Actual Play – Winter Court, part 2 (10/19/2009)

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

This game was dense. We got through lots of scenes. Many of which I could spend a long time elaborating on. I find I’d rather give rich detail to the games that only have a few significant scenes rather that the ones with lots of short ones. So like the scenes themselves, this write up will be brief.

Finishing Week 1

Miyazaki – Honesty.

As Erik wasn’t here last week (some weak excuse like being on a plane from his brother’s weeding), we started on Miyazaki’s scene. As he has been very busy perusing the magisterial route before winter court, it seemed like a natural fit to dispense justice at Sapphire’s Honor as well. He heard word of pirates who robbed the Fox clan dignitaries as they approached our shiro. He rounded up a band of Mantis to cut down these louts. Though they were young, hungry and desperate for food and mercy. He gave them the mercy of a quick death.

Reward – Investigation Emphasis

The week passing…

Though our duties are important, each samurai spends some of his time at winter court perusing his personal goals.

Miyazaki started Jo on a regular training regiment to flatten his belly, strengthen his back and most importantly, start him on a path of discipline.

Al-Saleen flashed back to his training in the mountains. His early rebuff of Togashi Hoshi was not taken well. The clan champion is not one to be refused. He was later seen shivering soaking wet under a waterfall beside a Hitomi monk who sat calmly sat under the water as steam poured from his person.

Shimizu spent his time ingratiating himself with the other delegates and dignitaries.

Tso-Lou received his gift from the Badger (see Tournament of the Emperor’s favored). A great Dai-Tsuki which he began to train with.
Shiko seen entering his room, then an Usagi (hare) walked out, met with other hare in shadows and spoke of secrets. The hare returned and in the morning Shiko emerged again.

Yoshi happily spent the days walking through Sapphire’s Honor with his betrothed.

Nadu’s Event

Toward the end of the week Nadu summoned all of his magistrates and told us that funds were dangerously low (which we know, he spent a fortune on the boat house) and we would have to make alliances with the clans to bring more money into our order. We each set up (some happier than others) to fulfill our duty.

Miyazaki met with the Mantis and arranged for their boats to be undocked without inspection at most of the Sapphire Magistrates ports for a 400 Koku per year gift and a small (20 koku) personal incentive. Ahh, I love the smell of corruption in the morning.

As though to top Miyazaki, Shiko surprised us all when he stole Al-Saleen Toku blade and then sold it to Kasuga Toto, specifically to be resold outside Rokugan, i.e. in gaijin lands. That is one heinous crime. He also arranged to sell blades to Toto in the future as he “confiscated” them. 55 Koku of rice and fish for my sword. Nice.

Tso-Lou merely threatened the Bayushi courtiers with a raid into Scorpion Lands if she didn’t give him a gift to prove the Scorpion’s loyalty to the Sapphire Magistrates. Wow. That took brass. And stupidity. Awesome.

Shimizu negotiated with the Daidoji traders who made it very clear they just felt the Sapphire Magistrates were a glorified band of Mantis pirates with a pretty title. While Doji Domotai may have given her his favor, the Daidoji would not. The would offer the Sapphire Magistrates 500 koku a year if the promised that the Crane would be their exclusive trading partner. Yeah, that sounds safe!

Al-Saleen and Yoshi decided to speak with the Moto delegation, both to appease Al-Saleen’s curiosity of the Unicorn and to see how they might support the Sapphire Magistrates. During their preparations Al-Saleen presented Yoshi with some of the tenets of Shourido. Control, Determination, and Knowledge, all attributes that he believed Yoshi exemplified. Isawa Yoshi, as always, was curious about new forms of knowledge and took well to Al-Saleen’s teachings. In exchange, he offered to introduce Al-Saleen to his new companion Yuriko. Hooray for Al-Saleen spreading Shourido and Yoshi introduce Maho-Tsukia users to others. This of course will go well.

The meeting with the Moto was possibly the least scandalous event. Al-Saleen was hoping to wear his Toku blade to impress them but found he must have misplaced it. Instead he wore the Death Robes he had been given at Moto Taban’s funeral. During the negotiation it was clear the Moto don’t really care about the Sapphire Magistrates but if Al-Saleen will build Shrines to the Shi-Tien Yen-Wang, they will gladly populate them with warrior monks to defend the provinces they are built in. The Moto were not at Shiro Sapphire’s Honor to see the Sapphire Magistrates, however, they were here to judge Al-Saleen. If he was found wanting, he would be killed, but at least it would be a merciful death. If he was judged as acceptable, the Lords of Death had sent a gift to be bestowed upon him.

The next day Nadu gathered us again to propose our offers. All were accepted except the Daidoji. Continued negotiations with them will be needed. A few “special” concessions must now be made when doing our duties. At most of the Sapphire’s Honor docks, Mantis ships will use our docks and their shipments won’t be inspected. Further, when confiscating contraband from pirates and the like, all Katanas will be placed in the custody of Sodano Shiko. Yeah, baby. Good stuff.

Week 2

Shimizu – Sincerity

Shimizu kept his dignity and his temper while a Bayushi was not only a difficult guest but and insulting one. Eventually he noticed it was none other than his rival Bayushi Wada, but when he called him out to duel again, Wada, as always, disappeared.

Reward: Etiquette Specialty
Bonus Reward: 1 xp towards a kata, kiho or spell.

Yoshi – Courtesy

Isawa Yoshi spent time courting his guest, the ronin Yuriko. He offer her patronage, that she would be a ronin beneath him and possibly one day an Isawa. In exchange, she offered ANY service he might desire. Maho has gotta add +2.

Reward: Courtier Emphasis

Al-Saleen – Courage:

Al-Saleen took the young Toku, who thinks the world is his oyster to meet the Iron Doji. As the general who first gave Al-Saleen a command and the one who took over Sapphire’s Honor, he has always had great respect for the battle hardened woman. Al-Saleen requested a Go match to represent the battle of 10 Banners in which the Iron Doji defeated him easily. She pointed out however, that the match was not accurate, there were not two sides but three. Toku Rechi, who had not understood the significance of the game until then, was asked to play the side of the Unicorn. Because he did not understand the tactics of the game, Al-Saleen was able to defeat both sides in the second match.

Toku Rechi had his eyes opened somewhat to the duties of a samurai and Al-Saleen’s respect for the Iron Doji grows.

Reward: Strength of Earth 2

Shiko – Compassion

Sodano Shiko realized that with all the shipments coming in the dock workers had been overworked. He rode down to the docks to thank them for their hard work and show them that the Sapphire Magistrates appreciated them. He offered them all a paid day off, for which they cheered him greatly… and left a mess on the docks!

Reward: Personal Attendant

Miyazaki – Honesty

Performing his magistrate duties, Miyazaki investigated the holds of many passing through Sapphire’s Honor. One trader’s good’s however, came specifically to his attention. One of the Heimin found Al-Saleen’s Toku blade amongst Kasuga Toto’s goods. Miyazaki confronted him but gave him an easy out, allowing Toto to move his other contraband goods unmolested, and even take a few off of Miyazaki’s hands, in exchange for a very favorable deal to purchase back Al-Saleen’s katana. After the deal, he promptly returned the blade without Al-Saleen ever being the wiser. Awesome.

Reward: Read Lips Advantage

Isawa Tso-Lou – Vice (secrets).

Tso-Lou decided it was about time to find out what our leader Tsuruchi Nadu has been doing all this time during Winter Court. So one night he followed the Sapphire Champion out of the Shiro and to the crudely crafted homes of the Heimin. Assuming he might be doing some seedy deals hidden amongst the heimin Tso-Lou peered into the windows of each house but dismissed the occupants as no more than peasants. After passing over one hut, however, he was sure he heard Nadu’s voice. Upon taking a second look he realized that the peasant father he has just passed was actually Nadu, along with a heimin wife and children. Ooh, that’s going to be some good blackmail someday.
Reward: Any one emphasis
Bonus Reward: 1 xp towards a kata, kiho or spell.

The Week Passing…

Shimizu looked into the Harriers activity. They are apparently attempting to sabotage our efforts to make good with the other clans.

Al-Saleen spent his free days with the Moto discussing their ways. He discovered that these Moto clung to the old ways of personal mortification, judgment in this world and a direct connection to the Lords of Death through closeness to death themselves. When they learned that Al-Saleen had spoken with the Shi-Tien Yen-Wang in person, they were concerned that he meant to usurp them. After spending Winter Court with him, we’ll see what they think of him.

Miyazaki had a flashback to his training with the Ivory Sahirs, scenes of him being disgusted with their terrifying rituals and their magic, which in every way resembled Maho, except for the use of blood.

Shiko spent his time distracting the Isawa present while his Hare allies rifled through her belongings. Later he was seen inspecting them and instructing the Hare to returned them as if they had not been touched. His attention then turned back to Yoshi and his new companions.
Tso-Lou took Li to meet with a ferocious Crab who terrified her by yelling at her when she thought it would be “cute” to touch is Dai-Tsuchi. He is attempting to change her from a spoiled child into a young woman of responsibility.

Yoshi spent hours studying the Maho scrolls he found trying to find some way to cast them without the taint they were sure to cause.

What rocked

Travis’s system is holding up very nicely. Not only is it giving us all something to do during the Winter Court that we are excited about, but it also has lead to a lot of player interaction. I particularly love all the scenes of other samurai handling Al-Saleen’s prize katana and him never being the wiser.

The trouble with the Daidoji brewing is cool. I really look forward to a scene with them next game. Al-Saleen is going to do his usual thing of being incredibly blunt when fineness is called for. I think there is just a tiny bit of Crab in that Dragon.

The dirt on Nadu is awesome. I know Eric really enjoys the blackmail element and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out later.

What dishonorable dogs we are! In Nadu’s scene there were hardly any of us (Shimizu being the exception) that didn’t either do some heinously dishonorable act or toy with malevolent forces like Shourido and Maho. Good times in the Sapphire’s Honor.

I’m really digging the “Death Follows Me” key. First off, it’s really easy to activate (Have a scene about the Lords of Death, the Moto Deathspeakers, or for kicks just summon in Takeko Gaki). Also, it cements Al-Saleen as the kind of person it is dangerous to love. Yes, there is a bit of Jack Bauer envy here. Everyone loves Jack because he always does his duty regardless of what personal sacrifices need to be made. They love him to the extent that they offer themselves up as said sacrifices. Al-Saleen has already lost two of his loves; I see that trend continuing (not necessarily with his wife but with others who ally themselves with him).

What could have been improved

It’s sometimes difficult to figure out if a scene is about conflict (i.e. things thrust against each other and something changing) or exposition (an unopposed force showing off what they represent in the story). During Shiko’s turn there was a question of what exactly is Shiko going to roll on here? Impressing the Dock Workers? He does that no problem just be giving them a day off. Looking back this was really an exposition scene showing how Shiko is becoming the champion of the people. In terms of the scene economy, however, exposition and reflection scenes don’t really fit into our weekly events. This is such a minor gripe however, that I don’t think it’s worth investigation, at least not in the context of Winter Court.