(Iroha Lung's family castle-town; art by Fang Ming.)
I've recently decided to embrace a new style of organizing my games. It isn't exactly new, but it is something I'm pursuing with more mindfulness: drawing up everything, including social encounters, as a dungeon. Previously I've mostly drawn up social encounters as vignettes, & tried to use them appropriately based on what the players do...& this is still that, in essence, but with the added layer of information that comes with having geography as well. It actually makes it more organic & adaptive, the same way that you can build a dungeon ecology that is actually a series of informal logic rules. "The goblins & the kobolds are at war" maps out terrain & relationships at the same time...& there's no reason that can't be mimicked with non-violent conflicts. Sort of like how I like using miniatures to represent parties-- so you can see the cliques & track where the important NPCs are, & whom they are hobnobbing with.
The major upshot is avoiding railroading, linear plotting, & having ready-made flow-chart...if the PCs don't go to a location or talk to an NPC at that location, knowing what is nearby makes it easy to figure out what the NPC does next. That's always been a hallmark of Oubliette: the world continues when you aren't looking at it. NPC agendas get resolved when the PCs are gone, based on the actions of the characters in the scene, both PC & NPC, & that includes secret plans or plans the PCs just never discovered because they chose option B instead of option A. This is just a way I'm finding to track that, & scenes, more easily. & I've always gotten great responses from players when I've set things up as dungeons. So that's the old school ethos in my new school story at the moment. Nothing original, just organizing my thoughts.
(The Bronze Colossus of Shojo; Wat Arun by Michael Marsicano.)
We had met a few weeks ago to set the scene; Eric showed up, getting to have his turn for once, but things had gotten busy at work & I hadn't had a chance to write up an adventure for that week. Sucks to be him...but I'm going to give him full experience for this session, which neither he nor Silissa could make it to, because it's not his fault the Dungeon Master didn't have his game prep done. That means the crew was the Kitsune nobility-- Haru o-Kitsune, played by Luke, samurai courtier on his way to get married, accompanied by Amina o-Kitsune, his samurai warrior cousin (both of whom are secretly blood mages), & Keku Kin, Nicole's wily cybord zaibatsu agent. They've traveled to Monzen-Jo, Iroha's family castle, deep enough into Lung territory that Watchtower Ochichimitsu is visible even during the day. We've established that Ren & the Royal Physician are in the Market of the castle-town, where a massive bronze colossus of Shojo the Monkey King stands...
(Moyo Lung; art from Atlantica.)
...& that Amina's been taken to the Clockwork Ashigaru Barracks to get patched up, filled with gearwork & cogs much like the Gates of Yomi. Though she's really not that bad off, since Keku's serpent familiar sucked the poison out & Haru used his blood magic to take some of her wounds to his body. There she met with Moyo Lung, an old man in heavy ashigaru armor with an antique gada mace-staff. He keeps ranting about ogres & Tonka Bay, so she bails. Haru, Keku & Gong, meanwhile, are searching for a resting house in the Underdocks, below the market-- & seeking a doctor to look at Haru's injuries. Haru, for good measure, sees some old Imperial script & tells all the locals, with his best oratory wiles, that it extoles the virtues of Nagini, the Serpent Queen.
Speaking of snakes, Keku's familiar, the somewhat-blasphemously, now-somewhat-ironically named "Nagini," has grown to be a four dot Background. That's some spirit, so Nicole & I are thinking of ways to reflect that. Lilly & I are in the same boat with Kreecher, her demonic kitsune. She put another dot into it, which is not a bad idea, because it solidifies her hold on the increasingly illusive creature. It also means it is more powerful, as well; as a goblin-fox, I think this should be an alternate form. Actually wait; hold on. Lilly decided not to spend that experience yet, & save up for an Attribute dot. The train of thought still holds true, for the possible future.
(Sensei Zenzo Yamashita; Rock Ji by Jubo Tsui.)
The doctor who looks in on Haru-- fetched by his loyal manservant-- is Sensei Zenzo Yamashita, a handsome man with an exotic fashion sensibility & a slung pouch of surgeons tools. Zenzo, is of course...Keku's husband? Wait, come again? We've been sitting on that for a little while now, the two of us secret hatchers, but I had two ways in my mind I was debating going...Zenzo was the winner. I've got plans for the other guy, don't you worry. He patched up Haru & then...well, he & Keku had a talk, & she went under the knife again for elective cybersurgery. Well, metaphorically "under the knife"; in practice, the way the metallic bone lacing was installed was through multiple & lengthy injections.
All in all, it was a nice, character driven set-piece. I did make a misstep in keeping Amina & the rest of the group apart; I should have probably fast-fowarded that bit, but then, I do find that players get up to hijinks on their own that can be fun story seeds. So the field was sown. & like I said, since I've designed this vignette as a "dungeon," with key NPCs as "bosses" & locations as "rooms," it is a clockwork box. Now that it is all wound up, all I have to do is let it run & let the chips fall where they may...