Review: GURPS China

By Kevin Mowery.

GURPS China is, I think, now out of print, but a useful resource for Feng Shui players and GMs.

It contains sections on daily life, religious and secular philosophies, history, and the supernatural. There's also a nifty section on Chinese equipment and inventions, including the approximate dates that each was invented. In the section on characters, the book mentions that adventurers were common in chaotic times, but only respectable in 4 periods: the Warring States, the Three Kingdoms, the T'ang Dynasty, and the late 1920s. In most junctures, then, adventurers in China would be viewed as outlaws, brigands, and ruffians (69 is about 100 years before the Three Kingdoms). The bestiary section has lots of cool critters to throw against stalwart characters (or that the characters could ally with). Strangely, hopping vampires weren't part of the bestiary, though.

On the downside, the book functions largely on mainland China, and doesn't include much info on Hong Kong, or the modern era (pretty much stopping with Chairman Mao). It has a pronunciation guide, but I think it provides only Mandarin pronunciations. And while the amount of history in the book is staggering, it's more explicit in times that aren't junctures than in times that are. OTOH, these are not faults with the book, just things that slightly limit its usefulness for Feng Shui.

One interesting part is the information on the function of government, particularly on how to get into the bureaucracy, why people can love the Emperor and think he rules with the mandate of Heaven and yet still loathe the Emperor's servants, and trials. In a Chinese trial in the 69 and 1850 junctures, both the plaintiff and the defendant have to kneel before the magistrate for the duration. Neither can call witnesses, but the magistrate can compel anyone he wishes to testify, using whatever means are at his disposal. A conviction can't be made until a confession has been obtained. Torture, of course, is a legitimate means to extract a confession. Magistrates serve an area for 3 years, then get moved so that they don't get caught up in local politics.

Last modified: May 1st, 1997; please send comments to