The Irresistible Fall of Shen Dai Han
|"The way of the ghost is longer than the grave."|| 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 principally in Shen Dai Han's Dragon Army headquarters
Takanata draws some art. Hmm. It's not all that symbolic, but perhaps this is where the party will be heading to find Shen Dai Han. Those familiar with the Dragon Army think it looks like a standard Dragon Army sub headquarters.
Sister Yuan Shu notes that there is still the option of dumping all the gathered mojo into summoning him to the Field of Traitors. But if they want to interrogate his minions and so on, that would be a different plan. In that case, she has prepared a mechanic. Instead of using the mojo to summon him, it can be used in other ways. (In addition to spending mojo, karma can be spent as mojo).
|1||Add / subtract / swap the word "ghost" in a shtick or skill|
|3||Toggle it for the rest of the run.|
|N||When defeating a ghost, before they return to the World After, extract information from them. The information received is a function of how knowledgeable the ghost is, and how many points are spent. Sister Yuan Shu does not think that there should be any ghosts who require 5+ points. (If there is, the party should flee.)|
Also, if they take out Shen Dai Han with the potion, he will be gone, but if they just ghost punch/ghost chop him, he'll be back in the World After, and potentially able to be summoned again. Additionally, once they take him out, his ghostly minions will all return to the World after.
People contemplate the exciting possibilities of shticks in "ghost send" or "danger ghost squad".
Since Kuan-Xi is here, it seems worth having a shopping trip. Takanata thinks it's worth going to the deniability store, at least for enough deniability to prevent the Warlord from declaring everyone an Enemy of the Empire to be attacked on sight, for taking out the Dragon Army's secret weapon right before the final battle against the North.
Cai Wen goes to find Ayuki - can the Laughing Shadow arrange for convincing ninja disguises? The Sister is not pleased by this plan - she thinks they should declare the righteousness of their cause and stride forth against evil. Others are less sanguine about that as an option. When Master Zhou asks about punching ghosts out of the bodies that they possess, Sister Yuan Shu thinks that if the possession is voluntary, then the joining is more complete and they will share hit points. Hmm.
Well, that's something that the ghosts in the Town of Many Shens might know. The party hurries there in Kuan-Xi's carriage, and they spend three mojo interrogating a ghost.
Shen Dai Han's headquarters is basically a standard Dragon Army headquarters, but it has been modified in a way that the ghost doesn't understand, so that it slides back and forth between the Middle Kingdom and the World After. Many of the soldiers there are possessed, all voluntarily. If you take down a soldier in the World After, then you target the ghost; if you take them down in the Middle Kingdom then you get the soldier. It's probably not possible to take down ghosts for someone who can't target ghosts. Finally, the ghost officers aren't possessing anyone while they're in the HQ.
Kuan-Xi tries to go on a shopping trip for things to help fight ghosts and deal with possession, but as that would be the same shop as last time for the same mission, her karma is refunded. Well, how about a shop that would enhance Shen-Ji's magic to deal with ghosts? That is enough different that they start heading up some stairs. Up some very high stairs. It takes some resolve checks to keep going through the exhaustion, but eventually they are shown into a shop by a pale young woman dressed in white.
- "Welcome to Star Market, how may I help you?"
Kuan-Xi says she's looking for things to let her affect ghosts. Takanata has to clarify that she is referring to the Middle Kingdom and its World After.
- "Are you looking for a permanent change of your being, or just a temporary change?"
Kuan-Xi suggests that they start by looking at the temporary changes, as it's easier to go from cheap to expensive than the other way.
The woman in white brings out a box that has light seeping through the cracks.
- "This contains the Light of Andal - when it shines forth, your powers will work the way they are intended to, regardless of the world they or your targets are in."
Kuan-Xi's star would get her store credit, but if she wants to use tael as currency, that would be nine. Shen-Ji thinks the box has something running on the Primal stat in it, and Cai Wen's head spins imagining the exploits. They buy it, and the woman in white notes that Talisman discounts are not honored here.
Shen-Ji asks if they can help his sorcery affect insubstantial creatures and ghosts. Does he have a Mysticism stat? No. Well, they can let him purchase some Mysticism, and some ability to use it. Oh, not for tael - they could accept nothing smaller than eps. Or karma, or concepts. She allows him to purchase 5 Mysticism, and a low level shtick to affect insubstantial beings, for 15 karma.
Kuan-Xi pays ten tael to get a "spirit blast" shtick, paid for with eps. Master Zhou buys something similar for kung fu.
Takanata purchases an instrument that lets him play the music of the stars, and the ability to play it.
Sister Yuan Shu asks if they sell enlightenment. They do, but she is a monk and not rich. For two tael, the Market will provide something that will set her on the path to enlightenment, and Cai Wen pays in exchange for a later favor. The woman in white hands her something that vanishes in an evanescent shine, and Sister Yuan Shu reacts with a start.
- "Spirit of Ordered Darkness? Get that off of me!"
The Sister heads down the stairs to meditate, and Shen-Ji asks if there is anything that can help him understand the unified nature of all magic? The woman in white notes "that's a political nightmare" and will have to talk to her supervisor. However, her supervisor makes an offer: if Shen-Ji signs a blank check to have them debit his karma as needed, they will take steps to put him firmly on the road to what Shen-Ji’s people call godhood. It will be step by step because they will have to clear things with his local administrators, and will be limited by the rules in place in his locale. Shen-Ji signs the contract, and then everyone is asked to shut their eyes when another being comes in to sign.
Cai Wen purchases (for party loot) a phial of starlight to light the way when all other lights have failed, which they call the Light of Elendil. In addition to a light source which is not affected by darkness, utterdark, and the like, it provides immunity to the Dharma stat of Darkness.
That's about all that anyone can afford at this point, so the party heads back down the stairs again, where they meet Sister Yuan Shu, who has now finished meditating. She says she has purged her character sheet of the taint of darkness.
With no further delay, the group heads to the Dragon Army Headquarters that Shen Dai Han uses, and that matches Takanata's art. Ayuki, Anto, and Sister Yuan Shu come along. From what people can see of the building, it appears to be four stories tall at the center, and people familiar with the Dragon Army think that any prisoners will be underground.
Shen-Ji rolls his new Mysticism stat, and Kuan-Xi starts calling rain clouds. The guards in green are clearly Dragon Army, and are patrolling around the outside of the walls.
Cai Wen deploys Squeaky to be cute and distracting, and Master Zhou, looking with worldsight, says that there is death coming quickly.
- "In drift, perhaps?" -Takanata
Sure enough, in drift, the world shifts to a more spooky ghostly map. Not truly the World After, but partway there. People's "ghost hit points" are based on resolve and status.
Green 5 heads to rescue the poor lost ferret, completely missing the people hiding by the walls, and then Shen-Ji heads on his flying disk for the inner buildings, finding a window.
He beckons over the others (using the flying carpet now). They are also not spotted by the patrolling guards, and Ayuki gets the window open for everyone to go in. The room they enter is empty, and appears to be a small conference room. Master Zhou hears voices nearby:
- "Yes, but that's what the beastmaster of men seems to do."
- "Hurry up and get that briefing book!"
The next room, also empty, seems to be a secretarial chamber for the small conference room.
Cai Wen searches the conference room for intelligence, but there isn't anything there at the moment. He concludes that this particular headquarters is massively understaffed.
The voices outside the office are now discussing the annoying interference of Lord Wolf's team. Do they know who is actually on that team? (Master Zhou doesn't think either of the voices are Shen Dai Han.) Then there is a pause, and one of the voices says "Yes sir" and starts to walk away.
Master Zhou bursts through the door to the main section of the third floor, to nerve strike the two soldiers in black. The black soldiers are dressed as senior noncoms, while Two Dots is in a colonel's uniform.
Takanata looks at an event from the colonel's past, and sees him (and a bunch of others) being escorted out of the World After by the Obsidian Warlord. Shen-Ji fells the colonel, and spends 3 mojo - he learns the first half of Shen Dai Han's NOC list, which is enough to blow their covers but not securely contact them for information.
The amount of information learned is based on rank (2 dots) divided by mojo spent (3), where lower is better.
Master Zhou knocks down Black 4 when the world is spooky; this leaves the soldier still alive but the ghost is sent back to the World After. Spending one mojo gives Master Zhou a question: "Ask one question about the compound that does not include Shen Dai Han." Master Zhou asks where the high-value intelligence is? It is known by the officers (the dots), as Shen Dai Han knows too much about spies and ninja to put high value intelligence on paper. (So the briefing book, whatever it is, is not high value intelligence.)
Shen-Ji and Cai Wen start opening more doors, and Cai Wen finds a very nice bathroom, with a large bathtub, to the south.
Reinforcements start to run up the stairs to the east. Kuan-Xi takes out Black 5 and spends a point of mojo. She gets the location and directions to any one room, but when she asks after the senior officers' mess, she learns that they are in it now.
Shen-Ji finds a larger conference room (with an early draft of Shen Dai Han's Treasonous Manifesto, earning him +2 mojo), and Cai Wen finds an officer's training room, earning him +4 on his next attack. This is sort of like Betrayal at House on the Hill!
A private library earns Cai Wen 4 more mojo, and Shen-Ji finds an ancestor shrine that has been set up.
Master Zhou goes through the doors to the stairwell, and is promptly attacked by the soldiers on hold.
Drift swaps between World After and Middle Kingdom again, and Shen-Ji notes that while moments ago, the shrine was to the Shen family, now it is to the Shen family.
Cai Wen opens the box with the Light of Andal, and everything becomes one. World After, World. Worldsight, sight. There are no barriers between what can affect what.
- "Oh my goodness, what have we done?" -Sister Yuan
Also, there is knowledge:
- No green soldiers are possessed
- Prime yellow soldiers are possessed
- Odd orange soldiers are possessed
- All black soldiers are possessed
- Dots are ghosts possessing no bodies.
Cai Wen finds a private study, as Shen-Ji runs down to grab some ghost money from him. Offering 12 ghost tael to the Shen family, he gains +3 mojo.
Takanata pokes his head up the stairway to the fourth floor, and spots six black soldiers and Shen Dai Han, who have not gone on hold yet. Takanata ducks back down again, and blocks the stairwell with a wall.
Kuan-Xi joins Master Zhou in the stairwell, takes down black 15, and spends a mojo. She gets a vague briefing on the basement: it is a dungeon, accessed by a secret door on the ground floor, and also contains a panic room (nearly unassailable) and a hidden treasure room.
Master Zhou takes down black 6, and asks where the other ghosts are. Two are with the troop forming up to come up the stairs.
Cai Wen scouts down the stairs, and sees the troop getting ready to come upstairs. He contemplates hidden opportunities, and thinks that he is undervaluing the high-value intelligence that may be available.
The reinforcements charge up the stairs, but with a wall from Shen-Ji to assist, Master Zhou holds the top of the stairwell.
With the box open, mojo works on non-possessed guys too. Master Zhou takes down two oranges, and spends some mojo to get:
- Pick a floor for a briefing
- Ask for the location of a room.
Where is the panic room? There are two - one on the fourth floor in the southeast, and one in the basement to the southeast. The second floor has the orange soldiers stationed there, and there are also a couple of trophy rooms, a Dragon Army archive, and a secret room that leads downstairs.
Takanata thinks that with the Light of Andal in play, ghosts can walk through walls - but not the magic walls people have created. He wonders if he can walk through walls himself with Dreamwalking, but decides it isn't quite right (though maybe he could if he was sleepwalking).
A general briefing on the top floor: there is a treasure vault, a panic room, and a sort of observatory/balcony from which to look out on the World of the Dead and the World of the Living. The panic room has a secret exit to the third floor.
The ground floor has guards outside, and a nice throne room, and another shrine.
The ghost commander of the orange soldiers gets them to all throw their daggers together at Master Zhou, but he manages to deflect several back towards the attackers. Kuan-Xi continue to help whittle down the guys in the stairwell, while the less combaty argue over whether it is worth spending mojo on the higher-dot-number officers,
Master Zhou spends two mojo on Nine Dot when he falls, and gets blackmail information on the daughter of the First Servant (i.e. Giacomo's fiancee). The officers do seem to be the only ones with information about anything in the bigger picture outside this compound.
Takanata stations himself under the panic room, and the fall of orange 1 confirms that the secret exit is in fact exactly where he is.
When Dot Eight falls, some mojo gets blackmail information on the Regent from the Cranesflight Heights.
The wall on the upper stairwell is about to go down, and Master Zhou reports that there are more orange soldiers and ghosts coming in on the lower stairwell. A two-flank fight seems likely to prove difficult, since the black soldiers have a lot of dice and the orange soldiers only a bit less.
The orange soldiers coordinate ranged daggers against Shen-Ji, and he goes below his "ghost hit points", so he will fall in drift when the land of the dead returns.
Squeaky dashes across the floor to Cai Wen, and indicates that all the people are leaving from the lower floors.
Takanata looks through the ceiling at Shen Dai Han and foot-turns him, memorizing him as well. Cai Wen thinks about different ways to cheat: maybe they could spend mojo twice, or bump Black 1 up to counting as an officer.
The black soldiers from upstairs finish knocking down the wall blocking them off, and do not quite manage to take any of the party down.
Black 1 is taken down, and with some cheats and karma to put him on the officer list, they extract the other half of the NOC list.
Master Zhou punches the ceiling, collapsing it on the group, but Shen Dai Han, being a ghost, doesn't fall through. He gets splashed with the potion nevertheless.
The information extracted from him is the prophecy that he gave to the Light and Dark:
A cheat also pulls out 0.25 points of Support of the Nobility, and a cheat and curse from Takanata extracts blackmail on the royalty of the Isle of Beauty.At that point, the soldiers have fled and the building is on fire, so the party also flees.