Archive for January 15th, 2008

Some Alternate Rules for Water Margin

2008 Jan 15

This is mostly a braindump, so it’s not so eloquently written.

There is a numbered list of the bravos of Mount Liang, the 108 Record, listing their full names, most prominent nickname (frex: “The Nine Dragoned” or “Leopard Head”), and a list of the oracle entries (chapter titles) in which either of their names appear. Additionally, in the oracle entries, whenever the name or nickname of one of the bravos appears, there is a circled number next to their name, indicating which one they are, so they can be easily referenced in the 108 Record.

When you determine which entries you are going to play in a given session, you mark those entries off a master oracle list, the Record of Tales, because no oracle entry is ever played twice. If the names of some of the 108 bravos appear on the oracle entries for a particular session, you should also check these entries off where they are listed next to a given bravo’s name on the 108 Record. If a given bravo now has no checkboxes left, this is the last session in which he will appear. Characters that have no checkboxes, because they are not specifically mentioned in any oracle entries, can only appear in one session.

Any characters that specifically appear on the oracle entries for a session are automatically a part of that session, even if they are not on the We Owe List. They do not have to fully appear during play, however. They can have performed the actions mentioned in the oracle before the start of play or “off-screen” and be long gone somewhere else or dead.

There is also a list of character names from the Water Margin to use whenever you need characters who are not bravos. Some of these names may also appear in oracle entries, but these entries may not come up until many sessions in, after you’ve already established things about a character with that name. This is great. You could keep notes after each session about what a given character did if you are interested in preserving some consistency of character. But you may not care about that.

Note that characters who are explicitly not bravos can never become bravos. However, the bravos themselves spend plenty of time not being bravos. Some were once officials or become officials for a period of time. Many have been hired by local lords as generals or killers. Many are also gentlemen or ladies when the occasion demands it, or were once high born and refined. Some have given their lives to the Buddha and sought refuge in monasteries to hide themselves from their enemies, only to cause an uproar and be forced back to their life of banditry. Some are secretly sorcerers or intellectuals or blacksmiths. Bravos frequently travel in disguise. In sum, bravos can be anything (even the sworn enemy of all bravos, bent on their destruction), but other people are inevitably what they seem to be.

You have completed the Water Margin when you have worked your way through all 200 oracle entries (which at a rate of 4 per session should take you 50 sessions) or run out of bravos. If you want to create a shorter campaign, it’s easy to measure campaigns by the number of bravos you’ve exhausted. Perhaps you only want to work through 30 of the 108. Note that bravos are exhausted much more quickly if you 1) use a bunch of minor one-shot bravos or 2) select the oracle entries listed in the checkboxes of bravos you have already started using to be the entries for the next session.

Oracle for Along the Water’s Edge…

2008 Jan 15

Creating a Water Margin-based oracle for In a Wicked Age is about the simplest thing known to mankind. Each chapter of the epic is titled with two short lines describing major happenings in that section of the story. All I have to do is type all the chapter headings up and post them on Abulafia. Here’s a start, from Pearl Buck’s translation:


  • Heavenly Teacher Zhang prays to dispel the evil flux.
  • Commander Heng mistakenly frees the demons.


  1. Wang The Chief Instructor goes secretly to Yan An Fu.
  2. The Nine Dragoned makes a mighty turmoil at the Village of the Shi Family.
  3. Shi Jin escapes by night from Hua Ying.
  4. Captain Lu kills the bully of Guanxi with his fists.
  5. The Lord Chao repairs the temple to the Wenzhu god.
  6. Lu The Priest makes a mighty turmoil on The Five Crested Mountain.
  7. The little robber king in drunkenness enters the gold-spangled curtains.
  8. In the night The Tattooed Priest greatly disturbs the peach flower village.
  9. The Nine Dragoned Shi Jin turns robber in the forest of red pines.
  10. Lu Zhishen burns The Temple To The Mountain God.
  11. The Tattooed Priest, and how he pulled up the weeping willow.
  12. The Leopard Headed unwittingly enters The Hall of White Tigers.
  13. Lin Chong is branded and sent into exile.
  14. The Tattooed Priest creates a vast turmoil in The Wood Of The Wild Boar.
  15. Chai Jin welcomes to his door guests from everywhere under Heaven.
  16. Lin Chong overcomes Captain Hung with his staff.
  17. Through wind and snow Lin Chong goes to The Temple Of The Mountain God.
  18. Lu The Guard takes fire and burns the Temple granaries.
  19. Zhu Gui lets fly a singing arrow from The Pavilion In The Lake.
  20. Lin Chong on a snowy night ascends the mountain of the robbers’ lair.
  21. Lin Chong becomes a robber in the Great Lair.
  22. Yang Zhi goes to the capitol city to sell his knife.
  23. The Eager Vanguard struggles for glory in the northern capitol.
  24. Zhou Qing and The Blue-Faced Exile compete in battle.
  25. The Redheaded Devil sleeps drunken in the temple.
  26. Chao The Heavenly King in the Village Of The East Creek acknowledges one for his nephew.
  27. Wu Yong exhorts the three Ruan Brothers to join the robber band.
  28. Gongsun Sheng fulfills The Prophecy Of The Seven Stars.
  29. Yang Zhi guards the bearers of the gift-treasure.
  30. Wu Yong takes the gift-treasure by guile.
  31. The Tattooed Priest alone conquers The Double Dragon Mountain.
  32. With The Blue-Faced Beast he captures The Temple Of The Precious Pearl.
  33. The Beautiful Bearded traps The Winged Tiger by guile.
  34. Song Jiang secretly frees Chao The Heavenly King.
  35. Lin Chong kills a comrade in the robbers’ lair.
  36. Chao Gai conquers the lair and that without great pains.
  37. The heroes of the robbers’ lair do reverence to Chao Gai.
  38. Liu T’ang travels by the light of the moon to the city of Yün Ch’en.
  39. The old woman Yien in a fit of drunkenness beats T’ang Liu Er.
  40. Song Jiang in his wrath kills P’o Hsi.
  41. The old woman Yien makes a great ado in the court.
  42. Chu T’ang because of friendship allows Song Jiang to go free.
  43. Chai Jin presses his guests to stay.
  44. Wu Song kills the great tiger of Ching Yang Ridge.
  45. The old woman Wang, desirous of a bribe, rouses evil passions.
  46. Yün Ko in a madness of anger makes a furor in a teashop.
  47. The old woman Wang now thinks to advise Hsi Men Ch’ing by guile.
  48. The adulteress poisons Wu The Elder.
  49. Ho steals the bones of Wu The Elder at the funeral pyre.
  50. Wu Song makes sacrifice of heads to the spirit of his elder brother.
  51. The she-monster of the sea sells human flesh on the road to Meng Chou.
  52. Wu Song meets Zhang Qing at The Cross Roads Ridge.
  53. Wu Song‘s power shakes The Encampment Of Peace.
  54. Shi En justly takes the back The Happy Wood Wine Shop.
  55. Shi En seizes the road to Meng Chou once more.
  56. Wu Song in his drunkenness beats Chiang The God Of The Gate.
  57. Shi En goes thrice to the goal of deaths.
  58. Wu Song creates a vast turmoil at The Pool Of The Flying Cloud.
  59. Blood splatters The Hall Of The Mandarin Ducks.
  60. Wu Song walks by night on Centipede Hill.
  61. The priest Wu in his drunkenness beats K’ung Liang.
  62. The Five Hued Tiger frees Song Jiang with all courtesy.
  63. Song Jiang goes by night to see The Lantern Mountain.
  64. Hua Yung makes a mighty disturbance in The Camp Of Clear Winds.
  65. He Who Rules Three Mountains greatly disturbs Ch’ing Chou.
  66. The Fire In The Thunderclap passes through a wasteland in the night.
  67. The General writes a letter in a village inn.
  68. Hua Yung shoots a wild goose with his arrow.
  69. Wu Yong of the robbers’ lair introduces Dai Zhong.
  70. Song Jiang comes upon Li Chün at Ching Yang River.
  71. He Whom No Obstacle Can Stay pursues The Opportune Rain, Song Jiang.
  72. The Boatman Zhang disturbs Chiang Chou.
  73. The Opportune Rain meets The Magic Messenger.
  74. The Black Whirlwind fights with White Stripe In The Waves.
  75. Song Jiang writes a revolutionary poem in the Ching Yang inn.
  76. Dai Zhong of the robbers’ lair brings a false letter.
  77. The heroes from the robbers’ lair make a rescue from the execution grounds.
  78. They gather at The Temple To The White Dragon.
  79. Song Jiang by guile captures the city of Wu Wei Chün.
  80. Chang Shih captures Huang Wen Ping alive.
  81. In a village three books are received from Heaven.
  82. Song Jiang sees The Goddess Of The Ninth Heaven.
  83. The false Li Kui robs lonely villagers in the wilderness.
  84. The Black Whirlwind kills four tigers on the Mountain I Ning.
  85. The Five Hued Leopard meets Dai Zhong upon a bypath.
  86. Yang Xiong meets Shi Xiu upon a market street.
  87. Yang Xiong in drunkenness curses his wife.
  88. Shi Xiu by his guile kills P’ei Ju Hai.
  89. Yang Xiong greatly disturbs the mountain called The Jade Screen.
  90. Shi Xiu burns the inn of the Chu family.
  91. The Eagle Who Smites The Heavens twice writes a letter of brotherhood.
  92. Song Jiang goes for the first time to attack the village of the Chu famiy.
  93. The Ten Foot Green Snake alone captures Wang The Dwarf Tiger.
  94. Song Jiang attacks the village of Chu for a second time.
  95. The two brothers Hsieh escape from the gaol.
  96. The two brothers Sheng rush into the goal, mighty to save.
  97. Wu Yong uses a double-linked plot.
  98. Song Jiang thrice attacks the village of Chu.
  99. The Winged Tiger uses his rack to strike a maid.
  100. The Beautiful Bearded in a careless instant loses the magistrate’s son.
  101. Li Kui kills Ying T’ien Hsi.
  102. Chai Jin is made prisoner in Kao T’ang Chou.
  103. Dai Zhong for the second time sees Gongsun Sheng.
  104. Li Kui alone splits in half Lo The Holy Man.
  105. The Dragon Of The Clouds uses his magic to vanquish Kao Lien.
  106. The Black Whirlwind descends into a well to save Chai Jin.
  107. The Commander Kao leads forth three ranks of soldiers.
  108. Hu Yien Shu sets out two ranks of horsemen.
  109. Wu Yong sends Shun Ch’ien to steal armor.
  110. T’ang Lung decoys Ch’ü Ling to the mountain lair.
  111. Ch’ü Ling teaches the robbers how to use the hook-bladed spear.
  112. Song Jiang overcomes the chained horsemen.
  113. The three mountains gather together to attack Ch’ing Chou.
  114. All the tigers turn to the robbers’ lair.
  115. Wu Yong takes The Golden Bell by guile.
  116. Song Jiang makes a disturbance in The Great Hua Mountain Of The West.
  117. Gongsun Sheng vanquishes The Devil On The Mountain Of Wild Grass And Rocks.
  118. Chao Gai is wounded with an arrow in the village of Chen T’ou.
  119. Wu Yong beguiles The Jade Ch’i Lin.
  120. Zhang Shun by night disturbs The Golden Sands.
  121. Yien Ch’ing lets fly a lone arrow and saves his lord.
  122. Shi Xiu leaps from a balcony on the execution ground.
  123. Song Jiang and his fighting men attack Ta Ming Fu.
  124. Guan Sheng seeks a way to seize the robbers’ lair.
  125. Hu Yien Shu deceives Guan Sheng on a moonlit night.
  126. Song Jiang seizes So Ch’ao upon a snowy day.
  127. The spirit of The Pagoda-Moving Heavenly King Chao Gai appears as a god.
  128. White Stripe In The Waves Zhang Shun takes his revenge upon the face of the waters.
  129. Shi Qian burns The House Of The Jade Cloud.
  130. Wu Yong takes the city of Ta Ming Fu by guile.
  131. Song Jiang rewards the victorious robbers.
  132. Guan Sheng overcomes two warriors of water and of fire and leads them to the lair.
  133. Song Jiang attacks by night the village of the Chen family.
  134. Lu Junyi seizes Shi Wen Kung alive.
  135. The Nine Dragoned through accident is imprisoned in the city of Tung P’ing.
  136. In great mercy Song Jiang sets free The Warrior Of The Two Spears.
  137. The Featherless Arrow lets fly stones against the heroes.
  138. Song Jiang discards the grain and captures a warrior.
  139. The Hall of Righteousness And Loyalty receives words from Heaven upon a tablet of stone.
  140. The heroes of the robbers’ lair are fearful because of an evil dream.