Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Memories: Hida Gotetsu

A decent drawing I did many years ago,
with some really crappy digital inking and coloring.
(Note: This is kinda long, but I hope you find it interesting)

Last week, in talking about L5R, I mentioned my RPG character, Hida Gotetsu. Today, I’d like to go into to some depth about him, and maybe shed some light on who I am as a gamer.

To understand Gotetsu, you probably need to understand Rokugen, the fictional setting the game takes place in. basically, it is based heavily on feudal Japan, with some Chinese, Korean, and even Middle-Eastern influences. The Empire is divided into clans, and each represents a specific aspect of the culture; the Crane Clan are courtesans who excel in Iaido; the Lion Clan are the paragons of honorable samurai; the Scorpion Clan are the spies and seekers of secret knowledge, etc. For a detailed background, you might want to go to AEG’s website, as they will no doubt give you more accurate details than what I can recall off the top of my head (I’ve been out of the games for a while now).

Gotetsu is a member of the Hida family in the Crab Clan. The Crab are charged with protecting the Empire’s southern border from the Shadowlands, a place rife with demonic power, black magic, and pestilence. It’s basically a fantasy version of a scorched earth, filled with monsters, mutants and demons. To help them defend against this, the Crab built the Great Wall of Kaiu, which holds the Shadowlands back, and on which Crab samurai patrol vigilantly.

The Crab are notorious for being crass, crude, and very “uncourtly.” They are the rabble-rousers and “barbarians” of the culture. Their honor is rarely questioned, and in their eyes, they are the most honorable clan, as they regularly sacrifice their lives for the safety of the other clans. Hida samurai tend to be tall and muscular, and often favor the Tetsubo (a studded, 2-handed club) over the Daisho. And Gotetsu is a very typical member of his clan.

One interesting thing about the RPG was that every character had to have a flaw of some kind. Gotetsu had a dark secret. He was a lecher. Now, this doesn’t mean he wanted to pork anything that moved (though that sometimes came into play). No, he just believed that worldly love and passion were as important as personal honor and sacrifice. In short, he believed in grabbing life by the throat and squeezing every ounce of pleasure out of it before he met his inevitable fate. This made for some interesting RP interactions with the stodgy, yet extremely honorable Lion samurai in the group. It also confounded the Scorpion, because she never did figure out what his secret was. And it also almost got him killed.

As a Crab, Gotetsu had the ability to always be in his heavy armor. He took no penalties from sleeping in it, so he was always armored. Thus, he almost never actually took damage in combat. This frustrated the GM, as the rest of the party regularly got sliced and battered. Eventually he figured out a way to get Gotetsu out of his armor.

He introduced a Geisha NPC who managed to seduce Gotetsu in a tavern. They went in a room in the back for a little “fun time,” and when Gotetsu had shed his armor (he’s not Uther Pendragon), the Geisha revealed herself to be a Bog Hag in disguise and proceeded to attack him. Naked and alone, he did what any sane man would do; he punched her, then broke a table leg off and bashed her skull in! But, not before taking some damage from her claws.

That was some fun gaming, right there! I miss Hida Gotetsu. The GM would later bring him back as an NPC in another campaign set years later (after I had moved away, and could no longer play). Gotetsu was a General at that point, with two daughters and an adopted nephew, who was a Crab Shugenja (wizard).

At one point, I built a card for him, and my friends allowed me to use him in our personal games of the CCG. I even started writing some fiction about him. It’s nothing special, just a little vignette, but I kinda like it…

The Test
By Tom Doolan

Hida Gotetsu looked down at the two figures moving away from the Kaiu Wall. One was dressed in drab brown and dark orange. This he knew to be Shiba Teku, would-be suitor to Gotetsu’s youngest daughter, sent by the Phoenix in the hopes of starting some ties between the two great clans.. The other wore a deep blue, sleeveless kimono, his forearms and shins wrapped in white, his head topped with a straw sampan favored by shugenja. This he knew to be his nephew, Kuni Yoshiro, a young man on his gempukku. Beside Gotetsu stood Hitami, his youngest daughter, as she, too, watched her would-be husband go to meet what she was certain would be his death.

In the short week since the arranged marriage had been announced with the arrival of Teku at the wall, Hitami had met him only twice. She was there when he had presented himself to her father, a grizzled veteran of the wall, as well as many campaigns. At first, she had been impressed with the young man’s poise and manner. The fact that he was rather handsome, in a plain sort of way had only intrigued her more. Yet as they spoke later during their second meeting, he seemed distant and detached, as if he had no emotions. He was obviously very disciplined, and that she could understand. But his manner suggested that he had no passion for anything. Growing up among the crab, especially the Hidas, she was used to men who had a passion for battle, if nothing else. But Teku seemed to take everything in stride, looking forward to nothing, yet fearing nothing. This had intrigued her even more, and now, as he moved out to perform his “test” for her father, she found herself worried for him, and praying to the Kami that he return safely.

“Father,” she said softly, without taking her eyes off of the retreating figure, “do you think this test is truly necessary?”

Gotetsu chuckled softly, having had this conversation before. He faced his daughter.

“The Twenty Goblin test was what made it possible for the Crab to find soldiers worthy of defending the empire.” He said. Looking around at the samurai standing guard on this section of the wall he motioned to one not far away. The man was almost as tall as Gotetsu, and though not as large, he did have a strength about him. “Take Juko here,” said Gotetsu, “once he was a peasant farmer on the verge of starving. But he took the Test and passed. Thirty goblins you brought back, eh Juko?”

“Hai, Gotetsu-sama.” Juko said, bowing low. “It was an honor.”

Gotetsu laughed and slapped the man on the back, staggering him slightly, which brought a round of chuckles from a few of the samurai nearby.

“And now he is Hida Juko, defender of the wall, and one of many I am proud to have in my command!” The surrounding samurai all raised their tetsubos in a round of cheering. Gotetsu nodded to Juko to go back to his post.

“Besides, how better than to test if my would-be son-in-law is man enough for my daughter?”

“Father, I am not Yamasaki.” She said with a mock scowl. “I am not a samurai. And my husband does not have to be able to best me in one on one combat.”

Gotetsu smiled broadly.

“I know you are not your sister. But think on this.” He lowered his voice a bit. “If this samurai from the Phoenix is to be wed to a Crab woman, do you not think he should earn her hand? Especially in the eyes of our clan? Remember, he may be skilled and intelligent, but what do we Crabs respect most?”

“Valor and insanity, it often seems.” She said with a smile. “But I see your point, father. It is better to prove his valor out there, than in here against some bully who thinks I should marry a Crab.” Gotetsu nodded.

“Besides,” he said with a hint of amusement, “it’s not like he’s out there alone.”

“Oh, yes.” She replied with unhidden sarcasm. “He is with that overbearing cousin of mine who only keeps his hands away from me because we are related.” Gotetsu laughed loud at this.

“Yes, there is much of me in that boy.” Gotetsu said. “But, this is also his gempukku. He must face an Oni. Having a samurai at his side will no doubt be of much help. So, you see? They both benefit.”

“Yes, father.”

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