My main focus when we were working on Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate was capturing the wuxia genre in a way that worked well for long term campaigns, with everything based on what worked in table play for me. I had been doing this by kludging together a variety of wuxia and kung fu inspired systems over the years and wanted to use the engine we designed for Sertorius to make my own wuxia RPG.
One of the issues that frequently came up in conversations about wuxia was the difficulty of running the genre, but I always found it a very easy genre to run. I also found that there were a lot of ideas about what wuxia should or shouldn't have, that didn't really make sense to me. To me this felt like wuxia was being treated differently than other genres. Other genres were didn't need to be pure distillations of their literary or cinematic forms when turned into games. And some of the notions about what those distillations of wuxia ought to be, to me felt reductive. A good example of this is the dungeon.
I used to run wuxia and martial arts campaigns in fantasy settings of my own making with dungeons because they are a reliable adventure structure that can sustain a campaign. But I also found some reactions online to this idea were puzzled or negative. Like if you used them, you weren't doing true wuxia, or you were focusing on the wrong thing. And while I think it is true that the heart of wuxia is centered more on things like the jianghu, there are still plenty of dungeon-like structures found in the genre. And it is certainly seemed just as justifiable to include in a wuxia fantasy campaign as a medieval fantasy campaign (perhaps more so). I got into some of this in my blog entry on WUXIA DUNGEONS, WUXIA DUNGEONS PART II and in other posts like my one on HAUNTED WUXIA DUNGEONS. So I embraced the dungeon as a part of the wuxia campaign setting and I found it very successful at the table, but also something that connected to a lot of the wuxia I was watching and reading.
The other aspect of Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, and this is one that does take it more outside the genre in my opinion, is the kind of supernatural elements it included. There is a range and some wiggle room in wuxia, but at a certain point many fans will say some types of supernatural elements take it to other genres (and I do tend to agree though I think that line is much fuzzier, especially when you look at the range on the cinematic side, which I am more familiar with). But I wanted to bring in some of these elements to the setting. This was in part because it was also inspired by things like A Chinese Ghost Story, Holy Flame of the Martial World, Journey to the West and Painted Skin. But it was also because I felt having these supernatural elements were something useful for helping me sustain a long term campaign. Magic and the supernatural make things easier to sustain in an RPG for some reason.
Obviously a major aspect of the setting are the martial world and its sects. This is very much the heart of the game. And most of my long term campaigns rely on elements of intrigue, sect conflict and politics. I've said this many times elsewhere but I was trying to model things like Killer Clans, where you have sect wars ripping apart the martial world; Condor Heroes where you have characters seeking out new martial arts and manuals, or Come Drink with Me, where you have martial heroes contending with ruffians and bandits. And I wanted all the colorful and eccentric characters you get in wuxia. Most of my campaigns are living worlds, where the NPCs live and breath like PCs, and this helps provide movement in the campaign. Helps keep it alive. So wuxia was a perfect fit because it filled with interesting characters.
An important point about including all these things is they aren't meant to be the sole focus of play. They are features the GM can draw on to help provide a variety of adventure types. You can have more grounded adventures that are focused on plots like two sects fighting, or the players coming in as heroes to contend with a local bully Like Red Claw Demon (obviously inspired by Black Claw Demon from Lady Hermit). But if you start running out of steam with these kinds of adventure types (which I find could happen with certain groups if they were more accustomed to stuff like dungeon crawls), you could always mix it up with a monster hunt featuring a Toad Demon or a delve into a tomb for an ancient artifact. It just worked well in practice.
Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate takes a very blended approach. And the main reason is long term sustainability. Some of this has been captured in campaign logs I have posted. I don't usually post these any more these days. But you can see some of the foundational ones for Ogre Gate here on the right column. Some of these campaigns leaned more heavily into questing type adventures and things like dungeons. Sects were always present and important, but a lot of the fun was going forth and exploring. Most of them were focused on the marital world itself, occasionally broken up with a dungeon adventure here or a long journey there.
I would say still, the variety is what I tend to enjoy. It gets around the problem of having a wuxia campaign that tends to be short and die once a particular storyline has played out (at the time I was making Ogre Gate, this was something I saw heard a lot of people say about wuxia when they tried to run it). By keeping it focused on the characters and the world, I found it pretty easy to sustain.
At its core, Ogre Gate is what I call a Dramatic Sandbox. It welcomes drama, but tries to give the players a lot of agency to explore and make decisions. It tends to focus on the interaction between PCs and NPCs (that is the 'fuel' of most of the campaigns). I will try to address Drama and Sandbox in a future blog entry. I also hope to address power levels in Ogre Gate as I know many people have questions about what the actual power range is in the game (it is actually a little complicated to answer that but I will do my best).
In the mean time if you want to see what an Ogre Gate Campaign looks like, check out the War of Swarming Beggars module on this blog page, our campaign podcasts or my campaign logs. And if you have any questions about running Ogre Gate, if you have any questions about the game itself, contact me through this page and I will try to answer them (or leave a question in the comments below).
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