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Author Topic: [Heroquest] Xian Quan, the Well of Souls, 2  (Read 1132 times)
Doyce
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« on: February 01, 2005, 10:55:01 AM »

Another session of the Ancient China version of Well of Souls.  The wiki-pages on the whole thing are here: Heroquest.XianQuan

[-(30-Jan-05)-]

Eliang goes to sleep for the evening, exhausted from snake-vomiting.  The following morning, she awakens, early, but stays in bed for a while.

Master Li looks around Gunlang's (Guilbert) room and strides out into the hallway.  The magical "tide" has receded, but there's still bits of flotsam and jetsam. "Who is responsible for this fiasco!" he demands, sure that it is a Buddhist plot.  He goes to where the magical occurances the night before were, and tries to determine who is behind this ...

The door to the room where Aoshi (Eustef) is sleeping flies open (at Li's doing? at the spirit world's?), and Li sees Aoshi lying there, along with a servant (who shrieks), Au Li (his right hand man), and Kai Ling (Collette).  He determines that the "spirit snakes" are a symptom, not the attack itself (assuming it was even meant to be an attack against him).  The "tracks" lead through the material world, coming to Aoshi and then leaving.

Li scowls, chants, ignores the shrieking servant, and follows the path down the hall ...

Au Li, unsure of what's going on, but fairly certain he doesn't like it, bum rushes Master Li.  Li slips away from the grab and Au Li passes by, smashing into the far wall.  Master Li attempts to exert his dominance as an authority on things mystical and ghostly, offering to be escorted through the castle with guards if necessary, and depends on his remarkable eyebrows and beard to give him an added air of mystic aplomb.  Au Li is, at first, not convinced (and continues to try to grab him), but Master Li appeals to Li's loyalty to his master, and he stops his attack.  Guards come up, and they and Au Li march off with Master Li, watching him closely.

[[GM NOTE: We decided to run this as an extended conflict -- our first, which Au Li initiated with his hand to hand attack, forcing Li to build his Advantage Point pool from his own unarmed combat (since I'm looking for a game where everyone 'knows kung-fu', your unarmed is assumed to be a mere -5 improve from whatever your main martial skill is), which started him off at almost a 2 to 1 deficit.  Master Li countered during his actions by 'attacking' with his very respectable "Assert Authority" and augmenting with things like his reputation as a Ghost Hunter, his Bushy Eyebrows, and Long White Beard.  He managed, after several exchanges, to drop Au Li to exactly 0 AP, which earned him "Fine, you can investigate this, but I'm coming with you, with these guards, and if you don't find anything, I'll lock you up for good, personally."  It played out very well, albeit somewhat slowly. ]]

Ro is at the barracks in the city below.  He can see Man Xun being held in the guard's room beyond the entry chamber.  Ratou is there, too, inside, talking to the guard about interrogating "the priest" (Master Li) first -- not knowing that Li has already flown the coop, quite literally.  Ro informs Ratou (politely) he's here to escort his father away once any questioning has been completed -- he is more than willing to wait, HOWEVER long it takes.  He manages to just barely sway Ratou into questioning Man Xun first to expedite his release.  

[[This was done as a simple contest, which I think still came off quite nicely -- I thought it was a good contrast to the earlier conflict.]]

The questioning takes about an hour.  Ro listens in using the whispers of the wind, as Man Xun explains the history of the Taoist ritual of the evening before, etc.  

The land here, Man Xun explains, had been in Aoshi's family in the ancient past, but then was turned over to a series of non-heriditary prefects.  About six generations ago, during a particularly virulent anti-Taoist era (the Neo-Confucianist Era), Prefect Deng was enthusiastically trying to quash this peasant ritual.  He died, poorly, during what is locally referred to as the Serpent War.  Aoshi's ancestor reclaimed the place on behalf of the original family, finding it swamped by snake demon spirits.  He meditated for a year on the hilltop where the current family manse now stands, and when he arose, a spring burst forth and bound the Serpent Queen.  A castle is built on that location, and a fountain is built around the spring -- that same fountain that now stands in the courtyard of the manse.  The fountain responds to the will of the Kung prefect, on behalf of the land.

Ro wonders if anyone has even *looked* at the fountain.

Ratou seems interested in how the ritual could have been perverted to Aoshi's harm (possibly with an angle toward pinning it on Master Li), but (at least to Ro's ears) all in all Ratou seems completely straightforward in his goals: find the culprit.

----

Meanwhile, a certain (magical?) kitty in the castle sees something weird and scary in the fountain.  There are things sneaking out of the fountain, like ghost snakes, slithering off into the castle.  They're bad snakes.

The little kitty goes and finds a real snake and brings it back to the ghost snakes.  The real snake follows the ghost ones as they slither into (and out of?) the castle.  

The kitty looks around and sees two soldiers talking by the door.  They don't see the snakes, because they're not magical.  The kitty chases after the ghosty snakes...

[[GM's Note: This was the first -- that I'm aware of -- official roleplaying session for my friend's four-year-old daughter, whose current favorite 'pretend' character is a magical salami-eating kitty.  I thought it wove in quite well.]]

----

Jiong is out in the courtyard, near the entrance, talking with Feng Shirong (Aoshi's hatchet man).  Feng expresses continued doubt about Ro filling in for him.   Asks Jiong to extend his patrols a bit, just to reinforce the borders he shares with Man Xun's governance.

Jiong notices this small cat doing this little Rikki-Tikki-Tavi imitation on some sort of phantom creature.  It leaves the courtyard for a bit, while the men talk, comes back ''with a snake'' in it's mouth, releases it... and the snake (a small garden snake... harmless) raises itself up, then heads off toward the castle entrance -- directly at the two soldiers, in other words... very odd.  Jiong kills that snake (being well and truly suspicious of all things serpentine, after the episode earlier this morning at the Prefect's bedside), but sees the cat trying to get in the door of the castle -- batting at something underneath.  Suspicious, he lets it in, and follows...

Master Li is tracking the energies of the spirit world, which ebbs and flows.  He's following the trail, and runs across a cat, which is batting at some of the currents of energy, followed by Jiong.  The two meet, and Jiong is relieved to meet someone who can see the spirit energies ''and'' can talk.  Li gets a briefing on the previous night's events.  

They track the energies to the fountain (the 'trail' or 'flow' seems to move both directions).  Master Li knows that there is an association between the fountain and the prefect's condition.  He observes that the effect against Aoshi may have been a side effect of the spirits leaking "around" the fountain.

-----

Eliang, napping, is having a dream.  It is the day before, and she sees the fountain as her father, Au Li, and the rest of the entourage mount up to go to the ceremony.  She sees Aoshi do a blessing/prayer there, and take some of the water in a gourd.  The group departs, and the evening comes on.  She sees a figure approach the fountain again -- she knows it's one of her brothers. She sees his mouth moving (but there is no sound to hear) and him flipping a coin into a fountain to make a wish -- the fountain's moonlit reflection seems to brighten.  Later, during the early evening, she senses the same thing again, with the ''other'' brother.  With this second wish, the water's ripple shadow get darker, intermingling with the moon-bright reflections.  

The group with Aoshi returns.  Something dark rises up from the edge of the fountain -- avoiding the water -- silhouetted, dark. And it looks at her as it strides toward the castle...

She awakens, and goes to the fountain.  Where she encounters MasterLi and Jiong.

----

Man Xun is escorted out to Ro.  The two chat about goings-on outside the building.  Man Xun opines that Ratou is a grave danger to the prefecture, and something must be done to convince others of that.  Feng Shirong is, to his mind, making a tactical error that could prove costly (Feng is busy setting up patrols along the borders to prevent problems with neighboring prefectures) by attracting attention to Xian Quan.  Something must be done, but Man Xun feels ''he'' is too old ...

----

Eliang is surprised to see Master Li -- that is, not in jail.  She can see the spirits around the fountain, though, and grudgingly admits that the men are on to something.  Jiong greets her.  Au Li explains that he's seeking the answer to Aoshi's attack.  Master Li says that spring is a "stopper", as in a bottle of wine, and something has begun to slip out -- or has already slipped out and back in.  Something was done, but what remains are simply signs of the attack, not the attack itself -- Aoshi's body is hale and healthy, but his spirit is missing.

Master Li refrains from noting that it was Taoist magic, not Buddhist, that originally stoppered up the magic realm (and the Snake Queen there).

Eliang indicates she's going to check out Aoshi's body again.  Alone, despite Jiong's offer to assist.

# Did Aoshi go willingly, or what his spirit forcibly torn from his body?  (Eliang is checking this out.)

# Did Aoshi's spirit go back through the fountain with the intruder?

# Are there other spirits in the area that observed what happened?  Water spirits of the fountain?  Spirits of the air there?  (Ro can speak with them).

# Is there anything in the historical records of the prefecture or Kung family?  (Master Li is wondering about this.)

Shirong arrives as they discuss things, and Au Li has to make noises like Master Li is being put into custody, again.

Jiong is uncertain of how his sword and his duty can assist him in this spirit encounter, though he's worried, upon consideration, about Eliang being safe in her investication.  

Even if she is kind of a cold fish.

-----

What worked:

- The extended conflict was, I thought, very nice -- it really drove home that a good way to win a difficult conflict was to play to your strengths, whatever they might be.  I've run a few of these in the past, but through bad luck, the opponents were so evenly matched in most any area that there wasn't much benefit to 'switching things up'.  Au Li vs. Master Li provided a much more varied playing field, and it came out well.

- There were a few parts during the session that the players commented were really evocative of the genre and setting -- I didn't quite feel them the same way (see below), but I'm very glad they did.

What hasn't/didn't work:

- I thought I'd prepped bangs for this thing about two weeks ago.  Turns out I had confused it with my prep for the Anglo Spring Fountain game, and I had nothing ready.  As a result, things felt somewhat directionless, and I feel like I shorted Jiong and Eliang's players both, Eliang especially.

- The NPCs are FAR less grabby in this version of the game than the euro-version.  I do not know why.  Heck, they're much less VISIBLE in this one, and I don't know why.  Partly, this might be due to playing through the same basic set up at the same time as another similar game, so I don't feel compelled to push individual agendas as much, or something.  I don't know. It might be related to the next point.

- I shouldn't probably have run this when I did.  I was a LOT more tired than I thought I was, and had trouble remembering names, places, events, plot points... and where I was in a sentence.  That anything at all good happened is probably a tribute to the system, the set up, and the players, cuz I didn't help things much at all.

- Some of the players are overly concerned with balance, when HQ isn't about balance: who has more skills, who has the 'better' occupation (whoever's playing a nomad, obviously :), who has more spells, whatever.  I wasn't very sympathetic to this sort of mind set, which probably (a) didn't set the players at ease and (b) didn't endear them to the system, but in playing HQ myself, I've already let go of the idea of balancing characters precisely.

Is the character the one you wanted to play?  Then he's balanced.  Anyway.

All in all, a good if not great time, due mostly to my lack of sleep.  Live and (re)learn.
Logged

--
Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
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