Sunday, August 11, 2013

Samurai Assassin

Samurai Assassin is an old school Samurai action film. The plot is fairly simple in that well, it's a story of a skilled swordsman who uses his skill to assassinate a high ranking lord.

The devil is in the details as they say though.   , the start of many such films ranging from Seven Samurai to Red Loin and dozens in between, is a ronin with a concubine mother and unknown father. He seeks to gain status in an era where samurai are preparing to fall by the wayside of history.

I'll be discussing some specific things from the movie in context of how they might be useful.

1. Domino effect. The conspiracy against the Elder lord occurs because of the  Ansei Purge. This purge occurs because of a lordship appointment that others disagreed which in tern leads to the purge in which in turn leads to the conspiracy. A domino effect.

2. Secrets. Niiro Tsurichiyo longs to know who his father is. The effects of not knowing lead him down a path that he otherwise would not have taken. The fact that others know though gives the viewer some insight into how things might have turned out which adds to the depth of the character.

3. Social Status. Along with the secrets, the 'real' problem that Nijro faces is the implications of social status. By not having an acknowledge father of rank, Nirjo is a man of no consequence. When he and a princess fall in love and seek to marry, that appointment runs straight into the wall of social status where the daughter is going to be married off to a high ranking official and Nijro is left desolate and turns to a life of liquor and violence as a remedy. Another aspect of the social downfall comes in another wave a learned scholar sees that change is about to happen. The scholar sees that things are going to move in a very different avenue and he ties his fortune to those of the conspirators.

4. Record Purge: During the conspiracy against the Elder, among the conspirators, there is worry of a traitor in the midst. Nirjo, because of his outcaste status and the scholar, Kurihara. The hunt for the traitor initially leads Nirjo to kill Kurihara despite their friendship. Turns out that Kurihara was not the spy and the murder was for naught. The leader of the conspiracy purges the historical records that they are recording for their own records in order to show 'purity of cause'. If the players are in a setting or system with a lot of research involved, there may be times when the records they are using are doctored not because the records are 'false' per say, but because the people who set down the records had their own view of history that they wanted preserved.

5. Unintended consequences. The conspiracy seeks to kill the elder not because they wan the downfall of the samurai society but because they want to preserve it. The exact opposite occurs. When seeking to undergo some specific goal, if the characters are unaware of all the consequences of their actions, the underlying effects may be the exact opposite of what they seek.

6. Arrogance. In some ways this is linked to the whole social status area. The Elder lord is aware of the conspiracy. He is warned several times of the possible movements against him. He is warned of the physical threat to his life. He doesn't believe it. He is so certain that no one, especially members of one of the Great Houses, wouldn't move against him, that he doesn't take extra precautions. He doesn't change his routine. Indeed, he falls right into the 'trap' set for him.

7. Weather. In terms of combat, when the time to strike comes, the even happens during winter when the Elder is going to the Peach Observance in the middle of a freak winter storm. This reduces visibility. It creates dangerous terrain on the ground. It limits the use of missile weapons due to the wind and visibility.

Samurai Assassin has a lot of ideas that can be used for a variety of campaigns where social status and social uprising and change are in the air.