Andrea just sent me a bunch of fantasy books and I’ve noticed a certain similarity between my reading matter and my life. Some of the reasons overlap with Sinoplice’s brilliant “Why China Is Like An RPG”. Travel in China, like fantasy books, offers an escape from a monotonous life. Money is counted in “pieces” and dragons are real.
2) Dire predictions of doom. In fantasy stories, the protagonists are constantly warned about their destination, just like in China. “I heard of a foreign traveler who tried to reach Penglai by bus. We never saw him again.” or “You seek to visit Beijing? In October? Turn back while you still can!”
3) Searching for rare artifacts. The quester can’t just walk into the blacksmith’s and say “Good morning, I’d like to purchase the ancient, elf-made enchanted sword of the shadowlands, please.” and expect to get what he wants. Where’s the challenge there? Where’s the character development? In China, I can’t just walk into a shop and say “Good morning, I’d like to purchase some deoderant, please.”
4) Adventurers form a traveling party, using their disparate skills to work for a common goal. In my travels, Fresca can read pin yin, Dave can bargain, Will knows everyone in Yantai… (I guess I can make bardic knowledge checks, once in a while? Wait, I’m the protagonist! I don’t have to be useful!)
5) And finally, everyone speaks Common (Pu Tong Hua). Except me, my attempt at Chinese is more like a bad Renn faire accent.