Before delving into Nippon proper it is probably a good idea to give an idea of how Nippon’s foreign relations. Basically-speaking Nippon is not a very open society and distrusts all foreigners, save those from Cathay perhaps, and all Old Worlders are viewed as hairy savages. When Shogun Yoritomo Ieysau rose to power, and re-united the warring states of Nippon, he imposed certain restrictions on foreigners as well as restricting his own people from leaving the island. Most foreigners are confined to sealed off areas in whichever city they are occupying and dealings with them is often conducted by lower class characters, such as merchants.
Below is a list of some of the countries that Nippon has dealings with.
There have been very few dealings with the Empire and few Imperial merchant ships have ever made the long and arduous journey to the Far East. However, the Empire is anxious to change this not least because of Marienburg’s enviable position with Nippon and the Far East as a whole. They do not want to be barred from the riches of the Far East as they are from Lustria, although this has more to do with Marienburg’s alliance with Ulthuan than anything else. Emperor Karl-Franz therefore sent a diplomatic mission to Nippon in order to cement some kind of an alliance or treaty. Unfortunately progress has been painfully slow as they try to get to grips with Nippon customs. The fact that they are confined to sealed off foreign quarters in the capital of Hyudo also possess problems as many days can go by without any meetings with Nipponese officials and what is more is that the translators present at all of the meetings are Marienburgoise Clerics of Haendryk. It is rumoured that they are economical with the truth when relaying back to the Nipponese what the Imperials want and can give in return. However, the Imperials have been successful in converting a few people to the cult of Sigmar both in and outside the city. Sigmar’s appeal to the new converts is one of strength and unity and they view him as another kami or god. With dozens of Nipponese Sigmarites created maybe the Empire can make some gains?
Estalia, especially the great seaport of Magritta, is in competition with Marienburg when it comes to securing trade with the Far East. This has even amounted to clashes in the Ind Ocean between Estalian ships and those of Marienburg. As these incidences are very embarrassing both sides have conveniently chosen to brush them under the carpet. The Estalians haven’t been as successful as the Marienburgers in their dealings with Nippon but they occupy a bit of the merchant quarters in the port of Tokaido. The Marienburgers are unhappy with their presence and rumour has it that both sides are seeking to sabotage each other’s trade.
The most important Old World trading partner is Marienburg. It was Marienburg who introduced firearms into Nippon some twenty years ago and one of the merchant houses, the den Euwe, has an heir married to a daimyo’s daughter Lady Katsi Okumoto. It is not presumptuous to say that Marienburg has a firm foothold on Nippon. Although they are, like the Imperials, confined to sealed off quarters of Hyudo for most of the time, they also occupy a small island just off the port city called Dejim. The tiny island is complete with its own set of quays so that ships can anchor there and if anything the island is a piece of Marienburg transported some seven thousand miles across the globe. The Marienburgers were given the island when they first came to Nippon to keep their influences away from the populous as the Jinto priests viewed them with distain because they were merchants. But on Dejim the Marienburgers are free to do as they please although the Shogun isn’t without his eyes and ears there, as a shrine to Jinto attended by several priests testifies along with the fishermen who often moor their boats on the island. The Marienburgers, while they are happy to join them in their religious ceremonies, do not trust them. Nippon itself has a little community in the city of Marienburg. It was there quite a few years before the present Shogun made it harder for people to leave his island. While he was opposed to it at first Yoritomo has grown used to the arrangement.
The Doge of Remas has managed to secure some trade with Nippon. Marienburg and the Tilean City-states have reasonably good relations with each other but not with Estalia and the Remans especially do not like Estalia having a foothold in Tokaido. But Reman efforts are mostly turned to preventing their Tilean rivals from benefiting from Nipponese trade. Of course Marienburg is turning a blind eye to this as it keeps the other Tilean city-states away.
High Elves used to live in several of the cities of Nippon pre-Incursions of Chaos, but when Tor Elithis was attacked by the forces of Chaos the vast majority of the Elves left to defend it. Small communities lived on in some of the cities but over the subsequent years they gradually left. Most chose to go back to Ulthuan but those who did not decided to go to the Gates of Calith and reinforce the garrison there against sporadic attacks from Chaos armies. To this day that is where they remain. The High Elves are welcome in Nippon although they are often feared.
The Phoenix King, although he would like to regain Tor Elithis, is more concerned with keeping his island territories in the vast ocean between Cathay and the southern tip of the Southlands which are: the Fortress of Dawn, Tower of Stars, Tor Elasor and the Tower of the Sun. In truth, King Finubar is not too bothered about Nippon and sees the Kingdoms of Ind and Cathay as more valuable. However, this has not prevented High Elf clippers from exploring the ocean east of Nippon, as in the past, though long ago, the Dark Elves of Naggaroth sailed a Black Ark from the western New World to the coast of Cathay. Fortunately the Black Ark was destroyed therefore preventing a probable Druchii invasion.
OTHER ORIENTAL COUNTRIES
Nippon has always been in the shadow of the mighty trade powerhouse called Imperial Cathay. The Cathayans are known to be unimaginably wealthy and cultured and their ships can frequently be seen plying the waters of the Sea of Nippon and docking at ports throughout the island. Cathay has always had an influence over Nippon from thousands of years ago when primitives raided the western shores to exporting elements of their educational system and even some of their religious beliefs.
THE KINGDOMS OF IND
The Rajahs and Moghul Kings of Ind view Cathay as more important to them than Nippon. Ind is a powerful and wealthy nation of nations itself and has little need to travel the distance to Nippon and doesn’t particularly see the island as a lucrative trading block. Furthermore they are too busy waging war on each other to have much of an influence over the lives of the Nipponese.
There are two classes in Nippon (three if you include the despised outcasts), the buke and the heimin (the religious orders are also explained in this section even though they constitute neither class but are considered of equal rank as the buke). The buke are the military aristocracy and effectively represent both the noble and warrior class. They came to supplant the ancient kuge (the imperial nobility) centuries ago in bloody civil wars. The heimin are the commoners and ordinary people of Nippon, which, amazingly enough, include such respectable people as merchants. They represent the largest class and they have very little rights other than to obey the powerful buke.
The buke is the military aristocracy of Nippon and is the highest class in the country (equivalent to Old Worlder upper class and nobility). They are the undisputed rulers of Nippon. Within the buke class comes the ranks of: the shogun and the bakufu, the daimyo, the samurai, the hatamoto, the gokenin and various other members of the bushi (Nippon's warrior caste, but outside administrative government).
“If the people only possess tools of culture and devote themselves exclusively to agriculture, they and their descendants will prosper. The good of the people is the object of this order which is fundamental to the peace and security of the country and the happiness of the people.”
-Emperor Takagura addressing the Imperial court.
Despite the fact that the Imperial Seat has lost much of its power over the last few centuries it is still nevertheless very powerful. It is the Emperor who formerly accepts a new shogunate although it is not as if he can refuse. He is also the first Jinto priest of Nippon, the official Nipponese religion, on account of the Imperial Family being descended from the Sun God Hiruko. So his duties are not only secular but also religious as he officiates in many religious ceremonies throughout the year.
But really the true power in Nippon is held by the Shogun. Although the Emperor does have an army of his own it is really just for self-defence and many of its commanders are loyal to the Shogun. True, they are loyal to the Emperor as well but when it comes down to it the Shogun is the master of Nippon.
The current Emperor of Nippon is Takagura. He has a cordial relationship with the shogunate and is generally well liked. Being just nineteen years old the Shogun is happy that he won’t get ideas above his station. In the past the emperor of Nippon has always been responsible for the general management of the economy and the shoguns’ responsibility have always been to the military. But most of those powers have been taken away and Emperor Takagura is privately seeking to empower the Imperial court so that it controls a higher portion of the country than it presently does.
But any thoughts of returning power to the Imperial court must wait, at least for the moment. The Emperor’s movements are always known to the Shogun as he is under close observation both by his appointed officials and spies at the Imperial court. It can be argued that it is for his own protection that his whereabouts must always been known but then it is the case that the Shogun wants to know where the Emperor is at all times and what he is doing. In all intents and purposes the Emperor is a ceremonial position but for how long?
“If a peasant forsakes his fields, either to go into business or to become a merchant or worker, he must be punished and his whole village prosecuted with him. All those who are not employed in military service or engaged in farming the land are to be questioned by the local authorities and expelled. In cases concerning the disappearance of peasants who have deserted their land to go into business, the whole town or village is to be held responsible for the offence. No soldier who has left his master without permission may be taken on by another. If this rule is infringed and the soldier has been allowed to go, three men must be offered as compensation to the first master.”
-Shogun Yoritomo Ieysau
The position of “shogun” (approximated in Old Worlder as “General against barbarians”) is the title granted to Nippon’s top military commander by the emperor. For the last three or four centuries it has become the most powerful position in the country so much so that it has taken over the Imperial court and, as a result, government. The shogunate is highly coveted, as one can imagine, and there have been many a war over its succession. The title is usually hereditary, passed on from father to son, but sometimes, as the past has amply shown, there have been endless disagreements over the succession. But sometimes the shogun’s family would become weak and a rebel leader would seize power from them, after which he would be named shogun and would start a new ruling family.
The shogun rules Nippon from his government known collectively as the bakufu (named after the general's headquarters on the battlefield). From here he rules Nippon directly through the use of special agencies or indirectly through the daimyo, which are the martial governors of Nippon’s provinces.
The current Shogun is Yoritomo Ieysau, a ruthless military dictator and a harsh disciplinarian. It was Yoritomo who stopped the Onin Wars by defeating all the rivals to the shogunate and forced all the warring states to kowtow to his rule. It is thanks to him that there isn’t constant war but this has been achieved through fear than through any real loyalty. The factions opposed to him who were defeated in the Onin Wars were placed in provinces further away from his own whereas those who were allied to him or submitted fealty to him were closer by.
The Shogun lives in one of the most productive provinces in all of Nippon. In this province, called Kumayama, he dwells in a castle surrounded by three moats. The outer moat is nine miles long, the inner most is one and a half, and their scarps are built up with colossal blocks of granite. Even the gardens within these walls, with all their sophisticated elegance, cannot conceal the military nature of the roads and paths leading to the central buildings. They constitute a labyrinth whose very pattern is a closely guarded secret, and they pass beneath bridges and are, in many places, lined with bastions in such a way as to expose any unwanted guests, regardless of their number, to a concentrated attack with bows and arrows, crossbows, or firearms. The Shogun's castle is more like a veritable city with mansions, to accommodate the daimyo, plus residences for the hatamoto (banner-knights) and the gokenin (household vassals), covering its 180 acres.
THE CENSORS (metsuke)
“The guilt of a vassal murdering his suzerain is in principle the same as that of an arch-traitor to the Emperor. His immediate companions, his relations – all even to his most distant connections – shall be cut off, hewn to root and fibre. The guilt of a vassal only lifting his hand against his master, even though he does not assassinate him, is the same.”
-The Grand Censor
The Censors are the sinister secret police of the Shogun. Their role is the covert surveillance of the daimyo. They look out for any 'shifty' dealings of the nobles in the Shogun's provinces and, should there be any indiscretions, the appropriate punishments will be metered out. Often the Censors will enlist the help of the feared ninja assassins to 'remove' any high-ranking official that has overstepped the mark (to step out of line in Nippon's strict feudal system is tantamount to treason and the mildest punishment a person can 'suffer' is a reduction in class).
The Censors occupy a high position in the Shogun's bakufu and they are answerable only to the Shogun or the leader of their organisation: the Grand Censor. This individual is himself assisted by several high ranking and experienced Censors who survey the activities of the other Censors. The Censors typically come from the ranks of the hatamoto and because of this the hatamoto are sometimes distrusted by everyone they come into contact with.
"What do you think of farmers? You think they're saints? They're beasts! They say, ‘We've got no rice, we've no wheat. We've got nothing!’ But they have! They have everything! Dig under the floors! Or search the barns! You'll find plenty! Beans, salt, rice, cake! Look in the valleys, they've got hidden warehouses! They pose as saints but are full of lies! If they smell a battle, they hunt the defeated! They're nothing but stingy, greedy, blubbering, foxy, and mean!”
The daimyo are the heads of military clans and second to the clan of the Shogunate in order of importance in Nippon's rigid class system. When being invested with the title of daimyo, the subject has to submit written oaths and swear personal fealty to the Shogun. This ritual is repeated every time there is a new shogun.
The daimyo each rule their own state or fief as they see fit. Those daimyo that are related to, or have close ties with the Shogun, have fiefs situated around the Shogun's own fief. These daimyo are known as the "three exalted families" or the "family daimyo" and occupy high positions of power in the Shogun's central government. Other daimyo, sometimes known as "outside daimyo", have fiefs further away from the Shogun's own and the three exalted families'. These daimyo are not as powerful as the daimyo clans situated around the Shogun's own, possibly because the Shogun wants any potential enemies to be as far away as possible from him. It can be said that the closer a daimyo's clan is to the Shogun's province the more power he wields and the more his relationship with this military dictator is comfortable. Of course, the outer daimyo were probably those ones who warred against the Shogun and as a result do not enjoy the favour of those who allied with him.
With the oaths the daimyo is obligated to provide troops for battle as and when required and he must provide troops for guard duty at any station specified by the Shogun and his government, such as the thirty-six gates of the Shogun's castle, the imperial court, various coastal sites, the barriers and checking points along the highways and as Shogun's envoy's on special missions. A daimyo's most important obligations are almost always military. Among his administrative duties, the daimyo must also keep peace within his own territory and provide funds, materials and workers for any public projects devised by the Shogun.
Aiding the daimyo in his rule over his soldiers, peasants, and merchants of the principality is a class of officials and military officers, who form the little court in the daimyo's central castle. They live on the hereditary salaries that the daimyo assigns to them. The cohorts of warriors available to a daimyo, in keeping his province productive and subservient, are either owned by the daimyo's clan or lesser military clans within the province who are tied to the daimyo through blood or sworn oath. It would be very unusual for a daimyo who governed a province in which he wasn't tied to the minor clans by blood or oath.
Every other year the daimyo must meet at the Shogun's castle at Hyudo. There they are seated according to their holdings and their fief's productivity. Daimyo with a definite territorial stature are ranked above those with little; these are followed in turn by the lords of castles, those without castles, and the possessors of residences. The members of the three exalted families are the highest ranking of all the daimyo. In this way the Shogun can weaken and divide them. What's more the daimyo must leave their wives and children at the Shogun's castle when they return home; a daimyo's family in all intents and purposes become "hostages". This ruling has made Shogun Yoritomo extremely unpopular among many of the daimyo which is why some of them (the ones who many have designs on war) employ doubles or use magic to make it look like their spouses and kids are staying at Hyudo castle.
The daimyo-ruling-provinces are not allowed to build new castles in their territories without the permission of the Shogun and they are not allowed to repair or expand any of their existing castles without this authorisation. Furthermore any daimyo is not allowed to marry someone from another clan without the Shogun's consent (probably for fear of the creation of too many overly powerful clans through the amalgamation of marriage). However, it is not uncommon for certain officials of the bakufu to conveniently ignore this rule.
Amongst the other administrative duties assigned to the daimyo they must report to the Shogun on any unusual activities within their territories, as well as neighbouring territories, such as conspiracies, banditry, goblinoid incursions, Chaos worshipping etc. Sometimes the daimyo must also report on anyone passing through their territories. This is usually achieved by the highway gate-wardens or the ward officers of any towns within a daimyo's province.
There are approximately over two-hundred daimyo in Nippon today. Many do not rule provinces. Most govern a single castle or a collection of castles, which are semi-autonomous in their own right. These are typically the warlords of whom the provincial daimyo, in one way or another, are related to. It is not common to have a ruling daimyo unrelated to the warlords in his province, such a case would mean that the daimyo's rule would be contested.
The Shogun and the provincial daimyo are:
1. Emperor Takagura, Yamanashi province, in Makudo.
2. Shogun Yoritomo Ieysau, Kumayama province, in Castle Hyudo.
3. Exalted-daimyo Nara Yamayuki, Yoshida province, in Castle Tokaido.
4. Exalted-daimyo Nobunaga Kabuki, Akita province, in Castle Kumano.
5. Exalted-daimyo Otomo Iwamoto, Izumo province, in Castle Izumo.
6. Lord Yoshinobu Dobashi, Tokaguchi province.
7. Lord Tomohiko Urabe, Ishiguchi province.
8. Lord Takamichi Kawaharazuka, Wakakawa province, in Castle Okakama.
9. Lord Kenji Nemoto, Yamakama province.
10. Lord Satoshi Noriko, Tokuoka province.
11. Lord Hideichi Fujita, Okahama province.
12. Lord Kazuki Imayama, Matsuyama province.
13. Lord Takeshi Seto, Miyasaki province.
14. Lord Sho Kobayashi, Munoguchi province.
15. Lord Yositaki Watanabe, Toyakita province.
16. Lord Keizo Okada, Tochigi province.
17. Lord Naoki Honmati, Fukushima province.
18. Lord Hiroshi Ito, Tokayama province.
19. Lord Tano Matsunaga, Kumanashi province.
"Remember. A war is fun. When you can't have fun, it's time to die."
-Samurai chatting to another Samurai.
"Do not worry about your beard when you're going to lose your head."
-Samurai talking to a farmer.
The term samurai ("one who serves") has meant many things over the many centuries these warriors have been around in Nippon society. In older times the samurai title was assigned only to the leaders of military clans (known as the goshozamurai), or to warriors of aristocratic clans. Today it is more common to attribute the title to warriors of exceptional skill and bravery and who are also allowed to wear the daisho or the two swords: katana (long sword) and wakizashi (short sword).
The samurai are retainers who serve a master. Their primary function is to carry out any orders issued by whoever they have pledged their loyalty, this maybe several superiors and their families to a single master. Often this pledge of loyalty and oath is born into the clan by the sons of a samurai and the sons must also grow up to serve their superiors in the clan. The samurai pledge is inscribed on a scroll with a brush dipped in the warrior's own blood, then it is burned before the deities worshipped by the clan, the ashes are then dissolved in liquid and subsequently swallowed. The pledge is then duly inscribed in the clan's records, and the retainer, his family, and his dependents become totally identified with their master, whose desires and wishes become, from that moment on, their own. So binding is this bond that many retainers will follow their masters into death, even if a master dies of natural causes. This practice, committing mass suicide on the death of a master, is called junshi. However, these days it has become a matter of choice for this mass suicide and many provinces have outlawed this practice due to too many good retainers being lost. Indeed, in many provinces it has become law that junshi is not carried out upon the death of a master. In ancient times this mass suicide was commonplace.
The samurai occupy some of the highest positions in the buke and have many privileges. Most samurai despise commoners, as the lower class they naturally represent, and have the right to kill a peasant if the samurai deems his actions to be disrespectful or even unexpected. This makes samurai feared and respected by all normal peoples though they may be hated too by many.
There are four ranks of samurai with the lowest being the Heishi and the lowest being the Hatamoto.
The Heishi, or “country samurai”, are the samurai retainers of the various minor lords or joshu, the smaller landowning shomyo, or perhaps even the retainers of the powerful daimyo. They are capable warriors and fulfil the duties of guards for their master, his family, and other important clan officials. Some Heishi may also be called upon to collect taxes or dispense justice in their clan’s domain. Even though the Heishi are samurai they are not especially wealthy. Accomplished Heishi maybe granted the title of Baishin (see below).
The most privileged of the samurai of the various daimyo, the Baishin are the only warriors permitted to serve in the capital of Hyudo in addition to the Shogun's own retainers. The Baishin serve in a number of capacities including serving their respective daimyo during that daimyo's mandatory bi-annual stay at the capital, waiting on the Shogun having been assigned as such for specific duties, and guarding the immediate families of the daimyo who are required to stay in the capital.
The gokenin ("honourable member of the household", "inferior vassal" or "household member") are very strong warriors who operate, like the hatamoto, as personal guards for the Shogun and form cohorts of powerful warriors in times of war. Exceptionally good Baishin maybe granted the title of Gokenin and guard the various personal properties of the Shogun and the Exalted Families. In reality the Gokenin are comprised of those warriors who fought with and for the Shogun on his road to power and for their loyalty they have been dually rewarded.
“If a man doesn’t have responsibility and duty then he must be a farmer.”
The hatamoto ("banner-knights" or "standard-bearers") are the highest samurai rank and are the personal guards of the Shogun. In the field of battle they also form cohorts of bodyguards for the various military commanders of the bakufu and of course the Shogun himself. With this prestigious rank come many advantages not least good pay and fine weapons and armour.
A Hatamoto can also rise in the ranks of the bakufu especially as they grow older and the need for less physical tasks becomes more acute. They can become commissioners of finance, superintendents of the treasury, town magistrates, grand censors and censors among the many titles available in the Shogun’s government.
RELIGIOUS ORDERS & WIZARDS
“Nothing is asked of the gods as they know the needs of mankind.”
The religious orders of Nippon remain as independent and powerful clans in their own right with the high priests as effective daimyo. The monastic orders evolved from clusters of hermits, ascetics and other holy men, in the pursuit of supernatural powers. Their search inevitably led them to the mountains that the Nipponese hold so dear; places where they could learn and practice magic. Religion in Nippon is a form of nature worship and the kami (the gods) called Jinto (see the chapter “Religion & Belief for more details about this religion.)
Today, the religious orders provide healers and mediums for the towns and cities as and when required; the latter, especially are used by magistrates to probe a person's mind with their mysterious hypnotic powers. They can also forecast the future. The holy fortunetellers, Augurs, interpret the will of the kami by listening to the sounds emitted by boiling water in a pot.
RELIGIOUS MILITARY ORDERS
The Yamabushi, or mountain warriors, are the military cohorts of the monastic religious orders of the mountains. Their descendants were the groups of hermits who, many centuries ago, journeyed to the mountain regions of Nippon in pursuit of supernatural powers. The mountain warriors have long been known to be expert in the martial arts and have invented and perfected their own styles, such as naginatajutsu or the way of the halberd.
Along with the cohorts of Yamabushi cohorts of Warrior Monks or Sohei protect the monastic orders. They are particularly zealous individuals who are fanatically loyal to their monastery much as the knightly orders of the Old World are to theirs. The Warriors Monks are required to protect their temples to the death as and when it is necessary. Their primary weapon is the naginata, which they use with deadly ease and efficiency. Long ago it was the monks of the monastic orders who invented the way of the naginata or naginatajutsu. Although their duty is to protect the monastery they are still essentially monks and spend long hours in study and meditation.
Wizardry or shugendo (“Way of Supernatural Powers”) is associated with religion in Nippon. It is believed that all magic not matter how dark and hideous comes from the kami. To the Nipponese they regard the learning of magic as another way of reverence for the kami: the priests do it through prayer and the wizards do it through learning. They are greatly respected and feared at the same time for their mysterious magical powers.
But not all wizards are respected. Over the centuries there have formed two groups: the kenja and the kenza. The kenja basically represent harmonious as well as destructive forces and these are the standard Wizards, Elementalists and Illusionists. The kenza, however, are said to be agents of inharmonious and disruptive forces and are not tolerated. According to Jinto they have opened themselves up to evil spirits and have polluted and tainted their bodies. These individuals are said to be able to summon Daemons and raise the dead: Daemonologists and Necromancers.
The heimin represents Nippon’s lower class. They include: farmers, artisans and merchants. The higher members of the heimin, district and village elders, are almost comparative in rank to the lower bushi, such as the Ashigaru foot soldiers.
The heimin constitutes by far the largest and the most productive segment of the nation. Regardless of how wise and intelligent some of the heimin may be, they have no political right whatsoever. Their position in Nipponese society is to grow, make, carry, multiply and - above all - to pay taxes. Furthermore they are not allowed to carry weapons although small daggers and knives are acceptable, even short swords in some cases.
The heimin of the urban centres, towns and cities, are kept under close control and surveillance. They are kept in wards, usually consisting of two streets, by the use of gates. At these gates are the gate-wardens who will only let anyone pass, after dark, if they possess a pass.
The farmers constitute close-knit clans in Nippon. For centuries their lands and villages have been plagued by bandits as well as the rapacious tax collectors. This has made them a formidable fighting force when banded together against a common cause, especially in the defence of their homes or against intolerable conditions levied on them by their provincial governors. In the past peasant revolts were so common that armed troops had to come in to quell the trouble. Sometimes it wasn't so straightforward for armed troops to quell them, even though they were armed with formidable weapons, because the farmers often trained in martial techniques, usually from the ronin, and used whatever weapons that came to hand. Indeed, the ronin sometimes joined the peasants in these uprisings. The scope of such revolts range from desertion of fields to destruction of property and armed clashes. The revolt leaders are always harshly dealt with, which leads to many of them, if they can, to escape into the hills and forest where bandits have always found haven or into the underworld of Nippon's towns.
Farmers till their lands and pay rent directly to the daimyo or equivalent samurai master. These rents are almost never remitted, even due to harsh weather conditions, such as a bad season, floods, or other disasters, whether man-made or natural. However, in particular trying conditions the rent maybe reduced accordingly, albeit only slightly.
Although merchants play a large part in the development of the Nipponese economy not least by creating wealth, their talents are not highly valued because they are not seen as productive people, i.e. they don’t produce food like the farmers do or make weapons and armour like the smithies do and instead make money off other people. To this end, even though many might be quite rich and successful, they are but mere commoners. Nevertheless merchants are a popular choice for district headmen in cities and towns, as they tend to possess good leadership and bargaining skills. Some merchants even secretly front organisations which are opposed to the rule of the Shogun. With the merchant guilds gaining in power it can only be a matter of time before this class takes it rightful place higher up Nippon’s class structure.
The outcasts of society (eta, hinin) are like any other. They are the rogues, thieves, bandits, pirates, cutthroats and other criminals, plus mercenaries; some adventurers and ronin may even be placed into this category, those who have no clan or master. Disturbingly for any oversees visitors to Nippon, they are also known as outcasts and dealings with them are conducted by merchants and prostitutes.
Social standing: The hinin have a social standing of D, the lowest in Nippon.
PRIESTS & KENJA
Priests often stick to wearing simple robes and loose fitting garments (much like those of the Old World). Like the Old Worlder Wizards, it depends on the temperament of the Nipponese kenja as to what he or she wears. Some kenja will often wear high quality garments and usually these will be kimonos, patterned with cosmic symbols, such as the sun, moon, and the stars. Others, however, will often wear the attire of a commoner or peasant so as not to attract any unwanted attention, such as some of the kenza who practice Black Magic.
Social standing: All priests and wizards are highly respected and have a social standing of B.
Generally speaking, anyone not walking around in Nippon without a sword or clad in armour will usually be taken for a commoner. Lower-ranking bushi will usually wear a shitagi (a longish shirt), short trousers (kobakama) and shin-guards (kyahan). He may also wear leather or mail sleeves and a breastplate (do). A katana and wakizashi will typically be kept in a sash tied round the waist. Some low-ranking bushi will wear a haramaki-do and a simple loincloth or fundoshi.
Social standing: The lower-buke, the majority of warriors throughout Nippon, has a class standing of B or C (at the GM's whim, but usually warriors command a lot of respect, albeit grudgingly, from the heimin).
Samurai, and other high-ranking bushi, will typically wear full battledress of a haramaki-do, sode, crested kabuto and mempo, and mail sleeves. Generals will often wear a jimbaori (surcoat) over their armour (see picture, right.) A katana typically hangs from the waist (tachi). Other high-ranking bushi wear a hakama over their shitagi. A hakama is a divided skirt with a stiff back and openings at the sides. On his feet, a high-ranking bushi wears fur boots lined with silk or brocade with the soles of stiff leather and upper side of bearskin Alternatively some of the upper-buke will wear the simple garb of the lower-buke, most notably the samurai, depending on their circumstances.
Social standing: The upper-buke consists of samurai, hatamoto, gokenin, and generals: the real nobility of the warrior caste. Not surprisingly their social standing is the highest: A.
Farmers, including fishermen and boatmen, predominate the heimin. They, like all commoners, are very poor folk and have barely enough to live on after the daimyo have taken their taxes. They wear simple garments, which can be anything from a tatty and worn shitagi to a simple loincloth. They also wear the mino, which is a straw coat made from a kind of grass with long and broad leaves, and on their heads a straw jingasa. These provide exceptionally good protection against the rain. Farmers travelling to the local town will often carry with them a staff and/or the rice grinding instruments used in bujutsu (martial arts); nunchaku, tonfa and kama.
Social standing: The heimin have a social standing of C.
The urban heimin constitute the artisans and merchants, though they may also be based in villages too. The artisans may not look too dissimilar to the rural heimin as their physical pursuits put them in line with the farmers. Merchants typically wear kimonos, of varying quality as the merchant guilds are taxed heavily by the daimyos in order to curb their power, and/or a hakama with shitagi.
Social standing: The heimin have a social standing of C.
CLANS & GUILDS
Clans and powerful warlords rule Nippon. These clan leaders and warlords are also daimyo and are obliged to attend the Shogun's court every other year (where they must also leave their wives and children). Not only are there these powerful provincial clans but there are also the sinister ninja clans (or families) and the various guilds and corporations of the towns and cities. All of these influence how the country is run although, as to be expected, the Shogun is the absolute master of Nippon.
Every province in Nippon is governed by a daimyo, its semi-martial governor. In many cases this position is hereditary but when there is no apparent heir to the seat a successor must be chosen and this can sometimes lead to war with rival factions pitting their candidates against each other. But wars of this kind are not as common today as they used to be, as the Shogun now has effective control of the entire country. In ancient times, the clans (uji) of Nippon, were led by leaders who purported to have great supernatural powers; that they could commune with the clan's ancestors and even the gods themselves. Today this is not so apparent, though some clan leaders (far away from the capital) still claim to have this power.
The clan structure of the various clans in Nippon is very similar to each other. As there are around two-hundred daimyo in the lands of Nippon, which includes castle and land-owning warlords, it is only the structure of the provincial daimyo that is included here (their administration is much larger than that of a castle-owning warlord). Such daimyos can having any leadership structure you wish, which will inevitably be along military lines.
The daimyo is at the top of a clan's organisational structure with his Cabinet of Superintendents (called the bugyo) just below him. The superintendents include officials such as the Chief Minister, Chamberlain, Stewards and other lordly titles with scholars and physicians given suitably high ranks too in many clans. Beneath the Superintendents are the Under-Lords called the karo. They are very powerful lords (of whom may be related to the ruling daimyo and his family) and most do not pay taxes to the daimyo, though they must still provide troops to the governor, but only after this request has been cleared by the bakufu (government). Beneath the karo are the cohorts of samurai and these are generally divided into their own departments of administrative duty and are paid either through land, rice, men or money; or a combination of all four.
At night, it is claimed, the ninja rule the towns and cities, carrying out the tasks assigned to them by whomever wishes their services. Many classes are known to have employed the ninja in the past and will continue to do so in the future, even the yamabushi of the mountains have been known to employ these black assassins probably against the rising supremacy of the military class (buke). The censors of the bakufu (government) have used the ninja in their espionage network to control the imperial court and the powerful provincial lords. Roaming bands of ninja are said to have engaged groups of warriors in local battles, either to suppress attempted sedition or to enlarge the ninja's own territorial control.
But the ninja are not only assassins, they are raiders, spies, arsonists, saboteurs and terrorists. They can infiltrate castles, gather intelligence via espionage, and destroy enemy defences. They can also fight on the battlefield, ranging from an open encounter to an ambush (whether against a defenceless victim or a heavily-protected lord). In fact they carry out the tasks that the disreputable, honour-bound, bushi would never countenance. Large organisations of ninja families, specialising in such tasks, are generally available to the highest bidder.
The ninja families are tightly-knit groups well integrated into larger groups (in accordance with the ancient clan pattern). The leaders are known as jonin, and they formulate plans, negotiate alliances, stipulate contracts, and so forth, which subleaders (chunin) and agents (genin) carry out faithfully. These groups form larger guilds with individual territories and specialised duties - all jealously guarded. A man seldom joins a group in order to become a ninja; he usually has to be born into the profession.
The arts, techniques, and weapons of each ninja family, of each group, are kept strictly secret, being transmitted usually from father to son and even then with the utmost circumspection. Disclosure of ninjutsu secrets to unauthorised persons means death at the hands of other ninja of the same group. Death usually also follows capture, either at one's hand or that of another ninja, who would leave behind only a corpse for the captor to question.
The ninja are masters of ninjutsu, which means something like "the art of stealth", and they have many weapons at their disposal.
Scenario ideas: It is easier if you visualise the ninja families and clans as something like a mafia. Territory is important to them, as is the carrying out of any missions assigned to them. More to the point the ninja in a clan, more often than not, will be related somehow or will be bonded through sworn oath and if one such ninja hears of something then the whole family will, eventually, learn of it. The ninja clans may impose protection rackets on certain establishments, such as an inn or guilds. If they aren't paid then the ninja will come down heavily on them. Enter the players who have to protect the establishment from the ruthless ninja, but can they survive an onslaught from these almost supernatural-like killers? Or perhaps a player is the target of a ninja mission and this might not even be through mistaken identity!
In response to the common brutality of many of the warriors of the buke, especially those of the hatamoto who go out of their way to make life miserable for the merchants and artisans, the society of fighters known as Otokodate (roughly meaning "plucky" or "manly fellow") has been formed. The warriors of the Otokodate are bound together by an obligation to stand by one another in weal or woe, regardless of their own lives and without enquiring into one another's antecedents.
The Otokodate have formed their own fighting units based on territorial units of block communities, covertly financed by the guilds and other corporations. These fighting units in turn have their own names. Each ward or block, under Otokodate influence, is supervised by a headman called "father". In some districts and wards this headman wields even more power over the people than the military authority nominally in charge of the area.
The Otokodate chiefly consists of the heimin although some may have been of the buke at one point in their lives. Because they are denied the right to carry weapons, such as the sword for example, they are expert street fighters and use such outlandish weapons as iron fans, the long smoking pipe, and iron shod staffs (they also make great use of dirks). They have perfected their own techniques (which have since been included widespread throughout bujutsu) because they have had to combat sword-wielding foes.
Not only do the Otokodate ensure the safety of citizens in the wards of some towns and cities they can also be found patrolling the highways of Nippon, usually in a radius outside the towns and cities themselves. It is on these highways that bandits and cutthroats wait to pounce upon any unsuspecting travellers, as well as any obnoxious warriors, who are likely to take offence at any disrespectful attitude, use this insult as a pretext for 'testing' a new blade.
Scenario ideas: The Otokodate is just perfect for people such as adventurers as all classes are welcome, even those formerly of the buke, though characters with warrior skills are the most favoured. Players can join the Otokodate if they wish but they must convince the society that they are true and will be dedicated to protect commoners from all kinds of oppression. The Otokodate can give the PCs plenty to do, such as protection of property, patrolling the wards and highways, and the protection of individuals.
MERCHANT & ARTISAN GUILDS
In years gone by the merchant guilds became very powerful and even began to contest the military authority that oversaw them. Today, the guilds, merchant or artisan, are kept under close scrutiny and observation by the bakufu, and the local military authority, to ensure that there are no transgressions; guilds have been known in the past to act as a front for something else entirely different, such as a Daemon-worshipping cult.
The Guilds are basically there to ensure that mercantile business runs smoothly from clan to clan. Artisan Guilds keep track of artisans operating in the local area and impose upon them the standard fees. Guild members pay an annual membership fee, which helps to maintain the Guild's premises (and maybe other 'vices'). A portion of these fees goes direct to the local military authority and/or the bakufu.
The internal structure of Guilds varies across Nippon. Generally a Guild Council, comprising a dozen or so of the Guild's most senior members elects the Guild Master. Usually it is the case that one of the daimyo's family, or closest friends, are obliged to be voted for, thus ensuring that the daimyo has full control. In villages the Guild Master is almost always the village or district elder, or at least they sit at the Guild Council, which often comprises of the sons and other relatives of the elders.
Guilds have been known in the past to enflame the local communities into revolt, due to high taxes or overbearing outside control from the military authorities. It isn't uncommon for rival Guilds to openly fight each other. Guild members who operate without the backing of the Guild can expect all kinds of trouble - a verbal warning is the first step, followed by threats of physical violence; typically in this case death will be caused.
THE PRACTICE OF SUICIDE IN NIPPON
The practice of suicide is an acceptable one in Nippon. Such an act would be inconceivable in the Old World but in Nippon it is an acceptable and even honourable practice. There are many different ways an individual would take his or her own life and some of the most notable ones are explained fully below.
In battle, the retainer fights under his direct superior's command and protects any attempted retreat; if his superior decides to escape capture by committing ritual suicide, the retainer acts as his second, who has the duty of shortening the agony of self-inflicted, mortal wounds by severing the dying man's head with a single sword cut. Usually the retainer would flee with his master's head to prevent enemies from making a war trophy of it, in accordance with the martial customs of the age. Often, however, a retainer would enable his master to escape capture by donning his lord's armour and riding off, drawing the enemy away from his master; or a retainer disguised as his master would allow his own head to be cut off and dragged away by another retainer whom the enemy was certain to pursue, while their master made good his escape.
Hara-kiri ("abdomen cutting") or seppuku is the privilege of the warrior class, the buke. This has grown into something of a ceremony where the proper etiquette must be observed at all times which includes the presence of an assistant and witnesses. A man committing hara-kiri uses a special blade to cut into the part of the body which is considered to be the seat of a man's life and the source of his power: his lower abdomen or hara. Using his short sword (wakizashi), or knife, he would draw a horizontal cut from the left to the right side of his abdomen and then, if his strength permits, follows this with another cut upward, either prolonging the first cut or starting a new one from the middle of the first and driving it upward in the direction of his throat. Originally, the aim of the first horizontal cut with a long blade was to sever the spinal nerve centres. The second cut implements the first, being directed towards the aorta.
Since it is not always possible to insure a quick death by such complicated cutting, the assistance of another party in this act has become something of a custom. Such a man is generally either a comrade in arms, a friend of equal rank, or a retainer of a lower rank. His duty is to decapitate the would-be suicide once the latter has completed the ritual cuts and offered his neck.
It is traditional that any woman committing suicide has to cut her own throat using a kaiken (a kind of knife); she is not allowed to follow the custom as described above, which is the privilege of men. Before committing suicide, she would also have to tie her ankles together to ensure that her body be found properly composed, whatever her death agonies.
This isn't so much an act of suicide but the 'outcome' of such a deed. Hito-bashira means 'Human pillars'. The reason for this is that there is a custom whereby one or several consenting people kill themselves upon the construction of a bridge, a castle, or similar building which requires the protection of the gods. The people who sacrifice themselves in this way become the kami protectors of the construction and are known as Human pillars or hito-bashira. It must be borne in mind that not all newly built constructions end with the sacrifices of people. Only those requiring the protection of the gods have this honour.
Junshi is almost a practice of mass suicide. Because the clansman is so bound to the clan and its leader, i.e. to the extent he became identified by him, through oath and pledges written in blood, he is compelled to follow his master into death. Even if the clan leader dies of natural causes, the clansman, and even his entire family, would all commit suicide and follow him into death. In the past junshi came to be so widespread that many clans were losing some of their most influential vassals and as a result this practice has died out somewhat by the command of the shoguns. Indeed many a master, in order to safeguard his own family, had to explicitly forbid his retainers to commit mass suicide if and when he should die. However, junshi has not completely died out.
There have been many cases of a mass suicide of sorts along these lines, at best, or mass murder, at worst. The warriors of a besieged lord, for example, where death from the invading forces was certain, would slay their women and children before taking their own lives. There have been many cases of this practice happening and is quite acceptable.
Another reason for a warrior to commit suicide would come about through a protest against his master, through outrage at his master's unfair treatment of him, or to make his master reconsider a certain decision. This form of suicide is known as kanshi.
A retainer, either through his own inadequacies or from a feeling of guilt, would commit suicide known as sokotsu-shi. This form of suicide might also be brought about as the result of reckless behaviour or from failing to fulfil one's duty to a superior.