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Feng Shui: Shaolin Heartbreak

Date: July 24, 2004
Teaser:

Time-travelling kung fu action! Ki-yaaaaa!
Bits 'n pieces: It's 1996 and we live in a world of glamour and grit. Kung fu action blends with generic Hollywood thriller to deliver Shaolin Heartbreak!
System: Feng Shui
Soundtrack: take a look here for the complete soundtrack listing.

A stunning tale from Allen Varney!

This one-shot took place July 24, 2004. We ran Shaolin Heartbreak, an adventure by Allen Varney. It was first published in Marked For Death, but you can find it online here on Mr. Varney's site.

The cast

There were three players, with closely connected characters. All the characters were all archetypes from the core Feng Shui book. (Atlas Games version.)

Player Name Cast as Archetype Relationship with other characters
Hugo Ero Shinje Michelle Yeoh Martial Artist Fight choreographer for Maureen Wei
Mark Tom Rock Tom Cruise Everyman Hero Fan of Maureen Wei, won a meet-n-greet with her in Hong Kong
Jeroen van V. Pong Lim Pat "Mr Miyagi" Morita Old Master Grandfather of Maureen, also her martial arts instructor

GM Advice (Spoilers!)

I asked on the Feng Shui mailing list for advice on running the adventure. Pretty much everyone agreed that there are too many NPCs in the adventure. I cut down the number of NPCs by getting rid of Larry Kwan at the earliest opportunity. The three monks from the 1850's was reduced to just Hyung Chang. Even so, the NPCs demanded quite a bit of screen time.

Some other bits:
Darrin Bright mentions:

"Kam Li's backstory needs to be simplified. Page 57 states that she's after Phanom Rung because she was protecting the owner of a rice stall. However, her description on page 59 states that she's really after Phanom Rung for killing her father... keep the father story, it's easier to explain."
Which is very true. He also mentions:
"For the Radiant Flowers fight, make sure your Killer/Guns-Only players don't get so frustrated that they decide to use their guns anyway (well, it happened to me). If you have to, have Chu Po toss a crossbow or some other non-incendiary missile weapon at them. Another gag that worked a lot better than the crossbow was a staple gun, which led to some amusing mook-abuse."
This seems sound advice to me. I had a bit of time-shortage, so I skipped the Radiant Flowers fight.
The best advice he gave, however, was:
The last fight on the airport runway isn't described particularly well... not much of a description at all, actually... no map, no scenery to interact with, and the guidelines given for trying to fight in a hurricane are too harsh on the PCs. Here's some ideas to make the climactic battle more interesting:
  • Chu Po casts a weather-related sorcery to create a globe of calm winds around the PCs, allowing them to attack without penalties while in the globe.
  • Put in some scenery or airport-related objects to give the PCs ideas for stunts. For example, one of those stairway-trucks, emergency vehicles (fire trucks are fun), a baggage cart laden with luggage, a small Cessna with the keys in it.
  • The hurricane is undoubtedly going to throw some strange things their way. Create a list of random debris to throw at the characters for random damage or to inspire stunts.
  • Well, turns out my original Hurricane Random Smack Table for Shaolin Heartbreak went missing, and apparently I didn't save a copy, so I had to do it all over again. If you want to use this for the final battle at the airport in Shaolin Heartbreak, pick which die is first/second (aka AH's Blackbeard), and roll once per sequence, when boxcars come up, someone rolls a negative, or whenever you feel like you need to hit someone with something.
    Hurricane Random Smack Table
    Roll Object Damage / Special comments
    11 Garbage Can Dam 11, STR+1, Entangle
    12 Trombone Dam 12, STR+2
    13 Waterski Dam 13, STR+3
    14 Lifeguard chair with ladder Dam 14, STR+4
    15 Zodiac with small outboard motor Dam 15, Outboard STR+4
    16 Clothesline w/ oversized undergarments Entangle
    21 Christmas tree w/ lights Dam 11, STR+1, Entangle
    22 Hubcap from '73 Volkswagon Dam 12, STR+2
    23 Bronze "rooster" weathervane Dam 13, STR+3
    24 Canoe Dam 14, STR+4
    25 Barbeque with propane tank Dam 15, Exp. Dam. 20
    26 Dragon kite Entangle
    31 Pair of rubber hip-waders Dam 11, STR+1, Entangle
    32 Lawn chair Dam 12, STR+2, Entangle
    33 Kitchen sink (ok, bad joke...) Dam 13, STR+3
    34 Surfboard Dam 14, STR+4
    35 Wheelchair Dam 13, STR+3, Rolls
    36 Volleyball net Entangle
    41 Shopping cart Dam 13, STR+3, Rolls
    42 Lobster cage with two lobsters Dam 13, STR+3
    43 Golf bag with clubs Dam 13, STR+3
    44 Mailbox w/ "You May Be a Millionaire!" letter Dam 14, STR+4
    45 Rooftop TV Antenna Dam 14, STR+4
    46 Picnic table with umbrella Dam 14, STR+4
    51 Round lifesaver from "S.S. Anchovy" Dam 11, STR+1, Entangle
    52 Pink flamingo lawn ornament Dam 12, STR+2
    53 Yellow traffic barricade Dam 13, STR+3
    54 Flagpole, flag and pointed filial Dam 14, STR+4, Entangle
    55 "Pink Swan" paddle boat Dam 15
    56 Fishing net Entangle
    61 Orange traffic cone Dam 11, STR+1, Blind
    62 Potted plant Dam 12, STR+2
    63 Wheelbarrow Dam 13, STR+3, Rolls
    64 Lawnmower Dam 14, STR+4
    65 Pedicab Dam 15
    66 Gazebo Dam 16
    Dam ?? means the damage for getting hit by that particular object (basically, the hurricane has STR 10).
    STR+? is the melee weapon damage if someone picks it up as a weapon.
    Entangle means the object may wrap around a target, immobilizing them or distracting them for a few shots... tell the target to roll MA (TN=15) or Luck (TN=5) or they become entangled. Entangled characters can't attack, move only half as far as normal, and have a -2 penalty to their DV, but they can spend 1 action (3 shots) to become un-entangled.
    The garbage can, styrofoam lifesaver, and orange traffic cone aren't exactly entangling weapons, but can be dropped over someone to pin thier arms or blind them.

Another cool piece of advice came from Ernest Mueller. He ran Shaolin Heartbreak by having no NPCs.

"I ran 'Shaolin Heartbreak' successfully mainly by having no NPCs. I had a couple players play the monks and actually had one play Maureen Wei and Kam Li in turn. I devised a "HK Actor" template for the occasion. In case it helps, here's my HK Actor template and my Shaolin Heartbreak PC list (the others are the same PC choices I've used for a number of one-shot games; they're a HK film crew). One PC actually gets 3 sheets, Kam Li (amnesia), Maureen Wei, and Kam Li (full bore).
If you only have three players... Perhaps make it only one monk and have one play the monk, one play a modern juncture character (Billy, if you're using mine), and then the third play either another modern or Kam Li/Maureen Wei. Keeping NPCs to a minimum is the key here."

My experience in running it

It's a fun adventure, but too complicated. This time I actually used the mook rules correctly and I found out that mooks are really incompetent. To actually make a dent in the PCs, they have to roll a 6 on their positive die...
I also think that it would have run a bit better with more players. That way you have, as a GM, more time to invent nifty moves for the mooks.

Soundtrack

This is the soundtrack I scrounged together for my (modern day) Feng Shui sessions.
I started with the following songs from the soundtrack of Kill Bill, Vol. 1:

  • 01 - Nancy Sinatra - Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)
  • 03 - Luis Bacalov - The Grand Duel (Parte Prima
  • 07 - Isaac Hayes - Run Fay Run
  • 09 - Tomoyasu Hotei - Battle Without Honor Or Humanity
  • 12 - The RZA And Charles Bernstein - Crane And White Lightning
  • 13 - Meiko Kaji - The Flower Of Carnage
  • 14 - Zamfir - The Lonely Shepherd
Then we add some songs from Kill Bill, Vol. 2:
  • 02 - Shivaree - Goodnight Moon
  • 03 - Ennio Morricone - Il Tramonto
  • 06 - Luis Bacalov - Summertime Killer
  • 07 - Alan Reeves, Phil Steele And Philip Brigham - The Chase
  • 09 - Ennio Morricone - L'Arena
  • 11 - Ennio Morricone - A Silhouette Of Doom
  • 15 - Meiko Kaji - Urami Bushi
Some stirring tracks from Geinoh Yamashirogumi's soundtrack of the great anime Akira:
  • 01 - Kaneda
  • 03 - Winds Over Neo-Tokyo
Yuki Kajiura made an excellent high-octane soundtrack for the anime Noir. I filtered out the songs with obvious 'French' influences, and the horrible opening song.
  • 03 - Snow
  • 04 - Canta Per Me
  • 05 - Corsican Corridor
  • 06 - Ode To Power
  • 09 - Silent Pain
  • 11 - Melodie
Finally, to add an Oriental flavour, add the soundtracks of The Last Samurai (by John Zimmer) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (by Tan Dun & Yo-Yo Ma). Last Samurai is a bit bombastic, though. And be sure to skip the horrible versions of "A Love Before Time" on Crouching Tiger. They completely destroy the rest of the album if you're not careful.

— Page by Jake. Hurricane Random Smack Table by Darrin Bright - Thanks man!


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