We have been playing Winter’s Blossom, a mini-campaign of what we offhandedly refer to as Samurai World. As you can guess, Samurai World is an Apocalypse World hack of the amazing Legend of the Five Rings setting. It’s made by Brennan Taylor for his own home group. I’m not sure if he thought anyone else would ever play it!
Jan and me have been playing in Rokugan for over five years now with Game Daimyo Kris who knows the setting very intimately. We have been wanting to follow in his footsteps, but tackling the entire L5R system and setting seemed very challenging. Samurai World allowed us to combine a setting we love with a method of play that we love exactly as much, and feel very comfortable with. So thanks, Brennan! Much love to you! <3
What’s awesome about Samurai World?
Powerful rules-light moves
I really like how the characteristics of the clans and stations of Rokugan have been put into Apocalypse World moves. It works especially well for the soft skills of courtiers, that we’ve been winging and playing rules-less for so long. It’s really nice to have some bite to them.
See, for instance, my main Doji move. The Doji family is known for skilled diplomacy and tying people to them by means of the perfect gift.
Doji Courtier Rank 1: The perfect gift. You always know what gift will be most appropriate, roll+elegant. On a 10+, give a gift worth up to 2-wealth. On a 7-9, give a gift worth up to 1-wealth. If the recipient is an NPC and accepts the gift, they owe you 1-favor. You do not need to spend any of your session wealth to give these gifts.
Anyone who’s played Apocalypse World will be unfazed but this is a new change for Rokugan, and I quite like it. I means you can get to the drama very quickly.
The other wonderful addition to the game is the mechanizing of Tragic Love. Every PC has someone they love, and that love will never have a happy ending. It will be your brother’s wife, your servant, your sworn enemy. Your duty and your love will always be at odds.
When confronted with your love, you make a love roll and have a chance of disgracing yourself and losing control. Samurai losing control = good times!
We had a lot of fun with the Love rolls. They brought a ton of drama and human interaction to the game and make for the most beautiful, most painful scenes.
We played a five-session campaign of Samurai World, taking place a in Winter Court.
Our cast of characters:
- Akodo Daisuke, Akodo bad boy. Gruff warrior who has been fighting the Crane for longer than he can remember. Smitten with his servant, Kita Kachiko.
- Doji Inoue, court darling, played by yours truly. Inoue is a classic Doji beauty who has her ambitious mind set on a fairytale wedding between her and the Akodo heir to seal the peace between the two clans (and net her a lot of glory as well). Tragically, she has fallen badly for Akodo Daisuke, the Akodo heir’s younger, brasher brother.
- Mori Arisa, talented duelist, played by Andrea. Arisa is from a vassal family to the Doji. A vassal family that seems to be involved in the death of Akyama Shiori’s mother somehow (probably through her super-creepy dad!). Her true love is Doji Kyoshi, who is married to her closest childhood friend (and Inoue’s brother).
- Akiyama Shiori and Oshiro Shoya, sisters. Their father was murdered, and though they suspect the Arisa family they were never able to prove it in court. Shiori has become friends with Arisa anyway, but Shoya relentlessly sticks to her suspicions.
Playing Doji Inoue
I would never dare to play a beautiful, ambitious, manipulative courtier in our home game with all of our expert players. I’m much more comfortable with underdog fuck up’s. It was really fun! I blinked my eyes cutely all the time, talked in a girly voice, and waved my fan around no matter how much Rich would complain about the effect it had on the recording quality of our video ;)
I had a fun time getting in everyone’s business, doing favors, being manipulative and trying to come out on top everywhere. I enlisted Akodo Daisuke’s help into getting a meeting with his eldest brother – pushing down my true feelings for him. He was so rude and brash and totally dreamy! She was a creature of ambition, though, and bit down on those feelings until she drew blood.
The plans were working quite well until my my perfect gift (dowry) to the Akodo heir was stolen by my childhood friend Shosuro Yumi. The Scorpion were trying to put a stop to the impending Crane-Lion peace. She appealed to their friendship and their childhood dreams. It worked, but it got Yumi to commit seppuku in addition to giving back the helmet. Woah.
In the last session, when it was clear my true love, Akodo Daisuke, would never love me and I lost my cool, disgraced myself and we lost some allies due to my lack of diplomacy. But in the end, after the Oni were defeated and the smoke cleared, there was a hell of a wedding party and if you squint real well, my new husband, the Akodo heir, looks just like Akodo Daisuke…
Watch the game!
I’m just finishing up a kick-ass Urban Shadows mini-campaign (one more session to go!). Urban Shadows is still in beta and our advanced playing efforts have made us part of the play test team. The play test form asked me if I have tips for Urban Shadows MC’s. I think I do! They mostly come down to: embrace the chaos, and have a great time! But I can go into a little more detail below.
We really hit our stride in our second game of Urban Shadows! We pushed the story hard, resulting in some intense scenes. You can see the session here:
- Rain the Oracle discovers her faithful cat is actually a changeling pookah! She lets him stay (and eat all the bacon).
- The immortal Jorgmongand leaves his friends in the lurch to chase the origins of his own immortality, discovers his complex history with Auberon the fae, and discovers he can only die at the hands of “A true friend”.
- Valerie the Spectre has a flashback of her death and confronts her friend Bertrand who admits he did shoot her husband, but “It is all Jormongand’s fault”
- Dakota the Wolf rescues a ‘stupid fucking wizard’ from the Demon Hound and turns him into her minion.
- Angelica the Hunter confronted the red Hound of Destiny, died and was resurrected to kill the beast – it was only the help of her friends that kept her from becoming fully corrupted and turning into the prophesied “Conqueror”. She is now five corruption marks away from the precipice.
Slight deviation as written
We played the game as is, except I replaced the starting moves (where you assign factions to each other) with love letters. Love letters seemed like a good way to:
I ran Urban Shadows (still in playtest) for our wonderful Intercontinental group, the first session in a short mini-campaign. We’re all still getting our bearings, but this session was already a lot of fun. Running it feels like wrestling with a multi-tentacled chaos beast. The sprawling cityscape stories from this hack push me out of my comfort zone – I like my stories small and tight. But I can’t deny that this is the first AW hack where the world feels alive and the possibilities endless. This looks like long-term campaign gold to me. Anyway, I’ll try to formulate some proper thoughts at the end of the mini-campaign. Here’s our first session!
Oh my god, you guys, this is like Amanda Palmer marrying Neil Gaiman all over again – or any other experience where two of the people you like get together and start having sweet, sweet hook-ups. And not caring at all how you might feel about it.
Brennen Taylor is working on an Apocalypse World hack for Legend of the Five Rings, and it looks very smooth already. It’s a bit more extensive than most hacks, but hey, there’s a lot world, system and lore to pour into it.
The love mechanic especially seems very cool. Every character has a someone they love the most and a reason why they can’t be together. This makes for great drama, and brings a lot of sizzle to one-off’s. I’m excited about the prospect of one day being able to run short 3-5 session campaigns of L5R that kick major dramatic ass.
We started up our LR5 campaign again where we left off: about to travel into the Burning Sands. We met up with the O-A-SIS people who travel around in caravans. A lot of culture shocks for our samurai: people eating meat, practising magic seemingly without help from the kami, and a far stricter gender divide than Rokugan’s more egalitarian-but-that-glass-ceiling-does-have-a-fancy-glimmer-doesn’t-it society! It’s fun to finally do some exploration sessions, our second L5R campaign has been all about going up against (or following) the culture we now know very well, so it’s fun to clash that culture up with different ones now. Player Characters
Toshiaki A Kitsune trained Shugenja, with a short attention span.
Asako Ren A Kaiu trained Engineer. Protective and cautious but sometimes hotheaded. (my character)
Kuyaku Sotaro A Hiruma trained Scout. Brash, boastful and rough around the edges.
Yoritomo Taeko A Moshi trained Shugenja. Pretty and bubbly and boastful with a love for fireworks.
Akodo Katsuko A Mirumoto trained Duelist. A gorgeous perfectionist, with a big mouth.
After a long way of hauling rocks, Sotaro and Katsuko are in dire need of salves for the lashings they’ve received for refusing to cooperate. Ren, Taeko and Toshiaki (now dressed only in loincloth – it’s hot here!) made some contacts while working on the site and present the group with a busy agenda for the evening. They attend a burial ceremony in the Valley of the Dead. The funeral rite is called The 19 appellations of Apnu, the judge of the dead (= Emma-O), and there are two different priests doing the calling. One is an acolyte of Sechem, silence. The other of Ma’at, Truth. They try to talk to the acolyte of silence, but he can’t speak, and they aren’t allowed very deeply into the Temple of Silence. At the Temple of Truth, the acolyte gives them a hard time. They are to let go of all lies before entering the temple and the acolyte seems to know when they are lying. They confess looking for The Book of the Dead, and eventually the acolyte in his turn confesses it was stolen 400 years ago, the same night the high priests of silence, truth and judgement were killed. Four people in kimono were in the city at that time. They meet up with Moshen. He and his people, the Hebron, have their own little district. Moshen explains that before they were the Hebron they lived in the far west, as farmers and nomads. On The Day of the Great Judgement, the earth turned to desert. Then a leader came from the east, and took them to the promised land. His name was Hebron (Shinsei!) and he lead them to Sempet. He gave them their laws (don’t kill, etc.). He would carry a staff but the original ornaments were lost to time. Otomo Yama and Hamaed (who both found a way to evade death and make themselves immortal) came from the far west, where the Khasim live now. Life here isn’t all that great, though. The Hebron are second rate citizens and aren’t free to go. Moshen has his own plan to get out of there. He is allied with ‘The old man in the desert’. He also speaks Rokugani and his followers are called Hameshin, night ravens. When the Pharaoh dies and the city will erupt in chaos, they will leave. They meet one of the Night Ravens in the town. He is an Asujit type of desert person, but speaks Rokugani as well. His name is Yoshua. He is willing to take them to the Old men in the desert, but warns them there is no going back from there. The group has a few more leads to follow before they can leave, but also can’t wait around for months while they wait for the ailing Pharaoh to die. Yoshua subtly lets it be known their time table is flexible, the can decide when the moment they are waiting for will take place. Toshiaki is very unhappy with talking to or making deals with an assassin and a hefty discussion breaks out. Sotaro and Katsuko feel they have disgraced themselves for long enough, and scoff at the group for considering staying captives even longer. Have they forgotten about the great Toku’s last words, to not forget who they are? Taeko and Ren state their mission is more important than personal honor, there are things still left to do here. Toshiaki agrees, though he would like to keep their personal honor assassin-free. Harsh words are said, and everyone goes to bed angry.
Our Gates of Anubis game has been very enjoyable the past few sessions. It’s classical roleplay based on Kult and Cthulhu in a very narrative form. All of that is guesswork on my part, because finding out what system we’re using and how it works is very much part of the game.
Last session was all about our ward, who is fated to become the Antichrist. In the future we witnessed, he did this by unleashing WWIII as President Coens of the USA. So we made sure his birth certificate lists him as Belgian citizen – problem solved!
Except now he’s going to college, studying physics and specialising in Cold Fusion. He turns out to be so smart, he’s basically invention Cold Fusion on his own. It sounds like a very safe and benevolent technology, but his lab is being funded by evil demons (I bet his new physics GF’s is an evil demon too!).
This led to a lot of funny and confrontational situations. We were very much thrown into the role of overbearing parents that are desperately trying to steer their son into the direction we want him to go. (“Physics? Why can’t you study something nice, like painting!”). Our ward (Tim) was equal parts indulgent, emberassed and frustrated with our behavior. I thought it was a sweet session about parenthood, impressive from a GM with no kids.
We just got started on our Ravnica campaign, set in the Magic The Gathering world of the same name where ten guilds of magic users strive and scheme for dominance. Safety and harmony are more or less guaranteed by the magical Guild Pact – which has just been broken!
We made characters by doing the What Guild Are You? quiz on the Wizards website. We have a Raknos burlesque dancer, an Izzit goblin engineer, and a Selesnyan scholary type (me!).
It’s pretty neat. The setting is so detailed and rich.. It’s a perfect setting to stage a campaign in. It’s grimdark, but cartoony, there’s colorful guilds to be a part of and differentiate your character with, there’s an overarching storyline and there’s plenty of weirdness to explore.
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.
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.