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Ravian

Romance of the Three Kingdoms

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So I've started watching the 2010 Chinese series Three Kingdoms, and doing some independent research on the period, and I'm now considering how well Pendragon might be to model it. Feudalism may not be a thing, but the concept of hereditary military families makes generational play still important to consider. I'd envision PC's expected to rise up from various roots both grand and humble to being the commanders of their own force, in the style of the Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei. Substitute chivalrous and religious virtues for Confucian and Taoist virtues, with a dash of Buddhism for flavor even if it isn't yet widely practiced in China. (With the important distinction that unlike Pendragon religions, they aren't mutually exclusive, and it would be perfectly viable for a character to be a virtuous Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist all at the same time if they could hold themselves to such standards.) (Ironically there's not actually as much Romance in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms though. Confucian filial piety kind of took precedent over the courtly love ideals that Europe was weaving into Arthurian legends.)

I'd imagine there'd need to be some expansion to the battle system. Pendragon's system seems like it would work quite well for actual engagements between forces, though likely with some greater emphasis on the players' role in things. (Unlike in Pendragon, where knights are significant part of the military force, RoTK armies tended to be, essentially, a whole bunch of untrained mooks along with some bands of PCs mowing through the opposing army to get to their counterparts for the real fight.) But RoTK also places a lot greater emphasis on cunning strategies on a larger scale than the usual European medieval tactics of charging at each other on an open plain, so I could imagine some parts of that playing out more like a war game.

 

Any thoughts on all this? One thing I am worried about is whether some of the focus on passions can really work considering how far some of the characters get with treachery and cold pragmatism. (Looking at you Cao Cao) but on the other hand if things are focused more on the Shu perspective with Liu Bei being something of the Arthur stand-in, (like the book is even though the Wei actually won everything) emphasizing honor and virtue's importance even in the face of defeat may not be an issue.

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45 minutes ago, Ringan said:

It's a Ming dynasty conversion instead of Three Kingdoms, but you may find useful material in the Great Book of Pendragon Treasures, page 27.

I'm familiar, and I'd say that was something of an inspiration. Definitely already been mining it for some materials. On distinction that I am being wary of is the fact that it's more specifically aimed at the Wuxia genre. RoTK can be said to be a little Wuxia in character, especially with some of the more over-the-top fights, but things are still a little more grounded with a focus on military power over high flying kung fu. (Maybe I'd consider more of it for a Water Margin rpg instead.)

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2 hours ago, Ravian said:

(Unlike in Pendragon, where knights are significant part of the military force, RoTK armies tended to be, essentially, a whole bunch of untrained mooks along with some bands of PCs mowing through the opposing army to get to their counterparts for the real fight.)

If you read Le Morte's battle descriptions, this is pretty close to how many of them play out, despite the heroes being against other knights. For instance, at the Battle of Terrabil: "...and King Arthur slew that day twenty knights and maimed forty." The named heroes and kings tend to seek each other out on the battlefield, and so forth.

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1 minute ago, Morien said:

If you read Le Morte's battle descriptions, this is pretty close to how many of them play out, despite the heroes being against other knights. For instance, at the Battle of Terrabil: "...and King Arthur slew that day twenty knights and maimed forty." The named heroes and kings tend to seek each other out on the battlefield, and so forth.

True enough. I'm not talking about any major overhauls, just a little bit of tweaking here and there.

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What kind of advice are you looking for?

The Legends of the Wulin rpg, formerly known as Weapons of the Gods, has a set of five Chivalrous virtues and five Selfish virtues.  They aren't paired (in fact, you can have high ratings in two virtues that seem contrary):  Benevolence (Kwan), Force (Ba), Honor (Xin,), Loyalty (Zhong), Righteousness (Yi), Ferocity (Bao), Individualism (Si), Obsession (Chan), Revenge (Chou), Ruthlessness (Hen).

Note that Xin and Yi (and Benevolence, as Ren) are part of the Confucian Five Constants, and Zhong is one of the four virtues of the Sizi (along with Yi).

Filial Piety is such a big deal in Confucianism that I would probably make it a Passion.

Two other thoughts:

What role do you see for Wu Wei?  It is a big deal in Chinese philosophy.

Also, don't forget Chinese Legalism.  Han Fei would approve mightily of Cao Cao's Ruthlessness (a virtue, with a capital R), in order to consolidate power by any means necessary, for the greater good.

(And for clarification, I am only an amateur fan of Chinese literature, and a westerner.)

 

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Thus far I've figured Generous, Honest, Just, Merciful and Modest for the Confucian trait virtues, along with representing Filial Piety as the effective equivalent of the Love (Family) Passion.

Daoism and Wu Wei were tricky, lazy was the closest preexisting trait in Pendragon, but it has a lot of negative connotations that aren't present in Wu Wei, so I took some inspiration from the Pendragon Genpei fan site and came up with a new pair of traits, Ambitious and Harmonious. Ambitious characters are more likely to take opportunities that prioritize personal power and influence for themselves (though what methods they are willing to use to accomplish this is likely based on other traits.) Meanwhile Harmonious characters are more likely to prioritize duties and norms even to their personal detriment. So someone like Cao Cao would be famously ambitious, (along with Vengeful, Cruel and especially Suspicious) while Liu Bei, at least early on, would be more Harmonious as he intentionally avoids accruing personal power in the absence of the Emperor's authority.

So within that framework, Daoism's virtues are Harmonious, Forgiving, Modest, Prudent, and Temperate.

Buddhism also uses Harmonious, as well as Modest, Merciful, Temperate and Chaste (Obviously Buddhism wasn't terribly common during this era, but as they did exist in small numbers in China and some of their neighbors (particularly in the south), I thought it would work well as an option.

I admit I haven't actually thought a lot about Legalism, since it wasn't historically much of a philosophy at that point. But you probably are on to something about including it as an anachronistic option (similar to Pagans in Pendragon) given how often Legalist principles are used as the basis for many of the more antagonistic characters in the book (such as Cao Cao) That being said I'm not totally sure what virtues they would have, especially considering that much of it directly rejects the idea of virtue being of importance, instead espousing that the best way to create a society is to create a legal system that minimizes the reliance on individuals. That being said, Ambitious and Cruel could probably be considered appropriate.

 

One thing that I'm doing some work in is some of the character options. Once the game gets going, the military hereditary families that emerged during the Three States period work well for Pendragon's generational play, but at the start you've got characters emerging from a variety of origins, as well as the more meritocratic Han system.

Essentially, since the game will largely focus on characters being military officers, it's assumed that any characters you create will end up in some sort of position of authority in the military once the Yellow Turban Rebellion gets started (which seems like the natural starting point for the campaign.) From that you basically either have your appointed scholar-officers (who managed to get themselves appointed after going through the academic system) or more humble commoner squad leaders (to represent characters like the humble members of the Oath of the Peach Garden rising up from modest origins to greatness)

Basically you get some starting bonuses based on your starting class (as well as an astrology bonus based on when your character was born) and once your character gets old enough they can start attending some of the public schools offered (automatically if they're from a higher class family, less likely if they start off poor. And impossible for some of the lowest classes.) Formal schooling and informal training both give you skill points, though schooling gives you the option to increase some of the more specialized skills. After a certain degree of schooling, they can start seeing if they've met the standards to be sent to the Academies (which will require some of the more intellectual skills, but will also be easier if you were born in a higher class because neopotism.) If you get into the academy, you get some more skill points and train until you get appointed as a captain, otherwise you do less formal training, join the army, and your character starts when you get promoted to be a squad leader. Hopefully end result ought to be that the Scholar characters will start with more skill points overall, but because of the requirements they had to meet to get into their academy, they'll need to have invested a lot of them in more scholarly skills (which while still useful won't necessarily be as applicable in most of the important battles (though obviously you've got exceptions like some expert uses of the Divination skill to determine when winds will suddenly change in the middle of a battle...)) Meanwhile commoner characters have less skill points overall but will be free to invest more of them into the more obviously useful combat skills by game start.

 

Also considering whether to add a third possible path, based more on the Wuxia concept of the Jiangshu to allow for characters to be raised among outcasts, though that would probably work best for the hypothetical Water Margin supplement (unless all the characters decide to play a group of bandits or something for a very different RotK campaign.)

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Have a look at the Six Flying Dragons TV Series. It is set in medieval Korea and has a lot of Confucian philosophy and mysticism. One thing it looks at it how Chinese Characters/Ideograms are built up, what happens when you combine several into one and what is the hidden meaning behind them.

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