And so today we wrap up our Let’s Study series for Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade. It’s been an interesting ride, as the book covers a particular niche that I don’t really see often in the market.
I find that Wu Xing is a game that has a lot of open spaces for a GM to fill in on his own. Sure there’s a large central conflict with the Izou Empire and the Lotus Coalition, but it’s just sort of there. The writing doesn’t seem to convey the same kind of urgency that being hunted to extinction is supposed to impart. That said, all the pieces to make it feel urgent are there, the Executioners and Golden Lions are all fearsome opponents, and the Firearms mentioned in the game’s blurb is barely given more than a short sidebar, a paragraph saying that they’re pretty dangerous and take a while to reload and a single row in the weapons table. It would have been nice to see a unit of empire soldiers that specialize in firearms, like Imperial Snipers or something just to amp up how they can turn the tide against Chi-Manipulating Ninjas.
Speaking of the Empire and the Lotus Coalition, even having a small smattering of NPCs from both sides of the conflict would have been nice to see. Giving a name and a face to the big names of the Empire, such as say, a Spymaster could do a lot to make the setting more interesting. Likewise the Lotus Coalition would be more interesting if we knew who were the Ninjas who were squabbling against each other, and what their agendas were.
I’m also slightly put off by the modern language and concepts used in character dialogue in the fiction parts of the book. One particular vignette for the Blazing Dancers Clan had me strangely bothered when the Ninja offers a fan an autograph. It seemed like a very strange anachronism, and one that kept jarring my suspension of disbelief. Some turns of phrase were also far too informal to match the setting, but I think that’s just my expectations clashing with the setting as intended by the author. I think my expectations could have been colored by my experiences and comfort in running Legend of the Five Rings.
That said, the game itself is pretty neat. I mentioned some issues I’ve had about the organization of the rules, such as putting the basic mechanics in the skills portion of the character creation instructions, but once you actually get a hang of the entire thing, it feels like a very solid system. The options for combat, the strong visuals for the Wushu and various techniques, and the little ways to customize your character are all well done. The artwork and layout are all well done, with the various pieces for the Clans being a highlight. Also the character sheet, while dense (and perhaps riddled with just a little too many shuriken) is very useful, and has a mini-reference for all the little rules for combat to help things move along a little more smoothly.
Wu Xing delivers on the promise of being action-oriented, and provides enough magic and mysticism to pull off the whole superpowered Ninja schtick with aplomb. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in playing or running in such a game, but I would also advise them to read the book very carefully just so you don’t miss out on any stray rules tucked away in other paragraphs.