Random City-Centred Sandbox: Example of Use

Let me show you an eample of how my random city-centred sandbox can be used.

First, I assume the city has been generated and named according to the instructions.

Second, I roll 2D8 to place the waterway. I roll 3 and 7. There is a river flowing though the side, and I replace the road segment in square No.7 with a river segment.

Third, let us assume the adventurers leave the city by the southern gate. I roll 1D4 to populate square No.7, rolling a 2: there is a road that intersects the river.

The adventurers take the road eastwards. I roll 1D4 to populate square No.8, rolling a 3: there are orchards.

The adventurers continue eastwards. I roll 1D4+1 to populate te following square, rolling a 4: 4+1=5— I must roll on Table B. I roll 1D6, rolling a 5: there is a cavern.

You get the idea 🙂

sample map

City-Centred East Asian Sandbox

Imperial Chinese cities would almost invariably be square and walled, with a street grid orientated according to North-South and East-West axes. There would be a main gate at the middle of each wall segment, with a large road leading to it.

The city itself would be quite isolated, the centre of imperial law and order amidst a vast, unruly wilderness.

starting city map

In this blog post, I will present a method to generate a sandbox centred on an imperial Chinese city.

First, generate your city per my blog post from 13 April 2012. Name the city per this other blog post. This will be the adventurer party’s base.

Second, roll 2D8 to determine the direction of the closest waterway; trace it on the map above by joining the two numbered squares. If the two rolled numbers are identical, replace the waterway with a lake.

Third, populate the map as your adventurers start exploring the region around the city. As indicated above, roll the die on Table A depending on the background colour of the square being explored:

Dark green: roll 1D4 on Table A.

Medium green: roll 1D4+1 on Table A.

Light green: roll 1D4+2 on Table A.

Yellow: roll 1D8+4 on Table A.

Table A - Master Table
Die Results
1 Fields
2 Road†
3 Orchards
4 Farms
5 Re-Roll, Table B
6 Grassland
7 Forest
8 Hill
9 Wasteland
10 Swamp/Marsh
11 Sea/Lake
12 Mountain/Peak

†If there is already a road, add one that is perpendicular to the already-existing one.

Table B - Uncommon Locations
Die Results
1 Tower/Pagoda
2 Hamlet
3 Village
4 Shrine/Temple/Monastery, Orthodox
5 Cavern/Grotto
6 Re-Roll, Table C

Table C - Special Locations
Die Results
1 Hermit/Isolated Scholar
2 Bandit Lair
3 Martial Arts School/Secret Society Headquarters
4 Shrine/Temple/Monastery, Heterodox
5 Re-Roll 1D4 on Table C, Abandoned
6 GM's Choice

A final note: This method is different from my post here where the idea was for the GM to prepare a whole region ahead of running their game. Here the idea is to randomly make up the region as the game unfolds, so as to surprise both the players and the GM.


The Ten Courts of Hell

I have briefly mentioned the Ten Courts of Hell on page 36 of the Celestial Empire. This is the place in the netherworld where evil whitesouls stay awaiting their judgement, and where they undergo the judgement itself after having spent some time in this purgatory.

There is a fundamental text of Chinese Folk Religion from the 18th century AD, the Yùlì Bǎochāo 玉歷寶鈔 (the Jade Guidebook), that describes the ten infernal tribunals in detail; you may read it here.

In a nutshell, the whitesoul of the deceased arrives at the gate of Fēngdū (see illustration) where their name is registered, then proceeds to the first court of Hell. This is the most lenient place in Purgatory, for those who committed suicide and who must stay there until the equivalent of what the duration of their life would have been had they not committed suicide has elapsed. Everybody else is ushered into the second court of Hell.

The whitesouls of those who kidnapped or robbed people during their lifetime remain in the second court of Hell to undergo several series of terrible torments. Everybody else is ushered into the third court of Hell.

The whitesouls of those who accepted bribes during their lifetime remain in the third court of Hell to undergo even worse terrible torments.

Etc. etc. with ever more atrocious depictions of torments until the ninth court for arsonists, assassins, rapists, and the like.

The tenth court is not a place of punishment but the place where those whose time of suffering has expired go in order to await the details of their rebirth through the wheel of karma.


A Podcast About Outlaws of the Water Margin

Outlaws of the Water Margin is the roleplaying game that initially made me want to write my own frp game set in Imperial China. It is also an early example of a ‘culture rpg’, a kind of role-playing game that is really different from our usual escapist games.

I have recently discovered that the podcast “Ludonarrative Dissidents” had covered the game, in particular the cultural environment in which it had been created.

Enjoy the episode!