Carpe Blogiem: Ruminations on a Wuxia Campaign

Ahhh, that new campaign smell. I know, I know, you’re thinking “Dude, this is like the third one in as many months. What gives?” Well, what gives is pretty simple: If a campaign doesn’t spark for me I don’t force it. That way lies burnout for gaming period. My players mostly understand that. The DF game I was running lasted maybe 2 months and after losing a player on C-Team I was kind of over it. DF in general is fun, but I need the right mix of people and I need to be in the right mood. I was neither. So I informed my players on all three teams what I planned on doing – that cost me another player and almost a third though she decided to stick around. The perils of switching campaigns. Anyways, I gave them the option of a campaign based around dreams and a dreamworld or a wuxia wainscot fantasy. They choose the latter.

I was, to put it mildly, unprepared. I didn’t have the broad understanding of the supernatural, mythological, and historical landscape that I did on western tales. I had a decent understanding of Japanese folklore, but that was it. So I do what I always do when I lack knowledge of a subject: I read and study. I spent a solid 8 hours a day for two weeks just reading everything I could get my hands on online, the library, and deep-diving into Wikipedia. (Yeah, I know – Wikipedia isn’t going to tell me everything. That’s why I went to the library.) I purchased copies of Journey in the West, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Dream of the Red Chamber, and Water Margin from a reseller for almost 1/20th of the cover price. I found copies of Mark Edward Lewis’s work on historical China at a thrift store. I borrowed eCopies of Daniel Fox’s The Books of Stone and Water (supposedly a modern wuxia trilogy) from my library and a dozen other books on folklore and mythology. But I didn’t stop there. I turned to things like DnD’s Legends and Lore and White Wolf’s Kindred of the East. This was gameable material that had already incorporated history and mythology and gave me something I could use in broad strokes to create my own campaign. My goal was to assimilate as much data as I could about the ancient world of the chinese. I still haven’t finished everything, but I’m on better footing now than I was three weeks ago.

I also found my kung fu movie collection stashed in the shop. Some are unwatchable due to being on VHS, but I had rebought many of them for DVD in late 2008(ish). I’d always been a fan of kung fu flicks and the possibility of being able to game out something like the 36 Chambers of Shaolin fired my imagination.

After gathering as much data as possible I began to finish up the files necessary for the new campaign. I’d been steadily writing up the things I knew already: mechanics, optional and house rules being used, and so on. I was lacking the back story. It took a couple of days, but once I was finished I disseminated the files to my players and then sat back and waited for the concepts to come in.

I wasn’t disappointed. I intentionally set up the teams in different areas. The world is separated into the inner kingdom a fantastical place where the old tales are true and the middle kingdom the real world where Wū (powerful warring houses or clans) fought one another for power. C-Team gets to play in the Inner Kingdom and B-Team gets the Middle Kingdom. (And yes, there is an Outer Kingdom, but I have no idea what to do with that yet.) On B-Team I ended up with two shinobi, a master of Krabi Krabong, a heroic chinese spear fighter, and a half-huli jing (fox spirit) sorcerer who also studied Wudong (the Ultimate Combat style of the setting). On C-Team I currently have a shaolin monk who likes the material world a bit too much, two giant sword users, and a master of kicking. One of those sword users might become a kusari wielder. We’ll see.

Picking Over The Bones

Overall, I’m excited where the campaign is going and tomorrow (Monday 10/7/19) will be the first session of play for the B-Team.

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