Follow TV Tropes


Tabletop Game / Ironclaw

Go To
Our heroes!
Ironclaw is a Tabletop RPG of Anthropomorphic Fantasy published by Sanguine Games. Its first edition came out on 1999, with its second edition released in 2010. The setting is a Low Fantasy setting with the themes of a Medieval European Fantasy experiencing the rise of the flintlock, the musket and the merchant classes as powerful influences. The big difference is that all the races that live in this game are anthropomorphic animals.

Ironclaw takes place in the continent of Calabria, the majority of the lands controlled by the Great Noble Houses:

  • Avoirdupois: The House of horses, chivalrous and austere, with a history of strong religious convictions. Their army is the strongest in Calabria, though their hesitance to modernize might spell their downfall.
  • Bisclavret: The House of wolves who cast off their traditional roots to claim the resource-rich woods, giving them control over lumber production (and subsequently, shipbuilding). They are for the moment the House most interested in progress and innovation.
  • Doloreaux: The House of boars, beset on all sides by rival Houses and with only enough farmland to subsist, is the most aggressive of all Houses. The official religion is the worship of a fertility goddess and, naturally, the clergy is all female.
  • Advertisement:
  • Rinaldi: Greatest of the Great Noble Houses, the grey foxes count the High King of Calabria as one of their own. They rule from the city of Triskellian, the greatest of all cities and the origin of the continent's biggest religion. Sadly, their titles are hollow and their rule is wavering. The true powers of the city are the Guild Masters. Still, the House basks in their remaining power and plays at still being relevant.

Apart from the Great Noble Houses and their vassals, two other forces lay claim to territories in Calabria:

  • Phelan: These are the wolves who continue to keep their old ways, the five clans continuing to live as their great-grandfathers did. To outsiders, this is a land untouched by civilization and fraught with dangers. They even say that goblins known as the Morrigna live in these dark woods.
  • Advertisement:
  • Chevernaise: Goat-tribes who inhabit and lay claim to the Rothos Mountains, something that infuriates the Doloreaux to no end.

The players take the role of adventurers plucked from the new middle class. They have esoteric skills and abilities above the common unskilled laborers, and have access to expensive equipment. Meanwhile, the nobles of Great Houses fight their petty wars for more power, and are not above using those below them as pawns in their game. The world is waking up to an Age of Reason where technology is slowly catching up to magic and the old ways of government are being questioned.

In addition to the main book, Sanguine Productions also published a number of supplements for first-edition Ironclaw, detailing the major political players of Calabria. For second edition, they have released four supplements so far - the Book of Mysteries, the Book of Fools, the Book of Jade and the Book of Adventures, all of which have updated versions of materials from 1e supplements. Additionally, Chris Goodwin, who did all of the illustrations for the second edition's species chapter, has released a book titled Ironclaw: A Bestiary, which contains those illustrations as well as the full versions of the descriptions he wrote for them.

Sanguine Productions also made an Oriental-themed anthropomorphic RPG called Jadeclaw; the first edition was separate from Ironclaw but the second takes the form of a supplement called Book of Jade. A Middle Eastern/African-themed supplement, Book of Horn and Ivory, came out in September 2017. The Book of Monsters premiered at Anthrocon 2019 introduces a variety of monsters and environmental hazards for players to encounter.

Ironclaw Provides Examples of:

  • Abusive Precursors: Heavily implied to be the case with the Autarchs.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: A few examples
    • Don Constantin Rinaldi's father died of plague when he was a child, he almost died as well but his nurse had a religious experience and developed white magic, after she died curing the city he and his mother founded the Church of S'allumer.
    • One of the Avoirdupois kings, Paien IV, was three years old when his great-grandfather died (after outliving his son and grandson), his uncle Childeberd was his first regent but his financial policies caused a massive rebellion and he was assassinated by one of his own guards. His second regent exascerbated the civil war by giving the rebel lords' titles and lands to loyalists. Paien IV later died just a few years after his official coronation.
    • The current Bisclavret Duke, Mausein, was nine when he ascended four years ago, it remains to be seen whether his regent will step down when he comes of age.
  • All Part of the Show: In the adventure "The Wages of Envy" it's stated that any fighting the PC's do in an opera house will be taken by the wealthy, somewhat sheltered nobles in the audience as part of the show. Even the villain firing an organ gun on stage will be seen as mere "opera grotesque."
  • Animal Stereotypes: Each of the species detailed have their own quirks and stereotypes. Note that these are In-Universe examples of stereotypes, as well; the Species Descriptions are largely how the other species see each other.
  • Anti-Magical Faction: Malachism, the state religion of the Anatolian Empire, believes that magic should be the exclusive domain of the angels. Using magic in Anatolian states gets you a fine or imprisoned, which ironically makes it safer to practice Necromancy there than in Calebria (where the Church proscribes torture for Necromancers.)
  • Aristocrat Team: The setting material makes it pretty clear that outside of cities with militias like Triskellion characters without the gift of Nobility are going to be persecuted by the law if they carry weapons, especially guns. It's generally recommended that most parties include at least one knight or dilettante who can claim the others as his retinue.
  • Badass Creed: Every character is supposed to have a motto that describes their outlook on life. Acting out according to said motto earns you more experience points.
  • Bastard Angst: In the novella Scars main character Danica is the illegitimate daughter of a grey fox noble. One day she got in a fight with one of her half-brothers and accidentally scratched him, her father reacted by having her declawed (normally done to serious criminals and slaves) and threw her out on the street, where she was found and raised by a Bounty Hunter. Dani's father tuns out to have been the recently deceased High King Fidelio d'Rinaldi, and she recognizes the mad "impostor" she was hired to capture as the real Prince Fedrizzio by the scars she gave him when they were kits.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Qahwah", an Akoman potion that restores vitality and relieves fatigue, is Arabic for "coffee".
  • Black Speech: Semi-subverted. Night Speech is an ultrasonic language that can only be spoken by Bats (who can echolocate), though other races with "Keen Ears" can learn to understand it. Though not an inherently evil tongue, due to the bats' reputation, others treat it as such.
  • Black Magic: Unholy magic. It doesn't make you evil, but since it's so damn dangerous, it often doesn't matter either way.
  • Capture and Replicate: The druid spell "Steal Guise" allows one to impersonate another, but only so long as the real one is alive. The adventure "The Rescue of Miranda Devoisier" has a side quest where the head of a family is kidnapped and impersonated by a rogue druid using that spell.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Subverted. Ironclaw and Jadeclaw took a page from Usagi Yojimbo and introduced an entire ecosystem of lizards, dinosaurs, and lizardy birds which fill the usual niches of livestock, beasts of burden, pets, and wildlife. Pests include both small lizards and oversized insects; Word of God has mentioned beetles the size of cats. Book of Monsters introduces several Planimals that might also be domesticated, and a bean that produces "milk".
  • Chunky Salsa Rule: If you score an overkill (or are subject to one), the result is being so horribly mutilated that allies will become afraid. There's also not enough left for Necromantic spells requiring corpses to work on the victim, and not enough for the game's only genuine resurrection spell to work fully — it can resurrect them, but they're too badly mangled to be restored good as new and are permanently disfigured.
  • Color-Coded Wizardry: Elementalists wear colors associated with their element, cognosticites wear either green or purple, priests white, and thaumaturgists grey.
  • Contemptible Cover: The first edition was some The Slayers fan-art featuring Naga as a wolf. In all her bikini-clad glory.
  • Corrupt Church: One of the central conflicts in the adventure A Crisis of Faith (originally in the Avoirdupois supplement, later to be updated and rereleased in The Book of Adventures) involves this trope.
  • Critical Failure: Rolling all ones, called a "botch". Especially bad when rolling to reduce damage taken, as a botch increases the damage. On the other hand rolling three or more sixes when casting black magic is really bad as well.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Saint Helloise, the central figure (though not founder, the faith came after she gave her life powering a spell to cure a plagued city) of the Church of S'aullumer.
  • Damage Reduction: Uses the "Soak Roll" rule for sustaining damage.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Necromancy and aggressive Blessed magic draws on the power of the angry dead. This would not be so bad, except it also gives said dead a chance to influence the living world; Sample backfires include one possessing an unconscious person and working out it's issues with the living, possessing a corpse, or being spooky.
  • Depending on the Artist: Sometimes grey fox characters are grey- or bluish-grey recolours of red foxes, and sometimes they have the correct colouration of their species. It's especially noticeable with Vaslov, who is blue in Squaring the Circle and more naturally-coloured in the Book of Adventures.
  • Dual Wielding: The Ambidexterity gift allows you to wield two weapons (and more if you have prehensile feet and tail), even pistols.
  • Elemental Powers: Being an Elementalist lets you have access to this.
  • Fake King: The adventure published in the Rinaldi sourcebook, and the tie-in novel Scars feature a fake Prince Fabrizio de Rinaldi who has been brainwashed with purple magic into thinking he's the real thing.
  • Fantastic Fauna Counterpart: To avoid Furry Confusion, non-anthropomorphic regular animals don't exist in this setting. Many of them are replaced by Planimal creatures such as the cow-like Aurochs Radish, the boar-like Tusk Melon and the serpentine Snake Gourd. Meanwhile, horses are replaced by Domesticated Dinosaurs.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • The Great Houses: The Bisclavret (despite their French house name) and Phelan are rather blatantly Scottish, the Avoirdupois seem French, and the Rinaldi Italian. The Doloreaux are less clear, they have a vaguely Celtic/Germanic religion while the rest of their society seems general European.
    • Some of the less influential species are as well: Bats and coyotes are mostly like Romani, bears were like Vikings, and tigers are generic Asians.
    • The continent of Akoma in the Book of Horn and Ivory introduces the Anatolian Empire, a combination of the Ottoman Empire (which originated in the real life Anatolia) and earlier caliphates. While the Delta is based on Egypt.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Religion:
    • The Church of S'allumer is patterned after the medieval Catholic church, with some of the heterodoxies (and heresies) being directly named after real ones.
    • Lutarism is based on a mix of Germanic and Celtic mythology combined with a bit of animism.
    • The Phelan have druids.
    • "Book of Horn and Ivory" introduces Malachism, an obvious parallel to Islam, and opposed to all forms of magic.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted, as pistols and other firearms are available in the game.
  • Feather Fingers: Avian species have wings for arms, but can somehow swing a sword as easily as any other species. The raven depicted in the species art is carrying a bag and cane.
  • Fictional Zodiac: The game has its own zodiac set consisting of six objects and six mythical creatures.
  • Foreign Ruling Class:
    • The Kingdom of Calebria is ruled by the foxes of House Rinaldi, de jure, after they vassalized the island's other kingdoms of boars, horses, and wolves. Though at the time of the game the Rinaldi's actual power is waning and their vassals are getting ambitious. (It should be noted that the Rinaldi were there first, as the local Roman Empire counterpart.)
    • The otters of the Anatolian Empire replaced the cobra Pharaoh of the Delta with a Sultan of their own species, but heavy resistance from Deltan crown loyalists has convinced them to co-opt existing power structures in their later conquests.
  • Giant Spider: Two of the sample wild creatures in the Omnibus. The Damhánalla is stated to be about the size of a human head, and the nastier Tarantella is even bigger.
  • Gold–Silver–Copper Standard: The standard coinage is the silver denar, they've also got less common gold aureals (24 denarii) and more circulated bronze orichalks (1/12 of a denar).
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: As part of the game's political focus, every single major noble house and culture is given both sympathetic and unsympathetic qualities. The only notable exceptions are goblins, undead and necromancers (and even then, one sample adventure has a necromancer NPC who'll let the PCs go through his lands unharmed if they ask nicely). This is perhaps best exemplified in the adventure The Wolves in Winter: no-one involved in the conflict is clearly good or evil, and there's no way to get an unambiguously happy ending.
  • Heroic Bastard: Danica from Scars, for a given value of "heroic", is the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman, the late king, Don Fidelio di Rinaldi
  • Horse of a Different Color: No, not the Avoirdupois. Rather this trope refers to the variety of dinosaur-like reptiles used as mounts, many of which are named after types of horse (palfry, destrier, etc).
  • Indentured Servitude: The practice is one of the more serious penalties that can be applied to commoners in Calebria. And the Phelan normally impose fines for all crimes but if the accused cannot pay they are sold into slavery. The price list for Labor in the equipment chapter lists slaves with an indenture of one year or for life.
  • Interspecies Romance: While it does occur fairly often few specifics are given on the results, save for the novel Scars stating that when a Grey and a Red Fox have kids the peasant color dominates.
  • Le Parkour: A gift that lets you do just that.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narration, particularly in the Book of Horn & Ivory, can get pretty chatty at times (noting, for instance, that if T-shirts were a thing in this setting, Princess Mariam would have her face on them).
  • Light The Way: Access to Thaumaturgy lets you do this.
  • Lovable Coward: Any PC with the Coward gift. You can actually make yourself afraid (as it gives bonuses to dodge and run)!
  • Low Fantasy: Monsters and Evil Overlords are mostly relegated to legend and folklore, and morality is Black and Grey at most, but magic is a bit more common and benign than most Low Fantasy settings.
  • Made a Slave: Most houses take war captives as slaves but wolves (both Bisclavret and Phelan) are the most prominent slavers. It's also used as a criminal sentence in some places, like Phelan who can't pay the normal fines.
  • Magic Cauldron: As a legend based on the Pair Dadeni of Celtic Mythology. The northern clan of the Phelan are rumored to have a cauldron that brings corpses back to life, but there's a tale that states one of their princes had a disagreement with the king and jumped into it and pushed it apart from the inside and hid the pieces.
  • Man-Eating Plant: The Deadly Snaptrap is like a venus flytrap big enough to catch people, and which has a "lure organ" in the middle of the trap that often looks like a chunk of gold.
  • Massive Race Selection: As of the Book of Horn and Ivory, there are 81 playable species available, not counting variant species.
  • Medieval Universal Literacy: Averted, Literacy is a skill in 1st edition and a gift in 2nd. Only a few careers; mostly wizards, some nobles, and scribes, are automatically literate.
  • Metaplot: Subverted. The first published adventure and the first tie-in novel deal with the murder of the High King and most of his family, and the search for the sole surviving heir. It became the common touchpoint for almost every campaign using the official setting — but every campaign resolved it differently, with far-reaching impact on the rest of the political situation. (It also immediately established Ironclaw as a game where beginning characters can be kingmakers.)
  • Multiple Persuasion Modes: The main rulebook contains a short comic demonstrating how to convince a man to light a candle using the skills of Deceitnote , Gossip, Inquiry, Leadership, Negotiation, and Presencenote .
  • Mysterious Animal Senses: Each Species in Ironclaw has one or two Natural Senses, but no more; when using those senses, they can include their Species Trait in their Observation roll. Some Species have Gifts that improve those sense even further (Keen Eyes, Keen Ears, Keen Nose), or provide exotic sensory abilities like Echolocation.
  • Natural Weapon: Comes with being an anthropomorphic animal.
  • Necromancer: Necromancy is one of the forms of magic. It's not actually inherently evil, but it's inherently dangerous and banned virtually everywhere for its potential to cause death and destruction regardless of the intentions of the user. As such, it's almost exclusively used by evil people, as they're less likely to care about either of those things.
    • Though, "The Rescue of Miranda Devoisier" has a necromancer who lives as a hermit in the middle of a swamp and is actually quite hospitable if the players don't try to kill him, he's getting a little tired of people doing that.
  • Noble Savage: The Phelan have a rich oral tradition and enjoy greater social mobility than their Bisclavret cousins (who already allow more mobility than the other great houses), and the pics generally portray them wearing Loin Cloths and leather bikinis and fighting with bare claws or stone spears. Even though the written descriptions indicate they're just as likely to wear the kilt and fight with steel claymores.
  • No Name Given: To protect yourself from magic, there's a gift that lets you forsake your name.
  • Non-Combat EXP: EXP is completely based on roleplaying. Combat only figures in when it accomplishes one of the characters' Goals.
  • No One Could Survive That!: In order to avoid PCs being mowed down by lucky shots, there are gifts that allow you to avoid it with appropriately dramatic results.
    • In 2nd Edition all PCs start with Combat Save for free. As do major villains.
    • Only a Flesh Wound: The Toughness Gift allows a character to treat one attack per scene per instance of this Gift like that.
  • Nubile Savage: Most of the Phelan women portrayed in the artwork, see above.
  • Oh, Crap!: What happens to an ally of a recently overkilled character-they literally become Afraid if they're vulnerable to it.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: They're known here as the Morrigna by the Phelan and look like a cross between a wolf and a raven. The Morrignai are also far more dangerous than typical goblins; one regular goblin can be a threat to an entire group of player-characters. Also, they can fly.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: Book of Monsters fills the much sought-after niche of "basic humanoid enemy" with gourdlings, mobile gourds that come in "basic", spiny, thorn-whipping, and exploding varieties. If the seeds aren't destroyed after slaying them new ones pop up next season.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: "Oupires"; they're undead, drink blood and fear holy symbols running water and sunlight, though those things don't hurt them.
  • Plague Zombie: Carnage fungus reanimates corpses infested with its' spores, which then try to spread spores over more corpses and living animals. They don't count as undead for the purposes of Holy or Unholy magic, but fortunately they're still flammable.
  • Planimal: Book of Monsters features a wide variety of them, ranging from the livestock-like aurochs radish and tusk melon, to the shapeshifting pine clone, somewhat comical punching onion, and downright spooky tomb tree.
  • Point Build System: 1st Edition was a fairly traditional setup. 2nd Edition still has it as a variant rule and for character improvement, while the default method budgets the points out into Traits (2d8, 3d6, 1d4), Skills (13 marks), and Gifts (3). While to prevent Min-Maxing Flaws were either converted into Gifts (i.e. Coward, above), or reduced to a variant rule enabling more opportunities for roleplaying EXP.
  • Pretentious Latin Motto: Every denar (the standard coinage) bears the motto of Calabria, Rex una, republicus una in the Magniloquentia language.
  • Privateer: A 1st Edition sourcebook for House Bisclavret had privateers as a playable career.
  • Rain of Something Unusual: The Druid spells Rain of Fire, Rain of Ice, and Rain of Blood.
  • Royal Inbreeding: The description for grey foxes states that due to inbreeding they tend to exhibit traits like hemophilia and colorblindness, with rumors of things like split tails, polydactyly, and hairlessness.
  • Sandworm: One of the few non-plant-based monsters in the Book of Monsters is the lumbricus, a large worm that occasionally pops out of the ground to grab and gnaw at hapless victims with its' triangular jaws. The biggest ones have teeth that many Akomans prize as daggers.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: The standard seven are part of S'allumer doctrine, along with one more: selfishness, with its corresponding virtue, altruism.
  • Shout-Out: The cover of the first edition was a deliberate homage to Slayers, with Lina and Naga as a Fox and a Wolf.
    • One sample character, a vixen warlock known as the "bandit killer" is a continuation of the above; it's more obvious in the first edition where the character is Lina in all but name and species.
    • There is Mount Eisengrim, named after Ysengrim the wolf of the Renard Cycle.
    • The Bisclavret are named after a 12th Century French poem of the same name. It's about a werewolf.
    • Example given of using the Deceit skill to make someone light a candle: "It's very dark in here. You are likely to be eaten by a Grue."
    • The section on undead is titled "That which is not dead can eternal lie."
    • The artwork for the Peafowl race in Book of Jade is very clearly inspired by Lord Shen from Kung Fu Panda 2.
    • The lumbricus might be a bit smaller than the worms on Dune, but the teeth of "makers of death" are made into prized daggers and inhaling "worm dust" is said to give visions of the future (though that's suspected to be a lie for gullible nobles.)
  • Shown Their Work: particularly noticeable with the Phelan, whose culture is based heavily (and accurately) on pre-Christian Celtic society. The Phelan calendar is based on the actual Celtic lunar calendar, and the Druids are much closer to the priestly caste of history and the mystics of folklore than to the nature priests of modern fantasy.
  • Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: codified in the game mechanics. The Race Trait (Species Trait in Second Edition) is an attribute that ranges along the same scale as Body, Mind, and the rest, and indicates just how strong your animal heritage is. There's no direct connection to physical appearance stated, but the art suggests that the inhabitants of Monderévelé range from Borderline Little Bit Beastly to Funny Animal with "Atavists" who tread the line into Civilized Animal.
  • Spell Book: Each spellcaster's (save for Druids and Blessed, who don't even need to be literate) trappings Gift includes one. On Elementalism for Elementalists, Thamauturgoria by Kyndranigar the Shadow Magus for Thaumaturge's, Ye Book of Black Magic for Necromancers, and a Bible The Testaments of Helloise for Clerics.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The Avoirdupois are well known for their Chivalry. Cheval means horse.
    • The head of the "Monophysisme" heresy is titled Tergiversator. While "tergiversate" usually means "to be evasive or to defect" in English, it literally means "to turn one's back" in Latin. The illustration shows them with their back towards the viewer.
    • Why are the Anatolian nobility otters, a species with no particular association in our world with either the Middle East or leadership? It's an Otter-Man Empire.
    • Also in The Book of Horn and Ivory, Honey Isle is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Malta, complete with the fortress of The Knights Hospitallers. The natives are falcons.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: You can talk freely on your turn, but you'll have to wait until the other person's turn for them to reply. Talking may be free, but a conversation is not.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: What happens when you score six or more successes on a damage roll, which leads to messy results. The art work demonstrating an overkill shows the victim dying off panel.
  • Throw It In!: the species descriptions in the second edition were originally written by the section's artist, to provide himself with a mood and theme for each image. They were too good not to use.
  • Title Drop: Or as close to one as the game can get while still making sense - one of the Atavism gifts is named "Claws of Iron".
  • White Magic: Primarily the demesne of priests of S'allumer, though some claim that it existed before the Church. It also includes more offensive spells than usual.
  • Word of God: Sanguine has maintained an active mailing list since 1999, and many details of the world background, game mechanics, and design philosophy have been discussed over the years.
  • World of Funny Animals
  • Villains: The NPC creation rules have their own version of the standard hierarchy
    • Mooks: Horde, d6 in all traits, no skills other than their species and career bonuses, and the only Gifts they get other than species and career are Pack Tactics and Local Knowledge.
    • Elite Mooks: Elite Horde, d8 in all traits, plus the Armored Fighter, Shield Fighter, and Unshakeable Fighter Gifts.
    • Mook Lieutenant: Leaders, as their associated Horde except with True Leader and Militia Leader, and Elite Leaders also have Toughness, Diehard, and Troop Leader.
    • The Dragon: The Enforcer, d10 traits, along with one Trappings gift, Diehard, two Toughness gifts, Counter-Tactics, Mob Fighter, and Unshakeable Fighter. Intended to threaten the entire party on their own.
    • The Villain, d8 traits, one Trappings gift, True Leader, Militia Leader, Toughness, Luck, Combat Save, Pack Tactics, and a personality gift.
    • Big Bad: The Supernaut: All traits are d12, Armored Fighter, Bravery, Charging Fighter, Combat Save, Counter-Tactics, Diehard, Guard Breaker, Local Knowledge, Luck, Militia Leader, Mob Fighter, Pack Tactics, Resolve, Shield Fighter, Toughness x3, True Leader, Unshakeable Fighter, Veteran, and two other saving gifts plus three others of the GM's choice. The kind of character who only comes around in one out of every dozen adventures, and can take on entire armies.
  • Undressing the Unconscious: In the Scars novel, Danica awakens to find she's been undressed and is distressed at first when she thinks Tucker did it (as he has a unrequited crush on her) but calms once he tells her it was the Innkeeper Delaney who did it.
  • Yin-Yang Bomb: NPC Vaslov Jakoba is rumoured to be able to use both White Magic and Black Magic (optional in 2e; confirmed in 1e). Regardless of whether it's true, it's a source of much consternation for the church. It's possible for a player character to be able to do this too.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: * Justified in the Dream Carvers novel. Baron Treeden was specifically looking for Capt. Salvatore, one of his house's Privateers, and Sister Annarisse in turn was trying to find the baron, to whom she'd just been assigned as a confessor.

Tropes specific to Jadeclaw/The Book of Jade

  • Animal Stereotypes: Zhongguo has its' own stereotypes.
    • Bears: Spiritual, wise, closer to the earth. And strong.
    • Boars: Honest, simple and strong, but not stupid.
    • Camels: Nomadic desert barbarians.
    • Cats: Generalists, driven more by emotions than intellectual goals.
    • Chickens: Controlling bureaucrats.
    • Cranes: Distant and sophisticated.
    • Dogs: Loyal companions and protectors.
    • Dragons: Driven, powerful.
    • Elephants: Giants from fantasy-counterpart India
    • Foxes: Inconspicuous, trying not to draw attention to themselves, probably planning something.
    • Horses: Independent, roaming, and pragmatic.
    • Leopards: Solitary adventurers and barbarians.
    • Lynxes: Deadly ambushers, "feline snakes".
    • Monkeys: Curious, witty, with a habit of meddling in others' affairs.
    • Oxen: Hard working and obedient, don't like to work without a plan in place.
    • Pandas: The Stoic in black and white.
    • Phoenixes: Wise but a bit difficult to interpret.
    • Porcupines: Short-tempered and difficult to work with, but handy with needles.
    • Qilings: Proud, generally not to be trifled with.
    • Rabbits: Quiet, diplomatic, but don't push them.
    • Rats: Social and self-starting.
    • Sheep: Not big fans of conflict.
    • Snakes: Ambitious, and patient.
    • Swallows: Think themselves wise and courteous, but physically weak.
    • Tigers: Passionate Proud Warrior Race Guys.
    • Tortoises: Slow and meticulous.
    • Weasels: Energetic but easily distracted.
    • Wolves: Wild barbarians.
    • Yaks: Hairy Tibetans.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Anthropomorphic centipedes, spiders and scorpions, part of what's called the "Five Vermins". And they're playable in Book of Jade!
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: In stark contrast to Ironclaw, where it's ambiguous as to whether Heaven exists.
  • Eastern Zodiac: There's a nod to this; the twelve animals of the zodiac made up the original twelve noble families of Zhongguo.
  • Fantastic Caste System: The Zhou dynasty instated a caste system dividing the population into five social orders: Warriors and rulers (Shi), Ministers (Xue), Farmers, (Nong), Craftsmen (Gong), and Merchants (Shang).
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Zhongguo is named after China, with their first three dynasties being rough analogues and the third (the Zhou) even sharing the same name, though they have aspects of the Confucian-style bureaucracy that started under the Han dynasty. In addition, Yindu (elephant and yak homeland) is clearly India, Camels are Middle-Eastern, the Yaks are Tibetans, and Leopards are implied to be similar to Mongolians.
  • The Four Gods
  • Fragile Speedster: In Jadeclaw, swallows are fast and mobile, but very frail. They're no longer a playable species in Book of Jade, but their 2e counterpart (the sparrow) fits the speedster part.
  • Kirin: Qilings are a playable race and are commonly believed to be ancestral spirits of the horses. The founding Emperor of Zhongguo is alleged to have ascended to heaven as a qiling despite living on earth as a horse.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They're eastern-style, unsurprisingly.
  • Phlebotinum-Induced Steampunk: The 1st edition adventure module "Loot the Burning House" featured a province of Zhongguo rediscovering steam power and examples of ancient steam engines powered by alchemically treated metal octagons instead of wood or coal.
  • Winged Humanoid: Unlike other bird species, the zhuque have their wings and arms separate. This makes them the only flying species which starts off able to wield two-handed weapons in mid-air.
  • Weak to Magic: Ghosts, phantoms, and shades can only be damaged by magic.
  • Wuxia


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: