In Your Face Again
In Your Face Again Capsule Review by Bradford C. Walker on 14/04/01
Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
Ten new Feng Shui adventures, ranging from newbie stuff to Big Bad Beatdowns, and everything inbetween. Go from Ancient Rome to 2056 and back again. What's not to love?
Product: In Your Face Again
Author: Jeff Tidball (Editor), Anthony Botz (Invincible Chi), Darrin Bright (Fast Forward), Loki Carbis (Hong Kong Phonebook), Jim Crocker (E Tricket Ride), David Eber (Fight Night), Mark Kinney (Crossfire), Alex Knapik (Murderer's Row), and Tom McGrenery (Blood & Sand)
Company/Publisher: Atlas Games
Line: Feng Shui
Cost: $19.95 (US)
Page count: 128 pages
Year published: 2001
Capsule Review by Bradford C. Walker on 14/04/01
Genre tags: Fantasy Science Fiction Modern day Historical Horror Conspiracy Asian/Far East Superhero Other
In Your Face Again is adventure anthology for Feng Shui. Like Marked For Death before it, In Your Face Again is all about action movie scenarios that your group can use when the GM just doesn't want to write his own. The scenarios range from those meant for new PCs (or players) to those meant for PCs who are well into the Secret War's machinations. There are ten of them, and I'll run them down one by one. (Warning! Big Ol' Spoilers are below!)
Darin Bright's adventure is about an Architect plot to use a TV studio as a base of operations in 1996 Hong Kong, and the attempt by a cell of Dragons to take out the studio before the new Netherworld Gate goes online and allows the Architects to send all sorts of military stuff through from the Biomass Reprocessing Center in the Netherworld. This is simple, direct, and easy to follow. Therefore, the PCs must act as the walking plot complications ala Jackie Chan's Mr. Nice Guy.
That comparison isn't an idle one. The PCs get hooked into this mess through the cliche of the Old Switcheroo; as the PCs approach Tommy Hou's Happy Video Store, an NPC Dragon--a local woman named Jan Jiang--slams into them and everything goes flying. The PCs end up with her tapes and she with theirs. Some mooks dressed as security guards show up in the store, and there's a fight that trashes the place (and leaves the PCs with the bill).
The PCs watch the videos, deduce that Something's Wrong, and then run into the trapped demon Bao Gan in the last tape. All of this leads to a meeting with the Dragon cell (maybe) and then two big fights to end the adventure: a brawl at The Yellow Orchid club with some Architect operatives and their pals, and then the blowup at Studio B- where "New Tomorrow Broadcasting" (Damn, that was funny.) just as the portal is ready to go. By the time it's over, the PCs should've pissed off the Architects and gained some sort of status with the Dragons. I dig it; it's a wonderful encapsulation of all that makes Feng Shui so awesome a game.
Blood & Sand
An adventure that takes the PCs back to Ancient Rome back during the Year of the Four Emperors? It's about bloody fucking time, I tell you! Break out the swords and sandals, prepare the chariots, and go watch Ben Hur, Sparticus, and (of course) Gladiator again before this one: you'll want to get the mood just right.
The King of the Thunder Pagoda got his mits on a Roman Legionaire from the 69 AD juncture, and he hoped to keep secret the portal that the Roman used to get to the Netherworld. One of his lackey blew it, and now the other factions want to find and control this portal. The Lotus got there first, and that's where the PCs get into the action.
This adventure relies on the PCs being into the Secret War, either as Dragons or friends thereof, because this adventure turns on a great deal of issues that aren't worth a damn to someone who isn't so into the Secret War; the one exception being that the PCs are from the Empire and decide to intercede when they here of a plot against the (new) Emperor Vespasian.
Assuming that the PCs have to go through the Netherworld to get to Rome, their first obstacle is the Lotus garrison on both ends of the portal. The guards on the Netherworld side are easy enough; many of them are asleep and navigating the trench before the portal ought to be as easy as breathing. The Roman side is just as easy, due to the PCs getting the drop on the mooks. It's a warm-up fight, which is just the thing for an adventure.
From there, it's off to deduce the deal about Rome's feng shui. In Rome, there's a site in Rome. This defaults to the Temple of Vesta, but it can be wherever the GM wants, and it's unclaimed. (PCs who attune to it get the usual 3 XP/session, and an additional Fortune Die per session while defending someone's home.) There's a glitch, and it involves a key component of attuning to the temple; someone (namely, Emperor Vespasian) needs to get down to the Golden House (one of Nero's old palaces) and sit in the throne while the ritual goes on.
Finding this out requires going to the place. This is good, because it allows the PCs to meet Titus- Vespasian's son and would-be usuper. He's drunk off his ass (again) and invite the PCs to drink with him while he drops some adventure-relevant information on them. (He also plays grab-ass with any comely female PCs, so some playful "not quite fighting" can go on.) Then he leaves, as he's out of booze, and he invites them all to the Circus Maximus to see the chariot races from the Imperial Box. The other reason to be here is to get the lowdown on the Evil Plot; Titus' brother Domitian and a Lotus enunch who took the overland way to Rome (going by "Grauchius") plot to kill the new emperor and get rid of Titus too- thus putting Rome under the sway of the Eaters of the Lotus, and all of the Ancient Civilized World to boot. This, of course, is a Very Bad Thing and the PCs should jump to stop it.
They get a day to run around, see the sights, counterplot, and make themselves known (unwitting, of course) to their opposition. It is during this time that the PCs find out that the charioteers in the big race are all falling in except one; the PCs should take the hint and go get into the race somehow, sending their best driver. This is also the time when the Ascended agents that broke through the three-way dance for the Roman Portal (Lotus/Ascended/Thunder King) make a move while the PCs take a break in the famous Roman baths. This becomes the second big fight in the plot (aside that any your group decides to takc on), and one that ought to be quite fun: a firefight with modern guns in Ancient Rome's public baths.
The big day arrives, and we've got something straight out of Ben Hur with the chariot race and the assassination attempt--you know that you saw this coming--on Vespasian by both the Ascended and the Lotus. It's one part Roman epic, one part John Woo bloodbath, and one part spy thriller as the PCs pull off the biggest break in the history of the Dragons--one that could easily be bought with the blood of one or more PCs, as no one here places nice--and earn a boon from the Emperor of Rome. (Yes, this means that the PCs should get that feng shui site if they come out on top.)
I playtested this one a while back, and my crew and I didn't like it much. This final version isn't that different from the draft I have, and the changes aren't making me jump for joy.
The PCs are at a club called "The Flying Pig" (No hip club, which this place is meant to be, uses such a name.) when a Netherworld portal opens up in the rafters and out falls a bleeding man with a satchel, followed by a group of Named Pledged agents- The Joes. (Complete with "Got to get tough- Yo Joe!" as a tagline; I winced.) The PCs get to fight these Named foes--there are no mooks in the opening fight, which is A Bad Thing--in a warehouse-turned-dance club. After pasting them, which ought to go fast for any group who's members average an AV of 14 or higher, they get the deal that someone on the mainland (of China, that is) found something called "Invincible Chi" and it's some sort of Fu-powered superweapon.
From here, the PCs go into the Netherworld to the site of a lost temple that the Ascended found. Here's the place where the secret of Invincible Chi supposedly arose; it's really a demon in talisman form that makes the wearer immune to most attacks and boosts his Chi stat by five points. (Only those who's Chi is higher than the bearer can hurt him, and then only with Fu powers, Sorcery (half damage), Arcanowave stuff (ditto), or in melee combat; gunbunnies get screwed.) That means it's magical, which means that ambitious Pledged who known the score might want it to use against their Lodge masters- like Villain #1, Donny Wong. He runs the Pledged group that went rogue, and now seek to take over their faction.
The PCs find out all of this the hard way when they find the temple, try to snatch the talisman, and then find that Donny already has it. Donny faces the PCs, and he fights them until all of the PCs are out or the players get pissed that nothing short of an Old Master will do a damned thing to Mr. Wong. (The latter is far more likely.) When the fight begins to suck, which doesn't take much, the "help" arrives.
Guiding Hand monks blow through from the outside and bail out the PCs, taking them away briefly. The leader is an old Shaolin Master named Shi Pinnu, and he's really a Lotus agent under deep cover; he's after the talisman because he thinks the Lotus becomes unstoppable with it in his hands. The monks ally with the PCs, attack again, and while the PCs deal with the other demon under the temple--the monks tell them of a place that is the font of the talisman's power, and ask them to take care it by blowing it sky high--Shi wacks Donny and takes the talisman. Fortunately, killing the other demon (who's the brother and rival to the talisman's demon), makes another talisman that can negate the first one.
The PCs find out that Shi screwed them, and his monks, and track him through a tunnel to the Netherworld Express--a train that goes through the Netherworld in some insane manner or another--and thus leads to the last aggrivating fight in this adventure. The PCs have to get their best fighter in close enough for the talismans to negate each other, and then snatch Shi's talisman away. As Shi's Martial Arts AV defaults to a 17, and always remains one higher than the best in the group, this is hardly a simple task. The gunbunnies can do nothing to Shi, unless the GM is merciful and the players are innovative with the firepower at their disposal. (This is a good time for all of the Ryo Saeba fans out there to show off.) So it's up to the Fu-fighters, the spell-slingers, etc. to step up to the plate and make it happen. Once Shi's falling to his doom without the talisman, the gunbunnies ought to take the chance to riddle his free-falling face with more holes than a block of Swiss Cheese, just to vent their frustration.
This is the weakest of the ten in the book, but it's not unusable. Just make the mook-mowers and the gunbunnies happy by giving them something to do during the fights, and you'll be fine. Oh, and get rid of the Joes- the first fight should always be a mook-munching affair, not a Kill The (Mini-)Boss scene.
Last Stand at Old Man Fong's
The PCs go the funeral of Old Man Fong, only to find that he's not really dead, that he's actually a demon-busting sorceror, and that his son--no less of a sorceror, but quite less of a demon-buster--is with the Lotus in trying to get something called "The Jade Chamber" from him before he destroys it in the Netherworld. This place, now held by the Architects, results in a big and massive three-way dance to get the McGuffin at the end.
This adventure is the first one to make extensive use of the Car Chase rules from Golden Comeback. ( Blood & Sand, of course, is the first to use them at all.) We've got BK-97 Attack Helicopters, a Peterbilt 18-Wheeler, a severely worked-up '87 Ford Escort that's more like something out of Car Wars, and four demons who can shapeshift into cars: The Four Hot Rods of the Apocalypse. What more can you ask for? (That is, besides "Giant Robot Combat!")
It's a simple affair. After the fight at the funeral parlor, the PCs go into the Netherworld with their NPC allies to destroy the McGuffin. They find that the place is held by the Architects, so they attack it and the Lotus goons follow. After the big fight outside, the PCs go inside and fight their way through a factory to get to the furnace that covers the Plot Device that can destroy the McGuffin. There's a satisfying explosion, and the PCs get away once again as the heroes. I can't wait to run it.
The Lost City of An-Makalur
Oh yeah, baby! It's like watching Raiders of the Lost Ark as done by Tsui Hark. (Or, for that matter, like Project A.) This one's set in 1850, starting in Shanghai and going to Darkest Africa. We've got Belgian lackeys, British lackeys, cannibal lackeys, and the lackeys of the people of An-Makalur: the Bangala tribe.
The Bangala control a magical artifact called "The Lion's Diamond", and these guys aren't nice about it; they're into human sacrifice, using animals in ways that the animal rights crowd would find barbaric, and beating the crap out of anyone that comes along. In short, they're the sorts of bad guys that come out of a Tarzan novel. The fight to snatch it and run involves the entire tribe, scores of animal mooks, and (of course) rival explorers who want to steal the treasure for themselves. It sounds like a roaring good time.
The PCs get to track down a spoiled brat who's boyfriend lost her to the master of an underground gladitorial ring. Said cad is an agent of the Thunder King, and the PCs get to fight their way in and out to save the poor little rich girl. This sounds like a great introductory adventure, and that's exactly what this is.
The tree of clues is simple enough. The father tells the PCs that his daughter ran off with the leader of a biker gang called "The Hellhounds". They track down the gang, and from there they find out that the gang boss lost the girl in an arena fight to the leader of the arena racket.
Once they pinpoint the girl's location, they can bust right in and fight their way through 200-300 mooks before they face their foe--Kel Mekando--and take him on. This sounds like the damned stupid approach, but I'm not so sure; two of my players have PCs that could do this and pull it off, and any group of four of more should be able to do this- though it wouldn't be easy.
The other extreme is to infiltrate the circuit and fight through the ranks to Kel and then challenge him for the girl. This isn't at all a silly idea, but to really enjoy it would take too long to do this in the one session that's intended. Rather, the middle way--where the PCs go after Kel and company as Tequila did to Johnny in Hard Boiled--is the best one, for it is both speedy and well within the means of most PCs. Once the PCs get the girl and get away, it's over. This ought to be a neat one to do when I get the chance.
The PCs get stuck in an Ascended hit on a Lotus agent. They figure out what's so important about him, which was the disk he had, and that leads the PCs to a local SF convention. This just happens to be the Architect staging ground in 1996, and another big blowout goes down.
After the fight in the firehouse-turned-greasy spoon where the PCs get thrown into the adventure by a bunch of kill-crazy Pledged gunmen out to get a Lotus plot device- er, agent- they nab the disk and find out that both the Lotus and the Architects want it. The Lotus contacts the PCs first, looking to get the disk without further bloodshed (for now), and then the Architects do likewise.
Of course, right-thinking PCs will Do The Right Thing. They'll go along until they figure out the score and then put the righteous smackdown on both of them. To do that, they need to go to a meeting with either of the factions; if they go the Architects, see below. Otherwise, it's off to a Lotus safehouse. They meet their first female Lotus agent, Huen Li, and talk with her briefly before the Architects barge in from the back and try to take the disk by force.
One way or another, it's likely that the attack inspires the PCs go after the Architects. They track the future facists-in-denial to a science fiction convention in a big name hotel, where the boss works on their portalable portal maker while the abominations hide in plain sight under the guise of being over-enthusiatic fanboys about their costumes, as do many of the mundane mooks. Naturally, a fight will break out on the convention floor and elsewhere in the hotel. You can picture the hilarity for yourselves as fanboys with peacebound blades jump into the fray thinking that it's one big LARP, and ditto with the obligatory vampire LARP that seems to suck the life out of many cons.
In the end, the PCs needs to beat down both the Architects and the Lotus without turning the convention fight scene into something out of a bad slasher film. Remember, the PCs are suppossed to be the Good Guys!
Hong Kong Phonebook
The PCs check out some bizarre kidnappings. They find out that all three victims have the same name, and that each group of snatchers thinks that they grabbed someone else. It ends in blood, but not before there's more mistaken identity gags than in all of Jackie's films combined.
The three Simon Chous in this adventure all unwitting serve one of the factions. Each faction, therefore, has a reason to get involved, as well as the factions who're behind this mess and the PCs. It begins with three fights that involve the PCs failing to stop the abductions, but it pays off with a final fight at an unfinished sports stadium that involves the three aggrieved factions as well as the Thunder King (again!) and the Darkness Queen- who's behind all of this. The King's mooks begins the bloodbath during a thunderstorm (No, you don't say!) while the Queen's agent attempts to put the Simons to the sword just to spite the others. The PCs, of course, get to step in and save the day for three poor hapless Simon Chous- and hoark off everyone but the Jammers, the Ice Queen, and the Fire King as a result.
Ain't being a Secret Warrior grand?
E Ticket Ride
It's off to 2056 to stop the Architects from unleashing the Uber-Kid Mk.II upon the world through their new amusment park, Freedom Flags Park. The Jammers had the same idea, but their approach is to just run in and blast away until everything and everyone is dead or dust. Being heroes, the PCs just can't let the homicidal flying cyborg monkeys slaughter helpless downtrodden masses like that- even if they do serve masters as evil as the 20th century tyrants they hate so much.
Of course, things aren't always up to expectations. The PCs are there to see what the Architects are up to, and then stop it, usually in a manner involving a massive special effects budget and a big-name fight choreographer. This shouldn't take long, once they notice the little monkey commandos acting unsually stealthy and sneaky. From there, the timetable ought to rapidly become more and more useless until you might as well rip it out of the book and toss it into the fireplace.
There isn't a whole lot of structure provided. Like a model kit, you need to read it over and piece it together to get the desired result. If the other modules were easy snap-together kits with no gluing or painting required, this one is an old-school paste-and-paint set with the instructions in bad English. It's not hard to use, but it surely not as easy as breathing; more than the others, you'll have to do the prep work well ahead of time on this one.
The PCs get free tix to a baseball game, but they have to bring a young girl along. Mooks attack and attempt to kill the kid, who's actually a Magical Girl ("The Crystalline Child") who can open holes in the time stream at will- she's a walking time manipulation device. The Lotus and the Hand try to take her from the PCs, even as she warps time in order to defend herself reflexively.
This is a big ol' brain-fryer, but fortunately the girl's powers remain Plot Devices until the adventure ends. The first fight is at the baseball game, using whatever it takes to get the girl next to the PCs when the Lotus mooks come for her. The PCs figure out what's going on, track the clues to a shack, get more clues, fight a clay golem, and then get to the final place where the girl--afraid for her life when more bad guys come for her--reverses time to rebuild the familiar place that once held her. Too bad this this also during a blaze in an apartment building that nearly killed her, so the PCs have to go in and save her. Then, when time reasserts itself, they find thmselves in a three-way Mexican standoff over the girl that goes bad fast.
The last fight in the unfinished power plant goes on as long as the Lotus and Hand foes are around, with the girl occassionally gating things through from the past (like dinosaurs and pirates) as the GM dictates. When it's over, that's when you need to figure out what to do with this kid. I suggest someplace in the Netherworld where she can enjoy the protection of some uber Good Guy NPC and thus remain out of the Secret War until you want her back. Otherwise, the only thing to do is to go the Tragic Ending route and kill the kid off. It's not as easy call, which makes me reluctant to use this adventure.
Get it. Even if you see things my way--and I know better than to believe that most of you do--you're bound to find plenty of worthy material in this book, and plenty of inspiration for your own work. It doesn't hurt that this book's adventures, as a whole, are great examples of the strength of Feng Shui in action. That, and they're fun adventures to boot. Check it out, folks, and see for yourself.