L5R - Great Stone Bridge

Session 4
Anyone for a play?

Game Time: 27 Feb 1175 (Afternoon-Evening)
Location: Kosaten Shiro (Daidoji Castle) on the last day(s) of winter court

The party is given additional details on their assignment(s). All (except Utamuro) are given official permits declaring them provisional Crane Magistrates for the lands in and around Shorai no Kiban and ordered to coordinate efforts with the Otomo Sisters and any other Imperial representatives in the region, and address any other concerns.

Miliko mentions that she will be happy to welcome the party at her estate once she returns there. She will be travelling over-land with a baggage train containing her sculpting tools, clothes, etc. Toshiro takes note of her “estate” and commences to schmooze her quite successfully, even managing to compliment her on her clothes (which are well made but hideously matched).

Daishiki mentions that he can provide transport and guidance regarding the bandit attacks near his quarry, but that such transport is limited to slow moving river barges. Some of the attacks near the quarry have been over-land, others have been via boat.

Tanitsu mentions that there is a Mantis Kobune docked here, with its samurai at court. In order to better secure favorable trade relations with the crane and/or by calling them out as failing at their clan’s duty to protect the empire from piracy, the party may be able to secure passage aboard their vessel.

To commemorate the end of the Winter Court, the Daimyo invites the party, as well as the Scorpion and Mantis representatives to witness a play. All with performance abilities are also invited to participate in a sort of talent show before the play. is invited to participate with his puppetry skills. Akiyama is assigned guard duty on the castle walls, while Utamuro is ordered to stand guard near the play, although he’s given a position where he can witness the play. Masaru is not invited, which Byakuya later determines is due to his tenuous position at court. Sakimi claims that she does not need protection when surrounded by so many brave Crane samurai.

During the downtime before the play, two female mantis samurai approach and introduce themselves as Moshi Chiroku, captain of the White Sparrow, and her first mate: Yorimoto Masako, who later reveals herself to be a shugenja. Chiroku is notable for her elaborate and fine dress, which includes pearl beading as well as rare wood and ivory accoutrements, though her appearance is otherwise rather plain. Masako, on the other hand is dressed in simple, if very finely crafted silks, but seems somewhat uncomfortable in courtly dress. Masataro makes a good impression, introducing himself and his brother, and chatting about the quality of their clothes. Utamuro and Toshiro also chime in and introductions are made.

Before the evening festivities start, the party has the opportunity to mill about, and a few things of note happen. Toshiro investigates things which would impress Miliko, Tae, Tanitsu and Chiroku, eventually settling on a rousing epic ballad including manly virtue, battle, dishonor to all clans but Crane and Mantis, and some sailing prowess, which he later performs to great applause. Masataro, sets up his puppetry equipment for his eventual performance, and notes that the professional acting troupe appears very cold towards him, and eventually reveals themselves to not be very skilled at their profession.

The talent show starts with Tae performing on the samisan, then Sakimi tells a stirring story out of legend, followed by Toshiro’s ballad, which is topped off by floating an elaborate origami ship towards Chiroku. Next, Masataro performs a puppet re-telling of the Monkey King story, followed by Chiroku attempting to show off her juggling abilities (which while adequate are not particularly entertaining). As a prelude to the play itself, the talent show ends with Daimyo Tanitsu performing an elegant, but sedate dance routine.

During the play, the crowd watch intently, and at one point Utamuro thinks he is bitten by a horsefly and begins to feel sluggish. A short time later Byakuya is also “bitten” and begins to feel dizzy and sluggish, but he notes no flies in the area. Just as he pulls up his kimono and finds a tiny blowgun dart in his arm, the actors set off a large flash-pot (an acting prop creating a loud, smoky bang) which blinds everyone in the audience other than Byakuya and Utamuro.

At that moment, a series of things happen. The flash pot creates a very loud and blinding explosion, that leaves the audience dazed for a moment (clearly bigger than normally used). As the audience recovers, they note that the stage has caught fire, and some of the stagehands are attempting to put out the fire. Meanwhile, the actors pull hidden weaponry from the set pieces and attack the crowd, while a dark-clothed/masked figure on a nearby rooftop fires poison darts at audience members, and generally creates havoc, though hampered by the spellcasting of Toshiro.

The battle is fierce, with Toshiro being knocked out and severely wounded just after he knocked down the masked assailant with his spells. Byakuya is also wounded, but manages to fend off two assailants while Shoutaro, Masataro and Utamuro dispatch the other three. Despite multiple pleas for them to surrender, all of the actors fight to the death, with the last committing a hurried form of Seppuku rather than being taken alive.

During the battle, Sakimi, Kinrio, Tae and Miliko will seek cover, aided by Daishiki and Tanitsu (partly at Masataro’s insistence). Shosuro Soh also flees, though he trips and delays Kinrio Meanwhile , Chiroku stands guard over Masako, who pulls out a scroll and summons water kami to rain down and put out the fire.

With the assistance of Chiroku, a couple party members attempt to scale the wall and chase after the masked figure, but aren’t able to make the climb until the figure has already leapt off the wall and out of sight. Once atop the keep walls, however, they can see that a portion of the town below appears to be ablaze.

As the rest of the party rush after the rooftop assailant, Yorimoto Masako (the Mantis Shugenja) rushes forward and begins summoning the kami to heal Toshiro. After some moments, Toshiro stirs and is almost back to full strength, though afterwards he walks with a very slight limp, and looks a bit glassy-eyed.

After the fact it is revealed that most of the castle guard, led by Akiyama, was drawn away by a fire in the village. Akiyama noted the fire from his guard post and led a detachment to rouse the populous and save the town. Only a couple small warehouses were burned, though at least one appeared to have housed a half dozen people who are now no more than charred corpses.

Notable Attendees:
Crane
Daidoji Tanitsu – Daimyo
Daidoji Tae – inappropriate wife of Daimyo
Daidoji Kuzan – Daimyo’s Son
Doji Sakimi – courtier
Doji Kinrio – sensei
Hiramichi Miliko – Vapid noble/sculptor
Daidoji Daishiki – Quarry Operator

Scorpion
Shosuro Soh

Mantis
Moshi Chiroku – Captain
Yorimoto Masako – Shugenja

Ronin
Ninja! & actors

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 4 XP
Honor
Toshiro: +1 for putting himself in harms-way to disrupt the masked assailant
Shoutaro & Masataro: +1 for aiding/guarding the daimyo and ensuring his safety
Glory/Infamy
Toshiro & Masataro: +1 for outstanding performances
Utamuro: +1 for splitting an actor in twain
Byakuya: +1 for bravely holding off multiple assailants, and quickly warning the audience of the attack.

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Session 3
A Day At Court

Game Time: 27 Feb 1175
Location: Kosaten Shiro (Daidoji Castle) on the last day(s) of winter court

The party is welcomed to the throne room of Kosaten Shiro, where Daimyo Daidoji Tanitsu sits and hears petitions. He greets everyone, and goes through standard introductions, hearing a short version of the journey to the castle. Doji Sakimi is greeted as a beloved niece, and Doji Kinrio as a friend of old, while Akiyama and Utamuro take their standard places in the room.

Tanitsu is flanked by his wife, Daidoji Tae, a pair of armored retainers and an un-introduced young crane man sitting nearby. Tanitsu is a gruff older man (mid 50s) with a booming voice and a battle-scarred face. As the day proceeds, he reveals himself to have little patience for courtly intrigue. Tae, is a plain woman in her mid 40s who appears to be inappropriately infatuated with the strapping young Utamuro (much to her husband’s chagrin), and appears to act as a sort of court secretary.

It is explained that this being the last official day of winter court, is a day for assorted miscellaneous and peasant petitions, and the party is asked to wait and observe before getting to their detailed instructions.

The first petitioner is introduced as Hirimachi Miliko, a female samurai with well-made, but horrendously mismatched/clashing clothes with clay stains on her sleeves, flyaway hair, and an absent-minded, distractible nature. She, assisted by a plainly dressed samurai, bring forward a gift for the Daimyo, which turns out to be a finely crafted, life-sized terracotta sculpture of Tanitsu. She apologizes for her late arrival, and the lateness of this gift, blaming it on troubles getting the necessary materials. She mentions that the Otomo sisters and their bridge project are monopolizing both the peasant workforce in her region, and quarry supplies. Thankfully Daidoji Daishiki (the plainclothes samurai accompanying her) is the owner/manager of the local Crane quarry.

Next, Daidoji Dashiki remains and briefly offers his concerns that the Otomo sisters have been monopolizing his quarry’s output, and that piracy along the river has also interrupted his trade. His quarry lies across the river to the south, at the base of the mountains (in a region that could be considered contested land by either the Lion or the Scorpion).

The next petitioner is a fairly well dressed peasant representing the ferry operator’s guild in the region. He is clearly out of his depth in court, and makes a number of social blunders, complaining that the Imperial bridge project is going to ruin the ferry operator’s livelihood. Just as Daimyo Tanitsu is about to have his guards either remove or “remove” this uncouth peasant, the party intervenes. They usher him out of the courtroom, potentially saving his life.

The next petitioners are a combined group of poor fishermen from two nearby fishing villages. The first half of the group complains of pirate and “demon” attacks. They seem sincere in their claims that a large winged demon sea creature approached their village, puking out strange man-sized demons, with black skin, that belched fire. These demons burnt down houses and stole food from their stores. Attempting to steer the conversation away from the very uncouth topic of demons, the other group of fishermen mention that both villages have also been plagued by various pirate ships (at least two or three groups) as well as unusually turbulent waters. One group of pirates, which had distinguishing tattoos, seemingly matching those of the bandits that attacked the party a few days earlier. This first pirate group kidnapped some of their children, in addition to stealing from them, and burning buildings. Another pirate group demanded tribute, but didn’t actively harm them, and included a samurai wearing what seemed to be a slashed mantis clan mon. Both groups were from fishing villages along the river to the southeast and southwest respectively.

These discussions of piracy triggered some discussion of Masaru, as Byakuya (primarily) questioned the honor of this ronin, and implied that he might be involved with the bandits who had attacked. Doji Sakimi briefly spoke in his defense, claiming that he helped to save her and offered to serve as her yojimbo. There is some debate as to Masaru’s honor and background before Tanitsu decides to have the ronin brought in. Masaru, clearly still coping with his new life as a ronin, asks for the right to regain his honor by serving Doji Sakimi, and it is decided that the question will be settled by a duel to first blood between Kakita Byakuya (as the representative of the honor of the Kakita dueling school) and Masaru, to prove that he is worthy of the task.

A very impressive duel ensues, which appears as hardly more than a blur to most of the witnesses, but ends with Byakuya nursing a minor wound to his shoulder, and Masaru standing victorious. As the adrenaline fades, Masaru shows that he has clearly expended too much energy, and succumbs to a hacking cough, presumably due to his extended exposure to the wet and cold on previous days.

As the court begins to resume, a side door bursts open and an armored Lion bushi, later revealed to be Matsu Umasu, barges forth, followed by a distraught guard. Umasu immediately and loudly voices his displeasure, complaining that he has been kept waiting, and that the Crane have dishonored him by seeing peasant petitioners before him. He next singles out Akiyama and makes wild claims that he was probably part of Crane-sponsored bandit raids, stealing Lion weapon shipments.

In response to these wild accusations, Shoutaro is asked to represent the clan with his finely crafted Kakita blade in another duel to first blood. Byakuya moderates the duel, and the audience is stunned by a simultaneous kharmic strike, but Shoutaro shifts slightly to the side, and avoids the Lion’s strike. As Shoutaro turns away from his victory, Umasu horrendously breaches the rules of dueling etiquette by striking at Shoutaro’s turned heel. Thankfully, Umasu’s lack of skill and Byakuya’s lightning fast reflexes turned the blade aside, tossing it across the room. Umasu is quickly restrained by Akiyama and Utamuro while Daimyo Tanitsu pronounces Umasu’s dishonor and bans him from Daidoji lands for life. Tanitsu also claims the fallen katana as a sign of Umasu’s tremendous dishonor.

After things quiet down, Tanitsu explains to the party why they were summoned in the first place. Primarily, he wants the party to represent Crane interests in interfacing with the Otomo sisters (Imperial representatives) who are building a bridge across the river to the west. He appears to be disinclined to deal with the politics of this situation. He also mentions that the river piracy is concerning, but that his primary forces are tied up maintaining the border between the Crane and Lion clans. Additionally, Tanitsu does not have access to any fast river ships, as that is more the domain of the Mantis clan. Hiramichi Miliko also mentions absentmindedly that before she travelled to the winter court, a party of Dragon clan members had arrived in her town (where the bridge is being built), which may have odd implications due to the Dragon clan’s secretive nature, and close ties to the new Imperial dynasty. Additionally, she passed a strange, shirtless, tattooed man sitting out in a field on her way to court.

Notable Attendees:
Crane
Daidoji Tanitsu – Daimyo
Daidoji Tae – inappropriate wife of Daimyo
Doji Sakimi – courtier
Doji Kinrio – sensei
Hiramichi Miliko – Vapid noble/sculptor
Daidoji Daishiki – Quarry Operator
Unknown crane – sitting near Tanitsu

Lion
Matsu Umasu (25 M) – youngest son of Matsu Daimyo

Ronin
(Shiba) Masaru

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 4 XP
Honor
Byakuya – 6.8 —> 6.9 for representing the crane clan with honor during his duel, and disarming Matsu Umasu
Toshiro 6.9 —> 7.0 for stepping in to save the rude ferry operator
Shoutaro – 6.7 —> 6.8 for bravely defeating Matsu Umasu

Glory/Infamy
Akiyama – 1.0 —> 1.3
Byakuya – 1.0 —> 1.4
Shoutaro – 1.0 —> 1.3
Masataro – 1.0 —> 1.2
Utamuro – 1.0 —> 1.2
Toshiro – 1.0 —> 1.2

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Session 2
Timely arrival of Soshuo Soh

Game Time: 24 Feb – 27 Feb 1175
Location: The coast along the river road to Kosaten Shiro (a few days journey from the castle) shortly before last day(s) of winter court, after the defeat of the bandit attack on Doji Sakimi’s transport.

As the adrenaline fades from the battle, Doji Sakimi, Shiba Masaru and Kakita Byakuya begin to feel the effects of their exposure to the icy waters of the river, though Masaru and Byakuya brave through the cold. Additionally, it appears that Doji Kinrio appears to have severely sprained his ankle during the battle.

Shortly after the battle concludes, a large, well-appointed barge approaches from the direction of Kosaten Shiro. The barge is owned by Shosuo Soh, an obese, but gregarious Scorpion clan member, who walks with a cane, and wears a full-face steel mask. Soh offers the party transportation back to the castle. He already has a pair of Crane siblings aboard (Masataro and Shoutaro) and welcomes the remainder of the Crane samurai aboard, explaining that he had set out from Kosaten Shiro to assist in the search for the missing party. Masataro and Shoutaro had set out from Mura Sabishi Toshi shortly after Sakimi’s party, but took different paths until they were found by Soh’s barge and also offered transport.

Once aboard, Sakimi and Byakuya quickly retire to separate rooms to change into dry clothes and warm up, while Masaru stoically stands watch outside Sakimi’s room, though he begins to clearly show the effects of the cold and wet. Meanwhile Toshiro takes advantage of Soh’s private study to write a status report letter to his superiors back in Mura Sabishi Toshi, and Soh’s manservant (a well dressed, middle-aged peasant) and a quiet, young scorpion woman (Plain/bland in appearance, wearing a vertical half-face ceramic mask) show the party to a common bunk room and provide a warm meal.

As the barge turns back towards Kosaten Shiro, Byakuya and Utamuro note that the boat appears to be propelled primarily by magic, as its peasant poling crew and lack of sails would not be sufficient to maneuver it so swiftly, especially upstream. The trip is estimated to last slightly over two days, and the group busies themselves warming up, getting to know each other, etc…

When asked about the ship’s captain, Soh admits that he owns the barge and lives there, but mentions that his man Endo is in charge when afloat. For his part, he seems curious what the group is doing travelling so late in the season, and inquires if it has anything to do with the bridge supposedly being built across the river further to the West. He mentions something about the Otomo Sisters being involved, but no one seems to have/reveal much more information than that. Everyone in the party is a bit confused at this concept, as no one has seen a bridge wider than a dozen yards or so, and such a bridge would have to be hundreds of yards wide.

As Toshiro, Utamuro, Akiyama and Byakuya get to know the twins, they note a token of Imperial favor worn by Masataro, who explains how he helped save one of the Empress’ nieces from a terrible faux pas at a party, for which he was rewarded, and for which his brother was granted a Kakita blade (an incredibly finely-crafted katana). Akiyama, meanwhile taught the party the finer points of Fortunes and Winds (a dice/gambling game favored by the Mantis clan). At some point in the voyage Soh seems to cool appreciably towards Akiyama, but continues to host the party all the way to Kosaten Shiro.

During the first night, Byakuya, Masaru and Akiyama all sleep outside. Masaru is clearly attempting to guard Sakimi’s room, but quickly succumbs to his cold/wet fatigue, and there is some doubt whether he will survive the night. Byakuya manages to outlast Masaru, but also feels worse for the wear (though recovering) the next morning. Akiyama, meanwhile uses his camping acumen to bundle up against the cold.

Much to Byakuya’s chagrin, Masaru survives the night, although when he begins his morning ritual of practicing his Iaijutsu draw 100 times Masaru awakens and clearly has great difficulty limbering up for his own exercise routine. Despite this, Masaru makes a point of criticizing Byakuya’s techniques.

After the barge docks near Kosaten Shiro (a moderate sized castle on a hill overlooking the river and the river road) they make their way up an intricate set of switch backs and check points to the castle itself. At the castle walls, Masaru is forbidden entrance, and Soh is escorted to guest quarters, while the rest of the group is escorted directly to the Daimyo’s court room. Along the way, some of the party notice that the elaborate murals of life-sized samurai all along the castles internal hallways are occasionally interspersed with actual guard niches hiding in plain sight.

Notable Attendees:
Crane
Doji Sakimi
Doji Kinrio – Sensei
Shiba Masaru

Scorpion
Shosuo Soh
Endo – Ship’s Master

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 3 XP
Honor
Akiyama – 3.8 —> 3.9 for standing guard at night
Byakuya – 6.7 —> 6.8 for showing restraint in the face of a hated enemy, and standing guard at night
Toshiro 6.8 —> 6.9 for chivalrously offering his spare kimono to those who had swam
Shoutaro – 6.5 —> 6.7 for courteously refusing to allow his Kakita Blade to be handled by a former Phoenix Ronin

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Session 1
The Journey Begins

Game Time: 24 Feb 1175
Location: The coast along the river road to Kosaten Shiro (4 days journey from the castle) two weeks before last day(s) of winter court

Massive rain and sleet storms have plagued the area between the coast and Kosaten Shiro for weeks, making the roads almost completely impassable. Doji Sakimi’s party decided to attempt to go the rest of the way by river instead of road. Unfortunately, as they approached close to Kosaten shiro, a suspicious boat approached them, and the captain steered away from them, fearing the other boat to be pirates (correctly) but unfortunately with the rising waters and bad weather, Sakimi’s boat ran aground.

Meanwhile Akiyama and Utamuro are sent to find Sakimi’s party, and come upon the boat, just as a small party of bandits, armed with knives is emerging from the waters after having swam from their boat. Meanwhile the bandit boat (with a large armored man directing the attack) keeps pace with the river a little ways away, shooting the occasional arrow.

Some bandits begin swimming towards the Crane ship, and Sakimi is thrown into the river by an unfortunately timed wave. Toshiro makes good use of the local kami to disrupt the bandits, and keeps Sakimi from drowning, though his summoned air kami have great difficulty combating the very angry water kami of the river.

Upon noting that the water spirits of the river are very angry, Toshiro communes with them, seeing images of a pillar of earth rising up out of the river and fruits/coins sitting on an altar as the cause of their fury. When asked what could be done to mollify them they show images of the earth crumbling into the water, fruit and coins being tossed into the river and an image of “man” sitting by the river side in meditation.

A mysterious samurai watches from a nearby boulder, and when Sakimi falls into the river, he dives into the water and begins swimming to her aid. As he nears, Byakuya recognizes him as Shiba Masaru, a phoenix duelist with whom he has had previous encounters, and also nobly dives into the water to help Sakimi, though the roiling waters and his insistence on swimming with only the perfect stroke hinder his progress.

On shore, Utamuro and Akiyama fend off a party of bandits enroaching along the beach, and manage to loose a couple arrows into the boat’s leader. Dispatching the assailants on shore reveals them to be poorly equipped peasants, who all curiously bear similar tattoos on their left shoulders, depicting three rocks falling. The tattoos are of higher quality than one would normally expect of poor peasantry.

On seeing the rest of the attack party defeated, the bandit leader directs his boat to flee to the south east, hurling insults over his shoulder as he is forced to take the place of one of his fallen oarsmen.

Back aboard the boat, after Sakimi is safely back aboard, Masaru introduces himself and pledges his service to Sakimi (who seems to know him). Toshiro appears to be in favor of Masaru’s actions while Byakuya notes that he appears to have broken with the Phoenix clan, and strenuously objects to his presence. Sakimi asks for time to consider the matter, but in the meantime asks Masaru to peace-bond his katana, which he does.

As the battle winds down, Akiyama approaches the beached Crane boat, and begins to introduce himself to the aged sensei Kinrio, deftly explaining that they are approximately 6-7 days from Kosaten Shiro by foot (despite estimates that they might make the journey in 4-5 days if lucky). Additionally, Toshiro calls upon the water kami to heal the wounds of one of their severely wounded oarsmen.

Notable Attendees:
Crane
Doji Sakimi
Doji Kinrio – Sensei

Shiba Masaru – Yojimbo

Bandits

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 3 XP
Honor
Akiyama – 3.5 —> 3.8 for facing a numerically superior foe with great resolve
Utamuro – 6.5 —> 6.7 for facing a numerically superior foe with great resolve
Toshiro – 6.5 —> 6.8 for showing kindness to one beneath your station
Byakuya – 6.5 —> 6.7 for showing restraint in the face of a hated enemy, and guiding your clan mate away from impropriety

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