Actual Play – Stopping Five Samurai with One Kick! (10/25/2010)

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

This report could also have been named “Master Tiger, You’re not my son!” Some strange things happened in this game, strange and good, but also telling of the end.

This was our second and final Winter Court session, where each of us would vie for influence over families in the upcoming conflict with Kisada, who had announced that he is going to take the throne.

Round 1

The first round was predictable. Rei gained the favor of the Moto. This was challenging and it involved sleeping with the Moto leader, but the Moto relented just the same. Tso-Lou swayed the Toritaka to be a Falcon rather than a Crab and oppose Kisada. Miho gained the favor of the Kaiu. Washichi convinced the Ide to remain neutral and inclined the Utaka to do the same. Finally Shinji gain support for Kisada from the Hiruma, who were eager to help regardless.

There were some oddities though. Shiko, given a direction from the Shadow Dragon himself, invented a new front. He convinced the Yoritomo to use this great war as a chance to grab land wherever it was left undefended… as per their imperial mandate of course. Not since the Blood Rain would the Mantis have such fertile crops to till!

Also, Shimizu put his plan to abandon this war and send entire clans off to seek the emperor into motion. Taking a bulk of the Crane clan with him, he also cashed in the obligation owed to him by the Sapphire Champion (Yoritomo Miyazaki) to get both the Sapphire Magistrates and the Tsuruchi to aid in his search as well.

Round 2

Then things got interesting. Rei’s son Jo (whose soul was replaced by that of Master Tiger, Mr. Super bad guy of the Kolat) finally tipped his hand. He had seemed to know too much far too often, but as adults that usually underestimate children we generally assumed he was just a perceptive boy, or perhaps that he had been listening in on conversations that weren’t his business. Despite his uncanny knowledge, nobody really suspected anything was particularly “wrong” with him. We all just though he was a little shit of a kid, and that wasn’t a surprise given how horrible of a mom he had (and no father to speak of). But he did something that finally made no sense. He told his mother that he had learned much from Tso-Lou and demonstrated this by giving her a sweep kick and dropping her in the mud. Now… if Rei wasn’t martial to a fault, this wouldn’t have surprised many, but as she’s fast like a freak, this should have never happened.

Washichi being present spoke to the earth kami and they confirmed that his strength in earth was far higher than that of a child should be. From his demonstration it was clear that so was his fire. Finally, when congratulated for teaching Jo the Ikoma Brawler stance so well, Tso-Lou protested that he had never instructed Jo. Something was clearly wrong, his elements were out of balance and Jo might be in danger…

So, while both me as a player and Rei as a character loathed to do it, Rei gave up the opportunity to influence another family and instead took her son to a Kitsu temple so that the priests could commune with the kami and find out what ailed her son. And to my great delight, almost everyone followed suit. Washichi and Shinji wanted to come and help with the communing. Tso-Lou made a promise to Jo to take him the next time he went to visit a family and Jo had made that promise sound VERY binding, so as I had Jo with me, Tso-Lou refrained from doing more of his protecting the empire duties. Shiko was also involved. The shadow dragon had interest in the boy and sent him to seek the boy out. He followed us to the temple and found a corrupted Kitsu to be his agent in the ceremony. Jo ended up stopping five samurai with one kick!

From here things went nuts. As she was not a shugenja Rei prayed to her ancestors to give her wisdom regarding her troubled son. They wondered why she worried; her son’s soul had departed Ningen-do (realm of mortals) some months ago. His soul was in Yomi (realm of blessed ancestors) now. WHA-A-A-A-AT? What abomination killed her child and now wore his skin. In a temple of peace Rei roared forward blade of her ancestors in hand and impaled her son with a single deadly blow. This was despite Shiko appearing from nowhere and Jo himself, or Master Tiger as the players knew him, deflating defending himself. As I mentioned above, Rei is a destroyer of worlds when it comes to martial conflicts.

We left with the boy in death throws, healed by Washichi so that we might understand the truth. Jo regained consciousness and in a pained voice asked “What am I doing back here?”

Meanwhile a Kitsu that had “fallen” during the casting of the spell appeared off screen raising a white mask to his face. “Yes, this shell will suffice much better.” Maniacal laughter closed the session.

What rocked

As Travis said in a tweet, much of the second half of this session was an exercise in player trust, that he as a GM would not hose us, and we all passed the test. As players we took actions that felt right and as a GM Travis made sure that all of them were important and awesome.

The Jo twist was killer. Maybe it accelerated faster that I would have liked (from serious suspicion to impaling in one session) but it was still cool to see that Jo finally had a real impact on the samurai. Travis had been working in that for a while.

I felt really good that most of the other players backed me when I spent a “turn” focusing on Jo. I really thank all of them for regarding it with importance enough to make that sacrifice as well.

Rei is just TORN apart. Jo doesn’t remember anything that happened (Travis told me out of game that his soul went to Yomi but came back when Master Tiger departed his body) but Rei does. She remembers believing that some kind of spirit was her son, and she remembers all too well impaling him. She’s been a really bad mother that was perpetually disappointed her son for so long, she sees that she has a chance to be a better mother to him now, to start over, but she’s not sure she deserves that chance, or that she won’t just fuck it up again. And regardless of how well the wound heals, Rei is never going to forget plunging her tempered blade, the blade of her ancestors, into her son’s chest. I REALLY look forward to seeing what happens to those too. Rei had a key “I will not allow my son to dishonor our family,” which will now change to “My son, my regret.” (which is particularly important because regret is one of the three sins in Rokugan).

Almost forgot, there was this hilarious scene early on when Jo (still possessed Jo) was running around to all the male characters insisting that they were his father. When Rei finds out about this she summarily dismisses this and says she knows who his father is, but he’s too much of a coward to meet his own son. The question of, well could either Washichi or Tso-Lou be Jo’s father… hypothetically speaking. Rei answers “I’ve never shared a bed with Washichi…” And then there is this crazy long dramatic pause. “That’s the end of the sentence.” And both Fattig and I’m interpreting from that Tso-Lou a little as well blush and suddenly the scene is both hilarious and awkward all at the same time. It was a great moment.

What could have been improved

Eh… frankly I’m not looking forward to a big PVP battle that is coming up. I can think of a lot of awesome role-playing scenes and situations that could come up from the last session, but I doubt will see much of that in a largely tactical conflict. Rei will lead one side and Tso-Lou will lead the other, we’re both master in battle, and will lead huge friggin armies. Casualties will be very high, and some epic stuff might come out of it, but right now I’d much rather be spending some scenes with Rei and Jo talking , or Washichi or Tso-Lou for that matter.