Saturday, September 23, 2017

DELIGHTFUL FOREST DISCUSSION

Over at the Bedrock Podcast I talked with Lady Cao Feng, Kenny and Adam about the classic Shaw Brothers movie The Delightful Forest.  



Friday, September 22, 2017

GAMING STRANGE TALES: TABLE OF CONTENTS

I recently made a bunch of blog entries creating content for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate inspired by Pu Songling's Strange Tales from the Chinese Studio. These are all listed in the sidebar of the blog, but here is the master TOC. I did notice I missed 2 entries, so I corrected that today and they are linked below. 

1-3: HOMUNCULOUS, AN OTHERWORLDLY EXAMINATION, AND LIVING DEAD
4: SPITTING WATER
5: TALKING PUPILS
6: THE PAINTED WALL
7: THE TROLL
8-9: BITING GHOST AND CATCHING A FOX
10-12: THE MONSTER IN THE BUCKWHEAT, THE HAUNTED HOUSE, AND STEALING A PEACH
13-14: GROWING PEARS AND THE TAOIST PRIEST OF MOUNT LAO
15-18: THE MONK OF CHANGQING, THE SNAKE CHARMER, THE WOUNDED PYTHON, AND THE FORNICATING DOG
19-20: GOD OF HAIL AND THE GOLDEN GOBLET
21: GRACE AND PINE
22-23: A MOST EXEMPLARY MONK AND MAGICAL ARTS
24-26: WILD DOG, PAST LIVES, AND FOX IN THE BOTTLE
27: WAILING GHOST
28-29: THUMB AND THIMBLE AND SCORCHED MOTH TAOIST
30-33: FRIENDSHIP BEYOND THE GRAVE, KARMIC DEBTS, RITUAL CLEANSING, THE DOOR GOD AND THE THIEF
34-36: PAINTED SKIN, THE MERCHANT'S SON AND A PASSION FOR SNAKES 
37-39: A LATTER-DAY BUDDHA, FOX ENCHANTMENT AND EATING STONES
40: THE LAUGHING GIRL
41: THE MAGIC SWORD AND THE MAGIC BAG
42-44: THE DEVOTED MOUSE, AN EARTHQUAKE, AND SNAKE ISLAND
45: GENEROSITY
46-48: THE GIANT FISH, THE GIANT TURTLE, AND MAKING ANIMALS
49-51: THE LITTLE MANDARIN, DYING TOGETHER AND THE ALLIGATOR'S REVENGE
52-53: SHEEP SKIN AND SHARP SWORD
54: LOTUS FRAGRANCE
55-56: KING OF THE NINE MOUNTAINS AND THE FOX OF FENZHOU
57: SILKWORM
58-61: VOCAL VIRTUOSITY, FOX AS PROPHET, THIS TRANSFORMATION, AND FOX CONTROL
62: DRAGON DORMANT
63-64: CUT SLEEVE AND THE GIRL FROM NANKING
65-67: TWENTY-YEARS A DREAM, MYNAH BIRD, AND LAMP DOG
68-69: DOCTOR FIVE HIDES AND BUTTERFLY
70-75: THE BLACK BEAST, THE STONE BOWL, A FATAL JOKE, RAINING MONEY, TWIN LANTERNS AND GHOST FOILED, FOX PUT TO ROUT
76-79: FROG CHORUS, PERFORMING MICE, THE CLAY SCHOLAR, AND FLOWERS OF ILLUSION
80-81: DWARF AND BIRD
82-86: PRINCESS LOTUS, THE GIRL IN GREEN, DUCK JUSTICE, BIG SNEEZE AND STEEL SHIRT
87-89: FOX TROUBLE, LUST PUNISHED BY FOXES AND MOUNTAIN CITY
90-91: A CURE FOR MARITAL STRIFE AND A PRANK
92-94: ADULTERY AND ENLIGHTENMENT, UP HIS SLEEVE, AND SILVER ABOVE BEAUTY
95-96: THE ANTIQUE LUTE AND WAITING ROOM FOR DEATH
97: ROUGE
98-100: SOUTHERN WUTONG-SPIRIT, SUNSET, AND THE MALE CONCUBINE
101-104: CORAL, MUTTON FAT AND PIG BLOOD, DUNG BEETLE DUMPLINGS, AND STIR-FRY

GAMING STRANGE TALES FROM A CHINESE STUDIO 5: TALKING PUPILS

I have been making NPCs, monsters and scenarios inspired by Pu Songling's Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. For each entry I take two or more stories from the Penguin Edition translated by John Minford and make gameable material.

Today I am doing Talking Pupils (#5). This is an amusing story about a man who gawks at a highborn lady, to have one her servants throw sand in his eyes. Over the next several days, he develops a thick film over his pupil and goes blind. He then seeks comfort in meditation and approaches serenity. One day he hears voices in his head and two tiny figures emerge from nostril. They seem to have grown from the grains of sand and eventually remove the plaque from one of his eyes, enabling him to see. 

KARMIC SAND
This looks like ordinary sand but when thrown at a person it afflicts them with a Flaw in keeping to their most egregious wrong committed in the last year. A person who was lying goes mute, a person who ran off with someone else's property may lose the use of their legs, a person who deceives another may grow incredibly dim-witted. This can only be removed when the wrong has been corrected ten times over. 

GAMING STRANGE TALES FROM A CHINESE STUDIO 27: WAILING GHOSTS

I have been making NPCs, monsters and scenarios inspired by Pu Songling's Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. For each entry I take two or more stories from the Penguin Edition translated by John Minford and make gameable material.

Today I am doing Wailing Ghosts (#27). This one is about ghosts who haunt the house of a local official. He placates them with rituals and food. One of his guards falls ill, and when he awakens appears to have been one of the ghosts. 

WAILING GHOST
Wailing Ghosts are non-physical but torment the living with their incessant cries. They occasionally possess those who are ill or weak, taking them over until an exorcism is performed. 

Defenses: Hardiness nil, Evade nil, Parry nil, Stealth nil, Wits 7, Resolve 8
Skills: Command: 2d10, Deception: 3d10, Talent (Singing): 3d10, Detect: 1d10

Wounds: None

Powers
Possess: A Wailing Ghost can attempt to take possession of someone who is sick or wounded. Anyone with reduced Hardiness or suffering from Wounds is vulnerable. Roll 2d10 against Resolve of the Target. On a Success they take possession of the person. 

Distracting Cry: Wailing Ghosts create a distracting cacophony with their singing until they get what they want from people. Make a Talent (Singing) roll against Wits of all who can hear them. On a Success the targets suffer -1d10 to all Mental, Knowedge and Relevant Specialist Skills due to distraction. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

GAMING STRANGE TALES FROM A CHINESE STUDIO 101-104: CORAL AND MORE

I have been making NPCs, monsters and scenarios inspired by Pu Songling's Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. For each entry I take two or more stories from the Penguin Edition translated by John Minford and make gameable material. You can see my previous entry HERE

This is the last new entry for the Tales from a Chinese Studio series I started last month. There will be a follow-up post to compile them all together, but this is basically the end of it. I am going to give some general thoughts before moving into the regular topic because I've been writing these every day for some time now and it has been an interesting process. 

I think this has been a great exercise for  me as a Gamemaster. It really forces you to make mechanics, adventures, monsters and characters you otherwise would not, and you get surprising results from that sometimes. 

This has also been a lot of fun. I think forcing myself to slowdown and deal with entries in small batches (rather than read the book in the course of a few days) gave me more time to digest and remember each individual story. 

It definitely took portions of my day up at times, and when I got sick with the flu last week it  even got exhausting. But I still enjoyed it a lot. I think some entries have been stronger than others. The point of it was to make something and force myself to find inspiration in stories that might not normally spark something. Some of my favorite entries will be reworked and given to a proper mapper for use in upcoming books, but most of the stuff is just here for the blog (also the things I do end up using will undergo pretty serous revision due to an important announcement. 

I mentioned in a previous post that I was thinking of making a Strange Tales variation of Ogre Gate and putting it on the blog. Making these entries has convinced me. I've started work on the game, but the result is so different from the core Ogre Gate rules (it still uses the base system but is a lot simpler and faster). I like this so much and the playtests have been going so well, I decided to make it our next book in the pipeline (which means it should follow House of Paper Shadows). This will be a new game with more streamlined mechanics and greater emphasis on lethality and horror. It is directly inspired by Strange Tales (and the movies based on it). Right now we are just calling it Strange Tales. The book itself will be lean (probably no more than 80 pages) and the focus will be on gaming content. So it won't be a massive setting book like Ogre Gate and I am trying to keep the core rules section under a single page. The bulk of the book will be stuff like character creation, adventures, monsters, etc. Stuff that will help the GM. The setting will be more open and at this time I don't plan to go into great detail there. I see this more as something you could run in China during any period you wish, something you could run as a setting you develop through play or something you could take to the Ogre Gate setting. 

I am looking forward to working on Strange Tales and I am happy to answer any questions people might have about it. In the meantime here are the last entries in this series. 

Today I am doing Coral (#101), Mutton Fat and Pig Blood (#102), Dung-Beetle Dumplings (#103), and Sit-Fry (#104). 

Coral is about a glutton named Yue Zhong who is devoted to his mother that he cuts a portion of his own flesh to feed it to her when she is dying. After she dies he marries but finds no pleasure sex so he divorces. Some time later his mother appears before him and tells him she has been residing at the Holy Island of Nanhai. He divorces his wife and goes on a pilgrimage where he meets a courtesan named Coral. They develop a chaste relationship, despite sharing the same bed they do not consummate the relationship. The two go together to Nanhai and there they make offerings. Coral sees an image of Guanyin, while Zhong sees images of his own mother. They eventually have to part, but he soon meets a young boy who turns out to be his son from his earlier marriage. He raises him as his own and a few years later Coral returns to him, saying she would like to be his wife as their relationship was a pure one. Together they raise his son until he too had a wife. One day while drunk, Zhong attains a kind of enlightenment, seeing his humble abode as a palace of jade. The scar on his leg begins to form into blossoms and he tells Coral their marriage will be at an end when they bloom. She convinces him to stay a little longer, and he agrees. Later Coral reveals she is actually an apsara, cast temporarily to earth because her mind was fettered. Both she and Zhong leave the world at the same time in a fabulous display of light and perfumed mist. 

For this one I decided to focus on the Nanhai scene because that gave me an idea for a Rock Demon. 

Mutton Fat and Pig Blood is about a type of divination done through poetic couplets. This gave me an idea for a ritual. 

Dung Beetle Dumpling is about a woman who puts dung beetles in her mother-in-law's dumplings. That night the woman turns into a pig and is paraded through town as an example the next day by the local magistrate. I liked the idea of a dumpling that turns people into pigs but under the right circumstances can be used more effectively against the person who made it in the first place. 

Stir-Fry is a bawdy story about a man who returns from a long trip with some lotus seeds and roots, but also a dildo, which he places nearby the other ingredients. His wife, not realizing what the object is, cuts it up and stir fries it, then serves it to his friends. This one was tough. I ended up making a master chef who is so good, he can prepare food from everyday objects. 

TRANSFORMATIVE DUMPLING
This dumpling is made from dung beetles and tender pork. It requires a Talent (Cooking) TN 10 roll to make. Anyone who eats it, turns into a pig for 1 day. If the maker of the dumpling is somehow tricked into eating it, then he or she is permanently turned into a pig. 

THE SANDSTONE OF HEN-SHI
This is a red sandstone that resembles common depictions of Hen-Shi. It is found deep in the Banyan Mountains. Followers of the Sandstone Sutra are particularly drawn to it. According to legend any person who is truly merciful can go before the stone and make offerings and Hen-Shi might appear. Of course this is not true, the sandstone is actually a rock demon. As soon as a person of substantial virtue appears, it devours them. Any witnesses believe they saw Hen-Shi and forget about the person who died. 


Defenses: Hardiness 9, Evade 6, Parry 6, Stealth 9, Wits 7, Resolve 9

Key Skills: Bite: 5d10 (6d10 Open Damage), Stone Attack: 3d10 (5d10 Damage plus 2 Extra Wounds), Grapple: 4d10, Arm Strike: 3d10, Speed: 2d10, Detect: 2d10, Muscle: 5d10, Meditation: 1d10, Creatures (Humans): 2d10, Religion (Hen-Shi): 2d10

Max Wounds: 19

POWERS:
Immunities: The Sandstone of Hen-Shi is immune to normal mundane attacks, only taking damage from Kung Fu Techniques.

Hen-Shi Illusion: Roll 5d10 against Wits of anyone who sees the Rock Demon. On a Success the Rock Demon looks like Hen-Shi to them, and seems entirely non-violent in its actions. If they witness a person die, they completely forget about that individual for the rest of their lives. 

Bite: The Sandstone's bite does 6d10 Open Damage.

Stone Attack: The Sandstone can manipulate nearby stone, causing the jagged edges to rise up like teeth, or causing it to change shape and constrict. Anyone within 100 feet of the Sandstone is vulnerable. Make Stone Attack Roll against Evade. On a Success it inflicts 5d10 Damage plus 2 Extra Wounds. 


Qi Absorption: The sandstone can absorb Qi from the blood and flesh it consumes. It only feeds on those with good Karma. Every 10 Qi rank it absorbs increases its wounds by 1and every 20 Qi ranks absorbed gives it a new power. 

SPIRIT COUPLET (NEW RITUAL)
This ritual is done by writing a line of poetry and then beseeching a spirit or god to enter you and respond with an answering line. This isn't done in the form of a question in answer but traditional poetic couplet. It can sometimes be vague. To perform this ritual, first make a Talent (Poetry) roll against the Wits of the spirit or god you are trying to appeal to. If that succeeds make a Ritual Roll TN 7. On a Success it finishes the verse for you. 

MASTER CHEF REN
Master Chef Ren is one of the most skilled chef's in Qi Xien. His specialty is taking everyday objects and cooking them so expertly that they taste like meats, vegetables and also provide a full day of nutrition. While this might seem like little more than a novelty, he can be a very handy companion indeed during a famine. 

Defenses: Hardiness 3, Evade 4, Parry 3, Stealth 6, Wits 10, Resolve 7

Key Skills: Arm Strike: 0d10, Speed: 3d10, Muscle: 1d10, Talent (Cooking): 4d10, Trade (all): 3d10

Max Wounds: 1


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

GAMING TALES FROM A CHINESE STUDIO 98-100: THE SOUTHERN WUTONG-SPIRIT AND MORE

I have been making NPCs, monsters and scenarios inspired by Pu Songling's Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. For each entry I take two or more stories from the Penguin Edition translated by John Minford and make gameable material. You can see my previous entry HERE

Today I am doing The Southern Wutong-Spirit (#98), Sunset (#99) and The Male Concubine (#100). 

The Southern Wutong Spirit is about a group of five Wutong Spirits who term one another brother (i.e. first brother, second brother, etc). They are lascivious spirits who have their way with men's wives. There is a demon hunter who goes after them. This one was a bit of a challenge to do due to the content. I decided to created three brotherly spirits. 

Sunset is about a benevolent spirit named Sunset who falls in love with a man and eventually helps him fend deal with a Wutong Spirit pestering his niece by having her servant cut off its penis. She wears a magic bracelet that I made into a magic item here. 

The Male Concubine is about a male concubine who looks like a woman. I decided to make a character modeled loosely after the character. 

THREE GHOSTLY BROTHERS
The Three Ghostly brothers are three spirits who dwell in an abandoned courtyard house in the wilderness. Occasionally they feed on the life entry of passing humans, but for the most part they have other interests (and one of them doesn't even live on human life). This can be deceiving as they come across as quite polite, even interesting, on first meeting. However they are capable of great cruelty towards mortals when it suits them. 

OUYANG (FIRST BROTHER)
Ouyang is loud and boisterous, and stands nearly 7 feet tall. He is a terrible spirit with a lust for life who likes to rob mortals of their riches. However he has a soft spot for beautiful women and tries to woo them with his charm and banter. 

Defenses: Hardiness 8, Evade 6, Parry 7, Stealth 7, Wits 5, Resolve 10
Key Skills: Arm Strike: 2d10 (Damage 5d10), Grapple: 2d10, Medium Melee: 3d10, Speed: 3d10, Detect: 2d10, Muscle: 5d10, Persuade: 3d10, Empathy: 2d10, Command: 3d10, Talent (Singing): 1d10

Max Wounds: 13
Equipment: Cudgel (6d10 Damage)

POWERS

Life Drain: If Ouyang strikes and Damages a foe with his arm strike he drains 1 Point of Hardiness which comes back at a rate of 1 per hour.

Vacuous Gaze: The gaze of Ouyang is haunting and pulls people’s focus with hypnotic effect. If he stares at a person for one full round, roll 3d10 against the target’s resolve. On a Success the target loses a Move that turn due to being drawn by the gaze. On a Total Success the target loses all actions that turn.


Immunities: Ouyang is immune to mundane attacks and non-energy based Kung Fu attacks. He is harmed by attacks that use Qi energy, fire or magic. He is particularly vulnerable to roses and takes 2 automatic wounds when he comes into contact with them.

Nocturnal: Exposure to sunlight will kill Ouyang. During the day he is just a pile of bones. At night he materializes. 

Vanish: Ouyang can vanish from sight with a Speed TN 6 roll and appear anywhere he wishes within 200 yards. 

YAN (SECOND BROTHER)
Yan is a ghostly scholar with a penchant for fine wine and books. He sneaks into the homes of the elite and drains their wine from whatever vats or vessels he can find. He also eats peoples books, gaining whatever knowledge he consumes. Recently Yan heard of something called the Golden Sunset Bracelet. This is an object that he greatly fears but also desires. He thinks it will be a fun object to pester Third Brother with. 

Defenses: Hardiness 6, Evade 6, Parry 5, Stealth 10, Wits 9, Resolve 8
Key Skills: Arm Strike: 2d10 (Damage 2d10), Grapple: 2d10, Medium Melee: 2d10, Speed: 3d10, Detect: 3d10, Muscle: 2d10, Deception: 3d10, Talent (Poetry): 3d10, History (Era of the Demon Emperor): 3d10, History (Era of the Glorious Emperor): 3d10, Institutions (Sects): 2d10, Institutions (Societies): 2d10, Institutions (Imperial Bureaucracy): 2d10, Classics (Sayings of Kong Zhi): 2d10, Classics (Book of Fortunes): 2d10, Classics (Scriptures of Sun Mai): 1d10, Read Script (Feishu): 3d10, Creatures (Demons): 2d10, Creatures (Animals): 1d10

Max Wounds: 10
Equipment: Fan (4d10 Damage)

POWERS

Consume Knowledge: Whatever he eats, Yan knows. If he eats a book he gains all the information inside, if he eats an artifact he learns everything about it. 

Confusing Banter: Yan can talk at dizzying speed, literally causing vertigo and collapse in listeners. Make a Deception roll against the Wits of the target. On a Success they get dizzy and suffer -1d10 to all skills. On a Total Success they drop to the ground and need to lay there for at least five minutes. If they don't all their skills have a penalty of -2d10. 


Immunities: Yanis immune to mundane attacks and non-energy based Kung Fu attacks. He is harmed by attacks that use Qi energy, fire or magic. 

Nocturnal: Exposure to sunlight will kill Yan. During the day he is just a pile of bones. At night he materializes. 

Vanish: Yan can vanish from sight with a Speed TN 6 roll and appear anywhere he wishes within 100 yards. 

JIN (THIRD BROTHER)
Jin isn't the real brother of Yan or Ouyang. He isn't even a ghost like them, he is a bird demon. He began life as Ouyang's pet Mynah bird, but has since taken on a life of his own. Among the brothers he is the most drive and is constantly trying to combine the other two brother's talents to achieve big things. Jin feeds on human hearts but he is fascinated by other parts of the human body, particularly the bones. He collects human femur bones, and has a vast collection of them in his hall. 

Defenses: Hardiness 7, Evade 8, Parry 6, Stealth 10, Wits 8, Resolve 6
Key Skills: Claw: 4d10 (5d10), Speed: 6d10 (90 feet), Breath: 3d10, Bite: 3d10 or 2d10 (Peacock) see below for damage, Fly: 6d10 (90 feet), Detect: 2d10, Command: 2d10, Deception: 2d10, Persuade: 3d10, Muscle: 4d10, Trade (Alchemy): 2d10

Max Wounds: 12
Expertise: Alchemy-Transformative Substance

Powers
Compelling Voice: Roll against Persuade against Resolve. On a Success, anything Jin says to the target sounds like a good idea and like it is true. 
Heart Pluck: Plows beak into chest cavity and into heart. This does 6d10 Open Damage plus it drains 1 Qi. If the strike kills, it plucks out the target’s heart and devours it.
Bone Taking Claw: Jin has a terrifying Claw attack. He only uses it to provoke fear but he can pluck the femur bone from the body with a single motion. Make a Claw Strike against Parry. On a Success he does 6d10 Damage. On a Total Success he plucks out the femur bone (effectively giving the target the Missing Limb Flaw).  
Healing Heart: When Bird Demons eat a human heart it nourishes them but also heals them by an amount equal to the victim’s Qi Rank.
Shape Change: Bird Demons can take the form of birds, bird-like hybrids and humans.
Immunities: Bird Demons are immune to all normal attacks, only taking damage from Kung Fu techniques Qi level 1 or greater.

THE GOLDEN SUNSET BRACELET 
This Bracelet wards off darkness when worn by anyone with positive Karma. It also keeps demons at bay. If they approach it, roll 3d10 against their Endurance. On a Success they simply cannot come near due to the pain it causes. When used to produce light it emits illuminate in all directions in a 120 foot radius. 

LIU MIN
Liu Min is a courtesan with a normal name but exceptional talents. He works at the Trim Sleeve Brothel where he is a local favorite. He is a talented performer and capable of appearing as a man or woman for his clients. But he is also a secret demon hunter and has in his possession the Golden Sunset Bracelet. He often uses his position at the brothel to help root out demons in the area. 

Defenses: Hardiness 5, Evade 6, Parry 8, Stealth 6, Wits 7, Resolve 7
Key Skills: Grapple: 1d10, Throw: 1d10, Arm Strike: 2d10, Leg Strike: 2d10, Light Melee: 3d10, Medium Melee: 3d10 or 5d10 with Metal Staff, Heavy Melee: 1d10, Small Ranged: 0d10, Speed: 3d10, Muscle: 2d10, Meditation: 2d10, Athletics 3d10, Detect: 2d10, Persuade: 3d10, Empathy: 3d10, Deception: 2d10, Talent (Disguise): 3d10, Talent (Singing): 3d10, Talent (Dancing): 3d10, Talent (Calligraphy): 3d10, Creatures (Demons): 3d10, Ritual (Blazing Hands of Hen-Shi): 2d10, Ritual (Spirit Keeping): 3d10, Ritual (Draw out the Demons): 3d10, Ritual (Spell of the Golden Fireball): 2d10, Ritual (Celestial Spirit Ritual): 2d10, Read Script (Feishu): 3d10

Qi: 4
Max Wounds: 9
Weapon: Metal Staffs Imbued with Demon Force (3d10 Damage plus 2 Extra Wounds x6; +1d10 Accuracy)
Combat Technique: Medium Melee-Counter
Expertise: Medium Melee-Metal Staff


Key Techniques (Neigong 2, Waijia 2): Blade of the Dancing Fox (with Staff at -1d10), Tai Lan’s Staff Strike, Blade Pinch (Counter), Clutch of the Hawk (Counter)