Actual Play – Investigation at Doji’s Last Breath – Day 1 and 2 (12/7/2009 and 12/14/2009)

GM: Travis Lindquist
Players: Eric, Erik, Alec, Omar, Steve, and Sean
: L5R, 3rd Edition

After overseeing the Topaz Championship (and hearing Tsi Zutaka’s extremely edited account of his son, the previous Topaz Champion’s life) the Sapphire Magistrates and their new Yoriki were assigned by their lord to investigate the Serpents of Senada, a band of pirates who Nadu heard were operating in a small town called Doji’s Last Breath.

We arrived in port and began our investigation immediately. The particular scenes have been very fun but what I’m really enjoying is the “advent calendar” mechanics Travis is using for this investigation.


We have a map of the town with 39 numbered areas. In most of these areas there are clues to be found. In some of the areas there are story hooks which apply only to a single character and can’t be accessed by other characters (if they show up, they are given a hint that another character should go there). Some of the areas are time sensitive (events only happening in morning, afternoon or night) and some areas are just scenery.

Each day we have three opportunities to work on the investigation. When we first enter an area that potentially has a clue there was some challenge (resolved by a single roll) to gain the favor of someone who could help. If we succeeded at that roll, an NPC would have a generally favorable attitude and offer some assistance in exchange for our help in some matter. The Guards need Horses and weapons, the Daimyo needs a peasant revolt put down, the Dragonfly needs an Akodo to stop harassing her, etc. Once this favor is completed (which takes at least one of our time slots, in some cases more), returning with a third time slot will yield a useful connection.

By the second day are characters quickly became embroiled in the town’s local issues, most of them at best are peripherally related to the pirates. Many of the people we visited made requests that were in direct opposition to each other. The Daimyo for instance is trouble by the heimin, who themselves say they are taxed unfairly and not provided for. The question quickly becomes how much do we just want to find the pirates and get our job done vs. helping this town out with its own domestic issues. I like the juxtaposition of our duties as Sapphire Magistrates against our sympathies for the locals. I image this is something that many law enforcement figures run into on a regular basis. There is a third element which has come up a little and that is personal gain. We definitely have the opportunity to profit either as individuals or as magistrates by taking advantage of our station. One example was a number of ronin who offered to work for us at the drop of a hat. We suddenly have 4 more workers, who were previously under the Daimyo’s employ. Having these varying motivations has made for some interesting scenes.

In particular here are some of the highlights:

Tso-Lou’s first step off the boat landed him in the gardens where his brother Kan and a Crane Yasuki were having a private discussion. Dumb luck that he happened on the right place at the right time. Getting the drop on them (the scenes roll was a Perception + Investigation: Notice), Tso-Lou snuck up on them and descended down from a hedge with a bare fisted strike that shattered the lady’s spine, killing her instantly. With some help from Isawa Yoshi’s aid of the earth Kami he was then swiftly able to capture his brother (by means of unconsciousness).

Later Isawa Yoshi met Eriko in the Shrine to Lady Doji and fornicated all over it, corrupting the shrine such that the statue of Lady Doji crumbled and decayed over night.

Miyazaki has an almost comical experience with some ronin warehouse workers (mentioned above) who went into our employ at the drop of a hat.

We have some good time at sake, geisha and tea houses. Most of these “good times” involved swords being drawn and in some cases heads being removed.

A number of duels were fought… a total of three. In that we got to find out some interesting rules about dueling in the town. The Daimyo’s personal interests have shaped nearly every aspect of the town itself.

I liked the Yoriki magistrate. She’s an infesting character who is more concerned with the truth (and most likely a personal grudge) than her standing.

What rocked

As mentioned before the core investigation mechanic is fun to engage it. We don’t know what we’ll find in each area.

I had a great time in a fight with three of the pirates, though I realize now I probably should have just removed the legs from the leader instead of the head.

The Nezumi we met was a hoot. He didn’t have nearly the skills in speaking Rokugani that Number 2 did so we did a lot of work translating what he said. He looks like he’ll be fun.

I’ve enjoyed playing the Yoriki. I specifically made my character to be relatively level headed (at least for a Matsu). I wanted to play against type to show a character who has the potential to be more than just a warrior, but also someone who could use her talents to serve the Sapphire Magistrates and in doing so gain their favor.

What could have been improved

My scene with the Unicorn didn’t have quite the tension I was looking for. My character really hates the Unicorn (she’s been fighting at the City of the Rich Frog since the war) but I was trying to put her in a position where she had to interact peacefully with them. I succeeded but I think overall the scene didn’t mean anything to the other players. Over time as they become more familiar with Rei, I’m sure that will change. The case of Tso-Lou and his brother for instance is a good example of the players knowing how much Kan means to the player and really rooting for him when he took him down.

I’d like to see more small group (2-4) scenes. The current system rewards us the most for splitting up but I think the dynamics between the Sapphire Magistrates is golden. I’m not sure what the best fix for this is but my plan will be to accompany the Magistrates when I can.

One thought on “Actual Play – Investigation at Doji’s Last Breath – Day 1 and 2 (12/7/2009 and 12/14/2009)”

  1. “I’d like to see more small group (2-4) scenes. The current system rewards us the most for splitting up but I think the dynamics between the Sapphire Magistrates is golden. I’m not sure what the best fix for this is but my plan will be to accompany the Magistrates when I can.”

    There’s two elements:

    1) The system rewards you for splitting up the first couple of days. But now, people should be running low or verging on out of void points, which means either a number of scenes to recover, or wandering around without the void safety net, which has been hard to plan for.

    2) The system is rewarding until you fail. If you fail, normally the whole area shuts down and people in it turn against you. So once the void net is gone, if people are wandering around and hit an area that has a skill they don’t have, massive failure and major consequences will happen.

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