Wednesday, 2 March 2011

City of Lies- GM's Guide to Ryoko Owari

This is where the meat of the box set is.

It starts by detailing the city power groups, like the Thunder Guard, the Opium Cartels, including rules for addiction and overdose, the firemen gangs, and the assorted threats from the player's guide as well as a few new one's.

The inclusion of addiction and overdose rules surprised me because at the time I droped L5R AEG was on a strict PG policy, and even earlier there were a few such decisions like Mirror, Mirror, not being published. Frankly, while I can understand the reasons for such policy I think they rarely work as intended if at all.
Example of a PG appropriate picture.

The worst problem is the double standard and lack of transparency often contained in those kind of policies.

Apparently serious, responsible discussion of such things as drug addiction or sex are verboten, however graphic depiction of violence, like the picture on the leftt, used extensively in advertising material at the time are ok, as are titilating cheesecake illustration.

Join the specific problems of Rokugan as a PG setting, with its highlighted xenofobia, Evil is Good factions

And we probably shouldn't mention the possibility of using inclusive language in the face of it's lack in 3rd and 4th editions. By the way, Shosuro Gobei the only known homssexual character in Rokugan also make is sole appearence here.

We move on to the secrets of the characters from the player's guide. Extensive and detailed, with some shockers along the way. If the players play their cars right in dealing with the NPCs they may gain acess to Ashidaka Noritoki's journal, which is a handout booklet. Suffice to say it shows the deceased magistrate was not a very good person. I'm still scratching my head on who J. is though. It's clearly not Shosuro Jocho, but I guess it's not important.

Of note is many off-track mechanical tidbits are included. In Kitsuki Jotomon we find the prototype for advanced school. Ample with his Two-Way Throw and Fade's Bushido's a Joke are proto-paths or maybe kata. The first two techniques of the Otaku Battlenaidesn also make their first appearence. Clearly L5R was on an intensive schedule at this point, something that Yeamon's Legacy also illustrates.

After NPC secrets we have the GM advice section. Detailed and effective, I have taken an inordinate amount of like for the attitude chart. It's the kind of tool that should be a part of any campaign where PCs are supposed to have some kind of social weight. There are also extra CFS on of which is developed nearly into an adventure outline.

Finally we have one of the complete adventures included, in this case the Opium War. It is an excellent adventure, except for a tiny detail which can't be blamed upon the author, but rather on the line editor, and which illustrates a problem that often affected L5R in the 1st Edition.

The Kolat.

Or rather the fact that Greg Stolze was clearly told to include the Kolat in the adventure, but was refused detailed information on what the Kolat was. Naturally what he hints at is completely incompatible with what was later revealed.

This was something that was very present in 1st Edition, with metaplot information, particularly on the Kolat and Shadow, being strung along the supplements so that if someone was interested in some part of the metaplot having to buy multiple books, with the ocasional bait and switch thrown in for good measure. If the info wasn't incompatible it wouldn't be so bad, for instance the other adventure includes a prop that is tie in to The Tomb of Iuchiban, but at some point one has to wonder why bother if there isn't going to be some overarching continuity?

The Opium War is an egregious case, because it works perfectly without the Kolat. In fact I would say it works better without the Kolat.

Having said that I would like to find out if the Knots of the Lawgivers are triumphant was something Stolze came up with himself or was something indicated from above. I'll be keeping an eye out for it when reading The Merchant Guide to Rokugan.

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