[Mountain Witch] First Session

I just finished my first session of Mountain Witch. I’d expected to be playing with three players, but after a snap decision, I ended up with seven. Which is a lot, in particular for Mountain Witch.

Character creation took longer than I’d thought, but we ended up with a decent set of characters, as far as I could tell. Then, I explained the rules – too long-windedly – and we set off.

I first led my players into Aokigahara, the suicide woods at the foot of mount Fuji. Here, I tried – and failed – the “Mountain Witch trick,” also known as “fishing:” I said to one of them “You encounter a skeleton in the remains of a suit of armour. It bears the colours of a warlord – which one?” It didn’t get the response I hoped for. Most likely because the offer was too narrow and without enough emotion: I was being very specific about what I was angling for. Also, I chose one of the less experienced players, who, I think, was somewhat shell-shocked by being put in the spotlight. Ah, well – next time, I’ll try it again with something more suitable.

After that, they progressed down the path. Here, they encountered a wailing man with blood running down his kimono. He explained that he had tried committing suicide, but that O-Yanma (the Witch) had sent Gaki (ghouls) to take the heart, thus preventing him from dying properly, leaving him as a ghost like creature, unable to get the relief of death. After a brief argument (a couple wanted to press on – I liked the fact that they were already quarreling) they went up the path towards the Gaki lair.

They found the lair amidst a pile of bones and rotting corpses. Inside, the Gaki were dancing around, singing while eating their rotting feast. The players entered, and one of them ran immediately for one of the Gaki. He was thrown back, however, and the Gaki demanded to know why they were there. The players told them, and the Gaki mocked the man, explaining that he was a thief who’d stolen from O-Yanma and then tried to commit suicide rather than being captured. Having his heart stolen was his punishment, preventing him from an honorable death.

Here, things got delightfully out of hand. Some of the players attacked, while others held back and two actually rolled against the others (I hesitate to say they “helped” the Gaki – their goal was to prevent their comrades from attacking*). In the end, they slew the Gaki and put a sword through the still-beating heart they found in a bucket nearby. They then went back to the junction where they’d met the wailing man, and found a bloodstained kimono and an amulet. One of them took the amulet, then they trudged up the mountainside.

Next, they came upon a bridge with a huge pig-man guarding it.

“What’s your name, pig-man?” they asked.

“Pig Man,” he answered.**

He demanded to know who they were and what their business was. He was hesitant to let them pass, and in the end refused to let them. One of them challenged him to a blind-walking duel (he had blind walking as an ability). This, we did as a duel. I charged him after the second roll and got a Double Success. I described how the samurai got cocky and tried cheating by pushing Pig Man over the side. Pig Man was unbalanced, and bumped into the Ronin, knocking him over the side of the bridge, just being able to grab hold of the bridge (my stake). Besides, the weight of Pig Man falling over broke the bridge. Pig Man just managed to grab hold of the Ronin and drag him to the opposite side before the bridge collapsed, leaving six ronin on the lower side of the crevasse, and one ronin and Pig Man on the other.

*: Next time, I think I may want to play out something like this as a separate conflict – first, they must get through their friends, then they can attack the Gaki. That would have lessened the confusion, and underlined the strife amongst the ronin.

**: Pig Man is inspired by the character “Pigsy” from the old Chinese novel “Journey to the West.”

Next time:

  • I will  have someone confront the ronin about the fact that they ruthlessly slaughtered the Gaki on behalf of a gutless traitor.
  • I will try to split the Ronin up into smaller groups more than this time. Having seven ronin in a conflict is rather unwieldy. Besides, that way I’ll be better able to put spotlight on them
  • I must do my utmost to make them focus on their Fates a lot.
  • I will make the lone ronin meet someone from his past at the Witch’s outpost that Pig Man takes him to.

Things to reintroduce:

  • The necklace.
  • Pig Man
  • The slaughter of the Gaki.

Generally, I thought it went ok. But I am a bit nervous about having so many Dark Fates play out. I may want to kill off one or two of the characters relatively early.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Seven players!? That is an awful lot.

    It does however sound like you still had some interesting encounters.

    Would killing off one or two players not ruin a part of the social contract? I mean what will the players be spending their time doing, if their characters are killed, and would it be fair to eliminate the characters solely to reduce the amount of fates to manageable level?


  2. Posted by Peter Dyring-Olsen on May 5, 2010 at 10:33 am

    I love the scene with the suicidal man and the Gaki. Very cool! 7 seems like way too many players and I guess you’ll have your hands full trying to get them all to introduce their Dark Fates. I read somewhere that people intriduce rules for each chapter: This chaper will only end after someone has betrayed one of his fellow ronin. Or This chapter ends when at least three players have introduced elements to the game (based on their Fates). Etc. perhaps that could help them along – especially if you hose them with lots of wounds, so they’re desperate for rest.
    @Morten: MW actually has rules for playing after your character has died – and it’s part of the game’s style that not everyone makes it to the top of the mountain.
    Hm. Now I want to play it again!


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