Ode to Uncle Kurai


We were fans of the Legend of the Five Rings collectible card game. It seemed to be the first post-Magic game that was worth its salt in game play and the setting it managed to evoke on those little cards was impressive. Our favorite rule in the game was the Imperial Favor.

I have little to no memory about what the Imperial Favor actually did, only that when we picked up the RPG, eager to play in Rokugan and leave our mark on the setting in a Kurosawa-inspired blood operatic epic. When we read the rules, we were puzzled that the Imperial Favor was not in the game, so we put it in.

Uncle Kurai, pictured above was our Imperial Favor token and also an NPC in the game. The GM could give a player the Imperial Favor for doing something cool and the player could either spend it (in which case it went back to the GM) or give it to another player for doing something cool.

Legend of the Five Rings was set in this alien culture and we were really excited about capturing that feeling of bushido, honor and glory. Uncle Kurai was our way of letting our fellow players know that their play was exemplifying the setting in a way that was interesting to us, that they were doing their part to bring the table to Rokugan.

In play, we rarely spent the Imperial Favor. When we did, it had to be a really intense circumstance. We found that we liked having this thing, this ability to give someone else a kind of nomadic trophy for good play.

Looking back, I see it as a kind of proto-Fan Mail mechanic. It was a bit clumsy but it reeked of flavor, handing the statue over felt like a big deal and holding it was like holding the table’s honor.

Nowadays, Uncle Kurai sits on my friend, Pete’s computer desk and seeing him brings back all kinds of warm memories: The Death of Bayushi Dorokhan, at the Seige of Usagi Castle and others. It is nice to have these kinds of artifacts, living pieces of fictional memories.

2 thoughts on “Ode to Uncle Kurai

  1. It is nice to have these kinds of artifacts, living pieces of fictional memories.

    Amen. I have some character pictures, game handouts, bluebooks, and maps shoved in a box in the garage. Every once in a while I dig them out and time and distance just fall away and I am there again. They’re like a condensed version of all the “remember when” gaming stories we share with old friends. Good stuff.

    I’m really surprised we don’t have more games that explicitly generate these kinds of things as part of the process of play. A game where generating and using a map is integral, or something with journals, or requiring some sort of significant object used as a “marker”.

    (And before you say “Go out and design it yourself”, I am, but I’m not a designer and don’t really want to be, so it’s taking some time)

    • I wasn’t going to say, “Go out and design it yourself.” But its entirely cool that you are.

      I agree, those artifacts are nifty.

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