Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tommy's Take on Wu Xing: Truth and Lies

Wu Xing alternates back and forth between regional sourcebooks and clan sourcebooks. At the beginning of the year we got the latest clan sourcebook Truth and Lies, covering the rival clans The Will of Iron and the Hidden Strands.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: You will need the Wu Xing core rules to use this, which is available in print for $20 and PDF for $10. The print book is in black and white softcover. I got mine via the Truth and Lies Kickstarter a while back.

The first chapter is an in-character “fluff” chapter directed at a new recruit to the Will of Iron, filling him in on the Clan’s purpose and methods. The Will of Iron are hardcore enforcers of the law (or their law, anyway, known as The Tao of Steel, which is broken down law by law in a sidebar, featuring such gems as “Stopping a crime is meaningless if the criminal can commit it again”, “A starving innocent is tragic, but a fat criminal is an outrage” and “To tolerate a crime today weakens the resolve to enforce the law tomorrow”). Other sidebars cover notable members of the clan, including the elderly boogeyman known as Justice’s Blade. Other cool and notable tidbits about The Will of Iron include their hidden prison known as The Repeating Prison, where they imprison criminals who should not be killed but cannot be openly detained, trapping them in casks and forcing them to relive their crimes. The structure of the clan is detailed as well, including a treatise on how The Will of Iron trains. We also get a deeper discussion of The Will of Iron feels about the other clans, though they generally find something wrong with each clan.

The Hidden Strands of Fate are shadowy manipulators to The Will of Iron’s hardcore enforcers. One of the first things we learn about the Hidden Strands is that the new inductees are selected by existing members, who manipulate the destruction of the potentials’ enemies to ensure that they survive to become Hidden Strands. We also find out (from the Hidden Strands, if they are to be believed) that they have manipulated each of the clans to ensure that they have incarnated into their current forms. Greater good and all that, I suppose. So you know, they don’t like the Will of Iron. The chapter ends with a dirty tease about just precisely what role The Hidden Strands play in the Ninja Crusade, though we don’t get to SEE it.

Chapter Three delves into the mechanics. Two new Passions are introduced: Treachery (especially for the Hidden Strands) and Pursuit (generally for the Will of Iron). The Will has new Gifts (like Sentaka, which grants bonuses to hunting criminals) and Drawbacks (like being so Sadistic that they lose control when attacking their target). Strand Gifts and Drawbacks include 100-Year Thread (using silk soaked in the blood of the clan’s enemies for 100 years) and Truthful (which is a huge problem when your whole clan is a bunch of liars). New weapons include Butterfly Swords and the impressive Seven-Branched Sword as well as the terrifying Heaven Splitter.

Two new Fighting Styles are included: Deer Style (which uses sais and is a defensive style that focuses on locking up weapons and breaking them, or striking a crushing blow when attacking off of a Parry or Dodge) and Silkworm Style (using chains and designed to take opponents down quickly). The Way of the Metal provides new Wushu which lets the ninja sense metals, split metal pieces into multiple shards and ultimately summon a magnetic storm of metal. The Way of Spun Threads can increase the strength of threads, create a whirlwind that turns their threads into wicked weapons and even transforming into a wicked warrior protruding threads from their body. The Way of Heaven’s Judgment allows the ninja to attack the guilty with increased accuracy and damage (while causing the opponent to become sloppy), allow them to reduce damage taken (and turn some of it into chi that they can use in return) and even become a walking embodiment of justice.

Three new Celestial Animals are added: Spiders, Peacocks and Silver Dragons, with an example of each, including a Celestial Spider that is hunted by the Will of Iron.

The first of the new clans is called the Sons of Steel, hardnosed warriors that make the Will of Iron look like softies. In fact, the Sons of Steel are completely emotionless. They have the Way of the Iron Mind, which allows them to shut out mind-altering effects, remove emotions from other individuals and, at the height of their power, remove emotion from everyone around them.

The second clan is Veiled Ones, an offshoot of the Hidden Strands. They have the Way of Pulled Strings which allows them to see through the eyes of their puppets, make their puppets look lifelike, and even control victims directly with their wushu.

An adventure is included that involves altering the balance of power in an Empire trade city, but both the Hidden Strands and the Will of Iron insist on including members of their clans on the strike team.

WHAT WORKS: The cool new mechanics are a great addition and some of the setting elements are nice. The options for playing the Will of Iron as “not nice” as well as playing an “honest” Strand of Fate is really intriguing as well.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: The adventure left me a little cold for some reason.

CONCLUSION: If you like Wu Xing, there’s a lot of great setting elements here to play around with (like the Repeating Prison). There are also some swell new rules like the wushu, new styles, new weapons (I do dig the Seven-Branched Sword and Heaven’s Splitter). Unless you’re playing troupe-style, your players won’t need a ton of clan options, but the Veiled Ones or the Sons of Steel could make for great antagonists. Definitely recommended for fans of Wu Xing as there are some cool elements to use even if you don’t have Will of Iron or Hidden Strands PCs in your games.