Before beginning work on BareBones Wuxia! (BBW!) I developed a list of things that I wanted out of the game. Before every writing session and play test session, I take that list out and read it. My rule is that the list must absolutely be followed to keep the design of the game focused on its most important parts. The next few articles will cover this list and explain why I feel each of these guidelines was important for BBW!
Design Guideline: No real world martial arts. I think there is no better way of starting an argument than trying to codify which martial arts is better, has more historical impact, has the best fighters etc. The best way to avoid that is to not use real world martial arts. Besides, this is wuxia. The wuxia genre is filled with made-up martial arts techniques and styles and they can become a great way for a GM to express their creativity and world building.
Design Guideline: There should be a big list of kung fu styles. Players and GMs need to have choices and there are countless kung fu styles portrayed in wuxia stories. We have almost twenty kung fu styles in the game with some guidelines for GMs to make up more. The general feel of the style, common weapons and a collection of kung fu techniques defines these kung fu styles. Styles are also noted as internal or external, which determines what extra chi abilities are available at lower skill levels.
Design Guideline: You should be able to learn a style with multiple methods. By this, I mean there must be several ways in which a kung fu expert can learn their style. In BBW! you can learn a style from your teacher. You can be a self-taught one-weapon wonder. You can also learn a style from a secret kung fu manual. BBW! has you covered. You can learn a few techniques from other styles and add them to your own. You can even learn more than one kung fu style and can mix them or switch between them if the need arises.
Design Guideline: You should be able to discover a secret weakness of a kung fu style. A common trope of wuxia stories is of the heroes gaining an advantage over their opponents if they know of a secret weakness of a kung fu style. If a kung fu style is widespread, someone, somewhere has found a method to defeat it. Secret weaknesses are typically found in special kung fu manuals written by long dead masters. Many a battle and adventure is based on the acquisition or protection of such a manual. If you learn a secret weakness of a kung fu style, you will always have an edge over an opponent using it.
Those are the design guidelines covering kung fu for BBW! It has been very fun seeing BBW! kung fu in action and has been a big hit at convention games.