Preparing to run "Burning Dragon"

I'm working my way through the "Burning Dragon" PDF with a view to running it for my regular group. There's clearly a few sessions play here, no one evening wonder this.

I have noticed one thing which is a little confusing, page 24.

"Pork Chops" Fong's Defense is given as 13*. The asterisk states that "+1 Defense vs. Martial Arts attacks. Explain this to players after first ranged attack against him." Is this a mistake or does he betray his martial arts prowess by the way he gets hit by bullets?

There's a followup statement that "Pork Chop's the kind of guy who casually breaks bottles over his own head." but if this is supposed to explain the apparent mismatch I don't get it.

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My guess would be that ranged should be replaced by melee, which would probably make more sense. Good spot! (And good luck!)

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@Matthew Hambley I was facing same problem. Luckily i saw your post thanks for sharing this with us. You are doing great job. :slightly_smiling_face:

I should post an update. I've been incommunicado recently as I had to rebuild my workstation.

The first session was very scrappy. It suffered from my insufficiently internalising all the people and locations so when the players decided to go to a certain place I had to scrabble through the paperwork to find out what and who were there.

In subsequent sessions I knew where the players were so I could mug up on that particular part of the material.

While we know the map is not our friend in combats I think a map of the festival would be a nice prop. Something for the PCs to be given when they arrive or when they visit the information desk. In a sandbox game it's sometimes nice to have a menu of places to visit and it adds a little immersion.

We did discover one oddity in the rules. If you have an Archer in a group which is otherwise only melee characters there is a way to read the Archer's schticks such that they do -1 (i.e. they heal a point) of damage with each successful strike. Obviously we went with the default damage of a bow and later on one of the other characters acquired themselves a Tokarev. There's nothing which says they have to be using it for the Archer to get their damage bonus. :slight_smile:

The Thief did their thiefy thing and found out everything there was to find out from the administration centre without raising an eyebrow.

I slightly flubbed the "flight of the student" chase. I thought the whole combat seemed a bit mook light. What I had missed was that it isn't one mook per 2 characters but one truck full of mooks per 2 characters.

Still there were more than enough named characters, none of whom the players wanted to interrogate so I suppose they will have to find out about the ghosts and things from somewhere else. I should have probably telegraphed that the possibility existed by having them groaning and clutching their various bits in pain.

I too decided that Pork Chop's bonus should probably be elucidated on the first melee attack. It's what made sense. My players loved the image of the mutton-choped villain called Pork Chops".

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Post session update the second.

Going back to last week, I noticed that Ronny Tsou and Jackie Ma are armed with Battons but have the Guns skill. I made the obvious switch to Martial Arts.

I feel a bit bad for calling out the mistakes and confusions I find as I go along. Particularly in Atlas Games' own forum. I console myself by telling myself that it is useful information for people planning to run this adventure. If it is not or Atlas moderators would rather I didn't then you just have to say.

Talking of confusion, we had another read at the Archer's schticks and another PC having a firearm on their person doesn't help. They actually have to have "Guns" as their primary attack which none of them do. I still refuse to rule that the archer is healing the bad guys for a point every time he hits so base 7 damage it is.

This week the PCs decide that they want to investigate the guy in Dust Town who bench-pressed a truck, for real. The introductory summary of Dust Town states that the wrestling and archery happens here but the archery is in Seven Lakes.

Going to the wrestling triggered the "Monkey Business" fight. This was a little alarming when I realised that with 12 mooks per PC I was looking at 60 mooks. If you aren't using the web tool which prints out a page of mook attack values then you are going to suffer.

In an attempt to lower the amount of work I had to do I just had the two massed ranks of mooks plow into each other and ignore the PCs. This worked as far as reducing what I had to do but I think we lost a sense of danger for the players. It would require more effort but I recommend having them attack the players in gangs of 5 or 6.

Next week our martial artists fancies his chances in the wrestling tournament.

I'd bookmarked this thread to come back and grab these corrections when I got the errata file for Burning Dragon opened. Which I have now done. So a belated Thank You! for sharing them.

Also loving the actual play reports. Great stuff!


It was asked for so here is more...

I realise that my previous confusion over archery in Dust Town is explained by a sentence in the Seven Lakes description of the archery tournament. Only the finals are held in Seven Lakes, previous rounds are held pretty much anywhere you want. A useful tool for showing the players around the festival if any of them are entering. Perhaps this could be a little clearer.

One thing which is not covered at all is what to do with Jessica once the PCs have caught up with her. Mine did so in the second session and not only did it seem like a waste to just shoo her away for the rest of the adventure it didn't seem in character for her to take that lying down. So I've had her tagging along with the PCs and semi-effectively beating on mooks in the fights.

Obviously Ganbataar (who I've been playing as a Mongolian Brian Blessed) liked her and told her she had spunk.

Our martial artist beat all comers in the wrestling championship but lost badly to Ganbataar at the subsequent party and drinking competition.

Our archer started working their way through the elimination rounds of that competition and is now ready to challenge Deadeye.

The players have met Amy Yuen and Orchid Whisper and are beginning to realise that there are competing historical narratives.

The last session ended up with Madison Li shoving her warrant card into one of the PCs faces and demanding to know who the hell they are.

That does bring up one issue though, she is carrying a Winchester Model 70, a sporting rifle. Be prepared to explain exactly how she can wander around a festival with a long-arm and not get immediately inconvenienced by everyone and their dog. I went with her having it stowed in a bag across her back in the manner of someone competing in the marksmanship competition which is mentioned somewhere.

She was certainly able to explode a few heads with it during the fight, which is good because my PCs were having their arses handed to them.

As far as errata go, the initiative values for "Security Staff (mooks)" are missing from "Monkey Business".


Once apprised of the situation in the basement of Tranquility House Madison took a statement from Jessica and then toddled off to find other witnesses and to inspect the scene of the crime herself.

The archery contest didn't go well for Deadeye. The PCs failed to notice the sabotage so she crashed out in the semis.

My players were a bit annoyed that failing a roll meant they missed a fight. I wonder if we can take a lead from another Robin Laws game. In Gumshoe it is never fun to not find the clue. Likewise maybe in Feng Shui it is never fun to not get into a fight.

From a plot point of view the triad were still frustrated because our Archer won.

It was around this point that someone decided that they should introduce Ganbaatar to Orchid Whisper. Then, for lack of anything else to do our Thief decided to enter the horse race. She can drive a classic roadster so why not a horse? All major characters in the race tied for 1st place so I went by driving skill.

This highlights an issue with the "3 tests against a 10 difficulty - most successes win" approach. It's a bit too easy to pass the tests for anyone with an appropriate skill.

Anyway, they are now ready for the final confrontation.

One comment I got from my players is that they weren't sure why they were doing any of this stuff. Their mission was to find out what had happened to Jessica, which they did in the second session.

Obviously the thing which drives the players forward from that point is the search for the Red Jade Dragon. But it is nowhere to be found and no one seems to know of its whereabouts beyond the place where they had already looked.

Also no one seems to know where Damian Wu is (not even Daisy Pong who holds him in such high regard) so there's nothing there for the players to latch on to.

I imagine the reason why Damian's whereabouts are unknown is that players don't need much encouragement to decide to chase after him leaving the festival behind.

Being seasoned players of many years standing they could recognise that they were supposed to get involved in the competitions and generally get up the noses of the Triad but they had a hard time finding any in game reason to do so.

How have others handled this problem?

The final session is done.

The first hour or so was a bit painful as I went through the book keeping of which pillars of the ceremony had been disrupted, which subverted and which would only come into play later.

I also had to employ a bit of Gumshoe style "Your knowledge of geomancy tells you that if you mess with the linear bonfire prior to the ceremony it will be disrupted." They eventually twigged to burning the thing down at lunchtime. Luckily we had our archer and their flaming arrows and our sorcerer with Jerry can of petrol purloined from the art cars and a lighter.

While investigating the dragon earlier our sorcerer had removed one of the alters from it but it didn't occur to anyone to change the names. So despite being burned down 3 of the 4 "bad ghosts" were still in the mix.

Eventually we got to the fight and once again I was left managing a lot of tokens on the initiative tracker. If you aren't using one you are likely to struggle. As it is the nice die-cut card one from the kickstarter wasn't quite big enough for everything going on.

I discounted any of the "old foes" turning up because it was just going to be too much work. So it was just Wu, his immediate support gang and the two gangs of mooks.

On the players side I counted Mongolian Brian Blessed, Undercover Hong-Kong Copper and the Equestrian Twins.

Of course Orchid Whisper have been talking to Ganbaatar so give the correct version of events in their song. The players realised that the lead singer was cursed and broke that but it was not clear that had any effect on the final result.

Wu descends invoking the various pillars of his ritual all of which have been at least disrupted by the PCs. He then comes to the sacrifices. Amy gets it straight away because there's no real way that she can not be there however all the subsidiary sacrifices have been freed.

In lue of them I decided one of the other members of Orchid Whisper was a woman so she was auto-killed next. Remember these unpreventable deaths are happening every 2 shots. The audience is being shepherded away by the twins so the next available woman is Jessica. So it has to be instant death for her and the PCs are now left looking very silly due to something they had no control over.

It's at this point the thief decides to steal the Red Jade Dragon from Wu and I'm happy for an "Real Tough" Intrusion roll to allow that. Eventually everyone is killed to death and the adventure is over.

As a last piece our sorcerer asks the ghost of Lilly Ma if she can do something about the death of her descendant, Jessica. Simply resurrecting her seems out of keeping with the melodrama which is a plank of Hong-Kong cinema so I had her brought back as a ghost.

So what is my conclusion having now run it all the way through?

It was a bold move to make the first of the new subscription adventure such a departure from a normal Feng Shui adventure style. Or maybe it isn't, maybe this is how most people play and the games I've played which are a series of fights connected by intermissions is the outlier.

The style of writing and presentation is very visual which befits a game based on films but leads to some problems. For instance, the twins are described as finishing each others sentences which is a lovely character note for two actors but not so useful to a single GM.

In general there are a lot of interesting GMCs and plenty of things going on but maybe not quite enough guidance on how to bring all that to the table. If I am to run this again I would likely have to spend a couple of weeks taking it apart and putting it back together with many more notes on how to bring things to light for the players.

I just got hold of it last night and read it through. It was interesting to see your report of running it.

My own take on a few things (provisional as I haven't run it):

  • For the Archer's unique schtick, I would assume that the player always has the option of not invoking it (or any schtick). I don't know if that's made explicit anywhere as to schticks generally, but if it would be disadvantageous (and isn't a capital-D Disadvantage) I wouldn't feel compelled to assume otherwise.

  • The Winchester 70 was weird for me too. I almost think it would have to be a mistake, and in any case, I would give her a pistol as well and assume she has the rifle stashed away for emergencies. It would at least make sense to have something that could reach out and touch someone on the Mongolian steppe, but I wouldn't be schlepping it around a festival.

  • For how to keep the players involved once they've rescued Jessica (again, not having played this with live players yet), I'd probably handle it one of two ways: First, plan ahead to delay rescuing Jessica (though not easy to do if you don't foresee the issue). Alternately, make it so that the rescue isn't one-and-done (i.e. the Harmonious Moon knows she's special trouble and keeps coming for her). Second (and perhaps in combination with the above), give them a trail to find the Red Jade Dragon (whether or not it's a red herring), and maybe tie it in with the various goings on at the festival to keep things lively.

  • This does strike me as an ambitious adventure to run, and I'd be hesitant to do it as an introduction to a series (not sure if that's your situation), even with experienced FS players (though obviously would help). It's definitely one that bears thorough study beforehand, and maybe playing through some of the crunchier sequences solo. It's not the same as running it with a proper group, but I find it useful for troubleshooting (plus it can be fun).

  • A minor point on playing the twins: my first thought would be to narrate the verbal quirk rather than trying to act it out ("[dialogue]," Saran says with Sarnai chipping in the last few words). It's not the most elegant (and best used sparingly), but it would get the point across.

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The problem with trying to delay the discovery of Jessica is that her whereabouts are pretty well signposted right from the start. Couple that with the fact that as written she will make her escape attempt the moment the PCs approach the tower. This last point is an important character point, the adventure takes pains to emphasise that she is a "self rescuing princess."

I think what is needed are more chances to for the PCs to realise that the Triad messing with the competitions are in some way related to the geomantic working. That would give them a reason to get involved beyond it being an obvious thing to get involved with.

The big remaining problem is how to better communicate that this is an atypical Feng Shui adventure where talking to your vanquished foes is going to be useful to you. It may just come down to mentioning it in session zero but it would be nice if there were a way for it to emerge during play.

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You're right that Jessica's impulse to escape is important to her character, and I hadn't really considered that. You could muddy the waters so it's less obvious where to go looking, I suppose, or as I said above, make it so that once she's free, the PCs have to stay on guard for subsequent attempts to abduct her. This would perhaps guide them to dig deeper into why she's important/what larger scheme is playing out at the festival, while keeping the pressure on.

As for the geomantic angle, you could add a geomancer as a GMC (or make an existing one a geomancer on the side). The GMC is too busy enjoying the festival to see the big picture, but responding to the players' questions could give the PCs some hint of what's in the works.

Short of mentioning the utility of talking to foes outright (and, of course, it can be hard to keep PCs from going full murder-hobo), perhaps it would help to emphasize the uncertainty of the situation. Sure, they have to rescue Jessica, but why has she been abducted in the first place? Giving them a sense that this is something more than a simple rescue mission is going to be highly context-dependent, but building that up could help to keep them digging.

Thanks again, though, for account of running through the thing. It's been forever since I've had a chance to sit down with anyone and play FS.

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Thanks again, though, for account of running through the thing. It's been forever since I've had a chance to sit down with anyone and play FS.

I'm glad that people are getting some value from it.

I was lucky to be able to avoid the current problems with shared-space play as the group I ran it for has been gaming on-line for ages. In fact that slot can probably trace its ancestry back to a GURPS Adventure game in the late 2000s.

I feel that gaming does loose something on-line but it's certainly better than nothing.


Having run the adventure for my on-line group I now find myself running it for my local group who are also on-line at the moment.

So far they have followed exactly the same path. They arrive, they hear some look around the market a bit, ask some questions, hear some rumours and then head to festival HQ. This group doesn't have a super stealthy thief so they had to fight security to find out where Jessica is. Having done so they headed there and found her.

None of this crop are archers or martial artists so they have no in character reason to be interested in the sporting events. However we have a Masked Avenger who is all for thwarting evil. We also have a Two Fisted Archaeologist who is up for finding an artefact.

None of them have geomancy so Jessica may prove useful as a GM mouth-piece to point them in the right direction.


Hearing all these different experiences coming from the intersection of Jonathan's fantastic adventure and the individual proclivities of PCs is just great.