Previously on the Games of Christmas: Alternity, Star Wars, Mage, Transhuman Space, Adventure!
In the nineties is when I first came to RPGs. I started out with things like Heroquest(the board game not the one by Robin D. Laws) and moved on to star wars and the whole Palladium lineup. When a gaming shop opened up in my area I thought that was just about the greatest thing ever, I finally got to play games, rather than running them. However there was this prevailing attitude in the crowd that played at the shop. There was this idea that Making character who were good at fighting was somehow bad, focusing games around action tropes was childish, and even being good at the game was seen as some sort of con or cheat.
I never got this. I loved action and adventure. I wanted to be a rocket powered ninja on a revenge fueled odyssey of violence. I was deeply into Hong Kong cinema, especially the works of John Woo(this was before he came to america. I wanted that, I kind of still wish I was Chow Yun Fat, but that is a different issue. So here I was, an impressionable teen, playing games for the first time and everyone told me in a thousand little ways that what I wanted to play was wrong. Then a game came to my attention. This game celebrated everything I loved, and it gloried in focusing on violent stories of awesome adventure. It even involved time travel, super powers, magic, and super tech. What more could I ask. This game was...
This game is made of fight!
I will be describing the second edition of this game that was recently released, as that one distills everything I love about the game and got rid of all the issues I had with it.
This game is full of fantastic art. It started out as an RPG expansion on the setting and ides from the card game, Shadowfist. Due to that the game had a lot of art assets to pull from for the first edition and it is a visually stunning experience. The second edition was kick started and pushed through all sorts of stretch goals and so the art for the second edition is A- MAZING. The side bars are distinct and easy to read and the index is solid. The look and feel of the book are solid examples of the book makers art.
The basic mechanic is a little complex to explain, though it is pretty easy in play. You roll two six sided dice and subtract one from the other and then add your attribute and skill bonus. You are seeking to get over a target number. Your dice explode so you can get some ridiculous numbers above or below zero due to that. Also critical hits and misses are handled a little differently. If you roll two sixes then you get a special result, if you succeed this is an extra special good result, and if you fail it is an extra special bad result. You also get fortune that you can spend to add positive dice to the roll on a ratio of one die per fortune spent. Your fortune levels reset at the beginning of each session.
The big thing for this game is that there is no character creation rules. Instead you choose an archetype. These are a bit like playbooks in Apocalypse World or even a little like character classes in some games. Basically your archetype represents your powers, skills and abilities as well as how you interact with the world in a number of key ways. This was a really big deal back in the nineties. I remember everyone absolutely hated that aspect of the game. Now that sort of thing is a little more accepted and so it seems pretty OK. I like it. If you are worried that you won't get the character you want, be aware that Feng Shui 2 has 36 archetypes to choose form, and they cover just about every action hero archetype that exists in fiction.
The setting is a little bit weird. It works like this. There are Feng shui point in the world. If you control those points you control the world and get to decide how the world works...sort of. Also you can travel through time. Don't worry about the Grandfather paradox, traveling through time even once makes you immune to the effects of altered time lines. Though this can lead to weird moments where the world alters around you and you suddenly do not exist, despite the fact that you objectively do exist. Anyway you can use feng shui points to travel to the netherworld or through time and there are fixed time frames that travel forward with you. It works like San Demos time from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Where time keeps moving at a constant rate in each of these stable points in time so you cannot go back five minutes before you got there. Those time points are: 7th century AD(Ancient), 1850(Past), Present day(Contemporary), and 2074(a mad max type future). There are loads of options for play, as you can see. In fact you can do a whole campaign without travelling in time at all, or focus a game entirely about fighting the evil powers that seek to control the feng shui sites throughout time and space. Kind of a Kung Fu Doctor Who mashup, if you will. That also sounds awesome. The main focus of the setting is building up situations, factions, and scenarios that allow for maximum amounts of awesome action to occur. So if that sounds cool, you may want to check out Feng Shui 2, it is awesome.
Next time on the Games of Christmas...