[L5R – Never a Dull Blade] Actual Play 4 & 5: Strained Relations [Very Long Post]

Posted: November 1, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Actual Play, Articles, Legend of the Five Rings, Roleplaying Games

I apologize for not being able to document the last two sessions in this campaign in great detail, but I’ll do what I can in order to get everyone back up to speed.  The past two sessions are centered in the summer season, during the Bon Festival in Ikoma Lands.  When we last left off Unicorn and Lion Clan relations were already beginning to show many signs of being difficult, as short-tempered Lions and uncouth Unicorns plus copious amounts of sake are never a good combination.

Akodo Kenji, trained as an Ikoma Bard, has been working hard in order to maintain the relations as best as he can, given his mandate from the wife of the Ikoma Daimyo, Ikoma Yasuko.  He’s had good progress, keeping most of the hot headed Lions away from Unicorns at the time, but his successes have been limited by the fact that he is only a single person.  During his time in the courts, he had a chance to speak with the Crane and the Scorpion delegations as well, and struck a deal with the Crane Clan Courtier, Kakita Mai, who offered information on the whereabouts of Shigure, the matriarch of the Three Leaves Merchant House, in exchange for a favor.

Akodo Senji (Paulo’s Akodo Bushi) on the other hand ended up in a headed Go match during a tournament held in the Bon Festival.  His opponent, an old Unicorn Courtier was resorting to subtle insults during the match, which Senji countered with rather scathing comments of his own, bereft of any sort of subtlety. What resulted was a victory for Senji, one that had earned him the ire of many a Unicorn for his insults.  While he managed to erode much of Kenji’s initial efforts to soothe relations between the two, he did earn the attention of Akodo Zan, an old Akodo general who realized Senji’s potential as a tactician, the older Akodo approached Senji with an offer to induct the younger into the Akodo Tactician School, as his personal protege.  Senji accepted the offer, proud to be able to join the fabled Akodo Tacticians.

Matsu Broli went to meet with his sensei, the oldest living Matsu Berserker in Lion Lands.  The two shared jibes and well-meaning insults while drinking sake, and his sensei decided to inform Broli of his latest task as a student.  Broli was charged to perform research and development to create the first Matsu Dueling School.  While Broli bore a lot of potential, his abilities were restricted only to himself.  As a Lion, personal achievement is insufficient.  Only if Broli could create a school that could pass on his skill and ability to others could he immortalize himself.  To aid him in this, his sensei gave him a satchel of scrolls, each labelled after every clan, favors drawn from samurai that his sensei had met and befriended over his years traveling the empire. Broli now had them, and could use them to visit each Clan in turn, to learn from them, and challenge them, and broaden his knowledge.

Kitsu Tetsumi on the other hand, was visited by yet another Ancestor of the clan, this time, it was Kitsu himself, who came to give her a warning that something was responsible for opening various gates to the other Spirit Realms.  These gates were dangerous, as it meant that any of the denizens of these realms could conceivably find their ways into Ikoma lands.  Among these realms were a gate to Gaki-do and Jigoku, as well as gates to Meido, Chikushudo and Tengoku.  Tetsumi was alarmed at the idea and began to look for the others to help them in sealing the gates.

—-

Tetsumi rallied the others to join her, considering that it was something that had to be don in short notice, and the team set off to try and seal the gate to Gaki-do first.  They arrived at the location, on guard for any sort of ghosts that might be haunting the area only to find that there wasn’t any. Tetsumi examined the gate, discerning that it was placed in a location that corresponded to the initial skirmishes between the Unicorn and the Lion in their first arrival to Rokugan.  When Tetsumi tapped into the gates, she activated it, sending the group into the Spirit reflection of the event.

They found themselves in the front lines of an unnamed Lion village from a long time ago, surrounded by soldiers wearing archaic armor.  Senji realized that they were also wearing clothing that was period-appropriate, and instinctively tried to rally the forces together to prepare them for a cavalry charge.  Many of the Lions then had never seen a cavalry charge, as the Unicorn had just arrived, deemed as invaders from the Burning Sands into Ikoma lands rather than the return of Shinjo’s chosen.  Making do with what he had, he assembled spearmen into makeshift pike formations and bolstered their morale. Kenji stood with him, aiding those who didn’t have spears with techniques that the Lion had drilled with against the Unicorn in the wars that followed, while Broli defended Tetsumi as they tried to seal the gate.

The first charge was fearsome and it took everything that Senji and Kenji had to keep the troops from breaking in fear at the sight of a monstrous cavalry charge, and while casualties were vicious, they were able to inflict enough damage to break the charge and force the Unicorn to pull back and regroup, buying Tetsumi more time to try and close the rift.

Tetsumi’s efforts were stymied when a strange horned creature tried to step in through the gate, and the brawler-shugenja went to town, grabbing the thing in a headlock (and the player rolling a massive number in To Hit and Damage Rolls) resulting in tearing the creature’s head clean off.  It seemed that the creature itself had a connection to the gate, as killing it managed to dispel the gate, hurling everyone back to the present.

Senji in particular was shaken by event, having had to rally frightened soldiers into shape against an enemy they could not understand.  He knew better, which gave them an advantage this time, but he was starting to understand just how dangerous the Unicorn really were to the Clan.

The team returned to Ikoma Lands to rest and recuperate, before setting off once again in order to seal the next gate, the gate to Jigoku.  The fact that the gate was connected to another historical event was troubling, and their arrival at the location found them talking to an Iuchi Shugenja that was in the place to pay respects for the Unicorn fallen.  It turns out that the gate was located in a region where the Unicorn attacked the Lion to enforce an imperial decree by Toturi I to bring the Lion to justice for claims of dabbling in Maho.  Many of the Unicorn sent to fight there were slaughtered when Kitsu Okura had summoned the Oni no Okura in that battle, and the Iuchi was there to pray over them and hopefully bring a measure of peace to the region.

Kenji stepped forward to welcome the Unicorn to help them in the effort to cleanse the place, even as Tetsumi began to tap into the gate once more.  Yet again the team was hurled into a Spirit reflection of the event, but not exactly in the manner that they’d expected.

Kenji found himself in the front lines, looking at an army of militia and farmers, frightened but desperate, knowing full well that they were the only men that stood between the Unicorn and the slaughter of their wives and children.  The rest of the Lion had gone off to reinforce the Crab in some other engagement, leaving a small token army to defend the castle.  They had not expected that the Unicorn would take aggressive action then and there.  Kenji rallied them, relying on his training as an Ikoma Bard to tell them of courage and deeds of the Lion, trying to give them something to hope for.

Senji on the other hand, found himself in the middle of a chamber inside the castle, where several bodies were dead on the floor, their blood pooling in the middle where Okura stood, arms bloodied, eyes wild and chanting the spell necessary to summon an Oni.  Senji realized that he was in a historical turning point, the moment when Okura would forever be deemed a villain in the eyes of the Empire.  Being brash and idealistic, Senji tried to argue with Okura, imploring the Jade Champion to stay his hand.  “The Lion will win, and if we lose, we will lose with honor.” Senji stated, before leaving, giving Okura pause to consider his actions.

Kenji on the other hand, succumbed to his enlightened madness in the thick of battle.  His attempts to analyze this moment caused him to realize that far more than a single castle was at stake here.  If Okura doesn’t become summoned, then there would be no guardian in the gates of Tengoku.  The Bard then took off into the castle to urge Okura to summon the beast, having realized that there was a way to save everyone… at potential cost to himself.

Kenji arrived in the chambers of Okura, and encouraged the now very confused Jade Champion to finish casting the summoning.  Okura, already bewildered, decided to push through and summoned the Oni.  As the Oni took form, and the final step to give it a name arrived, Kenji fired an arrow at the Oni’s back, drawing its attention.  Kenji looked at the enraged demon in the eye and declared, “Your name is Kenji!”

The resulting effect would be that the Oni no Kenji would claim his name, and be exposed to all his knowledge and a portion of his personality, while exposing Kenji to the scrutiny of the Shadowlands.  Kenji staggered back, as the Oni began to absorb all of the Lion’s History from the perspective of an Ikoma Bard, learning the lessons of Honor, Courage and Sacrifice and instilling in the creature the concept of Honor.

Tetsumi, oblivious to all this, confronted the second creature guarding the gate, which took the form of a vicious, reptilian creature that wielded a wicked looking blade.  It struck first, burying the blade into Tetsumi’s forearm as the Kitsu shugenja blocked, but thankfully she had the aid of the Matsu Shugenja, who healed her before she struck back, grabbing the creature in a grapple, and dealing horrendous damage yet again over the course of two turns in a grapple, breaking it’s neck, and taking the weapon it had back with them for study.

With that, the experience ended, leaving the group dazed and confused, back to their reality.  They weren’t certain if the changes were actually real, but when they returned back to Ikoma palace, everything was still as what it was, but the experiences they’d gone through were real enough in their minds.  The other gates had been sealed by other Kitsu shugenja, who also attested to having fought such creatures, and that left the Lions with another threat to consider, one that was tapping into old grudges to foment hatred for the other clans in hopes of sparking conflict.

And this ends the summer arc of Never a Dull Blade.  The team has avoided present conflict, while experiencing the horrors of past battles.  The Unicorn are still regarded as a threat, but they had not been able to find any excuse to start a war with the Lion.  They’ve discovered some sort of spiritual interference attempting to encourage this conflict, but have had insufficient information to stop it.  With this, the team goes their own separate ways for the Fall, in order to follow up on various leads and personal goals, something that I highly encourage.  No doubt that something will happen in the Fall to bring them back together but having time for them to build up on their skills and intended paths of self-improvement is always good.

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Comments
  1. I am for the first time, enjoying a combat based character. I was grinning like an idiot on those two sessions and got a souvenir to boot!

  2. Nice weaving of story and history into an ongoing game, you have my compliments and respect.

    • Thanks!

      Admittedly I’m still trying to find my pace for this game. I think the players are now comfortable with their characters and I can start splitting the campaign along lines where they get to do things on their own rather than running around joined at the hip so to speak. The threats to the Lion are starting to show at this point and I’m eager to see the players rise to the occasion as soon as the game kicks into high gear.

  3. Hikkikomori says:

    We’re the Magic School Bus – of Lions.

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