Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Tekumel - Session 14

At this point in the campaign, I looked at the major events I had planned and decided that I wanted to move the time-frame forward. Kemuel had a lot of training to do that wouldn't be as interesting to play through- likewise with Tsodlan's dock guard duties. I found some rules online (I forget by who, but thanks anyway if you read this) for training skills in T:EPT, and arranged to give the PCs some skill bonuses based on these.


I'm also a big fan of the “Adventures on Tekumel” series, and loved the idea of having downtime events for each character in the game. After brainstorming how to make this work, I hit on the idea of each player coming up with a short list of one-paragraph events that could happen to the other PCs during the downtime. I'd already come up with one for each PC myself, so I read their ideas, selected the best and/or combined them, and then spent a session running a brief vignette for each character. The other PCs gave suggestions and/or took over significant NPCs as this was done.

Tsodlan's was fairly simple. He discovered that his son, Quren, was taking bribes from the Livyani immigrant community (vastly grown due to the Mu'ugalavyani invasion and forming a criminal mafia in true poor immigrant style) to turn a blind eye to them stealing from the docks. This was clearly unacceptable, as Tsodlan was already taking bribes from the merchants to not let them steal, the thefts costing him both money and face- plus there was the minor technicality of it being their job to stop thieves as well. As he tried to ascertain just how bad things had become before taking action, the second proposed event kicked off. A boat in the docks seemed to be running into some sort of difficulties- and the merchant who owned it was present, and becoming angry with Tsodlan over his stolen goods. Clearly as much of his property had to be saved as possible in order to calm him down and restore the status quo.

The problems with the boat were related to the cargo. Many exotic animals had been captured and were being shipped in for various noble menageries- and the captain had made up the rest of the cargo bulk with equally exotic drugs. A mishap entering the docks (it seems the somehow a Chlen-cart had been sunk there and not yet recovered, which the ship's keel had struck) smashed the cages, releasing many of the animals, some of which started eating the powders...

An explosion of brightly-coloured Kheshchal-birds flew out of the boat as Tsodlan was travelling over by skiff. Deciding that he couldn't afford to waste time chasing these, he shouted to the guards remaining on the dock to try and catch at least some of them before proceeding to the unfortunate vessel. The main problem turned out to be the numerous Kuruku which one cage had held and which had been broken- these had been opening other cages and eating the powders. Much cursing and frustration ensued, until the boat was finally brought in to dock with most of it's contents recovered.

As Tsodlan tried to give his best apology to the merchant, Gachaya and Kemuel appeared in a litter. They had seen the Kheshchal-birds flying around the city, and decided that this looked like great sport. Both carried light crossbows and had the Kheshchal they'd managed to hit dangling from the roof of the litter as trophies. The merchant was not amused, consequently neither was Tsodlan, and so the affair closed with him packing Quren back off to the distant rural clanhouse the campaign started in. He'd had it coming, Tsodlan decided, and it wasn't like he could take his anger out on more deserving targets.

Kemuel had since been initiated into the Temple of Dlamelish, and was discovering the joys of being a lowly first circle Acolyte. Having been entertaining visions of being swept into the inner sanctums of the Temple where stunningly beautiful sorcerer-priestesses would give him private tuition in the deepest mysteries of the arcane arts, he found the reality to not quite live up to this fantasy. Strangely, his superiors in the Temple considered having him drilled in the Rituals of Dlamelish (Outermost Mysteries), Etiquette, Theology and the giving of sexual pleasure to be far more important at this stage of his career. Once he could comport himself in a manner where he would not embarrass the Temple in these areas, then they would move him on to magical training. He also spent a great deal of time meditating to learn how to control his Pedhetl instead of being controlled by it- that is, to buy off his various character defects like Impulsive and Distractable. All these were lessons he found less than enjoyable (the giving of sexual pleasure often used less attractive worshippers as the subjects to ensure that the priesthood would do their duty to all).

His one semi-bright spot in this gloom was his fellow new initiates, mostly young, attractive females- in particular, Dijaya hiMranu of the Rising Sun Clan. He quickly fell hopelessly in lust with this young woman, but his attempts to bed her simply resulted in him being considered a friend and “one of the girls” (very bad seduction roll, which as a Priest of Dlamelish he really needs to improve). One of his more notable attempts to impress Dijaya occurred during their Theology lesson. Deciding that he'd try to act like an edgy almost-rebel to improve his standing with her, he began arguing for a borderline heretical interpretation of the subject under discussion. The Priestess teaching the Theology class for the new Acolytes was Lelai hiSankolum, a member of Kemuel's own White Stone, so he felt confident that she wouldn't report him to anyone that would get him into real trouble.

He botched his Theology roll- and when I rolled to see how Lelai would take it (low she's outraged, high she's not too bothered) I got the highest roll possible. She was more than OK with this heresy- so I decided that Kemuel had just unwittingly argued a position that came close to what the Sokatis heretics believed, and that Lelai was sympathiser in secret communication with them. Kemuel's vignette ended apparently less dramatically than the others- but the seeds of future scenarios had been sown.

In stark contrast to this, Gachaya's interlude was the most eventful of all- and not without long-term implications of it's own.

Gachaya found himself receiving an invitation to visit the home of one Osure hiChaishyani of the Emerald Girdle Clan, a woman known for her beauty and social connections. Having no idea why such a person would wish to entertain his presence, Gachaya nontheless visited her clanhouse. Various pleasantries passed between them, as Osure proclaimed herself impressed by the heroic deeds rumour apparantly ascribed to Gachaya. For his part, he told Osure at great length about his adventures to date, whilst making very successful seduction rolls.

It was after their lengthy bout of intimate exertions had wound down that the penny finally dropped- which is to say, Gachaya observed Osure adding a greenish powder to the wine she the offered him. Suddenly realising he was in the lair of someone deeply involved in the Zu'ur trade- the nature of her social connections becoming clear now- he leapt to his feet, denounced her loudly and attempted to flee the clanhouse. Alas for Gachaya, the dice- which had been giving excellent if not critical rolls to his attempts to impress Osure in various ways- deserted him. Failures and botches in sequence resulted in him being clubbed over the head by a burly attendant, as Osure moved to plan B for how she intended to deal with one of the men who had interfered with her business.

Gachaya awoke in stinking, salty darkness, with a very worrying rolling feeling underneath and the ominous creaking of wood surrounding him. Quickly taking panicked stock of his situation, he realised that he was tied up in the hold of a ship along with dozens of other miserable men. The captor who presently came to water them took pleasure in taunting them- they were to be given to the Hluss as payment for the next batch of Zu'ur, the player's first encounter with the true origin of the dread drug. Gachaya realised that the situation was dire, and that he had nothing to lose. Spending many experience points on re-rolls, he managed to break free of his bindings and begin surreptitiously freeing nearby captives.

Finally, he had enough men free to make a break for it. The captives grabbed and subdued the next pair of smugglers to venture down and used their knives to cut the rest free, as Gachaya gave a speech to motivate everyone- “we overcome the foe, or we die the worst death imaginable. Better to fall fighting than live in the hands of the Hluss!”- and the captives surged up onto the deck to try and capture the ship.

The smugglers weren't professional slavers, as shown by how sloppily they'd secured the captives. They were also few in number compared to the number of captives, as even amongst the dregs of the Five Empires, men who will trade other humans to the Hluss for Zu'ur can be hard to find. But they were armed and not weakened by days of captivity, and the battle was bloody and stalemated. Finally, Gachaya launched a desperate attack on the Captain, and slew him- at which the crew began to lose cohesion and the tide turned.

With the ship now theirs, Gachaya began to try and organise people to sail the ship back to Jakalla- or at least the Tsolyani shore. Unfortunately, at this point a terrible sight appeared on the horizon- the Hluss nest-ship which this boat had been about to rendezvous with. They quickly set sail as best they could, but the nest-ship began to gain on them steadily, advancing remorselessly with it's alien propulsive powers.

Deciding that all must now be lost, Gachaya turned to divine intervention as his last hope. Quickly covering the rules for such in T:EPT, he prostrated himself before the shrine of Avanthe in her aspect as Kerena the Wind which all Tsolyani ships have upon their decks (often a carved icon on the mast), he prayed for the goddess' intercession. Knowing that he was not a follower of Avanthe, he knew he would need big modifiers to succeed- so he proclaimed that he would, in honour of Avanthe, be the best husband and father he could be if only he was spared to marry and sire children.

With this modifier he succeeded at the Divine Intervention roll, and coincidences began to mount in his favour. The winds picked up, slowing the rate at which the Hluss were closing with them- and then, just as they were getting close enough to make out the individual Hluss on the nest-ship, more sails were spotted on the horizon. A patrol of Tsolyani war galleys had encountered them, and the Hluss decided that the prey was no longer worth the effort. They sailed away against the wind to escape, and Gachaya and the surviving captives were rescued to be returned to Jakalla.

(I'd had several plans in mind for how Gachaya could survive, but in my experience it's always best to let a PC try and get out of things without blatant GM intervention- when it works, it's far more satisfying.)

1 comment:

  1. No blatant GM intervention here, only a goddess' Aspect!
    Very good write up.
    I too am fond of the Adventures on Tekumel booklets. I've been trying to come up with a solution to offer something similar to my players, and thus help them give their yet-to-be-created PCs good backstories. Your solution of letting the players come up with simple scenario ideas is brilliant in that respect.
    - alx