Idea Guild > Setting Forge

The Three Kingdoms

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I have an idea brewing in my head. It developed into a plotbunny which wouldn't let go of my ankle. So now, I think of how to combat it.

For starters, what I have is the period in chinese history called the 'three kingdoms', namely wei, han and something I can't remember. All three had generals, namely:

Liu Bei -> best tactitian
Zhu Ge Liang -> best footsoldiers
Someone else -> best navy (I think)

I was wondering if I could transfer this into a plot for a RPG, something like the PC is a normal, lowly mercenary, and has to serve one of the three generals, then possibly make a name for himself or something. Along the way I could throw in random stories from the 'three kingdoms'.

There is a book writen on it, the chinese title is 'San Guo Yan Yi', translated it means 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms'. I've only read bits and pieces of it, as I'm not of a level where I understand all the words. Most of what I know is tought to me in school.

So... any ideas to help me flesh this out?

Aha! So now we have...

Full Name : Liu Xuande (Liu Bei)
Life Span : 62 years [161 - 223 AD]
Served : Gongsun Zan, Tao Qian, Cao Cao, Yuan Shao, Liu Biao  
Home  : Zhuo county, Zhuo district [Zhuozhou in Hebei prov.]
Rank/Title  : Emperor / Lord of Yicheng Precinct - King of Hanzhong -  King Zhaolie
Description  : Founder and First Emperor of Shu

First guy down, two more generals to go!

Full Name : Sun Zhongmou (Sun Quan)
Life Span : 70 years [182 - 252 AD]
Served : -  
Home  : Fuchun county, Wujun [Fuyang in Zhejiang prov.]
Rank/Title  : Emperor / Lord of Nanchang - Emperor Great  
Description  : First Emperor of Wu

And lastly Cao Cao...

Full Name : Cao Mengde
Life Span : 65 years [155 - 220 AD]
Served : -  
Home  : Qiao county, Pei country [Bozhou city in Anhui prov.]
Rank/Title  : King of Wei / Lord of Feiting - Lord of Wuping - King Wu
Description  : Founder and First King of Wei

I'll put more information later...

Man. I have to stop watching all those old badly dubbed Kung Fu flicks...

Appropriate links:
Note: There is a famous novel written about the time period and it has several English translations, supposedly in print.

The Gaming Link:  a page on the superior miniatures site:  


The end of the Han Dynasty was followed by a long period of disunity and civil war. It began with the Three Kingdoms. These kingdoms grew out of the three chief economic areas of the Han Dynasty. The leaders of the kingdoms strove to reunite the empire and were therefore at constant warfare. These three kingdoms were the Wei, in northern China, the Shu to the west, and the Wu in the east. The Three Kingdoms existed from 220-265 A.D. Buddhism began to spread throughout China during this period. It was introduced in the first century A.D. but did not really begin to spread until after the Han empire collapsed. Tea, although not as popular as it would be in later times, was discovered in the south during this period. Porcelain was also developed during this time.

The kingdom of Wei was ruled by Ts'ao Ts'ao. This was the strongest of the kingdoms, and he had power over the valley of Wei even during the time of the Han rule. Ts'ao Ts'ao attempted to unify all of China under his rule, but was defeated by Sun Ch'üan and Liu Pei in the battle of the Red Cliff. This defeat was the beginning of the division into three kingdoms. The Wei and Shu kingdoms were both centralized, legalist kingdoms, while the Wu kingdom was ruled by a confederation of the most powerful families of the area. The Wei kingdom eventually captured the Shu kingdom in 263 A.D.

Ts'ao Ts'ao instituted many military changes that would have a great impact on the future of China. His army consisted of both Chinese and people that were considered barbarians, the Hsiung-nu, the Hsien-pei, Wu-huan and the Ch'iang. The members of his army who provided the best troops were the former nomadic herdsmen of the steppes. They were the most skilled mounted bowmen. The use of people from different groups resulted in an assimilation among the people which had not occurred in the past. In the future, these assimilated nomads would form independent kingdoms in North China. The Ssu-ma was a militant family that rose to power very quickly, and one of its members, Ssu-ma Yen founded the new Chin Dynasty in 265 A.D.

I already knew about Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It has been made into the marginally good Dynasty Warriors, amazing Kessen, and confusing Romance of the Three Kingdoms video game series.

We have the information. We have a couple of fictional references. What is your vision for this?  What exactly is the plot bunny humping your leg?  Is it just the setting (a bit of interesting Chinese history) or what?

If it is just the cool historical setting, all you need to do is capture some historical text, create a set of thumbnail explanations for "how to be Chinese" for your players, come up with an equipment list, and you are all set. Photocopy the packet for each player, and run with it.  

Orriental adventures, if you are a d20 kind of person, might be a good thing to look at, but GURPs China or some HKAT! suppliments might be good for you.


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