Running Feng Shui One-Shots

I’ve recently managed to get Feng Shui 2 to the table at a few conventions – Summer Kraken and Grogmeet to name two – and it’s reminded me what an excellent one-shot game it is. It’s a game of high-gonzo Hong Kong action movies, and it leans heavily into the genre allowing players to have a great time pissing about with tropes and scenes.

It’s also a relatively complex beast for what it is, and there’s some nuance to how to approach it – so here are five tips for prepping and running one-shots. If you don’t want to prep it, feel free to snag one of the demo games from Atlas Games website, or Ape Attack! from this blog.

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Make Fortune Dice Explode

Rules as written, spending a Fortune point gives you a non-exploding extra dice. I’ve tried it both ways, and for a one-shot it really works better if these explode – the chance of your negative dice exploding and the Fortune being wasted leads to some player disappointment. It does increase player effectiveness a bit, but encouraging Fortune point use is all good, and it leads to some big results.

Pick a Small Selection of Archetypes

There’s no character generation in Feng Shui, which saves the pregen stage of one-shot prep, but it’s worth trimming down the archetypes you offer your players – you don’t need more than a couple more than the players you have, and it’ll help you to be familiar with any of the special rules they have. After the players have picked, make them decide on their names and melodramatic hooks there and then – and then go into a montage opening of a previous film. 

Ones to be careful with are the Big Bruiser (who hits hard and can take a beating, but often acts last in the initiative system) and the Killer (whose mook-killing power means they might be acting frequently as long as the player targets mooks). Also note that the Sorcerer (which is an excellent choice as it has some healing ability) has a default power that lets them use any Sorcery schtick in the book, which you might want to change depending on the player. I’ve always avoided the Driver as I’m not the biggest fan of the Chase rules, but feel free if you want to use them.

Pick a Just One Juncture

There’s 4 main settings in the core rulebook, and a bunch of pop-up junctures… you don’t have to use more than one. Most of my one-shots cover two, and one of them is modern-day – either starting in a normal setting and travelling back in time to a juncture to solve problems, or starting in the past and ending up in the present day. Just one juncture is fine, and getting there via a Netherworld trip is fine if you must, but there’s enough in each of them to make them solid one-shot settings.

In Play, Model Descriptive Action

Feng Shui 2 isn’t a game where “I try to hit him” will work. You need the players to describe awesome hijinx and fight scenes, so you need to lead from the front with this and encourage them to do the same. Feel free to go as big as you can – destroy scenery, break the fourth wall, have your villains monologue.

Another trick that works for me is to describe the action as if it’s a terrible movie – having the mooks in the second fight be played by the same extras as in the first, or the same three extras play all 30 street thugs in the big mook fight. Describe the music starting up, the framing of shots, the shonky camerawork. All this works well in other pulpy high-action games too, of course – it’s just it especially works in Feng Shui.

Do Initiative Verbally

Look, I know that Atlas Games produces a shot counter you can put trackers on to show when people next go – I just find having that in the middle of the table a bit cluttered. At the start of the first fight, briefly cover Feng Shui’s distinctive initiative system, and tell players that their attacks will take 3 shots – and then just count down yourself and have them shout out when it’s their go.

While I wouldn’t use the shot counter, I would recommend using the pre-rolled attack pages for mooks, and also pre-rolling initiatives for each sequence (you can see what I mean by this in Ape Attack). To be honest, I’ve started pre-rolling initiative for all of my one-shots where I can – it’s certainly one thing I can do ahead of time in games.

Make Fights (A Little Bit) Easier

The Feng Shui advice for prepping sessions is golden one-shot plotting advice, but I’d caution that their battle balance is designed for quite meaty fights with players who know what they’re doing. You won’t get through 3 full-strength fights in a one-shot game, particularly as the first one will be slower as the players get used to their abilities. I usually go with fights with just two or three featured foes and a bunch of mooks, or all mooks, until the end boss fight, and even that doesn’t have to have quite as many featured foes as the system suggests. 

If you want a boss or featured foe to be ‘sticky’ and not vulnerable in the first sequence, give them the Ablative Lackey schtick where they can sacrifice a mook to avoid damage (and make sure you’ve got a ready supply of mooks, especially if the Killer is in play).

And, one of the ‘connective tissue’ links between fights can, and should, be a 13th Age style montage – I’m fond of this for trips through the Netherworld, far future desert treks, or sinister caves in Ancient china.

So, I hope this inspires you to run more Feng Shui 2 one-shots, at conventions or just as a break from regular gaming – it’s a great system that deserves to get more play.

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