Friday, October 23, 2009

White Mountain, Black River Session Two

White Mountain, Black River
Wushu Campaign Session Report Two


The warrior Wu Long (Dancing Wind), the scholar Fei Long (Frost Wolf)and Zhen Ai (Nine Blossoms) meet with Master Fudoyan to receive his warm and effusive thanks for the rescue of his daughter and the return on his foolish and wayward son. Li Jong arrives and the three cousins meet their new Provincial Magistrate partner. Of a more severe bearing, Li Jong finds the three perhaps a little wanting at first glance. His estimation is not improved by the introduction of Scampering Weed, the Beggar Clan girl the group has decided to bring along as an assistant. Still they pass greetings and proceed on their mission. That's interrupted by the arrival of the fourth cousin, Shimmering Flower, an alchemist who is only just now catching up with the group after some accident clean up and repair. The now expanded group decide to travel with Turbulent Stone and Dawning Rose. They thank the PCs for having rescued them last session and mention that they also happen to be traveling to Rooted Serenity for the contest.

After several days on the road, they reach city and the two members of the Righteous Party part ways from the PCs, but not before inviting them to dine with them after securing their place in the tournament. The group arrives at the courtyard just as the Minister of Present Affairs, Ningfu Sung, is attempting to drive off one last latecomer and close up for the day. The group intercedes, presenting their papers and working their diplomacy hard. Finally the Minister relents and processes their paperwork. They receive thanks from the other tardy contestant, Jiexun a swordswoman. Front Wolf attempts to hide his nervousness . His fear/hesitation around beautiful women continues to be a thorn in his side.

The group goes to meet with the Turbulent Stone at the great banquet hall of the city, an enormous structure in the middle of a man-made lake. The find themselves joining a larger dinner, with the rest of the Righteous Party contestants. The group engages in small talk and begins to realize some rift within the group. They try to pin down if the matter lies with their intrusion on the gathering or rather something deeper, but cannot determine the source.

A side comment from one of the Righteous Party members, the Taoist Many Tempered Xiaohu, does draw their attention. He mentions a pair of recent deaths within the city. They might be written down to accidents or natural causes but for the black markings upon the body which suggest something else. The group retires outside to the bridge to watch the fireworks announcing the opening of the tournament the next day. Frost Wolf concentrates and attempts to use his skills as an exorcist to see if he can sense anything in the city. He feels a dark presence, a looming evil unspecified but still hungry. Unable to track further, the group resolves to investigate the situation after the first round of the contest tomorrow.

The next day finds the group matched into pairs for two-on-two battles. This seems to be a preliminary judging round, used to shake out those without the necessary skills to compete in the later contests. Zhen Ai and Li Jong go first. Not yet used to one another's tactics in battle, they get off on the wrong foot. Still, despite Li Jong's being knocked from the ring, Zhen Ai manages to finish the contest, earning some praise from her opponent, the Sleeping Boxer Sedate Rao. Next Fei Long finds himself paired with the lovely Jiexun, resulting in more missed communication. Still he manages to acquit himself well against his opponents, including Green Saber Jiaqi of the Righteous Party. Wu Long and Shimmering Flower fight against more members of the Righteous Party. Shimmering Flower dispatches her opponent in a spectacular fashion, launching a blinding potion directly into Many Tempered Xiaohu's face. The liquid becomes caught beneath his mask resulting in painful wounds and a newly minted pledge of enmity. Reluctantly, Wu Long dispatches his opponent, Dawning Rose, by knocking her out of the ring. In between bouts the group watches the other contests-- seeing for the first time the fearsome skills of the Holy Society contestants (rivals to the Righteous Party). But a more shocking contest is that of the local favorite, Golden Blaze. He fights one against two, with a hellbent style and a stylized coin sword. Despite taking a deep wound, he fights on, decapitating his foe.

The group sizes up their victories and resolves to investigate the local murders the next day, before the contest continues.

GM Notes:
As I'm writing this from my notes, we just finished the fifth session of the campaign last week. I think I got most of the details right here. So far we've had a different line up of players from session to session. The next game would bring the final Provincial Magistrate, Tong Ho (Brass Monkey) played by Gene. Both Gene and Dusty (Li Jong) we expect to have down for the games on an irregular basis. The core group will be Sherri (Zhen Ai), Kenny (Wu Long) and Scott (Fei Long). My plan right now is to alternate character, development and set up sessions with the smaller group sessions with more directed and episodic investigations when we have the larger group. That will be easier now that we have all five PCs introduced.

* Session had some rough patches system wise for a couple of reasons. As I mentioned this is a home-brew based on Storyteller but with a fairly detailed martial arts engine. That means there's a level of complexity there. We had two players this session who made up their characters before hand and had to jump right into the thick of things. Both had played Storyteller before, but there's enough system changes that it took getting used to.

* I did the two-on-two battles as a kind of exercise to let the players try out their abilities and to partner the two newer players with ones who had already completed one session with it. Unfortunately, the paired fights actually ended up with some oddness that I think doing a one-on-one duel or a larger melee might have glossed over. I made a change after this session about when values reset (on a person's next action rather than at the top of the round). I'm still working out the kinks here-- making a couple of small changes each time. I'm hoping that the system will eventually play smooth once we get used to the complexity of choices. We'll see-- there's a kind of pleasure to seeing this as an evolving exercise and being able to modify things on the fly.

* Probably the weirdest thing for me as a GM (besides trying to keep names straight in this setting) is the fact that the night before this game, I run Libri Vidicos, a high trust, low detail system. There's a kind of weird mental break I have in running a more mechanics heavy game the next night. I think Scott, Kenny and Sherri feel that to.