Monday, May 12, 2014

Eight Ways of Doing The Same Thing

I apologize for the lateness of today's post. I had this all written up, and then a discussion with one of my housemates made me realize that some of the things I laid out were just completely wrong for the setting I was using as an example. I am probably going to make the same error again here, so let me just specify two things up front: 1) This is a depiction of my opinion of the Clans in Rokugan as an idealized stereotype and won't necessarily have impact on your own game & 2) the point of this post is not to talk about L5R but to show that just because you are "stuck" in a particular job/role in your group doesn't limit you on how you approach that job.

Playing A Yojimbo
In reading a discussion online, which I tragically forget where I saw it, someone was asking about playing a Yojimbo in L5R and what that meant. A lot of people had quick answers for him to help with building the character (a yojimbo for the uninformed is a bodyguard) with statements telling the player to invest in Perception/Investigation, initiative, and recommending various schools to help inflate the Armor TN of his charge. What surprised me though was that while the player was asking for advice on how to play a Yojimbo (not necessarily build one) no one asked the first question that popped into my head "what clan are you in?"

It may seem obvious (each clan has different stresses and foci on aspects of Bushido and such) or it may seem trivial (yojimbo duties > clan stereotype) but it is important. Why? Well because..

  1. A Crab clan yojimbo is going to be practical and prudent. They're going to wear heavy armor, use intimidation tactics, be alert, stalwart, and very much like a rock. They will be useless socially because their concern is not the social. Words can not kill (I know, the Crane/Scorpion players are laughing...) but weapons and monsters can. Still, once you are in a fight there is likely no one better to crush your enemies.
  2. A Crane clan yojimbo is going to be the best yojimbo they can be. They will study court and social courtesy to not embarrass you when attending social functions and visiting your betters. They will listen for gossip and help give a separate perspective on the sway of court. They will be a capable duelist, able to defend your honor and let you settle certain issues with a more direct hand. They will be the ideal second in every social situation and a capable combatant to protect you from physical harm too.
  3. A Dragon clan yojimbo is going to be a good person to defend against physical harm and likely a strong duelist to use in court. Beyond that, well, the Dragon as a clan play on wisdom and mystery but expect less a social aide and more a social enigma out of this yojimbo, provided they say anything at all.
  4. A Lion clan yojimbo will be honorable, honest, and courageous and all of those potentially to a fault. The Lion clan always seeks to take the high road and this yojimbo will be no different. You'll have no fear of the yojimbo being bribed away, but he also likely will not keep your secret if it is dishonorable or shameful to the clan.
  5. A Mantis clan yojimbo is likely to be as much a friend as an ally. They will be useful at watching for attempts on your life, able to defend you, and a companion and fellow plotter for schemes and other tricks. They will tend towards intimidation or friendliness in social situations over the norms of etiquette and courtesy (much like a Crab, though in a different way.)
  6. A Phoenix clan yojimbo will be faithful and dutiful. They will defend your life. They can even help find your way in spiritual aspects. They will not embarrass you in court or social situations, but they also will not excel. They will follow your lead, by choice and whole heartedly, just as Shiba bent knee to Isawa.
  7. A Scorpion clan yojimbo will be dutiful and loyal. They will keep your secrets, provided those secrets do not harm the clan. They will be capable in court, in duels, and in being on the alert for threats. They will follow orders without question and take care of threats as they are perceived.
  8. A Unicorn clan yojimbo will be a friend, a companion, and a stalwart ally. They will be there to bolster you up when you are down, defend you when you are in danger, and keep you company when there is little else to entertain. They will remind you of home, the choices you made, and what those mean.
I am sure some of you have arguments against these. I'd love to hear them. Discussion is great. Just remember, the point here is to show how a simple thing like "being a bodyguard" can be approached in so many different ways from the keep you on the high road honesty of the Lion to the "do whatever it takes" of the Scorpion to even the "friends first, and that is why I defend you" of the Unicorn.

All of it, all of that variance, is simply a matter of approach.

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