Tuesday, September 5, 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 am doing Lotus Fragrance, a really unusual story, even by the standards of Strange Tales, about a fox, a ghost and a man involved in a love triangle. A fox spirit named Lotus Fragrance and a ghost name Li, who are both in love with Sang Xiao. These are not evil or wicked creatures like in many of the other tales. If anything the worst that can be said is one of them is naive and reckless. The story begins with a jealous rivalry between the Fox and Ghost, then it seems that the ghost is intending to harm, while the Fox is trying to protect Sang Xiao. I won't spoil the story because I think this one benefits from the surprises (it is much longer than the other stories in the book). Ultimately it a touching story about selfless love that endures beyond death (and even beyond undeath). 

In the Penguin translation this story also includes the commentator notes (which add a whole other layer to the reading). It is a tough tale to game because like many of the stories in Strange Tales there is an erotic quality to it and if you focus too much on retelling the story, it could get railroady. There is also stuff in there that requires an understanding of the context of the period and could be jarring for modern readers. What I decided to do is create a scenario by making characters based off the ones in the story, but add in some elements that make it a bit more of a puzzle or challenge for the players to solve. So the story is more like a situation that the players look in on and may intervene to help. I also added more ghosts, bears and bandits to keep the environment interesting. To to this, I have to radically change one of the characters, so I suggest reading the original story as well if you want to understand the source material. Whenever I make these entries I find myself juggling the desire to remain true to the story with the need to have it work at a table. A fulfilling story about enduring love that hinges on a particular end point in my opinion isn't fun gaming. So I reworked some of the details to bring the challenge and danger level for the party up. But I tried to do it in a way that leaves some of the core character elements intact. Ultimately though, Li is a much more villainous figure in the adventure than she is in the tale. 

I should note I also drew on some of my previous Strange Tales Blog entries for monster stats. This is definitely something I encourage gamesters to do when appropriate. Because both the Ghost and the Fox in this story are similar to ones we've already encountered, I made them be creatures of those types. I still had to customize and tweak. But these are fairly consistent with those entries. I include a map as well of the area. This is really just meant as something you can pop anywhere in a setting. It doesn't have a specific location. Forgive the poor quality, I am no artist. I just wanted the layout of places to be clear for the Gamemaster.

This is a small scenario where the players go to visit an old friend and find he is caught between a Fox Spirit and Ghost. One is trying to help him, the other trying to cause harm. If they are smart and fast they can prevent him from dying so he doesn't rise as a ghost. If he does rise as a ghost, he and his new ghostly wife (Li) will surely hound and attack the party to prevent them from ending their union. 

This adventure has plenty of characters and moving parts. Feel free to improvise and have them take actions in response to the players. 

For this adventure, the players are contacted by Duan, a concerned servant of one of their longtime friends or allies. For the purposes of running this adventure the ally is Mr. Sang Xiao, but you can easily replace him with an existing NPC (think of him as a place-holder). You can also introduce him to the party and then run this adventure a few months down the road (in game time). 

Duan's message is urgent. His master seems to be wasting away yet remains blissful and unconcerned. Duan has no proof but he suspects it is the work of a Fox Spirit (he found some suspicious looking hair on the floor in the morning and Duan's condition fits being enervated by a Fox). 

Sang Xiao only is slowly dying because he is being fed on by a ghost. But he is being healed by a Fox Spirit as well. If the players mistake the Fox Spirit for the cause, they could kill her and cause him to die more quickly. If they destroy her, or cause her to flee, then his condition sinks more rapidly. 

What the players do not know is Sang Xiao is in love with two different spirits: a kindly Fox named Lotus Fragrance, and an evil ghost named Li Yan. Every night that Li arrives she sleeps with Sang Xiao and drains him. Every night that Lotus Fragrance arrives, she heals him with a pill comprised of herbs from the local wilderness. While Lotus Fragrance feeds on human essence as well, she is careful to never kill and has been staving off feeding since she realized Sang Xiao was ill. 

In truth both the Fox and the Ghost are in love with Sang Xiao. However while Lotus Fragrance is wise and kind in her approach, seeking not to harm him, Li Yan intends to kill Sang Xiao, then take his bones to the Saffron Creek Tea House where he can become her husband in death (and rise up like a ghost as she is). 

If Sang Xiao dies, he joins his wife at the inn as a ghost and the two immediately hunt down the party to destroy them. 

Note: For this adventure you should be mindful of Sang Xiao's Hardiness rating and track it depending on who visits him each evening. 

When the PCs arrive, Sang Xiao seems in good health (he was recently visited by Lotus Fragrance who healed him). Duan explains that just the other day his master was on the brink of death. Sang Xiao lets them stay in Filial Spirit Hall and Duan encourages them to investigate the matter further as he is very worried about his master. He can provide them the hairs he found in his master's chamber. Anyone with Creatures (Demons) 2 Ranks or more can tell it belongs to a Fox Spirit (otherwise it is a TN 8 roll). Duan also says he has heard a woman in his master's chambers each night, but in the morning she is no where to be found. 

If they do talk to Sang Xiao about things, he denies any involvement with women. But if he is pressed, he may admit to spending time with Li Yan, a young woman from the Saffron Creek Tea House. If they ask why she departs in the morning, seeming to vanish, he says they are concerned about their reputations and so she sneaks in and out. 

If they press him about Lotus Fragrance (by mentioning her by name). He eventually confesses that she has been with him. But he says she is a courtesan and comes infrequently. 

Every night Sang Xiao is visited by either Li or Lotus Fragrance. On any given evening, roll 1d10. On a result of 1-7, Li arrives to drain Song Xiao; on a result of 8-10, Lotus Fragrance Arrives to heal Sang Xiao. Lotus Fragrance sneaks in over the wall as a Fox and climbs through his window. Li can appear in his room and vanish at will. 

Every night that Sang Xiao is with Li, he loses a point of Hardiness. Every night that Sang Xiao spends with Lotus Fragrance, she heals him and he recovers 1 Hardiness. Unfortunately Lotus Fragrance has many matters to attend to and isn't able to arrive as frequently as Li. Note that Li will try to trick the players into believing she is Sang's betrothed and just a normal human, but direct their efforts against Lotus Fragrance (telling them she can be harmed by incense). 

This is a pretty wild and secluded place. There are lots of dangerous bears in the woods and there are bandits to the south. The bandits might attack the party, but they also have ties to the ghosts at the Tea House and will help thwart or deceive the PCs if need be. This could mean they just attack the player characters to stop them, or it could mean they befriend the party and direct their efforts to the Fox Spirit. 

These places are all on my map. In some instances I abbreviated or numbered the rooms in the locations. These appear in parenthesis in the entries. 

This is a small cave where Lotus Fragrance lives. Inside she has a warm bed chamber with braziers, shelves of books (mostly the classics) and other comforts. The cave is fairly small but the entrance is ringed with Green Flowers that are spirited and entangle intruders. 

These look like long beautiful flowers with green petals lining the rim of the entrance. As soon as someone passes through, they animate and attack, grabbing the person with thorny vines and digging into their flesh and draining their life. They are loyal to Lotus Fragrance and have been instructed not to kill. So they drain people to the brink of death and leave them for Lotus Fragrance to deal with later. 

Defenses: Hardiness 5, Evade 2, Parry 8, Stealth 9, Wits 4, Resolve 8
Key Skills: Thorny Grasp: 2d10, Speed: 4d10, Muscle: 4d10
Max Wounds: 10

Thorny Grasp: The thorny grasp on its own does 3d10 Damage plus Drain 1 point of Hardiness, but anyone struck is instantly Restrained and must make a Muscle TN 7 roll to escape (as a Skill action). The Thorns can continue to hold people and do 3d10 Damage plus 1 Hardiness each round. They can attack up to 8 targets at a time. 

Immunities: Spirited Green Flowers are immune to Mundane attacks. 

This is a trail leading from the Fox Cave to Sang Xiao Residence. It can be found on a Detect TN 8 or Wilderness Survival TN 6. 

This is a fine wooden pavilion and used by travelers as well as a common site for lovers to rendezvous. This is often where Li and Sang Xiao meet if Li is fearful of running into Lotus Fragrance at his villa. There is a 1 in 10 Chance on any given evening that Li is present here. There is a further 4 in 10 chance that if she is present, so is Sang Xiao (or he is on his way here if he is delayed by anything). If she is not present, still check for an encounter in the area. 

Menu: High Minded Phoenix Tea (1200 spades a cup), Jade Flower Tea (700 spades a cup),  Dragon Tea (200 Spades a cup)
Rooms: 240 Spades per night (6 rooms)

This tea house is operated by Li Pei and her four daughters: Yan, Fei, San and Xun. All are ghosts but the Tea House usually has patrons in it and it seems normal. Li Pei looks human (except when she has gone a month without feeding) and her daughters only wait on tables after they have fed on guests (so they look human as well). The other staff are also ghosts, but look human and do not need to feed on people (these are the cooks, wait staff and accountant). 

One of the ghosts here, Li Yan, has been feeding on Sang Xiao. She is in love with him and wantsto marry him. Li Pei (her mother) promised her this could happen if she kills the man, then takes his bones to the inn and buries them by her own. 

Evening Music: As the evening progresses at the tea house, Xun, Fei and San, once they each have fed, begin appearing in the common area and will sing a song for 1 Imperial. The song tells the story of a Magistrate whose daughters and wife were hunted down like animals and slaughtered at an inn, their buried under moonlight. This is a hint about the ghosts and their past. The sisters cannot help but to sing it. 

Saffron Hall (SH): This is a two story structure with a common area on the ground floor and private rooms on the second.

Rooms (R): These rooms are quite spacious and are actually three sectioned halls. They all include two beds (on each far section) and a central multi-fiction chamber. These are divided by sliding paper walls. 

Bones (B): The bones of the ghosts and inn staff are all buried here. Anyone digging around  the inn in general finds them on a Detect TN 6. Anyone who digs in this area specifically finds them easily. 

This courtyard villa is where Sang Xiao lives and where the players are invited to help him by Duan. Here is the key to the house map: 

Jade Leaf Hall: This is the principle hall and is where Sang Xiao resides. It is divided into four sections: a studio, bed chamber, and 2 multi-function rooms. 

Filial Spirit Hall (1): The central hall. This is also where his sworn brother Chun, stays when he comes to visit. There are three sections to this hall with a bed chamber in the northern section. There is also a table here and it has many narrows cabinets. Inside one is a letter written by Chun but it looks unfinished. It appears he made several attempts to write a letter inquiring about a woman named Lotus Fragrance. Chun is not well educated and the most they can make out is "who is Lotus Fragrance" with lots of other scrawl crossed out. Anyone with read script can make a roll (TN 7) and tell it was likely written in a drunken stupor and forgotten. 

Duan's Quarters: This is the west wing where Duan lives. 

Jade Leaf Garden (3): This is a garden with an artificial pond and a walkway leading to a stone table in the center of the pond. There are blue petaled day flowers here that bloom for a single day twice a year. 

Kitchen (4)

Storage (5) 


Lotus Fragrance is a Fox Spirit who has been teaching herself the classics and trying to learn human ways. She is particularly interested in human ethics and seeks to emulate them. She decided long ago, since it was clear to her that she didn't have to feed to the point of death, to only feed on men without killing them. She recently fell in love with Sang Xiao, but realized he was being fed upon by a ghost named Li Yan. She has been seeking herbs in the wilderness to make him healing pills and nurse him to health to stave off the harm brought by Li Yan. She pretends to be a Sing Song girl from a neighboring province. 

Note, because she has been refraining from feeding, she is losing wounds every night that she doesn't do so. Her current Max Wounds are listed in parenthesis after her regular Max Wounds. 

If the party comes after her, she will protect herself but also try to reason with them and explain that she is good and would never kill anyone. However she will only defend herself so long before she harms them in self defense (and she tries not to kill them, but rather incapacitate). She will keep them captive if she must. 
Defenses: Hardiness 3, Evade 6, Parry 7, Stealth 7, Wits 10, Resolve 7
Key Skills: Bite: 3d10 (2d10 Damage), Arm Strike: 2d10 (2d10 Damage), Leg Strike: 2d10 (1d10 Damage),  Light Melee: 3d10 or 4d10 with Fan, Speed: 7d10, Detect: 5d10, Persuade: 4d10, Deception: 2d10, Muscle: 1d10, Empathy: 3d10, Talent (Pipa): 3d10, Talent (Calligraphy): 3d10, Classics (The Sayings of Kong Zhi): 2d10, Classics (The Rites of Wan Mei): 3d10, Religion (Hen-Shi): 2d10, Religion (Dehua): 3d10
Max Wounds: 16 (13)
Equipment: Wooden Fan (6d10 Damage, +1d10 Accuracy)
Enervation: Enchanting Foxes cultivate by draining ejaculate. Every time they do this, they gain 1 Max Wound (which the target loses) and if they kill the person, this becomes a permanent rank for Qi for the Enchanting Fox. However Lotus Fragrance does not drain to kill and instead can gain 1 Max Wound if she drains a man at least once a month for a year without having to kill him. 

Enchanting Form: The true form of an Enchanting Fox is a fox, but to most people they look like beautiful women. The wise person can occasionally see through this veneer and catch glimpses of the fox's true nature. Anytime a person first sees the Enchanting Fox, roll 4d10 against Wits. On a Success the target only sees a beautiful woman. On a Total Success they see a beautiful woman and are smitten instantly. On a failure the person sees a trace feature of the fox's real form (a bushy tail, yellow eyes, whiskers, etc). This is brief, as the Enchanting Fox can roll 4d10 against Wits immediately to restore the illusion in the person's mind. Once an Enchanting Fox succeeds against a target, they will always see her as a beautiful woman unless they actively attempt to check for evidence to the contrary (in which case another roll is called for). 

Kung Fu Techniques (Waijia 2, Qingong 2): Gust of the Fan Blade, Kick of the Golden Elephant, Whirling Dodge (Counter)

Insights: Natural Understanding (can communicate with plants and animals). See WHOG page 166. 

Incense Vulnerability: Incense disturbs Enchanting Foxes, imposing a -1d10 Skill penalty on them and eventually causing them 2d10 Damage each round they are in its presence. 

Li Yan is in love with Sang Xiao and every night she can, she goes to his bedchamber to sleep with him and drain his life. She knows Lotus Fragrance comes to heal him, and is careful to avoid the house when she is present (as she fears the Fox Spirit). She wants to marry Sang Xiao and was told by her mother this can be arranged if she drains him to death, then buries his bones by the Inn (at which point he will raise as a ghost and can be her husband). 

Li Yan is the daughter of a Prefect Li (who governed this area many decades ago). One night after her father had a bandit leader executed, his men came for revenge and wiped out the household. Li Yan, her mother and her three sisters fled to the Saffron Creek Tea House and took shelter there. But the bandits tracked them down and killed them as well as the inn staff then quickly buried their bones outside the inn. 

Li Yan can only take full human form after feeding, otherwise she becomes more and more transparent. Each night she goes without feeding, she fades more until she becomes nothing. 

Defenses: Hardiness 8, Evade 6, Parry 6, Stealth 8, Wits 6, Resolve 7
Key Skills: Grapple: 2d10, Arm Strike: 2d10,  Speed: 6d10, Fly: 3d10, Muscle: 3d10, Detect: 2d10, Persuade: 3d10, Deception: 2d10
Max Wounds: 8
Immunities: Li Yan is immune to Mundane Attacks. Even if she is physically harmed, she returns in 8 days. However she can be forever killed by laying her bones to rest or destroying them. She can also die if she doesn't feed for 8 consecutive evenings. Each night she does not feed she loses 1 Wound and becomes more transparent. 

Enervating Embrace: Li Yan can drain life essence by grabbing someone and sucking out their life energy, or simply by sleeping with them. If the former, make a Grapple Skill Roll against Parry. On a Success she drains them of 1 Hardiness. If the latter, she drains 1 Hardiness per evening. 

Human Form: When she hasn't fed, Li Yan looks spectral like a transparent projection of a person. This increases the longer she doesn't feed until she dies (each night without feeding she takes a wound and materially fades). Hours after feeding, she assumes full human form. In her ghostly form, she cannot walk, but must hover and fly. 

Enchantment: Roll 3d10 against the Resolve of any who behold Li. On a Success, even if she doesn't have full human form, they believe her to be a real person and see no sign that she is a ghost. 

Vanish and Appear: Ghosts of the Li family can vanish and materialize at will. Each time they do this they can move 50 feet in the blink of an eye. 

Li Pei is the mother of Li Yan and a ghost as well. She is also the mother of Xun, Fei and San. She runs the Saffron Creek Inn with all of her daughters. Unlike Li Yan and her siblings, Li Pei only needs to feed on human life once a month and looks human. She is more powerful than her daughters but also quite protective. She promised Li Yan that she could marry Sang Xiao and intends to keep that promise. 

Defenses: Hardiness 8, Evade 6, Parry 8, Stealth 8, Wits 8, Resolve 7
Key Skills: Sucking Breath: 4d10, Grapple: 3d10, Arm Strike: 3d10,  Speed: 6d10, Fly: 3d10, Muscle: 3d10, Detect: 2d10, Persuade: 3d10, Deception: 2d10
Max Wounds: 12
Immunities: Li Pei is immune to Mundane Attacks. Even if she is physically harmed, she returns in 2 days. However she can be forever killed by laying her bones to rest or destroying them. She can also die if she doesn't feed for 12 consecutive months. Each month she does not feed she loses 1 Wound and becomes more transparent. 

Enervating Breath: Li Pei can drain men of their life by drawing it in with her breath. She gets in a stance and sucks in the air deeply, causing a great wind to fill the area. Roll 4d10 Against the Evade of all in a 15 foot cone before her. Anyone affected loses 1 Hardiness. 

Human Form: Li Pei retains her human form longer than her daughters. She only needs to feed once a month. When she hasn't fed for a month, then she starts to look transparent and lose health. 

Vanish and Appear: Ghosts of the Li family can vanish and materialize at will. Each time Li Pei does this, she can move 150 feet in the blink of an eye. 

These are Li Pei's other daughters. They are similar to Li Yan but slightly weaker. Also they mainly feed on patrons at the inn and have no interest in love like their sister. 

Defenses: Hardiness 6, Evade 6, Parry 4, Stealth 8, Wits 6, Resolve 6
Key Skills: Grapple: 1d10, Arm Strike: 1d10, Speed: 4d10, Fly: 3d10, Muscle: 2d10, Detect: 2d10, Deception: 3d10, Talent (Singing): 2d10, Talent (Guqin): 2d10
Max Wounds: 6
Immunities: The sisters are immune to Mundane Attacks. Even if physically harmed, they return in 10 days. However they can be killed by laying their bones to rest or destroying them. They can also die when they don't feed for 6 consecutive evenings. Each night they don't feed, they take a Wound and become more transparent.

Enervating Embrace: The sisters can drain life essence by grabbing someone and sucking out their life energy, or simply by sleeping with them. If the former, make a Grapple Skill Roll against Parry. On a Success they drain them of 1 Hardiness. If the latter, they drain 1 Hardiness per evening. 

Human Form: When they haven't fed, the sisters look transparent and float off the ground.  This increases the longer the longer they do not feed (each night without feeding they take a wound and materially fade). Hours after feeding, they assume full human form. In their ghostly form, they cannot walk, but must hover and fly. 

Enchantment: Roll 3d10 against the Resolve of any who behold the sisters. On a Success, targets believe them to be human and see no sign of ghosts. 

Vanish and Appear: Ghosts of the Li family can vanish and materialize at will. Each time the daughters do this they can move 25 feet instantly. 

Sang Xiao is a scholar studying for the Imperial exams and from a modestly wealthy family. Both his parents are dead but he has a sworn bother named Chun who frequently visits. He resides at a house near Saffron Creek and has fallen in love with both a Fox Spirit and a Ghost. He is more in love with Li, the ghost, and hopes to marry her one day. He refuses to believe she is anything but human. Each night he spends with Li, she drains him of 1 Hardiness. Each night he spends with Lotus Fragrance (the Fox), she nurses him to health and heals him of 1 lost Hardiness. 

Sang Xiao's Hardiness fluctuates during the adventure so keep track of it and remember to point out his condition to the party. 

Defenses: Hardiness 9, Evade 3, Parry 3, Stealth 6, Wits 9, Resolve 6
Key Skills: Combat Skills: 0d10, Speed: 1d10, Muscle: 2d10, Endurance: 1d10, Divination: 2d10, Medicine: 2d10, Meditation: 1d10, Talent (Poetry): 2d10, Persuade: 2d10, Deception: 2d10, Detect: 1d10, Institutions (Sects): 2d10, Places (Jian Shu and Dai Bien): 3d10, History (Era of the Demon Emperor): 3d10, History (Era of the Righteous Emperor): 3d10, History (Era of the Five Kingdoms): 3d10, Languages (Li Fai): 3d10, Languages (Daoyun): 3d10, Language (Hai’anese): 3d10, Read Scripts (Feishu):3d10, The Classics (Sayings of Kong Zhi): 3d10, Classics (Book of Fortunes): 2d10, Classics (Rites of Wan Mei): 3d10, Classics (Scriptures of Sun Mai): 2d10, Classics (Book of Laws): 2d10
Max Wounds: 1

These bandits try to stay on good terms with the tea house and have no interest in troubling local residents. They focus on the occasionally wealthy group of travelers but spend a lot of time researching and investigating ideal targets. 
Defenses: Hardiness 3, Evade 4, Parry 3, Stealth 8, Wits 6, Resolve 7
Key Skills: Grapple: 0d10, Throw: 0d10, Arm Strike: 1d10, Leg Strike: 0d10, Light Melee: 1d10, Medium Melee: 2d10 or 0d10 with Ox Tail, Heavy Melee: 0d10, Small Ranged: 1d10, Speed: 0d10, Muscle: 0d10
Max Wounds: 1
Weapons: Short Bow (2d10 Damage), Ox Tail Dao (2d10 Damage, -1d10 Accuracy)
Golden Spear is the leader of the Plum Tree Bandits and in love with Li Yan. He comes to the tea house regularly to speak with her and they are kind to him because they consider the bandits useful. He knows they are ghosts but does not care. A former member of Golden Dragons, he left to pursue riches in the martial world. 
Defenses: Hardiness 6, Evade 6, Parry 6, Stealth 7, Wits 7, Resolve 7
Key Skills: Grapple: 1d10, Arm Strike: 1d10, Throw: 1d10, Kick: 1d10, Light Melee: 1d10, Medium Melee: 2d10 or 1d10 (Ox Tail Dao), Heavy Melee: 2d10, Speed: 1d10, Muscle: 2d10, Endurance: 2d10, Medicine: 1d10, Meditation: 3d10, Detect: 3d10, Deception: 3d10, Persuade: 2d10, Languages (Li Fai): 2d10, Languages (Daoyun): 3d10, Languages (Hai’anese): 3d10, Read Script (Feishu): 3d10, Knowledge (Era of the Demon Emperor): 1d10, Knowledge (Era of the Righteous Emperor): 3d10, Institutions (Sects): 3d10, Creatures (Demons): 2d10
Qi: 3
Max Wounds: 7
Weapons: Qiang (4d10 or 2d10 Damage) or Ox Tail Dao (4d10 Damage, -1d10 Accuracy)

Key Kung Fu Techniques (Waijia 1, Qinggong 1, Neigong 1, Dianxue 1):  Blast of the Dragon, Blasting Blade, Drift of the Butterfly Fish, Fierce Strike, Inverted Three-Point Strike, Lashing Dragon, Spear Swipe, Spinning Back Kick (Counter)
There are bears here that grow to great size. They are also highly territorial and attack humans on sight. These are one of the great dangers of the local environment. 
Defenses: Hardiness 8, Evade 3, Parry 7, Stealth 6, Wits 2, Resolve 6
Key Skills: Bite: 3d10 (Damage 5d10 Open), Claw: 3d10 (Damage 3d10), Speed: 2d10, Muscle: 5d10, Detect: 3d10
Max Wounds: 14

Attack: The bear can attack a single target with two claws and a bite. 
Beast Strength x2

No comments:

Post a Comment