Monday, September 18, 2017


I have been making NPCs, monsters and scenarios inspired by Pu Songling's Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. For each entry I take two or more stories from the Penguin Edition translated by John Minford and make gameable material. You can see my previous entry HERE

Today I do The Antique Lute (#95) and Waiting Room for Death (#96). 

The Antique Lute is about a man who spots an ancient jade pipa being uncovered at a worksite. He purchases it and takes it home where it proves to be a pristine instrument with perfect sound. He then befriends a man named Cheng. After years of friendship, Cheng mentions his skill with the pipa and plays a little something. The man is impressed with his talent but he is reluctant to show him the jade pipa. Eventually he is convinced to let the man's wife play it. He brings the pipa to Cheng's house, but gets so drunk he leaves the pipa for the evening so he doesn't lose it on the way home. The next day, Cheng and his wife have disappeared with his pipa. It turns out Cheng had been planning to swindle the man from the very beginning. This seemed like a good opportunity to make a magic pipa. 

The Waiting Room for Death is an odd story about a man who has a donkey that is clearly a burial effigy brought to life. And there is more mystery to the man as well. I like the idea of a ritual that animates a burial effigy with certain conditions so I took inspiration and made that. 

This pipa is a fine stringed instrument made from pure jade and worth 120,000 spades for the craftsmanship alone. When played by someone with sufficient skill, it creates sounds so indescribable they flood the spirit and create an affect similar to being drunk. The music is pleasing and moving. However it comes with a curse. 

To use the Pipa of Li, make a Talent (Pipa) roll against the Wits of anyone in hearing range. This takes at least two minutes because the melody must be discernible. On a Success the targets gain +1 to Hardiness, but they suffer a -1d10 to all other skills as they are filled with a feeling of dreamlike pleasure and warmth. On  Total Success the Hardiness Bonus increases to +2 and the skill penalties increase to -2d10. 

However the Pipa also comes with a downside. Any Pipa player who hears the lute, will instantly recognize its value and their heart will be overwhelmed with a desire to possess. For the next three days they must pass a 3d10 Resolve test each morning or long desperately to possess the Pipa of Li. The longing is so strong normal bounds of propriety can be ignored as they will engage in any scheme that can secure them the pipa. 

This Ritual causes a burial effigy to awaken and animate as if it were a real creature. The only main difference is it doesn't need food or water, and its Hardiness is 7 regardless of animal type to reflect the materials it is made from. It looks like an effigy, but it blinks, moves and acts like an animal or creature of its type. The Burial Effigy you awaken will remain loyal and travel with you provided you perform some final service to the person it was entombed with. The beast will indicate the service through non-verbal encouragement, perhaps by trying to get you to go to the old master's villa and help restore some final affair left unfinished. 

To cast the ritual take a seated position and meditate for an hour before the effigy, focusing your mind to awaken a thought inside of the creature. Make a Meditation Roll TN 7 followed by a Ritual Roll TN 8. On a Success the creature awakens. 

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