Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chuck Norris in D&D 4e

Someone started a stupid thread at WotC about making Chuck Norris in 4e rules. Instead, posters made up Chuck Norris facts about 4e.

Chuck Norris's d20s only have 20s on them.

Chuck norris is a class, party role, and race

Chuck Norris crits on a natural 1.

Chuck Norris can roll a natural 20 on a d4.

Chuck Norris slew Orcus during character creation.

Chuck Norris originally appeared in 1e, when he changed Loviatar's portfolio from "Having a great day" to "Pain" with a roundhouse kick.

Chuck Norris is the martial controller. He controls his enemies' lives.

And the Best One:

Chuck Norris has only one At-Will ability, the Roundhouse Kick. It does 3[M] damage per hit, where [M] = the monster's hitpoints + the monster's allies' hitpoints + the monster's hopes and dreams.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Liquid Tylenol Recall Article Totally Stupid

NEW YORK — Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil unit said Thursday it is voluntarily recalling 57 lots of infants’ and children’s liquid Tylenol products because of possible bacterial contamination.

The products being recalled were made between April and June and include almost two dozen Tylenol medications.

A random check of Southwest Florida stores Thursday evening found the products still on shelves.

In three Walgreens and two CVS stores in Fort Myers and North Fort Myers, most of the recalled brands were available [Particular LOTS were recalled, not the entire affected BRAND LINES of Tylenol.]

But they likely won’t be stocked for long.

Robert Elsinger, a spokesman for Walgreens, said he expected the recalled products to be removed quickly. He also said Johnson & Johnson representatives will visit stores to make sure all the lots are taken out.

At a CVS on U.S. 41, employees said as soon as they get a corporate e-mail about the recall, they’ll immediately remove the products.

Walking with her two boys at the CVS, Enedina Mendoza, 28, of Fort Myers said she “used to use Tylenol for everything. Now I swear by ibuprofen.” [Absolutely irrelevant to the article as presented. Likely included as a way to offer ibuprofen as an alternative to Tylenol without the author having to take explicit responsibility for the suggestion. Cowardly.]

Ismael Hernandez, 33, of Fort Myers decided against buying a bottle of children’s Tylenol.

His youngest daughter is congested with a drippy nose, but Hernandez opted for Vicks Vapo Rub. [Tylenol does not treat congestion or runny nose. It is a pain medication. Also, Vicks Vapor Rub is not to be used in very young children, so this factoid is irresponsible for juxtaposing Tylenol use for congestion/runny nose and Vicks Vapor Rub for "youngest daughter".]

“If they tell you the medicine isn’t good for the child, it’s not worth it,” Hernandez said.

Johnson & Johnson said it has contacted wholesalers and retailers about the recall.

An inactive ingredient didn’t meet internal testing requirements, the company said, and B. cepacia bacteria were detected in a portion of raw material that went unused in the finished product.

The company said in a letter that no bacteria were found in the finished product, and that the likelihood of a serious medical event is remote. However, in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration, the company decided to recall the products.

“It was decided, as a precaution, to recall all product that utilized any of the raw material manufactured at the same time as the raw material that tested positive for the bacteria,” the company said.

— Staff writer Cristela Guerra contributed to this report

[Staff writer Cristela Guerra is likely responsible for adding the biased first half of the article as the second half, written in the style of an actual news report, objectively presents the actual facts of the matter.]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My other sword is a violin

Just had an idea while watching Classic Game Room's review of Warriors Orochi 2 for PSP. About halfway through, there is a loading or character select screen with a girl holding a shield and rapier. However, at a glance, her pose made it look like she was holding a violin and a bow.

Idea: Fighting game character who uses a violin and bow as a weapon. Her bow acts like a sword (mostly for poking) and her violin has razor sharp metal strings. I see one of her throws involving knocking her opponent to his knees, grabbing him by the back of the head, and then her violin string-side across his face. It would produce a discordant noise and leave four parallel gashes that rain blood down his chin. A finishing move would be similar but she would run her bow across his neck and leave him to bleed out in the sand. Obviously, she would also play her violin during the fight (maybe it should be a fiddle?), as a taunt, a special attack, and a victory animation.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stupid Crappy Database

DnDOG went down while I was typing a post so here it goes until the boards come back:


Sakure's latest edit reminded me of something I sent via PM but forgot to add to this thread:

You can choose a background benefit for your character. If you have the Character Builder, any of the Forgotten Realms or Scales of War backgrounds are fine (they all have concrete benefits compared to the General and Eberron ones). If you do not have access to the Character Builder, most of them either add two skills to your class skill list (you are [b]not[/b] automatically trained in them; they are simply available as one of your skill choices) and give you +1 to each skill, or add a single skill to your class skill list (again, not trained) and give you +3 to that skill.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Notes for Myself

I need to decide how treasure will be handled. No matter which method I choose, I want wish lists from the characters.

1. I can pick the treasures and place them in the adventure.
2. I can give players a reward before, during, or after the adventure.
3. Both.

L5R characters are not supposed to loot dead bodies but D&D is set up around looting dead bodies.

I think I will ask PCs how they would like it. I think I will mostly split it between giving the PCs items as rewards (before, during, and after), letting them find a few things in the adventure (especially items on their wish lists that do not fit with the Clan), and extending the PCs credit (substitute gold) for buying what they want.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Character Build Notes

Note that for everything that follows, these are typical examples. Hida are typically bushi. Kuni are typically shugenja. But there is nothing stopping a Kuni from being a bushi or a Hida from being a shugenja. Often, however, such a cross-over would take the name of his "adoptive" family, so one who is born Kuni and studies in the Hida bushi dojo would take the Hida name.

Crab bushi favor heavy armor and heavy weapons. The Crab philosophy of war is to form an unbreakable shell and allow the enemy to waste his strength by crashing into it like waves against a cliff, then to muster an overwhelming counterattack and crush him with the claw. They are masters of defense and endurance, able to reserve their strength through hours of fighting before going on the offensive. They wield heavy crushing weapons because many creatures of the Shadowlands develop thick carapaces that resist the cutting edge of the katana and the piercing head of the spear. The favored weapons amongst the Crab are the tetsubo (a studded club), dai tsuchi (a sledge hammer), masakari (one-handed axe), and ono (two-handed axe, named after the "oh no!"). That said, Crab bushi are still samurai and the way of the sword is well known amongst them.

Dwarves make excellent Crab because they are resilient and it is difficult to break their lines. In fact, two of the Crab basic techniques are known as The Mountain Does Not Move and The Mountain Does Not Fall. Longtooth shifters, goliaths, half-orcs, warforged, orcs, and other resilient powerhouses are also fit for the job. The fighter and the warden, with the ability to lock enemies in place and absorb their blows, are archetypal Crab bushi.

Hiruma scouts must be fast, deadly, and unseen. They move at the head of Crab forces, tracking and observing the enemy. Their intelligence occasionally enables the Crab to forgo weathering an enemy offensive and jump right into the killing. When a battle does commence, the Hiruma scouts conceal themselves outside of the melee. Instead, they engage reinforcements, assassinate commanders, disrupt communications, and liberate resources. Once the enemy has been defeated from behind, the Crab army's immense momentum shifts from defense to offense and the Hiruma reveal themselves at the enemy flank or rear.

Elves make great Hiruma due to their increased speed and accuracy.

A small number of Crab bushi belong to the Berserkers, most of them from the Hiruma (channeling the grief and rage at the loss of their lands to the Taint) but all families are represented. These fierce warriors fight exactly as their name implies and they are used as shock troopers by the Crab.

The Falcon's Strike archers have gained prominence among the Crab since the construction of the Kaiu Wall. Freed from immediate melee combat with the Shadowlands Horde, the Crab have employed archers to thin enemy ranks (very important when goblins breed like rabbits and other horrors literally crawl up from the very ground) and cover exposed teams working outside the wall (siege engineers building traps and repairing the wall). Traditionally the Hiruma have served as the Crab's archers but with the addition of the Toritaka family and their acute sense of sight, many former Falcon have served with bow atop the Wall.

Falcon's Strike fills in that Ranger niche. The only two-weapon fighting style in the Empire belongs to a family of the Dragon Clan. Clan leaders sometimes cement alliances and trade agreements by exchanging children. Each child studies in the dojo of the other clan. Thus, the two-weapon Ranger or tempest Fighter options are available but such a character would be unusual among the Crab.

Kaiu Siege Engineers serve in the field side-by-side with their Crab brethren. They are responsible for overcoming enemy fortifications and erecting traps and defensible positions. They do so in the midst of combat, under enemy fire, and often with both hands occupied with no concern for their own safety. This dedication inspires respect and ferocity in the Crab bushi, who often double their efforts to see the Kaiu engineer safely carries out his duties.

Assembling actual siege equipment in battle is not quite D&D material. Kaiu engineers are well modeled with warlords and, especially, artificers (who can actually lay down traps and boons).

Yasuki Quartermasters oversee the proper supply and feeding of troops. They can be found in every command staff in the Crab army. While in barracks, the quartermasters seek out supplies through their network of contacts amongst the local merchants. While in the field, they must secure supplies from whatever sources possible, including hostile villages and enemy encampments. Yasuki Taskmasters are in charge of the non-samurai, or ashigeru, militia and troops. They ensure that peasant levees do not break in the face of battle and leave a flank exposed and they are often left in charge of defending remote but strategic villages from enemy advance (to deny them the top of a hill or the resources).

Yasuki are another good family for warlords or other leaders.

Kuni shugenja are the spiritual leaders of the Crab Clan. It is their duty to protect the souls of the Crab from corruption. To do so, the Kuni delve deep into the forces that fuel the Shadowlands, taking to heart the adage, "know thy enemy." Whereas the other Crab sacrifice their lives to defeat the Shadowlands, the Kuni sacrifice their souls. Their spells focus on the strength, endurance, and purity of stone and earth. They utilize earth magic to enhance their bushi brothers, wards and bindings to protect against the Taint, and the purifying power of jade to destroy the Shadowlands creatures outright.

The Kuni are your outright spellcasters. Wizards, warlocks, invokers, sorcerers, etc all blast away with magical power. Races like Dragonborn with their breath weapon are also good fits here.

Bushi characters typically call their at-will attack powers Basic Techniques, their encounter attack powers Advanced Techniques, and their daily attack powers Kata or Strikes. Kata have a real power in Rokugan and learning a particular kata is an important event. Bushi typically spend an hour in the morning going through their forms and preparing their minds and bodies for the coming day. Thanks to this preparation, when the effect of a particular kata is needed, the bushi is able to unleash the power without hesitation.

Shugenja do not differentiate their spells in such a manner. Each spell is actually a prayer to the elemental spirits, or kami, that surround, infuse, and pervade the world. When a Kuni shugenja wishes to call down fire on her enemies, a simple prayer results in a small gout of flame (Scorching Burst); an involved prayer in a fierce burst of flame (Burning Hands); and a taxing prayer in a rolling ball of fire (Flaming Sphere). The kami demand payment for their services, which is rendered in the daily prayers and rituals of the shugenja, so the more involved and taxing a prayer is upon the kami, the less likely they will repeat their performance.

All acceptable magic in the Empire is technically divine. Shugenja are the priests of the kami (the elemental spirits) and the sole spellcasters. They cast their spells through prayers to the elemental spirits and these are nature spirits that are nameless and ubiquitous throughout the Empire (not as common in the Shadowlands as many have been warped into or replaced by kansen, evil elemental spirits). There are five elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Void (void is ostensibly the absence of any of the other elements and yet it appears when you combine the other elements).

Pantheon: There are gods in Rokugan (Lord Moon, Lady Sun, the celestial Dragons, the countless Fortunes who rule over aspects of daily life) but they do not have dedicated priests/shugenja. All shugenja know the rituals appropriate to each Fortune and perform them for the people (crop-growing ritual for Fortune of Agriculture, marriage ritual for the Fortune of Love). The most important Fortune in Rokugan is the Fortune of Rice; the most revered among the Crab are the Fortunes of Strength (Bishamon) and the Fortune of Fire & Thunder (Osano-Wo, the son of the kami Hida). However, the Fortunes are worshiped as a whole body; they have individual temples throughout the Empire but no shugenja would serve only one and ignore the others.

That brings us to the Brotherhood of Shinsei. These monks serve in the temples of the various fortunes throughout the Empire. Because they serve in temples dedicated to a particular fortune, they place a much heavier emphasis on that one fortune than any shugenja would dare. They do not, however, ignore the other fortunes (that would be blasphemy). There are several Orders of monks within the Brotherhood of Shinsei. The Order of Osano-Wo, Fortune of Fire & Thunder, is both the largest in Crab lands and the most militant. Its monks are sohei, or warrior monks, who see themselves as the ultimate expression of the soul's trial through the mortal world. They toughen their flesh just as they harden their spirit to resist temptation and corruption. This is in contrast to most other monk orders who focus solely on the mind.

The flavor text of your abilities is as mutable as using any race to model a human. A cleric might describe Divine Glow as a burst of fire rather than light (it is easy for the fire kami to exclude one's allies from the fire). I think I mentioned the iaijutsu duelist (drow rogue) who describes Darkfire as his intense concentration and tapping into the Void. Rules text is rules text and flavor text is flavor text. Feel free to change the latter as needed.


In answer to a requests for help on a character's background:

Briyu could have grown up among the Dragon Clan. Before he was born, the Crab and the Crane were at war (they almost always are). However, the Crane had managed to secure the aid of the Lion Clan through a series of political favors. In order to match the strength of the Lion reinforcements, the Crab would have to pull troops from the Wall. Instead, the Yasuki negotiated for the Dragon Clan to amass forces on the Lion border and thereby split their attention. In exchange for provoking the Lion Clan, the Crab agreed to lend the Dragon the services of several Hiruma scouts. Briyu's father was among the Hiruma who were sent to serve the Dragon, both during the skirmishes to draw the Lion's attention and for several years after in payment. As a result, Briyu grew up in Dragon lands and studied with the Mirumoto family, the originators and practitioners of Niten, or two-sword style.


Typically, playing a foreigner in Rokugan is suicide. In 440, a group of gaijin (foreigners) is allowed to conduct trade and is given access to the imperial court for 2 years to prove their honor. At the end of the 2 years, they are commanded to leave the Empire. They boarded their ships and left only to return soon after and open fire on the Imperial Palace with their cannons. The opening volleys took the life of the Empress. It is a bit of a sore spot for Rokugan and gaijin were forbidden to enter the Empire.

That said, individual gaijin are not unknown in the Empire half a millennium later. The best bet for going this route would be the completion of a Twenty-Goblin Winter. When the Crab Clan has a particularly bad year and the losses on the Wall are greater than they can sustain, the Clan Champion will declare a Twenty-Goblin Winter. Anyone who enters the Shadowlands and returns with the heads of twenty goblins (or other foes) by the end of winter is allowed to join the Clan. Typically this is a route used by desperate ronin to regain the perks of fealty. If a gaijin were allowed to join the clan this way, he would definitely be kept near the Wall and often sent into the Shadowlands. The Crab are already the least adept clan at courtly politics and allowing word of a gaijin Crab to spread would be disastrous.
Edit/Delete Message

The Taint, the Lost, Maho, Jade, and Purity

As mentioned above with the Nezumi, the Taint causes humans to go mad and, at high levels, can physically deform them. The Taint can be contracted through environmental exposure (traipsing around the Shadowlands for long periods, the aura surrounding powerful Oni, certain tainted spells) or by direct contact with tainted items/creatures (an oni's claws, a magically tainted hair comb, a drop of a tainted human's blood in your food or drink). Crab soldiers wear fingers of jade (a rod of jade about the size of a finger) to protect themselves from environmental taint; the purity of jade is the antithesis of the Taint and it draws the Taint into itself. Jade slowly corrupts from a hard green stone to a soft, black clay as it absorbs the taint. Jade also possesses the ability to overcome the formidable powers and defenses of the Shadowlands Horde; highly magical weapons, treasured among the Crab clan, are either made of jade or function like jade against the Horde. Purified crystal is a stronger, more concentrated form of jade.

Kuni shegenja are experts at detecting the taint and they perform the cleansing rituals that follow engagements with the Shadowlands (and human forces; blood and corpses are not inheretly tainted but they are considered unclean). It should be noted that, once a samurai has reached a certain level of taint, he becomes forever marked by it. Only substances and rituals of legendary proportion are able to cleanse such an individual. Tainted Crab are placed under the watch of a Kuni Witch-Hunter, a group of shugeja and bushi who police the Crab for hidden taint and the practice of maho. Witch-Hunters ensure that tainted Crab do not lose their minds and attack the Crab from within; at the first sign of madness, a Witch-Hunter will cut down his charge and remove his head.

Human corpses in the Shadowlands are exposed to the Taint and many rise as undead. In the past, Crab sorties knew the horror of losing half their number only to see them rise up against them. It provided the Shadowlands with a further numerical advantage and proved exceptionally demoralizing. Since those days, the Crab have accepted that they must behead their own brothers when they fall in battle. When a samurai is too injured to make it back, he will ask for an honorable death; it is far preferred to serving the dark powers he and his ancestors have fought for 1000 years.

Finally, there are some samurai who have embraced the Taint and the Shadowlands. Maho-tsukai, practitioners of blood magic, call upon kansen, or evil elemental spirits, for their magic. These kansen are tainted and the very act of casting blood magic can taint the maho-tsukai. Though driven mad, these shugenja are also "gifted" with powerful, physical deformities like claws or wings, furthering their grasp for power at any cost. Most maho-tsukai in the Empire practice in hiding, for maho is a capital offense and magistrates in each clan, along with the Emperor's Jade Magistrates, ruthlessly hunt them down.

More striking than maho-tsukai are the Lost, the twice-cursed samurai who abandoned their rightful lords to serve Fu Leng. Daigotsu is the self-proclaimed high servant of Fu Leng, the Ninth Kami. He established the Lost within the Shadowlands and repeatedly makes bids against the Empire for shunning his Dark Master; his argument is that Fu Leng is just as worthy of worship and followers by divine right as the other eight kami and he and the Lost should be considered a Great Clan with full participation in the Empire. He is, of course, considered mad and blasphemous. The Lost range from the fully mad and deformed to those tainted samurai who are indistinguishable from regular people. Many live in the City of the Lost hidden deep within the Shadowlands but many also maintain their regular lives within the Empire, gathering information, weakening defenses, and tainting key officials within the clan and imperial governments.

Battle of the Cresting Wave

In an Empire as old and traditional as Rokugan, the Battle of the Cresting Wave is recent history. Three hundred years ago, a great and powerful oni lord called The Maw marshalled the forces of the Shadowlands Hordes and struck for the Empire like lightning. The Hiruma provinces, the closest Crab holdings to the Shadowlands, were overrun without warning. Many Hiruma died and the rest were routed, forced to fall back to Hida lands. There, the surviving Hiruma delivered grave news: the dark army that sacked Castle Hiruma was greater than any witnessed since the war with Fu Leng. With that forewarning, the Hida called upon the full might of the Crab Clan to withstand the advancing army.

However, one does not bring to bear an entire Clan's military overnight. Fortifications, musters, reconnaissance, strategy, and deployment take time. And days after the Hiruma survivors arrived, word from the invaded Kuni lands revealed the breadth of the Maw's forces. And the Maw himself marched for the Seigo River. Beyond the Seigo lied Kyuden Hida (Castle Hida) and beyond that, the unprepared and unprotected Empire. Hida Banuken, the Crab Clan champion, decided that the Crab would stand or fall on the north bank of Seigo River.

A battle in the open field would be disastrous for the Crab. Banuken had 20,000 men available from local forces, ronin, and nearby detachments of the Crane Clan; the Maws' army vastly outnumbered them. The Kaiu could erect fortifications in the field but that would take time and the Crab had about 2 days. A Kuni shugenja named Kuni Ozaku stepped forward. She asked Hida Banuken how long the Kaiu would need. The Kaiu said proper fortifications would take months to erect. Kuni Ozaku promised it to them and departed immediately for the north bank of the Seigo. There, Kuni Ozaku cast a powerful version of the Cresting Wave spell. The waters of the Seigo formed a wall stretching to the sky and as far as one could see in either direction. The Maw sent detachments forward to break through the wave but they were a handful of straw cast against a stone. Many among the Crab thought Ozaku a fool. Such a powerful spell would drain her in hours, not months. Yet hour after hour, day after day, week after week, Ozaku's spell held the Maw and his forces at bay. On the 73rd day, Kuni Ozaku breathed her last. Her Cresting Wave collapsed and the Maw was waiting. However, he no longer faced 20,000 soldiers in an open field. The Kaiu had erected their wall in half the time and they had built tunnels stretching beneath the Maw.

The Maw rallied his forces to crash against the fortifications again and again. And time and again, the Hida, Kaiu, and Kuni turned them back with blade, steel, and magic. All through the day the walls held and the continued clashes drove the Hida and the Maw to exhaustion. Thanks to the Kaiu walls, Hida Banuken did not have to commit his reserves during the battle. Now, at the end of the day, Banuken ordered his 10,000 Hiruma reserves, frothing with rage at the loss of their homes, through the Kaiu tunnels beneath the Maw. They emerged behind the Maw's forces and unleashed their fury upon the unsuspecting Horde. The Maw himself fell to Hiruma steel and Kuni magic, vengeance for their lost lands. The Maw's skull was hung from the walls of Castle Hida, in full view of the Shadowladnds, where it remains to this day as a warning to the Horde that even its greatest champion has fallen to the Crab.

The nascent fortifications were repaired, enlarged, and extended. This is now the Kaiu Wall. The Seigo River was renamed the Saigo no Kamae, or the River of the Last Stand. The Crab had to cede the conquered Hiruma and Kuni lands but the Kaiu Wall now stands as a line in the sand.

Crab Clan Families

The Crab Clan consists of six families: the Hida, Hiruma, Kaiu, Kuni, Toritaka, and Yasuki. Each of these families consist of a number of separate bloodlines and vassals that all share a common family name. For example, though the Hida family bears the name of the kami Hida, founder of the Crab Clan, only a distinct line amongst them actually share his blood; the rest of the family are descended from the various humans who followed Hida at the dawn of the Empire and those ronin who proved themselves worthy of the Hida name during a Twenty-Goblin Winter. Each family is led by a daimyo who maintains the family holdings and utilizes family resources. Each samurai is beholden to his family's daimyo; his name, his swords, his honor, and even his very life are owned by the daimyo and are to be used in service to him. The Crab Clan as a whole is represented by the Clan Champion. The Clan Champion is chosen through a series of trials that test his strength, character, courage, leadership, and capability. As each samurai serves his daimyo, so the daimyo of the Crab serve the Clan Champion.

The six families of the Crab comprise the samurai, or noble, caste. Serving beneath them, lacking any family name, are the heimin, or peasants. Peasants carry out the farming, manual labor, and other duties beneath the notice and station of a samurai. They are forbidden to carry weapons (although in Crab lands this restriction is lax as you want the peasants to defend themselves against the Shadowlands; in fact, the Crab actively teach peasants how to fight, though never with swords or bows as those weapons belong solely to the samurai) and are beholden to the orders of samurai (technically, a samurai can kill a peasant for any reason at any time). Beneath the heimin are the eta, those who carry out unclean acts like preparing dead bodies and torturing prisoners (as blood is unclean and physical touching is taboo).

Each character has a family name (Toritaka) and a personal name (Torymar). His full name would be Toritaka Torymar. How you address another person depends on your relationship. With family and friends, the personal name or a nickname are used (Torymar, Tory). With Clan members, family names can be used alone (as with the real world military using just the last name, Toritaka-san) or the full name if there are more than one member of that family (talking to just Toritaka Torymar one in a group of Toritaka bushi). Outside the Clan, either the family name or Clan name can be used (Crab-san and Toritaka-san are both acceptable though most non-Crab would not be familiar with the Toritaka family). I do not require people to constantly use -san or other honorifics in their posts, though it may be appropriate when dealing with your superior officers or other dignitaries.

The Hida family rules the Crab Clan. Descended from the Kami whose name they bear, they are fierce warriors with an extreme range of emotions. Their rage in battle is legendary as is their joy in the face of triumph. To those outside the family, who only see the results of their emotion, the Hida appear as if they have no self-control but this is untrue. A Hida is taught to recognize the power of emotions, but to always control them. A fierce temper is a powerful weapon, one that can turn the tide of battles, but must be kept in check until the proper time arrives. The Hida family's rule of their clan has never been questioned, for the Hida have always recognized the talents of each family that serves them. Responsibilities among the clan are clearly defined, and the expertise of each family is recognized and highly valued. In return for this trust, the other families show the Hida unfailing loyalty. The Hida are the largest of the Crab families, forming the backbone of the Crab armies. Whereas many Crab are larger than average, Hida bushi tend to be even taller and more muscular. Some wonder if their proximity to the Shadowlands has conferred the strength of demons upon their family over the generations, but never within earshot of a Hida.

The Hiruma are a grim and humorless family, and for good reason. Their lands were completely destroyed and dominated by the Shadowlands during the same battle that led to the creation of the Kaiu (or Great Carpenter) Wall. The dark memories of their failure to protect their land still remain. The Hiruma lands are desolate and lifeless. Even the stones of Hiruma castles seem darker, as if stained by a shadow that will never wash away. As their territories lie beyond the formidable protection of the Kaiu Wall, the Hiruma must be ever vigilant and prepared for attack. Their scouts are among the finest in the Empire, able to move quickly and tirelessly through the most hostile of terrains without detection. While the other families all bear great knowledge of the enemy, none know the terrain of the Shadowlands as they do. Though Hiruma are strong in the way of all Crab, they tend to be lean and tough where the Hida are massive and powerful. Hiruma have a reputation for speaking few words, though when they do speak they do so with a bitter, cynical view. While the Hiruma never doubt that the Crab Clan will ultimately defeat the Shadowlands, neither do they doubt that many of their family will die before that day ever comes.

The Kaiu are a family of engineers, smiths, and siege masters. They are the pragmatic scholars of their clan, turning all of their boundless energies into the eternal art of war. The Kaiu Wall stands as their proudest accomplishment, but the Kaiu are not satisfied with their masterpiece. Kaiu engineers work tirelessly to repair, strengthen, and improve their clan's defenses. The Crab have come to trust and admire Kaiu craftsmanship above all others. Rare is the Crab whose swords and armor were not born in a Kaiu forge. In the eyes of a Hida, Hiruma, or Yasuki the only truly reliable weapon is a Kaiu weapon. Thought hey rule their home provinces as do any family, the Kaiu are often scattered throughout their clan's territories working on countless projects. They are relentless perfectionists, keenly focused upon fighting the war against the Shadowlands in their own way – by providing their brethren with the weapons and defenses they require to survive. The Kaiu tend to carry themselves in a more scholarly manner than their Kuni cousins, obsessed as they are with the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Kaiu are keen, patient strategists and will observe a problem from all angles before considering a solution. Kaiu are large like most Crab but generally do not have the time to hone their physique like their Hiruma and Hida cousins. Thus Kaiu tend to be large and thick but not well toned. The typical Kaiu has the mammoth physique of a warrior but the ink stained hands of a scholar.

The most infamous family of the Crab, the painted kabuki faces of the Kuni family are met with fear and suspicion in almost every court. They are the Crab Clan's shugenja, mystics with deep insight into the dark horrors that the Crab Clan faces every day. Some wonder if the Kuni study their enemy with too much vigor. Every child knows the tale of Kuni Yori's descent into corruption and madness. For their part, the Kuni refuse to let the tale of their most notorious fallen daimyo be forgotten. Some would say that Yori's was a solitary, if catastrophic, corruption but the Kuni know better. More members of the Kuni family have become practitioners of maho, or black magic, than all other shugenja families combined, a simple matter of their proximity to the Shadowlands. So close to the whispers of the Dark God, the temptation of such power is very difficult to resist. The Kuni understand the risks, but they also know that if they were to withdraw from the war, the Crab Clan would have no defenses against the mystical forces they face with regularity. All the Kuni can do is police themselves strictly and see to it that those who falter are punished without mercy. While very Crab risks his life against the Shadowlands, the Kuni risk their souls as well. The Kuni are hardly typical as shugenja families go. Their studies take them into the harshest of terrains, thus they must be as strong and hearty as their bushi brethren. Kuni move with a constant, hyper energy. Their eyes are sharp and piercing, always searching for any sign of corruption. They often paint their faces with ghastly makeup and wear their hair long and loose. The Kuni do this both to intimidate their foes and to mimic the demons they fight – a constant reminder of what they might become if they lose their courage.

The youngest and smallest of the Crab families, the Toritaka were once known as the Falcon Clan. A strange catastrophe in the Twilight Mountains led to the Toritaka turning to their Crab neighbors for support and later officially swearing fealty to them. Though the Crab's resources were already stretched thin supporting their existing families, they were eager to absorb the unique talents of this strangest of bushi families. The Toritaka dwell in a place called the Tani Hitokatge, or the Valley of Spirits. In this serene valley, the barriers between Rokugan and other Spirit Realms are very thin. All manner of strange ghosts and spirits wander regularly into the valley and rather than abandon their haunted home, the Toritaka long ago took it upon themselves to understand these strang spirit and, when left with no other choice, fight them. While the Crab have unparalleled expertise in fighting the agents of Jigoku, only the Toritaka truly knew how to counter the many ghosts and demons from other realms of existence, creatures that the Horde occasionally calls upon as allies. The average Toritaka greatly resembles a Hida in size and build, for their clan's bloodlines frequently mixed with their closest neighbor's over the generations. Here the resemblance ends, for while Hida thrive on emotion, the Toritaka are withdrawn and reserved. They see themselves as mediators between mortals and spirits, and know that undue emotion can cause great distress in both the living and the dead. A Toritaka is always calm, focused, and controlled.

Once members of the Crane Clan, the Yasuki family is the most curious of the Crab families. Six hundred years ago, the Crab annexed portions of Crane lands in order to feed their troops. These lands belonged to the Yasuki family and the daimyo of the Yasuki, along with half the family, swore allegiance to the Crab Clan, the rest of the family remaining as servants of the Crane. The Crab Yasuki are obsessed with wealth and commerce, a family of wily traders and smooth businessmen. The Yasuki have a reputation for aggressive bargaining, and will not balk at bending the occasional law to get a better deal. While their reputation as shady dealers precedes them, it is difficult to maintain one's distrust in a Yasuki's presence. They seem to have a way of convincing potential customers that they are, at least this time, entirely trustworthy. They also have a seemingly unfailing habit of having exactly what their customer wants. To the Crab Clan, this makes them indispensible. They are the economic masterminds that maintain the delicate web of trade and negotiation needed to keep the mighty Crab war machine fueled and ready. While it may seem that the Yasuki are embroiled in their world of trade and profit far from their cousins' war, nothing could be further from the truth. Every Crab Yasuki knows what his fellow Crab face on the Wall every day. Every Yasuki knows how much his brethren rely upon him. They make the deals they do so that the Hida and Hiruma warriors will be well fed, so that the Kaiu will have steel to work their forge, and so that the Kuni and Toritaka will have the cystal and jade they need to protect the clan from evil. It is a unique battlefield, but the Yasuki fight battles of commerce with all the relentless determination of a Crab. In appearance, the Yasuki are the least like a typical Crab. Their Crane blood still runs strong in their veins, and Yasuki tend to be small, thin, and beautiful. Though they do not bleach their hair in the manner of the Crane, they do wear their hair long and dress in fine clothing. This is all for the sake of appearance, of course, for rare is the Yasuki who is not ready and able to take up a weapon and aid his fellow Crab in the defense of the Wall.

The Nezumi, or rat people, are an unusual race of creatures that inhabit the Shadowlands. They lived there before the fall of Fu Leng and their kingdom was destroyed by him and the Horde. They went into hiding, burrowing out nests and endlessly winding tunnels beneath the Shadowlands. Most interesting, however, is the fact that they seem entirely immune to the Taint. Where men are driven mad and all life is twisted and deformed by the Taint, the Nezumi show no sign of corruption at all. Nezumi are small creatures that greatly resemble wererats in their hybrid form (basically giant, humanoid rats). Some have adopted the affectations of Rokugani society (wearing Rokugani-style armor, wielding swords, etc) while others have maintained the old ways. Because they share a common enemy with the Crab, several Nezumi tribes have allied with the Clan. However, theirs is not a military alliance. The vast majority of Nezumi prefer a life of hiding and scrounging to combat. They trade information to the Crab for food and materials. They are more than a match for Hiruma scouts in navigating the Shadowlands, both because it is their home and because they have no fear of the Taint. Nezumi are universally reviled in the Empire except among the Crab (as the pragmatic Crab would never let xenophobia and racism get in the way of an advantage against the Shadowlands, though even amongst the Crab nezumi are not entirely welcome). As nezumi find the greatest acceptance among the Crab who man the Wall, and as the campaign consists of samurai who man the Wall, I would have no problem a Nezumi character. However, realize that if you play a Nezumi you will suffer somewhat if the game moves to the Crab side of the Wall.

Defenders of the Empire - Secrets of the Shadowlands

This is a play-by-post game I am advertising on Since it puts a lot of the Legend of the Five Rings Scales of War adventure path material in one place, I am going to port it over here.


At the dawn of the Empire of Rokugan, eight kami, or gods, fell from the heavens. They established the seven Great Clans from the humans they found in this land and the first emperor, the kami Hantei, took the Emerald Throne. Thus dawned a new era of wisdom and prosperity amongst the race of man, led by the sons and daughters of Heaven.

But then the ninth kami, Fu Leng, fell to earth. Unlike his brothers and sisters, Fu Leng had not fallen directly from heaven; his path took him through Jigoku, a realm of evil, of corruption, and of twisted spirits. His divine blood was infected by Jigoku and as a result he lacked all love, wisdom, and benevolence. The site of his impact was a great festering pit from which oozed forth the corrupting influence of Jigoku like pus from a wound. The Taint warped the very earth into the Shadowlands, twisting all life that it did not destroy outright. Ogres, trolls, bakemono, goblins, the undead, and other malevolent creatures spawned endlessly in the Shadowlands and terrifying and powerful oni, or demons, clawed their way free from the Festering Pit, pulled from Jigoku by Fu Leng's whim. Fu Leng and his army of Shadow creatures swarmed across the Empire, destroying everything in their path, and eventually claimed the life of Emperor Hantei. Only through the bravery and sacrifice of the Seven Thunders, heroes from each of the Great Clans, was Fu Leng defeated. And only through the sacrifice of countless Crab samurai, followers of the kami Hida, did enough men survive the initial onslaught to turn back Fu Leng's army. Hida swore that he would battle the Shadowlands until Lord Moon and Lady Sun fell from the sky. His descendants and his followers, the Crab Clan, continue that battle today.

You are a Crab samurai. Amongst your Clan, there is no one who has not lost friend or family to the Shadowlands. And yet you stand strong, day in and day out, year after year, generation upon generation. For one thousand years the Crab Clan has stood as the immovable, inviolate wall between the tainted horrors of the Shadowlands and the Empire of Rokugan. Every day the innumerable bakemono and inhuman oni rally only to crash against the Great Carpenter Wall. And every night the Emperor and his servants in the Great Clans sleep soundly because a toll has been paid in Crab blood.

The Crab fight.

The Crab die.

But the Crab are not defeated.

In this campaign you are a private in the Crab Clan's Army of the West, also known as the Army of the Wall. You are bushi, samurai warriors, from the Hida family. You are scouts from the Hiruma family. You are shugenja, priests of the kami (elemental spirits), from the Kuni family. You are smiths and engineers from the Kaiu family. You are quartermasters and taskmasters from the Yasuki family. You are exorcists from the Toritaka family. You will patrol the Great Carpenter Wall, a barrier that stretches the length of the border between the Shadowlands and the Empire, and you will foray into the Shadowlands themselves to reconnoiter, thin the enemy ranks, or fulfill other missions as assigned. Your team will quickly come to prominence as an elite team that can be relied on for special duties.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cymatics - Visualizing Sound

Wow. Just wow.

TED Talks are presentations of research and ideas by experts in every field imaginable. You can watch them on YouTube or the TEDTalks website. They range from a few minutes up to almost half an hour. I have no idea if the videos are the entire presentation (and thus some people just get 5 minutes while others get 20) or if they are edited for time (and thus some people just get 5 minutes while others get 20). Frustratingly, it seems like hard science presentations get much less time than sociology, psychology, and economics. Anyway ...

Evan Grant did a short presentation on cymatics. Cymatics is the visual representation of sound; not in the symbolic manner of onomatopoeia or musical notes but in actuality. The process usually involved a flat metal plate with sand scattered atop; as sound vibrated the plate, the sand formed into patterns. Increased frequency yielded increased complexity of pattern. Da Vinci and Galileo studied cymatics to some degree, so it has been around for several hundred years at least.

Newer technologies have allowed for computer modeling of sound. During the presentation, Evan shows a number of pictures of these computer models and he plays a clip of real-time cymatics using a Pink Floyd song. It is this section that inspires this post.

I imagine a race of deaf creatures that can visualize sound. Loud sounds appear brighter and thereby pose a risk of blindness rather than deafness. In a high magic world, these creatures might "speak" in visual sound as well. Since each sound presumably results in the same pattern each time it is visualized, their written and spoken languages are the same (and the written would be very difficult to reproduce because of the complexity of the shapes and nearly impossible if they needed to render the symbols in three dimensions). Perhaps the written language compresses the three dimensional shape into a two dimensional symbol. Or maybe it is indicated through depth in carving the symbols.

Evan also brings up the point that cymatics may have played a part in the shaping of our universe. The waves that accompanied the big bang would be similar to sound waves and maybe created a complex pattern in the dust of the cosmos.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Iron Heroes Valhalla

Watching a documentary on emperor penguins. They mentioned a huge iceberg (the size of Jamaica) that broke off from the antarctic glacier.

Obviously this adventure needs a fight on an ice flow with constantly shifting pieces of ice and the threat of dunking in ice cold water.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Temple of Venkatesh 9

After watching The Jungle Book and a National Geographic documentary on tigers, I decided to write down a few more thoughts about the temple of Venkatesh. I did this without re-reading the old posts and found that I duplicated myself in several respects.

1. I am not sure if the trappings of the temple and the surrounding jungle should resemble the Aztecs and Latin America, the Malaysians and southeast Asia, or a mix of both. The desire for the latter comes from the Jungle Book and National Geographic, both of which also tie into point two.

2. In addition to human and other PC race slaves, the yuan-ti could have a group of weretigers or werejaguars as warrior-slaves. If the Aztec motif is chosen, these slaves also serve in the arena as the championship team of ball players.

3. Duplication the first - the temple has surrounding buildings. In this case, I listed several buildings that I knew would be found at an Aztec temple or that just made sense: residential areas for yuan-ti, slave pits for slaves, a ball court, and a palace. Old posts have shown that an ossuary-reliquary-evil creepy temple of bones is also needed. I figure, after reading the old post, that the yuan-ti place the bodies of the sacrifices on the outside walls of the reliquary until scavengers and the elements have eroded all but the bone. The clean bones are then moved inside the building to serve as raw necromantic material, creepy building material, or sorted for decorations (as needed and definitely with a wall or mini pyramid of skulls). Should the reliquary be a separate building or part of the main temple structure? One level of the temple could be adorned on the exterior with the rotting bodies and the inside of that level would then serve as the reliquary. This ensures that the PCs do not have to invade/investigate a separate building in order to use all the cool imagery and undead potential.

4. Duplication the second - the upper levels of the temple are only for snake-bodied yuan-ti and they use footstep-based traps to ensure this. This is all old-hat but watching Fritz the Cat (at the end with the revolutionaries who are going to blow up the power plant) gave me the idea that the simple sound of footsteps is an automatic alert on these levels to the presence of someone who shouldn't be there.

5. The body of the explorer (and his half of the map) could be among the bones of the reliquary. Perhaps the possessions of the sacrifices are stored in the treasure chamber and they could find the map therein.

Come Right In: The Open Door Trap

More Secret of NIMH stuff.

When Mrs. Brisby first enters the rose bush (the home of the rats of NIMH), she pushes aside a branch to get through a hole. This branch is connected to a door by a string and pushing the branch causes the door to open.

The trap is simply a similar set-up where an obvious entrance opens but it is an incorrect, overly long, booby-trapped, or otherwise deleterious path. The actual entrance is hidden by the very act that makes the alternate, incorrect path obvious (such as the door swinging "open" to the wrong path and thereby covering the opening to the right path).

The Great Owl: Spirit of Knowledge

As with the other recent posts, I am moved to steal ideas from animated movies.

The Secret of NIMH includes the Great Owl, a terrifying source of knowledge and wisdom to those who are willing to brave his home and attention (as Mrs. Brisby notes, "Owls eat mice"). The cool thing about the Great Owl is that the inside of his home (an exceptionally large hollow tree trunk) is rife with age and neglect. It does not resemble a home so much as a violate tomb, as cobwebs hang from every surface and bones lie strewn across the ground. The Great Owl himself is covered with cobwebs as though he has stood unmoved for years (though he leaves after speaking with Mrs. Brisby and the impression is that he leaves every night to hunt). Pests share the Great Owl's home as evinced by a large moth accosting Mrs. Brisby as she slowly makes her way to the audience chamber and a very large spider (she could fit beneath is legs) stalking her from the shadows before the Great Owl crushes it with a talon.

Plenty of ideas there. Since Trokair thrives on personifications of abstract ideals, Knowledge could very well be an unmoving, contemplative, giant owl entombed within a supernatural/fantastic library containing the sum total of wisdom throughout all time. Gaining an audience with Knowledge would be an epic task indeed.