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THE SAKE HOUSE

L5R RPG Adventures

Updated May 28th.


The Traitor Within was an adventure I originally wrote for Azrael Online. The link has been down for some time, and many of you have written to me asking for it. For those of you who missed it, it is featured here now!





Welcome to our Sake House fellow traveller. All who enter here journey along the paths less travelled. It is the season of storms, come in and warm yourself beside the fire. The sake will soon warm your soul. Would you care to be entertained? Mariko has many tales of Rokugan, from the intrigues of the Imperial Court, to the exploits of valiant Samurai.She began with a story;

"Hida Tokiwa, it has been two years since we saw you last. The late Yakamo requested your services in the Shadowlands as I recall. You look very pale old friend."

Hida Tokiwa's gnarled hand shook uncontrollably as he bowed before Hida Kirin. The skin on Hida Tokiwa's pale and emaciated face, no longer hid the bones beneath. The Shadowlands taint gnawed at him.

"Your heroic service as commander of the Damned has been commendable. Yakamo gave you a chance to redeem yourself. If you had been implicated in the murders in Kirin province, the stain upon your honor would have been scandalous."

"None of us could have known the darkness in Iuchi Shahai's heart... or the tragic consequences of your romantic involvement with her. I have information this maho-tsukai has been corrupting our clan from within. And who can be trusted? We have a traitor in our midst, that is all we know except... it's possible you know of her wherabouts? The Bloodspeakers must be stopped, and you must find her Hida Tokiwa. As you know , the crimes she was involved in were horrific, and her magic is much stronger now...".

Hida Tokiwa set off on his quest. He was contemplative, lost in his thoughts as he rode down the winding, dusty road. He looked upwards, and rolled his eyes, as if to say to Shinsei himself 'why me?'

He tried to rationalize what was right and what was wrong. He was ordered to seek out and destroy Shahai. And if he killed his former love, would he feel grief? He tried to find some reason, but felt only an emotional stain. Perhaps the darkness in her heart would destroy him instead. He hoped Shinsei's light would illuminate his dark path.

The madness of the Bloodspeakers had consumed Shahai. The atrocities she had committed attested to that. The wickedness of her dark invocations were spreading fear throughout Rokugan like wildfire, serving some mysterious higher purpose.

There would be no satisfaction in her death for Hida Tokiwa. If he didn't feel bittersweet sorrow, he'd feel nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Hida Kirin's words filled his head. "When you find her, we must have information about the traitor. We must find out who is betraying us."

Could he be sure of her betrayal? He would surely be a fool to trust her, but some part of him wanted to believe the love they shared meant something, that there was some spark of light still within her soul.

He stopped at a roadhouse at dusk to rest. Taking his horse to the stables darkness fell quickly. The roadhouse patrons stayed clear of him, mollified by his visibly ailing condition. Tomorrow, he would be near Iuchi Shahai's hideout. He drank some tea and then fell asleep. Dreaming. More voices. "I think I better wait till tomorrow." But she was already there inside his mind.



Nightmares intruded upon his sleep . The light of dawn did not come soon enough he thought. He left the roadhouse in the morning to search for Iuchi Shahai. When he arrived at her house after a days ride, he was surprised to find it raised to the ground, black ashes everywhere, as if consumed in some inferno. He questioned a few villagers nearby.

Kamoko has destroyed her they said. Now Kamoko herself carries the taint, consumed by madness as well. What dark bargain had been struck? Apparently she was headed to Volturnum, raising some sort of macabre army... Hida Tokiwa mounted his horse and soon picked up the trail. Kamoko could only be a days ride ahead of him. The path of darkness lay ahead.



The Traitor Within

There was known to be a traitor within Hida Kirin's court. The Bloodspeakers were everywhere within the empire, spreading thier corruption. Hida Tokiwa had been sent to search for the Bloodspeaker Iuchi Shahai, as it was certain she knew the identity of the traitor. But nothing had been heard of the missing Hida Tokiwa for weeks.

Then news came of Iuchi Shahai's death, Kamoko herself being implicated. The news was a shock to the Empire, the virtuous Kamoko now tainted by the dark side. Perhaps Hida Tokiwa was now in pursuit of Kamoko, to find some reason behind the madness of the Bloodspeakers. In any event, the identity of the traitor at Kirin court still remained a secret.

Lao Jisan, a revered Sensei at court, consulted Hida Kirin on a plan to flush out the traitor. The master builder, Kaiu Akihito, had finished the construction of a magical tower within the city. The court would be invited to attend the Jichinsai. This ritual ceremony was performed to calm the spirit of earth when constructing a new building. Lao Jisan reasoned that the traitorous Bloodspeaker would be revealed by the spirit of earth during the ceremony. Surely any contact with the purity of the elements would be like poison to the Bloodspeaker.

And what of the suspects? Even Hida Tarahime, the princess, might be the culprit. She was young and beautiful, but those were her only good qualities. Pernicious, vain, and spoiled, she went into a temper tantrum about having to attend the Jichinsai. She hurled insults and a few vases across the room. Maybe her reluctance to attend hid a deeper secret?

Her cousin, Hida Ami, was a scheming and jealous rival. The attention that was showered on Hida Tarahime infuriated her so much that she was soon consumed with envy and hatred. Terrified residents of the city had recently seen the 'Hannya' a female oni stalking the streets at night. Perhaps it was Hida Ami's jealous spirit?

Ojiro Kunabe, a court advisor, wished to return to the Unicorn lands, and made several excuses so as not to attend the Jichinsai ceremony. Although a sound economist and policy maker, he was secretive and unsocial. You could be around Ojiro for years without ever really getting to know him. His conversations were dull, and although well attired, he never stood out in a crowd. He was the type of person you forget the name of ten seconds after being introduced.

The magical tower had been built for two shugenja. Twins in fact. Kuni Sakura had been studying magic for years, learning to harness the energy of the elements. Her twin sister, Kuni Shoko, was equally skilled in the magic arts. They were often mistaken for one another when seen alone. But what twisted magic were they up to? Upon ascending the magic tower, the adventurers climbed one set of stone steps after another. After climbing what seemed like a thousand steps and taking almost all afternoon, they finally reached a heavy wooden door at the top. Expecting to enter the twin's chamber, they stepped through and the door shut quickly behind them. Surprised, they gaped upwards at the tower, from the bottom where they had started!!

Kaiu Akihito was certainly not behind these strange magical energies. He was very proud of his construction work, and was displeased with the adventurer's tale, how dare they criticize his building? He was equally displeased with Lao Jisan's meddling. "What if the Earth spirit is angered?" he argued. " If the foundation cracks, you will have destroyed my great work, Lao Jisan."


THE JICHINSAI

The Jichinsai ceremony proceeds the next morning despite the protests and objections of the courtiers. The sun was rising, and a light autumn frost covered the ground. A procession of Shinto priests set off from the Jinja or shine, and head towards the newly constructed tower. The cowled figures march through an early morning fog, chanting ritually as they go. Upon reaching the tower, Kaiu Akihito bows and is presented with an Omamori, which is a lucky charm. The Kanushi (Shinto priests) begin to chant loudly , and pray for the success of the building.

However, the spirit of Earth is angry at the presence of the Bloodspeaker. Negative synergies split the earth. Electric blue light emanates, arcing across the frosty ground. The earth shakes, and many are knocked to the ground. The rest of the gathering flees in panic. Crackling blue energy envelopes the Bloodspeaker.

Before the Bloodspeaker bolts to escape, an Oni is conjured to delay any pursuers. It is female in form, but otherwise quite grotesque. It lashes out violently with blackened claws. The twin heads feature very nasty, slavering jowls. The beast seems to have an enormous appetite.

After the adventurers deal with the Oni, the Bloodspeaker may attempt to cast the Maho spell Black Wind from the Soul. Laughing madly, the Bloodspeaker points a taloned hand towards the heroes. Always fatal, the Black Wind instead rebounds off the swirling earth energies around the Bloodspeaker, consuming the surprised traitor.

GM notes: Only the GM knows which of the above characters is the traitorous Bloodspeaker. The identity of the Bloodspeaker is revealed during the Jichinsai ceremony. The players having discovered the most clues and correctly identifying the traitor will gain a level of perception and/or intelligence. This scenario is good for new characters to gain a few levels of experience, before attemting a more dangerous combat-oriented adventure.

Player notes: How many times has your Samurai-ko character died? You'll live a little longer with more experience. Try improving your ring characteristics such as perception, intelligence, and awareness. Know when to talk your way out of a conflict. Reason with the Crane. Argue with the Crab. Use your imagination before you use your sword.

Hiring an NPC (non-player character) as a yojimbo (bodyguard) might be an option if your GM allows it, in combat-oriented adventures.





Pirates in Rokugan

It was said that when the last war ended, many Samurai found peace unbearable. The rewards of prestige and high rank were gone now that their skills of battle were of no more use. Thus when there was no war on land to occupy them, the young fighting men of Rokugan found an outlet for their energies in piracy, which was now thriving once again.

The early sea rovers of Rokugan soon earned a fearsome reputation. Much of the coast was fortified to protect the shore from these raiders, but this only had the effect of driving their profitable trade south. The wealth flowed back to some of the outfitters and protectors in the Southern provinces, and even some of the great Hida barons were enriched by the peculiar Wako blend of piracy and trade.

Around their strongholds grew prosperous cities that competed to attract poets, scholars and artists throughout Rokugan. About this time an ancient gold mine was rediscovered, and soon traders overseas also turned to piracy to intercept the cargoes laden with gold.

Soon even Gaijin arrived in search of the fabled mines and riches of Rokugan. Merchant traders brought even more wealth to the coastal ports, but the Samurai were just as interested in their firearms, novel yet enormously effective.

It was soon discovered the pirate fleets of Rokugan were too lightly armed to be of use against the massive carracks of the foreigners. Their cannons simply sank any and all who opposed them. The supremacy of the pirates came to an abrupt end.

Rumours say the lost Dragonship not only escaped all those years ago, it has returned...


Japanese Firearms in the days of Feudal Japan.

On the island of Tanegashima in 1542, shipwrecked Portuguese introduced the first firearms to Japan. The Ninja specialty developed by the Shimazu clan was that of highly trained sharpshooters.The weapons were matchlock firearms such as the arquebus and pistol.

Much later Oda Nobunaga's army used massed volley arquebus fire at Nagashino in 1575 to win a decisive victory. After the successful invasion of Iga , a dramatic attempt was made on Nobunaga's own life by three ninja armed with large-calibre arquebuses, or even possibly cannon.

By 1590, cannons were used on the high seas. Bristling with spiked metal plates, the Korean turtleship featured rows of cannons protruding from its gunports. The much larger Japanese invasion force was defeated by these floating fortresses.



Daimyo Rules For the RPG Part 1


A Samurai band was organized like an extended family with the leaders being blood relatives.The immediate family were called 'ichimon', and branch families were called 'ie no ko'. The clan leader was also the 'shoen owner', as his private rice lands were called. Smaller landowners,typically non-kin Samurai called 'kenin', generally enlarged the Daimyo's shoen to receive protection or in agreements made to defend their territories. Private agreements were also made whereby tax paying landowners donated their lands to a tax exempt shoen owner.

The 'shoen' or rice lands provide the wealth of the Daimyo and the Samurai band. The Samurai's salary of rice was deposited in storehouses and distributed to him in the second, fifth, and tenth months. The rice measure was called koku, one koku (about 5 bushels) being the amount considered necessary to feed one man for one year.

Silver and gold coins were used to purchase wholesale goods,copper coins for retail goods.Rice was also used as currency in a barter economy. In many cases the Samurai would have to collect the rice personally but merchants could also act as rice brokers.The Merchants would either deliver the rice to the Samurai or pay the equivalent in coin and keep the rice.Merchants also offered loans to Samurai against his forthcoming rice stipend.

Obviously, the more land a Daimyo could conquer or control, the more wealth he would have as the whole monetary system depended on land holdings and the amount of rice or koku produced. If a rival could be deprived of his lands, he would have nothing to pay his Samurai with.

These ideas should inspire you to create new adventures for a Daimyo character in the RPG. You could explore his interactions within his clan, for example,he might have a treacherous half brother conspiring against him. Maybe the nearby Merchant town must be raided if his own rice harvest fails.Perhaps the rice harvest is plentiful and a heroic Ronin band can be hired.

The above concepts are important because they define the Daimyo's relationship to the land and his clan.





Deck Strategies

When deck building for L5R , cards should be chosen for your deck to support at least two winning strategies. Regardless of the clan you play, victory can be achieved by planned strategy.The ways are; honor gain , dishonor, combat, enlightenment , and the wall victory. There is also a Black Scroll victory condition. The major strategies in turn are supported by aims such as; political control, dueling, destroying holdings or provinces, and copying or destroying personalities.

These are the cards from Time of the Void and Scorpion Clan Coup that are worth including in your deck.

Honor gaining: Oni no Pekkle costs three gold and bows to gain 1 honor. Tell the Tale is a limited action that gains 1 honor. The Master Painter is a unique retainer who bows to gain 3 honor. An Exhibition doubles the honor gain of holdings.

Dishonor: Dark Lord's Favor can dishonor a target personality as an open action, cause a target player to discard as a limited action, or reduce force or honor gains to zero. The Scorpion's Sting is a kolat political reaction that also reduces honor gains to zero. The People's Champion stalls out honor decks at the last moment.

Combat: Wedge is a battle action that doubles a unit's force. Unfortunately the unit is destroyed after the battle is over , so it is best used on personalities such as Hida Amoro. Asahina Uojin gives a 2F/2C bonus to a Crane personality as an open action. The inexperienced Hida Kisada provides lots of offense at 8F/4C. Mighty Protection is a spell that saves your cards destroyed in combat. The Fair Voice of Lies is an event that destroys all courtiers , diplomats, poets, and personalities with political actions in play without having to resort to combat at all.

Dueling: Burning your Esssence is a key action for dueling decks. The Obi of Protection prevents your personality from being challenged or ambushed. Strike without Striking is an action that recycles your focus cards.

Enlightenment: Yodin experienced is useful for retrieving the rings. Shioda is a zero cost personality who speeds up the ability of any stronghold if you have at least one ring in play.

Province Denial: Use the spell Augery to get Desperate Measures or Evil Feeds Upon Itself. Defenders of the Realm has become a useful way of negating these province destroying events.

 

L5R Dark Journey Home

This new L5R CCG expansion concludes the Hidden Emperor storyline. Hiruma Osuno is a 4F 5C Crab Clan Samurai who can bow to retrieve any terrain from the fate deck and put it into play. River of the Last Stand is a Region that adds a 1F/1C bonus to all Crab personalities at a province, but gives a -1F to Shadowlands adversaries.

There are three new Stronghold starters, and the Dark Path of Shadow gives us the long awaited Ninja 'clan'. Personalities like Shosuro, Goju Adorai, and the Ninja Infiltrator are a blast, and there is a Ninja Stronghold to bring them into play early in each starter. Gold cost? What gold cost!

There are a many Ninja deck variants . Some utilize dueling action cards, others a dishonor theme. An interesting variant uses Shosuro Chian and Kuni Yori to deplete an opponents fate hand before attacking. In playtesting this deck, it seems vulnerable to Crane honor runners, and the current 'Unipony' decks develop a lot faster.



SAMURAI DELICATESSEN




Onnotangu: Is it just me or is Hitomi scrappin' with Gene Simmons from Kiss?

Dragon's Teeth Foil: A graphic illustration of why you shouldn't let your kids play with lawn darts.

Yoritomo Sensei: He's prancing about with a thousand stale farts trapped in his kimono. Mmm...smells like chrysanthemums.

Infantry Square: There's no infantry. There's no square. Just a skeleton flyin' through the air... hey that rhymes, lets sing a song...

Mambo Number L5R:
A litle bit of Hirariko in my life
A little bit of Kamoko by my side
A little bit of Tsuko is all I need
A little bit of Hida O is all I see
A little bit of Kaede in the sun
A little bit of Kachiko all night long
A little bit of Tsanuri here I am
A little bit of you makes me your man
Mambo Number L5R!

Saying of the Week: Whaaaaaassup!!!! Nuttin. Just Chillin'.






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