[AP] FATE Wuxia One-Shot
- This is a long post. I'm going to post the FATE/gameplay-relevant
part up first, then respond to it in a second post with the game
report I sent out to the players a couple days later. You may just
with to read the first post. Sorry if it isn't particularly useful or
interesting - it's my first AP post.
- Our regular Game of Thrones game cancelled for lack of GM and one
player. I offer to run a one-shot using FATE.
- Four players, most of whom haven't played much non-d20, especially
in recent years.
- I am enthused about FATE but haven't really looked at the rules
since I first read them a couple years ago and don't really have much
time to prepare. Also, although I used to GM a lot, I haven't for years.
- I solicit genre/game element input and ask the players to rank
different possibilities on a scale 1-5. The winning genre is FANTASY.
The winning elements are KUNG-FU, NINJAS, and BABES, with MONKEYS
- Day of game, I send out characters sheets modeled after the ones
previewed for SotC, and provide links to 2nd ed. FATE (Fudge), as well
as some Chinese and Japanese character artwork for inspiration.
- One page of GM notes, reminders. Also some combat mechanics off the
FATE wiki that I printed out but didn't have time to read.
- A poker chip case with 10 different colors of poker chips and
matching Fudge dice for each color.
- A dry erase board with the SotC Ladder and spaces for poker chips
alongside the ranks, placed flat on a coffee table around which the
players and I are gathered.
- Portable ipod+speakers config playing the soundtrack from Hero once
- 10 phase characters peaking at Superb, but with only 6 Aspects each,
3 Fate tokens, and 1 "F U, I'm Awesome" (Spotlight) token. (Read
about it on some blog - I think a designer at GenCon coined the term.)
I provide a reference sheet with some highlights of FATE, sample
Aspects, and a Skill list, and explain the rules in maybe fifteen
minutes. We make characters on the fly with their Superb, Great, and
1-2 of their Good skills and 6 Aspects filled in. Then we create the
world. Everyone has 5 "World Creation tokens" to provide structure to
the exercise. This part was inspired not specifically by FATE, but
mostly from browsing on various boards. We make a Fantasy
Chinese/Japanese world, and the players have great ideas - a couple of
them fill in some more Aspects and Skills based on this. The "Stage"
they came up with is below. I show them two pieces of artwork. They
provide the entire context for the first, and for the second, I show a
picture of three individuals and ask why they hate their characters,
and they riff on that for a bit. I finish by asking them "What
horrible thing just happened to you all?" to Kick things off, and they
come up with more awesomeness. This all take about two hours so we
are only left with about 2.5-3 hours to play.
- I don't think I explained Aspects adequately. I'd have liked to
have given this part more thought beforehand as to how to explain them
quickly and accurately. The concept is both a little foreign, and a
little ambiguous for players of more traditional RPGs. It took me a
while to get my head around them, and I haven't come up with a good
way to talk about them. There's nothing the players did or didn't do
that make me think they didn't "get" them, and they came up with some
great character/color/flavor Aspects. I can't put my finger on it
exactly. I didn't go into the invoke/compel, "flexible Aspects are
interesting Aspects part enough, I think. All that said, Aspects are
awesome tech and really seem to encourage cool character creation;
players not having to worry about whether some aspect (small "a") of
their character will provide a substantive enough benefit for the
points/resources spent for it relative to other aspects they might
invest in is really freeing.
- We had 4 combats in 2.5 hours along with numerous other kinds of
skill tests. The four separate combats were against 5 mooks, 10
mooks, 2 mooks and 20 mooks along with a demonic Fire Sorcerer. The
mooks were all run as "Mook-Masses", using Exchange Based Fights. I
chose this method both because we were short on time, and because I
wasn't really prepared for any other method. I think the players
liked how quickly the combats went, but I think I slipped a little on
the narration side and didn't make them as colorful as I might have.
If you're going to handle combat quickly, and at a high level using
FATE, I think I'd recommend having some good descriptions prepared.
People who had only a few minutes earlier been dropping creative bombs
during "world creation," seemed to be waiting on me for all the
narration, but I think I didn't provide enough prompting on this
front. That's pretty much the standard mode in our group - putting a
lot of the heavy lifting on the GM. I tend to do it myself. But part
of it was also because the mechanics were new.
- If you're running Mook-Masses against "Superb" combatants, you'll
probably want to make them tougher than "Average". Even with
Outnumbering and Flanking and Surrounding, My "deadly assassins" were
more like "keystone cops." But that's okay, because I did have in
mind heroic, "Hero," or "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"-type
- I only did one Compel (against the Greedy character), and he was all
to happy to grab a Fate token for something he was likely planning to
do anyway. Even though I had a big cardboard sign with each of the
PCs, names, Aspects and best Skills, I neglected to fit in some more
Compels for/against other characters. The visual aid was good for
prompting me to put in some Tests for the Skills that the players
wanted their characters to be good at. One of the players used their
Intimidate Skill as a combat maneuver, without me having provided any
prompting or mechanical definitions for this. (I likely would have
given more time beforehand) It was very cool, so I gave him a roll
and he pulled it off.
- The PCs decided to take on the main group and the sorcerer Ming Feng
, and I made up for my "keystone Ninjas" by making Ming an Epic baddy
with chilling hellfire bolts. They all had to burn all of their Fate
tokens, and one of them used their "Spotlight" token (automatic + + +
+) to finally help take him down (this token was a once in a lifetime
thing and does not refresh). Two of the characters were Hurt and one
of was Injured.
- I gave myself nine Fate tokens (to the players' twelve) mostly
because I wasn't sure on how to tune the challenge level and thought I
might need them to fall back on. Next time, I wouldn't give myself
any and I would instead give important opponents some "active"
Aspects. Spending Fate tokens here and there felt a little like "Oh
NoYou Don't"s to me. Not good. And also narrative
weak/non-prompting/generic. Better Ming Feng had had "Hellfire Bolt",
"Maddening Laugh", "Shadow-form", and "Devil Sword" Aspects for
re-rolls, than me having Fate tokens to just bump up his effectiveness
here and there and having to stone cold improv the conflict denouement.
- This may or may not end up being a One Shot. The world the players
developed is interesting and would be a fun place to revisit next time
the main campaign falls through. If we do, I'll be much better
prepared and will have created some genre-appropriate FATE mechanics,
Static and Dynamic Challenges, and some better play-aids/advice. I'm
hoping the pulpy Spirit of the Century will provide some great
over-the-top mechanics I can adapt to wuxia. I'm looking forward to
giving locations Aspects for the characters to "tag" as well.
Overall, I am *really* impressed at how well FATE handled given a
seriously rusty and ill-prepared GM, as well as players new to the
system. Having four to five hours of actual play time with everyone
more familiar, is likely to go much better.
- Qin Kurai (Chin Kur-EYE)
- The Qin Kurai empire is ruled over by a benevolent, but doddering
old emperor, Xiao-wei, who's reign from the province of Qin, was
marked by conquests to bring Seven Kingdoms under his rule.
- The empire is now marked by factionalism among competing nobility,
some seeking to wrest power from the emperor, who has no male heir.
- Xiao-wei does have a daughter, Seng-wei, who might be able to take
the throne under certain difficult terms.
- The Imperial City, and center of the empire, is Xiang Hu, "The city
on the Eastern River".
- Xiang Hu is known for its impressive structures and temples, some of
which have ornamentation of Red Jade, which is mined from the mountain
range NE of Xiang Hu.
- Many of the police and militias in Qin Kurai are corrupt and in the
pockets of various petty nobles and crime lords.
- The emperor maintains a secret police force that is loyal to him and
which is run by the famous warrior Wong Fei Hu.
- Wong Fei Hu has an intelligent animal companion, a great white Tiger
named Li, who is said to possess the ability to pass through walls.
- Qin Kurai has a feudal system with its presiding emperor similar to
that of medieval Japan.
- There are a series of mountain monasteries throughout Qin Kurai,
seven in total, one from each of the former Seven Kingdoms. At each of
these, a different martial style is taught by the monks, some
concentrating on weapons, some on hand-to-hand fighting.
- Three of the most prominent of these are the Golden Phoenix
Monastery, the Black Dragon Monastery, and the Jade Monkey Monastery.
- The monks at each of these worship a different god(dess): Szu, Mau,
and Dim-Bong respectively.
- Szu is a beautiful goddess, whose theology includes aspects
involving the cycles of life and death, followed by rebirth. The Sun
and Light are common themes. Her adherents believe in reincarnation.
Among the pantheon of gods, her religion is prominent, having its
origin in the Qin province. Most of the martial monks are female, but
the order does accept a few worthy males. One member of the monastery,
Pei Zi, is a worthy archer and a known babe. The Order wears mostly red.
- Mau is the god of death. His followers constitute an illegal cult,
unsanctioned by the state. His death is the final death, leading
neither to rebirth, nor the Ten Hells, but oblivion. Monks from the
Monastery of the Black Dragon are noted as supreme assassins. The
Black Dragon Monastery is in the province boarding Qin, but it's exact
location is a closely guarded secret. The Order wears mostly black.
- Dim-Bong is the Monkey God of Mischief and Greed, among other
things. The masters at his monastery teach a weaponless "Monkey-Claw"
fighting style, which is marked by defense and evasion. Dim-Bong is
also believed to bring luck to the crafty and is worshiped by
merchants, thieves, sailors, and others seeking good fortune. The
order wears mostly purple.
- The Golden Phoenix and Black Dragon monasteries are rivals, but
opponents who respect one another and enjoy their competition.
- There is an annual tournament of martial prowess, which is held in
Xiang Hu. Warriors throughout the empire, monks or no, compete for the
title of "Eastern Champion."
- The Eastern Champion receives a golden amulet, a grant of land, and
the right to be a suitor to Seng-wei, who has just recently come into
the age of marriage.
- Women in Qin Kurai can and do marry other women, so it is possible
that a female Eastern Champion could win the hand of Seng-wei.
- There are terrible monsoons in Qin Kurai that destroy whole villages
during monsoon season. It is currently monsoon season. Some fearless
(crazy?) souls known as Monsoon Riders, brave the monsoons and ride
the air currents small para-sailing craft. The monsoons come from the
sea to the south, and it is often said that "a south wind is an ill
- The leading would-be usurper for the throne of Qin Kurai is Cao Tsu,
a general who won many military victories when the empire was being
formed. Two of his primary allies in this ambition are his adopted son
Ju-Jin, a warrior devoted to the perfection of Jianshu, and Ming Feng,
once a pupil at the Golden Phoenix monastery, now a vile fire
sorcerer, possessed of a demon from one of the Ten Hells.
Ji Xiao - Jianshu adept of the Golden Phoenix monastery. Friend of Pei
and former friend of Ming Feng before he had him expelled from the
Golden Phoenix monastery year ago for dishonorable conduct and cruelty
towards his sparring partners. A somewhat vain soul. Well-oiled.
Lan Tao - master swordsman of the Black Dragon monastery. Lan Tao
anonymously won the title of Eastern Champion five years ago. He was
not allowed to retain the lands he won, but has held on to the golden
amulet indicating his victory and his suitor rights.
Su Yu - Monkey Claw fighting-style master of the Jade Monkey
monastery. Known for his amazing reflexes and dangerous love of wealth.
Shin' Zu - Silver-haired, master swordswoman of the Black Dragon
monastery. Daughter to Cao Tsu, who would not permit her to compete in
the annual tournament, and replaced her in his affection, pinning his
ambitions instead on Ju-Jin. She feels she has much to prove.
The Play - Act I:
Soundtrack: Mournful Funereal Drums
Image: Burning leaves swirl through the air. Burning arches and
burning wood and paper houses are seen in the background. The sky is
grey and foreboding.
Brother Chin Yau is dying, his body marked by both steel and flame.
Four companions, members and adjuncts of Wong Fe Hu's secret police,
kneel over him in the smoking ruins of the Golden Phoenix monastery.
He looks into the eyes of his beloved former pupil, Ji Xiao, and
breathes his final words, "Ming... Feng..."
Ji Xiao grimaces and nods, "And.. the Master?"
Chin Yau looks confused. He shakes his head, shudders, and lies still.
Lan Tao determines that they are in some danger of having their way
back to Xiang Hu cut off by the forest fire now raging in the Demon
Wood, but that they have a few minutes to look for survivors and/or
determine which way the culprits went.
Shin' Zu finds many tracks leading to the monastery treasure house to
Su Yu sneaks off in that direction.
A scream is heard to the N.
Ji Xiao and Lan Tao run towards the scream. Shin' Zu maintains a
central position between the now split party and scans for foes and
Ji Xiao and Lan Tao come upon 5 brown robed swordsmen, two with red
sashes. They are preparing to rape the archer Pei Zi by the Floating
Lan Tao recalls that the two with red sashes work directly for Ming Feng.
Ji Xiao and Lan Tao take the five by surprise and slay them all before
they are even fully aware they are under attack.
Pei is grateful and happy to see them. They question her and it
becomes clear that Ming Feng and many of his brown robed assassins
attacked and burned the monastery while most of the adherents were
either working in the nearby fields or at prayer. They might have
mounted some resistance, but there were many young disciples that were
still green and in harm's way. The bulk of the members elected to flee
north with these young ones across the Floating Leaf River. Pei says
that Ming was headed with most of his force towards the treasure house.
Ji Xiao gives Pei Zi his bow and asks if she is prepared to fight any
other assassins that may till be nearby. She is still shaken, somewhat
injured, and believes she should head north to help protect the rest.
She tries to persuade Lan Tao and Ji Xiao that there are too many
assassins remaining and that they should head north with her, but they
wish her well and head back south towards Shin' Zu.
Meanwhile, Su Yu has crept near the treasure house and sees at least
ten men nearby, with perhaps another ten inside including one barking
orders in a commanding, almost unearthly voice.
Su Yu's greed gets the best of him and he elects to attempt to sneak
into the treasure house and find the famous Monkey Eye gem which once
belonged to his Order but which has been in the possession of the
Golden Phoenix monastery for some time.
Amazingly, Su Yu manages to sneak past all outside, including two men
posting guard near the entrance to the treasure house. He observes a
carved wooden box with a monkey design underneath some silk cloth
bolts in one of the rooms inside. He tucks the box away and steals out
of the treasure house, evading all the men inside, and pulls himself
up onto the roof of the building and out of sight.
Ji Xiao, Lan Tao, and Shin' Zu spy Su Yu on the treasure house roof
and are headed south when Ji Xiao sees five more brown-robed assassins
near the mountain temple entrance to the east. The three determine to
slay these men who are separated from the main contingent.
Ji Xiao and Lan Tao charge the men, while Shin' Zu takes a more
circuitous route, attempting to flank and surprise them.
Five more assassins, carrying red jade statuettes appear at the
entrance, joining the others. The battle is joined and the three
companions make quick work of the ten without injury, and without
alerting the main group. One attempting to flee gets a throwing star
in the back of the head from Shin' Zu.
Ming Feng and the remaining assassins give up on searching for the
Monkey Eye and head for their horses to the south. The forest fire
continues to rage.
The risk of attacking Ming Feng and a score of assassins is briefly
discussed and it is decided that vengeance must be served.
Su Yu spies two assassins that had been sent north to collect the
others. They have seen Ji Xiao, Lan Tao and Shin'Zu and are running
south towards the treasure house, shouting a warning. Su Yu prepares
to ambush them from the roof.
Ming Feng hears the warning and sees Su Yu on the south slope of the
treasure house roof. Ming Feng orders a barrage of arrows, all of
which Su Yu manages to evade, but he is struck by a bolt of cold
hellfire. Su Yu hears the moaning of the damned, and hears Ming
Feng's voice in his head, "The Eye!"
Su Yu leaps from the roof to get out of line-of-sight and attack the
two assassins but is unable to surprise them.
Su Yu, addled from the tormenting hellfire, engages the two assassins
as the rest of the party circles towards the main group to the south,
moving quickly but stealthily.
Su Yu take out his two opponents with some help from Lan Tao's arrows.
Ming Feng continues hurling devastating hellfire at the group.
Ultimately, both Lan Tao and Ji Xiao are struck by hellfire and are
The four companions close on Ming Feng and twenty assassins, and are
quickly surrounded. The melee is a sea of blades and fists.
Ming Feng lights his blade with green hellfire and swings it in a
deadly arc, cursing Ji Xiao all while for "robbing" him of his
rightful place in the Golden Phoenix monastery.
The companions whittle the assassins down, first to fifteen, then to
five, until finally Ming Feng stands alone, a whirling, howling
dervish of evil.
In a spotlight moment, Ji Xiao sunders Ming Feng's blade, leaving him
momentarily without defense.
Soon after, the four fall on the villain as one, with a particularly
deadly strike through the throat from the rear by Shin' Zu.
Ming Feng's tortured soul is seen to emerge from his body and seeks to
ascend to the heavens, but it is dragged down by a by an enormous
demonic claw that appears from out of the ground. A deep booming
laughter and Ming Feng's shrieks of horror are heard from below.
Smoke from the forest fire fills the air, panicked horses race in
every direction. The companions gaze at the carnage around them and
consider what do next.
Soundtrack: Victorious-sounding string instruments rise, but with an
undercurrent of foreboding percussion