The Trouble With Gankorou

By jhubertjhubert


The Story

There are moments I live for as a game master.

These moments occur when the gears click into place and everything comes together after weeks (or months!), and a player realizes just how screwed his character is. In that moment, horror is reflected in his eyes, and this is a precious sight to behold indeed.

Of course, it is neccessary to be careful with this. Any GM can inflict arbitrary punishment on player characters, but then all you get is sullen players who resent you. What you really want is a response on these lines:

"My God! The clues were there all along! Why didn't I see it? WHY???"

Thus, the cruel fate and the resulting trauma must be at least partially the result of the characters' choices (not neccessarily the choice of the affected player character - something a party member did can suffice as well). Doing this right will not cause resentment - but quite possibly admiration for a sterling example of evil GMing bastardry done right.

Here is something from my own Exalted campaign:

The Zenith Caste had long been suspicious of a Fair Folk noble named Gankorou who had some past dealings with the party. So when he returned to the city of the Jade Plum Citadel in the High Lands of An-Teng, he was very shocked to discover the following:

- Gankorou had married Midnight Pearl, the daughter of the High Prince whom the Zenith had slept with at a couple of occasions - and the marriage oath was sanctioned by none other than the Eclipse in the party!
- Furthermore, the old High Prince stepped down from his office and instituted Gankorou as the new High Prince - and this was also sanctioned by the Eclipse!

(The Eclipse had made a deal with Gankorou to sanction three oaths of Gankorou's choosing in exchange for getting taught certain Fair Folk charms. And these were two of the oaths Gankorou chose.)

- Gankorou implied that he had done this with the full support of two other party members, the Eclipse and the Twilight.

(Not quite true - after the mess with the marriage, the Twilight sought out Gankorou and forced him to sign a very lengthy agreement with the Eclipse which basically forbade him to do anything against the interests of the PCs. However, they left him as High Prince since he indoubtedly was competent and they realized that they needed good governors if they were going to control even more territory. So the "support" came in after the fact, but Gankorou neglected to mention that…)

- He had also started a Cult worshipping the Zenith as a god-like figure. And the Zenith, who was a former Christian missionary, had views about that.

(Hey, it wasn't against their interests - and in fact, the Zenith had been very happy about the additional motes he got while being in the Underworld before he knew where they came from… And Gankorou, like most Fair Folk, knows exactly how to get a rise out of someone.)

- Finally, Gankorou admitted that he had drained a bit of Temperance permanently from all citizens of the Jade Plum during an earlier speech the Zenith had held there while extolling the virtues of democracy.

(The Zenith had worried that this behavior resulted from the fact that his speech was just too good and boosted with Essence, and felt quite guilty about it for a long time afterwards.

This also inflicted severe bonus trauma on the Night Caste when she learned of this. I've ruled that Fair Folk can drain Virtues only from people with their permission - or that of their legitimate ruler. And as it happens, Solars are the legitimate rulers of all Creation.

And at the time, the Circle had asked if Gankorou could create another "mystical underground passageway" - a shortcut between two places in Creation - like he had done before, but Gankorou replied that this would take him a lot of energy. Then the Night Caste suggested he should "feed on the emotions of the crowd during the speech" - back then, none of them had a clear idea of what "feeding on emotions" means for Fair Folk - and Gankorou only replied that "that would be sufficient" and smiled…)

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