After a long absence from gaming, I'm very happy to say I'm once again running an L5R game. Our first session was last night. I was a little worried about the mix of characters, since I'm used to a bushi-heavy game, but this is going to be a fun campaign, I think.
For those familiar with the official L5R canon, I'm ignoring just about all of it. Hantei XXXVIII died of natural causes, briefly succeeded by his son, but the boy was sickly and only reigned for about 5 months, before succumbing to his maladies. He is succeeded by his sister, Yurihime, now known as Empress Hantei XXXX.
Our heroes were invited to participate in the annual Topaz Championship for their gempukku ceremony, and to show their worth before the worthies of the empire as they strove to win the prize, an ancient wakizashi awarded by the Empress herself. With the exception of the two Lions, who traveled to the Crane town of Tsuma together, their first encounter with one another was in the common room of the tea house where they've been put up for the duration of the contest.
Bayushi Kyo - a bishonen (bishojo?) actor from the Shosuro school
Hiruma Sae - daughter of a minor Crab daimyo, trained at the Kakita artist academy
Kitsu Misoka - an Akodo-trained samurai-ko
Matsu Kirito - a samurai-ko from her family's bushi school
Togashi Satome - a shugenja from the distant Dragon clan
As they were getting to know one another, Kirito was escorted aside and taken to meet with her family daimyo who reminded her that the honor of the family was at stake, and should she fail to score the 5 points necessary to graduate into adulthood, she would be expected to commit seppukku. Shortly after she returned, they heard the drums of the approaching imperial barge, and hurried out to witness her arrival. Once the imperial entourage had passed, they decided to join in with the general celebration throughout the town.
Kyo used seduction to pick the pocket of the large, wealthy Yasuki trader, netting a hefty 15 koku. Almost immediately after, an imperial guard stepped out of an alley and demanded Kyo come with him. Rather than being arrested, Kyo found himself in an audience with Seppun Oyabun, a highly placed minister within the imperial court. Having heard of Kyo from one of his Bayushi cousins, Seppun had a job he needed done, by someone with a knack for subtly. Kill Kakita Rei, the favorite to win the championship and rumored favorite of the Empress.
Eager to start, Kyo tracked down her lodgings and attempted to convince the beautiful Crane bushi to go somewhere more private. However, she was singularly uninterested in such activities. Kyo then left, claiming a chance to visit distant relatives, and went to a Scorpion-run tea house in the attempt to acquire some poison. Again, he met with failure.
Later that night, Kyo slipped out of the tea house and made his way across the still celebratory town. He managed to slip by the enraged Yasuki who was looking for the "woman" who stole his cash. He reached the Crane's tea house, but was barred entry by an angry old lady. Kyo decided to climb up and slip in through a window. He was successful, but Kakita Rei's room was empty, which he realized after assaulting the bundle of unoccupied bedding in the middle of the room. So, he waited in hiding. When Kakita returned and saw the shredded bedding, Kyo attacked from ambush. His initial strike drew blood, but she whirled and demonstrated her skill with iaijutsu, nearly killing him in a single strike. Realizing he was outmatched, Kyo fled, but tripped over the bedding and hit the window sill face-first. Everything went dark. (At this point, I used the GM fiat to rewind time and we negated everything in this paragraph.)
In the morning, they started the competition. Wrestling, Heraldry, Athletics, Horsemanship, and Etiquette. During the opening ceremony, most of the party noticed a young ronin samurai-ko named Sadako staring daggers at Kyo. He recognized her as Asako Samarra, a young women he'd encountered and whose brother is out for his head. In the wrestling competition, the artistic Hiruma put up a surprising struggle against her massive Hida opponent, but was still knocked from the ring.
At the end of the day's five events, the important scores where:
Bayushi Kyo 3
Hiruma Sae 3
Kitsu Misoka 3
Matsu Kirito 2
Togashi Satome 4
Kakita Rei 5
During the second evening, Kyo again left the group to "visit family". This time, he managed to convince someone at the Scorpion teahouse to provide a poison. He was given a dose of warui paseri, a slow-action paralytic that can lead to death by suffocation. Early the next morning, he purchased several sweet mocchi, sharing them with all competitors, and slipping the poison into Rei's. The day's competitions were to be Weapon Fighting, Courier, a game of Go, Archery, and a Hunting event.
By the lunch break, the young, and until this point undefeated, Crane was looking very ill. She collapsed as her weakened muscled locked up. With several people converging on the fallen samurai-ko, Togashi Satome slipped through the crowd. She grabbed her spell scrolls and began whispering to the spirits. Her first spell failed to come together, but when she tried recasting, the power surged down through her hands and into Rei's body. The young Crane rolled on her side and vomited forth the poison from her system. She was taken away by the imperial guard, to be further treated by Asahina shugenja.
The last event of the gempukku wasn't a direct head-to-head competition. Instead, they were all released at the same time to find tsu fish eggs. All competitors returning with three eggs would earn a point. Upon seeing three of their opponents (Shinjo Hotaki, Matsu Tanari, and Hida Fumoki) working together, the party members decided to cooperate. Before long, they located a tree with the eggs hanging in the branches, watched over by a large school of the amphibious fish. As the others tossed stones at the fish walking the shore, Kyo snuck all the way to the tree trunk, but failed as he tried to climb. Instead, he fell into the shallow water. He scrambled ashore and up the tree while the others drew their weapons and began dispatching fish. When it looking like they might become overwhelmed by their numbers, Hiruma Sae recalled a myth about the tsu being hunted by "the great pink naga". With fingers like the wind, she whipped out a pink sheet of origami paper and folded it into a naga. Imbuing it with spiritual power, she unleashed the slithering paper serpent, which drove off the terrified fish.
On the way back to turn in the eggs, they were ambushed by the aforementioned group. Kyo tried to seduce the Hida, who was willing to let him go, but not the others. Instead, it came to blows. While several fo the party were wounded in the brief melee, Togashi Satome took down the Hida and Matsu Kirito saw to her Matsu cousin. In a surprising burst of ferocity, Kyo slaughtered the Shinjo with a flurry of furious stabbing. There was a brief debate about finishing off their incapacitated foes, but instead their wounds were bound and they were taken back to Tsuma as prisoners. The Hida was executed with his own tetsubo by a Hida lord, who gave the weapon to Hiruma Sae. The Matsu was taken by her family and not seen again.
At the end of the second day's five events, the important scores where:
Bayushi Kyo 6
Hiruma Sae 8
Kitsu Misoka 7
Matsu Kirito 8
Togashi Satome 7
Isawa Ichiro 5
Ukote (a Mantis samurai-ko) 5
Having all reached the necessary 5 points, they were invited to take part in the next day's iaijutsu duels. The night was to be filled with celebration for those achieving the requisite points and attained adulthood. For those who failing, quite introspection. Once again, Kyo slipped out into the night. He seduced an Asahina shugenja and stole his clothing. So garbed, Kyo was able to confidently stride past all the guards, unchallenged, as he made his way towards Kakita Rei's recovery chambers in the Kakita dueling school. He entred the young woman's room. There he found Rei laying quietly, while the Empress knelt at her side, holding her hand. Introducing himself as Asahina Kenji, Kyo told the Empress of Seppun Oyabun's plot to have the Crane killed, but had no proof to offer. She charged him with finding some and returning to her. On his way out, Kyo nearly ran into Oyabun at an intersection. Luckily, his disguise worked and he was able to escape.
The single-elimination iaijutsu comptetition went for three rounds. The final bout ended up being Kitsu Misoka vs Togashi Satome. The Kitsu's warrior training and her ancestors guided her to victory. After the gempukku and loyalty rituals, Misoka was brought before the Empress, who awarded her the title of Topaz Champion and personally placed the ancient wakizashi, Seven Stars, into her hand.
Following the ceremonies, the party was escorted back to their tea house, where they were introduced to the current Emerald Champion, Doji Satsume. Impressed with their performance, he offered them all positions as Emerald Magistrates. They all gladly, but humbly, accepted.
So, what lies in store for our new magistrates? Only time will tell.