Play report 5a: 1st Edition AD&D, and 1st Edition Oriental Adventures.
Summary: Stern Librarians and Smoking the Panda.
Note 1: this one contains spoilers (to some degree) of specific encounters from Vornheim so, if you plan to play it, I recommend skipping this one.
Note 2: this session is broken into two parts as there seemed to be a natural break for writing purposes.
Note 3: this play report contains references to previous posts. There is backstory building up. So, to avoid having to explain everything in text see session 2, session 3 part 1, session 3 part 2, and session 4.
The Okina Ringo Express
Last session we left off with our characters, having arrived by sea, exploring the large mainland city of Okina Ringo. Having been invited to a dinner party by a powerful aristocrat, Shen Song, with ulterior motives. Those motives being hiring the party to retrieve his deceased wife’s letters that have been stolen by a foreign collector of written works. At the party, Naozumi acquired a groupie Lu Bao who after the party comes back to the ship for the night.
Morning comes all too soon with the party and crew wakened by a loud gong wielded by the ship’s captain, the samurai Daidoji Katsumi. Surprised to find a woman aboard, Daidoji admonishes Naozumi that it is unlucky to have a woman aboard ship but, then proceeds to give Lu Bao a tour of the ship before sending her on her way. But, now to work! It is time to get the ship into dry dock. The barbarians Naozumi and Shinjo use their ship handling proficiency to successfully steer the ship into the dock, pump out the water, and the work scraping hull begins. Oyumi, the Shugenja, living up to the deal he made with the Golden Monastery heads to the Huangjin Shiyaun Shi (Golden Monastery City) to do chores for the continuing right to perform religious magic in the city.
As they carry out their dry dock work, Naozumi and Shinjo are surprised when, in a puff of orange smoke, a large naginata wielding oni appears. With a swing of the naginata the oni deflects an arrow heading for Shinjo. The arrow thuds into the dock and leaves a smoking hole – clearly no ordinary arrow. The oni shouts out to the rooftops where a figure can be seen retreating, “You shall not have him!” And, turning back to point the naginata at Shinjo, “For he is mine!” And, with a poof of purple smoke the oni is gone, leaving Naozumi and Shinjo staring at each other. Uh-oh. This must mean the Oni have not forgotten. And, also, at least one assassin must have judged them guilty. But, the oni is gone and the assassin too so there is nothing to be done. They finish up their work.
Chores done, Naozumi and Oyumi brief Shinjo on the job to retrieve Shen Song’s letters. After some discussion, the party decides they will need some help infiltrating the library. So, they head to the Red Tong Opera House to inquire about hiring a professional upper story man. Sophisticated these barbarians. The Stage Manager agrees to make inquiries to find a suitable person and asks them to check back in a few hours. With time on their hands they decide to case the joint. The library turns out to be a house located in the palace district, built to foreign standards – of stone, many stories tall and consisting of towers, some connected by sky-bridges (see Zak Smith’s Vornheim). Note: this house has numerous exterior secret doors leading to libraries and I decided the “librarians” will access them by climbing the tall bamboo trees in the house’s surrounding gardens. Access to the gardens from the street is done by scaling a simple wooden fence. The palace district is not very crowded and our barbarian crew feels pretty conspicuous so they just circle the fence once and keep moving. But, not before they note that the building has only one door, all the windows have been bricked up, and that there is one tower separate from the main building which is only accessible from a sky-bridge.
Back to the Red Tong Opera house, the upper story man turns out to be Jiang Cui a small quiet woman who is to assist them in the burglary in exchange for a share in the spoils. The Stage Manager points out that Shen Song’s letters are of no particular value so what will they pay her with? The players allow that they expect there will be other valuables in the house for the taking. This satisfies the Stage Manager and off they go to collect supplies consisting of rope and climbing implements.
They decide to infiltrate the library at dusk under the reasoning that most people will either be heading home or eating dinner. They climb the back fence and move through the bamboo to the exterior tower and sky-bridge. Jiang Cui quickly scales the tower, gains access to the sky-bridge, and lowers a rope which the party quickly climbs. Once on the sky-bridge, they avoid the exterior tower and proceed through the door into the house. The first room turns out to be a kitchen with one exterior door plus secret doors that lead up and down from the tower (as spotted by Jiang Cui). The players peek through the exterior door which leads to a second sky-bridge connecting to the largest tower in the house. Reasoning that their quarry is at the top of the large tower (as Shen Song told them), they skip the secret doors and head out on to the second sky-bridge. But, then they are stymied by main tower door. It is either too well locked or magically held Jian Cui informs them. The plan then shifts to a more brute form approach. Jiang Cui scales the main tower and lowers a rope for the party. All climb up, with the Shugenja, Oyumi, being hauled up in a harness.
From the top of the tower they can see the twinkling lanterns of the city being lit in the dusk. The Golden Monastery’s dome glowing in the sunset in the distance, as well as the closer wall and halls of the Emperor’s palace. But, the view is the least of their concerns. On the roof of the tower, they lift off roofing tiles to expose the boards of the roof. Jiang Cui pulls up her shirt to expose a pack of tools strapped to her torso (chisels, flexible saws, pry bars). Laying out her tools, she carefully, quickly and relatively quietly makes a hole in the roof to access the room within. Jiang Cui drops the rope and climbs down first. Lighting a small candle, they are treated to the sight of a large library: there are racks of scrolls; floor to ceiling shelves (with one of those sliding ladders); a podium for reading as well as a large table; and several large floor-standing lanterns. Naozumi and Oyumi climb down while Shinjo remains on top guarding the roof.
Once in the library, Oyumi searches for the letters of Shen Song’s wife. A search culminating with casting detect magic which shows numerous magical scrolls. And, it turns out that the wife’s letters detect as magical. Then things start to go awry. While they are stuffing the letters and all the other magical scrolls into bags, Jiang Cui is surprised when a shuriken flies past her head and sticks into a bookshelf next to her. She drops her candle and the room is plunged into darkness. Naozumi initially wants to hide under the table but, fails a wisdom roll and blunders about in the dark. Oyumi, tries to find one of the lanterns in the dark, and makes his wisdom roll; he finds it but, then struggles to get it lit. Meanwhile, Naozumi blunders into someone and attempts to grapple but, the person is slippery and escapes his grip.
Then follow several rounds of Naozumi and the person in the dark unsuccessfully trying to attack and grapple each other. It’s a comedy of errors. Bump. Thump. Finally, Oyumi gets the lantern lit, and everyone in the room pauses for a second to take stock of the situation. There, near Naozumi is a masked figure armed with a dagger and short sword, Jiang Cui is nowhere to be seen. Then attack! The masked figure wins initiative and attacks and hits with a poisoned dagger but, Naozumi rolls well on his saving throw and punches back with devastating effect. The masked person drops like a bag of potatoes.
Noting the door to the library is now open, they quickly close and lock it. Soon, the sounds of pounding are heard on the door. Then one of the most unexpected events of the night occurs. The masked person is clearly dying (negative hit points). Naozumi, thinking of questioning her (it’s a woman) later, makes a loop of rope for Shinjo to haul her up out of the tower. Which Shinjo does, but, only to immediately drop her off the tower to the ground below (crunch). Shinjo isn’t interested in interrogations and just wants to get the job done. Play stopped here for a second as the player’s gape at each other. Naozumi: WTF Shinjo? Shinjo: I wasn’t on board with that plan, let’s get moving!
And, get moving they do, but, the library doors splinters open only to have two more masked figures run into the room. A battle commences, Naozumi kills one and chokes out the second while taking some moderate wounds. Meanwhile, on top of the tower, Shinjo comes under arrow fire from yet another masked person who has climbed up the bamboo to get a shot at him. He takes an arrow and returns fired with his own bow. The person in the bamboo takes a solid hit and slides down the bamboo to disappear off into the bamboo grove. Shinjo gets one more shot off and hits once more before he loses sight of the archer.
Then Oyumi, Jiang Cui (coming out of the shadows), and Naozumi climb out of the library. Naozumi is carrying the body of the attacker he managed to choke to unconsciousness. They climb down to the sky-bridge, head back through the kitchen to run smack into a robed man hurrying across the sky-bridge from the separate tower. The man loses initiative and Shinjo bull rushes him, punches him in the face, and flings the man bodily from the sky-bridge (crunch again). Then they hear a series of doors slamming open, looking back they see numerous exterior secret doors opening and more masked people emerging. Taking the better part of valor, they flee down the rope, through the bamboo, and over the fence while undergoing volleys of crossbow fire. Once over the fence, Shinjo has the presence of mind to make a tracking roll to look for a blood trail from the archer he wounded. He succeeds and they flee, all the while following the blood trail to a set of apartment blocks in the Garden District.
They soon corner a woman in her apartment as she is binding her wounds. She surrenders and they proceed to question her and the person Naozumi captured. The wounded woman is upset as she has seen Shinjo fling her sister from the tower. The person Naozumi captured also turns out to be a woman and she is upset that the library was stolen from. Both say they are librarians working for a collector and refuse to acknowledge the hypocrisy of complaining about being stolen from when they also steal from people. All they will say is that the library is bigger than any one of them and the importance of gathering the works supersedes any idea of personal property. But, what is most perplexing to the party is neither “librarian” is aware of the other’s presence. And, both librarians act like the players are crazy for acting as if there were another person there. The players can’t make heads or tails of this. All they can figure is that the librarians are under some sort of spell but, they do come up with a plan. Cold cocking both librarians they tie them up together and leave, chortling with imaginings of the effect of waking up tied to an invisible presence.
They hustle, with their booty, on over to Shen Song’s place who takes his letters and leaves them with the rest of the magical scrolls. Oyumi gives Shen Song a good talking to, warning him that there is something going on with his wife’s letters as they detected as magic. Oyumi can’t read magic so he doesn’t know the meaning of the magic so all he does is leave Shen Song with an admonishing that he should investigate the letters further to find out what is going on with them. It never seems to occur to the players that Shen Song might already know they are magic and that perhaps this is about more than just sentimental value. Then they zoom back to the Red Tong Opera House to get the scrolls appraised in order to determine Jiang Cui’s share of the loot. They are all Wu Jen scrolls with numerous spells per scroll. Rolling on the DMG random scrolls table (Table III.B, page 121) it turns out that the scrolls have lots of high level spells on them and are worth a pretty penny. Jiang Cu takes the most valuable scroll plus two of the less valuable scrolls as her share and then they head back to the ship. But, first, a side trip as they have one more acquisition to make before the evening is through. They are looking for medicinal herbs.
They find their herbs and on the way back they are recognized by two obese and dramatically drunk men dressed in Green Tong Opera House colors. They were at the Red Tong Opera House for Naozumi’s and Shinjo’s performance and have seized upon the idea of recruiting them for their own Opera House’s shows. However, Naozumi and Shinjo just want to get back to the ship and have to politely excuse themselves like many petty celebrities before them. Leaving the drunken fans, they hear the sound of a screaming cat emanating from a nearby alleyway. Speculating that it is the cat eater from the previous session, they give the alley a wide berth and make their way to the docks.
It is late at night when they finally make it back to the ship. There, Oyumi casts his last healing spells and retires to his quarters to meditate. Shinjo and Naozumi make their way up to the quarter deck and examine their takings – a sack full of powerful magic scrolls, at least one with a ninth level spell. They are barbarians and barbarians gain experience from destroying magic items. They use the scrolls to wrap the gleanings of their side trip – a mixture of tobacco and, ahem, pipeweed. Then they lean against the taffrail, they watch the stars, the lanterns of punts in the harbor dancing like fireflies over the water, and our two barbarians smoke themselves to second level. The shadowy hulk of Okina Ringo and its inhabitants forgotten, at least until the morning.