Saturday, April 27, 2024


This is the eighth session of my Heavenly Fragrance Campaign, a living adventure prepared using tools and procedures discussed in the Wuxia Sandbox blog posts. This campaign is intended to play as a sandbox but with more dramatic elements. It is a two player campaign where run in what I call "Condor Heroes Mode", where characters begin with only one Kung Fu technique, their family background established and connected to the setting, and using a level advancement system based on encounters with higher level masters who train them. It also makes use of a campaign Shake-Up table, rolled once each session, to manage an unfolding background situation (see STATE OF THE MARTIAL WORLD). I will include footnotes to explain what procedures were invoked during play. The campaign is set in Fan Xu, largely using the Sons of Lady 87 book. 


Bao Long: An orphaned street urchin who was adopted by Lady Eighty-Seven's son, Guan Shisu after he came to the aid of Guan Shisu's daughter, Little Guan Hua. All he knows about his background is that his mother died when he was young. Bao Long has been taught some martial arts by Lady Eighty-Four, Yuhuan. Bao Long is a bit dim-witted but tough. 

Little Guan Hua: The daughter of Guan Shisu and the disciple of Guan Nuan. Little Guan Hua is cowardly and feeble, but intelligent.

Fu Yao: The newest member of the party. Not much is known about his past but he specializes in Qinggong. 


In Daoxu they went to the Ro-Fish Inn and seeing Saffron Tigress seated at a table motioned for her. She went upstairs and the players followed. Little Guan Hua explained that Saffron Tigress' account of things were verified by Iron God Meng, that Yun Wan was indeed a villain, and that they should all work together to defeat him. She also told Saffron Tigress that Iron God Meng was waiting outside the village hoping to meet with her. 

"If he helps us deal with Yun Wan, I will speak to him after the fight," Said Saffron Tigress. 

Little Guan Hua said she would inform Iron God Meng, and also asked about learning from the manual that Saffron Tigress possessed, the Gu Ruan Manual. After some discussion, Saffron Tigress said she would instruct Little Guan Hua. 

Nao Yingying; art by Jackie Musto

On their way to speak with Iron God Meng, the party were met by a man in the inn named Fu Yao who had heard about their growing enterprise and need for hired escorts. He offered his services. Little Guan Hua and Bao Long tried to estimate his talents and as they were doing so, Fu Yao impressed them with his ability to intuit their reactions*. Little Guan Hua agreed to his offer of 1000 spades a day, under the condition that he bath, use their bath beans regularly and agree to get new clothes that were more befitting of a member of the Heavenly Fragrance Association. 

They then went to Iron God Meng. Little Guan Hua conveyed Saffron Tigress' message to Iron God Meng, who agreed and said he would return to Tung-On, await a message from them, and help engineer a surprise attack on Yun Wan. 

On her back, Fu Yao climbed atop the inn and shouted down to Bao Long, "Let me give you a demonstration of my talents."

Understanding his meaning, Bao Long got into a fighting stance and awaited the inevitable leaping attack. 

Fu Yao leapt into the air as high as he could but stumbled and crashed into the road, visibly hurting himself**. Climbing back up he shouted "Another round!" and leapt high, this time succeeding and then rolling into a dive striking Bao Long with tremendous force. 

Bao Long signaled that he was impressed and they returned to Saffron Tigress, who gave Little Guan Hua the Gu Guan manual. 

"I will not learn the contents of this manual," She said. "But I understand its principles and can help guide you as you read it. I suggest beginning with the Ten Thousand Finger Strike Technique."

For the remainder of the week Little Guan Hua trained with the manual and Saffron Tigress until she had mastered the ability. At the end of the week they discussed their tactics for contending with Yun Wan. It was suggested that Saffron Tigress fake her death, agree to transport there in a coffin so they could present her to the monk, making it appear as though they killed her on his behalf. She agreed to this and so they set off, but first made a trek to Mai Cun.


Reaching their destination Bao Long and Little Guan Hua presented ten golden taels to Lady 87 and to Guan Guan. 

Lady 87 was pleased with pleased with their progress. When they informed of their intentions to attack Yun Wan, she lent them four of her men and wished them well. 

After checking on their business in town, and proceeding three metallic threaded robes for Fu Yao they went off again. However Fu Yao suggested that they seek out Bao Yingying, who lived in the same district that Wan Mei temple was in. Knowing that she was a celestial plume fiend, Little Guan Hua was reluctant but ultimately agreed, so they went first to Ping Liu Village and the Ping Liu Wine shop to recruit Nao Yingying. 


On the way Bao Long mentioned that they ought to be concerned about Southwind Manor, as it had been weeks since he had met with Razor Handed General. They looked into the matter and discovered that Southwind Manor was actively searching for them***. 

Leaving some of their men outside the entrance of the inn, the group went to Nao Yingying's room on the second floor and were greeted with a waft of celestial plume smoke when she opened the door. After some discussion, she agreed, and was quite satisfied when they promised a steady supply of plume. 

They heard one of the 87 Killers whistle from outside and ran to find the street obstructed by three remaining leaders of the Four Uglies: Gracious Toad, White Naga and Jade Ogre. Razor Handed General was also there. They had approached the inn from four different lanes in the street, blocking off escape from the inn. 

"We are here to speak with the Fragrant Something Something Society about Invincible Pipa and Lady Plum Blossom," Said Jade Ogre. 

"The Heavenly Fragrance Association has been maligned, Her fate was brought upon by herself," Said Little Guan Hua. 

"Then we must seek justice today, and extinguish the Fragrant Something Something Society" Said Jade Ogre. 

"Justice? You call this justice?" Said Little Guan Hua. "By our calculations you owe us millions of spades in damages. Your sect has been harassing us and threatening us, now demanding blood in the streets of a small village. Very well, we will settle this today, and if we defeat you, you shall be allowed to live so you can pay us the millions you owe."

"We offered you a fair hearing and you repeatedly refused," Said Jade Ogre. "But it is inconsequential and so is this sum of money. Should we be defeated we shall pay it, but you won't live to enjoy your wealth." 

As everyone got into an attacking stance Jade Ogre announced "Our quarrel is only with the Fragrant Something Something Society, the rest of your retinue is free to leave or fall back. We don't want to harm innocent people."

Little Guan Hua and Bao Long looked to the four men Lady 87 assigned. One of them nodded "We serve the Guan Family and fight against all your enemies!"

Nao Yingying began to back off as they looked her way. Little Guan Hua reminded her that she had agreed to join them and was being given a full supply of Celestial Plume, so she nodded and stood by them. 

Everyone fell into a defensive line and the two sides prepared to fight. 

*The player was examining the facial expressions of the other players for 'tells' and social cues. We had him roll an Empathy check against their Wits and he succeeded, in one instance getting a Total Success, so he was able to get a clearer read on them. 

**He attempted to launch an attack with Leap of the Swan but failed and fell, taking 2d10 Open Falling Damage. 

***This reminded me to make a Grudge Roll check, which I hadn't done, and the result was Southwind Manor (who occupy a number of lines in the grudge table: my current method is to add multiple entries when grudges are becoming more intense)

Friday, April 26, 2024


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.

Reign of Assassins is a 2010 film directed by Su Chao-pin and co-directed by John Woo. It stars Michelle Yeoh, Wang Xueqi, Barbie Shu, Jung Woo-sung, Shawn Yue, Leon Dai and Kelly Lin. This review contains some minor spoilers, but the major plot turns are avoided.  

There may not be a movie that engages me as perfectly as Reign of Assassins. It is filled with spectacular action, colorful martial heroes and twisted villains, touches on interesting spiritual themes and has a moving love story. The film operates on a number of different levels, while capturing all the things I love about wuxia. 

It centers around turmoil in the martial world that arises from a highly coveted artifact, the mummified remains of Bodhidharma. His body supposedly contains the secrets of his incredible martial arts, and the one who wields it can control the martial world. Beyond that, it has the power to heal, to regrow organs, to make the blind see and to bring life to dead limbs.

In this chaos is Dark Stone, an order of assassins led by a man named the Wheel King. He has three chief followers: Drizzle, Lei Bin, and The Magician. Knowing that half of the Bodhi's body is with Prime Minister Zhang, they attack his residence, killing him and his son, but Drizzle betrays the group by absconding with the body. On her way off, the nearly dead son of Prime Minister Zhang, Renfeng obstructs Drizzle's escape on a bridge but she stabs him one the heart-side of his chest and drops him into the river. 

At this moment, Drizzle encounters a monk named Wisdom and spends three months with him. He provokes her anger towards the end of their time together and they fight, during which he reveals key weaknesses in her water shedding sword style. In his final demonstration, she kills him, seemingly by accident and seemingly intentional on his part. 

This is where the movie really starts to crystalize for me. Drizzle seeks to escape the martial world and finds a doctor who can change her features, and then seeks quiet retirement. 

Dark Stone identifies a replacement for Drizzle in Turquoise Ye, a woman sentenced to death for murdering her fiancé and his family on the night of her wedding. Compared to Drizzle she is far more deranged. To call Turquoise psycho doesn't do her madness justice. She slips into Drizzle's role in the group well, becoming close with Wheel King, the group's leader, and harboring jealous resentment towards her predecessor. 

Living a peaceful life, Drizzle, now calling herself Zeng Jing, marries a courier named Ah-sheng but as one might expect their domestic joy is interrupted when Dark Stone Gang tracks her down. Wheel King tells her he will let her leave Dark Stone if she gives them the Bodhidarma and helps them steal the other half of the body (believed to be in the hands of a crippled official who wants it so he can walk again). 

From here it is difficult to describe the plot in detail without spoiling major elements of the story, but it reaches a satisfying conclusion, and along the way, there are great fight sequences and major surprises. The movie flows quite well from the opening exposition that sets the scene, the love story at the center and heist and battle for the mummified remains leading up to a final showdown with the leader of Dark Stone. 

There are so many things I like about Reign of Assassins. On my most recent viewing, one aspect that stood out was how well all the pieces are laid down in the story. With each revelation and twist, I felt I could look back at something one of the characters did or an ambiguous expression and feel like the film was shot in a highly consistent way. This matters in any movie but here it is paramount, as everything hinges on the character and their motivations. 

Perhaps what I like most is how emotionally satisfying the film is. It is moving and cathartic. But it is also balanced. Even though it has a romantic core, this is a very dark movie, with characters contending with one another in a merciless jianghu. The love story holds it together, but the love story itself is more about the spiritual progress of the characters. It is a well woven storyline, where the romantic heart of the movie is threaded through all the other elements. 

Reign of Assassins also works on a variety of levels. It can be enjoyed as a straight forward action film set in a  glorious martial world. But the spiritual themes and metaphors are obvious. This isn't a movie that makes its symbols difficult to decipher or discern, but you can find greater richness in them with each viewing. So it is a deep movie but not a pretentious one. 

And it does a good job of making one wonder how figurative or literal it is being. An example that leaps to mind is the final showdown with Wheel King. He is presented as the embodiment of the king of the tenth court of hell, determining the person's next rebirth. As he approaches Drizzle in a cemetery for their confrontation we hear him say "The 10th Yama Palace. The Wheel King lives alone in the 10th Yama Palace putting souls on trial and determining their life spans, diving the rich and poor and sending out souls for reincarnation." This is an amazing way to start a duel that has built from the beginning of the movie, it just fills the screen with drama. But it also makes the viewer wonder what is genuinely going on here. You begin to consider this might be the 10th court of Diyu. And there are more scenes with this kind of feel to them. 

Ultimately though it is a movie about rebirth, about Buddhist morality and people trying to find new lives after living ones of evil. They all want to escape, even their leader wants to escape. But every character makes sense, every character has something redeeming or understandable. Wheel King, who is the central villain of the film, his motives make sense as well. Again I don't want to spoil the story, the reasons why he wants the remains of Bodhidharma, are reasonable. 

The fights work great, and I think in particular the range of weaponry is quite nice. And each character is distinct so it is very easy to know who is who in any given battle (even people who show up for one minute to be impaled the next, you get a clear sense of their personality). The movie isn't one fight after the next, but there is no shortage of them. They are also very well spaced throughout the movie and there is usually a lot more to them than just trading blows. One thing that stands out is how well the movie leads into the swordplay. In one dramatic moment, a character patiently sharpens his blade on a whetstone and talks with the killers before attacking them. The martial heroes in this movie all face death and bloodshed with a stylistic edge.   

And I love the characters in Reign of Assassins. Each of the main figures in the film Drizzle, Ah-sheng, Wheel King, Lei Bin, Turquoise Ye and the Magician, they all bring interesting things to the table. They each stand out and have clear motivations. They're all eccentric in their own way, they are all part of the martial world, but stand apart from it. 

The performances are also very good here. Michelle Yeoh is great as Drizzle. I think her acting is one of the things that elevates the movie and makes so many of those crucial scenes have the emotional weight they need. Wang Xueqi plays wheel king perfectly. He is creepy and dangerous but there is real emotion in the character, and he is terrifying when he needs to be. Barbie Shu plays an incredible psycho, but even her character, crazed as she is, is driven by personality traits and motives that feel real. One of the more fun characters is the movie is The Magician played by Leon Dai. He brings real flair to some of the martial arts sequences by incorporating magic into his kung fu. And Lei Bin, played by Shawn Yue, has an obsession with noodles, and making the perfect noodles, that is infectious. And there are plenty of other characters on the fringes of the story too. In the end it creates a strong sense of a martial world that is lived in. 

Also the individual details of the world are great. There is an incredible bank robbery scene and they do a wonderful job of breathing life into an institution that the characters inhabit. Even the ground level stuff surrounding Drizzles attempt at domestic life creates a sense of place. 


Reign of Assassins is perfect fodder if you are looking for a heist style adventure or if you want an adventure centered around a contested object in the martial world. I drew heavily on the movie for an extended adventure in my Sons of Lady 87 campaigns. In this case, I liked the idea of the mummified remains, but went more supernatural and had them be the remaining flesh of Sun Mai after he had become an immortal. The mummy was like the petrified outer shell of the man that retained his memories but also all of his negative qualities. The adventure is called King of the Pure Ones and I provide notes on it in the Sons of Lady 87 Campaign Book, beginning on page 161. 

The other key idea I love from this movie that works at the table is having a sect leader teach his students martial arts with gaps so that he can easily defeat them if they ever turn against him. Mechanically this could be done a number of ways depending on the system. In Ogre Gate or RBRB, I think the best way is a counter that is specific to the style or kung fu technique. That way they may have a technique that is very good on its own, but becomes dangerous when used against a person who knows the counter. The other approach is to simply have literal gaps (i.e. they only know 4 out of 8 of the techniques). 

In terms of providing broad inspiration, Reign of Assassins provides a clear blueprint for filling your martial world with characters. And Dark Stone can serve as a good model for an organization, with the named members in the group all being clearly described. It is an approach I often take in my own campaigns, where the upper members of the sect are individually stated out, while the henchmen are grouped into single stat blocks. It also shows how dynamic an organization is. When Drizzle steals the body and leaves Dark Stone, they recruit her replacement. The person who takes her place has a personality of her own that changes the overall character of the group. 

Reign of Assassins is one of my most enthusiastic recommendations in the genre and something I especially suggest for anyone thinking of running a wuxia campaign. But it is also just a good film. Definitely check this one out if he haven't seen it before. 

Saturday, April 20, 2024


This is a sandbox campaign for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, operating in "Condor Heroes Mode". I used a lot of the procedures described in the wuxia sandbox posts. It is a campaign with three players. Before the campaign started we spent time establishing their family connections, rolling randomly for both their mothers and fathers (normally only one parent is randomly rolled, but in this case we wanted characters with potentially scandalous backgrounds). These characters each started play with just one Kung Fu Technique. 


XIANG GUIYING: The daughter of Jade Fist of Twin Fisted Eagle sect and Pale Fox, a notorious bandit. She is seeking pelts from Pearl Tigers. She is beautiful but wears a disguise to hide this from others. 

ZHENG BAO: Short and burly, he is the son of Zhang San of Bone Breaking Sect and of Reckless Storm. However San is married to Chen and has maintained the presence that Bao is Chen's son. Unfortunately due to crucial background information, Chen knows that Bao cannot be his son so is distant. Zheng Bao's uncle, Bone Breaker, is fond of him. He is seeking the Thousand Painful Deaths Flower to please his uncle. 

PAN JU (MOGHA): The son of the Witch of Zhaoze Zhou and Nergui Mogha, Pan Ju grew up in the Kushen Basin but has returned to the Banyan and Hai'an, where he knows his mother resides.   


With Zheng Bao gone among Heiping Sect, Pan Ju and Xiang Guiying headed on their own, north through the Banyan towards Kusha to see Ju's father. While moving through the forest they found themselves surrounded by four aggressive tigers. At that moment, Guiying saw a bald figure in white robes gazing at them from a distant hill. Leaping into action, she slashed at the tigers with her sword whipping strike, leaving them still on the ground but alive. 

From the hill, a burning ray of energy emanated from the figure and roasted Guying's jian. The sword turned bright like the sun, then shattered into black fragments. Guiying vanished and appeared upon the hill, using her Qinggong. 

In that instant, she recognized the power of the figure before her. The man was tall, and strange, and not at all afraid. She also remembered that Pan Ju lacked the lightness Kung Fu to reach the hill so fast, that she was here alone with this master, and would be for several minutes. 

"You two should both surrender to me, I want to be merciful and take you alive."

"What is it we have done to you sir?"

"I have a contract for your lives. Your lives belong to me, so follow and I won't kill you."

"How much have you been paid for this contract?"

"Eight Silver Taels."

"I am wealthy, I will pay you 17 silver taels to forget the contract and tell me the identity of the person who hired you."

He laughed, explained his name was Golden Ox, then took the money and said "Madame Hamaya, of the Fragrant Petal, hired me." 

They agreed to meet Golden Ox for wine in the future and departed. 

While traveling, Pan Ju continued to train his martial arts, while Guiying tried to instruct her monkey, Peach, to use kung fu*. On the 23rd day of the Butterfly Moon, they reached Zhaoze Lake, a place Pan Ju knew to be near the headquarters of Zhaoze Sect.

"We should pay our respects to Shan Lushan while we are here," He said and Guiying agreed. Knowing there were many pearl tigers in the area, Pan Ju sculpted one from nearby wood and produced a beautiful figure, expressing the territorial nature of the creatures very well**. 

They were brought into Zhaoze Sect by Little Venom, the daughter of Big Venom and given an audience with Shan Lushan. They smelled the acrid scent of poison as she walked ahead. 

"This tiger is marvelous," he said. "Most artfully sculpted and captures its territorial nature perfectly. What can I offer in return?"

Without pause Pan Ju asked to learn some of Lushan's martial arts, having heard he was extremely talented. 

This was the first irritation Shan Lushan felt toward the party. He could not refuse the offer, so he agreed. 

"I will teach you a defense. Please step over here and strike me full force, don't hold back!"

Pan Ju struck the master with The Many Indignities of Yellow Mantis, and it landed***. 

This was the second irritation Lushan felt towards the party. 

"Please," Said Lushan calmly, "Strike me again."

This time the hit was intercepted by a fist to the neck, as Shan Lushan instructed Pan Ju with the full cruelty and brutality of the Hidden Fist of Yanshi.

They spent the next week training and ended it with a great feast of tiger meat to please Shan Lushan. 

When they had arrived, Pan Ju announced himself as a master chef. So Shan Lushan proposed that before preparing the tiger meat, he play his flute for the party, to inspire Pan Ju's cooking. This way the meal would be a blend of their talents. 

Lushan withdrew his flute and played, stuttering through an aimless series of sour and painful notes****. 

This was the third time the party irritated Shan Lushan. 

Acting as if nothing unusual had occurred, he told Pan Ju to take his inspiration and make a fine meal. When the tiger meat was finished, Shan Lushan tasted the herbal concoction, which brought out the full flavor of the tiger. 

"This is one of the finest things I have tasted," He said*****

This was the final time Shan Lushan was irritated by the party. 

When the meal was done he escorted them to the gate and wished them a safe journey. They made their way north once again but noticed someone following them through the trees. They stopped and called out. 

In response a slew of needles flew at the them through the air. Guiying leapt from their path but Pan Ju was struck and felt poison course through his veins. 

The figure ran away but Pan Ju leapt at her with Blade of the Dancing Fox and cut the poisoner down. It was Little Venom.

The attack did not kill her, so Guiying bound the disciple of Zhaoze and spoke with her. 

"We do not wish to have any quarrel with your master, why would you attack us?"

"To stop you from spreading lies about Shan Lushan******"

"We have no wish to do so. These lips do not gossip, your master can rest assured we will not say anything about our meeting. But for now, you must give us the antidote. Give us these and we promise to never sully Shan Lushan's reputation."

She gave them three pills, telling Pan Ju to take one each day. 

Pan Ju cut off both her arms. 

Then Pan Ju revived her with his Plum Blossom Palm.  

Bleeding and screaming she let out a litany of diatribes against her assailant, and Guiying watched in stunned silence. 

"I do not abide poisoners. But I spare your life on account of Guiying. May I suggest you slither back to Zhaoze Palace and become proficient in kicking."

Little Venom stood and ran back to Zhaoze, crying and shouting outbursts of fury at Pan Ju. 

They continued and passed by a group of Dehuan Priests as they reached the Jian Shu forest. The priests explained they were on the way to Heiping sect, and the party informed them their friend, a disciple of Jade Swallow was there. Impressed the priests promised to give regards to their companion upon arrival. 

A couple of days later, the two finally reached Kusha. 

*This worked and Peach now has a Qi rank and knows Spear of the Infinite Emperor 

**The player rolled a 10 on his skill roll

***He rolled a 9, while Shan Lushan rolled a 3 on his counter. 

****Shan Lushan rolled a 2 on his Talent (Flute) skill

***** The player rolled a 9 on his Talent (Cooking) skill 

******Shan Lushan had been embarrassed before the party by failing at the two things his sect was known for: kung fu and the arts. She was concerned they were going to tell the rest of the martial world about his poor performances 

Saturday, April 13, 2024


This is a sandbox campaign for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, operating in "Condor Heroes Mode". I used a lot of the procedures described in the wuxia sandbox posts. It is a campaign with three players. Before the campaign started we spent time establishing their family connections, rolling randomly for both their mothers and fathers (normally only one parent is randomly rolled, but in this case we wanted characters with potentially scandalous backgrounds). These characters each started play with just one Kung Fu Technique. 


XIANG GUIYING: The daughter of Jade Fist of Twin Fisted Eagle sect and Pale Fox, a notorious bandit. She is seeking pelts from Pearl Tigers. She is beautiful but wears a disguise to hide this from others. 

ZHENG BAO: Short and burly, he is the son of Zhang San of Bone Breaking Sect and of Reckless Storm. However San is married to Chen and has maintained the presence that Bao is Chen's son. Unfortunately due to crucial background information, Chen knows that Bao cannot be his son so is distant. Zheng Bao's uncle, Bone Breaker, is fond of him. He is seeking the Thousand Painful Deaths Flower to please his uncle. 

PAN JU (MOGHA): The son of the Witch of Zhaoze Zhou and Nergui Mogha, Pan Ju grew up in the Kushen Basin but has returned to the Banyan and Hai'an, where he knows his mother resides.   


Guiying fashioned a sheath for the Wind Sabre to disguise it during their journey, hoping it would not stand out among Pan Ju's other weapons. Once that was done they set off and the first day of travel was uneventful*. On the 20th of the Butterfly Moon they were accosted by two women, identical twins dressed in nondescript brown robes and wielding a variety of weapons. One woman, Ying, stepped out from behind them, while the other, Rong, approached directly from the front. 

"Draw your weapons," They said in unison. 

"Who are you?" Zheng Bao demanded.

"We are the Double Killing Squall and today is your day alive" they continued to speak in unison. 

"Why do you want to kill us?" Asked Zheng Bao. 

"We were assigned a contract."

Guiying asked "Who assigned this contract, was it Lady Yang?"

"We are not at liberty to discuss who, and we have never heard of a Lady Yang" Said Rong, the twin who stood before them. 

Zheng Bao pressed for more information, "Well, how much are they paying you?"

"We cannot share that information with you either," Said Rong. 

With a shrill and irritated voice Ying, the sister who stood behind them, shouted "You are not taking your last day on earth very seriously!" 

Bao immediately attacked her, but his strikes were fruitless against the woman's Iron Body defense. 

Pan Ju attacked the other sister and his strikes also slammed with futility against her impervious flesh. 

Guiying then sent a fierce sword whipping strike at both ladies, only to also have her attacks deflected by their impenetrable iron body. 

Ying threw 12 daggers in formations resembling flowers at the party, cutting both Zheng Bao and Pan Ju. Guiying was able to whirling dodge out of the way of the deadly blades. 

While the party was already seriously injured, Rong sliced her sword across the air sending a shimmering blue attack at the entire party, which sent them back 60 feet. 

At this moment 7 figures, one wearing a mask, leapt from the trees and formed a line between the party and the twins. The one wearing a mask, who appeared to be a Flying Phantom of Mystic Sword Sect, shouted at the party "Run away, we will hold them for you!"

Zheng Bao stood and shouted "No my friends, we will fight along side you. We are not cowards!"

"We have orders," Shouted the masked man. 

Zheng Bao and the rest of the party refused to flee and joined in the fight. Zheng Bao once again felt his spear deflect uselessly against Ying's Iron Body. Pan Ju, however, sent a slew of daggers at both twins and managed to hurt them. 

The Mystic Sword members were mostly junior disciples, save the Flying Phantom. One of them succeeded in grappling with Ying, who put her palm to the junior disciple's face, which sizzled leaving a blackened print as he fell dead in the woods.

The Flying Phantom, Guo, sliced Ying in retaliation. 

Pan Ju once again unleashed Storming Daggers but the twins both deflected with their Iron Body defenses. 

Ying used Nock of Countless Stars, sending arrow after arrow into Ju and Bao. Her arrows also took down another Mystic Sword Disciple.  

Soon the tide started to turn against the twins, and Rong attempted to flee to the north east. Pan Ju leapt forward and cut down Ying with Blade of the Dancing Fox. Guiying intercepted her with a great stride. Rong then unleashed a flurry of daggers on Guiying, but she was able to whirl away from the attack. 

In a blaze of steel, Guiying dropped Rong with her Sword Whipping Strike. 

When the battle was over, Guo explained that Lady White Blade had commanded them to follow and protect the disciple of Jade Swallow**, as a show of respect to the great hero. He told them he would leave the remaining junior disciples with the party but go to get reinforcements. 

The party found 8 Golden Taels on the twin's bodies, which they split between themselves and Guo. 

They spent the next day resting and meditating. Before they left, a group of Heiping Nuns passed by. 

Zheng Bao introduced himself and displayed his Jade Swallow medallion, explaining his teacher had asked him to go to Heiping to train with Queen Lu Zhi. They agreed to escort him to Heiping sect and introduce him to their leader. Because Pan Ju was under strict command from his mother not to bring the Wind Sabre to Heiping, he and Guiying declined to joint them, but would instead go north and meet up with Zheng Bao after. 

*Here the players failed an important Detect roll to see if they had been followed

**This is Zheng Bao 

Thursday, April 11, 2024


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. This series discusses a wide variety of methods and procedures I use. These should be regarded as tools, not as required steps in building a sandbox. I may use all, some or none for any given campaign. Every time I run a campaign, I take a slightly different approach based on what the needs of the current campaign are. 

The purpose of this blog series isn't to set up proscriptive procedures. It is simply to give people a better idea how I run my wuxia sandbox campaigns. 

My view on wuxia in RPGs is every GM has their own take on the genre, their own sensibilities about how to best bring it to the gaming table. This is true of any genre, but with wuxia it seems especially the case. Please do not take my advice as definitive in any way. Watch and read wuxia for yourself and form your own conclusions. What works for one GM, will completely miss the point for another. 


Something I have been making use of in my campaigns recently are Fiasco Tables. These can also be thought of as event or hanging complication tables. They are an expansion on an idea I started adding to my grudge tables around the time of my Sons of Lady 87 Campaign. These can still be used with the Grudge Tables, but because those rely on a 2d10 bell curve, they don't quite get the effect I am going for in play as much as a dedicated 1d10 table in this particular campaign. In Ogre Gate I use a combination of 1d10 tables, 2d10 tables and d100 tables depending on what I am trying to achieve. Here the greater randomness is more the aim. 

A fiasco table is simply a way to better manage things in a living adventure that can fall by the wayside. I talk more about Living Adventures HERE, but the basic idea is that NPCs and the world are reactive to the party, they are just as real as the PCs themselves and should be run like PCs. And for the most part, you don't need random tables for that. If the Gentle Demon of The Valley has taken an interest in the party, you can decide what he tries to do about it and how. He is a piece you control on the board. But sometimes the PCs do a bunch of things that warrant multiple parties becoming involved, and this is a simple way to track those things. When situations grow complex or shake up the martial world, I like shifting to Fiasco tables. It also boosts the excitement of a campaign by regularly rolling on the table to see when they come up. 

Art by Jackie Musto 
As I said, you can simply put this stuff on a grudge table if you want, that way, Gentle Demon's involvement with the party might come up every so often on the grudge table as a reminder to the GM, and any other lingering complications would come up. Here I am doing a table dedicated to each complication. You can have one of these at any given time, or you can have many. You can roll once a week (which is the default I use) or roll more or less frequently. You can only roll on them as a consequence of a failed survival roll if you prefer. 

These tables are somewhat specific. This one is for my campaign where the players have gotten their hands on the wind sabre of Sunan. This helps me to randomly determine who gets involved and how. Some results are parties already involved. Heiping Sect wants the sabre because it was stolen from them by the Witch of Zhaoze Zhou. Other results I will need to creatively interpret. The way I use tables is I look at the result and I try to reason through them and figure out a good explanation. Here I may have to puzzle through why sects who are opposed to one another are working together to get the wind sabre, or why the PCs enemies suddenly want to protect them. I did this intentionally to help produce more twists and turns to the game. 

I view tables as creative prompts. And I think the art is in taking the results and arriving at something that is both interesting and makes sense. So I sometimes like results on tables that force me to square ideas. This table is essentially being used to help determine if anyone comes after the party to get the Wind Sabre for themselves. But there are a lot of possibilities that could arise depending on what combinations the dice yield. 

I also realized I needed a general table on sects for this to work. Normally I rely on more local sect tables. But I put together a broad one that includes all the sects from the major books (note it doesn't include groups from some of the supplements yet, just Ogre Gate Inn, the Core Book, Sons of Lady 87 and War of Swarming Beggars). I may add more to this later. 

If you look at the sect table, you will see it is a bit messy in appearance. This is also intentional. I wanted to show my thought process in putting the table together. I made a master list of the sects and then as I came to each one, I tried to decide if it was more likely or less likely to come up and decided the range of between 1-3 based on that. I may refine this further, as these were snap judgements. 

Saturday, April 6, 2024


This is a sandbox campaign for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, operating in "Condor Heroes Mode". I used a lot of the procedures described in the wuxia sandbox posts. It is a campaign with three players. Before the campaign started we spent time establishing their family connections, rolling randomly for both their mothers and fathers (normally only one parent is randomly rolled, but in this case we wanted characters with potentially scandalous backgrounds). These characters each started play with just one Kung Fu Technique. 


XIANG GUIYING: The daughter of Jade Fist of Twin Fisted Eagle sect and Pale Fox, a notorious bandit. She is seeking pelts from Pearl Tigers. She is beautiful but wears a disguise to hide this from others. 

ZHENG BAO: Short and burly, he is the son of Zhang San of Bone Breaking Sect and of Reckless Storm. However San is married to Chen and has maintained the presence that Bao is Chen's son. Unfortunately due to crucial background information, Chen knows that Bao cannot be his son so is distant. Zheng Bao's uncle, Bone Breaker, is fond of him. He is seeking the Thousand Painful Deaths Flower to please his uncle. 

PAN JU (MOGHA): The son of the Witch of Zhaoze Zhou and Nergui Mogha, Pan Ju grew up in the Kushen Basin but has returned to the Banyan and Hai'an, where he knows his mother resides.   


Guiying returned to the Bai Chuan Inn. Jade Swallow planned to go to Dee and told Zheng Bao to meet her there when he found the Thousand Painful Death's flower, but the party was too weak to confront the Sandstone Nun. After some discussion, Jade Swallow suggested that Guiying, Bao and Ju travel to Heiping Sect and seek instruction from Queen Lu Zhi. Knowing his mother lived nearby, Pan Ju formulated a plan to obtain the Wind Sabre of Sunan along the way. 

Li Sou Chai, art by Jackie Musto
They set out for a long journey as the Banyan was filled with dense forest and difficult terrain. Leaving on the 12th day of the Dragon Moon, they reached the Swamp of Zhoaze Zhu where Pan Ju's mother resided, on the 4th day of the Butterfly Moon the following month. Along the way they had many run-ins with bandits, sects and got lost*. 

On the road from Bai Chuan Inn, they encountered the Silent Erhu society once again. As they were familiar with one another, they exchanged news. The Silent Erhu told them that Perfect Heaven Lineage sect has been warning people about the party, saying they shouldn't be trusted because they seek the Thousand Painful Deaths Flower. They also told them that the group was allied with a powerful nun who resided on Mount Hai'an. 

The next day they passed timber merchants, and Guiying noticed their banner resembled the fish motif on the letter from Lady Yang to the Three Elephants. When they asked where the timber was going the merchants became evasive and simply told them it had a destination. Guiying expressed interest in buying wood for a spear but they told her it was pine for ship building and would be of no use to her. 

On the first leg of their journey into the Banyan proper they encountered two members of Golden Dragon Sect who were impressed to learn that Zheng Bao was Jade Swallow's disciple. One of the Golden Dragon Disciples said his name was Shen. They told him that Golden Dragon Sect would welcome them if they ventured north and warned them to be wary of Mystic Sword Sect who inhabited the area around Jin Yu. 

They took the warning to heart but became lost and after a couple of days of wandering stumbled into Jin Yu, where they went to the Merciful Phoenix Tavern. There they saw numerous Mystic Sword Sect disciples dressed in white and  gathered at a table. One of their members approached as the party ate and introduced herself as Ping. She asked who they were and what they were doing in the region. 

Zheng Bao introduced himself and said he was the nephew of Bone Breaker and the disciple of Jade Swallow. 

"This does not make sense, Jade Swallow is a great hero and would never associate with anyone connected to Bone Breaker sect."

Zheng Bao displayed his talisman, and Ping's eyes widened. 

"So you are her disciple," She said. "But why are you protecting your master after she was attacked in Dee?"

"I have not heard this news. My master was ambushed?"

Ping explained that in Dee, she was indeed ambushed but survived. Word had reached them and they were heading there to assist Jade Swallow, as Lady White Blade admired her greatly. 

Zheng Bao thanked her for the information and said he was on an important mission given to him by Jade Swallow and that he had to complete it before returning to her. He gave ping funds for the journey and asked her to tell Jade Swallow that "She will overcome these tribulations and and when her disciple gains strength he will join with her in Dee". 

Ping gave them a sword and told them to display it as they passed by Mystic Sword Temple to avoid being harmed. 

They continued on the next day and on the 19th of the Dragon Moon, they passed through a swamp where two tigers pounced on them from the scrub trees. Pan Ju killed one with kick of the golden elephant and Guiying broke the other's legs before finishing it off. Pan Ju gathered the meat and Guiying prepared the hide. Both Guiying and Zheng Bao ate one of the tiger hearts raw, but Bao became very sick for the next day and a half**. 

As they traveled they encountered more tigers, but the beasts avoided them this time. Some days later they were confronted by Zun Tribesmen. The leader appeared to be a ritual master and was dressed in human bones. He demanded tribute in blood for Li Sou Chao. Pan Ju, recognizing that Li Sou Chao was the Witch of Zhaoze Zhou, his mother, advised them to pay the toll. They gave the men the other tiger heart and the Zhun were pleased, disappearing into the forest. 

On the 24th day of the Dragon Moon they were surrounded by bandits who demanded all their wealth. Seeing how weak the men appeared, Guiying called them amateurs and lashed all with her Sword Whipping strike, leaving the men bleeding on the ground. Zheng Bao took the bandit's money and threw it in the mud in disgust. 

The next day another group of bandits flanked them, but seemed more bold. They too demanded the party's valuables but Zheng Bao said "A days travel east, are the bodies of the men who tried to rob us like yourselves. I suggest you depart before you face the same fate."

Sensing his power, the bandits withdrew. 

They reached the Swamp of Zhaoze Zhou and assembled a raft. Along the way they saw a woman dressed in green, who seemed to be a nun. She looked battered and said her name was Lin. She asked them what their business was with the witch. Pan Ju said they were from Hai'an and heard rumors about her, that he needed to speak with her on a personal matter. The party offered to have Zheng Bao tend her wounds, but she said it would be inappropriate for a man to touch her and left. 

On the fourth day of the Butterfly Moon they passed by more nuns, dressed similar to tin. The nuns asked if they had seen a woman wearing green and a conical hat, pass by. The party learned the group had a battle, with whom they could not say, and had lost their sister, who was injured, in the fray. 

Zheng Bao flashed his talisman and the women offered more information saying they had gone to the fight the Witch of Zhaoze Zhou to take the Wind Sabre of Sunan, but were defeated. 

Later that day, the party found Li Sou Chao's hut and lashed their raft onto the wooden platforms that formed a kind of walkway in the swamps. Bodies of nuns in green robes were strewn across the platforms. Pan Ju greeted his mother and began cooking tiger meat for her. 

"I need the wind sabre Mother," Said Pan Ju.

"What makes you worthy of the wind saber? You have no achievements."

"We have to confront the Sandstone Nun and she is too powerful for us."

"I will give it to you temporarily, so you can deal with this nun, but you must avoid Heiping Sect at all cost."

"Why must I avoid Heiping Sect mother?"

"Because I stole the Wind Sabre from them and killed their leader, Lu Feiyan," She said. 

Later that night, she gave the wind saber to Pan Ju. Then she trained him over the course of two weeks, teaching him her storming needles technique. Pan Ju also used the time to practice the Wind Sabre.  

*It is a nearly month-long trek to Heiping Sect from where they started, and the TNs for Survival Rolls in the Banyan are high, as the Banyan. And so they had numerous encounters. However most were either social in nature or not a huge threat, merely a delay. 

**This was a simple Endurance Roll to avoid getting sick. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024


In Return of Condor Heroes, Yang Guo, after losing his arm is aided by a giant bird called Divine Eagle. Companion of the great martial artist, Dugu Qiubai, Divine Eagle helps Yang Guo master his heavy sword technique. This allows Yang Guo not only to overcome his loss of an arm, but to reach the pinnacle of martial arts swordplay. 
art by Jackie Musto 

Animal companions are common in RPGs and work well in a wuxia campaign. In my Sons of Lady 87 Campaign book I tried to emulate the Divine Eagle with a master who had bear followers, Bear Saint Xiong Sheng*. Recently I had a player in one of my groups gain a monkey companion and attempt to train it in martial arts. Today I want to reverse engineer an animal follower system from the Master Xiong character, and adjust it to go for a more gonzo approach (the bear followers of Xiong Sheng are more in line with Divine Eagle, but I am aiming for something even slightly more over the top here). 

In the sons of Lady 87 book, Master Xiong Shen's bears are moon bears of high intelligence who have imitated his martial arts to a degree and can help transmit his knowledge by demonstrating it. They aren't ranked and they don't have a suite of techniques, just a general ability to imitate him. This entry is the key to how they work: 

Master Xiong Shen is Qi Rank 7, a Profound Master. He also has the Talent (Bear Handling) skill and Creatures (Animals) skill. In total he has 9 Bear Disciples. That is roughly 1 per Qi rank, with a couple that need explaining. I didn't have a formal system in mind for this because he was an NPC. But if I were to open this up to players, the way I would do it is allow players with the relevant animal handling skill to gain one 1-2 animal disciples per Qi rank by making a Talent (Handling) roll**. On a Success they gain 1 Disciple and cannot gain another until the next Qi rank. On a Total Success, provided they are trying to train multiple creatures, they gain 2. 

The abilities of the followers would be somewhat up to the GM. Generally they should have one Defense and one Skill above the norm for animals of their type. They also gain +1 Extra wounds. 

In addition they get the emulation ability which functions as follows: They can mimic the characters kung fu movements, allowing them to teach the techniques to others, and giving their attacks +1 Extra wounds if they are on the smaller side, and +2 Extra wounds if they are on the larger side (so a Tiger might do 2 Extra Wounds but a snake would only do +1 Extra Wound). Alternatively this bonus could be keyed to the player level, not their animals size. If done this way, simply give a +1 extra wound bonus for animal disciples of martial heroes, +2 extra wound bonus for animal disciples of profound masters and +3 extra wound bonus for animals disciples of immortal characters. 

However for a Gonzo campaign, I am thinking of opening up Qi levels to the animals. In this case, they retain the teaching through mimicry ability above, without the extra wounds bonus on their attack rolls. In place of Extra Wounds, they level like normal characters with some caveats. Each level they get the normal increase to Max Wounds, but only gain bonuses to Defenses every other level. In addition they can take only 1 Kung Fu technique learned from their master per Qi rank. In terms of advancement, I am still not sure what the best approach is for spacing out their levels. I was thinking of a flat 1 rank per year, but I may simply key it to the PC's levels in some way. 

*This character has a wide variety of names he goes by 
**They would need the relevant handling subskill: this is open and fairly infinite; you can take it in virtually any animal