Articles, Rants and Explorations
Current Jennilog for 7 / 10 / 2004: The Joy Of Wuxia
The Joy Of Wuxia
Wuxia (Woo-Zha) is the Mandarin word for Chivalric Fiction, or to be more precise, what we in the West would consider fantasy sword and sorcery. In movies, it is sometimes called 'Wire-Fu' because of the physically impossible action stunts that use wires and other special effects to do. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is Wuxia, as is Kill Bill 1 and 2, for that matter. I just had a fun time playing at it tabletop RPG fashion.
Eldenath, one of my spouses, has trouble sometimes with tabletop RPG gaming, in that it is difficult for her to feel proactive. She is so afraid of her character dying, or of being inadequate in play, that she follows, rather than leads, and tends to hide out, avoid conflict or even taking action at all...basically she is afraid of 'doing things wrong'. She wanted to change that, and asked my help.
I did a little research on simpler systems of gameplay that would also boost the player's feeling of competence and power. I also wanted a system that was simple to implement...it's been years since I did any serious Game Mastering, and on my current anti-panic medication, my mind is not as sharp, as fast, nor my memory as good, as once it was. There was a time when I could whip out a fantastic adventure with no preparation at all, nowadays, I am fortunate if I can remember basic rules. So, for both our needs, I wanted simple, yet empowering.
One thing I came across in a review on the wonderful site RPG.net was a review for an independent (inde) game called 'Wushu' from Bayn.org. Dan Bayn had developed a rather brilliant little concept for a game in Wushu, but as many reviews state, it is presented incompletely, with little detail on how to actually implement the mechanics of the gameplay. Unwilling to pay five bucks to download a difficult to implement PDF file game ruleset, I decided to backward engineer the Wushu concept and develop my own take on the idea, one that would be easy for any person to run, with no confusion, and no cost for that matter. I believe I have developed a superior product, which I will present at the end of this article for you, the reader.
Eldenath and I sat down, after a very brief preparation effort using three index cards, and tried out my new rules. It turned out to be a very fun game session, and one that I think helped both of us. It helped me, in that with such simple and easy rules, I felt competent to GM once more, and it helped Eldenath feel powerful and competent as a player. Here is a transcript of how the game unfolded:
Feather Phoenix Monkey Palm
Starring Eldenath DeVilya as Ushi Xeu Mei (Ox GrassPlum)
Silhouetted against a yellow, full moon, A silent Black-Ops helicopter hovers over a dark warehouse in South San Francisco. Gliding down a descending cable with silent grace is American Special Forces DEA agent Ushi Xeu Mei, a formidable warrior and accomplished detective, practiced in both Chinese and Japanese martial arts.
Landing on the roof of the warehouse, Xeu Mei scuttles silently like a crab over to a nearby skylight, and looks down upon Dan Hong and his army of enforcers meeting to discuss the distribution of the newly developed designer drug known as 'Feather Phoenix' . Amidst their arguing, Xeu Mei attaches a Ninja claw-rope to the edge of the skylight and dives through the plate glass. Swinging from the ninja rope, Xeu Mei tosses several toxic smoke bombs causing a gagging pall of confusion to fall upon the surprised thugs. On her returning swing, in unbroken motion she throws an entire handful of shuriken with gleaming silvern precision. The many jagged shuriken slice through the air, pithing brains, exploding eye sockets and severing weapon-holding hands. Six of the drug dealing vermin fall dead instantly in spouts of gore, one merely falls to the ground, his tendons severed, crawling for the open door of the warehouse, and the limo beyond.
Like a ballerina of death, Xeu Mei is now on the ground, spinning like a top, a katana sword outstretched, lopping heads and slicing abdomens in evicerational glory. With a final double somersault, she slashes the arms of a final druglord, and falls into a dramatic, crouched pose, only to see the hamstrung thug reaching for the handle of his limousine, attempting to escape.
Looking about her, Xeu Mei snags a chair with an outstretched toe, and flings it at the car, smashing the door shut, and breaking the hand of the crawling drug lord. Tumbling like a human throwing star Xeu Mei pins Dan Hong in place, but not before he viciously slashes her throat with a concealed blade. Using Monkey Palm pressure technique, she stops the bleeding instantly, and deftly flips open her cell phone, to call for backup from her partner, 'Tang' Jones, circling in the helicopter above. She is too filled with adrenaline to attempt interrogation alone.
With the location of the drug fabrication lab known, the silent helicopter wings towards Redwood City, south of San Francisco, to hover over an abandoned trailer park. Eight dark trailers bask in the moonlight, behind the hastily boarded wall built around them. Tang warns Ushi that those below are likely to be armed with automatic weapons, and that the chemicals involved in the manufacture of 'Feather Phoenix' are dangerous and highly flammable. He asks her to be careful. A brief smile, and Ushi Xeu Mei is soon sliding down a cable once more to crouch down amidst the overgrown lot.
Using infrared goggles, Xeu Mei moves with stealth and cunning throughout the trailer park, noting that one of the trailers shows glowing heat signatures indicating occupation. At the back of the lot are two expensive cars and a one-man illegal autogyro, all of which she renders useless with a few slices of a handful of cables and fuel lines. All escape routes cut off, agent Xeu Mei approaches the occupied trailer.
Her improvised grassfire fails to ignite, so her plan to smoke out those within the trailer is abandoned. Instead, she decides to try a more direct approach. Using her Monkey Palm technique, Xeu Mei smashes in the trailer door with Monkey Palm Foot, and skillfully tosses a handful of shuriken through the open frame. The door cracks open the skull of the unfortunate drug maker behind it, and the shuriken wreck awful havoc with limb and life beyond. Three guards drop instantly, as throwing stars penetrate their brains, another loses a hand, his AK 47 clattering to the floor by the door. Three drugmakers remain, frozen in place with fear, two holding flasks of some viscous liquid.
In an instant, Xeu Mei has scooped up the AK 47 and flipped backward through the length of the trailer to land at the knees of the three manufacturers. Startled, one loses his grip on his flask, and Xeu Mei, with perfect instinct, has a hand supporting the falling flask, and her automatic pressed to the side of the lab coat who dropped it. "Let's take it easy now.." she hisses.
The three lab coats have wet themselves, and the remaining manufacturer is so shaken that he is trembling, the viscous, dangerous liquid in his flask swirling in his hand. He attempts to run, but cannot do so in the trailer, and his flask shatters bursting instantly into flames as the contents are exposed to the air. Instinctively, Xeu Mei leaps backwards, smashing out a window and onto the ground. Spinning around, she tumbles head over heels in a cartwheel to the door, where she grabs the collar of the still screaming man who had lost his hand to a shuriken. Yanking him free of the pile of bodies, and out the door of the trailer, she runs to safety just as the trailer explodes in a massive ball of flame, a pillar of hellfire that reaches into the sky.
The captured drug factory guard interrogated, the Black-Ops helicopter soars now to Chinatown in San Francisco, to hover silently in the early morning light over the Spider Foot Martial Arts Academy compound, the secret lair of the drug lord Cao Ming. This time Xeu Mei asks to be dropped at a nearby clothing store!
On the ground, Xeu Mei enters the store, and flashing her DEA Special Ops identification, requisitions the store and its contents. The owner, confused and outraged, is complaining about who will pay for the elaborate dress and jewelry that agent Xeu Mei quickly dons. His complaints are cut short, however, as he witnesses the inordinate number of deadly weapons and tools the highly trained agent skillfully begins hiding in her revealing dress. As a final touch, she puts her long hair up in a traditional fashion, securing it with two long, sharp pins.
At the front door of the Spider Foot Martial Arts Academy, Xeu Mei demurely knocks and asks admittance, claiming to have been sent as a present to entertain Cao Ming. Escorted past dozens of bald, sweaty, hard-training martial arts students, she turns many eyes, and as she enters the inner sanctum of the drug lord himself, sees one distracted student's punch fail to stop in midair, knocking another slack-jawed student unconscious to the ground.
Cao Ming is not taken in by her deception "Who sent you?" he screams at her "You could not have been sent for my pleasure, because everyone knows I prefer boys!" Before he can fully lift the baretta from the drawer in his desk to point at her, Xeu Mei has already launched a dagger-like hair pin at the immensely obese drug lord. The pin sails through the air like a rocket and impales Cao Ming's left eye, bursts through the back of his balding skull, and pins the bloated man to the wall behind him. Cao Ming's sagging corpse dangles from the pin like a fat insect in some horrible collection.
In shock, the escort from the front gate leaps back, screaming in Cantonese. The martial arts students rush as one, some to the left of the doorway, some to the right. Three launch themselves through the door, fists and feet outstretched, their only thought to avenge their master.
With inhuman grace and agility, Xeu Mei leaps upward, and with one hand snags the light fixture with her ninja claw rope, to hang in space from it. With the other hand, simultaneously, she drops both smoke bombs instantly filling the chamber with toxic and impenetrable clouds. Smoothly, she moves a ninja mask over her mouth and face, to protect her from the miasma.
The three students, in mid leap, find no Xeu Mei to hit, and so glide on only to smash with unholy force into the solid wooden desk of their dead master. The force of the three Spider Foot students attack causes the desk to explode in violent fury, sending shrapnel everywhere. Cut to ribbons by the fragmented desk, the students fall still, entrails oozing upon the carpet. But Xeu Mei also is hit!
The shrapnel tears into Xeu Mei, ripping her arms and face, tearing off her mask! Stunned, choking on the smoke of her own bombs, she falls to the floor with a sickening thud. Stunned only for a moment, she flips backwards out of the poisonous chamber into the morning light of the academy grounds. Gasping for breath, tears streaming from her eyes, blood dripping from her wounds, she is greeted by a small army of students who rapidly surround her!
Barely able to see, she leaps up at the moment the crowd rushes in, and for a brief moment, the camera, in slow motion, captures her hovering above a sea of heads, her legs and arms out in an impressive martial arts pose. Then, she spins, twisting in mid-air, her fists and feet pummeling and dancing in full Monkey Palm Style, smashing the coconut skulls of the mass of students!
But it is not enough. Although she has taken out many, the swarm of enraged martial artists is too much and they drag her down, where she is beaten and kicked viciously. As the camera pans upward and away, we see the crowd swarm over her, and a black helicopter descend, as we fade to black...
Xeu Mei awakens to the sound of hospital equipment, the beep of a heart monitor, the ping of some unknown machine, she is lying on white linens. Her swollen eyes open to the blurry image of her partner 'Tang' Jones, unshaven, disheveled, nearly teary eyed with relief. He is overjoyed at her being alive.
Tang explains that a dose of nerve agent NZ-33 dropped the lot of her attackers on the spot, and she had been rushed to the hospital, and given an antidote onroute. The mission was a success, the drug operation had been stopped, and every member of the criminal organization behind it rendered dead, or put behind bars. However, Xeu Mei had suffered so much injury that there was some question as to whether she would ever awake from her coma. Tang had spent the entire time at her side. He had barely eaten, and had not showered or slept much in that time.
"You know, you sure stink like crap, Tang, whew!" Ushi could not help but spout. "Why You!" exclaimed Tang, overjoyed to see his partner back to her usual blunt style. Unthinkingly, Tang takes his fist and gives Ushi a knock on the head "OWWW!!" screams Ushi Xeu Mei.
Fade to black. Roll credits.
THE GAME SYSTEM I USED:
In that I had to reverse engineer what I imagined Dan Bayn's Wushu to be, as well as make what I developed easy and straightforward enough for my medication addled brain to cope with, the resultant game system may, or may not resemble other works. I know that there is inspiration from Robin Law's Over The Edge in here, as well as a few bits from Green Ronin's Spaceship Zero. Mostly though, the biggest influence is Bayn's Wushu, or rather, the review descriptions of the game that I have read. I have never actually read Bayn's game, since I was too cheap to pay to download it.
Since my system is so heavily inspired by these works, it will probably induce feelings of having seen it, or bits of it before in some folks, so I think I will call it 'Wuxia De' (Woo-Zha Day), a play on Vuja de, the ordinary feeling of having NEVER been somewhere before despite never having been there. Vuja De is the humorous mirror of Deja Vu, the curious feeling of having BEEN somewhere before despite never having been there. Voo-Zha Day; Woo-Zha Day. Funny.
I think, anyway.
A free game of martial arts cinema
By Jennifer Diane Reitz, as reverse engineered from game reviews of Wushu by Dan Baynes,
with inspiration from Robin Law's Over The Edge and Green Ronin's Spaceship Zero.
Wuxia De (Woo-Zha Day) is a game system designed to provide a simple, easily grasped, easily used, over the top recreation of Wuxia (fantasy and wire-fu) martial arts movies. It relies heavily on player participation in description and narrative. It is played with many, many six-sided dice, the more the better.
Creating a Character:
Every player needs a character to play the game.
To create a player character, begin with a name.
Then add a profession, title, or rank which describes the who the what, and the why of that character.
After this, write down one to four skills, abilities, talents, specialties, or capabilities of the character. Assign a number to these skills. The number should not be large. A good value would be between one and four. More than this is detrimental to gameplay. The higher the number, the more powerful the character. The numbers represent dice pools, a number of dice to roll, allotted to the skills. In general:
One Die: Student.
Two Dice: Professional
Three Dice: Accomplished Individual
Four Dice: Master
Finally, add a statistic for the character's survivability, which we will call 'Chi', or 'Ki', but which can also be called 'luck' or 'life' or any other appropriate term. For most characters, set this value to three. A tougher character would have a higher value, a weak character would have less. This stat determines how well the character can survive threats and damage. This too represents a dice pool.
Here is an example character:
Ushi Xiu Mei
American Special Forces DEA Officer
Ninja Skills: 3
Monkey Palm Martial Arts: 4
Computer Hacking: 3
From this, we can see that Ms. Xiu Mei is a trained professional, and she can be expected to know the sorts of things that an officer of the law would know, and more than this, things that special agent would know.
We can also see her skill set and title as 'packages' that automatically outfit her with the equipment and knowledge expected of a person capable of such abilities. Thus, as a Ninja, she can be expected to have a katana or other blade, shurikens, smoke bombs, a claw rope, and such items as would be appropriate. These can be listed if desired, but they do not need to be. From the Monkey Palm ability, we can see she is well trained as a martial artist, and can kick and punch with the best of them, and because martial arts are poetically named for a reason, we can expect her to be able to climb, leap, dance about, swing, and monkey around with precision and style. As an investigator and hacker, we can assume she can play detective effectively online and off, and use the equipment of these trades.
Wuxia De is not concerned with details, or with keeping track of every item, it is concerned with action and style. This is all that is needed to make a character.
Creating A Movie:
First, come up with a name for your movie. The name will often imply or suggest what the movie you are about to play will be. For example, a movie name like "Dragon Fist Versus Crane Boxing" would imply a showdown between two rival schools of martial arts while "Buddha Fist Cop In Paris" would most likely be some sort of crime story set in France, we can picture Jacky Chan investigating a jewel theft there.
Once you have a movie name, come up with at least three scenes.
Scene One should set up the story, or be the opening gambit. It is desirable to leap directly into action, avoiding all the usual RPG tropes of hanging about deciding what to do, being briefed about a plan, or buying equipment. This is an action movie, and the focus is on action. As such, we leap directly into battle, the plan, the equipment, the decisions already made, offscreen. Scene one opens as a movie, directly into the first battle or conflict or adventure that sets the tone of the movie. The fight planned for this scene should be of minimal size.
Scene Two should be the next likely location that whatever is discovered, accomplished or suggested in Scene One would naturally lead to. If Scene One takes place on a boat at sea, then Scene Two would likely take place at the destination the boat was headed to. The fight planned for this scene should be of moderate size.
To link scene two to scene one, invent two alternative paths. Thus if one is ignored, or is lost, the other also leads to the next scene. For example, if Scene One takes place in a warehouse, then invent that a captured thug or opponent will talk and tell where to go next, or if a critical enemy escapes, invent a short car, boat or foot chase, preferably filled with fancy stunts, to capture the escapee. In effect, a sub-scene to the previous scene. One way to do this is to think of an easy path (a thug talks) and a hard path (a big chase). The flow of the game and the players actions, as well as the roll of the dice will make one path or the other happen, as appropriate.
Scene Three should be the end of the story. The final boss, the ultimate enemy, and Big Bad. This is the final showdown, and the fight planned for this scene should be of great size, with a final bad boss to boot.
Each scene therefore takes place at a location, which you pick, as if you were making a movie. It is assigned a part in the story, and finally, you should assign the scene a Danger Level.
Danger Levels are what the player characters must overcome to move on to the next scene. They represent a mass of goons, thugs, low level minions, and other evildoers that are the common fodder of heroes to defeat in movies. The exact number of these minions is not important, neither is their individual skills, abilities, or tools. They can be anything or anyone, and they can be equipped with anything or nothing. And, if there is a need for more, more can always come out of the walls, pop out of hidden doors, or arrive in choppers until the danger level is reduced to zero.
Here is an example set of scenes for a martial arts police action film:
A warehouse in San Francisco, near the docks.
Danger Level 10
Drug lord Dan Hong argues with street gangs about the distribution of the new designer drug 'Feather Phoenix". Several cars are parked outside by the warehouse.
1. A questioned thug will lead to scene two.
2. If a thug escapes, a car chase to catch him will ensue. When caught, he will talk. If killed, the information is on his body or in the car.
3. If all else fails, headquarters has new information.
A drug lab in an abandoned, walled-off trailer court in Redwood City.
Danger Level 8 (plus explosive chemicals!)
Several guards armed with automatic weapons guard several labcoats who are manufacturing the designer drug 'Feather Phoenix" in one of the eight trailers in the park. They have escape vehicles ready, two cars and a autogyro.
1. A questioned guard or labcoat will lead to scene three.
2. If a guard escapes, a car or chopper chase to catch him will ensue. When caught, he will talk. If killed, the information is on his body or in the vehicle.
3. If all else fails, headquarters has new information.
The Spider Foot Martial Arts Academy in Chinatown, San Francisco.
Danger Level 20 (plus boss Cao Ming who has Spider Foot Style Martial Arts: 3)
Cao Ming counts money in his office as a small army of students practice martial arts in the walled courtyard.
The movie ends with the destruction or capture of Cao Ming and his army of footsoldiers, or if the players fail, the arrival of backup police and agents to save them and finish the job for them. As the players are heroes in a cop drama, their deaths are not dramatically valid, at least not the death of everyone. In a cop drama, at least one cop always survives to be the hero afterwards.
The number of opponents is generally equal to the Danger Level of the scene, but if all the opponents should happen to be defeated, and yet there remains a nonzero Danger Level, this is when more enemies should pop out of the walls, from hidden trap doors, or arrive in cars to finish the fight. The number that come will be equal to the remaining Danger Level, and so on, until the Danger Level reaches zero, in which case the players, and the game, may move on to the next scene.
Of course, it is open to have as many scenes as you wish, but be advised that the nature of gameplay in Wuxia De tends to be exhausting, so three scenes is a very good number, more than this and you risk wearing out the fun of playing.
Resolution Mechanics: The Rules Of How To Play
As stated earlier, the skills and the chi of a player character are dice pools. What this means is that the number given represents the minimum number of six-sided dice a player must roll to succeed or to fail at any appropriate task. This is often called a 'skill check' in many games, and it is the most fundamental mechanic of gameplay in most RPGs.
Though the number associated with a skill represents the minimum number of dice to roll, it also means the number one must try to roll equal to or under with those same dice. This value to meet or roll under is called a 'target number'. So, if a character has "Iron Fist: 3" then a very basic attack, such as "I punch the guy" means that the player rolls three dice and hopes that at least one of those dice ends up equal to 3, or under. The more dice that are rolled that are equal to, or under, the target number, the better the result of the action.
But this alone would be dull, and this is where the player is encouraged to increase their odds of success by narrating their attacks in a dramatic, flashy, over the top, and descriptive manner.
For instance, A basic punch with 'Iron Fist: 3" means that the player rolls three dice and hopes that one or all of them are equal to three or under. But, the player can go "I leap into the air, doing a double back-flip over the thug..." which is very cool and earns them an additional, bonus, die to roll, "...and I spin around as I land, so that I am facing the back of the guy's head..." which earns a second bonus die to roll "...and finally I rabbit punch my Iron Fist straight through the back of the jerk's skull and out the front, ripping his face off in the process!" which is very cool and earns a third bonus die. And, if you think it is exceptionally cool, you can even toss in a fourth bonus die for over the top special effects, if you feel it is appropriate.
The player above would now roll six (or seven) dice. That's the initial three dice for Iron Fist: 3, plus three more dice for each descriptive phrase, and as stated, you could throw in an additional die for special effects and the gore. So, say, seven dice to be generous. The player now rolls those seven dice, and tries to get one or more dice to equal three or under. Obviously, the more dice, the higher the probability that at least one die will succeed, a great encouragement to the player to creatively narrate clever actions.
Now it is an important point that the actions described by the player for their character (such as leaping up, doing a double back flip, tossing six shuriken into the eyesockets of six criminals, and finally landing on the chest of a crawling, injured madman) are all considered to have happened even before the roll of the dice. This is very different from most role playing games, and needs to be stressed.
In most role playing games, an intent to action is stated, then a roll is made to see if the action was successful. In Wuxia De, the action narrated by the player is, for the most part, considered to always happen just as the player states. The dice roll determines not whether the action occurs, but rather just how well the action turns out. The action stated by the player is essentially guaranteed.
The number of dice that have rolled under the target number determine how much to drop the Danger Level of the scene. If the player rolls six dice, and three of them are equal to, or under, the target number of the ability the player character is using, then the danger level for the scene drops by three. This should generally be interpreted to mean that three of the goons, thugs, or enemy have been killed, dispatched or otherwise rendered harmless. The game master narrates just how this happens, and to what degree, and it is hoped that the narration will be cinematic and very descriptive. The GM might state "As you flip over and over in the air, tossing shurikens, the first spinning star smashes through the skull of the guard holding the AK-47, the second shuriken slices off the arm of the man with the knife, sending a gout of ichor spraying all over the wall, and the last shuriken imbeds itself in the spine of the goon with the chainsaw, who then falls upon his own weapon with horrifying results, however the remaining three shuriken impact on the wall forming a pretty, but ultimately useless daisy pattern" as an example.
So, in summary:
The player states an action for their character
The action is considered to have happened as stated
The player gets bonus dice in accord with the cleverness and depth of their narration
The player rolls all the dice, basic and bonus, and attempts to roll equal to or under a target number
The GM counts how many dice succeed and drops the Danger Level of the scene by the number of successes
The GM narrates how the action played out, to what degree, and in what manner
The Enemy Strikes Back
So far we have a fine mechanic for the player characters to decimate armies of minions with cinematic style (or, it must be added, accomplish any complex activity - the basic game mechanic could equally be used for nonviolent actions such as trying to rope a fleeing animal, rescue a falling person, or preventing a nuclear meltdown), but how is the player character endangered?
The answer is in how many sixes appear on the dice.
Any time a six is rolled, and each time a six is rolled in a group of dice, the player character is considered to have been potentially hit, potentially hurt, or potentially harmed or stopped in some manner appropriate to the scene and the situation.
Thus, if a player rolls five dice, and two of the dice come up six, the player is facing two separate potential threats to his character. Now it is time to see if those threats from the goons, thugs, and enemies are valid.
This is where Chi dice come in.
The character stat for Chi, which for most characters uniformly begins at 3, meaning a pool of three dice, represent the ability of the character to survive attack. They are defence and hit points rolled into one.
Whenever a player character faces a threat, they must roll a number of dice from their Chi pool equal to that threat. Just as with the basic mechanic for action in the game, the goal is to roll equal to or under the stat number, in this case, 3. If the player has a higher Chi, say four, or five, then of course that would be the number to roll under to or equal to. Chi stats can never be higher than five, since that would mean automatic success, the character would be invincible, and thus unplayable. It is therefore recommended that Chi be set at 3 for most or all characters. This does not mean, however, that a character cannot accumulate bonus Chi dice beyond their stat. This is indeed possible.
So, if a character faced a threat of two attacks then, the player would roll two dice from their Chi pool, and for each success, one of these threats is blocked. The GM would then narrate the block in such a manner as "The thug manages to get off a round from his AK-47, but your catlike reflexes notice his actions before your conscious mind can even react moving you behind a metal post. The bullets spang off harmlessly as the thug shakes his head in amazement!".
For each roll that fails though, the character takes a hit of some kind, and loses that Chi die from his pool. Again the GM would narrate the injury in gory detail. When a player character loses their last Chi die, then that character is down, considered either injured beyond further action, or dead. The degree of injury at this point should be dictated by what is most dramatic and useful to the story: in general character death should be very, very rare, while the capturing of characters, characters being knocked out and left for dead, or characters being blown out of windows but left alive to crawl away a common thing. This should occur since the player characters represent heroic parts in a motion picture, and heroes seldom die in movies, but often suffer dramatic setbacks.
Chi is replenished between scenes. The GM may also hand out bonus Chi for the next scene.
Anytime a character rolls a six this is considered a potential threat, or attack from the enemy
The number of potential threats can be countered with successful Chi dice pool rolls
Uncountered threats and attacks hurt the player character and cost the lost of Chi dice
When all Chi dice are gone, the player character is out of the action (unconscious, dead, injured, captured)
Chi dice are replenished between scenes, also bonus Chi dice may be handed out as well
The End Of The Scene
When the Danger Level of a scene is zero, all combat ends. Any remaining thugs, goons, or villains will run away, give up, commit suicide, leap out of windows, or otherwise become harmless or absent, as narrated by the GM in florid detail. Surviving player characters can take their friends and allies for treatment or help, unless the GM has narrated a capture of one or more characters by the enemy (in which case a rescue is in order, and a prison break for the captured player characters!) The scene is over, and it is time to move to the next scene.
In the space between scenes, Chi is replenished. Thus most characters regain Chi to a level of 3 to begin the next scene with. However, if the GM feels that the player has played well, provided good action descriptions, and generally added to the game, they may add one or two additional bonus Chi dice out to that player. If they think the player played exceptionally they may even add another one or two for a total of four bonus Chi! This may also be done if the players are rolling badly overall, or if a player seems to need more help to enjoy the game, or for whatever reason seems appropriate. The goal here is to have fun creating a cinematic action adventure, not to be brutal to the players. Feel free to toss the players a few extra Chi between scenes, in addition to the standard topping their Chi up. But it might not be too wise to go overboard, lest all sense of danger be removed, either.
A Sample Action Sequence
Here is a sample action sequence, featuring a GM or Game Master running an adventure for a Player. The player character, named Arika, is a martial artist who specializes in the kusari-gama (3), a difficult to master Japanese weapon consisting of a long metal chain with a pointed weight at one end and a sickle-like blade at the other. The player is in the underground garage of a modern mall, facing six gang members.
GM: "Ok...You are surrounded by six punks carrying weapons, one has a handgun, the others have knives. They are dressed in outlandish clothing and are clearly members of a local gang. They have been sent to kill you. You are standing on the concrete floor of a multilevel mall, above you are various pipes and water mains, around you there are a handful of cars, but mostly the area is empty. What do you do?"
Player: "Six punks, one with a gun? The gun is the biggest threat, I think. Arika looks around and narrows her eyes menacingly at the punks. Then she leaps straight up in the air, and expertly hooks the sickle of her kusari-gama on the nearest length of overhead piping..."
GM: puts down one bonus die as the Player continues
Player "...and then swings like Spiderman over the top of the player with the gun, kicking punks left and right during the swing. With a twist of her wrist, Arika snaps the sickle free and whips it back towards her so that the sharp blade...."
GM: drops yet another bonus die for the swing and whip
Player: "...zips straight into the face of the gun wielding punk. Arika also yanks on the chain to snap it when it hits the punk's head, so that the kusari-gama digs in and rips a diagonal slash across the face, down the neck, and through the shoulder of the jerk, opening him up like the belly of a trout!"
GM: drops a third bonus die down and says "Here, roll your three basic dice for your skill with your weapon, along with these three bonus dice for your description, that's six dice. Go."
Player: Rolls the dice, counts up the successes and any sixes "I got three under my target number and one six."
GM: "As Arika swings from the pipe her feet blaze forth with superhuman speed. One punk has his head caved in by her heel, another has his neck snapped by a flip of Arika's toe, his body spinning as it hits the ground with a thud. As Arika lands she manages to slice the gun punk so deeply that his head and shoulder separate partly from his torso, and blood spews out across the concrete! However, the action of yanking the chain also pulls the arm connected to his partially severed shoulder up and back, and nerve reflexes automatically pull the trigger of the luger he is carrying! Roll one Chi die!"
Player: "Oh man! Ok...." Rolls a chi die "Crap! I rolled a four, I failed! what happens?"
GM: "The luger discharges with a deafening bang, and as the punk holding the gun falls lifeless to the ground Arika notices, as if in a daze, that she is flying backwards through the air, a sickening spot of crimson blossoming on her clothing! She's been shot!"
Player: "How bad is it? Am I dying?"
GM: "Heck no! You are one bad ass-kicking fighter. Besides, you have two Chi dice left. No, this is a flesh wound, but it hurts like hell, and you are really angry about it."
Player: "I flip myself upright, put my hand in my own blood, and wipe it Bruce Lee-like across my lips to taste it, then flip off the remaining punks!"
GM: "Oh man...that rocks. I'm giving you a bonus die on whatever you do next, just for that. Damn!"
And so the action continues until the end of the scene. It is in this manner that all events in the game are resolved.
A Dramatic End
Every Movie deserves a great ending, and this is of course determined by the players and the dice rolls, but it is also narrated by the the players and ultimately, the GM. If the movie is a story of vengeance, most martial arts movies simply end, abruptly, with the death of the Big Bad, although some may have a romance component, which would resolve, quickly, at the end. Other endings include waking up in a hospital or in a vehicle headed for safety, a triumphant yell before cutting to the credits, or, even simply a slow, painful walk away from the scene. Whatever you decide to do, think of how movies you like end, and try to work such scenes in to provide a feeling of completion appropriate to the genre.
The most important thing to understand about Wuxia De game playing is that the point of it is to mutually narrate an exciting, over the top, action packed adventure filled with motion-picture dramatic shots and impossible stunts. The wilder the better, the more outlandish the more fun. It is absolutely desirable to express things in motion picture terms, such as describing an action with " ...a slow motion pan across the moon reveals the dark shape of Arika diving down with vengeance in her eye, suddenly a close up shows a tear falling to her cheek as the camera pulls out and the blood sprays up like waves crashing against a cliff..." rather than " Arika clocks the creep with her blade". This is not a game of details and stat tracking, it is a game of cinematic action expressed with a fluid, and florid, tongue. There is no way to truly win, and characters do not grow or advance. There are no experience points, and there are no stat upgrades. The characters are already supreme, already maxed out, and the only goal is the show itself.
The basic system described here does not, it should be noted, have to be limited to martial arts movies, though it is supremely effective for them, it could be adapted to any genre where complex and tight action performed swiftly and with power are common. Superheroics would work well, for instance, for martial artists are, if anything, superheroes. So also would stories involving the supernatural, high technology mecha or devices as seen in anime, or pictures of the Indiana Jones style work well with this system.
I have no idea how closely Wuxia De resembles other games, especially the source games that inspired it. Backward engineering from partial reviews in online articles is a very inexact thing. It could be close, it could be very different from something else. I took some ideas and ran with them in what seemed a logical direction. Therefore, for that reason, I certainly do not feel particularly possessive of it. Wuxia De is to be considered Free, and Open Source. I don't think it should be used by anyone to make money, so there is that restriction. Beyond that, use it, adapt it, alter it, change it, distribute it, or remake it freely.
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