Today is the next installment of our Emperor Edition Design Diaries where one of the designers of L5R will explain our goals for the mechanics of a clan. This week’s clan will be Scorpion, written by Loki.
“The currency of the world is favor and flesh. Anything else is irrelevant.” – Shosuro Kameyoi
The Scorpion are the undeniable masters of the court. While the Crane curry favor with anyone and everyone, the Scorpion know that real power lies in political control over your allies and enemies alike.
Scorpion Courtiers are feared throughout the Empire, as they should be. What a Lion samurai can do on the battlefield, a Scorpion Courtier can do just as easily with a stroke of the brush. A dishonored enemy is as good as a dead enemy, and in Rokugan, a dishonored enemy often is a dead enemy. The Scorpion use their mastery of the court to blackmail and shame their opponents, using Political actions to drag their enemies down to -20 Honor and make them lose face. The Action Phase is the domain of Scorpion Courtiers, though they will send their minions to battle when they have to, sacrificing their lives to ensure that their enemies never recover from their dishonor.
Midday Shadow Court is the Courtiers’ headquarters, and it helps them in two ways. The Stronghold’s trait raises your Family Honor by 20 points whenever someone tries to Lobby for the Imperial Favor. Not only does this make it almost impossible for your opponents to gain the Empress’s Favor, it also means you can easily get access to it, either to defend yourself or draw cards, or to fuel Political actions that require you to discard the Favor as a cost.
The Stronghold’s ability, meanwhile, is reminiscent of two of the most beloved (or hated, depending on one’s point of view) Scorpion Courtiers of the past, Bayushi Saya and Bayushi Jutsushi. Once per Action Phase, on both your turn and your opponent’s (and even if it is bowed), it lets you target a Personality of your choice and forbid that Personality from doing anything lest they end up dishonored and cause their controller a small Honor loss. The Political Warfare theme is all about forcing your opponents to make difficult choices, and the ability of Midday Shadow Court will either force your opponent to play the waiting game, leaving you all the time you need to assemble ways to dishonor him out of the game, or to start dishonoring his own Personalities, thus playing right into your hands.
The Political Warfare theme is a very focused one, with dishonor as its one and only victory condition.
“Who better to enforce the law than those who know both sides of it intimately.” – Bayushi Kahoku
While Courtiers rule the courts, Magistrates rule the streets. Scorpion Magistrates are not like their Crane and Dragon counterparts, though; they are a little less concerned with upholding the Empress’s law, and a little more with advancing their Clan’s schemes. A criminal who falls into their hands may soon come to regret the swift justice of the other Clans.
Scorpion Magistrates are a militant bunch. They may not have the military prowess of a Lion Tactician or a Crab Berserker, but they are more than capable warriors, and can hold their own on the battlefield. While Courtiers love to stay at home and manipulate their enemies during the Action Phase, Magistrates never hesitate to take to the field and to bring the fight to their enemies. Of course, they remain Scorpion, and are just as adept at crushing skulls as they are at blackmailing and manipulating their opponents.
Magistrates make their home in the Law of Darkness Dojo, which makes for perfect headquarters for them. The Stronghold’s ability, which can be used even if it is bowed, lets you reduce your opponent’s Force in battle, or outright bow them if they are dishonorable. Scorpion Magistrates tactics are indeed much more effective against dishonored opponents, though they can be used against others as well. Thankfully (for them), Magistrates have many ways to dishonor their enemies, both in and out of battle.
The Stronghold’s trait is perhaps its more frightening feature, though. After every time a Battle action you played causes another player an Honor loss, it will make that player lose another Honor. Since it is a trait, it is always active (even when your Stronghold is bowed), and is not limited to once per turn. Additionally, the Stronghold does not merely increase the Honor loss by one, but creates an entirely new and independent loss, making it more difficult to prevent. Of course, Scorpion Magistrates have access to a large array of cards that cause Honor losses in battle, so they should have no trouble triggering this trait.
The Underhand is primarily a military theme, though it should be able to win through dishonor as well. When the choice is between your provinces and your Honor, the only real choice you’ll have left will be that of your defeat.
“Those who dwell in the light are not strong enough to cope with an existence in the shadows.” – Shosuro Konishi
Ninja don’t exist, everyone knows that. Everyone but the Scorpion, it seems, who keep a sizable force of Shosuro Ninja as assassins and infiltrators. Stealth is the Ninja way of life; if you see one, it is already too late.
Shosuro Ninja are ruthless warriors who never hesitate to use techniques the rest of the Empire would find abhorrent. They can slip into the shadows and disappear before their presence is felt, and strike whenever and wherever they please. Ninja are particularly adept at neutralizing potential threats by discarding cards from their opponents’ provinces, making sure that the most troublesome Personalities never have a chance to reach the battlefield in the first place. They are also extremely fast warriors, capable of striking and retreating before the enemy can react.
The Otoro Estate is the Shosuro’s Stronghold. Its 0 Starting Family Honor reflects the particularly dishonorable acts the Ninja often stoop to, even by Scorpion standards. It is counterbalanced by a trait that prevents you from losing Honor from Ninja cards you own, allowing you to play all the dirty tricks you want without fear of dishonoring yourself out of the game. The Stronghold’s main strength lies in its two abilities, though.
The first one lets you look at all the face-down cards in a player’s provinces during the Action Phase, thus making sure you know which target is the juiciest. With the Shosuro’s ability to discard cards from provinces without having to actually destroy them, you can even use that knowledge to neutralize several provinces at once, if you are willing to take the risks. The Stronghold’s second ability actually helps mitigate that risk, as it lets you make a Ranged 4 Attack with a Ninja then, if you so wish, move him home. This allows you to overextend on the attack and send some of your troops home to defend with, or to wage a slow war of attrition on defense (or both). Note that the ability does not specify that the Ranged Attack has to destroy something in order for your Ninja to move home, so even if you are opposed by nothing but huge Crab Berserkers, you will be able to retreat.
The Shosuro’s Shadow theme is a straightforward military deck, with no switch capabilities.
Paragons of Loyalty
“To do whatever your lord commands without question or hesitation… that is the path of a true samurai.” – Bayushi Manami
Chugo, or Loyalty, is the one Bushido virtue the Scorpion value over everything else. Paragons of Loyalty take it to the logical extreme; they are Yojimbo who are ready to sacrifice everything—including their lives—for their charge, the Courtiers of the Scorpion Clan.
Paragons of Loyalty are not that different from Phoenix Yojimbo, who are tasked with protecting that Clan’s Shugenja at all costs. They may not be as formidable on the battlefield, but they are nevertheless efficient warriors, and become only more so when Courtiers are around. Typically, Scorpion Yojimbo go to battle while their Courtiers stay at home, providing political support and boosting the Yojimbo simply by being in play. While the Paragons of Loyalty theme is a military deck, it has access to many control elements, allowing you to choose who you want to face on the battlefield. Given that all Paragons of Loyalty have the Samurai, Paragon and Yojimbo keywords, it also has access to many useful Strategies.
Shiro Chugo is the Paragons’ Stronghold, and it helps them in two ways. Although Paragons of Loyalty will have trouble fielding as fast a military deck as some other themes, their Stronghold’s Reaction should make up for it: as long as they control a Courtier, they will be able to reduce one Honor gain or loss a turn by 2, buying them precious time against Honor and dishonor decks. This ability can of course also be used proactively, allowing you to play Strategies that would normally cause you large Honor losses that will be reduced by the Stronghold.
The Stronghold’s second ability produces a Melee 4 Attack, or a Melee 5 Attack if the performer is Loyal. Given that all Paragons of Loyalty have the Loyal keyword, you should have no trouble producing the better Melee Attack every time. A Melee 5 Attack is already a pretty acceptable Battle action, but given that you should have access to control elements that should help you keep your opponents’ best Personalities out of battle, it becomes even better.
The Paragons of Loyalty theme is a military deck, although it includes Courtiers and political control elements.