[L5R – Never a Dull Blade] Actual Play 19 – The Tsuno Invasion

Posted: February 26, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Actual Play, Articles, Legend of the Five Rings, Roleplaying Games

Say what you will about the Lion, but they really know how to fight a war.

Yesterday’s session for Never a Dull Blade was the climax of the campaign and by far the most difficult challenge that the players had encountered, and yet the team managed to pull off a victory nonetheless.

Fall had arrived in Rokugan, and while all the other clans were involved in the harvest and preparing for Winter, the Lion Clan was preparing to fight for their very survival. Matsu Turi, former Lion Clan hero and now Dark Oracle of Water had promised them that he would lead the Tsuno to destroy the Hall of Ancestors, the holiest site in Lion Lands.

The game began with Kitsu Tetsumi, Full-Blooded Kitsu Shugenja and Akodo Senji, Lion Clan General, as they discussed their options. With the conversion of Oni no Kenji in their previous adventure, the Lions were able to regroup and pursue their other options in finding allies and making preparations.

Senji’s allies in the Crab were kind enough to assist them in the creation of two seige engines to hurl rocks at the Tsuno forces along with a few engineers that volunteered to fight against the Tsuno alongside the Lion as a personal favor for his assistance at the wall.

Tetsumi on the other hand was already working out a plan with her allies, the void shugenja Isawa Kazuki and the Nezumi Rememberer, Mimiru. They were looking to find a way to reform the Tsuno, to somehow undo the corruption that turned the Kitsu into the Tsuno. Mimiru theorized that the Ratling Naming Magic would be able to do it, but Tetsumi herself would need to be part of the ritual.

But all the preparations they had in mind weren’t enough for what heralded the beginning of the Tsuno invasion. They were in the midst of planning when they felt an earthquake.  The team rushed outside to see what was happening. They saw that the nearby river that cut the Hall of Ancestors off from the rest of Lion lands had receded, only to return as a rumbling wall of water that began to tear through the farmlands on the other side of the river.

The level of devastation was enormous, as the team could only watch in helpless horror as they saw the roaring tsunami barreling past townships and villages. Hapless villagers ran for their lives, unable to outrun the water and it uprooted trees and felled buildings, crushing wildlife and drowning peasants.

As easily as the water came, it receeded, pulling back to show a scar across Lion lands, corpses and homes strewn about like discarded toys. The Kitsu shugenja cried out then as they saw it, a massive wound in reality as the Soultwisters used the thousands of deaths as a gateway, and the Tsuno began their inexorable march to the Hall of Ancestors.

The power of the Dark Oracle of Water, and the appearance of the Tsuno would have caused any army to quit the field. But the Lion would not turn tail in the face of extinction. Akodo Senji rallied his men, looking to his mentor Akodo Ginawa, and the interim Champion Ikoma Otemi as they signalled the charge.

Matsu Hiroto on the other hand, bestowed his blessings upon the Kitsu half-bloods, those who had the gift of the Kami, but not the ability to speak with the Ancestors.  Their number was much more than the full-blooded, and many of their number volunteered to support the Deathseekers, knowingly throwing their lives so that they could bolster the elite unit.

The Kaiu seige engines that Senji had requested lobbed massive stones upon the Tsuno army in an attempt to break their ranks and sow confusion among them. Meanwhile Tetsumi and all the other full-blooded kitsu were calling upon the ancestors with powerful rituals that would allow the Lion’s greatest heroes to manifest in a manner that could fight alongside their descendants.

The battle was joined, and Senji’s superior tactics gave the Lion’s a winning edge to the Tsuno, as his units broke through the shattered ranks. Rocks from the Kaiu seige engines left the Tsuno in a confused state, even as Senji’s honor guard drove deep in to the heart of the enemy, Senji himself singling out a Tsuno commander and defeating it in single combat, bolstering the morale of the Lion’s troops.

Back in the Hall of Ancestors, the Kitsu completed their casting, and a blue light filled the battlefield. Ancestors of the Lion Clan marched foward, filling out the ranks of clan in the battle.

As if in response, the Soultwisters opened a gateway of their own, and a portal to Gaki-do opened, and a flood of Gaki poured through, harassing the Lion troops.

Kitsu Juri turned to his daughter and told her to go seek out a Tsuno captive for her ritual. Tetsumi obeyed, leaping into the fray even as she grabbed a Tsuno, using her full force of Bishamon’s Blessing to crush it’s ribs and knock it unconscious and hauled it back to the temple.

Akodo Kenji, Lion Clan Diplomat watched from the ramparts, alongside the Ikoma scholars who scribbled furiously, writing about the battle, with the few Kitsu shugenja with them transmitting this information to their brethren near the borders of the Clan. The Lion would need to remember this battle, and if all else failed, at least the Lion would be remembered after they were long gone.

“Listen closely, we don’t have much time.” a voice came to him, “The Dark Oracle of Water is a dangerous opponent, but we have the means to kill him.”

Kenji was alarmed at the voice in his head, but forced himself to remain quiet.

“The oracles can only be destroyed by the very scale of power that they possess… You need a weapon of a Kami. Follow my instructions, young Akodo. I am here to help the Clan.”

Kenji followed the voice’s instructions, finding a hidden chamber in the hall of ancestors, and felt a strange blue light step out from him, to find himself facing Akodo Kage, one of the most hated men in the Lion Clan, once known as the Lion’s most revered sensei.

“No matter my allegiances, I have no wish to watch the Clan destroyed.” Kage spoke as he reached for a hidden compartment, taking out a container, “This is Akodo’s Wakizashi. The Kolat were able to retrieve it before, and I entrust it to you now because you bear the conviction needed to win this war.”

Kenji took it, bringing it with him to the ramparts once again, and the gears in his head started turning. There had to be a plan to bring him close enough to Turi to destroy him.

Or was there another way?

He remembered then that there was mention of one of the Tsuno generals having the blade of Akodo. He spoke to the other Ikoma bards, finding someone who caught a glimpse of it. It turns out that the Tsuno general wielding the blade was among a large group of elite troops, and under the cover of a cloud of gaki.

Kenji had a plan. He ran off to find Kitsu Tetsumi, who was already making her initial preparations for the ritual. He asked her to postpone the matter first, needing her asisstance in what would be a daring raid against the Tsuno.

By this time the Tsuno had withdrawn to regroup and form ranks, with Matsu Turi setting up a massive castle of water from the river, slowly pulling it up onto the riverbank, a fortress that the Tsuno could use.  As the Tsuno entered, the magics of the Dark Oracle also closed their wounds and washed away their fatigue.

Kenji knew that they couldn’t withstand an extended assault.  The Kitsu were on the verge of exhaustion, and hundreds of Lion were dying. Kenji gathered the others, Senji, Tetsumi, Hiroto and even Broli, who was in the thick of the fighting, to propose a daring plan: They would use the Unicorn teleportation spell that they had acquired in Winter Court last year after the War of the Rich Frog to teleport right up to the unit of the Tsuno General, slay him and then teleport right back out to spare themselves from any unnecessary casualties.

It was a bold plan, but at this point, it was the only one they had to recover Akodo’s No-dachi blade.

There was no time left, as the Tsuno began to enact their second assault. The Soultwisters tried to open a portal into Yume-do, but were torn apart for their hubris by Oni no Kenji.  Undaunted, the remaining Soultwisters sent the Gaki in two groups, each headed to one of the Kaiu Siege Engines.

Senji had the engineers quit the field, he would not risk Crab lives to fight a Lion’s war, and called for the strike team to get ready. Matsu Turi unleashed a wall of water to sweep ahead of the Tsuno Army in an attempt to smash through the Lion lines. The Kitsu deployed themselves across the front, all casting water spells to try and stop the Oracle, succeeding in keeping the spell from doing more damage, but at cost to their safety as the Tsuno caught up and started cutting them down.

At Senji’s signal, Tetsumi began her incantation, sending the elite troops deep into the heart of the Tsuno’s formations.

Their sudden arrival took the Tsuno by surprise, even as Akodo Senji and Tetsumi took the initiative.  The General cleaved through the front ranks, dropping the vanguard troops as Tetsumi leapt through the opening, grappling the general and forcing it to drop the blade.

Senji saw the weapon, Akodo’s No-Dachi, bound in cloth adorned with profane writing and picked it up.  The moment he touched it, he felt the runes respond, searing his flesh, trying to corrupt him and his mind, but his Honor held firm, and he was able to shrug off the corrupting influence of the curse that Matsu Turi lay upon it.

“Go!” he cried as Hiroto nodded, activating the second spell, teleporting himself and the entire group back behind Lion lines.

Tetsumi subdued the general, knocking it unconscious before dragging him into the ritual chamber. She’d already tarried for too long, she had to complete the ritual to save everyone!

His blade now liberated from the Tsuno, and in the hands of a true descendant, Akodo himself was able to manifest and join the fray.

Tetsumi stepped into the ritual, looking at the Void Shugenja and the Nezumi Rememberer.  They would guide her though this, assist her in performing a spell alien to all of humanity. Mimiru would cast the spell, and Kazuki would translate it through the Void into a form that Tetsumi could interact with.

It was dangerous, but it was their only hope.

They say that to expose oneself to the Void without being one of those gifted is sure to drive one mad. But Tetsumi’s exposure was shielded by Kazuki’s own efforts, his spells weaving a protective layer of magic and sanity around her, even as she plunged deeper and deeper into the Void, to touch the Naming magics of the Nezumi.

With the guidance of Mimiru they found the Name of the Tsuno. To see the crimson orb of emotion and pain that was the Tsuno’s essence in the Void was physically painful. It was hate and pain, rage and despair… scars that ran so deep that it twisted and transformed what were once the Kitsu into something monstrous.

“Tetsumi.”

Tetsumi looked up from the orb, and saw a woman standing on the other side, whose spirit form bore marks like her own.

Memories flooded the Kitsu Shugenja. Of a time before she was adopted by Kitsu Juri, before she found a name. She was abandoned, frightened, left out in the cold snow, running from the Ghosts that knew that she could see them.

Hunger, fear, pain and misery were her friends in those days.  The days when this woman left her to the fates.

“Mother?”

“I had not expected to find you here.” Her mother spoke, “It seems that fate has a strange way of dealing with things. I’ve spent my entire life trying to fix this,” she gestured to the Tsuno, “To repair what had been corrupted, I gave up the future to devote myself to correcting the past.”

Tetsumi listened, her heart breaking at the admission that her mother had deliberately abandoned her.

“But now I see that it was you who was meant to do this.” Her mother spoke, “I was a fool.”

“You devoted yourself to your duty.” Tetsumi could feel tears streaming down her cheeks, “I… I cannot blame you for that.”

“Then perhaps you and I can work together just this once? To undo the corruption, we must restore the Tsuno to their former self… to become Kitsu one more.”

“How?”

“One of us must sacrifice our Kitsu blood.” Her mother said, “To serve as the template for the restoration. I’ve given up on the future once, Tetsumi-chan. I don’t want to take away yours as well.”

“But what will happen if you give up your Kitsu heritage?” Tetsumi asked.

“I will die. I was one of Kitsu’s daughters, but if you take that away, I will become human, and my years traveling the spirit realms will catch up to me.”

“Mother…”

“Will you forgive me, Tetsumi-chan? For being away when you needed me most?”

“I forgive you… and I love you.”

“I love you as well, Tetsumi-chan.” The older kitsu woman drew Tetsumi close, “Now come, we do not have much time left.”

The magic they crafted between them was instinctual. They excised the scars of hatred and loathing, of despair and rage from the Tsuno, supplanting them with forgiveness, honor and love.

They stripped it bare, to the wounded, bleeding core, and Tetsumi’s mother sacrificed herself, an act of supreme generosity, filling in the gaps with her own Kitsu nature.

And from the twisted thing that the Tsuno had become, a new race of Kitsu were reborn.

“Sensei!” Komori Dan, first student of Tetsumi hurled the doors open, picking up his dazed teacher who had just shrugged off the effects of the ritual.

“Come quick!  You did it!”

She leaned against her student, even as they stepped to see a glorious blue light emanating from the ritual, and every Tsuno touched by the light were changed, stripped of their hatred, and assuming the form of the noble Kitsu once more.

They milled about, confused, uncertain as to what it was that was happening. The Lion soldiers stayed their blades, looking at Akodo who held his arm up and gave a cry of command to rally his troops.

All eyes fell upon Akodo himself, the Kami of the Lion Clan as he regarded this change, seeing all the Tsuno transformed by magic to Kitsu.

“I have made this mistake once.” he spoke, his voice could be heard clear across the battlefield.

“Never again.”

With those words the clan watched their founder, as he bowed low to the Kitsu. “Forgive me.”

The Kitsu in turn bowed to the Kami, acknowledging his apology.

Matsu Turi stepped onto the Riverbank, his castle of water receding back into the river, watching as his entire army was removed, transformed into allies of the Lion Clan.

Akodo Senji moved to meet him, bearing Akodo’s blade.

“It is time to settle this, Turi.” Senji spoke, “I challenge you to a duel between samurai.”

“So brave now that you wield a blade that can kill me.” Turi replied as he readied himself for the match.

The strike was flawless. Akodo’s precision and speed won the day, as Senji’s draw cut deep into Turi’s chest, and his succeeding strikes sending the Dark Oracle of Water into Jigoku.

And so it came to pass that the Tsuno invasion, that had once promised the extinction of the Lion Clan, became the event that restored Kitsu to their original numbers.  Matsu Turi, the Dark Oracle of Water was slain, cut down by the blade of Akodo wielded by a true heir to the name.

Victory came at great cost however. Countless Lion dead, even more peasants slaughtered during the Dark Oracle’s initial assault.  Coastal towns and villages were wiped out in a single day, and the Lion find themselves with a fighting force less than half their original number. It would take years to recover from such a battle, and the Lion knew that those years would require hard work and sacrifice.

The Lion built a monument on the site of the battle, one made to commemorate those who lay their lives down for the Clan. It was a humble structure, as befitting the Lion Clan. A large slab of stone, with words carved upon its face:

“Let all remember, that the Lion’s virtue of Courage won this day. But it is not merely courage in battle that defines the Clan:

Akodo are the courage of leadership, the will to bear the hopes and dreams of so many others on one’s shoulders.
Matsu are the courage of righteousness, the will to take action in times when the heart calls for justice most strongly than the mind advises caution.
Ikoma are the courage of truth, the readiness to remember and speak of events devoid of bias and fear of censure.
Kitsu are the courage of humility, for it takes great strength to accept our own failings and regrets and press on so that we may forge a greater future.

Great men on this day died fighting to protect family and honor. May they never be forgotten.”

And so ends yesterday’s session of L5r: Never a Dull Blade. This was one of the more hectic Mass Combat sessions I’ve run, and at times I felt that I was teetering on the edge of losing the tension of the moment. Thankfully it seemed that things turned out pretty good. The players were very happy about the battle, and I was happy that it didn’t devolve into too much dice rolling.

I had a few interesting set pieces in this session, with the player’s reaction to the Tsunami decimating the far shores of the river to serve as a means for the Tsuno’s arrival as one particularly fun moment. They’d expected Turi to meet them in the field in honorable battle, but the decimation of several townships and villages while they were hapless was something that really upped the tension in the game.

Everyone knew that they were fighting with their backs to the wall at this point.

Next session for Never a Dull Blade picks up at Winter Court, which as established in the last year’s Winter Court, was to be held in Kyuden Ikoma. It will also serve as an epilogue for this campaign, a means to cap off this turbulent period in the Lion Clan’s history and give our heroes some much deserved rest.

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Comments
  1. mythicast says:

    Seeing as this is probably a pre-epilogue post for the season finale, I’d like to say thanks to pointy for running what is possibly the longest and most engaging game of rpg.

    In hindsight, I was grateful for the fact it did not immediately delve into a WoW mentality (kill bad guy, take loot) because in a way, Senji was Steve Rogers. At the beginning, he couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag. He did however had a strong sense of honor and duty which symbolically, and later on, quite literally, become his source of strength. This was the direction that I wanted to go. It may look like he was the supreme general/swordsman but a lot of the Senji character development happened by accident, stumbled upon, and happy coincidences which is in truth what I look for (it was well over 12 sessions before he was able to safely use the combat system by himself LOL). It SHOULD be unpredictable, there SHOULD be both good and bad surprises. Thankfully, pointy fosters characters playing to their templates so players feel rewarded by a good story the more they play to a character’s mindset.

    Thanks also to all the co-players who were in the game with me. It was enjoyable hearing all the individual stories as well. The further the story develops the more engaging the story gets regardless of whose in it (really though Kenji’s “dark fate” was to screw us over during the war LOL).

    Looking forward to the new stories.

    Thanks guys!

  2. Thank you for running the best L5R game I’ve ever had the honor and pleasure of playing in :3 And also to the guys I’ve played with, you guys are awesome.

    Here’s to more games in the future!

  3. mythicast says:

    Season ender, so before I read this I played:

    LOL sorry for the supernatural reference. XD

  4. Perfect Funeral Ending Song…

    Lyrics:

    SPRING:
    mado kara mieru
    kagayaku ume ichirin
    ichirin hodo no
    sono atatakasa

    SUMMER:
    mado kara mieru
    mabushii me ni wa aoba
    yama hototogisu
    aa hatsugatsuo

    AUTUMN:
    mado kara mieru
    sawayaka akikaze no
    yama o mawaru ya
    ano kane no koe

    yomei
    ikubaku ka aru
    koyoi hakanashi
    inochi mijikashi

    WINTER:
    mado kara mieru
    hieta yuki no ie ni
    nete iru to omou
    nete bakari nite

    SPRING:
    mado kara mieru
    tanoshi ichihatsu no
    ichirin shiroshi
    kono haru no kure

    Translation:

    SPRING:
    through the window I see
    one shining plum blossom
    that warmth of
    one blossom

    SUMMER:
    through the window, I see
    radiant greenery for the eyes
    a mountain cuckoo
    ah, the first bonito

    AUTUMN:
    through the window, I see
    the refreshing autumn wind
    churns in the mountains
    and that over there – a bell’s voice

    my remaining days
    how much more is there to live?
    the night is brief
    life is short

    WINTER:
    through the window, I see
    cold snow all around the house
    in bed I think
    only of this

    SPRING:
    through the window, I see
    this cheerful iris
    a lone, white flower
    in this springtime dusk

    Mado Kara Mieru, from Christopher Tin’s two-time Grammy-winning album ‘Calling All Dawns’. Sung in Japanese, the song is a setting of five haiku about the seasons: srping, summer, autumn, winter and spring. Each verse is sung by a different singer in a different stage of their life: a child, a young woman, an older woman, a chorus of old men, and a child. The song represents the cycle of life: youth, old age, death, and then rebirth again.

  5. rhejul says:

    Damn. I suddenly have an urge to start reading about the Legends of the Five Rings campaign setting again.

  6. Hikkikomori says:

    -roll ending credits-

    Minna no Peace, it’s all right!

  7. mythicast says:

    I had the urge to use Master Chief’s theme during the epic duels in the battle but last time I loaded some awesome heroic musical score my character got beaten to a bloody-messy mass of flesh by a multi-armed fanatical Oni named after my own team mate, so that feeling passed. LOL

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