Category: Art of Wuxia

Wuxia Paper Minis!

Face Detail
Detail on Face of Sorcerer

In some of my posts I’ve shown some game table props. I make a lot of use of paper minis. They are cheap, easy to create and easy to store.  Finding good images though is a bit of a challenge. Costume sites work well. Purchasable wuxia minis though are very hard to find if not non-existent.

So a little while back I contacted Arion Games, makers of many excellent RPG products and an astounding collection of paper minis. I have over 40 sets myself but found they didn’t have any classic wuxia. So I contacted them and they were very happy to make a set. They asked me what I thought should be in the set and after a few emails they released the Wuxia Set.

Astounding!

I hope these find a place at your gaming table. I hope these are popular enough that we could get more kung fu action heroes and villains to play with.

Wuxia Set
Arion Games Wuxia Set

Thank you Arion Games! Your kung fu is strong! You were a pleasure to work with.

If you like these paper minis consider getting a subscription to Arion games paper minis. Eighteen sets released so far this year!

19 Questions about Art of Wuxia

There is an interesting thread on RPG.net: Power 19: 19 Questions to ask about your game II.

I’ve posted my answers there and am cross posting them here. I think these are a great exercise for any game development.

1.) What is your game about?

Art of Wuxia is an homage to ancient Chinese dramatic kung fu heroes and their stories and bringing that level of action and tropes to the game table.

 2.) What do the characters do?

Characters go on adventures to fight evil doers with sword, fist and spells.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?

Players and GMs create exciting and dramatic action adventure stories in a mythical China that never was.

 4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

The setting is based on ancient Chinese stories and is full of adventure hooks that need heroes to solve. Adventure generation tables are filled with genre goodness.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?

The main tropes of the wuxia genre are reinforced with character skill types, kung fu, chi abilities, equipment moral code and development of background.

 6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?

Art of Wuxia promotes passionate heroic action. There is even a code that the characters need to follow if they want more points to advance.

 7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?

Character advancement is based on points earned during play. These points are earned by accomplishing items on a checklist each game session. These items reinforce the tropes and themes of the wuxia genre. The game embraces destruction of common objects, use of common objects and weapons and with certain chi abilities combats become very three dimensional.

 8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?

Players role-play their heroes and attempt actions and dice rolls determine outcomes. GMs design adventures and adversaries (with lots of support material for that).

 9.) What does your game do to command the players’ attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)

From character creation, ties are formed between the characters and the setting to help with a highly motivated background for each character. Players are encouraged mechanically to describe their kung fu in detail and elaborate on the themes of their style. The press-your-luck aspect of actions raises the stakes.

 10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?

Art of Wuxia uses a press-your-luck game mechanic. The higher the skill level of a character the more they can push before needing to be cautious. The more you press-your-luck the higher your chance of a critical failure.

 11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?

The critical success and failure options tie in with mechanics that the players can manipulate for truly heroic turns of events. Classic wuxia right there.

 12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?

Yes! They advance by role-playing their descriptors, making skill or ability checks, following a heroic code, fulfilling meaningful vows, succeeding in combat and completing stories.

 13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

The wuxia genre is filled with heroes who begin with little skill but rise in power to dominate the wulin (fighting world).

 14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?

I want high dramatic tension followed with shouts and cheers at the game table. I want players to enjoy their kung fu mechanics and experience the thrill of press your luck systems.

 15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?

At its recognizable heart the game is a fantasy RPG. But all of it is coated in wuxia tropes. Kung fu is at the heart of the game and it required and got the most attention.

 16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?

Players can really shape things once they get the hang of it. They can also risk much. It is those moments when the excitement at the table really climbs.

 17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?

This game takes players immediately to high kung fu action where they get to describe the flavor of their kung fu techniques. Rather than a long list of specific techniques, there are generic techniques that players can describe as they like. They even get in-game bonuses when doing so. This is done in a setting inspired by Chinese stories and heroes, not the more common Japanese Ninjas and Samurai.

 18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?

I want to see the game published (PDF and POD) and follow it up with support adventures. I have a publisher.

 19.) Who is your target audience?

Fans of fantasy RPGs and wuxia.

Wuxia and Passion

Sword of the Assassin
Sword of the Assassin

One thing that stands out with wuxia stories is the level of passion displayed by the main characters and villains. When I say passion, I mean “an elevated emotional response” to other people and situations. I’ve written before about how similar wuxia RPG stories can be to traditional fantasy stories but passion is a key difference. I’m not saying traditional fantasy stories don’t have passion. Not at all. But wuxia stories seem to have an extra heaping spoonful of it. Strong feelings are what drive heroes and villains in wuxia stories. Whether love, regret, longing, revenge, loss or heartache strong emotions guide the destinies of both villain and hero.

Art of Wuxia uses the Moral Code game mechanic used in other D00Lite games (BareBones Fantasy, Covert Ops & Frontier Space). This “alignment” system is very useful for helping players figure out what motivates their character, which is a key ingredient in wuxia and other stories. I won’t spell out the whole moral code here but in simple terms you have several moral aspects such as kind or cruel, selfish or selfless etc. To each of these moral aspects you have a term that describes how dedicated you are to that moral aspect. For example; very dedicated to being kind or being only somewhat brave. In Art of Wuxia, your character must have one “Totally” dedicated moral aspect. You can’t be all wishy-washy about what drives you. At least one thing you will feel passionate about and act accordingly.

Sworn Brothers from Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils
Sworn Brothers from Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils

Players characters can show great devotion to one another. Through a small ceremony they can become sworn brothers/sisters. Each swears to take on the concerns and burdens of the other for as long as they live. You see this often in wuxia stories and it is a pretty powerful bond not to be taken lightly. In game terms there are some mechanical benefits to becoming a sworn brother/sister.

NPCs have not been forgotten in this game. In the Adventure Idea Generation chapter, there is a “story seed” table. This defines the thing or concept that the main villain or other main NPC wants, covets or demands. In other words, what they are most passionate about. This will help the GM determine why an NPC goes about doing the things he or she does based on what their passion is.

Revenge is a powerful emotion. The GM of Art of Wuxia is encouraged to go through a checklist of possible reasons why someone would want revenge after every game session. Not all game sessions will produce such a person but enough will to keep your games constantly interesting. It also helps to ground the PCs in the setting as others hold them accountable for their actions.

Finally, if you want to add some romance to your wuxia, and I highly encourage you to do so, there is a romance section of rules to help you set up story arcs involving love from initial meeting, obstacles to love, misunderstandings and eventual reconciliation or parting. Included are some random tables you can roll on for inspiration for story arcs involving romance. The point of adding romance to your stories is that it is a common element in wuxia stories and nothing inflames a passionate response like love. The greatest stories every written involve some aspect of how someone feels about someone else.

Lifelong Love and Loss in Nirvana in Fire
Lifelong Love and Loss in Nirvana in Fire

Art of Wuxia embraces the passion of the genre. It gives you several tools to help players and GMs play characters with the depth of emotion seen in wuxia tales. It also has several things that help drive stories with strong emotional content. That is something to feel passionate about!

Art of Wuxia at Clearwater Con III 2017

Jet Li as The Monkey King in Forbidden Kingdom
Jet Li as The Monkey King in Forbidden Kingdom

Last weekend I had the pleasure of gaming with a great group of people at the Clearwater Con in Eau Claire WI. The drive was lovely and the accommodations were excellent. This is the second year that my wife and I have made it to this con and I ran two very fun sessions of Art of Wuxia. I also got to play in a FATE game and one of Abstract Dungeon.

Before I talk about the Art of Wuxia games, I want to note the fun games I played run by Matt Hansen of Sneak Attack press. The first game was a FATE game. This is the third time I’ve played FATE and I still don’t understand it. That is totally on me, not the GM or other players. The second game was an Abstract Dungeon game. I love this game. It is an unusual game in which players roll all their dice at the beginning and spend them to overcome challenges as they play. It is very story driven with some fun game elements. Matt did a great job keeping everyone involved in both games and rolling with all the crazy player ideas. There was much laughter and fun.

The first game I ran I had a completely full table because I stole a player from one of my GM friends’ table. I feel a little bit bad about that but the player got to try a new game, Art of Wuxi, and he loved it!

I kicked things off with the scenario A Jianghu Ghost story. This scenario is inspired by Judge Dee novels by Robert Van Gulik, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling and movies like A Chinese Ghost Story and the modern Judge Dee films. It is full of mystery, investigation, an evil cult, ghosts, dark rituals and the secrets of a family’s past. It fits fully in the xianxia (immortal heroes) end of the wuxia spectrum.

Aaron Kwok as The Monkey King in The Monkey King 2
Aaron Kwok as The Monkey King in The Monkey King 2

Of the five players, two were familiar with the system. I figured they would show the others how the high-flying action works but the new players jumped in with both fee and pretty soon everyone got a good taste of what their characters could do in a fight. There were lots of smiles around the table. One person said, “Sold!” because they wanted to buy the game right now! This group of players did a particularly good job of connecting the dots of the mystery and saving everyone.

The next day at the con, I ran another Art of Wuxia game. This time the scenario was Red Tiger Clan. This scenario contrasts greatly with A Jianghu Ghost Story. This is much more on the kung fu side of things with sect politics and hostile clan leaders. There is still a creepy evil artifact at the end of the story but the rest is classic Shaw Brother’s era movie kung fu.

I had a smaller table this time but all were return players. One returning player wanted to play his favorite character that I use in these scenarios (Mighty Bahu); specifically because he can’t stand to watch others not play him up to his boldly brash promise. Hah! One of the people running the convention, Erik, got out of his table duties to join in the fun. My wife Tina played a character she hadn’t played before and brought a valuable character to the table strong in the leader skill which really helped.

The enthusiasm was huge in this game and a three-player team really sped up decision making. There was a fight in and out of a teahouse. Some furniture (from the teahouse) was destroyed. Then some tense negotiation with surviving sect leaders. There was also the start of some romance, a classic wuxia trope! There was a daring rescue, the big reveal, an alliance of kung fu sects followed by an assault on the Iron Pagoda itself.  A final boss battle had a plot twist that caught the players by surprise and caused them to really dig deep to defeat the real final boss.  The good guys prevailed and new alliances were reaffirmed. The heroes made a real difference in the region.

Donnie Yen as The Monkey King in The Monkey King
Donnie Yen as The Monkey King in The Monkey King

I’m greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm in which players respond to this game. I know it is a niche game but I’m trying to tie every design element into producing the kind of fun action adventures you see in wuxia movies, TV series and books. I think it is working well. Every adventure I’ve made for the convention games I made by using the adventure generation tables in the book. This makes me believe that assuming you are any bit familiar with the genre; the book will really help you make fun wuxia adventures. If you like wuxia and RPGs, this game should be right for you.