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Alright everyone, this isn't exactly fluff per-se. Not yet at least. Rather, it's a question about what kind of fluff I should use for the armybook I've been working on for Nippon.
Obviously, Nippon is WHFB's equivalent to Japan. The name is the same, the location is the same, and they pretty much leave it at that. The last mention of the army was in 2nd edition as a mercenaries list, and included all sorts of goofy (and frankly, offensive) stuff like 'Kamikaze Suicide Bombers', which is probably part of why the army was dropped, along with armies like the Norscans and Zoats.
Bits and bobs of fluff have appeared here and there, things about monkey-faced warriors, the Skaven assassins training in temples in Nippon, and some kind of Dark Elf involvement, but aside from that I've been left with a blank slate. To this end, I've come to you guys to ask what kind of fluff you would expect for a Nippon army - namely, should it be based heavily on feudal Japan, or should it be almost entirely fictional?
Currently, the units in the army are:
Shogun - combat lord
Daimyo - combat hero
Onmyoji - caster lord
Onmyoji-han - caster hero
Ashigaru - basically, Empire state troops
Samurai - think Warriors of Chaos on 20mm bases, less armor, less S/T
Naginata Riders - mounted Samurai fast cavalry
Ronin - scouting Samurai with no armor and rules for honorless fighting
Legendary Warriors - Rare choice single models representing peerless warriors like Miyamoto Musashi and Hatori Hanzo
Onii - Ogre "demons"
Tengu - flying, great eagle type "demons"
Jishi - lion monsters, temple guardian "demons"
Siege Cannons - basic cannon
Trebuchet - enough said
The rules are centered around an honor system where the army improves or falters based on it's performance, and an Order system similar to the 40k Imperial Guard, representing their well drilled armies and use of signal flags.
So when it comes to fluff for all of this, here's where I'm at:
As the Old Ones are being defeated after the world has been bathed in mutating Chaos, one of the Old Ones decides to give the world a final chance to be "pure" and creates the island realm of Nippon. Knowing he would be hunted and killed by Chaos, he decides to preserve his knowledge by dividing his essence and knowledge into the Yokai- the spiritual 'demons' of Nippon. Eventually, Cathayans fleeing the onslaught of Chaos stumble upon the island and it's inhabitants, and create an early tribal culture.
This culture is discovered by Malekith on his world-spanning journey while still loyal to the High Elves. High Elven outposts are built, and the land is colonized, with the High Elves serving as benevolent rulers over the human tribes through a puppet "Emperor".
When the Sundering comes about, Malekith sends Dark Elves to defeat the High Elves and take Nippon for his own. From amongst the slaves of the tribal wars, he takes the best warriors and creates the first Samurai (samurai meaning "One who serves"), warrior-slaves to use in the battle against the High Elves. Once the High Elves are driven out, one of the Samurai leaders turns on his Dark Elf masters, becoming the first Shogun and establishing a Nippon for the people of Nippon alone.
From here, they begin their isolationism, trading primarily with the realms of Cathay and Choson (China and Korea). During the first Great War against Chaos, the island is discovered by chance, by the forces of Chaos, who now seek to corrupt it. Many of the Yokai - who are universally opposed to chaos but singularly naive of it's existence - are turned to the forces of evil. The war is equivalent to the Mongol invasions of Japan, and ends when the sorcerers of Nippon conjure a great wave (the Kamikaze story) to drive off the invading fleet.
Lastly, traders from the Empire arrive, bringing with them gunpowder and knowledge of the outside world. Nippon returns to feuding internally (Sengoku period) while also sending representatives to all of the various courts of the known races, attempting to determine alliances and trade treaties.
Totally Fantasy Based
I haven't figured this one out yet, although I'm sure that I could. I'd likely keep the creation story, about how Nippon was formed by a fleeing Old One, but that's about it. I think I would make some kind of story focusing mainly on the ancestor worship and bushido, making Nippon either a land of ghosts, or a culture of humans who have learned to "spirit-walk" outside of their bodies.
In this version, I think that a lot of the 'demon' type units would probably become stone constructs powered by particularly powerful spirit-walkers or ghosts, and Samurai become "Faceless Ones" - armor animated by the spirit, which would probably also make them tougher and stronger than a normal human.
The trouble is where do the traditional mortal units come into play, Ashigaru footmen and the crews of the warmachines? Are they just the standing army of Nippon? If they are, why are there so many ghosts or spirit-walkers, a cataclysm would have left very few mortals alive to serve as soldiers. Should I change the names of the units, so that they are no longer using their historic titles?
I kind of like the idea of the History/Traditional fluff as it is - is seems to work well enough to explain how everything came to be.
Going totally fantasy based, as you envisage it at the moment, seems to be a little too complex and doesn't fit all that well with what you have already developed.
But that's just my take on things. The fantasy-based spirit-walking realm could be an interesting idea, and one I'm sure you'd be able to develop well enough.
I haven't been following your project, but I'm liking the look of it so far. A few of the unit choices like the Onii and Tengu are similar to ideas that I had when people were discussing the possibility of writing a Nippon book a couple of years back, which I suppose is a good sign. I'm looking through your main thread now.
I'm with Deadstar here - the traditional history based fluff seems pretty good already. But, there's no reason you can't incorporate some of the ancestor spirit themes into that. If you wanted you could have standard, mortal samurai units alongside some sort of tougher spirit-animated armour/construct. After all, there's nothing wrong with giving the player more choice, and you could have a situation almost like 40k eldar with the regular soldiers alongside the 'wraith' units.
But if I had to pick one or the other, I'd lean towards the historical.
Thou shalt remember:
Warhammer Fantasy armies do NOT have Codices. They have Army Books.
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Since Cathay has long been ruled by the Dragon Emperor (and has always been rumored to be a dragon himself) then perhaps whereas Cathay has been molded by the dragons of ancient warhammer world (before the Old Ones arrived) then perhaps Nippon could be the opposite as you mention in that example, being guided directly by an Old ONe.
Oriental Dragons are very different from western Dragons. They were not typically violent or evil and were very wise and knew alot of magic. I suggest including them in some way as they are the archetypal image of eastern magic and fantasy. They were long and snake-like without wings. Perhaps a weaker version of the normal Warhammer Dragon. However it could also be a high level wizard with it's own lore.
I also suggest looking at Tai sources such as the Naga. This will help to add more flavour and not limit you to using one or two countries as inspiration.
At the moment 25% of the book is 'mystical' units, each of them a Yokai (Daemon-type rules). Adding the Dragons would be interesting, although I certainly won't add them as a mount - they are much too proud to accept a rider, and I would even argue, too small. I was avoiding them, since they are sort of Cathay's thing. If I added them, I think they'd be in the form of a Ryu. I'd probably give them access to 2-3 spells from Fire or Heavens, cast as Bound Spells. The question would be how to make them a valid unit choice. The Onmyojii (casters) already have access to Life, Death, Light, Shadows, Heavens and Beasts.
I guess that I could drop the Heavens and Beasts from the Onmyojii, and give the Dragons access to Heavens and Light. I won't give them Lore of Life, as it's too powerful a lore (regain wounds, Dwellers, etc).
Have you guys checked out the rules thread yet? Getting the book into PDF form is tough going, I'm trying to make it look as professional as possible, so that people can see that there was actually time and effort put into the list, and the rules aren't just overcheesed fanboyism. I also don't want to produce a list that's underpowered and unuseable.
Lets see if I can help out, mind you: my Fantasy fluff is a bit iffy.
I think it's best if you'd stick with the story as is, making it more fantasy-ish would ruin the progress on the book you have so far, and it looks good the way you have it now.
Like Ancalagon said, maybe go the Eldar way and let them have Spirit Stones of some sort embedded in their armour, in which their spirit is secured on (honourable? to stick with the ancient Japan theme)death. They are then, if deemed worthy, embedded in one of the statues. Maybe give the Ashigaru lay the same role as the Guardians of the Eldar: Civilians that have been called to arms and fight alongside the real warriors (Samurai/Ronin).
I would personally stay clear of the Dragons, too much of an Cathay thing IMHO and the mystical creature you already have are far more interesting then another dragon roaming the Old World.
Hope I was somewhat helpful.
Yep, I've been plugging away at the project for a while, namely hung up on polishing the fluff as best I can.
The way it stands, I have their creation myth based on one of the Old Ones fleeing the wrath of Chaos when the gates fell. He finds a patch of ocean, does the whole spear-in-the-saltwater trick and creates the islands. Once on the ground, he commits seppuku rather than let Chaos capture him and steal his knowledge. From his blood are born the Yokai - the Damonlike guardians of Nippon who account for all of my mystical creatures and who each carry a fragment of the Old One's knowledge. From the 7 syllables of his death poem spring the 7 Great Houses of Nippon. Four of these houses are Warrior houses, and three of them are 'Civilian' in nature.
Everything keeps rolling along just fine until Malekith (still loyal to the HE) shows up. He convinces the Nipponsei to hand over their weapons and trust their common defense to the Elves in return for a few cultural innovations (they're already vastly ahead of the primitive humans of the Old World thanks to the help of the Yokai). The Nipponsei agree, with the Warrior Houses being very reluctant. Ultimately the Minamoyo (Minamoto) Warrior House votes with the civilians and Nippon is disarmed. Malekith leaves, and puts his second in command in charge, who the Nipponsei know only as Monoke (Mononoke are evil spirits in Japanese legend).
Monoke starts making waves between the houses, by killing off prominent members of the Warrior Houses and framing the Yokai. The Warrior houses believe that the Minamoyo and Uzatto (the scholars/mystics house) are to blame. Monoke tells everyone that the Elves will handle the Yokai, but hardly anything is done and the killings continue. Finally the Nipponsei have had enough and demand their weapons, Monoke obliges, and they set about butchering the Yokai - the only thing that could have saved them. The Yokai finally retreat to the peaks of Mount Tsumeru (based on Mt. Fuji, but in lore, Mt. Tsumeru is the seat of the gods). With their weapons back, the Houses start fighting among each other to settle old scores. Nippon is in chaos and weakening itself, just like Malekith and Monoke wanted.
During the fighting, Monoke makes deals to sway two of the Warrior Houses to his side, plus raises a massive army from slaves taken during the fighting. When the Sundering occurs in Ulthuan, Monoke leads the Dark Elves, Warrior Houses and Slaves to battle. Of the two remaining Warrior Houses, the Minamoyo refuse to side with the High Elves, and the High Elves and last Warrior house are practically wiped out. The Minamoyo instead decide to die fighting for a truly free Nippon. Their warriors reason that since they're probably all going to be killed anyways, why should they fear death? And thus the Samurai are born.
Monoke puts the Minamoyo capital to siege and both sides practically wipe eachother out. The Tarai house (Taira vs. Minamoto for 1st Shogun, Taira are destroyed) is completely eradicated. After the fighting, the Minamoyo commander, with help of an old man, track down Monoke and kill him. During the fight, Monoke wounds the old man, who turns out to be a shape-shifting Kitsune. Minamoyo takes the Kitsune in, the two fall in love (Kitsune typically being female spirits iIrc) and have a child. Minamoyo declares that this child will rule over Nippon as Emperor, being half human and half yokai (and therefore possessing a very long life) and forces all of the Warrior Houses to swear loyalty to him as the first Shogun. Nippon closes it's borders and begins isolating itself.
That leaves the future of Nippon in the hands of the Clans and Daimyos, who can all only claim to trace their lineage to the Great Houses. First Great War against Chaos sees the Kamikaze story, with hundreds of Norse raiding ships pillaging Nippon until the reawakening of the Ryujin (Japanese Water-dragons, who I am using as a subsect of dragons who aided the Old Ones and were therefore cast out by Dragon-kind) who cause the massive tidal wave and end the war for Nippon. From there, Nippon decides to tentatively begin relations with other nations. They are prime backers (using money from their silk trade) of the Marienburg independence, and in return the Marienburgers send them a shipment of guns (similar to the Portugese in Japan). From there I'll go on with some minor stuff that is in line with Japanese history.
The current unit count for the book is looking like:
Lords: Shogun, High Onmyojii (caster)
Heroes: Daimyo, Onmyojii (caster)
Troops: Ashigaru, Samurai, Naginata Riders (fast cav)
Special: Sohei (warrior monks), Hatamoto Samurai, Onii, Tengu, Ronin
Rare: Mask Riders (cavalry), Jishii Guardians, Ryujin, Taiko Drums, Master Warriors
This is of course a preliminary, I'm doing the final polishing up of the list and such as I move through the book. Right now I'm just stuck putting my fluff ideas into words and getting the general formatting of the book worked out (I'm currently on version 3 of the book).
Alright, I've kept bouncing between the fluff and the rules, as well as playtesting and the likes, so the project is still rolling forward. However, the fluff has hit a bit of a blockage. I went with the mix between historical and fantasy settings. The creation myth was laid out as above, and the story progresses through the Elves arriving on the island and advancing civilization, until the Sundering causes an island-wide civil war. The Great Houses put themselves into a decline through infighting.
Here's where I'm stopped though - the current year on the timeline is halted approximately 200 years after the Sundering, so you're looking at iy-1800. This is the problem, I have a huge gap of history to cover. To put things into perspective, the rise of man in the Old World did occur until -500, and Sigmar wasn't crowned Emperor until year 1. That's in the Old World. Nothing else happens. Nobody (Elves or Man) makes contact with Cathay until 699, when High Elves arrive in their ports. The next world-wide event is the First Great War against Chaos... in 2303.
So now I'm left to my own devices for what constitutes about 4103 years of history.... that's crazy.
Major events that I have considered are:
At one point, the Emperor's Yoaki bride assassinates him and takes his place in the court, shapeshifting to disguise herself as him. By this time the Emperor is largely ceremonial, and the Shogun rules over Nippon as it is his duty to carry out the Emperor's will (which is really just his own, as with historical Japan). The bride's first order of business then, is to remove the Shogun and Samurai from power, and fill the role with Onii instead. This sparks a war, and is the first and only time that the Samurai have ever raised their blades against the Emperor. Traditionalists still side with the imposter-Emperor, believing that a Samurai's duty is to obey his master, even if his master acts unfavorably. The resulting war sees the Imperial city fortified, sieged, and nearly burnt to the ground by the attacking Samurai, and forever solidifies the Shogun's role as chief policy maker.
Skaven arrive on the shores of Nippon, using the undertunnels across the sea from Cathay. They unleash a devastating plague (black plague of 1111?) and use the resulting chaos to establish an Eshin stronghold. This is Nippon's first contact with the outside world, other than the Elves and Cathay/Choson. While the Yokai are inexplicably opposed to the Skaven (they were not a plan of the Old Ones, so the Yokai hate them on instinct alone), some of the Nipponsei are a bit more naive - especially the peasants, who see the role of the assassin as an opportunity to advance independently of the class system. This basically creates the basis for the Ninja, who were present in feudal Japan but are probably not going to be present in my army list (why would Ninja ever take to the battlefield?).
Can anyone think of what I should do to fill in the rest of the history? I don't want it to turn out like the High Elf book, which focuses on the Sundering and then jumps around all over the place, never giving a clear picture until you read their timeline. I want a more fluid background, and I also want opportunities to show how barbaric Samurai culture could really be.