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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 93 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: [L5R] A learning experience, if nothing else  (Read 10833 times)
Clyde L. Rhoer
Member

Posts: 391


« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2005, 07:38:01 AM »

Hi guys,

I'm a big fan of L5R first edition. I pretty much bought everything they put out until they went to the dual system. I still bought some things here and there but no where near as much. I also didn't like the way the CCG lead the setting, it seemed the changes were too Epic in scope, and for me culminated in an extreme distaste when they had the Crab leave the wall. I didn't follow the setting changes after that, as they didn't really seem to be derived from the beginning setting.

I think some of the problems the game has is interesting, but I'm not sure that they are insurmountable for a roleplaying game.

The first is it's close enough. What I mean to say is that the setting gets close enough to feudal Japan that you find yourself comparing and contrasting the two even though the setting was clearly designed as Not-Japan. Inspired by, but Not-Japan. On the face I could except this, but it did interfere some with "the Dream."

The second is using honor and glory. It kind of works like a D+D alignment system, in that it feels kind of clunky, and people are going to use it to try to justify what they do anyway, and it also seems to be a weapon for gamemaster force. I also don't think it's the best terms to use as honor brings ideas to a western mind that may not be helpful to understanding what a Samurai would do. I think this increases the frustration of someone who is simulationist in bent and a Japanophile, as it seems to lead to considering the other players gameplay as "wrong."

Also if I remember correctly Bushido wasn't written about as a concept until right around Sekigahara (1600), with books like the Budoshoshinshu and Hagakure not being written until the 1700's well within the Tokugawa hereditary Shogunate that formed not long after Sekigahara. So what am I getting at here? I guess I'm wondering if Bushido is the best concept to use for a Japan-like setting set in a period of striving warring states. Bushido developed in a period where Japan was becoming more of a single Nation than a grouping of warring states. I believe partially in response to the world starting to knock on it's door. It developed in my mind as Samurai became less important as warriors.

I think perhaps detailing a system that revolved around On, which we translate as face, which a mechanic similar to the trust idea (similar but different, but I can't quantify how) used in Mountain Witch, might work better.

Alright I'm hoping I haven't derailed this with my rambling.

Chris, I'm wondering if some of your disatisfaction came from charaters not, "acting right?" Was this a problem for you? If so do you think this could have caused some below the surface tension? In a L5R game I was playing in a few years back the campaign ended when the GM had an outburst, packed up his stuff and left due to frustration with a player whom was having his character acting very out of setting. I wonder if something similiar to this, but obviously smaller in scale, is a cause of some of your disatisfaction rather than a system not supporting a narrativist environment?

I'm also curious why you feel that moving to systems that allow more character freedom, and aren't designed, to my very lacking knowledge, with a Japan type setting in mind will improve your and your players experience? What do you feel these games bring that will help you create the type of game you want better? I'm perhaps confused and not understanding what you are seeking from a game like L5R? This is probrably due to me just not grasping something.

-Clyde
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Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design.
clyde.ws, Clyde's personal blog.
Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #16 on: September 11, 2005, 09:51:52 AM »

Hi guys,

To clarify in case there's any miscommunication on my part- I'm not frustrated because I didn't get to express any personal views I might hold about common samurai themes, honor, "realism", or anything like that.  I didn't even come to the table with the goal or plan to express ANY of that.

I'm frustrated because it was a clunky system, and we had poor communication going on at the table.  The issues are System, CA & Social Contract.  I had plenty of tricks in my bag that probably would have resulted in better play- but none of those tricks were in the book - so as a "test run" of L5R, that's what I got.  I even looked back into the 1st edition book out of curiosity and realized it had marginally better advice, but not much on play structure either.  Which meant, when we came to the table, no one there had tools from the game to "know how to play" in a real sense.

As far as "realism" goes, I'm exceedingly loose- about as concerned with historical accuracy as "Gladiator" or even "Knight's Tale".  I never lived in feudal Japan, or anything close to it.  I know none of my players have either.  I do know that killing the head honcho's important guys in public, without any evidence to back you, then walking into court like it's all gravy, makes no plausibility sense from anything outside of Grand Theft Auto...  I also know that asking the player personally, "What are you trying to do?" and getting "I want to do X" and then having the actions be completely alien to X, bugs me out.  Cause believe me, I asked a lot.

Clyde-
Quote
I'm also curious why you feel that moving to systems that allow more character freedom, and aren't designed, to my very lacking knowledge, with a Japan type setting in mind will improve your and your players experience? What do you feel these games bring that will help you create the type of game you want better? I'm perhaps confused and not understanding what you are seeking from a game like L5R? This is probrably due to me just not grasping something.

L5R has some really cool game fiction, which does a great job of hitting a lot of those themes that I spoke about previously.  One would -hope- that the game itself would produce similar things in play, but as you noted, the system is not particularly good at driving that kind of play.  I was a fan from way back, and decided I would try out the new system- and unfortunately, it still doesn't do any better.  Mind you, though I'd prefer Nar results, I'm even willing to squeeze Sim play from this, and there wasn't EVEN a page explaining how a scenario was meant to be run.

As far as the other games I mentioned, they are designed with exactly what I want in mind- systems designed to inspire and hit addressing theme, but more importantly- systems that facilitate open communication amongst the players. 

Sorcerer specifically sets up everything in Humanity, which you define per game, and for L5R I would do  by defining it both as Personal Ethics and Social Obligations + On, at which point you've now set up play to be constantly addressing that divide.  Riddle of Steel sets up a character's ideals, relationships (and through that, the other issues like, love, loyalty, duty) against each other as the player will be forced at times to make decisions for one at the cost of the other.  In both games, these things have much heftier mechanical effects than Honor or Glory in L5R, and in both cases, are rewarded or penalized immediately.

In this regard, I mean, what would a system need to specifically "better support Japan" that would help especially?  Katana stats?  Horse stats?  All of that is color- the real fun stuff is the thematic stuff, not the toys that decorate it.

Overall, my frustration with the L5R rules were that they didn't give any guidance for ANY CA or style of play.

Chris
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Clyde L. Rhoer
Member

Posts: 391


« Reply #17 on: September 11, 2005, 11:04:41 AM »

Ah Chris,

I think I understand you better now. I come at things from a Sim angle and was imagining what might dissatisfy me in your place. If I'm understanding you correctly, you are saying that you would prefer a game that addressed narritivist play, but would have been alright with L5R if it had addressed Sim play, but since it addresses nothing, you don't find it very useful. If this is the case I can totally agree and understand now where you are coming from.

As far as what would be useful for a game to "better support Japan?" I'm not sure, I think that may have something to do with why I was interested in this thread. I definately don't think it would be katana and horse stats as I think that would just be adding points of contact that probrably would not be useful points of contact. This would just increase the handling time.

I think for a game to better support Japan at least for a Sim point of view would be a game that either addresses setting and had characters play diamyo (to help eliminate the need for railroading of characters), or a game that addresses characterization and explores the conflicting nature of On.

It sounds like those games you mention might allow you to point in that direction, and definately will let you point in a Narrativist direction. I'd definately be interested in reading actual play posts if you ever go that route.
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Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design.
clyde.ws, Clyde's personal blog.
John Wick
Member

Posts: 210


WWW
« Reply #18 on: September 13, 2005, 01:46:05 PM »

The basic concept that John Wick said recently was that the idea was that each clan was supposed to emphasize an aspect of Bushido over the rest (though the whole Unicorn Clan... eludes me on that).

Trust me, it eluded me, too. :)

The first edition book had little, if any, storyline in it at all. It had a lot of world, but very little storyline.
And, in the GM chapter, there was a whole section on doing what the hell you wanted and ditching the metaplot. I think I wrote something along the lines of:

"The metaplot is like everything else in the book: a tool to help you run your game. If you don't like it, ditch it. The only rule you should follow is 'Make sure your players are having fun.'"

That's always been my philosophy. Always will be, too. ;)
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Carpe Deum,
John
Clyde L. Rhoer
Member

Posts: 391


« Reply #19 on: September 13, 2005, 02:17:13 PM »


The first edition book had little, if any, storyline in it at all. It had a lot of world, but very little storyline.


Interesting, I've never thought of it quite that way. I wonder if that's what decreased my liking of the game? You have a setting that is very well done, and says, "come experience me, and create direction.' Then later you have someone putting down signposts that say, "The direction is this way,' and focusing more on driving the direction rather than the "experience me."  I must have preferred when it was my rocks making the waves, rather than some giant throwing boulders.
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Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design.
clyde.ws, Clyde's personal blog.
Storn
Member

Posts: 228


« Reply #20 on: September 13, 2005, 03:33:07 PM »

Unicorn, to me, is about the samurai being a horse culture.

That is a tough thing to sell.  Partly, because in my mind, the Mongol are not only a horse culture, but a herding culture.  And that nuance is even tougher thing to get across to those who've never been on a horse.  The Samurai projected power, like the Mongol, through the horse, but it was NOT the be-all, end-all of everything.  HOw could it be?, Japan is tiny and an island.  It is a maritime culture.

I grew up in dairy country, I rode horses... and I fell in love with studying the Mongol, chinese and Japanese feudal cultures.  Partly because of that imaginary shared connection.  China, Mongolia and Rokugan... now that is country where areas are  wide and cattle can be part and parcel of the culture.

  The idea of Shinjo Shoiji's traveling court makes perfect sense to me... gotta rotate the grazing of the grasslands for all that cattle and horse.  I mentioned it to my GM, and you could see the light bulb go off.

But horse culture is also just tough thing to sell on its own.  Especially in gaming... outta the 6 or 7 melees our Unicorn characters have been in, I remember only one that happened on horse back.  Samurai films and manga have sandled shoed dudes wandering the countryside pushing carts and carrying umbrellas and being bad-asses.... cowboy films do a better job of giving that image of the lone rider, winchester 73 held in the crook of the arm being a bad-ass.  The horse guys in samurai films seem to be those colorful dudes in the background....

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Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #21 on: September 13, 2005, 04:34:42 PM »

Hi guys,

Thanks for the input.  I'm not particularly interested in discussing setting canon or real life historical facts for this thread (though, if you really want, we can talk in PM).  If anyone has anything to add specifically dealing with the L5R system, or players and communication issues, I'd be happy to discuss that here.

Chris
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