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...

TO BE CONTINUED...

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