|"Do not commit all to one boat."|| The run begins on the Day of the Serpent in the two hundred and fifty-eighth year of the Bear since the opening of the Exalted Library.|
The run takes place principally in The City of Light
Shen-ji gathers people in Tahiti to get assistance for the Dragon Boat Festival which will be happening in the City of Light. The group head south to Olive Partridge Island to get a briefing from Shen-ji's wife. House Sakong wants to know if they should hire rowers or if the party is going to do it. They decide that some will help row, but others will keep an eye out for shenanigans and plots.
There will be twelve boats in the big race: five noble houses, five merchant guilds, and a couple of others, including the apprentices of the Exalted Library. The Sages will keep an eye on things to make sure there are no shenanigans, and Kuan-Xi notes that she should also do so. "No shenanigans" is good for making it Dragon-y - or, at least, people who commit shenanigans should probably not win.
Shen-ji will be the Sakong boat captain; the rowers will be Master Deng and some hired rowers.
The party tours the river race course in a little boat belonging to House Sakong. They note some other little boats doing the same thing.
- "Isn't that that mage that hates you?"
One of the little boat has Yuwen Fire-Eye in it; another is carrying the Talisman of the Whale. After the little boats row around for a while, another set of boats come by, ordering everyone to shore. Then a boat carrying the King of the Illuminated Precincts goes around looking at the course as well.
After the King's boat has gone, the party spots another boat farther ahead, throwing pebbles in the river. Shen-Ji thinks there is some sort of earth magic in them. The party boat waits until the mysterious pebble-throwing boat moves along, and Kuan-Xi swims down to get one of the pebbles. It seems to be filled with pre-programmed bits of magic - throwing a little bit of magic at it will cause it to invoke a lot of pre-cast spells.
The party heads to the mouth of the river, at the coast, and drops the pebble into the water, where Shen-Ji tries to summon a sculpture underneath it. The pebble flings itself at him, and then holes his boat. Kuan-Xi and Deng bail, and the rowboat limps back to Olive Partridge Island, where they borrow another boat and head back to the river racecourse to investigate further.
Kuan-Xi hunts down another pebble, and the group heads to another branch of the river to test it. This time, the caster is on shore, and the pebble is in the water vaguely near the shore, the boat is at a third point of the triangle. Kuan-Xi, on shore, casts a spell to dry Xiao Fa, in the boat. Again, the boat gets holed. Obviously, this is a plan to sink other boats by casting harmless spells on them.
Shen-Ji and Kuan-Xi spend half the night searching the riverbed for pebbles, and come up with a bunch. It's 3am, so the race officials are probably not up any longer, so the group decides to wait until morning to report.
In the morning, Master Deng is dressed in the Olive Partridge house livery (olive and gold), and gives an inspirational speech to the other rowers. He brings some duplicating paper, in order to communicate with the others. The dragon boats take their places at the starting line, and the sages acting as referees are on hopboats along the course.
Kuan-Xi goes to report the pebbles to the sage at the starting line. The sage frowns, and says that sounds like a shenanigan point. Kuan-Xi is sad; does that mean reporting shenanigans is itself shenanigans? No, but the sages can only keep track of shenanigans that they know about.
Yuwen Fire-Eye is in the boat belonging to House He. The King is bestowing his royal blessings on a boat belonging to another one of the noble houses. Are there any other potential sorcerers? The only one that Shen-ji notices is Renyu, who has water magic - he and Kiri are in a two-person dragon boat.
Xiao Fa ingratiates himself with the Precincts Regent, and gets into his entourage in order to get into the VIP viewing area, where the King is. The King is talking to some other VIPs who are explaining about the grand tradition of the Dragon Boats, though the King is a little less psyched. After all, they might all just sink. They'll see what happens.
Xiao Fa introduces himself as Lo Xiao Fa, but no one seems to take that as an omen. How did it used to work? Cycles and cycles ago, there were fabulous races, the winner would be greeted by the emperor and granted a gift or a boon or something. But let's wait a bit to see if they all sink or lead to insurrection or what.
Xiao Fa asks if Kuan-Xi can work for the sages as a shenanigan-detector. The king asks if she would like to work for the king instead - in case the honor of the race needs saving? Xiao Fa agrees to that, so the King tells him to make it so. There's no need for him to meet Kuan-Xi, and he notes to the Precincts regent that if she destroys the race, he's never met her.
The race begins.
Dragon Boat Mechanic: 5d12 are rolled; those are the boats that pull ahead or fall behind. Most boats have a d8 of rowing, but some have more (Renyu's boat is a d12) and the Library Apprentices (who try twice as hard) get to roll 2d6 and pick the better roll. If there are duplicates on the 5d12, then the boat with the duplicate gets to roll twice and pick the better roll. The second worst roll is the pack speed, so the boat with the worst roll falls behind, and the other boats pull ahead.
Master Deng checks for nearby danger, and senses monsters in the water up ahead. He writes a note on the duplicating paper; Shen-Ji has to grab an oar to keep the boat from falling behind. Kuan-Xi stays in the shallows, puddle-jumping ahead to keep up with the boats.
In the first few rounds, Renyu's boat (boat 11) and Yuwen Fire-Eye's boat (boat 1) pull ahead due to some lucky rolls. Then they reach a stretch where none of the sages' hopboats can see anyone, and the shenanigans start to come out.
Shen-Ji's boat (boat 4) catches on fire, and Kuan-Xi puddle-jumps over to it and douses the flames. She can see into the water somewhat to the monster that Deng has pointed out, and notes that it has tentacles.
Each of the merchants guild boats is a strength-based guild assisted by an int-based guild. The charcoal burners (boat 10) throw a paper airplane (prepared by the scribes' guild) over to boat 9, House Yeoun's boat.
- "Watch out for the blue blue yellow yellow kraken kraken blue kraken? This doesn't make any sense."
Renyu's boat bursts into flame, and the rowers in another boat shout about pebbles. Kuan-Xi notes that Renyu is using something a lot like her "current" shtick (taking their boat from a d8 to a d10), and he has one level of "repel sea monsters" up, but he probably has some other magical effect getting their boat from a d10 to a d12.
Tentacles rise from the river and grab boat 9. Kuan-Xi notes a flare of magic from near the VIP area, and passes that along to Xiao Fa.
- "I can put out the fire by filling the boat with water." -Renyu
- "You do not understand how boats work." -Kiri
Xiao Fa notes that there are some artists in the VIP box - one is painting the King, and one is painting the boats, and a third is painting a picture of Boat 2 way out in front (which it is currently not). He thinks the third artist is using chi for something...
- "Should I do something about this, or should I Imre further?" -Eon
Yuwen's boat continues to do well, leading to some complaints about replacing the dice. However, despite continuing to get actions, her boat mostly rolls 1s on its d8s, so it keeps falling behind anyway.
- "Shenaniganers never prosper!" -Xiao Fa
More boats catch on fire, and the kraken tentacles start flinging rowers into the water. Shen-Ji shouts to the sage's hopboat to watch Boats 1 and 2 in particular for shenanigans.
Kuan-Xi starts to fish a rower out of the water, and then Golden Flame, on a golden-clad seahorse, surfaces to rescue the other rowser. Boat 6 (the Smiths' Guild, assisted by the Alchemists' Guild) turns out to be the one unhappy that their pebbles aren't working - if they were working, surely the boat setting other boats on fire would have sunk by now.
Xiao Fa stands in between the artist and the boats, and warns him that he should stop what he's doing lest Xiao Fa expose him - or worse. He thinks Xiao Fa is bluffing, but Xiao Fa grounds his chi and bounces the boat-zooming effect he's trying to do.
Boat 10 reaches Boat 6 (the Library Apprentices) with another paper airplane about kraken.
- "Ooh! A research note!"
Yuwen sets Boat 6 on fire, but the sages spot it this time. Kuan-Xi and Golden Flame rescue the Library Apprentices from their set of kraken tentacles. Boat 2 offers Boat 1 a royal favor to trade places, but Yuwen doesn't go for it. Pao extinguishes the flames on Shen-Ji's boat and Yuwen's boat gets far enough ahead to pass the Line of Doom where the monster Deng spotted lurked. (Renyu's boat has passed the Line of Doom already, but his protection from sea monsters effect is still there).
The Sharktopus emerges from the depths, to grab Yuwen's rowers, but instead of flinging them in the water, it looks ready to eat them. Golden Flame starts chopping the sharktopus, and another sea horse comes up from the depths of the river. Dressed in green and carrying a pennant showing a golden dragon on a green background, Prince Ti Jun goes into battle against the sharktopus as well, and rescues a guy from mid-chomp.
Kuan-Xi rescues some of Yuwen's rowers to deliver them to shore, and Golden Flame does the same, but returning them to their boat. That leaves Yuwen down several rowers and they only get to roll a d6.
Ti Jun and Kuan-Xi fence over who is telling the other one to rescue people (and thus getting more credit) as they fight the sharktopus, and Shen-ji sets it on fire for an added bonus.
Up in the VIP viewing area, the artist tries again to boost Boat 2, and Xiao Fa chi-blocks him. Shen-ji hits Renyu's boat (now closest to winning) with a dispel magic, and Yuwen sets it on fire again. Boat 2 trades the King's Favor to Renyu to swap places, as the charcoal burners throw more paper airplanes.
That leaves the Library Apprentices, dogged and so far cheat-free, to make a final push to reach the finish line first.
- Library Apprentices (Boat 6)
- House Tsong-pi, the King's Favorite (Boat 2)
- House He, Yuwen Fire-Eye's boat (Boat 1)
- House Sakong
Prince Ti Jun and Golden Flame come up to congratulate the winners, and Ti Jun, as a duly acknowledged scion of an Imperial line, has the privilege of presenting the winner with the pennant of Imperial Favor (the golden dragon pennant).
The King is pleased to learn that in addition to an Imperial Prince saving people, the Princess of the Northern Seas who was saving people worked for him.
- "Oh, well done me."