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Sunday, 7 July 2013

Ran Tenra Bansho Zero on the second Open RPG Day 2013

Maybe you know what is going on in my home city. If so, I'm just describing today's events.
Maybe you don't care. If so, sorry, this post isn't for you.
For those that don't know, but care, we're making an Open RPG Day. We actually borrowed the idea from Free RPG Day, except we're not offering free materials. You just get to try new systems, settings and new GMs, all for free (bring your own snacks, though).
We're now hoping to make it a monthly event, too.

So, last time, I ran In Dark Alleys, which I talked about on that blog. Today was the time for Tenra Bansho Zero - we actually went to an anime convention and invited people that seemed interested.
Only a couple of them actually came to try RPGs, but at least some on my table were fans of the genre. And even one newbie is better than nothing, in my book.


So, what happened? Since TBZ is really character-focused, it makes sense to tell you about the stories of the individual PCs.

The Yoroi Armour Hunter had to leave early for RL reasons. Well, it happens. At least he saved a small girl from a village that has been devastated by an ayakashi.

The Annelidist doctor tried to help a man who has been infected with the Immortality Worm against his will. Turns out, the damiyo Ishikawa Hikaru has been using prisoners of war in this way, in order to create nearly inderstructible shock troops and spies. The guy is actually trampling the Southern Shinto Court, and is well-known for near-perfect intelligence services.
Except he had no idea how to remove an annelid like that one. So they went to Mount Hiro to converse with Tengu!
On the way, he found a village that has been devastated. He got an idea that this might be something supernatural, and left after taking the only survivor-a black chicken.
Then he heard the music of shamisen, and they prowled in this direction. After he met the woman, dressed as a geisha, who was practicing on a clearing, he realised she reminds him of his niece.
She viewed a man who didn't flinch at her being obviously an unnatural person-not many geisha practice lots of kms away from civilisation, in a mountain - and hoped against hope he can take her away, from a marriage she had come to abhor.
She also knew the tengu - drunkards and cads, all of them - and suggested she could introduce them. Oh, and it's better we leave before her husband is here...
So they left for Mount Hiro with the wife of the Green Dragon of the Hiro Mountain.
It didn't work. Avoiding him, I mean. They tried to run, he outran them. They tried to hide, and a wood spirit offered them to hide them - for a price. They refused to give him the immortal guy to eat, and he shouted. The Ayakashi came to see them.
It was actually his wife that opened the hostilities. The immortal guy tried to fight, though he only had a knife. The shapeshifting woman and her husband both exchanged lightning strikes, and took them, almost ignoring the PC.
That is, until he managed to hit the Green Dragon with his Talonfang worms, and rend him apart. His wife was at her last legs at this moment, but he managed to heal her and they met the tengu spirits.
Removing the immortality annelid was actually possible for them, but they didn't know how to implant it into our annelid user-and he had come to covet the power and safety this worm represented. So he kept it, hoping to be able to implant it himself some day, after research.
The scout, on the other hand, went back to his home village, and knew he's just a man. No more than a man. And this allowed him to share in the joys and griefs of others, which was what he wanted.
The ayakashi wife never got to sleep with her saviour - which almost disappointed her - but she was now free to study humans as she wished, changing her appearance to suit her.
Everybody was free, or had a new goal. It was a good work.

The kugutsu was set free by her master. The Ishikawa daimyo has come to take her, but her master claimed she needed to pass one more test. He left a samurai and went back to his castle.
The master, however, was disappointed with the daimyo and ordered her to put the samurai to sleep with some specially spiced tea, and run. As an obedient girl, she ran, taking only her soulgem katana and spare clothes. He had mentioned he'd run, himself.
When she looked back, she noticed there was a big fire in the house. Assuming her master had burned the samurai, she ran even faster, and reached next city around noon, dressed as a ronin.

The shinobi had been sent to dispatch a runaway ninja. He did, without major difficulty. The other guy didn't even have implanted soulgems!
So he brought his head back. Except there was nobody in that village, either. The people had been kidnapped, almost without signs of a struggle. There was a torn piece of cloth with the mon of Ishikaru.
He set to find them, and his first lead was what he suspected to be a false one. Nonetheless, he went to check on the armies of the war-like daimyo.
He reached the next city around noon, dressed as a trader.

The eyes of a ronin and a trader met in front of a city.
The ronin thought it was somebody she knew.
The trader thought that's a very nice boy, and wanted to screw him. He also noticed he had bribed the guards instead of showing a pass.
So they went to each other.
"Do I know you?"
"I would have remembered you."
And so, over a dish and a cup of sake, they reached an agreement that the trader would hire the ronin as a guard. While doing this, they proceeded to totally, utterly ignore the kijin veterans in the room.
Word of advice, don't ignore dangerous people, not look at them for long. Both mark you as targets.
And so their leader went to challenge them. They actually bought him sake, and invited everyone at their table, but then another social mistake lead to a duel.
"You sure you don't want more guards?"
"You think I can't manage?"
Ah well, that was quite in genre. And the fight was tetsubo against sword.
The sword won by cutting up the shoulder of the tetsubo-wielder in an aiuti strike, after having injured him already. Luckily, the kugutsu didn't suffer major broken bones, and healed on the way to the army.
Things changed when they passed through a battlefield-more of a skirmish, actually. The "guard" wanted to help anyone that might be still alive, and bury the rest. The "trader" wanted to know what kind of guard gets sick from the sight of dead bodies.
At the end, they saved a couple people and got directions to where the army of the Ishikawa had retreated to. The ninja made short work of finding them, and they had to devise a plan to enter it, in order to check for his missing relatives.
So the kugutsu offered herself as the bait. The ninja gladly "returned" her after "saving her" from her "abductors". They learned here that both the samurai and the kugutsu master had been killed in the fire.
Lots of lying later, they were waiting for the daimyo, and looking for ways to get around. The Kugutsu asked about the village, hinting the people in it might have something to do with her abductors. When it was confirmed they were here - "forced recruitement" as they put it - the ninja forged a document about them, threw it away and sneakily followed the guy who found it. As expected, he hastily brought it to the overseer of the villagers.
The only trouble was, they were guarded by kongohki. And the shinobi actually had liked workinf for himself much better than being owned by his clan.
So he let them being recruited, and went to hire himself separately to the daimyo. After receiving 10% of the price of a kugutsu-Ishikawa never rips a working bounty hunter! - he was richer by 500 000 ryo, which basically meant he'd never need to work again.
The kugutsu wasn't too thrilled, but she had put her faith in the shinobi. Now she had to pay for it by living as property for a while. After that, she had slipped away again.


My opinion on Tenra Bansho Zero:
The system is nothing special, and is neither more "character-focused" nor faster than other games, really (the latter might change given players that know the system better). However, that's not where the strength of the system lies, IME.
The part about Karma and having a limit on it however, forces players to roleplay changes in the PCs' personalities constantly. And that's a good thing in my book. It works better both for creating drama, and for more naturally evolving changes in the characters.
Or rather, let me quote what Regina (forum name) just wrote on Facebook. Keep in mind, it was her first session ever, so she's as unbiased as they come!

Today's game was great. Allegedly began with a mission, but finally it changed my destiny and behaviour. Almost like in real life - you do not know how you can change and what goals you will have.

As I like to say, that's one of the greatest compliments a GM can receive (unless it's damning with faint praise - it might mean that the game wasn't focused enough. Let's hope that's not the case, especially since she had expressed interest in playing again).

Next Open RPG Day is planned for August. We might mean in the meantime as well, but we'll see.