[Let’s Study Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade] Part 5: Gamemastering Tianxia & Review

Posted: June 6, 2014 by pointyman2000 in Articles, FATE, Let's Study, Roleplaying Games, Tianxia
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Hey guys, today we’re taking a look at the GM support chapters for Tianxia, and wrapping up the series with a quick review.

Given that Wuxia isn’t exactly as common as traditional western fantasy fare, I find that it’s very important for any Wuxia game to be able to communicate the tone, themes and elements of the genre.

Tianxia gets this correctly right out of the gate with some very good points. I won’t go into them in too much detail as the GMing advice is solid, but it does hit all the important parts.

Tianxia goes on to communicate that Wuxia is an active game, there’s a lot of action involved and players are constantly moving towards an objective. Heroism in both good (and bad) forms are detailed as well, with relevant examples of heroic characters that end up causing less-than-ideal consequences from their actions.

There’s an interesting point as well about the value of equipment, though not in the same way as most western fantasy would view it. In wuxia, equipment should carry some form of connection to the character, and their history or being. Think of the Green Destiny sword in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Sure the blade itself is remarkable, but it was in Li Mu Bai’s connection with it that made it truly significant.

The chapter also goes on to detail how to use the Bronze Rule of FATE Core to stat out other elements in the game. Examples of a Mystery, specific Kung Fu challenges, Diseases and Ailments, and Corrupted Kung Fu are all given here to serve as a guide for GMs looking to use such a thing in play.

Zones are also given a thorough treatment, as the characters in Tianxia are remarkably mobile. As seen in the previous character creation article, even starting characters can have the potential to move multiple zones in their turn. As such, it becomes extra important for a Tianxia game to set out the various zones of the setpieces of battle to lend to the dynamic feel that is inherent to Wuxia.

Campaign Aspects are next on the list, and Tianxia offers fine examples of Campaign Aspects that can push a game to various directions, including subgenres such as horror, or comedy and romance, all of which have a place in Wuxia fiction.’

One of the most interesting parts in this chapter is the discussion of Concessions and the use of Death as a Concession. It’s a neat twist to the rules, and one that is very genre-appropriate as well. Being able to turn a defeat into a victory at the cost of a character’s life is something that belongs in the genre. Will players go for it? I know I would.

Another neat option presented in the chapters would be that of Dynastic Play, where players can move on to play the children (or proteges) of their previous characters. It’s easy enough to implement, and I think that it would make for a neat campaign to show the various highlights of each character, before moving on to their children to see if the things established by the ancestors survive the travails of their descendants.

Tianxia also contains other chapters detailing antagonists, sample characters, sample combat and plot hooks. These are all very good sources of quick information so that any GM will be able to pick up and run these templates should they run out of prep time.


Tianxia is a rules-light to rules-medium Wuxia game that introduces the genre in a friendly, easy-to-learn fashion. The book is written well, with a clear language devoid of unnecessary flourish that could distract of obscure the information needed to run the game, something that I certainly find to be very helpful.

The game itself applies minor rules adjustments and a fully formed Martial Arts system on top of the FATE Core rules in a relatively seamless manner, and feels like a system that was intended to work with FATE from the get go rather than being welded on forcibly. Fans of the FATE Core system will find this to be very easy to learn.

Fans of the genre will find that Tianxia covers all the bases when it comes to Wuxia. There’s a little lack of emphasis on the tone and themes of Wuxia in the book, but that’s a minor nitpick on my end as I wish it was brought up a bit in the start of the book rather than at the end with the GM chapters.

There’s an awful lot of mechanical support for GMs, from a campaign creation worksheet, to an adventure menu and pregenerated characters and antagonists to work with.

As a relatively new person to FATE, I feel that I’ll need to get a couple of test sessions to really get comfortable with the combat system to find out the true extent of the various Techniques in the Kung Fu system of Tianxia, but from what I’ve seen they’re certainly formidable.

Overall, Tianxia is a great start to a Wuxia RPG. There’s enough to run a campaign, but plenty of white space around for GMs and the authors to add on new elements. If you’re a fan of Wuxia, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t pick this up for your collection.

If you’d like to follow along, Tianxia is available from DriveThruRPG in PDF format for only $14.99

Tianxia is also available in PDF and Print format from Indie Press Revolution


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