Actual Play – Winter Court, part 1 (10/12/2009)

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

Mechanical Changes

Travis has introduced a very cool “track” system for winter court that yields a stronger scene economy and pacing than he had in the Tournament. In each week, each player will have three scenes. A player direction scenes perusing either a virtue of bushido or a self fulfilling vice, an exposition scene to reveal something about the characters or do character development and a group scene framed by Travis.

For the player direct scenes we each have the choice of going down one of seven paths. Each path can only be taken by one samurai per week and each as a reward for each level of perusing it. The paths and final rewards are listed.

  • Honesty: Honesty means loving Justice and during the winter, grievances are addressed. Take this path if you wish to pursue Magisterial Duties. End Reward: Well Connected
  • Courtesy: Showing hospitality to your guests is an important part of the Winter Court. Take this path if you want to gain allies from the Major Clans. End Reward: Standing Invitation(Pick Clan, Clan Champion)
  • Courage: Even in winter, a warrior can display courage. Take this path if you wish to improve your reputation as a General. End Reward: Leadership
  • Honor: Maintaining impeachable honor is difficult. Take this path if you wish to prove your honor to the assembled. End Reward: Irreproachable (6)
  • Compassion: Showing compassion to the heimin and eta yields many rewards. Take this path if you wish to gain the loyalty of the very low. End Reward: Patronage
  • Sincerity: The true courtier shows sincerity to all. Take this path if you wish to pursue the arts of the courtier. End Reward: Darling of the Courts
  • Duty: Sometimes Duty demands behavior at odds with being a samurai. Take this path to keep Nadu’s favor. End Reward: Crafty
  • Vice: Sometimes, a Samurai wishes to do their own activities. Take this path to do so. End Reward: Any 5 point advantage.

The Story – Our month of training and reflection

The kami are in everything and everyone, spirits we cannot see, touch or taste but who give life, order and purpose to the world.

Kami of Air

“Fascinating. What is Shiko doing today? The wind in his sails change every day, and ever he tacks his boat to travel with them. He muddles truth and lies. He bows before the one chosen by heavens, but makes deals with the mad kami who blew down from the mountain. What is Shiko doing today?”

“In the Phoenix lands he speaks with a sensei, speaks with a hemin, speaks lies, speaks truths, but passes as a breeze, not remembered by those he has affected. A young woman whispers her desire for Shiko into a pillow, and she wears those whispers as she blushes in his presence. He learns of lies, learns of truths, speaks neither.”

“A young man shouts a challenge to Shiko. He wants those pillow whispers for himself. The young man eddies like a torrent but is dispersed by Shiko’s calm. He tells the boy many things he does not know himself. The young girl blushes again, her pillow will wait for his whispers for years to come.”

“Tomako, the young man will be avenged. Shiko can tell lie from truth, or so he says.”

Kami of Earth

On my skin Tso-Lou was born, his vibration like the beating of a single drum upon me in a sea of other drums, some lesser, some greater, none the same.

Crash! Tso-Lou throws another against my skin. His feat pounding a rhythm of battle and sport. In Badger lands his rhythm holds while others falter. Stomp, shift, crouch, spin, leave, land, his dance upon my skin proves the strongest until it does not. Now I feel his back and arms, his legs and head. His dance has changed, another rhythm has begun.

His dance is not over. I will wait, his greatness still grows. His drum beats louder, his drum perseveres. He learns a new dance, vibrations the air kami clusters around. He ponders and persists with koku and courtiers as he prepares for the season when snow covers my skin.

Kami of Water

All life must end. Some rivers run long and wide, others broken by dams. Each death brings new life, but that is no comfort to Shimizu. Heavy is his heart as he passes the remnants of his mother, a daughter of the water. Father, son and sister mourn what they have lost and do not yet understand what they have gained.

Shimizu’s guilt pours free from the dam that blocked it, poisoned waters finally released. Kakita loves his son and his daughter. They are all he has left.

Shimizu learns to balance his passions, his fears, his love when speaking just as he does when carrying the sword. He will not share drinks with a friend, dedicated to his art. Shimizu trades his passion for perfection. He cherishes what he has gained but does not yet understand what he has lost.

Kami of Void

All things are bound to each other. Weakness, Desire, Power, Pride, Corruption, Tyranny, Weakness, Desire…

Yoshi trains. His weakness makes him desire, fulfilling his desire gives him power, his power makes him proud, his pride corrupts him, his corruption turns to tyranny, his tyranny creates weakness. Yoshi travels the circle over and over. His soul is bound by karmic ties to continue. Everyone he touches follows his path. Tamori Akana is invited to share winter court with him, she will marry him and share all of her winters in his coil.

Kami of Fire

Anger. Sparks!
Pain. Shoulders.

Hate, suffering, anger, fear. They bubble to the surface of Al-Saleen, threatening to bubble over, a conflagration of sweat, blood and steel. He aspires to be likes us but will always be made of crude matter, polluted by air, earth and water.

We burn in his heart, in his sword arm and in voice. He likes the sound of his own voice, love the precision of his blade, the sharpness of his mind. He is more like us every day. So much so that he teaches other his way. A student of earth and refined by fire? She will fail and he will fail because he cares too much. His heart is always what makes him weak and hold back the fires that burns.

Togashi Hoshi, an irreproachable commander tells him as much. “You are doing it wrong. The fire burns not on the blade but in the blood.” His arrogance is great and he rebuffs even Hoshi, biding his time. His fire will burn out and nothing will be left but ashes.

Burn while you can Al-Saleen, tomorrow you will be forgotten.

Well, at least that is what I think the Kami think of us. This is another attempt at recapping the heroes story from another perspective. In some cases I have been overly harsh, when I believe the kami would not be sympathetic to our actions, in others I have made predictions or declarations as I believe the kami would (especially the arrogant fire kami) but it does not mean any of these things are true or will become true, it’s just my personal take on how I think the kami would respond to the month we spent training before winter court.

Winter Court

There was pageantry. Lots and lots of it. We had member from imperial families, major and minor clans as well as specific dignitaries that came on their own behalf. For being a new order, inside a new shiro, we look to be having a very impressive court.

As noted above each samurai got to choose a path to follow, the order determined by roll off (which is also the order I listed the players in above).

Week 1.

Ikoma – Courtesy. As we need the support of the Mantis, Ikoma spend some time wining and dining the Yoritomo. The beautiful courtier had never seen the snow and we as curious to experience it, so as a good host Tso-Lou took her on a trek up the mountains so she could experience the snow.

Reward: Courtier Emphasis (manipulation)

Shimizu – Honor. Shimizu found a badger being accosted by a Mirumoto who claimed she was betrothed to her. He stepped in to defend her and bested the Mirumoto swordsman in a duel.

Reward: Dueling Emphasis

Yoshi – Duty. At the Champions behest Yoshi waylaid a traveling band of Unicorn who were arriving late to the pass. He staged a disaster which he then rescued them from earning their appreciation and a gift of supplies.

Reward: Low Skill Emphasis

Al-Saleen – Courage. Hearing that the unicorn ran into trouble on the road, Al-Saleen made a great show of routing out bandits. He took a host of samurai including the Moto (who are there to judge him) and an Akodo. Though he found no bandits he made a good impression. The Akodo was annoyed he had no bandit to slay so he sheathed his spear in a heimin’s chest.
Reward: Battle Emphasis (Naval)

Shiko – Compassion: Hearing that a heimin had been killed for no reason, Shiko donned the robes of a monk and went to console the heimin. He told them he would have a samurai look into this. He then returned as Sodano Shiko, gave them koku and told them he would make sure this did not happen again, gaining their favor.

Reward: 1 Eta companion.

What rocked

The scene economy and pacing the Travis created in this event rocks. He put a ton of work into it and it really paid off. I think this is the most engaging and exiting winter court I’ve played through.

Allowing the players to create their own scenes first off allows Travis to focus his attention on building up the “group” scenes and second allows the players to have a lot of say about what goes on at Winter Court, which is awesome on account of the fact that we’re hosting it.

What could have been improved

I had forgotten (too much WoW running through my veins) to work on my Mirumoto Bushi – Three Orders Monk path before the game with Travis so that wasn’t prepared. As is the next game is tonight and I still don’t have it finished. Slacker.

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