French-Language Liánhuánhuà

Beautiful boxed set of French-language Xī Yóu Jì

For some reason, Chinese comics have become quite popular in France. There is one publishing house, whose products I really enjoy, that has specialised in Chinese comics or in China-themed French comics. They're called Les Éditions Fei, and I have already mentioned them in an older blog entry.

Les Éditions Fei have been publishing Chinese-inspired but European-like comics for quite some time now, but now they are bringing a real novelty to the French comics market by collecting and translating liánhuánhuà (連環畫).

Liánhuánhuà are small, oblong comic books printed on cheap paper. The drawings are not hidden by speech bubbles because all the text is collected below the drawing, similarly to what happens in Dutch comics. I believe the heyday of liánhuánhuà was in the 70s and 80s.

The first liánhuánhuà translated and adapted by Les Éditions Fei was Au Bord de l'Eau (the Water Margin), which is not a surprise, as the picaresque adventures of the Mount Liáng outlaws are quite universal and don't need any particular exposition to Chinese culture to be enjoyed. At the time, I remember how impressed I had been by the choice of a prestigious edition. Each booklet (30 of them) had been printed on sturdy paper, and the booklets collected in a very tough cloth box with a magnetic fastener. The boxed set cost something like €80.

The second liánhuánhuà that has been brought to the French public was Les Trois Royaumes (Romance of the Three Kingdoms). Again 30 booklets within a cloth box. I didn't purchase this one , so I cannot comment further.

The third boxed set has just been released and, wow!, is it gorgeous. This time we have been granted access to le Voyage vers l'Ouest (the Journey to the West) in French. It's again 30 booklets within a cloth box; the boxed set also contains a booklet with the major gods and characters of the novel, and an absolutely fantastic full-colour map of all the (mostly imaginary) countries and locations that the monk Xuánzàng and his fellow travellers have to go through to reach India and retrieve the Buddhist Scripture. I suspect this boxed set will probably be the most successful one, owing to the popularity of Sūn Wùkōng aka the Monkey King. The boxed set is almost €90 but I just couldn't resist — just look at the picture above.

Look at the map!

Yesterday, by the most incredible chance, I serendipitously met the two translators of these liánhuánhuà in a Paris bookshop where they were presenting their latest opus. We spent like 30 minutes chatting and exchanging ideas and impressions about Chinese classical literature. They told me there were other liánhuánhuà in the pipe... The next one to be published is certainly going to be the Dream of the Red Chamber, maybe followed by the Plum in the Golden Vase (which should appeal to the Gallic appetite for risqué literature).

Wind On The Steppes Available For Pre-Order!

Wind on the Steppes, Alephtar Games' latest supplement is available for pre-order. Here's the publisher's blurb:

Be they Huns led by Attila, Turks, Kipchaks or the most feared of all – Genghis Khan’s Mongols, the nomads are surging from the depths of Central Asia! And they have just one goal in mind: raiding and pillaging everything in your campaign. So have your player characters get ready to face the fight of their life, for there is no escape route… unless they belong themselves to the horde.

Wind on the Steppes is a supplement for Basic Roleplaying describing the features common to all nomad tribes and the peculiarities of each nomad ethnicity or empire. Within it you will find inspiration for fleshing out powerful enemies for your fantasy or historical campaigns based on other Alephtar Games supplements. But its use is not limited to providing you with more detailed “bad guys”: Nomads can be fascinating player characters, too. The harsh life of the steppe and the unique flavour of their shamanistic approach to the supernatural world will give you plenty of great roleplaying opportunities.

This book requires the Basic Roleplaying core ruleset, available from Chaosium Inc.

Book + PDF bundle to be ordered at $29.90 from this page.


Jindai Moji (神代文字)

God Age Script
Literacy was brought to Japan in the form of the Chinese writing system from Three Kingdoms Korea between the 3rd and the 5th centuries, mostly through two channels:
1- Court scribes 'imported' from Baekje and Silla
2- Buddhism and its many sūtra commentaries

In the Kamakura (1185–1333) and Edo (1603-1868) periods, some Japanese scholars associated with the movement that wanted to separate Shintō from Buddhism, and chagrined at the idea of Japan owing its writing system to China and Korea, claimed that the Japanese already had a uniquely Japanese writing system before the introduction of the Chinese system. This putative writing system wasn't even human in origin, but had been gifted to the Japanese by no less than the Japanese gods!

These scholars claimed that the jindai moji had been created by the god Izanagi with his demiurgic naginata called the Amenonuhoko (天沼矛 "heavenly jewelled spear"), and that the divine script fell into disuse after Prince Shōtoku (聖徳太子, 572-622) replaced it with Chinese characters. However, the Yoshida (吉田) family was supposed to have secretly kept the knowledge from then on. This is why the existence of jindai moji came to be prominently accepted amongst Yoshida Shintō believers. (Yoshida Shintō was a brand of Neo-Confucian Shintō that arose during the late Muromachi period.)

The 'divine' writing system was variedly named as kamiyo no moji (script of the age of the gods), jindai moji (god age script), hifumi (after its first three syllables), etc. Several tablets, bamboo slips and secret scrolls were unearthed or produced as 'proof' of the existence of the script, but all were later analysed by professional linguists and revealed as forgeries.

Amongst the various legends and rumours associated with the ninja, one was that they used jindai moji as a secret script to carry undecipherable messages.

In your campaign game, you may obviously decide that the jindai moji is genuine and indeed of divine origin, and use it as a magical script for arcane and/or occult purposes.


Setting Your Game In The Ryūkyū Kingdom

The Ryūkyū Islands, which are today part of Japan, were a wealthy trading kingdom (the Ryūkyū Kingdom 琉球國) in the 16th century. The kingdom was nominally a tributary state of Míng Dynasty; however, following the Míng policy of ending sea voyages gradually put in place during the 15th century, and also due to the increased threat on maritime travel posed by the Wōkòu (倭寇), the Kingdom was de facto independent.

The archipelago has been united in the first half of the 15th century by Shàng Bāzhì (尚巴志), who is also the founder of the ruling Shàng Dynasty. The capital city is at Shuri (首里) on the largest island: Okinawa (沖縄).

The reign of Shàng Zhēn (尚眞, 1477–1526) is widely regarded as the golden age of the island kingdom.

Despite the presence of a ruling aristocratic class, the Ryūkyū Islands have an egalitarian society. In particular, no native Ryukyuan may ever be bound into slavery — all slaves on the islands have been bought from foreign traders, and are usually Chinese or Korean victims of coastal raids by the Wōkòu.

The upper nobility (who are the descendants of Chinese gentry families from Fújiàn who arrived in the 14th century) have Chinese-style names and are bilingual, Chinese and Ryukyuan; the rest of the population have local names and are monolingual. Ryukyuan is a language related to (but different from) Japanese.

The Ryukyuan religion is a mix of ancestor worship, nature worship (the Moon and the Sun), and shamanism. Due to Chinese and Japanese influence, Buddhism is making inroads; there are Japanese Buddhist missionaries from Kyōto on Okinawa, and they have built four temples.
Irrespective of the particular strand of religion, all celebrants are female; some of them are “druid”-like, some others more like Inner Asian shamans.
Spirits and magical creatures such as yāoguài (妖怪, see p112 of The Celestial Empire), dragons, guardian lions, and ghosts, are very present and of paramount importance in the local folklore.
There is also a big emphasis placed on the fabrication and the use of amulets, talismans, etc. Lóngmài (ley lines, see p85 of TCE) strongly influence Ryukyuan magical and religious practices.

The islands are covered with all manner of moist forest and other tropical and subtropical flora. There aren't any large predators; the only danger when travelling overland are venomous snakes.

Map of Okinawa


Wind On The Steppes Cover Art Unveiled

Alephtar Games have unveiled the cover of their upcoming steppe nomads BRP supplement, titled Wind on the Steppes, on their Facebook page:

The art is by famous Italian fantasy artist Riccardo Rullo. At the moment, the exact availability date and retail price are still undisclosed.


Setting Your Game In Early 16th Century Japan

In the 15th century, the Japanese Empire is officially a tributary state of Míng China. In reality, Japan isn't ruled by its emperor, impoverished and restricted to a ceremonial role, but by its military commander-in-chief or shōgun (将軍). China does not hold any kind of real power over the shōgun either.

The office of shōgun stays within the Ashikaga clan. The Ashikaga shogunate is also called the Muromachi period of Japan because the shōgun resides in the Muromachi district of Kyōto (京都). The shogunate is a semi-hereditary position: upon the death of a shōgun, the male members of the clan fight or manoeuvre to obtain the title; each contender is supported by various other feudal clans who have an interest in his victory. In the second half of the 15th century, one of these succession contests escalates into a full-blown civil war, known as the Ōnin War, which ends in 1477 leaving Japan bled white and without a clear-cut winner.

In the early 16th century, even though Japan enjoys a relative period of peace after the hardships of the Ōnin War, the country is divided and is effectively experiencing a form of “low-intensity” feudal anarchy:
  • The direct rule of the Ashikaga clan is restricted to the half-ruined city of Kyōto itself, where the cousins Ashikaga Yoshitane and Ashikaga Yoshizumi are constantly vying for the shogunate, with the Hosokawa clan pulling the strings.
  • Because of the decline of the shogunate, the provinces are ruled by petty feudal lords called daimyō (大名), whose personal loyalty to the shōgun depends on the personal prestige of the latter, and who are constantly feuding amongst themselves.
  • Kaga Province has become a de facto independent republic under the Ikkō-shū (一向宗) sect of Pure Land Buddhism.
  • Kyōto is in a perpetual state of unrest, with barricades dividing the various districts of the city, whose allegiances are constantly shifting.
  • Because of the general lawlessness, travel by road is highly unsafe.
  • There are trade barriers between provinces, and the use of money loses ground in favour of barter.

Barricade fighting in Kyōto (1528)

Should the GM decide to set his game in early 16th century Japan, adventurers will have an easy time finding jobs as caravan guards, bodyguards, spies, assassins, etc.

With travel between provinces having become dangerous, roads are deserted, and supernatural creatures can reclaim the wilderness…


Evil Shamaness

Sorry; I do not have much to post these days (busy with the new game), so I am simply posting inspirational pictures.

Evil Shamaness

By the way, the upcoming Wind of the Steppe BRP book by Alephtar Games will have detailed rules for shamans.


Fúsāng and Marco Polo

Allegedly Marco Polo's Own
I have already mentioned Fúsāng, the axis mundi-like gigantic mulberry tree from the legends of archaic China.

The concept of a gigantic mulberry tree to the east of the East China Sea faded with time, and gave birth to the vague notion of a mythical land existing at the far eastern end of the East China Sea, even farther east than the legendary Pénglái islands inhabited by the Daoist Immortals.

With the progress of navigation and of ship-based exploration, several islands to the east of China were called “Fúsāng” in the history of China, ranging from Japan to America to made-up stories to impress the Emperor.

Anyway, a series of recent articles on the internet have started mentioning the book The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps by Benjamin B. Olshin. Menzies-style, Prof. Olshin claims that the founder of the Yuán Dynasty entrusted the Venetian merchant cum explorer Marco Polo with a mission to Fúsāng, and that Marco Polo sailed along the northern coasts of East Asia up to Alaska (and back). According to some sources, the mission was funded by a southern noblewoman rather than by the emperor himself. Whichever the case, the book claims Marco Polo travelled all the way to the Aleutian Islands, where he met with the natives, to whom he delivered a message.

As with Menzies' book, I am not interested in the scientific value of Prof. Olshin's book (which is probably quite low) but in the crazy role-playing ideas it may provide.

Edit, May 2017: I had based the post above  on articles read on the internet, and not on Prof. Olshin's book itself, which apparently does not actually endorse said theory (see comments section).


Fart War

Waseda University has made available on-line a curious series of Japanese prints from the Edo period that depict various phases of flatulence-based warfare.

I wonder how this could translate to game mechanics for The Celestial Empire...

The series of prints is also downloadable as a PDF.


A Fantastic Film And A New Sect

I needed a mental break from work the day before yesterday and so I watched one of my all-time favourite films, Raining In The Mountain (空山靈雨, 1979) by King Hu (Hú Jīnquán 胡金銓).

The film reminds me of those "behind closed doors" films, in which the action is restricted to a single room or locale — except that in this case the 'single locale' is a huuuuge maze-like monastery set in a remote mountainous area. The film was actually shot on location in South Korea. I wish I knew the name of the actual monastery because it is absolutely amazing.

The film is set in the Míng. The Three Treasures monastery keeps the only extant copy of a handwritten scroll penned by the famous Táng dynasty monk Xuánzàng, and two opposing parties of "adventurers" both try to steal the coveted treasure whilst the monks are themselves embroiled in a bitter succession struggle... I'd love to run this as a 2-GM, 2-party adventure, pitting each party against the other and both, simultaneously, against the monks who guard the treasure!

Anyway,  one of the minor protagonists of the story is the powerful lay master of a fictional Buddhist sect called the Vimalakīrti School*. He is fully dressed in Esoteric accoutrements and is constantly accompanied by a score female martial artists who act as his bodyguards. That's quite a cool NPC.

So here's the VIMALAKĪRTI SCHOOL for The Celestial Empire:

Period of Time

Under the Míng, the state religion is Neo-Confucianism. The religious life of Buddhists turns increasingly towards isolated monasteries. It is hence difficult for lay practitioners interested in Buddhism, especially anybody with official duties, to be seen in the company of Buddhist priests or monks. As a result, Buddhist schools for laypeople start appearing. The Vimalakīrti School, named after the highly influential Indian lay practitioner Vimalakīrti, is one such school — albeit a fictional one.

The Vimalakīrti School appeals to well-to-do, and usually aged, lay practitioners of Buddhism: mandarins, wealthy merchants, high-level officers. It also attracts nubile young women, recruited to serve as bodyguards for the most high-ranking members of the sect.

Male Members
Allied with Buddhism or with Esoteric Buddhism. Allegiance score at least 60.
Age must be at least 45.
Status must be at least 55%
Wealth must be at least Affluent.
Female Members
Allied with Buddhism or with Esoteric Buddhism. Allegiance score at least 40.
Age must be 21 at the most.
Climb at 40% at least.
Sleeve Combat at 50% at least.
Stealth at 35% at least.

Male Members
Male members enjoy the usual benefits of a high profile secret society (connections, relationships, e.g. a network of guānxi). They will always find a place to stay (or to hide!) in the monasteries that sponsor the sect, even if they call unannounced.
Female Members
Female members are taught all the powers pertaining to the Mìzǒngquán Martial Arts school.

Male members
Male members must always help the monasteries that are part of the sect's network, to the point of ignoring official requests, e.g., a mandarin receives an order to cancel the tax exemption from which a monastery has benefited: he will do his utmost not to enforce the order.
Female members
Female members are required to act as bodyguards for the most high-ranking male members of the sect.

*from the Wikipedia: “the Vimalakīrti Sūtra became one of the favourites in East Asian Buddhism. However, the sūtra was not used as an object of devotion, and no school was ever formed around it”


16th Century Italian Engravings of Chinese People

From Cesare Vecellio's Habiti antichi et moderni di tutto il mondo, Venice, 1590

A Chinese Man [of "mediocre condition"]

A Chinese Woman

A Chinese Nobleman [a mandarin?]

A Chinese Noblewoman [the wife of a mandarin?]


The Grand Heist

In Joseon Korea, ice was a very valuable commodity, and its trade was a state monopoly. In the 2012 Korean film The Grand Heist, a gang of con artists and thieves decide to steal a large amount of ice. Here is the Korean trailer:

And here's the European trailer, which really looks like they're presenting a party of adventurers!


Wind of the Steppe Will Blow You Away!

In several instances, the text of The Celestial Empire makes passing references to “a future extension dedicated to the nomad peoples of Inner Asia”. TCE was published in 2010 and, at the time, this supplement was really in its infancy. Well, four years on, I am thrilled to announce that Wind of the Steppe should be available through Alephtar Games at the end of this year, or at the beginning of the next at the very latest.

Much more than a mere extension, Wind of the Steppe will actually be a fully-fledged, stand-alone role-playing game (still based on the Basic Role-Playing System by the Chaosium) that will enable you to adventure into the harsh world of the steppe nomads. The game will still be compatible with TCE, and retain some of the mechanisms at its core, such as the Allegiance rules. But let me pass on the virtual pen to Olivier Dubreuil, the main author of WoS:

How To Be a Good Nomad:

  • Demonstrate blind loyalty to the leader you believe deserves it. You can die for him. When called by your khan for war, do not ask for any compensation, even as a noyan, but follow his orders without hesitation.
  • Be efficient: you learnt that all that you do is dictated by the best efficiency. “Chivalrous” does not belong to your vocabulary. If you have to flee, flee and come back later. If you have to die, die. If slaughtering people yields any benefit, do it. If skills from other people can be useful, use them. Exploits are made for duty, vengeance, ambition, to gain the favour of your fellow clansmen or of the spirits, or for any other benefits, not for sport.
  • Be patient, wait for the optimal conditions whenever possible.
  • Life is valuable when useful. Spare your fellow tribesmen but don’t be overburdened with unnecessary prisoners: slaughter them in cold blood when asked to or whenever it is useful.
  • Be open to other religions, philosophies and knowledge: foreign wise men and craftsmen can bring you what you’re missing. Despise other settled people.
  • Use slaves and despise them.
  • Help your clan.
  • Be fair to your anda [blood brother], even if you’re fighting on opposite sides.
  • Fear the spirits, avoid making them angry. Some words may attract them.
  • Do not boast about your own exploits; you have to thank the spirits, who may become upset or jealous.
  • Be thankful to the good spirits.
  • Observe the taboos.
  • Don’t fear enemies. Don’t fear death either: it is a shame not to die on horseback and you’ll join your ancestors. But die usefully.
  • Avenge your clansmen and tribesmen.
  • Be proud of your clan.
  • Travel with several horses.
  • Be frugal, but get completely drunk on occasions. Eat whatever meat is edible. Eyes are delicious.
  • Be welcoming to the friendly traveller. Don’t hesitate to ask for shelter from friendly or neutral nomads encountered whilst travelling.
  • Share your hunt with anybody coming until you have attached it to your saddle.
  • Ask the shamans for advice. Shamans are not holy but have scary powers and knowledge beyond your understanding: fear them.
  • Take care of your mount: you can’t survive without it.
  • Don’t bathe in a river or a lake. In your country, this often means don’t bathe at all.
  • Keep your bows dry.
  • Be disciplined in battle; do not plunder until the enemy is utterly destroyed.
  • Plan your actions as you would prepare a hunt.
  • Scout an unknown land instead of blindly getting there.

Inner Asian Nomads are Tengriist animists. They believe in spirits and in the powers of nature, first and foremost the sky god Tengri, the celestial deity who created the world and rules over it.

Numerous deities or spirits live under Tengri’s authority: superior spirits (fertility, thunder…), natural spirits (wood, sources, fire…) or evil spirits –the üör– (disease, insanity…). Some tribes worship Tengri in a quasi-monotheistic way, but even these never completely forget the spirits. They are very respectful of nature spirits.

The world is split into three planes: the lower plane where malevolent spirits dwell, the middle plane where humans and natural spirits live, and the upper plane where the celestial spirits reign. Every event is reputedly caused by spirits: a good hunt, disease, the rain… The Nomad fears them. It is necessary to please them and to make them friendly: this is the duty of the shamans.

Additionally, legends talk about a subterranean world where supernatural telluric magical creatures live, like giants or ogres. This world is not to be confused with the lower plane where spirits live. It is separated from the surface world, but some gateways between the two worlds do exist in deep chasms or unfathomable caverns.

There is no organised clergy and church, but instead a class of more or less hereditary wise men or women: the shamans. Shamans are the mediators between humans and supernatural beings, and hold a special place in the social order. They have no specific hierarchy beyond the authority bestowed by power, reputation or social status. Their function is more practical than priestly, since they do not necessarily lead worship ceremonies. They are however central in the animist belief.

“In the Steppe, a man without friends is thinner than a finger; a man with friends is bigger than the Steppe itself”

Tentative Table of Contents of Wind of the Steppe:
  Daily Life
  Character Creation
  Peoples and Tribes
  The Silk Road
  Cities of the Nomads
  When the Wolves Wake Up


Copper vs Silver Standard in Qīng China

NOT a government official
I am currently reading an interesting French book titled Bâtisseurs d'empires, Russie, Chine et Inde à la croisée des mondes, XVe-XIXe siècle, that compares the way the three major Eurasian empires of the modern age: Mughal, Russian, Qīng, were created and run.

With regards to the way the Qīng empire managed the problems related with the (bi)metallic currency standard that had plagued the Míng, the author explains that, basically, the Qīng had privatised the management of the silver currency but kept as a public monopoly the minting and issuing of the copper currency.

Hence the influx of the various New World silver dollars (see my earlier blog entry) under the Qīng; this also explains why such a bewildering array of different coins were allowed to circulate: they were mostly used amongst merchants and traders, who were responsible to each other for the value attached to these coins.

Another interesting fact from the book is that copper strings ended up being the backbone of an integrated, centralised, should we say public, internal market, whereas the silver dollars ended up being used in various regional trading centres whose main trading partners were overseas.


D100 Dread Family Secrets

Elfmaids & Octopi (EMO) is one of my favourite blogs. Its author posts very often, almost daily, and each and every post is oozing with re-usable ideas, usually on the gonzo side. As a result, I usually steal from EMO for my science fantasy or Second Age Gloranthan games, but certainly not for my historically accurate East Asian games.

Yet the latest EMO blog entry, titled D100 Dread Family Secrets, can probably be enjoyed in a semi-historical Chinese game, what with the importance of kin and ancestor worship.

I am presenting a slightly revised version of the table below that takes into account the East Asian background of The Celestial Empire:

Prominent clans/NPCs/PCs of your campaign game may warrant a 1D100 roll once (or even twice!) on the following table to determine a dread family secret:

D100 | Dread Family Secret
01 | Parents are siblings, family history of incest, your own sibling loves you
02 | Bànyāo ancestor in family (see p112 of The Celestial Empire)
03 | Necromancer ancestor after descendants bodies to be reborn
04 | Hǎiruò in distant ancestry
05 | Family member is a famous wanted outlaw in secret
06 | A Xié Daoist in family (see p98 of TCE)
07 | Secret society in family (see p102 of TCE)
08 | A serial killer in the family
09 | Generations of inter sibling violence
10 | Ancestral ghost nags descendants to perform horrible acts
11 | Ancestral ghost nags descendants to avenge some forgotten crime
12 | Ancestral ghost nags descendants for libations of wine
13 | Ancestral ghost nags descendants to marry into better bloodline
14 | Ancestral ghost nags descendants to sacrifice silver ingots to family burial plot
15 | Ancestral ghost nags descendants to follow their favourite cult
16 | Dread mìngmó is ancestor (see p117 of TCE)
17 | Famous yaksha is ancestor (see p126 of TCE)
18 | Ancient vixen spirit is ancestor (see p112 of TCE)
19 | Ancestor served a god who meddles in family affairs
20 | Cannibalism practised by some members till recently
21 | Ancestors stole a relic or artefact which they keep hidden
22 | Ancestral blood feud with other clan over land
23 | Ancestral blood feud with other clan over over runaway missing lovers
24 | Ancestral blood feud with other clan over missing legendary weapon
25 | Ancestral blood feud with other clan over over battlefield betrayal during inter-dynastic period
26 | Ancestral blood feud with other clan over murder of prominent ancestor
27 | Ancestor famously declined office in the imperial bureaucracy
28 | Ancestor famously refused summons to imperial court
29 | Rumoured to have immortal ancestry
30 | Rumoured to have guǐ-creatures in ancestry
31 | Rumoured to have yāoguài in family
32 | Family keeps many mad members of clan locked in family home
33 | Family home has many hidden corpses and rumours of phantoms in estate
34 | Ancestor made pact with foreign cult to maintain the clan
35 | Family really broke on edge of complete ruin
36 | Family famous misers
37 | Ancestor served foreign ruler as right hand man
38 | Famous ancestor late with message triggered disaster
39 | Famous traitor ancestor joined nomads in war at crucial moment
40 | Ancestor famous sexual pervert people tell stories of to scare children
41 | Cruel ancestor ruled a village terrorising locals for a generation
42 | Ancestor was cursed by gods for blasphemy, curse still carried by clan head
43 | Ancestor murdered children to attain control of clan
44 | Ancestor was a famous poisoner
45 | Ancestor disappeared in cave with important official documents
46 | Ancestor famous amateur torturer, victims bodies still found in family home
47 | Cats hate family and go crazy when near
48 | Dogs hate family and go crazy when near
49 | Horses hate family and go crazy when near
50 | Birds hate family and go crazy when near
51 | Family exterminated another family to get land
52 | Family usurped title and land of original owners
53 | Ancestor a notorious grave robber
54 | Ancestor a Xié Daoist who was sentenced to death after public trial
55 | Ancestors were low-status Ritual Masters
56 | Ancestor Xié Daoist was hunted and killed by mob, swore vengeance on whole village
57 | Ancestor a famous thief of long lost goods owners still want
58 | Ancestor lived in now haunted temple or manor that locals have sealed up and shunned
59 | Ancestor famous slanderer whose malicious lies about other clans still believed today
60 | Family home built on a non-Hàn burial ground or temple site
61 | Many believe under family home are catacombs with horrible secrets
62 | Ancestor linked to foreign cult, strange pilgrims always visiting
63 | Ancestor a famous slaver who killed hundreds cruelly
64 | Ancestor a famous drug fiend who ruined other clans with vice
65 | Ancestor a famous rake and seducer, hated by many other clans
66 | Ancestor a famous popular harlot who was murdered by persons unknown
67 | Ancestor rumoured to have had otherworldly evil lover
68 | Clan famed for being thieving lying money grabbers
69 | Family stalked by unknown murderers for generations
70 | Family mentioned in evil prophecy so changed name in past
71 | Family full of rakes and harlots, full of bastard children
72 | Everyone thinks family has hidden treasure from looting in troubled times
73 | A doomed immortal of clan assumes identity of descendants for legal reasons
74 | Family has taint of wǎngliǎng blood (p115 of TCE), famous brutes
75 | Ancestor famously went into forest for secret rites with yāoguài
76 | A famous clumsy idiot of clan caused a huge disaster people still not over
77 | Ancestor begotten by a huòmó (p118 of TCE)
78 | Ancestor notoriously partied with (Roll 1D6) 1: foreign cultists, 2-4: outlaws, 5-6: nomads
79 | A famous spouse murderer had 3D4+3 partners before killed by enemies
80 | A famous ancestor slandered the emperor who had most of the clan killed
81 | A famous ancestor collected heterodox books and ancestors then disappeared
82 | A famous cruel ship captain was marooned by crew somewhere
83 | A famous martial artist kidnapped and killed local maidens
84 | Ancestor was rumoured to have been to the Ten Courts of Hell and back somehow
85 | Family have a horrible evil motto most think disgraceful today
86 | Famous ancestor last seen riding into hole in hill with demons, a stone slab in place today
87 | Ancestor had an affair with an imperial concubine and was horribly murdered by rivals and enemies
88 | Ancestor started a cult which was outlawed by the local magistrate after their death
89 | At a certain night ghosts appear at clan temple to condemn all for villainy
90 | Ancestor rumoured to have illicit sex with animals, family maintain just enemy slander
91 | Ancestor built a strange folly which locals avoid and fear
92 | Ancestor was of non-Hàn ethnicity so changed name in past
93 | Ancestor collected funds for temple then drunk and gambled and whored funds away
94 | Started a doomed ethnic war that resulted in thousands dead and bitter inter-ethnic resentment
95 | Briefly an ancestor held top position in imperial bureaucracy before being murdered by staff
96 | Briefly an ancestor held top position in imperial bureaucracy before being murdered by rivals
97 | Ancestor rumoured to have been evil wizard, torn apart by invisible demons in market square
98 | Ancestor rumoured to have been demon cultist or offspring, killed by animals in village
99 | Ancestor famous magician, crackpots harass clan for magic hidden secrets
00 | Ancestor famous martial artist, crackpots harass clan for hidden martial arts treatise


[Scarlet Heroes] Sample Character

The Scarlet Heroes KS is over, and I felt like trying out the character generation rules, so I drew up my first Scarlet Heroes player character.

Swarthy Lee has had a tough life. He is one of the Shou, the original inhabitants of the distant Sunset Isles that have been dispossessed of their lands, and pushed ever further west into the more inhospitable parts of the islands by the colonists. He has learnt how to eke out a living selling his sword or his skills at ambushing his employer's foe or sneaking unnoticed into the mansion of his employer's rival. However, what Swarthy Lee likes above all is working by and for himself looking for forgotten treasures in the many ruins that dot the islands. As a native, Swarthy Lee is able to survive on a diet of roots and insects for quite a long time; this doesn't mean, however, that he does not enjoy the fine food available in the eastern cities. Swarthy Lee would also be able to pass as a human, were it not for his facial tattoos.

Swarthy Lee

STR 14 (+1)
INT 15 (+1)
DEX 16 (+2)
WIS 12 (+0)
CON 13 (+1)
CHA 10 (+0)

Race: Shou-Blooded
Class: Thief

HP: 5
Armour Class: 5 
Attack Bonus: +1
Fray Die: 1D6

- May use any armour
- Can wear leather armour but no shield
- Weapon: any, but limited to 1D8 dmg

- Archetype, Fearless Ruin Explorer: 3
- Resist the Red Tide: 2
- Forgettable Face: 1
- Wiry: 1
- Well-travelled: 1

46 gold coins

Bow (Dmg: 1D8)
Quiver w/20 arrows
Sword (Dmg: 1D8)
Leather Armour
Backpack + Tools
Narcotic drugs, 10 doses


Weather in China

After my post about using weather dice it is only natural that I should write one about weather in China.

China being a vast empire, a discussion about her weather will have to be apportioned among her various regions. Using the nomenclature from map No.2 on p28 of The Celestial Empire, the regions are:
 - North China -  with cold, dry winters, and hot, humid summers. The annual precipitation is concentrated heavily in summer.
 - Gānsù - as North China, but with drier summers.
 - Sìchuān and Lower Yángzi - hot summer with heavy rainfall, short but cold winter, little sunshine overall.
 - South China - winters are short, mild, and relatively dry, while summers are long, hot, and very wet.

Despite the dramatic differences, the GM may apply the usual four-season distinction (as in Europe) to determine weather, especially with regards to the 1- v 2-die mechanism described in my earlier post:
 - Spring: March to May
 - Summer: June to August [except in South China: April to September]
 - Autumn: September-October
 - Winter: November to February [except where indicated as 'short' above, in which case it's December to February]

This four-season distribution doesn't hold true any longer with areas outside China proper, such as the tropical south, the subarctic north, or the Tibetan Plateau.


Weather Dice

In my olden days, I used to like long, complicated tables (like these) for weather generation. Now I am more in favour of quick-and-easy methods for pretty much everything when I'm GMing, including weather generation.

I had bought a 'weather die' such as the one depicted on the left to generate weather when GMing, but it soon turned out that it was yielding results that were (a) too simple, and (b) often inappropriate for a given season.

So what I did, I bought a second 'weather die'. And I believe the combination of the two 'weather dice' is now giving satisfactory results.

If you do not have such a pair of dice (they're about £1 each in most shops), you can use 2D6 but it is going to be less fun. Let us describe the faces, and let us number them 1 to 6, for those who do not have the weather dice.

1= Overcast.
2= Snowstorm.
3= Thunderstorm.
4= Rainstorm.
5= Partly Cloudy.

6= Fair.

The illustration above shows the Raining (4), Partly Cloudy (5), and Fair (6) faces of the 'weather die'.

Use Of The Weather Dice to Determine Weather
Now, depending on the season you will use 1 or 2 weather dice.

Use 1 weather die only. Read the results as rolled, except Snowstorm (2) is replaced with Monsoon.

Use 2 weather dice and choose the "nicer" result, e.g., if you roll Partly Cloudy (5) and Fair (6), then choose Fair (6).
If you roll two 2's, then replace Snowstorm (2) with Hailstorm.

Use 1 weather die only. Read the results as rolled, except Snowstorm (2) is replaced with Drizzle.

Use 2 weather dice and choose the "worse" result, e.g., if you roll Partly Cloudy (5) and Fair (6), then choose Partly Cloudy (5).


Scarlet Heroes Kickstarter

I am wary of Kickstarter projects now. Most projects are late or haven't delivered, and I prefer the time-proven tranquillity of the product that has been written and playtested by its author before it eventually hits the shelves of my FLGS. I know, I'm old-fashioned.

However, I did back the Scarlet Heroes Kickstarter project, and for several reasons.

First and foremost, because of the south-east Asian setting. Second, because Sine Nomine Publishing has a solid history of delivering on time. Third, because I am curious of the sandbox tools, of the "adventure tags", and of the one-on-one gaming rules that will be part of Scarlet Heroes.


Happy Year of the Horse!

Tomorrow is the first day of the new Chinese year. It is going to be a Wood Horse year (31st in the sexagenary cycle, see page13 of The Celestial Empire). It will be a yáng year.

I know the picture below is über-cheesy, but I simply couldn't resist. 新年快樂!

click to enlarge


D30 Bandit Table

The Chinese Empire is huge, and, alas!, the Son of Heaven cannot guarantee the safety of his subjects in each corner of this vast expanse.

This is particularly true for travellers: the various troops and militias are stationed in the yámen of the major cities of the Empire, in the garrisons at the barbarian frontiers, and wherever enemy raids are expected. This leaves out huge swaths of land, amongst which the mountains — which the Chinese strongly dislike anyway.

Mountains are where banditry is rife. Any right-minded traveller will stay on the roads of the Empire and give the mountains a wide berth. However, for various reasons, most notably when they are in a hurry and want to try out a shortcut, some travellers do cross the mountains. And, unavoidably, they also cross the path of the bandits living therein.

This is when this small table comes in handy.

D30 | Local bandits are...
01 | ...bloodthirsty maniacs. No discussion, no quarter. They will even pursue fleeing travellers.
02 | ...rapists. They will concentrate their efforts on kidnapping any young and/or good-looking female traveller to bring back to their mountain den to be used as a sex slave.
03 | ...from an ethnic minority that has been displaced by Hàn colonists. They hate the Hàn and will concentrate their attack on Hàn travellers.
04 | ...bored local ne'er-do-wells. If their opponents resist their attack, they will leave them alone.
05 | ...Rivers-and-Lakes (Jiānghú 江湖, see p9 of The Celestial Empire) types looking for a challenge. They will boast about their nickname/their preferred weapon/their fighting style, and expect their victims to fight, not necessarily to the death.
06 | ...army deserters. They are looking for clothes and food.
07 | ...a group of bandits posing as an extended family travelling together. Roll 1D6 for the leader (1: the so-called wife of the family head, 2-3: the faux family head, 4: one of the unassuming travellers, 5: the one who looks like the elder son, 6: the one who is looking after the cart).
08 | ...fellow travellers down on their luck. They have resorted to robbing because they are famished.
09 | ...travelling entertainers supplementing their meagre earnings with armed robbery. They have excellent Dexterity and acrobatics-related skills.
10 | ...assassin-retainers setting up a trap for another group of travellers. They don't want any witnesses and will hence kill the party to the last man.
11 | ...defrocked monks. They will act as #06 or #08 above, but will fall to their knees and start crying if there is a monk or a priest of the same Allegiance as theirs in the party.
12 | ...a party of knights-errant who mistakenly assume that the party are bandits!
13 | ...professional robbers. They will clearly state their name and profession, hoping to scare their victims into fleeing after having left their valuables behind, but will fiercely fight if necessary. They are of average strength (skills in the 35% range); the leader is in the 50% range.
14 | ...professional robbers. They will clearly state their name and profession, hoping to scare their victims into fleeing after having left their valuables behind, but will fiercely fight if necessary. They are of above-average strength (skills in the 50% range); the leader is in the 65% range.
15 | ...professional robbers. They will clearly state their name and profession, hoping to scare their victims into fleeing after having left their valuables behind, but will fiercely fight if necessary. They are quite strong (skills in the 65% range); the leader is in the 80% range.
16 | ...clever planners. They have been observing the party for hours through their spies in the mountain, and know most of their strengths and weaknesses. Allow bonuses as appropriate, depending on how the PCs react.
17 | ...very astute planners. They have been observing the party for days via their agents in the inns in the region, and know all of their strengths and weaknesses. Allow bonuses as appropriate, depending on how the PCs react.
18 | ...of a quasi-military kind of organisation (à la Water Margin). Unless composed of high-level PCs (skills in the 90% range), the party don't stand a chance. They will be captured by the bandits and will be held for ransom.
19 | ...the agents of an evil Daoist sorcerer, looking for special components for a heterodox ritual (e.g., "the liver of a virgin", or "the blood of a monster-hunter").
20 | ...a party of merchants down on their luck. They have been robbed themselves of their wares, and have resorted to robbing to recoup their losses. They are clumsy fighters.
21 | ...hardened outlaws, who will readily assess the situation, and understand where valuables are hidden (if any).
22 | ...scholars at odds with authority. They don't wear any armour, and don't look like fighting men, but they are actually well versed in the art of war, taking full advantage of the features of the terrain, and possessing above-average fighting skills.
23 | ...the bored offspring of the local dignitaries. They are weak fighters, and will drop their weapons and flee as soon as they realise that their opponents are way above their level. However, they will run to the local magistrate and pretend they have been attacked by the PCs; the latter will hence be in serious trouble with the local authorities.
24 | ...the bored offspring of the local dignitaries. They are capable fighters. Should any of them be killed by the PCs, the latter will be in serious trouble with the local authorities.
25 | ...vixen spirits (see p112 of TCE) with glamour-like magic. The bandit party is composed of the charmed former victims of the yāohú, ordered to act like vicious bandits. The vixen spirits, who look like damsels in distress, expect the PCs to 'save' them from the 'bandits'. Once they've been 'saved', they will take advantage of the journey to try and charm the party, and the story will repeat itself...
26 | ...bànyāo serving a mìngmó  (p112 and p117 of TCE). The mìngmó lives above a yīn ley line (see p85 of TCE), and needs the PCs for some nefarious purpose. This particular encounter is more like a mini-adventure and needs extra preparation work from the GM.
27 | ...chīmèi (p113 of TCE). They look for magic items, spell books, etc. Riches do not interest them.
28 | ...wǎngliǎng (p115 of TCE). They are fanatically anti-Buddhist, and will first and foremost target Buddhist PCs.
29 | ...yaksha  (p126 of TCE) posing as human travellers. They are looking for yet more riches to add to their treasure, hidden in a deep cave in the mountain. If the PCs look poor, they will ignore them. If the PCs look rich, the yaksha will wait for the best opportunity to steal their riches. Yaksha are not particularly hostile, and will prefer ruse to brute force. However, they are extremely greedy, and will stubbornly hang on to their plan if they PCs are indeed wealthy.
30 | ...a party of monster-hunters who mistakenly assume that the party are really monsters posing as human travellers.


Random Campaign Generator

There have been a few posts in the gaming blogosphere about describing your setting in 25 words, e.g. here.

This post will provide a means to randomly fill in those 25 words. It will also double as a random Celestial Empire campaign game generator.

The setting is a [1st keyword][2nd keyword] set in [3rd keyword] dynasty [4th keyword]. The player characters are pitted against [5th keyword] set to [6th keyword]. Most of their foes are [7th keyword].

Table No.1, keyword: genre
Roll 1D6
1: Historical
2: Low-magic
3: Wǔlín
4: Wǔxiá
5: High-fantasy
6: Gonzo

Table No.2, keyword: game type
Roll 1D6
1-2: Sandbox
3-4: Series of connected adventures
5-6: Big campaign

Table No.3, keyword: dynasty
Roll 1D8
1-2: Táng
3: Sòng
4: Yuán
5-6: Míng
7-8: Qīng

Table No.4, keyword: region
Roll 1D12
1: Inner Asia
2: Gānsù
3-5: North China
6-7: Lower Yángzi
8-9: Sìchuān
10-11: South China
12: islands and seas

Table No.5, keyword: foes
Roll 1D12
1: Kinsmen
2-3: Members of the (Roll 1D6) 1-4: eunuch faction, 5-6: anti-eunuch faction
4-5: Members of the (Roll 1D6) 1-2: military, 3-4: secret police, 5-6: bureaucracy
6: Loyalists
7: Outlaws
8: Rebels
9: Members of a shètuán (TCE p100)
10: Members of an ethnic minority
11: Members of a sect
12: Merchants

Table No.6, keyword: aim
Roll 1D10
1-2: Amass power
3: Amass wealth
4-5: Further their agenda
6-7: Travel (Roll 1D6) 1-2: through China proper, 3-4: through the frontier provinces, 5-6: abroad
8-9: Fight against their opposite faction— or a GM-devised one if no opposite faction exists
10: Proselytise

Table No.7, keyword: allegiance
Use the Religion availability table appropriate to the dynasty rolled in Table No.3 above, see p48 of TCE.

More campaign game ideas are available in The Celestial Empire on p18-20 and on p40-41.

NPC: Chén Dì

statue in Fújiàn
Introductory text adapted from the Wikipedia entry
Chén Dì (陳第, 1541-1617) was a Chinese philologist, strategist, and traveller of the Míng Dynasty. A native of Fújiàn [South China], he was versed in both pen and sword. As a strategist, he served under Qī Jìguāng and others for many years before retiring to occupy himself with studies and travel. As a traveller, in his 1603 Dōngfānjì (東番記, Record of the Eastern Aborigines), he provides the first description of the island of Formosa and of its indigenous inhabitants. As a philologist, he was the first to demonstrate that Classical Chinese had its own phonological system [different from the contemporary spoken language].

CHÉN DÌ - Celestial Empire version
STR 17 CON 15 SIZ 13 INT 11 POW 11 DEX 9 APP 11 EDU 15
Hit Points 14 Major Wound 7 11 Age 62

Confucianism 38, Daoism 4

Home Region: South China
Profession: Soldier
Status: 65%

Damage Bonus: +1D4
Crossbow70%, damage 2D6
Ranseur 90%, damage 1D6+2
Sword 85%, damage 1D8
Unarmed 55%, damage 1D3
Armour: Lamellar armour (6 AP)
Skills: Climb 50%, Dodge 80%, Etiquette 25%, Firearm 30%, Grapple 55%, Insight 35%, Jump 40%, Knowledge (Heraldry) 40%, Knowledge (Politics) 65%, Knowledge (Geography: South China) 60%, Knowledge (Geography: Formosa) 35%, Language (Mǐn) 90%, Literacy (Classical Chinese) 95%, Mêlée Weapon (Sword) 85%, Mêlée Weapon (Ranseur) 90%, Missile Weapon (Crossbow) 70%, Science (Linguistics) 75%, Strategy 55%, Technical Skill (Siege Engines) 45%.

CHÉN DÌ - Monsters & Magic version
17* (+6)
Dexterity 9 (-1)
Constitution 15 (+2)
Intelligence 11 (0)
Wisdom 11 (0)
Charisma 11 (0)
Status 13 (+1)
Reputation 17 (+3)

Class and Level Fighter 6 / Dignitary 4 (see M&M p59-60)
Age 62
Move 12 (9 when in armour)
Armour Class 15 (19 when in armour)
Physical HP 62
Mental HP 52

-Armour Training
-Weapons Training
-Fighting Lore
-Feats of Strength
-Formal Education

-Improved Unarmed Combat
-Classical Chinese

Weapons: Ranseur [use Trident], Sword [use Longsword], Crossbow [use Crossbow, Light]
Armour: Scale mail (+4)
Languages: Chinese (Fújiàn dialect), Classical Chinese
Allegiance: Confucianism


NPC: the monk Jiànzhēn

Dhamma Musings is a non-gaming blog I have been following for quite a long time. Its latest post is about the famous Táng Chinese monk Jiànzhēn (鑒真, 688–763), who travelled far and wide in East Asia, and who eventually settled in Japan where he founded a still-existing temple (Tōshōdai-ji 唐招提寺) and a still-active sect (Risshū 律宗).

The following are excerpts from the post:

Living during the Táng Dynasty, Jiànzhēn could properly be called a Renaissance man. He was born in what is now Jiāngsū province. In 688, he became a monk while young. Jiànzhēn studied Buddhism in the Chinese capital for six years, his main field of study being vinaya [monastic rules]. In the succeeding years, he mastered many arts including medicine, horticulture and even architecture. His two great achievements during this time were to found a hospital and to organise the copying out of 33,000 scrolls of the scriptures to be distributed to various monasteries.
click to enlarge
In 742, a delegation from Japan arrived in China and invited Jiànzhēn to visit their country to re-establish the correct ordination procedure for monks and nuns. Despite the protests of his disciples and supporters, Jiànzhēn accepted the invitation and the next year set out for Japan by ship. Bad navigation and unruly weather forced his ship back to China. Three more times he tried to get to Japan and failed. During the fifth attempt, his ship was blown off-course as far as Hǎinán Island and, in the three years it took him to return home, the rigours of the journey were such that he developed an eye infection and lost his sight. Undeterred by his earlier failures, and despite being blind, he tried to reach Japan yet again and finally succeeded in 753.

He arrived in Nara (奈良), the Japanese capital, and was greeted by the emperor who put him in charge of the great Tōdai-ji Temple (東大寺). Over the next two years, Jiànzhēn trained some 400 monks and then ordained them in the proper manner. After this, Jiànzhēn built a temple for himself where he was to reside and teach until his death in 763. In designing and constructing this temple he introduced to the Japanese architectural techniques unknown to them until that time. He also introduced the art of bonsai (盆栽) and the technique for making soybean curd.
But Jiànzhēn’s greatest gift to the Japanese was pharmacology and medicine. Despite his blindness, he could identify numerous herbs by smell alone, and he was highly skilled in classifying and storing medicines so as to retain their potency. He also corrected the many mistakes in the earlier translations of Chinese medical texts.

I can see immense gaming potential in the above. The player characters could be bodyguards, ambassadors, or fellow monks travelling to Japan with Jiànzhēn. Given the length of the voyages, this scenario seed could evolve into a quasi-sandbox game with minimal railroading, the only constraint being that the PCs must stay with Jiànzhēn at all times.

Jiànzhēn is a serene and soft-spoken monk, able to attract large followings even though he looks unassuming. Having spent his formative years in study, Jiànzhēn is rather slight of build. He's always wearing the simple accoutrements of a Buddhist monk, even when travelling, and irrespective of the weather.

STR 11 CON 12 SIZ 8 INT 16 POW 18 DEX 14 APP 13 EDU 18
Hit Points 10 Major Wound 5 18 Age 55 (first voyage) to 65 (last voyage)

Buddhism 90, Confucianism 10, Daoism 2

Home Region: Lower Yángzi
Profession: Buddhist Monk
Status: 50% in China, 80% in Japan

Damage Bonus: none
Weapons: Unarmed 25%, damage 1D3
Armour: none
Skills: Appraise 15%, Etiquette 30%, Knowledge (Geography: China proper) 50%, Knowledge (Geography: East China Sea) 25%, Knowledge (History: China) 65%, Knowledge (Religion: Buddhism) 95%, Insight 35%, Language (Chinese) 90%, Language (Japanese) 15%, Language (Sanskrit) 70%, Literacy (Classical Chinese) 115%, Literacy (South Asian alphabets) 80%, Meditation 75%, Mêlée Weapon (Staff) 10%, Perform (Recite sūtra) 75%, Perform (Sing) 50%, Persuade 65%, Science (Alchemy) 30%, Science (Architecture) 60%, Science (Natural History) 85%, Sense 80%.


D30 Local Magistrate Table

China is an immense empire. Although it is an empire, it lacks feudality: there aren't any local rulers below the emperor.
China is a centralised empire: the emperor sends out magistrates to rule the various provinces in his name. The magistrate is a lonely person who must perform day-to-day governance, mete out justice, oversee tax collection, road repairs, and churn out reports for the bureaucracy in the capital, and who changes location every three years to avoid becoming enmeshed in local politics.

These magistrates are hence quite lonely individuals. Some of them are over zealous, some others spend their time reading poetry whilst ignoring the local bumpkins. Some of them are incorruptible, some others amass bribes...

So whenever your PCs arrive in a new city, you may want to roll on this table to have quick and fast ideas for the behaviour of the local magistrate. This is especially useful if the PCs have ran afoul of the laws of the Empire.

D30 | Local magistrate is...
01 | ...a very thorough investigator. He explores all paths, interrogates all witnesses irrespective of their social class, and keeps all suspects in gaol during the investigations.
02 |  ...incorruptible.
03 | ...exaggeratedly social and friendly.
04 | ...a bookworm obsessed with antiquity. For each case, he'll try and find a similar case in the annals of the district, and try and align his verdict on the earlier one(s).
05 | ...obsessed with  the chivalric stories from the Rivers and Lakes. Should the PCs behave in a chivalrous way, the magistrate will highly respect their opinion.
06 | ...disgusted with having been assigned to this backward district. He keeps complaining about the weather/the food/the local dialect.
07 | ...a womaniser. Should the party include a female PC, the magistrate will try and sleep with her.
08 | ...gay and openly interested in the most handsome male PC.
09 | ...crazy about alchemy. His private quarters within the yámen are full of dangerous substances.
10 | ...convinced that murderers do not act by their own volition but because they are under the spell of evil spirits. In case of a murder, he will do his utmost to find an exorcist.
11 | ...only interested in complex cases and bored by straightforward ones.
12 | ...extremely wealthy and uses his wealth to further his peculiar interest or obsession (roll a second time to determine it).
13 | ...fascinated by yìqi and by the world of the Jiānghú (see p9 of The Celestial Empire). If the PCs are Rivers-and-Lakes types, he'll constantly be pestering them to hear their stories from the Rivers and Lakes.
14 | ...mostly interested in the mastery of the four pastimes. Anything else bores him. Should one of the player characters show interest in any of the four pastimes, the magistrate will become very friendly to him.
15 | ...a bigoted Buddhist.
16 | ...a good practitioner of wǔshù. Should one of the player characters be well versed in martial arts, the magistrate will try and challenge him to a fight.
17 | ...a superstitious Daoist.
18 | ...an austere Confucianist. He'll make the life of any religious PC miserable.
19 | ...a gambler.
20 | ...formerly from the Green Forest (see p9 of TCE) and lives in the terror of being exposed.
21 | ...a glutton.
22 | ...extremely distrustful of the world of the Jiānghú. If the PCs are Rivers-and-Lakes types, he'll make their life in his district miserable.
23 | ...extremely poor and always saving money on everything.
24 | ...from an ethnic minority. It's almost impossible to understand what he says.
25 | ...involved in local politics, being allied with a local clan against another local family, and always trying to take advantage of his position to hurt the interests of the latter.
26 | ...very distrustful of adventuring types. He'll try to indict the PCs.
27 |  ...an active, young judge, carrying out the investigations by himself.
28 | ...stern and aloof.
29 | ...ever expecting to collect bribes.
30 | ...eager to get rid of the case. As soon as he gets someone who seems to be the culprit, he closes the case.