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….

[SPEAKING TO THE KAMI] ICONS The Assembled Edition – Character Creation



As a young roleplayer in the 80’s, super hero RPGs featured heavily in my gaming.  The main games back then were the wonderful Golden Heroes and TSR’s Marvel Superhero Roleplaying Game (‘FASERIP’). Since I returned to the hobby 7 or so years ago, I haven’t managed to get a supers game going for an extended period but have enjoyed adventures/sessions of Capes, Marvel Heroic, and Mutants and Masterminds.  Also, I bought and read BASH! Ultimate Edition and ICONS, but sadly have’t had a chance to play either.  However, I was delighted to hear of ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying The Assembled Edition forthcoming release, particularly when I read how Steve Kenson had updated it and what is different in the new edition

Hence, once the PDF was out on Drivethru I picked it up and have been reading it as, if I were to run supers it would be ICONS or BASH I’d turn to I think and certainly is a fun system my son would enjoy.

One of the distinctive features of ICONS is that the preferred mode of character creation is through rolling 2d6 on a series of random tables, with some element of choice along the way.  So let’s give it a whirl.

Phase 1 Origins.  This first table tells you how your hero gained their powers, and include things like ‘trained’ ‘transformed’ or ‘unearthly’. I rolled an 8 so my hero’s origin is ‘gimmick’ – all his powers come from devices, and I get a +2 on one mental ability.  Pretty happy with that – thinking of an Iron Man power suit hero.

Phase 2 Abilities – I now make 6 rolls on the ‘level determination’ table and this gives me:

Prowess 5 Good

Coordination 5 Good

Strength 7 Incredible

Intellect 6 Great

Awareness 4 Fair

Willpower 5 Good

A nice feature is the adjective that goes along with the level, reminiscent of the ranks in FASERIP.  ICONS allows you to swap one ability score with another, and I have the +2 to a mental ability due to the gifted origin, but I’ll hold off doing these until I find out my powers and have a clearer idea of my hero.  The ability rolls were pretty good – 6 is the upper limit for humans so we can see that he is a pretty superior individual, with strength in the superhuman range, presumably due to some device such as cybernetic limbs or a power suit.

Phase 3 Powers.  First step is to roll for the number of powers, again with 2d6.  I rolled a 9 which gives me 4 powers. Each of these can be used for a power or to unlock an ‘extra’ for a power (here is one step where you have some choice if you roll a power with extras – for example, if have element control can take flight, or aura).  I roll for the 4 powers and get mental, movement, alteration, and sensory.  Rolling on each of the subtables and for level I get:

Mind Control 6

Flight 5

Transformation (human) 5

Danger Sense 2

Initially, I’m a little disappointed at not getting a Defensive Power and building my powers around a set of armour.  But, as I think about Transformation, the supervillain Mystique comes to mind and the powers click together.  Someone who could impersonate others would be a great infiltrator as a covert operative, and this coupled with Mind Control and Danger Sense means he is less likely to be surprised if caught out and can control any who discover him.  Given that all his powers have to be in devices, I’m thinking of some kind of advanced fibre that can mirror exactly the appearance of another,with some slight changes in size,  and in addition grant the wearer enhanced strength (his 7 strength is at superhuman level and counts as a power) and the ability to fly into potential areas to infiltrate.  Sounds like the kind of high-tech gear that secret services may have developed for counter-terrorism.  For Danger Sense and Mental Control, I’m envisaging a cybernetic implant that allows him to be aware of events around him at unconsciously fast speeds, and also allow him to read and modify EEG and fMRI signals, and hence control people’s minds.  We could say that he has two devices – the infiltrator suit and the neuromodulator chip, the former has the powers Transformation, Flight, and his Strength and the latter Danger Sense and Mind Control.

Phase 4 Specialities.  These are, in essence, broad skill groups such as Science, Performance, Military.  At the basic level, having the speciality grants a +1, and can be bought multiple times, granting expert and master levels (+2 and +3 respectively).  Here we have some choice.  Given the powers and the conception of the hero, I’m drawn away from a Tony Stark and investing in Science and Technology and am now thinking more ex-secret service.  I roll an 8 and get 3 specialities – for my ex-agent, I’m thinking Stealth, Martial Arts and Prestidigitation (as includes lock-picking).

I think also I’m clear about his abilities now and he doesn’t need to be a super brain.  Hence, I’ll add my +2 to Awareness and swap Intellect and Prowess. Thus,

Prowess 6 Great

Coordination 5 Good

Strength 7 Incredible

Intellect 5 Great

Awareness 6 Great

Willpower 5 Good

Phase 5 Description.  Richard Denver was a CIA Agent who specialised in infiltrating, in deep cover, Terrorist Groups across the world.  He was chosen to test out the Doppleganger program – an advanced infiltration suit, and cyber implant allowing the wearer to not only fly into enemy territory but to transform themselves into anyone they met.  The suit also enhanced the wearer’s strength and the implant allowed Richard to detect threat and control people’s emotions and actions. Whilst on the trial mission, Richard’s infiltrated a group in the middle east but whilst there, found that the CIA had itself been infiltrated by some sinister force (in Marvel, this could be SHIELD and Hydra!) and was trying to take over the democracy of the US.  Richard returned to the US, and managed to destroy the files detailing the Doppleganger program and, leaving the service, took the last suit to fight for justice.  The suit is a high tech mirrored fibre, that completely encases Richard, covering his head in a mask only he can see through.  When he wishes, the suit can take on the appearance of another to the finest detail, manipulating his body, and expanding if required, to match changes in weight and height.

Phase 6 Qualities.  These are rather like Fate’s Aspects and can be used to gain advantages or to cause trouble for the hero. Like Fate, there is no list to choose from but one needs to come up with brief snappy narrative sentences.  Given the background, I’ll go for ‘Ex-CIA Agent’, ‘Trust No One’, and ‘Brings Conspiracies Into The Light’.

Determination Level – these are points that can be used to trigger qualities, remove negative qualities, to make a determined effort, and to use a stunt with a power.  Determination is 6 – number of powers.  For my hero, he has 5 powers – 4 Powers and his Super Strength.  Hence, Determination Level of 1 and will start with 1 DP.

Stamina is Strength + Willpower, so here 12.

And that’s it.  We have a new hero – Doppleganger.  An infiltrator with strength and flight, who can pack a punch in combat.  The character creation is quick and the random element allows a concept to appear as the rolls are made, and hopefully a coherent idea emerges.  The book is great fun to read and very well written. Looking forward to trying it out further.

Has been a great week or so for RPG releases – D&D and 13 True Ways, as well as me having picked up Star Wars Age of Rebellion in addition to ICONS.  Next post, will be some thoughts on the L5R supplement, Sword and Fan.

[Speaking to the kami] Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition Basic Rules – Let’s make a character



Like many others, I was excited when 5pm GMT came as thought Wizards of the Coast may be opening up the office and was eagerly awaiting the free download of the the D&D basic rules. I didn’t have to wait long.  Mike Mearls’ heart strings were being tugged by pictures of moping pets on Twitter and shortly before 6pm I’d got the PDF on my laptop.  The Starter Set is also out and should be with shops who are linked to the Wizard’s Play Network, with UK’s Leisure Games getting some copies tomorrow (Friday 4th July).  However, the Starter Set doesn’t contain character generation rules and hence, the rules we have for that will be in the Basic Rules until the Player’s Handbook is out in a couple of months.

So, I thought I’d try these rules out.  I have a slight penchant for Tiefling Sorcerers, and have played one in 13th Age, Pathfinder, and D&D 4E.  Given that that build isn’t in the rules as yet, I’ll aim for something as close as I can – a Human Wizard, from the Dragonlance setting. Step 1 Race:  The ethnicities given are those from the Forgotten Realms, but given that my PC is going to be based on the red-robed Wizard, Raistlin, of Krynn I’ll ignore those.  Human traits include +1 to all abilities, I get common language plus one other, a free choice of alignment, base walking speed is 30′.  I’ll choose an age of 22 and a height of 5’10”.  Step 2 Class: Hit points 1d6/level, at level 1 6 + Con modifier.  He is not proficient in any armour, or tools but can use as weapons daggers, slings, darts, light crossbows, quaterstaffs.  From my class equipment list I’ll choose a quarterstaff, an arcane focus, a scholar’s pack and a spellbook.  Saving throws are intelligence and wisdom and I can choose two skills.  I’ll go for Arcana and History.  He has a Proficiency Bonus of +2, Class features of spellcasting and arcane recovery, and knows 3 cantrips and can learn 2 level 1 spells, and has 6 in the spellbook.

Next up is abilities.  I’ll choose the array suggested: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8.  Keeping Raistlin in mind, I’ll allocate the 8 to Str and the 10 to Con, to reflect his poor physique and infirmity,  the 15 goes to Int.  He can be terse and grumpy so 12 to Cha.  Too high a wisdom may be a block to the reckless pursuit of arcane power so I’ll put the 13 in Wis, and that leaves the 14 for Dex.  With the +1 for abilities he gets as a Human we have:

Str 9 -1 Con 11 0 Dex 15 +2 Int 16 +3 Wis 14 +2 Cha 13 +1

Step 4 Describe your character: Raistlin is an ambitious young wizard, determined to find greater power.  He can be contemptuous of others and taciturn, with loyalty only for his brother.  He is thin, leans heavily on his staff and is wracked by coughing fits on occasion.  Alignment is tricky for Raistlin – I’m going to go for Chaotic Neutral. Given his adventures in Krynn, his second language will be Draconic.    Personality: the rules suggest to look at the highest and lowest abilities.  So, for Intelligence I’ll go for ‘obsessed with magical study’, and for Strength I’ll have ‘leans on others for support’.  The Sage background looks appropriate and looking at the list of Ideals and Raistlin’s alignment, I’ll choose ‘Knowledge – the path to power and self improvement is through knowledge’. The Bonds and Flaws suggested don’t quite capture my conception of the red-robed wizard.  For Bond, I’ll pick his brother Caramon.  For Flaw, I’ll adapt one ‘unlocking a mystery is worth suffering for’.  The Sage background grants two further skill proficiencies, but in Arcana and History, which have already been picked from the wizard class.  The rules say I can pick two others instead – looking back at the other choices for Wizards, I’ll take Insight and Investigation.  I gain another two languages and I’ll pick Elvish and Giant.  I gain some more equipment: ink and quill, a letter from a colleague, common clothes and pouch with 10 GP.  Raistlin was a wizard’s apprentice and gains the feature ‘researcher’, allowing him a knowledge of libraries, universities and scholars and where to track down information.

Step 5 is Equipment.  With only 10 GP, Raistlin can’t afford a light crossbow.  He will buy a bedroll, backpack and healers’ kit leaving him with 2 GP left.  Given that he has no armour or shield, AC will be 10 + Dex modifier, so 12.

Step 6: bringing it together.  Raistlin is going to have stay out of melee combat with only 6 HP and no armour.  However, he brings a lot of knowledge to any party, plus his spell casting ability.  He has 3 cantrips so we’ll choose Prestidigitation (recalling the times entertained people with magic tricks), Light and Fire Bolt.  In his Spellbook he has: Sleep, Identify, Detect Magic, Burning Hands, Magic Missile, and Shield.  He has memorised Sleep and Burning Hands.

And that’s it.  Pretty fun attempting to re-create a level 1 Raistlin in the 5th Ed rules set.  Looking forward to more options in the PHB!





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] Review: A First Look at 13 True Ways



I remember the 13th Age kickstarter launching and getting some early details and playtest documents from Pelgrane.  At that time, I didn’t really have a clear idea what to expect and am generally not a fan of traditional fantasy class/level based games.  However, what drew me in were the writers and the more indie elements that were being developed in the game, and also that it was being produced by Pelgrane.  For me, over the last few years, the company has not put a foot wrong and the Gumshoe games, particularly Trail of Cthulhu (and the marvellous adventures released for it) has made it almost a certainty that any new release from them will be on my ‘to buy’ list.  Hence, I pledged for both the core book and the 13 True Ways kickstarters and this morning downloaded the PDF for the latter.

13 True Ways is the fourth release for 13th Age, counting the bestiary and the Free RPG day adventure, and it is superb.  It is a 260 page book with beautiful art. I thank my former self for having the wisdom to back the kickstarter. In my head, I thought of it as a book of new classes for players.  It is that but so much more.  As well as detailing new class options (more later), the book covers the setting in greater depth with some key locations being detailed- Axis, Horizon, Drakkenhall, Court of Stars and Santa Cora.  There is a really interesting chapter by Robin Laws on how to use Devils in your 13th Age campaign, with each account of their role in the setting being linked to one of the Icons.  A really fun chapter (‘Gamemasters’ Grimoire’) has all sorts of handy ideas to spark an adventure or to be utilised for a session – taverns, artefacts,magic items, flying realms, dungeons, monastic tournaments, and NPCs created by some of the backers.  There is a whole chapter on monsters with a particular emphasis on devils, dragons, and elementals.

As with the Core book, the new classes seem to effortlessly capture what features are required to make a character that  really feels like the class – the Necromancer has to waste away (a positive constitution modifier impairs your spell attacks) and can commune with the spirits of the dead (death priest) or enjoy a cackling soliloquy (with the hope of recharging a daily spell). The Monk can fuel their attacks with Ki, and their martial arts are group into forms with opening, flow and finishing attacks.   The authors acknowledge the breadth of representation of Druids in games and convey that too: the Druid can be an elemental spellcaster, a fearsome melee combatant,  a healer, a controller of the landscape and terrain, or one who controls beasts or themselves shifts into beast shape to scout or fight.  You can build the Druid that fits your conception of the class.  I tend to like spellcasters so haven’t read too much on the Commander as yet –  the Occultist (only one of these is in existence!) who can bend, warp and truly perceive reality together with the Chaos Mage are also great fun.  The latter has a mechanic for random spell casting (with spells divided as attack, defence or icon) and then the player choose to use an at-will/battle or daily spell.  Talents bring in extra random effects and when critted the Chaos Mage gets to roll on High Wierdness table with all sorts of cool effects!  The book also covers Summoning (a feature for both the Necromancer and the Druid) as well as containing rules for multi-classing.

All in all, I am very impressed with 13 True Ways and hugely looking forward to getting my hands on the hard copy.  I think I may have to supplement my Tiefling Sorcerer in the 13th Age Organised Play with a Chaos Mage, Monk or Druid.  If the 13th Age core book hasn’t (as yet) convinced you, then I’m sure 13 True Ways will – 13th Age generally, and this supplement particularly, make a superb job of making class/level based fantasy RPGing feel fresh, original and exciting yet with some familiar elements.  For players who’ve already lost their hearts to 13th Age, this release will just make the passion burn brighter.  Highly recommended.


[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.

UK Games Expo 2014

Taken me rather longer than intended to post a few comments relating to my experiences of UK Games Expo – hectic couple of weeks at work, a nasty cold (perhaps picked up from the Con), and some gaming nights. So, this was my third UK Games Expo and my first at the new venue, having missed last year.  Also, this was the first year I got organised enough to take the Friday off work and book a room to stay over.  Plus, serendipitously, packed the game books for the games I was booked into – which proved to be a stroke of luck as it turned out.

Bag of Holding

Bag of Holding

I’d pre-booked into several RPG sessions and had managed to arrange it such that got to game with some friends I’d met via Twitter and the UK DnD Tweetups – hence, got to play The One Ring with @symatt and @craigpbrown, Star Wars Age of Rebellion with @pedr @jimbohawkins and @Evoroth, Shadows of Esteren with @tamsynx and @craigprbrown (an excellent dark adventure run by Gary Loveridge). Also had a superb game of 13th Age run by Steve Pettifer.  All the RPG’s I played in were great, but must admit that by Friday evening, after 12 hours of gaming, I was flagging a bit, but was ready for more on the Saturday! One of the things I may do next year is spread out the games a little more and ensure I had more time to wander the trade halls and attend some of the seminars.

13th Age

13th Age

Did get to play some excellent games of ‘two rooms and a boom’, with a massive group of players on the Saturday. One disappointment was that despite having booked onto Matt Dawkins’, the Gentleman Gamer’s, Numenera session, I’d not ultimately secured a place – I’d booked within a few mins of registration opening but there seems to have been a glitch such that some of the first bookings were lost on the system.

After I got over my English reserve, I thought that given I was carrying around a bag full of heavy RPG books, I could be cheeky and get some of them signed. This proved to be an excellent decision as not only did I get some signatures, but more importantly got to chat to gaming luminaries Sarah Newton, Monte Cook, Shanna Germain, and Nel from Shadows of Esteren, all of whom were marvellous and lovely.


Shadows of Esteren: Universe – with extra art!




My brief trip to the trade hall did allow me to do a bit of shopping, picking up two ‘All Rolled Up’ s, as well as a new book for Hellfrost and Sarah Newton’s Monsters and Magic, and a couple of Marvel Boosters, as well as some gifts for my children.

ARU and L5R dice!

ARU and L5R dice!

Marvel ARU and boosters

Marvel ARU and boosters

IMG_4313 Thinking back, I should have been more prepared for the queues for food and drinks at the venue and would have brought more provisions myself – as it was, I survived on a packed lunch, a binge-out thanks to the helpful people at Domino’s and their 50% off voucher, and the breakfast as part of the room stay.  Although, when I got to the front of the queue for breakfast at the hotel, most of the hot food had gone.

I’d certainly recommend the UK Games Expo to anyone interested in any table top gaming – whether it is RPGs, board or card games, or miniature skirmish or war games.  The organisers do an excellent job of putting on UK’s foremost gaming convention, a convention that every year expands beyond their expectations. I certainly hope to be there next year – this time with with lots of food in the car boot! An additional bonus from the con is having met and gamed with people I’d only knew on line previously and that the gaming spirit has continued and brought some of us together into a roll20 game of 13th Age online.