A Living World
Exploring the Outskirts of Rokugan in Path of Waves
Surely, her pursuers had given up by now. They had more important duties than pursuing rōnin across Rokugan. Her insults hadn’t been that cutting.
She spied smoke on the horizon, a slender stream curling into grey sky. The thought of warm food and shelter made her smile as she patted her horse’s flank and they upped their pace. Would the village welcome her, or drive her out? There was no way of knowing until she arrived.
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The Emerald Empire is vast, stretching from the shimmering Jade Sea to the towering Kaiu Wall that guards against the terrors of the Shadowlands. In the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game, you have the chance to journey across this land as noble samurai, experiencing its wonders and facing its dangers with an upright zeal. But with Path of Waves, the world becomes richer than ever before, giving you the chance to see its least-traveled corners through the eyes of those who do not fit into the Celestial Order.
As your journey continues, you will see many small villages scattered across the empire and, while they may seem the same at first, you will come to learn that no two villages are alike. From small fishing villages along the coasts, to mining villages in the mountains and farming villages on the fertile plains, these communities function in near obscurity as small, largely self-governing societies paying rice tax to a lord who presides over them from a distance. Now, they are open for you to explore as your adventures in Rokugan continue.
Today, we are pleased to offer you a closer look at the fully-realized locations you can explore in the Path of Waves sourcebook for the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game—now available for pre-order at your local retailer or online through our website!
Twin Blessings Village
Every fortress in Rokugan requires farming villages to sustain it. The peasants who populate these villages vastly outnumber the courtiers and lords who rely on them to farm and fish the land, and for their part, the ruling lords provide them with the respect their positions deserve. After all, without their labor, the empire would starve.
Path of Waves offers Twin Blessings Village as a comprehensive example of one such village that can be explored as it appears within the book or easily modified to fit the needs of your campaign. The village comes with a complete map, as well as its own unique history and local legends for your adventurers to encounter and descriptions for how to bring different versions of the village to life in different territories. While you can play with the village in a neutral territory without adjustment, you may wish to place it under the governance of one of the Great Clans, shifting the types of crops it produces, terrain, and general attitude of its citizen. For example, if you encounter the village while in Crab lands, the villagers may have a stoic disposition and force visitors to earn their welcome, whereas vilagers in Dragon territory will be unaccustomed to rōnin in their high mountain towns, but welcoming to traveling monks and pilgrims.
While general attitudes may be guessed, rōnin never truly know what to expect from a village until they arrive. Most villagers are kind enough offer them food and shelter, and perhaps even hire them as protectors or laborers if they can afford it, but villagers who have had their hospitality abused by dishonorable rōnin in the past may not be so welcoming. If you are leading a band of wandering rōnin who come across a village where you are seen as nothing more than bandits or criminals, you may be forced to find a way to prove your honor and earn the right to stay. Otherwise, if such a course of action seems impossible, you may attempt to convince the villagers the you are some other type of traveler, whether it be pilgrim, merchant, or entertainer. But as with any type of deceit—no matter how necessary—you must use caution. If you are caught in a lie, the villagers will not take kindly to the deception; nor will their lord or any local samurai.
Most villages are built near a source of water and they have a leader, a common store of food, and a centralized warming fire. Residents grow rice to pay the annual tax, and some keep livestock, while others grow additional crops. Larger villages may have more to offer, such as a blacksmith or sake house, but others you will see in the outskirts of Rokugan are little more than a few gathered houses. Since villages are so varied, they offer a plethora of options to integrate into your adventures, whether they be the central focus of a campaign’s conflict, such as in the Sins of Regret adventure, or somewhere to recuperate while the PCs are on a journey within a larger campaign. Twin Blessings Village is designed to fit into neutral, Imperial-held territory by default, but it can be easily adapted to suit any landscape or territory. How the story of the village plays out depends on you.
Much larger than villages, the towns of Rokugan bridge the gap between the vital work of the commoners to the efforts of the powerful aristocrats. Hirosaka is a typical Rokugani town that offers GMs a second type of ready-made setting where samurai can explore a smaller urban area. Like Twin Blessings Village, Hirosaka is designed to be governed by one of the Imperial families, but it can be easily translated to anywhere in Rokugan you wish to base your campaign.
Since it is intended to a core representation of a typical Rokugani town, Hirosaka is deliberately generic. For example, while specific past events and incidents that have affected the town in its current form are noted, there is no detailed history provided for Hirosaka. This allows a GM to place Hirosaka in any part of the Empire that suits their campaign, adjusting it accordingly and giving the town whatever history and background is most useful to their players. The town is yours to customize with helpful suggestions integrated throughout the town’s chapter in Path of Waves, whether you wish to make it a Crab Clan port with elegant architecture and plenty of facilities devoted to the arts, or a sprawling Lion Clan town filled with barracks and dōjō to reflect the clan’s general militant nature.
Alternatively, you may choose to pull details from the town of Hirosaka and incorporate them into locations of your own design, giving a heart to a fast-paced city or turning a would-be sleepy village into a popular stop along a vital trade-route. Hirosaka offers vibrant locations and people ranging from the top of the social ladder to those of much lower status who may still be notable or influential in the town’s affairs. Depending on your adventure, you may take a trip to the governor’s estate or magistrate’s station, or take a visit the gambling house or sake works. With each location comes the chance to build new encounters and spin new tales to create an adventure unique to your players. The new NPCs and adventure seeds of Path of Waves can translate well to any campaign, no matter where your journeys lead, you are sure to find that every town, like every person, is more than meets the eye.
The outskirts of Rokugan seem to exist in a world entirely separate from that of the noble courts and Imperial cities, but the villages of these areas are the vital foundation that allows the rest of the Emerald Empire to stand, and they have their own stories to tell. Take the road less traveled and discover the adventures that await in the forgotten heart of Rokugan!
Pre-order your copy of Path of Waves (L5R10) at your local retailer today or online through our website here!