So, I'm sort of new to Fenghsui and not so new to it. I bought the first edition when it was released and it's one of a handful of games that has been most influential on how I approach games. At the same time, I've never ran it.
Thinking of doing a grand action movie, pulp-ish, action adventure as a mini-campaign in one sitting. Imagine a slightly bloodier (for the enemies) Saturday Morning Serial. Anyway, this isn't around rules changes as I suspect that's more colour - but I do have one question.
A cursory glance suggests that archetypes can vary widely in terms of competence - is this correct? How have people handled it? Or does it pan out differently in play?
That hasn't been my experience, with a wide variety of archetypes in a bunch of different games, from my regular year-long campaign to many one-shots.
Most archetypes have a specific area where they shine. If the Everyday Hero is trying to sneak and shoot, he won't be so good. But if he's grabbing improvised weapons and attacking boldly, he'll do well.
The Ninja is a great assassin but also an excellent support character. The Killer and the Sword Master should focus on mooks first because they're strong against them. And so on.
The campaign you're describing is ideally suited to Feng Shui, that's the kind of over-the-top action it was designed for!
Okay, that sounds good.
How do you handle the difference in AV scores? Do you tend to pitch the worthwhile enemies to challenge those with a few points lower and let the higher ones be awesome? Do you try and section them to deal with specific opponents, etc?
The differences in attack values mostly balance out if they're using their special abilities. For example, if the Everyday Hero is using improvised weapons, he'll get the +1 to his attack, and he should use Fortune Dice generously because he's got a chance to get them back. When he misses, he gets a free Fortune Die because of a schtick. So those things balance out his lower-than-average Attack Value.
If you give the Spy a chance to meet the villains socially before they fight, he'll get a +1. The Ninja will get a bonus for having cased the location of the fight. And so on.
I definitely do try to pair the heroes up with villains appropriate to their style. Either that or I deliberately include enemies which counter their strengths to make it a challenge.
For example, for a long time our group had a Sword Master, so instead of 15 mooks I'd throw in 30 mooks. Often I'd keep the featured foes or the boss inaccessible until the second or third Sequence. The mooks would be protecting them, or they'd be far enough away they're out of reach and the heroes have to go through the mooks to get to them.
When we had the Archer in our party, I'd add a ranged foe who is shooting or doing chi blasts against the melee heroes from a vantage point. The melee guys can't get him, so only the Archer or the Spy can.
Also keep in mind secondary objectives which can crop up. A pillar is about to fall on a family, an innocent is caught in the crossfire, there's a car on fire which is about to explode. All those things can give the heroes options for stunts more than just "attack the bad guys". There's no harm in policing the battlefield and protecting the innocents while the Killer and the Maverick Cop shoot and punch the bad guys.
We have had some complaints about the different AV values in our game... mostly from one player who has basically concluded that he should only ever play Martial Artist characters since they hit the most and do the most damage. I try to explain that the game is not really about balance between characters so much as story driven action but... some players are simply never going to like a game where they feel weaker than other players.