The Crown of the Stars - A Spelljammer 5e Tale
Emerald Empire Samurai Culture
Etiquette is all-important, for a samurai who does not treat others with respect is worthy of none. All samurai study etiquette beginning at an early age. Failure to display proper etiquette in the presence of one’s peers and superiors will result in dishonor and exile, if not seppuku. The following delineate basic elements of courtesy that every character of samurai birth will adhere to if they know what is good for them.
It is customary when greeting another person to bow as a gesture of respect and trust, although many bow merely as a formality. This practice began during the dawn of the Empire, when samurai would bow or kneel before their lord with their hands held to their sides. This was a way to demonstrate their loyalty by offering their unprotected neck and thus their lives to their liege. The practice has continued to this day.
Bowing is a show of respect between two individuals of equal social standing. The lower the bow, the greater the respect shown to whom one is bowing. Bowing only very slightly to another is a sign of inferior status and is commonly interpreted as a thinly veiled insult.
Terms of Address
How a samurai address others can be either a sign of great respect or enormous insult. Samurai of different clans would be expected to address one another by the name of their clan unless it was obvious by their clothing to which family they belonged. For example, calling another samurai “Kasai” when he isn’t would be an insult, implying that his family was beneath notice or unknown to the speaker. Unless two individuals are close, or permission has been given, they will typically refer to each other by their family names rather than their personal names. Two samurai of differing clans who each other by their personal names in public are acquainted with one another, distantly related, or are publicly displaying an alliance with one another.
When addressing someone, one traditionally adds a suffix to their name in order to reflect the relationship between the two samurai. If one is speaking to a friend or at least someone of equal rank, then -san should be added to the end of their name. For example, a Kasai Clan magistrate working with a Mizu Clan member might refer to him as “Shiba-san.” To a superior, the -sama suffix should always be added as a symbol of respect, and to refer to a superior as -san would be dishonorable. Referring to an equal with the -sama suffix comes across as a great compliment, though it can occasionally bring shame if the compliment embarrasses the recipient instead. Between members of the opposite sex who are closely involved or related, different suffixes come into play. Referring to a female loved one should use the -chan suffix. Conversely, referring to a male loved one should employ the -kun suffix in colloquial use between siblings, relatives, spouses, or close bonds between friends, When a samurai wishes to insult an enemy of the opposite sex, implying that they are such a minor threat that the speaker finds them adorable, he will use the -kun suffix as well.
Code of Bushido
The customs and protocols surrounding honor could take up volumes. Of all the questions in the Empire, the most debated questions circulate around topics such as “What is honor?” – similar in that mere words can never satisfactorily unpack the concepts. Those enlightened simply manifest it, as do the truly honorable. The Seven Tenets of Bushido set down by Akodo come closest to defining the concepts of enlightenment and honor.
Truth measures the meaning of life so adhering to the truth defines the course of a samurai’s existence. However, common sense accepts that those who lead an honorable, carry within them a pure soul and thus have nothing to fear from the truth. Lies are a tool of the weak and shameful. Even the most dishonest courtier would heartily agree, as misdirection crafted from half-truths works much better than a lie.
Samurai and shugenja place their lives on the line for their lord, and even the courtier in a protected heart of Otosan Uchi must take risks that could lead to the downfall of his house and family. Fear touches the hearts of all who must stand for what they hold dear, but the samurai must stand above his emotion. Courage is not the absence of fear, or the willingness to throw one’s life away in the face of impossible odds, but the ability to continue onward regardless.
A wise person tempers power with mercy. A great leader won’t overwork and tax his peasants towards selfish ends. So, too, are the wisest samurai those who understand that mercy is a fundamental principle of the Celestial Order, and the law of the Empress. A samurai who spares the life of an enemy proves himself the better man.
Though strength of arms is the domain of the samurai, respect must also take its place, as the Empire would quickly dissolve into chaos without a strong tradition of courtesy.
honor is the binding force that defines all samurai, the shining virtue that elevates them above the common man. Honor cannot be truly defined, for those without any concept of Honor will never understand.
For a samurai, word and action coincide to complete the true meaning of sincerity. A samurai need not make promises, for every word he speaks should breathe sincerity, a samurai’s word is the cornerstone of his reputation, and cannot be violated.
All that exists has a purpose: to recognize and fulfill that purpose insures the virtue of duty. Even the Empress must bow before the might of the Heavens, and a samurai can do no less than follow her example.
Face & Dishonor
To a samurai, honor is more precious than life itself. To fail in battle, to betray one’s duty, or to suffer a loss of face can all lead to disgrace and dishonor. Each clan maintains its own interpretation of honor, and thus each clan’s definition of honor and dishonor varies. If the source of his dishonor was an insult or betrayal, he must challenge the party responsible. If the source of the dishonor was his own actions, then he must redeem his mistakes. Even redemption, however may not suffice. A dishonored samurai may ultimately commit seppuku to atone for his deeds or, even worse, face exile as a ronin.
Despite the emphasis on truth in both Empire’s texts and laws, the Empire has customarily emphasized appearance over fact. Those who speak sincerely garner favor over those who speak poorly. A character’s on (which loosely translates to “face” or “respectability” Measures one’s reputation – a mark little different than honor or concerns of glory.
By contrast, a worthless, dishonorable lout could still command respect if capable of keeping proper appearances with the right people. The battlefield of the court tends to be taken most seriously, as a man’s reputation can kill another’s before the chance to engage in a formal duel even appears. A samurai in high standing with his peers will carry weight far beyond his own status, as those of higher status embrace his word as their own. Others will not even bother to challenge them, for fear of appearing foolish. A samurai’s reputation figures as his most valuable asset, and any samurai worthy of his swords will not allow any harm to come to his reputation.