Actual Play – Legend of the Five Rings (1/8/2009)

System: L5R

buffaloraven  really likes L5R. I mean, he REALLY likes it. He likes the RPG, the card game, the story line, the whole tamale. He had been talking about running an L5R game after our current 7th game finishes (my guess in a month or two) but wanted to see if some of the non-bushi, non-shugenja roles were viable. These are courtiers, yojimbos, bounty hunters, artisans and the like.

To test this out we’ve been getting together for short play-tests (this was the 3rd of them, I wasn’t at the second and I forgot to write up a recap of the 1st). In each play-test we’ve create some non-standard characters alongside at least one bushi or shugenja.

1st game we played Crane. I was a Kakita Bushi (pretty vanilla) but from a vassal family that respected crafting and so I had forged my own blade. Of the others, one was a courtier and the other a storyteller. I can’t say much about this as it has been a few weeks and I don’t think I’d give it a fair break down. I know I had fun cutting two silk scarves that were tied together apart with a single swing of my katana without damaging either scarf. They were color coded based on family and it was all symbolic and stuff.

2nd game I wasn’t present for, I think they played Mantis.

3rd game we played the Imperial Family. A family that is dedicated to keeping all the other clans at each other’s throats so they don’t turn on the emperor. Pretty smart, eh?

I played an Otomo courtier from a vassal house formed in the memory of this horrible bully. My job was to stir shit up, piss people off and boss people around. Hell YEAH. The story was that we were Imperial Magistrates who are sent with the emperor’s koku (gold) to dispense and improve the land. We had an encounter with a monk and an encounter with some not so typical bandits.

What rocked

My character’s school power is what rocked. It allowed him to use deceit without losing honor. Specifically deceit allows a character to convincingly tell a lie, seduce people (no romance here, we’re talking about buying people’s souls Palpatine style), and intimidation. A very nice selection of abilities.

In combat, when faced by a corrupted samurai and his ronin mercenaries, I was able to use Deceit to turn one of the hired hands against his master just enough to make him hesitate while we dispatched the real threat and then told him to kill himself with my tanto. Nice!

I was able to play a drunk without making it a huge “oh my god, you’re playing a character who is a drunk, we all need an intervention now!” Rokugan is a culture based on ignoring (or pretending to ignore) each other’s vices. It if isn’t “seen”, it didn’t really happy. It meant I could act a little dumb without grinding the game to a halt.

We met this poor man who was starving and waiting for the monks to return. I got a chance to use theology and quote something of Shinsei convincing him that he was purifying himself by fasting and that waiting here patiently was a lesion the monks were trying to teach him. We had barrels of cash, tons of food and yet somehow it was the right thing to do to leave this old man hungry. It was weird, and kind of cruel and creepy, but very cool.

What could have been improved

While I was very happy that my Deceit was a useful skill in combat, there was no die mechanic for it. The GM just assigned an arbitrary number of raises needed to convince someone of something. While I was very happy with the way he ruled, I think it would get tiring having to do that every time I used deceit against an enemy. I like to see mechanics that encourage certain actions. In this case, my character’s school power got him halfway there but (he got free raises) but failed to present a method for him to talk down an opponent.

It seemed like the Sepun Bushi was a bit underpowered. The requirements of a normal bushi are to have a high Agility and Reflexes. The Sepun also need a high Perception for their school, which results in them being less bad ass all around.