We had to do some catch up for Tso-Lou (Eric) and Yoshi (Omar) who weren’t at the last game. Essentially we breezed through their tournament events. Tso-Lou did well and Yoshi
The next day was the day of the great race. The contestants were staged based on their performance in the events at the tournament. Several of the Sapphire magistrates made it out in good time, but they were bested by a Tsurichi, who won the prize.
Inside the forest, however, some of the magistrates found other wonders.
Ikoma Tso-Lou, who was first into the forest was one of the last out. Instead of finding the shrine of the minor clans, he found a shrine of death. And old rattling shaking a rattle inviting Tso-Lou to pray at his shrine. He gave Tso-Lou a rattle and when shaking it he started having memories of his family, those he loved. His mind however, was still on the race and so excused himself to look for the prize, however it too had alluded him.
Yoshi’s encounter bore more fruit, the over ripe and rotting kind. He met three samurai in the forest, Eriko, Benica and Bakor. A shugenja and two monks, respectively. They spoke of a lost scrolls that Isawa himself had left in the forest, which they had found. When he deciphered the spells however, they were of a frightening nature. The first would boil the blood of your enemies, the second would burn them through a wound you inflicted… by biting them!
Sodano Shiko met a small child in the woods who told him that his parents were shugenja that cast spells to look like Nezumi and they were slaughtered last night. He told them his parents had a curse that whoever killed them would suffer if they did not shave their head. So Shiko let the little boy shave his head. When finished, however, the boy was gone and a bizarre looking man stood in his place. “You’ve been tricked and now you’re bald. You’ve been tricked by Pekel!” The man, or creature, or whatever it was, then ran off into the woods, leaving Shiko shaved and alone.
After the events
There were several encounters of importance. Ikoma Li was educated by her brother in ways to more subtly insult the Dragonfly. She tried making Shiko and Miyazaki laugh with her insults. The results made the players crack up at least.
Al-Saleen knew there would be questions after all the Nezumi were found in the forest. Miyzazaki learned that their deaths caused the birth of dark kami and they were allied with the Fox as well. His actions were necessary, or more likely he just doesn’t know how to admit he was wrong. Regardless he told the Fox of his actions. Killing many and more of the Nezumi to protect the tournament. Needless to say, this did not make the fox happy, nor Kuni Karoke who he told as well.
Dinner was a somber event. Shimizu told Miyazaki the price he paid to avenge him. Al-Saleen told the magistrate that he had confessed to killing the Nezumi. Yoshi told us the disturbing spells he found in the woods and then discovered his Nemurani was missing. Shiko confessed to being an accomplice to the theft, and Miyazaki as well. As a whole, the dinner was rather sobering.
After we had eaten each clan gave out an award. Notably no one had even tried to gain favor with the Ox, leaving them very disgruntled. They gave their favor to Tsurichi, as he was the Emperor’s favored as well.
Here are the ones I remember:
Fox – Honored Isawa Yoshi for his gift to the mori
Tortoise – Honored Yoritomo Miyazaki for his cunning and skill in trade.
Sparrow – Honored Doji Motomasa for his dedication to peace.
Monkey – Honored Mirumoto Al-Saleen for his skill and dedication to help others. The sword included a chain so he would not lose it.
Oriel – Tsi Zutaka honored the Yogo for her love of the craft. Giving her a wakazashi, the weapon a samurai uses to kill themselves, no less.
Ox – As above, gave a gift to the Tsiruchi, annoyed.
Bat – Honored Shimizu and granted him audience with one of his ancestors. I wonder who he’ll pick.
Hare – Honored Shiko for his aid to their clan and gave him a scribe to write down the story of his heroism.
Dragonfly – Honored an Agasha, the child of one of the clan’s parents.
Badger – Honored Tso Lou for respecting his duty and obligations.
The Emperor’s gift.
The next morning many had already left, knowing there was nothing for them at the tournament. The magistrates stayed however to see the Emperor’s gift bestowed. Though he gave it to the Tsiruchi, when the winner spoke he told those remaining that he had come win, but instead found love. He had fallen in love. As he would not dishonor the Emperor by carrying a blade he could not use, he asked permission to grant the blade to his betrothed Utaka Nikku. There as some fan waving, but it passed and Nikku was bestowed with the blade.
As we departed each of the magistrates wrapped up their business.
Shimizu made final arrangements with Sparrow Daimyo to wed his daughter at winter court. He also told them of his mother and Sezume Junko passed on her condolences. He told Al-Saleen that he could not join him on the pilgrimage to the Two Generals, he has to attend family business. Mirumoto understood and offered his condolences to his family as well.
Yoritomo Miyzazaki politely refused Kamori’s offer to join the bat clan, informing him that had other obligations. Specifically traveling abroad to study. He also gave a set of beautiful Yoritomo chopsticks to Shimizu as a symbol of the debt he owned him.
Yoshi reovered his nemurania and forgave Shiko for stealing it.
Tso Lou offered his sister Ikoma Li the doll he had made for her, which she promptly paraded around saying how much better it was than a Dragonfly doll.
Sodano Shiko began dictating to his scribe. “Today is called ‘Protecting the Soul of Shiba’. Tomorrow will be called ‘Protecting the Soul of Shiba…’”
Al-Saleen, who had a minor injury from a training accident (teaching Akimoto was proving harder than he imagined) thanked the Toku once again for their honor and invited the sensei to Winter Court. AS he was leaving a boy preparing for his own gempuku called out. “Topaz Champion, you are wearing my armor.” The brash boy told Al-Saleen how he would win the Championship as well as admittance into all three of the orders (emerald, jade and sapphire). When Al-Saleen laughed the toku struck a blow close to home. “If you love three things, why should you not peruse them all. If your heart is true, can you not balance all?” Saddened, all that Al-Saleen could offer was that “If you trust in your heart, it will not fail to betray you.”
We were all a bit frustrated that none of us won the Emperor’s Favor. Three of us rolled pretty well and it looked like Shimizu might have taken it. He was beet out, however by a Tsuruchi. The final scene showing a massacre and the Tsuruchi dead and the sword missing made me feel a lot better about losing.
I definitely got my tournament fix in. There were lots of great scenes at the tournament but also a lot that couldn’t happen at a tournament (like a training scene with Akimoto) that I am looking forward to doing now.
The dinner discussions were great. We had several people stand up as they were going to say something before another magistrate pulled them back into their chair, preventing the brash action. Everyone admitting the things they had done turned almost into a comedy of errors. “Wait… you to my Nemurania? Where is it now?” – “I’m sorry, I cannot answer that. Only the Hare know it’s whereabouts” – “Umm, well that isn’t exactly the case. I was involved as well…” Great stuff.
What could have improved
I felt sick during the game and it really sucked. I had to keep going to the bathroom and just generally felt like crud during the game. Not fun and made it very hard for me to concentrate.
I really didn’t mean to be ungrateful regarding the Monkey’s favor. I like the clan an I’m really glad I gained their favor, I was just being greedy and wanted the Tao from the Sparrow as well. Ironically, a sword is a lot less exciting to Al-Saleen then a beautiful copy of the Tao is.
I haven’t figured out how to get Al-Saleen back in a positive mood since the Battle of Ten Banners. Two of his loves died, one of them by his own hand. This tore him apart. First he went nuts but then realized the suffering that Nayan must be facing, so he pulled himself together, if not for himself, for her. Since then though, his life has just been one tragedy after another. The story of the Cherry Tree, his father in law hating him, seeing the ghost of Takeko, the Morito hating him, killing all those Nezumi, the Fox and the Crab both thinking him vile, Nikku being sarred by Takeko. And Al-Saleen isn’t the only one that suffers. Shimizu’s mother is dead, his sister grieving. Shiko betrayed his charge (Yoshi). Basically, if you’re a bushi this game, your life sucks right now.
And while I love the suck… I also know it can’t last forever. At least not for a good story. Despite the suffering, we need to have something uplifting to raise our spirits. For Shimizu this might be his upcoming nuptials, but for Al-Saleen that will just mean more sadness. I like Al-Saleen as tragic but optimistic, I’d like to get him back there.
Killing the Nezumi really wasn’t our plan. The players wanted to go find Number Two and the Hare (NPCs) offered to help. They helped by massacring every Nezumi in our path. This really wasn’t any of the players intentions (we have no issue with ratlings as a whole) but it felt right for the mood of the game. Three distraught bushi purging their anguish in blood. It’s got a very Rokugan feeling. What I started getting frustrated with was how much fallout the characters are enduring for an idea that wasn’t theirs. Al-Saleen has angered both the Crab and the Fox, dark kami are breeding from their corpses, and a shrine of death is being formed be some old Nezumi. All of this stuff is cool, but I really don’t want it to come back and wreck our lives.
The tournament kind of ended with a whimper rather than a bang. Lots of people left early and even for those who stayed till the end, there wasn’t much excitement. I felt this way about the gempuku at the Topaz Championship as well. I think it may just be hard to end things and carry the excitement forward. An idea for doing this next time (possibly for the end of winter court) is cut off the narratives early and jump right to the next thing people are doing (most likely traveling away) and make flashbacks scenes where each player tells a little about the last thing they remember at the event. The GM would also add in any scenes necessary. That way the end scenes would be told in the context of still moving forward.
I’m kind of lost with Al-Saleen. At one point I had a lot of concrete goals in mind for him that I could push for. Now I just have these “way in the future” ideas that I don’t know how to address. I need to figure out where he is going next, as right now I’m having less fun playing him that I was before. Areas I could see focusing on: training Akimoto, becoming a patron and friend of the Toku who is competing in next year’s Topaz Championship, getting to know Kuni Karoke (either and a friend or enemy), and talking more to Takeko-Gaki. T, tell me if any of these things interest you.