Prelude to Self-Insertion

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Okay, its 1998 and Legend of the Five Rings is the hot new shit, John Wick is riding waves of people, and it's time for Way of the Scorpion. You see, the Scorpion Clan is Wick's favorite baby from the Legend of the Five Rings franchise. I have his love letter to the Scorpion, Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince, and himself, all in one package.

Way of the Scorpion, part 1, the prelude to self-insertion.

Now I would be remiss if I called this just the work of one person, one man, one Wick. It's not. Scuttlebutt I've heard is that Wick's material often arrived in... unpublishable states, and had to be "massaged" into shape by figures like Patrick Kapera, Dave Williams, D.J. Trindle, etc. This book also has material by Ree Soesbee, who would take over the Legend of the Five Rings story team after Wick, and Jennifer Mahr, would would later be Jennifer Wick, his wife. (And even later, his ex-wife, as I understand it.)

So. Let's get warmed up.

This book opens up with a quote from "Bayushi Tangen".

Bayushi Tangen posted:

How easily men are corrupted, and how difficult it is to make them just.

It's a paraphrase from Niccolò Machiavelli's "The Prince", which I'll reproduce here:

The Prince posted:



In connection with this matter of the Decemvirate, we should notice also how easily men are corrupted and become wicked, although originally good and well educated. This may be observed in those young nobles whom Appius had chosen for his followers, and who, for the small advantages they derived from it, became supporters of his tyranny; also in Quintus Fabius, one of the second Decemvirate, who, having been one of the best of men, but blinded by a little ambition and seduced by the villany of Appius, changed his good habits into the worst, and became like Appius himself. All this, if carefully studied by the legislators of republics and monarchies, will make them more prompt in restraining the passions of men, and depriving them of all hopes of being able to do wrong with impunity.

Certainly Tangen is more pithy and terse than the guy he's cribbing from. Some may wonder: How can I be certain Wicky is cribbing his lines from Nicky? Well, I present page two:

John Wick posted:

This book could not have been written without the help of one man who continues to question my beliefs in ethics and virtue. It's silly to dedicate the book to him, because he wouldn't notice. But I can hope that folks who read this will read him and understand he wasn't the conniving bastard history has painted him to be. After all he's done for me, it's the least I can do to try and restore his marred reputation.

"I see to be departing from the usual practice of authors, which has always been to dedicate their works to some prince... So, to avoid that mistake, I have chosen to dedicate my discourses not to those who are princes, but those who, on account of the innumerable good qualities, deserve to be..."

- Niccolò Machiavelli

Welcome, it's time for the tales of Prince Wick, and his chosen brethren, the Scorpion Clan. See the melding of his romantic life with RPG fluff material! See his inability to write coherent mechanics! See... some neat ideas inbetween, actually. But we're going to have to dig, first, through the mire of RPG setting fiction .

Next: Prince Wick vs. the Straw Lion.

"the most erotic scene ever written for any Five Rings product."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Traveller posted:

There are not enough for this.

I'm going to run out of by the time I'm done.

Way of the Scorpion, part 2: "the most erotic scene ever written for any Five Rings product."

We have fiction alert: the "Honest Scorpion".

We open on a nameless Lion accusing the Bayushi of being cowards and sneaks (arguably true on both fronts), and that he'll fight any one of him to prove it! But, uh, Sir Lion, if you're right, then they're not going to fight you, you know...

(I'm not going to explain too much, I assume enough of you know Legend of the Five Rings .)

In case you're not used to the Scorpion narrative in Legend of the Five Rings , on a scale from one to fucked, this man is on the far end of fucked. You can hardly see him for how fucked he is. He's a goddamn speck already.

Then! We have John Wick enter. Well, to be clear, it's Bayushi Yojiro, Wick's self-insert and player character from the original playtests! Some Crane talk shit about his back about him being "The Honest Scorpion." The nameless Lion gives Yojiro a hairy eyeball for no discernable reason.

Wick Yojiro is going to show them all.

Yojiro asks Ino - I guess that's the Lion's name - why he's talking shit, and the Lion says that he's different and special, not like those other Scorpion. And Yojiro says, "But they're still my peeps, and you're no dummy, what up?"

Or rather:

John Wick posted:

"Tell me,", Yojiro said, his voice as soothing as a geisha's caress. "Tell me your reasons."

So Yojiro is trying to pick this Lion up, I guess, or something? I mean, you usually don't go for the geisha tone casually, right?

Then Ino looks away from the other Scorpions, which is puzzling, because they haven't been mentioned, and it was pointedly brought up that Yojiro is a lonely Scorpion, but hey, editing! Who needs that! (And this is the second printing, but I guess they missed that.)

Then Ino freaks out and points towards the throne, and is like "She is to blame!", but who is blame for what, we have no idea. Suddenly! There's a lady hiding in shadows near the throne, so I guess this is the Emperor's crib. And Yojiro is like "Wut, slander.", and Ino is like "No, 'struth!", and then Yojiro is like "Whoa there pal." and Ino then goes for his sword and is like:

John Wick posted:

"She is the one who said I planned to usurp my lord! She is the one who spread the lie! Now, I have fallen from my lord's favor! She is to blame!"

He has gone from regular fucked to five whole rings of fucked.

We have no idea who "she" is yet, mind, but Five Rings fans will realize pretty quickly just who might be lurking around the Imperial throne. Anyway, Yojiro talks him down, and Ino excuses himself for being drunk. As Yojiro passes by the throne on the way to vomititorium or whatever, the unnamed lady smiles to him because of Reasons. (We don't know what those are.)

Cris Dornaus does a lot of great art in this.

And so Ino wakes up with a hangover and covered in blood and is like whaaat the hellll and sees his katana inserted into his lord and hey he's being framed how about that.

And Yojiro is there, he's a magistrate, which is basically a samurai cop, and ready to read him his righ- hahaha poor Ino has no rights.

John Wick posted:

"Ino, my friend. This does not look good for you. You are sobbing like a little girl."

The Lion could do nothing but look up through his tears at Yojiro. "Whuh-whuh..."

"Now you are stammering like a virgin on her wedding night."

Ha ha, hee-larious, that poor jock Lion.

Yojiro points out they went out for sake after leaving the throne room, and that Ino picked a particular tea house, the very one his lord was at, and talked shit about his lord, according to Yojiro, and they parted. Yojiro heard a scream in the night, maybe, and then found the body and Ino.

But how can Yojiro get Ino to admit he did something he most likely didn't do?

John Wick posted:

Yojiro leaned closer. "So you cannot tell me that you did not do it?"

"I did not kill my lord!" the Lion shouted.

"But you do not know that, do you?"

"Yes! Yes I do. I did not kill my lord!"

"You do not know that, do you? You cannot honestly tell that, can you?"

Ino's head bobbed up and down, his tears starting anew. "YES! Yes I can! I know I did not do it!"

"Do you remember doing it?"

"No." Ino said. "I do not remember doing it."

"Doing what, Ino-san?"

"I do not remember killing my..." Ino stopped. Yojiro smiled.

Or more correctly-

Not John Wick posted:

"I do not remember killing my..." Ino stopped. Yojiro

Yes, the Scorpion apparently use tactics right out of Looney Tunes .

With that confession, Ino is dragged off to await seppuku, cursing Yojiro's name.

And then we switch scenes.

Yes, this art doesn't appear until Chapter 1, for some reason.

John Wick posted:

It was as if the shadows were tailored for her. Like a web, they clung to her every curve, hiding what needed to be hidden, intensifying the beauty that is already there. When she moved, they moved with her, clinging with a dark embrace.

Yojiro is all blushy around his "lord's wife" like a dorky teenager. That's the woman who was lurking around the throne earlier, of course.

You know, like in Pulp Fiction . His lord's wife is like ha ha it's cool, guys check me out all the time and my husband's gone, hint hint, I am subtle.

She's cheered that Ino has paid for saying rude shit but Yojiro is like no he deserved worse . And she offers him a scissors to cut a lock of her hair and Yojiro is all freaked out trying to keep his balls in order.

Now it's time to trash-talk the clans!

John Wick posted:

"Let the Lions have their honor. It only makes them predictable."

Yojiro watched the string and the hair began to braid under her quick fingers...

"And let the Phoenix have their knowledge. A book cannot teach you pain.

The black and the red folding together...

"The Crane are blinded by their pride."

Making a pattern...

"The Crab think strength is the key, but it takes more than strength to swim."

No, not a pattern, but a web...

"A Dragon's self-contradictory riddles only serve to confuse him."

A delicate web of darkness and blood...

"And the Unicorn..." She laughed. "Who cares what the Unicorn think?" She stepped back to him, the long braid dancing between her fingers. "All they have are wonderful toys."

Badmouthing the other clans is an addiction for this book, as we'll find. It has all the maturity of a monkey with a bonnet at times.

And Yojiro cuts off the braid and chastely creams his pants in a metaphor for intimacy.

Dornaus is better at selling this scene than Wick, IMO.

Now, this story bugged the fuck out of me when I was first writing this up. Wick makes a point later that Yojiro doesn't generally harm innocents unless he absolutely has to, and there's no indication that Ino is anything but relatively innocent. It makes his zest for revenge appear really out of character, and I first attributed it to his *heavy breathing* for his lord's wife.

It only makes sense if you're familiar with Honor's Veil , an early Legend of the Five Rings adventure, where Matsu Ino is discovered to have manipulated events to kill his own brother ten years ago. Yojiro is in the adventure as well; even if the PCs solve that mystery, Ino is too powerful to be prosecuted. However, Yojiro promises to deal with Ino later.

So yeah, this is Yojiro dealing with a loose end from Honor's Veil that the PCs aren't allowed to.

So who's the woman? Well, it doesn't say, but it's clearly Bayushi Kachiko, the wife of the Scorpion Clan Champion? But who is Kachiko, then?

The credits thank Jennifer "Shosuro" Mahr. I'm going to skip ahead and reveal a few things. Shosuro was one of the Scorpion Clan founders. Bayushi Kachiko's name before her marriage is Shosuro Kachiko. In fact, she's the reincarnation of Shosuro. Now, that's a simplication, too. She's also an unnamed former girlfriend, too, as we'll see.

Matsu Ino is just a strawman. The lion die their hair straw-gold, even.

Yes, John Wick starts the book by having his insert character avenge the honor of his idealized girlfriend against a fictional strawman.

Here's an excerpt from Wick's column on the Gaming Outpost:

John Wick posted:

A slight interlude.

I just got done writing Way of Scorpion for AEG. In that book, a character named Yojiro meets with another character named Kachiko. Now, while many folks know who Bayushi Kachiko is, not a whole lot of folks know who Yojiro is.

He’s the character I used during the playtest of L5R RPG. So, in a way, he’s me. The authorial intrusion. The quiet joke. Richard Blake. Peter Frigate. Oh, never mind.

So, at the end of the story, Kachiko rewards Yojiro with a lock of her hair in the most erotic scene ever written for any Five Rings product. There’s no sex in the story. But there’s a lot of… suggestion.

That’s the set-up. What you need to know to proceed. Let’s do so.

* * *

So, anyway, I’m getting married.

Marcelo Figueora is running it. He asks me if I want a stripper at my bachelor party. I say, “No.” My bachelor party is about me and my friends. That’s it. Me and my friends. Having a stranger show up to my bachelor party didn’t feel right. This was a secret time for Us. No outsiders.

Little did I know what Marcelo had in mind.

He called a friend of mine. Told him his plan. He got together with my wife and made sure it was cool. Not only did my wife think it was cool, she even paid for my friend to fly in. This is why I tell everyone I meet that I have the coolest wife in the world. You’ll see why in a couple of moments.

So, it’s my bachelor party.

In the middle of the party, he takes me to a small room. Places me in the center in a chair. Tells me to hold tight

and Kachiko walks in.

She smiles. Wishes me well. Asks me if I love the girl I’m about to marry. I say “Yes.”

She says, “Too bad.”

And she gives me a lock of her hair.

That’s all I’m gonna say about that night.

Some things only remain sacred as long as they remain secret.

I still have that lock of hair.

And it’s magic.

(By the way, my wife and my old friend had lunch the next day. Jennifer invited her to the wedding. I love my wife.)

Oh, and John Wick mentions he purposefully put mistakes in Legend of the Five Ring's history because samurai are bad historians. But the Scorpion know the truth because... Reasons? Reasons, and they'll be revealing it here. But he adds it's all from the view of the Scorpion, so take it with a grain of salt! It's the worst of 90s bullshit excuses. Now you get to learn all the secrets! Or do you? DUN DUN DUN.

And that's just the introduction. Guess what we have next?

More fiction. Yeah, I can't wait either.

Next: Never, ever, ever fuck a Scorpion.

The Smuggest Scorpions

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Way of the Scorpion, part 3: The Smuggest Scorpions

This chapter is termed "The Subtle Scorpion", but it turns out in these stories, subtlety is generally the least of their concerns. It's a fiction chapter, though it's not labelled as such.

First off, Scorpions have a secret insult , called Junshin . Really, if there's anything the Scorpions are experts in, it's superiority complexes, and so it means "pure of heart" to most, but means "outsider" to the Scorpion because get it they can't at all be pure of heart, they're better than that, ha ha, get it-

Story time!

The first story is from Matsu Sanoru, writing about Matsu Sinoku, a half-Scorpion cousin playright. Sinoku is putting on "The Tragedy of Matsu Uji", a morality play where a Lion, Matsu Uji, marries a Scorpion, Shosuro Sushanume, out of love rather than duty. Sushanume conspires with his karo (right hand) to murder Uji and take over the the Clan. Everybody dies, the end.

But Sinoku's version, Mercy , is instead played from Sinoku's view, and there's the addition of Uji cheating on her and beating his wife, and how her actions were done as revenge, and the whole audience is moved to sympathy for Sushanume. And so a Lion (who has not been established before) rises out of the audience, murders the entire cast, including Sinoku, and declares the play will never be done again. But Sanoru keeps a copy that makes them all weepy.

This is some of the better art in this section.

The second story is of Daidoji Kukojin, taken from his letters to his kin. He has just taken a Scorpion castle, murdered its lord, and taken the lord's wife - "Lady Shosuro" is the only name she gets - and her children. He is marching on the Shosuro castle to basically demand concessions in exchange for them.

Lady Shosuro offers "anything" in exchange for her children's safety. Kukojin takes her at her word and does indeed do "anything" to her. "Anything" is sex, FYI.

As they arrive at the castle, Lady Shosuro offers to help negotiate, since she insists the lord of the castle won't make any concessions to an outsider. Then she gets inside, mocks him, and has their archers cut down her own children, insisting she can make more , and that she already is with child - Kukojin's. Though they have Kukojin dead to rights, she pointedly doesn't have him shot down. Instead, she points out she's going to raise that child to get revenge on Kukojin. Then the Scorpion armies surround the Crane's army, and the Crane retreats.

Kukojin takes a Scorpion who already lied to him pointedly at her word and instead commits seppuku.


This is based on a real incident, but the children survived. Caterina Sforza, what up .

The next story breaks the theme of "Scorpion women being wronged and revenging", thankfully, and is probably the best story in the book. It's also the most story in the book. Bear in mind that unlike the others, it's explicitly fictional. Well, fictional within the setting. It's from Kakita Ryoku's novel, Winter , where a "Lady Ryoko" is overseeing her winter court. Ah, yes. NPC self-insert fiction this time, I suppose!

Ryoko is a bit drunk and asks a bunch of a manly samurai what is the most important virtue of the samurai. The Lion sez courage, the Unicorn sez resourcefulness, the Scorpion - Bayushi Ujiro - sez loyalty. People are like "Ha ha, what does a Scorpion know of loyalty." Given that all the stories have featured Scorpion revenging so far, you can guess as to where this is going. There will be blood.

A Crab lord boasts that the Crab are "... worth a thousand scorpions any day.", so Ujiro proposes a test of loyalty to compare the worth of their samurai. He gets everybody - the Crab, the Lion, and the Unicorn to agree to the test. Basically, it'll be Simon Says - he'll order his yojimbo to a task, and then all of the other yojimbo will follow suit, and then the other lords will choose a task and have their yojimbo lead.

Ujiro will go first, to demonstrate. He orders his own yojimbo to kill him. His yojimbo briskly complies and Ujiro dies. Everybody is shocked. There is no indication the others follow suit.

And so Ujiro dies as the -est man in Rokugan of all time. Or he would, if he wasn't fictional.

Then we have a short excerpt from "Bayushi's Promise" by Bayushi Namaru, where Bayushi (founder of the Clan's) agrees to be be Hantei's (the first emperor) underhand and spymaster, since he's the sneakiest of them all. But if Hantei should ever betray him, Bayushi points out he and Hantei never fought and that implies that he could totally murder him.

It's being told by a Scorpion, so the idea their guy could be the only one to beat Hantei isn't as as it might be, but it still is .

This is also foreshadowing the Scorpion Clan Coup - already part of the backstory of the CCG - in the RPG. So... postforeshadowing? Something like that.

Then we get away from stories and Wick points out that even though the Scorpion are seen as wretched, honorless villains, but that it's not true, that's just the public face they put forward. Yyyeah. Just wait until we get further in. If he doesn't see their actions as villainous later on (Yojiro's own background is particularly mustache-twirling), I'd like to see what his definition villainous is .

It also mentions the secretive ninja may be connected to the Scorpion, but also may have grown beyond the Scorpion, but there's lotsa lies involved.

Next is a section that refers to the real-life tale "The Frog and the Scorpion". One of the puzzling things in this book is that this fable is referenced, but never actually told. (There's a variation of it coming up soon, but not actual telling of the tale.) I flipped through some other early Legend of the Five Rings books but I can't find a place where it's actually told, which is odd given that's referenced several times in this book.

Traveller posted:

As for the Frog and Scorpion story, it was actually told in the corebook by Ginawa, who incidentally a) was a ronin and b) murdered a metric fuckton of Scorpion with a bloodsword

Ha ha, that's what I get for skipping the Wick-penned flavor fiction! Here it is from Wikipedia, just in case you don't know it:

Wikipedia posted:

The Scorpion and the Frog is a fable about a scorpion asking a frog to carry him across a river. The frog is afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues that if it stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion explains that this is simply its nature. The fable is used to illustrate the view that the behaviour of some creatures, or of some people, is irrepressible, no matter how they are treated and no matter what the consequences.

Surprise sex.

The next part is written by Bayushi Guwahime, or more properly, written by Ree Soesbee. It recaps the contest between the Kami to determine who would lead but focusing on Bayushi and Shinsei. Shinsei starts to tell Bayushi the tale of the Frog and the Scorpion, but Bayushi gets annoyed, saying he knows the story. Shinsei insists and continues despite Bayushi's grumbling, and then adds the twist that the Scorpion knows how to swim after all.


Bayushi says he understands, then Shinsei pounds him in the face with his stick for lying. Then Bayushi finally enters the contest, and loses on purpose to Shiba. Shinsei then answers "Now you know how to swim.", the implication being that a conflict between Bayushi and Hantei would have destroyed them both, and in a sense that's certainly one interpretation of the Scorpion Clan Coup coming up in the metaplot.

It's actually a cute story and shows off that Soesbee definitely contributes some of the more interesting material, as we'll see later on.

Then there is a sidebar explaining how the story highlights the Scorpion philosophy, which comes down to letting your foes become overconfident, that there is always more to learn, to feign weakness, and that to learn to... uh... lie better. Well, to put a mask on and to learn to "lie with your eyes", because eyes are the souls of the soul annnd let's get away from fiction and move on to history.

Next: The Crying Game.

The Shoshuro Show

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

ProfessorCirno posted:

She's reprehensible, but only in the most childish ways, and never, ever suffers anything from it because the writer has a gigantic real life boner for her. So she's basically the avatar and personification of everything awful about Wick's Scorpion shit.

Yes, we'll get to Bayushi Kachiko, but before that, we have the prelude to Kachiko: Shosuro!

Way of the Scorpion, part 4, The Shosuro Show

It's time for Chapter 2, History!

It goes over the fact that much of the Scorpion's public history is lies, all lies, and that the Scorpion have planned it that way, and that they have cultivated this PR image of being evil weasels.

And everybody else falls for it

So we start with the story of Shosuro, who was probably a woman (but it's uncertain) but there's a sidebar explaining that her real name is unknown and that Shosuro (or Shosuko, or Soshisa) is simply a psuedonym. What's that, you want to hear about the clan founder, Bayushi? Fuck you, he doesn't matter, except where Shosuro's involved.

Warning: may contain penis.

Now, it's hard to say how much was planned in advance, but there are elements here that seem to foreshadow Way of Shadow , the novella / supplement written by Jennifer Muhr (who would then be Jennifer Wick) that teases out elements of Legend of the Five Rings' ninja backstory. In it, there is a supernatural force behind the ninja known as The Living Darkness that eats people's identities. This will be important later on. So it's interesting to see it foreshadowed (getit) in this book, even if it's a deeply nineties book in that it deliberately misleads its reader in order to reveal the truth in material later on. (Just as John Wick mentioned in the introduction...) And if this book were just fiction, that'd be okay, but it's a game manual, and as such presents a real problem when gamemasters later find whatever game element they were using was wrong all along and the truth is really lies... blesh.

Anyway, it goes right into the tale of Shosuro, because that's who Wick is interested in talking about. Bayushi is riding into town and a boy approaches him and wants to accompany him. Bayushi answers that he's not looking for honorable men, but cunning ones, and asks the boy where he can stay. Bayushi goes to to stay there and then gets ambushed by the boy, who is now a geisha, who is also Shosuro. Bayushi is impressed and takes on Shosuro - who is a actually a girl, probably? - as his follower.

Next we get into Yogo, who is a Phoenix shugenja who, in the war against Fu Leng, is cursed to betray the one he most loves. And Bayushi, seeing opportunity, approaches Yogo before the shugenja can fall on his own blade, instead offering to help Yogo get revenge on Fu Leng. Bayushi is reeling out pure bullshit, but it foreshadows how Yogo will, indeed, have some measure of revenge later on. Traveller here described the ultimate Wick game as "Murderous Doomed High-Born Manchildren", and well, that's the Yogo family in a nutshell.


Then, there's a retelling of Shinsei recruiting followers of the kami - the Seven Thunders - and Bayushi refuses to send anyone. This is the mythical betrayal, where Bayushi refuses to sacrifice Shosuro because he loves her so much. And then Shosuro sneaks out anyway to go battle Fu Leng, and is the only one to survive.

Johnnn! Did you have to associate Shosuro with your girlfriend / wife / ex-wife? Now I can't see this as much other than a series of narrative backrubs.

I'm going to step away from the book for a moment and point out one thing that gets skipped here is that in Way of Shadow , Shosuro makes a pact with The Lying Darkness to survive and as such sacrifices part of her identity and will ultimately be corrupted and doomed by it. So it's not all flowers for Jennifer, as it turns out. Still, Shosuro arrives "dying" before Bayushi with the Black Scrolls used to bind Fu Leng, but it's a trick. Though Bayushi has the body burned, ostensibly because she might carry the Shadowlands taint, instead Shosuro disguises herself as the shugenja Soshi. The book takes a moment to describe how Shosuro one-upped Bayushi by faking her own death and was an even better trickster and

And Shosuro develops shinobi, a new form of shadow-magic. Now, those who may have read Way of the Dragon may remember the FAQ at the end where Wick angrily retorts that you cannot be a samurai and a shugenja at the same time, but Shosuro's the great exception to many things, as it turns out. (After all, she gets to found two families.) She also develops how to create Shadow Brands, which give Scorpions added power while in shadow, but it's a big secret because it's likely to be considered maho , or bad magic.

The Yogo gets the Black Scrolls, because Bayushi already knows that Yogo has betrayed the thing he loves most, Shiba. (Apparently, he fails to consider that his cursed descendants may betray... oh... say... the Clan... or the Empire... but Bayushi's a little slow, as we've seen.)

Then it goes to describe Shosuro Furuyari, who founded the Shosuro acting tradition. Surprise surprise, his actors are really just spies that use their actor skills as both training and cover.

Traveller posted:

The worst "pun" in the game. Hint: furu = to shake, yari = spear SHAKESPEARE WAS TOTALLY A SCORPION YOU GUYS

Then it switches gears a bit and starts to talk about Bayushi Kuninoko, who went to spy on the Togashi, but ended up falling in mutual love with the Togashi daimyo, Togashi Kuzejiro. Who, for the record, is really the original Togashi, and is a literal shapeshifting dragon. So Kuninoko becomes pregnant, goes back to the Scorpion lands, gives her report that the Togashi daimyo is really a literal dragon, and then goes back to the Dragon lands, never to be seen again. Though the Scorpion sent many spies to try and figure out what happened to her child, they failed, and only recently did a Scorpion spy find out about a half-dragon creature hailing from dragon lands. It also turns out that every Scorpion champion has gone to Togashi to learn special secrets, including the current one, though only those Togashi chooses to share, of course.

And we're back to ninja again.

Nonexistent poison being planted by mythical ninjas.

In the corebook, we learned of Bayushi Aramoro, the head of a secret spy network created by the Scorpion that was accused of using dark magic to achieve their ends. (This seems to essentially be true.) After Aramoro died, his ghost appeared to his surviving followers, and urged them to gain revenge on him. Using their forbidden magic, they turned themselves into shadows and murdered everybody responsible for the fall of Aramoro. (For CCG fans, bear in mind this isn't the Bayushi Aramoro who's Kachiko's right hand. That's a different guy.)

Now that we have Way of Shadow , of course, it becomes pretty clear that Aramoro was likely corrupted or replaced by the The Lying Darkness, along with many of his followers, and after that they vanish like ninja do. On the other hand, the Scorpion clan proper opted to use this myth to their benefit, using black-clad "ninja" as distractions for their actual, more subtle agents. This has gone on for eight centuries, because all the rest of the clans are basically gullible idiots, apparently.
Basically all other samurai are portrayed as this guy.

Exceeeept for Kitsuki Kaagi of the Dragon clan, who has uncovered the actual "ninja cult" - the guys that turned into shadows - and left his journal with his clan and mysteriously disappeared. Those who read Way of Shadow know he vanishes on account of struggling with being slowly corrupted by the Lying Darkness. Later on in the metaplot, Kaagi would resurface to expound ninja narrative at later protagonists, and then would commit seppuku to avoid total corruption, as it turns out even having knowledge of the ninja corrupts you. Whoops.

Kitsuki Yasu, daimyo of the Kitsuki family, keeps the journal locked away. It isn't mentioned here, but he keeps the book inside a crystal prison, because crystal is like kryptonite for ninjas, which is also not mentioned here. (I am not kidding.) One unnamed Bayushi got ahold of the book and attacked the Shosuro daimyo, claiming he wasn't human. Given the context and later revelations, this may have been the case.

Topic shift again! Now it's time to talk about Iuchiban, the worstest blood sorcerer of all time. This doesn't have too much to do with the Scorpion, but is included here because of Reasons. Some Scorpion scrolls say says Iuchiban may have been a Imperial gardener, a fallen Master of Void (of the Phoenix), or a Unicorn with forbidden magics, who found a journal written by a Crab who learned how to raise zombies and got et by those same zombies. The scrolls are bullshit.

Anyway, Iuchiban recruited Asahina Yajinden, who learned to use porcelain masks to make obedient zombies, as well as make the cursed bloodswords that were used to undermine three Clan daimyos (spoiler: not the Scorpion), but a Scorpion and a Lion Magistrate got on his trail and caught him. But it turns out Iuchiban had removed his heart and couldn't be killed, and so they made a Tomb with the aid of the Crab to entrap him. And then the Scorpion murdered the Crab engineer so that nobody would know and Iuchiban would never get out again!

Ha ha, psyche, he gets out again, this time by possessing people like a ghost. Anyway, he failed to possess an ize zumi (the Dragon clan's magic tattooed men), and they eventually catch him again by forcing him to possess an ize zumi, who can contain him due to magic... tattoo... foo, and they rebuild the tomb with the help of Phoenix, Crab, and Scorpion shugenjas, who lock themselves in to make sure he never gets out again.

He's going to totally get out again, because, hey, metaplot, everyone! But we don't need to get into that.

The Crab then formed the witch hunters and the Scorpion made the kuroiban, which were... other witch hunters, and the Kuni and Yogo families became great allies against the Shadowlands.

But when Iuchiban's identity was revealed (he turned out be a son of the Emperor, but that isn't mentioned here), the Shosuro and the Ikoma (the Lion's historians) were put to the task by their daimyos to write a history where Iuchiban wasn't related to the Imperial line, and that led to a relationship where the two families work together to black out anything that might present the Hantei imperial line as fallible.

Shadow-brands get mentioned here, along with the fact that the Shadow-brands have their own "kami" (the Lying Darkness, most likely), and to see the appendix for more details.

We have sidebars for the gang tags family mons!

See the Bayushi mon is a Scorpion swimming because fuck you frog ahahahaha oh this is going to get so fucking old.

The Shosuro mon is an endless loop of ivy, the puzzle that will never be solved. Solution: it's ivy .

Soshi's gonna catcha! Gonna catcha in a net! (A crab fishing, now that's silly.)

The Yogo have a Phoenix mask to remember the clan they betrayed forever. (I really dig the curly mustache.)

Next: The Scorpion cheat at tradgames.

Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince II - Ninja Revenge

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

The Way of the Scorpion, part 5: Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince II - Ninja Revenge

Time to wrap up the History chapter! We're starting with the summaries of Scorpion battles.

The first is The Battle of the Bloody Retreat, where the Scorpion fought Iuchiban's zombies and suffered heavy losses before the Lion reinforced them, which would lead to the defeat of the undead at the Battle of the Sleeping River. It's implied the Lion only had their grand victory due to Scorpion sacrifice, but not really emphasized.

The second is the Battle at Fortune's Plain, where the Crab and the Scorpion where fighting over some lands, but then the Lion threatened them both. So the Scorpion meets with the Crab general and offers to roll dice to see who gets to fight the Lion unhindered. The Crab agrees, but agrees to use his dice. That's 2d6, for the record. (This completely contradicts a section later in the book detailing Rokugan's dice games.) The Crab rolls a 12, the Scorpion rolls a 12, so they go to break the tie, the Crab rolls a 12 again, and then the Scorpion rolls a 6 and the second die breaks. The Crab declares victory, only to have the Scorpion point out the second die broke so the halves are showing a 6 and a 1, see, so 6 + 6 + 1 = 13.

Yeah. The Crab gives up and goes home, and once again the Scorpion win based on Looney Tunes-style antics.

The next Battle is the Battle at White Shore. See, in the original story, the Unicorn return from gaijin lands, and fight their way through Crab and Scorpion lands to return to the Emperor.

But it turns out the Scorpion lost on purpose!

I am going to run out of s before this is through.

Why? Well, the Scorpion figured they couldn't shame barbarians, so they lost on purpose to get people to think they're incompetent. The actual purpose of this deception that is left vague, and assumed to be a victory in and of itself. To me, it feels more like Wick is just whitewashing one of the Scorpion's major losses at that point.

"Nobody reads the words anyway, they'll never notice if I just scribble-"

Then we get into the view Scorpions have of other clans. Yeah, remember how I mentioned badmouthing the other clans was an addiction for this book? I haven't brought up the sidebars yet where Ree Soesbee gives little fables where the Scorpion gets to humiliate all the other clans.

This makes this the third time in this book so far that the Scorpion do a line-item mockery of all the other clans. It isn't the last. Not by far.

So let's pull out my old friend, the bullet point, and get to summarizing:

I'll get back to Ree's set of smack talks later on.

If somebody could translate this, I'd appreciate it! Edit: Nevermind, it's just the symbols used for the Five Rings, hurr.

But for now we move on to Bayushi Tangen (remember him?), who is basically Rokugan's Niccolò Machiavelli, writing a book of advice for Hantei Goshino called Lies . It basically starts out by attacking the (then newly published) book Leadership , which is a famous Lion tome on tactics and honor.

And a lot of it is paraphrasing Machiavelli, unsurprisingly.

Bayushi Tangen posted:

If a man has everything but the throne, what does he desire? He desire what all men desire: to obtain what he does not have.

Niccolò Machiavelli posted:

The reason is that nature has so created men that they are able to desire everything but are not able to attain everything: so that the desire being always greater than the acquisition, there results discontent with the possession and little satisfaction to themselves from it.

Bayushi Tangen posted:

Fear is more powerful than love, and the more desired emotion.

Niccolò Machiavelli posted:

It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.

Bayushi Tangen posted:

If you have the force to destroy an enemy, destroy him.

Niccolò Machiavelli posted:

If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.

Bayushi Tangen posted:

Know where your sword is. Always.

Niccolò Machiavelli posted:

Before all else, be armed.

Granted, not all of it is such, but it's clearly inspired from him, as Wick mentioned earlier. Honestly, this is probably my favorite part of the History section. Unlike the other "Way of" books, Way of the Scorpion doesn't present a proper history, but moments of interest to the author. The issue is that it doesn't give much of a view as to how to Scorpion actually have progressed or developed throughout the ages. We learn about individuals or events, but very little about the clan, and this is about as close as we get. If you want to know anything about the Bayushi family's history, for example... the main family of the clan... we get nearly nothing. Same with the Soshi.

I'm going to leave you with some other bits from Lies :

Lies posted:

Lies and Truth

Akodo speaks eloquently of the virtue of honestly. "No harm can come of the truth," he says, "and a lie kills someone in the world."

If a lie were to save the Emperor, and the truth doom him, I would ask the Lion what he might choose.
A lie does indeed kill someone in the world, but what if it saved the Emperor? Who would not give his life for the Son of Heaven?

If Lord Akodo is unwilling to do so, I certainly shall take his place.

Lies posted:

The Peasantry

You may always trust a peasant over a nobleman.

The nobleman is ambitious.

The peasant only wants to eat.

In other words, the nobleman has betrayal in his blood while the peasant only wishes not to be betrayed.

Lies posted:

Kill a Man's Wife

Kill an ambitious man's wife, and his life will turn to revenge... and away from ambition. All of his focus will be on you... and not on those around him.

This is how you kill an ambitious man.

This is also how you kill any man.

Lies posted:

Impetuousness Always Triumphs

When you must ask a favor from another, do not allow him time to consider, especially if you make certain he understands that refusal shall draw disfavor from you.

Mother Sun is a woman, after all, and what impresses a woman more than a bold, impetuous man?

Lies posted:

True Treachery

Never presume a man is incapable of treachery. If one man is capable of it, all men are capable of it. But you do not need to fear all men. You only need concern yourself with men of cunning, strong heart, will and determination. These men are capable of true treachery . Other men are only capable of low treachery .

Weak men are not capable of true treachery; neither are men of low means. Only those who are brave are capable of it. The cowardly do not have the stomach for it. Men of weakness will always wait for another to take risks. This is the way of the world.

Great men may employ weak men to spill blood for them, however. Even skill, do not confuse the hand for the blade; it still belongs to a man of means and will. It takes power to convince another man to take risks.

More than anything, you must fear those upon whom you have bestowed great favor, those you hold close and capable men of courage and will. Do not fear men who are distant, or who bear you ill will. The desire to rule has always been greater than the desire for revenge.

Next: Being an actor is tough.

"Your crafty GM owns your soul now, ninja-boy!"

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Way of the Scorpion, part 6: "Your crafty GM owns your soul now, ninja-boy!"

Next, we get into character material.

First is a skill for Explosives. This includes "stink bombs, smoke bombs, flash paper". A damn shame there isn't proper rules for these, though! Essentially a skill without rules for its actual use. We get eggshell bombs later on, but those are treated as a joke foisted on novice ninja.

Mimic is included to mimic voice. Ninjutsu is included to use ninja tools - but once again, most of those are treated as ineffective garbage later on. There's Poison, when we'll get to later, and Sleight of Hand, which lets you pick pockets or hide objects. All dishonorable skills, of course, and many are basically just repeated from the ninja section in the corebook.

Then we get to Advantages. There's Crafty, which lets you always roll low skills as if you had 1 rank in them, and then Dangerous Beauty. Dangerous Beauty is basically seductive beauty, and Scorpions get it cheaper.

Yes, Scorpions are the sexiest people in Rokugan .

There's Ear of the Emperor, which means you have a direct connection to the Emperor. Yyyeah. Only 5 points! There's Heartless, which lets you resist emotional influences, and a Heart of Vengeance, which gives you an enemy and extra dice kept (that's a big deal) when facing that enemy's clan.

When we get to Disadvantages. There's Nemesis, a 5-point flaw where you have an enemy from a past life, and can't spend Void points around them. There's Junshin, where you're an honorable Scorpion and everybody hates you. The Scorpion hate you for being honorable, and everybody else hates you for being a Scorpion.

Then we have the Yogo Curse. If you're from the Yogo family, you get it without getting any points from it, because fuck you. Also, whenever you make a Scorpion character, you have to roll randomly and there's a 6% or so chance of getting this curse. In this case, you still don't get points for it. Nobody gets points for it. You're cursed to betray whatever you most love, intentionally or otherwise. Oh yeah, and everybody in the Scorpion knows this is the case when it comes to the Yogo.

And they put these folks in charge of the Black Scrolls, man, I hope none of them loves their duty or anything.

Then we get into schools. There's the Yogo Shugenja school first, which gets bonuses on wards (described later), and can use all elements equally well (though they don't start with Earth spells). Perhaps their flaw is to make up for their lack of weaknesses, but... tat's presuming the Yogo doesn't study at another school. Or that another family studies at the Yogo school. So I'll throw that idea out and say the Yogo school is a little strong, but not overtly so. Oh, and they're all taught about maho. And have low honor.

Not that this could backfire!

The art in this chapter is generally pretty damn rough.

Then we move on to the Shosuro Butei (Acting) school. They get a bunch of low skills as their school skills, and then their Rank 1 lets them add their school rank to their Awareness when trying to influence or persuade, making them one of the scariest social schools at the time of publishing, on sheer dice numbers alone. Rank 2 lets them use as much Void as they want when attacking an unaware foe. Decent enough, but bear in mind they don't start with any actual combat skills to hit with in the first place. But then we get to their Ranks 3-5, which are pretty much garbage.

See, every time an actor gets a rank beyond that, they get a persona. It has several example personae, and you can also take any School as a persona (you get the skills only). Each persona gets 6-7 skills at rank 1. Sounds useful, right? Well, while you're in a persona, it's harder to use your natural skills. If you want to use a skill that isn't part of your current persona (and your base character's skills count as one), you have to make a Void + Meditation roll versus (skill rank x 5) to use it. And no, they don't get Meditation as a base skill. That costs extra.

Well, you may wonder, how do you improve these persona skills? Well, you pay experience like other skills. Only the cost is doubled. And it's possible for skills to overlap, meaning you can have a rank of 4 in Tea Ceremony in your "geisha persona", but have to roll your rank of 1 in Tea Ceramony as a "monk persona", because they're separate.

Well, at least they get a bonus to disguise while they're in different personae for all this trouble, right?

Nope. Goddamnit Wick.

Next we go on to the Bayushi Courtiers. They get a good smattering of courtly skills, so we can move on to the techniques. Their rank 1 technique gives them a Free Raise on social Contested Rolls for every 2 points of disadvantages their foe has. This is not capped by rank or anything.

And what PC is without their 10 points in Disadvantages?

Rank 2 lets them make a social Awareness contest - yes, they get the bonus from Rank 1, giving them a strong advantage - to learn somebody's weakest trait. They can repeatedly do their up to their Awareness times against a single character, and can hammer on it. There isn't a drawback for failure; they can just try again and again. Rank 3 is like Rank 2, but it lets you uncover Disadvantages (though not the details thereof).

Rank 4 gets redonkulous, where the Scorpion can roll once again for every hour of in-game talking to somebody. If they succeed they get the Blackmail advantage for free against this person. Every time they succeed past that they get to add 1 point to that Blackmail advantage, to a maximum of 5.

It's interesting - and bear in mind Blackmail basically never goes away as per RAW. But the real problem is that's not how Blackmail works in the core rules. Blackmail basically has a cost equal to the Glory score of the person blackmailed, minus one for being a Scorpion. So either it can't be used on people above Glory 5 (or 6?), or it needs to be rewritten. And this is the version of the technique that's supposed to have errata...

(And there's no minimum cost for Blackmail, so for 0 points you could have a Scorpion that has Blackmailed everybody in Rokugan with a Glory rating of 1 or lower. Alternately, having dirt on the Emperor is a comparatively cheap 9 points.)

Rank 5 is because the courtier can spend X amount of Void points to give people certain disadvantages - Bad Reputation, Obligation, or Sworn Enemy. There's no roll . You can give Clan Champions Obligations . You can give the Emperor a Bad Reputation for 2 Void Points . The only way out from these disadvantages is to roleplay your way free. And yes, these drawbacks count for your Rank 1.

Oh, and recovering your Void points takes an hour and a successful Meditation roll against TN 15. The only real limitation is that you can only bestow five disadvantages per character.

Bear in mind you can thusly give some people over 10 points in disadvantages this way, to boot - if they have already 10 points in disadvantages, you can easily grant them another 15 points in drawbacks (a load of Sworn Enemies), and thusly get 12 free raises against them on Social contests. What's more, it's not clear what the point value of the Disadvantages you grant are; Obligation is worth 2 or 4 points, and Sworn Enemy is worth 3-6 points. If you can control the point value of the Disadvantages you grant (it's not clear, once again), you can set up a character to give you 15-20 raises on social checks. That's effectively a +75 to +100 bonus in a game where the normal difficulty class for rolls ranges from 10-30.

Terrible social mechanics built only for the

This is Bayushi Goshiu from the CCG! He's not actually mentioned in this book.

There are some sidebars, too.

The first just details how the Kuni and Yogo work together, where Kuni use binding magic and Yogo use ward magic together, like the peanut butter cups of witch hunting.

There's a roll where it points out that if a Scorpion roleplays the Techniques well, you should reward them by skipping the roll and just saying they succeed. This is bad, and here's why. Do I get to cut down a foe because I describe my sword-stroke well (or mime it, even)? Do I get to succeed at my research because I go into meticulous detail? No. It's just a means of favoring the social character with a social player, and it's bad mechanics.

There's some details on the bloodswords, even though they're supposed to be a big secret, right smack dab in the middle of the character section. It mentions Ginawa (that's a ronin NPC that will be detailed in other books) has Revenge, and that the Scorpion daimyo has Ambition, which is locked away but tempts all the Scorpion daimyos. Yep. The Scorpion get to be the only folks that recieved a bloodsword and resisted it, at least for the most part.

In this piece, Shinsei beats up your ancestor.

And then we have heritage tables! You spend 1 CP and roll randomly, up to three times to see what your character gets from their heritage. Here's some examples:

Way of the Scorpion posted:

Betrayer! Your parents or their parents chose to testify against the clan in court, creating a schism between your line and the clan. You are clan ronin.

Ha ha, whoops, I hope you weren't planning on actually making a Scorpion character!

Way of the Scorpion posted:

Villainous Blood. The blood of an ancestor courses through your veins. Gain any one advantage up to 4 points for free and you may purchase an Ancestor for half the required Character Points. This result may only be acquired once. Treat subsequent rolls as no effect.

See being Villainous is good because these tables reverse stuff by making the Distinguished results bad and Dishonorable good, get it? But wait, aren't they supposed to be not villains after all and ahhhh my head-

Anyway, Patrick Kapera wrote these tables, so even though I love Spycraft and a lot of his work, he gets all the blame for this poopsock. If you're wondering about the tough question - "is it worth spending 1 CP on the heritage tables?" Well, I broke them down into "good" results (you get a mechanical book), neutral results (you get a mechanical boon and a drawback, or nothing mechanical at all), or bad results (you get a mechanical drawback). It comes out like this.
The odds are in your favor, but with a 73.2% chance of getting crapped on or bupkiss out of it, I'd save my points. If you spent all 3 CP, you'll probably get at least one good result, so it's honestly not too bad, especially when compared to the heritage tables in other books, but you're not likely to come out ahead with the notable chance of getting a bad result, too.

Hell, why even have "nothing happens" results? I mean, if you're spending CP, something should happen, even if it's mild mechanically.

There are also the Fortune tables. It costs 3 CP to spend on this. It includes things such as...

Way of the Scorpion posted:

Favored Student: Add 3 Points to your skills. One Skill may begin higher than 4.

... or...

Way of the Scorpion posted:

You lack direction and purpose, or perhaps you're just confused about loyalty and bushido. You must gain 5 extra Insight for every School Rank.

Holy shit. Ouch.

And I have to mention this one:

Way of the Scorpion posted:

No Bad Fortune - yet. Your crafty GM owns your soul now, ninja-boy!

Oh, Patrick .

So what are the odds this time?
Decent betting odds, but given you have to spend 3 CP, probably not worth the risk.

It's depressing doing the odds, since I always loved rolling on the heritage tables (even the bad ones), but the fact you have to invest character points in them really makes them harder to justify. In retrospect, I think it'd be better to let people just roll for free instead.

And that's all for the player character rules! Well, except for the ancestor rules and the ninja rules in the appendix but the rules for ninja are secret, oh shit, spoilers!

Next: Cardboard Snowflakes!

Kachiko-chan and her Amazing Friends

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

The Way of the Scorpion, part 7: Kachiko-chan and her Amazing Friends

Now, time for the Who's Who section, aka "characters that are way more badass than yours will ever be".

We start out with a note on Insight levels. It notes that some characters don't have the correct amount of Insight they require for their rank, and this is done so that GMs can fill out their ranks with additional skills they might need. For example, Kachiko has about 186 insight, only enough to qualify for Rank 3, but she's listed as Rank 5.

Mind, insight values for the characters are not provided; you'd have to work them out yourself, so this isn't terribly handy information. And even if you do, somebody like Kachiko thusly has 29 ranks in skills that need to be filled out . Obviously, shenanigans are afoot.

The real key to understanding this sidebar is that sidebar is not in the original printing of the book. They just goofed up the insight value of most of the NPCs (or rather, didn't bother to count up the Insight totals in the first place), so they inserted that sidebar rather than adjusting the writeups of all the NPCs.

Granted, being perfect with the insight values hardly even matters, but it's appropriate enough that the Scorpion book would have little real-life obfuscation...

So, the characters. I'm going to go over their CCG origins a bit in each entry, and then cover the characters in the book themselves. I'm also going to put the CCG art next to the art in this book. Compare and contrast!

Bayushi Aramoro

This is the first-ever Scorpion that had the ninja trait. Being a sneaky ninja, the yellow bamboo streamers coming off his back and bright red mask are presumably some form of intentional self-handicap. He's also one of the few with RPG art that pretty well matches Matt Wilson's "muscle ninja" art.

He's also one of the better early Scorpion cards, even if you have to pay through the nose for him (a whole 8 gold). He also is one of the Scorpion characters that has passable stats; the common issue you'll see with the early Scorpion CCG characters is that their stats are basically garbage, and he's one of the few with even just passable Force and Chi (those are the numbers at the top). His Limited action is designed to let him assassinate characters before they enter the board, and his other action let him defend Bayushi Kachiko, which is very limited ability, but people had good reason to want to duel Kachiko, as we'll see...

In the RPG, he's a rank 5 Shosuro Assassin - that school we haven't covered yet, since it's supposed to be secret and is tucked into the appendices.

He's the younger half-brother of Bayushi Shoju, the Scorpion's Clan Champion, but is tragically in love with Shoju's wife. He's even got a Kharmic Tie for her and a Greater Destiny - but he's got the Yogo Curse! Whut-oh...

Having grown up as Shoju's dashing and more handsome younger brother, he fell for Kachiko early on, trying to woo her... but Shoju somehow caught her eye instead. Though he was training as a courtier, he opted to become a ninja so he could hide his broken heart in the shadows . (No seriously.)

Anyway, Kachiko became pregnant with a child - not Shoju's, but that of the Crane Clan Champion, Doji Hoturi. She foisted off the child on Aramoro, and Aramoro, pretty much being a tool, agreed to watch over the boy.

He's a super-good assassin who's perfect about murdering tons of people but is still haunted by a teenage crush he can't get over because, like I said, he's a tool.

Now, here's the thing: in this book, he's obviously set up to betray Kachiko. He's a total creeper for her and has the Yogo Curse. So I'm wondering - how does he betray her later in the continuity?

Well, it's hard to say. He fails to protect Bayushi Dairu - the boy he's entrusted with - from death, but he does everything he can to protect him. I suppose that's as close as he gets, but it doesn't seem to affect his relationship with Kachiko, who uses him as her right hand for many years afterward. (She may have reason to suspect he carries the Yogo curse, but no apparent reason to be certain of it.)

Later on Aramoro's son betrays the Scorpion as a whole, but that seems like a stretch to attribute to Aramoro. Still, I don't think the big tragedy Wick set up in this book ever really came to pass. Presumably his Great Destiny could play into the fact that he leads the Scorpion back to Great Clan status after their fall later on.

Bayushi Kachiko

The iconic Scorpion for a long time, Kachiko appeared in the very first Legend of the Five Rings set, Imperial Edition.

She has crummy, crummy stats for somebody that costs 10 gold, but one scary ability - she can automatically, if slowly, poison characters to death by seducing them. (Once their Chi hits 0, they die).

Pretty scary, but she was let down by not being good for much of anything else, and had the classic issue of many Scorpion characters - a powerful ability, but no strengths towards actually achieving the game's victory conditions.

L5R Wiki posted:

According to John Wick, "Kachiko" comes from a slang word he used in high school. The word came from a friend who was taking Russian. The friend used the word "kachi" (the Russian word for "cat") as a code word for "cute girl." When time came to name "Scorpion Shugenja A" (Kachiko's original playtest name), Wick dubbed her "Kachi-ko," or "little cutie."

Kachiko is notable because she became a big star of the game; she got to be in the flavor fiction for a good few of the rulebooks, got a number of cards dedicated to her outside of her own, and was used for adverts fairly often as well. I don't want to say it's because she's about the only female at the time to let her kimono down... but that's probably a big reason why, especially considering she came from a time that sexuality in CCGs was largely restricted to XXXenophile .

Anyway, Kachiko was born Shosuro Kachiko, and delighted in manipulating boys into abusing her brother, Shosuro Hametsu, who she resented as the chief heir to the Shosuro.

I'm gonna roll up some 100% pure Young Wick for you here:

John Wick posted:

She learned quickly that she could get older boys to pummel him with a slight hint of recompense, a lesson she could keep for the rest of her life. She also learned another lesson: that men would do nearly anything if a reward was involved. Expecially a reward of physical gratification.

These lessons led her to one conclusion: that men were stupid and weak. Social position meant nothing, because her brother held position, even though he was weak. Physical strength meant nothing, because she could manipulate that to her own designs. Everywhere she looked, she saw men who could be manipulated with promises that she need never deliver on. She also discovered that men would continue to serve, even if she broke her promises, for the mere chance of winning her favor.

All her life, Kachiko had been told that her womanhood made her less than a man, a second-rate human being at best. No matter how hard she tried, she would eventually be relegated to the role of a wife, a man's possession and nothing more. But Kachiko had learned a deeper truth: that men were slaves of their own desires, and the woman who held the leash of their desires was truly their master.

Yeahhh. That's some Young Wick.

Anyway, she wanted to become a rad assassin ninja, but her father, being ironically chauvinistic for the head of a family founded by a woman (probably!), put her over to the courtier school instead. It's interesting - earlier Legend of the Five Rings material hints at a less egalitarian society than we see in later books, which would imply outside of specific familial subcultures, things were more equal.

It's also weird to have a family founded by a woman (probably!) be a patriarchy, but who needs an explanation for that? Not Mr. Wick, for one!

Anyway, she gets better at using her bared shoulder to destroy men and shoving herself into others' personal space. Her and Hoturi end up having a big affair where they're both trying to seduce each other but they're both unwilling to let them be seduced and there's a lot of details but ultimately she has his baby and then they're all at each other because of Reasons.

She's become an aide to the Emperor, and-

John Wick posted:

The Emperor has also noticed that the Lady Scorpion proved valuable during negotiations, as opposing daimyos found it difficult to concentrate with such a lovely distraction sitting before them.

Anyway she uses special potions to stay young looking and she's faithful to Shoju except Hoturi because she loves him after all.

One last , here:

John Wick posted:

Three hundred people. All gathered to hear the Last Kachiko Story.


And right then, right there, I realize just how big and powerful The Lady has become. Bigger than me. In five hundred years, people won’t remember John Wick, but they’ll remember Bayushi Kachiko.

(Don’t believe me? Tell me who created The Shadow. Or Doc Savage. Or Flash Gordon. How about Superman? Be honest with yourself. Don’t go look it up. Just realize that you don’t know. Then realize that dreamers always stand in the shadow of their dreams.

And that ain’t always a bad place to be.)

Wick's seeming fetish for Dragon Ladies continues on in 7th Sea (Fate Witches), Wicked Fantasy (Jyss Shallan), and even Orkworld had a class of vengeful female ork witches.

It's a theme.

Bayushi Shoju

This guy appears after the original storyline finished in the CCG, because the CCG produced a card set for the Scorpion Clan Coup (which hasn't even happened yet in Way of the Scorpion ) as a prequel to the original story arc, and Shoju gets a lethal dose of katana in that storyline. Clear? Well, we're moving on anyway.

Most of the early Scorpion personalities were not fit to line a birdcage with, much less play in a CCG - they were terrific at fucking with folks, but no good at all at actually achieving most of the victory conditions of the game. Shoju here was produced after, and it shows - he's a generally fearsome fellow. He has a Force and Chi befitting a champion, the Tactician ability which makes him a wartime hammer, and the ability to swap hands before a fight - pretty useful if you can manage to dump your hand before the fight begins.

He's at least a A or a B+ when considering other personalities. He's also known for seizing the capital of Rokugan and murdering the emperor before the other clans kicked them out (once again, in the future as far that supplement is concerned). Shoju dies, and that's when we get to this fellow again.

Speaking of birdcage personalities! This is his first appearance in the CCG. He's dead, and when you reveal him, he's dumped into your discard before you can recruit him. So how do you play him?

Here's another card from the set. Funnily enough, it brings back the dead!

The problem is you needed:

Whew! Let's get back to the RPG, when Shoju is alive and well. Part of the reason I'm covering the cards is to give some perspective. We go into this character writeup knowing there's a katana with Shoju's name on it.

He's the Clan Champion, but he's tremendously flawed to make up for his utter perfection. Let's count the flaws, since that lets me sum up a lot about him.
Yes, that's well over 10 points in Disadvantages. Nonetheless, we are told:
For such a flawed guy, he doesn't seem to have many flaws! When I started this section as "characters that are way more badass than yours will ever be", I give you exhibit A: Bayushi Shoju!

Oh, but he has a flaw, you see. A deep failure that haunts him to this day.

It'll give you a little bit to work out what that is.


Think you have it?

Bayushi Kachiko, the woman he loves, fucked another man before they married! She'll never be wholly his!


y u

y u rite so bad



In the end, he's kind of like the movie cop who bought a boat five days before retirement. He's presented as a guy who has overcome so much to becoming a shining beacon of the Empire . So when he tries to overthrow the Empire under shoddy justification and gets a folded steel injection, his death is supposed to be mega tragic .

Oh, and there's a sidebar noting that Kachiko and Shoju basically get all the the Blackmail advantages they ever need on anybody ever given enough time.

Next: Other objects in orbit around Kachiko.

"Prepare to face the Dark Sword of Bitter Lies!"

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

The Way of the Scorpion, part 8: "Prepare to face the Dark Sword of Bitter Lies!"

Bayushi Tangen

please not another character tied to kachiko

Oh, thank the Fortunes.

This is his card. Basically, he gets to jump in front of swords. He's utterly cheap and can replace people in duels or battles, but has basically the minimum stats a non-dead personality might have.

Not much story here, not much else to be said. Bear in mind he's a descendant of the Machiavellian sort we've discussed earlier, and not the real deal.

Now, every personality so far has been Rank 4 or 5. Top of their game. Tangen here is pretty close to what a PC could be. He's Rank 2. And he's a joke. He's the Scrappy-Doo of the Scorpion Clan, and wants to form his own duelling school, and basically picks fights at every opportunity. He has a catchphrase - "Prepare to face the Dark Sword of Bitter Lies!", and is constantly quoting from Lies . He's survived every task he's been assigned, but only out of luck (he has 9 points of Luck).

The Scorpion Clan finds him so annoying they've tried to kill him three times, and failed each time. Oh, yes, we're back into "more badass than you" territory.

He has a special technique called "The Dark Sword of Bitter Lies". Want to know what it does?

It lets him keep 1 extra die for every 3 points he has in luck. That lets him keep three extra dice on all rolls. On what, you might wonder? Oh, everything.

And he has this technique even though he doesn't have the Insight to develop it.

Oh, and most of his skills are only rank 1 or 2. He can't even keep that many dice, except on Kenjutsu.

Oh, and it says PCs might be able to learn it from him if they have enough Luck to learn it, but-

John Wick posted:

Unfortunately, Tangen isn't a very good teacher, and no-one else can quite figure out his Technique. Game masters are welcome to allow Tangen to teach it to other players, but it doesn't always work as well as it does for him.

License to fuck over the PCs for daring to be as awesome as an NPC: issued .

I like the fillings on this burrito, I actually think he's a fun concept, but it's wrapped in a mechanical tortilla that just falls apart when you try to eat it.

Yay terrible metaphors.

And then we're back to Kachiko's retinue.

Bayushi Yojiro

The man, the legend...

... the boobplate? Wasn't he supposed to be a guy?

Well, he was. But there was an art cock-up. Or cock-off, in this case.

He has mercifully average stats, and his abilities match up with the fact that he remains loyal to the throne even after the Coup attempt. Though that's a trick, too, of sorts. His card has decent stats for the time, but can't be played by Scorpion players looking to use the effective version of their faction, so fuck him.

The art he was supposed to have went to this card (probably).

(Oh, and if you want to see what a Scorpion with good stats, cost, and ability looks like at this point, look at Dozan. They were part of a set directed at making Scorpion decks actually competitive, and it shows in cards like him and the inexperienced Shoju.)

So, here we have a middle ground. Yojiro was Wick's playtest character. He's a little reserved compared to the litany of tremendously accomplished manipulators.

He's only a Rank 4 Bayushi Courtier (with insight of 181, enough for rank 3).

He's a Courtier, he has both Benten's Blessing and Voice. He also has both Junshin and Reputation (Honest) as disadvantages, which you may notice is basically the same thing twice. (Also, I think he meant Bad Reputation.)

The twist is that he's supposed to be a Scorpion that became obsessed with bushido and honor. Uh-oh! I bet he gets in a lot of trouble! Well, not exactly. (He has Lion allies, but it's not described how he got them.)

Well, after a sinister Crane burned down a geisha house to hide signs of his own indiscretion, Yojiro was sent to ruin him, a task he went to gladly. He enacted a plan to murder the Crane's whole family and make the Crane look responsible. But then, he was given a message that the Crane was, in fact, innocent (Scorpions burned and slaughtered the geisha house to frame him for Yojiro's sake), but that Yojiro was to complete the mission out of loyalty, not honor.

Yojiro buckled like a belt, and had the innocent Crane destroyed.

Wait, I thought the image of them as cartoon villains was just a front? I guess the image of them as cartoon villains is a front for them really being misunderstood master spies which is just a front for them being cartoon villains all over again.

Very clever, Mr. Wick. Very clever.

Oh, it's time for the best part.

John Wick posted:

Bayushi Shoju himself has secretly ordered Yojiro to keep a subtle watch on Kachiko, to make certain "her indiscretions do not endanger the Clan." Yojiro has followed his daimyo's orders to the letter, staying close to the Lady Scorpion as often as he can. And while he is not immune to her allure, his loyalty has proven to be a suitable shield to her more dangerous charms - a virtue she has found frustrating on more than one occasion.

Yep, Yojiro do what Shoju don't.

Shosuro Hametsu

It's on his face oh no- wait that's just his ugly, ugly mask.

It's Kachiko's bullied bro. This guy can give poison tokens to weaken people in duels, which is good, because the Scorpion Clan at this point in the CCG don't have any good duelists, but is also bad, because the Scorpion Clan at this point in the CCG don't have any good duelists.

Anyway, to highlight the issue with some of the insight ranks, here's Hametsu. He's Shosuro Assassin 5. He has an insight of... oh... 151 ... yes, he barely qualifies for Rank 2. Yes, you're supposed to somehow find around 75 ranks of skills for him to "flesh him out".


He may be the worst family daimyo of all time based on his stats; He's utterly incompetent aside from his Leadership skill. Granted, the book pretty much admits that he uses his general lackluster quality to hide his plans, instead surrounding himself with more competent people. Supposedly the Shosuro spy network is now totally awesome because he lets people who are much better than him run it.

It's kind of a cool idea to have one of the family heads basically admit he's not fit and just be good at getting people who are. It's just too bad his sheet is laughable nonsense.

Also it hints later on he lusts after his sister.

Shosuro Taberu

Oh, look, a tremendously overpriced personality with a marginal ability and terrible stats! Gaining honor would be nice... if Scorpion had any real capability to build honor in the CCG. Granted, denying honor could be useful for some Scorpion decks, but even so...

In the RPG, well, he's mostly just a subtle guy who seems unassuming but is a competent enough courtier. He's only Rank 3 (insight: 157), and has some hooks like the fact that he was supposed to watch over the Ancestral Sword of the Scorpion (because he's so subtle, see), but that Shoju took that right away from him because of Reasons.

He's the foremost retainer for Kachiko, and is shockingly enough, not in love with her. People call him "the Poison Crane", which he thinks is kind of neat.

There's a Unicorn he hangs out with. Not much more to him. Just kind of a dull guy.

Next: Meet the Fu Manchus.

Fu Manchu Mustaches

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Way of the Scorpion, part 9: Fu Manchu Mustaches

Soshi Bantaro

A low-cost shugenja that can take hits for the team. One of the better early Scorpion personalities. Not much else to say, other than when I mentioned him in describing how to use Return of the Dark Lord, well, that wasn't just a reference to the mechanics.

Anyway, once again we have the strange note that women can't become daimyos, this time for the Soshi. For example, Bantaro's father was Soshi Wachigai. Watchgai had five daughters, then had his (unnamed) wife killed (!) for not producing a son. Then he had three more with his (unnamed) next wife, then he had Bantaro and spoiled him bunches. (The unnamed sisters were married off or sold to tea houses.)

Bantaro was a prodigy (you wouldn't know it from his rank of 3 - insight 163 - but enh), and he married the (unnamed) daughter of the Soshi daimyo, becoming the heir, and when the Soshi daimyo died in battle, Bantaro took over. Then his overbearing father tried to dominate him as his advisor so Bantaro had him killed.

He's a brown-noser because he's always looking to prove himself to Shoju, and is arrogant and just kind of yesss massster sort for the most part.

Yogo Junzo

Yes. I'm spoiling it right here. Yogo Junzo dies. There's no CCG version of him that depicts him in his salad days in the RPG. Also, he comes back from the dead. Also, he becomes perhaps the scariest guy in the Shadowlands for awhile. He has a really high Fear score which allows him to freak out small to medium-size units. He's also the face of the Shadowlands Horde to the extent that their first appearance as a faction bears his name.

But, before all that, he was Yogo Junzo, adept shugenja and raging chauvinist. At this point he's about to become the daimyo when his predecessor fades away in months. It's said if he was a Phoenix he could have become the Master of Void, but later we learn that becoming a Void shugenja is an innate talent and he don't got it. Oh well. Point is, he's supposed to be really badass wizard (rank 5, but insight of 209). Also, he's an asshole. See, he has the drawbacks "Insensitive" and "Phobia (Women)", depicted as:

John Wick posted:

He does not waste time with romance because women are simply not worth his time. Junzo views him as inferior creatures, best suited - like dogs - to remain in the home. He has often been chastised for expressing his views in public. Shoju once physically struck him for saying to Kachiko. "Fools are not born, pretty girls make them in their spare time." The blow left a scar across his forehead just above his right eye. Junzo makes no effort to hide it and calls it "obedience to the daimyo's woman.


Hey, he's a Yogo, you want to know what he loves? The Empire. You know what he's going to be responsible for in a bit? The Black Scrolls that can release the Dark God, Fu Leng! Foreshadowing. Actually, it's completely fucking confusing, because after his writeup in the book, when the Scorpion fall and Bayushi Shoju dies, Junzo loses his shit and opens the first Black Scroll and is killed by the Wasting Disease.

What the fuck?

I understand he's supposed to betray the Empire, but it clearly says he's willing to let the the Scorpion fall for the sake of the Empire. Maybe he felt betrayed by the Empire? If so, what the fuck did he expect? In any case, for somebody that's pivotal to the first metaplot, this about all the characterization he ever gets.

Yogo Asami

That's supposed to be a woman? Well, the outfit is distracting enough. Horrendous fashion sense and art aside, she was one of the few really good early Scorpion cards. She's not good for much outside of her ability, but being able to bow three foes a turn is pretty devastating, especially if your foe put all their eggs in one basket.

That's some... pretty different art for the RPG version, though. Her backstory is that she was a peasant child that was sold to a geisha house, but Kachiko discovered her as teenager and bought her to use as a double. Aramoro saw through the disguise, but was impressed that Asami refused to give Kachiko away even on the threat of death.

When Kachiko and Asami grew too different to be doubles, she was freed (wait, this means Kachiko was a slaveowner, I realize) by the SCORPION QUEEN. And so Asami got a Yogo sugar daddy, and then was able to "free herself from him", whatever that means, divorce?, and then badgered Aramoro to let her study as an assassin. He's taught her, and so she's a Shosuro Assassin 2 (Insight 136) even though she hasn't had a single assignment. Yes, she's exploiting Aramoro's crush for her own benefit. And Hametsu's. Yes, this is where it's implied.


We get a few ancestors for folks in the sidebars. Come for the historical footnotes, stay for the terrible mechanics!


Heartbroken that he "lost" Shosuro (I guess the sex change to Soshi meant it wasn't the same anymore-), Bayushi eventually just left his mask and a note saying "I have lost her forever.", presumably to the Lying Darkness.

Anyway, you get a special Kharmic Tie where you can use your tied character's Void points! And if they die, you can never use Void points! Ever!

It's the John Wick BOHICA forever special.

Bayushi Tesaguri

He was entrusted with the knowledge of some of the Black Scroll, and then sold them to the Phoenix. So the Scorpion put him in Traitor's Grove (mentioned later) and trapped his soul there! Ha ha, it makes no fucking sense, because how can he be an ancestor spirit, then?

A character with this ancestor always gets 50% more gold when paid and finer gifts, but cannot keep secrets and spill them the first chance they get. I imagine anybody with this disadvantage in the Scorpion probably ends up getting all the knives as sudden gifts before long. You ought to get points for this, not spend them.

Bayushi Tangen

One day there was an argument whether or not Lies was treasonous, and then he said "there is not a single lie on those pages." and dropped dead. There are rumors but nobody knows why.

As an ancestor, you get the Can't Lie Disadvantage, but need 10 less insight to gain a School Rank. Actually a really good tradeoff early on, but it eventually gets useless, of course.

Shosuro Furuyari

He's a famous Scorpion playright. It was rumored that he was really several playwrights under one name, but it turned out to be a Lion hoax.

It gives you a free raise on several skills and reduces the cost of Voice. Wait, if you're going to buy this to reduce the cost of Voice, why not just package Voice into it? Well, it's nothing but net benefit, so if you're going the actor route, it's a no-brainer to take.

Soshi Saikanban

Originally cities in Rokugan all had different laws, but Saikanban was famous enough as a judge that he got the Emperor to create the Emerald Magistrates and a single code of the Emperor's Law. He did this by telling stories of his "wise old Uncle Sochoku", which he used to make parables to describe his judgements.

And all judges are named Saikanbans after him!

He's a popular ancestor because any PC can take him, but Scorpions get a small discount, and he gives great bonuses to investigative and legal skills that, unlike most ancestor skills, level up with you.


He abandoned the Phoenix! He ignored his kids! He gave his position to his eldest daughter and she fucked up after a year! You'd think the Scorpion would have then said 'hm, maybe we should not entrust the evil Black Scrolls to a family that's a bit cursed and unstable', but they did not. Nobody knows exactly who Yogo betrayed. Enh.

If you have Yogo as an ancestor, you get bonuses when using maho or understanding maho, but get additional taint when using maho. It's honestly kind of a dumb thing to imply that all Yogo watched over by their ancestor are more vulnerable to maho. It would at least fit with foreshadowing if Yogo Junzo had this ancestor, but he don't.

It is, as they say, a trap.

And that's all for the Who's Who chapter!

It's funny how nearly every NPC has a fucked-up insight total, as mentioned before (if I didn't mention a character's insight total in a writeup, it was one of the minority characters with a correct total). It also makes me feel like John Wick's expectation to achieve certain ranks and the actual rules for doing so were completely at odds, and that maybe - just maybe - if you were going to run Legend of the Five Rings 1st edition , maybe one should actually drop Insight expectations by 5 or even 10 points per rank, if this is the actual intention of how character writeups are supposed to look. Or drop Rank 2 to 125 insight, or whatever. Granted, some of the characters - like Hametsu - probably wouldn't pass muster even then, but it's food for thought. Truth is, I don't think John Wick ever thought about it that hard and just didn't give a shit about the rules, which other people largely designed for him from the evidence.

I also have to give a shout-out to Cris Dornaus. Basically, if you saw good book art in this chapter, it was Cris Dornaus. If it was bad, it was somebody else.

Oh, and here's a snippet from another Legend of the Five Rings book, unfairly taken out of context and reproduced here:


Cris doesn't have any spare time - she is constantly chained to her drafting table in the art department, drawing pictures of Kachiko for John Wick.

Have you noticed that Tangen is the main character that doesn't revolve around Kachiko? I suppose Soshi Bantaro isn't directly tied, but he's really only a half-step away from her. Guess who Wick was interested in writing about again and again? Nearly every character in this chapter is defined by their relationship to her.

Fans, serviced.

Next: Your Life as a Scorpion

Kapera's Kids

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Way of the Scorpion, part 10: Kapera's Kids

It's time for the sample PC chapter! All the material in this chapter comes from Patrick Kapera, not Wick.

Don't worry, we'll get back to in an update or two, trust me.

Shosuro Actor

See, this character wants to be star, but he's really just talented at minor background roles. Then he gets into an acting troupe! And like on his first play, he got to take over for the lead when they fell ill, and he got to be the star! It must be a turn of good fortune-

Except now a local magistrate says their daughter was raped by him! Even though he was on the stage for everybody to see, he was dressed as somebody else, see? Framed! And he's on the run incognito now, using his talent to disguise himself.


Bayushi Honorable Bushi

Want to play Bayushi Yojiro? Too bad, you can't! But you can play this character which is a lot like him. See she's a samurai that loves the Shintao and Bushido, but, you know, their kin hate her for it. But she's going to fix the bad rep the Scorpion have. She's takin' it back! Only she learns some dark secret about their shadowy father and she's on the run too!

But she's not a ronin! Somehow!

Shosuro Courtier

She's nerdy for legal stuff! They also found their father committing seppku really exciting, and wanted to be able to have the power to make other people stab themselves. (That's seppuku, Holmes.)

Though she's pretty, she's cold and ambitious, and will be travelling with a mentor to learn about law everywhere, but that means she owes the mentor, but she also has proof of his illegal purchases from the Unicorn, but not for blackmail or anything like that!

Okay totally for blackmail.

Bayushi Ninja Infiltrator

Uh, did we try and keep all the ninja info in the back and be subtle, and then give people an actual ninja character to play right in the middle of the character section? Ooops!

Anyway, this ninja has been through their first year of training, and the twist is that they're being sent to infiltrate a group of strangers, and occasionally do certain duties while with that group... but to never reveal their true identity. That group of strangers is, of course, the other PCs . Whatta tweest!

Patrick Kapera posted:

Your sensei spoke to you on the night you burned your black kimono, offering the only bit of advice he could on the most dangerous year of your life. "Remember the tale of the Little Scorpion," he said. "Remember to learn to swim before you poison the frog."

Hahahaha goddamn that frog story. Also, bear in mind that means you burn the outfit depicted in the art. Makes sense, but you don't get to look like that!

Soshi Shugenja Interrogator

This shugenja was trained in shinobi (but you don't get any mechanical effects of this), which for some reason is always italicized, and got one of the SHADOW BRANDS, but it weakened them (their sex is indeterminate). Still, it gave them "The Truth of Lies" which lets them know when people are lying.

Once, they were an interrogator for an organized crime group (?), but a shugenja they were interrogating saw their SHADOW BRAND and named their sensei and called them a thief, so they killed him.

But the shugenja is back from the dead, seemingly, and is out to get them! Ut-oh!

Most of the writeups are pretty conventional. I'm not going to worry about counting up the points, but given it's Kapera and not Wick, they're probably okey-dokey anyway. But... does anybody ever use pre-made characters that don't come with the core rules? They were a convention of splatbooks at the time, but ultimately just fill space. I'd think if you get to the point where you're buying a bunch of splatbooks, you probably know how to make a character, right?

John Wick certainly didn't care enough for them to write them; these are courtesy of Patrick Kapera, as mentioned. He does a decent enough job of it, and maybe you could at least borrow some of the hooks he lays out. There's some thematic overlap with earlier ideas on account of being a different writer covering similar material.

The art this chapter is by Ramón Pérez, who delivers some great pieces. I've gotten to know him mainly through his Rifts work, where he delivers some of the best work on the line.

Next: Soesbee's Fables

Soesbee's Stories

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Way of the Scorpion, part 11: Soesbee's Stories

How do you know Wick isn't writing a particular section? When it starts like this:

Ree Soesbee posted:

The youngest daughter of Shosuro Ideme, Guwahime was a very plain girl.

I know, plain Scorpion women! Now we know they exist. So this is all by Ree Soesbee, who was a fan writer who got hired on, and then later would be the head of the story team after Wick. Kind of his heir apparent, as it were. Anyway, Guwahime's presented to all the other Clans, but is unable to find a suitor. It seemed she was "doomed to spend her life as a nun". Well, the second-class nature of women early on crops up again.

So she went to the Bayushi heir apparent, and was married that night. Apparently he was impressed with how she met with each of the other Clans and learned how to fool them all. And she taught these lessons to children. And they're funny animal stories. And, to be frank, they work as children's stories, but...

The Ki-Rin and the Scorpion

So you have the Ki-Rin (the proto-Unicorn, FYI) who meets Scorpion. Scorpion introduces himself as "Truth". Then, Ki-Rin asks "Truth" if he has seen Scorpion, and so "Truth" hops on her back and they go looking for him. Ki-Rin asks "Truth" what Scorpion looks like, and "Truth" describes himself. Ki-Rin is relieved that she met "Truth" before Scorpion.

The Lesson: Ki-Rin is afuckin' moron.

The Lion and the Scorpion

Scorpion comes up to Lion and is like you must be the biggest, bravest, and strongest, and Lion's like yup yup. Scorpion is like gosh I have poison but I bet you can kill me before I can ever sting you. And Lion's like whatever I'm gonna kill you before you can sting me anyway and Scorpion is like but I already stung you .

The Lesson: Lions are fuckin' blind.

The Crane and the Scorpion

The Crane is like isn't it strange how much more pretty than you, Scorpion, plus I can fly, beat that with your shitty tail, Scorpion! And like Scorpion is like I can get better while you can only get worse.

The Lesson: Scorpions have shitty arguments, I think? Oh, yeah, Cranes are fuckin' vain.

The Crab and the Scorpion

And Crab is like to Scorpion, you can't trick me like the others, I'm armored like a motherfucker. And Scorpion is like yeah it's just a prison and Crab is like no it's not and Scorpion is like if it's not a prison than you can get out and so Crab is like OH YEAH and takes off his shell.

The Lesson: Crabs are fuckin' stupid.

The Phoenix and the Scorpion

So Scorpion meets with Phoenix and like I have a gift for you and Phoenix is like ha ha I'm too smart for that and Scorpion is like whatever, I'm out. Then Phoenix is like what if it isn't a trap then it's a trick if I leave it but if it is a trap it's a trick if I open it. And he ponders this for a day and Scorpion shows up and is like HA HA you dumb fucker.

The Lesson: Phoenix are fuckin' dumb.

The Dragon and the Scorpion

One day Dragon shows up and is like I see how you tricked everybody Scorpion, and Scorpion is like yeah and you didn't do anything about it.

The Lesson: Dragons are fuckin' lazy.

So they're cute little stories, really, but aren't quite as insightful as they set out to be. They're also - for those keeping track - one of three sections so far that break down how the Scorpion rule and all the other clans drool.

There's more to come.

Next: Play Dirty.

Dumb Advice for Stupid Jerks

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

This section was a doozy, which is why I'm running slightly late. You have been warned: dooziness ahead .

Way of the Scorpion, part 12: Dumb Advice for Stupid Jerks

John Wick posted:

Appendix I: Treachery 101

Or, "How To Be A Sneaky Git And Not Get Killed By The Other Characters"

John Wick reminds us that everybody hates the Scorpion! But that's okay, he's here with advice to make everybody else look bad and make you look good. That is, if you're a Scorpion.

Part One: Some Basics

Part one? Uh-oh. This has parts . Hang in here, folks.

First, he talks about Ethics, and how Socrates said that as long as you intend things ethically, you're basically in the right, but Machivelli said the outcome is what matters to determine the ethicality of something.

So, we have an example. You have a Lion daughter (beautiful, he notes), who is scheduled for a marriage with a Crane but is love with a Phoenix. It's a dilemma for a mom! Enter the Scorpion. Scorpion sez, "Hey, have the daughter marry the Crane, then have an affair with the Scorpion."

And the Lion mom is like but that is dishonor etc., and the Scorpion is like but "Oh what if the Crane doesn't mind?". So the Scorpion plants a geisha for the Crane to fall in love with (because Scorpions can predict love, I guess), and so the married couple can have their affairs. Everybody wins!

John Wick posted:

One last question for the skeptical: Has the Scorpion done wrong or has he averted a great romantic tragedy involving blood feuds and suicides? You decide.

My answer: I'm going to step in here and point out this only works as long as they keep their affairs discreet. For decades . What if the Phoenix gets married? Will the Scorpion have to set up another chain of affairs on that end to work? It seems like a more short-term resolution from where I'm standing; it seems that tragedy is bound to result on some end, and the longer it takes, the harder it'll hit. It's a boiling kettle for dishonor just waiting to bubble over.

It seems like it would be a lot easier in the long term to cancel the marriage, take the consequences, and let the Lion and the Phoenix marry. The Scorpion would be better served trying to annul the unwanted arrangement and lessen the consequences. Hey, wasn't Kachiko's backstory about annulling an unwanted marriage? There you go.

Just going to point out this picture is used in a section emphasizing how loyal Scorpions are.

Moving on, it also points out that Scorpions don't really believe that any actions are dishonorable in a conflict, but... but they're intensely loyal to those who have won their loyalty. He goes on and on and hammers this home, and points out a loyal Scorpion in fact becomes the inverse of their stereotype - they're absolutely trustworthy.

I have to quote the following section in full because it has to be read to be believed.

John Wick posted:

Scorpion Honor

As we've said a thousand times, Scorpions don't put a lot of faith in bushido , but they do put a lot of faith in loyalty. A Scorpion starts with such a low Honor at the beginning of the game because he's surrounded by Rokugan propaganda about the virtues of bushido. Certainly, he spends most of his life being indoctrinated into Scorpion philosophy, but it's still a hard pill to swallow.

Imagine yourself raised in America by Communist parents. All your life you're told that everything surrounds you is wrong. Sure, you want to believe your parents, but just imagine the philosophical polarity shifts going on in your little teenage head.

Yojiro is a good example of Scorpion honor. He's developed a high sense of morality, but justifies all of his immoral actions with loyalty. He doesn't lose any Honor points when he lies, plants evidence or bribes dishonest guards as long as he believes that he's serving his Clan.

Wait, what? Honor is a personal, subjective force? Well, then, fuck bushido, my personal honor is about eating cake, as long as I eat cake I can never be dishonorable- No, fuck that. If the Scorpion are going to be dishonorable, they should be willing to take the hit to their Honor score. It should be part and parcel with the concept. You don't get all the advantages of being dishonorable without the penalties.

Later in a sidebar he gives special "Loyalty mechanics" where Scorpion get to have Honor at +2 when it comes to questions of Loyalty, but lose double the dishonor from disloyalty. And they have to define what they're specifically loyal to so the GM knows when to hit them for loyalty penalties. It's not the worst mechanic, but since the Honor system isn't really built around specific interpretations, it's likely to result in more confusion and table debate. I'd say the Honor system is complicated enough without introducing clan-specific mechanics. So fuck that, too.

Part Two: Advanced Treachery

Okay, it has some specific stuff here, like:

John Wick posted:

Let us take a Matsu who has conquered a Scorpion castle. The dying words of the lord of the castle are a curse so loud that all in attendance can hear it (including the Scorpions hiding in the shadows). He screams that if she does not kill her firstborn child, the child will kill her.

Those words are heard by Scorpions in the shadows, and the plot has begun.

Years later, when she's forgotten those words, the Lady Matsu awakens outside the castle on the exact spot where she beheaded the Scorpion daimyo.; his sword is cradled in her arms. She has not been harmed in any way, but there she is, alone in the wilderness. Somehow, she finds her way back home, and soon thereafter, she discovers that she's pregnant.

Wait what , did the Scorpion drug her and rape her? Or did they somehow discover she was pregnant before she did and drug her and kidnap her? And if they can do all that, why not just slit her throat and take their castle back?

Well, there's one more here, "Aid a Doomed Conspiracy". Basically, if you see a conspiracy, warn the target, who will blow you off, because you're a Scorpion. Then you help the conspiracy succeed, and then go back to the target, who now will be upset and willing to cooperate. His explanation is more long-winded, but that's the gist of it.

One of the very few pictures depicting Kachiko with Hantei the 38th as wife and husband... which hasn't occurred in continuity yet. Ooops.

Part Three: "I'd Have More Fun..."

It starts noting that during playtesting, one of the playtesters said it wasn't much fun playing a Scorpion because nobody liked her. (This playtest feedback fell on deaf ears, apparently.) One of the things he points out is that players find it easy to pick on Scorpion, their characters should be more hesitant, since they're basically the "Rokugani Mafia ". Well, Wick is going to show us how to punish other players for their impudence. Impudence! (Pounds table.)

The first part is to just advert yourself as the underhand, and that you're willing to do any dirty work they're too good for. It advises that Scorpions can suggest to players when they're going to make etiquette screwups, but that part's confusing - that's somebody with enough ranks in the Etiquette skill or a Courtier school can handle. More salient advice comes in the suggestion that a Scorpion can study and point out weaknesses in the opposition.

There's another reminder about the importance of Scorpion loyalty. Skipping.

John Wick posted:

Messing with the Scorpion is like asking the IRS to give an audit. No, that's not right. It's like paying them to do it. It's like kicking a mob boss's dog. Nobody is going to help you out, because they know better than to get involved. You should have your friends trained enough so that when somebody messes with them, they turn to you for help. Nobody does revenge like a Scorpion.

So this is the section on getting revenge! This the section where things get a little strange. First, he points out that if somebody's a serious threat, just kill them, don't try any of the tricks we're about to discuss. However, Scorpions like their melodrama, and you can get good rep basically trolling your foes in the worst ways possible. So let's get to that.

We start with the Wick perennial that pops in several books, putting needles in a pommel of a sword to throw off the balance, and once they get used to the balance, take out the needles.

John Wick posted:

Brew up poisons that include flatuences or turn certain portions of his anatomy a sick shade of green.

Yeah, second suggestion and we've already digressed to "mess with the enemy's dick". We have drugging people's sake to make them act like idiots, or somehow ruin your reputation at the local teahouse (it doesn't suggest how ). And yes, this section exclusively uses the main pronoun. This shouldn't be a surprise at this point. You're always revenging on men; that's the default assumption. So now he moves on to the bonus nasty suggestions.

There's treating swords with a rusting compound so they look like shit. Then-

John Wick posted:

When he's asleep, cut off pinkies. No more kenjutsu for him.

Here's my dramatic reenactment of the wisdom in that plan:

Bayushi Asuhato: (whispering) Ha ha, I'll make it so he'll never duel again!
(draws knife, hacks at pinky of sleeping Dragon samurai)

Mirumoto Dufusu: AAAAAAAAAAAA-

Bayushi Asuhato: No, shut up, I'm being sneaky now give me your other pinky-


Bayushi Asuhato: No, goddamn it I'm trying to revenge here why do you make it so hard!

Guards: Seriously, you must be the dumbest fucking Scorpion we've had to behead.
Let's see, we have seducing your target's sister before her arranged marriage (that shit again already?), replace his travelling papers with bad forgeries, and finally, we have:

John Wick posted:

When he and his friends go to their favorite tea house, the okasan arranges him to spend the night with the ugliest girl in the house. "I think she usually does the dishes," you comment quietly. The okasan makes a comment (a bit louder than she should, perhaps), that she won't give him a "real woman" until he learns how to please a "real woman".

Then get to Wick pointing out betraying a Scorpion's trust is a big, big deal. What do you do about it as a player? Well, Wick doesn't have any advice. But he has a story! About a woman wronged! And revenge!

So you have Shiba Tatsune, who won the heart of Bayushi Naname and agreed to run off with her. But Shiba's dad is like no way, you break that girl's heart. So Tatsune breaks her heart, and Naname's so broken up she goes and becomes a nun (oookay). But Naname's two sisters go for revenge (yup) and they dress up as geisha. One seduces Tatsune, one his dad, because in these Scorpion stories, no man can resist the Scorpion stank. Then they convinced the son and the father that the other one is taking advice from a woman . This is terrible and they start arguing.

Then a Lion army shows up nowhere on the doorstep of the castle, and the Scorpions pull of their disguises and are like "ha ha we know all your secrets and told a Lion general and they're gonna fuck you up unless Tatsune goes and begs for Naname's forgiveness". Which I don't really get, why is the Lion general putting up with his shit? He has a castle to conquer. But for some reason he goes along with the Scorpion game.

And so Tatsune begs forgiveness, Naname stops being a nun and marries him (huh?), and Tatsune's dad commits seppuku, and now Tatsune is the head of the castle and Naname's gonna be his baby's mommy and is going to sneak all sorts of Scorpion stuff into a Phoenix line. It must be really, really easy to pull off these plots when all the plot points are scripted in your favor.

This sections started out with some solid advice and is now rapidly sinking into a shithole. Because, for the fourth and final time in this book, we're going to learn... how all the other clans suck. Yup. Again. See, John Wick is going to point out how the Scorpion aren't so bad because it's all the other clans who are the villains!

Fuck it, I need a drink and bullet points for this. Okay, bullet points, because I don't drink. I want you to keep in mind these are summaries . The actual section is much more long-winded.

We conclude with the fact that Wick reminds us that all these tricks can be used against you, so watch out.

Next: Ninjas. No, really.

The Blackest PJs

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Way of the Scorpion, part 13: The Blackest PJs

So we start out with the truth: the Scorpion "ninja" are just young Scorpions undergoing the early part of the assassin training. See, the earliest part involves basically being just a distraction, and that's all the Scorpion ninja really are - folks that dress in black and distract samurai from the actual Scorpion agents.

We have a sidebar pointing out that the name for ninja comes from Kitsuki Ikawa, who purportedly heard "Ninja, tori!" during an black-garbed ninja attack, which apparently means "Ninja, do what I say!" But the actual word spoken was "Niwatori", or "Chicken", see, because that's a nickname for apprentice assassins on account of the eggshell bombs they have to carry.

As far as I can tell, "niwatori" is accurate, but "tori" on its own means usually just "bird" or "in the heart". Folks with better Japanese can correct me if I'm wrong, but no idea where Wick got that from.

Part One: All About Ninja

Oh, fuck, parts again.

First it discusses the Gauntlet. See, what they do with apprentice assassins is gear them up with garbage. Egg-grenades, shuriken, ninja-to, black costumes, etc., are basically trashy, dumb equipment, and if they survive a year like that - "The Gauntlet" - they get trusted with actual responsibilities. They aren't sent out as assassins, but rather as distractions to lure guards and samurai away from the real assassin.

Oh, and here's a sidebar discussing another handicap:

John Wick posted:


Many readers may be asking, "Why do ninja hide caltrops, climbing tools and shuriken in the most awkward places (sword pommels and blades, for instance)?" The answer of course, is that it's another part of the gauntlet. Ninja are not allowed to sew pockets into their kimonos, but must find other means of carrying their equipment and weapons.

Cruel, isn't it?

I hope he's not implying ninjas carry shuriken in their butts.

Anyway, there's a example of how ninja work, which is basically by being as annoying and noticeable as possible while the real assassin gets in close and does the actual job. You get the idea by now. Of course, it seems really stupid to take your students out on actual missions where they're likely to die. It would make sense if they were just recruiting peasants or other non-people to throw away, but these are actual family members of the Shosuro or the Bayushi. People from the samurai class being used as cannon fodder.

Next, we get into ninja tools, which it points out are more intended to distract and confuse than actually do harm.

Ha ha, get it, because fuck that cinematic ninja shit, it's verisimilitude time. You know, in the game that also has magic shapeshifting cosmic horror ninja that can turn into cats, wizards that can fly and shoot fire, and samurai who are, for all practical purposes, human-sized tanks (hey, Hida Kisada). But agents that dress in black and chop shit up is right out .

Part Two: The Ninja Campaign

Wick points out that it's really hard to play a black-clad novice ninja in a normal Legend of the Five Rings game because you have to keep your ninja stuff super-secret because Magistrates will chop you into ninja fillet for a moment.

John Wick posted:

Nobody has a ninja for a friend. Not if they know they're ninja. It's like hanging out with a convicted serial killer. It's commonly known (not believed, but known) that ninja use maho . They drink the blood of babies, worship Fu Leng and sleep with Bog Hags. They are the vilest creatures known to man.

Wait, what? This is new. Oookay.

John Wick posted:

What Lion is going to accept a ninja as a buddy? "Don't worry, old pal. Just because I've known you for fifteen years, and you've kept this secret from me all that itme while you conspired against my Clan and my family, I won't kill you. I'll accept you for what you are, despite everything you've kept from me all this time."

Yeah right. More likely you'll get your head cut off.

Wick then finally says that all PC ninjas have already gone through The Gauntlet and don't dress in black or throw shuriken, but if you want to do that, you do it as a special campaign where everybody plays assassin trainees. PCs are essentially forbidden from being the dress-in-black and flip-out sort of ninja, except for this these special character rules.

First off, you start with all Rings at 1. Yes, 1 instead of 2. You can raise your traits by up to 4 ranks (it counts as 2 ranks to increase Void). You get Athletics, Lockpick, and Stealth at 1, and... have to buy specific skills for each ninja weapon (you start with 4 at rank 1). Even though the Character Creation section has Ninjutsu work entirely differently. You get 0 CP. Yes, you have to take Disadvantages to have any Character Points at all. Glory starts at 0. Honor starts at 1.5 (?).

Yes, you're only keeping 1 die for at least half of your rolls. You will be unable to do the most basic tasks required of ninja described in the text unless you specialize for them. You will have trouble hitting the ground with your caltrops and have difficulty climbing a ladder without your climbing tools. You're going to repeatedly fail at the most basic tasks and get clubbed or murdered by even the most incompetent of guards. Basically what I'm reading from this is that Wick A) doesn't understand how the rules of his own game function or B) wants you to fumble through a training process that will wash out 9 out of 10 recruits (and by "wash out", I mean "kill").

Yeah, no thanks. Let's wrap up this part with some more words from the Wick himself:

John Wick posted:

"At Least I Get To Use Poisons, Right?"

Wrong. Shosuro apprentices are not allowed to use poisons. That's a privilege they have to earn. A clumsy apprentice who gets himself captured while carrying poisons is literally handing over the most closely guarded secrets to Kitsuki magistrates and Agasha shugenja, who will be more than happy to learn their properties, and develop an antidote, making the poison useless.

"Yeah, but if I get caught, I'll just swallow the poison!"

Wrong again.

Those pesky Dragons will be certain to cut you apart piece by piece, do a few magical and mundane tests and figure out the poison anyway, despite your little "sacrifice".

Yyyeah. Look, Wick, most poisons work not because people don't know the antidote, but because they don't have the antidote on hand , or don't know they've been poisoned. What's more, this is perhaps the only reference to Kitsuki chopping up ninja to extract poison from their spleen or whatever (which certainly isn't easy as all that).

Also it implies that graduate assassins never get caught .

Oh, and you may wonder who the Kitsuki are, if you're not up on your more obscure Legend of the Five Rings samurai families. They're one of the teeniest families under the Dragon clan, and are basically CSI Rokugan. See, where most prosecutions are done on pure testimony in Rokugan, the Kitsuki are basically big on collecting actual evidence and are the only folks with any dirt on ninjas. They're actually not originally from the CCG, but were introduced in Way of the Dragon . Who created them? John Wick. Yes, this means the only family that can thwart his special assassin masters are his special magistrate masters . All the other clans are treated as dupes who haven't clued in to the ninja joke.

The real problem with this section is that Wick clearly doesn't want black-clad classical ninjas to be a serious part of his setting. And that's fine; that sort of ninja aesthetic can quickly devolve into self-parody. The problem is that black-clad agents have been part of the CCG since it's inception, so they have to be in somewhere .

I imagine Wick had people asking about ninjas from the start, and the core rules only have token rules for them. So instead of giving them what they want, he writes this extremely passive-aggressive set of rules designed to punish and embarrass anybody who wants to play that kind of character, and allow him to keep playing the "see, ninja don't really exist" card.

Dammit, Wick.

Lastly, we get the Shosuro Shinobi (Assassin) School . Try saying "Shosuro Shinobi" five times fast!

Yes, shinobi refers to ninja magic, but it also refers to assassins because... well... we can't keep terms straight. I mean, if "ninja" is supposed to be a mistaken word for the assassins, why do they call their skill "ninjutsu"? No idea.

Despite students having the Lockpick and 4 Ninjutsu skills, assassins have no Lockpick skill and 2 Ninjutsu skills. Amnesia from falling off too many walls thanks to a 2k1 Athletics roll? Hard to say. Their first technique gives a bonus on Stealth equal to their School rank, which basically makes them the sneakiest folks in the game so far. The rank 2 move lets them take extra raises when attacking somebody who's unaware. So far they're just a variant on the Shosuro acting school.

Rank 3 is where they really diverge, where you can become harder to hit, but take the same penalty on attacks. Wow, that's... kind of weak for a 3rd Rank move. It'd be useful if you were still hopping around in PJs, but that's not the case anymore. At 4th rank you can turn invisible by spending a Void point for several minutes, though there must be activity in the area to distract viewers. And at Rank 5, by spending a minute in meditation and 1 Void, you can walk through walls.

No real explanation of how the school goes from cinematic to outright magical later on. Fans can surmise an explanation, I'm sure, but it's very random to see from what's basically a standard school. They're really no good at any type of stand-up fight, but are the tops if you want to go unseen. Works well enough, though it's rather underpowered until you get to the high ranks.

And that's all about ninja you get until Way of Shadow comes out and drops all the revelations about the Lying Darkness, where it turns out 1 in 10 ninja trainees get given over to the Lyin' Dark in order to get their powers (in addition to all the ones that get katana kabobed in the training we've seen). And then it tries to destroy the world later on in the metaplot on using hordes of ninjas it's corrupted. Whoopsie! Man the Scorpion end up with egg on their face, or maybe just an eggshell bomb, they'd deserve it.

Next: Realistic Poisons (and Magic!)

Poisoning is Magic

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

We're almost at the finish line, now!

Way of the Scorpions, part 14: Poisoning is Magic

Yes, we're up to the third "Appendix". Note to editors: if a third of your book is "appendices", maybe those are worth breaking up into their own chapters. Nitpicking aside... ha ha, no, I'm going to keep nitpicking.

Part One: Magic

We start with "nemuranai", or magic items.

The first is Itsuwari , the ancestral sword of the Scorpion Clan. That's a big deal. This is basically the Scorpions #1 magic stabby bit. It notes that Shoju carries it around - instead of hiding it like most Clan Champions have - to help him resist the call of Ambition, one of the four BLOODSWORDS. We'll get to Ambition in just a bit.

This is the first time we actually got to see the ancestral sword of the Scorpion. It gets broken in the future during the Scorpion Clan coup. Compared to the other ancestral swords, it's pretty bad, because most Scorpions in the early days - as we saw - have crappy stats. This makes them slightly less crappy. What they need is an ancestral sword like the rest, that makes one samurai into a super-boss.

Yeah, like this one, that came out in the Coup expansion, before it gets busted. It works like all the other early ancestral swords, giving a fantastic late-game bonus depending on how many samurais you have on the board. Later on the Scorpion would win a tournament to unlock a secret power from their sword. Their "unlock" was actually that the broken sword was never the ancestral sword all along, but the bloodsword known as Ambition that got wielded and busted. And the real sword was hidden away! And that's how the Scorpion got their sword back.

In the RPG, Itsuwari's effect is basically to make you into a Displacement Samurai; you appear to be just a little distance away from where you actually are. This nearly doubles the difficulty to hit the wielder on the first round, but you can make rolls on subsquent rounds to figure out where the wielder is, after which it never works again. It's strong. but kind of underwhelming for its level. It also doesn't offer any actual mechanical bonus or justification for resisting Ambition, so it's not clear why he lugs it around. I also can't help but snicker at the idea of him accidentally bumping into people when he carries it around (the effect is always on).

Bayushi's Mask is the next magic item, a silken mask that makes anyone want to believe the wearer. It won't let you tell people that you're the moon, but maybe that you've been to the moon, for example. It also trumps all other techniques and magic items, like Kitsuki techniques or Yasuki coins.

Shosuro's Cloak "appears as a slice of darkest, starless moonlight". Alright, sure. When worn, it disguises you as whomever the viewer expects to come in. This can result in no small amount of confusion with multiple viewers, of course. Doesn't change your voice, though, for bonus surreality.

Ambition is a bloodsword as mentioned earlier, and so gains power as per the main book when it kills people and eats souls. It's described as being powerful enough to call people from afar, and refers us to the core book for details on this. Which, looking at the actual mechanics, isn't how they work - they can only influence the wielder, but Ambition's supposed to have murdered so many it can call from afar. Sure, okay, whatever. He also forgets to give us the rank of the bloodsword, which the core rules are dependent on.

It's special ability is that it gives you a bonus to murder people above you in Glory, but gives people lower than you in Glory a bonus to hit you. Which means for somebody like the Scorpion Clan Champion, it's a net drawback . Shoju would only get a mild bonus when swinging it against the Emperor - only 2 dice or so - but a lowly Imperial Guard might get 4-7 dice against Shoju.

Shoju, it's a traaaap.

Oh! And before I forget:

John Wick posted:

Bayushi Hajeko, the first and only samurai-ko to gain the title of Scorpion daimyo, killed her father with the sword and claimed right to his title. She was daimyo for nearly seventeen hours.

Women , am I right, guys? The only way they get anywhere in this clan is with an evil magic sword, and they can't even keep it with that! Glass ceiling's there for a reason, you know, don't hit your head, ladies.

There's the Meiwaku Fans , which a Crane wife of Scorpion developed to buy her way into the clan (you can do that?). Basically if you give them as a gift, you can listen to the recipient's thoughts. Granted, I can't help but realize most of the people that gave these are dead, and they're mostly in the hands of other clans... not the best long-term plan, but interesting.

Shosuro's Hand and Mirror are better known by their CCG names, the Obsidian Hand and Obsidian Mirror .

The Obsidian Hand is a strong artifact for duelling characters in the CCG, particularly against the Crane, who emphasize high honor and have some of the best duelists. The Obsidian Mirror is useful to counter degenerate tactics (particularly with the aid of the Ninja Spy, seen above), but its insane cost kept it out of all but specialty decks. (If you're wondering what the third artifact is, it's the Obsidian Blade, a sword that becomes an iconic weapon for the Shadowlands forces later on.)

In the RPG, they're artifacts brought back by Shosuro along with the scrolls. It doesn't say this in this book, but they're actually artifacts tainted and given to her by the Lying Darkness. The hand works almost just like the RPG, adding a bonus equal to the Honor given, but has a tendency to drive people to madness and suicide. The mirror acts as a scrying device that lets you view anywhere (or into the past) for a small sacrifice in blood and Void points. (It's not blood magic, though! Really.)

Also! One interesting note that metaplot afficinados might note is that Mirumoto Hitomi is given the hand by Kachiko to avenge the murder of her brother by Hida Yakamo. The trick is, Yakamo only has average to low honor, and so the bonus it provides against him is only modest compared to what it could be.

Then we get to tejina , which is the special shadow magic of the Scorpion. It's been called "shinobi" up until this point, but now it's tejina. Sure, okay. Apparently it's also called shinobi, kage-do, or "the way of shadow". It's all about summoning shadow!... but only one use is detailed, branding people with kage yakiin, or shadow brands . Shadow brands basically give one a bonus in shadow, but limit your maximum Void score. They also burn and cause wounds when exposed to sunlight, though they're easily covered up. It's actually a fair enough tradeoff, though it can be exploited by canny minmaxers.

Then we get to added spells specific to the Soshi and Yogo:
So, ugh, yeah, they get some broke-ed spells, for sure. Next we get into a magic system for the Yogo: Ward Magic! Ward Magic lets you make magic barriers! This pretty much works like a spell where you can create elemental wards (which are resisted by the element you choose) or shadowlands wards (which are like that, but only target shadowlands creatures). There's a contest when something contacts a ward; if they fail, they take a serious amount of damage, if they succeed, the ward weakens. It's a decent system, though it might as well have been class of spells. The only reason for it not to must be a set of spells it to make it special and exclusive to the Yogo, for better or worse.

Part Two: Poisons

Now, one thing I'm going to mention is that at this point, Legend of the Five Rings already has a poison system introduced in the adventure module Honor's Veil . This was a "construct-your-own-poison" system by Greg Stolze that was balanced by effect - the more powerful the poison, the more difficult it was to construct. Compared to what we're going to read about next, it was game-balanced, but not realistic.

Wick starts out by saying the Honor's Veil poison rules are basically how the Scorpion used to make poisons, but they got way better at it and so they use the poison rules in this book. It won't be the last time you'll see Wick completely dismiss Stolze's work on the line.

John Wick posted:

How Much Does It Cost?

This is one of the most frequent questions we get regarding poison. Poison has two costs.

1) If you don't have the Poison Skill, it costs exactly how much the poisoner you have to buy it from wants it to cost.

2) It costs you your life if you get caught using it.

John goes on to point out that poisoning weapons is impractical and doesn't work. So this?

You can't do that. Most Scorpions instead use a poisoned ring, using a special vial to dose the ring shortly before use.

Then we get to the actual poisons. Apparently just about all poisons cause flu-like allergy symptoms, and so most Rokugani attribute deaths by poison to the flu.

Now, one thing to mention is that the "rules" for these poisons are practically nonexistent. There are no Earth or Stamina resistance rolls to make, there are no penalities listed while under the influence of a poison. It is assumed they kill most targets equally well. Whatever issues Stolze's rules had, at least they were... you know... rules . Also bear in mind when I bring up real poisons, it doesn't refer to them as that in the book.
Fuck's sake. I'm just going to let Wick try justify this section himself.

John Wick posted:

None of the poisons listed above have target numbers. The plain fact of the matter is, most of them will kill you if they get into your bloodstream. It's kind of like asking, "I have the black plague? What do I roll?" Poison is just as lethal as a sword and, unfortunately, there are more precautions than remedies.

For the player and GM who cannot see The Great Bear being knocked on his backside by a spider bite, we suggest that any character with an Earth greater than 5 is immune to mundane poisons. Alternately, you may want to permit a poisoned character to roll his Earth agains a TN of 25: a successful roll means he survives.

Finally, for the curious completist, I should note that none of the poisons listed above (or their symptoms and effects) are fictional. "Kirei-ko" is arsenic, "ketsu" is cyanide, "wari paseri" is hemlock", "jeruko ropu" is oleander, and "fuantei shi" is strychnine.

So remember: if you want to kill a Scorpion with a katana, you have to deal damage and exceed their wounds. If they want to kill you, they just need to poke you with a ring and you're already dead.

Oh, you think you can just use poisons on Scorpions, huh? You wait. You just wait.

Next: The final smuggo.


posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Way of the Scorpion, part 15: Scorpianistan

It's time for the "Miscellany!". Which is to say mainly locations, but also details on geisha and gambling. So, let's get started.

First, there's Bayushi Castle . It doesn't look like much, of course, but it's full of secret passages and secrets, of course. There's a map in the back of the book with a mazelike structure that does fit this description.

Now, it's time for something a little worse - Traitor's Grove . Have you been wondering what the clan does to traitors? Here they do a magic ritual that takes the souls of traitors and binds them into trees forever! Yeah, this is where they executed Bayushi Tesaguri back in the ancestor section.

It sounds a lot like maho - black magic - to me. Pulling a soul out of the cycle of rebirth? Doesn't it sound like maho? Well, either way, they don't make a huge secret of it, and you can actually just walk into the grove by accident, and they don't really stop anyone from doing so. So yeah, I guess they get away with black magic. Somehow.

The Sleeping Lake is a large cavern underneath Bayushi castle. It's behind "seven different locks... not all of the mechanical." So presumably it's warded as well, or the like. It's said Bayushi passed away here and haunts this location (metaplot spoiler: he does). Bayushi that drink from the water here have visions of the past and future. There's hereditary caretakers and they heard Bayushi say stuff that's... well, pining for Shosuro. Yeah, a thousand years or so and he's still all mopey.

Then it's time for the Herb Gardens of Shosuro castle. It's a secret, since it's where they grow their poisons. They use a special plant to guard it throughout, the nusumu iki , which spits poison spores whenever anybody gets close.

John Wick posted:

They have managed to breed over fifty new types of poison plant over the last three decades, thus keeping ahead of those dirty antitoxin-breeding Kitsuki. Every student in the Shosuro school spends a great deal of time, learning every represented species.

Wait, I'm confused. When they were talking about the ninja, they said they didn't give students access to poison because they might get caught. Now they're saying every Shosuro assassin is a walking library of Shosuro poison R&D secrets for the Kitsuki to catch and interrogate?

I guess they just don't ever get caught.

John Wick posted:

Shosuro Hametsu spends most of his time here. In fact, one story that has circulated around the school for many years concerns his daily activities in the garden. Two students - one samurai and one samurai-ko - snuck into the garden on a dare. In the middle of their nocturnal activities, they witnessed the poison master walking through the garden, touching each of the plants, calling them by name with the same familiarity one calls a family pet. When he reached the nusumu iki , he reached forward and caressed its leaves. The plant spit its spores directly into his face.

The poison master only giggled and continued his walk.

Then it's a story about the kempi flower ! See there was a Bayushi and a Shosuro that fell in love but then the Shosuro was engaged to a Unicorn samurai. So the two seemed to break off their affair. Only right before the marriage, the two publicly announce they're having one last practice duel in which they kill each other. Tragic and shit. And they both wore kempi flowers, which have been a symbol of honorable love since.

Next is the City of the Open Hand . It was a mining town that was a den of gamblers and thugs. However, a mining accident hit an underground river and flooded the mine and the reset of the town. Shoju was going to let the town die, but Bayushi Zenasaru, one his lieutenants, came up with a different plan. Basically he reopened the gambling and "tea houses" under direct Scorpion control, and gave 1/10 of the city's profits over to the Emerald Magistrates. During the day it's closed, but at night all the establishments open for visitors to engage in all sorts of vices under the watchful eye of magistrates. It also provides masks for everybody to use so they can go incognito. It's been profitable for the Scorpion, and actually seems like a fun little idea to use in games.

Now, before the next bit, for those that don't play the CCG, the importance of it might be a bit lost on some. See, in the CCG, every clan has a favored holding used to produce money - the Lion have gold mines, the Unicorn have stables, etc. And the Scorpion have...

So it's time to talk about geisha . The Scorpion's trade in geisha is essentially an industry. One thing it points out right away is that Scorpion geisha are generally not purchased (i.e. sold by their family or husbands - wait, husbands?), but are geisha by choice. They have a bunch of fancy schools, and generally they recruit from "low-ranking women facing a life in a nunnery or marriage."

Yep, in John Wick's ole-fashioned Pepperidge Farm Rokugan, those are the choices for peasant women. Marriage or nunnery or geisha'd.

Anyway, the training is very harsh, but it carries with it the chance to become a geisha superstar . Samurai who want to get access to a geisha house must be invited by a current client, who puts their rep on the line in case the newbie turns out to be a disaster. Samurai at geisha houses are made to leave their swords behind, to leave behind the trappings of their station and to avoid drunkards having access to swords.

A samurai gets a full meal, music, but also an ability to talk frankly about things, which I'm sure the Scorpion never exploit, that would be a breach of the samurai-geisha agreement! :shabon: Geisha aren't obligated to spend nights with any particular client. Samurai are expected to pay 5-10 koku a night (whaaa-) plus the cost of gifts (effectively 10-30 koku, uh, have we worked out the economy of that?). Sometimes samurai purchase geisha to bring them in their household, but that runs 500-5000 koku. More than family swords, folks!

And yes the Shosuro use that for spying. Frankly, were I a samurai, I'd pay extra for a Dragon or Crab geisha at this point.

Next we move on to Fortunes and Winds , a dice game written by DJ Trindle. It uses a set of five special six-sided dice that you'd have to make on your own with kanji representing things like the five elements, the four winds (east, north, etc.), celestial beings (like Lady Sun or the Seven Fortunes), and some junk results like "rice" or "fish". Basically you're looking to make specific matches and- hey this is Yahtzee , only the combinations seem harder to get, since you need specific combinations of five dice (and there are only six scoring combinations), not just matches. However, certain symbols appear two or three times on each die. It's basically a Rokugan-themed Yahtzee variant, ultimately.

The section ends with a discussion that gambling isn't necessarily dishonorable, but most gambling dens involve associating with the hoi polloi, so high-honor samurai might lose 1 point of Honor when entering a gambling house with the intention of playing.

And that's it for the fourth appendix. Yes, there's a fifth and final one to wrap up with. Editing!

Next: How the Scorpion betrayed me for the first time.

The First Betrayal

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Way of the Scorpion, part 16: The First Betrayal

So it's Gencon '96, and my friends are getting into Legend of the Five Rings . It has pretty cool art and stuff, so I decide to get a starter deck. I go down to the AEG booth and hem and haw, and look over the clans, trying to decide the right one for me. Each deck comes with an ancestral sword, which is important to have for your faction, so for once which starter deck I pick out is important.

I get asked what I play in Magic . Blue, of course. I like denying other players and frustrating the hell out of them. I am young smuggo. So I have the Scorpion suggested to me. They certainly seem to have sneaky dudes! I get a Scorpion deck and a few booster packs.

After a week or two of playing I lose. And lose. And lose and lose and lose. See, if you haven't played the CCG, there were three core means of victory. The first is military - have the toughest samurai and eliminate your opponents' provinces. Force-wise, the Scorpion have shitty samurai when it comes to making war. A good samurai for war might have a Force value from 2-4, but Scorpions frequently have 0 or 1. Practically every clan outside of the Phoenix can trump then in that regard. Even the "limp-wristed" Crane are stronger.

The other way is getting enough Honor to have the ailing Emperor declare you his heir. Well, the Scorpion explicitly cannot win this way . So that's out.

Lastly, there's the Enlightenment victory, which involves fulfilling arcane requirements for cards representing each of the Five Rings. Since you have to have the rings in your hand at the same time you can meet the requirement. It was not a competitive victory condition to strive for in any sense.

There were two ways to explicitly lose - if you lost all your provinces (generally to military attacks), you lose. If you went below -20 Honor, you lost. The Scorpion excelled not in winning, but by dropping their foe's Honor below the -20 point and forcing a loss.

The big issue is that this required a lot of harder-to-find cards to slow your foes down to your pace (like Kolat Assassin or... good luck getting three copies of Bad Kharma later on), and the deck played slowly. Though Scorpion defensive strengths slowed down military decks, it wasn't enough against LSDs (Lion Speed Decks) or Crane honor machines. What's more, in group games, the ability to eliminate one player wasn't enough - you ended up either being the whipping boy (everybody hated Scorpion decks, and with good reason) or the kingmaker, and neither was much fun.

Bear in mind before this is even before useful cards like Bayushi Tangen or Yogo Asami came out. (It didn't help that Scorpion was released in the first expansion, Shadowlands, but really relied on rares from the main set.) Scorpion got better through the first story arc, but not nearly good enough.

So a friend was kind enough to build a Phoenix deck for me, and I never looked back. When it came time to jump onto the Imperial Assembly, it was as a Phoenix. Magic let me play effective denial with common cards, and use it as a means to actually win battles - and games. Later I retired and became a monk when that faction let me down too, but that's another story.

And that's how the Scorpion betrayed me. Not through cunning, stealth, or guile, but crummy game design.

So, like most of the Way of... books, they have some sample decks for the CCG. This is from the era of the early Rolling Thunder sets - namely, the Scorpion Clan Coup sets that followed Obsidian Edition and the end of the first major story arc.

The first is "Bowed, Controlled, Dead, or Discarded", which is a fairly solid Scorpion deck from the Coup era that focuses on removing enemy personalities from the game or nullifying them. It relies a lot on just denying enemies and blocking attacks before then bringing a hammer of ninjas down. It has the drawback that it replies on a fair number of rare cards (about 15), though, which limits the ability for readers to construct it pretty severely, but that's true of just about any effective Scorpion deck at the time.

The other deck is "The Dark Sword of Bitter Lies!" by Dion Rigdon, and ugh, is it a clunky deck. Bear in mind the minimum deck at this point in the game is 60 cards; this deck is 92. It has no less than three promo cards, and doesn't know whether it wants to focus on dishonor or personality elimination. It's a deck in a bad need of culling, and needs a shit-ton of rares (around 30-40). Why would you publish a deck like this? It shows off having spent a lot of money on the game, certainly...

And that's all! Finally, the chip on my shoulder I've had since the first time I read this feels like it's off. Other splatbooks for the line may have been dry or badly written, but Wick has such an enthusiasm for his ideas - good or bad - that it grates in a very special sort of way when they don't work out. Despite being the storyline developer, his name isn't on the front of many Legend of the Five Rings books, so don't let it put you off the game - his involvement ended well over a decade ago, and it's been in the hands of numerous other writers since. If you actually want more Wickian smuggery, try Way of the Dragon , or if you're lucky, Way of the Wasp from Shadis #48 , in which we learn that people who use swords are dummies.

One of the thing that strikes me - and I'm repeating this from the comments earlier, but it bears repeating - is the loathing Wick seems to have for the mythic samurai archetype. Followers of bushido are frequently presented as maniacs or idiots. Wick prefers to write about characters that bend or break the norms of Rokugani society - like the Scorpion, Wasp, Kitsuki, or various Ronin characters like Toturi or Ginawa. Whether it's Hida Yakamo berating Hida Kisada for considering seppuku over his egregious failures, or Matsu Tsuko serving a demon-possessed Emperor because she can't be bothered to break the code of bushido until the last moment, it really strikes me that for a world where "Honor is more powerful than Steel", Wick sure prefers plain old steel.

I've got some other blame to throw around I forgot to do in the first place, so - DJ Trindle helped write the shitty, shitty courtier mechanics in this book. (To be fair, the 1st edition is littered with bad mechanics, so he's not unique.) Ree Soesbee helped with the battles and ancestor material. Jennifer Mahr apparently helped him out with the "How to be a sneaky git section". And let's not forget Niccolò Machiavelli, who is currently twirling in his grave in horror robust celebration !

Other thanks goes to , for scans for any card I could think of. Amazing index. And final thanks to John Wick, who without an obsessive focus on pet characters, terrible sperging, and some tidbits of fun writing inbetween I never would been inspired to write this. Thanks for talking with me at length in the past about Legend of the Five Rings , for shouting at me over my 7th Sea comments, and then later apologizing for said shouting. Good luck with the Kickstarter! I mean it!

And thanks for readers and all the comments, we're done here.