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What we played: the Ronin from the Sea (Kagematsu)

Jamie Fristrom
user 12636925
Bellevue, WA
Post #: 59
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Carolyn played Kagematsu, the ronin who washed up on the shores of our village "Umi no Hikari" - from her notes: "quiet", "women are delicate flowers, better looked at & touched gently", "terribly depressed."

No doubt the storm that destroyed Kagematsu's boat was due to the increasingly malevolent ocean (the Threat) - turned increasingly malicious because we had not made the annual sacrifice of an able-bodied man. We thought Kappas might be related to the threat, but weren't sure, willing to let it come out in play.

I played Hana, husband dead in the wars, her favorite person her child Kenji, who some said should have been the sacrifice.

Shuo played Noriko, another war-widow, who ran a restaurant, with a favorite cat, Tama.

Marc played Hiromi, 19-year old aspiring Kabuki actress, living with her cripped older brother.

Johnzo played Fumi, brewer of potions with hair hanging over her eyes - whose first reaction on seeing the nearly-drowned Kagematsu was that he should be thrown into the ocean to appease the water spirits.

I would have dismissed the game as 'parlor narration', the sort of game where you roll dice and then make up a little story to go along with what the dice tell you, but Carolyn secretly keeping tallies of Kagematsu's love and pity for the rest of us really made how we narrated and acted matter. It really pushed me out of my comfort zone - playing a seductive woman (actually I played kind of hard-to-get) was probably the most 'unsafe' I've played ever.

Some great moments -

Fumi discovered (a secret told) that Kagematsu's dead wife had the same name as our village - and later allowed herself to be possessed by the spirit of his dead wife (in order to win confession of love) - Kagematsu was appalled at first, but as his dead wife questioned his honor and begged and pleaded he came around.

And later went off to get drunk. The kabuki actress took advantage of Kagematsu's drunkeness to try and win an escort home. Kagematsu was sarcastic and dismissive.

We introduced chrysanthemums as a motif early - and then Shuo pointed out, "Hey, you know in Japanese culture the chrysanthemum is a symbol of death, right?" And we were like. "Huh. Well, that works."

The possessed Fumi tried to make Kagematsu promise to save the town - but rolled three sixes - and the spirit of his dead wife was driven away.

Hana's son ran away from home to sacrifice himself - and that was how Hana made Kagematsu promise, demanding that he save her son.

In the confrontation, sure that the village troubles were caused by a Kappa, Noriko took an armload of cucumbers aboard a small boat out to sea and drowned.

The ronin walked into the underwater spirit world and confronted the Kappa - instead of attacking directly he went with the diplomatic approach, and when the Kana bowed to the polite ronin the water spilled out of its head. (That's what Kana do, apparently. Shuo said so.) But still, the Kana refused to return the ronin's dead wife - so the ronin settled for a promise to leave the town alone, and the boy, and refilled the Kana's head. The town was saved.

In the end - Hiromi decided to leave for the big city to see if she could make it there; Noriko's abandoned cat came to live with Fumi; and Kagematsu declared his love for Hana and they became a family. Aw.

We loved it. Carolyn liked getting a taste of what it's like to GM - I liked getting pushed out of my comfort zone - we all liked getting desperation moves unlocked - we liked the sacrifice mechanic - and we want to play it again, this time with a bad or shallow ronin, to see what that's like.

Nitpicks - we had some trouble figuring out the shadow dice. Having a track for them on the character sheet didn't seem useful since they reset after every roll. For most of the game we were pooling Kagematsu's dice with the townswoman; later we realized we weren't supposed to do that. The first way seems too hard at the end; the second way seems like not enough threat scenes would happen...(we got the best of both worlds by switching near the end.)

The other nitpick is the one-on-oneness of the scenes - now that Carolyn has some experience as Kagematsu she'd probably try to include more townswomen in each scene, so there could be some more townswomen interaction, but there's no in-game incentive to do that - one could hack it to have one or two townswomen-only scenes interspersed. (We did have one scene with us in the hot springs where the kabuki actress and the restaurant owner got quite catty with each other that was pretty fun.)
Ben R
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 207
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(Jamie I think kana is transposed for kappa in the second half of the post)
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