Ran my first game and was a bit disapointed

Hi there!

I ran my first FS game yesterday using Red Packet Rumble, and even if we mostly had fun, I'm a bit disapointed by the game system :confused::

  • The shot system seems great at first, but I had a player who was unlucky in her initiative roll, and she got bored quite quickly, waiting for the others to play their shot. Another player was playing a killer and used carnival of carnage which made her spend less shots against mooks. Add to this that this same killer was lucky on initiative, she played 3 times before the unlucky one. When that happen in two consecutive sequence, you can feel the fatigue :confused:

  • I already read elsewhere that the dice system was cumbersome and I was like "come on, it's not rocket science, just add and sub, it's basic math!" But after 2 hours playing, substracting become to be a pain and it was our first FS, I was the only one calculating the damage doing swerve + AV - defense + weapon damage - toughness it a bit boring enventually.

This combined made the 2nd fight less engaging and the players started to be less inventive in their action description and without this, FS is pure boredome :frowning:

Did I miss something? I'm not an experimented GM either, maybe my story telling wasn't good, but the players were agree on this 2 points.

Sorry to hear that it was a bit disappointing.

There's a tip in the main rules that when you've got a character (especially the Killer) with Carnival of Carnage, you often need to up the mook count, otherwise they will very easily clear the field of mooks and then get started on the Foes - and the Killer is good at downing those, too - leaving other PCs with little to do. (I had a Killer whose Both Guns Blazing attack roll exploded ridiculously, and they one-shotted a Featured Foe demon as it burst from the stagnant flooded cellar - it was certainly dramatic, though!) I tend to use the guideline from the book of three mooks per PC, with an extra six for mook-sweeping PCs like the Killer - Red Packet Rumble is set up for shorter fights, as a demo, which is also why there are fewer Foes than PCs as well as fewer mooks than usual.

As in some other games (early editions of Shadowrun, for example), characters with very disparate Speeds can really make the initiative gap noticeable with different rolls, though, you're right. Targetting the 'fast' characters with Foe attacks can force them to spend shots Dodging, though, which can slow them down. (And is genre-justifiable as, at that point, they're the obvious threat to the bad guys ... having someone frantically shout "Kill them!" is always stylistically appropriate.)

Also, the characters with lower Speed often have other useful abilities, but those don't always come through in a short session, especially one that's not necessarily tailored to the PCs in use (always a challenge with pre-written adventures). In the longer-run, the Initiative roll luck will tend to even out, but as a first experience, especially with shorter fights, I can see that it could be disheartening, especially if the player is used to "each person goes in turn" mechanics like D&D rather than the variable flow of FS.

I've not run Red Packet Rumble, but having two Supporting Character GMCs in the opening fight does make life slightly more challenging for the GM, too. Having fewer Foes than PCs also gives a sort of screen-time advantage for the high-Speed characters in the fight.
(Also, Red Packet Rumble hasn't been updated to Second Printing errata yet, which change the rules for Cheesing It and for actions taken in the last three shots of a sequence.)

I'll admit that I regularly use a scrap-paper scrawl-sheet for doing the damage calculations in my ongoing campaign (and, when I had an Old Master doing the Spinning Kick Of Way Too Much Damage, used an actual spreadsheet). Playing on Discord has helped, too, as the dice roller streamlines the calculations, and the players just get their result, rather than having to do the sums. But yes, if you're actually rolling physical dice (which I do for the bad guys), then being able to do the swerve quickly is essential, and can start to get unexpectedly tiring.

I've had to remind my players sometimes that the actions are best planned as ...

  1. State who you're attacking, not the descriptive details of how (other than whether shooting or punching and anything that affects the difficulty).
  2. Roll dem bones.
  3. Describe how you did (or didn't) acheive the outcome the dice have dictated after the roll.

I've also found that people are often more descriptive when describing martial arts moves than gunfights, as "I shoot the two mooks" becomes common. Encouraging "I shoot at them while ..." as a descriptor helped, as it encourages things like "I shoot at two mooks while diving over the bar". Also, players should be encouraged to describe how they Dodge - what are they ducking behind? I've also found that, as in Red Packet Rumble, having a bunch of prepared descriptions for what the mooks or Foes do can help, as that kind of description from the GM can encourage the players (or be used as suggestions when player imagination is flagging). (I also often watch an action film a little while before running a session, to get some more ideas for how to destroy locations and have mooks go down in dramatic ways.)

Hope that this hasn't put your players off too much. The mechanic and flow is different from a number of other games, so that can sometimes be a challenge, and doesn't work for everyone, but it can also depend on the combination of characters in use, and the way the adventure is tailored to them. Glad that you mostly had fun, though.

1 Like

Thank you for this thourough answer!

We were running on Discord and using a bot to roll dices, but only dices + AV, maybe I should give them the difficulty as well to get the Outcome directly. The bot we use is written by me and even has an alias feature so we can just type /r fs to roll 1d6! - 1d6!.

As for action description, the second fight in the Netherworld was less inspired as it didn't tight to something they know. I must have done a bad job at describing the location.

I did got the Old Master with Spinning Kick… ^^' and my mental calculation is not the greatest… I didn't though of the spreadsheet, using Calc app. But when we begin to use a tool to resolve the system result, maybe the system has more space for streamlining?

I don't know if we'll play Feng Shui again later, we are 2 GM so we roll (pun intended) who's mastering and he has a lot more experience than me (he's a GM for 30y…) so he's definitively better at that than me ^^

1 Like

Nice work writing your own bot! We just use the Sidekick dicebot, and my players have saved their rolls, so just type e.g. '/r Guns' to get their result. I tend not to tell them the Difficulty, but that's partly because I've played switches like having the guy who inititially looks like the main villain only have mook stats. (His death released a demon that had Boss stats, so the fact that he went down to the first attack really just started the fight proper.) But telling them the Difficulty would streamline things, if you're not doing that kind of thing.

I've not even gone to the Netherworld with my campaign, but I've forked the setting and it has turned slightly more 'police procedural' than 'saving the world' - more like 'Rivers of London as directed by John Woo' in style. While introducing the Netherworld in Red Packet Rumble does try to sell up the magical aspect of the game, I think you've hit the nail on the head about it being a harder setting for some players to improvise in, especially if they're unfamiliar with the more supernatural elements of some HK movies. (It reminds me of some of the odd stuff from the '80s, with all of that dry ice smoke in the description.) Don't beat yourself up too much - FS2 does also rely quite a lot on the players helping with set dressing, which can be hard if they don't have the references themselves as well.

The Spinning Kick Of etc. is a bit of an outlier in complexity, but yes, while the core system is fairly simple, some of the schticks can make it a lot crunchier. Since our Old Master went down to an unexpected demonic mook to the back (RIP Mr Fong), the fights have got somewhat simpler to resolve, and I've not needed to reach for the spreadsheet again. :slight_smile: It's not as streamlined a system as, say, Blades In The Dark or some of the other more narrative games, though.

And again, don't forget that you'll need practice to get better, so don't let it put you off GMing if you enjoy being a GM - some people do, some people don't, and it can also depend on the game and the player group a lot - not all games work for all player groups.

Feng Shui is one of those games which benefits ENORMOUSLY from the whole table learning how to pass and use information efficiently. I talk about this at length in Random GM Tips: The Numbers That We Say, but the short version is that there's a reason Robin gives a specific label to each step in the resolution process:

  1. Attacker rolls swerve and adds it to their attack skill to generate an ACTION RESULT. They tell the Defender that number. ("I've got an action result of 17.")
  2. The Defender subtracts their Defense AV and gets an OUTCOME. They tell the Attacker that number. ("Your outcome is 3." or "You missed!")
  3. The Attacker adds their DV to get the SMACKDOWN. They tell the Defender that number.
  4. The Defender subtracts Toughness to get WOUND POINTS. They add those Wound Points to their running total.

If everyone learns to do this, then each person is only doing one simple arithmetic operation using only the number they were just given and a number that's on their sheet. Doing this, combat can run very, very quickly as information is batted back and forth. Where the game bogs down is when people aren't passing the right information (giving me DV instead of Smackdown is a common newbie error) or are trying to do calculations with information that they don't have access to (e.g., when the GM tries to calculate how many Wound Points a PC takes, so they ask the player what their Toughness is instead of just giving them the Smackdown and letting them do the calculation).

Simon makes the good point about targeting high-initiative characters to force them to use Dodges, but it's also a good idea to target low-initiative characters (particularly with mooks) and then ask THEM to describe how their character stops or avoids the incoming attacks. This is not a mechanical decision, but it keeps them engaged with the fight.

You can also literally train them to ALWAYS do this when reporting an Outcome that results in a Miss. More generally, with a little bit of practice I've found that tables also develop an instinct for how to pass narrative description at the same time they're passing the mechanical numbers back and forth.

So when reporting an action result you state intention ("I launch a flying roundhouse kick to his face! 18!"). And then the Defender calculates Outcome and sees it's a miss, so they say, "I grab your leg and judo-throw you past me!" This becomes a bit of a dance that's more art that science, with people getting a gut feel for when they should narrate and when they should just pass mechanical data along until someone feels inspired to describe the whole thing!

You may also find So You Want to Be a Feng Shui Player? useful.

Also Using the Shot Counter and Filling the Shot describe some of my best practices.


Thanks Justin. You would recommend that the GM not hide the attacker's Action Result or Defence AV from the players, then (as is common in many RPG systems)?

Knowing the foe's Action Result makes the decistion whether to Dodge or not a lot easier, as they will know whether the Dodge will cause the attack to miss completely, as well as the decision whether or not to trigger schticks that nerf attacks. It becomes much less a "should I do X" and much more "OK, I'll just do X".
I suppose there's less suspense impact for the players to know the foe's Defence AV, but it does render at the Assessment Sorcery schtick (which enables the caster to identify Bosses among the enemy) less useful, as that would likely be obvious from the heightened Defence AV.
That said, if the you're finding a loss of player interest, then that's probably worse than the loss of suspense ...

Good suggestion about foes attacking low-initiative characters to keep them involved, too.
(I tend to find that mooks tend to get pretty low initiative outcomes, so are unlikely to get involved in the fight until about the same time as low-rolling PCs.)

1 Like

Thanks Justin!

It's true that this ping pong seems to streamline things a bit :slight_smile: I think I couldn't pull my players into it in this game as I was the only one knowing the rules, but now that they have a taste of it, I'll try to teach them that :smiley: And I've bookmarked the links, thank you!

I wasn't hiding the defence but as it was their first contact with FS, they were relying on me for the calculus. And as it was my first time mastering it (and like 15 years since my last mastering session of another game) I might have been a bit overwhelmed to keep the flow… flowing.

But if my group wants to give it another shot (pun intended), I'll keep these advices in mind :smiley:

Note that Dodge should be decided before the attack is even rolled (p. 103-104). Robin does point out that if you occasionally say, "But I wanted to Dodge!" the GM should let it slide for the sake of expediency, but if it's happening all the time time for an adjustment.

I do make a point of announcing the target of an GMC's attack before I roll. Generally the time it takes for me to roll and then calculate AV is plenty of time for a player to announce they want to Dodge.

I also have a post about Hidden vs. Open Difficulty Numbers. Generally I think the value of hiding target numbers is generally specific rather than general. There may be circumstances where there's value in hiding the Defense AV of a foe, but it's incredibly difficult to do in FS2: You'll note that in my example the GM doesn't actually say the Defense AV, but obviously you can immediately calculate it as soon as they tell you the Outcome of the check.

If the GM is one their toes and can do all the math quickly themselves, there are alternatives: You need to train the players to give you Action Result and Damage Value for each attack.

(I find that most people lose the DV while they're subtracting the Defense AV from the Action Result, and then they have to frequently ask for the DV again. But there's a math trick for that: Compare the Action Result to the Defense AV to determine if they hit, but then -- instead of subtracting Defense AV -- add DV first. Now you're only holding one number in your head and you have another number -- the Defense AV -- on a sheet of paper in front of you. Or just learn to jot the numbers down as the player says them.)

Also: Cheat Sheet for FS2 that I find useful for orienting players to the rules. I think I need to do some light revision on it to reflect actual play experiences better, but it does the job now.

1 Like

On p104 it states that the attack can alternatively be rolled and the hit declared (but not the Action Result) before the interrupt is announced ...

Your GM may save time by simply telling you that you’ve been hit, without stopping every time a character targets you and pausing significantly while you decide whether or not to declare a Dodge. In this case, the GM will always let you Dodge retroactively. The GM does not have to reveal the foe’s attack result, still leaving suspense as to whether your Dodge bonus will protect you.

But I misunderstood what you were suggesting earlier - with that approach, the GM declares the hit, but not the Action Result, before the choice of whether to Dodge or not is made - but can then declare the Action Result after that choice is made - thanks for the clarification.
(In my case, I've not been declaring the foe's Action Result to the players in any case, but I'm a jotter by inclination - as you say, that doesn't work for everyone.)

(I'd created my own aide-memoire cheat sheets when my campaign started a couple of years ago, and then updated them a couple of months ago, when the Second Printing came out - heartened that they're quite similar to yours!)

1 Like