In two days I will run my first game of Legends of the Five Rings rpg, using the beginner box. The adventure within is your standard introductory adventure affair; but, I want to take this opportunity to add to it my own home improvements and my own personal spins.
Scene 1: The Cart and the Peasant
The intention of this scene is to give the PCs someone to talk to in order for them to slide into their characters. With that said, I find it odd that the developers chose an old man that appears nowhere else in the adventure. Instead of an old man and his cart, the PCs come across the following:
As you travel the road, you can hear the sounds of violence coming from around the next bend. Soon after you come upon a scene of two future samurai fending off the attacks of two honorless ronin. Before you can act, the future samurai deliver their finishing blows, sending the ronin running in the direction of Tsuma village.
Pick two of the contestants participating in the Topaz championship to be the future samurai, except for Hitoshi. The future samurai (here on, contestants) will call out to the PCs, asking if they're friend or foe. The contestants are friendly but on edge after their fight.
They claim they met on the road and decided to travel together. They were traveling with an additional contestant (Hitoshi) but they'll claim he parted ways with them after they had an argument. (In fact the contestants were making fun of Hitoshi for being from a Minor Clan and he stormed off in anger.)
As for the ronin, the contestants claim they found them on the road teasing and jeering at a old peasant man who had turned over his cart. After the contestants helped the old man, the ronin continued their insult, but turned their ire towards the contestants. Having enough, the contestants challenged the ronin to a duel, the result of which the PCs witnessed.
The contestants offer to combine their traveling bands and continue the rest of the way to Tsuma village.
Scene 2: Honored Guests.
This scene is when the PCs are first introduced to Hitoshi and make their first checks to (de)escalate his argument with the Innkeeper. This scene is fine as is, but I want to add one additional change. Whether or not Hitoshi has an outburst, Kakita Toshimoko should make an appearance either way.
The head of the dueling academy is here to size up the contestants and throws a layer of contempt on top of his fatherly mentoring when he speaks to Hitoshi. He is indifferent towards the other contestants, except for Kakita Riku whom he harbors high expectations of. He always carries with him an expensive-looking cup filled with high-class sake which an ever-present attendant is always refilling.
Scene 3: Midnight Tea
This scene is fine as is. It presents the dramatic question of the adventure to the PCs. Will the PCs help Hitoshi?
Scene 4: The Competition
Instead of the competition being a mish-mash of physical and mental challenges, the first day is all physical challenges while the second day is all mental challenges. The third day encompasses the dueling tournament.
Day 1: sumai, athletics, horseback riding, weaponry, archery, and hunting
Day 2: heraldry, conduct, poetry, knowledge of Law, and Go
Day 3: The Dueling Tournament
The PCs and contestants are lead out of Tsuma village into the surrounding forest. There they are guided to a clearing where they can see a number of ancient clay pots circling a wooden board. There is a number of clay pots equal to half the number of contestants. On the wooden board is a map of the surrounding forest detailing six other clearings, each labelled with the event being held there.
Here is where the PCs will meet Kitsuki Yuikimi, the current Topaz Champion and Bayushi Sugai, last year's runner-up. Kakita Toshimoko is presiding over the events.
Yuikimi will explain to the contestants that they must navigate the forest to each event, where a judge will be waiting, and will earn points in the form of clay tokens after testing themselves. The first contestants to gain four tokens, navigate back to the clearing, put all eight of their tokens in a pot, and raise their clan's flag will proceed to Day 2. Half of the contestants will be eliminated.
Hitoshi raises his bow into the air saying, "The archery competition is mine!" before dashing in that direction. Hitoshi will proceed to the second day of competition without the PCs involvement. PCs will notice, however, that Crane Clan judges appear to be judging Hitoshi unfairly.
Run the competition normally, allowing PCs to spend bonus successes to gain extra points where they would normally beat the fore-runner. It should take anywhere between 2—4 events for a PC to proceed.
Scene 5: High Spirits
Run as is
The rest of the adventure is solid as written. The only change I would make is to the competition on day two. That is allowing PCs to choose their preferred events and earning physical points that they must redeem to proceed to the third day.