Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Designer's corner: wuxia rules

I've got a long way to go before it's done, but I've recently had a spurt of inspiration and energy for my wuxia/Chinese folklore supplement for old-school gaming, and I thought I'd post some of my thoughts on how it's going to be organized, and what sort of stuff will likely find its way into the book.

First off, it's completely China-focused. One of the things that was both baffling and annoying about the original Oriental Adventures book was its mish-mashing of Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian material, with a decided focus on the Japanese. There will be neither ninjas nor samurai in this book. That's not to say it's an historical game; far from it. But the influences will come solely from China.

Secondly, it draws inspiration from two sources; wuxia film and literature, and traditional Chinese mythology and folklore. In the same way that Gary Gygax took inspiration from European and Biblical folklore and literature for a lot of spells, magic items, and character classes, this book will draw from Chinese mythology and folklore. I'm also adding in a healthy dose of wuxia tropes and themes, most specifically in the introduction of rules for kung fu.

Building on a mechanic of the core Adventures Dark and Deep rules before it, this Chinese supplement will treat kung fu abilities as secondary skills (which in turn were inspired by Gary Gygax's rules for skills written for the Castles and Crusades game), kung fu skills are learned in three stages. Each stage costs a set amount of experience points per level, with the amount of xp required decreasing if your character's highest attribute is relevant to the skill in question. Once you "spend" the xp to learn that level of a particular kung fu style, they're forever lost, but you can of course earn more xp to replace them. Spending them does require that the character find a teacher that is both able and willing to instruct the PC, naturally. Monks, by their nature, start off with a level in one kung fu style.

To take one example, "Dragon Foot Style" allows characters to kick enemies back one foot per point of strength, and gain damage bonuses if using pummeling to kick, plus other bonuses as they buy new levels in it. A lot of the kung fu rules lean heavily on unarmed combat (naturally), and the Adventures Dark and Deep unarmed combat rules, which I think are a lot easier than those in 1st edition, will be included as an appendix. Other styles allow characters to fight blind, do backflips to get behind enemies, and even levitate and climb walls. It's intended to really capture some of the cool moves featured in some wuxia films.

The traditional "Tolkienesque" fantasy races don't feature prominently in a mythic China setting, but two new races are included; shanxiao (monkey-men) and gou ren (dog-headed people). Every character class is covered, even if it's a perfunctory "this class doesn't exist in a mythic China setting", such as paladins and druids. New classes include monks, wu (shamans, a sub-class of cleric), and fangshi (a sub-class of mage). Naturally there are tons of new spells for both classes.

So far, I've got 67 new spells (plus all the original spells that the wu and fangshi can also cast), 43 new magic items, and 85 new monsters, including the various sorts of elementals (including meta- and quasi-elementals) that one would naturally expect when one adds elemental planes of metal and wood. All that from just reading books on Chinese folklore. Naturally, there will be entries for Chinese-style weapons and armor, and everything will be fully compatible with Adventures Dark and Deep, and, by extension, most old-school RPGs (with maybe a few tweaks here and there for some rules).

All in all, I'm really pleased with the way the book is going. It seems new to me, and it's definitely a change from the Japan-centric "oriental adventures" books that have come before. There will probably be a Kickstarter at some point to pay for art and editing, once the text is done. I'll keep you posted.

11 comments:

faoladh said...

Just so long as I can play through something like Legendary Weapons of China or Five Deadly Venoms.

Robert Fisher said...

Sounds awesome!

Matt Celis said...

The monk is a new class?

Joseph Bloch said...

You absolutely should, faoladh, although without the bullets in LWoC. :-)

You should also be able to play things like Journey to the West, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

faoladh said...

Excellent! And if I want to do the guns, I can always import versions of my AD&D 1E guns. It shouldn't be a difficult conversion.

Siskoid said...

Love this idea, as I'm a big kung fu and wuxia fan.

I didn't all that much about it when I got Oriental Adventures way back when, but today, you're entirely right, its melding of Japan and China feels awkward. It seems to make the assumption that these two countries have a lot more in common than they actually do. They don't.

Have you played/read Hong Kong Action Theater? (Currently the game I go to for wuxia.) If so, are there ideas in there that inspired you?

Joseph Bloch said...

Never have, Siskoid.

Siskoid said...

Worth looking into for specific effects, I suppose.

Joseph Bloch said...

Hi Matt, sorry I didn't see your comment until now.

Monk is a new class for Adventures Dark and Deep. It'll be based on the original, of course, but will also have a few tweaks to be compatible with the new kung fu rules.

Tanner Yea said...

Glad to see you are taking the China route instead. Japan, though lovely as their culture is, shares many social ties with feudal Europe. Just rename the paladin the samurai, the assassin the ninja adn the magic-user the wugenja and you're golden.

All in all, I got high hopes for this

Joseph Bloch said...

I once did a thing where ninja's were just like thief-acrobats, except they took assassin as their first class, rather than thief. It worked splendidly.

But yeah, I know what you mean.