Friday, December 29, 2023


This is part of my Wuxia Sandbox series. You can see the previous post HERE. These are all primarily written with Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate and Righteous Blood, Ruthless Blades in mind but can be applied to most wuxia RPG campaign where sandbox is the focus. 

In the Sons of Lady 87 book I talk about The Twenty Year backstory. It is something I use in a lot of my Ogre Gate campaigns, even in the original rulebook. This isn't a literal twenty year backstory, though it can be. It is basically something that happened in the campaign setting before the player characters were born or in their early childhood. This can be one big event or something smaller scale. Often it may be something the players already have an awareness of but the players can get greater clarity about it if they speak with people who lived through it or if they find more information about it. 

Examples of this are the first contest on Mount Hua in Legend of Condor Heroes or in the Shadow Whip when Fang tells Kaiyun the truth about her late parents. By the same token, even though it is covered in the beginning of Legend of Condor Heroes, the backstory of Guo Jing and Yang Kang, with one of their parents being killed by the Jin and another escaping and presumed dead is also an example of this. When we learn about Mei Chaofeng's background when she encounters Guo Jing again at Wanyan Honglie's Manor, that is another example. Again this isn't unique to wuxia, nor is it essential, but it is common and it works in a gaming context very well. The contest on Mount Hua is the larger scale twenty year backstory, the background of Yang Kang and Guo Jing is the more personal one related to a PC, and Mei Chaofeng's is one applied to an NPC. 

Divine Mathematician's History with Zhou Botong 
is another example of the 20 year backstory

As stated, it isn't literal. It could be 25, 20, 15 or even just 5 years. The point is to have a backstory that comes before the PCs arrival, ideally one that shed light on other characters, on the setting, on the PCs themselves. Generally this can be thought of in generational terms. The twenty year backstory is the information of the generation or a generation, prior to the PCs, which the PCs can learn from the older generation. Ideally it informs a present day situation that has potential to be relevant to game play. 

The Twenty Year Backstory works I think because it is quite universal. If you have ever heard the full story of something that happened in your family either when you were young or before you were born, that is a twenty year backstory. Maybe you knew half of what happened, or your parents point of view, but later you learn more details from someone else who was there. This is something that crops up in wuxia a lot and it is a technique I have used for fleshing out backstory across my campaign. It has many applications and a campaign can have multiple twenty year backstory. While it is common in a lot of movies and films (Star Wars has a twenty year backstory too), I feel that wuxia does it exceptionally well. 

This is also one area where I think story works in a sandbox. Story tends not to work well in the present or future, because if the GM is telling a story it thwarts player agency. But in the background material, it doesn't hurt to have a good tale. These are stories about the history of the NPCs or an event, that can come up. What is satisfying about them is the fact that they don't always emerge in play, but when they do, the players have a sense of a deeper world (especially if you are peppering a campaign with these kinds of details). 

Twenty year backstories tend to be more character focused than event focused, though they can be both. And the campaign can have many, many twenty year backstories. In theory every NPC can be walking around with one. However a simple and easy way to introduce the twenty year backstory is by creating one big one that is about something larger than the players in the campaign setting (though you can tie it to them if you want) and one related more directly to the players on a smaller scale. These can even connect to a single event. Once you get used to this, you can start adding them in places where they may or may not come up in play. They are like foundations for a living adventure

Zhou Botong 

A good word to keep in mind when crafting a twenty year backstory is 'actually'. You can get a lot of mileage out of it. For example "Iron God Meng is a cold-hearted bully, but actually he was a kind-hearted hero before the destruction of Wan Mei temple and the death of Saffron Tigress." Or "They say Saffron Tigress perished in Wan Mei Temple. Actually, she survived, and is living under an assumed identity in Daoxu Village. And "Actually, Saffron Tigress is your mother. She changed her name before you were born and concealed her martial skills." 

As you can see from the above, this can work especially well with things like family connections discussed in my previous post. You have to be cautious of course, you can't have every NPC there just for big reveals. But when it fits, it can work. The description above came about naturally in my original Sons of Lady 87 campaign and it was a product of things that were already in NPC entries as well as further details I worked out as I connected them to the broader world and to the events of my twenty year backstory. 

One important thing is the Twenty Year backstory doesn't have to come up. It can remain something the players never unearth. While it is great when you have interesting revelations or discoveries, its primary purpose is to help you understand your NPCs motives and the motives of clusters of characters who have a shared experience. Concealing it from view as a secret backstory can be helpful because the logic of the NPCs behavior will become clear over time, even if the details of the background are not. And that makes for characters who seem more real. 

You should also establish the details of the twenty year backstory at the start of the campaign and not adjust it during the campaign. You may have to rework details when your campaign begins in order to fit everything into place (for example if a player is the son of a particular NPC and the books or your notes don't provide a lot of detail, you may need to add information and connective tissue to other characters in the setting). But this is meant to be something that gives the setting the feel of a real world. If things are adjusting in the background as the players adventure it will feel like you are making it up as you go, which is the opposite of the intended purpose here. 

As stated, you can have many twenty year backstories in a campaign. Once you are comfortable with having one or two, try adding several to a campaign, and try thinking of NPCs in this way as well. You should also consider landmark events in the martial world that happen prior to the campaign. Again, you don't want everyone to be a walking embodiment of secrets and hidden history, but when you make an NPC it can be useful to think about whether that character ought to have a secret history. Sometimes I embed this in the paragraph description of the character, sometimes I include a section in the entry marked "Secret History". It is a good way for creating layers. Even if a character is meant to be thoroughly despicable, explaining how they became who they are through a secret backstory is something that helps me figure out their soul a little. It just makes playing them easier. And in a living adventure that is central.  

Monday, December 25, 2023


This is part of my Wuxia Sandbox series. You can see the previous post HERE. These are all primarily written with Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate and Righteous Blood, Ruthless Blades in mind but can be applied to most wuxia RPG campaign. 


To be Zhou Donglai or Little Gao 
Wuxia can vary like any genre but baked into the name is the concept of being a hero. Some wuxia characters are dark, there are even wuxia stories and movies with characters who might be called anti-heroes, for the most part wuxia is about using your power to protect the weak and promote righteousness. But wuxia stories and movies feature a range of characters who aren't the protagonist, and are populated with plenty of eccentric bullies, villains and outright murderers. The question in a wuxia is sandbox is: are the players the heroes? 

I take the position that it works better not to force players into a heroic role. If they want to be wandering heroes who uphold justice and protect the defenseless, that is fair, let them be Guo Jing or Little Gao but if they'd rather be Ouyang Feng or Zhou Donglai that works too. 

This naturally leads to the question of power itself and how that impacts a wuxia campaign setting. 


In a wuxia campaign, depending on the system of course, characters are likely to have abilities and powers normal people in the world do not. A party of martial heroes is a powerful force. But this isn't a problem, rather it is something that makes wuxia campaigns easier to manage because when players have power to affect the world they become more invested in it.

In Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, this is particularly the case. Characters with good kung fu techniques are going to be powerful and capable of taking on the powerful. And this makes it easier for characters to 'disrupt' the setting and defeat major NPCs. 

Generally if the players are adhering to heroics, I find all of this is not even usually less of a concern. Heroic and good characters are largely constrained by their morality, they can be reasoned with and will use their powers in responsible ways that minimize destruction in the setting. Generally speaking. They can still use their power to radically alter the setting for righteous causes. But it is when you deal with non-heroic characters that powers can quickly have effects you may not anticipate. So if the players are not the heroes, you will want to keep this advice in mind even more. 

Some players just want to join with Iron Palm Sect and cause trouble
One strategy for dealing with powerful characters is to resist it, to try to thwart it, by fudging, by waging a competitive GM campaign against them, and by stacking the deck against the party. Another solution is to lean into it, because it actually makes running a game much easier when players use their powers in this way. 

The world I make for a wuxia sandbox is meant to be toppled. This is an axiom that Robert Conley of Bat in the Attic games uses where he says in a sandbox GMs must be willing to let players trash their setting. I think one habit GMs can develop that harms sandbox play is an impulse to protect or shield what they have created. But for me I view a campaign as a science experiment, it is all about the chemistry that unfolds, explosions and all, when players are introduced to the martial world of the setting. 

There is also another impulse that harms sandbox play. This is when the GM adopts an attitude of "but this is what is supposed to happen" or "but this is not supposed to happen". It can be a product of planning ahead (i.e. you have stuff prepared you want to occur) or it can simply be something you assume should always be or not be the case in the campaign (i.e. the players shouldn't be able to easily defeat Iron God Meng!). These kinds of thoughts need to be put aside in a sandbox, and in particular a wuxia sandbox. You have to focus on what is happening, not on what you want to happen. 

If not out of the gate, eventually the players will be powerful enough to do things that provoke the above impulses. And they will be powerful enough to assert themselves in the setting by doing things like murdering powerful martial heroes, taking over powerful sect or even wiping them out. The key is to remember is you aren't crafting a story for the party to participate in, what the PCs do, that is the story. If they arrive at the Lucky Mountain Gambling Hall and kill Iron God Meng in the first ten seconds, that is the beginning of their story. What happens is a blend of what the players try to do, what the NPCs try to do, and what the dice say. 

The Boxer from Shantung 

This often gives rise to characters who quickly establish their own sects and can challenge other powerful organizations in the masters in the region. This isn't a problem. Plenty of great wuxia and kung movies and stories are built around powerful and capable characters. In Magic Blade, Fu Hongxue dispatches his enemies with ease most of the time. The Boxer from Shantung is all about the rise and fall of a powerful martial artist as he makes his way in Shanghai. Heroes Shed No Tears is about a powerful martial hero who is taking over the martial world by absorbing and wiping out rivals. 

None of this ought to be a foregone conclusion. The players need to earn their victories through their talents and the roll of dice. But the point is to learn to see great successes like this, ones that seriously rattle and change the setting, as opportunities rather than as problems. Players who seize political power or institutional power, then have the very big challenge of maintaining and growing that power, and they have put an enormous target on their back for rivals in the process. Campaigns only get more interesting when things like this occur. 

Say the players go to Sun Mai Temple and take over the sect early in the campaign. It might irk a GM because they weren't expecting such a massive change by new characters. But if the victory is truly earned, it is going to be a lot of fun exploring. Even if it wasn't well earned, if they got it through luck or cunning, that too will be interesting because enemies in the martial world will sense and exploit this. 

I often call these "Boxer from Shantung Campaigns". But they could just as easily be called "Scarface campaigns". Ma Yongzheng isn't as bad as a man like Tony Montana, he is more of a criminal with a conscience, but it is a similar type of rise and fall in a harsh criminal underworld. These are campaigns about characters who are seemingly nobodies taking over powerful organizations or forming their own. In my opinion these are a lot of fun. So if they emerge in play, the best thing you can do is step out of the way and let them take off. 

And campaigns of the players rising through the martial world like this are exciting because you don't know and the players don't know how it will end. Will they survive or will they fall like Ma in the Boxer from Shantung? It is fun to discover how things end. 

Even in campaigns that don't go this far, the ability of player characters to shake up the setting is important to honor in sandbox. No sect, no NPC, no institution or physical location is too sacred here. As a GM it helps if you stop anticipating what you think should happened, stop worrying about what think should have happened, and just focus on what is happening. What are the players doing in this moment and what foundations for future fun at the table are those actions establishing. 


Sunday, December 24, 2023


This is part of a series I started when working on Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, reviewing wuxia films and discussing their relevance to tabletop RPGs. I am a little rusty on these written reviews and my last one was a little long winded, so I am going to aim for brevity on this one. 

If you want to bring wuxia to your RPG table, try Righteous Blood Ruthless Blades or Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate. 

Note: I am writing these as a fan of the genre. I am not a movie expert or an expert in asian cinema. These are my own observations based on what I have learned by watching wuxia and kung fu movies, and by reading about them through interviews and books. But my knowledge is quite limited and I am an English speaker. So understand that my commentary comes from this perspective.  

This review contains many spoilers.

The Devil's Mirror is a 1972 Shaw Brothers wuxia film, directed by Sun Chung (Human Lanterns, Avenging Eagle, The Deadly Breaking Sword, etc). It stars Shu Pei-Pei (Bao Xiaofeng), Lau Dan (Wen Jianfeng), Lee Ga-Sai (Jiuxuan Witch), Wang Hsieh (Chief Bai), Tung Lin (Deputy Chief Leng) and Ching Miao (Chief Wen). I believe the title in Chinese is Wind and Thunder Magic Mirror

The Devil's Mirror kept me entertained the whole way through. I want to lead this review with saying just how much I liked the film. It is bloody, filled with great fights, and builds a world through awe-inspiring sets and characters who are all larger than life. This is also an adult wuxia movie. Not in the sense of being pornographic but in the sense of not shying away from blood, sensuality and other elements. But it never felt like it loses sight of delivering a solid adventure and keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. 

The movie starts out with a sense of urgency as men ride on horseback to a racing background melody on their way to Golden Lion Clan Headquarters. The music here works really well and was one of the things that instantly drew me in. This brings us to a great opening where the Taishan allied clans have gathered to hear Chief Wen as mourners weep in the background. 

We soon learn the martial world is being terrorized by Jiuxuan Witch, head of the Bloody Ghouls Clan, who wants to steal the Thunder Magic Mirror and the Wind Magic Mirror in order to open Emperor Wu's tomb so she can obtain the Fish Intestine Sword to control the martial world and the Millenium Ganoderma to increase her longevity. Chief Bai and his daughter, and Chief Wen and his son, work to thwart her but these efforts are complicated by the presence of a spy, Deputy Chief Leng, in Chief Bai's organization at Jixian Mansion. 

Jiuxuan Witch 
Jiuxuan Witch (called Nine-Souls Witch in the subtitles) is an incredible villain. Lee Ga-Sai is great here. To call her lascivious would be a polite way of phrasing things. She uses black magic and poison. Her martial arts are exceptional, though she seems rarely to have to stoop to them. She also is an apex seductress, though it is a little unclear if this is natural charm or a product of magic as the soundtrack hints at supernatural elements to her captivating expressions. Her presentation is quite impressive too, with black and gold robes, an elaborate golden top-knot and a third eye on her forehead. This is cackling mad over the top wuxia villainy at its finest. 

Chief Bai and his golden chain
Wang Hsieh also stands out as Chief Bai. He has an enormous presence. As a righteous chief with a strident personality who is hobbled by a peg leg, he is almost as entertaining as the Jiuxuan Witch. He is the sort of hero who bellows "You're all trash!" to his own men, and a hero whose men plead not to be executed when they fail. Also through much of the movie he seems duped by his deputy chief, Leng, which makes for interesting moments down the road and adds a layer to his personality. 

Shu Pei-pei and Lau Dan make a nice heroic duo. Tung Lin as the duplicitous Deputy Chief Leng was also a good fit for the role. The deputy chief is working with The Bloody Ghoul sect in secret, and seems to have Chief Bai fully convinced of his loyalty. His motivations appear to be that he is either enchanted by the Jiuxuan Witch or simply lusts after her. To me it looked like a bit of both but the end result is he is wrapped around her finger. Together they try to divide the alliance by implicating the Golden Lions in a theft of one of the mirrors at Jixian Mansion. 

Jiuxuan Witch and her lover Leng
The witch's relationship with Deputy Leng is something that I like about the movie. It doesn't shy away form what is going on. There are no subtle hints here, they are sleeping together, and I think revealing that fully for the camera works because it does make his slavish devotion more believable and it highlights aspects of her personality (where she does what she wants and doesn't care because she has the power to do so). 

The fight choreography and performances are sharp throughout for the most part. Also the use of reverse crank helps maintain that energy. There is some interesting use of wire work. At one point, the Witch is spinning as she flies through the air. This looks almost unintentional but I think it was for effect and fit her wild character. For 1972 the wirework seemed quite good to me. 

It also has ample gore, something Sun Chung is good at. I love his film, Human Lanterns, and even though this is one of his earlier films, you can see foreshadowing of it in this film. And the gore is balanced with a kind of gonzo approach. This isn't quite at the level of later movies like Holy Flame of the Martial World or Web of Death, but you can see hints of that type of gonzo wuxia here. There are moments where characters do things like cut up bits of wood and throw them into peoples faces, kick drums into their chests, smash doors open into peoples chests or slice off a head using two swords like a pair of scissors. Each such moment is punctuated with blood. In one scene a key character is stabbed from all sides and releases a startling sanguine spray. The ample gushes of blood are a core feature of the morie. The action is stretched right to the edge but always still feels violent and deadly. 

You also have Chief Bai with his peg leg, using it as a weapon in combat, even impaling a someone with it. 

Bai Xiaofeng and Chief Bai 
One scene I liked especially was the first real battle where masked intruders infiltrate Jixian Mansion to steal the wind magic mirror. It is the kind of fight that wakes you up as a viewer, with rapid cutting sword strokes at an energetic pace. In another movie it would be procedural filler, especially since there aren't any major characters and any characters of note are all wearing masks, but the shots and performances are all great with a few surprising moments. And it got me excited for the rest of the movie. 

The Devil's Mirror fight sequences do a good job of pairing up weapons as well. Chief Bai fights both his crutch but also a golden chain that has a distinct look and feel. The Jiuxuan Witch uses the two mirrors once she gets them in either hand, and this fits with her fending off Bai's chain and the two younger heroes swords in the finale. It is the kind of artful pairing you often see in Chor Yuen movies, where the fights feel a little more like poetry or dance than combat. I think the effect of her wielding the two mirrors was it enabled a flowing movement that felt this way. 

The sets are magnificent. I particularly like the underground chambers and tunnels. The finale is set in the Tomb of Emperor Wu and it doesn't disappoint. You really need to see the film to view them for yourself, as it isn't easy finding good stills of the various lairs, but they add so much to the movie. 

This works well as a concept on a number of levels. Borrowing the idea of a villain hellbent on obtain vital objects that the PCs protect has a lot of potential. 

Jiuxuan Witch holding Court 
This movie also has dungeons galore. Not only is the headquarters of the Bloody Ghoul sect perfect in its own right as a dungeon, it connects to Chief Bai's headquarters through secret underground tunnels. This opens the way for a pretty sizable dungeon but one that has a very practical purpose. The sets should give any GM plenty of inspiration here. 

Emperor Wu's Tomb was particularly impressive. It is based on history and folklore, so the GM can do additional research and learn more. At first I thought it was meant to be the Tomb of Emperor Wu of the Han, but looking into it further I think it is meant to be the tomb of Liao Emperor of the state of Wu, because according to folklore an assassin named Zhuan Zhu attempted to kill him with a sword smuggled in fish and came to be called Fish Intestines (the black smith who made this sword Ou Yezi is also known for making a number of legendary weapons which can provide more ideas for adventure. Whatever the historical details, I think there is a lot for the GM to work with. 

The Fish Intestine sword as depicted in the movie can slice through other peoples weapons. My instinct in a game like Ogre Gate or Righteous Blood Ruthless Blades is to have this provide a +1d10 to counters and to cut or break opponent's weapons on a result of 10. In folklore it has a reputation for causing the welder to be disloyal so I think having it impose an appropriate flaw could work. 

The mirrors are also interesting. We don't get deep inside into what they can do but we know they work as a pair (which I think opens up the door to there being many more mirrors for increased effect). We also know that Chief Wen is concerned about its environmental effect, so there should be some potential for catastrophe using them. It appears they summon a storm when used together and can be used to concentrate a beam of energy that busts through the gate to the emperor's tomb. I think something that does enough damage to break solid rock but also break through magical seals would work here. So probably it does open damage to objects and disrupts magical effects. 

This is a film I highly recommend to any fan of wuxia, and in particular to fans of darker wuxia stories or horror movie cross overs. But even though it is dark it keeps a focus on being entertaining. These are ultimately fun and engaging wuxia characters. And the action is action and atmosphere are both stellar. I was pleasantly surprised by The Devil's Mirror

Thursday, December 21, 2023


This is part of my Wuxia Sandbox series. You can see the first post HERE. These are all primarily written with Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate in mind but can be applied to most wuxia RPG campaign. 

Family is a topic that I discuss in the Sons of Lady 87 Campaign book. Here I want to focus primarily on the starting point of family during character creation. 

The first page of a regional Personality Table
In wuxia Sandbox campaigns, players have the freedom to move around and engage as they wish. But they are still connected to a world around them and so they are not pure free agents. For example, all characters start with a sect or master. Players still ultimately have freedom to choose. If they belong to a sect and are asked to do something they don't want to or are expected to fight someone they consider a friend, they can defy that sect, but there will be in world consequences for that decision. 

What makes a sandbox work in my experience isn't just that you have the player characters going from place to place doing what they want to do, it is that are they doing so while engaging the world and living inside a social landscape. One of the most important social elements is family. I always make a point of establishing who the PCs family are during character creation because this gives them roots in the setting. 

I don't have one set method for adjudicating family for player characters, but I do always address and devise a procedure before each campaign to be used at character creation. This often is in response to what players I have at the table. Different players will respond to different approaches and different levels of depth and detail. These are my most common methods.

A lot of times players will create family as part of character creation. This is totally fine in my opinion as long as it doesn't conflict with anything in the setting and it is not obviously intended to give a player an advantage (i.e. My mother is a rich cousin of the emperor who funds all my wanderings). But I do like to throw out the idea before players start making characters that they are free to connect their PC to existing NPCs in the setting. 

If the players are receptive to this I will usually work with them to figure out who their parents might be (asking questions so I can find someone in the books or my notes who fits as their farther or mother for example). If it is unclear or we just want to keep things random we may resort to rolling on tables to find out. And sometimes a new NPC needs to be devised if no one seems to fit the bill. 

Rolling randomly is also helpful for balance because it opens up the possibility of connecting PCs to powerful figures in the setting but takes that choice outside anyone's control. It is a roll of the dice who you get. There are a different ways to handle this.  

Some sessions I simply have the players roll on my Regional Personalities Tables to see who their mother or father is and work from there. Typically selecting the one from the region closest to where the campaign is set or where the PC is from. 

Other times I want to heavily randomize all these elements so draw on tables like the Occupational and Martial Arts tables above. The first one is useful for determining family occupation (in WHOG these are grouped into 4 major classes), the second is for the martial arts abilities of family members. This is a more gradient way of randomizing family power levels and I usually prefer it when I am making new NPCs whole cloth for the players. I will also make tables for personality and other traits. 

Whatever method is used, I start with one or both of the parents. If they are NPCs in the books, that, I reacquaint myself with the entry and determine how it might be relevant to the PC. I also think if anything new needs to be added. If an NPC entry doesn't say clearly whether that character is married or has siblings or children, I treat it as an open question. 

It is also important to manage siblings. This may already be addressed in an NPC entry if the players are related to someone in the book. But as a general rule I roll a d10 to see how many siblings a PC has and flip a coin for the gender of each one. For siblings I usually only stat out the martial heroes or those who major significance to the campaign if they are new characters. 

Artwork by Jackie Musto 
Because there are usually a lot of siblings, when I make my Master List of the Living in the Dead (this will be addressed in a future post), I usually note down one key word for their personality trait next to the name so I have something to go on.   

Other relatives, uncles and aunts for example, sworn family, etc, all can be addressed at this phase as well. Again if possible connecting PCs to people in the books or notes. You don't need every relative to be an NPC in one of the books or your campaign notes, but it is helpful if someone has an uncle who is an important member of a sect, a brother who is a known swordsman, and so on. These types of relationships create openings for players to pursue. 

Something I also often like to do with family is the Twenty Year backstory. I will talk about this in a future post but the basic idea is to include some important family background the player hasn't been told about. This doesn't have to be "I am your father" levels of drama, it primarily is intended to help illustrate that the parents of the PC had lives before the present and also have their secrets. It comes up in the genre a lot as well and when done right, it can make a campaign more interesting. The example can be as simple as a player characters mother having known a now very famous hero or villain in her youth and having surprising insight into his personality, abilities, weaknesses or motives. 

The methods and procedures you use are not the most important thing though. The key is connecting player characters to the setting by making sure they know who their family members are. Especially in a sandbox this is helpful because if you drop characters into a setting and they don't know anything or anyone, it is genuinely helpful for them to have family members they can go to for further information. 

Family isn't just something to establish at character creation. I find even in those most killer hobo of sandbox campaigns (and personally my feeling as a GM is if players are having fun being killer hobos, let them do so), eventually, as the death toll rises and as they get more powerful they start to develop an interest in their character having a more meaningful impact or legacy. Marriage, children, building a sect, making the perfect martial arts technique, these kinds of things start to naturally come up in play. 

Marriage has come up a number of times in my campaigns. Sometimes players choose to start the game with a spouse and family, but more often it comes up during the campaign. If it arises during character creation I often use the same technique as above, seeing if the PC could be married to an existing character in the setting. If there isn't anyone who seems fitting, we come up with a new NPC. If it emerges during the campaign, then that can be played out naturally. There are sections in the WHOG rulebook on marriage for this reason. Eventually characters may have children and this can lead to a generational campaign. 

In a recent campaigns one of my players had a daughter with Qixia the Candy Fruit Vendor name Li Liang, and because he and the mother had a horrible feud, he was working to build a better relationship with his daughter and guide her towards a style of martial arts that he thought was more worthy of her. And she was someone whose martial talents were of great use to him as well. I have also had campaigns where characters built a major sect alliance through marriage. And I have had many campaigns where characters use their parents homestead as a home base. Even non-martial family members will be able to support and help them in many ways. One group of players were the sons of an herbalist for example and he was often able to heal them after they had an adventure that went south. 

Again, this is sandbox, not family saga, so it would be a mistake to think any of this means characters have plot immunity. But what it does mean is there are usually a lot more threads, and more 'ins' for players whose characters die and need to find a way to connect themselves back to the party. And while the aim isn't family saga, I have seen things like that emerge in campaigns. 

Family aren't plot devices. They are something that connects the players to the world. They are also an important social resource. Players can obtain information and support from family. They may also have family obligations. They also tend to help me as the GM flesh out the setting more. 



Tuesday, December 19, 2023


I run Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate as a sandbox with dramatic elements. It was designed with sandbox play as the goal, which is why "Wandering" is the first word of the title. The aim was to have a wuxia RPG where you can drop the players into the setting and let them make their own choices about what to do. Today I want to talk about how I approach sandbox and drama in Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate. This will be part of a series of post and today's is just an overview of key concepts discussed in the books. 

The Sons of Lady 87 Campaign book* is a sandbox adventure. It is also probably the best example of how I run Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate campaigns. In the introduction I label the sandbox approach I take a 'Living Adventure'. That is terminology I have been using in much of my description of running RPGs. I explain where the language comes from in the introduction. It is how I prefer to describe play, over sandbox, because 1) it is a little more poetic and dynamic, whereas sandbox feels static and dry, 2) it emphasizes the importance of characters in a sandbox, both NPCs and PCs. The interactions between the characters is what matters. It is about prioritizing the notion that NPCs aren't pinned down to a particular place, but live in the world as the PCs do, responding to them, taking initiative on their own. 

I do still use the term sandbox and used it in the Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate book, and there is probably a downside with clarity when I prefer Living Adventure instead. But I think it is a better label. 

For Lady 87 I really wanted to emphasize this way of running Ogre Gate. When I introduce dramatic elements, which I do it is through NPCs, rather than through dramatic events. And the NPCs must be treated as living characters. I find this creates a stronger sense of believability and underlying logic to the world.

A simple example might be this. Master Yao wants to obtain the Phoenix Crown of Bao, and the one of the player's has recently acquired the phoenix crown of Bao. Learning this information, Master Yao sends his men to ambush the players and steal the crown. One could sidestep all of this and simply jump to the players being ambushed at their inn at night. But for me the point is to make Master Yao just as much a player in the game as the PCs. If he wants to ambush them, he needs to do reconnaissance and there may be opportunities for players to learn his intentions along the way. And if his efforts fail, I need to figure out how he responds to any developments. You allow for the dramatic but you don't make it a foregone conclusion. And and you don't start with a dramatic beat in mind, rather you begin with Master Yao's motivation. 

This may seem a like a small distinction, maybe even a distinction without a difference, but it really does matter in play. It is a way to avoid the GM simply being a storyteller. Drama is about conflict, not about heavy plotting. You have the emotion and excitement of drama but not the railroad of plot. 

Using this approach you don't imagine the villain doing anything triumphant or climactic, you simply imagine the villain and go from there. This means many of your villains will die ignoble and embarrassing deaths. Because you are playing fair with the players. The villains plans may be thwarted, the players may surprise them, they may have a series of bad dice rolls. This may seem like obvious stuff but I find it is the thing I hear most GMs having difficulty with because they feel like they owe the players a big final fight with a boss or a climactic ending of some kind with a worthy foe. But I have learned from experience that players value feeling like their actions matter. If their actions lead to the quick death of your glorious villain as he scurries away humiliated, that is fine. Eventually a villain will emerge who is more of a challenge, but that needs to happen naturally. 

And the players may surprise you. I have had instances where I introduced an NPC expecting him to be an enemy of the party only to have them befriend him. This is good for you as GM because you should always be willing to adapt to the situation and you really need to learn to keep those kinds of expectations in check anyways. Plus, this is something that can happen in the genre. Unlikely friendships can form and lead to interesting results and tensions. 

To be clear this isn't how Ogre Gate must be run. There is no 'must' in Ogre Gate, and this is but one way to approach Ogre Gate's Drama and Sandbox approach (see image above). But I have run many successful longterm campaigns using this approach so I thought it worth talking about. 

This works particularly well in a wuxia campaign because wuxia is so character driven. It is the stark personalities of the martial world and the grudges they have that fuel so much of the genre. In an RPG, this works great because the players are free to be independent heroes on their own, forging loyalty and making enemies as they wish. Their friendships and grudges will supply an endless source of material for your campaign to have life.

And it doesn't shy away from exploration. Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate is world filled with strange hidden locations, manuals tucked deep inside trapped tombs and chambers, supernatural beings and esoteric masters residing in far off places. But it is also a place inhabited by people, which means eventually the roots the characters form become important. It is a very good sandbox ecosystem for long lasting campaigns.  

I will go into more detail next entry but the way this typically works is I let the players make their characters and they can come up with whatever concepts they want. If I am concerned I don't have enough active players, I may provide a handful of possible starting points for the sandbox (like the starter premise in Sons of Lady 87). I then have them connect their characters to elements of the setting (this will be the next topic of the series). Finally I drop them in and ask them what they want to do. There isn't anything planned out in my head. I just see what the players do and allow the world to react. I draw on a variety of tools as well such as grudge tables, encounter tables, and other random ways of managing things. In future entries I will also talk about how I react to player actions in game and how I navigate that whole process. 

Here are all the posts so far on this topic:



*While the PDF of Sons of Lady 87 is available on DrivethruRPG, you can find the print version HERE. 

Monday, December 18, 2023


This is part of a series I started when working on Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, reviewing wuxia films and discussing their relevance to tabletop RPGs. This entry is an installment in my Cheng Pei-pei reviews series as well. So far on this blog I have covered Come Drink with me, Brothers Five, Golden Swallow, Dragon Swamp, The Shadow Whip, Lady Hermit, Thundering Sword, The Golden Sword, Raw Courage, That Fiery Girl, Whiplash, and Kung Fu Girl. Today I write about The Jade Raksha. 

I am a little rusty on these written reviews and my last one was a little long winded, so I am going to aim for brevity on this one. 

If you want to bring wuxia to your RPG table, try Righteous Blood Ruthless Blades or Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate. 

Note: I am writing these as a fan of the genre. I am not a movie expert or an expert in asian cinema. These are my own observations based on what I have learned by watching wuxia and kung fu movies, and by reading about them through interviews and books. But my knowledge is quite limited and I am an English speaker. So understand that my commentary comes from this perspective.  

This review contains many spoilers.

Released in 1970 and directed by Ho Meng-Hua, Lady of Steel stars Cheng Pei-Pei, Yueh Hua, and Huang Tsung-Hsun. 

Lady of Steel is a satisfying tale of revenge that once again teams up Cheng Pei-Pei and Yueh Hua. As in Come Drink with Me, Yueh Hua plays a beggar named Qin Shang Yi, and Cheng Pei-Pei plays Fang Ying Qi, a woman whose family is slaughtered when she is a child. Raised by Priest Xuan Zhen, she learns martial arts on a reclusive mountain. Priest Juan Zhen sends her to Flying Dragon Fortress when she is old enough to help Master Xia fight against the Jin invasion. Unbeknownst to them her father's killer, Han Shi Xiong, has retired from banditry and serves the Jin in secret as a spy at Flying Dragon Fortress, where he has assumed the new identity of Cai Yi. 

When she first arrives at Flying Dragon Fortress, Ying Qi impresses them with her lightness kung fu and dart skills (which she uses to precision kill a cluster of birds). Recognizing her name, Cai Yi plots to have her killed by sending her to assassinate Wu Chang Sheng of Black Wind Fortress, a wealthy man working with the Jin in order to protect his property. Though they lay a trap for her, she escapes with the assistance of Qin Shang Yi, and manages to nab their flag. 

Back at Flying Dragon Fortress, Cai Yi plots further when he learns about Qin and Ying Qi's relationships, intending to use it against her. She receives a letter from Qin informing her about a shipment of goods to the Jin that he doesn't have the manpower to rob. All of Flying Dragon Fortress ambushes the caravan but suffers heavy losses as the caravan is a counter ambush. Cai Yi then plants incriminating evidence in Ying Qi's room and demands it be searched, forcing her to fight her way out of Flying Dragon Fortress. 

In hiding, she learns of Cai Yi's real identity through his number two, Wei Tong Ming. She also learns that Cai Yi is working with Wu Chang Sheng to stage a surprise attack on Flying Dragon Fortress, using his birthday as a pretext to ensure every member is present. Teaming up with Qin, they intercept the ambush and kill Cai Yi in a spectacular final showdown. 

This is the short synopsis of the film. It leaves out a number of interesting plot beats, including one where Ying Qi assumes the identity of a man named Yan Ji Jiang to infiltrate Black Wind Fortress, but that is the basic story. 

There are a number of things I like about this movie. The first are the visuals. It isn't overwrought but in key moments there are some startling shots and everything feels well composed to me. In particular, I loved the scene where Qing Yi confronts Wei Tong Ming, against the backdrop of the birthday celebration fireworks display. The way it cuts between the flash of the "longevity" firework and her relentless assault on Wei Tong Ming worked.

Something else I enjoyed was the depiction of kung fu, particularly lightness martial arts. This is a film made in 1970 and things are moving in a more stylized direction. There is also a great sense of mood in some of the fights. One example is when Qin faces Wu Chang Sheng in a forest. Not only does he seem to be able to appear and disappear at will to force Wu Chang Sheng into a battle, but the way Qin strides forward with his sword drawn, just pulled me into the moment. 

I very much liked how the film opens, where we see the backstory of Ying Qi's family slaughtered by Cai Yi. The ruthlessness of it, and the valiance of one of her father's men struggling to save her from the carnage, gives the rest of the movie an emotional weight. It is a very dramatic way to start things off that gives a strong lead in to the title card. The physical performances in the opening ambush, which occurs at an inn, are also noticeably good. 

The movie is also set against a political backdrop that gives it setting but doesn't overwhelm the personal story of Qing Yi's revenge. I liked this as early on I was a bit worried it would be a movie with way too many characters and too much intrigue. But it is fairly straight forward and there are only a few key characters. 

Lady of Steel features a solid Cheng Pei-Pei performance. Both her and Yueh Hua work very well together here. And her physical performance and emotional performance both work nicely.

I've said before I think Ho Meng Hua is a good visual storyteller. I find I never have trouble following the plot in his films. And he knows how to be efficient too, so he doesn't over-explain, he just is capable at conveying a lot of information in a small sequence of frames. And his details are all clearly laid out. When Cai Yi recognizes Ying Qi, there is a straight line drawn from early in the film explaining how this is possible. We understand each point this information was transmitted to him and how he put that together upon her arrival at Flying Dragon Fortress. 

Lady of Steel would not be my first recommendation for getting into Ho Mo Meng Hua or Cheng Pei-Pei, but it is definitely worth seeing if you are a fan of either. 

Most of the techniques demonstrated in the movie are ones I already have in WHOG and RBRB, but you will need to make sure you have a sufficient amount of lightness kung fu options (particularly things for leaping, for walking on trees and for appearing seemingly out of nowhere). You will also want a range of sword techniques and darts. For her dart technique, I would use something like Storming Daggers from Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate which matches it pretty well. 
Storming Daggers from WHOG

Another thing that features prominently in the movie are traps. I mention this a lot, but I think it bears repeating because people often seem quite resistant to the idea, but wuxia features many things we associate with classic fantasy adventure RPGs: traps, dungeons, inns and taverns, etc. Here there are ample use of things like spiked pit traps, net traps that capture and lift men from the ground up, and even spikes that shoot out of the wall when a person presses a button. A villain who is well prepared with a number of traps laid out in advance is a good idea. Again, if using Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, the core rulebook has plenty trap descriptions and mechanics in Chapter 12 from pages 525 to 427. 

In terms of the characters and story, I think it is always better to not force that stuff but allow it to be present. So here, where the chief conflict is between a woman and a man in the organization she joins who secretly is the person who killed her family, I think the best option is wait until you have a player who makes a character whose family was killed in their youth (preferably by someone they wouldn't be able to recognize on sight). This comes up all the time in play in my experience (it is a pretty standard backstory to get from players now and then). 

When a player does this, then you can work with them to plant the seed. Here is how I might do it to make it interesting. I would say to that player, I am going to determine who the killer is and maybe during the campaign it will come up. Then I would take all the eligible characters in the setting (anyone who seems likely to have killed a whole family for some reason), put them on a table and roll randomly to see who it is. This last part would just be for my own sense of surprise and as a bit of a creative prompt. 

If it is very important and you really want the plot to come up, you can pick a random member of whatever sect the character belongs to or the member of a sect they join during the campaign.

Sunday, December 10, 2023


This is part of a series I started when working on Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, reviewing wuxia films and discussing their relevance to tabletop RPGs. This entry is an installment in my Cheng Pei-pei reviews series as well. So far on this blog I have covered Come Drink with me, Brothers Five, Golden Swallow, Dragon Swamp, The Shadow Whip, Lady Hermit, Thundering Sword, The Golden Sword, Raw Courage, That Fiery Girl, Whiplash, and Kung Fu Girl. Today I write about The Jade Raksha. I am a little rusty on these written reviews so don't mind me if I ramble a bit. 

Note: I am writing these as a fan of the genre. I am not a movie expert or an expert in asian cinema. These are my own observations based on what I have learned by watching wuxia and kung fu movies, and by reading about them through interviews and books. But my knowledge is quite limited and I am an English speaker. So understand that my commentary comes from this perspective.  

This review contains many spoilers.


Cheng Pei-pei and the director Ho Meng Hua are a very good combination. Cheng Pei-pei is an incredible physical performer, and was making films at a time when less of the performance was cloaked with camera work. When I see Cheng Pei-pei in a movie she brings athleticism, grace, footwork, and power to the screen in a way that I think is still unrivaled. The choreography may have been a little less stylized, but this is more interesting to me because it's a period where you can see style developing in these movies that later movies build a foundation on and there is less distraction from the physical movements of the actor. She also has a very grounded style of action that feels real. 

And Cheng Pei-pei excels at playing martial characters with strong personalities. She has star power on the screen that can carry a film, even a not so great film. She can draw you to a film with her personality, which elevates every movie she is in. 

Ho Meng Hua is a magnificent storyteller. His films are not only wonderful to look at, but he puts a lot of focus into telling a story that feels well crafted. He directed a number of movies but some notable ones (for me at least) are Lady Hermit, Vengeful Beauty, Black Magic, Shaolin Abbot, The Flying Guillotine, Monkey Goes West, and Cave of the Silken Web. 

By far, the best Ho Meng Hua film featuring Cheng Pei-pei, in my opinion, is Lady Hermit. The story and the choreography are both stellar. But The Jade Raksha is an interesting film as well. And one that has some very memorable elements. It is also a movie that I appreciated more on repeat viewings. 

The Jade Raksha is a movie about the endless cycle of revenge and violence. This is a longstanding trope in wuxia and other genres, but what matters is how the trope is handled. And Ho Meng Hua handles it exceptionally well here. 

Unfortunately The Jade Raksha has not been easy to find in recent years. I did a review on youtube years ago for a VCD format version. This was the only copy I could find, so I was grateful to have it, but VCD is not high resolution and has a very small aspect ratio on the screen. Recently it went up on a streaming service on Amazon and it was also released in a new Shaw Brothers boxed set. I watched the version on Amazon, which looked like a scan similar to my VCD copy but had a much better aspect ratio. So for the first time, I was able to appreciate the visuals of the film. 


The story begins with a chance meeting of Leng Qiu Han (Cheng Pei-pei) and Xu Ying Hao (Tang Ching) at an inn. She has been killing members of the Yan family because one of them slaughtered her entire household, and he is looking to kill Shi Yong Shan, a man who murdered his father.

Leng Qiu Han visits revenge upon her enemies as the Jade Raksha, a terrifying swordswoman who announces her intentions with a haunting song. Initially Leng Qiu Han regards Xu Ying Hao as an obstacle, someone who is meddling in her affairs and the she challenges him to a fight to the death. There is a lot more to it than this but the beginning ends with them on the road together, and her developing strong affection for him before they each set off on their own. 

This is where the film becomes very interesting. Leng Qiu Han is killing every member of the Yan because she doesn't know which one is responsible for the death of her family. And Xu Ying Hao appears to have a more morally righteous approach to revenge, even cautioning Leng Qiu Han to only kill the guilty and to spare the innocent. 

There is an incredible scene soon after their split, which highlights the core theme of the movie. Xu Ying Hao goes to a village where he has tracked down Shi Yong Shan, and there he confronts him, an aggressive and hostile man who clearly has no exceptional martial skill. At first it seems he is going to let Shi Yong Shan off because he can't even fight, but when the man attacks him as his back is turned he slices him open and this is where the magic of the scene occurs because it maintains two completely separate moods. 

As Xu Ying Hao heroically sheathes his sword and boldly announces "I am Xu Ying Hao. Twenty years ago Shi Yong Shan killed my father. I am here to avenge [him]" the scene around him dissolves into something much more shaky and messy. The man's wife and son run up to him, and the other villagers look shocked. There is a sharp contrast between Xu Ying Hao's posture and the events unfolding around him. It is like he is one movie and the villagers in another. But that discord is not immediately apparent to Xu Ying Hao. 

At this point he discovers he killed the wrong man. A villager tells him the man he killed was Shi Xiong Shan, and that Shi Yong Shan left twenty years ago. Then the son addresses Xu Ying Hao and vows to avenge his father when he grows up. 

Disturbed that he killed an innocent man, and filled with remorse, he wraps a blue sash from his victim around the hilt of sword and swears an oath to never unsheathe it again. It is a very effective beat in the story and gives emotional weight to everything Xu Ying Hao does from that point on. It is also worth mentioning while this is just one notable scene, that the core elements of this scene are mirrored in other aspects of the story. It is the threading of all the revenge tales that really makes the movie work. 

Leng Qiu Han, or Jade Raksha herself is one of Cheng Pei-pei's most interesting characters. She is more flawed and self-centered than a character like Lady Hermit. She has no problem killing countless Yan men, taking their heads and hanging them from a rope with large letters announcing that they were killed by The Jade Raksha. She is also violently possessive of Xu Ying Hao once she develops a love interest in him. 

In fact, her first instinct seems to be to kill. When she first meets Xu Ying Hao, doesn't hesitate to reach for her sword when he confronts her about an incident she has with some other patrons. Later she challenges him to a fight to the death. When another woman gains Xu Ying Hao's affections, she openly attempts to kill her. Over the course of the film, Xu Ying Hao tries to restrain her killer instinct, especially regarding her ruthless quest for revenge against the Yan family, and this is particularly the case when she seeks to kill the final Yan man, which puts the two of them into direct conflict. She is a bit of an anti-hero. 

Jade Raksha doesn't hide behind false humility or morality, she is clear about what she wants, while at the same time capable of deception when needed. She also has a knack for sarcasm, overpraising her friend Xu Ying Hao's righteousness in order to put him in his place. There is also something about the sincerity of the character I like. When she tries to kill Jiang Yin Feng, even though it is clearly an overreaction and wrong, it's her real emotion coming to the surface. She isn't hiding her feelings. 


One of the things that makes this movie so enjoyable is the villain, Master Yan Tian Long, played by Yang Chi-Ching. He is one of those villains who is so evil yet so charming that he is a pleasure to watch. Master Yan is a horrible man, but presents himself as a philanthropist to the public and has learned to use charity as way of securing loyalty and recruiting men to serve him. He feeds the poor, cares for the sick, and is respected by officials. His house even has a plaque that reads "Always Be Kind", but beyond this plaque is a secret door that leads to his dungeon where he tortures, executes and stores goods gained through robbery. The blatant hypocrisy makes for a fun villain. 

Yan Tian Long's scheming is brilliant. He is a true chess player and can put his temper and ego aside in order to attain his goals with soft demonstrations of power. He gets the best doctors for Xu Ying Hao's mother, gives her money so she can survive while Xu Ying Hao is out seeking revenge, and he seems to be feeding everyone in town. 

When he sees that Xu Ying Hao is friends with Jade Raksha, he responds by being reasonable and showing understanding, but then sends men to follow him so they can find her. He knows how to control people and how to use his mind in a fight. 

He is also ruthless and cruel in order to achieve his goals. His dungeon is filled with instruments of torture and execution, including two giant guillotines. 


The Jade Raksha features a classic love triangle as well. For soon after Xu Ying Hao meets Leng Qiu Han, he returns home to his ailing mother, who has been nursed to house by the seemingly benevolent Yan Tian Long. Out of a desire for reciprocity, Xu Ying Hao agrees to be Yan's chief martial arts instructor. 

Working for Master Yan, his men hear a woman singing Jade Raksha's melody and try to detain her. Xu Ying Hao orders them not to, but they disobey her, causing him to help the woman and her blind father escape. This leads to a romance between Xu Ying Hao and the daughter, Jiang Yin Feng. The father, Jiang Man Leung, approves of the relationship but when they are brought to Xu's mother's home, his mother, Mei Juan, recognizes Jiang Man Leung as the man her killed her husband, Shi Yong Shan. 

The movie becomes much more emotional at this point, with a poignant scene between Mei Juan and Shi Yong Shan where he implores her to let the past go, so that their children can be happy. He then explains that he and her husband fought over her affection and that he accidentally killed him in a duel after he had been drinking. He was so guilt-ridden, he leapt off a cliff and his eyes were scratched by thorn bushes, causing him to go blind.

This is a good example of the kind of storytelling the movie does, where it is taking very longstanding themes and tropes, but holding back enough important information to give a large emotional impact for the viewer. And the characters make you feel for them. You share Mei Juan's profound desire to avenge her husband's death but also share her desire to let her son marry and be happy. And you feel for Shi Yong Shan, who was so remorseful he tried to commit suicide. And now all he wants is for his daughter to have a secure future. 

It is also cleverly woven into the cycle of revenge in the movie itself, where the characters are slowly becoming more and more interconnected by these past grudges and the need for vengeance. Every aspect of the story feels like it revolves around this theme and is mirrored elsewhere. For example, Jade Raksha's entire purpose for the whole movie, the wiping out of the Yan family, is a product of Yan Tian Long wiping out her entire family.  

Ultimately Mei Juan decides to keep Shi Yong Shan's secret and this leads to the love triangle between The Jade Raksha and Xu Ying Hao. It is at this point that the aforementioned attempted killings of Xu Ying Hao's love interest by the Jade Raksha occurs. 


The Jade Raksha has a genuinely rewarding finale, with plenty of great fights, more reveals about the 20 year backstory, and a very interesting conclusion. 

Still believing that Jiang Yin Feng is the Jade Raksha, Master Yan's son and his men detain her while she is out by the river. Mei Juan tries to stop them but cannot. This leads to both of them being imprisoned at Master Yan's residence, where they are kept as 'guests' to persuade them to share Jade Raksha's location. 

Xu Ying Hao is forced to go to The Jade Raksha and ask for her help to rescue his mother and fiancé. Reluctantly she agrees on two conditions: the first is he must agree to never see Jiang Yin Feng again. The Jade Raksha's second condition is he must agree to marry her. 

The final showdown is exciting and filled with more interesting developments to the story. Shi Yong Shan's secret is revealed when he is recognized by Master Yan, and master Yan himself, in a moment when he seems to have the upper hand, tells the full truth about why he killed Jade Raksha's entire family. 

He explains that the day that Shi Yong Shan and Xu Ying Hao's father fought that the three of them were all disciples of the same teacher and that he was hiding nearby. During the battle he shoved Xu Ying Hao's father into Shi Yong Shan's blade, and so was the one responsible for his death. As he was disposing of the bodies, The Jade Raksha's father happened by and saw everything, so he killed him and his entire family, though the Jade Raksha escaped. 

In the end Xu Ying Hao keeps his word and agrees to go off with Leng Qiu Han (The Jade Raksha), but when she sees the two lovers saying good bye she has a change of heart and departs so they can be together, leaving behind her sword bound, showing that she has kept her promise to never kill again. This is reminiscent of the ending of Lady Hermit so it feel like an idea Ho Meng Hua wants to perfect. 


The fight sequences are entertaining. This is more in the realm of the swashbuckling style of wuxia, so it helps to keep that in mind watching the film. Personally I love the late-60s style, it is very athletic and the sword blows have a weight to them. There is also a sense of dancing steel to the moves. I think there are Cheng Pei-pei films that have better fight choreography but this is still pretty solid, and the focus is really more on the story anyways. But there are some things that are notable.

The use of lightness kung fu is quite good for the period it was made (at least in my opinion). One technique, which I always like, is cutting shot to shot, with a character in the tree tops, to create the illusion of them moving from tree to tree. The actor literally is just shot in a single tree each time, never leaps or moves, but the camera and the cuts make your imagination fill in the gap and it has a wonderful style.

There is a nice tree top fight sequence as well, where the characters are standing on top of bamboo trees and having a duel. You also see characters running on water. There is even a bamboo pole vault over a burning bridge. 

I quite liked the wirework and the way lightness kung fu was handled here. I do think if you are more accustomed to 90s wuxia or even late 70s wuxia, it may look less spectacular, but for a film made in 1968, I think it has some memorable lightness martial arts. 

The fight sequences themselves are somewhat standard for this period but I think very entertaining. I like that there is less editing down of the fights, more complete visuals of the actors (you see their whole body moving much of the time). With Cheng Pei-pei especially I find her footwork excellent and so it is nice to be able to see the steps as well as the sword strikes. She often fights with a sword in one hand and scabbard in the other, and this allows for a twirling attack of the swords as she parries and wades into the fray. 

In terms of violence, there is plenty of it. There are beheadings, people getting their eyes shot out with darts, and men being hacked to death by swords. There is plenty of red-hued Shaw Brothers blood spilled over the course of the film.  


In terms of taking inspiration from The Jade Raksha for an RPG, I think focusing on the villain would yield a lot of results for most GMs. His whole approach of using charity to gain reputation and loyalty, would work well for an antagonist in a wuxia campaign. Also his abode is riddled with traps and has a dungeon so it is something that you can fit into most campaigns, even non-wuxia settings. 

In terms of an adventure I think a GM can also draw on the idea of an NPC who could be an ally or enemy and whose quest for revenge somehow intersects with the party (with the details maybe not becoming clear until more information is obtained). 

Another thing worth drawing on is the consequences of revenge. I don't think it's fair to always hammer this stuff home for players. But every once in a while there probably ought to be reasonable and realistic misunderstandings or mistaken identity that make pursuing revenge recklessly a little more perilous. And there is always an aftermath. When the young son of Shi Xiong Shan tells Xu Ying Hao that he will take revenge when he gets older, you know as a viewer that no matter what happy ending the film has in store for Xu, one day his peace will be shattered by a man coming to avenge his father's death. This is a reminder to GMs to take note of these kinds of details when players also get revenge. 

For abilities there is a lot to draw on. In both Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate and Righteous Blood Ruthless Blades, there are many existing techniques and signature abilities that can be reskinned to fit the swashbuckling style of sword play. But I would probably to add a few new ones. 

The first would be a Vengeful Blade technique, where the character gets 1 Extra Attack and does +1 Extra wounds when fulfilling a personal grudge. The other is a counter I would call Block and Slice to emulate something Cheng Pei-pei does frequently during the movie. This would be a counter that allows you to roll to block the attack, then make a sword strike against th target, but on a total success allows you to strike an additional foe in the area. 

The other ability I would want to capture is Jade Raksha's haunting song. I think for a game like Righteous Blood Ruthless Blades, I would have this be a signature ability that provides a flat +1d10 to the Talking and Analysis Phase anytime you sing before combat and imposes a fear effect with a successful command roll (on a success it might give a -1d10 penalty to Speed, and on a Total Success a speed penalty and a -1d10 to combat skill rolls). For Wandering Heroes of Ogre gate it would simply be a technique that creates the fear effect mentioned above.