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The Jungle of Seven Flowers [Actual Play]

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  • The Jungle of Seven Flowers [Actual Play]

    So, I've been playing a mostly weekly game with my wife and a friend of ours for more than two years now and they've been up to some interesting adventures that I wanted to share.

    First, though, here's the game setup for those that want an easy series concept to swipe:

    In the Southeast, inland from the Dreaming Sea, is the city-state of Rhone. Ruled by a hereditary autocrat, Prince Mordecai, Rhone is nestled at the confluence where the Araby River flows into the larger Shandee River. The land around is fertile and the city's nobility own many cotton plantations. Recently, villages and plantations to the south of the city have been attacked. Many attacks have only been noticed later, when travelers passed through towns empty of human life, full of signs of violence and yet no corpses. Other attacks left villagers fleeing for their lives, carrying tales of man-things covered in vegetation. Naturally, the blame fell upon the plant-men of the southwestern jungle.

    For decades, the southeastern jungle has been a place where few go and fewer return. The plant-men attack all who trespass upon their territory. Unbeknownst to the people of Rhone, the jungle has its own history, where many years ago a gold chakra orchid had taken root. For those who have not heard of these plants, they are a parasitic organism that implants seeds or spores into animal hosts, often humans, which grow into the host's nervous system to take control and also enact various plant-like mutations, such as bark-like skin and wooden claws. They have different castes, signified by the color of the orchid bloom growing from their bodies: blue for workers, white for warriors, silver for diplomats, red for infiltrators, and gold for the bloom at the center of the hive mind. The gold orchid in the jungle was unusual for a chakra orchid; most chakra orchids spread voraciously and aggressively. This one, however, had more patience and forward thinking, preferring to 'cultivate' more hosts. It took over tribal villages in the jungle, turning them into farms for more hosts and warping their culture to worship the 'flowers' that kept them safe, and raised another generation of gold orchids.

    The chakra orchids were not responsible for the attacks, however. Grandmother Bog (Mother Bog for anyone looking her up in Oadenol's Codex, but I mispoke to my players and just ran with it), a living swamp, had been driven north by the actions of a Solar in a city-state upriver from Rhone. Grandmother Bog is an antediluvian behemoth, recently awakened from a period of quiescence, and is hungry for worship, children, and the sustenance provided by worship and demenses. Her children, corpses brought to a new life through her strange power and covered in living mud and vegetation, have been mistaken for chakra orchids, the differences in the tales dismissed by Rhone's leadership as exaggerations made by terrified villagers. Grandmother Bog's goals are to seize four demenses in the region, one of which is beneath a manse in Rhone and one is home to one of the jungle's gold orchids, and to harvest corpses to replenish her children after he conflict in the south.


    Now, for the protagonists. I left Rhone's culture intentionally vague so that my players could easily fit themselves into the setting. Here's what they gave me:

    Cassia is a Twilight Caste sorcerer, born and raised in the region, with a strong patriotic sense. She was tutored in sorcery by another sorcerer, but has kept that ability hidden. She owns an apothecary shop in a small town outside of Rhone proper, where she helps the townsfolk with their medical problems with her herb lore and earns a decent living. Her Defining Intimacy is to finding her lover who was kidnapped into hell when one of her early attempts at mastering demon summoning summoned the wrong demon and poor phrasing of her command resulted in the demon acting in an unexpected way.

    Death From Shadows is a Night Caste assassin. A former street kid, he was taken in by monks who raised him in their secret monastery in the mountains and taught him Ebon Shadow Style martial arts. After Exalting, the monks gave him a major relic of their order, a Belt of Shadow Walking (I didn't know how broken it was at the time...). Learning that one of his friends from his days in a street gang, Lone Star (yes, he's a fan of Spaceballs), was in trouble, he went to help and ended up being blackmailed into assassinating various people. When Death From Shadows found out who was behind it, he killed the man and took a pair of razor claws as a trophy. He used his assets to buy a farm north of Rhone for his friend to disappear to.

    How they met is a bit vague. Death From Shadows tried to steal something from Cassia's shop and got caught and then something something they are friends. Cassia's player decides that Cassia will intentionally and constantly get Death From Shadows' name wrong, so Death From Shadows gets called everything from Light From Light to Doom In Darkness and so forth.


    Our story begins when Prince Mordecai hires Cassia as an expert for the military expedition being sent to deal with these attacks, since she knows something of chakra orchids, and Cassia manages to get Death From Shadows hired as a scout. General Redwing, the head of Rhone's military, personally leads a battalion of men to the south, where they set up a camp and begin fortifying it into a more permanent installation by building a log palisade around the camp. Patrols are sent out to intercept any incursions from the chakra orchids on the villages and scouts are sent into the jungle to try to find where the chakra orchids make their nest, but the scouts do not return. The next day, Cassia and Death From Shadows volunteer to lead a larger group of scouts into the jungle to see if they can't figure out what went wrong and find a nest. Their group is attacked by white orchids, but they drive them off and in attempting to track their assailants back to where they came from discover one of the jungle villages that the orchids keep as host farms. The villagers are primitive, with thatched huts, simple wooden tools, and subsistence farming. They choose not to interact with the village and instead report back to the general.

    General Redwing, hearing of the discovery and the ferocity of the attackers, decides on two things. First, he decides that scouting will be done with full squads instead of single scouts. Second, he decides to send a platoon to the village to exterminate it, reasoning that the villagers are either in league with the orchids or else a resource for the orchids. Cassia tries to convince the general that the villagers should only be captured, not killed and the general agrees that sending slaves back to Rhone for sale will be a better result. The Solars volunteer to scout ahead for the platoon and use the chance to warn the village about the attack. They aren't able to learn much from the villagers, as the villagers are initially wary of strangers and immediately begin grabbing up supplies and fleeing upon hearing of the soldiers coming to attack them. They claim to the platoon leader that the village was already abandoned when they found it and the whole group returns to the encampment. They find out during the debriefing that one of the scouting groups found a small nest, so they again volunteer to go out with them. That was probably where the second session ended, according to my notes.



    Dead But Not Gone: Ghosts
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  • #2
    At the nest, they find that it is an artificial clearing, stripped of brush, debris, and most trees. The brush and such has been piled for composting. A handful of blue orchid workers, more heavily muscled and a head taller than natural, tended the treeline. The clearing was filled with a few dozen orchids hibernating in the fetal position, roots growing from the base of the spine and additional vines and leaves climbing up and down necks, arms, and nearby tree trunks. Most of the sessile orchids were white, with a smattering of blue, and a single silver orchid. The whole thing was surrounded by a network of white orchid sentries.

    The orchids noticed the soldiers approaching, thanks to their hive mind and the general unstealthiness of a large group of humans moving through rough terrain, and so the sleeping orchids began to wake up as the soldiers attacked. Initially, everyone was wary of the blue orchids, perceiving their larger size and strength to be a more dangerous threat than the white orchids, but realized after a few attack rolls that the workers were clumsy and only a threat to the regular soldiers. Cassia mostly shot from range with her bow as Death From Shadows made short work of anything that got in front of him. Because of decisions made during the fight not to try to stop orchids breaking off and fleeing, the silver orchid escaped. However, they are able to track the fleeing orchids even deeper into the jungle to a larger nest atop a hillside.

    Somewhere around here, Cassia developed an aversion to trudging through jungles. Death From Shadows mostly vanishes from sight and uses Graceful Crane Stance to Naruto-jump from tree to tree.

    After reporting the discovery to General Redwing, the general decides that attacking with most of the battalion before the orchids can find reinforcements would be an ideal strategy. Cassia, having the better social skills of the pair despite having a dice pool of six, tries to dissuade the general from this plan but fails. The general plans to lead the attack himself, which was where the next session started.



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    • #3
      The battalion's march into the jungle did not go unnoticed by the orchids. Once it became clear where they were headed, the orchids did their best to fortify the hillside. The blue orchids jammed broken branches into the ground in the shrubbery to create hidden pickets, toppled trees as barricades, and dug out shallow pits, turning the hillsides into difficult terrain, while white orchids hid themselves in the branches of trees and the densest thickets.

      General Redwing's plan was a pincer attack. Believing his solders to be fairly evenly matched with the white orchids, he divided his force into three. Half the soldiers would advance up the front of the hill, while a quarter would circle to the right and a quarter to the left as pincer attacks. Cassia and Death From Shadows decide to split up, each of them going with one of the pincers. A good thing too, as the orchids deployed something the humans hadn't seen yet. Soldiers charging up the slope were met with white orchid gorillas, while Death From Shadows had a brief stealth-off with a white orchid panther in the tree tops.

      In response to how the soldiers were deploying, the orchids had concentrated the bulk of their forces on the front of the hill, leaving only a small number of warriors to slow the pincer forces down. With the orchid gorillas wrecking havoc with the soldiers and their forces at half strength, things could have gone really bad for General Redwing if it weren't for those meddling Solars and their cat too! (Cassia has a cat named Atlas as her familiar, who actually did the bulk of the tracking for the two Solars. Death From Shadows periodically threatens to kidnap the cat).

      Death From Shadows, being supremely good at anything falling under the headings "Don't be seen" and "Kill all the things" and not much else, eliminates the worst of the opposition on his side of the hill as Cassia decides she's done hiding and begins launching several volleys of Death Of Obsidian Butterflies (her control spell). The whole thing turns into a bit of a race to see whose forces can get to the top of the hill first, which Cassia wins.

      With the orchids now surrounded and Cassia throwing in another couple of butterflies, the orchids break and flee, taking heavy casualties. The general, dealing with casualties in his own forces, decides not to press the attack. Cassia helps triage the wounded, using her Charms to help the worst survive. Both Cassia and Death From Shadows demonstrated supernatural prowess during the battle in front of too many witnesses. Cassia admits to being a sorcerer, though not to being a Solar, and Death From Shadows claims its just something his razor claws can do. Not the most cunning lie ever, but then again they did just fight parasitic orchid plant creatures, but General Redwing accepts that explanation for now.

      Left behind by the fleeing enemy are some hibernating orchids, which are promptly killed, and also a few of the missing scouts and some soldiers that were taken from the logging site near the encampment. They are tied up with crude ropes of creeper vines, but have been mostly treated well. The loggers seem fine, but the scouts have become feverish and incoherent, coughing up blood. Back at the encampment, Cassia treats the soldiers, but is unsure if her ministrations will be enough to keep them alive. Meanwhile, one of the patrols returns with news that a village to the east of the encampment has been attacked, with everyone missing.



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      • #4
        If anyone wants to comment or ask questions about this, feel free. Anyway, on with the show!

        Cassia and Death From Shadows finally get a chance to investigate one of the attacked villages directly. They wander through the village, finding muddy tracks, blood, toppled things, doors caved in, and other general signs of panic, struggle, and one-sided violence, minus corpses. With the help of Atlas, they find fresh tracks leading away from the village, but the tracks don't head southwest towards the jungle, but instead head southeast towards the swamp. The Solars follow the tracks and then proceed into the swamp itself, whereupon Cassia extends her hatred of trudging through jungles to a broader hatred of trudging in general. Death From Shadows makes Cassia jealous with his mastery of Feather Foot Style.

        A half-mile into the swamp, three figures rise out of the mud to meet our heroes: two oversized man-shapes of peat and branches and a naked woman, her skin stained brown by mud. Speaking in an alien monotone (I was quite proud of how I managed to be almost emotionless), she questions the two Solars as to why they have come. In the course of the ensuing conversation, the woman does neither admits or denies that the swamp took the villagers, but does mention that she serves Grandmother and Cassia gets the idea that she means the swamp. The conversation takes a turn for the worse and a fight breaks out. I had prepped sufficiently that I thought that the Daughter could perhaps trade some blows with Death From Shadows, but Death From Shadows rolls a huge amount of Initiative during Join Battle and proceeds to alpha strike the Daughter immediately. The two Shamblers attack, actually forcing Death From Shadows to spend some motes on defense. Cassia casts Death of Obsidian Butterflies, but manages to roll just above a botch and scythe through mangrove trees, cattails, and rushes without dealing any damage. The fight is soon over, leaving behind two piles of mud and vegetation, which they do not examine. Had they done so, they would have discovered two corpses inside, but both long dead and preserved by the peat.

        The swamp suddenly seems more alive after the fight. The warm air swirls around the pair, the buzzing of insects and the sounds of birds are gone, and there's a sense of being watched. Despite this, they head deeper into the swamp, looking for answers.



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        • #5
          Originally posted by Kyeudo View Post
          If anyone wants to comment or ask questions about this, feel free. Anyway, on with the show!
          If I could mash that like button more than once, I would.

          Carry on!


          Hi, I'm JohnDoe244. My posts represent my opinions, not facts.

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          • #6
            Deeper into the swamp, things get worse. A half-dozen shamblers attempt to ambush the Solars, rising from the swamp all around them. Death From Shadows puts down several, but one of the shamblers grapples Cassia. The shamblers have better combat stats than the sorcerer, so she's rather quickly crashed and can't do anything to her captor. Death From Shadows comes to the rescue and frees her, but then the swamp gets involved, a sinkhole opening beneath the Night Caste's feet. He manages to dodge out of the way, decides discretion is the better part of valor, picks up Cassia, and retreats at speed (thanks to Feather Foot Style). On the way out, they notice the swatch of destruction left by Cassia's Death of Obsidian Butterflies is closing, the trees and plants creeping in either side like a wound healing.

            Once back on dry ground, they head back to the encampment, unaware that something is following them. A creeper follows them back to the encampment and prowls around the edges before reporting the presence of the soldiers back to the swamp.

            About a day has passed since they left to investigate the village some changes are apparent at the encampment. The palisade around the encampment is almost finished, with gates left in the north and south walls. On the way in, our heroes pass dozens of prisoners, hands bound and staked to the ground, captured from one of the jungle villages, ready to be marched off and sold as slaves the next time the supply wagons arrive. The general is informed about what happened in the swamp, but General Redwing is unsure if this means that they have a different problem than they originally thought or if they have two problems and simply didn't know about one. Regardless, he intends to remove whatever threat the chakra orchids pose.

            Cassia checks up on the workers and scouts at the infirmary tents. The scouts, treated using Ailment Rectifying Method, are doing much better. Their fevers are down, they are coughing less, and are coherent enough to talk. The soldiers taken from the lumber camp, though, are starting to run a fever and are developing a cough. Cassia takes time to treat them further. The scouts and soldiers don't have much detail about their captivity to add. They were rendered unconscious and awoke tied up. They were force fed a bittersweet white fruit and periodically brought water in a gourd. From their their observations, the blue orchids do most of the work tending the "nest".

            Three scouts are brought in. They were thought taken or dead, but somehow escaped and have emerged from the jungle delirious and unable to explain how they escaped. Unknown to even themselves, they have fully succumbed to chakra orchid parasitism and are now red orchids. After being brought to the infirmary, they become violent and have to be restrained. Examining them, Cassia finds that plant shoots and roots have spread from their lungs into their spines and throughout their bodies. Using all of her medical skill, she tries to treat these scouts, using her Bracers of Crafting to roll some obscene dice pools. With two of the returned scouts, she manages to surgically remove some of the roots and they seem to then be able to rest quietly. The third, however, she wasn't so lucky with and he continues to thrash, jibber, and foam at the mouth. Rather than leave him to suffer, Cassia quietly administers a fatal dose of herbs to the man.

            The other two red orchids die within a few hours, their systems too compromised to survive without the orchids, and the bodies are buried in the graveyard growing outside the palisade. In the morning, a runner fetches Cassia to show her that the grave of the man she was unable to treat has sprouted vines, red orchid flowers, and dangling seed pods. She orders the flowers burned, but the pods explode, spewing yellow spores into the smoke.



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            • #7
              The obvious threat posed by the orchid spores spurs Cassia to action. She issues several orders to the medical staff about how best to treat the initial stages of chakra orchid parasitism, drafting soldiers to forage for the requisite herbs in the jungle, and also mandating that the dead be cremated instead of buried going forward. She demands that all of the soldiers get a health checkup in the next few days. Between her orders and the Health Stone she has, the soldiers will mostly be all right.

              Unfortunately, the bust of spores has exposed not only the soldiers in the palisade, but also camp followers that have set up shop to the north of the palisade. Having fallen through the cracks in Cassia's health orders, the camp followers are now something of a crisis timebomb. They won't become delirious for another few days, so there's still time to notice the mistake.

              General Redwing expresses his concerns over the casualties the battalion suffered in the engagement with the chakra orchids. He has sent for reinforcements, but even with a fast rider to carry the message and an immediate dispatch of troops it will still take a week before additional soldiers will begin arriving. He also is concerned because they still don't know how many or where the chakra orchids are coming from. He is right to worry, because unbeknownst to our heroes, they've largely been dealing with the forces of only a single gold orchid, Runs Deep. Some of the other six don't have as many warriors as the orchid they have been dealing with, but others have as many or more and are sending a part of their forces to aid their beleaguered kin.

              Realizing the danger the chakra orchid plague poses to the soldiers, Cassia summons her first demon of the series, a sesseljae, and binds it for a year and a day of servitude. Finding that she can't pronounce its real name - a series of insectile clicks - she dubs the demon Jiminy. My players quickly find Jiminy to be a fun character, though all I did was make him react like an overly enthusiastic servant. The first order she gives to the demon is for it to check every soldier in camp for signs of sickness and fix it. "Yes, Mistress!" the demon says, hopping off to obey. Cassia probably should have warned the soldiers that a talking demonic grasshopper with too many legs was going to be swimming through their flesh ahead of time, but she gets things sorted out before anyone manages to actually hurt the demon.

              After another talk with the general about how things are going, the duo determines that they should seek deeper into the jungle to see if they can find where those white fruits are coming from, as that might be the orchids' central nest. As they travel, Cassia trudging along on the ground and Death From Shadows up in the trees, they find a silver orchid, a young woman in tattered, simple clothing, with a handful of white orchid guards standing in a small clearing, waiting for them. Unbeknownst to Cassia, a dozen more warriors are hidden in the trees above. Unbeknownst to everyone, Death From Shadows is hidden above them, watching to see if they do anything untoward.



              Dead But Not Gone: Ghosts
              Ghosts: A Revision (2nd Edition)
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              • #8
                The silver orchid speaks, the first time our heroes have seen an orchid attempt to communicate, and she introduces herself as Scorched Roots. She demands to know why soldiers have attacked her sibling. In the ensuing conversation, Cassia learns that the orchids believe the soldiers to have attacked them first, that there is more than one sentience behind the orchids (they'd been assuming a hive mind for a while), and that more orchid warriors will be arriving in the area in five days. Scorched Roots believes that some sort of cease-fire might be reached if the soldiers stay out of the jungle and stop attacking the orchids.

                Armed with this new knowledge, Cassia and Death From Shadows return to the palisade and report to General Redwing. While Cassia talks with the general, Death From Shadows spots something lurking behind a line of tents and goes to investigate. He finds a creeper, a vaguely humanoid creature made of mud and peat the size of a child, skulking about trying to eavesdrop upon the general's tent, and elects to remove the creature forcefully. The creeper attempts to cast Stormwind Rider to escape, but is no match for a Night Caste assassin and is turned into greasy smoke by Throat-Slitting Atemi.

                Cassia and Death From Shadows assume the worst about the creeper, choosing to believe that it was attempting to assassinate the general. The guard on the general's tent is doubled and Death From Shadows decides to spend the next few nights personally guarding the general's tent, although no one else would have known that to be the case, what with the absurd dice pools that Stealth-focused Solars can get. The general is interested in the possibility of a cease-fire with the orchids, especially if the orchids are not lying about attacking the southern villages, but the news that the orchids reinforcements will be in the area two days before his own forces is frightening. If a cease-fire isn't worked out and the orchids actually attack, the simple palisade won't hold against their numbers, but without logging the jungle for materials there's not much the battalion can do to shore up the defenses.

                Seeking an unconventional solution, Cassia again summons a demon, a firmin this time. For those who don't memorize all of Exalted's catalog of demons, a firmin is something akin of a demonic cross between a packrat, a human, and a porcupine. Firmin are mostly human in appearance, but their backs are covered in black, chitinous, needle-sharp spikes, they can extrude further spikes from their hands, and are only slightly more intelligent than a chimpanzee. Rather than have such a creature hanging around for a year and a day, Cassia binds the demon to the task of filling pits the soldiers dig with needles for the next three days to create spike moats. The soldiers don't dig around the clock at first, leaving the demon time to get itself into trouble, and the next day the camp finds that all of the latrine pits have also been lined with spikes, rendering some of them unusable.

                Meanwhile, Cassia delves into what books and scrolls of sorcery she has on hand and learns Raising The Earth's Bones (from 2nd Edition). That spell allows her to perform a ritual to raise large works of earth and stone in a matter of hours, which she uses to turn the palisade into a stone-walled fort. She also uses repeated castings of Death of Obsidian Butterflies to surround the fortress even farther out with fields of broken obsidian. With the problem of buttressing the fort's defenses dealt with, the camp followers are ushered inside and given a thorough once-over by Jimminy (chakra orchid plague averted). Needless to say, at this point Cassia isn't really bothering to hide her supernatural nature.

                The two Solars, Jimminy in tow in Cassia's stomach (seseljae can swim through flesh like water), head into the jungle again to make contact with Scorched Roots and find out if a cease-fire is possible. They encounter a different silver orchid, a young man, and spend a bit of time confused when the orchid again introduces himself as Scorched Roots. They find out that Scorched Roots has been unable to convince the others that they don't need to respond to the violence with a show of strength, but that they are willing to hear from a representative from Rhone. Having three dots in Charisma and three dots in Presence, Cassia finds herself the single most qualified person to negotiate for peace within miles, a realization that sinks comes with the exclamation "Oh, crap!".

                On their way back to the fort, a stick person, a type of minor wood elemental, manifests before them. In Old Realm, a language neither Solar currently spoke, it proclaims a warning from the ruler of the jungle, Snapping Branches Lord, that demons are not welcome within the forest and that further violations will result in retribution. Thankfully, Jimminy is on hand to translate the warning. Cassia asks to speak with Snapping Branches Lord and the stick person is happy enough to lead her to his sanctum.



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                • #9
                  Cassia and Death From Shadows follow the knee-high stick person through the jungle to a large tree with a crack splitting through the middle of the trunk. With the tiny elemental's help, they pass through the crack into a different forest. A thick carpet of moss blankets the ground and ahead of them stretches a colonnade of trees leading to a single large tree gnarled into a throne. Snapping Branches Lord is the de facto god of the forest, though he is a wood elemental and not actually a deity, and stands twelve feet tall, with rough bark skin, a tangled beard of vines, and gnarled tree root hands. In the shadows of the trees, other spirits watcdh the proceedings: gods of ferns, shrubs, vines, and various strains of tree, gods of decay, insects, spiders, birds, rodents, and such. The gods of large animals are no longer present, their domains decimated by the chakra orchids. Wood spiders lurk in the boughs overhead, acting as sentries.

                  Cassia tries to get Snapping Branches Lord to do something to oppose the swamp, but the wood elemental does not care about the goings on beyond his jungle. He also refuses to do anything about the chakra orchids. Snapping Branches Lord approves of the force and savagery with which the orchids subdued their prey in the jungle and the fierceness with which they defend their territory. He reiterates that he despises demons and will not suffer to have them within his territory and sends the Solars away.

                  Returning to the fort, the two report their adventures to General Redwing. The general is glad that there is the possibility of peace, but isn't optimistic about the chances, as scouts had returned with news that orchids were observed attacking and carrying off people from one of the nearby towns. He is glad that the needle-spike moats are progressing well.

                  While passing through the camp, Cassia sees a familiar face in the crowd. Thanks to her eidetic memory, she knows that face belongs to the swamp's daughter they spoke with in the middle of the swamp, though she's clothed and appears normal instead of dead and stained peat brown. Cassia points the swamp creature out to Death From Shadows and the Night Caste approaches, but the daughter bolts when she sees him approaching. The assassin has only a little trouble running her down as she weaves through the crowd of confused soldiers. Once he tackles her to the ground, the surrounding soldiers are able to join in and restrain the daughter.



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                  • #10
                    Interrogating the daughter proves difficult, initially claiming to be nothing more than a prostitute, and Cassia is unable to persuade her to talk. Death From Shadows decides stronger measures are required and so has her tied to a stake, piles firewood around her, and threatens to burn her alive if she doesn't tell them what she knows. Suddenly, she is far more willing to answer questions. The daughter's name is Descending Earth and she claims she has never met the Solars before. They find out more about what the swamp desires - worship, children, growth - but are still having trouble wrapping their heads around how to deal with an animate swamp. They run out of questions and place the daughter under guard in case they have more.

                    Cassia, having put several dots in Survival and bought the relevant specialties, spends time training Atlas to be better in combat, namely unlocking Underfoot Menace. Death From Shadows, meanwhile, finds himself followed by a songbird. The songbird conveys a message to Death From Shadows from the true god of the forest, Hakket, that the god is trapped within his sanctum, pleading for help to escape Snapping Branches Lord. The Night Caste assassin decides to help and heads into the jungle alone.

                    While waiting for evening, he decides to see if the swamp is up to anything and manages to locate large muddy tracks leaving the swamp and returning, following these through the jungle to the hillside where they destroyed the large orchid nest. There, the orchids and the swamp creatures are seen recovering bodies, with the chakra orchids ignoring the swamp creatures.

                    Using his Belt of Shadow Walking, he sneaks through the sanctum door and prowls his way around the sanctum, finding Hakket behind the throne entombed alive in branches and roots growing into his body (if you've seen the movie Apostle, that's sort of what I was thinking). He tries to free the forest god from his prison quietly, but the branches grow back almost fast as they are cut away. He tries his hand at careful tree surgery, but fails at the Medicine roll and the god cries out in pain, summoning several wood spiders to investigate. Rather than try to kill the elementals fast enough that they make no noise, Death From Shadows opts to retreat for now, fearing that more noise might summon Snapping Branches Lord.

                    Death From Shadows returns to the palisade the next morning and tells Cassia of his expedition. They decide that they aren't sure that freeing the forest god will change things for the better and the whole thing might be risky. The orchids and the swamp things both gathering the dead orchid bodies is an interesting tidbit, but doesn't change anything. My players seem to think the orchids are probably reanimating the bodies, but have no idea what the swamp is using them for. I personally find that funny, since it is the swamp that's reanimating things and the orchids are just using them for fertilizer.

                    Anyway, a band of orchids appears at the edge of the trees that day and Cassia and Death From Shadows head off to meet with them and hopefully achieve peace.



                    Dead But Not Gone: Ghosts
                    Ghosts: A Revision (2nd Edition)
                    Masters of the Industrial Elements
                    Upon the Rock of Tradition: The Memorial Exalted
                    ​From The Crucible: Crafting As A Struggle

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                    • #11
                      This being the first table-top RPG she's played, Cassia's player was having difficulty trying to roleplay through negotiating with the orchids, so I suggested that we handle the situation by playing it out over email before the next session. Because of that, I can provide you with the actual transcript of what happened.

                      Scorched Roots leads you to an oblong clearing in the jungle where other chakra orchids wait. Around the arc of the clearing are six other silver orchids of various ages seated on fallen logs and large stones. A handful of blue orchids work with their large hands clearing away the remaining brush from the clearing and a dozen or so white orchids are visible standing guard in the trees beyond.

                      Scorched Roots' silver orchid takes a seat upon a rotting tree stump nearby while the silver orchid at the far end of the clearing acknowledges your arrival. He is nearly naked save for scraps of cloth that might once have been trousers, his silver-flower-crowned features young but weathered greatly by sun and rain. He addresses you.

                      "Thank you for meeting with us. I am told you wish our hostilities to end."
                      “Yes,” Cassia responds. She stands in a neutral position, not hostile, but not relaxed.

                      “We don’t think this conflict is helpful to either group. We understand that you’d like for our people to refrain from entering your jungle. Would a formal treaty specifying the boundaries of our lands be sufficient?”

                      "Sadly, treaties are just words. What guarantee can you give us that you and yours will keep your word? Right now, you fear us, but that may change."

                      “We propose setting up an embassy near the border to maintain communications. We will also punish any of our own people who break the treaty. We expect that you would punish any of your people who break the treaty.”

                      "That doesn't answer my question. How do I know your promises are not hollow?"

                      “You tell me. How does one learn to trust a former enemy?”

                      "We wish to see a gesture of good faith."

                      “And would you make a similar gesture?”

                      "Did you have something in mind?"

                      “How about we start with an exchange of names?”

                      "We are called Breaking of Bones. And we know you as Cassia. Scorched Roots has kept us appraised of your doings."

                      “Breaking of Bones. That’s a intimidating name.”

                      "It is what we were called when this forest had not become ours. The forest tribes had to be taught to pay tribute."

                      “Ah. And is tribute the sort of ‘gesture of good faith’ you were envisioning? I think our peoples might benefit from trading, but it will be difficult to persuade my people that tribute is required.”

                      "We did not mean to suggest such, but your people have razed two of our villages and taken away one of our tribes. We believe some recompense is owed."

                      “That is an understandable sentiment. Though we have suffered losses at your hands as well.”

                      "We did not trespass upon your lands until your soldiers attacked our villages."

                      “Interesting. The only reason the soldiers I am with came to your jungle is because of reports of our villages being attacked by your people. So, if I understand what you said, you believe we are the aggressors, and we believe you are the agressors. I suppose it is possible that both groups spontaneously chose to attack the other, but as I have investigated some of the attacks, they appear to the work of a third party. I call them ‘swamp things’. Do you have knowledge of them?”

                      One of the other silver orchids stands, a tall and haughty male. "Does it matter? Your people broke the peace. We knew you would."

                      “You knew we would? The implications I gather from that are that you deliberately provoked us, hoping to get into a fight. And by ‘you’ I mean you specifically,” Cassia replies, pointing a sharp purple finger at the interrupter.

                      The interrupting orchid waves dismissively. "Humans can't be trusted. If allowed to grow unchecked, they will always try to destroy us."

                      “I sincerely hope none of the rest of you share this opinion. It is impossible to negotiate with someone who refuses to trust you because of the race you happen to be.” Cassia looks around at the other orchids, clearly expecting an answer from each of them.
                      "I have found your word reliable so far." Scorched Roots answers from beside you. "You have kept soldiers out of the forest as you promised."

                      "Two weeks is not enough to learn if outsiders are treacherous or not." Another orchid responds.

                      Breaking of Bones stays silent, as do the others.

                      “Some one of you finds us reliable,” Cassia nods her head in respect at Scorched Roots. “And one feels two weeks is too short a time. I can understand that feeling, as I have a similar one.” Cassia frowns slightly. “And what of the rest of you? Forthrightness will make this negotiation much easier.” She puts an emphasis on her words, in an attempt to persuade them.

                      The orchids remain silent, watching Cassia

                      The orchid that interjected, a shorter woman with brown hair, speaks again.
                      "Their silence should tell you more than enough. We do not trust you, especially as you build a fortress of stone and blades on our borders."
                      “My people are taking precautions to protect ourselves. From whatever foes might attack. Your people are not the only ones who have attempted to antagonize us recently.” Cassia sighs.

                      “A place of mistrust is a difficult one to begin negotiations from. However, it is not impossible. What might we trade or offer to convince you to cease hostilities against us?”
                      The belligerent orchid waves you away. "Leave and never come back."

                      An older man speaks up. "We do not think it need be that extreme. Perhaps they might be willing to share knowledge with us. We would like to learn from their smiths."

                      "Not all of us share your fascination with fire, Smites Rocks." The woman rebukes him.

                      “An exchange of knowledge is a reasonable trade. We suggest also that we work together to create spaces where those exchanges can take place. For example, an embassy in our capital for you, and one for us in or near your forest.”

                      Breaking of Bones speaks. "While we do not think that knowledge would be unwelcome, we also do not think a handful of craftsmen in our care would be a sufficient deterrent against aggression. Perhaps if one of your leaders would live among us?"
                      “Perhaps. I cannot speak for my Prince in this matter. However, as soon as I can, I will send word asking if he will agree.”

                      “While this arrangement is being considered, I presume there will be a cessation of hostilities on both sides.”

                      “Is there anything else you would consider trading as a way to move our people toward perpetually peaceful interactions?”

                      "And in the interim?" Another orchid, a broad shouldered man of middle years, speaks up skeptically. "What ensures you will keep your end of the truce while you beg for your Prince's assistance?"
                      Cassia’s fingers flex and her nails transform into glittering purple claws. “I. Do. Not. Beg.” Somehow her voice is both a hiss and a bite.

                      Her tone and her nails return to normal. “I must, however, respect the autonomy of my Prince. I can only suggest prudent courses of action.”

                      “My people have agreed to stay out of the jungle until these negotiations are complete. If the truce is broken, it will be because your people chose to attack us.”
                      "That seems satisfactory for now. We shall be watching closely to make sure your people abide by the agreement." The orchid acts calm, but his voice betrays a hint of approval.

                      A young man, mid teens at most, speaks up. "If that is all, I shall return my focus elsewhere. The goblins are prodding the edge of our forest again."

                      "The matter does seem sufficiently settled . . . for now." Breaking of Bones agrees, reservation obvious in his voice. The female orchid still looks at you with suspicion but doesn't challenge Breaking of Bones.
                      Last edited by Kyeudo; 03-31-2021, 02:20 AM.



                      Dead But Not Gone: Ghosts
                      Ghosts: A Revision (2nd Edition)
                      Masters of the Industrial Elements
                      Upon the Rock of Tradition: The Memorial Exalted
                      ​From The Crucible: Crafting As A Struggle

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Here, our protagonists part ways for a while. Death From Shadows, intrigued by the mention of goblins, volunteers to help the orchids with the issue. Cassia, meanwhile, heads back to the capital to try to get Prince Mordecai to send a political hostage to make the peace treaty work.

                        On her way out of the forest, sans Death From Shadows, she is accosted by Snapping Branches Lord because she forgot his edict about demons and brought Jiminy with her to the meeting. As he is roaring about how he warned her, Cassia is in no mood to deal with a petulant deity and tells him to shut up and she's already leaving his forest before just walking away. I am so completely floored by the response that all I can think to do is have her make a social roll, which garners plenty of successes. Snapping Branches Lord is so dumbfounded by the response, by the complete lack of concern for his threats, that all he can do is watch her walk away and quietly fume about it. This may come back to bite her later.

                        Death From Shadows is lead westward by an orchid warrior, spending a week traveling on foot through rough jungle. There, he's filled in more details about the goblin problem. From time to time, groups of goblins try to raid into the jungle from a Wyld zone to the west and carry off people from the orchids' villages. The orchid called No Dreaming is the one primarily responsible for patrolling the border and putting down the incursions. No Dreaming tells the Solar that there is a band of goblins currently making its way through the jungle, being tracked by some of his white orchids. The orchid is bringing in more white orchids to crush the goblins and Death From Shadows can assist if he wishes. No Dreaming is, at this point, mostly apathetic about what the Solar does - the problem is under control as far as he's concerned, but he won't reject the help.

                        Death From Shadows follows the white orchids to the ambush point, where he catches his first glimpse of one of the goblins. I wrote the following description to read to him: "The creature you see is barely waist-high and hideous in appearance. Its stooped, wiry body is naked, revealing dark gingerbread flesh covering in irregular patches of black, leathery licorice scales. Arms that reach down to its shins end in jagged caramel claws. Its face is a mix of feline and reptile, with large red gummy eyes, slits for nostrils, and a mouth of sharp peppermint fangs." As expected, they quickly get referred to as gingerbread men. His initial plan is to take at least one alive, but then promptly tosses that plan out the window when he decides to use his ambush attack to decisive the whole battlegroup into nothing using a Charm-enhanced alpha strike. After splattering raspberry jam across the scenery and sending the survivors fleeing, he elects not to chase anyone down, leaving mop-up to No Dreaming. No Dreaming reports that this band was a feint to get close to a village, but he noticed and intercepted them after they tried to carry away some villagers.

                        The Night Caste assassin asks the orchid why he hasn't tried to eliminate the goblins from the Wyld Zone. No Dreaming tells him that he has made several attempts, but the fae inside the Wyld zone are more dangerous than the goblins that raid out of it. Death From Shadows elects to try to get to the root of the problem and heads off to investigate the Wyld Zone.



                        Dead But Not Gone: Ghosts
                        Ghosts: A Revision (2nd Edition)
                        Masters of the Industrial Elements
                        Upon the Rock of Tradition: The Memorial Exalted
                        ​From The Crucible: Crafting As A Struggle

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          While Death From Shadows is wishing he could steal the gumdrop buttons from the gingerbread men, Cassia is in the capital having a meeting with the prince. Word of her exploits has preceded her and the prince has heard of her ability with sorcery and her heroics in defending the battalion. She explains the current agreement with the orchids - how they have a temporary truce that could become a more lasting peace - but when she broaches the subject of a political hostage to cement the treaty, she runs into difficulty. Prince Mordecai has only a single daughter and he's not willing to put her in danger. Other than his daughter, none of the nobility are likely to make an acceptable political hostage.

                          Cassia proposes a magical solution: creating a duplicate of the princess. The prince agrees to provide her with whatever resources she needs if she can accomplish such a feat. Pondering the different ways she could accomplish such a thing - bringing a clay or stone statue of the princess to life, capturing the princess's shadow, and so on - she settles on using a full-length mirror to bring the princess's reflection out of it. With a week of work, she pulls the princess's naked reflection into reality, leaving the mirror she came from the only way to detect that anything has changed - neither princess casts a reflection in the mirror she used. Satisfied that this might actually work, the prince gives his blessing to the endeavor and sends Cassia and the mirror princess back to General Redwing with a contingent of guards and an appropriate retinue for the princess, along with the requested blacksmiths.



                          Dead But Not Gone: Ghosts
                          Ghosts: A Revision (2nd Edition)
                          Masters of the Industrial Elements
                          Upon the Rock of Tradition: The Memorial Exalted
                          ​From The Crucible: Crafting As A Struggle

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            While Cassia was conjuring a princess out of a mirror, Death From Shadows made his way out of the jungle and into the Wyld Zone. He found an idyllic rural countryside, with farmlands spreading out around a town built around a large castle. It would seem mundane, except that the soil is made of brown sugar, the village uses frosting instead of plaster, and the castle is built out of sugar cubes swirled with cinnamon.

                            The Night Caste decides to forgo stealth and walks into the town, where he is treated as though he is a traveler passing through any medium-sized town. The residents have pointy ears and vibrant eye colors but otherwise go about ordinary-seeming day to day lives. The most unusual feature of the town, other than the use of large quantities of sugar as a building material, is a large bakery, which Death From Shadows immediately decides is the most likely source of the gingerbread men. He decides not to do anything yet and instead opts to explore the castle.

                            Using his Belt of Shadow Walking, he breezes his way across the drawbridge, passing over a moat filled with a fizzing yellow-green liquid that may or may not have been Mountain Dew, into the courtyard. In the center of the courtyard is a garden. In the middle of the garden, atop a small hill, is a gazebo. He takes his time checking the buildings built along the walls and finds where some bored faerie nobles are holding court. He eavesdrops for a bit, but I didn't note down what he heard and I can't quite recall. However, whatever he heard made him decide to get involved, so he heads back over the drawbridge, reverts back from shadow form, and introduces himself as a traveler to the guards on the drawbridge, wishing to pay his respects to the lord of the manor.

                            He finds himself invited to dine with the lord and lady and to spend the night. At dinner, he is seated at the high table near Lord Adonis and Lady Laurana (I intentionally chose lazy elf names - I wanted to lay the ground work for introducing the "Fair Folk are sort of LARPing at being real" bit later if they stayed around). He finds he is not the only human guest, though he is the most interesting to the lord and lady and the other guests have been there for quite some time. The other humans are faintly sycophantic towards their hosts and don't have much to say. Death From Shadows makes some attempts to find out about the lord and lady's opinion of the jungle but isn't quite able to steer the topic where he wants to. The lord and lady use some social influence to try to convince Death From Shadows to stay, but somehow only managed to build a minor Intimacy towards liking the area despite having the assassin completely outclassed in social skills.

                            That night, he is awakened by a knock at the door of his room. He opens it to find Laurana there in a fairly thin night gown. He invites her in, she attempts to seduce him, and he doesn't even bother to resist. He spends a sleep-free night with the lady, who attempts to use her Heart-Eating Kiss on him. She manages to roll horribly. I then had him also roll to resist Wyld mutation (I planned to give him a dependency on sugar if he failed, though the difficulty wasn't that high), which he rolled excessively well. After the lady left, realizing that if he stayed much longer he may not want to leave and also that if his affair with the lady was discovered he could get dragged into faerie politics, Death From Shadows decided that discretion was the better part of valor and bravely ran away, using his Belt of Shadow Walking to slip out an arrow slit, vault the moat, and head back to the jungle. He informed No Dreaming of what he had seen and that he would need Cassia's help to do something more about it, then set off back to the fort, arriving there roughly when Cassia and the mirror princess were returning.



                            Dead But Not Gone: Ghosts
                            Ghosts: A Revision (2nd Edition)
                            Masters of the Industrial Elements
                            Upon the Rock of Tradition: The Memorial Exalted
                            ​From The Crucible: Crafting As A Struggle

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