Meta/Game Mecahnics bits.
Keys for Isawa Yoshi.
As the player wasn’t present last game when we gave out keys, we started by setting his. Isawa Yoshi took: Keeper of Secrets and “I take the brunt of it”. Both of which were very appropriate for the character.
Battle Cards Expanded
Though we didn’t do mass battle this game, the GM did introduce the battle decks, pseudo random decks of attachments, items and actions. We each picked a deck (with six cards), added our own personal cards and from that built a battle deck. We haven’t used them yet, but so far the system is looking like it will be a blast.
Onto the story…
We picked back up at Shiro Smooth Water with each of our character preparing for the upcoming feast in Ikoma Tso-Lao’s honor. It was messed up. And fun. And messed up.
The first scene opened with Tso-Lao and a young Kitsu shugenja inside a Lion monastery. The Kitsu seemed nervous, perhaps this was the first time he had encountered a man who’s memory was lost, but just the same he was willing to invoke the Ancestors to recount the past.
As the incense flared and he called the ancestors, the young Kitsu’s voice deepened as he took the mantle of Shiro Smooth Water’s senior Shungenja. The image of the old Kitsu, Tso-Lou and an exited Nezumi appeared. Through the young Kitsu’s mouth the ancestors told their story.
Tso-Lou was betrothed to one he did not love. A beautiful woman, but not his beloved Matsu Thandi. At his request the old Kitsu had employed a ratling and his name magic to remake Tso-Lao into a different man, one that no one, including his family would remember. Once complete, there would be no more Ikoma Tso-Lao and this new man, whoever he was, could seek out Matsu Thandi without reproach or shame.
The ceremony was interrupted however. As the old Shugenja finished his chant he looked in horror a droplet of blood fell onto Tso-Lao’s forehead. The Rain of Blood had begun and the ritual was ruined. Instead of the world forgetting who Tso-Lao was, it was he that forgot the world.
The scene ended with a wide eyed Shugenja being threatened by Tso-Loa to keep the horrors of his past a secret. We’ll see how long the Kitsu can hold his tongue.
Mirumoto and Matso lay naked together in the garden, their modesty afforded only by a kimono they shared. Gently Al-Salin took a handful of fallen cherry blossoms and sprinkled them across Takeko’s chest. As usual when not actually in the act of making love, the two were at odds. The Dragon proposed that should Takeko bear a son he would be a strong student of Niten (the Mirumoto School) and should she bear a daughter she would make a fierce Lioness. Outraged that he could consider the child as a Dragon she punched him in the face and stalked off “Tonight Al-Salin” she said with disgust “You will publicly declare our love or this child will never be yours, only a rumor you will have to live with.”
Walking through Shiro Smooth water Shiko was attacked from behind. A man leapt from the shadows and placed a naked blade to his throat calling out “You serve the Kolat dog Naomi, I will kill you where you stand!” Shiko, unaware of what he spoke of denied any dishonorable acts and demanded that he was released. Neither, however could gain the trust of the other. The Usagi (Hare) would only accept a duel of tantojitsu for Shiko to prove himself, which the traditional samurai found ridiculous and Sodano-san had no way to prove to the Hare that he was not working with the Kolat, or knew what the Kolat was for that matter.
As they stood in a stalemate three nearly identical men garbed in orange robes approached. Recognizing them Shiko called out “Asako-sama, please tell this man that I not a Kolat but that I hunt evil.”
In their eerie voice which comes as one message divided into three mouths they said. “We cannot say such a thing. — You have not chosen a path — Join us and we will stand for you.” And that is how, perhaps not under the conditions he had hoped for, Sodano Shiko became an Asako Inquisitor. He also promised to hunt Kolat as well. So… eradicate piracy on the ocean and rivers. Root out and reveal blood speakers. Kill Kolat. Sure, is that before or after he’s had rice in the morning? Phew.
As his fingers followed the drawstring of his pouch they unerringly closed around the powerful nemurani that held it closed. Shiba Ninjen had given it to him and tasked him to discover it’s nature. Whatever kami favored this item were powerful ones indeed. As he sacrificed incense to evoke the kami, they began to form and rage uncontrollably in his room. His bed at once became a pig, snorting and rooting in the corner. Then fire burst from the netsuke sending a huge gout of flame out the window of his room. And at once all was normal again. The Shiro did not burn and his bed lay still in the corner. Isawa learned that if agitated this device could be a terrible weapon against those around him but was unlikely to distinguish friend from foe.
In service to Doji Domotai Shimsu spent time sparing in the practice yard with the lion samurai and ashigaru.
A time a joy. A time when old grudges should be forgotten and new friendships made. Yeah, and Hitomi are sane! Of course nothing went as it should, but from that three very interesting things happened.
Usagi and the magistrates
The Usagi (Hare) was introduced to the Sapphire Magistrates. He was very curious to know what knowledge he had, if any about the Kolat. It was incredibly clear that he was paranoid, tense and possibly delusional, however one could not doubt his devotion to the cause. One by one the Usagi questioned all of the magistrates to see what they knew of the Kolat operations.
Al-Salin, Tso-Lao, Takeko and THE ENTIRE court.
Excusing himself from the Usagi (and invariable drawing his suspicions as well) Mirumoto approached the Ikoma family table and asked a favor of Tso-Lao. He wanted to announce his love to Matsu Takeko but explain that just as it was pure, it was also shared with two others. He provided the storyteller with choice passages from Shinsei and hoped that his words would be more elegant than Mirumoto could provide. However, as Tso-Lao began telling the story, Al-Salin’s painted eyebrows began to furrow. It was clear that his intent was not to praise Al-Salin’s love, but to make him choose only one. The story was humorous about a wise man with three boats who tried to ride two and once and only fell in the water. While it was appreciated by the crowd, neither Al-Salin nor Takeko were satisfied.
Taking matters into his own hand Al-Salin drew his blade and held it, still as a mountain before Matsu Takeko. Sensing that a fight would break out the Shiro Daimyo summoned his guard to prevent bloodshed during the feast. Their swords were not necessary however, only one sword was required for Mirumoto’s demonstration. He placed three bows of miso soup on the edge of his blade and as he did so explained that he wave a love, that of honor, duty and finally passion. Disgusted Takeko rallied her Lionesses in a chant to disgrace all but the Lion and offered that if Al-Salin loved her, he could abandon all else and become Matsu Al-Salin. The young Dragon could not do this. He had many loves, but if he was truly a great samurai, he would have to balance them all. Something he could not do as a Matsu. Al-Salin, encouraged to marry by the Daimyo responded in turn. He had made his public announcement to Takeko. Now if she loved him as well, he would gladly wed her as Mirumoto Takeko.
As the lionesses roared and then stormed out of the building, one of the bowls of miso soup crashing to the ground. Interrupted by a flying dagger that shattered it mid-flight. Did I mention the Usagi was paranoid?
Tso-Lao and Kan
Finally the quintessential moment arrived when Tso-Lou confronted his brother Kan as they ate. His brother, now the inheritor of the Shiro, now married to the beautiful woman originally promised to Tso-Lao, touted all of his “achievements” over his older brother attempting to taunt him into dishonor. When this tactic failed him he began to insult Tso-Lou, which again the samurai endured. It was, however when his insults turned to Matsu Thandi (who he called boy, barbarian and a few less choice names) that Tso-Lao.
The confrontation started as an attempt at forgiveness. “You will apologize for that and speak no more.” This however, was ignored by the brash Kan. Then Tso-Lao turned to threats, idling fingering his Katana. This was dismissed as well with a simpering gesture than promised Kan believed his brother would never draw his blade. When the insults continued and the apologies were not forthcoming, Tso-Lao finally demanded a duel. Surprised that his brother would be so brash, the young Kan tried to squirm out of the fight by accepting a duel of origami crafting. This would not stand however, he carried a katana at his side and Tso-Lao as going to make him use it. “Fine!” his brother finally agreed “tomorrow morning!” With that he crawled back to his little corner and Tso-Lou witnessed his brother’s wife look at him with one part relief and one part disgust.
After the Feast
Once he was able the Hare confronted Ikomo Tso-Lao as he was the only one he had not questioned about the fire at the Scorpions Mask. Tso-Lao revealed that he had indeed rescued a ledger from the building as it burned down. A ledger, presumably kept by the coin faction of the Kolat. There was a ridiculously funny scene as the Usagi (Hare) tried to remember to reject the gift two times before finally accepting it. He was clearly dying to say “Yes, yes, yes. Give it to me now” but barely managed to reign his desire. This apparently made him fast friends with the Ikoma and he warned him that his younger brother worked with the Kolat as well and that un protected he would not survive the night. Was the Hare just paranoid and seeing daggers in the shadows? Apparently not? Or maybe so, he did see daggers. The one ones he put in the back of Tso-Lao’s would be assassin that night.
In the midst of this, a great and painful cry echoed throughout Shiro Smooth Waters.
After removing the dead body who crashed through the ceiling onto him from his person, Tso-Lao was told by the Usagi (who had killed said dead body) that the man was an assassin coming for him and that he was not safe. Therefore, to seek safely, a place he could hide, Tso-Lao scratched on the screen on Matsu Thandi to spend the night with her. Mirumoto Al-Salin is apparently not the ONLY one with complicated love interests.
Remember that cry, yep that was Al-Salin being tortured. In the middle of the night, a Hitomi monk arrived. Another order of tattooed monks, but this order is aligned with Lady Hitomi (the moon) and are generally only lucid when the moon is full. Just Mirumoto’s luck there was a new moon and this monk, lie the Hare was a little bit (or maybe a lot bit crazy). Al-Salin, disappointed with his gestures to Takeko this far requested that the monk tattoo a lion on his sword arm, to show respect for the strength of the lion. The monk however instead of pen and ink drew a thin blade and told him that his blood would be the ink, his skin the palette. As a samurai’s greatest sin is regret, Al-Salin clenched his teeth and let the torture commence. Yeah… that is why there was screaming. All the while the Hitomi spouted on about the avalanche coming… he was the first rock. Psychotic babblings of a lunatic or prophetic wisdom. Probably both!
A great alarm was sounded the next morning. Ikoma Tso-Lao was missing and a dead man was found in his bed. Conveniently there were Sapphire Magistrates on hand to investigate. Two (Shimzu and Yoshi) went to the dueling grounds to question his younger brother Kan. The other two (Al-Salin and Shiko) went to Matsu Thandi’s quarters to see if she knew where he was. As magistrates we pretty much failed, but had a good time doing it. On our way to Thandi’s Sodano Shiko was arrested and placed in a silk prison because the heimin had found that some of our ballista bolts were missing and they had to make sure we had not been selling them to the unicorn (which inadvertently, we might end up doing). By the time Al-Salin arrived Tso-Lao had departed but Matsu Takeko was there. For once they actually has something nice to say to each other “Would you accompany me to the duel?” Takeko answered with a lusty “Yes” and seized Al-Salin’s arm (of course the agonizingly scarred one) and half walked, half dragged him back to the dueling grounds.
Was a joke. The young Kan would not even draw his blade. Seeing that his assassin had failed he begged for mercy. Threw himself to his knees and yielded. But when this would not satisfy Tso-Lao’s honor, the duel was ordered to be commenced.
There was a complication however, the daimyo had lost the service of his judge and the shugenja that would normally sanctify the grounds were not present. The duties fell on the magistrates. Kakita Shimzu agreed to judge the duel and Isawa Yoshi agreed to prepare the grounds, even though that was normally the task of a four shugenja. Calling on the Earth Kami and employing the power of the nemurani Ninjen had bestowed upon him Isawa summoned up a great torrtent of earth. The ground shook as though a earthquake… or maybe an avalanche approached and then was still. Drained by the summoning Isawa Yoshi turned to announce that the field was ready for a duel.
And that is when Kan ran away. The court had not protected him. Oragami skills had not protected him. An assassin had not protected. It appeared that against all odds, even the Kami forsake him. The coward ran, but Shimzu and Tso-Lou caught up with him and forced him back to the circle. He would not fight however. Shameful as it was, he loved his life more than his honor.
Saddened to see his son so disgraceful, the Ikoma lord had no other choice. A white kimono was fetched and thrown at his feet “You are not my son. You have died to me. Now you seek only death.” And so a Deathseeker was born… and presumably Tso-Lou was the first son again.
As the boats were sailing from Shiro Smooth Water (Shiko was released when it was discovered that the Kasuga had the bolts) Al-Salin commanded his crew to sail up just beside Matsu Takeo’s vessel. With one foot on each kabuni Al-Salin pulled his kimono down over his shoulder and shouted. “Matsu Takeko. Here is my gift to you. You asked for me to pronounce my love, I can do it no stronger than to wear the Lion upon my arm!” He revealed the scarred lion tattoo and as he flexed his arm and the muscles bulged the tattoo shifted and the LION ROARED! How cool is that?
Can I just say everything? Man the tension was on fire that game. We didn’t have more than a handful of rolls, but the entire night was totally exciting.
I feel that all of the characters are having really meaningful progression as characters and as the central figures of the story. Our actions, our choices are meaningful.
Ikoma Kan and Tso-Lao’s interactions were great. I really want to know what will happen with his wife now.
Keys have really been defining our characters in great ways. When we’re at a loss for a scene the GM looks at our keys and says “ummm… it looks like your character might need to delve into some secrets, or get in trouble, etc” I’m glad because this gives players the ability to tell the GM what they want to see in the game.
What could have been improved
I could believe it was me saying this but at the end of the game I told the GM. Umm… could we get some more fight scenes? It’s kind of crazy but I realized that my character has all these cool “I cut you to pieces” moves but hasn’t had a real fight since he was rank 1.