Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wushu overview/review

I ran my first game of Wushu last night. If you're not familiar with Wushu, it's a wuxia emulating system that rewards description and over-the-top narrative accounts to resolve conflict. One of the important features of the system is called The Principle of Narrative Truth. What a player says happens, happens. If a player, or GM, says something happens that is out of sync in some way with the game - not thematically appropriate, logically impossible - then another player can veto this action, but otherwise the dice rolls do not tell you if you succeed, but how much further your actions advance the scene. 

I find this kind of game refreshing. When playing pen and paper rpg's I want to do things with these games that I can't do in a video game. This is because I believe video games do certain things very well, and that pen and paper games that try to emulate the video game experience or those that have been replaced by the video game are simply slow and dull competitors. The use of imagination to resolve conflict, or do anything, is something that a video game cannot capture, and so the more that this is done in a pen and paper game, the more I like that game. 

The only things that didn't go well with the session were my own fault: I didn't plan out "Nemesis" fights well enough. Fighting in this system is divided between Nemesis fights and fights with "mooks". Mooks do not roll against player characters, they simply come at them in droves to provide the opportunity to perform crazy actions against many enemies at once. This is especially fun because there is no initiative, or division of time to resolve combat. It simply happens as the player says it does, unless vetoed, and dice rolls happen after this (dice pools are based on the amount of description a player gives about their character's action), and the amount of successes determines not IF the players succeed, but if their actions advanced their ultimate goals (knocking all the mooks out, disarming a bomb, evading security, et cetera). For nemesis fights, the nemeses are treated like players and can make rolls, describe their attacks and defensive maneuvers, and have "chi" which counts as health when attacks are not properly defended against. My nemesis fights were pretty standard fair (I thought more about the setting I wanted to run the game in than the story itself), but afterwards I did find this great list of nemesis tactics to use in the future.

I'll write on the setting we used for this game later (I'm currently refining it to try and use again), but overall I found Wushu to be a great system for quick flowing, action intensive games. I downloaded Wirefu and there are several other pdf books for it if you want greater detail on specific settings/play styles for $5 bucks a pop. Or just download the free open rules from the creator (Daniel Bayn)'s website. 


Unknown said...

Hi, I found your post from RPG Bloggers Network. I'm interested because I purchased a few of the Wushu PDF books recently and am looking forward to playing it.

Thanks for the link to the Nemesis Tactics, I will definitely take a look at that before I plan a game.

A few questions if you don't mind:
Since Wushu is very different from more popular RPGs, did you have any difficulty getting players interested? How well did the players connect with the narrative style?

Thanks for posting the review.
Kevin Richey

Jack said...

Hi Kevin,

The only issue a player raised with Wushu - when I brought up using Wushu with Exalted in the future - was that he likes getting gear that ups his stats, and Wushu doesn't reward this. We might be using Budo (a crunchier version of Wushu) to try and compromise on this, though I admit I have yet to read it. Other than this, even with the same player, the system itself was well received.

Players connected with the narrative style very well, though both they and I occasionally slipped into old habits and would say, "I try to..." instead of "I do..." I imagine this goes away after a few sessions.

One additional thing I forgot to mention was how quickly the game went. I didn't design a very deep story, and so this was part of it, but combat moved very quick because we simply did things and did not need to look up anything in a rule book, or figure out any complex dice pools, and other players did not get bored while one player took their "turn". Overall everyone stayed engaged the entire time. The only real failings of any of these fights, was as I previously said, my own lack of forethought for some nemeses fights.

Good luck on running your own games.

Anonymous said...

As the person who Jack was referring to, I can say I was pretty skeptical about the system. The mechanics of the game itself seemed pretty thin to me. Playing the game did nothing to alleviate that concern. If your players are really into tactics and game mechanics, this probably isn't going to be a game for them.

That said, the game was still a blast. We'll see if it retains the excitement of the first session, but Wushu is plain fun. I pretty much knew that the combat would be imaginative and fun coming in, but I thought I'd miss the mechanics and tactics more than I did. That isn't to say I didn't miss them, but the simplicity and flow of Wushu definitely made up for some of that.

Wushu isn't a system that I think will ever be my favorite or anything like that because I do like games with at least a little more crunch (I hadn't heard that term used to describe mechanics until last week, but I really like it ;p), but it is still a fun system so long as the players let themselves have fun with it.

Reverend Bayn said...

Hola, Jack. This is Dan Bayn. Thanks for the review and I'm glad you're having fun with Wushu :)

I've got a new RPG coming out and I'm looking for people to give it a review. Any chance you'd be interested?

rsvp asap, --Dan

Jack said...

Thanks for stopping by the blog, and yes I'd love to review a new game of yours. I couldn't find an email address attached to your comment, so I hope this reply finds you.

Reverend Bayn said...

Excellent. Drop me line ( and I'll send it over forthwith.