Originally Published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/02/24/tabletop-review-qin-the
Qin: The Tournament of Scarlet and White is the latest offering for Qin: The Warring States RPG from Cubicle 7 Entertainment. This is the first official module for the game, even though the core game came out in mid-2006. So far there is another adventure planned as a sequel to this one, which is titled The Song of Bamboo Tears (unreleased) and it will take place just after the events of The Tournament of Scarlet and White, involving the same general location. The PDF follows the same production standards as the rest of the Qin line, with impressionistic illustrations and several informative sidebars give the reader supplemental historical and rules information, including suggestions should the players or GM take the adventure in a slightly different direction from what is intended.
I could not find a bound version of the module in the Cubicle 7 online store, nor anywhere else. I hope they release this in nicely printed form in the future, as I always like to have a hard copy in front of me. At the back of the module are six pre-generated characters, which will allow you to run the module without much preparation on the part of the players, and might be a great way to introduce people to the game or run it at a convention.
Set in the state of Chu (one of the seven Warring States), the town of Yingshan has seen little trouble since a mercenary group took over the government sixteen years ago, forcibly removing the previous governor and killing his entire family… well almost the entire family. One child escaped, and has a role to play in Yingshan’s future. Since that time, the town has been peaceful; the leader of the mercenary group, Qi Xiang, has overseen a profitable and prosperous period, so much so that for the last eight years he has held a tournament that attracts contestants from all over: the Three Champions Tournament (or The Yingshan Tournament). The players find themselves in Yingshan, either to compete or simply to enjoy the atmosphere of excitement. Seeing as this is a short, stand-alone adventure that is meant to be open-ended, the GM can choose how and under what circumstances the players arrive in Yingshan, and the players can choose whether they wish to compete or not (as mentioned above, it can also be combined with the next scenario in the series). There are three brackets in the tournament (hence the “three champions”): West, East, and Jade. The Jade bracket is the highest, and is generally entered into only by Qi Xiang’s powerful henchmen and possibly a few gifted others. The players are considered eligible for the lowest bracket only (West) unless they prove themselves worthy of higher challenges; the adventure is not about becoming tournament champions in a small town however, it’s about something more sinister…
If the players do compete in the tournament, they will have opportunities to show off their skills. Tests of agility and strength are encouraged to be drawn up by the GM, the players using their “Taos” (heroic abilities) to accomplish amazing feats. Not all bouts are for bracket position, some are just for show and are called “prestige bouts”, where the combat is paced more slowly each fighter uses more elaborate, perhaps more impractical moves to show off their skill. Should temperatures rise and anger flare up, sanctioned or unsanctioned duels may also break out!
Generally, the players are not the focus of the events; they are more like spectators to a drama that is unfolding amidst the tournament. They may come into contact with Qi Xiang’s men early on, giving them a taste of who is in charge around Yingshan, before things start to get strange. Since the party is not anyone special to begin with (unless for some reason they have exceptional Reknown) the players will need to do some sleuthing to figure out what is going on.
Some Plot Spoilers for Ye Who Read Here
Without revealing too much about the plot, the young child escapee returns with a mind for vengeance, and is intent on destroying Qi Xiang. Through the course of the tournament, the players (and everyone else in town) will notice strange things occurring on a daily basis, mostly having to do with Qi Xiang’s men (his closest comrades). Finally, there will be a horrific revelation once the party encounters what is responsible for the disturbances, and a showdown to hopefully put an end to them.
What Do I Think?
The Tournament of Scarlet and White seems like an excellent module for any group who has been playing Qin for a while now or only a short time. Veteran players will enjoy showing their heroes off in the tournament and seeing how far they can go, while newer players will be able to sit back and mess around in the town, exploring any situations they like. There are several plot hooks included in the module if the players are moving too quickly, or if the GM wants to extend the adventure over more than just one session. For instance, the module does not come with detailed lists of tournament participants, so the GM may make the entire competition up himself! The competition Jade champion, Dong Buwei, and a few of Qi Xiang’s other mercenaries are already considered to be in the highest bracket of the tournament, but the rest is left blank. Actually, a lot of the details regarding the characters in the plot are rather sparse, excepting the most important NPCs. Physical descriptions or illustrations are almost completely left out, so the GM will have some work to do there as well if he wishes to describe the way a person looks.
One of my few complaints with the module is that there is no map of Yingshan and the surrounding area. There are some points in the action descriptions where it indicates a specific part of the town, and I have no idea where that part of town lies in relation to any other part of town or landscape. This is the most serious omission in my opinion. However, others may see this as just another open end for the GM to draw up with his own imagination. I don’t mind if the map doesn’t point out every sake booth and fish vendor in the city, I would just like to know the general layout!
I really do enjoy the open nature of the module though, and the feeling that the PCs could really do anything they wanted; if they want to be involved in the story in this module, they need to be interested in the clues. I see that as one of the major challenges of running this one: how to get your players to follow the clues and not just focus on the tournament or any of the other million things a party of adventurers could get themselves into in a booming town. I’m not condoning railroading, but a GM will have to be a little creative if their players have wayward tendencies. I would personally love to expand the scenario and have the tournament take place over several sessions, rather than cramming it all into one session. The scenario allows you to do that, it just requires a lot of work on your part, or allowing your players a lot of free roaming and playing it off the cuff.
Overall, I am excited about seeing a series of modules for Qin, I hope they do more and more. I think they have excellent ideals for scenario creation with a classic sense of adventure, and I look forward to future installments from Cubicle 7.