The Short version: So there’s a Kickstarter for the classic 90s Hong Kong Action Movie rpg Feng Shui written by Robin Laws, its got three days to go, its already massively funded with lots and lots of extra streatch goals added. If you back it you get a playtest copy of the game it immeadiatly. Go back it now, its Robin’s birthday today 🙂
The Long Version: Here’s why Feng Shui is such a seminal game for me.
Feng Shui was a massive influence on me. Looking back on it the 90s was a warzone of games trying to break free of RPG’s war gaming roots and bring us into the promised land of Storytelling. Vampire was one of these games and didn’t do it for me (didn’t like the premise, and the rules were even more disjointed) , Over the Edge (co-authored by Robin Laws loved it, but two weird for me at the time when I was a bread and butter Fantasy fan) and Star Wars by West End Games are amongst a truckload of wannabes. The one game that did it for me was Atlas Game’s Feng Shui. I picked up a copy from my local games shop and I was hooked.
I loved the pick up and play archtypes from every corner of the Hong Kong Action Movie genre. My favourite to play was the wise and venerable Old Master who came out with cheesey sayings and was laughted at by all unsundary untill he showed his supperior kick ass Kung Fu moves in battle.
The fact that the game although it had a baddazzling array of options had a very tight premise of Kicking Butt in a variety of settings, to save the Feng Shui sites of the game’s title from the forces of Darkess. In an age of meta plot (witness Vampire) it did factions and epic in a way that never got in the way of fun 🙂
It had a soild frame work of rules and Games Master’s advice. I’ll never forget the “Maps are not your friend advice” and how I fought my friend Ginger Matt who inherited my copy and actually ran it for me until we comprimised with sketch maps, until we stopped using maps at all (and life was all the better for it). How improvisation was to be rewarded and without throwing the basic rules to the dogs and getting too abstract for the players. The idea that the player characters are just actors and can move through the different time periods or “Junctures” as the game to play different versions of myself struck me as well. This was my gateway and bench mark for which later Narrative and Indie Storygames that emerged later in the decade and dominated my table in the 00s were judged.
This is a game that single handly introduced me to the Hong Kong Action Movies. While I was familiar in a late night showing on BBC 2 way with Enter the Dragon, the rest was a mystery to me. Feng Shui had a wonderful listing of movies to hunt down in second hand shops, late night TV showings and the occasional overpriced European release. Without it I would have never watched the works of John Woo (Hardboiled, The Killer etc) or picked up what I consider to be the signiture film of Feng Shui’s interdimensional hopping weirdness, Saviour of the Soul.
Without Feng Shui there would be no Monkey, since it gave me the confiedence that you could do an Asian game in broad strokes which capatured the emotional essence of its subject matter. While skills and characters owe more to Robin’s HeroQuest and Indie Storytelling games like Fate & Risus, at the heart of it sits an “anything goes” and “the more exciting you tell it the bigger the bonus I’ll give you” attitude that comes directly from Feng Shui.
So with that here’s the KS video.