First look at Defenders of the Dragon Empire

First off a quick catch up of where I’m upto.with Monkey.

In short I’ve been of the day job for good month now with a serious illness. This meant I missed 7 Hills and didn’t get to run Mandate of Heaven 🙁   I took a couple of weeks to get over the illness, during which time I worked on a couple of D101 things which were at final layout stage (OpenQuest Refreshed and Life and Death for Crypts and Things). After working week in week out on Monkey since before Chirstmas I took a break from it for a good three weeks. Once the brain fog lifted as a my illness  subsided and I felt like doing something a bit more mentally demanding my Monkey Mojo returned quite quickly.

The Quick Start Rules + adventure is done and just needs proofing+ layout before it hopefully makes its debut as a cute 60-page book at UK Games Expo and as a free pdf worldwide 🙂   We also have demo space on the stall this year, so feel free to rock up go “ook! ook!” and demand a quick demo of the game (about 30 mins to an hour) or a longer 3 hour game in the afternoon.

The main book is almost done too, with the stretch goals of The Defenders of the Dragon Empire Chapter and the solo adventure yet to be done. The former is how to run Wuxia heroes in the world of Monkey, defending their home city against the Demons. These two pictures show the in game city creation system, where you draw six cards and each card represents a city district. This models the ancient Chinese system were cities were built on a grid with square districts each having a different function (residential, administration, religious, entertainment etc). The second picture shows the city under demon attack. This is basically an in game adventure generator. Draw a card for each district. If the value of the attacking card is greater than the district it succumbs to the attack (which I’ve marked here with a glass bead) and will see its value decrease unless the Player Characters intervene and drive the demons off. Each suite of card is a different type of attack – corruption, physical, deception etc.

Defenders of the Dragon Empire, City Creation

Defenders of the Dragon Empire, City under attack by Demons

Welcome to Hell!

The Mandate of Heaven is coming together nicely in anticipation of its first playtest this weekend. I’ve already got the Western Heaven in draft and Chang’an the capital of Tang Dynasty China in draft. Today I focus on the Chinese Hell.

One of the nice things about doing the Mandate of Heaven is that I’ve been researching the wider world of Chinese Folk Religon out side of the Journey to the West and learning lots of interesting fun stuff. For Hell I already knew about the Ten Courts, King Yama and his fellow Judges, and the specific ordered system of hells that wrong doers are assigned to before drinking the draught of forgetfullness and being reincarnated on Earth. But what I didn’t know was the ten courts of Hell exist in a city called You Du (or “Dark City”) which is an analog of Chang’an surrounded by darkness. Also beyond that is Avinci – described as “a cube buried deep in the divine earth” were those who are damned for eternity are held.

Today I work out who (or What) is being held in this maximum security Hell, and what plots exist to get them out 🙂

Monkey Monday: Mandate of Heaven Funded

Well the good news is that The Mandate of Heaven successfully funded. Big thanks to those of you who backed it. It went all the way not only funding the main book but the the pdf play aid pack. This means that there will be A3 location maps, player counters, a quick Whos Who of Immortals and printable Hell Money, to buy you or another character out of the Ten Courts of Hell if you get imprisoned there.

It was a bit intense cramming the campaign into a week, as per Kickstarter’s All in One promotion which they invited me to take part in after the success of  the Monkey campaign. It was a bit of a risk for me. Would it detract from getting Monkey out the door (answer no, I was working on Monkey as I was promoting Mandate)? If it failed to fund would it mean that the Mandate and any other planed supplements I have for Monkey, beyond the ones funded by the Monkey KS, fall flat on their face? Well I need not have worried since it steadily funded as the week went on 🙂  This means that Monkey has a future outside of the main rulebook. The audience was predominately returning backers from the Monkey Kickstarter, but although they only made up 10% of the numbers new backers made up 50% of the funding.

If you are worried that The Mandate Of Heaven/Dragons Ascending to Heaven will detract from me delivering Monkey, don’t I’ve firmly set the deadline for Mandate to be December this year. If anything Monkey will be benefit from me having to work on the full write up of the Mandate because the extra depth of research I’ve gone into. The Queen Mother of the West certainly has a much more interesting background than I was previously aware of, which Dan Barker’s illustration/cover incorporates symbolically (this is worth a post on its own in the future).

The campaign also brought up the self-contained adventure/game Dragons Ascending to Heaven, a Wuxia Tale of revenge and redemption:

A complete mini-game of revenge and redemption using a modified version Monkey RPG rules. Set the Tang capital of Chang ‘an during the reign of Emperor Wu, a group of Wuxia Heroes attempt seek revenge for the massacre of their clan. A standalone book complete with rules and adventure. The adventure can be set up to be different every time and the rules can be used as a basis for similar Wuxia tales.

During the campaign, both artists Dan Barker and Peter Frain submitted pieces that I shared as part of the campaign, which you may not have seen.

Dan Barker’s Queen Mother of the West, wip cover for the Mandate of Heaven

The Birth of Monkey by Peter Frain

Monkey Victorious by Peter Frain

Now back that all that excitement back onto finishing Monkey and specifically the Quickstart rules 🙂

White Dragon Horse

Tripitaka contempatles the illusionary nature of reality by Dan Barker.

Tripitaka riding on the White Dragon Horse by Dan Barker.

In the novel Tripitaka’s white horse is the son of one of the Dragon Kings of the Four Oceans, who gets into trouble for burning down a castle. Guan Yin saves him from execution on the promise that he will provide a service later on. He goes to live by a river and he encounters the pilgrims as they try to cross it. Giving into his fierce Dragon nature he eats Tripitaka’s horse, and a ferocious fight erupts between him and Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy. Eventually he realises that they are disciples of Guan Yin and manages to get this across to the Pilgrims. The fight stops and the Dragon pledges to carry Tripitaka to India without complaint and turns into a white horse.

During the course of the novel the horse only turns back into its Dragon form once to save Tripitaka when Monkey abandons them.  This write up assumes that the Horse takes a more active role in the adventure, and is in effect for the purpose of the game a fifth Pilgrim. The 1970s/80s Japanese TV series (known as Monkey Magic! In the UK) has the Horse take human form in just this way. This write up also assumes that the Horse uses the Horse Whip, part of a magical set of horse tack along with a saddle, stirrups etc. given to Tripitaka by Guan Yin, as a magical weapon.

Horse (aka White Dragon Horse, Yu Lung)

Origin: Dragon

Attitudes: Yang: Sturdy, Yin Perseverance

Weakness: Given to expressing his Savage Dragon Nature.


  • Dragon Kung Fu 3
  • Courtier 2
  • Taoist 1


  • Flight
  • Shape change
  • Dragon Breath

Magic Weapon

  • Horse Whip

Morning Monkey, 3 Days to go, Cover preview

So the clock is ticking down on the campaign and on Friday Morning it will all be over.

Cover artist Jon Hodgson is hard at work on the front cover and has posted these two detail images of the work in progress.

Monkey, detail work in progress by Jon Hodgson

Pigsy detail work in progress by Jon Hodgson

Jon Hodgson’s work in progress cover