Ok, don’t tell my wife, but I’ve thrown a few dollars at another Kickstarter. Feng Shui 2 is a thing, and I was too excited not to get it on it. Now if you have never heard of the RPG Feng Shui, you might be a bit confused. Let’s start up-front: It’s not a game about decorating a space for proper chi flow. It’s a game about shooting nameless thugs by the dozen, blowing things up, and crazy car chases. It started in 1996 as a role-playing game intended to facilitate Hong-Kong action films. Basically it was Hard Boiled crossed with Big Trouble in Little China with dice. At a table I played at, it was favorite for all its glorious combat and cheesy hand-waved plots… despite it’s aging ruleset. I’ve had the infinite fun of playing 3 different Feng Shui Characters: A super spy named Ross “Dry” Martini, a ghost named “Calls on Clouds,” and time-traveling cursed viking named Biorn Baud the Haftbane. It was the kind of game where we tracked the various kinds of flying crafts my spy had crashed, or the number of nameless mooks a friend’s Ninja character had killed (118), because these were important features of the game to us.
The rules, however, were a product of their time. They were groundbreaking for that time in many ways, but it’s almost 20 years later, and the books are showing their age. There are parts that don’t work, that don’t make sense, or are just hard to parse. It’s also full of art suitable for that time, but that is clearly outdated now. Feng Shui 2 aims to fix a lot of that, and I for one am thrilled.
Better yet, it’s still being done by the same lead author that did it first: Robin Laws. Yes the same Robin Laws that did Gum Shoe and the award-winning Hillfolk. He’s noted that Gum Shoe is the RPG about investigation, Hill Folk is RPG about Drama, and Feng Shui is the game about combat, at least as he sees it, which may explain why he’s updating it. Also, it’s apparently the thing people ask him most often at game conventions for the past decade. Note to all those people at the convention that kept asking about this: I salute you.
So yes, I’ve kickstarted this project and started pouring over the playtest document I got access to because of it. Some of it is a lot like I remember. Some of it is hilariously written, as this was never a game without a sense of humor (IE: Battle Chimp Potemkin is still an NPC of some importance). Some of it is awesomely new. Those of you with a copy, look at Bag Full of Guns for interesting mechanics that fits in that last category. Start every fight with a revolver and duffel bag… end blasting away with a crazy large gun. Nice. Or look at the martial arts “Path of the Montage” which name alone is hilarious, but is actually a martial arts path built on being better at fighting boss class opponents. Yes, this is the kind of game that acknowledges the existence of mooks, named opponents, bosses and even “uber-bosses.” Even it’s 1996 version never bothered trying to be realistic, not when it could try to model action films. It’s the kind of game where a rocket launcher does more damage to vehicles, is effective against minions, does less damage to named characters, and is almost useless against bosses and heroes. It exactly models action films and is exactly wrong to realism.
Oh, and the setting of the game leverages time travel as an excuse to combine all the action cliches you’ve ever seen into a single game. Cowboys, assassins, post-apocalypse highway warriors, ghosts, spies, mutants, monsters, ninjas, detectives, mystics cops, maverick cops, thieves, pirates, archeologist, bodyguards, and elderly martial arts masters… and that’s just a fraction of the player character options. The time travel aspects of the game are expressly so GMs can use any time or place, science or magic, to set their games and over the top action environments. Better still, as the backing goes up, the setting expands through “pop up junctures.” How about a future with giant kaiju monsters, or aliens on mars? Or maybe you’d rather enjoy some swashbuckling 3 musketeers action, because ninjas and ex-special forces with assault rifles could only make that more fun right? Those are on their way now, and that’s new to the official setting. (I have in fact done an Apple inspired power ranger/kaiju adventure in the original Feng Shui, because it felt it was a moral imperative.) It’s time travel in subservience to over-the-top action, and I love that.
I’m really looking forward to seeing this new edition in a full, properly laid out, art added, glory. Feng Shui (one) was some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing a game, and an improved version of the rules is nothing but good news to me right now, more so now that I’ve seen the rules. I’m not saying they are perfect, but they are an improvement, and in many ways it was better than I expected.
Interested in having more fun in a gunfight then you’ve ever had in an rpg? Consider Kickstarting Feng Shui 2, or picking it up once its out.