alice maz

Pine, Bamboo, and Plum

Pine, bamboo, and plum are the Three Friends of Winter, so-named because they flourish in that season. Bamboo represents flexibility in adapting to hardship, pine steadfastness in the face of adversity, and plum beauty amid harsh conditions. Taken together, they evoke the Confucian virtue of maintaining one's integrity through any circumstance.

This is a story I wrote years ago, a narrative built on top of a Europa Universalis 3 (plus MEIOU) playthrough. I start in 1356 as Song, one of the many factions vying for control of China as the Red Turban Rebellion brings the Yuan Dynasty to a close.

In our history, Zhu Yuanzhang through strategy and treachery beat out all the others, conquered the whole of China, and in 1368 declared himself the Hongwu Emperor, first of the Ming. In this history, I attempt to keep China fragmented, allowing an idea comparable to the nation-state to gradually emerge over the course of several hundred years. I wanted China strong, able to act as an equal (or superior!) counterweight to Europe into the modern era, and I wanted to do it without any of the "westernization" the game railroads you into. To this end, I wanted to make the region a crucible where the struggle to survive would force the various states to develop and grow or else be extinguished.

Unfortunately due to life events, the story ends before this comes to fruition. Nevertheless, I do think it is a fun and interesting tale, so I'm reformatting it for my website and reserializing it over a couple months. I will do my best to write an epilogue that gives some narrative closure. I played several hundred years ahead so that I could set up plotlines well in advance, and while I don't have my old screenshots or notes, I remember generally what I tried to do and where things ended up going.

Writing an AAR (after-action report, as they're called) is a tricky balance of storytelling and gamesmanship. I like to compare it to interpretive divination, like milfoil or tarot: the tool tells you what happened, and your job is to improvise an explanation why. I mod some flavor events in, but always play honestly. No cheating and no scumming. When characters die at narratively inconvenient times, or behave in ways that baffle the mind, usually it's the RNG at work and I'm just doing my best to deal. Honestly though, I'd probably use an RNG again for any fiction I wrote in the future. It devises plot twists much more surprising and cruel than anything I could come up with myself.

There's an aspect of roleplaying also. MEIOU gives rulers a primary trait like "brilliant strategist" or "horrible diplomat" based on their adm/mil/dip stats, plus a secondary trait like "cruel," "generous," "pious," or "insane." I always do my best to play each ruler as their traits and stats would dictate, and write them to fit, which adds an interesting element in that half the time I'm forced to play badly on purpose.

Aside from that I'll try to keep details on the game itself light, but if anything is confusing, I'll be happy to answer questions and possibly add additional footnotes. I've made no substantive edits to the content from the original, this is more or less as it was. (Or else I would have cleaned up some of the more questionable photoshops!) It takes me a couple chapters to find my stride, but in all I think it holds up pretty well. Hope you all enjoy!

Table of Contents


Han Lin'er
1351 - 1365

The Road to War (Jan - Sep 1356)
Bamboo (Sep 1356 - Jul 1357)
Right Action (Sep 1357 - Jul 1358)
Right Intention (Jul 1358 - Oct 1359)
We Four Rebels (Oct 1359 - Nov 1361)
Mindfulness (Nov - Dec 1361)
Just Cause (Dec 1361 - Oct 1363)
Black and White (Oct 1363 - Jan 1364)
Elegy (Jan 1364 - Sep 1365)

Regency Council
(Wangdue Sengee)
1365 - 1372

State of the World (Sep 1365)
Machinations (Sep 1365)
Apostasy (Sep - Nov 1365)
Maneuvers (Nov 1365 - Jun 1372)

Han Kaiwang
1372 -

The Gathering Storm (Jun - Jul 1372)
Thunder (Jul - Dec 1372)