Sunday, June 16, 2024

PATHS FROM NOWHERE SESSION FOURTEEN

This is a sandbox campaign for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, operating in "Condor Heroes Mode". I used a lot of the procedures described in the wuxia sandbox posts. It is a campaign with three players. Before the campaign started we spent time establishing their family connections, rolling randomly for both their mothers and fathers (normally only one parent is randomly rolled, but in this case we wanted characters with potentially scandalous backgrounds). These characters each started play with just one Kung Fu Technique. 

CHARACTERS

XIANG GUIYING: The daughter of Jade Fist of Twin Fisted Eagle sect and Pale Fox, a notorious bandit. She is seeking pelts from Pearl Tigers. She is beautiful but wears a disguise to hide this from others. 

ZHENG BAO: Short and burly, he is the son of Zhang San of Bone Breaking Sect and of Reckless Storm. However San is married to Chen and has maintained the presence that Bao is Chen's son. Unfortunately due to crucial background information, Chen knows that Bao cannot be his son so is distant. Zheng Bao's uncle, Bone Breaker, is fond of him. He is seeking the Thousand Painful Deaths Flower to please his uncle. 

PAN JU (MOGHA): The son of the Witch of Zhaoze Zhou and Nergui Mogha, Pan Ju grew up in the Kushen Basin but has returned to the Banyan and Hai'an, where he knows his mother resides.   

ABBESS BING 

The party bid farewell to Jade Maiden sect and traveled to Hen-Shi Temple. There they were greeted by the abbess who brought them inside the temple. The abbess and her nuns kneeled on a dais and motioned for the party do kneel in the area before them. She also beckoned Feng Min to join them on the dais and she did so. 

Zheng Bao and Guiying both made substantial donations, placing a total of 53,422 spades worth of taels on fabric and passing it to the abbess. 

Lady White Blade by Jackie Musto

"This is an enormous donation, are you sure you can afford it?" Asked Abbess Bing. 

Zheng Bao explained that they had no need of it, and wanted to help the temple. 

"This will go towards food, necessary repairs and, given the sum, I will use it to make copies of our teachings to disseminate."

She then spent the next two hours offering them lessons about Hen-Shi and the temples teachings. They were especially focused on compassion and non-killing, and she encouraged them to become vegetarians. She said that every death they caused would weigh against them. 

The party expressed some reluctance on the last point in the teachings, so told them to refrain from eating meat that came from larger animals. 

VILLAGE OF AN 

After they left the temple, the party headed towards mystic sword sect, but on the second day their path was obstructed by an avalanche. Initially they considered blasting the rocks and boulders to clear a path, but when they inspected the nearby forest they saw a village and were concerned it could have unintended consequences. 

Heading to the village they spoke with headman Shan, who gave them hospitality, including a meal of fried fish. It was a farming village that also exported fabrics. When Zheng Bao offered any help to repay them for food and shelter, the headman asked if they would assist the villagers in clearing the avalanche. 

They spent the next three days moving boulders and ensuring nothing endangered the trail or village. Guiying, who knew something of mountains and hills, was able to provide guidance that likely saved several lives. 

When they were finished, Headman Shan gave them fresh clothes as gifts, which they accepted. Guiying put on a show for the villagers, having her monkey, Peach, perform and put on a martial arts demonstration*. 

The villagers were so astounded**, that the headman offered to give them an ancient clay tablet, saying it was an important artifact. 

"This is too valuable an item for me to accept," Said Guiying. So the headman gave them wine instead. 

THE CELESTIAL KILLER 

Making their way to Mystic Sword Temple, they saw a figure on the trail. She stood there still, in purple robes, with an aura of menace. 

"Guiying, Bao and Ju," She said. "There are many demanding your blood."

"You," Shouted Zheng Bao, "Were you sent by Lady Yang to kill us? Who are you?" 

"I cannot disclose the details of my contract, but I have been hired to kill you. My name is Fa Si. I have been forthright, you can see this is no ambush, no deceptive tactics, I ask for a straight forward fight."

"This seems true," Said Zheng Bao. "Would you like us to go first, or would you prefer to go first?"

"Are you offering me the first strike?"

"I suppose I am."

"Very well," She said. "Approach me and allow me to have my first strike."

The party walked over to her and once they were within arms reach, she punched the ground and it opened up, as if suddenly a sink hole. Zheng Bao and Feng Min fell inside and were injured. But Pan Ju and Guiying leapt away from the disaster. 

Zheng Bao crawled from the hole she created and stabbed her with his spear, causing her to spit blood all over him and laugh. 

Her face was not pleasing up close and she had a rigid grin that never wavered. 

"Who's next?" she yelled.

Pan Ju then threw a hail of daggers towards her, but she resisted them with her Iron Body defense. 

Guiying then leapt at her with her Slicing Blade of the Flying Phantoms, which shed blood but also made Fa Si shed more tears of laughter. 

It was then Feng Min's turn, who brought both fists against either side of Fa Si's head in her Twin Moon Strike. 

Fa Si fell to the ground unconscious. 

"Do you want to kill her?" Asked Feng Min. 

"No," said Guiying. "We can get information out of her. 

"We should give her a chance to go peacefully," Said Zheng Bao. 

Pan Ju felt Fa Si's pulse and recognized she was not in good health. She also looked diseased. Searching her they found money, sketches of the party, Zhaoze Sect's letter to the Jianghu and a large quantity of Celestial Plum one a wooden box. 

Having a more full understanding of her condition, Pan Ju administered some hot herbal drinks as she awakened under their care. 

"We have healed you," Said Zheng Bao. "If we let you go will you end this contract against us?"

"I do not cancel my contracts. Only if the issuer were to die or rescind the contract would I do so. I can promise not to pursue you for another two weeks seeing as you healed me."

The party talked among themselves, then Zheng Bao said. "Two weeks and you will answer questions about Lady Yang."

"I can answer four questions."

"Where can we find Lady Yang?" Asked Guiying. 

"Lady Yang lives in Yang Manor in the Whispering Swamp near Screeching Lake. It is heavily guarded and she travels with a retinue. She is never alone."

"Who is Lady Yang?"

"Her original surname is not Yang. She is a powerful woman in control of a vast network of rice brokers and ship builders. Her wealth and influence were so great the Queen Feared her and bestowed her land in the Screeching Swamp as a 'gift'. This was meant as a punishment but She was able to cultivate the land and increase her prestige by marrying Yang Ren

Zheng Bao asked "What is the greatest tragedy in your life?"

"I was orphaned at a young age. But that was not about Lady Yang so you may ask me two more questions."

"What kind of kung fu does Lady Yang practice?" asked Guiying. 

"She has an unusual style and it led to a deviation that makes her body overheat so she must draw on other peoples phoenix energy to regulate her temperature. However this process is lethal to those she leaches energy from. She does not seek a cure as this is a powerful foundation of her martial abilities. She prefers the company of women and it is rumored she takes a women every night to drain in her bed chambers. 

"We saw a wedding dress that was intended for her from her father, was this for a new husband?" Asked Zheng Bao.

"She killed Yang Ren many years ago, very soon after their marriage. It was simply a matter of securing the name Yang. I do not know why you found the wedding dress, perhaps it was never gifted or she returned it." 

The party offered to help Fa Si with her celestial plume addiction but she told them that at her level of cultivation the substance did not control her, rather she controlled it and used its powers to her advantage. 

After learning that Zheng Bao was Bone Breaker's nephew, she said that she would make a point of paying her respects to him before their next meeting. She departed and the party continued to Mystic Sword Temple. 

TEMPLE OF THE MYSTIC SWORD 

At the temple Pan Ju made the appropriate greeting and they were led into a reception hall to speak with Lady White Blade. 

"Greetings to the disciple of Jade Swallow," She said. "I am pleased to offer you protection and hospitality."

"Thank you for the assistance against our enemies Lady White Blade, we are most appreciative of your help." Said Zheng Bao. 

"Please send my greetings to you Master."

"Do you know anything about my Master's present whereabouts?" Asked Zheng Bao. 

"Last I was told, Lady Yang grew tired of sending assassins after her, and went after her on her own to face her one on one in Dee. Your Master is truly great for she gained the upper hand and sliced off one of Lady Yang's fingers, but the coward fled before Jade Swallow could bring her to an end."

Lady White Blade told them that she would keep Zhaoze Sect at bay while the party went to help Jade Swallow and hopefully content with Lady Yang. She told them that she would not have enough men to deal with Lady Yang's assassins though. 

Guiying offered her thanks as well and requested some instruction if Lady White Blade didn't mind. She told her that her sword play was still quite basic and she felt unsure about some of the fundamentals. 

"Since you are going to help Zheng Bao face Lady Yang, I will certainly teach you what I know. Demonstrate you abilities for me."

Guiying showed off all her techniques including Slicing Blade of the Flying Phantoms. 

"Who taught you this technique?"

"I learned it from someone on the road, I don't recall who it was."

"This is one of mine. I will give you more from my repertoire. Everyone clear the room and led me instruct Guiying Alone!"

Lady White Blade then spent the next several hours teaching Guiying her Bursting Charge and Grudge Bearing Sword Strike techniques. 





*Peach increased from Qi rank 1 to 2 this session.

**Guiying got a 10 on her Monkey Handling roll  





Monday, June 10, 2024

HEAVENLY FRAGRANCE CAMPAIGN SESSIONS TWELVE AND THIRTEEN

These are the 12th and 13th sessions of my Heavenly Fragrance Campaign, a living adventure prepared using tools and procedures discussed in the Wuxia Sandbox blog posts. This campaign is intended to play as a sandbox but with more dramatic elements. It is a two player campaign where run in what I call "Condor Heroes Mode", where characters begin with only one Kung Fu technique, their family background established and connected to the setting, and using a level advancement system based on encounters with higher level masters who train them. It also makes use of a campaign Shake-Up table, rolled once each session, to manage an unfolding background situation (see STATE OF THE MARTIAL WORLD). I will include footnotes to explain what procedures were invoked during play. The campaign is set in Fan Xu, largely using the Sons of Lady 87 book. 

CHARACTERS

Bao Long: An orphaned street urchin who was adopted by Lady Eighty-Seven's son, Guan Shisu after he came to the aid of Guan Shisu's daughter, Little Guan Hua. All he knows about his background is that his mother died when he was young. Bao Long has been taught some martial arts by Lady Eighty-Four, Yuhuan. Bao Long is a bit dim-witted but tough. 

Little Guan Hua: The daughter of Guan Shisu and the disciple of Guan Nuan. Little Guan Hua is cowardly and feeble, but intelligent.

Fu Yao: The newest member of the party. Not much is known about his past but he specializes in Qinggong. 

BLOOD IN THE TEMPLE

The party leapt into the garden where Gentle Sage was enjoying the fragrant air. Taken completely by surprise, brutally cut and then his heart impaled by Bao Long's Blade of the Dancing Fox. 

Art by Jackie Musto 
Searching his body they found a manual containing his Tai-Yang Finger and Greater Toe Strike techniques*. In addition they found a jade talisman with a palace carved into it around his neck and a gourd filled with bolus pills**. They hid the body in the pond, weighing it down with stones, then crept through the door to the next hall. 

They saw a Yao Guard but surprised him. Little Guan Hua blinded him with her fly whisk then hit him with her Endless Cloud technique. A battle ensued and it was ended when Bao long impaled the Yao on his sword. 

Looking around they found some monks huddled in a hall, and convinced one of them to show the party where Gentle Sage kept his belongings. They found a jade basin and bath beads, as well as a display of skulls with the names of heroes beneath them. In Gentle Sage's bedchamber they discovered vials of poison. 

They promised to take the monk with them away from the temple and he led them down to the treasury. He explained that the jade talisman could disarm a trap in the room if thrown up to the ceiling, which they did. Entering the treasury freely they found a vast sum of silver taels. 

Taking the bath basin they left the temple then had the monk make a copy of Gentle Sage's manual so Fu Yao could take it with him as he had business elsewhere. Bao Long kept the original Manual and went with Little Guan Hua to Tung-On to train. 

FU YAO AND BAO LONG TRAIN***

Fu Yao traveled tot he Vermillion Bird Teahouse. There he met with Hua Yin and asked her to train him. She explained that not all of her repertoire was suited to his style but that she could help him track down manuals and select other masters to teach him individual techniques if he would take no other teachers and agree to her terms. Among her terms, she told him that should he go to River Village with his companions and happen upon men selling Celestial Plume, he should work to keep them from being interfered with. 

Fu Yao agreed and began learning from Hua Yin. She taught him Flight of the Bat and he also learned Tai Yang Finger from the manual they stole from Gentle Sage. In addition he perfected a new technique with his staff he had been working on. Before he left she gave him a trained pigeon to use if he needed to send her a message. She also suggested that he needed more training before confronting Fan Batu. 

Bao Long presented a tribute to Iron God Meng, who provided him with more snakes (his snakes had been killed by the Sandstone Nun's Thundering Palm) and taught him Belly of the Iron God. He also instructed him in the Thousand Pound Finger Technique. 

Little Guan Hua trained as well, mastering the techniques in Gentle Sage's Manual and working to improve her overall abilities. 

Bao Long learned from Iron God Meng that Fan Batu was staying at the Swallow's Nest Inn in Gao Cun and had several men there with him. 

Bao Long went to Dancing Corpse Wan Mei and informed her about Fan Batu's location. There he found her using local villagers tied to posts for target practice. She was greatly pleased and happy to learn that Bao Long had destroyed the Sandstone Nun. She told Bao Long that she wanted to bring his kung fu to the next level, that she wanted him to be her exclusive disciple. 

However Bao Long was reluctant to betray Iron God Meng. She told him that if Iron God Meng agreed to be her disciple as well, then he could continue learning from both of them. 

Before heading to Tung-On, Bao Long expressed concern about Wan Mei's ruthlessness with the villagers saying they were innocent. 

"There are no innocent people in this world," She said. "Everyone deserves death!"

"Do you then also deserve death Master?"

"As long as my foe is worthy, then they can defeat me for the crimes I have committed," She paused. "But that should not be you! Betraying your own master in this way, that is the most heinous deed a person can commit."

Persuaded by Wan Mei's reasoning, Bao Long embraced her philosophy and went to Iron God Meng to present her proposal. 

"I will need time to decide," Said Iron God Meng. "But you may train under her freely, you have been a good student and I am happy to let you go if you can take your martial arts to greater heights under her instruction." 

Later in the evening Wan Mei took Bao Long to a small village to practice Five Ghost Fingers. He killed 8 villagers and accepted her as his sole teacher. 

She welcome him saying they were now part of a single sect. She then told her more about her martial arts philosophy, explaining that instilling fear was crucial, as terrified opponents were easier to defeat and less likely to confront you. She then began instructing him in the Breath of Death. 

After he returned, Fu Yao explained to the others, including Wan Mei, that Hua Yin felt they were not ready to take on Fan Batu. Everyone agreed to go to the Vermillion Bird Teahouse to discuss the matter. 

DEATH AT SWALLOW'S NEST INN 

The Party went to the Vermillion Bird Teahouse, where Hua Yin expressed her reservations. Wan Mei objected saying that Fan Batu would also be improving his Kung Fu and would simply get more powerful the longer they delayed. It was decided they would take a few weeks to train before confronting him but that they wouldn't delay any longer than that. 

Passing through Tung-On on the way, Bao Long went to receive Iron God Meng's Answer, which was he would not take Wan Mei as his master. However he agreed to help them deal with Fan Batu for 100,000 spades. 

When they reached Gao Cun, they learned that Ravenous Nun Xue Xuanji was staying at the inn too. While she had a reputation for despising all criminals, they thought it might be possible to form an alliance with her to deal with Fan Batu. 

They scoped out the inn and spoke with her. There they saw Fan Batu with his men, enjoying wine and song. The Nun agreed to speak in private away from the Inn. 

When she learned that the party was connected with Lady 87, she said she would agree to help them fight Fan Batu but wanted to duel each of them to the death individually after the battle. 

The party decided to stage an ambush. 

Wan Mei and Bao Long went inside, while Iron God Meng stood ready at the door and the rest of the party were spread out in anticipation. 

Seeing Fan Batu, Wan Mei did not notice that his men were her adopted children, but grown, and this possibility did not occur to Bao Long either. Bao Long was still learning Breath of Death and proved incapable of using the technique, but Wan Mei breathed a heavy and deadly cloud into the room, killing many, innocent patrons and Fan Batu's men both and forcing everyone to flee through the front door. 

The ambush worked. Some of Fan Batu's men survived to fight in the streets, but not long, and Fan Batu was overwhelmed by the party's size and skill. He managed to unleash a terrible attack with a massive seismometer he carried, injuring some of the party, but in the end, they had him surprised and surrounded. 

"Don't kill them!" Shouted Wan Mei. 

Her disciples merely knocked out his remaining men and Fan Batu himself. 

When the fight was done, Wan Mei took the Dawn Sabre of the Yao Yun Sea from Fan Batu's belt and cut off his head. Bao Long took the seismometer. 

Weeping, Wan Mei instructed Bao Long to dig graves for the 8 men killed in the fight. "As for the rest of his men," she said. "These traitors can live."

She then etched a tablet for each of the men. 

Before the bodies were finished Ravenous Nun demanded her duel. Bao Long agreed if he could be the first. 

Fu Yao tried to reason with the Sandstone Nun, saying it wasn't worth it. But she was adamant and said she didn't fear death. 

Bao Long and Ravenous Nun squared off. She managed to slash him with the blades on her shoes, but he quickly responded with a fatal impalement. 

He was covered in blood. 

They dug another grave and buried the bodies. 

Wan Mei seemed upset and said she would need a couple of weeks before she could resume their training. She left to go off on her own saying she would join them shortly. 

The rest of the group began to travel but a couple of days out, Bao Long started feeling unwell. So they returned to the town and sent a message to Wan Mei. 

Believing he had been poisoned, Bao Long and the rest of the party searched the inn for an antidote. The proprietor led them inspect Fan Batu's room and the nun's. In the Nun's chambers they found a stack of papers from a physician and some pills. They learned she was being treated for a unique illness. The papers mentioned taking the pills regularly to stave off the effects, so Bao Long swallowed one. However the papers also mentioned that no cure could be found. 

Little Guan Hua suggested they seek out Physician Zi in Mai Cun. Because she was banished from Lady 87's territory, she would have to remain outside the city but could give them instructions on how to find him. 

Wan Mei arrived before they left and said she wanted to take him to Mount Dao and see if the immortals there would help heal him. However she feared it may not go well as the immortals were quite righteous. 

They decided to head to Mai Cun first. There they consulted with Physician Zi. He said he saw such an ailment among the Zhun and provided Bao Long with more of the red pills they found at the nun's. He also told them it was highly contagious through the blood that he would break out in pustules within a month, perhaps be dead soon after. While there was no known cure, he advised seeking a powerful Neigong Master as that was likely the only hope Bao Long had of survival. 

When they gathered together outside Mai Cun, Little Guan Hua said the most powerful Neigong specialist she knew about was Crescent Phoenix. Wan Mei said she knew how to find her so the group set off. 




*I rolled randomly to determine if he had such a manual

**Through a Medicine Roll they learned that the pills were antidotes to Gentle Sage's poison. They also learned, through an Alchemy roll that the talisman had magnetic properties 

***Note that these training periods are usually happening over weeks or months. In this campaign I am using downtime regularly so the party can train. 

Friday, May 31, 2024

VENOMOUS CENTIPEDES

This is a new creature for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate.

VENOMOUS GIANT CENTIPEDE 
These vicious thirteen inch centipedes are present throughout all of southern Qi Xien and even found in the north, but generally quite rare. These are the most deadly centipedes in the world and can easily kill an adult human with a bite. 

 

Defenses: Hardiness 2, Evade 7, Wits 2

Key Skills: Bite: 0d10 plus venom, Muscle: 0d10, Detect: 0d10, Speed: 1d10

 

Max Wounds: 1

 

POWERS


 

Bite: The bite of a centipede does 0d10 wounds and exposes the target to venom. As long as the attack roll succeeds, the damage roll does not have to succeed for envenomation to occur. Roll 2d10 against the Hardiness of anyone bitten. On a Success the person experiences intense itching, swelling and pain for 1d10 minutes. After that time, they become paralyzed and cannot breathe, suffering the full effects of suffocation. On a Total Success the victim immediately becomes paralyzed. Curing the poison requires either a dose of antidote made from a variety of ingredients blended with the ground up chiton of a venomous giant millipede, or a TN 10 Medicine roll.  


Saturday, May 25, 2024

KUNG FU FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

These are new techniques created for my Paths from Nowhere and Heavenly Fragrance Campaign. Most are specific to NPCs in the campaigns. 

BITE OF THE SNAKE 
Discipline: Waijia  
Skill: Arm Strike
Type: Normal 
Art by Jackie Musto
Qi: 3

Your hand rises high similar to a serpent and strikes from unexpected angles as you sink your fingers into your foes to cause unbearable pain. 

Make an Arm Strike roll against Parry. On a Success you do 2d10+Speed for damage and drain 1 Hardiness (this lasts 1 round per rank of Waijia). On a Total Success, the target loses an action due to your piercing grip (they can only move or attack, but not both). 

This technique was created by Dao Wu, proprieties of the Many-Banded Krait.

Cathartic: This does +1 Extra wound. 

BREATH OF DEATH (EVIL TECHNIQUE)
Skill: Meditation 
Type: NOrmal 
Qi: 8

You sit and do a breathing mediation, drawing in dragon energy and expelling a cloud of deadly phoenix energy that kills. 

Make a Meditation roll against the Hardiness of all within 100 feet. On a Success they take 2d10 open damage per their rank of Qi. 

This technique was invented by Dancing Corpse Wan Mei. 

HISS OF THE SNAKE
Discipline: Neigong 
Skill: Arm Strike
Type: Normal 
Qi: 4

Your hands rear and sway like a snake's as you release a gust of energy that blinds your foes. 

Roll Arm Strike against Evade. On a Success you blind the target for 1 round. On a Total Success you blind them for 2 rounds. 

This technique was created by Dao Wu, proprieties of the Many-Banded Krait. 

Cathartic: You can strike up to 1 foe per Qi rank. 

IRON TAIL WHIP
Discipline: Dianxue
Skill: Leg Strike and Medicine 
Type: Normal 
Qi: 5

You spin rapidly and land your heel at a precise point along the spine, causing the person's legs to fail. 

Make a Leg Strike roll and Medicine roll against Parry. If both Succeed and the target had fewer Qi ranks than you, it causes their legs to go limp for 1 round per rank of Dianxue. On a Total Success their arms go limp as well. 

Cathartic: The targets legs go limp for 1 week per rank of Dianxue. On a Total Success their Arms go limp for 1 week. If you land two Total Successes, they permanently lose the ability to use their legs. If you land three Total Successes they permanently lose the ability to use their arms as well. 

GHOSTLY PALM 
Discipline: Neigong 
Skill: Arm Strike
Type: Normal 
Qi: 4

You extend you open hand and draw the target into your palm by their head, slowing their heart and flooding their body with phoenix energy. 

Make an Arm Strike against the Evade of a single target. On a Success their heart is slowed, imposing -1d10 to all their attacks for 1 round per rank of your Neigong. In addition they suffer 1d10 Open Damage equal to your Qi Rank. This damage can exceed the soft cap but not the hard cap. 

This technique was created by Dancing Corpse Wan Mei 

Cathartic: The target takes an additional 3 Extra Wounds. 

GRIP OF HEN-SHI

Discipline: Neigong

Skill: Grapple/Throw

Type: Counter

Qi: 4

 

You grip the wrist of your foe with intense strength and determination, halting any melee attack and freely breaking their weapon.

 

Make a Grapple roll against any melee attack roll. On a Success you stop the attack by grabbing their wrist. You may also take their weapon and break it as a free action.


This technique was created by the monk Compassion from the Sangha of the Water Sutra. 

 

Cathartic: When used cathartically you can make a free Throw attack, sending the target flying for 4d10 Open non-lethal damage.


LUNG STOPPING STRIKE
Discipline: Dianxue 
Skill: Medicine and Arm Strike
Type: Normal
Qi: 6

You tap the lung meridian that extends from a person's collar bone to their wrist, causing their lungs to seize. 

Make a Medicine Roll and Arm Strike Roll against Parry. On a Success you strike the lung meridian and stop their breathing for 1d10 rounds. Undoing the effect requires a successful Medicine Roll TN 8. On a Total Success the TN is increased to 10. Any Dianxue technique that affects the lungs can be used to open up the breath again. 

This technique imposes a -1d10 penalty to counter. This technique was invented by Qi Lihua. 

Cathartic: This causes their breath to stop for 1d10 minutes and imposes a -2d10 penalty to counters. 

STORMING KICKS OF JADE SWALLOW
Discipline: Waijia 
Skill: Leg Strike
Type: Counter
Qi: 3

You unleash a flash of kicks meant to counter the Storming Daggers technique, sending each blade back at a target of your choice. 

Make a Leg Strike roll against the attack roll. On a Success you rebound the daggers and damage they would do, against targets of your choice. On a Total Success the daggers go through your intended targets and strike anyone directly behind them. 

Must be Used Cathartically. This technique was created by Jade Swallow.

THUNDEROUS PALM OF SUN MING

Discipline: Waijia

Skill: Arm Strike 

Type: Normal or Counter 

Qi: 5


You deliver a swift and powerful palm strike to the center of the chest, weakening your enemy and causing internal damage. 


Make an Arm Strike Roll against Parry or against the Opponent's attack roll. On a Success it does 1d10+Muscle for damage plus 5 Extra Wounds, and the target loses -1d10 Muscle for 2 rounds. On a Total Success the wounds take double the normal healing time to restore. 


This technique must be performed cathartically. It was created by Sun Ming the Sandstone Nun. 


PACIFYING PALM

Discipline: Neigong

Skill: Arm Strike and Medicine

Type: Normal

Qi: 6

 

You send strike with a clap of your palm against the foe’s chest, causing energy to radiate through their limbs and pacify their heart.

 

Make an Arm Strike and Medicine roll against Parry. On a Success the target’s meridians course with a calming energy that prevents them from taking any violent action. Those who persist, lose 1 Qi rank permanently (they lose a level of experience and must regain it in order to advance again). This loss of qi continues with each action. The duration of this technique is 1 hour per rank of Neigong.

 

Pacifying Palm must be done cathartically. It was created by the monk Compassion from the Sangha of the Water Sutra. 


HEAVENLY FRAGRANCE CAMPAIGN SESSION ELEVEN

This is the eleventh session of my Heavenly Fragrance Campaign, a living adventure prepared using tools and procedures discussed in the Wuxia Sandbox blog posts. This campaign is intended to play as a sandbox but with more dramatic elements. It is a two player campaign where run in what I call "Condor Heroes Mode", where characters begin with only one Kung Fu technique, their family background established and connected to the setting, and using a level advancement system based on encounters with higher level masters who train them. It also makes use of a campaign Shake-Up table, rolled once each session, to manage an unfolding background situation (see STATE OF THE MARTIAL WORLD). I will include footnotes to explain what procedures were invoked during play. The campaign is set in Fan Xu, largely using the Sons of Lady 87 book. 

CHARACTERS

Bao Long: An orphaned street urchin who was adopted by Lady Eighty-Seven's son, Guan Shisu after he came to the aid of Guan Shisu's daughter, Little Guan Hua. All he knows about his background is that his mother died when he was young. Bao Long has been taught some martial arts by Lady Eighty-Four, Yuhuan. Bao Long is a bit dim-witted but tough. 

Little Guan Hua: The daughter of Guan Shisu and the disciple of Guan Nuan. Little Guan Hua is cowardly and feeble, but intelligent.

Fu Yao: The newest member of the party. Not much is known about his past but he specializes in Qinggong. 

BEFORE DEPARTING MAI CUN

Map by Francesca Baerald 
Fu Yao spoke again with Floating Sea God Zhang Shisan of the Dragon Horse Gang. He gave his tribute and asked if Shisan could teach him any more kung fu. Asking specifically to learn his most prized and secret abilities, he offered a vast sum and to do Shisan's bidding. 

"You are bold to ask this so directly," Said Floating Sea God Zhang Shisan. "I fear there is little you can learn from me. I may need to direct you elsewhere."

"Are there any great masters with exceptional Qigong?"

Shisan thought and told him that Gentle Sage of Hen-Shi Temple was renowned for such abilities, but he was an imperial agent, and also a friend of Hell Burning Sword*.

Fu Yao conferred with Bao Long and Little Guan Hua, and they decided to head to Hen-Shi temple with the aim of stealing Gentle Sage's manual (Little Guan Hua had heard there was a rumor he had a manual containing all his techniques). Before they left, Little Guan Hua asked her informants to find where the Sandstone Nun was so they could track her down. Fu Yao brought the old thief, Guan Yu for the journey. 

THE SANDSTONE NUN 

On the road to Hen-Shi Temple, just as they were leaving the city, they received a message that the Sandstone Nun was following them. Soon after it arrived they saw her in the distance, dressed in purple robes and a veil, gaining ground on them. 

Little Guan Hua commanded everyone to head for a nearby cliff and get the high ground. The surrounding landscape was shallow so the cliff only afforded about fifteen feet of height. From the cliff they stood their ground as the Sandstone Nun approached. 

"Repent for your misdeeds and lead me to your Master Little Guan Hua and Bao Long," Said the Sandstone Nun. "I will show mercy and merely cripple your kung fu if you do so."

"You want us to betray Master Wan Mei?" Asked Bao Long. "Why?"

"I want you to lead me to her, she has terrorized the region with her Ghost Hand Kung Fu, killing villagers indiscriminately."

"No, she is a nice lady," Said Bao Long**

As the others were about to attack, Little Guan Hua stayed their hands, saying "Our master told me to strike her first and deliver her to the grave with the Clutch of the Ghost King technique she taught me."

Leaping through the air, Little Guan Hua reached with an outstretched palm, but her momentum was intercepted by The Sandstone Nun's Thunderous Palm of Sun Ming, which struck her in the center of the chest and sent her flying back against the cliffside***

Fu Yao leapt high into the air, then attempted his diving falcon technique, however he missed, and struck the ground, with a bone crunching thud****

Bao Long decided to test out his Blade of the Dancing Fox technique against her. He leapt forward and she could not defend against his attack as he sliced her multiple times with his sword blade*****

Fearing Bao Long's swordplay, the Sandstone Nun performed a standing meditation and they all felt the rush of air as a mighty force from heaven prepared to collapse upon them. 

Fu Yao pleaded for mercy. 

"Repent and promise to do no evil!"

Fu Yao assented. Bao Long Bristled. The Sandstone looked toward Little Guan Hua.

"I may promise to do so," Hedged Little Guan Hua. 

The full power of her Thunderous Palm of the Heavens fell upon them, but spared Fu Yao. Little Guan Hua was crushed to the brink of death. Bao Long was largely unaffected by the attack and scoffed. 

"My Master would never launch such a pitiful attack as this," Said Bao Long. 

Bao Long and she exchanged blows, with Bao Long wounding her again. The Sandstone Nun dropped into a mediation again, but this time took one long breath, and with that breath her body began to wither, to desiccate until she looked like a petrified corpse******

"Repent," She said.

Bao Long clawed at her with his Flesh Ripping Fingers, but his attacks had no effect. Little Guan Hua then struck her and her attacks caused the flesh to flake away. 

The Sandstone Nun began to sing a chant, and Bao Long and Little Guan Hua felt it painfully in their bones. The pain caused Little Guan Hua to pass out. 

Bao Long Once again attacked, this time using his Blade of the Dancing Fox, but his efforts seemed to have no effect.  

"Repent," She said. And her body burst into a cloud of dust. 

Believing his attacks and immense strength had finally finished her off, Bao Long rebuked Fu Yao for his cowardice. 

Looking around they saw that Qi He, Little Guan Hua's guide and servant, was dead, as was Guan Yu, the thief Fu Yao had brought along. 

They sent for a new guide from the Heavenly Fragrance Association, and discussed what to do about Fu Yao's cowardly behavior. It was decided he would be docked his normal stipend for a prolonged period of time. 

Qi He's replacement, Ling Buwei arrived and they set off for Hen-Shi Temple after resting enough to recover. 

At the temple, they saw Yao guardians at the entrance and decided to sneak onto the rooftop using Qinggong abilities. From there they spotted Gentle Sage in one of the courtyards and prepared to make their attack. 







*Hell Burning Sword is enemies with Lady 87

**Bao Long is simple-minded and has the unintelligent Flaw

***She suffered about 6-7 wounds from the attack and a -1d10 to her muscle for 2 rounds

****He was 75 feet in the air so took 6d10 open damage plus 1 Extra Wound due to the fall 

*****This attack did 9 wounds to the Sandstone Nun 

******She used Profound Meditation to turn into a Pure One 

Friday, May 24, 2024

PATHS FROM NOWHERE SESSION THIRTEEN

This is a sandbox campaign for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, operating in "Condor Heroes Mode". I used a lot of the procedures described in the wuxia sandbox posts. It is a campaign with three players. Before the campaign started we spent time establishing their family connections, rolling randomly for both their mothers and fathers (normally only one parent is randomly rolled, but in this case we wanted characters with potentially scandalous backgrounds). These characters each started play with just one Kung Fu Technique. 

CHARACTERS

XIANG GUIYING: The daughter of Jade Fist of Twin Fisted Eagle sect and Pale Fox, a notorious bandit. She is seeking pelts from Pearl Tigers. She is beautiful but wears a disguise to hide this from others. 

ZHENG BAO: Short and burly, he is the son of Zhang San of Bone Breaking Sect and of Reckless Storm. However San is married to Chen and has maintained the presence that Bao is Chen's son. Unfortunately due to crucial background information, Chen knows that Bao cannot be his son so is distant. Zheng Bao's uncle, Bone Breaker, is fond of him. He is seeking the Thousand Painful Deaths Flower to please his uncle. 

PAN JU (MOGHA): The son of the Witch of Zhaoze Zhou and Nergui Mogha, Pan Ju grew up in the Kushen Basin but has returned to the Banyan and Hai'an, where he knows his mother resides.   

THE VENEER OF THE DEMON EMPEROR 

The party set out with Feng Min to find the Tomb of the Timeless Master, stopping in Shai Yu to procure a river going vessel. Zheng Bao, heeding the advice of the nun, approached a large statue of Hen-Shi and placed a golden offering. However he was filled with a sense of unease and shared his feelings with Feng Min. She cautiously inspected the statue.

"Something evil is afoot here," She said. "This is not Hen-Shi."

A crowd began to gather as Feng Min swayed and swung her sword, chanting a ritual to cleanse the statue of demons. 

Zheng Bao tried to assure the crowd there was no reason to be alarmed, but his words merely attracted more attention, so Xiang Guiying told the gathering villagers that this was all a performance for their pleasure. 

The external veneer of the statue peeled away violently, revealing an image of the Demon Emperor beneath. 

The Locals murmured in anger. 

A young scholar or physician, it was difficult to discern which, approached the party and told them it would be wise to depart before things grew violent. 

Pan Ju smashed his meteor hammer into the statue and Feng Min and Guiying toppled it to the ground, causing it to break into to halves. 

The crowd grew and began to circle around them, nearly 100 people enclosing the party. 

Zheng Bao raised his jade talisman and said "I am a disciple of Jade Swallow. We have vanquished the evil in this statue. You will let us go peacefully. 

The crowd became hostile and a ritual master stepped forward rebuking them and began making a series of strange gestures. 

With the hostility of the crowd growing, Zheng Bao hit everyone in a circle with his spear, sending them crashing to the ground. He then grabbed the Ritual Master and took him as hostage saying "You will all give us a boat, we will take your shaman and he will live once we are further down the river."

The Ritual Master nodded to the people and the party was provided with a long fishing boat. 

The physician/scholar helped them aboard the boat and said "I am a great admirer of Jade Swallow, may I join you?"

"Your name sir?" Asked Zheng Bao.

"My name is Qu Li."

"Come aboard."

As he climbed in Zheng Bao saw the physician carried a three-section staff. 

Once everyone was in the boat and it set off Feng Min said "We should drown him, this man is too evil to let live."

The party began to discuss what to do with the ritual master. Zheng Bao tried to talk to him, asking him about the village. The man told him that the demon emperor would return, that they had always remained loyal. He then started to chant and they felt the air shift. Zheng Bao knocked the man out instantly. 

Once the party agreed to dispatch him, Feng Min stabbed the ritual master in the neck and Guiying threw him overboard. 

THE TEACHING OF FENG MIN

As they travelled, Feng Min taught them about the scriptures of Sun Mai and Hen-Shi, explaining she was originally a thread of the Enlightened Goddess' hair, and contained all her divine compassion. 

Late one night, Zheng Bao noticed that Qu Li seemed to be a woman, so he confronted the physician. 

"Yes, it is true," She said. "My name is really Qu Lihua. I am a woman. It is easier to travel as a man sometimes."

Zheng Bao explained that he wanted her to be honest with the rest of the group as he had planned to introduce her to his master, Jade Swallow, but didn't want to do so in a misleading way. 

Qu Lihua revealed to the group that she was a woman. Her beauty was observed by some, and Feng Min seemed irritated by the revelation. The nun then spoke in her teachings to the party about the danger of feminine temptation, that it distracts from true understanding. 

SISTER SNAKE 

As their knowledge of Hen-Shi grew, they were getting closer to the area where the Tomb of the Timeless Master was supposed to be found. They only had a vague sense of its location though. Deep in the woods, they saw a large blue snake slither by, then they saw the other end of the snake seemed a woman. The creature hissed at them and addressed Feng Min "Give me my sister from that pathetic gourd Nun!"

Zheng Bao immediately attacked the snake, stabbing it ferociously with his spear. Pan Ju dealt with her in the manner he dealt with her sister, sending a wave of daggers, that sunk into her flesh. She was clearly injured but still very much alive with fight. Then Feng Min bashed the creature with her parasol, toppling her, and used the gourd to absorb her spirit. 

Astonished by the object, Zheng Bao asked about it. She explained it was a gourd used in her ritual to draw in demons. He then asked her to teach him the ritual, and she said she would if he proved to be righteous.  

INTO THE TOMB OF THE TIMELESS MASTER 

Making their way by the Zun Peaks, Guiying began searching for the tomb. Early in the search she spotted a tall crack in the cliff-face which she recognized as a vast doorway into the tomb's canyon structure*. Examining the rise of the mountain, she saw a circular entrance high up and used her Great Stride ability to reach it. 

There Guiying found herself face to face with a nun in white. 

Startled she asked the nun why she was in the tomb and the Nun explained it was her home, that she belonged to Jade Maiden Sect and that this was their headquarters. Guiying asked for an audience with their leader and it was granted. The Jade Maidens opened the enormous cliff-side door and they saw a white haired abbess with a retinue of nuns seated amid a ruined structure in the center of the canyon. All about the canyon were stone stairs and a maze of cave dwellings. 

Qu Lihuan had heard of the sect and whispered to the party as they approached that they were righteous and connected to the Jade Maiden statue found in the Purple Caverns, but she had always heard they were vagrants. 

"I am Abbess Ba," Said the leader of the Jade Maidens. "Why have you come?"

The abbess reclined in her seat, a jade axe, a jade spear and an iron spear resting against her chair. Guiying explained they were there seeking the martial arts manuals rumored to exist in the tomb, in particular hoping to find the Timeless Master's spear techniques. 

"What techniques are here, were bequeathed to me," She said. 

Guiying introduced Zheng Bao as Jade Swallow's disciple.

Abbess Ba looked at Zheng Bao. "It seems you are in a sense my disciple, for Jade Swallow is my former pupil."

"We hope," Said Guiying "That you will grant the disciple of the supremely righteous Jade Swallow some of your martial knowledge."

"Jade Swallow. Righteousness. These two things do not belong together," Said Abbess Ba. 

Zheng Bao asked for an explanation. 

Abbess Ba explained that Jade Swallow had been kicked out of the sect for giving into her lust with a man. That this went against their rules. 

"Do you believe in redemption, Abbess Ba?"

"I have long hoped that Jade Swallow would mend her ways," Replied the Abbess. "The penally for her crimes is death, but I have held this in abeyance. Jade Swallow would need to perform a lifetime of good deeds to atone."

The conversation then moved to the possibility of Zheng Bao learning from her. She said that they do not take male disciples but she offered to teach him some techniques if he promised to stay Jade Swallow's hand against the sect and to thwart her if need be. 

Zheng Bao agreed to prevent his master from shedding the blood of members of the Jade Maiden sect. 

The party then decided to stay for several months. The Abbess promised to teach two techniques to Zheng Bao: The Bone Cracking Palm and the Iron Spear of the Timeless Master. 

QU LIHUA 

During the night as his training was entering its second month, Zheng Bao awoke and saw Qu Lihua sitting near him on the bed. 

"What are you doing Lihua?" He asked. 

She gestured and said "Shh" then inched closer. 

Zheng Bao leaned back and got out of bed, she rapidly tapped her fingers at his arm but missed. 

"What is the meaning of this Lihua?"

Raising her fingers to the sky she said "Lady Yang sends her regards, tonight you will breathe your last breath."

Zheng Bao launched into an attack shouting to his companions for help but she deftly leapt against the wall and evaded it, then struck his the acupoints from his collar bone to his wrist, with her finger tips.

Suddenly Zheng Bao could not breathe. 

He began to suffocate. 

Moments later the Pan Ju and Xiang Guiying arrived. The former launched into Blade of the Dancing Fox, slicing Lihua to ribbons and leaving her dead on the floor. 

Pan Ju was then able to tap Zheng Bao's acupoints and restore his breathing. 

The commotion attracted Abbess Ba who demanded an explanation. 

They told her that Lihua was secretly an agent of Lady Yang, their great enemy. They would have to go and confront Lady Yang themselves as this was one of a number assassins she had sent against them. 

Abbess Ba told them that the attack sounded like Little Wan's Lung Stopping Strike. "I cannot in good conscience let you face such a wicked enemy without some help. I shall instruct your friends in martial arts as well and be certain you all improve greatly before departing."

She continued to train Zheng Bao but also instructed Guiying and Ju in a number of Dianxue techniques, including the Finger of Supreme Annihilation. 

When they mastered the abilities some months later, Zheng Bao asked if they could teach one another what they had learned, but she told him not until they had defeated Lady Yang. 

As they were preparing to leave, Abbess Ba told Zheng Bao that the reason she feared Jade Swallow would seek their blood, was that she had killed Jade Swallow's lover, An Sunan. She added that Jade Swallow was not permitted to return to the sect. 

The party then left The Tomb of the Timeless Master and bid the Jade Maidens farewell. 


*The Player rolled a 10 on his survival roll


Sunday, May 19, 2024

OF ENCOUNTERS AND COMBAT

Three days ago my wife told me to go to the store and get some rice. Sadly, my car battery had died, so I decided to make the long walk to the other side of town to my local supermarket. To get there I would have to pass through several bad neighborhoods, so I took a hammer with me just to be safe. 

As I passed by the the observatory around the corner from my house, two crazed men, armed with knifes, came charging down the hilltop, stabbing wildly at me. I trapped their blades in the claws of my hammer then brought the poll across their skulls, dropping them both. Merciful person that I am, I dialed an ambulance and then continued on my way when I suddenly found myself waylaid by a ferocious mother bear. 

An oblique encounter at a wine shop
Art by Jackie Musto 
Foolishly I had walked between her and two cubs. The beast charged and chased me for over a mile. With her full weight she dragged me down and pinned me to the ground with her claws. As her jaws opened to devour my face, I managed to bribe her momentarily with a pack of beef jerky I kept always in my back pocket. Bear handled, I continued on, but  had to make my way through Pine Grove Cemetery as the chase had taken me far from my intended destination.

It was approaching dusk but defeating the bear emboldened me, so I walked through the gates and took the gravel path. I'd gotten no further than the old Poole Mausoleum when a shambling mass of undead corpses harried me, claws reaching for my throat. I gripped my hammer firmly and resolved to send them all to hell......

OBLIQUE ENCOUNTERS 

Real world encounters and travel don't look like the above. But it is easy to slip into the trap of having all of the encounters in your campaign be nothing more than creatures and opponents rushing in to kill the players. While you dont' want encounters in the game to be as mundane or dull as real life, they should have some of the mystery, the obliqueness and variety that exists in real life. Part of the fun of an encounter is not knowing what the encounter means initially, whether it will lead to combat, friendship, difficult choices, information, etc 

I talk about this HERE at more length, but the idea is simply that encounters are not always a direct line towards the party, and even when they are directed towards the party, they can come from oblique angles. Yes, sometimes an encounter is simply a charging attack or a group of bandits demanding the player characters hand over their money and supplies. But if every encounter is like that, encounters lose their mystery and become routine procedure. 

There are a number of ways to promote oblique encounters in your campaigns. One way is to bake them into your encounter tables. Personally I don't like my encounter tables to be overly detailed or involved, I see entries as starting points, so another way is to simply reflect on the result you roll and to give yourself the freedom to elaborate so they are interesting. 

Thinking is key. It sounds basic, it sounds like something we all do anyway, but getting in habit of thinking on the fly about the result, why it is there what possible ways the players might find themselves involved, how it presents to them, etc. For example, if you roll a result and you get something like "Eleven of General Jin Zai's Soldiers on Patrol", you could simply have the soldiers approach the party, ask them for passports, and allow the particular details of the campaign to help determine the nature of the encounter (i.e. are the players wanted by empire for some reason). But you don't have to make the party the focus, you could instead have the players happen upon a conflict between the soldiers and other people. Maybe they are chasing a group of Kushen Merchants who were spying or stole something. Now the players have choices when the encounter occurs, and one of those choices is simply to do nothing and move quietly along. But they could help the soldiers or help the Kushen. This helps turn the encounter into a meaningful decision point. Another possibility is you decide the soldiers are on patrol but in disguise, perhaps as musicians or farmers, with the aim of implanting themselves into groups of martial heroes that might be a threat or potential allies to the general. 

FRIENDLY ENCOUNTERS

If every encounter is negative, then there is no reason for the players to think about what they do when an encounter happens. In Sons of Lady 87, I offered up one way of quickly figuring this out (simply rolling a d10 and determining the nature of the encounter on a spectrum of positive to negative based on the result). But that is just a tool. This can be done simply according to what seems the best, most realistic or most interesting choice to you. The basic point is that some encounters, even encounters with monsters and bad guys, ought to be interesting and positive sometimes. 

The key with friendly encounters is to still keep them interesting, and to make sure there is occasionally something that benefits the players themselves. In a world of martial heroes, or even in a world of fantasy heroes, the party's reputation, personalities and achievements are going to make them popular with some people, even villains. One thing I always ask myself for example when I roll on the Personalities of the Martial World for encounters, is how much the NPC in question respects the party and what they are known for. He may have heard of their techniques, he may know some of the people they have defeated. This can obviously go in a negative direction too, but when it is positive it is likely to lead to good things for the party (whether that is a new friendship, resources or even helpful knowledge or martial arts techniques is all based on the specifics). 

Even monsters can be friendly. Look to a movie like A Chinese Ghost story, where not every monster is trying to kill the protagonist (or at least, not fully committed to that enterprise). If the players are capable and worthy, a monster may not be seeking to kill them, but to work with them. 

HEARING THE PLAYERS OUT 

Another very important thing to help keep all encounters from just being about combat or things rushing to attack the party, is the players themselves. Smart parties will try to converse with threats. Even if the encounter is a hostile one, the players can use reason and even make emotional appeals to turn the tide in a more favorable direction. 

I recently had a group of characters who were the target of a paid assassin. The party understood the assassin was quite powerful so they engaged him, and ultimately paid him off. They also took time to make a good impression on the assassin and earned his respect. 

This is largely about not committed to any particular outcome, honestly playing the NPCs and giving the players a fair hearing when they present ideas. 

All this advice isn't meant to change how you run the game if you are satisfied. If you are running most encounters as hostile combat and people are having fun, that isn't a problem. If you are doing so and the game feels like it is growing dull, try some of these techniques and see if they add to your campaign.