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Mandarin Meerkats

This game started as a GMs’ discussion led by Scott about combining genres. For example purposes, he rolled on some random charts and we tried to flesh them out a bit. At one point he rolled up the descriptors “Chinese, politics, adventure and animals,” or something quite similar. At that point, “Mandarin Meerkats” was born.

I am well aware of the fact that Meerkats don’t belong in China, but I don’t care. Meerkats are cool and live little Greek tragedy lives. So on to systems…

Several were considered. “Savage Worlds” was a top contender at one point. Dustin (who is now in Tennessee) and I tried some modifications to model social stresses. I like what we got and might pull it out for the right game, but that is hardly “Savage Worlds” sweet spot. “Big Eyes Small Mouth” was also considered at one point.

Eventually I settled on “Cortex Prime.” This is a fleshed out generic system based on what was Margaret Weiss’ house system for “Smallville,” “Leverage” and “Firefly.” Right now it is just a system resource document available through its Kickstarter campaign.
The base of the system is rolling a die pool and adding the two highest dice. At a minimum you are using two dice, one from an attribute and another from a skill or technique. I felt that this could give use both a Chinese feel and an animal feel. To achieve this, I just gave the categories the right names and flavors. Our characters are based around Taoist Principles (Energy, Harmony, Life, Balance and Awareness) and Natural Inclinations (Savagery, Sense, Society, Speed and Stealth.

Introducing our primary meerkats…

Li Ping – Matriarch - She is the boss of you
Wu Hen – Dominate Male - Exceptional sworsman
Shin Po – Hunter - She probably won't miss
Wang Chung – Scout - You won't see him coming
Han Li Tu – Trader - Knowledgeable and resourceful
Quan Ti – Steward - The real social power behind the family

Now they just need some trouble to get into.

Comments

  • Chapter One: Sundown

    I know it is lame, but I’ll record the Meerkats’ adventures using their roles in the party not their names. I typed a sample post and I can’t follow it knowing their names ahead of time. We had name plates at the table, so the players did a great job referring to each other by name.

    The scout and hunter were out seeking dinner (this is the “GM explains the mechanic to the players without getting them killed scene”). The Scout locates a big juicy scorpion; however, it is on the other side of the river from the hunting party. The Hunter decided to shoot it from here and recover it as best they can after the fact. The shot is made and the river is negotiated.

    As they are bringing their prize home, the notice a young rabbit in an Imperial uniform limping along as fast as it can towards their home. They greet him. He has a message that he will only deliver to the Matriarch. They join with him and head back to the den.

    After exchanging the polite pleasantries necessary in such a situation the rabbit give his news to the Matriarch. Although our PCs are a little too far away to hear, they can see that the Matriarch is visibly shaken. She gathers herself, thanks the rabbit (offering him hospitality) and calls for a family gathering shortly after nightfall.

    She gives our PCs the news that the Empress (her childhood friend) is dead. The Matriarch will travel to the capitol for the official funeral. They get their rest and start at dawn. The rabbit will travel back with them (this is the furthest outpost of the kingdom – the Meerkats are the last o know). They must travel over the mountains, down the other side to the river valley and down the river to the capitol city. This should take a couple of weeks.

    As they near the top of the mountain pass, the Scout, who is out front, notices armed ferrets at the top. He sneaks around and finds an armed encampment of about 50 ferrets on the other side of the pass. Infiltrating the camp, he over hears enough to know that the ferrets have set up an illegal toll point in the mountains.

    The Steward uses his golden tongue to convince the ferrets that the party is not worth their bother and they are allowed to pass through suspicious stares and comments of how Meerkats are no longer needed in the kingdom. It is pretty uncomfortable stuff.

    As they continue down the road the party is ambushed. Some of the ferrets just weren’t going to let it go. The Hunter returns fire. They Scout does a bunch of sneak attacking. There is some stabbing. Most of the ferrets are dispatched, but one is captured alive.

    They find out from him that the regional governor has given they warrant to toll and to tax. The Meerkats are no longer headed into a predictable situation. They decide to tie the ferret up so he can’t warn the others and continue towards the river. Looking back they can see that the ferret has escaped his bonds.

    Staying ahead of the situation, they make it to the town by the river and hire a rice barge to take them to the capitol. A little extra coin from the trader negotiates a near immediate start.

    That night the Scout notices that there is another boat on the river. It is not there in the morning. He initiates a search of the boat to see if anyone crept abord during the night, but mainly just irritates the sailors.

    Our Meerkats make it to the city. While still in the dockside slums (mostly populated by rats), they hear one of the boatmen yelling out at a “dirty stowaway.” Questioning the boatman, they find out that there was a ferret hiding in the rice.

    The Trader goes out of his way to obtain quality maps of the palace and its environs, including the sewers. After selling the armor they had taken from their vanquished foes in the mountains, the Meerkats do a little news gathering. The city is abuzz with the news of multiple deaths in the royal family. Most citizens aren’t overly concerned as long as they can keep up business as usual.

    They make their way to the palace. They are received formally, but coldly. They find out the Lang Shen has declared himself Emperor with the apparent support of the army. They Matriarch (when asked by the other Meerkats) claims to know nothing about this Lang Shen. They are not granted an immediate audience, but escorted to austere, but comfortable quarters.

    Once they have privacy, the Matriarch explodes. Lang Shen becoming the Emperor is the worst news possible. Generations ago, the Meerkats indebted the empire to them through their honorable service in the armies. Lang Shen will not honor any traditions regarding the Meerkats. They are truly on the outside of political power. The Matriarch doubts they will even be allowed to keep their lands.

    The Meerkats decide to split their resources. The Hunter and the Trader will go back to the city under the cover of buying new clothes for the funeral. They will set up a spot to operate outside of, but within sight of, the palace. The others will remain inside and attempt to make contact with the librarian. She is a mutual friend to the deceased Empress and the Matriarch. They know they will be able to trust her.

    They Scout sneaks his way to the library and introduces himself to the tall cane who is the librarian. She set him up with a private reading room. After a bit of time she brings him “a book that might be of interest.” He is able to sneak back to the Merrkats’ rooms and gives the book to the Matriarch. What they thought was a history is actually legend about a deposed princess who was thought o be dead but was alive the whole time. There is a coded message in the back telling them the Empress was being held by the snow monkeys.

    There is a knock at the inn door. Answering it, the Hunter discovers that it is the ferret and three of his friends. He wants to talk and has brought some wine to share. They let him in; his friends stay outside.

    They may be bandits, but they are loyal to the empire. They have always operated outside of the law, but don’t see any good in the current situation. They are willing to make common cause with the Meerkats. While the Meerkats attempt to free the Empress, the Ferret will raise a bandit army. They may be able to force the whole situation into the daylight.
    While attempting to leave the palace the other four Meerkats are place under arrest at the gate and are marched off to prison. On the way, the dominant male leads the fight and dispatches the immediate guards. Using the map that the Trader acquired earlier, they make their way through the sewers to safety.

    Reunited, the Meerkats begin their plans to travel to the land of the snow monkeys.
  • I remember that College of Gaming Round-Table event! Your eyes did light up the quickly-developed idea. I'm glad that you've been able to bring it to the game table!

    This sounds really cool. You got a fair amount of stuff done in the first session. Looking forward to reading the continuing installments.
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    "So understand / Don't waste your time always searching for those wasted years / Face up ... make your stand / And realize you're living in the golden years" -- from "Wasted Years" by Iron Maiden
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