Monday, October 3, 2016

A Look at the Abe Teishin Disciplines

Among Hachigoku's samurai, teishin serve as the bulk of a daimyo's officials, courtiers, ambassadors, and magistrates. (I believe I chose teishin as a term translated as "politician," this being the broadest function of a samurai courtier in this fictional world.) The Abe are a major group of Disciplines, like the Ii bushi, so there's a Basic, 3 Branch, and an Advanced Discipline.

It should be noted the Abe are one of the atypical teishin, however, their abilities mostly personal or martial, instead of being heavily waited towards Influence, Etiquette, social rolls, or the metagame aspects of Season Actions. But I've been going alphabetically, and see no reason to stop now.

Next time: The quick and dirty character creation rules!

Abe Teishin Gakuen

They say the Todo will not hold back when the spring thaws. The forests sing with axes cutting timbers for bridges.” Kinoshita Kurosuke placed another white stone on the board, letting the clack punctuate his point.

“So they say. And where will they get the pontoons?” Sengoku Basara held a black stone before her eyes, studying its ebony sheen. “The snows are heavy this year; the Golden Tears will flood. The coastal Naito have no love for the Todo and the Yagyu.. will not see the profit.” Sengoku Basara placed the stone softly, quietly threatening Kurosuke's last placement.

It must be a mistake, he thought. Then he realized how close his opponent's stones crowded the territory. Sighing, he bowed. “I fell into your trap again, sensei. A few more turns and all those stones turn black.”

Basara rose and straightened her layers of kimono, the snow-covered mountains and flying cranes rustling. “Then you shall write the necessary letters. It is time to remove our whispers from the Todo forts on the north shore, and send them on a pilgrimage. The Yanigasawa can no longer sit out the coming conflict.” She turned to a servant. “And find me a lighter kimono. A summer one. As out of season as possible.”

She walked over to the sword stand beneath the single scroll in an alcove, the silk displaying the flames of a lost battle. A finger played along the katana's red-marbled sheathe. “I think it is time for a visit to the Todo ambassador, don't you?”

Politics is war by other means,” said the founder of the Abe tradition, and his followers still obey his maxim. The eldest daughter of the Hikari dynasty's founders, Shikohime, had been a great swordswoman and general, always eager for the council of her frail younger brother, Miyagi, the first samurai to defeat a Long'ren champion of Go. He made the battleplans, and she executed them. When she died, her enemies swept down her land grants and expected easy gains in court. With the departure of the first Hikari, the sons and daughters of the dynasty were seen as easy prey.

Miyagi stepped into court, his sister's samurai sworn to him. Those he could cower with the law found their fiefs stripped from them. The others met their ends by the blades of his yojimbo, each one goaded by pride into a duel. He quickly proved that not only were his strategic instincts sound, but his apparently weak body held a golden voice. As letters flew back and forth, Miyagi visited court after court, even barging into teahouses. His enemies either dead or disgraced, the new Emperor granted him the Abe lands in the north.

An Abe teishin carries their daimyo's glory into every situation, and never use it as a shield, but a sword. They speak with confidence and dominance, encouraging allies and demeaning enemies. They are trained not only in the law of the Empire in peace, but in war, and see themselves as compliments of bushi trained by the Owari. Capable of stepping into command on the battlefield, they are routinely trained in swordsmanship.

The stereotype of the Abe teishin, at least among their enemies, is of prideful, reckless boasters… and it's not entirely undeserved. The most cunning, however, long ago learned to use this disdain against their enemies, and take advantage of being underestimated in politics and legal wrangling. Such is the key to Abe Shinkai reputation, daimyo of the Abe, and a man intimately involved in the oversight of the entire gakuen. His diplomatic victories often come just at the moment when his enemies relaxed, convinced of their superiority. His samurai affectionately call the bearded teishin “Grandfather.”

No one else deserves the honor. No one.

Abe Teishin (Basic Discipline)
  • Element: Fire
  • Skills: Bajutsu, Games, Kenjutsu, Law, Oratory, Senjojutsu
  • Virtue: 3
  • Outfit: Light armor, daisho, tessen, 2 kimono, board game (usually go or shogi), riding horse (Rank 2), traveling pack, 5 koku

Rank 1: Measure for Measure
Abe teishin treat court just like any other battlefield. Your Senjojutsu gains access to the abilities and Aspects of the Influence Skill, and all social rolls keep your Fire instead of the normal Element.

Rank 2: Miyagi's Boast
Abe teishin are pushed to new heights by their ferocity. Whenever you or any one in your presence gains Honor, you may spend an Honor to praise the recipient, increasing the gain by your Glory. Your maximum Glory is increased by your Discipline.

Rank 3: Miyagi's Cunning
Abe teishin inherit the cunning of their founder, quick to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. When involved in any duel or social roll, penalties on dice you roll imposed by difficulty modifiers are reduced by your Glory. You also add your Glory to your passive Defense at all times.

Rank 4: Blazing Glory
Samurai across Hachigoku recognize the brilliance of Abe teishin and the honors they bestow upon others. When anyone in your presence loses Glory, you may spend an Honor to reduce the loss by your own Glory. If their Glory would be automatically reduced to 0, removed entirely, or turned to Infamy, you may sacrifice all of your Glory, turning to Infamy yourself, to preserve theirs. In combat, you may make active Defenses against melee attacks using your Oratory instead of any other Skill.

Rank 5: Glory Dies Not
Abe teishin allow none to demean greatness. When involved in a duel, social roll, Ada-uchi, or Battle, neither you nor any in a force you are part of may lose Glory. You may spend a Season Action to increase the Glory of a number of individuals up to your own Glory by your Fire; they cannot exceed their normal maximums, but this “bonus” Glory cannot be reduced unless they automatically are reduced to 0, lose Glory altogether, or turn to Infamy. This bonus can only be taken away by you as a Season Action, even if they are dead. You may also spend an Honor to automatically succeed on any social roll you make with Free Raises equal to your Glory, as long as you initiated the situation.

During the reign of Hikari Murasaki, tensions flared between the traditional schools of Go and the brash samurai quickly mastering the game, especially those trained in Abe techniques. A treatise on Go, The Perfect Game, actually threatened riots in several of the major cities as it argued against samurai even touching the “sacred stones.” Hikari Murasaki invited the author, a Long'ren sage, to the capital, and challenged him to a “friendly game.”

It took three years to complete. In the end, both passed on a perfectly balanced board, and ushered in the victory condition of the “half-point” now considered traditional. Acknowledging the skills of the other, the sage republished his book without the samurai prohibition, and was promoted to daimyo of the Sengoku. The uji continues to dominate the schools of Go throughout Hachigoku.

Sengoku Teishin (Path Discipline)
  • Discipline: Abe Teishin 1

The Game Is All
Sengoku teishin chase after the Perfect Game all their lives. You may spend an Honor when making any Games Skill roll or roll during a duel, gaining bonus kept dice equal to your Void. Any Alliance, Blackmail, or Romance you engage in has its Rank (Actual and Potential, if necessary) increased by your total Aspects in the Games Skill.

The Honjo are traditionally the bulwark of Abe defenses, and their samurai the first to engage either Owari or Todo on the battlefield. Even their teishin are especially dedicated to the martial aspects of Abe philosophy, bringing their gifts or poetry and boasting to the front lines. A Honjo teishin rides up and down the ranks, encouraging and fortifying the bushi.

And when they turn their fiery tongue against the enemy, generals watch their own ranks melt.

Honjo Teishin (Path Discipline)
  • Discipline: Abe Teishin 2

War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
Words are empty until swords are drawn. When you roll for the Advantage of Glory in a Battle, you can spend an Honor to automatically gain the Advantage with Free Raises equal to your Fire. At the beginning of a Skirmish or Battle you may designate a number of allies (up to your Glory); they gain Free Raises equal to your Fire on all rolls until the end of the Skirmish or Battle.

After the Kaiju War, as northern Hachigoku reorganized itself, the proud Uemura were decimated and completely lost faith in the ability of the Todo to protect their interests. They not only sought independence, but did what to most was unthinkable. Instead of accepting a new position in Ichigoku as Kitagoku lost its southern coastal territory, their daimyo petitioned the Roju to leave and join their fortunes to Nigoku, making them the only such territory north of the Iron Teeth.

The Todo challenged them openly in the Roju, scandalously accusing them of cowardice. Accusations poured in across the Empire, and it was clear only a duel could settle the matter; the Roju clamped down on the capital to avoid blood in the streets. Their neighbors the Okabe, with whom they had always kept on good terms, dispatched their finest duelists to train a qualified bushi.

Instead, an Abe teishin stepped forward.

The Uemura remain defiant today, and the Todo have not forgiven the loss of their own daimyo in that fateful duel.

Uemura Teishin (Path Discipline)
  • Discipline: Abe Teishin 3

Tongue of Steel
Uemura teishin are quick to answer any challenge, on the battlefield or in court. You gain the Iaijutsu Aspect in the Kenjutsu Skill if you do not already have it. In any duel or social roll instigated by another, you may gain kept dice equal to your Fire. You may not refuse any challenge unless you spend an Honor, but you may also spend an Honor to force another to accept your challenge.

Meijin (“Brilliant Person”) is the traditional title of a Go master, and those players who engage in tournaments sponsored by the Sengoku represents the finest players in the Empire. Such tournaments are held every year during the Winter Court of the Roju, and any winner of a local tournament (administered by the Ministry of Harmony) is invited to attend, no matter their caste. The highest honors, though, are reserved for the Meijin Tournament held at Sengokujo every five years, and only samurai are invited.

More than one humble Winter Court victor has been adopted by a samurai family, however.
Those who endure the grueling mental fatigue of the tournament (legendary games have lasted as long as a year) open up to their juniors levels of play leagues beyond their peers. These masters have a thirst for competition unequaled by most gamblers, but the temperament of a Zen monk. They find this “higher” understanding applies across games; every game is just a variation on the single greatest game:


Sengokujo Meijin (Advanced Discipline)
  • Elements: Water 4, Void 4
  • Skills: Etiquette 5, Games (Go) 7, Senjojutsu (Strategy) 5, Zen 5
  • Fortune: Another Time

Rank 1: Placing the First Stone
Every game is a duel. When playing games using the Games Skill, you may choose to make the game a duel. Treat it as a Single-Stroke Duel, using the Games Skill as the Strike roll. Instead of a contestant's body suffering Wounds, “Wounds” suffered are split between Glory and Virtue as the loser decides. The victor gains Honor equal to their Games Skill and negates any Glory losses from playing the game. Also, in any other duel you gain Free Raises equal to your Void.

Rank 2: Breaking Through the Wall
You know the best moment to strike and break your opponent's defenses after careful observation. After playing any game using the Games Skill with an individual for at least thirty minutes (or an entire Scene), you may make a Games/Void roll (TN 5 x their Water) to learn any one fact you would learn during the challenge of a duel, with an additional fact per Raise. At the beginning of a Battle choose one of the four types of Advantage; you may attempt to use your Games Skill for the chosen Advantage roll.

Rank 3: The Final Stone
The most noble path is to embrace the art and serenity of the game, not worry over victory and defeat. Any loss of Virtue, Glory, or Honor due to a lost game, duel, Skirmish, or Battle is negated. Also, you may spend an Honor to substitute your Games Skill for any Skill used in a social roll.

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