The Mandate of Heaven

The Queen Mother of the West by Daniel Barker

The Queen Mother of the West by Daniel Barker

This epic adventure for Monkey the Roleplaying Game takes place in three locations within Chinese Mythology. The Western Heaven, Chang‘an capital of the Tang Empire and the Ten Courts of Hell. There numerous plots play out and evil demons try to bring about the downfall of Heaven and Earth by usurping the harmony between them which is called the Mandate of Heaven.

The First location is the Western Heaven, ruled by the Jade Emperor and the Queen Mother of the West (who is pictured in to the right), who represent the forces of Yang (masculine/active) and Yin (feminine/passive) respectively. Their palaces are at the top of the Heaven, in a city made of jade and other precious gems and metals which floats on clouds above the holy mountain of Kunlun. Below them are the various Ministries of Heaven that run various affairs, such as the Ministry of Thunder led by the Bat Winged Lei-Gong Lord of Thunder whose job is to bring to justice criminals that the mortal authorities cannot. The Western Heaven is also home to many deities such as Lao Tzu the Grandfather of Taoism, the Planet Venus and General Le commander of the heavenly hosts and his son the demon Hunter Prince Natha. As well as the Ministries and the palaces of the various Immortals are places like Lao Tzu’s Forge and the Peach Gardens of the Queen Mother of the West. The player immortals who start on this location are Mandarins, Guards and Magistrates of Celestial origin who were born to serve one of the Great Immortals directly or one of the Ministries.

The second location linked to its heavenly counterpart is the capital city of the Tang Empire, Chang’an. Here the Tang Emperor rules the teeming masses of Chinese. The city is made up of a grid of city streets and divided into districts; some residential, some commercial (which houses the city’s great market), some dedicated to entertainment (with theatres and brothels) and of course the temple district that houses the wooden temples of Buddhism and Taoism. The Player Immortals from here are made up of Earthly Immortals who report to the local City God and are responsible for Earthly affairs, such as the smooth flow of the local rivers or the fertility of the local rice fields.

The final location is the Ten Courts of Hell, where King Yama oversees the judgement and punishment of sinful mortals. This is a dark, dangerous place, with its own order and rules were the Player Immortals are Demon Guards and Judges responsible for keeping the sinners within its boundaries until their allotted time is up and it is time for them to drink the Waters of Forgetfulness, so they may return to earth in their next mortal incarnation.

Each location has its own collection of places, events and characters, which are involved in various sub plots. The player immortals start in the location of their origin, with all the responsibilities and relationships that that implies but at various places (or during certain events) they can travel to the other locations. For example, the Palace of the Western Queen of Heaven has a magical Cosmic Pillar were not only communications between heaven and earth are possible but also transportation.

While very free form in nature, the wanderings of the Player Immortals and their interactions with the various plot lines build up to a story of a demonic threat to the order of Heaven and Earth. Of course this being Monkey this is all very light hearted with moments of intense action. It’s the most epic Monkey experience produced for the game and its ideal for if you just want to run a memorable one shot or start your Journey to the West with a bang. At the upcoming 7 Hills gaming convention in April I’ll be running it with two tables of four players and a co-Narrator who will run one of the tables while I run the other. Of course, you can also take your time to run it as a multi-session experience, if you are running it at home, with just your home group sitting round your gaming table:  A drawn out TV series rather than a Cinematic Film like the convention game will be.

ETA 2017