The second session was a bit of a marathon - seven players and six hours of gaming, all in the service of discovering the secrets of Yao Lin. It can be exhausting running a game for that many players, and I think I may have only just been up to the task. Everyone enjoyed the adventure, though, so I hope it
We opened with the four new PCs leaping out of an airship into the courtyard of Yao Lin's estate - a new group of ne'er-do-wells employed instead by the Celestial & Jade Railway Company for much the same ends as our original adventurers. A backfired spell from Tomlyn
sent the airship crashing, on fire, into Prosperity Garden, but not before all four new adventurers joined our other protagonists. After a brief moment of arguing, they fled the erupting battle between Sanjeev
and the porcelain army, purposefully ignoring the massive engraved door that lead into the main tower and heading into Yao Lin's bath-house.
This is where the PCs first started to get a picture of how the porcelain men were made - in the bath-house, they were confronted with a group of porcelain geishas whose tongues took the form of wicked needles, driven straight into the throat chakra to drain chi from a victim. The battle was short but violent, with a few of the party suffering energy drain from the vampiric golems - and some of them noticing that the estate's magical defences were in fact working directly against the beautiful but deadly creatures. They decided to take advantage of the battle outside to take a few minutes of rest, restoring their chi through meditation and martial practice, Nobunaga
building up arcane Charge.
Adventurers resting in the middle of a dangerous wizard's estate? You couldn't have handed me a better golden opportunity
to advance the Grim Portents, and hurl Demon-Spiders from the Hell Courts of Yuan Shin at the party. Two of them unlocked the door from the portal antechamber to the bath-house, descending upon our heroes like death personified, flinging acidic silk and striking with sharpened forelimbs. Zhao Li
stoutly defended the weaker members of the party using Jade Mountain Style
, but his bravery could not save them all. First to face her Last Breath
was Kael Tomlyn
, the Transantiagian transvestite wizardess, who perished, crushed beneath the bulky corpse of a Demon-Spider. Nobunaga
also faced his Last Breath
while trapped in an acidic web, but was lucky enough to survive the experience - if only through the aid of Xiao Hu
's chi-healing abilities.
They triumphed in the battle against the infernal arachnoids, but not without terrible cost. In no shape to face another such battle, the crew tramped into the portal chamber, with the goal of sealing the portal against any further infernal assaults. Xiao Hu
spoke with the spirit of the planar orrery that empowered the mystic gate, hoping to strike a bargain to shutter it forever. The spirit revealed that it could easily be sealed, but Xiao Hu
would have to lure one of his spirit allies into the portal and sacrifice them to do so. A moment of consideration, and he decided to attempt to summon Leng Su, the greed spirit that had tempted him on the Long Sing... an attempt which did not go well. Xiao Hu
's inexperienced poker face failed him, leading Leng Su to discover his deception and curse him with poor luck for the rest of his life
. The portal was instead sealed by a new arrival - Inari Shuto
, a wizardess of the Peach Kingdom and sister of Nobunaga Shuto
, the party's artificer, whose near-death experience had sent a telepathic distress cry across the planar interstices.
Hearing the sounds of battle outside subside, they decide to mount the stairs of Yao Lin's tower and proceed to the next floor, which turns out to house a large tea-lounge - and a demon bound behind elaborately decorated paper screens. The demon, Ixclub, turns out to be a mid-level bureaucrat from the Hell Courts of Yuan Shin, obsequiously polite and willing to promise the PCs anything if they free him from his bounds. He offers to refresh their minds and spirits with an occult tea service, which all but Li Feng
grudgingly accept. Li Feng
instead returns to the portal chamber to investigate, where he glimpses the porcelain men draining Sanjeev
's body of life force, watching it pulse across the floor towards the great kilns of Yao Lin's factory.
The demon holds to his word, and even stops to chat for a few minutes as the players rest and relax. It again seems like an ideal moment to advance the Grim Portents - I decide that while the players take tea with Ixclub, Demon-Spiders defeat the porcelain geishas who are holding Yao Lin in his bedchamber three stories above, and begin to awaken him. Suitably refreshed by the occult remedies, the players proceed to root through the next two stories - the wizard's library and his occult workshop, turning up a number of magical treasures, but not the ultimate secret of the porcelain men:
- The Homunculus Bracer: A bracer that taps into the user's chi to give temporary life to small creations. At the cost of 1 chi, any small inanimate object held in the wielder's hand can be given a sort of life, animating and following the commands of its creator for an hour or so.
- The Fanged Manual of Angolyn the Thirsty: A guide to the art of draining another's chi - which, if opened without a proper key, will quickly drain the life-force from the holder until they are left as a shrivelled corpse.
- The Sword of Clay: An immense ceramic sword, forged from the same Primordial Clay which gave birth to mankind. It is an ancient and powerful weapon that commands power over flesh - wounds inflicted by it are passed down to the victim's children.
Finally, the characters reach Yao Lin's personal chambers, where he is being dressed by his two remaining Demon-Spider servants. There is an instant where combat could potentially be avoided - but Nobunaga
decides to cut the negotiations short before they begin, not trusting the ancient archmage, and launches a crossbow bolt at his head. In a smooth, flowing movement, the archmage moves in such a way as to easily absorb the force of the bolt into his body, without suffering any harm. In that moment, the players suddenly realise they are dealing with not only an archmage, but also a master of the Jade Mountain Style
The battle is long, and again nearly results in death for Nobunaga
, but the gang does prevail over the weakened archmage, slaying him and his demonic servants. Ransacking his bedchambers for treasure, they find a secret portal to a demi-plane hidden within his mirror, where a trapped chest lies, presumably holding his most prized possessions. A botched roll or two leads to Xiao Hu
barely escaping the collapsing demi-pane with their life - and the chest. The chest contains jewels, stock certificates, a locket with a picture of Yao Lin's dead lover, and the key to the Fanged Manual - a veritable haul, but no secret recipe for porcelain men.
Again, the players decide to rest and recuperate before descending to the ground floor. They briefly investigate Yao Lin's scrying chamber, the topmost story of his tower, and this seems like a golden opportunity to confront them with the final opponent to face - the unfinished Clay Archmage, at the head of a small porcelain army. Though the Clay Archmage has much of Yao Lin's power, it has none of his acumen or wisdom, and the battle against the porcelain tide is much shorter.
Having bested the wizard, ransacked his tower, and slain his golem clone, it seems like an opportune time for the assorted adventurers to return to the task they were hired for. Investigating the kiln-factory and the energy paths that Yao Lin built, Nobunaga
are able to identify the basic principles behind the porcelain men's animation - chi is drained from those with opened chakras, and used to create a self-sustaining porcelain heart for each golem. It's reasonably unanimous amongst the adventurers that this knowledge should not be given to their employers, who will are likely to have the murderous instincts to utilise it. The only logical answer is to destroy the tower and its kiln-factory. Nobunaga
's alchemical skills give them the means to do so - as the sun rises over Daojin City, it is joined by a second dawn as the white-hot explosion consumes the last remnants of the vanity of Yao Lin.