b The Shiro



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Edo Castle, Bairinzaka

Upper middle of first panel, left screen. Central enciente of Edo Castle,
Castle Tower, Bairinzaka, Hirakawaguchi Gate. Edo Castle tower (upper middle
of first panel, left screen). The Edo Castle tower looms large in the left screen
as if to accentuate Iemitsu’s grand enterprises. This tower was the third to
be constructed for Edo Castle. It was completed in 1638 (Kan’ei 15). Its height
from the base is over 60 meters. During the great Meireki fire of 1657 (Meireki
3), however, the tower was destroyed and never rebuilt again. “View of
Edo” (Edo zu) pair of six-panel folding screens (17th century).

Quintessential Samurai

Author Sam Witt

Publisher Mongoose

Publish date 2002

OGL Section 15 qsam

can be found on the following website

Grand OGL Wiki

The material
below is designated as Open Game Content

In samurai society, a leader
cannot lead without a stronghold from which to proclaim his Strength. Serving
as a defensive structure, a beautiful estate, and the barracks for his loyal
samurai, the daimyo’s castle is a symbol of his prestige and power. Though
all samurai yearn for a castle of their own, building such a structure is a
certain way to draw the attention of other, more powerful daimyo. When a samurai
builds his castle, he must be prepared to defend it against rivals who have
no wish to see such a structure rising near their own lands.


It’s generally not
a good idea to just hare off in search of a site on which to build a castle
without discussing the proposition with your daimyo, first. While ronin are
certainly capable of starting construction of their castles without input from
the local leaders, doing so is bound to irritate the daimyos, most of which
are going to have a large number of samurai at their disposal.

The wiser option is to
consult with the local political powers and make your intentions known. For
samurai with an established daimyo, this is a relatively straightforward process.
In most samurai societies, a lord is only allowed direct control over a single
castle – by allowing his subordinates to build castles along the edges
of his territory, he increases the range of his indirect control and protects
himself from his enemies. A samurai with honour of at least 10 will rarely be
denied permission to construct a castle at the periphery of his lord’s
domain. Those with lower honour will likely need to complete a quest or perform
some service for their daimyo before he allows them to build fortifications.

For a ronin, the situation
is more difficult. Consulting with local daimyo is likely to result in, at best,
a polite rebuff at his overtures for construction. The lords have no desire
to allow another of their kind into the area, especially when doing so may curtail
their own expansion at some later date. Any ronin who begins building within
a day’s travel (the actual distance varies by terrain) of another daimyo’s
borders is just asking for trouble. Roll once during each month of construction
on the table overleaf to determine the outcome of this risky move.

Once a samurai has secured
permission (or is willing to accept the consequences for not getting the cooperation
of other daimyos), work on the castle may begin. The first step is to find a
suitable location.

Construction Events Table

D20 Roll Result
1-5 No event.
6 –
A group of 1d6 scouts (samurai of 1d3 levels each) arrive to take a look
at what’s happening so near their territory. If these samurai are left
to their own devices, there are no modifiers to future rolls. If they are
attacked or killed however, apply +5 to any future rolls on this table.
11 –
A group of hired thugs (2d4 rogues of 1d4 levels each) attempt to sneak
into the camp one night and sabotage the workings. If they are not caught,
they increase the construction time of the castle by 10% and the cost by
14 –
Fire Archers.
A group of archers (2d6 samurai of 2d4 levels each) begin firing flaming
arrows into the construction site in an attempt to set the infrastructure
alight. For each attack of theirs which hits Armour Class 15, the castle’s
construction time is increased by 1% and the cost of construction is increased
by 2%. If attacked, the samurai defend themselves as they retreat to their
own territory.
17 Armed
attack. A contingent of attackers moves to put a stop to the construction
– permanently. 2d4 samurai of 2d6 levels each arrive and issue a challenge
to the ronin in charge of the castle. He may choose to either fight their
champion or may bring men of his own to meet them in open battle. If the
samurai are defeated, the ronin will be allowed to continue building his
castle (provided there are no other daimyo with an interest in stopping
the project) but if he is defeated his foes will have him killed for his
18 Offer
of allegiance. The ronin is given the opportunity to swear allegiance to
a local daimyo. If he agrees, the assaults will stop and the ronin must
return to the core samurai class as soon as possible. If he declines the
offer, however, next month’s event will be an armed attack (17, above).
19 Assassin.
An assassin (equal in level to the ronin) is dispatched to kill the upstart
once and for all. Killing the assassin will give the ronin some respite
(there will be one month with no events) but offers no protection against
future attacks.
20 Subversion:A
local daimyo uses political and economic pressure to stop the construction
of the castle. In essence, he offers the workers who are building the castle
more money to come and work for him. The ronin may keep his workers, but
doing so increases the cost of construction by 20%. If the ronin decides
to get all new workers, he will lose time finding those willing to work
for him and will still have to pay 20% extra to keep them from deserting
the project.

and Type

Samurai constructing a
castle prefer to do so in wilderness areas where they will not come into immediate
conflict with rivals. As noted previously, mountainous areas are favoured for
their isolation, rugged terrain, and ready supply of building materials. When
mountainous areas are not available, for whatever reason, the samurai attempt
to build on hills, or rarely, on the plains near a river or other defensible
feature. The three most common types of samurai castle, or shiro, are:

† Yamajiro: This mountaintop castle is the favourite amongst the daimyo.

† Hirayamajiro: The main keep of this type of castle is constructed on a hill, with the
rest of the castle built around the base of the hill and extensive moats are
constructed for defence.

† Hirajiro: The
least common type of samurai castle, this fortification is constructed on the
plains. In most cases, castles of this type are built as mercantile and political
centres first, and defensive structures second. Important daimyos, sheltered
from attack by the placement of their allies’ castles, are more likely
to construct castles of this type as a sign of their confidence and as a way
to encourage trade by offering ready protection to merchants.

Regardless of the type
of castle being built, the samurai lays claim to all the area around it. To
be precise, each shiro controls a circular area with a diameter equal to the
samurai’s current level or honour, whichever is higher. This territory
is considered the sole province of the controlling daimyo and any infringement
upon the territory can be viewed as an act of war. As a daimyo increases in
level, his territory may increase as well, but it may not grow so large as to
infringe upon the territory of another lord due to a level increase. Planning
ahead is crucial for the samurai, who benefits most from selecting a wide open
territory, empty of nearby samurai, in which to settle. The larger an area is,
of course, the more difficult it is for the new daimyo to clear of hostile forces,
which must be done before construction of the castle

the Territory

Samurai cannot settle in
an area overrun with monsters or other hazards. Before construction can begin,
it is important to remove the major threats from the area to ensure the safety
of construction workers. The table below presents the potential number of threats
in areas of a given size.

by Territory Size Table
Diameter (in miles)
5 1
6 1
7 2
8 3
9 3
10 4
11 5
12 6
13 7
14 8
15 9
16 10
17 11
18 13
19 14
20 16

The exact nature of a threat
is determined by the Games Master but should prove a challenge for the daimyo.
In more civilised areas, the threat is likely to be bandits or perhaps a sinister
wizard or cleric. In the more remote areas, more monstrous threats are common,
such as reclusive dragons, bands of goblinoids, and other threats that rear
their ugly heads.

In general, one-half of
the threats in an area should have a Challenge Rating from one-half to three-quarters
of the new daimyo’s level. A quarter of all threats should range from three-quarters
to equal to the new daimyo’s level and the remainder should have Challenge
Ratings equal to the daimyo’s level or higher. In no case should a threat
have a CR more than 4 levels above the daimyo’s current level – threats
of this nature are so dire even the most courageous samurai would be unlikely
to attempt to construct a castle in the area.

Once a samurai has dealt
with all the threats in his new territory, the construction process may begin.

The Value
of Land

When a daimyo controls
a territory, he begins making income from those who dwell within his lands.
The table below indicates the amount of tax income a samurai can expect from
a territory of a given size and population in a given month. While the Games
Master is the final arbiter of how much income a territory produces, the table
below should provide a good beginning guideline.

Income by Territory
Radius (miles) Heavy Population Moderate Population Sparse Population Wilderness
5 3,000 gp 2,400 gp 1,200 gp 240 gp
6 4,200 gp 3,360 gp 1,680 gp 336 gp
7 5,700 gp 4,560 gp 2,280 gp 456 gp
8 7,500 gp 6,000 gp 3,000 gp 600 gp
9 9,600 gp 7,680 gp 3,840 gp 768 gp
10 11,850 gp 9,480 gp 4,740 gp 948 gp
11 14,250 gp 11,400 gp 5,700 gp 1,140 gp
12 16,950 gp 13,560 gp 6,780 gp 1,356 gp
13 19,950
14 23,100 gp 18,480 gp 9,240 gp 1,848 gp
15 26,550 gp 21,240 gp 10,620 gp 2,124 gp
16 30,150 gp 24,120 gp 12,060 gp 2,412 gp
17 34,050 gp 27,240 gp 13,620 gp 2,724 gp
18 38,100 gp 30,480 gp 15,240 gp 3,048 gp
19 42,600 gp 34,080 gp 17,040 gp 3,408 gp
20 47,100 gp 37,680 gp 18,840 gp 3,768 gp


The castles of the samurai
are not the massive structures of stone favoured by other types of warlord.
Instead, the samurai rely on a greater number of thinner, more flexible walls
to protect their numbers. Because samurai are not prone to hiding behind castle
walls, in any case, sieges are few and the castles are only rarely attacked.
When a samurai becomes aware of an approaching army, his first instinct is to
attack or negotiate, which removes the need for castles to be able to withstand
siege engines. Instead, the shiro are built to confuse and discourage attackers
and are constructed as much for aesthetics and prestige as physical defence.

Most samurai castles are
constructed primarily of wood and plaster, with stone walls surrounding and
supporting the central keep. There are several areas of importance to consider
when constructing a shiro, each of which is discussed in some detail below.

Tenshu: The tenshu
is the central keep of any shiro. Constructed of wood and plaster, the entire
tenshu is constructed around a central pillar which extends upward from the
foundation to the highest, central point in the keep. The central pillar is
completely concealed once the tenshu is finished, though its location is most
often discernible by the way in which the rest of the floors and corridors radiate
outward from it. Secret doors and hidden passageways are crucial parts of a
tenshu’s structure and are factored into the cost. High gables and crests
are used to increase the height and grandeur of the tenshu, increasing its appearance
of power and prestige.

Ishikagi: Walls
are an important part of the shiro. Laid out in elaborate patterns, the walls
formed numerous isolated compounds, each of which serves as a choke-point for
potential invaders. The gates between each compound were always offset from
one another at 90 degrees, preventing a concerted charge from one gate to the
other. The invaders would, at best, have to make a right-angle turn after each
breach and the ensuing confusion over which direction to turn gives defenders
a chance to pummel the interlopers with arrow fire or magical assaults.

Ishikagi are constructed
by first creating thick earthen ramparts which slope upward from a thick base
to a thinner, flat top. Interlocking layers of stone are then seated in the
dirt. Because mortar is not used, the walls are able to flex when stressed,
which reduces the damage caused by siege engines or Earthquakes
by one-half. In general, Ishikagi are 30 feet wide at the base, 20 feet high,
and 15 feet wide at the top. The natural slope of the walls is gradual at the
base but approaches vertical very quickly.

Dobei: These walls
are built by layering plaster over a framework of bamboo or bundled reeds. They
are typically constructed along the outer edge of the tops of the ishikagi and
serve as cover for guards moving between towers. Samas penetrate this wall at
irregular intervals, providing oval openings through which defending archers
may fire arrows down on the invaders. Dobei are also built inside the courtyards
of a shiro to form mazes which confound invaders. A well designed series of
dobei within a courtyard forms a gauntlet through which invaders must travel,
being pelted from all sides by arrows fired and spears thrust through the samas.

Korai Mon: The most
common gate within the shiro, this two-story structure is constructed of plastered
wood. Bands of iron are used to reinforce the gate on both sides and the upper
story contains a pair of samurai who may fire arrows through the samas in the
floor to deter invaders.

Yagura Mon: The
largest gatehouse in the shiro, this two-storey structure is wider and taller
than the Korai Mon. The yagura mon is generally used at the main entrance to
the shiro and where any gate faces the courtyard of the tenshu. As many as ten
archers can be stationed in the upper storey of the yagura mon. Armed with bows,
they can fire arrows down into the bodies of invaders in an attempt to slow
or stop an invasion. The massive wooden gates are closed using a complex gear
system and are bound in iron to further reinforce them. Thick layers of resin
prevent the yagura mon from burning should intruders attempt that trick.

Sumiyagura: These
corner towers are used by archers to pin down invaders and by watchmen to keep
an eye on roads leading to the shiro. Where possible, they also serve as the
home for large signalling mirrors, which are useful for sending messages between
shiro where line of sight is not obstructed. Like the other buildings in a shiro,
the walls and floor of a sumiyagura are constructed from wood. The walls are
then plated with layers of plaster and reeds for fireproofing.

Hori: Moats are
a popular part of samurai castles, not only for their defensive protection,
but also because of their soothing effect on the inhabitants. Where possible,
the shiro uses streams or rivers to provide fresh water for their moats, bringing
a bit of comfort and serenity into the grounds of the shiro itself. Ornamental
fish and water flowers are a frequent addition to the hori, which are also landscaping
elements in the design of the various courtyards of a shiro.

Underground Tunnels: The samurai love surprises in their castles, especially those which serve a
tactical purpose. Underground tunnels are especially prevalent in long standing
shiro, where engineers can create elaborate subterranean mazes through which
defending samurai may move quickly and quietly. More than one attacker has suffered
a tragic loss when a contingent of samurai appeared behind them, thanks to the
well-designed underground tunnels.

Construction Cost Height Width Length Structure Points
Yagura Mon 4,500 gp 30 ft. 20 ft. 50 ft. 300
Korai Mon 3,000 gp 20 ft. 20 ft. 20 ft. 75
Tenshu 80,000 gp 80 ft. 40 ft. 40 ft. 700
Hori 500 gp 20 ft. 20 ft. 100 ft.
Outbuilding 600 gp 10 ft. 20 ft. 20 ft.
Sumiyagura 8,000 gp 30 ft. 20 ft. 20 ft. 300
Underground corridor 150 gp 10 ft. 5 ft. 5 ft.
Ishikagi 4,000 gp 20 ft. 30 ft. 100 ft. 300
Dobei 100 gp 10 ft. 2 ft. 100 ft. 50

of the Shiro

Unlike feudal castles,
there are fewer positions of employment within the shiro. Samurai fill most
of the military positions, with only the madoshi being granted to a non-samurai.
On the other hand, civilian experts of all kinds are hired by the daimyo on
an as-needed basis to fulfil roles within the shiro. Though there are no chefs,
grooms, or other non-military tasks listed in the table below, these positions
are still filled by individuals hired by the samurai to care for their needs.
In this way, the daimyo is sure that the money from his samurai is making its
way back into the community he oversees and the samurai are encouraged to deal
more directly with the people of the shiro.

Cost per
Ashigaru 5 gp
125 gp
100 gp
Kuni Bugyo 125 gp
Madoshi 800 gp
Yumi Ya
100 gp

Ashigaru: These
footsoldiers make up the bulk of the fighting force within a shiro. It is expected
the daimyo maintains a force of these light foot fighters equal to 10% of the
shiro’s civilian population (roughly 100 civilians per mile of the daimyo’s
immediate territory live within the shiro).

Gusuko Bugyo: This
man is in charge of all armour within the shiro. Though most samurai prefer
to maintain their own equipment, the gusuko bugyo is responsible for ensuring
a steady supply of replacement pieces and the armour worn by the ashigaru. One
gusuko bugyo is needed for every 100 armed men within the shiro – if fewer
guskuo bugyo are available, all armed men within suffer a –1 Armour Class
penalty due to the poor repair of their armour until enough gusuko bugyo are

Hihiin Bugyo: This
man is in charge of the horses within the shiro. One hihiin bugyo is required
for every 20 horses kept within the castle. When there are not enough hihiin
bugyo, all samurai suffer a –1 circumstance penalty to all Ride skill checks until there are enough hihiin bugyo to care for all the horses.

Hyubo Sho: The leader
of the shiro’s military forces. The responsibilities of this position are
varied and require a great deal of versatility. From commanding the military
defences of the shiro to overseeing the training of new samurai, the hyubo sho
is expected to lead his men by example and is responsible for their every action.
Few samurai last long in this office, most retire after a few years of loyal,
if stressful, service. The hyubo sho is a samurai of level equal to half the
daimyo’s level.

Kuni Bugyo: Because
the shiro is a city unto itself, there is a need for law enforcement. Younger
samurai and those who are too injured to be of use in a real battle are often
assigned police duty. The Kuni Bugyo oversees the operation of these units of
samurai and is responsible for eradicating crime wherever it rears its head
in the shiro.

Madoshi: The madoshi
oversees the magical and alchemical needs of the daimyo. This wizard is able
to create potions or magical items, at the discretion of the Games Master, but
is most often charged with protecting the shiro from magical attack. A madoshi
is always one-half the level the daimyo’s level.

Yumi Ya Bugyo: This
officer oversees the weaponry of the shiro – though his position does not
include any responsibility for katana or wakizashi. The shiro requires one yumi
ya bugyo for every 100 armed men within. Non-samurai troops suffer a –1
penalty to all attack and damage rolls during combat if there are not the appropriate
number of yumi ya bugyo. This penalty persists until enough men are hired

Maintaining the Castle

Each month, the daimyo
must spend 10% of the shiro’s value for maintenance. When the cost of the
staff is added in, it becomes apparent just how expensive maintaining one of
these castles can be. Because a daimyo is responsible for the upkeep of his
samurai, expenses creep ever higher. Offsetting these expenses is a prime function
of the adventuring samurai who, in addition to not receiving a stipend, are
also expected to donate a portion of their proceeds to their lord each month.

A castle that is not maintained
is in danger of fire, collapse, and other unsavoury issues. For each month maintenance
is not paid, the Games Master is encouraged to visit some problem or other on
the shiro. Fire is by far the most common problem, but disease, social unrest,
and other disasters are not uncommon.

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