Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Seasonal Events and the Clan Campaign in L5R

I haven’t written much about my current L5R campaign, but it continues on quite well. I’ve found a few rules tweaks I need to make to the homebrew system but nothing has broken. The players are members of a new family of the Dragon clan, occupying lands formerly of the Lion. The campaign’s set in the Clan War era, following a version of the Scorpion Clan Coup which didn’t exile them (long story). The group built their family in a collaborative session you can read about here. I’ve also written about how this Clan-based campaign works (and how it borrows liberally from John Wick’s excellent Blood & Honor). The campaign takes place over the course of years with players investing in and developing their region. Each season we do a few sessions of adventures and then transition to the next. In between seasons players make choices. I’ll talk more about those picks in another post. Today I want to talk about how I’ve used those break moments as an opportunity to develop history and get story inspiration.

To add variety I developed a system to add events for each season transition. I began by putting together a list of random events- abstract phrases and descriptions more than anything specific. I own several games (Red Tide, Birthright) with random nation event tables. At first I lifted just from those, resulting in about 200 different items. Then I realized that the Legend of the Five Rings CCG has a massive range of descriptive phrases I could borrow from Event and Action cards. It too some time, but I pulled names from an online card manifest. Then I had to go through to weed out duplicates, change overly specific references, and cull odd ones. I ended up with a list of 1000 random events. Some would be pretty easy to figure out: A Plague Spreads, Bountiful Harvest, Bandit Raids. But most of them would require some serious interpretation. Some examples: A Matter of Honor, I Know That Trick, Living Death.

My reading depend on where the event happens. I decided that each season I would make three sets of three event pulls. The first would be “national” events affecting the Clans or the Imperial House. The second would be “neighbors” affecting the families of the clans directing bordering the players’ province. Last would be the province itself which I broke down into ten areas (N, S, E, W, Center, Main City, Significant Site, Retainer Families, Borderlands, Rumors). These are on random tables. For example in the first season I came up with the following results for the transition from Spring to Summer.

  • Phoenix: Last Line of Defense: Over the years, Shugenja have requested the restoration of the office of the Jade Champion. The Phoenix have always blocked that. Oddly they have recently established a new office within their clan with a mandate much like that of the jade Champion, under the auspice of the Elemental Council. Asako Togama has taken up the role.
  • Unicorn: Lean Times: Word has begun to leak out that a series of accidents destroyed a good deal of the Unicorn food stores. Combined with the drop in general production from the heartland (GM’s note- as a result of the war which saw the PC’s family taking over certain Lion regions) the Unicorn have been hard pressed. GM Note: This event has had some direct impact on the game, as the Unicorn represent an important potential ally. The group decided they would quietly work to make sure that Unicorn smuggling would be given more room. The Magistrate PC spoke with the Unicorn trade representative about the matter- gaining some obligations from the clan. That an excellent move that the group came up with quite quickly.
  • Dragon: Treachery Exposed: Mirumoto Daini declared Mirumoto Harutane as traitor to the Dragon. He and his two sons have been asked to commit seppuku for their treason. He and his eldest complied, but his youngest son, Mirumoto Mishikado fled with his wife (formerly of the Agasha). Harutane is said to have been carrying on treasonous negotiations with the Unicorn, though what exactly happened remains uncertain outside the Clan Champion’s council.

  • Lion: Matsu: Destined Enemies: Matsu Tsuko, Clan Champion and daimyo, clashed with Akodo Kage over leadership within the Lion. This has forced many within the family to take sides.
  • Lion: Matsu: Light of the Sun Goddess: A minor shrine to the Sun Goddess experienced a visitation from Ameratsu. She appeared and placed a wakizashi within the shrine which gleams like the sun. The Matsu and Kitsu are currently discussing the nature of the visitation. GM Note: I’ve developed this further with the Emperor intervening and declaring that the Matsu must hold a tournament in order to gift the weapon to a worthy champion. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to maneuver the PCs there- but I have a couple of ideas about that.
  • Unicorn: XXXXX XXXXX: Skirmishes continue in the lands between the Scorpion and Unicorn. Infiltrators from both sides continue to fight the war, despite the Imperial edict against open conflict. Rumor has it that the Moto found and raided a significant Scorpion site. GM Note: I don’t want to say what the event was- as some of my players read this, but there’s a secret hidden there.

  • Borderlands: Glimpse of the Unicorn: The north has seen a flurry of Unicorn activity- smugglers, infiltrators, and the like. GM Note: I tied this into the earlier national event, suggesting that this came from desperation on the part of the clan.
  • Rumors: Malevolent Creed: Stories have reached the main city of Maru Katei of strange travelling monks within the province. They seem to be agitators, speaking quietly and subtly against the Celestial Order. Some suggest they spread a strangely twisted version of the Tao. Exactly who and what they are remains uncertain.
  • Central Region: Demagogue: Abbot Matahei, senior monk of the Monastery at Rekiju has been in at Maru Katei visting the shrines and sites related to his order. His monastery, the most important in the province, is dedicated to Fortunism. (GM Note: The players selected a monastery as one of their provincial resources). Rekiju has two major sites dedicated to Bishamon and Sudako. Matahei has been speaking about the importance of the fortunes in the province. In this he has been quietly suggesting that the common folk avoid adopting the more kami and Taoist tendencies of their new Dragon overlords. While he hasn’t made any direct comment on the new daimyo, he could become an irritant.

GM Note: This ended up inspiring a set of episode for the current season. The group has tried to track these strange monks with no great success. More importantly, they opted not to confront Abbot Matahei directly. Instead while nearby, they paid a call on Rekiju and made a positive impression, albeit one laced with the implication that the monks needed to fall into line. They backed that up by uncovering a Bloodspeaker conspiracy to burn the monastery down and increase tensions in the area.


We’ve only had one seasonal transition so far, but the next is coming up fairly soon. I’m usually not a big one for random tables, but I’m pleased with this. It has given me a number of ideas about plots and events for the campaign. In a superhero campaign, I usually offer “news” briefings with lots of plot possibilities the group can pick through. This has a similar function. It also offers a sense of the broader world as a whole. There’s a freedom for me in letting these events determine Rokugan’s current path

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