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.

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