Legend of the Five Rings: Echoes

Session 17: Shadows of Kitsune Mori
The Fox’s forest,
Touched by a darker power.
Now cleansed by Jade’s light.

This session was a big one. An obvious threat a player had known about was getting stronger, and she decided it was time to face it. A nice little mini-boss fight, if you will. The game started with everyone going home to their lands to train, and having a little mini-adventure of their own.

Sanjuro/Yamako/Toshiro: The other Unknown 1three Echoes returned to Crane lands, though not to train. They wished to visit Hinata, before continuing down to Fox lands so Yamako could train and they could meet up to face the tainted guardian of Kitsune Mori, the great bear spirit Kurogama. However, they ran into a few snags. First, they discovered that the tiny town of Kishi Mura had been slowly becoming more tainted, ever since the actions of the crazed Bloodspeaker from earlier in their adventures. Also, Hinata was once again targeted by assassins. Thankfully, Yamako was able to cure her, and the trio set out for Fox lands.

Sakura: Sakura returned to her unicorn lands to train. Her mother noticed something was wrong, and asked her daughter to see a priest. She mistook the subtle signs of the influence of the Lying Darkness for illness. When Sakura saw the priest, he knew something was amiss, and sensed great darkness within her, thinking it the Taint. Before he could run to tell anybody, Sakura killed him, and hid the body.

Takeshi: The Crab Echo went home a glorious hero. Not only had words of his Talisman of chikushudoexploits reached his clan, but he brought back with him three oni skulls, which he gifted to his family. In return, he was given an unbreakable katana of Kaiu steel.

Eventually, however, all the Echoes met up in Fox lands, and entered the forest to defeat it’s one time guardian.

The fight was brutal. Kurogama’s might was enhanced even further by the Taint of the Spirit Scar. They managed to defeat the beast, but at great cost. Toshiro lost his arm, swallowed by the bear in the skirmish.

When the final blow was struck, Kurogama’s will reasserted itself over the Taint, and with his last act he cleansed the forest of the taint from the Scar.

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Session 16: Oil and Water

For this session we were missing Sakura’s player. However, since she’s slowly falling to the Lying Darkness, it was a good chance for her to mysteriously disappear. When the player comes back, who knows if she’ll wake up to a scene of carnage that she created, or if she just had a bad dream… Also, we find out what happens when, with tempers flared and ideals tested, a man of extreme Honor like Toshiro butts heads with a strong-willed pirate who’s used to being in charge like his new uncle Kousei (Deceased). I also have to thank Kitsune Yamako’s player for creating such an awesome NPC for me to play with.

Honor. Ambition.
Two opposites. Like a flame
in Gaijin Pepper.

After their victorious defeat of the Tainted army that was about to sweep through Kousei’s island in the Isles of Spice and Silk, the Echoes celebrated late into the night in their own ways. Keen to return to the mainland to see their family and train (the PCs leveled), the magistrates had to cool their heels a while longer while Yamako’s ship was being repaired. Eventually, it was, and Kousei asked the group a favor before they left. He also told his niece (on the side) that it was a good chance for her to test her crew, and perhaps get some booty into their hands—a time-honored method for the Mantis to earn crew’s loyalty. The lord spoke of a pirate nearby, set up in a hidden cove, with spoils of war from Mantis and many other vessels.Unknown 1

It didn’t take long for the magistrates to agree. As they hit the open waters, Yamako revealed that the ship had gaijin weapons called, “cannon,” and she prepared them to be used against the pirate. Toshiro disapproved—after all, the use of gaijin weapons and the deadly “gaijin pepper” was strictly forbidden by the Emperor’s Decree—but he knew of his own clan’s Harriers, and their use of such items, so kept his mouth closed.

When they reached the island the battle was short and brutal. The pirate wasn’t expecting company and Yamako’s cannons easily dealt with most of the threats ashore.

Making landfall, the Echoes headed into the island’s interior, searching a large cave. What they found was a man sitting on a throne in a treasure room, with two guards and a large, pet tiger. The man was none-other than Master Coin, the person who had been contacting Sanjuro with targets who were threatening peasants or were the worst examples of samurai. When he saw them Master Coin sneered, commenting that Kousei was wanting in on his territory, revealing to the Echoes (sans Yamako) that the Mantis lord was also a pirate (and Toshiro quickly surmised if Kousei was a pirate, then so was Gayan, and that Gayan had been raiding Crane villages).

The fight was short and brutal, Hida Takeshi (MIA, presumed deceased) laying about with his tetsubo, smashing the Master’s guards. It ended with one of the Kolat masters dead at the party’s feet. When they returned, Kousei thanked them, and privately asked Yamako to return a specific piece of booty (a large crystal ball) to her brother in Fox lands. However, Toshiro, disgruntled that the magistrates had been used as pawns to simply make a pirate power grab, confronted Kousei, who repeatedly told him to leave, growing angrier when the Crane accused him of dishonor and piracy without proof. The Mantis lord was not without fault either, however, as his temper got the better of him and he resorted to base threats to attempt to get Toshiro to leave.

Eventually, a fight broke out. It was quick. It was painful. (Toshiro was THIS close to dying) Toshiro emerged victorious, having severed the Mantis Lord’s hand and almost killing him.

Needless to say, Toshiro is no longer welcome in Mantis lands.

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Session 15: Mud, Blood, and Screaming Horses

I was worried how this session was going to play out. We’d been away for a week, and when we left several of the players felt their characters weren’t involved enough (i.e. they were warriors and there was little to no combat). So this session I turned into the slide and threw a massive battle at them. Using L5Rs Mass Battle rules we did just that: mass battle. It seemed to go over well, the only problem is the heroic opportunities table suddenly focuses the action on a single player for a bit too long. I’ll have to see how I can mess with it and streamline it, because otherwise I feel it was a hit.

The sky awakens
Greeted by Nature’s choir
While blood soaks the grass.

The Echoes have thus far been victorious in the pursuit of their kharmic duty, and it seems that Scar after Scar are healed with their passing. They recently were spotted in Mantis lands, and have been heralded as heroes. Under their guidance, a small force of young, fresh-from-their-gempukku samurai managed to hold off a much larger force of revolting peasants, walking dead, and even oni!
Armor of toshigoku
While Sanjuro (Deceased), Kitsune Toshiro, and Hida Takeshi (MIA, presumed deceased) fought against the twisted army of a reborn Jiyu (Deceased… again), Kakita Yamako and Sanjuro Sakura infiltrated enemy lines, crossed over into Toshigoku (the Realm of Slaughter), and not only managed to close the Spirit Scar, but end the Maho that was used to control some of the Slaughter Spirits. When the small army of Echo-led Mantis seemed about to fall, Yamako led the freed spirits against the peasant army, which was slaughtered to the man.

The Fortune’s are certainly smiling on the reborn heroes, but how long will it last? And what about their foe, Isawa Kage (Bound), and his new lieutenant Ineko (Deceased?)? Good fortune only lasts so long…

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Session 14: The Session That Time Forgot

So this session was a month ago and I had forgot to throw it up. Basically, craziness happened and they closed the Spirit Scar in Scorpion lands!

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Session 13: Memories of Shinomen Mori
Memories unbound
An Echo finds the knowledge
But his thread is cut

Lucky number 13! This is an episode where I not once tried to screw over the players! As Yamako’s player put it, they “got shit done!” They all know have the tools they need to face demons (in the terms of appropriate magic items, or the ability to bypass Invulerability), as well as the knowledge to quickly find and close the remaining Spirit Scars. Hmmm. I should probably figure out where the other 7 of those are…

The session opened on the players following the Naga they knew as Third Eye into a small community. Their, they discovered that the Naga’s pearl that contained a portion of the Akasha (Naga’s ancestral and shared memory) pertaining to the Echoes had been stolen by a tribe of Nezumi (rat-men).

Tracking the ratlings down was not difficult, and after some quick talking, the group realized that the Nezumi were just as dependent on the memories held within the pearl. Without any memories, the ratlings would quickly become easy prey for the Naga and other beasts of the forest. As the group learned, the Nezumi had horribly short memories, lumping all their past into a single Yesterday, and all the future into Tomorrow.

The single Rememberer of the village told the group that a human had stolen his other memory sticks Yesterday (how many yesterdays was a chore to figure out, which Yamako quickly learned), and that he would give them the pearl, if they retrieved the sticks for him, which they agreed to.

Several more days of travel through the dark, frozen Shinomen Mori found the Echoes outside a large camp of bandits and ronin (around 700 worth). Though an obvious threat, it was not their intent, and so the group ignored the army, and snuck their way (with the help of some local Earth kami) into a cave where they found the memory sticks, as well as a Tainted bushi who was more monster than man who was feeding on the Taint coming through a Spirit Scar.

After a fierce battle in which Toshiro almost lost his life, the group managed to defeat their foe, grab the sticks and head back. From there they got their pearl and returned to the naga, who told them that one among their number could use the pearl to merge with the Akasha and have access to the memories stored within (those that pertained to their particular Song, that is). The problem was, that whoever was to merge with the Akasha would sever his or her tie to the Kharmic Wheel, never to pass on to the Realm of Ancestors, or indeed reincarnate. After this life was up, they would be apart of the Akasha instead (Third Eye didn’t mention that last bit).’

After much debate, Takeshi finally merged with the pearl, placing it above his chest where it sunk into his flesh. Immediately afterwards, he knew what Hiruma Do remembered, and told the group that the nearest Spirit Scar was in Scorpion Lands…

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Session 12: Frozen Heart
Enchanted crystal
Sharpened blade of frozen death
Tool against shadow

Gaki of desire
12 was a short session, and not a lot happened. Mostly the party travelled to Shinomen Mori, to find a map that could accurately guide them to the other Spirit Scars. Along the way they had a “random” encounter that—in the long run—will aid the party. There are now 3 nemuranai in the PC’s hands…

The session opened on a bored-looking Sanjuro, overlooking his wife, Lady Hinata, daimyo in the Crane, while she dealt with lesser lords and their squabbles. On her other side sat her brother; both men advised her. Though she desired their help, she did not wish to keep them from their duty, and soon released them on their way.

They travelled south, through the mountains. They were to cut down through Scorpion lands and into Shinomen Mori, the Empire’s largest, least explored forest. However, near the peaks the ran into issues. They found the remains of a ravaged campsite, and evidence that it was the party of a samurai merchant patron who had hoarded his food away from the others for only himself. When he finally succumbed to starvation and cold, he became a special type of undead, a hungry spirit that was partially a boiling hot cauldron. He, and the two spirits of the others that perished, Forest of shinomen 1found a Yuki-Onna and began to feed on her. Thankfully, the Echoes were there and helped rescue her. To show her thanks, she gave Toshiro an enchanted blade of ice, the nemuranai Frozen Heart (Broken).

After the battle, they continued their journey, passing quickly through Scorpion lands until they reached the massive, dark forest in which lay their prize. As they travelled through, however, they were beset by snake men. Before chaos could break loose, however, Yamako told the naga she wished to speak with them, and as she did, the naga’s leader slithered forth. She recognized the three-eyed face from her dream…

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Chapter 2: Winter Court (Session 11)
Cold and soft it falls,
A new season has arrived.
Fresh blood on the snow.

This was the first session of the second arc of our Echoes campaign. I wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked, but judging from the players, it was a success. The actual group events were small, and I’ll only focus on those in the post. If players want to mention dreams or side conversations with NPCs, they can put it in their comment.

The session was the character’s first glimpse at a Winter Court. To make it easier, it was the Court of Toshiro’s father, Lord Katashi, so at least they were in friendly territory. Katashi had asked them to speak up the Crane to the visiting Imperials. He asked this because the Lion were there as well, and the discussion was War. Both sides were accusing the other of aggression.

Once court cordially started, all were asked to participate in a contest of artistry—poetry and storytelling to be precise. As well as everyone did, the people were mildly shocked that the Crab, Hida Takeshi’s, poem didn’t suck.

After that, the parties broke off to discuss treaties and point fingers. Hida Takeshi, fed up with politicking, took a walk, where he noticed masked men infiltrating the party. He immediately rushed back in to warn the others. While the rest of the Echoes kept up the appearance of normalcy, Hida rounded up the servants and Sanjuro rushed off to check on his wife.

Unfortunately, when he found his home, his wife had been poisoned by an assassin. But before he could cry for help…

Having rounded up the servants, Hida quickly found those who had infiltrated the party, posing as the servants. Before anyone could react, however, they revealed that they were packing their pockets with gaijin pepper…

…and blew up the party.

Sanjuro’s cry for help was drown out by the blast that rocked the whole city. Inside the remains of Katashi’s estates, a thin, tall man approached Yamako. He smiled, and told her this was a message from Isawa Kage. However, this was no man, but a Pekkle no Oni, who exploded, spreading Taint throughout the area. Hida Takeshi himself took the brunt of Jigoku’s darkness, though no one escaped unscathed.

However, Yamako, who had to choose which of her two fathers she could save, found a rage building within her. Isawa Kage had been a thorn in their side for too long, and she knew—since both Isawa Keitaro and Kuni Hachiro were here, that Isawa Kage was somewhere among them. She gathered all the Echoes together (including the Phoenix and Kuni), and took them to a secluded forest, where she summoned Kanshu, the jailer of Hell they had met in the previous session. With her own abilities, as well as those of the Dark Hunter, it was revealed that Kuni Hachiro was Isawa Kage, and after a brief battle, Hachiro escaped.

Though surrounded by grief and death, the Echoes now knew the true identity of their ancient enemy, and the hunt could start in earnest.

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Session 10: Destiny
The Songs' Return
A test completed.
A secret shared. The truth told.
The Songs now reforged.

This was the conclusion of the first chapter of the campaign. The goal was to bring the Echoes together, rediscover their past lives, and take on their kharmic duty—also, introduce some bad ass villians. Mission accomplished.

The session started with the arrival of the Emerald Champion—the leader of the Imperial Legion, and head of the Emerald Magistrates, the highest ranking “police” of the Empire. As Sanjuro and Toshiro completed the quest put forth by Katashi in Conflict of Interests, the Crane Lord was willing to let them have the freedom to undergo their kharmic duty. However, they had to pass a trial. The Emerald Champion asked them to find one of these Spirit Scars they spoke of, and bring him proof.

They decided to go after the closest Scar, in Crane lands. But before they could, Sanjuro and Yamako had to speak with Toshiro about the truth of his previous Lord’s murder. He took the news… stoically. Though he alluded to dealing with the issue when their duty as the Echoes was dealt with.

With the air cleared, they traveled to an important Doji city, home of Doji Ineko, the foolish girl who almost got Toshiro killed with her inappropriate behavior at the Court of Kimusu in the Fragile Peace session. Yamako and the other Echoes already had reason to suspect Ineko of blood-sorcery, but, as deputies of the Emerald Magistrates they had no power to accuse a powerful lord’s daughter.

So, they followed protocol. They searched through the town, finding little to no clues the first day. As night fell, they were all invited to dinner and a tea-ceremony performed by Ineko herself, though both Sanjuro and Takeshi found reasons to politely refuse.

It was fortunate for them, as Ineko was indeed a blood-sorcerer, and without their knowledge, she slipped several drops of her blood into the tea. This would come back to haunt them later that night.

Even though they found no clues, Fate appeared to be smiling on them, because Yamako was awoken for no reason, but saw a dark, flitting shadow in the garden out her window. The Echoes followed it through a hedge into a small secret garden. Here, they encountered Ineko and her two handmaidens—who were actually lesser bog hags. She snuck in the first attack, almost petrifying Toshiro in the first moments of battle. However, after almost losing both Yamako and Toshiro, the Echoes were victorious.

Their trial complete, they traveled to Otason Uchi, where Emperor Hantei XXXVIII himself swore them in as Emerald Magistrates. They were now truly the Echoes, in name and deed. Again, Sanjuro found himself in an unlikely position as he was appointed head of the band.

Now they have kharma and society on their side in the battle against the darkness. One fact still alludes them, however…

Which of them is Isawa Kage?

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Session 9: Conflict of Interests
Evil grows nearer
But which is more important
Honor or Empire?

I apologize to Hida-san’s player. I was fumbling with my smartphone and accidentally deleted his masterful comment below. That being said, this session was a bit more relaxed on the player vs. player intrigue—a bit. I’ve seen a few players have been overloaded with all the drama (completely my fault), so I’m working them towards some fun hack’n’slash of the Spirit Scars and their tainted guardians. But first, they had one dilemma to overcome…

We started the session out with dreams. Everyone had their own, and if they wish to share, it can be in their comments. However, all their individual dreams melded together into one massive shared nightmare. They stood in the center of the Empire, able to see into all corners, watching while the Spirit Scars bled their taint into the world. They caught glimpses of the twisted guardians standing sentinel over each rift of darkness. And they were forced to watch, helpless, as one of their own friends, though they knew not which, freed another dark soul from Jigoku, causing another Scar to appear.
Takaharu
When they awoke, Sanjuro was surprised to see a man wrapped in black leaping down from the ceiling, knife slashing for the Crane’s throat. After a brief skirmish, which Sanjuro’s wife ended with a thrust of her spear, everything calmed down—until the morning.

First, the Echoes spoke with Teien about their dreams, and Yamako even studied maps and histories of the places she had seen—and discovered that a nearby Spirit Scar was located in Crane lands. They agreed they needed to leave, and quickly, to deal with this menace.

But then, they were summoned by Lord Katashi, who told them that he had tasks for them. His son Toshiro was told he would be leading men into battle, and was to head away to train with the military. Sanjuro was told to head the opposite direction to train with the Crane’s elite scouts. Takeshi and Sakura were both permitted to stay in the Crane city as long as they wished, as honored guests.

Yamako tried to convince the Daimyo that they had a kharmic duty, as the Songs reborn, to stop this evil, but Katashi only thought they were children’s stories. Besides, he said, they were all needed to help strengthen the Crane in the inevitable war with the Lion that was on the horizon. Even the great Hida Takeshi tried to convince the lord, but Katashi only scoffed. Something within the Crab snapped, and he threw the Crane lord to the ground. Others came running, and Takeshi fought against them like a mad man. Eventually he was disarmed, literally, by his friend Toshiro, who removed the Crab’s hand from his wrist. Thankfully, Yamako was there and was able to convince the kami to reattach the limb to the now unconscious warrior. But not before she discovered a secret about Takeshi’s new tetsubo.

It was cursed. Kukanchi no kansen

The heroes had retrieved the artifact after a dark ritual had been placed on it (by none other than the reincarnation of Isawa Kage). A kansen—a twisted spirit of the Shadowlands—had been bound to the weapon, and though Yamako was able to bind it so it would not influence Takeshi any further, she was not able to rid the weapon of its Taint. The little monk known as The Gardener, had ideas, however. He knew of a prayer to force the kensen out of the tetsubo, where Takeshi could physically duel the creature itself.

So a small arena was set up, with Yamako herself taking precautions to keep the kansen from escaping, and Takeshi was released from custody to fight the being.

The fight was deadly. The fight was short.

After receiving numerous injuries himself, the Crab was at last victorious. But unfortunately, though he forgave the Echo for shoving him, Lord Katashi still did not believe the “nonsense” of the Spirit Scars. But he did have respect for these people, and offered them a chance. He admitted that if he had the resources of a small town on the Crane/Lion border, he would not need Sanjuro and Toshiro to lead his men. So, a small group was sent to deal with the issue.

Before that could happen, however, the group noted the absence of Sakura, who had taken a ride on Tamoki without telling the others. While she was out, she was accosted by three maho-tsukai, who were young Crane ladies. Though she eventually was freed, Sakura learned that they all served a “mistress” who was after Yamako for an unknown reason. But, the group was at last ready to deal with the Lion/Crane village.

Unfortunately, though not present themselves, the Lion had hired a small mercenary force of ronin to protect the village. These ronin were led by Sanjuro’s father, Tatsuya. Love stayed Sanjuro’s blade, and he instead showed himself. He admitted to Tatsuya the reason he was there, and brought the ronin out to speak with Toshiro.

A deal was struck. Now they had only to wait on the response from Kakita Katashi…

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Session 8: Truth and Lies
...and another damn wedding!
With Honor restored,
two Echoes find Happiness.
But lies stain the love.

Session 8 had a few minor moments of importance, and one explosive big one. A player has dodged a big bullet… for now.

The Session started with everyone off training and dealing with down time .

While in Crab lands, Hida Takeshi (MIA, presumed deceased) was approached by none other than the Crab Champion, Hida Kisada, the Bear. The Lord of the Crab told Takeshi that he had heard of his situation, and that he was the reincarnation of one of the Lord’s personal heroes, the Song Hiruma Do. From the Bear, Takeshi learned of the location of his previous incarnations personal weapon, a powerful nemuranai Hida’s Judgment. He immediately sent letters to his allies.Heavenly tetsubo of the crab

So, he led the Songs into the Shadowlands themselves, to the remains of Hiruma Kyuden, the lost fortress of the Hiruma family. Within the tombs, where the weapon was stowed, they ran across the shadow demon known as Kage-no-Oni battling The Faceless Man (Deceased?). The room looked like a Maho ritual had just taken place.

Without hesitation, Toshiro cut the Faceless Man—wrestling with the shadow demon—down. As he died, the servant of the Nothing showed Toshiro the true face of his lord’s killer—Sanjuro’s, adding that Yamala had known as well.

Unfortunately, he could not turn and face his friends just yet, as they had a demon to defeat. The problem was, the creature was not hurt by mundane weapons. Yamala’s spells still worked, and for some strange reason Sanjuro’s blade damaged the creature, but nothing else worked.

Leaping across the battle, Takeshi snatched up the tetsubo of his ancestor, and golden light exploded through the room. With Yamala’s spells, Sanjuro’s blade and Takeshi’s tetsubo, the demon was quickly defeated.

Toshiro was oddly quiet the entire trip back to the Empire, but once clear of the Shadowlands rounded on Sanjuro and Yamala and demanded the truth. Both lied (or omitted truths), causing conflict within the Crane samurai. One one hand, he trusted his friends implicitly; on the other, the Faceless Man’s words rung with truth.

Eventually, however, the group made it back to Crane lands, to present Lord Katashi with the Faceless Man’s head clearing—in Katashi and his son’s minds—Toshiro’s Honor. In a few weeks time a wedding was held, officially binding the Fox and Crane Clan’s.

Yamala is Yamala no longer. Now she is Kakita Yamako, leaving behind a piece of her Fox, and Mantis connections both, behind.

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