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    Salinas, California, United States

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  1. SESSION TWO THE ROAD TO THE YASUKI MANOR All is quiet along the forest road, the trees along either side stand straight and tall- ice forming alongside the western sides of several tall trunks, the cypress plumage still lush and green- yet with a slightly grayish pallor that you’re not used to. The mist continues to flow through, around, and glides over the path- moving like an extremely lazy river of steam. Hida Yamao is vigilant, casting his thoughts to the manor walls ahead. His eyes searching for an ambush that never comes. In a few short hours you approach the manor, and maybe more than a little too quiet. The hackles rise on the back of your neck and a single arrow is fired from the walled gate that stands shut before you. The arrow drops before the feet of the drummers, the lead of whom staggers back in a fright and he drops his instruments. “I am Yasuki Tobei, advisor to his Lordship Yasuki Noboru who oversees these lands. To what do we owe such a visit to so well armed a retinue?” It is again Yamao who steps forward, speaking plainly, “We are here on Emerald Magistrates business!” It is an uncomfortable pause when there is a curt nod of ascent from the Yasuki commander. The gate opens shortly after introductions, enough time for the Lord to have been informed. None of the guards lower their weapons. Those atop the wall are still armed with bows, those in the courtyard still stand with Naginata in their hands. Many bear scars and terrible wounds. Many seem too wounded to have continued such duty reliably. Limbs have been replaced with crude devices, hooks, and the like. Kitsuki-sama allows herself to be shown to her quarters, leaving orders with Daidoji Kenshin that he and the others explore the garrison and collect information After a brief respite to organize, Hida Yamao tasked each of the others with deeds appropriate to their skills. Daidoji Kenshin approached the dojo, watching the bush train for a moment before bowing in respect, removing his sandals, and asking permission to enter. Once inside, the instructor exchanged brief pleasantries before learning that the young duelist was admiring how the men were training with their “off-hand”- a skill the Crane had long ago learned to his benefit. He offered a lesson of his own, instructing others in the use of ones’ “off-hand” – the result was relief, hope, and a concerted effort among the young trainees to focus further. As a result, Kenshin also discovered the purpose for this training hall- for the manor- a sort of place that one could go to recover and perhaps receive further training. Togashi Ryuuka spoke with the servants and picked up some gossip regarding the Manor’s Lord. Yasuke Nobaru was often “engaged” with his new bride- much like he had often been engaged in the town proper with a sake hostess. Rumors persisted that he was a drunken letch, rumors quickly picked up upon by the Togashi monk in her casual and direct way of speaking. But she also learned that the true purpose of the Manor- was truly led by the efforts of the Kaiu iron smith. The smell of ozone and burning coals fillrf the air as loud banging can be heard. A group of four ashigaru are tending one station, two dropping hammers as another turns an iron bar over the stoked heat of the furnace. The last of the four men kneels low to stoke that heat- watching over the men is a frail Samurai, his brows furrowed in thought as he watches the men work. He turns at your arrival and he makes a rather awkward turn, lurching toward you with a strange gait- sweat and effort evident in his features. “I am Kaiu Samizhi- this is my forge. How can I help you?” He proceeded to reveal his life’s work- strange devices, almost like miniature siege weapons designed for single person use- chairs, hooked appendages, and other false limbs- he wanted to give wounded Crab a sense of purpose and duty. Yogo Michimoro pursued his lead from earlier, attempting to speak with the expecting recipient of an illegal opium shipment. But the Crab was missing as of a few weeks ago, one of two men to return from a recent battle along with their commander. He is believed to be hiding in a local “Sake House” with one of the hostess’ there. Throughout all of this, it was Ikoma Harukaze that admired the parapet walls and explored the tower overlooking the hills and Shinomen forest some distance away. - Below her, the rolling hill blends into the lush foliage of the Shinomen Forest that stretches to the west and northward. A swirling mist, a thick fog, blankets just beneath the tips of the tall trees within the mysterious domain. It stretches on like this for some distance before the top of a tower rises above, a lone signal light allowing it to be seen from this distance. Ascending the tower’s steps, she found a man leaning back against a strange contraption- steel, with various gears and leather straps looped with strange intricate patterns- it takes her a moment before she realized that these are actually his legs and they kept him standing at his station. He turned “Hai, Yoriki-sama. It is a pleasure to see you on the road and in taking such an interest with our humble manor.” Though the man’s legs are gone, his motions are precise- with a flick of his wrist, the seat grinds beneath him as a belt is released, allowing him to sit and bow his head before you- the closest a man of his condition can come to bowing. Harukaze is moved by the bravery and skill of the archer; Hiruma Dozan- she heard his story, she listened and learned that this entire experiment had been the brainchild of Hida Kisada’s younger son. A way to keep Crab on the wall, to fulfill their duty, to keep fighting against the horrible taint to the south beyond. The young Courtier was overwhelmed with her emotion, but the archer was suddenly distracted by something in the distance while the woman took a moment to collect herself. DINNER IS SERVED Lord Yasuki Noboru is already seated as the retinue arrives for dinner, his head bowed as he shakily lifts a saucer to his lips for another drink- and from the smell it has not been his first of the evening. Beside him sits a woman, her upper face obscured behind a veil reminiscent of the Scorpion masks seen so often in court. Her painted lips smile brightly, and she is ready to pour another saucer for her Lord Husband. Yasuki Tobei stands at the ready, fully armored with a Naginata cradled in the crook of his right hand. “My Lord Yasuki Noboru of the Crab Clan, keeper of the Shinomen’s Tail Manor and protector of it’s borders- his Lady, Yasuki Inara, until recently of the Scorpion Clan. We bid welcome to servants of the Emerald Magistrates office, led by Magistrate Kitsuki Reiko of the Dragon Clan and her esteemed Yoriki.” At this, the young Lord turns his bleary gaze upward to regard each of you in turn. He frowns after a moment. “What do you want?” He manages to slur out. It is, surprisingly, Hida Yamao who notes that the Crab Lord’s recent bride held a deep Hida accent that she was trying, poorly, to hide. But it is the Dragon Monk whose frank interest in the former Soshi’s lack of interest in the well being of her missing Otomo cousin. The woman is questioned by the Togashi, further pressed when Kitsuke-sama expressed an interest in the questions being asked. Ultimately, the new bride was “rescued” from further questions when her husband drunkenly stood… Yasuki Noboru lowers a fifth saucer of sake, his fingers trembling and he clears his throat- “Kitsuki-san. Yoriki-san. Have you heard about my Uncle’s exploits on the great Kaiu Wall? Just south of us- two weeks journey by foot, half that by the great Utaku steeds; it’s awe inspiring. A great wall that stands- as though sprung from the ground itself, cold gray and black stonework where jade still catches the sun on the rare day. It stretches upward- the figures like crawling ants near its very top, but walkways and passages are set at regular intervals. The towers themselves slipping above the clouds, where Hida are known to wear armor that has been bleached by the sun itself. And the only thing more impressive than that very image- than the image of the wall itself… is what lies beyond that wall. “I, myself, have only heard stories. “A twisted, blackened, corruption scorched earth riddled with walking corpses- staggering demonic hordes, goblins driven mad with hunger, and the Oni themselves. Some twisted mockeries with features that are only vaguely reminiscent of something almost human. Gaping maws, tentacled abominations, and all those hungry hungry eyes. It is the duty of a proper Crab to perform his duty on that wall. (With this he took a hard swallow of his sake.) “My Uncle, Tokei, stood his duty and then some. He was elevated high along the wall- not near the top, mind you, but high enough. Six stories from the bottom. But that’s where they struck- flying in on bat-like wings, their fangs dripping wit venom. Who knows what they call themselves- but my Uncle and his brethren fought hard and sounded the alarm? How many died before aid came? Twenty? More? Anyway- aid came and my uncles leg and back were shredded, one hand still ringing the warning gong and he other still swinging his tetsubo. Like a proper Crab.” He lifts a toast to his Uncle. He was quickly joined by the Togashi, begrudgingly by the Ikoma, and then a slight urging from Kitsuki-sama encouraged the others to join. Yamao asked to excuse himself- he asked that Tokei show him to the facilities and the garrison commander obliged. The two engaged in a heated discussion, Yamao decrying the Lord’s manners as an embarrassment to the Crab and discovering that the young Lord served in his position due to a promise that the Commander had made his dying brother. When questioned about what took place in the tower a few weeks prior, Tokei feigned a moment of ignorance and then dismissed the matter as a mere “encounter with bandits.” The party returned to their quarters and plans were made to pursue the investigation by visiting the watchtower seen deeper within the Shinomen forest.
  2. I don't see the point in promoting so much lack of interactivity among cards. Gain stats, lower stats, remove people, move people- all of that I get during the conflicts. But so much cancellation, pre-conflict denial, and just so many ways in which decks are currently playing where the idea is to pilot a deck that just shuts down options for your opponent seems the exact opposite of the game that I heard being advertised. It's like playing chess and crazy-gluing your opponents pieces to the board... and pretending your still playing. You're not. It's just nonsense.
  3. So many great cards in the game, but every deck is running every cancel effect available to their clan and beyond- I haven't played against a single online player who hasn't run censure. It would be really interesting to see how the environment would actually work if every covert and cancel card were just removed from the game and players had to actually out-think and out-maneuver eachother rather than just robo-playing the same three or four decks ad infinitum.
  4. Meh, been playing for the past two-three months and I have to say- Whenever the "Covert" cards come up, I feel like the design team might as well have said "Okay, this trait means that unless you plan specifically for the Covert cards to come up and hoard your actions just for those occasions, you are the lucky winner of n evening where you get to sit down and watch your opponent play solitaire. You are no longer welcome to act, move, or play cards whatsoever- which is the only possible reason we created this stupid trait that has no drawbacks. Pride? Well, if you lose you're dishonored. All of the others come with a cost, of course... but "Covert"? No, we get to use that every single conflict and there is absolutely NO cost to us at all!" Admittedly, it would have been long to put on a card- but at least it would have been more entertaining to read for the amount of time your opponent will take in playing solitaire against a deck you no longer have to be present to defend. In fact, you were specifically told to stay home, don't bother coming, it's just not worth the trouble. Who cares that you wanted to have fun in the game... the point now is to shut down your opponent so they can't ever do anything and that will determine the fate of an empire. Not who CAN act, but how often you can stop someone from acting.
  5. I was nearly at 7 until people dropped... and now I'm at my goal of 5. I like a wildcard to break up ties when it comes to decisions. 😃
  6. SESSION 0 - A brief Prequel to Chapter One- The players took on the Game of 20 Questions and we are left with the following general information: The Samurai serve at the request of the Emerald Magistrates office, beneath the command of Kitsuki Rieko. She is a magistrate in charge of checking papers along several way stations along the southern roads near the Spine of the World mountains. The Yoriki are as such- Daidoji Kenshin- A Crane duelist tasked with the execution of final justice to those deserving of such a fate. Togashi Ryuuka- A Dragon Monk of the Togashi Order, whose purpose is to maintain various shrines and places of worship as per her training. Yogo Michimoro- A Scorpion Shugenja tasked with the protection of and servicing the various shrines and places of worship as per his training. Ikoma Harukaze- An Ikoma courtier tasked with maintaining the records and documentation for those traveling through the Spine of the World mountains on behalf of the Emerald Magistrates office.(edited) Hida Yamao- A Crab Bushi tasked with the enforcement and capture of those who may wish to violate Imperial Law. As our adventure begins; you have all been invited to Winter within the manor of your superior, Kitsuki Rieko. Perhaps you've met one another in passing, perhaps you have friendships you wish to develop, or however met you. If you wish to be strangers, that is just as well - The Spine of the World Mountains are a large and expansive area direction rising through the center of Rokugan. There is one thing to note: Your duty has NOT been a reward for showing promise, for standing out, nor are you in any way to consider yourselves the shining beacons of glory that your families may have at one time hoped for. It is, for all intents and purposes, a rather "dead end" job with few opportunities for advancement and your middle-aged Lady seems to enjoy a quiet life where she is not likely to stand out. Perhaps this frustrates you to some degree, or perhaps this is just what you've always secretly wanted.... things, however, are about to change.
  7. EPISODE ONE: An Uncomfortable Flirtation A heavy mist floats across the snow swept borders of the Shinomen forest a few miles west of the Imperial roads upon which your entourage travels. The regular beat of drum and the click of a clave echoes the loudest through the fields along either side of the road. One can imagine them flush with harvest in warmer climes- but now, they simply hold little more than ice, snow, and the churned mud beneath the entourages feet. This was not a journey you expected to be making- not in the beginning of what was expected to be a chill winter. Kitsuki Reiko is accompanied by her Yoriki to investigate the disappearance of an Otomo Courier who was last reported seen just outside of the fiefdom of a minor Yasuki Vassal Lord. Along the way it was discovered some other merchants had gone missing, including a recent shipment of recreational opium that had been expected in the domain of Lord Yasuki Noboru. Along the road, the players were able to make some new acquaintances- Hida Yamao spoke with an older merchant at the Tea Shop, where he learned that the most recent string of disappearances have been plaguing the area for the past two weeks- shortly after the reported disappearance of the Otomo courier. Togashi Ryuuka spoke with the monks of the temple, verifying that the courier had arrived and set off on her journey and that increased offerings to various fortunes and kami have been left in hopes of others finding safer passage. Ikoma Harukaze also verified the same information, as well as learning the rumor that Yasuki Noboru received his appointment as Lord due to the actions of a relative. Yogo Michimoro took advantage of the situation and got to know a “less than reputable” dealer in “Rare and exclusive spices” in the Empire. He was able to discern that a shipment of recreational opium had not arrived at it’s intended destination. Daidoji Kenshin’s eye for the superb brought his attention to a small offering left before the Fortune of Jurojin- a tightly wrapped prayer, exquisitely written on a small ribbon of paper- hopes for a good marriage, anxieties of what the future may hold, and the name Soshi Inara. A roadside encounter with desperate peasants allowed the wisdom of Shinsei to bring a halt to the violence as Togashi Ryuuka attempted to reason with the bandits. Ikoma Harukaze was also allowed to demonstrate the Generosity of a Samurai, sending the once violent thieves off with more money than any had seen in their lives. Though Imperial Justice could have been warranted, the Magistrate remained silent and signaled for the retinue to move on- though an encounter with a mysterious woman was also noted. Arriving in the village proper, the Samurai once again sough the hospitality of a local Shrine. Tended by monks who carried obvious wounds, the Shrine was in the care of an Isawa named Mimi. Her obvious disdain toward the Crab and the monks left in her charge inspired the Ikoma’s performance of a haunting melody that brought fury and shame to flush the cheeks of the Shugenja. With only the feint gleam of approval from Kitsuki Reiko, the Ikoma bowed to her appreciative audience and enjoyed her meal as the Shugenja made her excuses. Taking advantage of the woman’s absence, Yogo Michimuro was able to discover the use of Opium and questioned the Shugenja regarding the activities of the village. It was discovered that the Courier had, in fact, arrived in the village. That pressure from the Manor had been placed to encourage people to deny their arrival- The Scorpion the extricated himself from the uncomfortable advances of the desperate Shugenja and relayed this information to his companions before everyone took a rest for the evening. THIS ENDS EPISODE ONE
  8. So... is there any particular reason the design team keeps banning cards, or just plain rendering cards completely useless for the Phoenix clan? I bought into this game three weeks ago with two core sets, the Phoenix Pack, and about four other expansions... and the one consistent is that all of the halfway decent to good Phoenix cards have errata listed from their printing, are "restricted" cards, or are just plain and flat out banned? Is there a specific reason to discourage people from playing this clan? I'd like to know before I invest any more time and money into the hobby than I already have.
  9. Is there an on-line resource to locate stores? I now there are several in California, but it's a HUGE state and narrowing down closer stores within my area is a bit of a struggle. Any advice?
  10. Yes, I'm in the United States... California.
  11. Tadaka... The Hero of the Empire. He knows the price that must be paid.
  12. Excellently explained. Thank you very much! 😃 Out of curiosity, any idea where i can find out what "roles" are specifically named for Organized Play? My son and I are having a blast with this game, but we are thinking of visiting a few tournaments in the coming year or so.
  13. So I'm fairly new to playing this version of the game, and the more I get into it the more questions that I have. I realize that some sets will be cycled out of the existing framework of the game but there also seems to be a "Restricted" list? Looking at the rules for "restricted" cards, a player can choose to play with a single "restricted" card in his deck, can include a number of legal copies of that card, but then that's the only "restricted" card they may play? I'm looking at the list, and there's a stronghold on the list, a couple of characters ,and so on... so my question is, if they can be included in the decks then why "restrict" them in the first place? Also- if I'm looking to buy into the game, but there are some cards that I'm not allowed to use- this seems a bit confusing with an LCG format, as I'm paying for all the cars, not just a few of them.
  14. So there is a Scorpion Clan Coup? I haven't gotten that far in the fictions yet, but I keep reading occasional story beats that put me ahead a little too far... I'm very confused by much of it all. I'm happy Tadaka is still Tadaka, though.
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