Actual Play –Three Pirates in One Stroke (1/18/2010)

GM: Travis Lindquist
Players: Eric, Erik, Alec, Omar, Steve, and Sean
System: L5R, 3rd Edition

We lost three pirates Monday night.

Sanada, the leader of the Serpents of Himself. He went down… actually kind of like a chump. He would have been all kinds of bad ass but the Kami locked him down and then blew him the hell up.

Doji Bugate, former Daimyo of Doji’s Last Breath. We had a pile of charges against him stacked up high enough to make Emma-Oh have to make room. He protested with all his might but he didn’t have a leg to stand on… so we made him crawl… in the fields… as he worked them… with the heimin… without tools.

Finally, the best pirate of them all… Yoritomo Miyazaki. Our Chui, our leader, our friend. Erik has moved out of the area and his character retired last night. The game, as when Doji Kazumichi left, was designed to focus around his character and decided his fate… The Red Fleet ambassador to the Kasuga, or a lowly sensei who watched his fame slip away.

Here’s the breakdown of notable scenes:


Sodano Shiko visited the peasant rebels and promised the them Daimyo’s head IF they aided is in defeating the pirates. He also gave them Matis robes, approved of them own katana and called the Ashigaru. Like 20 different laws had to have been broken there.

Tso-Lou and Rei visited the dye-maker. Rei had earnest felt she was bribed by the woman, and for her attempted bribery the woman should die. Then things go complicated. It turns out offering gifts to a person is bribery, but offering them to an order is just a favor, which can legitimately be exchanged. Also, the dye-maker was actually a Yasuki Samurai, which meant just removing her head wasn’t cool. Some WTF moments ensued as the dye-maker covered us all on brick red dye that she said would mark her killers and the Yasuki would know them.

Fall out was – Rei’s sword blessed her with the wisdom not to unlawfully kill another samurai and Tso-Lou found a diplomatic solution. Stakes added t the game: Miyazaki succeeds – The Yasuki offers us testimony against the Daimyo and ignores the incident. Miyazaki fails – The Yasuki clan now knows we have wronged one of their members.

Miyazaki and Shimzu met the Daidoji prefect at his brewery. He was quite prickly, as he had been with Rei, but eventually it was clear that he was just a shrewd businessman that didn’t want his rights trampled. Miyazaki and Shimizu made peace with him and they all earned a bit of mutual respect, even though the prefect still does not like our order. Stakes added to the contest. Miyazaki Wins: 1,000 Grain Sake for all of our Shiros. Fails: We’re in deep crap with the Daidoji trading council.

Yoshi met with some peasants that, instead of growing rice, were forced into secretly growing dye. Yoshi relieved them of this duty and sent the very relieved peasants back to the rice fields. Four of them, appreciating his generosity offered to aid in the battle with the pirates.


Much attention was paid to the brick red dye already dried onto Rei and Tso-Lou. That and conscripting “Matish Ashigaru”. Good times.


Shimizu visited the gardens where he found Doji Bugate. The Daimyo asked that he serve as his emissary to the pirates and bribe them to move to Scorpion lands. Yep, as you can imagine, Shimizu wasn’t having any of that!

Miyazaki inspected the docks and found the forlorn Shiba Katanare, a member of the Avalanche guard, who was here because his sister had been taken captive by the pirates, who were sending her back, piece at a time. Yuck. He said he would be delighted to help us kill the pirates to save his sister.

Yoshi met a woman at a small shrine of fishing. She regretfully asked that he not attack the pirates as they protected her husband’s fishing boats from the mantis raiders. Yoshi assured her that she should not worry, the Sapphire Magistrates would protect her and her husband. With that delightful news she offered Yoshi a boat that bore the markings of the Serpents of Sanada and could safely be sailed into their harbor.

Shiko delivered the yari to the town guard, who, now equipped with yari and horses could do their jobs and would help us not only defeat the pirates but also give us access to the Daimyo when the time was right.

Tso-Lou and Rei bathed and discussed the future of the Sapphire Magistrates. Rei revealed that she had become a magistrate in order to solicit help from Nadu in the war against the unicorn. Tso-Lou told her this would not happen, Nadu was too wary of political entanglements and appearing to favor one clan over the other. The scene also go someone steamy… maybe that was just from the hot bath water. Stakes set. Miyazaki succeeds, Nadu gains the Idealistic disadvantage (though focused on the Red Fleet). Failure: Nadu sides with the unicorn to attack the Lion.


Ji’Kel showed up to offer advice about Maho-Tsukai outside the pirate compound, he also offered Snapper. I had a particularly fun time getting confused about “tomorrow” (especially since we were planning to attack on the morrow) while Rei confused him with the etiquette of receiving gifts. The Sapphire Magistrates planned the battle, while Shiba Katanare became enamored with Rei and her exotic skin color (that dye will take weeks if not months to wash out). He made quite a show of the things he would do for her favor.


Tso-Lou scouted the pirate’s den, finding a way in and the presence of some really unpleasant “things” in the water.

Miyazaki found the hut was in fact occupied by Maho users, three of them, who had desecrated the ground around them.

The rest of the Magistrates visited 1000 Grain Sake House, where they drank and rose the spirits of the troupes. Katanare was there as well, quite drunk, reciting haiku after haiku about his love for Rei. She promised him that he could prove himself

Attack on Pirate Cove!

In the morning we sent many pirates to Tomorrow! Our plan was simple, we sail up the cove disguised as Serpents of Sanada while our forces create a distraction buy tearing down a portion of the wall. The fight itself had few highlights. Spells pretty much ruled the day and besides the few ronin heads that went flying, the Bushi (on both sides) were a bit stymied. In the end we saved the captive, killed the Maho-Tsukai and then killed Sontata himself. Mostly with spells that went boom!

Bugate’s Sentence

As noted above, when we returned to Doji’s Last breath, we got a chance to do some REAL justice. Tsuruchi Nadu showed up and made everyone who asked for it a Magistrate and then sent us off to go kill the Daimyo, he certainly deserved it. The actual trial was pretty cool. We got to see a lot of familiar faces from the city and quite a few others from far off as well assemble to try the self serving Bugate. His sentence in the end was to work as he made the heimin do, without tools, in harsh environments, doing a very dangerous job. Good luck with that Bugate!

Finally, we saw the end of Miyazaki. He was offered the honorable position of ambassador to the Kasuga and departed from the Sapphire Magistrates with honor.

What rocked

In no particular order.

The “who’s on first” conversation that Rei and the Ji’kel had was awesome. It started with him confounding her over the word tomorrow and then she got a chance to confuse him with the Rokugan gift giving rituals. I think that was the first time the ritual offer, refusal, offer, refusal, offer, accept was any fun for me. It was especially fun because the other players were planning the attack, something that as a player I loathe.

The discussion with my ancestor’s sword, which terrified the Yasuki was great.

Bathing with Tso-Lou and making him feel really uncomfortable was fun times too.

The over-eager Shiba Katanare was a fun character. Travis described him as the Simon Tam character. Very capable but totally out of his element. I hope he’ll return as a card or just a face we see again.

Shiko’s conscripting of the peasants into “Mantis Ashigaru” was great. Especially because all of us just looked the other way about it.

Yoshi is terrifying. He’s totally loosing it, but we assume that Shiko will cut him down if he becomes corrupt. I think we assume too much.

What didn’t do it for me

As you can probably tell from the description of the battle, the skirmish fell flat. They almost always do for me. The whole thing is very random and you rarely ever have a roll where important stakes are on the line. I like holding a pile of dice and knowing that if I’m lucky, something awesome good will happen and if I’m not, something awesome bad will. Skirmishes rarely do that. Also, the spells negated most of the combat, which was frustrating.

I completely bungled something that I don’t know how to fix except to re-write the character a bit. Rei is supposed o be all brave about most things, but totally terrified of shadowlands creatures. I completely forgot this and had her valiantly chop down an Oni. I think I’ll just find something else she is scarred of. Darn it, that would have been good too.

Rei’s promotion was a little disappointing. It was a driving goal for her. One of her keys was “Sapphire Trainee” and she was working really hard to become a magistrate. When it was awarded though it felt like it was almost afterthought. Two reason for that. The first is that the way Rei earned her position was by doing something that was REALLY easy for her. She killed things in combat. Any Matsu could do that. She really thought she needed to be smart, hold her temper, etc. In the end she got props for following orders and killing. It makes her think the other Magistrates really don’t respect her. The other problem was that Nadu gave out Magistrate status like it was going out of style. Anyone who happened to be around after the battle got it, which also cheapened it. Now both of these things can be good motivators for Rei and turn into good things, but at the time they were disappointment for her and me as well.

There are times when the GM and the Players aren’t on the same playing field. The GM has a mixture of knowledge, fiat and resources that the players can’t draw on. Most of the time this is fine, if the characters are walking into a dungeon, they might get jumped by kobolds, traps, whatever. They expect the unknown and don’t have any bones about it being “fair”.

Social interactions can be another matter. When a PC and a NPC are contesting things the GM can use information the players don’t have to give his NPCs an advantage over the PCs. In this case we ran into NPCs whose real identity and power was hidden from the characters (and the players) and they just knew how to work “the system” in ways that the players and their characters didn’t. This kind of challenge often leaves me feeling duped, like I’ve personally be tricked into playing a game with rules I don’t understand. I was able to sublimate most of this into my character. She is naïve and bound to make exactly these kinds of mistakes. Both the player and the character learned to be a little more suspicious of what is presented to them future.

On a more cynical level I learned this:

If you want something but you’re in the wrong or don’t have the authority to get it – challenge to a duel. That lets you circumvent laws and social restrictions.

If you have a station or power, don’t reveal it until someone wrongfully attempts to trample it; then call them unjust for doing so.

I think part of this is tied to Rokugan’s very intricate social system that is full of these kinds of pitfalls that characters do fall into. I’m not sure if it would work but in the future I would prefer to know as a player when my character is getting in over her head and have the option to either back out or make some roll to “catch up” with the NPC in regards to understanding the system.

3 thoughts on “Actual Play –Three Pirates in One Stroke (1/18/2010)”

  1. I totally enjoyed the game. It was a good parting point for Miazaki and the scenes played out with their usual mix of humor and honor. I wish I’d had a bit more notice that I’d have to leave though, as I feel things could have been amped up and tied in more.

    Perhaps Rei’s promotion is due in part to her overcoming her fear in that instance? Perhaps she didn’t quite realize what she was fighting until she was basically upon it, at which point there was no time to be afraid, only strike? This contradiction could make future interactions with the Oni more interesting.

    Note on station and power: With all station and power come appropriate trappings. Trampling station or power in the absence of these clues can usually be completely excused by the phrase, “Ahh..many apologies. I did not realize you were here incognito.” For example, any one of us could have called out Doji Domatai for an offense when she was masquerading as a member of the Lioness Legion, something we’d all hesitate to do once she was recognized.

    What rocked:
    Getting to finally control some undead and use some freaky Ivory Sahir “not quite maho” spells.

    Blowing up two Maho users in a fantastic fireball (when 6k6 results in 4 tens you know something big is happening)

    Finally facing the pirate lord. I wish I’d said more in this scene. THE serpent of Sonada, Sonada himself, deserved recognition for how successful he’d been as a pirate. He was, in many ways, a worthy opponent. Even as we were there to take him down, I feel the Rokugani society demanded more than the small speech I gave. Still, the act of coming face to face with him was a tense moment, even if the fight itself fizzled a bit.

    Two Mantis “bushi” gleefully sinking some Crane’s junk.

    Yoshi managing to not desecrate a shrine. And get us a cool boat for our plan.

    The sentence passed on Bugati. Moments before the verdict was read, he was offered the chance to commit sepuku, albeit with a wooden wakazashi. He decided that the punishment couldn’t be worse. The guilty verdict was pronounced and the punishment was that he would work the fields in order to provide food for the peasants he had starved, and he would do it in the highly dangerous and deadly manner he forced them to work in. Bugati then reconsidered his decision about sepuku, only to be told by a wicked Doji Domatai that that offer was no longer on the table. This moment may lead to some further interactions between Domatai and Miazaki.

    Picking out little parting gifts for the other players, from the useful (excellent grappling hook that he’s sure will *never* be used) to the curious (excellent sandals for our often peasant dressing friend)

    What didn’t:

    Nadu is becoming a bit too flip for us to really respect him any longer. The Sapphire championship can’t come soon enough and I think it’s time for him to either step up or step aside. It is particularly difficult to play a righteous samurai when your lord is so dishonorable and regularly ignores tradition. In small doses it was entertaining. It has become too commonplace.

    This game really made me realize how little I enjoy playing a shugenja. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked playing Miazaki, but not because he was a shugenja. The magical abilities were a source of respect for him and something he took pride in, but they never really gelled for the character. Perhaps because he was an atypical shugenja or because we seemed to run into very few other shugenja that ever did anything particularly different from the bushi or courtiers (albeit not as well). Having a healbot was nice, and I think that one of the reasons I didn’t care about functioning as one was that the whole station had very little other meaning for Miazaki. In the end, I think he was a poor shugenja spiritually, and at that point, why would the Kami keep listening? Next character: not a shugenja.

    Again, I wish i’d had a bit more run up time to shape the final game with Miazaki, but that’s the way the dice fell this time. Still, a good splitting point.

    I really enjoyed this game and this group. You and it shall all be missed. Miazaki will undoubtedly see you all in the future. Until then, Bonzai!

  2. “The “who’s on first” conversation that Rei and the Ji’kel had was awesome. It started with him confounding her over the word tomorrow and then she got a chance to confuse him with the Rokugan gift giving rituals. I think that was the first time the ritual offer, refusal, offer, refusal, offer, accept was any fun for me. It was especially fun because the other players were planning the attack, something that as a player I loathe. ”

    Really? What about the Hare that really wanted the Kolat book? Or was this more something that you were involved in?

    “Rei’s promotion was a little disappointing.” To Rei or to you? If it’s the former, cool, will make an interesting hook. If it’s to you, that wasn’t the intention. 🙁

    “Social interactions” As I’ve said to you, but am saying it here for others to see, some of that was the point of the encounter. Dealing with Crane on their home turf should, in my opinion, feel like you are playing a game with rules you don’t understand. The same with the Otomo.

    That being said, the 2 cynical elements are, I think, spot on with someone who wants to work the system. Of course, note that the honorable characters who had heard of the Kakita who did 1 thought he was despicable. Hell, so did the DIShonorable characters who has heard of him. Point being, it’s a short cut. And like all rokugani shortcuts, it comes at a cost.

    1. I stand corrected… it was the second gift giving exchange that as awesome. The scene with the Hare was fricking great too.

      The disappointment was mostly Rei, which I’ll play up. A little of it was me as well, but that is just bleed over from the character. Funny, if things are really extreme, like unbelievably extreme, they don’t affect me. For instance, if my father was killed my character would be hella mad but I wouldn’t care. But smaller things, things that feel more real, permeate more from my character to me. So this thing, which felt real… getting what you want but for the wrong reasons, hit me more than I think something bigger would have. Anyway, it’s nothing I won’t turn into more fun when Rei breaks Shiko’s nose for calling her Rei-chan 🙂

      Just knowing that we were “supposed” to be outclassed makes a big difference. I feel a lot better about my character being stupid when I know she had the cards stacked against her. Someday, probably in a different situation, she’ll be on the other side of the coin.

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