Monkeys and Dungeons

This is one of the articles in the upcoming Monkey Companion.

I’ve three objectives with this article.

  1. Help groups who are used to playing the World’s Favourite Fantasy make the move over to Monkey the RPG.
  2. Give examples of some of the truley inspriational real life places in China and the Far East, that Narrators can use as inspiration for adventure locations.
  3. How to use the existing Monkey rules for Actions, when the player characters are adventuring underground. Especially how to stage Monkey’s action packed fights.

One of the places featured in this article, along with the 1st Qin Emperor’s Tomb ( home of the famous Terracotta Army), the Third Tang Emperor’s Tomb (which is a massive recreation of the Tang Imperial Captial Chang’An), and the Ten Courts of Hell (both the mythical place and its supposed earthly entrance) is the Longyou Caves.

The Golden Book of 101 Immortals

The Golden Book is one of the long-overdue stretch goals for the Monkey Kickstarter, which I’m pushing to get done by Christmas.

It’s now going to be part of the Monkey Companion, partly to focus my efforts to get everything done, but also because it makes sense to put it in with the rest of the miscellaneous articles and adventures that make up the companion.

Here’s an excerpt to give you an idea of how it works.

The book is split into two parts.

  • The Demons, who are typically the adversaries of the player immortals, although one group are the demons from the Ten Courts of Hell can potentially be allies.
  • The Immortals of the Celestial Bureaucracy, those who serve Western Heaven. Theoretically these immortals should be on the player’s side, but their current mission on Earth may put them at cross purposes.

The immortals are then split into four categories by card suite, which allows the Narrator to quickly choose characters based upon the story’s needs or draw a card to randomly choose (see Consulting the Golden Book below).

Consulting the Golden Book

You can either use it as a reference book or as an oracle picking the next immortal who your players encounter in their journey by using a card draw.

Method

Have another deck of cards, separate from the player’s and Narrator’s deck, put to one side away from the other cards for just this purpose.

You can either draw cards in-game spontaneously or use them for inspiration while composing the outline of your adventure (see Monkey pages xx-xx).

Broadly speaking, each suite of cards represents a different category of immortals.

For Demons:

  • Clubs. These demons specialise dealing out violence and seek to harm mortals.
  • Diamonds. Often called “hoarders” by their peers these demons for whatever warped reason accumulate riches and physical things.
  • Hearts. These are demons who specialise in manipulating human lusts and fears.
  • Spades. These are Demons from the Ten Court of Hell, who are hunting escapees when encountered.

For Immortals of the Celestial Bureaucracy.

  • Clubs. Are the soldiers of Heaven and demon hunters responsible for putting down threats to the Celestial Harmony down by force?
  • Diamond. Those immortals responsible for the smooth flows of Chi (or energy) between heaven and earth. They tend to be magicians.  
  • Hearts. These busy immortals who are always on the move are Diplomats, responsible for smoothing hurt feelings and reporting on various projects that Western Heaven has on the go at any one time.
  • Spades. These worker immortals are responsible for Earthly works.

The value of the cards matters. The higher the value of the card, the more powerful the immortal.

As a result:

  • 2 – 6 are Extras.
  • 7 to 10 are Supporting Characters.
  • Picture cards are Major Characters.

Ministry of Thunder incoming!

Its been almost eight years since I revealed the Ministry of Thunder on this blog. In fact, back in the 1st edition days. It funded as the second stretch goal of the second edition, and after a few playthroughs, writer’s block it’s now coming to completion.

The overall concept, a short collection of adventures set around the Ministry of Thunder of the title that people can run either as one-shots or as a short campaign, which can be used to an introductory prequel to a longer Journey to the West game (which is the default in campaign-style in the main rulebook).

This bit of text from the introduction sums it up:

“It is a self-contained story arc’, like a mini-series of comics or a series of interconnected short stories, designed to introduce beginning players and narrators to the mythological worlds of Monkey. It’s designed to be straightforward and not depend on the constant player and narrator invention like the standard Journey to the West set up of the default game. Each adventure takes roughly three to four hours to complete, as it befits their origins as convention games. In short, if you want to run a short ‘campaign’ that is as traditional as Monkey gets. to see if you and your players like the game, with it still being a meaningful experience, this is the book you want.”

There’s a reason why I first put the Ministry together during the 1st edition days. I attempted to get people on board who were coming from a more traditional “get the rules, run the prepackaged adventure next” way of doing things. Who perhaps found Monkey’s free-wheeling make things up as you go along method a bit intimidating.  In itself, it inspired me to do a second edition of the rules to make them more accessible, based on how I had settled on running the game to complete newcomers at conventions.

Here’s the current line up of adventures that has changed since I first announced it.

  • Welcome to the Ministry of Thunder.
  • King Tiger.
  • The Magical Painter.
  • The Ministry Saves the Universe.

Of the original line up, only King Tiger remains. While being fun to run once, the others didn’t hold up to repeat plays and were weak on paper. That’s one thing of spending near on eight years of navel-gazing on this one that I’ve become a stronger adventure writer, and I have a clearer idea of what works for Monkey and what doesn’t.

Jon Hodgson’s cover still holds up.

Ministry of Thunder cover by Jon Hodgson

Dan Barker returns to do the internals.  This is a detail from my favourite piece, his take on the Moon Goddess and her friend and companion the Jade Rabbit.

 

The Mandate of Heaven is now Available


Finally, the Mandate of Heaven is now available from the D101 Web store.

It’s not called the Mega Monkey for nothing, this is the most epic set of adventures that I’ve ever written for the game and it spans across Western Heaven – Earth – and down into the Ten Courts of Hell. 130 pages, 15 pre-made player immortals, full details of the three cities, non-player immortals, dozens of scenario seeds and three long-form adventures.

Progress on the Mandate of Heaven

The Bad News, deadlines have gone flying past again like Monkey making to the edge of the Universe on his cloud. A combination of real-life busyness with day jobs (for my collaborators) and for me the joys of having my children at home for the summer holidays.

The Good News, we’re not pissing on the five pillars (which turn out to be Buddha’s fingers) when we get there. The document undergoing final proof, I’m putting the final touches on the Play Aids pack, Glynn Seal is doing city maps, and Dan Barker is doing stunning work on the art.

I’m cracking the whip and shouting “End of August!!”

So for now, that’s where I’ll leave you with Dan’s charming picture of the co-rulers of the Western Heaven sharing a slightly awkward moment as the more youthful and inexperienced Jade Emperor experiences the displeasure of the Queen Mother of the Western Heaven, who briefly shows her “Queen of Tigers” side.

(and if you want a sneak peek at another piece Dan did the book, pop over to this previous post on the Monkey blog).

The Queen Mother of the Western Heaven and the Jade Emperor by Dan Barker

I shall update you again in early Sept.

Monkey available

Print + free PDF via the D101 Web Store.

The Mandate of Heaven

An epic set of adventures/sourcebook for Monkey. Behold the MEGA MONKEY!

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