[L5R – Never a Dull Blade] Final Actual Play Report – The Price of Peace

Posted: March 4, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Actual Play, Articles, Legend of the Five Rings, Roleplaying Games

Last night’s session of Never a Dull Blade was meant to serve as the Epilogue of the campaign. It was a time for the players to both feel that they’ve achieved something over these past 19 sessions of struggling against countless threats against the Clan, both politically and on the field of battle.

It’s also the session where they proceed to finish tying off some loose ends.

The Winter Court has come to Shiro Ikoma, home of the Lion Clan’s most “social family.” Knee deep in preparations, Akodo Kenji, Diplomat of the Lion Clan, makes last minute preparations to make sure that everything is in order. Along with General Akodo Senji, and Kitsu Tetsumi, Kenji proceeded to the great hall of Shiro Ikoma, where the welcoming ceremonies were to begin.

The great hall was full of Ikoma courtiers and Akodo House Guard, even as the visitors who came for the event were treated to the sound of wardrums being played while being surrounded by banners of the Lion’s families proudly displayed for all to see.  Flanking the aisle that led to the Hall proper, dozens of Matsu samurai performed intricate kata in perfect syncrhonization, and who of the True Kitsu sat on their haunches by the entrance.

The Crane were the first to arrive, with their champion Doji Domotai smiling in obvious delight at being able to return to the lands that had taught her how to fight and lead.  It was a homecoming of sorts for the young Crane champion, and at her side was the Iron Crane, a masked yojimbo that only a select few knew was Kurohito, the disgraced former champion, having returned from his assault against the Gozoku.

The other clans followed suit each with their own vIPs to attend the Winter Court. All the clans were present, including the Unicorn Clan, with their new champion, the young Moto Chen in attendance.

Finally, the Emperor himself arrived with his entourage, the Imperial families represented in full, from the Seppun Guardsmen, the Miya Heralds to the Otomo Courtiers.

After the initial assembly, the team split up to further their individual agendas.  Kitsu Tetsumi went to meet with Doji Domotai, as the two were good friends in the days before Domotai was turned into the Crane Champion.

They spoke of the old days, and of the future.  Domotai was apparently to wed an Ikoma, a choice that pleased Tetsumi. She’d always suspected the Domotai was more Lion at heart than Crane anyway. Of course when the conversation turned to Tetsumi’s own prospects, the ordinarily calm and composed Shugenja ended up flustered as she spoke of her own fancy for a given Otomo Courtier.

Domotai caught sight of said courtier then, as Otomo Masote arrived with his True Kitsu escorts, having completed his report to the Emperor of the events that had transpired in the Tsuno War. Domotai excused herself and left the two alone to talk in relative privacy.

Masote repeated his desire to wed Tetsumi then, and Tetsumi had to admit that Masote was a changed man from the time she’d initially met him. No longer was he the impressionable and naive (and quite possibly spoiled) sort with an army of no-good advisors hanging off him.

His experiences in her homeland, and his courage in remaining in the Hall of Ancestors to serve as the Emperor’s eyes in the Tsuno War had changed him for the better. He was no longer ignorant to the realities of war, and has shown that he was made of sterner stuff. Perhaps he was the right one after all.

Akodo Senji on the other hand was in a private audience with Hida Kuon, Champion of the Crab clan. It was no secret that Senji looked upon his days in the Wall as instrumental to his appreciation of a more well-rounded approach to strategy.

The two spoke at length of the future, where Senji revealed his goal: to write a Treatise of Superior Tactics, incorporating all of the tactics that he can learn from the various clans. It will be a massive ordeal, but one that could benefit the empire as a whole.

Senji revealed that while writing it would be easy, being able to travel the length of the Empire safely was an entirely different matter. As such he had a personal request for the Crab Champion: to be allowed to purchase a suit of Kaiu armor fitted for himself, to better protect him in his travels.

Such a thing was unheard of, as the Crab never sell their most prized armors to anyone. Kuon shook his head, telling Senji that such a request was impossible… but, he was willing to offer Senji a bride from the Kaiu family.

Senji saw the wisdom of the offer, as such a marriage would mean not only a stronger alliance between the Lion and the Crab, but that the Kaiu bride’s dowry would be the suit of armor that he’d requested.

Senji bowed low and agreed to the matter. He offered that in exchange, he would send his students in the Akodo War College to serve a season at the Wall as part of their studies. He reasoned that the Lion grew complacent with the years of peace, and that their casualties at the hands of the Unicorn and the Tsuno could have been lessened had their men been more used to fighting real battles beforehand.

Akodo Kenji on the other hand was busy building clout, having browbeaten a Doji Courtier for trying to insinuate that the Lion holding Winter Court at this time was a foolhardy move. Kenji was called by a servant, this time at the request of Akodo Kaneka, half-brother to the Emperor, and Shogun of the Empire.

Kenji followed the servant into a private meeting room, where the Shogun was waiting. Kaneka thanked Senji for arriving, informing him that he’d gotten word from Sunetra about Kenji’s crucial assistance in the destrcution of the Shadowed Tower in Scorpion Lands.

The Shogun bade him to drink tea with him as they discussed the matter, the Shogun asking about how Kenji did it, and how many other knew of the Gozoku threat.

It was then that the poison took effect.

Kenji felt his senses dull and his limbs grow heavy and numb.  The tea fell from his hands, as he saw the door slide open, and Akodo Ginawa stepped inside.

“So that’s how he did it.” Ginawa noted, crouching low beside Kenji’s paralyzed form, “For such a worthless Akodo, he’s been remarkably resourceful.”

“Let’s be thankful for his reputation.” Kaneka said, “He’ll make for the perfect scapegoat for my brother’s assassination.”

Ginawa nodded, taking out a rifle, hidden beneath the tatami mat in a secret compartment, disabling the trigger mechanism and placing it beside Kenji’s body.

“Know that your sacrifice will not be wasted.” Ginawa assured the paralyzed Lion Diplomat, even as he placed a bag of gaijin pepper and shot beside the rifle, “With Kaneka on the throne, the Lion will be spared from all our enemies.”

“Everything is finally in place.” Kaneka spoke as he rose, “I will go and prepare.  Miyata has assured us of his men’s assistance, and it’s almost sunset.”

“Hai.” Ginawa said, “I will dispose of this one myself.”

As soon as Kaneka left, Ginawa turned to Kenji’s form, taking out his wakizashi to stab the diplomat.

Thankfully, Kenji resisted the poison that coursed though his veins, and was able to force himself to move, blocking the first strike with the rifle in desperation.  Ginawa, enraged, hurled the Diplomat to the other side of the room away from the entrance.

“Just give up and die! Serve your purpose as an Akodo for once in your life by dying an ignoble death!”

Kenji was desperate at this point, even as he could feel the Lying Darkness whispering to him, urging him to use the Shadow Brand’s gifts.

Finally, Kenji pushed himself forcing his body to move as he leapt through a shoji screen, fighting off the poison as he fled.

Ginawa was enraged, and pursued the panicked diplomat, drawing the bloodsword at his side, feeling the familiar red haze that came over him, an old friend from times past.

Tetsumi was walking with Masote when Kenji burst out of the wall, panicked and holding the rifle like a club.

She pushed Masote back to the protection of his True Kitsu escort as she automatically fell into a fighting stance, alarmed at what had happened.

Kenji uttered that he was being pursued by the Gozoku at the moment that Ginawa followed, bloodsword in hand. Tetsumi recognized the blade’s nature immediately after fighting the Tsuno for so long, understanding that it bore the stink of the Realm of Slaughter.

She didn’t question Kenji’s words, immediately engaging Ginawa in combat, diving under his blades and disarming him in one smooth motion, twisting his arm behind him and knocking him into the ground.

“Explain yourself!” she growled.

Kenji ran as fast as he could to the main hall where the Emperor would be watching a haiku contest.  He ran past Akodo Senji, who was alarmed at the sight of the Diplomat.

“What’s going on?” the general demanded.

“The Emperor’s life is in danger! The assassin is using a rifle!” Kenji called back, not slowing in stride.

Senji heard that and broke into a run as well, calling on the guards to go on full alert. If the assassination was successful then the Lion could very well lose everything!

Senji ran past Senji, realizing that it was a perfect opportunity, the main hall was completely open, as several young samurai and shugenja on their Gempukku were facing the sunset to write a haiku about the setting sun.

In the back of the hall was the Emperor sitting beside his empress, and his brother, the Shogun.

Senji reached the hall first, leaping over the seated Gempukku participants and scaring the assorted courtiers. “Protect the Emperor!” the general roared as he came to as stop before the Emperor, shielding Toturi III with his own body.

Kenji arrived a few seconds after, tossing the rifle to the ground, “Kisada! Kuro! The Gozoku are here!” he warned, before they heard the first shot.

Senji felt the rifle ball graze his shoulder, gritting his teeth even as he saw Kaneka stand, grabbing Toturi III by the arm. “Protect us, samurai!” Kaneka barked his command at Senji, “I will take the Emperor to safety!”

It was then that Kenji noticed that Kaneka was trying to take the emperor away. “Senji!” the Lion Diplomat shouted, trying to warn his companion, “Stop him!”

A second shot rang out punching through Kenji’s abdomen. Kenji fell to the ground, wounded, an unable to move further as he lay bleeding on the ground.

Senji acted on instinct, drawing his blade and cutting Kaneka down from behind, trusting in his companion’s sincerity.  If he was in error, then his life would be forfeit.

Kaneka collapsed to the ground, hamstrung and wounded, watching his ambition escaping. Calling on all he had, he reached into his kimono and pulled out a pistol, using the last of his strength to utter a curse.

And missed.

The Winter Court at Shiro Ikoma would go down in history as the day when the Lion saved the Emperor from the Gozoku. Kaneka and Akodo Ginawa were forced to admit their alleigance to the dread conspiracy and subjected to the Emperor’s justice.

And so the curtain closes in this turbulent time in Lion history, and the characters would move on to greater heights:

Akodo Senji was selected to serve as the Daimyo of the Akodo family. His performance as the General in two of the Clan’s most dire conflicts and his dedication to the virtues of the Lion made him an obvious choice. His masterpiece, the treatise of Superior Tactics, became seminal reading in the Akodo War College and the Hida Bushi School.

Akodo Kenji went on to take over his mentor’s duties in full.  With Ikoma Sume’s passing in the following years, Kenji ascended to the post of Lion Clan Spymaster as well as Diplomat, leading a double life as a darling of the court and the supreme authority of the Lion’s Shadow

Kitsu Tetsumi was wed to Masote, and became part of the Imperal Families. She became a mother to quite a number of children, many of which bore the gifts of the Full-Blooded Kitsu, and were fostered to the Lion. Her school flourished, and her students were well reknowned across the empire for their dedication to the protection of all.

Matsu Hiroto formally established the Matsu Shugenja school, and overcame the derision of his peers and family. He now heads a small dojo that teaches his art in the heartlands of the Matsu family.

Matsu Broli became the foremost teacher of the Matsu Dueling school.  Despite his unorthodox approach, his school was hailed as a new era of Matsu proficiency in combat. He was last seen coming to the aid of the Dragon Clan against the Dark Oracle of Fire.

And so the Never a Dull Blade campaign came to an end. This was the longest campaign I’ve ever run, considering each session was about anywhere from four to six hours long at times, and the characters started from domestic issues to full-scale wars. I’d like to thank all my players for being awesome, and working with me (and each other) to make this campaign as successful as it was.

I think I’ve learned a bit from running this game, about GMing and pacing, and stories that matter. I’ve pushed against my own personal boundaries, trying out plots that veered away from my usual fare in hopes of challenging myself and my players to adapt to new situations. There’s a certain amount of pride in the completion of the campaign, and the closure involved in ending a campaign that has gone on for this long is certainly a rarefied kind of satisfaction.

Thank you to the readers as well, to the ones that stuck with me through these verbose Actual Play Reports, and took the time to comment. You guys are the ones that make typing this out worth it.

Now that I’m done with L5R, I’m moving on to my next campaign: nMage Japan. I don’t have a fancy name for it as of yet, but give it time.

I’m sure I’ll think of something.

  1. Hikkikomori says:

  2. Well done to both you and your players! It has been a most entertaining read.

  3. mythicast says:

    Crab clan wife was the best part…

    Otemi: Why the hell do you keep coming to work with ZERO void? And wipe that stupid grin off your face.
    Senji: Sir, just doing my duty to repopulate the clan. No need to thank me sir, its my pleasure.


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