In the last couple of weeks I have started to take an interest in RPGs that have Wuxia as a background/setting.
I love the idea of Weapons of the Gods and its spiritual heir, Legends of the Wulin. There is a really nice Fate game called Tianxia by Vigilance Press and then there is the playtest for Hearts of Wulin, a PbtA game designed by the Gauntlet Community.
So I was wondering…how would one do this genre in FitD/BitD? I know that the above mentioned games have pretty different design-philosophies…the WotG/LotW games are pretty crunchy and go also into detail about the different martial styles etc. . Fate and the HoW game are much more…let’s say freeform (although the Fate game also has styles and techniques but waaay less crunchy then the other two games).
Now, what do the experts think? Could you do a FitD Wuxia game? I mean a love child between Fate and PbtA should be possible, where you do not focus that much on the minutae of the kung fu, right? But I am also curious if you could do a more crunchy FitD game with martial styles etc. (and that keeps the essence of FitD).
What do you all think? One or the other version possible? Or even both?
Any idea on how to do it?
I’m suuuper curious!
Thank in advance for your time and brain-power
For play in BITD, the simplest idea might be an Advanced Ability, like the Iruvian Sword Arts (p. 234). You could come up with a similar thing for each school.
A while ago, for fun, I came up with an advanced ability for Akorosi fencing, making a couple of branches for it based on European fencing teachings from different historic national schools – because it’s obvious that if the Iruvians are coming into town, strutting around with swords and challenging people to duels, then there’s going to be a resurgence of interest in the local fencing traditions. It’s an amusing exercise to try to capture so much in a few sentences.
Kill Six Billion Demons is wuxia in modified PbtA, so it wouldn’t take that much hacking to get to Forged in the Dark.
In my mind the big challenge would be Actions. Defining actions other than “fight” and “fight at range” to give players different roles in encounters seems a bit tricky.
Worth tackling though, I made a wuxia RPG a while back in a homebrew system, I bet I could port it.
Perhaps you could take inspiration from mouseguard and give forms advantage / disadvantage against other type of forms. The GM and players decide secretly what form to use. When revealed, the action pool is modified up or down based on the interaction between forms.
I have played with something like this for engagement rolls, it worked well.
This is a cool project! I co-host a podcast called Jianghu Hustle [link], where we watch wuxia films and talk about how to make a new wuxia RPG from what we learn. I’m also writing Errant Deeds, a FITD hack that draws on American tall tales and Brothers Grimm-style folklore, but takes some inspiration from wuxia as well. I’ve thought a lot about how to accomplish what you’re talking about!
I think wuxia-style fights are possible in Blades as written. It’s just a matter of zooming into the action (maybe by establishing a clock) and gearing all consequences toward fight choreography.
I Skirmish against the Red Sash duelist, beating away their blade to try and score a hit on their torso. Full success! Now I Finesse my blade around their breastplate, stabbing at their heart. It’s a complete failure! They flip out of the way and before I know it I’m on my heels, their slashing saber driving me back to the wall. I resist that consequence to lock our blades in the bind…
And on and on. The trouble is that there’s no explicit guidance for creating this kind of choreography in Blades as written, so we’re left relying on individual knowledge. And most folks don’t know how to describe a fight!
In Errant Deeds, I’ve tried to create space for granular combat in two ways. First, the martial playbook has a Fighting School special ability that currently uses the question-answer format of Rituals and Crafting. The conversation plays out like this:
- GM: What does this move do and what weapon must you wield to do it? (player answers)
- Player: How much Stress does this move cost? (GM answers)
- GM: What part of yourself is exemplified in this move? (player answers)
- Player: What drawbacks does this move have, if any? (GM answers)
The first question hints at the ability to disarm an opponent and take their maneuver away for a bit. The third question brings personal drive (an all-important element of wuxia characters) into the mix. The last question gives the GM room to create additional constraints which could pop up during a fight (e.g. “you can only use this once you’ve already gained the upper hand” or something).
Of course, this doesn’t interact much with the other all-important part of wuxia: melodrama. Characters need to be tightly entangled with each other and their communities to really make a wuxia story shine. I’ve got ideas for how to accomplish that but I feel like I’ve just thrown a lot at you! So I’ll stop here for now.
Curious to know what everyone thinks!
Thank you all for your thoughts so far. I appreciate it!
Some thoughts on some of what has been said:
Yeah, actions…that’s where i also have a hard time seeing how to swap or change stuff around. My first idea is to go a very different route. If we do that, the question will always be “but is it still FitD now?!” … and i can’t answer that. What I was thinking about is this: Hearts of Wulin, the PbtA game, has changed attributes for its interpretation to the classical 5 elements. I wonder if we could do that as well. Instead of Prowess, Insight etc. and the action traits under the three different attributes, we’d have , for example, the elements with their approaches. The main problem is how to get enough separation (or maybe we don’t need it?) for action vs. resistance rolls. So far, no idea ^^
Another thematic split of attributes/“actions” could be something along the lines of going with Warrior, Doctor, Priest, Courtier, Savant/Sage for dice-rating “attributes” . Here we I could even see having “actions” under each, so those would be like real FitD attributes. But as i have five here, I’d need even more actions if i want to keep with the 4 actions per attribute. Decisions, decisions Anyway…just some musings I wanted to throw out there…
Eli, thanks for participating in this thread. I stumbled upon your podcast a while back and I will definitely return for some episodes. Thanks for sharing!
And yes, melodrama…this is where Hearts of Wulin really shines, imo. And one thing I’d totally want to copy over in a theoretical Wuxia FitD would be entanglements. So I agree. And i hope we’ll see what you come up with for your wuxia game (but also for your Errant Deeds).
One more guy here with a desire to do a wuxia inspired FitD game. Still a long way to go.
- I wouldn’t want to do a blow-by-blow kungfu or wuxia combat with Fitd rules. Or course you can zoom in the action but there comes a time when you see the pixels too much. That’s not what FitD does best, in my view. But YMMV.
- I wouldn’t use the five elements as Fitd actions. They would be much too broad and it’s always artificial. The five elements work for HoW, because they are flavors and the real “actions” are the moves. Another game which did that well was the Pagoda RPG.
- Your idea of “Warrior, Doctor, Priest, Courtier, Savant/Sage” as dice/ratings or attributes. Too few for actions, too many for attributes, and no specific chinese flavor. If you want to do it this way, use three attributes : Wen (scholar), Wu (martial), and maybe Dao (spiritual and magic) and 3 or 4 actions in each.
HoW solves the problem of detailed combat by not doing detailed combat, except in fictional description after the roll.
I (will) solve the problem in my hack by doing a particular flavor of wuxia: the “Water margin” flavor, where there is no wuxia fighting as in Tiger & Dragon, and extraordinary feats can very well be done by specific playbook abilities. So this is nt very helpful from my part… The interesting thing about this particular flavor of wuxia is that it’s all building a band of fighting bandits, so the Crew rules and Legion Rules from Band of Blades would be easily transferable. It’s like FitD was made for this.
You don’t have to tie resistance to attributes. Take a look at blades against Darkness or BaD Superturbo. Both have really cool resistance approaches that are not connected to attributes.
I also took a look at the statistics behind PbtA vs Blades because I really like the use of tags in City of Mist. Perhaps you could have a list of fighting style tags and you need to use a number up to your rating to build your pool. (Harm tags could reduce the pool).
So, if you want to roll three dice, you have to do a flying kick, springboarding off of the target into an open-handed strike into another and finishing with a roundhouse kick to the original target.
You roll a 5, so you tick 2 of 4 segments of the fight clock, but also take a slash to the ribs for level 2 harm.
Hmmm. I might have to use this in my hack…
Yeah, my musings were not that grounded…just musings, as said. Although, as ebrunsell says, if I don’t need to have attributes to go resistances (which of course is true, but probably changes the feel of the game vs. truer to FitD games), I don’t think the elements approach is that bad. As for Warrior, Doctor, Priest etc. not having a Chinese flavor…well, I guess some people might disagree (for example both WotG and LotW work with those name-tags in their game and both were worked on by people who researched quite intensively into Wuxia and its surroundings). Anyway…
@ebrunsell - what you say about the CoM thing sounds interesting. Care to elaborate? I don’t really know CoM. But I do like the idea to go more detailed into the fighting/Kung Fu part of the mechanics than, for example, Hearts of Wulin does.
I mean don’t get me wrong, I like the HoW approach as well…it’s just that I’d like to “see”/pursue both approaches…mechanics “heavy” and mechanics light. So yeah, while I, in general, agree that FitD maybe not the game to do the blow-by-blow the best…I am still wondering how it’d look like…or at least if we could get closer to blow-by-blow vs. just-handwaving-the-details of the Martial-Arts part. If that makes sense?
Also, thanks for mentioning the Broken Worlds rpg. I didn’t remember that it had Martial Arts. So for sure something to look at.
In city of Mist, you have tags that add or subtract from the 2d6 roll common in PbtA.
I wouldn’t worry about changing resistance causing you to stray too far from Forged in the dark. Of it is balanced and fits the fiction, it is good.
Blades is good at abstracting things, so you need to identify the core of the genre and make sure the rules support that type of fiction.
BitD also has Tier built in to things, so it could be modified to be used as “personal scale” as you talk about in Jianghu Hustle.
Extremely rough draft of an approach to a tactical wuxia system with FitD bones. The Elemental Souls serve a role similar to Actions (giving you a role you are best at) and then Zodiac and Weapon styles act as Special Abilities.
Pretty far out there, and I probably won’t pursue it, but I figured people might find it interesting.
I just ran a session zero, where we played the end of a score first and then did world and character building. Characters had no stats and no special abilities. I used risky / standard for most rolls. It was a near future car chase where characters included an Android, replicant, dwarf, and were-fox. The action was over the top, but stayed balanced due to dice pool and stress spend economy. I was surprised at how well it went.
Wuxia action should be no problem!
I’m wondering if this approach would be too much of a “load” for a FitD game (in a game-breaking way…that it might not be to everyones taste is a given)
Imagine adding another mechanical layer to the game. We have all we have in BitD with the following addendum- we add Martial Arts (or Techniques or however you want to call it) and a new “stress”-track called Chi. You can buy martial techniques with XP and if you have a technique, you automatically get a Chi track. If you want to use your technique, you have to pay with Chi.
Techniques would do things like
- If you have “Wudang Sword” (or insert another appropriate name) you can use this technique in a fight to either add 1d to your roll or +1 to effect.
- If you have “Perfect Body” you can roll at +1d if you have to do a resistance roll against physical harm
- If you have “Words like Swords” you can use Sway instead of Skirmish to fight without losing effect (of course imagine this like bruising someone’s ego so badly that he forfeits the fight…so you don’t kill him with your words … at least not outright That person still might be “dead” to society after you have disgraced him in front of everyone etc etc )
So Wuxia/Kung Fu techniques/secrets would be kind of like Stunts in Fate. So they might give you an advantage in form of a die or effect, or they might allow you to break the rules in special circumstances (like fighting with Sway above) etc. .
You only have limited amount of Chi (per day or per heist or whatever seems fitting) so you can’t just roll with those all the time but it can give you an edge in an important encounter (so for Wuxia games in particular I imagine mainly for “Boss-fights” where you duel your arch-enemy or where your forbidden love is finally beside you and you have to really pull off those two 6s in your “romance”-roll )
I know it adds more complexity to the game and some will not want/like that. But it would give those of us who want to be able to do “combat styles” in more detail something to work with.
Now, as said, i have not enough experience with playing BitD games (unfortunately) to see the implications of something like that. It might be that it is extremely unbalancing…or not. Maybe you folks can see that a lot clearer than i can.
But if I ever get the chance to GM an own BitD/FitD game, I might try it out…
Could you just use special abilities and stress for this?
Yeah, I guess that this is special abilities territory. Unfortunately my last read through of Blades is a while back and I am a bit fuzzy about the details of all the dials of the game.
Although I do like the idea of a separate stress-track for this, so i probably wouldn’t want this to go on the normal, literal stress-track.
But you surely could do it that way (which, if you want to get some use out of those abilities, makes the game even more gritty).
The thing for me is this: I don’t want the use of Kung Fu to get you closer to trauma. Somehow, that doesn’t click with me.