I laid my hands on a pdf copy of the new Feng Shui 2 rulesbook – I backed the kickstarter, and now here it is.
I’ve been a long time fan of Feng Shui, and some of my best campaigns were played in the Chi War universe.
The Kickstarter for the new edition was a great surprise, I jumped at it and here’s some impressions and ideas.
And now, for some impressions…
Some personal background – I was a fan of Hong Kong movies when it was not cool being one. Jackie Chan movies, his Lucky Stars features and the old Wheels on Meals in particular, are among my earlier memories.
Tsui Hark‘s Peking Opera Blues is one of my all-time faves, I have a stack of VCDs of Hong Kong Movies, and I can actually recite dialogues from John Woo’s The Killer2. Ditto the Chinese Ghost Story series.
So when I learned of the existence of Feng Shui, back in ’96, thanks to an old British mag called Arcane, I had to get me a copy.
And I was hooked from day one.
Feng Shui was designed by Robin D. Laws specifically to simulate any situation found in Hong Kong movies.
And it does so wonderfully, while setting up a frame background that allows for all of the HK Movie genres to co-exist side by side.
There is a war raging, between factions that use geomantic powers to control reality. Each faction has taken a juncture, a moment in time.
Yes, this is a cross-time war – and Feng Shui handles it masterfully.
Player characters are somewhat aligned with the Dragons faction – champions of the underdogs, good guys (often despite themselves), people from all walks of life… and time junctures.
Back in ’96, I think the game caught the fancy of my non-HK-movie-loving players because it captured the same vibe of the old TORG game – we were able to put together a mixed team featuring martial artists from ancient China, hi-tech gadgeteers, reformed Triad gangsters, a demon from the Netherworld and an Elvis impersonator.
That sort of thing.
Not so much a multi-genre game, but rather a cross-genre game, if you will.
The system is very simple (two dice plus skill-value),, and geared for action – the handling of initiative and action-flow is simple and works great.
The new edition of the game (published by Atlas Games after an enormously successful Kickstarter) is excellent because it is not a trip down memory lane – there’s been some streamlining (and the rules were already very streamlined to begin with), there has been some cleaning up of the presentation.
The book looks gorgeous, the artwork is superb, and it is chock full of great stuff.
The choice of character archetipes alone is staggering.
Weapons? You got’em.
Martial arts schools and schticks? In cartloads.
Car chases? Enough to make Vin Diesel cry his eyes out.
And then all the goodness I was expecting from the earlier edition – with the volume turned up to eleven.
I loved the optional approaches at handling the game twenty years after the original game – just keep going, or set up a Next Generation game, do a reboot of your old campaign or play an I’m Too Old for This Sh+t game, calling old characters back in play.
because yes, the setting has evolved in the twenty years since the first edition was originally published, the game takes that into account, and turns it into another plus of the new edition.
Heck, I wish Shadowrun had handled the passage of time and the new editions with such class and elegance.
Only one – and it is not a problem with game, but with the game keeper.
I played some Feng Shui games with keepers that did not get the setting, and it was painful. Really painful.
Feng Shui is a fast, furious, fun game (ah!) – just like an action movie, it must focus on the action scenes and the fun bits, leaving the boring parts off-screen.
Spending long hours gearing up, burning a whole session to discuss some weird conspiracy, talking about the bad guys instead of shooting them up, can absolutely kill the game.
This is not an investigation game – you should use Gumshoue or the old Call of Cthulhu if investigation’s your thing.
And before running a Feng Shui game, I suggest re-watching one of those old, pre-Handover movies.
get the rhythm, the vibe, the feeling.
Then jump in, two guns blazing.
- I’ll post adventure notes and stuff here. I’m planing a few posts on the subject of Feng Shui… I told you I am a fan of this game. ↩
- when The Killer was screened at the Turin Cinema Museum, I was there with my brother, standing because there were no seats available. The movie was in Chinese, this being a cinephile sort of event, and we started speaking the dialogue lines in Italian. Two film students were so awed (“They know Chinese!”) that they gave us their seats. ↩