That isn’t always a good thing!

Japanese Gate Drawing

On the Road to Somewhere

Why players kill in games (and why that isn’t always a good thing!) My brother asked me for an article on Kara Tur and tea houses and you know how it is with stream of conscious ideas; I got to thinking what is it that makes Oriental Dungeons & Dragons different from the ordinary game. I’m a big fan of Supers Roleplaying Games, (bear with me, there is a link) but I don’t run them very often because lots of players can’t see the reason why Batman doesn’t just shoot the Joker. Think of all of the lives that one bullet would have saved over the years. In normal Dungeons & Dragons, you kill the monsters and work your way up the chain of command until you can get close enough to kill the boss. Supers shouldn’t work that way but everyone wants to be the Punisher or Wolverine with Logan’s angst.

The Oriental DnD that we ran/played in decades ago (swords of the diamyo ADnD with 3 different groups of players) played more like a Supers game. Family was important and was stressed during character gen and appeared throughout the campaign so characters did or didn’t do things in game because their actions reflected on the honor stat of their family or clan. The 47 Ronin movie is worth watching if black and white movies with subtitles are your thing. In it, the villain belittles the son of a rival family at court with subtle and clever insults within the young man’s hearing but never to his face. Goaded this way, the young man draws his sword to attack his enemy but drawing a sword in the palace, even when not in the emperors presence is a serious crime for which he is forced to commit seppuku and his entire family is disbanded.

fan of honour

In Oriental ADnD, as we played it, sometimes responding with lethal violence to a problem was the worst solution. The same is true of Supers games too but how do you get that across to players in either genre? Players don’t turn up to games to have their characters feel ineffectual so you can’t just bluntly slap down their characters or they aren’t getting to play the character they built. You need to fine some positive way to show them that killing is bad. There is a reason why that has always been a fundamental rule in every civilisation and it can’t just be to protect the bad guys from the justifiable wrath of the good guys! 🙂

Art copyright symatt

Tea houses, what were they like and what went on there? Well, rpgs are not reenactments, at least not the way I run them, so the short answer is what do you want to use them for in the game? The tea houses by the road side, as opposed to those maintained in the private gardens of the wealthy, are going to fulfil many of the same needs In your game as taverns, except more politely! They are all likely to be physically structured the same way, built from bamboo and timber and with curtains instead of doors. The rooms inside might have paper walls and sliding panels but tea houses far from towns might just be one large room for travellers with the oriental NPC being respectful to their betters. Sake is likely to be as plentiful as tea and lead to shameful behaviour amongst those of weak character. Out the back are going to be the hot tubs, screened from casual passersby but shared by all guests and by both genders, perhaps even at the same time! Huge, half-buried wooden tuns or barrels, it was a rich traveller who could afford both fresh water and privacy! The water might be boiled before filling the tub but in houses where there were few staff, perhaps just the owner and his wife and daughters, hot stones would be dropped into the water to heat and re-heat it, just emptying and cleaning the tub once a week. The roadside teahouse typifies the fictional oriental culture of acting as though the other guests did not exist; far better than losing face by admitting to being embarrassed!

Article By C Matthews

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2 Comments

  1. I’ve been inspired by your great oriental article, and the recent Dragon magazine’s focus on the oriental kara-tur setting, and made some martial themes for different aspects of an oriental setting:

    Way of the Distant Edge
    The way of the distant edge is a theme for martial characters, and is a polearm fighting theme.
    At Level 1, you gain the Polearm Expertise feat for free, and you gain proficiency with all weapons with the Reach keyword.
    At Level 5, you gain a +2 bonus to Dungeoneering and Athletics skill checks.
    At Level 10, you gain the following encounter powers.
    Impaling Thrust * Theme Power
    Encounter * Martial, Weapon
    Free Action * Melee Weapon
    Trigger: You hit an enemy with a melee attack with a weapon with the Reach keyword
    Target: Triggering enemy
    Effect: Deal an additional 1W damage to the target, and the target gains a +2 bonus to its next attack against you before the start of your next turn.
    Maximum Extension * Theme Power
    Encounter * Martial, Weapon
    Free Action * Melee Weapon
    Trigger: You make a melee attack with a weapon with the Reach keyword
    Effect: Your Reach for this attack increases by 1, and you grant Combat Advantage until the start of your next turn.

    Way of the Open Hand
    The Way of the Open Hand is a theme for fighting with one hand free. It could be taken my monks, bladesingers, mages etc
    At Level 1 you gain the following encounter power: Sliding Palm
    Sliding Palm * Theme Power
    Encounter * Martial
    Free action * Melee Touch
    Special: Your off hand must be empty
    Trigger: You hit an adjacent enemy with an attack
    Target: Triggering enemy
    Effect: You slide the target 1 square to a square adjacent to you, and the target grants Combat Advantage to your next attack against it before the end of your next turn.
    At Level 5, you gain a +2 bonus to acrobatics skill checks and you gain a +1 shield bonus to your Reflex defense while your off hand is empty
    At Level 10, you gain the following encounter power: Halting Strike
    Halting Strike * Theme Power
    Encounter * Martial
    Free Action * Melee Touch
    Trigger: An enemy moves adjacent to you
    Target: Triggering enemy
    Effect: You push the target 1 square and the target is immobilized until the end of your next turn.

    Way of the Curved Blade
    The Way of the Curved Blade is a theme for axe wielding warriors, a symbol of brutal, blood thirsty fighters in the orient.
    At Level 1, you gain the Toughness feat for free, and you also gain a +2 bonus to Intimidate skill checks.
    At Level 5, you gain the following encounter power: Blood Thirsty Blade
    Blood Thirsty Blade * Theme Power
    Encounter * Martial, Weapon
    Free Action * Personal
    Trigger: You bloody an enemy
    Effect: You make a basic melee attack against the triggering enemy as a free action.
    At Level 10, you gain the following encounter power: Blood Thirsty Visage
    Blood Thirsty Visage * Theme Power
    Encounter * Martial, Weapon
    Free Action * Close Burst 3
    Trigger: You bloody an enemy
    Effect: You make a hard DC Intimidate check. If you succeed, each enemy in the burst takes a -2 to its next attack roll against you before the end of your next turn.

    Way of the Dishonoured Sword
    The Way of the Dishonoured Sword is a theme for a ronin, an oriental fighter with no master, an outcast from society.
    At Level 1, you take a -5 penalty to Diplomacy checks and your allies take a -2 penalty to Diplomacy checks. You gain a +2 bonus to Bluff, Streetwise, Intimidate and Thievery checks, and a +2 bonus to Initiative.
    At Level 5, you gain the following daily power: Restoration of Respect
    Restoration of Respect * Theme Power
    Daily * Martial, Weapon
    Free Action * Personal
    Trigger: You reduce a non-minion enemy to 0 HP
    Effect: You reduce the enemy to 1hp and knock it unconscious until the end of the encounter. Gain 1 honour point.
    At Level 10, you gain the following daily power: Honour and Glory
    Honour and Glory * Theme Power
    Daily * Martial
    Free Action * Personal
    Trigger: You make a skill check with a penalty to the roll
    Effect: You spend an honour point and ignore the penalty to the skill roll.

    Way of the Silent Strike
    The Way of the Silent Strike is a theme for rogues, scoundrels and thieves.
    At Level 1, you gain a +2 bonus to Initiative while you are wielding a dagger
    At Level 5, you deal an additional +2 points of damage when you use your Sneak Attack class feature while wielding a dagger
    At Level 10, you gain the following daily power: Quick Slash
    Quick Slash * Theme Power
    Daily * Martial, Weapon
    Free Action * Personal
    Effect: Until the end of the encounter, you can make a basic melee attack with a dagger as a minor action once per round.
    Special: You cannot apply Sneak Attack damage to melee basic attacks made as a minor action.

    Way of the Notched Arrow
    The Way of the Notched Arrow is a theme for users of ranged weapons.
    At Level 1, you gain the Bow Expertise feat for free, and proficiency with the all bows (including greatbow).
    At Level 5, you gain a +2 bonus to Perception and Athletics skill checks.
    At Level 10, you ignore the penalty for making ranged attacks vs prone targets, and gain the following encounter power: Notched Arrow
    Notched Arrow * Theme Power
    Encounter * Martial, Weapon
    Free action * Ranged 10
    Trigger: You hit an enemy with a ranged weapon attack
    Target: Triggering enemy
    Effect: You deal an additional 1W damage and immobilize the creature until the end of its next turn.

    Way of the Swift Tiger
    The Way of the Swift Tiger is a theme for characters who want to enhance their movement
    At Level 1, When you take a Move action to Shift, you can Shift 2 squares as long as the movement does not end adjacent to another creature.
    At Level 5, you gain a +2 bonus to Acrobatics and Athletics skill checks.
    At Level 10, you can ignore difficult terrain when charging, and your speed when charging increases by 2.

    Way of the Spinning Leaf
    The Way of the Spinning Leaf is a theme that focuses on thrown weapons.
    At Level 1, when you make a basic ranged attack with a thrown weapon, you can use your highest ability modifier and make the attack vs the targets Reflex.
    At Level 5, when you make a basic ranged attack with a thrown weapon, and you have concealment, you do not lose the benefit of concealment
    At Level 10, you gain the following encounter power: Points of Agony
    Points of Agony * Theme Power
    Encounter * Martial, Weapon
    Standard action * Ranged 5
    Target: 1, 2 or 3 creatures
    Effect: Deal 1W damage to the target, and the target is dazed (save ends)

    Way of the Noble Words
    The Way of the Noble Words is as much the theme for a diplomat as it is for a samurai, it a theme of honourable words and deeds.
    At Level 1, you gain a +2 bonus to Diplomacy skill checks, and you gain the following daily power: Honourable Challenge
    Honourable Challenge * Theme Power
    Daily * Martial, Charm
    Free Action * Close Burst 5
    Trigger: You roll initiative
    Effect: Designate 1 non minion enemy in the burst, you gain 1 honour point if you reduce that enemy to 0 hp, and lose 1 honour point if an ally reduces it to 0 hp or if the enemy escapes from the encounter.
    At Level 5, you gain a +2 bonus to Insight skill checks, and you gain the following daily power: Deeds of Honour
    Deeds of Honour * Theme Power
    Daily * Martial, Healing
    Standard Action * Close Burst 5
    Target: 1, 2 or 3 allies in burst
    Effect: Spend an honour point. The target gains a number of temporary hit points equal to your highest modifier.
    At Level 10, you gain a +2 bonus to Streetwise skill checks, and when you buy items, you can spend an honour point to only pay 50% of their cost.

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