Blank Map of Sengoku Jidai Japan

I have a found a blank map of 16th century Japan on the net and I thought I'd share it.

This can be very useful for referees GM'ing adventures set at the time of Sengoku Japan, especially should the campaign revolve around daimyō rivalry and the conquest of the various provinces (the referee can track the by progress of the various armies by using different colours).


Monsters & Magic Back In Print

Sarah Newton (Monsters & Magic's author) has announced today that her seminal Old School feel/New School mechanics fantasy role-playing game would be launched soon as a print-on-demand book on DriveThruRPG / RPGNow.

Edit 17 May: here's the relevant link on DriveThruRPG.

She has also announced that there would be some new M&M announcements coming up shortly!


Wōkòu Mythbusting

A great article available here that busts several myths about the Wōkòu, the notorious Japanese pirates that terrorised Korean and Chinese coastal areas under the Míng.

倭寇 (Wōkòu)

Myth 1. Hǎijìn (海禁, lit. 'Sea ban') or maritime trade prohibition constituted the Wōkòu phenomenon
Myth 2. Poor Chinese coastal inhabitants were forced into piracy by oppressive Hǎijìn policy
Myth 3. Wōkòu were primarily swordsmen
Myth 4. Japanese Yumi is weaker/has lower draw weight than English longbow (or other bows)
Myth 5: Lángxiǎn (狼筅) was developed to specifically counter Japanese swords


Walled Villages

During the Míng and Qīng dynasties, the shores of the southern Chinese provinces suffered from pirate attacks (the notorious Wōkòu — see an older post). As a result, some coastal villages built walls against them.

Here are two interesting articles about these walled villages (1) and (2).


The Assassin (cont'd)

I've seen The Assassin at last. What a masterpiece. Mind you, it's not your run-of-the-mill wǔxiá piàn, with members of rival martial arts schools challenging each other, or with acrobatic fights in bamboo groves.

No. First of all, the film is set under the late Táng, and director Hou Hsiao-Hsien [Hóu Xiàoxián 侯孝賢] secured the assistance of a Taiwanese historian who specialises in the Táng Dynasty to make sure the court manners, musical instruments, dances, foodstuffs, etc. were historically accurate. As a result, the film is visually stunning in its faithful representation of court life and costumes. Many scenes have been photographed in natural light or in candlelight, and you can see the beautiful patterns of the silk clothes and the gauze curtains.

Secondly, many protagonists are female. Women under the Táng enjoyed much more freedom than under later dynasties (see The Celestial Empire, p9), and the film is basically a tale of women plotting against each other against a backdrop of seemingly masculine authority.

I won't spoil the scenario, but the film does depart from the short story. Niè Yǐnniáng returns from her training with the nun as a full adult, not as an adolescent as in the short story. The nun does not disappear; on the contrary, she tells her to kill her cousin Tián Jì'ān, the de facto independent ruler of Wèibó. Niè Fēng is Tián's provost. The various wives and concubines of Tián Jì'ān plot against each other. Instead of killing Tián, Yǐnniáng starts taking part in the various conspiracies, thwarting assassination attempts and protecting her father. I won't spoil the outcome of the film, but I believe it is about Yǐnniáng's finding her own destiny after years of being subservient to others.

Oh, and there is the best depiction ever of a magic-user and of his spells in a semi-historical film. Yes, a magic-user could definitely do with more hit points...