Lu-Tze the sweeper (Pratchett's Discworld)

Lu-Tze the sweeper

RULE ONE: Do not act incautiously when confronting little bald wrinkly smiling men !


Lu-Tze is a signature character from the Discworld fantasy novels, by Sir Terry Pratchett . The Discworld stories are highly regarded for their witty writing style, incisive satire, and charismatic characters. Their differences from more traditional fantasy stories such as Tolkien’s contributed to their great popularity.

Lu-Tze plays on a host of clichés about Inscrutable Kung Fu Masters, James Bond, and sci-fi stories about protecting the timestream from tampering.



  • Real Name: Lu-Tze.
  • Alter Ego: The Sweeper.
  • Former Aliases: Lousy.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: The Monks of History (History Monks, the Men in Saffron, No Such Monastery).
  • Base Of Operations: Monastery of Oi Dong.
  • Height: ? Weight: ?
  • Eyes: ? Hair: Grey

Powers and Abilities

A highly skilled martial artist, Lu-Tze rarely uses his abilities. This leads those who spend any time around him to consider he may be a fraud.

This is not true. He’s the only known master of Déjà Fu, striking faster even than Time can see (Enhanced Initiative, usually with a Surprise attack). His blows leave the victim feeling like they’ve taken these hits before.


He’s an expert at moving quietly, and at sneaking into places by looking like he belongs there (usually sweeping up). He’s also talented at manipulating people into serving his needs, especially at using someone’s vanity against them.

Able to manipulate time to a degree without mechanical aid, Lu-Tze uses slicing to cut down on travel times. It stretches time out, allowing him to move faster (in DC Heroes terms, Running). When he does that the world ahead shades towards violet and the world behind the shade of old blood.

He’s skilled enough to be able to sustain it for days, with breaks to sleep. He can maintain the effect while standing still, or moving slow, (Time Slow). But since he can’t smoke while slicing, he usually only uses it for running.


He always carries a broom.

Lu-Tze prefers to avoid using the equipment created by the History Monks’ chief technologist, Qu. In his experience, they generally involve removing a target’s head in some explosive fashion. Yet he has used a spinner on occasion.

A portable procrastinator, a spinner is a smaller version of the devices with which the Monks manipulate time. It protects them from local effect of time manipulation by others, and allows them to stretch time to allow them a night’s sleep in a few seconds.

It’s run, unfortunately, by clockwork. The winding mechanism is on the back, where the wearer cannot reach it while wearing it. Furthermore its effect only last while they’re wearing it. As such, it’s best used when the Monks are partnered up.


Founded by Wen, the Monks of History make sure that history happens as it should. They also ensure that time itself does not collapse due to the damage done to it by the unenlightened. Wen considered the nature of time and understood that the universe is, instant by instant, recreated anew.

Therefore, he understood, there is, in truth, no past, only a memory of the past. Blink your eyes, and the world you see net did not exist when you closed them. Therefore, he said, the only appropriate state of the mind is surprise. The only appropriate state of the heart is joy. The sky you see now, you have never seen before. The perfect moment is now. Be glad of it.

The most famous operative of the History Monks (within the monastery at least, since they rely on anonymity outside) is Lu-Tze. Who isn’t an actual monk, but rather a sweeper. He exists outside the structured hierarchy of the monks, and pretty much answering only to the Abbot.

He’s known to be at least 800 years old, although the means by which he stays alive is unclear. The Abbot is equally long-lived, although in his case it’s by means of reincarnation, retaining his memories as he’s born into another human body.

You have to know Wen

Lu-Tze had trouble rising as a monk due to his inability to adhere to the way of Wen. Sent out into the world, he ended up in Ankh-Morpork, where he took lodgings with Mrs. Cosmopilite. Under her guidance he learned the Way of Mrs. Cosmopilite. This has become his guiding philosophy, and he often quotes her wisdom.

As the primary agent for the History Monks, he established a reputation for himself:

  • he prevented the Battle of Five Cities by ensuring a messenger arrived on time
  • he is the only man to whom Janda Trapp, Grand master of okidoki, toro-fu and chang-fu has ever yielded
  • he walked into a citadel full of armed men and traps and saw to it that the Pash of Muntab choked innocently on a fish bone

His one known failure was stopping the construction of the Glass Clock which captured time. He knew it was being built in Überwald, but with all the castles there it took a while to find the right one. He was in time to see the lightning striking the castle to power it, but unable to outrun the lighting (though not by much).

The Clock broke due to a flaw in its construction. This allowed the History Monks to fix the damage it did, moving unused sections of time about to where needed. The process is ongoing, as the damage was severe, and will probably always require their attention.

He also prevented a holy war (Small Gods), and helped the time-lost Sam Vimes return to his own time (Night Watch).

Thief of Time, part 1

Given trainee monk Lobsang Ludd as an apprentice, since none of the other monks were able to get him to learn, Lu-Tze sensed something odd about him. Especially when he did an impressive patch-up job of a time emergency with no training. The Abbot announced another Glass Clock was under construction.

Working out it’d be in Ankh-Morpork, Lu-Tze insisted on being allowed to travel to Überwald to search for it. The senior monks, few of whom liked him, insisted on the younger field agents he’d trained being sent. The Abbot, familiar with Lu-Tze, ordered him not to go anywhere near Überwald.

Portrait of Lu Tze with his broom

Departing before the senior monks could give him orders he’d have to disobey, Lu-Tze took Lobsang slicing towards Ankh-Morpork. They even kept moving while they sleep, thanks to a friendly Yeti.

Arriving in Ankh-Morpork shortly before the Clock’s completion, he found himself again racing the lightning to the Clock. He again failed, as time was frozen. His spinner prevented him being caught in the effect, but a fall knocked him out, separating him from Lobsang.

Thief of Time, part 2

Waking up in a dairy, he met milkman, Ronnie Soak, also apparently unaffected by the lack of time. He worked out Soak was actually Kaos, the fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, who left before they became famous. Lu-Tse manipulated him into resuming his role and helping the other Horsemen fight the Auditors of Reality, who’d manipulated the construction of the Clock.

Allying with Susan Sto Helit and Unity, a rebellious Auditor, Lu-Tze learned Lobsang was one half of the son of Time herself and Wen, the Eternally Surprised. Lobsang and his other half, Jeremy Clockson, had been merged. They temporarily became incorporeal lights in the process.

Providing the others a distraction to get by the incarnated Auditors, Lu-Tze let himself be killed. He then tested out the technique he’d learned from the Yeti’s of backing himself up and restoring himself. It was the first time he’d tried it, since it doesn’t really allow for much in the way of trial by error, and he was successful.

It provided the distraction which allowed Lobsang to destroy the clock, letting time resume its flow.

After a slight dislocation in time, they found themselves in Time’s realm, where Lobsang met his parents. They departed, leaving Lobsang as the Lord of Time.

Back home again

Lu-Tze returned to the monastery to resume his duties. Lobsang appeared there soon after, asking Lu-Tze to reveal the final hidden surprise of his Garden of Five Surprises. Lu-Tze manipulated it into a challenge, forcing Lobsang to fight him to the death.

Lu-Tze revealed himself to be the master of Déjà Fu, easily beating Lobsang. The Abbot announced Lobsang would be raised to a full monk, but he declined, preferring instead to become a sweeper, and occasionally joins his master sweeping the monastery floors.


A little, bald wrinkled monk, with a wispy beard and a good-natured smile. He wears a once-white robe, now stained and patched, with string around it rather than a belt.


Calm and often giving the impression of a simple-minded cleaner, Lu-Tze is always testing everyone. He treats people as they treat him, more or less. Monks who are respectful to him get treated likewise, whereas those who aren’t (which is a common attitude among senior monks) he treats with a disrespectful respect. This often leaves them unsure if they’ve just been insulted.

His frequent quoting of The Way of Mrs. Cosmopolite leaves many monks confused. It’s unclear whether he does actually hold it as his guiding path, or whether he’s just adopted it as a joke on everybody else. Examples of such quotes can be found here .

He prefers dealing with problems in non-violent ways if at all possible. He’d rather let locals solve things so as to minimise his interference in the local timeline. He has no problem spending years setting up a cover in a location to allow him to gently guide people, but can work on a faster timescale if necessary. He’s also good at using people’s vanity to manipulate them into doing what he wants.

His closest friends are probably the Abbot and Qu, mainly because they’ve known each other so long. His relationship with the Abbot is complicated by their relative positions, and the levels of senior monks between them who dislike Lu-Tze.

Both are quite familiar with the situation, though. They will often hold a secret conversation the senior monks miss, such as Lu-Tze making a suggestion he knows they won’t want him doing, forcing the Abbot to order him not to. But the Abbot knows full well that it wasn’t what Lu-Tze intended, and that he’ll go off and do what needs doing.

He grows Bonsai Mountains as a hobby. Just one takes a long time, and he’s recently got the hang of volcanoes. He also has his own area of the monastery garden, which he calls the Garden of Five Surprises.


Lobsang Ludd: “Venerable one.”
Lu-Tze: “Most people call me Lu-Tze, lad. Or ‘Sweeper’. Until they get to know me better, some call me ‘Get out of the way’. I’ve never been very venerable, except in cases of bad spelling.”

“And is it not written, ‘Oo, you are so sharp you’ll cut yourself one of these days’ ?”

“Is it not said, ‘There is a Time and a Place for Everything’ ?”

Lu-Tze: “Is it not written, ‘I have only one pair of hands’ ?”
Rinpo, Master of Novices: “I don’t know. None of us have ever seen this stuff you quote.”

“Okay, here are the rules. Word one is, you don’t call me ‘master’ and I don’t name you after some damn insect. It’s not my job to discipline you, it’s yours. For it is written, ‘I can’t be having with that kind of thing’.”

“The wise man does not seek enlightenment, he waits for it. So while I was waiting it occurred to me that seeking perplexity might be more fun.”

“I am old and simple and understand. Whereas you are young and complicated.”

“I’m a little man and I carry a broom. Everyone has some mess that needs clearing up. What harm is a man with a broom ?”

Lobsand: “No martial arts ?”
Lu-Tze: “Oh, always a last resort. History needs shepherds, not butchers.”
Lobsand: “Do you know okidoki ?”
Lu-Tze: “Just a lot of bunny-hops.”
Lobsand: “Shiitake ?”
Lu-Tze: “If I wanted to thrust my hand into hot sand I would go to the seaside.”
Lobsand: “Upsidazi ?”
Lu-Tze: “A waste of good bricks.”
Lobsand: “No kando ?”
Lu-Tze: “You made that one up.”
Lobsand: “Tung-pi ?”
Lu-Tze: “Bad tempered flower arranging.”
Lobsand: “Déjà-fu ?”
Lu-Tze: “Déjà-fu ? You heard that rumour ? Ha ! None of the monks here knows Déjà-fu. I’d soon know about it if they did. Look, boy, violence is the resort of the violent. In most tight corners a broomstick suffices.”

“Truly it is written, ‘You could knock me down with a feather’.”

“Come on, lad ! Let’s bugger off quick before anyone works it out !”

Qu: “At least you could let us turn your broom into a secret weapon, Lu-Tze. I’ve shown you the plans-”
Lu-Tze: “It is a secret weapon. It’s a broom.”

“I’m teaching you things all the time. You might not be learning them, of course.”

Lobsang: “Er… I heard tell that really advanced monks can live on the, er, life force in the actual air itself…”
Lu-Tze: “Only on the planet Sausage, I expect.”

“That’s why there’s rules, understand ? So that you think before you break ’em.”

“When you get to my age you notice things in the sky. You start worrying they might be vultures.”

(Staring down a mammoth) “So, you’ve never heard of Rule One, then ?”

“In life, as in breakfast cereal, it is always best to read the instructions on the box.”

Lobsang: “What the hell is Rule Nineteen ?”
Lu-Tze: “’Remember Never to Forget Rule One‘, and always ask yourself: how come it was created in the first place, eh ?”

Lu-Tze: “We see that things happen.”
Sam Vimes: “Don’t things happen anyway ?”
Lu-Tze: “Depends what things you want. We’re the Monks of History, Mister Vimes. We see that it happens.”

“Time has stopped for everyone but you. Actually that sentence is wrong in every particular, but it’s quite a useful lie.”

Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats


Dex: 07 Str: 02 Bod: 04 Motivation: Upholding the Good
Int: 06 Wil: 06 Min: 07 Occupation: Sweeper
Inf: 06 Aur: 07 Spi: 08 Resources {or Wealth}: 001
Init: 023 (033) HP: 040

Enhanced Initiative: 10, Invulnerability: 08, Running: 12, Time Stop: 10

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • All Powers are Skilled (+1).
  • Invulnerability only works if he’s had time to prepare beforehand (-1, see below), works after death (+1), and is Minor Marginal (-1).
  • Running is Contingent on Time Stop (-1).
  • Time Stop has the Extended Duration Bonus (+50 BC, +2 FC).

Acrobatics: 06, Charisma (Persuasion): 07, Martial Artist: 08, Thief (Stealth): 08, Weaponry (Missile): 07

Expertise (Bonsai Mountains, gardening), Lightning Reflexes, Near Immortal.

The Abbot (High), Qu (High), Lobsang Ludd (High), The Monks of History (Low).

None demonstrated.


  • Broom [BODY 02, EV 02 (not that he uses it as a weapon)].
  • Spinner [BODY 05, Neutralize (any time-affecting powers targeting the wearer): 10, Time Stop: 15, Bonuses & Limitations: Time Stop has the Extended Duration Bonus (+50 BC, +2 FC), Miscellaneous Drawback (Needs winding up now and again, but the handle is unreachable by the wearer), R#03].

Decapitation Survival Techniques

From the Yetis, Lu-Tze learnt the technique of surviving theoretically fatal wounds, such as decapitation. They back-up their life when expecting such an injury, and then revert to that back-up a few moments after ’death‘.

In game terms, they character needs to be aware of impending death and declare that they’re backing themselves up.

Design Notes

At 800 (or older by some accounts) he’s probably somewhere between Slowed Aging and Near Immortal, but while he looks ancient he doesn’t show particular signs of old age, so I’ve gone with the higher limit.

By Gareth Lewis.

Source of Character: Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett (primarily Thief of Time).

Helper(s): Tiago Quintana, The Diskworld and Terry Pratchett Wiki .

Writeup completed on the 2nd of March, 2012.