Being the only one of 6 to own the rule book I skipped all the pre-game collaborative world creation and rules and stuff: “Think Crouching Tiger folks. If it would work in the movie then it will work in our game.”
I took the first scene, we kicked off in the famous Jade Temple with our hero “Wu-Shen”, and his wise old mentor (who also had some made up name I forget). One of our players, Liam, was brave enough to offer to take control of the mentor and the resulting dialogue helped us establish how Wu-Shen was found as a babe abandoned on the steps of the Temple, and had been brought up in the martial arts becoming one of the greatest swordsmen in China.
Now that I’d demonstrated how to add traits, everyone started interrupting with lots of ideas of their own. Wu-Shen was brave, handsome, swordsmanx3, you know the package. “Wu-Shen is schizophrenic” was a shot out the blue, and then Shona went on to give a name and a bunch of nasty repelling traits to Wu-Shen’s other personality. Here I introduced everyone to the challenge technique. Was Wu-Shen’s alter ego to be a drunkard or opium addict? Drunkard might provide lots of comic opportunities, but long pipes and blue smoke might be more fitting to the setting.
After that *everything* got challenged. Everyone had their own take on Wu-Shen (and also his mentor who changed gender twice). But when I explained to them all the idea of Master Components, my fellow players became strangely silent as their brains schemed away at their own ideas and they carefully counted their tokens.
“A Masasume Blade is a master component. Its a sword that is unbreakable, unnaturally sharp, there is only one known to be in existence.” For just 5 beads I’d created something very cool. “Now it only costs me one bead to say that Wu-Shen has a Masasume blade.” Gasp! Sudden intakes of breath! Immediately Wu-Shen was old school, everyone realized that the way to go was create their own kewl character with his own kewl history and his own kewl weapon. But then why spend 5 beads when you could just spend one to use my ideas?! Quickly the uniqueness of the Masasume blade was revoked (I had not enough beads and absolutely no allies to help me challenge this!) and more were soon to appear on newly created characters.
The actual story wasn’t moving anywhere so someone did the old “A messenger runs into the room. He says bandits are attacking the villagers!”. It was the perfect chance to mess around with mini-scenes and introduce tons of new components, cutting to the village being raided by bandits, to the hillside where the Raccoon and Frog clan armies camped opposite each other preparing for war, and of course to the Masasume armed ronin who was strolling the town looking for work. Story threads were sewn left and right; the bandits had slain initiates heading for the temple, the chief bandit was Wu-Shen’s long lost twin (who of course also had a Masasume blade), a gypsy woman was the mentor’s daughter and also the ronin’s lover, the ronin was actually a triplet with Wu-Shen and the bandit chief. Meanwhile the cult of the sword grew and grew: “A Masasume blade can never be wielded against someone else who carries one, a Masasume blade will always try and seek out the other two blades,” and so on…
Finally once we’d spent all our beads in a mad frenzy of creation (all except Paul, who was obviously saving them up for some serious Raccoon Clan Army action) we ended the scene. We went over the bidding mechanic and how no one can interrupt the person who frames the next scene until they have played their first event. Everyone was reluctant to be the first to demonstrate this so I won the bid by default (everyone else bid zero). First I took them all to Nobunaga mountain on the other side of China. “A Dragon can fly, a dragon has an elemental attunement, a dragon has a breath weapon appropriate to its element, a dragon can move through substances made (or akin) to its element, there are only 6 dragons in China.” Suddenly the Earth Dragon was born, bursting through the side of the mountain it soared into the clouds roaring “Today I hunger for man flesh!”.
The dragon (apart from adding great mythological colour to the game) was simply a fall back plan in case the Raccoon Clan Army ended up marching upon the little villages and people that everyone had invested so much in, but obviously Liam was worried that the dragon might just be another Raccoon Army in disguise so he gave it a quest. “Before the Earth Dragon can hunt he must find his 5 other dragon brothers”. This of course reminded everyone that there were five other dragon traits up for grab! “Dragons are shape shifters.”, “Komal (the ronin) has the Dragon trait but does not know his true nature.” “The father of the triplets was the Water Dragon but when he died Wu-Shen became the Water Dragon but is so far unaware of his true nature”. A few more Dragons were fleshed out and the Dragon master component got “Ancient Wisdom”, and “Fierce some Strength”
Now that the power of framing the scene had been demonstrated, Paul used a massive bid to take us to the Raccoon Army Camp where he was able to flesh out his army uninterrupted and give them a General with divine ancestry (but no dragon blood this time!). In the next scene Alan took us to his ronin at the armoury, overseeing the sharpening of his famous sword. In the scene after that Shona created a little shop in the village run by man and wife. I took control of the woman and we had an entertaining little argument about curtains. Stuart interrupted, introduced his Gypsy into the store and announced that the gypsy had some shoplifting in mind. I reached for the rulebook and we figured out how to run our very first Complication…
Wow. The gypsy only had a couple of relationship traits (and no sword or a dragon for a dad) but with the *incredible* quantity of beads won from the complication, a legendary gypsy thief was born! She was someone, we mused, who might even be nimble-fingered enough to steal a Masasume blade…