We conducted our third playtest over Google+ Friday. This was a short session with just two players, but it went well (next week we will have all four players and go full length). Until I secure permission to use peoples names and characters, I will simply refer to participants as Players A, B, C, and D for these reports.
Just to provide some context, the game is set in a place called the World of Man or Qi Xien, this is the setting. Until about the last hundred years or so, martial heroes served the Empire, up through the reign of The Righteous Emperor (Zhao). However, the Righteous Emperor died, his son Zhan (The Glorious Emperor) changed policy radically and ruled with tremendous cruelty. Eventually his excesses pitted him against many of the martial heroes. Those willing to serve the wicked emperor were forced to join the Yao office, a kind of secret police force. Those who rejected the emperor joined forces with rebels in the south. Ultimately the rebels lost most of their territory (they presently hold on a small portion of southern Hai'an). The martial heroes retreated to the Jian Shu region, a land of mountain valleys and lakes that is something of a frontier just beyond the emperor's reach. Our campaign is set in the Tsun River area of this region. I pasted my crude hand drawn map of the setting to the right. When we prepare this for PDF it will be converted to a proper hex map.
The Jian Shu region is pasted here on the right. This is again my personal hand drawn version. I should note it is incomplete. I haven't finished fleshing out the map yet, but am continuing to do so as I build the campaign. You may not be able to see it, but this is done on graph paper, and these will be converted to hexes when we get a proper map made for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate.
This is just context to help readers understand the world our players were exploring. In the last session, the characters had recovered the Wind Sabre of Sunan, and given it to the nuns of the Heiping Sect. One of the nuns, Min, fell in love with Player A, because his fate flaw makes him the object of affection among a number of competing admirers (I wrote about Fate Flaws HERE). They also came into conflict with the Tsun River Gang and their leader, King Frowning Eagle because the party participated in the killing of the Witch of Zhaoze Zhou to get the Wind Sabre in the first place. Player C decided this growing grudge needed to be dealt with, so he convinced the leader of Heiping to send Min with the group to reach an agreement with the Tsun River Gang in the town of Bouzhou (where Tsun River headquarters are located). On the way, they went back through a village called Cha, where they had previously heard rumors of a swordsman with supernatural powers killing villagers. Player B decided they should investigate the matter briefly before continuing to Bouzhou. They circled back to Cha and went to an inn. Player B snuck out in the middle of the night to search for the swordsman, while Min and Player A discussed the Wind Sabre. Min revealed that she had taken the Wind Sabre from Heiping with the intent of giving it to Player A if he agreed to marry her. This would be a violation of her oath to the sect however and make both of them enemies of Heiping. Player A (who adheres to an unorthodox code) agreed and gained the Sabre.
During the night, Player B spotted a figure on a mound just outside the village. It was a woman with glowing white eyes, holding a spear and sword. She attempted some kind of supernatural stare on Player B, but he was able to use his Great Stride Technique and re-appear behind her. The woman's hands glowed and spectral claws emerged from her hands. She landed an attack and Player B took one wound (player B attempted a block but failed). Player B spotted a golden medallion around her neck and attempted to throw her, taking the medallion. He failed to do so, but did push her back a few feet. She charged forward with her spear, preparing a heavy impaling strike. The game has techniques called counters, which allow you to interrupt attacks or redirect missed attacks, and Player B used a counter called Iron Reversal Technique, which caused her spear to spin around and impale her with her own attack and momentum. He then followed with a maneuver called The Eagle Descends Loudly, throwing her into the air and bringing her crashing down to the ground. The force of the fall, was enough to knock her out.
Player B brought her back to the party. They examined her medallion and deduced that she was a hero from the south known as The Fearless Rival, very well thought of respected. They concluded she had somehow imbalanced her Qi and been possessed by a Vulture Spirit. Min was able to purge the spirit, and The Fearless Rival was thankful, offering to assist the party whenever they had need of her sword. The next morning Min and Player A were married a Shrine to Hen-Shi (The Compassionate Daughter) and this is where we ended the session.
We found a lot of things this session. First, it was unclear in the text how anyone possessed by a spirit is purged and what the exact mental effects are (how much control the player has over his character). So this was fixed in the manuscript. We also altered the existing rules, since we didn't quite like what we had. I think it is an improvement but we won't know until next session how well it works. We also found one Technique that ends right in the middle of a description of how it works (we could intuit what was meant, and fixed the text). We also decided to fiddle with how Martial Ranks and Balance works. We made some significant improvements here.