Thursday, February 9, 2012

So, Those Feng Shui Games

Is it Thursday already?  I really meant to get this written up earlier in the week.

So, since I ran the same adventure twice, I'm going to give the scene by scene breakdown and then mention the differences between the two groups and the awesome stuff they did.

The basic plot was pretty simple.  Lao Han, a Lotus sorcerer in the contemporary juncture has founded a film company.  Called Han Dynasty Productions, their first film is "Xao: The Caves of Time," a film that will 1) Expose more people in the contemporary juncture to the concepts of the Secret War, and 2) Allow him to attempt a ritual during the film's climactic scene that will (over time) lead to an increase in the ambient magic level of Hong Kong and, eventually, the world.

Needless to say, the Ascended oppose such notions, even if they're not entirely sure of what's going on.  They plan on using standard Ascended tricks to stop the film production, and that means innocent people are going to get hurt.

(In each case, I started off with a full complement of players.  Group One was composed entirely of novices, although one had played the Shadowfist card game.  Group Two consisted of three veterans (one a GM), plus a couple of HK film fanatics who'd never gotten to play.

The adventure opens in the Jumbo Floating Seafood Restaurant, a massive edifice moored in the harbor of Aberdeen.  I told the players to imagine the craziest, loudest Chinese restaurant they'd ever seen, and turn it up to eleven.  The camera lingered briefly on each of the PCs, framing the scene.

Jackie and Reno were sitting at a table, discussing a case.
Tigress and Cyclone were trading covert information in a private booth
"Old Man" Yung was enjoying the good life, as paper money is much easier to make with magic than gold and silver.
Jade Tears was waiting tables, and "Bruce" was busing them.

At the center of the main floor, basking in the attention was actress and next-big-thing, Maggie Lam, star of the upcoming Han Dynasty picture, "Xao: the Caves of Time."

And then the Maitre d' came flying into the room, followed by a horde of armed thugs intent on kidnapping Maggie...

Both groups jumped into the action immediately.  Highlights of Group One were Reno mowing down mooks, "Bruce" pouring a large bowl of soup on a couple of thugs, Cyclone putting his "Blue Suede Platform Boot" in the lead thug's face, and Jade Tears flying in from off-screen to impale the leader to a dining table.

Group Two featured some really creative use of the scenery by Reno, comic hijinks from Jackie that set the tone for how the player handled him all night, creative use of movement powers by "Old Man" Yung to get Maggie out of the way (and try to put some moves on her).

Afterwards, Maggie thanked the heroes and informed her agent (who was busy spinning the whole thing as a publicity stunt) that she didn't feel safe anymore and that if she was going to stay on this film, she wanted "These people" as her bodyguards.

The next scene introduced the film set.  The heroes got a brief look at Mr. Han, an older chap with a predilection for bright brocade coats.  He'd apparently lost his voice box because he had to use an artificial one (to cover up the fact that without it, he squeaks, what with all the being a eunuch and such).  I let the players choose their "cover story" on the set.

I don't remember all of Group One, but I think Reno just played cop, Jackie was a stuntman, Tigress was an armorer, Jade Tears was stunts, "Old Man" Yung was a special effects guy, Cyclone was an extra, and "Bruce" worked the food table.

Group Two:  Reno was, again, just being a cop on the set, Jackie was stationed at the food table (his player played him as ravenously hungry to humorous effect), Jade Tears was stunting, Tigress was wardrobe, "Bruce" was holding boom mikes, and "Old Man" was an explosives guy.

(As the second combat kicked off, the guy playing "Old Man" Yung got sick and excused himself.  The previous session and the first combat of this round had shown me that "Bruce" was extremely deficient in terms of speed, to the point that other characters were sometimes acting two or three times before his first action.  I offered the guy playing him the chance to take over "Old Man" Yung, and he did so, much to the betterment of the session.)

After that, I set up the next bit.  It was an interior shoot, a large set made up to look like a cavern complex.  The Innerwalkers in the group recognized it as looking a bit like the Netherworld.  A mob of cross-time refugees (extras and stuntmen) were to chase Maggie down some tunnels and out on a rope bridge over a chasm (a pit ten feet deep, lined with mattresses and painted green for the CGI to be inserted in post).  Then, her co-star, Cantopop idol Evan Chin (played, according to Group One, by "Chinese John Stamos") was to swing in on a rope, blast the mob, and carry her to safety.

When the cameras rolled, that's just what happened, up to the point where Evan should have swung in.  Instead, a large weight came hurtling toward her on the rope, clipping her and knocking her off.  The lights went out, except for one rig that burst into flames.  Shadowy figures with guns came in from the edge of the set, One shouted, "Everyone be smart and no one gets hurt!"

Of course, our heroes weren't smart.  Violence ensued.

Group One began what could only be called Operation: Sandbag.  They quickly latched on to a theme and virtually every attack they launched incorporated sandbags in some way.  Since Feng Shui doesn't use a map and players have the right to make up things like this if it helps the story, I just ran with it.  Sandbags fell left and right on thugs.  Jade Tears swept down into the "chasm" to protect Maggie, and "Old Man" Yung made a tunnel of fire that she flew through to the catwalk carrying the star to safety.

Group Two opted for some different tactics.  Jade Tears again carried Maggie to a catwalk, and much was done with Martial Arts and firepower, but the crowning glory was Cyclone rallying the extras and stuntmen to fight back, while wearing a Roman Legionnaire's costume (Black Caesar, Represent!).

In the end, the attackers were thwarted.  Evan Chin was found unconscious and trussed up in an office behind the catwalk.  And just as everyone noticed Mr. Han was missing...

A massive column of green flame burst from an off set corridor.  Investigating, the heroes found a badly charred body, and Han walking out of the smoke, a bit singed, but none worse for the wear.

The body proved to be Rostov, a notorious Russian mercenary with all sorts of underworld connections.  Han made a speech about how the film had to be completed and the cast and crew were, somewhat surprisingly, quite inspired.  He then left before the heroes could speak to him.

It was at this point that Group Two, under Reno's lead, had a quiet moment where they spilled their secrets to each other.  As Jackie was specifically written to have no supernatural connections up to this point, the player's reactions were fantastically roleplayed.  Everyone decided to stick with this and see what happened next.  Especially since there was an outdoor shoot later that night.

The outdoor shot was in a commercial district.  Gleaming buildings, lots of neon, and (of course) it had just rained (for those cinematic puddles).  Maggie and Evan were on the run from modern thugs.  They have a moment of quiet to catch their breath when Maggie sees something coming out of an alley and screams.  Evan looks, "Hopping vampires!  This is not good!"

The director shouts cut, but the vampires kept coming.  Even one is a problem and there were over a dozen!  What to do?

Group One were not as savvy about HK films, so I gave them a quick run-down on Jiangshi (or Hopping Vampires), including the easiest way to immobilize them (it involves affixing scrolls, or post-it notes for that matter, containing a Buddhist sutra, to their heads).  Reno quickly learned his bullets had no effect on them and focused on trying to get the actors out of the way.  Cyclone ran to his Jaguar and drove it onto the set, swooping up Maggie and driving her away.  Meanwhile, "Old Man" worked his magic at superspeed (Movement schtick) and scattered the "scrolls" on the breeze, landing them neatly in the hands of the martially adept, who proceeded to slap scrolls on Vampires.  They contained a potentially nasty outbreak in record time.

Group Two took a similar path, yet one that was uniquely theirs.  Jade Tears immediately asked Yung if he had the means to make the scrolls.  The fact that so many of my players had seen "Mister Vampire" made this scene a lot easier for me to run.  While Jackie and Jade Tears kept the vampires occupied,  Reno and Cyclone highjacked a nearby moving truck.  While the radio blasted Cantopop, they drove the truck down the alley, blocking the monsters in with their friends.  Reno shot out the windshield, and when Maggie and Evan's love ballad came on the radio, Cyclone shot it (the only thing he shot all night).  Meanwhile, Yung did the same sort of trick with the scrolls, sending them to his allies, who made swift work of them.

In the aftermath, the heroes are approached by Johnny Wintermute, an escapee from 2056, a hellish world of demonic cyberware, ruled by the Buro.  His role is to fill in the heroes as to what's really going on, and enlist them in the cause of the Silver Dragons, the one faction in the Secret War that stands up for normal humanity.  Of course, Group Two had already compared notes, but this was Group One's chance to do the same and reveal what they each knew (or didn't know) about the Secret War.  Johnny tells them that something big is going down at tomorrow's shoot at the Tin Hau Temple Complex.  He also warns them that the Lotus and the Ascended aren't the only ones with a dog in this fight. There's this other group called The Jammers. A bunch of crazy nihilists whose plan for the Secret War is to blow up everything.

The final scene was the Tin Hau Temple.  A sacrificial altar is set up on the temple grounds and Maggie chained to it.  As a eunuch wizard (guess who) is about to plunge a knife into her, a shot rings out, and a bullet wound appears in his forehead.

Of course, being an ancient eunuch wizard, he pops back up, summons a bunch of ogres, and as paramilitary troops descend from four unmarked helicopters, the fight is on in earnest.

Group One focused a lot of their attention on the paramilitary guys. Reno took a number of them down by shooting their rappelling lines, and Jade Tears took out an entire chopper by grabbing the line, swinging up, and then flinging the rope into the rotor blades.  It was at this point, the players learned that helicopters do indeed count as unnamed characters.  Reno shot down another, while Jackie scurried up the rope to a third, overpowered the pilot and took over the craft.  Yung kept Han busy, while Cyclone used his afro pick to destroy the shackles holding Maggie to the altar (they were made of rubber) and rescued her from the ogres.  Finally, as time was running down, "Bruce" tossed a downed helicopter at Han, crushing him, and Jackie used his chopper's PA system to deliver a stirring speech that convinced the remaining Ascended troops to stand down.

Group Two focused more on the ogres and Han and their dice went horribly cold.  In retrospect, it was nearly midnight and I should have narrated things, but Han was super tough and they rolled badly, so Yung was badly hurt and Jade Tears missed a great chance to impale him.  Cyclone focused on ogres, Jackie rescued Maggie, Tigress fought the paramilitary leader (Major Killpatrick, an Ascended toadie), and Reno blasted mooks.  As time wound down, I let Yung, as a last, desperate attempt, use his Movement schtick to wrest a helicopter from the sky and send it hurtling towards Han, bisecting him with the rotor blade.

As each group caught its breath, they suddenly heard the sound of jetpacks, with a heavily distorted version of "Ride of the Valkyries" blaring over it.  A horde of cyborg gorillas landed.

The scene fades to the words, "The Beginning"

Roll credits.


  1. And I love this post EVEN MORE.

    Sounds like an absolute scream was had by all.

  2. I played Tigress in Group One, and can attest to the accuracy of this summation. Only correction is that I shot down the first helicopter.

    Our Cyclone was...interesting. I have never witnessed anyone, black or white, so fully inhabit the persona of a funk-soul brother. Our Old Man Yung (aka Woochi) was also very effective. But it is true that "Bruce" was cursed with the reaction speed of a lobotomized tree sloth suffering from narcolepsy.

    I watch a fair amount of Asian cinema these days, thanks to the annual Fantastic Fest here in Austin, but I haven't seen most of the classics from back in the day. Hopefully there will be some mind-blowing old-school stuff at the upcoming Hongkongathon on the 25th! Five movies, ten hours--guaranteed to be a good time.

  3. @Purukivel: Hey, welcome to my blog. Sorry if I slipped on some details. My second running of the game really didn't let out until about 12:15 and I had four hours of gaming in between, so I was pretty bleary by that point, especially when it came to some of the details on the early game.

    There's just something about Cyclone that brings that out, no matter who plays him. The guy in the evening game was just as funky.