Saturday, October 31, 2015


I have been working on material for different regions of our Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate campaign setting to release in small PDFs (we may put them together into one print edition book as well). The core book comes with a broad overview of the setting and a complete gazetteer of the frontier where there are lots of martial heroes, sects and bandits. However there are other kingdoms, an empire and client states, to explore. Each of these have their own character and flavor due to their unique history. There is a place called Li Fan which is a land of the bizarre and strange, largely because it was the epicenter of the arrival of the Demon Emperor. For inspiration here I turned to Pu Songling's Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio

Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio is an interesting book. It was written during the Qing Dynasty and is a collection of small stories or accounts of supernatural and weird occurrences written by Pu Songling (but he no doubt gathered the source material from oral and written accounts). The original book is written in classical Chinese and Songling is highly regarded for his writing style. Because I don't know the language, I am working off of an English Translation. I imagine that a lot the style is lost in that process but it is still a fascinating read. It has everything from Fox Demons to transforming monks and magical wall scrolls. 

One thing I love about the book is the stories get right to the heart of the weirdness. So they read less like stories and more like accounts of the unusual, as if Songling is compelling files on strange cases. 

Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio has inspired cinema and television as well. If you've ever seen the Painted Skin movies, these are loosely based on one of the tales in the book. A Chinese Ghost Story is also inspired by Songling. 

Li Fan is meant to be one of the stranger locations in the setting, so I made a point of reading this book while working on it. It certainly had an impact and the compactness of the tales work well here because it is just one cool idea after another.

Definitely recommend Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio for Halloween reading this year. 

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