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[TMW] Cherry Blossom Bloodbath at DDC

Started by cdr, February 25, 2006, 04:52:01 AM

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More detail on The Mountain Witch I ran at DunDraCon.  Very long and treachery-filled.

Quote from: timfire on February 24, 2006, 05:26:20 PM
When the Fates were revealed, did the revelations act as the climax of the story, near the end of the session? Or did they occur more towards the middle, with a significant amount of play afterwards?

More the latter, I'd say. The climax was in the last hour with the mass betrayal, with the Witch's death coming soon after that.  I think people had a good idea of everyone's fates by the 5-6 hour mark.

This was my second time running.  One or two of the players had played before, the rest had heard of the game but never played, but they were all really great.

Setup: I used the 5 Ronin from the demo, and added Yoshi, a Dragon with Exceptional Hearing (best ability ever!), Expert Gambler, and Two Sword Technique, so that everyone would have 1 enemy and 2 ally zodiacs. I filled out the starting trust points on the sheets ahead of time. I positioned 25 trust tokens and sheets around the table before the players arrived in Zodiac order Rat-Tiger-Dragon-Horse-Monkey-Dog so each enemy was 3 seats away and allies were 2 seats to either side. (An alternative order would have been to put allies together with each enemy across from them, but people who know each other tend to sit together and I didn't want them to wind up as allies.)  I told everyone that they could use or ignore the personality description as they liked. I also told them they were free to change their abilities, but no one did.

My reasoning was that at a convention, the players would be coming to try out the new system, and that precious time spent mulling over a choice of 12 zodiacs, and then trying to think up abilities, was better spent actually gaming, developing dark fates, and trusting and betraying. And so it was.

I don't own poker chips, so instead I used coins (1-yen, 5-yen, shiny pennies) for Tiger/Horse/Dog, and Grey/Red/Blue glass stones for Rat/Dragon/Monkey.  I also made little name-cards folded in half to stand up so everyone could see each other's character name.

Muso Kokushi had slept with a noble's wife (later identified as Yuki-Onna, the Snow Maiden) and wanted the money for his bastard son (who turned out to be one of the other ronin).

Riki-Baka had also slept with a noble's wife, and wanted the money to escape to a port and find a ship to the West.

Yoshi had gambled away his family fortune, impoverishing his village, and wanted to pay off the debts.  A 1/6 share was enough to do that, but if he had ALL the money, he could also enrich the village.

Kajiwara had fallen in love with a geisha and wanted to buy out her contract.

Tokubei had been abandoned by his lord when he went blind, and taken in by Monks, who had taught him how to fight using his other senses.  He needed the money to save the Monks, but wound up cutting a deal with the Witch (unholy pact) to humble his former lord before the Shogun.

Sonjo was in love far above his station, and wanted the money to become a lord worthy of the one he loved.

I can't say if 4 of 6 backgrounds involving love was due to running 4 days after Valentine's Day.

Players took to using their Dark Fates to establish narration and introduce stuff right away, and enthusiastically.  They also used trust to buy narration, and to aid.  Using it for betrayal came later.

I especially enjoyed Sonjo passing me a note saying "The Mountain Witch's daughter is the one I love.  Can she secretly be the Witch himself but I don't know?"  HELL YEAH.

The lowest total trust given to anyone at any point was about half-way through,  4 to Kajiwara, but after he abandoned the others while on guard duty the next chapter he got 8. Go figure.

I'm not going to go into all the neat things that happened on the way up the mountain because I was too busy running (for my life!) to take full notes, and there was a great deal that happened and much intertwining, but I would like to describe the bloody and beautiful climax, which requires at least mentioning a couple of earlier scenes as well.

Kajiwara's player had to leave early, around the 6-hour mark, and did so in entertaining fashion.  He and Tokubei had already split from the party (seperately) and made their way in comfort to the Mountain Witch's castle. Earlier Muso Kokushi had used his Lurk in Shadows ability to suddenly appear and take a blow from a snow&blood spirit wolf intended for Kajiwara (using a Regular Ai-Uchi to take a wound, but also succeed in blocking the wolf from Kajiwara).  Now Kajiwara repaid the favor with his life, as Muso was being led up an icy narrow mountain path by a captured goblin and ambushed by a Western sniper, who had shown up earlier as well. Kajiwara used a double ai-uchi to slay the sniper and die himself, revealing that he was Muso's illegitimate son!  (By Yuki-Onna, as it later turned out.)  1 Ronin down.  (His death also defeated the plan by a mountain demon to wrest control of Mt. Fuji from the Witch.)

Tokubei (who had the Unholy Pact fate) had vanished after leaving a map showing a secret way into the castle (and using betrayal to convince  the others to follow it).  As he entered the Witch's castle alone as an honored ally, he found an ambitious underling of the Witch and convinced him to ambush the party at one of the many gates, but to only take a few guards with him, so as not to dilute the glory.  Tokubei planted a letter to his friends on the guard, so they would find it on the body after slaying the guard.

Eventually all five ronin wound up as guests of The Mountain Witch, enjoying a hot bath and sumptuous dinner in an elegant room looking out into the Garden of Regret, with an eternally blooming cherry tree's petals drifting down into the reflecting pool in whose waters you could see the face of the one you had most greatly wronged, and in which swam koi with the souls of those who drowned themselves in shame.

Also present were Yuki-Onna the Snow Maiden, along with the Witch's Beautiful Daughter (secretly the Witch, though none knew), and assorted servants, all children who had been left to die of exposure due to war or famine (euphemistically, "left for the spirits") and adopted by the Snow Maiden to serve the Witch.  Also serving was the Tengu girl who had fought the ronin and then led them into the castle.  The ronin had accepted the Witch's hospitality for the night, so that at dawn they could discuss their differences well-rested.

But Sonjo had other plans.  He wanted to prove his love to the Daughter and clear away obstacles to their marriage, so at dinner he used his "Poisons and Antidotes" ability to poison ALL the food, but slip antidotes to himself and Muso Kokushi, and used all the trust he had remaining to betray Riki-Baka (the large tiger), Yoshi (the lucky dragon), and Tokubei (the blind monkey, who could see no evil but could smell it).

Sonjo was aided by the Tengu Girl serving the food, who had fallen for him, although her die turned out not to be needed since his rolled higher.  Muso Kokushi spent a point of trust to aid Yoshi, using his Medicine ability.  So Yoshi got two dice (-1 for his permanent wound), Riki-Baka and Tokubei each rolled their 1 die, and Sonjo rolled best of two dice and added the betrayal points vs. each of the others, and won  all 3 comparisons (done seperately because that made the most sense to us.) Sonjo got a Mixed success vs. Riki-Baka, a Critical success vs. Yoshi, and a Double success vs. Tokubei (taking him out).

The delayed action poison took effect after the dinner, when everyone had moved into the Garden of Regret.

Earlier, Yoshi (and others) had answered a mother's plea to rescue her son from an ogre, and had wound up with a bracelet matching the one on the child's arm.  He'd brought the child (the last of his line) along as a bargaining chip with the Witch, but now his adult body died from the poison but his spirit moved into the child and it grew into a man, wearing both silver bracelets.

Tokubei lunged for the treacherous Sonjo but died before reaching him, embedding his blade into the large cherry tree, sending a shower of petals down upon his corpse and the waters of the pool at its base.

Riki-Baka was weakened by the poison, but because he was so large was not as affected, and with the partial success realized it was Sonjo who had betrayed them with poison.

Next round Riki-Baka got a mixed success vs. Sonjo.  Sonjo was drowning the weakened but very large Riki-Baka in the Pool of Shame, but Riki-Baka got his hands on Tokubei's sword, wresting it from the tree.

Riki-Baka then slew himself and Sonjo with the sword, shoving it through his own body into the traitor, with a double Ai-uchi.  Their blood mingled together in the pool, and the koi came to nip at them.

As Sonjo died he looked up to see his beloved, so she would know he had died for love of her, and saw that she was the Mountain Witch, and that his death was for nothing, and so he perished.

(Riki-Baka had the Revenge motive, I believe vs. Tokubei, but slaying the slayer of the man he had sworn to slay satisfied honor.)

Muso Koshi used his Speak with Ghosts ability to learn directions to the Mountain Witch's inner chamber from the dead Tokubei, although since Tokubei was blind these were directions as a blind man judges things, by the smells and sounds and feel of the wood beneath one's feet.

Muso Koshi and Yoshi followed those as best they could, in a classic Chanbara style running fight through the halls, all silhouettes and splashing blood on rice paper and cutting guards down left and right, aided by their own trust and Tokubei's trust in the form of his ghost's directions.

They jump down into a room to which there are only two doors, guarded by two lion-dogs, one of bronze, one of stone.  Yoshi is a gambler and has trusted to luck his whole life, which is what led his family and village to ruin.  They fight the lion dogs without using trust (saving it for
the Witch), until Muso Koshi gets the idea to just ask the guardians to let them pass, which they do.  Tokubei had not been past those doors but he knew behind one lay doom, and the other the Witch's chamber, so Muso and Yoshi throw open both doors simultaneously, and find they lead to the same room.

They enter the empty room, and behind them enters the Mountain Witch's beautiful daughter in her cherry blossom kimono, only she is also clearly the Witch himself, who tells them he can grant their heart's desire, but only to the one who proves himself the best, not to both of them.

So Muso and Yoshi duel (first use of the duel rules), rolling all 3 dice before charging, but only getting a mixed success. Then there's more fighting (with trust spent on betrayal), and more dueling, and Muso is getting the worst of it and at 4 wounds to Yoshi's 2, but while they're fighting and Muso's getting cut to pieces he's moving around to get a clear shot at the Witch, who is watching the friends kill each other. Muso declares a double ai-uchi vs. the Witch, slaying him and being torn to pieces by the lion dog guardians at his side.

The Witch's dying word was "Sonjo."

Yuki-Onna appears and tells Yoshi that he may stay and fulfill the destiny of the two silver bracelets by becoming the new Mountain Witch, and all power will be his but he may never leave Mt. Fuji, or he may depart and collect the rich reward  (all six shares, in fact, since he's the sole survivor), but never return to the mountain.

Everyone narrates their epilogues, ending with:

Yoshi, the sole survivor, takes the reward back to his hometown but it's too late to save it, exactly as he'd dreamed on the way up the mountain.  If he keeps such a vast sum, he knows he'd gamble it away soon enough.

So instead, he offers the vast treasure to any six ronin brave enough to climb Mt. Fuji and slay the Mountain Witch.

And that was how it happened.