Writ of the Wilds: The Way of the Shinomen

2021 / 11 / 02

By: Alexis Dykema

“Bayushi Natsuke sipped her warm cup of sake and watched her target from the corner of the waystation. This particular rest stop was well-travelled and filled with a few dozen weary bodies looking for shelter from the mid-summer rains.

The woman she was following had an average face, an average build, and an average voice. What interested Natsuke, though, was the woman’s kimono that bore no mon, and the massive hound that followed at her heel wherever she went. The beast was large and lumbering, with dull eyes and thick fur. As the night wore on and Natsuke’s vision began to blur from the drink, she could have sworn she saw the dog’s tall flicker, and for moment look like that of a snake”.

In this newest edition to the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game, Writ of the Wilds introduces several new species and factions for players and game masters to incorporate into their campaigns. Today we’re going to focus on the Naga of the Shinomen Mori

Separated from their kin in the Ivory Kingdoms when Fu Leng crashed into what is now the Shadowlands, this relatively small group of serpentine people escaped the growing taint by moving deep within the ancient wood. They built great bridges and cities, many of which were buried within a vast network of underground caverns and designed around great river systems. Then, after their constructions were complete, the Shinomen Naga slowly began falling into a deep sleep. They slowed down, and eventually stopped moving entirely. Their skin hardened like stone and their cities fell into silence. 

As decades passed, a handful of Naga would awaken occasionally and be compelled to venture out of their city to deal with some threat. The Seers of their community postulate that the Shinomen itself was rousing them, like a great general sending their best warriors to fight off an invasion. After the danger subsided, the Naga would return to their home and fall back into their slumber. Over the last few years, however, more and more Naga are waking from their long dreaming and staying awake. Realizing the world has changed since they first fell asleep, the Naga now attempt to rebuild their society and learn more of the outside world so that they might one day rejoin it. 

Though their society at large remains hidden deep within the Shinomen, they do occasionally send out scouts into Rokugan to observe human culture and prepare for their eventual emergence. These Seers, those that have become adept at creating illusory glamours to hide their true form, walk amongst peasants and samurai alike. Mechanically this is represented by a new tradition, equivalent to a school, and through some specialized techniques. Though the prospect of incorporating different groups and species into a game set in Rokugan might seem daunting, plenty of guidance on how to create such a campaign is offered at the end of the book. 

Though Writ of the Wilds provides background information on the Shinomen Naga culture, there is still plenty of room to build and expand upon the lore and mechanics provided in this volume. Players and game masters can use the tradition in this book as a template to create their own unique traditions using the guidance found in Path of Waves. The same is true both for the tengu and nezumi traditions that are included in Writ of the Wilds

“(…) Destiny, like giri, can be ignored, but there is a cost – in this case, the character knows what they must accomplish for the good of the cosmos, and by denying that path they contribute to a celestial imbalance”. 

New Mechanic Highlight

With characters of different allegiances or from different species intermingling with the world of Rokugan, GMs and players may find that the dynamic between ninjō and giri to be unsatisfactory or inappropriate for the story they want to tell. With this in mind, Writ of the Wilds introduces a new option for such character – destiny. Destiny represents a particular character’s place in the grand scheme of the celestial cosmos and their struggles to live up to that ideal. This new concept replaces giri and is designed to conflict with a character’s ninjō, or personal desires, in a different way.

A destiny is something discovered within, rather than through a lord. A destiny should not be mistaken for some divine mandate, however. Destiny, like giri, can be ignored, but there is a cost – in this case, the character knows what they must accomplish for the good of the cosmos, and by denying that path they contribute to a celestial imbalance. 

Not even death can free a soul from its destiny, as the task will then fall to the character’s next reincarnation after their stay in Meido, the Realm of Waiting. Destiny can be something that a player works to accomplish over the course of a campaign, but it can also be a goal that will only be achieved through multiple lifetimes.

For clarity, a few examples of destinies are as follows:

  • Permanently defeating a great evil such as a particular oni, vengeful spirit, or powerful yōkai. 
  • Transforming oneself, such as a yōkai becoming a human.
  • Eradicating a deadly disease or spiritual plight from the realm.
  • Finding the means to break a terrible curse.

More information on using destiny and incorporating dynamic groups of characters into a coherent story can be found in Writ of the Wilds. Keep an eye out for more information on this website and on our social media

A Must Have Book: Writ of the Wilds is an excellent addition to the Legend of the Five Rings collection for players, game masters, and those who are excited to see the beautiful new art included in the book.

Keep an eye out for additional articles on Writ of the Wilds!

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