Log in

No account? Create an account
mordicai: crown me king! [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
mordicai caeli

[ feed : tumblr ]
[ profile : profile ]
[ archive : archive ]
[ twitter : twitter ]
[ games : oubliette ]
[ tor.com : tor.com ]

August 24th, 2010

Oubliette, Session Six: In the Baobab. [Aug. 24th, 2010|04:59 pm]
mordicai caeli
[Tags|, ]
[Current Mood |Weaponized Dust.]
[Current Music |crown me king- slush xx]

(The Pale Bride; NSFW pictures here & here; "Scars" by Ivan Hidalgo.)

In the last session of my Oubliette campaign, our heroes had hounded the Man in Black, chasing him across country, across County, harrying him until a brief confrontation left him speeding off into the distance. Our session picked up from there, almost immediately, with the party heading across Almond County toward the Baobab palace. We set up Sam & Tracey's living room, brought in the table, I put in the CDs, & got to playing pretty quickly. The musical accompaniment was focused on CocoRosie, a dash of Sigur Ros, & Portishead (& Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man). Dinner was meatball subs & salad. Everybody was awake & unoccupied; hooray! It was raining all day, but I managed to get there & back without getting soaked, which I count as a victory, as I had my backpack full of books. Now, those are just the details of the mise-en-scène. It might also be worth noting that the players couldn't roll for a damn. The dice were against them all, on nearly ever roll. It was sort of astonishing. On to the meat & drink.

(The goats of the scrub & the Royal breed; "Crazy Goats," by unknown; "Manx Loaghtan" by Farmers Guardian.)

Almond County is a orange outback, a place that looks deceptively hardscrabble but is fertile when tended through stewardship-- which is exactly what the aristocrats of Anise strive to do. The plain ranges from savanna to taiga, as the climate shifts. The most notable piece of flora, besides the occasional straggly tree, are the thick baobabs, some of which grow to immense proportions. The baobabs & other brush are over-run with trips of goats (trip is the collective noun for goats), goats that climb up in the branches, avoiding predators with sprints if they come after them to climb. These goats are semi-feral, tended (& milked, sheered, butchered) by the nomadic people of the county, mobs of people who migrate to keep the resources managed. The Royal breed of goats is kept near the Baobab Palace & branded with the Lazy Eight (∞) of the Countess & the Claws (♋) of the Wildgrave. Besides the goats, most notably the vast mammalian turtles-- glyptodons-- roam Almond County. Wait, did I just say "Baobab Palace?" Why yes! The Wildgrave-- Iron Head Crab-- owns the Baobab Palace, a huge living baobab that has been hollowed out & the insides painted with tar. The Palace is several stories high, & surrounded by smaller baobabs to stable the noble's destriars. If you recall, in Anise nobility the Graves keep the castles, while the Counts-- who sometimes have holdings of their own-- tend to travel from their subordinates palaces, going from place to place as they govern.

(Countess Almond, Yellow Knife on Stone Table & Wildgrave Iron Head Crab;
"Unknown" by Manuel Albarran, “Hypnose”- Emily Didonato shot by Anthony Maule for Numero 115.)

Blue Glory on Dark Water's father the Licorice Duke is the over-lord of these lands, & she knows some of them from court. Finding a warrior-lady-in-waiting, Cutting Ribbons in the Wind, she announces her presents, along with the presence of Curie Firstlight, the Gleaner from Aubade. Unannounced, but present, are Nobody & his bodyguard-- Duke Slumbering Heart Dwells on Hill & Long Cleaver of a Thousand Helms. They are "incognito"-- a polite fiction supported the Duke's mirrormask & Long Cleaver's devilmask. Because it might be politically untenable for a rival duke to be gallivanting around in the Licorice Duchy, everyone seems content to accept that Nobody is no one important, no one of note, no sir. For now, at any rate. The party retires to get ready-- the Duke pouring kettles of scalding hot water over his body, punishing himself with burns until Long Cleaver intervenes by getting into the hot water with him, forcing the Duke to stop heating it any further. Meanwhile, in the other changing area, Curie & Blue Glory change & get ready-- Curie being uninterested in Blue Glory in that way, as he fancies the lads. My game! The important stuff happens in the communal baths.

The interior of the Baobab Palace is rugs & painted murals; tree root pillars with windmill arms for steps. Countess Yellow Knife reclines on the steps, as do her braves & the Wildgrave-- & the Countesses' Human vizier, Road of Lace, who is standing at her lord's right hand. When Blue Glory & the rest come into the room, the Wildgrave stands, & the Countess inclines her head. Blue Glory tells the story, of how she & Curie & "Nobody" chased the Man in Black from the Abaia Mind Control Zone. The Wildgrave-- who obviously feels cooped up, who has a reputation for flying the coop, for sleeping on the ground while policing her domain-- says she'll investigate, as she knows these lands better than anyone. She rounds up warriors & departs. Meanwhile? Tea Ceremony. Oh, Countess Yellow Knife might be a spitfire, might seem laissez-faire, but she's all about the civilized life. She rolls out the rug & does the whole thing herself-- turning the tea pot to display the art, the cups, the bones, the nines. The party comports themselves well, except Curie, who is a little over-anxious-- they can tell that despite her calm demeanor, the Countess' nerves are a little ruffled by the party's appearance. Long Cleaver hesitates, but tastes the tea to make sure it isn't poisoned, & to show he is polite. Blue Glory successfully hides her memories of petulance-- learning the stuffy art of the tea ceremony in her father's court. "Nobody" sips from his cup but once, but displays an amazing degree of grace doing so. My game! The important stuff happens during the tea service.

(Countess, Wildgrave, Vizier & Braves; photo by Mordicai.)

After the tea ceremony, the Countess offers the services of her Vizier Road of Lace as a tattoo artist. Well, Curie Firstlight has some ink already-- a tattoo of The Chariot, with one of the "horses" done in negative space & the components exploded as on a technical diagram. Long Cleaver too has tattoos-- much like Russian prison tattoos, the Hungry Templars have their own traditions of symbolism. While there is discussion, the Vizier, Road of Lace, sneaks away to confer with Blue Glory in secret. They return, unnoticed, & the tattoos are decided upon. "The word for tattoos is the same as the word for the etchings on a blade, did you know?" opines the Countess. Laceroad uses a reinforced stick with a needle at the end to do it-- all by hand. Blue Glory gets a blue lotus silhouette below her bust, with black water below. The Duke declines, but asks on behalf of Long Cleaver, too duty-minded to inquire for himself-- Long Cleaver gets a snake with a skull head on his back, striking, decorated with glyphs. Curie has the Chariot embellished, has Hermit-like lanterns added, one of the lanterns composed of negative space, like one of the creatures pulling the Chariot. While the tattoos heal, Curie gives his spiel about "anabaric power"-- the interest of Yellow Knife is piqued, but her vizier's perhaps more so.

(Karnak of the Ex Mob; "Atam Masquerader" by Phyllis Galembo at the Alok village, Nigeria.)

Of course, I'm never content to let it rest there. Woosh! A flash of white! I guess the "samurai" vibe was really coming across, because the rest of the scene was very, very grinder, very action flick. Blue Glory flung off a dagger at the pillar the flash of white went behind-- "assassin!" Duke Slumberheart Nobody looked up & the camera zoomed on his face with a dramatic soundtrack. Long Cleaver-- his nodachi bound on the right rather than the left, out of respect, ended up clanging his blade against his breastplate. The fight? Well, flitting along the ceiling like a white spider was the Pale Bride (pictured above)-- the masters of body language that they are, the party recognize her as the female figure accompanying the Man in Black. Along with her drop three Karnak's, carrying the deadly pepperguns-- firearms! They belch fire, like dragonsbreath rounds. The Karnaks seem mind controlled, but the Countess' warriors don't care-- they battle in earnest. The Bride grabs "Nobody," drags him about-- Blue Glory throwing candles at her, Curie shooting blasts of lightning. Eventually, Long Cleaver runs her through the heart, & she flails at a window, crashing through, defenestrating herself. Blue Glory whistles for her mount Herakles Vagabond...& we end the session.

(The Pale Bride & the Karnak Ex Mob; photo by Mordicai.)
Link9 comments|Leave a comment

Gi Yu Jin Rei Makoto Meiyo Chugi. (70) [Aug. 24th, 2010|09:02 pm]
mordicai caeli
[Tags|, , , , ]
[Current Mood |Sūnzǐ Bīngfǎ]
[Current Music |crown me king- Go Rin No Sho]

Legend of the Five Rings by Alderac Entertainment Group.

Niten Dōraku
placed the pen on the black page
& red ink flowed out.

I get it. This is a book that will continue to grow on me. kingtycoon & Antonio gave me this book, since they are book huge fans of it. & given my last roleplaying session, you can tell that it has already had an influence on me. The thing is-- I'm not blown away. Then again-- how could I be? What we've got here that is new is the rule system, mostly. The land of Rokugon has already been spooled out, in earlier editions, in the card game...& most prominently in Dungeons & Dragons' third edition's Oriental Adventures. I know the clans, Crab to Crane. I'm aware of some of the intricacies of the politics. & don't get me wrong-- they are great. This edition of the game does a great job portraying itself as what it is-- a fantasy setting. A fantasy setting influenced by Asia instead of Europe. They are clear when they say it isn't based on "Japan," though samurai may make up the mainstay of the game. That alone-- that clear delineation as "not even remotely trying to be historically accurate"-- positions "L5R" correctly. & hey, anybody who has heard me blather on & on (& on & on) about Avatar: The Last Airbender knows I like my respectfully done non-Western worldbuilding.

Lets talk mechanics, first thing. I guess the moral of the story is-- that I think they are too complicated. The "roll & keep" notation puts me in mind of the first edition of Shadowrun, which wouldn't be a bad thing, except as FASA found out (when they were still making Shadowrun...), it isn't required. Well, I take it back: L5R's mechanism is fundamentally different, because you do need that notation. The game doesn't work without it. My problem is that it is hard to judge the rolls "on the fly." More dice? Keep more? What is appropriate? Then you throw raises in the mix-- purposefully increasing difficulties. Okay, but then you throw the ten die cap, & then the cap on the dice you can keep-- the fundamental mechanic gets a little muddy. It seems totally playable-- but compared to the Attribute + Skill mechanic of World of Darkness, I tend to be inclined to go with the simpler. Everyone has a laundry list of powers they'll accumulate-- the sample character sheet is five pages, just to give you a concrete example.

Of course, I played around making characters to test it out. My favorite-- because why not mess around-- was a member of the Chuda Family of the Spider Clan, who had wandered out of the Shadowlands into the Kuni Wastes, & been adopted by the shugenja of the Crab Clan. His training as a Kuni Shugenja was complimented by the involvement of the Soshi School of the Scorpion Clan. Now his goal is to be recognized as Chuda, honorably, by the Emperor, & start a "true" Spider Clan with families from the Crab & Scorpion. Of course, I'm a little sad you can't make a mixed Shugenja/Bushi, but I understand. The strength of the rule set is that it evokes the world. You don't want them mixed, okay. You want Honor & Glory to matter, & they do. I am down, I absolutely get it. & hey, I guess if you wanted to be a bushi who could cast spells, you could always sell your soul for a little maho blood magic, right?

The weakest thing, to my mind, about Legend of the Five Rings? Is the immediacy of the meta-plot. Is the fact that every crazy thing you can think of has happened in the past decade of the twelfth century. Again, I "get" it. The setting is motivated in large part by the devoted card game fan base. Good for them for being inclusive of their fans-- I might not care about collectible card games, but whatever, you might not care about pen & paper. The thing I don't understand is why each major event-- you know, evil incarnate crawling out of the Pit, the Sun & the Moon getting killed, Scorpion Clan being exiled then reinstated with honors-- isn't separated by a century. I mean, I like that it has a living mythology, but that living mythology seems crowded & silly when it all runs together. I have the same problem with shows like LOST. Really? They are on the island for 90 days? That is a pretty crazy couple of months. Why not expand it a little. "Oh, this week all we did was smash coconuts, no troubles-- there were some weird sounds, but that is it." I really like Rokugon, & I like a lot of the metaplot-- just space it out a little!
Link54 comments|Leave a comment

[ viewing | August 24th, 2010 ]
[ go | Previous Day|Next Day ]