Land of the Gods
This campaign will be set in a Kara-tur/Rokugan mashup, as a fantasy equivalent of the Opening of Japan.
This Japan (name yet to be decided) has been closed for centuries. As in real-life, the country was ruled by a Shogun, in the Emperor’s name. A few years ago, a ship of some kind crash-landed on the shores, maybe a merchant ship looking ot open up trade, maybe just a random ship that got (un)lucky. The ship was magical somehow, perhaps an airship – think Eberron – that managed to get off some kind of distress signal as it went down, or when the captain realised the natives were unfriendly.
A rescue party followed, and after some inspired negotiation, trade routes were agreed and established. The agreements severely restricted where the traders could land, who they could trade with, and what they could trade. i.e. they were only allowed to land in ports the Shogun controlled directly, only allowed to sell to merchants he controlled, and only allowed to sell goods the Shogun wanted coming in. Eventually growing tired of the restrictions, the traders started selling goods to any of the country’s Daimyo who were willing to pay, ignoring the restrictions on what they were allowed to sell.
This ended up destabilising the country’s politics, and the Emperor soon led an uprising to overthrow the Shogunate and take power back for himself. The uprising wasn’t completely successful, but enogh so that the Emperor could claim victory, and push the Shogunate forces back, and keep them bottled up in their ancestral lands.
In turn, the Shogun still claims the title, and maintains that the Emperor is being used as a puppet by those calling themselves loyalists, and that only he has the Emperor’s true interests at heart. Tradition states that the Emperor grants the title of Shogun, so that someone can rule in his stead, freeing him from the earthly concerns of day-to-day rule. In reality, this was simply a ploy to keep the Emperor weak, impoverished and controlled. After centuries of Shogunate rule, the Imperial Court began to chafe under these restrictions, as the Shogun tightened his grip on the country, keeping it closed to prevent any chances of outside influence leading to revolt.
The coming of the Gai-jin, or foreigners, gave the Imperial House the leverage it needed to rally support in secret, and call for an uprising against the Shogunate. After Imperial diplomats met with foreign merchants clandestinely, and obtained secret trade agreements with much more favourable terms for both sides, the Emperor was ready to make his move.
Many of the great clans of the country rose up in support of the Emperor, and in a lightning strike, seized control of the Imperial City and drove the Shogunate troops out. For the first time in a millennium, the Emperor stepped outside the boundaries of the Imperial Palace to be seen in person by the people who ruled over.
Rather than the craven, housebound weaklings his acestors had been, this Emperor had spent his time studying military history, strategy and theory from books muglled in by spies and sympathisers. Although untrained and untested, he was able, with the help of loyal daimyo, to push back the Shogunate forces who were caught almost totally off-guard.
Furious with himself for being caught unprepared, the Shogun fought back with all the troops at his disposal. Not all of the clans of Japan had rallied to the caus eof the Emperor, and he was ble to stage a fearsome defence. Ultimately, it was too little, too late. As devoted and fanatacial as the Shogun’s troops were, teh Imperial troops believed they were fighting for the cause of a living god. The Shogun’s forces were pushed back, town by town and province by province.
Eventually, both sides reached a stalemate. The Shogunate troops were pushed back to some of their oldest, most well-defended provinces where no amount of troops would shift them easily. Also, Japan being Japan, alliances rarely last longer than they have to, and as the Imperial forces success grew and the Shogunate threst lessend, old rivialires began to emerge, and the Emperor had to devote more and more of his time to dimplomacy to prevent civil war erupting and tearing his country apart before he had even had time to bring it together.
As things stand, there is a stalemate of sorts. THe Imperial forces control the lion’s share of the country, with the Shogunate and their allies contained within their own lands. The new trade routes with teh gai-jin have brought money and power to the Imperial coffers, as all trade must first go through Imperial intermediaries.
The country is more or less open now. Trade comes and goes, although gain-jin are forbidden to own land or holdings of any kind outsied of set areas around a few port towns as defined in the treaties. These rules are policed with lethal force. Gai-jin are free to move around the country, but are still viewed with mistrust by almost all of the population. Native merchants and traders are a frequent exception to this rule however, adn will usually welcome gain-jin into tehir homes, hoping to increase their status somehow.
Under the Emperor, very little has changed for the native popualtion. Travel is still restricted, with everyone requiring permits to travel outside of their own town, even for valid reasons like trade or illness. THE class system is still enforced. Samurai are still samurai, eta are still eta. Many commoners hoped that once the Shogunate was smashed, there would be less need for so many samurai, a hope that has not come true, givne the stalemate between the two sides.
Travel is restricted for gai-jin as well, and they must get travel permits along with everyon eelse. Travel papers are almost impossible to forge, being magically stamped and sealed/ as they are imprinted with a magical stamp or seal that changes on a daily basis. Exactly how the correct seal is defined on any given day is unknown. That said, most bureaucrats can be easily bribed to provide travel permits, even if it is only to the next village or town.
Whether the Emperor intend sto really change things or not remains to be seen, but the appearance so far is that he intend sot keep the status quo.