Feng Shui is a classic cinematic action Tabletop Game created by Daedalus Games based on the Collectible Card Game Shadowfist, but has now been acquired by Atlas Games. Feng Shui, based on Hong Kong action movies, enlists characters in a Secret War all across time fighting bad guys who are trying to get their hands on sites that generate powerful chi, which are known as Feng Shui sites. If someone controls enough of these sites, he can literally change the course of history.
Time Travel is possible via a weird mystical realm called the "Inner Kingdom" or the Netherworld, home to all kinds of weird people and beings from a thousand shattered timelines. By traversing its loamy grey tunnels, one can access different portals to different points in time known as junctures. Our present day is one of those junctures.
The known junctures are:
69 AD: A juncture straight out of Hong Kong wuxia movies, the Hong Kong of this juncture is nominally ruled by the Han Dynasty, but officials have become corrupt, and a secret faction of evil eunuch sorcerers known as the Eaters of the Lotus have taken over the administration of the empire, quashing dissent with kung fu warriors, summoned demons and powerful sorcery.
1850 AD: A juncture straight out of period kung fu cinema, where the Chinese and the Western powers clash in Hong Kong. It's also the period for Victorian adventures and Wild West action. One of the groups seeking power is the Guiding Hand, a group of Shaolin monks and other kung fu types who want to get rid of foreign influence in China and bring about a world of enlightenment, but who are very authoritarian and Knight Templar-ish in their attitude and despise modern technology and thinking in general.
Contemporary: The modern day, such as it is in the Heroic Bloodshed genre. This juncture is controlled by the Ascended, an Ancient Conspiracy made up of the descendants of animals who defied the natural order and transformed themselves into humans long ago. The only thing that can turn them back into their natural animal form is magic, and thus, the Ascended and their human agents, the Pledged, are actively involved in the suppression of magic and the discrediting or destruction of sorcerers. The Ascended control the government, the police, the military, and most of the major crime syndicates of the world.
2056 AD: A grim, dark Dystopian future, this juncture is ruled by a one-world government called the Bureau of Tactical Management (or "Buro" in short), monitoring its civilians by a sophisticated surveillance state that is equal parts the World State from Brave New World and Oceania from Nineteen Eighty-Four. The group that was instrumental in bringing the Buro to power are the Architects of the Flesh, a group of mad scientists who use arcanowave technology, an unholy fusion of magic and science that warps its users beyond recognition, and who capture monsters from 69 AD and alter them to create cyber-demonic commandos called Abominations, which the Buro uses to fight its wars.
In addition to the factions listed above, three more factions exist:
The Jammers are a group of Bomb-Throwing Anarchists who are among the few people born with immunity to the influence of chi. They started as rebels against the Buro and the Architects in 2056, and have developed their own brand of junkyard tech that doesn't rely on arcanowave science. Among their number are a good number of intelligent cybernetic apes, the results of the Architects' first experiments. The Jammers want nothing less than to destroy every Feng Shui site in existence so that humanity can be freed from the "tyranny" of chi, something which could have some very bad consequences for the world at large if they succeed.
The Four Monarchs are four siblings and powerful sorcerers who once ruled the world up until the 20th century, when the Ascended captured enough Feng Shui sites in the medieval era to trigger a Critical Shift in time that brought about the world we know and removed them from power. Each monarch has carved out his or her own little kingdom in the Netherworld, and they continually plot and scheme against each other and against the other factions.
The Dragons are the good guys, a collection of maverick cops, redeemed assassins, martial artists, ninjas, big bruisers and other heroic types rising from among the humble and the outcasts of the world in order to fight for freedom, justice, and the right to look extremely cool. The Dragons rise again and again throughout time in order to help people and keep important Feng Shui sites from falling into the wrong hands, but like the heroes of many a Hong Kong action movie, the fate of anyone who takes on the mantle of the Dragons is often a tragic one.
Feng Shui is especially known for being one of the first role-playing games to implement rules for taking out Mooks as opposed to important villains, and it encourages both players and Game Master to play the various tropes, clichés and the melodrama of the action genre to the hilt. In fact, Feng Shui is a unapologetic celebration of action movie tropes; it named and codified as many tropes as the author could think of. It was in some ways a precursor to this website.
This RPG provides examples of:
- Adventurer Archaeologist: The Two-Fisted Archaeologist from Seal of the Wheel, plus a number of fan archetypes on the web.
- Aliens Speaking English: Just like in Hong Kong movies, everyone in the Feng Shui setting speaks Cantonese, translated into English for your games.
- Almost-Lethal Weapons: Named characters, heroes and villains alike, never die with one shot.
- Anyone Can Die: The genre of this game is Hong Kong made action flicks, where sometimes heroes (read PCs) do die.
- The Archer: The Archer from Thorns of the Lotus (basically a Killer with a bow) and the Guiding Hand Archer from Blood of the Valiant (an archer who can use fu powers through his bow).
- Artificial Limbs: Available in both hardtech (Hardware schticks) and Magitek (Arcanowave schticks)
- Ancient Conspiracy: The Ascended.
- Armor Is Useless: In recognition of this trope, armor is made "rather unattractive."
- The Atoner: Many Killers and other characters with a criminal or otherwise less-than-honorable past, as well as Dr. Anita Dao, a.k.a. The Prof.
- Awesome but Impractical: Feng Shui laughs hysterically in this tropes' face before asking it "Are you freakin' serious?!" then laughing some more. It tends to be the more mundane things in the game that aren't too useful, while the flashy and awesome stuff works extremely well. There are some exceptions, like the Missile Launcher hardware schtick, a gun with a damage rating of 23 (which in Feng Shui terms is almost double what most heavy weapons do) that also does Splash Damage, but takes most of an entire sequence to reload, and also needs time to aim before firing... But most of the time, Awesome Equals Practical.
- Ax Crazy: The Supernatural Creature archetype's backstory, before they become heroes.
- Badass Longcoat: Many gunmen and other heroes.
- Barbarian Hero: The Viking Warrior archetype from Seed of the New Flesh. Yes, the Vikings are alive and well in 2056.
- Battle Amongst the Flames: The final showdown of the adventure "Baptism of Fire."
- BFG: Anything with a concealment rating of 6 (requires a trenchcoat to hide) or 7 (cannot be hidden, period). Come on, did you really think there wouldn't be???
- First, the Helix Ripper, an Arcanogun which fires a beam that melts flesh. The beam also passes through in-organic matter without losing coherency, and the damage caused by it cannot be conventionally healed.
- The Buro also has the Hellharrower, a giant automatic machine gun which is usually either vehicle-mounted or issued to abominations, as it cannot be used unmounted without a Strength of 11 or above.
- The Chaingun hardware schtick.
- BFS: The Chainsword hardware schtick. At Str+7, it has the highest damage rating of all melee weapons in the game.
- Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: The Jammers.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: The Criminal Mastermind archetype is unable to just shoot any named character or Buro agent captured; he must whenever possible try to keep them alive while gloating about their Evil Plan (this includes keeping your party members from shooting them as well). The flaw is named "Slave to the Cheese".
- Meanwhile, the Spy archetype can spend a fortune point to have people tell them something they shouldn't. The game recommends using it when captured, to induce gloating in villains.
- Bottomless Magazines: The "Lightning Reload" schtick.
- Bounty Hunter: Also in Seal of the Wheel and on the web. PCs are more likely to be the heroic version.
- Butt Monkey: Due to the intrinsically low intelligence of the archetype, particularly sadistic GMs tend to pick on Gorilla Fighters.
- Chandler's Law: A suggestion on how to keep the plot moving.
- Chinese Vampire: Just one of the Lotus's many minions.
- Cool Guns: You'll find most of the guns listed in that page in this game, or in one of the supplements.
- Cool Versus Awesome: Happens a lot given the Secret War.
- The Corruption: The downside of using Arcanowave technology.
- Counter Attack: The non-healing, non-pressure point oriented half of the Path of the Healthy Tiger focuses on counterattacks.
- Cowboy Cop: The Maverick Cop archetype.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Justified, as Arcanowave tech is made of demons and Black Magic.
- Deader Than Dead: If you get hit by Ming I's dreaded Arm of Darkness and fail the Death Check that you have to make because of it, you are gone.
- Death Ray: Helix Arcanoguns tend to have this effect.
- Dramatic Gun Cock: The KA-CHINK! rule for shotguns in Feng Shui gives you an extra damage point on your next attack for doing this. Also applies to spin-cocking lever-action rifles.
- The Drifter: An archetype in the 2056 supplement Seed of the New Flesh that can be used in any juncture.
- Drunken Master: The game normally has severe penalties for intoxication. However, Drunken Stance removes these penalties when martial arts rolls are involved. So if you survive long enough when you've bought the stance with experience, you can become a Drunken Master. And of course you can stunt for bonuses, because kicking butt while drunk is cool.
- Dual-Wielding: You don't suffer any penalty for doing this unlike other games. Feng Shui thrives on the Rule of Cool.
- But there's no bonus either. Difficulty is based on what your action actually intends to accomplish, not on exactly how it is done. All Dual-Wielding really does is enable you to invent cool and well described Dual-Wielding stunts.
- Actually, the Both Guns Blazing schtick allows you to use two guns to shoot named characters, for a penalty that decreases with each schtick in it you buy and eventually turns into a bonus when using two-gun attacks. Successful rolls result in damage from both guns being dealt.
- Dystopia: The 2056 juncture.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Failure on the part of the players is not outside of the game's genre. Hong Kong Cinema does not pull punches, and neither does the game.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: The Jammers
- Evil Sorcerer: These, along with corrupt martial artists and other servants, make up the Eaters of the Lotus. Most of the Four Monarchs also qualify, with Ming I being by far the worst.
- Evil Versus Evil: None of the above organizations like each other.
- Femme Fatale: The Buro has an...odd example. Her name is Desdemona Deathangel, and she's actually an abomination, disguised as a drop-dead gorgeous woman. The public loves her! Of course, the CDCA is trying very hard to keep certain information well-hidden, such as her preferred diet and other propensities.
- Functional Magic: The magic used by the Lotus, the Monarchs and various other sorcerers.
- Gatling Good: The Chaingun is available as a hardware schtick.
- Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: The specialty of the Bureau of Happiness and Productivity in 2056.
- Guns Akimbo: Many gunmen with the Both Guns Blazing schtick. In fact, you don't need the schtick in order to blast off with two guns—the schtick in question is mainly used to do extra damage to named characters with both guns at once, though as the page illustrates, there's more than one way to use Guns Akimbo.
- Guns Are Worthless: Guns only do as much damage as your average kung fu warrior's unarmed attacks or weapons, and a named character is never taken down with one bullet. May be reflective of genre, however, given the movies that inspired the gunslinging archetypes.
- In fact, other Guns and Gunplay Tropes can be found here, usually in the form of Gun Schticks.
- Hand Cannon: Any handgun with a damage of 12 and a Concealability of at least 3 qualifies as one of these. The contemporary juncture has the Desert Eagle and the AMT Automag V, while 2056 has the aptly-named Buro Godhammer.
- Hitman with a Heart: Most versions of the Killer archetype.
- Hollywood Cyborg: The $10,000 Man from Gorilla Warfare and any Cyborg who takes Hardware schticks rather than Arcanowave schticks.
- Hollywood Healing: Many heroes.
- The Hunter: The Magic Cop and Masked Avenger archetypes, as well as any character with a suitable Melodramatic Hook.
- I Like Those Odds: The quote for the Killer archetype is: "Forty of them, one of me. Looks like the odds are about even." Of course, Feng Shui was the first RPG to incorporate rules for Mooks...
- Ki Attacks: Many Fu Powers.
- Knight Templar: The Guiding Hand and the Buro.
- Kung Fu Kid Kid Hero: the Scrappy Kid and Uber-kid archetypes.
- The Legions of Hell: The Underworld and its demons.
- Little Useless Gun: Low-caliber weapons, like many such guns in RPGs, are mainly only useful for killing mooks—unless you've taken one as a signature weapon, it's not going to deal very respectable damage against named characters.
- Mad Bomber: The Jammers.
- Mad Scientist: Curtis Boatman, head of the CDCA (those Buro people who created Arcanotech and Abominations).
- By extension, the whole of the CDCA.
- Made of Iron: Many heroes, especially the Big Bruiser.
- Magitek: Arcanowave technology.
- Maniac Monkeys: The Jammers (including their leader, Battlechimp Potemkin, plus many other notables such as Furious George and the Orangotank)
- Mook Promotion: If Mooks hired through the Criminal Mastermind's Mook Magnet schtick survive three fights in a row, they become named characters.
- Mooks: Feng Shui was one of the first games to institute mook rules.
- More Dakka: Automatic weapons in general, the Who Wants Some gun schtick, and the Minigun hardware schtick in particular.
- Ninja: Heroes, villains and mooks alike.
- Name's the Same: The basic premise of "Hong Kong Phonebook", one of the game's published adventures.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Draco, Homo Omega, the White Ninja, Desdemona Deathangel, any of the Four Monarchs...
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Oh boy...where to begin?!
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: If a Critical Shift cannot be reversed by the PCs somehow, it is a clear-cut case of this.
- Old Master: One of the archetypes
- Omnicidal Maniac: The "True Ascended," a fanatical splinter group of human-hating racists within the Ascended's Shell of the Tortoise who are planning to destroy all life on Earth in a plan called the "Extinction Agenda" if the Lodge's defeat seems imminent.
- Portal Network: The Netherworld.
- Portal to the Past: How time-travel tends to work.
- Professional Killer: If a PC Killer isn't an Assassin, he or she is probably a Hitman with a Heart.
- Punny Name: Cybernetic monkey/ape Player Characters in the Jammers are penalized XP if their name is NOT some form of pun. Among the setting's established characters, besides Jammer leader Battlechimp Potemkin, there's Furious George (Battlechimp's Number Two, and he can fly) Rhesus Pieces (who can disassemble himself), Koko Chanel (a female gorilla looking for romance) and Funky Monkey (with a voicebox that makes him sound like Barry White). Most of the human Jammers have Punny Names as well.
- Rare Guns: Several of the guns on the gun list, including the Smith and Wesson 3566 (which is a custom-shop gun which fires the .356 cartridge).
- Reincarnation Romance: It's not unknown for innerwalkers to fall in love with past or future incarnations of love interests, or vice versa.
- Resurrective Immortality: The Inevitable Comeback creature power allows a supernatural creature to resurrect after being killed.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: Subverted for the most part due to limited ammo and reloading time.
- Right Man in the Wrong Place: The Everyman Hero archetype in a goddamn nutshell.
- Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Anyone who visits the Netherworld acquires this.
- Rule of Cool: Feng Shui, and Hong Kong action cinema in general, thrives on this.
- Actually codified into the game, with the stunt system. Describing your action is a cool way and adding interesting details actually gives bonuses. Repeating the same thing over and over again, however, is usually not cool, and can even get penalties. Except when it is cool.
- In most official Feng Shui adventures, each described location has a section labelled "Cool Things That Could Happen", which are usually action movie tropes of one kind or another.
- Schrödinger's Gun: for once, explicitly noted.
- Stuff Blowing Up: If something doesn't go kaboom at some point during a game session, never mind a campaign, you're doing things wrong. The Jammers in particular thrive on this kind of thing.
- Smug Snake: Draco, Curtis Boatman.
- Suddenly Always Knew That: It's not uncommon for characters to reveal that a schtick they've recently paid for with XP is one they've known how to do all along. As the book explains, "Action heroes pull this one all the time."
- Temporal Mutability: Type 3 (Rubber Band History) without Feng Shui sites, Type 4 (Temporal Balancing Act) with Feng Shui sites.
- Theory of Narrative Causality: If you need to hide you do not ask "is there an alcove?" you say "I duck into the poorly lit alcove just behind me." Anything that could reasonably be there to help you survive or do a cool stunt you just thought up was always there. You are just the first to have noticed it. Only exceptional powergaming should be denied.
- Time Machine: Feng Shui mainly uses the Time Portal method of going through time.
- Time Travel: Feng Shui uses the Portal to the Past method of time travel, with the added wrinkle of the Netherworld being a Portal Network.
- Totalitarian Utilitarian: Both the Buro and the Jammers.
- Touch of Death: Ming I, Queen of the Darkness Pagoda, has the Arm of Darkness. If this hits you, it doesn't deal any damage, it just forces you to make a death check that you do not want to fail.
- Trans Nature: The original purpose behind the Ascended conspiracy was to make sure that Transformed Animals would never become regular animals again.
- Turned Against Their Masters:
- The Abomination archetype, but a good thing in this case.
- Also the Battlechimp Potemkin, leader of the Jammers.
- Weapon of Choice: Signature Weapons.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Johann Bonengel, President of the Buro, just wants a world free of racism and crime. At any price.
- The Guiding Hand, whose goal was to get rid of foreign influence in China, including the hated opium trade.
- Also, the Jammers, who are attempting to free all of history from the overwhelming influence of Chi so that people can make their own choices and not have them influenced by who controls more Feng Shui sites. (It must be noted, though, that the destruction of Chi might have serious negative consequences.)
- Wok Fu: The opening battle of the adventure "Baptism of Fire" takes place in a restaurant in Yaumatei. Depending on the makeup of your party this could be a kung fu battle, a shootout, or a more general brawl.
- World of Badass: If you have a name in Feng Shui, chances are that you're a badass.
- You All Meet in An Inn: Most often, the Game Master will have characters meet somewhere at the beginning of the story. Players then have to give a reason as to why their character is at the locale in question.
- Your Head Asplode: Lotus sorcerers love creating wards that cause their minions' heads to go kaboom should they do anything wrong.
- Your Normal Is Our Taboo: Mixed race relationships and even homosexual relationships are very much the norm in 2056. Romances with people of the same race, on the other hand, are typically labeled "racist."
- Zombie Apocalypse: If even one of the Corpse Factories created by the Buro in 2056 gets loose, you'll have one of these on your hands in short order.