A member of the Palace Guard, sworn to die so that others might live but longing to give her life a value all its own. A shugenja and astrologer, once fooled and twice determined never to be so again, guiding the Empire by peering into the future. A schemer, sowing strife throughout Rokugan so that the Hantei line may rule unchallenged, to a degree even the Scorpion would admire. A herald of the Miya, thought missing and now safely returned to the Capital . . . whose shadow shows seven fox tails when she becomes flustered. The Great Clans aren’t the only power in Rokugan, and they’re not the only source of player options for the Legend of the Five Rings RPG from Fantasy Flight Games: today we’re making characters using the Emerald Empire sourcebook!
Emerald Empire presented us with a group of new character options with a lot of differences among themselves. There’s the new ‘clan’ of the Imperial Families, and the Families and Schools that come from them. There are the monks, both Shinseist and Fortunist. And then there are the ones with something to hide, the Kitsune Impersonator and the Kolat Conspiracy. I knew that if I was going to make an Emerald-Empire-centric Meet the Party it would be the Imperial Families that served as the bedrock, but what exactly to do with them and what else to use was the question. And so we travel to the very heart of Rokugan, the home of the Emperor, Otosan Uchi, there to meet those who serve the Hantei line directly . . . and those who have secrets to keep.
Clan: Imperial Families Family: Seppun School: Seppun Palace Guard
Status: 50 Glory: 50 Honor: 60
Giri: Offer up her life to protect the Emperor and the Imperial Families.
Ninjō: Be more than just a bodyguard.
Air: 2 Earth: 3 Fire: 1 Water: 2 Void: 2
Endurance: 8 Focus: 3 Composure: 10 Vigilance: 2
Skills: Government 1, Meditation 1, Theology 1, Fitness 1, Martial Arts [Melee] 1, Martial Arts [Ranged] 1, Sentiment 1, Tactics 1, Command 1
Starting Techniques: Iaijutsu Cut: Crossing Blade [Kata], Ancestry Unearthed [Shūji]
School Ability: Speed of Heaven
Advantages: Kuge Lineage [Earth], City (Otosan Uchi)[Water], Quick Reflexes [Fire], Blessed Lineage [Void]
Disadvantages: Maimed Visage [Air], Loathing for Peasants [Water]
Starting Outfit: Lacquered Armor, Sanctified Robes, Daishō (katana and wakizashi), Naginata, Knife, Traveling Pack, Shuriken, 6 koku
How Do They Stand Out: Adaptability, friendliness, or awareness
What detail do others find most striking: A vicious scar across her face, across the nose and right under both eyes.
Opinion of Clan: Positive Opinion of Bushidō: Orthodox
Who have they learned the most from: Seppun Ishikawa, Captain of the Seppun Honor Guard [Quick Reflexes]
Samurai Heritage: Imperial Heritage
Death: Taking a blow meant for the Emperor, preserving the Hantei line.
Unmasking: Honor’s Challenge
Few in Rokugan will be safer than those guarded by Seppun Nichiko. Speed of Heaven adds her School rank to successful initiative checks, allowing her to leap to the defense of her charges before an assassin’s blow can fall. Her Kuge and Blessed Lineages grant her a very high degree of respect from others, Quick Reflexes are always useful for a bodyguard, and her familiarity with the Imperial Capital of Otosan Uchi eases her mind. The Iaijutsu Cut of Crossing Blade allows Nichiko to strike from afar, further extending the envelope of her protection, and Ancestry Unearthed allows her to spend Opportunity on Scholar and Social skills to learn details about oaths, secrets, and families.
Clan: Imperial Families Family: Seppun School: Seppun Astrologer
Status: 40 Glory: 47 Honor: 43
Giri: Peer into the future to see supernatural and spiritual threats to Rokugan.
Ninjō: Guide the Empire the way he thinks is best.
Air: 3 Earth: 2 Fire: 2 Water: 2 Void: 1
Endurance: 8 Focus: 5 Composure: 8 Vigilance: 3
Skills: Government 1, Meditation 2, Theology 2, Medicine 2, Courtesy 1, Martial Arts [Melee] 1, Seafaring 1
Starting Techniques: Bind the Shadow [Invocation], Dominion of Suijin [Invocation], Divination [Ritual], Commune With Spirits [Ritual], Threshold Barrier [Ritual]
School Ability: Just As Predicted
Advantages: Fukurukijin’s Blessing [Fire], Fortune Telling [Void]
Disadvantages: Bluntness [Air], Impatience [Earth], Disdain for Courtesy [Air]
Starting Outfit: Sanctified Robes, Concealed Armor, Wakizashi, Knife, Calligraphy Set, Traveling Pack, Scroll Satchel, Divination Kit, Medicine Kit, 6 koku
How Do They Stand Out: Creativity, passion, or drive
What detail do others find most striking: A slight but seemingly ever-present sneer born of impatience.
Opinion of Clan: Positive Opinion of Bushidō: Divergent [Medicine]
Who have they learned the most from: A Soshi Illusionist and poisoner. [Disdain for Courtesy][+1 Medicine]
Samurai Heritage: Elevated for Service [Seafaring]
Death: Peacefully, having foreseen his demise and having settled his affairs – perhaps even revenge for his death – ahead of time.
Unmasking: Inappropriate Outburst
Seppun Ryusuke peers into the future for the good of the Empire; proper preparation can mean everything. Just as Predicted gives him the ability to roll a TN 1 Theology check using any ring, reserving a number of kept die up to his school rank; during the session, Ryusuke can replace any other character’s kept die with his reserved dice so long as the same ring was used for the check. Fukurukijin’s Blessing makes him particularly adept at research and ferreting out solutions to new problems, while Fortune Telling allows him to recover Strife. Bind the Shadow lets Ryusuke strike out at Otherworldly creatures with crackling arcs of jade light, while Dominion of Suijin gives him the ability to scry through water, perhaps even passing through it like a gate. Divination lets him peer into the future, Commune With Spirits lets him do just that, and Threshold Barrier allows Ryusuke to ward off threats.
Clan: Imperial Families Family: Otomo School: Otomo Schemer
Status: 40 Glory: 50 Honor: 45
Giri: Keep the peace of the Empire by secretly keeping the Clans at odds with one another.
Ninjō: Prove his superiority, in both affluence and influence.
Air: 3 Earth: 2 Fire: 2 Water: 2 Void: 1
Endurance: 8 Focus: 5 Composure: 8 Vigilance: 3
Skills: Government 2, Culture 2, Sentiment 1, Command 1, Courtesy 1, Design 1, Commerce 1, Martial Arts [Melee] 1
Starting Techniques: Stirring the Embers [Shūji], Slippery Maneuvers [Shūji]
School Ability: Necessary Actions
Advantages: Well-Connected [Air], Gourmet [Water], Precise Memory [Earth]
Disadvantages: Whispers of Treachery [Air], Accustomed to Luxury [Earth]
Starting Outfit: Ceremonial Clothes, Wakizashi, Kiseru, Calligraphy Set, Traveling Pack, Trustworthy Attendant, Personal Chop, Tessen*, 9 koku
How Do They Stand Out: Thoroughness, patience, or calm
What detail do others find most striking: A rotund physique not unlike that of Hotei, Fortune of Contentment.
Opinion of Clan: Positive Opinion of Bushidō: Divergent [Commerce]
Who have they learned the most from: His father, a schemer before him. [Precise Memory]
Samurai Heritage: Famous Deed [Tessen* (Resplendent, Razor-Edged)]
Death: According to his own plan, his death bringing about his enemies’ downfall.
Unmasking: Bend Principles
Otomo Terumoto is like many of his Family: a spider, sitting at the center of Rokugan’s web, always aware of what is occurring and manipulating events as he see fits. Necessary Actions means Terumoto never has to forfeit honor or glory to lie or deceive so long as his action, in his mind, are for the good of the Empire. It also means he can force those forfeiting or staking honor or glory to act against him to double their loss. He is, of course, Well-Connected among the courts and nobilties of Rokugan, and his Precise Memory serves him well in navigating the complex politics and relationships of the Empire. Of course, good food is always good for relieving Strife when you’re a Gourmet. Stirring the Embers lets Terumoto rile up his allies by spending Opportunity to let them reroll three dice for their Distinction Advantages. Slippery Maneuvers give him the ability to move himself and allies to advantageous terrain in skirmishes and mass battles.
Clan: Imperial Families Family: Miya School: Kitsune Impersonator
Status: 40 Glory: 52 Honor: 30
Giri: Be the trustworthy voice of the Emperor and avenge Yemi’s death.
Ninjō: Keep her true identity a secret and enjoy life among the humans.
Air: 3 Earth: 1 Fire: 2 Water: 2 Void: 2
Endurance: 6 Focus: 5 Composure: 6 Vigilance: 3
Skills: Government 2, Courtesy 1, Culture 1, Games 1, Performance 1, Theology 1, Skulduggery 1, Martial Arts [Ranged] 1
Starting Techniques: Nature’s Touch [Invocation], Token of Memory [Invocation], Commune With Spirits [Ritual]
School Ability: Fox Spirit
Advantages: Kisshōten’s Blessing [Water], Playfulness [Air], Travel [Water]
Disadvantages: Blackmailed [Air], False Identity [Air]
Starting Outfit: Traveling clothes, Wakizashi, Yumi and Quiver of Arrows, Knife, Calligraphy Set, Traveling pack, Personal Chop, Assortment of Maps in Scroll Cases, a Rokugani Pony, Tea Set (Portable), 8 koku
How Do They Stand Out: Adaptability, Friendliness, or Awareness.
What detail do others find most striking: Her bright smile which, at least before a double-take, appear to have much sharper canine teeth than is normal.
Opinion of Clan: Positive Opinion of Bushidō: Divergent [Skulduggery]
Who have they learned the most from: The real Miya Yemi. [Travel]
Samurai Heritage: Discovery [Government]
Death: Revealing her true identity to avenge the real Yemi’s murder.
Unmasking: Expose an Opening
“Miya Yemi” has taken the place of a fallen member of the Miya family, bringing the invocations and mischief that only a kitsune can perpetrate to the Capital. As a Fox Spirit “Yemi” is capable of changing her shape between her human form, her true multi-tailed fox form, and any other Silhouette 1 or 2 creature. When Compromised, however, her disguise slips. Kisshōten’s Blessing makes “Yemi” a friend to all kits children, and both Playfulness and Travel help rid her of Strife (vital, considering what happens when she’s Compromised). Nature’s Touch lets “Yemi” communicate with animals (and, perhaps, Otherworldly beings), and even convince them to act favorably towards her. Token of Memory lets her create illusionary objects, perhaps even making them ‘real’ for a time. Finally, Commune With Spirits allows “Yemi” to do just that; appropriate enough, considering some of them may be relatives.
I went back and forth on which Schools to include quite a bit. For a game set in Otosan Uchi, the two Seppun and our Otomo Schemer were a sure fit. Our fourth character was a bit harder. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around why a starter-level monk would be hanging around in the Palace quite so much, and while the Kolat would be very interesting to see among the Imperial Families that seemed a bit too much potential conflict to seed here. As for the Miya, my impression in the review holds true; I struggled to come up with a reason a Herald or a Cartographer would be staying in one place so long. An ‘injured’ ‘Miya’, though, provided the perfect opportunity for some kind of infiltrator to make it into the capital, and so I settled on the Kitsune Impersonator.
So, we know what they look like on paper and some of what they can do . . . but what are their stories?
Who They Are
Seppun Nichiko was trained from the day she could hold a practice sword to defend the Emperor and other members of the Imperial Families, to shield them from blows with her own body if she must. Becoming a member of the Palace Guard was an inevitability between her skill and determination, and she eventually practiced under the tutelage of the Captain of the Guard himself. She has served with honor and glory, even taking a blow meant for one of her charges, and she has the respect of her superiors and her colleagues. None of that has fully suppressed the desire to be something more than a body to shield others from harm. Exactly what that something more is Nichiko hasn’t quite figured out, but even as she continues to serve with pride she dreams of standing out from the pat that has always been laid before her.
Seppun Ryusuke is a man with very little patience; it would seem that being able to peer into the future has only given him an enhanced sense of the time limits that all human beings are constrained by. Being tasked with protecting the Emperor and the Imperial Families from supernatural and not-yet-realized threats has Ryusuke in a constant race against time itself, trying to head off one disaster or another. Nothing has driven him to succeed harder than when he failed to ferret out the schemes of the Scorpion. Such is his drive, however, that Ryusuke has come to trust his vision of the future over those of his fellow astrologers. If he could gain enough influence, it would be a simple matter to make the others see what he sees – and guide the Empire down whatever path he believes is best.
Otomo Terumoto is almost a classic example of his family, a schemer raised by a schemer to give every other clan and family in Rokugan fits. He maintains a public face of the Imperial bureaucrat simply helping to keep the Empire functional, but in reality his goal is to help play all of the other factions and clans off of one another to keep them too busy and conflict-ridden to organize any kind of threat against the throne. He has been successful . . . perhaps too successful. There are whispers in some corners of the court that the man is a viper, and he has sometimes taken an unseemly pleasure in outmaneuvering others far beyond what duty requires. He has also, perhaps, grown too used to the perks of success, as both the weight of his belly and his coin purse reveal.
Miya Yemi went out into the world from Otosan Uchi as a messenger of the Emperor, carrying his decrees and carefully observing his Empire. Someone did not want a message delivered, however, or perhaps they were wary of what those careful eyes would see. Yemi was badly wounded, and staggered into Kitsune Forest to die. “Miya Yemi” walked out of the forest almost completely healed, however, and returned to the Imperial Capital. The kitsune spirit who has taken the original Yemi’s place knows that this is very risky for her; nowhere in Rokugan are there more people to possibly uncover her secret, and whoever killed Yemi must suspect there’s no way she should have survived. The opportunity to explore the humans’ chief nest is too great for “Yemi” to resist, however, and besides: the human Yemi’s last words implored her to find out why Yemi had been murdered so that she could rest.
How They Interact
Nichiko views her family’s astrologers, like Ryusuke, as having an extra pair of eyes to watch for potential threats, but not all that much helpful when it comes to actually dealing with them – unless the threat in question is an angry ghost or something along those lines. Ryusuke himself is a little more hands on, though, and despite his acerbic personality he makes for a valuable partner. Terumoto is of the class of people that Nichiko is duty-bound to protect despite not really wanting to. At the very least he’s not someone she wants to sacrifice herself for, so she’d better be good enough to survive the inevitable attempts on his life. Nichiko deeply envies Yemi; while the Seppun genuinely loves her city, she never gets to see the rest of Rokugan without having to constantly watch for threats to whomever she’s protecting on the road. She’s quietly eager for whatever stories Yemi has to tell.
Ryusuke can find out an opponent’s weaknesses easily enough, but he knows that the next step is having a weapon that can reach that weakness. In many cases Nichiko is that weapon, perhaps the most valuable tool Ryusuke has at his disposal next to his own abilities. Terumoto is a snake, and it doesn’t even require scrying to figure that out, but he’s a potentially very useful snake. The man’s manipulations could prove quite useful in ending threats before they begin, and shaping the Empire to match Ryusuke’s vision. Yemi is not someone Ryusuke has a lot of patience for; his brusqueness and her playfulness are not a good match. Still, there’s something . . . slightly off about the Miya, something that Ryusuke would like to figure out. If he ever gets the time.
Terumoto knows very well that Nichiko doesn’t care for him. Oh, she hides it well enough, but he’s used to spotting a certain stiffness in people around him. He also knows just how valuable a Seppun can be for an Otomo, especially an Otomo like him, so he puts in some effort to keep her mollified. Nothing too crass! It mainly consists of putting in extra effort to conceal his less ‘honorable’ actions from her, so that she doesn’t have more reason to shirk her duty. Ryusuke can see to the truth of things, not really a trait Terumoto likes those around him to have, but the man is also the social equivalent of a boulder crashing downhill. Provided you keep an eye out you can step out of the way – and maybe even nudge it towards crushing someone else. Yemi is a delightful creature, always with a quip or some story from her travels, seemingly guileless but in a way that seems deliberate, and itt always pays to have the eyes of a Miya to see things for you.
“Yemi” could tell right away that Nichiko was born with a free spirit and was promptly put into a cage by all these rules humans have built for themselves. She considers the Seppun to be her first true human friend, and hopes to help free her – and somewhat more selfishly, hopes to one day reveal the true Yemi’s fate and ask for help. Ryusuke is a stick in the mud, but a dangerously sharp one. Being around him requires the most caution and provides the most risk . . . but that’s also what makes needling him more exciting! Terumoto is, in his own limited human way, a trickster and deceiver himself, and like calls to like. It’s a game: “Yemi” sees how many of his secrets she can discover without revealing her own. If she has enough to keep him from outing her when he find out the truth, she wins. It doesn’t hurt that he has the best food ever.
Will Nichiko hold to her duty and still manage to be more than a human shield? Will Ryusuke see his vision of the Empire come true, or get blindside along the way? Can Terumoto maintain his manipulations, or will another schemer flip the go board on him? How long can “Yemi” keep her secret, and what will happen when it gets out? As always, that’s for you (and your dice) to determine!
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