On Friday I ran the siege of the city my Legend of the Five Rings game has been set in for 3 generations of PCs across about 140 years of L5R timeline (starting before the second day of thunder.) By the end of the session 2 PCs were just shy of dead with 2 more in crippled or near there. The outer walls had fallen. The city was being overrun with the defenders falling back to the inner city and their second line of defense.
In short, it was a great session. But today, I want to talk about how the mechanics of the game helped it work.
I talked about this before, but I heavily modified the mass battle table from L5R. Despite my initial thoughts on how I would do it I decided to make every roll on the table bring up a Siege Opportunity. Monsters sneaking in, fires breaking out, confusion inthe streets, holding the gates, etc, etc. I'm glad I did, because these small opportunities worked great for keeping things moving.
Each one gave a simple scenario to a player (i.e. the most recent shots from the enemy boulder throwers has started a fire that is spreading towards the medical area) which they then had to interact with but were open to do as they wished. That fire was addressed several ways in session at different times. One PC grabbed a bucket and went to work. One brought it to the attention of nearby shugenja. And one directed the bucket brigade for more efficient usage.
Choices Reflect Character
The fun part about this is it let each character be expressed through their choices. The way they solved the problems reflected who they were. It also added to the narrative of the city, the siege, and what was going on. The best part though? Each one was fast, with only one or two die rolls needed to resolve. This kept things moving around the table nice and fast.
A Matter of Time
The Battle Table already changes normal combat rules to making a round on the chart equal to an hour or so. For the siege I made it so each opportunity covered 8 hours. We had 3 opportunities for each day of the siege, with the opportunity showing a big thing that happened during it. Not every problem would take the full 8 hour period, but it showed about what the character had to deal with.
At the end of the day, anyone who was still up and fighting made a check against fatigue. Fatigue could ramp up, but they could also miss out on an opportunity to rest. Resting replenished void, gave a full nights rest of healing, and healed an additional 2k2 wounds. It helped keep them in the picture.
The End Result
The end result is that after 3 days of heavy fighting (shadowlands don't rest or stop their siege) the gates to the outer city fell due to the actions of some large Oni. The city's defenders started to fall back, but had complications as their paths of retreat weren't as clear as they should have been (failed prep roll on PCs part) and the PCs fell to the Inner City where we await to pick up.
Going forward I'm not sure if I'll keep up with the siege mechanics or something more narrative, but I'm very happy with how this played out and how it worked. It couldn't have been as successful without my players being awesome either, but I also liked the mechanics, and felt it was worth sharing.
The key things to replicate is to keep the action moving and focus on the story and "thrilling heroics" more than the mechanical mundanity.