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Magnus Grendel

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Posted (edited)
  • The big question of Magami's starring role was not settled this week as Suiren's player was drafted into an all-nighter by work again.
  • That evening was Magami's party at the Mantis guest-house. Uiri attended, partly to keep an eye on Hitoshi and partly to keep Hitoshi and Toshimoko safely apart. As an exuberant lover of sake (preferably strong and full-bodied), women (same) and song, it was inevitable the Grey Crane would attend, and the more they could keep Toshimoko and his illegitimate son separate, the better.
  •  The big thing the following day was the Kata competition, which Uiri had his eye on, so he chose to join Toshimoko - who'd be invigilating - as a drinking buddy, hoping to get a better view of the competition format or his rivals. 
  • That evening - post party - the guests spent an uncomfortable half-hour outside after a storehouse fire that - rumour said - was deliberately set. Several crane kimonos were destroyed, possibly to upset Chiyoe's ability to show off in the last few days of court ("or possibly because they were made with a specific pattern of silk" said a suspicious Horonigai...)
  • The following morning (somewhat worse for wear in Uiri's case)  they had the chance to hear a brief lecture on the legends and theology of Rokugan by Dori, the head of the Shinseist order. Some of it they'd either seen for themselves or come across in passing, but it was their first exposure to the history of the Elemental Dragons and their Oracles, the first war against Fu Leng and the fate of the Seven Thunders, Shinsei, and Shinsei's Crow, and some bits of the 'creation myth' had previously been skipped over. 
  • The kata competition turned out to be competitive demonstration - in each round, a competitor would perform a kata technique (either performing the action or performing a strike action with sufficient opportunities to trigger an opportunity technique). Success granted 1 momentum, 2 bonus successes (or opportunities if the technique has ways to spend them) a second. Toshimoko's 'biases' would affect TN based on rings - a bonus to air and penalty to earth.
  • The contestants, other than Mirumoto Uiri, were Kakita Riku (with Goriate's very partisan support, to his comrade's slight annoyance), Tsume Itsuyo, Daidoji Gombei, and Bayushi Tomoharu.
  • Itsuyo (who despite her position as a vassal family Daimyo is a Loyal Bushi as far as her stats are concerned) went out first; a water stance technique clearly not being impressive enough. Uiri used his newly-mastered Chaotic Scattering with a void point - using both blades to lift a spray of white sand into an obscuring cloud in front of him, then bursting through it in a sudden strike. The result was precise and impressed Toshimoko - and the fact it was an elegant version of a bar-brawl technique hardly left the Grey Crane (who'd seen his ahare of bar-fights) put out, after all.
  • Gombei and Tomoharu (as Venerable Provincial Daimyo) were by far the more capable opponents, but Gombei stubbornly kept using his preferred earth katas, and paid the price with the higher TN, being asked to step aside after Itsuyo. Uiri would have struggled to keep up but You Taught Me This made up the shortfall, letting him use first Crescent Moon Style and then Crossing Blade with skilled assistance.
  • Bayushi Tomoharu was doing far better than Riku or Uiri thanks to fire stance but quite simply burned through his composure too fast, leading to a flaw in his stance when he became compromised that Toshimoko called him on and asked him to step out. Claims this unexpected burst of strife were the work of Riku using fire opportunities to dump strife on the Bayushi general are obviously scurrilous and without foundation - and besides, Tomoharu had enough sense to know how laughable a Scorpion calling someone out for unsportsmanlike behaviour would sound...
  • That brought it down to Riku and Uiri, in a straight opposed check. Both had used up all their dice-fettling tricks to get to this point, so it was a simple roll-off....which Uiri won by a single success!
  • He pointedly congratulated Riku effusively - and found she was actually very happy: Yes, winning would have been nice but beating three of the strongest swordsman in the empire in front of much of the court would put a nail in the lid of Meh Lin's rumours about her losing at Tsuma for good.
  • There was no specific prize this time, but since Uiri had finished his Magistrate title, he was eligible to take Winter Court Champion to replace it. This comes with a massive +20 glory, jumping him from 61 clear over Goriate and Horonigai to 81, and going from having no fame advantages to having two.
  • "So...you need to pick. You are 'famously something' and 'famously something else." "I have some suggestions. Firstly, you're famously a [censored]...." - Goriate's player (who may be a little sore about losing the Sumai).
  • He went for Famously Honest (which sort of works with his Bluntness disadvantage) and Famously Successful.
  • He then invited people back to the Dragon Clan guest house, where - he said - he intended to spend the evening achieving a state of 'thoughtlessness and oneness with the void' 
  • "You mean you plan to get very drunk."
  • "Pretty much."
  • Horonigai, Riku, and Goriate all turned up to congratulate him and help celebrate. Hida Kyno, Goriate's uncle and the Sumai champion, came too - there was sake on offer, and his nephew took the opportunity to pick his brain on Hirosaka before they relocated there, which sat not far from the Crab Clan's borders on the edge of the Shinomen forest.
  • Hida Kyno had never been there, but knew about it as an imperial holding.
  • He was able to confirm a lot of ronin passed through the town whilst waiting to participate in twenty-goblin-winters, so more than one soldier he'd commanded over the years had called it home briefly. One thing he knew is that it was remarkably unfortified by Crab standards - numerous local ronin served to discourage rogue bandits and the Imperial governor made it an illegal target for warring clans, so it had little need of a strong wall.
  • He knew the governor by name, but knew little more than that. Seppun Sora was an Imperial-born daimyo, so obviously was a worthy and honourable samurai, but Kyno knew basically nothing about him.
  • The town wasn't that close to the Shinomen (though it was a lot closer than Shiro Usagi), but some of its outlying villages like Kawacho were a lot closer still. There were quite a few villages - other than Kawacho, there was a strong fortress called Closed Shell Castle currently ruled from Hirosaka, and two villages, Twin Blessings Village and Nestled Village local to the castle.
  • "Closed Shell? That's that huge castle down near Maemikake and Fox Clan lands, isn't it, Kyno-sama?" Asked Riku, returning with fresh drinks.
  • "Yes." responded Kyno, before Goriate got a word in edgeways. "Goriate-san was just asking what I knew of the area around Hirosaka before he and his friends move there."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • "...Thank you, Uncle." Goriate managed to mutter as the temperature in the room dropped like someone was using Dance of the Seasons.

 

 

 

 

  • "So...I feel like I owe an explanation here..."

 

I fear the infamous Foot-In-Mouth Style shuji strikes again.

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Posted (edited)
  • The party went downhill a bit at this point, as you might imagine. Horonigai's position of "nope....not again!" meant she stayed well clear of Goriate and his betrothed, and the other PCs took her lead. Even Hida Kyno managed to pick up on his nephew's subtle hint ("Uncle Kyno-sama, please go away and stop saying things"), so Goriate and Riku were left to sort their latest spat out, with his uncle hovering in the background and 'not listening' so obviously it was kind of painful (assuming Hida Kyno and his brother were cut from similar cloth it's no mystery where Goriate inherited his 'diplomatic talents' from).
  • Goriate's inebriated condition (to be fair, they all were) was a bit of a problem. He managed - by the skin of his teeth - to pass a fairly challenging water/courtesy check to calm his betrothed and avoid an angry explosion with some lucky chained explosive successes on ring dice.
  • However, he ate enough strife to take him from start-of-scene half composure to compromised in the process, and the conversation wasn't done; Riku might not be planning repeat her iai demonstration from earlier in the day, but he needed to be able to use unrestricted dice to help fend the inevitable next question "Why are you moving to a rural town, and what am I supposed to do?"
  • Which meant unmasking.
  • This took a few moments for the players to think about, before Goriate went for the 'screw it, I'm tired of everyone else's secrets!' approach; Kyno was family and Riku was going to be, so he ate a load of lost honour for the unmasking to essentially snap "Because we're hunting members of the Kolat, and we're not supposed to be telling anyone anything, that's why."
  • 'Kolat' as a phrase didn't mean anything to Riku (any more than it had to Daisetsu) but it definitely did to Hida Kyno - his wife was a Kuni witch-hunter, after all, and one of Kuni Haruna's favourite hobbies seems to be telling her guests and relatives disturbing stories of her experiences, so he probably had at least a passing knowledge of more strains of cultists, secret societies, monsters and unquiet spirits than your average Asako Inquisitor. When the massive crab responded 'Oh' and went very, very quiet, Riku had the sense to know this was something serious.
  • Goriate and Riku finished the evening promising to discuss this the following day when calmer and sober.

 

  • The following days were the last at Winter Court the PCs were attending and led into the high point from Suiren's perspective - the Tale of the Fisherman's Daughter.
  • With Suiren's player here, the 'retroactive' debate was held about the plan for casting Doji Mioko.
    • Suiren had always planned on offering the part to Magami after 'freeing it up' by suggesting the role of the Otomo Courtier that Ikoma Rumiko was now taking, and had previously more or less sold Doji Shigeru on the idea. He rather liked the idea of 'Empress Not-A-Crane', though, so wasn't really down with screwing Magami over (plus, given he'd be on stage with her, he pointed out, any poor performance would reflect on him, too).
    • Uiri was still advocating siding with the Mantis. He'd had his fill of courtly faff, and frankly got on well with both Magami and Izen.
    • Surprisingly, Goriate also wanted to side with the Mantis. Yes, he didn't want Riku personally to suffer for his choices, but as a member of the Crab, he should be supporting the Mantis - who provided the Crab with a non-trivial supply of weapons and jade ("not that any of you heard that, right?") rather than the Crane who'd done his clan a lot more harm than good recently.
    • This left Horonigai. Horonigai's player was feeling a bit upset and outnumbered - Ryoku and Shijin had left her in no doubt that if they felt she'd not done their bidding, or done it halfheartedly and failed, they ensure she never found out about her parentage, see her publicly branded a cheat and a Scorpion spy, and more importantly spread similar rumours about the whole Kaito family - which would shoot the nascent family's reputation in the head and leave them totally unable to pursue the mission Shiba Tsukune had given them to investigate the elemental disturbance with other families.

 

  • That's when Shosuro Suiren had a bit of inspiration. Horonigai didn't want to sabotage Magami either; she just didn't want the personal or political consequences of not doing so.

 

  • "What does that mean?"
  • "It means I may have a plan where everyone gets what they want. Except Kakita Ryoku, of course. How were you thinking of sabotaging Magami?"
  • Horonigai had been thinking how to mess with the play.
  • Rather than a short-notice casting, she'd hit on the idea of something even more scandalous and embarrasing - an on-stage 'wardrobe malfunction' in front of most of the Imperial court. Mioko's initial character was, after all, a fisherman's daughter, so would intially be wearing a - very, very stylised - version of peasant clothing, but on being presented to the first Hantei she had the idea of that coming away to reveal a beautiful court dress, in a 'practical effects' version of Cinderella's transformation. The effect would be striking - or, if the kimono was suitably rigged, would be shocking and embarrasing in a deeply cruel way.
  • "Ouch. I thought we were going for ruining her chances of a betrothal, not 'commits seppuku in shame'. Remind me not to get on your bad side. That'll work perfectly."

 

  • The other PCs were deeply concerned until Suiren explained.
  • Goriate and Horonigai could proceed with this plan - telling Kakita Ryoku the plan, and getting the Crane dressmaker responible for Doji Mioko's costume on-side in a way Ryoku would know they'd done so.
  • Surien was, after all, a member of the Scorpion who was known to have a bit of an ego (in his public persona, anyway) and was less than popular with his own clan - especially Kachiko and Tomoharu, and - by association with the magistrates - Mei Lin, and therefore naturally suspicious they'd try to mess with his big day at court. Not directly, of course, but they'd still like to ruin the play, especially since it was Doji Shigeru's play and therefore seen as a 'Crane' play regardless of the clans of the actors.
  • So if he was to hear rumours of some conspiracy by the Scorpion to sabotage the play, and at the last minute....totally confidentially...pass a warning to his friend and director Doji Shigeru about the sabotaged costume so that the Crane could intervene and 'save the day', Shigeru wouldn't have time to consult anyone and would think he was doing the right thing - and probably be quite proud of stopping 'the plot', tell Kakita Ryoku as much, and lead to a "You Bloody Idiot!" argument and Goriate and Horonigai off the hook...

 

  • For once, the plan went off more or less without a hitch.
    • Horonigai told Kakita Ryoku the plan. Since everything she said was technically true (albeit accompanied by a slight loss of honour for knowing lies of omission), and throwing a hoarded Void point and Famously Honest, she was able to pass the air/courtesy check to sound convincing. The fact she did it by a confidential letter taken by Ryu rather than in person probably helped.
    • Goriate passed his command/fire check to intimidate the seamstress into the sabotage, spending an opportunity to ensure it was - whilst discrete-ish, going to get back to Ryoku.
    • Uiri's job was a water/courtesy check with Izen on the day. His job was to sit on the Mantis captain and discretely let him (and hence Yoritomo) know what was going on to avoid any ugly reaction as and when he heard some garbled version of what happened, or if Horonigai's letter ever materialised in a blackmail context.
    • On the day, Suiren had the hardest job - his 'totally innocent' warning to Shigeru and 'suspicions' of the sabotage. The Air/Sentiment check passed well, and he timed it to perfection. Shigeru - on the edge of panic with time pressure - found the 'trick seam' in Magami's costume literally as she was waiting in the wings wearing it, and had to improvise a re-threading with Suiren's assistance, earning him the director's gratitude. In the process, Suiren was able to let Magami know it was his recommendation which had gotten her the part, earning him a favour from the Mantis courtier to call in in the future.

 

  • The play went perfectly. Ikoma Rumiko didn't exactly play 'comic relief' but as the permanently rushed and much put-upon mortal courtier trying to accomodate and pre-empt the desires of the demigods she served drew a few laughs and quite a bit of admiration, especially from the 'real' Otomo in the audience. 'Mioki's' transformation into the First Empress  in the pivotal scene brought suitable applause, and Suiren - able to throw his last void point and Winter Court Champion to mitigate strife - played the role of Hantei-no-Kami briliantly. Meanwhile, Shigeru (now Lady Shike was no longer needed on stage as the Island Spirit) went straight to Kakita Ryoku to warn her about the plot he'd discovered and thwarted....
  • The PCs were all very relieved and thought they'd gotten away cleanly - until Suiren, talking to Shigeru later, discovered the honest and honourable Crane had made sure Surien had also gotten the 'credit he deserved' for warning Shigeru about his suspicions the scorpion might sabotage the play.

 

 

 

  • The letter from Kakita Toshimoko insisting Shosuro Suiren meet him privately in the gardens arrived about half an hour later.

 

 

 

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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  • Suiren's player's response was not suitable for this forum.
  • To his credit, Uiri offered to act on Suiren's behalf, and even more to his credit, Suiren refused the offer. Both of them got a fair chunk of honour for doing so. 
  • The Grey Crane, and Kakita Ryoku, were both waiting for Suiren in the Fantastic Gardens of the Crane. Since the magistrates were trying to keep out of it from Ryoku's perspective, they were stuck waiting at their guest-house for news.
  • Suiren and Toshimoko talked - politely, despite Ryoku's clear anger - and Suiren maintained his claim he was worried the Scorpion were plotting against him and his friends (which, given Mei Lin's actions, wasn't even a lie), and he'd warned Doji Shigeru in good faith (which was). If he'd derailed some scheme of the Crane by doing so, that wasn't his intent. 
  • Of course, Toshimoko's claim was that casting Magami was Suiren's idea (which it was, but Ryoku had also wanted it to happen) and that he'd dishonourably pressured Doji Shigeru to achieve it.
  • Suiren agreed with the former but denied the latter.
  • Fortunately, the resulting challenge was only to first blood.
  • The challenge was....short. Suiren is not a bushi and despite an impressive selection of skills, only has an endurance of 8. One Seize The Moment Crossing Cut later, he was incapacitated, and a second later a second strike left him bleeding and with the Nerve Damage scar.
  • Suiren chose this rather than Ruined Visage as he already has the Unremarkable Appearance advantage - he's very much moving to being sneaky via skulduggery than via fitness.
  • Regaining consciousness and recovering, Suiren apologised officially in front of Ryoku and the various Crane attendants she had brought ('privately' apparently not applying to her...)

 

  • That was pretty much it for Winter's Embrace - the following day, Suiren would send a letter with his findings on Hitoshi to Kachiko, and then the PCs would all set out for Hirosaka.
  • Ryu would be sent a letter ordering him to arrange moving the magistrates' household.
  • Ikue would join them there once Suiren had arranged a post for her at a local Okiya ('stashing' her with the Poisoned Lilly until then).
  • Finally, Goriate and Riku had their delayed talk. She had apparently used the intervening time to do some research in Kyuden Doji's archives and had learned some of the rumours about who and what the Kolat were supposed to be. There was a set to her expression very reminiscent of the one she'd had on the trading docks of Otosan Uchi.
  • "If I understand correctly the thing I never heard you say, you are all actively hunting for a group of cultists who are supposed to have agents everywhere, and who are ready to assassinate anyone without a moment's hesitation, in a town near a haunted forest full of ghosts and monsters, between the disputed borders of two great clans, and full of both members of influential imperial families and ronin cut-throats."
  • "...yes?"
  • "And your plan doesn't involve the four of you being found as corpses inside a week?"
  • "...Not ideally, no."
  • "So...must we have to have this debate? I'm sure there will be some blunt objects in the Crab guest house if you feel it needs to be done formally."
  • Goriate got the hint.
  • Like Suiren, the PCs needed to arrange a pretext for Riku to relocate, especially since they didn't want to make it too obvious they were all arriving as a group. Fortunately, since they now had Ally (Seppun Ishikawa) it wasn't too unreasonable to get the Palace Guard captain to provide her a recommendation to one of the Seppun family households in Hirosaka as a sword instructor - she'd filled the role in the capital, done well at Winter Court itself, and was (grudgingly) looking to relocate to where her betrothed was being sent; a perfectly believable reason for the move.

 

  • Next week is likely to be the 'spend XP and get all the honour, glory and allys' session before the story resumes.
  • There's actually so much stuff for Hirosaka I feel at a bit of a loss...trying to figure it the order to attack it in.

 

  • Journey there:
  • The 'next' thing I plan to throw is on the journey to Hirosaka. First off, Giichi calling in his marker leads in nicely to The Itagawan Job. I'm not sure when they'll be passing through Lion lands again, so I'd rather run it now.
  • I'm also considering running A Void in the Heavens. Setting it at the southern end of Scorpion lands means it'll be after the Itagawan Job. It'll be a chance to take part in a hugely important event (the Oracle's succession)

 

  • The Highwayman is a nice simple one - I suspect I'll use that as a refresher from court politics but as magistrates it feels like something they'll get called out of Hirosaka to investigate (one of our merchants is missing)
  • The Path of Waves Twin Blessings stuff (and much of Cresting Wave) should be done early - I'd like them to get to know the place well before Reju Jikai gets assigned to Closed Shell.
  • Sins of Regret is kind of a 'mid-season climax' with a nice big battle.
  • At some point I plan to run Twilight Honour or a version thereof. Rather than having Togashi involved, though, I was going to have the Crab commander be one of Goriate's relatives - possibly Kyno himself. Again, this is meant to be big deal spiritual stuff - rather than just random PTSD, I was going to link this to Satsume's warning of some horrific kolat/oni/elemental melange threat. Given their dealings with Yume-do and dreams, I was tempted to introduce some version of the Onisu (in this case fear) - the 'nightmare oni' from the previous version of the timeline.
  • Path of Waves Hirosaka stuff will also be at the same time. It's a nice 'season arc', with the ultimate goal of finding Tamiko, the crime lord.
  • At or around the same time, they'll find themselves embroiled in Bells of the Dead. That's the reason they'll end up leaving Hirosaka again when (formerly Usagi) Ozaki turns up. The Hare have survived Tomoharu, so we'll need the clan to fall some other way - to be honest, Usagi Tomoe accepting Tomoharu's proposal leaves Oda without an heir as long as Ozaki remains ronin, so the accusations could be against HIM rather than his clan. 

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3 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:
  • At or around the same time, they'll find themselves embroiled in Bells of the Dead. That's the reason they'll end up leaving Hirosaka again when (formerly Usagi) Ozaki turns up. The Hare have survived Tomoharu, so we'll need the clan to fall some other way - to be honest, Usagi Tomoe accepting Tomoharu's proposal leaves Oda without an heir as long as Ozaki remains ronin, so the accusations could be against HIM rather than his clan. 

Perhaps cliché, but I can totally see that turning into something similar to Asano Naganori situation which lead to the more famous Ako Incident.

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Well, Ozaki essentially 'ran away from home', so something directly equivalent won't be a thing - I imagine they won't really have call to go to Shiro Usagi. 

Ozaki went looking for Matsu Akira, and given that he's almost certainly Kolat, either Ozaki is going to find the Lion dead or Akira is going to be dead shortly afterwards. That seems like a perfectly sensible crime to frame him for, and - if a sustained accusation of Maho is made - a reason for dis-establishing the clan. Plus, if he can ever get that scroll translated (or force Akira to tell him what it said), he's going to show up somewhere near Hirosaka.

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7 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Well, Ozaki essentially 'ran away from home', so something directly equivalent won't be a thing - I imagine they won't really have call to go to Shiro Usagi. 

No, I did not expect it to be so.  Lord Asano himself had no children, and his "heir" was his adopted younger brother.  I expect Ozaki to fulfill a role similar to Ōishi Kuranosuke Yoshio, attempting to avenge his father  and his clan by living as Ronin longer than he had planned before making his move much like Oishi did.

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  • The PCs spent last week sorting out Honour, Glory and XP increases. Goriate also spent some XP on rank 1 bonds - Family with Hida Kyno and Lover with Kakita Riku (they're hardly an inseperable couple but they are friends and publicly betrothed so rank 1 seemed fair enough and more apt than comrade. Horonigai did half-jokingly suggest Nemesis, though).
  • By the end of the evening, Uiri and Goriate were the only people still about - they were responsible for organising the travel to Hirosaka.
  • The eventual plan was that the 'travel party' would be the four PCs. The various cast of NPCs would be travelling separately.
    • Ryu (and a bunch of hired porters) would bring their 'stuff' from Seppun Tatsuko's estate in the capital a week or so later - there was no point in his arriving until after the PCs had had a chance to secure lodgings.
    • Ikue would be travelling discretely under a false name to give Suiren a chance to investigate local Okiya. She'd be travelling secretly and spend as long as required 'stashed' with the Poisoned Lilly until told it was safe to travel on to Hirosaka.
    • Riku would travel openly, but - given that she wasn't a magistrate and was a Crane, would be taking the long way around; catching ship to somewhere in Asahina or Daidoji lands and then heading west to Hirosaka, rather than crossing Beiden Pass and taking the river south.
  • The PCs were - a week or so later - arriving at the last traveller's in before Last Breath Castle. They were a touch nervous, just because of the reputation the Matsu in particular and the Lion in general have in our campaign.
    • Uiri and Goriate were investigating rumours in the inn amongst the various higher-status merchants and the clan couriers spending the night there. They came across three rumours which seemed significant:
      • There Elemental Oracle of Fire had been seen in Shosuro Lands, and Shosuro Hametsu had it in mind to seek an audience (or would send a representative, or the Oracle was there because Hametsu was seeking an audience....this rumour wasn't very clear on the details)
      • A lion clan samurai named Matsu Akira had been murdered in cold blood by an unnamed Ronin near the City of Lies, and the various Lion Clan samurai in Scorpion lands were up in arms. (The PCs recognised Akira's name and have a very good idea who said 'ronin' is going to turn out to be)
      • The nearby Willow Forge Village was hosting the Festival of Steel, which was a major festival for armourers and enthusiasts of the smith's art.
        • Goriate has a passion for Armament and Uiri used his Winter Court Champion curriculum to pick up two ranks of the Smithing Skill, so both were quite interested in visiting.
    • At this point, they saw the really-not-too-welcome sight of Soshi Giichi making his way across the room to join them. He congratulated them on their various triumphs, proffered a bottle of nice sake, and asked if he could speak privately.
      • They agreed, at which point they realised they could no longer hear any sounds from the rest of the room - and presumably the reverse.
      • Giichi started to outline his problem with the Itagawa and the menpo mask.

 

  • Uiri and Goriate - on grasping the seriousness of the issue, and "can we ideally not start a Lion-Scorpion war when we're about to go through Beiden Pass?" they agreed to investigate and do their best, where we finished for the evening.
    • Uiri and Goriate now have the enviable task of explaining to the other two PCs why they thought agreeing to perform a heist to steal a battle trophy from the Lion Clan and then smuggle it into Soshi family lands past Matsu Tsuko's family fortress.
    • Horonigai's player has already been told out of character. You all know the line:

 

"YOU PROMISED THE SCORPION CLAN WHAT!?!?!?!"

 

 

Started tidying stuff up for 'The Itagawan Job'.

Map of Willow Forge:

  • 856358474_Willowforge.jpg.8c38bdfdb172d9fbe9348028fec328bc.jpg

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11 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

"YOU PROMISED THE SCORPION CLAN WHAT!?!?!?!"

I love these memorable lines.

Me and my group have two of these as well: "Fu Leng intensifies" whenever something Maho (or Sotorii) happens and "The ***** wanted excitement, so I set the ***** on fire" for a particularly pyromaniac Tamori who believed no problem couldn't be solved with judicious amount of Breath of Fire Dragon. 😄

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Posted (edited)
  • So - Suiren spent up his XP, taking him up to rank 3 - partly on upping his earth ring to try and die slightly less (and his air ring for some improved evasion and shenanigans) and some shuji - Bravado and Dazzling Performance.
    • Other than that, the players did some more groundwork for The Itagawan Job. 
    • They outlined Giichi's problem to Suiren - essentially that the Scorpion had discovered that one of the Lion Clan's battle trophies (a menpo from a bandit leader Itagawa Yua had killed whilst fighting alongside Soshi Giichi) was either possessed or cursed after presenting it to the Itagawa in good faith. With tensions between the Lion and Scorpion the way they were, there was no way the Lion - especially the Matsu - would believe something like that wasn't planned; either they would assume it was intended as an insult or done with deliberately malevolent intent.
    • Giichi had managed to place a quickly-fashioned protective charm on the menpo during a visit but it wasn't very potent and might not be that long-lasting.
    • Hence, the only plan anyone could come up with was to steal it in such a way that the Scorpion didn't get blamed - and ideally not them either. In an ideal case, no-one would know the menpo had been taken - which is why they decided they needed a convincing fake.
  • Suiren's player took well to the idea of "we're going to rob the Lion Clan" but less well to the addenda "...of something that may have a horrible maho curse" and "...within a few hours travel of the Matsu family fortress".
  • Horonigai went from sceptical to more convinced when she found out the Maho-Tsukai Giichi had killed, and who (presumably) made the menpo was an ally or student of the ronin Aoi, Sokorii's student, and the Maho-Tsukai they'd faced on the Islands of Spice and Silk.
    • The PCs came to the agreement that they wanted to secure rooms in the Verdant Plenty inn - hoping to use the cover of crowds and the ability to come and go more easily than if they were stuck inside the village walls.
    • They have decided they need to go with a con-artist approach - getting a 'fake' made up and trying to pull off a switch.
    • Fortunately, there are a lot of out-of-town samurai in Willow Forge Village for the local festival (the Festival of Steel, celebrating the Itagawa family armourers), so there's a decent crowd, and with a high-profile competition between the Itagawa family armourers (including Itagawa Yua's husband, Itagawa Isao) in a temporary workshop adjoining the shrine to Bishamon, the armourer's apprentices have the run of their respective forges. Which meant that a suitably corruptible apprentice might be talked into making a fake. Whether it'd be good enough to fool Itagawa Yua's memory and Itagawa Isao's expert eye would have to be seen.
  • Their first stage activities have gone okay:
    • Suiren was able to use Lord Bayushi's Whispers to find an informative local in the temporary market around the festival. He was able to get a lay of the land around Willow Forge - the fact that there were only a dozen or so guards in the village, and mostly peasant-born Doshin, was reassuring, but the fact that if an alarm was sounded, Shiro Itagawa was only a few minutes to the south, and hence the town magistrate could quickly summon any number of ashigaru and fully armed Lion bushi he might realistically decide he needed was much less so.
    • He identified Yuu and Kage, Itagawa Fei's ji-samurai apprentices, as having a local reputation for being competent smiths but somewhat dishonest, greedy and stupid. This made them ideal for the task of making the 'fake' menpo and - in theory - as patsies for the scheme.
    • Uiri - who is in Willow Forge for perfectly realistic reasons (wanting to learn more of the smith's art after his introduction during Winter Court) - sought them out to arrange 'private tuition', which they were happy to provide in exchange for a few koku in 'gifts' to the forge which Uiri was convinced Fei himself would never know his forge had received.
    • Goriate meanwhile arranged a private viewing of Itagawa Yua's collection. The PCs decided they needed to get at least one person to have a very close look at the thing they needed to fake, and since Goriate has the best memory (Earth Ring and hence recall approach) and the best penmanship (Composition skill) to describe or draw the item afterwards, he was volunteered. He passed a courtesy check to get a viewing separate from the crowds, escorted by Itagawa Yua and Isao's elder daughter and apprentice (they decided they didn't want either Yua or Isao to be able recognise them by sight if they didn't have to)
    • Horonigai did some reading in her assorted scrolls on protective wards. She confirmed she might be able to place a protective ward on the menpo more substantial than Soshi Giichi's quick improvisation, but that it would take some time to do and - not being a Soshi - it'd be obvious that she was doing it. Whether her ward would be strong enough would be difficult to tell but "on the grounds that the village hasn't yet been consumed by flaming tentacles and armies of the risen dead, let's be optimistic and assume it's not unimaginably strong, and with enough preparation we can handle the spirit inside. Temporarily."
Edited by Magnus Grendel

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The players continued the Itagawan Job last night. It did not, you will be shocked to hear, go to plan.

  • Goriate was shown around Itagawa Yua and Isao's armoury display by Eiko - their elder daughter and Isao's apprentice in the family forge. She was polite but distant.
    • Goriate made a point of inspecting and showing great interest in every piece, as the best way to avoid drawing attention to paying close scrutiny to the Menpo Giichi had gifted them in particular. With a passion for Armament, this wasn't actually that challenging, and as a famed, full-clan-family Emerald Magistrate, it's not like a pre-gempukku vassal family samurai had grounds for complaining - or the right to - if he was showing too much interest when viewing the family's exhibition.
    • He got a good look at the menpo - it was very ornately carved, less a nasty scar in the metal that passed the jawline and presumably had ended in the throat of the wearer, but unpainted. It had a very menacing air to it, and it was very large - sized to someone even larger than Goriate or his uncle.
    • He also passed the theology check to notice the signs Giichi had warned them to look for, indicating his ward had failed and someone had touched the menpo with bare skin.
    • Being shown out afterwards, he caught sight of a young girl - presumably the younger daughter - staring in his direction, and looking slightly terrified.
    • This was largely put down to the fact he is a somewhat intimidating individual, but when told afterwards, Horonigai had a nasty suspicion the younger daughter might have been the one to touch it.
    • "May need to turn up with sweets and persuade Yua to let me talk to her children" was the conclusion.
  • Safely back at Verdant Plenty, Goriate, with Horonigai's assistance, passed a Recall/Smithing check to recreate the details on a set of plans for the 'fake' menpo. Post Winter Court, Horonigai has very much made herself into a generalist, and has pointedly made sure she has at least a '3' in every ring and at least one rank of every skill - which means, amongst other things, she can provide skilled assistance on anything (which will be extremely useful once the others spend XP for comradeship bonds).
  • Uiri spent the morning's downtime activity trying to forge a sword blade. Despite the resources of Fei's forge (a TN-3 reduction) it was still TN4 even before applying the rarity increase for a Kakita-pattern blade. Even with Kage's skilled assistance, he failed his check - the blade shattering on quenching, to Kage's dismissive mutterings of "flimsy Crane-style rubbish". He did net enough opportunities, though, to give Suiren a free downtime activity and assist him on it - so in addition to the Scorpion's rumour-gathering in the market to determine when Itagawa Isao's Seppun guest would arrive (they had, so rumour said, a day and a half) he was able to persuade Yuu to make their 'fake'.
    • Realising they didn't want their fingerprints on it if it all blew up, Uiri and Suiren hit on the idea of 'decorative' Menpo - oversized versions of the Itagawa's most famous craft - which weren't intended to be worn but to be hung in homes and shrines and so on as ornaments.
    • This sort of makes sense when you run past it quickly enough, and a combination of excellent social skills and copious festival sake let Suiren convince Yuu it had been his idea - and that when he told Kage back in the forge, Uiri was able to 'independently' tell the two ji-samurai "that sounds like an excellent idea". The two started making a stockpile of them for the servants to sell in the following days' markets, and Uiri bought the first item produced, which needed only very minor cosmetic changes (mostly scrubbing the painted lacquer back off) to serve as the fake.
  • The following day came the heist itself.
    • As someone who'd already visited and - given his size - was easily recognisable, Goriate stayed in the inn - with strict instructions to keep an eye on the Otosan Uchi road and come up with a pretext to detain Seppun Kosuke if he turned up early.
    • Suiren, Horonigai and Uiri joined a larger group being shown around the armoury by the family servants.
    • Surien went separately - he was to play no part in the theft for fear of implicating the Scorpion and kicking off a war, but instead was to be as eye-catching a distraction as possible. "Because I Am A Famous Actor...." (In best Burbage-from-Upstart-Crow stage voice)
    • Horonigai and Uiri - actually made the switch. Uiri pointedly bought from a merchant in the market a set of ornately decorated scabbards for the blades it was reasonably easy to find out he was trying to forge. This gave an easy pretext to be carrying a large cloth bundle during the tour - a servant offered to take it whilst they were inside but it was an easy courtesy check (leaning into Dragon eccentricity a bit) to hang onto it, since they weren't being presented to Yua or Isao themselves.
    • Horonigai passed a survey check to keep an eye on everyone in the room and make sure no-one was looking (she pointedly asked if Yua's younger daughter watching them, too, but there was no sign of her), whilst Uiri passed (with the use of a void point) the air/skulduggery check to swap the menpo with the fake, securing it in the cloth without touching it.
    • Afterwards - and separately from Suiren - they left Isao and Yua's home. Uiri headed on to Itagawa Fei's forge where he was expected, whilst Horonigai took the bagged-up menpo back to Verdant Plenty inn.
  • Goriate was waiting in his room. He hadn't bothered armouring up - on the theory that if anything happened it would probably be of supernatural origin and lacquered armour wouldn't help him - but had unbagged his tetsubo and left it leaning against the window within easy reach, and dug out a finger of jade from his pack on a loop round his neck. The two placed the bundle in the middle of the floor, and Horonigai as a precaution performed a Threshold Barrier ritual to 'seal' the room spiritually before they touched it again.
    • Horonigai carefully opened the bundle, scrutinising the menpo and trying to determine how to use a ward or jade to seal any malign spirit inside.
    • "That's not it." Hissed Goriate.
    • "What?"
    • "That's. Not. It. You haven't got the right menpo."
    • "What?!?" Horonigai replied, frustrated and angry.
    • "I saw it yesterday, remember." Said the Hida Samurai. "This," He said, picking it up, "looks really, really similar but it's not the same one. You've swapped our fake for someone else's fake!"
    • As ill timing would have it, Uiri and Surien returned to the room at this point, to see Goriate hefting the menpo - which as far as he knew was the one forged by the Maho-Tsukai - in his bare hand and the two samurai looking like they were about to break into either a shouting match or a brawl.
    • Uiri started drawing one of his swords, and a lot of people all started talking very urgently...

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9 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

"That's not it." Hissed Goriate.

"What?"

"That's. Not. It. You haven't got the right menpo."

"What?!?" Horonigai replied, frustrated and angry.

"I saw it yesterday, remember." Said the Hida Samurai. "This," He said, picking it up, "looks really, really similar but it's not the same one. You've swapped our fake for someone else's fake!"

 

I immediately thought of this.  Please tell me Goriate sounded exactly like this.
 

 

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  • So....after a degree of concern, a few threats and generally a lot of strife all round, the PCs focused back on the problem they were supposed to be dealing with; namely the menpo.
  • Horonigai tried to commune with the spirits; searching for any trace of the fire Kami from the forge where the 'fake' had been made, in the hopes of leading the PCs there.
  • To her disappointment and concern, she felt nothing at all. 
  • Goriate and Uiri started examining the 'fake' more closely, to see if the smithing skill might offer up clues.

 

 

 

 

  • After thirty seconds, Horonigai  somewhat sheepishly remembered to dismiss the Threshold Barrier sealing the room against any otherworldly presence and repeated the attempt... 
  • ...this time receiving a clear impression of Itagawa Isao's forge.

 

  • Horonigai drew people's attention to the young girl - presumably Yua and Isao's younger daughter - Goriate had seen watching him. 
  • Despite a significant degree of concern, none of the PCs could think of a pretext for entering Willow Forge now the gates had closed, and they weren't prepared to go with the 'nuclear option' of "because we're Emerald Magistrates and there is Maho afoot inside your walls, that's why!"
  • Therefore it was first thing the following morning when they made their way back through the newly-reopened gates to visit Itagawa Yua. The theory was that since she'd killed one of Aoi's allies, tying up a loose thread of their investigation, it was perfectly sensible that the PCs might want to seek an audience to thank her.
  • Since she was a vassal family samurai and they were fairly famous magistrates, for once they were holding the right end of the status stick, so Yua was hardly in a position to refuse.
  • To provide a discrete test for Yua's daughter's, Horonigai split Goriate's finger of jade into two smaller pieces, each on a shorter cord suitable for a child. The idea was that since they were thanking her for facing down a Maho-Tsukai, a protective trinket would be an apt gift for her daughters.
  • Yua was a very courteous host - and Horonigai (As Winter Court Champion) got to make use of her new preferential access ritual: Formal Tea Ceremony (to several groans from Goriate's player, who'd had his full of them at Kyuden Doji...).
  • Despite his protests, Goriate and Horonigai came away strife free and with a void point and  TN2 reduction on their next check each, which shows how awesome the technique can be...
  • They then went to see the armoury again, this time accompanied by Yua herself. Goriate discretely confirmed the 'real' menpo was now back.
  • With a fairly simple courtesy check, they talked Yua into letting them present the gifts.
  • Eiko joined them from the family dojo, whilst Chinamu scurried in, noticeably keeping as far from her sister as possible.
  • Yua went through the classic refusals for Chinamu, before the young lion accepted with an excessively cute and clearly a bit intimidated mumble of " 'gato 'zaimash..." as she dropped the cord over her head.
  • Then Eiko also began the traditional refusals....but hers seemed a little more forceful than Yua's, and after her third she clearly looked like she was trying to find a reason to refuse yet again. Stuck for an argument, she gingerly took the jade....and screamed in pain as it burst into flames in her hand.
  • For the second time in twenty-four hours, the PCs started talking very quickly as Itagawa Yua - a veteran Lion bushi - reacted exactly as you might imagine a mother would instinctively respond on hearing her daughter's cries of agony and assuming the person in front of them was responsible. 
  • Only the fact Goriate was half expecting this - and hence his initative was his Focus to Yua's vigilance - let him take a guard action to protect Horonigai before an Iai strike would otherwise have buried the Itagawa samurai's sword into the Phoenix.
  • Uiri went to grab Eiko - and did so, winning an opposed fitness/earth check (Not especially hard, given his opponent), but was shocked when a series of metallic hooks and barbs started to raggedly push themselves through the young girl's skin from inside her jaw and cheekbones, steadily spreading across her face....

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4 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:
  • Uiri went to grab Eiko - and did so, winning an opposed fitness/earth check (Not especially hard, given his opponent), but was shocked when a series of metallic hooks and barbs started to raggedly push themselves through the young girl's skin from inside her jaw and cheekbones, steadily spreading across her face....

I hope that won’t leave a scar.

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  • Eiko continued to scream, struggling against Uiri's grip. Goriate used Voice of Authority with a command check, throwing a void point and his imposing Large Stature into it, to order Itagawa Yua - and the handful of Itagawa servants rushing into the room and starting to advance on the PCs - to stand down.
    • It only bought a moment, but the servants froze and Yua paused long enough to register the spreading metal was pushing its way out from inside her daughter, and watched as a lump of jade trapped in her involuntarily clenched fingers turned black and flaking away in droplets of foul black liquid, before finally clattering out of her grip to the floor.
    • Her sword clattered to the floor, and she pushed past Horonigai, composure lost, snarling at the phoenix to help her daughter.
    • She helped Uiri hold Eiko for another round - but, concerningly, Eiko's strength seemed to be growing exponentially, and even with Yua's assistance, Uiri only just managed to hold her.
  • Goriate grabbed the terrified younger Chinami and bodily dragged her to a safer distance whilst Horonigai stared in shock, trying to figure out what she could do to help.
    • The problem was....there really wasn't much. The Kaito didn't know Jade Strike or any similar techniques, and lacked anything on her person which might make a suitable offering for an importune invocation. Besides which, she wanted the thing inside Eiko to leave without killing the young Lion girl in the process.
    • Goriate moved the pair trying to hold Eiko down, leaving her younger sister scrabbling backwards in fear. Even with the three samurai combined, Eiko was only just held in check, and jagged spikes were now starting to flex and curl into an enclosing mask that looked disturbingly familiar.
    • In a moment of desperation, Horonigai tore the menpo from its stand. She'd been watching it out of the corner of her eye to see if it reacted in any way but it had stayed inert - because whatever monstrosity had hidden inside it was now inside Eiko. Snatching up what was left of the jade from the floor, she pushed the hugely oversized menpo onto Itagawa Eiko, whilst at the same time pushing the lump of jade into contact with the rapidly dwindling bare skin on the girl's face.
    • The skin began to blister, and the jade started smoking again. Eiko's screams became louder and increasingly inhuman, but the shards of the mask flexed and rippled, trying to find refuge from the burning jade. The slowly-growing metal started to flood out of the wounds in Eiko's face like liquid mercury, spattering over the menpo and being absorbed by it. By the time the remains of the jade had burned itself out, the flood had stopped and Eiko collapsed bonelessly backwards, blood running down cuts and tears in her face, crying in agony and confusion.
  • Horonigai wrapped the menpo in a layer of cloth in one swift move and dropped it as if it was red hot. It struck the ground with a dull thud out of all proportion to its weight, and the Phoenix (with Goriate's assistance) wasted no time in beginning a threshold barrier ritual to seal the area against any further spiritual manifestation whilst Uiri staunched Eiko's blood loss.
    • The cuts in the girl's face were nasty, but not life-threatening - she looked rather like someone had been dragged through a viciously spiked thorn bush, with some rips showing flashes of white in their deepest recesses.
    • Eiko kept sobbing, as her mother cradled and tried to reassure her.
    • Chinami - despite her earlier terror - rushed over to her sister and embraced her too, sidestepping Uiri's attempt to keep her at a safe distance with a combination of small size and a degree of agility which suggested the tiny wannabe bushi might prove a swordsman to be reckoned with after a decade or so of further training.
    • It was some minutes before the other two magistrates stepped back from the innocent-looking bundle of cloth covering the menpo. Horonigai was confident that no otherworldly spirit could escape from the 'bubble' she'd established around it, and certainly not without her knowledge.
    • Between tearful sobs, Uiri got the story of what had happened. Itagawa Chinami blamed herself, now she'd seen the thing that had taken up residence inside her sister.
      • It had been her idea, some days ago, to spar with Eiko  when their parents were both absent one evening. She had bugged her older sister to wear the oversized menpo for a few minutes - wanting to recreate her mother's great triumph. The bout hadn't gone to plan, as Eiko had battered her to the floor and left her covered with bruises. Her normally caring older sister had been distant since, spending most of her time in their father's forge, and Chinami had been content to hide from her, terrified of another beating.
      • Eiko's memory was vague, coloured entirely by an overwhelming haze of rage. She knew she'd hurt Chinami but at the time she was so angry with the world she couldn't make herself care. She knew she'd made a 'fake' menpo - which was now hidden in her rooms - and she'd slept with the real one curled up in her arms like a pet, listening to it 'whisper her to sleep'.
    • Gingerly, Horonigai used the tip of her sword to lift one corner of the cloth, but aside from a deeply menacing air, the menpo appeared completely inert. Refusing to be fooled, she decided to take the same approach they'd had with the Oni's weapon they'd captured on the Islands of Spice and Silk; wrapping it up with jade bound up inside the wrappings. Since Chinami had the other half of the finger of jade they'd brought, she turned, asking the young Itagawa samurai for its return...
    • ...and stopped as Goriate stared at Yua's daughters.
  • "What?" Horonigai asked.
    • Goriate pointed at Chinami.
      • "She's hugging her."
      • "And?"
      • "She's wearing the jade."
    • Horonigai shook her head in confusion.
      • "So?"
      • "Her sister's touching the Jade. It's not burning her."
      • "The...thing...went back into the menpo."
      • "That..." Goriate's shoulder's slumped from a thousand horrible memories. "..that doesn't matter. Once you've been tainted to the point jade starts to burn you when you touch it you don't just 'get better'. I've known too many relatives sent to the damned or put to death from being splashed with blood on the field - from just being on the field a day too long - and she's had an oni rip its way out from inside her head."
      • "But...she's...you can see..." Horonigai half-stammered. "This isn't some trick or deception. She's a young girl, half-comatose with pain. She's not conscious enough to use some kind of deceptive maho, even if she knew how."
      • "I know. The fact that we're watching it happen means it can happen, but it can't. That's not how the taint works."
    • Shaking her head, Horonigai focused on the important matter at hand. Retrieving the jade, she dropped it into their makeshift wrappings - and jumped back in shock at a molten hiss and an ear-splitting crack! as the menpo shattered into pieces. The fabric contained the chunks of metal, which, when she nervously inspected them, proved completely inert - and despite Horonigai's best efforts, there was no sign of any spiritual presence inside the barrier.
      • "...Another impossible thing, then. That...whatever it is...could not pass through the barrier without us knowing. But it was inside it and now it's not."
      • "...this can't be good."

 

  • This was more or less the active end of the adventure.
    • Eiko survived, but - yes - will have a badly scarred face. Despite the PCs best efforts, they couldn't find any indication of lasting effect of the 'possession' bar her mutilation, so they weren't inclined to report it. Goriate had no illusions whatsoever what would happen if, say, the Kuni heard about Itagawa Eiko's fate - either she would be investigated by a zealot who would not believe her and would want her put to death "to make certain" or else (maybe worse) by a radical who would and would have her investigated - potentially dissected - to uncover exactly what had happened and try to replicate it.
    • With the malefic spirit gone, they decided to confide as much as they dared in Itagawa Yua. Soshi Giichi had been trying to act in the best interests of the Empire and had made a mistake. He had tried to solve the problem without starting a war.
    • Yua was furious - and the PCs were left with no illusions about what would happen if the two ever met again. But despite her anger and offended sense of honour, Itagawa Yua could not accuse Giichi without condemning her daughter - and she was too much the Lion samurai to take revenge secretly or anonymously. Despite herself, that left her with no option other than to keep the secret. 
    • Later that day she confided in her armourer husband, Isao, and they - reluctantly - agreed to claim Eiko had been scarred in an accident in the forge, where she'd been working unsupervised whilst her father competed in the shrine.
    • The handful of servants hadn't seen clearly what had happened, but were sworn to silence by their Lord anyway. Given that they'd initially been prepared to confront a trio of armed samurai to protect Itagawa Eiko, the PCs were prepared to take them at their word, despite them being heimin.
    • The 'fake' was retrieved from Eiko's room  and placed on the stand in the armoury, so no-one needed to explain how the menpo had disappeared. Of course, this wasn't the 'fake' Eiko had made, which was hidden in Goriate's room at the Verdant Plenty inn, but the 'fake' Yuu and Kage had made for Uiri. Fortunately, Itagawa Eiko's memories were sufficiently disturbed that this evidently slipped her notice. Of course, Yuu and Kage were about to start mass-producing and selling suspiciously similar items through the festival market, which could lead to even more confusion. With the original gone, it hopefully wouldn't matter.

 

  • Several days later, at the southern end of Beiden Pass, a Soshi official introduced himself to a trio of travel-weary Emerald Magistrates, saying he'd been sent to meet them by Soshi Giichi-sama. He was rather surprised to find the Magistrates who were supposed to be expecting him didn't even break stride, and mildly offended to have a bag of loose, ugly-looking metal shards shoved rather discourteously in his face.
    • "Tell Giichi-san: No. More. Favours."

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  • There was a degree of animated discussion after this.
    • The general agreement was that Maho was, after all, "Maho-Cheaty-Bull***", but it was concerning in the extreme that it seemed to be now breaking its own rules rather than just everyone else's.
      • "Oh, great. New, Improved Maho-Cheaty-Bull***" - Horonigai's player.
    • Uiri's player observed that whatever the new danger Doji Satsume's ghost had been warning them about was, it was likely they'd just had their first taste of it.

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3 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:
  • Eiko survived, but - yes - will have a badly scarred face. Despite the PCs best efforts, they couldn't find any indication of lasting effect of the 'possession' bar her mutilation, so they weren't inclined to report it. Goriate had no illusions whatsoever what would happen if, say, the Kuni heard about Itagawa Eiko's fate - either she would be investigated by a zealot who would not believe her and would want her put to death "to make certain" or else (maybe worse) by a radical who would and would have her investigated - potentially dissected - to uncover exactly what had happened and try to replicate it.

Alas, it did.

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2 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:
  • There was a degree of animated discussion after this.
    • The general agreement was that Maho was, after all, "Maho-Cheaty-Bull***", but it was concerning in the extreme that it seemed to be now breaking its own rules rather than just everyone else's.
      • "Oh, great. New, Improved Maho-Cheaty-Bull***" - Horonigai's player.
    • Uiri's player observed that whatever the new danger Doji Satsume's ghost had been warning them about was, it was likely they'd just had their first taste of it.

Or it was not Maho and the power of Jigoku but some other similarly corrupting or possessing power.  If you have read the Phoenix Novella "The Sword and the Spirits", it could have been a power manifested from Gaki-do(realm of hungry dead),  Toshigoku(realm of slaughter), or even Sakkaku (realm of mischief unlikely as that seems).  I would have thought the Phoenix monk would be somewhat familiar with them, particularly as Toshigoku has been giving them some trouble.

 As for outsiders investigating, the Asako Inquisitors might take an interest in these events.  Or the Yogo Wardens (black watch).

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1 hour ago, neilcell said:

Or it was not Maho and the power of Jigoku but some other similarly corrupting or possessing power.  If you have read the Phoenix Novella "The Sword and the Spirits", it could have been a power manifested from Gaki-do(realm of hungry dead),  Toshigoku(realm of slaughter), or even Sakkaku (realm of mischief unlikely as that seems).  I would have thought the Phoenix monk would be somewhat familiar with them, particularly as Toshigoku has been giving them some trouble.

I have read it, and she would be.

The question was raised about other spirits which might be responsible by Horonigai's player, and I was specifically thinking about the Kaito's personal ghostly curse when answering. 

Yes, spirits from Toshigoku or Gaki-Do can compel and possess, and are also vulnerable to jade, but they are generally the ghosts of a person, rather than a spined-metal-torture-nightmare-squid-thing.

A second other realm is involved (which is why the thing was able to escape, as Horonigai's threshold barrier existed in three dimensions and it slithered off at right angles to that), but the 'primary' force is indeed that of Jigoku.

2 hours ago, Diogo Salazar said:

Alas, it did.

True, but it's remarkable how many outcomes are a better option than "horrible maho-ey death". 

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Posted (edited)

No time travel but that's not an awful outline of its physical appearance; all spikes, spines, tendrils and insubstantialness.

 

The 'other realm' involved is Yume-do. The nature of the realm of dreams is that it's a lot easier to slip into and out of than most others, hence the beastie's escape.

This thing is essentially a tainted and mutated baku - hence why, despite being able to influence her beforehand, it needed Itagawa Eiko to be dreaming to literally get into her head. It's bound by a mix of the rules of Jigoku and Yume-do - it can slip between Ningen-do and Yume-do more or less at will, for example, but in accordance with the rules of the realm of dreams it can't give someone the Shadowlands taint (though it can drive them insane and/or compel them to interact with other sources of the taint)

It's basically a sort of 'proto-onisu', in this case forged from nightmares of dishonourably, murderous rage (a common nightmare amongst the Lion) - and is one legacy of Kitsu Sokori's nasty innovation of blending 'classic Maho' with whatever other techniques she and her apprentices could master - in this case, the same Kaikoga-inspires Yumeji she used to breach the walls between realms before her death in Daylight Castle.

It is, unfortunately, also not unique.

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, Diogo Salazar said:

Wait, so she was possessed by a Hound of Tindalos?

You were thinking of "Return of the Runelords" as well, eh?

And Thank You Magnus for giving an insight into what was going on from a GM's perspective.  Makes MUCH more sense now.

Edited by neilcell

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Not really, it was mostly the part of Magnus talking about other realms and "right angles" that reminded me of them. I've never actually played Pathfinder (got sick of d20s and their uniform distribution).

And sure, tendrils, spikes, tentacles and insubstantialness meet the criteria of a lot of creatures and just last week I had finished the last Dresden Files book and that was the first thing that got to mind.

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  • So...the PCs have now reached the southern end of the pass, and are heading West from Beiden towards Shiro no Shosuro.
  • The Shosuro family fortress is one of the easiest places to catch a riverboat South into the minor clan territories near Hirosaka, and it's where Suiren plans to 'stash' Ikue.
  • Regardless, they were - broadly speaking - enjoying the journey. It was now early spring and months of snow and miles of mountain winds had given way to a pleasant spring morning. Scorpion clan highways are scrupulously clean and well-maintained and the traveling inns are comfortable (if inevitably laced with spies).
  • They were less than a day's journey from their destination when they smelled - then saw - smoke from a settlement ahead. Huge swathes of the large village were on fire, and villagers were rushing back and forth trying to fight numerous blazes in a disorganised fashion.
  • A few moments later they registered the strangest aspects of the scene. Two burning figures were running amok in the village - looking like villagers caught in a burning building and set alight but rather than collapsing they continued to rush back and forth, setting more fires in their wake. In addition, a more imposing figure - a man wrapped head to toe in a fiery glow - stood in the road ahead of them.
  • The PCs advanced, and the figure turned, wild-eyed, warning them to stay back. The flames around it increased in intensity and brightness for a moment and then it was gone - leaving behind a scene of incendiary chaos.
  • Uiri decided to try and take command of the firefighting efforts whilst the other three dealt with the fire creatures.
  • I used two tiny fire Kami for their statlines. The skirmish was short but brutal as heck.
  • Suiren started, drawing his katana and taking a wide track to the side to flank the creatures. He's not that great in a 'fair fight' and was aware his best chance to contribute was a Path of Shadows - enhanced attack on one busy attacking another foe.
  • Horonigai resorted to using Sacred Arrows to imbue Tempest of Air. With Sacred Arrows now dropping this to TN1, she was left with a sheaf of opportunities and was able to tailor the blast area of the invocation quite substantially.
  • Goriate shafted his tetsubo, moved up and assumed a guard stance. He failed the tactics check, but did trigger Crescent Moon Style, giving him the option of a counter-strike.
  • Then the fire Kami lit him up like a Christmas tree. The first one landed over half his endurance in a single attack that- being supernatural damage - bypassed his lacquered armour. His counter-strike likewise did a lot of damage but the tiny kami's combination of dangerous terrain and take-strife-equal-to-half-damage-dealt took him up to his endurance. The second tiny Kami incapacitated him, leaving him on 22 fatigue, 8 points over his endurance and basically out of the fight.
  • Uiri, on the other side of the village, passed a command check with Voice of Authority to whip eight villagers into a more organised group, and set them to work creating firebreaks to separate the blazes so they could be dealt with one at a time and didn't overwhelm the villagers.
  • Suiren chose this moment to 'introduce' himself, lunging out of the smoke with a flicker of steel. He landed a massive strike on the already wounded target, inflicting a maiming critical strike on its arm and incapacitating it...and then became instantly compromised from the amount of strife he'd had to accept on the check, as well as being halfway to incapacitated from the furnace-heat of the dangerous terrain.
  • Horonigai loosed her blessed arrow at the unwounded target. It took seven fatigue, and then the blast rendered the other, incapacitated one unconscious. The only reason Goriate didn't follow suit was her keeping opportunities allowing her to exclude one character from the area of effect. 
  • The remaining creature lunged at her in response to her arrow shot. Since she was in air stance, and with the supernatural resistance if her robes, she took much less damage than Goriate...but was rendered burning by the attack.
  • Uiri passed a reason/Labour check to get the fire contained, if not under control, and was able to use an opportunity to reduce Suiren's strife slightly.
  • Suiren went next,  taking a claming breath to recover his composure and darting in to attack again. This time his opponent was aware of his presence, so the result was less dramatic, but he still incapacitated the target as it was already heavily fatigued after Horonigai's daikyu shot. Despite a deliberate effort to avoid strife on the check, he nevertheless ended up both compromised again and incapacitated (albeit by a single point of fatigue) by the effects of the attack.
  • Horonigai had the opportunity to attack, but the creature was now inside the effective minimum range of her daikyu - and with the burning condition she couldn't afford a prepare action to draw her sword. So, true to her less-than-genteel childhood habits, she moved up and kicked it - hard. With the creature already incapacitated, this was sufficient to render it unconscious - but the extra damage and strife from Living Fire Spirit and Mantle of Smoke and Ash left her incapacitated and compromised, and then the damage from the burning condition rendered her unconscious and damaged her robes, slumping down beside the burning figure.
  • "Totally worth it" - Horonigai's player on kicking a fire Kami unconscious.*
  • Goriate tried a calming breath but was way too exhausted to be any use.
  • Uiri passed the Labour check again, no me getting the fires fully under control. Again - crucially - a bolstering earth opportunity got Suiren back in the fight.
  • Suiren - albeit with a bit of luck on his compromised roll - was able to pass the fitness check and extinguish the fires burning Horonigai.

 

  • The villagers were very grateful - and helped the PCs move Horonigai to safety until she recovered - but couldn't tell them much about what had happened. Few had seen the burning man the PCs had initially seen, and the lesser fire spirits - now the fires had burned out - proved to be the cremated corpses of two young villagers known to be lovers who had been missing - presumed to be in one another's company - most of the afternoon. 
  • Worryingly they'd also seen lights and heard bangs coming from the Shosuro stronghold up the road - they'd assumed it was firecrackers for a festival or celebration....

 

 

* The Tiny Fire Kami is a surprisingly serious opponent. It's rules stack in a worrying fashion, especially if it's opponent lacks a long weapon or worse fights unarmed.

Horonigai's "knee to the spirituals" attack which finished it is a good example: 

  1. Since the Kami had used fire opportunities in the previous turn, attacking it required Horonigai to take 2 strife.
  2. She had to keep a fair amount of strife results to succeed in the check. That meant she took 3 more strife.
  3. Since Mantle of Smoke and Ash makes the area at range 0-1 of the Kami dangerous, she also took 3 fatigue.
  4. Since she'd caused 3 damage (a kick's base damage of 2 plus one bonus success to get through the kami's resistance) she took a further 2 strife due to Living Fire Spirit.
  5. Touching it with her flesh left her forced to make a TN5 meditation check  due to Mantle of Smoke and Ash, which she failed (sensibly keeping no strife results!) causing 2 more strife.
  6. Finally, after her strike action, the Burning condition caused by Scorching Touch in the Kami's last attack triggered, causing 3 more strife and 3 more fatigue.
  7. That's a grand total of 12 strife and 6 fatigue, caused to her by her attacking it, rather than the other way around....

 

 

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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