It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want toLesley Gore, It’s My Party, Mercury Records, 1963
Lost Temple of the Nagaji – Episode 1
Taji Mbutzi gave the coin a spin and watched its whirling dance on the bar, it was her last piece of silver. When her drink arrived, she slapped the coin down and slid it to the bartender. He smiled as he took it and gave her nine copper pieces in return. Taji looked up in astonishment, he was charging her as if she were drinking ale instead of rum. The bartender smiled and nodded toward the end of the bar. Taji leaned forward to catch a glimpse of her benefactor and saw a tall dusky-skinned elven woman returning her gaze. Without showing any emotion, the elf nodded and raised her goblet before turning her attention to the men around her.
Taji asked the bartender, “Omai?”
“Of course,” he cheerfully replied.
Omai owned the Gnarly Hyena, a seedy tavern near the docks of the port city of Senghor. Elves were rare in Senghor, even rarer was an Elf who owned a tavern. Taji wondered if she had known her brother and if she knew Taji was down to her last copper pieces and would be asking Omai for work the following day. Those thoughts could wait, she decided. Her goal tonight was to drink until the pain went away, the pain caused by losing everything. This was her reason for choosing rum, so she could get shit-faced faster.
Auntie Kibibi, cook and unofficial mother of the Mbutzi Safari Company, often chided Taji about drinking rum, “You shouldn’t drink rum, it’s a product of slavery.” Taji countered the rebuke by stating rum from Vidrian was produced by free people since the revolution. Auntie Kibibi would challenge Taji to tell where the rum had come from that she was drinking. But Auntie Kibibi wouldn’t issue that challenge tonight – she lay dead in the jungle next to Tamu. Taji gulped her drink and slammed the mug on the bar. “Another” she said to the bartender. For a moment, the bartender looked at her with concern, but then shook his head and filled another mug. When he placed the mug in front of Taji, she pushed her remaining coppers toward him, again, he only took one. She lifted the mug in salute and said, “For my brother.” She took a gulp and lowered the mug to the bar. She felt like crying. “Why did Tamu have to try to save those arrogant bastards?” she wondered.
It was a good night to be inside, two weeks into the rainy season and it was pouring outside. The rum had a coppery shimmer in her mug as Taji plunged deep into memories, memories she wanted to forget. They had reached the great bend in the Oubinga River where they met a band Hazh’a halflings. The Hazh’a said they were hunting a Mbaiki leopard, and the cat was nearby. Tamu told the foreigners the Hazh’a were an untrustworthy people and not to be believed, but the foreigners were enthralled with the idea of capturing a fabled Mbaiki.
Tamu warned them not to leave the trail, only the established trails were safe in the Kaava Lands, but the foreigners, lured by the promise of fortune and their own greed, followed the Hazh’a into the forest. Taji remembered arguing with her brother to leave the foreigners to their own fate, but Tamu insisted the Mbutzi Safari Company was charged with protecting its clients as well as guiding them through the forest.
A clap of thunder brought her back to the present, reminding her it would be six months before she could tell her parents of Tamu’s death. As Taji drained the second mug of rum, she felt a tapping on her back. Ignoring the tapping, she ordered another drink. When the bartender set the mug of rum in front of her, the tapping turned into jabs. “Go away, I’m drinking here” she said over her shoulder. Lifting the mug to her lips, the jabbing became a shove causing Taji to slosh rum out of the mug and onto herself. Whoever it was had finally gotten her attention.
She whirled around and came face to face with a leather breastplate, she looked up into the eyes of the biggest man she had ever seen. Unfazed, she growled “What?”
The man’s eyes widened a little and then he said something that was gibberish to Taji’s ears. He was obviously a foreigner. Taji took a gulp of rum and replied “Sorry, didn’t understand a word.” As she turned back to the bar, he gave Taji another shove spilling more rum. She snapped back around, “Look, I don’t care how big you are, you’re beginning to piss me off!”
This time he jingled a small purse in front of her and spoke the same gibberish. “I’m not that kind of girl” she said and then added under her breath, “not yet anyway.” The big man repeated the line of gibberish slower this time as if speaking slowly would help Taji understand. She shook her head and pointed across the room where a few “ladies” were working the room, “The women you want are over there.”
The big man looked confused, he blinked and then turned to look up into the second-floor dining area. As he shrugged his shoulders, Taji took the opportunity to leave the bar.
She went across the room to where women were plying their trade of seduction and a lively game of Azahr was being played. Taji had learned the word “azahr” simply meant “dice” in an ancient language. She caught the attention of a waitress and ordered another drink. She had had only two and a half, thanks to the big guy, and figured she could handle another.
Taji watched the throws of the dice and wondered if life was just a throw of dice. She had accompanied her brother Tamu through the Kaava Lands many times without incident. The foreigners had indeed been lured into an ambush. For a moment it seemed as though they had prevailed over the Hazh’a, but then the Kaava came. Foreigner, headhunter, guide, porter, it didn’t matter, the Kaava slaughtered everyone – everyone except Taji. “Was she lucky, or had she used up all of her luck and had none left?” Taji asked herself.
The waitress arrived with Taji’s drink reminding her of her mission to drink such thoughts away. Taji gave the waitress three copper pieces and decided to join the game. She placed a bet of two copper pieces. The caster scored his point, and she won two additional coppers. She decided to let the bet ride and watched her money grow until the caster rolled his main point and everyone lost to the house. They offered the dice to her as the next caster, Taji had only three coppers left and was trying to decide if she wanted to play when she felt a familiar shove.
She turned and the big man again dangled a purse and spoke gibberish.
“I don’t understand what you are saying” she said.
“He’s speaking common,” said the dealer.
“Nonsense,” replied Taji, “I’m speaking common.”
The dealer shook his head, “No, he’s speaking the foreigner’s common. It’s called Taldane, our common is Mwangi. He says his boss-lady wants to speak business with you.”
“What boss-lady?” she asked. The dealer repeated her question to the big man in what still sounded like gibberish to Taji. The big man turned and pointed to a table in the second-floor dining area, where a red-headed woman in a green coat and broad-brimmed hat sat next to a bearded man.
Taji took a large gulp from her mug and then wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. She passed the dice to the next player, and announced “I’m feeling good, guess I’ll go see the boss-lady, if it’s what it takes for this walking mountain to leave me alone.”
The second-floor dining area was like a small balcony overlooking the main floor with its large bar, common area, a small stage for musicians, and kitchens. The rest of the second floor and the entire third floor were rooms for guests and residents. The “boss lady” was seated at a table near the railing so she could see not only the patrons at the bar, but also the tavern’s entrance. Sitting next to her was an older man with grey hair and a long beard. He was smoking a pipe and wore dark grey robes. A wide-brimmed hat with a pointed top told Taji he was some kind of magic user. Taji sat down opposite the woman and slammed her mug on the table. She noticed the woman had green eyes, almost the same color as her coat. The big barbarian-looking man stood behind Taji, as if to keep her from leaving.
The older man leaned across the table and took his pipe out of his mouth. With his other hand he touched Taji’s lips and tugged her ear lobe while speaking gibberish. He sat back in his chair and said, “There, we should be able to hear and speak to one another.”
The woman spoke first, “My name is Florinda Carreira, the gentleman to my left is Abeus Greywalker, and behind you is Goncalo Machado. We were looking for the guide, Tamu Mbutzi.”
“He’s dead,” said Taji trying hard to hide any emotion.
“We know,” Florinda replied, “We’ve heard you were his woman, is that so?”
Taji laughed, “No, you have it wrong, I’m Taji Mbutzi, Tamu was my brother, and until a month ago he did guide expeditions.” Taji took another swallow from her mug as she watched the facial expressions across from her.
Florinda asked, “Did you accompany your brother on these expeditions?”
“Of course, for the last three years, why?” asked Taji in return. She lifted her cup to drain the last of the rum, when Florinda asked, “Do you think you could lead an expedition yourself?”
Taji sputtered as she put her mug on the table. “What? Haven’t you heard? I’m bad luck, I’m the sole survivor of a failed safari” she replied. “There are many skilled guides in Senghor with actual experience leading a safari, you would be wise to hire one of them.”
Florinda Carreira blushed and lowered her head. Abeus set his pipe on the table, “We tried, but we were either turned down outright or were quoted an exorbitant price.”
“So, you think you can hire me cheap, since I’m down on my luck?” Taji asked. She tried to sound angry, but the rum had begun to make everything seem absurd and funny.
Abeus calmly tapped his pipe on the table emptying its contents of ash, “Something like that.” he replied and after a short pause, continued. “I think we could all do with another drink,” Florinda flagged down a waitress and ordered wine for the table and another pint of rum for Taji.
“Why? Where do you want to go?” Taji tried to ask in a snarky tone, but the effect was dulled by a slight slur.
“We don’t know” replied Florinda.
“You don’t know?” Taji almost shouted. She looked into her empty mug, “I do need another drink.” There was an awkward silence while Florinda and Abeus looked at each other, then they began whispering to one another.
Taji thought to herself the smart thing to do would be to get up and leave, but they did order drinks and it would be rude to leave without hearing them out – well, she wasn’t really interested in hearing anything more they had to say, Taji just didn’t want the rum to go to waste.
After the waitress delivered the drinks, Florinda leaned over the table and in a voice just above a whisper, said, “We do have a map.”.
Taking a long pull of rum, Taji laughed, “A map? Do you realize fake treasure maps are a thriving industry in Senghor? I’ll bet there are at least a dozen of them being sold tonight in this tavern alone.”
“This one came into our possession from a deceased Chelaxian nobleman who was a government official assigned to Sargava some years ago” replied Florinda.
“You, ya’ know they’ve been making fake maps for hundreds an’ hundreds of years? The fact it was once owned by a noblemmmn, – rich man doesn’t make it real” Taji slurred. Her lips felt thick, the rum was kicking in, but she felt confident in telling these foreigners the straight truth. Unfortunately, the foreigners noticed Taji’s inebriated state more than the truth of her words.
Becoming a bit impatient, Florinda said, “I’ll be sure to pass that information along to our leader, but let’s get back to the question of you guiding us through -“
“Leader?” asked Taji, “I thought youse was leader, boss lady they said.”
“Our friend and leader has become quite ill with a fever and can’t be with us tonight” answered Florinda.
“Fever?” The word brought some sobriety to Taji’s mind. “There are at least a hundred fevers here in the Expanse, most of them are fatal, especially to foreigners.” Turning to Abeus, she said “You should go and heal him.”
Abeus looked insulted, “I am indeed a powerful wizard, but I’ve never learned any healing spells, just not of any interest.”
Taji surveyed the common area and then pointed, “See the woman in the blue dress? That’s Zakia Dawn-Sky, she’s a sorceress known for healing, if you want your leader to live, go to her.” Taji drained her mug and swayed as she stood up. “Get your leader healed and then go home. Find someone to verify your map and then go home. Just go back to where you’re from.”
Stumbling and staggering, Taji made it down the stairs and to a table near the fire. There she sat and watched the fire through tears. She didn’t bother to see if Florinda, Abeus, and their walking mountain contacted Zakia. She didn’t notice anything until the bouncer nudged her.
“We’re closing, go home” he said.
“You wouldn’t put me out in the rain, would you?” she asked.
“If you want to stay in the common room, it’s two coppers” he replied.
Taji opened her purse and handed the bouncer two copper pieces, she had one left. “Could I get another drink?” she asked.
“Bar’s closed” he said and moved on. Taji put her purse on the table in front of her.
She heard the rustling of skirts as an attractive woman sat next to her. “I noticed a man offering you money, and want you to know that me and my girls work this room if you’re thinking of moving in.”
“No, nothing like that, they wanted me to lead a safari” Taji said.
“During the rainy season?” she asked.
“Yeah, foreigners, right?” Taji replied.
The woman looked Taji over and yawned, “Well, it’s time I’m off to bed. My two friends and I keep a room on the third floor, if you’re interested, we could use a fourth.”
Taji asked “Do you work for Omai?”
“No, we just rent the room and she let us work here for a small fee. My name is Kora, but everyone calls me ‘Honey'” she said as she stood, “If you decide you’d like working with me,”
“Thanks for the offer, I’m not much for liking men at the moment” replied Taji.
Kora laughed, “Oh, honey, you don’t have to like them, just like their money.” She yawned again as she turned toward the stairs.
It was Taji’s turn to yawn. She lowered her head to the table, sleep, with the sound of the rainfall, washed over her.
“You Meet in a Tavern…”
I know some people think beginning an adventure in a tavern is an old worn-out device. But it is a good place to begin. Even today, taverns, bars, restaurants with bars, and other drinking establishments are places where people gather to meet, exchange ideas and discuss the topics of the day. I still remember the first chapters of the Dragons of Autumn Twilight where the heroes met in the Inn of the Last Home and how the barmaid, Tika Wayland, saved their bacon and became a member of the group. Yes, I read dozens of the DragonLance novels years ago and would like to revisit them again someday.
Anyway, a night at a tavern is wonderfully captured in the Carousing Encounter of WHAT (Warrior Heroes Adventures in Talomir) from Two Hour Wargames. I’ve played several WHAT encounters before, but this time, I played it with characters generated from Paizo’s Pathfinder 2nd edition and Pathfinder’s Mwangi Expanse setting.
How did this happen? Well, a little over a year ago, Acheson Creations announced they were closing their terrain business and many of their miniature lines. I took the opportunity to order jungle terrain and African animals for my THW colonial era games. Then several months ago, Paizo released the Pathfinder Mwangi Expanse book which is an African-centric fantasy setting. I am such a slow painter and even slower crafter, that I usually need an incentive to get things done – so enter Taji Mbutzi and the Lost Temple of the Nagaji.
I’m not sure if I’m playing Pathfinder with WHAT mechanics or playing WHAT with Pathfinder characters and settings. I imagine it’s a conglomeration of all of the above. For this particular encounter, I translated Pathfinder levels into WHAT Reputation and discarded the Increasing/Decreasing d6 economy for one that uses gold and silver. When I was little, money had silver in it and there were still a few gold pieces floating around, so an economy based on precious metals make sense to me even in a game. Here’s a chart I used to determine Rep:
|Pathfinder Level||WHAT Reputation|
|Levels 1 – 4||Rep 3|
|Levels 5 – 11||Rep 4|
|Levels 12 – 17||Rep 5|
|Levels 18 – 20||Rep 6|
Taji is me, my Star character, she starts the adventure at Level 1 or Rep 3. She is not the leader of the band that wants to hire her, Florinda, Abeus and Goncalo are all Level 5 or Rep 4 characters.
When it comes to finances, Taji is homeless and broke, well she has one copper piece left.
One of the things I’m wanting to explore in this series is how two groups, the group Taji recruits and the group of foreigners who hire her, interact and work toward common goals when they don’t really trust one another.
The Funding Stuff
Be sure to let me know what you think. I’m a total noob at Pathfinder. Your comments, suggestions and ideas are always appreciated, and I do steal the best ones!
Episode 1: The Lost Temple of the Nagaji
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The Legal Stuff
To keep the lawyers happy, the following items are the intellectual property, copyrighted and/or trademarks, of Paizo Inc. and are used in accordance with Paizo Inc. Community Use Policy.
- Nagaji – Pathfinder 2nd Edition Lost Omens Impossible Lands, page 46.
- Coin Exchange Rate – Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rulebook, page 271.
- Omai, owner of the Gnarly Hyena – Pathfinder 2nd Edition Lost Omens The Mwangi Expanse, page 263.
- The Gnarly Hyena – Ibid, page 263.
- Senghor – Ibid, pages 254-265.
- Vidrian – Ibid, pages 274-287.
- Oubinga River – Pathfinder Chronicles Heart of the Jungle, page 23.
- Hazh’a Halflings – Ibid, page 14.
- Mbaiki Leopard – Pathfinder 2nd Edition Lost Omens The Mwangi Expanse, page 161.
- Kaava Lands – Pathfinder 2nd Edition Lost Omens The Mwangi Expanse, pages 160-161.
- Taldane as Common language of the Inner Sea region – Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rulebook, page 65.
- Mwangi as Common language of the Mwangi Expanse – Pathfinder 2nd Edition Lost Omens The Mwangi Expanse, page 9.