Hearts of Wulin: Book Three: Session 1
Harm to arachnids
Hearts of Wulin
Patrick Knowles, Sherri Stewart, Rich Rogers, and David Morrison
For Gauntlet Quarterly I've been running campaigns across three month spans. I've tried a couple of approaches. For Hearts of Wulin, we have a single campaign split into three "books". Each month tells a complete story, though characters and themes return throughout.
In the first two books we established the world and eventually dug into the mystery of the Orphans of Yun. The Yun, a wulin clan, had been mysteriously destroyed. At the end of Book One, we learned that this destruction had come from jealousy, as the Yun had developed a deadly new art and had begun to use it against their rivals. At the end of Book Two we learned that those who had destroyed the Yun still sought their secrets. More importantly, it turned out that two of the PCs, Jade Saber Lan and Nightsky Ming, had been adopted and raised by enemies of the Yun. Both broke away from their heritage at the end of the arc.
This session involved re-framing these two returning characters. Both opted to keep their PCs as they were, but reworked their bonds and entanglements. The character Zheng Wen had appeared a couple of times earlier in the series, and he now returned as a regular for the final arc. Finally we established a new PC, Passing Cloud, a recently discovered survivor from the Yun Clan.
The session began with Zheng bringing news to Nightsky of her beloved, Sedate Rao, and his impending marriage. In the year since the events of Book Two, Nightsky had trained and hidden herself in a ruined temple. She said that Sedate Rao's marriage meant nothing to her, despite his bride being a villainess. But Zheng felt she lied.
At the same time Shardsabre Lan went to see Passing Cloud. Lan had once been called Jade Sabre Lan, but at the end of Book Two, he'd broken his ornate weapon to demonstrate his independence. In the year between books, he'd forged a new blade and taken this new name. His friend Passing Sky, though suspicious of Lan due to the machinations of Sky's hidden twin brother, greeted Lan warmly. Lan, drawn to Passing Cloud but unable to speak of it, asked the student-warrior to accompany him to a potential lost Yun Shrine. Cloud agreed and left short note behind for his caretaker, Auntie Silver.
In the temple, as Zheng and Nightsky drank tea, a low warning wail cut through the air. Nightsky had bound ghosts which now alerted her to an impending attack. The pair doused the lights and turned the ambush back on their attackers. Zheng handily cut through the mob of henchpersons while Nightsky faced Dancing Spider. In the melee Dancing Spider revealed that there were two additional targets: Lan and also Nine Blossoms, Zheng's beloved from the Liquid Metal Delegates. Nightsky killed Dancing Spider by driving her blade through the villainess' hands and poisoning her with her own spider venom.
At the same time, Lan and Cloud returned from their fruitless exploration. On a hillside path, they found themselves ambushed by a gang of thugs and the assassin Dancing Scorpion. Cloud demanded to know if Lan was part of this attack, an accusation which stung him deeply. Lan disarmed Dancing Scorpion, knocking aside her living weapons and sending her tumbling down the hill. She took off. Cloud managed to dispatch the henchmen, though not without effort.
After some further travels all four heroes met up. Zheng and Nightsky discovered that Nine Blossoms, the other target, had left the city secretly, heading out to a temple in the hinterlands. The four gathered themselves together and set off to rescue her.
Shardsabre Lan's expression when he realized the assassin fought with thrown living scorpions.
Moment of Insight
This trilogy approach has been fairly successful. But breaking the longer campaign up into back-to-back chunks, we have continuity while allowing new players to come in and help set the story going forward. It's something I want to examine closely once we're done with the whole campaign.