Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gwinch in the ruins of the old city

Based on accounts of Tetsukichi and Beatriss, Gwich decided to make his own explorations of the House of Lord Jourdain. He organized quite a large party, with himself and his assistant Saisho at the core, in partnership with Cair and Myrrha PLUS his newly-recruited sohei (14!) and 2 of his original sohei from Zipang. Khanbaliq has rules about moving about with such a large group, and most people are restricted from moving between the green zone and the outer city—and the reverse is even more strict of course. So Saisho, working over several days, made all of the “new” sohei invisible.
This created its own problems. As more sohei became invisible, the maids of Gwinch’s household began having problems with “spirits.” While Gwinch answered the maids cries for help, the invisible sohei became increasingly ruthless—threatening to kill women who didn’t remain quiet in the face of their advances. Gwinch was more than ready when the time to visit Jourdain’s house arrived.
The Hop Sing (a.k.a. Dirty Rain) gang, had made a claim to the House, with about two dozen of their members camped throughout the ground floor. They were in the process of converting it into a tavern and brothel, and offered Gwinch and associates a promotional discount. But they were also willing to accommodate a desire to kill monsters. The party was admitted in to the dining room, barricaded inside, and told to remove the pile of rocks blocking a hole in the fireplace. Gwinch devised a nice trap to control the outflow of ghouls to about one or two at a time, to be easily dispatched by superior numbers. But the trap malfunctioned a couple times and when this happened, Gwinch lost two sohei . Gwinch decided to take their bodies to the Temple of the Two-Fold Path.
Sheeva was caustic at first, asking the monks around her whether any of them wanted to join Gwinch and get killed. But Gwinch was supplicant, and an agreement was made that Sheeva would accompany Gwinch to his house while the monks prepared their brothers’ bodies for a funeral, and that this would occur the next day.
Back at Gwinch’s house, Sheeva explained that the temple was in such bad place because of the extortionary activities of the various gangs who ruled the ruins of the city. She wanted to go back to the Kobar valley. Gwinch was willing to accompany her, but he was duty-bound to assist in preparing a banquet. So they advised a better plan—Gwinch would insinuate that Sheeva had fled the city, so that her enemies would seek her outside while she was in fact laying low at Gwinch’s house. So Gwinch returned to the temple with Saisho and a group of sohei, to start the rumor and to perform the funeral.
The monks heard the news with anger, certain that Sheeva had stolen from them. Ali, a secular man who resided at the temple, heard Gwinch’s story and responded with shock and outrage, but did not resolve to do anything, suggesting blithely that Gwinch should “just do the funeral himself.” In the course of his short visit, he saw other signs of the temples weirdness. There were twin monks who accussed and attacked each other. And there was talk about the flying creatures in the garden whom some wanted killed and others thought should be protected. At last the funeral was conducted outside the temple, in a clear spot among the ruins.
Gwinch agreed with Sheeva that she should be his teacher and this involved allowing her to stay in his room, while he went to stay with the maids. (They were honors to have the master protecting them from the spirits.) And then he decided to make another foray to the House of Jourdain.
dungeon's guard
Won Lee, of the Sing Hop gang explained that he and his men had dealt with the rest of the ghouls themselves. If they were interested in exploring the basement, they would need to accompanied by some of his men who would expect a share of the treasure. Also, he was required to secure their safe return by leaving a sum of insurance money. Gwinch had no money and so hostages were accepted as a substitute.
In the cellars, they came upon a group of humans adventurers who seemed more or less normal except that they were fast asleep in a dank musty cellar room and that the women in their group was wrestling in her sleep with a fox. When the party entered the room, the fox fled, and the sleepers awakened. The woman was distressed that “Omesa” was gone, while others were distressed that the sumptuous banquet they had just enjoyed was in fact nothing more than cobwebs and dust. The leader of the group was a member of the diplomatic mission from Zipang—he and Gwinch made a mutual agreement to keep each other’s presence in the house of Jourdain a secret and to meet in the future to discuss the mysterious fox.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Play report: More intrigue in Khanbaliq

Both Gwinch and Kishi competed in the second day of the tournament. Kishi showed well against a fierce, “Iron Fisted” barbarian, and Gwinch was defeated only by Sensei Lu-che, the local favorite who went on to win the tournament. Among their fans were a group of hungry monks from the Temple of Two-Fold path who begged Gwinch to let them join his household. While this annoyed their superior, and caused some consternation at the gates to the green city, Gwinch rode the way of popular enthusiasm and no one raised any outward objections.
In the weeks that followed, while Kishi was off on secret business of her own, the new sohei made themselves at home in Gwinch’s compound. The quarters were tight, but the food was plentiful, and while one disappeared, the other 14 remained. They explained that things weren’t good at the Temple, and that Sheeva, the foreign priestess was keeping all the Temple’s money for her own use. Kishi and Gwinch resolved to make a reconnaissance mission to find out more.
Before they could put the plan into effect, Saisho alerted them that someone was spying on them. Saisho made them invisible and they chased the spies through the green city, and over a wall into the outer city, where they managed to apprehend one of them. Sure enough, they were from the Temple, and had been sent to see what Gwinch’s teaching were. When pressed, the captured spy admitted that conditions at the Temple were hard, but expressed confidence in his own master. After washing up his wounds a little, they let him go.
And the next day, they made a call at the Temple. The monks at the gate were suspicious, but after some waiting, Gwinch and Kishi were granted an audience with Sheeva. She met them in the courtyard, then walked them down a corridor lined with fearsome statues and into the great temple room—a three story chamber dominated by the monumental statue of a robed figure holding a sword. Sheeva was supercilious and curt; after silencing Gwinch with her magic, she lectured him on the place of adversity in seeking enlightenment and on the paramount importance of respecting his superiors. She suggested that he should invite her to his compound so that she could further enlighten him.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

play report: martial arts tournament in Khanbaliq

We played another Princes’ Kingdom + D&D mashup game, this time with Bubu Singe playing Gwinch, his regular character, and one of Bubu’s human child friends playing a mysterious urchin who refused to give his name, but allowed himself to be called “Bucko.” The session was part of my “regular” D&D campaign and took place in Khanbaliq, with most of the action centering around a “komite”, TSR’s word for a martial arts tournament. Combining D&D with The Princes’ Kingdom made sense to me in two ways. First, the subject matter was more child-appropriate than most D&D games. Second, the mechanics of The Princes’ Kingdom do a better job than D&D with non-lethal physical challenges.
Besides the tournament itself, there were a couple side-plot elements. The Great Kam called a short meeting of representatives from Zipang, including Gwinch, where he announced that he would be welcoming an important visitor from Zipang in a couple months, and wished to invite the entire Zipang contingent to a banquet to honor the event. Because Gwinch understood Zipangese etiquette, but was deeply ensnared in its factional politics, the Great Kam wanted him to devise arrangements that would properly honor all attendees.
While in the forbidden city, Gwinch also made the acquaintance of Cair and Myrrha. Gwinch found that Cair and Myrrha spoke a language that while crude, was intelligible; for their part, Cair and Myrrha understood at least some of what he said in Alyan. So, while the conversation was one-sided, they were able to converse freely in front of Cair and Myrrha’s handlers. Among other topics they discussed Cair’s relation to wicked old Jourdain and the pair’s hopes to get some money and leave Khanbaliq. Cair also offered to give Gwinch some magical assistance in the martial arts tournament.
The tournament began with a series of speeches that doubled as test for stamina, weeding out the less qualified contestants. Here the Princes’ Kingdom rules really helped—instead of rolling a couple con checks, the players played from a pool of dice, calling on their previous experiences as the hours of speechifying wore on. I used the rules again for the test of speed and the test of reflexes. Rolling a dex check just doesn’t work for bringing out the drama of dodging a volley of arrows. And while the module I was using exhorted the DM to fully describe the events, it’s a much better tactic to ask the players to do some of the work of describing what they do and what happens to them.

Originally uploaded by colorstalker

Once it was time for the actual bouts to begin, Gwinch proved that he was more ensnared in factional politics than the Great Kam seemed to realize. His first opponent was Uesugi Kenchu, a former retainer of Sato Masoko, who seemed to regard the tournament as an opportunity to at last avenge his late master. Besides his martial prowess as a veteran samurai, Kenchu showed signs of having received some magical assistance. Not as much as Gwinch, however who, besides accepting Cair’s offer, also asked Saisho to use his powers against Kenchu. It was a short, brutal battle, and Gwinch came out on top.
Bucko, meanwhile, won his battle against Kwan Wan Lo.