Actual Play – The Battle that Never Happened (5/11/2009)

GM: Travis Lindquist
System: L5R

This is very late (post dated to fit chronologically, but in fact written two weeks after the fact). Mostly, I’m putting this in here as point of posterity, and to help me remember the details of the game.

After the Rain of Blood, we set off for the nearest imperial port Kyuden Doji. On our way, however, we encountered a devastated village inhabited (at least at first glance) only by a single ronin in service of a Doji. He (and his ashugaru soldiers that were hiding in the bushes) were there to protect the city from any other madness that would befall it while his master brought hemin and eta to restore the city to functionality (dead need to be burned, fields tended to, etc). Apparently this town had been decimated by Matis, though we do not know if it was a result of the Blood Rain or not.

The Ronin, after seeing Doji Kazumichi, lead us to another town on the coast that he knew to now house the Mantis troops. When we arrived we found a Crane host outside the camp, and met their leader a middle aged Doji woman, who turned out to be Doji Naomi’s general. She acted somewhat motherly and patronizing to little Kazumichi-cha but accepted us as leaders in battle and assigned us to her troops.

We had some fun with the Daidoji, or rather they had some fun at our expense, and a bit of fun training or inspiring our troops (I was happy to see the teachings of Shinsei rally the men). The next day was the great battle where we would take the city.

Of note:

  • Kakita Shimizu’s legion was poorly disciplined ashagaru sent to the forefront to die so the Samurai could make their strategic attack. In the forefront he met their leader, challenged him to a duel and defeated the Mantis, leaving him for dead.
  • Doji Kazumichi got to ride in his fathers riding Armor and stride across the battlefield, graceful as an elk leaping through the forest.
  • Isawa-san saw an earth embankment that he could sunder with the Kami but was assaulted by three Yoritomo archers and taken captive. Later, as captive he offered a peace treaty, but it was denied as the Mantis were already being overwhelmed by the Crane forces.
  • Sodano Soki guarded the Doji captain, which caused him to abandon the Isawa, who was later taken captive. I’m sure this weighed heavily on him.
  • Yoritomo-san was not present
  • Mirumoto Al-Salin was given a regiment of disciplined Ashagaru and was instructed to hold back into the reserves until given the signal. In the middle of the fight a wall of the city exploded into rubble, no doubt caused by the Daidoji though we would not speak of such things, and Al-Salin’s men charged through the opening, taking advantage of the confusion and position.

After the battle, we requisition ships, sailed to Kyuden Doji, where we spotted a flotilla of rafts including Yoritomo-san and the rest of our retinue. We were picked up by a Crane junk and taken back to the city, where we could finally appreciate the benefits of civilization (such as shaving, bathing and clean clothes).

In the city we found that Doji Naomi had come through the port, but had left to Toshi Rambo. Also, while in the Geisha house Mirimoto spoke of theology with a Geisha girl to attempt to rationalize why he could not speak of the battle with the Mantis. As the Crane and Mantis are not at war, the fight could never have happened. In order to preserve the honor of the clans, he must sacrifice what he knew to be true. This is the ideal of sincerity. After his discussion, he decided that he would never speak of the events, though in his heart he was not convinced.

The next morning, the Sapphire magistrates sailed up the river to Toshi Rambo, where they received training. I can’t recall most of the training incidents except Al-Salins (favoritism anyone). While there two Ise Zume monks asked the Bushi if he would help them in a contest of meditation by attempting to distract them. Delighted to have this experience Mirumoto engaged them in a discussion of theology as well, but even in their meditative state the trounced him, leaving the young bushi unsettled. The spoke of the Lords of Death and asked if he had received their celestial blood. Mirumoto does not look forward to the next time he will embrace a fallen Unicorn. The Ise Zume suggested that he join their order. I think he just might.

What rocked

Four personal encounters: The Iron Doji and Kazumichi, The Yoritomo and Isawa during his surrender, Mirumoto and the Geisha and Mirumoto and the Ise Zume. In all of those some of the character was revealed. I’d like more of these character scenes.

I didn’t mention above but Mirumoto was affronted at the practical jokes played by the Daidoji (they gave Sodano Ashagaru armor) and had a contest of wills with one of them. In so he was totally duped as well. Good times.

What could have been improved

I don’t find mass battle very engaging. The results are really random and often impossible (6 vs. 1 samurai isn’t a challenge, it’s a death sentence). The resolution system seems really arbitrary and the final outcome isn’t very tense, it’s more meh. As I’m trying to figure out a system for mass battle in my Burning Warcraft game and haven’t had much luck there either, I can’t say I have a better solution yet, but overall, I wasn’t impressed either time we’ve done it. Critical to the setting but not very fun to play out.