[19:57] <+Newt> My Name is Newt Newport, I’m owner/creative director of D101 Games a micropress roleplaying publisher based in Manchester UK. I’m currently Kickstarting Monkey the Roleplaying Game of the Journey to the West, which is what I’m going to answer questions on tonight. Done 🙂
[19:57] <~Dan> Thanks, Newt! The floor is open to questions!
[19:58] <~Dan> Can you give us a quick overview of the game’s premise?
[20:02] <+Newt> It’s based on the Chinese novel Journey to the West, where three Immortals, who are out of favour with Heaven, escourt a mortal monk from China through the Demon infested wilderness to collect the scrolls of buddhist lore missing from the Chinese Canon. Its a very famous story in Asia, with countless Film and TV adaptations,
[20:02] <+Newt> which is where I first came across it during the 80s, in its Japanese TV version which was known as Monkey Magic here in the UK
[20:03] <~Dan> What sort of system do you use?
[20:05] <+Newt> Its a very straight forward card based system. Each character, who is a Chinese Immortal of various origins, has three proffessions, ranked 1-3, which is the number of cards they draw when performing an Action with that Proffession.
[20:07] <+Newt> from the card draw they pick the highest card – which depending on the cards colour can mean the way they perform the action is either very active or Yang (red cards) or passive Yin( black cards). The character then has additonal card draws due to magic or magic items or favourable circumstances, but they have to be the same colour and higher than the inital
[20:07] <+Newt> card played from the proffession
[20:08] <+Newt> the GM draws cards for the opponent or opposing force, and who ever gets the highest card wins!
[20:08] <+Newt> And that’s basically it for Simple Actions, which are like one roll tasks in other games
[20:09] <+Newt> Dramatic Actions, such as long fights or big debates, are resovled over multiple card draws.
[20:09] <~Dan> So PCs are defined by 3 professions?
[20:09] <+Newt> Overall its a very fast moving Narrative system, that fits in with the game
[20:11] <~Dan> What sorts of powers do the PCs have?
[20:11] <+Newt> Player Immortals have an Origin – which is tells you were they came from in Chinese Mythology. So for example we have Celestial Immortals who were born into the Western Heaven to serve one of the Ministrys of Heaven, Earthly Animal Spirits who are intelligent animals who can take human form
[20:12] <+Newt> then they have 3 professions which are ranked 1-2-3 (so one is the best, then there’s a secondary proffesion, and the last profession is almost a passing interest)
[20:13] <+Newt> They have Attitudes, one Yin or passive in nature and antother Yang, which show how they do things – and mecanically give them extra card draws
[20:14] <+Newt> and finally they have Magic powers – which for all immortals are flight and shapechanging plus their own distinct powers and a magical weapon or tool
[20:15] <~Dan> And what is the opposition like?
[20:17] <+Newt> The Magical powers are based upon those shown by characters out of Chinese Mythology. So we have characters who have magical fans which when waived blast winds of healing energy, characters who can leave their body, chracters who can summon and ride on clouds 🙂
[20:17] <~Dan> Awesome. 🙂
[20:19] <+Newt> the opposistion are the Demons – evil creatures and the sprits of fallen humans, who are out to eat the flesh of the human monk the player immortals are escourting to gain immortality themselves and to stop him (or her) bringing the lost Buddhist scrolls back to China
[20:20] <+Newt> they are quite a diverse lot, but like the player immortals the more powerful can pass as humans and have magical powers
[20:21] <~Dan> What are the monk’s capabilities? Is he mostly helpless, or can he defend himself?
[20:22] <+Newt> During the game’s set up, as well as the player immortal’s origin stories, the players go round the table telling the origin story of the monk – and define what they can and can not do
[20:23] <~Dan> Sort of a collective NPC?
[20:25] <+Newt> they do have some magic – by virtue of being a Buddhist Priest (who had all sorts of spells – or sutras – to deal with demons) – and proffessions from their life before becoming a preist. So they may be more effective than the monk in Monkey itself
[20:25] <+Newt> Tripitaka – who was a career monk from an early age, but they still have the major weakness that they are mortal and vulnerable to the attacks of the demons.
[20:26] <+Newt> The Monk is a gm controlled npc
[20:27] <+Newt> but the group collectively creates them – one to take the burden of doing so off the GM but also so there’s a sense of shared ownership – its our monk we created them 🙂
[20:27] <~Dan> 🙂
[20:27] <~Dan> Given the premise, does the game have a “win condition” and a fixed endpoint?
[20:28] <~Dan> i.e., getting the monk to the West?
[20:29] <+Newt> Yes very much so. The game goes through phases. Phase 1 is the Origins of the Player Immortals. In the book the early chapters are given over to telling the origin stories of the Monkey King, the main character of the book (so much so some adaptations are named after him) and
[20:30] <+Newt> his fellow Pillgrims – Pigsy ( a pig demon who was a former Heavenly Marshall ), Sandy ( a water demon, again another former Heavenly Marshall) and Tripitaka the Buddhist Monk who they are escourting to India
[20:32] <+Newt> So in the game rather then treat character generation as a separate exercise , the players go round the table and tell the origin stories of their characters: how they came into being, how they went to the Chinese Western Heaven (a very formal place with its own hierachy of gods), what they did there, and how they fell out of favour
[20:35] <~Dan> How many sessions would you expect a game to take?
[20:35] <+Newt> then there’s a quick phase where the group gets together, called the “Journey Begins”, which happens straight after the Origins phase. Then the game plays out thorugh adventures on the Road to India, where the immortals fight demons, bicker amoungst themselves, play out personal stories to improve themselves, and generally create stories about their Journey.
[20:36] <+Newt> Finally the game has its conclusion when the Immortals reach India, and the players and GM decide whose been redeemed back into heaven though their deeds on the journey.
[20:38] <+Newt> The group decides how many sessions their version of the Journey to the West will last. It can be as little as a one session pilot – to see if they like the game, or a mulitsession epic of say 10 or so sessions. The game puts that choice up front
[20:39] <~Dan> It sounds like players have a lot of narrative control in this game.
[20:40] <~Dan> To what degree would you say the game is cooperative storytelling?
[20:41] <+Newt> Yes its a very player centred game. The characters in the book are larger than life Immortals, who are near godhood and its only their weaknesses that prevent them from being omnipotent
[20:42] <+Newt> so the very flexiable mechanics allow the olayers to try any thing they can reasonably narrate given their character’s abilities
[20:44] <+Newt> but they can also fail – one because I hate narrative games where the players just win-win-win-and-win-again, and also because in the story there are numerous occasions where Monkey and company come up against an Opponent and get their assess handed to them, and have to go to their Heavenyly Patron, the Buddhist Goddess Kuan Yin, cap in hand for help
[20:44] <+Newt> Also in additon to the Action Mechanics there’s three specific ways the players can take control of the Narrative
[20:45] <~Dan> How’s that?
[20:47] <+Newt> By bringing their Immortal’s Weakness into play. Each immortal has a weakness. In the book Monkey is rebellious, Pigsy suffers from Gluttony, Sandy is Miserable. So by invoking the Weakness the player drops their character and the rest of the group into trouble.They gain an extra card , face down, that they can play later as a ‘reward’
[20:50] <+Newt> Then the group collectively can ‘Steal the Scene’ from the GM – who is usually responsible for describing the location and situation the player characters find themselves in. For example the GM starts to describe the road ahead of the group, but they decide that they want to fly off to the Western Heaven to go and get help about a
[20:51] <+Newt> Fire Breathing Bull Headed demon that has been gettng the better of them in previous scenes. Therefore they can steal the scene set up from the GM, and the scene starts in the Western Heaven instead
[20:52] <~Dan> Is there a limit to doing that, or is that always an option?
[20:53] <+Newt> Always an option, within reason. The GM has power of veto, so if the players are just doing it to be awquard and piss the GM off they can veto it. It has to make sense in terms of the story and more importantly be fun for all the players 🙂
[20:54] <~Dan> Gotcha.
[20:54] <+Newt> Finally at the start of each scene a different player immortal gets the ‘Spot light’. I found that during the excitable games I ran, that sometimes more quiet players missed out.
[20:55] <+Newt> So by giving everyone a turn in the spot light, the quieter players get a chance to come out of their shell and say what their character is doing first before the louder players get a chance to do it for them. It also lets them tell the story from the perspective of their character
[20:56] <+Newt> again this is backed up from the book. Mostly the chapters are about what Monkey is up to, but occasionally they start from another character’s perspective and/or are telling one of supporting character’s stories.
[20:56] * ~Dan nods
[20:57] <~Dan> (How are you doing for time?)
[20:58] <+Newt> (Its 3am I probably need to wrap up, I can feel my fingers going numb 🙂 )
[20:58] <~Dan> No worries. Is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
[21:02] <+Newt> The game’s second edition is currently in Kickstarter, and if you are interested there’s more information there with links to my Monkey Magic blog were I did a series of posts about the game called 23 Days of Monkey (Link: http://monkey.d101games.com/)http://monkey.d101games.com/
[21:04] <+Newt> The game successfully funded on its first day! So I’m now funding the bonus stretch goals, which we’ve already hit two of: an extra adventure/Quick Start Booklet, and a chapter about mortal Wuxia style heroes.
[21:04] <~Dan> Congrats on that, by the way!
[21:04] <+Newt> Cheers 🙂
[21:05] <~Dan> If you’ll give me just a moment more, I’ll get the log posted and link you.
[21:05] <~Dan> And thanks very much for staying up late/getting up early to join us!