Author Topic: Who are the Hatamoto?  (Read 4379 times)

Offline Horned Owl

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Who are the Hatamoto?
« on: January 25, 2013, 03:39:42 PM »


This picture is taken from the Mutant Chronicles rulebook (1993), p. 53. The guy on the left, in the bulky blue armour, was originally intended to be Yojimbô (Kenji Hayashi, rather) in the Siege of the Citadel game. His sidekick Tatsu (who may or may not be meant to be the Whiz kid in In Lunacy) is depicted on the right.

The concept of Hatamoto, at the time of the rulebook´s printing, was that of an élite corps of soldiers serving the Overlord directly; since the Overlord has been reduced to a puppet ruler, their main rôle is as an honour guard at court functions. On page 48 of the rulebook, it is mentioned that their number is restricted to one thousand.

Both Yojimbô´s heavy suit and Tatsu´s light battledress are described as being Hatamoto armour (full combat armour and ceremonial suit), with the distinction of bearing the Overlord´s dark blue colour and the Mishima mon on the chestplate rather than the liege´s personal emblem. Interestingly enough, on the same page it says that „(t)he only thing that differs (...) from the standard samurai suit is the color (...) So apart from the color and the Overlord´s mon on the left shoulder pad, this could be any samurai.“

So it is not the armour that makes the distinction between Hatamoto and ordinary samurai; a Hatamoto might be garbed in either of the two kinds of suit when on duty in the Overlord´s palace on Luna.  (Should he ever enter regular battle, he could be supposed to wear a hydraulically-assisted „cuirass“ – rulebook pp. 50, sidebar –, as befits the elite guard of Mishima´s hereditary ruler. He might even pilot a combat airplane, for that matter.)
It follows that the distinction is rather one of ability than of armour: „They are the best of the best of Mishima´s elite warriors, handpicked by the Overlord himself“, (rulebook, p. 53).

Conversely, either of the two suits depicted might be worn by an ordinary samurai; he would, of course, affect the colours and mon of his liege lord rather than the Prince of Fire´s dark blue and rising sun badge. The lighter suit on the right (Tatsu´s) would probably be a low-ranking samurai´s or ronin´s armour, or used in the Mercurian underworlds - „(t)he military forces of Mercury mostly consist of lightly armed and armored infantry units. The light equipment is a consequence of the rough Mercurian underground terrain, where the soldiers might be forced to crawl through narrow cracks or flooded tunnels.“ (rulebook, p. 51). A fully armoured-up samurai would probably look like this:



Note the tan colour of the armour, and Lord Heir Moya´s official mon on the breastplate. The samurai is probably a personal retainer of the Lord Heir. I refrained from adding the rank gems to the pommels, opting instead for a more traditional buke-zukuri look on the swords.

In the illustrations to the novel In Lunacy (partially re-printed in the Mishima sourcebook, pp. 11, 25, 26, 32, 51, in Warzone 1st ed. pp. 50, 60, 64, 138, Dawn of War p. 11), Yojimbô appears in a similar suit of armour when fighting the Mortificators, even though he has no Hatamoto status yet. It must be remarked that in the pictures, the suit is already blue at that time, which runs contrary to the description on the rulebook´s p. 53. In the book, the colour is mentioned as well: „(...) Dark blue and trimmed with thin red lines, (...) (t)he logo of Mishima, a circle with a block „M“ against the red and white rays of the rising sun, still lay on both shoulders and on the center of his breastplate.“ (In Lunacy, p. 29)
This is an example of discontinuity, but it can be chalked down to the illustrators and author working on limited information.




Kenji and Tatsu also seem to wear the same suits when they are assaulting the Citadel as Cartel Doomtroopers in SotC, still bearing the Overlord´s colour and mon – they might have been personally seconded to the Doomtrooper force by the Overlord, of course.


The Mishima sourcebook (1996) redefined the idea of Hatamoto: on p. 8, it says: „All Daimyos and lords have hatamoto. Originally the title was reserved for the personal bodyguard of the Overlord himself but it has spread into general usage.“ Still, of course, the blue colour would be reserved for the Overlord´s retinue.

The rôle of Hatamoto also differs in the sourcebook. Their duties and responsibilities become more broad, and in consequence Hatamoto characters gain much more depth. If their liege personally goes to war, they of course still „(...) act as his bodyguard on the battlefield“ (sourcebook, p. 8). As such, they are allowed to wear weapons in his presence. (ibid.) But their usual function is that of commanders and business executives, carrying their master´s orders to the rank and file: „(...) hatamoto are assumed to speak with their master´s voice and can give orders to any lesser retainers (...) (They) form a valuable executive class within the corporation.“ (ibid.) If we follow this picture, they would rarely be deployed in squads unless accompanying their liege, but rather act as battlefield commanders and combat coordinators. Note that there is no mention of Hatamoto being chosen for combat ability; loyalty, brains and business savvy would probably be the major factors in a Lord´s choice of hatamoto.

An administrative hatamoto´s profile would rather conform to the Noble background (sourcebook, p. 18), and it would be unusual to see him in armour at all.



In the illustrations of the Mishiman sourcebook, armour and helmets modelled on Bonner´s Yojimbô picture are in evidence throughout the book. If we don´t surmise all of the persons depicted to be hatamoto (and some of them are seen doing ordinary police work, arresting a criminal) this kind of armour must obviously be available to all samurai.
Since hatamoto is such a prestigious position, a „military“ hatamoto would of course be wearing the finest armour in the Mishiman realms if he decided to take a personal hand in a battle. This would in all probability be a customised Shoa Ace suit (sourcebook, p. 58) rather than the ordinary samurai armour.

Effectively running their lord´s business, Hatamoto can wield a lot of power. Nozaki, Lord Heir Moya´s highest-ranking hatamoto, is the de facto ruler of Mercury (p. 8 ) in his Lord´s name from his Ebon Palace on Longshore. He is head of the Prince of Soil´s secret police and espionage network. (p. 37).


The 1st Warzone edition brought the Hatamoto back as a squad choice (1st ed. Warzone, pp. 81-82). Effectively just an armoured-up and better trained variety of the light samurai, and later easily outdone by other Mishiman troops such as the Tiger Dragons (which incidentally look like a variant of Shoa armoured troops to me), they lost much of their lustre, even if they were still billeted as „the elite guard of the Lord Heir“. Note that this means they are fielded by the Lord Heirs, rather than just by the Overlord (as in Mutant Chronicles) or by all lords and Daimyô alike (as in the Mishima sourcebook). Incidentally, being background-restricted to bodyguarding the Lord Heirs made it difficult to find excuses for using them in games that conformed to the storyline.

With later editions, little changed with the Hatamoto. Their abilities, relative strength and equipment remained largely the same (2nd ed. Warzone, p. 23). Yojimbô was re-equipped in 1st edition WZ (Dawn of War, p. 23) with an experimental and difficult-to-pronounce „Deathshrieker screechgun“ (which actually did appear first in the RPG´s Mishima sourcebook, p. 59), and in 2nd edition, the same miniature was redefined as an unnamed Hatamoto hero with a heavy machinegun (2nd ed. Warzone, p. 23). The weapon hardly looks like an HMG, but at least they did away with the name of the gun.

Paul Bonner´s SotC artwork was done when there was no reference material as to the „official“ weapons yet (or so I suppose), so he painted weapons as he saw fit. The awkward-looking weapon that Yojimbô carries in Bonner´s original picture (which looks only marginally less cheesy than the Deathshrieker) was never taken up either in Mutant Chronicles or in Warzone. In the only instance where it is mentioned (rulebook, p. 53), it is described as „(...) a traditional samurai weapon tracing its origins further back than any living man can remember“, „(...) a high-velocity light machinegun with unstable ballistic performance“.
"How was I supposed to know he was an unarmed man? His back was to me."