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Kung Fu game

Bankuei

Master of Folding Chair
Validated User
To be honest, "Wuxia" is like saying "Superheroes" - it's a broad label that can vary drastically depending on what people are thinking - so it's probably a good idea to find out what the players are more interested in and familiar with.

You've got "no magic, no super skills, political drama" kind of wuxia like The Emperor and the Assassin or A Battle of Wits.
You've got "a few super skills, political drama" like The Seven Swords of Mt. Tian, 14 Blades, The Four, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Heroes of the Water Margin, etc.
Then you've got things like Warriors of Zu, Hero, or Creation of the Gods where you're full-on uber powers and magic everywhere.

Part of it is that if people are only familiar with one version of a media ("I've played Dynasty Warriors"), they might have one view of how wuxia is supposed to work... and if different players are operating with different assumptions, things get weird.

So, I figure a quick check in on what people know, and if there's not a common ground, find a movie you can all watch, since that's a low time investment way to set the tone.

- Chris
 

Azraele

Registered User
Validated User
From a mechanical point of view, I want each school of kung fu to be distinct.

In most RPG combats how good you are is just a matter of modifiers and die-rolls, whereas in kung fu fantasy each school has its own strengths and weaknesses, and one school may be effective against one, but fare poorly against another.

To me what would recreate this well on tabletop is a card-based system, perhaps a refined, working version of this:

[video=youtube;BvLmjlEzD3E]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvLmjlEzD3E[/video]

So as I advance in level, I gain more Hit Points, but also more cards on a hand. And I can learn a new school (multi-classing, kung fu style), and when I enter a fight I have to decide which school of kung fu to use against my opponent.
God I want the layout on my game to be done....

In the meantime, I humbly suggest you take a peek at the excellent Legends of the Wulin. It's the successor game to WotG and does a great job of providing the mechanical distinguishing between kung-fu schools and styles that you're describing (there's even an explicit mechanic for the strengths of weaknesses of various styles! The Laughs/Fears mechanic)
 

Pax Chi

Registered User
Validated User
If my avatar wasn't a big hint, I'm a huge fan of martial arts in general, including martial arts fiction. And as someone said, wuxia martial arts is a broad term than mean a lot of things, different power levels, goals, etc. Some settings have people who are skilled fighters but only slightly more cinematic than the real world. Other settings have protagonists that can literally curbstomp the armies of Heaven and require capital D "Divine Intervention" to thwart.

So deciding the scale of the setting is a good first step, whether you want it to be a fairly normal world with some skilled fighters, a world full of superhumanly skilled fighters with amazing techniques, a world of magic, demons and martial arts demi-gods, etc.

After that, the next step would be to make sure the world feels alive. All of the best wuxia settings have a living, breathing world full of fameous rival martial arts schools, mysterious temples, epic weapons, sinister crime syndicates, bandit clans, etc. It needs to feel lived in and large. You need to know why facing Eight Steel Fists of the Noble Metals Clan is a big deal, why his sister Singing Platinum Blade is so sought after, and why they don't get along with the Dancing Sun and Moon School. You need to feel worried when Hellfire Lord, master of the Seven Burning Agonies kung fu, shows up. There needs to be a lot of big names in the setting the players should look forward to encountering.

After that, it's all about the themes you want to explore while getting into lots of cool fights. Said themes deserve a post to themselves, so give me a few moments.
 
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Pieta

Very custom
Validated User
If my avatar wasn't a big hint, I'm a huge fan of martial arts in general, including martial arts fiction. And as someone said, wuxia martial arts is a broad term than mean a lot of things, different power levels, goals, etc. Some settings have people who are skilled fighters but only slightly more cinematic than the real world. Other settings have protagonists that can literally curbstomp the armies of Heaven and require capital D "Divine Intervention" to thwart.
The Monkey King only did that, like, one or two times, tops! You can't hold it against him forever, seriously!
 

Pax Chi

Registered User
Validated User
So, like any good, flexible genre, wuxia has explored a lot of themes over the years, and a full list of them would basically bore everyone into unconsciousness after a time. So what I'll do here is examine some of the broader, more flexible themes, how they relate to wuxia, and suggest a few adventure ideas.

Fighting Corruption and Injustice: A good tradition in heroic literature, wuxia frequently has its heroes fighting against some kind of oppressive force. This can be a sinister minister or two within the government, a tyrant ruling the land with a cruel, iron fist, an insidious criminal organization stealing, murdering and blackmailing to get what they want, an unscrupulous noble making a play for power, etc. The end result is you have someone with a lot of power and influence abusing the people around them to attain their own goals. Wuxia heroes will naturally step forward to battle such people. How the heroes deal with such a menace often depends on the series. Some heroes will try to deal with these threats alone or in a small group, such as the characters in Jet Li's Hero. Others will form larger rebellions, such as the Ming Rebels in Heaven's Sword/Dragon Sabre. Still others will actually be officials within the organization trying to root out evil and corruption, such as The Four Constables, which combined martial arts wire-fu with police detective work. And if you're Sun Wukong from Journey to the West, you can take on the entirety of Heaven if you really feel like it. But yes, in wuxia, you have a society that is ostensibly about harmony being corrupted by some evil, and that corruption twists harmony into injustice. A wuxia hero most confront such corruption and cut it from society, sometimes literally.

Growth: Longer wuxia series generally deal with the concept of personal growth. Luke Skywalker from the original Star Wars trilogy would actually make for a great example of a western wuxia hero, one who starts out with a simple desire for adventure and a vague idea about fighting evil and little real fighting skill, into a mature, wise young man able to save someone from their own evil, as well as the most powerful hero in the setting. The best wuxia heroes will undergo some kind of spiritual or personal growth, ridding themselves of desires for vengeance, divesting themselves of pride, accepting the help and love of others, looking beyond their own desire to be great to seeing the connection between themselves and those around them, etc. This naturally includes a growth in skill and personal ability, as the strongest heroes tend to be both the most enlightened and the most righteous. With wuxia heroes especially, it's important for them to grow and develop, to where only the best parts of themselves last from beginning to end.

Loyalty and Betrayal: Concepts of loyalty, honorable behavior, and such run really strong in wuxia fiction. There's a reason why the most hated villains tend to be former friends and allies the hero once trusted like a brother. Most often while the hero was growing as a person, moving past their character flaws, their allies get consumed by one flaw of their own (frequently pride, greed or jealousy), until that flaw drives them to oppose the hero. In a society that prizes loyalty like few else, such a betrayal makes for excellent bad guys, while also leaving that bit of tragedy the Chinese love when the former friend has to be put down, often making some dramatic last speech where they beg for forgiveness.

By contrast, genuinely loyal allies will grow into a true band of brothers and sisters. In a game emulating wuxia mythos, it's very important that the player characters become incredibly loyal to one another. They will go to great lengths to save each other, sacrifice much in the name of the other, and oaths made to allies will last long after said ally is dead. Power of Friendship is a major thing in such series.

The Quest: A lot of wuxia series involve a quest for something, again something not unique to Eastern fiction. The a quest to drop an evil artifact down a volcano would have worked just as well in a wuxia setting as it did for Tolkien. Wuxia's generally more about finding something than destroying it tho. Usually it's a weapon, a martial arts style/technique, or a person in possession of staid weapon/style/technique, but it can also be some item the villain needs to pull off a plan, some bit of evidence to expose a corrupt official's dealings, the rightful ruler of an empire, etc. Journey to the West has the titular journey as the main drive of the series, which leads to the character and loyalty growth of the heroes. Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre is a quest to find two blades that can help the heroes overthrow an evil empire. A lot of old school RPG adventures can thus be retro-fitted into a good wuxia game with some tweaking, since the quest is a universe concept everyone can appreciate.

Challenge: Wuxia in particular likes to challenge its heroes in ways that spur growth. Their opponents often have some abilities that point out a flaw in the hero, which the hero must overcome to continue to better themselves. Or they're just a force the hero can't defeat in his usual way, thus forcing them to develop a new technique, new tactic or otherwise go outside the box in order to win. If the villain is particularly invincible, trying to find their weakness could form the subject of a quest. Or it could involve a training montage. Whichever is more fun.

Rivals: More than almost any other genre, wuxia LOVES its rivals. Wuxia settings are often overflowing with characters who can take on the hero, either as recurring enemies, enemies that become allies, honorable opponents who become friends, etc. In a world where personal power is measured by martial arts skill and prowess, everyone is trying to get better, so finding people to use as measuring sticks of your own training is invaluable. Rivals in wuxia are excellent sources of growth and conflict, and due to the honorable nature of a lot of heroes, rivals will frequently be allowed to live unless they're particularly evil. This allows them to come back and either challenge the hero again, or to let the hero see how much they've improved by easily defeating someone who was once a close match for them. Rivals are a key part of wuxia lore. Use them liberally.

Tragedy: As I said, the Chinese love a good tragedy. While a happy ending isn't out of the question, it's far more likely to be bittersweet at best, and downright sad at worst. The villain is defeated, but at great cost. The hero has lost friends, allies, mentors. They might be maimed or killed themselves. They might be outcasts of the land they just saved, or might have been forced to isolate themselves from the friends they had made. They save the little girl from the villain, only she's blind or crippled in some way. Don't be afraid to let these stories include more than a few downers. It fits the genre.


As I mentioned above, a lot of wuxia fiction is compatible with western stories and adventures. There's just a lot more wire-fu and implausible martial arts in wuxia. Some good simple adventure ideas might include:

A Tournament: While more prominent in anime, a martial arts tournament isn't unheard of in wuxia fiction. Duels are more likely, but a tournament is a good way to get some old and new rivals together, to plant the seeds of a quest or kick off a larger story.

The Spider in their Web: A lot of wuxia involves not necessarily a corrupt government, but a corrupt official within that govenment. The system and society is worth saving from such people. These guys will often hide behind a respectable public facade while they pull various strings and try to get themselves more power. The Four Constables had a duke organize a group of masked assassins to try and cause enough trouble for him to assume the throne. One Shaolin film had a minister get two Shaolin temples to fight each other through misdirection. Having this kind of a villain can be a good way to spice up a wuxia story, since in addition to the kung fu fighting, there's also the need to solve the mystery of who's behind all of the evil and deal with them before they can secure even more power for themselves.

Island of Death: This one is borrowed from an old GURPS Martial Arts book. There is a martial arts murder on the loose, one who stalks and slaughters respected masters of elite schools, and anyone that gets in their way. A pattern emerges that the slain masters were once part of an alliance that defeated a deadly bandit king, whose base was on a remote island. The heroes and surviving masters journey to the island where the villain is buried, only for a storm to make leaving the island impossible. And the killer is on the island with them.

Is it the original bandit risen from the dead? Someone who has sworn vengeance in the dead bandit's name? Is there something buried with the bandit and doing this was the only way to force the masters to reveal his burial site? Was the bandit king really a good guy and the masters are in fact villains? Are there more than one killer? Have fun!
 

Pax Chi

Registered User
Validated User
Now system wise, a wuxia game needs something flexible, but primarily it needs to be able to handle the diverse techniques of genre. Much as the intrigue, stealth, diplomacy and the like factor into a wuxia game, it'd be pretentious to think that 80-90% of the reason to play such a game is for the kickass fight scenes. As such, techniques that help make each style feel unique are important so that every player doesn't feel too "samey".

Game systems I think would do well with this are:

Weapons of the Gods / Legends of Wulin: One of the few game systems I know of designed to emulate wuxia style games. While I generally prefer the styles in Weapons of the Gods, either system would be a good choice for running a high level wuxia game.

Feng Shui: Feng Shui includes two time periods specifically designed to emulate wuxia films, both the high fantasy period of a thousand years ago, as well as the "near past" flavor of only 150 years back. There are enough martial archetypes and Fu Schticks to keep things interesting, and the system is robust enough to handle the intrigue and social aspects of the genre.

Fight!: Fight! was designed to emulate Fighting Games in a tabletop fashion, but the system could easily be tweaked to run a wuxia style game.

Street Fighter: Like Fight!, the old White Wolf system was designed to emulate fighting video games, but can work as a wuxia game as well.

Hero System: Hero System is robust enough to allow players to design their own martial arts moves, and comes with several sourcebooks on how to emulate the martial arts genre.

Mutants & Masterminds: Like Hero System, Mutants & Masterminds allows you to build your martial arts maneuvers from scratch, but it runs a bit faster than Hero System and its alternate take on health/damage suits the wuxia genre as much as it does the superhero one.
 

Vox Orbis

I've Always Been Here
Validated User
I love threads like this - given that I love wuxia - and it's nice to hear that a part of my life from 13 years ago (that long ago, oy!) is still liked by people.

:D
 

ajdynon

Registered User
Validated User
Now system wise, a wuxia game needs something flexible, but primarily it needs to be able to handle the diverse techniques of genre. Much as the intrigue, stealth, diplomacy and the like factor into a wuxia game, it'd be pretentious to think that 80-90% of the reason to play such a game is for the kickass fight scenes. As such, techniques that help make each style feel unique are important so that every player doesn't feel too "samey".

Game systems I think would do well with this are:

Weapons of the Gods / Legends of Wulin: One of the few game systems I know of designed to emulate wuxia style games. While I generally prefer the styles in Weapons of the Gods, either system would be a good choice for running a high level wuxia game.

Feng Shui: Feng Shui includes two time periods specifically designed to emulate wuxia films, both the high fantasy period of a thousand years ago, as well as the "near past" flavor of only 150 years back. There are enough martial archetypes and Fu Schticks to keep things interesting, and the system is robust enough to handle the intrigue and social aspects of the genre.

Fight!: Fight! was designed to emulate Fighting Games in a tabletop fashion, but the system could easily be tweaked to run a wuxia style game.

Street Fighter: Like Fight!, the old White Wolf system was designed to emulate fighting video games, but can work as a wuxia game as well.

Hero System: Hero System is robust enough to allow players to design their own martial arts moves, and comes with several sourcebooks on how to emulate the martial arts genre.

Mutants & Masterminds: Like Hero System, Mutants & Masterminds allows you to build your martial arts maneuvers from scratch, but it runs a bit faster than Hero System and its alternate take on health/damage suits the wuxia genre as much as it does the superhero one.
As I mentioned in a previous thread on the subject, I would love to see a wuxia game using the AGE system.
 
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