One of the persistent misconceptions about the first edition was that it was only suitable for one shot play. Partly this was because I assumed that everyone was familiar with the story of The Journey to the West, which is turns out not to be the case. Most players and potential referees had a passing familiarity from TV and Film versions, and wanted to find out more about the book from playing the game first. Which is fair enough, I followed a similar route when I first played Call of Cthulhu in the 1980s. Despite the game’s author, Sandy Petersen, recommendation that one went away and read some of Lovecraft’s works first I dived straight into the game. So in the new edition I present a frame work of game in four stages of play, each covered in four chapters, that models the stages the book goes through. This way players and narrators can pick up the game and have an experience that is pretty authentic to the book without having to read 1000+ pages first.
This part of the game is all about working out the background story and the abilities of the player Immortals and the Monk they are accompanying to India.
Rather than being a dry series of calculations and choices, the Origins chapter throws the players straight into the game as they take turns in playing out the origin stories of their Immortals. After the player Immortals are created, the Monk is collaboratively created in a similar fashion.
The Journey Begins!
Every good story has a beginning, and for the Journey to the West that beginning details how the player Immortals and the Monk all meet up, and the first challenge that they face together as a team. As well as establishing the relationships between the Immortals, this part of the game teaches the players and the Narrator many of the rules that they will use in earnest once they progress into the next part of the game.
Most of the examples assume that the game that is going to be played is the familiar Journey to the West, were the player immortals escort a mortal Monk to Buddha’s Temple in India to collect the lost scrolls of Buddhism, that are missing from the Chinese Cannon of Buddhism. This section gives some alternatives to this and guidance on how the players with the Narrator’s help set up different stories.
This stage of the game is usually, time permitting, played straight after the Origins stage in the first gaming session.
The Road to India
This phase of the game may take many game sessions as the players and Narrator desire. If you take each chapter of the book to be a game session The Journey to the West took 100 game sessions to complete, which is roughly 300-400 hours of game time. Now I understand that you and your friends don’t have 300-400 hours, so the first thing this chapter of the rules explains is how to plan your sessions so each of the player immortals gets a chance to tell and move their story to a satisfactory resolution.
How to begin a game session with a roundup of the “Story so far”, where the players summarise what their Immortals got up to in the previous session, is covered in this chapter.
It also has the rules for Quick, Simple and Dramatic Actions in detail, with some helpful charts so you know exactly what you are doing.
This chapter also has some handy tools for things like Bickering between the characters. Monkey and company do this all the time, and I’ve seen players reproduce this with their in-character chat, so I came up with a very simple ruling that allows players to peacefully resolve their Immortals differences in a game of one up man ship, which gives the winner a bonus to their next Action and makes the other Immortals follow their plan.
Wrapping up the game session and how to record any consequences of the Immortals actions is the last thing to be dealt with in this chapter.
The Pilgrims Reach India
This is the resolution of the Game. In the book it’s when Monkey and the rest of the pilgrims reach Buddha’s temple in India, collect the lost scrolls of Buddhist Cannon, return them to the Tang Emperor in China and then are judged by the Bodhisattva Guan Yin, to see if each Immortal is worthy of being readmitted into Heaven.
Your game ending may be different. You might have chosen to play a shorter game that revolved around aiding the troubled mortals of a Chinese city on Earth for example.
This chapter shows you how to finish the game, give each of the player Immortals the spot light and highlight their achievements.
Day 14 of 23 days of Monkey, Kickstarter opens in 9 days on 8th January 2017.