Unified

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"A single stick will not prop up a whole building" The run takes place late in the Month of the Dog in the Tenth Year of the Dog since the Third Treaty of Houses.

The run takes place mostly in Daizhou.

Previous Run

Contents

Messages

People relaxing at Tahiti, as usual, when the butler arrives, bringing some mail. Unfortunately, the courier appears to have gotten rather soaked, and the letter from Takanata is waterlogged. Kuan-Xi dries it out, but much of the ink has run..

We found Hana, she has been rescued, probably won't return soon, [...] Don't forget to ask [...] [...] upcoming [...] [..]

People contemplate what might be found in the splotched and waterlogged sections, and Sei-Lin pipes up - while everyone is thinking about it, they should go to the Golden Spire so he can talk to Serpent. It isn't clear if multitasking will help quite so much, so people continue to think about the letter. Yanyu puts some facts in order of importance:

  1. Takanata sent a missive
  2. The message concerns the rescue of Hana
  3. It is raining
  4. Parts of the missive are missing
  5. The courier failed to protect the message from the rain

Master Zhou suspects that the message counts as an Omen sent by Takanata, but doesn't have enough of a guess for his interpret omens to get anywhere, other than that Hana and Sam are not the people who should not be forgotten to ask.

Cai Wen thinks that "about the upcoming" refers to something in the realm of spirit and ritual.

Well, spirit and ritual points to the Golden Spire, so perhaps Sei-Lin was right after all. Off the group heads to the City of Spires.

When they reach the Golden Spire, the group finds that there are some guards outside, not dressed in any particular livery. They apologize politely - their Master is nearly done. Yanyu chats up a guard, trying to get him to hint about who it is, and the guard apologetically replies that there is no way he could tell her that she would appreciate.

Hmm, that might mean it is Li the Wanderer. Yanyu and Sei-Lin walk around the block, while everyone else waits politely - since Kuan-Xi is one of those waiting, Li does not whammy them on his way out, only nods.

Once at the top of the Golden Spire, Yanyu places the Blessing of the Serpent on the scene. Sei-Lin, however, is not a great meditator, and has to roll for nines. Master Zhou, frowning, tells him to imagine himself in a calm place, and doubles his dice. This takes Sei-Lin from one success to two, which really isn't enough to contact Serpent. He gives up on the meditation, and starts looking around for a secret button he can press instead. Yanyu thinks that whatever he is doing is dispelling her serpent mojo, and decides to let it go.

Much to everyone else's surprise, Sei-Lin discovers that on the sigil of the Phoenix, some of the precious stones have been swapped out with other stones. It doesn't look like valuable gems have been replaced with fakes, so much as perhaps damaged gems have been replaced with whole ones. Shen-Ji thinks that the look is more one of art restoration than theft, except that the gems may now be set slightly lower than they were before, making it more difficult to come into contact with them during meditation. And, as far as he can tell, the restoration doesn't seem to have actually been necessary.

So... who owns the Golden Spire? It's not an Imperial building - it might officially be owned by the king, but he would never be so gauche as to say that. It is thought of as a treasure of the city. But if one were to report vandalism, it would probably be to the King (or his steward).

"This is certainly interesting, but did we make any progress about Sei-Lin's Serpent quest?" -Kuan-Xi

After some more fussing about with meditation, Kuan-Xi decides to summon Anto, who says he can find out something to steal for Serpent. Well, that should take care of that.

Cai Wen tries meditating on Butterfly, as a test. He wonders, what things are he worrying about and trying to control or understand that he should not try to control or understand. After some time, he thinks that one, he should not obsess too much about the details of mechanics in the future, and two, Takanata's message said to remember to ask Yanyu about the Night of Gates.

A Mission

As all the distractions have been dealt with now, the party heads for the Benevolent Operations Center.

Once again, Lady Jin seems to have vanished moments before the party arrived, and Sei-Lin is sure that she is dodging him. Cai Wen finagles the die roll into a nine, and has to flip a coin - he thinks that's a choice between Daizhou and Gate of Shen. The coin comes up Daizhou, and the Prince speaks the prophecy.

"THE TIME HAS COME. UNITE THE FACTIONS."
"It's about bloody time." -Tom

Everyone retreats to the map room to do some research. Intelligence reports indicate that there is a lot more active sabotage in Daizhou than there used to be - not just during runs, for example! Since the Northern council was shattered, there has been more infighting, mostly aimed against the necromancers.

That seems to be as much as can be gleaned here, so it's time to head north. Cai Wen recruits Ayuki to come help, as "sneaking into an enemy city" is something she thinks is fun.

With a reasonably perceptive ninja to help, sneaking through enemy territory isn't too bad, and the party soon gets close enough to Daizhou to see the city walls. Security seems to have increased since last time - no surprise there - but is strangely balkanized. One section of the walls is patrolled by animals, including hawks circling overhead. Another is patrolled by ghosts (visible to those with the ability to see them). And the third section has razor-sharp barbed wire, which Shen-Ji notes will damage anyone "armed" (including battlemages and the like). Shen-Ji puts on a choker of seeing ghosts, which the ghosts notice. That seems likely to trigger an alert, eventually.

A multi-pronged plan to get in takes shape.

Ayuki hands all her weapons to Sei-Lin (she has a lot), and then Cai Wen flies across the razor-wire wall using the Rod of Flight, carrying the now-unarmed Ayuki. Sei-Lin climbs stealthily over the wall past the animals, and is not spotted.

Then, Sei-Lin chops at the animal-district wall using Wolf's axe, long enough to be a significant distraction, and then Shen-Ji hits the battlemage-district wall with Dispel Magic and Melt Metal. Then everyone remaining outside climbs through the area Shen-Ji has cleared - Kuan-Xi still takes quite a bit of damage, but everyone else is relatively unscathed.

The recent crossers dash to the beastmaster region. Things seem more or less okay there - there are sounds of merriment from inside, but any groups of people in the street are being followed by cats.

Shen-Ji feeds the cat which is following the group, and then dispels magic on it. Once the cat-tail is no longer a problem, they head to ULF headquarters!

Meetings

There's a guy sitting outside the United Liberation Front headquarters, reading. He recognizes Shen-Ji, though, and the group can go in. Lu Chi is inside, working at a dais at the head of five other tables, going through a lot of papers.

"Who presents themselves to the ULF?" -Lu Chi
"It's time to unite the factions!" -Shen-Ji
"The factions are already united - don't you see the tables?"


Lu Chi explains that the ULF is the umbrella organization, including all the others, and with enough time to talk it out and follow the meeting rules, they'll bring everyone together as the Founder intended. When it was the three groups (the Daizhou Liberation Front, the Liberation Front of Daizhou, and the Unified Liberation Front) things were making progress, but then the Alternative Freedom Coalition showed up and there were a lot of 2:2 statemates. More recently, the Daizhou Freedom Coalition has joined, so things don't deadlock as much, but five-person committee meetings go slower than three-person committee meetings. When they finish hammering out a constitution, then they will go forth and liberate the city.

Yanyu wonders why she has not taken over all of the groups, as she is clearly the most competent of them. She frowns and says she was going to, but then she ended up married to both of the two brothers, and they outnumber her. But eventually the DLF will be in charge, as the Founder intended.

"Who is the founder?"
"The Founder's true identity is shrouded in mystery, but I will recognize her when she returns."

Yanyu presses her for more details about the Founder, using True Conversation. That gives her a clear mental picture of the Founder, so Yanyu is now sure that if she ever sees the Founder, she will recognize her. But it isn't a recurring NPC that she can think of.

Now that she has more details, though, she can use some more of her shticks, and she realizes that the Founder's aspect is Coyote.

Oh.

Right, so Xian founded the DLF the very first time she came to Daizhou.

"So we did this to ourselves?"
"You are using "we" in a broader sense than I am comfortable with." -Shen-Ji

Cai Wen checks the scoreboard, and determines:

Key Known Name
DLF Daizhou Liberation Front
LFD Liberation Front of Daizhou
ULF United Liberation Front
AFC Alternative Freedom Coalition
DFC Daizhou Freedom Cooperative

To get a full unification plan, it appears that they need to learn the key for each of the groups, and come up with a plan to use it.

Time for a quick recap on what everyone knows about the groups already. The DLF is headed by Lu Chi, and the LFD is run by the two Lu brothers, Lu Yin and Lu Yang, who Yanyu married to her in a previous visit. But who is the leader of the ULF?

Lu Chi leads them to a room behind the dais, where there is a heavy wooden box. Sei-Lin eyes with interest - is it loot? Not really. She opens the box, displaying the Bylaws and Rules of Decorum. The rules were voted on at the first meeting, and were written by the original three-person committee (that is, the three Lus). On a brief perusal, they appear to be Robert's Rules of Order, the Persnickety Edition. It is an interesting founding document, written by and for people who knew they were going to disagree about everything, so they wrote in mechanics to resolve the disagreement, and mechanics to resolve the disagreements about how to resolve the mechanics, and so on all the way down.

It is also interesting, because while it is obvious that the document was partly written by the Lu Brothers, they just don't have that much bureaucracy, and even Lu Chi doesn't seem to be as bureaucratically intense as the Rules are. It was... written by a committee of the whole, composed of the three of them. No, not even that, it was written by a subcommittee that submitted it to the committee of the whole, and then subjected it to an amendment process.

"When I was here before, there were monks and they did kung fu..." -Master Zhou, forlornly

The key to the ULF is apparently to make a bureaucracy roll that is higher than the sum of the rolls of the five other members. Hmm. Would it be possible to increase the difficulty of the roll? The party has a lot of bureaucracy skill. If the roll were made on a point of privilege, that would be rolling for 9s, but there would have to be a point of privilege to be made - they wouldn't be able to just declare it for 9s.

Key Known Name
DLF Daizhou Liberation Front
LFD Liberation Front of Daizhou
ULF United Liberation Front
AFC Alternative Freedom Coalition
DFC Daizhou Freedom Cooperative

Can Cai Wen use Seat at the Table to join the ULF? The shtick alone wouldn't just make him a member, but it would smooth the way. If he had his own Liberation Front, that would help a lot. He would need some sort of bona fides of course - not just declaring himself the leader of the New Liberation Team.

Well, what were the bona fides that the other groups demonstrated in order to join?

The AFC set fire to a barn, proclaimed their responsibility, and then melted into the night until they showed up at a ULF meeting.

"Was this also us? I think this was also us." -Master Zhou

It does seem clear that any time someone recruits a group of thugs for a distraction, they level up into a liberation front.

The bona fides of the DFC are less well documented, but they helped a lot in reducing the killing and brutality among the Free People of Daizhou when the Council of Northerners fell apart.

Lu Chi sits in the DLF representative chair, and explains that they're based in the south, in battlemaster territory, which is a reasonably safe place to be. They don't really care what you do as long as you don't attack them, so that's the best place for secret plans.

Then she goes on the dais and sits in her ULF chairman chair. They're based in the east, in beastmaster territory. The East is no good for sneaky operations outside, because there are birds and cats and things always keeping an eye out. But you can generally do what you want inside, as long as you make sure that none of the animals get in.

The LFD is based in the north and west, but she can't speak for them.

New Groups

Sei-Lin wonders whether he could find an old buddy in the area where Merit recruited the proto-AFC thugs. Sure, the buddy can hook him up. Sei-Lin admits that his friends want to talk politics with him, but the buddy is dubious - the AFC is more about action than politics. Sei-Lin gets instructions on contacting them, which involve going into a particular bar with two lanterns, and asking for a Red Brew.

When he heads there, the barkeep thinks it's pretty early for a Red Brew, but Sei-Lin uses his thief reputation to convince the guy that he wants in on whatever is up.

"Tomorrow, some poor fool is going to the ULF meeting, and the rest of us are raiding the town hall where all the stolen loot is."

Meanwhile, Kuan-Xi starts in the south, to see what information she can gather, and turns up a safehouse for the DLF. The instructions are to go to a particular door, knock twice, count to three, knock twice and go in. She does so.

"What can we do for you, in the Founder's name?"

The DLF seems to be aiming to be helpful to those who need it. They have food distribution, safe houses, and so on. Kuan-Xi tries to persuade them that maybe they should be proceeding to the liberation part of the plan, but they're waiting for the Founder to provide that, and in the meantime they are laying low and preparing, as instructed. And they do seem to be doing good, just not overthrowing anything just yet. How does the DLF hide from ghosts? They don't. They just avoid calling attention to themselves.

The ULF can get Kuan-Xi and Master Zhou in touch with the Daizhou Freedom Cooperative, and they bounce safehouses.

"We're trying to free Daizou." -Kuan-Xi
"We're all trying to free Daizhou."

The DFC folks say they are trying to concentrate on the people, to make the transition safe and prevent deaths. Is Kuan-Xi looking for an alternative to oppression?

"Do not all people seek freedom from oppression?" -Master Zhou
"But they do it in different ways."

How do the DFC deal with being in the north? Aren't the necromancers dangerous? Well, as long as you don't draw attention during the day, it's mostly okay. Night is more dangerous. But they're working with everyone, and making things more safe.

"Peace and harmony that's the whole point."
"Can you have peace in a war?"
"We've lost the war. It's time to build a new Daizhou, with freedom from violence. Freedom from oppression."

Kuan-Xi is pretty dubious that you can get that sort of freedom here, but the DFC person says that the secret is not to get rid of the oppressors, but to get rid of the oppression. They have managed to win a concession: no abominations in broad daylight! It only took a little bit of concession on their part - they won't go into the graveyard.

Not all the necromancers are so cooperative - you have to do a lot of research and understand the enemy. But their own infighting is making them weak enough that they have to deal. In particular, they negotiated with the Keeper of Skulls, who is much more reasonable than he sounds.

Do they know how to get in contact with the other factions? One suggestion is to go to the next ULF meeting and file a petition or a grievance meeting.

How to get in contact with the other factions? They suggest going to the ULF meeting and filing a petition, or a grievance letter. They don't have other contacts except through the ULF, they're too new.

Can they tell the story of who founded the DFC? They say they don't have a Founder - they're a Cooperative. But the general story is: the original members of the Cooperative were the ones who sung about the betrayal of the necromancers. They would weave their songs through with moral lessons about making things better for each other, and steering away from violence.

"Yeah, that was us." -Master Zhou

The next day, when the necromancers struck back and murdered some of the other council delegates, it seemed like singing might not be sufficient. So they switched from mocking songs to calming songs, with little compliments to butter them up. And that seemed to go better - so they gave a little more and the necromancers gave a little too, and now they have streets that are safe to walk.

Master Zhou offers to train the DFC guy in kung fu and seeing the unseen, which will definitely be helpful. After the sparring, Master Zhou has the insight that the guy glossed over the secret in the founding, because he doesn't know it. There was singing, and mocking, and then some people died, and then someone had the brilliant idea to capitulate, and they've been capitulating ever since.

That's the important point, and - yes, this front is partly founded by Northerners, but they don't realize it.

Key Known Name
DLF Daizhou Liberation Front
LFD Liberation Front of Daizhou
ULF United Liberation Front
AFC Alternative Freedom Coalition
DFC Daizhou Freedom Cooperative


Master Zhou, feeling guilty at abandoning his ONE ORIGINAL CORE BELIEF, leaves the guy to be abominated by Kuan-Xi. She persuades him that the northerners have co-opted his group, and that they should join with the other factions. The guy gets kind of wild-eyed and angsty, but he believes her.

"It seemed so clear, before she was working with us. Now we're put in these terrible situations with Northerners, and we have to capitulate..." -Master Zhou

Meanwhile, Cai Wen has gone to the south district, to look for the LFD.

He finds the Lu brothers, strategizing. They should go in and propose a committee to decide who should be running the ULF, to be voted on by the group leaders. And since there are two of them, they'll have an advantage in the vote.

Cai Wen quickly learns something that the party has learned before - the DLF was founded by the Dragon Army, and considers themselves thus to be the official liberation front. So that's the key to their group.

Key Known Name
DLF Daizhou Liberation Front
LFD Liberation Front of Daizhou
ULF United Liberation Front
AFC Alternative Freedom Coalition
DFC Daizhou Freedom Cooperative

So that just leaves the AFC. Cai Wen contemplates what happens if they don't get the key to all the groups, and decides that while it isn't necessary to control all five factions via their key, the plan to deal with each group needs to take the key into account - otherwise, the group might secede.

Sei-Lin, off at the AFC, determines that their key is that they'll listen to anyone who goes on a successful mission with them. Sei-Lin says that if they run the mission earlier, he'll go to the meeting as their representative, which none of them are really keen to do. They will happily take that deal. However, their plan was more of a raid on the building, while Sei-Lin wants something more of a thiefly plan. (Recall, this particular group leveled up from a bunch of mad bombers.)

Since it has gotten fairly late, the raid on the town hall goes montage style.

  • Sei-Lin: get as much loot as possible
    • 16 Tao, 24 Ransacking
  • Shen-Ji: take down any barriers in the way
    • 6 Tao, 24 Destruction
  • Cai Wen: Get all the records
    • 7 Tao, 25 Intelligence Analysis
  • Master Zhou: Free the prisoners
    • 8 Tao, 28 Kung Fu
  • Kuan-Xi: Free the prisoners
    • 9 Tao, 31 sorcery
  • Yanyu: Keep the party alive
    • 7 Tao, 12 Medicine

Sei-Lin knocks out exterior walls, Shen-Ji knocks out interior walls, and Kuan-Xi and Master Zhou fling people around with abandon.

Loot:

  • 3 tael
  • Warhammer: +50 successes usable when you like
  • Sword of the North, made of bone, +2 successes north of the wall
  • GENERIC dragon army uniform
  • Orders for the Op Plan of the Beastmaster of Men
  • Wand that is super hideously powerful but unknown

Papers:

  • Written reports of the guy who is running the Daizhou Freedom Cooperative.
  • Mission plans and guard schedules and wall defense plans that will keep the AFC able to bomb things for months
  • A report from Kong Qiu from when he was still beastmastered, that indicates that something called the Crown of Imperial Wisdom is buried in a graveyard under a mausoleum on the grounds behind the house of Resplendent Decoration.

Prisoners:

  • 17 Dragon Army soldiers
  • The not-yet-lifeless body of the Daizhou Garrison Commander from before the Fall. (After he is given one of the party's biggest healing potions, he is able to stagger out under his own power.)

The AFC is quite pleased with Shen-Ji, because of the amount of setting things on fire he did, and he gets to be an honorary member too. Master Zhou is afraid that he cannot accept the honor offered, however.

The AFC takes two tael, Sei-Lin takes one tael, and the party takes the other stuff (and the prisoners).

Wrapup

The final plan is to have the four non-UFC groups become four branches of the rebellion, under the Dragon Army commander. He is unlikely to lead from the front after his durance vile, but he's still up for being a behind the scenes commander.

"Kuan-Xi, why don't you take Lu Chi aside and tell her that you know the Founder and the founder is Xian and Xian would want you to do what we say." -Master Zhou

Unfortunately, Kuan-Xi doesn't really believe that Xian would be on board with "and do what we say", which means she would be unable to whammy Lu Chi with it.

However, Yanyu has no qualms with using her epic powers of persuasion to convince Lu Chi that this plan is what the Founder would want, and that as Yanyu knows and works closely with the Founder. Indeed Yanyu is the greatest expert on the Founder.

Lu Chi agrees that this is what Xian wants, but she can't just take the DLC on its own path now, since it has joined the ULF and needs to obey the rules.

Cai Wen thinks that the main sticking point yet to come is that the DFC representative is likely to be a Northerner agent, rather than the guy that Kuan-Xi persuaded.

They run back to the DFC and provide the documents from the raid. This is sufficient to start convincing others, but what to do next is a question. Should they jump the Northerner? The DFC still isn't keen on murder, even against people who have tricked them. However, he's easy enough to jump, and Sei-Lin makes him pinky-swear to leave and not tell anyone. He does.

That makes the meeting population simpler:

  • DFC: Kuan-Xi's persuaded friend
  • AFC: Sei-Lin
  • DLF: Lu Chi
  • LFD: Lu Brothers
  • ULF: Chairman pro tem with the book for reference

The first order of business is to read the meeting minutes from the previous meeting into the record. Next, is there any new business? Sei-Lin says yes, but then yields his time to the Lu Brothers when they glare at him.

The Lu brothers suggest their new committee. The vote is 20 for and 18 against, until Sei-Lin weights in with his four votes against it (votes seem to come from bureaucracy successes.)

The next order of business is a motion to put the rescued Dragon Army commander in charge of a unified group. This is deemed out of order, because he has not been recognized, but then there is a Dramatic Entrance, and the commander is recognized.

The party's plan staggers along kind of drunkenly, since Sei-Lin is the only one with a seat in committee, and he is easily distracted and not keen on bureaucracy. However, after a lot of significant glances, the DFC representative gives her time to Master Zhou, who calls for a vote. Everyone else is basically out of order, but Master Zhou throws the works into his bureaucracy roll, and brings the motion to success.

The ULF is dissolved, and the four remaining fronts become divisions of the Liberation Army of Daizhou.

There is the ritual burning of the bylaws.

"I was expecting a little more combat and less paperwork, from a city filled with Northerners." -Ayuki