Actual Play – Vacant Throne – Month 4 (5/17/2010)

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

We had some strange events happen this game, some of them borrowed from similarly themed settings (like Avatar, the Last Air-Bender) and some pulled right out of Training Day (you know the movie with Denzel)

We’re also experiencing the effect; I believe the desired effect, of the act two mechanics. The Empire is falling apart. At the start of month 4 there were nine provinces in trouble, by the end there were 12 and that was because he had help from the Emerald Magistrates. As the unrest rate (the number of new incidents that pop up each month) has risen to six, and there are only six of us, and we need to continue looking for the Emperor, I think that number will only grow.

Here’s the skinny inside the fiction.

At Toshi Ranbo we got some ribbing from Bayushi Oku who told us that while we were all resting he was in Scorpion lands cleaning up “our” mess. This was particularly funny because Rei had just been advocating that we let the Scorpion war amongst themselves. Maybe the Fortunes would shine us and they’d all kill each other, or perhaps leave the Empire again. Yes… wishful thinking.

To find the Emperor… or to build an Empire herself.

Rei traveled to Yoshi’s Enlightenment ostensibly to find the Emperor’s last known whereabouts. And she did, Master Coin himself (who she of course didn’t know was a Kolat bastard) offered her his location (Kuni lands) for the small price of a promissory agreement that when she commanded the power, to buy the superior Yasuki rice cakes from him rather than the Daidoji.

The Emperor must be found, that is certain. But we must also prepare the Empire should his fate be a dark one. The last heir of Shinsei has died, and all Four Winds have departed Rokugan. Even if only as a regent until the Emperor is found or an appropriate heir is selected, someone must rule Rokugan. The Empress is cloistered in her private estate, my Leige Kisada remains in crab lands even though I have sent him several letters indicating how badly the empire fares. Something must be done. What can one Lion, despised by her ancestors do in such a time?/

I have appealed to the Shogun to take the throne, he would be the best suited for the duty. Even though his letter indicated he was considering my offer, he vanished, just as his brother did. And it seems that I and only one other have come to the simple conclusion that the Empire will crumble without a leader. If no other will take the throne it falls on those who are capable and willing.

I became Chui on the battlefield for two reasons. The Fortunes had blessed me to be in the right place at the right time and my ancestors, I revere you even though you curse me, gave me courage to claim the command that was so desperately needed.

The Sapphire Magistrates need a Legion, the Legion needs a general. The general of the imperial legions serve the Shogun, a now vacant position, but one that could protect the Empire until the Emperor returns. Ancestors give me strength.

In short, Rei spent most of her time in Yoshi’s Enlightenment positioning herself to become the general of a new legion, the Sapphire Legion!

Shimizu traveled to Asahina lands a visited Doji Domotai who offered her aid in helping him find the Kenshinsen so long as he would either return to the Kakita clan or bring the Sparrow back into the fold.

Ryo traveled to Toritaka provinces and found the nature of the civil disputes were the Toritaka family traditionalists pushing to succeed from the Crab clan to become a minor clan once again. He dissuaded the courtiers… for now.

Tso-Lou traveled to soshi lands with his son Genichi and found that as well as an Usagi being present (which means Kolat must be in the area) the Daimyo herself, a powerful Shugenja was at war with an Oni that represented the taint itself. Bravely, VERY bravely, he offered to accompany her inside her Shiro to hold the cultists that must have summoned him at bay while she banished the creature. And by hold at bay he meant shatter their solar plexus into hundreds of tiny bone fragments… and worse. Eight cultists and one very powerful Oni against Tso-Lou and the Daimyo… they barely won.

Washichi traveled to the Tourturi province and after calling the provincial Daimyo out in his own court found that the peasants were upset because they were overworked. The Emperor himself has ordered they produce such a large quantity of rice that the land had gone fallow, the peasants were exhausted and the shugenja that blessed them had died after communing with the kami. Washichi, after bragging quite some time about his exploits in Sparrow lands, turns his attention to the land itself and found the earth kami were very displeased!

Shiko, having heard that one of the Sapphire Magistrates was using opium decided to stamp it out in the most unusual way. He learned all that could about growing, harvesting and processing Opium so he could teach it to the Sapphire Magistrates, instructing them that if they were ever found with it, it meant their death. Most of them understood this would be a way to “plant” evidence against those that needed sentencing, but a few mistook his meaning and used the opium themselves, earning Shiko’s lethal ire.

At the end of the session a few other reveals came out. The Scoprion who rigged the Emerald Championship that lead to Hachi being the champion admitted that they had done so and promptly committed seppuku, as did the champion himself. The Jade champion withdrew, retiring from him post. Finally, Nadu was last seen wearing the armor of the Emerald Champion, even though he protested it vehemently.

What rocked

Rei’s actions are either necessary for the protection of the Empire or totally treason or both. I love that she is walking the same line that Moto Chagatai is. The fact that I came upon it accidentally (i.e. I hadn’t read the lore about Chagatai) makes it that much cooler.

I met the Master of Coin and boy did he jack me. Not in terms of Koku per se, but in terms of making deals with the forces that would seek to tear down the empire.

Ginichi is a ton of fun to play. I jumped and played him a bit. Makes me want to bring my own son into the game more.

Tso-Lou’s battle with the cultists and the Oni were epic. Holy crap that was close. A little gonzo (spine removal included) for my taste, but awesome.

I had some fun doing some verbal sparring with Washichi about the unicorn. He was really relishing in the fact that the Lion were in the wrong. It gave me a good chance to show that Rei understood her duty was to kill the ronin, but that it was hard for her to kill her kin. Rei tries to veer from sin, but remorse fills her over so, so many things (failing her ancestors, Nimuro, Kaneka, and now killing her kin).

Washichi totally called this Daimyo out in his own court. It was pretty awesome.

Oku showing up at the beginning was fun. Steve pointed it out though, I’d like to have a chance to get something over on the Emerald one of these days. Not to be better than them, but to be able to have the tools to play the game.

What could have improved

When I met Yasuki Jin-Quan (Master Coin) I had the option to talk to him further after finding out the Emperor’s ware bouts. I should have asked him if he wanted to play Sedane!

Some of the scenes did less for me than others. I think Ryo’s could have been a lot more passionate and involved if he had a better idea of what his role in the court was. I felt like in the end it was “I’m going to make a courtier roll to fix this problem” without a lot of role-playing to back it up. This is similar to the effect I remember seeing in both D&D 4E and Burning Empires where our eyes get big for dice and we forget about the narrative.

I was pretty surprised and a little disappointed that nobody wanted to challenge for the post of the Sapphire Champion. I mean, three of the original magistrates were still present, I thought at least one of them would jump on that. Rei has aspirations in a different direction but the more I think about it, Sapphire Champion might be close to Shogun than Legion General so…