The Great Clans Review: Scorpion
This is the second book I’ve done a review for from the L5R RPG line-up, and I figured I’d do something a bit more different with this one. With Emerald Empire I gave a run-down of one of the schools shown in the Scorpion chapter, this time I’d like to look at the full chapter itself.
The Scorpion chapter is made up of 27 pages in the Great Clans book. While this might not seem like much, there is a ton of information packed in those pages. On reading the chapter, it is geared more for newer players to the setting, as most die hard RPG fans have already scoured old book bins for Secrets of the Scorpion Clan and Way of the Scorpion Clan books, and other such source material for their favorite clan of choice. However there are a few nuggets for those players who think they know it all about the Scorpion, and the writers have done a good job of adding to the awsome that is the Clan of Secrets.
Opening up the chapter is a picture of Bayushi Eisaku, followed by a nice opening fiction dealing with Bayushi Ogoe, Bayushi Tosazu, and the situation for the Scorpion during Ogoe’s reign as Scorpion Clan Champion. While containing revelations that most guessed at being truth, this fiction cements it as such.
History of the Scorpion Clan
This chapter, as one would guess, gives a very good run-down of the Scorpion Clan from start to present. It splits up into different sub-chapters detailing Shosuro and the Day of Thunder, the Scorpion during the Thousand Years of Peace, the infamous Scorpion Clan Coup, the Scorpion and the War Against the Darkness, and the Scorpion Clan and Modern Times. Most of this is re-hash from older books and source material, but compiles it into the basic need-to-know information to bring new players up to speed on playing among the Scorpion Clan. While I can’t go into spoilers, it does clear up a few aspects that were either only hinted at or assumed from the older material, though not all such aspects. The chapter does present a couple of side-bars which hit on the tale of the Scorpion and the Frog, the origin of masks among the Scorpion and the social/political inferences, and everyones favorite written works “Lies” and “Little Truths”. Artwork for Bayushi, Bayushi’s mask, Bayushi Jutsushi, and Bayushi Saya are laid out beautifully.
Families of the Scorpion Clan
Naturally one can not speak of the Scorpion without speaking about the individual families of the Clan of Secrets. First among them are the Bayushi, with the opening line the Bayushi family motto, “I can swim”. The history of the family, their role among the Scorpion and the Empire, and their ideals are detailed, as well as a description of the family mon and it’s interpretation and meaning. Bayushi Shigehiro is the artwork chosen to grace the Bayushi portion.
The Shosuro family is next, and just like the Bayushi portion details it’s role among the clan and the empire, as well as the detailed explanation of the Shosuro family mon. Follows are the same for the Soshi and Yogo families. An interesting side-bar is presented giving light to some information about the Shosuro, the Soshi, and the Lying Darkness. Yogo Reiko and Shosuro Toki round out the art choices for the family section.
Heroes of the Scorpion Clan
One of my personal favorite sections of any book that comes out, are the portions that detail particular characters or locations. This section has that in spades with some characters previously detailed in older source material and updated for 4th Edition, and a few new NPCs that will really open up playing in particular eras. The NPCs detailed are as follows:
Bayushi Nissho (Master of Horse and Bow) – of Dawn of the Empire fame, the tale of the character we got to play in the CCG along with the stats to run them in a DotE campaign.
Soshi Saibankan (Founder of the Emerald Magistrates) – another classic character that had some story mentions, and get’s a nice segment to flesh out their history, along with some suprising Advantages and Disadvantages.
Shosuro Nodage (“Ninja”, Expert Deceiver) – a character from the 5th century, with an interesting personal history, one that helped define the modern day ninja.
Soshi Takasho (Scourge of the Bloodspeakers) – Thinking of running a campaign during the first rise of Iuchiban? This character will be a must, and with such a unique build, it will inspire players to explore other build options.
Yogo Itoju (Founder of the Kuroiban) – Ever been curious about the begining of the secret Kuroiban? Yogo Itoju’s history helps flesh that out and gives players/GMs ideas about roles for players among the Kuroiban.
Bayushi Ogoe (Pragmatic Champion) – one of the most unmentioned Champions during such a defining time among the Clan from a setting point of view get’s a full write-up and build.
Bayushi Kachiko (Clan Thunder) – there is very little that can be added to the tale of Kachiko, but it gives an apt reprisal of her history, updated stats, and unless I am mistaken, a fresh piece of Kachiko artwork (which I need to find a print of somewhere).
Bayushi Baku (Vengeful Spirit) – where does he come from, what is his purpose, and what is he capable of? Some of the many questions around this enigmatic spirit have answers.
Shosuro Higatsuku (Wily Instigator) – a true villain from among the Scorpion ranks that helped shape the ideal of a Scorpion courtier for many a player in the CCG and RPG. His artwork is displayed by his stats.
Lands of the Scorpion Clan
Several regions and holdings are described in the main book, and some get mentiones in older source material and new. Among the holdings described in this book are:
Fortress of Blackened Sight – What does Bayushi Nikute and this castle have in common? What once was in Ryoko Owari and is now here?
Hidden Moon Dojo – Another CCG stronghold that get’s a good write-up. It’s history with the Scorpion and the Nothing is revealed, as well as it’s true location.
Nihai Tower – A classic location from older source material get’s a decent write-up to refresh it for newer players to use.
Painted Village – What three roles does this city serve for the Scorpion Clan? Dare anyone try and delve into it’s secrets?
Toshi Aitate – The origins of this city present some very good story material to use instead of simply what it is now.
The Scorpion and Necessary Villainy
This chapter is a MUST READ for anyone thinking about either using Scorpion in their stories/adventures, or is interested in playing a Scorpion. It touches on the role of the Scorpion in the setting both for their obvious reasons, but also the many different ways to approach them in a role-playing sense. The first subsection called “Using Necessary Villainy” get’s in touch with GMs about the different ways Scorpions can be portrayed in adventures and stories. They don’t all have to be hiding in darkness with knives and posion, and one can find a couple new options that will open up various possibilities for GMs. The next sub-section is titled “Successful Treachery: Or, Why Are the Scorpion Still Alive?” and illistrates how such a reviled Clan can thrive in recent days, and how they managed to survive up to this point. The Clans use of exponential revenge, blackmail, loyalty and duty, and various other aspects of the Scorpion are brought to light from the shadows. The last sub-section is titled “Scorpion and Honor: The Junshin”. As older players will know, Junshin are those Scorpion who have a tough road ahead of themselves as they try to adhere to bushido, which will sometimes put them in conflict with the goals of the Clan. Players and GMs alike interested in running these conflicted characters can expect to find the Clans views and how they are usually handled from an “in-character” view. Shosuro Mikado’s artwork graces this section of the book along with Bayushi Nomen.
The Ninja Myth
There has been a great deal of debate in many a game I have been in about what exactly is known about “ninja”. From the history of the ninja, the shadow brands, and how it all pans out, one can find most anything they would wish to know about the ninja from a story point in this section. A side-bar explains the ninja myth as it pertains to the “modern” Rokugan (modern meaning as of the writing of this article in current timeline). Also, how many shinobi can one expect to find among the ranks of the Scorpion Clan? This section has most anything you could need to find out about the Scorpion and “ninja”.
The sub-section to this chapter is titled “Ninjutsu: Playing a Ninja”, and as the title says, is a section for players. It helps out those who might be looking for some direction on how to handle playing such a role in the game.
New Game Mechanics
Alright, you were patient through my rambling about story aspects, and while some of you out there enjoy such material, game mechanics are where alot of players ears perk up.
The Shosuro Actors
This is a new base school for the Scorpion Clan that carries the “Ninja” tag with it. Having the full five ranks it allows one who goes the full path to not only assume the guise of various individuals better than others through it’s innate training and abilities, it allows an actor to take up seperate “personas”, up to a limit of three. There are two side-bars dealing with personas themselves, and also for how to deal with the Actor school in games. As something with obviously complicated story implications for players and GMs, these side-bars are a great help for integrating the school into already existing games, as well as how to plan around them for fresh campaigns.
The Yogo Wardmasters
This is a new base shugenja school for the Scorpion Clan. It is a very good shugenja school, and while not really designed for any “shock and awe” it does present an interesting means of planting wards that will allow players of this school to “store” certain spells for later use. It opens up an amazing option for players to “trap” with spells, and to plan spell use for easy use later. A small side-bar explains which spells will be able to be used as “wards” for the school.
This is a new alternate path for the Scorpion Clan. It can be taken for Rank 4 of any Scorpion Shugenja School. In short, this new alternate path gives the shugenja who take it a means of detecting those who have at least 1 full rank of Taint. It couples really well with the Yogo Wardmaster for additional benefit.
Strength of the Scorpion
This is a new kata for any Scorpion Bushi school that requires Fire 3 (which shouldn’t be too much of a problem). It grants a benefit for the use of the Feint Manuever, which again, shouldn’t be too hard to pull off for Scorpion Bushi schools.
This is a 6 point ancestor that provides a bonus to spellcasting rolls for wards of the Wardmaster shugenja school. It does carry a hefty “price tag” for it’s low point cost that some players may not wish to deal with, but more experienced players and GMs will see the complex and great potential to story growth through it’s inclusion.
This is a 5 point ancestor that provides a bonus to certain “favored” applications of the creator of the Emerald Magistrates when a Void Point is spent for them, but does watch over the character for legal ramifications.
Well that’s the Scorpion chapter in a nutshell. My little bits of information above do not do the section justice as it’s chock full of information for both players and GMs. If you simply want a book about the Scorpion Clan alone feel free to locate some of the older Clan-centric source books, but if you want something that gives you the key points of each Major Clan (as well as some information on vassal families in their own chapter) this book is a great compilation of old and new material. Each clan chapter pretty much follows the same breakdown of material, so it’s easy to follow.
It’s a great read, and the Scorpion is presented well. I give it two pincers up.
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