Campaign off to a great start

First session of Feng Shui 2 went well! Started with basically the intro scenario from the rulebook because I wanted to make sure I had a good feel on fight dynamics before I start tweaking things.

Everyone had a ton of fun and we were all impressed at how easily even a giant 25-character fight just zipped right along. The game engine is robust, elegant, and mostly intuitive. (I will also take a bit of the credit for it running so well, because I did a lot of custom-tuning of the Roll20 character sheet before the first session so that die rolls were automated and included reminders of relevant schticks.)

The 5 PCs we've got are a ton of fun:

  • Xiong Weisheng is a Transformed Dragon, whose parents are big-deal badguys (probably Ascended) with their fingers in everything.
  • Ruby Chase is a Driver with a criminal past she's trying to leave behind her.
  • Myrtle Haney is a Drifter from 1850 - she's an actual Old West gunslinger type, trying to find her father or the gang of black hats who might have done him in.
  • Thiegaro is a very fishy Supernatural Creature. Myrtle found him in her travels, and is the only person so far who can translate his fishy gurgles. Thiegaro is basically the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but with the personality and conversation skills of Chewbacca.
  • Benjamin Dixon is a Ghost of a former policeman. 90% John McClane, 10% Kevin from Home Alone. He died in the famous Christmas Massacre in 1987, and was just set free when the city finally bought and developed the cursed property and turned into the new community center. Which then got attacked by terrorists within minutes.

We swapped out a few Schticks and Skills that didn't match with character concepts:

Thiegaro being able to become a human seemed to go against the intended roleplaying challenge of "Chewbacca from the Black Lagoon":

  • so we swapped out "Transformation I" for "Flashback From The Hell of Knives". Meaning he can't turn into a human or talk clearly, but he's very loyal and will mess you up if you hurt one of his friends.

Benjamin being a Ghost Cop meant the default Ghost template had a few things that didn't really work with his character concept:

  • We swapped out the "Love Potion" power, in favor of the Sorcery Schtick "Exemplary Prostrations". Basically, he can flash his spectral badge, and any cops, paramedics, etc who see it forget he's a ghost and accept him as a fellow first responder for a few hours. Really helped when the HKPD arrived near the end of the opening fight.
  • We swapped out the skill "Seduction" in favor of "Police"
  • We swapped out the skill "Info: Musicianship" a replaced it with "Info: Architecture".

When we were trying to decide why the cowgirl Drifter could understand the fishman, somebody said "what if it's like Cowboys vs Aliens, and you have some weird device on your arm that's translating for you". We realized that also solved the "we're in Hong Kong and your cowboy probably doesn't speak Chinese" problem as well, so we went with it. I'm probably going to say it has a built-in J-Meter as well, when we get to the Netherworld.

Like I said, everything went great, much fun was had, and we will be playing again in two weeks. Currently my only concern about the game has to do with Advancement. There are relatively few Creature Schticks, and two of our PCs (the fishman and the ghost) both have access to that list. If the Ghost leans into Sorcery a lot that won't be a problem, but if not, I may have to put some extra options on the Creature's list so that they don't end up too much alike after 10 or 20 sessions of play.


Sounds like you're players have heaped a bounty of plot opportunities upon you.

As far as language is concerned, it's certainly mentioned in the 1st edition rule book, this is a Hong-Kong action film: everyone speaks Cantonese. Unless it's important that they don't for comic relief. And they can speak it really badly, also for comic relief.

A J-meter is less important in the Netherworld than it is anywhere else. The Netherworld will never shut so you can't get stuck in it, unlike a juncture. The primary junctures are very stable so they aren't a practical concern but pop-up junctures can remain open for as little as a couple of hours. Maybe even minutes.

Given that your Drifter is from the historical juncture that means they have already travelled through the Netherworld, maybe met some of its inhabitants. Maybe pissed off some of its inhabitants. It also means they are the only PC immun to critical shifts, for the moment. I wouldn't rush to get everyone into the Netherworld. If the Creature has also been in the Netherworld then they too would be immune to shifts.

If you can work out a way of doing it which doesn't disenfranchise your players having the whole of reality change under them and the Drifter being the only one who knows anything has changed could be cool. A lot of work mind you, the other PCs would probably have never met the Drifter so there would have to be the "But I know you guys..." scene. The reason for the shift would obviously be in the past so a trip through the Netherworld would be needed at that point. Then when the contemporary juncture is returned to its original state everyone remembers the friends and family they knew from the shifted juncture, not the ones they originally had and now have again. It's complicated and hard to get right as it can mess with melodramatic plot hooks but potentially a lot of fun.

I wouldn't worry about advancement, FS2 is not that kind of game. There is advancement but it is minor and happens rarely. The player character are already action heroes, they don't really need to get much more action-hero-ey. They can only advance when they attune to a Feng Shui site and that isn't a common occurrence.

If they end up attuning to a load then those sites will become a big target to every other faction in the secret war who will devote considerable time and resources to neutralising them. Whole adventures can be built around defending the block of flats (and Feng Shui site) they live in from civil servants sent by the Ascended, street toughs sent by the Hand and crazed dessert punks armed with RPG-7s sent by the NSA.

Maybe they wake up one morning to find that a co-ordinated attack has taken out all but one of their sites. Be careful with this, you don't want to hose the players. It has to be temporary and a ripping adventure to re-instate them.

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I've created an archetype template for a Ghost Cop.

Ghost Cop

by Rolfe Bergstrom

“See you on the other side, scumbag…” {BLAM}

Juncture: Any.
Wealth: Poor.
Marks of Death [O][O][O][O][O][O]

Attack Attack Defense Toughness Fortune Speed
(Sorcery) (Guns) --- --- (Magic) ---
13† 13 12 6 8 7

† CREATURE POWERS NOTE: Your base value for Creature Powers checks is 14.


Core Schtick: Hovering Presence
You make boosts with a shot cost of 2.

Creature Schtick: Insubstantial
Pass through solid matter by checking your Creature Power against a Difficulty of 1 per inch of material you are moving through. The player specifies two forms of matter the character cannot pass through; the Game Master picks a third. Note that this power does not make you immune to damage.

Creature Schtick: Flight
Fly through the air, moving 3 meters per shot.

Creature Schtick: Damage Immunity ( Bullets )
You take no damage from Guns attacks unless shot by magic or silver bullets.

Sorcery Schtick: Exemplary Prostrations
Specialty: Influence
Spend 1 Magic to seem trustworthy to all authority figures present in the current scene. Lasts until the end of the adventure—or until you actively violate their trust, whichever comes first.
[Basically, they can flash their spectral badge, and any cops, paramedics, etc. who see it forget they're a ghost and accept them as a fellow first responder.]

Sorcery Schtick: Chi Blast
Specialty: Blast
To Hit: Attack Value (Sorcery). Damage: 9.
As a standard 3-shot action, direct a ranged attack of raw magical energy at a combatant of your choice.
[The character has a “ghost gun” that fires bolts of Chi energy instead of bullets.]


Traditional Healing Only
The Medicine skill only heals you if the practitioner was trained in the Ancient juncture. They can still receive the Sorcery Schtick: Heal or the Fu Power: Healing Chi .

Police 13
Info: (Any) 13

When you gain an Advancement, you may select from the following options:

Add 1 Sorcery Schtick from any of these specialties: Blast, Divination, Movement, Summoning.

  • The character uses the Divination power Ghost Sense differently than mortals. They can perceive other ghosts, but most of them aren’t as high-functioning as them. It requires a use of Ghost Sense to force the target out of their obsessive repetitive actions and communicate with the character.

Add any 1 of the following Creature Powers ( provided you have its prerequisite, if any ): Arcane Battery, Blood Drain, Conditional Escalation, Death Resistance I-III, Foul Spew, Goldenheart Monster , Inevitable Comeback, Memory Drain, Mimicry, Night Dweller, Regeneration I-IV, Transformation I-II.

  • Goldenheart Monster is the same Power as Conditional Escalation. It has been eliminated from the rules but not the Archetypes.

Add any 1 of the following Gun Schticks ( provided you have its prerequisite, if any ): Bag Full Of Guns I-IV, Bank Shot, Battle Scavenge I-III, Blam Blam Epigram, Both Guns Blazing I-V, Carnival of Carnage I-IV, Click! Click! Toss I-III, Covering Fire, Disarming Shot, Fast Draw I-IV, For The Squad!, Hair-Trigger Neck Hairs, Lightning Reload I-IV, Lone Wolf, Scattering Fire, Stop Right There!, Take The Shot, The Way The Wind Blows.

  • The Gun Backup Attack Value was chosen because all Cop archetypes use Guns skill.
  • The healing Gun Schticks ( Bloody But Unbowed , Flesh Wound , Shake It Off ) have been taken out to balance out Damage Immunity: Bullets . If your gametesting finds they should be restored, then go for it.

Add a skill you do not have from this list (at a rating of 9): Deceit, Driving, Fix-It, Info (Any), Intimidation, Intrusion, Leadership.

Increase a skill level...

  • Less than 12: Increase to 12.
  • 12 or Greater: Increase +1 level.

Here's my take on Info (Architecture)

Info ( Architecture ):
Physical Ability : The character knows how to act and talk like an architect or a member of an allied business or trade (see contacts). You understand the flow of a building and can figure out where its core services (power plant, environmental controls, elevator rooms, etc.) are. You also know how to traverse the inside of a building through the air ducts, elevator shafts and steam tunnels. It can also help figure out how best to demolish or collapse a building or take out a building system with the least amount of explosives at pressure points.
Knowledge : You know where to find information on a target building (blueprints, permits, building inspection reports, citations, etc.). You also know how to read blueprints and diagrams and can make or copy them.
Contacts : You know property managers, real estate brokers, project managers, architects, draftsmen, contractors, tradespeople, and inspectors.

It's kind of the "John McClane in Die Hard 1" skill with some related fluff.

I guess I was a little imprecise. Allow me to clarify:

It was the Player who chose to have the character only be able to talk to one of them. She started with "I want to play Chewbacca" and ended up at the "Creature From The Black Lagoon, but with Chewbacca's personality and conversation skills". If the conversational hurdles weren't a challenge the Player was intentionally seeking, I would have had the entire party speak both Cantonese and English. Since she wanted the roleplaying challenge, I was willing to indulge her, but I asked "so why can only the Drifter understand you?" and she said "Maybe when the Drifter found me and rescued me from the bad guys that had me captive, she found a weird wrist-mounted device that translates, like in Cowboys vs Aliens?" The Drifter's player also liked this idea, so I gave it my blessing.

That was just me being imprecise. I didn't mean when the characters physically get to the Netherworld, but rather when the storyline gets to the point where the characters know about the Netherworld. Currently, only a couple characters have been there, and they don't understand what it was. A J-Meter seems like a thing you want the PCs to have access to if you're going to mess with Pop-Up Junctures at all, so I figure I might as well put one in the poorly-understood plot-device someone is already wearing on their wrist. It will be a minor pleasant surprise when they figure it out.

I'm not sure I see Advancement quite the way you do, and I think you may be using a House Rule.

Per the rules as written, you still get Advancements even if you only hold on to one site. You have a 1 in 6 chance of getting one every session, per page 25 of the rulebook, and the odds go up if the PCs failed that roll 4 sessions in a row. The math is a little complex, but you have a better than 75% chance of scoring your second Advancement no later than the 5th session after you attuned to your first site. You could even Advance in consecutive sessions with a couple of lucky rolls.

The odds go up dramatically if they do get a second site. So even if the PCs only manage to briefly cling to a second site for 2 sessions, there's a 56% chance they'll score an Advancement in those two sessions.

As for the reason why I feel like I may need to add some Schticks to the fishman's list, I have the following additional observations:
A) The Supernatural Creature has 22 Schticks on their list.
B) Two of those don't actually exist (Fur and Goldenheart Monster are not in the rulebook), reducing their list to 20.
C) The player wants the "chewbacca roleplaying challenge", so they are very unlikely to take Mimicry, or Transformation I or II. So that drops the list to 17.
D) 16 of those other 20 schticks (13 of the 17) are also on the Ghost's list, leaving only 4 really unique Schticks. Not a problem if the Ghost takes other things, like focusing on sorcery, but...
E) The Ghost's list of available Schticks is 58 schticks from Sorcery and Creature Powers.
F) That Ghost list does not include any Influence-based Sorcery Schticks, which strikes me as weird since the default Ghost starts with 1 Influence Sorcery Schtick. If the Ghost player says "are there any powers that let me Possess people?" The answer is either "No" by the rules, or a more likely "Yeah, that makes thematic sense, so your list isn't 58 schticks it's more like 66."
G) There'd be even more if I were to add the Guns schticks to their list like is on the archetype that Sidney Broadshead kindly wrote-up. Not sure I want to use that necessarily, but it's an interesting notion.
G) That disparity (60 or more schticks available to one character, less than 20 to the other) seems where the real problem lies. It won't manifest for a long while, but if we're still playing a year from now, and they roll well, we could reach a point where the Fishman has taken maybe 10 or 12 of their 17 schticks, and is running out of things that they are excited about. Meanwhile, the Ghost player is going to feel like they've still got tons of great options to choose from, including nearly everything the Creature has access to.
H) The Supernatural Creature's player is the person at my table whom I've known for the shortest amount of time. We haven't established as much of a rapport and I don't yet know if she's likely to get jealous or not, likely to speak up if she's unhappy, etc. Maybe she won't care, or maybe it will ruin her fun and she won't feel comfortable telling me that it's doing so. Sadly, it's the sort of problem that is more likely to manifest if I draw attention to it.

The good news is: there are 8 or 9 Creature Schticks in the rulebook that don't appear to be on anyone's list, including all the ones with "the Hell of" in their title, and also the delightful "Emit Smokescreen" (which might be renamed "Emit Squid Ink" for a fish-man). So the easy solution is to add those to the Supernatural Creature's list, and that solves the problem of "not enough to choose from" for at least the first year of play, and likely solves the "you can do anything I can do" character-niche problem entirely.

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Per the rules as written, you still get Advancements even if you only hold on to one site. You have a 1 in 6 chance of getting one every session, per page 25 of the rulebook, and the odds go up if the PCs failed that roll 4 sessions in a row.

Ha, well look at that. One thing I have noticed is that FS2 is a bit larded up with unnecessary additional systems. Must have overlooked this one.

I think I'll stick to one or two advances a campaign. That feels more in keeping with the source material.

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I can definitely see the appeal of doing it your way.

Yep, it really depends how long a campaign you're planning on running, and how powerful you want the players to get during it. (And how long each session is.)
Another option is to only have them make advancement rolls at major plot corners (once attuned to a chi site).

The Goldenheart Monster schtick doesn't exist in the rulebook because, from memory, it's the Conditional Escalation schtick that they start with. It got turned into a signature schtick at some point, but the Awesoming Up lists weren't corrected.