Fate Core Jadepunk Review
Recently, I picked up a couple of games. Two of them I was fortunate enough to get in on early playtests for and was really looking forward to. Unfortunately, my role in play testing was decreased due to real life issues, so I was pretty much in the dark for what to expect when they came out. Both Tianxia and Jadepunk can be classified as wuxia settings using Fate Core rules. However, knowing some of the members associated with Jadepunk, I was admittedly just a bit more excited to see this book finally come out.
Now, for those of you who have been fortunate enough to avoid my reviews in the past, be forewarned that I often deliver things in a matter of fact way as I review products. It’s like when so many people go to see an action movie and then complain about the plot or acting. I guess they were expecting a motion picture version of War and Peace. I expect a lot from games I am interested in, maybe too much at times. And, when someone is asking me for money, I want to know that it was well spent. I want my readers to be able to enter into their decision to buy the book or not as educated as they can be. Often, I am harder on those I know who have worked on a project than those I don’t know. I expect a lot from my friends, so I expect a lot from their published games. So, if you see me being a bit nitpicky, don’t be overly surprised. Instead, try to take everything in rather than getting hung up on one specific statement.
The Jadepunk Logo Gripe
I recall seeing this logo during the early stages for Jadepunk. I liked it then. I was told it wasn’t done yet. Okay. I did not expect this gem placed in the A. Maybe I am just remembering it wrong. And yes, maybe it could’ve used something added, but that gem kind of defaces an otherwise beautiful logo for me. It is so striking, it seems out of place. Maybe it is to draw attention to the Jade of the setting, but it simply doesn’t work for me. Remember what I said about sometimes being nitpicky, though? Read on.
In the Beginning…of Jadepunk
The book starts off with a bang. It has a foreword of sorts from someone who has written some of my favorite games include White Wolf’s Adventure! and other Trinity-based games, Bruce Baugh. We then get into the short fiction that seems to have become standard in modern roleplaying games—something commonly interspersed between chapters or sections of the books. This is followed by a brief introduction of Kausao City, the focal point of the Jadepunk setting and a very brief overview of the Fate roleplaying game concepts as well as what is needed to play.
Right off the bat, I can say that the artwork in this book is stunning. The fonts have been chosen well and do not detract from the art or the writing. And, the writing is of a high quality. No offense to the team, but it is better than I expected so far. Some of the stylistic writing choices that were made were different than what I would have chosen, but that doesn’t mean that they are wrong or even detract from the writing. Instead, it adds a certain personality to the book. The one thing that throws me off so far is the Jadepunk logo (see sidebar).
The World of Jadepunk
Next up, we get a one page description of what came before—mainly how Kausao City was founded. Then, another page or so briefing us on the current state of things. This is followed by descriptions of the four great nations and peoples that help to serve as the governing body for Kausao City: The Aerum Empire, the Kaiyu, Naramel, and Tuyang. These write-ups are similar to those from other RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons—without statistical information—and he;[ to give a little more history and flavor to the Jadepunk roleplaying game. They also cover four less proliferated races in Kausao City in about a paragraph.
One nice point of differentiation between Jadepunk and other wuxia settings is that so many of those are buried in an attempt to capture darker times of fallen empires, where racial inequalities and hatred were widespread. Jadepunk, on the other hand, notes that there are difference between the cultures, but does not go out of their way to make race an issue. Thus you can play characters from different lands and different backgrounds without some sort of special dispensation.
Ryan M. Danks on Jadepunk Kickstarter Rewards
This part is pretty neat. Instead of using skills as in Fate Core or approaches as in Fate Accelerated Edition, Jadepunk took the two concepts and kind of combined them and mutated them. The professions include Aristocrat, Engineer, Explorer, Fighter, Scholar, and Scoundrel. Descriptions of the professions and how they can be used to attack or defend as well as overcome and create advantages are given with each one. When I first saw this during an early playtest, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. I have gotten a lot more comfortable with Fate Accelerated and can handle this rules variation a lot better now. Plus, now that I get to see the full descriptions, it all makes much more sense. There is a cap with starting at +3 (Good) instead of +4 (Great), but that’s not a bad idea, especially when you are typically playing a hero trying to overcome unsurmountable odds.
Jadepunk Character Creation
Character creation in Jadepunk certainly differs a bit from standard Fate Core character creation. For one, the world has already been set for you. However, you and your group must still decide upon the impending and immediate issues you are going to deal with. Still, this is often where the focus of any system is for me. I love character creation. It can be a little mini game in and of itself.
Aspects are covered briefly with a nod and referral back to the Fate Core book for more information on what makes a good aspect. But, the Aspects themselves in Jadepunk are different that what Fate Core typically recommends. Instead of the High Concept, Trouble, and story Aspects, Jadepunk has the following aspects:
- Inciting Incident
- And Trouble
I like how they do these. They feel more like they are defining your character than what they can do, although in reality they are doing both. It should also help to speed along the character creation process. I say this because, a lot like my games, playing along with other players and playing off of their characters’ stories can be fun and useful, it isn’t so much required as it would seem with the Fate Core standard character creation steps.
Character Advancement is the same in Jadepunk as it is in Fate Core for all intents and purposes. The one really new thing is Assets, which we’ll talk about more in a minute.
Stress in Jadepunk
The group made the decision to combine stress tracks into a single stress track rather than separate for mental and physical or even social. I think this was a good decision and helps speed things along.
If you haven’t had a chance yet, be sure to check out Jacob Possin’s blog where he has been toying with some neat things to give people an idea of what can be done with Assets in Jadepunk. Characters in Jadepunk start with a Refresh of 7, which is mainly heightened to provide Assets for characters. Assets are described as something that showcases the character’s skills and abilities—powerful martial techniques, Jadetech devices, and companions. The rules break them down as Ally, Device, and Technique. These Assets also possess an aspect that serves are guidance for their build and/or use, also sometimes a Function Aspect instead of Guiding Aspect—as in, what does it do. Once that is set, you develop the features and flaws for your asset which work into the final cost (in terms of Refresh). There are plenty of examples of Assets throughout the chapter as well as rules on how to improve Assets and even create Assets during game play. This then carries into a discussion on Jade—the refining process, synthetic jade, and the properties of the different types of jade in the setting—red, black, blue, green, and white.
On page 64 or the PDF, Jadepunk starts getting into the rules of how to play. This could easily guide a novice through playing their first several games, even without have the Fate Core book. For those familiar with Fate Core, this is a refresher section. The new rules regarding Dueling are easy to understand and look like they will fit in nicely to any game session. I’m looking forward to trying them out at my gaming table. The next chapter is also very much a repeat for those familiar with fate, regarding Aspects and Fate points.
Chapter 6 is all about Kausao City and the world you will be fighting for in Jadepunk. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say it looks pretty awesome. There was a lot of research and thought that went into crafting the default Jadepunk setting. Admittedly, it is too much for me to take in a single setting. I need to read over the chapter over time, which I have done. But, each time I look back, I find there is something I have missed. That isn’t a dig at the writers, but rather a credit to their talents.
Jadepunk…and the rest.
Chapter 7 is about how to run the game (i.e., being the Game Master). The team put their own spin on it, though, drawing attention to where they thought it needed to be. I’d agree with the highlights and suggestions they made. They also go into district creation rules and hwo to make your own little corner of Kausao City. Then, they wrap it up with some sample characters, which allow for faster play for newbies but also give a good example of how all the math works out and what kinds of characters you would expect to see in Jadepunk.