Friday, January 17, 2014

FATE L5R Actual Play

Charm City Gameday has both a morning and afternoon game session. I ran the Tomb of Rakoss in the morning session, and was signed up for Castle Mistamire using Basic D&D in the afternoon. Unfortunately I was the only one who signed up for it (which I found odd given that my game was full) and it was canceled. Going into the afternoon I didn’t have a slot in any of the other games, as they were all full, so I waited to see if anyone wouldn’t show. I ended up playing in a Legend of the 5 Rings game using the FATE system.

Fate is a system that I’ve heard of, and even seen on store shelves, but I’ve never picked it up, or played with it before. There are lots of blogs, reviews, and other pages all about it, so I’m not going to go too deep into it. Honestly, after a 4 hour game, I don’t think I could get too deep into it. Basically it’s a universal system where the dice have two plus signs, two negative signs, and 2 blanks. You roll 4 dice for every action, trying to beat either the opposed roll, or a static difficulty. Added to this roll are your skills, and the permanent and situational modifiers that can be activated to help. It’s pretty simple, but it works. It does rely more heavily on the players and DM to make it work, since there’s less for everyone to rely on, rules-wise.

Going into the game I had only a vague memory about L5R. I had (have?) the D&D Oriental Adventures version of it from the 3.x era, but I haven’t looked at it in ages, and I never used it at the table. I’d played a game or two of L5R when it came out, but… mostly what I remember was a bunch of clans, lots of samurai, and honor was a big deal. Very much Hollywood Japan.

Thankfully that was about all I needed to know about the setting for the game.

I was playing a Spider Clan Courtier, there was the Lion Clan Ninja (Cindy or Sydney?), a Phoenix Clan Wizard (Larry, organizer of the Gameday), and a Unicorn Clan Fighter (Micha). We were all also samurai and the L5R equivalent of FBI agents. Kevin W was our DM... Or FATEMaster... or whatever it's called for FATE.

The basic scenario for the game was to protect an old samurai named Agasha Uki from assassination ahead of his return from the colony to the capital city. It turns out that there’s a dragon who’d corrupted some locals into thinking that he’s a god, and that the colony should be independent.

How crazy is that??

Of course it isn’t so simple as just keep him locked in a safe house until it’s time for the boat to sail. No, there’s a big spring ritual that he has to preside at, attended by all the important samurai of the colony.

The initial attack came from one of the dude’s own bodyguards. It failed, though he was injured. The wizard caused the earth to soften beneath the attacker, causing him to sink up to his chest. We excavated him, interrogated him, I threatened to have our wizard sink him into a fireant hill, where he’d be eaten alive for days…. or tell us everything, and we’d make it swift. He wasn’t very forthcoming at this point, and when we were briefly left alone he attacked my character. Even bound, he was probably a better fighter than me, but I wasn’t trying to win, I just needed to keep him from getting away, so I let him ineffectively beat me up, wasting his energy. By the time the fighter came back I was standing over the prisoner with one foot on his neck. Both the fighter and the prisoner were shocked by the turn of events. And I never even drew a weapon...

We revised our offer, suggesting we’d let him commit seppuku if he talked. He sang like a bird.

While this was going on, our ninja spotted 2 enemy ninja’s in a tree. She shot one, the other ran. We captured the injured one, got him to talk too. Found out there were about a dozen ninja total, and an evil wizard. This mostly from deduction, since neither the ninja nor the bodyguard could remember anything specific about their master.

Then it was time for the ritual. Everything was going splendidly until the local god failed to show, and in his place was a 15’ four armed coal black oni. The fighter placed himself firmly between the oni and our charge, while the wizard pulled up stone walls to protect the old dude.

Our ninja shot the oni with her bow, while I tried to figure out who summoned the demon. I spotted a guy in green muttering to himself and looking really intently at the oni. I took a pot shot at him with my bow. The blood mage bent the arrow around him (unnecessary really since I’m a terrible shot) but it did cause him to reveal himself to the assembled samurai.

After a fairly epic battle where I didn’t actually do very much except distract the oni by yelling at it in its own language the oni went back to the hell it came from, and we captured the bloodmage. Then we finished the ritual, bundled the old dude into a carriage, and tried to get away.

Our fighter couldn’t quite let it go though, and told the bodyguards they weren’t coming… by punching the chief bodyguard and friend of the old dude in the face. This went over about as well as you’d imagine. We managed to calm things down before lives were lost, and leaving the fighter behind took the old dude to the city proper to catch his boat.

While we were on our way, the ninja attacked the estate where this was all taking place. Sadly for them we’d already gotten away. The fighter helped fight them off, easing the tension with the bodyguards a little.

The ninja and I escorted the old dude back home, while the fighter and wizard remained behind to root out the heretical dragon cult and to squash the independence movement.

Amazingly enough it was the DMs first time running FATE! At the beginning it was a little rough, but it smoothed out quickly, and my fellow players were a lot of fun to share the table with.


  1. I had fun with this game, but I felt that I missed out on a lot of the action because I decided to stay behind to tend to Uki while the rest of you interrogated the traitorous Yojimbo. I would have liked to have gotten some more Fate points for my self compels, but I guess Kevin didn't really agree with me on those.

    I do hope I didn't come across as overbearing with my knowledge of the rules at the table. I was only trying to help out.

    1. Are you kidding? It was good to have an experienced FATE player at the table, especially since Kevin the DM wasn't! And I'd bet that it wasn't so much that he disagreed with you as he lacked the system mastery.

    2. Good, I'm glad that I was able to help out.