Actual Play – Legend of the Five Drunken Brawl and Orgy (5/25/2008)

GM: Travis Lindquist
System: L5R

One thing I realize is that I hate it when the protagonists walk in the shadow of existing Lore. So and so did this, and this great legend did that, etc. It’s great to have epic stories for the heroes to aspire to, but they need to be telling stories of their own, stories that change the world around them and because of that become legends of their own. What that means to me: Go Big or Go Home. This will make more sense shortly.

We opened the game in Toshi Rambo, as our characters attended to their personal obligations.

Scene 1 – Kakita Shimizu

Kakita was visited in his family’s house by a Mia messenger who summoned him to speak with her lord. When in his audience he saw the man was an ancient servant of the emperor whose body was beginning to fail him, but who’s mind was still as sharp as a Kakita blade.
Shimizu was instructed that soon the Tournament of the Emperor’s Favored would begin. This tournament was designed so that the Emperor could show his appreciation for the minor clans. This was a great tradition that happened every year. However after the Rain of Blood, there were many doubts that the minor clans would be able to attend as they had suffered quite a bit. Kakita was tasked to ensure that the tournament was had no such disruptions. He would organize the event and by his honor make sure that each minor clan was represented.

Scene 2 – Mirumoto Al-Salin

On his way through Toshi Rambo, heading to the Dragon embassy, Mirumoto was stopped at a gate Lion guards (common in the city). One, an Akoda was happy to let him pass, the other, a Matsu woman saw his gaijin name and began spitting curses at him. He told her of the honor of the Unicorn and how he took that name to respect them, however this only infuriated her further. Politely he asked the Akoda to summon his lord, so that he might approve of a duel.

When the senior Kakita arrived, he blessed the duel, and allowed for a duel of Kenjitsu rather than a formal Iajitsu challenge. To prove to Matsu the honor of the Unicorn, Mirumoto sent a hemin to fetch his Utaka Saddle-Cutter from his quarters. Despite his lack of specialized training with the no-dashi, Al-Salin fought with it to uphold the honor of the Unicorn. The battle started strangely, the Matsu flew into a rage throwing all of her anger at the Dragon, but he merely defended himself, barely turning her blade aside. After moments of this, the Kakita interrupted and instructed the Dragon to finish the duel one way or the other. In a near moment of Karmic blows, Mirumoto barely parried the Matsu’s blade, took the second position and brought his giant blade across her brow, filling her eyes with blood. “Now, do you see the honor of the Unicorn?”

Scene 3 – Sodano Soki

Whilst training at the Dojo, Sodano looked more humble than ever. Enough so that a few hemin mistook him for one of them and spoke when he should not. The spoke of a master who would bring enlightenment and perfect to all those of Rokugan, samurai and hemin alike, but mostly hemin. Sodano clarified that he was in fact Samurai and quoted Shinsei, explaining that in the celestial order, all did well who understood their place. The two argued for some time before the hemin could see that Sodano, while a samurai, had some appreciation for the humble life of a hemin and asked him to come and learn of their ways. Curious, Sodano accepted the offer, unsure where it would lead.

Scene 4 – Doji Kazumichi

At last Doji’s father Naomi was found. However, instead of the proud ruler of a castle that the young Doji had remembered, he found his father weeping in a small house, alone. When he confronted his father and explained that his appearance was dishonorable, Naomi regained his composure and told his son a tale of Woe. Of late he has received letters, always left as this doorstep, never by a messenger that he could question. The letters incriminated him for heinous crimes against the emperor. Any one of them, were they true, would at best earn Naomi an honorable Sepuku. In total, they portrayed him as the greatest enemy of the emperor that Kazumich had ever known.
Boldly the young Doji compelled his father to reveal the letters so he could see these claims with his own eyes. Incensed by these accusations, he told his father than he would see out whoever made such claims and end their aggression against their family.

Scene 5 – Yoritomo

During his Shugenja training, the young samurai was approached by another Yoritomo who quickly and bluntly asked where, amongst the Yoritomo faction, his allegiance lied. Of course the magistrate began with the obvious answer, “To the Emperor”. This was not the answer the mysterious man was looking for. He mentioned the Yoritomo factions and told him that only the black faction was true to the old ways. They would return to their old traditions of relieving those who were overly burdened by good and coin. Yoritomo’s expression turned perplexed. This man was asking, in no uncertain terms, for a Sapphire magistrate to engage in piracy, the very task he was charged by the Emperor to stop.

Not want to make enemies before he knew of the other factions desires, Yoritomo politely asked for some time to consider the offer.

Scene 6 – Ikoma (and Sodano Soki)

On their way to a sake house to meet Kakita Shimizu, the Ikoma saw a Lion dressed for his mourning. He approached the man and asked him of his garb. The Lion was startled, surprised, and then outraged. He yelled that “it cannot be!” several times. Eventually Ikoma got him to calm down enough to explain that Ikoma was betrothed to the man’s sister but then disappeared some time ago. Thought dead, the man’s sister married Ikoma’s brother, a useless man of no virtue. Hardly able to contain his rage the man said that if he sought to learn more, the Ikoma should meet him at the Matsue drinking house, if he dared. With that he stalked off.

Ikoma and Sodano spoke amongst themselves and decided they should consult Kakita Shimzau for etiquette on this matter.

Scene 7 – Kakita Shimizu

Surprised by his recent appointment as organizer and planner, Shimizu sought out the Mia lord’s second, an attractive Mia who was a woman, not a girl and Kakita was familiar with dallying with. She had the weight of experience behind her eyes, but it only served to accentuate the lovely curves of her body. Unlike her lord, she spared Kakita the time to explain some of the details about the Tournament of the Emperor’s chosen and offered her assistance in executing Kakita’s orders.

They spoke some, but soon she would have to attend other affairs. This was the opportunity Kakita had hoped for. As her days were already very busy, Kakita asked her to join him for sake and a meal where they could get to know each other better and work out the affairs of this tournament. Not realizing his gestures implied more than strictly a business relationship, the Mia agreed, eager to see what the young Kakita was made of.

Scene 8 – Mirumoto Al-Salin

At the Dojo, Mirumoto has a large room to himself. On the wall were giant scrolls unrolled and empty, waiting to carry his message to the Mirumoto daimyo. He wrote of his deeds, providing rice for the Dragon Clan, defeating the maho at the tournament, winning the topaz championship, becoming a sapphire magistrate, defeating pirates and finally cutting down the bloodspeakers as they tried to summon a corrupted Oni. After these deeds he wrote of the Unicorn Utaka Nayan and of her virtue. He asked that the daimyo approve of their marriage. As he was going to complete the work, a voice interrupted him. “Strange that you write of such manners of the heart using the form of a sword.” A Ise Zuma (the tattooed monks of Toturi) stood behind him, observing his work. Startled, Mirumoto splattered paint on the wall behind the scroll and turned holding the brush in his stance. “I am Mirumoto. The way of the sword is the way of my life, I carry it with me always.” He held the brush in perfect stance, but doubt began to seep through him. The monk added “Perhaps then you should have written it from horseback.” Cryptic and unsettling, he had nothing else to say.

Unsettled by his encounter with the monk, Mirumoto tried to regain his “no” stace and loose his mind. Thoughts however prevailed and he made the last stroke distracted. From where he stood speaking to the monk, Al-Salin turned and flicked his brush such that the paint flew with great force against the scroll, leaving his closing charged with emotion. A moment later he was on his face in the carpet, a reminder from the monk that he should not be ignored. Mirumoto’s voice was garbled by speaking onto the carpet beneath him “Hai!”

Scene 9 – Sodano Soki

Following the hemin he had met before, Sodano was taken through a secret passage at night. Disturbed by the dishonorable appearance of the hemin’s actions, he asked many questions but received few answers. They discussed knowing their lord and while it was clear that Sodano knew his master was the Emperor, the hemin could not identify his. This continued to trouble Sodano until eventually his patience was tested too far. The hemin asked that he hold his hand over a flame to ensure that his heart was pure, but Sodano would not do so without learning more of these men.

The argued and as honor dictated, when the man made it clear that he was a dishonorable dog, Sodano’s cut him down without hesitation or remorse. After that, he reported his findings to his sensei at the dojo and many hemin stopped being seen on the grounds.

Scene 10 – Doji Kazumichi

When returning to his lodging, Doji found another letter inside his shoji screen. “We know your father is in Toshi Rambo, he cannot hide from us.” The handwriting looked familiar but he could not place it. Doji turned to his companions and eventually it was identified as the Yazuki who we had seen letters from on the Island of peasants. Young Doji sought to find this man.

Scene 11 – Yoritomo

Not wanting his next encounter with the black faction to play out like the first one did, Yoritomo visited sake houses speaking to different mantis and asking them of the factions. He found that there were five.

  • Black – Those who sought the old ways. Piracy!
  • Green – Those who which to maintain good relations with the other clans and act as they did before the Rain of Blood.
  • Purple – Isolationists, who wished to retreat to the islands and separate themselves from Rokugan.
  • Red – A secretive faction who sought to bring the minor clans and vassal families under their clan name, as the Wasp and the Centipede had been before.
  • Dark – Another secret clan who sought to serve Iuchiban.

Quite inebriated by the time he had gathered all this information, Yoritomo sought out Kakita and asked him if he knew of the Tournament of the Emperor’s Favored and was delighted that he had. Kakita however had to run to a dinner meeting and could not give him further details.

Scene 12 – Ikoma (and eventually everyone else)

Through happenstance and good fortune Ikoma rounded up all those who had “rescued” him to go drinking at the Matsu drinking house. Briefly, lots of things happened.

  1. Tsurichi Nadu, the Sapphire Champion stepped from the shadows and made the Ikoma one of us, a sapphire magistrate. He also saw that some of us were ready for a fight and asked that we not burn the drinking hall down.
  2. Bayushi Hakuseki (known before as Meme) chuckled somewhat at our efforts, teased Yoritomo and then brushed past us.
  3. Inside the hall, Ikoma was challenged to cup smashing (?) duel by his Brother-in-law. When the Lion’s cup was shattered he finally consented to if not like, at least tolerate our new magistrate, the Ikoma.
  4. The Ikoma found out from another woman that his betrothed was a beautiful and deadly lioness, but she was now married to his brother. This woman was also a lioness, however, as well as beautiful, deadly and also shared a past with the Ikoma.
  5. Mirumoto met the matsu who he had defeated earlier and in a drunken stupor picked a fight which turned at first into a giant brawl and then a giant orgy.

Wrap up scene – All

The next morning we staggered out of the now wrecked (but not burnt!) drinking house and to a meeting with Nadu, who handed out additional assignments and gave us all looks of “Don’t make the Sapphire magistrates look like idiots.”

What rocked

A lot of our character motivations were advanced. Having scene to direct our actions was great. I’m personally working to get Al-Salin HEAVILY invested in both Lion and Unicorn affairs. If I can I will engineer it so that Al-Salin has to cut down both his betrothed and the Matsu woman that he hates but still calls a companion in bed. That’s a ways off, but I’m working towards it. If anything is going to make Al-Salin an Ise Zume, it’s having his heart broken by killing both of the women that he loves. That would be epic.

I was happy to find out what’s going on with Doji Naomi. I’m glad that his plot is one that all of the magistrates can find a reason to follow. As next session is the last game that Doji Kazumichi can attend (the players is moving to Texas), I’d really like to see that come to a head and be resolved in some climactic ass kicking way.

There are some very interesting personal hooks we received. Even better because they are intertwined. Kakita must orchestrate the Tournament of the Emperor’s Favored, while Yoritomo seeks to infiltrate it so he can have access to all of the minor clans in one place. This will be really cool when it comes to a head. I’m rooting for both sides!

I like how Ikoma’s past is coming up. The player does a fantastic job of being very straight forward and honest “I’m sorry, I don’t remember that.” It’s great to watch the GMs face turn red as he plays the infuriated Lion in mourning.

I got to learn about a different duel, which is cool. The way it played out was interesting. I’ve never used defense before but it makes Mirumoto nearly untouchable. With my Daisho equipped, raising my TN to 60 plus is quite possible. The downside being of course that I can’t attack. It would be interesting however, if I needed to defend something… hmm…

The drunken orgy was great. As I said in the beginning, if there is something really cool about a place, when the PCs go through it, I want it to happen. I’m very glad it came off. We were laughing our asses off the entire time.

What could have been improved

I think we need more character goals that involve other PCs. In a six player game going around the table and only playing one PC at a time is slow. It’s not that I think we always need to be together, I’d just like to see more meaningful dialog (and conflict) between the PCs. I think this will happen between Yoritomo and Kakita as they tournament gets closer, but I want to see myself pushing for more of it. My next goal will definitely be directed at a PC rather than an NPC. Have to work on that. Another thought on this point is the idea of players taking the roll of NPCs. I know some of them have agendas we can’t know about, but many of the NPCs last night could have been summed up with a sentence or two of direction and then more players would be involved in the action. Just another thought.

I’m thinking GM turn vs. Player turn + Scene framing from PTA as a way to keep the GM’s story moving and engaging the players while still giving them time to peruse their agendas and you keep it tight (time wise) but cutting out all the middling junk and right into the scene of the action. We did have some pretty tightly defined scenes in this game though, so that might be adding a bunch of formalities where they aren’t needed.

More XP! Wow, this is the first game in ages where I’ve been chomping at the bit for XP. In most games, I just sit on it forever and eventually go “oh, I guess I’ll get a point of that, it will be cool” but usually it doesn’t really matter that much. In L5R my XP disappears the moment I get it. In this game, the GM let me retroactively change my XP to raise my Defense so I could dodge a blow. This was killer but it meant that nights XP when right back into raising up the things I previously had. I ended up with one left over to train Jujitsu so I wasn’t using it unskilled any more. Man, my character is like an XP vacuum. I still want to learn Katas, raise my theology, raise my awareness (probably a low priority at this point), raise my void (a high priority if I want to become an Ise Zumi eventually), bump up Kenjitsu, bump up battle, etc. etc. I could get 50 XP (way more than we’ve already received in play) and it would be gone in an instant. This probably isn’t a problem, per se, there just keeps being things I really wish I had. A good motivator to play for sure (as if I didn’t have one before)!