Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Wushu Open by Daniel Bayn kicks bottom - through a window on fire

I jump, grab a red paper light fitting, swing across the room and boot the first mook through a flowery paper wall, I roll with the momentum over a sloshing fish tank and connect my fist into the face of another.
Wushu Open is a text document. So it all looks like this.Wushu Open is an action movie roleplaying game system. A system that encourages you to do that. A system that rewards you for doing that. Wushu Open is the no-frills-and-free, creative commons version of the commercial-but-indie Wushu system. Ideal for action movie settings from Hong Kong action theatres to derivatives such as the Matrix. The rulebook is plain but I implore you to forgive that and read it; as the system breaks preconceptions in the most mind shattering manner.

Put reality away for a minute...

Daniel demonstrates that realism isn't always good. In most systems realism causes negative modifiers to outrageous acts of heroism. Negative modifiers make cool stuff less likely and so players are rewarded less. A good point, I think. I've certainly seen the benefits of chaining up reality in the cellar when playing with my Shared Pool system. In Wushu, the core mechanic is based on that principle.

It's a core mechanic, you say?

Everyone describes what they are doing and then everyone rolls. What you describe will automatically happen, how it advances the scene depends on the roll. A solid storygame mechanic. You're aiming to roll under your character's most appropriate trait (rated 1-5) on a D6. Here's the clever bit: you roll a D6 for each cool detail you include. For my example earlier:
I jump, grab a red paper light fitting [D6], swing across the room and kick the first goon through a flowery paper wall [D6], I roll with the momentum over a sloshing fish tank [D6] and connect my boot into the face of another mook [D6].
My pool is 4 dice. The GM and player decide what a die-worthy detail is and you limit the number of dice to speed up or slow down a scene (for dramatic effect). I find that this kind of reward works brilliantly with players who are engaged at the table as there is a tangible benefit for coming up with entertaining and interesting actions.

Choppy and Kicky

When in combat, you fight Mooks and Nemeses. Mooks can be dispatched without an opposed check and damage ticks down their "Chi" as a group. When Chi runs out, the remaining Mooks take to their heels or are all unconscious or realise they're the bad guys and surrender. Either way, the scene moves on.

Nemeses are taken on mano-e-mano basis. Nemeses are like player characters. When rolling combat, you split your dice between attack dice for doing damage (called Yang) and defence dice for soaking up damage (called Yin). Every success removes a point of Chi until you're exhausted. Choosing a balance between Yin and Yang gives a clever tactical choice.


As damage relies on narrative, you can choose whatever weapons fit your character and the setting. There is no initiative or advancement either. Your character begins with a Weakness trait that gives your character depth too.

Stuck between free and a paid place

Wushu Open feels unfinished. The system itself is complete but as a game, it needs expansion to get over that hump to finished. And here lies the difficulty: if the free game was complete then there would be little need to buy the full price game (which isn't expensive). I would like more examples, an evocative layout, sample adventure, contents page and some images.
The reviewer runs up a chair onto the table and launches a simile laden paragraph at one reader while slapping the foundations of another.
As the game has a Creative Commons variant, so there is no reason that someone else couldn't take Wushu Open and make these updates. However, you could well argue that a well put together Open redux would affect sales of the core Wushu game; as the sort of person who would do a redux, I would not like to sour Daniel's goodwill. This issue is not unique to Wushu Open but any free RPG that is shoulder to shoulder with a paid product.

Super whizzy choppy

I regularly red "GMs should reward the players for imaginative play" and although experience points can serve that purpose, Wushu uses that tenet as a cornerstone. To demonstrate the opposite, Wushu penalises players who do not engage at the table. How many games can claim to that? Wushu is a novel system for action movies and is worthy of its following.


Andy Hauge said...

Voila! You need say no more!

Behold Wushu Open Reloaded (PDF link)

Amongst other things, it contains commentary on how to use Wushu for games other than high-action brawling.

Rob Lang said...

Thank you Andy! That's a rather polite way of saying "You missed this better version, Lang!". I'll edit the post when I next sit down to Blog.

Rickard said...

It's a lie that Wushu is an action game.

It's a clever lie, though. A lie that is needed to make the game work, because what it does is that it forms the participants' minds. We can find this in other games as well. In Feng Shui, you got typical archetypes such as ninja or detective. How does it differ if the ninja is using the skill Intrusion compared to the detective? The archetypes are nothing more than a tool to form the participants' minds to the right genre.

Wushu is no exception, but you can actually say it's any kind of genre and it will work. Let say we're playing a film noir session. The sentences that you tell could be an inner monologue instead.

I do think the implementation in Wushu could be better but there is no denying that it does one thing. It makes people talk. The claimed genre forms their minds to do the "appropriate" descriptions.

Rob Lang said...

Thanks for your comment, Rickard.

I agree that it can be used for any genre where reality takes a back seat in favour of flavoursome narrative. Action is one, Noir is another, Matrix or Net-running too.

The way the system is written in the Wushu Open document is very much for depicting an action film. I've not read anything other than the Wushu Open rules, so I can't comment on those. I do know that the core principles have been applied to lots of genres but I can't build those into the review because I only review what's there.

Thank you for your feedback!

Andy Hauge said...

Oh, I mainly suggested Reloaded because of your closing statements that Wushu felt unfinished. It definitely is unfinished. Reloaded goes a long way towards fixing that!

Rob Lang said...

Thank you again, Andy! I'll check out Reloaded and update. :-)

ahabicher said...

I have all of the Wushu publications, and the system can do much more than fight. You can do anything with it: climb a wall; hunt a deer; research in a library. All with these simple mechanics. My favourite rule is the 'Last Mook Standing' Rule.

Gordon said...

We need another post. Chop chop.