Actual Play – Isawa Holy Crap (4/12/2010)

GM: Travis Lindquist
Players: Sean, Omar, Alec, Tracy, Steve, Chris, and Eric
System: L5R

Our first month continues as each magistrate seeks to keep the Emperor’s peace.

Week 1 Continued

Kuni Shinji travels to Soshi lands on her way to the Shinomen (to find Sezaru). On her travels she is give a wide berth by the Scorpion who have an appropriate level of fear for her station and her powers. During her stay a restless kami harries her for traveling so far from the wall and abandoning her post. Talking back to said kami makes the Soshi even more wary of her. Shinji wakes to find her room warded by another Shugenja!

While there she finds out that a number of young samurai have been traveling to the Shinomen to seek out Sezaru and join his forces. Young samurai that will probably never return home.

Meanwhile Shiba Shiko stops by the Dragonfly lands on his way to the Isawa province. There he encounters many refugees who have fled the Phoenix lands because of the Bloodspeakers there. They encourage him to turn around and save himself. As if that works on a Samurai!

During his stay Shiko implores a Bushi, Heimin and a Courtier to find out if their affiliation with the Dragon and Pheonix is still serving them well, or if they would do better if supported by the Mantis. Shiko, you Red Fleet bitch.

Week 2

and Washichi, having spoken with Shimizu’s father (the daimyo) seek out the rebellious force who took his wife. They find an encampment with an assortment of ronin and Sparrow bushi protecting one claiming to be the Sparrow daimyo. An usurper who claims to serve the Emperor better than his “predecessor”. The man, Sezume Eishi, converses politely with Miya Washichi over the proper methods of overthrowing a ruler, while Shimizu is afforded time with his wife. Junko tells him that after he abandoned the Sezume lands Benten cursed them. Her father, to stave off a famine took koku from those outside the Sparrow lands and these men disagree with what he did.

Rei and Ryo make a plan to cut off the Scorpion, pushing back the body of their assault while purposefully allowing some to slip past into a Jade mine… one that Ryo has filled with traps. Rei leads a successful charge of Hida bushi while Ryo prepares the mine to injure and maim the Scorpion, that they may run off, lick their wounds, and retell the story of how crafty the Crab can be.

In Dragon lands Tso-Lou visited the Temple of the Spotless Mountain. A quiet place where speaking is not allowed. Conversing with the head monk in Haiku written in the snow, Tso-Lou is given a sign that the three Miya who traveled into Dragon lands are dead. He is then lead to dine with the monks.

Finally arriving in the Isawa lands, Shiko find that the province has been torn apart. Homes abandoned, fields burnt, and fear rampant. Many of the Shiba who tried to kill the Bloodspeakers have been tainted themselves, adding to the destruction. Panic is spreading as well to other provinces. Soon this will affect all of the Pheonix and their neighbors. To combat the Bloodspeakers Shiko opts to join them. He cuts his wrist and shows finds a band claiming that he has tried to use Maho but failed. As he is Forsaken by the Kami, this is not actually a lie. When tested the Bloodspeakers want him to use Maho, but as he simply cannot they accept him as another bushi in their midst.

Shinji beings looking for Sezaru in the Shinomen. At times it seems his encampment will be just around a corner, but then she find herself lost again. Eventually she wandered into a dark grove where a hissing creature that seemed injured by the light (read: Naga) gave her a message to bear for the Wolf. “See what you hate no further here [the Shinomen], says the Akasha.” The serpent creature named Shinji Bright Eyes and told her to leave.

Week 3

Washichi and Shimizu confront the Daimyo who takes umbrage with Shimizu and presents a personal friend, Bayushi Wada. Wada insults both of them and challenges Shimizu to a duel. Official permissions are sent for.

Rei leads the charge of the battlefront and slays the Bayushi leader. Who tried to take her sword of all things! Ryo traps the Bayushi in the mines but finds something he wasn’t expecting. Connected to the Jade mine is a shaft of Obsidian! With creatures of the shadowlands coming from it!

Tso-Lou dines with the monks and during the dinner there is a gong sound, which apparently signals that it is now permissible to speak. The elderly monk explains that the temple is a place for those who die outside in Dragon lands to be put to rest. He pulls out his scroll records and looks up the history of the Miya found. With great reluctance he tells Tso-Lou that they were found skinned alive, a form of horrible torture performed only by the aberration Kokujin. He also told Tso-Lou of the many angry spirits in the mountain. In this temple he was safe from them but now that he knows of them, they will try to consume him once he has left!

Shinji eventually finds Sezaru’s encampment. She once again impresses Sezaru and his yojimbo with her patience and stubborn determination. The yojimbo is quite annoyed by all the “tourists” that have come to see the magnificence of Sezaru and is greatly please to have one of the wolf’s chosen by his side again. Once she tells Sezaru of the Bloodspeakers in the Pheonix lands he goes into crazy focus mode. Sezaru grabs both of them and then launches into the sky like a comet heading for the heart of the Pheonix!

Shiko meets Sezaru and company when they arrive and is nearly killed as a bloodspeaker himself (as he still has cuts on his wrist) but when the Wolf sees that the Kami will not speak with him he becomes curious and wonders if Shiko is instead an ant. He is impressed with Shiko’s former deeds however and tells his own yojimbo he should aspire to be more like the ant.

What Rocked

There aren’t many “superman” characters in L5R and most of the people that powerful are totally evil beyond all measure. So it’s pretty fun when you get to see an insanely powerful Shugenja that’s actually a good guy. Yeah, a little bonkers, okay a lot bonkers, but still a good guy. I know Sezaru is going to disappear soon on a walk about of his own so while we’ve got him it’s pretty spiffy to watch him while we can.

The discomfort the old monk took when telling the story of the Miya and Kokujin was great. Clearly the Mad Prophet weighs heavily on the hearts of the Togashi.

Omar and I had a very fast scene. We knew what we wanted and went for it. Some dice were rolled with clear stakes and a resolution was made fast. I don’t think every scene needs to be that quick but I’m glad to see it’s possible.

The campaign format really allows our character to gather a whole lot of actual experience. I’ve fought in these lands, resolved disputes here, etc. When I consider what my L5R character has done compared to say, your average Dungeons & Dragons character, the adventures she’s had are much more interesting and tell the story of a person in a world rather than in a vacuum.

What could have improved

We’re still missing some props and such that Travis knows about.

Right now it’s taking us three sessions to get through ha month, I’d like that to be down to one session. Travis is working on that as well.

8 thoughts on “Actual Play – Isawa Holy Crap (4/12/2010)”

    1. We’re (roughly) using 3rd. The roll and keep mechanic has actually, for the most part, been left alone. Which is surprising, since nearly every other element of the game has been drastically revised.

      1. OK, 3rd is the one I haven’t had a look at. IIRC in first edition it was add skills, keep traits. In second edition this was changed, and I imagine it was probably changed again in third 🙂

        I wrote a short piece on on how to modify the rolls according to the circumstances, whether physical, social or mental.

  1. Sorry it took a while to get back to you Lev.

    We’ve made two different kings of
    major changes.

    1. Systems

    We’ve port several systems from other games and/or developed them to stack on top of or replace existing mechanics.

    Mass combat: we took bits from the Mouse Guard conflict system and from the L5R CCG. We set up battlefield populated by cards (heroes, attachments, equipment, followers, etc.) played from a semi-random deck. Both sides script moves for their respective battlefields and the outcome is resolved based on the leaders (the PCs) and their resources.

    Experience keys: Taken directly from Shadows of Yesterday.

    Duel of Wills: Adapted from Duel of Wits to make courtier and social conflict way more interactive and powerful in the game.

    Spell Descriptors: To get the feel of magic in Rokugan we tossed the spells out and replaced them with “descriptors” (e.g. Jade, protection, animals) that grant raises on invocations to the Kami if the Shugenja has them.

    1. Use of Mouse Guard’s mass combat rules and L5R CCG seems to be a fascinating combination. Real article fodder, he hints broadly.

      Nice use of Shadow of Yesterday. That is certainly a modular component of said game.

      1. Wow, I’m amazed you could actually read that response. It was written from my iPhone and OMG the typos!

        That aside my plate is very full until July (with both KublaCon and Good Omens Con coming up) but once that is done I’d love to write another piece.

  2. 2. Mini-games. To go along with each segment of the game (or adventure) Travis has created a mini game that made a sandbox for us to play in. The ones he’s done so far: The tournament of the emperor’s favored, winter court, a city wide investigation, and finally a search across the entire empire for the missing emperor.

    Each of the games had it’s own mechanics for advancing our agendas while interacting with the challenges presented appropriate to the adventure.

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