Friday, September 17, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 4

Episode 4: Identity Crisis

Willow: So you are saying that whole season of ‘Facts of Life’ was nothing more than unrequited lesbian love between Blair and Jo?
Tara: Absolutely, they were totally into each other, that’s why they fought so much.
Willow: Now you’re just playing with my emotions.

- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 4 “Identity Crisis”

January 8, 2003 Sunday

Willow’s first big dive back into magic is to recreate Tara’s identity and remove all references of her death. A magical surge created by Yoln, the Shadowreaper, causes the magic to go awry and creates a duplicate of Tara who believes she is Kara, Tara’s twin sister. A magic ID provided by Anya also goes awry and the personality of a dead stripper is imprinted on Tara. In addition, the cast have to deal with hungry snake demons, a small gang of mobsters and a 7ft tall, one handed killing machine.
Story Arc elements: Establishes Tara’s “twin” sister Kara and Murl the demonic identity merchant. Introduces Yoln.

Notes and Comments:This is the adventure that made me forget that the show was even still on TV. Once we got to this episode things were moving great. The ideas flowed much faster. This was also our most comical episode despite the fact that it began with a dead stripper. We have "two" Taras running around, demonic identity merchants, would be gangsters, and a 7 foot tall man in armor with one arm. Plus there is the whole Tara-as-a-stripper scene.

The identity merchant was a great idea.  These are demons that make a living integrating other demons into human society.  They do it by having the demon assume the identity of someone that had died and they get all their effects, basically becoming that person.   Anya gets the id of a recently killed japanese stripper.  We also wanted to do one "Willow's magic screws up" episode and ehen never do it again.  She is supposed to be the most powerful witch on the planet afterall.  In truth her magic didn't screw up it was the combination of her magic, the dead stripper's id and the magic of Yoln.

Special note: Because of this episode Tara can still speak fluent Japanese, Amber Benson made a remark at a con a while back along the lines of "well I guess I can speak Japanese" when talking about the afterlife of fan fic. Wish I could find the link for you all.

Yoln of course is the proxy for our big bad.  We find out more about him next episode, but we learn he is the "Hand of Leviathan" whom he calls "The Whispering God".  Yoln was also an old D&D NPC that plagued my characters.

Kara, Tara's "straight" sister was an inside joke that began on the Kitten describing the soap oprea like plotting we were seeing in the show up to Season 6. We decided in the alternate past that Kara had a hugh crush on Giles. The ophidians were an old AD&D monster of mine.

The author of this adventure, Sass, has a better grasp on Willow than anyother author I have ever met. She gets her on such a fundamental level that her fiction should be required reading for anyone wanting to play Willow in a game.

Kara was not just a proxy for dead Tara, but Dawn as well. We established that she was as real to everyone, including memories, as Dawn, and a spell took her away. This was part of the alienation plot for Buffy and Dawn. Both were feeling like they were less and less human than the people around them, though for different reasons. I disliked the Slayer-as-demon (the episode where the girl was raped by a demon to make her a Slayer had not happened yet) and wanted to go a different direction, so we began by having Buffy become stronger and faster than before, becoming something other than human, or so she thought. For Dawn it was the start of her psychic powers.  I wanted both characters (via the players) to struggle with what it means to be human, or maybe no longer human.

And true to our cause here  "Candy", the dead stripper, gets avenged in the end and her killers are met with justice at the hands of the Yakuza.  Tara also gets a marker from the Yakuza boss.  The boss was named Tatsou which means "Dragon".  There is no connection, just a pun on my part to keep some element of the overall plot in every episode.

The quote above is an in-play quote between Willow and Tara.  All this terrible stuff is going around them and they are having a discussion about the lesbian sub-text of the Facts of Life.

In this episode we also established that Willow & Tara's favorite indie band is Lipkandy. They were playing the night after Tara's birthday.

At this point we began to insert a lot more crunchy stuff to our games.  Previously we had been content to use the playtest material of Buffy, but now we were moving along at good pace.  Episodes 4 and 5 were our playtests of the new Magic Box book, but we wanted to add more.

New Monster

Motivation: Eat humans
Critter Type: Demon
Attributes: Str 7 Dex 6 Con 6 Int 2 Per 2 Will 5
Ability Scores: Muscle 20 Combat 14 Brains 15
Life Points: 70
Drama Points: 1
Special Abilities: Armor Value 10 (scales) Qualities: Hard to Kill 3
Dodge: 14
Claw: 16 18 dam Str x 3
Bite: 15 21 dam (Str + 1) x3,
Tail slap: 15 14 dam

Ophidians are said to be a young race by demon standards, thought to exist only for the last 3 or 4 thousand years, since early Egyptian times. They are an isolationistic race, known to spend time only with their own kind, and have little regard for other demons. While most demons are decidedly carnivorous, the Ophidians are one of a few whose diet is thought to consist solely of the flesh of human beings. It is known that almost all Ophidians worship some sort of a serpent deity, but whether this is Set or Leviathan is unclear.
These Ophidians worship leviathan, but it can’t be a coincidence that many also worship Set and the cast just dealt with Set.

New Spells

Magic Missile
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 2
Requirements: Witches and Warlocks need only shout “dissolvo.” Other magicians also need to meditate for one minute.
Effect: A ball of light shoots from the caster’s hand and shoves the target one foot per Success Level rolled. This spell could knock someone down or push them free from someone who was holding them. It normally does no damage, but if the target is shoved into a wall or some other hard surface, she takes double the casting roll’s Success Levels in Bash damage.
Note: This is the spell Tara used in “Bargaining”. It is assumed that Kara has it as well.

Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 1
Requirements: Command word calling on the gods of sleep (Hypnos, Morpheus, or ‘the Sandman’) and a bit of sand.
Effect: Target must make a Will check. If failed the target falls into a deep sleep for one hour per level of sorcery skill.
Note: This spell is know to both Tara and Kara.

Undo Spell
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 5
Requirements: Witches and Warlocks need only to command that the spell be ended. Others need to concentrate on the spell for 1 minute per power level of the original spell. If the caster does not have the sorcery levels required she can bring in other casters.
Effect: Undoes one spell or magical effect.
Since the magical effect in not natural, the magic is easy. But the witch needs to be able to overcome the level of the original spell as a resisted check.

Next Week:  Tara and Willow are targeted by assassins and they learn more of their mission here.


Tim Knight said...

I'm not sure I can express how delighted I am that you are doing this.

It's an incredible "behind-the-curtain" insight as well as a run of crackin' Buffy (well, non-Buffy really!)episodes.

Timothy S. Brannan said...


This has just been the build up. The action kicks into high gear next week.

I am so glad that you are enjoying these.