Sunday, 3 October 2010

Step into my yakuza fighting pit, young samurai

Okay, so not much gaming going on next weekend as it is my 40th birthday (!), so I’m taking the opportunity to catch up on my domestic Rokugan d20 campaign with my son Sebastian. As readers may recall, our 1st level PCs were in a city owned by the Lion, but right on the borders of Unicorn territory, and had successfully cleared some goblins out of a temple.

The city is not in good shape, to say the least. The fact that goblins can get into and nearly set fire to a temple within its precincts is not good news. Our party returned to the mansion of the city governor, a rich Lion samurai, to heal up, drink soup, and discuss the security situation within the walls. On the way we came across a ‘fighting pit’, a sort of informal arena organised by one of the yakuza street gangs which seem to be battling for de facto control of the city. The gang was inviting all comers to fight its champions in the pit, offering koku rewards to victors. It seemed two town bushi has tried to intervene already and been killed.

The Lion samurai in the party felt it was his duty to enter the pit and face one of the champions in single combat. Despite his poor performance against the goblins, he won this fight easily. He then turned to the crowd and ordered it – and the yakuza heavies – to disperse immediately or face criminal charges. This led to our being attacked by about 10 yakuza in a pitched battle, somewhat close run, but in which the PCs emerged victorious, thanks to the liberal use of the two summoned oni.

With the yakuza wiped out, two of the audience took issue with the party, and also attacked us, but were speedily dispatched. That seemed to resolve the situation; the grumbling crowd went on its way and we returned to the Lion HQ for hot miso soup and a heart-to-heart with the governor.

Although the governor was – politely – filled in about the various evils of his realm, including the bribe taking by Lion troops at checkpoints, harassment of the bon, et cetera, he seemed little inclined to do much about it. One wonders whether the city is just a comfortable sinecure? He gave the party carte blanche to go resolve problems as they saw fit. We went to bed – and levelled up to 2nd while asleep – which was nice!

The next day we approached the watch tower where three of the corrupt Lion samurai who had been harassing the priests lived. We entered the tower and confronted them on its summit. Our NPC shugenja, a Phoenix, came into his own, using some magic rocks which he hurled at one of the samurai, killing him outright. Their leader, however, was a tougher prospect, downing both the samurai and the shaman in short order. The nezumi fighter kept him busy for a while, giving the shugenja time to heal the two fallen characters and bring them back into the fight. Another magic rock knocked a second samurai off the tower, ending his participation in the fight.

We eventually defeated the last samurai, although by my count he had at least 30hps, possibly more, making him 4th if not 5th level. Quite a tough NPC for a 2nd level party! We ended the game there, as the GM is still suffering from a flu-like illness, and his strength was ebbing.

The question is what to do now? The yakuza seem a powerful force in the city, but they really should not be. However, as ever with Rokugan, the majority of the party are not Lion, and therefore have no real interest in seeing the security situation restored. Add to that the fact that the city’s ruler is not particularly bothered either, and one wonders whether sticking around is the wise thing to do? The presence of lurking evil in the Unicorn lands and the presence of an interesting ruined castle across the river both beckon us out of the city.

I’m liking this campaign because, like Pathfinder, it has a real sandbox feel to it. The GM is pretty flexible, thinks on his feet, and seems largely happy for the party to pursue its own objectives, while casting interesting possibilities in front of it. We now have a fairly detailed map of the city to review, including its docks, which helps to fill in a few gaps geographically.

I spent quite some time focusing on levelling the shaman up. Although shaman is not really a true Rokugani class, he seems to fit quite well with the Unicorn clan ethos. I’ve now equipped him with Produce Flame to add to his Burning Hands (he is a Fire domain shaman). A maximise spell feat also means he can do 8hps automatic damage if he hits with this.

Another confusing thing about Rokugan – a bow is called a yumi, while a bo is a stick. It can get quite confusing in the midst of a battle to figure out who is doing what to whom!

More Rokugan to follow later in the month, with any luck, once the GM has recovered. Somewhere I have some nice oriental paper miniatures which will go well with this game – I just need to dig them out.


  1. I just wanted to add to the above by saying I felt d20's combat system is vastly inadequate when it comes down to the stylised single combat for which the orient ought to be famous. A duel between a Lion samurai and a yakuza pit fighting champion was digested into a series of d20 rolls. Not massively atmospheric, to be honest.

  2. I don't remember enough of the original roll/keep system to know if it was any better. I remember the first edition was so badly written that it took a while to puzzle a lot of it out.