Celestial Empire

The second post about clouds and mapping is going to take a little longer to write up, so here’s something else in the meantime:


If you’re looking for an RPG based in semi-historical China, there are a lot of choices out there. The best one that I know of, however, is Celestial Empire. When I saw it in a store, I took it off the shelf, expecting but dreading the usual mess of stereotypes, half-truths, misunderstandings and misrepresentations so common to RPG treatments of China. As I paged through the book, though, I found no immediate inaccuracies to object to. In fact, the longer I looked at it, the more interested I was. The author clearly put a lot of work into it, getting the facts pretty much as good as could be in an RPG. (I have a degree in Chinese studies, and nothing I’ve seen in the book contradicts what I know, at least.) The author even got the romanization almost completely perfect! All far better than I’ve seen in RPG treatments of China before. I eventually convinced myself that I needed to buy it, and did so.

Cover of Celestial EmpireThis has had two effects:

  1. I have a long-term hankering to run a game set in China. I’m thinking of the Tuoba Wei era, which seems like an adventurous time, perhaps set on the edge of Chinese civilization.
  2. When people on RPGnet and elsewhere seek recommendations for good China sourcebooks for RPGs, I direct them immediately and confidently towards Celestial Empire.

As it happens, the author, Gianni Vacca, saw my most recent recommendation of the book and thanked me for it. A nice person, and a great book full of scholarship and interest — the RPG world needs more of that.


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