A Matchmaker of the Deer, manipulating others to maintain Rokugan’s balance. A Spymaster of the Crane, ferreting out secrets and striking at exposed weaknesses. A Deathdealer of the Scorpion, striking down enemies by any means necessary. A Chronicler of the Dragon, maintaining the truth despite a storm of lies. The social scene in the Emerald Empire is just as much of a battlefield as any blood-stained patch of earth outside Toshi Ranbo, and it’s a battlefield that requires warriors that wield words and blades alike with the greatest of skill. Fortunately we have what we need to build an entire party of such warriors for the Legend of the Five Rings roleplaying game from Fantasy Flight Games, using the Courts of Stone!
What is it about Fantasy Flight Games releasing supplements that lend themselves towards party ideas that I’ve already explored using just the core rulebook? First it was Shadowlands and the Mahō Hunters, this time it was Courts of Stone and the Winter Court. Coincidence? FFG being inspired by my brilliant ideas? Well, in any case, CoS offers something new for every Great Clan, a mercenary ninja that I sadly didn’t have room to work with here, and a new minor clan: the Deer! So, lets see what our nominal courtly heroes can do.
Clan: Deer Family: Shika School: Shika Matchmaker
Status: 30 Glory: 43 Honor: 63
Giri: To maintain the balance between the Great Clans.
Ninjō: To find true love for himself.
Air: 3 Earth: 2 Fire: 2 Water: 2 Void: 1
Endurance: 8 Focus: 5 Composure: 8 Vigilance: 3
Skills: Sentiment 2, Courtesy 1, Culture 1, Composition 1, Meditation 1, Theology 1, Martial Arts [Melee] 1
Starting Techniques: The Ties that Bind [Ritual], Yari of Air [Invocation], Path to Inner Peace [Invocation], Tempest of Air [Invocation]
School Ability: Gift of Musubi-no-Kami
Advantages: Affect of Harmlessness [Air], Decorum [Water], Support of the Kakita Dueling Academy [Water]
Disadvantages: Scorn of the Matsu Family [Water], Isolation [Earth], Painful Honesty [Air]
Starting Outfit: Traveling clothes, ceremonial clothes, wakizashi, tea seat, 5 koku, calligraphy set
How Do They Stand Out: Patience [+1 Earth]
What detail do others find most striking: A friendly smile that never seems to flinch at adversity.
Opinion of Clan: Positive Opinion of Bushidō: Orthodox
Who have they learned the most from: Daimyō Shika Renji [Painful Honesty, +1 Sentiment]
Samurai Heritage: Triumph During Gempuku [+3 Glory/Honor, Support of the Kakita Dueling Academy]
Death: Caught in a fight between the Kakita and the Matsu, ending the fight.
Unmasking: Panicked Retreat
Shika Kuman is a master of the social scene, able to manipulate others and their relationships to achieve balance in the Emerald Empire. The Gift of Musubi-no-Kami allows him to use the Ties That Bind ritual (more on that shortly) as an action instead of a downtime activity, and lets him add Ring dice with Opportunity equal to his school rank whenever he performs the ritual. That he often behaves with an Affect of Harmlessness makes it easy to be underestimated and can ingratiate him with strangers, and he has such a taste for Decorum that few can match his manners. Having the Support of the Kakita Dueling Academy can come in handy as well, should disputes turn sour. With the Ties That Bind Kuman can learn about a particularly fortuitous (or inauspicous) match for a character (romantic or otherwise), as well as some of the consequences of such a relationship. The Path to Inner Peace lets him remove fatigue (and possibly conditions and strife) from himself and others. Kuman isn’t all words and peace, though. He can summon a Yari of Air to defend himself with, not unlike his own Clan’s Speardancers, and he can blast foes from afar with Tempest of Air.
Clan: Crane Family: Daidoji School: Daidoji Spymaster
Status: 40 Glory: 45 Honor: 30
Giri: To fight the Crane’s enemies behind fans and in the shadows.
Ninjō: To make even the Otomo dance on the ends of her strings.
Air: 3 Earth: 3 Fire: 1 Water: 2 Void: 1
Endurance: 8 Focus: 4 Composure: 10 Vigilance: 3
Skills: Culture 1, Fitness 1, Tactics 1, Courtesy 1, Government 1, Performance 1, Sentiment 1, Skulduggery 2, Martial Arts [Melee] 1, Commerce 1
Starting Techniques: Ancestry Unearthed [Shūji], Like a Ghost [Ninjitsu], Striking as Air [Kata]
School Ability: Incisive Insight
Advantages: Subtle Observer [Air], Gossip [Air], Blessed Lineage [Void]
Disadvantages: Overconfidence in Subtlety [Air], Web of Lies [Air]
Starting Outfit: Traveling clothes, ceremonial clothes, wakizashi, sokutoki, disguise kit, opening and closing kit, 7 koku, folding fan
How Do They Stand Out: Awareness [+1 Water]
What detail do others find most striking: The slight upturn of the corner of her mouth that she never manages to cover with her fan.
Opinion of Clan: Positive Opinion of Bushidō: Divergent [+1 Skulduggery]
Who have they learned the most from: A cousin in the Otomo [Blessed Lineage]
Samurai Heritage: A Little Too Close to Heaven [+5 Status/-5 Honor, +1 Commerce]
Death: Assassinated, exposing her enemies in the process.
Unmasking: Bend Principles
Daidoji Nari can both gather knowledge to be used against enemies of the Crane and act on that knowledge to strike enemies down. Incisive Insight, once per scene, allows her to receive a number of strife equal to her school rank to reduce the TN of a Scheme action. Being a Subtle Observer lets Nari pick out the cues of others to tell what they’re really thinking. As Gossip can be quite useful for a Spymaster, it’s convenient that she can relieve strife while dealing in it. While it may not have come from the most auspicious relationship, her Blessed Lineage can also be leveraged in Nari’s favor. Ancestry Unearthed lets her ferret out knowledge of the family of her target using Scholar or Social checks. Nari can also move Like a Ghost, possibly crossing multiple range bands unhindered by terrain or vertical surfaces or gaps (without a sound with some Opportunity). Finally, when Striking as Air she can reserve dice from Martial Arts checks to add them to future rolls, saving up successes for a decisive strike.
Clan: Scorpion Family: Bayushi School: Bayushi Deathdealer
Status: 35 Glory: 44 Honor: 40
Giri: To destroy the enemies of the Scorpion by any means necessary.
Ninjō: To become a legendary (and respected) duelist.
Air: 3 Earth: 1 Fire: 3 Water: 2 Void: 1
Endurance: 8 Focus: 6 Composure: 6 Vigilance: 3
Skills: Skulduggery 3, Courtesy 1, Design 1, Martial Arts [Melee] 1, Martial Arts [Ranged] 1, Tactics 1, Sentiment 1, Meditation 1, Survival 1
Starting Techniques: Striking as Fire [Kata], Assess Strengths [Shūji]
School Ability: Way of the Scorpion
Advantages: Famously Successful [Fire], Pot Stirrer [Fire], Quick Reflexes [Fire]
Disadvantages: Unsavory Past [Water], Isolation [Air]
Starting Outfit: Traveling clothes, ashigaru armor, Daishō (katana and wakizashi), folding half bow, traveling pack, 8 koku, metsubushi
How Do They Stand Out: Adaptability [+1 Water]
What detail do others find most striking: Steely grey eyes that seem to beckon others into action.
Opinion of Clan: Positive Opinion of Bushidō: Divergent [+1 Skulduggery]
Who have they learned the most from: A Shosuro Infiltrator [Quick Reflexes]
Samurai Heritage: Dishonorable Cheat [-5 Glory, +1 Survival]
Death: Slain in a duel by someone with a righteous reason for vengeance.
Unmasking: Honor’s Challenge
Bayushi Tatsuya is always well armed, whether on the dueling ground or in court. The Way of the Scorpion means that when Tatsuya exploits an opponent’s disadvantage as part of an initiative check he does not need to spend a Void point, and can reroll dice up to his school rank. Being Famously Successful gives his reputation a lot of weight, his Quick Reflexes come in handy on the dueling ground, and he relieves strife by causing it among others as a Pot Stirrer. By Striking as Fire Tatsuya can drastically increase the severity of the critical strikes he lands on his opponents, and he can Assess Strengths to learn a target’s ranks in Games, Tactics, Martial Arts, and potentially even advantages and disadvantages.
Clan: Dragon Family: Togashi School: Togashi Chronicler
Status: 27 Glory: 50 Honor: 40
Giri: To maintain the sanctity of history and truth.
Ninjō: To gain acceptance for herself and earn her own place in history.
Air: 2 Earth: 2 Fire: 2 Water: 2 Void: 2
Endurance: 8 Focus: 4 Composure: 8 Vigilance: 2
Skills: Meditation 2, Fitness 1, Theology 1, Culture 1, Martial Arts [Unarmed] 1, Performance 2, Medicine 1, Sentiment 1
Starting Techniques: Divination [Ritual], Ki Protection [Kihō], Truth Burns Through Lies [Shūji]
School Ability: A Grain of Truth
Advantages: Famously Neutral (Earth), History (Earth), Well Connected in [City][Water]
Disadvantages: Adopted Peasant [Fire], Loneliness [Void], Benten’s Curse [Air]
Starting Outfit: Traveling clothes, bō, knife, traveling pack, 3 koku, tea set (portable)
How Do They Stand Out: Empathy [+1 Air]
What detail do others find most striking: An accent from her life as a peasant that she cannot seem to shake.
Opinion of Clan: Positive Opinion of Bushidō: Divergent [+1 Medicine]
Who have they learned the most from: Adopted Father [Well Connected in [City]]
Samurai Heritage: Unforgivable Performance [-3 Status, Benten’s Curse, +1 Performance]
Death: Killed by the Perfect Land sect as a class traitor.
Unmasking: Expose an Opening
Togashi Sakami can get to the bottom of any lie, and quite literally be empowered by the truth. A Grain of Truth allows Sakami to, after succeeding on a Social skill check, gain the Enhancement Effect of a Kihō (of a rank up to her school rank, whether she knows the Kihō or not) until the end of the scene. Being Famously Nuetral means Sakami is widely trusted to be fair, and being Well Connected in the campaign’s home city means she has a network of acquaintances and allies to call on. It comes as no surprise that, as a Chronicler, History can often sooth Sakami’s nerves. Divination allows Sakami to peer into the future, Ki Protection can greatly ease the fatigue of Sakami and others, and Truth Burns Through Lies finds the hinge point of a story – and what Sakami needs to confirm or refute it.
Who They Are
Shika Kuman has had a rather more exciting life than most Matchmakers of the Deer Clan. Between some family history and a few painfully honest personal interactions, Kuman has found himself as something of a balancing point in the never-ending feud between the Kakita and the Matsu families. That has generally been a good thing, allowing him to pursue the Deer Clan’s goal of maintaining balance in the Emerald Empire . . . but in the wake of all the careful manipulations and genuinely happy betrothals, Kuman does privately lament that he doesn’t seem to have the time to build any relationships for himself.
Daidoji Nari is no Scorpion, but as far as she’s concerned her sting is more deadly than that of any bug. She is known to be very confident, perhaps overly so, and she’s not entirely trusted . . . but seeing as how no one else has taken her out of play yet, it would seem her confidence is not unfounded. She also happens to be descended from the line of Hantei . . . illegitimately, which has put a bit of a chip on her shoulder. She feels quite personally motivated to take that chip out of anyone who might claim to be a fellow manipulator.
Bayushi Tatsuya has been trained to fight the enemies of the Scorpion with blade and with words, and he’s gained a reputation for putting that training to good use. The ‘by whatever means necessary’ part of those fights has been a problem, however; stories of dishonorable killings stalk his shadow, and he’s been so successful as to seem unapproachable, cutting him off from others. While Tatsuya would never forsake his duty, he does hope that he can die respected, not just feared.
Togashi Sakami was adopted into the Dragon Clan at a very young age, seemingly on the whim of the traveling monk who became her ‘father’. When asked why, he simply told her that history itself was going to need her. Trained as a chronicler, Sakami has embraced the role of a neutral steward of truth amidst the storm of lies that sweep through Rokugani courts. Her origins and her neutrality have made her life somewhat lonely however . . . but she wonders if her father meant for her to write history as well as chronicle it.
How They Interact
This is another one of those parties where it’s quite likely that the party never meet one another before the first session. Whether in Otosan Uchi, a local court, or Winter’s Embrace itself, this is a party that could very easily find itself at cross purposes as each character pursues the goals of their clan . . . or something might happen to bring them all together and unite them.
They might know of one another, though. Each of them has a pretty established reputation for good or for ill, from Kuman’s relationship with the Kakita and Matsu and his impressively high Honor, to Nari’s web of lies, to Tatsuya’s famous successes, to Sakami’s humble beginnings and well-known neutrality. That might be an interesting Twenty-First Question for your players, actually: what have each of the characters heard of all the others, and what do they think of them?
Will Shika Kuman, Daidoji Nari, Bayushi Tatsuya, and Togashi Sakami find honor and success or shame and failure in the Courts of Stone? Will they be able to balance their own desires and the needs of their clans? Will they be staunch allies, or dire enemies? As always, that’s for you (and your dice) to determine!
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