[L5R – Never a Dull Blade] Actual Play 1: A Lion Clan Ghost Story

Posted: September 12, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Actual Play, Articles, Legend of the Five Rings, Roleplaying Games

A Japanese ghost painting in the Zenshouan Temple near Nippori.

Last weekend I started my L5R 4e campaign, and from the looks of it, things are off to a good start.  Out of the seven players on my roster, four were able to make it to the game. Just to give a quick look at the characters, we’ve got:

  • A Matsu graduate of the Kitsu Shugenja school (played by Mappy).  I’ve sadly forgotten the character’s name at the moment of this writing, but his character concept revolves around the youngest son in a brood of highly regarded and capable Matsu warriors.  His older siblings (all female) convinced him that the Matsu can do anything, and to further the glory of their family, he ought to go join the Kitsu (as a joke).  Sadly they didn’t take into account that he was gullible to a fault, and therefore took the opportunity to go study in the Kitsu Shugenja School.
  • Kitsu Tetsumi (played by Silver Countess).  A mysterious Kitsu Sodan-Senzo with a scarred countenance and a strange ability to serve as a medium for the dead by touching the corpse.  Her ability is a secret to all but her superiors in the Kitsu family and she has to tread carefully as to not be considered a practitioner of forbidden Blood Magics.
  • Matsu Broly (played by Tarathiel).  A hulking brute of a Matsu Berzerker with aspirations to serve as a duelist.  Broly is brash and idealistic, and seems to have formed a curious philosophy with regards to dueling involving getting hit first, and making his counter-strike the finishing blow.
  • Akodo Kenji (played by Hikkikomori).  An Akodo that was widely regarded as a failure or embarassment and was therefore sent to the Ikoma Bard school to be rid of him.  The wily Akodo turned out to be a rather capable in his task as a Bard and in shadier activities, and his teachers in the Ikoma family have begun to indoctrinate him to the Lion’s Shadow.
—-
The campaign started with the group gathered together in the Ancestral Halls of the Akodo to meet with the Daimyo of the family at the time, the revered Akodo Ginawa.  Ginawa regarded the group and told them that they had been gathered on short notice to investigate the murder of a certain Matsu Michiko, a samurai-ko who had recently completed her Gempukku and was on her way to visit one of the Akodo provinces but never made it to her destination.  Instead, she had been found dead in an abandoned temple to Bishamon, located outside a city under the control of a young Akodo Daimyo by the name of Akodo Isamu.
The group took to the task, and Kenji began some preliminary investigative work, piecing together what other Lion’s thought of Isamu.  He had some difficulty dealing with his fellow Akodo, but was able to get some general impressions from a drunken Matsu and an Ikoma scribe.  With that, the team set off to visit Akodo Isamu.
Reaching the province was not an issue, as even bandits would give pause in trying to attack a retinue of four Lion samurai.  The city in question was a river-side port, bustling with merchants and all sorts of people, including several Crane and even Scorpion.  The group went to meet up with Isamu to find that a lone, old servant was valiantly trying to stand her ground against a mob of angry Matsu that were demanding to speak with the Daimyo.
Thankfully, Matsu Broly recognized one of their number as Jin, a fellow comrade from earlier battles before peace settled on the empire.  Jin was surprised to see Broly there, and confided that Michiko was his younger sister, and that he was here to see Isamu.  Broly showed Jin his papers from Akodo Ginawa and assured the angry Matsu that the team will be there to handle the matter.  Jin relented, trusting in his fellow Matsu and went back to the inn where they would be staying, where they would wait for further developments in the case.
The group were allowed entrance by the servant, who thanked them for saving her from a potentially ugly situation, as they were sent to meet with Isamu.  The Daimyo turned out to be a pale skinned, reedy sort of fellow.  He didn’t have much of the vaunted Akodo presence, instead looking rather inexperienced and quite fearful.  He told them about further details of the case, of how a merchant seeking refuge from a sudden storm entered the temple and saw the body.  The merchant ran screaming all the way to the city to fetch the guard, and Michiko’s body was recovered.
Tetsumi asked to see the body, and the team was brought to the shine where the body was being prepared for burial.  Kenji noticed that the rope marks on her body were knots used by sailors, something that Broly took immediately as a lead and bolted off to track something or someone down.  Kenji and the Matsu Shugenja followed suit, just to make sure that Broly doesn’t kill anyone without reason.
Tetsumi stayed behind, asking for the servants to leave her alone with the body, as she used her ability to try and commune with the spirit.  What she found was instead of being brought to the realm of spirits, she was in Gaki-do, the realm of the undead.  It was a terrible premonition and while she tried to locate the ghost of Michiko in the realm, she had to pull back as the other Gaki began to take notice of a trespasser in their wake.
Meanwhile the three other Lions head off to the docks, where Broly demands to speak with the dockmaster, browbeating the poor Ikoma into giving him a roster of ships that were in port for the period when Michiko was killed.  He then began a thorough intimidation campaign, demanding to see the captains of all of the ships on the list, interrogating them for any knowledge of what had happened.
The Matsu Shugenja broke off a this point to try and take a look at the abandoned temple.  Finding it wasn’t a problem, but upon entering it and attempting to draw information from the ambient Water kami, he began to experience strange phenomena, the sound of a storm outside, the doors shutting closed, and the dangling remains of the ropes that held Michiko attacked him.  Unwilling to fight such a haunting in a poor situation, the Matsu jumped through the doors, rolling out into the courtyard to look back and see Michiko’s ghost still inside the room.  Thankfully, his scrying with the water kami gave him the faces of the men responsible for the attack on the samurai-ko.  The shugenja bowed and swore that she would have justice, and  made his way back to the city to compare his experience with Tetsumi.
The session ended as this point for now, with Mappy’s Matsu Shugenja knowing the faces of the perpetrators, Tetsumi swearing to put the ghost to rest and Broly and Kenji meeting up with them to compare notes.  I expect the next session to be more action oriented as they already know who is responsible.
One of the sobering aspects of this particular story is that Michiko was a samurai maiden full of potential when she was attacked, defiled and beaten to death by a group of peasants and sailors.  While their motives are still unclear, her death was a tragic one, and her despair and rage at being slain in such a manner turned her into one of the Gaki, a vengeful ghost denied her proper afterlife.  It isn’t fair, and in a Lion’s eyes, to be denied entrance to the halls of the ancestors through no fault of your own is the height of tragedy.
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Comments
  1. Hikkikomori says:

    I’m not a failure. Just… touched. (Enlightened Madness)

    And since the Lion regard the Ikoma as all crazy anyway, with their crying and other emotions, they decided to just toss me there for good measure rather than risk the honor of the Family.

  2. Excellent start to the campaign, look forward to reading how this plays out.

    • Thanks!

      The team will most likely round up the bastards responsible for the crime next weekend, along with perhaps the first real combat of the campaign. I’m looking at further expanding the nature of the city, and seeing if there are other plots that can take place there. Akodo Isamu seems to be the type of pushover daimyo that would have a host of problems and a team of troubleshooting samurai would be just the things to help him get on track.

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