Sunday, March 27, 2022

The Trigram Chronicles #3

The Second Heavenly Gate of Mount Qiyun

Bandits terrorise refugees fleeing the Qing; our heroes put down the thugs

Our heroes obtain the scrolls from Mount Qiyun; Reverend Zhang sacrifices himself for the greater good

As out heroes (see PC profiles here) traveled south towards Mount Qiyun, they found thousands of refugees also on the same road. General Yen had launched an offensive south of the Yangtze, and many had fled the chaos that comes with war.

They stopped at the small town of Qimen, where they took their meal at an inn. Here, they were greeted by a man named Soon, who recognised them as the heroes who defeated the Two Emissaries. Soon offered to pay for their meal, and proceeded to order the most expensive items on the menu, before absconding and leaving our heroes with the bill!

As our heroes were arguing with the inn staff, a farmer approached them and offered to pay for part of the bill; he had overheard Soon's conversation with our heroes, and beseeched them to save his son Yang Shou, who was gang pressed to join the thugs under the Twelve Banes a month ago.

Our heroes agreed to help the farmer, and after tracking down Soon (who was trying to sell a piece of fake jade to an unsuspecting customer) and exacting justice on him, proceeded down the road out of town, to where they had heard the thugs had set up a roadblock and were extorting from refugees who sought to pass.

Luring one of the thugs away, our heroes captured him and learned of the location of their camp. They proceeded to the camp and defeated the thugs who were there, only to learn that Yang Shou was one of their leaders! Yang confessed that he had indeed been taken from his family farm by force, but the life of a thug turned out to be better than that of a farmer, and he was soon made a junior leader. Our heroes convinced Yang and the other thugs to take some of the loot they had gathered, and to return to their homes, and they did so. When the other thugs returned to their camp, they were likewise defeated and were persuaded to disband and return home.

Our heroes then continued south, and after a week arrived at Mount Qiyun. As they ascended the narrow stairs that led 2000 feet to the Taoist Monastery at the summit, they saw a large party of men, numbering over twenty, also headed to the monastery. When they arrived at the outer gate, they were stopped by two priests who told them that Reverend Zhang, whom they had to see, was not receiving visitors that day. Wu presented the letter of introduction from Prince Gui, and our heroes were admitted.

Entering the courtyard of the monastery, our heroes found Reverend Zhang seated at the steps leading to the main hall. Around the courtyard his disciples, all looking ill, sat or laid.

Zhang explained that he and his disciples had been poisoned by the Dark Judge's Poison, which weakened them and prevented them from using their Qi, rendering them defenceless. Our heroes surmised that the party of men behind them must have poisoned the priests. They stated their purpose of visit, and Zhang bade them to take the scrolls and flee, while he and his disciples would try to stall the intruders.

Unwilling to abandon the priests to their fate, our heroes instead decided to confront the intruders, and meet them at the narrow gate that guarded the approach.

As the party of men neared, our heroes could see that they were thugs led by the Purple Robed Twin Swords, two of the Twelve Banes. Our heroes tried to stop the intruders, but they were no match for the Twin Swords, and were unable to fight past the many thugs who followed them. When it seemed that they would be defeated, they heard a voice calling from above them - Reverend Zhang had arrived, wielding a scroll case in one hand, and challenging the Twin Swords to come after him. Our heroes took advantage of this distraction to flee, and so once again the scrolls were kept safe from the hands of the Twelve Banes.

Our heroes are one step closer to defeating General Yen, but will they find the last set of scrolls in time? For the answer, gentle reader, you must wait till the next chapter...

Prepping and Running the Game

The first part of the session were based on encounters from encounter tables I found on this blog. There are quite a number of ideas from there that I think I will employ in future sessions.

By now I think my pattern for this campaign is to have two major encounters: one minor one based on an wuxia trope and not necessarily related to the main plotline, and a second one where our heroes encounter the forces of the Twelve Banes or the Qing, which will advance the main plotline.

The first half of the session was a lot of laughs as I role-played the conman, and the players role-played how they convinced the thugs to give up their lives of crime and return to their families. I told them afterwards that their spiel will not work in future sessions or campaigns.

I am still having trouble calibrating the fight where Major NPC Villains are used, partly because the game utilises a d10, which means damage can be swingy. This is not a deal-breaker, however, as in wuxia it is acceptable for the heroes' skins to be saved by fortuitous circumstances, or the arrival of a powerful mentor figure.

At the end of the session I once again asked my players what they wanted to do, and they had the idea to assassinate a Qing General. This is of course a common plot for many wuxia movies, so I hope my version will measure up.

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