Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Catching up on Jadepunk (part two)

Second Session

Picking up with the #Jadepunk game where we left off, the characters decided to regroup and quickly gather what information they could before the authorities began to show up. Unfortunately there wasn't much they recognized. The enemy had been unusually skilled and well armed, each bearing a tattoo of a red tiger and green dragon arranged in a yin-yang on their left hands. They knew it had to mean something, they weren't simple thugs, but there was no time to investigate it further.

Saffron and the still-injured Keiko decided to take Mr. Nguyen and get out of there, while Han stayed behind to smooth things over with the authorities and see whet more she could gather. This proved to be fortunate, because a member of the city watch and several city guards showed up soon thereafter.

Though they didn't seem particularly interested in Han's story about what happened, they did give away some valuable information. the "thugs" the group fought were members of a private police organization run by the Hu brothers, a pair of famous (and dangerous) mercenaries. These weren't the kind of men that should be messed with, and the watch was content to let them handle their own business.

Armed with that knowledge Han left the scene and rushed off to find where the others were laying low.

Meanwhile, being the member of the resistance tasked with smuggling people out of Kausao City, Mr. Nguyen had a number of hiding holes in which the group could take refuge. The one they settle for was an old cellar for a building that had burned down years ago. When the new building was built on top of it no one realized that the cellar was there, and thus it had no access. This made it a perfect place to store refugees, since everyone assumed the store room belongs to someone else.

Today the cellar was empty save for a group of ravens that watched with interest as the group took their turn to take refuge there. Nguyen and Keiko were hurt badly, but luckily Saffron knew a bit about healing, and took the time to bandage everyone's wounds while Nguyen told them what he knew.

Mr. Nguyen had called the group together because he had what he thought might be a massive blow to several of the city's most prominent houses. A young but accomplished thief named Daiyu had stumbled across several important members of the bureaucracy gathered in some sort of clandestine meeting. Once it was over she broke into the chamber they had gathered in and stole something valuable (though Nguyen did not know exactly what). She had thought she managed to get away clean, but ever since then the Hu brothers and their gang have hunted and hounded her.

Unsure what else to do, Daiyu went to her father seeking help, who in turn came to Nguyen hoping that the rebellion could smuggle the girl out of the city. Nguyen agreed, but on the condition that she leave whatever it was that she had stolen for the rebellion's use. Once they had reached an understanding Nguyen gave the girl directions to a place in the nearby mountains where she could be safe, and he brought her father to the group so that he could tell them where to find the stolen property.

Which catches us up to what happened in the tea shop.

This left the group with two basic options: Find the girl, who was presumably safe in Nguyen's hiding place, or rescue her father from a powerful group of well armed men.

Ever the heroes, our players decided to do the latter.

Bandaged as much as possible, Keiko hit the streets to check with her informants about where the Hu brothers might be keeping the old man, while Han did much the same in more diplomatic circles. Saffron, in the mean time, decided to hit her engineering shop and put together a few surprises for the enemy.
Our map, with a few marked locations around town.

In the end all of their intel lead to the same place: One of the Hu brothers was holed up with a large number of his men in an old, abandoned warehouse and sifting plant along the river.

Their quarry identified, the group moved in, Keiko using her extraordinary mask and scoundrel skills to disguise herself as a member of the gang, and Han helping Saffron to sneak up to the building around back along the river.

When the time came to act it happened all at once. Han separated himself from Saffron to check out a skylight on the roof, so the engineer took the opportunity to throw herself into the midst of the guards watching the building's rear entrance. Unseen by all but the ever-present black birds that circled the area, and armed with only a holdout pistol and a blade, she did an admirable job of creating a distraction. Half of the guards at the rear door were down before they knew what hit them. This allowed Han to slip in through the skylight unnoticed, and gave Keiko time to get inside the front door, throw off her disguise, and call out the men there.

The group was better prepared for the fight this time, and it went much better. It was long and hard, given the straight on nature of their attack plan (thanks to some creative invocations of their aspects), but it was clear from the beginning that the group had the upper hand. Even when the Green Tiger, the famous Hu swordsman entered the fray it was too little, too late to turn the tide of battle.

That's not to say it wasn't without difficulties however. In the middle of the fight Saffron discovered some sort of Jadetech refining operation and decided to destroy it while she had its engineers cowed into a corner. Unfortunately the whole thing was highly unstable however, and the resulting explosion killed all of the engineers, and nearly took out Saffron herself.

Meanwhile, this left Keiko largely alone to fight the bulk of the warehouse guard and the Hu brother wielding an extremely sharp green jade sword. Luckily Han was able to pick up a pistol he found on a dead guard that had been stationed on the catwalk at that point and join in the fight.

In the end it wasn't without cost, but the group won the day. The Green Tiger was forced to leave behind one of his trademark daggers and flee into the river, leaving the group in control of the warehouse and the old man they had come to rescue.

End of Session Two.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Catching up on Jadepunk (part one)

I know I've fallen behind a bit over the last few weeks, so I'm just going to jump right in and get to work covering our first three sessions. To keep the length manageable I'll split it over a few posts, but I expect them all to come out within the next few days.

First, let me say that I'm very please with the direction our game is going in. I'm a pretty big fan of giving players some shared authorship over where the campaign begins and where it is heading (see my posts on Campaign Mapping and the Jadeborn Campaign Map for details), and the technique hasn't let me down yet. Between our map and some outside inspiration from books and video games I have a very solid idea of what my version of Kausao City looks like, and what the opposition is likely to do. Now it's just up to the players to throw a wrench into their plans.

Speaking of which...

The Characters

Other than myself our group consists of three players: 
  • Lisa, playing Han, an aristocrat serving one of the most powerful families in Kausao City (The Qin). Once a loyal servant until his love was captured by them and sold away. She now works from within the family, using her access to their information and Jadetech to tear down the system from the inside.
  • Schroeder, playing Saffron, an Aerish jadetech engineer who uses her knowledge and a series of cleverly built devices to take on the enemy in a language they understand: power and explosions.
  • Willy, playing Kei (or perhaps Keiko, depending who you believe actually lives under the jadetech mask), a former gang leader who was taken off the streets by an old monk and taught to use his skills to help the people instead of being part of the corruption that's oppressing them. Kei's primary weapon is a blue jade staff that can be manipulated to grow or shrink depending upon current needs that the character inherited when the monk was captured and sent to work in a penal mine.

First Session

Unfortunately we didn't get a ton done on our first night. Between finalizing characters and discussing the setting all we really had time to do was a quick intro. In this case we picked up right where my post on the Opening Scene left off. Our players chose to be members of a small but growing resistance movement dedicated to taking down the corrupt government of the city, and working to free people who are being held or worked unreasonably.

To this end they were tasked with meeting at a tea shop in an upscale portion of the city where My. Nguyen (their contact with the resistance) would be meeting them.

Now, I should throw in here that I like to start campaigns off with a fight. I find it gets the characters active and working together right away without the awkward small talk. It also serves as a crash course on the system for newer players, as well as making sure everyone knows what the team was capable of. Tonight was no different.

As soon as our characters were (mostly) ready to play we jumped right in. The group's contact was escorting an older man into the tea shop on the floor below the group when a lit lantern was thrown through a window, spreading burning oil across the middle of the shop. Immediately following it was a group of eight armed men, looking for trouble.

The group jumped right into action, with Keiko covering her face with her mask and extending her staff to slide down into the midst of the enemy. In the mean time Saffron wet a piece of cloth with water and used it to cover her face, hoping it would protect her from the smoke, as well as protecting her identity in the crowded shop. For his part, Han knew little of combat, and couldn't afford to be seen fighting in a shop his employers frequent. Taking the safe route, he pulled at table cloths and drapings to attempt to smoother the fire.

The fight itself was a lot tougher than anyone expected. The enemy outnumbered them badly (especially with a third of the group caught up fighting a fire that I also ran as a character), and it was all the group could do to hold their ground in the tight quarters. Keiko and Saffron managed to take out 5 of the enemy, but their ally Mr. Nguyen was badly injured and pinned to the ground by an enemy spear, while Keiko was (Thanks to a concession after losing two consequences) thrown out of a window, too badly hurt to return to the fight.

In the end Saffron managed to chase away the remaining three thugs, but not before they captured and carried off the man Mr. Nguyen had brought for them to meet. A scattering of ravens took flight as the young woman chased the enemy out into the street, hoping to follow them. Unfortunately, the enemy's rear was being protected by a newcomer to the fight, a tall man wearing a duster, with his hand resting casually on the grip of a red jade revolver, a red dragon tattoo etched in jade on his hand.

The fire finally out, Han ran to the door and dragged Saffron back inside. They were too hurt to continue this fight and face a new, unknown opponent.

End of Session One.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Back again

Sorry that it's been so long since my last post. I'm not sure if I mentioned it before, but I'm transitioning to a new job and my schedule is a bit hectic. More importantly, my free time has a bit of a drain on it.

I may have said it before, but right now I'm running four RPGs. The Jadepunk game I keep talking about, an Earthdawn game that I wrote about a while back, a sci-fi based Savage Worlds game, and a 5th edition dungeons and dragons game.

Two of those (Jadepunk and Savage Worlds) started very recently, both on the same week, and without much in the way of warning. This basically means that I'm playing catch-up on both of them to varying degrees, trying to get out setting info, re-reading rules that I haven't (in the case of Savage Worlds) seen in years, and trying to keep up with the emails that my group uses to bridge between sessions.It works great to encourage down-time actions, keep players in the game, and allow some space for easy player-generated  content. Unfortunately, it's also time consuming.

That said, things are finally evening out. My settings are well set, my rules re-read is through, and I'm only a couple of weeks away from finishing training at the new hospital. My apologies for the spotty posting, but I'm working towards getting back up and running.

Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Jadeborn: Setting the Opening Scene

Mr. Nguyen was not the kind of man to waste time on petty things like tea shops. Never-the-less, this was where he had asked to meet them. They all knew each other of course, or at least knew of each other. The resistance was a small world, and few of its members were as capable as the three gathered around the table today.

The privacy of identities was, of necessity, almost sacred among the members of the resistance. Deeds and results were however things to be celebrated, and each of these had accomplished a great deal in their time. Looking around the table they didn't just see colleagues, they saw indentured servants freed, resources stolen for the greater good, evil men vanquished in the name of justice.

They saw works of freedom written in old scars and hard eyes.

Still, gathering in one place like this was awkward. They had heard that the shop was the kind of place where they could meet with absolute discretion, but it still felt wrong. Dangerous.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before their fears were proven accurate. Sitting in their quiet, well-concealed booth on the second floor they heard the commotion below. Shouts, weapons drawn, screams, and the sound of a window breaking as a lit oil lamp was thrown in among the crowd. They stood as one, bracing themselves for the attack to come, but it became quickly apparent that their gathering wasn't the target.

Carefully looking below they saw the flames starting to take hold and armed men forcing the crowds back as they crowded Mr. Nguyen and an elderly companion towards its warm embrace.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Last Night on Earth: Timber Peaks

As I'm writing this I have just gotten done playing Last Night on Earth with my son. We play the core game a lot, but this was our first time playing this expansion. I have to say, it really added something to the game for me.

If you haven't played Last Night on Earth before, it's billed as a B-movie zombie board game, and it hits that point pretty spot on. Play is for 2 to 6 players, divided into two teams. One side plays the zombies, the other plays as the heroes. Each side takes a turn until the win conditions are met.

Because of the modular nature of the game those win conditions change, as do the heroes, and the board itself. This adds a little variety to the game that we find really fun.

Anyways, I wanted to comment on this expansion in particular because it added a couple of compelling new rules to the game. First, heroes and zombies now gain experience as they hurt the enemy. This really encourages more aggressive play, and adds just one more level of variety to the game. Now the heroes themselves are different each time you play.

Second is fire. The way it's handled in this game isn't exactly new. It works much like it does in games like Flash Point (though maybe not as well since fire isn't the true focus here); each round you roll for each space that is occupied by fir. roll high enough and it expands to a random adjacent square.

This was huge fun for me, maybe just because of the way it worked out in my game, but it added an element of randomness that was dangerous to everyone on the board. At one point one of my heroes tossed gasoline into a building that my son was hiding zombies in (I needed to kill them for the win condition and my heroes couldn't get in), and then set it alight with a flare gun. Many of the zombies survived the initial attack and came pouring out of the building into my hero's space, followed immediately thereafter by the fire which expanded to engulf them all. It was all she could do to get away, and I had to spend the rest of the game with her hiding just to keep her from turning into a zombie too.

And that's why I love it. Why I love random elements in games in general. It's why I use fudge dice in my campaign creation system. Randomness creates emergent gameplay. It creates stories, and forces existing ones to bend in unforeseen ways.

If you haven't played Last Night on Earth or any of its expansions I recommend them. I don't have them all (yet), but the ones I do have proved to be great fun.

If you never use randomness in your story creation I recommend that as well. There's nothing wrong with a well plotted story, but by adding in a random element you allow everyone to be surprised, even yourself. It takes away a bit of predictability and encourages creativity.