Been doing around monthly games of the Gulf of False Hope, would maybe like to do more but it has mostly been falling on me to organize it and provide space for the game. I’m okay with doing that for the most part, but the end result is that we play less then we in theory could be if we actually fell into the true West Marches style, but I think that might be a blog post for another time.
But basically, that’s been the only gaming I have been doing for a while, and while I am still doing that (hope to have another session on Saturday), I’ve got my Burning Wheel itch going again, and so I ended up joining a group based on an advertisement in the Burning Wheel G+ Group (and also was cross posted to the subreddit).
Much like Kento and Maxim’s stories, this group decided to do some alternating week campaigns, although this being a small group rather than two one on one games, a few folks are only playing (at least for now).
I am running one of the two games, and we just had our first session a week ago. The situation for this one revolves around the “Free Trade City of Kaigan”, a city which is effectively ruled by various cartels and draws on stocks from all over the world, effectively a lite version of MonBu City.
I’d been playing a lot of Yakuza when I came up with the pitch, so Kaigan ended up having a lot of eastern trappings and traditionalism ended up playing a bit role in the burning. The players are all part of one of these clans, known as the Jade Orchids. The Orchids are not one of the largest clans in Kaigan, but have traditionally been mediators and peacemakers between the various factions at play within the city. We decided that the Jade Orchid’s legitimacy in this role was drawn on a combination of tradition, they have been around Kaigan and in this role for a long time, and backing of some of the established religious authority in the city, being seen as agents of Shizukana Hoshi (The Tranquil Star).
In recent times, however, improvements in sailing technology has brought many more foreign traders to Kaigan. Traders that are both not well versed in Kaigans traditions, and those that follow foreign gods. In fact, we decided that miracles of faith do not even affect these foreigners, although I think the gods of the established pantheon can affect followers of other gods within the same pantheon (So a Faithful of Athena could affect a follower of Poseidon, but not a follower of Odin or Anubis). These foreigners often don’t see the need to go through the Orchids to cut deals, which has been undercutting the legitimacy of the group as they have yet to be able to put a stop to it.
Our principle cast consists of:
- Rin: a Faithful of Shizukana Hoshi, while publicly one of the in-house preachers, Rin secretly serves the clandestine equivalent of Internal Affairs for the Jade Orchids, run by the elderly mother of the current clan head.
- Takezo: A mid-level enforcer, and bodyguard for the Orchids, Takezo is a true believer in the clan, but more so the traditions and values, rather than the religious aspect, he’s the only PC without the actual Faith trait (There was going to be a
- Ichihara: A son of a branch family from the line of the Clan leaders, Ichihara found his calling as a Faithful follower or another deity in the pantheon, Arashi no Seigi (The Storm of Justice), which gives us the opportunity to also include the spheres rules from the codex. Ichihara is a bit at odds with his parents for not following Shizukana Hoshi, but still is fairly respected overall due to his family standing.
We had agreed in burning that the big event that kicks off the game would be the murder of the clan head during a mediation between two of the major clans of Kaigan, and that seemed like the best place to begin.
I go over what the background for the scene, The Eye, one of the major clans in Kaigan, who does a lot of business in trade/smuggling of questionable goods, has had several of their ships burned, and they blame the Rising Dragons, a collection of many smaller clans that have banded together to compete with the larger ones for influence and territory.
The two representatives from the clans agreed to meet, and for such a large matter, the head of the Jade Orchids, Yamoto Kaito, meditates personally. Some progress has been made, but an impasse had been reached, so Yamoto called for a break and the various leaders retired to separate rooms.
We start play with the three PCs in a room, having been minor parts of the meeting in their own various ways. Suddenly, Takeshi, one of Yamoto’s personal bodyguards, comes in looking seriously freaked out, demanding help. They go with him to Yamoto’s private meditation room, where he often spends breaks during tense negotiations like this one.
They find him on the floor with a knife in his back, dead. A symbol is drawn in blood on the wall, but none of them recognize it. Shinji, Yamoto’s other bodyguard is protecting the body.
Rin tries to invoke Shizukana Hoshi and revive her boss, but refuses a help die from Ichihara because she thinks her god is all that is needed. I’m fully prepared to let this miracle take place, but even if he is freshly dead, he’s still dead, and that is nothing short of a major miracle in my books. 10 successes on starting Faith is just too much to ask, and Rin is subjected to an awful revelation (the person who did the deed was a follower of Shizukana Hoshi as well) and passes out from shock as a result.
Ichihara and Takezo spend some time failing rolls and not getting much in the way of clues, but they do get the story from Shinji and Takeshi. Yamoto regularly retires to this room alone to meditate. Shinji and Takeshi guard the door from the outside. There does not seem to be any way in or out of this room besides the door. They both were outside the door the whole time, and they agree no one went in after Yamoto, until one of the maids, Shinobu, brought Yamoto his regular tea, when the three of them found the body.
They look around the room for hiding places, and while they do find a few potential places where the killer COULD have hidden, no one seems to be there now. They then try to figure out what they are going to do about the meeting with the clan leaders, and Takeshi runs off to go inform the elders.
Rin wakes up and decides that they should wait on that, and chases after Takeshi, and interrogates him a bit at the same time. He kind of breaks down from the stress but sticks to his story. Next Rin tries to get the story from Shinobu, who is very traumatized and the dice aren’t really helping either. She refuses to go see the body again or talk about what she saw, and Rin doesn’t really feel like forcing her. Meanwhile, Ichihara and Takezo try to identify the dagger, but can’t make heads or tails of the strange symbols on it either.
They decide to break the news to Yamoto’s mother, who is also Rin’s boss as the spymaster. Rin and Ichihara go, while Takezo is left with the two bodyguards.
Unfortunately, about now the meeting is scheduled to resume, and Takezo has NO idea what to do about that. He ends up sending Takeshi to go get some of the elders after all and tries to stall for time.
Yamoto’s mother is distraught by the news of her son’s death, but tries to keep it together and help them figure out, still they are not sure if they quite have enough to go on. Still, Rin suggests an old tradition (using doctrine, I think?), of having everyone in the house stay within for a period of mourning after someone respected like Yamoto dies, which would include the representatives from the other clans! The role is passed, so by invoking that tradition, the Rising Dragons and the Eye can’t really complain TOO much, and that should give them more time to investigate.
Unfortunately, Takeshi is the one trying to keep the peace between them, and he REALLY is just muscle for the clan and not actually suited to this sort of thing. He tries to wise up a topic of conversation that will stall and keep things cordial, but it blows up in his face and the two men end up arguably more pissed at each other than they were before the whole thing started.
We called it there and in two weeks (we are skipping out on playing tonight and next week we play the game I am just a player in) we’ll give the PCs a chance to use this tradition to investigate the murder.
Not much artha was given out, but I am beginning to find this normal for the first few sessions of a game unless it is a very tightly focused one shot. Still, hopefully we’ll have a better feel for the characters and be able to dive deeper next time!