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Eero's Ronin Difficulties

Started by Judd, June 09, 2005, 07:45:36 PM

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Quote from: Eero Tuovinen

By the by: I'm not too impressed with RONIN. Suggest considering sticking with the basic Dust Devils system. The ability definitions are awkward in RONIN, which makes it difficult to play at the beginning. A samurai can well have "Honor" or "Duty" as a Devil, so basic DD works fine.

Please explain.

Eero Tuovinen

Sure. Let me first download RONIN and skim it again, to refresh myself. I just read it, what, a week or two ago in preparation for running Lone Wolf and Cub with the DD rules. Decided to skip it. Let's see if I was mistaken.


Yeah, so. Here's my feelings when reading RONIN:

Character history - sure, why not. Not positive or negative, because the utility depends entirely on player expectations and play style. Not even a rule, per se.

Elements instead of Attributes - While the Dust Devils attributes are very down-to-earth and instinctive (one of my favourites in the business, much better than some weird separations between strength and agility), the RONIN ones are IMO a step backwards - instead of combining intelligence and perception, it combines intelligence and charisma, and so on. Furthermore, the attribute names make the distinctions opaque - the attributes MIGHT fit a samurai drama better as far as character profiling goes, but they're significantly harder to understand. Elementary connections can be interpreted every which way, so calling an attribute "Fire" really doesn't tell me much. Saying that weapon use falls under "Water" is just arbitrary.

Honor and Spirit - while the idea might be somewhat interesting, I don't think that there is enough relevant scope to measure samurai honor by descriptors in your awerage samurai drama. On the surface, all honor and all spirit is identical. Master storytellers need whole books and movies to communicate why this particular person has a different honor, different spirit. And then they continue by pondering whether this thing they've captured is honor or spirit at all, but something else instead. Read practically any author on the subject. It's a bit much to require a player to characterize their character's honor and spirit in an unique way at the beginning of the story, and expect them to be usable in the game as well as dramatically interesting. The example characters, for instance - when can you use those traits, and more importantly, when you can not? They're fine as projections of character personality, but hardly fit to be generic attribute boosters.

Talents - no changes here, except for allowing Bushido, a super talent. It's significantly more wide than your usual Knack (or talent, presumably). A whole occupation, actually. The intention might have been that the players always without doubt set it at 4. But then it's better to just say so. The idea itself is not bad - it neatly sidesteps the issue of figuring out which talent combination makes a kick-ass samurai, and frees up points to put in calligraphy or such.

Duty - Interestingly, as RONIN is written, it's duties wouldn't be valid Devils for Dust Devils. A RONIN duty is about commitment to a mission, while the Devil is explicitly required by the rules to be both unsolvable and unwanted by the character. But is the change good, does it capture samurai spirit? I think it narrows the scope of the game unnecessarily, myself. I'm going primarily by my planned Lone Wolf and Cub campaign here - that kind of samurai drama is very much about Devils, not about Duty. It'd be counter-intuitive to try to characterize Ogami Itto through a "duty to avenge his family" - but that's exactly what the RONIN rules suggest! Furthermore, I think that duties will make for more mission-based play and overall not really become centerpieces of the story, like the Devil does. The character just commits to doing it regardless of cost (samurai ideology hampers narrativistic play here), and that's the story. To make a samurai Dust Devils work, I think that you need to deconstruct the samurai ideology and cast it in increasingly more suspect light, not embed it in the rules. This is even more important than with the much more morally grey gunslingers, because otherwise the players will just conform with the fate of being there to be killed in service to their lords. Thus the Devil is better than Duty, I think.


That's that' pretty much. As you can see, I end up pretty much fixing everything in RONIN to make it fit better in the kind of samurai drama I think I want. That Duty issue, especially - to make the mechanics work, the Devil-counterpart needs to be non-positive, non-negative as regards character motivation - otherwise it's just a free bonus or penalty on the character action and we don't get to see the "dance with the devil" that makes Dust Devils what it is.

Attributes - I wholeheartedly think that it MIGHT be good to mess with the definitions to profile samurai strengths and weaknesses better. However, it's also possible that the attributes as they are in DD already do this, if it should be the case that the same attributes characterize both samurai and gunslinger capability. Not all genres are so, but this one just might be. Heart is the most suspect one, because we don't usually see samurai characters swaying others through charisma, but rather through willpower.

That said, you could also use the RONIN attributes, but then I suggest naming them more simply. Like this:
Body - physical strength, earth
Clarity - intelligence and charisma, air
Passion - sakki and passion, fire
Blade - martial ability, water
Those are not a bad set, in themselves. You see the idea behind them - there's the physical/mental split, and an attribute for being passionate instead of calculating. So the choice of attribute in a conflict is about recognizing either earth or air depending on the type of conflict, and then choosing whether the character acts in passion or coldly (making a case for going with an earth/air combo). That's very samurai, right there. The "martial ability" of Water is an odd duck, I don't think it belongs here. Consider playing with just three suits, or recognizing a fourth quality that works in combination with the first three. Such a quality would have to be such that it's conseivably used in combination with all three of the others, which is hardly the case with Water.

But that's that. Did I make myself clear at all?
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