What Is this Guide?
A suggestive guide to running a Cyberpunk variant of L5R for your own games. Inside are some suggestions for worldbuilding, modernizing clans, and some (very small) mechanical changes you might enjoy. As with any L5R supplement, don’t be afraid to make this your own!
Table of Contents:
- Rokugan 2.0–A fast summary of the setting.
- Sararimen and Society–How samurai act in the Alternate Rokugan.
- The Tower of Ten Thousand Fortunes–The Kami are real, and they’re overhead.
- The World of the Emerald MegaCity–A brief description of the city and it’s inhabitants.
- The Great Clan-Corporations–A reinvention of the Great Clans in this new world.
- Living In a New Rokugan–Fast overview of life in general in the Emerald Megacity
- The Issue of Weapons–Possible justification for why everyone’s still using katanas and bows.
- How the New Rokugan Came to Be–Explains how we get from current L5R to today.
- Mechanical Changes–Some suggested tweaks and alterations to breathe more life in the world.
- Conclusion–Last thoughts and words concerning this setting.
The fast sum? This is Rokugan. The skyscrapers and technology of the modern era, the morals and values of the old. Samurai walk the streets, suit jackets on their shoulders, katanas still at their waist. Heimin exist in even greater numbers, managing urban rice fields or synthetic fish farms. The Kami are real, manifestations of the KamiNET, the golden skyscraper that seems to descend down from the sky. And among it all are the same rules, difficulties, and customs that ruled their ancestors, so many years ago.
Sararimen and Society
All of Rokugan belongs to the Emperor, Toturi II. She, like the Emperor before, has bestowed rights upon the Great Clan-Corporations, who, in turn, allocate many tasks upon the Sararimen, or Samurai, who help administrate the great MegaCity. Samurai lay down their lives in both the martial field, defending corporate interest and territories with the blade, or the boardrooms, also known as court, using speech and tongue to defend their clans.
The Tower of Ten Thousand Fortunes
Faith is a real and tangible thing in Rokugan, and only the foolish choose not to believe. In the skies above the MegaCity hovers KamiNET, an immaculate, golden skyscraper, from which mythical beings such as Ki-rin and Dragons have descended from. Though their direct hand is unseen, the Kami make their way known through intervention, whether it be the shifting of the digital signs in Rokugan, the alteration of audio feeds, or old-fashioned manifestations of fires and water. Many shrines have a terminal integrated in their altars, though, as always, it remains a rare blessing when the Kami decide to intervene. (What’s actually in the skyscraper? That for you as a GM to decide.)
The World of the Emerald MegaCity
The Emerald MegaCity, or “Rokugan” in the tongue of its people, comprises a vast, multi-level city that stretches a couple hundred miles from the North Dragon Mountain Arcologies at one end, to the highly mechanized Carpenter Wall standing vigil along the country’s urban southern border. Beyond the Wall lies the Shadowlands, a blighted urbanscape tainted by the influence of Hell and the Old World. At its widest point, Rokugan is another several hundred miles, from the Sea of the Sun Goddess in the East to the Thermal Sands in the West.
Within the Emerald MegaCity, urban towers reach and connect in a vast network, a cityscape dominated by digital billboards and neon sights, each conglomeration of buildings a province unto itself, with many people never leaving their city block for their entire lives. The roads between each gateway and province are tightly guarded and controlled, and merchants rely on special trade routes to effectively move their goods between various city blocks. Despite all this, nature still exists in Rokugan, with many skyscrapers featuring several garden levels, and greenery abundant in well-to-do areas. Moreover, the exposure the sea means rain and snow is ever present, especially during spring and winter.
The Great Clan-Corporations
Rokugani Society is based upon a clan structure, with seven families picked by the KamiNET ruling over other families designated to swear fealty. Over the centuries, the families leaned gravitated towards one duty or another, although many trade promising members within their own. The Great Clan-Corporations are diverse and powerful, with thousands of miniature companies run by samurai and their families.
- The Crab Clan: Like their ancestors of old, the Crab man the Kaiu Wall. Given the new nature of attackers, The Crab has heavily developed into modern manufacturing and weapon industries. Surprisingly, they also host large amounts of tea plantations in their territories, with subsidised brands in nearly every province. Recent events and conflict beyond the wall have strained the Crab to their limits, but support has come, surprisingly, not from the Emperor, but her brother, Hantei Naseru.
- The Crane Clan: it comes to those vested in history as no surprise that those of the Crane have come to dominate in fashion and art industries. It is often one of their own dominating music charts or a skyscraper’s billboard, and even in non-Crane areas, following Crane trends is very nearly a way of life. Though their power has waned since the days of Toturi I, they have made several aggressive power plays in business courts across Rokugan, and some whisper of a plot to subvert the Emperor.
- The Dragon Clan: Isolated in their arcologies to the North, the Dragon remains a mystery to many. Thoroughly decimated by an event called Mists of Blood, the current daimyo is a child who will not come of age until the next decade. Instead, the Dragon Clan simply waits, acting in small ways to serve Rokugan, acting as mediators, investigators, and detectives that do business within the late hours and rainy nights of Rokugan.
- The Lion Clan: Proud peacekeepers and armed forces of Rokugan, it is rare to find a province that does not at least have a station of Lion soldiers ready to protect their country. However, recent events have left the Lion lost. After all, when Rokugan nearly crumbled, it was not them who were called upon to save the MegaCity. Though they maintain strong adherents to Bushido, their ties to the Emperor are starting to grow tenuous among the lower ranks.
- The Phoenix Clan: The first to behold the arrival of the KamiNET, the Phoenix, who originally worked in communication infrastructure, became safekeepers of the religious ways of Rokugan, serving as scholars and soldiers for the sake of the Kami. It is they who most understand KamiNET’s often obfuscating ways, and they who best claim to understand their signs. Indeed, many terminals or communication devices bear their logos, and their Shugenja are often unparalleled when it comes to manifesting the Kami’s will.
- The Scorpion Clan: Now, more than ever, crime is unavoidable in Rokugan. While publicly known for their hands in entertainment and acceptable vice industries, such as gambling, alcohol, and smoking herbs, the Scorpion is also rumored to assist in controlling more unsavory crime such as Opium-5 manufacturing, prostitution, and even human trafficking. While their Daimyo has denied such claims, Scorpion agents are seen in nearly every board of officials–even moreso after recent events.
- The Unicorn Clan: Picked by the KamiNET for their strong ties to outside influences of the Old World, they remain in charge of Rokugan’s scant ties to the outside world. Unicorn has slight dabblings in all industries except for travel, where they dominate. Universally renowned as messengers, transporters and couriers, the ubiquitous Unicorn motorcycle is a common sight in all parts of the city, roaring across the Imperial highways. However, the actions of one of their own after the Mist of Blood leaves them a clan broken, slowly trying to rebuild the wealth and trust they once had.
Living In A New Rokugan
Without a doubt, the standard of living in Rokugan is much higher than it was in the Rokugan of yore. Electricity comes standard, many heimin have a small salary in which to pursue interests and hobbies of their own, corner stores have a decent assortment of products, and literacy is an unprecedented 98%. Phoenix broadcast religious ceremonies over the TV, and various shows, cartoons, dramas and artists exist. Distant family can be reached daily through a Pager Bell, though it still takes some time (a few minutes to several hours) for messages to be sent and received, and many still are simply lost.
And yet, many old problems still exist. Crime only rises in such a densely packed nation, and heimin remain the property of the respective Clan-Corporation, with all the discrimination and lack of rights that follows from their position. Responder services are few, and genuine education beyond managing fish or rice vats is still surprisingly low. Clan-Corporations control their own information with an iron fist, in order to prevent corporate invasions, and the Celestial Order remains as one of the biggest social barriers in this society. Even instant communication is limited by the Kami, and it takes one dedicated to the KamiNET to send out a message or broadcast with any sort of consistent reliability.
Lastly, in the past century, Rokugan has been hit by one calamity after the other. First, the death of the first Emperor, Toturi I, threw the MegaCity into chaos as various factions fought for supremacy, only reuniting when forces from outside Rokugan threatened them. Though a new Emperor was eventually named, she also had to contend with the horrible event known as the Mist of Blood, which sparked several uprisings and battles across Rokugan that have only just come to an end last year. (The aim with the setting was to create recognizable cyberpunk themes, but also make a world where classic L5R values and restrictions still exist and can be used. Maybe that works for you, or maybe you want more educated Heimin. The choice is up to you.)
The Issue of Weapons
Rokugan, going back to insular ways, has also reverted their weaponry and armor, as well. While modern adaptations exist, such as self-sharpening sheaths, ablative tactical vests nanomaterial blades, or laser-generating bows, the relative range of weaponry remains as it does in the past, with guns, grenades and the like remaining as unknown or forbidden technology. To violate this law is unheard of, and the legends of their horror in the old world have gained such cultural significance that no one dares violate this tenet–and will immediately turn upon those who do. (One possible justification for the lack of guns. Of course, maybe you do want firearms–perhaps use the Crossbow profile, minus the Prepare tag.)
How the New Rokugan Came to Be
Nearly 300 years ago, Rokugan was a land without Kami, without Bushido, deeply spread across the world, with barely a semblance of their own culture. It was only by the wrath of warring nations that Rokugani people opened their eyes, and realized their mistakes. In a world wracked by warfare, disease, and rampant abuse of technology, the people stepped forward to save their nation. Bringing forth the wave of Rokugani Revival, they spurred our nation, down to the lowest citizen, to throw out gaijin and other foreign influences, and turn to the ways of our ancestors.
Rokugan heeded, and began to rebuild. Reviving the great clans of old, spreading spiritual ways and the order which is the Celestial Cycle, Rokugan rebuilt itself, step by step, and was eventually rewarded by the emergence of KamiNET, a divine network and building that seemed to exist beyond time, bringing manifestation of the Kami to the new, digital era. After two centuries of change, one man was finally decreed as Emperor by the KamiNET, an individual who would later be known as Toturi the First. For nearly 80 years, Toturi I ruled, bringing about a new Rokugan, enforcing the Celestial Order and keeping things at peace.
Unfortunately, like the world of old, all things crumble. In meeting with one of his descendants, Toturi I was slain, and the Emerald MegaCity was thrown into disarray. Chaos ensured in the following years as both Toturi’s heirs and the Clan-Corporations were thrown into disarray, squabbling over issues of heredity and right to rule. Ultimately, a greater opponent from the distant past emerged, causing the siblings to unite and strike down their foes. All of this tumult culminated in Toturi Tsudao, the elder daughter, being granted the title of Emperor, bringing about the reign of Toturi II.
For several years, relative peace existed under her rule, until 2265, when the Mist of Blood incident happened. Seemingly without source, a mist passed the the MegaCity, leaving some of those it touched visibly changed and tainted for the worse, turned against the people of Rokugan. Taking to the streets herself, Toturi II quelled these rebel forces, fighting against a twisted Unicorn Shogun and besting him in a duel for the fate of Rokugan. Now, in 2268, Rokugan recovers, but rumors abound. Someone controls the Empire’s moves behind the scenes. An important artifact to both the Dragon and Phoenix Clan has gone missing. One of Toturi’s descendants has been consumed by the sin and depravity of the Old World. (Spoiler Alert: Part of this backstory is based off of The Shadowed Throne, another fan’s very excellent submission to L5R writing, in Imperial History 2. Your own MegaCity may have gone the way of Hantei, or someone else entirely.)
Game of 20 Questions Changes
When answering Q2, add in: What is a company your family is in charge of, or assists with? For Example, Lucky Tiger Dim Sum Restaurants Group, Daidoji Supreme Clothing Brand Inc. Praying Mantis Light Beer Brewery.
Rokugani Pony is replaced with Rokugani Drone. Thematically, it’s a mobile robot (wheels, legs, etc.) about the size of a moped, with all the same restrictions and stats as a Rokugani pony. The thematic form chosen does not provide any advantages the original does not have.
Utaku Steed is replaced with Utaku Motorcycle. Thematically, it’s motorcycle (or treadcycle, monocycle, etc.), with all the same stats as a Utaku Steed. The thematic form chosen does not provide any advantages the original does not have.
All schools may pick up the new Equipment: Pager Bell for free, in addition to starting equipment.
Theology now also covers the usage of terminals, broadcast devices, and other such things in addition to the usual religious philosophy and practice. Anyone can mash out a short message on a pager bell that eventually reaches the recipient in about 20 minutes, but it takes a real theologist to use it in order to commune with KamiNET, ensure a message sent digitally instantly gets to it’s destination, or read the often inscrutable messages Kami send into the world. For the most part, many of the same methods to invoke Kami used before still work–but there is often something involving a terminal or keyboard to bring KamiNET into the world.
Commerce is moved from Trade Skill Group to Scholar School Group. Mercantilism is something to be respected, and often used in the business courts to advance a point. At the GM’s discretion, Commerce may be used in place of Courtesy, depending on the situation.
New item–Pager Bell:
A recent innovation by the Phoenix Clan, a Pager Bell is a small, handheld device that can communicate with other such devices all across Rokugan. While there are some limitations, such as being text only, transmission being blocked by thick walls, capable of only holding 5 or so messages, or untrained usage only properly sending about 50% of the time, they gained immediate popularity over other methods of communication. They’re about the size of a brick, slow to type on, and whenever used, emit a sound of deep bell tones. 3 koku. (I wanted a device that was reminiscent of the future commlinks and cellphones, but not so good it could eliminate a bunch of issues entirely. The Pager bell was a compromise, like a pager, but unreliable enough that it wasn’t a mini-computer telephone camera recorder live-stream device like today’s stuff. If you want something more advanced, perhaps they’re more like smartphones, but regularly suffer issues from Kami, so they’re too unreliable in court. The choice is up to you.)
Some tags lend themselves well to providing a more futuristic description of an item or how it functions. While this effect is purely thematic, it helps to build a character more in tune with the world. Here are some optional examples. Players are free to add their own, whether an item possesses a tag or not (Subject to GM approval.)
- Concealable–item collapses when not in use, or has some sort of optical camouflage.
- Cumbersome–item has some sort of mechanical function added, like an exoskeleton for armor, or chainsaw motor+blade for weapons.
- Durable–item has some self-repair function, or is made of some super technobabble. Plascrete, or duraplating.
- Razor-edged–item has some sort of special edge, like being nanite-treated, self-sharpening, or laser-bladed.
- Resplendent–item has some sort of way to draw attention, like digitally changing display, led-projecting parts, or holo-displays.
- Sacred–item has some sort of computer component embedded in it, like a LED, fan or glowing circuitry.
- Wargear–item has tactical straps, harness points, or the modern black+paracord kind of look.
Rokugan 2268 was fun for me to dream up, but like the many L5R developers, I’d like to emphasize your own freedom as GM to modify this setting as you see fit. Keep parts, throw out others, introduce ceremonial submachine guns, make it all a trick of theatre played in Winter Court–the choice is up to you. I know many parts are vague–that’s intentional, in order for you to fill in the holes, with your own creation. Nevertheless, I thank you for reading this guide to an Alternate Rokugan, and hope you enjoyed. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or send me a discord message at DiceKitchen#7707.
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