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The Iron Monkey
A WFRP Investigative Adventure set in Imperial Cathay

Credits
The story for this adventure was inspired by (and plot shamelessly ripped from) a Tsui Hark HK kung-fu movie of the same name. Additional ideas are from Robert Van Gullik's The Chinese Gold Murders, one of several books in a series about a historical investigative magistrate. The martial arts rules are from Garett Lepper. Blame the resultant chaos from all these influences on the author. It is suggested that the GM first read through the Imperial Cathay Primer to get a feel of the background.

Andrew Limsk
25 Sep 2000

 

Adventure Summary
This is an investigative adventure story set in my version of WFRP Imperial Cathay which sees the PCs cast into the role of Imperial Magistrates. The PCs are posted to a backwater district and tasked with the unenviable job of arresting an elusive bandit whose escapades continue to embarass the Imperial authorities. Along the way, the PCs have to solve several side plots and have a face-to-face encounter with a weretiger. The PCs are forced to speed up their investigations when they receive news of a surprise inspection by Imperial Court Officials who would resort to more ruthless methods in an effort to uncover the culprit. The PCs will then have to decide if they want to side with the officials or the people of Kai Feng.

Drawing the PCs Into the Fun
There are many ways a party of PCs can be brought to the remote district of Kai Feng where the GM can have his fun. The rest of this adventure assumes that the PCs are in the employ of the magistrate or the magistrate himself.

Some other ploys to GMs may wish to try are suggested below. Some may require changes to the main story flow.

 

The District of Kai Feng

Overview

The Town

The Magistrate' s Residence

The Clinic
An unassuming 2-storey wooden structure in the centre of the town serves as the clinic. Despite being almost indistinguishable from the houses that surround it, this clinic is the residence of a renowned physician, Dr. Yuan Ming. While relatively young (late 30's), his astounding medical skill and knowledge has made him somewhat of a celebrity in Kai-Feng and the surrounding districts. In addition his generosity and gentle manner already has peasants flocking to his clinic for cheap (and often free) treatment. Dr Yuan is assisted by a young woman named Shi Lan whom he has adopted as his daughter. The building is divided into several areas:

The Temple of Storms
Sitting just outside the town of Kai Feng, this site is a major temple dedicated to Lei-Kung the Thunderer, the Lord of Storms, one of the many hundreds of minor immortals and divine beings in the Celestial Bureaucracy of Imperial Cathay. As befits its patron deity, the temple always seems to be wreathed in forks of lightning during the rainy season. An imposing structure of dry-mortared granite, the temple was originally built as a fortress to protect the Northern Frontier from the fierce nomadic tribes that roamed the north. When the Great Wall was built, the garrison was disbanded and the building lay unoccupied until 400 years before the present.

According to the scrolls in the temple archives, its founder was a wandering monk of the Order of the Thunderer who was passing through the region during a fierce storm. Sheltering in the abandoned fort, he witnessed a fork of lightning strike the highest tower and watched in awe as raw electricity ran down the granite walls, illuminating the surrounding area. Taking it as a sign from his divine patron, the monk took it upon himself to found a new temple on the site. He named it the Temple of Storms. Within 12 years, a small order was in place and the monk, Hui Wen Zhu became the first abbot. Over the centuries, succeeding generations of monks rebuilt the fortress, adding to its aleady imposing structure. New towers were erected and the walls were repaired. The latest addition, a large pagoda, was completed 20 years before the present time.

Currently, about 50 monks reside in the monastery and there are often a dozen or so pilgrims or wandering monks present. During festivities, the number of monks and worshippers present typically double or triple. The present abbot is Lian Xing (See the NPCs section) who is generally well regarded by the monks and townspeople of Kai-Feng.

[layout]

Death of a Magistrate
[murder of the previous magistrate by gold smugglers. poison capsules in beeswax above teapot. Ninja involvement. Gold smuggled from Nippon. Fight on Japanese ship.]

Tiger, Tiger
[Hunting the tiger. Turns into Fan Chung when slain. Fan Leng explains family curse and submits to the Magistrate's judgement.]

The Monkey Unmasked
[The Iron Monkey clashes with Hin Hung's party and suffers injuries. In treating him, the PCs learn the secret identity of the town doctor.]

The Imperial Inspection
Hing Hung the Rogue monk leads the imperial inspection. first order of the day is to declare the magistrate to be in league with the iron monkey and orders them arrested. Then begins his 'questioning' of the townfolk.

 

NPC Roster

 

Fan Leng
A frail-seeming, wizened old man in his 60s, Fan Leng has been the yamen (magistrate's office) clerk longer than anyone in Kai Feng can remember. His duties include keeping the district records (births, deaths, taxes, court rulings, etc) in order, and supervising the other servants employed in the magistrate's residence. While he is noted in the journals of the previous 3 magistrates as being efficient and trustworthy, of late his memory and attention seem to be giving him problems. Fan Leng owns a small farm outside of town where he stays with his wife and only son. He is aware of his son's increasingly acute condition (See Fan Chung) but is powerless to help him. In his pos sesion is an old journal written by his father who was also afflicted by the family curse. The journal details all the measures taken (and failed) to contain the disease for most of his father's life. The strain of keeping his son's lycantrophy hidden has made him a nervous wreck. In any case, Fan Leng knows more about the district than just about anyone in town.

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Fan Chung
The son of Fan Leng, Fan Chung works on the Fan family farm. He is unfortunately afflicted with a rare inherited condition which turns its sufferers into were-tigers. He knows (from his father's tales) that his grandfather also suffered from the same malady while his father Fan Leng somehow avoided the family curse. Fan Chung takes particular care to remain indoors when the moon is full in the sky. The full-moon nights are particularly unnerving for him as his body undergoes a painful transformation into a hulking half-man, half-beast form. As the beast takes over, Fan Chung is often overcome with frenzy and bloodlust. To prevent bloodshed, he has his father chain him in a shed on the family farm on those nights. In the last episode, Fan Chung broke free of his restraints and attacked lifestock on a neighbouring farm. As he was carrying off his kill, he was seen by the owner of the farm and his wife who soon spread the news around town. Now, most of the farmers hide behind barred doors every full moon night.

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In were-tiger form:

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Lian Xing
The head monk or abbot of the Temple of Storms, Lian Xing is in his late 50's and has been a monk for more than 20 years. His wrinkles do not succeed in hiding his generally friendly demeanor. Only the jagged scar above his left eye hints at his previous life as a captain in the Emperor's Northern army. If asked he smiles and says it is a reminder of his misspent youth. As the abbot, Lian Xing presides over all the services and speaks for the 50 plus monks and lay worshippers as a whole. Most visitors to the monastery would probably find him joining the other monks for martial arts practice or in deep meditation in one of the towers, especially during thunderstorms.

Abbot Lian's pet fascination is history and philosophy and he will delightedly spend hours conversing with visitors who share his passions. In his study, he maintains a vast collection of scrolls containing the wisdom of famous ancient philosophers and histories of Cathay. When he talks to people he is comfortable with, Lian Xing displays a certain dry wit and humour. His lengthy discussions with Dr Yuan on philosophy and religion are well known in Kai-Feng.

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Yuan Ming
Ex-Noble, Physician

While the town physician is adored by the peasants and respected by officials, no one knows much about the good doctor. What is generally known is that he set up his clinic some 6 years ago and began offering treatment for the townsfolk. A shaven-headed, well built man in his late 30's, Dr Yuan attends to rich and poor without favour. His kindly demeanor and generosity have endeared him to the poor of Kai-Feng (and the surrounding districts). Dr Yuan often waives payment for his services and medicines for those he deems unable to afford them. Since he has offered generously discounted treatment to soldiers from the local garrison and district officials, there are few complaints about the way he conducts his business. Visitors to his clinic in the center of town will usually find him surrounded by people seeking his aid, some of whom have travelled long distances from other districts.

Dr Yuan usually dresses simply in plain earth-tone robes and never raises his voice. Besides his medical skills, Dr Yuan has proven to be an astute pathologist as well, having assisted the local magistrate on several murder cases already. He is known to be friendly with the monks of the Temple of Storms and visits the monastery several times a month to engage Abbot Lian Xing in long conversations.

Unknown to the general populace, Dr. Yuan is the only son of a minor court official who was framed and executed by corrupt officials for refusing to contribute donations to their cause. Soon after this, the young Yuan Ming left the capitol and apprenticed with a wandering physician for many years before setting up shop in the northern town of Kai-Feng. During his long appenticeship, he had many opportunities to train his martial art skills (his other great passion) and is developing his own unique Iron Monkey style.

Dr Yuan has an intense dislike of corruption and injustice, especially when perpetrated on the poor. As mentioned in The Monkey Unmasked section, the kindly doctor is also the elusive Iron Monkey that has been the terror of the officials in Kai-Feng in recent times. Dr Yuan takes care to conceal his considerable martial arts expertise in his guise as the town physician. Given his excellent standing with the people and officials of Kai-Feng, it is highly unlikely that he would be put into a situation where his safety is threatened. When night falls, in his Iron Monkey persona, he haunts the rooftops of the town, looking for injustices to right, people to aid, and riches to liberate. While not afraid of a confrontation with the law, he takes care not to wound his opponents seriously (no lethal blows) unless he deems them totally evil (in which case, anything goes). Ironically, most of the unfortunate town guards who confront him during his nighttime activities usually end up visiting his clinic the next day for treatment.

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Shi Lan
Ex-Noble, Physician's Apprentice

Appearing as a pretty young woman just out of her teens, Shi Lan is the adopted daughter of the town physician Dr Yuan Ming. While not much is clear about her past, it is generally known that the doctor returned from a trip to the capitol (to buy medicines) with her some 3 years ago. Several of the doctor's close acquaintances (including Abbot Lian Xing) have been told that he rescued her from drowning and that she had no family. Introducing her as his adopted daughter Shi Lan, she has served in his clinic as his assistant ever since. Shi Lan is not her real name, however.

Shi Lan is actually Li Shi Qian, daughter to Imperial Magistrate Li Tian Bo of the High Court at the capitol. As is common in Imperial Cathay, at 15, she was presented to a minor noble as a wife to cement a blood relation between their families. Despairing of her cruel and heartless husband who often took out his drunken rages on his wives, she fled and hotly pursued, flung herself into the Kiangsu river. Several hours later, her pursuers found her sodden scarf on the banks and presumed her drowned. Li Shi Qian awoke on a river barge whose crew had fished her limp form out of the river. When questioned, she told them that she had no family and was tired of life. At this, one of the men offered to give a new life and a reason for living.

The man, Yuan Ming, named her Shi Lan and took her back to his home in Kai-Feng as his adopted daughter. The young woman proved to be a quick study when he taught her the basics of his trade and now has a good working knowledge of the medicinal properties of various plants and animals. In secret, her adopted father also taught her his unique style of martial arts. She knows of his dual identity and assists him occasionally in his night-time endeavours.

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The Iron Monkey Martial Art Style
This is a unique style developed by Dr Yuan Ming during his long wanderings with his Physician master. Many of the acrobatic dodges and feints are inherited from Dr Yuan's original training in the Monkey style which emphasizes quick defensive movement. Unsatisfied with the lack of offensive moves, Dr Yuan sought to incorporate some other elements of the styles he encountered during his travels. From the Heaven's Lightning style came the short, solid kicks. From the Raging Bear syle came the powerful hand strikes. The result is a well rounded style with good defensive and offensive options.