Friday, May 22, 2020

The Invincible Troll

So, this story is from a completely different RPG than Dungeons & Dragons, namely Shadowrun, a cyberpunk fantasy game taking place in a magical not too distant future where corporations more or less control the world. Oh, I'm not talking about what is likely around the corner for us, that is unless real, actual magic appears and people start taking forms of elves, dwarves, or, as the title of this story implies, trolls.

In this crime-infested world, many people struggle to make ends meet, leading them to resort to some less legitimate methods of making ends meet, including working as Shadowrunners, people who take odd jobs ranging from protection to espionage to theft to murder. It's not a pleasant lifestyle, but those that are good at it can find themselves living lifestyles they could only previously imagine. Those that are bad? Take a guess.

Our story focuses on one such group, and one specific member of one such group. A Russian troll, armed to the teeth.

The first mission involved sneaking into a location in order to rescue a missing girl and find some information for later in the story, and indeed, sneaking happened, but only because the troll opted to plant himself outside the front door and open fire with the gatling gun he carried.

Naturally he was met by a facility full of resistance, and was eventually taken down, but not before leaving a huge pile of bodies in front of the building. By the time the alarm to the back of the building was tripped and the rest of the security force went to investigate, the infiltration team was gone, leaving the magic user of the party to quickly resuscitate the troll.

A few weeks later, the team was contracted again, this time to intercept a convoy of trucks carrying something important (which I don't really remember the specifics of because it was like four years ago) The decision was to have two of the infiltration team hijack the trucks themselves and try to drive them to a specific rendezvous location. The team's hacker and magic user would be outside trying to make sure nothing went wrong, and the troll got the special job of infiltrating a truck full of security personnel that was somewhere in the convoy.

By the way, these trucks were armored. This is an important detail that the troll's player exploited.

Once the trucks started going off-course, the troll set about handling the security force in the only way he knew how. By dropping some live grenades in the back of an armored vehicle and praying he had enough HP to soak up the damage. Which, through a combination of his ludicrous health and some very, very lucky rolls of the dice, he did. His fellow passengers, however, were not so lucky.

Though considering the cosmetic damage a grenade does to a person, he was damaged enough to not only be completely unrecognizable, but even pronounced dead at the scene, citing the "Nobody Could Survive That" rule. It was at this point that our mage tearfully claimed him as her son and requested that she take the body to give him a proper burial within her religion. The officer that investigated the scene reluctantly agreed, and the mage was able to scamper off with the troll and heal him where nobody could see what was happening.

These were some of the more ridiculous feats that this guy pulled off, but it kind of became a small metagame for his player and the GM of what the most ridiculous, life-threatening scenario he could throw his character into and survive. Yes, this is the same player that is Jangle in my currently running Se'Kai campaign, why do you ask?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Part 9: Business Sim 1995: Good Luck To Somen Hing

We rejoin our heroes readying themselves to interrogate the alleged assassin Tylhana and her only surviving lackey. Once the Hold Person spell wore off, Yesmae, still disguised as not-Merida-from-Pixar's-Brave, stepped forward and asked, "Now lass, d'ye know who I am?"

This kicked off a few minutes of us scrambling through the rules trying to figure out if the specific spell she was using would mask her voice or not. As it turns out, if she was using Disguise Self, the answer would be no, but as I tend to do, I missed a specific detail in my last summary. That being the fact that the spell potion that was given to her by Bubbles was a Potion of Alter Self. Under the effect of that spell, one's voice was also masked.

Bottom, Tylhana had no idea who this redhead human lady was.

Disclaimer, a lot is about to happen in a really short amount of time so forgive me if I don't remember the full sequence of events perfectly. I could very well get some things out of order. I suppose you're wondering why I don't write these up right after the session or record my sessions so I can refer back to them, or even better, post them online so that anyone who randomly gets interested can watch them.

So anyway, Tylhana responded, "Considering the crew you're with, I'm assuming you have some relationship with the princess."

"And why are you lookin' for the princess, lass? D'ye expect t' take her back in shackles?"

"Of course not!" Tylhana fired back. "I had hoped she'd go back voluntarily, as her disappearing is the reason all of this is happening in the first place!"

"Well she's not goin' back, because the Empress was already lost before the princess even left!" Yesmae shouted back, fighting back tears.

"I suppose that means that this mission is a bust." Tylhana looked across at the soldier who was tied up across from her. "Do it."

After a few seconds, the soldier doubled over, foaming at the mouth from poison he'd ingested through a fake tooth. As it appeared that Tylhana would do the same, Savin quickly cast Hold Person again on her to stop her from killing herself before she could give more information."

As they waited for the spell to run out, Savin stepped forward, laying his hand lightly on Yesmae's shoulder. "Perhaps it is time for you to go get the princess," emphasizing the last words for Yesmae to clue her in. Yesmae stiffened and quietly dashed off towards the ship to wait for the potion to wear off.

While she was gone, Savin leaned in and asked. "Any more stunts like that?"

"Relax, I don't really have one. I just pretended so he would," Tylhana flatly responded. "He knew nothing but what I told him, that we were on a secret mission from the Empress to bring the princess back, and that there was no excuse for failure. Only part of that was true."

"And you thought the princess would willingly return?"

"Why wouldn't she? This is all because of her isn't it?"

Savin quietly looked back at her, as if to say, "Are you sure about that?"

"Isn't it? Tell me it is!"

Savin shook his head and simply said, "Well, at least now you understand that your naivete got a few innocent people killed. Think on that for a while. Also..." he continued. "We're going to have to come to an understanding. You have two options. Either you join us and do what you can to help the princess, making yourself into an asset, or you don't, making yourself into an obstacle."

While this was going on, Somen and Bubbles wandered into Halinard's office to try to find some paperwork to finalize the transfer ownership to the company assets. What he discovered was an absolute mess. Trying his best to keep his composure, Somen turned to Bubbles and said, "Please go back to the ship and try to find Mr. Townsend's will. I'm going to attempt to clean and organize this wretched chamber."

Bubbles quickly scampered back to the ship and grabbed the letter, quickly memorizing its writing down to the word choice and started back towards the office before being stopped by Savin.

"And just what are you doing?" Savin requested.

"Paperwork! Have to make sure everything is in order!" He then noticed the dead soldier. "OOH! Is that poison? Fake tooth? I'm taking it!" He quickly reached inside the soldier's mouth and felt around, finding the split fake tooth. "Does she have one too?"

Savin and Tylhana quickly responded, "No! Of course not!"

"Regardless," Savin continued, "I believe you're needed in the office to ensure that Lord Hing doesn't try to steal from us what is rightfully ours?"

With a start, Bubbles scrambled back into the office.

As Bubbles and Somen sorted through the documents strewn about Halinard's office, they started to notice a pattern among the mess. Among other things they found a copy of Halinard's letter of resignation from the Imperial Corps of Engineers citing irreconcilable difference of opinion with superiors, as well as a lot of writings implying a correlation between the Empress' more violent tendencies with the arrival of Elphina Crowe, her new advisor.

Bubbles returned to the warehouse floor to inform Savin of the discovery just as Yesmae entered, now sans disguise.

"Tylhana," Yesmae began, "It's been a while, hasn't it?"

"Princess," Tylhana breathed. "I..."

"You want me to return with you, right?"

"Of course. I mean, that will stop all this madness, right? Your mother has only been doing this to find you and bring you home, right? No," she looked down. "Of course not. I wanted to believe that your leaving was what started all this, but I just...don't think I can anymore."

"Do you remember anything about Elphina Crowe?" Yesmae asked.

"I...have never met her personally, but it seems like public opinion on her is mixed."

Bubbles' voice echoed throughout the warehouse, "Halinard doesn't seem to have been her biggest fan." He explained his findings to the rest of the group.

Savin furrowed his brow. "Seems like we may have found a possible starting point. Do we know anything about possible allies?"

At this point I had to do some quick improvising by referring to my "important characters list" to produce a list of possible names as well as how Halinard likely felt about them, which I'll add below.

  • Don Chen--Tortle Monk residing in the Western Federation
  • Admiral Dicken--Mayor of Doncaster
  • Lordithas--Relative of the royal family, former captain of the guard, has gone missing
  • Tylhana--Possible friend of princess?
  • Fury of the Small--Honestly I don't want to enlist them but pirates might help
Bubbles (and his player) immediately liked the idea of appealing to the Fury of the Small, but as a privateer, Savin immediately opposed that notion. Admiral Dicken was out for obvious reasons (as in, dead, for those who don't remember). Tylhana was a maybe. That left Don Chen and Lordithas as possibilities, and the party agreed to start their search with Don Chen since they at least had his location narrowed down to a nation (which was fine by me because I've had some ideas for a possible excursion to the Western Federation anyway).

Their next course of action set, Yesmae turned back to Tylhana. "I have to know. Are you with us or not?"

" Of course. If yours is the path to peace, I'll follow you to the end."

Yesmae loosed Tylhana's bonds, and then Savin's player started making jokes about certain...unintentional undertones. Made even worse when Yesmae awkwardly stood there expecting a hug.

This is also where Somen opted to take his leave for the time being. In-universe, he felt like his talents would be better suited building up the business (as well as restoring honor to his house). Out of universe, his player is going to be starting basic training for the Navy, and is going to be gone for what will likely be the remainder of the campaign.

So long, Lord Somen Hing of Uter. Your endless fireball spam shall be missed. And good luck on your real-life endeavors.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Some of My Favorite Konglish Examples From My Mission

Learning another language is hard. Sure, language difficulty varies in the level of similarity to one's native language, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a difficult process to even learn one of those similar languages, and with that difficulty comes language mistakes. This isn't a reflection of the intelligence of the person attempting to speak another language; frankly they should be commended for trying at all, but that doesn't stop it from being funny.

That disclaimer out of the way, I kind of want to share some of my favorite English mistakes I saw in Korea, a land where English is basically everywhere as much as a form of decoration as it is for convenience for us dumb foreigners who can't be bothered to learn the language there ourselves. Again, Korean and English are extremely different languages, so the fact that they even bothered at all is something that should be respected and celebrated, and it's not like English speakers learning Korean fare much better. For example, I once asked with a completely straight face if someone was evil when I meant to ask if they were weak, and I once mistranslated a line in church for an English-speaking member that Jesus suffered traffic for us. So please understand, this isn't coming from a negative place. It's just to have a bit of fun reminiscing on times long past.

"Don't trust the clouds. Do trust the Sunshine."

This was taken my first full day in the country, and it's definitely a stretch to call this a mistake because the grammar is fine, but it just sounds kinda funny.

Chicken Food

This one is as literal as it gets. No, it's not a place that sells food for chickens. It's a restaurant that sells food made from chicken. And it was pretty good.

Oryukdo Fishing Flaza

I don't really blame the sign maker for this. There's not even an F sound in Korean, not really, anyway. The closest is the H sound when pronouncing 후 (hu) not unlike the same syllable in Japanese. Because of this, the choice to Koreanize a word that has an F sound has the unfortunate choice of replacing it with a H or with a P, and naturally, the opposite is true here.

Flaza is still a funny word.

I like sing a song.

Okay, I'm pretty sure this one isn't even Korean-to-English since it's a Doraemon pen, a Japanese product, but that doesn't stop me from reading it like a stereotypical 80s valley girl.

ZISES is gift for you that dream beauty.

Plastic surgery is a huge market in Korea, so naturally you'll see it advertised a lot, but someone may want to check on the person who translated this line, since they seem to have had a stroke. Like...nine years ago. Oops.

You can read this one.

Again, really, there's no mistake here. The grammar is fine. It's an advertisement for Pocari Sweat, a popular sports drink in Asia along the same lines as Gatorade. And it's delicious. Even if real sweat is not.

No food. Only drinking water. Don't make some noisy please.

So this was inside a building on a university campus, and there are a lot of primarily English-speaking students in Korea, surprisingly. Still, "Don't make some noisy" is a good sentence to live by.

We have some yum-yum for you =D

This phrase was just funny.

I am breathing with my kitties they meke me awlays happy&smile I will be with them forever.

This was on a packet of tissues, by the way.

Let's have a nice, refreshing cup of Flesh Juice.

This one is probably my most infamous picture that I show everyone I meet and talk about Korea with, whether they want to hear it or not, and yeah, the L/R mistake in Asian languages is so played out by this point it's almost not funny anymore, but here it's just the perfect amount of absurd that it whips back into funny.

Much like Japanese, there isn't really an L or R sound, it's kind of halfway in between, so the way it's romanized in Korean depends upon where the consonant ㄹ falls on the character. Because of this, just pronouncing English words with Ls or Rs in them can be difficult for Koreans, let alone spelling them correctly.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Part 8: Fallout

I thought for sure that the problems between Jangle and Bubbles would have worked themselves out with some forced confinement after other party members attempted to break up their disagreement, but between Jangle's general greed and (completely justified) defensiveness of his stuff and Bubbles' lack of communication skills and previous shady behavior, there was no way that words were going to settle the dispute. So Savin, being the totally-not-pirate that he is, suggested the only possible solution at solving a dispute at sea.

They were going to land the airship on a random, deserted island, and let the two duel to first blood. Winner takes the potion, loser gets to just live with it.

Specifically, Savin's player clarified that, in this case as well as historically, the terms of a duel were meant to encourage duelists to deeply consider whether the prize they pursued was worth the very real possibility of death, and even though the duel would be called at first blood, in-universe one good hit could mean the difference between life or death.

Of course, these are 7th level characters so one good hit means nothing but an injury to the victim's ego, but, hey, I try not to worry as much about mechanics where I don't have to. These two characters in particular could use some ego-bruising anyway.

Anyway, stage was set, weapon of choice was daggers, the characters rolled for initiative, and, naturally, since he had the advantage in terms of dexterity, Jangle won. The potion was returned to Jangle, and the two continued arguing over which deserved his place in the crew, since neither felt safe while the other was on the ship.

By this point, Savin had had enough of their nonsense and made his way back to the ship. The rest of the party slowly began to follow, including both Jangle and Bubbles, not wanting to be marooned on a deserted island. They decided to put a pin in the discussion until they arrived at the next town for resupply.

However, this decision would have to wait, as once the airship got closer to the mainland and the port city of Doncaster, well...let's just say things have gone from bad to worse there.

Since the city was destabilized economically and politically by the goblin invasion, the empire saw a perfect opportunity to reannex the previously independent city-state.

I suppose I'll take a brief moment to describe my idea for the city of Doncaster in a bit more detail. My idea is based off the Dominion of Fezzan from Legend of the Galactic Heroes (I promise I'm trying to keep things as understandable for those in my audience who haven't watched or read the series, which I'm assuming is all of you). Basically, Fezzan is a group of planets that served as a buffer zone between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance, basically setting itself up as a politically and economically-independent region by providing the sole avenue of trade between the two warring factions, able to maintain its independence by sole virtue of the fact that neither side wanted to further incense the other into war by annexing it. Technically it was Imperial soil, but when you have an opportunity to make all the money while providing a decent kickback to your "owners", a smart empire leaves you alone. Kinda like Macau and what Hong Kong used to be.

Anyway, being the largest functioning port between the land of the empire and the Southern Isles allowed Doncaster to keep itself afloat by virtue of money without much of a strategic defense force in place, but all that got screwed up by a bunch of goblins looking for an easy payout.

Couple that with the Empress's increasingly despotic decisions, and...yeah, things haven't been so good for Doncaster.

So the party, upon seeing the port blockaded by imperial sea vessels and the airspace largely controlled by imperial airships, convened to decide how best to approach the situation. Do they land and try to hide Yesmae from the inevitable airship search? Do they try to use her as leverage to get free passage? Do they just course-correct and fly past Doncaster in hopes that they have enough supplies to make it?

Rex, the warforged who almost never does anything onscreen, quickly took inventory of their supplies (food, fuel for the ship that I still need to figure out, etc) and determined that they'd have just enough provided they could get past without causing much suspicion.

So the plan went something like this. They were far enough offshore that a minor (by mere degrees) course correction wouldn't look super unnatural, so all they had to do was (metaphorically speaking) keep eyes forward and just sail through. If flagged down, they would figure out what to do when it happened.

So, they set the plan into motion, slowly, but not too slowly, making their way to the shore on a heading that would take them past the blockade. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as they moved closer, eventually crossing onto the mainland. They could feel an entire armada's eyes upon them.

Anxiously, Bubbles reached for the throttle, his hand slapped away by Savin, and after what seemed like an eternity, the ship had passed through without anyone following them.

The party breathed a sigh of relief, and then continued on. The journey to Halinard's compound was a little longer than they'd hoped to make with the supplies they had, but they would manage just fine.

So a little more description for Halinard's compound. I mentioned before that it's on a manmade island on the outskirts of the imperial capital city. Think Sealand if you want a real life example of what I mean, or, as another fictional example, the Mother Base from Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid V. The rationale being, if Halinard had his own land, even if it's a small platform in the lake that the capital city was built over, he could more easily do what he wanted without interference.

Anyway, the airship docked in a secret hangar on the underside of the platform, and the party made their way into the main compound. However, upon entering the main hangar from the secret entrance, a voice rang out from the rafters.

"Lay down your weapons and keep your hands where I can see them!"

After that, a group of soldiers revealed themselves, specifically three gunmen (I swear I didn't do that just for a Three Musketeers pun) and a magic user.

Savin slowly reached for his rapier, saying, "And to whom are we surrendering?"

"Oh, an old friend of the one you know as Yesmae. You can call me Tylhana." She then melted into a shadow, reappearing on a catwalk closer to the ground floor, about twelve feet up. "Give the princess back so we can stop this madness and bring everything back to normal."

I explained that Tylhana was an NPC from Yesmae's backstory, being a close friend and handmaiden of hers, who had trained under the same master as Yesmae with the same martial arts ability. The idea I have is that she didn't follow Yesmae when she left the palace, torn between her loyalty to her friend and her loyalty to her nation, mistakenly believing that things only got bad after the princess left, rather than the princess leaving after things started to go bad.

I thought I was being super clever by introducing a rival for Yesmae, but because I have like 4 megabytes of RAM in my brain and can't remember things to save my life, I had completely forgotten that Yesmae had previously drunk a potion that altered her physical appearance into that of a human woman, specifically she wanted to look like Merida from the movie Brave.

So basically, I unintentionally created a cutscene where one of the party members was wearing a ridiculous, unfitting outfit.

Anyway, the party played it off as not knowing who she was, to which their unknown assailant suggested, "Well, if the princess isn't here with you, perhaps I'll have to beat her location out of you!" (I'm embellishing things slightly to make myself look less incompetent. DMing is hard.)

As they were talking, a couple attempts at spells were thrown back and forth, to the point where I think I'm just going to not have counterspell be a thing in future campaigns because it makes combat encounters less fun for both the DM and the players.

During this back and forth, Jangle was slowly putting himself into position to attempt to attack Tylhana. At the same time, Savin quickly said the verbal incantation to cast Dimension Door, teleporting himself and Grula to the catwalk to engage Tylhana in combat, who proved to be a decent match for the two of them, but the extra help from Jangle pushed her fight over the edge.

Meanwhile, Somen and Bubbles engaged the rest of the mooks on the ground floor. Despite the difference in numbers, Somen and Bubbles' spells were more than enough to handle the lesser guys.

Eventually, Tylhana realized that things were out of hand and gave the order to retreat to fight another day, melting into a shadow again, warping herself closer to a window to escape while the mage and surviving musketeer (one was thrown into a wall by a psychic blast from Grula, breaking his neck, and one was very roasted by fire magic from Somen and Bubbles) made a break for the exit.

Bubbles fired an Acid Arrow at the mage, hitting him in the back and knocking him over the safety railing at the edge of the platform, and Savin cast Hold Person at a high enough level to, well...hold the two survivors, and we called the session with Tylhana and a random musketeer now in the players' custody, leaving me to try to figure a way where the rival character I created for Yesmae doesn't immediately die in the next session.

Eh, good news is even I have no idea where this is going so I can't spoil myself.