Monday, May 4, 2015

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I...

Like Mr. Frost, will I take the one less traveled by?  He claims it makes all the difference.

OK, so blog silence is broken and all I'm offering you are cryptic tidbits of poetic reference?  Nah, this will be a much more concrete post than that, but it does come down to a decision point for me.

First off, I'm just about to make the (hopefully big, hopefully well-received) announcement of the side project I've been working on the past couple of months.  I'm starting up a small web publishing business for RPGs and RPG accessories.
Dated reference FTW! (I did leave the States in 1998...)
More on that later, though.

Today, I want to talk about the direction of Chanbara and the future of Flying Swordsmen.

A month or so ago, Jonathan Becker, aka JB of the BX Blackrazor blog, sent me a long, detailed analysis of Flying Swordsmen (I may have mentioned that before).  I spent some time thinking about his feedback, and crafted a long response to it.  In the process, I developed the basic framework of a new wuxia RPG that will be much simpler (I think, it should definitely have a reduced page count) and maybe truer to the source fiction/film than Flying Swordsmen was.  Needless to say, it's not gonna be based on the D&D game engine like FS was.  I'll still be going for an old school vibe, though, but borrowing some stuff from some other old school games and some new school ones, too.  Not sure when I'll get around to it, but I've got plenty of notes written up already.

So, while considering this new wuxia game, which I'm calling Wu Xing (the Chinese name for the five elements), I can easily see how the system would also be appropriate for a samurai/ninja game.  And Chanbara is sitting here not getting completed.

Now, with me starting to work on dissertation ideas (I'd like to get that Ph.D within the next two years), a 9-month old baby in the house along with my 7-year old, my above-mentioned RPG products to try and sell, I don't know if I have it in me to put out both Chanbara as a Flying Swordsmen/D&D compatible game, and a version based on Wu Xing.

Should I just hurry up and put out D&D/OSR-based Chanbara, warts and all?  

Should I scrap that version and work on both Wu Xing and Chanbara using the new system?

My gut is telling me to do #2 because it will be less work, but there's a part of me that doesn't want to see all the work I've done on Chanbara so far go to waste.  

Decisions, decisions... 


  1. @ Dennis:

    Such decisions are tough...I wrestle with 'em a lot myself (to the point of procrastination, which is the usual "third choice" in the equation...never good). I think it's fairly common for writing/design projects to "morph" during the process, and it's hard to let go of past work...but sometimes it really doesn't fit the new direction of the game and cuts need to be made. Or at least shelved till they can be used again on some different project (perhaps a supplementary one).

    The smart thing to do is play test the notes the stuff you've got (notes or typed pages) before you go deleting anything. Design a couple one-off adventures for both systems trying to highlight or showcase some of the differences in the two approaches, then run 'em by a gaming group or two. If possible, have players create a character in one system and then translate it to the other (so they can compare and contrast and give you feedback). It may turn out that the new system doesn't play as well as the old school style...and then you did a bunch of extra work (revamping Chanbara) for nothing.

    One of the problems you said you had with Flying Swordsmen was that neither you, nor your players, got the "juice" out of it that you'd hoped you would. My main concern (if I were in your shoes) is that the same thing would happen with Chanbara. It may be that flying ninja wuxia isn't as cool in pseudo-Japan as it is Mythic China...throwing the Wu Xing system might monkey the whole "feel" you want for Chanbara.

    [heck, I can see how something like Pendragon for samurai clans or Cyberpunk's "life path" system...or even something like Burning Wheel!...might be well adapted to such a setting. However, those systems might bring the game's focus onto areas you're not really trying to explore, and thus leave you with a "blah" feeling]

    BTW, even if you end up chucking a bunch of Chanbara stuff, it's not a complete got practice writing/designing, you did a bunch of research that can be directly 'ported to the new iteration, and it might still be good as a retro-clone supplement setting or as a supplement to your own revamped version (an "alternate rules" setting). It's already a labor of love rather than a deadline-looming project for some game company, right? You're just laboring a little more than originally anticipated, yeah?

    Chin up, man.
    : )

  2. Not sure how helpful you'll find this, or how much a problem it will actually be, but there's already a tabletop game in existence with the name Wu Xing from Third Eye Games.

    1. Thanks, Daniel. Wasn't aware of the game, although I'm pretty sure I Googled "Wu Xing RPG" when I first thought of using it as a title.

      Or maybe I saw it, and saw that it was a "ninja" game and thought it wouldn't overlap? Anyway, the simple solution would be to make this new game "Flying Swordsmen Revised" using the "Wu Xing Engine" or something like that.

  3. JB - Thanks as always. Good advice. I'm not going to throw anything out just yet. Just thinking of how to most economically employ my limited writing time to actually make some progress somewhere.

    I'm hammering the new system out bit by bit, and will definitely play test it before I make any changes to Chanbara to fit the new system.

  4. Hi, I just found Flying Swordsmen and was wondering if you tell me what the differences are between it and Dragon Fist.


    1. Hi Jon, sorry I missed this comment. Real life has been interesting.

      So, what's the difference? Well, the big differences are that the "serial numbers have been filed off" and there is different terminology for a lot of the mechanics, the classes, etc.

      The campaign world is my own creation.

      There are extra profiles (DF kits) for each class.

      Wizards work like 3E/PF sorcerers instead of classic Vancian memorize/cast/forget magic-users. They have "spells known" and "spell slots per day" and can cast the spells they know as many times as they like until out of slots.

      I got rid of a few things I don't like in AD&D, like different weapon damage against large creatures.

      There's only one way to handle initiative (Dragon Fist lists two in two different sections).

      A few of the GM systems for running the game are closer to Classic D&D as I find them simpler to use than the AD&D system Dragon Fist was built on.

      Those are the major changes. There are more small changes, but I mostly tried to add or replace rather than subtract.