Today marks the real start of the Tianxia Let’s Study series, where we take a look at the wuxia rpg powered by the FATE Core rules. We’ll be tackling the first chapter of the book, aptly named “Welcome to Tianxia”
The chapter opens up with a glossary of terms, which relays the various concepts unique to the setting. It’s a good move, as Tianxia sets the expectations that while these concepts are greatly inspired by Chinese history, Tianxia isn’t meant to be historically accurate. This covers concepts from the three major religious belief systems in the setting (The Dao, Bodhism and Legalism) to the concept of Chi and the 5 elements of Wu Xing.
The book then transitions to a section talking about what Tianxia is about and how to use it. Unlike Mindjammer, Tianxia is meant to be used with the FATE Core rulebooks, and does not repeat information that can be found in the FATE Core book. Thankfully FATE Core is available in a “pay What you want” scheme from DriveThruRPG so that’s not so much of an obstacle to those who want to get started right away.
There’s also a short discussion of who the PCs are meant to be. Tianxia assumes that the player characters will be wandering martial arts warriors who go off on adventures in Jianghu, the hidden world (or society) of martial artists, honor, rivalry and action. It’s a very friendly setup, open to various games involving traditional “recover the magic item” hooks, to more unique “avenge your Sifu!” story arcs.
The Wuxia genre is given it’s own section as well, going over the important elements of the genre. There’s a selection of good media to check out early on for people to convey the mood and the tropes of Wuxia, including old favorites like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, Storm Riders and Detective Dee are all mentioned here.
Finally the concept of the Wu Xing is given attention, where the book talks about the system of elements and it’s cultural importance to the world of Tianxia. The use of the Wu Xing as a thematic element is discussed, though thankfully there doesn’t seem to be a hard rule on needing to memorize the positive and negative interactions of the various elements.
Tianxia’s opening chapter is well written and accessible, conveying in broad strokes the necessary tone and elements needed to get a wuxia game off the ground. There’s little in the way of flowery language and overwrought prose, which is a godsend for those that just want to figure out what Wuxia it about.
That said, I think that Tianxia could have gone into a little more detail with regards to the common themes of the genre, such as Honor, Filial Piety, Duty vs. Love, Vengeance, Tragedy and the Fight against Social Injustice and corruption. It doesn’t have to be very extensive, but these themes could go a long way in inspiring the reader as a player or a GM and inform them as to what kind of stories can be told with Tianxia that makes it different from D&D with Kung Fu.
Tomorrow we’ll take on the next chapter: “Shenzhou and Jiangzhou” which details the province of Jiangzhou, the default setting of Tianxia.