Hey guys, I know it’s been a while since I’ve worked on an Actual Play report series but I figure since I’ve kicked off my Crane Clan campaign set in an alternate timeline for Rokugan, there should be enough material to make for an interesting read!
Before we proceed however, let’s take a look at the characters for this campaign:
Daidoji Kimiko / Dr. Kimberly Watson (Played by Silver Countess)
Once a young daughter to an illustrious Crane family, Daidoji Kimiko ran away from her home and boarded a Gaijin ship headed to the West to escape heartache.
After ten years of voyaging in the lands of the West and learning the ways of western medicine, Kimiko, now known as Dr. Kimberly Watson returns to the land of her birth upon receiving news that her father was suffering from a mysterious illness.
Kakita Misaki (Played by Rania)
A young shugenja recently assigned to Lonely Shore City as her biggest assignment yet, Misaki is looking forward to doing her best in her new duties and making her Clan proud. That said, her reassignment papers did mention something about an experimental new position she was supposed to fill…
Kakita Konan (Played by Hikkikomori)
If one was to ask for two words to describe Konan, they would be “spoiled” and “bored.” His parents were disappointed at his lack of motivation that they decided to demote him to a posting in Lonely Shore City until he can get himself together and be worthy of the family business… but is he destined to succeed, or to fail spectacularly?
Kakita Junko (Played by Hystrix)
As the daughter of Lonely Shore City’s Governor, Junko enjoys a few privileges afforded by her unique station. Trained as a duelist, she is a staunch supporter of the Reforms being brought in by learning from the Gaijin and isn’t afraid to use her quick draw skills to push for them.
And without further delay, let’s get to the events of the game from last weekend:
To a casual observer, Lonely Shore City was certainly not what one would expect from a Crane City. While two-thirds of the city was built to the classical architecture favored by the Crane Clan, one walled-off section of the city by the shoreline was a bizarre mashup of conflicting buildings and structures from every known culture.
It was on the harbor of this district, unofficially known as the Bund that the Santa Maria, a large Castillian galleon maneuvered into port. The craft navigated through the mess of smaller ships, before finally settling in by the docks, and seamen began their work of mooring the ship into place.
Atop the deck of the Santa Maria stood a Rokugani woman wearing a dress of Thean fashion, including a hat. Beside her stood another Rokugani woman, this one taller, and clad in the uniform of a maid.
“Did you ever think that we’d be home like this, Mistress?” the maid asked, nostalgia apparent in her voice and in her eyes as she scanned the city.
“No, Shirley.” Kimiko replied, “I confess that I did not. Though now that we are here… I cannot help but wish that it was for a happier reason.”
“It is as you say.” Shirley looked towards the ramp that the sailors had put down, and the line of people that were getting ready to disembark.
It didn’t take long for them to locate the young man that was sent to fetch them. He wore an unassuming brown kimono and had the same smile that Kimiko remembered he had even as a child.
“Taro-san.” Kimiko smiled, “It is good to see you again.”
“Likewise, Kimiko-sama.” Taro bowed, “We have a carriage waiting to take you to your clinic, as you requested.”
“Yes, please. I’m eager to see if the facilities I requested will be sufficient for what I have in mind.”
The ride was short, but it did give time for Kimiko to take in the sights. The Bund was a remarkable place, unique in all of Rokugan as it was a microcosm of the greater world. In it she saw smatterings of the lands she’d seen in her travels from all across Theah. Was this a sign that Rokugan was finally ready to take to the world stage?
Time would tell, wouldn’t it?
They came to a stop in front of a small building next to the wall just outside of the Bund. She had just stepped off from the carriage when she heard a crash from the inside.
Her hand immediately went to the revolver at her hip, even as Shirley stepped in front of her and cracked her knuckles.
“Stay behind me, Mistress! I’ll handle this.”
Shirley opened the door, sliding it out of the way and Kimiko stepped inside, pistol drawn to see a handsome golden-haired young man dressed in the manner of a Rokugani minister reclining on top of her clinic’s counter.
“Explain yourself.” Kimiko accosted the strange man, “Who are you and what are you doing here?
“Ah!” The man sat upright, giving a bright smile, “You must be the doctor everyone’s been talking about. I’m Tamaki.”
“Why are you in my clinic when it isn’t even open yet?” Kimiko felt a headache coming on.
“Oh, I just sort of let myself in… I heard doctors help people and I sort of needed help, so here I am!”
“Awww but I thought you helped people!”
“Are you ill?”
“No, not dying either.”
“Then I can’t help you. Please leave.”
Puppy dog eyes.
“Seriously?” Kimiko sighed, “What is this about?”
“I’m lost.” Tamaki smiled, “I’m not exactly from around these parts and I need to find a certain place called the Ministry of Spirit Affairs.”
Kimiko sighed, she came here as a doctor, not as some sort of tour guide. “Shirley, is there a phone here?”
“Get me the Ministry of Spirit Affairs.”
The Headquarters of the Ministry of Spirit Affairs was a tall, narrow building built inside the garden grounds of the Asahina temple. It felt a little out of place, but the placement mattered, it was supposed to serve as a meeting ground between the Shugenja and the Spirits.
Kakita Misaki stood nervously inside the office of Abess Kakita Souta, the Director of the Ministry of Spirit Affairs. The Abess was a woman of little mirth and her expression was rarely anything but one of quiet judgement occasionally peppered with disdain.
Misaki was keenly aware of the sound of the papers in Souta’s hands as she flipped them back and forth, reviewing Misaki’s credentials.
“I don’t know how you got assigned to me.” Souta admitted, dryly, “But seeing that your sensei was an old companion of mine during the Shogunate days, I’m willing to do him a favor by accepting you.”
The older woman’s eyes were icy cold as she looked at the young Shugenja. “Being assigned here to the Ministry is a great deal of responsibility, Misaki-san. Make no mistake, this is either the greatest gift your sensei could have given you… or a poisoned cup meant to discredit you from being assigned to anything more important than blessing crops. You are not allowed to fail.”
“Yes, Director.” Misaki replied.
“Yosh,” Souta nodded, “That said you are to be assigned a Spirit as a partner. As part of this Ministry, you are to be an example to all of the merits of cooperation between Ningen and the Spirits. I have been informed that your partner is already here… but he has yet to report to this office.”
Misaki hoped that THAT wasn’t a bad sign.
The harsh ringing sound of a telephone distrupted their conversation.
“I HATE that thing.” Souta muttered as she picked up, “Hai, this is Director Souta. What? I see.”
Misaki felt the old crone’s eyes on her again, “Very well, I’ll send someone to pick him up.”
Souta put the phone back into it’s place, “Your partner just showed up and is being a nuisance at a doctor’s clinic. Go pick him up.”
Misaki bowed, eager to be away from Souta’s scrutiny, but privately wondering just what kind of trouble her new partner would be like.
Junko and Konan
The Daidoji Merchant Council was perhaps one of the most powerful economic forces in Rokugan, and it was in Lonely Shore City that they established their headquarters. While normally a place for relatively civil discussion and trade, a small crowd was gathered today as Yasuki Gin, a trader from the crab clan gave an impassioned speech regarding the evils of Eisen iron ore.
“While their prices are lower than ours, one should always question the hidden costs in such transactions.” he warned, his voice dropping in pitch to underscore his point, “You cannot trust these Gaijin. I’ve seen their wares, bought their ore to compare with those found in Crab lands.”
He stepped over towards a rectangular crate and pulled the top open to reveal a shipment of raw ore.
“There is no doubt that iron is a prime commodity these days.” he continued, “but I can attest that their ore is impure… perhaps even tainted by whatever lack of kami there are in their lands. I have a Kuni Engineer on the way to perform the necessary tests to back up my claims.”
Junko and Konan were both in the crowd. They’d known each other somewhat, being of the same age, and were related distantly by blood.
“I don’t like this.” Junko said, “Just because it’s foreign doesn’t make it evil.”
“Perhaps.” Konan yawned, “But look at them, half of these people here want to believe this. This might be a new age, but not everyone is committed to the Emperor’s mandate as you’d like to think.”
“Maybe,” Junko frowned, “But there’s got to be a way to turn this around… the Crab is running this particular show, of course their engineer will find a way to make the results show what they want.”
“Then bring in a third party.” Konan mused, “Let them sort it out against an impartial judge.”
“That’s brilliant.” Junko looked at her bored-seeming cousin, “Do you think I can propose that?”
“You’re the governor’s daughter, you can do whatever you want.”
“That’s not true.”
“It’s true enough in this case. But be careful, you don’t want to make an enemy of the Crab. At least, not while you’re this young and have so much more to live for.”
Junko gave him a look before choosing to not engage THAT statement.
The governnor’s daughter stepped forward and bowed, “If I may address the council?”
All conversation stopped. Junko was well known, but her participation in matters like these was one that merited attention. Has she finally decided to involve herself in the matters of the Council?
“While Yasuki-sama makes some interesting points, perhaps his claims would be best supported by an impartial third party? Not to insult the ability of the Kaiu Engineers, but having an impartial judge would work better to prove his claims would it not?”
Yasuki Gin’s eyes narrowed slightly at that, but knew better than to argue. The girl had built in clout due to her father, and the argument was valid enough.
“Whom would you propose?” Gin spoke finally, “A Kakita Artisan?”
“Iie.” Junko replied, “That would not be fair to you as well. Perhaps a Tamori Shugenja from the Dragon Clan? Their clan are the ones that manufacture the imperial steel… surely they are the best suited to judge Eisen ore.”
That suggestion brought nods of agreement from the rest of the council… Junko knew she was doing well, even if it meant that Gin would remember her name.
Misaki and Kimiko
Misaki arrived at the clinic, looking somewhat flustered as she took stock of the situation. The doctor, a Rokugani, seemed none to happy at the fact that there was a Kitsune, fox-spirit Envoy in her clinic.
“Ah!” the young man beamed, “You must be from the Ministry. I’m Tamaki, Envoy of Chikkshudo.” he bowed, “Shall we be off?”
“I hope he wasn’t too much trouble?” Misaki spoke over his shoulder at Kimiko.
“Just get him out of here, please.”
“Excellent.” Tamaki beamed, “Now then, do you think I’m dressed appropriately? I don’t want to make a poor impression.”
“I think you might be just a tad overdressed.” Misaki sighed, “come this way… er, Tamaki-san. I think we both have a lot to discuss about how things are done around here.”
With the Kitsune and the Ministry official gone, Kimiko finished taking stock of her new clinic. It was an odd request, but one tha her family granted, albeit with some unspoken reservations.
She’d wondered if she would ever be able to shrug off such silent aspersions like the Gaijin did, but perhaps it was difficult to shake off that part of her Rokugani upbringing.
“Shirley.” she called her maid, “Let’s go. I think it’s time to see your family.”
The return to her home felt strangely hollow to Kimiko. She had wanted it to be a happy occasion, but with word that her father had fallen ill, she braced herself for the worst.
She met up with Mirai, her mother as well as her brother, Yasai over a meal. They told her of the situation. Her father had fallen ill over a year ago. Minor afflictions turned into recurring discomforts and his body grew weaker with each passing week. Shugenja were unable to cure him, and local physicians were clueless.
Now he was comatose, watched constantly by a team of servants meant to keep him as comfortable as possible until the day he would awaken… or expire.
She waited until her mother retired to her quarters before she spoke with her brother in detail about her suspicions.
“Poison.” Kimiko spat the word, “I can’t be certain until I conduct a thorough examination, but if it’s not a disease, then it can only be poison.”
“I had a similar suspicion.” Yasai admitted, “But I can’t really bring that up without any proof… still, father was a member of the Daidoji Merchant Council, and they still hold the seat in reserve for him out of respect. Should he die, then that seat goes up for grabs.”
“Foul play.” Kimiko looked at Yasai, “An expression they use in the West… I learned it while working as a doctor there, consulting for their constabulary. You’re a Magistrate now, yes?”
“Hai. It seemed like an honorable path, and with this in mind… I would like nothing more than to deliver justice on who did this to father.”
“I know how you feel.” Kimiko said, “But right now, we must focus on what we can discover, and determine who benefits from our misfortune.”
This wasn’t a bad start for a new campaign. The setting’s a bit different from what everyone was used to, which is a good thing. Old players were put on par with new players, and even I had to get around a few things such as the presence of certain technologies and systems that didn’t exist in classic L5R.
Blood & Coin was meant to be an examination of how the Crane adapt to changes similar to those of Japan’s Meiji Era and I intend to keep things in a purely Urban situation. As such I’m careful to insert plot hooks that will make sense inside a city without putting the whole city at risk right away. It’s a good exercise in scaling threats and working with small things to create tension.
I’m eager to see just where this campaign goes, as each of the player characters has a lot of potential to get into trouble and explore the nature of a setting that’s just started taking its first baby steps towards a new era.
As with all my Actual Play reports, I would love to hear comments from my readers. Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll try to answer them as best as I can.