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Author Topic: [The Emperor's Heart] Mystical Calligraphy and Sacrifice  (Read 4900 times)

Posts: 23

« on: January 06, 2008, 02:48:06 PM »

Here's another "Emperor's Heart" playtest report.  It's from late October and I'm just now getting around to writing it up. 

This time around it was my friends Randy and James, and myself playing.  First off, the set up took a lot longer than I had hoped, 55 minutes.  I tried to keep things focused, but there was a lot of waffling over character concepts, drama cards, etc.  Here's a rundown of set up:

Outlaw faction: Phoenix Mountain Swordfighters.  We were from a monastery on a backwater planet, and the guardians of a secret technique.

Scenario: Black Desert.  We were after the map to the last Emperor's treasure.

We threw together a few supporting cast characters: Princess Yi, King Fanquin, and the Princesses bodyguard, Aiping.

Villains: Enforcer Sen and Wardogs.  The wardogs had a captain named Binyan, who never showed up in the game.

We decided to do a standard game.

Onto the characters:

I played Shixiang, the cynical maverick.  I had for my drama cards, a love triangle between myself, the Princess and her lovely bodyguard, Aiping.  I also had a personal rivalry with Enforcer Sen.

Randy played Kwan-ha, the exile.  He had been a part of the Dragon River School but could not stomach their brutal ways, so was taken in by the Phoenix Mountain.  He had a "debt of honor" to the Phoenix Mountain, and "friend on the other side" in the form of Enforcer Sen.

James played Feng-fu, the heroic citizen with a secret.  He had a false identity and forbidden knowledge.  It turns out he was a master calligrapher with secret knowledge of power glyphs.  He could invoke forgotten Chinese characters that posses power and influence.  He was very very old, but seemed young because of his use of the mystical characters.  He posed as a humble blacksmith in the service of the Phoenix Mountain.

From this point on I only have my sketchy notes and hazy memory but I will try my best:

Scene 1: Imperial ship lands, and Sen the Enforcer is there to escort the Princess back to the Imperial palace.  Our faction had been there for a few days and had spread out trying to achieve our goals.  Kwan-ha was at the King Fanqin's palace when Sen arrived, and the Enforcer recognized his old friend and tried to find out why he was there.  The conflict lasted two rounds and Kwan-ha lost.  He confided to Sen why he was in the Black Desert... This took about 30 minutes of play time.

Scene 2: Shixiang was trying to find out information about the location of the treasure and had been sent to an ancient scholar.  The two of them were enjoying some tea when the Imperial entourage went by, and Shixiang saw his old rival, Sen.  He was torn between following his foe, or staying and learning the information he'd come for.  Unbeknownst to him, the scholar was a master fighter and ambushed Shixiang, to see if he was "worthy," of the treasure he sought.

Three conflict rounds:
1st was a tie, 2nd and 3rd went to me for a win.  The old man gave me his fake eye which would lead us to the "key."  This scene lasted about 15 minutes.

Scene 3: The Banquet hall of King Fanqin in which he formally handed over his daughter to Sen.  Shixiang and Kwan-ha were there.  I remember some interaction between Shixiang, the Princess and the bodyguard, but not the particulars.  Eventually, Shixiang and Hwan-ha tried to take down Sen and escape with the Princess (Shixiang told Hwan-ha of all the atrocities that his old friend Sen had done.)

This was a crazy conflict, 14 rounds long!  It was back and forth, upper hands, then ties.  Finally Sen won and escaped the palace with the Princess.  This would not stand!  This scene was about 45 minutes long

Scene 4: Finally, a scene with Feng-fu!  He had snuck onto the Imperial ship, and wanted to sabotage it by using his mystic characters.  But first, he had to get past a ton of robot warriors.  8 conflict rounds later, he did so and worked his magic in the engine room.  This scene lasted about 25 minutes.  Also in this scene, the last Award token was given out, so Endgame began.

Scene 5: Kwan-ha and Aiping, the bodyguard got separated from Shixiang, and caught up to Sen, and the two of them liberated the Princess from Enforcer Sen.  This took four rounds, and every roll was a tie.  Sen lost because he ran out of dice!  Only seven minutes for this scene.

Scene 6: Feng is leaving the ship, and runs into Sen as it beings to life off.  He avoids the enforcer, and as he jumps off the ship, Shixiang jumps onto it, tossing him the fake eye.  Feng meets up with Kwan--ha and the Princess.  He puts the fake eye up to his own, and it melds into his own.  He sees, with this strange sight that the Princess has an invisible tattoo of the "key", a map to the treasure, hidden within her father's palace.

Oh, I forgot to mention that we decided that the treasure was a secret swordmaking technique.  With it, Feng would be able to forge swords that would help out the Phoenix Mountain in their quest do destroy the Eunuchs.  15 Minutes for this one.

Scene 7:  Final duel between Shixiang and Enforcer Sen.  The ship was rising through the atmosphere and Feng's mystical symbol was  "counting down" to destroy the ship.  Ten rounds later, I won, BUT, I had gone "all out"  The dice did not fall in my favor...

Feng, Kwan-ha, Princess Yi and Aiping watched in horror has the ship exploded.  Shixiang was dead, but he had killed that bastard Sen!  Final scene took about 15 minutes.

I was so happy that Shixiang died.  It was a cool sacrifice.

All in all, everyone liked the game.  There was some fumbling with narration, but it smoothed itself out as the game progressed.  I felt bad for James, since his charcter, Feng, only had two scenes, but he said he was having so much fun playing Enforcer Sen, that he didn't really mind.

Some issues that we discussed post-game:
- Narrating ties.  Who does it, how is it done.  We just sort of fudged it and it worked.
- Both of them thought, it could get really crazy with more than 4 players.  I'll have to try it and see Smiley
- What about magic and mysticism?  We incorporated it in, but is it something that really should be in the setting?  It's something that you see in the wuxia genre.



Posts: 67

« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2008, 10:38:37 PM »

Hi Joe,

Your game sounds like it was pretty awesome!

On to questions:

- Ties

Right now ties are pretty much open or co-narrated.  Since neither side gets the Upper Hand with a tie, it's really a chance for one or both sides to either narrate escalating their efforts or perhaps fumbling down.  These sorts of things are really short narrations - "I kick back up and now we're facing off in the rain...", so it shouldn't be too hard to manage.

- # of players

So far I've mostly played in 3 player groups.  I, also wonder, because I realize a lot of the game works on the free flowing suggestions of "What if?", and it is possible that too many players might gum up the usual small-group flow.  I probably wouldn't push past 6 players.

- Magic & Mysticism

I've left out anything explicit about magic and mysticism because I figured most groups would find a way to set their own comfort levels about what fits for their game.  I've played a game where everything was very sci-fi, I played one where a character was killing ancestral tiger gods.  Right now the rules are bare bones, but I think ultimately the advice will boil down to a few minutes of discussion before play to set the tone.

Also, with regards to James- one thing I've noticed is that different people find different ways to engage in the game- sometimes through their Hero, sometimes by playing other characters, sometimes through focusing on "What If?" questions.  I wanted to provide multiple ways to engage without locking people in to rigid roles.   I guess a worthwhile thing to note next time you play is to look at how the different players link into the game.

Thanks for the input!  Definitely feel free to ask any questions, or send the other players here as well.

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2008, 06:08:44 AM »

Hey Chris,

I know I'm probably missing something obvious ... Is there a link for the playtest rules?

Joe, I'm interested in something - the relationship between combat rounds and real time. In one case, the group took 30 minutes for two rounds, and in another one, the crazy one, it took 45 minutes for fourteen rounds. Can you explain a little about what takes up real time during a round? Or in some way, maybe using those two as a contrast, show how these different sorts of results appear.

Best, Ron

Posts: 67

« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2008, 10:13:05 AM »

Hi Ron,

"Combat round" is a bit of a misnomer- all conflicts use the same resolution, though, 30 minutes/2 rounds is longer than I could imagine for most play.

The current playtest rules can be found here:



Posts: 23

« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2008, 02:56:41 PM »

Hey Ron, I guess I should clarify.  The times that I listed were for the whole entire scene, not just the conflict. 

In the scene that had the 14 round conflict, a fair chunk of the scene was the conflict.  There was still a lot of scene setting and role-playing though.  If I remember correctly, Randy and I did quite a bit of interacting with the NPC's, each other, and finally Enforcer Sen before we entered the conflict.  Of those 45 minutes of real time, maybe the last 15 was the actual conflict.

I hope that helps
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