We were missing our shaky player again, and he's having a hard time fitting in. It wouldn't surprise me if he dropped out entirely, and I wouldn't be sure if he would be making the wrong choice if he did (but I will say I would miss him if he left. I missed him in the game). One of the players, after finally grasping what the game was really about, changed his character, and I think the new character is a wonderful fit.
We hadn't played for two months, so you'd think fitting back in would be slow, but this time, I focused on one of my strengths: Character. I have numerous characters and a somewhat complex plot, but by simplifying it and reiterating it, and then showing the world from the perspective of those characters, I was able to bring some neglected NPCs back to the fore:
- Prince Hei: The heir to the Dong Clan who struggles with his sexual orientation and the obvious love interest of one of our player characters. I've wanted to highlight that scandal, that element of forbidden love, the tragedy and love/hate of the stereotypical kung-fu relationship, and this session, I got it in spades with Jimmy's beauty and the truth of his profession triggered a tantrum that cost Hei the tournament and made it appear that Jimmy had set up Hei (when he had not).
- Fen-Fen: Bee's handmaiden has a tragic back-story, and I'd never really touched on it, as it's important for later story elements involving her. Finally, I wrenched the story to the side and showed people her story. It's turning her into a bit of a woobie, but I suppose that's fair. She lives a hard life and faces it stoically. She's never relied on others to take care of her, but that doesn't mean they don't want to give her a big hug.
- "Littlest" Ping and Li: The "crown prince" of Southern Liang draws a great deal of inspiration from Prince Tai, though I'm working hard to make them distinct. Where Tai was a cunning little bastard, Ping is growing into an irresponsible but contagious idealist, and Li is, while not bright, terribly practical, and asks uncomfortable questions (when Li ran off to help Ping with his madcap adventure and was later criticized for it, he pointed out that Ping is a prince, and thus Li is obligated to follow his commands. When the player couldn't answer that, another player pointed out "You're losing a debate to a little boy." Priceless). WotG fares so well when you point out the differences in generation, so bringing the kids in with the adults helps a lot.
- Evil Sage: (one of) the big bads of the game has been referred to, but we haven't seen him. So he played a song with one player character, and then casually murdered another (it's ok, he got better). He's not etched onto the consciousness of the players ("Uhhhh, that kung-fu's not very nice..."), and that's good.
- Jun Zhi: The King's brother, ambitious, competent and powerful, needed to be more than a brooding-but-awesome guy lurking in the background. We brought him to the fore as a powerful ally of the players, so they should be looking to him more often, making his role as a major player in the politics of the region more sensible.