|"One beam, no matter how big, cannot support an entire house on its own."|| The run begins just before the Day of the Dog in the early Month of the Dog in the Tenth Year of the Dog since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place in principally the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival
After the close of the Night of Gates, everyone returns to Tahiti. Now that people are out of the habit of getting missions from the Prince, there is some discussion of Investigating the Dire Hamster, but that doesn't seem like much fun either. Well, perhaps they should get a mission after all.
The Prince of Benevolent Oversight seems healthier - and also more assertive - than he has been in the past. Deng asks about the next mission, and rolls a seven!
At that point, it begins to occur to people that since they've been doing all these missions for a week, perhaps it is time to go and brief the King. After a lot of dithering about whether or not they need to get a mission as well as briefing the King, people head to the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival to request an audience with the Lord of Benevolent Oversight. Kuan-Xi's status is high enough that she can get an audience within the day, and as they enter, they note a woman in black and silver (later identified as Lady Chow) leaving and looking cross.
The Lord of Benevolent Oversight is pleased to see the group, and trusts that Lord Li and Lord Zhu out are on the business that they have discussed? A bit of clarification proves necessary, but what the King means is he hopes they are off dealing with the politics. Hmm. Well, they have done some politics in their missions. For example, the House of Ornamental Purity and the House of Transparent Vessels are planning to merge to form a new house - they'll be rolling on that this turn.
His Majesty says that he has received assurances from the Houses of Beneficent Travel and Gainful Protection, and of course the House of Benevolent Oversight itself - all are pledged against the war effort. He understands that the House of Exuberant Interference can be counted upon as well? Everyone shuffles their feet, as there are no official members here, but they think so.
The King believes that the Houses of Judicious Increase, Quiet Concordance, and Resplendent Decoration are all doing their own thing and not dedicating their military to the war effort. That will probably suffice for the first turn, but for the second turn, more will be needed. He does not know what the House of Enticing Vintage plans. In any event, the actual dice rolls will happen immediately post-run, so he hopes that any points of mystery can be cleared up first, and perhaps any houses who are not on board with the plan can also be helped along.
Those with Sense Motive think that he's projecting a little extra confidence as far as his conversation with the party is going - in particular, he's more concerned than he's saying about the houses who have defected, and he's also concerned that Lords Li and Zhu aren't here, as he doesn't understand the run mechanic.
- "Okay, that sounds like it's all good, so we should get a new mission." -Master Zhou
- "But if we roll another seven, that's no good."
- "Well, dire hamster it is." -Min Feng
What is the House of Quiet Concordance up to? Xiao Fa says it is working on spiritually protecting the Tanzhe.
Min Feng does some investigating around the city with Gather Information to try to hear what the other houses are up to. She hears that the House of Judicious Increase is shopping around an incredibly lucrative business opportunity, but Enticing Vintage is the only one that sounds likely to bite.
She wonders where Ezokin is - it turns out that he's in the capital. Hmm. That sounds suspicious. Given that the House of Judicious Increase has to do with money, he's probably involved somehow. Or maybe they can get him involved if he isn't.
Well, should they go talk to Ezokin? Maybe not yet.
The group heads to the House of Enticing Vintage, and asks to talk to Liet. The majordomo is sure that Liet would wish to speak to Xiao Fa and Master Zhou, but she is currently en route from the Dragon's Throne, and should be arriving tonight or tomorrow morning.
They decide that talking to the HEV is probably important, so they decide to speak with the Lady of the House (Liet's mother). She is, alas, also unavailable because she is meeting with a representative of the House of Judicious Increase at this very instant. Min Feng sneaks off to try to eavesdrop. She nearly runs into some guards, but hears some snippets of the discussion.
- Something is not going to be a problem, because Interference is running all over the country taking care of it.
- The profits from the venture will take care of something else.
- Some other thing can be fixed in a future turn, but they need to roll on this soon.
Min Feng hurries back and gives everyone a quick briefing on what she overheard. Then, the servants come in and tell the group that the lady of the house will see Princess Kuan-Xi and entourage. Kuan-Xi hurries to clarify that this is not an official meeting. She starts by saying that they have been working diligently against the incursion - hmm, this is starting to sound official after all. But, they're here to talk about what is being done to counter the invasion. The Lady (who really needs to get named) notes that times of great peril are in fact times of times of great opportunity: two of the smaller houses are uniting, for example! This would be an excellent time to take advantage of the opportunities, provided the military situation is well in hand. Kuan-Xi hedges a bit about the military situation - it might be okay now and for the second turn, but not after that. The Lady nods - so if there is anything else to occur, it should be done with quickly? Master Zhou, concerned that this conversation is not going in the desired direction, notes if this turn does not go well, it will be difficult to recover. The Lady notes that Enticing Vintage is not the most military of the Houses.
Kuan-Xi and Min Feng lean on wanting to know about who is planning what at cross purposes to the military defense of the country. The Lady doesn't think it is against the military defense, just in other directions. There is a lot of guilting about the Existence of the Kingdom being at stake.
Master Deng suggests that if they knew what the goals were, they could accomplish them instead. The Lady understands that Exuberant Interference has a history of antagonism with some of the houses involved. So she is loth to just tell them the plans and allow the party to thwart them - this would be a betrayal on her part. Would they be willing to undertake promises to not interfere? If so, she would be happy to discuss plans.
- "Otherwise, discussing the plans of your rivals seems highly inappropriate."
She invites them to return in the evening for dinner - Liet will be back by then, but she will not have had a chance to brief Liet yet until the morning.
Kuan-Xi wonders if they could offer to not thwart the plan, if Enticing Vintage promised to roll their military for the next two turns. This doesn't seem like a very friendly sort of bargain - do as our house says or we'll spike all your plans. There's no carrot there. Could Min Feng just go in and steal all the plans? She's not sure she can pull that off, unless they are conveniently left in a clearly labeled folder.
Well, should they go talk to Ezokin? Maybe not yet.
Off to the House of Resplendent Decoration, to talk to Myo. He doesn't think that his father has been entertaining the House of Judicious Increase's offers. There are wolves at the gate (quite literally), they're worried about business in the Dragon's Throne exploding, and there are people all over the place muttering about invading the Tanzhe Plain - there's no time for a plan of simple profit-making plan with Judicious Increase right now.
- "You guys do have the North under control, right?" -Myo
What does Myo know about people invading the Tanzhe? He knows that both the Forest of Chin, and the Plains of Honor are interested. Illuminated Precincts is unlikely to directly invade, but they're looking to set up a mutual defense pact that lets them take over.
What's going on with the Dragon's Throne, then? Apparently the House of Bian is still giving them trouble. It isn't a trade war yet, but they're trying to expand into the Arcade and the Taiga, and it's a "trade cold war". Ah - was that why Liet was in the Dragon's Throne, too? Myo says, technically, she was there to thwart him, but secretly she was there to work with him to thwart each other in a way that they both came out ahead, as they do.
Anyhow, Myo hears that Exuberant Interference has made some payoffs, and the Forest and the Plains aren't trying for this turn. But he's still concerned with the Precincts, and their house been planning to roll Influence to stall them.
However, he has also heard that the Judicious Increase plan is to buy land that's currently under enemy control, for cheap prices, in the expectation of value going up again after the war is won. People wonder if Lord Nikoze is spearheading the plan - Myo hadn't heard that, and would be surprised if a lord of Benevolent Oversight was running a Judicious Increase plan. People continue to mutter darkly about Lord Nikoze, but Myo doesn't have the automatic assumption that he is behind everything. However, Myo doesn't want Judicious Increase to recruit Liet's house - the balance between their two houses is tough to maintain, and it wouldn't do to have them get rich while he is distracted.
Does he think that she could be pushed towards defending the country instead? He expects so, but it would be good to outbid whatever they're currently offering. What are they currently offering? A couple of Res points, apparently. He's surprised that Liet would fall for that low an offer. Well, okay, technically, they haven't fallen for the offer yet, and Liet doesn't even know about it. But her mother is listening to the offer.
Myo does note that Exuberant Interference is likely to be the only house that doesn't take a resources hit, since they have the Tanzhe. He also agrees that three separate countries all planning invasion could be a coincidence, but it is unlikely. Myo also mentions that the House of Judicious Increase used to be the Royal House, before the last Treaty of Houses. They're always on about how they're the descendants of the Magpie, blah blah blah.
So... if the plan is to get the House of Enticing Vintage more Resources, what does Judicious Increase get out of it? They already have a nine resources and can't go higher. Unless they break the stat cap - and that might trigger a whole new Treaty of Houses. Ooh, so this is actually Judicious Increase's plan to become the Royal House again.
Myo notes that Resplendent Decoration can take a move to thwart Enticing Vintage instead (he and Liet can plan that out so it goes well). Does that help? In that case, will Exuberant Interference deal with the Precincts? They confirm that the Plains have been bribed, and a letter has been sent to the Forest, that might postpone things for a bit. But they don’ thave much plan for the Precincts as of yet.
Next question: if Judicious Increase did their plan but no one else supported them, would they fail? Myo doesn't think it would fail, but it wouldn't be as profitable. And they wouldn't be able to break the stat cap without help - you can't just increase your own stat by making a roll.
How long has Benevolent Oversight been in charge? Master Zhou points out that this is the tenth Year of the Dog since the last Treaty of Houses, but Myo says he isn’t an astrologer and no one else is up to multiplying by twelve.
- "It's the Third Month of Secret Coyote..."
Myo invites them to dinner, if they want to sort out the plans, but the group demurs - they already have a dinner plan.
The next step may be to talk to Ezokin, and find out why he is trying to overthrow Benevolent Oversight? Min Feng checks to see what Lord Nikoze is officially up to. He is apparently here to give the Lord of Benevolent Oversight more intelligence on cooperative measures between the House of Benevolent Oversight and the Dragon Army in the north.
Master Zhou contemplates what he knows about Ezokin's psychology. If this isn't his plan, then if he finds out about it, he would likely try to piggyback on it, because that's basically what he does when he hears about other people's big plans. But it probably depends on how he finds out.
- "So if we do the plan on behalf of Ezokin instead of them..." -Master Zhou
Kuan-Xi consults her Scroll of Answers:
- Does the House of Judicious Increase have a fallback plan if the House of Enticing Vintage pulls out? Yes.
- Is Ezokin involved with the House of Judicious Increase plan for this turn? No
Xiao Fa thinks about the Dragon-ish implications about the Arcade and the Imperial Succession. (The most obviously Dragon-ish way is to have the richest house be in charge, but the whole treaty thing seems to be working okay at the moment.)
Well, should they go talk to Ezokin? Maybe not yet.
A digressionary argument ensues as to whether Ezokin is a bad guy (Master Zhou thinks so) or just someone whose goals aren't always aligned with the party goals (most other people are starting to lean this way). Xiao Fa notes that while he doesn't necessarily care for all Ezokin's choices, and is selfish and careless, he is taking in refugees and protecting them to the best of his abilities, and Kuan-Xi thinks he does care about saving the country (but is very decidedly Team Magpie). Master Zhou thinks he is sufficiently uncaring about consequences to other people that he counts as "bad".
The group heads to the House of Enticing Vintage for dinner. Once the wine course is served, politics may be discussed, and Liet's mother says that Liet's friends have expressed concerns over any plans that may or may not be occurring. However, she cannot break her word regarding the existence of any plans, so she's going to retire for the evening and brief Liet in the morning. Liet looks confused.
- "So, that means you get to tell us about your house's plans to join with Judicious Increase to buy up all the lands in the north." -Master Zhou
- "I had not heard about these plans." -Liet
- "Well, we have told you about them now." -Master Zhou
Liet agrees that the House of Judicious Increase can't increase its resources without extra shenanigans. So, if this is a plan involving shenanigans, is that good or bad? Liet notes that there are always people on the coattails of someone making a major power play, and it's good to be on the coattails and bad to be in opposition. Min Feng notes that it's poor form to gamble that other people will defend the country so they can profit, but Liet thinks that this sort of gamble is not unheard of for Arcade politics. You do have to go all in, in order to win, and that does have risk.
Min Feng says maybe they're not used to it because the House of Exuberant Interference wasn't founded for profit, it was founded to defend the country. Liet nods neutrally, and thinks that it's interesting that they ended up ruling the most valuable territory in the Empire in that case.
Kuan-Xi wonders - isn't Liet concerned about messing up the balance between the House of Enticing Vintage and the House of Resplendent Decoration? Liet says that Myo goes on and on about "balance" but what that really means is he doesn't want Liet to beat him. So no, she's not worried.
Liet's final point is that going along with the plan isn't a stab at Benevolent Oversight, it's a stab at Gainful Protection. Everyone expects someone to make a play, and if it isn't Judicious Increase it will be Benevolent Oversight. And no one wants them!
So is the ideal situation to set up Judicious Increase and Gainful Protection to take each other down? Hmm.
So - Judicious Increase has someone as a backup plan who isn't Enticing Vintage. Does Liet know who it is? Liet points out that she only just learned about the plan from the party, so she doesn't know any more details that they haven't told her.
- "So, Master Zhou can probably advise us better on the tactics, but if there are two plans, one of which we know and one of which we don't, shouldn't we go with the one we know so that we can thwart it if we need to?" -Liet
Master Zhou notes that only four out of eight houses are defending the country this turn, and Gainful Protection isn't committed for the third. Well, maybe Enticing Vintage should make sure to commit for the third. Is Exuberant Interference committing to defending all three turns? Master Zhou says they'll be defensive one way or another, but exactly how remains to be seen.
Kuan-Xi asks her Book of Answers for a short essay (10 points!) on the plans of Judicious Increase and their allies.
Anyway, Liet has a breakfast meeting with her mother, so the party agrees to meet with her at lunch tomorrow.
At this point, it's getting kind of late. Should they go talk to Ezokin? Maybe not yet.
Late Night Planning
So, what are some potential options? Can they get the House of Resplendent Decoration to thwart Enticing Vintage, while the House of Exuberant Interference stalls the Precincts?
If Judicious Increase has its way, then the next three turns are:
- Both Judicious Increase and Enticing Vintage do the plan, and it helps Enticing Vintage more
- Both Judicious Increase and Enticing Vintage do the plan, and it helps Judicious Increase more
- Retake the North
If Enticing Vintage fails in round 2, or is thwarted, then Judicious Increase is thwarted, but if Enticing Vintage gets the nummy in round 1 and then defects, then Judicious Increase will put all its efforts into destroying them.
Xiao Fa points out that perhaps this is all worth briefing the Lord of Benevolent Oversight about. Kuan-Xi goes by the palace and manages to get an early meeting scheduled with His Majesty the next morning.
Min Feng sends a note to Ezokin:
She throws her charisma into making it sound more like a counter-offer rather than a threat.
In the morning, the party briefs the King on what they have discovered so far. He is, as expected, quite concerned at the idea that both the House of Judicious Increase and whoever joins their plan are going to "defect", and not roll their military until the third turn. He says he could step on one of them to bring them in line, but that would lose his hold over Gainful Protection.
The Lord of Benevolent Oversight also asks if the party has discovered what the other houses have are doing. Well, Quiet Concordance is spiritually defending the Tanzhe. And Resplendent Decoration is defending the Tanzhe too.
- "I know that the House of Exuberant Interference is invested in the Tanzhe, but do we really need three great houses defending it right now? Can we agree, in theory, to lose the Tanzhe if it means saving the country?"
- "...In theory."
The King thinks that with the scoreboard points that have been accrued so far (now that he has been briefed by the Prince, his optimism is more grounded in fact), the campaign doesn't actually need the House of Judicious Increase this turn, but he also doesn't want them to get off their crazy "overthrow the government" plan. Can the party make that not happen? They say that it would be useful if they had some sort of political capital to offer people, or things that they can do outside of the house turn mechanic. The King thought the Prince was enabling them to do "stuff outside the house turn mechanic". Well, yes, he did let them do one thing that merged minor houses, (and the other thing that got the House of Beneficent Travel on board), but a lot of the other things that they have been doing have been against the North.
Ah - another thing that the King points out is that half of any points that they don't need for a military success will carry over to the next turn.
It doesn't seem like the Lord of Benevolent Oversight will be able to offer them any huge bribes that they can give to Enticing Vintage or Judicious Increase, so the audience concludes, and the party regroups outside.
Does the party have any huge bribes that they can offer people? Enticing Vintage is not in the middle of a trade war so they can't offer to stop it the way they have been working on with Resplendent Decoration. Are there any new markets that they can offer access to? Hmm. Hey, maybe Kuan-Xi can arrange to have them declared the Official Vintners to the Golden Palace!
Kuan-Xi and Deng go to find Old Hop for lunch, while everyone else goes to meet Ezokin. (The meeting with Liet gets moved to dinner.) Is there a plan to offer Ezokin? Well, maybe he will come up with his own. If they put all the cards on the table, he might offer them a deal instead.
- "We could just kill him and then he won't be on the plan." -Master Zhou
In order to find Old Hop, Deng and Kuan-Xi go out drinking. Not a fancy upscale place, because Old Hop probably can't be found there, and not a dive, because Kuan-Xi wouldn't be caught dead there. Something in the middle. Deng is pretty good at holding his liquor, but Kuan-Xi gets kind of tipsy. Old Hop raises a glass to her in toast, and she drunkenly explains the plan to him. Could Enticing Vintage sell the Golden Palace rice wine? Or have the Prince's warrant to have them sell wine to the Palace?
Old Hop points out that he doesn't make the Golden Palace rice wine - Pai the Smith does. He just drinks it. He's not sure that Pai would go along with a plan where they just send her the rice wine and she passes it along. But she might be willing to take an apprentice from the House of Enticing Vintage. However, it is important that they only sell the Golden Palace rice wine, not the Golden Palace rice wine. The actual Golden Palace rice wine is only for Old Hop - that's what he gives to people. If they were to start selling that, well, the Huntress would probably come for them.
Meanwhile, everyone else descends on Lord Nikoze's house. Having received the note from Min Feng, and a business proposition over breakfast from the House of Judicious Increase, Ezokin is both confused and intrigued. Having just gotten the offer of a lifetime - he'll get a house roll that converts straight to successes cubed in tael - he is also told that Min Feng has an even better deal. So, what is it?
Min Feng hedges a bit. What is Ezokin's investment in Lord Nikoze's position in Benevolent Oversight, anyway? If Judicious Increase succeeds in their plan, then they'll take charge and his title will be worth a lot less. He admits that they hadn't told him that part. So... does Xiao Fa have a better title on offer?
- "Consider the fringe benefits of offering me an Imperial title. I would be motivated to make sure you succeed!" -Ezokin
Min Feng says she would like to see them at a place where they are not always at cross purposes, and Ezokin would like nothing more!
- "Nothing more? Excellent!" -Master Zhou
Ezokin didn't actually mean that he would do everything they ask him for nothing more, and he and Xiao Fa get down to haggling. Xiao Fa has already promised Judicious Increase that they can be the masters of the Imperial Mint, and he doesn't think Ezokin will go for any sort of "assistant third underminister" position. They settle on "Imperial Receiver of Taxes" - all of the incoming taxes will pass through his hands (even if only symbolically) to be deposited in the treasury. Master Zhou staggers around in disbelief at the magnitude of this boon, but Ezokin agrees to turn down the House of Judicious Increase.
The two lunch parties regroup and head to dinner with Liet. Kuan-Xi is still a bit tipsy, but she explains about being Ho Kuan-Xi, Princess of the Northern Seas, and Receiver of Petitions of the Golden Palace, and her offer to have Enticing Vintage supply the rice wine for the Golden Palace and the "special" rice wine for Old Hop (the Herald of the Golden Palace, the Drunken Master). She also remembers to warn them about not selling the "special" wine, lest they be hunted down by the Huntress.
The House of Enticing Vintage will also turn down the House of Judicious Increase's plan, and Kuan-Xi asks them to roll military to support the North.
- "Really? I mean, if that's the deal, I guess we can do that, but shouldn't we fight the North?" -Liet
- "Wait, no, we're still drunk. Against the North!"
Master Zhou offers to train Liet again, and gets a bit more insight into the whole Liet / Myo thing. Since they're stuck in the "star-crossed love plot" narrative, actually getting married will probably doom them both, so they're avoiding that.Things seem mostly on track for the country turn rolls, so people retire back to Tahiti in satisfaction.