[L5R – Never a Dull Blade] Actual Play 16 – Dark Reflections

Posted: February 5, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Actual Play, Articles, Legend of the Five Rings, Roleplaying Games

Last night’s session was very interesting, as the team had to deal with two very disturbing issues.  The first problem was the potential Scorpion-Crab war that the Lion Clan may end up having to interfere in for the sake of peace in the Empire. The second problem was more personal, as the motives of the Tsuno attacks are finally revealed.

When we last left off, Akodo Senji, the Lion Tactician and Akodo Kenji, Diplomat and member of the Lion’s Shadow were on a mission to somehow bring the brewing tensions between the Scorpion Clan and the Crab Clan to an end.  Having spoken to Hida Kisada, the two set off to Scorpion lands, whereupon they meet up with Yogo Honnouji, the Scorpion Clan Jade Magistrate.  Honnouji was not at all happy to meet up with these two, as she was also a Fire Tensai, studying under Isawa Ochiai, the current Master of Fire of the Phoenix Clan.

A few sessions ago, the Senji and Kenji were involved in what Honnouji considered to be an ill-considered and insulting diplomatic mission in order to obtain the surrender of the Master of Water at the time, Shiba Tsuke.  While Honnouji had no respect for Tsuke whatsoever, having the Elemental Council “bullied” into submission by the Lions was something that Honnouji despised.  Better to allow the Phoenix the dignity of dealing with their own problems.  As such, she was quite wary of these two now that they’d finally come calling to her homeland.

Their initial encounter was tense, with Senji citing Duty as his reason for the Lion being here to listen to what the Scorpion have to say.  He did not take any of Honnouji’s baiting, instead acknowledging the complaint, and immediately requesting to speak with Scorpion Clan Champion Bayushi Paneki so that he may have his say.  Honnouji relented, letting them into Kyuden Bayushi unmolested to see their Champion.

Senji spoke with Bayushi Paneki and the conversation was one that left Senji in a deadlock.  The Scorpion Champion stated a few items that left Senji very uncomfortable:  First, any claims by Kisada are being refuted by Paneki, and since both have similar rank, there is no way to say who is actually correct.  Second, the Crab are camped right at the border, and have already threatened to move in two weeks time, clearly a sign of aggression.  And Finally, the Scorpion will not deploy troops unless the Crab have attacked first, allowing the Scorpion to be able to entreat the Empire (and by association, the Lion) to repel the Crab.

Senji opted to stay quiet on the matter, replying that his presence was here to record both sides and to report to his superiors.  He did, however, leave Akodo Kenji behind in Scorpion Lands to learn more about the matter while Senji headed back to Lion lands.

Kitsu Tetsumi on the other hand was busy resting, she was still injured from her fight with the Tsuno Ravager, and she’d gone to see her father Kitsu Juri, as well as her “uncle” Ikoma Sume to report the details of her conversation with Mimiru, the Nezumi that she rescued.  It turned out that the Tsuno are in possession of Akodo’s No-Dachi, a true relic of the Lion Clan’s founder.  It was imperative that such an item be retrieved, lest it be used against the Clan to shatter their morale.  Fighting the Tsuno was difficult in itself, but to find that they’d perverted a relic of such value would have shaken the Lion’s courage, something that the Clan could not afford.

And so they resolved to visit the Realm of Slaughter, home of the Tsuno invaders in hopes of learning more about their enemy.  Joining Tetsumi in this venture was Isawa Kazuki, a Void Shugenja who was visiting the Two Rivers at the time, Mimiru, the Ratling, Matsu Hiroto and as a last minute addition, Akodo Senji.  Senji had just returned from submitting his findings and was dropping by to check up on Tetsumi when he heard of the matter.  The mere mention of Akodo’s No-Dachi made him volunteer immediately.

The team set off quickly, moving through an adjacent realm first, Chikushudo, the Realm of Animals, where Mimiru guided them through a vast primeval forest one untouched by human invention and concepts.  Cartography was impossible there, as human conceits applied upon the laws of pure nature held no sway in such a Realm.  Thankfully, with the guidance of Mimiru and Tetsumi, the team was able to navigate their way to a gate leading to the Realm of Slaughter.

They found themselves on a mountain overlooking a large valley.  Beneath them was a sea of Shadowlands creatures, snarling and seething, surging towards a narrow pass held by a single man.  The team recognized it as a reflection of Akodo himself, but without his sacred blade.  He fought valiantly, but without his sword his fell to tooth and claw, as the Shadowlands tore him apart and continued their mad stampede into the Empire.  A history that thankfully never was, but one that rang all too true to those who witnessed it here firsthand.

It was after the image of the ignoble defeat of Akodo faded from view (but not from their memories) that they became aware of a figure in the opposite peak.  The man who stood there was massive, with wild, unkempt hair and a full beard, with a crazed look in his eyes.  He wore the armor of a Matsu Samurai, and stood impassively as he glared at them from the other side of the valley.

Akodo Senji recognized the man as Matsu Turi, a hero from the Clan Wars.  He called out to the samurai, asking what a hero such as Turi was doing in the Realm of Slaughter. Perhaps he had come to try and recover Akodo’s No-Dachi as well?  Perhaps they could join forces?

Sadly, that was not the case.

Matsu Turi displayed a disconcerting ability to speak in their minds.  His voice mocked them, calling them failures for their inability to uphold the military supremacy of the Lion Clan.  Turi’s words brought up their most recent failure, the loss of Matsu Nimuro, the Golden Lion to the Unicorn Clan.  At the very cusp of victory, the Lions lost their Champion to a traitor.

Turi revealed that Akodo’s No-Dachi was with one of his Tsuno Generals, and warned the team to prepare.  Turi was hell bent on forcing the Lion to grow stronger, by sending an army of Tsuno against them… in the Kitsu Tombs, home of all the Clan’s most sacred sites, where all their heroes are immortalized.  If the Lion are too weak to uphold their Legacy, then they do not deserve to worship those than had come before them.

Turi however had one last revelation.  At his call, a raging river filled the canyon below them.  He revealed that he was the Dark Oracle of Water, the human manifestation of the Water Element’s most fearsome attributes.  How he obtained such power was beyond them, but Turi gave them his warning.  His Tsuno Army would march upon the Kitsu Tombs upon the Fall.

The team watched him turn away and leave, even as they too beat a retreat.  As much as every Lion on the team wanted to strike down the traitor, they knew that they were in the wrong time, and in the wrong place to try anything just yet.  All they could do now was prepare for an invasion by some of the most fearsome creatures that the Lion have ever faced.

The session ended here, with that particular cliffhanger.  Matsu Turi, Dark Oracle of Water had revealed his presence to his former Clan.  He represented a threat to all the the Lion Clan stood for.  Already his sins were legendary to the Lion Clan families

  • In stealing Akodo’s No-Dachi, he had desecrated one of the most holy relics of the Lion Clan, and earned the ire of the Akodo.
  • In turning traitor to his own clan, he brought immeasurable shame upon the Matsu.
  • His corruption of ancient events in the spirit realms is an affront to the Ikoma.
  • Siding with the Tsuno meant that he was working with the greatest failure of the Kitsu to remain pure.

None of the player characters have actually ever gone up against a threat of this magnitude before.  Oracles were powerful beings, and to have Turi as an opponent was something that nobody was quite certain as to how to prepare for.  Now they had a deadline.  The Lion had to be ready by the Fall… or else the Lion Clan might as well be destroyed by its darkest reflection.

  1. Hikkikomori says:

    … Why again am I handling some domestic dispute when the world is in peril?


  2. dbro36 says:

    Heya Pointyman, I have a little question. So I have enjoyed reading your adventures in the Legend of the Five Rings setting, even though I know nothing of the game nor your players. For some reason, your reports just feel right. It feels like the kind of game I would like to play or run.

    But I was wondering, how much of your story is influenced by the game mechanics? How much do the mechanics come into play? And how much of the background material? Or is it mostly your skills as a GM which produces such interesting stories such as that smuggling company that I read about a little while ago?

    And one last thing, I noticed the players are on many occasions not together, each doing something else in a different place for the story. Is that something the mechanics easily cater for or again your skills as a GM?

    Thanks for answering. I don’t think I will buy a L5R book, because I wouldn’t have anyone to play with, but I am still interested and intrigued.

    • Hi there dbro36,

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the game so far. I’ve been having a blast running it for my players as well. Now on to my answers:

      I tend to prefer running in a fashion where mechanics become “invisible” in play. With the exception of combat, I rarely call for skill rolls for social encounters, as my players and I are all comfortable with playing out conversations and such without necessarily resorting to dice. I work with concept first, putting up challenges appropriate to the character’s concept and trust that the player has actually done the math with regards to their build to handle such a situation.

      As for background material, L5R is one of those games that is an absolute goldmine of setting material. Having been around for 15 years now, Rokugan has gone through many a turbulent time, and each of the Clans have their iconic moments in history. I used some of these in the game, such as The War of the Rich Frog, the Scorpion-Crab War, and Matsu Turi as the Dark Oracle of Water. That said, it takes a little more effort to find a way to make player characters relevant in these big set pieces. It’s important to me that the players never feel like they’re mere spectators, I want them right in the thick of things. I don’t really use published adventures much, and the Three Leaves Merchant House arc was one that I put together myself.

      With regards to the issue of splitting the party, I think that it mainly stems from the fact that L5R doesn’t necessarily enforce the concept of an adventuring party. I prefer to view the player characters as individuals, each with their own agendas. Certainly plot hooks might give them something common to fight for (or against) but in the end, they each have their own goals to pursue. Mechanically, L5R is neutral in this matter, as it doesn’t seem to really care if you have a party or not. The risk factor in combat multiplies if you’re going at it alone, but that’s normal for any game.

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