Sunday, 9 February 2014

Tekumel - Session 17

The last few sessions were all single-session makeshift adventures, a consequence of having a couple of months with a very spotty gaming schedule. Now there was a span when all players could make the session for several weeks in a row, and this was the point where I returned to the more plot-oriented ongoing adventures for a time.

When Sirukel returned to Jakalla after a lengthy trading voyage to Salarvya, he found things not remotely peaceful in the PCs assigned home. The arrival of Tsodlan's family had been death to domestic bliss. Tsodlan had taken to sleeping overnight at the guard barracks on the docks, Kemuel spent more and more time at the Temple of Dlamelish, and Gachaya was finding his default position as arbiter of disputes increasingly stressful. The fact that both Tsodlan's wives insisted in putting his new bride in her place at any opportunity didn't help matters- nor did the fact that in the boredom of rural exile he'd had an affair with Su'esa, the younger of Tsodlan's wives, and she showed a desire to pick things up now they were under the same roof again. As for Sirukel, his own wife, Hale, was finding it rather difficult to deal with these out-of-town shrews, despite her nominally being in a socially superior position.

Matters were not helped by the fact that Tsodlan had daughters approaching marriageable age, and having returned from the trading voyage a rather wealthy man (investing all his money in the voyage and then making some very good rolls on Merchant) Sirukel was looking very eligible. He did his best to avoid Tsodlan's wives, and looked to invest his new-found wealth in the construction of what he hoped would be the first of his trading vessels (he actually had enough to buy a ship, though I ruled this would mean him commissioning the construction of one rather than there being one for purchase).

So when the opportunity to escape Jakalla for a time was presented to the PCs, they seized upon it without a second thought. Lelai hiSankolum, Kemuel's theology tutor and a secret heretic looking to recruit him, had organised a hunting trip for several members of the Clan, along with a number of guests from other Clans. Acceptance was quickly given, and some days later the PCs found themselves mingling with their new travelling companions as their servants and slaves made the final preparations to depart. To help keep things clear, I've decided to just copy out the list of NPC names and agendas I used in the game- referencing this will hopefully let people keep things straight.

Lelai hiSankolum of the White Stone- Priestess of Dlamelish, and secret heretic. She has arranged the trip to give an excuse to get Kemuel out of Jakalla, where she can introduce him to other Heretics without the Temple learning about it and hopefully recruit him.

Hettukeng hiKutanyal of the White Stone- A fashion-conscious gambling addict deluded of his own status. He has been brought because his (theoretical) status in the Clan adds to the cover story of the hunting trip. His lineage should make him a big deal inside the Clan, but his behaviour and incompetence has eroded this somewhat.

Migor hiSankolum of the White Stone- a cousin of Lelai who has been brought along to toady to Hettukeng and try to keep him out of trouble. He's just glad to have been allowed to join this journey, and hopes to make some contacts or good impressions that will improve his lot.

Paluel hiSankolum- another of Lelai's cousins, brought along because an attractive young woman known to be free with her favours can surely only help any social gathering. As it transpires, she's a xenophiliac with a definite weakness for foreign-looking males of unsuitable status.

Nirun hiTlelsu of the Great Stone- a guest of some status, who unknown to anyone else has been ensorcelled by the Temple of Dlamelish into acting as their spy.

Shemek hiNezar of the High Pinnacle Clan- rich and high status, but also a bore of epic proportions who turns any conversation to the minutiae of his job in the Palace of the Realm and how much he misses living in Urmish.

Balane hiSankolum of the Purple Gem- a scatterbrained girl with a tendency to try and attach herself to whichever male she feels has the most status in any given group.

Dijaya hiMranu of the Rising Sun- a lowly acolyte of Dlamelish, whose inclusion is purely based on the fact that Kemuel is desperately in lust with her and her presence helps assure his acceptance of the invitation.

The expedition departed along the Sakbe road, and the PCs soon recalled various issues with travel just after the rainy season had ended. Fortunately they were high enough status to use the middle tier of the Sakbe road, or the crowds would have made the going even slower. Observation rolls made by the PCs along the way led Kemuel to believe they were being followed, but the other PCs declared he was just being paranoid that business was done with now he was a member of the Temple of Dlamelish. (The follower was in fact an agent of the Temple of Dlamelish, whose superiors were not as ignorant of Lelai's heresy as she believed.) Still, the slaves were pushed hard and the group made Palla Jakalla by evening, which was chosen as a convenient mid-way stop on the journey. Arrangements had been made in advance to host them by the White Stone Clan, and they settled into the guest quarters to enjoy their hospitality for the night.

The drama soon started. Kemuel found his attempts to woo Dijaya coming to nothing, as Hettukeng managed to seduce her with “his unfair technique of being smug and rich!” as Kemuel's player put it, and the various PCs and NPCs all got dragged into things by one or the other of the women. (The simple technique for dealing with players wanting to stay out of something like this is to have one of the women show interest in HIM, and then have her NPC suitors respond.) Eventually, several of the NPCs decided to go out and “look for some adventure” in the town, whilst others retired to their beds, alone or otherwise.

Hours later, a street urchin delivered a rather frantic-sounding note from Migor, who claimed that Hettukeng was in some manner of difficulty. Quickly rousing the various PCs, the group followed the urchin back to a rather shady-looking establishment just inside the gates of the Foreigner's Quarter. Inside, the various forms of gambling on display soon had the PCs realising what was transpiring. Hettukeng had begun to bet heavily, losing sums of money that even someone of his status would find awkward to explain. And in true gambling addict fashion, his solution was to keep betting until his luck turned around. A number of rather serious-looking Salarvyani were looking as if they would object to Hettukeng's departure unless confirmation of payment was given by his Clan.

Recalling that Gambling is based on Psyche, and that Kemuel had placed points in the skill, Gachaya hit upon then plan of having him take over Hettukeng's debts and keep gambling. Many social rolls were required- not least to make Hettukeng abandon what he was convinced would become a winning streak. But the game was set up, and even with modifiers for less than sporting play by the hosts Kemuel managed to begin winning back the money. The debt was reduced to a manageble amount by the time the Salarvyani called an end to things, and the group returned to the Clanhouse. Hettukeng condescendingly thanked them for their services to the Clan before retiring to bed Dijaya (which annoyed Kemuel no end). And Nirun went to call on Paluel one last time in the hope that she'd be receptive- and the violence started.

Whilst most of the menfolk were busy rescuing Hettukeng, Paluel had decided to indulge her passion for brutish and unsuitable foreign males by seducing Sirukel's retainer, M'vekku the N'luss. Finding the object of his desire in the arms of this Nakome, Nirun took exception and began attacking him with a sword. This naturally put Sirukel's player (who usually made M'vekku's combat rolls) in a difficult position, because attacking a High-Clan Tsolyani would get M'vekku executed. He fought on the defensive, receiving several wounds, until he finally managed to grapple Nirun and pin him down. The PCs then arrived and dragged Nirun outside, where he began demanding M'vekku's death loudly. Tempers were raised, and when Nirun managed to recover his sword, Tsodlan drew his. Challenges were made, but in the heat of the moment blow were exchanged immediately- and Tsodlan rolled a critical attack, killing Nirun outright.

Had this taken place in the Hirilakte arena, there would have been no legal issue. But with such a dubious and improper challenge, Tsodlan now stood in serious danger of being declared a murderer.

(This was an issue where the player didn't seem to grasp the fine distinctions of challenges in the setting, seeming to think that a challenge in front of witnesses was all that was required and that given time Nirun would “weasel out of things” and find a way to kill M'vekku. I decided after the first hint that, what the hell, I'd let him do it and face the consequences.)

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Tekumel - Session 16

I'm a big fan of the various Tekumel scenarios contributed to The Book of Visitations of Glory, archived on the site. Readers of this blog may recall that I used Krista Donnely's “A Dark and Stormy Night” as the basis for an early session. In this session, I adapted Barry Blatt's “These Mean Streets” as a one-shot adventure. The scenario is a simple one- the PCs must evict a particularly unsavoury group of squatters from a property in the Foreigner's Quarter of Jakalla.

Adapting this to the current campaign was simple- I simply declared that the property in question was part of Gachaya's dowry from the Blue Kirtle Clan. Due to various legal and financial difficulties, the Blue Kirtle had been unsuccessful in removing the squatters, but surely the White Stone would be able to overcome such trifling difficulties...

Gachaya, being flush with money from a run of luck in the Hirilakte Arena, was looking for something to invest in. While T:EPT has rules for investing money, I personally have ruled that this can only be done if an opportunity can be found. I decided that the run-down and unprofitable tenements Gachaya had gained through marriage constituted such an investment opportunity, with the investment covering the needed repairs and various bribes needed before money can be made from renting them out. Naturally, the first order of business was to deal with the squatters he'd heard about.

Visiting Tsodlan, Gachaya arranged for a couple of “The Lads” to accompany the PCs into the Foreigner's Quarter (it was deemed wise that High Clan Tsolyani should have an armed escort in this area). Tsodlan was now making an increasing habit of treating the city guard under his command as a pool of soldiers he can exploit at will for whatever the PCs are up to. He gets away with it due to generous bribes and shares in whatever rewards the PCs find (especially valued given how many of the rank-and-file come from poor Clans), but eventually a large number of them will get killed, at which point questions will start to be asked.

Nonetheless, Gachaya and Tsodlan entered the Foreigner's Quarter and made their way to the area of Gachaya's property. Managing to find some locals who spoke Tsolyani, they eventually located the property- and learned something of the squatters. The Ugremish Clan (as they call themselves) were a group of Salarvyani immigrants who had a very unsavoury reputation amongst their neighbours. There were all kinds of dark rumours about them, from murder to dark magic- none of it proven, of course- but the locals tried their best to avoid the Ugremish and not antagonise them. Up until now, they had managed to avoid angering any Tsolyani Clan with enough clout to do something about them- but given their lack of rent payments, Gachaya was determined to change this.

When they arrived at the building, Gachaya was dismayed at just how bad a state it appeared to be in. A many-storied edifice, it was dilapidated and stinking, with the walls crumbling and various weeds and fungi growing in the cracks. The inhabitants seemed exactly what they'd been led to expect- ill-aspected foreigners with filthy beards and a very poor grasp on the Tsolyani language which seemed to get even worse once Gachaya explained who he was. Several assertions were made to the effect that they paid rent to the Golden Crab Clan, and then the Ugremish scuttled back inside and shut the doors.

Retreating to make plans, the PCs first made enquiries about this Golden Crab Clan. Records showed that such a Clan had indeed existed in Jakalla at one time, but there was currently no trace of them. Deciding to simply act as if the Golden Crab no longer mattered and pay Shamtla if it turned out otherwise, arrangements were made for the eviction of the Ugremish.

Tsodlan arranged for several dozen guards to join them on the next visit, assuming that they would need to evict the Ugremish by force. Kemuel was enlisted as well, since it was decided that his spells would be effective at breaking up any potential siege situation. Finally, contact was made with a representative of the Collar of Bronze Clan, with an eye to selling the evicted Ugremish into slavery. They were all Nakome after all, and the cost of using The Lads had to be paid off somehow.

The planned day of the eviction came, and the Tsodlan was leading the guards in full armour into the Foreigner's Quarter. Behind him came a litter bearing Kemuel and Gachaya, and bringing up the rear were two Chlen-carts with cages and a number of Collar of Bronze thugs. Naturally, such a procession was noted by the locals, and words spread rapidly through the Foreigner's Quarter, which became deserted for fear of just what these Tsolyani were planning. When the PCs reached the tenement, the Ugremish- who'd been expecting this since the previous visit- were all fortified inside.

Gachaya decided it was his place to oversee and command, which amounted to him sitting in the comfort of the litter and shouting orders and encouragement at people. Tsodlan led the initial assault on the doors, which had been barricaded, whilst the Ugremish threw various things from above. Fortunately Kemuel's magic worked as planned, the Terrorisation spells driving the Ugremish back from the windows and doors and allowing the guards to eventually force their way inside.

The descriptions of the flithy, smokey interior had Gachaya getting steadily more incensed as he learned just how the Ugremish had been treating his property (the adventure has the full details). He was eventually forced to abandon the litter, after a miscalculation had Kemuel Terrorising a group of Ugremish thugs who had nowhere to run except out of the window. They fell onto the litter from a great enough height to break it in the process of seriously injuring themselves, forcing Gachaya to roll in the mud as he leapt out of the litter and narrowly escaped injury himself.

Finally deciding to join Tsodlan and Kemuel inside, Gachaya found that they had just uncovered some form of crudely excavated tunnel down into the Underworld. Deciding that some Ugremish might have escaped this way, or that they might be hiding loot down there, the PCs led several guard down the dark, twisting tunnel- and emerged into a charnel pit filled with human remains in various states of decomposition. Some of which began to move...

The leader of the Ugremish, Grandpa Aqqa, was a Priest of Black Qarqa, a particularly loathsome Salarvyani variation of Sarku. Over the past few decades, he had been living- for want of a better word- in this dark temple, surrounded by death and undeath, as he slowly converted himself into a most repulsive form of Undead. The process was now mostly completed, and Aqqa was less than pleased at the interruption- and his Mrur minions were sent to express this displeasure.

The fight, taking place in a dark pit with Mrur all around, was many rounds of frantic chaos. Fortunately for the PCs, Tsodlan managed to rally the guard and have them stand fast to hold back the Mrur whilst Gachaya used a borrowed Longsword to systematically dismember them one by one. Kemuel was able to use his Magic Resistance to hold off the spells which Aqqa had thrown at them, and eventually the Mrur were slain and Aqqa dismembered and burned.

Emerging into the sunlight again, Gachaya sent word of the temple to the Palace of the Priesthood and led the PCs home, with the Ugremish being loaded into the Chlen-carts by the Collar of Bronze and the locals starting to cheer as they saw their most intensely disliked neighbours were gone for good.

When he arrived back at the Clanhouse, though, Tsodlan discovered a truly dire occurrence awaiting him. Some time ago, he'd banished his younger son Quren back to the rural Clanhouse the campaign started at. This act had clearly not been properly thought through- because by doing so, he made sure that his wives found out he'd gained a respectable long-term position in Jakalla. Tsodlan's whole family had now arrived at the Clanhouse to share in their patriarch's good fortune (including Quren, whose mother was going to be having words with Tsodlan about this banishment nonsense).

Friday, 7 February 2014

Tekumel - Session 15

Naturally, as soon as I declare I'm writing up the old sessions and make a serious start on doing so RL intervenes. In this instance, it did so in the form of a lingering cold which sucked all trace of energy and motivation out of me. But I feel recovered enough now to start work on the write-ups once more, before I let things slide again.

The following write-up is fairly brief, because the session itself was. We started later than usual, it had been some weeks since the last session and so the inevitable social side of things before gaming began took more time- but these things happen. I'd considered folding it into the previous session, but as it stands it's a good point to start getting back into things.


Gachaya arrived back at the docks at Jakalla aboard the naval trireme which had rescued him and his fellow prisoners. Some effort was made to detain everyone long enough for the OAL to be contacted (since the Inimical Races and the Zu'ur trade had been involved), but Gachaya declared that he had suffered long enough without civilised comforts and that the OAL would know where to find him.

Recalling that the White Stone Clan had several assets in the docks, Gachaya decided to drop by these so he could clean himself a little and borrow someone's litter and clothes to make a more dignified progress back to the Clanhouse. Whilst there, he regaled all present with an account of his heroics. Once cleaned and changed, he found a small crowd had gathered, drawn by the various rumours which Gachaya's own stories had added fuel to. Encouraged by the crowd's presence, Gachaya repeated his tale, embellishing it further, and found himself stopping the litter three times during his procession back to the Clanhouse whenever he saw more crowds gathering.

Tsodlan- with his old soldier's sense of impending trouble- suspected that trouble was going to come of this somehow and tried to have some of his guards (“The Lads” as the player has taken to referring to them) disperse the crowd and hurry Gachaya home. But it was too late- caught up in his boasting, Gachaya added the name of the woman who had seduced and captured him to this very public account of Zu'ur dealing and trading humans to the Hluss. And things had gone on long enough for some of her agents to have heard of Gachaya's return- though as it turned out, the first consequence didn't need Osure to be directly involved at all. A hot-headed young blade from the Iron Helm Clan who was enamoured of the glamorous lady Osure stepped out of the crowd, loudly denounced Gachaya for his lies and other presumed character flaws, and challenged him. In such a public venue, Gachaya had no choice but to accept- and hope he'd been putting enough points into his combat skills to survive what was coming.

Returning to the Clanhouse, Gachaya quickly received polite word from the Clan Elders that he should please consider confining himself indoors for the immediate future. Sending word back that he'd certainly do so once he'd fought the duel he'd been challenged to that morning, Gachaya then received a visitor from the OAL who spent the rest of the day making him go carefully over his story (the impression may have been given that the OAL half expected Gachaya to mysteriously vanish sometime soon, and wanted to get any useful information out of him before this happened).

As it turned out, this duel was nothing much to be concerned about. The young challenger had more passion than skill, and Gachaya was able to best him easily. But immediately following this, a more serious challenger approached Gachaya, who accepted his challenge whilst still flush with victory after the first duel. This second duel the following week was won by the narrowest of margins- good exploiting of the combat system coupled with good rolls. Another victory- but by defeating this much more dangerous opponent, Gachaya had made a name for himself amongst the fighters of Jakalla, and soon found many more challenges being issued.

By now having found just how lucrative winning duels against High Clan opponents could be in terms of both Kaitars and Status, Gachaya decided to begin training in earnest and working to become a known figure amongst duellists.

The other consequence of Gachaya's adventure was, of course, his pledge to marry and have children. Facing the unpleasant realisation that he currently wasn't a good catch for a High Clan bride and risked being offered an ugly girl if he married there, he began looking beneath him for a potential match. He found Nelel hiSaruna of the Blue Kirtle Clan, whose family were clients of the White Stone in Jakalla and who would happily offer up a very attractive and eligible daughter to such a match. The Clan-Elders decided that this at least showed Gachaya was looking to settle down, and after much negotiation the match was approved.

The Blue Kirtle naturally made a large concession to show their appreciation of this marriage, and his new bride's dowry will form the basis of the next session's adventure...