Thursday, June 1, 2023

Satisfying Game Play

Last weekend (yeah, it's nearly Friday already...I've been busy!), I ran a session of my TS&R Jade campaign and things went really well. In the session before that, the party had confronted a corrupt merchant and his yakuza buddy who were selling black lotus powder in town. Well, in that session, they fought the final battle on the outskirts of town, as the merchant and gangster were trying to flee.This session, after a bit of discussion of where to go and what to do, they decided that since they still had the warrant from the town magistrate to search Merchant Choi's home, they were going to use it and confiscate all his treasure. But first, they paid a visit to Kunio, the yakuza lieutenant who wanted Hideo, the drug dealing yakuza, out of the picture. Kunio agreed to lend them three thugs (using Justin's yakuza PC's streetwise ability to call in favors), and asked for Choi's ornate decorative suit of armor as a reward. The party also hired five men-at-arms, several of whom they had hired before, including Yu-seok (pronounced "you suck"), and Yeuh Dai (pronounced "you die"), much to the delight of the boys. 

When they got to the home, my younger son's Blade Mage used a disguise spell to make himself look like Choi. After they put a loose binding on his arms, they went in and demanded that the guards surrender. "Merchant Choi" told them to comply, and so they did. 

In the house were Choi's guards (around 15 left), a handful of drunk gamblers (who had been hanging out with the yakuza kashira), eight dancing girls, four gardeners, and around a dozen servants. Each group was interrogated, with my older son's Wu Jen using ESP to learn a few secrets. The gamblers were quickly let go. The guards and entertaining girls were disarmed (the poison blades of the dancing girls, being dumped in the koi pond, killed the fish), and most were then let go. One of the gardeners' thoughts betrayed that there were secret passages in the house, so he was kept while the rest were let go. The servants were sent to bring all the valuables. 

Well, knowing there were secret passages, and not getting a suit of armor among the loot collected by the servants, the party started searching the house. But in one guest room, there were three paper lanterns, and ghost-like creatures (ao-andon) emerged from them. The ao-andon got initiative, and they all used hold person, which paralyzed nearly everyone. My older boy's Wu Jen and one m-a-a were unaffected...and of course "Merchant Choi" who ordered his guardian spirits back into their lanterns. One reaction roll later, the plan worked, and the gardener was revealed to be a type of ninja guardian called an o-niwa-banshu. The three lanterns went into the koi pond (along with jokes about zombie koi fish emerging because of it).

The plan to overcome the party with the spirits failed, so the ninja agreed to show the party the secret chambers, including the treasure room which had the armor, and several rectangular areas free of dust, where the crates with black lotus powder had been removed (those had been recovered in the previous session, but the players had suspected there would be more). 

With all the treasure confiscated, Nate started scheming a plan to take over the mansion. Not a bad idea, it's a nice big house with a nice garden (now with zombie koi fish?), secret passages connecting rooms, and space for the party to settle down and expand their operations. Maybe even take on some permanent hirelings instead of recruiting men-at-arms each session. 

But there was a quandary. If they took the loot to the magistrate, it would be public knowledge that they had taken it. Also, Choi's family might stake a claim. But if they took the loot to the yakuza Kunio, he wouldn't pay them full value for it. Eventually, after debate and a vote, they went to the magistrate. But a bad reaction roll to the idea of him granting them the house led the magistrate to take half of the value of the treasure as a tax. And they don't get the house. There were some schemes hatched to "haunt" the house and make the Choi family want to sell it cheap... but that's for a future session. 

I was really satisfied with this session, and so were the players. There was technically a combat. We rolled initiative with the ao-andon, and players made saves vs the spells. But there wasn't a single to-hit roll in the entire session. Just a lot of talking, scheming, intimidation, cleverness, and invention. Not only that, most of the PCs leveled up after the game.While I do enjoy running combats, it's also great fun to have a session like this without any real combat, and everyone's engaged and having fun.

It's also satisfying that Stevie's Blade Mage made it to 3rd level, so he was able to pick two 2nd level spells, and chose phantasmal force and locate object. He's definitely not trying to be a combat power-house with his spells, which is good. He can play more cleverly this way, something he's learned from our earlier West Marches games (although in Star Wars his Jedi is packing more guns than anyone else in the party, including the Mandalorian!).

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