Feng Shui is a classic cinematic action Tabletop Game created by Robin D. Laws, based on his Collectible Card GameShadowfist, that sets out to emulate Hong Kong action movies. There've been two editions so far, one by Daedalus Entertainment in 1996, the second by Atlas Games in 1999, which kept the original text, added some extra archetypes from a supplement, and gave it new art and layout. In 2013, Atlas announced a new edition with plans to add new rules and locations.The game enlists characters in a Secret War all across time fighting bad guys who are trying to get their hands on sites that generate powerful chi, which are known as Feng Shui sites. If someone controls enough of these sites, he can literally change the course of history.Time Travel is possible via a weird mystical realm called the "Inner Kingdom" or the Netherworld, home to all kinds of weird people and beings from a thousand shattered timelines. By traversing its loamy grey tunnels, one can access different portals to different points in time known as junctures. Our present day is one of those junctures.The known junctures are:69 AD: A juncture straight out of Hong Kong wuxia movies, the Hong Kong of this juncture is nominally ruled by the Han Dynasty, but officials have become corrupt, and a secret faction of evil eunuch sorcerers known as the Eaters of the Lotus have taken over the administration of the empire, quashing dissent with kung fu warriors, summoned demons and powerful sorcery.1850 AD: A juncture straight out of period kung fu cinema, where the Chinese and the Western powers clash in Hong Kong. It's also the period for Victorian adventures and Wild West action. One of the groups seeking power is the Guiding Hand, a group of Shaolin monks and other kung fu types who want to get rid of foreign influence in China and bring about a world of enlightenment, but who are very authoritarian and Knight Templar-ish in their attitude and despise modern technology and thinking in general.Contemporary: The modern day, such as it is in the Heroic Bloodshed genre. This juncture is controlled by the Ascended, an Ancient Conspiracy made up of the descendants of animals who defied the natural order and transformed themselves into humans long ago. The only thing that can turn them back into their natural animal form is magic, and thus, the Ascended and their human agents, the Pledged, are actively involved in the suppression of magic and the discrediting or destruction of sorcerers. The Ascended control the government, the police, the military, and most of the major crime syndicates of the world.2056 AD: A grim, dark Dystopian future, this juncture is ruled by a one-world government called the Bureau of Tactical Management (or "Buro" in short), monitoring its civilians by a sophisticated surveillance state that is equal parts the World State from Brave New World and Oceania from 1984. The group that was instrumental in bringing the Buro to power are the Architects of the Flesh, a group of mad scientists who use arcanowave technology, an unholy fusion of magic and science that warps its users beyond recognition, and who capture monsters from 69 AD and alter them to create cyber-demonic commandos called Abominations, which the Buro uses to fight its wars.In addition to the factions listed above, three more factions exist:The Jammers are a group of Bomb-Throwing Anarchists who are among the few people born with immunity to the influence of chi. They started as rebels against the Buro and the Architects in 2056, and have developed their own brand of junkyard tech that doesn't rely on arcanowave science. Among their number are a good number of intelligent cybernetic apes, the results of the Architects' first experiments. The Jammers want nothing less than to destroy every Feng Shui site in existence so that humanity can be freed from the "tyranny" of chi, something which could have some very bad consequences for the world at large if they succeed.The Four Monarchs are four siblings and powerful sorcerers who once ruled the world up until the 20th century, when the Ascended captured enough Feng Shui sites in the medieval era to trigger a Critical Shift in time that brought about the world we know and removed them from power. Each monarch has carved out his or her own little kingdom in the Netherworld, and they continually plot and scheme against each other and against the other factions.The Dragons are the good guys, a collection of maverick cops, redeemed assassins, martial artists, ninjas, big bruisers and other heroic types rising from among the humble and the outcasts of the world in order to fight for freedom, justice, and the right to look extremely cool. The Dragons rise again and again throughout time in order to help people and keep important Feng Shui sites from falling into the wrong hands, but like the heroes of many a Hong Kong action movie, the fate of anyone who takes on the mantle of the Dragons is often a tragic one.Feng Shui is especially known for being one of the first role-playing games to implement rules for taking out mooks as opposed to important villains, and it encourages both players and Game Master to play the various tropes, clichés and the melodrama of the action genre to the hilt. In fact, Feng Shui is a unapologetic celebration of action movie tropes; it named and codified as many tropes as the author could think of. It was in some ways a precursor to this website.
This RPG provides examples of:
Adventurer Archaeologist: The Two-Fisted Archaeologist from Seal of the Wheel, plus a number of fan archetypes on the web.
Aliens Speaking English: Just like in Hong Kong movies, everyone in the Feng Shui setting speaks Cantonese, translated into English for your games.
Armor Is Useless: In recognition of this trope, armor is made "rather unattractive" — it adds to your Toughness when calculating damage taken, but it reduces your Agility score (which many characters need for their Martial Arts skill) and makes you look like a contemptible Ascended or Buro goon (depending on the juncture and the type of armor).
The Atoner: Many Killers and other characters with a criminal or otherwise less-than-honorable past, as well as Dr. Anita Dao, a.k.a. The Prof.
This trope is actually invoked with the PhallusaurusMachine Pistol. It looks pretty sweet, being a machine gun with a clip so large it might as well have Unlimited Ammo, and can serve as a knife in a pinch...and is so poorly weighted due to attempting to do two things at once that it's not very effective in either setting. It's only so well-used by the Buro because it looks a lot more intimidating than it is, rallying the cops and demoralizing the crooks, despite not having any great reason to.
The Buro Godhammer, an even-more-phallic version of the Desert Eagle, is fully-automatic...with a five-round clip. Using it on full-auto is a ridiculous concept.
Ax-Crazy: The Supernatural Creature archetype's backstory, before they become heroes.
Bedlam House: The Asylum of the Damned from Out for Blood, staffed by demons bent on breaking the spirits of Secret Warriors sent there for "treatment."
BFG: Anything with a concealment rating of 6 (requires a trenchcoat to hide) or 7 (cannot be hidden, period). Come on, did you really think there wouldn't be?
First, the Helix Ripper, an Arcanogun which fires a beam that melts flesh. The beam also passes through inorganic matter without losing coherency, and the damage caused by it cannot be conventionally healed.
The Buro also has the Hellharrower, a giant automatic machine gun which is usually either vehicle-mounted or issued to abominations, as it cannot be used unmounted without a Strength of 11 or above.
Bounty Hunter: Also in Seal of the Wheel and on the web. PCs are more likely to be the heroic version.
Buddy Cop Show: Players of Karate and Maverick Cops will often pair the two archetypes up Buddy Cop style, with the Karate Cop being by-the-book and the Maverick Cop being the rule-breaker.
2056 has its own little take on the genre in question with the "buddy cop romance". These movies take the homoerotic elements that tend to crop up in buddy cop movies and take them to their logical conclusion.
Butt Monkey: Due to the intrinsically low intelligence of the archetype (unless they have the Onboard Computer, which boosts Intelligence to super-genius levels), particularly sadistic GMs tend to pick on Gorilla Fighters.
Deader than Dead: If you get hit by Ming I's dreaded Arm of Darkness and fail the Death Check that you have to make because of it, you are gone.
Death Ray: Helix Arcanoguns tend to have this effect.
Dramatic Gun Cock: The KA-CHINK! rule for shotguns in Feng Shui gives you an extra damage point on your next attack for doing this. Also applies to spin-cocking lever-action rifles.
The Drifter: An archetype in the 2056 supplement Seed of the New Flesh that can be used in any juncture.
Drunken Master: The game normally has severe penalties for intoxication. However, Drunken Stance removes these penalties when martial arts rolls are involved. So if you survive long enough when you've bought the stance with experience, you can become a Drunken Master. And of course you can stunt for bonuses, because kicking butt while drunk is cool.
But there's no bonus either. Difficulty is based on what your action actually intends to accomplish, not on exactly how it is done. All Dual Wielding really does is enable you to invent cool and well described Dual Wielding stunts.
Actually, the Both Guns Blazing schtick allows you to use two guns to shoot named characters, for a penalty that decreases with each schtick in it you buy and eventually turns into a bonus when using two-gun attacks. Successful rolls result in damage from both guns being dealt.
Government Drug Enforcement: Not mandatory, but Productivity Drugs are used by the majority of consumers in 2056. They're a low-level narcotic and (unusually for Buro products) significantly less harmful than alcohol or other modern drugs, but their main purpose is to keep addicts pleasantly high while they do boring vat work.
Guns Akimbo: Many gunmen with the Both Guns Blazing schtick. In fact, you don't need the schtick in order to blast off with two guns — the schtick in question is mainly used to do extra damage to named characters with both guns at once, though as the page illustrates, there's more than one way to use Guns Akimbo.
Hand Cannon: Any handgun with a damage of 12 and a Concealability of at least 3 qualifies as one of these. The contemporary juncture has the Desert Eagle and the AMT Automag V, while 2056 has the aptly-named Buro Godhammer.
Healthcare Motivation: One of the stock Melodramatic Hooks that a character can have, and often sees use with Killers and Thieves.
Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: First: there aren't any portals opening up to the early 1900s. With that said, this trope can be averted or played straight. If you kill Hitler's ancestors in 1850 under normal circumstances, an equivalent genocidal dictator will be butterflied into existence and probably have Hitler's soul to boot. Erasing Hitler from the timestream entirely would require taking control of appropriate feng shui sites in and around Germany and triggering a Critical Shift in the timeline. (This generally requires a lot more work and organization than a lone PC group can arrange.)
Lemony Narrator: The books are written in a breezy, snarky style with a few jokes seeded through the various chapters.
Little Useless Gun: Low-caliber weapons, like many such guns in RPGs, are mainly only useful for killing mooks — unless you've taken one as a signature weapon, it's not going to deal very respectable damage against named characters.
Mooks: Feng Shui was one of the first games to institute mook rules.
More Dakka: Automatic weapons in general, the Who Wants Some gun schtick, and the Minigun hardware schtick in particular.
Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The Shiva Squadron from Glimpse of the Abyss and any other supernatural character with the Multiple Arms creature schtick from that book. A nice little effect of this is that one can use more than two guns if you have the Both Guns Blazing schtick, but the opponent's Toughness is multiplied by the number of guns your character is wielding if you do this.
Name's the Same: The basic premise of "Hong Kong Phonebook", one of the game's published adventures. invoked
How about the Jammers, who are literally all that with "zombie" replaced by "monkey"?
Abominations, who can be all that replacing "pirate" with "demon".
No Campaign for the Wicked: Usually averted...with the critical exception being the Architects of the Flesh, where the fluff automatically assumes you're playing a rebel or a defector. The sourcebook "Seed of the New Flesh" instead has the option of playing TacOps for the Buro, who are far, far more idealistic and compassionate than their Mad Scientist contemporaries, but to destroy the latter is to collapse the former — the Buro needs the CDCA the other owns to preserve itself.
The corebook invokes this with the Guiding Hand. Because players are almost certain to sympathize with most of the goals of the group, the book makes it absolutely clear that they are fanatical, often suicidal terrorists and that their organization has no room for anything but absolute obedience to their master's will. In other words, it's not a good organization to be a PC in.
In general, the corebook assumes that PCs will be working for the Dragons, who are generic good guys.
Omnicidal Maniac: The "True Ascended," a fanatical splinter group of human-hating racists within the Ascended's Shell of the Tortoise who are planning to destroy all life on Earth in a plan called the "Extinction Agenda" if the Lodge's defeat seems imminent.
One World Order: The Architects have set one up in 2056 through powerful feng shui.
Poke the Poodle: Justified. The Criminal Mastermind archetype does reprehensible acts by the standards of the Buro, such as kidnapping war orphans away from the Tyke Bomb project they have going or stealing money to fund a non-Buro hospital. Were it not for how screwed-up the moral compass is by 2056, they'd be out-and-out costumed superheroes.
Police Brutality: Public Order cops in the 2056 juncture are nearly always some flavor of this, barring the few good ones who become PCs. Some of the cops of other junctures aren't much better, especially if you have the Ascended as an enemy.
Punny Name: Cybernetic monkey/ape Player Characters in the Jammers are penalized XP if their name is NOT some form of pun. Among the setting's established characters, besides Jammer leader Battlechimp Potemkin, there's Furious George (Battlechimp's Number Two, and he can fly), Rhesus Pieces (who can disassemble himself), Koko Chanel (a female gorilla looking for romance) and Funky Monkey (with a voicebox that makes him sound like Barry White). Most of the human Jammers have Punny Names as well.
Rare Guns: Several of the guns on the gun list, including the Smith and Wesson 3566 (which is a custom-shop gun which fires the .356 cartridge).
Reincarnation Romance: It's not unknown for innerwalkers to fall in love with past or future incarnations of love interests, or vice versa.
Resurrective Immortality: The Inevitable Comeback creature power allows a supernatural creature to resurrect after being killed.
Rule of Cool: Feng Shui, and Hong Kong action cinema in general, thrives on this.
Actually codified into the game, with the stunt system. Describing your action in a cool way and adding interesting details actually gives bonuses. Repeating the same thing over and over again, however, is usually not cool, and can even get penalties. Except when it is cool.
In most official Feng Shui adventures, each described location has a section labelled "Cool Things That Could Happen", which are usually action movie tropes of one kind or another.
Scaled Up: Ophidian Form, an advanced schtick for Supernatural Creatures.
Stuff Blowing Up: If something doesn't go kaboom at some point during a game session, never mind a campaign, you're doing things wrong. The Jammers in particular thrive on this kind of thing.
Suddenly Always Knew That: It's not uncommon for characters to reveal that a schtick they've recently paid for with XP is one they've known how to do all along. As the book explains, "Action heroes pull this one all the time."
Temporal Mutability: Type 3 (Rubber Band History) without Feng Shui sites, Type 4 (Temporal Balancing Act) with Feng Shui sites.
Theory of Narrative Causality: If you need to hide you do not ask "is there an alcove?" you say "I duck into the poorly lit alcove just behind me." Anything that could reasonably be there to help you survive or do a cool stunt you just thought up was always there. You are just the first to have noticed it. Only exceptional powergaming should be denied.
Time Machine: Feng Shui mainly uses the Time Portal method of going through time.
The Abomination archetype, but a good thing in this case.
Also the Battlechimp Potemkin, leader of the Jammers, and the many uplifted apes under his command.
Uplifted Animal: The Jammers count many intelligent apes among their ranks, the result of an Architect experiment predating arcanowave tech. The apes broke free from the Architects' control, and have now united under the banner of Battlechimp Potemkin.
Urban Fantasy: Feng Shui definitely has this going on, especially if you set much of the action in the contemporary juncture.
The Guiding Hand, whose goal was to get rid of foreign influence in China, including the hated opium trade.
Also, the Jammers, who are attempting to free all of history from the overwhelming influence of Chi so that people can make their own choices and not have them influenced by who controls more Feng Shui sites. (It must be noted, though, that the destruction of Chi might have serious negative consequences.)
Wham Episode: Critical Shifts that are not reversible by the players essentially act as this.
Wok Fu: The opening battle of the adventure "Baptism of Fire" takes place in a restaurant in Yaumatei. Depending on the makeup of your party this could be a kung fu battle, a shootout, or a more general brawl.
World of Badass: If you have a name in Feng Shui, chances are that you're a badass.
You All Meet in an Inn: Most often, the Game Master will have characters meet somewhere at the beginning of the story. Players then have to give a reason as to why their character is at the locale in question.
Your Head A Splode: This is a standard occupational hazard for mooks of the Eaters of the Lotus, who often have ward-spells placed on them by their Evil Sorcerer master to make their heads go boom if they do anything out of line.
Your Normal Is Our Taboo: Mixed race relationships and even homosexual relationships are very much the norm in 2056. Romances with people of the same race, on the other hand, are typically labeled "racist."
Zombie Apocalypse: If even one of the Corpse Factories created by the Buro in 2056 gets loose, you'll have one of these on your hands in short order.