[Let’s Study Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade] Part 3 – DGS, Wushu and Combat

Posted: July 5, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Let's Study, Roleplaying Games, Wu Xing

Hello everyone, today we’re taking a peek at the Wu Xing combat system. Given the positive reviews of Wu Xing ability to pull off anime action, I’m pretty sure that this is where the bulk of the innovation of the system is.  I’m just hoping that my brain won’t surrender at the complexity, as it did when I was studying Exalted 2nd Edition.

The Dynamic Gaming System

But before we go headlong into combat, let’s start off with a quick review of the basic system for Wu Xing. Standard task resolution is a 1d20 + Attribute + Skill roll vs a Difficulty Value set by the GM. Skill Difficulties range from Simple (10) to Legendary (40). Most of the time the standard difficulty will probably set to Moderate (20). A character is successful if the roll is greater than or equal to the Difficulty Value assigned.

Interestingly, I don’t see any rules here on applying Penalties to the roll in question outside of specific instances. I suppose, the GM has to account for everything when setting the Difficulty of a task, something that suits me fine, if anything it reduces the math involved per roll.

The rest of the system is fairly comprehensive, taking into account extended rolls, contested rolls, critical successes and failures and penalties for trying again after failure. The benefits of teamwork, harmonious skills and the use of appropriate tools are all given a thorough treatment.


Wushu is the term that Wu Xing uses to describe the Chi Manipulation magic that ninjas use. These are separated into Yin and Yang types. Yang wushu are the sort that can create, heal or fortify. Yin wushu is can destroy, wither and erode. Neither is inherently “Good” or “Evil.”

Activating a Wushu is a simple affair, as the player merely spends a number of Chi points equal to the wushu level of the appropriate type (Yin or Yang) and makes a Wushu Activation roll of Chi Value + Skill Level against a Difficulty set by the level of the Wushu. Level 1 Wushu require succeeding in a Simple (10) Difficulty, with the Difficulty number scaling up by 5 points per level of wushu, to a maximum of Tough (30) for a Level 5 Wushu. This consumes 1 Action for the Round.

Seems simple enough. But as I’m slowly learning, Wu Xing has a surprising amount of little options that build onto its base systems.

Wushu Activation can be further modified by sacrificing health by Bloodletting. They gain a +1 bonus to their wushu activation check for every 1(L) that they deal to themselves.
Other modifiers include Clan Affinity and Elemental Affinity. These are the nice little details that show off just how much thought was put into the Wushu system of Wu Xing, and I have to admit that from a mechanics standpoint, I feel that this is where the Author’s game design takes center stage.


The first thing discussed in Wu Xing’s combat section is none other than the Speed stat. Every action and reaction taken in a fight has a Speed rating. Much like in Exalted 2nd Edition’s Ticks, this allows for a little bit of tactical maneuvering with regards to the timing of actions taken. It adds a layer of tactical thought while providing some measure of simulation for the fast-paced multiple actions in a span of mere seconds standard of Anime fantasy. That said, as with systems like these, it also comes with its own tracking sheet.

Another element introduced is Stamina. Stamina here acts as a player resource, similar to Willpower in World of Darkness games. Stamina is cashed in for a variety of effects from a combat bonus to gaining emergency Chi when your character really needs it.

Initiative is determined by rolling 1d20 + Initiative Bonuses at the start of every round, with the highest rolling character acting on Count 1, and all other characters acting at +1 Count for every 4 points that they roll lower than the winner.

Taking action involves picking a combat maneuver and rolling. Again, Wu Xing gives a lot of options as to how exactly you do so. There are 6 basic checks: Strike, Throw, Parry, Dodge, Roll and Grappling.  Each of these checks are spun off into specific maneuvers, each of which has a Speed cost, penalties to the base roll, and an effect on the damage performed.  For example, “Strong Strike”  is a Speed 6, -3 Strike, +6 Damage Action. Reactions are also formatted the same way. A Dodge Reaction is a Speed 3, -4 Penalty against Strike.

This makes for an interesting game where Action and Reaction play off against each other, both sides looking for where the other is most vulnerable. I’ve always been a fan of improvisation in combat, but seeing everything laid out like this also has it’s advantages. The author did a good job in taking the most iconic actions in the genre and process it in a fashion that is accessible to all kinds of players.

Wu Xing’s combat system is perhaps where it shines best. For all the reservations I’ve had for the strangely lightweight approach to the setting, the combat system is as meaty as it gets. Add the Wushu and the Techniques to this and the complexity scales up even further. It’s not for everyone, but the fledgeling amateur designer in me salutes Eloy Lasanta’s effort and work in putting something with so many moving parts together in a fashion that works as intended.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the Antagonists chapter, and see just what kind of threats Ninjas from Wu Xing have to face.

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