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Mist Robed Gate

November 15, 2009

I finally got a chance to pick up a copy of Mist Robed Gate by Shreyas Sampat.

It’s probably the only tabletop wuxia game I’ve seen that “gets it” – that is, the game isn’t a hyper fetish of various kung-fu moves and techniques, but rather focuses on the personal drama of conflicting loyalties, personal drama, that basically sums up modern wuxia movies. (“Modern” because the game is clearly based on Zhang Yimou’s movies more than, say, Heroes of the Water Margin or Jin Yong novels).

Mist-Robed Gate has a unique system for resolution in play – “The Knife Ritual”, which involves a series of escalations, with a knife as a prop on the table, sheathed and wrapped in a cloth, which starts at unwrapping it and handing it to another player when your character makes a demand on another character, and, ends with the character sheet getting stabbed… and then, touching the flat or blunt side of the blade to someone’s hand.

Obviously, most folks will probably end up playing with a red marker or something instead of a knife.

As someone who does knife training in martial arts, I get it. It’s one of those things where there’s no danger if everyone is playing with trust, respect, and common sense… and not carelessness, ego, and fear… which kinda tells you who this game intends you to play with.

It’s actually kind of a powerful design decision – you play this game with people you trust to hold a knife to you and not hurt you.

The game also includes rules for LARP play, which, surprisingly are actually safer(!), since instead of using a knife to indicate escalation, you use colored flags or scarves to be hung in the areas you’re playing. It has an interesting setup for dealing with scenes running co-currently, and since I’m not a LARPer, I can’t tell how it’d actually play out, but it seems very interesting.

The book includes a bunch of recipes, info on tea, and an extensive wuxia movie guide. Interestingly enough, this rpg avoids depicting any characters or people, but, unlike other POC-focal games which do this in a problematic way of erasing the people, Mist-Robed Gate does this respectfully – the text, the food guide and the movie guide instead point the reader to go look at the source material, the movies and the culture. (I suppose, too, that it’s really damn hard to have any kind of illustration that can compete with all the actors and imagery you get in those movies as well).

I’m looking forward to playing this!

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