Like Watching Crane vs Scorpion on the L5R Forums

A lot of you won’t know what I’m talking about, although people who play either the Legend of the Five Rings CCG or RPG will probably know.

So, an explanation, as opposed to something I would have just tweeted on Twitter:

  • The fantasy world of Legend of the Five Rings (L5R for short) is based on East Asian cultures. There are many of these, but two of the oldest are (1) the Crane, and (2) the Scorpion.

  • The Crane are your typical honor-bound samurai from Japanese history (except this isn’t Japan). They love art and have bleached white hair. They hold honor above all else, including sometimes reason. They are wonderful at politics, usually, and have a flair that they usually advertise as straightforward, but really, apart from the Doji Innocents, they are as twisted as corkscrews. But beautiful corkscrews.

  • The Scorpion are your typical non-honor-bound ninja and spies from Japanese history (except this isn’t Japan). They always wear masks, which should tell you something about their approach to the whole honesty thing. They hold devotion above all else, including, typically, honor. They are wonderful at politics, usually, and more or less advertise themselves as being twisted as corkscrews up front. That doesn’t seem to hinder them.

  • Both the Crane and the Scorpion work to further the interests of the Empire, more or less, but also need to keep their lands, more or less, so internal strife and war is a fact of life. And while both do have enemies they hate more than each other, they still hate each other.

  • Recently the L5R storyline centers around a plague that is destroying villages, and the various clans are trying to figure out how to cure it. And also kill the zombies it’s creating. This requires, at the moment, finding the infected villages and quarantining them or investigating them.

  • Now, let’s introduce a third group. Call them the Spider. Think of them as the Scorpion with all the brakes off, and also with psychotics in the ranks. Politics? Well, sure. That’s a relatively new game to them, however, and most of the rank and file would still prefer to set fire to the entire Empire, bind half the population’s souls to demons, and then dine on the other half’s faces with some good sake. Just so you know.

  • A Spider ronin infiltrated a Scorpion group of ninjas a while ago. These ninjas were trying to find and isolate/etc the infected villages. But because they’re the Scorpion, they’re doing this all under cloak and dagger, and no one else knows what the hell they’re doing.

  • Spiders ambushed the Scorpion ninjas a while back, and killed them all. Then they burned the bodies, leaving behind enough evidence, on Crane lands.

  • Another group of Scorpion ninjas wandered out to try to find the first group. Whom they found on Crane lands. Just as a Crane patrol comes across them. Accusations fly, shortly followed by blood, and probably shortly followed by the Xth Crane-Scorpion war.

  • The Spider, meanwhile, are Getting Things Done vis-a-vis figuring out the plague, which affects them also, so coincidentally the desires of both the Empire and the Spider are aligned, however briefly.

Now, let’s flash back to real life.

In real life, players of the L5R CCG and RPG all play specific factions (i.e., playing Crane or playing Scorpion or playing Spider). They all have their favorite factions, for whatever reason. They love their factions. Alderac, who makes the L5R gaming material, sometimes holds official tournaments where whichever faction wins will get some plot or character advantage in the official L5R storyline. Among CCGs, this is a very unique and strong bonding of theme and story to game. Among RPGs, this is an unusually continuous and organized official storyline.

This breeds a lot of loyalty on about ten different sides (up to fourteen at one time in the past).

So whenever an L5R fiction is published by Alderac, their story forums tend to run hot with arguments between different faction supporters about who’s at fault, who should be doing what, how dare that faction do this, your faction sucks, my faction is doing the right thing, your faction is evil, my faction is doing the right thing even though you regard us as honorless dogs, that’s an insult to honorless dogs and your faction was bloody stupid for trespassing on our lands without telling us what the hell you were doing, well your faction wouldn’t have let us if we did, flamewar, flamewar, flamewar.

And the wonderful part is that, whatever the facts may actually be, and whatever perspective there might be had that would be calmer, there is just this strong belief on both sides that they are in the right goddammit and obviously the Heavens know they are. The next few story tournaments probably will end up with players escalating the war. In this case, the Crane and the Scorpion are fighting for … gods, I don’t know anymore … and the Spider are quietly sniggering on the side.

Even better: though the players of the Crane and the Scorpion have knowledge that the fictional characters don’t (i.e., the Spiders are the ones really responsible), it still doesn’t matter.

I’m amazed that both sides think that their side has the most people on it, actually.

Oh… I wasn’t talking about the Crane versus Scorpion back there.

Truly, from a certain perspective, the burning flames are quite lovely.