||In the rickety inns and old run–down tea houses they stayed in, she dreamed of seeing great heroes of the Jiang Hu.
||The Heavens themselves seemed to split when the hero-saint from a distant soil planted a foot on the Land of the Gods.
||If your temple is filled with gold, there is no room left for enlightenment. You want to make a worthy offering? Extinguish the furnace of your desire, then!
||Though Xiao Yu did not grasp why, they understood: they walked deep within the Jiang Hu.
||The mysterious swordsman bowed respectfully to Master Liu and handed him a letter with both hands, then turned his back and walked away, letting loose with a coarse, chilling laughter.
||The fire of their souls would burn brighter than a falling star.
||Fate was not kind to the manuscript... Time claimed what the fires did not. It was incomplete... I had to improvise.
||The man calmly takes his reed flute to his lips, and lets a single note escape. With his own mastery over the Jade Spirit Sword style, blades of pure sound shimmer in the air.
||The Imperial strength is not in muscles, but in his army.
In the rickety inns and old run–down tea houses they stayed in, she dreamed of seeing great heroes of the Jiang Hu.
Original SA post
Legend of the Wulin - In the rickety inns and old run–down tea houses they stayed in, she dreamed of seeing great heroes of the Jiang Hu.
Raven Scholar Liu plucks her guquin, the note scything out like a blade.
Golden Stomach Ko wades into the blazing teahouse, smashing aside downed timbers with his massive iron spoon, the raging flames bothering him no more than the heat of his kitchen would.
The castle wall is tall and unassailable, but Twin Moon Shadow is undaunted. With a quick leap, she rises to the tips of a stand of bamboo, and from there to the wall's very top.
The man known as Jade Tongue's words have failed him, and the bandits draw their blades and press in on him. Stepping toward their campfire, he seizes a bottle of wine lying there and draws from it a watery blade in time to meet the blade of his first attacker.
Wan He Bao finishes his study of the patient's arm, then turns to his medicinal backpack, removing several jars and sacks of herbs. As he begins grinding several into a fine paste, he lights a branch of another type and waves it across the patient's back. "Your blade should regain its vigor by the morning," he states confidently.
Legends of the Wulin
is a wuxia RPG, spiritual sequel and successor to
Weapons of the Gods
. It's also just out of its preorder phase and just before its actual ship date, making this either a good or a bad time to review it! It'll be in stores in about 5 to 8 weeks, which should be plenty of time to cover the general features.
In general, they look to have made a game where if it's happened or feasibly could happen in a kung-fu film, you can do it. This includes the fighting on bamboo in Crouching Tiger (or fighting across a lake in Hero), the deadly musicians in Kung Fu Hustle, fighting with your hair like in The Forbidden Kingdom... It doesn't precisely include rules for punching a hole in a dude and leaving his stomach plug jiggling on the ground, but you can improvise.
The game is overall well-done, with quality rules and layout all over. So, I will cover the very few bad points here. I only have an early copy, however, so some or all of the first two complaints may have been fixed by the time it hits stores.
Proofreading is lacking, in the 'spellcheck and call it good' manner. Inequity is used where iniquity is surely meant (as in wretched hive), and 'tenants' is used when speaking of religious tenets, among others.
'Weakness' is a system term indicating a specific 'status effect', which they decided means it should be italicized whenever it appears in that context, in order to set it apart from just talking about, say, the weakness in someone's kung fu. Instead, someone just search-and-replaced 'weakness' with '
', which made for a slightly confusing read the first time through. Similarly, 'chivalrous' is capitalized everywhere.
Everything has its own terminology. I'll be creating a glossary once I get into the actual system, but about the only gaming term immediately recognizable is 'dice'. It's very immersive, which is actually a pun as you'll see later.
It can be a little difficult to find all the information you need your first few times through the book. I had to read over character generation three times before I found how much Chi you start with.
These drawbacks are easily compensated for, in much the same way that 3.5 DMs learn which page WBL is on, but it's not entirely approachable by those new to the hobby.
In practice the game plays somewhat like a cross between Feng Shui (Where your bonus is reliant on how well you describe your actions) and FATE (Where you can apply bonuses and penalties based on narrative elements). It's much more rules-heavy than either, however.
Anyway, there is your general review, now comes the section-by-section.
is just that. It begins with some fiction: Xiao Yu is the daughter of a nobleman who is relocating, with his family, to northern Shen Zhu. The journey has been boring, and mostly desert. She wishes for excitement, certain that she would be safe because of her tutor and protector: Dragon Flute Liu, at first glance an unassuming old calligraphy tutor, but in actuality a legendary kung fu master of the Blue Flame society. None of this means much to
yet, but Xiao Yu expresses her boredom, and Master Liu offers a history lesson to pass the time. With a soft tune on his flute, he begins a tale that is only semi-fiction: couched as a dream-tale Xiao Yu experiences, but also giving us a flavorful glimpse at the legends and history surrounding the setting.
The Wulin - The Martial Brotherhood - has no clear origin; it has existed, shrouded in mystery, as far back as one can reach, until history fades to myth. In those mythic times, men searched the land over for legendary weapons from a time even further past, relics of an ancient age that they believed held the power they themselves lacked. (Isn't it always weird how ruins get
advanced the deeper you go?) This was their downfall; their pride and ambition crumbling to dust. Today, the men and women of the Wulin rely far more on their personal skill, and a new age of heroes is upon the world.
We then drop the flavor and go into how
Legends of the Wulin
Weapons of the Gods
. Quite a bit. LotW is a completely original property, making only a few nods to the content of WotG.
As a side note, the game takes a moderately conversational tone at times, dropping some levity into otherwise clinical mechanics discussion. Which I happen to quite like, since it mirrors my own writing style.
We have the typical RPG introduction, as well as a pretty kickass example of play where only one check is rolled. The players get 18, 22, 34, and 49, which is something of an indication that this game does not use a typical die roll mechanic.
We next have an explanation of wuxia. Specifically how it is both something that you do and something that you are. The translation is along the lines of "Martial Knight", but the knight is referring to following their own code, not the law of the land as a samurai would. Wuxia fighters extol the virtues of honor, loyalty, and rightful retribution. That last is explained in some depth, it is basically repaying what is given; kindness and peace is repaid as such, tyranny and oppression sees bloody vengeance wreaked. Each fighter has additional virtues they follow, and each as well has different definitions of their virtues, but that is a decent definition to be working from. Collectively, wuxia fighters are known as
, and form a society outside the bounds of normal Chinese culture known as the
Next time: So this turn I Flood from my River, Breathe with Wu Wei, then start a Wave and inflict a Marvel with a Ripple...
The Heavens themselves seemed to split when the hero-saint from a distant soil planted a foot on the Land of the Gods.
Original SA post
Legends of the Wulin - The Heavens themselves seemed to split when the hero-saint from a distant soil planted a foot on the Land of the Gods.
The Book of Wood
covers basic terminology and chargen, and thus, so will I. This glossary is more complete than that provided in this section of the book, and covers parts of the combat section as well.
- Class. Warrior, Courtier, Scholar, Priest, or Doctor.
- MP. Used to power the abilities of your internal kung fu style and a few other things. Comes in normal variety, specific Chi tied to each of the 5 elements (Wood, Fire, Water, Earth, and Metal), and Corrupt and Enlightened Chi. The only Chi you can increase by spending Destiny on it directly is plain vanilla Chi, the others must be Cultivated. Chi regenerates naturally round-by-round, although certain conditions may cause this regeneration to be impeded or boosted, and you can take a Minor Action to increase your regen.
- Defense/Toughness, essentially. Whenever you take a Rippling roll, you spend Chi on your Chi Aura, roll as many dice as you spent Chi points, and subtract a result (doesn't need to be a Set) from the Rippling roll. Armor and Toughness apply as bonuses versus physical attacks, but not to Rippling rolls from Secret Arts.
- Roughly, your toughness. Rippling rolls that exceed your Chi Threshold inflict damage conditions.
- A side effect of spending Destiny on certain options. Each point of Destiny spent on kung fu or Secret Arts related to your Archetype also works to advance your Chi.
- Impressive actions performed in keeping with a Virtue (see below). These are awarded at the Sage's option, and each player can bestow one Deed per session to any other character besides his own.
- Experience. You get some at chargen, and each session usually gives out 2 or 3 points. These can be spent on various things
- Points of Destiny granted by a Deed and spent towards a Loresheet of an organization. Specifically, spent by the party who awards you the Deed (The Sage or other player) on the Loresheet of the organization the Deed was performed for/against. For instance, if you obtain a Deed of Loyalty while working in the auspices of the Heaven Sword Alliance, you may rapidly find yourself becoming friends with them, learning their secrets of kung fu, and possibly even gifted with a grand blade!
- Something only doable out of combat. Something like cooking a meal, caring for a wounded comrade (usually), or setting up a ritual (Again, usually).
- Put Sets from your Lake into your River.
- Put Sets from your River into your latest Lake roll, either to power some abilities or to make new Sets.
- Optional complication. If you have a Set of 10s (or 0s, depending on your die labels) on one of your rolls, the Sage can offer Interesting Times. If the roll was otherwise successful, Interesting Times adds a humorous or challenging wrinkle. If the roll failed, Interesting Times compounds your misery. You gain a point of Joss either way, though.
- The society of the Wulin, literally "Rivers and Lakes." Originally used to denote the wilderness, with the connotations of lawlessness and adventure, it eventually came to refer to a society outside society, outside the laws and restrictions of traditional Chinese society.
- Fate points/action points/luck. Literal definition is an idol in a shrine, with religious connotations (Pidgin loanword, originally stemming from 'deus'). It seems a little strange at first glance not to use a word meaning "luck", but on closer inspection, this becomes the gods literally watching over and influencing the fate around the character. Related to Virtues, below. Comes in two flavors: Chivalrous, which adds bonuses to your actions, and Malicious, which penalizes your foes. Either type of Joss can also be spent either to add a narrative element, like a tree next to a wall or a chance meeting with someone you know, or to power some kung fu abilities.
- Dice pool.
- A way of measuring what your character is aware of or involved with. Loresheets all cost Destiny (Which may be 0, or free for certain people), and unlock the ability to buy connections to the contents of the Loresheet. Buying the Buddhism Loresheet allows you to spend Destiny (or apply your initial discretionary Virtue points) on the Buddhist Virtues, buying the Beggar's Society Loresheet lets you connect yourself to the society, learn their kung fu secrets, and maybe even access their legendary weapon: The Dog-Beating Stick!
- These are Minor Actions that can impose a penalty on enemies. This can be best likened to applying a temporary aspect to someone in FATE.
- Any action taken besides your original roll. Each Minor Action you attempt requires an additional Set of dice. For instance, if you want to search someone without them knowing it, you'd need a Set to define your search result and one to define your Stealth result.
- Come in several varieties, increase in steps of 5: +5, +10, etc., and none of which stack with themselves. If you have kung fu and a weapon that both increase Strike by +5, your Strike modifier is a total +10, but if you have two kung fu abilities that increase Speed by +10 and +5 respectively, your bonus is only +10.
- Damage, basically. The best analogy I have is Toughness saves from Mutants & Masterminds. Any attack that hits (And this can include pointed putdowns, prayers, and pressure point pokes) adds at least one Ripple to the target, and may cause a Rippling roll, which rolls dice equal to the number of Ripples already present on the target. If the target fails their opposed roll by a significant margin, they take injuries, other more esoteric conditions, or get taken out. Everyone still standing at the end of a combat also makes one final Rippling roll. It's entirely possible to beat a man and then fall over dead of your own injuries a moment later. Or realize that he was your only true equal, his philosophy was the stronger, or any number of other consequences.
- A place where you can temporarily store unused Sets of dice from a Lake roll in order to help out other rolls. You can also remove dice stored in it to power some kung fu or weapon abilities. There's a specific order you have to do things like that in, though: Wash > Float > Flood.
- Spells. A somewhat accurate definition when describing Priests or Scholars, but also refers to a Courtier's way with words and a Doctor's medicine or pressure point knowledge.
- Two or more matching 10-sided dice. Whenever you roll your Lake, each number displayed on the die counts as a ones digit, and the
of that number you rolled counts as the tens digit. Single dice count as having a 1 in their tens digit, but can't normally be used for Sets. Supposing you roll 9, 7, 6, 9, 3, 7, 7, you'd have the available results of 29, 37, 16, and 13. You can use the 29 and 37 to do things, or put one of them into your River to potentially back up later rolls.
- The Land of the Gods. This is a Mythic China, based on, but not conforming to, Chinese legend. Everyone speaks one dialect of Chinese (or rather, English dub) just for simplicity's sake.
- Alignment. This is much better than the basic nine, though. You have ten basic Virtues, and each has a value from 1 to 5, assigned at chargen and buyable with Destiny later. Everyone has both positive and negative virtues, and the values you place in them do not restrain your actions, but instead reward you for acting in their ways and tell the Sage what you wish for your character. Other Virtues beyond the basic ten exist, such as Buddhist values, filial piety, and others. When you perform a Deed related to a Virtue, you gain Joss equal to the Virtue's value and of a similar type (Loyalty bestows Chivalrous Joss, while Ruthlessness bestows Malicious, for instance), as well as Entanglement in the same amount.
- Empties your River to no effect. This happens at the end of every scene, making a specific River good for one combat, conversation, or whatnot. Also usable by choice in case you have, say, a River full of 2s and just rolled some 8s you're not gonna be using.
- An action that can change how other people on the battlefield would act. This can be moving around, changing the shape of the battlefield somehow (Like collapsing a building), or others. Most, if not all of them, require a Set. This action is declared when initiative is rolled each round, but only takes place on your initiative count. During that time, others faster than you could try and Break the Wave to stop the action.
- The Martial Brotherhood. Literally "Martial Forest." This is everyone who practices kung fu as a martial art, those wandering blades and gloryseekers that form the basis of legends and stories.
(or just Sage) - Dungeon Master/Game Master/Storyteller. There is also a rumored Wulin Sage existing in the game world, said to be the supreme master of all destiny.
You see what I mean about terminology.
Like most tabletop games (And some electronic ones), character creation begins with a concept, which should be worked on with the rest of the party so you don't wind up with three kind-hearted doctors and a wicked, vicious bandit (Not that this wouldn't make a nifty setup). Then the Sage tells you what Rank you start at (Usually this is 4th. 5th rank is below that, 3rd above, it goes up to 1st rank) and you decide on your Archetype.
Archetypes, as mentioned above, are your basic class framework. Now, everyone gets kung fu styles with which to fight, you will never be at a loss for something to do in a fight, even as a Scholar or Courtier. Archetype merely determines which Secret Arts you gain access to and what skill you use to regenerate extra Chi.
grant themselves combat boosts with their knowledge of the Five Battle Approaches based on the elements. Important skills for them are Tactics and Hardiness.
control the emotions of people, drawing out their Passions and Inspirations in line with the five elements. The skills they should focus on are Inspire, Awareness, and Confidence.
focus on knowing the world around them, utilizing that knowledge to predict auspicious times and circumstances. Their predictions do not center on the five elements, but a workable knowledge of such is helpful. They have the most skills that would be useful to them, including Wu Wei, Tactics, Survival, Politics, and Learning, among others.
cultivate divine Curses and Influences through Daoist magic and the five elements. Their favored skills are Learning and Wu Wei.
manipulate the meridian lines and humours of a patient's body, inflaming or soothing Chi imbalances between their organ systems. These follow, say it with me now, the five elements. Their skills are Medicine (naturally) and Hardiness.
To put things in more familiar terms, everyone can fight, but Warriors do better at it and can self-buff (And dispel certain buffs their opposing warriors use). Everyone except Warriors functions as a buffer/debuffer, with Scholars affecting a wider range (Their predictions affect everyone that acts in accordance with them), but unable to work them quickly in the heat of battle. Doctors do the healing, but anyone who buys Medicine skill can do that, too. Any Archetype could feasibly be a ninja/thief with appropriate skills and kung fu, so there's no need for a specific Archetype just for them.
Next, we assign skills. There are 16 of them, and we get 20 points of Destiny to allocate among them. 2 points gives us +5 to the skill, and 1 point gives a specialty, which can be just about anything that would fall under the skill. There are skill caps, of course, 4th Rank is capped at +10, not counting specialties.
Of note among the skills is Wu Wei, which is described as the skill of 'not-doing'. Very Zen. This is essentially Sense Motive, mystical awareness, and spiritual fortitude. Fortitude, strength, and dexterity are each covered by their own skill, and there are no movement-related skills. Movement is instead handled by kung fu.
Then comes our Virtues. As mentioned above, there are 10 of them, all ranked 1-5. They start at 1 and we have 15 points to allocate among them.
Virtues are Benevolence, Force, Honor, Loyalty, and Righteousness.
Virtues are Ferocity, Individualism, Obsession, Revenge, and Ruthlessness.
Everyone has a mix of positive and negative virtues, which makes for interesting heroes and relatable villains. After all, the protagonist will often go on a roaring rampage of Revenge, and if the giant goon were not fanatically Loyal to his sorcerous master, he would have no reason to stand there and grunt while the hero unleashes a series of rapid punches into his unmoving abdomen.
After this comes Disadvantages. Everyone can have up to two, and you can buy additional ones at the fairly steep cost of 5 Destiny each. It recommends physical ones, because mental ones can be dropped relatively easily, and if you take an enemy, there's always the chance you'll defeat him. Whenever one of your Disadvantages proves to be a problem, you gain 1 Destiny. Note that if you take Blind, any intelligent Sage will treat you as a blind master that uses his other senses to navigate and such.
And now we get into Kung Fu. Kung fu is divided into two categories: External and internal. External is what you hit things with, it determines your bonuses to various combat maneuvers, what weapons you can use with it, and your general approach to combat. Internal kung fu channels your Chi, producing a wide variety of effects. Everyone gets one of each, and can buy more for 10 Destiny each. Certain factions favor certain kung fu styles, and can grant specific bonuses to your styles. The Beggar Society, for instance, grants discounts on the external styles of Subtle Force, Divine Pattern Long-Strokes, or Eight Legends when buying them as secondary styles (And has special techniques for use with those styles), and lets you learn all the techniques of the Boundless Prosperity Manual internal style (You are normally limited in how many techniques of an internal style you can learn).
And now the finishing touches. Everyone has a
, which has a single attribute, such as Saber, Unarmed, or Ranged. For a little extra Destiny, it can have two attributes, such as a Massive Sword or a Flexible Staff. When you use a weapon that fits your external kung fu style, it adds some bonuses, usually +5 to one combat stat, the ability to do something special, and the ability to Flood a die to do something even
special. For instance, Ranged weapons add +5 Strike, can make attacks into adjacent Zones, and can Flood dice to extend their attacks into even further Zones. You don't gain these bonuses if your style doesn't use that weapon, but the book recommends doing so anyway if it's cool to you.
, which increases your Chi Threshold. You can spend a few points to upgrade that to Medium or Heavy Armor for a further upgrade to Chi Threshold, but a commensurate penalty to rolls involving moving quickly. Everything but the lightest clothing counts as Light Armor, so you don't need to worry about your technically-armored status clashing with your mental image of your jolly saffron-robed priest.
They give us some values on Chi, and we get
to spend as we see fit on Loresheets, kung fu, Secret Arts, skills, weapons/armor, Virtues, and whatnot. That 20 Destiny doesn't go very far, though.
For your edification, I'm going to
create a character
in my next post. I'd like some concepts you'd like to see, either what kind of guy he is, or what he can do.
If your temple is filled with gold, there is no room left for enlightenment. You want to make a worthy offering? Extinguish the furnace of your desire, then!
Original SA post
Legends of the Wulin - If your temple is filled with gold, there is no room left for enlightenment. You want to make a worthy offering? Extinguish the furnace of your desire, then!
I have a soft spot for
from the Water Margin and would like to see if he could be made:
Li Kui, Iron Ox, the Black Whirlwind!
So be it!
Judging by his Wikipedia page, we can make a few determinations easily.
Very strong, very fast, but not good at dodging, possibly fairly inaccurate.
Weakness for drink, possibly enough to qualify for the drunken master ability.
Mix of positive and negative virtues.
So we have that much worked out so far. Naturally, he is a
. We place a significant amount of his Virtues into
Ferocity and Loyalty
, scattering a few more here and there, mostly on the selfish side. We assign his skills mostly into
Might, Hardiness, and Tactics
Now, kung fu. This is tied fairly heavily into weapon selection, so we'll handle that as well. His weapon is a special one with two attributes:
Paired and Massive
. This makes it more accurate, more damaging, harder to block, and he can do some nifty tricks with it. We spend 3 Destiny to pick this up.
Naturally we want to be able to capitalize on those, so we'll want to pick a style that matches one of those types. It doesn't matter if the other type is unsupported, as long as part of the weapon is included in the style, the whole thing is. Given Li Kui's characteristics, we're looking for a style that increases Damage and Footwork, possibly at the expense of Strike. None of the styles that use Paired or Massive explicitly manage that, but Bone-Fed Wolf Fang and Ravenous Wings come close. Both take advantage of weakened conditions in an opponent, and both have a technique that further increases their damage against a weakened opponent. We'll go ahead and pick up
, and spend 4 Destiny immediately to get
Calling Out Crows
, which increases damage on someone who's already wounded.
Internal kung fu is a much easier choice. For Li Kui, there's only one option:
Iron Body Style
. This is a Metal-elemental style, and the basic power of the style increases his damage even more. We'll also spend 2 Destiny to pick up a second-level technique:
The Jade Tiger Techniques
, which increases his already-badass Might and Hardiness skills, and boosts his Chi Aura.
This brings our Destiny spent to 9 out of the 20 discretionary points. We can now think about Formless kung fu, special abilities that don't fall under a specific style. These include things like fighting with your hair or music, basic ability boosts, walking on water, and so forth. Nothing jumps out at me as suitable for Li Kui, although we could give him even more damage. Let's pass on and maybe come back later if we have extra Destiny left over.
Now we move on to Chi, Loresheets, and Secret Arts. As a Warrior with a good bonus in Tactics, we get the Loresheets for all the Warrior Secret Arts for free. With the
Loresheet, we can Inflame Hyperactivities in Li, and Soothe the same in opponents. This includes the
Drunken Warrior Style
, granting bonuses as long as we describe our actions as suitably drunken.
The Secret Art of Battle
is what lets us actually create these conditions in the first place, which requires at least a 30 on a Tactics roll and a scene of training. And
Extraordinary Warrior Techniques
provides us with a list of bonuses we can stick on. We'll pick up
Unassailable Battle Saint Technique
, which lets you increase your bonus from a combat condition if you roll well when setting it up, for 5 Destiny, and assume we spend the other 6 on other Loresheets for organizations and such.
Now, then, we've spent some Destiny on kung fu and Warrior Secret Arts, which means we've garnered some Cultivation. Now, when picking up our initial internal kung fu style, it provides 10 points of cultivation as well, which grants us 2 points of elemental Chi if it was an elemental style, or a single point of normal Chi if it wasn't. We've additionally spent 11 Destiny on Cultivation-granting things, and to increase Chi you need a number of points equal to the current Chi pool, so ultimately Li Kui has 11 Chi, 2 Metal Chi, and a Chi Threshold of 13. This increases to 18 with his armor or The Jade Tiger Techniques.
Now here's an interesting little wrinkle. Because we've cultivated elemental Chi, it imbalances our system all by itself, giving us a Chi Deviation. This is some sort of mutation related to the Chi. This is mostly physiological, but it can be psychological. It takes the form of either an obvious physical change, a strong leaning towards certain behaviors, or a need to perform some sort of action (or else you stop regenerating the elemental Chi). Metal Chi is concerned with rigidity, control, and ambition, manifesting in bodily stiffness, greed, or circulatory blockages. Since I can't think of a good one, I'll just leave it blank and finish up.
Like all characters, he gets light armor, despite going into battle naked or nearly so, we'll just say
his loincloth is really manly
. He begins with 3 points of Joss, divided among Chivalrous and Malicious as desired.
And we need disadvantages. He's obviously a
, which can be turned to his advantage with Drunken Warrior Style, and he's a
, which can go against him at times. These are a little weak, but feasible.
Name: Li Kui
Concept:The Black Whirlwind
Chi Threshold: 18 Armored, 13 Unarmored
Chivalrous: Honor Benev. Right. Loyalty Force
(Xin) (Kuan) (Yi) (Zhong) (Ba)
2 1 2 4 2
Selfish: Revenge Indiv. Obssess. Ruthl. Ferocity
(Chou) (Si) (Chan) (Hen) (Bao)
3 3 1 2 5
Disadvantages: Drunkard, Berserker
Skill Modifier Specialty Skill Modifier Specialty
Awareness + Might +10
Confidence +5 Perform +
Crafting + Politics +5
Finesse + Ride +
Hardiness +10 Stealth +5
Inspire + Survival +5
Learning + Tactics +10
Medicine + Wu Wei +
External Kung Fu:
Calling Out Crows [4 Destiny]
Internal Kung Fu:
Iron Body Style
The Jade Tiger Techniques [2 Destiny]
Chi: Replenishment/max Aura 2
Normal Chi: 11
Metal Chi: 2
Chi Deviation: ???
Weapon: Twin Axes (Paired & Massive) [3 Destiny]
Light Armor: Manly Loincloth
The Warrior's Art
Combat Conditions [Free]
The Secret Art of Battle [Free]
Extraordinary Warrior Techniques [Free]
Unassailable Battle Saint Technique [5 Destiny]
And there we have it. Next update:
Everything Under Heaven.
Though Xiao Yu did not grasp why, they understood: they walked deep within the Jiang Hu.
Original SA post
Legends of the Wulin - Though Xiao Yu did not grasp why, they understood: they walked deep within the Jiang Hu.
The Book of Fire
covers the world of Shen Zhou, as well as notable organizations and people within the Jiang Hu. This is huge, and will be split into at least two entries. We begin with several pages of fiction:
Battle at the Celestial Garden Monastery!
A mysterious enlightened foreigner comes to the shores of Shen Zhou, and the weather itself heralds his arrival. He is
Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon
and he is here to
pump! You up!
investigate the rumors that the Emperor had accepted Buddhism and the dharma was flourishing.
But sadly, this is not the case. He comes to the Celestial Garden Monastery, and finds the monks drinking, feasting, and cavorting with women and boys. Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon calmly requests an audience with the abbot, but is laughed at and spat upon. So, he stops asking nicely and demands an audience. The monks attack him with crude weapons and cruder kung fu. Much like The Bride and the Crazy 88, he spanks one while beating up the rest of them.
The spanked monk crawls in to see the abbot, who is currently frolicking with courtesans, multiple. The abbot, to solidify his position as King Shit of Shit Mountain, kills the monk with a single black palm strike. Realizing that Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon is probably some kind of hot shit, he summons his three most powerful disciples. Together, they are
The Four Lotus Kings
! What's more, each one embodies one of the failings of the temple! How morally convenient!
The Fourth Lotus King, Fire Lotus, is the Minister of Offerings. Even the Emperor, he says, brings great gifts of gold and incense when he comes to worship. He attacks Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon with fiery Chi, stating that if the stranger brings no incense to burn, his own ashes will suffice. With a strong wind, Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon extinguishes Fire Lotus' Chi while preaching a Buddhist's detachment from material things.
The Third Lotus King, Golden Lotus, is Minister of Ceremonies. He decries Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon's lack of respect for them and their enormous solid gold Buddha statue (Seriously, enormous, this entire fight takes place on the lap, shoulders, and head of it). Even the Emperor bows down before him! He attacks with a blindingly fast spear, too fast for Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon to dodge, but the foreigner simply parries his blows, and the force of his Chi is so great that it bends the spear and sends Golden Lotus to his knees. After all, the enlightened man has no need of the praises of others.
Next up is the Second Lotus King, Diamond Lotus! He attacks Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon with... A giant iron rosary?
He is the Minister of Sutras, and his knowledge of the Buddhist canon is unparalleled! Even the Emperor heeds his knowledge! Chanting over his rosary, he attempts to trap Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon in an illusion of the cycle of rebirth. But the sutras are merely a vessel for wisdom, not the wisdom itself. Without thinking on and acting in accordance with the Buddhist tenets, your spiritual power is as weak as an empty jar. So does Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon cut through Diamond Lotus' spell, leaving him insensate on the ground.
And now the abbot takes the field. The two stand on the head of the Buddha statue, robes blowing in the wind. He is The First Lotus King, Sidhi Lotus, Master of Internal Disciplines! He has studied thousands of styles, cultivated all the Chi, all of it! Even the Emperor fears his power! Yet his style is corrupt, his attachment to the techniques leading him astray from the path of enlightenment, and incidentally manifesting as an oily black aura. Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon is unperturbed, however, and counters the abbot's thousand-strike attack with a single one of his own: The
The Buddha statue crumbles, crushing the temple. Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon lands softly in the courtyard, cradling the abbot in his arms. He explains to the Lotus Kings the error of their ways, and leads them forward, to see the Emperor.
We move on to an explanation of Loresheets. As I mentioned before, they determine what your character actually knows about the world. If your Sage is doing his job, they also help determine the direction the story goes in, because why would you spend your precious, precious Destiny on something that will never come up? As Kestrel mentioned in his Mouse Guard review, these set up flags on your characters, giant flashing back banners that say "Look what I want to do!"
They provide a great number of Loresheets for the major concepts, locations, and organizations, but a major part of Entanglement will be making up new Lores on the spot to cover those things that aren't explicitly spelled out. Some things you can buy from Loresheets require significant story investments, like if you're a member of the Resplendent Phoenix Society, you'd damn well better be advancing the cause of women and not just there to learn their kung fu!
There are several types of options you can get when drawing from a Loresheet:
is a +5 or +10 boost to a skill under specific circumstances, or a new specialty for a skill. An example would be a +5 bonus to social skills when dealing with a specific non-Wulin organization within the Jiang Hu.
opens new possibilities for you, giving you the chance to do something most would find impossible! Examples abound, but a specific one would be using a Wulin tournament to solve a particular problem facing you, such as a McGuffin being offered as the prize.
intertwines your fate with another person, place, or thing. It doesn't dictate any sort of specific interaction, but it will assuredly show up again. Examples would be the leader of the Meihou Mountain Bandits swearing this won't be the last you see of them, or a jolly round-faced merchant making plans to travel in roughly the same direction you are, perhaps you'll meet in another market someday? You can always buy Involvement for anything, large or small.
covers lucky coincidences, generally discovering that an NPC has a connection to something. There's dozens of these in the official Loresheets, marking an NPC you know as a member of this or that society or involved with this or that legendary personage or event. You can always buy this one, too.
grants some sort of secret teaching. Example: The God of Cookery teaches you the Cooking tool, which can replace one specific method Doctors, Courtiers, or Priests use to manipulate Chi Conditions. You can actually cure colds with chicken soup, change someone's mind with a meal, or create Demon-Banishing Buns! The God of Cookery is awesome.
is just that: You win something really important, like becoming the Beggar King or a member of a Top Ten group. This costs a buttload of Destiny, and isn't going to just fall into your lap, you need to seriously work on your grubbiness and panhandling, or your Pokemon catching, or whatnot.
. Also covers legendary swords. You can always get this, like finding the bandit's stash of gold or being awarded a house in the village.
teaches you a new skill with kung fu! These are generally tied to an organization or the ruling figure of a locale. For instance, the Little Forest Sect teaches how to meld their preferred internal style, Iron Body Style, with their preferred external kung fu: Blossom Harvest, Destiny Cloud Fist, or Eight Legends. You get some bonuses if you're in one of the external stances and use a specific Iron Body style technique.
is the final universally-available Loresheet entry, and it's relatively self-explanatory: You have a reputation of some sort. You could be the Magistrate of Fong Du Village, known to the common people as the Roof-Dropper, or gain the "prestigious" title of the Sukiyaki Kid. Possibly all three.
Each adventure locale should have its own Loresheet at no cost to the players, which offers the basic four options: Involvement, Fortune, Treasure, and Status. The players can get Entangled in this loresheet all they like, but if they want greater benefits, they'll need to spend some Destiny on an appropriate loresheet.
We go now to more fiction. Xiao Yu and Dragon Flute Liu have come to the Silver Eel teahouse along with a contingent of guards. The guards are slightly nervous, because despite having letters of passage for the official checkpoints, their seals have no value here, for they are, even within this teahouse, in the Jiang Hu. Xiao Yu is dressed as a young man (At Master Liu's insistence), although she doesn't see the point, there's all manner of fancy-looking ladies enjoying themselves right alongside the men!
Ushered into a private room, Master Liu is greeted by a young, beautiful, and obviously powerful woman, Third Dragon Princess. Master Liu explains their errand: They seek Third Dragon Princess' blessing to cross through her family's territory, the Lazy River Path.
Out of the fiction, the book discusses the Jiang Hu and its relation to ordinary society, known within the Jiang Hu as the Shan Li: the Mountains and Forests. The discussion is your basic adventure world, you have good folk and bad, and then you have the entire society of peasants and such that survive beneath them. The Jiang Hu does not just include the Wulin, of course, it includes criminal organizations, pleasure workers, and those merchants who form a buffer zone and treat equally with both Jiang Hu and Shan Li: innkeepers, ferrymen, and the like. Generally, those in the Jiang Hu do not meddle overtly in the affairs of the Shan Li, but because of their inescapable influence, most of the common folk are rather nervous around wandering warriors. Picture any mysterious lone gunman riding into a small town, or the villagers' hiding from the Seven Samurai.
The Jiang Hu is literally a parallel society to that of the Shan Li. They share the same geography, but have their own legends, history, and territorial boundaries. An ancient temple that the villagers mutter is haunted is the site of a legendary battle between wuxia masters, and many of the Wulin will travel there on pilgrimage. Possibly having more battles there, which certainly doesn't help the villagers' opinion of the place. We get the Jiang Hu Loresheet here, which is free and lets you buy connections to non-Wulin factions, like being a man who knows a whore in every town.
More fiction! Xiao Yu, still disguised as a young man, walks down a street, thinking back to how Third Dragon Princess flirted with "him". In the Shan Li, such behavior would be rude from a man to a woman, and unthinkable the other way around! In the midst of her musing, not watching where she's going, she bumps into a massive wall of a man, causing him to drop- and break- his wine jar. This angers the man, and he expresses this with two emphatic grunts and a great big fist. Xiao Yu uses the training Master Liu gave her, flips out of the way, and paralyzes the man for a short while with a single strike to his pressure points.
Master Liu, having seen this, comes over to congratulate her on her first live battle situation and chide her for wandering off, when suddenly he detects hitherto unnoticed killing intent! A twisted, legless beggar in a corner leaps into the air, hurling dozens of knives at the pair! Oh shit! No one EVER suspects the goddamn beggar! Stepping in front of Xiao Yu, Dragon Flute Liu calmly removes a jade flute from his sleeve and puts it to his lips.
Out of the fiction! There is a saying, "The Jiang Hu is full of Crouching Tigers and Hidden Dragons." Danger is everywhere, and no one may be who they appear to be. The first heroes of the Wulin were said to be the "Cike" (Literally, "Stabbing Guests"), cunning and manipulative warriors who would work their way into the good graces of a tyrant and then assassinate him. The modern Wulin generally eschew such tactics, seeing them as dishonorable, but the lesson remains: A Wulin warrior must be always on their guard, developing instincts to protect themselves when their senses fail them. Become a master of warfare and parry invisible attackers!
More practically, the Jiang Hu is a world for outcasts, runaways, and the displaced. In this world, is it any wonder that some would wish to hide themselves from the eyes of the world they came from? Additionally, older warriors tend to become humble, almost as a direct byproduct of all that Entanglement they've picked up. People seek revenge, people seek favors, hell, some people just want to see if they can take down the Sukiyaki Kid. Because of all these deceptions and false faces, many warriors have trained themselves to sense the chi and hostile intent of the world around them, mechanically a Wu Wei roll opposed by Stealth, each with its own specialty. The Crouching Tigers and Hidden Dragons Loresheet (singular) is cheap and lets you pick up a few bonuses. You could be in disguise, gaining a new Disadvantage (Typical secret identity complication). Or we have bonus skill specializations to detect or conceal killing intent, plus the Stabbing Guest Technique, providing bonuses when you ingratiate yourself to someone you intend to harm.
Into the fiction! At the fortress of the Eagle Talons, a great gathering is taking place, drawing the leaders of Wulin factions from all across Shen Zhou. They gather to pay their respects to Gallant Eagle, leader of the Eagle Talons, on his
seventieth birthday. Gallant Eagle is renowned for leading his group from being just one security agency among many to the lofty pinnacle of one of the Four Pillars of the Wulin. The man himself is one of the great Top Ten heroes, truly attaining all the glory he could deserve.
Among the attendees is Master Dragon Flute Liu of the Blue Flame branch of the Falling Leaves Society; accompanied by his sole disciple, a handsome but naive and easily amazed young man of unimportant origins. Naturally, this is Xiao Yu, who most assuredly should not be here right now. She is fucking blown away by all the Wulin badasses floating around. The Little Forest Sect is over there, led by one-armed Abbot White Cloud. The Seven Stars of the Heaven Sword Alliance are raiding the buffet table, resplendent blades at their hips. Snow Leopard, master of the Yun Clan, is in attendance, accompanied by his second son. Xiao Yu is intrigued by the son, but can't get close because he literally chills the air around him. The Second Celestial Maiden of the Resplendent Phoenix Society makes one hell of an entrance, descending from the sky on a stairway of flower petals, accompanied by heavenly music and perfume. It is simultaneously bananas and through the roof.
The heroes eat, drink, laugh, dance, and otherwise party all over the goddamn place. Several of them issue challenges to each other, but no actual fighting breaks out. It wouldn't be polite. At the appropriate time, they all toast Gallant Eagle. Gallant Eagle then stuns them all by proclaiming that in a year's time, all of those present would be invited to his
"Washing Hands on the Golden Basin Ceremony"
. This means jack shit to Xiao Yu, but Master Liu explains that he will be symbolically and literally washing his hands of the affairs of the Jiang Hu and retiring from the Wulin. It will certainly prove to be an interesting year.
Out of the fiction! The Wulin are one answer to predestination versus free will. Kung fu is a means of seizing your fate in your own hands. Anyone can overcome their weakness by learning kung fu, and it is a power that must be earned and cannot be taken from you. This gives a great deal of pride in one's abilities. As mentioned previously, there are all manner of residents of the Jiang Hu who are not in the Wulin. The book reiterates this here. We also get the Wulin Loresheet. Free, but only offers Involvement and Fortune.
We get some semi-fiction on the legend of the Wulin's origin. The upshot is a complicated network of social rules and obligations designed to sort the Chivalrous from the selfish, and ensure that anyone who seeks power to rival the Heavens is hunted down as a menace to Heaven and Earth. These legends have passed into the misty fog of bad memory, and the power of the gods has faded, and now only clan leaders burn incense occasionally at altars to the Wulin Sage, the hypothetical judge of all destiny, who brings heroes together to battle those corrupt warriors who would challenge the gods. Still, we get the Wulin Sage Loresheet, which is damn expensive, but ties the story or a character to the most powerful person who could theoretically exist in the Land of the Gods.
This is a good place to split this, because it starts talking about people who are much more likely to exist, social rules within the Wulin, and the actual organizations a PC can join. Plus this is really long and I'm tired of writing it for the moment.
Yet more of everything under Heaven
The mysterious swordsman bowed respectfully to Master Liu and handed him a letter with both hands, then turned his back and walked away, letting loose with a coarse, chilling laughter.
Original SA post
Legends of the Wulin - The mysterious swordsman bowed respectfully to Master Liu and handed him a letter with both hands, then turned his back and walked away, letting loose with a coarse, chilling laughter.
Fictioooon! It is a dark and stormy night. Xiao Yu and Dragon Flute Liu stand on a rocky seashore, their hearts full of misgivings. Xiao Yu flashes back to Gallant Eagle's banquet, where Master Liu was approached by an eager swordsman, almost willing to draw on him then and there, restrained only by the barest thread of social propriety. She recalls the swordsman's light frame, and an oddly familiar soft cadence in his predatory walk. The swordsman had bowed, presented a letter to Master Liu, and left quickly. It was a Hero Invitation, challenging Liu to a duel at this very time on this very shore.
Dragon Flute Liu, for his part, admits his fear to himself, but at the same time feels the excitement common to all the Wulin about to meet in glorious battle. As the storm intensifies, laughter splits the night, and the mysterious swordsman arrives, leaping across the waves.
He introduces himself: Ouyang Yang, only son of the Ouyang family, of the Heaven Sword Alliance, trained under Master Moon Saint, and known to the Fighting Community as Moon Devil. He unsheathes and introduces his sword, as well: Hell's Lightning.
Master Liu does likewise: Liu Zhangfeng, from the Blue Flame Branch of the Falling Leaves Society, student of Blue Sky Scholar, known as Dragon Flute Liu to the Martial Brotherhood, and his spear, Huangdu's Brush.
A rare simple picture. Most of the rest of the art is full of chi effects, but still black-and-white, so it's very busy and hard to make out what's really happening.
We get a discussion of the gameplay-story integration now. All Wulin follow one of the Five Paths to determine their martial focus, and seek to advance within the Five Ranks to attain greater power and influence This handily explains the class and level mechanics.
Warriors struggle against life, constantly testing themselves and their limits, trusting in their own strength.
Courtiers seek to master the power of the social graces. A fist may knock down a castle wall, but a word may topple an entire kingdom.
Scholars believe knowledge is the ultimate power, trying to understand everything contained within Heaven and Earth.
Priests see the interconnectedness of all things, and moving the right piece can tip the world towards chaos or harmony. The truest motivations for the mare breaking the limits of the self.
Doctors see the world in the microcosm of the human body, if you modify the body appropriately, anything is possible.
Rank is a measure of both pure martial power and social standing in the Wulin, age, gender, or material wealth mean little. 5th rank are the apprentices, beginners, and accomplished henchmen. Basic mooks and bandits usually come in below that (Unranked), 5th Rank is still a little badass. 4th Rank is for those heroes who've completed their training and gotten out into the world a tiny bit. 3rd Rank is more powerful, while 2nd and 1st Ranks can get into the realm of deus ex machina if the Sage isn't careful.
In fact, we get a Loresheet for the Wulin Judges, four masked heroes who are said to roam the world watching over the progress of important heroes, imparting necessary clues, and occasionally joining in a fight where needed before disappearing just as mysteriously as they came. They are said to possess powerful legendary kung fu, specifically tuned to fight evil and the corrupt. If you spend literally all your starting Destiny, you too can learn one of their Transcendent Styles!
So, why aren't there more powerful badasses running around in the Jiang Hu? There's a golden rule of kung fu: those who do not challenge themselves and the world see their power fade and their deeds forgotten. Stagnation, much like the water half of this system is based on, causes vitality to leach out of your Chi. I haven't seen this represented in the rules, but it does give a reason why old retired badasses aren't badasses the second they jump back into the game.
All this struggle naturally makes the cream rise to the top, and there are many codified Lists of Greats, some honorable, some not. Being proclaimed one of the
Top Ten Young Heroes
of your generation can be quite a boost, but being named one of the
Top Ten Traitors
? Not quite so much. Although there are some fighters who want their name to live on in history no matter what, and becoming one of the Top Ten of anything is a worthwhile goal. Kung fu plays no favorites.
Of course there's a Top Ten Loresheet, which works as both general options and a template for individual Top Ten lists. The cheapest option is that you're simply descended from a Top Ten dude. You can opt to follow in his footsteps or try and get away from his reputation, with commensurate costs (A discount if you're trying to escape the reputation). You can also declare that an NPC (or you) are being considered for a Top Ten list. They establish here a pattern that I think is pretty neat: The option for your character to be considered has an optional rider that someone else is also being considered for a slot, and if they're not already your rival, they soon will be! Can you imagine the competition involved in a race to the Top Ten Traitors list? I would not want to be anywhere near that.
Despite all the fighting, actually killing another member of the Wulin is rare, because these are BATTLE BROTHERS, worthy opponents!
Chivalrous warriors would rather give a villain the opportunity to mend his ways, while the evil ones will gloat and let their pitiful enemies live with the disgrace of defeat. Of course, some dudes just need killin'.
Among the array of social rules in the Wulin is the issuing of Hero Invitations, letters requesting a warrior's presence for some event or other. These are typically used to announce duels and tournaments, which are usually non-lethal, although accidents do happen. Only twice in living memory has a third option been used: The Wulin Summit, uniting the whole of the Wulin against a single threat. The Hero Invitations Loresheet lets you do any of these. Yes, you can even call the whole world to beat someone up for you. It's horribly expensive, and a Victory anyway, so you can't just point them and leave it.
Another big-time option is the Wulin Mengzhu, or Wulin Supreme. This is a position of guidance over the whole of the Wulin in times of great crisis. It is not pure leadership, more of an arbitration role when determining which factions should do what. Naturally you can be descended from or even become a Wulin Mengzhu by spending a buttload of Destiny on the Loresheet.
Still, even with all this awesome going on, sometimes you just want out. Most of the time, a warrior leaves only through death, but some Wulin just grow weary. They will go into quiet retirement, perhaps coming back for 'one last adventure' every so often. Those who truly wish to retire simply vanish from the world, disappearing so suddenly and completely that only rumors are left of their ultimate disposition.
A more formal method of retirement is present in the Washing Hands on the Golden Basin Ceremony. This is for those glorious high-ranked members of the factions, where quiet retirement would not suit their glory. They call together the factions and perform a short hand-washing ritual, swearing a sacred oath to the heavens to never again involve themselves in the affairs of the Jiang Hu. Naturally, not everyone takes this as seriously as they should. People may attempt to coax or coerce the legend out of retirement, and some even undertake the ceremony and remain within the Jiang Hu, usually disguised and renamed. There is even a legend where a leader washed his hands of the Wulin in order to take part in a political assassination without bringing dishonor to his faction. Nothing except their word prevents someone from reentering the Jiang Hu after retiring like this, but it is dishonorable.
This section is just laden with fiction. Master Liu and Xiao Yu are camping near the sea, and with them is Moon Devil!
Just hanging out, all friendly-like. Xiao Yu reflects on her adventures so far and on how her father would never approve of them. He sees the Jiang Hu as a necessary evil, with most of them little better than thugs and bandits. Xiao Yu interrupts Master Liu's flute playing to ask about the organizations of the Wulin. He gestures to the night sky and uses it as a metaphor.
Shen Zhou itself is like the sky. The day sky is Shan Li, the Mountains and Forests, but the night sky is the Jiang Hu. Day or night, it covers the same territory, the same villages, roads, and fields. But the night sky is dark, mysterious, and holds many secrets. The Wulin are like the stars in the sky, and the constellations their factions that they group in.
Those factions that follow the Chivalrous virtues (I'm out of the fiction now, by the way) are known as the
. This is not to say that all their members, or even the factions themselves, are all sweetness and light, but in general they try and benefit society and eschew (or conceal) underhanded tactics. There's a Loresheet in this area that allows you to be a member or leader of a faction besides the official ones. The Sage is encouraged to provide the lore for free or allow the cost to be shared if most or all of the players want to be part of the same non-core faction.
Four of the organizations are considered the strongest and most morally upright of all the Wulin, and are known as the Four Pillars of the Wulin. The first is the
Little Forest Sect
. It began when Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon came to the shores of Shen Zhou and defeated the Four Lotus Kings of the Celestial Garden Monastery. The five of them then went to see the Emperor, and during their audience, Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon realized that the reason the Emperor sponsored Buddhism was in an attempt to control the wheel of rebirth, trying to obtain a favorable reincarnation. Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon called him on this, and was kicked out, the Emperor no longer wanting anything to do with the Buddhists.
Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon and the Four Lotus Kings rebuilt the Celestial Garden as a small, humble temple called
(I just now got the joke. 'Xiao' means 'little', and 'Forest' is 'lin'. They're
). It goes further into the history and setup of the monastery and the monks, but it's of fairly little importance, save for the rebellion of Hei Mei.
Hei Mei was a thoroughly unsuitable monk, more of a bully. He would have gone no further than that had he not managed to find the Black Lotus Style manual, the corrupt style practiced by the First Lotus King. Naturally, it corrupted Hei Mei, too, and he (plus some bandits) burnt the monastery, stole or destroyed many secrets, and took the right arm of abbot White Cloud, presumably with his
He then went on to form the Black Lotus Society, which we will cover later.
The sect only allows male students, and they must refrain from meat, wine/drugs, sex/romance, and wealth, although these (including the gender restriction) are only as limiting as you want them to be. You could follow them, you could not follow them and get Destiny for them causing trouble (a Disadvantage), or just not follow them. The book thoroughly advocates playing against type. They favor the virtues of Buddhist Piety, Benevolence, and Righteousness.
In terms of player abilities, the Little Forest Sect, like all the factions, has three external and one internal kung fu school they consider their signature schools. In this case, Blossom Harvest, Destiny Cloud Fist, and Eight Legends, plus Iron Body Style. They also have the Buddha Palm, a Transcendent Technique for unarmed fighters. (Unarmed fighting is slightly different from fighting with a weapon, as I will cover when we get to that section. Or earlier, if you like.)
Aside from kung fu, they provide a couple of links to incidental features of the Little Forest temple (Including their grand library), and you can claim descent (via martial or spiritual tradition, since they're celibate) from the Four Lotus Kings (who changed their collective noun to the Four Lotus Vagrants) and/or Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon.
Heaven Sword Alliance
started with one man. Little hairy scruffy monkey-like dude, could do totally badass things with a sword. They would literally leap out of his opponents' hands, stick in the floor, and
to the dude. Hell, half the time he didn't even need a sword, he could just make one with his Chi and whatever moderately straight object was on hand; a stick, a blade of grass,
. He became known as the Sword Spirit.
Still, he was a lonely man, because there were no worthy opponents. One day, while napping beneath a tree, a girl came up and started knocking fruit out of it with a stick. Enraged at having his nappy time interrupted, he seized a stick of his own and attacked the girl, seeking to paralyze her with pressure point attacks and get some sleep. To his surprise, the untrained girl fought back with her fruit-picking stick, managing to last through a few swings. At that moment he realized the girl was a born warrior, needing only the training to make the sword in her hand match the one in her heart.
She became his first disciple, grew into a hero, and was eventually joined by six others, forming the Seven Heavenly Blades, also known as the Seven Stars. They and Sword Spirit passed down their teachings, and so the current Heaven Sword Alliance is technically a conglomeration of the eight lineages. The Alliance's philosophy is that the sword is not simply a weapon, but a friend, teacher, lover, and faithful companion in a cruel world. It is an extension of the thoughts and will of the warrior. They do not seek to master simply the physical object, but the sword in their hearts, as well. They're having a few problems, like a split between extroverts and introverts, and the fact that the current Sword Spirit has gone and locked himself in their weapon vault, but these are unimportant unless you make them so by buying them off the Loresheet.
Otherwise, the Heaven Sword Alliance is focused on the virtues of Honor and Force, and the kung fu styles of Eight Legends, Graceful Crane, Ultimate Dragon, and Jade Spirit Sword. Much like Little Forest above and the rest of the factions, you can also be descended (by blood, too) from the Seven Stars or Sword Spirit. Being a descendent or successor to someone that badass is always a hefty cost, although you do have the option of "discovering" that you were one retroactively during later advancement.
The Eagle Talons
sprang from beginnings so humble that Gallant Eagle refuses to discuss them, not even his real name is known. Self-taught in kung fu because he kept exceeding all his masters, he worked as a caravan guard for a while until he could found his own mercenary company. At the founding banquet, he swore that he would take the Talons straight to the top, becoming one of the Pillars of The Wulin. Most scoffed at this, though not openly, he was a terror when drunk. After all, the Little Forest and Heaven Sword Alliance built up their power and reputation over generations, how could one man accomplish that in his lifetime? But his comrades knew that Gallant Eagle always accomplished his goals, no matter what stood in his way.
They had a really hard time, as if the Heavens themselves tried to punish their hubris, but the resistance only made their penises harder. Gallant Eagle used a combination of business savvy and ass beatings to deal with other mercenary companies, and eventually the Eagle Talons became the foremost mercenary company in Shen Zhou. They're rumored to have their fingers in nearly every single pie involving transporting goods or people.
There are some in the Wulin who dislike them, some because they are really young upstarts, and Gallant Eagle had no master. Others decry their totally mercenary methods and moral ambiguity. They will accept work from anyone who can pay, even going so far as to defend shipments of stolen merchandise from those who come to rightfully retrieve it. But none can deny that they firmly embody loyalty and honor towards those who contract their services. As mentioned in the fiction, Gallant Eagle is retiring, and is expected to pass the leadership to either his son or daughter.
The Eagle Talons represent the virtues of Loyalty and Force, and have Bone-Fed Wolf Fang, Ravenous Wings, Shadow Catching, and Nine Sun Birds as their signature styles. Members of the faction can gain contacts outside the Jiang Hu (legitimate merchants, government officials, and whatnot) and fight well as a team. There is even an option to play Gallant Eagle's son or daughter (Who are statted out later in the book).
of western Shen Zhou controls most of that region, plus the Tea Horse Road, trading, you guessed it, tea and horses with the western countries. Although the Eagle Talons usually guard the caravans themselves, the Yun Clan knows the territory better and serves as guides. Most of the country sees the clan as an anachronism, but they are the best anachronism there could be: the noble barbarian, the wild beast to be admired from a safe distance.
There's a whole lot of mythology and politicking, the upshot is that the clan leader, Snow Leopard, is insane and corrupt, and wants to freeze the world to present as a gift to a frigid bitch called the Glacier Maiden. His eldest son left the clan, and now wanders Shen Zhou as the Wolf Swordsman. The second son follows Daddy around like a puppy.
Clan members extol the virtues of Loyalty and Righteousness, and focus on the kung fu styles of Blossom Harvest, Divine Pattern Long-Strokes, Storm God's Fury, and Ice Sutra. They also have access to the Glacier Heart Transcendent Style, which is learned from Glacier Maiden, usually by boning her. Clan members can also gain bonuses while within their lands and on the Tea Horse Road, and players have the ability to be Snow Leopard's sons, or otherwise tied to Snow Leopard. The clan kind of intends for you to stay in their lands and be a wilderness dude, but you can play against type here just as you could be a heretical Buddhist in the Little Forest.
Those are the Four Pillars of the Wulin, but we have twelve more factions to go, so I'll stop here for now. A question, though:
Should I take the next update and explain weapons and kung fu?
I'm just taking this page-by-page, but all that talk about Transcendent Techniques and Jade Spirit Sword and Divine Pattern Long-Strokes could be a little confusing.
The fire of their souls would burn brighter than a falling star.
Original SA post
Legends of the Wulin - The fire of their souls would burn brighter than a falling star.
Below the Four Pillars of the Wulin, but perhaps more influential than them, are the
Four Great Societies
. They are technically secret societies, but everyone within the Jiang Hu knows of them, even if their actual agendas are not widely known. These, too, focus on the Chivalrous Virtues.
Left to Right: Falling Leaves Scholar, Dragon Well Priest, Beggar Society... Beggar, Resplendent Phoenix Courtesan.
No, I don't know what the Dragon Well dude is doing. I think I see a bird? Maybe a monkey? Lisa Simpson?
Resplendent Phoenix Society
is an all-female group dedicated to the advancement of women's rights, much like Sophia's Daughters in 7th Sea. Unlike Sophia's Daughters, they do not scry and have no purpose in averting doomsday. Primarily, their purpose is removing women from their sad lot in life and bringing them into the Jiang Hu, where all are equal according to their ability. As a secondary purpose, they train women in the arts of the courtesan and bride, slipping Phoenix Brides into the courts of nobles and the families of merchants everywhere, controlling their affairs with a gentle word in their husbands' or lovers' ears. In fact, one of their great plots is to place a "Phoenix Under the Dragon's Shadow", installing a Phoenix Bride as the Emperor's concubine or even Empress. That title is also the name of their secret kung fu ability, which none outside the society have witnessed and lived to tell about.
They extol the virtues of Righteousness and Benevolence, and practice the Flying Red Silk, Graceful Crane, Eight Legends, and Fox-Spirit Song kung fu styles. They also have good sex.
PCs can also be Phoenix Brides or involve themselves in the Phoenix Under the Dragon's Shadow plot. Additionally, PCs can be male society members at no extra cost, furthering the playing against type.
is both the largest and the most widespread secret society. Not all beggars are members, and not all members are beggars, either. Due to their ubiquity, they are masters of subterfuge and eavesdropping. They exemplify the Virtues of Altruism and Loyalty, always helping those in need and never owning more than they need. Their services tend to be of the information variety, but they also provide safe haven for those running from whatever might need running from. While this is good for noble heroes running from assassins, they also provide safe harbor to assassins running from the law, and legend has it they even played host to a deposed Emperor once. There are two divisions within the society. The Dirty Clothes Division is the typical beggars, while the Clean Clothes Division are those members who maintain a respectable position in life, although they live as sparely as possible for their station, giving of their excess to those in need.
The leadership is worth mentioning. An elected Council exists and has nebulously-defined duties, but there's also a Beggar King who does most of the leading and presents a face to the rest of the Jiang Hu on matters relating to the society. Whenever the Beggar King dies or retires, the society holds a tournament open to all the Wulin, competing on practically all the aspects of life. The winner is crowned the new Beggar King, regardless of gender, and is traditionally spat upon by all in attendance. Individual members can recognize each other's rank within the society by how much of them was drawn by Rob Liefeld. No, seriously, they use pouches of various colors, worn in various ways, which are very hard for a non-member to replicate.
Their virtues I mentioned above, and they tend to train in the styles of Subtle Force, Divine Pattern Long-Strokes, Eight Legends, and Boundless Prosperity Manual. It may seem vaguely ironic for beggars to study prosperity, but the style is focused on bodily health and wellness. They tend to fight with a staff, possessing both the kung fu secret and the Legendary Weapon called Dog-Beating Stick.
Other player options are to have overheard something by dint of being a beggar, having the friendship of the society, being a disguised and hiding personage (and gaining a bonus when you throw off the disguise), and being in the running to become the Beggar King.
Falling Leaves Society
claims a very exclusive pedigree: descent by martial tradition from the Yellow Emperor Huangdi who descended from Heaven to bring order to Shen Zhou. Naturally this can't be proven or disproven, and there are some conflicting legends, but the society quashes those where it can. Their philosophy is that the current era marks a decline in the civilization of Shen Zhou, and that they are the last leaves of a Golden Age, and a return to previous values should be sought. Where the Resplendent Phoenix Society seeks change and innovation, the Falling Leaves seek to uphold tradition. They seek to use the Wulin as a whole to further their goals, seeing them as a force of righteousness that should rise and bring civilization back into line when it gets too corrupt.
This has naturally brought them into conflict with those who happen to like corruption, and those whose liberal stance equates to corruption in their eyes. In fact, one of their previous leaders, Immortal Crane, attempted to become Wulin Mengzhu and unite the Wulin in order to prevent the current dynasty from taking power. When that failed, he washed his hands of the Wulin and tried to
the Emperor. Although the Falling Leaves claim he acted alone, common opinion holds that the plan originated within the society.
Not all of the society holds these extreme views, however. A branch of the society has split off, calling themselves the Blue Flame branch. They believe that the past must not be strictly copied, but must serve as an inspiration for what comes next, and attracts a great many social experimenters and inventors. If the Falling Leaves are a group that likes pure Victorian fashions, the Blue Flame branch is into steampunk.
would probably be a Blue Flame member (if he were Chinese). Dude was basically Japanese Benjamin Franklin, right down to the essay on farts.
They follow the virtues of Righteousness, Honor, and the Confucian virtue of Filial Piety. The society as a whole does not discriminate based on gender, age, or whatnot, as long as prospective members can comport themselves as true gentlemen. Their kung fu training focuses on Eight Legends, Divine Pattern Long-Strokes, Graceful Crane, and Heaven's Lightning. Members of the Society can reenact the glories of one of their ancestors, gaining bonuses when acting in a manner consistent with their ancestral deeds, with a small discount for sharing their doom. The Blue Flame branch follows Mohism more than Confucianism, and are often ahead of their time, for good or ill.
And rounding out the Four Great Societies we have the
Dragon Well Sect
, a sect of Daoist priests focused on changing the world by changing themselves. If you master your own internal difficulties, the external difficulties fall in line without effort. Members have the same dietary and action restrictions as the Little Forest Sect, but of course players can be heretical and eccentric priests.
The virtues they follow are Daoism and Benevolence, and they focus on gentle kung fu: Destiny Cloud Fist, Subtle Force, Flowing Universe, and Removing Concepts. Being a heretical sage gives you a paired bonus and penalty, each based on acting strange and eccentric. Priests can also claim supernatural influence in certain situations, and the Dragon Well the sect is named for is an actual thing that you can quest for and drink from.
Now we come to the Unorthodox factions, those who mainly extol the selfish Virtues or whose methods are at odds with the majority of the Jiang Hu. They are often considered dishonorable, many of them use corrupt techniques, and will usually do anything to increase their power, yet they are still part of the Wulin and most will at least try and get along in polite company.
The Heterodox Four
toe the line between good and evil. They are still suitable for player characters, but often have quite a bit of sociopolitical baggage attached that makes them better suited for advanced play.
Left to Right: Liquid Metal Delegate, Southern Dragon Pirate, Hundred Ghost Avenger, Blood Wind Assassin.
Yes, the Liquid Metal Delegate is wearing sunglasses. He can probably kill you with that umbrella, too.
Liquid Metal Delegates
are MIBs. Seriously. They are Imperial agents within the Jiang Hu, forced to deal with conflicting loyalties, although for most the Emperor holds their supreme loyalty. Upholding the law of the land is their bailiwick. Drawn from the ranks of orphans, trained and conditioned for battle, they are beholden to their shadowy masters, the Liquid Shadow Magistrates.
You might think the Delegates are pretty badass already, but there's another group affiliated with them: The Invisible Hell Killers.
These are sleeper agents placed into other factions, ready to strike when the time is right. Their conditioning goes well past just training, the Magistrates know where every Invisible Hell Killer is, can send him or her their bidding mentally, and the Invisible Hell Killer's memories of the Magistrates and their training are deliberately erased.
They tout the Virtues of Loyalty, Righteousness, and Legalism. Despite the chivalrous virtues, they are dubbed heterodox because their take on loyalty and righteousness is skewed towards the Empire and its interests. Liquid Metal Delegates have no central organization and train in varied kung fu styles, but they have some tricks they can do when using the Shadow Catching or Murderous Shadows styles. They also have access to badass weaponsmiths, getting a discount on special weapons and/or being able to have a weapon concealed inside or as a mundane object. Players can be Invisible Hell Killers as well, and even, with sufficient investment of Destiny, resist or counteract some of the Magistrates' conditioning, letting them gain- or dictate- clues about the current situation in exchange for near-crippling headaches and flashbacks. You, too, can be Jason Bourne.
Southern Dragon Clan
began with a brilliantly talented Imperial naval commander. He was known across the land for both his accomplishments and his unbridled ambition. He even took to calling himself the Dragon of the Ocean. Within typical society, Dragon is a title reserved for the Emperor himself, and many took this to mean he had designs on usurping the throne. Whether he did or not, his insubordination at court caused the Emperor to exile him to the furthest reaches of Shen Zhou, a barren island known as World's End.
This was rather like locking MacGyver in the supply closet, because he immediately swore to raise his own dynasty and began recruiting pirates from bandits, displaced nobles, and other unsavory types.
The dude took the name of the Southern Dragon King, and began looting and plundering. He likes him a girl with spirit, and managed to find one that totally blew him away. Usually literally, she was a pirate queen herself and they'd often sink each other's boats. Today they're married and have five daughters. The two eldest have their own fleets, and the other three are adventuring in the Jiang Hu. The rest of the Southern Dragon Clan also focuses on the mythical sea kingdom, and tends to style themselves after royalty and sea creatures, with such notables as General White Shark, Captain Hammerhead, and Minister Giant Crab.
As befits seagoing royalty, they are honorable pirates, justifying their plunder from passing ships as taxes and often escorting ships that make appropriate tribute and notification. They'll protect the fishing villages in their care, won't harm civilians, and otherwise are remarkably upright for selfish looting pirates.
They show preference to the virtues of Revenge and Individualism, and the kung fu styles of Eight Legends and Flowing Universe. They have no specific internal style, instead training in the Formless technique
Rage of the Dragon Kings
, which lets them shape water into a weapon. Empress Stingray, for instance, flings droplets of water like needles. Members of the clan can also gain bonuses to maritime travel, bonuses when named after and acting like a sea creature, become the protege of Southern Dragon King or Empress Stingray, or entangled with one of the Dragon Princesses, with the option to
Hundred Ghost Faction
is made up entirely of spoooooky ghosts, characters must be dead to join.
...I'm kidding, but that is the image they cultivate. The members of the Hundred Ghosts have usually lost everything, been betrayed, their lives destroyed, perhaps even beaten and left for dead. Within the society, they throw off their old life and are reborn anew as spirits of vengeance. They're basically The Punisher.
They take the name and image of a ghost, demon, or other supernatural entity as their identity, using them to dish out poetic justice and retribution. The faction as a whole is ruled by a pair of lovers: The giant, emotionless White-Haired Ghost King, and the merciless, passionate Crimson-Haired Demoness.
Members are filled with the desire for Revenge and Righteousness, and train in the styles of Storm God's Fury and Murderous Shadows. They have no overall internal style, but White-Haired Ghost King and Crimson-Haired Demoness draw their strength from the Restless Ghost Scroll, a corrupt technique that focuses either the yin or yang energy in one's chi to bring one closer to death, and high-ranking members can learn these secrets as well. Yin-focused practitioners draw upon the
Living Corpse Technique
, killing their emotions as their flesh takes on a corpse-like pallor and resiliency. Yang energy is used in the
Bone Devil Claw
style, distilling the wild passionate emotions of the user into hallucinogenic poisons that trap those scratched by their nails in a vision of Hell.
Members can also learn more mundane secrets for resisting pain and causing fear, gain bonuses when enacting vengeance on those who wronged you or have wronged others in a similar fashion to how you were wronged, and learn some secrets about White-Haired Ghost King, Crimson-Haired Demoness and the Restless Ghost Scroll. There's also the opportunity to declare that you or an NPC are being hunted by the Hundred Ghosts, which has opportunities for all manner of interesting times.
The fourth member of the Heterodox Four is the
Blood Wind Cult
, led by Demon Wolf Princess. She hates everyone! The cult itself act as assassins and bodyguards, and will not stop until the contract is completed. If one is killed in the line of duty, another takes their place, until the target is dead or no longer in any danger. Their price for this is steep, and will usually not be paid in coin.
Members exhibit Ferocity and Obsession, and use the styles of Bone-Fed Wolf Fang and Ravenous Wings. They have no particular internal style, but they can rip people apart with those externals. Other benefits are mostly social, although the clan are excellent trackers. Really special members can actually control a pack of wolves.
And now we get to the
Four Banes of the Wulin
, those factions that are irredeemably foul and vile. There is a sidebar stating that these factions are not really viable as is for player characters. Players and Sages are encouraged to try and work out stories about redeeming the Banes, or revealing that they're not evil, just misunderstood. Or a villain game is an option. One thing they note is that the Banes have some very interesting kung fu, which will probably be the main impetus for players wanting to play a member. A defector is always a handy explanation here.
I don't know quite which is which, except the guy on the left is Fire Doctrine, and the guy on the right plays a mean game of dodgeball.
There is also a Loresheet for a fifth organization:
The Infernal Alliance
. In time of legend, most of the corrupt and baneful fighters were united under the banner of one man, his name lost, but clad in a magnificent and terrible suit of armor, the likes of which has never been seen before or since. This was the impetus for the convention of one of the Wulin Summits, the whole of the Wulin striking against the Alliance. The man in the armor was defeated under unknown circumstances, and his armor and alliance scattered. Today, the Four Banes each pursue their individual agendas, but they could still threaten the whole of Shen Zhou should they somehow be united once more. Players can spend Destiny to make the ancient Alliance or the quest for the pieces of the armor relevant to the story.
Black Lotus Society
was mentioned before. It came about when Hei Mei discovered the Black Lotus Manual used by the First Lotus King. Now known as Black Storm Buddha, he oversees much of the criminal enterprise in Shen Zhou from the Black Sand Pagoda, surrounded by a black sandstorm and black water moat filled with black lotuses and black swans and black black black black black
black black black black
Members display Ruthlessness and Individualism, and train in the styles Murderous Shadows, Graceful Crane, and Unstained Lotus Mastery. They are good at lying and corruption. The primary feature of the Black Lotus, however, is their drugs.
Black Lotus Pills are basically magical steroids. They boost people's strength and resilience, but twist the user physically, mentally, and spiritually, and they're super-addictive, potentially leading to death from withdrawal. The conditions they create are also very hard for doctors to treat, requiring a minimum roll of 60.
The Fire Doctrine
stemmed from outside Shen Zhou, sweeping across it in an attempt to burn it all. A Wulin Summit beat them back in times of legend, but they're baa~ack! Naturally, being from outside the Land of the Gods, they are uncultured barbarians. Basic doomsday cult, rather one-dimensional.
Virtues: Ruthlessness and Obsession. Kung fu: Cloud Destiny Fist, Shadow Catching, and Fire Sutra. They also have evil sex.
I am kinda glossing over them because they really aren't that interesting, and
+5 You are Fire God´s lover. Your lovemaking is intensely passionate, and carries with it blisters, scorched flesh and the scent of charred meat.
- 3 Discount: You have been warped and unusually affected by Fire God’s strange sexual techniques against your will, you may have shifted genders or exist as an intersex gender. Look at the Daoist Sex Lore for reference and work the details with your sage
Yes, Daoist Sex is a thing, I'll cover it. The Resplendent Phoenixes get it, too. Aside from that Fire God thing, it's handled pretty tastefully.
are young upstarts, having only existed for the past ten years. Their legend began with a forest said to be haunted by a terrible beast, which slew travelers. Heroes went to slay it, and were soon discovered laying in the road or floating down the river. The legend grew when investigation revealed the killer had used kung fu, and was not a wild beast at all! This time dozens of warriors went into the forest, seeking to either vanquish this evil or test themselves against it.
Weeks later, some emerged, led by a young man. This boy, it was said, had discovered the remains of a legendary kung fu manual long thought lost to fire and time, the Seven Cloud Manuscript, manual of the sacred Devil-Deflecting Blade technique. Reassembling the fragments, the boy filled in the missing parts with his own killing intent, creating the great and terrible
Taking the name Sword Bastard thrown at him by a dying hero and wearing it as a badge of honor, he accepted those strong fighters who flocked to him for whatever reason.
They've taken over a sizable chunk of the Black Lotus Society's gambling dens and protection rackets, although they don't handle them well. Unique among the Banes, they are mostly disorganized and will often squabble internally, but present a united front to their outside enemies. They will also perform what could very well be classed as chivalrous deeds, although these nearly always take the form of just slaughtering oppressive authorities. They are basically a gang of delinquents, though, dressing and acting like total outsiders simply to defy authority and tradition.
The Dogs favor the Virtues of Individualism and Ferocity, as well as the Baneful Heresy virtue. They have no specific kung fu, having gathered their members from all the Jiang Hu. Instead, they get discounts to learn just about anything. Members can also express their Confidence in ways that correspond to the philosophy of the Blade Dogs and turn their Disadvantages into bonuses. It's also possible to learn the Sword Bastard's Devil-Saint Apotheosis Style, or work out secrets related to it, including developing your own style to stand against it, perhaps even resurrecting the lost Devil-Deflecting Blade technique it was based on!
And finally we come to
The Vile Rain Cult
. Thought throughout the Jiang Hu to be merely an old ghost story, the cult is said to arise when an age becomes corrupt, in order to ease the passage to the next one. Both these things are
The cult exists, and has existed in many names and forms stretching throughout history. They want nothing more than to see the world poisoned and dying. They favor the use of poison, naturally, but also set up elaborate traps and mazes, much like any good Bond villain. They also eat human flesh, specifically the chi-rich flesh of heroes!
Their virtues are Ferocity and Ruthlessness, and their kung fu styles are Murderous Shadows, Ravenous Wings, and Thousand Venoms Style. They're also very good at hiding their true intentions, in fact one of the skill specializations you can buy off their Loresheet is Inspire (False Sense of Security).
We're still in the middle of the Loresheet section, but what's left is single people, locations, philosophies, and relationships. A
of them. So I'm going to start skipping around. My next update will be on weapons and kung fu, with some bits on combat. Then I'll come back, maybe go over the Jin Empire and philosophies, whatnot.
Fate was not kind to the manuscript... Time claimed what the fires did not. It was incomplete... I had to improvise.
Original SA post
Legends of the Wulin - Fate was not kind to the manuscript... Time claimed what the fires did not. It was incomplete... I had to improvise.
Okay, we're maybe two-fifths of the way through the Book of Fire, but we're skipping over that temporarily to consider parts of
The Books of Earth and Metal
. First, a
basic look at combat
Initiative is rolled at the start of each turn. Unlike some systems that suffer no great loss from shifting to a fire-and-forget initiative order, many abilities in LotW are based on initiative values shifting from round to round. This point is also where you declare any Waves you wish to attempt. As I said in the glossary, Waves resolve on your initiative count, and can be interrupted by faster opponents.
The most common Wave would be Cover Ground, or movement. Battle maps are divided into zones, general areas where combat can take place. You can always attack people in the same zone, but to attack into other zones you need a weapon with an appropriate ability or to Cover Ground into that zone. Moving between zones requires a Set, but the difficulty is usually 10 or 20, easily accomplished. Higher difficulties exist, like 40 to leap between boulders in an avalanche or navigate halls full of spinning blades.
Example: A fight breaks out in a teahouse. The main room of the teahouse is one zone, with others spread around it. The street outside, the kitchen, and the second floor connect to the main room. Alleys behind the teahouse and the teahouse roof may also come into play, but cannot be directly accessed from the main room.
The next most common Wave would be Shaping, altering the battlefield to hinder or facilitate moving between zones. Shaping can also do other things like opening windows, breaking objects, and whatnot.
Example: Li Kui is fighting on the second floor, and sees a horde of minions streaming towards the teahouse. With a mighty smash, he destroys the stairs, increasing the difficulty to move between the main room and the second floor to somewhere in the 30s (A Set of 2 dice, plus his +10 Might). Unperturbed, the vile pirate Red Tide directs his minions to raise ladders to the windows, reducing the difficulty to move between the street and the second floor from 30 (mostly impossible for normal people in any decent timeframe) to 10.
Aside from straight-up damage, you can inflict Marvels and Chi Conditions on the foe. In fact, damage is a sort of Chi condition. Marvels are a specific type of maneuver performed as a Minor Action on your attack (Thus requiring a Set).
Marvels affect a fighter's skills, reducing their Awareness or Wu Wei or Inspire or whatnot. Useful against a priest, doctor or courtier who keeps dropping Secret Arts attacks on you. Yes, you can literally punch someone stupid for a while.
Marvels affect primary battle stats, like Strike or Footwork. You could throw a snake at someone, and they'll have trouble dodging because they're
covered in SNAAAAAAKE!
Marvel forcibly moves someone into a different zone. This can be really impressive, like punching someone onto the roof from the ground, or otherwise useful, like herding someone whose style fears being confined into a narrow alley.
Chi Conditions come in two varieties: Hyperactivity and Weakness. They can be vaguely mapped to 'bonus' and 'penalty', but it's more complicated than that, because each has a roleplaying element: Hyperactivities basically state "If you act like this, you get this bonus," while Weaknesses are "Unless you act like this, you take this penalty." The vast majority of things you'll be putting on someone you fight will be injury-related weaknesses, like leg wounds (hobble around or take a penalty to Footwork), punctured lungs (rasp for breath and spit up blood or take a penalty to Chi recovery), and whatnot. These technically correspond to the five elements and their associated emotions and organ systems and whatnot, but that really only comes into play when a Doctor tries to do shit besides treating them. You don't need to decide that the scratch on your foe's thigh is affecting his liver or making him angry or whatnot (I'm using that word way too much).
As I made clear during the chargen section, everyone has a
weapon and armor
, even if it's just their fists and a robe. Each weapon provides a bonus to a basic combat stat or two and has an ability that you can activate by Flooding a die from your River. Some have additional abilities, and unarmed fighting has some different quirks to it.
weapons use rope or chain to create a weapon that's unpredictable and can seem omnipresent. They add to Strike, are hard to Dodge, and you can Flood to attack an adjacent zone.
weapons are things like maces, hammers, and axes, which can smash through all obstacles in their path. They add to Damage, are hard to Block, and you can Flood to ignore the target's armor.
weapons are typically one light blade in each hand, capable of overwhelming enemies with speedy strikes. They add to Strike, can riposte if you block well, and you can Flood to add a Secondary Attack.
weapons seem slightly unrealistic, because the rules are the same whether you're shooting a crossbow, firing a hand cannon, or throwing rocks. Typically, however, intervening scenery is more a limit than any arbitrary maximum range on a ranged weapon. Adds Strike, can attack into adjacent zones, and you can Flood dice to attack more distant zones.
(Dao) refer to any single-edged blade, mostly used for chopping and slashing. Adds to Strike and Damage, and you can Flood a die to force a Rippling roll if your roll beats the opponent's by 5 or more (The typical threshold is 10+).
(Gun) is one of the oldest and most basic weapons, mostly unchanged since a monkey picked up a big stick. Adds Strike and Block, and you can Flood a die to add a Secondary Attack.
(Qiang) is your typical pointy thing on a long stick. Adds to Block, you can Flood to attack an adjacent zone, and you can Flood to use the spear's reach to Laugh at an opponent when you Block, unless he has appropriate reach as well.
(Jian) are different from sabers. The sword is a narrower, double-edged weapon, more of a cut-and-thrust than the primary slashing of the saber. Adds to Strike & Block, and you can Flood a die to halve a dude's Chi Aura on Rippling rolls. Where the saber is more likely to deal a wound, the sword is more likely to deal a
I will cover
fighting more fully later, but it adds Speed and Footwork, and you can increase your Chi recovery with only one die instead of a Set.
Special Weapons combine the capabilities of any two weapons except Unarmed. Basically any martial-arts weapon can be made with these rules.
! There are some odd combinations, like Ranged+Staff, but maybe that could be a reinforced long gun. This may have been mentioned before, but similar bonuses do not stack. A flying guillotine, for instance, would have +5 Strike (not +10), +5 Damage, the Dodge penalty, and both Flood abilities.
You can also improvise weapons should you be disarmed somehow, but you don't gain the numeric weapon bonuses and need to pay Chi to use any Flood abilities. Those wanting to play Jackie Chan should probably work out something with their Sage based on Rage of the Dragon Kings.
external kung fu
style is considered (and occasionally referred to as) a stance, you can't use two of them at once, although you can switch between them from round to round if you know more than one. They require no Chi expenditure, and you're considered to be using them even out of combat, although very few things capitalize on that. Each style has things it Laughs At (is strong against) and Fears (is weak against). These are based on narrative elements, and can usually be mapped to "is good against these styles, bad against these", but depend heavily on how the attack is described. You can determine what an opponent's style might laugh at or fear with skill checks.
Example: Red Tide's Graceful Crane style laughs at straightforward aggression, but fears becoming hobbled and lame. Most of Li Kui's Ravenous Wings style focuses on injuring the opponent, which can hobble the enemy. Red Tide's style would normally fear Li Kui's, but the Iron Ox is as bullish as his namesake, charging forward relentlessly. In this case, Red Tide may be able to gather a Laughs At bonus from that description!
Each external style provides bonuses to six stats:
determines initiative. Higher bonuses are more likely to be aggressive styles, while lower are more defensive.
is a measure of how agile the style is. Footwork is rolled when Covering Ground or Dodging attacks. You can also spend Chi on Lightfoot when covering ground, each point spent gives you +5 to your roll, which is what makes the awesome wuxia wire fights possible. You could go right up the wall to reach the roof, for instance.
is simply how accurate the style is. You add this value to your Set for your attacks.
increases the difficulty of Rippling rolls you inflict.
is used to block attacks!
Block and Dodge both have the same effect. You'd want to use different ones at different times unless you're hyper-specialized, since appropriately-described attacks can impose a penalty to dodge or block them.
increases your Chi Aura against Rippling rolls. It can either be just being tough as old cock, or rolling with blows and turning solid strikes into grazing hits.
The bonuses total 35 (and remember, everything moves in 5-point increments), so even the balanced styles have something they're better at. None of the styles actually confer penalties to stats, the lowest one will go is +0. Without spending more Destiny on specific techniques from the style, those bonuses are all you have. Each style has 20 Destiny worth of abilities you can buy, some of which add to the basic stat boosts, while others provide some more interesting benefits.
is a simple, straightforward style. It is a favorite of peasant rebellions, because it uses everyday objects to train, such as running upstream to build endurance or using farming tools for weapon practice.
It can be used with Massive weapons, Staves, and bare fists. It is tough and powerful, but at the expensive of mobility. Blossoming Heroes (As they are known by the peasantry) Laugh at overly-complicated styles, as well as silly little things like being outnumbered and on poor terrain. However, the style's very simplicity works against itself, for it is easy to read with a reactive style and has no tricks to use against supernatural styles (It Fears these things).
Advanced fighters can make the style more accurate or even tougher, and turn their own wounds into an even higher damage bonus. They also learn to beat up entire gangs at once, treating their attacks versus minions as affecting the entire zone.
Bone-Fed Wolf Fang
is a pragmatic style developed by armies to end conflicts quickly. It was loosely based on the gruesome, efficient ways wolf packs take down prey. Unfortunately, many deserters take the style with them into banditry, making it the style most used against the peasantry and earning it the reputation of being a dog's way of fighting.
It's used with massive weapons and sabers, prioritizing damage. The style Laughs at honesty and those vulnerable or off-guard, but Fears the hidden or unorthodox, as well as being outnumbered or surrounded.
All of its techniques involve the Disorient and Disrupt marvels, increasing Block, Dodge, Strike, and Damage against any targets with those effects, and can let you inflict those Marvels by Flooding a die, as well as making it more difficult for foes to recover from them.
Destiny Cloud Fist
shares its name and purpose with a Starcraft II strategy (Thanks, HitTheTargets). The style focuses on versatility, the ability to react to any situation. It is only usable unarmed, and is balanced with a small focus on mobility. It Laughs at both excessive yin and excessive yang, as well as those who are too aggressive or too passive without balance. However, zerg rushing can overwhelm it before it has time to adapt, and especially focused unorthodox styles can take it by surprise.
Otherwise, the style is primarily focused on mobility. You can increase its Strike or Footwork bonuses, and boost Damage, Block, or Toughness if you spend Chi on Lightfoot. Destiny Cloud Fist is also tuned specifically against Warriors, and you can make opposing Warriors take heavy penalties when trying to affect you with their warrior-specific shit.
Divine Pattern Long-Strokes
is used with weapons with a long reach, establishing the "divine pattern" that anticipates a foe's movements and fills the space they're about to enter with a scything wall of weapon. It uses Flexible weapons, Staff, and Spear, and focuses on accuracy and defense, at the expense of mobility. The divine pattern laughs at reactive styles and anyone who gets trapped in the pattern, but fears both those with more reach than it has and those who can get through the pattern to attack from the calm area around the user.
The special abilities granted by the style all focus around ensuring the user's safety. You can increase the already-substantial Block bonus, gain the ability to riposte on a good Block, set the difficulty to enter or leave your zone at your initiative value, deny bonuses that others of higher initiative might get, and Flood a die to prevent foes from using their River on defense.
claims to descend directly from the First Emperor, Huangdi. He brought kung fu into the world, teaching it to eight disciples. To practice this style is to follow in the footsteps of the Eight Immortals. It uses the Four Major Weapons: Saber, Spear, Staff, and Sword, and is balanced with a focus on accuracy.
Being their progenitor, it laughs at the other traditional styles, as well as anyone using one of the four weapons. However, this superiority means it cannot function well against chains, needles, or other unorthodox weapons and styles. Additional options are limited, only providing increases to Block, Strike, and Damage, but it does provide you with some protection against Priests trying to lay curses and things on you.
is a defensive style focused on the characteristics of water. Using Flexible weapons or bare hands, it sweeps weapons away or flows with their strikes, but the motions don't lend themselves to striking solidly. It laughs at linear movements and deception, but fears being constrained or stilled, as well as being outnumbered.
The special abilities increase the defensive abilities of the style, giving you the block-well-riposte of Paired weapons, and letting you Flood a die to boost the style's Block and Toughness even further, as well as giving you another slot in your River that you can use for that specific purpose. You can also boost Strike and gain bonuses to break Waves and use Shaping Marvels.
Flying Red Silk
is another primarily-defensive style, created by a woman using the principle of 'minimal force'. It uses flexible weapons and swords, but is typically not used with the heavier flexible weapons like flails and chains, but rather brushes, wires, and long sleeves. It laughs at brute force, excessive motion, and overly traditional, straightforward styles. However, deception and overly reactive fighters can leave it baffled. Favors Strike and Block, at the expense of Toughness.
Unique so far among the external styles, a significant portion of Flying Red Silk's abilities directly debuff an opponent, penalizing their Block, as well as their Strike if they happen to be slower than you. It can boost its already-high Strike bonus, riposte if you actually get hit, and gains bonuses to any Marvel, but only one type per round.
Graceful Crane Style
is a dance-like style that emulates the crane's ability to simply slide aside from attacks and let the opponent wear itself out. It uses the Sword or one's bare hands, and focuses greatly on Footwork at the expense of Damage. It laughs at direct linear attacks, as well as stubborn and rigid styles, but fears fluidity and having its movement restricted.
Most of the crane's abilities focus on dodging: Increasing Dodge against groups of minions, letting you riposte with dodge instead of block, and reducing or outright nullifying the penalty to dodge attacks described as hard to dodge. Others let you reduce your initiative in order to remove the advantage others would get for having a higher initiative than you, boost your ability with Disorient or Disrupt Marvels, and (my personal favorite) inflict fear, awe or the like instead of physical injuries.
Great Ultimate Dragon Style
is nearly two styles in one. Focused on speed, most of its abilities rely on having a higher initiative than the opponents. It switches between yin and yang, changing its approach to suit the situation. As such, it laughs at those that use excessive yin or excessive yang, but fears those that strike the balance it cannot attain itself (and deception). It uses Paired, Saber, Sword, or Unarmed.
One ability of the style increases its speed to ludicrous levels, but for its other abilities, one must choose each round whether to be in 'Dragon in Heaven' or 'Dragon in Ocean' stance. Depending on which you choose, the bonus provided by the ability changes: Damage/Toughness, Block/Dodge, Disorient/Disrupt Marvels, and Strike/wave-breaking & Shaping Marvel. I'm not explaining it all that well, but it switches between offense and defense as needed.
is an assassin's style, using stealth, loose clothing, odd angles and movements, and other tricks to keep them guessing. This is what's normally meant when a style laughs at or fears deception. It uses ranged and flexible weapons, and is almost exclusively aggressive, boosting Speed, Strike, and Damage at the expense of Block and Toughness. It laughs at orthodox and reactive styles, but fears brute strength and the simple-straightforward styles that are harder to fool.
Most of its abilities focus on the Stealth skill, providing a straight-up boost or letting you always use Stealth for Disorient or Disrupt Marvels, reducing penalties for environmental modifiers to stealth, and gaining Dodge and Toughness bonuses with a successful Stealth Minor Action. Closely related to stealth is the ability to remove the advantage some styles have for a higher initiative. And rounding out Murderous Shadows is the ability to use another weapon type with the style, as well as
One Murder Per Heartbeat
, which lets you beat up whole zones full of minions with a single attack.
, you are literally Hitchcock's
. This style swarms around its enemies, pecking and harrying, growing stronger as its prey grows weaker. It uses Paired, Ranged, and Unarmed, laughing at sickness and scars, as well as fluidity, because... "the flock can rise and surround water effortlessly"?
However, it fears wholesomeness and health, as well as strong yang energies and fire. The style is mobile and damaging, at the expense of Block.
Most of the style becomes stronger when a target is wounded, boosting damage on wounded enemies or increasing Speed or Footwork when you inflict Ripples. It can also add on some debuffs when you inflict a Ripple, bestowing penalties to recover from Disorient or disrupt Marvels and interrupting chi regeneration.
is about speed. So much speed. All the speed. Radical good speed. Ludicrous speed. It uses swords and sabers exclusively, and favors Footwork and speed at the expense of Block. It laughs at versatility and reactive strategies, because it moves too fast for those to counter. However, against those that can match its speed, or strange styles that it can't grasp quickly, it is at a loss.
The style can boost its already impressive Footwork and Speed bonuses, as well as increasing Toughness and Strike against opponents slower than the user. The only other ability it can get is +5 to break Waves.
Storm God's Fury
is yet another speed-focused style, this one bearing all the rage of a storm. It uses Massive, Paired, Saber, and Spear for its weapons, and favors speed and accuracy over blocking. It laughs at fluidness and excessive yang, but fears solidity and yin energies.
As with the other fast styles, if you're faster than your opponent, this style provides some bonuses, in this case a boost to Footwork and letting you add a die from your River to a rippling roll. It also boosts its Speed just all by its lonesome. Otherwise, it can slow opponents who take Rippling rolls from you, produce very accurate flurries of attacks, and strike everyone in your zone except your allies (Normally, Area attacks attack everyone, this makes them selective).
is not quite defensive, but it aims to disable the opponent and end the combat without bloodshed, a very yin-focused approach. Not quite a distinct style, this is more a conglomeration of methods unified by their philosophy. It uses ranged weapons, swords, and fists, and favors Footwork and Strike over Damage. It is truly a universal style, and does not Laugh At or Fear anything in particular. Note that just because it doesn't laugh at things, that does not mean nothing fears it.
The primary ability, and one you can spend 1, 4, or 7 Destiny on, is the ability to create superficial wounds, which will go away after a good night's rest and are never lethal. The additional Destiny costs increase the Damage bonus of the style when rolling for superficial wounds, making you better at knocking someone out than outright killing them. You can also boost Toughness, gain bonuses to break Waves, use Disrupt Marvels instead of an attack (Usually they are in addition to attacks), and force an enemy who uses a set of 0s on his attack or Marvel to accept Interesting Times or take a penalty. It's a very interesting style.
I'll stop here for now (dear god it's five full screens in preview
), and cover internal styles, specific bonuses each faction gets with their kung fu, and what the hell is up with unarmed fighting next.
The man calmly takes his reed flute to his lips, and lets a single note escape. With his own mastery over the Jade Spirit Sword style, blades of pure sound shimmer in the air.
Original SA post
Legends of the Wulin - The man calmly takes his reed flute to his lips, and lets a single note escape. With his own mastery over the Jade Spirit Sword style, blades of pure sound shimmer in the air.
It's been a while since my last post, so it may be helpful to
on them. At any rate, last time I promised Internal Kung Fu styles, faction kung fu bonuses, and what the fuck is up with unarmed fighting.
Internal kung fu is powered by a fighter's Chi. Each style is divided into five levels, with the first level technique available for use as soon as you purchase the style. Other abilities must, naturally, be purchased with Destiny, and each style provides 30 Destiny worth of abilities: Four level 2 techniques, three level 3 techniques, two level 4, and one level 5. The cost of a technique in both Chi and Destiny is equal to its level. There is a caveat, however: Without specialized training, you can only buy one technique from each level (Each faction that I mentioned previously, and later in this post, as using a specific internal style lets you buy the ability to learn every technique in that style). Most fighters must therefore follow a path through an internal style, which can be flavored as learning a specific master's teachings. One master may teach you to burn it all, burn everything!
and teach all the offensive techniques of the Fire Sutra, while another focuses on the mobility of leaping flames until he gets to the 5th level, at which point he is kinda forced to teach the mighty conflagration, but he can at least call it something different!
Internal kung fu styles are also the best way to apply elemental effects to your attacks. With appropriate descriptions, like pushing someone into a fire or throwing a snake at them, you can create wounds that interfere with the target more than typical injury effects:
Burn damage makes your flesh more sensitive, applying a penalty to Toughness.
Freeze damage numbs you, closing off slots in your River.
Shock damage is always more intense than normal damage, increasing any penalties from wounds by 5.
Poison damage increases penalties to breath, reducing the Chi you regenerate.
However, unless you use an enormous bonfire or the Brazilian Wandering Spider, you're only going to be able to pull a +5 out of it. The elemental internal styles go up to +20 attack and +15 damage.
I mentioned this before way back in the example character creation, but each elemental style adds elemental Chi to your pool, and if you have elemental Chi, you gain a Chi Deviation, some sort of manifestation, either physical or mental, of the excess of that element in your system. Deviations vary in strength depending on exactly how much elemental Chi you have. One point of fire Chi may simply make you a bit warm to the touch, but with five points you need special clothes to keep them from smoldering right off, and rain evaporates as soon as it hits you. There's also some cost adjustments if you have elemental Chi and develop Chi from an element opposed to it.
I'm going to try and summarize each faction's kung fu secrets, but it's difficult because they're all worded like "If you're in the Divine Pattern Long-Strokes stance and use Reflexes Like Lightning, that technique has round-long duration." Basically, each secret costs 5 Destiny and increases the power or utility of two specific internal techniques when using one specific external style.
Boundless Prosperity Manual
is a Wood-elemental style focused on bodily health and wellness. Its basic ability is a +5 bonus to remove Marvels caused by pain, pressure points, or other internal maladies. Level 2 is full of +10 bonuses to stats, and the rest of the style is full of resistance and curative abilities.
The Beggar Fraternity specializes in Boundless Prosperity Manual and teaches its use with the external styles of Subtle Force (
Lessons in Humility
, lets your superficial wound rolls ignore armor), Eight Legends (
Old Immortal Rascal
), and Divine Pattern Long-Strokes (
A World Without Dogs
, which can grant a selective area attack).
Wood Chi Deviations focus on growth, sensuality, and idealism. You could develop fangs, coarse hair, or tumors. You could find your personality shifting to always see the bright side. Or you could be required to have frequent sex to maintain your Wood Chi.
(This is not an excuse to make the other players uncomfortable. Check with the rest of the group before including such a mature subject.)
is Fire-elemental, focusing yang energy into aggressive and powerful effects. Its basic ability is the ability to make a fiery attack, using the Burn effect with a +5 attack bonus. At each level, it has another technique that uses the Burn effect, increasing the modifiers. Its other techniques include several protections from Burn or Freeze damage, a massive Footwork bonus when moving upward, and a +10 bonus to Speed and Footwork.
The Fire Doctrine, naturally, focuses on Fire Sutra.
Thousand Miles of Light
uses the speed of the Shadow Catching style to increase the atack of any Burn effect, while
Volcanic Cinder Cloud
turns the flexibility of Destiny Cloud Fist into a bonus to Burn damage.
Fire Chi Deviations are based on heat, creativity, and impulsiveness. As mentioned, you could be hot and smoldering, strive toward innovation, or avoid stagnation, being always on the move and changing your personal style.
grants unto you the powers of the magical kitsune, controlling the foe's perceptions and turning their sixth sense against them. Its abilities focus on evasion and applying penalties to your enemies. One of my favorites lets you substitute Perform for Strike and force your enemy to substitute Wu Wei for his defense. He can still defend normally, but takes -5 to both Block and Dodge.
This style is often used by the Resplendent Phoenix Society.
uses the Graceful Crane style to extend and enhance evasive techniques,
Splendor of the Silver Empress
lets you deal with more varied enemies in Flowing Universe stance, and
Phoenix Under the Dragon's Shadow
is a restricted technique for the higher ranks of the society that lets you hide another attack within your first when using Flying Red Silk with abilities that let you boost your roll after the defender has made his defense. See? That was a mouthful.
is an Earth-elemental style that transitions rapidly from yin to yang and back again, releasing the energy created as lightning. Much like Fire Sutra, it starts with the Shock effect at +5 to hit, and includes further progression in each tier. Otherwise, you can move like lightning, selectively target muscles with your shocks, and protect yourself against Shock damage.
This style is often utilized by the Falling Leaves Society, who have developed the techniques of
Divine Thunder King
Edict of Heaven
, which boost damage and attack of Shock techniques, respectively, when in Eight Legends and Divine Pattern Long-Strokes, respectively.
Earth Deviations focus on stability, patience, and obsession. Your body may grow gray and hairless, you may become more impartial, or you may develop laser-like focus on the task at hand to the exclusion of all else.
is Water-elemental, harnessing a fighter's yin energy to chill and numb the flesh. Like Fire Sutra (Are you detecting a pattern here?) It starts with a Freeze effect at +5 to-hit, and progresses through the ranks. Its other techniques protect against Burn and Freeze damage, apply penalties to the enemy, and boost Disrupt and Disorient Marvels that deal with cold or freezing.
The Yun Clan, situated as they are in the frozen
West, utilizes this a lot. With Blossom Harvest, they've developed the
Mountain's Frozen Heart
skill, dealing +5 damage with Ice Sutra techniques that use Freeze, and similarly,
White North Wind
adds +5 to attack with Freeze effects when using the Storm God's Fury stance. And finally, the
Plains-Scouring Blizzard Lance
adds some damage boosts to a couple of other Ice Sutra techniques when in Divine Pattern Long-Strokes stance.
Water Deviations are based in cold, wisdom, and flexibility. Your body temperature could be exceedingly low, requiring frequent infusions of heat (possibly in the form of
) to maintain your Water Chi. You could be exceedingly fluid in your emotions and allegiances. Or your body could change to become more fishlike.
Iron Body Skill
focuses Metal Chi to strengthen the body and turn you into an unstoppable juggernaut.
You test your mastery of Iron Body Skill by striking an iron pot filled with hot coals and letting people freely strike your body with iron rods. If you aren’t crippled for life, you pass!
Iron Body Style's abilities are mostly straight up combat buffs, focused on Damage, Block, Toughness, and basically just being the hardest motherfucker in the room.
The Little Forest Sect specializes in Iron Body style, pairing it with Blossom Harvest and Destiny Cloud Fist. With Blossom Harvest and the
Immortal Soul of Iron
teaching, you become even more implacable, boosting Hardiness & Might and ignoring even more penalties when you use certain Iron Body techniques. When using Destiny Cloud Fist and
Heaven Covered With Clouds
, it reduces the Chi cost to maintain one technique, and lets you apply the bonus from the basic ability to Dodge instead of Damage. And in Eight Legends Stance, the
Supreme Divine Accomplishments
technique adds a Strike bonus to one technique and a Toughness bonus to another.
Metal Chi Deviations are marked by rigidity and ambition. Your joints may stiffen, causing you to move awkwardly at times. You may actively lust and scheme for wealth or power. Or your personality may shift towards the orthodox and traditional.
Jade Spirit Sword
is all mystical mumbo-jumbo about fighting with your heart, but the upshot is you are hot shit with a sword. This style can only be used when fighting with a sword. The basic ability is to treat a sword as any other weapon (except Ranged, Paired, or Unarmed) and its 2nd-level techniques provide +5 boni to a combat stat as well as a secondary capability if you're currently acting in accordance with a Passion or Inspiration Hyperactivity. It can also provide a secondary strike and an area attack, let you determine a fighter's River and Chi levels as you clash swords, and its capstone ability treats you as always acting under a Passion Hyperactivity for the purposes of the style, as well as letting you use a 2nd-level ability each round for free. Of course, it's not entirely free, since it costs 5 Chi to start up and 2 Chi per round after that to maintain, but that is basically free.
Naturally, the Heaven Sword Alliance focuses on this style. The
Storm of Swords
technique is based on the Eight Legends stance and often known only by the higher-ups in the Alliance, if a typical PC learns it, he should think about how he came to do so. At any rate, it lets you use the area attack technique from a zone away, and block area attacks on the behalf of others. Their
Streaming Dragon Blade stance
utilizes the Ultimate Dragon style, penalizing attempts to break your Waves when using one ability, and boosting Strike by 5 with another. And with the Graceful Crane stance, their
technique lets you shift some of the Jade Spirit Sword techniques based on blocking to use Dodge instead.
Nine Sun Birds
is about speed. The same speed shown by the God of Archery Hou Yi, who slew the nine golden Sun Crows. The same speed shown by the sun itself, which travels the breadth of the world in the space of a day, and hides its speed in the illusion of slowness. It has a lot of secondary strikes and area attacks, and generally boosts Dodge and Speed.
The Eagle Talons make use of Nine Sun Birds often. Their
Diving Eagle Spirit
secret uses Shadow Catching to make the style even faster,
draws on Bone-Fed Wolf Fang to let you command minions better, and with Ravenous Wings,
Rending Claws of the Sky-Father
adds damage boosts to the internal style.
is the essence of Zen. With calm contemplation, the problems of the material world reveal themselves to be illusion. Most of the abilities in this style revolve around substituting your Awareness or Wu Wei skills for a more typical combat bonus. It also has a large number of universal boosts: +10 to any single skill, all penalties to rolls reduced by 5, use a single die for a Minor Action... and so forth. It's quite nice. Rather a defensive style, but with some attack power in the higher levels.
This style is used by the Dragon Well Sect. It's very hard to summarize the boosts they get, but their secrets are named
Harmony Toward All Things, Revealing The Universe,
Waves Without Beginning Or End
is a corrupt style, transforming your chi so it can kill with a single breath. Most of its techniques focus on the Poison effect, providing the same progression of modifiers as Fire Sutra, Ice Sutra, and Heaven's Lightning. It also allow you to protect yourself from other Poison effects, weaken opponents beyond just stabbing them with a dirty knife, and boost all your combat abilities at once, at the cost of, perhaps, your very life (It inflicts a Ripple on you each round you use it).
The Vile Rain Cult uses Thousand Venoms a lot, and, like those using elemental styles before them, they have an ability that boosts attack (
, used with Murderous Shadows) and one that boosts damage (
Unclean Bloody Rain
, utilizing Ravenous Wings).
Corrupt Chi is its own thing, much like elemental Chi. Also like elemental Chi, it produces a Deviation. Corrupt Deviations basically make you look as evil as you have to be to use the style. You could grow a third eye or several new rows of teeth. Or you could gravitate towards vice and excess.
Unstained Lotus Mastery
is, in essence, Fist of the North Star. Or Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique. Rather than cutting open an opponent's flesh, the style instead creates "petals", hairline fractures throughout an opponent's body. With mastery, a fighter may cause these fractures to concentrate into one organ, and with another strike, a scarlet flower blooms. This style is mildly interesting in that the basic ability doesn't really do anything on its own. It creates petals, yes, but you need a higher-level ability to actually do anything with them. Otherwise they just heal on their own. Higher-level abilities let you expend petals to create Ripples, expend petals to inflict Disrupt or Disorient marvels, attack from range, boost your Damage or Toughness, or set up a hanging condition that rips the enemy apart from the inside if they do something specific.
The Black Lotus specializes in Unstained Lotus Mastery. With
, they combine Murderous Shadows with the internal style to create more petals with each strike. And with Graceful Crane, they use the
Stainless Black Feathers
technique to enhance the external style's already-formidable dodging capabilities.
And rounding things out, we come to
techniques. These are basically just a collection of abilities you can use to round out your character concept. These differ from the regular styles in that you do not need to advance through the levels and can buy as many techniques of a given level as you like. You could buy three level 2 techniques and a level 4, for instance.
Level 1 Formless techniques are mostly flavor. Booming Deity's Voice lets your voice be heard for miles around. You can even hide yourself and use echoes to conceal your position. Lashing Black Silk Wires lets you fight with your hair. Obviously you need long enough hair to use this, and it counts as either a Flexible weapon on its own, or a Paired weapon along with your normal weapon. And Submissive Steel calls your weapon to you with merely a thought.
Level 2 Formless techniques have a bunch that add +5 to one of your attributes. Other than those, Deadly Music requires a Perform check as a Minor Action each round you use the technique, and the effectiveness depends on how well you play. At 20, it's a Ranged weapon that automatically Laughs at those capable of hearing. At 40, it also counts as Flexible, Massive, Saber, Spear, Staff, or Sword. And at 60, something really unlikely with a Minor Action, Deadly Music lets you attack into faraway zones without Flooding dice. The last Level 2 formless technique is Drifting Cloud Step, which is essentially Wire Fighting: The Ability. It lets you Cover Ground into a zone that wouldn't otherwise support you, such as the middle of a lake or mid-air. You can't use it twice in a row, so you need to Cover Ground back to solid land on your next turn, but it's also possible to balance on a reed or something with a sufficient Footwork result.
Level 3 contains two techniques: Rage of the Dragon Kings, which I covered lightly back in the Southern Dragon Clan, and Hundred Li Step, with which one can cover two zones with a single Cover Ground Wave. Level 4 is taken up entirely with +10 boosts to combat stats. It's worth noting that due to bonus stacking, it's not worth taking a level 2 Formless and a level 4 Formless that both boost the same stat. Or, for that matter, taking a formless that boosts the same stat one of your internal styles can boost.
And finally, the level 5 Formless technique:
For all it's played up in the Blade Dogs writeup, the actual ability is slightly underwhelming: Neither your attack nor the enemy's defense may use Joss or the River, it is simply Lake to Lake. It also debuffs Warriors when it hits.
Okay, so now it's finally time to cover what's up with
. When I was covering actual weapons, I mentioned that you couldn't use Unarmed in a special weapon. You're either fighting with your awesome tri-sectioned guang-jian-tien-fu, or you're punching a dude. However, certain factions have kung-fu secrets allowing you to treat your fists as a specific weapon type in addition to Unarmed. If you happen to know more than one of these techniques, you're limited to using only one in each round. Each of these secrets costs 2 Destiny, less than the cost of a special weapon normally, but that is offset by the 5-point cost of the organization's Loresheet and the 3 or more spent on being a member, although either one may or may not be a prerequisite for learning the technique.
Next up: Back to Everything Under Heaven
The Little Forest Sect teaches the
, letting your fists count as Massive weapons.
The Heaven Sword Alliance teaches the
, letting you count as using a Sword when unarmed and vice versa. Very useful considering their affinity for Jade Spirit Sword.
The Eagle Talons use a style developed by Gallant Eagle himself, the
, which lets you fight unarmed as if you were fighting with a Saber.
The Yun Clan bestows the barbarian fighting art of the
Six-Armed Demon God
, meaning you can punch with both hands now, fighting as with Paired weapons.
Instead of teaching a secondary weapon attribute, the Resplendent Phoenix Society teaches
, allowing you to reduce the number of Ripples you deal and steal a point of Chi from your opponent's reserves with an unarmed strike.
The Beggar Fraternity does not teach unarmed kung fu. Instead, if you wield a Staff with the
style, you can treat it as either Flexible or Massive round-by-round.
Golden Saint Palms
is the secret granted to members of the Falling Leaves Society, letting Chivalrous Joss you spend on unarmed attack rolls apply equally to Rippling rolls. This is much like the feats in Eberron that make you better with a race's weapons and add your action point result to damage.
The Dragon Well Sect holds the secrets of the
, revealing that to one cultured in pure chi, time and space are but illusions and your fists can count as Ranged weapons.
The Liquid Metal Delegates, Southern Dragon Clan, Blood Wind Cult, Black Lotus Society, Fire Doctrine, Blade Dogs, and Vile Rain Cult do not teach anything special concerning unarmed kung fu.
The Hundred Ghost Faction kind of has a secret dealing with unarmed fighting. I covered this when I covered the faction itself, but they possess the Restless Ghost Scroll, which grants two corrupt techniques. The
Living Corpse Technique
spreads yin energy through your body, increasing Toughness and Damage by 5 as long as you act without emotion. Contrariwise, and the actual unarmed portion, you can use the
Bone Devil Claw
, flood your system with yang energy, and act wildly passionate, and thus inflict Fear Passions that ignore armor with your unarmed strikes. Learning the techniques of the Restless Ghost Scroll costs 8 Destiny on top of the membership.
Original SA post
Legends of the Wulin Mini-Update: Five Elements Supreme Combination
Can you take all personality modifications from Elemental Chi and have them all balance each other out?
On the one hand that seems like it might be a bit of an exploit, but on the other hand it seems like it'd be really expensive.
Really very expensive. Let me see if I can work this out.
To develop elemental Chi, the first point costs 5 Destiny, and each point after that costs 5 times the amount of that elemental Chi. But, you can only develop it by purchasing appropriate internal style techniques.
Your first internal style is free, but grants 10 Cultivation towards your Chi. Each style after that costs 10 Destiny and grants that much Cultivation.
Each element has its place on the Five-Element Wheel, which determines which elements it controls and which control it. The example the book gives is that Water Chi controls Fire and is controlled by Earth. When you buy elemental Chi that controls or is controlled by an element you already possess, the cost doubles. If you have both (For instance, buying Water when you already have Fire and Earth), the cost triples. As far as I can tell, this applies only to Cultivation, not Destiny.
This image may help to clarify elemental connections:
The white arrows are what concern us for the moment. The black ones will be used in a later update. More info on the elements and their interrelation can be found
Now, then, to costs. The first internal style is free. It doesn't matter which one we start with, either, so let's go with Heaven's Lightning, the Earth style. We get 10 Cultivation towards our Earth Chi pool, resulting in 2 Earth Chi.
Earth is opposed to Water and Wood, so our second style is one of the other two. Fire Sutra. That costs 10 Destiny and gives us another 2 Fire Chi through Cultivation.
Now it gets complicated. No matter which element we pick, it will be opposed to one of our previous choices, and Water is opposed to both of them. Let's go with Metal, picking up Iron Body Style. Assuming my understanding of the rules is correct, it still costs 10 Destiny, but the Cultivation that provides only gives us 1 Metal Chi.
We have Water and Wood left, but each is opposed to two elements we already have now. As mentioned, this triples the cost to develop their Chi. Thus, when we take Ice Sutra, the 10 Destiny provides
Chi. To get a point of Chi (And thus a Chi Deviation, which is the whole point of this exercise), we need to spend another 5 Destiny on a level 2 and a level 3 technique, which will get us to 1 Water Chi.
The same procedure is repeated with Boundless Prosperity Manual, and our final count is 60 Destiny spent for a total of 10 Normal Chi, 2 Earth Chi, 2 Fire Chi, 1 Metal Chi, 1 Water Chi and 1 Wood Chi.
But that's not all! Because those last three are only at 1 point, their Chi Deviations aren't as strong as those of Earth and Fire. To get the full effect, we need to spend another 15 Destiny on each of the three, or 10 if we boost Metal as soon as we get it. Which is a problem, because there's only 9 Destiny worth of abilities left normally.
So we now join factions for fun and profit. Retroactively, we'll spend 8 points on the Little Forest Sect: 5 for the organization's Loresheet, and 3 as the bare minimum to be a member. Once we've paid that, their basic kung fu training is free, so we can now buy two level 2 and two level 3 techniques, giving us the extra point of Metal Chi.
The same process can be repeated for the Yun Clan and Beggar Fraternity, but we buy 3 techniques at levels 2 and 3 for the point of Chi.
This makes our final Destiny cost 60, plus 18 for the Metal, 23 for Water, and 23 for Wood; total:
, 10 Normal Chi, 2 Fire, 2 Earth, 2 Metal, 2 Water, 2 Wood. Given that you start at 4th Rank with 20 Destiny, have 50 total when you reach 3rd Rank, and gain another 50 for 2nd Rank, that puts this character firmly in the midst of that rank, but without being very effective. Of course, with proper encounters and Entanglement, we can consider the 8 Destiny for each faction to have come essentially for free, but that still puts you in the 2nd Rank with only a handful of internal abilities and not much Chi to use them with. Not to mention you're supposed to gain 1 to 3 Destiny per session, plus whatever you get from your Disadvantages, so it would take quite a while to accomplish.
It's worth noting that Corrupt and Enlightened Chi don't oppose any of the normal five elements, although they do oppose each other. So we could spend another 10 to pick up Thousand Venoms without stunting our Chi progression.
You know, I don't think I ever explained what elemental Chi is actually good for. Very well, then: Elemental chi counts double when being used to fuel a technique of the same element. For example, if a Fire Sutra technique costs 4 Chi to use, then you can do so with 4 normal chi, 2 Fire chi, or 1 Fire Chi and 2 normal chi. However, it cannot be used to pay for an opposed technique (Water or Metal, in Fire's case). It can also be spent to power non-elemental techniques, but at the standard 1-to-1 ratio. Corrupt Chi counts double for Corrupt techniques as expected, but also counts as all five elements. Enlightened Chi counts double for all purposes, even non-elemental techniques. Corrupt chi cannot be spent on Enlightened techniques and vice versa.
The Imperial strength is not in muscles, but in his army.
Original SA post
Legends of the Wulin: The Imperial strength is not in muscles, but in his army.
Before we took that detour into combat and kung fu, we were just getting out of the organizations within the Jiang Hu. Now we move on to notable legendary personages. Say hello to Elminster as we pass. It may just be mild pessimism, but whenever a setting tells you about hotshit NPCs the players have no chance of ever approaching the greatness of, I can't help but smell pipe smoke and hear the orgasmic moans of a goddess of magic. Each of these people has two options provided for players: Fortune and Involvement. Each is similar, Fortune grants you a secret about them, something you could maybe use to your advantage, while Involvement ties their story to yours, usually in a manner consistent with challenging or being challenged by them.
At any rate, we have the Wulin Greats. These are warriors superlative in every respect, who sprout legends like mushrooms. These are the kinds of superstars that you tweet about if you see them getting a bagel at the deli. Everything about them is couched in such terms as "legend says" or "it is whispered". Mentioned in this section are Blue-Eyed Celestial Demon and Sword Spirit, who were covered in their faction writeups, and who each disappeared mysteriously, probably to go find more worthy opponents.
Three Power Sage
is rumored to have been the master who taught the first emperor, Qin Shi Huang Di. This would make him several centuries old, if he still lives. Naturally his status is unclear, since he lives/lived as a hermit up in the mountains. He's also rumored to be stark raving mad, with kung fu capable of leveling entire towns. They say his madness stems from the grief of a broken heart, but also that his loneliness and boredom drives him to entertain heroes for a time. He is also a connoisseur of fine tea.
That's actually not couched as a legend, it's stated as flat fact. Dude likes his tea.
Lonely Devil Dugu
reached the pinnacle of swordsmanship, even greater than the legendary Sword Spirit and his disciples. The world itself was his sword, and he could break the mightiest weapons with just his fingers... but as a fortune cookie I got once said: Confucius say, top of ladder nice view, but very lonely. It is said he travels the Jiang Hu, seeking a worthy challenge and gaining in the process the title of Defeat-Seeking Vagabond.
Now we come to the Four Saint Beasts, fighters who have taken their names and titles from the legendary Guardian Beasts of Shen Zhou. Each resides in one of the four directions, and bears a Legendary Weapon and a unique, powerful style. Each of the Saint Beasts' weapons has the exact same title they do. Which could make things a little confusing in battle.
is a finely-featured man of noble bearing, dwelling in Peerless Bamboo Manor deep in the eastern forests, where he is accompanied by... his harem.
He embodies the element of Wood, and loves to entertain guests and compete in all manner of games of skill and chance. He is a great admirer of beauty, however, his personality is capricious and childlike, growing bored easily. He bears a fine sword, yet rarely uses it, not wishing to sully such a magnificent weapon with dirt and blood. Instead, he usually opts to fight with a folding fan or a flute. They say he knows Deadly Music. When he does unsheathe his blade, he prefers to project sword energy from a distance with his
Thousand Bamboo Cutting Wind
technique, so as not to soil his clothes.
is a woman of classical beauty, as passionate and fickle as Fire and the seas and jungles of the south. She lives in an elegant but run-down estate by the ocean called Brokedown Palace. Alongside her lives her retinue of servants and one small boy. No one knows who the boy's father is, and Vermillion Phoenix denies being his mother, but still she cares deeply for him. Many of those in the Wulin, male and female alike, fall in love with her, with rumors that even some of the greats, like the Southern Dragon King or Gallant Eagle, have fallen for her. You probably shouldn't ask them, though, Gallant Eagle beat the SHIT out of the last one foolish enough to ask bluntly. She deeply hates the other woman who inspires great passions in the martial world, Glacier Maiden, and has sworn to destroy her. Glacier Maiden don't give no fucks.
Her weapon is a very unusual one, as it is her very garment – a crimson dress believed to be her never-used wedding gown. Wedding dresses in Shen Zhou are traditionally red, but hers was allegedly dyed in the blood of untold enemies who stood between her and her love. Yet, this love was not meant to be, and the dress became a Weapon of Legend known as Vermillion Phoenix. She can manipulate every strand of its fabric as if it was an extension of her self, unleashing its full power in an attack known as "
Phoenix Everlasting Regret
wanders the cold and inhospitable mountains of the west, embodying the cold precision of Metal. Battered, scarred, and dressed like a hobo, he is a man who has loved and lost... everything. The way of the Wulin has brought him only loneliness and sorrow. Still, he is the kindest and friendliest of the Saint Beasts, seeking only friendship and companions. Unfortunately, all those who befriend him suffer a terrible curse, dying in horrible, unfortunate ways. He likes fine wine, and it is said he travels to find suitable drinking companions and the perfect wine. It is also said he recently drank the wine of forgetfulness to forget his sorrow, but it caused him to forget old friends and foes as well. His weapon is the saber White Tiger, his most prized possession and only friend and companion. Legends say it bears the soul of a true heavenly tiger, which roars with every strike and even manifests as a Chi phantom when he uses his
Mournful White Tiger
is a true mystery of a man. No one has been really sure he was around since 70 years ago, and he was incredibly old then, but the tortoise is known for its longevity, so who knows? He lives as a hermit in the Rotting Magnificence Marshes of the north, refusing all human contact and going out in disguise when he must. He represents the element of Water, and is said to be completely batshit crazy. After training the legendary assassins known as the Five Venoms, he retired from the Jiang Hu and has not been seen since. A master of the Doctor's Arts, he experiments mainly on himself, and so his body is a catalogue of rare and unusual Chi Conditions. Tales of these experiments cause many to seek him out not just for his knowledge, but to harvest his flesh and blood for use in potions and elixirs. He doesn't take kindly to this, and of those that have found him and wished to do him harm, the few that escaped alive returned massively warped in body, mind, and spirit. Black Storm Buddha totally swoons over him and wants him in the Black Lotus Society, but Black Tortoise don't give no fucks. His Legendary Weapon is an odd one, crafted from a giant tortoise shell and loaded with chains, blades, and spikes that shoot out everywhere. You better believe his
Demon Army Unleashed
style makes full use of it.
The Fifth Saint Beast existed only in myth. If it existed, he or she would be known as
, representing the element of Earth. However, the title of Golden Dragon is restricted to the Emperor himself, and even among the Wulin with its hundreds of dragons and dozens of phoenixes (Phoenices? No, sounds too much like 'penises'.), none would have the unrivaled bravado to openly defy the Emperor and claim the magnificence of Huangdi himself... until now. Rumor has it that a man has appeared amongst the imperial tombs of central Shen Zhou, regal and majestic and bearing a spear with a golden dragon inscribed on the blade. People have taken to calling this man Central Golden Dragon, and the rumors around him are thick as flies. They say he is the previous emperor, thought to be dead but rumored to be actually living within the Jiang Hu. They say he uses the Celestial Dragon style of kung fu, taught only to members of the Imperial bloodline. They say he uses a devastating technique called
Frolicking Dragon Pierces Heaven
, but no one knows what style it belongs to. Many among the Wulin, including the Four Saint Beasts themselves, have challenged Golden Dragon to duels, but guess what? He gives no fucks.
Clockwise from top left: Azure Dragon, Vermillion Phoenix, Golden Dragon, Black Tortoise, White Tiger.
We get a page of worldbuilding legend, involving the Yellow Emperor Huangdi, the Mandate of Heaven, and his successors, plus a 1+-point Destiny involving you still being connected to your previous life outside the Jiang Hu, and then we move into
Tian Xia: Everything Under Heaven
. The concept of Everything Under Heaven was originally meant to represent the entirety of Shen Zhou, but today it has a more political purpose. These days it commonly represents the rule of the Emperor, the civilized and harmonious world that he creates by the Mandate of Heaven. Rebellious states, barbarians on the fringe of society, and most of the Jiang Hu fall outside of this system, and are therefore dealt with as dangerous outsiders to be subdued or shunned. However, the original interpretation of the entirety of Shen Zhou still holds within the Wulin, which is why Wulin Summits can even happen: The warriors of the Martial Brotherhood will band together if the Land of the Gods, its territory and culture, is ever under attack. for 8 Destiny (3 for the Loresheet, 5 for a Fortune ability), you too can fight for Everything Under Heaven in either definition, gaining a bonus when you place the integrity of the nation and its people above your own interests.
Speaking of the
Mandate of Heaven
, we now get a crash course in dynasties. Each emperor is naturally elected by the heavens themselves, and only the most baneful heroes would deny the divine right of the emperor and his necessity in the land of Shen Zhou. However, the divine right is a function of the position of Emperor, not the man himself. It is the Emperor's duty to act in accordance with Tian Xia and set aside his own personal gain. Should the emperor ever become corrupt, chaos will sweep across the land as he loses the Mandate of Heaven. In the ancient days, emperors who grew old and neared death would search the land for a suitable successor, but humanity is ambitious, and the desire to retain the power in their family resulted in familial dynasties. Naturally, each successive generation will generally be further removed from the Mandate of Heaven. Eventually a new force will rise up and overthrow the emperor, claiming the Mandate of Heaven for themselves. This sparks a new dynasty, and the cycle continues.
The Mandate of Heaven is usually represented by the
. However, when the current Jin Dynasty overthrew the Han Dynasty, they did not find the Imperial Seals, and so many among the citizenry do not believe the dynasty has any legitimacy. Players can seek the Mandate of Heaven and the Imperial Seals themselves, even rising to a position where they can dictate who possesses the Mandate of Heaven- even claiming it themselves.
It's been a while since we had any fiction. We open with the young Emperor, Jin Tian Long, kicking the shit out of some of his guards, blowing them across the practice yard and jabbing their pressure points. Naturally, he said not to go easy on him, but the soldiers would be harshly punished if they actually hurt him. Still, one goes all gung-ho and
hits him, only to be stopped as a hurled folding fan snaps his padded sword in two. The interloper is Imperial Minister Wong, displaying the high level of Chi cultivation required to use such a common object as a weapon, and even cause it to return to his hand.
Minister Wong admonishes the emperor for his carelessness. Thanks to third-person omniscient perspective, we learn that Minister Wong is always trying to spoil Jin Tian Long's fun. The emperor twits the old Minister about being old and also having no balls. He's always trying to annoy the old eunuch, but his childish jabs are easy to handle compared with the previous emperor's fixation on the Wulin.
Minister Wong suggests that perhaps the Emperor has trained enough for the day, and should attend to some of his other duties. The Emperor, however, has not even gotten started, and says as much. In order to put a stop to this nonsense, the humble Minister Wong asks to train along with the young master, perhaps to improve the minister's worthless kung fu. Nonplussed, the Emperor agrees, certain he can snap the old eunuch like a twig.
Retrieving a scroll and a writing instrument, Minister Wong states that he will write down every lesson the Emperor presents, and he may attack when ready, not forgetting, of course, to explain the importance of martial training and kung fu for an emperor.
This really gets under the Emperor's skin. You can't write and fight at the same time, it's just not possible. Just to show Wong a lesson, Jin Tian Long resolves to grab the scroll and bop him over the head with it. Alas! For all of the emperor's well-reasoned arguments about the strength of kung fu in war and the usefulness of cultivation in peace, and for all his swift attacks and grabs, Minister Wong simply dodges it all, keeping the scroll just out of reach as he calmly writes everything down.
Finally fed up, the Emperor resolves to simply
the minister. At this point, Wong counterattacks. He parries the emperor's blow with the scroll, then flashes into attacks, striking unerringly at Jin Tian Long's pressure points, but stopping an inch from contact. As he does, he explains the flaws in the Emperor's thinking. The emperor is just one man, yet he is responsible for the whole of Shen Zhou; as such, he must rid himself of distractions. His strength alone matters not, but the strength of his armies is what must be focused on. Myriads of things happen in Shen Zhou every day, and the Emperor must be prepared to respond to these on a moment's notice. And the Emperor must seem knowledgeable about all things, and so should listen to the counsel of those wiser than him.
Overcome with the wisdom of Imperial Minister Wong's words, Emperor Jin Tian Long falls to his knees, the weight of All Under Heaven on his shoulders.
There's a sidebar here about how all the emperors receive an Imperial name. After taking the throne, the only ones who will ever refer to the emperor by his birth name are close family, and then only in private. The Imperial name is always symbolic, and uses the name of their dynasty as a surname. For instance, the first Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, translates as
First Emperor of the Qin
, and Jin Tian Long is
Heavenly Dragon of the Jin
. Even that name is just a short form of the full Imperial title, which can be several pages long. Sages are advised to wing it if necessary.
The transition from the previous Han Dynasty to the
was not a smooth one. There was an Age of Chaos between them where numerous barbarian tribes sprouted up, until eventually a barbarian alliance took control of most of central Shen Zhou. After doing the whole bloody overthrowing schtick, they declared themselves the Jin Empire under their first emperor, Jin Shi Hu, the Emerald Tiger. He started out corrupt, seeking only his own pleasure and taxing and controlling his lands with an iron fist. During his reign the Jin Empire grew in power, but didn't expand outward much at all. This was the beginning of the Invisible Hell Killers, as there was pretty much a cold war situation all over the land. The Jin would send the IHKs through the Jiang Hu to destabilize rival kingdoms and factions.
After a while of this, another barbarian horde came into the picture, lead by the Beast of the North. No information on him is provided. Proving they have no concept of irony, the Jin Empire banded together to protect Shen Zhou from these uncultured barbarians, aided by the heroes of the Wulin. In the aftermath, pretty much everyone was weakened, and the Jin took the opportunity to bring the other kingdoms into its control one way or another. Thus unified, the Empire became such in truth as well as name, and further emperors ruled, running the gamut from tyrannical to fair.
Currently the Jin are becoming more stable, with a firmer hold on power. They're not yet up to the glory of the Han, but they're a far cry from the decadence and tyranny of Jin Shi Hu. The highest glory of the Jin Empire was embodied in the previous emperor, Jin Fei Long, who was just and chivalrous with strong ties to the Wulin. This is the Emperor that Immortal Crane of the Falling Leaves Society tried to assassinate. Even though that was unsuccessful, Jin Fei Long died mysteriously. Although official records claim it was suicide, there are many who claim otherwise. In fact, there are three contradictory options provided here:
The assassination attempt and Immortal Crane's sacrifice stirred Jin Fei Long's heart, making him realize how unrighteous his dynasty was. Not even the Emperor himself could cleanse the blood and suffering caused by his predecessors. Thus, he faked his own death and joined the Falling Leaves Society. Today, he acts under the guise of
, dedicated to undoing his own dynasty.
His enemies (Not the Falling Leaves society, but a bit later) nearly succeeded in killing him, leaving him for dead in a place they thought he could not survive. However, he was found and nursed back to health by Crimson-Haired Demoness, who also became his lover. Realizing the corruption inherent in the world, he became a spirit of vengeance dedicated to hunting down not only those who wronged him, but everyone who hides their wickedness behind a veneer of righteousness. Thus he became
White-Haired Ghost Lord
, leader of the Hundred Ghost Faction.
And finally, he's
Central Golden Dragon
. Instead of wielding the earthly power of the Jin Empire, he bears the heavenly power of the Yellow Emperor Huangdi, heralding a new age of glory for Shen Zhou.
Whatever the truth is, the players can have a say with their Destiny points, of course.
The current emperor is Jin Tian Long, age sixteen. Due to his age, he wields little real power, with most of it controlled by his royal court (Those darn eunuchs). However, he is not a willing puppet, and is very strong-minded and willful. He also shows interest in kung fu and tales of the Wulin.
While the Jin Empire is growing arguably more stable and just, its lacking the Mandate of Heaven means there are many out there who want nothing more than to see it fall, replaced by the last shreds of the Han or even their own dynasties.
The Jin Empire is based in Jiankang, the Imperial City, which shall be covered
Along with such notable places as Notably Picturesque, Only Six Devils, and Stone Drunk Town.