|Roads of the Empire|
Roads of the Empire
"Sur les chemins de l'Empire" is a supplement to L'Empire des Cerisiers, the Japan-inspired french TTRPG.
It contains 12 place descriptions that can be used as is or adapted to your table.
- The inn-relay of the Three Streams
- The Silver Monkey outpost
- The Divine Flower brewery
- The Lightning Bolt dōjō
- Masazumi's forge
- Tigerclaw, a pirate (wakō) ship
- The Heartbreak barrow
- Yōkai farm
- The Machida townhouse
- Lady Chachami's teahouse
- Foggy Heart hot springs
- The Faceless God shrine
Each of the place description starts with a story, is followed by scenario ideas and closes with an "Elsewhere in the Empire" section which hints at similar places in other parts of the archipel.
Each of the twelve stories heading the descriptions are already inspiration fuel by themselves. The scenario ideas give more directions. The first location story is strong, a nifty curse.
Olivier Sanfilippo, the author, is also an illustrator and a cartographer, and not bad at either of it. Here is for example the plan for the dōjō, gorgeous isn't it?
My favourites are the Silver Monkey outpost, the Heartbreak barrow, and the teahouse. I like that the outpost is about protecting lumberjacks, and that links nicely with historical Japan's relation to its forests.
Also among my favourites is the brewery, it is a beautiful building, intricate, hence probably a bit hard to present to players but fertile in play opportunities. It doubles as a gambling house and that brings in its own themes.
I don't like the pirate ship, it's huge whereas historical wakō were using the "terrain", occupying islands with good sighting ranges and operating swarms of small fast boats. But hey, why not? It's not Japan, it's the "Empire des Cerisiers" and a powerful pirate showing off her big ship is fun (and magic can help making it stealthy and fast).
All in all, the supplement is a beautiful A4 landscape book. It's easy to open and lay it flat for easy use and display (although I wish PDFs were available for retouching and printing, some places having secrets).
The power of the images might relegate the text content to a second place, but it's OK, after a while, one takes the time to read and get acquainted with the setting through the expositions in this supplement.
Twelve intriguing locations and many seeds for situations.
I can't resist pointing at two books that might supplement "Sur les chemins de l'Empire". Azby Brown's Just Enough and Heino Engel's Measure and Construction fo the Japanese House. Both are architects looking at the japanese house and the japanese town and cities.
Here are the plans of two very similar farms given to use by Heino Engel:
The farm on the left would suit the "Empire des Cerisiers" better, it has minimal tatami cover and that fits the pre-Tokugawa feel of the game setting. Please note the wide doma 土間 earthen floor shared by the kitchen and the indoor working spa. Well, the toilet on the left might be too fancy for the game setting...
Imagine heavy rain outside, the farmers doing tool maintenance inside, or basket weaving. A neighbouring woman has braved the rain and is sitting on the wooden floor by the entrance, her feet on the earthen floor, she is exchanging news and supplies before putting on again her straw raincoat and returning to the village.
Here is a sketch by Azby Brown of a similar farm, but with closets on the north (beware humidity). The kitchen is clearly divided into water (sink) and fire (kamado). This kamado stove is meant to use fuel efficiently and that too is linked to Japan and its forest management. The toilet is outside but is accessible under the protection of the roof.
More sketches on Just Enough. The Samurai house in Edo depicted in the book is gorgeous as well and the why of its design is explained brilliantly.
Tired of all the farming? Here is a Kyōtō townhouse out of Heino Engel's book. Notice the earthen floor spread north-south (and the rear garden).
Azby Brown's Just Enough is excellent not just for japanese medieval settings but also for showing a high density population showing restraint in the use of its environment, well, that was before Meiji.