Mist-Robed Gate Character Sheets

Hey guys! A few hours late, but I made you character sheets as promised. There are two!

If you are into the complex naming customs of wuxia fiction, then you should pick up the ‘Drama’ sheet, which has spaces for your character’s given, family, and martial names. The ‘Film’ sheet has spaces for your character’s name, role, and the actor portraying them, instead.

Use the ‘Loyalties’ or ‘Synopsis’ section to keep track of what’s on your character’s mind. There’s some room in the reference zone to keep your voting chips. You can cut off the Prop and Set bits on the side to make cards.


Download the Drama sheet.
Download the Film sheet.


Mist-Robed Gate Play Aids

Hey, pretty kids. What’s up?

Two Scooters Press is back from GenCon and we had a great time there. We got to meet some of you and had some really good experiences. More on that later.

For now, I just wanted to say thanks for all the interest in Mist-Robed Gate. That really made my con. I’m hard at work on play aids for you—a character sheet, prop and set cards, and references for the knife ritual and wirework. I hope to have them available for you Thursday morning, at the latest, so keep your eyes peeled.

Raise the Red Lantern

So, on the way to Kelly’s Pesach Seder, Josh and Elizabeth and I developed a LARP hack for the Mist-Robed Gate.

It’s easy.

There’re some central facilitator tasks that you’ll need to assign to somebody, and that person probably shouldn’t play a character, but they may be an audience member, which means they participate in the wirework vote and can frame scenes. Whenever you get to the end of a scene, you should come back to see the facilitator, get a recap of what scenes happened while you were away, deliver your own recap, and then see who’s at the top of the ‘scene frame’ list. That person gets to frame a scene immediately with whoever’s present, or you can wait a small amount of time for another scene to end, if you need a character that’s somewhere else and it looks like they’ll be done soon.

You don’t have cards for props and sets. Instead, you should play in a place with several distinct rooms, and you have a supply of physical objects that you’re allowed to use as props. When you need a new set, you assign the set to an unused room, and when you need a new prop, you assign it to a physical object. You own props by carrying them on your person, so you need to think a little about this; if you use a real replica sword without a hanger as a sword prop, you’ll need to keep it in your hand, whereas if you use a pocketknife, you can stick it in your pocket.

You don’t use a real knife for the knife. Instead, each set has a colour-coded lantern; when the knife is covered, there are no lanterns. When the knife is uncovered, the facilitator hangs white lanterns in every set. When the knife is drawn, the lanterns are changed to yellow, and when it is bloodied for the first time, they are changed to red. If you don’t have lanterns, you can use flags or scarves or something. To show that you have the knife, make the ‘sword finger’ gesture: Extend your second and middle fingers together, and curl up the thumb, ring, and pinkie. Point the sword finger at the person you are passing the knife to. To signal acceptance, kneel and touch the sword finger to the ground. To stab a person, touch them against the throat or collarbone with your sword finger.

When wirework begins, ring a gong to summon all the players so they can watch and vote.

You should dress up so we can see your character’s colour in your outfit.

That’s basically it.

Fledgelings: Playtesting the Epistle and the Gate

Hi, friends! Since we last talked I’ve been very busy. I’ve been fortunate enough to playtest Risalat al-Ghufran and the Mist-Robed Gate twice, and we’ve learned a lot. I’m also really seeing and benefiting from having access to a large pool of strong players. It’s pretty great.

We played Risalat with myself, Elizabeth, and Alexis, and in that playtest we realised that its rules are much heavier than they need to be; after we threw some out the window, it was streamlined and compelling. The rotating cast of characters is thrilling to me; they add a lot of richness and texture, but at the same time, they hold the action down to a human scale. It’s lovely.

We played a second time, Elizabeth, Joshua A.C. Newman, Emily and I, and that went pretty well too. The text needs some serious updating, but we’ve got the flow of play down, and it’s what I want.

I already wrote about the first playtest of the Mist-Robed Gate; we put our heads together and set up an action sequence system that resolves some of those issues, and also includes an adjustable pacing dial. We tested that out with a staggeringly large group, and it worked splendidly. Meguey Baker at Fair Game and Jonathan Walton at one thousand one beat me to the blogging punch (Thanks, guys! ❤ ), so go see them for a rundown of the action. Thanks to everyone who played!

I’m really happy with the way the game handles larger groups; now we’ve just got to run it a few times with a smaller group, and we’re all set. I’m also thinking about explicitly supporting non-character players in a couple of different ways.

As a parting gift, go see Pingmag’s update on graphic design in China, and this beautiful honey package at the DieLine. It’s pretty sweet.

The Mist-Robed Gate: How it does in action

My dear Elizabeth has posted a great AP of the Mist-Robed Gate at the Forge, which unfortunately is being lame and keeps giving me 503 errors when I attempt to reply, so I’m going to post my aborted response here instead of losing it to the ether. If you were present at the game, or you weren’t but you have some thoughts, I’d love for you to share them with us.

I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I was very pleased with the way the knife ritual worked in play. I also want to thank everyone for, like, taking a risk and playing in the first playtest of my game; I know those tend to be kinda rough, and you all really contributed to the game in play, and gave me a lot of good stuff to think about.

It’s really great, also, to hear what worked in play, but let’s also talk about what didn’t…I am trying to remember what happened there, and the critiques from the table that I remember most clearly were:

  • The meaning of the distinction between viewpoint and non-viewpoint characters is non-obvious.
  • We would like a formal option for choosing who shall frame scenes and who may/must be in those scenes. There’s some opportunity for managing spotlight time in here.
  • The value of props and sets isn’t very clear; they appear to be simply colour generators, and that is not satisfying. Perhaps there is a way to add mechanical value here.
  • There is an issue with pacing of action scenes such as kung fu fights, namely, there is no guidance for this, and no incentive to have kung fu fights.
  • Sometimes it seems like the escalation of the knife ritual is premature or excessive; there could be a way to mitigate this.

Are there any major issues I’ve missed? I have some solutions in mind for these, but I’d like to know where the gaps in my observation are, too.

Rain Falls Like Rubies

being a Scenario Kit for the Mist-Robed Gate

First, let me get something out of the way. Scenarii aren’t the only way to play this game; they are here as an effort of leading by example. There’s a lot of abstract intuitive-level thought that goes into constructing these, and I don’t have the words to give those thoughts to you as procedures and formalisms, but maybe, given enough examples, you can come up with your own abstract intuitions that work for you.

That said.

Rain Falls Like Rubies is a story about the ashes of Shaolin. The five great temples—Shaolin, Wudang, Emei, Zhejiang, and Guangdong—have been burnt and razed, their abbots slain and their disciples scattered. These disciples are trying to rebuild amongst the wreckage.

Here’s a diagram:


I suggest that, for this scenario, you use the young children as player characters. All the students have weathers and colours, though. If you choose Ma Zhen, Ju Sha, or any of the adults for characters, the tone of the game will change.

The characters in Burned Shaolin are the survivors of the burning, those who have lost family and friends to the great slaughterings. All the children are presently students at Zu Shan. The characters of burned Shaolin are concerned with preserving their traditions.

  • San Gui Wu: “Three Ghosts Dancing” was once “Seeking Tranquillity” Li Zhuian, brother of “Cloud Chaser” Li Zhuiyun. San Gui Wu engineered the burning of Shaolin. These days, he only permits his family members to address him by his original name.
  • Li Wuyun: “Dark Clouds” is the son of Li Zhuiyun. He is about twelve years old. His colour is grey and his weather is “storm clouds.”
  • Li Wuya: “Raven” is Wuyun’s sister. She is also about twelve years old. Her colour is black and her weather is “wind.”
  • Vault of Heaven: Vault is the son of Left-Hand Moon, the abbot of the ghost-temple at Guangdong. He is a ghost inhabiting his own corpse, which looks like an elegantly-dressed skeleton, the bones burnt glossy black. There is an incense burner in his chest cavity. When he was alive he was about thirteen. His colour is white and his weather is “mist.”
  • Gai Zheng: Zheng is the last survivor of Zhejiang. He is about thirteen. He practices embarrassingly innovative martial arts. His colour is sky-blue and his weather is “sunbeams.”

The Outside People have no history in Shaolin at all. They are all presently students at Zu Shan. Outside people are not a proper faction and don’t necessarily have a formal leader or any overarching goals. This might change in the course of play!

  • Ruhi Nankachema: “Snowflakes in Martial Array” is from the Country of Daughters. She is about a year older than Gai Zheng. Her colour is red and her weather, “driven snow.”
  • Bai Hua: “White Flower” is somehow in the service of San Gui Wu. She has the talent of the perfect mimic—she can imitate whatever kung fu she sees. She is maybe twelve years old. Her colour is lavender, her weather “plum blossoms.”
  • Ju Sha: “Chrysanthemum Death,” an assumed name, is one of the two senior students at Zu Shan. She is perhaps twenty. Her specialty is swordsmanship. Her colour is gold, her weather, “twilight.”
  • Ma Zhen: “Truth,” is descended from the northwestern horsemen, thus the family name Ma, meaning “Horse.” He is about eighteen. His specialty is qigong. His colour is green, his weather, “night.”

Zu Shan is the location of the sixth temple, where the survivors of Shaolin are rebuilding their secret societies. There are at least four monks who teach martial arts… The teachers at Zu Shan are concerned with protecting Shaolin from the invading Sparrow People barbarians, and are willing to revamp or discard their traditions as necessity demands.

  • Hei Feng: “Black Wind” is the abbot of Zu Shan. He is not any age in particular. Having known Li Zhuian, he recognises the art of mimicry that Bai Hua performs, and wonders about it.
  • Li Laoshi: “Teacher Yak” is also from the Country of Daughters. She is responsible for the female dormitory. She specialises in teaching Body Hardening.
  • Shan He Yue Xia Dai Qiu Luo: or “Qiu Laoshi” for short, “Waiting for Autumn,” teaches qigong. He has some kind of rivalry with Wu Shi Zhong.
  • Wu Shi Zhong: “Bell of the Fifth Hour” is the oldest instructor, and he insists on dressing like a magistrate from the last generation; this makes the tiny old man faintly ridiculous. He does not have any specialty in particular, but it seems he is presently teaching swordsmanship.

Sets, Props, and Sound


Most of the sets in Rain Falls like Rubies have two versions: a “waking” version and a “dreaming” version. Ma Zhen, Ju Sha, Vault, and anyone they teach the ability to are able to enter the dream version of a location. These are places as seen by the sleeping mind; things are inverted or transformed into visual metaphors, and there are some places that can only be reached by travelling in dream.

The sets here are divided into zones; to move from monastery to monastery, you must have a scene in-between them, set in the Travelling zone. The monasteries have Arriving sets; the first time that a monastery is entered, in a story, it must be through the Arriving set.

White Clouds Monastery

There are four sets in White Clouds:

  • Arriving by the River: Fed by hot springs, the river water is a rusty red-orange colour, passing through twisted grey mountain stones. Wuyun and Wuya like to skip stones, or themselves, across the river. The monks of the temple usually don’t come here. Two people are comfortable here, four are crowded. The sky here is clear and the air filigreed with steam from the river water. In the dreaming, a man of ashes can be seen on the temple roof, fighting a coiling, mazy creature of fire—a dragon-centipede, a serpent or a flame-lettered scroll.
  • The Skipping Stream: Another stream, this one an icy-cold snowmelt source, lies to the other side of the monastery. It’s perfectly clear and surrounded by iron-grey boulders and pale young bamboo. This set is crowded for two; the air is crisp and cold.
  • The Rooftops: The roofs of White Clouds Monastery are of tile in shades of sky-blue, white, and silver, and maple trees spring from the courtyards in vermillion fountains. It’s comfortable here for two, but it can be crowded by up to six. It’s very windy and monks don’t generally hang out here, but they will certainly pursue a prankster. In the dream, the roofs are mirrors that reflect a blue sky speckled with clouds, but the sky above churns with black and purple storms.
  • The Courtyards: Sinuous walls of pale stone are interrupted by the dark boles of ancient trees here, and pierced with round gates and latticed windows. Red maple leaves drift with the breezes. Six people are comfortable, ten crowded, in a courtyard. In the dream, the trees become ancient, slow-moving men carved of wood, leaves flying out of wounds in their wrists and cuts on their faces.

Guangdong Ghost Temple

There are three sets at Guangdong, the temple of towers:

  • Arriving at the Ruin: There is the burned foundation of a temple here, surrounded by the husks of its surrounding buildings, in the deep green bowl of a valley. Smoke rises from the temple ruin. In the dream, a dragon white and curved as the moon, all translucence and wings and light, struggles with another dragon with coal-bright claws, striped red and black like a lantern. This set is large and can accommodate a group of any size. The ghosts of Guangdong never come hee.
  • The Temple Gates: Standing in the temple’s foundation, it can be seen that the smoke rises from many incense burners, and the scent of them is thick in the air. In the dream, the columns of smoke rising from the braziers become curving staircases that lead up to a floating smoke hill (or sometimes a smoke lake), where the ghosts of Guangdong dwell in a white metal temple. This set is comfortable for five and crowded by ten.
  • Left-Hand Moon’s Office: This set only exists in dream. The abbot of Guangdong, who has cataracts in his left eye, can be found here. His office is full of mirrors made of different metals: iron, silver, tin. The rosewood floors are covered in scraps of silver leaf that flake off the walls in many layers. This set is comfortable for one and crowded for six.

Zu Shan

Here are four sets at Zu Shan; there are probably several others (make them up!):

  • Arriving at the Gates: The gate of Zu Shan is at the base of a long staircase leading up to the peak of the mountain and main cluster of buildings. The gate is one of a long trail of gates that arch over the stair, all made of old, weathered rosewood, buried in the black earth and black stones and dusted with snow. Just beyond the gate is a well. In the dream, the stair is a sleeping, heaving serpent covered in wooden scales. This set is good for two, crowded by four.
  • Boys’ Dormitory: The windows of the “Free Eagle” dormitory overlook the archery yard, where red-and-yellow arrows plunge sang! peng! into red-and-yellow targets. The floor is covered in yellow parchment scrawled with bad calligraphy, and on the walls are racks of wooden practice weapons in every stage of disrepair. In the dream, the weapons are made of jade and gold, precious and sharp. The ink on the parchment becomes blood, and the characters flow and change, and the arrows are sparrows, chirping as they fly by. This set is good for four, crowded for five. Obviously, females are not permitted here.
  • Girls’ Dormitory: The “Lion Hawk” dormitory overlooks the field-of-posts where balance exercises are conducted. Its blue-and-green tiled walls are lined with suits of armour, flags, and tack for the monastery’s horses. There are piles of books and scrolls in the corners. In the dream, the flags unfurl and ripple across the room like sheets of wind-blown water, and the suits of armour are inhabited by expressionless ghosts, murmuring a litany of those that died in the fires of Shaolin. This set is good for four, crowded for five. Males are not permitted here.
  • The Qigong Yard: This courtyard, near the top of the monastery, is always exposed to the wind and weather, even under the shelter of the tall black pines outside its pink brick walls. It is divided into many large squares, separated by shallow channels full of water. There are no bridges; the channels must be waded or leapt across, and wading is not encouraged, as it would disturb the ornamental turtles. In the dream, these turtles become black water dragons; they are friendly to children. Most of the monks give this place a wide berth, for fear of running into the fierce Qiu Laoshi. This is a large set, comfortable for six but encompassing up to fifteen.


All the Travelling sets are large enough to accommodate any group. Here are some:

  • The Hills: The grass is green and sparked with scarlet poppies, the sky is clear and blue. In the dream, it is as though the night sky has fallen to the earth; the grass is black and the flowers white, divided by luminous blue rivers, and above, the sky is a rich green.
  • The Mountains: Horses cannot enter the mountains. The yellow rocks rear up against a grey sky, and the wind beats unmercifully at their sides. In the dream, red rain trails down from the mountaintops, alternately hot as lava or as cool as spent blood.
  • The Stupa: A white dome rises out of the earth here; in the dream it is wreathed in multicoloured lama-flames.
  • The Wood: White-barked birch trees mix with red-leaved maples here, and deer race each other in the distance. In the dream, the trees themselves are the antlers of a great herd of deer that walks slowly along the valley floor.


There aren’t a lot of things in this scenario:

  • Zhui An’s Sword: Made of rare five-coloured iron, this sword is as tall as a man and wrapped elaborately in violet silk. It begins the game in the hands of Bai Hua. Otherwise it is in the ashes of Guangdong.
  • Zhui Yun’s Sword: Nearly identical to Zhui An’s, this sword is wrapped in yellow and white. Ju Sha is bringing it to Zhui Yun. Otherwise, Zhui Yun already has it.
  • The Carp & Diamond Manuscript: The qigong classic, Wu Shi Zhong makes his students copy pages of it for calligraphy practice. It rests in the library at Zu Shan.
  • Zhui Yun: He is still a warrior, but his adventurous spirit is broken, and he will only follow in another person’s footsteps. He rests somewhere in White Clouds Monastery.
  • A bucket: Gai Zheng has this ’cause Hei Feng makes him fetch water all the time. Otherwise it’s at the monastery gate.


This scenario has two soundtracks; the waking soundtrack should be used for waking sets, and the dream track for dream sets. The waking track has more emphasis on vocals and, I hope, is more acoustic; I’ve used instrumentals and electric sounds more in the dreaming soundtrack. I’ll post it later.

That concludes this scenario, with many thanks for the unwitting help of Jonathan Walton, Thomas Robertson, and Joshua Kashinsky, who wrote the original Ashes of Shaolin stories with me, from which this scenario arises.

The Mist-Robed Gate

I’m really pretty excited about this game; it’s a new move for me in terms of user-friendly design, and also, I think it provides a lot of sensual richness in a package that is relatively easy to handle.Many thanks to Jonathan for ideas given and ideas stolen, and to Elizabeth for being a taskmaster, and many others…

Update: The game’s finished and for sale. Contact me for more info.