“Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” Session 40.14 — Canal to the capital

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 40.14, which was held on Sunday, 16 March 2014:

Long ago in a distant land, spirits and men directly traded bamboo, silk, and steel. Wars to the west, twisted monsters, and power-hungry sorcerers threatened the eastern kingdoms, so the call went out for new heroes of honor and tact….

Player Character Party 40 in Gene D.’s Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” Asian-style telecom campaign, using the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Ed.) Oriental Adventures, plus house rulesSkype, and an online dice roller, as of spring 2014:

  • Souji Nobuto ‘Sonny’ Yoshimitsu [Beruk A.]-male Shengtese Tian Kensai (eastern human weapon master) from a dishonored house in the Lion Clan, specializing in chain weapons; LNg, Lvl. 4
  • Toshiharu ‘Toshi’ Sembutsu [Byron V.O.]-male Shan Sao Wu Jen (eastern Halfling Wizard) from the Tiger Clan with a destiny; NGc, Lvl. 4
  • Ember Talon [Sara F.]-female Crane Hengeyokai Wu (shapeshifting Druid), actually a young gold dragon banished from the Celestial Court; NGl, Lvl. 4
  • Saigo Kasugi [Bruce K.]-male Bamboo Spirit Folk Samurai (eastern Sylvan Elf Cavalier) discreetly serving his daimyo; LNg, Lvl. 4
  • Soske’ Tiatoshe [Geoff C.]-male Shengtese Tian Shukenja (eastern human Cleric), priest of Shang-ti and animist from the Phoenix Clan, prophesied to do great things; LNg, Lvl. 4
  • Moon Jung-mo [Dexter V.H.]-male Nannuattan Ninja (Msamaki, eastern Dark Elf Assassin) who has left the Shadow’s Claw clan and is posing as a River Spirit Folk Yakuza (eastern Grey Elf Rogue); LNg, Lvl. 4

“17 to 21 April 1227 B.C.E.:” The diplomatic escorts decided to hike directly east across the Plains of Sathendo rather than stop at more potentially troubled villages. They also avoided an old tower occupied by a disgraced army officer.

The group began making plans for Sogewa, the capital of Tong Sheng. In Kuan Chou, Sonny and Toshi incapacitated a suspicious man who had spotted Nannuattan emissary Lady Yun Aei-Yong. Members of the town watch took him away.

Jung-Mo reminds his companions to be on their guard in strange cities. The Spirit Folk merchant asks around but finds that people shut up when he mentions the alleged mugger’s yellow sash. Jung-Mo later says this indicates that the man likely belongs to a criminal organization such as the Tong or Yakuza.

Sonny suggest buying the spy’s silence, but Saigo doesn’t trust him. Exasperated Soske’ recommends leaving town as soon as possible, but Ember wants to find the prisoner. Toshi asks Soske’ to prepare a narcotic to keep the Shengtese human from talking until they leave.

Ember, Jung-Mo, and Soske’ go to look for the man. Zhan-Shi Lai Tao, a sergeant in the local police, says that the prisoner was released to “his family” for healing. The frustrated hunters regroup with Sonny, Toshi, and Saigo at the “Happy Duck” hotel.

Jung-Mo spends 20 tael (10 gold pieces) to acquire passage on a barge on the canal between the Chuan Hosun and Chung Hsien rivers. Crane Hengeyokai Ember sings, and Bamboo Spirit Folk Saigo plays his flute to accompany the River Spirit Folk crew, but they are both rusty.

Shengtese human Sonny is equally lucky at joining Ember fishing, but he stays on deck to keep an eye out for trouble. Toshi uses the golden hairs pluckedfrom a monstrous Tikbalang as he makes paper for spells. The Shan Sao also makes a cloth scroll for Soske’ to record his deeds for his nosy family.

Soske’ takes a break from chatting with Lady Yun and says he has a relative in the capital who is a skilled blacksmith and who can help create masterwork and enchanted gear. The Shengtese human casts Masterwork Transformation to improve Saigo’s banded armor.

Saigo watches with interest as the barge is pulled by oxen on towpaths next to the canal, pushed by boatmen using long poles, and even occasionally drawn by sail. The wide canal includes locks and aqueduct bridges that cross over gorges — a level of engineering unexpected outside Korobokuru (eastern Dwarven) lands.

Many miles before reaching Sogewa, the barge passes farmers tending rice, other crops, and livestock. Saigo changes into a formal kimono, and the others follow suit. They then see concentric rings of canals dividing the Shengtese capital into multiple districts. Toshi recalls stories of Atlantis, which sunk more than a generation ago [in “game time”].

Sogewa, capital of Tong Sheng

The barge carries the travelers directly into the heart of the vast city, and Saigo stays focused on the destination rather than allow himself to be distracted by pretty urbanites.

The outermost canals waters farms, and then each ring separates a part of the city divided into four sections. The next districts include butchers and greengrocers, river traders and warehouses, and farmers’ residences.

Bridges and wide walls lead into the next tier, which consists of craftspeople, merchants, and middle-class housing. The ring after that has monasteries,temples, theaters, schools, and houses of healing. Each ward has sentries in specific uniforms.

The visitors are most impressed by Sogewa’s districts for the aristocracy, with large mansions and well-tended flowering trees. The canal leads into the heart of the city, where government buildings and formal gardens surround Silado Palace. Toshi looks for other Shan Sao.

The group disembarks, and imperial guards ask visitors to leave most of their weapons outside. Two friendly female guides, Qing Bai Lei and Qing Dao Lei, lead the way through winding paths. The landscaping is artistic, with large statues of past rulers, but Saigo observes that it would be difficult for an army to directly attack the palace.

Ember fondly recalls her home as she sees silver and brass fittings, red lacquered cabinetry, gold-tipped pagodas, and rustling silk robes. Courtiers and bureaucrats shuffle and become more numerous than scholars or soldiers.

Li Keng, another pale guide, brings Lady Yun and her entourage into the palace. The adventurers see long columned halls, tranquil courtyards, ornate carvings, and discreet servants. The sounds of giggling and music filter through paper screens.

Jung-Mo is worried that someone may magically see his true nature, but the Nannuattan Ninja presents himself as a merchant with Lady Yun and omits his cover identity as a Bamboo Spirit Folk.

Wu Jen Toshi and Samurai Saigo are reminded of the citadel at Bazran Hai in the Zedu kingdom. Kensai Sonny is more curious about how various clans are represented among the province’s leadership than in the trappings of privilege.

Wu Ember senses that she is being watched, and Shukenja Soske’ is not surprised when a court mage recognizes him. Yao-Ren Hu is a cousin and shares their family’s concern for the wandering priest.

Li Keng brings the would-be heroes to the august presence of Duke Kou Fei Seng. He accepts Lady Yun’s diplomatic credentials and listens to her offer of a truce between Gokuri, Tong Sheng, and Zedu. He says he will consider it on behalf of the son of heaven, Emperor Zi Zhao Wu Ding in distant Yin Shang.

The prince also temporarily releases the party from its duty of escorting Lady Yun for as long as she is in Sogewa. However, Kou Fei Seng says that it will be held responsible for any of her actions and vice versa. He asks if the group has any requests of him.

Jung-Mo, Ember, and Soske’ hang back. Sonny asks for access to Tong Sheng’s archives, and Toshi petitions to study with other Wu Jen. Saigo asks for permission to contact officers who knew his missing grandfather, Gen. Shinso Saigo.

The duke dismisses the escorts, and Draconian guard Oh Kum Ja stays with Lady Yun as negotiations commence. The team decides to stay in the palace, at least for its first night in the city.

Jung-Mo asks the Qing sisters for advice on sightseeing, and Toshi prepares to copy spells. Sonny heads to the archives, and Sonny talks with Li Keng about generals in the human army.

Soske’ reminds Ember that she is holding gold retrieved near the Balef River that should be returned to the Dragon Clan. Yao-Ren Hu and other relatives find Soske’, who reluctantly agrees to recite tales of his travels. They also invite his friends to a dinner the next evening.

Wizard Toshi and Druid Ember seek out a Kitsune (fox person) and a Kenku (raven folk) they saw working in the royal gardens. Rogue Jung-Mo stays with Ember when Toshi joins Cavalier Saigo to talk with the Zedu ambassador.

Saionji Yoshio, another Bamboo Spirit Folk Samurai, listens to Saigo and Toshi’s report and awards them 4,000 tael for their services so far. Weapon master Sonny later divides that to 300 g.p. per person, plus 26 g.p. for general expenses in the city.

Saigo asks about finding a geisha, but Yoshio-san recommends that he look beyond the palace grounds. He also warns them that humans can be easily corrupted or distracted. The wanderers recover from their exertions and begin exploring the city….

Let me know if you have any questions about Sogewa. Note that our next “Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” telecom game probably won’t be until Sunday, March 30. A one-shot this coming Friday or Saturday night will depend on who’s available and Thomas K.Y.’s anime viewing.

The “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Circus” face-to-face campaign won’t resume until March 31 at Rich C.G.‘s place. I’ll post separately regarding advancement for both parties. I look forward to seeing some of you at Jason E.R.’s next “Glassworks: the Devil’s Den” superhero session.