Monday, December 4, 2023

THE MALIGNANT EXORCIST SESSION FOUR

We continued with our Malignant Exorcist campaign for the upcoming Strange Tales of New England (a new game based on the system in Strange Tales of Songling). Session Three can be found HERE

PARTY

Father Thomas Parfait: An exorcist who is obsessed with Malignant Magic and can't help but dabble in it. 

Eliza* Hawthorne: A spirit medium. 

George Stetson: A charlatan. 


GM NOTES

This adventure was part of a small campaign called the Malignant Exorcist. Where most of Strange Tales of New England takes its inspiration from Dante's Purgatorio, this adventure took inspiration from The Inferno section of the Divine Comedy. It was inspired by the first four Cantos, which include the first circle of hell, Limbo. The chapters from the Inferno were just used as springboards, to help spur ideas. 

I am including the handwritten notes I used to run the adventure so readers can see how I planned for it. This was a much more focused and minimal approach. Occasionally I elaborated by adding things like "Twists" in later pages (this was more a product of using a hand written notebook instead of a word document, where if I wanted a change I had to add it later as everything was written in pen). 

I chose Rutland as the location for the adventure because it is the center of Massachusetts and felt like a good spot for limbo. 

THE CHANDLER HOUSE 

I

The players went to Chandler House in Rutland Massachusetts, to investigate the seeming disappearance of Benjamin Chandler, at the request of his Nephew Walter Hawley. 

For the trip George hired another bodyguard/driver, this time the hyper vigilant, James Porter. 

On the way in, Father Parfait briefly saw something out the window, a creature in the woods with the head of a wolf, a massive body, horns and long-clawed arms. When they came to the gates, James told them the entry was too small for a car and they would have to go the rest on foot. 

The face of the wolf creature suddenly pressed against the back window and it began beating on the hood. James ran out and fired several shots with a handgun, wounding the beast but being bitten in the neck in the process. George hopped into the drivers seat and backed the car into the thing attacking them, which ran off into the woods. 

They gathered James into the car and drove to the nearest hospital then found a hotel. 


II

The party spent two days researching while James recovered. George used this time to hire more bodyguards, putting out an advertisement and attracting four people. 

They learned many beasts had been spotted in the woods, a creature with the head of a wolf, another with the head of a lion, and a third resembling a leopard. This struck Father Parfait who recalled the Three Beasts from Dante's Inferno. 

Going to Isabel Wan to learn more. She told them that Walter Hawley said he believed his uncle was involved in satanic magic, and she felt based on their experience, there was evidence of that. Walter also told her he believed his uncle was stealing corpses from Mount Auburn Cemetery, though he didn't tell her why. 

Isabel gave them Walter's number so they could speak to him directly. 

Walter told them that his uncle had asked him to help him at the cemetery, and that he believed he was stealing corpses because several graves had been found robbed shortly after. He explained that his uncle had long tried to recruit him into his practices, saying that the house was his heritage, and it was his birthright to master the magic. That magic was from the Book of Lilith, something Father Parfait knew about, a legendary wall of stone with spells written on it before the fall of man. According to Walter, this wall was deep below the house. 

III

After talking with Walter, Father Parfait called the Cardinal's Office who gave him a private audience with his eminence. 

Father Parfait presented his facts to the Cardinal and they agreed it would be important to exorcize the place and consecrate the wall to destroy its power. Not wanting to expose others in the priesthood to the spiritual dangers, he allowed Father Parfait to go on his own and gave him a special relic, a rosary that belonged to Pope Saint John Paul II. 

Parfait made a confession and the party returned to Chandler House, this time with four new bodyguards. 

At the gates they noticed the walls were crawling with ivy and human eyeballs. Beyond the gates, corpses stumbled in the yard and a black stone path led the way to the mansion. 

They ran, with the bodyguards, armed with shot guns, firing at the corpses. However each shot caused flies to burst from their bodies and move in large swarms towards them. 

"Stay on the path," Said a voice. They looked and saw a man with rotting flesh at the door of the house ushering them towards him. 

The party rushed to the door and entered into a hall. 

"Who are you," Said Father Parfait. 

"I am Longfellow," said the Skeletal figure. 

They spoke with Longfellow for some time, who informed them that Benjamin Chandler had raised him and others from the dead, in an effort to bring back great people of the past. Eliza asked if he was Longfellow the poet, but he explained that Chandler opened the wrong grave and that he was another Longfellow. He also told them that Benjamin had used similar magic to raise the corpses in the yard and create the beasts in the woods. 

When they asked where Benjamin was, Longfellow said he was dead, but his spirit was deep beneath the house. When they asked how he had died, Longfellow told them he had poisoned him, thinking it would free him. But Benjamin's spirit returned, stronger and more powerful. He told them he could lead them to the Book of Lilith, where there was a spell to consign a soul to hell. He believed the spell would rid Benjamin from the world permanently. 

IV

They were led through the house by Longfellow, through a secret passage in the parlor and down deep into a subterranean chamber made from black rock. He told them the spell to consign Benjamin to hell was carved into a wall beyond a body of water. At the base of a steep set of steps they came to a stone arch that read: 

I am the root of joy and love

Petrified and ancient am I

Enter if you seek salvation 

Fumes reached from beyond the archway and sickened some of the group. Passing through they came to an underground lake and saw a small boat which they gathered into and used to cross. 

A shadowy spirit appeared with glowing red eyes and drifted to the boat. It reached its tendril-hands into Father Parfait, causing his features to age. The spirit vanished then reappeared and further aged the priest before disappearing once more. 

When they reached the other shore, they found a tall wall of ancient black stone with the words to several spells written upon them. Nearby a suit of old roman lamellar animated as if worn by an invisible man, and attacked. The party contended with the creature as Eliza Hawthorne spoke the spell to send Benjamin to hell at the urging of Longfellow. The armored spirit they fended off with a few blows and when Eliza finished the spell, Benjamin coiled into a black cloud which fell apart like burnt embers. 



Monday, November 6, 2023

HORROR, HIT MEN AND CRIME

Covered a number of horror movies on the podcast for Halloween month and we also continued looking at crime films like Fear City and China Girl. For horror we covered John Carpenter and Wes Craven. Check out the podcast channel and let us know what you think. 

Friday, October 20, 2023

THE MALIGNANT EXORCIST SESSION THREE

We continued with our Malignant Exorcist campaign for the upcoming Strange Tales of New England (a new game based on the system in Strange Tales of Songling).

PARTY

Father Thomas Parfait: An exorcist who is obsessed with Malignant Magic and can't help but dabble in it. 

Eliza* Hawthorne: A spirit medium. 

George Stetson: A charlatan. 

INTRO

In the previous session, the party was investing a series of paintings that foreshadowed disasters. They discovered that the painter, John Damey was being haunted by the spirit of Evan Damey, his baby brother who had died shortly after being born. The portents in his paintings were a product of the ghost's ability to see into the future. During their investigation, they also discovered that the ghost was aided by a spirit medium, the serial killer Dan Barret, who killed their driver, Terry Philips and turned him into an undead creature. The corpse of Terry Philips attacked them in their home, killing their bodyguard but was driven away by Father Parfait's prayers to Saint Michael.  

SESSION THREE

The party traveled to speak with Isabel Wan again, hoping to learn how to contend with the raised corpse of their old companion, Terry Phillips. Along the way they noticed a red car following them. Getting the license, George sent it to his assistant, Dave Sobey, who quickly told them it belonged to the owner of a pizzeria in Beverly, Todd Alexander. They drove the pizzeria and the car stopped following. There they quickly learned it had been stolen after speaking with Alexander, who was visibly upset over the issue. They waited for police to arrive and answered all the cop's questions. As they had had many interactions with police during the investigation, the officers took special interest in them and told them they would be in contact with the detective handling the other cases they were involved in. 

At Isabel's studio they asked her about the Ankh on Terry's forehead. She told them based on the details of the attack, it sounded like a spell called the Spell of Life, which she had a copy of in The Occult Almanac by Anderson Parsons. According to Isabel the spell was a chant that could raise up a preserved corpse when special preparations were made. However in the case of Terry Philips, it seemed the spell had some unintended affect on a body preserved by chemicals used in the morgue. She warned them not to use the spell, but did say that chanting it would harm the creature that Terry had become (which she identified as a type of mummy). 

Before leaving they asked if she could help locate the man who placed the Ankh on Terry's forehead. Working with Eliza, she had a vision of an apartment on Boston Street in Salem and they quickly narrowed down the address. As they left, Isabel asked Father Parfait if she could have her friend Walter call him about an important matter, to which he said yes. 

Later the party waited in a lot near the killer's apartment in their car, but Eliza, saw the mummy corpse of Terry Phillips ambling toward them. Their new driver, Melissa Adams, reversed the car and knocked the corpse to the ground, then drove off. They instructed her to let the mummy follow, and were able to deduce it lacked deep intelligence by going over a bridge and waiting on the other side of the river to see how it crossed. It walked directly into the water. 

As they waited, the car turned off, then the radio turned on playing a childish song. The mummy stepped from the river and began walking towards the car. 

George said "Evan Damey if that is you, please let us converse about this mater so we may help you."

The rear view mirror broke off and slammed into the window next to George's head. 

"What are you afraid of Evan?" George asked. 

Father Parfait was flipping through The Occult Almanac when its pages flipped wildly to the Spell of Life, then the book was violently pulled from the priest's hands and smashed against the window. 

George had a long conversation with Evan, trying to calm but at times insisting he behave. Finally he asked what they could do to help Evan, why he was so angry. 

The windshield began to crack and formed the words "Forgotten. All must die." A moment later the glass shattered completely and the car turned back on. 

The party then went directly to John Damey's and told him about the corpse of Terry Philips (they showed him photos taken on one of their phones). Having seen Terry lingering near his apartment, John believed them and answered their questions more openly.

They learned that his brother had died of natural causes. The party had come to the conclusion that Evan Damey had met a violent death so they pressed him further but he was adamant and they believed him. Then he told them none of the family had been to visit the grave. 

"I think you should go visit the grave and have some words with your brother," George said. 

John agreed and they headed to the cemetery (which was around the corner). There they gave John privacy and he spoke with his brother, then placed a catholic medallion on the grave. Eliza felt the spiritual energy that had been menacing them evaporate. 

Convinced the spirit had been laid to rest, they went back to their car but their path was blocked by the corpse of Terry Philips. He strode towards them and father Parfait had no choice but to use the spell of life. As he recited the chant, the creatures flesh flaked away, but it pressed on and ripped apart Melissa Adam's shoulder with its jaws. 

Both Eliza and Father Parfait recited the chant, causing its flesh to continue flaking, while George and John ran for safety. Devouring Melissa's throat, the mummies corpse attacked Father Parfait, biting his lower back, devouring the muscle and nearly breaching the kidney. 

Eliza continued chanting and the body of Terry Philips disintegrated into the air. 

Father Parfait fell to the ground, alert but a large section of muscle had been completely eaten from his back. George called an ambulance. 

When the police arrived, they seemed to believe George's account (having seen a number of unusual things themselves while investigating Dan Barret). Father Parfait laid on the ground, awaiting the ambulance, when his phone rang. 

"Is this Father Parfait?"

"Speaking, you will have to forgive me I am on my way to the hospital, how may I help you?"

"I hope you are okay father."

"I am fine to speak, it will give me something to do during the ambulance ride."

"Thank you Father, Isabel Wan told me to contact you, this is Walter Hawley. I was hoping you would help me with my uncle. I haven't heard from him in weeks. He lives in Rutland and I think he has been involved in Satanic magic. I am afraid to go check on him myself and was hoping you could do so."

"I would be happy to my child," He said. "When I am recovered I will attend to your uncle, can you please give me the address?"

This is where the session ended. 


*Character incorrectly labeled Elijah in previous entry. 

Sunday, October 8, 2023

ORGANIZING NPCS IN SANDBOXES

Most of my campaigns are focused on the interaction of PCs and NPCs, often in the context of a sandbox (but not always). I find organization to be a tricky matter here. The methods I have used in my books have generally been either an NPC chapter in alphabetical order, or, the approach I take in my notebook, which I used for Sons of Lady 87, which is to simply include NPCs where they are most relevant. Another method is to organize by sect, which the Sects of the Martial World books do. There isn't a perfect approach as each has its advantages and disadvantages. 

This method, suggested by Asen, is an interesting solution to the problem. I quite like how it groups characters by numbers (something I usually limit to locations rather than characters). This method uses numbers with decimals so you can have a number of related characters in the same number category (simply distinguishing them by .1, .2, .3, etc). So you have a character for 1.1, 1.2, 1.3. 

I like this because it accomplishes something I would use character maps to achieve (often times I map out relationships in a diagram, usually among NPCs and among Sects). Another method I used was how we did it in Righteous Blood, Ruthless Blades, where every NPC has a part of their stat block dedicated to relationships. 

Saturday, October 7, 2023

THE MALIGNANT EXORCIST PLAYTEST

I have been doing another round of playtests for our upcoming Strange Tales of New England RPG (a project I hope to release sometime in the next year). Much of the game focuses on demons and exorcists, and to this point all of the exorcists have been good (there is a corruption mechanic that makes being an exorcist challenging if a character goes down an evil path). But recently I started a new campaign where one of the players wanted to play an exorcist who dabbles in malignant magic. 

PARTY

Father Thomas Parfait: An exorcist who is obsessed with Malignant Magic and can't help but dabble in it. 

Eliza Hawthorne: A spirit medium. 

George Stetson: A charlatan. 

SESSION TWO

First Session Recap: The session began in Salem, October 20th. The players were investigating strange paintings after receiving a call from a woman in Marblehead who claimed to have purchased a masterwork that predicted future events. They discovered that the painting in question, though it was finished before the event, foreshadowed a great fire on the Orange Line* when one of its cars burst into flames going over the bridge across Mystic River. They went to the Derby Street Art gallery and discovered that another painting depicting a riot on Sylvan Street, on what looked to be Halloween. They asked about the artists name and was told he was John Damey, and that his paintings were rumored to portend disaster (to their knowledge no riots had occurred on Sylvan Street). They went to his apartment and spoke with John Damey. There they found a painting under a sheet that included an image of the entire party surrounded by something deadly but that wasn't clear because the painting wasn't finished. They also found out through their spirit medium that the artist was being haunted by his younger brother, who died in infancy. John Damey became irate when they brought up the subject so the party left to go speak with other people who had bought his paintings. Something else they learned was that the back of the paintings had key dates on them (one one of them was the birthday of Evan Damey, the other was November 1st, 2019). They also put a call into to a local Private Investigator to look into Evan Damey's Death. As they were leaving, the car was possessed by the spirit of John Damey's Brother, Evan, and it took some time for their driver, Terry Philips, to regain control.

The party left Salem and made some calls to other owners of John Damey's paintings, using numbers they had obtained from the Derby Street Art Gallery. They managed to contact both Isabel Wan and David Emerson. Emerson had the painting, The Overcast Lot and agreed to meet with them at his home in Newburyport. They were driven there by Terry Philips. 

On the way, they noticed a shoddy white van following them. George told Terry to pull over, and the van pulled over as well. George then went out and spoke with the man in the van. When he asked why he was following them, the man waved his hand dismissively and was generally belligerent. They drove for a while, then pulled over again. This time Eliza sensed a spiritual presence in the van and had George distract the driver while she prepared an attack on the entity. The spiritual struggle caused the van to turn on and off, giving the party enough time to drive away before it seemed the van was able to catch up.  

When they arrived in Newburyport they saw that David lived in a large mansion by the river. A servant brought them to meet David Emerson in his library where he showed them the painting, which just seemed to be of a shopping center parking lot in Plainville. However, in the background Emerson pointed to the outline of a tornado forming. Painted two years ago, it seemed to predict the Plainville Tornado which killed 94 people just a few months ago. They learned that Emerson was a novelist and that he was eager to help them. They asked for accomations for the night and he was glad to let them stay in his guest rooms (they were planning on seeing Isabel Wan in the morning and she lived nearby).  

When the party went out to bring in Terry, their driver, they found him unconscious with an Ankh branded on his forehead. They were able to awake him and learned someone came to his car and asked for directions, then he blacked out. Other than that he seemed fine. 

They went to bed that night but in the morning discovered that Terry was dead. There was no sign of struggle and the police were called. His body was brought to the morgue at Salem Hospital and the party gave statements before deciding their next step. 

George looked up bodyguard services and found a man named Samuel Klein who was skilled in security, self defense and knew evasive driving maneuvers. For 5,000 dollars, Samuel agreed to meet them at the mansion in 20 minutes and to guard them 24-7 for the next week. George also talked with the private investigator and learned that Evan Damey died of natural causes. 

They went to Isabel Wan's who was happy to help. She showed them a painting of downtown Cambridge. The center of the image was the Pickwick Apartments, which burned down and killed 44 people one year after the painting was made. If one looked closely at the windows of the apartment building, faces could be seen pressed against the glass, trying to escape the smoke. They also found a date on the back of the painting, which matched another date they discovered, November 1st 2019. Using a bowl of water, Isabel scried and claimed to see images of a couple in bed terrified. They speculated based on other information that these were the parents of Evan Damey, and Isabel believed they had been haunted to their deaths by him, that he then turned his attention to his brother after them. 

Isabel offered to help them should they need it as they conduct their investigation and they left. On the way home they reviewed a phone call from the police that their driver died of a heart attack. They suggested gave the police the license plate of the white van that had been following them and asked if they could look into it. 

The whole group stayed at George's house, sleeping upstairs while Samuel kept guard in a chair in the living room. Eliza made a protective talisman and secured it to the front door. 

They awakened in the night to gunfire. Running to the stairs they heard Samuel to tell them to stay back, and more gunfire. There was a loud thud and the gunfire stopped. Then a horrible groan. Father Parfait recited the Chaplet of Saint Michael and whatever was attacking, ran out from the front door and disappeared into the streets. They found Samuel dead on the ground.

Eliza conducted a seance to speak with the spirit of Samuel. Se was able to communicate by knocking sounds, allowing them to ask 'yes'/'no' questions. They learned that the attacker was the body of Terry Philips (he had an Ankh on his head). 

The police began questioning them with a bit more suspicious. They kept asking if George had asked officers to investigate the license number of a van. When he said that he had, they informed him those officers' went to the driver of the van's house on Pope Street to follow-up on the matter. They were found dead, with their faces eaten off. 

After the police left, George hired another drive/bodyguard named Mellisa Adams, who arrived at their home by the afternoon. 

This is where the session ended. 



*Part of the T system subway system in Boston

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

DOING THE FIVE DEADLY VENOMS IN RBRB

Someone asked if it was possible to do the Five Deadly Venoms in Righteous Blood, Ruthless Blades the other day and so I went through the rulebook to see how I might put together a group of characters based on the venoms in the movie. 

What follows is just a first attempt. I may come back in and revise or do a follow-up entry once I have had more time to think about it. The material below doesn't capture the film perfectly as something like Toad's invincibility would be pretty game breaking (there are ways to do it, and I may post some of the ones I was playing around with if they end up working well).

These are essentially guidelines for helping you select signature abilities to make the character in question. You don't have to take all the recommended Signature Abilities as you level, and if you want you can take other SAs instead (there are others in the book that might also fit). 

It can also be helpful to elaborate on existing techniques (and to borrow ones from Ogre Gate). For instance I think Graceful Retreat would be a good WHOOG techniques to use in RBRB as the Snake's counter. Horizontal Sidestep would be a good one for Lizard. You can find all the Kung Fu Techniques in Ogre Gate on the Bedrock App on our Bedrock Games website. They have to be adapted to the RBRB system, and fit to the broader concept (though counters can pretty much be pulled right in with minimal adjustment). 

I created two new Signature Abilities. These both need more testing as this was largely more of a rapid fire exercise I gave myself to do while rewatching the Five Deadly Venoms. The Martial Arts Melee style is a bit of a cheat as it exists in most movies like this, but there are several scenes where characters bust out into huge melees and handle multiple opponents so I wanted to make a new ability that captured it the way I saw it happening in the film (there are SAs that let you attack multiple opponents in the RBRB rulebook, as well). 

CENTIPEDE 

Recommended Signature Abilities: Heart Piercing Finger* [61], Yan’s Enduring Fists [59], Golden Crab Style [45], Martial Arts Melee [new]

Recommended Counters: Shadow Fist [68]

 

SNAKE 

Recommended Signature Abilities: Crescent Moon Style [40], Crescent Moon King [new], Grip of the Yang Divinity [46], Martial Arts Melee [new]

Recommended Counters: Bending Reed Defense [63]

 

 

LIZARD 

Recommended Signature Abilities: Flea on the Ceiling [44], Heart of Sun Bin [47] or Mind of Sun Bin [53], Martial Arts Melee [new], Empowering Palm [41]

Recommended Counters: Defense of Sun Bin [64]

 

TOAD 

Recommended Signature Abilities: Golden Crab Style [45], Fearless Boxer Style [43], Stone Body Style [57], Martial Arts Melee [new]

Recommended Counters: Golden Armor Defense [65], Iron Armor Defense [65]

 

SCORPION 

Recommended Signature Abilities: Mastermind [51], Jade Kicks [49], Studied Blade Style [57], Martial Arts Melee [new]

Recommended Counters: Insightful Reaction [65]

 

FINAL STUDENT 

Recommended Signature Abilities: Martial Arts Melee [new], Mind of Sun Bin [53] or Heart of Sun Bin [47]

Recommended Counters: Defense of Sun Bin [64]

 

*Reflavored as Rib Breaking Palm 

 

NEW SIGNATURE ABILITY 

 

Crescent Moon King

Characteristics: Ranged, Armed, External

Prerequisite: Crescent Moon Style

 

You throw two blades at curved angles so they strike the target from two different directions. Anytime you use this style you impose a -1d10 to counter attempts. Make separate damage rolls for each attack. 


Martial Arts Melee Style

Characteristics: Melee, Unarmed, Multiple Attacks 


You are skilled at rushing in to face many opponents at once in a chaotic melee or brawl. Whenever you fight multiple opponents at close range you can attack up to 1 level worth of characters per your level in melee and unarmed combat (characters with no level count as half a level for purposes of calculating attacks). So a 9th level character could attack nine level 1 characters, three level 3 characters, 18 unleveled characters, etc. Always round down. It is recommended you make one attack roll and one damage roll for all opponents you attack in a given round. 



Tuesday, September 5, 2023

KING OF NEW YORK AND THE ONE

On the podcast we talked about The One and King of NewYork:

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

THE SONS OF LADY 87: REVISED FAN XU MAP

This is going to show up in the PDF and print versions eventually, but here is a slightly revised map of Fan Xu Prefecture for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate and for the Sons of Lady 87 book. There was an issue with one of the legend elements not exporting. Recommend referring to this one for overland travel. 


 

Friday, July 21, 2023

THE BAD LIEUTENANT DISCUSSION

 We talk about the Abel Ferrara movie, The Bad Lieutenant. 

Sunday, July 9, 2023

MS .45 DISCUSSION

 We talk about the Abel Ferrara film Ms .45 on the podcast: 

Sunday, June 25, 2023

SUSPIRIA

 We discuss the movie Suspiria in this episode of Horror Express: 

Sunday, June 11, 2023

NETWORK LITE

I just finished the first draft of our first Network Lite RPG. These are intended to be small and streamlined PDFs (possibly print books) that are affordable and contain more focused premises. It is tentatively titled "Wrath" and I will talk more about it after we have done more playtests (we had our first last week). My hope is to put out a number of Network Lite books in the future. 

Each Network Lite RPG will contain core rules similar to what is found in Strange Tales of Songling but will come to around 30 pages. So there will be a focus on brevity and on making the most efficient use of space. 

After the first playtest I also went over some of the mechanics for the game with a player in my Saturday group and made some changes. I removed one of the paths and reworked some of the path abilities. Two of the paths may be merged into one but there is no final decision on that yet (I am going to see how it plays out over the next few weeks). 

The game has about 7 sections, not quite chapters each covering Paths, Rules, Skills, Weapons, Adventures and Foes. Here is look at the opening paragraph: 

I will give more updates as work continues. 

Sunday, May 21, 2023

CELESTIAL PLUME MASTERS SESSION 21

This was the Twenty First session of my Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate wuxia sandbox campaign, the Celestial Plume Masters, using the Sons of Lady 87 book, which was just released in print. You can see the first session HERE. You can see the twentieth session HERE 

PLAYER CHARACTERS 

Wei Ziying: A skilled poisoner and physician, with ties to the Relentless Corpse Sect, Wei Ziying is a disciple of the Celestial Plume Masters. He also has a longstanding friendship with Kuo Qingzhao, who wishes to know more about the poisons that killed his wife (poisons Wei Ziying knows the secrets of). Grudge: Ravenous Nun Xuanji (for the murder of Red Eagle)

Wang Haoyang: A master of stealth, Wang Haoyang is one of the Celestial Plume Master disciples. He has a lifelong friendship with Pei Ye of the Vermillion Bird Teahouse, but has attracted the affection of another member of that organization, Fan Zhen'er (he does not return the affection but wishes to avoid creating friction within the Vermillion Bird Teahouse, and possibly creating enemies). Grudge: Guan Nuan (for a duel he escaped, she feels she lost face because he was weaker than her and should have been an easy victory)

Hei Ling: A one-eyed chief in the Celestial Plume Masters, Hei Ling is the father of Li Liang, whom he wishes to cease practicing her Toad Style kung fu because of the physical toll on her body. He had Li Liang with Qixia the candied fruit in his youth and since then Qixia has grown hostile. He has a working relationship with the Wu Sisters. Grudge: Qixia the Candied Fruit Vendor (of Hai'an). Grudge: Qixia (many reasons related to their pre-existing relationship)

Iron Tiger: The newest member of the party, sent by Night Thorn to help them expand. He has a longstanding friendship with Iron Beggar Sun Kang, whom he wants to leave his lap of luxury in the House of Flying Lanterns so he can train with the Nature Loving Monks and improve his Kung Fu. Iron Beggar in turn wants Iron Tiger to leave the Celestial Plume Masters. Grudge: Pei Ye (he murdered her favorite client, Golden Cobra).

THE FOX KILLING GRANNY^

Hei Ling found the Nature Loving Monks receptive to his letters. The first to reach out was Fox Killing Granny, one of the chiefs placed in charge of a remote region. They learned from their informants that she resented her position as she was one of the most skilled martial artists in the organization. They also learned she was given the post in question because of an impulsive and cruel nature, though her cruelty was often in service of righteous causes. She was presently trying to capture the leader of the Jade Owl Bandits, believing her to be an escaped consort of the emperor who carried his child. However she was disobeying the orders of the Nature Loving Monks by hounding and killing members of the Jade bandits in this pursuit. 

She arrived and addressed Hei Ling in  straight forward manner, saying she would work with him, despite his dabbling in the celestial plume trade, if he could help ensure her takeover of the leadership position in the northern region of the beggar's territory. She also said she would only work with him if he agreed to not work with any of the other Nature Loving Monk chiefs. 

They spoke for some time and most of the party was against working with here. She told him she wished to have an answer before sunset and he agreed to speak privately with her after deliberating with his men. 

In the meantime Iron Tiger sent his men to obtain fireworks and a loud horn. 

When the time came Fox Killing Granny met with Hei Ling in private and she made clear that she knew Feng the Wanderer, another nature loving monk chief, would come speak with him after sunset. She believed he was working with the empire, and she warned him that imperial agents had infiltrated both their organizations. If he murdered Feng the Wanderer, that would give her the opening she needed to become head chief of the north. Even though his men had expressed skepticism of the arrangement, Hei Ling was persuaded by her words and agreed. 

After Fox Killing Granny left, Hei Ling told his men who largely accepted his decision. However Iron Tiger objected and said he wanted no part in the killing. He would go south instead and find the daughter of an another chief, arrange a marriage and create an alliance that seemed more reliable than the cruel granny. 

The party was distressed but determined that Iron Tiger was a free enough agent that this wouldn't violate her expectation that Hei Ling not work with other chiefs in her organization. Iron Tiger departed and the party awaited the arrival of Feng the Wanderer. 

On his way out of the city, Feng the Wanderer saw twenty cranes gathering in the sky. 

OMENS AT GUAN MANOR 

Feng the Wanderer arrived, bringing a gift of golden taels and dressed in expensive robes. He praised Hei Ling and offered an alliance that would benefit them both. Hei Ling humored him  but, knowing tomorrow was an auspicious day for killing, told Feng the Wanderer that he would be an honored guest, giving him quarters that night. Wei Ziying, who possessed the Yao Rattling Sabre, felt the hilt of his weapon rattle and realized Yao were nearby. 

They scouted outside and saw a Yao spying on Guan Manor. 

That night, Wei Ziying, Wang Hoayang and Dan Zhen'er went out and attacked the Yao. It was easy business with the Yao Rattling Saber but they knew the legends and dismembered the corpse, putting its body parts in chests with secure locks and chains. 

Art by Jackie Musto 

Then they snuck into Feng's room, where Hei Ling stabbed him in the belly. Feng told him the empire would come after him for his actions. Hei Ling finished him off once he had confirmation he was an imperial agent. 

After the killing Hei Ling's men told him there were 20 cranes circling Guan Manor, so he called for an Astrologer. They also discovered that the chest in which the torso of the Yao had been placed was moving. They examined the head and identified the Yao's name. Then Wei Ziying performed a ritual to extract the phoenix spirit of the Yao and house it in a cauldron. This caused the torso to stop moving. 

Astrologer Leng Guozhong arrived, a knowledgeable astrologer and scholar in his 80s with a curious obsession with Hen-Shi. He agreed to enter Hei Ling's service if they provided room and board and helped give him access to printing so he could disseminate his works. 

Examining the cranes he told them a similar sign had been seen when the Righteous Emperor came to power so he interpreted it as they had gained favor with the Enlightened Goddess. When told of the circumstances, he said they had acted in accordance with heaven's will. But he warned them that the Enlightened Goddess could relinquish her favor if they acted against her will. 

THE COURTSHIP OF XIN PING 

Iron Tiger was not keen on the group's plan to work with Fox-Killing Granny and headed to Li Fan with his retinue to find the daughter of chief Xin Shi, Xin Ping, to propose marriage and help create an alliance. 

He found her working as a waitress at the Golden Pavilion. Initially she was quite rude, and he asked her why she was so irritated. She told him she didn't like people like him, people from the empire. She pointed to his clothes which were not how the locals dressed. 

They bickered back and forth for a bit, but eventually said he was interested in courting her. She was embraced and somewhat shocked by his directness but smiled after thinking for a minute.

"You and your men look pretty tough," She said scanning the room as her eyes settled on a man in the back who was laden with weapons and exuded a dangerous aura. "Can you beat him?"

"Yes," Said Iron Tiger. 

"Very well," she said. "If you can beat him in a fight, I will talk more to you about this matter"

Iron Tiger walked over to the man's table and saluted him, "Greetings sir, I was hoping you and I could have a friendly match outside to test one another's kung fu."

The man motioned for Iron Tiger to sit and poured wine for him. "Drink."

"Greatly appreciated my friend," Said Iron Tiger, "But I do not drink wine."

The man sneered and attacked with a powerful palm strike. However He missed and in the next instant, Iron Tiger snapped his arm against the table and the man gave up. 

He spent the next several days getting to know Xin Ping and was quickly able to persuade her to agree to a marriage*. On the way back to Mai Cun he learned that Xin Ping disliked her father. 

THE MATCH MAKING GRANNY

Hei Ling decided it was time to help his friend Scholar Han in his pursuit of Silver Chrysanthemum. He summoned a woman named Luo Rong the Matchmaking Granny. He presented her with information about their birthdays. He also told her about the couple. The Matchmaking Granny said she was happy to act as a matchmaker but believed the woman would only give Scholar Han a chance if he could master a truly impressive martial arts technique, as his talents were not widely respected in the martial world. 

Hei Ling went to Scholar Han and convinced him to come back to Mai Cun and become a pupil of Twin Dagger Zuan Shanhu. He agreed and when he was brought before Twin Dagger she was willing to accept him as a pupil and instruct him in her dagger techniques. She also proposed helping him devise a technique that complimented the Chrysanthemum Daggers. 










^ I had a cold this session and over the weekend so I opted to write this entry in a more straight forward manner than other ones. 

*The player in this instance had asked about relatives of Nature Loving Monk chefs. I didn't have much information on that so I just randomly determined if each one had aunts, daughters, etc. When it was determined that Xin Shi had a daughter I decided she was a waitress in Li Fan and not on good terms with her father. I also figured she had lived a rough life, being the daughter of an absent Nature Loving Monk, and would respond positively to someone who could both help her find stability and prove a tough character (and that toughness would be the deciding factor). When the  player first introduced himself to her I asked in what way he was presenting himself (i.e. was he playing up his toughness, his wealth, his knowledge of the martial world, his intelligence, his courteousness). He said he was going to present as a dangerous figure and that was the thing that indicated to me she would be open to his proposal if she could make him jump through the appropriate hoops. 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

SECT MANAGEMENT

These are very rough rules I have been dabbling with for management of sects. It is part of a manuscript for a PDF. The rules below are by no means the final rules and description entries for the tables are incomplete (though I think in most cases their meanings are obvious without descriptions). This is going to change a lot as many of these numbers are just initial selections to test and rework in playtest. I arrived at my baselines by putting an Excel doc with all the core book sects for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate and getting a clearer overview of the numbers of members by rank for each sect. 

I am posting this here because I hope it may be useful to people who are in need of such tools. 

CHAPTER TWO: SECT MANAGEMENT 

Art by Jackie Musto 
The chapter explores building and managing sects. Devising such a sub-system has proven one of the bigger challenges of Ogre Gate, in large part because the campaigns are dictated more by facts on the ground than an abstract set of guidelines or procedures. However the need for sect management is still something that often arises. While I have tried several methods over the years, this chapter offers the two I am most satisfied with. The first is a simple, sect development and disciple gaining by level approach (as you level you gain disciples and the sect grows). The second method is a point-buy approach that allows players to build sects by purchasing disciples and other sect features.  

Please feel free to modify these or create new approaches. The a management of sects very much depends on what you are trying to accomplish and emulate in the campaign. I personally tend to use looser methods, but when it becomes important to quantify these are the kinds of approaches I use. 

 

A more open third option is described at the end of this section. It is more fiscally based.

 

GROWING SECTS AND DISCIPLES BY LEVEL 

 

Using this method every character will attract disciples over time. These are personal disciples. To determine how many personal disciples a character may have, add their Command+Persuade+Deception+2. If they do not have ranks in these they can still get 2 Disciples. Personal Disciples are loyal to their teacher provided they are well treated and given training. A disciple’s loyalty may shift if they feel they are not being adequately tended to. Individual disciples with bad personalities can also become disloyal for other reasons. 

 

When characters reach rank 5 have them roll on the following table. They should roll again each time they level: 

 

DISCIPLE TABLE I

Roll 1d10         Result

1                      2 Qi rank 0 disciples 

2                      1 Qi rank 1 Disciple

3                      2 Qi rank 1 Disciples  

4                      3 Qi rank 1 Disciples 

5                      1 Qi rank 2 Disciple 

6                      2 Qi rank 2 Disciples 

7                      10 Qi rank 0 disciples 

8                      5 Qi rank 1 Disciples 

9                      3 Qi rank 2 Disciples 

10                    Roll on Disciple Table II

 

DISCIPLE TABLE II

Roll 1d10         Result

1                      20 Qi rank 0 Disciples 

2                      10 Qi rank 1 Disciples 

3                      1 Qi rank 3 Disciple 

4                      6 Qi rank 2 Disciples 

5                      2 Qi rank 3 Disciples  

6                      1 Qi Rank 2, 5 Qi rank 1 Disciples 

7                      4 Qi rank 3 Disciples 

8                      50 Qi rank 0 Disciples, 5 Qi rank 1 Disciples, Qi rank 2 Disciples 

9                      10 Qi rank 2 Disciples 

10                    1 Qi rank 4 disciple 

 

 

When the party forms a sect, they should establish a leader. Then they can combine all of their disciples under one organization (ideally with each PC personally overseeing their disciples as sub-chief of the sect). In addition, once the sect is formed the group may roll on the above tables once per year to add to their numbers. 

 

BUILDING SECTS BY POINTS

 

A player who reaches level 5 can become a sect leader (this can happen earlier but few will be respected enough before this level to lead a sect). Your level determines how many points you have to build a sect. 

 

 

SECT LEADER LEVEL                POINTS

5                                              21

6                                              31

7                                              41

8                                              51

9                                              61

10                                            71

11                                            81

12                                            91

 

COSTS

 

DISCIPLES 

Qi Rank 0                                 10 for 2 (can only buy ten at a time)

Qi Rank 1 Disciple                   1

Qi Rank 2 Disciple                   3

QI Rank 3 Disciple                   6

Qi Rank 4 Disciple                   10

Qi Rank 5 Disciple                   15

Qi Rank 6 Disciple                   21

 

BASE INCOMES

5,000                                       Default

10,000                                     6

20,000                                     10

30,000                                     15

50,000                                     21

 

BASE HEADQUARTERS 

Encampment                           2

Storefront                               4

Courtyard House                     6

Manor                                     10

Fortified Manor                      14

Temple                                    18

Fortress                                   21

 

MAX DISCIPLES

 

 

MAX DISCIPLES 

Sect Leader Qi Rank

Max Disciples per Qi Rank 

 

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

5

400

25

20

15

1

0

0

6

800

50

40

30

4

2

0

7

1,400

60

50

40

6

3

1

8

2,800

70

60

50

8

4

2

9

5,600

80

70

60

10

5

3

10

11,200

90

80

70

12

6

4

11

22,400

100

90

80

14

7

5

12

44,800

110

100

90

16

8

6

 

MAX DISCIPLES

These are how many disciples the sect can have based on the sect leader’s Qi rank. You can exceed these amounts but whenever your sect numbers exceeds them, the Sect Leader must make a Leadership Roll against TN 8 that season to avoid internal strife. 

 

INFORMATION NETWORKS, INFLUENCE, AND ESCORT RANKING

These each start at 0d10 and you have three ranks to spend however you wish to start (You could put 1d10 in each; or 3d10 in one, or 2d10 in one and 1d10 in another, etc). These can increase as a result of a project 

 

Information Network: This is a d10 dice pool rolled against a TN to see if you can obtain information. It always functions at your present rank within your area of influence, but decreases by 1d10 the further out of range you extend. 

 

Influence: This is how easily you can influence local officials, constables, local guilds, and other important people. 

 

Escort Ranking: Your ability to safely move goods. This is just your roll to avoid running into trouble. If trouble is encountered then you need to roll a dice pool based on the sect members involved and those interfering. 

 

LEADERSHIP

Add together the Sect Leader’s Command, Deception and Persuade. This produces the sect’s Leadership score. It can be used for a number of things but mostly it is used to prevent internal conflict when the sect exceeds its Max Disciples. Should the max be exceeded, so long as it does so, the sect leader must make a Sect Leadership roll against TN 8 to avoid internal problems. On a failure, roll on Enemy Present column of the sect table that season. 

 

ADVANCING DISCIPLE RANKS 

You must devote time to training disciples. This counts as a project and you can only advance 10 Disciples at a time 

 

FAVORED DISCIPLE
At any given time, you can devote special attention to 1 disciple, having them travel with you. They earn XP with the rest of the party

 

BASE INCOME

Sects have a base income of 5,000 spades a month. This can be increased when you build your sect or raised as a project in a season by increments of 10,000 each season. 

 

SPENDING INCOME

Generally it is assumed your income is spent on things like projects, so there usually isn’t a need to track for those kinds of expenditures (as this is factored into you breaking even each season). But you can still spend money on specific things if you have the resources. You will not need to roll for such projects (for example building an irrigation system so you can make rice fields). But the GM will tell you the cost and the number of seasons it will take to complete. And in exceptional cases the GM may request that you invest a specific amount of income before a project can start (for example a massive undertaking like a trap filled tomb for the master when he dies). 

 

TIME INCREMENTS

Managing a sect is dealt with seasonal increments of time: Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer and Late Summer. During a season you can focus on a particular project such as recruitment, building, training, etc. However the seasons must wait for events in the game before they can pass. If the players have retired to sect headquarters they can wait out a seasons but with each passing season you must roll on the Sect Tables to see if anything develops. This table is rolled on whether you wait out a season or not. If you are out adventuring then you still roll, just using the appropriate column to do so.

 

Every Sect has a standard Income. It is assumed they break even unless income results arise on seasonal sect roll

 

SECT ROLL TABLE ONE 

Roll 2d10

Sect Leader Present

Junior Leadership Present 

Senior Disciples Present 

Enemy present 

2

Two Projects succeed 

Project Succeeds

Loss of revenue  

Catastrophe 

3

Project Succeeds 

Project Succeeds

Earn Standard Income 

Loss of revenue

4

Project Succeeds 

Earn Standard Double Income

Alliance starts breaking down 

Alliance breaks down 

5

Earn double income

Earn Standard Income

Golden Opportunity 

Alliance Breaks down

6

Earn Standard Income 

Alliance Opportunity 

Stability 

Stability 

7

Alliance opportunity 

Golden Opportunity

Stability 

Stability 

8

Golden Opportunity 

Sect Grows 

Sect Declines 

Sect Declines

9

Stability 

Stability 

Sect Declines 

Sect Declines

10

Stability 

Stability 

Tension within Sect 

Sect Declines

11

Stability 

Stability 

Tension within Sect

Violence within sect

12

Sect Grows 

Tension within sect

Tension with other Sect

Violence within sect 

13

Disciple with Qi ranks seeks to join   

Tension with other sect

Tension with Other Sect

Skirmish with other sect. New Enemy

14

Escort Services Requested 

Locals seek help 

New Enemy 

Attacked by enemy 

15

Locals seek your help 

Escort Services requested 

Attacked by Enemy Sect

Attacked by Enemy 

16

A master or sect seeks your help 

New Enemy 

Attacked by Enemy Sect 

Manual, Treasure or Artifact stole

17

Income Growth 

1d10 Disciples Attacked by a non-enemy sect 

Manual, treasure or Artifact taken 

Hostile Breakaway faction forms

18

New Enemy

2d10 Disciples Attacked by enemy Sect

Unwanted imperial attention 

Hostile Breakaway Faction Forms 

19

1d10 Disciples attacked by enemies

Assassination attempt at sect HQ

Breakaway Faction Forms

Headquarters attacked by multiple enemies 

20

2d10 Disciples Attacked by enemy Sect

Faction forms in sect  

Major Betrayal  

Headquarters attacked by imperial forces 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


SECT STAT BLOCK 

 

NAME OF SECT

Leadership:

Allies:

Enemies:

Numbers: 

Location:

Information Network: d10

Leadership: 

Influence: 

Escort: 

Attack: 

Revenue: 

 

MANAGING RESULTS

For the most part, results from the above tables should be dealt with naturally in place, choosing outcomes that match based on what is going on in the campaign and what the players are trying to do. However feel free to use the guidelines below. 

 

Alliance Opportunity: An opportunity to form an alliance presents itself. This is not guaranteed and the specifics should vary depending on who wishes to work with your sect. Most likely they will ask for terms, with both sides needing to give and take. An alliance opportunity is very easy to lose if mishandled. 

 

Disciples Attacked By Enemy Sect: Pick a random enemy and randomly throw 1d10 or 2d10 members from that sect against them. Make opposed Sect Attack rolls to see who wins.   

 

Disciple With Qi Rank Seeks to Join: A new disciple has heard of your sect’s reputation and wishes to join. To determine their Qi rank roll 1d10: 

1-3       Qi Rank 1

4-5       Qi Rank 2

6-7       Qi Rank 3

8          Qi Rank 4

9          Qi Rank 5

10        Qi Rank 6

 

Earn Standard Income: You gain your income in spades 

 

Earn Double Income: You gain twice your income in spades 

 

Escort Services Requested: A sect, government official, merchant, individual/family or wealthy local magnate seeks help transporting a person or thing of value. If your sect serves as bodyguards and transports the goods, you can earn money or grow your reputation. 

 

Income Growth: Your revenue increases by an increment of 10,000 spades 

 

Stability: Nothing changes and this is usually a good thing.

 

Golden Opportunity: This is just a chance for some big gain in reputation or something specific the sect needs. It could also be income on top of revenue (for example if the sect is involved in banditry, a shipment of smuggled goods will be known to pass through a given area, or if the sect is righteous, a group of notorious outlaws may have been spotted nearby). 

 

Locals Seek Your Help: Locals need help dealing with a threat (a local bully, bandits, corrupt official, monster, etc). This is a sign that you are well respected and have influence. There is usually little to know physical reward but it’s good for your reputation 

 

New Enemy: Your sect gains a new enemy in the form of another sect or a powerful master (higher than Qi rank 6) 

 

A Master or Sect Seeks Your Help: A high rank Master or another sect needs your help with a task. While this is not an alliance opportunity, they will owe you a favor if you succeed. 

 

Project Succeeds: This simply means you complete a project you began. It could be a project related to something physical like a building or field, but it could also mean something more nuanced like an elaborate mercantile arrangement. This can also be a project of training your men so they increase in Qi rank. You can improve rankings in Influence, Information Network, etc by 1d10 as a project. 

 

Sect Grows: Your sect grows by one of the following increments (your choice): 25 Qi Rank Zero,  10 Qi Rank 1, 5 Qi Rank 2,  2 Qi Rank 3, 1 Qi Rank 4. 

 

Two Projects Succeed: The same as Project Succeeds except instead of completing one project, you complete two. 

 

THE OPEN APPROACH 

Using this approach there is no system constraining sect growth, it is only constrained by the players own actions and resources. Using a more freeform style like this means tracking the sect, its resources and responding to actions the players take in a fair way. For example if they put on a demonstration in Mai Cun and kill 20 of Lady 87’s men, its fair for them to be able to recruit some worthy followers. It still may be a good idea to randomize the power levels. I tend to do things like a d10 roll sculpted to the level of the party or level of the party’s leader to determine those kinds of details. And the GM also needs to put together a spread sheet to track revenue, spending, assets, etc. This can get very detailed and requires additional work (asking the players to track their resources can be useful option here). It is also useful to audit this document occasionally to make sure you are accounting for all recent campaign developments. This sounds boring but if done well can be very rewarding for your group. 

 

As an example, Hei Ling and Iron Tiger wander into Mai Cun and get into a brawl with many of Lady 87’s men. Though outnumbered, they manage to handily defeat the 87 Killers, wounding nearly 12 men in the public streets. This will surely incur a grudge but it will also likely boost any recruitment efforts they make. Iron Tiger sees the opportunity and tells everyone watching they should come and train with Hei Ling if they want to learn real kung fu and not the silly games taught at Mai Cun Manor. The GM thinks about it, decides though luck was a huge factor this was also a truly tremendous display. He asks Iron Tiger’s player to make a Command or Persuade roll, which he succeeds. Hei Ling is Qi rank 5, so the GM quickly scribbles a table to roll for recruitment and has Iron Tiger’s player make the roll. 

 

The table is as follows:

1-3       3d10 Qi rank 0

4-5       2d10 QI rank 1

6-7       1d10 QI rank 2

8-9       0d10 Qi Rank 3

10        0d10 Qi rank 4


The player rolls a 6, so he gets 1d10 Qi rank 2 martial experts to join them.