Monday, March 21, 2016

L5R: Mantis Through the SEA Lens (Introduction)

I wasn't even a teenager yet when I first heard about Legend of the Five Rings. I was a young kid into Magic: The Gathering at the time, and I saw this completely different TCG that had two (!) decks, provinces, strongholds, holdings, and that peculiar quirk of bowing to your opponent after your turn is done to say "table is yours." It had samurai, it had honor, and it was something I really wanted to try. But as it happens, it's a miracle that was able to afford Magic on a schoolboy's allowance in the first place. L5R was simply out of reach.

Fast forward to my college days and beyond. I have abandoned TCGs as RPGs appealed to me more. Here I am running Dungeons and Dragons and it offshoots for my players, juggling hubris for awakened magi in NWoD, and running around as an ork MMO player/criminal in 2078. But I haven't touched L5R. Rokugan had accumulated an enormous metaplot since my time as a wide-eyed kid looking at Dynasty and Fate decks, and this presented a barrier to entry for me. (It doesn't help that most of the L5R fans I can draw with a game pitch locally would know tons more about the metaplot than I ever can.) L5R's aesthetic also seemed to give me the vibe that Asia = Japan and China, and I personally found my Southeast Asian (SEA) roots underrepresented.

When I told my friend and L5R aficionado +Jay Steven Anyong about my reservations on running L5R, he asked, "how about running  a Mantis Clan game?" So I looked up this Mantis Clan.

Oh boy.

Moshi Ira of the Mantis Clan

A cursory glane at tha Mantis makes me think that they are perfect for running a SEA-themed game. They exist on the corners of the Empire, and interestingly they are not as pivotal to the head canon of L5R fans. They are a conglomerate of former minor clans, which ties well with how SEA thalassocracies functioned. They do not shy away from gold/koku, and by tweaking their "greed" a little bit you can subvert that into the SEA concept of honor.

They still feel a bit too East Asian for my tastes, though, so I will probably have to do a little tweaking and reskinning.

Let's see how this goes.