Tagged: kung fu

Under the Hood: Kung Fu in BareBones Wuxia!

various poses of kung fu styles
The many styles of kung fu, pic from proposed Shaw Brothers promo art.

Each kung fu style is associated with a separate warrior of the <insert kung fu style> skill. We’ve covered that before. What I want to talk about this time is what a kung fu style looks like in the game in terms of game mechanics.

A kung fu style description contains the following parts; cool name, defined as internal or external, a description if the style, weapons taught by the style, and finally the techniques offered.

Internal or External: there are two sets of chi abilities that are trained in kung fu. Internal styles teach one set first, then later on the other. External styles teach them in the opposite order. Both internal and external stylists can eventually learn all of these chi abilities.

Jet Li and Donnie Yen in Hero

Weapons taught are the weapons that are most effective with the style. Players can certainly use other weapons and improvised weapons at any time. They can even add weapons to their style to add a little uniqueness to their character. In the beginning, they will want to use the weapons taught by their style until they gain some experience.

Kung Fu techniques are generically named. The Bowing Dragon monks don’t actually have a technique called Arrow Cutting. It might be called, “Thousand Arms Defense”, or “Eagle Deflection”. Another style might call it “Crane Catches the Carp” or “Dancing Lake Brush”. Arrow cutting the technique can represent as many different techniques as kung fu styles that use it. Players are encouraged (with an in-game mechanic) to come up with names for their kung fu techniques and even describe what they look like.

Here is a preview of two kung fu styles that are showcased in the various gaming convention scenarios I’ve run. Enjoy!

BOWING DRAGON (Internal)
This style is taught exclusively to Bowing Dragon Monks. They practice humility and study the harmonies of chi. Many Bowing Dragon monks have levels in the mystic skill. Their renowned Bowing Dragon style combines kicks, back fists, knee strikes and the use of the common staff and a few no-so-common weapons.
Weapons: Bo Staff, Spear, Three-section staff, and Meteor hammer
Techniques: Arrow Cutting, Chi Resistance, Disarm, Keep at Bay, Meditation, Power Defense, and Riposte

FIERY DRAGON (External)
This energetic style uses close in strikes, accupoint strikes and short quick kicks. It is taught in all areas of Jianghu.
Weapon: Chain Whip, Crescent Moon Knife (pairs), Iron Wrist Rings (both wrists), Lajatang and Nunchuku (single or pairs)
Techniques: Accupoint Strike, Danger Sense, Move-By, Multiple Defenses, One Against All, and Two-Weapon Fighting

two oponents face off in Legendary Weapons of China movie
From Legendary Weapons of China

BareBones Wuxia! Design Guidelines, Part 3 Tropes

Donnie Yen kung fu fighting
Donnie Yen in Wu Xia

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!

The tropes in wuxia are very strong. I’ll write another article on wuxia tropes later on but for now I’ll focus on my design guideline list.

Design Guideline: Anything can be used as a weapon. I have seen everything used as a weapon in wuxia movies and TV shows and the books are even more over the top. Built right into the weapons table in BBW! are improvised weapons. So if you can imagine using something as a weapon, you can.

Design Guideline: Unarmed attacks should be almost as good as armed attacks. Heroes in wuxia tales are usually as good with their fists as they are with their swords. The same thing is true in BBW! There are certain cases where having a weapon is better than not having one but it isn’t overwhelmingly so. One of the kung fu styles in the game doesn’t even teach weapons.

Design Guideline: Armor needs to be limited. Nearly every hero you see in wuxia stories doesn’t wear armor or if they do it is something light. You’ll still find armor in BBW! but the damage reduction it offers is variable, and it is expensive. Unarmed peasants (minor NPCs) don’t stand a chance against armored troops (minor NPCs). But if they have some heroes defending them…

Design Guideline: There should be a poser turn. I’ve talked about this one before. It is a favorite at my game table and at the convention games I’ve run. Just as in wuxia movies and TV series occasionally the heroes pose and the camera zooms in on them at a dramatic moment, so too this will happen in your game. It is a moment where the action pauses and something cool to help the PCs happens before the next turn begins.

Design Guideline: Adventures should include love and vengeance. Here is where the wuxia genre really departs from traditional fantasy. I can’t think of a wuxia story where these two elements weren’t a key plot element. The GM is encouraged (if the players are up for it) to provide romantic entanglements for the PCs to get involved with. These come with plot complications (he’s the son of the governor and she’s an outlaw) and can lead to further adventures. This is not forced on anyone and is an option if you really want to embrace the genre. After each adventure the GM goes over a checklist to see if anyone will seek vengeance for some slight, or harm caused by the PCs. Beware murder hobos! Beware!

Design Guideline: There should be wuxia examples and quotes. To help players and GMs get into the wuxia genre we are putting quotes by famous NPCs in the book. The quotes are designed to reinforce the tropes of wuxia and possibly give GMs adventure ideas. We’ve also listed examples of what spells look like for that wuxia feel and even specifically spells cast by certain sorcerer sects.

These guidelines were created to help ensure that wuxia tropes would be integrated into the rules. Yes, there is a list of wuxia tropes in the introduction but that would be useless if they weren’t reinforced throughout the rest of the book. Tropes can be shown with NPCs, items, skills etc. but the rules or “game verbs” of the book need to solidly support them.

You can see how strong the tropes of the wuxia genre are for yourself. Go to the Downloads page, download, and print the wuxia bingo cards. Then play wuxia bingo with friends while watching a wuxia movie. Remember to yell “WUXIA!” when you win.

BareBones Wuxia! Design Guidelines, Part 1 Kung Fu

From Tai Chi Zero
From Tai Chi Zero

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.