Monday, August 31, 2015

Wuxia World: Draft Notes

Yesterday I backed Max Nervieux's Legend of the Elements Kickstarter. I pulled the trigger in part based on Dr. Tom's interview with him and part on my love of the genre.  I haven't yet had a chance to look at the draft, and I'll probably hold off for a little while longer. Agfter I got back from Gen Con, inspired by The Warren and Worlds in Peril, I started sketching out a PbtA Wuxia hack. Designer Renee Knipe had worked on something like that, coming from the direction of Monsterhearts. Her take on it is leaner & stronger, and focused on the personal interactions. I'm not sure where mine's aimed. Or rather I know whee I want it aimed, but I'm still thinking about it. Anyway, I thought I'd post the rough sketches I've put together so far. I'll probably circle back and flesh it out again next month. 

OK this is a rough, rough starting draft of some ideas. I’m trying to figure out out how much I want to do classic martial arts films vs. how much I want to figure out how to do Feng Shui without over elaborate mechanics.

In my head, there’s a broad family to this genre, with several lines.
FRPG Wuxia: This has a mix of classical Chinese traditions mixed with fantasy elements. Essentially it wants to present a pseudo-China with magic. Scholars and sorcerers exist as playable classes. Big magic’s everywhere. You have lots of monsters. Weapons of the Gods (and the later Legends of Wulin); Qin; The Celestial Empire, and Dragon Lines all fit into this. For me the strong focus on cultural specificity and heavy magic-using PCs defines this.
Classic Shaw: Almost no “magic,” instead there’s some strange martial arts powers. Drama conflicts. Has a historical feel to it even when some of the situations become gonzo. Wing Chun, My Young Auntie, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Come Drink with Me; Heroes of the East.
Cities on Fire: Most of the modern stuff that aims for “real world” feel. Gun Fu and/or full on martial arts. Police Story, The Killer, Twin Dragons, Flash Point, Ong-Bak, Chocolate. Hong Kong Action Theater focuses on this.
Wuxia Novels: This is kind of a hybrid genre. It has magic and monsters, but they’re reserved as show-piece elements. Most sorcerors and wizards are clearly NPCs. The Supernatural’s usually dangerous. But truly weird and ludicrous martial arts forms exist as well. There’s a focus on relationships, conspiracies and betrayal. Movies: Crouching Tiger, The Duel, Painted Skin, Flying Guillotine, Storm Riders, The Four, Detective Dee, Dragon, The Guillotines, Chinese Ghost Story, Five Element Ninjas, Mr. Vampire, The Swordsman I & II, Green Snake, Bride with White Hair, Five Deadly Venoms, Dreadful Melody,   TV Series: Condor Hero, Handsome Siblings, Laughing in the Wind, The Patriotic Knights, Fox Volant of Snowy Mountain
What I’m aiming for is closest to this last one.

+2, +1, +1, +1, +0, -1

Damage and Debilities
Characters can take five harm. Once the last Harm box has been ticked, characters begin to take Last Breath tests (+Tough). On a 10+ the character stabilizes and regains one point of Harm. On a 7-9 the character either goes out and stabilizes or stays awake and marks a death tick. On a 6+ the character can either a) go out and take a single death tick or b) stay up and take two death ticks. Death ticks remain until dealt with by serious treatment. Five death ticks and you die.

Wuxia characters have a couple of additional conditions which can occur. Most conditions can be cleared by a recover action or bargaining with the GM to take a failure of some kind in place of a rolled success.

Rivalries: If a character has a rivalry with another character, they cannot use the Coordinate or Help moves with them. Characters can clear rivalries in several ways. If the rival character uses Help on them, the player may clear the rivalry. If the character sees his rival struck by a Hated Foe or another rival, they may opt to clear the rivalry. Players may also clear Rivalries through a series of interactions if they want- usually revealing a previous connection, shared interest or secret relationship between them.

Emotional Conditions: Classic debilities include things like Angry, Loss of Confidence, Sudden Fascination. These create changes in the fiction which the GM can compel- often to have events occur. The GM may also bargain to allow the player to clear these by taking a failure instead or a success or more randomly, by rerolling a success. Supernatural foes may create panic, dread, or chills, all of which may be compelled.

Crippling: A classic element of these genres is that characters may have their chi disrupted, their legs broken, or their hands pierced. Crippling a named foe may be a condition to defeating them. When a PC becomes crippled they will lose some kind of effectiveness, both in the narrative and mechanically.

Wuxia Hard Bargains
This genre features weird twists, complex conspiracies, strange revelations, and bizarre betrayals. Hard choices and bargains may revolve around establishing new fiction about the setting: “I succeed, but realize she’s my long lost sister,” or “I deal damage but recognize that my foe has also been taught by my master.”

More examples in the GM section. Complications for romantic entanglements. Misunderstandings as a huge part of things. These should be a central GM move. Sherri suggested that The Trickster might have a move to Clear the Air? Maybe one to Cause Misunderstandings.

Talk about how to handle twists and secrets- some players may not be cool with those revelations. One way is to see response and if it doesn’t go down well, then shift it to be simply a Misunderstanding. It turns out she wasn’t betraying you after all, it just looked that way. Advising caution about not pulling the rug out from under players- meta conversations about these elements in game.

Bonds and Hated Foes
Characters begin with five points worth of bonds. These can be established with fellow PCs or with NPCs- they can also be established on the fly. The max starting bond value is a +2. Players may burn a bond point to reroll, to clear Harm, or to remove a debility- if you can justify how your connection pushes you. This doesn’t necessarily represent a reciprocal bond, but how they push you forward. {Characters may have a max of 8 points worth of bonds}. Hated Foes are much the same; players may begin with 2 points of Hated Foes. These points may be burnt when opposing those foes.

Reputation/Respect: Another mechanic????


Battle Mooks
You cut through a mob of faceless enemies, Roll +Fight. On a 7-9 pick two of the options below, on a 10+ pick three. On a 6- you suffer a debility. Capture’s especially on the table as they swarm you.
  • Reduce Their Number (may be taken multiple times)
  • Push them Back
  • Keep Them From Something
  • Escape Encirclement
  • Reduce Harm
  • Dispirit Them

You battle against a named foe. Roll +Fight. On a 7-9 you do a Harm and may pick one of the options below, on a 10+ you pick two. If multiple heroes battle against a single foe, they may get in each other’s way. This can be avoided by using Help/Hinder. If multiple characters attack a foe without someone first taking the coordinate move, all characters suffer a -1 to their roll and the lowest roller(s) gain rivalry with the highest.
  • Do Additional Harm
  • Keep Them From Something
  • Move Them
  • Reduce Harm
  • Gain Respect
  • Make a Point
  • Allow Escape
  • Study Technique +1 Forward
  • Spot Weakness +2 Hold for other characters
  • Cripple- counts as two picks and Harm

Defy Danger
Roll +Tough when you’re faced with an unusual physical danger outside of combat. It can also include players dealing with Legendary Secret Weapons or techniques. They may not be able to fight back against these until they manage to develop a technique of their own. On a 10+, you do what you set out to, the threat doesn’t come to bear. On a 7–9, you stumble, hesitate, or flinch: the GM will offer you a worse outcome, hard bargain, or ugly choice.

Roll when you plan out a strategy for dealing with a named foe or foes. Roll +Wise or +Calm. On a 10+ all attackers gain +1 Forward. On a 7-9 the GM may offer you a hard bargain or you simply negate the -1 penalty and rivalry gain.

Deal with Strange
Roll +Calm or Odd when you’re faced with the strange, occult, or arcane. . On a 10+, you do what you set out to and keep yourself together. On a 7–9, you find yourself unnerved: the GM will offer you a worse outcome, hard bargain, or ugly choice. Strange effects usually cause debilities.

Roll appropriate stat. On a 10+ the object of your attention gains a +1/-1. On a 7-9 they gain that bonus/penalty, but you’re linked to any negative effect from the exchange (Harm, debilities, etc).

Demonstrate Prowess
You exert your presence in an artistic performance, in a contest of skill, making an impassioned speech, or the like. Roll relevant stat. On a 10+ you impress and convince. On a 7-9 the GM will offer you a hard bargain. If in direct competition against foes, the bargain will usually relate to them. Some competitions may have several legs, in which case the GM may keep a running total of your success rolls (bargains taken move the value up to a 10). In this case the GM may set a minimal total the player needs to obtain. The player may bargain to raise their results before the finish line.
Conceding is a kind of bargain, demonstrating intelligence. The GM will negate a previous hard choice if a concession is made gracefully. Common contest bargains include loss of reputation, revelation of weaknesses, endangering loved ones, or rivalries.

This game assumes characters can always perform great stunts and acts of acrobatics. This Move comes into play when two characters compete for something using such techniques. If two players compete, they declare which stat they wish to use. The winner gains control or achieves their objective before the loser. The loser gains “Rivalry” with the winner. The GM may offer the loser a chance to reroll, if they take a hard bargain (usually gaining the Angry debilitation). This switch only happens once.

A competition with another PC may have several legs or multiple competitors. Regardless, in any exchange each character can only gain a rivalry with a single person.

Sneak Past
You attempt to deceive or trick someone: stealth past a location, conceal an object, disguise your appearance, create a distraction. Roll +Wise. On a 10+ you succeed. On a 7-9 the GM will offer you a hard bargain. Keep in mind this genre often allows for weird and absurd stratagems.

Reveal Secrets
When you want to recall a piece of secret lore or study a scene for clues, roll +Wise. On a 10+ you may ask three questions; on a 7-9 you may ask two. You gain +1 Hold when using that information.
{Insert Typical Questions here}

Gather Info
When you want to pick up gossip on the street, read a room full of people, and assess an opponent, roll +Attractive.
{Insert Typical Questions here}

You may establish or develop a romantic bond with a character. This goes beyond mere flirtation. Roll +Attractive (- current level of bond?). On a 10+ you succeed in making a significant connection. You create or improve your bond with that character. On a 7-9 the GM will offer you a hard bargain. On a 6-, you will reduce any established bond and you will have fallout of some kind.

Roll +Tough. This requires downtime and a place to recover. On a 10+ the player may pick three from the list below. On a 7-9 they may pick two. Some debilities may require additional resources like a Chi doctor, a magic spring, or a return home to train and meditate.

Be Skillful
The character uses their talents to affect the physical world in some way: shattering a boulder, lifting up a massive object, disarming a trap, casting an oracle. Roll relevant stat. On a 10+ you succeed and may take 1 forward. On a 7-9 the GM will offer you a hard bargain to succeed. On a 6- your efforts have made things worse.

Deal With Spirits
You find a way past the unusual defenses of supernatural beings. Roll +Odd. On a 10+ you find a way to affect them as you would other foes. On a 7-9 you do so but there’s a significant cost involved.

New Technique
The character realizes that they must go off and develop a new technique if they are to succeed. Decide what foe or situation must be overcome. Roll +(the number of times you have faced that foe). On a 10+ you figure out a revolutionary solution. In some cases, you will use this to craft a new move. Often, this will allow you to overcome a foe’s invincible technique (deadly poison, head-cutting weapon, ghost form, golden armor). On a 7-9 the GM offers you a hard bargain- a cost either associated with the development or with the execution of the new technique.

Manipulate?? As a Move???

Defend?? As a Move???

Don’t exactly want to do playbooks, but maybe I should. If so, handled broadly: Exorcist, Monk, Weapon Master, Fighter, Trickster, Learned.

  • Trickster: Roll Calm for Gather Info and Sneak Past.
  • Drunken Master: You gain the Drunken aspect and lose a Respect. You have a +1 ongoing to your Fight and Tough, but a -1 to all other stats.
  • Master Planner:
  • Brother & Sister in Arms:
  • Manipulator: Roll Attractive for Sneak Past. Begin with two extra bonds and higher max bonds.
  • Animal Forms
  • Iron Skin
  • Signature Weapon
  • Lightfoot Master
  • Alchemist
  • Gadget Master
  • Big Family
  • Filial Duty
  • Master of Disguise
  • Hidden Stance
  • Forbidden Style
  • Secret Technique
  • Secret Weapon
  • Bounty Hunter
  • Exorcist Technique to innovate anti-supernatural elements on the fly. Perhaps they have the Deal with Spirits move exclusively. Otherwise requires heading outside of combat.
  • Something to heal in combat
  • Other exorcist things: Detections, revealing disguise, finding signs, magic items which contains caught things, wardings, item for bonus harm vs. supernatural. Should still have decent general abilities so they don’t get too locked in.

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