Actual Play – The Festival (1/29/2011)

GM: Chris Vincenti and Tracy Pinkelton
Players: Matt, Travis, Chrissy, Jessie, Brook, and Sean
System: Legend of the Five Rings (4th Edition)

Normal Playtest AP disclaimer: I’m going to do my best to not give out any spoilers for this game, as it will be run at DundraCon. Here is the official game write up:

The Festival
Monday 10 AM in 377 for 6 hours
GM: Chris Vincenti
System: Legend of the Five Rings
Edition: 4th
Players: 6
Provided: All characters provided by GM
Power Level: Insight rank 2-3
Variations: A touch of Arkham Horror
Rules Knowledge: Beginners Welcome
Game Content: Mature Themes
Samurai flock to the coastal village of Ishikawa Mura. The wealthy, to escape the summer’s heat in the ocean breezes; others to attend the tiny-but-growing matchmaking festival held at the height of the season.

This year, a few odd reports and some uneasy divinations have directed a few more of the Empire’s servants to the celebration than usual.
Come enjoy the festivities, and don’t worry about the occasional oddities. Isolated villages do develop some quaint customs, don’t they?

Expect a game of Lovecraft-flavored samurai horror.

What rocked

The first character introduced instantly appealed to me for the same reason that the setting of the game appealed to me. This was Rokugan-plus! All the normal customs were of course present but the game takes place at a matchmaking festival. So jovial and even brash behavior is invited if not expected. I was perhaps to boisterous as Yasuko Ginko, the wife hunting merchant, but the behavior that probably would have gotten me challenged to a duel in the rest of Rokugan, merely earned my fan waving here.

I think part of the genius here was matching well known genre with well know situation. So, it isn’t just Rokugan, or a beachside party, it is a juxtaposition of both of those, like Shaun of the Dead is a romantic comedy… with zombies. Or like Firefly is an old west sci-fi. What that means is that the players had two sources of reference to work with, and could see how things from either one (Rokugan culture or a resort party environment) would interact.

The introduction of horror in the game was very smooth. A lot of light touches; things that seemed wrong, but hard to say exactly why they were wrong.

We had some great player interactions. Matt and I had fun discussing why were there and my very cavalier opinions on marriage and women were rebuffed by her Dragon sensibilities honoring love and respect.

The encounters had very cool introductions. Can’t be more specific here but L5R is meant to combine the excruciatingly mundane (no, you don’t hold your fan that way, you hold it this way to indicate that you would like to me asked to share tea but that he should send a servant to speak with your servant rather than ask you directly) with the larger than life (“Holy Crap, the leader of the Dragon Clan is a REAL DRAGON?”). Chris and Tracy bring it all.

Yasuki Ginko is awesome sauce. If you want to be a snake oil salesman play this character. I did!

What could have improved

Chris and Tracy were working out a few kinks in co-gming the game, not stepping on each other’s toes, making sure communication was clear, etc. The play-test illuminated those gaps really well and I think they’ll have them patched seamlessly by the time the con games come up.

There was, and I think still is, a big question about how important personal goals are in the game. Not being able to achieve (or make substantial headway towards) my personal goals was very frustrating, specifically because I had several ideas as to how to make them actionable, but didn’t have the chance in game.

Some of the characters had some elements that weren’t tied into the game itself (e.g. a fear of spiders when spiders weren’t present in the game). Some of that is probably just fine to leave as flavor, but tying the characters into the story through their advantage and disadvantages may actually ameliorate some of the desire to focus on personal goals if the plot threads turn into something specifically meaningful to them.

Actual Play – But the Night’s Eyes Never Closed (12/11/2010)

GM: Travis Smalley
Prey: Mark Strecker, Patrick Idleman, Tom Idleman, Sean Nittner, Matt DeHayes, Travis Lindquist
System: Legend of the Five Rings

Saturday night at Dead of Winter and I was ready for some horror action. L5R is basically a setting where horror can be added in heaping spoonfuls at the GMs discretion. Add maho (blood magic), kansen (evil spirits), bloodspeakers (name pretty much says it all), and any host of other bad guys in the setting and you have opposition that is alien, unfathomable, and very powerful… sound like an Cthulhu games you have played. It is really clear to me that when Wick wrote this game ages ago, he was very affected by the Lovecraft Mythos and I think that influence has only grown through the editions.

While I don’t admire L5Rs resolution system for dealing with such creatures of inhuman nature (usually if you win initiative and make your fear check it is dead… unless there are more than one of them or they are too tough and then you are dead… which is not much different from fighting anything else, except it requires a fear check… that I have never seen anyone fail), I love their presence in the setting, and the weird ways they affect the culture (we burn our dead so they don’t come back as zombies, we don’t touch each other because shadowlands taint is communicable by touch, nobody of power ever touches blood because there is SO MUCH power in blood, etc). The coolest part is that nobody in the culture acknowledges these social mores as originating from fear of the horrific elements, instead they are embedded into the culture as simply another taboo, so at the surface something like not touching someone seems just as much an act of etiquette as ignoring another samurai’s dishonorable act.

And after playing in Rokugan (L5R setting) for a couple years, I am familiar enough with most of it to get spooked by the right things.

Smalley’s game (using last name so as not to confuse with Travis Lindquist) was set up very much like a Cthulhu style investigation. Our samurai were at winter court in a ho hum little village when weird stuff started happening. We had very little in the way of supernatural understanding of this weird, so it meant a lot of old school looking around, following up on leads, and running into shit we were REALLY not prepared for.

But he also front loaded a lot of tension in the game, which I love. From minute one we had reasons to interact with each other, reasons to question, befriend or distrust one another. I played a Scorpion, so suffice to say, few trusted me off the bat, and I never really earned much trust throughout the game, but I did get the job done I needed to (and accidentally killed a couple of the wrong people along the way). The other characters had interesting storylines to pursue as well (shame upon my family, to much temptation from the geisha house, being a bull in a china shop *cough*Utaka Battle-Maiden*cough, etc).

Spoiler Alert: I will try not to give to many spoilers here as I am not sure if Smalley will run this game again (I recommend that he does, it was a very good game), but some bits are inevitably going to slip out. You’ve been warned.

What rocked

Smalley clearly loves the setting. It is hard not to fall in love with Rokugan once you have played in it. While it feels restrictive at first, you realize after time their customs are no more bizarre than ours, which starts giving you a certain appreciate for just how bizarre we are. Social commentary aside, I could tell from his elaborate character backgrounds, his descriptions of the setting and his depictions of the NPCs that this game is one he really loves.

For the most part the characters and players gelled REALLY well. Mark, who played a Dragon Bushi never quite got fully invested in character interplay, but that may have been because of some dark secret he was hiding, I’m not sure. For the rest of us, however the character dynamics were awesome. I was especially happy that Tom and Patrick played characters that had an excuse to be naive (a girl before her gempuku, technically still a child and an Utaka Battle-Maided, as close to a barbarian as you can get while still being part of Rokugan). What this meant was that they were really open to asking questions about the culture and it was just fine (in fact appropriate) for their characters to make social blunders. In a particularly funny one Patrick’s Battle Maiden picked up Lindquist’s character by the top not and threw him over her horse (oww). Lindquist wanted to duel her but couldn’t find a suitable champion. End result he had to yield that if he asked for aid, that is how the battle maiden would give it!

I was was a hella leet Ninja. I had all the bad assery anyone could want. I killed oni, I crouching tigered up walls covered in snow. I slipped maho spells on onto dead people. I did all that, and was MISERABLE because of it. In the end I was the only one who survived, begged for seppuku and was denied it. In a particularly cool moment I had this chance to kill my lord’s daughter because I suspected her of maho. I had this conundrum. If I was right, this was my only chance to act, and my only viable act was to kill her. If I was wrong, I was killing my only friend’s daughter. I killed her… then I killed her servant… and then I found out I was wrong. You can imagine why I was such a self hater by the end.

This was my first exposure to 4th Edition L5R. I had a couple of WTF moments, but in general I think it is an improvement over 3rd.

Smalley gave us plenty of leeway to chew on the scenery, make as big a deal of little things as we wanted and generally play off of what WE thought was cool in the game. I love this, but see below…

Nobody gets a better death than poking your own eyes out with obsidian needles in an insane attempt to learn blood magic.  Yeah, whack!

What could have improved

In the end we all died (or nearly all died) not because it was a horror game where our destiny was to fail miserably but because we failed at some win condition. We needed to do steps X, Y and Z, but only every got around to X. Personally, this was a disappointment, I thought we had a great game, full of awesome action on everyone’s part and was confused when it turned out we did something “wrong”. I guess I am just not a fan of their being any wrong decisions because it tells me the GM has planned an outcome, which I am not a fan of at all. Put us in a predicament and then see where it goes. If we all die at the end because of one of our actions, or because the forces working against us are too powerful, then cool. But if we all die because we DIDN’T do a particular action, then I feel like the game is on rails and I lose interest. Luckily that didn’t happen till the very end of the game, but it left me one a bitter note.

The game was a bit TOO epic, or perhaps just too long. We had this major fight, thought the story was over and then it kept going. I would have preferred to wrap up then. It was at that point when I felt like the game started spiraling to disaster. Fun, bizarre kind of disaster; Lindquist’s character going crazy and killing everyone and my Scoprion telling the not quite adult shugenja that she needs to cut herself and perform some maho so that we can kind the bloodspeaker we missed. Cool stuff, I guess, points of tension, but also breaking the game a little. It’s like were playing “scary horror L5R” before and we’re playing “fucked up, shock therapy L5R” now.

Actual Play – Toturi V (11/22/2010)

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

This was it, the end of the campaign and the L5R game. We had two epic fronts. At Toshi Ranbo Matsu Rei was leading Hida Kisada’s forces to conquer the city, while Ikoma Tso-Lou was defending it. In the Shadowloands Kakita Shimizu brought all the forces he could muster to rescue the emperor, while Sodano Shiko served his new master, the Shadow Dragon, in creating a new threat for all of Rokugan.

Kuni Shinji and Shosuro Miho had more personal but no less epic goals. Shinji thwarted the earthworks of the Kaiu and ousted them from the Crab clan for turning on Kisada. Miho’s action was perhaps the complex and cataclysmic. Perfectly impersonating Rei she attempted to assassinate Hida Kisada. Though she failed, and was killed, nearly instantaneously, the act broke Kisada’s will. He called Rei a traitor and called off his forces, ending the siege.

Amidst all of this Shimizu was finally able to fulfill his destiny as a great Kenshinsen duelist, the protector of the emperor, the bearer of Kakita’s blade, and Emerald Champion.

Tso-Lou was championed the greatest general of his time, made the Lion Champion, and raised a son who became the Badger Daimyo through marriage.

Miho’s fate was unknown. As many scorpion she put her duty before all else. Her assassination succeeded more than she could have hoped. Not only did she convince Kisada to turn back his army, but out of grief and remorse he committed Seppuku, sending the last of the living fortunes, back through oblivions gate.

Shinji would lead a rough life, enemy of the former Kaiu clan Daimyo, her efforts fortified the strength of the remaining crab, protecting Hiruma castle and the border to the Shadowlands.

Shiko served his own master so well, he was appointed the Shadow Dragon’s chief emissary in Rokugan. Beneath him was the now Shadow and Shadowland tainted Sezaru, who’s goal, after Nasaru and Kaneka died was to claim the throne for himself. Shiko, Sezaru and Daigotsu formed an unholy allegiance that would shake the borders of Rokugan.

Rei, next in line for succession to the throne, went to hell, so that her son might be a wise emperor with Shinjo as his regent. I believe by the precedent set by Nasaru, Rei was Toturi IV, even though the station was granted posthumously. Her higher purpose fulfilled, she gave the empire a leader, and a great one at that.

Below are the tweets made during the game.

  • Big wigs present so far at the end of Act 2: Nasaru, Kaneka, The Wolf, Kisada, Paneki, Kommei-no-oni. All hell has broken lose #L5R
  • Shimizu is charging the Oni and now he’s in Kaneka’s body. Body snatchers for the win. #L5R
  • It’s appropriate because Miho is going die. I’m just trying to find out how much she dies by. #L5R (Don’t attack The Great Bear)
  • Rei has final words with Tso-Lou. She admits treason and begs for Seppuku. He refuses. They duel. She throws the duel and dies. Epic #L5R
  • Shiko gives a scroll to a corrupted Sezaru. It’s black! The Tao of Fu Leng is found. Extra epic. #L5R
  • Shimizu earns the emnity of Kaneka by having his body. But in the shrine he’s found “Kakita’s blade”. Go spank that Oni. #L5R
  • The Emperor dies in Shimizu’s arms. His heir (Kaneka) left dying in the battlefield. The Empire is lost #L5R
  • Shiko commands Sezaru to kill them all, leaving only Nadu as a witness. Sezaru claims the throne to the NEW empire, Shiko his master. #L5R
  • Nasaru claims a new heir, his sister’s daughter Matsu Rei. Nice. She’s dead. That will pass to Jo, her enlightened son. #L5R
  • Rei is offered to return to earth by two of the Four Winds going to hell, but takes the honor herself. Her purpose complete. #L5R
  • Jo is the new Emperor. Shinjo his regent. The destroyer is coming for all. #L5R
  • Six different potential emperors tonight (Nasaru, Sezaru, Kaneka, Kisada, Rei and finally Jo). Toturi V gempukus Toturi Miyazaki #L5R Fin.

What rocked

Each of us was allowed to forge epic destinies, some of our choice, all fitting to the player.

Looking back, all the time that Rei screamed about her horrible ancestors, she was committing blasphemy. Awesome!

As noted above, several of us fulfilled great destines, and/or higher purposes.

Rei got to have some closure with the two characters she cared the most about at the end of the game: Tso-Lou and Jo.

Miho’s death was meaningful in ways that I’m pretty sure Omar had no idea of. The fact that Matsu Rei will be heralded as both a hero and a traitor makes me quite happy. Who says only the Scorpion can do horrible things to fulfill their duty?

What could have improved

We need to name the battle. I’d like to nominate the “Battle of Broken Promises” as a possibility. Either that or “Kisada’s Folly”

Actual Play – Stopping Five Samurai with One Kick! (10/25/2010)

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

This report could also have been named “Master Tiger, You’re not my son!” Some strange things happened in this game, strange and good, but also telling of the end.

This was our second and final Winter Court session, where each of us would vie for influence over families in the upcoming conflict with Kisada, who had announced that he is going to take the throne.

Round 1

The first round was predictable. Rei gained the favor of the Moto. This was challenging and it involved sleeping with the Moto leader, but the Moto relented just the same. Tso-Lou swayed the Toritaka to be a Falcon rather than a Crab and oppose Kisada. Miho gained the favor of the Kaiu. Washichi convinced the Ide to remain neutral and inclined the Utaka to do the same. Finally Shinji gain support for Kisada from the Hiruma, who were eager to help regardless.

There were some oddities though. Shiko, given a direction from the Shadow Dragon himself, invented a new front. He convinced the Yoritomo to use this great war as a chance to grab land wherever it was left undefended… as per their imperial mandate of course. Not since the Blood Rain would the Mantis have such fertile crops to till!

Also, Shimizu put his plan to abandon this war and send entire clans off to seek the emperor into motion. Taking a bulk of the Crane clan with him, he also cashed in the obligation owed to him by the Sapphire Champion (Yoritomo Miyazaki) to get both the Sapphire Magistrates and the Tsuruchi to aid in his search as well.

Round 2

Then things got interesting. Rei’s son Jo (whose soul was replaced by that of Master Tiger, Mr. Super bad guy of the Kolat) finally tipped his hand. He had seemed to know too much far too often, but as adults that usually underestimate children we generally assumed he was just a perceptive boy, or perhaps that he had been listening in on conversations that weren’t his business. Despite his uncanny knowledge, nobody really suspected anything was particularly “wrong” with him. We all just though he was a little shit of a kid, and that wasn’t a surprise given how horrible of a mom he had (and no father to speak of). But he did something that finally made no sense. He told his mother that he had learned much from Tso-Lou and demonstrated this by giving her a sweep kick and dropping her in the mud. Now… if Rei wasn’t martial to a fault, this wouldn’t have surprised many, but as she’s fast like a freak, this should have never happened.

Washichi being present spoke to the earth kami and they confirmed that his strength in earth was far higher than that of a child should be. From his demonstration it was clear that so was his fire. Finally, when congratulated for teaching Jo the Ikoma Brawler stance so well, Tso-Lou protested that he had never instructed Jo. Something was clearly wrong, his elements were out of balance and Jo might be in danger…

So, while both me as a player and Rei as a character loathed to do it, Rei gave up the opportunity to influence another family and instead took her son to a Kitsu temple so that the priests could commune with the kami and find out what ailed her son. And to my great delight, almost everyone followed suit. Washichi and Shinji wanted to come and help with the communing. Tso-Lou made a promise to Jo to take him the next time he went to visit a family and Jo had made that promise sound VERY binding, so as I had Jo with me, Tso-Lou refrained from doing more of his protecting the empire duties. Shiko was also involved. The shadow dragon had interest in the boy and sent him to seek the boy out. He followed us to the temple and found a corrupted Kitsu to be his agent in the ceremony. Jo ended up stopping five samurai with one kick!

From here things went nuts. As she was not a shugenja Rei prayed to her ancestors to give her wisdom regarding her troubled son. They wondered why she worried; her son’s soul had departed Ningen-do (realm of mortals) some months ago. His soul was in Yomi (realm of blessed ancestors) now. WHA-A-A-A-AT? What abomination killed her child and now wore his skin. In a temple of peace Rei roared forward blade of her ancestors in hand and impaled her son with a single deadly blow. This was despite Shiko appearing from nowhere and Jo himself, or Master Tiger as the players knew him, deflating defending himself. As I mentioned above, Rei is a destroyer of worlds when it comes to martial conflicts.

We left with the boy in death throws, healed by Washichi so that we might understand the truth. Jo regained consciousness and in a pained voice asked “What am I doing back here?”

Meanwhile a Kitsu that had “fallen” during the casting of the spell appeared off screen raising a white mask to his face. “Yes, this shell will suffice much better.” Maniacal laughter closed the session.

What rocked

As Travis said in a tweet, much of the second half of this session was an exercise in player trust, that he as a GM would not hose us, and we all passed the test. As players we took actions that felt right and as a GM Travis made sure that all of them were important and awesome.

The Jo twist was killer. Maybe it accelerated faster that I would have liked (from serious suspicion to impaling in one session) but it was still cool to see that Jo finally had a real impact on the samurai. Travis had been working in that for a while.

I felt really good that most of the other players backed me when I spent a “turn” focusing on Jo. I really thank all of them for regarding it with importance enough to make that sacrifice as well.

Rei is just TORN apart. Jo doesn’t remember anything that happened (Travis told me out of game that his soul went to Yomi but came back when Master Tiger departed his body) but Rei does. She remembers believing that some kind of spirit was her son, and she remembers all too well impaling him. She’s been a really bad mother that was perpetually disappointed her son for so long, she sees that she has a chance to be a better mother to him now, to start over, but she’s not sure she deserves that chance, or that she won’t just fuck it up again. And regardless of how well the wound heals, Rei is never going to forget plunging her tempered blade, the blade of her ancestors, into her son’s chest. I REALLY look forward to seeing what happens to those too. Rei had a key “I will not allow my son to dishonor our family,” which will now change to “My son, my regret.” (which is particularly important because regret is one of the three sins in Rokugan).

Almost forgot, there was this hilarious scene early on when Jo (still possessed Jo) was running around to all the male characters insisting that they were his father. When Rei finds out about this she summarily dismisses this and says she knows who his father is, but he’s too much of a coward to meet his own son. The question of, well could either Washichi or Tso-Lou be Jo’s father… hypothetically speaking. Rei answers “I’ve never shared a bed with Washichi…” And then there is this crazy long dramatic pause. “That’s the end of the sentence.” And both Fattig and I’m interpreting from that Tso-Lou a little as well blush and suddenly the scene is both hilarious and awkward all at the same time. It was a great moment.

What could have been improved

Eh… frankly I’m not looking forward to a big PVP battle that is coming up. I can think of a lot of awesome role-playing scenes and situations that could come up from the last session, but I doubt will see much of that in a largely tactical conflict. Rei will lead one side and Tso-Lou will lead the other, we’re both master in battle, and will lead huge friggin armies. Casualties will be very high, and some epic stuff might come out of it, but right now I’d much rather be spending some scenes with Rei and Jo talking , or Washichi or Tso-Lou for that matter.

Narrative Control – Episode 53 – Mad Props (Part 1)

Hi and welcome to Narrative Control.  This episode and the next are all about props we’ve used in games.  This show we’re talking about maps, apparel and dressing up existing game elements like dice, character sheets, etc.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length:  34:00

Show Notes

[00:28] Intro to the show.  Talking about props.
[01:40] We already talked about some of this in Episode 17 – Included props on the cheap, documents and customized character sheets. Check it out .
[03:30] Maps… the forgotten prop. [04:39] Map of Bel in Apocalypse World:

[05:29] Island map for Agon.  Showed which gods held dominion. Blank version.

[06:31] The Map of Rokugan showing off all the problems we had to handle.

[08:28] Territories in Mouse Guard. Big Map:

Little Map:

[10:30] The map of our memories in 4E.  I put in mud pots for you Babe.
[11:50] Dress like the fiction. Costumes.
[13:06] Gnome spies got (from such classics as Gnomes Like Us, Dr. Gnome and Gnome Impossible) got different hats for each important NPC.
[12:48] Put on a Chiton when you play a Greek.  Dressing up for Agon:

[15:30] Liberty spikes and “distressed” wear for Apocalypse World:

[16:22] Laurel wreaths for the gods: Laural wreaths at Amazon.
[17:02] Getting costumes at local costume shops, like this one at UC Davis: Enchanted Cellar.
[18:21] Mons in our L5R game. Badges of office, clan, family or post.
[20:07] More subtle effects.  Dresden Files cops game, I took the role as the police chief, I kept adjusting this:

[22:07] Dressing up the existing gaming elements: Dice, character sheets, game currancy (style dice, fate chips, artha, etc).
[22:50] Police Dresden game: Badges on Fate chips made with Token Tool.
[23:31] Used Gwendolyn and Liam for Persona and Fate in Mouse Guard:


[24:05] Matrix: There is no spoon.  Currency in RAM:

[24:49] More generic. Poker Chips: Discount Poker Shop. [25:43] Apocalypse World: Shotgun Shells.

[26:53] Mouse Guard – Dice color matched the cloaks:

[27:51] My Life with Joker: Purple and Green Dice at Chessex.
[28:12] Burning Empires.  Blue became the color of the common people.  Nobody wanted the blue dice.
[29:03] Burning Wheel. The Gift.  Dwarves get red dice, Elves get blue.
[29:44] Character tents.
[30:00] Pretty character tents.  Clear picture frames at Bed, Bath and Beyond
[30:36] Including other bits like characters keys (from Shadow of Yesterday), aspects (from Fate), etc.
[31:12] “Dude, where’s my sword?”  Players poking each other in the keys.
[32:23] Aspects on sticky labels to add to character tents.  Here’s my Mouse Guard traits:

[33:26] A hint of the topic to come soon.

Direct Download: NC_Episode_053.mp3

Actual Play – Kisada for King? (9/27/2010)

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

Winter Court started with an announcement, something my character has been working towards for most of this campaign. Kisada is marching north to take Toshi Ranbo. He’s claiming regency over the throne until a suitable emperor can be found.

As ranking magistrates, generals, champions and dignitaries of our families, it was up to our heroes to determine who would side with Kisada, who would oppose him and who would remain neutral.

At the end of the session we had a perfectly even distribution of families (7 supporting, 7 opposing and 7 neutral). There were still many families unaccounted for, which we will tackle next time.

What rocked

The player division on this one was fun. We have two players strongly for Kisada (Rei and Shinji), two strongly for staying out of the fight (Washichi and Shimizu), one that opposes him (Tso-Lou), one that acts to oppose by following her personal desires (Miho) and one that just wants as much strife as possible and will support the underdog (Shiko).

This division caused some fun and tense role-playing moments between the PCs.

Jo, Rei’s son, aka Master Tiger caused some real ruckus, including going through these ridiculous efforts to rip apart this War leader (Bayushi Soh) and then blame it on everyone (at least five groups implicated) because with all the knowledge bestowed upon him, he still has the childlike mentality that if implicating one group is good, implicating five is better! He was a pest, as usual, but fun and lead us to some new discoveries.

What could have been improved

I got frustrated because my character has a lot of personal interest in seeing this happen and it felt like her months and months (read: many sessions) of effort were worth less than what others were able to accomplish during the single session. Part of this was a miscommunication. Steve thought he wasn’t going to make the next session so he jockeyed to have one scene with a lot of impact. It makes sense in that light, but as it stands he will be there next session, so I ended up frustrated.

Net result excluding our own families (which we all had jurisdiction over): Rei convinced the Isawa to side with Kisada on the condition that he defer to them in religious matters. Shimizu got the Akodo, Asahina and Doji to remain neutral in the affair with no strings attached. Three-to-one was rough, especially given how much time I had put into this and that I have no idea whether or not I’ll be able to sell Kisada on the whole “defer to the Isawa” business. I got the feeling at the end of the game that if I was Woodbury (a previous player) I would have had the odds stacked much further in Kisada’s favor.

Actual Play – The Lion’s Pride (8/30/2010)

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

Before the party, there’s the before-party

Usually in this campaign the “game” starts up when we all split off and go on our various quests to keep the empire from falling apart, to search for the emperor or to pursue our personal goals. This game however, has quite a few scenes before we split up that were just great.

Rei and Jo (aka Master Tiger).

Rei: “Jo, I see that after your month with Washichi you are acting much more like a samurai and that you appear to have an affinity to be a courtier. This is acceptable; you are a disappointment to me, but not a dishonor to our family. You will go to the Ikoma courtier school”
Jo: “But mother, I would be so much better suited… If you had real influence you could… I could do so much more at…”
Rei: “Quit flapping your lips kid. I don’t care what you want. You’re going to Ikoma school, if you want to go somewhere else prove your worth to your sensei.”

Rei is such a compassionate mother. Jo was a precocious brat BEFORE he was master tiger… now he’s and Epic [+6] pain in the ass. (Fate joke. Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Sharing rice with the other Imperial Magistrates.

Rei spoke with Washichi, she had heard about the battle he won and his personal bravery (Fortunes know EVERYONE heard about it, he wouldn’t stop telling the stories). Also, after spending time with Washichi, her son Jo had made remarkable improvements. For this she was in his debt.

Washishi put himself in Miyo’s debt (Omar’s scorpion, I got her name this time) as well, to indentify the scorpion mask he took off the Yobanjin force’s general.

Then came the WHAMMY. The Hatmoto entered and asked where we would go this month. Rei proclaimed that she would march her legions south to aid the Great Bear in reclaiming Hiruma castle. When question why, she declared that the war was happening because of her efforts, she could not fail Kisada now. Besides Winter Court would be upon us in a month. It must be done now. Yet Tso-Lou could not let this pass. To appease his dead mother, he required that Rei travel to Matsu lands and resolve the military conflicts there.
Then things got fun. Rei couldn’t go to Matsu lands (even though it would mean betraying her own family) because she need to lead her armies south. Tso-Lou suggested another general and we had a great time jesting about Washichi leading the forces or Shiko taking them to hold fast against the Shadowlands by telling the Oni to stay their anger and refrain from violence. Finally it came to Tso-Lou, a capable leader himself, who offered to lead her armies.

Rei smiled, grabbed a tea cup and gestured to Tso-Lou to do the same so that they could play “Defend the Leader”. A ridiculous game that proves one’s skill in battle by smashing the cup attached to your opponents head. Tso-Lou shattered Rei’s cup and this proved himself to her, in more ways than one. In a breathy voice she picked herself up from the ground and told Tso-Lou he must attend her that night to review battle plans.

Cut to after the sex.

Naked in bed Tso-Lou informed Rei that she must not use violence to solve this problem, that the ancestors required it. As she was to travel to resolve a matter peacefully and Tso-Lou would be facing an army of Shadowlands creatures on the other side of the wall, she bestowed her sword upon him, that it might lead him to victory, and distant from her might not tempt her to cut down those she disagreed with.

The month at large.

Shinji, with the aid of a Naga stopped the volcano in Dragon Lands from erupting but unweaving the tainted magic that was agitating the fire kami below. She also recovered un-hatched naga eggs (which she entrusted with the Dragon) and used her influence as “emissary” to send Mirumoto Cavalry to reinforce the war in the south.

Washichi visited unicorn lands and found that to his great dismay bandits had captured his wife’s horse… and yeah, his wife as well. The passion that drove Washichi to find the horse (and the lack there of concerning his wife) was comical. She, as proscribed by his disadvantage, was a fairly heinous individual and we had a laugh watching Chris play the completely cowed husband.

Miyo and Shiko traveled to Yasuki lands and arranged jobless peasants to be hired by a ronin Siamese twin underworld power player. She freaked the out a lot, but eventually they agreed to kill a Mantis merchant for her. In the night Miyo snuck in and did just that. Travis called for a “murderate the fuck out of him” roll, which Miyo passed with flying colors.

Rei traveled to Matsu lands and found an encampment of Sohei and hemin led by a monk who was determined to prove the might of his warriors. Because of Rei’s past affairs with monks (killing one who was detracting followers from Bishamon) she is cast out and hated by this order. It took A LOT of work to earn the monk’s respect enough that he would listen to her and send his forces where they could be used, rather than mindlessly against the Crab or Scorpion.

Tso-Lou went south and met Kisada, the mountain of a man. The Great Bear was very displeased at first that Rei herself had not come in person, but Tso-Lou convinced him that he was a capable commander and was thus in charge of the reserves… or plugging the wholes opened by hordes of oni tearing through the lines of Hida soldiers. And boy did they! A giant Oni, at least 25’ tall and acid breathing ripped apart scores of samurai, tearing apart the line. Bravely (very bravely), Tso-Lou drew the blade of Rei’s ancestors and charged the horrendous beast. With skill, luck and heart he slew the creature, holding back the line and helping Kisada to win the day. Hiruma Castle is recovered once more!

What rocked

All the post scene player interaction was great. I really like Rei’s begrudging respect for Washichi, and her growing passion for Tso-Lou.

Sex between Rei and Tso-Lou is a major milestone in the character’s relationship. The seeds of it stared years ago when they had to bathe together after being covered in dye and the mutual attraction was obvious. This finally advanced that tension further, I’m sure our interactions in the future will be colored by this. And woot, for the first time ever I got to use my Dangerous Beauty advantage.

My son is such a little shit. It’s awesome. Not sure which is more annoying: Pre or Post Master Tiger Jo.

The fight with the shadowlands creature was epic. I know Travis is probably disappointed that it didn’t even scratch Tso-Lou but this is one of those creatures that if it hits you, you die, so it’s really the only way he could have possibly survived. It was very Legolas vs. the Oliphant or Luke vs. the AT-AT or even that chump kid David.

Watching the characters (and a little bit the players) freak out about a conjoined twin was hilarious. They wanted there to be some taint explanation and were losing their minds when it wasn’t.

Rei’s really horrible plan is working, and it’s killing her. Most of the clans are busy dealing with their own affairs, while Crab lands have no troubles (at least none significant enough to get pins on the board). Kisada has made a major win by reclaiming Hiruma castle and at this very moment commands a mighty army. The Emerald Legion (thanks to the new champion) is scattered all over Rokugan. All the Great Bear needs to do now is turn them around and start marching north to take Toshi Ranbo and claim the throne. Rei has rolled out the red carpet for him, and its burning her up inside. I love it.

What could have improved

Eh, nothing really. The game went too long because we were really chewing up the scenery, but this is a good thing.

Actual Play – Why Hello Master Tiger (8/16/2010)

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

Back to saving the Empire.

Shimizu went in search of the Emperor… it looks like he headed back to Mantis lands to learn from the Yoritomo.

Rei resolved a dispute about who was in command of the Lion armies by declaring herself the leader and then passing command down to the Taisa that a) was going to throw a fit if he didn’t lead and b) wanted to attack the Unicorn (which was Rei’s idea as well… it’s always Rei’s idea to attack the Unicorn). Crap… I totally missed my opportunity to just send them all on the Dragonfly! Lion Fail!

Omar did Scorpion things, which in this case meant pissing the Sapphire Champion off (he really doesn’t like Scorpion… especially Scorpion Women) and then rounding up some Orochi riders to drag and island (yes you read that right, it’s a floater) till it touched land. And he saw the spider that will eat the world under water down there. Actually it wasn’t very Scorpion, unless it was Bitter Lies style. But I don’t know your character at all Omar (not even her name) so I just assume she is sneaky scorpion. You gotta get a character tent!

Tso-Lou went up to the Dragon lands and was part of the summoning of Togashi himself, who restored the three monk orders, which were going totally insane. They are all Togashi monks now. Bits with his son (ginichi, sp?) were very cool to, the kid is a total brawler in the making.

Washichi had the spotlight story of the night. He traveled to the Khol army and with a group of Ox defended the lines from Yobanjin attacks. Only he protected a very specific place that he knew (from the wisdom of the kami) held something strange down in a sinkhole. Bravely, in a way that would have made Rei proud, he lead the army against the Yobanjin and despite all odds, came out victorious. Meanwhile he sent Jo (Rei’s son who he had agreed to foster) to investigate the sinkhole… where he found Master Tiger (Leader of the Kolat, dudes who want to bring down the Empire), who was dying and passed off his ivory mask, scrolls and wisdom to the new Master Tiger. Yep, my son! Oh this will be good.

What rocked

Before we all split up I had a lot of fun interacting with the other Samurai. Shimizu and Omar were taking bets on how long my new Gunso would last. Washichi offered to take care of Jo for a month, to which Rei first responded by berating him with insults and then, after she had gotten them out of her system, agreed to let Washichi take him. Washichi replied that if hitting him would have made her feel better she should have done that, so she gave him a black eye… and low and behold did feel a lot better.

Seeing Togashi (and all the crazy monks) was a lot of fun. Tso-Lou’s plans to use the mountain animals as a distraction was good stuff too.

The story of Jo has just become a lot more interesting.

What could have improved

I was pretty distracted during the night because of non-game things and I felt like my distraction, then distracted others. Overall the group wasn’t as focused as normal.

I think the “search for the emperor” option is kind of dry. It’s go to a place and ask around to get leads. I think maybe it should play out a bit more like the other options of “solve this problem” and you get a reward (in this case, the lead).

Actual Play – Shimizu’s Divorce – Part 2 (8/9/2010)

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

Why part 2? Where is part 1? I missed it. But never fear Fattig did an AP report which is up here:

The divorce proceedings were actually a lot of fun. I know Steve wasn’t really thrilled about his character’s sordid affairs being dragged out all over the shoji screen, but even he got a kick out of some of the bits.

Take away from the game:

Shimizu’s wife may not be a manipulative underhanded courtier, but her side of the case (orchestrated by the imperial chancellor, a Bayushi who certainly is a manipulative underhanded courtier and has beef with either Shimizu or the Crane or both) was crooked as hell. It was all about slamming Shimizu. Very Judge Judy tactics.

Shiko was “poisoned” by some creature of the shadow. The poison gave him a vision of his wife sleeping with another man. The Shadow offered to fix this problem for Shiko, but he refused to give into his wrath and told them to do nothing.

Rei’s son is hopeless. He’s way too smart for his own good and super precocious. My favorite line of the night. Jo: “But mother, I know what I should do, but my feelings tell me to do otherwise.” Rei: “Jo, you need to take those feelings and find a black hole in your heart to bury them in.”

Shiba Katanare (the ridiculously provincial shiba and Jo’s father) showed up, insulted everyone, couldn’t fathom that Rei and he had a son because they weren’t married, but was okay with having some rough sex just the same.

A ratling… the very last of his clan showed up to read from his memory sticks and tell the story of the horrible atrocities Al-Salin, Shimizu and Shiko delivered upon their clan. It was good times, but caused some commotion with Shimizu and Rei, who both protested his presence. Afterwards Shiko chased him down and killed him in the street. Then he broke all the memory sticks. Shiko changed his mind about his wife.

Rei’s testimony was fun for me. Being the only woman in the group and seeing how they had torn down Shimizu so far, Rei did what she does best: Attack. She tore into Junko’s behavior as a wife, how she had failed her husband, prevented him from doing the emperor’s work, blamed all of her woes on him, forced him to salvage her clan, and she would be the same failure to their children. By the end of it Junko was crying and accused Rei of sleeping with Shimizu, which was kind of funny, because it nearly had happened at the harvest festival, but didn’t.

Rei’s son hugged a Dragonfly (Tonbo). If you’re a student of L5R you’ll know what an embarrassment that is. His ward in response committed seppuku for her failure.

Rei spent most of the proceedings mad. It was fun to play her with a really sharp temper.

Omar kept offering to kill Junko for Shimizu (in a discrete way of course).  The offer became more and more tempting as the trial went on.  Good stuff here.

What rocked

Togashi Satsu meet Hida Tracy.  The MOUNTAIN DOES NOT MOVE bitch!

The primary mechanic for act two keeps us separated most of the time and I really enjoyed the communal game.

All the discussions of parenting (especially being a parent myself) was a lot of fun. Tso-Lou has a pretty good kid; he’s rambunctious and takes after his father. Rei has a son she’s totally disappointed in but refuses to let him dishonor her family. Shimizu barely knows his children but wants the best for them. The discussion between these three was great.

I about died laughing when Katanare asked Shiji (the Kuni, who all paint their faces crazy) was actually an Oni (demon).  She just about killed him.  Rei was familiar with this fascination and ensured Shinji that she wasn’t the jealous type if Shiji wanted to take Katanare for a ride and show her just how much of a demon or woman she really was.

Rei was so made by the end of the session that when she received the letter writing her son’s ex-ward requesting that her ashes be returned to her ancestral home, her response was “I didn’t give her permission to commit seppuku!”

What could have improved

L5R has lots of terminology that’s easy to mix up. Alec accidentally got the Kitsune (Fox clan) mixed up with the Kitsuki (Family in the Dragon Clan). This was purely a player mistake, not a character fumble. His argument however, was based on appealing to the logic of a Kitsuki when he was talking to a Kitsune and totally offended her. The end result was a really steep penalty on his roll, which seemed appropriate based on the fiction but harsh to the player who made an honest mistake.

I was kind of bummed that I couldn’t put father and son together. There was just no way I could justify letting this horribly bad influence mess my son up any further. As a player I wanted it, and I nearly justified it in character, but at the end of the day it just didn’t work. Ah well, I’m late in writing these AP reports so I already know what happens next session with Jo… and it totally made up for all the other flounders.

Actual Play – The Taint Spreads (7/12/2010)

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

Things are bad in Rokugan. Rei fought an army of undead (which scared the crap out of her) to deal with the religious strife near otomo lands. Omar’s Scorpion stole the wakazashi of the Asahina Daimyo to blackmail him into allowing the Sohei to be a new order. Shimizu, Shiko and Shinji solved other woes of the land and its people.

What rocked

All the Kansen just itching to talk to Shiji… and the evil sheep. Evil sheep for the win.

Rei’s phobia of the shadowland hitting her hard in a big battle. She won the fight but was a coward in the end.

Shimizu recovered the Yasuki province by getting the Crab to back out and the Mantis to back off! All by declaring himself governor of the Yasuki provinces. This should be good!

Shiko was asked by the Shiba Daimyo to find the effing Soul of Shiba! God damn… talk about a tall order. Well he found it, in a heavenly constellation. I guess some of us are going to have to go up to the heavens to get it back… talk about an honorable higher purpose!

Scorpion actors are just effing scary, but see below…

What could have improved

I’m still not sure I did Rei’s phobia justice.  When Shimizu see’s fire he runs his ass off…  Rei just fought on with a penalty.  I want to find a way to demonstrate how her fear affects her.  It will probably come out in her lessons to her son.

Scorpion being shady conniving bastards feels cliché to me, and I think it makes those who defend the existence of the Scorpion have a hard time. What culture would allow the existence of known thieves and assassins?

Forgetting a lot due to time (need to write these sooner and when I have more energy).