Proud to be a Dragon

Warning: the following post will not make the blindest bit of sense unless you’re familiar with Legend of the Five Rings. If you aren’t, please continue on to the next blog post. Thank you for your time.


So in our session tonight, one of the PCs — a Shosuro trained in the Bayushi courtier school — goes with our NPC companion to hunt down this Yogo who’s wanted for a crime. In the course of questioning the peasant innkeeper, she realizes he’s lying. And, being a Shosuro, she opts to subtly intimidate him into telling the truth, rather than backhanding him across the face for lying to a samurai.

A Crane in the common room of the inn overhears this. He’s a Doji trained in the Kakita dueling academy, and is trying to make a name for himself as a duelist, so he comes over and starts blustering to the Shosuro about the way she’s treating this innkeeper — basically ginning things up into an offense so that he can challenge her to a duel. She (very rightly) calls him out for eavesdropping on somebody else’s conversation and butting into business that isn’t his, and so thoroughly upsets him that he tries to slap her. Whereupon the NPC companion — a Mirumoto bushi from the Iron Mountain school — steps up and rams the butt of his katana into the Doji’s ribs.

Stuff and things, we run and get a magistrate to okay the duel (to first blood only), the two guys face off. This could go badly, because the Mirumoto is a great skirmisher, but is much less experienced at dueling. The Shosuro, however, has told him that his opponent has the Brash disadvantage, so the PCs and their NPC companion are doing all kinds of little things to needle the Doji and put him off his game. Which we succeed at well enough that a) he basically false-starts, gets bashed in the ribs again, and has to be ordered back into position by the magistrate, and then b) he continues with his strike even though the Mirumoto went first, and the duel is therefore supposed to be over. But he misses — not because he meant to, but because of the damage he took from a certain now-broken rib and the first cut — and so it’s an all-round disgrace for the Doji.

We’re in Shiro Yogo, so various Scorpion, Lion, and Crab are all more than happy to buy the Mirumoto drinks after the duel, and while an Ikoma with a MASSIVE GRUDGE against the Crane tells the entire teahouse the epic saga of this duel (cementing the general inclination to start calling the Mirumoto “Roshin the Crane-Killer”), the Shosuro decides to turn the phrase “the strength of Roshin!” into a drinking game. (The teahouse owner LOVES us. Our hangovers, however, do not.)

The next morning is the second day of the cherry blossom festival in Shiro Yogo, and there are various competitions. Including one for shugenja, where the challenge is to ID the spell being cast by the demonstrator. Our Kuni shugenja PC shows up for this one . . . and so does Roshin. Somebody put his name down for that competition, and it wasn’t him. (We later find out it’s the brother of the idiot Doji — the one who argued his companions into letting the duel go ahead, only to watch his brother get ignominiously thrashed.)

But our Mirumoto bushi is a Mirumoto bushi.

He succeeds at a rather difficult Lore: Shugenja roll (as does our Kuni), and realizes the demonstrator is a Soshi. So they both know all his words and gestures are actually a total smokescreen, and they have to look elsewhere for evidence of what spells he’s casting.

Our Kuni wins the competition.

Our Mirumoto comes in second.

(There’s a very awkward moment at the awards ceremony later, where you’ve got two shugenja and a freaking bushi in armor standing there to get the spell-ID prizes, and the judges have to figure out what to give Roshin, because god knows that spell scroll they intended ain’t going to do him much good. Also? “Strength of Roshin” is now our battle cry. And our favorite drinking game.)

But! Of course! The idiot Doji’s brother wasn’t done. He’d avoided entering Roshin in the archery competition (because it’s known Roshin wants to enter the elite mounted-archer unit in the Dragon army, so that’s one he’d probably do well in), but there’s one other going on today . . . and that, of course, is an iaijutsu tournament.

Three rounds.

The first opponent gets the first strike, and misses.

(Our Mirumoto is now “Roshin the Untouchable Crane-killer.”)

The second opponent loses.

And so does the third. Who is, of course, a Crane.

They lose even though they’re better duelists than he is. All three of them have five ranks of iaijutsu, and Roshin only has three. But the GM had me roll for the opponents, and I’m here to tell you, my rolls legitimately sucked. The only good one, out of nine, was the guy who won Focus in the first round, and then completely whiffed his strike. So I don’t know if it’s the blessing of my cricket or what — my Togashi monk has a lucky cricket, the Indestructible Kongou, and she bestowed his blessings before each round — but Roshin places second in a competition he had no business being signed up for at all, and wins one where he should have gotten trounced.


And you know, this is why I love gaming. Most of the time, the stories are messier and less satisfying than a well-constructed novel/movie/comic book series/other narrative medium of your choice. (You can’t revise things after they happen, and sometimes the dice screw up an otherwise good plot.) But because they’re improvisational, and because the dice do add an element of randomness . . . those moments when the story pulls together just right? Are all the more amazing. Put Roshin’s achievements in a book, and I’ll roll my eyes a bit at the implausibility of it all. But dude, I was there: it really happened. And we managed to totally shame a couple of Doji (who were so asking for it), and not only defend the honor of the Dragon Clan, but show that our bushi are smart as well as strong.

I heart Roshin. Best NPC companion ever*.

(*For values of “ever” that equal “in this game.” I don’t want gollumgollum, oddsboy, drydem, or feyangel to come after me in defense of Grektar.)

0 Responses to “Proud to be a Dragon”

  1. gollumgollum


    • Marie Brennan

      I knew that was coming. <g>

      • gollumgollum

        I couldn’t help it. Someone had to represent, and i think i’m the only one reliably on LJ these days. 😀

        • Marie Brennan

          Me, because I missed most of the early days of Hands of Fate, I don’t think of Grektar as “best NPC companion ever” — I think of him as “best NPC dad ever.” <g>

          • oddsboy

            Psh. *pours a 40 on the curb for, uh, silver haired elf warrior guy, whatzizname. He left us too early* Pretty sure his only line was ‘Sure.’

          • gollumgollum

            Ah yes. Zoe’s first kill? Sneak attacking a dragon. That was, like, 200 feet up in the air. With a crossbow.

            Unfortunately it was not until after elf dude got killt.

          • Marie Brennan

            Heh. The funny part is, I think I remember somebody mentioning him, when I got the Infodump O’ Doom so I could play Amaliace.

          • oddsboy

            We were going to be playing through the ‘Temple of Elemental Evil’ but there were only three of us, so Heather let us each have a companion to help out. Grektar was Ben’s ‘kobold’ rogue cohort and I had this incredibly lame, no personality silver elf fighter who wielded a mighty great sword. One of the first rooms, one of our first encounters we ran up against a few gnolls. Poor ol’ Silver got hit by a gnoll axe on a 20. We rolled to confirm. 20. There is an old house rule that was in effect that on three 20’s in a row the gods simply had it out for you and you were gone. Rolled again: 20. Poor Silver was chopped in half and we all turned to each other and said, “Let’s not go to the Temple of Elemental Evil, for it is a very silly place”. I like to think that, in OOC hindsight, this is part of the reason Thyss was such a phenomenal dick; his first attempt at friendship gets, er, cut short. I also like to think that, as a 20th level character, King Thyss spent a small portion of the royal treasury laying waste to the Temple, razing it brick by brick, and then salting the fields personally.

          • Marie Brennan

            Amaliace could get behind that plan.

  2. diatryma

    I love your gaming posts. So much love. They are spoiling me for all gaming ever.

    • Marie Brennan

      Heh. Well, it’s good to know I can tell anecdotes in an entertaining fashion; usually this sort of thing turns into “you really had to be there.”

  3. rabidfangurl

    I am not at all familiar with Legend of Five Rings, but I *am* currently STing a Werewolf: the Apocalypse game. And your story is deeply, deeply hilarious. If only the NPCs I came up with were that awesome.

    • Marie Brennan

      I wasn’t sure it would make sense, let alone be funny, without context: the Doji (and their Clan, the Crane, more generally) are basically the “cool kids” of Rokugan, setting all the social trends, and also supposedly quite honorable. So to watch a Doji get humiliated, partly because of his own dishonorable actions, was pretty sweet. And the Dragon Clan bushi (warriors) are weird because they actually train alongside their shugenja (spellcasters), which is why it was perfect to have Roshin place second in the spell-ID competition — even though he didn’t actually have any ranks in the Spellcraft skill that was used for the actual identification part of the contest. Etc.

      I have to say this, though: it’s a testament to how well-designed the game is, on the level of mechanics but especially on the level of setting, that things like this anecdote can happen. We all went into it with a very vivid sense of What The Doji Are Like, and what the Mirumoto are known for, and so on, which made for fertile soil in which to have this story happen.

    • torakhan

      Sorry to be Spammy, but I’m just trying to spread the word around before it goes Live (soon)…

      Werewolf: the Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition–Prestige Edition KickStarter soon, and PDF/PoD shortly after that is successful.

      Links to its development and more information can be found here:

      If you have any questions, feel free to post them there, or I suppose you can PM me here, but I don’t check LJ must these days.

  4. maratai


    Hahaha awesome. I miss RP so much. Great story. 🙂

  5. laylalawlor

    Ahhhh, that fantastic random element is what I love most about gaming. Great story. I still remember the gaming session fifteen years ago when my character got hit with a rocket launcher and could only survive on triple snake eyes for damage. And got it. Good times.

    • Marie Brennan

      It is such a gaming-geek thing, the explosion of cheers when that Utterly Impossible Roll happens, and the player beckons everybody over to witness for themselves that the dice have indeed fallen that way. 🙂

  6. beccastareyes

    Oh, that makes me miss tabletop gaming so badly.

    • Marie Brennan

      I’m in two games right now, which makes me quite happy — I’ve only had one other since moving out here three years ago, plus the one I ran. And running isn’t fun in the same way as playing. 🙂

      • beccastareyes

        I know that feeling; I was usually the one running games back when I lived in the same state as my gaming group, and would do a lot to get to be on the other side of the screen.

        • Marie Brennan

          I’ve only run two so far, but they’re deeply energy-intensive (especially the types of games I tend to run), so not quite as much a form of entertainment as playing is.

          • beccastareyes

            It sounds like. (My favorite game that I ran had a co-GM; if only because the plotting sessions were a lot more social, since we could bounce ideas off of one another. Even if it took more time, since we had to do some of it together.)

          • Marie Brennan

            I’ve not exactly had co-GMs, but was my sounding board for a lot of Memento, and for Once Upon a Time in the West. The latter because she knows nineteenth-century U.S. history a lot better than I do, so I was pinging her with research questions, but it ended up being a lot of plotting, too.

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