(The Gates of Yomi; Nick Gindraux.)
The pacing has been off on Oubliette. I'm letting things sprawl all over the place, & could use a little focus. It's something I'm very aware of, & stuff that I've plotted out for a single session can just slime out everywhere. That's fun though, sometimes, even if all that happens in a session is a rising sense of Hitchcockian suspense. Raise the violins! Which is what last Thursday's session became; I think people had fun-- I know Lilly did at least-- so I'm not sweating it, but it is a skill I need to work on, especially after having seen Ken run a slew of hour long one-shots on Sunday...but more about that later. We're talking about my game for now. I had to ask for a confirmation of the last scene from the previous session, if they had concluded with Iroha leading them to the Gates of Yomi, the abandoned fortress that Goro & his bride-to-be Amina o-Kitsune, Lilly's character, are going to live in. Which reminds me, I didn't ask the players for a recap & I didn't go through to confirm their Experience & see if they wanted to spend any. Several of them increased Attributes in the year long gap between the auction & this wedding, so I guess it is probably fine! But, the point being! The session starts with the party, led by Iroha o-Lung, agent (& cousin) of the Shogun as well as Luke's character Haru o-Kitsune betrothed, heading into the higher altitudes & longitudes, seeing the rather rare occurrence of snow. See where the two Watchtowers are on the map? They are equatorial. Then, looming in the cliff walls-- the giant skeleton castle-statues of the Gates of Yomi!
Trying to summarize the session would be tricky, as like I said, it was very fluid, as the characters explored using all of their senses: in the case of the two blood magic using Kitsune, that makes occult visions & the ominous appearance of Mysterious Hints, Allegations & Temptations. Rather than try to lay it all out in a linear fashion, I'll just sort of spill my thoughts out like a dumped over cauldron. Oh & will you look at that; I started writing this right after game, but then life got in the way-- read: laziness, forgetfulness-- & I let this drop. That means it will be even more scattershot, but that's life, bub. So the players are approaching the skeletal statues, the spooky Argonath, & Haru decides to do a little blood magic divination, see what he can find out wearing the creepy mask that he borrowed & has not yet returned from the cult of Yama-of-Many-Faces. Yes, by the way, Yama & Yomi are related figures; Kamido, the religion of the Shogunate, has many gods & subgods, explicitly heterodox. Linguistic drift? Make it a new god, or an aspect, or an avatar, easy peasy. Or was it always really just an aspect or avatar or new god to begin with?
(Iroha o-Lung; "Infestation" by Jed Henry.)
Haru...well, he & the Butcher's Mask are getting along famously. He's not just putting it on & walking around like a cross between a cenobite & Darth Vader, no sir! He's not creeping up on people while having visions of dozens of people being tortured & executed. He doesn't menace Eric's character Ren Joko Izumi hardly at all! That would be too creepy. & what about these "DANGER SPORES" glyphs on the door? Wait, spores? Taking off the mask & coming to his senses, Haru-- who went on an expedition into the Toxic Jungle when he was an older teen (along with the Royal Physician before she re-discovered her supernatural birthright)-- warns Iroha & the rest that there might need to be quarantine protocols up ahead. Taking a handful of Kitsune ashigaru soldiers & Ren with him-- Amina will later catch up with them after some divinations of her own-- Haru rides ahead. Iroha gives him a flare-- forbidden, since he is not Lung, but the rules are bent since he's betrothed to be-- to fire when they want to give the "all clear."
Ren is in the middle of all of these maniacs. Actually, scratch that, Ren has made out with a mummy & a naga, I think he's lost the right to get up on his high horse. He's a weirdo, same as anyone. Everyone got their rewards for their role in the weapons dealing auction except him, since he & Silissa alternate. He was there at Goro's behest, serving as a social lubricant, a fancy Geiko-- Oubliette's "not-Geisha"-- to make everyone's time pass smoothly. Sure, he spent most of his time exploring a haunted pyramid, but he played his part in the vignettes & off screen, he filled his role with aplomb. In return he gets Resources O, as he is paid a fractional share of the profits, per his contract, but his real gift is more sentimental. Goro & Ren grew up in the same small "flower town," & they met the other players at the same time. Goro got drunk, drugged, broke the shochu bottle & ran away; Ren joined the others & became a PC. He gives Ren a kintsugi artifact: kintsugi is the art of repairing a broken thing with precious metals, such as gold, so that the flaws are replaced with strength & character. It is the same shochu bottle, now repaired with gold, that they broke as kids; if Ren uses it in a small meditative ceremony, whomever he shares a libation with regains a point of Willpower.
The bulk of the session is the group exploring the non-spore tainted skull-tower...which is pretty dang creepy all on it's own as it turns out. Just what kind of place are the Lung pawning off on this poor, innocent...peasant warlord? The first "room" is the hollow wall of the gates, of the eponymous Gate. The right hand floor has gone to rubble, & precarious & clumsily hewn wooden planks lay over it as a kind of bridge. There are piston-like spears in the ceiling, seemingly ready to stab upwards if anyone surmounts the walls. Next is a six-story tall circular "tower" inside the cliff face; in the middle a huge iron cage hangs, big enough for a half dozen people if they squeeze in. Butcher hooks hang willy-nilly throughout, & a spiral staircase proceeds up the walls. The chain keeps going up, but eventually the floor widens & the walls...curve, horizontally buttressed with beams like massive ribs. The actual interior of the castle; a barracks for communal living...with blood. What fray was here? Up from there, the "rib-like" walls continue...into a dining hall, with kitchens at each end, & the walls...lined with iron maidens? What is up with this place! Another spiral staircase up-- the "spine" of the structure, with the chain still running through it-- leads to a map room, stained with brackish & rusty water. The chain stops there, & going up the staircases split into two, & come out into the "skull" visible from below. Each "eye" is fitted with a heavy ballista, & a waterfall in the center of the room should crank the gears to wind the ballista, if it was working...& hey, probably powers the chain on that cage! It's an elevator.
Up from there are the makings of a small aristocrat's quarters, with a statue on a rotating pedestal & fireplaces at each end. Above that is...a greenhouse, with all the windows painted black with tar, filled with bones. Human bones, from a fresh kill but disguised as ancient, broken up with rusty weapons. Haru & Amina, the blood magicians, go on quite the tear, licking & touching all of the blood & the gore. Cracking open the rusted-shut iron maidens. Haru mollifies the troops-- he's good for morale-- & Ren investigates practically, but there are visions, visions. The Butcher. A female ghost with a samurai's paired swords through her abdomen. Dark forces are gathered here, tempting Amina with power & somewhere to belong, Haru dancing along the edges. It all seems...almost contrived, put together. Ritualized. It all seems...set up for the Royal Physician? Flirting with the powers of blood & night, that's what they are able to glean, along with hints, so many, many hints. We closed up the session there, with only the right-side of the Gates of Yomi explored, & Amina's wedding due to start in a week!
(A ghost; Peter Mohrbacher.)