[L5R – Never a Dull Blade] Actual Play 9: The Lion in Winter, Part 2 [Long]

Posted: November 27, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Actual Play, Articles, Legend of the Five Rings, Roleplaying Games

Alright, so in this session, the players go all out to win big for the Lion Clan in Winter Court!  It was a hectic session of sorts, with several players ending up speaking to some of the setting’s heavy hitters and big names, but I think it’s a great way to get them used to the idea that their players are now definitely among the movers and shakers of the setting.  That said, they’ve made allies and enemies in this session, and brought closure to the aftermath of the Unicorn-Lion war.

With the challenge to the duel accepted by Matsu Broli, the hearing was put on recess, and was to convene in the next evening.  This left everyone time to go back to their quarters and plan the rest of their day.

Akodo Kenji (played by Hikkikomori) spent most of his next day in talks, as he was first visited by none other than Ide Tadaji early in the morning, who complimented the young lion on his work in Court the other night, before dropping hints that the Ide may resort to blackmail if it needed to to keep him from pushing the matter too far.  Kenji held his ground however, and after a rather tense breakfast with the Ide Ambassador, decided to go visit the other delegations in hopes that he would get further in rallying support to his cause for the evening’s hearing.

While Kenji was busy with that, Kitsu Tetsumi (played by Silver Countess) had decided to take a bit of a walk in the gardens with Isawa Sume.  It was there that they ran into a member of the Imperial delegation, a courtier by the name of Otomo Masote.  The Imperial, who was much higher ranked than Sume, asked if he could have some time alone with the young Kitsu.  Tetsumi wasn’t entirely happy about the idea, but couldn’t really turn the young Imperial’s request down.  Of course, “alone” meant her, Masote, and about twelve of his sycophants and staff.  The conversation was stiff, as the young Tetsumi was not what one would consider a darling of the courts, but she spoke with an honesty that was a hallmark of the Kitsu.  Masote, however proved to be a vain and stubborn man, and his attempts at telling her that he intended to have her for a wife were politely turned down with a maddening degree of consistency.  In the end, Masote gave her a choice if she would accept him as a husband, and Tetsumi told him that it was simply not possible.  Masote left, with his shocked entourage in tow, but not without hinting that this was not over.

In that morning Akodo Senji was participating in a Go Tournament to bring glory to the Lion.  While his matches were exceedingly quick, there was one particular match where he went up against a Shiba samurai.  The two spoke at length as they played, with the Shiba saying that he had heard of Senji’s reputation as a great general and a paragon of Bushido.  The Samurai then gave a curious request.  Handing a satchel of documents, the Shiba informed Senji that there was a matter of grave import that only Senji would be able to resolve.  Senji accepted the papers and chose to open them later on after the tournament in the presence of his Sensei, Akodo Zan.

Senji retired into the Lion Quarters and opened the scrolls with his sensei.  There they discovered a series of missives that originated from Doji Akiko, the Master of Water and wife of Doji Kurohito, Champion of the Crane Clan.  In these letters, it was revealed that Akiko was acting as part of a conspiracy that sought to wrest control from the Emperor, a conspiracy that called itself the Gozoku.  Zan was appalled at the letter’s contents, and insisted that they do something about it.  Senji agreed, but agonized over what approach was the best.  After all, there were so many questions.  There was word that the Shiba and the Isawa had a Civil War (Yes, to those who are old readers, I decided to transplant some of the events of the Phoenix Civil War campaign I ran earlier) and while the Coup was over, there were still elements who sought to overthrow the Elemental Masters.  By involving a Lion in this, Senji could find himself in the middle of a political upheaval that he had no desire to be part of.

Eventually Senji came to a single conclusion.  He had to pass off this information to someone who had the means to act on it, someone with enough clout to be able to deal with the issue, but one where Senji could disavow and and all knowledge of such a plot.  Ultimately the young Lion commander sought an audience with Doji Kurohito in private, it was difficult to obtain, but Senji’s recent fame and his popularity in the victory of the clan against the Unicorn last season opened a few doors for him.  He was nervous throughout the entire conversation, passing the satchel of documents to Kurohito and asking that this not be allowed to be traced to him or his sources.  When pressed, Senji admitted that it was given to him but a Shiba bushi he had played against the the Go Tournament, but knew no more.

Kurohito took the information and thanked Senji, stating that the matter will be investigated.  Senji thanked Kurohito in turn, thankful (and relieved) to be able to divest himself of such a heavy burden.

Tetsumi, still puzzled by her conversation with Masote, was walking back to the Lion Quarters when she realized that the hallway she was taking as strangely deserted.  She looked about, further concerned with the fact that she did not recognize the hallway at all… it was as if the corridors themselves changed to an entirely different configuration when she wasn’t looking.  Of course, more pressing was the fact that she was also suddenly joined by Bayushi Paneki, Champion of the Scorpion Clan, who stepped out of an otherwise secret passage to greet her.

Tetsumi kept her composure, bowing to the Lord of Lies and greeting him.  Paneki in turn spoke to the young Sodan-Senzo, informing her that it had come to his knowledge that her Daimyo and adoptive father, Kitsu Juri, was in possession of a powerful and dangerous nemuranai artifact known as the Egg of P’an Ku.  He warned her that while Kitsu Juri is an honorable man, the power of the artifact is such that anyone could be tempted to use it.  Tetsumi held her tongue, listening to the Father of Lies.  She refused to believe that her adoptive father was capable of even thinking of using the artifact, remembering the time when she stepped back through the spirit portal to see what had happened to Kitsu Okura.  The Lion should not be allowed to succumb to such temptation.

Paneki then asked for Tetsumi’s assistance in recovering the artifact.  He had other means, yes, but he was hesitant to employ them when she could achieve the same objective with less of a chance of another conflict between their Clans.  The Scorpions would then keep the artifact away, he explained, as they had done with other artifacts that posed a threat to the empire.  Tetsumi wasn’t entirely certain that she could trust the Lord of Lies, but if it was to save her father from a fate similar to Kitsu Okura?  Then perhaps it was worth it.  She agreed to look into the matter, and Paneki thanked her, and exited, as the hallways reconfigured themselves to reveal that she was back in a hallway that she was familiar with.

Evening came then, and the people gathered for the second hearing.  But before that could proceed, there was the matter of Kenji’s insult to the Yasuki courtier, and Matsu Broli fought the Hida yojimbo in a duel.  The duel was vicious, but Broli stood victorious, and the matter settled.  The Yasuki courtier had no choice but to side with the Lion in the coming hearing.

Ikoma Sume, lead Ambassador of the Lion delegation took his understudy, Akodo Kenji to the courts.  As with the previous evening, the Emperor, his Empress, the Imperial Advisor and the Imperial Chancellor were all present to oversee this event.  Ide Tadaji was there as well, and the two old courtiers fought with words and emotion, appealing to Bushido and passion to make their case.

Sume then pulled a different tactic, requesting that Kitsu Tetsumi to step up in the court and testify to the loss of the souls of the Lion Clan’s fallen.  She then produced a list of the dead, noting that a large number of Lions were not among the ancestors, a sure sign that the Unicorn were up to no good.  Ide Tadaji questioned her in turn, confirming with her that in the Rokugani afterlife, those who do not end up in Tengoku with the ancestors are those that bore the taint of the shadowlands, the corruption of maho blood magics, or who have died in dishonor.

Akodo Senji stepped up then, to counter this claim.  As the commander of the battle, Senji testified that majority of the names on the list were from the Lion Clan’s Deathseekers, dishonored samurai who sought to die in battle as a mean of penance.  For the Deathseekers, death in battle was the surest way to redeem their honor.  The fact that they were missing despite having fought valiantly in the name of their Clan, without the use of any magics could only mean that the source of their disappearances would only be from the Unicorn.

The argument would have drawn on for longer had not the jade champion, Asahina Sekawa stepped up to claim that the issue involved an understanding of magics, and as such the judgement of this should fall in his office.  Both clans deferred to this wisdom, and submitted their claims and documentation to the Jade Champion at his request.  The Lions brought up their claims against the Unicorn’s ability to teleport their armies across distances, while the Unicorn repeated their claims that the Lion’s magics to bring back their dead.  The Jade Champion took both of these and stated that his office would study each claim independently and come to their conclusions later.

With their claims made, and arguments debated, the Emperor listened to each Clan’s representative in turn, many of which were already persuaded by Akodo Kenji to vote in favor of the Lion Clan.  The Emperor felt similarly, and voted in favor of the Lion Clan to receive reparations from the Unicorn.  Kenji pushed the matter further, requesting food, funds, two breeding pairs of Unicorn steeds and access to the teleportation spell.  Tadaji put up a valiant defense, claiming that to ask for such would be adding insult to injury, and that they could not provide such a price with no insurance.  He lobbied then that Matsu Yoshino, the child of Matsu Nimuro be fostered to the Unicorn as insurance that the Lion would keep the peace.

The Lions refused outright, with Matsu Broli threatening to elevate the situation to violence if anyone was stupid enough to repeat a suggestion to send the son of the deceased champion tot he Unicorn.  The Lions pulled back to convene among themselves, and the decision was made to send one of Akodo Ginawa’s subordinates, a commander by the name of Akodo Shigetoshi instead.  An Akodo could spend the time with the Unicorn learning and understanding their ways and how to defeat them, while keeping Yoshino far and away from Unicorn hands.

Tadaji argued against it, but was forced to accept Shigetoshi as a hostage, in return for the agreed terms of a single pair of breeding horses, food, money and the spell.  Furthermore the Lion were mandated to seek out Imperial Sanction before being able to declare war with the Unicorn.  Sume agreed to the terms, as it was a substantial victory for the Lion Clan in court.

With the greater issue resolved, Akodo Kenji participated in the final part of the Imperial Court’s order of business… that of deciding where the next year’s Winter Court would be held.  With a strong, and impassioned argument, the young Akodo bard was able to make a stunning and compelling case, and earned the vote of the Imperials to hold the next year’s Winter Court in Kyuden Ikoma.

And that ends the first Winter Court arc of Never a Dull Blade.  The Players busted their asses in this particular arc, as many of them felt like fish out of water, knowing full well that the Lion were not exactly aces in the field of political conflict.  Still with clever play and cooperation they were able to get more than their fair share of victories, even going so far as to score major political upsets in Scorpion Clan’s capital, no less!

That said, the team returned to Lion lands at the end of Winter to be given their next assignment.  Ikoma Otemi, interim Champion of the Lion Clan promoted the entire group on the basis of their achievements, and told them that in this coming Spring, the focus of the clan must be on rebuilding the strength that they lost in the war.  As such, they were going to be assigned to a riverside border town that sat bordering Crane and Scorpion Lands.  The team realized then that they were going to be asked to take over the town of Akodo Isamu, the governor that they had caught back in Spring of Last Year.

At this point I basically informed them that we were going to give the Way of the Daimyo rules from the Emerald Empire sourcebook a spin.  I’d assigned them 3 Daimyo Points each, and asked them to take on which roles they were going for.  So far, the team seems to have gone for the following:

  • Matsu Broli – Governor
  • Akodo Senji – Warlord
  • Akodo Kenji – Merchant Patron
  • Matsu Hiroto – Keeper of the Temple
  • Kitsu Tetsumi – Keeper of the Temple

Next week’s session starts them off assuming control of the city, meeting its more popular citizens, and putting things in order.  In some ways this is a way of going back to the themes of rebuilding in Spring, and being able to enact change at a greater scale now that the characters are not just errand-boys and girls for Clan higher ups.

In addition to this, I’m pitching a variant wherein the players also create starting-level Lion Clan characters to serve as secondaries to the original crew.  These represent the next generation of lions that are coming in, the wet-behind-the-ears novices that have been assigned to assist the now higher ranking characters.  I’m not sure if the players will go for it yet, but needless to say, I still plan to focus heavily on the original team as their duties don’t end there.

  1. mythicast says:

    I like the way each arc or each character is written. And the progression of the stories continue to give a fresh look and keeps getting interesting. There are outside factors such as Gozoku, the Three Leaves, and other hands (*cough* scorpion *cough*) that moved unseen would make great plot hooks intertwined with bigger responsibilities of having to manage a huge bustling commercial town… Come to think of it Otemi was one sly bastard: “Thank you for saving the clan, now here’s a broom, go clean your mess!”… Well no good deed goes unpunished.

    • “Duty is heavier than a mountain, death lighter than a feather”
      -Japanese Proverb

      It’s easy to die for a cause, but so much harder to live up to our Duties and Responsibilities.

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