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...

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.)

Tekumel - Session 13: It Returns!

The blog has, sadly, fallen into neglect due to a combination of factors. I had several RL reasons for not having as much free time to write up sessions as I did, and so the updates began to fall behind. The session began not being as regular, and so I started to forget Tekumel-related stuff in between them. I started a new campaign on a different night, which then took up some of my time. And when I finally did look back at writing more session reports, I was so far behind and the blog was so long without an update that it hardly seemed worth bothering.

Well, I've since heard from a few places that people still occasionally read the blog, or miss the updates. And there's been a recent challenge issued on the Tekumel yahoo list that people should “do what they can” to keep Tekumel alive. Taking these two together, I decided that going over my old session notes and writing up what happened in the remaining sessions of the campaign would be a good start for me, to get my mind back into Tekumel mode.

So, here's the first of the belated updates. They may well be not as long or detailed as those before, as the events aren't as fresh in my memory, but they should at least let people who followed the blog know what happened after I stopped updating. The Tekumel game has since ended, but there's the possibility of continuing in some form in the near future, so who knows- there might be more updates by the time I clear the backlog.


(Sirukel's player was periodically absent from the game from this point on due to RL issues, hence the character not being present in this and some future sessions.)

With Sirukel now planning his marriage and integration into the Clan businesses in Jakalla, the rest of the PCs were left to try and find their own way to fit in to the city, since none of them particularly wanted to go back home. Tsodlan found that the Clan had a very suitable position for him- they had several Clan members in influential positions in the Palace of the Realm, overseeing the Musa Jakalla docks. Specifically, a Clan member was running the guards for a section of the docks, ensuring that there was no theft from the ships being unloaded, the cargo being carried about by bearers and Chlen-carts, or the many warehouses in the district. While the city guard in that area wasn't in any way understaffed, it was felt that it was best to try and place suitable Clan-members in the more important roles in the dock guard- if only to make certain that any bribes made their way into the Clan's coffers and not those of the lower-status people who made up the majority of the guard.

Tsodlan accepted the position of Hereksa in the city guard, and took up his new post and duties at the docks finding it easy to settle into his new routine. Truth be told, the Legion of Kurukaa was more like a glorified city militia than a Legion and Tsodlan's experience serving in it had made him better prepared for patrolling the streets and collecting bribes than for waging war. Opportunities for nepotism were quickly uncovered, and within a month both Tsodlan's sons had been made Tirrikamu under him.

(Under the T:EPT rules for employment, I decided that the sort of position that lets people farm inducements like this counted as a professional salary based on the Bribery skill, with the level of income determined by the position itself- some give better opportunities than others.)

The other PCs visited the docks to see if anything that appealed to them could be found there (Gachaya was without any gainful employment or other personal means that might give him an excuse to remain in the city and Kemuel was bored waiting for his initiation into the Priesthood), but nothing came of it. Gachaya found that whilst there was money around the docks, squeezing the various inducements out of people was a full-time job and too much like real work for his tastes. Kemuel found the White Stone bureaucrat who oversaw that section of the docks developed an interest in the boy and started to press his unwholesome attentions onto him, so he mostly found places to watch the docks for a few days.

Becoming bored and having now learned an area-effect version of his party trick, Kemuel decided to throw Terrorisation at a random group with a Chlen-cart (he'd at least learned to make sure any targets of this were Low or Very Low Clans). A panicked group of carters abandoned an equally panicked Chlen, which rampaged through the docks- and it was naturally the job of Tsodlan to try and restore order. Tensions were already high, as it was the height of summer and the slowing of trade meant the spectre of a Food Riot was looming just as it did most years at this time. Tsodlan managed to prove his worth, a combination of prompt commands to his men and good rolls managing to diffuse the riot for now. But when they came to start cleaning the mess up (including the Chlen and Cart which had fallen into a dock), something worrying was found.

Many crates, barrels and baskets had been scattered and broken open in the brief rampage of the Chlen, and from one of these a green dust was spilling out. Whoever this small basket of marsh-rice belonged to had been smuggling Zu'ur into the city. Not wanting the OAL or other higher-ups to start poking their noses around the docks, Tsodlan immediately began trying to ascertain who had been carrying the basket before it was dropped. Gachaya and Kemuel started assisting, though all they discovered was that Tsodlan's younger son, Quren, had already managed to fall in with a bad crowd and was associating with what amounted to the Livyani Mafia based in the Foreigner's Quarter. The investigation had to be put on hold, though, as the summer heat and humidity rose to near-lethal levels and the mood of the city grew worse.

Fearing that a Food Riot was immanent, several of the richer merchants of the city began scattering inducements amongst the city guard to ensure that their property would be safe. The guard couldn't possibly protect everything, but by concentrating their efforts in a few places, select parts of the city could be saved. Which these parts were was determined by the bidding war of bribes now taking place. This was how, one steamy, oppressive night in Jakalla the PCs found themselves standing guard over several warehouses as the sounds of rioting spread from the poorer areas of the city toward the docks. With the river having dried enough to temporarily cut into river traffic, the amount of food entering the city was less than what was consumed during summer, and if this period lasted long enough, food grew short, and the famous Jakallan Food Riots could occur.

Tsodlan had formed up several of the city guard, and being in full armour with shields and having a narrow street to guard- with prepared barricades- things seemed hopeful. There were unguarded warehouses nearby, and the rioters would surely pick those over a serious attempt to force their way past armed guards- the biggest dangers looked to be heat exhaustion if they had to fight for long in their armour in Jakalla's summer. In the event of a serious rush by large mobs, Kemuel was stationed on the roof with Gachaya, so he could throw his Terrorisation spell into the crowds. But unknown to the PCs, something more serious was approaching.

In the marshes of the river delta was a small rural clanhouse of the Green Reed Clan which had recently fallen on hard times. Somewhat isolated from the most prosperous of the other Clanhouses, they had been forced to consider more extreme ways to see them through these difficulties- but they had reached the limit of how many of their Clan could be sold into debt-slavery before their holdings became unworkable. In desperation, with their Clanhouse by a small river leading to the sea, they began making deals with the Zu'ur traders, giving them a place to land their goods from which the drug could then be shipped to Jakalla. Large ocean-going ships were more likely to be searched than local skiffs loaded with marsh rice, after all- and so things continued, with the Green Reed Clan making enough money to even start buying back some of their members from slavery.

Until a basket of Zu'ur was broken in public and the new Hereksa of the city guard started asking questions instead of shrugging, filing a report and then forgetting about it. Then, the Green Reed Clan, having their first serious scare concerning the chance of discovery, began to panic. A desperate plot was hatched- everyone knew that a Food Riot seemed inevitable this year, and the guards would be protecting those warehouses they were bribed to as usual. Every able-bodied clansman was brought into the city, with what weapons they could muster, with the object of killing Tsodlan once the riots broke out and then hoping this was written off as being due to the riots.

The initial plan was to take the guards from behind by surprise whilst they were busy with rioters, and this would have succeeded had Gachaya not been on the roof. As it was, whilst the guard were defending one barricade from rioters throwing stones whilst Kemuel Terrorised them, he stated he was watching the other end of the roof. He saw a dozen men with spears and shields pushing down the barricade and passing over, running toward the guards around the corner. Shouting a warning, Kemuel was able to take several with his spell, which delayed things enough for the guard to turn and face the new attackers. They were quickly dispersed, but this was not the end of things. The spell wore off and a second attack was made, this time trying to goad the guards into chasing them. It succeeded, and only Tsodlan's quick thinking and good Command rolls saved them from disaster when they were attacked out of formation by unarmoured infantry that managed to make them run long enough to become fatigued. Forming a circle, they held off the Green Reed Clan long enough for Kemuel to resume his spell-throwing. There was a brief moment of panic when three of the Green Reed climbed onto the roof to try and take Kemuel out, but he was rescued by Gachaya's panicked heroics (“If he dies, I have no excuse to hang around Jakalla- and I'm not going back to that farm!”).

Two unfortunate members of the Green Reed Clan were taken alive during the fight, and “interrogating” them the next day revealed who they were and why they had attacked. The details were passed on to the OAL as pertinent to the Zu'ur trade.


In many ways I felt unhappy with this session- to me, the Zu'ur trade seemed almost a cliché to use in a Tekumel adventure, given what I'd read of the background. But I needed to establish Tsodlan in his new role and create an adventure at the docks, and smuggling seemed the ideal answer. And my players, of course, didn't know about Zu'ur before this and so didn't care if it was used as a plot device by previous GMs.

Hope people enjoyed this, and post a comment if you want me to keep going with the write-ups!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Tekumel - Session 12

The afternoon of the day after the attack, following a morning of the various parties involved having hasty meetings and sending runners back and forth, the PCs were summoned to the White Stone Clanhouse. The Clan Master was presiding over a gathering of representatives from all those who had been affected by the events at the Sea Blue Clanhouse and the attack on the PCs shortly afterwards. The players were naturally feeling a certain amount of trepidation at this, having had a week to consider just how bad things could get for them if the Clan Elders decided they'd made too much of a mess.

(There was a brief aside when one player asked “Where could they send us that's worse than where we started off?”, and I had to read out the various descriptions of Penom.)

The Priest of Hru'u had naturally sent a lower-level Temple flunky as a representative, to essentially start the Shamtla process. The Sea Blue Clan had a representative, because it was their Clan-house that Kemuel had started throwing spells at, and so they were also seriously considering Shamtla. The Blue Kirtle Clan had sent people to try and discover just what had occurred, and probably to also make polite but pointed (as much as status difference allowed) inquiries as to why the PCs had been lodged with them if they were involved in such dangerous affairs. And finally, the Temple of Dlamelish was represented by the highest-circle member of the White Stone Clan in Jakalla, who was naturally wanting to make sure that whatever happened to Kemuel, her temple would end up holding him.

The situation was defined as the PCs gave their testimony again, and the various claims of wrongdoing were made. One matter that was agreed on by all was that Kemuel had been irresponsible in his use of magic. To address these fears, Kemuel was fitted with a collar by the Temple of Dlamelish- made of silver and emeralds, it was elaborate enough to pass as jewellery and so avoid the stigma of wearing an Iron Collar, but contained enough metal to inhibit spellcasting in the same way. And as Kemuel tested it and found out at the first chance, it was solid enough and possessed of a lock that meant it couldn't be easily removed without the key. It has to be said that the other PCs were probably as relieved as the NPCs at this...

After the various representatives had left, the Clan Elders addressed the PCs. They were chastised for not informing them of the fact that they could be in danger, thus endangering a client Clan, and for Kemuel's reckless actions the night before (and the other's failure to prevent them). Since the PCs had demonstrated themselves to be in danger, some (rather cramped) quarters would be found for them in the main Clanhouse, where they could be properly guarded (the term “House Arrest” was never used once, but the PCs were left with the impression that leaving would be frowned upon).

The PCs freedom to enjoy the last few parties before The Enhancement of Emerald Radiance was therefore somewhat limited. That night, however, the White Stone Clan was itself hosting a party, and so the PCs would be in attendance- though warned to keep on their best behaviour, and in the case of Kemuel assigned a couple of “Minders” for the evening.

Nonetheless, the PCs took the opportunity to enjoy themselves (knowing they might be exiled from civilisation afterwards), and were able to circulate and talk with numerous high-ranking people in the Clan. Sirukel rose to the occasion here, managing (with good roleplaying backed with equally good dice rolls) to convince the several Clan-Elders that he was, in fact, a very capable young man and if he'd been there, then the sorry mess wouldn't have happened. As it was, he felt he knew how the matter could be resolved with a minimum loss of money and status to the Clan- would they allow him to try?

In the interests of not ending the campaign here, I decided that Sirukel had convinced them. He then immediately started to work on the first part of the plan that he and Gachaya had hatched, finding the highest-ranking Priestess of Dlamelish present at the gathering and making play. A meeting was arranged at the Temple of Dlamelish the following morning, and the Priestess would manage to have someone of sufficient rank present.

(Those who may have been following the discussion thread here will note that the players actually managed to come up with a solution to how to handle the corpse of their attacker that none of those involved in the discussion had thought of...)

The next day, the PCs arrived at the Temple of Dlamelish- with a suitable armed escort from the Clan- and met the gathering of high-Circle Priestesses. By now, they all knew just how powerful Kemuel could be- the fact he'd managed to cast a low-level spell with a few months of access to some books and no instruction said enough, even if his judgement was clearly questionable. But those who knew of Sorcery could tell that this was merely the sign of a very powerful Pedhetl influencing one who'd not been trained to properly control it. He was a potential asset, and the plan required that the Temple of Dlamelish be very keen to secure him.

Each PC carefully played his part in the rehearsed speeches, the players having figured out how to apply the Planning and Teamwork rules to social situations. Kemuel stated how he'd been instructed to go to Sokatis and felt that his duty, although perhaps he should offer himself to the Temple of Hru'u as penance for what he'd done. The others stressed how they had various duties to fulfil- but that they could see the advantages of having Kemuel join the Temple of Dlamelish here in Jakalla, the heart of the Emerald Lady's worship. If certain matters could be made to run smoothly for them here, then they would certainly ensure that Kemuel remained here to repay the debt they would owe...

After much roleplay, several dice rolls (one having XP burned to re-roll) and Sirukel marking down several significant favours owed to the Temple, the Priestesses agreed that the situation warranted the actions the PCs finally proposed. The body of the Priest who attacked the PCs was brought to the Temple of Dlamelish, where a Revivification spell was cast upon him (using a scroll, no Priestess wanted to be without magic with The Enhancement of Emerald Radiance so near). It succeeded, and the Priestesses proceeded to work their charms upon him. Newly Revivified and in the heart of the Temple of Dlamelish, they were able to enthral him into co-operation.

The Temple of Ksarul had taken the precaution of mind-barring him from revealing any of their secrets, but his name, Clan and Temple Affiliation were not secrets, and so were revealed. He was Firu hiChankresha of the Purple Gem Clan, and a Sorcerer-Priest of Ksarul.

Knowing full well that any confession made while Enthralled would hardly be seen as convincing, the PCs went to the Purple Gem Clan-house. Once there, they asked if anyone knew a Firu hiChankresha, of their Clan and possibly from Urmish. Finding some who did- he'd visited Jakalla before, and stayed at the Clan-house then- they asked about him, and confirmed that he was a Priest of Ksarul. They then informed the Purple Gem Clan that he was at the Temple of Dlamelish and in some trouble- the Clan should send someone there to assist him.

Naturally the Purple Gem Clan did so, and soon an Elder and his entourage was arriving back at the Temple of Dlamelish with the PCs. Once there, they made sure to have the Purple Gem people identify Firu in front of a senior Priestess. Only then did they inform the Purple Gem of what he'd done- naturally they'd heard rumours of the affair, but not yet the names of those involved. With his identity confirmed beyond doubt, the blame for at least half of their troubles was now shifted from the PC's shoulders. The Shamtla the White Stone Clan would pay to the Priest of Hru'u should be balanced out by what they could claim from the Purple Gem Clan and Temple of Ksarul, and the Blue Kirtle Clan should likewise be mollified by someone to make their own claims to.

And it was noted that the Temple of Ksarul probably owed the Temple of Dlamelish for having Revivified one of their Sorcerer-Priests, and that more specifically, the Firu himself likely owed the PCs a debt of honour for not just throwing his body into the death-pits of the Nakome to be stripped by carrion-beetles. Firu himself grudgingly admitted his debt to the PCs, and in response Kemuel tossed over the Eye of Inimitable Psychic Nullity that he'd used to defeat him. Having learned which Temples can best use Eyes and other ancient devices, he grinned and asked Firu to have it fully recharged for him.

After this, the PCs status in the eyes of the Jakalla Clan-house had greatly improved- it looked like they were actually going to break about even, so while they'd made a mess, they'd managed to clean it up as well. Kemuel at least was going to be staying in Jakalla now, so they were made somewhat more welcome- and allowed to attend that night's party, the last before the climax of the festival tomorrow, at the Rising Sun Clan-house.

It so very nearly ended in disaster for the PCs. Things were going well at the party, when Kemuel decided that it was time to go and try his hand at gambling- he even had this collar round his neck, which meant he couldn't be accused of using magic to cheat. Looking over the games, he settled on Tsalhten as sounding the most interesting. He had a small handful of Kaitars to his name that he could have gambled, but listening to the amounts the High Clan guests were betting, he would have felt embarrassed to do so. But, if someone ran up a really bad gambling debt, then the Clan would cover him, wouldn't it?

The other players looked as if they were thinking of strangling him when he loudly declared, “Five Thousand Kaitars, on the Dragon!”- betting five thousand on the hardest pattern there was. There was a mass intake of breath from the NPC observers, and people watched with baited breath as the sticks were tossed.

Kemuel's player had actually just been thinking he'd not made enough trouble this session, and knew full well that Sirukel was hiding a large sum of money from the other players by now- he hoped to force him to part from it in order to not have them all in trouble with the Clan again. Nobody was more surprised than him when he rolled the dice, and saw he'd actually made the Dragon. Paying out at five-to-one, he suddenly found himself with 25,000 Kaitars to his name. Sirukel immediately started making plans of what this could be invested into, but Kemuel knew exactly what he was going to use it for.

At dawn the next morning- the day of the climax of the Festival- Kemuel showed up at the Clanhouse of the Priest of Hru'u he'd cast the spell on. Having converted his winnings into actual coin rather than a letter of credit (“a promissory note just doesn't have the same effect!”), he made sure that enough of the Priest's Clan was watching before he launched into an abject apology. Managing to critical his Ettiquette roll, he wept and tore at his clothes as he proclaimed how ashamed he was to have offended such a person of note in the manner that he did, going on at great length and then finally having slaves pour the 25,000 Kaitars onto the ground before him as Shamtla. The Priest and witnesses all agreed that this was a more than sufficient apology, and Kemuel actually gained back all but one of the Respect points he'd lost for Terrorising the Priest in the first place for this display.

The PCs then went through the city, enjoying the festival. Whereas during the week leading up to it the festivities had been limited to evenings inside the Clanhouses, today the whole of Jakalla was celebrating out in the streets, with only an hour or so's break taken at noon (Whilst not yet at the hottest part of the year, it was still early Summer in Jakalla). Street performers of all kinds, along with the dancing throngs of citizens, milled all about.

Finally, as the sun set, the throngs began to head toward the Temple of Dlamelish, where the gates opened to admit the many worshippers. The PCs passed through the Temple grounds, the many labyrinthine gardens, courtyards and colonnades that surrounded the Temple building itself (given her importance in Jakalla, I've said that the Temple of Dlamelish is the only Temple that IS to scale on the map). Going inside and then down, being members of a Clan traditionally devoted to Dlamelish above other deities meant the PCs were able to watch the main rituals taking place in the central shrine itself. As the Priestesses danced around it, the great statue of Dlamelish started to look more and more beautiful, and appear almost alive, as the presence of the Goddess descended on Jakalla, and all gave in to her influence.

Waking up very late the next day, exhausted and with most of the night before just a pleasurable blue, the PCs made their way back to the Clanhouse.

A few days later, the PCs, along with most other people involved in the various affairs of that notorious night, were summoned to the Palace of the Realm to give an account of the matter to an Imperial Judiciary. Though those involved had settled things between them, the authorities wanted to be assured that the affair was done with- as well as to find out exactly what had gone on for themselves. By this point, the PCs stories had become very well polished, and they'd settled things sufficiently well that all involved gave them at least grudging praise. The details of everyone's account were carefully recorded by a scribe, before being filed away to gather dust in some archive.

After this, the PCs briefly mingled with the people there, and Kemuel found himself being spoken to in a quiet corner by a man wearing the emblem of the Omnipotent Azure Legion. Details of how powerful he was had reached their ears, and Kemuel ended up quickly assuring him of the fact that he and his friends were all loyal servants of the Seal Emperor- to which the OAL officer nodded and responded that he'd doubtless be given a chance to demonstrate this one day if his magical might proved as great as rumoured...

Back at the Clan-house, the Elders had Sirukel brought before them. They'd been very impressed by the way he'd handled things- clearly he was a young man with great potential, and would be wasted returning to his rural backwater of a Clan-house. To make this official- they'd noticed that he'd been getting along well with one of the unmarried Clan-girls, and he was certainly overdue for his first wife now. Seeing this as a chance to secure his escape to Jakalla, Sirukel accepted this proposal.