Wednesday, June 26, 2013

[Actual Play] L5R: Sins of the Family - Out of the Frying Pan...

Warning: The following actual play report contains some dark and horrible details which some readers might find disturbing. Read with caution.

The Cast
Bayushi Kiyoshi (played by me): A Scorpion magistrate's assistant, trained at the Soshi Magistrate School. Kiyoshi is a Junshin (Pure of Heart) who has an idealised view of Bushido and struggles to live up to it, despite his Scorpion upbringing. He is also secretly the son of the late governor, Shiba Takuya, of the Phoenix clan.

Doji Aoitori (played by Martin): Aoitori is a shugenja (mage) gifted in the use of Void magic. He is in a loveless marriage with Akodo Tsuchiro of the Lion clan, and is having a secret affair with his lover, a Crane courtier called Asahina Kazuroku.

Doji Tsubasa (played by Ruaridh): Tsubasa has earned acclaim as a skilled duellist, and his iconoclastic views and brash manner get him into enough trouble that he has plenty of opportunities to keep in practice. He is the brother of Doji Aoitori, and envies him for the prestige and special training Aoitori has received because of his gift.

Shiba Aku (played by Doc): Aku is an archivist for the Phoenix clan who, until recently, believed his son Shogo had been killed by creatures from the Shadowlands while training with the Crab. After encountering his son alive and in the thrall of the Maho sorceror Chuuda Rinozo, Aku was informed by the Crab that Shogo and several of his fellow students had in fact been taken captive, but the Crab kept this from him to spare his feelings. Aku has since pursued Rinozo in the hopes of rescuing his son.

Doji Katsuko (played by Lauren)

...And Into The Fire
Doji Aoitori is watching the Mantis woman, Moshi Ritsuko, who they arrested earlier, having been told by Kuni Soh not to give her any peace in order to push her to reveal her tainted nature. He discusses philosophy with her, since she claimed to have an interest in such matters, but her answers don't reflect any such interest.

Shiba Aku talks with his son, Shogo, about his time as a hostage of the Maho sorceror Chuuda Rinozo. Shogo tells of how he and several other students at the Crab school he was attending were sent into the shelter during the Shadowlands attack and told to lock it and not to unlock it unless they hear a specific pattern of knocks. They heard the knocking pattern and opened the door to find one of their teachers who had been reanimated from death. The older students tried to fight him off, but many were killed, and the rest were taken prisoner by Rinozo and his followers. They travelled into the Shadowlands, with Rinozu periodically bleeding - and killing - the students in order to cast spells to avoid patrols. Eventually there was only Shogo and another left, and Shogo begged Rinozu to take the other student and not him. Rinozu did so, and they arrived at his estate in the Shadowlands, where he kept Shogo as his servent.

Recently, Rinozu made plans to return to the Empire, and took Shogo with him on the journey. Shogo was bled to help avoid patrols, but he was now old enough and strong enough to survive the bleeding. His mind was corrupted by kansen (tainted spirits) to make him obey Rinozu. Later, once they were in Yukan-se Mura, Shogo was bound to the oni the party defeated last session. According to him, Rinozo can read minds. He's wary of admitting that he knows anything of Rinozo's techniques, but after some coaxing from his father he admits that he's seen some things, but nothing to do with Maho. He also said Rinozo worked with a woman, who could kill people and steal their faces.

After finishing the talk with his son, Aku writes back to his clan informing them of his son's return. He doesn't tell them that the Crab were aware his son had been taken into the Shadowlands - having been told this during a visit to the Crab before coming to Yukan-se Mura, and promising to let the matter drop - and simply says the Crab must have been deceived.

Meanwhile, the Emerald Magistrate Daidoji Utaemon approaches Kiyoshi and Tsubasa, who has a young boy held in custody. He is clearly still angry with Tsubasa for abandoning the party in the sewers, but says he will deal with him later, after they have investigated Tsubasa's findings. Tsubasa explains that he has tracked Rinozo to a shop not far from here, that he saw the boy approaching the house and recognised him from a description Shiba Aku gave of the boy he saw taking orders from a mysterious woman in one of his visions. Tsubasa chased after the boy and apprehended him, at which point the boy dropped a bundle containing a scroll with a black stone (obsidion) on it, which started melting through the snow and turning it red. He then sent a runner to summon Daidoji Utaemon, and one or two shugenja to deal with the scroll.

Kiyoshi takes the boy aside and interrogates him, discovering that the boy was employed by a woman - who was most likely Rinozo's accomplice - who told him she was covertly assisting the Emerald Magistrates, and that the scroll was a ward to protect against evil. He was told to place it in the room next door to Shiba Aku's, check on it periodically and remove it if it was disturbed. He met with the woman in the shop, and was given koku for his services. Kiyoshi relates these details to Daidoji Utaemon, and voices his suspicion that the woman the boy describes was Moshi Ritsuko. The boy is sent to the temple of Daikoku, where he will be asked to identify the woman.

Utaemon tells Tsubasa that Doji Katsuko has spoken in his defense, and that he will see how Tsubasa performs in this investigation before passing judgement and deciding how to discipline him for his previous conduct.

Aoitori, having been summoned to offer his skills as a shugenja, arrives along with Kitsu Michi and examines the scroll. He advises it be burned, and Daidoji Utaemon agrees, ordering Kitsu Michi to do so. The scroll explodes, and all those present see a brief flash of a dark, bloody forest at night.

The group (consisting of Kiyoshi, Tsubasa, Aoitori, Daidoji Utaemon, Kitsu Michi and Toku Juso) head to the shop, and Aoitori goes invisible and intangible to scout inside. He finds nobody lying in wait, and lets the others in. Investigation of the building reveals signs of it being lived in, by about three or four people. Kiyoshi finds a collection of pillow books, which the shop clearly sells, and examines the ledger, finding one familiar name: Asawa Hiso. The most recent entry says: '-1 koku, misc expenses.'

Questioning of locals reveals that the shop was run by a man named Hiso, who had grown thin and nervous in the past year, and had been bringing different women to his shop on a regular basis.

Kiyoshi discovers a secret hatch in the floor of the meeting room in the house, and they go down the ladder to find a small anteroom containing some bedrolls, there is a beaded doorway with an impenetrable darkness on the other side, which Kiyoshi and Tsubasa recognise from before, having discovered a tainted shrine with a similar doorway in a cave back in Jukamimura. Aoitori also senses the presence of a kansen. Indeed, once Kitsu casts a spell to illuminate the darkness, they step through to find another tainted shrine identical to the one in the caves, and two other chambers leading off from it. In one room, the investigators find some papers, which Aoitori bags. Meanwhile, Kiyoshi checks the next room and finds five dead women piled on the floor, and a sixth woman chained to the wall, still breathing. When he goes to check on her, he sees that she has something in her mouth and pulls it out to find a sheet of crumpled up paper. He also discovers that the woman's tongue has been cut out. He straightens out the piece of paper to find a message written on it: 'Hello Tsubasa, give my regards to your brother.'

It is at this point that he smells smoke, and alerts the others. The smoke is coming  from upstairs, where someone has set a fire above the ladder. Kitsu Michi attempts to use a water spell to blast a path to safety through the flames, but the water becomes dark and soiled as it forms in her hands, due to the interference of the kansen in the area. Meanwhile, Toku Juso frees the woman from her chains and brings her into the anteroom with him. They find a wall behind the fire pit in the room that is next to the sewers, and start pushing against it to try and break through. As they do so, they hear zombie moans from the next room. Luckily, the wall collapses under their combined efforts and they retreat into the sewers, with Aoitori freezing the ground behind them to slow the zombies' progress. They find an opening into the streets above, but it's boarded up and Kiyoshi and Tsubasa start cutting their way through with their swords. As they do so, they hear noises from above, with somebody ordering their men to 'hold them off'. Aoitori recognises the voice as that of his wife, Akodo Tsuchiro, and once they are able to convince her that they are who they claim to be, she unblocks the exit and lets them out.

When they return to the shop they find it fully ablaze, and Aoitori uses fire magic to extinguish some of the flames and make things easier for the peasants working to put out the blaze. Daidoji Utaemon sends a runner to fetch three jugs of sake from the nearby sake house and distributes cups among the party. Once the fire is contained, Utaemon hands the tray of sake to Aoitori, takes one of the jugs, and orders the party to get themselves cleansed and then look at what little evidence Aoitori was able to bag while they were in the tainted shrine. He walks off, looking utterly defeated.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

[Actual Play] Previously on L5R: Sins of the Family...

This has been a long time coming, but I finally got round to writing up the story thus far in our Legend of the Five Rings campaign. I must make a few apologies in advance:

1) Since this is a summary of almost a year's worth of roleplaying it is probably a bit longer than my usual AP reports.
2) Also, to my GM and fellow players in the event that they read this: because it's a summary of a year's roleplaying compiled partly from notes which were limited to my own character's knowledge there may be aspects of the campaign that I have gotten mixed up/wrong, haven't focused on so much, or which have been forgotten altogether. I'm sorry about that as well.
3) The text below uses a lot of terms that are specific to the setting, and therefore assumes knowledge of the setting. I won't have time to add a glossary before this goes up, and I want it to go up today, so that I can focus on writing up the actual play of the next session after we've played it. If there's need for a glossary, then I will make sure to include one later.
4) Also as the text below uses a lot of setting specific terms and names which are in Rokugani, I may have misspelled a few.

All of that having been said, I hope you enjoy the following actual play report. :)

The Cast
Bayushi Kiyoshi (played by me): A magistrate's assistant, trained by the Soshi Magistrate School. Kiyoshi has an idealistic view of Bushido, and does his best to live according these ideals, despite his being a member of the Scorpion clan. Lately, he is haunted by the spirit of his true father, the late Phoenix governor Shiba Takuya.
Doji Aoitori (played by Martin): A shugenja, gifted with the ability to channel Void. He is stuck in a loveless marriage, while secretly in love with Asahina Kazuroku, a Crane courtier.
Doji Katsuko (played by Lauren): A highly skilled courtier, haunted by the spirit of her dead mother.
Doji Tsubasa (played by Ruaridh): Since returning from his warrior's pilgrimage, Tsubasa has earned prestige as a famed duelist, his brash nature leading him into many confrontations. He holds compassion highest of all tenets of Bushido and disapproves of the way the lower classes are treated by his peers.
Shiba Aku (played by Doc): A shugenja and sage of the Phoenix clan, Shiba Aku is tormented by the loss of his son, who was declared dead after the Crab school he was training at was destroyed by creatures from the Shadowlands. Unable to speak with the one man who witnessed the incident because he is being kept in seclusion after exposure to the Taint, Shiba Aku has been obsessed with finding a way to cure the Taint so that he might speak with this man, and uncover the truth about what happened that day.

Season One
While attending the funeral of Phoenix governor Shiba Takuya, Bayushi Kiyoshi is contacted by the spirit of the dead governor and asked to find a geisha-in-training known as Keiko before the local magistrates arrest and execute her. With the aid of Shiba Aku (who has been asked to keep him out of trouble to repay a debt his family owes the Bayushi family), Doji Aoitori and Doji Katsuko (who see an opportunity to clear their own family's debt to the Scorpion), and a ronin duelist by the name of Tsubasa (Aoitori's twin brother, heading back to Crane lands to complete his warrior's pilgrimage) Kiyoshi tracks down Keiko and manages to sneak her to safety.

They soon learn that Keiko is the late governor's daughter, who he sent into hiding after his first wife was assassinated, so that she might one day succeed him as governor of his lands. He enlisted the aid of a Crane spirit to act as Keiko's guardian and mentor, on the promise that he would find her a samurai spouse; a deal which Bayushi Kiyoshi and Shiba Aku both agreed to honor in order to get the spirit to let them take Keiko to safety. It also transpires that the governor had another child by his late wife; a boy, whose care he entrusted to his close friend Bayushi Oda, Kiyoshi's father. Though none of the group has openly acknowledged it, Kiyoshi is the governor's son and Keiko's brother. This explains why the late governor was able to contact him, as only one of his bloodline would be able to perceive him in spirit form.

In conversation with Bayushi Oda, Kiyoshi discovers that his birth mother was assassinated by a former member of the Scorpion clan, Shosuro Maeko, who later pressured the governor into taking her as his second wife. The Scorpion believe Maeko facilitated the death of her husband so that her son - Shiba Taku, who had just recently undergone his genpakku - could take over. As Shiba Takuya was a close friend of the Bayushi family, Kiyoshi is told that they wish to avenge his murder.

Season Two
Through their family connections, the samurai are able to get themselves and Keiko enlisted in the service of an Emerald Magistrate, Doji Utaemon, as a cover for protecting the girl and training her in the ways of the samurai. Their first assignment is to a village called Jukamimura. Doji Utaemon suspects the village is part of a smuggling operation, and sends the samurai there under the pretense of conducting an audit of the village's accounts. In the process, they uncover a band of Lost - fallen samurai corrupted by the taint of Jigoku - who are connected to the smuggling operation. Shiba Aku also discovers that his son, Shogo - previously thought killed by creatures from the Shadowlands while studying with the Crab in their lands - is alive and in the thrall of the Lost's leader, a Maho known as Rinozo. Despite their best efforts to defeat Rinozo and recover Shogo, the Maho escapes.

In the course of their investigations they also discovered that the local Crane samurai, Asahina Fumihiro, was embezzling funds in order to give back to his starving people. They negotiated a deal with the lords of the Asahina family, who had been manipulating the situation to secure more funds for their clan, to arrange for Keiko to be trained at the Doji Courtier School and for Asahina Fumihiro's life to be spared as he was only acting in the interests of his people.

Shortly thereafter, an attempt is made on the lives of Keiko and Kiyoshi. However, Keiko is rescued just in time by Doji Tsubasa, who fights off the ninja sent to assassinate her. Tsubasa had been warned of the danger by Kiyoshi who he found fighting for his life after being tricked into drinking some poisoned tea. Following this, Tsubasa vows to take his responsibilities as Keiko's yojimbo (bodyguard) more seriously.

Season Three, Part One
A few weeks later, after Bayushi Kiyoshi has recovered from the effects of the poison, the Emerald Magistrate summons the party to join him at Yukan-se Mura, a village once reclaimed from the Scorpion by the Crane, later abandoned and is now considered neutral ground between the Scorpion and Crane lands. Investigation at Jukamimura suggested that Rinozu and his comrades would be heading there next. Upon arrival at the village it becomes clear that not all is as it seems. The village is actually large enough to be considered a city, though it is not listed as such on the Imperial census. The city's guard is comprised entirely of ronin. This city is built around trade, and it seems that one can find almost anything they seek, if they can afford it. Investigation of the city's records reveals a low crime rate for a city of its size. There are, however, an unusual number of suicides in the city.

Winter Court is being held at the governess' residence, and the Emerald Magistrate's party is invited to attend. It is revealed that the governess, Daidoji Yuriko, is the Magistrate's sister. He does not see eye to eye with her, and intends to root out the corruption in the city. Given the involvement of the Lost, a Jade Magistrate - Tonbo Omitsu - and her assistant, Kitsu Michi, are assigned to assist in the investigation. Shiba Aku is temporarily re-assigned to Tonbo as a liason, though the Jade Magistrate is far from pleased with him, as he has called in a favour with the Crab to have one of their own witch-hunters, Kuni Soh, to assist in the investigation also.

When a murder takes place, Bayushi Kiyoshi and Doji Tsubasa investigate when the local ronin magistrates attempt to write it off as another suicide. Investigation quickly reveals that the victim was indeed murdered, and Kiyoshi recognises her as a merchant they previously encountered in Jukamimura, who fled when she fell under suspicion for involvement in the smuggling ring. When Doji Tsubasa raises complaint with the head magistrate, Masunori, about his guards' handling of the matter, leading the magistrate to challenge him to a duel. When the duel takes place, it ends in a draw, and the matter is considered dropped.

Other avenues of investigation reveal a gambling den operating within the city. Kiyoshi and Tsubasa go there undercover, but are unable to uncover much while there, except that there is a back room where a lot of samurai seem to be congregating.

During court, word arrives that the Lion and the Unicorn are now at war, and members of those clans' delegations withdraw in order to offer service to their clans in the war effort.

The samurai receive a visit from the Crane spirit, who wants to know what progress Aku and Kiyoshi have made towards finding her a spouse, and is displeased to find they haven't done much in that regard. Kiyoshi does suggest a few possible candidates, including Asahina Kazuroku - Aoitori's secret lover - who is quickly discounted as a possibility by Katsuko, who covers for Aoitori by implying she may have intentions towards him.

Later, at the request of Shiba Aku, who has recently been plagued by nightmares believed to be the result of a tainted kami's presence, Kiyoshi investigates the room next door to Aku's at the Swan Inn. The Inn's guestbook lists it as being occupied by a Yoritomo Ritsuko, but when Kiyoshi sneaks into the room he finds it empty, with no signs of use. He is able to find a loose floorboard, and discovers a black stone set on top of a scroll written in blood red kanji, pointed towards Aku's room. Kiyoshi checks the finger of jade he has been given by Shiba Aku and finds it beginning to corrode at the edges. Realising the scroll is tainted, Kiyoshi scrambles out of the room just as an alarm sounds in the city.

Season Three, Part Two
Doji Tsubasa, having been out in the streets, is first to respond to the alarm, arriving at a warehouse fire in the city. Hearing someone cry for help from inside the blazing building, Tsubasa charges inside. Bayushi Kiyoshi, after breifly sharing his discovery with Shiba Aku, heads off to investigate the alarm, eager to get as far away from the tainted scroll as possible. He speaks with a bystander at the scene, who says his clansman went into the blaze, describing Doji Tsubasa, before noticing the Emerald Magistrate mon Kiyoshi is wearing and abruptly excusing himself.

Kiyoshi, unable to see a way inside to help his friend, and curious at the behaviour of this samurai - who is clearly a Crane, but not one he recognises from the delegates attending the local Winter Court - leaves the scene of the fire to follow the man.

Shiba Aku and Doji Aoitori show up shortly afterwards and Shiba Aku uses water magic to douse the flames while Aoitori heads inside to find his brother. Aoitori is unable to find Tsubasa, and is trapped by some falling timber. Shiba Aku lifts the timber long enough for Aoitori to escape to safety, but the damaged building collapses and Shiba Aku disappears under the falling debris.

Meanwhile, Kiyoshi tracks the mysterious Crane through the city streets to a house not far from the governess' residence. He is able to sneak close enough to see inside, and finds a group of Crane waiting inside. He leaves before he can be discovered, and heads back to the warehouse, to find Doji Tsubasa searching the wreckage for their companions. Kiyoshi picks up a spade and aids in the excavation efforts, but they find little except for Tsubasa's katana. Shiba Aku is found in the streets some distance away from the ruined warehouse, babbling about oni and agents of Jigoku. He loses consciousness, and is taken to the governor's residence to recouperate. When Kiyoshi returns to the inn, he finds that the tainted scroll has been removed.

The following day, Shiba Aku explains that he was captured and tortured by Rinozu, and that he called upno an oni which he referred to as Shogo - the name of Aku's lost son. Initial investigations of the warehouse indicate the fire was set deliberately. But these revelations pale in comparison to the discovery that Tonbo Omitsu, the Jade Magistrate, has been murdered.

The evidence points towards her assistant, Kitsu Michi, who had petitioned Tonbo to be granted leave to serve her clan in the war brewing between the Lion and the Unicorn. Documents found at the crime scene indicated that Tonbo was going to refuse this request, and the tanto she was stabbed in the back with bore Lion clan emblems on the fittings. However, Kiyoshi notices that the fittings are loose, and it looks like they were planted to incriminate Kitsu Michi. They also discover that the kami in the area have been banished, and a kansen - a dark kami - is occupying the area, which indicates the involvement of Rinozu. Kiyoshi is able to trace the killer's escape route to a latrine in a nearby bathhouse.

Recalling that they had lost the trail of the murderer of the merchant Tokiko at a bathhouse as well, Kiyoshi believes that the murders may be connected, and that the killers are using the city's sewer system to travel around undetected. He suspects Shiba Aku was also spirited away from beneath the warehouse via the sewers to the location where Rinozu tortured him. Using maps of the sewage system, Kiyoshi is able to figure out where the killers - presumed to be Rinozu and his followers - might be accessing the sewer system from. Armed with this information, he goes to the Emerald Magistrate and requests permission to undertake an expedition into the sewers to root out Rinozu's crew.

While Kiyoshi was doing his research, Aoitori - acting on information gained by communing with the kami - sets out to find his brother. They track him to a peasant dwelling outside the town, but Keiko diverts the search after glimpsing Tsubasa in bed with the peasant girl he rescued from the burning warehouse - and who dragged him through the sewers and out to a river bank outside the city walls - and earns Aoitori's ire by insisting that Tsubasa is not there in order to save face for him. Aoitori returns later with Katsuko, and has a tearful reunion with his brother, who returns with them to the city.

The Emerald Magistrate joins them on the mission into the sewers, along with Kitsu Michi - who is still under suspicion, but has been allowed to join them in order to catch the real killers and clear her name - and Kuni Soh, as well as several ronin unattached to the governess' city guard. Split into two groups, one led by Daidoji Utaemon and one by Kiyoshi, they plan to converge on Rinozu's lair and strike from two fronts.

The operation goes almost disastrously wrong. Kiyoshi's group - consisting of Shiba Aku, the Emerald Magistrate's assistant Toku Juso, Kuni Soh, and two ronin - are led astray by reality-warping blood magic and then pursued by the oni that Shiba Aku saw with Rinozu while being held captive. Meanwhile, the Emerald Magistrate's team - consisting of Tsubasa, Aoitori, Kitsu Michi, and another two ronin - arrive at Rinozu's lair, which seems to be a three-storey underground pagoda. They are met by three servants of Rinozu, who - finishing each others sentences as they speak - reveal that their master had business in the city, but that they were told to surrender and cooperate. Tsubasa, realising that they have left Keiko and Katsuko unguarded, leaves the party to return to the surface, ignoring Daidoji Utaemon's orders to remain.

Meanwhile, above ground, Katsuko and Keiko are cornered by Rinozu, who tries to persuade Katsuko - who he expects will soon be the most senior representative of the Emerald Magistrate once the others are dead - to use her position to expose the governess' corruption and destabilise the Crane clan's influence, leaving him free to assert control. Otherwise, he will take the city by force. Katsuko holds steady and politely refuses to cooperate with him. He expresses his disappointment at her decision, and then vanishes, leaving the two of them unharmed.

After Tsubasa flees, Daidoji's group are assaulted by zombies and barricade themselves inside the first upper level of the pagoda, while Aoitori discovers Shiba Aku's son Shogo chained up on the top floor, blackened with taint and bearing an oni mark on his chained arm.

Meanwhile, Kiyoshi's team retreats above ground to a graveyard, where Kuni Soh has prepared some wards to trap the oni. Unfortunately the oni is stronger than anticipated, and is able to break free of the wards, forcing the group to take it on in combat. Luckily, they are able to combine forces and defeat it. Kiyoshi notices a familiar woman watching them, and asks her who she is and what she is doing there. The woman introduces herself as Moshi Ritsuko, and that she came in response to the alarm raised by the oni's rampage through the streets. Kiyoshi knows that she has been spying on them though, and Shiba Aku also recognises her from one of his visions as the woman giving orders to a boy who he believes planted the tainted scroll next door to him. Also, her given name matches that of the name registered to the room next door.
When Aku tells Kuni Soh this, he immediately has the woman detained by the guards and taken to the temple of Daikoku, under suspicion of being in league with Rinozu.

About the same time in the pagoda, knowing that if Shogo dies the oni will claim his name and become more powerful, Aoitori orders Kitsu Michi to sever his arm, and thereby also severing his link to the demon. They then take the boy and manage to escape the pagoda, making their way back to the surface. The party reconvene at the temple of Daidoji, and Shiba Aku is reunited with his son, though it is clear that Shogo will have to spend the rest of his life in a monastery, drinking jade petal tea in order to keep the Taint at bay.

After his own narrow escape from the zombies in the sewers, Tsubasa arrives at the inn where Keiko and Katsuko are staying and, when told of Rinozu's appearance, he finds a trail leading from the inn to a shop, where he sees a young boy he remembers seeing hanging around the inn earlier. He calls to the boy, who runs, but Tsubasa quickly catches up and tackles him. The boy drops a bundle which unravels to reveal the same tainted scroll and black stone found in the room next door to Aku's at the inn. He doesn't recognise the items, but knows this is a matter for shugenja to deal with and asks a peasant to send for the Emerald Magistrate and one or two shugenja.

Bayushi Kiyoshi, having been ordered by the Jade Magistrate to find and detain Tsubasa - and having spoken to Katsuko along the way, who urged him to convince Tsubasa to be polite and state his reasons for leaving clearly - intercepts the runner sent by Tsubasa, and goes to find Tsubasa before the Emerald Magistrate can. He only just reaches Tsubasa, and tries to convey Katsuko's advice, when Daidoji Utaemon can be heard shouting angrily in their direction as he makes his way towards them...


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

[Actual Play] The Mountain Witch: Twin Fates Converging, Part 2

From left to right: Misaki (Anna), Kishi Michiko (Heather),
Uchida Kenji (me); and in the background,
the Mountain Witch himself, O-Yanma.
Drawing by Anna Jigoulina

The Cast
Kishi Michiko (played by Heather): Michiko became a ronin after her master and she set off on a mission of dubious morality, and she chose to leave her master's service. It is uncertain whether Michiko killed her master or not. She needs the money offered for killing the Mountain Witch in order to provide a comfortable life for her family, now that she is no longer supported by her master.
Uchida Kenji (played by me): Kenji was born as a ronin, and is less of a samurai than a warrior monk, having been taken in by an order known as the Hikarimusha. The Hikarimusha maintain the balance between the world of men and the world of the supernatural. Unfortunately, they were betrayed by one of their own and to Kenji's knowledge the order has been wiped out save for himself. He needs the money from the mission to rebuild the temple of the Hikarimusha and restore his order.

Misaki (played by Anna): Misaki is a ronin-born whose village was destroyed. She joined a previous ronin company who were sent to kill the Mountain Witch, in order to earn enough money to rebuild the village.

Session 2

Following on from last week's session, O-Yanma thanks Michiko for delivering her brother to him, and honours the bargain they made by restoring her brother's soul to him, releasing Isamu from his thrall. Kenji ignores this, deciding instead to try and dissuade his brother from going through with ritual he knows his brother is planning. He then falls to his knees in pain as another crack of thunder sounds from the storm above. O-Yanma scoffs at his brother's warning, chiding him for his short-sightedness. In performing the ritual, he will 'transcend the wheel' and attain enlightenment, which O-Yanma claims is what the Hikarimusha teaches. Kenji tells his brother that this isn't the way, that this brute force approach will not lead where he intends. Despite Kenji's protests, O-Yanma orders his brother to be taken and placed inside the empty cage to one side of the pit. Kenji puts up a brave fight despite having been relieved of his sword, sending many of O-Yanma's followers plummeting to their doom in the fires of the pit, but he is eventually worn down and dragged into the cage.

As O-Yanma performs the ritual aided by his wife Yuki-Onna - using both his sword Arashiken (Storm Blade) and Kenji's sword Kazeken as foci for the ritual - the other prisoner, Misaki, manages to escape using a hairpin taken from one of the guards Kenji disabled to pick the lock on her door. She gets out of the cage just in time, as both cages are struck by lightning from above and the sound of a thunderclap resounds within the room, stunning everyone. Dazed and confused, O-Yanma regains his senses and sees Misaki out of her cage and screams with rage, 'No! You've ruined everything! Kill them! Kill them all!'

Unable to defend himself inside the cage, Kenji is run through by one of the guards and falls to the floor, seeming mortally wounded. With the aid of Misaki and Isamu, Michiko gets hold of Arashiken - the Mountain Witch and Kenji's Kazeken are gone - fights her way to Kenji's cage and gets him out, and they drag him off to safety.

Mirculously, Kenji's wound heals and he revives, though he sustains a nasty bump to the head when Michiko drops him in surprise. As Kenji recovers, Michiko's brother reveals that their mutual friend, Sakura, came with him on their journey to kill the Mountain Witch. Knowing this, Michiko decides to remain with Kenji in hopes of finding Sakura in the Witch's castle. Misaki also joins them, determined to follow the Mountain Witch's trail.

Kenji uses O-Yanma's sword, Arashiken, as a divining rod in order to track down his brother, who is bonded to the blade. There is a brief moment in which Kenji seems a lot more like his brother, lust for power plain on his face. During this moment Misaki watches with a strange longing in her eyes. Kenji manages to retain his self-control, and follows the direction indicated by the sword, leading the company to the main keep of Yamajiro. Entering the building, they make their way up the steps to the tower, the keep seeming strangely empty.

They soon find that no matter how long they climb the steps, they seem to be making no progress. Kenji calls out to his brother to dispense with the tricks and show himself, but O-Yanma merely replies that there are no 'tricks' in this place. He then asks Michiko why she continues to pursue him, as her purpose here is fulfilled. She explains that her friend Sakura is still in his captivity, and he tells her he can return Sakura to her as he returned her brother, if she will only hand Kenji over to him. Before Michiko has time to consider this, Kenji hands Arashiken to her, and then goes into a meditative trance. A breeze blows through from the other side of the wall beside them on the staircase, and Kenji touches the wall with his hand to find it passes through as if through water. He moves through the wall and disappears, but when Michiko and Misaki attempt to follow, they find the wall is made of solid stone. Wherever Kenji has gone, he is on his own now.

Kenji finds himself in a stairwell almost identical to the one he just left, but finds he is able to progress upwards. He comes to a room where he finds his former mentor, Hamada-sensei, sitting with a tea set prepared. Kenji cautiously sits down to tea with Hamada-sensei, who tries to persuade him to see that his brother's way is the right one, but Kenji shakes his head. He reminds Hamada-sensei that it was he that taught him they should acheive oneness with the wheel through meditation and following the path of enlightenment, not try to transcend it and attain enlightment by brute force as O-Yanma is attempting to do with his magics. He must speak with O-Yanma, and try to dissuade him from his plans. Hamada seems to show signs of doubt, but he regretfully tells Kenji that O-Yanma will not be swayed. If they meet, there will be no avoiding a confrontation, and either one or both of them will have to die. Kenji is pained by this, saying that he hopes to avoid such a confrontation, but he will do what must be done. He bids Hamada-sensei farewell, and continues through the room to another staircase.

Meanwhile, seeing no other way forward, Michiko, Isamu and Misaki carry on up the stairs, finding the air growing chilly and the walls and floors covered in frost as they reach the top. They come to a room to find someone in the middle of the room. To Michiko and Isamu, this person appears to be their friend Sakura. But to Misaki, it appears to be O-Yanma, standing before them with his hands clasped behind him. 'Sakura' pleads to her friends to free her from her bonds, while 'O-Yanma' speaks seductively to Misaki, attempting to convince her to betray the others. Misaki, seeming to the others to be speaking to a point in the air above 'Sakura', tries to convince 'O-Yanma' to give up his lust for power. When Isamu attempts to free 'Sakura' by cutting the ropes binding her with a knife, Misaki sees this as an attack on 'O-Yanma' and tries to interfere. She is held back by Michiko while Isamu cuts the bonds. It is while questioning Misaki to find out what's gotten into her that Michiko realises they are seeing different people. At this point, O-Yanma/Sakura's features melt away to reveal the face of O-Yanma's wife, the Yuki-Onna.

Kenji finds the shrine maiden bearing the symbol of eternity, who had been appearing in between the flashes of lightning previously, tied up and unguarded. He glances around the room suspiciously, expecting a trap, but none reveals itself. O-Yanma's voice calls from the air, "This is the one you came for, is it not, brother? By all means, take her away, save her, thwart my plans."
Kenji is unnerved by O-Yanma allowing him to free her so easily, but nonetheless unties her and proceeds to escort her back down the stairs and out of the keep.

While Kenji and the shrine maiden make their escape, Michiko and the others face the Yuki-Onna. As they attempt to fight her, Michiko finds Arashiken trying to corrupt her with bloodlust, but she is able to direct that bloodlust towards Yuki-Onna and resist its attempts to send her into a berserker rage, destroying everything and everyone in her path. She runs Yuki-Onna through with the blade, and she screams in agony as she dies. From somewhere in the keep above, O-Yanma also screams upon feeling the loss of his wife.

In the courtyard outside the keep, Kenji and the shrine maiden emerge from the keep just in time for Kenji to hear the screams from above. He turns back towards the keep, realising the others are still inside and at the Mountain Witch's mercy. He finds somewhere for the shrine maiden to hide nearby and tells her to wait for him, then he charges back inside the keep to find the others and help them escape. As he does, he hears his brother scream from above: 'Mausmuo! Take all the souls in this building!'

Thunderous footsteps start approaching from somewhere off in the distance, shaking the ground. Kenji looks out one of the windows to see the towering form of the oni they encountered in the cave on their way to Yamajiro. The demon is growing in size as it approaches.
Kenji shouts to his brother: 'Yanma, you fool! You doom yourself!'
To which O-Yanma replies: 'I DOOM THE WORLD!'
Kenji, suddenly realising the true gravity of the situation, makes haste climbing the stairs to try and reach his brother. Along the way he meets up with Michiko, explaining what is happening. Michiko says that they should try and get out, but Kenji says they can't. They have to stop the demon from harvesting O-Yanma's soul at any cost, because the kind of power it would gain from his brother's soul would make it unstoppable.

Misaki, meanwhile, has found O-Yanma's lair and is trying to console him, and bring him back from the madness his grief has brought upon him. O-Yanma is beyond her ability to reason with him though, and then Kenji arrives with Michiko, demanding he call off the demon. O-Yanma refuses, saying that he could not if he wanted to now. Kenji sorrowfully replies that there is still one way to end this, and retrieves Kazeken from the room, taking Arashiken from Michiko and throwing it to O-Yanma. The two of them settle into a duelling stance, as O-Yanma agrees that it is time they settled the matter once and for all.

Misaki steps between them, pleading for Kenji not to kill O-Yanma. Kenji replies that he does not wish to kill him, but neither is he willing to let his soul be taken by the oni. He asks her if she would rather let the oni have his soul? Misaki is uncertain, and while she worries over what to do, O-Yanma and Kenji charge one another. Misaki tries to defend O-Yanma, cutting Kenji across the face as he charges past her, but fails to prevent the two brothers from clashing. They stop on opposite sides of the room, and O-Yanma falls to the floor, blood soaking his kimono from a gash in the side.

Kenji, grief-stricken over having to kill his brother, drops his sword to the ground and turns to face Misaki, who is at O-Yanma's side, staring at him with hatred. He throws his arms wide and pleads for her to finish it. Neither his brother's soul, or his own, can be allowed to fall into the oni's possession. Both of them must die. Misaki charges for him with her sword, and Michiko tries to step in the way, but is too late. Kenji is run through on Misaki's blade, and falls to the floor opposite his brother. As both brothers breath their last, O-Yanma tells Misaki it is okay. He can see clearly now, this was the right thing to do. Kenji similarly tells Michiko that it is okay, this was the way it always had to end. Michiko asks why, but Kenji merely smiles and then dies.

The demon breaks through the keep walls and lunges for Kenji and O-Yanma's heads with its hands to try and harvest their souls, but too late, and as it fades from the world - its connection to the world having been O-Yanma - it screams: 'NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!'

Sometime later, we see Misaki's village being restored thanks to the reward for killing the witch, though Misaki is distracted and filled with longing for her lost love, but we see a young man about her age working on rebuilding the village beside her, and is implied she may yet find happiness. Michiko is there too, helping to build a new home for her family. Isamu and Sakura are seen together, happily in love with one another. In a field not far away, two grave markers have been set side by side: Uchida Kenji and Uchida Yanma. Tending the field, with a new temple of the Hikarimusha being built behind him, are Kenji's former mentor Hamada-sensei and a few others in robes which now bear a symbol which combines that of Kenji and O-Yanma into one, fitted together in harmony, implying that a balance of some kind has been restored to the world.


Post-game Reflection
I think I speak for all the players and Mike, our GM, when I say this was an awesome mini-campaign. There were certainly elements of The Mountain Witch which we didn't make as much use of as we probably could have, owing to our unfamiliarity with this style of play. I'm referring to the Dark Fate Narration here. The idea behind the Mountain Witch is that each of the ronin PCs who have been hired to kill O-Yanma have their own secret Dark Fates - these are distributed randomly during character creation - and that give them their own secret agendas to pursue. The cool thing about this is that players have free reign to introduce plot elements related to their own character's Dark Fate. So a player can add facts, NPCs, events or scenes which are tied to their Fate, with the sole caveat that they avoid deprotagonising the other PCs. While we did manage to narrate a few elements of our own into the story based on our Dark Fates, we did require a bit of prompting to do so. I think of the three of us, I was most active in using Dark Fate Narration, which may explain why a big part of the story wound up revolving around Kenji and his ties to O-Yanma. I admit to feeling a little guilty about that, but we wound up with a great story and people had fun, so what the heck.

The Dark Fates were:
Worst Fear (Kenji): I decided Kenji knew and had been very close to the Mountain Witch at some point, and so his worst fear was having to fight his best friend or, as turned out to be the case, his brother.
True Motives (Michiko): This turned out to represent Michiko knowing that her brother had went to face the Mountain Witch and been taken captive, and having made a deal with O-Yanma for her brother's freedom.
Desperately In Love (Anna): Anna's character joined us in the second session, so we weren't sure how well her late introduction would work, and the Desperately In Love dark fate didn't really have time to develop, so it seemed to come out of nowhere (we just put it down to Stockholm Syndrome, I think). But it turned out to add a great bit of extra tension to the final showdown, with Misaki trying to save the Mountain Witch and my character trying (albeit reluctantly to kill him), with Michiko caught between the two of us.

The other interesting thing about the Mountain Witch is the Trust mechanic. Each of us started with a certain amount of Trust points invested in the other characters (based on Zodiac signs chosen as part of character creation), which the players' of those characters could then spend to aid us in a conflict. Aiding another character is really powerful in this game, because usually you're only rolling a single d6 for conflict resolution. But if someone spends one of the Trust points you've invested in them, they can roll their d6 and add the result to your roll. On the flip side though, this Trust can also be spent by the other player to 'betray' you, giving them a +1 to opposed rolls against you for each Trust point spent, and you can't use the Trust they've invested in you against them for that roll.

The Trust mechanic really came into play for us in the final scene, both when my character was dueling O-Yanma, and Anna's was trying to stop me, so she spent the Trust I'd given her to try and interfere. Then, when my character opened himself up to her attack later in the scene, I spent the Trust that Heather's character had in me to stop her from interfering. There was one aspect of the Trust mechanic that didn't really get used, and that's Stealing Narration Rights. Usually, in a conflict, the winner gets to narrate the outcome, but you can spend a point of Trust from another player to steal their narration rights and narrate the outcome yourself. I didn't use this personally, because it felt like more of a Player vs. Player thing than PC vs. PC, and I don't like that so much when it comes to roleplaying. Maybe there's a good reason for it that I'm not seeing, but spending a point of Trust to tell another player, 'Ha! You win the fight, but only because the wall your opponent is standing on collapses, sending him plummeting to his doom!' just seems like Player vs. Player dickery to me, but your mileage may vary. If you have a different perspective on it, please share it in the comments, I'd be interested to hear other peoples' takes on it.

But yeah, really enjoyed this game, and I'd be interested to see what its replay value is like. Theoretically, you could run this game multiple times with some or all of the same players but different characters and Dark Fates, and have different story each time. You'd also get to know what to do with Dark Fates and the Trust mechanic a bit better with repeated play, so the game might run more smoothly in a second or even third scenario.

Anyway, there's a chance we might do another game of the Mountain Witch when our G+ Hangouts Actual Play group gets together, this time with me in the GM seat, I think. Little intimidated about that prospect, as Mike has said this was a tricky game to run as GM, but we'll see how it works out. :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

[Actual Play] The Mountain Witch: Twin Fates Converging, Part 1

It took a while, but I finally got a chance to play the Mountain Witch, having wanted to try it out ever since I listened to the Jank Cast actual play episodes of it. As it turned out, Mike Cugley of Nearly Enough Dice had been looking to try it out himself, and so we got a group together and he ran it for us at his place. I'll share my thoughts on the gameplay in the second part of this AP, but for now I'll just post the events of the first session.
From left to right: Misaki (Anna), Kishi Michiko (Heather),
Uchida Kenji (me); and in the background,
the Mountain Witch himself, O-Yanma.
Drawing by Anna Jigoulina
The Cast
Kishi Michiko (played by Heather): Michiko became a ronin after her master and she set off on a mission of dubious morality, and she chose to leave her master's service. It is uncertain whether Michiko killed her master or not. She needs the money offered for killing the Mountain Witch in order to provide a comfortable life for her family, now that she is no longer supported by her master.
Uchida Kenji (played by me): Kenji was born as a ronin, and is less of a samurai than a warrior monk, having been taken in by an order known as the Hikarimusha. The Hikarimusha maintain the balance between the world of men and the world of the supernatural. Unfortunately, they were betrayed by one of their own and to Kenji's knowledge the order has been wiped out save for himself. He needs the money from the mission to rebuild the temple of the Hikarimusha and restore his order.

Session 1
Michiko and Kenji arrive at the trail leading into the haunted forest of Aokigahara, located at the base of Mount Fuji. They've been hired by the people of a nearby village to kill O-Yanma, the Mountain Witch, whose supernatural minions have been terrorising the locals.

After leading them as far as the forest boundaries, their guide departs and leaves them to continue on their own, not daring to go any further into O-Yanma's domain. Some time later, while hunting for food, they are attacked by wolves. Kenji senses that these wolves have no souls, which perhaps explains why the wolves attacked them rather than go for the easier prey of the deer the ronin were tracking, and continued their assault despite taking wounds. After finishing off the wolves, the two ronin cook them and discuss rumours they've heard about O-Yanma over the campfire. Michiko says she has heard that he eats eagles for breakfast and sleeps on a bed of fire. Kenji states that he does not believe this. He also says that he has heard O-Yanma was once just an ordinary person like they are, that his power was taken from someone or something else of great power. Michiko adds that she had heard something along those lines too, that he stole his power from a clan of witches. After the conversation winds down they set up watch rotations. Michiko takes the first watch, and Kenji goes to sleep.

During the watch, Michiko hears someone attempting to attract her attention from somewhere in the trees. She leaves Kenji still asleep and places a tanto in his hand, before walking off to investigate. A tengu appears, introducing itself as Uncle Tengu, and tells her that 'the plan is good' and all she has to do is say the word at the gate. Meanwhile, Kenji is also awoken by another Tengu, whose feathers he almost shears in surprise as he discovers the knife in his hand. The Tengu - calling itself Auntie Tengu - tells him to put that dangerous thing away, there's no need for that. She says to Kenji the same thing that Uncle has been saying to Michiko: 'the plan is good, all you need to do is say the word at the gate'.

Kenji bluffs rather poorly, claiming that he has forgotten the word and asking if Auntie could remind him. Realising that she has been speaking to the wrong human - it's so difficult to tell the boy humans apart from the girl humans - she calls to Uncle, who joins her and tells her off for speaking to the wrong one. Uncle says that now they have to kill him, and the two tengu prepare to face Kenji in combat. Kenji continues with the bluff, stating that he was told there would be tests, but that two on one hardly seemed fair odds, as he was merely human, and they - as Tengu - are surely far superior sword fighters than he.

And so, Kenji faces Uncle one-on-one in a sword duel, and defeats the tengu with a swift cut which left him with his wings badly clipped. Auntie nervously congratulates him for 'passing the test' and then flies off with Uncle to tend to his wounds. Michiko arrives in time to see the tengu depart, and asks what happened. Kenji merely replies that some tengu were making a nuisance of themselves, but they won't be bothering them any further tonight.

The next morning they continue through the forest and encounter no further resistence until reaching its edge, where the forest trail meets the trail into the slopes of Mount Fuji. There they are met by a patrol of Samurai on horseback. They bear a mon which is similar to the one on Kenji's robes, except where his is a white teardrop on black robes with a single spot of black inside the teardrop, the symbol worn by these men is inverted and the colours switched, so that it is a black teardrop on white, with a spot of white held within. Kenji looks most offended by the sight, but Michiko's attention is drawn by one particular samurai on the patrol. The leader of the patrol is Isamu, her brother. He shows no sign of recognising Michiko upon confronting them, however.

Michiko, by speaking the word 'Okimashu' to the guards, is able to convince them to escort herself and Kenji to the Mountain Witch's castle, Yamajiro. The guards still treat them with some caution, but Michiko's knowledge of the code word leads Kenji to feel somewhat distrustful of his companion. It's a way to get closer to O-Yanma though, so he goes along with it.

Along the way they come across a shattered palaquin at the side of the road. A kimono is caught on the side of the palaquin and there are dead smaurai scattered around the wreck. Michiko finds a beautifully crafted courtly fan, which she keeps for herself. She also recognises the men as her brother's soldiers and finds his sword there. She shows it to Isamu, who shows no sign of recognising the blade and insists that they move on. Kenji notices her interest in Isamu, and tells her coldly, 'Whoever you think he is, he is no longer.' When she asks him to explain, he simply says that he is like the wolves they fought, his soul is missing.

They pass by a cave in the mountainside, and Kenji pauses, sensing something within. The guards are most anxious to move on, but Kenji will not be dissuaded from investigating, even as thunderous footsteps approach from within. A giant oni appears from the cavern mouth, leering at the group. Kenji speaks to the demon with open disrespect, much to the guards' discomfort. During the exchange of taunts between Kenji and the oni, the oni takes credit for O-Yanma's rise to power. When Michiko insists that he stole his power from the clan of witches mentioned previously, the oni dismisses them as dabblers. It was the oni, so it claims, that taught O-Yanma how to harvest souls and use them to control others, or power his magic. To prove its point, it strokes the skulls hanging from its belt, flickers of eyes appearing within them as its hand moves along them. Kenji continues taunting the creature, which is restrained only by its agreement not to harm O-Yanma's servants or interfere in their business, which at present is escorting these ronin safely to O-Yanma. At Michiko's urging, Kenji backs down from confronting the oni, but promises that 'this is not over'. The oni agrees, it will see him when he returns down the mountain without O-Yanma's protection...if he returns.

They continue on up the mountain, coming to a pass where a regiment of the Hikarimusha - Kenji's order of warrior monks - have been killed in battle, presumably against O-Yanma's troops. Written in blood on the rock face are the words: 'Neither may die while the other lives.' As they draw nearer the castle of O-Yanma, a strange storm brews in the sky above Mount Fuji, and with each strike of thunder, Kenji's reacts painfully, as if stabbed. And with every crack of thunder, and apparation of a shrine maiden, with the figure-eight symbol of infinity on her robes, appears to either Michiko or Kenji before disappearing with the thunder.

Finally, they arrive at Yamajiro and are greeted by the Mountain Witch's wife - Yuki-Onna, the winter lady - who invites them both to dinner, they both accept the invitation, with Kenji sardonically referring to Yuki-Onna as 'sister-in-law'. As guests, they are relieved of their swords, much to Kenji's discomfort, as his sword - Kazeken - has mystical properties and he is loathe to be parted from it. They're offered the chance to bathe in the bathhouse beforehand and as they do, from their opposite sides of the modesty screen there, Kenji and Michiko have a chance to speak in private. Kenji asks Michiko how she knew the word to get them inside the walls, but she claims she only made it up. Kenji is unconvinced.

At dinner, they are joined by Isamu and, to Kenji's surprise, Hamada-sensei; the former head of the Hikarimusha, who had been presumed dead along with the rest of the order. To Kenji's horror, Hamada-sensei is wearing the twisted version of his own colours worn by the Mountain Witch's troops. Michiko attempts to help her brother remember something of his past, to no avail. Meanwhile, Kenji asks his former mentor why he is now allied with O-Yanma, when they both know he cannot be allowed to acheive his ends. Hamada-sensei merely shakes his head, saying that he had hoped Kenji would have grown past this childish superstition.

After dinner, they are escorted to a chamber beneath the mountain, formed out of crystal with a deep pit in the centre, and a bright, warm light burning from within the pit. There are two cages to either side of the chamber, one has a young female samurai locked within, the other is empty. On the opposite side of the pit from the entrance, the Mountain Witch O-Yanma - who bears an uncanny resemblence to Kenji - awaits and greets them.

Kenji responds by asking, "Where is she, Yanma?" This is a very rude and familiar way of greeting the Witch, who raises an eyebrow and responds, "Such a pleasant greeting after so"


Sunday, June 9, 2013

The 'June 2013 Plan' - Week One in Review

I'll be honest, I haven't got off a great start this month. I had a whole long post written about why I didn't hit my goals this week, but it just felt like making excuses, so I'm not going to post that. Instead, I'm just going to reset my goals for the coming week and commit myself to getting them done this time.

Despite not hitting my goals for this week, I have discovered a few things about what works and what doesn't for me as a writer/creator. First off, because I need to keep my timetable flexible in case of impromptu appointments with the jobcentre, work programme advisors, job interviews and the like, having a fixed timetable for getting creative projects isn't really a viable way of handling projects. So I need something a bit more flexible than the traditional timetable. So I'm going to make more use of my phone's pomodoro timer and the Pomodoro technique than I have in the past; setting myself so many 25 minute blocks of time per project per day, and then just working for those blocks of time when I'm able to do so at home.

I will also be preparing a schedule of regular content for the blog to begin early-to-mid July, which gives me time to write up a bunch of posts as a buffer. One topic I'm considering writing a series on in the near future is Creative Barriers. I figure if I look at all of the reasons I come up with for putting off writing (distractions, guilt, self-doubt, and so on and so forth) I'll be able to confront those issues and address just why I shouldn't be letting them stop me from doing what I want to do.

Goals for Week Two

1st draft of 'The Writer' Playbook for Monster of the Week - Sunday 17:00 GMT.
Zero draft of 'Sanctioned' short story - Sunday 17:00 GMT.
Mountain Witch AP Report - Post by Tuesday 18:00 GMT.
Legend of the Five Rings: Sins of the Fathers Recap - Post by Friday 18:00 GMT.

Until next time, be excellent to each other, work hard and play hard. See you later, folks!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The 'June 2013 Plan' - Week One and Beyond

It's been suggested to me that I should blog more often, and I think that's a good idea. Not that I haven't tried to be more active in my blogging before, but I'm gonna give it another shot for 2013. I thought I'd start with an overview of my creative plans for the month ahead, and a more focused look at the coming week. This is as much to fix the plans in my mind as it is me saying 'look at me and what I'm up to at the moment'. I'll try to be as brief and to the point as I can, starting right now:

The 'June 2013 Plan'
First off, as part of my committment to the "23 in '13 Challenge" I mentioned last week, I'm planning to write up two short stories. One of those will be original, the other may be a segment for a Doctor Who/Evangelion fanfiction that I've had in the works on and off since NaNo 2010. I'm conflicted as to whether to include the fanfic as part of the challenge or not, because I feel guilty about doing it in lieu of my own fictional works. In addition, I'll also be working on a couple of Playbooks for Mike Sands' Monster of the Week.

Hopefully I can get the first drafts of those done by the end of the month, at least. The playbooks will likely be lacking for artistic cover images though, until I can get someone to draw them for me.

I'll also be working on prep for a Doctor Who RPG campaign I'm planning to run at GUGS, though that'll be on the backburner until I can get myself a copy of the Time Traveller's Companion book to peruse for ideas and extra background material to work into the campaign. Hopefully I'll manage to acquire that sometime this month.

I also hope to be hosting a series of RPGs over Google+ and recording them for potential use in putting out an actual play podcast. That all hinges on how overwhelmed I feel by the three other projects already listed above.

'June 2013: Week 1'
By the end of this week, I plan to have the zero draft of my first short story done, and also have a fairly complete Playbook for Monster of the Week, either the Magical Girl, or the Writer. Probably the Writer, as I've been watching a lot of Castle lately, and that show is the main inspiration for the book. That said...I wonder if I should make it at least partly like Chuck from Supernatural. And no, in this case he's definitely not God. Probably not. Maybe. It would be somewhat unbalanced if he were, wouldn't it? I'll put the Magical Girl on hold until I've had myself a rewatch marathon of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Yes, it's gonna be THAT kind of Magical Girl.

As for blogging, I'll write up an Actual Play report of the Mountain Witch two-parter that we completed just this afternoon, and it'll either go live shortly after I've done it and given it a quick edit, or the day after, when I've had a bit more time to edit/finish it.
Later in the week, I'll post a brief recap of our Legend of the Five Rings game (if that's even possible at this stage, since it's been going for almost a year now), and then post an actual play report of the next session, if it happens this week. It may not be until next week. This is another of those things which is as much for my own personal reference as it is to give people something to read on the blog, though that's probably a bonus. Maybe?

That aside, there'll be an update at the end of the week to say what progress I've made with my various projects. I'll also try and think of other stuff to blog as the week progresses. At the very least, I should have a list of stuff to blog about by next week. Wheee!

In the meantime though, be excellent to each other and happy gaming/reading/viewing/writing/whatever-geekery-you-get-up-to! See you later!