Chinese Mythology

Chinese Mythology

About Risus

For those of you not in the know, “Risus is a complete Role playing Game (RPG) designed to provide an ‘RPG Lite' for those nights when the brain is too tired for exacting detail.” It is available as a free download from S. John Ross' Risus: The Anything RPG site (you can download a zip file containing the rules in rich text, text, and Adobe Acrobat format).

Setting Overview

This setting is a mix of the myths and legends of ancient China, a variety of Kung-Fu tropes, martial arts from all over the world and a little bit of satire of over complicated bureaucracy and red tape for good measure.

Advanced Options

Pumps and Double Pumps:

Pumps and double pumps is mandatory for Mythological China Adventures. It represents the wondrous aspects of mythology and the crazy aspects of Wuxia.

Hooks and Tales:

It is the GM's choice whether or not you include this in their Mythological China campaign.

Lucky Shots:

Lucky shots in Chinese Mythology Adventures are replaced by chi, which functions is much the same way unless you happen to have a religious cliche. Characters with religious cliches must spend at least one point in character generation on chi and can gain extra chi through accordance to their religion's teaching, as detailed in the Religion section. This extra chi is not regained at the start of a new session in the same way as regular chi is but you can hold on to it for multiple sessions.

Newfangled Optional Rules (Montages, Funky Dice, Sidekicks, what-have-you):

To keep things nice and simple I highly recommend you keep all this out of your Mythological China campaign, with the exception of Questing Points, which you can keep in if you like the extra flavour it adds.


Cliches marked with a * not suitable for Player Characters.

Mundane Cliches

  • *Beggar: Beg for money, be looked down as worthless scum. (Tools of the Trade: rags, begging cup)

  • Thief: Steal stuff, run away from maniac knife-wielding merchants (Tools of the Trade: Poor clothes, some stolen loot)

  • *Peasant: Farm food for everyone to eat, tend to the oxen, have very little to no plot relevance. (Tools of the Trade: muddy clothes, oxen, scythe)

  • *Fisherman: Fish food for everyone to eat, work hard and still be very poor, have very little to no plot relevance (Tools of the Trade: muddy clothes, fishing nets)

  • Sailor: Sail around on a boat, buy and sell items, give rides to adventurers (Tools of the Trade: boat, nice clothes, stored up food and water, items to sell at the market)

  • Merchant: Sell stuff at your store, bargain to the very end, try to catch pesky thieves (Tools of the Trade: store, nice clothes wares, a sharp knife you have hidden beneath the counter for thieves)

  • Bureaucrat: Fill out paperwork, demand all paperwork you receive to be in triplicate, fill out more paperwork, have little to no plot relevance but still really annoy the PCs, fill out yet more paper work (Tools of the Trade: government uniform, ink brush, ink stone, ink, paperwork)

  • Noblewoman: Gossip, give insults cleverly disguised as complements, have extremely neat hand writing, look down at the lower classes as worthless scum (Tools of the Trade: lots of make up, very nice clothes, a large fan to cover your face)

  • Nobleman: Demand everyone bow below your feet, be agonisingly irritating, have extremely neat hand writing, look down at the lower classes as worthless scum (Tools of the Trade: lots of money, very nice clothes)

Martial Cliches

  • Anachronism Ninja: Be present in a Chinese Mythology adventure despite being Japanese, dress entirely in black despite that being historically inaccurate, be stealthy, assassinate important people, perform martial arts that ninjas didn't really perform. (Tools of the Trade: Ninja sword, poison kit, black clothes)

  • Warrior Monk: Beat stuff up, seem spiritual while beating stuff up (Tools of the Trade: Monk uniform, armour)

  • Wuxia Yogi: Meditate, do supernatural feats of acrobatics, perform martial arts while doing cartwheels, only eat rice and vegetables (Tools of the Trade: humble clothes)

Religious Cliches

  • Recalcitrant Sage: Give nonsensical advice, know martial arts but never use it, take a nap during the epic fight scene (Tools of the Trade: humble clothes)

  • Heavenly Bureaucrat: File in miracle requests, fill out paperwork, have magic powers you need to fill out an obscene amount of paperwork to use, fill out yet more paperwork, be filling out paperwork during the final fight scene. (Tools of the Trade: government uniform, paperwork, ink brush, ink stone, ink, paperwork)

  • Secluded Monk: Care for your rock garden, be paying homage to your ancestors back home at your family shrine during the final fight scene (Tools of the Trade: humble clothes)

  • Necromancer: Speak to dead ancestors, enter a trance-like state, pay homage to your ancestors (Tools of the Trade: humble clothes, incense, gong, divination bones)

  • Alchemist: Spiritual mumbo jumbo, doing silly experiments (Tools of the Trade: humble clothes, experimental apparatuses, hommuculi)

  • Philosopher: Ponder your place in the universe, read great works of literature, unravel the greatest secrets of the universe during the final fight scene (Tools of the Trade: humble clothes, great works of literature, ink brush, ink stone, ink, paper)

Martial Arts

Any character with at least one martial cliche is skilled in one of the following martial arts of their choice:

Kung Fu:

Kung Fu is the most famous Chinese martial art and the one that is most commonly seen in the movies. It involves lots of fast kicks and hard punches. Kung Fu is for unarmed combat only and a character who chooses this as their martial art gains no additional weapons and cannot chose to kill a defeated opponent in battle unless they have access to weapons through the Ninja cliche. However they can use their martial cliche to kick open doors or windows or other such acts of brute force.


Kubudo is an Okinawan martial art that teaches the proper usage of the staff, nunchuka and tonfa. A character skilled in this martial art gains access to those weapons. When they are armed with one or more of these weapons they can chose to kill a defeated opponent in battle.


Capoeria is a Brazilian martial art that incorporates feats of acrobatics among the kicks, strikes and punches. As an unarmed martial art a character skilled in Capoeria gains no extra weapons and cannot chose to kill a defeated opponent in battle unless they have access to weapons through the Ninja cliche. However, a character skilled in Capoeria can add 'perform amazing feats of acrobatics' to the list of things their martial cliche can do.


Any character with at least one religious cliche follows in the ways of one of the religions listed below of their choice. These religions represent a character's philosophy and outlook at the divine and no matter which one they choose they still believe in the gods of the pantheon.


Buddhism was originally founded by in India by Gautama Buddha and spread to China in the third century BCE. It teaches that suffering comes from desire and that to rid oneself of suffering you must follow the eight-fold path to reach Nirvana, a state of enlightenment in which one lets go of desire completely and finds true happiness. A character who follows Buddhism can gain chi through meditation and letting go of material Possessions.


Confucianism was founded by Confucius, an ancient Chinese philosopher and scholar. It teaches the importance of a strict moral code and knowing the difference between right and wrong. Confucianism also teaches the importance of the structure of the cosmos and the ideal society. Characters who follow Confucianism can gain chi through making sacrifices for the common good and proper respect for authority.


Taoism was founded by Laozi, another ancient Chinese philosopher and scholar who was good friends with Confucius. It teaches that gentleness overcomes hardness and that you should let things sort themselves out. Laozi taught that wisdom was more important than knowledge and that darkness was the source of all things. A character who follows Taoism can gain chi by displaying leadership without just bossing people around and by subtly guiding people to be the best they can be.



  • Shang-ti: Creation, social order, supreme ruler of the universe

  • Kuan-ti: War, fortune-telling

  • Yen-Wang-Yeh: Death, the afterlife

  • Fu Hsing: Happiness

  • Chang Kuel: Exams, anti-cheating methods, truth

  • Liu: Crops, food, agriculture

  • Lu Hsing: Salaries, justified rewards

  • Shou Hsing: Longevity, ageing

  • Kuan Yin: Childbirth, fertility, mercy, miracles

  • Chih-Nii: Love, Weaving

  • Lei Kung: Thunder, vengeance

  • Sung Chiang: Theft, whistle blowing corrupt government officials

  • Lao Tzu: Wisdom, philosophy, nature

  • K'ung Fu-tzu: Social behaviour, history, venerating one's ancestors

The Eight Immortals:

  • Han Chung-Li: Great teacher and loved parties. Gained immortality through accordance to Taoist doctrine.

  • Chang-kao Lao: Had a white donkey which he could fold into a piece of paper. He was a well-known conjurer. Gained immortality through accordance to Taoist doctrine.

  • Lan Ts'ai-ho: Street singer and patron of gardeners across the empire. He rose to heaven on wine fumes

  • Li T'ieh-kuai: Body was destroyed while visiting Lao Tzu in heaven, renowned for some reason among pharmacists and exorcists.

  • Han Hsiang-tzu: Lover of plants, music and poetry. Learned how to use plant magic through poems. Gained immortality through accordance to Taoist doctrine.

  • Ts'ao Kuo-chiu: A rehabilitated murderer. He was admitted to the eight immortals because there happened to be a vacancy

  • Lu Tung-pin: Eight-foot tall alchemist who fought off evil spirits. Gained immortality through accordance to Taoist doctrine.

  • Ho-Hsien-Ko: She is the only female member of the eight immortals. Gained immortality by eating a mother of pearl given to her by a ghost.


If you want this setting illustrated and with a handy guide to Risus in one handy doc click here.


  • S John Rose: Without this guy, their would be no Risus.

  • Lives Of The Great Spiritual Leaders: 20 Inspirations Tales by Henry Whitbread: This was main source of information for the Religion section.

  • The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff: This was the book that made me understand Taoism properly and was my main inspiration for the Taoism part of the Religion section

  • Wikipedia: This supplied me with most of what I needed to know for the Martial Arts section

  • Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition Legends & Lore by James M Ward and Troy Denning: This is where I got all the information about the Gods of Ancient China and the Eight Immortals from.