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pointyman2000

Tales of the Swift Sword, a Lion Clan Campaign

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Hi everyone,

I've just gotten started with a single-clan campaign that I've gotten around to calling Tales of the Swift Sword and I've been putting together actual play reports on my blog Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer

It would be awesome if you guys checked them out. Comments and feedback are welcome!

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Prologue: A Gathering of Souls

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It is said that when a story ends, another begins.

Kitsu Tetsumi (Played by @Vyastanya) pondered that thought, even as she led the somber funeral procession to the Akodo Hall of Ancestors. It had been a difficult season for the Lion. Tensions between the Crane had led to skirmishes along the borders, and with a single arrow, the entire destiny of the clan had changed.

She glanced to her side, where Matsu Tsuko, Daimyo of the Matsu family, walked in grim silence. Tsuko wore the traditional all-black mofuku mourning robes, and her hair was done up in a simple fashion. Akodo Arasou may have been the Clan’s Champion, but he was also Tsuko’s betrothed, a fact that Tsuko chose to make eminently clear to the Clan’s newly ascended Champion and older brother to Arasou, Akodo Toturi.

Tetsumi knew Tsuko well. The young Kitsu shugenja had served as a chaplain of the Lion’s Pride for nearly two years now, serving as a medic, cook, spiritual advisor and “little sister.”

On any other day, Tetsumi would have advised against such a course of action. The death of Arasou should have been a moment that brought the Lion together, but instead it felt as if the Clan was hesitating, uncertain of what it should do next. At this point, Tsuko’s silent protest needed saying, as a simple clothing choice voiced out the thoughts of a thousand Matsu.

Tetsumi’s role in the ceremony ended as she handed off Arasou’s remains to Kitsu Toju, the Daimyo of her own family. She’d never met him personally before, but there would be time for such pleasantries later. For now, there was a hero to put to his rest, where the other ancestors of the Lion would greet him.

She stepped aside and allowed herself to look around, to take in the majesty of her surroundings. The Shrine of the First Five was a marvel of Lion culture, dedicated to the first of the Kitsu taken in by Akodo One-Eye and promised his protection. She had always wondered when she would be able to make a pilgrimage to the Castle of the Swift Sword, but never imagined it would be under these circumstances.

The Castle of the Swift Sword was one part temple, and six parts military barracks. Still, as an important trade and military fortress on the northern border of Lion lands, it held more people in it than Tetsumi was ever comfortable with.

Long mistaken to be a fierce monster of battle, her amazonian height and formidable build had often overshadowed Tetsumi’s softer attributes. She opted to avoid the possible sources of even more rumors about her by finding a place to rest among the dining halls.

Perhaps she might find someone there.

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Akodo Tomoko (Played by @Glittersnicket) sat in front of her desk in her quarters in the Dojo of the Swift Sword, reading for what must have been the sixtieth time the letter that brought her here. The contents didn’t change, of course, but she had never stopped reading between the lines.

A favor perhaps, called upon by her father to the Sensei of the Dojo, Akodo Kage. He’s been doing well in the Matsu Berserker school, besting everyone who dared challenge her. The Matsu blade that she carried to battle was no mere prize, it was a medal, a symbol of how the Akodo deserve their place as head of the Clan.

In one fashion, being called here to study with Kage would certainly fast-track her chances at a command position. That was useful, certainly, but her father would expect something in return.

She was not sure how she liked being in a position that she didn’t earn herself, through force of arms or her own genius.

But a general doesn’t blame heaven for the terrain in a battlefield, and neither will she bother with wasting otherwise productive time reading the motives of someone leagues away.

She reached for the blade, and a familiar and unpleasant chill settled on her shoulders. Ah… he was here as well, of course. She’d earned the blade in a contest, and her opponent, Matsu Shichirou, has been a rising star of the Matsu Berserker School. Powerfully built, fierce in battle, and an absolute terror to his opponents, many had expected him to put her in her place.

Tomoko had no regrets disappointing the Matsu in that regard. But Shichirou took his defeat personally, and took his life that evening.

Now if only that had ended the entire fiasco.

You are unworthy. She heard his voice, and her gaze met with the nearest reflective surface, a mirror hanging from the wall.

She’d grown accustomed to the horrific sight of him, bloodied kimono and cradling his head in his arm. His eyes, bloodshot and terrible. I will see you die ignobly, Akodo Tomoko.

Tomoko grasped the blade and slid it into her obi. If the blade was a prize and symbol of her family’s place in the Clan, then the ghost is the burden she must bear.

But now, some sake was in order.

hall

Kitsu Mutekigahara (Played by Hikkikomori) ran a hand over his disheveled hair. It had been one heck of a season for Lion Clan diplomat originally stationed over at Kyuden Kakita of all places.

The death of Akodo Arasou was met with muted celebration in his presence, but he was certain that the Cranes were all a-flutter with word that their own newly Ascended Champion scored quite the victory.

He didn’t bother to stick around as soon as he got the recall order.

The Lion’s head diplomat, Ikoma Ujiaki was not a patient man. A death of this magnitude would only fan the flames of Ujiaki’s hatred for the Crane and it won’t be long before the Lion puts out a formal petition to go to war.

Mutekigahara’s thoughts drifted to other concerns. Word of Shinjo Altansarnai’s refusal of the proposed marriage had not been forgotten, and so Ujiaki will certainly want to make headway in the courts to assail the Unicorn as well.

A war on two fronts this early in the year? Folly for most, but tell that to thousands of Matsus hungry for blood.

Something will have to give, and it will be up to the Lion’s diplomatic corps to determine who bleeds first.

A servant interrupted his musings, “-Dono, Ujiaki-sama wishes for you to report to his office.”

Mutekigahara nodded and gathered his belongings. Both the Unicorn and the Crane have made a grievous error this year, and the Lion will make them pay for it in full.

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Matsu Tadaka,” the man (Played by RoninVampire) spoke, before pausing, his lips pursed in concern, before repeating, in a lower register, “I am Matsu Tadaka.”

He recited the name again a few more times before he was satisfied. It was difficult to determine Tadaka’s speaking voice, given that their only interaction was swift and bloody, but one had to make do. He looked at the corpse and began to strip the body.

It was weeks later that he’d arrived at his destination, the Castle of the Swift Sword. Tadaka’s commanding officer had been aghast at the extent of the wounds he’d suffered, and sent him to the Castle of the Swift Sword to be reassigned away from the front lines of the Unicorn conflict.

It was only through the fickle fortunes that he’d been able to impersonate Tadaka’s voice and use the convenient excuse of war trauma to mask his ignorance of names and faces. It was a dangerous gambit, but as a “war hero” he’ll be able to stay one step ahead of the people who want him dead.

Matsu Tadaka strode into the barracks, his new orders in his hand. This was his life now, and he would kill to keep it.


Thoughts

Man it’s been a while since I’ve written something this long relating to a game I’ve run.  This is honestly just the opening scenes of each of the characters, before they run into each other and get assigned their first orders.

I’m reserving my thoughts about the new L5R rules for the inevitable Let’s Study series, but I’ve found it to be quite liberating for players to stake ownership of the setting. I’ve taken great care in who I invited to join this game, as I wanted to make sure the players would get along with each other, and everyone had a means to contribute to the enjoyment of the game as a whole.

These aren’t exactly “standard” Lion character concepts, but I’ve gotten used to dealing with the occasional twist in concepts from my players, so I’ll let them play these to the hilt.

Next up, the team gathers, and take a life-changing field trip north to Dragonfly lands.


 

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[L5R Actual Play] Tales of the Swift Sword, Part 1a: Three Lords

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Kitsu Tetsumi (Played by @Vyastanya) had arrived at the dining hall. It was late in the afternoon, and the arrival of Matsu Tsuko’s retinue meant that there were a lot of hungry people looking for something to eat.

It was there that she’d found the others. Akodo Tomoko (Played by @Glittersnicket) and Kitsu Mutekigahara (Played by Hikkikomori)  were sharing a bottle of sake between them as they discussed what had been going on in their respective careers. Tetsumi joined them, ordering a dish of yakitori skewers and another bottle of sake that paired perfectly with it to celebrate this reunion.

It was apparent that momentous things were going to happen in the next few days, as each of the Daimyo were already here, not merely to pay their respects for to the fallen champion, but to hold a war council.

But war against whom?

Some of the rumors speak of the Crane, whose killing of Arasou has left a painful wound in the pride of the Matsu. Tsuko was not the only Matsu who raged at his death, many of the Matsu found a kindred spirit with the deceased champion and would gladly march right now to slaughter as many Crane as they could get their hands on.

But there was the other issue, the Unicorn Clan’s refusal of an arranged marriage, by their own champion, no less! And as if to further spit upon the Lion’s honor, they’ve captured the border fortress of Hisu Mori Toride.

Hisu_Mori_Toride_2 Hisu Mori Toride, occupied by the Unicorn

It was clear from the mood of the dining hall that the Lion were primed for a fight, but the cooler heads knew of a further complication: each of these clans stood on either side of the Lion. To rally against one would be to bare your back to the other, and that was not a position the Lion wanted to be in.

The three samurai concluded their meal, as the evening drew closer as they each sought to settle some personal matters.

Akodo Tomoko found herself at the Castle of the Swift Sword Dojo, idly observing the drills that the students were practicing. Her presence was quickly noticed however [Famously Successful Distinction] and she was soon approached by one of the Akodo students, one by the name of Akodo Daigo who asked her about her curious choice of studying under the Matsu, and requested to spar with her.

Not one to turn down such an opportunity, Tomoko agreed to a quick match and made short work of the Akodo, her feral fighting style with two blades [A Matsu katana and an Akodo wakizashi] proving to be more than overwhelming to the student, leaving him quite humbled by the experience.

It was then that she noticed that Akodo Kage, the revered sensei of the dojo was watching her. She went to meet with him then, formally presenting the paperwork from her father asking that she be reassigned to continue her military training there. Kage acknowledged the favor, and asked Tomoko about how she felt about her training, and the fact that she bore a Matsu blade.

“I am Akodo.” She replied simply, “That is enough. My methods are of the Matsu, but the soul of Akodo is what brings me victory.”

“Well spoken,” Kage noted, “Let us hope then that your soul is sufficient to inspire men to battle. Your father intended to further your skills as a commander in this dojo, and that is exactly what I intend for you to learn.

Make no mistake, the reason why this is the premier dojo of the clan is because only the most educated and capable commanders graduate these halls. Prepare yourself to prove your worth over and over, not only to your teachers and peers, but also to the heimin who risk their lives at your command.”

“Hai, sensei.” Tomoko replied with a smile, “When do I begin?”

Kitsu Mutekigahara made his way to the offices of the Ikoma Daimyo, Ikoma Ujiaki at the senior diplomat’s behest. Mutekigahara arrived to find the older diplomat’s quarters to be akin to a war camp. Maps, files, and even a suit of armor and a daisho off to one corner. There was very little chance that Ujiaki would be the voice of peace in the War Council.

“You called for me, Ujiaki-sama?” Muteki bowed as he arrived.

“Sit. Tell me about your thoughts on the situation, Mutekigahara-san. You’re the one who lived with the Cranes prior to Arasou’s death.”

Mutekigahara did as he was told, “The Crane situation is difficult as it was a skirmish that can be written off as a defense of contested lands. We’d need a solid case if we are to find a way to get the Emperor’s approval to go to war.”

“Good,” Ujiaki nodded, “You’re aware of the task ahead. I’ve decided to devote my attentions towards breaking through the Crane’s diplomatic corps. There’s no doubt that their courtiers are already spinning a defense to enforce the Emperor’s peace in this matter. But with all of this going on, I need someone to keep an eye on our other problem.”

Mutekigaraha understood, “You want me to assess the Unicorn, Ujiaki-sama?”

“That, and the Crane.” Ujiaki said, “We cannot discount the possibility that these incidents are not isolated. The Crane and the Unicorn both envy the Lion’s place as the Emperor’s trusted right hand, and both have demonstrated a penchant for dishonest means when it suits them.

The Castle of the Swift Sword is a major trading port along the Drowned Merchant River, and that is the only water-born trade route connecting the Unicorn with the Crane. If there’s something going on, they’ll likely have to rely on this route to coordinate.”

“I can get started looking into the trade quarter.” Mutekigahara volunteered, “See what the situation is at least.”

“Let me know what you find. Also, I’ve word that the Dragonfly Clan to the north, across the river is running into some bandit problems. I’ve asked the other Daimyo to assign others to help you.”

“Very well, Ujiaji-sama, but bandits?”

“If they’re simply bandits, then deal with it. But while you’re there, I want you to see if the Unicorn or the Crane are working out a deal with the Dragonfly. I don’t want to leave anything to chance.”

Mutekigahara bowed, “Consider it done.”

Kitsu Tetsumi sat quietly in her chambers, preparing her things for tomorrow’s rites, when a servant politely interrupted her task, bearing word that Matsu Tsuko had come to visit her.

“Tsuko-sama,” Tetsumi bowed to welcome the Daimyo of the Matsu Family, “You honor me with your presence.”

“Enough formalities for today, kitten.” Tsuko said as she settled onto one of the pillows on the floor, “It has been a long day of too much of that already.”

Tsuko reached into a pocket in her sleeve and took out a neatly folded letter, before giving it to Tetsumi. The paper was of thick quality, made to withstand the wear of being carried for long distances. Tetsumi recognized the Tsuko’s handwriting, precise, efficient, nearly devoid of flourish.

“A letter to Toju-sama?”

“An endorsement letter. You’ve done much for me and my little sisters in the Lion’s Pride. You are a credit to your family. Which is why I’ve made a formal request to your Daimyo to take you in to study at the Golden Spider Dojo here in the Castle of the Swift Sword.”

“I’m to stay here?” Tetsumi spoke, “But my duties to the Lion’s Pride…”

“Will be dealt with upon the completion of your studies.” Tsuko’s words were final, “Do not look upon this as me divesting you of your responsibilities. I have every intention of returning for you, and I expect that you be better for it when the time comes.”

Tetsumi’s heart swelled at the acknowledgement, and bowed deeply in return, touching her forehead to the floor, “Arigatou, Tsuko-sama. I will not fail you.”

“Rise, Tetsumi-san. Again you insist on formalities in this late hour.”

“But courtesy is among the tenets of Bushido, is it not?” Levity returned to the room as Tetsumi straightened and smiled “And so may I at least offer you some sake for the evening?”

“I would be pleased, Tetsumi-san.”

At that Tetsumi stood up to her full amazonian height, before hurrying to fetch her latest discoveries from the city, “I hope you’re not in a hurry to sleep, Tsuko-sama, because this is going to be a full tasting menu!”

[Tetsumi has Passion: Sake]

The following day, the three met up at the barracks where Matsu Tadaka (Played by RoninVampire) was waiting for them. Along with him was Matsu Seijuro, a higher ranking samurai who was there to brief them before they cross the river to Dragonfly Lands.

 


And so the game begins in earnest with the player characters meeting the respective Lords and getting their first assignments. The player of Matsu Tadaka was still about to join us at the time of this log, so I made mention of him at the last part.

The team is about to set off on their first official assignment, a quick jaunt to the Dragonfly Clan across the river to see what’s what!

Image Credits

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