Sunday, 4 February 2018

Yakuza 2019 - Actual Play Report #3: Breaking Hearts and the Game

This is going to be a short one, mostly because the session itself was so short.  (The reason why will come later, be patient).  It also only consisted of a single die roll and the rest was just a nice roleplaying vignette.  The rest of the post will probably be padded with my reflections on the events that occurred.  If roleplaying social encounters and reflections on the nature of roleplaying itself isn't really your thing.  You're welcome to skip this session.  Alright are they gone?  Good, for those of you still here I'm going to get right to the report, but first some housekeeping.  If you're just joining us and have no idea what's going on, you can read the first session here.  If you're a returning reader and you missed the last session, you can find it here.  Alright, with that out of the way let's get into it.

The Game Changer

When we last left off my character the ethnic Korean Yakuza Amphetamine Dealer Tae Joon-Ho; was standing over the corpse of the man who had ordered the murder of his boss and best friend.  That man was Yoshida Goro a lieutenant of the Akemi-gumi, the Yakuza group that Joon-Ho was a part of.  The man that Joon-Ho's late immediate superior Koizumi Takahiro had answered to.  Until he had discovered that Yoshida had been embezzling funds meant for the Akemi coffers.  Instead of going to the family bosses with this information Takahiro had decided to blackmail Yoshida.  Hoping to swing a promotion for both himself and his subordinate Joon-Ho.  Like most people who end up being blackmailed Yoshida had not been a fan of the idea and ordered both of them killed.  Joon-Ho had only escaped assassination because he had left the apartment to buy Takahiro cigarettes.  At first Joon-Ho had sought out Yoshida in hopes of getting his aid.  (He had no idea about Takahiro blackmailing the Akemi-gumi lieutenant, until said lieutenant had revealed it to him). Walking into an ambush Joon-Ho barely escaped with his life, by getting the drop on Yoshida and beating him to death.  (Then making sure the job had been done properly by shooting Yoshida three times in the head with the man's own handgun).  

The Ledger proving Yoshida's embezzlement.  I never got why criminals
and embezzlers in movies kept these kind of incriminating records around.
Standing over his would-be killer's corpse, Joon-Ho grabbed some tissues from the desk and cleaned his hands of the blood.  He pocketed the now soiled, tissues in order to dump them later along with Yoshida's gun.  He then grabbed another handful of tissues to prevent fingerprints as he began to rummage through the Akemi Lieutenant's office.  Looking for either dirt that would prove Yoshida's embezzlement even from beyond the grave or at least the kilo of Amphetamines.  That Yoshida had admitted to having the hitman steal from Joon-Ho's apartment when he killed Takahiro.  The profits from its sale and maybe a sampling of the wares (Joon-Ho often got high on his own supply and was kind of jonesing for a post-kill fix) would be great right about now.  The drawers to the desk proved to be locked and Joon-Ho didn't have time to be fiddling around with the lock.  He didn't want to be here when somebody came to investigate the gunshots.  He finally struck pay dirt when opened one of the cabinets in the office.  Inside was a book, which when opened revealed itself to be a ledger.  Ordinarily Joon-Ho (who only had a Middle-School Education) would never have been able to make heads or tails of such a thing.  But still high on adrenaline Joon-Ho was able to focus enough to recognize certain irregularities.  There was a Yoshida listed in this ledger, but it wasn't Yoshida Goro. It was Yoshida Ishimaru, which meant that Goro either was using an alias or had a relative helping him embezzle Akemi-gumi funds.  On close examination there were funds still unaccounted for, just the ticket Joon-Ho needed to keep the bosses from whacking him.  It didn't really prove his innocence in all of this, but it certainly proved Yoshida's guilt; which Joon-Ho could finagle to prove his innocence.  He took the ledger with him as he left, recovered his gun from the entryway door and left through the back stairwell.

(For those of you wondering from the out of character side of things.  The GM had me roll an Intelligence check to make heads or tails of the ledger.  Since Joon-Ho doesn't have any points in the Accounting Skill it would've been nearly impossible for him decipher its secrets.  I rolled a crit.  The only die roll of the entire session which also brought it to a screeching halt.  Apparently the GM had not taken into account the possibility that I'd actually make the roll.  She also had not been prepared when I brought up the idea of presenting the evidence to the bosses.  Meaning she hadn't expected the character and myself to take the story in that direction.  Where she had nothing prepared in terms of game notes.  No information on the bosses, their personalities, how they'd react or anything.  Whereas from my end it seemed to be the obvious thing to do.  I guess it just goes to show you that people have very different ways of thinking).

Rest for the Wicked

Joon-Ho disposed of Yoshida's gun and the blood-soaked tissues which he'd used to wipe his hands.  By dumping them in the dumpster behind the bar where he'd bought the Type 54 from Shiori.  Then he went in search of a cheap hotel to spend the night at.  He managed to conceal the blood-stains on his jacket and shirt by rolling up his sleeves.  After buying a room, he went to the lobby payphone and dialled the cellphone of his girlfriend Honda Miu.  (I know that cellphones are a thing, but pay-phones are so Noire and a little more anonymous nowadays).  Joon-Ho tapped the top of the phone as he listened to the receiver ring.  
"Hell...o...?" Miu's voice had a hint of suspicion and nervousness when she answered.
"Miu, baby it's me Joon-Ho." 
"Oh, thank God.  Did you know about what happened?  The police have been looking all over for you!  Are you safe?" she still sounded a little nervous but more relieved than anything.  
"Yeah, Takahiro's dead.  A hitman killed him, would've killed me too if I hadn't been out buying cigarettes.  I got the son of a bitch though." Joon-Ho sighed at his girlfriend's ignorance of the hell that he'd been living for the past couple of hours.
" it was Mr. Koizumi... I'm sorry Joon-Ho.  I'm surprised though, the police wouldn't tell me who it was.  In fact, I was pretty sure it was you for a while there...  The police were already here when I got here.  Did you... call them anonymously or something?" Miu's words came like a wave in Joon-Ho's ear.
He rolled his eyes at her apparent ignorance that criminals didn't exactly call cops when they had a crime committed against them.  
"You didn't tell them anything did you?  No I dealt with him a different way, sweetheart."
"I didn't tell them anything because I don't know anything.  I mean they didn't find anything at the apartment, at least not that they told me, anyway.  Should I come over to where you are?  I'd feel a lot better if I could see you with my own eyes, Joon-Ho." her voice was once again filled with just a hint of panic.  
"Good, if they ask you anything, if they visit you at work; don't tell them nothing.  Yeah come over." he gave her the Hotel's address and his room number.  Probably the wrong decision, but he felt the need to see her after all that had happened today.  After that he went upstairs to wait for her.

A Hotel Room not unlike the one where Joon-Ho was staying.
Though I imagine his was cheaper looking.
Once in the room Joon-Ho flipped on the TV turning the channel over the news.  Hoping to see whether the police had released a statement about Takahiro or Yoshida's murders.  He stripped out of his shirt and jacket, revealing his Irezumi tattoo of a wanton Geisha smoking a traditional tobacco pipe with smouldering eyes.  (Really it would've been accurate to call it a Yujo since Geisha's aren't prostitutes or Courtesans.  Which is more what I was going for when I thought up the idea of Joon-Ho's tattoo.  Something classy and kind of sexy.  Rather than the traditional Samurai, Demons and Dragons that most Irezumi portray).  The sad truth of the world was that bloodstains don't come out of clothes.  The garments would have to be disposed of and new ones procured.  That was partly the reason he had called Miu over, since he couldn't go out in public shirtless.  The pants would have to stay for now, since he didn't want to be caught with his pants down by a hitman.  About twenty minutes after he had called her, there was knock at the door.  He reached for the Type 54 and approached the door, looking through the peephole.  

Honda Miu, cabaret girl and Joon-Ho's
current girlfriend.
He saw Miu in a disheveled state.  Still wearing the same clothes he'd seen on her, when she'd left his apartment; which seemed like an eternity ago now.  Despite her dishevelment she was still beautiful not in the way she was dressed or dolled up, but in the way she carried herself.  Her posture was straight and her eyes focused.  Not the look of someone born with natural beauty, but someone who had spent her whole life attaining it.  Joon-Ho opened the door for her not wide and not very long.  Long-enough for her enter the room and for him to look up and down the hall.  Making sure that no one had followed her.  Miu smiled upon seeing her boyfriend but didn't go in for her usual kiss.  The circumstances didn't exactly warrant such displays of affection.  Never breaking eye-contact with Joon-Ho as she sat down on the bed, when eye-contact did break it was because Joon-Ho was looking up and down the hall.

"You weren't followed, were you?" asked Joon-Ho despite having confirmed that fact himself.
"Not to my knowledge.  If I had, I wouldn't be here, so why ask?" she sniped back at him.
Joon-Ho walked over to the bed sitting down right next to her, intimately close.
"Considering the fact that I just pissed off some very dangerous men and am being hunted by the police?  Can't be too careful." he elaborated.  
"I didn't mention this on the phone, but... the police said you weren't a suspect.  But that's pretty suspicious.  It's your apartment of course you're a suspect.  I just smiled and nodded.  Do you have someone looking for you, Joon-Ho?"  
Joon-Ho smiled at his girlfriend's display of loyalty "Clever girl.  Yoshida mentioned something similar before he tried to kill me.  His boys are probably after me." he turned it over in his head.  Maybe Yoshida had a Cop on his payroll or had provided him an alibi just so he could murder him?
"Hmm, you never mentioned a Yoshida.  Do I know the guy?" asked Miu.  "Doesn't matter I came here to find out what you plan to do.  If I can help, I will."  
Joon-Ho took out the single cigarette he had found after searching Takahiro's corpse after finding him dead in his apartment.  He lit it, took a puff and said, 
"He was a very dangerous man, which is why dangerous men worked for him.  Turns out I'm more dangerous than he was.  And yeah, there is something you can do for me.  I'm gonna need some new clothes there's money on the nightstand.  But first..." this is where he turned her face towards his own and planted a kiss on her lips.  
"Ew, cigarette smoke~If I smell like that my customers won't love me anymore." giggled Miu, her eyes lighting up after the kiss had been broken.  She put her arms around Joon-Ho and leaned in close.  "I do love you, but I don't rely on you.  I'm a self-made woman you know?  So you don't have to worry about a thing.  Just focus on getting out of this with all your fingers, okay?" she winked at that last part.
"Oh, I know you are.  I also know you'd hate to lose these fingers." smiled Joon-Ho as he began to gently caress Miu, before going in for another kiss lowering her down onto the bed.  Things had been breaking down with Miu for some time and they might still after this.  Right now though, he'd nearly gotten killed and his survival instincts had kicked in.  


That's where we left it, if this had been a movie.  It would've been the kind where the screen fades to black just as the sex scene starts.  While the session itself was very short it did serve as a teaching moment in many ways.  For the GM it was a lesson in preparation, you need to be at least minimally prepared for multiple possibilities.  You can't just expect the players in a game to follow a single track that you have meticulously planned out.  Anything can throw a monkey wrench in your best laid plans, be it the player making a decision that you hadn't expected or a rogue die roll.  (Both of which occurred in this session, apparently I was supposed to be on a train to Hokkaido to hide out with Joon-Ho's biker friends.  Which ended up not being the decision I made, since I thought only a guilty man would run.  From my character's perspective he's innocent or at least completely justified in everything he's done).  The point being you need to be able to adapt your plans and improvise.  If you don't have stats prepared for a certain NPC, recycle the stats from another.  Make up details as you go along, roll with the punches so to speak.  Part of the fun of tabletop roleplaying is the ability to tailor a world to a player character's actions.  In my GM's case she couldn't adapt on the fly and needed some time to figure out how to recover.  Fortunately she's running a single-player campaign, online with a very understanding veteran player; who has GM-ed extensively himself.  If any one of these factors had been different this could've been a lot worse.  She's had an opportunity to learn from her mistakes while the kid-gloves are still on.  I hope it's a lesson that she will take to heart.  

Which leads into the second part of my reflections.  The scene with Joon-Ho's girlfriend Miu was my attempt to salvage something that resembled a session, from what my GM perceived as the wreckage.  I'm a player who likes to role-play more than he likes to roll dice.  I put forward that I wanted to narrate a little bit before we left the game, hoping to urge her to improvise a little.  I'd wanted to know a little more about the NPC Miu since she featured so prominently in Joon-Ho's LifePath.  I knew the GM had notes about Miu so at least she'd have a base to improvise from.  It resulted in what I thought was a nice quiet scene.  Which was also a first for me, the first time I've ever been in a game.  Where romance or sexual encounters were handled in a mature manner, if at all.  It'd been something that I'd wanted to try ever since the Aki campaign.  Honestly I'm quite happy with how it had turned out.  Since we primarily use the Cyberpunk 2020 system for our games, romance shows up a lot in the characters' backgrounds.  Meaning that such topics would eventually have to show up eventually in gameplay.  I've wanted to tackle the subject ever since that occurred to me.  So this was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.  Incidentally if any of you are looking for a good essay on Sex & Romance in RPGs (specifically Cyberpunk but applicable to many games), click here.  The link should take you to Datafortress 2020 where you can download Kristian de Valle's essay on the topic.  Well that about covers it for me, if you like this post; be sure to +1, comment and follow this blog.  As always have a good day and may you roll many crits. 

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Yakuza 2019 - Actual Play Report #2: Killing in the Name of

After a month it's finally here, the 2nd part of the actual play report for Yakuza 2019!  We sat down yesterday and played to find out what would happen to my character Tae Joon-Ho.  It was a blast and I can't wait to share it with you guys.  For those of you just joining us, you can find the first part here and the notes about our Session 0 here.  With that bit of housekeeping out the way let's get on with the game itself.

Making some Calls...

A familiar phone booth where Joon-Ho was planning his next
When we last left off Tae Joon-Ho my ethnic Korean Yakuza drug-dealer was in a phone booth.  Where he'd been hung up on by the secretary of Yoshida Goro, the Yakuza lieutenant.  That his own boss Koizumi Takahiro reported to.  After having an initial meltdown over being hung up on by the secretary, essentially cutting off his only lifeline.  Joon-Ho began wracking his brain trying to figure out who could've murdered his boss and friend.  Had it been his girlfriend Honda Miu?  Takahiro and many of Joon-Ho's other friends had been telling him to dump the cabaret girl for years.  She was also the only one that had access to the apartment that Takahiro would've lowered his guard to.  She also knew where the gun and amphetamines had been kept.  Was it the rival dealer from the Izumi-kai Takenaka Shuichi?  Who Joon-Ho had caught selling outside a bar on Akemi-gumi turf?  That didn't add up, he'd been with Joon-Ho while Takahiro was getting murdered.  Joon-Ho made a mental note to deal with him later though.  The last suspect on his list was Yoshida Goro the lieutenant within the Akemi-gumi that Takahiro had reported to.  He certainly had the resources, but he lacked motive.  He was making good money supplying amphetamines to Takahiro which Takahiro then supplied to Joon-Ho.  Why jeopardize that?  

"You have eight minutes remaining, to make another call please dial the desired number.  If you'd like a refund please hang-up."  The pre-recorded woman's voice droned from the receiver.  Bringing Joon-Ho back from his thoughts, he began dialling another number, making the most of his remaining time.  The first number was for the cabaret where his girlfriend Miu worked as a hostess.  Joon-Ho impatiently tapped the phone as he listened to it ring, waiting for his call to go through.  A woman answered the phone, probably one of Miu's co-workers.
"Hello Titty Typhoon, are you calling to book?" 
(As a side note I about burst out laughing when the GM typed this.  She then explained the idea was that the club got the name.  Because it's trendy among the Japanese to use foreign words even when they don't know the meaning).
"No I'm calling on a personal matter.  Is Miu there?" said Joon-Ho.
"Oh, Mr Fujin, is that you?  Miu just went home, so you'll have to see her tomorrow."  the girl on the other end replied.  Joon-Ho didn't recognize the name as Miu had never mentioned it, but he didn't let on.  There were more pressing matters at hand, than who his girlfriend was screwing behind his back.
"Okay, thank you for your time." with that Joon-Ho hung up.

If Miu had left the club that meant she'd gone back to his apartment.  Which was probably now a police crime scene or about to become one, he'd never be able to get to her.  Besides her co-worker had already established her alibi.  Putting the coins that'd fallen into the change slot back into the coin slot he began dialling another number.
"Yello," the voice on the other end was that of Sato Soma, the Bosozoku biker that Joon-Ho had spent two years in prison with.
"Soma, it's me Joon-Ho.  I need a favour."
"I'll do what I can, man, but I mean, you know we're not around, right?  We're all up in Hokkaido right now.  If things are super bad, you can come up and lay low with us for a while.  You know we'd be willing to put you up anytime."
Joon-Ho began mentally cursing himself, after last night's drunken binge he'd forgotten that Soma and his gang were up in Hokkaido.  Not even on the same island of Honshu as he was.
"Shit man, I forgot.  It's nothing, I'll catch you later."
"Sorry I couldn't be more help, man, call me if you need anything I can help with from up here though!  I always got your back bro." comforting words from Soma that offered little comfort to Joon-Ho in his current situation as he hung up.

A Japanese Pub not unlike the one where Joon-Ho had Shiori
meet him.
The last number on the list of people Joon-Ho could call when he was in a jam.  Was Shiori Sato (no relation to Soma, Sato is a very common name in Japan) a childhood friend that Joon-Ho had dated for a time.  She was an ethnic Korean (like Joon-Ho though she opted to use a Japanese alias) and also a dealer, the only difference being that she dealt in firearms rather than drugs.  He waited for the phone to connect and breathed a little easier when it did.
"Hello?" said the familiar voice on the other end.
"Shiori?  Look I'm in a bit of a jam could you meet me at the Pub near the Yoshida Office?"
On the other end of the line Shiori sounded a little pensive as Joon-Ho heard her talk to someone else on the other end.  He couldn't quite make out the exact details of the conversation.  In the end she answered in a curt voice.
"Sure.  I'll be there in five."
"Before you go, one more thing.  I need a gun, I've got money." if things took a turn for the worse, Joon-Ho didn't want to walk into an ambush unarmed.
"You looking for anything in particular?" replied Shiori at the other end.
"Like I said I'm in a jam but a Type 54 will do." beggars couldn't be choosers, but she was making the offer.
"Let me ask her." Joon-Ho could hear Shori set down the phone and walk away.  Her footsteps were even not rushed or slowed in anyway.  The other voice from before returned, this time Joon-Ho could make it out as feminine.  He was aware that Shiori had a business partner but he'd never met them.  This was his first clue that she was in fact a woman.
"Yeah, we've got it.  I can give you a quote once we're there.  See you." with that Shiori hung up.

Where you going with that Gun in your hand?

Hanging up the phone and exiting the booth, Joon-Ho looked over his shoulder as he walked.  Making sure that he wasn't followed to his meeting with Shiori.  He was positive he didn't see anyone, but that still didn't put his mind at ease.  Just because they weren't following him now didn't mean that there wasn't someone out there looking to kill him.  When he got there the bar was nearly empty it being open at this time of day was more a formality than a business practice.  By Joon-Ho's watch Shiori showed up two minutes after he did, exactly five minutes after she'd hung up on him.  If nothing else, she was punctual.  She had a wallowing frown on her face, but her eyes lit up at the sight of her old friend.  Joon-Ho was sitting at a booth in the back with his back to the wall.  She sat down at the same booth, sitting across from him.

"Hey hey.  How's it going?  It's been a while." 
"Like I said I'm in a jam, how's it going with you?" Joon-Ho was happy to see her both as a friend and as a person doing business with her.
"It's going..." here she let out a sigh "It's going okay I guess.  Things are just a little tough right now,
The Norinco Type 54 a Chinese copy of the Tokarev T-33,
colloquially called the Black Star pistol.  It is a pistol very
commonly used among the Yakuza.  One of the few handguns
I've researched where use by a criminal organizations is part
of it's Wikipedia Article.
but aren't they always?  What's this jam of yours and how does this help you?" any thoughts Joon-Ho had of concern for his friend were erased when slid over a menu.  That seemed to slide slower than most menus slide, as if weighted down.  Joon-Ho discreetly lifted the cover of the menu to reveal what he'd come here for.  The Type 54 pistol to replace the Smith and Wesson that he'd had to get rid of.  After he'd found Takahiro dead in his apartment.  
Continuing the conversation Joon-Ho said "Remember my boss?  Takahiro?  He's dead.  I found him shot in my apartment this afternoon.  My stash was gone and the gun that killed him?  Was the one you sold me a while back."

 "Great...Always pleasant to find out when a weapon you procured shot someone.  I try to hard not to think about things like that.  Sucks for Takahiro though.  He was a pretty cool guy, if you could get over how self-absorbed he could be..." Shiori didn't seem to share Joon-Ho's grief at Takahiro's death.
"This thing as ammo right?" Joon-Ho nodded towards the gun under the menu.
"It costs extra." Shiori began to smirk a little "Nothing in life is free, you know?"
Joon-Ho reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a roll of bills.  Forking over the 100,000 Yen he expected to pay for a gun like this.
"Ain't that the truth." he said awaiting Shiori's response.  
"But... Friendship has a way of opening doors.  80,000 is a fair price for you." Shiori responded lowering her price.
"Take the extra, give me some ammunition if that makes you feel better about it.  I'd like to be remembered fondly by my friends." countered Joon-Ho at her offer.
(Hindsight Joon-Ho totally got screwed over in this deal, but I thought it was some nice roleplaying on my part).
Shiori slipped a magazine under the cover of the magazine with the gun.
"Well, I won't disagree with the extra funds.  Every Yen is needed in this day and age.  I imagine you're in a hurry.  I'm gonna stay here for a while, but don't let me keep you from wherever you need to go."  Shiori took the money and pocketed it without counting.  A sign of her trust of an old friend. 
Joon-Ho discreetly collected the illegal firearm, loading the magazine into the pistol.  Which he then deposited into his inner jacket pocket.  Before leaving he left Shiori with these words.
"Takahiro was like a brother to me.  I need to do right by him.  I know things didn't work out between you and me, but you're still my friend.  One of the few I got left in this world." with that he got up and began walking to the bar's door.
If this had been a movie, the camera would've probably focused on Shiori as she watched Joon-Ho leave.  As she delivered her final line of the scene. 
"Wow. What dramatic guy."

Familiar Faces

Shuichi a rival drug-dealer, I'd been wanting to
take care of him ever since the last session.
About a month ago, a note to you GMs in the
audience.  Sometimes players will latch onto a
character they just hate.  Whether you intended
it to be that way or not.  Time away from the
game can make them hate that NPC even more.
Unlike other criminal organizations the Yakuza keep offices that advertise exactly what they do.  Yoshida Goro's office was no different, with a sign proclaiming without shame it's true purpose.  As Joon-Ho started to walk towards the building, he saw a familiar face.  Hanging around in a nearby alleyway.  Tankenaka Shuichi the rival drug-dealer with the Izumi-kai that Joon-Ho had caught dealing on his turf earlier that afternoon.  The talk with Yoshida could wait, Shuichi and Joon-Ho were going to have a talk first.  The kind where he gets even more beat up than the last time the two of them met.  He began walking over to the rival Yakuza.  Shuichi appeared to notice that Joon-Ho was coming his way, but hadn't recognized him yet.  After squinting a bit a look of fear came across Shuichi's face, prompting him to turn around and run for it!

Joon-Ho gave chase the bastard had pulled this the last time he had seen him.  This time he wasn't getting away, not if Joon-Ho had anything to say about it.  Last time Shuichi had had a good head-start, this time he hadn't been so lucky.  Joon-Ho was right on top of him and things only got worse for the rival dealer.  Joon-Ho shot out his leg to trip him which caused Shuichi to stumble but not topple to the ground like Joon-Ho had hoped.  It didn't matter though because Joon-Ho followed up the trip with a hard punch to the back of Shuichi's skull!  (I actually gave my own skull a light tap to test how effective this is.  Let me just say it smarts).  With this punch combined with the momentum the fleeing amphetamine dealer went down like a sack of potatoes.  Apparently it didn't do too much harm though, as he soon hopped back up with is hands up in surrender.

"Wait, man we can talk about this!!  I'm not part of the main business, I only work for the front, dude, please." he pleaded.
"Better start talking ass-wipe!  I get real cranky when people keep ducking me!" threatened Joon-Ho his fist raised in preparation for another punch to the other Yakuza's face.
"Look, I get it.  I saw what happened to your buddy.  But doesn't it make more sense to go after the person who ordered the hit instead of the guy who works for the front of the business.  I don't know why you're after me!"
"What the fuck are you talking about?  Who ordered the hit?"
"I don't know who ordered the hit!  I told you, I just work for the cover up! ... You... do know what I'm talking about right?  You wouldn't come after me if you didn't...right?"
(This is the part where making a Streetwise check when I first met Shuichi instead of punching his lights out without talking, would've been useful).  
"Alright I've got some questions, what the fuck are you doing dealing on Akemi turf?" said Joon-Ho becoming more confused and pissed-off.
"I thought that was a bad idea myself, but my superiors told us to push as many boundaries as we could get away with.  I think it was a power play.  Or maybe more like advertisement?  I ran into others from the Akemi-gumi who turned a blind eye, so I guess it was working, to an extent." 
Joon-Ho still couldn't wrap his head around what the fuck Shuichi was talking about.  He needed to get a second opinion. 
"Alright, we're going to see Mr. Yoshida, he's gonna interested in what you have to say.  Or I could shoot you here for being a thief and a snitch.  Your choice." a look of fear crossed Shuichi's face as Joon-Ho said these words.
"I can't go in there.  I'd rather you shoot me now.  If it was found out that I went there, I'd be more than just dead.

An Alley not unlike the one that Joon-Ho left Shuichi in.
Seeing that being diplomatic was getting him nowhere Joon-Ho reached into his inner jacket pocket.  Pulling out his newly acquired Type 54 and pointing it right in Shuichi's face. 
"You could always say you were under duress." he offered.
"You really don't know do you?  Tell me.  What do you think the Izumi-kai is?" a look of disbelief took form on Shuichi's face.
"I don't keep tabs on every gang of upstarts that call themselves Yakuza." frowned Joon-Ho.
"Heh.  Thought so.  The Izumi-kai is a front.  For a crew of contract killers.  They hire little shits like me to call this dump a "family"in order to keep things running smoothly.  Hiding the darkness in the shadows, if you will.  I'm not the one who killed your friend.  And the hitmen from the Izumi-kai are far too skilled for you.  You'd be better off getting your vengeance on the guy who ordered the hit, not me." a huge shit-eating grin crossed Shuichi's face as he said this.
"Yeah that'd be intimidating if I was a scared little shit like you.  Thing is I'm a Yakuza of the Akemi-gumi, with balls of enough bass to build a Buddha."  With that Joon-Ho took the butt of his gun and struck Shuichi on the side of the head.  Apparently it wasn't hard enough because Shuichi just laughed it off.
(I rolled a 2 on my 1d6+1 for damage to pistol-whip him). 
He wasn't laughing for long when Joon-Ho delivered a concentrated kick to his kneecap!  Which caused Shuichi to double over onto the ground in the fetal position.  Writhing in pain and screaming/groaning.  Joon-Ho didn't blame him a blow like that was probably enough to shatter the man's entire knee.  He wasn't in pain for long as Joon-Ho began curb stomping the prone Shuichi.  When he was done Shuichi had blood pouring out of his nose and his eyes were rolled up into the back of his head.  He was losing blood fast, but was still breathing if with some difficulty.  He'd die if he didn't get some medical attention but that was Shuichi's problem, not Joon-Ho's.  Who promptly turned around and began walking back to the Yoshida Office.  Leaving the snitch piece of garbage to bleed out. 
(It was a this point the GM asked why I hated Shuichi so much.  Apparently she finds him to be largely pitiable.  I really don't have an answer, there's just something about him that I hate).

Into the Lion's Den

Joon-Ho honestly had thought it'd be a lot harder to get into Yoshida's office.  He expected to be stopped by bodyguards or at least the secretary he'd talked to earlier on the phone.  Instead he was able to practically waltz right up to the third floor of the building.  Where Yoshida Goro himself had his actual office.  He entered the room without hesitating, only paying token attention to his surroundings.  Wanting to make a good impression on a senior member of the Akemi-gumi, he bowed his head out of respect.  It's a good thing he did too, because at that moment there was the report of gunfire and a bullet whizzed right above his head.  Burying itself in the wall right behind him.  Joon-Ho was out of the office like a bat out of hell, back through the door he had entered from.  He pressed himself flat against the wall to the right of the door and drew his pistol.  (It was at this point that the GM told me to roll Initiative, which I was happy to do.  I had no qualms about killing a senior citizen like Yoshida, especially one's that are trigger happy enough to fire a shot at me).

That's when a second shot came, burying itself in the corner that Joon-Ho would have to peek around to take a shot in retaliation.
"Merciful Buddha, are you trying to kill me!" Joon-Ho shouted into the room that the bullet had come from.
"Why yes, glad you figured that one out.  Sniffing around with the Izumi-kai?  Stealing precious stock?  Killing a family member?  You had it coming really." the speaker was an elderly sounding man that Joon-Ho assumed to be none other than Yoshida Goro.
"The fuck are you talking about?  I'm just a guy who went out for cigarettes and came back to find my boss and best friend dead!" Joon-Ho waited for a response from the older man.
It came in the form of another gunshot this one a little more on the mark, but still not hitting him.
"Will you stop that?!  Let's talk about this like men of honour, okay!" the way Joon-Ho saw things the two of them weren't enemies.  No one had been killed or injured yet, they still could be useful to one another.
"Alright," said Yoshida "please come in.  Let's settle this like... men of honour."
Joon-Ho took that as an invitation to enter the room, he was pleased to find that Yoshida lowered his gun, even if he hadn't put it away.  It was a lot farther than he had been a few seconds ago.  He entered the room still a little cautious and set his own gun down on the floor.  As a sign of good-will towards his host, who in turn locked the door behind Joon-Ho.
(Hindsight giving up the gun was probably the smart move.  Joon-Ho's only got a +2 in Handgun, which means he pretty much can't hit anything unless he's at close range, unless he gets lucky.  If he gets into a fight it's better for him to get in close and fight bare handed.  I'll have to invest points in Handgun at a later date).

Yoshida Goro a lieutenant within the
Akemi-gumi.  If you ask me he looks
like a Japanese version of Bill Shatner.  
Yoshida indicated a chair opposite his own at his desk.
"Please have a seat."
Joon-Ho was happy to oblige the Akemi Lieutenant and promptly sat down.
"As I said before I didn't kill Takahiro, he dropped of this month's supply last night.  We got drunk and when we woke up I went out to get him some cigarettes." explained Joon-Ho.
"And when you returned he was dead?  A likely story.  But you can relax.  I know it wasn't you.  The police have already contacted me.  It was quite a pain to tell them you weren't a suspect." said Yoshida completing Joon-Ho's sentence and setting the young dealer's mind at ease.
"Takahiro was like an older brother to me Mr. Yoshida, I had no reason to kill him and if I did I wouldn't have done it in my own apartment."
"This was a hit by the Izumi-kai that much is clear.  The question is who ordered the hit?  Someone with money, who recently made an enemy of Koizumi Takahiro, who also had motive to steal a large quantity of amphetamines." theorized Yoshida.
"I'd come to the same conclusions." Joon-Ho decided to leave out exactly how he'd come to those conclusions.  As it's hard to convince someone you're innocent of one murder by admitting to another.  "Who has those kind of resources though?"
At that moment Yoshida cocked his gun and pointed it at Joon-Ho.  "You tell me."

In the end this is what it all came down to.
That's when it finally struck Joon-Ho he'd been set up.  He should've never given this bastard the benefit of the doubt.  At that moment one of the last things Takahiro had ever said to him, flashed through his mind.  "Yoshida's a greedy bastard, but that's not necessarily a bad thing."  Joon-Ho was dumbstruck but soon he felt a wry little coming over his face.
"Guess I better start saying sutras, huh?" he quipped.  "Answer me this though, why?"
"Well son.  Your "brother" thought he could pull one over on me. Thought he could pull both a promotion for you and him both, in exchange for keeping my secrets.  I'm not a far of people who try to blackmail me, Joon-Ho.  And that's exactly what your friend tried to do.  Said he'd tell the higher ups about my... fondness of cold, hard cash.  And Takahiro thought I wouldn't be able to do anything about it.  He thought he was safe.  Well his "insurance" was easily bought off and after that is was simply a matter of money.  There's only one thing I love more than money.  And it's power.  And having someone try and take that away from me wasn't acceptable.  The assassin was supposed to kill both of you, but you weren't there.  So I had him steal the kilo so I could sell it for a quick Yen, then I figured I'd leave you to the police.  But when you came here, I thought, well, why waste the opportunity.
As the corrupt lieutenant's speech came to an end, Joon-Ho just kept smiling to himself.
"What is it they used to call Nobunaga?  The Demon King of Sixth Heaven?  The personification of greed itself?  You're cut from the same cloth Mr. Yoshida."  with that Joon-Ho kicked out at the older man!
(It was at this point that my GM commented that Joon-Ho's lines were so cheesy but super fun.  I thought that was appropriate for a Yakuza flick so I kept rolling out lines like the previous one when roleplaying).

This is what the battle map after the fight looked like.
The GM photoshopped it (a skill I never really mastered)
it reminds me of maps from the old 8-bit video games.
Yoshida stumbled back had this finger been on the trigger Joon-Ho would surely be dead by now.  If he hadn't try to get one over on the man currently pointing a gun at him.  Joon-Ho would've been dead anyway a desperate Banzai style charge was the only way out of this.  He leapt over the table at Yoshida slamming the older man into the window behind his desk.  Breaking it in the process and opening a huge gash on the back of the older man's head.  With that the two men tumbled to the floor in a pile, with Joon-Ho on top.  He didn't let up though, he continued to pound away at Yoshida with his fists.  "You've lived long enough old man!  It's time for you to die!" he screamed angrily at the man who'd killed his best friend for money.  Finally the man took his final breath and the gun fell from his grasp.  Yoshida's blood seeped into the carpet of his office, it wasn't enough as far as Joon-Ho was concerned though.  His hatred of the corpse lying beneath him, was so great that being beaten to death wasn't enough.  He grabbed the pistol that'd fallen from Yoshida's lifeless hand and stood.  What came next was Joon-Ho planting three bullets in the dead Lieutenant's head.  If he wasn't already dead, he was now.


That's where we left it.  With Joon-Ho having just killed a treacherous Lieutenant of the the Akemi-gumi in the man's own office.  With his bare hands and the man's own gun.  There's not a doubt in my mind that there will be hell to pay later on down the road.  He's already wanted for one murder (of which he is innocent) and now he's added two more to his name.  If this game were set in the States rather than Japan, Joon-ho would be what the FBI defines as a spree killer.  He's managed to get the police on his tail (for Takahiro's murder and maybe the others once they're discovered), the Izumi-kai (for beating the ever-loving crap out of poor Shuichi, who's honestly better off dead if he isn't) and finally he's got his own organization the Akemi-gumi after him.  For the murder of both Takahiro and now Yoshida.  He'll be lucky to get out of this in one piece.  Overall it was a great session, I was very impressed by how the GM set everything up.  Honestly I think it's a lot better than the stories I've run for her.  Honestly I wasn't expecting the killer to be Yoshida, I liked Miu Honda, Joon-Ho's girlfriend better for it.  She had the opportunity to do it since she knew where the drugs and gun were.  She also had motive, while I couldn't really see a motive for Yoshida.  Though when it was revealed it made perfect sense, as greedy as he was it stood to reason that he might start skimming money.  That's plenty of motive right there, enough to jeopardize an otherwise good business.  The GM actually confided she wanted to bring him back by not having him be dead.  Of course this was after I made sure of Yoshida like any good gangster would.  I'm glad I did because I hate the "not really dead" cliche, it's so overused, in fact it's one of my pet peeves.  Other than that I think this was great for her first arc as GM.  I can't wait to see where the story takes us.  If you liked this actual play report be sure to +1, re-share and follow this blog.  As always have a nice day and may you roll many crits, until next time. 

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Overlord or How I Became A Lich Necromancer - An Overlord Anime Review

The Inhabitants of the Great Tomb of Nazarick in all their glory
Imagine that you've been playing an MMORPG, one that allows you to play as the Villains if you so desire.  (In D&D we call it the Evil Campaign, while Video Gamers call it the Renegade Path).  Right down to constructing your very own dungeon for other players to try their hand at clearing.  Which you can populate with monsters and NPCs (Non-player Characters to the un-initiated) of your own design.  Things are good, you possess an entire treasury full of extremely rare items.  Have a Guildhall that is so well defended that another party/guild has never been able to make it past the lower floors.  On top of that you're the top guild in the entire game.  There's just one problem, today's the last day before the game goes offline forever.  Your guild is breaking up and it's unlikely you'll ever play together again, since the sea of the internet is vast.  You've resigned yourself to this fate, deciding to wait until the servers shut down.  Much the same way that people await till Midnight on New Years Eve for the New Year to begin.  As the fateful hour strikes something strange happens.  You're still in your Guildhall surrounded by your trusty NPC bodyguards.  The various controls that you used to play the game are gone and you find yourself inhabiting the body of your avatar.  What do you do?  That is the exact situation and question that the protagonist of Overlord Ainz Oon Gown (formerly Momonga) finds himself dealing with.

Now I'm going to be honest with you, I'd been avoiding this Anime for a long time.  It'd been all over the Internet and everyone had been recommending it.  Which honestly made me want to see it even less.  I thought I'd seen this sort of anime before and I wasn't in for anything new.  Part of the reason is because when I think about it we're living in a sort of renaissance of "Transported to another World" anime.  (In Light Novels a genre known as Insekai).  Much like the Moeblob boom that occurred in the early to mid 2000s, Insekai seems to be the cash-cow that all the Anime studios are latching onto. I call it a renaissance because this isn't the first time that there've been stories like this.  Back in the mid 90s there was El Hazard and you probably make the argument that Inuyasha counts.  (If with a twist of the character being able to return to their world quite regularly).  Now don't get me wrong I'm as guilty as anyone else for having enjoyed the Genre.  Three of my favourite anime to come out of it include Drifters, Youjo Senki and Konosuba (which is really more of parody of the genre than an actual example of it).  Though in my defence Drifters and Youjo Senki also fall into a very specific sub-genre of Insekai Anime.  That being the "Villain Protagonist Transported to Another World" sub-genre.  Depending on who you ask the inhabitants of the worlds in those series are in as much trouble, as they were before the protagonists came along.  It's also a sub-genre that Overlord can be counted as part of.  As I said before the protagonist Ainz Oon Gown was leading an Evil guild before he was transported to this world.  Also take into account that in the MMORPG he was playing he chose to play a Lich.  A powerful undead that excels in necromancy.  Right down to the lack of emotions that comes with being undead. 

In terms of quality the show is pretty first rate in terms of quality.  The story as I mentioned is interesting enough to make it stand out from the rest in the genre.  The characters are also very fascinating when given the chance to be fleshed out.  (Which I will admit is very rare as of all the Tomb's inhabitants we only manage to focus on a mere handful).  I will admit that I can see these NPCs being created by a bunch of gamers who watch too much Anime.  There are some cliches present in their concept but obviously they've been lovingly crafted to explore new angles of old archetypes.  The English Dub is also top-notch (everyone has that one non-Anime friend they want show their favourite but won't watch with subtitles), the only real complaint being Clementine's voice.  Though in my opinion it ends up being a strength as one of the series' main villains.  She is supposed to be hated so her having an annoying voice only enhances that hatred.  At least in my eyes anyway.  Overall I enjoyed Overlord even going so far as to buy the first two Light Novels.  (During a recent trip to my nearest large bookstore, the only place I can buy Manga in the area).  Which I believe is the most stunning endorsement I could ever give the series.  I rate it an 8/10, it's good not my absolute favourite but good nonetheless.  

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Usagi Drop or What to Expect When You're Not Expecting

Pretty much the reaction I'm expecting to get
from my regular Tabletop Gaming readers.
Hope you like the Warhammer 40K joke.
So those of you that have been long time readers of this blog know that I'm an Anime fan.  For those of you that are unaware of that fact I direct you to the High School Tankery post.  I am part of a community on Google+ devoted to that particular subject.  As of late (for some weeks, maybe months now) I've been posting Anime Reviews in that particular community.  The problem is that there is no way to save when you post directly to Google+, so if I get interrupted while writing.  In such a way that forces me to leave the computer and there's a sudden power outage.  All of the hard work I've put into writing that review is gone forever and I have to start over.  From a technical standpoint writing those reviews on my blog is a more efficient way of going about things.  Since Blogger automatically saves what I write at very regular intervals.

Now some of you who have been long time devoted readers of this blog, may be looking at this as a departure from what Stories and Other Such Distractions is about.  In a way you are correct.  Though in another way you wrong.  When I first created this blog I set out with two goals in mind.  Number One to never bring politics into it.  The way I see it there's enough manure being shovelled around by both sides of the spectrum on the inter webs as it is.  Number Two is that this would be a blog about the various things that I enjoy.  It was never meant to be exclusively about Tabletop Roleplaying Games.  It was meant to be inclusively about them.  That's part of the reason that I chose the name Stories and Other Such Distractions.  As a lot of my interests are related to storytelling in some for or another (Movies, Anime, Literature, Tabletop Roleplaying, etc.) while the distractions part was largely meant to be a way to allow myself a little wiggle room.  In terms of topics that I could post about here.  I've been a little bad at keeping with this second policy, but I'm getting better.  I've started posting some actual play reports of Board/Wargames.  I figured that this early into the New Year was a great way to expand further.  Think of it as a New Years resolution.  If any of my readers still aren't happy about it, there is a simple solution.  Skip the Anime Reviews!  Are they gone?  Alright for those of you still here, with that little bit of housekeeping out of the way.  Let's get on with the review!

Usagi Drop (For those you want to skip the Housekeeping section)

Usagi Drop's main characters Rin and Daikichi, you'll be
seeing a lot more of these two.
Let me set the scene a little for you here.  An elderly male relative of yours has died and you've gone back to your hometown for the funeral.  Shortly after you arrive, you discover that the old man had an illegitimate six-year old child that nobody in you family knew about!  What do you do?  That is the exact dilemma that the protagonist of Usagi Drop Daikichi faces at the start of the series.  This being a traditional East Asian culture the girl Rin is shunned by the rest of the family.  Seen as a disgrace to their name and just generally treated like dirt.  She's someone to shunt off to a foster home and never be mentioned again.  At least that's how it looks like things will go until the bachelor Daikichi decides to become the girl's (she's technically his Aunt when I think about it) legal guardian.  

What follows is a cute and heartwarming story as the two try to adapt to the odd situation they find themselves in.  I honestly would recommend showing this to anyone who is considering being a parent.  (Including non-anime fans if you can convince them to sit down and watch it).  Watching this made me realize that a lot more goes into parenting than seems apparent at first glance.  In my personal experience a lot of people rush into having children without really weighing the consequences.  Then again most of the people I personally know (and not through my parents) who have kids.  Were in High School when they made the decision.  (I live in what is essentially the Teenage Pregnancy capital of my Province).  When you first hear people talking about having kids, they start thinking about how wonderful it will be.  The first thought is never "How is this going to affect my career?" or "What are the living arrangements going to be like?" 

Much like the questions that it asks about parenthood.  Usagi Drop's character are very realistic.  I'm sure that everyone has met a precocious six year old at least once in their life.  That would fit Rin to a tee, if you're anything like me she'll quickly become one of your favourite characters.  She's very endearing and cute.  Her precociousness and energy serves as a great contrast to Daikichi's laid-back generic, serious salaryman personality.  There are also a number of other characters that I'm sure you'll recognize from your own lives, not just Anime.  Hands up, who doesn't know an elderly woman who's face lights up whenever her grandkid stops by?  The characters are largely what drives the story as there are no real outside threats to speak of.  Unless you count having to find a temporary daycare, when you're running late for work an outside threat.  

Overall I really enjoyed this Anime, it was cute, heartwarming and sometimes brought a smile to my face.  It also made me question certain things about real life, something I don't often find in Anime.  It was very mature in handling its subject matter of a bachelor suddenly finding themselves saddled with single-parenthood.  (As opposed to some American Hollywood movies).  If you liked the moments in Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, where Kobayashi acted like a parent to Kanna.  Minus the trying to parody Anime tropes then I think you'll like this one.  It doesn't have an English Dub hate to break it to you.  It's not likely to get one either since this is a more obscure series.  Overall I give it a 8 out of 10.  I hope you found this review useful and I apologize for the house-keeping portion taking up about half the post.  It won't happen next time, just think of it as the growing pains of transferring to a new medium.  Until next time have a good day.