By now, the PCs are likely headed toward the mountains north of Wachimasu, where the climax of this scenario will occur.
Node 7: Kazumi and the Bandits
Even after reading through this adventure twice, the idea that the Fire Tiger bandits just spawn at the PCs’ location if they waited too long to get here smells funny to me, so I’m not going to eat it. Instead, let’s cook up something better. By borrowing another page from the Alexandrian’s playbook, we can easily create a timeline to make this node taste delicious.
My timeline for this node is simple; the bandits are returning from a raid at the same time that Seppun Kazumi is heading through the mountains. Without player intervention, they will intersect on the morning after the daisho was stolen. The node is now ready to handle whatever action the PCs take, and we don’t have to spend hours coming up with contingency plans. If the PCs catch Kazumi before morning, then they don’t encounter the bandits; if they wait until morning before heading in this direction, then they find Kazumi fighting six Fire Tiger bandits; if they take an extremely long time getting to this point (and some groups will), then Kazumi must fight six bandits…alone.
That last scenario has the potential to spiral into something totally unexpected; Kazumi is dead (it is highly unlikely that she can defeat six enemies by herself), and the bandits have the daisho. You could stop the session and frantically try to come up with an answer to this outcome, or you could realize that you already have all the tools necessary to adjudicate this situation! We know what the goal of the bandits is (plunder, pillage, and stay alive), we know that they are camping in the mountains, we know they have the daisho, and we know that a few of them are injured from the fight with Kazumi. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated that that.
As for the encounter with Kazumi, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to puzzle out her goal. She’s obviously a devoted samurai-ko, so why would she just stand there and let herself get captured? Why would she reveal that Seppun Ayumu was behind this theft in the first place? Looking at her honor rank, I realized that she’s not far above the minimum requirement to be an acceptable samurai. She’s still human, and is still subject to emotions such as fear. When the PCs meet her here, her goal is to destroy the daisho, and prevent it from being re-forged. However, if she feels that her life is in danger, she might reveal her master in an attempt to cow the PCs.
Node 8A: Breaking the Curse
This node is a concession to reality, and an attempt to fill in what I view as a hole in this scenario’s node structure. If the players learn that the blades are cursed, they will ask about removing it. Doing so is not difficult; if brought to that point, Kazumi will reveal that the blades are harboring the gaki of Seppun Daiori. With this information, a shugenja can easily perform the ritual to draw the gaki forth. The ritual involves a jade chisel, purified mountain water, and a small hammer. Once the gaki is defeated, the curse is broken.
Now, I just made all of that up, but I’m sure it’s evident how such a task will provide a satisfying outcome to the player’s desire to break the curse. Gathering the required materials can easily become its own adventure, and I encourage you to develop it as such if it suits your game. For my own purposes, I will be running this scenario as a one-shot to demo the system, so resolving it with a single skill check is sufficient.
Node 8B: Hellfire
Up until now, we haven’t really discussed the gaki. As stated in Part 2, all NPCs should have goals. Unfortunately, the scenario doesn’t really provide one for the gaki. So let’s fix that! Until recently, it has been slumbering within the daisho, feeding off Doji Haruki’s anxiety, anger, and pride. By this point, it has grown fat enough to manifest, which is something I can relate to. It now wants to take possession of Doji Haruki to covertly aid the Shadowlands. There is just one problem; it’s trapped in a sword. While the daisho is whole, the gaki cannot manifest. Naturally, it is delighted if Kazumi shatters the daisho. It lies in wait, anticipating the moment that the PCs unwittingly bring it within striking range of Doji Haruki.
This scheme is dashed if PCs decide to have the blades re-forged. Alarmed by the heat of forge fire, the gaki decides to take its only chance at victory by possessing the blacksmith. Note that this is not a contingency plan; being trapped in the daisho runs contrary to the gaki’s goal. Assume that it will do whatever is necessary to achieve its goal, and the rest will follow naturally.
Node 9: Returning the Daisho
At the beginning of the scenario, Doji Haruki tells the PCs that they are to return the daisho to him on the road to Seppun Ayumu’s estate. At some point, the writers seem to have forgotten this fact. I personally prefer it the original way, so in my own game Doji Haruki agrees to meet them in a small glade just off the road on the morning of the second day after the daisho was stolen. Not only does this provide a secluded venue for the final moments of the adventure, but it also helps keep things focused by making time finite.
This node is the culmination of the players’ choices. The only advice I can give is to let events play out organically. You have all the tools you need.
Here is the finalized version of our node structure:
The guidance offered in the “Aftermath and Consequences” section of Legacy of Disaster can serve as the basis for many more adventures. However, that is currently beyond the scope of what I am hoping to accomplish with this scenario.
Next week I’m going to briefly cover how I’ll be prepping the NPCs for this adventure. Thank you for sticking with me this far. I hope you’ve learned something from these articles. Be on the lookout for future posts, as I plan on demoing quite a few games between now and the beginning of 2018. Until then, stay hungry!