One thing I often forget when I get down to the ‘serious business’ of putting a game/adventure together is that these things are meant to be fun. This is especially true in the case of Monkey. I was inspired by the philosophy/mythology of the book. Wu ch’eng-en’s parody of Taoist Culture, and his satire of Human nature. Not to mention his evangelical message that Buddhism is the way to salvation. None of which makes for fun role playing, were the main aim is escapism.
No the genius of Monkey is that it wraps all its meaningfully points in a very fun humor fantasy tale of flawed gods and outlandish fantasy. Monkey is my number one fantasy book anyday. Its far more cheerful and fun while still being deeply poignant than say the Lard of the Rungs. Monkey is going to be a narrative game, because of this duel nature. For action Narrative games shed all pretensions of war game like realism, which fits Monkey to a tee. Even in the book the combats are described as outrageous action packed wuxia kung-fu fests. Narratism deals with the action simply and meaningfully, be it combat or a heated debate, which believe it or not happens more often in the book were arguments are dramatic and overblown. This leads to quick and joyful fun, rather than ponderous referencing of rules.
Its important that Monkey has MAXIMUM GAMING FUN built into the rules. This is because as I was reminded today that when I mention that I am doing a game based upon Monkey, people automatically assume its based upon the Japanese TV series that ingrained itself in the consciousness of the British public via BBC2 in the 80s. Which it is, in a roundabout way since I would have never read the book if I hadn’t have seen the TV series. And if I hadn’t have read the book I would have never have started thinking about this game……..
BTW I have done some writing on the rules tonight. Its proved surprisingly fun and enlightening.
After playing around with several ideas for games, which I’ll post here later, I’ve decided to return to an idea that’s been zapping round my head for almost ten years now.
Monkey is based upon the 16th Century Chinese classic by Wu Ch’eng-en “Journey to the West”, or “Monkey” which is the name of the English translation.
The book is based upon the exploits of the immortal Monkey King. First as he rises in the ranks of heavenly immortals in the Western Taoist Heaven before running amok when his ego cannot be satisfied by all the honour that is accorded to him. Great Buddha in the Eastern Buddhist Heaven hears that there is trouble in the Western Heaven and pops over to see what is happening. Seeing the troublesome Monkey, he traps him under a mountain, saying that one day a passer by will release him and provide him with his means to renter heaven.
The second parts of the story sees Monkey released by the Buddhist Priest Tripitaka, and in service to the priest accompany him to India to recover sacred scrolls missing from the Chinese cannon of Buddhist writings. Two other fallen Immortals, the Demon Sandy and Pigsy an ex-guard accompany them from the Western Heaven, who also seeks redemption by serving Tripitaka.
In this game, the players play Immortals who like Monkey, Sandy and Pigsy have fallen out of favour with the heavenly authorities, seek to regain their place in either of the Heavens by serving the Heavenly order.
I’ve got a rather disjointed first draft of the game which I’ll get polished up over the coming weeks.
Basically its a narrative game, like HeroQuest or Sorcerer, which uses a card based mechanic to resolve conflicts, be they the traditional fights or social interactions. The game has an objective and an end which is to have the character, who is an out of favour chinese immortal find redemption in the eyes of either the Eastern (Buddhist) or Western (Taoist) heaven. This shifts the games emphasis away from traditional boys will be boys themes of killing things and taking their stuff, to a more humourous and cosmic approach, where how the characters go about their business and treat the mortals they encounter is important and relevant.
Now its time to dig out my copy of the book and start making notes.
A Journal for a new pen and paper role-playing games company, currently an imaginary entity in its owner’s mind (Newt Newport)
Primarily intended as a friends only creative journal to work out the details of creating the company and its at this stage.