Actual Play – The Festival (1/29/2011)

GM: Chris Vincenti and Tracy Pinkelton
Players: Matt, Travis, Chrissy, Jessie, Brook, and Sean
System: Legend of the Five Rings (4th Edition)

Normal Playtest AP disclaimer: I’m going to do my best to not give out any spoilers for this game, as it will be run at DundraCon. Here is the official game write up:

The Festival
Monday 10 AM in 377 for 6 hours
GM: Chris Vincenti
System: Legend of the Five Rings
Edition: 4th
Players: 6
Provided: All characters provided by GM
Power Level: Insight rank 2-3
Variations: A touch of Arkham Horror
Rules Knowledge: Beginners Welcome
Game Content: Mature Themes
Samurai flock to the coastal village of Ishikawa Mura. The wealthy, to escape the summer’s heat in the ocean breezes; others to attend the tiny-but-growing matchmaking festival held at the height of the season.

This year, a few odd reports and some uneasy divinations have directed a few more of the Empire’s servants to the celebration than usual.
Come enjoy the festivities, and don’t worry about the occasional oddities. Isolated villages do develop some quaint customs, don’t they?

Expect a game of Lovecraft-flavored samurai horror.

What rocked

The first character introduced instantly appealed to me for the same reason that the setting of the game appealed to me. This was Rokugan-plus! All the normal customs were of course present but the game takes place at a matchmaking festival. So jovial and even brash behavior is invited if not expected. I was perhaps to boisterous as Yasuko Ginko, the wife hunting merchant, but the behavior that probably would have gotten me challenged to a duel in the rest of Rokugan, merely earned my fan waving here.

I think part of the genius here was matching well known genre with well know situation. So, it isn’t just Rokugan, or a beachside party, it is a juxtaposition of both of those, like Shaun of the Dead is a romantic comedy… with zombies. Or like Firefly is an old west sci-fi. What that means is that the players had two sources of reference to work with, and could see how things from either one (Rokugan culture or a resort party environment) would interact.

The introduction of horror in the game was very smooth. A lot of light touches; things that seemed wrong, but hard to say exactly why they were wrong.

We had some great player interactions. Matt and I had fun discussing why were there and my very cavalier opinions on marriage and women were rebuffed by her Dragon sensibilities honoring love and respect.

The encounters had very cool introductions. Can’t be more specific here but L5R is meant to combine the excruciatingly mundane (no, you don’t hold your fan that way, you hold it this way to indicate that you would like to me asked to share tea but that he should send a servant to speak with your servant rather than ask you directly) with the larger than life (“Holy Crap, the leader of the Dragon Clan is a REAL DRAGON?”). Chris and Tracy bring it all.

Yasuki Ginko is awesome sauce. If you want to be a snake oil salesman play this character. I did!

What could have improved

Chris and Tracy were working out a few kinks in co-gming the game, not stepping on each other’s toes, making sure communication was clear, etc. The play-test illuminated those gaps really well and I think they’ll have them patched seamlessly by the time the con games come up.

There was, and I think still is, a big question about how important personal goals are in the game. Not being able to achieve (or make substantial headway towards) my personal goals was very frustrating, specifically because I had several ideas as to how to make them actionable, but didn’t have the chance in game.

Some of the characters had some elements that weren’t tied into the game itself (e.g. a fear of spiders when spiders weren’t present in the game). Some of that is probably just fine to leave as flavor, but tying the characters into the story through their advantage and disadvantages may actually ameliorate some of the desire to focus on personal goals if the plot threads turn into something specifically meaningful to them.