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.

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