While I’m griping about things dying, I may as well lament the passing of one of my favorite RPGs of all time – Feng Shui. Atlas Games just put out the last planned supplement for it, Glimpse of the Abyss. It’s a monster book; I’ll probably submit a review of it to RPG.net soon.
Alas. The end was a long time coming, its run lasted more than a decade – Feng Shui is one of the coolest RPGs ever, by skilled game designer Robin Laws. It popularized the concept of “mook” opponents (generic bad guys who are easy to beat and less mechanically complicated than full villains) and advanced the notion of limited player authorship – in other words, don’t ask “is there a nearby pizza cutter I can pick up?” in a fight in a pizza parlor. Instead, say “I pick up a nearby pizza cutter and rake it across the gangbanger’s face!”
In many ways, Feng Shui was my introduction to games that weren’t totally simulationist and controlled with an iron fist by the gamemaster. And it mixed those “indie” concepts with good solid action – there were other games about “cooperative storytelling” like Everyway or whatever, but those were always way too fruity for any gaming group I was in to consider. Going Chow Yun Fat on someone’s ass, however, is a different story.
In my opinion, the ruleset is surprisingly strong for a rules light game, and could have gone a lot farther. The game has a complicated history, however – it was originally put out by Daedalus Games under some guy named Jose Garcia, who ended up going bankrupt. Rights to Feng Shui itself reverted to Robin Laws, but its core ruleset was based on previous work of Garcia’s in a old game called Nexus. So no one can do more games based on those rules, and Garcia’s in hiding because he owes everyone and their dog money (alternately, doesn’t want to sell the rules despite their not being in use – stories vary). It’s too bad, I especially like how there’s tiered character stats with substats that you omit for mooks but use for PCs and named characters – so 4 stats for the generic dudes but 14 for other people.