Tales of the Hungry GM #1: Preparing L5R “Legacy of Disaster”

My wife describes me as the sort of GM who is always trying to build a better lunchbox (no, she definitely meant lunchbox). I am dogged in my pursuit of better materials for my lunchbox, for blueprints to help make my lunchbox more robust. One of the things that I find most beneficial in my search are examples of how other GMs have constructed their lunchboxes. I know that I’m not the only one, and so with this series I hope to provide other GMs with a look into my thought process as I construct, and fill my lunchbox.

Our tale begins in 2011; I was in my second year of college, and I had never roleplayed before in my life. I had always wanted to play D&D, but so far it just hadn’t happened. A woman in one of my classes mentioned “Legend of the Five Rings” while we were discussing nerdy subjects. She described it as a roleplaying game filled with samurai, honor, and sword fights. Being who I was/am, I knew immediately that I had to play this game!

Cut to the end of 2017; I’m now a grownup GM, with grownup money, and a grownup car. I’ll start my own game! Summer is in full swing, and I have an open time slot, so I’m going to give a few people the chance I never had.

Feel free to pick up the L5R quick start guide, “Legacy of Disaster,” and follow along. It doesn’t cost anything, and has everything you need to run an awesome adventure for your friends.

Part 1: Clues in Tochigi

Node 1: Doji Haruki’s Audience Chamber

Having read through “Legacy of Disaster,” it is apparent that the adventure is intended to be something of a mystery. As such, I can think of no better way to prep this adventure than using nodes, as detailed by The Alexandrian. Nodes are a fantastic tool for organizing important locations, NPCs, and events in your game. Every GM should have them in their lunchbox.

Doji Haruki’s estate is the beginning node for this adventure. Once the initial scene has played out, the PCs are free to search the audience chamber for clues relating to the theft of Doji Haruki’s precious daisho. There is just one problem with this: this node only really contains one clue. The blood and hair are tangential clues; they add to the adventure, but they don’t help the PCs find the next node. Additionally, I consider Haruki’s remarks about Hida Samano to be red herring; speaking with Samano isn’t necessary to complete this adventure, and any information he can provide is, again, tangential.

That just leaves the footprints leading from the window to the daisho stand. This is a valid clue because, if followed, it can lead the players right to Wachimasu (another major node). However, as stated by The Alexandrian,

For any conclusion you want the PCs to make, include at least three clues.

So how can we fill the gaps left by missing clues? The other nodes in Tochigi are already lined out by the adventure, so it’s just a matter of bringing them to the PCs’ attention. One easy way to accomplish this it to have Haruki provide the PCs with some actual leads; “Perhaps the groundskeeper noticed something,” or “Maybe someone at the teahouse saw a suspicious individual.” Otherwise, Haruki is kind of devoid of helpful advice, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Additionally, you can have the PCs notice the groundskeeper’s hut whenever they look out the window that the thief entered through.

Once that’s done, the PCs should have access to at least three clues, which should be enough to allow them to move forward. As stated in Node-Based Scenario Design,

If the PCs have access to ANY three clues, they will reach at least ONE conclusion.

Node 2: Groundskeeper Ganasu

Ganasu can be persuaded to remember a woman running away from the palace grounds about an hour before the PCs arrived in the audience chamber. She spoke to a guard, and then rode out to the western road on horseback.

This is another clue leading to the west, toward Wachimasu. We don’t need to add any additional clues at this point, because the PCs already have had access to four clues—leaving three once the clue leading to Node 2 is discarded.

It should be noted that the clue about the guard is a dead end. It can lead to a fun interaction, but ultimately doesn’t move the PCs toward a solution.

Node 3: Tochigi’s Finest

Hiro, the insomnolent merchant, can provide another clue pointing to the mysterious woman leaving through the western gate. With a bit of prompting, he will also reveal that she bribed a guard before leaving.

At this point, the PCs should have enough information to conclude that they need to head toward Wachimasu. If you feel that the PCs need a bit more prompting, the owner of the teahouse, Shimoko, is good friends with Ganasu, and will mention that he is rather observant regarding people coming and going from the village.

Go to Part 2…

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