CRIMSON AGONIES BEFALL OUR GOLD SHORES

The River of Gold: a center of trade, piracy and conflict. The lands it touches belong to no single faction, carved into small holdings by a diverse cast of petty tyrants: vassal families, ronin bands and even minor clans. 

The bounty of the River of Gold, abundant as it is, must be seized by force and kept by the sword. The region has been neglected for centuries, an unworthy investment for Imperial prospects, its issues dealt through local squabbles and the occasional feud. That was before a tsunami destroyed the topsoil of the Empire’s basket. Before a catastrophic hail storm devastated Scorpion lands. As the Emerald Lands prepare for famine and economic collapse, all eyes turn towards the River of Gold. Control of the river is essential for the survival of entire clans, and maybe the preservation of the Empire as we know it. 

Amidst the tragedies and agonies surrounding its shores, there is the chance to achieve something wondrous — and enact horrors and misery on a scale unseen in ages. In this series we follow a group of Emerald Magistrates, recently elevated and assigned to this troublesome jurisdiction. We will accompany them as they make the city their home, pursue nefarious plots and enforce the law of the land and the Will of the Scion of Heaven. As seasons turn, rebuilding will give way to war, harvest and intrigue — offering them fresh opportunities to shape the River of Gold and the Empire. Will there be an end to these agonies, or shall these golden shores be forever clad in crimson?

The Show, The Game

Crimson Gold Agonies is a podcast covering the adventures of four young magistrates as they deal with upheaval across the Emerald Lands. It is an ongoing game, played using mostly the Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) setting and rules published by Fantasy Flight Games.

Our show is designed to be friendly for everyone, requiring no prior knowledge of L5R or roleplaying games; we also seek to be inclusive to players and the audience, portraying the serious subject matters of the setting, game and show in a sensitive matter that avoids the dehumanisation that often creeps into similar spaces.We try to curate our content with extensive content warnings, avoiding the all too recurring prejudices fostered by Orientalism, homophobia, ableism, racial supremacy, classism, neoimperialism. If we ever make you fail your safety and comfort, please contact us and we will get sensitivity consulting on the issue! 

The Emerald Lands: Setting

Crimson Gold Agonies uses as its foundation the current setting published and owned by Fantasy Flight Games. Historically, there are the three major events that are essential to the podcast’s plot:

  • The Emerald Lands have been struck by a series of environmental disasters. The most resent was an unusual confluence of desert winds, causing a series of storms and deluges that is being called “the Great Hail”.

  • The Emerald Champion has died at some point during Winter, and no replacement has been appointed. Their assassination was orchestrated by a cabal of high-ranking noble loyalists, which took this drastic action to prevent any possible coups after the death of the current Scion of Heaven.

  • The Moth clan, a minor noble family, has its holdings in the remote but important town of Hirosaka. The ruling family of the Moth, the Kaikoka, are a mysterious sort, known only for their dreamweavers and explorers. They are considered the ultimate authority in the realms of thought and the beings within, but poorly understood by their fellow nobles.

Meet the Cast

Art by Brehnan Pratt, @ByteBread on Twitter

Sakai-no-Doji Eiko

Courtier, cog in the Imperial Machine, analyst and manipulator.

From birth, Eiko held an unnatural talent in the study and observation of others around him. A fairly quiet child, he did not express himself much, preferring to wait and listen to others. Under the watchful eye of the finest tutors money could buy, Eiko excelled in his studies, holding a particular affinity for government studies and the records of cultural traditions throughout the empire. Upon completion of his gempukku, he was quickly picked up by a magistrate of the Bureau of Heavenly Tax, and soon worked his way through its ranks until he gained a position as yoriki of the Emerald Office. Eiko’s control, precision and grace serve his magistrate well in delicate negotiations, and he is always able to find an interesting bit of information to follow up on later, inevitably leading to a solution to a problem the group didn’t even know they had yet.

Played by: Evan

Soshi Yuzume

Illusionist, student of the law, and wannabe revolutionary.

Yuzume first joined the Emerald Office to consult on a case involving some misbehaving kami, but was kept on thanks to her keen interest in the academic side of the law. In time, she has also come to act as an advisor for her magistrate, an appointment that not everyone is happy with thanks to her years-long reputation for needless cruelty. Still, she’s not opposed to playing the long game, and she sees this newest assignment to Hirosaka as a chance to take back control of her own narrative. Aside from pursuing mass legal reform that could shake the very foundations of how justice is carried out in the Empire, there are few things that she could consider more important.

Played by: Charlie

Asahina Hajime

Duelist, trained legal champion, walked right out of a pillow book one day.

Hajime is a very young samurai whose primary passion is the art of the duel (though he also has a weakness for fine food). He was hired by the Emerald Office to act as a legal champion, but in truth, Hajime is primarily present to intimidate people: his towering build and skill with a blade mean people often think twice before contesting a ruling from his magistrate. In spite of these circumstances, Hajime is extremely easy-going, and he loves to meet new people and build genuine connections with them. The complex social dances involved in doing so aren’t always his favourite, but things always seem to work out in the end.

Played by: Sam

Bayushi Minoru

Deathdealer, local hero, and anxious young man.

Minoru is a samurai who is in over his head, even if he doesn’t know it yet. His desire to do right by the people of Hirosaka, combined with his new duties in the Emerald Office, make it imperative that he succeed in bringing prosperity to the region, even if he might need to resort to unorthodox methods to do so. Minoru is a man who likes to take a well-thought out approach to his work, and will happily change the role he plays depending on what outcome he desires. At court, he’s often seen making subtle commentary behind a fan, taking on the persona of a stereotypical Bayushi. When out in the field, however, he is all business; utilitarian, focused and unshakeable. Unless, of course, he hears the ringing of the bells...

Played by: Brad

How do we play?

Every Game Master of L5R and their group is always going to create a different version of the same adventure or world, sometimes just by the choice of elements of which they want or not to portray. Here is a spoiler-free list of the way we play Legends of the Five Rings for our show:

  • The game draws inspiration from many cultures across long spawn of history. It tries to take a more fantastical approach to the setting, treating its inspiration with the same respect and consideration done in other games for saxonic, hegemonic, “Western” cultures; our concept of samurai is to their historical equivalents what the concept of paladin is to the companions of Charlesmagne.

  • This is a society that organizes itself around certain prejudices, a courtly order that is enforced by violence. The system is seen as “natural”, “the way things are”, “the best way”, not in a way that mirrors any historical society but as what has been designed us: a piece of neoliberal realism, “end of history” impersonation of a feudal society. A neocolonial structure imposed upon the game designers on the 90s upon its people. A system, that to exist, requires an elevated class minority raised by now gone colonial overlords, overseeing the organized dehumanization and exploitation of castes and classes of people.

  • We present dehumanization and prejudice as the vile actions they are. There is no celebration of this brutality and cruelty, and dressing it in mythology and self-deception may work for the lies character’s themselves, but the story will always be as critical as they deserve.

  • As pointed out, there are prejudices on the context of the setting, some individual others inbuilt on the system. However, because of the diversity of primary sources, inspirations, critical analysis and moving to more fantastical version of the setting, our game does not replicate modern, historical and “historical” prejudices. Sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, modern era racialization, ethnic supremacist portrays of history and genocide are not elements of our game nor we will explore them.

  • There is no cultural or ethical hegemony. The people of the Emerald Lands come from unique backgrounds, some native to these lands, some not. However, all of them have the shared experience of being colonized by heavenly entities and still being subjected to this cruel form of organizing a society.

  • We adopt more familiar terminology rather than culture-specific terminology if given the choice, both out of respect due to the inability of some of our cast members to properly verbalize them and for a question of accessibility.

  • We take liberties with the religious elements, to distance itself from real-world belief and present respectful portrays of primary sources and influences.

  • To move beyond real-life inspiration, elements of the Legend of the Five Rings material published are subjected to historical materialism analysis and an analyse of established facts that don’t contradict any of our decisions: if a group is alienated and forced to the outskirts of society, the answer this show will provide will come from its place in the world, society and the changing material conditions that are used to marginalize them, rather than drawing false equivalencies with historiographic parallels or metafictional justifications.

  • Whenever we aim to hit certain cultural or historical touchstones, we will make sure they are matters we are intricately familiar in an attempt to avoid any Orientalistic portray, as well as seek additional research on associated issues, as well as historiography about how they have been previously studied and portrayed.

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