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ericvulgaris

Actual Play Report: Ronins Path #1

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TLDR: We enjoyed our time with the system. With five PCs, we didn't get far into the game, but we felt empowered and enjoyed when it came time to roll. (Yay ludonarrative resonance!)

Background
A little bit about ourselves before I write up so you know our backgrounds as players. Our group consists of new faces to the L5R brand and fans since 3e. We were all male, lived in the US and Europe, and some of us are no strangers to RPGs but some have read more games than they've played. At least half the group, GM included, like narrative games such as Firebrands, Blades in the Dark, Fiasco, or crunchier games like Burning Wheel RPG.  We played for 5 total hours (including chargen) via Roll20 with our GM providing the macro/custom tables for our dice rolls.


Character Creation

The 20 questions approach was fun! Many of us had an idea in mind for our PCs, but didn't write it down until we were together. Following the suggestions of the game our party of five turned out to be: 

  • Asahina Yuki - our Crane diplomat who hurt himself in a fight early on in his life, leaving him with a bad back. He had a pony.. that's about all I remember.
  • Doji Yoshiki - our Crane bushi who defies their standards-- meek, quiet and afraid to duel.
  • Hida Daisuke - our Hida gentle giant with a tatsubo. (played by me!)
  • Isawa Mamoru - our Phoenix shugenja. Curious and weird.
  • Shiba Kaoru - a true believer Phoenix bushi. Always looking to talk down folks from a fight after losing an eye in a fight as a young sprout.

~60 minutes (Including the 24XP bonus at the start of the game).

We begun in the investigation part of the Inn. Our Shugenja sensed something was off here and their instincts were confirmed when told about the blood magician.  I forget the TN but it was a Success and double opportunity gained-- both spent on a supernatural smoke coming from the second story inn. Our diplomat looks for hidden things inside the room, as Crane diplomats love to do, and find the box under the bed coaxing the air kami to help. (Side note:  Isawa realized at this point that his Sanctification should be improved via school upgrade it isn't spelled out anywhere in the book what that is.)

Hida finally gets inside and proceeds to look around the place looking for the signs of the struggle. I reenact the death blows of the fallen Hida, gesturing the cuts and blood spills and cursing at the nasty and gruesome fate of my comrade. I alluded to that scene in season 1 of The Wire where Bunk and McNulty are putting the pieces together at the slain woman's apartment saying only the same curse word. Hida takes solace in that he died with some dignity and swears to reclaim his ashes for return. Our Shiba talks to witnesses-- a Mirumoto Chiaki who politely informs him that there was a lot of drinking and laughter but by the time she arrived on the scene, sword in hand, everyone has fled.

The Hida gets the ashes before meeting up with everyone else. We found what we could and should track down this ronin south. 

(180 minutes)

We tracked the Ronin down to Kyuuden Moshibaru. By the time we spoke to the Hida in charge of the watchtower, we already knew about the goblin winter and our Ronin has been accepted into the ranks of the Crab. The Hida in charge here demands a duel to first strike for the ronin-now-crab to defend their honor. Our Shiba, against their own values, volunteers to step forward and challenge the Ronin. The crime of assisting a blood magician has fired up his soul and wants to take charge.  They convinced the Crane bushi that this was his duel!

We cut to the top of the wall for the duel. Our ronin-turned-crab gets a hit on our Shiba and our Shiba lashes out! cursing the ronin in a very-unbecoming way. (Outbreak during a duel triggers a finishing blow!) His opponent seizes the opportunity, flying into a rage themself! (Their attack also triggering a finishing blow!) who our Shiba capitalizes on, blinding the ronin.

(60 minutes)

We ended the session after the duel.

Closing thoughts/opinions/editorializing

  • The base roll/keep dice resolution system is WAY more fun and engaging to use in game than it is to read. We'd determine intent first (something our burning wheel brains kind of already do) and describe what success would look like. After we roll the GM told us what things looked like and then we would flourish on top of that with our opportunities. 
    • For example my Hida recovered stress after imitating the attack in the Inn, relieved our Hida was honorable to the end.
    • We felt confused when to trigger advantages/disadvantages. 
      • We felt burdening the GM with knowing our 20 traits to invoke feels odd.
      • We felt unsure of the frequency they should come up (this ties into the ease it felt to recover strife)
  • Five players are WAY too many. We just never felt crunched on strife. It was so easy to recover scene-to-scene.
  • We felt confused how to best approach ninjo/giri in the playtest session. We felt unsure how to engage these character beliefs in play. We felt writing them before hearing the playtest's premise left us confused and frustrated a little bit. 
  • We didn't really engage in void points. I guess we saw them as a scarce resource and saved them. We were cautious in them. Perhaps this tied into our unease with anxieties and disadvantages in scenes. We did not see the anxiety-> void point economy in play or a reason to engage with it for the most part although I'd like to make a better effort at it next game.
  • The duel was confusing to us. It was a first conflict and we struggled and felt frustrated reading what to do by skipping around the conflict parts of the book. We're better at it now, but we all agree that a flowchart or something for a conflict is in order. Our next duel would take half as long right now.
    • We agree that blind bidding strife to go first felt VERY resonant for dueling.
    • We loved the outburst triggering final blows. One again- we felt empowered and that the mechanics were emboldening the fiction: "yeah emotions are high in the duel! yeah!"
    • Our first duel encountered the odd Final Blow triggering a Final Blow stack-resolution thing. Is this frequent?
    • Final blow math was also confusing the first go around. we stumbled through it, but got it working.
    • It didn't appear obvious to us at the start why you'd do anything but attack in a duel.
  • We all cant stop thinking about playing this again.


 

Edited by ericvulgaris

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On ‎10‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 5:13 PM, ericvulgaris said:

We all cant stop thinking about playing this again.

That would be a very good result, regardless of anything else!

I've been surprised how often people have been prepared to consider the disadvantages which are normally meant as 'you receive this from a serious critical' rather than the more 'normal' ones; clearly people like the idea of the blind/crippled -but-still-awesome samurai (which I agree with! Not blaming the Zatoichi series here in any way :ph34r:)

Thanks for the note on the 24XP - we've not done that with our players! I hope they're not going to get too badly killed up as a result.....

....If the starter adventure recommends 24XP, should that not be part of character creation?

On ‎10‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 5:13 PM, ericvulgaris said:

The duel was confusing to us. It was a first conflict and we struggled and felt frustrated reading what to do by skipping around the conflict parts of the book. We're better at it now, but we all agree that a flowchart or something for a conflict is in order. Our next duel would take half as long right now.

  • We agree that blind bidding strife to go first felt VERY resonant for dueling.
  • We loved the outburst triggering final blows. One again- we felt empowered and that the mechanics were emboldening the fiction: "yeah emotions are high in the duel! yeah!"
  • Our first duel encountered the odd Final Blow triggering a Final Blow stack-resolution thing. Is this frequent?
  • Final blow math was also confusing the first go around. we stumbled through it, but got it working.
  • It didn't appear obvious to us at the start why you'd do anything but attack in a duel.

 

  • A flowchart would help in a lot of conflict scenes, I think. The final version will have inserted artwork (inevitably) but extra visual aids would be good too.
  • The blind bidding is a very characterful idea. Plus, it helps balance off different characters - a high Earth character has a high composure (meaning they can afford to bid more strife, and are probably in earth stance where opportunity can burn off strife) whilst a high Air character has a high focus....meaning their starting intitiative is higher and they don't need the initiative boost from a staredown to go first anyway.
  • I also love the outburst/finishing blow thing. It's very samurai film - it needn't be a 'spontaneous Tourette's' outburst so much as 'the tension got to you and you attacked, opening your guard', or even 'a bead of sweat runs down your face, catches the corner of your eye and your sword wobbles the tiniest amount.....'
  • Finishing blow interrupting finishing blow - I don't know that it's common, but it's certainly easy enough to do.
  • How so? You get an attack, which can be strike, iaiajutsu, heartpiercing strike or any other technique you like. In addition to its normal effect, if you hit you get a double-deadliness severity critical. If that's a katana held double-handed, the deadliness is 7, so the severity is 14 plus bonus successes (which is very much 'bugger, where is my head' territory, regardless of your fitness skill)
  • Because it's a lot easier to make yourself almost unassailable. A decent Air character in air stance can easily make any attack TN+3 to hit him - meaning an attack would need 5 successes to hit (unlikely even for a ring 3 character) and hand you strife in lumps by guessing what stance you're going to take. Fire will be lower defensive TN bonuses but will hand over strife even faster (if you roll an opportunity and guess what your opponent will do, you can lob 5 strife at them per round!). With most people's composure in the half-a-dozen-to-a-dozen range, even doing this once or twice could give you an instakill finishing blow that will do more real damage than two or three chops with a sword.

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