Friday, October 28, 2016

Peng Lai, where dreams come true, the Chancel of Kirin

Properties of Peng Lai

  • Everyone has a purpose
  • Destiny shapes all lives
  • Doubt will destroy you

The Geography of Peng Lai

Peng Lai is a great mountain in a still, sun-set sea, with great clouds rumbling above its peak and a lazy, perpetual rain. It has a picaresque quality, like a fantastic painting brought to life. One can only arrive at Peng Lai by boat, which leads to a great gate and wall. One must pass the gate and then travel the 10,000 steps to reach the top of the great, craggy mountain, and only there, at the top, can one petition Kirin herself to grant your destiny. The path taken is called the Pilgrimage and one must necessarily encounter the whole of Kirin’s estates and Powers along the way in some fashion.

The Poison of Peng Lai

Something rots at the heart of Peng Lai. A great crack runs up the entirely of the mountain that has split the temple at the top itself. At first, it was barely perceptible, but it grows worse. Something blackens the plant life and the water, and sometimes, off the beaten path, terrible beasts roam. Not everyone sees these things, but they always flicker at the edges of your vision. This is the manifestation of the poison of Peng Lai, which Kirin claims is the result of some attack on her domain and her estates, perhaps the act of an Excrucian, or perhaps even treachery by Lord Entropy himself (for he is Dark and Kirin is Light). The poison can infect and wound those who stay in Peng Lai via numerous possible paths, but only one vector for infection is certain: If you give into your doubts about Peng Lai, you’ll be poisoned. This definitely includes a player asking if “Will this poison me?” Just asking such a question results in the poisoning of your character. The severity of poison depends on how deep one has traveled into Peng Lai, and manifests as a wound.
Other possible ways to become poisoned may include (or may not include!):
  • Accepting food/help from strangers
  • Suffering the scorn of others
  • Drinking the water of Peng Lai
  • Accepting a lie as truth
  • Acting in a way contrary to your true dharma

Go to a better place!

0 or less: You may not enter Peng Lai, for you are unworthy!
1: You may not enter Peng Lai yet, but perhaps you’ll be worthy of entrance some day
3: You may not enter Peng Lai, for you are unworthy, but you meet someone who is also trying to gain entrance. You agree to go out for a cup of tea together!
5: You may not enter Peng Lai, for you are not worthy, but you know why you are unworthy! You have learned how you might enter Peng Lai! You just need to improve these things about yourself, and by following your dharmic path, you will inevitably enter Peng Lai.
6: You may not enter Peng Lai, for you are unworthy, but you have learned what it takes for anyone to enter Peng Lai. People come to you for help, and you can offer them your great wisdom.
8: You may enter Peng Lai. You are worthy!
9: Do not enter Peng Lai. Stay, and help others enter Peng Lai.

Troubles, Tools and Bonds
  • You are worthy!: None may enter Peng Lai who are unworthy, which is built into the difficulty list. But if one is truly worthy, having fulfilled their dharma, walked the path of their life and finally, at last, achieved their destiny, gains a +5 to enter Peng Lai. This definitely applies to any Power whose Flower is Alyssym.


Many many people want to enter Peng Lai. Entire nations have decamped from their worlds to come to Peng Lai to find their destiny, but none are worthy to enter. They await their moment of destiny at the base of the mountain, outside of the gate, in a great, vast refugee community named Exile. Budd reigns here, often bringing people across the sunset sea and parking them at Exile until he can find another place for them. It acts as a sort of half-way house for the dispossessed and desperate. The result is an explosion of anarchic culture, despair, hope, bright-eyed children and hollow-eyed adults, cynicism mixed with idealism, and violence mixed with hope.

The Poison of Exile: Exile isn’t poisoned, because it’s outside Peng Lai. It lies at the gate that enters Peng Lai. So, Budd is quick to assure everyone that there is no danger in Exile. Even so, rumors persist that those who have poisoned Peng Lai reside in Exile, and certainly some strange and dangerous seeming characters lurk in Exile, lending it some truth. If there is poison in Exile, though, it is evidently weak:
  • Poison of Exile: Surface Wound (“Strangers mean to harm me”) 1
Properties of Exile
  • Tool/Trouble: That’s Weird! (+/-2): Everything in Exile is weird. Ancient Gauls brush shoulders with medieval Jews, modern Syrians and Zeta Reticulans. You can find anything in Exile, providing you seek something unfamiliar. This cuts both ways. If you seek something weird or exotic, you gain +2 to find it (that is, not only are you more likely to find it, but doing so will improve your life), but seeking the traditional and familiar is penalized (That is, not only is it more likely to fail, but it will make your life worse).
  • Edge: The Specter of Violence (Varies): The Power of Violence, one of Bhaal’s powers, visited Exile after the death of Bhaal, in an effort to force Budd back to his old ways. Deadwood found him and killed him, and his specter still haunts Exile. The people there are all intimately familiar with the fear and possibility of violence. One can invoke the power of Violence simply by uttering its name, implying the possibility. Doing so grants a powerful edge that increases the more one invokes him. It cannot be used to improve your life, but it can be used to force your will onto others. However, the more powerful you make the specter of violence, the more powerful it becomes for others to invoke as well. Budd has forbidden his invocation, because too much invocation might bring Violence back.
Description Snippets
  • A light drizzle taps gently on the draped cloth that covers the pavillion of the marketplace. Beneath you, the mud squishes between your toes or beneath your shoes. Thunder rumbles and the warm, lifting wind, the one that flaps the canopy above, smells of lotus blossoms, peace and the promise of a coming spring. Through the drizzle, to the East, the sun touches the horizon behind the grey curtain of rain, and paints the great mountain of Peng Lai a rainbow of hues.
  • An elephant stops at a red light, flicking his ears to wave away flies as he waits for traffic to pass before him. Atop the gray titan rests a wide-eyed alien, wearing a turban on his oversized, pallid head. When he catches you watching him, he waves his riding crop and shouts in a deep bariton “Wazzaaaap?”
  • As you walk through the market, a black woman begins to shout at you from a stall. She wears prayer beads in her dreads that clack ceremoniously as she moves, and her richly colored, arabic-styles robes flow in the wind. She’s trying to sell you saffron, or perhaps an old 8-track player. Across the street, a portly goblin also vies for your attention. His griddle steams with crab pancakes, falafel and fresh, still-living gagh. He grins at you with yellow teeth and waves the odor of his crazed BBQ in your direction “Only one dolla!” he growls.
  • A little girl is lost in a dark alley. A Mexican, a Syrian and a Zeta Reticulan, with ominous technology, notice her. They close in. She trembled but says “I am not afraid!” Behind her, an ominous specter rises invisibly. It whispers a threat in her ear. She trembles again. The men, they say “You look lost, little girl.” One reaches out for her…

Improve Yourself!

0 or less: Sometimes fad dieting and self-improvement plans leave you worse off than you were before.
1: You’re perfect the way you are.
3: Your motivation for self-improvement infects others!
4: You improve yourself in some specific, small way.
6: Your self-improvement is noticeable. Others are impressed! Even jealous!
7: You gain the sort of quick self-improvement people really crave. You lose all that weight and look great! You get that degree! You’re a better person.
9: You don’t achieve self-improvement, but you find the path to genuine self-improvement and gain a stone that you can apply to self-improvement

Troubles, Tools and Bonds
  • Wound: Superficial Self-Improvement: Success at self-improvement might be illusory. You gain a bond that states that you’re better at something, but it wounds you, and lasts only until such time that you realize that it’s not really you, and then goes away.
  • Wound: Magical Self-Improvement: Success at self-improvement might be illusory but awesome. This grants you the sort of benefits that you see in adverts or on posters, the sort of self-improvement that you actually want. It’s kung fu, or a perfect waistline, or a better degree than everyone else. You are a demonstrably better person. This is also a wound, but a Serious or Divine Wound. It grants an Affliction-based power associated with your self-improvement, and lasts until you realize that it’s not really you. This sort of self-improvement dissolves people, like the chubby sweet girl who becomes sleek and perfect but loses all of her personality and becomes a plastic magazine cover.

The Golden Palace

Visible from Exile is the great Golden Palace, a wondrous and glittering mansion that stands just beyond the gates and has balconies from which its denizens can step out, survey those unworthy of entrance into Peng Lai, and assure themselves that they are better people.

The Golden Palace is the domain of the Power of Etiquette, though it has lain empty for quite some time. Nonetheless, the relics of her passing remain within. It contains libraries full of geneological books in which one may find proof that your ancestors were kings, or golden robot-like beings who will happily teach you how to eat or speak or dress or walk to prove that you are a superior person. If you remain in the Golden Palace, they promise you, you can achieve the sort of success that one dreams about.

Poison of the Golden Palace: The poison of the Golden Palace is well-known, and it haunts the hallways. The persistent rumor is that if you’re discovered to be poisoned, you’ll be cast out of Peng Lai, thus the denizens of the Golden Palace run about, attempting to prove to others that, unlike the dirty people of Exile, they’re too good to be poisoned. Nonetheless, more and more sick people are found. What is its cause?
  • Serious Wound: “I am not good enough” 2
Properties of the Golden Palace
  • Edge: Self-Improvement Scheme +3: The Golden makes self-improvement easier, if you can step past its gates. However, its effects only apply in comparison to others. You may apply it as a tool, but only if you accept one of the wounds aabove as a result of the attempt.
  • Edge: Proof of Worth (+4): The Golden Palace contains a vast library of documents, certificates and eloquent books that all prove that you, specifically, are worthy. These can be offered up as evidence of proof of worth to anyone, including to gain entrance to Peng Lai!
  • Bond: Better than You: The native Denizens of the Golden Palace have a bond that expresses their ultimate superiority over all others, worth +1 to +5, depending on how supreme they are, though usually only the Duchess of Etiquette herself has achieved the lofty heights of “Better than You +5”
Description Snippets
  • The golden clockwork denizen of the golden palace gleams a burnished hue in gaze of the setting sun. She bows before you. “I am DeeDee-Six, human/Noble relations. I am pleased to make your acquaintance. Please, step in out of the rain.”
  • Endless halls and spiraling staircases spread before you, each leading to unknown and unfamiliar rooms. Portraits of people you should know, but don’t, line the walls, and various impressive statuary and knick-knacks clutter the walls, giving one the sense that a single touch might send the crashing down, shattering the cathedral like silence of the Golden Palace. The clockwork robots move precisely and exactly: the know they belong here, know where they are going and where they are coming from. Do you?
  • Down one of the corridors, you can see humans sitting at tables and dining under the instruction of golden robots. They lift their spoons to their mouths in perfect unison, and lower them again, clacking them together on the table like one great machine.
  • Upon the balcony, you can survey the valley below. Exile spreads out beneath you, filthy and muddy, a riot of disconnected colors. The people seem so small, so petty and so minor from this lofty perch. A woman stands at your side. She smiles at you. She seems to believe you are important and impressive. She clears her throat, and you sense that she’s about to test her perception, to see if you belong here, in this lofty perch, or down there, among the rabble.
  • As you walk the endless halls in search of the missing mistress of Etiquette, you overhear a conversation “We are here to make you better,” a clockwork robot intones with the vibratoins of a tolling clock. “But if I am on the soil of Peng Lai, surely I am already worthy.” “I said not that you were unworthy, only that we are here to make you better.”

Find Inner Peace

0 or less: Your doubts manifest as the poison of Peng Lai! I guess it is a real thing!
1: You meditate and find your center and calm. But does that really count as inner peace?
3: You meditate beautifully and find your center and calm. But is that inner peace? Others think it might be. They want to know how you achieved it.
5: You meditate and find your center and calm, and you also realize something important, about yourself, about your past, about your regrets or hopes and dreams. You understand the world better, as well as your place in it. But does that really count as inner peace?
6: You meditate and find your center and calm, and others are awed by your evident inner peace. They come to you as a wise sage and ask for help in achieving inner peace. But did you really achieve inner peace.
8: You meditate and find your center and calm and achieve enlightenment. You know something profoundly spiritual and important, having learned a fundamental truth of the world that you can offer to others. But does that really count as inner peace?
9: You meditate and find your center and calm.
Troubles, Tools and Bonds
  • Wound: Enlightenment (1): You have achieved enlightenment, which grants +1 to any attempts to retain your moral center. This is a great burden, however, and it wounds you (superficial). The only way to heal it is to accept that it is an illusion.
  • Tool: Inner Peace (+5): You have achieved the final state of bliss where no things bother you. How did you do it? Can it be done?

The Tea Garden

The heart of the Peng Lai is not its temple, but its tea garden. Here, the Cult of the Tea Blossom serves perfect tea brewed in the hot springs from the heart of the mountain, where the Power of Tea reigns over the peace of Peng Lai. With the death of Abigail Ng, however, things have fallen into disarray. Two of the five divine guard beasts, the sworn protectors of the Tea Garden, have been exiled and one has vanished. Abigail herself has perished. The Cult of the Tea Blossom struggles to hold the increasing poison at bay, but sometimes the hot springs run black with it, and the caverns deep in the bowels of the temple hiss and whistle with the hungry rumblings of strange, shadowy monsters.

Poison of the Tea Garden: The Tea Garden now has not one, but two poisons. The first, the original, is an insidious one that comes to those who try to meditate, and often takes the form of a poisoned enlightenment. The other, the new one, comes (sometimes!) to those who drink the tea. The latter is contagious, because the bearer carries the poison of Peng Lai.
  • Serious Wound: “I shall never find inner peace” (3)
  • Serious Wound: “Veins filled with the Poison of Peng Lai” (3)
Properties of the Tea Garden
  • The Five Divine Guardians: The Five Divine Beasts are immortal martial artists who have achieved martial enlightenment in the Tea Garden and have been chosen by Kirin to act as the protectors of the Power of Tea. They failed in their task. To learn more, see Abigail Ng.
  • Cult of the Tea Blossom (+3): When it comes to enjoying a cup of tea, few can offer a better or more perfect cup of tea than the Cult of the Tea Blossom. Yukimura Yuji himself has gone on a quest to find them and to join their ranks due to his love of Abigail Ng, but has thus far failed.
Description Snippets
  • The rain of Peng Lai bounces off the roof of your pagoda, leaving you in peace. In the distance, it fills a deer-chaser fills slowly with rain water and then rings out a gentle bamboo percussion. The white noise of the rain wipes out all other noise and sound, leaving you alone with your thoughts.
  • Tea feels warm in your hand. It warms your lips, your mouth, and it tastes bitter and sweet at once, each flavor accentuating the other. It fills your belly with healing warmth. Deep in that warmth, in the truth found in the yin and yang of sweet and bitter, you sense some greater truth.
  • Rain disturbs the peace of the ponds in the garden. It makes their surface a riot of tiny ripples. Beside the pools, tea blossoms catch the rain, forming small, jewel-like droplets on the petals and blossoms.
  • As you seek calm, the cultists sit with you. They prepare your tea, wearing their robes of green and black, beautiful young women not much different from the barristas of Vancouver except for the gentleness of their eyes. Their graceful tea ceremony is ruined by the rival of a frightened priestess, who whispers urgently in their ear. The tea cup slips ever so slightly, losing some of its tea, and the cup itself cracking in her hand. The sound of that crack cuts through the peace offered by the fall of the rain, and the warmth of the tea in your hand.

Achieve True Wisdom

0 or less: You’ve achieved sophistry. You’ve come up with some clever arguments and ideas that seem sound, but are actually just very clever logical fallacies. You’re actually worse off than when you started!
1: Learning is fun!
2: You don’t achieve wisdom, but you do achieve trivia. Did you know that James Garfield was the first US president to be assassinated in office?
3: You didn’t achieve wisdom, but you’re more erudite. You can offer wisdoms that impress others, even if they’re not true wisdom.
5: You don’t achieve true wisdom, but you learned something you needed to know. This is usually some pertinent fact to a problem in your life, such as a good strategy to defeat an enemy, or a wrong you committed in the past and should rectify.
6: You don’t achieve true wisdom, but you become so erudite that people begin to think of you as a sage. They hope you’ll offer them your wisdom, so they can gain it more easily than risking themselves on the Poison of the Font, or otherwise going through the work themselves.
8: You don’t achieve true wisdom, but you learn something profoundly important: the secret vulnerability of Lord Entropy, the name of a lost world, the true nature of the Poison of Peng Lai.
9: You know that you do not know. You have achieved the first step of true wisdom.
Troubles, Tools and Bonds
  • Tool: True Wisdom (+5): Can such a thing even exist?

The Fountain of Wisdom

Near the pinnacle of Peng Lai, deep in a foreboding cavern protected by strange monsters and terrifying, difficult to navigate cavern, one can find the fountain. It is lonely, with no attendants or assistants, deep in a cavern haunted by shadows, for wisdom stands alone. Those who humbly kneel may drink from it and partake of the heartwaters of Peng Lai, that which feeds the tea garden springs below, and gain not only inner peace, but true wisdom. When Deirdre Brooks drank from the font, she became the Power of Education.

Poison of the Fountain of Wisdom: Some refuse to drink from the Font of Wisdom for fear of its poison. They would rather cling to the truths they already know rather than risk their world view on the false wisdom offered by the Font. They claim that some who drink from the fountain sometimes find something black and brakish in it, something dread and terrible. When they do, they find themselves afflicted with the following poison:
  • Serious Wound: Nothing is True (4)
Properties of the Fountain of Wisdom
  • The Unknown Beast: A monster shrouded in mystery stalks the caverns outside the Font of Wisdom. Its claws and teeth drip with all the poisons of Peng Lai, and the fears of mortal men call it. It whispers to others to turn back, to accept their ignorance. Those who embrace and revel in their ignorance became the allies of the Unknown Beast, who rests in their shadows, breathing its poison on all others. The Unknown Beast has an Aspect Gift “Slavering Beast” 5, the Mysterious Gift, and the Poisons of Peng Lai gift, which allows it to inflict any poison of Peng Lai.
  • The Winding Cavern (Trouble -4): Making it through the winding caverns of the font of wisdom require facing illusions, tricky passages and intuition-defying physics, but all of it follows a logic of its own. Those who face the Winding Cavern face a -4 to their efforts to navigate it unless they set aside their preconceptions.
Description Snippets
  • The cliff leading to the cavern is exceedingly narrow. The wind here howls and turns the rain into cutting droplets that make the stone slick and dangerous. Exile is a patchwork of color down below, and the stairs of Peng Lai seem a thin ribbon winding of up the mountain side. You’re reached a terrifying height, one few mortals have ever achieved. Dare you to rise further? To touch heaven itself?
  • The cavern offers some shelter from the rain, but it’s cold. The stone of the cavern walls feels hard and unforgiving under your hands, and it vanishes deep into uncertain shadows, creating a confusing maze of darkness and uncertainty. The only illumination offered comes from sudden jags of lightning outside, which cast strange, unfamiliar shadows. You’d have to leave the cave to know what cast those shadows, but true wisdom lies deeper in the cavern.
  • Something crawls these caverns with you. It hulks. It breaths. You cannot see it, but you sense its presence. “There is no font,” a stranger once confided in you down in Exile. “Kirin is a monster and lies to others to convince them to come up here so that she can devour you.” Those words come unbidden as you realize that the heavy, poisonous breathing of the Unknown Beast is right behind you...

Summit Peng Lai

0 or less: The path of Peng Lai is a straight and narrow one, yet somehow, you managed to get lost. Strange monsters lurk in the wilderness of Peng Lai, the manifestation of your doubts and fears, and the poison of Peng Lai. They breath their poison in to the wilds of Peng Lai, and they hunt you now.
1: My, doens’t Peng Lai have beautiful scenery?
2: You manage to climb Peng Lai! You reach the Tea Garden, where you may find inner peace. Isn’t that enough?
3: The Tea Cult are impressed you’ve made it so far. “Few manage so many steps, for the burden of destiny is great. Come, great one, and sit with us.”
4: You manage to climb Peng Lai! You reach the Font of Wisdom. It’s yawning cavern now beckons to you.
6: Tales of your summit spread far and wide. People know you surrendered your chance for inner peace instead for a chance at wisdom. When you return, they will eagerly sit at your feet, waiting to learn what you will tell them.
7: You summit Peng Lai. The temple of Kirin lies before you. Dare you to enter and face your destiny?

Troubles, Tools and Bonds
  • Trouble: Destiny answers to none (-5): You cannot force destiny’s hand. Attempting to do so results in a -5 trouble. Those who attempt to avoid their destiny, or who try to rewrite it, end badly.
  • Wound: Burning Dharma (+1 to +5): If you find your destiny in Peng Lai, beneath the gaze of the Divine Kirin, your dharma shall burn with vivid intensity and slowly consume you in the process. If you accept the burden of your bright destiny, you’ll gain a bond to achieve your destiny, but it will manifest as a wound. The closer you get to your destiny, the larger the bond gets, but the worse your wound gets, until eventually the conflagaration consumes you utterly at the moment of perfect oneness with your purpose.

For none may speak of the Temple of Kirin

The Temple of Kirin

The Temple rests upon the pinnacle of Peng Lai, beneath the weeping rain clouds. The rift that runs through Peng Lai reaches it and splits it in twain. The split travels even higher and rends the clouds above, creating a rift through which the sunset gleams and casts a hopeful rainbow through the perpetual rain. Some say that in that split, you can see the real truth of Peng Lai. Others say that the split itself is a lie, something placed their by an excrucian menace. Those who step in the temple may look upon the rift and see the truth for themselves, but those that do may not speak of it, for none who have beheld Kirin’s temple may speak of it, by the Divine Mandate of Kirin herself.

The Temple of Kirin, at the 10,000th step, carries within it the ultimate promise of knowing and achieving your purpose. Kirin will grant you the destiny you know you deserve. She will make your dreams come true. All travel in Peng Lai, each step, is but a step in an attempt to achieve ones true purpose. Her temple represents the culmination of that dream: You can be all that you ever hoped to be.

And, if the rumors are true, that pinnacle is poisoned. According to their doubts, Kirin’s temple rests atop a lie. Do you believe them, or do you believe her?

Poison of Kirin’s Temple: Kirin assures all that her temple has escaped all poison, that upon the completion of your pilgrimage, you’ll certainly achieve your destiny, but some claim that when you reach the top, you’ll find nothing but an empty ruin. They argue that Kirin’s temple is the source of the poison, and that the poison itself is the truth of Peng Lai, and that Peng Lai is, itself, a lie. If that’s true, then when one reaches the temple, they’ll be afflicted with this soul-breaking poison:
  • Divine Wound: I have no purpose (5)
Properties of the Temple of Kirin
  • Imperial Miracle: Speak Note of What Happens Here: Those who witness the beautiful majesty or Kirin’s temple are forbidden from speaking of it. When asked, their eyes widen, and then they shake their head “You cannot understand without seeing it. It is not what you expect” and they are always right.
  • The Bent Strands of Destiny: Kirin and her palace let you achieve, or even change, your ultimate destiny. You may escape the trouble of “Destiny Answers to None” but Kirin will set your destiny on fire if she does this.
Description Snippets

  • None ever describe the temple of Kirin. Perhaps none have seen it?
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