Unwriting the World

Ah, happy now are the days when there is more published support for L5R than when the game first came out, yes?

Yes, certainly. More of the world vision is communicated, more ideas. Generally, the material is quite good. While there is not an overwhelming amount of it, much is documented: the Great Clans, Winter Courts, Naga and so on. The Master generally finds this good stuff: the bookshelf is most packed with it.

However, there is a certain weight to it as well. In size, yes. Beyond that, there is can be an anchor effect. With so much of the world written, where is there room for your vision?

Plenty of room. The authors must – like many of not most of roleplaying games – grow weary of noting in the credits or design notes or foreward to do with the material what you will.

But it can be hard – all those books stacked together. In fact, the better the material, the harder it is to break free.

Always remember: the game is yours. The story is for the GM and the players to tell. Make up a Clan story. Tell your own version of the Battle of the Cherry Snowfall even if you haven’t checked the right book for the details.

Let your vision of the Emerald Empire take you.

Some brief notes…:

Remember that, for the most part, the L5R clanbooks and source material are written in a historical revisionist mode. This means that the background, stories, and detail are written from the teller’s, winner’s or other party’s point of view. This means the written material may clash; who’s to say about one more version…? Or, is yours the truth? Make the revisionism work for you.

Finding the truth behind historical events, redeeming old dishonors, paying tribute to deeds of ancestors. Adventures about all of these make for excellent roleplay. Take an event known to the PCs, their Clan, family, etc. – then tell a story about the truth behind it. In Rokugan, the truth of old events – even when presented with evidence – is often discarded in favor of tradition and honor. But not always. And even when ignored, there is a difference between a samurai’s on and his heart

Running a story or campaign set in the past or future of the current Rokugan setting may allow you to tell your stories with greater freedom. Much of history is not recorded. Perhaps interject a session in your “regular” contemporary L5R session with “flashbacks” to earlier Clan and Ancestor events. Give the players pregens and make them run them between “normal” scenes. The possibility of an extra XP point and the chance to play an ancestor should motivate most players.
Fun is daimyo! If you and your players have fun, then really nothing else matters, “official” sourcebooks, interested bystanders and opinionated outsiders be damned! If the players come back for another session, you’re doing it right and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Find your vision of the Emerald Empire, communicate it to the players through your stories and descriptions, and have fun. And remember the words of a true Master, Chuan Tzu, who wrote:

“Words exist because of their meaning.
Once you have the meaning, you can forget the words.
Show me a man who has forgotten words,
So I may have a word with him.”

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