Guide to SimRTK Roleplay

Introduction - Read the game rules and learn how to play.

Guide to SimRTK Roleplay

Postby Forum Administration » 17 Feb 2013, 23:58

This guide is meant as an introductory guide to roleplay, as well as a guide to the rules of roleplay on the Sim. It is assumed that you have read this guide as a supplement to the rules.

[What is Roleplay?]

Roleplaying is a method of writing (in the form of posts on SimRTK) in which the game masters and players interact through characters. The game masters control the most important details -- whether a plot succeeds or fails, whether a person gets injured, how NPCs react, etc. The players, on the other hand, create the body of the story. It is like an open-ended, unending novel.

As a player, then, you take the role of a character, much like an actor in a play. You control their actions (though not the actions of others) and what they say. With this, your imagination is the limit. Your character can have any personality you can dream up, whether it be the timid warrior squeamish of blood or the trecherous politician who fears being touched by other people. Many beginning roleplayers find it easy to play a character that matches their own personality; others like to experiment with those that are distinctively different than themselves. Whatever your desire, you can roleplay it.

What makes a good character?

A good character is one that has strengths and weaknesses. The best roleplayers are those who allow their characters to make mistakes, even though they, as the player behind them, know that it's the wrong decision. Let your character have a major flaw or two, and let them shine. Perhaps your character has a violent temper and it takes over their ability to reason sanely. Or perhaps they get nervous around the opposite sex, and are easily charmed. Maybe they are too trusting, or perhaps too skeptical. Whatever the flaws, the consensus is that a good character has flaws, and the player allows them even when they might do harm to the character.

Of course, a good character also has a few good strengths, which should match their skills and statistics on the Sim. They should also have a few interesting quirks -- a nervous twitch, an obsessive love of tea, and twirling their moustache are only a few of the myriads of examples that could be given. Most importantly of all, a good character is one you love to play.

How to Roleplay on the Sim

The best advice anyone can give you is to read and learn. Your best tutor will be reading other people's roleplaying, and take mental notes on how they roleplay personalities, make their characters interesting, and respond to different situations. Besides the roleplaying active in the current game, you might also find the Archives a very interesting place for this kind of information.

The second best advice is to take the plunge and roleplay as well. You'll find that your skills as a roleplayer grow the more you roleplay. All good roleplayers come from humble beginnings. Have confidence in yourself and don't be afraid to try something new.

There are two general styles of writing you'll see on the sim, which we call the play-style and the novel-style. Which you use is personal preference; even the game masters differ in their styles.
Play Style wrote:Han Fu: Hello? Is someone there?

He looks left and right, and takes a step forward. Hearing another snap in the bush, he draws his sword and holds it before him.

Han Fu: Is this about missing the taxes? I'm sorry, I have the money now!

Novel Style wrote:Han Fu looked left and right cautiously as he stepped forward. "Hello? Is someone there?" Hearing another snap in the bush, he drew his sword and held it before him. "Is this about missing the taxes? I'm sorry, I have the money now!"

Writing Advice

We can't avoid the fact that roleplaying is part writing, and so there are a few tips we can offer to make your posts better.

Spelling and grammar:
Try to make your posts legible. We know that English isn’t the first language for everyone, but if you attempt to use spelling and grammar it would improve the post a lot. Avoid netspeak (u 2 brutus???), leetspeak (1 @/\/\ 1337!!!!11!!), and shorthand writing (cm on ppl lets go). Write as if you were writing a story to be published, not a quick email off to your buddy.

Third person:
Posting in third person greatly improves the quality and readability of a player’s post. Third person uses the perspective of an outsider, an omnipotent being that watches the events unfold as the writer sees fit. (Second person uses 'you', which is god-moding, and first person uses 'I', more about that later). Example:

“Lu Xun stood at the edge of a field, leaning on the fence as he looked out at the setting sun. He seemed restless, and out of sorts; yet there was a peaceful look of contemplation on his face. As if with some important memory, he touched the hilt of his sword, Huang's Ambition, with reverence.”

First person posts, which use “I and me” in its descriptive language, is very limiting and is often hard for the other players to act off of.

Past Tense:
The traditional form of writing in roleplay is in past tense, for example:

"He picked up the axe." instead of "He picks up the axe."

This is something that is usually determined by player's preference, however. Oftentimes, a roleplayer will casually use the past tense during normal situations, but switch to present tense during plots. The best recommendation is to stick to the same tense within a single post.

Separating dialogue and action:
Use speech marks to indicate someone is speaking. When you do this, start a new paragraph for the beginning of that sentence. This makes it easy to separate the dialogue from the action. For example:

Lu Xun tugged on his brother's sleeve, and motioned toward his newly fitted hat. "You still look absolutely ridiculous," Liu Cao groaned. He hoped Liying would get this hat phase over with soon. = Incorrect way to phrase it.

Lu Xun tugged on his brother's sleeve, and motioned toward his newly fitted hat.

"You still look absolutely ridiculous," Liu Cao groaned. He hoped Liying would get this hat phase over with soon. = Correct way to phrase it.

Try to show and not tell:
That is be descriptive in how you explain what happens to the reader. Try to paint a picture in their mind of the action, explaining how it feels, smells, looks and sounds rather than simply stating what's happening. This is often a flaw for a lot of writers and roleplayers and can take a long time and a lot of practice to master. Pictures are not the solution to this.

Try to write as much as possible:
The more you write, the better. It is strongly advised to try and write at least 3 sentences per post to maintain a good quality RP. This also saves pages of dialogue that other players may not necessarily want to read, even if they have the time.

Out Of Character
OOC comments are comments made that is not your character talking, but you. There are various ways of showing OOC comments. The most common trends are double parentheses ((like this)) or simply marking it with OOC:. Example ((OOC: Zhang Fei's outside getting drunk, you'll have to talk to Guan Yu this time.)) This will save the other players the confusion of figuring out whether you or your character is talking.

Useless OOC comments are non-RP comments. Posts made with only a useless OOC comment and no RP in it, within an RP thread, will usually be considered as spam. Useful OOC comments: asking something to do with the RP, is permitted. An RM or GM, however, might ask you to take it to PM if it becomes interruptive. It’s okay to make a useless OOC if you include it within an RP post.
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Postby Forum Administration » 17 Feb 2013, 23:59

[Roleplay Rules]

In order to maintain a peaceful and enjoyable role-playing enviroment certain rules have been into place to help improve everyone's role-playing experience while posting on the SimRTK forum. These tend to be minor mistakes that most people without previous role-playing or forum posting experience make, while others are quite serious and should be avoided. Following are the rules themselves along with examples of infractions and suggestions for how to deal with it.

God Moding - This is a rather serious thing in which you control other character[s] besides your own without the permission the player who controls them normally. This can be anything from role-playing the guards in the audience hall of a kingdom you don't belong to all the way to something as grievous as dictating the actions of another player character, or PC.

God Moding example wrote:Hua Mai approaches the palace gates of the Luo Yang audience hall and demands that the guards let him in to see lord Cao Ang.

Guard: "Ok, fine with me."

Hua Mai bows to the guard and then enters the palace.

In the example above Hua Mai controlled the guards to a kingdom he was not a part of, which is an instance of god-moding. The following example will show a post in which no god-moding is done.

No God Moding Example wrote:Hua Mai approaches the gates of the palce in Luo Yang, holding his hands up to the guards to show that he is unarmed and presents no threat.

Hua Mai: "I am Hua Mai from Qiao. I've come to meet with Lord Cao Ang and see if perhaps his kingdom could benefit from my talents?"

Guard[s]: "..."

In the above, hua Mai patiently waits for a response from someone in the kingdom instead of controlling the guards himself.

Metagaming (Using Out of Character (OOC) Information) - This is one of the most annoying offenses off the list to both players and staff members. Basically it is the usage of infomation that your character could not possiby know or have in an In Character (IC) situation in order to avoid some sort of negative effect such as your character getting killed.

Exmaple of using OOC info IC wrote:Hua Mai finds out from a friend on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) that if he goes to the palace to visit Cheng Yu that he will be ambushed by guards at the entrance. So using this information to his advantage Hua Mai post something like this.

Hua Mai enters the palace after being admitted by the guards, looking about for the ambush he knows is coming...

No one wants to blatantly walk into an ambush like that, but unfortunately these things do happen in SimRTK and the players are expected to take it like mature people. Remember that just because something bad is going to happens doesn't mean you have no chance of getting out alive.

One Line Posting - This one isn't technically a rule but abiding by it makes the quality of your role-play and everyone you role-play with look much better which makes people more likely to want and interact with your character which will in turn give you more to do and greatly reduce the chances of having to sit around doing nothing.

One Line Post wrote: Hua Mai enters the palace and stands there. "Hello, I'm here now. Where is everyone?"

If you're having trouble coming up with valid things to add into your post, trying describing the surrounding enviroment around your character. Not only does this help create a setting and help readers of the post get more into the role-play but it also makes your post look much better.

Improving role-playing post example wrote:Hua Mai sat there at the small wooden table, watching the door for his expected guest to enter. Smiling at the serving girl who brought his tea, he gave her a playful wink as he lifted his cup up to his lips and took a long sim, smacking his lips approvingly.
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Re: Guide to SimRTK Roleplay

Postby Forum Administration » 17 Feb 2013, 23:59

[Roleplayed Plots]

One of the best parts about playing this game is getting to roleplay plots against other players. There are ways to go about this, however, and this is meant as a basic guide for plot submission, approval, and planning. This is mainly meant as a guide to 'How do I run a plot against someone?', not 'What is a good plot?'. The sample plot given here is greatly oversimplified.

Step 1: What do you know IC?
Metagaming is a serious offense. Everything you know in the plot must be justified by in character knowledge. Out of character knowledge cannot be used. Attempting to run a plot with OOC knowledge will result in it being immediately discarded.
Sample Situational Info wrote:A snap of a twig is heard nearby. A tiger named Wang lies ready to pounce Han Fu from the shadows. Her tail twitches, creating a little quick shadow along the wall, but she remains unseen only a few feet from him.

Han Fu's IC knowledge: He heard a snap of a twig, and saw a quick shadow dart against the wall.

Han Fu's OOC knowledge: There's a tiger a few feet from him that's going to eat him alive. Eek!

Step 2: What do you have at your disposal?
It is assumed that you have all of your items at your disposal to use during a plot. You may also try to use anything in the environment that has been included by a game master. If you do not know something is there, you cannot assume it is. Check with a game master first.

Troops, guards, and bodyguards are assumed not to exist with you unless you are a ruler or have established their presence through roleplay. A game master will check your story, so be prepared to provide proof of ownership. Note that the situation described in roleplay takes precedence over any other assumptions, so even though a ruler would normally be expected to have guards present, if he states in a roleplay post that he does not have any with him, there will be no guards available should a plot situation occur (barring any established via counter-plot measures).
Sample Plot continued wrote:Han Fu searches himself, but finds that he has no tasty steak to procure out of thin air. He tries whistling for his faithful loyalist troops, but he's alone inside the deep dark cave. Instead, he draws his trusty sword "Pointy Thing".

Step 3: With Steps 1 & 2, what can you do?
Your creavity is the technical limit for where you go from here. Remember to be realistic, within the bounds of your character and the situation. The game master in charge of the plot will decide the outcomes of your actions, not you. You may only inform the game master of what you intend to do; they will decide what you are able to accomplish. Because of this, it is a good idea to have alternatives.
Sample Plot continued wrote:Han Fu leans forward and peers around, his sword drawn and held in front of him. He decides to tenatively ask, "Hello?"

Game Master: As Han Fu steps forward, he hears a low growling, and a shifting of a large body near his left side. Sensing that the thing he heard is no friendly man or beast, he throws his sword in the air and takes off running out of the cave. Wang considers giving chase, but then yawns and goes back to her name.

How do I submit a plot? What do I submit?

The best plot is a thorough one. It should try to consider as many options as possible, and take all of the above information into consideration. Game Masters will frequently allow you to override these actions during the plot, if something unexpected comes up that you did not plan for. However, the usual motto is 'Once submitted, it's all sealed.' What happens after the plot starts is entirely up to the game master running it.

A plot should be submitted to a game master, roleplay master, or administrator. Be aware that because of time constraints, they may not be able to run the entire thing themself in the end. They are also expected to thoroughly investigate the situation of the plot before running it. Plots which have not been thoroughly investigated and are found to be illegal will either be cancelled or turned against you by the administrators. This is why it is important that you do not metagame, if nothing else, for your own sake.

There are a few plots that are unacceptable. These include killing a character for their items, killing a character so they may get a reroll without an extra penalty, killing a character because you have disagreement with their player, etc. Such plots will be denied immediately upon discovery of these motives, and if the discovery occurs after the plot is run, you will be banned for cheating.

Here is a sample plot. Bolded items are those which must be included when submitting the plot. You may add more to this basic submission; as I mentioned before, this plot is oversimplified.

Sample Plot of Han Fu wrote:I would like to attempt to return to the cave and capture Wang the Tiger. If I cannot capture her, I will kill her.

IC reasoning: Having a live tiger would garnish me a lot of attention and reputation with the ladies. If I can't tame her, her pelt and body parts will sell high on the market. Besides, I'd look great in a tigerskin cloak.

IC knowledge: I know that Wang is in a cave north of Cheng Du (reference post link). I ran from her the last time but am trying to return to kill her now.

Characters involved: Myself. I will also be bringing 10 men out of my kingdom's troops to come inside with me.

Plot: We will bring a large net inside the cave with us. The men will carry it while I lead. When we see or hear Wang, we will cautiously approach. When we feel it's safe, we will rush forward and throw the net over her. If she attacks us, we will fight back and attempt to kill her. If she kills more than 5 of my men, I will run away like a coward to save my precious skin.


In some cases, you may feel as if you might be threatened by someone else's plot, such as if you are meeting with people from other kingdoms. You may wish to take precautionary measures to mitigate your risk from such things, such as stationing guards to secretly observe your meeting. This is generally known as counter-plotting, although it functions by all the same rules as plotting. You may still only use IC knowledge, the items you actually have, etc. In order to submit a counter-plot for such a scenario, you should send your plan to a Game Master or Administrator before any relevant roleplay action occurs. This will often mean before posting at the start of the roleplay if your plan involves setting up outside help such as troops, since you cannot communicate telepathically to tell your troops to come help you. For instance:

Sample Counter-plot wrote:Zan Zhikun is going to meet with the Directing Instructor to report that she is leaving the service of the kingdom. She is afraid that he will be angry and try to kill her rather than let her leave. To protect herself, she is bringing her warrior friend Sun Shang Xiang with her to meet with the Directing Instructor, and has hired 30 fighters to serve as guards for her journey out of town. 15 of these have been sent to escort her mother's carriage before Zhikun goes to meet with the Directing Instructor so that her mother will be safely out of town and cannot be seized as a hostage; and the other 15 will wait immediately outside the building for her as she meets with the Directing Instructor with orders to rush in if they hear or see anything that sounds as if she is in danger.

Counter-plotting is only permitted for specific roleplay events. We do not accept generalized counter-plots designed as long-term security measures either for entire kingdoms or for certain people, since past experience has shown that players often try to write absurdly unrealistic measures into such things and the staff does not wish to have to read through 10 pages of explanation about exactly which guards are stationed at what point in which hall at what time and who has the cookies to try to appease the populace in case of riots. Someone wishing to initiate a plot against you outside of a specific roleplay will still have to contend with an appropriate level of defense- it is no easy task to plot against a kingdom officer and even more difficult to plot against a ruler.
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Re: Guide to SimRTK Roleplay

Postby Forum Administration » 17 Feb 2013, 23:59

[The Culture of SimRTK China]

The People of China

The vast majority of people found in China, particularly in the central regions, will be the native race, known as Han. There are several other culture groups from outlying areas such as the Wuwan and Xiongnu which are known to the Han people, and may occasionally be found traveling within China or even taking up service with the lords of the realm, but they will be seen as foreign barbarians. Foreign characters will generally be treated with suspicion, if not outright hostility. See the last section of this guide for more details on the tribal cultures.

In one aspect, SimRTK knowingly deviates from history for the sake of making the playing experience more welcoming and enjoyable for all people. Like most cultures, historical China was very repressive of women, but here at SimRTK this aspect is removed. The vast majority of NPCs will unavoidably be male due to historical discrimination causing females to have had virtually no opportunity to distinguish themselves, but female characters are welcome and should be treated with the same respect given to males.

Swearing Oaths or Promises

Whether it be between two individuals or between nations, oaths and the like are held in great esteem in that time. There are various ways to swear oaths, or even a general verbal one. There are others that could invoke the spirit of one's ancestors, or others towards heaven. Some of the more common ones involve swearing an oath over breaking an arrow, or swearing the oath in front of an altar to Heaven. When swearing the oath before Heaven, it usually involves also an animal sacrifice, and the smearing of the sacrifice's blood on the individual's lips while swearing. (In the case of two nations swearing an agreement, either the ruler or some high ranking official would perform the ceremony.)

Military Dress

Common soldiers were often poorly equipped, having only a single weapon and a leather armour as their equipment. The weapon could either a spear, a pike, missile weapons, or sword & shield. Of course, more elite troops would be better equipped. Typically, the common soldiers differentiated themselves from the enemy by wearing different coloured robes that signified their kingdom. Typically, these robes were of one colour. For example, the Han's colours were red-orange. Cao Cao's colour was black, with a scarf of orange.

Generals also wore a similar type of coloured robes, but they wore better armour and were usually mounted. Their weapons tend to be either a spear, or a horse-blade. Capes were typically also used, in multi colours that did not have to be the same as the colour of their robes, and sometimes it also had their family names emblazoned on the cape.

During campaigns, the army would typically carry banners that signified which side they belonged to, but most of the banners would belong to the general. The general's banners are typically just a simple banner, with the character of their family name written upon it. (So Cao Cao's army banners would typically be his own black with the white "Cao" character, and the red-orange Han banners. He would also have some long trailing banners which said "Han Prime Minister Cao Cao")

And as verification, what colour each kingdom uses for its military dress is public knowledge.
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Re: Guide to SimRTK Roleplay

Postby Forum Administration » 18 Feb 2013, 00:00

[Imperial Customs]

Ceremonies, Etiquettes and Rituals in the Imperial Court

Firstly, some traditions. None of the officials, ministers or generals of armies are allowed to bear arms in the Imperial Court. Only the sanctioned Imperial Guards from the Imperial Residence is allowed to bear arms within the court, and they are commanded by an officer chosen by the Emperor himself. These guards were named as the Imperial Tiger Escort.

The Imperial Court is layed out in a rough rectangular shape. The Imperial Throne would be located on a golden dais in the centre-north location of the room, facing southwards. This dais would have staircases leading to it, in the southward, eastward and westward directions. The Emperor would sit on the throne, facing south, where the main entrance of the Imperial Court would be.* From the southward stairs of the dais to the main entrance would be a straight line of a type of aisle. (We shall call this the central aisle) On both sides of this centrail aisle would be officials and ministers, assorted in rank. Those dressed in the red-orange robes would be on the Emperor's left, and those on the right would be wearing black robes. The Prime Minister would be located at the head of these ministers, closest to the Emperor of all the ministers, but still nowhere near the Emperor.

Any formal guests or supplicants would enter through the main door, unarmed and searched beforehand. This person would enter with their head down low, and their bodies as well. They would not look directly at the Emperor, but would merely go to the designated place along the main walkway as designated by the officer in charge. (The closer you get to go to the Emperor, the higher your standing.) They would then kowtow, and chant the perfunctionary salutation (Its wan sui wan sui wan wan sui for those of you that don't know it.) and stay down until the Emperor gives permission for his to rise slightly. Even then, he would not stand, but still lay crouched as before, but only to raise his head slightly to look the Emperor at the eye.

If at any time the supplicant or the Emperor would pass things on to each other to peruse (Gifts, maps, documents, etc etc.), it would be done by passing it through two or three attendants along the way. Furthremore, the supplicants would usually address the Emperor by "Son of Heaven" or their reign name. Note that addressing them by their pre-reign name can, and is a justificiable cause for execution.

When the audience has been concluded, the supplicant may only with the permission of the Emperor. To leave on their own accord can mean death. When exiting, the supplicant would exit the same way he entered- always facing the Emperor, and crouched low. To show your back to the Emperor is also another justifiable excuse for death.

* This is where the allusion of the sovereign facing south and the subject facing north comes from. Of all the nobles, all their "thrones" would face north, to symbolise their alleigance to the Emperor, who faced south.

Officials, Ministers, Officers, and others

Officials in the Han court was allowed every fifth day as a day off from court duties so that they may return to their homes. This is so because they typically lived in dormitories near the palace, and served the court on a daily basis. Of course, there are some also high ranked officials who would own residences near the palace or administrative centre, hence they would live there instead of the dormitories.

Typically, there is a set style of dress for court officials. Ministers and generals alike (Officers are usually ministers and generals typically though) would dress in either a red-orange or black coloured robes. These robes would then be accentuated with a headdress, again dependant on their ranks. The Prime Minister is not bound by these rules and could dress as he pleases, though he would usually make his dress fitting to the occasion. When in the Imperial Court itself, no weapons are allowed. However, on other occassions, a ceremonial sword would usually be belted on the girdle. The normal etiquette is to hold these swords by the hilt with your left hand while walking, to keep it stable. These girdles would also serve as more indications of rank, besides also being where the seals of office are hung. The quality and colour of the girdle are the indications of the rankings of the different girdles.

When not in official business of the court, the officers would dress semi-formally, with their dress being of their own choosing. They would typically only carry their swords when moving around in the city or surrounding areas, and are generally not escorted with soldiers when going around the administrative centre or to the residence of other officials or ministers. Escorts, however, are still used by high ranking officials. The Emperor, Princes or the Prime Minister may be escorted with the Imperial Tiger Escort while generals and ministers would typically only have footsoldiers.

Erudites are professional scholars who acts as advisors to the court. They often don't have official ranks, hence they are known are erudites.

The Imperial City

The Imperial Capital has various layers of security, with a different commander at these layers. The first of these would be Bearer of the Gilded Mace, who would undertake the security of the inner wall of the Imperial Compound. After this would be the Colonel of the City Gates, who would undertake the securtity of the outer walls and the city itself. The capital province is then managed and protected by the Colonel Director of Retainers, who would hold equal standing with Imperial Protectors.

(Note of the interest - They are all special ranks under the ranking system. Check the Ranks chapter to find out more.)

Imperial Edicts

Edicts can be issued in a variety of ways, but they would all originate from the Emperor or his regent. The edict is a command from the Emperor or his Regent to a particular group of people, a specific officer, or even to the whole populace. They are drafted by the shangshu or the Masters of Writing, and are then affixed with the Imperial Seal. If they are meant for the general populace, copies would be posted at the gates, and at the marketplace of every city. If given to a specific group or an officer, copies would be kept by the Emperor, and also in the Imperial Archives. The archives would be kept by the Grand Historian.

Imperial Envoys

They are typically escorted by at least a score (20) of Imperial Tiger Guards when outside the capital. Depending on the stature of the person being given the edict, the envoy would be a highly ranked Imperial Court Member. However, if it is a general of comparatively low rank, it would come from a special group dedicated for this purpose. They would be wearing fine robes, in the colours of the Dynasty, and wear particular seals if they also hold additional appointments. They typically travel inside a fine carriage, though not of the splendour of the nobles.

When approaching a camp or city, the envoy and his escort can have a reasonable expectation to be unchallenged in every step they go. In most cases, they would carry the authority of the Emperor, and even kings are expected to be respectful to them.

If the edict is to a general, or an official, the envoy would bow slightly. He would then hold out the formal edict, at which point the general or official would then kowtow to the edict as if he was in the presence of the Emperor. The envoy would then read out the edict, and ask whether the general/official would obey as a ceremonial thing. If the general/official does accept, the envoy would then give up the edict to the general/official and leave. The same applies to any noble, even a King, but just that the envoy would show more respect.
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Re: Guide to SimRTK Roleplay

Postby Forum Administration » 18 Feb 2013, 00:00


In the era of the Later Han and the Three Kingdoms, authority descended from the Imperial Capitol and the government exerted influence throughout the realm. However, as with any country regardless of its position in history, there were people who lived outside the borders. Whether the country be Imperial China, feudal Japan, or Hellenic Greece, they tended to lump all outsiders under the common heading of 'Barbarian.'

In the era of the Three Kingdoms there were six primary barbarian groups which lived on the fringes of society. Some even lived within the confines of the Empire but dwelt outside the law. This is a brief primer on the major barbarian groups. It should be reiterated that the Han Chinese of this era were xenophobic and while a barbarian group may have been powerful, they were always viewed with disdain.

The Qiang where a semi-nomadic group of tribes which originated in the Western portion of China. They were skilled horsemen and herders who had a long history of interaction with the Han Chinese. According to some accounts, they were part of the allied force which sided with the Zhou during the battle to supplant the Shang dynasty. Their fame in battles stemmed from their light cavalry and skilled mounted archers. The weapons traditionally associated with their warfare were the short cavalry bow and the long spear. Ma Chao and Dong Zhuo were historical characters which boasted at least partial Qiang parentage.

Wuhuan and Xianbei
During the era of the Three Kingdoms, the Wuhuan and the Xianbei were the major remaining fragments of the destroyed Donghu confederation. Both groups are considered to be proto-Mongolic and embraced horse breeding and animal husbandry as essential to their economy and military strength. While the Wuhuan and Xianbei had political and economic ties to northern China, the Wuhuan integrated more easily into Han society; however, they could be counted on readily for rebellion at the first sign of Imperial weakness. The Xianbei, living north of the Wuhuan maintained loose political ties to the Xiongnu. The Xianbei during this era were more warlike and more prone to invading along the Chinese border. Chu of Wuhuan was a notable chieftain during this time. The Xianbei leader Tanshihuai led victorious forces over the Han in 177 CE.

The Xiongnu were a proto-Mongolic people living to the north of China in what is present day Mongolia. They had defeated the Donghu confederation and ruled the region north of the Chinese border for many years. However, due to civil war and conflicts with the Xianbei and Han, the Xiongnu people lived along the fringes of Han society. Their power had essentially evaporated by this time, though they frequently took to rebellion, and many a general made a name for himself in putting down their short-lived revolts. They were mounted conquerors first, and herders second. In addition to destroying the Donghu confederation, they are also credited with pushing west and destroying or displacing other cultures. Xiongnu marauders captured noted late Han poet Cai Yan, daughter of Cai Yong and held until she was ransomed by Cao Cao.

The Di, not to be confused with the Northern Di (Beidi), were an ethnic group of semi-nomadic herdsmen living to the North-West of Han Imperial China. Never very large, their power was on the slow ascent during the later Han and Three Kingdoms period. It was not until the end of the Jin dynasty that their alliance with the Qiang, Xianbei, and Xiongnu blossomed into a powerful force. At this time, they were in occasional conflict with the Qiang and Xiongnu remnants.

The Nanman were a conglomeration of barbarian groups living in the South-West of Han Imperial China, primarily in the province of Nanzhong. Historically these tribes had no unified Kingship, although the novel depicted Meng Huo as the leader of a loose confederation which eventually submitted to Shu-Han. Their light-weight ratan armor and elephant cavalry are considered marks of the military strength, but their disunity prevented them from doing more than merely holding their territory.

The Shanyue were a hill dwelling ethnic group that existed during the Han dynasty. Although the Imperial Court controlled their territory, the Shanyue had grown powerful and effectively autonomous during the Later Han. Their primary territories were in the hills of Jiang Dong and the Southern frontier. The Shanyue were an early internal threat to the Kingdom of Wu, nearly killing Sun Quan; however, strong policies from the Wu government were eventually successful in integrating the Shanyue into traditional Han society. They were noted for their use of short blades and their ability to disperse into their rugged home terrain to avoid capture.
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