Politics in Motion
|"If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."|| The run begins on the Day of the Late Butterfly, in the month of the Butterfly, in the thirteenth Year of the Magpie since the Regency Council was formed.|
The run takes place in the Hidden City.
Takanata briefs everyone about the agreement he has made with the Alchemist following the discovery of the Alchemist's secret last run. Takanata and the party will not spread this secret around, and in return, the Alchemist will keep an eye on Toro, will share what he learns, and will not make any plans against Toro which are trapped or unnecessarily dangerous to Takanata's group. (Nor will Takanata make any plans against Toro which are trapped or unnecessarily dangerous to the Alchemist).
In more pressing news, Cai Wen notes that there is a complicated scoreboard going on throughout the city, corresponding to the Regency Council votes. There are votes scheduled on whether to allow the Dragon Army to send troops across the Northern Wall, whether to rename the country, and on the Qin Cho protocols. Some of the regents' votes are promised for some votes, and some of their default positions are known, but a lot of it is still unknown, including what the Qin Cho protocols are.
Takanata writes a poem:
The stepping stones are clear and plain
The mud between is thick
In the stones lies the path ahead
In the mud lies sharp edges - or fallen gold
Cai Wen notes that, having had the farewell party for the Silken Wings Circus, it would be good to officially send them away. They can make for the northern Arcade, with a possible loop through the hinterlands outside the City, and possibly stop for a practice session with the new performers before the PCs catch up to them.
Continuing with briefings, Shen-Ji notes that he gave the soul jar with Ming I's soul to Precious Jade. Cai Wen appears to lose his temper, pitching his voice loud enough (with the Projection shtick) to be heard well outside the room by anyone who might be prone to gossip.
- "YOU DID WHAT? I WOULD HAVE GIVEN MUCH TO SECURE HER RELEASE! AFTER ALL I HAVE DONE FOR YOU! YOU WILL PAY!" -Cai Wen
Shen-Ji is a bit boggled by this, but plays along with an argument. Okay, that probably counts for any onlookers as "dissension sown", as the Prince got the Marked to work on.
Regents, Day One
The group heads off to see Ishii Makato. The Beautiful Regent's secretary keeps being distracted by Cai Wen, but eventually shows them in to speak to the Regent. Takanata explains that they are interested in the next few Regency votes, and are hoping for guidance on how to support the Queen's suggestion of renaming the city. Regent Ishii says he doesn't see it happening any time soon - there are too many competing options on the table for it to succeed.
How about the "cross the Wall" law? The Shrouded Isle, the Strand, and the Illuminated Precincts are all dead set against crossing the Wall, although Kuan Xi has previously convinced the Shrouded Isle regent to vote for it thrice before returning to her usual position. The Regent from the Steppes is in favor. The Regent from the Arcade supports a crackdown against illicit wall crossing, rather than a pardon.
About the Qin Cho protocols, Regent Ishii has no idea - he thinks that someone needs to look into that. The current votes being proposed are the status quo (no protocols), or adoption of the Red, Blue, or Green manual. The vice-Mayor, the regent from the Hidden City, brought up the issue, and is in favor of Red.
Cai Wen chats with the Regent's new secretary, Hideko Koiso. She is very keen on the circus having stayed in the city as long as it has - she has been to every performance. She also notes that she has access to lots of passes, as part of her job, and she meets with the other regents' secretaries for lunch, at which gossip often happens. So, she could be a very useful resource for this mechanic. Koiso heads back to work, and the party heads back to Copper to consider things.
Mechanically, this has been seven Things that people did during the day. The group later figures out more of the rules of Busy Day-ness - each person doing their first thing of the day is one unit of busy. Doing a second thing counts for two, and so on. At the end of the day, ten units of busy causes one card (in which various other people mess with the votes) to be drawn; the second ten units of busy is two cards more, and so on. So splitting up and everyone doing a few things is more efficient than everyone doing everything, or one person running around and doing everything.
Takanata and Shen-Ji head to the Imperial Archives to look up the Qin Cho protocols, and many successes later, get a general briefing. Qin Cho was a philosopher many cycles ago, who wrote on the succession of power, and his words have been interpreted, translating them into reality through the art of bureaucracy, via three conflicting manuals of protocol which address the recognition of an Emperor.
Min Feng, Wei Han, and Cai Wen head to talk to the regent from Bear Mountain. Tea is provided. Min Feng asks if there is anything that she should make aware to Lord Yu? Ah, the regent asks - is she returning there soon? No, but she can send a messenger. The regent says that there is nothing urgent. Anyway, he does not personally approve of such newfangled ideas as changing the name of the country, but he has been told by the Masters of the Mountain to vote for dragons, so he is voting for dragons. As far as the Dragon Army, he thinks that those defending the wall are trying to shirk their responsibility by blaming their lapses on an inability to cross the wall, so he is voting against that. The arcane proposal from the Mayor, he does not expect to amount to much either. Min Feng says that she will return later to brief him on the ramifications of the other choices, but she does want to talk further about the wall-crossing law. The Regent thinks that obeying the traditional dictates of their forefathers is the way to go. Wei Han warns that it is difficult to hold the Northern invaders back because they can prepare their assaults from out of range beyond the Wall, and they will be worse next Winter. The ability to scout and strike outside the Wall will help. The Regent counters that the Wall has stood for thousands of years, and defending it is not suddenly a different matter - it is not new that the Northerners attack. And he does not want to support foolish ambitions of expanding the size of the Empire. Wei Han assures him that the law is not intended to authorize a full scale invasion; the Regent thinks that intention will not necessarily dictate practice. Cai Wen whispers that not crossing the wall is not actually tradition, but the Regent is beginning to think that Min Feng's companions are not very well grounded in reality. However, since Min Feng is an actual minister, he is willing to give her two votes.
The trio decides not to push on to the Dragon Army headquarters until the next day, so the day ends, and the machinations of others cancel one of the votes. Cai Wen checks with Koiso - apparently the Savanna regent is voting for being able to cross both the north and south walls.
Regents, Day Two
Takanata and Shen-Ji go back to the archives to do some more investigation into the manuals themselves. They work on the Green manual and the Blue manual, and Cai Wen notes that there is a new scoreboard with some cumulative score. Apparently it won't be a quick business. Takanata also discovers, curiously, that the Archivist has been directed against accepting bribes in matters related to the manuals.
Cai Wen goes to meet Koiso, who sneaks him in to lunch with the other secretaries. Apparently there is a vote coming up about the return of the Obsidian Warlord, who has been marching towards the Hidden City with his victory parade. Some regents want to throw him a victory celebration; others want to give him a general medal, but no other reward, as fighting Southerners is his job; yet others want to reproach him for losing men in a foolish mission. The Savanna regent is in the first camp; the Precincts are in the middle camp, and the Strand is in the third camp, as it isn't clear to them why he sent men across the Wall at all.
Takanata meets with the Regent from the Roof of the World, keeping the appointment he made in puttering.
- "I understand that you want to learn more of the events of the Gold Duke's party." -Takanata
- "They were, indeed, more momentous than I would have thought." -Regent
Takanata regrets that the details are not something that he can discuss, but notes that the general outline is that of a disagreement between himself on the Imperial Alchemist, and is something he can explain to her. In exchange, Takanata is interested in her throwing her support behind allowing the Dragon Army to cross the Northern Wall, in the next vote. She demurs - she is much more interested in passing a law that allows them to sortie in both directions, not just north, and sees the compromise position as the enemy to the true good. Takanata persists - he would rather win a small victory immediately, rather than spend more time winning a greater benefit. Well, she does understand why some might prefer that, especially Butterflies, and she is willing to trade a vote, if not change her opinion overall. In exchange, Takanata explains that the Alchemist is involved in a grand working to change the chi of the empire towards the Spider Empire, while Takanata is resisting.
As a followup, the Regent agrees to vote for "Throne of the Dragon" in the next vote, if the Beautiful Regent votes for crossing the wall in both directions in the next vote. (Koiso is willing to broker these trades, so Takanata can agree).
Cai Wen and Min Feng talk to the secretary for the Taiga regent, and get an appointment two days hence. Zhi-Hao and Shen-Ji are similarly able to get an appointment with the Savanna regent in two days. Xiao Fa finds that one of his Dragon shticks lets him add his status to his roll, but since he is still cursed, he is only able to get an appointment with the Strand regent in three days.
Wei Han and Min Feng head to the Dragon Army headquarters, to talk to Commander Hsiao about the crossing the wall plan. The Commander says that he has convinced several regents, but doesn't have enough pull personally. However, if there is someone who can stand as the champion for the Hon'eth Arcade regent in an upcoming duel, then they can get his vote. Ah - Zhi-Hao can certainly do that. The pair swings by to pick up Master Deng, and then heads to Obsidian for the duel.
The duel is apparently with a well-dressed man built like a blacksmith. A eunuch in black robes, bearing a ring of keys, arrives, and asks the parties to state their grievances. The regent says that he has no grievance, but the blacksmith claims that the Regent dishonored his wife and stole his work, which, as the master weapons designer for the Ivory Blacksmith's guild, is quite significant. Well, the duel must progress, then. To unconsciousness. Zhi-Hao notes that the blacksmith's sword is the most dangerous thing in the area.
Takanata, sensing that a potential anti-bribery one-on-one contest is in the offing, auspiciously arrives to brief everyone. He reminds Master Deng not to throw in any bribes, and tells the Magpie Regent that Master Deng would take it as a slight upon his honor if the Regent were to bribe anyone on his behalf. Money flowing into the contest would not be acceptable. The Regent notes that he plans to have some money flowing out, as he has placed some bets on the outcome. Wait, are there Obsidian Bookies lurking around?
- "When you're the Magpie regent, there's always someone to lay wagers with."
The duel is an epic one. The blacksmith has a Weaponsmith shtick which allows him to use his smithing as weapon skill for things that he forged, and the sword itself proves to have the ability to copy weapon shticks that are used in a fight with it. And, he's willing to throw li into increasing his strikes. Zhi-Hao's ability to disarm the blacksmith is his best tactic, especially once the blacksmith starts riposting his ripostes, and he sets the smith on fire with his own new sword, ironically bought from the Ivory Blacksmith's Guild just before the run. Zhi-Hao considers fleeing at top speed and throwing shuriken at the blacksmith, but this would be considered dishonorable, since it's a melee duel. Both are badly wounded before the smith finally falls.
The Regent declares that honor is satisfied, and picks up the sword "to keep it safe" until the smith comes around, but the party brings the smith around with a potion and he takes his sword back and stomps off, glaring at Master Deng.
Hooray, one of the public one-on-one battles for the anti-bribery mechanic is accomplished!
Cai Wen looks around the Silver District for the Thieves' Guild, and sets up a meeting to meet the boss on the morrow.
That ends the vote-mongering for the day. However, their opposition has sabotaged the voting, cancelling the next vote, which was the one Takanata was throwing support towards. Back to the drawing board. Some favors are also cashed in, altering some votes, and one vote gets a "pressure from home" applied to it, setting all votes on that day to their publicly declared positions.
Regents, Day Three
Cai Wen ponders what is going on with the end-of-day thwartage. They seem to fall into two separate categories - the vote-changing kind, and actual mechanic thwartage (like the vote being cancelled). This suggests that there are two separate sources for what is going on. However, the cancellation of the vote has also moved the meetings up a day, which is better than it could be.
Cai Wen and Min Feng go off to their meeting with the Taiga regent; Cai Wen is happy to provide some advice on matters before the Regency Council. In particular, he thinks that not too much need go the Obsidian Warlord's way, which the regent can appreciate. The Taiga regent is curious why the regent from the Isle of Beauty is so keen on changing the name of the country. It seems particularly pointless. Cai Wen allows as it is a directive from the Queen, an off-the-cuff action on her point. The Taiga regent is unimpressed, to send the council into endless rounds of debate for an off-the-cuff whim.
What information might be worth trading a vote for? Cai Wen offers information on the Magpie Regent's power structure in Illumineaucracy. The Taiga regent says he would be more interested in information about the new entrant who just took the Magpie down a peg.
- "I could offer you the single most important information about him." -Cai Wen
- "As long as it's not just your name, that could be interesting." -Regent
- "He is the Fox Regent, after all..." -Mike
Cai Wen agrees to tell him something more interesting in exchange for a vote.
- "I'm really much more interested in fighting the Lord Mayor than anything else."
As far as other bargains go, he is willing to offer a same-day appointment to anyone who can provide him with a clear briefing on any of the Qin Cho protocols.
Master Deng and Shen-Ji meet with the Savanna regent, who declares that he does not trade his votes for other votes. However, he is willing to trade for military intelligence. He is not too impressed by the potential military secrets of the "Beautiful Court of Distinction of the Beautiful Isle", as Shen-Ji terms it, but is willing to trade a far-off vote for a full briefing with what they know about the Seahorse Cavalry.
- "But if you can tell me what the hell is going on in the Steppes, we have more to talk about."
Shen-Ji starts trying to remember what that would be (he just spent ten years in the World Below, so his current events is a little iffy), at which point Takanata shows up auspiciously to help with the briefing.
- "On the Night of Gates, there were a number of terra cotta armies active in the Forest of Chin. One remains active with House Tsui, and the Great Dog Spirit intervened to take one to the Qin Chao Steppes and is deploying them there. That last is probably why your reports are confused."
The Regent thinks that that isn't quite sufficient to explain what he's been hearing - there would need to be a ranking officer from Bear Mountain in addition... Oh, so there is. Takanata notes that Kar Fai is currently in the Steppes. Ahah. There is an alliance there; the Regent had been sure there was.
In exchange, they ask the Regent to vote for just giving the Warlord a medal. As he was inclined to declare it a glorious victory, he doesn't want to go for "censure", but is willing to give them a vote for a medal.
As far as his position on the Dragon Army, he thinks that the law should be changed to allow sorties across both the North and South wall. Takanata leans on him with persuasion, and he is eventually persuaded that he will adopt "invade North" as a fallback position if the Butterfly Regent will adopt "invade both directions" as a fallback position.
Xiao Fa goes for his appointment with the Strand regent. There is no one in the waiting room, and he is bade enter through a more secret door, rather than the obvious one.
He explains that he is there campaigning for a vote for "The Dragon's Throne" on the vote three days out, rather than the "Imperial Web" name that the Strand regent has preferred.
- "Interesting. You prefer blatant deception to clear truth why? I understand the need to keep some secrets, but this one is a little obvious." -Regent
- "Let us call it not a blatant deception, but a subtle nod to the way things used to be." -Xiao Fa
Xiao Fa asks if there are any questions he can answer, which might be traded for a vote. The Regent considers, and asks him which regent successfully checked a Red manual out of the Imperial Archives today. Xiao Fa tries to see if he can deduce the answer, and she tells him sharply not to guess. Well, then, he doesn't know. Xiao Fa offers something interesting about the Imperial Alchemist. The Regent is willing to accept that, though she notes that something interesting about his apprentice does not count.
- "He has a plan to recast the Empire as the Spider Empire, not the Dragon Empire." -Xiao Fa
- "It has to be something interesting that I don't already know." -Regent
Ahah - he knows the source of the Alchemist's immortality. That, she doesn't already know, and Xiao Fa trades that secret - that he lured Speedy the Snail, a spirit of speed and time, into a battle with a lobster demon of stasis, and took something from the detritus of the battle - for a vote.
Cai Wen goes to his meeting with the Silver Thieves' Guild, noting that he is interested in a more permanent alliance, possibly in Illumineaucracy. What would they want in exchange for their support for that? The boss says that if Cai Wen can get them File J7 from the House of Butler, then he will give Cai Wen an uncontested roll to control them (“in the illumineaucracy mechanic of course, not in real life”).
It has been a minimal-actions day, and Cai Wen uses his "cheat at hat mechanics" shtick to choose which card is drawn. Something innocuous results, and the vote to make sorties and invasions by the Dragon Army over the North Wall legal passes.
Regents, Day Four
Takanata goes back to the Imperial Archives for some more research into the Qin Cho protocols. He also reminds the Archivist that he didn't do the favor he promised during the Gold Duke's party. The Archivist sighs, but acknowledges that he owes Takanata a favor, and stamps a little slip granting him 40 successes of bureaucratic successes towards Blue. With Takanata's own successes, that is sufficient for him to check out a large blue tome. The clerk notes that he is the first to check out the Blue manual, but he couldn't say who has checked out any of the others.
Cai Wen goes to talk to the Regent from the Steppes, who has a normal waiting room with a normal door. He's happy to speak to Cai Wen, as he is always pleased to meet with citizens from the Steppes. Cai Wen demurs - he's actually from the Arcade. Hmm, well, perhaps he would like an introduction to the Regent from the Arcade instead? No, Cai Wen really does want to talk to the Steppes regent. What does he think about the return of the Obsidian Warlord's campaign? The regent checks some files in his desk, and says that he's in favor of giving the man a medal. How about the name of the country? Could he persuade the regent to vote for "Dragon's Throne"? The Regent thinks that City of Gates is a lot more descriptive, but, let's do it the way it's supposed to be done. What is Cai Wen offering? Well, what is he interested in?
The Regent checks his desk and doesn't find what he's looking for. He checks a larger filing cabinet, and finds a fat file on the Silken Wings Circus. After looking through it, he says that he would trade two votes for favors to be named later from Xiao Fa and Master Zhou.
He invites Cai Wen to come by for dinner, with some friends. His wife will prepare a nice meal. He gives Cai Wen three Obsidian passes, and Cai Wen leaves, with a warm fuzzy feeling about the Regent. He's a nice guy, and is probably rolling for 6's against Cai Wen in any persuasion attempts.
Min Feng drops by the Imperial Archives, and uses Kuan-Xi's bureaucracy skill to get up to halfway through researching the Green manual. Cai Wen helps, bringing it close to done. Takanata auspiciously summons Fen-Xi, and asks him to take a look at the Blue manual. Fen-Xi is impressed Takanata possesses one - the city (or at least the city bureaucrats) are all talking about the Qin Cho protocols. He reads it carefully and then clarifies what is going on.
Endorsement by the Regency Council is one of the points in the larger "Become Emperor" mechanic. The endorsement gets you one point in the mechanic, though if you get a unanimous endorsement, you get two points. In addition, anyone who follows the protocols of a particular manual will get double points, if that particular manual is enshrined in law. (The status quo doesn't use any of the three manuals). It is not possible to follow the protocols of more than one manual at once, and it is not possible to follow a manual without having a copy (as the protocols are very complex). Takanata has one of the Blue manuals, and five (total, of all colors) have been checked out of the Archives so far. There is, additionally, an implication that it might be problematic to possess more than one color, though maybe that is just that it would be problematic to follow the dictates of more than one color.
Fen-Xi wonders, cautiously, if Takanata wants to become Emperor. No, he does not. Fen-Xi is reassured - working for someone who is making a play for the Jade Throne is a little more ambitious than he had planned on being. But, eventually, there will have to be an Emperor. Takanata asks him to show up in the morning at the Archives, to continue the research.
That evening, Cai Wen, Koiso, Xiao Fa, Min Feng, and Wei Han go to dinner with the Steppes Regent. (The initial tea is the best "unpretentious tea" that Xiao Fa has ever had - the regent says he brings it from home.)
Xiao Fa wonders what sort of favor the regent might be thinking of. Well, he could say what he is currently considering, but he also realizes that he might change his mind, so he doesn't want to be misleading in that case. Xiao Fa decides that he seems like a basically nice guy, and agrees to give him a favor in exchange for a vote.
The Regent is in favor of increasing the funding for the Dragon Army, and is curious why the regent from the Isle of Beauty is so opposed. (Koiso whispers to Cai Wen that His Majesty has never been keen on the Dragon Army). The Regent can understand that, coming from the islands - the Shrouded Isle is also not well disposed towards the army, due to alleged atrocities and the blockade. The Savanna is the main support for increasing the army.
The Regent's wife is curious where the momentum for the "Throne of the Dragon" is coming from. Wei Han says that obviously the capital of the Empire of the Dragon should be the Dragon's Throne. She assumes that there is more to it than simple aesthetics, but is willing to not press the point. Min Feng notes that the votes on the Qin Cho protocols suggest that Emperors are on someone 's mind.
- "I understand that you have a Blue manual. Were you planning to use it, or is it just insurance?" -Regent's wife
- "Just insurance." -Cai Wen
- "In that case, I would trade a vote for the Dragon's Throne for a vote for the Red manual." -Regent
No one is willing to promise Master Zhou's favor, so the Regent asks him to please speak to the First Servant in Stone Drum. Then, there are desserts and more tea, and the dinner is concluded. Cai Wen leaves with a very friendly feeling about the Regent - the next time he's in the Hidden City, he should definitely return and visit.
The days' cards prove insufficiently doomful, but nothing passes that evening.
Regents, Day Five
Back at the Imperial Archives, Min Feng finishes up getting the Green manual, and she and Fen-Xi work on the Red Manual after that.
Cai Wen talks to the Beautiful Regent about voting to give the Warlord a medal, on the theory that it's better than letting him win a triumphal victory. He also gives a briefing on the Qin Cho protocols, and the fact that they have two out of three manuals. The Regent seems to be on a heretofore-unknown team of "my favorite nephew for Emperor" (that is, Ti Jun), and is willing to trade the three manuals for the vote Cai Wen wants. Certainly, security in Ivory is better than security in the circus, and he is in fact loyal to His Majesty.
Cai Wen ponders the opportunities that he is underestimating. The main thing, he concludes, is that the wheels are starting to turn for someone winning the Imperial Throne. Shooting down all the candidates is unlikely to be a good long term strategy, so it would work better if there were some candidate that the party was actually willing to push forward instead.
Cai Wen returns to the tea room to confer with Takanata. Takanata is not keen on running the Prince for Emperor, as he is one, Marked, and two, the only heir to the Isle of Beauty, but it's not like the manuals are lost forever if they are in the Regent's pocket. That decided, Takanata and Shen-Ji finish up the Red manual, and Koiso is dispatched to take all three to Regent Ishii.
As it is getting late in meta-time, the next few days happen in a blur. The Regency Council gives the Obsidian Warlord a medal when his victory parade arrives, which is a small win for him but not a big one. The country is officially renamed to the Dragon's Throne, and the Red Manual is passed as the protocol to be followed for the Imperial succession.
- Shen-Ji heads off to explain his new family entanglements to his fiancee.
- Cai Wen has a meeting with the Beggar King in Brass.
- Takanata wanders the Jade District.
- Cai Wen warns Sho Fi about the impending loss of the bribery mechanic.