Play report 3b: 1st Edition AD&D, and 1st Edition Oriental Adventures.
Anchors aweigh! Part 2
When we last saw our intrepid barbarians they had hit the town like a storm: punched out the town guard; kidnapped the headman and sold him into slavery to a southern pirate queen; signed on as crew to a large junk captained by an incompetent samurai; bought a share in a small junk captained by an innocuous yet efficient and competent seeming captain; choked out the headman’s son and extorted a deal out of the son to blow town in exchange for avoiding further conflict. Then they weighed anchor in the dead of night before the Headman’s son changed his mind.
So, our barbarians with aspirations to piracy have hit the high seas. But first a digression. Let’s talk about names. Up to this point, I haven’t mentioned names of places, characters, or NPCs. This is due to two reasons. The first is that this game is all pretty much ad hoc and intentionally so. I wanted to play 1st edition AD&D oriental adventures but, not use the Kara-Tur setting. And, I wanted to see how little published material I could use and what else I could make up on the spot and have it still be fun. How little is needed? Clearly, Oriental Adventures is based primarily on Japanese culture so, why not just use Japan? Well, then I’d be stuck with constantly referencing maps of Japan and looking up geography and what if that town doesn’t have a convenient hill to place the impaling spikes on? And, can I locate a village of barbarians just over that mountain? I know myself, I can go down that rabbit hole very easily and I wanted this to flow smoothly without extraneous detail or quibbling. Fluidity at the table comes at the expense of naming things (or, at least it does for me).
Secondly, I’m not Japanese, and let’s face it, I’m American with the typical American linguistic isolation. Japanese names and place names don’t stick in my head the way more western names do. Nor am I easily able to differentiate Japanese surnames versus given names. So, I’ve avoided them thus far. Back in the day, TSR recognized this problem and went a bit of the way to help things out in Dragon Magazine issue 121 which included some handy tables, in the “Whatddya mean, Jack the Samurai?” article, to help come up with Japanese names for characters and NPCs. By this point I probably need names for the characters rather than Barbarian #1 and Barbarian #2, the Shugenja, and the Samurai.
And, now they are sailing which is an inherently geographical activity. There needs to be places to go and those places need names. Character and NPC names were rolled on the Dragon Magazine tables and place names are either taken outright from maps of Japan or created from whole cloth using Google translate. So, Japanese people, Japanese speakers, and geography buffs feel free to clutch your sides with hilarity. I have no idea of the kinds of oddities, incongruities, and outright mistakes I may be making here. If your scorn is what it takes to keep the game moving then I’m okay with that. And, yes, there are a few references and various other types of silliness hidden in some of the names. Kudos to those who figure them out.
The Kung Fu Barbarian Brothers of the North!
Oguri Naozumi (who punched out the headman)
Oguri Shinjo (who choked out his son)
Hatakeyama Oyumi (assigned by his monastery to follow the barbarians and keep them out of trouble)
Urya Tomomune (met at the impaling spikes, ronin)
Headman – Nishidoin Bancho
Headman’s son – Nishidoin Dokwan
Captain Samurai (large junk – The Batā Hashike) – Daidoji Katsumi
Captain Tidy (small junk – The Jinsokuna Kaze) – Ryozoji Kageki
Pirate Queen (proa – The Fukushū) – Negishi Yoshiko (aka: Kuro kaigan no joō)
Below, is a map of the wider area of our false Orient. In the north is the island of Shozu and the village of Kuji the home port of our characters. South of Shozu is the island of Yamagata, the main island of our faux Nipponese empire. And, across the sea to the West is Kodaina Kuni, the large continental nation that dwarfs our island empire in both size and economy. The straight between Shozu and Kadaina Kuni is about 400 miles across. On the continent, can be seen a river that leads inland to the capitol city known as Okina Ringo to the faux Nipponese and Jiang Chung to the locals. All these things were scribbled on a piece of paper during play and I prettied them up after the fact (such as it is, I’m no cartographer).
Over the Waves We Go
Our “heroes” have slunk out of town in the dead of the night. Captain Tidy (I mean Captain Ryozoji) and our Pirate Queen (Captain Negishi) have sailed the evening before. Their sails can be seen on the horizon as the sun rises over Shozu Island. But, Captain Samurai (Captain Daidoji) has not risen with the sun. Not until noon does Daidoji leave his cabin only to find himself unexpectedly at sea. The players play it cool, claiming the need to “make the tide”. Daidoji who has little knowledge of tides nods knowingly and returns to his cabin looking a little green at the gills. And, in fact, it turns out Daidoji is prone to seasickness. I’d thought Daidoji’s illness would give the players an opportunity to stage the little coup they had been planning but, no, mutiny and turning pirate seems the last thing on their mind. Surprisingly, the players seem intent on completing the planned merchant voyage to the mainland (Kodaina Kuni). Perhaps, they are just biding their time. Ryozoji’s and Negishi’s ships are soon out of sight over the horizon as the Batā Hashike isn’t the cleanest hull of the lot.
First edition Oriental Adventures has encounter tables for travel at sea. The tables allow for a possible 0-2 events per day, with half of possible events resulting in no encounter. So, each day I rolled for events. The first day is uneventful but, on the second day a storm brews up out of the north and blows them to the south. As they pass through some islands to the west of Shozu they encounter rocks and need to make sailing proficiency rolls to avoid damage to the ship. Sadly, they roll poorly against the sailing proficiency base chance of 15 and the Batā Hashike scrapes across the rocks taking damage and taking on water. However, the storm calms on the third day and they encounter a school of flying fish which they spend time catching and preserving in barrels while also working on repairing their damaged hull. But, perhaps it was the eye of the hurricane, as on the fourth day the ship is hit by another storm, this time wind shifts and blows to the southeast. This puts them on a lee shore and this time a narrowly successful sailing roll just avoids being beached on the island south of Shozu. Luckily, the storm blows itself out in a day and the fifth day is spent with an encounter with friendly Ningyo. Ningyo are like mermaids with flaming red hair and I’d thought the players might be intrigued and mess with them but, they seemed content to watch the Ningyo surf their bow wave and make lewd comments. It’s just as well, as the Ningyo spellcasting abilities could have been fatal to the ship.
Back on course, next day a favorable strong wind helps them make good time to the west. This day they encounter another merchantmen, though a plundered one. The merchant ship wallows towards them on single ragged sail and upon getting into hailing range the crew calls for help as they have been attacked by pirates. A swift sailing proa led by a woman captain boarded them, looted them for all they were worth, and took on several of their sailors as crew. Again, I thought this another chance for the players to acquire a ship of their own but, nope, they help the crew by providing food and stores (I hope you like flying fish). They also offer the merchant crew jobs on the Batā Hashike but, are politely rejected as the merchant crew feel they need to get the ship back to Shozu to inform the ship’s owners of what has befallen them.
The following day they encounter pirates! Still sailing West under a favorable wind they see a suspiciously familiar sail on the horizon – the triangular sail of a proa. And, it is upon them in a trice, swooping in, literally bristling with swords and grappling hooks. Fortunately, it is Captain Negishi and her ship the Fukushū. Recognizing the players, she calls off the attack, and they banter across the waves. She tells them she is headed to the pirate island stronghold in the south. The players look for and find Nishidoin Bancho, the former village headman, amongst the impressed rowers. He looks bruised with fresh whip marks across his back and refuses to rise to their taunting. He looks nothing more than dour and glum as the Fukushū sails off to the south. I think the players may be seeing more of him in the future. Captain Daidoji still has not left his cabin though, the players can occasionally hear sounds of retching as they listen at the door.
Then they are hit by another storm but, it lasts only a few hours and they are far enough out to sea that they encounter no major navigational hazards except a giant turtle. The players eye the giant turtle hungrily, turtle soup is discussed but, in the end, they warily let the turtle be swimming calmly toward the sunset.
Two days pass with favorable winds and no encounters. Then they are becalmed for a day, again with no encounters. But, then they encounter the strangest thing on the voyage thus far. A ship is seen on the horizon. Its sails hang slack but, nonetheless approaching at high speed and against the wind! As the strange ship nears, they see the skeletal remains of sailors lining the rail. They hear rattling bones, clacking teeth, and a wail of eternal despair. It’s a ghost ship! As it approaches, the players pepper the ghost ship with fire arrows to little effect. The ghost ship passes behind their stern and successfully grapples them and the skeletons begin to board. A few of the skeletons have fire arrows lodged in their rib cages and glow like mobile lanterns. The two barbarians (Naozumi and Shinjo) along with the Shugenja (Oyumi) and the Samurai (Tomomune) form a wall to face the skeletons. Oyumi is excited as he can earn full experience points for these spiritly enemies. It’s a hard fought battle. The skeletons drop easily but, there are a lot of them. All the players take damage but, just when it is looking desperate Captain Daidoji, finally leaving his cabin and finding a task to suit his skills, leads the ship’s crew onto the ghost ship and takes the skeletons in the flank. The boney enemies go down in short order. As the last skeleton falls, the ghost ship begins falling to dust but, a few throws of ropes and skill checks get the last crew on board as the ghost ship sinks into the sea. Phew!
The next two days are uneventful with Oyumi stolidly making several rounds of meditation and casting healing spells. Then they spy land! They are approaching the river delta that leads to the mainland city known as the Okina Ringo. Numerous coastal craft are in the area, obviously coming and going up the river. The water gets shallower as they approach the delta and they can see various sea life in the waters: starfish, anenomes, and sea urchins. The players are discussing how to get upriver (hire a pilot and tugs, have the crew pull the ship up with ropes, sail?) when the ship lurches and they hear a scream from below decks. Have they hit something? The two barbarians rush below to see the water rushing into the ship through a giant hole. And, through the hole reaches an enormous crab claw already gripping a sailor. Naozumi and Shinjo wrestle the crab claw and manage to free the sailor. Naozumi takes a staggering pinch from the claw while Shinjo tries to get at the body of the giant crab by thrusting his naginata through the hole. Meanwhile, on deck, the samurai (Tomomune) spots another two crabs attacking the ship from the opposite side. Tommomune engages with his bow at point blank range. The crab shells give a good AC but, Tommomune, as a specialist, gets four shots per round with large bonuses to hit and damage. Tommomune executes the both crabs in a single round each and looks around just in time to hear Shinjo call for help from below decks. Shinjo having thrust his crab through with his naginata is keeping his crab from sinking by hanging onto his impaling weapon but, water is still rushing in. Oyumi manages to get a rope around the crab carcass while the rest of the party work on stopping up the holes. The rest of the day is spent on eating crab and carpentry.
Full of fresh crab, they decide to hire a pilot and tugs to pull the ship upriver to Okina Ringo which happens uneventfully. Okina Ringo is a large city. In fact, it’s larger than they thought a city could be. The harbor easily holds several hundred ships but, there amongst the forest of masts is a clean fast looking ship they recognize – it’s the Jinsokuna Kaze and tidy Captain Ryozoji. Seeking out Ryozoji, they find he had an uneventful voyage and is already loading his ship for the return voyage. What took them 16 days has taken Ryozoji four days with fair winds the whole way. The players are amazed given their troubles but, mostly look upon the cargo being loaded greedily as they are part owners of the vessel and have a share in the profits. Ryozoji seems nothing but, unperturbable. He has just been to the harbormaster to pay his moorage fees and reminds them that they need to check the Batā Hashike into the harbor.
So, Naozumi accompanies Captain Daidoji to the harbormaster’s offices while Shinjo and Oyumi head to the marketplace. The harbormaster’s building is huge and imposing with a similar huge and imposing waiting room. The room is lined with rows of benches filled with waiting Captains. A single clerk sits at a desk calling out names for appointments with the harbormaster. They take a number and a seat and wait and wait. And, wait. After several hours and increasing impatience on Naozumi’s part, their number is called.
The Harbormasters office is opulently furnished with the harbormaster sitting behind a large desk. On the desk sit two urns. Each urn has a written placard placed in front of it. But, being a barbarian Naozumi can’t read the signs, and being a foreigner neither can Captain Daidoji. The Harbormaster speaks to them in a language they can’t understand, and realizing they can’t understand speaks to them again more loudly and sternly. Soon, the Harbormaster is shouting and gesticulating and Naozumi can see Captain Daidoji starting the finger the handle of his Katana – a samurai won’t be talked to in such a way! Desperate to avoid violence in an unknown city Naozumi reaches into his poach and plunks a string of coins onto the desk. The Harbormaster stops and looks at the string of coins. The coins are all the heavy silver tael. Immediately the Harbormaster stops gesticulating and makes a questioning sound while gesturing at the coins. The questions is obvious “May I?” Using pantomime and gestures the harbormaster makes it clear that payment into the left urn is for the ship’s docking fee with more fees later depending on how long they stay. The urn on the right is for bribes, er, gratuities to pay for his service. The right urn is the larger of the two. The Harbormaster takes his docking fees and a, larger, gratuity and returns the remaining coins. It’s clear that business has been transacted and he’ll be happy to see them in the future.
Shinjo and Oyumi head to the market to look for goods to trade. Oyumi also hopes to find a hospital or church where there might be some injured peasants to heal. And, indeed Oyumi finds a few people to heal and earns the last few experience needed to level up. And so, this is where the session ended. We tally experience. Oyumi gets his level and our barbarian duo lament that they are just under halfway to second level. Inspecting the leveling tables, the barbarian players realize that Oyumi will most likely be well on his way to fourth level by the time they hit second level. Ultimately, the players acknowledge that the powers of the barbarians justify the greater needed experience. The route sailed is shown below; each mark on the route is the distance covered for that day.