Welcome to my commentary on the campaign so far. I'm going to
ramble here about gming techniques, plotting, and lots of other stuff.
For more whinging, check the writings page when I put stuff up there.
I intended the campaign to be fairly long. I had the vague plan
of running Pendragony-type intrigue for a few years until the characters
were tough and influential enough to make a difference to the Coup. Because
5 of the 6 players were fans of the ccg, I'd decided to play as close to
the official storyline as I could. I wasn't quite sure what the Stones
of Sin were, but I had a vague idea they were something to do with the
ninja. That's one handy tip - if you've got a mystic thingy, just drop
hints about it and references to it into the campaign, and only decide
what it actually does or means when you have too. If I'd gone with my original
idea - that the Stones are naga artifacts - I'd have lost the whole
Oracle plot. Roleplaying is supposed to be improvisational theatre, so
GMing should be improvisational writing too.
Year 21 of Hantei the 38th: Shiro No Matsu is attacked by the family
of Bayushi Toshiyama. The siege is broken, and the Matsu armies take the
lands and castle of Toshiyama. Toshiyama is hung from his own castle. His
family flees to the Summer House.
The summer house was just a name for a hidden castle. An accident
when drawing the map put the summer house waaay too close to the castle
of the Crane, so I made the woods around the summer house a lot more foreboding
and unkept. The summer house crops up again in my short stories.
When I wrote the background for House Toshiro, I didn't know why
Toshiyama attacked. It all came together when I realised that the Stones
had been around Ryoko Owari for a long time.
Year 26 of Hantei 38th: A young courtier named Henshu saves the life
of Lord Dajan from an assassin.
Heritage tables. Ed (Henshu's player) started with Glory 4 thanks
to the heritage tables. Eeep.
Year 28 of Hantei 38th: Ide Emishiko is sent to be schooled as a
Again, the heritage tables played a role here. Emishiko got benten's
blessing & dangerous beauty, a killer combo. I let her have it. It
made the character cool, and I could always have the ninja take her face
if it got too powerful.
Year 31 of Hantei 38th, spring:
The topaz championship is the introductory scenario from the rulebook.
I removed the stupid assassination plot, and upped the number of contestants
to a few hundred. I can't see the Emperor turning up to a tournament with
only a few samurai.
Lord Dajan hosts the topaz championship.
The Fire was set by Tsuyite. The Scorpion actors were going to put on
a play insulting the Lion. He guessed (correctly) that it was a ploy by
Suko to cause tension between the Lion and Toshiro.
A fire in the stables and the sudden death of Yogo Gotoki disrupt the
theatre and fireworks entertainments.
Gotoki was a Scorpion bloodspeaker who wanted to escape. He turned
up again much much later. None of the players recognised him. Pity.
Ninja girl cheated. Lots.
The first round of the tournament is won by Emishiko.
Here's where the campaign took its first wierd turn (during the second
session). Bayishamon was wanderng through a forest during the tournament,
when he finds himself on a beach on the Mantis islands. He's given a small
stone with the kanji for Fear on it by an armoured figure - then finds
himself back in the forest.
A Crane Ronin is given the first Stone of Sin by the Oracle of Water.
I listened to myself describing the scene, and thought "what the
hell am I on about?". The Stones were supposed to be local artifacts, and
suddenly I was bringing in the Mantis islands and wierd guys in armour
(and I'd sworn not to bring Togashi Yokuni in for a long time...). Eventually,
I worked out what was going on - although I'm still not sure why
the Oracle of Water had the first Stone of Sin.
Bayishamon eventually sent the Stone to the Asahina, who sent it
to the Asahina who knew most about such artifacts...Asahina Tomai.
One of the plots I wanted to run was the Unicorn take-over of Ryoko
Owari. I kept trying to fit it in, but it never happened. More interesting
stuff was always going on.
A unicorn raiding party is stopped by the funeral procession of Yogo
Killed by ninja. I can't recall why. I tend to throw lots of plots into
the air, and only catch some of them. It's more interesting that only having
one thing going on.
The body of one of the actors from the play is found in the gardens.
Cool scene. Tsujite knew Sugai was a far better duellist. He therefore
cheating, striking before the duel began and aiming to injure Sugai's hand.
Tsujite rolled really well and ended up crippling his rival.
Bayushi Tsujite breaks the right hand of Sukos son Sugai.
Even cooler scene. I extended the iaujitsu portion of the tournament
into a single-elimination series of duels. Kakita Bayishamon (the Ronin)
and a Lion NPC were the clear favourites. When the final round came, the
Lion took Bayishamon aside and whispered "would you do me the honour of
using unblunted weapons in the duel? I do not wish to live if I do not
win." Rob - Bayishamon's player - looked at me, then bowed.
In the final round of the tournament, Matsu Shojuro is killed by a Crane
We went back to the gaming table. I declared the Lion was using
a real katana. Rob said his character was doing the same. Everyone gasped.
We ran the duel using the rules as written. Sometimes, I'd fudge
dice or roll them out of sight. Here, we did everything openly. The Lion
was technically a better duellist, although Bayishamon had the Way of the
We rolled. Rob won - and rolled for damage. 10-10-10-10-10. He hit
for 90-something points of damage. The Lion was hit by a thunderbolt, and
died with honour.
With his son's hand broken, Suko needed a duellist - and what better
tutor than the Topaz Champion? This let me set one character - Bayishamon
- up in the rival house to Tsuyite.
The Crane ronin is reinstated as a Crane samurai, and takes service
with Bayushi Suko as tutor to Bayushi Hotasu.
Hotasu became one of my favourite npcs. He embraced the Crane philosophy
while remaining a Scorpion. He was on the border between the Blue and the
Black-and-Red up until the end...
All in all, it was a great first scenario.
Year 31 of Hantei 38th, winter:
The secret plot (tm) was that the merchants and fireman were working
together to block the river. Y'see, Takiji was trying to muscle in on the
Opium Trade. He had a warehouse next to the river full of opium. The merchants'
ships blocked Takiji's barges, and the firemen were digging a tunnel through
the sewers to break into the warehouse and steal the opium.
The river is blockaded by merchants protesting about extortion and crime
syndicates run by the firemen of Ryoko Owari. Yasuki Takiji hosts a dinner
in the Inn of the Laughing Carp to force a resolution of the crisis.
I intended this session to introduce the characters to the City
of Lies. The dinner scene in the inn didn't go well - I was playing about
a dozen NPCs at once. Should have run it as a LARP.
The characters investigated, broke into the tunnel - and found an abandoned
Temple to Lord Moon. The "Undead Warrior" taught me a valuable lesson -
monsters who lose initiative aren't scary, no matter how tough they are.
Unless they eat castles or something. Mummy boy crawled out of the tunnel,
went grr a bit, then Emishiko stuck a ninja explosive device in his chest
and blew him into the river.
Investigations reveal a temple to Lord Moon beneath a warehouse. The
temple is opened, freeing an undead warrior, which is hurled into the river.
The warehouse is full of opium owned by Takiji. It is looted by the firemen
While exploring the Temple, Henshu picked up a glowing blue stone
and got possessed by Asahina Yajinden. It takes a certain kind of bravery
to pick up glowing things in evil temples. <sigh>.
Mwwahahahaha. Or something. I knew the Bloodspeakers were behind the
Temple, but I expected Shinzui to find the stone and experiment with it.
I didn't expect any of the players to mess with it while unprotected. The
whole Tomai plot worked out very well in the end though.
Daidoji Henshu touches a magical stone within the temple. He awakens
in the study of his House shugenja, Asahina Tomai.
My intent with this session was to get the whole political campaign
into action. This quickly polarised the campaign. Two of the characters
(Henshu and Tsujite) were very much into politics, the others could take
it or leave it. More on this problem in Writings, later.
Year 32 of Hantei 38th, early spring:
A lot of stuff happened in the background. A lot of monks, including
Junro, were slaughtered by an agent of one of the characters. Guess who.
The corpse of Junro, father of Bayushi Suko, is found on Suko's
doorstep one morning.
With only two Phoenix in the region, it was fairly natural they meet
up. I wasn't sure which way I wanted to use Isakamiko though, so I acted
as mysterious and aloof as possible during these meetings. It fits the
Phoenix mystique, and let me keep my options open.
Bayushi Isakamiko, the wife of Suko, receives a visitor, Isawa
Another plot that never really got started. The Lions had been responsible
for wiping out the Bloodspeakers in the first place. As it turned out,
the Lions had enough trouble with the living, and I didn't need to beat
'em up with the dead.
Two Lions are killed in the city by the undead warrior.
Year 32 of Hantei 38th, summer:
Shien was my token Lion character for a long time. She was a classic
Matsu, honourable, unreasonable, and borderline psychotic. She was fun.
The "several nobles", obviously enough, were the PCs.
Matsu Shien meets with several nobles in the Autumn Blossom Tea
Ooohh...this guy was fun. The Government Inspector From Hell, Yasho
was a parody of the worst excesses of the Imperial family. He wandered
around the city, ordered that they change various laws, reroute the rivers,
move the palace a bit to the left etc. Henshu toadied to him like there
was no toadmorrow. If anyone crossed Yasho, he shouted at them. I have
a fairly load shout. :-) He also had an Imperial Legion with him, so NO-ONE
was arguing with this guy. Except Suko.
Otomo Yasho visits the city, to enforce order.
I was going to run the Coup, and possibly the Clan War - so I thought
I'd better start setting things up. The festival of Osano-Wo had the Thunder
Dragon appearing to some old monks, Thunder booming seven times in the
distance - and Satsu getting tetsuboed by Yakamo. Cheesy, and very much
a wave to the ccg fans. In retrospect, I handled this badly. More thoughts
on this in writings...
The festival of Osano-Wo is held. The son of the Mirumoto Daimyo,
Satsu, is slain by Hida Yakamo.
Big fight! BIG FIGHT! Nothing shakes things up like billions of oni
invading. My main intent with this bit was to break the Crab off from the
Empire ('cos the Crab have to get all tainted and nasty, Kisada had to
make his bargains with evil etc). The Demon of Unutterable Hunger came
from this incursion.
News comes from the south of a massive shadowlands incursion.
The Takiji's had already been nearly bankrupted by the Opium Scandal
of the previous adventure. Their castle was a small one. It got oni crunched
with ease. While this was going on, the characters were running around
mustering their armies.
Shiro no Takiji is destroyed. Yasuki Takiji is slain.
Everyone understood the principle that it was better to fight on the
Crab's land than their own. Henshu and Tsuyite brought small forces
to the battle. Fai Suk gathered a ronin army and sprinted to defend the
city. Emishiko had her bodyguards. Bayishamon had a disadvantage - fear
of the Shadowlands - so he refused to go, which wracked his character with
angst(tm). (He got over this by writing to his sensei, Toshimoko, who replied
and basically said "get over it you git, you're alive and that's what counts",
only he quoted Shinsei and had poetry. And rhythm.) Shinzui found herself
wandering through caves, and arguing with Togashi "cameo" Mitsu. She found
an old store-room owned by Bayushi Isakamiko, and got a jade belt out of
that. That jade belt proved very handy later on...
Shiro no Tsu is besieged.
The fight was a fairly cool one. There were lots of invulnerable onis,
and only one magic sword - Tsu's ancestral katana. There was a lot of katana-juggling,
with the blade being thrown from one pc to another. The characters never
worked out the cunning way to kill the Demons, and ended up hacking 'em
to bits. It was a blantant clue and all - the Priestess of the Temple had
told Fai Suk to "consider the snake". Snake eating own tail...demon eating
itself...I thought it was blantant. The players disagreed.
Hida Tsu is slain. The siege is lifted by the Unicorn and ronin
Guess which PC wrote that letter. hint: it's the one who took
forgery as a skill.
The other Shadowlands army moves to attack Shiro no Dajan.
A letter causes strife between Otomo Yasho and Bayushi Suko. Both armies
are pinned down.
and got Tainted for her trouble.
The forces from Shiro no Tsu catch the Shadowlands army before
it reaches Shiro no Dajan. Battle ensues.
Lion and Crane forces reach the battle. Bayushi Isakamiko slays
the greatest oni in the horde.
Dajan had been sickly from the start of the campaign. Shinzui turned
up at the castle in time to meet Tomai. Tomai claimed he could save Dajan
if he used Shinzui's blood in a ritual. She accused him of maho and refused.
Tomai could have saved Dajan with the ritual. Admittedly, he'd have summoned
Oni no Shinzui and used the Oni to animate the corpse, but that's a minor
technicality. That's Crane Daimyo no. 1 dead.
In the confusion, an army of ronin hired by Bayushi Toshiro take
two forts from Bayushi Suko.
Daidoji Dajan dies.
Year 32 of Hantei 38th, winter:
Winter Court is a good book for any campaign, even ones which aren't
set in High Society. Dajan's funeral and all the weddings were fun to run.
Henshu's childhood friend is now his daimyo.
Daidoji Omatao becomes daimyo.
Thus merging the two damaged Crab houses into one.
Hida Tsu's son Bakanu marries Takijis granddaughter.
The land grabbing would have consequences later on.
Crane and Scorpion forces occupy Crab lands.
Another cool scene. Tsujite ended up challenging his father, who stepped
down as daimyo.
Tsujite deposes his father.
Year 33 of Hantei 38th, winter:
All the characters were invited, although some of them weren't especially
suited. You sometimes have to bend "what should be" for the good of the
Court is held at Kyuden Seppun.
Coup, coup, where are you?
Tensions between Hida Kisada and the Emperor grow.
Meh. A botched combat scene in some ways. It did show how deadly combat
Bloodspeaker assassins try to kill Emishiko & Shinzui.
Ah. Scenes like this one make l5r worth playing. Tsuyite had gone to
court with the intent of seducing his rival's daughter. Suko was planning
to have his daughter seduce Tsuyite. Suko had also sent Bayishamon as his
daugher's chaperone. Firstly, Bayishamon had to protect his charge from
Toshimoko-sensei's advances. Then, in the court scene, the interplay between
Yasho, Suko and the PCs was great fun. Yasho was so obnoxious yet powerful,
he made a wonderful enemy.
Otomo Yasho attempts to destroy Suko by proving he had no troops at
the battle. Suko counters by announcing the marriage of his daughter to
Year 34 of Hantei 38th, spring: Sukos daughter is to marry Tsujite,
but the ceremony is disrupted by Isakamiko, now tainted by the Shadowlands.
Matsu Jitae strikes her, and the resulting explosion destroys the chapel.
The second stone of sin falls into the hands of the Bloodspeakers.
The infamous wedding episode. Isakamiko had been getting more
and more tainted thanks to (a) killing Oni during the Incursion and (b)
studying the Stone of Sin. Knowing she was succumbing to the Taint, she
tried to pass the burden of the stone on - and got blown up. She reformed
though. The characters forgot to pick up the Stone of Sin from the ruins,
and it was stolen by Tomai.
There was a second mysterious woman at the wedding, who turned up
carrying what appeared to be a dead child. I'm not going to say who that
Year 34 of Hantei 38th, Summer:
Translation: I said "guys, the next session will be in the shadowlands.
Who's going, and who wants to play an NPC?" Half the players pale and refuse
to send their characters. The group sent consisted of Asahina Tomai (a
bloodspeaker by this point, who had been given this chance to redeem himself),
the tainted Matsu Jitae, Emishiko, Fai Suk, and a few others.
A group is sent to the Shadowlands to retrieve the third and final stone
Omasu is Omatao's brother. The whole wedding thing had been going on
for some time, with Henshu trying to deflect Emishiko away from his daimyo.
Emishiko marries Daidoji Omasu on the morning of her departure.
for notes on the Shadowlands. Basically, the session was as hellish
as I could make it. Eventually, the characters found Isakamiko, who had
the third and final Stone of Sin. Jitae (who was being played as a PC)
chopped her in two like he did at the Chapel. BOOM. All the characters
except Tomai knocked down lots of wounds. Tomai grabs the stone and triggers
a teleportation spell.
Matsu Jitae slays Isakamiko for the second time. Asahina Tomai steals
the third stone of sin.
Bayishamon's player, Rob, was leaving the campaign (and country), so
this session was going to be his last. I wanted to resolve his major plot
(his missing wife) and round off the Stone of Sin thing (to end his campaign
with a bang). When Bayishamon took employment with Suko, one of the things
Suko offered him was the services of two Scorpion-trained investigators.
The two Scorpions had trailed Bayishamon's missing wife to the Mantis Isles,
and found out she had taken ship to a mysterious island far to the east.
Bayishamon & Shinzui travel to the island on the edge of the world
to find Bayishamons lost wife. They are followed by Henshu.
The same island Bayishamon had glimpsed in the first session.
Bayishamon and Shinzui sailed to the island. Henshu followed them
on his own ship. The player of the last PC, Tsuyite, wasn't at the session,
so Tsuyite stayed in Ryoko Owari.
They travelled via the same Magic Teleporting Gadget Tomai used. Magic
Teleporting Gadgets are handy for bringing characters to the plot.
Fai Suk and Emishiko follow Tomai to the island.
The Island On The Edge Of The World was a kind of wierd place, suspended
between the mortal world and the Celestial Heavens. There were five paths
crossing from west to east, each path representing a path through life.
On the island, the plan of the Bloodspeakers is revealed. The Stones
of Sin deny the Celestial Order, and the Oracle of Water is made vulnerable.
Asahina Yajinden slays the Oracle, but Shinzui and Bayushimon break the
stones after Henshu and Fai Suk delay Yajinden.
The Eta's Path lead underground, through filth and slime.
The Peasant's Path was a long, dry, flat road, which wound around
the northern coast of the tropical island.
The Path of War, or Samurai's Road, went through the mountains,
and was full of traps and monsters.
The Path of Heaven, or Shugenja's Road, went along the southern
coast. To travel the path, the traveller must demonstrate mastery of the
The Chrysanthemum Road, or Emperor's Road, branched off the Samurai's
Road lead straight east.
Each path defined a character's future. Bayishamon and Fai Suk went
along the Samurai's Road, and Shinzui travelled the Shugenja's Road. Henshu
took the Peasant's Path. Emishiko started on the Eta's Road, then changed
her mind and fought her way onto the Samurai's Road.
As the characters walked the paths, they walked into the Heavens.
They saw Lord Moon, not as a shining light in the sky, but as a gigantic
armoured samurai walking across the heavens, close enough to touch. They
saw the stars looking back at them.
Eventually, they reached the beach on the edge of the world. The
Oracle of Water and his handmaiden (Bayishamon's wife) lived in a temple
there. Tomai had brought all three stones of sin to the temple. Asahina
Yajinden took control of Henshu's body, and used the Stones to make the
Oracle vulnerable. He intended to kill the Oracle and steal his power.
The characters used Henshu's epilepsy to zap Yajinden, and Shinzui blasted
the stones with a spell.
However, the Oracle was mortally wounded by Yajinden. When an Oracle
dies, someone nearby takes its power. I intended for either Bayishamon
or his wife (both of whom were leaving the campaign), or Shinzui to take
the power. I asked all the characters to roll Water+Void (the wife had
a high Water+Void, so it was likely she'd win. Emishiko's player rolled
loads of tens. Wonderful. Ninja Oracle of Water.
Ah well. It was a fine farewall session for Bayishamon (Rob Feeney),
it ended the first stage of the Bloodspeaker plot and the whole Stone of
Sin thing, and opened up some possible routes for development...