Tag Archives: ninja

Jade Regent Retrospective, Part 2

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!

Favorite Memories

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.

Meh Memories

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!

Jade Regent Retrospective, Part 1

And with that we’ve completed another Adventure Path!  Jade Regent was really good and enjoyable overall.  I’ve polled the players for their thoughts and will share them here for your edification!

In this first installment, we see what Chris (V’lk) has to say.

The Fun Parts:

  • Hongal’s captial Ordu-Aganhei – That place was awesome. Sort of like Vegas with a real hint of danger. The descriptions of the people, food, dress, and buildings caught my imagination. Kahn Kiriltai’s contests, feasts, and hospitality were awesome. I wish that country or even just the capital had played a larger part of the adventure path. [ I missed this session and regret it. It was fantasy Korea with a fantasy cross between Genghis Khan and Kim Jong-il. -Ed.]
  • The Spirits – I liked how most of the nature spirits were peaceable, rather than the typical D&D default “…enjoys the taste of human flesh… highly prizes elf flesh.” In fact, once the supernatural element was removed the typical spirit was more like an NPC human villager with useful information. [Or not very useful, like that worthless damn lake spirit on the Imperial Shrine Island… -Ed.]
  • The Human Spirits – This idea was original and fun. They are possession machines driven by appetites, revenge, sadness, or just plain craziness. Some good, some bad, and some “no big deal”. There seemed to be just enough balance between those three elements that some players decided letting one in was worth the risk. And the bizarre behavior of the possessed offered some interesting role-playing and moments of humor. [Everyone looked down on me because I refused to let myself get possessed! -Ed.]
  • The Rift of Niltak – creepy, scary, and weird. Frightening monsters experimenting on humanity. Fungus that attracts ghouls. Crazy bondage soldiers ala The Beast Master. Well done, Paul. I totally wanted to go back after we saved the empire.
  • The Ending – I actually cared if Minkai survived and prospered. I can’t identify the exact elements that made this so. The common backgrounds and occasionally strong ties between the PCs and also with Ameiko helped me believe that V’lk should care. The quests would be another factor – they were not stacked upon each other. And many of the quests had goals that would seem important to an oppressed population or to a revolution in the making.
  • Every PC had a Moment – I think the variation in the adventure series was the main element. GMing, luck, and role-playing were also strong contributors.

It Went Both Directions:

  • I really liked the Asian equipment, weapons, and magic items. They have colorful names (Ghost Mirror Armor), nifty effects (fugitive grenades), and cool imagery (freaking fireworks!). Who wouldn’t want to be a master of the katana or the kusari-gama? Who wouldn’t want to gear up and sneak around ninja style?   But you bastard Asiaphiles couldn’t leave it at that. You just had to make all of it better than their western equivalents, including the classes. The Samurai and Ninja classes have supplanted the Fighter and Rogue. Just marry an Asian and get over it already.

The Irritating Bits:

  • Thank you, Mr Dungeon Designer, for the “Bow of Death”. Have we not passed the days where the high school GM decided to shove Stormbringer, Mjolnir, Excalibur, the Heartbow, or the Red Rider BB Gun (Fallout) into the game? Only one person gets to use it. Next time make it the Head of Vecna so the pcs can at least slaughter each other for the prize. But seriously, if you want powerful weapons in your module at least put enough in the game to cover everyone and mix it up a bit: Twelve Swords of Power or The Swords of Wayland. [I was the one who got that bow and it presented me with a dilemma – I even posted on RPG Stack Exchange about how to deal with suddenly being so uber. -Ed.]
  • Monsters vs “Bow of Death” – Very few monsters tried to set the battle field to avoid the “Bow of Death”.
  • Pandas – I wanted one panda themed monster. Just one.

Jade Regent – The Empty Throne, Session Four

Fourth Session (12 page pdf) – We go on a hostage rescue raid and kill a good bit of the palace’s defenders in the bargain. And then the propaganda war begins! Plus, we set up V’lk in a deadly one-on-one with the Raven Prince, the Regent’s pet ninja master.

This was a lively time.  First, we went to rescue the captured women of Kasai from the Imperial Palace.  Our usual scry, teleport, kill strategy is tried and true, but we sure get some resistance this time. The three spider woman wardens in there with them are tough, and then a mess of Typhoon Guards join them.

We get in a tight spot when the Typhoons kill one of the women and threaten to kill them all if we don’t surrender.  In an inspired bit of mayhem, V’lk uses a Major Image (illusion) to show Harwynian breathing fire on all the hostages, “killing” them. That got a big “holy shit!” from friends and foes alike.

The second tight spot was when we saw more women across the courtyard in another building and more Typhoon Guards coming.  Harwynian scooted over there and teleported out that contingent while we Wall of Iced inside our room and mopped up. Tactics FTW! I was really pleased with the whole group’s performance.

Speaking of performances, we’re not to the most awesome part yet. We start in with some standard insurgency work and decide to lure out the Jade Regent’s pet ninja, the Raven Prince. V’lk challenges him to a ninja showdown and then we put on a performance of The Cuckolded Cuckoo, the play we took (and Yoshihiro adapted) from the crazy tengu we killed in Brinewall. V’lk was working backstage… But not really V’lk, another Major Image.  His Hide outstripped the Raven Prince’s Perception, and the ninja appeared and stabbed the illusion.  The illusory V’lk pled for his life and dragged himself from the gloating tengu ninja – he went for the death strike just to have the illusion disappear as he got helle-backstabbed by V’lk. And down he goes!  Clean kill Naruto style! Ninja style chest bumps all around, after the curtain fell on our play ended – with the death of the Cuckolded Cuckoo. Literary irony FTW!

A little hooker negotiation, and we’re set up for the finale next time on Jade Regent!

Jade Regent – The Empty Throne, Session One

First Session (11 page pdf) – We teleport into the capital city, Kasai, to free our thick-necked ally Hatsue and link up with the resistance. We fight the Typhoon Commander, stone tigers, long-necked freaks…  Then it goes all Japanese horror movie on us!

In D&D 3.X fashion, we glom onto the ‘scry and teleport in’ tactic as a winning combo. We port in, waste some guards, grab Hatsue, port out. They didn’t even disguise some oni as her or mentally dominate her or anything, which is pretty softball we thought. I gave her the Thundering Blade of Sugimatu so she could kick some butt, we all kinda like her.

Then we go on a rice-liberation run and fight big stone tigers with dimensional gates in their stomachs, or “tao tieh.”  I (Yoshihiro) have a pet bag of devouring. Like really – it was a cursed item I got a long time ago, I discovered it wasn’t a bag of holding when it tried to eat my arm. Since then I’ve kept it as a weird pet (Yoshihiro’s Japanese, so weird pets are de rigeur). I feed it odd pieces of loot we don’t want and talk to it. The party tolerates that well enough. But I had to sacrifice it in this fight – I was being attacked by two of these things and knew I couldn’t take all their attacks, so fed it to one of them. I reckoned that it would go bang just like when you mix bags of holding and portable holes and stuff, and I was right. But I did give a good long scream of grief and rage when it happened.  “SACKY! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” And thus did my pet bag of devouring save me from evisceration by a big stone tiger.

Then we head off to the sacred island of the emperors, which is nice and Asian fantasy chic.  We fight a freaky long-necked hag woman thing what like they have over there.

My favorite part was when we found magical instruments on a little stage on a mini-island in a decorative pond.  I proposed we all play the instruments to soothe the spirits.  We played well; it didn’t have any game effect but I could picture us all sitting there, in a pagoda with the leaves falling, playing a tune while the many spirits of the imperial island looked on…

At the end we met the ghost of Emperor Shigure, who was hard to deal with, he kept going all shaky-face-staticy on us like ghosts do in modern Japanese horror movies, which was cool. Now we’re off to recover his body from some demon chasm.

Jade Regent – Tide of Honor, Session 6

master ninjaSixth Session (10 page pdf) – The Master Ninja comes for us but goes down fast. Then our armies go to confront the Jade Regents’ and we defend a fortress from an oni attack.  Now to the offensive!

Well, the master ninja with the ninja artifact coin that’s hunting us showed up. He was clever in posing as a normal commoner and got in his death attack on me, but I made the save and then, somewhat regrettably, as he leapt away V’lk hit him with a flask of burning oil as a target designator and I put one full attack worth of arrows with my samurai challenge into him and that was it.  With this magical bow that lets me put my challenge on arrow damage I do an embarrassing amount of DPR; I actually feel a bit bad about it as I try to avoid min-maxing. Some of this is just normal higher level Pathfinder “glass cannon” syndrome though.

Then it’s shopping and crafting and planning, leading up to our armies intercepting the Jade Regent’s army and us teleporting to the fortress to fight some oni! It was a tougher fight than the ninja but not too bad, most of the damage was from people hitting guys with fire shield on them 😛

Next we hit Chapter Six; we’re taking Ameiko to a shrine in the capital to get blessed (and ideally rescuing our helpful farmer lady spy in the bargain).

Jade Regent – Tide of Honor, Session 4

ManananggalFourth Session (9 page pdf) – Special musical episode! Minkaian pop punk samisen-playing band “Hi Hi Puffy Osayumi” is briefly in effect. And when we’re attacked by manananggals, every time the GM says the word “manananggal” we are all compelled to respond “Do doo, do doo doo!” Then we drink tea and hang out with ninjas.

The helpful housekeepers from the manor house were actually horrid undead called manananggals, which are like the penanggalan all us 1e’ers are familiar with but instead of just a woman with a detachable head it’s a woman with a whole detachable torso. They definitely got their surprise licks in before we overcame them. V’lk went to loot their chambers, and we speculated that the real treasure he was looking for (and found) was four womens’ bodies only intact from the waist down. What he also found was that they had mended his pants before coming to kill us! “That’s the best treasure I’ve gotten in a long time,” he noted. We speculated that they are of the obsessive-compulsive sort of undead and they can’t help finishing their domestic tasks before trying to feed on the – whatever – of the living. Subsequent research revealed they mostly attack pregnant women, which led to a bit of a witch hunt among the group to determine if any of us were indeed a pregnant woman.  My money was on Harwynian.

We then got a couple more semi-artifact magic items, a samisen that casts divinations and a tea set that basically lets us put greater heroism on ourselves before a mission!

Then we go to meet with the “Three Monkeys,” the heads of various ninja clans. After some folderol we have a sitdown with them and they tell us they can’t help us because there’s a contract out on us – luckily, not with them. “A problem murder can solve!” we exult. As the meeting wound up I realized I still had one of the ninja fugitive grenades (smoke bombs with a rope trick in it) and it struck me how hilarious it would be to end a meeting with three ninja clan leaders by tossing down a smoke bomb and disappearing ourselves. So hilarious, I had to exercise all of my self control not to do it. We imagined it would go something like this…

“Peace out!” <BAM!>
“this way guys…” <shuffle, shuffle>
<bonk>  “Ow!”
<door slams>
<heard clearly through the paper wall> “Woot! Who’s the ninjas now!” <high fiving all around>

And now, we’re all level 12!

Jade Regent – Night of Frozen Shadows, Session 5

Fifth Session (10 page pdf) – We kill Thorborg the oni and make a bunch of new friends in preparation for our journey north. Plus we have to fight BLINDHEIMS!

Well, both Tim and Matt showed up late, but luckily walked in by the time we opened the door to the boss’ lair and went inside. Things started out well – I used Suishen’s wind walk and see invisible to get up in the air and see the oni and I shot her with an outsider bane arrow.  And then she shot a spear-sized arrow right into me with a crit and down I went in one shot. I’m not really made of hit points, it’s why I want to become an archer eventually.

V’lk then saved the day with an obscuring mist – cancels ninja backstabs and also made the oni have to move out of the mist and then attack.  Gobo pumped a couple cure light wounds into me by then the rest of the party was still screwing around down with the ninjas in the mist so I had to charge her again. But in a spate of good luck, V’lk poisoned her and I hit her, she missed me, and I hit her again taking her down – I maxed out all my stuff to do it. She fell to the ground and got scorching rayed in the face as a coup de grace.

Afterwards when we’re opening cells, we get flash-blinded by froglike critters – I recognized them immediately from my old Fiend Folio days.

Yep, it was blindheims. A blast from the past. We killed ’em.  After handing Ravenscraeg over to Longthews (if only he would be a useful ally in the future, but thrall-raping seems to be the extent of his mens’ skills) and headed north in our caravan.

Soon we got attacked by a frost giant raider who put a whupping on me till everyone woke up and got their act together.  Jacob is part frost giant or something so now we’re keeping him as a guide to “teach him their ways.” Apparently that’s horse thieving, but I guess he’s dressing it up a little more mystical than that.

That’s all we did; between travel and treasure distribution and a bad case of “everyone not paying a lot of attention” we chewed through the session hours pretty rapidly.

Oh, and we leveled to sixth.  Woot!  Didn’t get much, but more hit points is always welcome.  New character sheets as I get them are uploaded to the main campaign page.

Jade Regent – Night of Frozen Shadows, Session 4

Fourth Session (13 page pdf) – Trolls, ninjas, necromancers, statues – they all fall before our righteous wrath. We kill, and loot!  And kill and kill and loot!  Kill kill kill, loot loot loot…

Most of the Paizo APs, I’ll be honest, give you crap treasure.  This one is different!  Besides my new intelligent katana Suishen, we’ve found a lot of unique and cool magic items.

The most enjoyable fight was with the three monks then the lady ninja.  It was a big “you can’t see them” fest – I took care of the shadows and all with a daylight from Suishen and then I figured the See Invisible would take me the rest of the way – but that ninja chick, even when sniping and taking a -20 to her Stealth check, was totally staying hidden and owning us with sneak attacks.  Three shuriken are a joke unless they’re each coming with a many-d6 sneak attack attached.

The toughest fight was with those stupid statues.  Super high DR, immune to all magic, break  your weapons when you hit them – and they were like CR4 or something, what a hose job. We had to stop after to recover to hit Thorborg.

This weekend, we’ll fight the oni posing as Thorborg Silverscore!  I best log off now because there’s a hell of a thunderstorm brewing here in central Texas, but more soon!

Jade Regent – Night of Frozen Shadows, Session 3

Third Session (14 page pdf) – We assault Ravenscraeg, Thorborg’s hideout. It is full of ravens, and ninjas, and raven-ninjas.  And we totally find the intelligent ancestral sword of the Amatatsu family in a hole!

Our plan to sneak around like ninjas is largely busted by a raven swarm attack. Our disguises do let us get the drop on a room of ninjas, though, so we fight them then a squad of Vikings pretty well.

Our Viking prisoner gives up some intel. Being Combat as War fans, we set up an ambush for their werebear leader and took him down with extreme prejudice.

Some DVD extras – Bjorn snatched all the money from the Murder God’s offering bowl, I hope it’ll come back to haunt him.  And the inside joke of “Eye Ape, Ear Ape, Ear Ape” is because I figure the blind Gobo, mute V’lk, and just-doesn’t listen Harwynian are like the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil monkeys. And in some anime, Paul had seen that subtitled as “Eye Ape, Ear Ape, Ear Ape,” which amused all of us.

We also liked going into the kitchen. The Vikings were like “You pesky ninjas, get out of the food!” Then we killed them.  Except for the baker, we commanded him to continue baking the tasty bread.

It turns out the most vicious sub-boss in the place was a raven! We had quite a time fighting it. And of course Bjorn’s anti-animal abilities don’t work on it.  “It’s a magical animal!”

In the end, we found the intelligent katana, and learned Thorborg is really an oni!  We had been half considering leaving and letting Asvig Longthews and his Vikings clear the place, but that convinced us we need to sweep and clear – next time!

Jade Regent – Night of Frozen Shadows, Session 2

Second Session (11 page pdf) – We head out to Asvig Longthews’ house to kill us some Vikings. We end up saving some Vikings but killing some ninjas!  Once we hear a chick named “Thorborg” is behind this unholy genre mash-up, we head right out to kill her.

We snuck up on a Viking wake. After V’lk annoyed me by setting off the obvious lion-summoning trap, we got control of the place without a lot of trouble. Asvig Longthews as our prisoner was being intractable, but we knew that a lot of these guys have some kind of head-exploding curse on them for if they talk.  In what seemed to be quite against GM expectations, we managed to dispel the curse and get the Ulfen on our side!

Alas, the ninja ambush that was probably going to be waiting for us at the funeral boats just came to the longhouse instead. And they took me out fast.  With my character, sometimes I end up leading the battle to victory, sometimes I get dropped in two rounds. Not too much in between. Finally, we kill them and head off to find the person behind this, a woman named Thorborg (this made us giggle).

So we argue about plans – draw her to town, ambush her on the road… No, we’ll just go right up to the front door of her keep. Our attempt to bluff our way past the door guards goes badly and we get to fight more ninjas.  They are really annoying, because they can go invisible and then sneak attack you.  For a PC it’s less cool because you can only do it a couple times a day, but of course monsters only have to go one combat and get to use all their daily uses on you.

The humorous silver lining, however, is that the kenku ninjas were equipped liberally with blowguns.  Kenku are bird-people with beaks, not lips. This caused a minor riot to break out when we found it out.  They didn’t use them on us, luckily.  We speculated that there’s some ninja union and they make everyone carry blowguns whether or not they are equipped biologically to use them. “Now that’s Lawful!”

The illustrations in the books add a lot to the play experience.  We always show the monster pics to the players (sometimes having to obscure 3/4 of the page in the book to safely do so) and in this one, the spider eater picture really put us off our feed; we had considered killing it just to clear the way and after we saw it we decided “screw that!”