In third and final season of our Jadepunk campaign, our heroes have moved to the upper-class Tengoku District, still looking for a way to strike at the corrupt Governor who controls Kausao; but following a kidnapping they make a surprise discovery about the nature of the threat to the city.
We flashback to a time before the start of our Skyless City Campaign, some two decades before the reign of the 13th Governor in a one-off session kindly guest-GMed by Thashif.
Recently I decided to have a period of downtime for our Skyless City Jadepunk; now the game is still going ahead as normal but we’re moving the timeline forward by three months and are going to detail one of the city districts (the Sengoku or Heaven District) in more detail as a future homebase for the “third season” of our game.
Our heroes embark on a mission to secure one of the Governors new suits of armour, but can they survive the return of an old ally or will they fall into shadow?
I was asked recently on my Youtube channel by Martin Cumming whether I’d made the character sheets for our Jadepunk game available; having had a look I don’t think I have so thought I’d put links in a quick post on my blog so people can have a look at them.
These are not necessarily the latest versions of the sheets since we moved recently to storing them on Roll20 and therefore I don’t have them all as actually PDFs or anything similar, but these should be enough to give you an idea of what sort of characters we have in the game.
Our current cast:
- Coaxoch – blood priestess of the Ahlmac – played by Thashif Muran
- Daisuke – Jadetech engineer – played by Jenny Green
- Sora Yoshida – Follower of the forbidden dance – played by Mathew Bryan
Gone but not forgotten:
- Ba Tu Satoru – shadow assassin who died fighting the 13th Governor (or did he?) – played by Thashif Muran
- Kaiyu Yuuto – exiled noble who died embracing a freind who had fallen into shadow – played by Jenny Green
So there we are a look at the character sheets of those characters, past and present in our Jadepunk campaign; if you’re interested in seeing some of the actual plays of our sessions then you can find them here.
Recently I chatted on-air with James Chambers about the organisational aid called Fronts that is featured in the various ‘powered by the apocalypse’ games (Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, Monster of the Week, Tremulus, etc) and how they could be used in other games to help a GM organise their plots and keep track of what is going on. You can find the video here:
You can also find more about Fronts and how they work specifically here: http://www.dungeonworldsrd.com/fronts
Essentially a Front is a GM tool where you create adventure and campaign fronts, each of which features a number of dangers (opponents, hazardous lairs etc), an impending doom (how the world will be changed for the worst if the plot reaches it’s conclusion) and grim portents (events that occur as your campaign progresses to move your plot forward). Each of the PbtA games offers a number of different potential dangers (related to their theme and type of game) and sample moves or actions for those dangers to take.
For example: An oppressive government might have “kidnap an enemy” as one of their potential moves.
This great as a GM tool because it allows you to create your fronts and have them written down for easy reference, the abbreviated form forces you to think about what is important for this particular plot rather than going OTT and writing hundreds of pages that don’t end up getting used and also any time you have a spare moment or a lull in your game you can have a look at the list of moves for the dangers on your Fronts and use one or more of them to move the plot along.
I think Fronts are a great way of GMs keeping track of their information and it is a technique that I have taken to using in most games that I run; below are some examples of Fronts used in my currently running Jadepunk game.
If you are one of my players then please do not read this until after the game has concluded.
- The 13th Governor’s plans for Kausao.
13th Governor (warlord, dictator (Apoc World), impulse: to control)
Impending doom – Tyranny (creating a world government with Kausao at the head)
1 – Uses Windrider crash to justify more draconian laws.
2 – Recruits volunteers to create a new organisation ‘The All-Seeing Eye’, building a new facility on the site of the old Council of Nine building.
3 – Marries Kaiyu Misake, Empress of the Kaiyu Nation.
4 – Uses black jade clockwork and allies to take control of Aerum Nation.
5 – With two of the major nations behind it Kausao becomes the new capital of the world, Governor declares himself Emperor with the head of each nation serving as his viceroys.
Isaku Sota/Sota Family (grotesque (Apoc World)-crave mastery, impulse: to create a clockwork empire)
Impending doom – Pestilence (the replacement of weak flesh with machinery, and the rise of clockwork over primitive biology)
1 – Provides clockwork warriors in return for access to black jade.
2 – Performs horrible experiments in an attempt to understand black jade.
3 – Manages to create the worlds first “synthetic jade” blood jade.
4 – Discovers a way of using blood jade to create intelligent clockwork creatures.
5 – Sota’s clockwork warriors forcibly convert their creator into a clockwork creature like themselves, he becomes the Iron King.
Kaiyu Misake (impulse: absorb those in power & grow)
Impending doom – Tyranny (ensuring that the Kaiyu nation (and herself personally) become one of the pre-eminent world powers)
1 – Misake becomes Empress of the Kaiyu Empire following her father’s death.
2 – Brings Kaiyu navy to Kausao to support her husband, becomes a devout follower of a deviant sect of the Way of Suffering.
3 – Calls upon Kaiyu allies to help overthrow the Aerum Empire.
4 – Begins to host lavish parties for nobles, encouraging debauchery and that they take joy in their exalted status.
5 – Is given control of the All Seeing Eye, Kausao becomes a place where no-one dare speak out against the Governor or Misake lest they be arrested by the secret police and enslaved to one of Misake’s Sybarite dens.
- The Aerum War on Kausao
Kausao Government (ambitious organisation, impulse: maintain the status quo)
Impending doom – Usurpation (replacing the current Aerum regime with one more sympathetic to Kausao)
1 – Isaku Sota presents the Governor with mechanised armour for his soldiers (adapted from his own clockwork armour).
2 – Using the mechanised armour the Governor launches a full scale assault (backed by the Kaiyu) on the airship fleet.
3 – The Kaiyu are unaware that a group of Shadow Warriors were dispatched to the Aerum Nation as soon as the Governor received word of their potential dissatisfaction; the Shadow Warriors strike and kill Aerum Koji the ruler of the nation.
4 – Using agents in the Aerum government a puppet ruler who follows Kausao’s lead is chosen; he then requests the assistance of Kausao in putting down rebels.
5 – Governor sends mech-armoured troops to back up his puppet ruler, Aerum nation now becomes a satrapy of Kausao.
Aerum Koji/Aerum Nation (Horde, impulse: to grow stronger and overcome all resistance in Kausao)
Impending doom – Tyranny (annexing Kausao and making it a province of the Aerum Empire)
1 – Aerum Koji realises that Governor is moving to a pro-Kaiyu stance and realises that the Windrider incident was designed to disgrace their nation as a prelude to most overt hostile actions by the Governor.
2 – When word of the wedding is received Koji dispatches an assault airfleet to demand the Governor stands down.
3 – Airfleet come under attack from the Kaiyu Navy and the Governor’s forces, eventually they are defeated by the new mech-armoured troops.
4 – When word of Koji’s assassination occurs and word of his replacement reaches the airfleet many of them realise that the Aerum Nation belongs to Kausao, and rather than give in they take their ships and retreat into neutral lands becoming rebels and hoping to one day free their homeland.
Uddoratto Syndicate (ambitious organisation, impulse: to infest from within/take by subterfuge)
Impending doom – Impoverishment (seeking to prolong the conflict so that they can get maximum profit out of it)
1 – The original plan was for the Kausao forces to wait until they were fired upon first, a member of the Uddoratto accidentally ordered a bombardment from the Kaiyu navy to begin.
2 – Uddoratto members attempt to leak plans for the mech-armour to the Aerum forces.
3 – During the chaos looting is widespread, many of the goods stolen fall into Uddoratto hands or are fenced by them.
4 – When the Aerum are defeated, it is a member of the Uddorratto Syndicate who is elected to rule the country on the Governor’s behalf.
5 – Under their rulership the Aerum Empire becomes a dark place ruled by bandit lords and brigands.
No-one starts off as the world’s best GM, when I think of how truly shocking that very first game of WFRP I ran was I give a little shudder, but at the time we all had fun and we learned a lot from that first game; I always say to people that there’s nothing wrong with not being a perfect GM as long as you’re always trying to improve and you’re putting that effort in.
One of the best ways to improve you games is to solicit feedback from your players, now you can ask players for feedback in the aftermath of a game session but some people don’t feel comfortable giving feedback in-front of others or need a bit of time to reflect on the session and get their thoughts in order; I find it best to ask for feedback a day or two after a session has completed. One other issue with feedback is that it can be difficult for players to know where to start or what sort of feedback you are looking for, after all someone just saying “the session was crap” might be accurate in their eyes but it’s not particularly helpful from the perspective of a GM seeking to improve their game.
So what can I do?
The best way that I have found to get feedback is to make a feedback form available to players shortly after the session that asks them to rate various facets of the game and also asks specific questions, this not only makes it easier on the players but also ensures that you get the sort of feedback that will be useful to you as a GM.
You can find an example of the feedback sheet that I use for my Jadepunk game by clicking on the link below:
The fourteenth session of Skyless City Jadepunk game has now finished and been uploaded to Youtube:
In the main Jadepunk rulebook, one of the lesser nations, the Ahlmac, are described as:
“blood worshippers, believing that power even beyond what jade can give is found in one’s own blood”
This was very interesting to me since magical effects obviously do exist in the system but they are largely confined to strange martial arts techniques or various amount of jade-based technology; however the write-up of the Ahlmac seems to suggest that they may have some form of power beyond that which Jade can offer. Of course this could be simple superstition or even techniques built using the normal Asset/Stunt system provided in Jadepunk; recently however I reviewed the excellent Crestfallen RPG by Dan Hiscutt (you can see the review by clicking here), one of the rules mechanics that really caught my attention was the way that rituals worked within the setting.
In Crestfallen magic is a slow and subtle art that involves rituallists gathering power and then shaping it to create a magical effect; it occurred to me that this could very well be ported into other games and that it might be an ideal match for the Ahlmac blood magic.
Please note: I’m not going to go into too much detail about the Crestfallen rules specifically here (if you are interested then I urge you to purchase a copy once it is availabe for generally release) but am going to produce some mechanics inspired by them.
Ahlmac Blood Rituals
Ahlmac blood rituals are represented by a series of rolls:
- A, Explorer roll to accumulate the required components of the ritual.
- A Scholar roll to prepare the ritual.
- The profession used for the third roll depends on the nature of the ritual:
- Aristocrat: Rituals of social manipulation and control.
- Engineer: Manipulating/interfering with Jadetech.
- Explorer: Aiding transportation or movement.
- Fighter: Inflicting harm or protecting someone from it.
- Scholar: Gaining knowledge or insight.
- Scoundrel: Rituals of disguise or theft.
Please note: In order to use Ahlmac blood rituals the character must have an Aspect that gives them narrative permission to do so, Assets can also be built that provide bonuses to blood sorcery.
Example Asset: Master of Blood Sorcery
Cost: 1 refresh
Guiding Aspect: Whatever aspect allows the character to use Ahlmac blood rituals.Feature: Focus (adds +1 blood ritual rolls)
Flaw: Situational (only when the caster has drawn blood in the scene)
Performing a blood ritual takes a day, however this can be reduced for each of the three rolls that is succeeded with style.
Number of Rolls succeeded in Style
0 – Ritual takes one day to perform.
1 – Ritual takes half a day to perform.
2 – Ritual takes six hours to perform.
3 – Ritual takes three hours to perform.
The difficulty of each roll depends on the effect that the rituallist is trying to achieve.
Explorer Roll Difficulties
This difficulty roll is based on how obscure the ingredients are and the final outcome of the ritual, the difficulties below list the type of enemies that could be affected to provide an example.
+2 Minimal – a non-combatant.
+4 Lesser – a single mook.
+6 Greater – a group of mooks.
+8 Major – a main villain.
Scholar Roll Difficulties
This roll is based on the surroundings and trappings that the rituallist has to hand, some example are given below:
+2 A lot of preparation, the rituallist is taking their time or is in a place consecrated to the Ahlmac religion.
+4 An average amount of preparation, the rituallist has had time to adequately prepare the ritual space.
+6 Minimal prepartion, the rituallist is hurried.
+8 No preparation or the rituallist is under fire.
Final Roll Difficulties
The final roll difficulties are largely left to GM discretion but should be based on the desired effect; for instance if the ritual were to inflict shifts of harm then the GM might take the number of shifts as the difficulty.
What if the ritual goes wrong?
A failed Explorer roll means that some mistakes were made with the trappings of the ritual and that the affect which occurs is not precisely the desired one, a failed Scholar roll results in the uncontrolled power of the ritual being released causing strange side-effects whilst a failure on the final roll depends very much on the desired effect of the ritual.
If you’re looking for further inspiration for ritual use or one method of using them in your games then I highly recommend that you check out the Crestfallen RPG.
We suffered some technical difficulties with our last Jadepunk session video that lead to the audio for one of the players not being recorded at all on the live-streamed video; I’ve been looking into ways to prevent this in the future, but rather than leave a gap in the playlist I decided to record a summary video.