Some more thoughts on our Jade Regent campaign, from yours truly! I played Ameiko’s brother, Yoshihiro Kaijitsu. I enjoyed my character, he grew from a reckless Cheliax-trained cavalier into a proper samurai. Curse of the Crimson Throne is still my favorite AP we’ve gone through but this is definitely right there in the running!
The crazy tengu oni from Brinewall was entertaining because of his play about his relationship troubles, The Cuckolded Cuckoo. I took the play, completed it, and then our traveling Varisian caravan performed it every chance we got. We improvised what the play contained and it was very postmodern. Gobo the blind gnome was the breakout hit playing “A Giant Standing In The Distance.” And then we performed the play in the capital near the climax, allowing V’lk to set up his ninja showdown with the Raven King, the Regent’s tengu ninja! That’s some literary shit right there.
The 3D fight with the white dragon and the fact that the hostile Eskimo shaman looked like Wilford Brimley was the best part of the cold wastes.
All the Japanese spirts were cool. The kami, the oni, the Japan-horror ghosts on Shrine Island – all super interesting. Tide of Honor was probably the best installment and it was super heavy on all that.
The characters all fit in well somewhere. Me in Tian Xia, Jacob in the cold wastes, Bjorn in Viking land, and then Gobo, V’lk, and Harwynian were like “see no evil, speak no evil, smell no evil.” A fun crew. 6 characters is almost too much for an AP but not quite.
The guys worked together tactically well after a while. I get frustrated in some of these campaigns where some of the PCs just want to “charge in” and act like doofs because it could easily lead to TPK. We had some initial bits of that, which got to a height when Bruce (Harwynian) blinded us all during a fight with 40 yeti because he hadn’t bothered to read his new Firefall spell. After a little “we’re going to cut a bitch if they endanger us again” discussion, I feel like the whole group really started to click tactically – by the time we were taking on the Jade Regent’s palace we were pretty 3l33t.
And there were some very interesting fights. Fighting the Daimyo at the hot springs lodge while our ronin allies held off his enemies outside… The Viking castle…
And then there were the little flashes, or Zen moments, that are the real memories stay with me. When we were assaulting the underground hobgoblin keep in the House of Withered Blossoms, Jacob had Walls of Ice in front of us to block arrow slits, the ice putting off clouds of low-lying mist, and Harwynian sent a Firefall up into the murder holes above, causing lances of light to strobe down through the holes into the mist around us – I saw my character vividly, sword in hand, looking over his shoulder at the sublime sight. Also on the Imperial Shrine Island, when we found musical instruments in a pagoda on the lake, and we stopped to play them as the cherry blossoms fell around us. Jade Regent was very visually striking and I had a number of these in-character visual “flashes” over the course of the game.
The caravan rules were a bit of a distracting minigame. Paul changed them to not be caravan TPK fodder as they are by default, but it was still too different from the normal character rules, and our PCs weren’t effectively present during the minigames. Bah.
The relationship rules were a bit of a distracting minigame (see a pattern here?). Once they were exposed to us, we were reduced to buying our otherwise personality-free NPC comrades presents all the time to “gain faction” with them. Both these rulesets were poorly thought out and playtested. If they’d bothered with doing them up right, maybe making them a little more generic, they could have been good, but as they stand, if I ever ran Jade Regent they’d both be cut without comment.
And on the NPCs – we had a lot of PCs. As a result the GM was kinda forced into keeping the NPCs on the back burner most of the time. So we didn’t have very realistic relationships with them. We found the new NPCs we met actually doing useful things (Spivey, Kelda Oxgutter, etc.) so we’d see if we could “gain faction” with them, but no, that minigame was only for the designated four core NPCs. And once any of them joined us, again, too many people, so they’d go flat. Some of that’s on the GM but it’s hard – in Reavers I try to make the whole ship of pirates the PCs are on be “alive” all the time but it takes a hellacious amount of work.
My only other concern was the “rocket tag” nature of higher level combat. Earlier combats were more fun, then towards the end – I got this magic bow that let me put samurai challenge on my arrows. That made some combats into anticlimax, like me killing Master Ninja bang bang bang one round kill. That sucked and made the other PCs jealous. But then some enemies at the high levels were also “here’s 150 points of damage enjoy,” so I didn’t feel like I could just self-nerf and put the bow away all the time because it could cause the death of one of my comrades. The bow was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” but high level even lightly optimized Pathfinder/3.5e play gets kinda unfun, either an ass-whupping or a total roll-over. The final climactic combat was like that – a couple rounds and done without breaking a sweat.
Thanks to Paul “Two Sheds” our GM, and to the other players who made this a fun ride!