RPG LAB Report – Feng Shui 2

Long ago, in a land called Daedalus Entertainment, a legendary game designer named Robin Laws created a game called Feng Shui. Feng Shui (which was often described in terms of other famous licensed properties like “The Big Trouble in Little China RPG”) was based on the created world for the CCG called SHADOWFIST which pitted several eccentric factions against one another in a battle for the control of various time junctures. Daedalus spit a few great supplements and then Atlas Games took the wheel and delivered several more. Sporting a stable of writers that might these days be unaffordable to all but the most successful of publishing companies, Feng Shui captured the imaginations of action- loving gamers with its simple 2d6 mechanic and array of evocative stunts and powers.

NOTE: The bits in italic quotations at the end of each section are player comments and not the expressed views of the RPG Lab coordinator.

SETTING

Oh the setting…

*deep breath*

Throughout time there has been a secret war – a Chi War – in which forces both positive and negative have played a pivotal role. The politics of magic and control are its heart and the players are the agents of heaven, hell and earth. Shaolin monks, cyborg apes, eunuch sorcerers, thousand tongued demons, magically transformed dragons, post-apocalyptic warlords, the immortal rulers of the netherworld and the Hong Kong Police Department have all played their part in this non-linear mess of a battle. Faction agendas, petty whims and good old fashioned heroism are the motivations and the winner’s definition of reality is the prize. The method is entirely based on control of concentrations of geomantic power that take the form of Feng Shui Sites.

“The setting is kind of deep, and rightly so: it’s a revised, slightly advanced edition of the setting that was used in the first edition RPG, inspired by the card game. Which is still being produced, by the way. It has to cover four distinct eras, ranging from feudal China through the British occupation, modern-day, and well into a self-inflicted apocalypse waste. And it has tips for covering other possible eras too.”

SUPPLEMENTS AND MATERIALS USED

Currently Feng Shui 2 only has two game specific supplements in hard copy – the core book and the screen (which also comes with a handy guide to fight locations and a few other bits). So, in addition to the character sheet, we only used these things.

CHARACTER GENERATION

Character Generation in Feng Shui largely makes DungeonWorld’s character generation seem lengthy and cumbersome by comparison. You simply pick an archetype (like Highway Ronin, Exorcist Monk, or Scrappy Kid) strap on some dramatic hooks and motivations, and boom, you are in. That’s it. You just pick the character that resembles your favorite movie hero and go for it.

Since you asked, we had:

  • A Drifter Swordswoman in flight from the terrifying affections of the Queen of the Darkness Pagoda…
  • A roof-hopping Masked Avenger who uses stealth and fear to punish the wicked of Hong Kong…
  • A seemingly bumbling cop with a knack for magical demon management that could end up saving the world…

“Character generation is minimal, basically a matter of filling out details to customize your chosen archetype. That said, the number of choices for archetypes fit the Hong Kong Action theater (HKAT) genre conventions quite nicely, so it doesn’t feel like you’re forced into builds.”

“What character generation system? At its simplest, character creation is a matter of picking a template and copying everything over, unless you printed from the PDF. Any customization beyond that is not only optional, but a matter of negotiation between player and GM. They get around this shortfall by having character templates so robust and iconic that they’re all pretty much playable right off the printer. This may seem to direct your efforts”

RULES

Outside of the unique powers (which are summarized in appropriate detail on the archetype sheets for ease of use), the rules are simple:

Postive 1d6 + Negative 1d6 + modifier vs. difficulty modifier (with degrees of success) With this simple mechanic, adjustable with special abilities and stunts, and exploding 6s, you are off to the races. Read over the combat section thoroughly is my advice. Although there is no one right way to enjoy an RPG, Feng Shui without ample action and violence is like ordering salad and ice water at Five Guys.

“People who like “crunchy” games won’t be able to wrap their heads around this one. It’s almost frightfully simple in places, but it has to be a little simple in order to keep play moving fast. This encourages players to come up with wilder, more descriptive actions more befitting a Hong Kong action movie, and benignly shrugs at GMs who hear all that scenery-chewing and say “Eh, why not.”

The laxness also provides a degree of freedom, for example, to play the Magic Cop as either a black-ops modern-day sorceror or as semi-bumbling comic relief. And don’t underestimate the fun of doing the latter.”

CONCLUSION

Needless to say, we had a blast. Gangsters were cut down, demons were defeated, cocktails were served and weeping guitar laments were played as the bullets flew.

Feng Shui has been one of my favorite gaming properties since its inception and the most recent edition is the best yet. Incredibly easy to prepare for and inspired by stuff we all know and love, this was a rewarding RPG.lab experience.

“This is my third (or fourth, if you count the one I ran) experience with RPG.Lab, and I’ve yet to walk away disappointed. This is a great idea and I hope you guys keep doing it, especially as new games keep appearing.”

George is the full-time assistant manager of Games & Stuff and the de facto GM of RPG.Lab. He is a big fan of way too many RPGs

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