Thursday, October 26, 2006

Goro, Monk of Osano-Wo

This is the short backstory I wrote for the GM of the new L5R rpg that I am participating in. So far so good, but it seems to have one problem in common with the DnD group I just got out of, the characters can't get along or see eye to eye, and that is a strange thing in Rokugan where behaviour is dictated by liege lords and bushido.

From the beginning... This is not what is known to me, but what in actuality occurred before the story of my life truly began. It starts with a man, alone in the world, by his own will or the whims of the fortunes that spin mortals fates... Matsu Arihiro; troubled, tortured, broken, a Deathseeker, such examples of a samurai are best left to the back shelves forgotten, remembered only for the deeds they accomplished at their end and not their indiscretion in life. I was a reminder of such indiscretions, a product of barbarism forgotten by all but those closest to my mother. Oh, they wished that they too could forget, and so they abandoned her, my mother, to find her way on her own, without family, without clan, without dignity, as peasant filth.

She was unable to escape the perils of the wild world for long, my rescuer arrived long after her screams had faded into the night. Of my life preceding this event I was told little except that I did not cry out, even as a babe. I responded to sound, so they knew I was not deaf, but it was assumed I was a mute, until my 7th birthday. By then I had a name, simple, like the names given to all the monks raised by my temple. My view of the world was shaped by my surroundings, the aged men devoting hours to meditation and physical perfection, the strict guidelines, the peaceful order of the place. What I knew of samurai were from the few visits my temple received from the local magistrates, and the stories told at night under the starry sky, by monks who vaguely claimed to once have lived among them in some other life.

Long years passed, my elders grew older and passed on, their wisdom sometimes fading from the mortal realm, sometimes passed on to another keen mind in the following generation. My training progressed as it always had, with the proficiency of my masters and teachers. It was not a mystery to me why men devoted to such peaceful existence pursued such violent martial arts, I assisted in many battles, minor skirmishes compared to the wars being fought amongst the great clans, but deadly nonetheless. Instead of fighting for rights to tax border villages, or for honour, or for the Emperors favour, I fought for the peasants right to live, to drive away pillaging bandits preying on the weak, and, whenever such evil arose, against the shadow of the taint that crept into the hearts of our land. The Fortune of Fire and Thunder, great Osano-Wo, cares as much for the common man as he does for the valiant samurai in their lacquered armour.

I had trained with the best and most revered masters of our sect, even studying for years at our largest temple outside the Shinomen forest. My hard work and dedication to Osano-Wo brought me great rewards, I was appointed to head a new temple in a remote village on the borders of the scorpion lands. The village was known to its inhabitants and neighbours as Old Tree Village, or Furui-Ki-mura, because it centered on an ancient cherry tree planted many generations ago by a wandering monk, or so it was told. I selected my most diligent and promising student, Ichigo, and together we traveled across the empire to the site of our new temple. The reason we were assigned to start a temple in such a remote village was because we had been petitioned by the village headman after a great lightning storm had passed over the region. All the surrounding villages had been damaged greatly during the storm, but the only damage Furui-Ki-mura had sustained was a single lightning strike to the ancient cherry tree. The tree dropped a large branch that the villagers decide to use as a cross-piece for a torii, the gateway to a shrine. Given the nature of the storm it was felt that it was only appropriate to devote the new shrine to Osano-wo. This coincided with a dream an aged monk at our temple had, and it was decided to construct a temple on the site.

When we arrived at Furui-Ki-mura construction on the temple was well under way, the villagers had cut back on the time they spent in the fields to finish the temple in time for our arrival. When the time came to erect the torii on the path to the temple many villagers from the surrounding region had gathered to watch the momentous event. It was remarkable how much work had been done in such little time, and in the end it turned out that the rice harvest was the greatest in many years, signifying Osano-Wo's favour. The temple was small, and barely had room for Ichigo and I, but for the next five years I found the most peace and contentedness I had ever known. The villagers still worshipped regularly at the shrine to Inari and enjoyed the bounty brought to them by the fortunes, there were few problems during those years.

I had gone to a neighbouring village to check up on a sick child that none of the healers could mend, and on the return trip was confronted by a furious storm. Lightning flashed all around me and thunder echoed through the hills. The suddenness with which it had started awed me. I had no fear, however, I was a monk of Osano-Wo, the fortune I served watched out for his followers, this most likely was an omen, a warning or foretelling I was not sure. The ferocity of the storm spurred me on, though I was not concerned for my safety nor my dryness, I began to get a feeling of dread that only grew as I neared Furui-Ki-mura. Darkness covered the land, but I didn't light my lantern for the raging wind would blow it out immediately, and the constant lightning strikes illuminated the path enough for me to navigate. I came to a portion of the path that was washed out and was forced to march the long way around, but by the time I reached the edges of Furui-Ki-mura the storm had moved on. Moisture hung in the air and I could still feel the electricity and hear the thunder as the it receded. Water covered the packed ground of the path, shimmering in the moonlight newly revealed by the quick moving clouds. I lit my lantern and headed toward the darkened huts on the edge of the village, all was silent except for the distant thunder and a small sound closer to me, the sound of a crying babe. I looked down at the ground again, at the pools of water at my feet, and the rivulets feeding them. They glistened red.

I rushed through the village, slipping in the mud, toward the temple. All around me lay the dead bodies of the innocent villagers, sprawled in heaps where they were cut down, defenseless. When I reached the torii I paused, taking in the gruesome sight before me, tears of rage and pride welling up in my eyes. There lay Ichigo, his breathing shallow, surrounded on three sides by the bodies of his assailants. There were five dead bandits at his feet, their arms and legs twisted and broken from his savage blows, weapons grasped in chilling hands. There was a broken katana lying on the ground, its hilt clutched by a bandit with his head caved in, there were multiple gashes in Ichigo's chest, and two stab wounds in his gut, a yari still protruded from one. I kicked the dead bodies aside and moved to cradle Ichigos head in my arms to try and relieve the pain of his last moments, he tried to speak but coughed up blood instead. I wanted to tell him that all would be alright, but he wouldn't let me, he tried to speak again, but only one word left his lips before his eyes fluttered and he was gone.

I located most of the villagers in the temple , while Ichigo had held off the attackers he had bought time for many of the helpless villagers to hide, and apparently the bandits had fled after confronting such a foe. The reports were sketchy at best, it appeared that the bandits had come in the late evening, quickly killing many of the men by stealth in the fields before they returned home. The rest of the villagers had been rounded up in the center square under the cherry tree, and the bandits demanded all their rice and money, killing the headman when he refused to give in. Some of the men tried to resist and overpower their attackers, but it was ill fated, only when Ichigo emerged from meditation and heard the fighting over the storm did the tides start to turn, but then for many it was too late. The one detail that all could agree upon was the hideous look of the bandits leader, a large man towering over the others, with a jagged red scar running across his face, twisting his mouth into an awful grimace. With that information in mind I left Furui-Ki-mura in search of a trail long washed away by the rain.

One word cycled through my mind....




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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Killed the Party!!!

Killing the party is not always the best thing, some GMs have it out for the party from the get go, always looking for weak spots and testing the players. But I like to have adventures that everyone can enjoy without always looking over their shoulders. My mistake. My players have gotten sloppy, or maybe I never realized they were always sloppy, either way I had to teach them some basic lessons about dungeoneering and adventuring, and what better way to learn than through personal experience.

Lesson 1:
Don't touch the shiny thing til you know it's safe, and don't put it on until you know what it does.
I covered the second part of this basic tidbit of common sense, the first part I hope will not have to be taught after this.
The previous session the party had 'assisted' Firesh(the fire god Ignus's servant in the mortal realm) in slaying a swarm of Windwing Drakes, Firesh did most of the killing and took most of the hits. Firesh left, without them asking him any questions(a lesson for another day), and they entered the drakes lair. Without checking the surrounding cavern the party dove into splitting up the loot. I had been pretty frugal with treasure up until this point, mostly because the treasure chest tables and complete lists of 'things' were not finished. There was a lot of good stuff in the horde, a couple shields, some armour, a few accessories, and a lot of gil. They methodically went through everything and split it up, then went to the treasure chests and had a bit of fun there. Among the loot was a bronze bangle, the player who found it immediately put it on so that the other players wouldn't claim it. At that moment an ogre appeared in the cave, at least that is what it looked like to the rest of the party, who, as intelligent creatures, ran away. Craedon, the Gigantos character who put the bangle on saw his friends fleeing and quickly followed, as did the ogre. There was a little bit of running back and forth before the players decided to make a stand against the foul beast, and if one of the players wouldn't have rolled a 1 on their damage die the ogre/Craedon would have died. After seeing his friend attack him for real he screamed out, causing a bit of confusion and ultimately resolving the mistake and taking off the bangle, which ended the illusion.
It was difficult to pull off, but in the end everyone had a good laugh about it.

Lesson 2:
Don't run toward the treasure before first checking the room for danger.
I have tried to teach this one before with trap doors and the like, but I have never been so ruthless, I hope that is the key.
After returning to the cavern and collecting the horde, Kato a moomba character noticed a discrepancy in the cavern wall(an illusion placed there by Firesh to keep them out of the dangerous caverns beyond). But the moombas night vision and a high perception roll identified it. Together the party pushed through (at least they don't wander off alone anymore) and came to a joining cavern with a small pool fed by trickling water, and stalactites and stalagmites, and large mushrooms growing around the edges. The cavern continued into another passageway and Craedon noticed a shiny box in the torch-light. As usual he ran straight for it to claim it as his own, disturbing the mushrooms as he passed, awakening them from their slumber.
Now, in the videogame Fungars are not the most deadly monster to face, but when you look at it tactically, being able to put characters to sleep and poison them in one action is pretty deadly. I modified them for the P&P game, because of the grid they had a definite drawback for movement and range, spores can't float very fast, and inflicting 2 status ailments with one action could only be balanced 2 ways; 1 lowering the success rate, or 2 separating it into two actions. I chose the latter, here is the selection for the Fungar, the party faced 4 in total.

Fungar - Type: Plant/Fungi
Level 6

HP: 220 - MP: 30 - TN: 12 - Move: 2 - Jump: Na - Ini: 11
Str: 7 - Int: 11 - DmgR: 20 - M-DmgR: 30

Accuracy: 4k3
Evasion: 4k3
Perception: 4k3
Spellcasting: 4k4

Exp: 70 - AP: 4 - Gil: 50 - Drop: Sleep Powder- 15%
-Immune: [I]-Elem, Root, Sleep, Stun, Zombie.
-Weak: [F]-Elem- 50%, [A]-Elem- 20%.
-Poison Spores, Action: Radius 3. 40% chance to cause Poison. 4 Ticks.
-Sleep Spores, Action: Radius 3. 50% chance to cause Sleep. 4 Ticks.
-Bite, Attack: 2d4 ATT. 20% chance to cause Drain. 5 Ticks.
-Flame, Spell: [F]-Elem. 2d6 ATT. CC 8 Ticks. Cost 10 MP. 14 TN.
-Expel, Response: When this creature is Ko'd it disperses all it's spores at Radius +1 and +10% chance to cause Poison and Sleep. 45% chance of success.

Two of the characters, Kato and Craedon, died right away, the other two, Kenji and Wawlimus survived until the sleep wore off, they made a few strategic errors so I was nice to them, but in the end it was Kenji alone and asleep, I let him get away and he pulled it out and saved his friends. The encounter was designed to kill them, and it succeeded, whether they learned anything or not is yet to be seen. Hopefully it was more educational than tedious for them.

The next lessons they need to learn are to talk to people and to not trust everything everyone says. It is hard to punish the absence of action, but a few sessions of wandering around aimlessly might make them a bit more cooperative.