Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Tekumel - Session 11

Following the scare at finding they were being tailed, the PCs held a brief discussion on what to do. They concluded that so long as they secured the building they slept in at night and stayed in public areas, they would likely be safe- being members of a High Clan would make people reluctant to move against them now they were no longer on the road and relatively isolated and vulnerable.

A deputation from the main Jakallan Clanhouse arrived late that afternoon. It seemed that word of the Sirukel being invited to perform at the Sea Blue Clan's party that night had reached them. The etiquette of a Tsolyani party meant that an invitation wasn't required to attend, but the status of a guest would affect where they dined- the group accompanying Sirukel would have far more access to the more prestigious guests then the White Stone typically would. After much bartering thinly disguised under a veneer of etiquette, two senior people from the Jakallan Clanhouse would now accompany the PCs there, whilst the Clan would make more effort to find better quality clothing for the PCs for the rest of the festival season.

That night, the PCs attended a party at the White Crystal Clanhouse. It was a mostly uneventful evening, as the PCs all actually behaved themselves for once and no potential social gaffes were made. In retrospect, I can't help but suspect that Kemuel's player felt this was far too boring and decided he'd make up for it at the next party.

The next day, Sirukel returned to the Sea Blue Clanhouse to continue learning the poem he was to recite. The other PCs ventured out into the streets in the morning to see the various street performers who lined the main roads of the city during the festival, before retreating back to the cellars at their accommodations to escape the rising heat- though not yet at the hottest time of year, mid-day in Jakalla was still far from pleasant.

When evening came, after much preparation the PCs donned clothing of the Twelfth Form and went to the Sea Blue estates. The two NPC Clan-members left the PCs to begin circulating, in the hopes of making some contacts that night. The PCs managed to make favourable impressions and offered suitable deference to the noble Clans who made up a large portion of those present, and remained quietly to themselves whilst waiting until it was time for Sirukel's recital.

The moment came. In the room set aside for the performance of Epic Poetry, the PCs noted members of many Clans present. A few discreet questions to those of equal status revealed that a significant number of the artistic scene in Jakalla had attended to hear the first public recital of the renowned poetess Lussani hiPavu's latest composition. Sirukel's player was most definitely feeling some of the same pressure as his character, as he realised he'd managed to essentially stake his character's reputation in Jakalla onto a single dice roll. Finally tossing the die (after much anxious selection of the right die from a pile and fondling the chosen polyhedron nervously), he groaned as he saw a bare success- MoS of 1, just barely above sub-standard. Deciding that this would never do, he decided to go for a re-roll (the T:EPT rules allow this, but essentially you have to spend experience, so it's only usually done in the case of rolls that would kill a character if failed). The second roll came up with an MoS of 7, a magnificent performance that was just short of legendary. The poem was received with great acclaim, and Sirukel was most certainly elevated in the eyes of the audience, and in the affections of Lussani herself.

(It was commented by Sirukel's player that he'd never had an RPG experience where any roll outside of combat could have affected his character status so much- let alone one where it was a Poetry Recital.)

As Sirukel mingled with the crowds after the performance, Gachaya had been wandering around keeping his ears open and asking discreet questions. Suspicious by nature (as many PCs tend to be), he'd found it rather odd that Lussani's usual Voice had been stricken ill just before this major performance. It seemed that this Illness had robbed him of his voice, and he might need potent magical healing for it to ever fully recover. Gachaya decided someone had deliberately poisoned the Voice, and soon found a suspect.

Sakunu hiKanme of the Golden Sunburst Clan was also a Poet- albeit one of significantly lesser talent. He was without a doubt one of the best Voices in Jakalla, but while he was exceptional at reciting the works of others, his own compositions were considered poor at best and cringe-worthy at worst. His status, however, was such that he couldn't simply function as a Voice, nor could his poems be rejected out of hand. Thus, he continued to be an active part of the artistic circles in Jakalla, one that those of genuine talent learned to simply endure with a smile. Now entering his middle years (though still attempting to cultivate a rakish and dashing look he hadn't been able to pull off in his youth), he'd become something of a fixture.

Lussani hiPavu had, in the last few years, become an object of frustration to Sakunu in so many ways. Younger than Sakunu and possessed of a genuine talent, she was also of sufficient status that people could openly compare his work to hers and say that hers was better. Sakunu was also smitten with unrequited desire for Lussani, who wanted nothing to do with him. Everyone knew this, and his fruitless pursuit of her gave more reason for people to smile quietly behind his back.

Sakunu's plan was clear once the facts were known. Lussani's Voice was given some poison to damage his vocal chords, leaving her with nobody to recite her poem. Since it was the festival season, even someone of the Sea Blue Clan would struggle to find a replacement of suitable quality. Unless, of course, Sakunu- who was an extremely capable Voice- were to offer his services to Lussani, and in so doing place Lussani in his debt, both for rescuing her poem's debut and lowering himself to perform as a Voice for another poet. But he hadn't counted on Lussani encountering some unknown out-of-town talent a party, and now instead of the triumph he'd anticipated, Sakunu got to watch Lussani basking in her moment of glory whilst looking far too close to the new interloper.

(Once this was revealed, Sirukel's player commented that perhaps combat hadn't been the wrong comparison to make when he made the recital...)

In the meantime, bored by the poetry, Kemuel had slipped away from the performance to find something more entertaining. He'd ended up in a room stocked with various powders, and decided to indulge. Alas, his Intoxicants roll was botched, and he seriously overdosed on Drarsha, along with several other drugs in smaller quantities. The resulting cocktail sent him on a VERY bad trip. Two of the Sea Blue Clan's household slaves (stationed here for just such a possibility) noticed this, and moved to quickly and quietly usher the drugged guest into a back room where his state would cause no embarrassment to anyone.

In his current state, though, Kemuel decided that he was being attacked- and threw his Terrorisation spell. Managing a critical success, the spell actually affected both slaves instead of just the single target it was supposed to. Screaming loudly, the slaves fled off through the party, not worrying about the direction their panicked flight took them, only that it was AWAY. Many very high status guests were startled, or even jostled, by the fleeing slaves.

A crowd began to gather in the powders chamber, which prompted Kemuel to once again throw his spell- fortunately he failed to cast it, until the other PCs arrived- at this point he managed to send both Tsodlan and Gachaya fleeing after the slaves. A Sorcerer-Priest of Hru'u, who was also a guest at the party, stepped up to put a stop to this- but Kemuel's extremely high natural Magic Resistance let him shrug the Priest's spell off, whereas the Priest somehow failed his own resistance roll (despite a 9 or less on a d10 being a save). The Sorcerer-Priest or Hru'u, an experienced and high-status member of the Temple, was ran screaming away in front of a crowd of witnesses who'd just seen him bested in an exchange of magic by a callow and untrained youth.

Everyone had backed away in case Kemuel started throwing spells again, until Tsodlan and Gachaya managed to recover from the spell and return. They went in to restrain him, realising that the spell could only take one of them, and the other could then wrestle him down. As it was, Gachaya resisted and Kemuel was rendered unconscious and quickly carried away. Sirukel- by this point enjoying Lussani's attentions in her private chambers- remained blissfully unaware of these actions by his associate, which had the potential to lose him all the status he'd gained.

Back at their quarters, Kemuel eventually came down from the drugs enough for Gachaya to start berating him soundly. The sullen response was cut off suddenly, though, as Kemuel felt the now-familiar sensation of a spell failing to penetrate his magic resistance. Gachaya made his roll as well, leaving these two PCs as the only ones in the building still standing. Tsodlan and the NPCs had all suddenly slumped to the ground asleep.

Outside, the Sorcerer-Priest of Ksarul who'd been dogging their footsteps since Urmish had decided it was time for one last attempt to capture Kemuel. Arriving with a half-dozen hired (and Mind-Barred) thugs from the Foreigner's Quarter, he opened he waited until Kemuel was present at night to attack (his magical connection to the slave-girl Anlasha has given him a good idea of what the inside of the building is like and who's there at a given time). He opened with three potent Soporiferousness spells (scrolls recently obtained from the Temple, since he used Psychic magic exclusively), and casting the three let him ensure the entire interior of the PCs residence was blanketed with the magic. He would then use Clairvoyance and Translocation to unbar the doors, and he and his men would enter, take Kemuel, and be away without any fuss or trouble.

This plan naturally didn't survive contact with the PCs. Not only did Kemuel and Gachaya make their saves, but because Kemuel had kept them hidden away, Anlasha (and those seeing through her eyes) had no idea that Kemuel had several potent scrolls and an Eye, things that Kemuel immediately moved to grab when danger threatened. Gachaya ran straight to the front door, suspecting that this was the prelude to an attack. Seeing the door unbarring itself, he ran to try and hold it closed. He succeeded for long enough that Kemuel was able to find the Web of Kriyag scroll, which he cast as soon as the door was open- the thugs about to rush in were tangled in it, and the door blocked. Kemuel then cast a Greater Phantasms scroll past the webbed thugs, and the conjured beings then began attacking the Priest and those outside.

Thing had not all gone the PC's way, though. As Kemuel was invoking the Phantasms scroll, the Priest of Ksarul was casting Dominate on Gachaya. Failing his saving roll, Gachaya became possessed of the desire to beat Kemuel senseless and deliver him to the Priest. ("After the last few sessions you don't need to NPC me for this" Gachaya's player declared, reaching for a dice and looking at Kemuel's player with sadistic glee in his eyes.)

Kemuel was able to keep dancing around Gachaya for several rounds (it was commented that we should've had Yakety Sax playing for the chase), with Kemuel able to evade Gachaya's grasp but Gachaya resisting every time Kemuel had the chance to cast his spell ("NOW you start making your saves?"). Finally, the Domination spell expired just as Kemuel was cornered.

The delay had, however, given the Sorcerer-Priest time to cast Disenchantment on the Phantasms, and the Web blocking the door. Stepping into the building with his thugs, the PCs ran back toward the door and found themselves facing him.

The Priest then failed the most important (and last) initiative throw of his life. Kemuel had already been holding the Eye of Inimitable Psychic Nullity ready when he ran around the corner, and he immediately zapped the Sorcerer with it, stripping him of his entire magic reserve. Without any spellsto protect him, Gachaya was able to leap forward and run him through with his rapier. Seeing their Sorcerer falling, and with the terms of the Mind-Bar not lasting past the Sorcerer's death, the thugs all fled.

The PCs quickly checked that the Priest was dead- and saw a blue Scarab amulet at his throat (he'd been powered up for the mission by a ritual priest), which seemed to be trembling, with glowing cracks spreading across it. Kemuel quickly snatched it up and hurled it out of the door before it exploded (as Blue Scarabs do when struck by an Eye of Inimitable Psychic Nullity). Alas, the scarab landed at the feet of three members of the Blue Kirtle Clan, who were roused by the commotion and were coming to see what the noise was about. All were slain instantly by the energetic discharge.

The PCs found that shaking and slapping someone for several minutes would eventually rouse them from the spell, and soon the household was awake. A deputation from the Blue Kirtle Clan arrived as this was happening, to politely and respectfully enquire of the honourable members of the esteemed White Stone Clan if it would please them to inform their lowly selves of just what the &$*% just happened?!? (though the last part is obviously paraphrasing). They replied that an unknown Sorcerer had, for reasons the PCs had no idea of, taken it into his head to attack the PCs, who had slain him in self-defence. But not, alas, before he threw one final spell- the one which had slain the Blue Kirtle members outside.

A quick examination of the corpse showed he carried nothing that identified his Clan or Temple affiliation- a suspicious thing in and of itself in Tsolyani society- and so it was only the word of Kemuel and Gachaya that they'd seen the Blue Scarab which could tie him to the Temple of Ksarul. The PCs decided to keep that quiet for now until they could decide if making that claim was worth it- they did, naturally, have visions of a vast Shamtla claim to be made for this affair if they could identify the corpse.

When Sirukel returned in the morning, it was to find Gachaya giving another recitation of the story (getting more polished with each repetition) to the city guard and a deputation from their own Clan, both of whom had arrived to see what the fuss was about. Seizing inspiration, Gachaya had now started adding that Kemuel's behaviour at the party last night was also the work of this sinister assailant's dark magics- after all, Kemuel had never had such a problem with drugs before. His Deceit rolls were all more than high enough to make this sound very plausible indeed.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Tekumel - Session 10

The ferry carrying the PCs and their entourage finally arrived at the Musa Jakalla docks on the first day of Drenngar. With the Unveiling of Beauty the next night marking the beginning of the festival, they had just barely arrived in time. The city was a frantic bustle of activity, as everyone rushed to make last-minute preparations or to conclude business before everything shut down for a week.

Like most new arrivals in the city, the PCs found numerous lowly individuals approaching them with exuberant deference to insist that they could show the "Great and Mighty Ones" all they wished to see in the magnificent city of Jakalla (and incidentally they had a VERY attractive sister). Selecting some who were at least from Very Low Clans and not Nakome, they overpaid them and were guided to the White Stone Clanhouse- since finding the Clanhouse in a Tsolyani city none of your party has been to can be a tricky matter.

I took the opportunity of the journey to introduce the players some of the sights of Jakalla, tracing a path along the map and describing each landmark as they passed. The Barracks of the Legion of Girikteshmu, the Temples of Chiteng and Hrihayal, the Palace of the Priesthood, and the House of the Pleasant Hour lined the way to the river. There, they boarded the small boats that carry people to locations on the river bank and sailed under the Bridge of the Splendour of the Gods, with the Temples of Ketengku, Avanthe and Belkhanu on one bank and those of Chegarra, Vimuhla and Dlamelish to the other. Breaking out Mitlanyal, I gave descriptions of the Temples, and the players were becoming familiar enough with Tekumel that these were now more than just a string of words. Then round the Palace of the Ever-Living Lord, the Governor's residence that stood overlooking the entire city, and to the docks nearest to the High Clan areas of the city.

The reception at the White Stone Clanhouse was not what the PCs had hoped for. With the White Stone Clan being great worshippers of Dlamelish, many Clan members would come to visit Jakalla for the Enhancement of Emerald Radiance and the week-long carnival preceding it. The main Clanhouse was already full, many of the subsidiary Clan properties were likewise fully occupied, and the sudden unannounced arrival of a group of Clan members from a poor and distant Clanhouse was not seen in a favourable light. After most of the day was spent sitting in audience chambers with Sirukel arguing with various people, they were finally assigned some lodgings after someone recalled a place the Clan owned that should be suitable.

The building in question was in the Middle Clan areas of the city. In theory it was still a residence owned by the White Stone Clan, but most of the place had been sub-let to the Blue Kirtle Clan, several families of which resided there. One single wing was theoretically still occupied by the White Stone (certain particulars of tenant agreements under Tsolyani law made it a bad idea to let out the entire building), but since it had been decades since any of the White Stone lived there, the Blue Kirtle Clan had quietly expanded in and used it for storage. Since the Blue Kirtle Clan here was mostly concerned with wine-making, the basement levels had been converted into a wine cellar, and when the PCs arrived at their Jakalla residence, they found the Blue Kirtle members- informed an hour previous of the PCs arrival- were still busy moving things out of the rooms.

After some time, the rooms were made habitable if not comfortable. In the course of their travels the PCs had endured worse accommodation, but as Gachaya noted, none of them would be bringing back any female acquaintances of status whom they might encounter to this place.

The next day- after a night spent in rooms that had interesting moulds growing all about and were still not fully cleared of the various insectoid vermin infesting them- the party began looking to things beyond a roof over their heads. Sirukel went back to the Clanhouse and managed to convince someone to show him where in town he could sell his goods, and since they were all spirits, drugs, oils and perfumes he was able to find buyers even with (and partly because of) the imminent festival. Several good rolls later, he'd made a couple of thousand Kaitars in profit.

The Clanhouse also gave them a list of various parties the Clan would be attending during the coming week, and arrangements were made to supply them with the bare minimum needed to fit whichever if the Twenty-Four Forms was expected for each. These poor quality outfits would, however, give the wearers penalties to social rolls at these events.

That night, immediately after sunset, the PCs donned their (somewhat sub-par) costumes and went to the main Clanhouse, where the Clan was assembling. Once all were present, they went down to the piers where boats that had been elaborately decorated for the event took them down the river toward the Temple of Hrihayal. All along the route, green and purple-shaded lanterns had been lit, and the boats heading to the temple likewise bore such lights, making for an impressive procession. Reaching the pier at the other end, the route to the Temple had been lined with torches, and many other Clans were already walking down it. Soon, the PCs followed their Clan into the Temple of Hrihayal.

As with the Temples of Dlamelish, those of her Cohort were single- storey buildings rather than the pyramids many other deities of Pavar's pantheon favoured. High-ceilinged and consisting of many rambling chambers and corridors, the Temple was also set amidst a maze of gardens and courtyards. Given the many worshippers in attendance tonight, all of these spaces were occupied and some of the less important areas beneath the Temple had also been made accessible.

Since the White Stone Clan was of High status and favoured Hrihayal and Dlamelish over most other deities, they were granted access to the great central chamber to witness the most significant public rites of this sacred night. Joining the procession of worshippers to throw their offerings (large purple orchid-like blossoms, as they couldn't afford to make offerings of green and purple gems) into the sacrificial pool, they then managed to find a place where they could almost make out most of what the Ritual Priestesses were doing at the head of the chamber. The many elaborate and symbolic rituals were completed- and then the climax of the Public Ceremonies came. The Priestesses invoked The Dance of the Emerald Goddess, and the conjured manifestations of Hrihayal's nature began to dance through the halls and courtyards of the Temple, spreading the desire to act as Hrihayal wished upon the crowds there.

The PCs were all asked for a magic resistance roll. Gachaya and Sirukel simply ended up performing the usual forms of coupling with available females, though likely rougher and more imaginative than usual. Tsodlan ended up being taken into a lower chamber, utterly enthralled by the spell of the Goddess, and had only hazy memories of what took place next- he awoke the next day feeling sore in unmentionable places and feeling very, very used and soiled. Kemuel, gazing at the utterly desirable females that had appeared before him, actually managed to perceive the true face of the demoness Maraggu in one of them- the Priestesses noticed this, and took him into another chamber to participate in deeper rites. A Critical on his Sexuality roll had him definitely making an impression on the Priestesses.

The next day consisted mostly of recovering from the previous night for the PCs. That evening they felt rested enough to go to one of the parties they'd been told about- every Clan in Jakalla would host a party on one night of the week between the Rituals of the Goddesses, so it was simply a matter of working out with the most closely allied Clans which days they should be on to let there be a full week of events for all concerned. This night's party was a minor affair- the Medium status Blue Kirtle Clan, with whom the White Stone had many business dealings in Jakalla, had arranged a function. Officially, it was being hosted by a member of the White Stone Clan at a Entertainer's Clan rented suite, thus letting people who normally wouldn't attend a Blue Kirtle function attend without loss of face (naturally the White Stone would receive concessions for this). The party itself was low-key and uneventful enough that the PCs didn't feel overtaxed after the previous night.

The only noteworthy event was Kemuel discovering a new party trick- he'd radiate other-planar energy as if opening a conduit for another Sorcerer to dray on his power, then wait to see who noticed, thus bringing him to the attention of any Sorcerers present if they passed near enough to him. In this case, the Sorcerer who noticed was a low-level Priestess of Avanthe, a member of the Blue Kirtle Clan. She spent the rest of the night trying to talk Kemuel into joining the Temple of Avanthe, but Kemuel felt she was past her prime for his preferred method of being "persuaded". A few things she did say started some of the players thinking, though, about several aspects of their assigned task in escorting Kemuel to Sokatis that didn't quite make sense...

The next day, the PCs awoke feeling far more refreshed and ready for a far more significant event that evening. The White Stone Clan would be attending a party at the Clanhouse of the Jade Diadem Clan, which naturally meant getting a glimpse up the social ladder- the PCs were warned to not embarrass the local Clan in any way whilst there. Dressing themselves as best they could in the barely-passing-muster outfits of the Tenth Form they'd been supplied with, the PCs joined the procession to the palatial estate of the Jade Diadem.

The PCs began taking advantage of the various entertainments around them. Gachaya found some attractive Noblewomen to try and talk his way into the beds of. Kemuel tried his trick with the other-planar energy again, and this time wasn't so fortunate- he lost respect due to a public dressing-down by a Sorcerer-Priest of Ketengku for behaving in such a way in public. Tsodlan looked over the list of skills he had that might work in a social setting, and decided to try Profession: Military and Deceit just to see what effect they had. With a very good roll on one and a critical on the other, I decided that his fine Military bearing, advanced years and talent for quietly agreeing with whatever was being said without revealing anything had him spending the evening in the company of some very high ranking Legion officers, who if they met him again would recall he'd seemed a very fine soldier indeed.

Sirukel had the best luck when it came to making contacts. Many sessions ago, he'd decided he wanted something other than being a merchant to use with his character, and looked at Artist. Deciding to go for Epic Poetry, I told him I'd consider that the average of Intelligence and Charisma, both of which he has at high levels. The player has been raising it steadily, and now he decided this was the venue where he'd give the skill a try. He nearly got a critical, and had an MoS of 7 even without this.

I told him that whilst his choice of poem was considered somewhat trite and cliche by this crowd, they were most favourably impressed by the recital itself. So much so that a woman from the Sea Blue Clan approached him afterwards to inquire as to whether he would consider performing a recitation for her later this week. It transpired that she was a poet herself, of some renown in Jakalla, and at her Clan's party two days hence she was to show people her latest composition. Tsolyani Epic Poetry traditionally demands a vibrant, deep-throated recitation, which the female voice is most unsuited to- female poets, as well as male ones who lack the vocal talent, will therefore often commission a "Voice" to perform their works before an audience. The Voice she'd arranged to perform for her had fallen ill- so she wanted Sirukel to step in for her.

(The "Voice" idea is one I found in the Butrus Gazetteer. I have no idea how canon it is, but liked it anyway and so stole it for this encounter.)

Sirukel immediately started trying to work out how to turn this to his advantage. The player's first thought was to see how much she'd pay him, but I reminded him that they were both of a social level where speaking of money like that meant a loss of Respect points. Re-thinking this, he recalled how he'd been shocked to hear the price of costumes of the Twenty-Four Forms. Struck by inspiration, he told her that he'd consider it an honour to recite her work before such an audience, but regrettably, he would have to decline as he had nothing suitable to such a high-status gathering to wear. The Poetess told him not to concern himself with such matters- and so he was gifted a fine outfit of the Twelfth Form in exchange for his services. And naturally, he'd be allowed to bring along a couple of his closest Clan-cousins to witness this performance with him.

The next day, Sirukel went to visit with the Poetess to begin memorising her work- reciting from a written document being considered something only a school-child needs to do. With another roll on Epic Poetry, he was able to recognise that it was indeed a rather good piece of work, and to compliment her on it in ways that showed he understood the poem and wasn't just offering rote praise. His stock with his new patron grew.

Meanwhile, the other PCs were heading toward the Temple of Dlamelish. Several things that had been said by several Priests they'd encountered, along with a few questions the players themselves had been asking, had them wondering just why the Temple of Dlamelish was letting someone who was apparently so important be taken across Tsolyanu without any real escort. They intended to seek answers to this at the Temple. Things were somewhat busy when they arrived- preparations for the Enhancement of Emerald Radiance, the increasein worshippers with the festivals, and the fact that senior Clergy were likely also recovering from over-indulgence endemic to the season meant it was difficult to find someone senior to speak to.

Eventually, they managed to get to see a low-level Sorcerer-Priest, a dissolute-looking man of middle years whose minor magical talents had been focused into learning the Temple's version of Alleviation, which he used as a hangover cure for high-status worshippers of the Goddess. Somewhat out of sorts at this interruption, the PCs nonetheless managed to persuade him to draw on Kemuel's power to cast the next Alleviation spell. He did so, and in so doing learned just how potentially powerful Kemuel was. He quickly sent word to his higher-ups, and a more senior Sorcerer appeared to confirm this.

The immediate response was to tell the PCs that there was, of course, no need to take Kemuel all the way to Sokatis- the Temple here in Jakalla would be more than happy to offer him a place. While some players felt this was a much better solution for them, Gachaya and Tsodlan reluctantly informed the Priests that this was what their Clan wished, and they certainly couldn't go against it, no matter how much honour the Jakalla Temple's offer did them. The players had worked out that if they seemed as reluctant as possible, they could probably get the Temple of Dlamelish to start offering "gifts", so they should how much they could get out of them before dumping Kemuel on them and declaring the job done.

What the PCs didn't know was that the reason they'd not just been sent to Jakalla was that there was a highly-placed member of their Clan in the Temple of Dlamelish there, who was also a member of a heretical secret society. Crossing the Temples of Avanthe and Dlamelish, it held the Salarvyani view that these Goddesses were both merely aspects of the one Goddess, Shiringgayi, and met together in the Underworlds on certain nights to worship her together. Word had reached her through the Clan of Kemuel, and she'd arranged for him to be sent to Sokatis so that he could be indoctrinated as a member of this secret Cult.

The Temple of Dlamelish in Jakalla had since learned of the Shiringgayi worshippers. Naturally, it wants to put a stop to this- but it would prefer to do so without the other Temples finding out and the subsequent loss of respect. A quiet war of intrigue, seduction and assassination has begun. The Priestess who'd been sent from Sokatis to escort Kemuel there was one of the first casualties, as was the High Priestess of Urmish, whose Rejuvenation ritual was sabotaged. Both of these died without mentioning Kemuel, and so the mainstream Temple of Dlamelish had no idea he even existed. Until he literally came knocking on their door.

Since the PCs are playing coy about him simply joining the Temple at Jakalla, the conclusion the senior Priestesses drew was that the PCs are fully aware of the Shiringgayi-cult and the fact they were working for it, and are essentially negotiating the price of their defection. Deciding they needed to know more, the Temple sent some people to tail the PCs once they left the Temple. Unfortunately, Kemuel made a critical success on hi Observation roll, and spotted the tail. Immediately deciding this must be the Temple of Ksarul again, he threw his Terrorisation spell at those following him and so they lost the PCs.

This won't do anything to dissuade the Temple of Dlamelish that the PCs aren't up to some sort of subtle political game, however.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Tekumel - Session 9

One of the agents who had tried to kidnap Kemuel had been captured alive but badly injured. While technically a bandit and subject to punishment by Tsolyani law, a quick "reward for their swift actions in defending us from these Nakome bandits" to the Sakbe Road guards ensured that he was left to the PCs to do with as they wished. Interrogation was quickly applied, with steadily increasing levels of creative tortures. After several extremely high intimidation rolls backed by torture failed to produce results, careful examination of his strange reactions led them to the conclusion that he had indeed been broken. He wanted to give the PCs the answer they wanted- but he wasn't able to.

Since they already suspected Sorcery had been involved in the attack, it wasn't much of a stretch to deduce that the prisoner had been magically prevented from revealing anything if he was captured. Lacking any skills applicable to this, Kemuel was still able to make an unskilled Intelligence roll that meant he'd heard something of the Mind-Bar spell. Gachaya hit on the idea of questioning the prisoner on what work he'd done for each major Temple in turn, and then seeing which one he stopped answering about. After several hours, they finally determined that the sorcerer behind the attack was most likely a Priest of Ksarul.

After dispatching the prisoner ("perished of the wounds he took whilst attacking us"), the PCs pressed on with their journey. The possibility that the palanquin which had been a gift from the Temple was being used to mark them out somehow was raised (if only the player knew), but abandoning it here was deemed impractical. In the end, they decided that since the attack had been thwarted, their best plan was to press on to Jakalla and hopefully reach the safety of the Clanhouse there before another attack could be organised.

Over the next several days of travel, the PCs saw the terrain changing. The road grew closer and closer to the edges of the Flats of Tsechelnu, and was soon passing through them. The route which the Sakbe road followed was unchanged from Engsvanyali times, but the terrain it passed through was not. The raised ground the Sakbe road was built on often had marshland on both sides, though the areas here were more populated and partially tamed compared to those around Penom. The areas of high ground were artificially enlarged over centuries of occupation, and the marshes all around converted into rice paddies.

One of these villages close to the end of the Sakbe road was where the PCs stopped now. The Flats of Tsechelnu gradually deepened into the Gulf of Porudana at this point, with no solid and clearly defined coast to provide a suitable place for a harbour. Instead, where the Sakbe road met the sea, a series of wooden platforms were erected on pillars sunk into the swamp and jetties built there, with a channel dredged (at great effort) to allow smaller boats to reach it and ferry travellers and cargo to Jakalla on the fat side of the gulf. Since this place was not intended for comfortable long-term habitation, the nearest village had several Clan-houses devoted to providing warehouse space and hospitality for travellers. Those travelling on the Sakbe road would wait here until arrangements had been made for a ferry, and then travel to the harbour to embark.

Unfortunately, the imminent festivities in Jakalla meant that there was an unusually high volume of traffic on the Sakbe road. Not only were the ferries all busy, but the various Clan-houses offering hospitality were already full. The PCs initial goal was therefore to find a place to stay whilst they found passage.

The first attempt to find somewhere to stay involved finding a Clan-house with an empty set of guest-rooms. A Bureaucrat in the Palace of the Realm, familiar with travelling this route, had sent runners ahead of him to ensure that there would be room when he arrived. Judicious use of the Bribery skill let the PCs move in by paying more than the Bureaucrat had, with their hosts intending to claim there had simply been a mistake and no room had been reserved when the Bureaucrat arrived. However, when his palanquin finally reached the town, it was Gachaya who met him. Sirukel had quietly arranged things behind the scenes so far, but Gachaya was a little too brash in his confrontations with the Bureaucrat- from the High Pinnacle Clan, he was of sufficient status to start threatening Shamtla claims. After Gachaya failed or fumbled a series of social skill rolls in the confrontation, the PCs ended up being hastily moved out before loss of respect and Shamtla became an issue.

Grumbling very loudly at Gachaya's incompetence, Sirukel started trying to find some alternative lodging. Finally, the PCs found themselves being housed an hour's walk through swamplands from the town, in a Clanhouse of the Green Reed Clan. The rooms offered weren't of the best quality- mainly being used for extra labourers in harvest time- but at least the PCs weren't outdoors and exposed to the various kinds of unpleasant night life in the marshes. Kemuel found that the Clan brewed a crude but potent version of Tsuhoridu, and many PCs consumed it steadily throughout his stay there. The staple dish served to the high clan guests (various multi-legged insectoid/crustacean things caught in nets or baskets in the marsh then stewed in fiery spices, or "Tsolyani Gumbo" as it was dubbed by the players) was also acceptable enough.

With the problems of a place to stay now solved, Sirukel turned to the task of finding a boat to ferry them across to Jakalla. The initial thought was naturally to use their status and bribery to jump the queue. This failed due to the fact that there were many High status parties currently waiting for a boat, and two Very High Clan parties as well. Apparently, the flooding earlier this year had resulted in the loss of some boats by local Clans who would otherwise have sent a vessel or two to supplement the ferry's usual complement in peak travel times such as this.

Meanwhile, there were other factors coming into play around them. The Priest of Ksarul who had been behind the previous session's kidnapping attempt had arrived in town, and put his next plan into action. Word had been sent to the Temple of Ksarul in Jakalla that aid would be required to make another attempt to kidnap Kemuel, and he needed the PCs to remain here until it arrived. He therefore had the PCs placed under discreet observation, and used Mind-Bar to influence the ferry owners to prevent the PCs from finding a way across.

He was not the only one plotting against the PCs. Word having reached the Temple of Sarku that one of the PCs might somehow have The Jade Bowl of the God-King of Purdanim, which the Temple wished to recover- as well as learn how the PCs had come by it in the first place. To this end, the Temple had contacted some trusted members of the Black Mountain Clan to supply them with a boat. This would arrive at the ferry docks, and they would try to get the PCs to arrange passage with them, whilst not letting anyone else do so. Once the PC were aboard, they would be taken not to Jakalla but to a secluded cove just to the south of the city where a suitable force to capture the PCs would waiting.

Over the next few days, the PCs seemed to feel that it would just be a matter of waiting for Sirukel to finally locate a boat. Matters did not progress so smoothly, though- on the second day at the Green Reed Clanhouse, they found that several of the entourage- Dresu, Quren, Jaluda and Trasuni- had departed from the Clanhouse early in the morning and gone into the town, presumably in search of something more entertaining and diverting than sitting in a Low-status Clanhouse for an unknown length of time. Tsodlan and Sirukel went out to search the town for them.

Tsodlan's idea of stopping at the barracks of the town militia first proved to be a good one, as half of those missing were found to be there. Quren and Trasuni had ended up coming to blows in an argument over the only truly attractive girl offering "Roadside Easements" to travellers, and a fine was quickly paid before they were dispatched back to the Green Reed Clanhouse. The other two proved somewhat more problematic, having become involved with two members of the Cloak of Azure Gems Clan currently residing in the best guest quarters in the town. One of these was a young nobleman who had become somewhat taken with Jaluda, and she was currently being "entertained" by him in private. All indications were that she'd gone with him very willingly, but this did mean that until this noble tired of her, leaving in a hurry would be problematic due to the problems of extracting her from the bed of a higher-status Clan member without causing anyone embarrassment.

This noble's companion had been an Aridani Clan-cousin of his. She considered herself a dashing adventuress, and finding that her companion and lover had taken up with some lower-status hussy she decided that sitting in the same cramped rooms and listening to them coupling from the other side of a Meshqu-plaque was not tolerable. Being rather attractive herself, she'd had no difficulty in gathering several men to accompany her on a trip out into the marshes to see if she could find some animal worth hunting. Dresu had been one of these smitten young men who'd joined her expedition.

Easily visualising what could befall Dresu and the rest of the party out in the marshes, the PCs quickly organised a party to go and search for them. Except for Sirukel, who remained in town to try and get Jaluda back to their rooms (when someone pointed out he was the only PC with the Wilderness Survival skill, the player responded "Why do you think I'm not going? I know what sort of things are out there!"). They fortuitously had the sense to get the Green Reed Clan to supply them with two guides who knew the area.

Wading through the swamplands for most of a day, the PCs in the search party were required to make Hiking and Wilderness Survival rolls. Surprising everyone, Kemuel managed both even with low stats and the unskilled penalty. Tsodlan did well enough, but Gachaya fumbled his Wilderness Survival roll. I decided that he'd been lagging toward the back of the group (Hiking also failed), and seeing them taking a long detour around a hillock covered in trees he went through the trees to try and catch up. Being so far behind, he'd missed the reason for the detour- namely, the Kayi lurking up amongst the tree-tops.

Gachaya was caught in the Kayi's dangling strand-like tentacles, and looking up could see the single huge eye staring back at him as it pierced him with the many thorny protrusions on the tentacles and began to suck at his blood. The rest of the party responded quickly, but the height of the Kayi made attacking it difficult. Tsodlan had some success thrusting with a spear at it's body, before the guides managed to light a fire javelin each and throw them into the Kayi's gas-bag. Gachaya was recovered, but he was close to death from blood loss and Kemuel had to use another valuable healing scroll to save him. With Gachaya mostly restored, the party continued onward.

An hour later, they came upon the unfortunate hunting party as it slowly limped back home. After much searching, the Cloak of Azure Gems adventuress had found something she considered a worthy trophy. Emerging from the swamplands where they met the sea, the party had come across a Ghar browsing along the shoreline. Declaring that the Ghar's mother-of-pearl shell would be a worthy thing to display in the Clan-house, their leader ordered the party to surround and attack it. The results had been somewhat predictable- two had died, and most of the party had some form of injury, broken bones being the most common. The gallant leader was being carried in a litter with many of her bones shattered (fortunately her family would likely be able to pay for a Regeneration spell, or she'd be crippled for life), and the group was travelling so slowly that they had little chance of reaching civilisation again before some other predator came upon them or infection started to set in on the many wounds.

The PCs rescue party changed matters- with so many healthy additions the pace quickened, and the guides meant that the route back was far less meandering that it would have been. Pushing on through the night, they arrived back at the town.

Sirukel had not been successful in extracting Jaluda from the bed of her Noble paramour, and so had instead made a renewed effort to find a ferry boat. In the process, he'd discovered some of the plots surrounding them. Many ferry owners had abruptly forgotten him or changed their minds about transporting him- and now, there was a boat that seemed to vary between this behaviour and being eager to take the party. What was in fact happening was that the boat arranged by the Temple of Sarku had arrived, and the Priest of Ksarul had treated it as any other boat the PCs tried to hire. The Priest of Sarku, when the boat returned without the PCs, had realised what had happened and reversed the spell- and so the two plotters began working to undermine each other, their moves becoming obvious enough in the process for Sirukel to uncover. Whilst still having no idea what was going on (all their theories made no sense because they assumed there was only one group after them), the PCs were wary after the attack the previous session and knew that something was going on, so resolved to avoid the boat in question.

Having rescued a member of the Cloak of Azure Gems Clan from possible death in the swamps, the PCs found a means to escape. With the aspiring huntress too badly injured to moved again, most of the Cloak of Azure Gems party was going to stay with her until a Priest could come from Jakalla to heal her. The PCs were therefore permitted to take their place on a ferry crossing the next day, and at the PCs request no mention was made of this until the PCs arrived at the docks with a servant of the Cloak of Azure Gems Clan carrying a message stating they were to be sent across instead.

With the PCs glad to be moving again, the session ended with the ferry approaching the docks at Jakalla.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

House Rules

Since there's no game session this week (RL scheduling for players), I decided to write up the house rules that I'm using for the campaign. The T:EPT system has a lot of potential, but it's also terribly flawed in many places. This is a combination of it being rushed into print, and the system it was derived from, and every T:EPT GM has to deal with this. Here's what I've come up with to address these shortcomings.

Blackjack Rolls

The first thing I did when I started playing T:EPT was to change the basic dice roll to follow the "blackjack" system I've seen in other RPGs. The object is to roll as high as you can, without exceeding the skill level, and hitting the skill level exactly is a potential critical. Instead of calculating how much you succeeded by, just read the number off the die. So, if your skill is 7 and you rolled a 5, then your MoS is 5. If you fail and the amount you failed by is relevant, then caculate this as normal.

Exactly what difference does this make? From a probability point of view, none- except for eliminating the zero-MoS. But from a gameplay point of view, you'd be amazed just how much quicker thing go, especially in combat, just by eliminating that brief calculation everyone has to make after every die roll. The margin or failure is relevant less often, so keeping it doesn't slop things as much- especially with higher skill levels (see below).

If you play T:EPT, then I urge you to try it. It makes a big difference to the game.

Skill Point Doubling

When I was putting together the pre-generated PCs, I quickly found that it's very hard to build a compentent character using the skill points allocated in the basic rules. I see the reasoning in the skill levels, but honestly, I don't agree with it. I feel that 3s and 4s should be much more common than they are. I've also found that high numbers all around actually seem to make the game system work better- characters rarely fail, unless there's some factor (negative penalty or opposing NPC) acting against them.

So I double the skill points given to characters in creation, both the basic allocation and the bonuses from Older and Highly Skilled. This also makes playing an old veteran rather than an inexperienced prodigy an attractive option- Tsodlan and Kemuel were at opposite ends of the skill vs stat point extremes, and it definitely seemed that Tsodlan was short-changed.

Always remember- something like this isn't unbalancing if everyone has it applied to them. So the NPCs will have higher skills as well.

Armour and Fatigue

One thing I quickly noticed about the T:EPT rules is that it's basically impossible to march long distances wearing armour in Tsolyanu and be able to function afterwards. Whilst this might be realistic, the PCs and their NPC entourage had been wearing Medium Armour a great deal of the time. How to square this?

I decided to employ the idea that armour, when worn, was not fully fastened and key pieces were missing. This made the armour cooler, but afforded less protection. A character could choose to take levels of the Partial Armour drawback, up to the usual maximum (3 + armour rating). These levels would then act as a bonus to the Exhaustion check for wearing armour. If the character suddenly faced danger, it would take 1 round per level to remove the Partial Armour trait, representing hurriedly putting on helmet and greaves, fastening the chestpiece properly, and so forth.

I feel that this rule strikes a good balance between taking away armour- not a good thing given how lethal T:EPT combat can be with all the advanced damage options used- and failing to drive home just how brutal the climate of Tekumel is.

Critical Hits

In the basic rules, when a 1 is rolled in a skill check, the check is re-rolled and if successful the Margin of Success is doubled. This is all well and good, and works fine most of the time. However, in combat, when a character has a high skill total- say, 8 or higher- then this doubling could potentially kill whoever they hit regardless of how well they roll, and will definitely end the fight.

If both characters have a Skill+Stat of 8, and one rolls a 1 comfirmed as Critical, that's 14 MoS; if the opponent gets a 2, then despite only being 1 point different, that's only a 6 MoS, meaning the attacker gets an 8 MoS hit. High skill level combat thus comes down to a 1 in 10 chance of ending the fight every time an attack is made.

This is fine against 90% of NPCs, but when the one on the receiving end is a PC or Major NPC, then it clearly shouldn't be the case. So how to handle it? A Critical Hit shouldn't be nerfed in any way, but at the same time, it needs to be made more survivable.

My solution is as follows. When a critical hit is made, instead of doubling the MoS, the MoS is applied twice- once to the character hit, and once to the Weapon, Armour or Shield of this character. Damage thus caused is applied exactly as per the Attacking Weapons and Armour rule. The item affected is a GM call, though I'd say that if the defence roll was good, it's the Shield/Parrying Weapon, and if it was bad or failed then it's the Armour.

This has two benefits. Firstly, it means that taking a Critical Hit is survivable for PCs, whilst still making them something you'd rather you hadn't been hit by. Secondly, it means there's now more chance for weapon and armour damage, without requiring an opponent to specifically try to cause it.

Naturally, this requires that the character have armour and a shield to break in the first place- if a character is wearing neither, then just apply the damage to him as normal and treat it as an object lesson on why not to venture onto a Tekumel battlefield without proper protection.

As stated above, this rule should only be applied to PCs and major NPCs- it's too much book-keeping to use for every minor combatant, and they should just use the old version of the rules and die whenever a master swordsman rolls a 1.

I've just stated that characters make a Strength roll and gain hit points equal to the Margin of Success each week. This roll gets modified based on the character's situation (+6 for bed rest and medical treatment, for instance) and means that, lacking magical healing, characters will be living with any wounds for quite a while.

Injuries and Healing

Natural healing is a definite sore point in the T:EPT rules. The published rulebook doesn't have any rules for this at all- it seems they somehow got lost in the editing process. There are playtest documents about that have the rules if you look around, but these rules just don't fit at all. They are taken from the Big Eyes, Small Mouth system that the T:EPT rules ultimately derive from, and are much too fast- appropiate for the anime-based BESM, but not even close to the gritty realism I feel Tekumel should have unless magic is involved.

After much pondering of my favourite damage and healing rules from other RPGs, I've come up with the following system.

Injuries are divided into two types- hit point damage, and serious wounds. Hit point damage represent the cumulative effect of many minor injuries, and are treated as just the number of hit points lost. Serious injuries are significant enough that the character needs to handle each individually. When damage is taken, if the amount is greater than the character's Shock Value, then this is a serious injury. In addition to being deducted from the Hit Point total, the level of the injury is noted. Each Serious Injury gives a wound penalty of it's own, in addition to that caused by total hit points lost- so the

Hit point damage and serious wounds heal separately. At the end of every game week, any injured characters roll their Strength stat, with the following modifiers:-

Toughness Advantage +1 per level
Fragile Defect -2 per level
Medical Treatment +skill of physician attending
Bed Rest +3
Physically demanding activity -3
Penalties from serious injury -total penalties (not counting Hit Point Damage)

If the roll succeeds, then the character recovers a number of points of Hit Point damage equal to 2xMoS, and also reduces the level of all serious wounds by 1. Failure means no healing this week, and a critical failure means the wounds have become infected- GM call as to how this goes, but it should be VERY bad.


Firu hiBurusa has a shock value of 10, and 50 Hit Points. When fighting a group of bandits, he's hit several times- for 6, 4, 12 and 14 hit points respectively. The first two injuries are 10 points of Hit Point Damage. The last two are serious injuries. He's lost a total of 36 hit points, and after the final blow is very badly injured and at -5 to all actions, -3 because of the 36 points of total damage, and -1 for each serious wound.

After being carried back to the Clanhouse to recover, Firu is attended by a Physician with a skill of 2. He's resting in bed, and has a Strength of 5. He therefore rolls against (5+3(bed rest)+2(skill)-2(serious injuries)=) 8 or less on a d10. The roll gives an MoS of 5, so after the first week of healing Firu recovers 10 points of Hit Point damage, and each serious wound is healed one point. All the minor injuries (hit point damage) are recovered, and the serious injuries are now 11 and 13 with a total wound penalty of -4.

Some weeks later, Firu has healed to the point where the wounds are 7 and 9, with a wound penalty of -1. Neither wound is enough to give a penalty in itself, but the total is enough for a -1 penalty.

Any magical healing applied to a serious injury must be cast on that injury specifically. The number of points restored is divided by the wound penalty of the injury plus one- so if Firu were to take 30 points of damage in one hit, any spells healing it would be at one-quarter effectiveness.

When a serious injury is first taken, the GM also has the option of rolling against wound penaltyx2 on a d10- 2 or less for -1, 4 or less for -2, and so on. If this roll is made, then the injury is a crippling one and it's penalty is given to a stat, or a defect of equal value take. This optional rule should only be used in campaigns where Regeneration magic is available or combat is something the PCs should try to avoid.

When combined with all the existing advanced damage rules from the rulebook, the effect is to make damage much more bloody and realistic. There's no more D&D-style mass of hit points with no mid-point between functional and death- and the potential to make serious wounds into hit point damage makes people really respect the value of armour, and be wary of fighting without it.

Fighting Styles

One of the first house rules I came up with involves the Fight Style manoeuvre. I like the idea of different styles of fighting, but the way the rule works seems to make it more trouble than it's worth. Instead I came up with the following.

A Fighting Style lists the weapons(s) and armour that it works with. If using these, a combatant gains +1 to attack and defence rolls, but if even one is changed, the bonus is used. This means that warriors will all have favourite weapons, and be less effective when using ones they aren't as comfortable with.

For Example- the Emerald Swordsman style is a light Duellist technique. It uses a Rapier, Dagger and No Armour. All of these give a +1 to Attack and Defence rolls. If the swordsman wears any form of armour, or lacks a dagger in the off hand, or uses a primary weapon other than a rapier, this bonus is lost- all weapon choices must be used.

Second Example- the Legion of Kurakaa teaches two fighting styles- Long Sword, Medium Shield, Medium Armour; and Long Spear, Medium Shield, Medium Armour. Legionaries are trained in both, meaning that to get the bonus, they must use Medium Shield and Medium Armour with either a Long Sword or Long Spear.

Both these techniques were devised to be given to player characters in my campaign. The Emerald Swordsman style was intended for nobles who don't wear armour as standard, but can carry a rapier and dagger on their daily business without being considered eccentric. The Legion of Kurakaa styles are designed to use the weapons the Legion is listed as being equipped with.

Combat Moves

Recently, we started making use of the Deceptive Fight Manoeuvre in combat. The principle seems a good one, but after using it a few times I started to feel it had two things that needed correcting. Firstly, using a whole action to set up an attack next round felt too slow and clunky. Secondly, the concept could, I felt, be expanded far more than the rulebook did with the Deceptive Manoeuvre as written.

My revised version I call Combat Moves. They work as follows.

Each Combat Move is purchased as a Fighting Manoeuvre at the standard cost (4 skill points). A move is defined by a name, a brief description of the move itself, a list of the skills used, then an Attack or Defence type. When the move is used, the character makes a roll against each of the skills listed. If any of these rolls fails, the character loses the attack for this round. If all the rolls are made, then the attack has a +1 bonus for each skill. Every time a move is used against in the same fight or against the same opponent, every skill used to build up the attack gains a -1 penalty. Thus, the first time a Combat Move is used in a battle, it works at the base value. The second time, all skills used are at -1; the third, at -2.

There's no real reason a stat can't be used instead of a skill, but in practice this would only make sense if the stat was a high one, given skills tend to be higher.

As examples, here are the moves Gachaya, a PC in my campaign, uses:-

Mesmerising Patter

The character talks constantly during the fight, seeking to distract the opponent's attention from the blade to the words, then striking in the moment of inattention. This works only in a one-on-one fight where the opponent can hear and understand the character's speech.

Skills Used: Oratory, Deception

Enhances: Sword Attack

Dagger Feint

The combatant, using a sword in one hand and a dagger in the other, fakes a strike with the dagger and then strikes with the sword instead.

Skills Used: Sleight of Hand, Dagger

Enhances: Sword Attack

Swirling Cape Defence

The character, if wearing a cape, can swirl it like a Matador whilst side-stepping to make an opponent misjudge his position when making a strike.

Skills Used: Style, Acrobatics

Enhances: Sword Defence

For Tsodlan, the Legion Veteran, I came up with this one:-

Supporting Ranks

If the character has an ally trained in Formation Fighting on either side, attacks can be made with more confidence, knowing that they have him covered.

Skills used: Teamwork- once for the character, and once by each supporting ally

Enhances: Sword Attack

And for Mvekku, the NPC N'luss retainer, I thought up:-

Reckless Charge

The character strikes at the enemy with no regard for his own life, filling them with fear at his savage power.

Skills Used:- Intimidate, Strength

Enhances: Any strike using the All-Out Attack Manoeuvre

I used these in combat for the first time in the last game session, and they all seemed to work really well. I think they do a nice job of showing how every experienced fighter will have a set of favourite moves or tricks, and that rather than just plain Combat Value, each combatant learns to play to whatever other strengths they have.