Ten Things I Think I Think #6

Thoughts on L5R from March 31 to April 8, 2012.  Last time my thoughts were seemingly consumed by the Lion.  This time, my mind has apparently been wandering in the direction of the Mantis . . .

1)      Although they have been in the spotlight recently, the Spider are, of course, not the only vast group of individuals to go implausibly undetected in Rokugan, often for far longer than the Spider pulled it off.  Granted, much of this occurred pre-active storyline, and so is entitled to some level of hand-waving – it is probably a rare fantasy epic that doesn’t have some sort of hidden organization that’s been around for ages that only just manages to get discovered by the heroes (in addition to ninja, the Kolat, and the lying darkness, this would also cover the Scorpion Clan Coup, since that was done and gone when the CCG started).  But the oblivious nature of Rokugani is not to be underestimated.

2)      I recently finished reading the Imperial Histories supplement for the L5R RPG, and I have a hard time not rolling my eyes at the repetitiveness of the Mantis involvement in the story.  Apparently, no matter what happens in the rest of Rokugan, the Mantis will not be harmed, and will indeed flourish due to their geography, navy, mercantile attitude, and the hidebound nature and general obliviousness of every single other organization in Rokugan (the only significant blow comes in KYD, when Fu Leng manages to finally get to the Islands of Silk and Spice, but even then the Mantis just pick up stakes and move to the Ivory Kingdoms).  Even when the Mantis are caught trying to overthrow the Emperor, often by working together with foreign agents, no particularly severe consequence (if any) seems to result.  This thread runs through old material, new material, and alternate history material that wasn’t even written by people associated with AEG at the time.  The Mantis are supposed to be the Clan of dynamism, but they still seem to just get the same story over and over.

3)      I’ve long said that the ST needs to get off the whole “Mantis navy is better than everyone else put together.”  And that “the Mantis own the sea,” if it’s actually still around.  That still needs to happen.  But maybe they just need to sink the Islands of Silk and Spice into the sea, if only to force the Clan’s history out of its storytelling rut.

4)      Back on The Great Clans now (I switched over to Imperial Histories after it showed up, and I happened to be in the middle of the Lion section of Great Clans, so then . . . more Mantis), and I find amusing that the Mantis are portrayed as willing to pick a fight over anyone badmouthing Gusai.  Setting aside how one can function generally insisting that others publicly praise someone who was condemned as a criminal by the Emperor, I can’t imagine how much courtiers with good duelists as yojimbo must love that.  You can actually make a relatively straightforward, completely accurate statement about Gusai, that everyone in the room who isn’t a Mantis will agree with, and then the Mantis present would (as portrayed in Great Clans) proceed to commit suicide by picking a fight with you about it.

5)      How does the new “The Clans” write-up of the Crab get away with saying that “the Crab have only ever truly failed once, during the Destroyer War?”  Didn’t they fail in their duty even more spectacularly during the Clan War?

6)      So . . . why exactly do the Spider have the Ancestral Sword of the Hantei?  I have a hard time coming up with a reason why a sitting Empress would give a symbol of a former dynasty to a guy who actually claims to be a scion of that former dynasty, and who wants to overthrow her someday.  I get that Spider player’s are going to be all “that’s cool,” but I have to wonder if there’s going to be a good enough reason in-story.

7)      There should be a floor rule that you have to register your name accurately.

8)      Some of the cast members here think we should do something to commemorate the 50th episode of the Strange Assembly podcast.  I’m not sure.  Is this enough of a milestone to make a deal out of?  If so, does anyone have any ideas how to mark the occasion?

9)      I doubt that many others share my feeling, but I find myself uncomfortable with the increasing role that bounties seem to be playing in the selection of L5R story prizes.  The meaning of naming something in honor of a particular character seems rather lessened when it comes not as the result of working to win a contest of some sort, but rather from being willing to shell out $50.

10) Dragon Clan Elephant Cavalry.  Somebody go get that second Stables (Elephants).  Just saying.

16 thoughts on “Ten Things I Think I Think #6

  1. 2 — If it helps you feel any better, I know there are a few Mantis players who’d give vital parts of their anatomy to get more Mantis fiction that’s not “Yoritomo hang out on boats and crack wise while Tsuruchi shoot things.”

    3 — We’ve seen enough foreshadowing that the Dark Naga’s going to actually have some sort of naval force that that might solve that problem nicely.

    5 — Hida Kisada got to become a Fortune after actually trying to conquer the Imperial City with an army of Shadowlands monsters. The man was more of a Mary Sue than Daigotsu was (after all, as it has been pointed out, part of being a Mary Sue is being utterly loved by everyone in-setting).

    6 — I suspect we’ll see the dealings of the Spider-raised heir in this somehow.

    7 — Agreed.

    9 — I don’t mind bounties as such. After all, bounties have been allowing people to influence big events by proxy for a good long while, and people have jerked around the story to their own whims for dumber reasons than ‘I wants the loot.’ That said, I personally think that the new tradition of cash bounties is a bit of a problem. I mean, yeah, once the Mantis managed to save Kyuden Ashinagabachi with that big stack of cash and it was sort of a cool and different thing at the time. But now it’s starting to look like a crowd-sourced version of Magic Pro Tour with the cash bounties. I mean, what’s next, some bandwagoner ‘I don’t care about the story I just want to play what clan wins’ player actually holding an eBay auction or Kickstarter drive to fund participation in a tournament?

    1. 5 – Kisada got forgiven too easily. And I have (at least several times over the years) expounded in forum posts to remind people that Kisada was one of the big villains of the Clan War saga.

      1. We’ve got a local Crab fanboy who won’t shut up about Kisada (either of them), and he gets occasional reminders about it. I really shut him up once by pointing out that regardless of who got made a fortune, I feel that Kuon was the better man (no matter how annoying he is when he pops up turn 2). Kisada allied with the Shadowlands out of greed. Kuon surrendered rather than use the Damned against the Crane to claim the Yasuki provinces.

        1. Kisada becoming a fortune is just one of many examples of the story jumping the shark. Kisada was fine with having his one son give his name to an oni, and his other son get crucified on Fu-Leng’s standard. If that isn’t evil, I don’t know what is. Making him the fortune of persistence was silly, even if the supposed rationale was “well, the emperor wanted to curry favor with the Crab”. How about making someone who -didn’t- ally with the devil and forsake their one and only duty for personal gain? FFS.

          Obviously things have changed over time, but the game’s story feels radically different to me than it used to. Now I know nothing radical happens because it’d be bad for the brand or whatever, and that there are no true repercussions for any action (please see Chags killing Kaneka and rebelling against the Empress or anything Spider ever as examples).

          1. I’ve thought to myself many a time that the whole Kisada/fortune thing would be so much simpler if the proclamation had been done while Toturi was corrupted by the Lying Darkness as a ploy to mess with the Empire’s collective head (like declaring the Unicorn the new Right Hand).

  2. On Point 2) Somehow we still don’t own the Empire, and this makes me sad. If Hiromi doesn’t make a serious Khan style attempt to take the throne or regency of the Colonies then I will be disappointed.

    Point 3) It would be nice to see some serious naval conflict, even if it is between the Mantis and some non-Rokugani forces, but with the discovery of the Fourth Storm and now the rediscovery of the Orochi it seems unlikely that any single enemy would be able to challenge the Clan. Maybe if Hiromi does try to ‘shake the Empire’ and finds a good number of other Clans against us then there will be a decent clash.

    Point 4) If the Mantis can’t foolishly adhere to beliefs that the other Clans fail to understand, what can we do?

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with #7. Misrepresenting the player is no different that any other deliberate misrepresentation in the game.

    As for #9, in my mind it is an ugly extension of the “the guy who can afford the most rares or the best rares wins”, only now it has become “the guy who can afford the best player wins”. I feel like I am lying whenever I use the storyline participation as an incentive to newer players. I absolutely loath trying to be involved in a game that is supposed to reward my participation by letting me influence the storyline, only to have that participation stripped away by other people who are willing and able to spend money I don’t have to get the results that they want.

  4. on number 6

    afaik, daigotsu was the last owner of the sword. guess it was just passed down to his son the last hantei 😛

    1. No, Daigotsu hasn’t had it for years. The short version is that Daigotsu trapped the sword and let it be stolen. This ended up with Mirumoto Katsutoshi (the Master of Shourido) killing his buddies so that he could claim all the glory for recovering it. He presented it to Iweko and Setai at their wedding, and they realized it was trapped, and it was cleansed. So the sword was still in the possession of Iweko/Setai.

      1. Pretty much that. Daigotsu owned it for awhile, but it’s not been in his possession (which, as they say, is 9/10s of the law) since early Samurai.

        I’m curious to see why exactly the Empress gave it back to Kanpeki (as I’m assuming that’s who wields it in the Spider clan, if that ‘can only be wielded by a memeber of the Hantei line thing is still active on the sword).

  5. Accuracy is a matter of opinion. That said, there is a difference in registering as a fictional character and registering as another member of the community.

  6. 2. Part of this, I think, is overstatement on your part, and part of it is just a result of the Mantis not being all that INVOLVED in most stuff prior to Clan Wars era, so the crises of the day didn’t tend to directly impact them (for good or ill). They end up getting a section in the various older-era chapters just because they ARE a faction in the RPG, and they mostly sound very similar because relatively little is happening.

    Just look at it case by case – for obvious reasons, they’re not in Dawn of the Empire. In White Stag Era, they’re attempting to build influence, but certainly not trying to overthrow the empire, and it goes disastrously wrong in the end. Gozuku era, they’re not really doing much. Famine, same aside from a battle against a Shadowlands fleet, during which the clan champ dies. Clan Wars obviously works out well for the Mantis, but Hidden Emperor ends up disastrous, and they’re essentially uninvolved in the empire during Spirit Wars.

    Heroes of Rokugan is based off that campaign and hardly counts.

    The one point in histories (which is only mentioned in passing) canon where they do actually try to overthrow the empire is in kidnapping the heir, and the ruling family gets (mostly) killed in response.

    (As to more recent history, the one example of the Mantis always getting away with stuff is always the same – supporting the Unicorn during the Khan’s revolt. In this case, of course, it’s completely true, but one time does not make for the ‘always’ that people pitch fits over)

    Anyway, I’m pretty sure Mantis is getting set up for the villain role this time, so we’ll see how it works out.

    3. This seems a bit extreme, especially with the colonies to be a source of conflict for the foreseeable future. Not to poke at old wounds, but why wish Heaven’s Net on someone else?

    4. Yeah, this bugs me, too, along with some of the softening of Yoritomo’s actions in the 4th Edition material. (Most notably the Day of Thunder, where it seems to have been retconned from threatening to attack the armies of the Great Clans to merely threatening to leave.) I don’t mind quietly protecting Gusai’s bloodline, but being open about it is just dumb, especially since after he came back in Gold he was revealed for a petty murderous jackass. Not incidentally, if I remember that story correctly, Aramasu more or less shuffled him off into exile and he wasn’t really presented as having had policy influence.

    9. I tend to disagree, and I’ve never done well enough to collect a bounty nor offered one of any real value. If someone values a story choice enough to offer money, and the person who wins that choice doesn’t actually care about the story as much as the money, then both of them are made better off by the bounty, and noone else is really harmed – there’s no compulsion that forces you to take a bounty, after all.

    Of course, I actually feel the same way about open bribery, and that probably puts ME into a minority.

    1. 2. It’s not about the success/failure so much as it is the monotony. And, yes, part of it is non-involvement – Empire is ravaged; Mantis make a fortune off of fishing and gaijin trading, while no other Clan ever tries to get a piece of this action (for example, it is never explained why the Crane, who themselves are supposed to have one of the merchant-ish families, just stop bothering with naval development and let some random Minor Clan surpass them). It was just that I finished the book (which closes out with HoR and KYD, which both include the Mantis being relatively untouched in a Rokugan that is getting smashed), and the Mantis roles seemed so repetitive.

      3. Yeah, I know, they can’t really sink the islands. But the whole “we are the only naval power and this makes us semi-invicible” is booooring and needs to go (how boring would stories be if the Lion had an army that was able to take on everyone else at once and win?). The whole island thing isn’t really an issue if there isn’t an invincible navy around them.

      1. 2 — I recall reading once, a loooooong time ago (and probably tucked away in the corner of an RPG supplement) is that there was not an edict as such but heavy naval development was heavily discouraged (either as part of an isolationist policy following White Stag or out of sengoku-style paranoia about a clan trying to take Otosan Uchi by sea, I can’t remember which) and the Mantis were small enough that they skirted the policy without being noticed. And given that the Crane were more or less responsible for getting a lot of the empire’s road structure built during the Gozoku period (IIRC), they might have just overlooked further naval development since they had a viable alternative. Think of it as the Crane version of the New Coke debacle.

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