Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fresh Fish

Geo has found some new players for my campaign. Mic and Jo, a delightful couple, young by my standards of age, but tolerant of my doddering and rambling. We spent most of this eve – a special session as I work tomorrow – creating characters and briefing them on the world.

Over in the Yahoo group there has been a discussion as to how one handles players who either can't or won't buy into the worlds culture. This is always a fear for me with introducing Tekumel to new players. It was the first game I played, so I didn't have an expectation of dwarves and paladins that many young gamers acquire from “other” RPGs. Transferring from our common ethos to that of Narnia is not so difficult for most. But being thrust into a world where your good neighbor might also practice ritual human sacrifice is a bit disconcerting for most people I should think.

So, our new characters are

Mriga is a Priest of Keténgku, with a strong grounding in the healing arts, both magical and mundane. He was raised at the Monastery of the Grey Cloak, (which, in my Tekumel, and I think reasonably) has a Keténgku wing. I will have to find him a copy of Man of Gold... He has a strong sense of loyalty to the Monastery, perhaps moreso than to his Clan, Victorious Globe.

Suni, a warrior priestess of Grugánu, cohort to Ksárul, with an emphasis – so far – on Warrior. She is a member of one of the Black Trinity Clans *Black Moon, if I recall, but I don't have the sheet in front of me) which should create a different dynamic, should the Black Clan hunting party appear in the area again. She wields a Quarter Staff very nearly expertly, and has perfect balance. She also has blood lust and a short temper.

With the addition of these players, it would probably be imprudent to continue to refer to Geo's character as the “Hero”, so by way of Introduction..

Sanjesh, a Temple Guard with Hriháyal, and, until recently, the focus of our narrative. He is a member of the Green Kirtle, with High Lineage. Attractive, with a singers voice, and an up and coming talent with a sword. He is the very model of a Hriháyal Major General.

Once characters were complete we brought everyone up to date. My brain was getting fried, and I was ill prepared for extensive adventuring, but we played for a bit, above ground. First, a long discussion ensued about alternative ways to catch a Chnéhl. Traditional hunting technique would be to try to use the slaves as beaters and drive the Chnéhl towards the hunters. But this didn't bode so well if the goal was to capture, rather than kill. Someone hit upon the idea of using pit traps. So, slaves were put to work making a wall around the new camp, digging pits and preparing torches for a possible entry into the caves. Sanjesh, Suni and the Beast handler took our bait out for a walk, to spread the scent around.

No Chnéhl, but they did spot a Kuni bird, which, at Sanjesh bidding, the Beastmaster subdued with Zoic Domination, and held in a tree while Suni climbed up and captured it.

When they got back to camp, the beast handler had a chance to look more closely at the Kuni, and found it banded, and property of the Black Monolith Clan. So, it may have been associated with the hunting party – though no one saw a kuni with the party – or there may have been another party in the area, or, perhaps it simply escaped or was somehow lost. There was talk of interrogating the bird, but, since they couldn't be sure if it didn't talk that it was just not trained to talk, they decided against it, for the time being. They also decided against letting it go.

There was also a discussion of possible reasons that the Chnéhl had yet to take the bait. (Part of the truth is that the dice didn't work in their favor, but) someone suggested that perhaps they could sense that things weren't right. It was during the layout of the tents that someone realized that the tent that housed the fake Mis was down hill from the rest, which would be improper, if it weren't actually housing a slave girl. No one knew if the Chnéhl were smart enough to notice that kind of social faux Pas, but it was also noted that, perhaps because the Rényu, or perhaps Kaiyor, Mis's protégé, or even her ever present bodyguard was missing, the Chnéhl were simply not buying it. Or perhaps the lack of active rituals and ceremonies to Hriháyal. Well, they couldn't do much about the missing people, and it had been a long week in the woods. So the Hriháyal contingent decided it was time for some fleshy rites. Nothing quite so powerful a scent as the cumulative odor of a dozen sweaty bodies doing the holy bump and grind. The newcomers were invited but did not take part.

Mriga took first watch, and late into it, or perhaps early second watch, I forget, the slaves in the trap tent came running out, again insisting that there was Chnéhl in the tent. When pressed, they admitted they didn't see anything, but heard something in the hole. Sanjesh investigated as a crowd of naked sweaty Hriháyal worshipers (and slaves) crowded in with a somewhat discomfited Thúmis and friends behind him. Silence. Then a groaning, moaning noise. Not specifically Chnéhl like, but not categorically un Chnéhl like. Perhaps injured Team Avánthe. Perhaps team Avánthe trying to trick them into putting the ladder back. Perhaps something completely different. A torch dropped down the whole failed to shed light on the subject. Finally, Suni volunteered to go in.

And that is where we left off for the eve. Overall, it went well. Thrown into a very non D&D like environment, and subjected to one of the more radically unorthodox social customs of that environment, our recruits stood fast, and, hardly blushed. I am pleased. I think they have what it takes to buy into the world, and explore it for what it is, rather than try to make it something with which they are more comfortable.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

La, the traffic on the weekends...

We didn't game this week, but we did the week prior, and I am one week late in the posts. So first the game..

Our Hero and party spent another very dull night hoping to trap our escaped Chnéhl. It was annoyingly quite. The next morn they decided to try to control the camps perimeter with an improvised Baily, and decided to march into town to round up some additional slaves, or labor. They all went, leaving the camp open with the hope the Chnéhl might take the opportunity to explore it, and get themselves caught.

While in the village they met a small party of four strapping young men from the Four greater Black Clans – Black Fear, Black Water, Black Moon, and Black Flame - Their Pachi Lei Guide and their 20 slaves. The four told them they would be hunting in the area, and asked about game. Our Hero explained about the Chnéhl, and asked they keep a distance, and both parties agreed that it would be best if the hunters were well aware of the location of the parties campsite, so no accidents occurred. With new slaves in tow and the hunting party along side, they returned to the camp and the traps were – of course – still empty. The hunting party moved on up the mountain side. The camp site had simple wooden palisades on one third it's circumference by sunset. That night, they had some action on the perimeter, but it turned out to be a few Kurukú who had become curious about the camp.

So, the next morning they decided the bait smelled too much like a slave, and the camp site might be too threatening, so our hero took the girl and one of the beast handlers down to the river to wash her up.

When they reached the trail along the river that leads up to the Sákbe roads, they bumped into a party from the temple of Avánthe, a priestess and a few Aridáni Temple guard. They were a bit taciturn, but that didn't seem unusual considering the nature of the temple and its relationship to Hriháyal. Still, a bit of chit chat, and our hero learned that this group was headed out to survey damage and offer help to the locals. What else could one expect of Avánthe anyway..

After bathing the slave they headed back, and quickly found that the Good ladies of Avánthe are not above lying. Rather than continue down the trail along the riverbank, they had cut in and followed the path that our heroes party had taken out. They appeared to headed straight for the camp. But they never actually entered the camp, instead, circumnavigated it and continued on, up the mountain side. Suspicion started to settle in. It didn't take long for them to conclude that someone who returned to Butrús had leaked the information about the new cave entrance. A plan was hastily hatched, to pack up everything and move the camp to the mouth of the cave, and sit on it. That way they could try to control access to the cave, and still try to catch the Chnéhl. Only problem was they didn't have enough slaves to move the cage and all the tents and provisions. So the rest of the day was spent preparing for the move while a small party ran back to the village to get more hands.

Pickens for slaves were slim (the Black Clans had bought up most available) and so they hired some locals for strong backs and set out. They didn't even try to attract the Chnéhl that night, as the camp now numbered around 30 persons. The next morning they made their way slowly through the jungle and up the side of Silver Mountain, with a growing caravan of labor and gear. But as they were setting out another party arrived. This consisted of Two Priests of Thúmis and their guards. They were forthright. They wanted to explore the caves that the party had found and felt it might serve both parties to join forces. Seems word was spreading quickly amoung the temples (as the rescue of a High Priestess is good gossip) and it was not unreasonable to expect the area to get a lot of attention in short order. It would only be a matter of time before the government got wind of it, and they would certainly send troops to “secure it” in the name of the Petal Throne.

When they arrived at the cave entrance they determined that someone had already been there, and entered. From the size of the camp they guessed it was the Team Avánthe. No sign of the Black Clans. Now it is time to remind our reader that the entrance to the cave was a sink hole, and a rather steep, slippery and deep one at that. So,they built one tent directly over the hole, (and placed the cage inside).

But that was not quite the end of the evenings session. They sent the day labor home, and set watch to catch the Chnéhl. Early in the first watch our hero, who was in bed, as he prefers the last watch, was awoken by a scream. The slave girl had come running out of the tent hysterical. She insisted the Chnéhl was in the tent. Swords drawn, our hero entered, finding nothing. He went back to the hole but could see nothing. He figured if it was Team Avánthe, there would be lights or at least the smell of torches recently doused, but it was black. But to be sure our hero tried to pull up the ladder, on the reasonable assumption that it really didn't matter who was first in the hole, but who was first out. “There is no Concordat in the Tsu'urum.” It was heavy. Really heavy. Then there was the sound of movement, and the ladder was light again. And with that we called it a night.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Left to their own devices

This weeks game was truncated by a beguiling siren who talked us into taking a break to play Dominion*.. (I think). So only a bit happened after some initial book keeping.

The High Priestess Mis took her Tirrikámu, her Rényu, her protégé, and halve the temple guards, plus some slaves and a palanquin she picked up on site, and headed off to Butrús for recovery. She left our hero and the remaining Temple Guards to recover the Chnéhl. They had been seeding the area with drops of perfume to keep the beasts local, and they hired some local artisans to build some bamboo cages. Fortunately, they tested the cages with a couple of strong guards, and found them wanting. But Mis sent down two animal handlers from Butrús temple (figure that this would be a common enough skill in the temple of Hriháyal considering the necessities of certain rituals..) and they brought some appropriate cages. I figure one knows Zoic Domination at U4. A Specialist in the Priesthood.

On the first attempt they baited the cages with Hmélu. Hmm. Can't find that word with proper accenting to add to my Tekumel Dictionary at the moment..** At any rate, the Chnéhl didn't take the bait. The second attempt they hid the cages inside tents, and placed a slave, dolloped up in a bit of Mis' Personal perfume. This brought the Chnéhl to the edge of the camp, but they didn't make entrance. They did appear to make an attempt to outflank the guard on duty, however.

This is when our distraction arrived. It is also when I realized one of the reasons that running a solo player is so tough. He has no one to bounce ideas off but NPC's. That leaves the ref having to balance between giving too little and too much guidance over and over. And it certainly gives me problems with presenting just plumb bad ideas, which players manage to create organically. I may need to have Geo bring that Mythic Game next time, if I don't find any more players with free time.. who'ld have thought that would be so difficult.

On the Dominion front, I handily won the first game, and was robbed of victory in the second, just barely falling 4th out of four. It is a pleasant little game, which changes up the rules every game via a mechanic of using different sets of cards. Mildly Crack like, in that they will keep putting out new decks, it does not suffer the insanity of the Collectible Card game market. You buy a box, it has several “decks” which can be mixed an matched with to play games and additional boxes do the same. They are all free standing games, but the decks can be interchanged. Since the cards establish a lot of the rules details, each game is a bit unique, and replayability is high. Still, I doubt I will buy it.

Speaking of spending money, I picked up some GFNORDW bits and some figs via Ebay, at reasonable prices. Some are even painted, and will fall right in line for some Sárku temple guards. Others perhaps Hnálla, or Thúmis. I also bought some pre cast hirst arts bits that I hope to make into a modular cave set. All further purchases are on hiatus, because I ran my checking account pretty thin when I paid for some work on my Truck.

There will be no game tomorrow, as I will be at work..

* yes, dominion
** found it..