the wonder of role-playing games: reviews, solo rpgs, old-school & narrative games

23 Jul 2015

Feng Shui 2 - Impressions

Feng Shui by Robin D. Laws: the original game is from 1996. It’s a game for (Hong-Kong-)Action-Movie-type games. Last year there was a Kickstarter for an updated version. I like the genre and I think that Laws is a good game designer (listen to Ken and Robin talk about stuff). Although I’ve never played the original version, I participated in the crowdfunding project.
The PDF is out since May, but it was sitting on my hard drive for a while. A recent Hangout discussion in the German-speaking G+ community re-sparked my interest in this game.
Today I leafed through the whopping 354 pages PDF. Ugh. As you might know, I like lightweight games and the page count was discouraging me from picking it up.
Here are my impressions:

  • The book looks pretty. It’s full color, with a classic two-style-column layout. There is a large green border which doesn’t make it a good to read PDF but the physical copy will surely look good. The iconography is hawt and the illustrations are top-notch. The character sheets for this game look very good. The PDF is electronically bookmarked and has occasional hyperlinks.
  • It’s a very complete game with 350+ pages. There are many options for character creation and also lots of stuff for the GM. I know that there are supplements for the 1st edition but from my impression Feng Shui 2 doesn’t need anything else to work.
  • The rules look surprisingly simple. Your character has skills etc. which give you an Action Value (AV). Then you roll 2 six-sided dice and subtract one from the other. You add the amount to your AV and need to exceed the difficulty number. There are some bells and whistles like rolling sixes but the basic mechanism is very easy. Every character also has special abilities called schticks depending on your background. These are very nice and distinguish characters from one another.
  • Combat uses a tick system but one that looks like it actually works. Movement and maps are not that important in a high-flying action setting. Most actions have a fixed cost of 3 shots (ticks on the initiative slot).
  • The range of character archetypes to choose from is pretty awesome. There is the maverick cop, the bandit, the sorcerer, the supernatural creature, the gene freak (mutant), the transformed dragon and more. Everyone will find something that they like.
  • The Melodramatic Hook is a nifty tool to tie in characters to the setting and the plot.
  • The setting takes place in different time periods, so you can play in Ancient China, in the Now or even in a post-apocalyptic futre. You also move through portals to a mystical Netherworld with strange creatures.
  • The parts for the GM don’t disappoint. There is a general chapter on how to GM Feng Shui 2, how to handle combat and NPCs, how to create an adventure and how to tie in characters to the game. Plus there is a setting part and a chapter about the different factions.
  • Feng Shui 2 looks like a game that handles the intended genre well. It’s not very generic and won’t be easy to reskin to other genres but if you want high octane action this is a good fit.
  • The price of USD $19.99 is normally above my pain threshold for PDFs. However, the amount of content justifies the price. Still, if I hadn’t backed the Kickstarter I would wait for a discount, it’s just more than I’m comfortable with for a PDF.

Overall, it’s a positive first impression. I hope to playtest the game soon and then I even might pick up the physical copy at Sphärenmeisters Spiele.

Links: Feng Shui 2 (USD $19.99) Ken and Robin talk about stuff