Saturday, April 13, 2024

PATHS FROM NOWHERE SESSION NINE

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

CHARACTERS

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

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

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

THE ROAD TO HEIPING 

Guiying fashioned a sheath for the Wind Sabre to disguise it during their journey, hoping it would not stand out among Pan Ju's other weapons. Once that was done they set off and the first day of travel was uneventful*. On the 20th of the Butterfly Moon they were accosted by two women, identical twins dressed in nondescript brown robes and wielding a variety of weapons. One woman, Ying, stepped out from behind them, while the other, Rong, approached directly from the front. 

"Draw your weapons," They said in unison. 

"Who are you?" Zheng Bao demanded.

"We are the Double Killing Squall and today is your day alive" they continued to speak in unison. 

"Why do you want to kill us?" Asked Zheng Bao. 

"We were assigned a contract."

Guiying asked "Who assigned this contract, was it Lady Yang?"

"We are not at liberty to discuss who, and we have never heard of a Lady Yang" Said Rong, the twin who stood before them. 

Zheng Bao pressed for more information, "Well, how much are they paying you?"

"We cannot share that information with you either," Said Rong. 

With a shrill and irritated voice Ying, the sister who stood behind them, shouted "You are not taking your last day on earth very seriously!" 

Bao immediately attacked her, but his strikes were fruitless against the woman's Iron Body defense. 

Pan Ju attacked the other sister and his strikes also slammed with futility against her impervious flesh. 

Guiying then sent a fierce sword whipping strike at both ladies, only to also have her attacks deflected by their impenetrable iron body. 

Ying threw 12 daggers in formations resembling flowers at the party, cutting both Zheng Bao and Pan Ju. Guiying was able to whirling dodge out of the way of the deadly blades. 

While the party was already seriously injured, Rong sliced her sword across the air sending a shimmering blue attack at the entire party, which sent them back 60 feet. 

At this moment 7 figures, one wearing a mask, leapt from the trees and formed a line between the party and the twins. The one wearing a mask, who appeared to be a Flying Phantom of Mystic Sword Sect, shouted at the party "Run away, we will hold them for you!"

Zheng Bao stood and shouted "No my friends, we will fight along side you. We are not cowards!"

"We have orders," Shouted the masked man. 

Zheng Bao and the rest of the party refused to flee and joined in the fight. Zheng Bao once again felt his spear deflect uselessly against Ying's Iron Body. Pan Ju, however, sent a slew of daggers at both twins and managed to hurt them. 

The Mystic Sword members were mostly junior disciples, save the Flying Phantom. One of them succeeded in grappling with Ying, who put her palm to the junior disciple's face, which sizzled leaving a blackened print as he fell dead in the woods.

The Flying Phantom, Guo, sliced Ying in retaliation. 

Pan Ju once again unleashed Storming Daggers but the twins both deflected with their Iron Body defenses. 

Ying used Nock of Countless Stars, sending arrow after arrow into Ju and Bao. Her arrows also took down another Mystic Sword Disciple.  

Soon the tide started to turn against the twins, and Rong attempted to flee to the north east. Pan Ju leapt forward and cut down Ying with Blade of the Dancing Fox. Guiying intercepted her with a great stride. Rong then unleashed a flurry of daggers on Guiying, but she was able to whirl away from the attack. 

In a blaze of steel, Guiying dropped Rong with her Sword Whipping Strike. 

When the battle was over, Guo explained that Lady White Blade had commanded them to follow and protect the disciple of Jade Swallow**, as a show of respect to the great hero. He told them he would leave the remaining junior disciples with the party but go to get reinforcements. 

The party found 8 Golden Taels on the twin's bodies, which they split between themselves and Guo. 

They spent the next day resting and meditating. Before they left, a group of Heiping Nuns passed by. 

Zheng Bao introduced himself and displayed his Jade Swallow medallion, explaining his teacher had asked him to go to Heiping to train with Queen Lu Zhi. They agreed to escort him to Heiping sect and introduce him to their leader. Because Pan Ju was under strict command from his mother not to bring the Wind Sabre to Heiping, he and Guiying declined to joint them, but would instead go north and meet up with Zheng Bao after. 






*Here the players failed an important Detect roll to see if they had been followed

**This is Zheng Bao 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

WUXIA SANDBOX: FIASCO TABLES AND SECT TABLES

This is part of my Wuxia Sandbox series. You can see the previous post HERE. These are all primarily written with Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate and Righteous Blood, Ruthless Blades in mind but can be applied to most wuxia RPG campaign where sandbox is the focus. This series discusses a wide variety of methods and procedures I use. These should be regarded as tools, not as required steps in building a sandbox. I may use all, some or none for any given campaign. Every time I run a campaign, I take a slightly different approach based on what the needs of the current campaign are. 

The purpose of this blog series isn't to set up proscriptive procedures. It is simply to give people a better idea how I run my wuxia sandbox campaigns. 

My view on wuxia in RPGs is every GM has their own take on the genre, their own sensibilities about how to best bring it to the gaming table. This is true of any genre, but with wuxia it seems especially the case. Please do not take my advice as definitive in any way. Watch and read wuxia for yourself and form your own conclusions. What works for one GM, will completely miss the point for another. 

FIASCO TABLES 

Something I have been making use of in my campaigns recently are Fiasco Tables. These can also be thought of as event or hanging complication tables. They are an expansion on an idea I started adding to my grudge tables around the time of my Sons of Lady 87 Campaign. These can still be used with the Grudge Tables, but because those rely on a 2d10 bell curve, they don't quite get the effect I am going for in play as much as a dedicated 1d10 table in this particular campaign. In Ogre Gate I use a combination of 1d10 tables, 2d10 tables and d100 tables depending on what I am trying to achieve. Here the greater randomness is more the aim. 

A fiasco table is simply a way to better manage things in a living adventure that can fall by the wayside. I talk more about Living Adventures HERE, but the basic idea is that NPCs and the world are reactive to the party, they are just as real as the PCs themselves and should be run like PCs. And for the most part, you don't need random tables for that. If the Gentle Demon of The Valley has taken an interest in the party, you can decide what he tries to do about it and how. He is a piece you control on the board. But sometimes the PCs do a bunch of things that warrant multiple parties becoming involved, and this is a simple way to track those things. When situations grow complex or shake up the martial world, I like shifting to Fiasco tables. It also boosts the excitement of a campaign by regularly rolling on the table to see when they come up. 

Art by Jackie Musto 
As I said, you can simply put this stuff on a grudge table if you want, that way, Gentle Demon's involvement with the party might come up every so often on the grudge table as a reminder to the GM, and any other lingering complications would come up. Here I am doing a table dedicated to each complication. You can have one of these at any given time, or you can have many. You can roll once a week (which is the default I use) or roll more or less frequently. You can only roll on them as a consequence of a failed survival roll if you prefer. 

These tables are somewhat specific. This one is for my campaign where the players have gotten their hands on the wind sabre of Sunan. This helps me to randomly determine who gets involved and how. Some results are parties already involved. Heiping Sect wants the sabre because it was stolen from them by the Witch of Zhaoze Zhou. Other results I will need to creatively interpret. The way I use tables is I look at the result and I try to reason through them and figure out a good explanation. Here I may have to puzzle through why sects who are opposed to one another are working together to get the wind sabre, or why the PCs enemies suddenly want to protect them. I did this intentionally to help produce more twists and turns to the game. 

I view tables as creative prompts. And I think the art is in taking the results and arriving at something that is both interesting and makes sense. So I sometimes like results on tables that force me to square ideas. This table is essentially being used to help determine if anyone comes after the party to get the Wind Sabre for themselves. But there are a lot of possibilities that could arise depending on what combinations the dice yield. 

I also realized I needed a general table on sects for this to work. Normally I rely on more local sect tables. But I put together a broad one that includes all the sects from the major books (note it doesn't include groups from some of the supplements yet, just Ogre Gate Inn, the Core Book, Sons of Lady 87 and War of Swarming Beggars). I may add more to this later. 

If you look at the sect table, you will see it is a bit messy in appearance. This is also intentional. I wanted to show my thought process in putting the table together. I made a master list of the sects and then as I came to each one, I tried to decide if it was more likely or less likely to come up and decided the range of between 1-3 based on that. I may refine this further, as these were snap judgements. 





Saturday, April 6, 2024

PATHS FROM NOWHERE SESSION EIGHT

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

CHARACTERS

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

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

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

INTO THE BANYAN 

Guiying returned to the Bai Chuan Inn. Jade Swallow planned to go to Dee and told Zheng Bao to meet her there when he found the Thousand Painful Death's flower, but the party was too weak to confront the Sandstone Nun. After some discussion, Jade Swallow suggested that Guiying, Bao and Ju travel to Heiping Sect and seek instruction from Queen Lu Zhi. Knowing his mother lived nearby, Pan Ju formulated a plan to obtain the Wind Sabre of Sunan along the way. 

Li Sou Chai, art by Jackie Musto
They set out for a long journey as the Banyan was filled with dense forest and difficult terrain. Leaving on the 12th day of the Dragon Moon, they reached the Swamp of Zhoaze Zhu where Pan Ju's mother resided, on the 4th day of the Butterfly Moon the following month. Along the way they had many run-ins with bandits, sects and got lost*. 

On the road from Bai Chuan Inn, they encountered the Silent Erhu society once again. As they were familiar with one another, they exchanged news. The Silent Erhu told them that Perfect Heaven Lineage sect has been warning people about the party, saying they shouldn't be trusted because they seek the Thousand Painful Deaths Flower. They also told them that the group was allied with a powerful nun who resided on Mount Hai'an. 

The next day they passed timber merchants, and Guiying noticed their banner resembled the fish motif on the letter from Lady Yang to the Three Elephants. When they asked where the timber was going the merchants became evasive and simply told them it had a destination. Guiying expressed interest in buying wood for a spear but they told her it was pine for ship building and would be of no use to her. 

On the first leg of their journey into the Banyan proper they encountered two members of Golden Dragon Sect who were impressed to learn that Zheng Bao was Jade Swallow's disciple. One of the Golden Dragon Disciples said his name was Shen. They told him that Golden Dragon Sect would welcome them if they ventured north and warned them to be wary of Mystic Sword Sect who inhabited the area around Jin Yu. 

They took the warning to heart but became lost and after a couple of days of wandering stumbled into Jin Yu, where they went to the Merciful Phoenix Tavern. There they saw numerous Mystic Sword Sect disciples dressed in white and  gathered at a table. One of their members approached as the party ate and introduced herself as Ping. She asked who they were and what they were doing in the region. 

Zheng Bao introduced himself and said he was the nephew of Bone Breaker and the disciple of Jade Swallow. 

"This does not make sense, Jade Swallow is a great hero and would never associate with anyone connected to Bone Breaker sect."

Zheng Bao displayed his talisman, and Ping's eyes widened. 

"So you are her disciple," She said. "But why are you protecting your master after she was attacked in Dee?"

"I have not heard this news. My master was ambushed?"

Ping explained that in Dee, she was indeed ambushed but survived. Word had reached them and they were heading there to assist Jade Swallow, as Lady White Blade admired her greatly. 

Zheng Bao thanked her for the information and said he was on an important mission given to him by Jade Swallow and that he had to complete it before returning to her. He gave ping funds for the journey and asked her to tell Jade Swallow that "She will overcome these tribulations and and when her disciple gains strength he will join with her in Dee". 

Ping gave them a sword and told them to display it as they passed by Mystic Sword Temple to avoid being harmed. 

They continued on the next day and on the 19th of the Dragon Moon, they passed through a swamp where two tigers pounced on them from the scrub trees. Pan Ju killed one with kick of the golden elephant and Guiying broke the other's legs before finishing it off. Pan Ju gathered the meat and Guiying prepared the hide. Both Guiying and Zheng Bao ate one of the tiger hearts raw, but Bao became very sick for the next day and a half**. 

As they traveled they encountered more tigers, but the beasts avoided them this time. Some days later they were confronted by Zun Tribesmen. The leader appeared to be a ritual master and was dressed in human bones. He demanded tribute in blood for Li Sou Chao. Pan Ju, recognizing that Li Sou Chao was the Witch of Zhaoze Zhou, his mother, advised them to pay the toll. They gave the men the other tiger heart and the Zhun were pleased, disappearing into the forest. 

On the 24th day of the Dragon Moon they were surrounded by bandits who demanded all their wealth. Seeing how weak the men appeared, Guiying called them amateurs and lashed all with her Sword Whipping strike, leaving the men bleeding on the ground. Zheng Bao took the bandit's money and threw it in the mud in disgust. 

The next day another group of bandits flanked them, but seemed more bold. They too demanded the party's valuables but Zheng Bao said "A days travel east, are the bodies of the men who tried to rob us like yourselves. I suggest you depart before you face the same fate."

Sensing his power, the bandits withdrew. 

They reached the Swamp of Zhaoze Zhou and assembled a raft. Along the way they saw a woman dressed in green, who seemed to be a nun. She looked battered and said her name was Lin. She asked them what their business was with the witch. Pan Ju said they were from Hai'an and heard rumors about her, that he needed to speak with her on a personal matter. The party offered to have Zheng Bao tend her wounds, but she said it would be inappropriate for a man to touch her and left. 

On the fourth day of the Butterfly Moon they passed by more nuns, dressed similar to tin. The nuns asked if they had seen a woman wearing green and a conical hat, pass by. The party learned the group had a battle, with whom they could not say, and had lost their sister, who was injured, in the fray. 

Zheng Bao flashed his talisman and the women offered more information saying they had gone to the fight the Witch of Zhaoze Zhou to take the Wind Sabre of Sunan, but were defeated. 

Later that day, the party found Li Sou Chao's hut and lashed their raft onto the wooden platforms that formed a kind of walkway in the swamps. Bodies of nuns in green robes were strewn across the platforms. Pan Ju greeted his mother and began cooking tiger meat for her. 

"I need the wind sabre Mother," Said Pan Ju.

"What makes you worthy of the wind saber? You have no achievements."

"We have to confront the Sandstone Nun and she is too powerful for us."

"I will give it to you temporarily, so you can deal with this nun, but you must avoid Heiping Sect at all cost."

"Why must I avoid Heiping Sect mother?"

"Because I stole the Wind Sabre from them and killed their leader, Lu Feiyan," She said. 

Later that night, she gave the wind saber to Pan Ju. Then she trained him over the course of two weeks, teaching him her storming needles technique. Pan Ju also used the time to practice the Wind Sabre.  



*It is a nearly month-long trek to Heiping Sect from where they started, and the TNs for Survival Rolls in the Banyan are high, as the Banyan. And so they had numerous encounters. However most were either social in nature or not a huge threat, merely a delay. 

**This was a simple Endurance Roll to avoid getting sick. 


Tuesday, April 2, 2024

MAD MONKEY KUNG FU: ANIMAL DISCIPLES IN OGRE GATE

In Return of Condor Heroes, Yang Guo, after losing his arm is aided by a giant bird called Divine Eagle. Companion of the great martial artist, Dugu Qiubai, Divine Eagle helps Yang Guo master his heavy sword technique. This allows Yang Guo not only to overcome his loss of an arm, but to reach the pinnacle of martial arts swordplay. 
art by Jackie Musto 

Animal companions are common in RPGs and work well in a wuxia campaign. In my Sons of Lady 87 Campaign book I tried to emulate the Divine Eagle with a master who had bear followers, Bear Saint Xiong Sheng*. Recently I had a player in one of my groups gain a monkey companion and attempt to train it in martial arts. Today I want to reverse engineer an animal follower system from the Master Xiong character, and adjust it to go for a more gonzo approach (the bear followers of Xiong Sheng are more in line with Divine Eagle, but I am aiming for something even slightly more over the top here). 

In the sons of Lady 87 book, Master Xiong Shen's bears are moon bears of high intelligence who have imitated his martial arts to a degree and can help transmit his knowledge by demonstrating it. They aren't ranked and they don't have a suite of techniques, just a general ability to imitate him. This entry is the key to how they work: 


Master Xiong Shen is Qi Rank 7, a Profound Master. He also has the Talent (Bear Handling) skill and Creatures (Animals) skill. In total he has 9 Bear Disciples. That is roughly 1 per Qi rank, with a couple that need explaining. I didn't have a formal system in mind for this because he was an NPC. But if I were to open this up to players, the way I would do it is allow players with the relevant animal handling skill to gain one 1-2 animal disciples per Qi rank by making a Talent (Handling) roll**. On a Success they gain 1 Disciple and cannot gain another until the next Qi rank. On a Total Success, provided they are trying to train multiple creatures, they gain 2. 

The abilities of the followers would be somewhat up to the GM. Generally they should have one Defense and one Skill above the norm for animals of their type. They also gain +1 Extra wounds. 

In addition they get the emulation ability which functions as follows: They can mimic the characters kung fu movements, allowing them to teach the techniques to others, and giving their attacks +1 Extra wounds if they are on the smaller side, and +2 Extra wounds if they are on the larger side (so a Tiger might do 2 Extra Wounds but a snake would only do +1 Extra Wound). Alternatively this bonus could be keyed to the player level, not their animals size. If done this way, simply give a +1 extra wound bonus for animal disciples of martial heroes, +2 extra wound bonus for animal disciples of profound masters and +3 extra wound bonus for animals disciples of immortal characters. 

However for a Gonzo campaign, I am thinking of opening up Qi levels to the animals. In this case, they retain the teaching through mimicry ability above, without the extra wounds bonus on their attack rolls. In place of Extra Wounds, they level like normal characters with some caveats. Each level they get the normal increase to Max Wounds, but only gain bonuses to Defenses every other level. In addition they can take only 1 Kung Fu technique learned from their master per Qi rank. In terms of advancement, I am still not sure what the best approach is for spacing out their levels. I was thinking of a flat 1 rank per year, but I may simply key it to the PC's levels in some way. 



*This character has a wide variety of names he goes by 
**They would need the relevant handling subskill: this is open and fairly infinite; you can take it in virtually any animal