I am working on a number of things coming out for Ogre Gate, but something nudged me to write about campaign upkeep. This Friday we are going to talk about Heroes Shed No Tears, the 1980 Shaw Brothers film on the podcast. I've been re-reading the translation of Heroes Shed No Tears novel at Wuxia World (HERE) and it got me thinking about mapping the martial world in campaigns.
The novel is excellent and I highly recommend it to Gamemasters running wuxia campaigns. Written by Gu Long, it is an excellent example of how to populate a campaign setting with martial heroes and clans. In particular it illustrates how an escort company, something very common in the genre, can function in a gameable way. The movie is one of my favorite films, and I also encourage people to check it out. It is directed by Chor Yuen, and just one among many movies he made that were inspired by Gu Long's works.
In any setting you have the world and the locations, and those need to be mapped. But the martial world is more like an abstract set of relationships, allegiances and individuals who populate that setting. Again, you'll need individual entries on the sects and characters, but you also need a general overview of how it all fits together. The sketch to the right is a small example of that.
In Heroes Shed No Tears we learn that one of the primary characters, Sima Chaoqun formed a powerful escort agency by assembling 39 of the greatest heroes and bandits from Heshuo to North East China. This took him two years to achieve and with the help of his righthand man, Zhuo Donglai, there only real rival was the head of Lion Clan: Zhu Meng. . The events of the book are about a final confrontation between these two great powers. But there are other heroes and villains in the mix as well. The main character of the book is Little Gao, who enters the martial world at the behest of his master and finds himself embroiled in the conflict. There is also a mysterious assassin who carries a special box said to be the deadliest weapon in the world. Zhu Meng, leader of Lion Clan, is in love with a graceful dancer named Die Wu and helped by a loyal man named Cleats. There are many other characters of importance in the book and this is a story where you really only have to worry about two organizations (a lot of wuxia has far more than this).
So mapping out these relationships but also keeping track of heroes in general can be important. Imagine running a campaign for example around the rise of a character like Sima Chaoqun. In order to do that, the most important thing is to know who the 39 heroes are.
The map I used on the right is one quick way of getting a visual of the martial landscape. I usually pair it with a table containing the characters, with their Qi rank, signature techniques, desires and goals, etc. Sometimes you can fit this on the martial world map as well. On mine, I just fit in the Qi ranks, as those were the important thing to know for what was going on in the campaign.
But these maps need constant updating. The one to the right maps out the sects after a major incident involving some time traveling chariots. And there is a second page containing more sects and heroes. Generally I try to place the sects on the page in a place that matches where they reside in the world.
If you want to learn more about Heroes Shed No Tears, I strongly recommend Deathblade's translation at Wuxia World. I also suggest watching the movie if you can (as far as I know it isn't on prime or anything). We will cover it on the podcast this friday, so if you have seen it, definitely join us for the discussion, or to learn more about it. There will be spoilers though.