1 per two months and those who are working a job or struggling to get along get one per three months. Thus, by age 16 most samurai characters will have acquired (16 x 12) or 192 XP – of which 88 go to acquiring base traits of “2” (all children are born with Earth 1), 2 go to speaking their native language, 12 go for a Family Trait Bonus, (roughly) 45 go for the trait, technique, and skills taught by their School, and 45 more are available to spend during character creation*. Unfortunately, unschooled ronin, peasants, and other self-taught types generally lose out on nearly four years of intensive training – dropping into the default “working a job” or “struggling to survive” categories after an apprenticeship, and thus missing out on (roughly) 30 points – leaving them without the benefits of a School, but with a total of 60 points to spend during character creation.

   *Most samurai also get Social Status 1 (5 XP) and Wealth 1 (2 XP), but these are gifts from their family and come with a variety of duties and responsibilities.

   Veteran status – Rank 2 – normally takes about 50 XP (24 for Traits, 25 for a Technique or for a level of Spellcasting and some Spells), or until characters are in their early 20’s, to attain via training and general experience. Of course, surviving a few battles or other adventures can hurry things up considerably. Gaining Rank 4 – Elite Status – will require at least another 120 XP, more if the character spends many on skills or unbalanced traits. Barring battles and adventures – and their accompanying special XP awards – NPC’s will hit Rank 4 about the time that they retire. While battles and such are fairly common, they’re also very dangerous: few NPC’s ever get beyond rank 6.

   This implies that the Rank distribution in the empire will be something like 20% Rank 1, 35% Rank 2, 25% Rank 3, 15% Rank 4, 4% Rank 5, and 1% Rank 6+. While Shugenja may average a bit higher since they don’t generally “retire”, it still implies that, out of the roughly 1500 active Shugenja in the empire (disregarding any Rank 5+ Phoenix Immortals who are also Shugenja and the soon to-be-retconned Fox) less then a hundred can use L6 spells – and almost all of those can only use them within their Affinity element.

   Ability Comparisons:

  • Skills: 1) Basics, 2) Advanced Student, 3-4) Professional Mastery, 5-6) Expert, 7) Renowned Master, 8) Inhuman Expertise, 9) Legendary Mastery, and 10) Divine Skill. Remember that, unlike in reality, a character who achieves skill 10 and has an appropriate emphasis has learned everything there is to know on a subject. There literally isn’t any more. That’s why swordsmithing and such hasn’t really improved since the earliest days of the empire: there’s nowhere for it to go.
  • Ranks: 0) Children, 1) Adults, 2) Veterans, 3-4) Elites, 5-6) Masters, 7) Champions, and 8+) Legends.

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.

Legend of the Five Rings – The Walking Dream Courtier (Nezumi) School

   At the core of Yume-Do lies the Maelstrom. It is known by many names, and in many worlds. It is the Ginnungagap, the Sepiroth of Daath, the Gungawa point, and the Well of Worlds. It is the point where the timeless infinite is refracted into past and future, reality and phantasm, and all worlds past, present, and yet to be.

   Here, where the ascended – or perhaps fallen – powers dwell, all things are mutable, and a dreamer may take a handful of the infinite and cast it into time, to call entire worlds into being.

   Those who pass so deeply into the realms of dram rarely return – or return deeply changed.

   Fortunately, one need not pass so deeply into the realms of dream to draw upon it’s power, to peer into the possibilities of the future and past, or two walk between the worlds. Sadly, the gossamer revelations of dream fade all too readily into the mists of sleep – unless one learns the art of Lucid Dreaming, the foundation of the Walking Dream.

   The Nezumi are creatures of dream as much as they are creatures of Ningen-Do. Among their arts is the ability to bring dreams into reality – and to dissolve reality into the stuff of dreams. It is difficult to say if they are ever truly awake – a distinction which may go a long way towards explaining their usual mental state.

   The easiest way to shape the stuff of dreams is to infuse an image, model, or other template with ectoplasm, giving it substance and even “life”. While this will be limited to simple things at first, a dedicated student of the Walking Dream will soon be able to summon forth items and creatures of considerable complexity and power – a pathway that will eventually lead to the adept of dream being able to call forth dream-tulpas in his or her own image. Secondarily, as the rising Master of Dreams finds the power of Dream infusing the waking world around him or her, he or she may learn to use it to make that world something more to his or her liking.

   For generation upon generation, the Nezumi have fought an unending war against a foe that rises again within days of being struck down, in a land without natural reserves of food or water, where the ground itself quakes and dissolves into slime where it is infused with too much taint for the earth to endure. This is one way that they have accomplished such a feat.

   The Walking Dream school has come into human hands through a series of accidents, chance encounters, and a single individuals curiosity and exploitation of some unique opportunities: finding himself with a link to the realm of Dreams, Asahina Ninsei began to experiment with pulling on the energies and ectoplasm he could call forth. Soon enough, he no longer needed a body in Yume-Do to access these energies.

   Discussions with Nezumi shamans while dreaming lead to greater exploration of making the unreal real – and an analysis of the Rakasha, and the entity known as the Designer, provided many insights into the process of creating simulacra – will given form. It took a great deal of experimentation and many aborted attempts to adapt the Nezumi techniques for human use – and a hard-earned acceptance of the triune limits of the tulpa-creation process – but he eventually found that he could manifest three variant copies of himself – competent, loyal, and almost as powerful as he was… If he could augment them with gem magic and give them dedicated links to the Rokugani grid they might prove an answer to the problem of the Yodatai Emperor – a battle that, in one alternate future, had led to his death. This time, however, there would be the Obsidian Magistrates.

   The Walking Dream Courtier (Nezumi) School:

  • Basic Modifiers: +1 Perception, Glory 1, Status 1, Wealth 2, Honor 2
  • School Skills: Acting, Athletics, Battle, Courtier, Defense, Divination, Etiquette, Lore/Dreams, Lucid Dreaming, Meditation, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth.

   School Techniques:

  • First Technique/Playing with Shadows: The student of dream may now open his or her personal gate of dreams into the waking world, infusing simple images with an ectoplasmic reality. (Conjures VI as an Self-Powered Innate Spell usable up to [Void] times daily. As usual, however, the user’s Void ring must be at least equal to the level of the effect to be produced, 18). As a minor side effect, he or she need only take short naps now and then to function normally (2).
  • Second Technique/The Citadel of Dreams: As the insights of dream begin to infuse the student’s waking life, enhancing his or her skills with the marvelous fluidity of dreams (gain [Meditation] free raises per day to use with school skills, 10), so they begin to infuse the world around him or her, subtly perfecting and enhancing the areas of the world under the dreamer’s control (gain +15 Political Position points – although these can only be used for Holding Assets and Army Enhancements, 15 – 5 = 10).
  • Third Technique/The Dream Walks: The adept of dream may now call forth a Tulpa spun of the ectoplasmic stuff of dreams, imbuing it with a mixture of his or her consciousness and of the infinite possibilities of Yume-Do – and with powers which may equal his or her own. For good or ill, such creations must be primarily based on the techniques user, rather than being entirely free designs (perhaps most importantly, they always have schools other than this one) – although there is always some fundamental, distinguishing, difference (sentient companion with XP equal to the technique user’s, may be run as a secondary character, 20, -5 for limited design options and -5 because they are necessarily vulnerable to spirit dismissals, attempts to force them back into the realms of dream, and are very vulnerable to illusions and misrepresentations of reality). If it is slain, or if the user opts to replace it, there is no XP cost – although creating or re-creating a Tulpa requires some weeks (Immunity to XP cost to replace lost companions, 5). In addition, with this increased control over how the stuff of dream manifests, you may slowly alter the allotment of the bonus Political Position points offered by this school (Major Immunity/the normally fixed expenditures of Political Position Points, 10, -5 for only being able to affect the bonus points from this school, 5).
  • Fourth Technique/The Wanderer in Shadows: The user may now call forth a second Tulpa from the stuff of dreams (as above, 10), and – as he or she gains more and more control over the borders between reality and dream, gains both more control over his or her dreams (double style bonuses for Lucid Dreaming, 5) and may call upon the services of the lesser powers of Yume-Do – allowing him or her to call forth nightmare beasts to attack his or her enemies, to send dream-messages and communications, and to inflict nightmares upon enemies. Sadly, such things are never entirely reliable (Rank+2 favors daily rated at Lucid Dreaming/2, plus Immunity to the Time Normally Required to Invoke Favors, 10 – 5 for unreliability = 5).
  • Fifth Technique/The Navigator of Dreams: The master of dreams may now call forth a third and final Tulpa (as above, 10), and has met many people and spirits in his or her dreams – allowing him or her to gain favors based on any four additional skills – although, sadly, they remain more than a bit unreliable. It is always hard to know if your dealings in dream are with one individual or an alternate version of them from another world (+10, -5 for unreliability). Finally, your control over the infusion of dream into the waking world is so great that you can now alter what its effects in mere minutes (Major Immunity/the time normally required to shift Political Position Points around, 10, -5 for only being able to affect the bonus points from this school, 5).

   The Walking Dream is a fairly powerful school – but it’s only really at it’s most powerful in the hands of a character who has a lot of power already. If you start off in this school, you’ll wind up with relatively little in the way of personal power and “copies” who – since they’ll have other schools – will be more competent at most things than you are. This can get pretty weird.

   On the game master side, this is a WONDERFUL school for that villain that you want to have keep coming back over and over and over again…

L5R – Fox Clan Temple Administrator Courtier School

   Today it’s another school for Legend of the Five Rings – in this case a relatively non-adventuresome school, the Fox Clan Temple Administrator Courtier School. It doesn’t produce mighty heroes or subtle courtiers. It just makes sure that they’ve got the information they need to act on, good advice, and a secure home to come back to. Heroes are nice, but everyone has to eat.

   Almost alone among the notable clans, the Fox routinely trains children to take up careers in the temples of Rokugan as a first choice, rather than awaiting retirement or some other need for a change of life. Perhaps it is because the constant infusion of fox-spirit blood into the clan leaves even those members of the clan without the innate potential to train as a Shugenja strongly attuned to the spirit world, opening a choice other than to train as a Bushi. Perhaps it comes simply of having long lifespans, large families, and little room to expand – or the recognition of a chance to expand quietly.

   The Fox Administrator really isn’t the best at anything – and it certainly isn’t the best in combat or at court, where it offers few abilities of any use whatsoever. It does, however, offer access to some basic magic and is pretty good at answering questions, organizing festivals, being welcome everywhere, supplying others, and supporting their efforts.

   Fox Clan Temple Administrator Courtier School:

  • Basic Modifiers: Awareness +1, Glory 2, Status Special, Wealth 3, and Honor 3
  • School Skills: Courtier, Ceremony, Commerce, Divination, Etiquette, Instruction, Investigation, Meditation, Perform, Storytelling, Theology, and any one Lore skill of choice.

   School Techniques:

  • First Technique/The Wisdom of the Scholar: The Fox Administrator gains (School Rank) Free Raises with all Lore Skills, provided that he or she has time to meditate and – if possible – consult his or her scrolls (10 -5 = 5), and gains (School Rank) Free Raises with Theology, Meditation, and Perform (Religious Ceremonies), provided that he or she has time to consider his or her words and actions before the roll is required (10 – 5 = 5). Through the quoting of precedents and instructive tales, the Fox Administrator may claim (Rank + 2) favors each games session. Sadly, while the base rank of such favors is equal to the (Skill being used/2, rounded up), the influence of the temples and scholarly words is somewhat limited: the user must select one type of favor which he or she may obtain at -1 rank, the other two can only be obtained at -2 ranks. The Fox Administrator can employ Instruction to obtain services from other groups, Ceremony to gain immediate responses to Peasant Magic, and Storytelling to gain special privileges (10 – 5 for the reduced rank of favors = 5). Finally, the Fox Administrator’s growing awareness of the spirit world makes him a Sensitive (vaguely senses oddities and mystical disturbances in the immediate area, a level one self-powered psychic power, 3), and allows him or her to make contact with friendly spirits, gaining a 2-point ancestor spirit ally.
  • Second Technique/The Pulse of the Tao: The Fox Administrator begins to feel the flow of energy throughout the cosmos, gaining access to Kabari Magic – although he or she must purchase Spellcasting normally if they wish to make use of this affinity. Whether for good or ill, those trained by the Fox are always attuned to Ningen-Do – which is useless as long as they are within it – and to Chikushudo, but do get to pick their third affinity, whether plane or fortune, normally. (10-5 = 5). Most Fox Administrators do pick up the basics, although they rarely develop any great powers. Still, even unconscious and untrained powers over plants and animals are of great aid to the peasants who support the temples – allowing the Fox Administrator to gain a disposable Income of (Rank x 10) Koku per Month, although this comes at the cost of taking responsibility for managing the Temple finances (10). Those who listen to the Fox Administrators inspiring and guiding tales will also begin to feel the power of the cosmos flowing through them. Provided that they listen for at least ten minutes, they will gain (Administrator’s Rank) Free Raises and two extra Void Points (these must be spent within twenty-four hours, but are not subject to the usual pool or spending restrictions) to spend on things related to the topic of the tales, but this will only work on those who truly do look to the Fox Administrator for sacred guidance and inspiration (10 -5 = 5).
  • Third Technique/The Shaping of the World: The Fox Administrator learns to subtly shape the essence of the worlds spiritual essence, lending grace and strength to all that he or she touches. The Fox Administrator gains (School Rank) Free Raises with all Craft or Artisan skills, provided that he or she is working on something appropriate to one of the Fortunes or Planes which he or she can draw upon for Kabari Magic (10 – 5 = 5) and may change up to two Rolled Dice into Kept Dice when actually rolling for any direct act of Kabari Magic (5 – 5 = 0). In addition, he or she may readily create a selection of minor Nemurani appropriate to the temple in which the user is currently serving, and may reduce the cost of doing so by 2 XP – but this ability may only be used while actually working on the temple grounds and requires the assistance of several novices (5 + 10 – 5 – 5 = 5). This subtle touch extends to greater projects as well. The Fox Administrator may employ the Commerce skill without appearing to do so (Immunity to Honor losses from the improvement or use of the Commerce skill, 5), and may bolster the resources of the temple at which he serves with his or her subtle guidance (+2 Each to Fire and Air/effectively +2 ranks when calculating effective rank for the accumulation of Political Position Points only, however these extra points can only be spent to expand the resources and influence of the temple at which the character serves, they may not be spent on Connections, Contingencies, or Army Enhancements, 10 – 5 = 5).
  • Fourth Technique/Drawing Upon the Infinite: The Fox Administrator’s influence continues to expand, subtly channeling more and more power into enhancing the world around him or her. His or her presence and aid now greatly enhances the temple or shrine at which he or she serves (+2 Each to Earth and Water/effectively +2 ranks when calculating effective rank for the accumulation of Political Position Points only, however these extra points can only be spent to expand the resources and influence of the temple at which the character serves, they may not be spent on Connections, Contingencies, or Army Enhancements, 10 – 5 = 5) and he or she may now draw on supernatural resources to materially support his or her chosen causes; the Fox Administrators income is now (Rank x 50) Koku per month, but the balance above the cash income from the rank two technique comes in the form of useful goods and supplies, only turns up (from somewhere) after the user pays proper respect to the local powers at a temple or shrine, and must be shared with those in need in the area (+10 -5 for conditions). When necessary, the Fox Administrator may momentarily touch the true essence of the cosmos, spending as many Void points as he or she desires on anything which uses them (10).
  • Fifth Technique/The Butterfly and the Storm: The Fox Administrator may now call the attention of the cosmos to things as small as an individual or area. He or she may take his or her turn and call the attention of a desired patron spirit to a particular individual or place for the next twenty-four hours – although only one such spirit will pay attention to a particular target at a time (grants a six-point spiritual ally advantage for the next twenty-four hours, 20).

   The Fox Administrator school focuses on buying a LOT of support-and-logistics style abilities on the cheap. Of course, the fact that it DOES focus on support and logistics is all that makes it acceptable with so many limited powers: the abilities it grants are extremely convenient, but aren’t likely to directly upset the game. It isn’t that strong in a fight, or at court, or in magic. It simply allows it’s users to answer questions, feed, supply, and enhance many other people, and make themselves generally useful.

   Of course, there are times when that’s beyond price. Being besieged? How much is someone who can supply food and weapons, work some minor magic, and grant free raises, void points, and the support of spirits to every man in the garrison worth?

Latest Material Index

   Updated July 28

   It’s once again time to get the latest material index updated and to transfer the material from the old one to the main index tabs. If you want the very latest material, it may be necessary to either scroll down or consult the “Recent Posts” listing-widget on the lower right The previous Latest Materials Index can be found HERE.

Shadowrun Material:

Continuum II Material:

d20 Material:

L5R Material:

World of Darkness Material:

L5R, The Ivory Kingdoms Dheramada School

   Here we have another one of the Ivory Kingdoms schools for Legend of the Five Rings – in this case a school that serves equally well for scholars and assassins.

   Some eighteen hundred years ago in the Ivory Kingdoms, the Deva Harijitender concluded that one of the great advantages of the Rakasha lay in their ability to split off shards of their inner darkness, cast shadows of themselves, and thus to effectively be in more than one place at a time. The Meditations of Unity made such a division impossible for an Asura or Deva, and no normal human being possessed enough essential self to splinter off anything but ineffectual images without terrible consequences. They would rapidly find themselves whittled away into nothing but a devouring void that could never again be filled, a thing of unending hunger. A Rakasha had no true self save for the hunger of the grave that lay at the core of their being, there was nothing in them to expend – only darkness which could be renewed by slow-but-steady influx of raw evil. To match the power of a Rakasha, to stare too deeply and too long into the abyss, was to become a monster yourself.

   Nonetheless, there ought to be a solution somewhere.

   Over several lifetimes of dabbling, and some mutation of his original idea, Harijitender found such a solution. You couldn’t subdivide yourself without embracing nothingness, but you could – given some time and meditation – imprint directives and information on raw power, turning it into an extension of yourself. You could then infuse that power into an object, giving it a temporary form, infuse it into animals, making them powerful extensions of your will for as long as they lived, or even – with great effort – give it an independent form, creating a powerful servant or Tulpa to carry out your will. It wasn’t quite being in more than one place at a time, but it wasn’t far from it.

   Harijitender passed on his techniques. His students found them to be a powerful tool, and passed them on in turn.

   Later – and less ethical – users found that it was easier to infuse a human with power than it was to create a Tulpa. Such bondservants were especially useful when you did not wish to risk yourself on a task. Eventually the dark Dheramada Masters became known as spies and assassins. It was so EASY to bind some disposable pet, servant-child, or anonymous guard to your will, to infuse them with power, and then to send them on your mission – and if they died in the attempt, or were caught and slain afterwards, the cost to you was small.

  • Basic Modifiers: Void +1, Glory 1, Status 2, Wealth 2, and Honor 3 (1 if a dark master).
  • School Skills: Courtier, Ceremony, Divination, Defense, Etiquette, Instruction, Meditation, Storytelling, Slight of Hand, Theology, any one lore skill, and any other skill.

   School Techniques:

  • First Technique: The Binding of the Winds. Where a student of the Dheramada School has touched, there their influence lingers. The user may call on up to (Rank+2) skill-based services per session, each such service rated at a level of up to (Skill Used/2, rounded up). He or she may employ Courtier to obtain political favors and appointments, Ceremony to contact spirits and obtain immediate responses to Peasant Magic, Etiquette to obtain equipment and supplies, Meditation to temporarily awaken items as Nemuranai, and favors based on any one additional skill of his or her choice (15). On a smaller scale, he or she may cause a thought to occur to anyone within line of sight up to (Air Ring) times per day. The target need not act upon the thought, but it will cross their mind – indistinguishable from a stray thought of their own (3).
  • Second Technique: The Infusion of the Waters. The Dheramada Student may now infuse a model or image with power, calling it temporarily into being as a physical object and binding it to his or her will. This may be done up to (Void Ring) times daily without cost, although subsequent uses will cost a void point (this equates to Conjures III from the Guuzou Kami spell list) (9). Their growing awareness of how their own, innate, power interacts with other creatures also grants them the ability to perceive auras (equivalent to the second level Aura Vision psychic power, 6) and lets them easily influence animals (equivalent to the first level Tame Beast psychic power as needed, 3).
  • Third Technique: The Hypnosis of the Flame. A Journeyman of the Dheramada School learns to infuse even words with a portion of his or her power, granting them an unnatural influence over those who hear. They gain (school rank) free raises with the Courtier, Etiquette, and Storytelling skills (10), can now infuse greater models and images with power (increase the limit on the Conjures effect to level six or the user’s void ring rank, whichever is less) (9), and may add twice their Awareness to all school skill rolls as long as they are not wearing armor (5).
  • Fourth Technique: The Answer of the Earth. The Dheramada Journeyman may now access the true strength of the school, infusing his or her power and will into an animal – gaining an animal companion which may be run as a secondary character with an experience total equal to the users (15). If it is slain, or the user chooses to replace it, there is no experience point cost (Immunity to the XP cost of replacing lost companions, 5). The user may opt to either obtain a companion creature normally or to use one created via Conjures – in which case the companion-level power infusion will sustain the Conjure indefinitely provided that it is a relatively ordinary creature to begin with.
  • Fifth Technique: The Mirror of the Void. The Dheramada Master may now either create a Tulpa – a creature sculpted from pure will and the energies of the void – over a month or more, or enhance another animal companion, or even infuse a sentient being with his or her power and take it as a companion. Whichever option is selected, the companion gains an XP total equal to the user’s and is run as a secondary character. If it is slain, or the user chooses to replace it, it takes several days, but there is no experience point cost, since the immunity from level four continues to apply (20).

   Like all the Ivory Kingdom schools, the Dheramada School is quite formidable – although less in a personal way and more in a send-in-the-troops way. A master who has chosen to have a skilled warrior-companion can readily conjure him a squad of troops to command and send them to deal with many annoyances. It’s also useful in social situations, although not to the extent that a dedicated courtier school will be – but it has almost no direct combat applications and offers no access to wide-area magical powers. The user may be able to conjure up a weapon, but he or she may well have no real idea of how to use it.