It’s been a long time since I’ve run a game of Feng Shui, but with my Savage Tide campaign wrapping up soon, I’m finding myself a little tired of D&D 3.5’s rules heavy environment. The Feng Shui rulebook is refreshing, very well written and easy on the rules. However, there’s one thing I absolutely cannot stand about it: the setting.
In a nutshell, Feng Shui’s setting is an excuse to mix multiple sub-genres of action movies, particularly those of the Hong Kong style. It involves a secret war between multiple factions, spread over 4 junctions in time. Factions battle for control of the feng shui sites at each junction, and those who control them also influence the era. The 1850 and “contemporary” junctions are OK, with kung-fu masters and gun toting Triads, but the 69 AD setting has transformed animals, who are just humans with special powers who are vulnerable to magic, and the 2056 junction has “arcanowave” – magic powered technology, magic cyborgs and magic cyborg mutants. We must not have been watching the same stuff, because I don’t remember a lot of transformed animals and magic cyborgs in my action movies.
Now, to be fair, I can see why other folks would like it. In terms of plot mechanics, it’s a good way to combine a lot of the action movie settings into one cohesive unit. The setting is only loosely sketched out and flexible to the whims of a GM, especially those willing to exploit the time travel/alternate future aspect. But for me, it’s a lot like mixing colors of paint. Each is pretty on their own or in combinations, but if you mix them all together (such as in a party) you get icky gray brown.
When I was first introduced to Feng Shui, my GM said to totally ignore the default setting. We played a setting based on contemporary Hong Kong style action movies with lots of martial arts and gunplay, and no magic, mutants or any of that sillyness. As a GM, I’ve shied away from it myself too, preferring an implied setting and running mostly one-shot games. However, this latest time reading through the book, I started to think of some other movies that might make for a good setting to play out Feng Shui’s high-octane adventures. Obviously, nearly any action movie is fine, but I think these are a little more interesting. Some of these would require some re-working of the archetypes. Here’s a short list:
- The Matrix Trilogy
- Chronicles of Riddick
- Conan the Barbarian
- El Mariachi/Desperado/Once Upon a Time in Mexico
- Van Helsing
- Kung Fu Hustle
I did run across a couple of actual Feng Shui adaptations that sounded really interesting. Buffy the Vampire Slayer seems like a particularly good fit, and using Feng Shui as a lens for the well-traveled Star Wars universe could be really cool.
What other movies inspire you to use them as alternate settings for Feng Shui and other high-octane action games? Let us know in the comments.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, but there is a Japanese Movie called http://www.deathtrance.us/. It is so over the top that the only rules I can think it would work with would be Feng Shui.
You had me up until Van Helsing. It’s the only movie ever able to make me not care about the fate of Kate Beckinsale’s character.
What movies would I use “the invulnerable doing the impossible” mechanics for?
Anything starring Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, Stallone, or other 80s action stars.
Jackie Chan movies.
Mass “Zombie Attack” movies. (Although I think an argument could be made for a Paranoia approach – each player makes up six characters, and picks up a new one when the old one dies.)
Comic Books (not just spandex, but ones like Sgt. Rock, etc).
@Telas: Not what movies *could* you use for a Feng Shui setting, because franky, you can use anything. What movie settings *inspire* you?
True Lies and xXx are both over the top spy movies, with crazy stunts, lots of guns and tons of action, but which one of those would you find more interesting to play in? True Lies has an appeal, but for me, it’s hands down xXx.
Personally I like the “everything and the kitchen sink” approach of the Feng Shui setting but then, I am also a player and fan of Shadowfist (the FS CCG) which features all the wacky factions in their crosstime glory.
But the system work just fine for modern guns and martial arts, Wuxia epics or any of several other action genres. So, go play, have fun!
Ah… That’s what I get for replying before the second cup of coffee. 🙁
What inspires me? I’d have to go with Last Action Hero, at least for the ‘in the movie’ scenes.
And anything Jackie Chan.
“I love that man, Go Jackie Chan, I’m his greatest fan, wo-wa-wa-wo-wo-o!” (Ash)
Anime inspirations (yes, dagnabbit, I’m showing my age):
* “Riding Bean” featuring an indestructible car freak who is probably related to Frank “Transporter” Martin.
* “Demon City Shinjuku” in which Tokyo (where else?) is cut off from the rest of the world by magic and a frikkin’ big canyon, but life still goes on… oddly, but it does go on…
* “Wicked City” More adult version of above, and could easily be confused with it. NOTE: keep any and all ideas you generate from this one in a separate shelf in a separate room from your game if ANY of the players are under 18.
* “Bubblegum Crisis”: Just in case you missed it, there are wacky androids who absorb machines, and girls in high-heeled power armor.
* “Transporter” movies. It’s not just the action sequences, it’s the creativity in the sequences. Not a lot of other movies would dare to stage a many-vs-one fight where the floor is covered with oil, and it just gets bettter from there…
* “Buckaroo Banzai” The Hong Kong Cavaliers, backed up by the Blue Blaze Irregulars are just a very large team of Dragons from all walks of life, battling more threats to the safety of the world before nine a.m. than most Dragons do all day. What’s not to like?
* Bonus challenge: A gateway opening to a world in which a Chinese Emperor, sometime in the late 16th or early 17th century (C.E.), decided to expand the empire over the seas. The Golden Age of Piracy kicks off a few decades early, bringing muskets and wu xia into direct conflict and high adventure for all.