Okay, so you have the alternate history for the founding of Rokugan that I laid out in my previous post. Where do you go from there?
Another sidebar in Imperial Histories mentions that Hantei didn’t have to step down and let his son Genji become the Emperor. What if he’d gone on ruling forever, as an immortal kami? Well, that’s more or less what happened with Togashi in canon: every Dragon Clan Champion until the Second Day of Thunder was in fact the founding kami, under a series of aliases. So you could easily have the same thing here, not even bothering with the cover story. Emperor Togashi just goes on ruling.
Since a) he’s canonically very reclusive, because of the way his gift of foresight works, and b) we’re aiming for mystic weirdness here, I figure he withdraws more and more from Rokugani society as the years go by. People almost never see him; ise zumi or other members of the two Imperial families (the Mirumoto and the Agasha) carry out his orders, or relay them to everybody else.
Until the dawn of what is, in canon, the Gozoku era: the late fourth century.
(I’ll take a moment here to acknowledge that really, if you go changing something as major as the Emperor of Rokugan — and therefore the entire shape of Rokugani society — you should logically end up with a highly divergent AU, not the same historical events reworked. But that would mean really re-inventing the L5R wheel, and besides, I think it’s fun to keep filtering canon through this lens.)
So how do you get the Gozoku conspiracy when the Emperor is an immortal kami with foresight?
I see the inciting incident being some order of Togashi’s that goes horribly wrong. It causes some unnecessary battle, maybe, which is the total opposite of what it was supposed to do.
One of the canonical Gozoku conspirators investigates. You could pick any of the three, and Bayushi Atsuki maybe makes the most sense, but I like Doji Raigu, because he’s the one who was motivated by the incompetence of Hantei Fujiwa. He goes sniffing around, and finds out the big Imperial secret: nobody has seen Togashi in more than a century. He went into seclusion to meditate or something, and before doing so, wrote out a whole bunch of orders, with instructions for when they should be opened and carried out. One of his minions screwed that up, and that’s why it went wrong . . . because Togashi is, for all intents and purposes, asleep at the wheel.
(Or so Raigu thinks.)
So the Gozoku conspiracy forms because Togashi’s negligence is letting Rokugan spiral too close to chaos. I won’t go through all the events detailed in Imperial Histories, but the important question is how it ends. There’s no Hantei Yuguzohime in this timeline, to ride in and chop the head off her half-brother (who also doesn’t exist).
. . . but there is Hoshi, Togashi’s hidden son, who was born some time in the second century. I’d plug him in to replace Yuguzohime, and then borrow a page out of real Japanese history, with the tradition of cloistered rule: Togashi continues to rule as the “Retired Emperor,” using his foresight to guide Rokugan, but Hoshi and his descendants take over as the actual public face of the throne.
There should also, as in canon, be the rise of an actual Imperial court. Under the Hantei dynasty, this was when the Otomo stopped being a mostly useless appendage to the Imperial line and started being the social piranhas they are in later centuries, tasked with making sure the Great Clans are too busy bickering with each other to ever plot against the Emperor again. I don’t want to just apply them here, though, because they’re designed for a very different Emperor and Rokugan. (One socially dominated by the Crane, in fact — and I don’t think the Togashi dynasty would make a habit of marrying Doji the way the Hantei did. I imagine they’d gravitate toward wives from the Phoenix and the Bear, except when orders came down from the Retired Emperor to pick somebody else, for whatever precognitive reason.)
The Kitsuki don’t really work either, though. They may be a courtier school, but they’re really more magistrates than anything else, which isn’t the kind of thing that would be created by the Gozoku conspiracy. I’d maybe suggest they get their start around now anyway, because they could play a role in tracking down Gozoku manipulation, but it’s only been a few hundred years since Soshi Saibankan created the magistrate system in the first place. So possibly it’s too early to have them.
Anyway, the upshot is that I’m not sure what sort of courtiers to create for the Imperial line. I’d have to browse through some of the more obscure stuff for ideas.
I’m also not sure what to do with the Battle of White Stag a few years later. It’s too soon, I think, to let Hoshi be gacked — and besides, the dude’s a half-dragon. It should take more than a stray cannonball to kill him. I do think it should still end with the country being closed to gaijin, since that suits the tone of this setting (openness to foreign trade is more Empress Shinjo’s schtick), but the path to that point should be a lot weirder: stuff involving the non-human races in Rokugan, and also nemuranai, both of which ought to be a lot more prominent in this version of history.
(Definitely still have the Mantis becoming a Minor Clan, though. Togashi would have foreseen the necessity of their strength leading up to the Second Day of Thunder.)
Imperial Histories includes a new era between this and the Scorpion Clan Coup: the Great Famine in the seventh century. Which is a little difficult to integrate, depending as it does on the FLAMING INCOMPETENCE of the Emperor at the time. Not that Hoshi’s descendants would be totally immune to FLAMING INCOMPETENCE — but getting that to happen is tricky when the Retired Emperor can see the future. Because this is a new addition to the canon, it doesn’t have the long-term effects of (say) the Gozoku, which means I don’t have any good opening for saying, “well, Togashi knew it needed to happen in order to set up X later on.” You could still have the famine and disease — and Togashi would still sit it out the way he did in canon, because he knew he couldn’t stop it — but you wouldn’t have the Emperor running around making it worse by being a blind dick. I think I’d either water it down, saying the era had lots of natural disasters but not so much Imperial bungling; or I’d add in some kind of suitably mystical layer. An outbreak of spirit weirdness, or the Shadowlands march the book suggests in a sidebar, or whatever.
I’ll stop there for now, because again, this is already a pretty long post, and the part that comes next — the Scorpion Coup, the Clan War, and the Second Day of Thunder — ain’t exactly going to be short. Besides, I haven’t yet read those chapters in Imperial Histories. ^_^ (I do have my basic ideas in place already, but I’m sure they’ll get refined by what I read there.)
As before, feel free to make suggestions if you know L5R. Especially for the Imperial courtier thing, or the Battle of White Stag, since I don’t have any great inspiration for either of those at the moment.