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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 104 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Legend of the Five Rings] GNS on display  (Read 5729 times)
JMendes
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« on: February 20, 2005, 07:35:50 PM »

Hey, all, :)

First off, this is my first post after an absence of just about two years. I'm coming back because I've been meeting other roleplayers and they too are forgeites, and I have this cool story to tell, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. :)

So, an odd thing happened the other day in my regular LotFR session.

Let me explain the in-game situation first, then I'll go into the actual play stuff.

In-Game Situation

Basically, LotFR is a game where players are samurai in a pesudo-japanese medieval setting. There's clans and families and honor and duty and all that, and there's an empire with an emperor. Back when my little story happened, the PCs were what is known as Emerald Magistrates, which is a body of samurai that serve the Emerald Champion directly, and he is the second most important figure in the Empire, second only to the Emperor. Think of the Emerald Magistrates as the empire's FBI, after a fashion.

Our play was following the official setting storyline, which has the evil god Fu-Leng take over the Emperor's body and usurping the throne, throwing the empire into internal strife and the largest clan into civial war. The Emerald Champion goes into exile, taking what's left of the Emerald Magistrates (us) with him. Then there was the Day of Thunder, whereby presumably, the Thunders (the seven most powerful people in the Empire, one from each clan, not us) can defeat Fu-Leng and restore the Empire. Only, our GM decided that the Day of Thunder failed. So, now, the PCs are looking for a way to bring about a second Day of Thunder. Very epic, actually.

The specific situation I want to talk about involves an NPC that comes up with a plan to assassinate the most significant (not powerful, but pollitically powerful) samurai of the most powerful clan, because he was serving the usurper and he was an influential enough man to reunite the clan under the new emperor and that would be disastrous. Now, he was not an evil man, but he had sworn an oath to serve the empror, and was doing so out of a sense of duty and against his own better judgement. In fact, that was the very cause of the civil war, there were those that had sworn to serve the empire, and there were those that had sworn to serve the emperor, and these are all guys that take their swearings very seriously.

So naturally, killing this guy becomes the Thing To Do(tm). Thing is, we're samurai and, well, it's an assassination. It's just not done.

Being of mixed feelings, we decided we would take the matter up with the Emerald Champion and have him dismiss it as Not A Thing To Do(tm).

Actual Play Stuff

We weren't playing arund a table at this time, we were sitting around the couches in the living room. The sliding glass door to the balcony was open and those among us that smoke were outside enjoying a cigarrette. The GM was sitting on a chair right beside that door. As the Emerald Champion, he's looking at us rather seriously and saying what none of us were expecting. He says, "there's no doubt about it, this must be done, and you're the only ones that can do it. But, you work for me, and no samurai that works for me is ever going to be allowed to do this heinous deed. I hope you understand." And then, the GM actually stood up and stepped outside, though he was listening in.

And so, we, the players, were all looking at each other, wondering what the hell he meant. Well, actually, not wondering, but rather thinking to ourselves, "this isn't happening"... Understand that, if you're a samurai and you're in service to someone, there's only two ways to quit. Either you give up your name and your status and become a disgraced ronin or you slit your belly.

And then it hit me. BAM! I can make a statement! Right here, right now, I can show everyone what it means to be a samurai. Honor versus duty, past versus future, what am I willing to give up for what I believe in. Not what would my character do, but what will my character do. It took me about 3 seconds to reach a decision, and then I pretended to take off my emerald bracelet and throw it on the floor, and I said "I am no longer a magistrate." And they all stared at me.

And I stared back at them, and they were like open books to read, it was quite amazing.

This one guy was crunching statuses (not stats) in his head. Ok, so what can I get out of this? Whose respect will I gain and whose will I loose? How can I make the most out of this? He was approaching the decision as a problem to be weighed and solved, and it was a blast to watch. He joined me.

Two other guys were looking at everyone and in turn and saying that "my character would never do this. If this is what he wants, this is inconceivable." They chose ritual suicide and made new characters. A third guy was also thinking, "my character would certainly do whatever it takes to follow the Champion's wishes. If I can make sure that that's what he wants, my character wouldn't have a choice." He ended up joining me as well. These three guys were quite "in-character", no question.

And finally, the other two players were content to not choose at all, preferring to remain with the majority of the party, regardless of decision. They just constructed justifications after the fact, seemingly having accepted the need to keep the party together as part of the social contract.

Conclusion: we all became ronin and went ahead and killed the other dude. But that's another story.

For me, though, that was the moment where I actually grasped GNS, and especially, N, of whose existence, I wasn't entirely convinced, from a practical point of view. And it was a blast! Including the part about knowing my co-players so well (I've been gaming with them for over five years) and being able to understand what they were going through so well.

So, I hope a picked a good topic to return on, and hope you all enjoy this little tidbit. Questions and comments welcome.

Cheers,

J.

P.S. Having been away for two years, if you all could point me to the most relevant threads since that time, I'd appreciate it.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2005, 07:47:44 PM »

Wow... that's a cool scene.

So, you really know the other players.  Does that include the GM?  Because if you have any clue I'd really like to know what he was thinking when he handed you this absolutely choice Narrativist opportunity.
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JMendes
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« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2005, 08:16:32 PM »

Hey, :)

Isn't it, though?

The GM is a real hard-core gamist type of guy. His rulings are almost always about game balance and he really couldn't care less if he rules one way one day and another the next as long as it makes more sense from a balance standpoint. It actually works out better than it sounds, because he is an extremely intelligent individual with a very acute sense of fairness.

Anyway, it wan't as easy to figure out what he was thinking beforehand, because I wasn't expecting this as he was presenting it, so I wasn't observing so carefully. Plus, by being (just) outside, he pretty much kept himself out of the decision process and out of observation range. But I can speculate.

I think he was throwing it out there as a problem to be solved, plus he wanted us to Step On Up regarding the challenge of getting the guy killed, which wasn't exactly easy as peaches.

Also, I think he was really surprised when I told him about my thought processes after the session, and when I told him it had been my favorite session in a five-year campaign, although the totallity of his comments was, "really? Cool.".

(Heh. Actually, when I told this to the group, one of the two non-deciders actually said, "really? But it was just talk.")

Cheers,

J.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2005, 09:01:16 AM »

Hi J.,

This is some interesting stuff, because our game of L5R continually grappled with the mechanics of the Honor system.

Were you guys making much use of those mechanics? How have they played into (or not) the events of the game, both in general and in this specific instance?

Best,
Ron
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JMendes
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« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2005, 09:50:51 AM »

Hey, :)

Well, honor used to be a big part of the game when we first started out, with the GM awarding gains and losses at least a couple of times per player per session. With time, though, that dwindled down to a trickle, and now, we hardly ever pay attention to it.

During this particular scene, I can't say that honor mechanics played a part at all, though honor in and of itself did, especially for the guys who chose seppukku. The GM did cut all our honors and glories down to 1 afterwards, but we had to remind him to make any adjustment at all, and it really wasn't a decision factor for any of the players. Even the gamist guy was more concerned with how the NPCs were gonna react, than with the actual numbers variations.

This is nothing to be amazed at. No one in the party has a school that uses honor, so the only mechanical effect that it can have is to allow you to substitute a willpower roll, and that's a mechanic that we have never used in five years of gaming, simply because it's not useful. As a consequence, only those people that set themselves the goal of having a high honor really care about the particular mechanics of it.

In other words, though it seemed cool when we started playing, it's mostly superfluous to almost everybody now. It's a pity, but it's how it went.

Cheers,

J.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2005, 10:12:00 AM »

Hello,

Thanks! That corroborates, although not exactly duplicates, our experience that the numerical aspects of the Honor mechanic were out of touch with the thematic aspects of honor in the setting/characters.

Best,
Ron
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