Judge Dee

Judge Dee frowns at a malefactor (Illustration: RhvG)

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Aurea roleplaying system

All the cases solved by Judge Dee

All men are brothers, by Viktor Haag

Outlaws of the waterfront

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Three Further Cases for Judge Dee

This is a roleplaying adventure based on Robert H. van Gulik's famous Judge Dee novels. It can be played with three to five players who should all be well versed in the Judge Dee canon.


The scene of the present adventure, Three Further Cases for Judge Dee, is Kao Yang, an imaginary city in Kiangsu Province. A map will be found on a separate page, since it is somewhat large. Information on crime, detection and court procedure in ancient China is given in the Postscript of every Judge novel.

As with Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee stories, these adventures are based on three old original Chinese plots, rewritten to form a whole, and centered around the judge. The plots come from the Seventy-two Strange Cases of Magistrate Pao, as translated by Leon Comber. Leon Comber present six cases, of which the first is the same case as The Rape Murder in Half Moon Street, from Chinese Gold Murders.

Notes to the gamesmaster

GM'ing this adventure is a formidable task (but so is playing it). The trick is in not presenting the adventure in too linear a fashion. Don't let yourself be tricked into taking on the role of Judge Dee yourself while your players assume the roles of Judge Dee's helpers: nobody will have much fun then.

I would advise players of these adventures to make up other characters than Judge Dee, the famous seventh century Chinese detective-magistrate, and his helpers, since they are very formidable examples. In the text of this adventure I have used Judge Dee and his helpers throughout, though, and I present full character sheets for them.

As in most Judge Dee novels, I have chosen to present three cases at once, which certainly complicates matters, but also enlivens the game in no small measure. All three cases feature some supernatural intervention, just as in the novels. Whether you, as a GM, want to include that feature, is up to you.

The three cases occur in Kao Yang. They are deemed to occur before the case of The Secret of the Buddhist Temple had been solved in Chinese Bell Murders, since that temple is far to good an opportunity for mischief. (See the timeline of the novels.) This means that all important citizens of Kao Yang that have not yet been arrested during the course of The Chinese Bell Murders are possible NPC's.


The three cases are The Mystery of the Net of Heaven, the Dream of the Goddess of Mercy and the Mystery of the Key.


Dramatis Personae

The city of Kao Yang

The Mystery of the Net of Heaven

The Goddess of Mercy

The Mystery of the Key



Related stuff

The characters in Three Further Cases for Judge Dee are presented in the Aurea format, which I think is easily understood and adapted to other systems.

Paul Mason has produced an excellent roleplaying system with ancient China as its setting: Outlaws of the Waterfront. It is available in the form of a set of beautifully laid-out pdf files (which are of course a pain to read).

Viktor Haag runs a campaign using the Judge Dee novels as inspiration: All Men are Brothers.

There exists an adaption of the Judge Dee novels to fudge: Judge Dee in Fudge by Steffan O'Sullivan. His timeline I have taken as a guide.

There is at least one movie based on the Judge Dee novels, directed by a certain Jeremy Kagan. I haven't seen, though.

Tobi Delbrück presents a couple of scans you might print out and use in your own games. Not of the best quality, though.

There exists a biography of van Gulik by Jan Willem van de Wetering, which is also published in English. Not much good, though, except for the serious fan.

A timeline of the Judge Dee novels is given by Birger Nielsen.

Finally, Albrecht Ude has a website with a lot of links to Judge Dee websites.


  • 21-05-1999 - Creation

text and illustrations © 1999 Boudewijn Rempt Judge Dee Frowns illustration and map of Kao Yang are copyright by whoever currently has the copyright to the van Gulik estate.