Trying out L5R 5e character creation with The Grey Crane (Kakita Toshimoko/Greg Stafford)

I thought I’d experiment with the new rules for Legend of the Five Rings RPG this weekend, starting a twitter poll asking which Clan to create a PC.  However, the RPG community had the very sad news of the death of Greg Stafford, wonderful game designer and mystic.  John Wick discussed the role Greg had on him as a person and as a gamer, and in his warm and well-written blog mentions that a character in the L5R setting was Greg, namely the Grey Crane, Kakita Toshimoko, sensei of Doji Hoturi and master of the Kakita Duelling Academy.  Hence, for this first try out of the full character generation rules, and in honour of Greg. I’ll try to create the Grey Crane as a young man, perhaps with some more shamanic elements.


The Game of Twenty Questions

Part 1: Core Identity (Clan and Family)

All characters begin with Rank 1 in all Rings, and 0 in all Skills

Q1: What Clan does your character belong to? 

Given the above, the Kakita are a family of the Crane Clan. This gives +1 Air Ring, +1 Culture Skill, and Status of 35.  Bushido for the Phoenix focuses on Courtesy.

Q2: What family does your character belong to? 

The Grey Crane is a member of the Kakita family, a family known for its skill in duelling.  This grants +1 Air or +1 Fire, and either +1 Aesthetics or +1 Meditation.  Fire is a creative ring so I think I’ll take a +1 there and a +1 Aesthetics to reflect Greg’s imagination and inspiration.  He has a starting Glory of 44 and 7 koku.


Part II: Role and School

Q3. What is your character’s role and school?

Kakita Toshimoko is going to train in the Kakita Duelist School (Artisan, Bushi).

This grants +1 to both Air and Earth Rings and I can choose five skill increases of +1 out of Courtesy, Design, Fitness, Martial Arts (Melee), Meditation, Sentiment, and Smithing.

I’ll take +1 Courtesy, +1 Martial Arts (Melee), +1 Sentiment, +1 Fitness, +1 Meditation

Available Techniques: Kata, Shuji, Rituals

Starting Techniques: he gains Iajitsu Cut: Rising Blade (something I noted on my reading – this is a rank 2 kata, but prerequisites are ignored for techniques gained during char gen), and can choose Shallow Waters or Weight of Duty as a beginning Shuji.  I’ll choose Shallow Waters (helps the Grey Crane detect people’s desires and ninjo).

He has a starting Honor of 50 and the following School Ability and Equipment:

Way of the Crane (School Ability)

Starting Outfit: Travelling and ceremonial clothes, daisho, yari, travelling pack, attendant (I could have swapped the spear for a bow, and the attendant for a pony).

Q4: How does your character stand out within their school?

This is a choice to increase one Ring.  I’m thinking the Greg in the Grey Crane will have made him stand out as being self-aware, insightful and mystical, so will take +1 Void

Part III: Honor & Glory

Q5.  Who is your character’s lord and what is their duty to them?

Reading up on Kakita Toshimoko, he served with the Imperial Guard initially as an impulsive young samurai, but after worked alongside his father, Kakita Toshimo in the academy.

So, we’ll say his lord is also his father, Kakita Toshimo, and his duty, or giri, at present is to serve is an assistant instructor at the Kakita dueling academy.


Q6.  What does your character long for?

Again, thinking of Greg, I’m going to say Toshimoko’s ninjo is spiritual enlightenment – this is more typically an aspiration for monks, shugenja, and those of the Dragon Clan so will certainly be a conflict for a Crane bushi, particularly one who is rather constrained by teaching in the dueling academy.

Q7. What is your character’s opinion of their Clan?

Despite his mystical side, Toshimoko thinks highly of his clan and wishes to serve them to the best of his ability. This grants him +5 Glory.

Q8.  What does your character think of Bushido?

Kakita Toshimoko  would endorse Bushido, and the Crane emphasis on Courtesy.  This grants him +10 Honor.

Part IV: Strengths and Weaknesses

Q9.  What is your character’s greatest accomplishment so far?

This steps aligns with the choice of a distinction advantage.

I’m thinking to combine his mystical side with his time with the Imperial forces – when a young samurai, patrolling near the wall, Toshimoko detected and defeated a Shadowlands infiltrator.

He gained the distinction Sixth Sense

Q10. What holds your character back the most in life?

Here I get to choose an adversity disadvantage. Hard to know for Toshimoko – in some of the literature of the setting, he enjoys his sake and the company of women but not to extent of being addicted or a compulsive flirt.  However, issues of paternity crop for him as a NPC in the beginner box adventure, so I am going to select Bitter Betrothal – perhaps his tour of duty, and now the hours he spends at the academy, has lead to him neglecting his wife and family.

Q11.  What activity makes your character feel at peace?

Here I get to pick a Passion linked to the Grey Crane’s hobbies and interests.  Looking over the list, Enlightenment is an option and I think will enhance the shamanistic side of Greg I want to reflect.

Enlightenment (Void) 

Type: Spiritual
 Description: You are devoted to the principles revealed in the Tao of Shinsei and are well on your way to transcending this existence. 
Effects: The following apply to a character with the Enlightenment passion: 

  • You feel no attachment to mundane items and earthly titles; you cannot be tempted with material wealth or the promise of power. 

  • After performing a check to detach yourself from material concerns (such as a Meditation [Void] check to contemplate your place in the universe or a Survival [Void] check to exist in harmony with your environment), you remove 3 strife. 



Q12. What concern, fear, or foible troubles your character the most?

Here I get to choose a Specific Anxiety.  It mentions the younger Toshimoko as impulsive so I will select the Impatience anxiety.

Q13.  Who has your character learned the most from during their life?

I’m thinking the greatest influence on him will have been his father, Kakita Toshimo.

Here, I get to pick an advantage or a  disadvantage and one rank in the a skill linked to the relationship.

Despite wanting to take another disadvantage so I can get +1 Theology, I can’t think of another which fits the character concept.  So developing the impulsive bushi idea further, I’ll take Daredevil as an advantage.

Part V: Personality and Behavior

Q14. What do people notice first upon encountering your character?

He has a long plait down his back, he does not dye his hair as many Crane too, but even as a young man there are streaks of grey in his hair.  He walks nimbly on the balls of his feet, never at rest, and in a scroll case he carries a copy of the Tao of Shinsei.

Q15. How does your character react to stressful situations?

He becomes more jocular and less respectful – this can extend to insulting people with immature jibes.

Q16. What are your character’s preexisting relationships with other clans, families, organisations, and traditions?

He had a close relationship with the Imperial Forces, with the Kakita Dueling Academy and has developed a friendship with a visiting Togashi monk.

As a gift, he received a finger of jade from the Imperial Guard.

Part VI: Ancestry and Family

Q17.  How would your character’s parents describe them?

Toshimoko’s parents are proud of him – they would describe him as a promising young duelist and teacher, if slightly impulsive.  They are concerned about his spiritual side, but are glad their son honors the Kami, the Fortunes, and the teachings of Shinsei.

Here I get to increase a skill by +1, and will take Theology to reflect the above tension and again Greg’s shamanism

Q18.  Who was your character named to honor?

Slightly complex as Toshimoko is a diminutive version of Toshimo. However, like this step so perhaps can think where Toshimo comes from in family.  I get to roll 2d10 on a random table to find out facts about ancestor named after, and can pick one of these ancestors and then a further d10 to find out more if indicated.

I rolled a 9 and 5.  Looking at table 2-1, can pick Imperial Heritage or Discovery.  Former fits more I think.  Get +10 Status and the Blessed Lineage advantage.

Q19.  What is your character’s personal name?

Toshimoko, reflecting he is the son of Toshimo.

Q20.  How should your character die?

Toshimoko hopes leave behind the academy in the near future and die defending Crane lands against their enemies, or better, he wishes to re-join the Imperial Guard and defend the Emperor against the minions of Fu Leng, and die in this duty.


To sum up, The Grey Crane

Clan: Crane

Family: Kakita

School: Kakita Duelist School

School Rank: 1

Air                   Earth               Fire                  Water              Void

3                       2                       2                       1                        2

Honor: 60

Glory: 49

Status: 45

Ninjo: spiritual enlightenment

Giri: Assistant instructor at Kakita dueling academy.

Distinctions: Sixth Sense; Blessed Lineage.

Adversities: Bitter Betrothal

Passions: Enlightenment; Daredevil.

Anxieties: Impulsive.

Personal Outburst: He becomes more jocular and less respectful – this can extend to insulting people with immature jibes.

Skills: Culture 1, Aesthetics 1, Courtesy 1, Martial Arts (Melee) 1, Sentiment 1, Fitness 1, Meditation 1, Theology 1.

School Ability: Way of the Crane.

Techniques:  Kata – Iajitsu Cut: Rising Blade; Shuji – Shallow Waters.

Endurance                  Composure                  Focus               Vigilance

8                                    6                                    5                        2

Void Points: 2


Please let me know if I’ve got anything wrong!  Vale The Grey Crane Greg Stafford,

Asako Soh, reimagined for FFG’s Legend of the Five Rings RPG Beta

I thought I’d try and re-create my pseudonym and L5R4e PC,  Asako Soh, Phoenix Clan Shugenja, using the recently released Beta rules for Fantasy Flight Games’ Legend of the Five Rings RPG, by the wonderful Katrina Ostrander @lindevi

I was really pleased to hear Katrina was involved in the new L5R, as knew her to be a huge fan of the game and the setting, and had enjoyed her work in the Star Wars RPG.

I’ve gone through character creation as detailed in the beta rules and summarised Asako Soh at the end.  Copied rules text is in a phoenix red below.

The Game of Twenty Questions

Part 1: Core Identity (Clan and Family)

All characters begin with Rank 1 in all Rings, and 0 in all Skills

Q1: What Clan does your character belong to? 

Easy one, Phoenix. This gives +1 Void Ring, +1 Theology Skill, and Status of 30.  Bushido for the Phoenix focuses on Righteousness.

Q2: What family does your character belong to? 

Soh is a member of the Asako clan, monks, scholars, tutors and courtiers of the Clan.  This grant +1 Air Ring, +1 Culture and Theology Skills, and Glory of 40.

Part II: Role and School

Q3. What is your character’s role and school?

When I first created Asako Soh for the 4e rules, I saw him as an ascetic mystic, a diviner contemplating the Void, whose thinking could err into heresy.  As such he is a Shugenja and trains in the Isawa Elementalist School as a Shugenja.

This grants +1 to both Fire and Water Rings and I can choose three skill increases from Composition, Courtesy, Medicine, Meditation, Performance, Theology.  He has already had two increases to Theology, so Soh will take +1 Meditation, Courtesy, and Composition.

Available Techniques: Invocations, Shuji, Rituals

Starting Techniques: Invocations – can choose 3 from Extinguish, Grasp of Earth, Path to Inner Peace, Tempest of Air.  Soh specialised in Void magic in 4e, with some lesser expertise in Fire and Earth.  The Prayers he had at Rank 1 aren’t available here but will pick Grasp of Earth, Path to Inner Peace, Tempest of Air.

Starting Rituals: Commune with Spirits, Divination.

He has a starting Honor of 40 and the following School Ability and Equipment:

One with the Elements (School Ability): The Isawa Elementalist School excels not at one particular elemental art, but at the discipline of invocation itself. Its teachings are widely applicable across many different ap- peals to the kami, making its practitioners especially versatile. 
Once per scene when making the check to activate an invocation technique, before Step 3: Assemble and Roll Dice Pool, you may reduce the TN of the check by your school rank. 

Starting Outfit: Sanctified robes, wakizashi, knife, scroll satchel, traveling pack, 5 koku.

Q4: How does your character stand out within their school?

This is a choice to increase one Ring.  Asako Soh specialised In void and the mystical, so will take +1 Void

Part III: Honor & Glory

Q5.  What is your character’s duty to their lord?

A common setup for L5R has been for the PCs to be assistants to Emerald Magistrates, allowing Samurai of different Clans to work together, investigating events over the Empire.  Asako Soh reached School Rank 4 in 4e and was aspiring to become an Asako Inquisitor, so I’m going to say his duty is an investigator of Maho and his Lord is an Asako Inquisitor.

I’ll have as his Giri, ‘Investigate Maho for the Asako Inquisitors’.

Q6.  What does your character long for?

One of the reasons why I like the Asako family is their philosophy referred to as The Path of Man, the idea that humankind can transcend itself, and become Fortunes.

For Soh’s Ninjo, I’ll select ‘to explore and teach The Path of Man’.

Q7. What is your character’s opinion of their Clan?

Asako Soh had a rather ambivalent view of the Phoenix Clan – on one hand, he was a skilled Shugenja and scholar, on the other, he resented the control of the Isawa family and his loyalty was more to the Asako family and the Inquisition, than the Elemental Masters.  On balance, Asako Soh believes in peace, serving the Empire through magic and spiritual rites, and hence will support his Clan.  This grants him +5 Glory.

Q8.  What does your character think of Bushido?

Asako Soh would endorse Bushido, and the Phoenix emphasis on Righteousness.  This grants him +10 Honor.

Part IV: Strengths and Weaknesses

Q9.  What is your character’s greatest accomplishment so far?

This steps aligns with the choice of a distinction advantage.

I would be keen to take an advantage like Ishiken-Do, as existed in prior editions of L5R, and opening up Void magic for Asako Soh.   In its absence so far in these rules, I think I’ll build upon my idea of linking Asako Soh to the Inquisitors and pick:

Support of Asako Inquisitors (Water) 

Type: Interpersonal 
Description: Whether through your own efforts or simple good fortune, you have gained the support of a particular faction or organization. Confer with the GM to select a campaign-appropriate group when choosing this advantage. 

Effects: The following apply to a character with the Support of [One Group] distinction: 

  • You have proven yourself to a particular group, who is willing to help you when doing so will not damage their reputation. They will offer you their hospitality, including meals, a place to rest, and medical attention if they have a healer. They will also grant you access to their other facilities, such as laboratories, libraries, smithies, stables, or sparring rooms. 

  • When performing a check to interact with the chosen group that relies on your rapport with them (such as a Command [Water] check to is- sue them orders or a Performance [Water] check to cause an audience of them to desire something), you may reroll up to two dice during Step 3: Assemble and Roll Dice Pool. 

I’ll say that his greatest achievement has been to detect a Maho-tsukai operating in Phoenix lands, shortly after his gempukku, bringing her to the attention of the Inquisitors.


Q10. What holds your character back the most in life?

Here I get to choose an adversity disadvantage.  In 4e, Soh was ascetic, a pacifist, and lame.  There’s the option to have lost a leg, but wanted more to signify Soh as being infirm and slow moving so will pick:

Fractured Spine (Earth)

Type: Physical, Scar

Description: Your spine has been badly damaged, and while it has likely healed (or will heal), it causes you discomfort and makes it hard to push your body to its limits.

Effect: The following apply to a character with the Fractured Spine adversity:

  • You have suffered major trauma to the spine, and harsh impacts cause you to be shot through with agonizing pain. You can only lift and carry half the weight that someone of your strength normally could. 

  • When you make a check to resist harm or exhaustion (such as a Fit- ness [Earth] check to shrug off further injury or a Labor [Earth] check to carry heavy objects as part of building a structure), you must choose and reroll 2 dice showing  or  After resolving the check, if you failed, you regain 1 Void point. 

Q11.  What activity makes your character feel at peace?

Here I get to pick a Passion linked to Soh’s hobbies and interests.  Looking over the list, Enlightenment is an option.  So I think Asako Soh feels at peace when meditating, reflecting on the Path of Man, and seeking his own personal transcendence.  This also picks up some similar features to the ascetic disadvantage he had in 4e.

Enlightenment (Void) 

Type: Spiritual
Description: You are devoted to the principles revealed in the Tao of Shinsei and are well on your way to transcending this existence. 
Effects: The following apply to a character with the Enlightenment passion: 

  • You feel no attachment to mundane items and earthly titles; you cannot be tempted with material wealth or the promise of power. 

  • After performing a check to detach yourself from material concerns (such as a Meditation [Void] check to contemplate your place in the universe or a Survival [Void] check to exist in harmony with your environment), you remove 3 strife. 

Q12. What concern, fear, or foible troubles your character the most?

Here I get to choose a Specific Anxiety. To reflect his pacifist nature, and his kindness towards common people, I’ll pick:

Softheartedness (Fire) 

Type: Interpersonal, Mental 
Description: Samurai are warriors, yet war is not in your nature. Despite any skill with the blade or experience on the field that you might accrue, the sight of the suffering of others wrenches at you in a way your code as a samurai says it should not. When you do kill someone, you feel incredible guilt over it, even if you did not intend for them to die. 
Effects: The following apply to a character with the Softheartedness anxiety: 

If given the choice to kill someone or spare them, you always spare their life, even if it is not in your interest to let them live. 
After performing a check to kill others or let them die (such as a Government (Fire) check to estimate the burden a war would place on the common people or a Martial Arts [Ranged] (Fire) check to shoot to kill), you suffer 3 strife. If this causes you to suffer an Outburst (see page 16), gain 1 Void point.

Q13.  Who has your character learned the most from during their life?

Asako Soh studied with one of the Henshin Monks of the Asako Clan, learning something of the Path of Man. His Mentor is Asako Ishi.

asako monk

Here, I get to pick an advantage or a  disadvantage and one rank in the a skill linked to the relationship.

I like the idea of being haunted, a ghost mocking Soh for his seriousness and temerity in pursuing Enlightenment.

Haunting (Void) 
Type: Interpersonal, Spiritual
Description: A ghost, an ancestor spirit, or a spirit from another realm is 
haunting you. 
Effects: The following apply to a character with the Haunted adversity: 

The spirit has their own agenda (determined by the GM), which interferes with yours at inopportune times. 

When you make a check to defy the will of the spirit haunting you (such as a Meditation [Void] check to find solace in meditation or a Skulduggery [Void] check to perform disreputable acts to survive), during Step 3: Assemble and Roll Dice Pool, you must choose and reroll 2 dice showing or results. After resolving the check, if you failed, you regain 1 Void point. 

This could be accompanied by a skill.  For the skill, I’d take Sentiment +1 as the Henshin’s teaching opens up Soh to be aware of others more fully.

Other option, is to for an advantage,  and I am torn between Sixth Sense or Indomitable Will. Given his mystic nature, I’d go for the former on balance:

Sixth Sense (Void)

Description: You are especially in tune with the spirit world, even if you cannot hear or speak to the kami directly. If you do have the gifts of a shugenja, you are especially sensitive to mystical phenomena.

Effects: The following apply to a character with the Sixth Sense distinction:

  • You have an instinctive sense of supernatural beings, and you can feel the presence of spirits and similar beings even when they have not chosen to reveal themselves. This feeling is ominous in the presence of beings with evil intentions and neutral when the beings are simply going about their business as usual.
  • When performing a check for which you need to follow your hunches (such as a Meditation [Void] check to generate initiative during a duel or a Theology [Void] check to detect a snarl in the invisible threads of the universe), you may reroll up to two dice during Step 3: Assemble and Roll Dice Pool.

Weighing it up, I think Sixth Sense suits Soh more, as a Void Mystic, rather than Haunted + skill rank in Sentiment, so will go for that.

Part V: Personality and Behavior

Q14. What detail do others find most striking about your character?

Frayed, fading scarlet Phoenix robes, limp, and shaved head – monk-like appearance.

Q15. How does your character react to stressful situations?

Furrow his brows, narrow his eyes, and clench his jaw.

Soh did occasionally get angry in 4e – calling down fire on those who offended or blocked him.  Hence, I’ll pick ‘becomes enraged’ as his outburst.

Q16. What are your character’s preexisting relationships with other clans, families, organisations, and traditions?

Close relationship with Asako Inquisitors, more troubled relationship with Elemental Masters of Phoenix Clan, and friendly relations with Monks and Dragon Clan.  Traditionally, there can be alliance between the Scorpion and Phoenix Clans, and Soh values the loyalty of the Scorpion and their flexible minds.

Part VI: Ancestry and Family

Q17.  How would your character’s parents describe them?

Asako Soh’s parents are proud of him – for anyone in the Phoenix Clan, being granted the gift of speaking with the kami is a great honor.  Privately, they wish he was a simple tutor or scholar rather than risking his life investigating Maho.  They would describe him as a proud, intelligent, stubborn young man.

Q18.  Who was your character named to honor?

This is good!  Random table to find out facts about ancestor named after.  Get to roll 1d10 twice and choose result.

I rolled a 6 and 1.  Looking at table 2-1, can pick Famous Deed or Ruthless Victor.  Former fits more I think.  Get +3 Glory and roll for item that was given to ancestor as reward.  Rolled a 1 again – a family heirloom weapon as a starting item.


Q19.  What is your character’s personal name?

A nice list here in the rules, with meanings.  But I will pick Soh, found on the many years ago.

Q20.  How should your character die?

Soh hopes to achieve immortality as a God, but fears either falling foul of taint and being killed himself by the Inquisitors, or at the hands of an Oni or Maho-tsukai.

So, that’s the twenty questions answered and this gives us the all new Asako Soh

Clan: Phoenix

Family: Asako

School: Isawa Elementalist School

School Rank: 1

Air                   Earth               Fire                  Water              Void

2                       1                       2                       2                        3

Honor: 50

Glory: 48

Status: 30

Ninjo: to explore and teach The Path of Man

Giri: Investigate Maho for the Asako Inquisitors

Distinctions: Support of Asako Inquisitors (Water); Sixth Sense (Void)

Adversities: Fractured Spine (Earth).

Passions: Enlightenment (Void);

Anxieties: Softheartedness (Fire);

Personal Outburst: Furrow his brows, narrow his eyes, and clench his jaw. ‘Becomes enraged’

Skills: Culture 1, Theology 2, Meditation 1, Courtesy 1, Composition 1.

School Ability: One with the Elements

Techniques – Rituals: Commune with Spirits, Divination;  Invocations: Grasp of Earth, Path to Inner Peace, Tempest of Air

Resilience                   Composure                  Focus               Vigilance

6                                    6                                    4                        2

Void Points: 1


Hopefully ready to call the air kami again and fly above the enemies of Rokugan!

Please let me know if I’ve got anything wrong – now to re-read rules and see what the numbers mean.


Reflections on a 2016 of gaming

It does seem a little narcissistic to write anything about my own RPGing over the last 12 months and apologies in advance, but I hope it is of some interest.  However, at least it will serve as a record to me of my RPG  activity and of my impressions at the end of the year. I’ve thought of a few themes that have stood out for me: GMing at Cons, gaming on-line, and what the actual games are I’ve played most of over the year. Despite the geopolitical horrors of the year, it’s been a good one for gaming.


So, I think over the year I’ve managed to get to four gaming conventions and I was registered for Dragonmeet but sadly couldn’t attend in in the end. One of my goals for 2016 was to run some games at conventions.  I’ve run RPGs for groups, both face to face and on-line, and with gamers I’d not met before at clubs I’ve been part of over the years, but until 2016, hadn’t offered a gaming slot at an organised convention.

My first experience came at the kind invitation of @paulbaalham to run a game at the UK D&D Tweetup, held at The Dice Cup in Nottingham in March.  I’ve not played an awful lot of either D&D or Pathfinder, and Paul kindly let me offer a game of 13th Age, and I ran the excellent Free RPG Day adventure Make Your Own Luck , by the great Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan. I really enjoyed running this and was pleased that my players were people I’d met on Twitter. I should also thank Pelgrane, Wade Rockett and Cat Tobin for the stuff they sent to help me run the game. 13th Age remains my favourite level/class-based fantasy RPG.

So after my first experience, I was keen to do some more and offered up two games at the UK Games Expo in June.  I decided to go for a game I’d not had a lot of experience of and offer Shadow of the Demon Lord and an old favourite, Legend of the Five Rings.  For the former, I had a chance to playtest with some local gaming friends,  to try and figure out if it was practicable to run both a ‘starting’ and a ‘novice’ adventure, with levelling up in-between, in a 4-hour session.  This turned out to be do-able so I ran a double bill of  The Slaver’s Lash and The Demon’s Wet Nurse at the Expo.

For Legend of the Five Rings, I ran another Free RPG day release, this time Legacy of Disaster .  This latter session began a little badly – it was a Saturday morning and I’d dashed over to the Chaosium stand in the tradehall (7th edition CoC selling out!) and returned only five minutes before the start time, and two of my players gave me some grief for not being there at least 10 minutes before the start time (as specified in the instructions to GMs, apparently).  However, we recovered from this slightly rocky opening and had a great session – not least because a couple of the players knew the setting really well, and the others were new to it, and it was fun to see them getting into roleplaying honourable samurai with tough choices.

In addition to running, I was able to play in three excellent games too.  If my love of L5R doesn’t quite give it away, I very much enjoy Wuxia RPGs and was able to play in @gspearing ‘s game of Qin, and @boreders game of Symbaroum (of which, more later).  Finally, I was able to get a session in with players with whom I game on line with most weeks – we were all able to get tickets in on a 7th ed Call of Cthulhu game, run by Tim Evans. This was one of my best RPG experiences ever, not only because of the game, the players, and the GM, but due to the Twin Peaks elements of the story.

The next convention I attended was The Grand Tribunal in Cheltenham in August.  This originally was an Ars Magica convention but seems to have broadened to include other RPGs from Atlas Games too.  Here I didn’t run but managed to play in a couple of sessions – one of Ars Magica and one of Feng Shui, run by the excellent @dimbyd .  I didn’t really understand the freeform LARP which opened the day (I just wandered around aimlessly, being confused, until I decided to attack stuff – my tried and true RPG tactic), but it was a wonderfully friendly meeting, with a great raffle, and fish and chips.  Very grateful to @CJR23 for the warm welcome.  Here’s the link for the next Grand Tribunal 2017 .


The final Con was the fabulous Grogmeet in Manchester in November, organised by Dirk the Dice from @theGrognardfile and the other Armchair Adventurers.  Dirk kindly let me run the old West End Games d6 Star Wars RPG and I used the adventure ‘Rebel Breakout’, from the 1987 1st edition of the game, and created an opening crawl.

The Revised Expanded Updated (‘REUP’) version of Star Wars RPG is free to download here and the free D6 Space rules are here

Here’s a fab video of the day from Dirk (Grogmeet 2016) showing some of the games happening at this very friendly event, and my own reflections on the game written for the Grogzine, which Patreons can download here .  I really enjoyed this day – it was great to meet the Adventurers in the flesh, enjoy a couple of pints afterwards, and a good chat on the train back with @doc_griffiths.  Looking forward to Grogmeet 2017 and thinking about Ars Magica, Marvel Super Heroes, FASA Star Trek RPG or 1st edition Legend of the Five Rings.

On-line gaming

Since meeting Tamsyn (@xtamsynx) and Craig (@craigpbrown) IRL at the 2014 UK Games Expo, we’ve been playing online most weeks – together with Col (@dampscot), Paul (spookshow71), Blakey (@Burekeii), and initially, Liam (@Evoroth).  This continued throughout 2016, despite busy lives, and we’ve played a wide variety of games including Call of Cthulhu, Far Trek, Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyberborea, Solomon Kane, Rippers, Dresden Files Accelerated Edition, The One Ring, Shadow of the Demon Lord, Dragon Age, City of Mists, Monsterhearts, and a Fate Accelerated version of Nights Black Agents.

Far Trek RPG is free to download here and gives a super experience of playing in the Star Trek TOS setting. I was pleased to get a game of City of Mists in and I ran the free starter. It seemed to go well and gave me the chance of running a ‘Powered by the Apocalypse’ game – looking forward to the full game being released.

I’ve also been playing a regular on-line game of Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG with @chimpy20 and @chrissyspill and others.  This took place most weeks, except for a bit of a gap when Matt was moving house during which I ran some of The One Ring.  Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPG has been the game I’ve played most of over the year – because of the weekly on-line game and that we’ve been playing it too in our face to face tabletop group. I’ve really liked the gradual character progression (with Xim Chamra now being a rather dangerous gunslinger and assassin), the flexible choices available, and, if you wish to get into it, the modifications the PCs can make to their ships and equipment.  The game’s mechanics keep every roll interesting and give the players a key role in generating narrative.  The game feels very dramatic with lots high action and I hope to play more in 2017.

In addition to these more regular games, I was very grateful to @dimbyd for inviting me to an ad hoc game of Feng Shui on roll20 and to @chimpy20, @rpgkitchen, @zos93, and Dave, from our tabletop group, for getting together at short notice to try the first playtest for Modiphius’ Star Trek Adventures (sign up here) .

RuneQuest 2 (or ‘Classic’) has a rather special place in my heart.  Not only did I play it ‘back in the day’, but when I moved to Warwickshire, and joined a local gaming club, it was the first RPG I got invited to join after a hiatus of about 12-13 years.  Hence, I was delighted by Chaosium’s kickstarter to republish this edition  and to join a game of RQ2, ‘The Sea Caves’ (part of the Old School Resource Pack), run by Dirk the Dice (@theGrognardfiles). We played as Humakt Ducks, with me as Mal Hard.  The screenshot below shows Eddy checking the fumble rules as he lost his left leg – yet again. Dirk has kindly written up the session here and here’s a link to another RQ2 game that Dirk ran for the RPG Academy crew just the other night.

There’s a lot of Glorantha on the horizon, not only Heroquest Glorantha (which I picked up from the UK Games Expo) but also 13th Age Glorantha and a new edition of RuneQuest (with design notes found here at Chaosium’s blog).

Games I’ve Played Tabletop

In addition to games on-line and at Cons, there have been those I’ve played around a kitchen table.  The year started well with a one-shot Pathfinder session.  Sadly, I can’t get to the Gaming Club I mentioned above at present (due to week day commuting) but we got together for a RPG session of ‘We Be Goblins’.  This was rather a hoot, but the amount of prep did surprise me.  Here’s the infamous Goblin Song and the free PDF of the adventure.


My main tabletop group meets every 4-6 weeks and we’ve had a good year.  We began with Keltia, run by Stef, before moving into Star Wars Force and Destiny, run by Matt (@chimpy20), and then moved the same PCs into an Age of Rebellion game run by Jimbo (@jimbohawkins).  This has been a great contrast to the on-line Star Wars game – more moral challenges and my PC, Minerva Voight (a seer/Makashi duelist) is much less combat-focused than Xim, having spent XP on developing her more supportive and divinatory force powers.


Stef and I have also met up with our families on a couple of occasions and played Hero Kids with the children.  Hoping to get another date together soon to try No Thank You, Evil!


I’ve also become part of an occasional Sunday morning group – we first met to try the new Conan RPG quickstart (available here free), but it was also where I tested out my plans for Shadow of the Demon Lord in preparation for the UK Games Expo.  Since then, we’ve tried The Strange, playing the highly recommended Eschatology Code and are now working our way through The Copper Crown campaign for Symbaroum. I’ve been really impressed by Symbaroum – I had a great time playing it at the Expo, and found it smooth to run.  Easy rules, players roll all the dice, and a very rich and evocative setting, with magic in the game being inherently corrupting.

Finally, I was lucky to get to a session of Dungeon Crawl Classics, run by @leejneilson, at a FLGS in Rugby, together with @doc_griffiths.  We played through the surreal and dangerous funnel adventure,  The Hole in the Sky, getting to the end but with a rather reduced party of PCs.  Hoping to do more – for a fun, gonzo, dungeon crawling experience, DCC is hard to beat.

Final Thoughts and Looking Forward

Looking at the above, I’m rather amazed at the amount of gaming I have got in over the year, despite work, family commitments, the need for sleep etc.  What is clear is that in terms of hours it has been the Star Wars RPG from Fantasy Flight Games which I have played most of, being both a tabletop and on-line game for this year.  On-line gaming has really opened up opportunities – it is much easier to play on-line for a couple of hours  in the evening after work, than arrange a 4-hour session face to face.  Plus, you don’t need to go out, and can raid the fridge for beer.  It has also meant that people I have met on-line or at Cons are now people I can game with.

At the end of the year, it is playing Symbaroum and reading the beta of Coriolis that are at the forefront of my mind.  I think 2017 will be a year where I hope to play more Swedish RPGs, including Mutant Year Zero and Tales from the Loop.  I also think that the RPGs being put out by Modiphius, using the 2d20 system will feature highly – I’m a huge fan of Star Trek and hope to do more of the play-testing and pre-order Star Trek Adventures in January, in advance of release at GenCon.  Several of us backed Conan, so that too will feature.

I like games of occult and magic, so hope to play Unknown Armies and Kult, and am always happy to play or run the excellent The One Ring, and I want to run some more Cthulhu (whether Trail or Call). I hope to try HeroQuest Glorantha (still sad to have missed @dimbyd’s Dragonmeet game) and gain some more experience of ‘Powered by the Apocalypse’ games – perhaps try Monster of the Week.   Of course, if I can find players that are up for it, the Rokugan of Legend of the Five Rings or the Mythic Europe of Ars Magica are also always waiting, and still want to play in any of the Worlds of Darkness. I’ve just finished off character creation for a PBEM game of King Arthur Pendragon, to start in the new year.


Finally, and thinking of the next generation, I’ve recently met the dad of one of my son’s friends.  He is a gamer too, and he and his son have been playing some Dungeons and Dragons 5e.  We’re all meeting up for some boardgames soon, but we both hope that may develop into some RPG sessions with our boys.

This has become rather longer than planned.  Apologies for wittering on and, if nothing else, the links may be useful. I hope everyone has a wonderful new year and best wishes for 2017.  I hope the dice land well for you and that we all get some good games in.


Legend of the Five Rings – #Session 8. A Plague of Crimes


We started the session with a heated discussion between Shiba Ujime and Susumu Zeshin as to the fate of Yuri. Zeshin counsels caution and arguing for greater proof for a legal case, and using what they know about Yuri’s use of Maho to find other possible cultists. However, Ujime, his affinity to the fire kami apparent in his demeanour, feels that it is incumbent on him to deliver punishment to the Maho-tsukai, before others are corrupted and tainted.

Despite Zeshin’s concerns, Ujime begins walking back towards Sencha and onwards to Jouzousho. Tamori Endo meditates, seeking to find clarity in the turbulence, but none comes. Moto Mongke Temur jumps on his horse, following the Phoenix Shugenja, catching him up quickly. Susumu Zeshin, troubled by his friend’s rashness, decides to travel on to Yasuragai Monastery, where the Inquisitor and her yojimbo could have been headed and where also the missing widow and daughter from Sencha had been travelling. Endo decides to follow him to the monastery. Askao Keiji, his fragile mind shattered by his intense contact with the Void, recuperates at the Inn of the Clever Frog.

Ujime and Temur arrive at Jouzousho in the middle of night – as they approach Yuri’s house, they see her young admirer, Ota, skulking about and Temur scares him off. They enter Yuri’s house – Ujime standing over her mother, and Temur draws his scimitar over the sleeping Yuri, ready to behead the witch.  As Temur’s sword flashes downwards, Yuri moves with surprising speed, a jagged knife slashing into her own arm as a ball of dark, oily, fire forms in her hand. The fire flies out to hit Temur squarely in the chest as his scimitar takes Yuri through the breastbone, ripping into her lung and windpipe, leaving her bleeding out on her bedroll. As the samurai catch their breath, Ujime begins speaking to Yuri’s mother, noticing her gaze focus behind her and her eyes widen. He turns, seeing Ota enter, knife in hand, ready to launch himself on Temur. Ujime shouts a warning and Temur, bloody scimitar still in hand, turns. His sword cuts deeply into Ota’s flank, taking his torso clean off his body, leaving his legs standing, blood pumping, until the corpse collapses. Yuri’s mother screams and Ujime tries to calm her, in the process finding out that Yuri has become cold and cruel of late. Shin and Matsei, the doshin, arrive and see what has happened and also report Bondo, the third of their number, has gone missing.   The doshin take the samurai to the Otomo Lord’s residence – as before, he us unable to take part in the discussion and is intoxicated, but his wife accepts Temir and Ujime’s account and thanks them for their help and asks them to look for the missing doshin. The samuria return thanks for the wise Otomo’s aid for the Phoenix and the Naishou governor in routing out cultists. Ujime and Temur leave the village and travel to Yasuragai.


Meanwhile, Zeshin and Endo arrive at the monastery and a young novice, Ikki, takes them into meet the Abbot, Fukai. Fukai appears distracted and forgetful, seemingly unaware of the missing people and murders that have occurred in the villages nearby. However, he confirms that one of his own monks, Etoku, has gone missing whilst working in the gardens. The Abbot mentions that Etoku was friends with another monk, Asai. They visit Etoku’s room and Endo finds an enigmatic poem, where Etoku expresses suspicion of Asai, his motivations and his identity.   Zeshin meets Asai and finds him superficially to be a benign friendly monk but becomes aware that Asai is a highly trained individual – he feigns shock when Zeshin informs him of the Maho-tsukai Yuri, but the Spider is aware of his duplicity. Asai confirms what the samurai had been told by Ikki – namely, that Asai travels around the villages teaching but particularly attends to the people of Koujou.

Yasuragai Monastery

Yasuragai Monastery

Zeshin and Endo dine with the monks in their communal hall, Endo engages Asai in conversation regarding botany and gardening and is impressed by his wide knowledge of the practices of all Clans across Rokugan, clearly a very well-travelled man. As the conversation deepens, Asai turns the topic to Endo’s own life and recognizes him as a key combatant in the Destroyer war. He praises Endo for his audacity and valor in battle, despite Endo’s ongoing remorse for his actions. As the conversation progresses, Zeshin leaves and searches Asai’s room. He finds a hidden compartment in the ceiling; in it is a Scorpion kimono, spell scrolls, and a chop bearing the name ‘Yogo Aguchi’. Zeshin returns things to the box and rejoins his friend.

Ujime and Temur now arrive at the monastery and are talking with Abbot Fukai in his audience room. As with Zeshin and Endo, Ujime and Endo are struck by the Abbot’s vagueness and confusion. The Shugenja’s medical knowledge suggests that the Abbot was neither intoxicated nor subject to the senility which afflicts some ageing Rokuganis. Communing with the kami, Ujime is able to determine that the Abbot’s fire kami were constrained and repressed by dark kansen. Zeshin and Endo meet their friends in the Abbot’s audience chamber Recalling events in Nikesake, Endo and Ujime, with the Abbot’s consent, commence work on a ritual to strengthen the Abbot’s fire kami, freeing his intelligence. The ritual proves to be successful – the Abbot becomes definite and forthright in his manner. He confirms what the Shugenja remember of Yogo Aguchi – that he was a Scorpion Shugenja forced to retire from the Clan 15 years ago due to some embarrassment. The Abbot adds that the Scorpion Shugenja had lost a powerful magical artifact. The party learns that Asai has fled the monastery and, on checking his room, has taken his kimono and scrolls with him

After aiding the Abbot, the Samurai decide to travel to Koujou, the village that Asai commonly visited. Koujou is a modestly-sized village, probably at most 200 people, perched on the banks of a small stream. An elegant arched bridge crosses the stream, and to one side of the bridge is a large wooden building mounting a waterwheel. As it slowly turns, passersby can hear the heavy, laborious “thump, thump” of a giant mortar and pestle within. A medium-large samurai house is located on the edge of the village, with a large garden that overlaps the stream.  The Samurai present themselves to the local lord, Miya Kishin, an elderly man who excuses himself to his garden, asking the arrivals to speak with his son, Miya Kuboti, and the doshin, Koto. Kuboti and Koto confirm that Asai visited the village often, and spent time with family who ran the mill, Chio and her grandchildren. Kuboti adds that the disappearance from their village is Chio’s grandson, Higaisha. Kuboti kindly offers to take the samurai to the mill.

Miya Kuboti

Miya Kuboti

The Samurai enter the mill, the regular thump of the mortar and pestle beating alongside their hearts. As they enter, their eyes accommodating to the dull light inside, they see a fearful, beetle-like Oni in the center, claws snapping. Behind, shuffling into the darkness comes the blind mill-worker, Chio, accompanied by a young woman and the missing Doshin, Bondo, from Jouzousho.



Despite the fear the samurai feel, they draw on their honor and the Bushido virtue of Yu, courage. Kuboti turns to the samurai, grinning, his hand on his katana. Moving with speed, he draws, landing a powerful blow on Zeshin. The fight begins in earnest – Zeshin supporting Temur and Endo, defending them from attack, whilst the Unicorn attacks relentlessly with his no-dachi, seemingly oblivious to this wounds. Temur strikes – slaying Kuboti with one mighty blow. The shugenja call on the kami – Endo sending powerful jade blasts at the Oni, piercing his defenses, whilst Ujime breathes gouts of flame across the cultists and the Oni, moving across the mill. The leader of the cultists, Chio, seemingly resists Ujime’s flame, absorbing their force into her amulet, until the power of the kami overwhelms her, leaving her shrieking in flames. The battle is brutal: after Endo inflicting a mighty Jade-charged wound on the Oni, the kami fail to hear his call, perhaps due to his prayers being incoherent due to the beating he receives from the doshin Bondo. Ujime, after burning the cultists, is mortally wounded by the Oni. The Oni’s talons strike him full on the chest, rending him open and tossing him mercilessly across the mill, where he lies unmoving and bleeding out. Despite their wounds, Zeshin and Temur keep on fighting – with the Unicorn dispatching the Oni with a mighty swing of his sword. Zeshin finishes off the doshin as one cultist flees, Temur mounting on his horse, chasing and cutting her down. The session ends with Endo, broken and bloody, crawling across the floor, covered with burned and torn flesh, to the mutilated body of his friend, Ujime.

IMG_4752 IMG_4750

Legend of the Five Rings – #Sessions 6 & 7. A Plague of Crimes.

We restarted our L5R campaign with our PC’s in Kawa Forest, in the Naishou Province.

Our uncouth Unicorn Bushi, Moto Mongke Temur, was sparring with the Kenku Taro as Shiba Ujime and Tamori Endo meditated. Taro was pleased with their efforts in helping the Ningyo in the province and was willing for them to return to their primary mission: to investigate the missing Phoenix samurai as requested of them by Asako Kyoshi, an Inquisitor, back in Nikesake.

Before they return to Toshi no Naishou, Taro wishes to strengthen the group. The Champion of Void, Shiba Sakamoto, has left to explore the spirit realms with the Kitsune Soni, his wife. Two figures step into the grove, one, a Spider samurai who our heroes remember from the Blue Tiled Room – Susumu Zeshin. Accompanying him is a nervous looking young man in tattered Phoenix robes, Asako Keiji. Keiji brings a scroll, addressed to Shiba Ujime, and from the Master of Void. The letter renders Keiji into Ujime’s care – to be supported, watched and tested. He is a former peasant, adopted by the clan, due to his unusual ability to commune with the Void. Taro states that Susumu Zeshin will be his Champion of Air, and Asako Keiji his Champion of Void.   Taro informs the group that he may call on them again to support the Five Ancient Races and to protect Rokugan and the Celestial Order from threats from the Colonies.

The group departs, travelling by boat to the capital of the province, Toshi no Naishou. Whilst there, Temur spends time with the Governor’s daughter, Miya Iaimiko, and Zeshin learns of politics in the region and the goal of the Spider Clan in Naishou from Susumu Oiji, a scribe at the governor’s court. Meanwhile, Ujime attends to the spiritual and health needs of the heimin population and Endo enjoys a discussion of botany and gardening with a Crane artisan. The group learns that in addition to the missing Phoenix, several villagers and a Samurai child has also gone missing from a group of villages to the East of the province. Iaimiko accompanies the samurai part-way as they travel to investigate.

Miya Iaimiko

Miya Iaimiko

They stop first at the nearest village of the group, Jouzousho Village. They fail to gain an audience with the village’s Samurai, Otomo Susan, initially but with persistence see him and realize he has lost his honor to decadence: spending his time with his concubine and sake. The Samurai learn from the doshin of the village that there have been three disappearances and a murder over the last several weeks. One of the missing people is a geisha, Hana, whim the locals believe has run off with a lover. However, when the Shugenja find a note to Hana from her purported samurai lover, the calligraphy is of too poor quality to be that of a samurai, even a Crab or a Unicorn. The samurai also learn that the murder and one of the disappearances connect to a beautiful young sake-worker, Yuri, in that they were both her admirers. However, when questioned, Yuri baffles Zeshin with her ability to resist his questioning but Keiji, entering into an alarming trance-like state, confirms that there is more to her than meets the eye and that she hides a dark truth.

Isawa Taeko, Inquisitor

Isawa Taeko, Inquisitor

The samurai travel onto Sencha village, the last known location of the two Phoenix samurai, Isawa Taeko, an Inquisitor, and her yojimbo, Shiba Otembo. The samurai speak with the doshin and the innkeeper at the Inn of the Clever Frog. They find the missing Phoenix’s belongings, including Isawa Taeko’s journal, which Shiba Ujime takes into his safekeeping without reading. Communing with the kami, Ujime finds the road the missing Phoenix have taken, seemingly in haste given the belongings left in the room, and Temur tracks them along the road to Yasuragai monastery, until they leave the road to a clearing in the forest. Here, they spot a piece of Phoenix robe. Keji communes with the Void, taking his spirit back to events that occurred. He returns to his comrades shattered and disturbed – he witnesses the two Phoenix samurai being killed by a foul, flying beetle, an Oni, the yojimbo dismembered and eaten and the Inquisitor carried off in its maw. Ujime once agin asks the kami for guidance – seeking the oni and where he took the Inquisitor, however,  the air kami show him a brief image from before the arrival of the Oni, and Ujime sees a beautiful young woman, Yuri, slashes at her arm and invoking Maho….

Yuri, using Maho

Yuri, using Maho



Last session we left the Samurai in Inari Seido, meeting Mareshi, the half-Naga husband of the former Dragon Clan champion. He confirms that his mind becomes filled with dark visions at night, of attacking his brother monks and destroying their fields, and pleads for the samurai to aid him, reiterating his wish to be locked in his room until he controls himself.   The Abbot asks the players for their advice – he tells the Samurai that a Crane delegation is on its way to the monastery, offering to protect the monks from the Ningyo, the leader, Kakita Matabei, has written to the Abbot saying that the wisdom of the monks will see that the Crane are best protectors of the Fortunes and the Province.  Shiba Sakomoto recognises the name of the Crane – the Kakita killed his brother in a duel several years ago.

The Samurai approach the bank of the Itochu River as dusk falls, Temur leading the way on his horse.  They are set upon by feral Ningyo and a fierce battle ensues.  The battle ends by a Ningyo from the rushes calling out to the samurai in Rokugani asking them to desist – Sakamoto and Temur kill the last resisting Ningyo and speak with the new arrival, who introduces himself as Nolus.  Nolus tells the players that his people had been told by Itochu no Kami that the samurai would be coming to their aid – he informs that his people are battling one another, and some of the Ningyo have changed in nature, becoming more bestial.  He fears what the Empire will do if the Rokugani remember the Ningyo and seek to destroy them.  The Shugenja know that there is a myth that eating the flesh of Ningyo grants the eater immortality.



The Samurai remove their armour and many of their weapons and accept Nolus’ invitation to follow him and meet his father.  The players find that the Lapis Lazuli amulets given to them by the Kenku Taro allow them breathe and communicate underwater.  Nolus’ father is Athon, ruler of this nest of Ningyo.  He tells the samurai that many of the feral Ningyo have left their home and are attacking his people, he keeps many of them imprisoned and is clearly saddened by the civil war wracking his people.  The Samurai return to the surface, remembering Taro’s promise that Soni would help them resolve the Ningyo’s problems.


On returning to the bank, the players see the Crane delegation have arrived. Kakita Matabei and Shiba Sakamoto argue over the death of Sakamoto’s brother, Matabei insulting his honour.  A duel is called.  As the samurai prepare, Sakamoto feels a creature rub up against his leg and sees Soni, in fox form.  She speaks to him privately, offering to help him in the duel in return that he marries her and leaves Ningen-Do with her.  Soni has sensed his religious doubts and wishes to show him the reality of the spirit realms.  Soni imparts some knowledge of Kenku swordsmanship to Sakamoto.  The duel begins with Matebei being very skilled, however, Sakamoto draws deeply on his own Void and that of Soni and is victorious, Matabei committing seppuku with honour.

Kakita Matabei

Kakita Matabei

At the end of the duel, Soni hands over a clear, almost translucent, large pearl to the Samurai asking them to take it to Athon. Soni now calls in on the promise – asking Shiba Ujime to marry her to Shiba Sakamoto – and they leave the mortal realm together.  The samurai return to the Ningyo’s home, giving the pearl to Athon and, as they hand it to him, both Shugenja feel an intense wave of rage and hostility and get an impression of a dark presence, far away, in a tropical jungle.


We leave the Samurai with being thanked by Itochu no Kami and returning to Taro, where he begins to train them.




Soni turns to meet the cowled figure, the samurai spotting her white fox tails. The small figure pulls back his hood, revealing his bird-like features.  He introduces himself as Taro, one of the last of the Kenku and tells the samurai that Soni, his kitsune companion, has lead them through the Kawa Forest into Chikushodo, something the Shugenja had already suspected.

Taro tells the group that he is concerned – he is worried as to the effect the new Colonies will have on the Celestial Order and Ningen-Do and what horrors and threats may be encountered outside of Rokugan.  But he has concerns closer to home.  He offers to teach the samurai in return for their help in Naishou.  As the samurai talk, Taro sends Soni to fetch Shiba Sakamoto – the players see her turn into a white fox and run through the trees, back towards the boat.

Sakamoto wakens in the boat, sees his friends absent, but a beautiful Phoenix samurai-ko on the bank beckoning to him.  He alights to greet her and she beckons him into the forest and he follows, leading him deeper into the trees and Chikushodo…. As he enters the glade, spying the Kenku, Sakamoto not only sees his friends but watches the Phoenix change shape back into a multi-tailed white fox.



Taro tells the samurai that he represents one of the Five Ancient Races, the Kenku, the Race of Air.  The Shugenja are aware that many great Rokugani heroes have had Kenku Sensei and having had such is considered a mark of great destiny.  He tests the samurai.  Temur successfully hunts Tsu Fish and is named the Champion of Water, Sakamoto is questioned on Bushido and revenge on his brother’s killer and is named Champion of Void, Ujime sees a vision of his wife and his former friend Sister Yuriki in the pool and is asked to discourse on love and duty and is named Champion of Fire, Endo is asked to speak about his role and his arrogance in the Destroyer War and is named Champion of Earth.  “And I will represent Air, until my other Champion arrives”, Taro tells them.

Taro begins his teaching, telling the Samurai of the Five Ancient Races and the Spirit Realms, and asks the Samurai to aid his ‘cousins of water’.  Taro has learned that the Ningyo of the Itochu river have began acting out of character, leaving the water and tormenting the monks of Inari Seido.  Taro says that Soni has learned that one of the monks has become insane and the monastery fears for him.  Taro passes each Samurai a lapis lazuli amulet that he tells them will allow them to enter the realm of the Ningyo, he asks them to visit the monastery and help the Ningyo as he fears the province’s response to the the mer-folk. Soni will bring them further aid if needed.

The samurai return to their boat, led back to the mortal realm by Soni in fox form.  They travel back along the Itochu River, towards Inari Seido, briefly stopping off at the Governor’s Palace in Toshi No Naishou, agreeing to return to help find the missing Phoenix.  As they travel along the river, Endo and Ujime commune with Itochu no Kami, who appears as a blue, bearded man bearing a basket of fish.  He too asks the samurai for their aid and is concerned about the taint in the river and the effect it is having on the Ningyo.  The Samurai arrive at the monastery, impressed by the statue of the Fortune of Rice, and meet the abbot Goichi.



Goichi explains that merfolk have been raiding the monastery’s fields at night, damaging the crops, and frightening the novices.  However, he is most worried about one of the brothers who has asked to be locked up at night due to his recent aberrant behaviour.  Goichi explains that as dusk comes, brother Mareshi would run to the river’s edge, shouting in a strange tongue and walking into the water, yet remember nothing of events the next morning.  The samurai are taken to the monk’s cell – as the door is opened, and the monk is seen meditating inside, Endo is shocked as he recognises him. The monk was formerly Mirumoto Mareshi, the half-Naga husband of the former Dragon Clan Champion.



Been a delay in my writing up of the last few sessions….

We left our noble samurai having defeated an Oni in the Blue Tiled Room in Nikesake

Last session

Session 3

In the aftermath of the battle, the samurai search Asako Oda’s quarters and the body of the oni vanishes.  A lingering smile remains on Oda’s decapitated head and his scroll case is empty, other than a brief note acknowledging receipt of an item and signed ‘Chio’.  The shugenja, despite the reservations of Shiba Ujime, examine the note and and see that the writing is crude and that of someone with bare literacy, not the hand of a samurai.

The school has awakened with the sound of the battle and Isawa Kuki joins the samurai, arranging for Shiba Sakamoto and Doji Akiro to attend the Phoenix Blessing Shrine for healing.  He informs Endo, Ujime, Niro, and Temur that two students have left the school in the night – Susumu Zeshin and Togashi Mio.  Kuki is distressed by what has happened and what he learns of Oda’s crimes.  He summons the Asako Inquisitors to investigate and request that the samurai await their arrival.

Whilst waiting, the samurai are summoned to attend the Crane ambassador, Doji Shino.  He expresses gratitude to the players for saving his daughter, and despite his reserve, they detect his relief that his daughter’s honour has been partially salvaged by her having been a victim of Maho, and he hints that Doji Akiro may need to leave a life of service and enter a monastery.  Doji Niro makes his farewells and returns to the Embassy to serve his uncle and Clan.  The samurai attend dojos attached to their clan’s embassies to continue their training.

Asako Kyoshi arrives with a retinue.  He immediately spends time in deep discussion with Isawa Kuki and interrogates the students.  Kyoshi finds Tamori Endo and Shiba Ujime’s account of events and the blood magic compelling but he is concerned that such heresy has occurred in the Phoenix lands and to one of his own family.  The school are found innocent yet Asako Kyoshi remains worried.  In addition to the corruption of Asako Oda, Kyoshi has recently heard from the governor of Naishou Province, Miya Ansho,  that one of the Asako Inquisitors, Isawa Taeko, and her yojimbo, Shiba Otembo, have disappeared.  Shiba Ujime is keen to make an ally of the Inquisition and gain some independence from his wife’s family – Kyoshi asks the players to investigate the missing Inquisitor and travel to Naishou.

Asako Kyoshi

Asako Kyoshi

The Samurai leave Nikesake, Shiba Sakamoto still recovering from his wounds, and travel south in a sampan, along the Itochu river into Naishou.  As the boat drifts, the samurai exchange the little they know of Naishou – the literacy of the population, the pre-eminence of the Fortunes, the current Governorship by the Maya, on behalf of the Empress, after the Phoenix leaving the province, and the Crane and Scorpion manoeuvring for control, as well as the fantastical stories of the mythical creatures in the region.

Night falls as the boat enters the province, close to the Kawa Forest.  From the bank, the Samurai see glowing balls of light floating, moving seemingly in a pattern, at the edge of the tree line. Cautious, yet intrigued, the samurai disembark leaving the still wounded Sakamoto to the care of the boatmen.  As they approach the lights, they move deeper into the forest, drawing Temur, Endo, and Ujime after them.  As they follow the lights, the twilight recedes and the forest lightens.  To their surprise, rabbits, badgers, mice and other small forest creatures dart across their path, unafraid.  Temur is amazed as Vachir, his hunting falcon, speak to him saying how much he approves of being in the forest.  The samurai continue, following the glowing lights and enter a clearing where they see an elderly lady of the merchant class being beset upon by three ronin.  The samurai, eager to defend the weak against bandits, leap to the attack, quickly slaughtering them by prayer and scimitar.  The merchant lady thanks her rescuers but her manner is jocular and imperious, not at all as subservient as the Celestial Order demands.  Vachir suggests that the samurai trust her and she invites them to share provisions with her.  As they leave the clearing, they notice that the corpses of the Ronin have vanished.

The merchant leads the group to a beautiful glade – a crystal clear pond with freshly cooked dumplings, tea, sake and cakes laid out on rich cloths.  The players eat and drink gratefully, thanking their host, surrounded by small animals and the chatter of Vachir.  As they eat, the food and drink changes, they look down and see their hands are holding horse dung and their cups filled with dark urine, as their anger grows they hear the merchant laugh and she too changes – the features of an old lady replaced by that of a beautiful young woman.  A small cowled figure steps out of the trees into the clearing:

“Enough of your pranks Soni – you have done well in bringing our guests to me”.  The players notice a katana at his belt and a beak peaking out from under the hood….


IMG_4339 Session 1 began with the Samurai in a philosophy class, in the Blue Tiled Room in the town of Nikesake.  It opened with Isawa Kuki outlining the religion of Rokugan and the tenets of Bushido, and asking the students (the PCs) to contribute to the discussion.  Susumu Zeshin began contrasting Bushido with Shourido and began suggesting that the Empress’ actions regrading the Colonies demonstrated some of the latter virtues.  To everyone’s surprise, his views were endorsed and expanded upon by a beautiful Crane Samurai-ko, Doji Akiro.  Her Crane friends try to silence her and take her out of the seminar, claiming she is ill.  The Bushi attend a Noh play in the evening, ‘the Gaijin son’, at the Graceful Phoenix Theatre.  The theme of the play is a son returning from the Colonies and bringing dishonour to his traditional Crane family.  On the way back to the Blue Tiled Room, Akodo Toki, a Lion Bushi, taunts Shiba Sakamoto and accuses the Phoenix of being naive lapdogs to the Crane. Shiba-san challenges him to a duel.  Meanwhile, the Shugenja commune with the kami, seeking answers and find that Doji Akiro’s element of fire, her rationality, is being smothered and controlled by kansen.  Shiba Ujime, with the aid of Tamori Endo, opportune the kami through a powerful fire ritual, burning fragments of beautifully written poetry, and manage to weaken the hold of the kansen, freeing Doji Akiro, at least for a time.  They notice one of their fellow students returning through the rain to the Blue-Tiled room, a white patch of skin newly visible on his face, as if rain had washed away some make up. The next morning, Akodo Toki and Shiba Sakamoto meet to duel, under the watchful eye of the staff and students of the school.  In a dazzling display of Iajitsu, Sakamoto lands the first blow on Akodo Toki, who apologise for any slight he made against the Phoenix.  The first session ends with the PCs being summoned to attend the Crane embassy, Asahina’s Grace, at the request of the Ambassador, Doji Shini.  He explains that Doji Akiro is his daughter and that her companions have brought him news of her recent ’embarrassment’.  He is grateful to the PCs for helping her recover but is concerned.  Doji Shini had been negotiating a deal with the governor of Nikesake, Shiba Ekken, to allow some Crane samurai to accompany a group of Asako Loremasters to the Second City.  The Crane have been slow to get a foothold in the colonies and are becoming anxious that this lack is impacting on their political influence in the Empire.  Shini is concerned that his daughter’s recent behaviour may have led to Shiba Ekken having a worse opinion of the potential Crane delegation, plus a scroll he’d asked his daughter to give the governor has gone missing from her quarters in the Blue Tiled Room.  Doji Shini asks the player characters to both help his daughter recover her honour and to find the missing scroll.

Session 2 began with the players at Asahina’s Grace, and they were joined by the nephew of Doji Shini, Doji Niro, cousin to Doji Akiro.  The Samurai returned to the Blue Tiled room and began their investigations.  At the agreement of the Crane, they searched Akiro’s room and confirmed that the scroll had indeed gone missing.  Doji Akiro had returned to her senses yet was unaware as to how the scroll could have been lost.  Communing with the kami, the Shugenja determined that a Samurai only bearing one sword had entered the room.  Temur was able to track some sandled footsteps arcing away from the compound. Shiba Ujime spoke to the heimin who’d been serving the students food, whilst Moto Mongke Temur, suspicious of the belligerent Lion, Akodo Toki, found him exercising and practising his swordsmanship.  Temur engaged in some sparring with him and together they discussed the purity of battle and gained mutual respect for one another.  The day progressed and the students ate together in the common room.  Sakomoto and Niro returned to speak to Doji Akiro to find that she was absent from her room, outside the window they saw further tracks, this time accompanied by smaller footsteps of a woman.  Meanwhile, one of the servants passed a note to Shiba Ujime, ostensibly written by one of the heimin, Saya, asking the shugenja to meet her outside the compound.  As the evening drew on, Endo, Ujime and Temur left to meet the heimin.  As they approached the meeting place, they detected the smell of decay and the shugenja spotted that the individuals they were to meet wore white porcelain masks, the mark of kansen-controlled zombies….  The shugenja leapt to the attack, calling on the cleansing power of the fire kami to aid them – Ujime lashing at the zombie with a whip of flame, Endo with a katana of fire and bolts of jade.  Temur, meanwhile, entered the fray, his scimitar slicing down the undead.  As the zombies attacked, Niro and Sakamoto found that the tracks looped back towards the Blue Tiled Room and the accommodation of Asako Oda, one of the students and who they’d noticed to be wearing some kind of make up in the rain the prior night.    They peered through the window, seeing to their horror Doji Akiro standing passively as Asako Oda held a blade to her porcelain throat, a patch of swirling, coalescing darkness in the corner of the room.  The brave bushi launched themselves through the window, but not fast enough to surprise Oda who slit Akiro’s throat, dropping her body to floor, blood spilling. The darkness formed into an oni, the killing maw, Kamu no Oni, his appearance instilling fear into Niro.  Unfazed, Sakamoto draws his katana and attacks Oda, killing him with one blow.  The Oni attacks, grabbing Sakamoto and lifting him above his gaping maw.  As Niro tried to save Shiba Sakamoto, drawing on the virtue of Yu to overcome his fear and slash at the demon, Ujime, Endo and Temur, hearing the shouts, found their friends.  Ujime, calling on the water kami, staunched Akiro’s bleeding, knitting her cut throat together.  Temur and Endo attacked the Oni who was biting at Sakamoto, the samurai’s life force draining away.  Temur’s blade hacked into the oni, as Endo called on the earth kami to send jade strikes into the creature of Jigoku.  Ultimately, Sakamoto banished the oni himself, thrusting his katana into the throat of the creature….



[Speaking to the kami] Legend of the Five Rings Campaign: A Clash of Ideologies [1/2]

Ran the second session of my Legend of the Five Rings campaign about 10 days ago and hope to do the third session in a couple of weeks.  Since I got back into gaming 7 years ago, Legend of the Five Rings and Shadowrun are the RPGs that I most get often asked to run and which it is never difficult to recruit players for.

As a GM, L5R 4th edition is about the right level of crunch for me – not too free form, but not so many rules that my brain gets frazzled. What is the major draw though is the rich setting and, as I think about it, the constraints that brings.  All players are Samurai and hence (largely) bound by the tenets of Bushido, their place in the Celestial Order, and their duty to Family, Clan, and Empire.  No murdering hobos here although there are rules to play Monks, Ronin, and non-humans if desired.  Despite these constraints, the setting allows for some diverse games – intricate court politics with Crane and Scorpion Clans, piracy and smuggling with the Mantis, or manning the Wall and defending the Empire against the Shadowlands with the Crab.

For this game, I wanted to play in the default historical setting for the 4th edition, namely the reign of Iweko I and utilize the excellent Second City Campaign box set.  However, having two new players to the game, with two veterans, I thought the first several sessions should be based within the Empire, prior to moving to the Colonies, to allow some acculturation.  As the title of the campaign suggests, I wanted to bring out the tensions in Rokugani society, particularly with the founding of the Second City and the Spider being recognised as a Great Clan. Themes around Bushido vs Shurido, the Empress challenging the Celestial Order with the expansion of the territories, and the interaction between Rokugani and gaijin.  I also hoped to bring in some of the Spirit Realms (detailed more fully in Secrets of the Empire), and the ways the Asako teachings of the Path of Man could stray into heretical territory.

We discussed character generation as we finished off our other games of Numenera and Yggdrasill and gave the players the following brief:

The year is 1197, the Destroyer War ended a generation ago yet the Empire is still rebuilding.  Iweko I sits on the Emerald Throne, Fu Leng is dead, and Daigotsu has ascended to become a Dark Fortune and master of Jigoku.  The Spider are a Great Clan, and those with Taint have been sent to explore the decimated Ivory Kingdom under the watchful eye of the Dragon, whilst the Mantis and the Unicorn control the sea and land routes to the Second City.

The adventure starts in Nikesake, a Phoenix town at the southern extremity of their lands.  Nikesake is the site of the major established embassy of the Crane and is the first city of the Phoenix the rest of Rokugan come into contact on the way north.  As well as the influence of the Crane, the city is known for its fashion, and the intellectual and philosophical pursuits of its inhabitants.

The Samurai start at the Blue Tiled Room, Nikesake’s school of philosophy.

Possible concepts for PC’s:

Any Crane or Phoenix Samurai can be found in Nikesake

A scholar, philosopher or mystic eager to learn from the Masters of the Blue Tiled Room

A scout, explorer or diplomat wishing to learn about Gaijin thought and languages.

A disgraced Samurai re-acquainting themselves with the tenets of Bushido

My two veteran players had clear ideas – a Phoenix Shugenja and a Unicorn Bushi.  My new players joined in the discussion of the setting.  One thought of a Yojimbo to mind the the Shugenja, and the other thought of a Dragon humbled in the Destroyer War returning to service after a period of meditation and self-imposed exile.  Starting in the Blue Tiled Room was linked to the idea of allowing discussion, in-game, of the setting and teaching the new players a little more of Rokugan.

The PCs are:

Shiba Ujime (an Isawa school Shugenja with an affinity in fire magic, married unhappily into the Shiba family, and with an unusual respect for heimin), Shiba Sakamoto (a Shiba school Bushi, afflicted by religious doubts but with an obsession with duelling and the study of the sword), Moto Mongke Temur (a Moto school Bushi, uncouth even by Unicorn standards, clad in leather and fur, driven only by the pursuit of battle, women, and food, yet an excellent scout, animal handler and with rare knowledge of Gaijin languages), and Tamori Endo (a Tamori Shugenja with an affinity for Earth magic, religious and meditative seeking humility and peace with himself after arrogant errors made in the Destroyer War as a young man, he would wish to remain close to nature living simply in the forest but his Clan have called on him).  For our second session we were joined by another player who ran Doji Niro (a Daidoji school Bushi with a penchant for less honourable ways of achieving his Clan’s goals, and skilled in the way of the Court).


Technique Cards


In my second post, I’ll summarise where we are up to and where the third session will begin from.