Carpe Blogiem: Ruminations on a Wuxia Campaign II

Like my previous post this one is kind of an “outloud thinking” as I work through my notes, sources, and mind to tie together a campaign.

I think the first thing I need to get right is the atmosphere. Wuxia is not just martial arts, flying fist, and furious action. It’s a mindset. The protagonists need to be willing to stand up to injustice and what is right despite the consequences or perhaps, because of them. They are heroes (it’s literally in the name). And they do hard things not because they are hard, but because they are right. Getting PCs to buy into that will probably not be easy. They will be distracted by the shiny glitter of cool powers and high combat skills. That’s not to say that a high combat skill or powers is required, but it would be odd. Wuxia is akin to playing a superhero game except most of the “powers” and origin stories are similiar enough to lump into one category for the purpose of building things with GURPS.

Having players buy into this atmosphere is going to take place on three fronts. The first will be mechanical – did they take disadvantages (or, in this case Foibles) that will make the PCs play their characters as heroes? The second will take place in the players minds. Will they go full tilt and player heroic characters or just lip service to their disadvantages? Finally, the third front. This one is on me (the GM), can I provide a setting where doing the right thing is the best choice – or in same cases the worst choice because that is the best of all choices. If I force the PCs to compromise too much that’s going to reduce buy in and the campaign will veer off track.

This leads me to the second thing – the campaign “plot.” Wuxia could probably work for a player-driven sandbox style campaign, but I’m not going to do it that way. I have a story I want my players to help tell and I think starting day one with a plot is the best way to do it. You might think this is railroading, but it’s not. The players know what they are getting into day one and really, it’s not railroading if the PCs buy tickets for the train. A good forward momentum from the GM can keep things moving forward and (dare I say it) “on track.” This is a good thing I think. Folks often dislike the idea of being forced to do a specific thing or things as it reduces agency (which is bad!), but having a scenario that’s more or less story scaffolding and allowing the players to fill in the rest is a beautiful thing when it works.

So what sort of plot am I going for? Well, I have three teams and three different, but related plots. First, let’s talk about the overarching plot. The thing that draws all three teams together. In this instance it’s the idea that the Inner Kingdom (that other dimension that models mythical China) is closed off from the real world (the Middle Kingdom). The last person to visit the Inner Kingdom happened sometime during the Boxer Rebellion in the 19th century. After that all the doorways swung shut and no one could enter or leave that place again. The flow of chi from that place into our world affected all of those who were capable of incredible feats. (In this campaign chi powers can be negated by certain abilities as well as being affected by “Dragon Lines” or ley lines.) The plot in a nutshell is someone in the Middle Kingdom found a way to talk to those in the Inner Kingdom and they are trying to open a doorway back. The B-Team will be dealing with the forces on Earth/Middle Kingdom who are trying to force open the doors and the C-Team will be dealing with those who are trying to do it on the side of the Inner Kingdom. The A-Team will be trying to keep the balance of the Wū and are a wildcard. They might want to open the doors or they might want to keep them shut. That will be up to them.

Picking Over the Bones

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll chat more about this at another point. Hope folks are enjoying these glances behind the curtain of my GMing and campaign creation style.

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