Friday, 13 May 2016

[Actual Play] 5th edition in Pre-Medieval Japan: Session 5 - It all gets a bit Pendragon...

Session 5 of the "Three Mysterious Weirdos" campaign took place last Sunday. With all the excitement of releasing The Peridot I forgot to do a write-up. Previous session reports can be found here.

PCs present:

  • Monomi the Chinese monk
  • Goro the Japanese warlock
  • Pasekur the Emishi ranger
  • Terasu the Japanese cleric (run as an NPC for this session)

The session began with the group having cast an ancient lichen-man enchantment on the river mussel goddess to trap her in her river mussel form, and then having fled off swimming downstream from her servants. They decided the next port of call had to be Kawa-no-Kuchi, where they could deliver the river mussel spirit to Lord Uesugi-no-Mishiri and then have her placed in the river. This went well: while Lord Mishiri's household wizard, Takeyama-no-Onmyoji, advocated using the river mussel as a source of power, Lord Mishiri kept his word and the goddess was placed in the river nearby. She could now feed off the nutrients put into the river by the town, and thus produce mussels for the townsfolk to eat.

The PCs were lauded for their efforts and invited to a banquet. Everybody was going to be there, so it was to be a major event. While there was some discussion about other options (visiting the inland Emishi village of Bihoro, which they had heard about, or perhaps investigating what was making the Emishi of another nearby village, Kikonai, so aggressive), they decided they would go to the banquet and investigate the problems afflicting Lord Mishiri's daughter. They had encountered the daughter wandering the forest a fortnight or so previously, apparently under the sway of some strange magical influence. They suspected that Lord Mishiri's beautiful new concubine was somehow involved in this, and the banquet would be a good chance to get to the bottom of things.

The banquet was also a good opportunity to interact with, and get noticed by, the great and good of the Uesugi clan. Pasekur, being a hairy Northern barbarian, was particularly popular. Once everybody was well and truly drunk, the Emishi was invited to do a barbarian dance. Failing spectacularly in a sort of Ewok-inspired xylophone routine, Monomi interceded and suggested that Pasekur would be better off demonstrating his skill with animals or hunting. Lord Mishiri then invited the barbarian to attempt to break one of his stallions, the Red Horse, who would not let anybody ride him. With the aid of Goro, who summoned and unseen servant to placate the beast, Pasekur was able to tame it. The display so impressed Lord Mishiri that he gave the Emishi his fan as a token of everlasting friendship with the Uesugi clan.

Back in the banquet hall Monomi and Goro got talking to the wife and daughter of Lord Mishiri. It quickly became clear to the ever-perceptive Goro that the daughter was under some strange charm, and also that the wife was looking profoundly unwell, as if perhaps cursed. Monomi began talking to the pair. The daughter explained that she was having horrible dreams and was sleeping only fitfully, while the wife complained of feeling constantly tired and drained. While this was going on it became clear to Goro, seeing a glimpse of the arcane around the beautiful young concubine of Lord Mishiri, came to the conclusion that she was a demon. It was also apparent that the concubine was watching all of this unfold very intently, almost as if she could hear everything despite being on the opposite side of the hall.

The PCs had a conference - doing the equivalent of whatever going out for a cigarette is in pre-medieval Japan. They decided that they had to try to invite the wife and daughter to Pasekur's village Okoppe, to see Umoshmatek the shamaness. She might know something about these awful dreams. But they also thought that there was a good chance that the concubine, whatever she was, was "on to them" and would try to get to Lord Mishiri's wife and daughter before they could be taken to see Umoshmatek.

The PCs hatched a plan. Pasekur would distract Lord Mishiri by challenging him to a drinking contest. This would definitely tempt Lord Mishiri, who they knew to be impulsive and brimming with proto-samurai machismo. Pasekur would attempt to drink him into unconsciousness, whereupon the wife and daughter would have to take him away to take care of him. This would separate them from the concubine for the night. While this was going on, Goro would talk to the concubine and prevent her causing any trouble. The next day, they would invite Lord Mishiri and his whole family to the village of Okoppe to meet Pasekur's parents and cement the bond between the Uesugi clan and the Emishi of Okoppe - figuring that it was unlikely they could get the wife and daughter away on their own.

The plan worked brilliantly. Pasekur strode forward to challenge Lord Mishiri, with Monomi as a kind of interlocutor. [DM's note: It is perhaps worth explaining at this point that Pasekur cannot speak Japanese. I decided that on their travels the PCs had taught him 5 words. The players decided they had taught him Yes, No, Shit (because everybody teaches foreigners swear words first), Emptiness (because Monomi was teaching him the concept of Zen) and Run. However, Goro has the capacity to communicate with him telepathically, although this is only ever a one-way thing. Communication difficulties dogged the PCs at every turn this session, which really added something.] Lord Mishiri was already hammered, and agreed to the drinking challenge wholeheartedly. On around the second or third drink, the head of the Uesugi clan promptly projectile vomited, staggered dramatically about for a minute or two, and then collapsed insensate. His wife and daughter then ushered him away to bed (carried by servants of course). 

While this was going on, Goro began a kind of dance-like conversation with the new concubine of Lord Mishiri. While she did not admit to anything, she revealed that she knew that Goro was a magician of some kind. They arranged to meet the next evening at a cape a mile or two up the coast, where the incoming waves squirted through a crack in the rocks like a fountain.

With their task - making sure the concubine could not do anything to harm Lord Mishiri's wife and daughter that night - complete, the PCs retired to bed. The next morning, they visited the badly hungover and irritable Lord Mishiri and suggested the trip to Okoppe. Lord Mishiri's household wizard and general both agreed that the visit would be a good idea, as it would expand the power of the clan in the barbaric North and perhaps lead to significant trade links.

A mini-procession headed off to Okoppe: Lord Mishiri, his general, his wife, daughter and concubine, a dozen or so warriors, a further dozen or so courtiers, and Pasekur, Goro and Terasu. (Monomi had gone on ahead to explain everything to Pasekur's relatives.) In Okoppe Lord Mishiri and his family were formally introduced to Pasekur's parents Menkakush, the chief, and Umoshmatek, the shamaness. After an exchange of gifts, it was agreed that the men would go off hunting while the women would "get to know each other". This was the opportunity for Umoshmatek to see if she could find out anything about the enchantments cast on Lord Mishiri's wife and daughter (with Pasekur's sister Toitoi translating).

Out hunting Pasekur was able to kill a big male wild boar and further ingratiate himself with Lord Mishiri, who offered the Emishi the chance to join his household as his personal hunter if ever he wished it. There was then another large feast, though Emishi style this time: plenty of salmon, boar meat, salmon roe, and smoked fish. Here, the PCs managed to take Umoshmatek and Lord Mishiri's wife and daughter to one side. The Emishi shamaness explained that she could not know for certain, but there was definitely magic afflicting both women, although it was of a 'Southron' sort that she did not understand. The daughter revealed that her dreams featured strange seal creatures, which had the body of a seal but a fleshless, skull heads. These creatures would call to her to come to them, travelling North up the coast; she knew that they meant her ill, but her resolve not to go to them was becoming weaker. She also said she had visions of the face of an old man, covered in a kind of mossy growth.

On that note, the session ended.

[I really enjoyed this session. I've enjoyed all of them, but it feels like the campaign hit its stride this week. All the players have agreed that there is a real Princess Mononoke feel about things. I haven't intended this at all, but it has definitely developed in that direction. Which is fine by me.]

1 comment:

  1. As a reader, I completely agree with your comment about things "gelling". Things felt a little bit random before, but this was quite nice. I'll also mention that just listing the PCs very brief description at the beginning helped me get more into the story.