The Mind Palace
|"A crisis is an opportunity riding the dangerous wind"|| The run takes place in the Month of the Descending Bear in the Twelfth Year of the Bear since the Regency Council was formed|
The run takes place at the Winter Academy, and the mountains to the west.
Master Zhou, Takanata, Lijuan, and Xian are waiting at the Winter Academy for their appointment with Huan Ken. When the siege engineering professor does not show up at the expected time, Takanata sends a student off to find him. The student returns to report that the Master is in his office, but the flag on the door says "Do Not Disturb". The students have apparently learned not to mess with the little flags - this student is a first-year, and doesn't know what happens when you disobey a flag, but the senior students have warned them most carefully. The student continues to explain - Huan Ken has a lot of different flags, indicating Do Not Disturb or Off Lecturing or Come In.
- "We have been stood up." -Takanata
- "HUAN KEN!!!!!" -Master Zhou, shaking his fist at the sky
They go, and look at Huan Ken's door. Sure enough, there is a small flag hanging outside - it is red with a yellow X. (No, it is not a Dragon Army flag. Nor is it a silent hunter gesture.) Well, there is nothing to be done, then. The door is closed, and there is a flag. Perhaps the run is over.
Takanata, unwilling to be defeated by a closed-door which can't even bother to be locked, makes a resolve roll to knock on the door. Oooh. He needed a resolve roll. Everyone is now even more impressed with the flag. However, there is no answer. Well, now there is definitely nothing to be done, then.
Takanata peers at the door with yin, and thinks that it is not magic, but the flag does have some mojo behind it. The effect is chaotic and not familiar, and Takanata suspects that it's an eight-die flag that had fifteen dice dropped into it and isn't able to be efficient. Takanata sends a student to tell Master Hong that Huan Ken is not available or answering his door, and Takanata is planning to go in shortly. No messenger returns from Master Hong, but a small group of students begins to lurk at the end of the hallway, watching with interest.
Takanata puts on his tinfoil hat and opens the door. Inside is a disorganized office, with maps everywhere. Huan Ken is kneeling on the floor, looking at a particular spot on one of the maps with a magnifying glass. (No, the maps don't appear to have cartogramancy).
Master Huan jumps to his feet, a little confused that the group is early (they aren't), but excited that he has found the location of the palace. He wants to thank them for the introduction to the Cryptomancer, who has been so helpful.
- "This is your fault." -Master Zhou, gesturing to Xian
Huan Ken explains that he was recently consulting on the Black Spire, using the Master's knowledge. But so much of it has been lost! But in discussion with the Cryptomancer afterwards, that one said that he might be able to find more of the lost knowledge. His cryptomancy failed to do so, but he asked his secret spidery overlord, and then drew a map to the Mind Palace of Huan Ken.
- "The Cryptomancer was not at all what I expected, but I must thank you for the introduction."
The group is curious - how is it that he is named Huan Ken? He explains that there was a paperwork mistake with the Dragon Army; he spent a year trying to fix it, but it was a bureaucratic nightmare, and he thought he would never be able to get his pension set up properly. Then, one of his squadmates gave him a book on the Master, Huan Ken, and he was so impressed with what he read that he kept the name in homage.
On closer questioning, he says that the original snafu was about two years ago, which Takanata notes is about when the ghosts of Huan Ken showed up in Killing Ringmaster Te.
So - now he has a place to go, and all field trips by faculty with the party are are pre-approved, so they should all head off to the Mind Palace.!
- "It's like the Hand of Destiny is speeding us along!" -Huan Ken
Takanata reads his I Ching, which is unusual:
- "This house is built on no foundation." -Xian
Everyone is very suspicious about the "ancient eyes" line. Could he actually have Huan Ken's eyes somehow? Master Zhou thinks about that with Interpret Omens - no, his eyeballs have not actually been transplanted from a dead man. It's more metaphorical than that: he sees things that are lost, and he sees them as they were before they were lost.
- "You should train with me." -Master Zhou
- "Is that your tradition?" -Huan Ken
- "It is tradition for the men to train with Master Zhou in the morning." -Xian
Master Zhou determines that Huan Ken has Dragon Army basic standard training, and is the student of another master. His aspect is Spider, and his general potential is not up to him. He is not quite, but almost, the world's first Wallomancer.
Master Zhou tells him the more secret knowledge about Huan Ken, that it was actually two individuals, twins who were an earth sorcerer and an architect. Huan Ken is impressed at how well-informed Master Zhou is (little does he know!), but thinks that explains things. Master Zhou also warns, darkly, that Huan Ken was a servant of the secret spider overlord that the Cryptomancer spoke of - who is trying to take over the Empire to make it the Spider Empire. Also, the Spider is a skinwalking demon who is trying to take over the Cycle. Huan Ken starts to get the look that people often seem to when the party starts ranting about the Cycle Spirits actually being skinwalking demons, that is usually a preface to changing the subject, and after some more attempts to persuade him, Huan Ken concedes that this is all very interesting but is not really his plot.
Takanata tries to decide whether the party will be more happy with the outcome of the run if they push him more towards being Huan Ken or not? The answer is a little fuzzy - one cannot tell the winner of the game before the game is played. Pushing him to being more Huan Ken is starting the game; Takanata would be happier with winning the game, but Master Zhou would be unhappier with Huan Ken. (Xian and Lijuan suggest pumicing Master Zhou to make him get over his obsession about Huan Ken, but he says he's good. )
The discussion has been entertaining, but Huan Ken would really like to go and find the Mind Palace, so people head off to the location on his map that he has found, in the Craneslake Heights. After some travel and some searching, an entrance is found.
- "An entrance? Is this a Mind Palace or a Tomb of Horrors?" -Master Zhou
Exploration begins of the Mind Palace, in the standard hat-mechanic-esque way. The initial rooms are uneventful, and the first room of note encountered is the Tower. This is unusual, as the party seems to have gone down into the ground, gone around a few corners, and come to the base of a huge tower that could not be seen from the outside. Once atop the tower, which is windowed with panoramic glass, Huan Ken gestures them to wait. He looks at the room carefully, and thinks for a bit. Then, he says: if you do the thing that the room commands you to do, then you will gain the insight. But if you do it significantly, you'll gain the insight and the power. (It has to be significant to the person who does it.)
Master Zhou looks out the window, looking for the Dark Pagoda.
- "You think it is in the near term future, perhaps at 7pm [the next minirun]." -Mike
It is co-located with the White Pagoda, anchored to the trail so that some people go to one pagoda and some go to the other.
Lesson: "Lesser men building the tower can not see as far as the man who sees it before it is built."
Nummy: From the highest point in any city, you may gain insight into the political structure of the city merely by examining the layouts of the various buildings and roads.
(Master Zhou has gotten one use of the nummy, but Huan Ken has gotten it as a shtick. )
The group climbs back down the tower, and explores further. They turn back from a broken stairway, and a den of white wolves, before deciding that they can't flee all the dangerous hallways. Everyone but Xian can climb down the broken stair, but Xian falls. Huan Ken notes that her damage can be healed, but it will make it more dangerous for her if she attempts to encounter a room.
The next room of note is the Throne Room. This one is trickier than the Tower, because there are not people here to rule. Takanata wonders whose throne room it is, but it seems to be almost intentionally generic, in a way that would let it be decorated into something very close to many existing throne rooms.
But whose throne room should they turn it into? Master Zhou might be able to take over the Yellow Silk school from here or Huan Ken could take over the Winter Academy - but neither of them seems particularly inclined to do so. Lijuan notes that she has a Pack Leader shtick, so she could sit on the throne of the Bear. Huan Ken thinks that would be fascinating, but it probably wouldn’t work, as Lijuan would need to have some sort of deeper connection to Bear for that to be plausible. Everyone coughs.
Xian thinks "throne of the Bear" is a crazy plan, but nobody else has anyone they really want to rule, and Lijuan wants to use this to fix her aggressive Panda schtick.
The group redecorates the throne room to look more like what they imagine Bear's throne room looks like, Lijuan sits on the throne, and decrees that her shtick is gone. The shtick goes away, and Lijuan gets the feeling that Bear approves. (Also, a point for Foon in the Foon versus Siew mechanic, counteracting Takanata's accidental recent meddling.)
Lesson: "A king sits upon the throne. He may think he has built his nation, but only the architect can build his palace." Nummy: You can modify a room to enhance or detract from the social stats of anyone at the focus (usually, but not necessarily, a throne).
The next perilous section of the mind palace is the hedge maze, but people pass through without undue peril, and the Library is found, and it seems to be demanding “research”. Master Zhou wants to try to make it Tortoise's library, using his library card, so he can leave the books he wants to give Tortoise in exchange for learning Monkey kung fu. People aren't sure that counts as research per se, but Huan Ken thinks that since Master Zhou is trying to research Monkey kung fu, and this is a step in the process, that it can be finessed.
Lesson: "In architecture, try everything. If it works or fails, you have learned something." Nummy: You may freely generate up to 100 research points for a ritual design focused on a building.
The library is a dead end, though, so they have to retrace their steps back out through the hedge maze, and up the broken stairway with ascension grapples, and find the Dungeon.
So... this would be a useful place for imprisoning people, or interrogating them, if there was a prisoner here. Is there anyone in some other prison? The new Mola Ram got thrown into the Coil, but nobody has a pass with Serpent. Or maybe someone could be broken out of a prison. Huan Ken is a little dubious - that is not the lesson the Master is teaching here. On the other hand, other people note, maybe they should be teaching some other lessons.
Nobody can think of any friends in prisons, but there were some political prisoners in Kali's dungeon that got left behind when rescuing Gi-Su. Lijuan takes the Monkey Talisman and the Amulet of Kali, and they lock her in the dungeon, which Huan Ken has decorated to be very dungeon-of-Kali-like. Then, Lijuan escapes, and elsewhere, the prisoners escape.
Original Lesson: "A spire can lift the spirit, a dungeon can break it. The true architect knows there is no difference." Nummy: You can modify a room to suppress one class of shticks and forbid their use within. New Lesson: Go big or go home.
(After the party has brought forth the throne room of the Bear, the library of the Tortoise, and the dungeon of Kali, Huan Ken is definitely learning that new lesson.)
The next room is the Solarium, a place of persuasion and conversation. Xian has lots of things she can do here, but a way to flip the lesson (which people are starting to think is a good idea) would be to make it more about enlightenment and education, without an agenda in mind. Xian tells Huan Ken about how sometimes our heroes are flawed, and how with great power comes great responsibility. She tells the story of the Monkey King, whose intentions were good - and her own intentions were good - but he (and she) ended up nearly destroying the world.
Original Lesson: "Make your design as you will. If it is true, your users will conform their use to your design." Nummy: You may modify a room to give a particular argument additional weight (+5 successes to all persuasion type rolls). The argument is fixed until the room is changed. (Requires money and time proportional to the importance of the argument..) New Lesson: With great power comes great responsibility"
The group makes its way through the Haunted Gallery (the ghosts aren't really the spirits of the dead, Takanata thinks, just features of the building) and into the Study.
This one is tricky, because he already knows the lesson here: In architecture there is no evil, there is only opportunity." So teaching him a new lesson would be tricky, and no one makes a roll.
Nummy (no one gets this): Nummy: You may generate one hint/suggestion for a plan defending / attacking / infiltrating / otherwise focused upon a particular building
The next room is the Courtyard, which Huan Ken notes is a martial practice courtyard, so some sort of fight is appropriate. Rather than stage a combat, Master Zhou trains everyone in Kung Fu.
Original Lesson: "Strike with your fist, and you harm a man. Strike with your architecture, and you immortalize your name." Nummy: You may prepare a location to give one side an advantage (-1 difficulty) in a combat that occurs within a building you have improved (or designed). Actual lesson: share your knowledge with others.
The last room of interest is the Gate Room - as soon as they enter here, Takanata severs Huan Ken's future from the Huan Ken present in the Mind Palace. The walls of the room go grey, and there are no lessons. Huan Ken screams, falls to his knees, and begins to weep, as he realizes that he has been judged as unworthy by the Master. Everyone else is a bit shocked.
The party takes the broken Huan Ken back to the Winter Academy, and asks that he be looked after.
- "We're going to have to talk about how really skilled people can make mistakes." -Xian