Shattered Empire: In the Shadows of the Dragon Mountains
1. What clan does your character belong to?
A character’s clan is their most defining characteristic because each clan has a well-established and distinct set of philosophies, prejudices, and ideals. Whether a character adheres to they stereotypes of his clan or breaks them, one way or the other they will prove very important to his personality.
2. What family does your character belong to?
Just like a character’s clan, a character’s family is an especially important defining characteristic. The stereotypes of each clan are broad, but individual families within the clan have much more specific, detailed roles and attitudes that further define the identity of the clan and those who serve it.
3. Is your character a bushi, a shugenja, or a courtier?
Duty is an essential aspect of every samurai’s life, and establishing exactly what manner of duty a character is obligated to perform is an important step in breathing life into him or her. Is the character a warrior and soldier, a priest and scholar, or a diplomat and politician?
4. How would others describe your character’s appearance?
Every character should have a rough description in order to give him some sort of life when describing him to others. What is the character’s most striking feature? Does his mood come through his appearance or is he inscrutable? Does he make others feel at ease, or make them uncomfortable?
5. What is your character’s primary motivation?
Though all samurai are, in theory, solely devoted to fulfilling the wishes of their lord, most have their own goals as well. Some may be simple, such as maintaining the honor of your ancestors, while others may revolve around the recovery of a lost heirloom or the avenging of a slight to your family’s honor.
6. Who is the person your character trusts most in the world?
characters should have some developed background in order to facilitate role-playing. This question not only includes the individual’s identity, but how that person met the character, why they are so close, and other similar questions.
7. What is your character’s greatest strength and weakness?
Strengths are what others see as respectable or admirable in the character, while weaknesses are what he would struggle to hide from others, lest they look down upon him for his failures. What does the character regard as his strengths and weaknesses, and how does this differ from his actual abilities?
8. What does your character think of Bushido?
Although all samurai pay homage to the code, most Clans and families revere certain tenets over others. Which does the character consider the most important and which does he consider inconsequential? Do his views differ from those of his Clan?
9. What is your character’s opinion of his clan?
Of course all samurai are loyal and devoted servants of his Clan, but that does not mean they do not have their own opinions. Is the character a martial vassal of a pacifistic Clan? Or is he a pacifist in a society of warriors? does he disagree with the Clan’s current enmities and alliances?
10. Is your character married?
Marriage is a very important institution in the Empire of Rokugan. A samurai’s spouse is responsible for managing the estate, and actually wields considerable political power depending upon the size of their holdings. Was the character’s marriage arranged, or is he or she still betrothed? Is it someone the samurai has actually met, or a complete stranger? Is there a case of true love that will interfere with the wedding, or will the samurai embrace duty over the wants of the heart?
11. Does your character have any prejudices?
Most Clans are negatively predisposed against at least one other Clan, most often as a result of conflicts that have endured for decades or even centuries. Is the character one who readily subscribes to these prejudices or has he developed his own dislikes of other Clans, even allied Clans, based on his own experiences?
12. To whom does your character owe the most loyalty?
The simplest answer to this question would of course be “The Emperor,” but very few samurai have the honor to serve the Son of Heaven directly, instead serving someone in a long chain of authority that could include the Emerald Champion, the Clan Champions, the family daimyo, the provincial governors, or even the local magistrate. Whom does the character serve immediately, and is that person the one to whom he is the most loyal?
13. What are your character’s favorite and least favorite things?
This could address a wide variety of responses, including material possessions, activities, locations, or almost anything else that could spring to mind. Why does the character revere these things? What significance do they have to his history?
14. Does your character have any recurring mannerisms?
Since everyone tends to act according to the same protocol and etiquette, minor and inoffensive details of behavior tend to get noticed more frequently. Does the character chew his lip when he is nervous? Perhaps he has a unique greeting that he prefers to use. What does he do with his hands when nothing is going on?
15. What about your character’s emotions?
A true samurai is not supposed to show emotion, but no one is completely disciplined at all times, and everyone demonstrates some degree of emotion at one point or another. What emotion is the character most likely to display when the circumstances arise? What are the things that push him to the edge most easily, and which emotions are easiest for him to hold in check?
16. How would your character handle a subordinate’s improper behavior?
The actions of a subordinate reflect the honor of his superior, and in such cases a superior has a considerable amount of leeway in dealing with a subordinate. Is the character the sort to demand the subordinate’s seppuku over even a minor infraction (something that could get the character into significant trouble very quickly), or will he forgive the behavior and attempt to correct it?
17. How would your character’s parents describe him?
Devotion to one’s parents is considered proper behavior for any samurai, but devotion can be offered without any real respect between a parent and child. Does the character have a proper relationship with his parents or are they estranged? Was the character’s upbringing a source of joy or dismay for his parents? Are they still alive, or were they taken from the character at a younger age?
18. What is your character’s highest ambition?
Desire is a sin, but ambition tempered by duty is considered acceptable among most in the samurai caste. Bushi often aspire to become military leaders, for example, while courtiers desire nothing more than to rule over others at influential courts. What is the character’s ultimate goal and, perhaps more importantly, how far is he willing to go in order to accomplish it?
19. How religious is your character?
Among bushi and courtiers, levels of religious devotion vary widely. Shugenja are of course religious, but even among their ranks some are more reverent than others. Is the character one to offer frequent prayers and make trips to the temple, or has he dismissed the need for religion and instead embraced the rule of steel in his life?
20. How will your character die?
This is a very important and intimidating question, but one that should be given consideration. Every samurai lives a few short feet from death, and death is a threat that can rear its head on any day of a samurai’s entire life. What is the character’s destiny? How will he meet his end when the time comes for him to join his ancestors, or to rejoin the universe as part of the Celestial Wheel?