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Saturday, 18 March 2017

Farseer, Lord of Glorious Battle and Cleancutter, Red Rainbow Amidst The Rain Drops!

I'm running a campaign for Low Fantasy RPG, on-and-off...meaning "any time that the WHoOG campaign isn't running for one reason or another". We are playing Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, and I'm behind with the updates again - it's just that we play more often than that!

I'm also planning to make it into a setting supplement...or mini-supplement, we'll see. I'm not even trying to hide that my main inspiration for that are the Books of Twelve Swords by Fred Saberhagen, the French RPG Bloodlust, and Earthdawn's magic items. (Well, I hear Dave Arneson himself has been putting magic swords in his setting as important part of the magic, but I don't know anything else. Either way, it's nice to know I'm following good tradition!)
The first thing that you'd notice if you played in this campaign, would be...that there's no Wizard class. Want magic? Find an item.
Most such items are weapons. For a reason that's part of the setting's lore.

And now, let me introduce you two NPCs from this campaign!

Farseer, Lord of Valorous Battle looks like a slender Type XIX (with side rings), according to Oakeshott's typology. He's black as night, and carries a symbol of the Iron God (which I decided to adopt in my setting...though he might turn out to be just a namesake).
He's made of cold iron, of course.
The first power he always gives to any user is the ability to see the invisible, including in the dark. This was already used to notice a dryad hiding in her own tree. (Previous unscrupulous owners have used it to see through clothes, as Farseer would tell you - not that he's hinting at anything...he's not a pervert at all!)
Later it might be upgraded to "seeing magic emanations".
Then, he'd give you the power of sprouting wings (for a time), and then having them retract.
And if he likes you well enough, then he would make you unaging. Forget
He has one more power that he seldom grants to any user. Speculations abound as to what is might be: Does he teach the owner deadly counters, coupled with sixth sense? Grant stunning beauty? Allow the limited use of a Forbidden Wish (1/lunar month)? Immunity to fire? Control over water?
Is it even only one power, or does he just hold back several things he doesn't give access to, except as required?
One thing is for sure: Farseer doesn't want you to kill many people. He wants you to avoid fights, except with enemies that would provide a valorous combat. He's very much a "quality over numbers" guy!
And yes, the sword is a "he", most definitely, as he'd tell you if you ever met. It's just an accident most of his wielders have been female, and good-looking at that...funny coincidence, that!
Or, as it often works with those blades - is it a coincidence?


Cleancutter, Red Rainbow Amidst The Rain Drops looks like a mix between a Peidao and a Bulgarian sabre, with slightly bigger guard. And he's white...like the bones long-dead gods, some would say.
Cleancutter is also silvered, which might or might not explain his colour.
The first power he'd give you is the power of sudden, deep cuts. Which is something all swords do, in a way - but he can decapitate an enemy regardless of armour (which normal swords can't do).
The second power he would reveal is his ability to change shapes temporarily. So, if you need to enter a palace, you could have Cleancutter as an inoffensive dagger on your belt (though he'd remind you about that...) A rider attacking you? Cleancutter can be your halberd or pike. Someone grappled you? Cleancutter can become tigerclaws affixed to your wrist.
The third power is his ability to drink souls of your enemies, and grant you parts of their abilities (or just of their lifeforce, should you need it - and yes, if you didn't need it, this can prolong your "natural" lifespan a lot, preventing aging, much like Farseer's ability).
His fourth power is the ability to hurt even targets that are far away.
His fifth and subsequent powers are subject to speculation, too. Does he grant true agelessness, regardless of killing? Does he cause wounds that can never stop bleeding, unless the user touches them with his blade again? Does he give you the power of bladedancing, which can allow you to protect a single target against any attack, even at the cost of your life? Does he allow you to stop any attack (1/ lunar month)? Does he hew the weapon of any enemy when you defend?
Or does he, as some claim, allow you to cut the binds of causality, granting you a Forbidden Wish for seemingly unconnected actions - but possibly at a terrible price?
Or, conversely, does he allow you to cut the ties that bind enemies to what they cherish? No doubt there would be a price for the ability to sever the love of the grieving wife for her perished husband, or the like - but what would it be?
Questions, questions...and no answers in sight. But a few things are for sure: he likes women (not as targets), money, and slaughter - not necessarily in that order. He's a "quantity over quality" kind of guy, unlike Farseer. And he's slower to give you his trust, but readily adits what (and how) he wants you to do.
Oh, and you should never call him Vorpy. Only Farseer gets away with that, at times...and he hates the price so much, he tries to avoid it.


Important: all magic weapons in my setting have the one obvious power of never needing sharpening, anti-rust measures, or the like. That's a separate power in Low Fantasy RPG which I decided to make a default in my setting.
But then, they're the only way to gain magic powers of any kind, so it makes sense to preserve them!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Funniest reason for a ban EVER:D!

First: apologies for using smilies in the text, although they don't register as smilies to Blogspot/Blogger. I generally avoid it, but ut's appropriate today. You'll see why in a moment...

So: It seems I've been banned (for a day) by RPG.net...:)

OK, their site, their rules. Fine by me, this post isn't complaining about the fact! We obviously had differences of opinion with the moderators, but they also have the administrative rules;).

I might return to it again or not. I doubt too many people would miss me, anyway (and most of the posters that were fun to talk with seem to have migrated to theRPGsite).

However, the reason is nothing short of funny.

Yes, it says "smiley-assisted threadcrapping after multiple warnings".
REmember, that's on a forum which limits the number of smilies per post to 10! So I'm not banned for excessive use of smilies*, but for using them in an especially evil way. That was more or less what the previous warning said, too.
I think "finding a way to weaponize smilies" is definitely ROFL-worthy (and probably worthy of 1 day or more without RPG.net).

I also think there's only one appropriate thing to say to this, and it is:



*And we obviously differ in opinion about whether it was threadcrapping. To me, it was clarifiying a cultural difference (between Eastern/Southeastern Europe and North America, in this case).
For a place that claims to be tolerant of all cultures, RPG.net definitely doesn't show any tolerance to clarifying the differences between some of them.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Stunning Beauty Chronicles, part 7 (WHoOG)

And there I am, writing our latest...exploits? Again, it's not a single session, I've got enough material to write that I'm not grouping them according to the sessions' start and finish (and sometimes writing more than one in a single update). 
Semi-mandatory link to the previous update. 


The boss approved the plan - he wasn't hot for Biggest Sister, but he recognised her as a worthy ally. More importantly, he recognised her as an woman...and hurting her emotionally by hurting her brothers? 
There's stuff you don't do when the Two-Timing Cockerel is about! Just sayin', in case it becomes relevant, ya know. (Fun fact: the same goes for my PC as well. I suspect it's time for the Yu clan to become matriarchal again: our women seem to be the pragmatic ones!) 
I talked with Biggest Sister, and persuaded her she should find a good man to marry, because she needs to continue the family line. The spirits of the ancestors have to be venerated by someone, even after she dies and joins them! 
She mentioned  Brother Wolf is "kinda a fan of TTC". I remembered it for future uses! We also had a long conversation about life, the universe and our places in it. She also mentioned Brother Wolf has a Sister Fox who's sick...they're former students of Old Raisin, it seems. 

So we left at noon, planning to get to Brother Wolf's fortress in the evening. Biggest Sister was leading us...she left when we approached a place with some guards' stronghold (I thought it's a small one, the GM didn't explain - not that it matters, given that we had no plans to fight). 
What the guards saw: 2 men and 13 beautiful women* were walking towards them. That's why they were still suspicious, but not overly so. 
What really happened: A combined number of 33 Qi levels were walking towards some people who had no Techniques. (My student should get to 1st Qi level soon, but isn't there yet). 
"Where you going?" 
"Towards the fortress!" 
"What do you want?" 
"A place to rest! We're traveling for our personal work, isn't your boss accepting guests?" 
"OK, we'll give you an escort!" 
They gave us a detachment of 20 men. 
We politely told them to stand between in the center. "It's safest there, in case anyone attacks us", as we explained. They thought us to be stupid, but obeyed. We brought them to the fortress safe and unhurt, and with that our obligations to them was fulfilled! 

There, we talked with the majordomo, because Brother Wolf was on a job of unspecified nature. The man wanted to give us...not the best rooms, shall I say. I just looked at him. (Of course I'm dealing with this: I'm actually the lowest-ranked Yu member in the group - even my wife is higher, because she's born in the clan, and I joined by marriage. It's a good thing they even listen to my "advice", isn't it? 
Well, I also get to talk to servants and other "small men" when there isn't an even lower-ranked person around). 
"Do you have any idea what's Brother Wolf going to do to you when he learns you put the Two-Timing Cockerel, whom he respects, in rooms like this? Seriously? Do you know who he is?" (I wasn't lying, remember). 
"I don't know..." 
"Shut up! Now you'll give us better rooms, and then I'm not going to mention it. Or else, I will, and Brother Wold shall punish you for offending someone he respects... You sure you want that?" 
A man who punishes prisoners by maiming? You don't want to make that one angry. The servant got green-ish in the face (but still, no detectable traces of orc blood - or for that matter, of any orcish presence in the setting). 
"Please, leave your belongings here for now, and we'll show you better rooms after dinner, if that wouldn't be too much of a bother for the respected gentlemen?" 
"It's acceptable", I allowed, bowing. "Our luggage can rest in any place for a while". 
"Very well, gentleman - you'd also get to meet Sister Fox, she's feeling better now. There's periods when she's worse, so please try not to worsen her state!" 
Us, worrying a sick person? Who do you think we are? 
(And yes, we can also rest anywhere, people. But we're in China now, even if it's Mythic China: if you don't demand respect, nobody'd give you any. People that deserve it, know to demand it as well. 
Respect, I mean! Shut up with the dirty sub-conscious already!) 

In the meantime, we got to meet Sister Fox. We asked the boss to do his Peacock routine...meaning, he should look the way he looked when courting his wives. He smiled and said he's always doing the same. 
I didn't tell him that I hope he gets reborn as a beautician. He'd like that, I think, but it's an ill omen to talk about someone's death before he dies. 
And yes, that includes the edgecases where you know the exact latest day when he'd suicide if he hasn't died before. 
Meanwhile, my wife was sneaking across the fortress. She returned with news that the basement has more guards than the walls, and never having seen the prisoners. 
On the other hand, she had found a weird room with a mirror. A mirror she recognised as stolen from the compound of the Yu family! 
Not only that: a boy with a body like mist got out of the mirror, and asked her what she wants him to look like - common courtesy, you know. And he proved he can mirror anyone he has seen... by becoming... the Two-Timing Cockerel. Whom he called "father". 
She tried to ask about his mother, but he didn't know the concept. At the end, she explained "like a father, but female", and invited him to our rooms to meet his "father". 
TTC was kinda surprised. And I could only think how he's such a peacock that even his mirror had become alive...trying not to chuckle the whole time. 
It was a happy family reunion, other than that. And it helped us to spend the time until dinner. (And of course, we call the supernatural one "Mirrorboy" now. Though maybe we should be calling TTC that - I mean, how much time do we have to spend in front of a mirror to get the mirror to become sapient?) 

So, there we were, charming Sister Fox who seemed kinda out of it, but was trying her best to play good host. We quickly confirmed that she seems both educated, and unable to harm a fly. She told us they'd been the students of Righteous Maiden (Raisin), and has no idea why they had to leave. She also volunteered that she's been struck by a poisoned arrow while they were recovering an artefact named "Life-Conserving Stone", which Raisin considered "evil" and wanted to destroy. The place it was hidden was a maze of traps, Sister Fox explained. Since then, nobody's been able to cure her condition, which seems to worsen at times... 
I felt pity towards her, but then we all suffer consequences for our parents and siblings' behaviour**, don't we? 
So I asked her when do we expect the other guests? 
"What other guests?" 
"Those your brother invited to stay in the basement of the fortress. Maybe we should go and open their cages?" 
"It's frowzy, fusty and wet there! My brother would put nobody there?", she was sincerely outraged. 
"All the more reason to invite them up here so they could get a respite, right?", I argued in turn, offering her my hand. "Let's go right now! We can't let anyone be unhappy with Brother Wolf's hospitality!" 
Oh, the irony that was wasted on her due to her drugged-up state! She just took my hand*** and let me guide her down, despite the objections of the servants. The guards, of course, didn't stop Sister Fox and me! 
The only one that tried to stop us was a girl with silvery hair and a single black strand, and bright clothes. She introduced herself as "Niece", so I assumed she's either Brother Wolf's lover, student, or both (if she was his wife, she'd have been introduced to us guests at the table). She tried to claim those people down are robbers and brigands. 
"Even the brothers of Biggest Sister?", I feigned my surprise. "Impossible - I know them and her! And why did he cut off the hand of one of them?" 
Sister Fox was nearly in shock, and she followed me. The Niece tried to grab her, but I intercepted her hand. 
"Don't you dare!", she hissed. 
"Stop me!", I hissed back, and kept dragging Sister Fox down. She looked in my eyes, and realized she's a cun**** away from death. 
I hate people that try to stop me from rescuing kidnap victims. And I wasn't alone. She was, though, and I knew that: her lover/master power depends on the kung-fu masters not even getting close - or they'd save their relatives. People who train Kung-fu would also be dangerous: a rival may tempt them with faster training. 
Consequently, she was probably the only Ranked Fighter. And if she was to call the army... 
Well, she saw in my eyes I'm going to kill her before they arrive and leave Sister Fox to lament her. And she didn't want Sister Fox to get upset, which violence would surely accomplish. 
"Now shut up", my wife petted the side of her face. "We can help her heal. That's ultimately why you need all those prisoners, right?" 
I looked at her and nodded. We were both thinking of a very powerful person with remarkable poison skills, that we were connected to. Only a poison user can heal poison! 

As expected, the dungeon was frowzy, fusty, wet and everything else you expect from the prison of such a person. Biggest Sister brothers weren't the only ones there - seems like kidnapping relatives was Brother Wolf's "trick for compelling obedience". There were also torture racks, there, and bloody cleavers. 
And well, that speaks volumes for Brother Wolf's character, doesn't it? 
His sister, however, almost went cathatonic upon seeing this. I couldn't even get her to order releasing the prisoners. 
"See what you did? You..." 
"We're going to cure her", me and my wife said more or less simultaneously*****. "Now call Biggest sister's brothers. We'll go up the stairs, and leave the other brigands behind. Obviously Biggest Sisters' brothers being here was a mistake, wasn't it?", I added. 
"A mistake...yes", she said and we let them free on the way out, leading Sister Fox away. In a way, I pressed as far as I could, and got less than I wanted. She accepted a minor loss, and order the brothers to be kicked out of the dungeon at once. 
In short, we both cut our losses, and smiled, hoping to gain more from continued cooperation. 
And I had a plan how to get Sister Fox's mind away. 
"Those people were probably brigands, judging by the treatment", I said. "If such people aren't punished, they would disrupt the basics of the state, and cause great suffering! But in doing so, one must be careful to address any mistakes of justice. I think we're in the clear on both accounts, now?" 
"Yes, yes, we are", they both confirmed (one of them - through clenched teeth, the other - sincerely actually believing it). 
"Great! Now, I must also apologize for the scene, but I had to take care of my host's reputation as a just person. The great teacher says a good guest defends his host's honour as his own, after all. You're familiar with the teachings, right?" 
And then we discussed the finer points of the guest-host relationship in the Dehua******, like cultured people, over tea. Sister Fox joined with delight: it seems she's reading a lot, since her health doesn't allow her to train any more. When I excused myself and returned with my "pen pal", she was delighted! 
The Niece felt kinda left out. Not only did she know less, she also seemed not to hear everything. 
Me and my wife looked at her irises, and concluded she's got the qi channel leading to her ear, disrupted. It was either inborn, or the result of kung-fu. We also concluded she'd need a Nei Gong master if she was to recover, but it was doable. However, I am probably the only guy with any Nei Gong skills in the Yu family! And my Qi wasn't powerful enough to even learn such a technique. 
...yet. But I was training for this very reason, wasn't I? 
It seemed, however, that she had assumed this to be a normal illness. 
So I promised that that if she doesn't find a cure before I get powerful enough, I'm going to come back and cure her. It was the right thing to do! 
And then we went to sleep, after Sister Fox became kinda tired - she's not big on the stamina thing, you might have noticed - and we didn't want to be nasty to her. The rooms were nice. 
And after a while*******, we even went to sleep the dreams of the righteous. How often does any xia get to save 6 young boys? 

The next day, we got to meet Brother Wolf. Just watching him move was enough to tell us one thing: his kung-fu is more powerful than TTC's, and about on par with Da Su Su! 
Cool. A potential ally, we thought in synch. 
He demanded to know what were we talking about. I mean, "that poison has no cure". 
"Somehow, she's alive. If she is, a real Kung-Fu master can cure her", we replied, following the evidence the whole setting provides. 
"I'm a real kung-fu master!" 
"But you're not a poison user", I pointed out, flattering******** him. "To fight poison, you need to know poison. Just like how your student has been hurt by a Nei Gong technique, and you need a Nei Gong technique to cure her, you need a poison user to undo what poison has wrought". 
"So what do you suggest?" 
"We suggest to get you in touch with someone as powerful as you, but who's an accomplished poison user: Da Su Su, ever heard of her?" 
Then we negotiated the price, but it was clear he'd accept. And it was true: "if she can cure my sister, I'd help her against that enemy you mentioned!", he promised. We didn't mention the name, of course - what use is it to him, if he doesn't believe we can cure his sister? 
I guess the discussion of poison made him think, because he started debating ethics. We debated why Raisin destroys Qi-using artifacts - she considers them "evil", a view he doesn't subscribe to: to him, power is power, it's your job to use it right. 
My wife agreed. I didn't tell him that if he's maiming kids to get their sister to serve him, he's failing the "use your power right" job. Hard. 
Instead, I merely stated that there are means to get power one doesn't use, and means that are fine. He told me I'm "still too young", which I conceded. My character is young, indeed! 
So I promised to search for him in 5, 10 or 15 years, if my views have changed, and tell him. He seemed satisfied, and I abstained from talking about cruelty and compassion. 
I mean, what do you expect of me? To argue with him when my wife is backing him? My character has been married to her for a while - he can't be stupid enough to make THAT mistake! 

So, we sent the grateful Biggest Sister to carry a message to DSS. While she was away, we had her brothers join our training*********, and with the blessings of TTC, decided to hire all seven of them as Yu Clan servants. We often life-long service, money and protection - as well as training, except in the family's secret techniques: overall, a ten thousand times better deal than the one they'd got from Brother Wolf. 
Actually, I wanted to make her my blood sister, making her part of the clan - it's not like all of us have to be the smartest, and she's honest and owes us already - but my wife and TTC vetoed it. None of them was beautiful enough to get in the Silk Robes Clan! 
Yes, there are appearance criteria for becoming Yu that are harder to cover than to achieve kung-fu mastery. Why do you think they call us "the clan of the beautiful people"? 

Meanwhile, me and my wife were taking care of the business. We hired workers with promises of training (followed by on-the-job instruction), and helped an unhappy woman to recover her kids that her mother-in-law had kept after she became an widow. She's going to be the round-the-clock herbalist in one of our establishments, now (with possible stints as an worker up for additional remuneration, if she decides to try)! 
Our most interesting find, as we were walking among the downtrodden? 
An orphan girl who had already mastered her Qi. It seems her mother was a herbalist-feng shui, but she tried and failed to heal the wife (or was it the mother?) of a local Big Man...and was consequently subjected to stoning. Then of course, the girl started practicing, imitating the cranes and monkeys in the environs, or something. (Or maybe she was just beating trees with her stick, imagining they are the Big Boss). It helped her make a leap. 
We have gone there to make her a business offer... but instead, we asked her to come and join us. 
I mean, come on...beautiful (that's why we were there - remember our line of work), knows Kung Fu, and has no reason to stay? Sounds like someone the Two-Timing Cockerel would love to woe! It's up to him if she'd fall in love, of course. 
Worst case scenario, we'd make her an offer. Or I'd get a sworn sister. But she seems just right for the Yu clan! 
So we went to see the Big Man. All three of us. There was no talking: we just beat his guards (I'd made my wife swear she wouldn't kill anybody), dragged him and his family out, beat him to an inch of his life**********, and burnt the house. 
Then we came back to our place (we were guests of the Brother Wolf). Two people have arrived: 
One was Raisin. I went to express my respects (and gave her a pause upon introducing myself as Yu). My wife was following her to see where she would go after that... 
We really want to be introduced to her disciples! 
The other was Biggest Sister. She accepted the offer to be hired, and said she was looking for a suitably tall husband - but had bad news from Da Su Su. 
"This poison is impossible to heal!" 
My wife had a crisis of faith. The "fuck that bitch, I thought she's good at least at something, but obviously - no" kind of crisis of faith (and yes, it's a quote). 
We had to decide now what to do. But it seemed logical that we should now go to Bone Kingdom as soon as possible!
Maybe we'd find an enemy on the way. We had just enough XP to get to 3rd Qi level, now, and had to test ourselves!
And meanwhile, we just might help Two-Timing Cockerel to get another wife, or three. He's got a countdown and an unfulfilled goal, remember?

*Me, my wife, my student, Two-Timing Cockerel, his 10 wives, and his daughter. Everybody in the Yu clan is beautiful, of course! 
**Remember: Mythic China, like in Mythic Europe, or Mythic Rest-of-Asia, "responsibility" is a group affair. 
***Not literally touching me, I assume. You don't touch anyone's sister, unless you have certain intentions...and even then you'd better be ready to survive the brother's assault. Granted, xia are often more relaxed: we touch people as a matter of fact, even if it's just in order to hurt them. Anyway, following me would be enough. 
****3,33 cm, figuratively: very close. "An inch from" would be the equivalent in other measurement systems. 
*****No dice were involved in this reaction being simultaneous. 
******Fantasy Confucianism. No dice were involved in this discussion, either: the GM just checked my character sheet and saw I have the required Knowledge skill. And she knows I know that kind of things, anyway, and actually wasn't surprised at me quoting Confucius. Yes, I assume that unless mentioned in the setting, there's no difference between "fantasy Whatever" and "the historical Whatever" when I play (or when I run, though that's irrelevant right now). 
*******You don't need to know more on that account. 
********In the system, you have reputation that applies to your friends, and reputation that applies to your enemies. Except if you're a poison user: then both your reputations are "poison-user"...friends know that they have a poison user on their side, at least. The enemies know they're facing a poison user - which is kinda scary. We haven't yet explored the fact that the name for Dian Xue is "poison hand" (and another name is "demon hand"). 
*********The youngest one is 6 or so, it's time to get him started! I hurry to tell you that at least, it's the oldest that's lacking a hand. He's been trained in some kung-fu already, and is slightly ahead of my own student. Two of his brothers have also learned to master their Qi. 
 **********We're lucky that nobody with a Qi level can kill by mistake: even with a sword, we always know we can make a telling attack merely incapacitating. Of course, what that says about my wife is up for discussions!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Stunning BeautyChronicles, part 6 (WHoOG)

Because some people asked me...elsewhere: again, that's not "session 6". It's "AsenRG found, for the 6th time, the willpower to describe what has happened in the campaign". What number of sessions have passed is...anyone's guess, really - we schedule sessions in a way that's probably highly uncommon among RPG groups. 
And to address another question: yes, I am skipping things, some of them because of their NSFW nature (no, I'm not playing this with a "standard" group). Yes, such things happen in our sessions - a lot. Let's just remind you that my character is literally dependent on having a nice time...gives you another idea of the reason why my full character concept was "fucking Chinese paladin", doesn't it? (For those that wonder: no, the first word isn't a curse-word, it's merely descriptive...) 


With all that said... 
Last session, I left off the description at where Da Su Su told us she suspects she has promised her firstborn to a wizard who deals with demons, might be trying to allow the Demon Emperor in our dimension. The Demon Emperor is that guy who Sunan and Bao* sealed away from our dimension...more or less, at the price of their lives. 
Why did she do so? Why, she wanted a very powerful weapon! 
(We had long ago decided never to tell her exactly how stupid we rank her as. She just fell down another couple of notches, though. By the end of this campaign, we might be persuaded to turn to an amoeba for advice - and we'd probably tell Da Su Su to shut up and listen to smarter people). 
DSS suggested that the Witches of Bone Kingdom might be powerful enough to deal with him. And remember - she also suggested to "release us from the service she had paid us for", because we were efficient enough she no longer really needed us... 
"There's two ways to deal with her issue", my wife said during the discussion. "A high road, and a low road. Which one do you want us to take, my husband?" 
"Always go for the high road. There's less stuff there that might turn your victory to nothingness", I replied. She just didn't care, so it was accepted unanimously (while Da Su Su was trying to figure out what we were talking about - during our reports, we often use against her the fact that we understand each other from half a word, and she needs a word and a half, if possible). 

Of course, we gathered the cream of the Yu family to come with us. I mean, the stakes could be enormous, here! We have to deal with someone who Da Su Su can't deal with and was a powerful man before any of us was born? 
Stunning Beauty Team has an answer: find allies. 
To this goal, we reasoned, we start by the closest to the farthest - as Kung-Fu teaches! 
Two-Timing Cockerel was closest, and as always, he was easy to persuade. 
"Uncle, want to die fighting a man powerful beyond imagination, who might be trying to let the Demon Emperor back to the Central Kingdom? There might be some beautiful female xia we might meet on the way, too - at any rate, you haven't married anyone from this region. You're coming? We thought you might say that". 
There are, it seems, two things worth dying for: to thwart a great evil, and for love - or so the Two-Timing Cockerel said. 
(Remember: by clan tradition, which thankfully only concerns the leaders of Yu, our uncle has less than a year before he has to die - by his own hand, if everything else fails - but he still wants to have 20 loving wives before he dies. Which means he should be in a hurry, because he's only got 13 now). 
So there we went: me, my wife, my student, the head of our clan, and 10 out of 13 wives (he left the rest to deal with domestic issues, and he left his daughter and scion, too - though at the price of a quarrel, because she wanted to come with us). They're also kung-fu experts, so we were ready to wage war on smaller cities. 
We were, however, woefully unprepared to survive a fight with our endgoal opponent. 
Thus, we went towards the Bone Kingdom. I decided to travel several days by the water (four days, our GM announced after consulting the map). Then we go from there. 
Of course, we were traveling in a pleasure barge, called "Pleasurable Rain". We chartered it, and liked it enough that we bought it. It's now the official Yu family's boat. 
(I suspect the GM has stopped tracking our living expenses sessions ago. What for, if we do it for her and always make sure to gain more than we spend, so we only become richer? Even a single of our money-making schemes is yet to fail - and we're doing this while on Da Su Su's non-inconsiderable wages!) 

At some point, couple of days later, however, the sailors (those are not Yu members) mentioned the river here's getting narrower. We immediately suspected piracy, and put out a small boat, which had only two passengers. 
I was rowing, and the Two-Timing Cockerel was checking the depths with a long pole. It was good practice. Oh, and about at that time the boss' daughter managed to catch up with us. Yes, she had disobeyed. 
TTC is lucky he's not going to live long enough that she makes his hair all white. Well, kinda lucky. 

Thus, we found that a boat has been capsized, so our boat could pass, but the barge would have been stuck. We immediately rose, and I started shouting. 
"Get out, you treacherous curs! We know you're here! Come out and fight us!" 
This was also a signal. The twelve female kung-fu fighters on the boat had already sneaked out and were traveling on the two sides of the river... 
Yes, they were hunting, and we were - voluntarily - the bait. 
A huge, strong, masked man appeared on the road with a saber. He was followed by four men with bows. 
"You there, curs!", I launched. "Pick a representative that's going to fight me. The rest of you will fight HIM!" - I pointed to TTC. 
Yes, I'm a manly kung-fu fighter with even stronger friends. What can I say? 
One of them launched "you talk too much!", and threw us a hook on a rope. I attached it to the boat, of course. Time to stretch! 
"Now pull!", I ordered him. 
"You wish", he answered and gestured the rest of them to shoot us both. 
TTC swung his cape and parried all the arrows. And then I started pulling. 
Meanwhile, the four idiots fell, dead. It turns out, there were half a dozen more hidden on that beach (and an equal number on the other one). 
There was only this guy left alive on "our beach". (My wife was calling the shots, and I think she doesn't like leaving enemies alive. Her friends consider her ruthless, and her enemies have worse words. Me, I think she kills like a cat - when instinct or whim demand it - but I still love her!) 
Just as we arrived, the guy noticed he's been encircled by kung-fu mistresses with crimson blades. If I haven't shouted "leave him alive", who knows what might have happened! 
And then he took the smart course, and ran. 
I was the only one to chase him, and he tried to ambush me. We fought, Ox-Tail Dao to my Jian, and despite him using techniques that made his blade bite deep, I wounded him thrice and my internal energy was unable to prevent only one strike from actually wounding my flesh. I also mocked him mercilessly, explaining in detail how stupid he was for not talking to us first. 
Then my wife caught up, and kicked him in the head, leaving him barely alive. She was still trying to get him alive, though. 
He tried to run again, and I punched him out as soon as I saw an opportunity to use my palm smash. Then I carried him back. He was one of three survivors. 
(Also, he was 3rd Qi level, so I got to 2nd level by finally defeating someone 2 levels above me while fighting in a group). 
When we removed his mask, we saw a scarred face. Hmm, does it remind me of anything or what? Yes it does... 
Turned out, he was a mid-level Mystic Sword sect member. They were persuaded we were carrying a manual they wanted. 
"What manual, you moron, wasting the life of his men?", I asked cordially. Our relations were like that. 
Turned out, they were looking for a manual, which would probably look like an empty piece of paper to the unitiated. They believe it's in the damn Yu family compound, too, and that we were carrying it on the barge. Some woman had told them so, it seems, but he never told us the name (or rather, he did - she was one of their sect, so I concluded she was as stupid as the rest of them). 
"Uncle, remind me when I get back I should write 'Mystic Sword Sect Are Morons' on every empty piece of paper. Then we throw all of them away, and those morons can pick any sheet they want!" 
No, we didn't want a manual with probably forbidden techniques. If the uglies wanted it, they could have it! (And we'd defeat them nonetheless! BTW, it turns out they scar their faces for disobedience. All the members of the Beautiful People Clan, i.e. us, officially think they're insane...and we also realize that this is a clan the Yu family could never infiltrate). 
What we did want to know was...who was siccing people like DSS and Mystic Sword on us? One might be a mistake. Two such societies? Fuck "coincidence" with a red-hot poker - it's not coincidence anyway, but something less wholesome! 
Of course, that's the part I didn't share with the prisoner. 
During that conversation, the Mystic Ugly finally realized three things: 
1) Not only the manual wasn't with us, we didn't give a collective fuck about the damn thing. 
2) Whoever had told their "sister" it was with us, had tried to set us up (and successfully lied to her). 
3) I considered him to be an idiot, but I was also willing to let him go - along with his men - if he promised to never come back, and explain the first point to his bosses. 
He agreed they'd lost enough people as it was, and we let him have his men back (their stories confirmed his). 

Thus, we ended up on the beach of a Sunan-and-Bao-forgotten village. Or so it looked while we were hiring rooms. I bought a round of drinks in the inn** and inquired about local martial artists and beautiful women from the drunks. Hey, who else would be gazing at any woman that passes? They should know. 

I was maybe a bit unclear here, so let me explain: my job, as far as I'm concerned, is only to introduce the Two-Timing Cockerel to suitable prospective wives. He only marries them if they fall in love with him (and being the most beautiful male martial artist of the current generation sure doesn't hurt his cause). 

Anyway...so I bought a round of drinks to the local drunks, got information, and in the meantime Madame Yu (I think she's Wife #7 or 8...don't quote me) hired rooms. Given how the clan dresses (and yes, that applies to my character as well) when we left, I was wondering whether the locals might try something stupid. 
So I was paying more attention than usual. That is how I noticed Biggest Sister following us. 
That said, I didn't know, back than, that she was called Biggest Sister. If anything, she seemed to be following Madame Yu 7th/8th, the respectable Aunt Teacher! 
So I told my auntie to keep moving forward when we take a turn...and just pulled myself up, getting to the roof. 
If the big girl I'd spotted following us was to move after her, I'd want to talk. 
Sure enough, when the 30-something girl appeared behind us on the village's street, she was surprised at not seeing me. But then she decided to follow. 
I dropped on her head, literally, and went for a grapple. She reacted with a surprised "you're direct, ain't you"...and tried to do the same. 
It soon became something closer to an MMA/BJJ - I wasn't sure she meant wrong, so I didn't try to hurt her, and she seemed to be trying more to hug me than anything else...which made me even more reluctant to try and break any of her bones. 
At the end, the GM ruled she had me in a headlock near her bosom, and I had locked her elbow. So we started talking, just as Madame Yu stayed nearby, ready to kick her head in, if necessary. 
Then Biggest Sister introduced herself and revealed she was following...me! A nice boy who practised kung-fu? She was totally hot for some of that action! 
Ah well, I didn't mind. But I wasn't up for it, not immediately. 
"You'll have to talk this out with my wife!", my character said. 
"You're married?", she exclaimed. I used that moment to free my neck, and got up, still not releasing her. 
"I'll introduce you." 
So, while Biggest Sister was pondering whether I'm joking, I lead her to my wife. "Hi, honey, she said she wants to talk with you...she seems to kinda like me, so I decided to have you introduced." 
And then I let them have a girls' talk, and went to the Two-Timing Cockerel, in the hopes of finding out who those Jade Maidens were, and how likely they were to become Jade Girls instead... 
Behind me, I heard the following exchange. 
"Hey, I was just trying to find out if he's married to that chick he was with!" 
"No, she's my aunt. And I don't care you want to fuck him, he's a big boy and can deal with you - what I'm wondering is, aren't you married? I don't want problems with a jealous husband or something!" 
And then I knew when I came back, I'd get a full report on who the visitor was. 
Turned out, I was right. And TTC knew the Jade Maidens...but wasn't hot on the idea of meeting the head Jade Maiden, carrying the nightmarefuel-worthy*** name "Righteous Maiden" (I suggested we should call her "Old Raisin"). And he hinted she didn't want to see him, either. 
Why? She was afraid he might take...liberties...with her sect members. (And he did indeed plan to, so she was right - but that she'd rather have those girls waste their youth, seemed totally monstruous to us!) 
Then I went back, and found out my wife had retracted her objections to Biggest Sister: there was no husband. She was living alone with her 6 brothers...who were kidnapped by some "Brother Wolf" guy! He had her jumping on a leash since then (and make no mistake, Biggest Sister's Qi was as stronger than mine as her body was taller). 
Last time she disobeyed, she'd received the hand of one of her bros as a warning. 
We concluded that Brother Wolf wasn't the kindest character...but then, if it was about ruthlessness, my wife probably beats him. TTC could probably beat him in a fight, and I could beat his inevitable arguments that he was doing the right thing by quoting the classics! 
Or so we were planning when we promised Biggest Sister to go and free her brothers. Hey, Brother Wolf's fortress was just half a day's travel! Why not make a detour? 
A man might think of one thing, but the venerable ancestors often have different plans. 

* Those are the fucking creators of the martial arts in the setting, FYI. And yes, it means the setting has Martial Arts Intelligent Design instead of evolution...but by the rules, we can also create Techniques. 
The ramifications of that are something we haven't fully explored, yet. 
**Yes, that was a reference. 
***At least it works like that on people from the Yu clan!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Stunning Beauty Cronicles, part 5 (WHoOG)

That's going to be a brief recapitulation of more than one session.

The last time that I reported we'd killed a few guys and captured the rest. We left them up high in the trees, and went to fetch the sword of Da Su Su's father.
 They weren't there on the way back. My wife doubled up on the "I told you we should have killed them" nagging.
Then she went up and started strolling in the trees, carrying the sword. I was walking down on the road.
So when we met some guy with a sword, I assumed she had run away to bring the sword to the mad bitch and went with them. Turned out, I was right.
It also turned out that I had met the Red Claw gang, some "honourable knights of the big road". We had some...mutton, I think. It was greasy, well-toasted by one of my former opponents (who turned out to be twins working for that man) and we made a deal:
I'd make sure my wife never speaks about having passed through their territory unmolested and unharmed. They never bother anyone who's with us, but we try not to pass too often. And we help them with some smuggling and fencing stolen goods.
Then they let me go. As I put it when they hesitated, "you don't know where my wife is, and she didn't want to leave them alive as it was - you sure you want to meet her again?"

Then we got to the part where Da Su Su showed her grattitude (thanks Heavens, not in that way). Instead, she gave us orders to track down the last killer we needed. She didn't even ask about the gold we'd found (and since not all of it has been stolen from her sect, we went back to retreive it and got even richer).
Then we organized an auction to sell the first contact of our employee, as I mentioned we had planned (we hired an inn/whorehouse in Huisheng for that). Let's just say we created lots of work for our colleagues in a nearby city (the losers of the auction got a prize, too...the price of the tickets to actually participate in the auction covered the expenses), and our employee got a stellar start of her career...
Oh, and we were filthy rich at this point:D.
During that time, we were also scouring the networks of very well-informed people to find the last murderer of Da Su Su's father, of course.

Soon after, however, we got to meet Her Of The Many Husbands, our employer - Da Su Su herself! And she mentioned she'd be willing to waive the money we were owing her, if we could help her gain leverage on a Kung-Fu master.
Namely, some Qinwen guy, also known as The Master of The Seven Talysmans. A master who had maybe been a friend of Sunan and Bao (the two creators of the martial arts in the setting). Someone who helped create one of the oldest, most powerful orthodox sects.
"I need leverage, because I'd given him a promise, but I don't want to do my part...", she explained. "I'm kinda in a hurry, and if you can make it in a few months, I'd triple your payment. If you can make it in a year, I'd merely double it".
She was, however, leery on explaining what it was she had promised to do, but she mentioned having received a powerful weapon. I tried to explain how if we don't know the stakes, we can't decide how to best influence him...
And then my IC wife looked at her angrily and said.
"Listen, we're obviously going to deal with it, but what had gotten into you to promise him your firstborn and what do you think he's planning to do with him?"
I looked at her. Da Su Su also looked at her, but also asked "How did you know?"
I was just going to add "that's just an example", but then I closed my mouth and tried to assimilate the new information.
Da Su Su, meanwhile, said that she knows that respectable elder was in a league with demons (likes know likes...), and she really doubted he needed the yet-to-be-born kid for anything good.
In fact, she suspected that he wanted to use it to help the Demon Emperor - the one Sunan and Bao had sealed away - get back into the mortal realm. That would be nothing short of an apocalypse, if it happened!

Gritty Romantic vs Self-Righteous Shiny Knights

I've been reading a blog dedicated to romantic fantasy in OSR games (among other stuff).
Now, I've never considered myself a "romantic" GM...but a lot of what the author recommends holds true for my campaigns as well. To enumerate some principles:

  • Talk before fighting, because fighting is ugly and brutal.
  • Almost nobody is hopelessly evil, to the point that you can't persuade them to change.
  • The PCs can change the world.

Sounds familiar? Sure sounds familiar to me. I just call it "decent worldbuilding" (and the systems I run make fighting ugly and brutal, too).

But ruminating over this, I suddenly was able to realize why I don't like the opposite style. You know which style I mean - Orcs (or other races) are born Evil, so you can slaughter them with ethical impunity. The world is black and white, maybe with a touch of grey. Characters are assured of being righteous. People that oppose them are obviously unrighteus, so there's not much point in talking with them. Combat usually remains clinical, often only saying the damage numbers, because who wants to see the shiny knight's armour to lose its polish due to pedestrian issues like arterial spray? (I do, for the record).

I don't like that, because in history, people who believe(d) in their own righteousness and their enemies' lack of virtues, have been causing untold suffering. In fact, it still happens (hint: check the current news from the Middle East).

Now, don't get me wrong: I realize that in life, there are situations where everything is black and white. I'm just not all that interested in playing (most of) them out.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Stunning Beauty Cronicles, part 4 (WHoOG)

That was a session where I didn't do much. Listen to my tale, and discover why.
BTW, that's not why I delayed describing it for so long. I just didn't find the time, that's all.

***

The session involves the PCs micromanaging a brothel. If such things bother you, try to skip the part in italics that begins with "while waiting for Da Su Su, we got bored".

***

After the Unkept Lion appeared and announced having got an appointment with the guy who organized the murder of his master, we started making a plan.
The plan he had come up with was to pretend our clan's head had a dislike for Da Su Su. So, they'd meet to discuss how to turn the Two-Timing Cockerel against her, in the hope that him killing her would let them live without hiding. We started discussing it (there were, shall I say, some inconsistencies in his plan...unsurprising for a guy who spends most of his time drunk, I know). I was there as part of the Yu clan who has his reason to tell us the best way to achieve that.
My IC wife just told us, basically, that "all men are stupid, but we put up with you because the sex is good". She's full of tact!
Then she explained that she's just going to go to the teahouse first. When they arrived, she'd serve them wine. Then they'd go to sleep. And I'd hire people to carry them out and to a house we've rented (isolated, near the edge of the village). There, we'd pretend to kill the Unkept Lion during interrogation, so the Broken-Face Ogre would confirm it to Da Su Su, if necessary.
As she likes saying, sleeping powder isn't poison. And the best way to dupe Da Su Su is to give her some evidence (we'd witnessed how easy it was to get her to believe).

I went to the municipalitiy and "recognised" the body of a random homeless man having died from hunger, disease or something. At least the guy would get a proper cremation before Da Su Su arrived - which is better than what he'd get otherwise. And I burned some paper money for his spirit to apologise for misnaming him - but he'd at least have a name on his grave. The municipality, not knowing the names of the homeless, tends to bury them in the cheapest coffins with no names.
I was more generous with Da Su Su's money.
And then we started to act, and everything went according to plan. My wife remained unrecognised, the sleeping powder I'd bought from a local herbalist worked like a charm, and the Broken-Faced Ogre woke up in the basement of the house to see the bleeding body of the Unkept Lion hanging from chains from the roof.
"My wife got carried out", I explained. "Now listen. I'm going to make that simple: you tell me where the sword is, and I'll show some mercy."
"What sword?"
"Have you stolen other swords as well, on top of that of your late master? You have no shame!"
"Yeah, like I'm going to tell you. Even if you torture me..."
"I'm not going to."
"What?"
"I'm not that kind of guy that would do that".
"So why would I tell you?"
I pointed to the body.
"As you can see, however, my wife finds it fun. I'm here because I don't want to use that on you, too..."
The realization passed through his still opiates-clouded mind. He spat, however.
"Is that your last word? I urge you - deal with me, not with her!"
"Are you going to release me if I tell you?"
"No. But after I find the sword, I'm going to kill you before Da Su Su gets here".
Yes, he got the short end of the stick. But I didn't like him, and not because of the scars. If you can kill your Shifu (teacher-father), you can murder your own parents, too!
And who would want to show clemency to someone who's able to murder his parents? Every action should have its just reward.
The Unkept Lion got a better deal than he deserved, if you ask me. This guy was going to get exactly what I had in store for him.
"Fuck you!"
"Wrong answer. I'm not into men."
I went outside, and nodded at my wife. Well, now she had to confirm the reputation she had gained by "killing accidentally" the Unkept Lion!
"I told you you're wasting time", she answered, and went in.

***

After a while (I went to make tea, so didn't witness the scene), my wife went out and nodded.
"He didn't speak. Proceed as you had planned. The moron repeats 'You can't do anything worse to me than killing me'".
I went to take my pen, and wrote the following.
"Respectable Da Su Su, 
I am delighted to report that Heavens rewarded our great efforts on your account by capturing two of your father's murderers, the male ones! One of them - alive. 
Luckily, the Unkept Lion said, before he died due to, ahem, enhanced interrogation techniques being applied maybe a little too zealously, that the other guy had the sword. He does, however, refuse to tell us where it is hidden, and I'm loathe to authorize my wife to continue applying the same interrogation methods, lest he suffers the same fate as the late, Unkept (and Unlamented) Lion. 
If he couldn't be made to talk, I'd prefer having him fall to your hand. You have a personal grudge against him. 
Our current address is..." 
He was going to realize that there's worse things I can do to him.
Please note: we really weren't planning to lament the loss of the Unkept Lion. Who was, now, the Well-Groomed Lion - we decided that the best way for him to hide would be to change his signature fashion style, and he agreed.
He was indeed unrecognizable, is all I can say.

***

While waiting for Da Su Su, we got bored. And then we included the head of my security (and current student) into our family entertainment. She didn't mind.

And then we purchased the only decent brothel around, and started improving it. The owners were previous workers - we made them managers, but since they were still bosses (we didn't plan spending much time there). Luckily, there were some newbies, too, that we could train to perform better - though there's also demand for untrained service, for some reason. I got the hard task of teaching her everything I could, so she'd make lots of money when we sold the right to be her first client on an auction (in a bigger city).
We're also going to be looking for talented girls who might like to join our new establishment. Though that's unlikely before we get to a bigger city. 
The things we do to pass the time!
Also: Stunning Beauty Team is really into micromanagement, is all I can say. 

***

Then Da Su Su arrived, commended us and took her father's murderer. Before dying, he admitted where he had left the sword. Of course, she sent us to retrieve it (probably assuming that she's paying us anyway).
Well, off we went. The trip south (we're near Huisheng) went easy.
If we don't count the Firelance brothers and their bunch, that is. Well, I guess that wasn't all of them.
As it was, my wife noticed them, while I was looking at her ass. (Yes, botched!) She warned me there's people in the bushes.
I went closer, pretending I'm going to take a piss at a nearby tree, which had a couple bandits on the other side. On my way, I tried to discretely perform the "power-up" part of the Heart-Breaking Shot.
In response, they started shooting at me with the fire spears. I took a couple hits on my iron body, and with an yell, punched the tree in front of me so hard it bent and smashed the two bandits.
Two down. My wife had, meanwhile, disappeared in the crowns of the trees. Well, one of us is a Lightfoot (Qing Gong) specialist, and the other one has mastered Iron Body! No punch can harm me!
Secure in my Nei Gong invulnerability, I looked at the bandits and started giving them a piece of my mind. I mentioned their skills or rather, lack thereof, their ancestors and their notoriety, comparing it to that of dogs. Except dogs have skills and have earned at least a measure of fame.
As it was, that earned me the attention of their two leaders. They tried replying, but fighting a battle of words with a scholar was...out of their league, putting it simply.
So they attacked. The bastards were fast! I took the first attack on my Iron Body, and tried to smash one of them in the face. I was sure to be able to shrug off the second guy's attack as well.
Then I realised that my gut hurts when I'm trying to move, and I dropped, mercifully losing conscience. I had been stabbed already!
The hits that hurt the most are those you don't see. You can't really apply your Nei Gong, either!
When I woke up, my wife had dispatched them. She says there were 21 in total, so it didn't take long. (It also helped that she's a kicking specialist, and those guys seemed to be poor at kick defence).
Most of them were even alive! I meditated my way to recovery, and insisted that we let them tied up in the crowns of trees. They were going to fast for a couple days, while we recovered the sword, and then we'd return and lead them to the closest city to give them to the authorities.
We did recover the sword (and some gold...the Broken-Faced Ogre had been hiding stuff he amassed there, and it seems he had been stealing from his clan long before he murdered the leader).
On the way back, we found no bandits...and no bodies, so it wasn't the work of predators (as I'd been afraid might happen). My wife didn't exactly appreciate that, and I had to live with the "told you we had to kill them" nagging. She had been angry at them for stabbing her husband, and she doesn't like fighting anyone twice!
"But it was the right thing to do!", I argued.
"Men! You're lucky I'm here to save your righteous ass!"
Let me tell you, that single word didn't mean that I embodied the best qualities of the male gender...but at least she cared about me enough to beat 19 men in order to save me!
Well, now we just have to see if the guys my wife had beaten would be looking for payback. Want to bet? I'm saying they'd try something.

We'll see next session.