Actual Play – Wushu – The Matrix Has You

Wow, I’m feeling very happy. I play-tested my Matrix game (There is no Spoon) yesterday and it went very well, better in many ways than the Exalted game I ran two weeks ago. Both used the Wushu system but after having run it once I felt much more comfortable doing it the second time. We had some awesome scenes including a very John McClane moment of blowing up and entire building floor, leaping down six stories, then eight stories then thirty stories!!! The fought agents, more or less got pummeled by them, but got to bash them around quite a bit too. We had explosions, car chases (or sorts, one of the characters was leaping from moving cars), and deception. I really enjoyed the game and the feedback given by the players will make it even better during the con. Two of the best compliments I got at the end was Steve saying it was “pretty good” which a huge achievement given that he doesn’t like the Matrix and Erik wanting to borrow my copy of the movie after the game. All in all, I feel much better about this game than I did before the play-test.

I’ve got a long list of good things to keep as well as improvements to make so I’ll have some work cut out for me before Kubla, but I’ll be happy to do it.

Next post… later last night.

6 thoughts on “Actual Play – Wushu – The Matrix Has You”

    1. Yes, its going on July 12th, but so far we’ve been pretty much slackers and haven’t posted games yet. Having run Wushu a couple times now I’m pretty happy with the system. One thing I’m really interested in is doing Buffy with Wushu. It would be a great way to let the entire cast be on equal footing for conflict resolution while still keeping the flavor of a kick but slayer and much less kick but scoobies.

      Check the site: for more details (once we get around to posting the games).

      1. With the Buffy-verse in mind, I created a system mashup of PTA/Mortal Coil/Wushu that I’ve been meaning to try out. It would (I think) allow for the sweet combat resolution of Wushu with the issue resolution and scene framing of PTA…and of course Mortal Coil’s collaborative system of defining magic/supernatural.

        Actually, I find my self adding a little wushu to most of the things I run these days…

        1. PTA/Mortal Coil/Wushu Mashup? Oh Man, I gotta see this. Have you talked to Paul Strak at all about his “Improv” game? It started as a PTA variant but has really grown from that… Oh wait… duh, that is the system I used last year for the Office Waste game that you were in. Anyway, Paul has continued to evolve from there.

          Some things Wushu hasn’t done for me, which other systems might have done better:

          1. Giving players a good framework for what they are up against. My Matrix play-test went great, but several of the players said they felt a little lost in the beginning. They knew they need to break into a secure building but didn’t know what they were up against. I had given them some details (traffic blocked going in and out, increase surveillance on the perimeter, etc) but they were still a little unsure of how to narrate their characters not only discovering but also disarming or evading the security systems. A game which does an excellent job of handling this is Wilderness of Mirrors, by allowing the players to establish the relative threat of any mission by adding details.

          2. I found it hard to break players out of the “bigger is better mode”. If I had four cops running down a hallway (all mooks of course) and told the threat level corresponded to getting out of the building and the danger (i.e. not getting any successes on their yang, or in my version “blue pill” dice) was that one of them would turn Agent, they would always narrate beating up all of them in a single blow. What frustrated me was that the narrations didn’t affect whether or not an agent appeared. That was determined by the dice and yet they still wanted to knock them all out like bowling pins. Personally I think a little closer sequence of several rapid blows to take down a single mook is more interesting than a single roundhouse than knocks down four guys. Especially when knocking down one is just as effective mechanically! Heck, bounding over all four without touching them, running through a door and then breaking the lock with a swift kick temporarily trapping them on the floor above would have been just as effective. Not really sure which system would work better here. This is more a flavor issue than it is a game stopper.

          3. Trading blows. While Wushu is frickin’ awesome in allowing players to narrate cool fight moves, they tend to get carried away. I’m fine with a bold as brass Free Mind jumping an Agent and trying to pull some killer bullet time stunt on him. But at the end of the day, the Agent will pick them up and start thrashing them around like a rag doll. That is just the way of the Matrix. Sometimes I had trouble slowing players down in their description to leave room for me to narrate the actions of the nemesis. Again, didn’t break the game, but the fights would have been tighter with a better system for that. Wushu says there is no initiative (and truly nobody goes first) but possibly creating an order of “who ever has the edge in the fight gets to start the narration” might work. My Buffy GM does that and it works pretty well.

          1. If you have some time (and a couple players) I’d be happy to try it out with you!

            I played Paul’s flavor of PTA with you and in his Sesame Street game (also with you)…since I haven’t played PTA otherwise, that’s pretty much how I see PTA (although I have read the rules as well).

            1. Giving players a good framework for what they are up against.

            I don’t really see Wushu as a complete system actually. You could handle most situations with the rules as written…but I don’t think you should. Its great for dramatic, ass kicking conflicts, but isn’t really designed well for down time, building tension or pacing. This is why I added in elements from PTA and Mortal Coil. Come to think of it I don’t really run too many Indy games as written. I take the salad bar approach to running my games.

            2. I found it hard to break players out of the “bigger is better mode”.

            Right, winning the conflict just means you get to narrate how you reach your goal (as opposed to the GM narrating how you fail) so all of the details leading up to that are just special effects. So I wouldn’t even need to narrate beating up 4 mooks (or even one mook)…I could narrate how they are kicking my ass, and then if I win the conflict it makes an even more dramatic come back for me when I describe how I pull some last ditch move out of my ass.

            3. Trading blows.

            That’s an interesting idea. So far in my Roanoke game I usually just let the players narrate first, so I can either play off some cool vision they have or escalate if they aren’t bringing enough pain.

          2. I played Paul’s flavor of PTA with you and in his Sesame Street game (also with you)

            Yeah… not the sharpest tool in the shed today. If it makes you feel better it isn’t that I forgot our Sesame Street game so much as I didn’t remember anything and got about three lines into describing my Office Waste game when I remembered who was actually in it.

            1. I would agree Wushu is pretty much a non-system with regards to downtime, planning and non-conflict role-playing but I was very surprised at how versatile it was for conflict resolution. In the two games I ran we had these conflicts.

            vs. Mooks rules: Out performing other bands, getting a better seed to start in during a contest, evading building security, finding a kid, getting out of a building before getting caught, distracting the machines to follow the wrong trail, getting to an exit and of course beating the crap out of mooks.

            vs. Nemisis rules: Social combat, some killer fights, and a climatic battle of the bands (or it would have been if our play test didn’t run out of time).

            2. I could narrate how they are kicking my ass, and then if I win the conflict it makes an even more dramatic come back for me when I describe how I pull some last ditch move out of my ass.


            3. The problem with letting the player start it off every time is sometimes you want to make clear from the beginning just how bad ass their opponent is. I had to interrupt a few times when the Free Minds wanted to land blow after blow against say an Agent. Example: Sure the first few hit (they’re not really trying to defend themselves) but come the third punch, the Agent catches your fist and nearly yards your arm out of its socket throwing you through a wall. That kind of back and forth dynamic probably has more to do with getting used to your players and figuring out when to cut it then it does what game mechanics your using.

            I’m definitely interested in the salad bar approach. Most indie games are really good at one thing and I’m usually comfortable tweaking that thing to fit in the right genre but I’d really like to see mixing them together in action as I haven’t tried it yet myself.

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