The following is a guest post by Sean Holland, originally posted on the Sea of Stars blog.
So, after Magic: the Gathering hit it big, there were a glut of CCGs, most died but two survived: Legends of the Five Rings
(L5R) which has gone from strength to strength and , which has a small but dedicated fanbase. Today, I am here to talk about the later game, here is my pitch:
The basic theme is behind SHADOWFIST is the action movies, especially those wild ones from Hong Kong, all at the same time. With redeemed assassins fighting cackling eunuch sorcerers and their demon servants while crazy cyborg apes go toe to toe with mystic masters of the martial arts. Big budget explosions, wild wire fu and bizarre plots all rolled into one setting.
So, you have heard about Feng Shui, yes? Chinese geomancy. Well, in SHADOWFIST it is real, not just real but realer than real. Control the right Feng Shui sites and you control the flow of Chi. Control the flow of chi and you rule the world. When you rule the world, everything goes your way: you stock climb, your rivals crash. You shots hit, you enemy’s gun jams. And you get to reshape the world in your image.
As you can imagine, this is quite a prize and there is a Secret War being fought for control of these Feng Shui sites. But the fight is not just happening here but in the past and in the future. For there is a place called the Netherworld that exists outside time and you can use it to travel to various points in time, called Junctures. There is one in the First Century CE, one in 1860, another in 1930, here and now and one in 2066.
Who is fighting this Secret War? Lots of people, the major Factions are:
The Architects of the Flesh, these charming people used to control the future as a one-world dystopian government. While they really wanted to make the world a better place, it just did not work out that way. They use arcanowaves, technologically generated magic, to power their engines of conquest. Not wanting to cause the loss of human life in the inevitable conflicts, they tried uplifting and cyborging apes, but they all revolted and ran off into the Netherworld. Then, now that they had access to the Netherworld, they started kidnapping demon from First Century CE China, cyborging them and putting bombs in their brains, these are the Abominations.
The Ascended, every conspiracy you have every heard of and the secret conspiracy behind them all. The Ascended rule 1850 and have major influence in the modern world. They are masters of the political process, dirty tricks and subtle corruption.
The Dragons, the one unabashedly heroic faction, the Dragons are the action movie heroes, maverick cops, brave martial artist, and just everyday heroes who have decided that they have to act. The Dragons fight for the underdog and try to keep the world safe for you and me. Usually, this ends up with a high body count for these heroes but they keep fighting.
The Guiding Hand, Neo-Confucian masters of the martial arts, these monks and other want to purge China of foreign influences and build a new harmonious and ordered world. They are not evil but they can be very rigid in their thinking. But they sure know how to throw a punch or execute a flying kick as well as being masters of more subtle forms of Chi manipulation.
The Jammers, remember those uplifted apes that ran off into the Netherworld? Well, they formed the core of the Jammers, but their door is open to any rebel or outcast with a grudge and a bomb, the Jammers will find a use for them. The Jammer motto is “Blow things up” and they seek to end the tyranny of Chi by destroying all of the Feng Shui sites . . . that this might just cause the end of all life on Earth is a risk they are willing to take.
The Eaters of the Lotus, the sorcerous cabal of eunuchs who secretly control First Century CE China by bureaucracy and black magic. This faction is purely evil and they like it that way. When subtle threats and political pressure is not enough, they turn to summoning demons and raising undead hordes. Do not let their high pitched voices fool you, they are deadly dangerous.
The Four Monarchs, once upon a time there were four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, that we so magically powerful they conquered the world by themselves. Never heard of them? That is because the Ascended wrote magic out of the modern world and the Monarch’s empire went with it. The Monarch fled into the Netherworld where they plot their revenge . . . and against each other. In fact, if they did not spend so much time backstabbing one another their would be a serious threat. The four of them are: Ming I, the Queen of the Darkness Pagoda. Li Ting, the King of the Fire Pagoda. Pi Tui, the Queen of the Ice Pagoda. And Huan Ken, the King of the Thunder Pagoda.
The Purists, practitioners of pure, scientific magic. The Purists warp the fabric of reality in pursuit of their goals using doomsday cults and other fanatics as pawns in their devious plans.
The Shadow Syndicate, the new rulers of the future, this secret network of megacorporate masterminds, fixers and agents dominate the new cyberpunk future from behind the scenes through their mastery of technology and Chi.
This is the setting that the game is played out against. It is wild and wacky and great fun.
Next time we will look at the cards -Feng Shui Sites and Characters- and game play. But for now, you can find more information at the Shadowfist home page.
Updates: Since this article was original published, Shadowfist moved to a Dynamic Card Game model where each expansion is fixed, so you know what is in each expansion and do not have to hunt rares. It also pared back the number of active factions to six: Ascended, Dragons, Guiding Hands, Jammers, Eaters of the Lotus and the Four Monarchs.
Notes: Card images used by permission of Inner Kingdom Games.