[The Mountain Witch] Weight in gold

Started by Jaakko Koivula, October 09, 2009, 07:40:28 AM

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Jaakko Koivula

Got a brand new group together. I have never played with them and think none of them have played forge-inspired games before. Decided to test The Mountain Witch and after the first session, think we are all quite hyped. This is the first time Im actually GM:ing this kind of game, so Im very open to suggestions, opinions and hints about how to run. Play-report first though!

Red ronin - Umiroya: in his thirties, always slightly gleeful. Banished after he killed another servant, sent to redeem himself by killing O-yamna (and bringing the reward back to his daimyo)
Blue ronin - Takayama: Young and handsome ronin. His family was rell respected in the area, but an upstart-merchant family tricked them out of their wealth and honor. Takayama is out to restore his family's good name.
White ronin - Imai: Sturdy, stout, maybe even fat ronin. From far away provinces. Banished for hitting his daimyo in anger. Needs money, for who would hire a samurai that has raised his hand against his master?
Black ronin - Matsushita: a drunkard who always wears his armour and mask. No-one knows much about him, but it's rather easy to guess why he propably is a ronin and why he needs the money: the drink
Green ronin - Kanamaru: Old ronin, whose daimyo died by choking on a rice-ball. So dodgy, that poisoning was suspected and his samurai banished for failing to protect their master. Also a very famous poet.
Pink ronin - Shinta: Very young, ugly and dirty ronin, keeps his weapons in excellent shape though. Always accompanied by a dog, Renshin.

We start by a flashback from Daimyo Ono's castle. Daimyo has gathered all the ronin in the area to hear about the mission. (Btw. Im using some theme-songs/styles in the game for some NPCs and situations. Daimyo's themeband is Arcturus. Moody, dark, mystical stuff. Theme song: Deception Genesis.) I played the Daimyo as a pretty sinister type himself, raspy old guy who wants O-Yamna down. The reward will be the dead Witch's weight in gold. Pretty odd, but still. Gold's gold.

Now: the ronin are hanging at the bar. Matsushita has been collecting other ronin for the team. Sort of popping up all over the place and asking ronin to come and join the hunt. There are four people at the table. Imai makes an appearance by just barging into the company and sitting down.

Imai: "Right, I want in too."
Kanamaru: "What? Who invited you? If we take you we could as well take that little kid with us also!" (Points at Takayama)
Takayama: "Im honored to be called to partake in this noble quest, I accept!"
Matsushita: "Eh, wat?"

Short haggling and bragging ensues, Imai and Takayama get in on the gig. Ronin discuss strategies for a while and Matsushita tells that he knows a temple of crazy monks, that can lead them to the Witch's castle by secret waterways. Suddenly everyone notices that the inn has gone very quiet and that a great big shadow looms over the whole table. About 2m tall black-skinned gaijin looms over Matsushite:

"The temple of crazy monks, Good to know. O-Yanma will be pleased to hear this."
(Theme-bands: Skindred and Dub-war, ragga metal gangsta tough-guy stuff)
"Im Bwaddene Chipo and O-yanma is my master. If you are going after him, you WILL come face to face with me. Remember this."

Chipo turns to leave, but Takayama springs up and puts a blade to his throat trying to ask more questions. Chipo just chuckles and pushes the blade down with two fingers. Takayama notices a ring on Chipo's finger and startles a bit, letting Chipo leave in peace (first use of dark fate here!).

Ronin decide to leave also, but first they will pray and do some ceremonies at a nearby shrine. They get there and naturally get ambushed by some thugs lead by a bandit. Ronin are getting along nicely and spend lots of trust around, taking care of the thugs easily. The leader of the thugs tries to run, Matsushita and Takayama stop him. Matsushita bought the narration here: Takayama was giving the leader a chance to surrender, but on seeing Matsushita, the bandit leader screamed "NEVER!" and tried to draw his sword. Takayama cut down the bandit instantly, which seemed to shock Matsushita a bit.

The ronin spent the night at the shrine, which was also the end of the first chapter. Some trust was handed around and some was taken away. Nothing drastic. Next morning they head towards the village of Moreko, the last spot of civilization before the forest at the mount of Mount Fuji. Village is in sorry shape. The walls have been burned and in generally bashed in and the guards of the village are terrified about everything in general.

There have been raiders that raid the village constantly and also wolves from the forest have started to attack the village nightly. Ronin argue about if they should save the village or just carry on to kill the witch. Then they argue if they should go after the bandits, or split up and take care of both of the dangers. Conflict! Matsushita wins and suddenly sobers up and shouts everyone down. "We're splitting up, now stop bickering and get moving!" The younger samurai are dead impressed about this sudden change and they agree instantly.

The group splits into two. Three go to kill the wolves, three to face the bandits.

In this session we didn't have time to handle the wolves. The ronin just managed to spot the leader of the wolves, a huge snow-white wolf. At this point they also remembered the guards mumbling something about the wolves behaving rather peculiarly lately and.. before being interrupted by Kanamaru: "SHUT UP VILLAGER, Warriors are trying to talk here!"

But at the bandit camp, conflicts! Takayama uses his dark fate to notice that the bandit leader is actually an old esteemed family retainer. They go into an extended conflict on can Takayama persuade the bandit to redeem himself by committing seppuku. When it starts to look that Akira is actually going to accept, the bandits try to join in on the conflict: "Come on chief, what are you talking about, come on!" But Kanamaru and Shinto stop them. They intimidate the poor bandits so badly by their show of sword drawing-badassery, that the bandits actually turn tail and flee for good.

Akira (the old retainer) agrees to commit seppuku and Kanamaru surprises everyone by pulling out a complete ceremonial kit for the occasion. Dark fate at play again, the old man is carrying around everything one needs for seppuku for some reason, odd. Akira dies with honor, but the second-in-command Konoha arrives just in time to see three odd ronin at his camp and his leader dead. "What the.. KILL THEEEEEM!"

Konoha and his men manage to separate the ronin. Kanamaru and Shinto stay and fight with one group of his elite-men and Konoha goes and rides (he actually had a horse!) and manages to wound Takayama. Next he manages to get the rest of the bandits (who had been just standing around, not taking part in any of the combat yet, so dumb-struck about their leader suddenly committing touching and perfect seppuku) to attack Takayama too. Konoha manages to get the bandits fighting again and even lands a solid kick on Takayama while doing it. Single samurai against three dice of bandits now, ouch.

Shinto and Kanamaru fight off Konoha's elite bandits enough, that they manage to close off their formation with Takayama. Ronin burn up trust like hell and fight in perfect unison, making short work of the bandit. Konoha tries to run, but the three ronin catch him. Konoha realizes that there's no escape and swiftly kills himself before any of the ronin manage to stop him. (Matsushita's dark fate) But just before cutting himself open, Konoha makes a quick series of hand-signals of unknown importance.. that Shinto (dark fate!) still seems to know. Matsushita's player narrates that Shinto knows that the hand signs were the signal of some unknown group of trained assassins, working in the area.

The camp is already burning behind them (the fleeing bandits hat set it alight) and wind is picking up. It's slowly starting to rain and Kanamaru is just reciting a improvised haiku for the fallen Honoka, when a huge bolt of lightning strikes across the sky, interrupting him.

*End of session*

This felt like a pretty brilliant session. Pretty much everyone was visibly hyped and excited about the game. We're still all getting used to setting conflicts, but those seemed to go pretty much ok still. Dark fate was used somewhat often, in tiny flashes of recognition. They really spiced up the thing, but I don't yet have any idea at all, what the actual dark fates might be. I'll start throwing up more hooks in the next session for players to grab and use their dark fates on more explicitly.

What was curious and rather cool, was that even when we used nearly 45minutes for the bit with bandits in the end, the three players that weren't participating in the conflict, still were interested and followed the story. Normally at this point the other guys would've been somewhere ordering pizza or reading comics. This time everyone seemed involved, even when their character weren't around. Nnnice.

Still, I'll try to start playing more simultaneous conflicts later on (as Eero suggesion in the finnish version). This time I just plain run out of dice, so didn't try to do the wolves and bandits at the same time. Lucky that no-one seemed to get bored.

So far we've had really trusting ronin in the group and they've made mincemeat out of everything I've thrown at them. Which is all well and good. This means that they now also nearly out of trust and the going is just going get tougher :)

I might have a pretty skewed view of the challenge so far because of that. 6 enemy dice really didn't seem like much, when a ronin throws a bucket of dice and add those all up. Some rules clarifications still that I could use, if anyone has managed to get this far on this wall of text:

If you spend trust to help another ronin, can you still fight yourself? Example: I help my friend to fight off wolves. Do I give my one dice to him, or do I give him an extra trust-dice and roll my own dice for myself?

Also: I get helped in a conflict and roll 15. Other guy rolls 3. I beat him by 12. I propably still get one double-success, instead of 4 normal successes? The end result scales down to 5+ always?

Oh, 5+. That rather explains it actually. Oh well.

Really looking forward for the next session. Hopefully we already get to back-stabbing then!

Eero Tuovinen

I like those characters, quite colorful!

Quote from: Jaakko Koivula on October 09, 2009, 07:40:28 AM
I might have a pretty skewed view of the challenge so far because of that. 6 enemy dice really didn't seem like much, when a ronin throws a bucket of dice and add those all up.

The odds in TMW are very interesting, it's a very intricate design. For instance, the expected result of the GM's roll has a sharp upper limit at 6, no matter how many dice you roll. Therefore it doesn't really matter that much if you roll 6 dice or 20 - with six you'll get that maximum result 66% of the time, while with twenty it's a virtual guarantee, but the actual outcome isn't influenced nearly as much as it is by what the players decide to roll. Even two (uninjured) ronin rolling together have a 50% chance of rolling seven - better than the NPCs ever can. Perhaps even more illustrative is to look at the expected variation in results you get with different amounts of dice - with one die half of your results ranger over 3 dice values, while with five dice over half of your results will be at 6: therefore we might say that your choice of using a number of dice will usually only mean a two point swing in your final result at most.

What messes up this seeming PC strength is the wounds mechanic, which is quick to reduce the strength of the characters. Even so, the fact remains that the number of opponents only has a slight effect on the amount of danger, and the trust among the ronin, as well as injuries, play a much more important part in determining what happens.

This all amounts to a very curious feature: the GM doesn't have to care one whit of the amount of challenge he is proffering to the characters. The mechanics are built to handle the numbers, so the GM can just concentrate on the imagery and choices. Once the situation turns into a conflict, just count the number of opponents and use that many dice, without ever having to care how difficult the conflict is - your choices aren't determining the difficulty of the conflict anyway, as the choices the players make play a much bigger role.

Two things related to that, now that I'm writing:

  • Don't downplay the tactical choices in combat. I at least get a lot of mileage out of careful in-fiction interactive positioning wherein we determine who exactly fights whom with the players. For example, if you have ten wolves, you could narrate how they split up into two groups and attack from different directions, perhaps inspiring the ronin to split up to face them in separate groups. The rules on who gets to decide how the conflicts are grouped are woolly, it's basically a negotiation and narration vs. counter-narration - the GM can strongly suggest solutions and encourage interesting set-ups, but ultimately the players have a word in it, too, and if they want to have their characters express ultimate trust, then it's always going to go down with characters going shoulder to shoulder against the common enemy.
  • The book has lots of text about how the GM needs to encourage the players to take charge of their characters' passions, betraying trusts if necessary. This sort of thing is important for the conflict system as well, as the ronin will really only be truly vulnerable once you get in some wounds - which won't happen as long as the characters have enough trust for each other. This is, in fact, another form of implicit negotiation, as the GM can't force the characters to suspect or betray each other, the players need to want it. And it will only happen if the players feel that their characters can genuinely be protagonists, whose passions elevate the play instead of ruining it.

QuoteIf you spend trust to help another ronin, can you still fight yourself? Example: I help my friend to fight off wolves. Do I give my one dice to him, or do I give him an extra trust-dice and roll my own dice for myself?

You only get one die per round of conflict, so if you're helping another, you can't have your own separate conflict. You'd rather combine the goals of the two characters - if they're helping each other, then by definition their goals are compatible as well.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Jaakko Koivula

Ah, thanks for clearing up those things for me. Good to have basic stuff like "1 dice per combat" -thingie right.

And yeah, actually the system seems pretty ingenious. If the ronin stay together, they can tear up most anything that the GM can throw at them, but when the group starts to crack apart...

Add the wound mechanic on top of that, nice. Very well put about the expected results Eero, I think I get it a lot more now.

We've been enjoying the tactical choices a much in the game actually. We've been using dice as miniatures and it works beautifully. All sort of manouvering and trying to get into range etc. I think it also breaks the fall from traditional RPGs to indie-games. Even when players can't optimize their character stats and weapon bonuses, they still get to tactic away and think up strategies.

Next game on thursday. I was sort of thinking of just throwing more dice at them since they've pretty much run out of trust for this chapter already, but maybe I'll just try to plant opportunities for players to betray each other. Propably easier to get wounds in that way >:)

Jaakko Koivula

Right! Now I know there are some of the players here, so get registering and add-up on the bits that I miss!

Report for session two!

Black ronin Matsushita and Red ronin Umiroya are chasing the great white wolf into the forest. Just when they reach the edge of the woods, a huge storm breaks out dramatically. After stumbling a bit in the forest, the ronin notice that they're missing one person. White ronin Imai has disappeared completely. There's no sign of him anywhere. Maybe eaten by the wolves, maybe something more sinister.. (Imai's player pulled a disappearing act, so Imai did too).

Suddenly the ronin manage to catch up to the white wolf. He's standing on the path ahead, while the rest of the pack ambushes the ronin, jumping out of the woodwork everywhere. The wolves are trying to separate the ronin, and the ronin are trying to get a clear line of sight for the white wolf so Umiroya could take it out with his throwing weapons. Ronin beat the wolves.

Matsushita throws an explosive on the ground, scaring most of the pack away. The wolves escape to the forest and Umiroya manages to lodge a shuriken in the white wolf's eye. *spoink*

On the next round the whole pack all-out attack the ronin, trying to shred them to bits. Umiroya and Matsushita courageously climb into a tree, leaving all the wolves down on the ground, unable to reach them. Matsushite lights another bomb and shoves it to Umiroya. After wondering a bit, Umiroya realizes that the thing looks pretty much like the thing that Matsushita threw on the ground before half of the wolf-pack exploded, so he lobs it at the white wolf, scoring a perfect hit.

The big wolf is totally shredded by the explosion and the rest of the pack flees. The weather is getting really crappy, so the ronin decide to camp for a bit in the woods. They chat for a bit, before being interrupted by the decapitated white wolf.

"You bleeding monkeys, you come waltzing in here, kill me and now disgrace my body." (Matsushita had been using the head as a puppet or something)
"My father is the lord of this forest and he WILL find you, you chimpanzees, you will never find your way through this forest alive!"

"Oh forest spirit, can we not talk about this?"

"To think that I have to listen to this kind of drivel as the last thing I do on this Earth. My father will find you and kill you." (presence fades, head goes silent)

Meanwhile the other group has found shelter from the horrible storm in a peasant's house. They boot the peasants out to sleep in the shed and spend a rather restless night themselves. Green ronin Kanamaru dreams about the days he was still a young man: He remembers a sword-fighting tournament that had a participant that looked exactly like the Pink ronin Shinta. But that can't be, as the participant would be like 80 years old at the present time and Shinta is a total youngster.

After that, the rest of the group is awoken by a horrible screaming in Kanamaru's room. They barge in just in time to see something dark and grey and long-haired leaving the room, after scaring the living crap out of Kanamaru.

In the morning everything is ok. The peasant is fixing the broken wall in Kanamaru's room and the ronin are having morning tea. Kanamaru confronts Shinta about the tournament. Shinta is rather visibly surprised and uneasy about the whole subject:

"It was propably my father, yeah. Yup. That's it. But what was that thing in your room that scared you so badly, Kanamaru-san?"
"What? Have you been having a nightmare? There wasn't anything in my room. But did you father look a lot like you?"
"Umm, yeah. He must've been the guy you saw. But I'll say! I wonder how the rest of our comrades are doing?"

At that convenient moment, Renshi arrives. Renshi had been helping the other ronin with the wolves, but now he is back, splattered with blood to boot. Kanamaru, Shinta and Takayama decide to make their way back to the village with best possible speed, after burying Akira (the seppuku-bandit) honorably.

Matsushita and Umiroya had found their way out of the forest surprisingly easily. After taking about three steps, they find themselves out on the plains, near the village again. The villagers are naturally overjoyed that the white wolf is dead and throw up a huge feast. Surprisingly the old drunkard Matsushita doesn't partake in the festivities, but rather demands that guards be put up, in case the wolf's father decides to come after them.

Next morning everyone is back in the village again. Matsushita and Takayama go and have a private chat about the bandit-chiefs, while Shinta is approached by a creepy wizard's minion. He is invited to a banquet at the Witch's castle, in a couple of days. The invitation was addressed to Shinta specifically, but from the form of the invitation it seems ok if the the whole group attends.

Arguing ensues about this obvious trap and about what route they should take. They practically have two options: Through the forest with the angry spirit, or through the temple of the crazy monks, that according to common knowledge, has no route up to the Fuji-mountain.

The ronin decide to head for the temple of the crazy monks after much pushing and pulling. Matsushita wants to meet up an old friend at the temple and even though the spirit lord might come and try to take revenge on the villagers, well.. that can't be helped. He's anyway propably more interested in the ronin who killed his son, than the villagers.

They get to the temple without any troubles, as it is a pretty often used and well kept road. At the temple they bump into the giant black gaijin again. Chipo is just checking where the ronin are going and reminds them that they have three days until the banquet. (Meanwhile all ronin are squinting like hell to catch details on the ring that Chipo has, that interested Shinta earlier so much). While leaving he does some odd greeting at Shinta with the ringed hand and then buggers off.

Other ronin are slightly suspicious about how all Witch's minions seem to know Shinta by name, but Shinta explains that it's propably because Imai's betrayed them and told the Witch everything about their group. The ronin approach the castle and Shinta again stays behind, not wanting to enter temple-grounds. Kanamura just manages to answer Matsushita that he hasn't been here before, when a robed figure shouts up from the temple-walls:

Kanamura and Matsushita! Now what the devil are you two doing here!?"

*end of session*

Trust was given around again. Can't remember these so well. Most stayed same, but some ronin don't trust each other at all anymore. Some have already 4 trust. kanamaru seems to be the most trusted, no-one hates him and some have high trust towards him.

At the rate we're going, I think we'll have propably two sessions left. Now just gotta squeeze those fates out of the players :>

If you're here, add up on the things that I forgot or skipped over. Also, how have you been enjoying the game so far, eh players, what? _o/

Ville Vuorinen

I play the green ronin Kanamaru and I've enjoyed playing Mountain Witch. I have been mostly playing traditional rpgs but recently our gaming bunch has tried games like Zombie Cinema. And since most of my friends also run games the storytelling games give more freedom to everybody to bend the story to one's whim instead of just absorbing everything that the gm throws at you.

Gaming reports are damn usefull given my 30 sec long term memory... Anyway, I'll correct one small thing and add one small scene that I arranged in order to reveal (actually quite a bit) about Kanamaru's destiny: When Kanamaru was asked by Matshushita if he had been on the mountain before the old man stayed silent instead of denying anything. The scene that I came up with was about a learned merchant who insisted Kanamaru to recite his earlier poetry. This happened right after Takayama, Shinta and Kanamaru had buried Akira-bandit. Kanamaru first tried to send the merchant politely away but the man was way too determined to hear something from the famous Kanamaru. Old poet lead the merchant some distance away from the other ronin and recited some of his earlier works. The merchant was amazed by the ingeniousness of Kanamaru's haikus and rushed of tell his wife of the lucky incident. Just when the man was in front of village gates a horse bolted due to something on the ground and stampeded the poor merchant to death. Horrified Kanamaru lowered his head in shame and made his way into a nearby tavern.

Since this is my first MW game I didn't quite know how much to put effort into the history of the character. I ended up with pretty much prewritten history but with enough gaps for other players to throw in their ideas. However, I still feel this setup has made it more difficult to come up with ideas that link my character to others. This feeling has been emphisized by the fact that almost everyone the ronin meet is an old friend/foe/relative and that can feel a bit corny. On the other hand the game is still in progress and I can't wait to know the destinies of other ronin.

Speaking of destinies it seems that some of the players are more willing to reveal their destiny than others. This is of course perfectly natural since any of us hasn't played MW before and no example was set. This can however lead to a stark difference between in-game and off-game knowledge but it serves better drama in my opinion. The other approach seems to be misleading and harbouring the destiny until the shit hits the fan so to speak. This method may work as a genuine surprise for the other players and in some cases it may be the only way to have some trust when the backstabbing starts (backstabbing tends to have a snowball effect...).

One request concerning the future sessions: I hope that the last two sessions will be longer than the last one. More like the first one we had. I kind of felt like I was just getting warmed up and I think others would have also liked to play a bit longer. After all when the destinies start to unfold it can take some time to "solve" them. One way or the other *grin*

Jaakko Koivula


Cheers for the reminder about Kanamaru and the merchant. That was a cool scene and really felt like it was an important part of the fate. Sorry that I missed it.

Im not sure either how much "effort" should have been put into MW -characters in general before hand. I sort of have this feeling that coming in with pretty much a blank slate is ok. I guess it would need a couple more runs of the game to really know how planning the history of a character affects the game.

From what I've gathered, pretty much all ways to handle the destinies are ok. Different ways just lead to different kinds of game. Still, Im looking forward to some heavy revealings tonight ;)


If the characters are always cooperating, you should use your bangs to drive wedges between them. IMHO.
Olli Kantola

Jaakko Koivula

Indeed. Thank you, Captain!

Anyways. Third session! Still five players. This time Takayama's player couldn't make it, but instead we got Imai back. This session was just LADEN with great stuff. Im bound to miss something cool and the report will still be 39 pages long, so players add up on the stuff again.

The moment Imai saw the white wolf, he realized that it would be horribly stupid to try to kill it. He didn't see any way that he could convince the other two ronin about it though, so he just split. Now he's completely lost in the woods, trying to find his way out. Firstly Imai runs into a corpse hanging from a tree and a long-haired descitated undead-woman mourning him (think Grudge. Also, familiar from Kanamaru's nightly fright). The Hanged Man is obviously the boss here and informs Imai, that the forest is in a state of security lockdown. The lord of the forest is furious and will let no human pass from this forest alive, because his son has been killed by their kind. The Hanged Man offers to advice Imai through the forest, for a small price: His left hand. Imai tries to haggle the price down (Maybe just a couple of fingers?), but the Hanged Man wins the roll: "No haggling, the price is now your whole arm. Also, decide quickly, my companion is getting hungry."

Woman thing: "Grrr."

As the undead had promised not to try to stop him, Imai decides to brave the forest without their help. Next he runs into a crazy monk from the temple. He's quite obviously drunk and also itching for a fight. The monk first stake is to humiliate Imai and he manages to cut off his top-knot, pretty much ruining any chance of Imai passing off as a respectable samurai. Monk is using a totally random drunken style that confuses the hell out of Imai, who can't defend himself nearly at all. Monk proceeds to smash in half of Imai's ribs, leaving him with a lasting Wound. At this point he decides that Imai is no fun anymore and just stops the fight.

"Oh well, guess you weren't such a challenge after all *swig* Now, how the hell do I get out of this forest?"

Imai gurgles something and the monk ta-ta's off into the forest. Imai collects himself for a while and next runs into the Lord of the Forest, a huge white deer. Imai manages to explain that it wasn't him who killed the wolf, but the Deer isn't satisfied by just that. "You also didn't do anything to stop the other human, therefore you are responsible. I will let you leave this forest alive, if you bring me... the left eyes of both of your companions."

Imai: "Right, ok. But we're going to kill the Witch first, we'll be back later to the forest, that ok?"
Deer: "I'll send someone to keep an eye on you, make it snappy, mortal."

The Deer vanishes and leaves Imai at the last challenge in the forest: a huge, slippery ascent, in the dark. Imai, with his broken ribs can't make the climb and has to take a detour around the forest. Even though he isn't completely sure where the Temple of the Crazy Monks is, he'll try to get there next.

Now we changed back to the temple. Ueshiba-sensei, a bald, one-eyed monk, with a hip-flask, has just called out to Matsushita and Kanamaru from the top of the temple wall. He knows them both from somewhere and invites the ronin inside. Shinta stays back again, for some reason he isn't going to enter the Temple grounds at all. The rest of the ronin are taken to a hall for some dinner and expositions happen:

At some point the ronin learn, that the black gaijin Bwaddene Chipo has been in the temple and has been talking with the sensei.

Kanamaru explains why he has been in the Temple before. He was trying to kill the Witch with his friend Riu, years ago. Kanamaru tells that Riu died on the mountain and he didn't fare much better. He was found dying, floating downwards in the river by Ueshiba-sensei and nursed back to health.

Ueshiba had invited the ronin to come speak with him once they had eaten and rested. Kanamaru goes in first and secures a place and materials for a sacred ritual for the morning. Ueshiba promises to provide.

Umiroya asks about a woman and learns that there actually had been a young woman visiting their temple earlier. Unfortunately, White wolf, the son of the lord of the forest, had appeared and captured the woman, dragging her into the forest. Dyn dyn dyn. (This has to do with earlier thing, that I forgot from the reports. Once they had killed the white wolf, Umiroya had found a necklade lodged in the teeth of the wolf. Ueshiba remembers the necklace and affirms that it was the same one that the woman had).

Someone also learned about the Witch's abilities from the sensei. Sensei doesn't know anything certain, but one thing that is solid, is that the Witch can grant abilities (Someone used dark fate to narrate this, good stuff!) ... for a price. There was speculation that this might actually concern quite many of our characters...

Meanwhile, outside. A lone traveller climbs the stairs and waves at Shinta. The traveller is a middle-aged samurai, just on a pilgrimage to the Temple of the Crazy Monks. When he gets closer, the traveller realizes that he knows Shinta. Shinta and the traveller had apparently duelled over some random misunderstanding earlier, years before...

The traveller seems actually pleased about running into old acquiantances and Shinta walks down happily to greet him.. and then decapitates him in one lightning-fast movement. Shinta proceeds to dump the body and the head into a nearly stream. While doing this, he also notices a nearby grave: Matsushi...

Imai hears a splash from the nearby stream and soon a decapitated body floats past him. Upstream he sees a man intently examining a gravestone. Once he climbs nearer, he notices that it's Shinta. Shinta pretends that he doesn't know anything about any floating bodies, even though the grass before him is completely stained in blood. Imai doesn't press the issue, but leaves for the temple, just stopping to remark that: "I can use this against you, you know." Shinta just shrugs.

Inside people are naturally rather surprised that Imai suddenly appears.
Umiroya: "You got lost!? What have you been doing for all this time?"
Imai: "It's my business and doesn't have anything to do with our mission."
Matsushita: "Good enough for me, you're still in."

At some point Kanamaru goes and has a talk with Shinta. Shinta still doesn't want to come inside or participate in the ritual next morning. Kanamaru and Shinta chat for a while, can't remember all the details.

Propably more stuff happened here, don't have notes on this bit. The ronin tuck in for the night, except Umiroya who's practicing outside. Suddenly the ronin wake up to a sound of a horrible, wet hailstorm, or something. Thousands of large somethings are banging against the roof and the windows of the monastery. Umiroya sees outside, how a huge flock of black birds rose up from the forest below and then fly straight into the monastery, kamikaze-style. *splut*sprak*thunk*splat*

The ronin run outside and the hail of birds stop. The whole courtyard is flooded in blood. In the blood, the black feathers and corpses have formed a kanji reading "CONTRACT" on the ground, 10m*10m, pretty much under Imai's windows. This rather spooks everyone and accusations and questions start flying around. There's also a notable lack of any monks in the whole temple, no-one else comes to wonder about all the racket.

Shinta suddenly appears into the courtyard: "This ground is no longer sacred!"
Kanamaru: *Gasp!*
Kanamaru bolts into the temple, to reach the sanctuary. He stumbles into a scene from an abattoir. Nearly all the monks are lying all around, more or less in bits and pieces. Also, none of them happen to have any wine-flasks that some of the monks (and Matsushita) always seem to carry around on their belts. Ueshiba-sensei also has a flask. He's standing in the middle of the carnage, dressed like a ninja.

Outside, Umiroya realizes that Kanamaru ran inside. Him and Shinta try to follow him inside, but a three ninja drop from the night to stop them. Shinta manages to take all three of them on and keep them locked into combat with him, while Umiroya manages to slip inside.

Imai is just getting back to his quarters to get back to sleep. Suddenly a limp figure slaps on the floor in front of him. The figure is another ninja, but obviously dead drunk. After he clambers up, Imai notices that it's the same crazy monk from the forest! This time there's a completely different look on his face though. Dead serious is the word: "This time it's business."

Kanamaru and Ueshiba-sensei start the fight, Kanamaru's stakes are that he makes Ueshiba stop the fight and explain himself. Kanamaru beats Ueshiba's roll, but gets a wound while doing it. Ueshiba manages to wound Kanamaru, who stumbles backwards only like an old man can. Ueshiba remembers that he's dealing with an old friend and halts the attack: "Im sorry, but the Witch will pay us in gold and ability, if we kill you."

Matsushita is wandering around the temple, trying to find the monks, when a horrible racket breaks out from all over. He decides to run outside where the sounds of battle are the most hectic.

Imai tries to break off from the crazy monk, but gets whopped again. Monk goes straight for the broken ribs and lands a new blow on them, ruining his escape attempt.

Outside the ninjas are trying to get to Shinta, but Kanamaru surprises them from the back. He grabs the kusari-gama and manages to both tangle up the chains of all the ninjas together and lodge them into some supporting beam, pulls down the whole wall on them. The ninjas are buried under the rubble, and the ronin get a clear path to Imai and the crazy monk.

Inside the temple Umiroya gets into the room, just in time to hear the last passages of a short conversation. Ueshiba manages to collect himself somewhat and draws a wakizashi to fend off the second attacker. Dual-wielding, he goes after Umiroya, mostly just blocking Kanamaru's strikes, still hesitant to attack him outright. Umiroya manages to fend off Ueshiba's attacks and creates an opening for Kanamaru. Kanamaru doesn't hesitate for a second, but impales the sensei good and proper.

At the other end, the crazy monk also pulls out a wakizashi when the rest of the ronin appear. He seems rather happy to get a proper challenge finally. Still, he really doesn't have the chance to fight, as Matsushita takes a swig from his bottle and stomps the ground hard enough to drop a brick from the ceiling on the monk's head. The monk falls down, unconscious.

Next, Matsushita, Imai and Shinta run to the sanctury, just in time to see sensei dying. Matsushita is shocked that Ueshiba had broken his promise never to train or take an assignment anymore. He reveals that he himself has also been trained by the sensei and that the flasks are a mark of this (At this point Matsushita already has collected five or six of them from the corpses).

At this point Matsushita is also confronted about the grave with his name on it. He retorts that if a man isn't wearing his own face, then what made anyone think he would be using his own name. (or it might've been earlier, can't remember)

Everything is pretty much quiet again at the monastery. A lone raven comes and steals the glass eye of the sensei in a characteristic, yet ominous way. Also, the screaming she-beasts that had been crawling up the walls of the monastery bugger off somewhere, as everyone had completely forgotten them in all the other excitement (whoops). When the ronin return to the downed crazy monk, they find the corridor empty. The window is open and there's just pieces of brick on the floor where the monk was lying earlier.

Camera zooms out to get a view of the monastery, with broken and fallen walls, corpses, and the huge black and red kanji.

*End of session and chapter*

Bleeding great session, all in all. So much stuff in it. The dark fates are really coming out and it's becoming achingly clear that all the characters have huge skeletons in their closets. Good stuff for me to spring on them later on too, bwahaha! I've propably forgotten a bunch of stuff too, so players if you're here, add-up again.

Also, I really must say that I really am loving this whole narrative game -skit. For example, I was pretty much completely at loss where to go next when I narrated that the temple was void of monks and then Shinta comes in and declares the ground "no longer sacred". And it was just beautiful. Also the crazy monk escaping was narrated by Matsushita's player. Now we have an extra fleshed out NPC loose in the world and a nemesis for Shinta and I didn't have to think up the idea myself. In a traditional RPG the GM just has to come up with all the cool stuff. With this game, everyone has the power AND the incentive to do their part for the story and the coolness. Everyone can use what the others throw up and build on that. And it's just so much easier for the GM and propably atleast as much more rewarding for the players.

Good - stuff!


Your enthusiasm and the feel that I get from your game feels really great. I also like how players have been rationing their relevations about their past.

I'm curious about some things. What act will the next one be? Do the players know what is supposed to happen in each act?

You also said that the players have been tactical. Have the special strenghts of the characters seen much play?

Have the players established pairings so that some players have had a stable amount of (or lack of) trust in each other?
Olli Kantola

Jaakko Koivula

I'll make two posts. One to answer Olli and one for the game report.

I try to outline the acts for the players very roughly beforehand. Like: "During the next act we will get to the Witch's castle and it ends when you're there." It's to help them ration their trust and also to give me some guidelines on where to go with the act.

Mostly the acts haven't been that clear in actual play. They end when it's most appropriate. I don't do that much pre-planning, so if the game goes somewhere else where I thought it would, then I just adopt, adapt, improve.

I try to think up up some cool scenes and bangs for each session, but otherwise Im just winging it and trying to riff off of anything the players bring up. I have these cool things in my backpocket that I want to use during the session, but I don't have that much idea on how I get to them.

Actually this could be a point where GM could try to help the players. If I really explicitly announce that this act will have a bridge, a ball and a duel, then the players would know where to go if they want the act to end at some point. Now I've been running it maybe more old school -style. But I guess this is just a practice and finding your own style -issue. Gotta give it a proper try at some point though.

The strenghts of the characters haven't affected combat that much. They flavour the narrations and make different kind of conflicts possible, but it's not like everyone is using all their specials every turn in combat like they would be using D&D Feats.

The trust ratings have been pretty constant. Some go up, some down. So now some characters have no trust at all and some have tons. Polarized is the word, I think. The progress has been gradual and steady though. Up or down, one point at a time, in the same direction.

Hopefully there were answers enough, Im itching to start the play report already! ;)

Jaakko Koivula

Play report! Brilliant session again, wonderful.

Takayama couldn't make it to the last session, so in the start I again played a small solo adventure for him. Ueshiba Sensei had sent him to do a penance-thingie up on the mountains. Takayama's family had missed their tithe and Takayama had to go and pray and appease the spirits etc.

I asked three players to frame scenes for Takayama and three to frame scenes for the boat ride up the mountain. Also, the scenes would have to have something to do with the framing character's destiny.

Takayama leaves the shrine and begins to descend towards the Temple of the Crazy Monks. First, he sees a beggar pinching the food that he brought to the shrine as a sacrifice. Takayama assumes that the beggar must be some sort of a god or a spirit. Because who else would take the food meant as a sacrifice and what would a beggar be doing at the mountains anyways? So he leaves the beggar in peace and continues downward.

Next Takayama meets a luxuriously dressed, but also somehow messy looking woman. She has her hair falling open and is acting somehow curiously. "Must be another spirit." Takayama thinks and is extra courteus to her. Woman strikes up conversation and asks Takayama for a favour: Her friend, Kanai Miki has been enchanted by the Witch and only whispering her name to Miki, can the spell be broken. When the woman leans in to whisper Takayama her name, her hair moves enough so that Takayama can see that her throat has been cut from ear to ear.

Takayama agrees to help the woman and proceeds downwards. Next he spots a tree that vividly reminds him of one of Kanamaru's haikus. He is so struck by it's beauty that he slips and rolls down the hill, straight into a boggy lake. Takayama manages to get himself up from the mud and realizes that he's already at the Temple.

At the Temple the rest of the ronin are waiting. Takayama isn't really surprised at all the blood, feathers, broken walls, etc. after all he has seen today already. After cleansing rituals demanded by Kanamura, they get into the boat and start rowing upstream. First part of the trip is uneventful. They get to the spot where they have to abandon the boat and proceed by climbing, but then the action start.

First, Shinta's dog Renshin jumps to the shore from the boat, starts barking like mad and suddenly disappears. Just vanishes into thin air. Shinta also looses consciousness and tumbles overboard. Matsushita manages to fish Shinta from the stream and get him ashore. When questioned, Shinta just says that Renshin went ahead and that they'll meet him later again.

Meanwhile, Takayama has jumped ashore and spots large golden coins in the sand. Huge oval-shaped chunks, made out of solid gold. With Daimyo's personal stamp etc. on them, marking them to be specially made and given as a gift to Takayama's family. They had also been lost to the evil merchant along everything else, but now there are bunch of them lying around there in the sand.

Brief argument ensues. Takayama tries to keep the coins for himself, so he can give them to his father. Matsushita demands that the coins be handed to the Daimyo. They are daimyo's property and it would be his duty to decide if Takayama's father is still worthy to get them back after he had already lost them once. In the end the coins are handed to Kanamura, for safekeeping until further notice.

Next, a couple of monks approach to take the boat back to the temple. They haven't heard anything about the massacre and the ronin don't happen to tell them. On the other hand, Imai obviously recognized the other man. Imai is noticeably furious and starts to draw his blade and follow the man around. When the other man leaves downstream with the boat, Imai starts to follow the another man, obviously going to kill him on the spot.

Matsushita is outraged about Imai going to kill a defenseless man, and tries to stop him. Shinta steps in though and tries to stop Matsushita from stopping Imai! After a brief argument, Matsushita stares down Shinta and manages to get between Imai and the man. Imai arguments that the man has made his life living hell for years back in tha days. Matsushita says that killing him in anger would just make Imai even a bigger bastard. Neither is willing to step aside, so dice are rolled.

It's a draw, but Matsushita declares Ai-Uchi. Imai has his sword drawn and Matsushita steps right into it. "If someone's blood has to be spilled, let it be mine!" etc. Unluckily, he's obviously way too drunk for dangerous dramatics, and he actually manages to cut himself rather badly on Imai's sword. Imai is forced to fold though and he turns away.

Next the ronin start the climb. The way is surprisingly easy and there seems to be actually steps carved into the stone. They make good progress and manage to get to a larger plateau, just suitable for camping. At the plateau Takayama spots the beggar from the first scene.

The beggar is there with the same rice-balls that he pinched earlier from the shrine. He offers them to the ronin. He tells that he is doing this as a way of redeeming himself. Before he was an evil merchant that fooled nobles of their wealth and... Takayama goes a bit ballistic and starts to rough up the merchant immediately. He demands to know what the merchant has done with all the wealth that he has stolen and that he will never be redeemed before he pays back every last penny that he stole. Merchant breaks down completely and tells that he spent the money all around and just threw it away when he realized the error of his ways.

The merchant continues that he realized himself that he would have to pay back all that he stole... and then he looks at the rice-balls and suddenly throws all of them away, down into the stream. Lightning fast Shinta manages to grab one of the rice-balls from the air and eats it, on top of the four others he already had. Takayama is completely obsessed about his revenge by this point already and even though Umiroya tries to stop him, decapitates the merchant in one single strike.

Umiroya flies off the handle completely and chews horribly on Takayama about disgraceful behaviour and being obsessed about the past etc. Takayama is trying to grab the head to take to his father, but Umiroya, Kanamaru and Matsushita together manage to bury the body properly. Also, Takayama gets -1 to the rest of the rolls for this act. Takayama himself is just proud about the whole thing, but I guess it's just Karma that cocks up things for him for a while.

After things have calmed a bit, Shinta realizes that his innards are on fire. Matsushita offers a drink from one of his bottles to Shinta and soon Shinta has thrown up all the poison. All the poisons leave him spent and weak though and he also has a -1 for the rest of the act.

During the night, the ronin can hear music from the Witch's castle. Umiroya is transfixed by the music and skips sleeping for a third night running. Morning comes and the black gaijin Chipo appears from somewhere. "You've been tarrying long enough. Im here to lead you to the Witch's castle. The ball is tonight." While guiding the group, Chipo also gets questioned by the ronin.

They find out that the ring that Chipo has, is a mark of servitude to the Witch. All Witch's slaves wear one. The ronin also try to ask Chipo about the gold coins that they found before, but Chipo just discards them as something immaterial. "I don't look at money that closely. The Witch provides for me everything I need."

They finally arrive at the Yamashina -castle. It's hewn straight into the mountain, with architechture pretty much out of a H.P. Lovecraft's books. No common aesthetics seem to apply, it's just a grey, solid collection of forms, generally sloping towards the mountain face. No guards or anything at the walls, just random windows. It's not a huge fortress or a castle-town or anything, but more like a large mansion built completely out of stone.

Front doors open and the ronin are lead to their own private rooms by soulless-seeming servants. Who all naturally have the rings. The ball will start in about three hours and it will be a sort of masquerade. Costumes are provided by the Witch.

Umiroya asks if there's a young woman staying at the castle. The servant informs him that yes, there is and no, you'll have to wait until the ball to see her. Meanwhile, Shinta leaves his room and wanders a bit around the castle. He enters a chamber, where the Witch is lounging around, kneels and pleads: "Master, please, let me go, these centuries have been too long."

First time that the Witch appears in the game btw! Theme music Tom Waits, especially stuff from the Black Rider -album. The Witch looks lika a sort of mix between Patric Stewart and Jack from the Nightmare before Christmas. Bald with a goatee, completely dressed in black and thin as a rake. Really tall with no really obvious racial features. Sort of past all those bits when people still look like people.

After this, the ball starts. The ronin are lead to the main hall, where Shinta is curiously already waiting for them with Chipo. The hall is filled with really non-descriptive people mingling about and them some curious characters. A young and beautiful lady at the other side of the room stands out like a sore thumb. At the other corner, there is a group of four slumping figures sitting around a table, and the rest of the guests seem to give them A LOT of space for some reason. Same happens at the other side, where there is a small group standing around in the dark, with no-one near them.

The Witch is sitting at the other side of the hall in a largish throne. He greets everyone and welcomes them to the ball. He just oozes self-confidence and diabolical laissez-faire attitude: "Yeah, I know you've come to kill me, so I threw you a ball. That's how bad I am." He is also stroking a small white porcelain dog... He then leaves to attend to his other guests. Takayama shouts after him that isn't it discourteous for the host to leave them waiting here, but the Witch just amusedly waves him off and walks out from the hall.

Umiroya goes straight for the young lady, Kanai. Touching and romantic scene ensues, for about 4 seconds, until Umiroya notices the ring in her lover's finger. In a nutshell, Chipo rescued Kanai from the White Wolf and so now the Witch owns her. Umiroya demands and pleads that they leave the place immediately, but Kanai just repeats through the tears that she can't leave and Umiroya himself should leave immediately.

There is a curious steady clanking sound that can be heard over the music. It's the sound of a man throwing back drink after drink after drink and slapping the cup down between each shot. It's obviously the crazy monk from before! Imai grabs a spot where he can stalk the monk in peace.

From the other side of the hall, a bunch of seven ladies approach Kanamaru. Each has long hair and a full-face mask and we're served a bunch of flashbacks from Kanamaru's past: Kanamaru is reading a poem to a beautiful young lady proclaiming his undying love etc. Later, the lady dies a horrible accidental death. This also happens seven times, all with different women.

The women grab Kanamaru for a fiery dance, draggin the poor old poet around the floor like a rag-doll. When the third woman has her turn, Matsushita can hear a small "...help" groan from Kanamaru.

Matsushita pulls out a long thread of firecrackers and sets them alight. The whole room is filled with horrible racket and zig-zagging lights and smoke. The women drop Kanamaru on the ground and gather as a clump, hissing at Matsushita. One's mask has dropped hanging on a thread and one can see that the lifeless, eyeless face behind it. At the other side of the room, the mad monk and his three zombie-ninja friends jump up and draw steel. They start proceeding to the middle of the hall and all the excitement. At the other end, Kanai breaks finally completely down and bolts out of the hall, tears streaming all over the place.

Meanwhile Takayama has managed to slip out and follow the Witch. He finds a small room and sees the Witch staring right at him lazily. Witch's guest notices that the Witch is staring over his shoulder and turns to look... and Takayama recognizes his father's face.

*End of session*

Phew! Now that was a session. And there's tons of stuff that I've just skipped and propably more that I just forgot. This time I managed to make pretty decent notes though, which is nice.

Cool moment: Matsushita framed the beggar into the first scene. Then later I brought him back and made him the merchant that swindled the Takayamas. Which actually was exactly what Matsushita's players had planned in the first place. Brilliant!

Also, we had only three hours to use for the session. And I just realized how much I love it about this game that you can actually get so much game out of it in that time. Comparing this and some dice-heavy D&D for example, is like comparing old Naruto-anime to any other series in which something actually sometimes bleeding happens!

It's great.


I would like to bring up some details that in part answer some of Newsalors's questions, and in part strenghten the picture of the whole story so far. As I play the character Matsushita, I'll mostly bring up facts that are important to me and his dealings with other characters.

There is a whole story arc in the game that has not been told about in this thread. It concerns the Red Ronin Umiroya and black ronin Matsushita. The funny thing is I believe every other player has disregarded it, including perhaps the story guide? As the last session of the game is about to happen I feel free to bring them up for all the players and readers alike.

In the first game we saw that the Red Ronin is a boastful and proud younger ronin with a special skill with throwing weapons. Some of the ronin are irritated by his behaviour, but it is actually he who is first contacted by the Black Ronin Matsushita who is gathering a strike team.

It is quickly established that Umiroya has a special reason for joining the quest. He has killed one of his daimyo's servants, and must redeem himself by taking down Oyamna. It seems that this is no secret and could be known by any of the other characters. The details of his past are still unknown. The player of the Green Ronin Kanamaru strikes a deal with the player of the Red Ronin by suggesting that they both come from the same area. Kanamaru served the previous leader of the adjacent domain, who died by choking in a rice-ball. Umiroya serves the new lord, who is in the middle of the session identified as (if I recall right) Hatsuki-domo.

As I mentioned before, Umiroya is played as a boastful and proud character. The genious of the player is that she intentionally seems to develop the personality and behaviour of her character as the story progresses. In the first session Red Ronin is stroke silent and serious only once. This is when he sees a shrine with a statue of a young lady. He however quickly recovers and becomes his old jesting and loud bully. As a player I immediately thought that his dark destiny must be the love oriented one, even if I could not be sure. I decided to play with that card.

In the second session Matsushita confronts the red ronin and asks about his past. Umiryoa explains proudly that he had to strike some annoying servant down because the servant had disrespected him. When Matsushita inquires what kind of a man would talk bad behind his back, Umiroya corrects that the servant was indeed a woman. Matsushita grunts and says something about the women being the worst when it comes to gossip. Umiroya happily agrees. What he has done does not seem big a deal. Actually there are quite a few ronins in the group who have nothing against killing peasants, servants and such. Matsushita however does not accept such behaviour.

Later on the Red Ronin finds something disturbing from the mouth of the wolf-shaped Forest Spirit. It's a necklace stuck between wolf's teeth. I call for a roll which is won, and Matsushita notices the incident. He even sees what kind of a jewelry Umiroya is hiding. Once again the Red Ronin's cool is reduced and he is clearly battling with strong emotions, consequenly much stronger ones than before. As a player I conclude that my earlier deduction from the first session was correct and make a mental note. I decide that Matsushita actually knows who it is that carried the necklace before it got in the mouth of the beast.

In the third session Matsushita again confronts the Red Ronin while they dine in the temple of the mad monks. Matsushita asks if Umiroya is new to the region. Umiroya's player throws me a bone and agrees that this is how it is. "If so", Matsushita continues: "would you like to learn about the history of the region and things that might even concern you?". Umiroya is of course interested.

Matsushita tells about the fall of the Kanamaru's master and the wide wars that it caused. He explains how the generals fought against each other to secure the throne and how his Daimyo, Ono-Domo just let it all happen, even if he was a close friend to the deceased leader. The war however did not come to an end and was vexing the whole land. It caused famine and starvation, peasants suffered and disorder spread in the neighbouring domains. He mentiones that Umiroya's present daimyo, Hatsuki-domo, was one of these battling generals. Finally Ono-Domo decided to interfere. He led his armies at the border and let them be noticed by all sides.

After that he officially and publicly gave his support for hatsuki-sama. This was enough for all the other generals to flee or surrender in the face of total extinction. Without even one drop of blood Daimyo Ono had handed the throne  to Hatsuki, who was much pleased in his choice. They both exchanged favours in a mutual effort to secure peace. Hatsuki sent his daughter to serve in Ono's court, and Ono send one woman of his bloodline to serve in hatsuki's court.

The player of the Red Ronin is astounded by the story. Does this mean that the servant his ronin killed is actually related to Daimyo Ono? It is obvious that there is a mutual agreement between us, and both of us nod. Not only did we now knew who it was that Umiroya killed, I have also hinted that Hatsuki's daughter is a potential candidate for a romantic interest Red Ronin's player is looking for.

Red Ronin goes to see Ueshiba sensei and demands information about a woman who has travelled near the temple, a woman with the very same necklace he has found from the mouth of the Forest Spirit. Ueshiba Sensei tells that this is true. There was a such woman, but she was taken by the wolves. Umiroya is devastated by the news and can no longer sleep. He is also troubled by the story the Black Ronin Matsushita told him. As  the session ends, the player is forced to take some of his trust from Matsushita.

"I would give you more trust... but you had to do it, didn't you?" She explains to me.

In the last session Umiroya's player creates an interesting twist concering her character's dark fate and that of Takayama's. Takayama confronts a walking corpse, a servant lady of a some sort, who has her throat slide open. The Servant asks Takayama to help her to save one of the prisoners of the Witch. She gives the name of the prisoner, Kanai, and explains that whispering her own name in the ear of Kanai will free her. It is unclear how this works technically speaking, but I am quite sure that the dead girl is ghost of the close relative of Ono-Domo who Umiroya has killed... And the prisoner is clearly Hatsuki's daughter whom Umiroya loves.

We now learn that Umiroya has changed. When Takayama decides to kill the unarmed merchant, Umiroya interferes. Perhaps it is the burden of guilt that drives him I wonder, and it is obvious that he has lost his calm completely and attacks and shouts at Takayama. Takayama and other ronins (but not Matsushita) are quite astonished by his behaviour, unable to comprehend his fiery emotions. In secret I lift my hat for the player. Could it be that a ronin that previously boasted about killing the innocent servant woman has now finally confronting his responsibility?

When the episode is over Matsushita comes to Umiroya once again. He encourages Umiroya to abandon his anger and hate he feels towards Takayama. After all, the actions of the Blue Ronin were well justified. If he had not decapitated the merchant, it might have been Matsushita himself who had eaten the poisoned rice cakes. This is not enough for the Red Ronin. He demands to know why Matsushita did nothing to save the beggar merchant while a moment ago he was willing to shed blood for another unarmed stranger. Matsushita answers plainly that the beggar was already given a death sentence.

This goes according with what one might have learned about the true identity of Matsushita Yoshi. He clearly belongs to a group of assassins operating in the Daimyo's region. When Umiroya asked in the second session why is Matsushita taking the quest, Matsushita explained something like this: For years  the Daimyo Ono had a lot of missions for him, but then suddenly they stopped. Now, for reasons kept secret, Daimyo has summoned him for this one final quest. Umiroya thought then that it was Matsushita's drinking that had been the cause of his unemployment,laughed, and thought nothing more about it.

In the Wizard's castle the group has now gathered all his guests and is throwing a masquerade for them. Matsushita of course needs no masks of any kind even if other ronin's have been given a suitable ones. Every mask tells something about their character and their dark fates. Blue Ronin has a rabbit mask. Kanamaru is dressed as a clown of some sort. White Ronin is wearing an obscure mask that leaves others contemplating it's possible meaning. Pink Ronin, Shinta, wears a mask of a loyal dog. It is in this little banquet where Umiroya finally finds his love and offers to take her away. Too bad the Witch already has her as a servant. Kanamaru's player explains that she is to become one of the brides of the witch.

The session ends with confusion as Matsushita leaps into action and throws a long thread of firecrackers at the dark brides freeing the old ronin Kanamaru from his dance macabre. I have not yet decided will Matsushita follow Takayama and face the witch. Or will he follow his real goal and pursue escaping Kanai. What say the readers?

Jaakko Koivula

Goddamn. I've missed some really obvious stuff :D

Didn't remember the thing about the killed servant at all and now it just seems to click in place perfectly. Same with the Matsushita's and Umiroya's discussion. I couldn't really follow it at game and then naturally pretty much just forgot it.

I guess it's good to write these things up :)

Starting to understand more and more how GMing The Mountain Witch is really different from more traditional games. You don't maybe need to think up so much cool by just yourself, but you have to be really alert and sort of try to follow six detective stories running at the same time. Put the puzzles together enough, so you can start feeding more pieces to the players etc.

Phew, Im starting to miss my fiat.

Jaakko Koivula

Finally! I got sick and then timetables broke down, so it took a long time before we got to play the epic finale. But it was worth the wait! I'll run through the main happenings very shortly quickly and finish up with some thoughts and general hallelujah on the game.

First, AP:

In the main hall: Matsushita and Kanamaru are confronted by the seven grey women. They are utterly undead, and as we now know, ex-brides of Kanamaru. The women aren't aggressive though. The leader of the women just says to Kanamaru, that the dance and all the horde-play it was just a bit of harmless fun. They have no claims for Kanamaru anymore, as they are the brides of the Witch nowadays. The women show him the wedding rings, that proclaim their servitude to the Witch:

Grey woman: "As long as we have him, we don't really care about you."
Kanamaru: "You mean, you won't be coming after me... as long as the Witch is alive?"
Grey woman: "Kweh kweh kweh."

After that, the women leave the ronin in peace. Meanwhile the Crazy Monk has been making his way towards them also. He heads straight for Matsushita and shouts: "You have something that belongs to me!", pointing at all the bottles that Matsushita has collected from the ninjas. "Besides, you have stolen something else from my friend also!" and he tugs the ninja-mask off from one of the zombies: "Matsushita wants his name back, you imposter!"

Matsushita is slightly taken aback by the last claim, but after pondering for just a second he and Kanamaru decide to bolt towards the exit where the Witch went, skipping an unnecessary confrontation with the dangerous monk and his zombie-buddies. Crazy Monk tries to pursue them, but Imai steps in to stop him, with murder in his eyes. Payback time!

Too bad, that the Crazy Monk is still way too good for Imai. He slaps Imai's blade aside and grabs him with the other arm tossing him across the floor straight to the feet of the three zombie-ninjas that are slowly shuffling behind. Matsushita notices what's happening and that Imai is in trouble and stop to help him. Kanamaru carries on to the exit.

Matsushita is trying to get to Imai to help him, but the Crazy Monk casually kicks him down when Matsushita's trying to circle him. Meanwhile, the ninjas lay down the hurt on Imai, cutting him repeatedly. Imai's starting to be pretty savaged at this point, with -3 on all rolls until the end of the campaign.

Meanwhile, Umiroya finds the woman that he went after. He's obviously utterly obsessed and plain grabs the girl and heads back into the hall. He's not listening on any whining or reason, he wants the girl. He enters the hall and sees Matsushita and Imai in a really tight spot. Matsushita even shouts for help and after pondering for a moment, Umiroya takes out the whole ninja bunch. He nails zombies' hands to their torsos with thrown weapons leaving them helpless and impales the Crazy Monk from behind, before he realizes that he had a new opponent. What a guy.

Meanwhile meanwhile, Takayama has just seen his father having a meeting with the Witch. Without his knowledge, Shinta has followed him. Takayama realizes instantly that the man is not his father, but rather some elaborous ruse of the Witch. He then decides not to listen or believe anything that the man will say. The Witch and the father try to convince Takayama for a moment that a deal with the Witch would actually be the only way that their family could regain their standing, but Takayama's having none of it. Takayama tries to challenge the Witch for a duel for a while, but then grows impatient and tries to decapitate the Witch there and then. ...but Shinta appears between them and blocks the strike. Minions of the Witch seem to have this "appear out of nowhere" -ability in general, and Shinta is also Lightning fast.

Takayama is pissed off as fuck and decides to kill Shinta for stepping in his way. Shinta is trying to disarm Takayama. Kanamaru also pops in and tries to make everyone stop fighting. Witch watches this for a while and then stands up: "Takayama senior, this is your son causing the disturbance, so I'll leave it to you to handle the situation. Now if you'll excuse me..." and turns to leave. Takayama junior throws a wakizashi at the Witch's head, but Kanamaru manages to bump him enough to cause the blade to miss. Witch doesn't seem to notice and just leaves the room.

Shinta manages to disarm Takayama junior, but at that point Takayama senior has had enough: "STOP! This is silly. You two strangers, leave the room. I'll talk to my son in private." The two ronin exit, but leave the door open so they can follow what's happening. When Takayamas are alone, junior promptly closes the door and tries to knock his father unconscious. Father gets pissed off and throws the young ronin around a bit and manages to get him to sit down and listen.

He explain that their family can't regain their honor and prestige by taking crumbs from the Daimyo, but they need to forge their own glory, by allying with the Witch. Takayama listens for a while, but stays true to his belief that the man is an imposter. Father realizes that he can't turn Takayama's head and just sits silently, when Takayama stands up, retrieves his sword and exits to follow the Witch.

Takayama takes a few turns and arrives at the proper throne room. It's a cathedralic hall, with raising staircase and the Witch's throne at the top. Grey, nearly featureless, hewn into rock and sort of cathedralic in shape, narrowing towards the top, etc. Takayama repeats his challenge, but the Witch just sits on his throne, idly playing with his katana. He gestures for Takayama to climb the stairs, bring it on -style.

Takayama: "Come down here and fight like a samurai!"
Witch: "And why do you think I am anything like a samurai, hmm?"
T: "Come down here!"
W: "I AM THE MOUNTAIN WITCH .. and you will come to me." (Ooo, that line was so fun to get in there!)

Takayama starts to run up the stairs, but suddenly a big shadow fall over him (player: Oh crap, I forgot about him) and the ronin runs straight into Bwaddene Chipo's sixpack.

The rest of the ronin manage to get into the corridor just in time to see Takayama fighting Chipo. Chipo is swinging around wildy, mashing rock into dust etc., but Takayama is doing most of the damage. Getting in nicks here, wounds there. Shinta manages to get between the fighters, again. Takayama goes straight for Shinta time and Matsushita arrives to help him. Chipo joins Shinta at fighting off the two ronin and actually manages to land a horrible blow on Takayama... except Shinta seems to decide differently at the last moment, stepping between Takayama and Chipo, blocking the blow. Takayama reacts too fast, and impales Shinta, though. Meanwhile, Matsushita manages to trip up Chipo, who falls straight down the stairs, also on Takayama's sword. Shish-kebab.

(Mechanically, Shinta declared ai-uchi and killed off both himself and Chipo. In hindsight, not sure how this happened as they were on the same side of the conflict, but still. You get to narrate your successes and your own damage, so I guess there's nothing really wrong with it. Onwards!)

Kanamaru and Umiroya dodge the melee and ran straight up to the Witch. The Witch has actually bothered to stand up at this point. Before anything can happen, Umiroya offers his sword to the Witch, if he just lets him have Kanai-Miki (the obsessed-about woman). Witch just chuckles at Umiroya and turns to Kanamaru:

W: "And what about you?"
K: "Please, release me from your curse! Have pity on an old man."
W: "Curse? I fulfilled my part of the bargain and gave you what you wanted. Why should I release you?"
K: "You need all the blades that you can get."
*Witch looks down and sees Chipo and Shinta dying*
W: "Hmm, it seems I do have a sort of.. deficit. You will take Shinta's place, then."
*Kanamaru remembers Shinta saying, how the centuries serving the Witch are just too heavy to bear and how you should never do it* (actual in-game conversation, brilliant!)
K: "...no. The price is too high. Will you not have pity on an old man?"
W: "Pity, pheh. Well. If you won't accept my terms and as I've already.. taken custody of the side-effects of your curse (licks his lips really disgustingly), you have no reason to be here. Turn around and leave.
*Kanamaru turns without saying a word and starts to walk down the stairs*

Umiroya has been patiently waiting and now asks what about his offer. The Witch accepts gleefully:
"You and Kanai-Miki, surely. Now and forever." (Players go: oouuucchh! :D)
The Witch grabs his hand and slides in his signet rign.. and when the Witch releases his grip, he has a small statue of rooster (Umiroya's star sign) in his hand. Umiroya is super-happy about this turn and turns to face Matsushita and Takayama, as they start to ascend the stairs.

Matsushita declares Ai-Uchi and Umiroya and he do the samurai "run next to each other, stand around a while, then both drop down dead" -bit. Aww.

Kanamaru is just leaving the room, when he bumps into the grey women. They just wave him goodbuy and head into the throne room. Kanamaru has a sudden change of heart, turns around and runs up the stairs to Takayama. "I might be lost, but I will not let him do this to anyone else ever again!"

The Witch gets serious for the first time during the game, draws his blade and descends to fight the ronin. The Ronin are buffeted by memories of their comrades sacrificing themselves heroically etc. and after only a short exchange, they cut down the Witch. Takayama creates and opening and Kanamaru impales the Witch. The Witch whispers something to Kanamaru, who is flown into the wall by the force of the last curse/something.

Meanwhile Imai has been cutting the eyes off Umiroya and Matsushita (remember the Spirit of the Forest and the contract they had). Imagine his surprise when he removes Matsushita's mask and realizes, that he is actually the Daimyo. Whoops. Well, no matter. Imai grabs the eyes and legs it. He didn't participate in any of the fighting, he just watched and bided his time.

Takayama and the broken Kanamaru exchange some last epic words and Kanamaru declares that he will finally be free. He grabs a tanto and plunges it into his stomach.. except a bony hand grabs his wrist at the last instat: "We are brides and we need a groom after all..." Takayama just watches, as the women drag away the screaming Kanamaru.

After the game:

Imai heads into the forest and is never seen again.
Takayama takes the corpse to Daimyo's son, but after realizing that the man in the castle actually WAS his father, commits seppuku.

Rest of the characters stay dead.

Really whistled past lots of important stuff, but the players can fill in more. For example, I didn't really write anything about the whole daughter-exchange stuff etc. I'll make a new post for all the other stuff. I'll need it.

Jaakko Koivula

Right! Brilliant brilliant campaign, even though Im not sure if I as a GM got everything out of TMW that I could have. I could have been more observant about the hints that players dropped about their fates and yank their chains more. Still, the game was honking huge barrels of fun and cool, atleast for me. Hopefully for the players too. Some random observations about our game:

Takayama: Old debt. The whole thingie with the family, pretty in-your-face.
Umiroya: Love. Another obvious one. Except to add another twist, the girl didn't even like the bastard. He just thought/was brainwashed by the Witch to think so.
Shinta: Deal with the Devil. Minion of the Witch, dun dun dun.
Imai: Worst fear. The player struggled really hard with this one and in the end couldn't really get it into game at all. Turned into a sort of fear and loathing towards civilization and humans in general. Adopted the contract with the Lord of the Forest as a sort of semi-fate.
Kanamaru: Own agenda. Wanted to lift the curse on jinxing poems or to get rid of the women. I thought until the end that Kanamaru would have worst fear: dead women. Close enough, I guess.
Matsushita: Revenge. To kill Umiroya. Really twisting plotting abound here, I didn't even try getting this one during the game. Just hoped that it would become apparent at some point.

Even after everything, I got most of these right. Or at least close enough for the Witch to go mindrapey on the characters :)

Loved the way the Witch turned out to be. Necrolecherous ming-power-gaming bastard, who's just so cool that he can do whatever he damn well pleases. No fireballs, no flashy demon-summonings, just a guy lounging around making really horrible soul-and-mind shattering deals. Kweh kweh kweh.

I sort of realized at the end, that the fewer survivors the story would have, the better. But no way could the ronin be killed by any mere mooks or GM throwing ten buckets of dice at them. So I tried to think up enough offers you just can't refuse and situations that you just have to avoid, to have the ronin off each other. In the end the Witch managed to out-right convert only Umiroya, but I think he plain terrorized most of the rest to practically commit suicide, rather than have to face up to him or the consequences of killing him. Which was cooool.

Also, Takayama was the perfect, and the really only possible, choice to kill the Witch (even though Kanamaru rallied in the end to come and help him). Everyone else was just too involved or too broken mentally at the end, but Takayama was such a sociopathic honor-bound money-grubber, that he didn't even stop to consider any sly suggestions that the Witch might make. He was practically so unlikeable, driven  and villainous himself in the end, that the Witch just couldn't compete with it. Even though as he started out seeming like just a pleasant youngster, the further the game went, more draconian did Takayama become. Dramatically, it just made perfect sense for the great evil to be killed by the only colder and more vicious bastard than himself in the story.

In the end, I think the whole story made surprisingly much sense in general. Really vicious blood opera, violence leads to violence, only evil trumps evil - and in the end: everybody dead and nobody wins. Beautiful.

I think Takayama's father, The Lord of the Forest and Imai were the only named characters alive at the very end of the game. 3 left out of 15 NPCs and 6 PCs. Pretty well, eh?!

Can't remember when I've had so much fun roleplaying. Huge cheers for all the players and for Timothy, what a brilliant game!