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Our group is not the typical Rokugan band of adventurers but a little more unconventional. They went to the Tonbo school that boasts teachers and students from all clans to promote good relationships throughout the empire and fight vendetta’s (like the one that almost wiped out the Tonbo clan). Here they found something fairly rare in Rokugan: real friends! When they are amongst themselves, the rules of Rokugan society are lot less strictly enforced. Of course, they still need to deal with the outside world in all the proper ways or face the consequences.

PC’s

Kuyako Taeko, F – A Mantis-trained fire shugenja and a stunning beauty, loves fireworks – played by Maevre
Kuyako Sotaro, M – A Hiruma-trained scout who enjoys the brash Crab lifestyle – played by Conlaen
Kakita Toshiaki, M – A Kitsune-trained Earth Shugenja, rather short attention span – played by Richard
Kitsuki Ren, F – A Kaiu-trained engineer, cautious to the point of paranoia – played by me!
Tonbo Katsuko, F – A very promising mirumoto-trained duelist and a stunning beauty, very outspoken – played by Pluizebol
Koto Toku, M – The GM-PC, a small, shy Monkey-clan bushi with a pretty good memory

Previously: The group are on the Mantis isles, working to find out who killed the Yorimoto Daimyo before a successor (and potentially his murderer) is chosen. There they find that Yorimoto actually has an heir, a daughter conceived before his marriage. Her existence is hidden from the world but guarded by the Hogosha vassal family. They are to find her and take her to the central island where the captain’s moot will take place and decide on a successor. They hope to persuade famous duelist Yoritomo Sen to their cause.

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In town they are passed by numerous groups of storm riders patrolling the street or searching houses. They arrive at Osano-Wo’s temple and say a prayer there. Shortly after, a patrol puts them against the wall and requests to show their papers. The patrol guards asks where they are going. They say they want to visit Yoritomo Sen’s dojo on top of the mountain to become his students. The patrol rips up their travelling papers and writes out new ones, for the city only! Yoritomo Sen is known as a dissenter and no one is to visit him. They see small lights on top of the mountain – perhaps he is under house arrest?

Katsuko will have to wait even longer to find herself a sensei to prepare her for the Emerald Championship, and it’s been a long wait already!

Getting out of town

The guards leave – all except the last one who takes off his kabuto. It’s their old jock classmate Yoritomo Tenai! He’s grown into a man of not many words, but he explains that general Naizen (right) is coming down hard on any voter who will not support him in the upcoming Captains’ moot. He advises the group to keep their heads down and stay in the city. The group nods, but will do no such thing.

Since we played our school years, we know have the pleasure of seeing our old school mates again now and then. Must be great for a GM to have a stack of NPC’s he can introduce at any moment that our group will (almost always) be friendly to.

They go back to the boat where Toshiaki ‘corrects’ the travelling papers to allow them to travel around the entire island while the more sensitive Rokugani pretend not notice. Ever looking ahead, Ren wants to bring their captain up to speed now so they won’t have a problem when they present him with Yoritomo Amaro’s true heir later.

They explain to Captain Junta that they are not really tourists (this doesn’t surprise him). He’s definitely on board with rescuing the heir. Mantis are betting men and your new ruler owing you a favor – that’s a nice bet!

He rolls out a map and explains the surroundings. There’s a path along the beach and one along the mountains that meet up in the end in a path that leads up to the top of the cliffs. They agree they are too visible for patrol ships from the beach, so they will take the mountain path.

Ren devises plan to sneak out of the city involving saké (which means Sotaro is all for it). That same night they head to a saké bar at the very edge of town. Their exotic group garners a lot of attention, but after a few drinks the bar returns to normal.

They planned to simply sneak out the main street, but now they notice that people tend to visit the back room in pairs. They usually come back but not always – there must be a back alley there! Excited to take advantage of this opportunity, Koto and Taeko are the first couple to sneak out.

Yes, our characters feel so far from home they don’t care much about preserving their reputation. Besides, they’ve agreed a while ago that what happens on the Mantis Isles, stays on the Mantis isles.

Behind the door they find an inner courtyard filled with shaded alcoves where muffled smooching and moaning sounds drift through the air. They hide in an alcove. Koto not so subtly lets Taeko know he’s willing to be more convincing, but Taeko won’t have it. After a while they move out of the alcoves towards the alleyway. It neatly deposits them outside of town. Yay!

Katsuko and Satoro go on next, and simply walk straight through the alleyway to join the others. After a bit of drinking and dicing, Ren and Toshiaki also head in, and hide in one of the alcoves. Toshiaki, always up for a bit of acting, delivers such a performance that after his big finish a Mantis drunk is ready to take his place in the alcove. He makes a grab for Ren but years of smithing have left her well equipped to deal with drunks. She forcibly sets him down in the alcove leaving him whimpering. Then they too join the others outside of the city.

Our GM, catering to the girl’s demand for ‘moar hot springs episodes!’

To the rescue

They are right in front of the forking path and take the upward route. They walk all night until they hear sound from behind them. They hide on the side of the path and see a 40 man regiment march past. They follow them for the rest of the day. The next day they run into a palisade on the road with six mantis guards in it. Do they save time by attacking the guards or do they save lives and go around? In the end, they end up encircling the guards.

They arrive at the point where the beach and mountain path meet. They can see lights below and above them of what looks to be army camps. What looked like a waymarker turns out to be a bunch of yari with Hogosha men, women and children heads spiked on. It’s likely the Hogosha villages have been emptied – they can only hope the villagers have fled to Yoritomo Sen’s dojo. They furtively catch a bit of sleep before continuing on. They arrive at Hogosha mura, it’s filled with Kitao’s elite guards and a familiar masked figure in red and black.

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More strategy. The occupied Hogosha mura blocks the single path to Yoritomo Sen’s dojo – how will they get up there? Taeko and Koto prepare a distraction on one side of the mountain so they can sneak past or take out the guard group on the other side of the mountain while they try to climb up the mountainside and eventually end back up on the path.

A lot of strategy/tactics in this session! Something I wasn’t a big fan of in the last campaign, but this time I’m playing a character with some battle strategy, so it’s far more interesting and I suck less at it! I guess the thing I still don’t like about it is that it’s a puzzle that, after it’s solved or unsolved, doesn’t have any bearing to the story anymore. But on the other hand, it does deepen the story if you don’t have to fast forward through all the fighty bits

The plan works well, the guards are suitably distracted. Unfortunately, so is fire loving Taeko who is missing her queue to sneak past the guards! Ren drags her along but together they are not as stealthy as they should have been. The closest guard turns around to face them – it’s their old classmate Yoritomo Tenai! He turns around quickly pretending not to have seen them and joins his fellow guard mates.

Maevre didn’t fail a roll or anything, she just thought it was a fun chance to play out a weakness. That’s what I like about our group! Mostly we’re not afraid to throw away some strategic advantage in order to play our characters (who aren’t really picture perfect action hero’s).

This buys them a little time to scale the mountain side. Toshiaki and Taeko take off while Ren lags behind. She feels someone grab her foot and struggles to keep her grip until the assailant is pulled away. A small skirmish erupts on the ground but they keep climbing.

Toshiaki and Taeko arrive on the path and are assailed by arrows from both sides. Katsuko pushes people upward while she takes the defensive position – the path is so thin it can only accommodate one person. Sotaro runs towards the dojo yelling ‘don’t shoot, don’t shoot!’.

Ren, Toshiaki and Katsuko pass the no go line, where the storm rider’s fallen companions could no longer be retrieved due to the volley of arrows from above. The fallen here are mostly dead storm riders but also an unfortunate who has taken arrows to both knees (take that Skyrim). As Katsuko gets increasingly desperate, Toshiaki insists on bandaging him while Ren offers to take him downward a bit more so he can be retrieved by his companions. But judging from the heads on pikes they can not rely on the enemy to be honorable, so they travel up the path.

Toshiaki and Ren have been the compassion/respect tag team for a while now, but it’s likely Toshiaki’s principled stance on killing might conflict with Ren’s practical side eventually

Here, Hogoshi Komori awaits them. He asks what they are doing here. Katsuko insists she is Yoritomo Sen’s student, but the rest explain/imply they have come to rescue Yoritomo’s heir. Yoritomo Sen comes out and scolds Katsuko for pretending to be his student when she is not accepted yet. They leave together. Toshiaki and Taeko trek into the mountain to talk ask the Earth Kami for help. Satoro and Ren join the ranks of the ragged camp with only 9 samurai, a lot of pre-gempukku students and some villagers.

Yoritomo Sen demonstrates his lessons to Katsuko by dropping her on the floor over and over again. His dojo is called the 1000-fall dojo and his first lesson is patience. Katsuko was more looking forward to some advanced master classes, but it looks like that’s not going to happen. Still, she seems to be accepted as a student.

Much comic relief, but also likely level ups!

The earth kami is sleeping like all the other kami around here due to the strange void like spell being put on them. They try to explain the situation and as they mention a scorpion from Rokugan manipulating the Mantis he gets a little upset. Everything starts moving as an earthquake wrecks the mountain. Huge clumps of rock let loose and roll down, wreaking havoc on the camps below. Taeko is a bit hurt by the earth’s sudden movement but Toshiaki manages to free her.

The Kami subplot is also something that will get resolved at the captain’s moot in this chapter’s big finale.

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Ren, Satoro and Koto had been talking strategy, but see the earthquake as the great opportunity it is. They get everyone ready for a charge. Ren wants to enlist the pre-gempukku students to boost their numbers. Katsuko takes offense, how can she have compassion with fallen soldiers and not with little children who think they can fight! Ren says it’s about respect for those who are brave enough to fight, whether they are enemy soldiers or pre-gempukku students. Katsuko remembers how gung-ho she was before her gempukku and seems to have a change of heart in the meantime. Their argument is interrupted by Yoritomo Sen who enlists the older pre-gempukku students while the younger ones are protected by the samurai.

Yay, my favorite kind of moral conflict: short! 

Katsuko takes the front position down the path, flanked by archers. When they get down into the village, a large part of the storm riders are gone but the elite guards are still there. The ragtag group needs to charge with all their men and pre-gempukku students to send them running.

After that, there’s some indecision. The young Yorimoto heir Kumiko wants to go through the town hoping at least part of the storm riders will flock to her banner. Others want to go to the beach and get a message with their location to captain Junta. The Yoritomo heir breaks the tie by trusting her banner to Satoro and marching up to the mountain path. They follow until they see a small point on the water – It’s Junta’s ship! Taeko lights her last stick of fireworks to attract him.

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A dramatic getaway 

Hogasha Komori, Yoritomo Sen and Yoritomo Kumiko get on board with the rest of the group. The other dissenters trek into the jungle to get the storm guards off their trail. As they sail into more stormy waters, Toshiaki tries to play the part of Storm caller while others strap themselves into a bit of ship and pray. Komori, Sen, Kumiko and Junta take cover in the captain’s hut.

It seems to be working until their beneficial influence falls away and the storm gets worse and worse. The winds get harder until in one fell swoop the entire captain’s hut is ripped off of the boat. The steering wheel is also gone and the ship has become unmaneuverable. It crashes onto the island and everyone blacks out.

They wake up on the front part of the ship with only the members of the group, their dog and only one of their cats.

Dramatic! We wonder what that sets us up for!

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