swan_tower: (gaming)

I’ve been sitting on this news for nearly a year, waiting for my first piece to go live so I can tell you all about it.

So there’s this game called Legend of the Five Rings. It was a collectible card game and RPG; I got involved with the RPG, doing some freelance work for the later parts of fourth edition, because it had sucked me in overnight. The setting, Rokugan, is inspired by Japanese history and culture, and it’s got the kind of rich worldbuilding that makes the place come to life for me. So when the parent company sold L5R off to Fantasy Flight Games, I was, shall we say, rather determined to stay involved.

And I am. But not writing for the RPG this time: instead I’m one of their fiction writers. You see, one of the defining characteristics for L5R has always been the ongoing narrative of the game, influenced by the winners of various tournaments, and expressed through official canon stories.

My first story is here!

I think it should be a decent introduction to the setting for those who aren’t familiar with it. (In fact, that’s one of the goals for this first set of stories: give newcomers an overview of Rokugan, clan by clan.) If you like what I wrote, you might find L5R overall interesting, and you can check out the other fictions here (those provide links to the pdfs if you want to see the pretty formatted versions).

Yeah . . . I’m pretty excited. 😀 The setting has been rebooted back to the Clan War, so there’s an opportunity to do all kinds of cool new things, and this story provided a really great chance to showcase that, with the Dragon facing two entirely fresh conflicts that don’t come with easy answers attached. And I’m working on more stuff as we speak, so my involvement will be ongoing. *\o/*

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (gaming)

This came up in the comments on Sovay’s LJ, and it turns out to be much too long to fit into the comment limits. Besides, I’ve told gaming stories here before and been assured that I can actually make them interesting, so why not share the story with all of you?

This is the tale of Hantei Seikiro Shosuro Arikoto the man currently known as Ensō, an NPC in my Legend of the Five Rings campaign. Also known as, my best effort to date at creating a Magnificent Bastard.

It's a bit of a long story. )

***

*Here I should note that at the time, I forgot she had only seen X/1999. Where those two are undeniably messed up — but not half so badly as they are in Tokyo Babylon, which she had not read. She only knew the general outline of what happened there. I . . . might have gone overboard in inflicting angst on her, because I took Tokyo Babylon as my yardstick. Oops?

**All Scorpion wear masks. It’s their thing. Also how the Owl didn’t recognize him the moment they showed up to Winter Court.

***In a way which perfectly upheld their fundamental principles. But like the instance of Cassiel’s Choice in Kushiel’s Dart, the Scorpion could never acknowledge that; doing so would make it no longer perfect.

****ROT-13’d in case my players read this: Ur’f npghnyyl gur onfgneq fba bs n Fubfheb ybeq. Nf gur Y5E cynlref nzbat lbh unir cebonoyl nyernql thrffrq, uvf zbgure jnf n Lbtb — obea vagb n snzvyl jubfr zrzoref ner nyy phefrq gb orgenl jungrire gurl ybir gur zbfg. Frvxveb vaurevgrq gung phefr, naq gevttrerq vg jura ur ghearq ba Erv.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

April was another month where I was terrible about recording things, and then never even got around to posting about it. But the good news is, I remembered another book from January, which is the previous time I forgot to record stuff! So this post is mostly but not entirely from May.

Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: The Long Room library at Trinity College, Dublin (Long Room)
What with the travel and the diving headfirst into writing the next book, I didn't get around to posting October's report, and I'm even a bit late on November's.

Read more... )

Not listed here: the eighty gabillion guidebooks, pamphlets, and informative signs I read on my trip. Also more of Quicksilver. Because I have always been reading Quicksilver, and I will always be reading Quicksilver.
swan_tower: (academia)
I forgot to record books this month until nearly the end of the month, which has left me with the nagging feeling that I missed one (or maybe more than one). But I can't remember what it would have been, so if there is indeed something missing, then clearly it wasn't very memorable to begin with.

(Except that possibly the thing I was forgetting was The Tropic of Serpents, which I just remembered to add. Um. Please disregard above statement about my own book not being very memorable. Please.)


The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan. My own books don't count, of course, but they get listed anyway. This was copy-editing, aka What I Did With My Early July.

The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code, Margalit Fox. Very readable nonfiction about the decipherment of Linear B in the early-mid twentieth century. Its specific argument has to do with the significance of Alice Kober to that process, and more to the point, how Alice Kober's contribution has not been sufficiently recognized (in large part because apparently her papers weren't available until quite recently). It gets a bit depressing toward the end, because a) you know from the beginning of the book that Kober died before she could finish the job, so you're sitting there watching the clock tick down and b) it's the 1940s, so you get to watch her being jerked around by Penn professors pretending that no, no, the fact that she's a woman has nothing to do with them questioning whether they want to hire her for a cool job, and for bonus frustration the guy who's trying to finally publish all of Evans' Linear B inscriptions is basically using Kober as his transatlantic secretary and wasting vast quantities of her time -- time that could have been spent cracking the code. But anyway. If you like reading about extremely nerdy people (and oh, the nerds in this book), and the mechanics of deciphering a script when you don't recognize either it or the language it's being used to write, this is a fun read.

The Book of Fire. The most recent L5R release, and the first one for which I was an official freelancer (though my part in here is very minor). Not the sort of thing anybody will pick up who isn't looking to play L5R, but I will say that the sections on sword-smithing and glass-blowing and poetry were quite nifty. (No, those aren't the parts I wrote.)

The Magic Circle, Jenny Davidson. A novel I picked up at Writers with Drinks, because Davidson was one of the other people reading, and she billed this as a book about LARPs and the Bacchae and how could I say no to that? Alas, the book itself isn't what I'd been hoping. The early part is more about ARGs than LARPs, and even the latter isn't the kind of LARPing I'm used to. Furthermore, the characters and the story never really cohered for me.

Daily Life in Ottoman Turkey, Raphaela Lewis. One of the installments in that Dorset Books series -- you know the ones I mean, with the solid-color covers and the little box with an image on the front. (Er, some of you know the ones I mean.) This was published in 1971, so take it with appropriate grains of salt, but on the whole it did what I needed it to, which was to give me a starting image of the society. And that's pretty much what books like this exist for.

Secrets of the Empire. I bookended my month with proofreading. This book (another one for L5R) hasn't been released yet, but as a freelancer I can and have signed up to proofread things before they go to press. It looks like it will be very shiny, but my NDA says I can't say anything more about it. :-P
swan_tower: The Long Room library at Trinity College, Dublin (Long Room)
I forgot to record books this month until nearly the end of the month, which has left me with the nagging feeling that I missed one (or maybe more than one). But I can't remember what it would have been, so if there is indeed something missing, then clearly it wasn't very memorable to begin with.

(Except that possibly the thing I was forgetting was The Tropic of Serpents, which I just remembered to add. Um. Please disregard above statement about my own book not being very memorable. Please.)


The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan. My own books don't count, of course, but they get listed anyway. This was copy-editing, aka What I Did With My Early July.

The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code, Margalit Fox. Very readable nonfiction about the decipherment of Linear B in the early-mid twentieth century. Its specific argument has to do with the significance of Alice Kober to that process, and more to the point, how Alice Kober's contribution has not been sufficiently recognized (in large part because apparently her papers weren't available until quite recently). It gets a bit depressing toward the end, because a) you know from the beginning of the book that Kober died before she could finish the job, so you're sitting there watching the clock tick down and b) it's the 1940s, so you get to watch her being jerked around by Penn professors pretending that no, no, the fact that she's a woman has nothing to do with them questioning whether they want to hire her for a cool job, and for bonus frustration the guy who's trying to finally publish all of Evans' Linear B inscriptions is basically using Kober as his transatlantic secretary and wasting vast quantities of her time -- time that could have been spent cracking the code. But anyway. If you like reading about extremely nerdy people (and oh, the nerds in this book), and the mechanics of deciphering a script when you don't recognize either it or the language it's being used to write, this is a fun read.

The Book of Fire. The most recent L5R release, and the first one for which I was an official freelancer (though my part in here is very minor). Not the sort of thing anybody will pick up who isn't looking to play L5R, but I will say that the sections on sword-smithing and glass-blowing and poetry were quite nifty. (No, those aren't the parts I wrote.)

The Magic Circle, Jenny Davidson. A novel I picked up at Writers with Drinks, because Davidson was one of the other people reading, and she billed this as a book about LARPs and the Bacchae and how could I say no to that? Alas, the book itself isn't what I'd been hoping. The early part is more about ARGs than LARPs, and even the latter isn't the kind of LARPing I'm used to. Furthermore, the characters and the story never really cohered for me.

Daily Life in Ottoman Turkey, Raphaela Lewis. One of the installments in that Dorset Books series -- you know the ones I mean, with the solid-color covers and the little box with an image on the front. (Er, some of you know the ones I mean.) This was published in 1971, so take it with appropriate grains of salt, but on the whole it did what I needed it to, which was to give me a starting image of the society. And that's pretty much what books like this exist for.

Secrets of the Empire. I bookended my month with proofreading. This book (another one for L5R) hasn't been released yet, but as a freelancer I can and have signed up to proofread things before they go to press. It looks like it will be very shiny, but my NDA says I can't say anything more about it. :-P
swan_tower: The Long Room library at Trinity College, Dublin (Long Room)
Okay, I lied about not posting for a while, because I remembered I hadn't yet put up a books-read entry for last month.

Read more... )
swan_tower: (Kenshin sword)
I just sent in a draft of my L5R chapter, after beating my head bloody against it for the last week or so. Note to self: when estimating the amount of work involved in writing a chapter for a game book, word count on its own is not an adequate metric. This is not, repeat, not like writing fiction. It's more like writing your undergraduate thesis.

I even have a bibliography. 4th edition books consulted in the writing of this chapter: core, Emerald Empire, Enemies of the Empire, Great Clans, Imperial Histories, Book of Air. Books consulted from previous editions: Way of the Dragon, Creatures of Rokugan, Legend of the Burning Sands. Also the L5R wiki. 4th edition books not consulted: Strongholds of the Empire. (And Second City, but that's because my gaming store doesn't have it in yet. Otherwise you bet your ass I'd have been eagerly looking up just what an Isawa Archaeologist does.)

Now I think I need to go feed myself and maybe drool at the TV for a little bit while I wait for my brain to regrow. I need it for some of these other projects whose deadlines are breathing down my neck . . . .
swan_tower: (Kenshin sword)
I'm in the brainstorming stage of ideas for my L5R chapter, and so I put it to you, o internets:

What are your favorite wuxia plot tropes?

I'm thinking specifically of the more mystical end of things -- more The Bride with White Hair than Hero, but really, anything in that general direction. I need to invent some history for this chapter, and I need some fuel to get my brain rolling in the right genre. (Feel free to recommend movies I might enjoy, while you're at it.)
swan_tower: (Kenshin sword)
It's no secret that I'm a gamer. RPGS, both tabletop and LARP, are one of my main hobbies; they're also what I studied in graduate school. I've written academic papers on the subject, and grew a novel series out of one of the games I've run. From time to time I come up with system hacks for running games in particular settings; when I was playing Changeling, I wrote an entire splatbook's worth of material for Mesoamerican fae.

Some of you may recall that a while ago, I started messing around with an alternate history for the game Legend of the Five Rings. I stopped posting about that because shortly after I began, the guys at AEG announced that they would be taking submissions for Imperial Histories 2 -- that is, proposals for chapters on various eras of Rokugan's past.

Including alternate histories.

Last night, I got an e-mail telling me that my proposal for "The Togashi Dynasty" has been accepted, and will be included in the volume.

This pleases me greatly not only because, hey, sale, but because I love the chance to broaden my horizons and publish something in a new field. And L5R is a great game, with a rich setting and a devoted player base -- as evidenced by the dozens of submissions they got for IH2. I think writing this chapter is going to be a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing what's in the rest of the book.
swan_tower: (Kenshin sword)
Okay, so you have the alternate history for the founding of Rokugan that I laid out in my previous post. Where do you go from there?

Another sidebar in Imperial Histories mentions that Hantei didn't have to step down and let his son Genji become the Emperor. What if he'd gone on ruling forever, as an immortal kami? Well, that's more or less what happened with Togashi in canon: every Dragon Clan Champion until the Second Day of Thunder was in fact the founding kami, under a series of aliases. So you could easily have the same thing here, not even bothering with the cover story. Emperor Togashi just goes on ruling.

Since a) he's canonically very reclusive, because of the way his gift of foresight works, and b) we're aiming for mystic weirdness here, I figure he withdraws more and more from Rokugani society as the years go by. People almost never see him; ise zumi or other members of the two Imperial families (the Mirumoto and the Agasha) carry out his orders, or relay them to everybody else.

Until the dawn of what is, in canon, the Gozoku era: the late fourth century.

(I'll take a moment here to acknowledge that really, if you go changing something as major as the Emperor of Rokugan -- and therefore the entire shape of Rokugani society -- you should logically end up with a highly divergent AU, not the same historical events reworked. But that would mean really re-inventing the L5R wheel, and besides, I think it's fun to keep filtering canon through this lens.)

So how do you get the Gozoku conspiracy when the Emperor is an immortal kami with foresight?

Short answer: because Togashi foresaw it, and let it happen. Man, it's hard to deal with a powerfully precognitive character, and not have them come across as a total dick. )

I'll stop there for now, because again, this is already a pretty long post, and the part that comes next -- the Scorpion Coup, the Clan War, and the Second Day of Thunder -- ain't exactly going to be short. Besides, I haven't yet read those chapters in Imperial Histories. ^_^ (I do have my basic ideas in place already, but I'm sure they'll get refined by what I read there.)

As before, feel free to make suggestions if you know L5R. Especially for the Imperial courtier thing, or the Battle of White Stag, since I don't have any great inspiration for either of those at the moment.
swan_tower: (Kenshin sword)
I've said before that the setting for Legend of the Five Rings is really well-developed, such that you can have all sorts of fun messing with it. The most recent book for the fourth edition supports this in interesting ways; in addition to giving all kinds of historical info, it has sidebars scattered throughout, suggesting AU scenarios that might have resulted if events had gone differently.

One of those concerns the founding of the Empire. Canonically -- for those who don't know -- nine kami, the children of Lady Sun and Lord Moon, fell to earth (and one of them fell through the earth into Hell, where he became corrupted). The remaining eight gathered mortal followers and held a tournament amongst themselves to decide who would rule this realm. Hantei won, and the other seven founded the Great Clans, and that was how Rokugan got started.

The sidebar in Imperial Histories asks, what if a different kami had won?

It gives a few sentences for each of the other kami, reminding you of their personalities, and outlining the general flavor that would have resulted if Doji or Hida or whoever had set the tone for all of Rokugan. The one that caught my eye the most was this:
If Togashi had been destined to defeat Hantei, he would have built an Empire far different from anything imagined by his siblings -- a place of mystery and enigma, where religious contemplation and individual enlightenment were the highest goods. A GM who wishes to make Rokugan closer to the sort of mystical martial arts setting depicted in many Asian films might find a Togashi Dynasty suitable to the task.

Granted, I am playing a Dragon PC (a member of the Clan that kami founded in canonical history), and a Togashi monk to boot. But I think those lines would look shiny to me even if I weren't, because I'm a fan of movies like The Bride With White Hair (which is the first example that leapt to mind). And so my brain immediately started playing with this notion. How could you redesign L5R for a timeline in which Togashi won?

I'm splitting this into at least two parts because the more I think about it, the more interesting notions come to mind. Everyone, and L5R geeks in particular, are invited to hop in with comments and suggestions. For this first part, I'll start with the founding of the Empire and the Great Clans.

Trying to minimize the amount of stuff you have to design from scratch, with mixed success. )

But in these early days, of course, none of that stuff is terribly well-developed yet. For the Imperial court to take its proper shape, you have to move forward to the Gozoku era. And I have a notion for how to keep that -- a notion that springs from another alternate-history sidebar, where it asks what would have happened if Hantei had just kept on ruling, instead of handing off the throne to his son. For the tale of Rokugan under the immortal emperor Togashi, tune in for the next installment, whenever I get around to posting it. :-)
swan_tower: (Kenshin sword)
We had another session of our L5R game on Sunday, which astute readers will recall was April Fool's Day.

The Togashi monks -- of which my character is one -- are renowed for doing kind of weird and/or inexplicable things. Clearly I needed to play a few April Fool's jokes in character, right? Unfortunately, I'm not much of a prankster, and by the time I thought up this idea, I was already at FOGcon (meaning my brain was well on its way toward being fried). The only trick I managed to come up with in the end was to give the Ikoma libraries a text they did not have, namely the Book of the Cricket: the world's tiniest scroll, detailing the many calamities that should have killed my lucky cricket but haven't. (And I do mean tiny. I had to use a magic tattoo to be able to see well enough to write it, and the Ikoma had to use a pair of spells to copy the scroll and then enlarge the copy before they could read the damn thing.)

But because my brain can apparently do folklore in its sleep, I did come up with a story for why there is a tradition in Dragon lands of playing tricks on the last day of the month of the Dragon. For any interested parties, I give you the tale of Chibuta and the passing of winter.

In the earliest days of the Empire . . . . )


. . . it would work better if it were the first day of the month of the Hare, since that's the official start of spring, but our game just had the cherry blossom festival, which is on the 23rd day of the month of the Dragon. So I had to work with the timeline I had. Also, "chibuta" means "earth pig." Plug in a couple of synonyms, and you'll see the terrible joke I made there.

(And yes, [livejournal.com profile] starlady38, I think I mashed the wrong readings together again. But I only had my cell phone dictionary to work with at the time -- not to mention the four brain cells that had survived FOGcon -- so please forgive the error.)

Clearly our game needs to last long enough that a year passes IC. Next time, I'll be less exhausted, and more able to think up good pranks.
swan_tower: (gaming)
Warning: the following post will not make the blindest bit of sense unless you're familiar with Legend of the Five Rings. If you aren't, please continue on to the next blog post. Thank you for your time.

***

So in our session tonight, one of the PCs -- a Shosuro trained in the Bayushi courtier school -- goes with our NPC companion to hunt down this Yogo who's wanted for a crime. In the course of questioning the peasant innkeeper, she realizes he's lying. And, being a Shosuro, she opts to subtly intimidate him into telling the truth, rather than backhanding him across the face for lying to a samurai.

A Crane in the common room of the inn overhears this. He's a Doji trained in the Kakita dueling academy, and is trying to make a name for himself as a duelist, so he comes over and starts blustering to the Shosuro about the way she's treating this innkeeper -- basically ginning things up into an offense so that he can challenge her to a duel. She (very rightly) calls him out for eavesdropping on somebody else's conversation and butting into business that isn't his, and so thoroughly upsets him that he tries to slap her. Whereupon the NPC companion -- a Mirumoto bushi from the Iron Mountain school -- steps up and rams the butt of his katana into the Doji's ribs.

Stuff and things, we run and get a magistrate to okay the duel (to first blood only), the two guys face off. This could go badly, because the Mirumoto is a great skirmisher, but is much less experienced at dueling. The Shosuro, however, has told him that his opponent has the Brash disadvantage, so the PCs and their NPC companion are doing all kinds of little things to needle the Doji and put him off his game. Which we succeed at well enough that a) he basically false-starts, gets bashed in the ribs again, and has to be ordered back into position by the magistrate, and then b) he continues with his strike even though the Mirumoto went first, and the duel is therefore supposed to be over. But he misses -- not because he meant to, but because of the damage he took from a certain now-broken rib and the first cut -- and so it's an all-round disgrace for the Doji.

And this is where things start to get fun. )

And you know, this is why I love gaming. Most of the time, the stories are messier and less satisfying than a well-constructed novel/movie/comic book series/other narrative medium of your choice. (You can't revise things after they happen, and sometimes the dice screw up an otherwise good plot.) But because they're improvisational, and because the dice do add an element of randomness . . . those moments when the story pulls together just right? Are all the more amazing. Put Roshin's achievements in a book, and I'll roll my eyes a bit at the implausibility of it all. But dude, I was there: it really happened. And we managed to totally shame a couple of Doji (who were so asking for it), and not only defend the honor of the Dragon Clan, but show that our bushi are smart as well as strong.

I heart Roshin. Best NPC companion ever*.



(*For values of "ever" that equal "in this game." I don't want [livejournal.com profile] gollumgollum, [livejournal.com profile] oddsboy, [livejournal.com profile] drydem, or [livejournal.com profile] feyangel to come after me in defense of Grektar.)

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