Like[TBA] my previous posts this one is kind of an “outloud thinking” post. I’ve discussed doing research on Chinese history and folklore, the general thrust of the campaign, how I was approaching character creation, and what cinematic/optional rules I would be putting into play. This post is going to talk about all of that and how it all fits together to create a campaign narrative.
First, the general idea of the campaign is pretty simple. I discussed this a bit before in Part II of this post, but I’m going to go in depth a bit here. First, from my previous post:
So what sort of plot am I going for? Well, I have three teams and three different, but related plots. First, let’s talk about the overarching plot. The thing that draws all three teams together. In this instance it’s the idea that the Inner Kingdom (that other dimension that models mythical China) is closed off from the real world (the Middle Kingdom). The last person to visit the Inner Kingdom happened sometime during the Boxer Rebellion in the 19th century. After that all the doorways swung shut and no one could enter or leave that place again. The flow of chi from that place into our world affected all of those who were capable of incredible feats. (In this campaign chi powers can be negated by certain abilities as well as being affected by “Dragon Lines” or ley lines.) The plot in a nutshell is someone in the Middle Kingdom found a way to talk to those in the Inner Kingdom and they are trying to open a doorway back. The B-Team will be dealing with the forces on Earth/Middle Kingdom who are trying to force open the doors and the C-Team will be dealing with those who are trying to do it on the side of the Inner Kingdom. The A-Team will be trying to keep the balance of the Wū and are a wildcard. They might want to open the doors or they might want to keep them shut. That will be up to them.
So what are these doors? Well, about 2000 years ago the first Qin emperor, Qin Shi Huang started to become obsessed with alchemy and the elixir of life. He put out a reward for anyone who could show him real alchemy or magic and quickly found most magicians and alchemists were hucksters and conmen. Eventually, he would a few who could teach him all kinds of magic, from summoning demons to brewing potions to heal sickness. Finally, an alchemist showed up that knew a great secret: how to concentrate the chi of living things and distill it. The alchemist used it to heal others of their ailments and even bring the dead back to life. The emperor coveted it immediately and asked the alchemist to teach him. Against his better judgement he did. The emperor created what was essentially a production line to drain the chi from the land. He began imbibing great quantities of it and grew ever more powerful and cruel. The people cried out to the gods begging for help until eventually a band of heroes snuck into his castle and killed him. But the emperor would not stay dead – his black sorceries gave him eternal life as long as he continued to leech the chi from others. Worse, the spell he had been draining all the chi for executed on his death draining massive amounts of life force from every inch of the empire and into a spell matrix whose sole purpose was to create a land of pure chi he could rule over and feast on. The chi from the fringes of reality washed over the earth and pulled itself into what would be known as the Inner Kingdom – a dimension that would come to resemble mythical China. The Middle Kingdom – our Earth – still contained some of the chi energy, but most of it was gone or leaving along with gods, demons, and other beings who relied on it. They headed for the Inner Kingdom. The emperor never got to enjoy his created paradise as he was cursed by the gods and forced to stay in his tomb at the foot of Mt. Li. There he would wallow forever between life and death, getting just enough of the chi he needed to fuel him, but not enough to grow powerful.
The emperor’s spell had wide-reaching consequences. Masters who could harness their chi became rare in the new world as did students. Eventually, it was only a fraction of what had once been and those who were left formed secret societies to concentrate and hoard their knowledge. These secret societies or Wū would shape the supernatural landscape of the Middle Kingdom for the next two thousand years.
Now, we got some backstory down – how does it affect the PCs. Well, the players on B-Team would be part of a Wū starting out. The Shen Hua is perhaps the last of the original nine Wū. The others long since lost to infighting or lack of trained initiates. While not exactly on the top or in command, the Shen Hua carried a lot of weight. Among all the Wū they alone had the authority to invoke true sanctuary for those that ask and were a neutral force among all the shadow warfare the others participated in. When a Wū broke the rules it is the Shen Hua that punish them. Shen Hua Sanctuaries could be found around the globe and in all cities. A place where the other Wū could come together without fear of combat or assassination by their foes. Thus, B-Team would start out as a part of this Wū, perhaps as seekers of sanctuaries or maybe starting as enforces, whatever the reason, the Shen Hua has decided they would be part of the same team.
C-Team is a little easier and a little harder – they would begin their game in the Inner Kingdom and need no other reason to be together other than as xia wandering to right wrongs. Their plot would start out with something simple – a corrupt official or perhaps a haunting or bandits even. This would grow outward and upward into something more concrete and more epic.
A-Team would take place in the modern world and be more political and cloak-and-daggery than either two teams. They’d be taken the roles of higher ups in a Wū and contend with the others. Perhaps direction action. I still haven’t decided.
Picking Over the Bones
And that marks the end of this I think. I’ve thought on this enough to create primer for this campaign and that’s the next thing I’ll be doing with it.