Míng China Discovered America!

This is the claim made by pseudo-historian Gavin Menzies. While I do believe some of the theories he put forward in his first book, 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, I think that he's simply kept presenting more and more over-the-top theories in each of his following books.

Irrespective of their historical accuracy, though, his books are great fun to read, if only for the great ideas they provide for an ocean-going role-playing campaign using The Celestial Empire.

This article is about Gavin Menzies, his books, and his theories. As I said, I think it can be a fun source of inspiration, especially if you want to incorporate Fúsāng (扶桑) as a Chinese version of the continent of America in your TCE campaign.

New Rules, New Campaign

I am currently writing a new East Asian-flavoured role-playing game. This new book won't use the Basic Role-Playing System like The Celestial Empire does, but the Effect Engine (used in Monsters & Magic) by Sarah Newton.

Another major difference with The Celestial Empire is that the new book, whose working title is Oriental Monsters & Magic, will focus on a particular time period, namely the 16th century. Also, instead of having China as its central focus and depict the neighbouring countries from a Sinocentric point of view, Oriental Monsters & Magic will try and focus in equal mode on the four civilised countries that surround the East China Sea: Míng China, Joseon Korea, Muromachi/Azuchi-Momoyama Japan, and the Ryūkyū kingdom.

I have started a playtesting campaign for the new rules set in Míng China. You can find the campaign log here (beware, it's in French!).


The Live-Lively (shēngshēng 猩猩)

The Live-Lively (shēngshēng 猩猩 or 狌狌) are legendary creatures mentioned several times in the Classic of Mountains and Seas (Shānhǎi Jīng 山海經).

The Live-Lively are good-natured simian humanoids that live close to salt water; this is supposed to be because of their connections with the Dragon Kings that rule the seas as they otherwise do not have any particular aquatic capabilities. Their most striking feature is their huge mane of reddish hair. They also have a tail of the same colour, and strikingly white ears. The rest of their fur is either greenish blue (青) or black.

The Live-Lively adore rice wine and go to great lengths to obtain it from humans. They can swallow incredible quantities of liquor without any harmful effects other than being even jollier than usual.

They have a special power which is knowing the name of any person they interact with.

Shēngshēng inhabit the coastal areas of China and Japan, and most of the islands between these two countries. They may also sometimes be found in the mountainous areas of south-west China.

STR 3D6+3 (13-14)
CON 3D6 (10-11)
SIZ 3D6 (10-11)
INT 3D6 (10-11)
POW 2D6+6 (13)
DEX 3D6 (10-11)
APP 3D6 (10-11)

Move : 8
Hit Points: 11
Qì: 13
Damage Bonus: None
Armour: 1
Allegiance: Roll 1D100, 01-80: Daoism 1D6−4; 81-90: Daoism 1D6−2; 91-00: Buddhism 1D6−4
Morale: Mook

Climb 40%, Dodge 40%, Hide 15%, Jump 30%, Knowledge (Region [Own]) 50%, Knowledge (Sea [Local]) 70%, Language ([Majority language of region]) INT×4%, Listen 35%, Sense 50%, Spot 25%, Swim 80%.

Special powers:
- Double CON when resisting effects of alcoholic beverages.
- Know name. A shēngshēng  will know the name of any person who interacts with it. Leaving an offering of rice wine to a shēngshēng counts as "interaction".

Brawl 40%, damage: 1D3+db (crushing)

Hit Location Table
1D20 | Hit Location | Hit Point Value
Tail | 01-02 | 1/5 total HP
R Leg | 03-05 | 1/3 total HP
L Leg | 06-08 | 1/3 total HP
Abdomen | 09-11 | 1/3 total HP
Chest | 12 | 2/5 total HP
R Arm | 13-15 | 1/4 total HP
L Arm | 16-18 | 1/4 total HP
Head | 19-20 | 1/3 total HP 

The unpublished British role-playing game Tetsubo, set in a fantasy version of Japan, made the Shōjō (Japanese pronunciation of 猩猩) available as a player character race. The Shōjō were described as smaller than humans (at an average height of 1.3m), and as having the following beginning skills: Etiquette and Consume Alcohol.