Beating the Drum
|"They cannot be seen because they creep only in the dark."|| The run begins on the Day of the Early Dog in the Month of the Dog in the Seventh Year of the Dog since the thirty-fourth Great Northern Invasion|
The run takes place in Stone Drum
After having helped Fa Mulan escape the North, the party (Kuan-Xi, Li Merit, Wei Han, Cai Wen, Xiao Fa, and Shen-Ji) is hoping to help defeat the invasion plan by heading to Stone Drum, where tunneling wyrms are expected to break through.
Wei Han wonders whether going through the tunnels from the Winter Academy would be faster, but that seems likely to involve dungeon crawling and battling monsters the entire way, so probably not. The Winter Academy students note that in the tunnels, the monsters are oddly level-appropriate, and the maps are square. Plus you can get extra eps. Considering it, folks decide that doesn’t seem to be enough of an advantage to expend the time.
How about manipulating the feng shui of the area to determine where the Northern-est terrain is and determine where the tunnels will surface. Xiao Fa's shticks won't do that quickly. Wei Han has a "target invaders" shtick, which with some karma will let him predict (in mechanic, move around) the breakthroughs.
Merit wonders what wyrms are like. Well, a Great Wyrm probably has a thousand or more hit points. Wyrms often have breath attacks, especially the larger ones. Additionally, the act of tunneling causes earthquakes, and then there are the tunnels they leave behind. Taking out the beastmasters who are controlling the creatures is probably good, but that doesn't necessarily mean the wyrms would just turn around and go home.
Having done all the briefing and planning that people can think of, they head for Stone Drum (the normal way, rather than through the tunnels). Near the city, Xiao Fa notices that it isn't Northern soil exactly, but there does seem to be a substratum of squares underneath the hexes, causing an odd spatial phenomenon that ends up compressing both time and space. The battlemap is the size of an entire city, and hexes are hexes for movement, except for the lines between city districts, which take longer to cross. Threats will begin to crop up around the city in drift, and will need to be dealt with.
Everyone has a potential ally group which can also eliminate threats, but first they will need to be mobilized (except for Mulan, who has her companions as an ally group from the start). Clues as to the locations of these groups will be found in "clue" hexes on the board. Any particular combination of ally group and threat will have a certain chance of victory, and another chance of being destroyed. Some allies will be better suited for some threats than others.
Seeking and Finding
Mulan heads for a pink clue, and runs across some soldiers from House Xing and House Tsui in the process of evacuating the ambassador. Merit dispatches a strike team to look for clues. Shen-Ji looks at an orange clue, which is a parchment on the wall with a dagger through it:
The style sounds familiar, but he can't place it, and he has to make a will check to avoid fleeing the city.
Xiao Fa investigates a green clue, and finds a public opinion board with a flyer complaining that it is inappropriate to be planning a royal wedding during these times of emergency, and suggesting that the royal wedding should be put off.
Cai Wen investigates another pink clue, but a footsoldier from House Mong regards him with scorn - Zhu Cai Wen is well known to be a lackey of House Foon and the soldier will not be telling him anything. Between this and Mulan's clue, this suggests that the pink pagoda (another spot on the map) has House Xing / Tsui folks, so maybe Shen-Ji should go recruit them.
Xiao Fa finds an aid station, where they give him food and a care package for evacuating with, and also grant him double move only towards the edge of the city.
Only one peril is drawn in the first drift:
In addition to the riot, Northern soldiers are beginning to emerge from tunnels.
Mulan reaches the light pagoda on the map, but is blinded until next drift by a light that shines out (since she hasn't found the appropriate clues yet).
- "Do not go there. Zero stars, would not visit again. I am writing you a very stern Yelp review, building." -Mulan
Shen-Ji reaches the pink building, and in fact there are soldiers and mages from Houses Xing and Tsui as an ally group.
Wei Han investigates a yellow clue, and learns that there are reinforcements over in the Bitter Laurel district. Kuan-Xi checks a blue clue and overhears that it's all going sideways - a messenger should get to the plain and inform both the Governor and the Secret Master.
Xiao Fa heads to Gingko to put down the riot, and gives a stirring speech to the rioters - they're better than this! Get a buddy! Time to evacuate!
- "Come with me if you want to live!" -Xiao Fa
Merit investigates an orange clue, and is nearly hit by a flying knife thrown by a voice in the darkness. (Merit thinks the voice is Hirosoto's.)
- "You should not be here. Strike this into one of your enemies and you will be taken to safety."
Xiao Fa leads the rioters to safety, trying to shield them from the attacking Northerners, but he and his halberdiers take a lot of damage from the invaders.
Wei Han makes it to the Laurel district and gets his ally group - Dragon Army reinforcements. Cai Wen investigates a green clue - Rubberlegs is panicking, and looking for Li Merit.
In the next drift, two perils start, both in sector 4.
The Dragon Army reinforcements take on the small wyrms. (Mechanic-wise, they are sufficiently victorious that they aren't killed, but two more clues show up to get them back. )
Wei Han and Shen-Ji engage with the remaining two larger wyrms. Some things learned about wyrms during this battle include:
- Wyrms will emerge from their tunnels if melee attacked,
- Wyrms in melee do not use their breath weapons,
- Wyrms can attack anything along their length, as well as attack their primary target,
- If a wyrm's foe goes down, this will distract the wyrm for an action while it eats them, and
- Wyrms have substantial damage reduction as well as armor.
Cai Wen finds a dark clue (a rock) and is given the option of exchanging hidden truths for aid. He says he truly loves all his molls, which is on first blush not very much of a hidden truth, but conceals a fairly large point of leverage, so it earns him aid.
Cai Wen finds a cyan clue, and learns that Lin Fortune and the Danger Squad are at the cyan pagoda, though they haven't told Xiao Fa yet, since they've been suborned by Cai Wen.
In the third drift, three perils happen:
Kuan-Xi has found Gou as her ally, and plays him on the looters - his roll is remarkably bad, but he does quell them. Merit visits the blue pagoda and finds Gipeno, Yue Ping, and some of their adventuring companions as an ally group.
Triangle Wyrm nearly eats one of Xiao Fa's halberdiers, but Xiao Fa intervenes with his magic shield, and Wei Han intervenes as well. Finally, Triangle Wyrm writhes its last, but Square Wyrm is still causing trouble.
Merit's strike team (the clue hunters) delivers him a glowing rock which enables him to ask a question. He asks about the weakness of a Great Wyrm. Well, if you let it eat you, you can't dodge or parry the damage, but if you aren't immediately killed, your own damage will be on the inside of its armor and damage reduction. Hmm.
The armored abomination monsters go after the light-emitting building - this seems to be their strategic objective. They presumably do get blinded, but this doesn't stop them as much as one might hope.
The next drift has three more perils, but thankfully no wyrms:
Gipeno and Yue Ping are delegated to get Yue Ping's parents (the First Servant and wife) out, and the Danger Squad is sent after the wall - they have previously shown talent for attacking architectural features. They succeed well enough that they can return. Mulan's guys are sent after Grandmother Tsien (with a stirring speech from Mulan about having their story go on elsewhere), but have to stay sitting on her to keep her out of the city, and don't come back.
Cai Wen checks the scoreboard - four drifts down, two to go.
Mulan finally gets to fight alongside the Dragon Army reinforcements, and her "Against the North!" grants them free attacks.
Merit heads to deal with the abominations to try doing... something. He's not sure what. When he gets there, it becomes clear that it's a Pagoda of the Sun, and it's in trouble. Merit ponders the closest way to find a shtick in 'control armored abomination' shtick? Possibly from the beastmaster in the tunnel that he could abase himself in front of. Is there a White Lotus buddy who could confuse the abominations? Possibly someone has a sword that can reflect weirdness, allowing him to reflect their confusion attacks. He could get it delivered in the next drift, though.
Then the pagoda topples, and the Daughter of the Sun is surrounded by the abominations.
Deliveries aside, getting new perils sounds like a terrible idea, so Merit declares no drift after 6 this turn.
- "We strike for honor, we strike for the Empire, we strike Against the North!!" -Mulan
Merit thinks that umber hulks (what the abominations are) don't like their reflections, and finds a mirror in his pocket. He tries to gesture to them that breaking the mirror will kill them all, but they just aren't that smart. Maybe he can fill the hole with water to drown the beastmaster, but it's a different battlemap, so that'll be mechanistically difficult.
Kuan-Xi, who has been making it rain to deal with the granary fires, runs in on raindrops, grabs the Daughter of the Sun, and puddlegates out again (taking with her +1 chi master (Xiao Fa), who has just arrived.)
Square Wyrm finally goes down, and Merit spends a karma to declare that there is no drift in nine either. Victory!
Cai Wen takes his assistance-from-the-Moon marbles home with him ("block that card").
The Pagoda of the Moon, having not fallen, is able to provide some intelligence - the Beastmaster of Men has worked with the Beastmasters of the Direwolves, and they have created what we will call "werewolves", which were unleashed on the Arcade along with the direwolves during the attack. Basically, they are men who are animal enough that ordinary beastmasters can master them.The Pagoda of the Sun fell, and thus provides no intelligence on the attack on the Wall in the Steppes.