The working title of BareBones Wuxia! has been retired. This game is now called Art of Wuxia. The name of the game has been changed in all previous posts to avoid confusion.
I got to attend the second annual Menomocon in Menomonie, WI back in April. This is a small con in it’s second year and is run very well. This one-day con is fun and I hope to do it again next year. I was invited to specifically run Art of Wuxia games, the head of the con having played it in a convention last year.
Menomocon is held at the local high school. Luckily, the scenarios I run are appropriate for the PG-13 crowd and up. The first game was a real blast. Players got into their characters and really hammed up the role-play. They loved the new weapon damage rules (new from last years cons) and I had a return player in my first game and he thought the game was even better this year. He said it felt done, ready for purchase. Well that is good to hear!
One thing about Menomocon is that it is very very small. They don’t have a sign-up system for games so you have to actively recruit players. Despite a Halo LAN event I still managed to coral a few players for a partial session in the late evening. A couple of players were wuxia fans who told me straight up that they were very particular about what a good wuxia game should have. Skepticism was written all over them.
Well, Art of Wuxia stepped up to the challenge and in no time they were all smiles having a great time thrashing bad guys and figuring out when to use their kung fu techniques. One of them even asked to start a playtest group when we were done!
Menomocon is a small but well run convention. I really hope to go back again next year and I hope you can make it there as well. The only thing Menomocon needs is more attendees. I can’t say enough good words for the organizers. After running a game, I found a thank you card on my table signed by all of the staff. Nice touch!
What I learned this year from Convention Games:
I’ve been refining the pre-gen characters and players seem to like them a lot. I’m putting them in the book as example characters and I’ll use them in future adventures as pre-gens there too. Folks really hit the game running with them so I know they work. I often hear comments of, “I feel like I already know these characters.”
The game works for a wide range of player ages. The game has attracted a large number of female players and they loved that the culture in the setting has female characters that were just as respected as males, NPC or otherwise. I’m going to make sure I include more of this as I revise and expand the setting this summer.
Lastly, and this has been coming for a long time, the working title of this game (BareBones Wuxia!) is going to be changed, probably at the end of my convention run this year. I like the name and it’s call out to BareBones Fantasy but the abbreviation is … troublesome. [Edit – the name is now Art of Wuxia and has been changed in all previous posts.]
My next convention is Clearwater Con in Eau Claire, WI July 7-9th.
During my last bi-weekly Art of Wuxia game some bad rolls, not the best player tactics and a GM (me) bent on providing a very tough fight almost led to several character deaths. In another gaming genre, this could have gone very bad. The tropes of wuxia saved the day.
The scene: Heroes surrounded in a village by many minor NPCs (crunchies) and several normal NPCs (not crunchies). Many innocent villagers that the bad guys will kill for several reasons not important here. Only three player characters are in the current scene. The rest of the player characters will arrive in 4 turns.
The players had the upper hand for the first part of the fight but then things went bad. While they attacked the enemy, they didn’t coordinate their efforts nor try to focus their attacks. Each player character was doing their own thing. Points to them for playing such individual heroes. I also think they were a little rattled as the villains were hitting hard and not holding back. One of the villains was a sorcerer with a creepy wooden backpack with a demon face inside that would cast spells. They pulled off a poser turn when things got really bad but then again failed to focus on one enemy at a time. They managed to save a few villagers but even that tactic was not coordinated so many of the villagers were still in danger. One hero managed to dish out a lot of damage to the sorcerer but instead of finishing off his target, he dove for cover. This was a reasonable tactic as this a press your luck kind of game and he wanted to reserve something for defense.
Terrible dice rolls by the players and extraordinary dice rolls by the GM changed things from bad to worse. When the villain sorcerer’s turn came up, he drained the heroes of their strength leaving all but one of them incapacitated.
A dramatic moment
Now this could have played out with the bad guys killing all three player characters right then. However a) that isn’t fun, and b) that isn’t the wuxia way. In wuxia stories, villains much prefer to humiliate their enemies to outright killing them. The sorcerer used a charm spell on the player character still standing and commanded him to use his sword to kill his friends. The hero, obviously struggling to resist the compulsion slowly walked over to the friend farthest away. His footsteps dragged and his whole body was stiff with the effort to resist. This forced the sorcerer to maintain his full concentration on the spell. When he got over to his friend, he apologized before running the sword through him and into the ground.
Gasps at the table, terror on the faces of the players and then silence… But then the player character who was pretending to be under compulsion (he had resisted the spell earlier and was stalling for time!) used some magic to restore strength to his friend, drew his sword out of the ground (he had faked stabbing him) and they were ready to fight together again. The villain sorcerer could not understand what had just happened. Cheers erupted in our gaming room.
The rest of the player heroes arrived and the fight was soon over. They congratulated their brethren on a hard fight and for holding out until they arrived.
So, what could have been a real bummer turned out to be a lot of fun. Wuxia was the reason it turned out to be this way. As GM, I used the villain tropes of wuxia to gloat and be mean without killing the characters. This allowed the characters to use their wits and try to outsmart the overconfident villains. Even when wuxia heroes are physically beaten, they still can win the day if they are smart. This is classic wuxia in practice.
We play for these moments.
I used a bunch of props in our last wuxia game. Here are some pictures of the setup and action.
The setup from lower left to upper right is the teahouse on the lake, and blacksmith and trade area. Beyond that is the higher-class district with a couple of shrines and homes of wealthier citizens.
Beyond that is the Raging West Wind Pagoda.
For minis I use pictures of actors and costume models. I put them in PowerPoint in a template I made and print them out, cut, fold and then use a binder clip as a base. Simple, easy, cheap and they look pretty good. If I run out of pictures I can always write on them.
The ground cover is just a simple fleece blanket. I like to use these as they don’t wrinkle and are easy to wash if you get model grass, popcorn or other debris on them.
The river is from Flames of War Battlefield in a box river series.
The Destiny cards and the chi tokens I had made with Game Crafter.
All of the trees are Lemax trees.
The buildings, walls, bridges, market stands, are from Renaissance Miniatures which sadly closes its tabletop RPG building line today. Today is the last day orders can be taken.
This second year running Art of Wuxia games at Con of the North was a real blast. Comparing the character stats from last year shows some real maturing and tightening of the system. Gamers new to the system are quick to catch onto the basic rules and returning players (and we had a couple!) played up on the nuances of the system.
This year, I ran two new scenarios, A Jianghu Ghost Story and Red Tiger Clan. I try to have one adventure focus on villains and sect strife and the other have some supernatural/magical elements to it. I did that last year with The Willow Blades (master villain/sect strive) and Steel Demon (supernatural/magic).
A Jianghu Ghost story has the players trying to figure out what is causing Chen Mao’s mansion to be haunted. This adventure has assassinations, magic, ghosts, demons, investigations, ancient pacts, love, strife and even a weapon of mass destruction.
Red Tiger Clan has street fights, kung fu sect politics, rescues, an ancient evil artifact, betrayal, loyalty and possibly the creation of a master villain if the players are not successful.
Both scenarios have been very fun to run. Feedback from players has been terrific. The game rules are complete and the changes that were made last summer in regards to weapon damage, Body Points and a few other combat tweaks to the D00Lite system have all come together to make the game exciting, fun and really fit the genre.
Players are really getting into the spirit of things. In the convention games this past weekend the following objects were used as improvised weapons: small plates, a stool, small bowls, money, hot tea, and a railing!
The convention adventures are designed to be played by players not familiar with the system. However, a few players really look close at their character sheets and realize they could do some pretty tricky things. Again, I don’t design the adventures where these nuances are required but the players are certainly rewarded for figuring these tricks out and pulling them off. It also shows that the D00Lite system is anything but simplistic. Easy to learn, yes, but full of extended play options.
I’ve got convention games coming up in April and July and I’m really looking forward to them!
Menomocon, Menomonie, WI on April 9th
Clearwater Con, Eau Claire WI July 7th-9th
If you can make it to one of these conventions, I’m sure you’ll have a great time. Especially if you play Art of Wuxia!